Sunday, January 12, 2003

News Feed 20120105

Financial Crisis
»Brussels to Get More Budget Powers Under EU Pact: Draft
»Dutch Never Before So Pessimistic About Their Finances
»Euro Slumps on Renewed Spain Concerns
»French Minister Stokes Divisions on EU Financial Tax
»Germany: Fearful Investors Stash Money in Luxury Goods
»Greek PM Warns of Default
»Greeks and Italians Come to Denmark
»Italy: Senate Stenographer Paid as Much as King of Spain
»Italy: One-Third of ‘Youth’ Have No Work as Joblessness Rises
»Portuguese to Go on Strike
»Spain: Madrid to Tighten Budget Controls Over Autonomous Regions
»The Danger Debt Poses to the Western World
»Barack Obama, The Most Arrogant US President in Decades
»Constitution Nullification: How Was it Done?
»Iowa Points to Three-Horse Republican Race
»Los Angeles Arson Suspect Needs Deputies’ Help to Stand in Court
»Okla. Mom Sarah McKinley Won’t Face Charges for Shooting Intruder
»Police Investigating Possible Hate Crime After Walmart Incident
»The Republican Reality Show: Fox News Takes Center Stage in Primaries
Europe and the EU
»Anti-Islam Lyrics No Barrier to Norway Music Prize
»File-Sharing Recognized as a Religion in Sweden
»France: Teenagers Go on Three-Day Crime Spree
»France: Louvre Readies to Open New Islamic Wing
»France: First Muslim State Cemetery in Strasbourg
»France: Louvre: Italian ‘Veil’ For Islamic Arts Department
»Germany Forced to Buy Austrian Electricity
»Germany: Drug Problems Persist for Flower Power Retirees
»Italy: Fiat Raises Its Chrysler Stake
»Norway: Plaintiffs Want New Breivik Sanity Check
»Poland: Lego Concentration Camp Sold to Polish Museum
»Sweden: Seven Charged After Burning Victim With Iron
»Sweden: Customs ‘Not Focused’ On Weapons Smuggling
»Sweden: Man Jailed for Slaying Teen on Football Pitch
»Sweden: Malmö Sees Five Shooting Deaths in Five Weeks
»Sweden: Alzheimer’s Risk Can be Detected 10 Years Before Symptoms, Study Finds
»UK: A Holiday Period That Was Scarred by Casual Violence
»UK: Abbott’s Twitter Problems
»UK: Boy ‘Tortured and Drowned’ Over Witchcraft Claims
»UK: Boy, 15, ‘Tortured to Death With Hammer and Chisels on Christmas Day Because Relative Thought He Was a Witch’
»UK: Diane Abbott Faces Calls to Resign Over ‘Racist’ Tweet That Says ‘White People Love to Play Divide and Rule’
»UK: Diane Abbott in ‘Racist’ Jibe Fury
»UK: MP Diane Abbott ‘Sorry’ Over Twitter Race Comments
»UK: Mohammed Amin: What Sharia Really Means to Muslims
»UK: Study Indicates More Britons Are Converting to Islam: Report
»UK: Twitter Fails to Act Over Ed Miliband Lookalike’s Anti-Israel Death Threats
»UK: TV Channel to Launch ‘Alternative Leveson Inquiry’ Into Coverage of Islam
Mediterranean Union
»EBRD: Tunisia and Jordan Are the New Members
»EU Offers Scholarships to College of Europe
North Africa
»Egypt: Snubbed Millionaire’s Brutal Attack on Girlfriend
»Egypt: Incitement to Murder, Mubarak Risks Death Sentence
Middle East
»EU Countries Agree Iran Oil Ban in Principle
»Iran ‘Not Concerned’ About Imminent EU Oil Ban
»Yemen — the Second Somalia?
»‘Russia Has Awoken’: Anti-Putin Protesters Search for Direction
South Asia
»India: Deoband Fatwa Against Selling of Firecrackers
»Phishing: Spam and Cyber Threats Affect India’s Internet Community
Far East
»Chinese Airlines Refuse to Pay EU Carbon Tax
»US and China Hunker Down for Talks on Way Forward on North Korea
Australia — Pacific
»50 Detainee Complaints But Just One Reprimand at Maribyrnong
»Government Refuses to Give in to Ransom Demands
»Govt Looking to Brand Anzac Day
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Nigeria Church Hit by Deadly Gun Attack Continue Reading the Main Story
»South Sudan’s Cattle Wars Claim Humanitarian Toll
»The Evil Being Perpetrated Against Christians in Nigeria
»Massachusetts Cannot Prevent Legal Immigrants From Enrolling in Commonwealth Care, Court Rules
Culture Wars
»Gay Actor Ian McKellen Convinced Shakespeare Preferred Men
»Globally, 2011 Was Costliest Disaster Year Ever
»The Hunt is on for Habitable Moons Around Alien Planets

Financial Crisis

Brussels to Get More Budget Powers Under EU Pact: Draft

(BRUSSELS) — The EU’s executive arm would gain the power to take a eurozone state to court for breaking deficit limits under a new draft of a pact being considered by governments to resolve the debt crisis. The tougher budget rules would come into force after at least 15 of the 17 eurozone states have ratified the pact, according to the draft obtained by AFP on Thursday. A previous version called for just nine to sign it.

Britain is the only member of the 27-state European Union to have refused to join the effort to deepen integration, angering its partners at a summit last month. The nine other nations that do not use the euro are expected to sign up.

The “fiscal compact” will be discussed by EU leaders at a special summit on January 30 with the aim of adopting it at another meeting in March. The EU decided to reinforce its rules after governments breached toothless budget rules for years, ignoring a deficit limit of 3.0 percent of gross domestic product and debt ceiling of 60 percent of GDP.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Dutch Never Before So Pessimistic About Their Finances

The Dutch have never been so pessimistic about their finances as now, with one third expecting a downturn in their economic situation this year, according to new research from the government’s socio-cultural research institute SCP. The research, based on 1,000 people and mainly carried out in October, shows 40% of people in low-skilled functions expect their personal fortunes to deteriorate this year, compared with 23% of those earning more than average wages. Two-thirds of those questioned also expect the Dutch economy to perform more poorly in 2012.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Euro Slumps on Renewed Spain Concerns

(PARIS) — The euro slumped to a 16-month low against the dollar Thursday after Spain rekindled concern about the magnitude of its banking sector problems and a French bond auction failed to reassure markets. The euro slumped to $1.2831 shortly after the bond auction in France sold its planned amount of long-term debt at modest increases in yields but with demand down considerably despite banks being flush with cheap money from the European Central Bank.

The shared European currency also dived to an 11-year low against the safe-haven Japanese currency to strike 98.58 yen, while European stocks mostly slid. Spain’s new economy minister said Thursday that banks may face up to 50 billion euros ($65 billion) in bad loan provisions and he vowed to crack down on regional deficits in a new austerity drive.

Economy Minister Luis de Guindos’ estimate of the banks’ bad loans, provided in an interview with the Financial Times, was higher than many private forecasts.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

French Minister Stokes Divisions on EU Financial Tax

BRUSSELS — A junior minister in the French government has predicted there will be an EU financial transactions tax by the end of 2012 in remarks likely to annoy fellow EU countries on many levels. EU affairs minister Jean Leonetti spoke out on the subject on the French LCI news channel on Wednesday (4 December), saying: “It’s on the agenda of the next EU summit, Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel have decided it and it will be put in place before the end of 2012.”

He added: “France and Germany have already agreed on it. And I believe the new Italian government, with which we have been in contact, is not opposed. Twenty six out of 27, in fact all the EU countries except Great Britain have no objections to the idea, and except Sweden, which had a bad experiment in this area.” Leonetti’s prediction is more hawkish than that of earlier pro-tax advocates.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Germany: Fearful Investors Stash Money in Luxury Goods

The uncertain financial markets and the euro crisis have left many Germans feeling nervous. Worried about the security of their savings accounts, increasing numbers of people are deciding they would rather invest in material goods like art, vintage cars and real estate instead. But experts warn that nothing is 100 percent safe any more.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Greek PM Warns of Default

Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos on Wednesday said his country might default if it fails to meet EU/IMF demands later this month. “Without an agreement with the troika and further funding, Greece in March faces an immediate risk of an uncontrolled default,” he told reporters in Athens.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Greeks and Italians Come to Denmark

Greeks, Italians and other EU nationalities from countries with economic problems are increasingly seeking northwards in order to find jobs and a better life. In the first nine months of this year, Danish authorities have given residence permits to 264 people from Greece, compared to 135 in 2008, and with the Danish embassy in Athens reporting an increased interest in Denmark. “The past 6-8 months have seen a clear interest for work and studies in Denmark,” says Kristian Rasmussen of the Danish embassy.

Greek nationals are not the only ones to have an interest in Denmark. The past four years have seen an increase in the number of people from Spain, Portugal, Italy and Ireland who have been given residence permits.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italy: Senate Stenographer Paid as Much as King of Spain

Stenographer’s €290,000 salary. Salaries quadruple by end of service. Clerks receive up to €160,000

Can a senator earn half of what the Palazzo Madama barber takes home? Yes, according to some parliamentarians who say their monthly salary is only €5,000 and sidestep questions from voters furious that cuts have failed to materialise. But no, it’s not true. It’s the same old trick — point to the “allowance” net of expenses, attendance allowances and other additional benefits. Taken together, other items all but treble a parliamentarian’s take-home pay.

The story has been dragging on for weeks. On one side, first-term Italy of Values (IDV) deputy Francesco Barbato waved his pay packet on television to show that salary, attendance allowances and assistant’s allowances took his net monthly pay to more than €12,000. On the other side is exclusive focus on the basic allowance. The claim is that other items don’t count. Many deputies (230 against 400 who haven’t) have actually signed contracts with their assistants and a large number pass some of the money on to their party. Often, they do so under duress but the gesture is a legitimate, and even noble, one. Yet is it right to burden the taxpayer with this, in addition to election expenses and allowances given to parliamentary groups? Would relations with the public not be better served by showing an actual pay slip? In the wake of a series of cuts, today’s pay is genuinely lower than the €14,500 revealed by Communist Refoundation (PRC) parliamentarian Gennaro Migliore.

But a confrontation in which both sides focus solely on how much deputies and senators are paid doesn’t make a lot of sense. Worse, it could turn voters off politics and distract attention from the real issue. And that issue is the overall cost of Italy’s resource-devouring political merry-go-round — the 52 buildings occupied by the parliamentary powers-that-be, the cost of red tape and the cost of the political structures, regional authorities, provincial authorities, myriad intermediate bodies and mixed capital enterprises that serve to feed a self-referential system.

The pay packets handed out to Senate employees say it all. Senate staff’s professional excellence has always earned high praise from senators on right and left, whether they come from the south of Italy or the north, but pay levels have risen to heights unparalleled elsewhere. Parliamentarians may be willing to attack Monti, Berlusconi, Bersano or even the Pope but they never criticise the clerks who cosset them day by day. Some hint, however: “We’re not the only ones who are overpaid around here”. The Northern League serjeant-at-arms Paolo Franco says quite openly: “The contract for Palazzo Madama staff is jaw-dropping. It gives them unbelievable career progression. Clearly, no more contracts like these should be stipulated in future. Everything needs to be changed”. How can a system survive when a stenographer can earn more than the King of Spain? It sounds unlikely but that’s the way it is. Without the three-year solidarity cut imposed by Giulio Tremonti for salaries over €150,000, a stenographer in the top pay band rakes in nearly €290,000 gross. Only €2,000 less than Spain pays Juan Carlos de Borbón and €50,000 more than Giorgio Napolitano’s gross salary of €239,181 as president of Italy.

Naturally, no one is stealing anything. Like Ermanna Cossio, the youngest pensioner in the world who retired at the age of 29 on 94% of her final salary, the stenographers can say that they didn’t make the rules. Fair enough. But those rules enable Senate staff to quadruple their pay in real terms over their career, thanks to a ridiculous system of automatic increments. Today, the rules generate sky-high earnings at a time when the rest of the county is being asked to make big sacrifices. Gross of tax and the Tremonti cuts, a clerk or barber can pick up €160,000, an assistant €192,000, a secretary €256,000 and an adviser €417,000. And that’s not all because the salary can be padded out with allowances. A chief clerk in the Chamber of Deputies is entitled to a monthly supplement of €652 gross, which rises to €718 in the Senate. A head service adviser at Montecitorio receives a supplement of €2,101 while a colleague in the Senate gets €1,762, to say nothing of the top-flight jobs. According to l’Espresso magazine, junior minister for the Prime Minister’s Office with responsibility for relations with Parliament Antonio Malaschini earned €485,000 gross in 2007 as the Senate’s general secretary. Subsequently, he received a €60,000 hike that took his pay to an all-time record for the post. Obviously, pensions are in proportion, and according to the tables are never lower than €500,000 gross per annum.

This is one of the issues. Extremely favourable methods of calculation turn high salaries into equally spectacular pensions. We could mention that staff hired before 1998 can still take their pension at 53, albeit with relatively bearable penalties. Like an example? A 53-year-old parliamentary adviser hired at the age of 27, who purchased pension rights for four years spent at university, has accumulated 38 years of pensionable service. This means he or she can retire on €300,000 gross per annum, the equivalent of 85% of final salary. Should he or she stay on to the bitter end — age 60, in this context — then the pension becomes 90% of final salary, more than €370,000 of the maximum €417,000. Lower pay bands work in much the same way. At 53, a clerk can retire with a pension cheque worth €113,000 a year, which can rise to over €140,000 if he or she hangs on until the age of 60. The consequences are mind-boggling. A senator with maximum contributions will never be able to pocket such a healthy pension and all this is still going on as the Save Italy package racks up the retirement age for ordinary Italians while trimming pensions with the move to a pro-rata contribution scheme…

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Italy: One-Third of ‘Youth’ Have No Work as Joblessness Rises

Rome, 5 Jan. (AKI) — Italian unemployment in November rose for the third month, a sign that the eurozone’s third-richest country is struggling amid what is most likely its fourth recession since 2001. Almost one-third of Italy’s youth were without work.

Italy’s jobless rate advanced to 8.6 percent in November from 8.5 percent in October and from 8.3 percent in November 2010, national statistics agency Istat said in a statement on Thursday to announce preliminary data.

The value of Italy’s economy shrank in the third quarter and industry minister Corrado Passera in December said the country is in recession, while the prominent Confindustria trade association said Italy the economic retreat will last until the second half of next year.

Italy’s new government is implementing a plan to cut 30 billion euros in spending that includes pension reform and a crack-down on tax evasion. The move follows investor worries that weak growth could lead to difficulty for Italy to pay interest on its 1.9 trillion-euro debt load causing Silvio Berlusconi’s government to collapse setting the stage for a so-called technical

Unemployment for Itay’s youth, defined by Istat as those between the ages of 15 and 24 was 30.1 percent, 0.9 percent more than October and 1.8 percent above november 2010.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Portuguese to Go on Strike

Manuel Carvalho da Silva, leader of CGTP, Portugal’s largest trade union federation, on Wednesday announced a national strike on 11 February against austerity, national media report. He said that the austerity imposed under the EU/IMF bail-out “only makes things worse.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Spain: Madrid to Tighten Budget Controls Over Autonomous Regions

The new centre-right government of Spain is to ensure austerity by passing a law in March that “will establish strict instruments of control over the budgets of the autonomous regions”, Luis de Guindos, the country’s economy minister, said on Wednesday in an interview with the Financial Times.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

The Danger Debt Poses to the Western World

Countries around the world, particularly in the West, are hopelessly in the red, with debt rising every day. Even worse, politicians seem paralyzed, unable — or unwilling — to do anything about it. It is a global disaster that threatens the immediate future. But there might be a way out.

There are the banks in Europe, which will have to repay about €725 billion in combined debt in 2012, including €280 billion in the first quarter alone. With the private market largely off-limits to them, the banks have had to rely on the European Central Bank (ECB) to bail them out. The ECB is now lending them fresh money — as much as they want — at minimal interest rates.

There is the ECB, which is creating billions essentially out of nothing. On an almost weekly basis, it is acquiring bonds that no one else would buy from Portugal, Spain and Italy and, in the process, it is turning into a reluctant financier of nations. This financial aid already amounts to €211 billion.

There is the €440-billion euro bailout fund, of which €150 billion are already promised to Greece, Ireland and Portugal. But because this amount is still not enough, the finance ministers have decided to “leverage” the fund, a seemingly harmless term for bringing in additional lenders, thereby multiplying the volume of credit.

And then there is the United States, which only remains solvent because the Congress in Washington keeps raising the debt ceiling. The American government already owes its creditors about $15 trillion. Stay tuned for the next installment.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Barack Obama, The Most Arrogant US President in Decades

In December Barack Obama vainly declared himself the fourth best president in American history, up there with the likes of Abraham Lincoln and FDR, just three years into his first term. In an interview with 60 Minutes on CBS he observed:

The issue here is not gonna be a list of accomplishments. As you said yourself, Steve, you know, I would put our legislative and foreign policy accomplishments in our first two years against any president — with the possible exceptions of Johnson, FDR, and Lincoln — just in terms of what we’ve gotten done in modern history. But, you know, but when it comes to the economy, we’ve got a lot more work to do. And we’re gonna keep on at it.

Perhaps this display of self-importance is not surprising, coming from a president who enthusiastically accepted the Nobel Peace Prize after just a few months in the job, and even campaigned thousands of miles across the Atlantic in Berlin while running for office. This is a leader who thinks nothing of taking a $4 million, taxpayer-subsidised vacation in Hawaii — nearly 100 times the average annual salary of an American worker, which currently stands at $41,673. And upon his return from the sun-swept beaches of the Pacific, the president decided to bypass the elected representatives of the US Congress on Wednesday by unilaterally installing “three members of the National Labor Relations Board as well as a director for the controversial new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau” (Richard Cordray), in a huge sop to the powerful Left-wing labour unions. The move has been condemned on Capitol Hill and described by a prominent legal scholar as “a tyrannical abuse of power”.

There is something rotten at the heart of the White House when the President ignores the separation of powers enshrined in the Constitution and rules with impunity. Not only is it an unhealthy power play by executive authority in the freest nation on earth, but it is also a display of extraordinary contempt for the American people 14 months after the US mid-terms where voters emphatically rejected the president’s agenda. Despite his self-proclaimed “shellacking” at the hands of the US electorate, President Obama continues to behave with impunity, in the belief that most Americans are wrong and that he is right. His approach is remarkably lacking in humility and empathy at a time of tremendous public dissatisfaction with the state of the nation.

A major Gallup poll published just before Christmas underscored in sharp detail the depth of the malaise that has set in Obama’s America . According to the survey, US satisfaction in 2011 ranked as the second lowest since 1979, with “on average, 17 per cent satisfied with national conditions”. In the words of Gallup:

Throughout 2011, an average of 17% of Americans said they were satisfied with the way things are going in the United States. That is the second-lowest annual average in the more than 30-year history of the question, after the 15% from 2008. Satisfaction has averaged as high as 60% in 1986, 1998, and 2000.

The 11% readings from August and September are just four percentage points above the all-time low single-poll reading of 7% from Oct. 10-12, 2008, recorded after the financial crisis, passage of the TARP legislation, and a sharp downturn in stock values.

Gallup’s polling chimes with several other surveys from Rasmussen, CBS News, Associated Press and Reuters showing that more than two thirds of Americans still believe the country is moving down the wrong direction. The latest RealClear Politics Average has 70 per cent of Americans believing the United States is on the “wrong track”. At the same time, the unemployment level remains at 8.6 per cent, a dangerously high level for any incumbent president. After all, as even The New York Times acknowledged back in June, “no American president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt has won a second term in office when the unemployment rate on Election Day topped 7.2 per cent.” And the national debt has reached truly terrifying proportions under Obama’s big government leadership. As former Reagan adviser Bruce Bartlett noted in a must-read piece this week describing the findings of the just-released 2011 Treasury Financial Report of the United States Government:

According to the report, the federal debt — simply the cumulative value of all past budget deficits less surpluses — was $10.2 trillion on Sept. 30. But the government also owed $5.8 trillion to federal employees and veterans. Social Security’s unfunded liability — promised benefits over expected Social Security revenues — was $9.2 trillion over the next 75 years, or about 1 percent of the gross domestic product. Medicare’s unfunded liability was $24.6 trillion, or 3 percent of G.D.P. Altogether, the Treasury reckons the government’s total indebtedness at $51.3 trillion — five times the size of the national debt. This would be an unbearable burden if it had to be paid by the current generation out of current resources, for it approximately equals the entire net worth of American households.

America is a superpower on a precipice, sinking under debt, historic rates of unemployment, expensive healthcare reforms, and a continuing housing market crisis. But instead of a presidency that grasps reality and is serious about getting this great nation back on its feet, the American people are saddled with leadership that is intent on bankrupting and condemning them to decades of decline. Barack Obama sits at the helm of a sinking ship holed below the waterline by arrogance and hubris, driven by liberal elites who are fundamentally out of touch with a disillusioned electorate. President Obama’s contempt for public opinion as well as the US Constitution, coupled with his failing big government agenda, will ultimately prove his downfall in an increasingly conservative nation that won’t readily accept the liberal mantra that it’s best days are behind it.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Constitution Nullification: How Was it Done?

by Dennis Sevakis

Over the holidays I received a number of solicitations for contributions to organizations purporting to be working for re-establishing the Constitution or, at least, restoring it to something more closely resembling what it was ‘originally’, rather than what it supposedly is today. For example, here’s a clipping from a Heritage Foundation email:…

[Return to headlines]

Iowa Points to Three-Horse Republican Race

The outcome of the first Iowa caucuses shows that Republicans are split on which candidate stands the best chance of wresting the presidency from Barack Obama: a conservative, a moderate, or libertarian. Judging by the results of the first caucuses in Iowa, the contest for the Republican presidential nomination could shape up to be a three-horse race between religious conservative Rick Santorum, wealthy moderate Mitt Romney, and staunch libertarian Ron Paul.

“One of the things that’s become obvious in the last few weeks in Iowa is that there will be a great debate in the Republican Party before we are prepared to have a great debate with Barack Obama,” said former US house speaker Newt Gingrich, who was disappointed to finish fourth in the poll with just 13 percent of votes.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Los Angeles Arson Suspect Needs Deputies’ Help to Stand in Court

Jan. 5 (Bloomberg) — A man accused of setting a series of fires that terrorized Los Angeles over New Year’s weekend needed the help of deputies to stand at his first court appearance as new information surfaced about his home life.

Harry Burkhart, 24, appeared pale and unwell at the hearing at the state criminal courthouse in Los Angeles. He didn’t enter a plea on the 37 counts of arson that he’s charged with, saying only “yes” through a German interpreter when the judge asked whether he understood he had a right to be arraigned yesterday and when he agreed to a postponement.

California Superior Court Judge Upinder Kalra rescheduled the arraignment for Jan. 24 and set bail at $2.85 million, denying a request by prosecutors that Burkhart, a German citizen born in Chechnya, be held without bail. Burkhart’s public defender, Gustavo Sztraicher, said after the hearing that it was unlikely his client would be able to post bail.

Sztraicher declined to comment on the charges.

After Burkhart’s mother was arrested on Dec. 29, he went on an arson spree that lasted until his own arrest on Jan. 2, Deputy District Attorney Sean Carney said at yesterday’s hearing. Burkhart may have set as many as 52 fires by putting incendiary devices under the engines of parked cars, many of which were parked in carports of apartment buildings, Carney said.

‘Hatred of Americans’

“He has a hatred of Americans,” Carney told the judge. “This defendant engaged in a campaign of terror.”

[Return to headlines]

Okla. Mom Sarah McKinley Won’t Face Charges for Shooting Intruder

(CBS/AP) BLANCHARD, Okla. — Authorities say they won’t file charges against an Oklahoma widow who fatally shot a New Year’s Eve intruder at her house while she was on the phone with a 911 dispatcher.

Sarah McKinley, 18, asked a Grady County dispatcher for permission to shoot the intruder at her Blanchard mobile home.

“I’ve got two guns in my hand. Is it OK to shoot him if he comes in this door?” McKinley asked the dispatcher.

“Well, you have to do whatever you can do to protect yourself,” the dispatcher is heard telling McKinley in the 911 tape released Wednesday. “I can’t tell you that you can do that, but you have to do what you have to do to protect your baby.”

McKinley’s 3-month-old son was with her when she shot Justin Shane Martin, 24.

Oklahoma law allows the use of deadly force against intruders, and prosecutors said McKinley clearly acted in self-defense. According to court documents, Martin was holding a knife when he died.

“Our initial review of the case doesn’t indicate she violated the law in any way,” Assistant District Attorney James Walters told The Oklahoman newspaper.

However, prosecutors have charged Martin’s alleged accomplice, Dustin Louis Stewart, 29.

Stewart, who called 911 shortly after the home invasion, told a dispatcher he fled the scene when Martin made his way into a Blanchard home, reports CBS affiliate KWTV.

“My name is Dusty Stewart and I think it was my friend that got shot.”

Stewart reportedly told the dispatcher, “I don’t know what he was trying to do. I stood at the fence and told him to come on and I don’t know what he did.”

Stewart was charged with first-degree murder.

“When you’re engaged in a crime such as first-degree burglary and a death results from the events of that crime, you’re subject to prosecution for it,” Walters said.

Stewart was arraigned Wednesday and was being held in the Grady County jail. A bond hearing was set for Thursday.

According to court documents, Martin and Stewart might have been looking for prescription drugs. McKinley said it took the men about 20 minutes to get through her door, which she had barricaded with a couch.

She said her husband had died about a week earlier — on Christmas Day — after being hospitalized with complications from lung cancer earlier that month.

[Return to headlines]

Police Investigating Possible Hate Crime After Walmart Incident

TAMPA — A stun gun apparently was used on a woman at a New Tampa Walmart on New Year’s Day, and police are investigating whether she was the victim of a hate crime.

The victim, a Muslim who was wearing a traditional ethnic dress known as a salwar, told investigators she was hit by a stun gun fired by another shopper shortly before 9 p.m. Sunday at the store at 19910 Bruce B. Downs Blvd., Tampa police spokeswoman Laura McElroy said.

A video of the incident does not show the victim being hit by the stun gun, said McElroy. But she did have marks “consistent” with being hit by a stun gun, McElroy said.

“She has two marks on her back,” McElroy said. “We have no reason to doubt what she is saying.”

The video shows the suspect and another woman following the victim through the store as if she were being targeted, McElroy said. The video does not show an exchange between the women, the stun gun incident or the victim being hit, but that may have occurred off-camera, said McElroy.

Before police can determine if the incident rises to the level of a hate crime, they must first find the suspect, described as a heavy-set white female, about 5 feet, 6 inches tall and between ages 30 and 49, said McElroy.

Investigators, she said, will have to determine if the offense “was based on prejudice against victim’s race, religion, ethnicity or sexual orientation.”

McElroy said the victim’s daughters raised the issue of whether she was being targeted because of her religion.

Another possibility, said McElroy, is that the victim may have been targeted because of the big purse she had in her shopping cart.

Efforts to reach the victim by phone were not immediately successful.

Hassan Shibly, spokesman for the Council on American Islamic Relations, said, “If indeed this was a hate crime it is a clear sign that anti-Muslim rhetoric is not cost free and may unfortunately lead to senseless attacks against law abiding American Muslims.”

Shibly said via email that regardless of the motive, he hopes the suspect is caught.

[Nilk comment: This is what you call drawing a long bow. check the comments — people are nowhere near as stupid as the meeja and other ‘elites’ seem to think.]

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

The Republican Reality Show: Fox News Takes Center Stage in Primaries

Fox News has long been seen as the American right’s staunchest defender. But this election year has seen the channel demolish the campaigns of several Republican frontrunners. But what is good for ratings may not be good for US conservatives.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Anti-Islam Lyrics No Barrier to Norway Music Prize

A black metal band nominated for Norway’s top music prize has rejected claims that lyrics on its latest album go too far in their criticism of Islam.

Taake’s nomination for the Spellemann Prize in the Best Metal Album category has sparked a strong reaction from listeners who find some of the band’s lyrics objectionable, newspaper Aftenposten reports.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

File-Sharing Recognized as a Religion in Sweden

Zealous file-sharing enthusiasts in Sweden can now take their beliefs to the next level and join the Church of Kopimism, as the widespread practice has now officially been recognized as a religion. “It is a huge relief,” missionary director for the church, Isak Gerson, told The Local on Thursday. For about a year the Kopimists of Sweden, stemming from the Young Pirates, the youth movement of the controversial Pirate Party, have struggled to get their faith to be officially recognized as a religion, but have been forced to face repeated rejection.

In July, after the Kopimists most recent let-down, Gerson said that he was disappointed with Sweden’s Legal, Financial and Administrative Services Agency (Kammarkollegiet) for rejecting the attempt to get their activities registered as a religious faith, as he had done everything in his power to adhere to the agency’s regulations.

“It feels bitter. Last time we applied there were valid reasons for their rejection. We’ve had a dialogue with them since then, and sent in a new application with changes based on this dialogue,” he told The Local at the time. But now, after their third application was successful, the self-proclaimed pirates can finally pray to their own holiness. “Now we will focus on performing our religious practices and to maintain good contact with our members,” Gerson said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

France: Teenagers Go on Three-Day Crime Spree

Three teenagers, aged from 14 to 16, carried out a series of violent attacks on women and a string of house burglaries over three days close to the southern city of Montpellier. The three teenage boys all live close to the nearby town of Béziers, reported Le Parisien newspaper on Thursday.

Driving a stolen Renault Clio, the boys roamed around the area targeting women who were alone in the street. They threatened the women with knives and screwdrivers and made off with handbags, purses and jewellery. An attack on Sunday brought the three to national attention after they tried to snatch the handbag from a 73-year-old woman.

The woman resisted, apparently because her reading glasses were in the bag, causing the boys to push her to the ground. The woman was shaken but not seriously hurt. Police finally caught up with two of the boys while the third is still on the run.

“We’re dealing with a series of robberies using the threat of weapons,” said the Montpellier prosecutor, Brice Robin. “These acts are sufficiently serious that they are being held in prison.” The boys are also suspected of having burgled at least four houses on New Year’s Eve.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

France: Louvre Readies to Open New Islamic Wing

With a roof designed to look like a floating sheet of silk, a reference to the Islamic headscarf, a new wing of the Louvre housing Islamic art is nearing completion. The project to house the Paris museum’s well regarded collection of Islamic objects was launched by former president Jacques Chirac in 2002. Six years later his successor, Nicolas Sarkozy, laid the first stone. After four years of construction, the wing is set to open in the summer.

On Wednesday, the Louvre’s director, Henri Loyette, gave an update on the progress of the building, which is due to open in the summer. He said the new addition to the museum would put on show “collections that have been largely neglected for 25 years.” The building’s architect Mario Bellini, who has designed the structure with Rudy Ricciotti, told the BBC the structure should seem as if it is “floating in mid-air.” “The roof is only supported by eight very narrow tubes which are leaning and dancing together and which support the weight of the veil to the bottom of the foundations,” he said.

The 3,500 square metre space is the museum’s biggest project since the construction of the glass pyramid that sits in the Louvre’s main courtyard twenty years ago. The €98 million ($126 million) new wing will sit in one of the Louvre’s hidden courtyards in the Denon wing of the gallery and can house around 18,000 works. In 2011, the Louvre attracted a record 8.8 million visits, with around two-thirds coming from outside France.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

France: First Muslim State Cemetery in Strasbourg

The largest Muslim community in Europe lives in France

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, JANUARY 5 — The first Muslim state cemetery of France will be built in Strasbourg, in Eastern France. This is the first Muslim state cemetery in France, where the largest Muslim community (at least 4 million people) lives. The building of the Muslim cemetery is regulated by a specific set of rules and regulations issued in the Alsace-Molsheim region concerning relations between the State and the Church. A law issued in 1905, providing for secularism of the French state, prevents state authorities from financing any kind of religious institution. The law was never applied in Alsace, where the 1801 Agreement remained in force. The Agreement is a law issued in Napoleon’s times, allowing municipalities to contribute in financing worshipping activities. In the course of this region’s troubled history (Alsace was long the bone of contention between Germany and France) , the law was never changed neither harmonized with other regions’ legislation. For years now France’s Muslim community has pointed out to the state authorities that there is a lack of areas for the Muslim in state cemeteries all over the county. In Strasbourg, where Muslim areas in state cemeteries are full, several families had to bury their dead in their country of origin. The city invested 800,000 euro to build the cemetery, which is then the first all-Muslim cemetery, whose inauguration is due to take place on February, 6th.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

France: Louvre: Italian ‘Veil’ For Islamic Arts Department

Project of Milanese Bellini, opening expected this summer

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, JANUARY 4 — An undulating roofing of glass and metal, covering the 18th century courtyard like a large veil; below, two exposition floors in which natural and artificial light come together with opens spaces, glass cases and walls in black cement: the new department of Islamic Arts has been opened in the Louvre. It was designed and built by the Milanese architect Mario Bellini, together with the French Rudy Ricciotti.

“The idea of the veil is not simply based on a folkloristic image,” Bellini explained to ANSA in Paris, where he visited the nearly completed construction site, “but on the will to protect the collection against the risk of being seen against a background of Western culture, causing it inconvenience. At the same time, we did not want to cover the courtyard with glass, closing it, or construct a building inside, because that would have required a division in several levels, fragmenting the exposition space.” Hence the idea of a hybrid structure in the space of Cour Vincenti, one of the Louvre’s courtyards, without invading it. A light and translucent structure that allows light to enter. The project was also designed to make use of the area below ground level, the same as 20 years ago when the Pyramid was built that has become a symbol of the museum in Paris.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Germany Forced to Buy Austrian Electricity

One of Germany’s energy providers was forced to use reserves from Austrian power stations on two days in December as a “precautionary measure,” according to a newspaper report. According to Die Welt newspaper, grid operator Tennet, which runs a huge section of the German national electricity grid, was forced to tap energy from Austria on December 8 and 9 last year to guarantee the stability of its supply. The transaction has been confirmed by the Federal Network Agency.

Austrian providers were forced to put an old oil power station near the town of Graz back online to export the power to Germany. Following an intense national debate in the wake the March’s nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan, Germany shut down eight of its nuclear power stations last summer, and put five old conventional power stations back on the grid to cover the high-consumption winter months.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Germany: Drug Problems Persist for Flower Power Retirees

They may be getting older, but they haven’t outgrown their drug problems. German health workers are reporting a spike in the number of elderly addicts as a generation of baby boomers reaches retirement age. But the healthcare system isn’t prepared to handle them.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italy: Fiat Raises Its Chrysler Stake

Turin, 5 Jan. (AKI) — Italy’s Fiat acquired an additional 5 percent stake in Chrysler, boosting its share of the American automaker to 58.5 percent after achieving a fuel-efficiency target as the Turin-based company aims to integrate the two companies.

“The acquisition of a further 5 percent of Chrysler is a fundamental step in completion of the integration between our two groups, “ Fiat and Chrysler chief executive officer Sergio Marchionne said in a written statement on Thursday.

Marchionne aims to combine, Fiat, Italy’s top car company, with the America’s No. 3 by the end of 2014. The CEO says the combination would create “critical mass.”

Fiat initially took 20 percent of Auburn Hills, Michigan-based Chrysler in 2009 when the company was exiting a government bailout.

A retirement trust for the United Auto Workers union owns the remaining 41.5 percent Chrysler stake.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Norway: Plaintiffs Want New Breivik Sanity Check

Lawyers for the plaintiffs in the July 22nd twin attacks in Norway that left 77 people dead called on Thursday for a new psychiatric evaluation of the gunman, whom experts have found criminally insane. In a letter released by the Oslo district court, lawyers representing 56 survivors and families of the victims questioned two court-appointed experts’ diagnosis of Anders Behring Breivik which concluded that he was suffering from “paranoid schizophrenia”.

That conclusion means Behring Breivik, a 32-year-old right-wing extremist who has confessed to the killings and claimed he was waging a war against the “Muslim invasion” of Europe, will likely be sentenced to psychiatric care in a closed ward instead of going to jail. “Several of the civil parties who saw him on Utøya (the island where he committed 69 of the killings) found him to be cynical and rational and find this incompatible with the conclusion that he would be psychotic,” the lawyers wrote.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Poland: Lego Concentration Camp Sold to Polish Museum

A Polish museum has purchased a controversial replica of a concentration camp — made of Lego. Zbigniew Libera enraged the toy company in 1996 when he built a miniature version of a Nazi death camp using Lego’s signature colourful bricks. The set featured Lego crematoria and barracks, barbed-wire fences and miniature guards and skeletons, all marked with the company’s name. The Polish artist was heavily criticised at the time for making light of the Holocaust, but his work has since been shown in galleries around the world, including at New York’s Jewish Museum ten years ago. The Lego collection has now been bought from a Norwegian collector for £45,000 by Warsaw’s Museum of Modern Art. The artwork, described by the museum as “one of the most important works of contemporary Polish art,” will go on display later this year.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Seven Charged After Burning Victim With Iron

Seven men in Örebro, central Sweden, have been charged with kidnapping and aggravated assault after having tortured a man in Örebro last October, according to a report in local paper Nerikes Allehanda (NA). The incident occurred in a flat in Örebro at the start of October last year, according to news agency TT. The men allegedly tied the victim’s feet together and put him in a bathtub where they proceeded in burning him with an iron and hitting him repeatedly with computer cables. He was also stabbed with a screwdriver in the thigh.

According to the paper, one of the accused had asked the victim to visit the flat. When he arrived there, the rest of the six men were hiding inside the apartment and jumped him as soon as he entered the flat. One of the perpetrators also filmed part of the torture. According to NA, it seems as if the the torture was meant to scare the man to silence in an upcoming court case. The accused are all between 18 and 21 years old and apart from being charged with aggravated assault and kidnapping, the also stand accused of illegal threats and abusing judicial procedures.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Customs ‘Not Focused’ On Weapons Smuggling

The Öresund bridge, connecting Sweden and Denmark, has long been known to be an important route for weapons smugglers to get their wares into Sweden. Despite this only seven illegal weapons were seized there over the course of 2011. “We have been mainly focusing on drugs,” said Anders Trägårdh, head of operations at customs in Malmö, to daily newspaper Dagens Nyheter (DN).

The debate about the illegal smuggling of weapons has been given a new lease of life after a recent rise in violent crimes in the Malmö region. But in the government directive given to the Swedish customs agency they are told to focus on drugs, alcohol and cigarettes in order to combat organized crime in the country, according to news agency TT.

Illegal weapons smuggling isn’t mentioned in the directive, reported daily Svenska Dagbladet (SvD). Today customs at the Öresund bridge have around 40 sniffer dogs trained to find drugs, but none especially trained to find weapons, unlike the county police with several dogs that can track both weapons and ammunition at their disposal. And that weapons are brought in over the Öresund bridge is not news to the local police.

“Skåne is a prime spot for smuggling illegal weapons, so we are under extra pressure. We have asked for tighter regulations on smuggling for a long time,” said Lars Förstell, of the Skåne police to Svenska Dagbladet (SvD). At least 200 weapons are being confiscated by the police in Malmö annually — but there has been no direct focus on stopping them from coming in to the country in the first place. According to the Swedish National Police Board (Rikspolisstyrelsen) weapons are primarily being brought into the country from the Balkans in small consignments by land in buses or cars.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Man Jailed for Slaying Teen on Football Pitch

A 29-year-old man has been sentenced to twelve years in prison and will be deported from Sweden for murdering a teenager on a Stockholm football pitch last July. The man stabbed the 18-year-old in the chest as he played football with friends on a pitch in Hässelby, a suburb of the capital. The group managed to escape to a nearby shop, but were followed by the attacker, who continued to make threats against them. The teenager later died of his injuries.

The killer told police he targeted his victim after recognizing him from a previous fight, but the Stockholm District Court said it had not found evidence to back up that claim. Tests showed that the murderer did not suffer from a serious psychiatric disorder, and was therefore responsible for his actions.

The man’s lawyer, Sargon De Basso, said he would decide next week whether to appeal. He said the crime should have been categorized as manslaughter: “We think it is wrong of the court to find that this was a murder,” he said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Malmö Sees Five Shooting Deaths in Five Weeks

Overworked police bring in enforcements to deal with latest violent episodes

Following the shooting death of a 48-year-old man on Tuesday, Malmö has now seen five gun-related killings in just over five weeks.

As a result, Malmö police are now appointing a special unit to deal with the rise of killings.

“This is an exceptional situation with this many violent crimes,” county police chief Eva Årestad said on Tuesday, according to Sweden’s English-language news site, The Local.

Malmö police will also request the assistance of Sweden’s National Bureau of Investigation (Rikskriminalen) as well as neighbouring police districts.

Tuesday’s shooting death followed the murder of a 15-year-old boy on New Year’s Day. Police in that case say the motive may have been revenge for scaring a young girl with a firework.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Alzheimer’s Risk Can be Detected 10 Years Before Symptoms, Study Finds

In a DW interview, a Lund University scientist says his team has doubled the early detection period for Alzheimer’s. He hopes this will lead to better therapies for patients, as they may be able to be started earlier.

In a new scientific paper published in the January 1, 2012 edition of the Archives of General Psychiatry, a team of Swedish researchers have now shown that it’s possible to detect individuals with a high risk of developing Alzheimer’s 10 years before they show any outward symptoms. If their technique proves successful, it could become an important tool for managing future Alzheimer’s patients.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: A Holiday Period That Was Scarred by Casual Violence

IT WAS supposed to be the season of peace and goodwill.

But the festive period was marred this year by an unprecedented outbreak of blood-soaked violence, as Christmas and the New Year saw a grim and lengthening catalogue of murders across the country. Many of the incidents were extraordinary in their savagery.

One young woman was hacked to death at a house in Hertfordshire as she babysat her niece and nephew, while an Indian student called Anuj Bidve was shot in the head at point blank range as he walked with friends down a street in Salford on Boxing Day.

Gangland warfare in central London spilled over into murder when a teenage convicted criminal Seydou Diarrassouba was fatally stabbed during a fracas outside an Oxford Street store.

On New Year’s Eve alone, three murders were reported at parties in different parts of Britain. On the following day a young man was shot dead as he celebrated at a London wine bar.

Domestic killings have been just as barbaric, epitomised by the appalling crime at Peterlee this week where in an orgy of killing Michael Atherton shot dead his partner and two of her relatives before turning his gun on himself.

Shocking murders have always happened in Britain. But this recent spate of killings points to something darker and more poisonous at the heart of our society.

Just as the explosive riots last August ripped away the veneer of civilisation in some of our cities, so these murders reveal a dangerous element of violent brutality in our midst that did not exist a few decades ago.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

UK: Abbott’s Twitter Problems

That Diane Abbott tweet that Pete mentioned earlier (‘White people love playing divide and rule’) has made her the centre of attention this morning. She may have deleted it, and claimed that it has been ‘taken out of context’, but still the Labour Party has deemed it necessary to give her a public telling off for it. A spokesman said: ‘We disagree with Diane’s tweet. It is wrong to make sweeping generalisations about any race, creed, or culture. The Labour Party has always campaigned against such behaviour — and so has Diane Abbott.’

And Abbott herself has now apologised, although not exactly wholeheartedly: ‘I understand people have interpreted my comments as making generalisations about white people. I do not believe in doing that. I apologise for any offence caused.’

We’ll have to see if that’s enough to draw a line under all this. It may not be, particularly with Tory MP Nadhim Zahawi claiming: ‘If it was a white MP generalising against the black community and saying that the black community divide and rule, they would resign or be sacked in five minutes.’

Update: Before her apology, Abbott spoke to Sky News, but was interrupted by a phone call. According to Paul Waugh, it was Ed Miliband, and the Labour leader gave her ‘a severe dressing down’. Here’s the clip, courtesy of Political Scrapbook

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Boy ‘Tortured and Drowned’ Over Witchcraft Claims

Kristy Bamu, 15, was murdered by his sister and her partner because they believed he was practising sorcery, court told

Over a period of days the pair, originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo, attempted to “exorcise” the evil spirits they believed were in the children “refusing to let them eat, drink or sleep for days while the punishments became increasingly violent, with them using the many implements found in the flat as weapons of torture”, he said.

“However, it was Kristy who became the focus of Bikubi’s attention and, in a desperate attempt to prevent any further suffering, he and his two sisters were eventually to admit to being sorcerers,” said Altman. “As Kirsty’s injuries became ever more severe he even pleaded to be allowed to die,” he added.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

UK: Boy, 15, ‘Tortured to Death With Hammer and Chisels on Christmas Day Because Relative Thought He Was a Witch’

A teenager accused of witchcraft was tortured to death by his sister and her partner in ‘a tale of horror’ on Christmas Day, the Old Bailey heard.

Eric Bikubi, 27, and Magalie Bamu, 28, attacked Kristy Bamu, 15, and his two sisters with pliers, knives and a hammer after accusing them of being ‘sorcerers’, it is claimed.

Kristy was in such pain after days of being attacked with sticks, a metal bar, hammer and chisel that he begged to die, jurors heard.

The teenage boy had suffered more than 100 injuries — his face and head were covered in cuts and some of his teeth were missing when he was found in the blood-soaked flat.

Prosecutor Brian Altman QC said the case involved ‘unspeakable savagery and brutality’.

At one point during their ordeal, the siblings were forced to hit their brother, and when Bikubi realised that the boy’s sister was only pretending he forced a lightbulb into her mouth and threatened her with a knife.


Mr Altman told jurors that the couple were believers in ‘kindoki’ — a form of witchcraft that pervades almost all sections of their native Congolese society.

He said: ‘Kindoki usually denotes a negative, malicious force, by which people in conjunction with the spirits, or by spirits alone, deliberately inflict harm.

‘Kindoki pervades Congolese life, from high to low, rich to poor, and a believe in kindoki is not inconsistent with Christianity, because in the Congo it is practised in the churches with active support of the pastors.

‘If the practice of kindoki is dislocated from the control of the churches and the supervisory influence of religious leaders, then it may take on a feral and, indeed, evil character — as the prosecution suggest it did here.

‘The defendants were seeking Kristy’s deliverance and exorcism through the dealing out of ever-increasingly violent punishments.’

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

UK: Diane Abbott Faces Calls to Resign Over ‘Racist’ Tweet That Says ‘White People Love to Play Divide and Rule’

Black MP Diane Abbott is facing calls to quit over a remark on Twitter that has been deemed racist against white people.

The shadow minister for public health said during a conversation about the sentencing of Stephen Lawrence’s murderers that ‘white people love to play “divide and rule”,’ adding ‘we should not play their game’.

The tweet came with a hashtag that spelt out ‘tactic as old as colonialism’.

Her comment was made to freelance journalist Bim Adewunmi, another Twitter user who had been commenting about the sentencing of Gary Dobson and David Norris for Stephen’s murder.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

UK: Diane Abbott in ‘Racist’ Jibe Fury

Britain’s first black woman MP, Diane Abbott, was forced to issue a humiliating apology today after making allegedly racist remarks about white people.

A furious Ed Miliband ordered shadow health minister Ms Abbott to say sorry after she tweeted: “White people love playing ‘divide & rule’. We should not play their game.” The controversial remark ignited a furious backlash at Westminster and on Twitter. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg condemned her comments as “stupid and crass”. Tory MP Nadhim Zahawi said: “This is racism. If this was a white Member of Parliament saying all black people want to do bad things to us they would have resigned within the hour or been sacked.”

The comments by Ms Abbott, 58, the MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, were made last night during a conversation on Twitter about Stephen Lawrence’s murderers, Gary Dobson and David Norris, who were sentenced to a minimum total of 29 years yesterday. She told freelance journalist Bim Adewunmi, another Twitter user: “You are playing into the divide and rule agenda.” It provoked a storm of criticism. As the row grew today, Labour leader Mr Miliband phoned her personally while she gave a live interview on television to order her to say sorry. Shortly afterwards she issued a statement saying: “I understand people have interpreted my comments as making generalisations about white people. I do not believe in doing that. I apologise for any offence caused.”

A Labour Party source said: “We disagree with Diane’s tweet. It’s wrong to make sweeping generalisations about any race, creed or culture. The Labour Party has always campaigned against such behaviour and so has Diane Abbott.” During the conversation on Twitter, Ms Adewunmi had complained that so-called “black leaders” were out of touch with the people they claimed to represent. Ms Abbott attempted to defuse the row by saying she had been taken out of context. She updated her page on Twitter at 10am today to say: “Refers to nature of 19th Century European colonialism. Bit much to get into 140 characters.” The Labour MP also suggested that some people had interpreted her comments “maliciously”. But she was ordered to apologise publicly after the storm of criticism. Tory MP Mr Zahawi called on the Labour leader to axe her from his front bench for “inciting hatred against white people”. He branded her comments “intolerable” and “completely hurtful to the white community”. He added: “For a shadow minister to hold these sort of views is intolerable. It is completely wrong and she now needs to go.”

Twitter user stokenewington said she was “fuming” and told Ms Abbott: “Remember that last election? That was the last time I’ll ever vote for you.” She went on: “Never again. What planet are you on?” Joanne Harding, a Labour councillor, tweeted: “Well Diane Abbott has done herself no favours on twitter this eve, very disappointed with her remarks.” It is not the first time that Ms Abbott has courted controversy. On Remembrance Day last year she was heavily criticised after her office tweeted about Labour’s lead in the polls during the two-minute silence. Conservative blogger Iain Dale wrote: “Just imagine a Tory MP making this kind of comment and surviving. I think that Ms Abbott may be in big doo doo.” During the Labour leadership contest in 2010, Ms Abbott clashed with BBC political pundit Andrew Neil over her decision to send her son James to the £12,700-a-year City of London School.

Defending her decision, she said: “West Indian mums will go to the wall for their children.” Mr Neil reacted by asking: “So black mums love their kids more than white mums, do they?” Ms Abbott responded: “I have said everything I am going to say about where I send my son to school.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: MP Diane Abbott ‘Sorry’ Over Twitter Race Comments

Shadow Health Minister Diane Abbott has apologised for comments she made on the Twitter social networking site, amid claims they were racist. She wrote: “White people love playing ‘divide & rule’ We should not play their game” in response to criticism of the term “black community leaders”. Tory MP Nadhim Zahawi had called for her to be sacked for “inciting hatred against white people”. Ms Abbott said later: “I apologise for any offence caused. I understand people have interpreted my comments as making generalisations about white people,” she said. “I do not believe in doing that.”


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Mohammed Amin: What Sharia Really Means to Muslims

Mohammed Amin is Vice Chairman of the Conservative Muslim Forum but is writing in a personal capacity.

I was inspired to write this piece in response to Martin Parsons’ “Stopping the spread of sharia should be central to British foreign policy.”

I share many of Martin Parsons’ concerns about the increase in religious extremism amongst some Muslims, such as the activities of Boko Haram in Nigeria which I regard as both criminal and un-Islamic. However I want to explain why adopting an explicit policy against Shariah would be disastrous for British foreign policy.

What is Shariah?

I recommend reading Rashad Ali and Haras Rafiq’s article “Sharia doesn’t mean what Islamists claim it means”. Paul Goodman referenced this article in his 31 May 2011 post on the Prevent Review and referred to “sharia, the religious law of Islam.” However treating Shariah as being the same as Islamic law (fiqh in Arabic) actually misses a fundamental point.

My eureka moment was a “dog that didn’t bark in the night” insight when I read Mohammad Hashim Kamali’s “Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence.” While the author is careful to define Arabic terms when he first uses them, he fails to do so with the word “Shariah” and the word is missing from the glossary at the end of the book. This oversight suggests that he thought the word was obvious, because it is so fundamental to Islam, and that caused him to forget to define it.

The original meaning of Shariah according to “The Spirit of Islamic Law” by Professor Bernard G. Weiss is “The path to the water hole”. Given the importance of water in Arabia, it is not surprising that in Islam Shariah came to mean “The path to salvation.” The etymology in the Wikipedia article quotes “Understanding Islamic Law: From Classical to Contemporary” by Irshad Abdal-Haqq as follows “Shar’iah, or more properly Al-Shari’ah, literally means the pathway, path to be followed, or clear way to be followed, and has come to mean the path upon which the believer has to tread.” Accordingly, Shariah is much more than Islamic law (fiqh).

An example of how Shariah is more than fiqh

Muslims are obliged to give Zakat, which is one of the five pillars of Islam. In a country whose laws are based on Shariah, such Zakat is compulsorily collected by the state, as with any tax. There are rules set out in the books of fiqh about how Zakat is calculated, which assets it applies to etc. In countries with secular laws, such as the UK, nobody collects Zakat compulsorily, but the fiqh rules are the same; it is up to the individual Muslim to apply them. In both cases, it is possible to go to experts in fiqh who can tell you the rules. In an Islamic state, some such experts will be judges who arbitrate disputes about the amount of Zakat the state can take off you. In Britain, fiqh experts will give me an opinion; it is then between me and God what I do.

However the general obligation in Islam to be charitable does not stop with Zakat as calculated by the rules of fiqh. Without getting into boring details, a rich person can practice “Zakat avoidance” (similar to tax avoidance!) by primarily owning assets that do not attract Zakat. However the general Islamic obligation to be charitable is an integral part of Shariah, and if I seek to avoid giving Zakat by “Zakat avoidance,” and also do not otherwise give to charity, I would expect a bad outcome on the Day of Judgement. The rules of fiqh however do not tell me how much voluntary charity I should give; the level of charitableness beyond Zakat that God expects of me is not something that you can put into legal rules that a judge can arbitrate on. The same applies to many other things that God requires of us. God requires us to be kind to others. However neither fiqh nor any other legal system can specify how much kindness we should demonstrate; conversely fiqh and all other legal systems do require us to comply with contracts that we enter into.

Overall, Shariah encompasses much more than just those rules that can be litigated within an Islamic legal system or can be arbitrated by human judges. Instead, as Irshad Abdal-Haqq explains, Shariah is the totality of what God expects of us.

Why criticising Shariah upsets Muslims

When you criticise Shariah, for the reasons I explain above, you are criticising Islam itself. Individuals are free to criticise Islam, but I don’t think Her Majesty’s Government setting out to do so will advance the national interest.

What the Government’s policy should be

Our country believes in certain fundamental rights, set out very well in the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. So do I. Accordingly, we should not hesitate to require all countries to adhere to standards such as:

  • All citizens should receive equal treatment, and a country should not deny citizenship to some of its people on the basis of race or religion.
  • l people are free to practice their religion and to change it. We can actively oppose attempts to punish apostasy without concerning ourselves with the disagreement amongst Muslims as to whether Islam prescribes an earthly punishment for apostasy.

None of this requires the UK to set itself against Islam, which is where Martin Parsons’ proposition would lead us.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Study Indicates More Britons Are Converting to Islam: Report

A new study found that the number of Britons converting to Islam is growing, a London-based newspaper reported on Tuesday. The Independent newspaper said that the estimated number of British converts has always been difficult to count because “census data does not differentiate between a religious person that has adopted a new faith or was born into it.”

According to a new study by the inter-faith think tank Faith Matters, the real figure could be as high as 100,000, with as many as 5,000 new conversions nationwide each year. Previous estimates have placed the number of Muslim converts in the UK at between 14,000 and 25,000. The study used data from the Scottish 2001 census, the only survey to ask respondents what their religion was at birth as well as at the time of the survey; researchers broke down what proportion of Muslim converts there were by ethnicity and then extrapolated the figures for Britain as a whole, the newspaper said. In all they estimated that there were 60,699 converts living in Britain in 2001.

The researchers polled mosques in London to try to calculate how many conversions take place a year. The results gave a figure of 1,400 conversions in the capital in the past 12 months, which, when extrapolated nationwide, would mean approximately 5,200 people converting to Islam every year. Meanwhile, the figures are comparable with studies in Germany and France, which found that there were around 4,000 conversions a year in each country. “This report is the best intellectual ‘guestimate’ using census numbers, local authority data and polling from mosques,” Fiyaz Mughal, director of Faith Matters, told the newspaper. “Either way, few people doubt that the number adopting Islam in the UK has risen dramatically in the past 10 years.” Asked why people were converting in such large numbers, he replied: “I think there is definitely a relationship between conversions being on the increase and the prominence of Islam in the public domain. People are interested in finding out what Islam is all about, and when they do that they go in different directions. Most shrug their shoulders and return to their lives, but some will inevitably end up liking what they discover and will convert.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Twitter Fails to Act Over Ed Miliband Lookalike’s Anti-Israel Death Threats

The social networking site, Twitter, has provoked fury after refusing to act against a user responsible for a stream of death threats and antisemitic abuse. Shereef Abdallah, who advertises himself as an Ed Miliband lookalike and claims to have worked on the Labour leader’s election campaign, began by targeting people identified as supporters of Tony Blair. He has since widened his online attacks to anyone who challenges him. As the violence of his language escalated, Mr Abdallah turned his fire on a young British Israeli woman, “Rachel”, who had criticised his description of his opponents as Nazis. Using often explicit pornographic language, Mr Abdallah made direct threats such as: “I will hunt you down & fight you min by min. hr by hr. day by day. wk by wk. month by month. year by year for the rest of yr life.” He later threatened to beat her to death, noting that this was “a promise” he would carry out. The police have now taken up the case after a former Labour Party press officer intervened — only to be threatened with having his throat cut.

Mr Abdallah, who has worked as a volunteer at the office of Glenda Jackson and blogged for the Labour Party affiliate organisation Young Fabians, started his campaign with attacks on “Julia”, a young woman who runs the Blairite blog Julie’s Think Tank. The JC has been advised not to reveal the identity of the women involved as there is a risk that Mr Abdallah may turn his violent, often sexual fantasies into real acts of violence. Many of his tweets end with the sign-off “R.I.P.” The probation officers’ union, Napo, which is running a campaign to toughen up the laws on stalking, referred the tweets to a psychological profiler who helps the police identify violent offenders. She concluded that there was a 30 per cent chance that Mr Abdallah would turn his threats into real acts of violence.

When a Twitter user known as @blairsupporter reported the abuse received from Mr Abdallah, Twitter responded: “We have investigated the reported account and have found that it’s not in violation of the Twitter rules at this time. We have a policy against violent threats, but the content of this account lacks the specificity to meet the criteria of an actionable threat.” A spokeswoman from Twitter’s “Trust and Safety” department suggested contacting dealing with the matter locally. She continued: “Websites do not have the ability to investigate and assess a threat, bring charges or prosecute individuals.” But the Community Security Trust spokesman, Mark Gardner, said Twitter’s position set a dangerous precedent: “These tweets are a clear example of racist intimidation and threats. We cannot have a situation where modern media is exempt from basic legal protocol.”

Harry Fletcher, who is running Napo’s campaign on stalking law reform, said: “The threat to these women is real, frightening and could escalate. Social media companies need to wake up to their responsibilities and deal with this as a matter of urgency.” John Mann MP, chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism, said: “Individuals continue to peddle hate online. This highlights the ever-emerging problem with Twitter and it is very troubling that they refuse to act.”

Mr Abdallah, who has used the names @Sheik74k and @LFCSheikKD on Twitter, bombarded “Julia” with messages such as: “Your nightmare is just starting, Julia, it will only get worse for you every day 24/7 till you leave twitter”; “Zionists can’t save you, Julia, the only way to stop it is to leave twitter. Racist tory anti Islamic scum”; “I fear nothing not even death so will fight you and your ilk to my last breath.” Most chilling of all was the message: “… are you still alive FFS? You will be next after I end [Rachel]… that’s a promise. sleep tight”. The young blogger became seriously concerned when Mr Abdallah turned up at her university. To “Rachel”, he wrote in capital letters: “I WILL BEAT YOU TO DEATH… R.I.P; THIS IS NOT A THREAT… THAT IS A PROMISE.”

The Fabian Society said Mr Abdallah had falsely claimed to be a member of the Young Fabians when he posted as a blogger on its website. His post was subsequently removed.

Mr Abdallah refused to answer the JC’s questions.

â- A Jerusalem-based lawyer has claimed that Twitter is providing services to groups such as Hizbollah. Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, who specialises in cases against terror groups, said that the company could be violating US law. Although Hizbollah does not have an official Twitter account, that of the Al-Manar TV network, which Hizbollah controls, has 7,500 followers.

â- Twitter users in Israel are only able to select “Palestinian Territories” when listing their location. Users can choose a location using their mobile phones. But anyone wanting to choose Israel finds a drop-down menu which offers only “Palestinian Territories”. Twitter says: “We list countries where we’ve launched SMS with at least one operator. We’ve been in touch with operators in Israel but haven’t yet been able to launch SMS there. So it’s not included on the list.”

[JP note: Boycott the anti-Semitic twits at Twitter.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: TV Channel to Launch ‘Alternative Leveson Inquiry’ Into Coverage of Islam

An “alternative Leveson inquiry” is being set up by an Islamic TV channel in order to investigate the way in which British media report on Muslim and Islamic affairs. The Islam Channel is planning to appoint a judge with an independent panel of assessors — just like Leveson — to carry out the inquiry. Its springboard was a public opinion poll which found that people believe the media are responsible for “whipping up a climate of fear of Islam in the UK.” The poll, by ComRes, was published in July, the month in which the Leveson inquiry was instituted. According to its findings, people are twice as likely to say the media is to blame for Islamophobia (29%) than far-right groups (13%), or Muslims themselves, whether abroad (14%) or in the UK (11%). The Alternative Leveson will examine the possible causal effect between media coverage and social attitudes towards Muslims. It will also assess any links between media coverage and subsequent government policy. It will ask editors and journalists to give evidence along with people who believe they have been victims of prejudiced media coverage. One reporter who might well be asked to appear is Richard Peppiatt who told the Leveson inquiry that his former paper, the Daily Star, published anti-Muslim propaganda. An initial meeting to discuss the establishment of a panel will be held on Monday afternoon at the Islam channel’s headquarters in the City of London. The channel, launched in 2004 is broadcast in English by satellite (channel 813) and broadcasts across Europe, the Middle East and north Africa. It is owned by Mohamed Ali Harrath, a refugee from Tunisia who, following the Arab spring, returned to his country for a visit in February after 21 years in exile.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union

EBRD: Tunisia and Jordan Are the New Members

Two countries joined Egypt and Morocco in the European Bank

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, JANUARY 04 — Jordan and Tunisia have become members of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) as part of the process of becoming recipients of EBRD investments.

Both countries, according to the Enpi website (, sought membership of the EBRD in 2011, saying that they believed EBRD support would play an important role in helping to implement their programmes of economic and political reform. Jordan and Tunisia now join Egypt and Morocco as EBRD shareholders in the southern and eastern Mediterranean region, with Egypt and Morocco being founder members when the Bank was established in 1991. All four countries are the target of support under the Deauville Partnership that was launched under the French presidency of the G-8 in May 2011 in response to the historic changes under way in parts of the Middle East and North Africa.?? Responding to a call by the international community, the EBRD is extending the remit of its activities to include the southern and eastern Mediterranean region in a three-stage process that has already seen the first flow of technical assistance funded by grants from donors. Technical cooperation funds prepare the way for future EBRD funding, while the second stage in the process, expected in 2012, would be the creation of a special fund that would permit the start of EBRD investments in the four countries ahead of their becoming countries of operations.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

EU Offers Scholarships to College of Europe

Open to graduates from Southern Mediterranean countries

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, JANUARY 04 — The European Commission is inviting university graduates from European Neighbourhood Policy countries to apply for scholarships for post-graduate studies for the 2012-2013 academic year, at the College of Europe, founded in 1949 in Bruges (Belgium) and considered “the oldest and most prestigious institute of postgraduate European Union studies”.

According to the Enpi website (, the EU is offering a significant number of full scholarships to graduates from ENP countries, including Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Palestinian territories, Syria and Tunisia, for post-graduate studies to its Bruges (Belgium) or Natolin (Warsaw, Poland) campus. The scholarships cover academic expenses, accommodation, meals and travel costs. The deadline for sending applications is 15 January 2012.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egypt: Snubbed Millionaire’s Brutal Attack on Girlfriend

Boyfriend could not control rage after his marriage proposal was turned down

A Norwegian girl was brutally attacked by her boyfriend as she refused to marry him.

Twenty four year old Sulvy Leopreez Sakkur was severely beaten by her Egyptian millionaire boyfriend.

The lady confirmed the news in an interview with Al Wafd newspaper. She identified her boyfriend as Ahmed AL Ajati, the son of Egyptian millionaire Yahiya Al Ajati.

She said, “The reason behind this was because I refused to marry him and asked him to end our relationship”.

Sulvy said she feared to speak up about her ordeal for fear of being punished more by the businessman and his son.

The incident took place on September 7th when she was in her flat at Ma’adi accompanied by her boyfriend. Sulvy asked him to end their relationship and refused his marriage proposal.

She was surprised by his reactiono as he started screaming hysterically then hit her small dog on the wall and trumpled it under his feet.

She pleaded and begged him to stop, but instead directed his anger towards her. He hit her hard on his face and stomach.

She experienced heavy blood flow from her mouth and face. Her neighbour heard the comotion and inquired about the reason for her cries. But Ahmed threatened to beat Sulvy more if she dared to open her mouth.

Ahmed AL Ajat lied to the neighbour who was at the door of her apartment.

Soon after he dragged Sulvy by her hair from her apartment from the fifth floor to the ground and pulled her into the car.

Sulvy tried to call her friend but could not manage to do so as Ahmed grabbed her hand and threw the mobile out of the car.

Sulvy testified that she was saved by pedestrians who carried her to the hospital and reported the incident to the police. But she feared more torture from the powerful business family.

           — Hat tip: SB[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Incitement to Murder, Mubarak Risks Death Sentence

He gave orders to shoot at Tahrir protestors, prosecution

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JANUARY 5 — Hosni Mubarak could be handed down a death penalty. The sentence has not yet been officially requested, but the general prosecutor leaves little room for doubt: yesterday in Cairo in another hearing of the trial against the leader ousted on February 11 2011, he accused the former Egyptian president of incitement to the murder of protestors during demonstrations in Tahrir Square. The charge carried a death sentence. Former interior minister Habib Al Adli and six other police officials have also been charged with the same crime. “The prosecution confirms that Mubarak, Al Adli and the six high-ranking security officials aided and incited those who opened fire to do so” against a crowd demonstrating and demanding the fall of the former dictator, the prosecutor general Mustafa Suleimane was quoted by the MENA agency as saying. The prosecutor also accused the new Egyptian authorities of having “deliberately refused to cooperate with the prosecution” to ascertain the responsibility held by the former president.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Middle East

EU Countries Agree Iran Oil Ban in Principle

EU countries have agreed to impose an oil embargo on Iran but are finalising details on how and when before announcing it officially on 30 January, diplomats told press on Wednesday. Oil prices fell the same day despite the news due to fears of an economic slowdown in Europe.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Iran ‘Not Concerned’ About Imminent EU Oil Ban

(TEHRAN) — Iran said on Thursday it was “not concerned” about an imminent EU ban on its oil, saying it would endure the extra sanctions even though they amounted to “an economic war.” “Iran has always been ready to counter such hostile actions and we are not concerned at all about the sanctions,” Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said in a joint news conference with visiting Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

“We have taken provisional measures. We have weathered the storm for the past 32 years and we will be able to survive this as well,” Salehi said. “These sanctions are an economic war against us,” Economy Minister Shamseddin Hosseini said, according to the official IRNA news agency.

Diplomats in Brussels said on Wednesday that the 27-nation EU bloc has reached an “agreement in principle” to ban Iranian oil imports and was discussing the timing of when the measure would begin. The ban would add to other sanctions already imposed by the West, including a US measure enacted last weekend that targets Iran’s central bank, which processes most of the Islamic republic’s oil sales.

The European Union is the second-biggest destination for Iranian oil after China, accounting for around 15 percent of the 2.6 million barrels exported each day, or some 450,000 barrels. Iran relies on oil sales for 80 percent of its foreign revenues.

The West is squeezing Iran over its nuclear programme, which the United States and allied nations fear is being used to develop an atomic bomb.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Yemen — the Second Somalia?

Ongoing anti-government protests, attacks by Islamic extremists and desires in the south to break from the north, have fueled concerns that Yemen could become another Somalia.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


‘Russia Has Awoken’: Anti-Putin Protesters Search for Direction

Where will the Moscow protests lead? Already calling for the creation of their own party, the opposition movement is still searching for a leader. Their hope is to challenge Vladimir Putin in March’s presidential election. But the Russian strongman refuses dialogue with the protesters.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

South Asia

India: Deoband Fatwa Against Selling of Firecrackers

Muzaffarnagar: Leading Islamic seminary Darul Uloom Deoband has issued a fatwa against manufacturing and selling of firecrackers, saying it was against Sharia law. Manufacturing and selling of firecrackers is against Sharia law, and bursting of crackers is misuse of money, the fatwa said, adding that men who misuse money are the “brothers of devil.” The fatwa was issued on a query from a man involved in the business of manufacturing firecrackers. A large number of Muslims are involved in manufacturing firecrackers in the country.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Phishing: Spam and Cyber Threats Affect India’s Internet Community

According to a recent study, India holds the world’s top spot for junk mail. Spammers make use of slack laws and near absent enforcement to turn the country into a center of unwanted email.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Far East

Chinese Airlines Refuse to Pay EU Carbon Tax

A group representing Chinese airlines says it will ignore Europe’s framework for taxing carbon emissions in the aviation industry. Government officials in Beijing want Brussels to got back to the drawing board.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

US and China Hunker Down for Talks on Way Forward on North Korea

With the region still in a stir following the death of Kim Jong-Il, senior US and Chinese officials have held high-level talks in Beijing to discuss stability in the reclusive North.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

50 Detainee Complaints But Just One Reprimand at Maribyrnong

ONLY one staff member at Melbourne’s Maribyrnong Detention Centre has been disciplined in 15 months, despite almost 50 complaints against staff.

Centre operator Serco Australia said many allegations had been found to be unsubstantiated.

The Herald Sun this week revealed complaints of abuse and mistreatment by staff accounted for nearly a quarter of the 187 grievances lodged at the centre in the 15 months to March 25 last year.

Few details of complaints against staff were provided in documents released under Freedom of Information. But they included complaints of bullying, threats, intimidation, discrimination, racism and abuse.

One detainee claimed he was subjected to a “kind of torture” when he was not allowed out of a car for a cigarette, coffee or food break on a three-hour city tour.

He said he suffered a painful back and backside and a headache.

“My back got sore and I lost feeling (in) my ass (sic) my head started paining,” he said.

In another case, a member of the public complained of “inappropriate behaviour” by a Serco escort taking a detainee to hospital.

A Serco spokesman said it took its duty of care very seriously and complaints were properly investigated.

“Where appropriate, action is taken, and the complainant is advised formally of the outcome in each case.

“Complaints can often be resolved quickly (and) in many cases allegations are investigated and found not to be substantiated,” he said.

“However, we do not tolerate misconduct and where it is found to have occurred, we will take appropriate action.”

Other common complaints included delayed or inadequate medical treatment; lack of internet access; and poor quality or inadequate food.

Others said some ethnic groups were discriminated against and given less food.

Complaints against fellow detainees related to fights, racism, threats, screaming at night, and “inappropriate” touching.

Other gripes included overcrowding; lack of privacy; poor maintenance, hygiene and cleaning; lack of cash to buy from the centre’s shop; missing and broken equipment; and problems concerning visits.

Last month Serco, along with the immigration department and International Health and Medical Services, were told they had a “greater than normal duty of care” for detainees after being strongly criticised by a NSW coroner over three suicides at Sydney’s Villawood detention centre.

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

Government Refuses to Give in to Ransom Demands

THE Gillard Government will not pay a $2 million ransom demand for kidnapped Australian Warren Rodwell despite his harrowing video plea for help.

Mr Rodwell is being held by blood-thirsty Muslim extremists in the Philippines with a history of beheading captives when their demands are not met.

The Government and the Opposition are standing by the policy of refusing to pay ransom demands for fear it could encourage other terrorists.

Australian officials are instead assisting Filipino authorities as they try to trace the thugs who seized Mr Rodwell from his home last month.

Looking haggard and distressed, the 53-year-old former soldier pleads for the Australian embassy to help him in a 108-second video sent to his Filipina wife and obtained by Fairfax Media.

“This is your constituent appealing for his life, his safety,” he says.

“To my family, please do whatever to raise the two million US dollars they are asking for my release as soon as possible.”

Human Services Minister Brendan O’Connor said the Government would do everything it could to ensure Mr Rodwell’s safe return — but it would not pay a ransom.

“There’s been a policy, a bi-partisan policy, on not paying ransoms, for many many years,” he said.

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

Govt Looking to Brand Anzac Day

The federal government is reportedly looking to brand the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australia and New Zealand forces during World War I.

A market research company has been paid $103,275 to conduct focus groups nationwide last year on branding Anzac Day, News Limited reported on Friday.

“It is a political intervention which should be snuffed out immediately, not just because it’s a waste of money but because Anzac Day … (is) profoundly celebrated and commemorated,” former Victorian premier Jeff Kennett said.

A Department of Veterans’ Affairs spokeswoman told News Limited the concept for “a national brand or motif” came after an Anzac Centenary Advisory Board meeting on October 14.

She said the government was tendering for a design and that ideas would be focus group tested.

Victorian RSL boss David McLachlan would not comment until he had seen the plans.

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Nigeria Church Hit by Deadly Gun Attack Continue Reading the Main Story

Gunmen have attacked a church in north-east Nigeria killing at least six people, the church’s pastor says.

Johnson Jauro said the killings took place when gunmen burst into his Deeper Life Church in Gombe, capital of Gombe state.

He said his wife was among those killed. Ten other people were injured.

Nigeria has recently experienced a surge in ethnic and sectarian violence. The government declared a state of emergency in parts of the country.

“The attackers started shooting sporadically. They shot through the window of the church, and many people were killed including my wife,” Mr Jauro told Reuters news agency.

“Many members who attended the church service were also injured.”

No group said it carried out the attack, but the Islamist group Boko Haram recently carried out a string of bombings on Christmas Day, including against a church in the capital Abuja which killed dozens of people.

Earlier on Thursday, two suspected members of Boko Haram were arrested after a father and son were killed in Maiduguri in neighbouring Borno state.

Escalating violence

Attacks by Boko Haram have become increasingly frequent and are a major problem for the Nigerian authorities.

The wave of Islamist violence is one of the biggest problems faced by President Goodluck Jonathan President Goodluck Jonathan has vowed to “crush” the group.

Several northern states surrounding Gombe have had their borders sealed off under the state of emergency declared by Mr Jonathan following the Christmas bombings.

Boko Haram is fighting to create an Islamic state and wants to impose Sharia law across Nigeria.

Followers of Boko Haram believe any political or social activity associated with Western values should be banned.

This includes voting in elections, wearing shirts and trousers and receiving a secular education.

Boko Haram regards the Nigerian state as being run by non-believers and this was the case even when the country had a Muslim president.

In unrelated violence on Sunday, at least 50 people died in the eastern state of Ebony in clashes between two ethnic groups over a land dispute.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]

South Sudan’s Cattle Wars Claim Humanitarian Toll

In South Sudan’s Jonglei state — the size of Austria and Switzerland combined — festering tribal rivalry has erupted into violence, triggering a humanitarian crisis.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

The Evil Being Perpetrated Against Christians in Nigeria

by Fraser Nelson

The religious cleansing against Christians is intensifying in Nigeria, where Christians have been told they have until Friday to leave the country or face attacks by Islamic extremists. As I wrote recently in the Daily Telegraph, this is a trend sweeping the Middle East. Thousands are fleeing Iraq and Egypt, but Nigeria is the scene of the most ferocious attacks. Its government condemns the attacks, but seems unable to respond to the Boko Haram menace. This from the National Review:

‘Catholic archbishop John Onaiyekan, of Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city, appealed for help. “It’s a national tragedy. We are all unsecured. It’s not only Catholic. Today it’s us. Tomorrow we don’t know who it will be,” he said. Nigeria’s Catholic bishops report that some 200 individuals, mostly Catholic worshippers, were killed in the coordinated Christmas bombings…Archbishop Ade Job, president of the Episcopal Conference of Nigeria, issued a desperate plea: “Members of the Boko Haram sect have claimed responsibility for this shameful crime against God and humanity. We use this opportunity to call on our peace-loving Muslims, especially their leaders from the political, economic, social, and religious spectrums, not only to publicly denounce these acts, but for their own good and good of Nigeria… to do everything positive to end this movement… It is apparent that, if we depend only on our available active security agents, we shall not make much progress. I therefore call on Mr. President to recall the retired experts in criminology and employ foreign experts in this field to assist the active security agents to put an immediate end to [the] Boko Haram menace.”‘

As I blogged last week, the Foreign Office has been reprehensibly slow to respond to the new threat of religious cleansing. It should not be slow to offer whatever help and assistance the Nigerian government may need to stop this evil in its tracks.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]


Massachusetts Cannot Prevent Legal Immigrants From Enrolling in Commonwealth Care, Court Rules

BOSTON — The state’s highest court has ruled that Massachusetts cannot prevent thousands of legal immigrants from fully enrolling in Commonwealth Care, the state’s subsidized health care program.

The Supreme Judicial Court said in a unanimous decision Thursday that denying legal immigrants access to the program was discrimination and a violation of their equal protection rights under the state Constitution.

Secretary of Administration and Finance Jay Gonzalez said the ruling could cost the state up to $150 million.

The Legislature voted in 2009 to block immigrants from the program to save money. Gov. Deval L. Patrick later created the Commonwealth Care Bridge program to provide basic health care for legal immigrants who had been covered under Commonwealth Care.

Health Law Advocates, which filed a lawsuit on behalf of immigrants, praised the high court ruling.

[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Gay Actor Ian McKellen Convinced Shakespeare Preferred Men

Shakespearean actor Sir Ian McKellen has boldly announced that there is absolutely ‘no doubt’ the bard was gay.

The Lord of the Rings star is adamant William Shakespeare preferred sex with men even though he was married with children.

And the 72-year-old acclaimed thespian said he came to his conclusion after studying William Shakespeare’s work it is evident the playwright was gay.

Sir Ian reflected in a New York newspaper: ‘I’d say Shakespeare slept with men.

‘The Merchant of Venice, centering on how the world treats gays as well as Jews, has a love triangle between an older man, younger man and a woman.

‘And the complexity in his comedies with cross-dressing and disguises is immense. Shakespeare obviously enjoyed sex with men as well as women.’

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]


Globally, 2011 Was Costliest Disaster Year Ever

From devastating earthquakes to record tornado outbreaks, 2011 was the most expensive year for natural disasters worldwide, according to a new insurance report. At $380 billion, global economic losses from natural disasters in 2011 were two-thirds higher than in 2005, the previous record year, which had losses of $220 billion. The magnitude 9.0 Japan temblor in Marchalone caused more than half the year’s losses, according to the report from global insurance firm Munich Re. In the United States, a deadly dozen disasters each caused more than $1 billion in damage.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

The Hunt is on for Habitable Moons Around Alien Planets

While astronomers continue to search for potentially habitable alien planets, they’re expanding the hunt to include moons that could host life as well.

Three new computer simulations may help researchers identify rocky satellites beyond our solar system that could harbor water on their surfaces, if their parent planets circle close enough to their stars.

When scientists working with NASA’s Kepler space telescope announced the discovery of 1,235 planetary candidates in February 2011, the list included 37 Neptune-sized planets and 10 Jupiter-sized planets within their star’s habitable zones — the region of space where water can exist as a liquid on a rocky planet. Though gas giants would not boast liquid water on their surface, their moons might.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]