Sunday, January 12, 2003

News Feed 20120107

Financial Crisis
»Eurozone Economic Confidence Falls for 10th Month Running
»Italy: Minister Calls Talks After Shipbuilders Occupy Airport
»Monti Closes Euro-Crisis Talks in Paris
»Spain: Government Checks Salaries Paid to Bank Managers
»51 Reasons to Impeach Obama
»Lawyer for Unmasked Actress Suing IMDb: ‘My Client is Willing to See This Case to Its Conclusion’
»New York Rabbis Call for Destruction of Zionist Regime
»Halifax Mosque Still Working on Gym
Europe and the EU
»Bulgaria: Sofia Mosque Clashes
»Italy: Severino Rejects Criticism of Prison Reforms
»Norwegian Muslims Invited to Visit Churches
»Norwegian LNG Carrier Chooses Ice Over Pirates, Russia Opens Northwest Passage
»Spain: First Muslim Government Official Starts in Melilla
»The Puzzle of European Hair and Eye Colors
»UK: Boy Held After ‘Attack’ On Teachers
»UK: Death Threat Tweeter Suspended by Labour Party
»UK: Ed Miliband’s Twitter Slip in Tribute to Bob Holness
»UK: For Years: You’ve Paid Their £2,000-a-Week Rents. But the Housing Benefit Gravy Train’s Hit the Buffers
»UK: I’ll Have an ‘O’ Please, Bob
»UK: If We Go by the Daft Definition of Racism Proffered by Diane Abbott’s Own Social Set Then She *is* a Racist
»UK: It’s Not About You, Ed
»UK: Lib-Dems Anti-Islam Rants: “Put Pork Restaurant Next to Mosque”
Mediterranean Union
»EBRD: Tunisia and Jordan Are the New Members
North Africa
»Egypt: The Muslim Brotherhood’s Moment
»Europe Concerned Over Sahel Insecurity: German Minister
Middle East
»Iranian Ayatollah Says Facebook Un-Islamic, Membership a Sin
»Is Giant Russia a Dying Bear?
South Asia
»Musharraf Will be Arrested on Arrival in Pakistan, PTI Reports
Far East
»North Korea’s Kim Jong-un Wages Defector Crackdown
»Pressed by U.S., Asian Countries Look for Ways to Reduce Purchases of Iranian Oil
Australia — Pacific
»Off His Face and Now Out of Pocket in a Divorce Settlement
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Gambia: Banni Inaugurates New Mosque
»Nigeria: Boko Haram: Sharia or Militant Wing of Northern Politicians?
»Nigeria Christians Hit by Fresh Islamist Attacks
»Nigeria: Over 50 Injured as Angry Youths Attack Muslims in Sapele
»Nigeria: Residents Flee Homes After Boko Haram Attack in Yobe
»Italy: Police Nab Gangsters Tied to Immigrant Slayings

Financial Crisis

Eurozone Economic Confidence Falls for 10th Month Running

(BRUSSELS) — Consumer and business confidence in the eurozone economy fell for the 10th month in a row in December, the European Commission said Friday as fears of recession loomed large over Europe. “The overall decline in the EU resulted from weakening confidence in services, construction and among consumers,” the commission said in its monthly survey.

Sentiment, however, improved in retail trade and remained broadly stable in industry, the European Union’s executive arm added. Amid concerns that Europe is heading towards recession, the Economic Sentiment Indicator (ESI) dropped by 0.5 points to 93.3 in the 17-nation eurozone and by 0.8 percent to 92 in the wider 27-nation EU.

Among nations in the debt-laden eurozone, sentiment rebounded in Germany, rising one point to 105, and the Netherlands where it rose by 0.8 points to 90.5. It deteriorated in Italy, falling 4.6 points to 85.5, and Spain where it dropped 1.3 points to 89.7. The two countries are considered most at scrambling to cut spending and reform their economies to stave off the eurozone debt crisis.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italy: Minister Calls Talks After Shipbuilders Occupy Airport

Workers protest in Genoa, Palermo over Fincantieri restructuring

(ANSA) — Genoa, January 4 — Industry Minister Corrado Passera will host talks with trade unions on shipbuilding company Fincantieri’s restructuring programme next week after workers whose jobs are threatened occupied Genoa airport on Wednesday, causing disruption for travellers.

Fincantieri workers also staged a protest in Palermo, where the firm plans to axe 140 jobs over the next two years.

“The situation has become unsustainable,” said Bruno Manganaro, the head of the CGIL union in Liguria, the region around Genoa, before the government announced Passera will hold talks on Tuesday.

“If you have to behave like madmen to have a meeting with the government, then we’ll behave like madmen,” added Manganaro, who joined the protest by workers from a plant in the Genoa suburb of Sestri Ponente. “We’re sorry about the disruption. We tried in every way to be respectful and disciplined, but it seems that you get taken for a ride if you behave like that”. The protest caused several companies to take passengers to Milan so they could reroute flights from Linate airport.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Monti Closes Euro-Crisis Talks in Paris

Premier announces Rome meeting with Merkel and Sarkozy

(ANSA) — Paris, January 6 — Italian Premier Mario Monti was in Paris Friday where he met with French President Nicolas Sarkozy to discuss fresh anti-crisis moves and announced another round of meetings with European leaders in Italy. “President Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel will be there,” he said of the trilateral talks scheduled in Rome on January 20.

“All this will be part of a sequence,” he added, referring to a key EU summit that will follow on January 30 in Brussels. At the close of the Paris talks on Friday, Sarkozy said that he and Monti shared “an identical point of view” on how to solve the debt crisis in the eurozone. The French president added that Monti’s actions since taking over as the head of Italy’s emergency government in November have “inspired faith in other European heads of state”.

“With concrete action and budget discipline, the government has put a series of parliament-approved measures into place since January, including radical pension reforms,” said Monti.

“Other measures will follow in the coming months”. Last week, the premier promised his government would focus on growth and labour-market reform in the next phase of his 30-billion-euro ‘Save Italy’ economic package, which also includes tax hikes, spending cuts and pension reforms.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spain: Government Checks Salaries Paid to Bank Managers

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, JANUARY 5 — The Spanish government is preparing a general plan against tax evasion in 2012, hoping to recover 8.171 billion euros. The government will ask the Bank of Spain for a report on salaries paid to managers of banks that have received State aid, to check if these salaries are justified. These are some of the measures that were discussed today by the government, as government spokesperson and Vice Premier Soraya Saenz de Santamaria announced in the usual conference that follows cabinet meetings. “We will not award those who have led their organisations to a financial situation that required administration by an external commissioner,” said Saenz de Santamaria. Economy Minister Cristobal Montoro presented a report in the meeting on 4,000 organisations and public foundations, part of which could be axed in an operation which Premier Mariano Rajoy has called the “third stage” of simplification and rationalisation of the public administration. This operation started with a reduction of the number of Ministries. The year 2011, according to figures reported by the Vice Premier, was closed with a welfare deficit of 668 million euros, while a surplus was expected. Regarding nuclear energy and the controversial extension of the nuclear power plant in Garoña, opposed by environmentalists, Soraya de Santamaria announced that the Minister for Industry will ask the nuclear safety council whether the plant can stay open, despite the fact that it has been active for more than 40 years.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


51 Reasons to Impeach Obama

The Gunny was going to post this tomorrow but in light of Obama now appointing THREE Obomobots to the NLRB, in conjunction with the appointment of Cordray, it should be posted NOW!

1. Obama and unrepentant terrorist William Ayers misappropriated over 300 million dollars in donations meant for the education of Chicago’s minority students. They routed the money to Obama’s community activist buddies who then tried to turn the students in radicals. The program was a total failure.
2.  Obama, as an Illinois State Senator, redirected tens of millions in Illinois tax dollars to Valerie Jarrett and Tony Rezko, to provide housing for low income families. They returned the favor with political donations. The housing units were built with cheap materials and labor and are uninhabitable after a mere 10 years of use.
3.  Obama accepted millions in illegal campaign contributions from foreign credit cards after the credit card filters used to screen out foreign money, was switched off. This also allowed domestic donors, who were over the legal limit, to contribute more.
4. Obama and SecState Clinton’s efforts to bring the US under the UN’s Small Arms Treaty are direct violations of the Second Amendment of the US Constitution.

…and on… and on……

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

Lawyer for Unmasked Actress Suing IMDb: ‘My Client is Willing to See This Case to Its Conclusion’

Attorney John Dozier speaks out about his client Huang Hoang’s decision to reveal her name in her battle against the Hollywood database for disclosing her real age.

Huang Hoang, the actress who on Friday was outed in her lawsuit against IMDB for publishing her age, is getting some big-time support from Hollywood’s biggest acting guild. Late Friday, the Screen Actors Guild issued a statement applauding Hoang for her “determination and courage” in “standing up to fight the unfair and abusive practice of publishing actors’ private information online without their consent.” “Thousands of actors have had their careers harmed by the unauthorized publication of their birthdates by IMDb against their wishes,” SAG says in a statement to THR.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

New York Rabbis Call for Destruction of Zionist Regime

(Ahlul Bayt News Agency) — A group of anti-Zionist rabbis gathered in front of the Zionist regime embassy in New York to call for annihilation of the usurper regime and liberation of the occupied lands. The group asked the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the Security Council’s members to listen to the voice of the defenseless Palestinians and put an end to the crimes of the Zionist regime in the occupied lands. Rabbi Davis Vice told IRNA that the Zionist regime’s leaders are assuming the identity of Israel and the Jews only to continue their barbaric crimes against defenseless Palestinians. He said that the group of rabbis gathering in front of the Israeli embassy were representing the Jewish nation in a restless fight against the illegitimate Israeli regime and expressed hope that the move would be victorious soon. The rabbi also noted that a number of followers of the Jewish faith called for absolute destruction of the Zionist regime in gatherings in front of their embassies in Canada and the UK.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]


Halifax Mosque Still Working on Gym

A gymnasium built with provincial money as part of a two-storey mosque and community centre is still under construction in central Halifax. The mosque on Charles Street has been in use since August, and worshippers supplied every dollar to build it. But people in the local neighbourhood are wondering when the community gym, stage and kitchen will be open to the public. Dr. Hadi Salah, who speaks for the Muslim nonprofit group that is building a multipurpose gym in the mosque’s basement, said the walls of the gym are done and the floor will soon be installed. A prayer room for 700 people upstairs is complete except for chandeliers coming from Egypt. Salah said the push was to get the mosque open for the holy month of fasting and prayer, during which no noise is allowed. “At the end of July, we had to stop the contractors because we wanted to open the building for Ramadan. We did finish Ramadan, but then we’ve been having difficulty getting them back,” he said. The plumber is coming next week, but work was delayed on the gym which has been paid for with $767,681 from the provincial Department of Health and Wellness.

The province contributed the money through a 2007 Nova Scotia government program called B-FIT. The program was introduced as a 10-year initiative to fund major sport and recreation infrastructure. Deputy minister Kevin McNamara said he is confident the gym will open to the public this May. “Our belief is that it still will be realized. We know there’s been a delay and this often happens in some larger projects and also when you’re involved with community groups,” McNamara said. In August, Salah said the basement was about 90 per cent complete and he predicted it would be finished in four to five months. At that time, he also said construction was set to resume after Aug. 29, when the holy month ended.

The nonprofit Muslim group has no bank loans. It still needs to raise $500,000 to finish the $6.2 million project. There are about 15,000 Muslims in the Halifax region. They have been asking for a proper mosque, or Masjid, for more than 15 years.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Bulgaria: Sofia Mosque Clashes

On May 20, supporters of the Bulgarian far right, nationalist, Ataka (Attack) party started a brawl in downtown Sofia, assaulting Muslims during their Friday prayer. The nationalists staged a rally in front of the Sofia’s Banya Bashi mosque, protesting the fact it has loudspeakers that sound Muslim prayers in the entire area around it. The Banya Bashi mosque in downtown Sofia is a part of the city’s unique “triangle of tolerance”, encompassing also the St Nedelya Church, and the Sofia Synagogue are located within metres of each other in the very center of the city. As one of the protesters tried to remove a prayer rug from the space in front of the mosque, tension escalated and a fight started between the two groups. Ataka supporters were reported shouting “Bulgaria” and “Turks, get out” and throwing eggs at the praying.

The incident has had wider repercussions, all the way from Bulgarians flocking to lay flowers at the mosque as a sign of apology, to the start of investigation of Ataka for stirring ethnic and religious hatred and the consolidation of the voters of the Bulgarian ethnic Turkish party DPS (Movement for Rights and Freedoms). On May 27, Parliament adopted a declaration condemning the violence stirred by Ataka. All 127 MPs present at the parliamentary sitting (out of a total of 240) voted in favor of the declaration. Meanwhile, Ataka came out with another declaration, warning that paid thugs pretending to be Ataka activists might stage new provocations during Friday’s Muslim prayer in Sofia. Volen Siderov, the nationalist party’s leader, stated he had never preached violence and those who had attacked the Muslims last Friday were, in fact, not Ataka members. The May 20 clashes drove a rift between GERB and Ataka, the nationalist party having been the only parliamentary ally of the ruling center-right formation, which formed a minority government in 2009.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Italy: Severino Rejects Criticism of Prison Reforms

‘Senior police present at talks’, says minister

(ANSA) — Rome, January 4 — Justice minister Paola Severino on Wednesday rejected criticism about Italy’s prison system saying she was open to making improvements.

Severino has come under fire in recent days over a decree approved by cabinet to reform the justice system and release more than 30,000 low-risk prisoners to ease pressure on the prison system.

Under the proposal, prisoners could serve the final 18 months of their jail sentence at home.

“They are regulations reached with the interior ministry in the presence of senior police,” Severino said, referring to criticism of the prison system and the use of security cells.

“Things have to be tested. I am open to better solutions”.

Severino spoke to the media before facing the Senate justice committee which is examining the government’s latest proposals amid debate about overcrowding in Italy’s 206 jails.

Cirillo, who also testified before the committee on Wednesday, rejected a bid to ease prison overcrowding through the use of electronic bracelets for low-risk criminals and questioned other aspects of the security package. Electronic bracelets were approved in Italy 10 years ago but have rarely been applied.

Cirillo said there are few bracelets available and they cost a hefty 5,000 euros each.

“There are only eight,” Cirillo said of the bracelets. “If we went to Bulgari (jeweller), we would spend less”. According to the latest figures released on Tuesday, 186 people died in Italian prisons in 2011, 66 of them suicides.

At the last estimate the total number of inmates was 67,600 inside the country’s jails, against a nominal capacity of 44,612.

Italy’s prison population is now at its highest level since World War II and recent estimates suggest it will continue rising unless urgent action is taken, with the number expected to climb above 100,000 this year.

Overcrowding is believed to be more than partly responsible for the high number of suicides in Italian prisons compared to those in most other developed countries.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Norwegian Muslims Invited to Visit Churches

(Ahlul Bayt News Agency) — Trygve Slagsvold Vedum (Centre Party) says Norwegian Muslims should visit churches during the Christmas holiday, in order to understand Norway and Norwegians better. He says Norwegian Christian traditions are part of the Norwegian history and culture that immigrants, including Muslims, would be better off knowing. Vedum also emphasized that ethnic Norwegians should visit the mosques and ceremonies of other religions. Mehtab Afsar, General Secretary of the Islamic Council of Norway, was positive about the idea, but said it happens more often than people think. It is not uncommon for people to visit each other’s holy places and to attend each other’s ceremonies. Muslims increasingly participate in cultural Christmas celebrations, even if they do not participate in the religious aspects. On another level, a survey conducted lately by Radio Norway has shown a noticeable change regarding how Norwegians view Islam and Muslims. 54% of them now consider that Islam does not constitute a threat to Norway. The survey also showed that the view of women and those who acquired higher education towards Muslims are less negative than those of men and the less educated. Although 65% of the surveyed said that they do not have any knowledge about Muslims, the department of political science in the University of Oslo has ensured that the crime committed by Brejvik on July 22, 2011 had a positive impact concerning the acceptance of a pluralistic Norway. There is no problem in the openness of Muslims on the societies they live in, nor in celebrating their occasions in the way that preserves their religion and gives a positive and pure image of the aware and open Islamic personality that preserves the security of the society and helps in enriching it, as well as promoting the existing cultural ties.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Norwegian LNG Carrier Chooses Ice Over Pirates, Russia Opens Northwest Passage

Russia has for the first time authorized a Liquefied Natural Gas tanker to sail through its Arctic waters from Europe to high-demand Asian markets, a route that requires about half the usual sailing time, potentially reduces costs and avoids the threat from Somali pirates. Russia authorized the tanker Ribera del Duera Knutsen to sail along the Northern sea route from the Atlantic ocean to the Pacific ocean, Norwegian shipping company Knutsen OAS Shipping said.

In September, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said that he sees the future of the Northeast Passage “as that of an international transport artery” able to compete with other maritime routes on both fees, safety and quality. From Europe, the route is a much shorter way to the Far East than sailing across the Mediterranean Sea and through the Suez Canal, which requires ships to sail through the ‘pirate alley’ in the Gulf of Aden north of Somalia.

It would save a lot of time and money, Knutsen’s Chartering Manager John Einar Dalsvag said, as current LNG rates are at a very high level of about $150,000 a day, so “days are expensive.” Using the shorter Northern route means sailing in icy Arctic waters from the Barents Sea along Siberia to the Bering Strait, then on to Japan or other countries in the Far East. Japan’s demand for LNG has climbed sharply after an earthquake and a tsunami knocked out several nuclear power plants in 2011.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Spain: First Muslim Government Official Starts in Melilla

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, JANUARY 3 — The first Muslim government official to be appointed by the executive since the beginning of democracy in the country has begun work in Melilla, the Spanish enclave within Morocco. Abdelmalik El Barkani, 51, has been a member of the People’s Party since 1995 and was granted Spanish citizenship twenty years ago. His swearing-in was attended, amongst others, by the Agriculture Minister, Miguel Arias Canete, and the president of Melilla, Juan Jose Imbroda, El Berkani was previously vice-president of Melilla, and a consultant to the presidency, as well as the director of the Cultural Institute, a centre promoting co-habitation between the diverse communities in the town of 75,000 inhabitants.

As a government official, the equivalent of a provincial state representative, El Berkani will deal with issues concerning the border with Morocco and migratory pressure from North Africa, which increased during 2011. The enclave’s temporary detention centre, which has a capacity of 400 people, currently houses more than double the amount, consisting of migrants awaiting repatriation to their countries of origin.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

The Puzzle of European Hair and Eye Colors

European populations have an unusually broad palette of hair and eye colors. This diversity doesn’t have a common genetic cause. It is due to a proliferation of alleles at two separate genes: MC1R for hair color and OCA2 for eye color. This proliferation did not come about through relaxation of selection for dark skin as ancestral Europeans moved into higher latitudes. Most of the new alleles have little or no affect on skin color, and in any case the timeframe is too narrow for this evolutionary scenario.

A likelier cause is sexual selection, which favors bright or novel colors that catch the attention of potential mates. If sexual selection is strong enough, a polymorphism of color variants may develop. A new color appears through mutation and, depending on its brightness or novelty, steadily rises in frequency until it is as common as the established color. Over time, these variants will increase in number. Humans have the potential for this kind of frequency-dependent sexual selection, e.g., darker-haired women are sexually preferred to the extent that they are less common. Such selection is consistent with the high number of alleles for hair color and eye color in European populations, the high ratio of nonsynonymous to synonymous variants among these alleles, and the relatively short time over which this hair and eye color diversity developed.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: Boy Held After ‘Attack’ On Teachers

A 10-year-old boy has been arrested over an alleged attack on two women teachers.

One of the victims — who were both in their 50s — suffered a broken leg and suspected dislocated kneecap and the other sustained a facial injury, Scotland Yard said.

Both women were taken by ambulance to a nearby hospital following the alleged incident in Orpington, south-east London.

Police were called to the school in Avalon Road at 1pm on Thursday to reports that a pupil had assaulted two teachers.

A Scotland Yard spokesman said: “A 10-year-old boy was arrested at the scene on suspicion of grievous bodily harm and was taken to a south-east London police station.

“He has been bailed to return on a date in mid-February.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

UK: Death Threat Tweeter Suspended by Labour Party

The Labour Party has suspended one of its members after it emerged that he was using Twitter to wage a campaign of death threats and antisemitic abuse against other users.

Shereef Abdallah, an Ed Miliband “lookalike” who previously worked as a volunteer at the office of Labour MP Glenda Jackson, has been suspended from the party with immediate effect. Mr Abdallah’s stream of abuse included comments directed at others such as “racist tory anti Islamic scum” and “your nightmare is just starting… it will only get worse for you every day 24/7 till you leave twitter”. He also sent threats to “hunt” his targets down and to “end” them. “I fear nothing not even death so will fight you and your ilk to my last breath,” he wrote. Neil Nerva, vice chair of the Jewish Labour Movement and the chair of Mr Abdallah’s local Labour Party, praised the decision. “I am pleased the party has taken immediate action,” he said.

[JP note: What a tweek it has been for the Ed Twiliband — untwitting tweetermonium in twitterland …]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Ed Miliband’s Twitter Slip in Tribute to Bob Holness

‘Blackbusters’ tweet as TV quiz legend dies, 83

ED Miliband faced ridicule last night after making a spectacular Twitter gaffe.

The Labour leader tweeted a tribute following the death of game show legend Bob Holness — but blundered by claiming the star presented BLACKBUSTERS, not Blockbusters. His slip-up came a day after a race row erupted over his party colleague Diane Abbott’s online slur against “white people”. As news broke yesterday of Mr Holness’s death at the age of 83, hapless Mr Miliband tweeted: “Sad to hear that Bob Holness has died. A generation will remember him fondly from Blackbusters.”

Panicking Labour officials swiftly deleted the tweet, but were too late to stop it going global. Last night Mr Miliband’s aides tried to protect their boss by blaming the gaffe on a “junior” member of staff. His spokesman said: “It was a typo by one of the people in the office. Ed always knows what is being tweeted — sometimes he types them himself, sometimes someone else does.” The Twitter boob came 24 hours after the storm sparked by shadow junior health minister Ms Abbott on the micro-blogging service. Last night Labour insiders suggested Mr Miliband might have accidentally written “black” as he was distracted by the Abbott row.

And some critics suggested a simple typing error was unlikely as letters ‘A’ and ‘O’ are so far apart on the standard QWERTY keyboard.

One Labour MP said: “It never rains but it pours. Poor Ed wanted to get on the front foot this year but has ended up shooting himself in the foot.” Meanwhile a generation of fans were last night mourning the death of TV host Bob, who passed away in his sleep at a nursing home.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: For Years: You’ve Paid Their £2,000-a-Week Rents. But the Housing Benefit Gravy Train’s Hit the Buffers

At the kitchen table, two pretty girls giggle as they draw pictures with crayons. On the wall are posters listing their times-tables, while in the corner, the family’s tropical fish, Bubbles and Tiger, swim in a heated aquarium.

But this happy domestic scene is threatened with upheaval because, in nine days’ time, the Rostant family — two parents, eight children and their pet fish — may be homeless.

Until now, the family have been one of four families claiming the highest amount of housing benefit in the country.

Their £2,000-a-week rent (more than £103,200 a year, given to the landlord) has been paid by taxpayers. But the money is to be stopped as the result of the Government’s crackdown, which began this week, on the long-running scandal of housing benefit abuse (which costs the working public a staggering £20billion a year).

The change in the law means that low-income families such as the Rostants will no longer be given huge sums of housing benefit to live in expensive accommodation.

In Central London, where they live, a strict cap of £400 a week for housing benefit pay-outs has been brought in. Andre Rostant said yesterday: ‘It’s a matter of when, not if, we are chucked out by the landlord because we can’t pay the rent.

‘There are 40 families at my children’s primary school who also expect to be evicted from their homes for the same reason.’

Many of these families, living in some of the wealthiest parts of London, have had their huge rents paid by the State for many years. But now, the welfare gravy train has halted.

This week, when local councils were forced to release figures following a Freedom Of Information investigation, it was revealed that as well as the Rostants, there are two other families in London who have their rent of £2,000 a week paid by taxpayers.

A fourth family — thought to live in a grand house in St John’s Wood — has rent of £2,050 a week (or £106,600 a year) picked up by the State. This is the biggest amount of housing benefit ever to be handed out.

Tory MP Anne Main says: ‘This is a staggering sum of money and it shows that the benefit system has been in desperate need of reform. These claimants are enjoying levels of luxury that most working people, even on fairly high salaries, cannot dream of.’

Now though, and not before time, the axe has fallen and councils are writing to tenants to explain the effect of the changes.

Mr Rostant was one of the first to receive a letter from Westminster Council saying his family’s housing benefit will be capped from January 16.

The letter explains the law change will ‘make sure that people on benefit are not living in accommodation that would be unaffordable to most people in work’.

A local councillor has also written to Mr Rostant to say that if the family can’t raise the extra £1,600 a week needed to pay the rent and do not find alternative, cheaper accommodation, his wife, Thirza, and their eight children (aged from three to 14) will be regarded as ‘intentionally homeless’ and won’t even get the capped £400 a week in housing benefit.

Mr Rostant says: ‘I am negotiating with my landlord to get the rent down, but I don’t hold out hope. I am looking for another house. We wouldn’t be human if we weren’t scared. The children know what is happening. The little ones may have to move to another primary school and make new friends.’

He says that if his family has to move — which seems inevitable — his current neighbours have generously offered to put up his three eldest children so they can continue to go to the same school nearby where their father is a governor.

But, whatever happens, it means a rude awakening for Andre, 48, Dutch-born Thirza (ten years his junior) and their children, Ida, 14, Ellen, 13, Andre junior, 11, Philip, nine, Hannah, eight, Louisa, six, Margaret, five, and Maurice, three.

The case reveals the lunacy of the housing benefit system (introduced by New Labour to ‘empower’ tenants) which had been allowed to go unchecked for years.

Enormous sums of taxpayers’ money were wasted by paying private landlords extortionate rents on behalf of families whose own scant financial resources — or failure to work — meant they would never have been able to live in such accommodation without state aid.

Although the crackdown on housing benefit now means millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money will be saved, many thousands of families who have enjoyed being feather-bedded for so long face an uncertain future.

Mr Rostant, a Londoner whose varied career has included jobs as a postman, a financial services adviser and a clerical officer, is now a hypnotherapist who helps clients perk up their sex lives.

His wife has done some part-time jobs, but, needless to say, their large family takes up most of her time.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: I’ll Have an ‘O’ Please, Bob

“Real life has become an episode of The Thick Of It,” says Neil O’Brien. I know what he means. Ed Miliband’s fingers must have slipped as he tweeted in response to the sad death of Bob Holness: @Ed_Miliband Sad to hear that Bob Holness has died. A generation will remember him fondly from Blackbusters.

Oops! Now, trending top in the world on Twitter, is the hashtag “#EdMilibandGameshows”. A few examples: “Family Mis-fortunes”; “Have I Got Unions For You”; “I’m Out of my Depth…Get Me Out of Here!” You get the picture… Labour + social media = cock-up. The staffers at Number 10 have clocked off early today.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: If We Go by the Daft Definition of Racism Proffered by Diane Abbott’s Own Social Set Then She *is* a Racist

by Brendan O’Neill

Is Diane Abbott racist? By any reasoned, rational assessment, of course she isn’t. There’s far more to being a racist than writing the occasional clumsily worded tweet. But if we go by the definition of racism proffered by Abbott’s own social and political set — particularly by the Labour Party — then she is a racist. After all, who was it who redefined racism to include speech and action that is not even consciously bigoted (“unwitting racism”) and to include “any incident which is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person”? Yep, it was Labour and its various cliques. Abbott has fallen victim to her own mates’ ruthless relativisation of what constitutes racism. One of the most destructive legacies of the New Labour years was the racialisation of everyday life: the way in which all of us were encouraged to see racism in every off-the-cuff remark, tense encounter in the workplace, and even playground scuffle (last year more than 20,000 under-11s in British schools were punished for “racist” or “homophobic” behaviour). By turning the hunt for racist behaviour into a new moral crusade for a chattering class that was seriously bereft of one, New Labour did not defeat the scourge of racialised thinking. Rather it did the very opposite, inviting us all to think in increasingly racialised terms and to have our Offence Antennae permanently switched to High so that we might spot anything even remotely racist. The end result was a more divided, tense and racialised society, which is a far cry from the kind of equality and peace fought for by generations of anti-racists.

Under New Labour, racism was most clearly relativised through the Macpherson inquiry into the murder of Stephen Lawrence. It was Macpherson’s report, published in 1999 and enthusiastically backed and adopted by New Labour, which introduced the idea of “unwitting racism” — the idea that one can be racist without even knowing it — and which defined as racism any incident that is deemed to be racist by the victim of it or by any other person. In short, almost anything — any dumb remark or thoughtless comment — could now be labelled a “racist incident”. New Labour divorced racism from power and politics and reconceptualised it as a form of bad manners that was allegedly widespread in impolite society.

Abbott’s daft tweet conforms very well to the surreal New Labourite definition of racism. She may not have intended to be racist, but so what, you can still be an “unwitting” racist. And as other people have judged her tweet to be racist, that apparently means that it is racist. The bizarre furore over Abbott’s tweeting should remind us that, sadly, racial thinking has not been defeated but rather has been intensified in the post-New Labour era. Perhaps it’s time to go back to having a serious definition of racism — which is after all a very serious thing. We should aspire to live in society of equals, not one in which both whites and blacks alike are continually invited to play the victim card.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: It’s Not About You, Ed

One thing you learn in life is that most people have no idea how they are perceived by others. This is particularly true in Britain, where we don’t generally feel it is polite to tell people what we think of them. Politicians and public figures therefore find themselves in the unusual position of having opinions about them shoved right in their faces. Maurice Glasman’s description of Ed Miliband as having ‘no strategy, no narrative and little energy’ must have been deeply hurtful to the man who elevated a previously little-known academic to the House of Lords. High-profile politicians must cauterise a certain part of their mind (or is it their soul?) in order to cope with the white noise of personal insult they have to endure. Most people would end up a little odd as a result of this process and it is clear that many politicians start off odd from the outset.

Which brings us back to Ed Miliband, a man who has been reminded of his geeky oddness on a minute-by-minute basis since he became Labour leader. The Labour leader’s fightback interview in the Guardian today is, in many ways, impressive. He is right to call Cameron on his commitment to attacking crony capitalism and right to say the Labour Party must re-think its traditional economic strategy of ‘sharing the proceeds of growth’. At times, Miliband shows an unusual degree of self-knowledge, recognising that it was an open-door approach to policy advice led him to embrace ‘interesting guys’ such as Maurice Glasman. But one answer to Patrick Wintour stands out. ‘You discover things about yourself in this job, which is that I am someone of real steel and grit’. This is just toe-curling and something no one should ever say about oneself. People in positions of responsibility should never be allowed to tell others what they have discovered about themselves. I remember a senior news executive prone to favouritism and vindictiveness who used to tell young reporters ‘the one thing you will find about me is that I am tough but fair’. The point is that the political narrative has begun to fix on doubts about Ed Miliband’s leadership. This is not the moment for the Labour leader to share his view of his own capacities with us. If there were no doubts he would not need to reassure us.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Lib-Dems Anti-Islam Rants: “Put Pork Restaurant Next to Mosque”

A Liberal Democrat candidate has refused to apologise for a series of shocking Islamophobic comments. Sick Dave Stone suggested a pork restaurant and a topless bar — named after Islam’s holiest city — should be build next to a mosque. The would-be councillor, who is the party’s candidate for a by-election in Redcar and Cleveland on 19 January, said: “Regarding the mosque being built near ground zero. I say let them build it. But then, across the street we should put a topless bar called “You Mecca Me Hot” … and next to that a pork rib restaurant … Then we’ll see who’s tolerant.”

A number of posts on his Facebook page were seemingly calculated to deliberately offend Muslims — including spreading outright smears. Stones claimed that the Royal British Legion were “not selling poppies in certain areas of the UK”, implying that objections from Muslims were behind the decision


           — 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: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egypt: The Muslim Brotherhood’s Moment

This is an exciting time for the editors in Cairo who run Ikhwan, the official website of the Muslim Brotherhood. The Brotherhood has suddenly become popular, and there’s never a lack of news to report.China’s ambassador to Egypt dropped in the other day for an informal talk with Mohamed Morsi, head of the Brotherhood’s political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party. Last week, it was the Russian ambassador who came to chat with Morsi — about democratic values, according to the report on Ikhwan. Diplomats from Nigeria, Cuba, Spain and elsewhere are anxious to connect with the Brotherhood. They realize that it’s now part of Egypt’s political future, perhaps even the most important part. In many places around the world, the Brotherhood has for decades been regarded with suspicion and fear, as a source of the modern Islamist passion that encourages tyranny and terrorism. Many moderate Muslims wish it would disappear. In the long reign of Hosni Mubarak, the Brotherhood was an outlawed organization whose members couldn’t declare their affiliation and had to run as independents for the dubious honour of serving in Mubarak’s sham parliament.

But the Arab Spring changed everything. In February, as protests in Tahrir Square blossomed and Mubarak was being dethroned, the Brotherhood stepped out of the shadows. It started its own party, which is now by far the most popular in Egypt. In the first two phases of the current lower-house elections, Brotherhood candidates received about half the votes. A fifth of the votes went to another Islamist group, the fanatically puritan Salafist political party, al-Nour (The Light). Islamists are expected to do at least as well in the final phase, the results of which are expected on Jan. 13. The voting has produced a dangerous epidemic of wishful thinking, reaching all the way to Washington. The Obama government has quietly reversed the anti-Brotherhood policy of the United States. An anonymous but apparently important figure in the administration told The New York Times that it’s now essential to “engage with the party that won the election.” Senator John Kerry, chairman of the foreign relations committee, explained why he met with Brotherhood leaders: “The United States needs to deal with the new reality.” Washington apparently accepts, for the moment, the Brotherhood’s claim that it wants an Egyptian government that will respect religious freedoms, free markets and international commitments, including Egypt’s treaty with Israel.

That’s what they say to the Americans. On the other hand, the deputy chief of the Muslim Brotherhood, Rashad alBayoumi, recently told the AlHayat newspaper of London that the Brotherhood is not required to recognize Israel, which he called an “occupying entity.” He won’t even meet with Israeli representatives. Many of the rebels who led the Egyptian revolution last winter said they were committed to democracy and a secular society. They were not lying. But the “Tahrir people,” as they are sometimes called, have discovered that election campaigns are harder to organize than street demonstrations. In the campaign, democracyminded candidates discussed constitutional freedoms. Islamists talked about the impossibly high cost of food. The tough policies of Mubarak apparently hardened the Brotherhood into a disciplined and determined organization. They won their position as favourites of the poor through years of political generosity: They subsidized everything from meat to school supplies and gave away sugar, cooking oil and fresh vegetables.

Will they change their extremist ways as they achieve some power? That would mean turning against all the fierce preachers and propagandists who spread the Islamist ideology over eight decades. It could happen, but not likely. Even the optimists believe that the Brotherhood’s moderate attitude will prove temporary. Yasmine El Rashidi, a respected Middle East journalist, writing in the current New York Review of Books, says the Brotherhood will likely emerge after the Egyptian elections as a mediator, perhaps an ally of the liberal coalition in the first parliament. But even she implies that this will be a strategy: “Having waited since 1928 for this moment, the Brotherhood can be expected to wait another few years before attempting to make any drastic or fundamental changes in the social and cultural life of the Egyptian state.”

Meanwhile, the crucial Egyptian tourist industry, which was wounded by the chaos of 2011, has a new worry: the arch-puritan Salafis. They want an Egypt as rigid as Saudi Arabia. They propose separating men from women on the beaches. They hope to ban alcohol. At a Salafist political rally held in a public square in Alexandria, they draped cloth over a sculpture of a mermaid — for decency’s sake. In a way, these hyper-puritans are the Muslim Brotherhood’s best friends. The term “moderate” is relative, after all. And the case for applying it to the Brotherhood’s supporters gets stronger when you set them beside rivals who blush at the sight of a fish-woman’s bosom.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Europe Concerned Over Sahel Insecurity: German Minister

(ALGIERS) — German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle Saturday said Europe has become deeply concerned about the volatile security situation in the Sahel region caused by the rise of Al-Qaeda’s north African branch, in an interview with an Algerian newspaper. “The security situation in the Sahel is a source of major concern for us and our European Union partners,” Westerwelle told the daily Liberte. “That is why we are working in Brussels on a common strategy for security and development in the Sahel.”

Germany’s top diplomat is due to arrive in Algiers on Saturday for talks with top Algerian officials as part of his visit to north Africa which will include stops in Libya and Tunisia. The EU recently launched a strategy for the Sahel with a budget of 150 million euros ($190 million) aimed at encouraging security and development in particular in Mauritania, Mali and Niger.

The Sahel region including Algeria has been plagued by a growing number of attacks and kidnappings, especially of Westerners, by militants of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). About 12 Europeans are currently being held by AQIM and another dissident group.

A flood of arms including heavy weapons has also spread through the region following the collapse of Moamer Khadafi’s regime in Libya. Westerwelle told the paper the EU will give Libya support by “financing the destruction of landmines and detonators and helping to secure its arsenal of chemical weapons in order to reduce the potential risks to the region.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Iranian Ayatollah Says Facebook Un-Islamic, Membership a Sin

Tehran (dpa) — An Iranian ayatollah has said that the social networking service Facebook was un-Islamic and being a member of it a sin, the ISNA news agency reported Saturday.

In Iran, it is common for senior clerics to be asked about their stance on certain social issues and whether these issues are compatible with Islamic norms.

Their answers are regarded as a form of decree.

ISNA on Saturday broadcast coverage of the response of Ayatollah Lotfollah Safi-Golpaygani, a senior cleric, to the question about Facebook and Iranian membership in the social networking service.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]


Is Giant Russia a Dying Bear?

Although Russia today accounts for about six percent of the world’s population with a post-secondary education, barely 0.1 percent of the worldwide patents granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office over the last decade and a half were awarded to Russians. This is not some U.S. conspiracy against Russian inventors: the records of the UN’s World Intellectual property Organization show that Russia’s share of out-of-country patent applications over that same period was less than 0.2 percent of the global total.

The picture is hardly better when it comes to the output of scienti?c papers: the number of articles by Russians in peer-reviewed journals was no higher in 2008 than it had been in 1990,whereas output almost everywhere else in the world rose over those same years. By 2008, Russian authors were publishing far fewer scienti?c papers than the authors of Russia’s bric peers: Brazil, China, and India. In effect, Russia stands as a new and disturbing wonder in today’s globalized world: a society characterized by high levels of schooling but low levels of health, knowledge, and education.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Musharraf Will be Arrested on Arrival in Pakistan, PTI Reports

Pervez Musharraf, who resigned as Pakistan’s president in 2008, will be arrested on arrival in the country later this month, the Press Trust of India reported, citing a prosecutor.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

Far East

North Korea’s Kim Jong-un Wages Defector Crackdown

In North Korea, a new Kim may be in command but the same old human rights violations are still in play, including a renewed lethal crackdown on defectors, according to South Korean media reports. Weeks after 20-something Kim Jong Un assumed power following his father Kim Jong Il’s sudden death by heart attack last month, border guards have begun shooting down would-be defectors who try to flee the impoverished nation, the reports said.

Three people who tried to flee the repressive regime were reportedly killed in recent days as they tried to cross the Yalu River along the Chinese border, part of a policy of tightened border controls that Pyongyang is enforcing after Kim Jong Il’s Dec. 17 death. Under Kim Jong Un, North Korea has pledged to hunt down and imprison, or even kill, three generations of family left behind by escapees, successful or not, according to Seoul’s Joongang Daily newspaper.

North Korea watchers say the younger Kim may fear that a rise in defections could destabilize his fledgling hold on power as officials across Pyongyang’s security apparatus jockey to demonstrate their loyalty to the regime’s new strongman. “There was nothing like the eradication of three generations in the Kim Jong Il era, but now it’s happening under Kim Jong Un,” an unnamed official told the newspaper.

The crackdown is seen as part of Kim Jong Un’s attempt to consolidate his power and show backbone to the high-ranking generals of the nation’s 1.2-million-troops-strong military who once revered his father — officers old enough to be the younger Kim’s grandfather. “Obviously it is getting much harder to defect,” Do Hee-yoon, a member of the Citizens’ Coalition for the Human Rights of Abductees, told the Korea Times newspaper.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Pressed by U.S., Asian Countries Look for Ways to Reduce Purchases of Iranian Oil

Under growing pressure from the United States, some of Asia’s largest economies are reluctantly looking for options to reduce the amount of oil they buy from Iran, a move that would further tighten the economic vise on an increasingly defiant nation that announced plans for a new round of naval drills in the Strait of Hormuz.

The decision by South Korea and Japan to try to accommodate Washington’s demands follows reports that China has already reduced its purchase of Iranian crude in the past month in a pricing dispute with Tehran. Whatever the motives, the combined loss of sales threatens an economy already reeling, where the currency has plummeted in value, inflation has surged and the general public has expressed growing anxiety about the prospect of war.

China, Japan, India and South Korea together import more than 60 percent of Iranian oil exports, and they all depend on Iran and other Persian Gulf producers for the preponderance of their oil and natural gas needs. As tensions in the gulf have escalated and alarmed Asian governments and businesses, companies and traders from those countries have been putting out feelers to places like Russia, Vietnam, West Africa, Iraq and especially Saudi Arabia to export more oil to them, according to oil experts.

For Tehran, which relies heavily on oil revenues to prop up an economy battered by years of sanctions, the potential cutbacks by its Asian customers follow a decision by the European Union to move toward a ban on the import of Iranian oil. Taken together, the Western efforts represent the most serious economic pressure yet on Iran after years of conflict over a nuclear program that the West charges is aimed at building weapons.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Off His Face and Now Out of Pocket in a Divorce Settlement

FRITTERING away cash on booze and dope during more than 20 years of marriage has cost a man dearly in his divorce settlement.

A federal magistrate decided his excessive drug and alcohol use meant his ex-wife should get an extra $150,000 — or 20 per cent — of their combined assets, The Daily Telegraph reported.

The Federal Magistrates’ Court heard the man drank six to 12 stubbies of beer a night and smoked marijuana almost daily.

“It is not possible to say exactly how much this impacted upon the financial outcome with any certainty,” magistrate Philip Burchardt said in a recently published court judgment.

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Gambia: Banni Inaugurates New Mosque

The community of Banni in Sami District, Central River Region (CRR) on Friday 30th December 2011, inaugurated the first mosque of the village with a mass congregational prayer attended by Islamic scholars and people from the satellite villages. The mosque, entirely funded by the natives of Banni both at home and abroad is a product of the community’s ‘testito’ projects and manifests the strong community spirit, unity and harmony existing among natives of the community. The inauguration of the new mosque in the opinion of Alhaji Ousman Dahaba and Alhaji Jimbang Kijera, a member of the mosque committee and council of elders symbolises the fulfillment of the dreams of their forebears, whom they said prayed and worked hard to ensure that the community acquires its own mosque. They further spoke at length about the significance of a mosque and urged the community to maintain the mosque so that it can serve its full purpose.

“Our forebears worked had to build a mosque for the village and could not accomplish that goal. If we, their offspring are able to complete the journey they started, we should return praise to God and commit ourselves further to the strengthening of the religion of Islam which they lived and died for, and which the mosque is built to serve,” said Jimbang Kijera.

Alhaji Ganyie Touray, governor of CRR commended the village for the bold initiative and accomplishment and assured of government’s continuous support for such endeavours. He said: “The Gambia under the dynamic leadership of President Jammeh, as we are all aware is in strong support of the development of religion particularly Islam. So he is also proud to be associated with such developments and would always rally behind the progress of Islam in the country.” He further advised the villagers to maintain the unity and harmony existing in the community and continue to rally behind the leadership and government that make such accomplishments possible.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Nigeria: Boko Haram: Sharia or Militant Wing of Northern Politicians?

IT is a very instructive observation by some concerned Nigerians that, when the Northern Political Leaders Forum (NPLF) failed to force its way politically within the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Ciroma branch of the proverbial “Kaduna mafia” was unable to gain the type of foothold it had within the NPN after its struggle with Shehu Shagari in 1979, in 2011, all hell was let loose. When efforts by a few ‘born to rule” individuals, to warehouse the office of the president failed, anarchy in the guise of Boko Haram became the next choice. The operational tactics of Boko Haram (western education is sin), a supposed religious sect with curious objectives changed and has since become a tool to return presidency immediately to a few who claim that holding on to political power in Nigeria is their god given right.

As an elder politician, a former Central Bank governor and a major stakeholder in the politics of the North East, is it not a matter of great quandary that, while the North East burned and the instigators of the bloodletting in the region extended their bloody hands to the federal capital, the news media, is voluminously silent on a single comment from Ciroma and his NPLF associates. Comments of agreement or disagreement, no matter how distasteful or insipid from the man who presided over the coffers of Nigeria over a lengthy period of time is worthy listening to? As a major player in the politics of Nigeria, he came third in the NPN contest for the presidency in 1978/79 behind Shehu Shagari and Maitama Sule. Despite his sponsorship by the astute administrator Hamza Rafindadi Zayyad, Ciroma knows what is at stake regarding the wielding of political power in Nigeria.

He was in good company when he co-opted Ibrahim Babangida, Aliyu Mohammed Gusau and Abubakar Atiku, all prominent men who have presided over the appropriation of the Nigerian fiscus over a lengthy period of time to claim the Nigerian presidency as a northern heritage, with the north defined along their very narrow perception; a northern Nigeria where northern minorities particularly the people of the middle-belt or north central are second class citizens. Hence, knowing what is at stake, it is no surprise he swore to do everything within his power to ensure that himself and his associates do not play second fiddle to anyone who was not on their side, and that they “would make Nigeria ungovernable”, if Jonathan or anyone who is not within their anointed circle became president of Nigeria.

This type of threat was taken then in the heat of the struggle as part of political angst and dispensed with. But with benefit of hindsight, and with what has happened so far, we know better and now must take it seriously because it was similarly used against Chief MKO Abiola until he was killed. Also, immediately after the PDP primaries, came the first extensive use of incendiary materials by unspecified persons at an INEC office in Suleja. This marked the beginning of many such incidents of carnage recorded at his door step to destabilise the peace of the country. What perhaps is worrisome is the loud silence of Ciroma at a time such as this. And the question to ask is where does he stand? For in truth, looking at the vision of Boko Haram and their current tactics, can we not assume that the bellum sacrum of Boko Haram has aligned with the casus belli of the NPLF? Should we not see their role as those of the political paymasters who have fueled the Taliban in Afghanistan waiting in the wings to devour the political carcass left behind, when the fanatics have had their fill of blood?

Does the silence of the NPLF and their associates not indicate acquiescence or accord? If not, where do they stand? For as William T. Cavanaugh indicated, religion is just a subterfuge and “religious violence” can be and is used to legitimate violence against “others”. So where does NPLF stand? With Nigeria or with the fanatical dissidents? Let us count the victims of Boko Haram and review their targets and see if it has much to do with western education. Insipid statements have been made by top associates of NPLF to the effect that the ongoing security threats are symptomatic of the failure of the security system in Nigeria, which should be overhauled. One agrees wholly with this assertion, but Aliyu Mohammed Gusau was in charge of setting up most of the current security system in Nigeria, having spent decades as the head of Military intelligence and later National Security Adviser of several governments.

In fact, if doctoral qualifications were awarded for on-the-job experience as a security chief, Gusau should have several doctorates on Nigerian security. One can even wager that many of the top operatives in the Nigerian security apparati report first to Gusau before anyone because of recruitment loyalties. As one of the beneficiaries of Ciroma’s dispensing of the power to rule as a representative of the NPLF, as well as his background on how lapses develop in Nigerian security, what has been Alhaji Gusau’s advise to secure the North East, and more important what was the view of Ciroma on effecting such views. In other words, where does Ciroma stand on the security of the North East and Nigeria?

Ciroma was born in Potiskum, where Christianity and Islam have co-existed side by side for decades. In December 2011, 30 shops owned by Christians were set ablaze in Potiskum, while scores of people have been slaughtered in nearby Damaturu. Through all these, we have head the voices of Muslims like Aregbesola a governor and devout Muslim, as well as Fashola, also a Muslim governor condemning such inhuman act of brutality, at the very doorstep of Ciroma and his associates. Yet, there has been no responses from Ciroma and friends. One would distance someone like him from such an act, knowing that the actions of Boko Haram as they are currently been executed would obviously lead to a point where he and his associates may eventually be left with 100 percent of nothing as against the current share of something which they are fighting to gain more of.

But it is a fact that the operatives of Boko Haram who have been caught so far, do not have the financial reserves, the banking proficiency to execute cross-country arms purchases, nor can they afford an extended recruitment of unemployed youths over a lengthy period. In addition, they are unable to pay for the use of Honda vehicles as expendable bearers of suicide bombs. Is it not therefore logical to ask; if the funds expended to recruit operatives of Boko Haram, has been associated with a Senator and former diplomat from Yobe sate, the very doorstep of Ciroma, is he unaware of these activities? If he is not, where does he and his NPLF associates stand? The loud silence of Ciroma and his associates on the operations of Boko Haram when placed against their vow that Nigeria will be ungovernable if they failed to gain political power purchase on the platform of the PDP remains inexplicable. Is this struggle a prelude for the control of the northern political space ahead of 2015 or a persistent assertion of power at the centre by proxy on behalf of the NPLF? Can Nigeria afford the outcome of this struggle?

[JP note: It is indeed a ‘matter of great quandary’ — one faced by the whole world.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Nigeria Christians Hit by Fresh Islamist Attacks

Nigeria has been hit by a fresh wave of violence apparently targeting the country’s Christian communities.

At least 17 people were killed in Mubi in Adamawa state as gunmen opened fire in a town hall where members of the Christian Igbo group were meeting. There were also reports of a deadly attack in Adamawa’s capital, Yola. The Islamist Boko Haram group said it had carried out the attack in Mubi and another in Gombe on Thursday night in which at least six people died. The group has staged numerous attacks in northern and central areas in recent months — on Christmas Day it attacked a church near the capital, Abuja, killing dozens of people. One Boko Haram faction has warned all southerners — who are mostly Christian and animist — to leave the mainly Muslim north of Nigeria. Adamawa state borders Borno state, where Boko Haram emerged. Last week President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in Yobe and Borno states, as well as Plateau state in central Nigeria and Niger state in the west, following a surge in ethnic and sectarian violence.

But the pace of attacks has increased and he must now consider whether to extend the state of emergency into other states and beef up the military presence in the north in response, says the BBC’s Mark Lobel in Lagos.

Meanwhile, the government is also facing the bleak prospect of a general strike in two days’ time amid popular fury over its removal of a fuel subsidy which has seen fuel prices double for ordinary Nigerians. Residents told the BBC that those killed in Mubi belonged to the Igbo community from the south of the country. They had been meeting to organise how to transport the body of an Igbo man who was shot dead by gunmen on motorbikes on Thursday evening. “It was while they were holding the meeting that gunmen came and opened fire on them,” a resident said. Witnesses said gunmen burst into the hall and shouted “God is great” as they opened fire. Members of the Igbo community in northern Nigeria often own shops and businesses, but the BBC’s Abdullahi Tasiu in Yola says many Igbo traders in Mubi town are reported to have closed their shops and be planning to flee the area.

Later, a man claiming to be a spokesman for Boko Haram told local media the group had carried out both the Mubi and Gombe attacks. “We are extending our frontiers to other places to show that the declaration of a state of emergency by the Nigerian government will not deter us. We can really go to wherever we want to go,” said Abul Qaqa. He said the attacks were “part of our response to the ultimatum we gave to southerners to leave the north” and called on the government to release all Boko Haram prisoners. Later on Friday, there were reports that eight people had been killed in another attack on a church in Yola. “Some gunmen went into the church and opened fire on worshippers killing some people and wounding several others,” a local journalist told the AFP news agency. A source at the local hospital told AFP that between eight and 10 bodies had been taken there.

Police have also been engaged in a gun battle with suspected members of Boko Haram in another north-eastern city, Potiskum, in Yobe state. “Gunmen who are, from all indications, members of Boko Haram came in large numbers and have encircled police headquarters. They chanted ‘Allahu Akbar’ [God is Great] and fired indiscriminately,” a resident told AFP.

Boko Haram, whose name means ‘Western education is forbidden’, is fighting to overthrow the government and create an Islamic state. More than 500 people have been killed by the group over the past year. On Christmas Day, it carried out a string of church bombings which killed 37 people at one church outside the capital, Abuja, alone. President Jonathan, who is a Christian, has vowed to crack down on the group but Christian groups have accused him of not doing enough to protect them.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Nigeria: Over 50 Injured as Angry Youths Attack Muslims in Sapele

SAPELE- ENRAGED youths, numbering over 2,000, armed with battleaxes, cutlasses and other dangerous weapons went on rampage, Friday, sacking and inflicting injuries on over 50 Muslims at the Hausa quarters, Sapele in Sapele Local Government Area of Delta State. A northern security guard was shot dead in a separate incident by a gang of armed robbers that attacked a school in Sapele on Thursday. Vanguard gathered that the youths were incensed by the uninhibited attacks on churches and killing of Christians in the northern part of the country by the Islamic Boko Haram sect. Two of the persons suspected to have carried out the onslaught were, however, arrested by the police in Sapele. There was pandemonium following the attack on Muslims, who were ordered to vacate the town in their own interest since Boko Haram members had also issued ultimatum to Christians to leave the north. Secretary of a Muslim Media group in Sapele, Sadiq Oniyesaneyene Musa who spoke to Vanguard on the attacks by Sapele youths said, “We are disturbed by this attack on Muslims in Sapele and the order that all Muslims in Sapele should return to the north. I am a Muslim and an Itsekiri from Delta state, where do they want me to go to, this is my homeland”. Musa said the youths besieged Muslims in the town very close to the mosque that was bombed, last year, and injured a lot of faithful. “We called the director of the State Security Service, SSS, Asaba and the Area Commander and they responded. The Joint Task Force, JTF, on the Niger-Delta also deployed soldiers to take care of the situation”, he said.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Nigeria: Residents Flee Homes After Boko Haram Attack in Yobe

KANO-(AFP) — Hundreds of residents fled their homes Saturday in a town in northeastern Nigeria in the wake of all-night gun battles between Islamists and security forces, police and residents said. Police have not yet determined the death toll from the violence in Potiskum, they said. “Our men engaged Boko Haram gunmen in shootouts for most of the night which led to some deaths and injuries,” Yobe state police commissioner Lawan Tanko told AFP. “It is too early to give figures because we are still investigating the incident and taking stock of the situation,” Tanko said. Dozens of armed Islamists stormed Potiskum on Friday and launched gun and bomb attacks on the police headquarters. The scale of damage was not immediately clear as soldiers cordoned off the area. The attackers fired shots and threw a bomb into a nearby police barracks but no one was hurt, said residents in the barracks.

Two banks in the town were also robbed and burnt by the Islamists, residents said. Residents of neighbourhoods around the police headquarters have vacated their homes in fear of military raids in the area in the aftermath of the attack, residents said.

The town is part of regions placed under emergency rule by President Goodluck Jonathan a week ago. Those who fled their homes moved in with relatives and friends in areas unaffected by the attacks, residents said. “Virtually all the residents of the Dogo Tebo and Dogo Nini areas have fled their homes for fear of attack by soldiers who came to the town this morning from Damaturu,” said Idris Bakanike, a resident of the Dogo Tebo area overlooking the police headquarters. Dozens of soldiers were deployed on Saturday and took up positions around the police headquarters, firing sporadic shots in the area. “We are afraid the soldiers will raid and burn our homes like they do in Maiduguri each time Boko Haram attack,” Amiru Umar, a resident of Dogo Nini said. Soldiers in the northeastern city of Maiduguri have been accused of burning homes and shooting residents after attacks by the Islamists, accusing residents of complicity with them.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]


Italy: Police Nab Gangsters Tied to Immigrant Slayings

Alleged Casalesi extortionists linked to Setola gang

(ANSA) — Rome, January 4 — Police on Wednesday arrested 10 alleged members of the Naples-based Camorra mafia wanted for extortion and for connections to the gang that slayed six West African immigrants in 2008 that sparked immigrant unrest.

In addition to allegedly extorting money at gunpoint from developers in a deal to build a supermarket, the suspects are accused of having ties to the infamous Casalesi clan and Giuseppe Setola, whose gang gunned down six West African immigrants at Castel Volturno near Caserta in September 2008, leading to prolonged immigrant protests. Setola was caught on January 14, 2009, two days after he dodged arrest by crawling through sewers on the outskirts of Caserta, a city north of Naples.

While closing the net on him, police arrested a Carabinieri officer suspected of tipping him off.

In all, Setola was wanted for 17 murders committed over five months in 2008, after he got out of jail in May that year on the strength of a doctor’s certificate that said he was virtually blind.

After the massacre of the six West Africans on September 18 the Italian government sent in the army to bolster efforts against the Casalesi.

Then interior minister Roberto Maroni said at the time that the clan had “declared war on the Italian state”.

The Casalesis, whose fugitive leader Michele Zagaria was arrested earlier this month, became known to an international public thanks to writer Roberto Saviano’s bestselling 2006 book Gomorrah, later turned into a successful film that won second prize at Cannes.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]