Sunday, January 12, 2003

News Feed 20120124

Financial Crisis
»George Soros in Davos
»Caroline Glick: America and the Arab Spring
»Frank Gaffney: American Laws for American Courts
»Giffords a Reality Check in Chamber of Politics
»‘Hugo’ Leading Contender in Academy Award Nominations
»Obama Outlines ‘Mission’ of Rebuilding American Dream, As Hurdles Await His Election-Year Agenda
Europe and the EU
»Italy: Costa Concordia Captain Francesco Schettino Says He Was Pressured to Sail Too Close to Shore
»UK: A Quarter of Children Aged 10 to 12 Can’t Do Basic Addition and One in Five Don’t Know the Difference Between ‘There’, ‘Their’ And ‘They’Re’
»UK: Caught With Six Kilos of Cannabis and You Could Still Avoid Jail
»UK: Shofik Ali Rapes Three Girls in One Night
Middle East
»Gulf States Withdrawing Monitors From Syria and Urge U.N. Action
»Obama: No Options Off Table on Iran Nuclear Program
South Asia
»Pakistan: The Two Aid Workers Kidnapped by Pashtun Speaking Militants, In a “Fast and Focused” Action
»Pakistan: The Kidnapping of the Two Aid Workers: Some Arrests, But the Government Withdraws the NGO Whf License
Australia — Pacific
»Bashed Teen Speaks of Terror
»UK: Illegal Immigrant Arranged Sham Marriages Leaves Prison with Rehab Money, Sets up Business — Selling Passports
Culture Wars
»School Punished Boy Who Opposed Gay Adoption

Financial Crisis

George Soros in Davos

For the first time in his 60-year career, Soros, now 81, admits he is not sure what to do. “It’s very hard to know how you can be right, given the damage that was done during the boom years,” Soros says. He won’t discuss his portfolio, lest anyone think he’s talking things down to make a buck. But people who know him well say he advocates making long-term stock picks with solid companies, avoiding gold—”the ultimate bubble”—and, mainly, holding cash.

He’s not even doing the one thing that you would expect from a man who knows a crippled currency when he sees one: shorting the euro, and perhaps even the U.S. dollar, to hell. Quite the reverse. He backs the beleaguered euro, publicly urging European leaders to do whatever it takes to ensure its survival. “The euro must survive because the alternative—a breakup—would cause a meltdown that Europe, the world, can’t afford.” He has bought about $2 billion in European bonds, mainly Italian, from MF Global Holdings Ltd., the securities firm run by former Goldman Sachs head Jon Corzine that filed for bankruptcy protection last October.

“At times like these, survival is the most important thing,” As he sees it, the world faces one of the most dangerous periods of modern history—a period of “evil.” Europe is confronting a descent into chaos and conflict. In America he predicts riots on the streets that will lead to a brutal clampdown that will dramatically curtail civil liberties. The global economic system could even collapse altogether.

“I am not here to cheer you up. The situation is about as serious and difficult as I’ve experienced in my career,” Soros tells Newsweek. “We are facing an extremely difficult time, comparable in many ways to the 1930s, the Great Depression. We are facing now a general retrenchment in the developed world, which threatens to put us in a decade of more stagnation, or worse. The best-case scenario is a deflationary environment. The worst-case scenario is a collapse of the financial system.”

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]


Caroline Glick: America and the Arab Spring

A year ago this week, on January 25, 2011, the ground began to crumble under then-Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak’s feet. One year later, Mubarak and his sons are in prison, and standing trial.

This week, the final vote tally from Egypt’s parliamentary elections was published. The Islamist parties have won 72 percent of the seats in the lower house.

The photogenic, Western-looking youth from Tahrir Square the Western media were thrilled to dub the Facebook revolutionaries were disgraced at the polls and exposed as an insignificant social and political force…

           — Hat tip: Caroline Glick[Return to headlines]

Frank Gaffney: American Laws for American Courts

Shortly before Newt Gingrich’s decisive victory in South Carolina last week, he was asked a critical question by a Palmetto State voter: Would he support a Muslim candidate for president? The former Speaker of the House answered in a way that was both characteristically insightful and profoundly helpful with respect to one of the most serious challenges our country faces at the moment.

Mr. Gingrich responded by saying it depends on a critical factor: Is the candidate “a modern person who happens to worship Allah”? Or “a person who belonged to any kind of belief in shariah, any kind of effort to impose that on the rest of us”? Speaker Gingrich observed that the former would not be a problem, while the latter would be a “mortal threat.” The Georgia Republican went on to assert the need for federal legislation that would prevent shariah from being applied in U.S. courts…

           — Hat tip: CSP[Return to headlines]

Giffords a Reality Check in Chamber of Politics

(AP) WASHINGTON — In a bittersweet farewell, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords accepted bags of chocolates and a big presidential hug as she claimed her seat one last time in the House of Representatives Tuesday night.

Giffords, who has regained much of her ability to speak and walk after a gunshot wound to the head Jan. 8, 2011, will leave Congress this week to focus on her recovery. But first, she wanted to attend the State of the Union she was forced to miss last year in the uncertain days after the shooting.

Just before President Barack Obama was to speak at 9 p.m. EST, Giffords quietly entered the chamber under her own power and made her way the few steps to a seat that had been reserved for her. Hug No. 1 came from friend Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida. Giffords’ colleagues stood and gently applauded her.

“Gabby! Gabby!” some of them chanted.

Limping a little, Giffords beamed around the chamber and raised her left hand to wave. Rep. Louis Gohmert, R-Texas, approached with two bags of chocolate, which Giffords took, grinning.

She looked to the gallery to wave at her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly. When First Lady Michelle Obama took her seat next to him, she waved, too.

The president himself swooped in with a big bear hug around Giffords’ tiny frame, grinning widely before climbing to the rostrum for the speech.

She has inspired gestures of bipartisanship. Last year in the tender days after the shooting, members of both parties sat together across the chamber, rather than Democrats to the president’s right and Republicans to his left. Many lawmakers did the same this year…

[Return to headlines]

‘Hugo’ Leading Contender in Academy Award Nominations

A chaotic Oscar season found a bit order on Tuesday, as “The Artist,” a mostly silent tribute to old Hollywood, and “Hugo,” another bit of film nostalgia, joined “The Descendants,” about life and love in Hawaii, and “Midnight in Paris,” about literary Paris, in scoring an array of major nominations, including those for best picture and best director.

[Return to headlines]

Obama Outlines ‘Mission’ of Rebuilding American Dream, As Hurdles Await His Election-Year Agenda

President Obama suggested Tuesday that Americans try to follow the lead of U.S. military forces and get past personal ambition and partisan obsession to “focus on the mission at hand” — keeping alive the American dream by restoring a U.S. economy.

In his annual State of the Union address, Obama said that the “defining issue of our time” is finding the means to uphold the promise that if people work hard, they will succeed.

“No challenge is more urgent. No debate is more important. We can either settle for a country where a shrinking number of people do really well, while a growing number of Americans barely get by. Or we can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share and everyone plays by the same set of rules,” he said.

But the devil is in the details, and Republicans are unlikely to agree to many of the proposals the president laid out. Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, who delivered the GOP response, said that the president’s rigid adherence to ideology was suffocating innovation.

“The extremism that stifles the development of homegrown energy, or cancels a perfectly safe pipeline that would employ tens of thousands, or jacks up consumer utility bills for no improvement in either human health or world temperature, is a pro-poverty policy,” Daniels said.

“We do not accept that ours will ever be a nation of haves and have nots; we must always be a nation of haves and soon to haves,” Daniels said.

In a speech heavy in focus on manufacturing, job training and tax reform, Obama said Tuesday that the most immediate priority for a divided Congress is to stop a tax hike on 160 million working Americans and prolong a payroll tax cut set to expire next month.

At the same time, Obama proposed raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans. He said anyone who makes more than $1 million a year should not pay less than 30 percent in federal taxes and should get no special subsidies or deductions.

“Do we want to keep these tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans? Or do we want to keep our investments in everything else? … Because if we’re serious about paying down our debt, we can’t do both,” he said.

[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Italy: Costa Concordia Captain Francesco Schettino Says He Was Pressured to Sail Too Close to Shore

THE captain of the stricken Costa Concordia liner told a friend shortly after the disaster that he sailed too close to shore because a manager from the cruise company pressured him to do so, Italian media reported.

Francesco Schettino told a friend he was following the advice of a manager about what route to take, saying “pass through there, pass through there,” media reported, quoting a recording of the call police secretly made the day after the January 13 shipwreck that killed at least 16 people.

“In my place, another would not have been so ready to pass there, but they got to me with their ‘Pass through there, pass through there’,” Schettino said.

“The rocks were there, but the instruments I had weren’t showing them, so I went through,” he said.

Schettino then reportedly said he thought he was about 450 metres (0.28 nautical miles) away, but the ship hit a rock.

[Return to headlines]

UK: A Quarter of Children Aged 10 to 12 Can’t Do Basic Addition and One in Five Don’t Know the Difference Between ‘There’, ‘Their’ And ‘They’Re’

Half of children aged between 10 and 12 do not know what a noun is or cannot identify an adverb — while almost a third, 31 per cent, cannot use apostrophes correctly.

More than one in five — 22 per cent — could not use the correct version of ‘they’re’, ‘there’ and ‘their’ in a sentence and more than four in 10 couldn’t spell the word ‘secretaries’ correctly.

Maths didn’t fare much better in the survey by online tutor, mytutor, with more than a quarter of children being unable to add two small sums of money without using a calculator as they can’t do division and basic algebra.

Twenty-seven per cent of children surveyed could not add £2.36 and £1.49 to get £3.85. In addition, more than a third, 36 per cent, could not divide 415 by five and a quarter did not know the answer to seven multiplied by six.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

UK: Caught With Six Kilos of Cannabis and You Could Still Avoid Jail

Sentencing guidelines issued today say that offenders who play a “limited” role in gangs could face community orders for intent to supply Class A drugs.

Dealers caught with 6kg of cannabis, valued at £17,000 and enough to fill 30,000 joints or keep an average user in supply for 17 years, could also avoid prison.

The sentences on drug “mules” will be cut substantially, while workers in small cannabis “farms” could escape custody.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

UK: Shofik Ali Rapes Three Girls in One Night

A vicious rapist who attacked three girls at a Rochdale house has been jailed for 14 years.

Shofik Ali drove his victims to the house in December 2010 before taking their mobile phones and raping them, Bolton Crown Court heard.

He raped one of the girls after she began screaming and crying as he had pushed her towards a bedroom. Later he forced himself on another girl and raped her before having sex with a third girl against her will.

Ali, 22, of Wells Street, Haslingden, Rossendale then made the first girl have sex with him again after threatening to burn down the house if she refused. Following the attacks the girls reported Ali to police and he was arrested. Ali denied four charges of rape and one other sexual assault. He was convicted of the four rapes and found not guilty of the other charge at Bolton Crown Court on Tuesday following a trial. Ali was jailed for 14 years and was ordered to sign the sex offenders’ register for life.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Gulf States Withdrawing Monitors From Syria and Urge U.N. Action

The gulf monarchies, including regional giant Saudi Arabia, said Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government had failed to comply with demands by the Arab League designed to curb bloodshed.

An Arab League peace plan for Syria appeared to be near collapse Tuesday as six Persian Gulf nations announced their intention to withdraw monitors from the country and urged the United Nations Security Council to take “all needed measures” to pressure Syrian President Bashar Assad to relinquish power.

The gulf monarchies, including regional giant Saudi Arabia, said in a statement that Assad’s government had failed to comply with demands by the 22-member regional bloc designed to curb months of bloodshed in Syria. The six nations — which also include Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates — contributed 55 of the 165 monitors sent to Syria.

On Monday, Syria rejected as a “flagrant violation” of its sovereignty a proposed Arab League political road map that called for Assad to transfer power to a deputy and for the establishment of a national unity government within two months. Supervised parliamentary and presidential elections would follow, according to the proposal.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem was defiant Tuesday at a news conference in Damascus, the Syrian capital, assailing the league’s political plan and denouncing “a plot against Syria” abetted by Arab nations. Syria, a close ally of Iran, has repeatedly alleged that it is the victim of a conspiracy backed by Washington and other Western nations in alliance with Arab states.

Moallem said the government has a duty to suppress what he described as armed terrorist gangs, signaling that Syrian authorities have no intention of ending a violent crackdown against a 10-month uprising.

[Return to headlines]

Obama: No Options Off Table on Iran Nuclear Program

(Reuters) — President Barack Obama warned Iran on Tuesday the United States would keep up pressure on its disputed nuclear program with “no options off the table” but said the door remained open to talks for a peaceful resolution.

In his State of the Union address, Obama said Tehran was isolated and facing “crippling” sanctions that he said would continue so long as the Islamic Republic keeps its back turned to the international community.

“America is determined to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and I will take no options off the table to achieve that goal. But a peaceful resolution of this issue is still possible, and far better, and if Iran changes course and meets its obligations, it can rejoin the community of nations,” he said.

[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Pakistan: The Two Aid Workers Kidnapped by Pashtun Speaking Militants, In a “Fast and Focused” Action

Multan (Agenzia Fides) — The two aid workers (an Italian and a German) working for German non-governmental organization “Welthungerhilfe” (“Universak help for hunger”), were kidnapped in Pakistan yesterday, “they were abducted by Pashtun speaking extremist militants, from the North, province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, “the former North-West Frontier Province, where the galaxy Taliban groups have their bases. The Italian Giovanni Lo Porto and the German Bernd Johannes “were taken from their office and put to sleep with chloroform. It was a professional, fast and focused action”. This is what is said to Fides by the Catholic Ayub Sajid, Chief Executive of the Pakistan NGO “Organization for Development and Peace” (ODP), based in Multan, in active cooperation with projects for the development of the population of Punjab. The ODP and the German NGO shared the same “mission” and in past months had begun a partnership project for the assistance to flood victims in Punjab. Members of the “Welthungerhilfe” — Sajid remembers — had received warnings in the past, but continued to work in the area, in the field of primary care and agriculture.

Ayub Saijd explains to Fides: “kidnapping is a very serious event, that troubles us. We know that aid workers, especially foreigners, are possible victims of kidnapping or murder: they are considered an expression of the West. The area of Qasim Bela is an area known to be turbulent and dangerous. There are several military compounds and we humanitarian workers work closely with them. The kidnapping seems to have been carried out by a well organized group, probably by terrorists, who have their bases in the North of the country. The hostages are likely to be far away. The aim can be a ransom demand or a proof to show the government that they are strong and able to take important actions”.

The two NGOs working for the victims of the severe floods of 2010 and 2011 who, according to a statement sent to Fides by Caritas Internationalis, have so far had “a poor response by the international community”. In September 2011, the UN launched an appeal to collect 357 million dollars needed to provide humanitarian assistance to victims. Despite the scale of the disaster, only 20% of the necessary funds was collected. (PA)

           — Hat tip: LAW Wells[Return to headlines]

Pakistan: The Kidnapping of the Two Aid Workers: Some Arrests, But the Government Withdraws the NGO Whf License

Multan (Agenzia Fides) — Police in Multan arrested 12 people suspected of being involved in the kidnapping of Giovanni Lo Porto and Bernd Johannes, the two German NGO “Welthungerhilfe” (WHF) (“Help to world hunger”) aid workers, kidnapped on January 19 in Multan, in Punjab. The news, published in the local press, has been confirmed to Fides by sources in the civil society of Multan. Local sources of Fides add new aspects of what is locally called “the mystery of the kidnapping”: the Pakistani government has withdrawn the NGO WHF the permission to carry out their humanitarian activities in Multan, calling it “suspicious.” The WHF spokesman in Bonn (Germany), Simon Pott, asked by Fides, said that “it is a very tough accusation”, saying it could not confirm or release any comment or details.

“It is an unjust and unworthy move, as WHF is working for the reconstruction after the flood and has put together plans for nearly 300 million dollars in favour of the victims”, notes in an interview with Fides Rashid Rehman Khan, head of Pakistani NGO “Human Rights Commission of Pakistan” (HRCP) in Multan.

Rehman Khan explains to Fides: “There is no clarity on the matter. The area of the kidnapping is guarded by military and security forces. It is incomprehensible how such action could have passed unnoticed. Public opinion suspects the involvement of the Pakistani military and intelligence secret services. WHF only deals with humanitarian aid, so it is unreasonable to call it suspicious. Its removal will harm many poor people”.

The HRCP, a leading Pakistani NGO, committed to defending human rights, appeals to the government: “We ask that everything possible is carried out- continues Khan — for the immediate release of the two aid workers, and that the government provides protection, guarantees and legal rights to every citizen. We reiterate that humanitarian workers only do the work of help and are not anti-state elements or conspirators. We believe that this matter affects the image and international credibility of Pakistan”.

           — Hat tip: LAW Wells[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Bashed Teen Speaks of Terror

A PERTH teenager has spoken of his terror after he was violently bashed by a gang of thugs who repeatedly kicked him and stomped on his head after being racially taunted.

Perth detectives are hunting up to 20 youths, believed to be of African descent, who were involved in the attack in the city at 11.30pm last night.

“The only thing I heard before they caught me was: ‘Who are these white c**ts?’ It was totally unprovoked.

“They kicked me in the head a few times, stomped on my head a few times, kicked me in the kidneys and the ribs. It was mostly around the head and the ribs.

Detective Sergeant Steve Coelho said the gang appeared to have been walking from the McIver train station on a “rampage” last night.

“They have singled out white Australians and for no reason whatsoever, completely unprovoked, they’ve attacked one of the males. That lead to a vicious assault. He’s had severe facial injuries and his head literally stomped on,” Det-Sgt Steve Coelho said.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]


UK: Illegal Immigrant Arranged Sham Marriages Leaves Prison with Rehab Money, Sets up Business — Selling Passports

An illegal immigrant and sham marriage ringleader who left prison early with a huge pay-off has used the money to set up a new business in his homeland — offering UK passports.

Ashar Ali Rathore, 33, came to the UK with his wife Nadia Qadri, 34, on student visas then faked marriages to two Polish people to gain residency.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

School Punished Boy Who Opposed Gay Adoption

A 15-year-old Wisconsin boy who wrote an op-ed opposing gay adoptions was censored, threatened with suspension and called ignorant by the superintendent of the Shawano School District, according to an attorney representing the child.

Wegner, a student at Shawano High School, was asked to write an op-ed for the school newspaper about whether gays should be allowed to adopt. Wegner, who is a Christian, wrote in opposition. Another student wrote in favor of allowing gays to adopt.

Wegner used Bible passages to defend his argument, including Scripture that called homosexuality a sin.

After the op-ed was published, a gay couple whose child attend s the high school, complained.

The school immediately issued an apology — stating Wegner’s opinion was a “form of bullying and disrespect.”

“Offensive articles cultivating a negative environment of disrespect are not appropriate or condoned by the Shawano School District,” the statement read. “We sincerely apologize to anyone we may have offended and are taking steps to prevent items of this nature from happening in the future.”

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]