Sunday, January 12, 2003

News Feed 20121207

Financial Crisis
»Barack Obama’s Best Voice: Michael Grunwald
»EU: 120 Mln Near Poverty, 31% of Greeks, 27% in Spain
»Greece: Liquidation of Banks to Cost 4-5 Bln Euros
»Monti Defends Record After Berlusconi Says Italy Near Abyss
»Obama Has Muslim Domestic Terrorism Scandal on His Hands
»Soros Remakes America Into Narco Nation
»State Laying Groundwork for Managed Bankruptcy for Detroit
»Students Forced to Stand for ‘Black National Anthem’
Europe and the EU
»Almost Half French Feel Poverty Pinch: Survey
»Belgium: Transitioning From Democracy to Sharia?
»Belgium Raises Terror Level Ahead of Anti-Islam Film Release
»Britain’s NHS: Not So Healthy
»France: Schools Trash Chocolate Mousse Tainted With Pork
»France: Grave Robbers Caught Stealing Gold Teeth
»Germans Stop Learning to Play Music
»Germany: The West in Fear of the East
»Germany: Poll Indicates a Widespread Fear of Muslims and Islam
»Greece: Former Socialist Minister’s Cars Bomb Targets
»Italy: Garbage Traffickers Busted Outside Naples
»Italy: Berlusconi’s Party Wants ‘Orderly’ End to Monti Government
»Italy: PDL Blames Centre Left for Monti’s Govt’s Mistakes
»Italy: Berlusconi Could Force February Vote and Stand Again
»More Democracy in Europe Than Can be Imagined, Monti Says
»New Study of Blasphemy Law Around the World
»Russian Mafia Takes a Blow in Northern Italy
»UK: Bomb Sight: London Blitz Interactive Map Created
»UK: Eric Pickles and the Looming Tory Split Over the ECHR
»UK: Muslims Fight After Newham Mega-Mosque Plan is Rejected
»UK: Mosque Bites Dust
»UK: Residents Complain Over Mosque Numbers
»UK: Surge in Jailed Young Muslims
»UK: Workplace Discrimination Prompts ‘Whitened’ Job Applications
»UK: Women ‘Remove Hijabs to Get Work’ As Ethnic Minorities Face More Discrimination
»Macedonia Receives Turkish Donation for ARM
»Serbia: EBRD to Finance Building of Railway Corridor 10
Mediterranean Union
»Italy: Mediterranean Health Care, A Common North-South Challenge
North Africa
»Egypt: Obama Tells Morsi That Violence is ‘Unacceptable’
»Egypt: Obama Concerned on Fate of Arab Spring He Supported
»Egypt: Morsi Refuses to Relent
»Egypt: Protesters Set Fire to Muslim Brotherhood HQ
»Egypt: Breaking — Protesters at Presidential Palace Chant ‘Murderer… Murderer’
Israel and the Palestinians
»Hamas Leader Khaled Meshaal Ends Exile With Gaza Visit
»Israel Thanks Czechs for Palestinian ‘No’ Vote
»Netanyahu Leads in Maariv Poll on January 22 Elections
»Rights Group: Israeli Strike on Gaza Home Unlawful
Middle East
»Protesters Denounce Referring Activists to Security Court
»Saudi Arabia: World Bank Spends Your Money to Promote Sharia
»Sectarian Clashes Renew in Lebanon’s Tripoli, 5 Killed
»Turkey Probes Reuters for Early Release of Inflation Data
»Unfinished: The Arab Spring’s Islamic Winter
»South Stream Pipeline Construction Begins
South Asia
»An Indian Village Ban on Mobile Phones for Women? It’s Like Trying to Ban Eating
»Indian Village Bans Women From Using Mobile Phones
»India: Bihar Village Bans Mobile Phone Use by Women
»Indonesia: Java: Radical Islam in Favor of Female Genital Mutilation
»Pakistan Unsafe for Western Charity Workers
Australia — Pacific
»Sydney’s Violent Wild, Wild West
Sub-Saharan Africa
»8 Suspects Arrested After Attack in Northern Nigeria
»Elephant Poaching in Africa Continues Unabated
»Ghana: On a Knife Edge — Close Election to Test Its Peace and Democracy
»Kenya: Blast in Somali Area of Nairobi, Eastleigh
»South Africa is Safe in My Hands, Says Jacob Zuma
Latin America
»Luis Fleischmann: The Gaza Crisis and the Intellectual Left in Latin American: A Dark Picture
»Gosar Questions How Bomb Suspect Was Allowed to Live in AZ
»Lord Popat and Shailesh Vara: Britain Found a Home for Ugandan Asians

Financial Crisis

Barack Obama’s Best Voice: Michael Grunwald

by Tim Wigmore

No Obama policy — not even ‘Obamacare’ — has been derided quite as much as his stimulus package and the $787 billion Recovery Act passed in February 2009. It became a byword for failed big-government liberalism, and the Republicans’ staunch opposition to it underpinned their 63-seat gain in the House of Representatives in 2010. Yet, in this engaging and insightful attack upon the received wisdom of Obama’s failure, Michael Grunwald launches a lucid defence of the Recovery Act…

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

EU: 120 Mln Near Poverty, 31% of Greeks, 27% in Spain

Almost a quarter of population at risk in Europe (24.2%)

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS — Almost 120 of Europe’s inhabitants are at risk of poverty or social exclusion, equal to about a fourth of the population of the EU-27 (24.2%) These Eurostat figures for 2011 highlight show the effects of the economic crisis, as the corresponding figures for 2008 and 20009 were 23.4% and 23.5%, respectively. The hardest hit were Bulgarians, who live in a country in which almost half of the population (49%) are near the poverty level, followed by Romanians and Latvians (40%) and then Lithuanians (33%). On their heels are Greeks with 31% (about 3.4 million people) of the population near poverty in 2011, compared with 28.1% in 2008. The figure in Spain was at 27% (22.9% in 2008), which translates into 12.4 million people at risk. A lower percentage (24.4%)of the Portuguese were near poverty than their Spanish counterparts, with the figure in steady decline since 2008 (when it was at 26%). In France, where the figure was lower (19.3%) than the EU average, there are in any case 11.8 million citizens on the verge of becoming poor.

Eurostat has not released any figure for Italy for 2011, but in 2010 poverty affected 24.5% of the population. Not even Croatia has been spared the effects of the crisis, with 32.7% of its population near poverty in 2011, equal to about 1.4 million citizens.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greece: Liquidation of Banks to Cost 4-5 Bln Euros

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, DECEMBER 6 — The process of dissolution and liquidation of Greek banks that do not constitute a risk for the Greek credit system will require between 4 and 5 billion euros, the president of the Hellenic Financial Stability Fund (HFSF), Panayiotis Thomopoulos, estimated on Wednesday while speaking about the credit sector’s planned concentration. These banks, as daily Kathimerini reports, will not be recapitalized, but will instead follow the recipe preferred by the Bank of Greece. i.e. their split into a “good” and a “bad” bank, as in the case of ATEbank. The healthy part will then be sold at auction, with the likely participation of the three systemic groups of National (including Eurobank), Alpha and Piraeus.

Addressing a conference titled ‘The Future of Banking in Greece,’ Thomopoulos stressed the need for the immediate disbursement of 10 billion euros out of the 25 billion penciled in for the banks’ recapitalization so that they reach the required level of 9% in the assets-to-loans ratio index. He went on to estimate that state-owned Hellenic Postbank will require between 3 and 4 billion euros, taking up most of the funds required for the non-systemic banks.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Monti Defends Record After Berlusconi Says Italy Near Abyss

Govt steered country to ‘safety’, argues premier

(ANSA) — Rome, December 6 — Premier Mario Monti defended his emergency government’s record on Thursday after his predecessor Silvio Berlusconi said Italy had moved to the “verge of the abyss” in the year since the media magnate left office.

Berlusconi was forced to resign as premier in November 2011 when Italy’s debt crisis risked spiralling out of control.

Pressure has eased on Italy’s borrowing costs since Monti came to power, but his austerity policies have deepened the recession Italy slipped into last year.

Nevertheless, the former European commissioner believes his administration of unelected technocrats has done a good job.

“The contribution Italy has tried to give, and which I believe it has given, to taking forward the construction of Europe positively was to work hard so that Italy and other countries measured up to all the criteria, especially those requested to put Italy in a position of safety and to stop a new flashpoint lighting up in the eurozone,” Monti said.

“And I think that, to a good degree, we achieved this”. Berlusconi’s People of Freedom (PdL) party has backed Monti government’s since he stepped down, although there is speculation it may be about to pull its support to provoke snap elections. The 76-year-old ex-premier blasted the Monti government’s economic record on Wednesday, when he suggested he would stand at the upcoming elections. “Today the situation is worse than it was a year ago when I left the government out of a sense of responsibility and love for my country,” said Berlusconi, who had announced he would quit front-line politics after leaving the helm of government last year.

“The economy is in dire straits. There are a million more people unemployed, the national debt is increasing, spending power is collapsing and the tax burden is at intolerable levels.

“I cannot let the country fall into an endless recessive spiral”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Obama Has Muslim Domestic Terrorism Scandal on His Hands

An Arizona congressman is asking federal officials why the man suspected of detonating a bomb outside the Arizona Social Security Administration office in Casa Grande was allowed to live in Arizona despite being classified a person who had engaged in “terrorism-related activity.”

Rep. Paul Gosar, R-AZ, sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services on Wednesday with specific questions about the status of 47-year-old Abdullatif Ali Aldosary.

Aldosary on Tuesday was ordered held in jail pending a preliminary hearing. Investigators said instructions on how to construct an explosive device, bomb-making materials and chemicals were found in his Coolidge home after a small explosion outside the building in downtown Casa Grande on Friday morning.

[Return to headlines]

Soros Remakes America Into Narco Nation

As more states embrace legalization of marijuana — a pet cause of George Soros for decades — the British publication The Independent has published a groundbreaking series of articles by journalist Patrick Cockburn on how his son went insane smoking the drug.

Cockburn and his son Henry, who was treated for psychosis and partially recovered, have written an article in which Patrick Cockburn is quoted as saying his son played Russian roulette with cannabis “and lost.”

Henry, who smoked marijuana daily for seven years and was in mental hospitals for about eight years as a result, says, “When I reached a mental hospital, called St Martin’s, I spent three hours walking around the lunch tables trying to listen to my shoes. I thought my shoes were talking to me.”

Patrick Cockburn spent months speaking to the experts in the field and reports on the substantial evidence linking sustained marijuana use with mental illness. One expert, Sir William Paton, professor of pharmacology at Oxford University, reveals “that even limited social use of cannabis could precipitate schizophrenia in people who previously had no psychological problems,” and noted that “smoking a single joint could induce schizophrenia-like symptoms such as hallucinations, paranoia and fragmented thought processes.”

“Three-quarters of consumers may take cannabis with no ill effect but the remaining quarter, the genetically vulnerable, play Russian roulette,” Cockburn says.

[Return to headlines]

State Laying Groundwork for Managed Bankruptcy for Detroit

Even as the state Treasury prepares to begin another financial review of Detroit’s books, a plan is being solidified in the governor’s office that would guide Michigan’s largest city through what is being called a managed bankruptcy.

The working concept, still evolving, assumes that the state’s financial review would find severe financial distress in Detroit, that Mayor Dave Bing and City Council would be unable to push through overdue restructuring, and that the process would culminate in appointment of an emergency financial manager under Public Act 72.

The case would be filed under Chapter 9 of the federal bankruptcy code, according to two ranking sources familiar with the situation, following efforts to reach prenegotiated settlements with as many key creditors — unions, vendors and pension funds among them — as possible before any filing.

The goal of a managed bankruptcy is to streamline the protracted process by minimizing the chaos, uncertainty, delay and steep costs associated with Chapter 9. It would be the largest municipal bankruptcy in the nation’s history, an unambiguous symbol of the city’s epic failure and a chance for a fresh start.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Students Forced to Stand for ‘Black National Anthem’

Students at Capital High School (CHS) in Charleston, West Virginia have been regularly forced to stand during the playing of a song known as “The Black National Anthem.”


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Almost Half French Feel Poverty Pinch: Survey

Nearly one in two French people consider themselves poor or fear they soon will be, said a survey published Thursday ahead of a national poverty conference that comes amid a period of prolonged economic stagnation.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Belgium: Transitioning From Democracy to Sharia?

Brussels has sworn in two municipal officials from a new Islamic party who want to implement Sharia law. A YouTube video shows one of the men, Redouane Ahrouch, taking the oath of office in Brussels, followed by a protestor pointing out Ahrouch’s plans to turn Belgium into an Islamic state. The critic disrupted the ceremony, shouting that Ahrouch will undermine democracy with his plans to implement Islamic law. Ahrouch has admitted he’s taking a gradual approach, saying it may take decades to enforce Sharia. But he said the process has now begun. The Gatestone Institute reports Ahrouch created a 40-point program in the past, including teenage marriage and redesigning the Belgian judiciary to comply with Islam. Muslims now make up one quarter of the population of Brussels.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Belgium Raises Terror Level Ahead of Anti-Islam Film Release

Belgium on Friday raised its terror threat level to the second-highest ahead of the release of a new home-made film on the Internet next week criticising the Prophet Mohammed.

Interior Minister Joelle Milquet said the decision by a terror analysis and coordination unit was “a simple preventative measure,” taking the level of threat up from two to three out of a maximum of four.

The decision was taken ahead of the release, planned for December 14, of “The Innocent Prophet” which an online trailer says is “from the point of view of an ex-Muslim”.

The film is presented as the work of a man living in Spain called Imran Firasat and said to be inspired by “The Innocence of Muslims”, a film released in September that triggered a wave of anti-US protests across the Middle East and blamed for more than 30 deaths.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Britain’s NHS: Not So Healthy

by Samuel Westrop

Ramadan TV, a platform for Islamist hate-preachers, refers to NHS North East London & The City as one of its sponsors [1]. In response to a Freedom of Information request, it has emerged that the NHS funded the television channel to the tune of £3,200[2]. Contrary to the claims of the station, the NHS is quick to claim that it does “not sponsor Ramadan TV, but we work with them during this time to produce programmes with a health promotion message in an effective way to our target group” [3]…

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

France: Schools Trash Chocolate Mousse Tainted With Pork

A furious municipal councillor in Le Havre has demanded an inquiry after 8,500 servings of chocolate mousse were thrown away by cafeterias at 67 schools in the region around the city.

The desserts, destined for students at primary and elementary schools, were discarded last week because they contained pork gelatin, according to reports.

The measure was taken at the last minute due to concerns raised by kitchen staff about the use of pork products, which are proscribed by several religions, AFP said.

The desserts “can on occasion contain animal gelatin,” a spokesman from Le Havre’s city hall said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

France: Grave Robbers Caught Stealing Gold Teeth

French police on Thursday detained three grave-diggers in the latest in a series of arrests after dozens of bodies were dug up and gold teeth and jewellery stolen from them. Police detained the men as they worked at a cemetery in Pantin in the north Paris suburbs, where last month four other men, including another three grave-diggers, were arrested. The first two arrests came on the night of November 25, when police found 10 gold teeth on one of the suspects who were both wearing miners’ headlamps and boots covered with fresh earth. A police source said the thieves located fresh graves during the day and then returned at night to rob them.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Germans Stop Learning to Play Music

Few countries have produced more acclaimed classical composers than Germany. But there are discordant signs that the home of Bach, Beethoven, Wagner and Handel could be squandering its musical heritage. The number of households where musical instruments are played has declined by nearly 30 percent over the past four years, according to a new survey which suggest instruments are falling silent or disappearing altogether. Just 17.7 percent of households now make any of their own acoustic music, according to a study “Music-making and musical instruments in Germany”, published on Wednesday.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Germany: The West in Fear of the East

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Translated by Orkhan Sattarov

Major historic changes leave deep marks in the world history. In some cases they form mentality of nations during many centuries. For example, centuries-long contradictions between the West and the East made mentalities of eastern and western people different. Various polls on European integration state that the majority of the German population stands against accession of Turkey to the European Union. It is not because they have some special prejudice against Turkey, but because the majority of Germans think that Turkey is not a part of Europe. Only 18% in 2008 said that Turkey is a European country. Some factors signal that perception of cultural polarity between the Islamic world and the West is deep inside minds of people. “Turks” and the whole Islamic world associated with them will always be “aliens” for Germans…

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Germany: Poll Indicates a Widespread Fear of Muslims and Islam

The German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung has commissioned an opinion poll to find out what Germans think about Muslims. Generally, the results are regarded as “catastrophic”.

Respondents to the poll were asked to choose which of 21 statements they were offered about Islam that most closely reflected their opinion. 83% of them think that Islam is associated with impairing women’s rights, 77% thought Islam was a literalist religion; 70% said Islam is associated with religious fanaticism and radicalism. A significant part of Germany’s population also believes that Islam is ready for violence (64%), hatred (60%), active missionary activity (56%), and striving for political influence (56%). Only 13% of respondents associate Islam with love for neighbours; 12% — with charity; 7% — with openness and tolerance.

These results do not differ much from a similar poll conducted in May 2006, although that poll was taken at the height of the Mohammed cartoons controversy. The high level of mistrust in Islam is reflected in other questions. For example, in 2006, 55% of respondents answered yes to the question “Do you think that serious conflicts will appear between the Western Christian culture and the Arab Muslim culture in the future?” Today there are 44% people who think so. In 2006 and today a quarter of respondents believe that such serious conflicts exist even now…

However, there is hope of change. In 2004 only 24% of Germans had Muslim friends; today 38% of Germans have friends among Muslim people. Germany has the largest Muslim community in Europe, followed by France and the UK.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Greece: Former Socialist Minister’s Cars Bomb Targets

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, DECEMBER 7 — Two vehicles owned by former Socialist Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou, who is being investigated over claims made by a Greek newspaper that 12 military helicopters were acquired at an inflated price when he was in office, were targeted by handmade explosive devices, police said. There was no report on whether they were detonated.

Authorities said the vehicles were outside his residence in the wealthy enclave of Kifissia in northern Athens, as GreekReporter writes. Papantoniou came under question after the newspaper Real News reported that while he was the country’s top defense chief in 2003 that the office approved the purchase of the American-made Apache helicopters from Boeing for USD 593 million, but that the final price was USD 663 million, some USD 70 million higher. The purchase was made via a swap agreement arranged by Deutsche Bank. A Parliamentary committee in charge of checking politicians’ origin of wealth forms, known as “pothen esches,” said it had asked auditors to probe the former minister’s records after a prosecutor told the panel that the name of Papantoniou’s spouse was on a list of Greeks with major deposits at a Geneva branch of HSBC. Papantoniou is the second former Defense minister from the PASOK Socialists to be ensnared in charges of using their office for personal gain. Akis Tsochatzopoulos is being detained in jail on charges of money laundering and stealing from defense contracts during his time in office from 1996-2001.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Garbage Traffickers Busted Outside Naples

240-million-euro racket, over 20,000 tons of trash uncovered

(ANSA) — Rome, December 6 — Police outside Naples uncovered 21,000 tons of unregistered garbage and arrested two people for alleged illegal trafficking and fraud, including the CEO of a front company. The bust took place in the town of Agropoli, where police said the garbage traffickers had made 240 million euros over the course of seven years by masquerading as legitimate trash-disposal firms and filing taxes for trash incinerators that did not exist. Police seized 14 million euros in assets.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Berlusconi’s Party Wants ‘Orderly’ End to Monti Government

PdL won’t ‘send institutions, country to rack and ruin’

(see related story) (ANSA) — Rome, December 7 — Silvio Berlusconi’s People of Freedom (PdL) party wants an ‘orderly’ end to Premier Mario Monti’s emergency government, party Secretary Angelino Alfano said Friday after announcing the biggest group in parliament was withdrawing its support.

“Yesterday we did not vote against,” Alfano told the House referring to the PdL’s failure to back the government in two confidence votes on Thursday, “because we would have caused the abyss of a provisional administration.

“We want to conclude this parliamentary term in an orderly fashion without sending the institutions and the country to rack and ruin”. If Monti’s government falls before the budget for next year is passed, it would be necessary to form a provisional executive to push it through parliament.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: PDL Blames Centre Left for Monti’s Govt’s Mistakes

Vote to upgrade Palestinian UN status the ‘epilogue’

(see related stories) (ANSA) — Rome, December 7 — Silvio Berlusconi’s People of Freedom (PdL) party on Friday said the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) was responsible for the biggest mistakes made by Premier Mario Monti’s government.

“Some mistakes have been made by this government and the PD made them commit the main ones,” said PdL Secretary Angelino Alfano after announcing his party considered the Monti administration to be finished.

Alfano cited the example of the PD’s pressure to soften a controversial reform of the labour market, which included measures to make it easier for firms to fire workers.

He said the PD had acted upon a “diktat” from the left-wing CGIL union.

Alfano also blasted the government’s decision to vote in favour of the Palestinian authority being granted non-member observer status at the United Nations. “We took note of how some things haven’t gone well and the epilogue of this government was the direction taken with Palestine, which has changed the direction of our foreign policy toward a road we don’t like,” he said.

“We consider it a mistake and we attribute it to the negative conditioning of the Left”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Berlusconi Could Force February Vote and Stand Again

Possible withdrawal of support for government. Minister La Russa says: “Berlusconi has his own idea. What remains to be seen is whether he puts it into action”

ROME — It’s all tangled together. Silvio Berlusconi’s return to the fray is bound up with the electoral law and the government crisis that could ensue if the People of Freedom (PDL) is not granted its election day [combined regional and general election vote — Trans.] on 10 February. For this is Mr Berlusconi’s latest, most deeply felt demand: “Either they give us an election day in February or the government comes down. Now”.

Rumours poured out of a series of meetings at Via dell’Umiltà and Arcore but at the end of a day, when it seemed decisions might be taken, everything was still up in the air. Yesterday afternoon, there was a distinct sensation that Silvio Berlusconi was about to make a move and announce that he would stand again, although it was unclear whether this would be with the PDL or an independent list. The smart money was on an announcement tomorrow, at the presentation of the new book by Bruno Vespa, with an aggressive report and election-style slogans attacking the “tax-happy government”.

During the afternoon, two further crucial issues emerged: withdrawal of support for the government and the electoral law. The feeling is that Mr Berlusconi could be angling to return to the leadership of his creation, a duly tweaked PDL, instead of setting up a new party, for which time is objectively short. There are also party unbundling risks to consider while Mr Berlusconi could in any case shepherd his inner circle into Parliament, at least under the current Porcellum election regulations. Although not for the moment ordering a split over the electoral law, Mr Berlusconi has contested the “soft” line of his supporters in the Senate, “guilty” of yielding too much to the Democratic Party (PD) over the majority premium and the ban on standing as list leader in more than three regions…

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

More Democracy in Europe Than Can be Imagined, Monti Says

Even so, support mechanisms need to be further strengthened

(ANSA) — Brussels, December 6 — There is more democracy in Europe than one would imagine, though the mechanisms that support it need to be further strengthened, Italian Premier Mario Monti said on Thursday.

“We need to further strengthen democratic support mechanisms, their visibility, their simplicity, and further permit European citizens to identify themselves with it, and feel part of it”, Monti said.

“Otherwise we risk the creation of a gap between how one feels as a national citizen and as a European citizen, and the latter will suffer from it”, he added in a video-recorded speech that was aired at the European Democratic Party congress in Brussels.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

New Study of Blasphemy Law Around the World

According to a Pew Forum study released last week, eight out of 45 European countries have blasphemy laws on their books while 35 of them have laws against the defamation of religion in general or hate speech against members of a faith. The eight countries with blasphemy laws are Denmark, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Malta, the Netherlands and Poland. A blasphemy law in England and Wales was scrapped in 2008…

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Russian Mafia Takes a Blow in Northern Italy

Police arrest 13 in counterfeiting racket

(ANSA) — Novara, December 6 — Police arrested 13 people in a crackdown on the Russian mafia in northern Italy on Thursday. The suspects, including 11 more who were cited, were said to be involved in organized crime, with charges including counterfeiting coins and possession of stolen property worth over one million euros. Police said the objects, which included gold and silver bullion, were stashed at the Gran Sasso hotel where several of the suspects were staying. The materials would have been used to make fake euro coins, intended for circulation in Italy, Germany and Switzerland, said police in the Piedmont city of Nocara, where the sweep was organized. “The phenomenon represents a wound that is not only in Italy but the whole of Europe,” said Novara police chief Maurilio Liore. “We are facing a well-organized mafia, based in Russia and other countries in Eastern Europe, mainly Georgia but also Lithuania, Romania, Kosovo and Albania. It is dedicated to looting houses and villas and stockpiling stolen valuables and antiquities”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

UK: Bomb Sight: London Blitz Interactive Map Created

An interactive map showing the location of bombs dropped on London during World War II has been created.

It reveals the devastation caused by the Blitz over eight months. The year-long project, called Bomb Sight, was devised by a team from the University of Portsmouth using data from The National Archives. The website and android app also allow people to find out the types of bombs that fell. Dr Kate Jones, the University of Portsmouth geographer who devised the project, said: “When you look at these maps and see the proliferation of bombs dropped on the capital it does illustrate the meaning of the word Blitz, which comes from the German meaning lightning war. It seems astonishing that London survived the onslaught.” Users can zoom in to specific streets on the map, which uses red symbols to illustrate where each bomb landed. The project was funded by education and research charity Jisc which offers resources and expertise to educational organisation…

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Eric Pickles and the Looming Tory Split Over the ECHR

by James Forsyth

Eric Pickles is one of the few characters in contemporary British politics. In an interview with The Spectator this week, he chides Vince Cable for not deregulating enough, admits that he gets ‘occasionally irked’ by George Osborne’s impatience on policy, and reveals that “I was asked by a senior member of the government, two weeks after the National Planning Framework had come into being, why it hadn’t worked.’

But Pickles also gives us a glimpse of a coming Tory split. He says that it is ‘ridiculous’ that individuals can appeal their cases all the way to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. He wants to stop this, which would require Britain leaving the jurisdiction of the court. This is a position shared by a growing number of Conservative Cabinet Ministers.

The bar to this shift though is Dominic Grieve, the Attorney General. He is adamantly opposed to Britain leaving the jurisdiction of the court. Unless he is moved, Conservative policy on the European Council on Human Rights will end up being pretty much the same as the coalition’s policy on it.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Muslims Fight After Newham Mega-Mosque Plan is Rejected

A Muslim group behind a proposed east London mega-mosque today vowed to seek a judicial review after councillors rejected the scheme, saying it was “too big” and would not serve the needs of the local community. Hardline sect Tablighi Jamaat purchased the 17-acre brownfield site in Abbey Mills, Newham, in 1996 and has been trying to build a mosque there for more than a decade, despite opposition from residents and campaign groups…

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Mosque Bites Dust

A PLANNED mega-mosque has been blocked by town hall bosses. The building would have housed around 10,000 Muslim worshippers. But critics said the mosque near the Olympic Park in Stratford, east London, could create an “Islamic ghetto”…

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Residents Complain Over Mosque Numbers

RESIDENTS in Cricklewood claim that roads are being swamped by visitors to a mosque, whose congregation can be up to seven times the building’s maximum capacity. Barnet Council has confirmed it is considering taking legal action against the mosque in Cricklewood Lane, which welcomes up to 700 worshippers during religious holidays, despite only having permission to host 100.

In September, the mosque, which is managed by Islamic community group Markaz El-Tathgeef El-Eslami was refused permission by the council to expand its capacity from 100 to 500 during Ramadan and the first month of the Islamic calendar, Muharam. But people living near the former industrial building say the group has ignored regulations and that their lives are being made a misery by hundreds of drivers parking dangerously and blocking the roads, particularly during the holidays…

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Surge in Jailed Young Muslims

THE proportion of Muslim young offenders clogging up the country’s jails has soared in the past year, new figures show. One in five of the 1,500 males in young offender institutions described themselves as Muslim in 2011/12. This compares with one in eight two years before and one in six in 2010/11. At one of Britain’s most notorious youth jails the figure is more than a third…

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Workplace Discrimination Prompts ‘Whitened’ Job Applications

Ethnic minority women face discrimination “at every stage of the recruitment process”, a report by MPs says. But what is finding a job like for those affected?

Jorden Berkeley, a black 22-year-old university graduate from London, spent four months applying for jobs but getting no responses from bigger companies, and offers from elsewhere that were limited to unpaid work experience. Then a careers adviser suggested Miss Berkeley drop her first name and start using her middle name, Elizabeth…

Are you from an ethnic minority and feel you have been discriminated against in the recruitment process? What steps have you taken? Please tell us your stories using the form below.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Women ‘Remove Hijabs to Get Work’ As Ethnic Minorities Face More Discrimination

Ethnic minority women are removing their hijabs and making their names sound more “English” in an attempt to beat discrimination and find a job, a report has suggested.

Ethnic minority women were found to be twice as likely to be unemployed as white women of the same age and experience, according to MPs. A new report by the all-party committee on race and community found the rate of unemployment had remained stagnant over the last three decades, with women taking their own action to combat perceived discrimination. Some removed hijabs worn for religious reasons, while others attempted to sound more “English” by adapting their names, it is claimed. The report suggested some employers believed Muslim women would stop working after having children, according to the Guardian newpaper. Many complained to researchers about being asked about their marital status and family plans during interviews…

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]


Macedonia Receives Turkish Donation for ARM

SKOPJE, Dec. 6 (Xinhua) — Turkey’s ambassador to the Former Yoguslav Republic of Macedonia Gurol Sokmensuer on Thursday handed over a Turkish donation of military equipment worth 710,000 U.S. dollars for the Macedonian Army (ARM) to Macedonian Defense Minister Fatmir Besimi. “All these years since becoming an independent state, we have witnessed the establishment of high-level relations between Macedonia and Turkey. Our friendship sets an example of how countries in the region should cooperate,” Besimi said at the handover ceremony. The donated equipment included seven Land Rover vehicles and one Cobra vehicle, which is part of a broader donation from Turkey worth 18 million U.S. dollars.

“I am convinced that ARM in due time will produce excellent results on the road to full-fledged NATO membership,” Sokmensuer said.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Serbia: EBRD to Finance Building of Railway Corridor 10

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, DECEMBER 4 — The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) stands ready to give financial assistance for construction of the railway Corridor 10 running from Subotica to Novi Sad, and from Nis to Dimitrovgrad.

This is what emerged in a meeting between the bank’s new director for Serbia Matteo Patrone and Serbian Minister of Transport Milutin Mrkonjic.

“Around EUR 1 billion is needed for works on these sections.

We are preparing necessary documentation. I think that would be completed in the next five months,” Mrkonjic said.

The railway between Subotica and Novi Sad, and between Nis and Dimitrovgrad is single track, and the one towards Dimitrovgrad has not even been electrified, Mrkonjic told Tanjug, underscoring that the Corridor 10 project requires double track, electrified railways for mixed transport, and train speeds of 160 km/h at least.

“2013 and the following years will be marked by modernization and reaffirmation of our railways,” the transport minister said.

Since 2001, the EBRD has invested nearly EUR 3.1 billion in Serbia, around EUR 825 million of which in transport infrastructure, EUR 412 million in railways, and around EUR 380 million in roads.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union

Italy: Mediterranean Health Care, A Common North-South Challenge

EpiSouth Plus, global approach to common threats and epidemics

(ANSAmed) — ROME, DECEMBER 7 — In Euro-Mediterranean countries, the north cannot do without the south and vice versa in terms of health care: this is the meaning behind the EU-financed EpiSouth project.

Begun in 2006, the project is now in its second phase. Termed EpiSouth Plus, it was the subject of a three-day conference that ended Friday at the Health Ministry in Rome, and which its scientific leader, Superior Institute of Health (ISS) researcher Silvia Declich, called “fundamental” in consolidating international relations.

That is to say, in reinforcing a network between European and non-European countries, which has been built over the past six years, and whose aim it is to increase health security in the Mediterranean as well as unified response capacity to common threats: from building an epidemiological intelligence network to information and training exchanges between labs in Mediterranean countries, to the development of common response plans to possible health emergencies. These are among the positive results of EpiSouth, which numbers 27 member nations, two thirds of them non-European.

Now Declich looks to the future. “EpiSouth Plus ends in 2013. Our main challenge is how to develop this project further.

The countries involved certainly intend to maintain the main functions of the network, at least with minimum input, once the allocated funding is used up,” she commented. Experts and politicians now are conscious that health issues in the area require an integrated approach. “When this project took off, in 2006, it was an innovative, pioneering idea. Now the idea that health care must be thought of as an overall approach has become a mantra, on national as well as European Commission levels,” Declich explained.

“Nowadays, disease travels fast, across national boundaries: it depends on the speed of transport of people, animals, and products. Not having a global vision is unthinkable.” In September 2013, EpiSouth Plus will run a simulation of an epidemic in the Mediterranean in order to test emergency preparedness in member countries.

Coordinated by Italy’s ISS, the EpiSouth Plus 3.9-million-euro budget is co-financed by the EU health program, EuropeAid, and the health ministries and institutes of member countries.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egypt: Obama Tells Morsi That Violence is ‘Unacceptable’

US president expresses concern over those killed and injured

(ANSAmed) — NEW YORK, DECEMBER 7 — US president Barack Obama has told his Egyptian counterpart, Mohamed Morsi, that “all of Egypt’s political leaders must make it clear to their supporters that violence is unacceptable.” This comment came during a telephone call in which Obama spoke in favour of Morsi’s request for dialogue with the opposition, while at the same time stressing that no conditions must be laid down for either of the two sides involved. Obama expressed his concerns to Morsi about the people who have died or been injured in the protests over the past few days. The US president reiterated that the United States continues to support the Egyptian population and its transition towards a democracy that respects the rights of Egyptians. He said that “it is essential that Egyptian leaders set aside their differences and agree on a path which allows Egypt to go forward.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Obama Concerned on Fate of Arab Spring He Supported

White House urges Morsi to dialogue, postpone referendum

(ANSAmed) — NEW YORK — A puzzle and a dilemma: this is what Egypt has now become to the White House.

One of the prime supporters of the Arab Spring, US President Barack Obama reneged on the so-called Bush doctrine of forcibly exporting democracy in favor of a radical shift in US foreign policy. In a historic Cairo speech as a newly-elected president, Obama challenged the Arab world to embrace a democracy that cannot be imposed, but must stem from the will of the people. But Egypt, which was among the first countries to rebel and topple a decades-long regime, is now becoming a thorn in Obama’s side. The US president is worried that the historic shift he contributed to may be a failure, and turn against him. This is why Washington has been closely monitoring the Cairo situation for the past several hours.

In a bid to keep the Egyptian Spring from being definitively shipwrecked and possibly boomeranging into nearby countries, Obama himself telephoned Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, urging him to start a dialogue with the opposition. On the one hand, Obama fears that having trusted the new Muslim Brotherhood leadership in Egypt was a mistake. On the other hand, the opposition is also sketchy, with many of its elements dreaming of a return to the ancien Mubarak regime, as the New York Times wrote Friday.

In these hours of chaos in Cairo, the policy in Washington remains one of continuing to support Morsi, who has reiterated his aim of respecting some of the Arab Spring’s fundamental demands: among them, an end to presidents with absolute powers, a stronger parliament, banning torture and detentions without due process. What baffles the Obama administration, writes the New York Times, is that Morsi’s draft constitution leaves military powers unamended with respect to the Mubarak regime. This is why Obama is asking Morsi to postpone the referendum on the new constitution, and to rescind his controversial decree.

The general feeling is that neither Morsi nor his opposition can afford to let the current, dangerous deadlock go on much longer. It would be a defeat for everyone.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Morsi Refuses to Relent

Egyptian President Morsi’s speech in Cairo disappointed the opposition. After violence against demonstrators at the Presidential Palace, many call his offer of dialogue unacceptable and say they’ll take to the streets. Hundreds of thousands of Egyptians have been taking to the streets for over a week to protest against the draft constitution and a decree issued by President Mohammed Morsi. Morsi made a public speech late Thursday (06.12.2012), but his concessions were far less than demands made by demonstrators. Shortly after his televised speech, shouts of “get out, get out!” and “murderer, murderer!” could be heard. Similar calls were made before former Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak was driven from power…

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Protesters Set Fire to Muslim Brotherhood HQ

CAIRO, Dec. 6 (Xinhua) — Egyptian protesters set fire to Muslim Brotherhood headquarters in the capital Cairo on Thursday in response to Wednesday’s clashes that killed six people and injured over 1,000, said the Brotherhood’s official website. The website said that over 3,000 protesters broke into the Brotherhood’s main headquarters and set fire to its contents. Protesters also attacked the Brotherhood’s headquarters and buildings in other governorates on Wednesday evening following the clashes between supporters and opponents of President Mohamed Morsi. In Ismailia city, protesters stormed the MB headquarters with stones and Molotov cocktails, while in Suez they broke into the headquarters of the MB’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) and set its assets ablaze.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Breaking — Protesters at Presidential Palace Chant ‘Murderer… Murderer’

Protesters at the presidential palace in Cairo on Thursday night chanted “Murderer… murderer” and “The people demand the fall of the regime” in response to Mursi’s speech.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Hamas Leader Khaled Meshaal Ends Exile With Gaza Visit

Khaled Meshaal, the leader-in-exile of Hamas, has crossed into Gaza for the first time ever. There is fierce speculation over whether the visit marks a political comeback for Meshaal or the end of his time as leader.

The exiled leader of Hamas, the political group that runs the Gaza Strip, set foot on Palestinian soil for the first time in 45 years on Friday.

Khaled Meshaal, who has not returned to the Palestinian Territories since he left the West Bank aged eleven, kissed the soil on his arrival before greeting Gaza’s prime minister, Ismail Haniya of Hamas. Meshaal was accompanied by his deputy, Mussa Abu Marzuk, and a party of other senior officials as he drove through the Gaza crossing.

Meshaal will stay in Gaza for around 48 hours. He is expected to attend an open-air rally on Saturday, which will celebrate Hamas’ 25th anniversary and what the group refers to as its victory against Israel last month.

Meshaal, who survived an Israeli assassination attempt in Jordan in 1997, was based in Syria from 2004 until January this year; by that point the war between Syrian President Assad and rebels meant the arrangement was no longer workable. The position of the 56-year-old briefly suffered as a result- he had derived much of his authority from cultivating close ties with both Damascus and Tehran from that base.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Israel Thanks Czechs for Palestinian ‘No’ Vote

The Czech Republic was the only European country to vote against Palestinian statehood at the UN General Assembly. This cements the friendship Prague enjoys with Israel. DW takes a look at the relationship.

By a margin of 138 to nine (with 41 abstentions) the United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly last week to upgrade Palestinian status to that of a “non-member observer state.”

While the vote was met with thunderous applause inside the assembly, a few very notable pairs of hands were not clapping. Both Israel and America strongly opposed the decision, saying it would push the peace process backwards. Also dissenting were Canada, a handful of tiny states including Micronesia and Palau, and finally — alone in Europe — the Czech Republic.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu paid a special visit to the Czech Republic this week to personally thank the Czechs for voting against the Palestinian statehood. Netanyahu called the Czech Republic “Israel’s best friend in Europe,” and believes their relationship goes even deeper.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Netanyahu Leads in Maariv Poll on January 22 Elections

In spite of international isolation, premier favoured to win

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV — In spite of the international outcry over his Jewish settlement expansion policy, Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu and his ruling Likud party appear to be unrivaled ahead of January 22 elections, according to a Maariv newspaper survey published Friday.

According to the poll of 511 voters, a coalition of Likud and the current foreign minister’s Israel Beitenu party would win 38 seats in the Israeli parliament, or Knesset. Another 31 seats would go to religious parties allied with Netanyahu, giving the premier a comfortable 69-seat majority out of 120 contested seats. The opposition would net 19 seats for Shelly Yachimovich’s Labor party, and about 15 would go to centrist parties, according to the Maariv survey.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Rights Group: Israeli Strike on Gaza Home Unlawful

Human Rights Watch says bombing of Daloo family home during Gaza operation violated laws of war because of large number of civilians killed…

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Protesters Denounce Referring Activists to Security Court

(ANSAmed) — AMMAN, DECEMBER 7 — Hundreds of protesters gathered near the state security court in Amman on Friday to denounce arrests of pro-reform activists and trial at the military run panel.

Liberal, lift leaning and Islamists joined hands with families of detainees to protest after Friday prayer, shouting anti government slogans and calling for freedom of expression.

Dozens of activists have been held over recent protests against government economic policies. Detainees face charges of illegal assembly, threatening stability of the regime, and could face multiple years sentence at the court if convicted.

“This court is unconstitutional. Jordan claims to be democratic country but sends peaceful demonstrators to the state security court to frighten them and silence voices urging reforms,” said Hamzah Mansour, secretary general of the Islamic Action Front “(IAF), the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood movement.

Protesters raised placards describing the court as unconstitutional and called on the government to free dozens of arrested activists.

Security forces cordoned the court to stop protesters from approaching as the demonstration ended without incidents. Jordan has been swept by protests demanding reform and an end to liberalization of fuel prices, but authorities said the painful decision to raise fuel prices was necessary to protect the country’s economy on the long run.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Saudi Arabia: World Bank Spends Your Money to Promote Sharia

The World Bank has agreed to collaborate with the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) “in the development of Islamic Finance,” according to the Arab News. The Jeddah-based IDB, which Shariah Finance Watch describes as “the financial jihad wing of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation (the world’s foremost Islamic imperialist organization),” has a disturbing history and role in international finance that you can read about here…

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Sectarian Clashes Renew in Lebanon’s Tripoli, 5 Killed

BEIRUT, Dec. 6 (Xinhua) — Clashes between the rival neighborhoods of Sunni Bab el tebbaneh and Alawite Jabal Mohsen renewed Thursday in Lebanon’s northern port city of Tripoli, leaving at least five people killed, official National News Agency reported. On Thursday, the troops were reinforced in the restive areas and snipers held their positions. Media reports said that a grenade landed in Syria street of the city which separates the two rival neighborhoods while two mortar shells fell near Bab al- Tabbaneh. At least five people were killed Thursday and three others injured, including a soldier, bringing the death toll of the clashes which began on Tuesday to 11. Meanwhile, the NNA said that security agencies launched an investigation into the incident. Sectarian clashes broke out after a number of Lebanese Islamist fighters were killed in Syrian clashes in Lebanese border region of Tall Kalakh last week.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Turkey Probes Reuters for Early Release of Inflation Data

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, DECEMBER 7 — Turkish Development Minister Cevdet Yilmaz announced on Thursday that his ministry has launched an investigation into the Reuters news agency after it released data about Turkish inflation 17 minutes before the data were made public by Turkish authorities. Yilmaz, as Anatolia news agency reports, said the results of the investigation will be shared with the public after it is completed. October’s inflation numbers were released on Monday by the Turkish Statistical Institute (TurkStat). TurkStat head Birol Aydemir said Reuters had released the numbers 17 minutes before TurkStat using an illegal method, without elaborating on the type of method.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Unfinished: The Arab Spring’s Islamic Winter

Almost two years after the Arab uprising, the Middle East finds itself increasingly Islamist and increasingly violent. Yet the young people had fought for greater dignity and freedom. It is a job half done: freed of dictators, but still without full democracy. The great scholar of Islam Samir Khalil Samir offers his vision (Part One)

Beirut (AsiaNews) — Sadness prevails in the Middle East over the turn that the Arab Spring is taking. The most significant image is that of young people these days peacefully besieging Mohamed Morsi’s presidential palace in Heliopolis.

After nearly two years we are still at the starting point, faced with a fresh attempt at dictatorship. It seems that the Arab Spring has been swept away. In addition, there is an increasingly clear bias towards Islam. This is evident in Cairo, but also in Tunisia, Libya and Syria.

The Arab Spring: bread, work and dignity!

The Arab Spring was the first rebellion against regimes that were born from a military revolution which gradually gave way to full scale dictatorships. The protest movements that have emerged in the past two years are a sign that there is a consciousness among the Arabs that says: We are fed up, and the force was such that it overthrew these dictatorships. It was an improvised protest against poverty and unemployment, and for more freedom and dignity.

But this is the destruens, destructive, successful part, backed by a willingness to change these countries. Now, however, it must be followed by the constructive part, based on the ability to build a better and democratic society.

Egypt, the “Muslim Brotherhood” and Sunni fundamentalism

But it seems almost impossible to build a democratic system: there are at least 3 generations that do not know what democracy is. In Egypt, until 1952 there was a weak monarchy that had delegated power to Britain. There was indeed a form of democracy, but for the rich and the wealthy, who failed to address social issues.

Abdel Nasser exploited this very failing: his was a social revolution. Soon, however, we slipped from an authoritarian system under Nasser, to an increasingly dictatorial under Mubarak; for more than 60 years people have only learned to obey, not to think of any changes. Sometimes the government has dared to carry out some more or less beneficial reforms, as was the case in Egypt, Tunisia, Iraq, Syria. So we do not know what a democratic regime means, and we can not learn this in only two years!

The long road to democracy

The problem now is to learn how to succeed in bringing democracy to laws and structures. But this can not be improvised.

In fact, who took power? The more organized. The young people who carried out the revolution had no experience in government. They wanted to change and have changed, but failed to propose a party or political entity.

Those who had experience, but belonged to the old regime were put aside. The only organizations left were that had been marginalized by the old regime, but active during the dictatorship, namely the Muslim Brotherhood.

So with false promises, clever tricks, manipulation, the Muslim Brotherhood managed to climb to power. In addition, the fact that as much as 40% of the Egyptian population is illiterate has encouraged the Islamists enough to claim that their party is based on the divine law, sharia, and not atheism or human laws, to convince them.

Therefore the fact that both that young and old have reacted by rejecting the absolute power of Morsi, is very important. People also realize that the problem is not only Morsi, but the entire Islamist movement.

The current drama in Egypt — and the Middle East — is that everyone wants democracy, but we do not know what it is.

We know what it is not democracy — such as the power structure of the Muslim Brotherhood — but we do not know how to define it.

It might take decades to finally outline some positive social project. But we can begin right now by helping prepare the ground work for full democracy. For example, until we have a higher illiteracy rate (more than 40%), there will be no democracy. Those who can not read, can not fully follow current affairs and depend on others for information, thus they do not have the ability to discern, to assess whether a proposal is constructive or not.

The ordinary man and religious authority

On the other hand, the illiterate — usually the ordinary man — depends on religion, because in good faith, he believes that the things of God are the best. He has been repeatedly taught that the imams know what God wants, that sharia is the best legislation possible, that the Koran is the total perfection … And so he listens to the imam, who tell him that the Koranic model is the best model for society, even if it is only promoted by Islamic fundamentalists. But he does not reflect on the fact that while this model may be perfect for the seventh century, for Saudi Arabia, a Bedouin society, it may not be so for a modern, industrialized, globalized economy.

Unfortunately, the Egyptians slavishly follow the imams and their interpretation of God. If one dares to ask, “Why pray? Why pray five times a day?” They all respond,” It is God who wants it”. And so people are silent. Long years of education are needed to change this subjection to the imams.

The education system is based on memorization, not only of the Koran and some sayings of Muhammad, or of incomprehensible pre-Islamic poetry, but also history and even science and mathematics. Students in school today learn things by heart, but they do not learn to think in a personal way, to reflect. This will also take time.

The essential test: the social challenge

Another important element will be the encounter between the Islamist proposal and the social situation. Now that the Muslim Brotherhood began to govern it will have to demonstrate that it can govern well, that the unemployment rate will decrease, the economy will improve. If this does not happen, people will reconsider the veracity of their promises.

The Islamists have always said that Islam obliges us to justice, that the rich must help the poor. Their motto is “Islam is the solution” (Al-Islâm huwa l-hall). In response to every question: “Islam is the solution.” The moment of confrontation has arrived: if in practice they do not change anything, then those claims will be proven to be no more than an empty ideology. And this will be a stage in the process that leads to democracy.

These days Morsi is carrying out a sort of coup d’état: he has given himself complete power: executive, legislative and judicial. On 21 November, Mohamed al-Baradei, Nobel Laureate, former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency and founder of the Egyptian al-Dostour new party, said: “Mohamed Morsi has now usurped all the powers of the state and is in fact a self-proclaimed new Pharaoh”. Then he approved the Constituent Assembly (devoid of many social partners, including Christians and liberals) and launched a lame referendum on the constitution…

But it has provoked a huge reaction: this too is the beginning of democracy!

The function of the army

What is somewhat surprising about the Egyptian revolution is that the army — which was supposed to be the secularizing strength within society — has remained totally silent before this Islamic wave. One suspects that this shift towards radical Islam suits the army; the United States, which is the major contributor to the army budget; Qatar and Imam Qaradawi, who was initially opposed to the Arab Spring, but now that all governments born of it are Islamists, supports them.

To understand, we must admit that in Egypt the army follows whoever holds power and supports the military. If the Muslim Brotherhood guarantees the privileges the military has acquired, then the army in return will agree to support the new power. The military is not ideological, but practical. Now it realizes that the government is Islamist and it accepts it. It is a little different from the Turkish army, which is true instrument of Ataturk’s secularism. The Egyptians tend to be less schematic, quicker to easy deals, less staunch in its support.

It must also be said that the Egyptian Islamism is not terroristic. Whenever there is a terrorist act, Morsi condemns it. Moreover, he made a great impression mediating between Hamas and Israel in Gaza. And for that the army and the people are somewhat calmer in their approach.

My impression is that the Arab world — and perhaps throughout the Muslim world — will have to move from a military dictatorship, to a strongly Islamic dictatorship because people are religious, Muslim and still respects this ideal of society.

The new stage will be the practical reality that will let people be the judges. For now, the jury is out and largely in favor of Islam. But if in time Islam fails to improve people’s lot, then the ideals that underlie the Islamists agenda will appear as a pure falsehood. This could give way to a popular reaction that could lead to a healthy secularism in Arab society. In the end, those who guarantee food and work will win.

(End of Part One)

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


South Stream Pipeline Construction Begins

Construction of the new South Stream gas pipeline has begun. It will transport Russian gas to 38 million households in southern Europe starting 2015.

Vladimir Putin personally attended the official start of construction work on the South Stream pipeline in the coastal town of Anapa.

The pipeline will stretch over 2400 kilometers, traversing the Black Sea and will carry Russian gas via Serbia, Hungary and Slovenia to Italy.

The Russian energy giant Gazprom is one of the main drivers behind the multi-billion project. It owns half the shares in the South Stream Transport consortium that runs the operation. The other half is split between Italian company ENI , French EDF and German BASF subsidiary Wintershall.

The pipeline will be able to transport 63 billion cubic meters of gas per year.

Construction is to be completed by 2015 and the price tag has been put at a minimum of 16 billion euros.

South Stream will be complimentary to the Nord Stream pipeline completed in 2011, which transports 55 million cubic meters of Russian gas through the Baltic Sea to Germany and Western Europe bypassing Poland and Ukraine.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

South Asia

An Indian Village Ban on Mobile Phones for Women? It’s Like Trying to Ban Eating

Mobile phones may be the single most empowering technology for Indian women. This is what scares patriarchal village elders

If you live in India, your most ubiquitous tool will be your mobile phone. Everyone from your vegetable vendor to your local heavy breather will have one, and will use it to relentlessly communicate with you. “SMS bhej do, missed call de doh” (send me a text or give me a missed call) has become part of modern Indian lingo. Indeed, India is one of the world’s fastest growing markets for mobile phones.

But as Shashi Tharoor pointed out in his book, The Elephant, the Tiger and the Cell Phone, it wasn’t always this way. Back when I was a child in 1980s India, even a regular phone was a luxury. It took months of pleading and bribing to get a weak, intermittent connection. Calls were carefully rationed, using them only to exchange essential information. There was only one phone company — the government one.

Children were not allowed to use the phone; we might as well have asked to light a fire. Back in those days, I would never have imagined that a handset could be had for less than Rs 500 (£6). I would never have dreamed that my 88-year-old grandmother would have one, or that my milkman would not only have a mobile, but would send me texts telling me when he was in the area.

But the Indian mobile phone revolution is particularly crucial because it is helping the poor, the remote, and the excluded. Mobiles are being used to funnel demand for services and products to small farmers, vendors, plumbers, electricians and housemaids. In remote areas of India, they are used to distribute health information to rural women. In urban areas, they are being used to help sex workers and other marginalised people. For many vulnerable women, they are essential to get help if molested or attacked. Mobile communications may be the best way, or indeed the only way, to reach India’s cut-off villages. As actor Abhishek Bachchan put it in a hit TV advertisement for phone company Idea Cellular, which may well be more popular than his movies: “What an idea, Sirjee!”

Which is why this week’s decision by a Bihar village council to ban mobile phones for women is so ridiculous. They might as well ban eating. Mobile phones may be the single most empowering technology for Indian women. I found my cleaner through a new jobs website, which sent job alerts to her mobile phone. I was prepared to pay more than the standard, and so were other employers she found through the site.

With her earnings, she has put her daughter through college. Her daughter now works in a call centre on the night shift. Again, it’s her mobile phone which allows her to do this, helping her keep in touch with anxious family as she comes home at 2am. Her job is giving her more say, more money, more power…

           — Hat tip: Green Infidel[Return to headlines]

Indian Village Bans Women From Using Mobile Phones

A village council in India has banned all women from using mobile phones. Council members believe that the phones “debase the social atmosphere.” Rights organizations have roundly condemned the decision.

Women’s rights groups have reacted with amazement to the decision by the village in northeastern India to ban women from having mobile phones. “It’s a completely stupid, ridiculous and unnecessary thing which reflects really on the fear that men have of women’s independence and autonomy,” says Urvashi Butalia, a prominent women’s rights advocate and founder of the women’s publishing company, Zubaan in New Delhi.

The village in question lies in India’s northeastern state of Bihar — widely considered to be the country’s most backward and poorest region. Imamuddin Ahmad, Managing Director of the Women’s Development Corporation in Bihar, explains the situation in Kishanganj, the Muslim-dominated district where Sunderbari village is located, “Kishanganj is a Muslim-majority area. It lies on the border to Nepal and West Bengal. It is a very poor area.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

India: Bihar Village Bans Mobile Phone Use by Women

(Reuters) — A village council in Bihar has banned the use of mobile phones by women, saying the phones were “debasing the social atmosphere” by leading to elopements — a move that set off outraged protests from activists.

In addition to the ban, the Sunderbari village council in a Muslim-dominated area some 385 kilometers east of Bihar capital Patna has also imposed a fine of 10,000 rupees if a girl is caught using a mobile phone on the streets.

Married women would have to pay 2,000 rupees.

“It always gives us a lot of embarrassment when someone asks who has eloped this time,” said Manuwar Alam, who heads a newly-formed committee tasked with enforcing the ban, referring to queries from neighbouring villages.

He said the number of elopements and extramarital love affairs had risen in the past few months, with at least six girls and women fleeing their homes.

“Even married women were deserting their husbands to elope with lovers. That was shameful for us,” Alam said. “So, we decided to tackle it firmly. Mobile phones are debasing the social atmosphere”.

Local officials have begun investigations, saying that such bans cannot be allowed in a healthy society, while women’s rights activists called it an assault on freedom that could potentially end up harming women by stripping them of one source of protection from trouble, such as unwanted advances by men.

“Girls and women are capable enough to protect themselves,” said activist Suman Lal during a debate on local television. “Technology is meant to be used, not to be banned…The order is nauseating.”

Fellow activist Mohammad Islam said it was “disappointing” that the village council ignored the many advantages of mobile phones before placing a ban on them for one reason…

           — Hat tip: Green Infidel[Return to headlines]

Indonesia: Java: Radical Islam in Favor of Female Genital Mutilation

Circumcision is concentrated in particular in rural and remoteareas of the island of Java. So far campaigns by activists who denounce the danger of infection and the violence inherent in the practice to no avail. The debate within the Muslim world, on compulsory nature (or non) of the rite. A civil battle, supported by more than 400 NGOs.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) — In rural areas and more remote areas of Indonesia, particularly the island of Java, female circumcision is still a widespread traditional practice. Although it is not a rule set in a rigid manner by the precepts of Islam, it resists in the most populous Muslim country in the world thanks to the favorable opinion of a large part of society, due to the more extreme and integral fringe. Over the years, activists and politicians have launched campaigns and appeals in an attempt to eradicate the popular custom, which puts the physical health of girls at risk. However, efforts to stem the “tetesan” — as it is called in the country — have so far been a vain war fought on “two different fronts”, at a governmental level and on a purely religious level.

Renowned experts of Islamic law in Indonesia, interviewed by AsiaNews, stigmatize the practice of female circumcision as “damaging”, even if it continues the comparison — which in many cases results in open clashes — between the fuqaha extremists and moderate Muslims leaders. With the first in favor of mutilation, while the latter engaged in campaigns to put an end to the phenomenon.

The the Muslim intellectual Sumanto Al Qurtuby says the faction that supports tetesan is linked to the Salafi and Wahhabi community, which together with other fundamentalist groups are concentrated in Bandung and Aceh. They believe that circumcision is “morally” encouraged by Sharia, or Islamic law, and reiterated in the hadith, in anecdotes related to the life of the Prophet Muhammad. However, the expert adds, while the practice is “suggested” it is not “mandatory” and there are no moral foundations of Islamic law that state it should be perpetrated. There are in fact six different drafts of the hadith — better known as “Kutub as-Sittah” — and only one of these “calls for” the spread of female circumcision.

Together with the moral issue, there is also a health and a pyscological aspect. The practice of FGM, in fact, results in the loss of sexual pleasure and is often practiced in contexts far from sterile, in which there is a clear risk of infection or post-operative consequences. This is why human rights activists, citizens and a large part of civil society have fought for and end to this practice — especially in rural areas. An act, they describe as “dangerous” and “contrary to the health care.”

The author of this article in his youth, when he was about eight years old, witnessed firsthand circumcision practiced on a young girl, forced by her parents (Muslims) to submit to the “Islamic ritual.” Rather than doing it in a private and appropriately sterilized room — as I recall — the act of female circumcision was carried out in the open air, her feet on the ground, while the genital organ was removed with a razor blade. The little girl began to scream in pain, as a stream of blood oozed from the wound. At the end of the rite, I remember that the family offered a kind of celebration of the “thank you” to neighbors, for taking part in the “Islamic ritual.”

An opinion poll carried out by the government in 2003 confirmed that the practice of female genital mutilation is still widespread in rural areas. In 2006, the Ministry of Health tried to intervene to stem the tide, without any substantive results regarding what is defined by a number of fronts, especially among female movements as, “an example of domestic violence.” Throughout Indonesia at least 400 non-governmental organizations have arisen that are fighting against the practice. The movements in unison, recall that Jakarta is one of the signatories of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW Convention) and is called to make every effort to reduce the social impact of this practise.

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

Pakistan Unsafe for Western Charity Workers

Pakistani experts have said that Bargeeta Almby — a Christian charity worker from Sweden who was shot in Lahore on Monday — was a victim of growing intolerance and anti-West sentiment in Pakistan.

Bargeeta Almby, a 72-year-old Swedish charity worker, was returning from work on Monday when she was attacked by unknown gunmen in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore. Doctors said Almby was hit in the chest and is still unconscious in hospital.

“A bullet hit her in the chest. We have treated her and she is improving now,” Ali Usman, a doctor at the hospital, told AFP. The latest reports, however, say that Almby is still in a critical condition.

The Pakistani police believe the attack on Almby was not a “street crime” as the gunmen did not try to steal anything from her. “Our initial investigations point out to the fact that it was not an attack to snatch money or other valuables from her,” Owais Malik, a senior police official, told DW, adding that the police had not been able to find the assailants.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Sydney’s Violent Wild, Wild West

SHOOTINGS, extortion and general violence is so out of control in south-west Sydney that residents and children are seeking medical help for post-traumatic stress disorders.

Gangs from opposing religious sects are also extorting money from restaurants in the area with at least three premises fire-bombed or shot at in the past few weeks. Police have confirmed they have set up a special taskforce to investigate the shootings. “There are a number of shooting incidents at restaurants in the Bankstown area we are looking at,” said Detective Superintendent Debbie Wallace, head of the Middle Eastern Crime Squad. “Victims of these types of crimes are very reluctant to come forward, naturally because of the fear,” Supt Wallace said. She confirmed that in some cases religion is used by those making the threats…

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

8 Suspects Arrested After Attack in Northern Nigeria

KANO, Nigeria, Dec. 6 (Xinhua) — Police in Kano State in northwestern Nigeria on Thursday said eight suspects were arrested after a patrol team escaped a bomb attack along the Ring Road area of the metropolis. State commissioner of police Ibrahim Idris announced the attack and arrests, saying an explosive device was thrown at the police patrol at exactly 7:30 a.m. local time on Thursday. “The police patrol team was heading to its duty post when the passengers of a taxi Golf car coming behind threw an explosive device at the police vehicle,” said the top cop, adding that the security officers immediately disembarked from the vehicle and cordoned off the area…

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Elephant Poaching in Africa Continues Unabated

The pressure on Africa’s elephants is increasing. Asia’s markets are demanding ivory and criminal networks are all too willing to provide fresh supplies. The animals are not even safe in national parks.

A rising demand for ivory in China is keeping the market going, says Allan Thornton, chairman of the Environmental Investigation Agency, EIA, an organisation that contributed in achieving the embargo of 1989 and that goes undercover in China.

“Ivory jewellery and ornaments have become a new status symbol for many newly rich in China,” he told DW. 1.3 billion people makes China a huge market with increasing buying power.

Ivory smuggling still rampant

The Chinese authorities cannot control the illegal movement of ivory around the world, says Allan Thornton. He estimates that 90 percent of all the ivory brought into China is illegal.

The country’s consumption really took off back in 2008, says Thornton. Back then, the Washington Convention enabled several African states such as Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe — to sell 108 tons of state-owned ivory. Most of it originated from the time before 1989 or from elephants that died of natural causes.

The majority of that ivory went to China. “That is when the Chinese ivory market first came into being,” Thornton says.

Nowadays, criminal networks from China organise fresh ivory supplies from Africa. They work in Africa, just like many other large Chinese companies.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Ghana: On a Knife Edge — Close Election to Test Its Peace and Democracy

Through the campaign, rhetoric has got stronger and accusations of fraud and violence have increased. With the result be too close to call, how will things pan out?

After power was peacefully handed over following Ghana’s agonisingly close presidential run-off in 2008, many praised the nation’s culture of peace and democracy. But for a country that prides itself on being a beacon of stability in West Africa, the prospect of violence was far closer than most Ghanaians would care to admit. That presidential election was won by a wafer-thin margin of around 40,000 votes in the second-round run-off, and the elections taking place tomorrow, on December 7, promise to be just as closely fought. The final campaign rallies were held yesterday in which the incumbent John Mahama of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), and his main rival Nana Akufo-Addo of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), both reiterated their promises and urged voters to help them over the finish line…

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Kenya: Blast in Somali Area of Nairobi, Eastleigh

One person has been killed and eight others wounded in a blast in a mainly Somali neighbourhood in Kenya’s capital Nairobi, police say.

A roadside bomb exploded during rush hour traffic in the Eastleigh neighbourhood on Wednesday evening, police said. Last month, a grenade blast in Eastleigh left seven people dead.

Kenya accuses Somalia’s al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab militant group of trying to destabilise the country…

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

South Africa is Safe in My Hands, Says Jacob Zuma

President Jacob Zuma of South Africa has ruled out a Zimbabwe-style takeover of swathes of the white-owned economy and dismissed a push for nationalisation of the crucial mining industry to resolve the country’s gaping inequalities.

In an interview with the Daily Telegraph in his colonial-style official residence in Pretoria, Mr Zuma, 70, confirmed he was ready for a second term as president of the African National Congress (ANC). The party meets on December 16 to choose a new president and Mr Zuma has fought off a revolt against his leadership…

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Latin America

Luis Fleischmann: The Gaza Crisis and the Intellectual Left in Latin American: A Dark Picture

The recent Gaza crisis, during which Israel responded with a limited military operation to stop Hamas missile attacks against Israeli populations, unleashed a number of reactions by intellectuals in Latin America.

Some of these reactions were expected but others raise serious concerns about the direction Latin America is taking in what is called “the battle of ideas”.

The reaction to the Gaza crisis by some intellectuals reflects the ideological power of the Bolivarian Revolution and the challenge this revolution will present for us in the future.

This time we did not hear mere pacifist statements calling to stop the bloodshed. We heard a much more aggressive discourse that accused Israel of conducting genocide on the Palestinians; promoting expansionism; committing war crimes; and nothing short of serving the devil…

[Return to headlines]


Gosar Questions How Bomb Suspect Was Allowed to Live in AZ

PHOENIX (CBS5) — An Arizona congressman is asking federal officials why the man suspected of detonating a bomb outside the Arizona Social Security Administration office in Casa Grande was allowed to live in Arizona despite being classified a person who had engaged in “terrorism-related activity.”

Rep. Paul Gosar, R-AZ, sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services on Wednesday with specific questions about the status of 47-year-old Abdullatif Ali Aldosary.

Aldosary on Tuesday was ordered held in jail pending a preliminary hearing. Investigators said instructions on how to construct an explosive device, bomb-making materials and chemicals were found in his Coolidge home after a small explosion outside the building in downtown Casa Grande on Friday morning.

Aldosary had approached Gosar’s office with a request for a “green card” and in November 2011, Gosar forwarded that request to immigration officials.

Gosar said DHS responded by saying Aldosary was not eligible for a permanent change to citizenship “pursuant to the terrorism-related grounds of inadmissibility, and that “individuals who engage in terrorism-related activity … are barred from receiving various immigration benefits.”

DHS did not elaborate on what the activity was. Gosar wrote that to be barred from permanent status, under federal law the immigrant must have engaged in activity “indicating an intention to cause death or serious bodily injury, a terrorist activity; to prepare or plan a terrorist activity; to gather information on potential targets for terrorist activity” or belong to “a terrorist organization” among other actions.

When CBS5 reached out to DHS, Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Amber Cargile responded, “Mr. Aldosary has an adjustment of status petition currently pending with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services after a previous denial of legal permanent resident status due to his participation in an uprising against Iraqi government forces in Basra in March 1991, during the Gulf War.”

In light of the Casa Grande bombing, Gosar questioned why Aldosary was not detained and processed for deportation in November 2011, after it was determined he had engaged in terrorism-related activity.

Gosar also asked what efforts were made to track and monitor “a known terrorist.”

Another government official, who asked not to be identified, said just because an application is denied or on hold — because of the part of immigration law dealing with terrorism-related activity — doesn’t mean that person is a terrorist.

The official stressed, “Terrorism-related inadmissibility grounds (TRIG) in immigration law are broad in scope and they don’t always differentiate between armed groups and the purpose of their activities. So they include activities that we wouldn’t commonly consider to be ‘terrorism,’ such as activities that were performed under duress. They also don’t have an exception for ‘freedom fighters,’ such as a resistance group that is fighting a dictatorial regime.”

The Nov. 30 bombing happened about a block away from Gosar’s office.

“But for the grace of God, no one was injured in the bombing,” he wrote.

Aldosary is charged with maliciously damaging federal property by means of explosives and being a felon in possession of a firearm. A federal judge in Phoenix has set a preliminary hearing for Tuesday morning.

[Return to headlines]

Lord Popat and Shailesh Vara: Britain Found a Home for Ugandan Asians

By Lord Popat of Harrow and Shailesh Vara Member of Parliament for Northwest Cambridgeshire.

On 4th August 1972 Idi Amin, the Ugandan President who had seized power in a coup just over a year earlier, announced that he had had a dream, in which God had told him to expel the Asian. Amin issued a decree ordering almost all Asians in Uganda — some 60,000 of them — to leave. This brutal eviction saw people forced to leave behind their homes, businesses, land, bank accounts, temples; everything but the clothes on their back, their family and the spirit that had allowed them to flourish in Uganda and elsewhere…

[Reader comment by SAMAberdeen on 7 December 2012 at about 9 am.]

Funny how times change. In 1972 28000-60000 folk come to the UK in unique circumstances and it requires the personal intervention of the PM to get such a thing to be permitted by the British People. Fast forward to now and 500,000 folk a year are flooding in (granted 250,000 folk a year are flooding out) and to voice concern makes you a foaming-mouthed racist.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]