Monday, January 13, 2003

News Feed 20130103

Financial Crisis
»American Cities Drown in Debt
»Continent in Crisis: China Overtakes Sluggish Europe in Car Sales
»Crony Capitalist Blowout
»European Stock Markets Fall Amid Concerns Over U.S. Economy
»Italy: Monti Chides PD Leader Bersani Over Employment Reforms
»Italy: Spread on 10-Year Bonds Closes at 283 Basis Points
»Italy: Eurozone Bond Record; Portugal Enjoys a Boom
»Portugal Seeks Court Inquiry Into ‘Unjust’ Debt Deal
»President Obama Continues to Drive America Towards European-Style Decline
»Red Cross to Help Southern Europe Amid Euro Crisis
»Al Jazeera Buys Current TV, Aims to ‘Conquer’ America
»Egyptian Magazine: Muslim Brotherhood Infiltrates Obama Administration
»How Much Longer Can America Afford to be the World’s Policeman?
»Python Purge: Florida Contest Turns Public Loose in Everglades
Europe and the EU
»Boeing Soars Past Airbus in Deliveries
»Career Criminality Drains Millions From Sweden
»France: ‘Comic Bio’ of Muhammad Risks Muslim Ire
»France: Depardieu: Court Tax Ruling ‘Changes Nothing’
»France: Gaddafi Allegedly Financed Sarkozy Campaign
»Greece: Government Braces for Clash Over ‘Lagarde List’
»Iceland Teen Known Legally as ‘Girl’ Fights for Right to Name
»Italian PM Monti Hits Back at ‘Volatile’ Berlusconi
»Italy: Berlusconi Says He Suffered ‘Monstrous’ Defamation by Courts
»Italy: Berlusconi Says Has ‘Cordial Relations’ With Pope
»Italy: Berlusconi Says Centre Right PDL Could Win
»Italy: Soccer: Milan Friendly Racist Chants Spark Outrage
»Italy: Fiat to Take Chrysler Stake Up to 65.17%
»Monti Tells Italy’s Centre Left to Silence Anti-Reformists
»Scotland: £5m Collection of Islamic Artefacts to Go on First Public Display
»Sweden: Fourfold Jump in Emergency Room Wait
»The Islamization of France in 2012
»UK: Ahmadiyya Muslim Association Cleans Up the Streets of Croydon on New Year’s Day
»UK: Fighting Back Against the Left-Wing Guerrillas
»UK: Mark Pritchard MP: Party Must be a Party of Merit, Not Tokenism
»UK: Mayor Lutfur as Hitler in Downfall parody
»UK: White Working Class Boys Could be Treated Like Ethnic Minorities by Universities, Says Minister
North Africa
»Libya: Key Benghazi Suspect Remains at Large
»Tunisia: Support Committee of Ayoub Messoudi Considers His Trial ‘Purely Political Case’
Israel and the Palestinians
»Israeli Military Court Indicts Mastermind Behind Explosion on Tel Aviv Bus
»Territories: Army-Palestinian Clashes
Middle East
»Christians Persecuted This Christmas
»Is Jailed Saudi Dissident Raid Badawi Alive?
»Turkey: Mosque to Distribute Tablet PCs to Children Who Pray
»Turkey: Ex-Army Chief Detained in Postmodern Coup Probe
»UAE: Karama Mosque in Dubai Incorporates Plastic Extruders Heronrib Matting
»Putin Makes Depardieu Russian Citizen
South Asia
»Anti-Piracy Marines Return to India Friday
»Danish Soldier Killed in Afghanistan
»India: Muslims to Witness RSS ‘Ekatrikaran’ Programme
»Indonesia City to Ban Women ‘Straddling Motorbikes’
»Iranian MPs Due in Myanmar to Examine Rohingya Muslims’ Situation
»Malaysia: OIC to Address Religious Intolerance Against Muslims
»Pakistan: US Drone Strike Kills Taliban Commander Mullah Nazir
»Pakistan: Bigotry That Kills
»Top Pakistani Militant Commander Killed in US Drone Strike
»Violence Against Women: Despite Progress, A Long Way to Go in Afghanistan
»Why the Rise of ‘Good Taliban’ In Afghanistan Worries India and Iran
Far East
»Catastrophic Eruption is Brewing in Japan
»Hong Kong: Mosques Needed in New Territories, Says Islamic Expert
Australia — Pacific
»Australian Scientists Discover Deep Sea Corals
»Giant Rubber Duck Swims Through Sydney Harbour
»Suspicious Fire Destroys Melbourne Mosque
»‘Tsunami Bomb’ Tested Off New Zealand Coast
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Ethiopia: Members of an Al Qaeda-Affiliated Terror Cell Arrested
»Somalia: Roadside Bomb Hits Amisom Patrol in Merka Town
Latin America
»Argentina: Argies in Falkland Ads Blast at Britain
»Falkland Islands Row: Argentina’s Understanding of History is ‘Laughable’
»45 Migrants Picked Up in Puglia
»Immigrants Flooding Into Ireland Despite Bad Economic Times There
»Italy Grants Public Healthcare to Illegal Immigrant Minors
»Revealed: 3 in 4 of Britain’s Danger Doctors Are Trained Abroad
»Turkish Limbo Pushing Afghan Refugees to EU
»UK: 4,000 Foreign Murderers and Rapists We Can’t Throw Out. . . And, Yes, You Can Blame Human Rights Again
»UK: Councils Refuse to Reveal Number of Homes They Give to Foreigners: Authorities Stop Giving Figures Amid Worries Over Impact of Immigration
Culture Wars
»France’s Censorship Demands to Twitter Are More Dangerous Than ‘Hate Speech’
»Italy Hospital Drops ‘Father’ Bracelets for Lesbian Parents
»UK: Archbishop Nichols Ends ‘Soho Masses’ After Six Years
»UK: Are Christians Being Persecuted in Britain?
»UK: Guardian: Paedophiles Are ‘Ordinary Members of Society’ Who Need Moral Support
»Cloud of Atoms Goes Beyond Absolute Zero

Financial Crisis

American Cities Drown in Debt

San Bernardino, California, has gone from being the birthplace of McDonald’s, one of the world’s most successful companies, to a mound of unpaid debts. It’s a sad example of what a lack of infrastructure investment and an almost religious aversion to higher taxes have done to cities across the United States.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Continent in Crisis: China Overtakes Sluggish Europe in Car Sales

While European consumers spent much of 2012 fretting about the economic crisis, China managed to surpass the Continent in automobile sales for the first time. Given China’s growing middle class, the trend looks set to continue. China will probably outpace Europe in vehicle production this year, too.

It’s no secret that Europe’s automobile industry isn’t exactly booming. Several carmakers on the Continent are struggling as demand has fallen off during the euro crisis, particularly in southern European countries, where austerity programs have taken a bite out of prosperity.

In China, however, more and more cars are flying off the lots. And in 2012, for the first time ever, Chinese consumers purchased more automobiles than did buyers in Europe, according to the daily Süddeutsche Zeitung, citing an unpublished report by Germany’s VDA automobile industry association. The report indicates that whereas 13.2 million cars were registered in China in 2012, in Europe, the total fell from the previous year’s 13.6 million to just 12.5 million.

The reasons, of course, are many. On the one hand, China’s middle class continues to swell rapidly, even as the economy there grew more slowly last year than it had in previous years. For the increasing number of those who can afford them, cars offer both greater mobility and an important status symbol.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Crony Capitalist Blowout

A tax increase for everyone but the favored wealthy few

In praising Congress’s huge new tax increase, President Obama said Tuesday that “millionaires and billionaires” will finally “pay their fair share.” That is, unless you are a Nascar track owner, a wind-energy company or the owners of StarKist Tuna, among many others who managed to get their taxes reduced in Congress’s New Year celebration.

There’s plenty to lament about the capital and income tax hikes, but the bill’s seedier underside is the $40 billion or so in tax payoffs to every crony capitalist and special pleader with a lobbyist worth his million-dollar salary. Congress and the White House want everyone to ignore this corporate-welfare blowout, so allow us to shine a light on the merriment…

           — Hat tip: DS[Return to headlines]

European Stock Markets Fall Amid Concerns Over U.S. Economy

Investors worry budget deal won’t resolve us fiscal deficit

(ANSA) — Milan, January 3 — Markets fell across Europe on Thursday amid concerns a recent budget accord reached in the US will fail to address the fiscal deficit of the world’s largest economy.

Milan’s FTSE MIB index and London’s Ftse-100 stock market index bucked the trend.

The yield spread between 10-year Italian bonds and the German benchmark one, a barometer of Italy’s borrowing costs in the eurozone crisis, closed at 275 points, the lowest since August 2011. Italian 10-year bond yields were at 4.2%.

The Frankfurt Dax bourse dropped 0.3% at 7,756 , while the Paris Cac 40 Index fell 0.3% to 3,721 points. Madrid’s Ibex index declined 0.5% to 8,403 points.

London’s Ftse-100 stock market index rose 0.3% to 6,047 points, while Milan’s FTSE MIB index gained 0.1% to 16,909 points.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Monti Chides PD Leader Bersani Over Employment Reforms

Campaigning premier suggests he favours job creation

(ANSA) — Rome, January 2 — Outgoing Premier Mario Monti chided political opponent Pier Luigi Bersani over job creation measures Wednesday.

Monti told a radio talk show that although he is in favour of job creation, the position of Bersani and his Democratic Party is harder to understand.

“Bersani says, ‘I’m for reforms to make Italy more competitive and create more jobs’, but it is difficult to understand where he really stands,” Monti said during an election campaign interview on the RAI radio show Radio Anch’io.

In mid-2012, the Monti government was forced to water down its controversial employment reform package — including measures that would make it easier for firms to hire and fire workers — after objections from the PD and Italy’s trade unions.

Early elections were called for February 24-25 after former premier Silvio Berlusconi’s party withdrew its support from Monti’s technocratic government in parliament.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Spread on 10-Year Bonds Closes at 283 Basis Points

Spread between Italian, German bonds closes below Monti’s goal

(ANSA) — Rome, January 2 — The spread between Italian 10-year bonds and the German benchmark — the key gauge of market confidence in Italy’s ability to pay down its huge debt — closed Wednesday at 283 basis points.

That was just below a landmark policy goal of a 287-point spread set by outgoing premier Mario Monti — a figure exactly half the level of the spread (574) in November 2011, when Monti took over from Silvio Berlusconi.

At that time, Italy was at the centre of the eurozone debt crisis, and confidence in the Italian economy was very low.

At close of trading Wednesday, the yield on 10-year Italian paper fell to 4.27%, its lowest since at least December 2010.

When economist and former European commissioner Monti took the helm from Berlusconi the yield was stuck at the long-term unsustainable mark of 7%.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Eurozone Bond Record; Portugal Enjoys a Boom

ECB pumps new life into Italy. 2013 looks promising

(ANSAmed) — ROME — Investors with the courage to bet on Eurozone bond markets can slap themselves on the back: the eurozone sovereign bonds index is up +12%, its biggest spike since the birth of the Euro, and Treasury titles are up 21%. This is the first increase since 2009 and comes on the back of 2011’s “Annus Horribilis”.

Ireland’s bonds rose 29%, and Portugal’s a booming +57%: the biggest increase since 1994. The European Central Bank (ECB) is credited with pumping new life into the Eurozone. But the turning point, analysts unanimously agree, was when ECB President Mario Draghi pledged in July to do “anything it takes” to save the Euro. The subsequent development of an anti-spread shield, as well as banking supervision and budget policies, helped put the brakes on market panic and encouraged investors in the last part of the year to buy up Italian and Eurozone debt. Among these investors were Pacific Investment Management, which manages the largest bond fund in the world, and the financial giant Blackrock whose assets total 3.7 trillion dollars.

Looking ahead, 2013 seems to be fertile ground for buying and selling government securities. Investors are now looking towards the imminent elections in Italy as well as those in Germany in September. Meanwhile the markets await the return of Ireland and Portugal and already seem focused on an antispread shield request from the ECB by Spain. “Madrid will request aid in the first half of the year,” a source at Axa Investment said.

At auction on January 10 12 month treasury bonds for 2013 will go under the hammer, though requirements will be about 20 billion lower than those of 2012, while total gross issuance will be $60 billion lower.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Portugal Seeks Court Inquiry Into ‘Unjust’ Debt Deal

BRUSSELS — Portugal’s President has called into question the viability of his country’s austerity programme.

Cavaco Silva said in his New Year’s speech this week that he would request an inquiry from the country’s top court on whether planned spending cuts as well as a new supertax on pensions above €1,350 a month were constitutional.

He said his country would “honour its international obligations,” even though a negative court ruling could force the government to rewrite its 2013 budget.

He also said “there are well-founded doubts over whether the distribution of sacrifice (in the bailout terms) is just.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

President Obama Continues to Drive America Towards European-Style Decline

by Nile Gardiner

The United States has not gone over the “fiscal cliff”, but it has taken another major step towards EU-style decline. The fiscal cliff deal pushed by President Obama and subsequently ratified by the Senate and House of Representatives (with 151 House Republicans and eight Senators bravely opposing it on principle) raises taxes by roughly $600 billion, without introducing any significant cuts in government spending. Incredibly, for every $1 in spending cuts there are $41 in tax increases…

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Red Cross to Help Southern Europe Amid Euro Crisis

The International Committee of the Red Cross plans to adopt a strategy for southern Europe amid the eurozone crisis, director general Yves Daccord has told Danish daily Politiken: “Our analysis is that the next two to four years will be very difficult in Europe. We must stay ready for this.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Al Jazeera Buys Current TV, Aims to ‘Conquer’ America

AJ America will be seen in 40 mln homes. Challenge to Cnn, Fox

(ANSAmed) — Rome, JAN 3 — Qatari broadcaster Al Jazeera is preparing to conquer America with its latest acquisition — Current TV, the network founded by former US Vice President Al Gore.

It is planned that the network, which will be specifically moulded to an American audience, will be beamed into 40 million households. At present only 4.7 million American households have access to Al Jazeera English. Now, according to AJ’s website, Al Jazeera America — the new brainchild which has headquarters in New York, will start transmitting in 2013.

It will be independent from the international English network and will supply US and world news, of which 60% will be produced in America, and 40% taken from sister provider Al Jazeera English.

Analysts estimate the cost at around 500 million dollars though so far expenditure has remained secret. Al Jazeera already has offices in New York, Washington, Chicago, Miami and Los Angeles but plans to expand deep into the American heartland with an ‘all American’ schedule and news feed. The network’s US staff is set to be doubled to 500 and includes journalists and technicians. Although Al Jazeera is already seen by 260 million households in 130 countries its presence is modest in the US. Now the network is pitching itself head to head with mammoth American broadcasters such as CNN, MSNBC and Fox.

“For many years, we understood that we could make a positive contribution to the news and information available in and about the United States and what we are announcing today will help us achieve that goal,” Ahmed bin Jassim Al Thani, director general of Al Jazeera, said in a statement.

“By acquiring Current TV, Al Jazeera will significantly expand our existing distribution footprint in the US, as well as increase our newsgathering and reporting efforts in America” Current TV was founded by Al Gore seven years ago. Despite problems with ratings it has been seen by 60 million US households, according to Current TV research.

Gore and his business partner Current TV Ceo Joel Hyatt said in a statement Wednesday night that “Current Media was built based on a few key goals: To give voice to those who are not typically heard; to speak truth to power; to provide independent and diverse points of view; and to tell the stories that no one else is telling”. “Al Jazeera has the same goals and, like Current, believes that facts and truth lead to a better understanding of the world around us”, Gore and Hyatt said.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egyptian Magazine: Muslim Brotherhood Infiltrates Obama Administration

An Egyptian magazine claims that six American Islamist activists who work with the Obama administration are Muslim Brotherhood operatives who enjoy strong influence over U.S. policy.

The Dec. 22 story published in Egypt’s Rose El-Youssef magazine (read an IPT translation here) suggests the six turned the White House “from a position hostile to Islamic groups and organizations in the world to the largest and most important supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood.”

The story is largely unsourced, but its publication is considered significant in raising the issue to Egyptian readers.

The six named people include: Arif Alikhan, assistant secretary of Homeland Security for policy development; Mohammed Elibiary, a member of the Homeland Security Advisory Council; Rashad Hussain, the U.S. special envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference; Salam al-Marayati, co-founder of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC); Imam Mohamed Magid, president of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA); and Eboo Patel, a member of President Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based Neighborhood Partnerships.

Alikhan is a founder of the World Islamic Organization, which the magazine identifies as a Brotherhood “subsidiary.” It suggests that Alikhan was responsible for the “file of Islamic states” in the White House and that he provides the direct link between the Obama administration and the Arab Spring revolutions of 2011.

Elibiary, who has endorsed the ideas of radical Muslim Brotherhood luminary Sayyid Qutb, may have leaked secret materials contained in Department of Homeland Security databases, according to the magazine. He, however, denies having any connection with the Brotherhood.

Elibiary also played a role in defining the Obama administration’s counterterrorism strategy, and the magazine asserts that Elibiary wrote the speech Obama gave when he told former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to leave power but offers no source or evidence for the claim.

According to Rose El-Youssef, Rashad Hussain maintained close ties with people and groups that it says comprise the Muslim Brotherhood network in America.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

How Much Longer Can America Afford to be the World’s Policeman?

How much do you think it costs the US to maintain its military presence around the world? According to David Vine’s report for Huffington Post, the official figure is surprisingly modest…

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Python Purge: Florida Contest Turns Public Loose in Everglades

If you have 30 minutes and $25, and you can make your way to the Everglades, you can be a snake wrangler.

The Sunshine State is hosting a month-long “Python Challenge” beginning Jan.12 with cash prizes of up to $1,500 for the biggest snakes caught. Wildlife officials urge caution, but beyond the online course and the fee, there are no other requirements to hunt down the Burmese pythons, which can reach nearly 18 feet in length and have devastated much of the southern Florida ecosystem.

“Aside from the obvious goal of reducing the Burmese python population in the Everglades, we also hope to educate the public about Burmese pythons in Florida and how people can help limit the impact of this and other invasive species in Florida,” said Carli Segelson, a spokeswoman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. “We are also using the Challenge to gauge the effectiveness of using an incentive-based model as one tool to address a challenging invasive species management problem.

The unorthodox approach is evidence of Florida wildlife officials’ desperation as much as their innovation. Since the Southeast Asian species was introduced to the region by irresponsible pet owners, the population of wild pythons has exploded. Experts believe there could be tens of thousands of the giant snakes living in an 8,000-square-kilometer region of southern Florida. The voracious predators have devastated the native species like deer, bobcats and raccoons.

Just last summer, researchers euthanized the largest python ever found in the Everglades — a 17-foot snake that was carrying nearly 90 eggs — proving that the reptile species has a strong foothold in the Florida swampland.

The commission’s website includes tips on how to identify Burmese pythons — and how to kill them. Recommended methods for dispatching the animals include hacking off their heads with a machete or shooting them with a gun.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Boeing Soars Past Airbus in Deliveries

For the first time in a decade, Boeing has surpassed Airbus in deliveries of passenger jets. Experts blame strategic errors and the influence of politics at the US planemaker’s European competitor.

At the last Farnborough Air Show in Britain in July, Boeing came up with a unique idea. For almost 30 years, the company had always left its passenger planes on the ground at major air evebtss where industry representatives meet. At Farnborough, though, a Boeing 787 with Qatar Airways’ livery droned over spectators’ heads. The performance jibed nicely with Boeing’s overall performance, and the company stole the show from Airbus, securing billions of dollars worth of orders.

In fact, 2012 went so well for Boeing that the American company has now surged ahead of its European rival Airbus in deliveries. According to analysts’ calculations, Boeing now carries the prestigious title of being the world’s largest deliverer of passenger jets. The reason for the success is the 787, or Dreamliner, which had been plagued for years with development and production problems.

With its high share of carbon fiber, particularly in the tail, the 787 was meant to revolutionize aircraft construction. But the first Dreamliners were delivered in 2011, after a three-year delay. Then engine trouble and loose parts on the tail resulted in negative headlines for the company. In December 2012, the American air safety regulatory agency, the FAA, ordered that all US Dreamliners be inspected for fuel leaks.

Now it appears that Boeing has ironed out the initial glitches in its Dreamliner program, though. Between July and September 2012 alone, the company managed to increase its production capacity to deliver 12 of the aircraft. “Boeing has resolved most of the problems it was having with the Dreamliner,” said Heinrich Grossbongardt, an independent German aviation expert, and now the company is working hard to fulfill its long list of orders. Boeing has also increased production capacity on its mid-haul 737 jets.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Career Criminality Drains Millions From Sweden

Career criminals cost society so much that the government needs to take youth criminality seriously not only for the individual’s sake but to stem costs, say two economists in a new review.

Ingvar Nilson and Anders Wadeskog used the town of Södertälje, one hour south of Stockholm, for their research because it has in recent years been plagued by criminal networks.

“We confirmed what we suspected, that the costs are enormous, but you can’t see them at once because there are so many different actors involved,” Nilson told the Dagens Nyheter newspaper.

The review took into account the costs of social services, police and courts costs, and other state-financed safety networks such as social security.

A robbery costs Sweden 226,000 kronor ($35,000)

Assault costs 203,000 kronor.

Aggravated assault, if it leaves the victim with permanent disabilities, can end up with a price tag of 50 million kronor ($7.7 million).

The result of the study, which was commissioned by the anti-youth violence NGO Akta huvudet (Watch Your Head), illustrates the need for more preventative work, the report authors argued.

“The sums of money that now go into preventative work are very modest compared to the costs of crime,” Nilsson said.

He and Wadeskog looked closely at young Swedes, mostly boys, who risk slipping into chronic criminality.

Only in Södertälje, they said, there are 600 boys who risk dabbling in crime. Of them, about 50 may slip into a life of crime.

The researchers calculated that if they do, each one will cost society 80 million kronor ($12.3 million) before they turn 40.

“To put a stop to this when the boys are 10-years old is cheap compared to what they’ll cost later,” Nilson said.

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

France: ‘Comic Bio’ of Muhammad Risks Muslim Ire

A French magazine, which sparked international protests and saw its offices firebombed after it printed cartoons mocking Muhammad, on Wednesday published a “halal” cartoon biography of Islam’s founder.

The editor of Charlie Hebdo weekly insists that “The Life of Mohammed”, whose cover shows a goofy-looking prophet leading a camel through the desert, is an educational work prepared by a Franco-Tunisian sociologist.

“It is a biography authorised by Islam since it was edited by Muslims,” said Stéphane Charbonnier, who was also the illustrator of the book which comes complete with academic footnotes.

“I don’t think higher Muslim minds could find anything inappropriate,” said Charbonnier, whose magazine has repeatedly enraged some Muslims with satirical depictions of the prophet, including showing him naked.

He said the idea for the comic book came to him in 2006 when a newspaper in Denmark published cartoons of Mohammed, later republished by Charlie Hebdo, that sparked angry protests across the Muslim world.

“Before having a laugh about a character, it’s better to know him. As much as we know about the life of Jesus, we know nothing about Muhammad,” he told AFP last week.

He said the book was “perfectly halal”, a joking reference to meat that is deemed fit for Muslims to consume.

Despite Charbonnier’s insistence that the book is well-intentioned and inoffensive, the depiction of the Muslim prophet in any visual form is deemed sacrilegious by many Muslims.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

France: Depardieu: Court Tax Ruling ‘Changes Nothing’

French film celebrity Gérard Depardieu said a decision by France’s highest court to strike down a 75% tax rate on millionaires would change nothing in his highly publicised decision to relocate to Belgium.

“We should let them talk,” the usually outspoken Depardieu said of politicians who have helped turn the actor’s decision to flee France’s highest tax rate into a heated national debate.

“I don’t care about any of this. This changes nothing,” Depardieu said referring to the high court decision.

The government has vowed to push ahead with the tax rate, which would apply to incomes over a million euros ($1.3 million) a year, and propose a new measure that would conform with the constitution.

The tax rate, due to take effect next year, had angered business leaders and prompted some wealthy French citizens to seek tax exile abroad, including Depardieu, who made his decision known in a vitriolic editorial published earlier this month.

The move to annul the law was welcomed by the French Football League (LFP), which had expressed concern at the impact on top footballers such as Paris Saint Germain’s Swedish star striker Zlatan Ibrahomovic.

LFP chairman Frederic Thiriez said that if the measure had reached the statute books there could have been an “exodus of the best players” in the French league.

The 75 percent tax rate was a flagship promise of the election campaign that saw Hollande defeat right-winger Nicolas Sarkozy in May.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

France: Gaddafi Allegedly Financed Sarkozy Campaign

50 mln euros before and after elections, arms dealer says

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, JANUARY 2 — The toppled Libyan regime of Muammar Gaddafi funded the 2007 campaign of former French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, Le Parisien daily paper reported Wednesday.

Arms dealer Ziad Takieddine, who is under investigation for alleged kickbacks connected to arms sales to Pakistan and a 2002 attack in which 11 French citizens were killed, told Judge Renaud Van Rymbeke that Gaddafi contributed 50 million euros to the Sarkozy campaign.

This financing continued after Sarkozy was elected, through then-Interior Minister Claude Gueant, who allegedly gave Gaddafi’s personal secretary “the necessary banking coordinates in order to make the payments.” The former Libyan prime minister is willing to prove the transactions took place, Takieddine said. Mediapart news site in April 2011 reported the former Libyan secret service chief as saying that as far back as 2006, Gaddafi had planned to give French presidential candidates up to 50 million euros, which then-candidate Sarkozy denied.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greece: Government Braces for Clash Over ‘Lagarde List’

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, JANUARY 3 — The war of words between the Greek coalition government and SYRIZA (radical left) over the alleged doctoring of the ‘Lagarde list’ of over 2,000 Greek depositors with Swiss bank accounts intensified on Wednesday, with government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou accusing the leftist opposition of “political opportunism” and SYRIZA officials suggesting that a parliamentary probe should not be restricted to former Finance Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou.

The comments by Kedikoglou, who also accused SYRIZA of “trampling over the fundamentals of rule of law,” came amid rumors that the party’s proposal for the creation of a parliamentary committee would look to the indictment of socialist PASOK chief Evangelos Venizelos, who succeeded Papaconstantinou, as well as the latter.

The leftists, who are expected to unveil their proposal tomorrow, are also expected to criticize current Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Iceland Teen Known Legally as ‘Girl’ Fights for Right to Name

REYKJAVIK, Iceland — Call her the girl with no name.

A 15-year-old is suing the Icelandic state for the right to legally use the name given to her by her mother. The problem? Blaer, which means “light breeze” in Icelandic, is not on a list approved by the government.

Like a handful of other countries, including Germany and Denmark, Iceland has official rules about what a baby can be named. In a country comfortable with a firm state role, most people don’t question the Personal Names Register, a list of 1,712 male names and 1,853 female names that fit Icelandic grammar and pronunciation rules and that officials maintain will protect children from embarrassment. Parents can take from the list or apply to a special committee that has the power to say yea or nay.

In Blaer’s case, her mother said she learned the name wasn’t on the register only after the priest who baptized the child later informed her he had mistakenly allowed it.

“I had no idea that the name wasn’t on the list, the famous list of names that you can choose from,” said Bjork Eidsdottir, adding she knew a Blaer whose name was accepted in 1973. This time, the panel turned it down on the grounds that the word Blaer takes a masculine article, despite the fact that it was used for a female character in a novel by Iceland’s revered Nobel Prize-winning author Halldor Laxness.

Given names are even more significant in tiny Iceland that in many other countries: Everyone is listed in the phone book by their first names. Surnames are based on a parent’s given name. Even the president, Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, is addressed simply as Olafur.

Blaer is identified as “Stulka” — or “girl” — on all her official documents, which has led to years of frustration as she has had to explain the whole story at the bank, renewing her passport and dealing with the country’s bureaucracy.

Her mother is hoping that will change with her suit, the first time someone has challenged a names committee decision in court.

Though the law has become more relaxed in recent years — with the name Elvis permitted, inspired by the charismatic rock and roll icon whose name fits Icelandic guidelines — choices like Cara, Carolina, Cesil, and Christa have been rejected outright because the letter “c” is not part of Iceland’s 32-letter alphabet.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italian PM Monti Hits Back at ‘Volatile’ Berlusconi

Media magnate accused outgoing premier of lacking credibility

(see related story) (ANSA) — Rome, January 3 — Outgoing Italian Premier Mario Monti hit back on Thursday after being accused of lacking credibility by his predecessor Silvio Berlusconi.

“Berlusconi has been volatile in both his personal and political affairs recently,” Monti, who is standing to retain office on a reform platform in next month’s general elections, told Rai television.

Berlusconi has alternated of late between furious criticism of Monti and praise for the former European commissioner.

Last month Berlusconi offered to withdraw his bid for a fourth term as premier if Monti agreed to lead a broad centre-right coalition at the elections.

On Wednesday, however, he accused Monti of breaking a vow not to enter the political fray that when he was appointed premier in November 2011 after Berlusconi’s was forced to resign as prime minister by Italy’s debt crisis.

“Monti does not have credibility any more,” Berlusconi said. “He was put at the head of a technocrat government with a promise — he said he would not take advantage of the promotion”.

Berlusconi has also accused Monti’s emergency government of unelected technocrats of being too “German-centric” in pursuing austerity policies.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Berlusconi Says He Suffered ‘Monstrous’ Defamation by Courts

Milan courts ‘defamed friendship with Ruby’

(ANSA) — Rome, January 2 — Silvio Berlusconi says he has suffered “monstrous” defamation and character attacks by a Milan court that is hearing charges against the former premier of hiring an underage prostitute.

“It has been a monstrous defamation operation mounted by the Milan court,” to justify a major investigation, Berlusconi told TV station Sky TG24 on Wednesday.

“It has has gone beyond the limits of the possible”.

Berlusconi is on trial for allegedly having sex with an underage prostitute nicknamed Ruby during his third stint as premier, and using his position to allegedly try to hush it up.

He insisted during the television interview that Ruby, whose real name is Karima El Mahroug, told him that she was a relative of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.

Berlusconi has said he interceded with police when Ruby was arrested for shoplifting because he was trying to avoid a diplomatic incident, and it was not an abuse of office.

“It was an invention of the newspapers,” he said. “She (Ruby) told me that she was a daughter of a family close to president Mubarak”. In this case, as in several previous trials, Berlusconi has denied any wrongdoing, claiming he is the victim of a minority group of allegedly left-wing prosecutors and judges who he says are persecuting him for political reasons.

Berlusconi has been tried some 30 times but has only been convicted three times, as previous verdicts were either timed out or overturned on appeal.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Berlusconi Says Has ‘Cordial Relations’ With Pope

Monti endorsed by L’Osservatore Romano, not Vatican, says ex-PM

(see related stories) (ANSA) — Rome, January 2 — Ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi boasted Wednesday that he has good relations with Pope Benedict XVI in the latest in a long series of TV appearance ahead of next month’s general elections in Italy. Berlusconi was forced to resign as prime minister in November 2011 when the country’s debt crisis threatened to spiral out of control and his government was replaced by an emergency administration of unelected technocrats led by outgoing Premier Mario Monti.

Several Italian Catholic publications have strongly criticised the media magnate, who has been hit by a series of sex scandals and was given a four-year prison sentence in October in relation to tax fraud in the trading of film rights for TV broadcasts by his Mediaset media empire. But the 76-year-old media magnate said he has a warm relationship with the head of the Church.

“I’ve received telephone calls and made visits to pontiffs,” three-time Italian premier Berlusconi told Sky television.

“There is also absolute devotion on my part with the current pope and absolute cordiality with me on his part”. Berlusconi also said that the recent endorsement of Monti’s bid for office by Vatican daily L’Osservatore Romano did not mean the former European commissioner had the backing of the Holy See.

“It wasn’t an endorsement from the Vatican but from L’Osservatore Romano, and that is very different,” Berlusconi said. “We have excellent relations (with the Church). We are liberals and we think there should be freedom of conscience, but we always behaved a certain way with issues regarding the Church in government and we always received praise from the Vatican and the Church”.

Berlusconi said the fact that he had dropped plans to retire from frontline politics to lead the centre-right at the upcoming elections did not necessarily mean he would be the coalition’s premier if they won.

He said coalitions only name a premier candidate after the elections, as well as a candidate to be the next Italian president, a post he is thought to hold ambitions of holding.

He also accused Monti of breaking a vow not to enter the political fray made when the former European commissioner was appointed premier with the backing of Italy’s three biggest mainstream political groups, including Berlusconi’s People of Freedom (PdL) party. “Monti does not have credibility any more,” he said. “He was put at the head of a technocrat government with a promise — he said he would not take advantage of the promotion. “He promised all the Italian people and now we find him as the leader of a coalition of fellow travellers”. Berlusconi also expressed confidence he could revive the PdL’s long-standing alliance with the Northern League, which ended after Berlusconi’s third government collapsed.

The League were staunch opponents of Monti’s government from the time it took over power, while the PdL backed it until last month.

Northern League leader Roberto Maroni recently told Berlusconi that the alliance would not be resumed if the ex-premier were to run for office again.

“The alliance is in a phase in which the details are being addressed,” Berlusconi said.

“I’m convinced that we will be allied like we were for many years”.

The PdL is behind in the polls and has little chance of winning next month’s elections without the support of the League.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Berlusconi Says Centre Right PDL Could Win

(AGI) Rome, Jan. 3 — Silvio Berlusconi said his centre right PDL could win given that it has now risen from 14 percent to over 20 percent in the polls: “We have more than 20%, up from the 14% where we had after I had been silent for a year. To this we should add Ignazio La Russa’s ‘Brothers of Italy’ and then we are already over 22%. We expect to reach 40%.” Berlusconi was talking on Radio Radio. The former Prime Minister said: “We can do it, I believe it.” MONTI? IF I GO ON TV IT’S A SCANDAL, IF HE DOES SO IT ISN’T Silvio Berlusconi commented on Radio Radio about Mario Monti’s presence as a guest on Uno Mattina on Thursday morning: “If he does it, it isn’t a scandal. If he does it, it’s right. If I do it, it’s a scandal.” .

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

Italy: Soccer: Milan Friendly Racist Chants Spark Outrage

FIGC vows action, police identify culprits

(ANSA) — Milan, January 3 — Italian soccer was outraged Thursday when AC Milan’s friendly at fourth-tier side Pro Patria was abandoned after the Serie A giants’ black players were the target of racist chants from home fans.

The match at Busto Arsizio north of Milan was first interrupted and then scrapped altogether after Milan captain Massimo Ambrosini led his teammates off the pitch.

Milan midfielder Kevin Prince Boateng kicked the ball towards fans who were directing abuse at him before the action stopped.

M’Baye Niang, Urby Emanuelson and Sulley Muntari were also targeted.

Italian football has been battling racism in the stands for a number of years after several shameful high-profile incidents.

The head of the Italian soccer federation (FIGC), Giancarlo Abete, voiced solidarity with the players and club, calling the incident “an indecent ruckus that offends the whole of the soccer world”.

He also said FIGC prosecutors would be looking into the case.

In a statement, FIGC said: “No sanction or penalty can erase the disdain for an unjustifiable and intolerable episode”.

“We need to react with strength and without silence to isolate the few delinquents that transformed a friendly match into a mess that offends all of Italian football,” it said.

Italian players’ association president Damiano Tommasi applauded Milan’s decision to walk off.

“It was a good signal, even if a sporting event should never be placed in doubt by acts like these,” said the former AS Roma and Italy midfielder.

“Pulling out was the right decision when faced with something like this,” said Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri.

“These uncivilised gestures must stop. Italy must improve and become more educated and more intelligent”.

“We promise to return (to replay the game), and we are sorry for the club and players of Pro Patria, but we could not make any other decision. I’m sorry for the families and children who had come here to enjoy a beautiful day. I hope this can be an important signal.” Ambrosini said: “We were annoyed from the beginning. We wanted to give a strong signal…we could not continue the game in an atmosphere like this.” Boateng tweeted “It’s a disgrace that things like this are still happening while star striker Stephan El Shaarawy, also on Twitter, said: “I’m really speechless, it was a shameful afternoon. I’m sorry for the intelligent people present at Busto but it was right to leave”. Barbara Berlusconi, daughter of owner Silvio Berlusconi and a club director, said: “You need zero tolerance for episodes like this.

“Matches must be stopped straight away, even in the (Serie A) championship…You can’t always pretend not to see or hear”.

Pro Patria said the chanters were a “stupid bunch of three or four”, adding it might try to take legal action against them.

Milan, returning from its holiday break, is preparing to play Siena on Sunday.

Meanwhile police from nearby Varese, the provincial capital, said all the offending fans had been identified.

Racism has been a problem in Italian soccer at least since the 1980s, when Milan’s Dutch star Ruud Gullit spoke out against it.

Messina’s Ivory Coast defender Zoro threatened to halt a Serie A game in Italy in November 2005 after suffering racial abuse from visiting Inter Milan supporters. A decade earlier, Aaron Winter, a native of Suriname of Hindustani extraction, was subject to attacks at Lazio involving cries of ‘Niggers and Jews Out’.

The popularity of Italy striker Mario Balotelli spurred hopes racism could be stamped out, at least in the domestic league.

Former Inter Milan forward Balotelli, now at Manchester City, has repeatedly been subjected to racist taunts playing for club or country outside Italy.

Anti-Semitism has also been a recurring problem in the top flight.

In 1989 Israel striker Ronnie Rosenthal, was unable to play even one game for Udinese because of massive pressure from neo-Fascist circles.

Lazio supporters, who include a neo-Fascist hard core, were linked to a brutal assault on Tottenham supporters, a London club with a Jewish heritage, in a Rome pub in November.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Fiat to Take Chrysler Stake Up to 65.17%

Turin carmaker will exercise 3.3% option from VEBA

(ANSA) — Turin, January 3 — Fiat will exercise an option to raise its stake in American carmaker Chrysler by 3.3% to 65.17%, the Turin giant said Thursday.

The second chunk to be taken from Chrysler’s union retirement trust fund trust (VEBA) — after a first 3.3% share acquired in July — will cost $198 million, it said. Fiat took control of Detroit No.3 Chrysler after it filed for bankruptcy protection in 2009 and it has since increased its stake from 20% after meeting a series of performance targets agreed with the American government.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Monti Tells Italy’s Centre Left to Silence Anti-Reformists

Outgoing premier hints at possible post-vote pact with PD

(see related stories) (ANSA) — Rome, January 3 — Outgoing Italian Premier Mario Monti on Thursday called on the Democratic Party (PD) to silence the anti-reform elements within its ranks and hinted that an alliance with the centre-left party may be possible if next month’s general elections do not produce a clear winner.

“(PD leader Pier Luigi) Bersani should be brave and silence the conservative part of his party a little,” Monti, who has been at the helm of an emergency technocrat government since November 2011 and is standing to retain office on a reform platform, told Rai television. Monti said his government’s attempts to introduce structural economic reforms had been hampered by opposition from Italy’s biggest trade union confederation, the left-wing CGIL, and from Stefano Fassina, the PD spokesman on economic affairs.

He also mentioned the left-wing SEL party, with which the PD has formed an electoral alliance.

Monti suggested that he might be able to govern with the PD after the elections if the centre-left party dropped its coalition with the SEL. “Cutting off the (extreme) wings is a good thing,” Monti said when asked about a possible post-election pact with Bersani.

“The real contest is between those who want to conserve existing structures and those who want to innovate a little more”. The former European commissioner said a possible name for his election platform could be Con Monti per l’Italia (With Monti for Italy).

He added that he hoped Bersani will present convincing arguments in election campaign but still lose.

Monti also hit back at Fassina’s claim that he would be at the helm of a list of elitist “Rotary Club” candidates.

“I don’t know what the Monti list will be yet. Anyway I’ve always fought against lobbies,” Monti said. “I suggest Fassina updates himself a little”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Scotland: £5m Collection of Islamic Artefacts to Go on First Public Display

Ancient pieces of art that have been hidden from public view for decades are to be shown in a new exhibition.

Bonhams in Edinburgh is about to reveal 650 items worth an estimated £5m which date from the days of the “Silk Road” trade route which once linked Europe and Asia. And in true Indiana Jones fashion, the collection belongs to an anonymous Russian doctor, who has collected the items with his family over the past 30 years…

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Fourfold Jump in Emergency Room Wait

Staff shortages and limited work areas have contributed to Malmö Hospital overflowing with patients, with employees declaring the situation a “catastrophe”.

“These conditions could put patients’ lives at risk,” a nurse told the Sydsvenskan newspaper.

“It’s a catastrophe,” said another. “We’ve had to fetch beds so the patients don’t have to lie waiting on stretchers.”

The emergency ward of the southern Sweden hospital does not have enough closed-off areas with private bathrooms, nor does it have enough medicine or staff, according to the several nurses who chose not to disclose their names in the paper.

At least one other hospital in the Skåne region is facing similar shortfalls.

The main hospital in the nearby academic town of Lund is also overflowing, in part because several sections of the hospital have been closed off, a nurse told Sydsvenskan.

“The emergency ward has nowhere to put the patients. They are not getting any of the attention they need,” the anonymous nurse told the paper.

The nurse added that over 40 people were left in the waiting room on Tuesday night, compared to the usual number of about ten.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

The Islamization of France in 2012

by Soeren Kern

Opinion surveys show that to voters in France — home to an estimated 6.5 million Muslims, the largest Muslim population in the European Union — Islam and the question of Muslim immigration have emerged in 2012 as a top-ranked public concern. The French, it seems, are increasingly worried about the establishment of a parallel Muslim society there.

But government efforts this year to push back against the Islamization of France were halting and half-hearted and could be described as “one step forward, two steps back.”…

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Ahmadiyya Muslim Association Cleans Up the Streets of Croydon on New Year’s Day

More than 50 volunteers took to the streets of Croydon on New Year’s Day to clean up following the winter festivities. On Tuesday, volunteers from the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association worked their way across the borough sweeping and litter picking after leaving their early morning prayers at the Croydon Regional Mosque on St James’ Road…

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Fighting Back Against the Left-Wing Guerrillas

Foes of public sector reform are waging war at a local level — they must be roundly beaten

Two and a half thousand years ago, the legendary Chinese general, Sun Tzu, developed the first recorded system of guerrilla warfare, involving fast-moving local infiltration and resistance tactics. Many conflicts since have proved its effectiveness, but the model is not limited to military struggles…

[Reader comment by cargill55 on 3 January 2013 at about 10 am.]

Labour increased the public sector from 5 million to 6 million, put left wing placemen in most of the charities and quangoes, insisted on political correctness and multiculturalism infecting the public sector [lots of diversity coordinators around], allowed local councillors to get public sector pensions, allowed public sector workers to do trade union work full time. It is about time the coalition dismantled this oppressive and destructive left wing apparatus within the state.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Mark Pritchard MP: Party Must be a Party of Merit, Not Tokenism

Tory MP Mark Pritchard says it would be misguided if his party’s hierarchy were again tempted to ‘set itself on a collision course with Conservative Associations’ by trying to fast-track ethnic minority candidates.

The Conservative parliamentary party should be more representative of the population. It is good news that in recent years the Conservative Party has made steady progress in increasing the number of its ethnic MPs. In 2005 just two Conservative MPs were from Britain’s ethnic minorities, in 2010 the figure had risen to eleven. This increase is a trend that is likely to continue as the high calibre of these MPs is appreciated by Conservative Associations, many of whom will soon be replacing their retiring MPs with new parliamentary candidates…

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Mayor Lutfur as Hitler in Downfall parody

Just when I thought those Hitler Downfall parodies were becoming a bit passé, some genius has come up with a Lutfur Rahman/Tower Hamlets version. It has Mayor Lutfur as Hitler ranting about the Boundary Commission’s proposal to drop the Banglatown ward name. Lutfur’s Three Stooges, Gulam Robbani, Ohid Ahmed and Maium Miah, all get it in the neck for failing their master. And I love that at 2mins in Lutfur reveals one of the roots of his rage, that he will become a laughing stock on this blog, a blog run by a working class wannabe-upmarket-urban-rat-low-life…

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: White Working Class Boys Could be Treated Like Ethnic Minorities by Universities, Says Minister

White working class boys are so under-represented at universities that they may need to be treated like ethnic minorities when it comes to recruiting students, a government minister has suggested.

The number of boys applying to university courses has fallen dramatically and more must be done to ensure they sign up, David Willetts argued. The universities minister said there was no reason why white working class boys should not be targeted in the same way as other disadvantaged groups by the Office for Fair Access (Offa)…

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Libya: Key Benghazi Suspect Remains at Large

Casablanca — Although Ahmed Boukhtala is the main suspect in the September 11th terrorist attack on US consulate in Benghazi as well as a suspect in assassination of Libyan rebel commander Major General Abdelfattah Younis, he continues to live freely in Benghazi. Conflicting reports have claimed that Boukhtala was imprisoned while others have said he escaped from prison and is now a fugitive. However, sources in Benghazi told Magharebia that Boukhtala remains at large and that the Libyan authorities have not arrested him…

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Support Committee of Ayoub Messoudi Considers His Trial ‘Purely Political Case’

Tunis — The support committee of Ayoub Messaoudi, former media adviser to interim President of the Republic Moncef Marzouki, estimates that his trial, referred to the military justice, is a “purely political case”.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Israeli Military Court Indicts Mastermind Behind Explosion on Tel Aviv Bus

JERUSALEM, Jan. 2 (Xinhua) — The Israeli military court on Wednesday indicted Ahmed Moussa, 26, from the West Bank village of Beit Lakiya for masterminding a bomb on a Tel Aviv bus in November of last month, local news outlets reported. The Judea military court charged Moussa with a list of charges, including an attempt to intentionally cause death, conspiracy to cause death, dealings in weapons and explosives and their construction. The bus bombing occurred at a time when armed conflict was ongoing between Gaza militant groups and Israel. A total of 28 people were wounded by the explosion. Following an interrogation by the Shin Bet Security Agency, the indictment established that Moussa headed a militant cell in the West Bank which was behind the attack, which had links with the Islamic Jihad and Hamas…

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Territories: Army-Palestinian Clashes

During special Israeli operation, yesterday vandalism

(ANSAmed) — Tel Aviv, January 2 — Dozens of Palestinians were wounded by rubber bullets and intoxicated with tear gas following clashes in the village of Tamun near Jenin, West Bank, between the local population and Israeli army units.

The incident, which took place as al-Fatah was celebrating its 48th anniversary, follows increasing violence between the two sides including anti-Palestinian vandalism by settlers and attacks by Palestinian demonstrators against Israeli vehicles along the main roads of the Palestinian Territories.

Violence in Tamun occurred late in the morning when Israeli troops were found to be posing as fruit vendors as part of an operation to capture local Islamic militant Murad Bani Odeh.

Israel’s secret services believe he was organizing a terror attack. Local sources said the Israeli officers had to call in help and the village was at the centre of violent clashes for hours. Some 30 Palestinians were wounded and Israeli soldiers also used real ammunitions, according to the Wafa news agency.

Three Israeli soldiers were wounded, though not seriously, and Bani Odeh captured.

Yesterday and today settlers were also behind anti-Palestinian vandalism in two West Bank areas. Many olive trees were cut in one instance while in another a car was burnt while on a wall nearby someone wrote ‘A good Arab is a dead Arab’ in Hebrew. Meanwhile yesterday someone fired against an Israeli bus in Hebron while another Israeli bus was also attacked by Palestinians. Nobody was wounded.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Christians Persecuted This Christmas

by Douglas Murray

I hope all readers had a happy and peaceful Christmas. As this is the first day back at the office for most of us, I thought I would cheer everyone up with how Christians around the world experienced the period. Here is what Christians in Indonesia had to put up with. In Egypt a prominent cleric issued genocidal threats against the country’s Christians, and taunted them:

‘What do you think — that America will protect you? Let’s be very clear, America will not protect you. If so, it would have protected the Christians of Iraq when they were being butchered!’

Meanwhile, in post-Arab Spring Tunisia, the locals were warned by a hard-line preacher of increasing popularity: ‘Sharing the feast days of the infidel or even sending them greetings to mark them is a big sin,’ Sheikh Beshir Ben Hassine said in sermon posted on Facebook, ‘Wishing someone a Merry Christmas or a Happy New Year is forbidden by Islam.’


[Reader comment by James Strong on 2 Januarty 2013 at about 5 pm.]

Islam is a totaltarian political system that is more than happy to use violence. It should be opposed vigorously at every opportunity. Its true attitudes and behaviours should be publicised to all those in the UK, and elsewhere who are still under any delusion that it is the ‘Religion of Peace’. Those parts of the mainstream media who refer to ‘Asian’ gangs of men abusing young girls for sex are knowingly peddling untruths. Those men don’t do it because of their race, they do it because of their beliefs. We need to oppose Islam vigorously now with all the words at our disposal,we need to stop its advance, because if we don’t we face a very violent future.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Is Jailed Saudi Dissident Raid Badawi Alive?

Italian MP calls on EU to mobilize, 7,000 signatures gathered

(ANSAmed) — RIYADH, JANUARY 3 — Saudi dissident editor Raif Badawi is in imminent danger of execution and may already have lost his life, Italian People of Freedom (PdL) Party MP Souad Sbai told reporters on Thursday. “His relatives and friends are in anguish, because they have not heard from him for days. The fear is that he has been silenced for good,” said Sbai, calling on the European Union, which recently won the Nobel Peace Prize, to mobilize against the “extremely grave human rights violations” taking place not far from its borders.

Badawi, editor of Saudi Liberals website, was arrested in June, according to Human Rights Watch. “ daily was the first to report the news of his arrest, and has collected 7,000 signatures so far to free Raif and save him from certain death,” Sbai said. “Silence is the death of any hope of salvation for dissidents. So I have written to EU Human Rights Commissioner Nils Muinieks.” Badawi was arrested for allegedly insulting Islam on his website, “threatening general security” and ridiculing the religious police in his articles, one of which was published on Saint Valentine’s Day, which is banned in Saudi Arabia. Badawi also allegedly refused to remove articles written by others from his website. The charges were changed on December 17 to apostasy, which is a capital crime in Saudi Arabia. Amnesty International has also called for the liberation of Badawi, saying he is a prisoner of conscience who was arrested and put on trial solely for making an online social and political debate possible.

Another Saudi dissident intellectual, Turki al-Hamad, has been incarcerated since December 24 on charges of insulting the Prophet Mohammed because of a tweet in which he suggested Islam might need reform.

One of the world’s major oil exporters, Saudi Arabia is among the West’s allies on many issues. Its dominant religion is Wahabism, a fundamentalist branch of Sunni Islam.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Turkey: Mosque to Distribute Tablet PCs to Children Who Pray

Children whom come 180 times for prayer will be given a free tablet PC, according to the imam of a mosque in the Central Anatolian province of Yozgat. “We wanted to attract the attention of youngsters and encourage them to pray by capitalizing on their enthusiasm for technology and the Internet,” said Cebrail Öztürk, the imam of the Dayýlý Mosque in Yozgat’s Akdaðmadeni district…

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Turkey: Ex-Army Chief Detained in Postmodern Coup Probe

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, JANUARY 3 — Turkey’s former army chief Ismail Hakki Karadayi has reportedly been detained as part of an investigation into February 28, 1997 postmodern coup. Turkish Hurriyet daily reported on Thursday that retired Gen. Karadayi was detained by police in Istanbul.

On February 28, 1997, the Turkish military forced the coalition government, led by the now-defunct conservative Welfare Party (RP), out of power, citing allegedly rising religious fundamentalism in the country. The February 28 coup introduced a series of severe restrictions on religious life, including an unofficial but widely practiced ban on the use of headscarves by women. The military was also purged of members with suspected ties to religious groups or officers who were simply observant Muslims. In addition, a number of newspapers were closed down based on a National Security Council (MGK) decision calling for closer monitoring of media outlets.

There is an ongoing investigation into the suspected actors behind the coup, with approximately 60 individuals already arrested on coup charges.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

UAE: Karama Mosque in Dubai Incorporates Plastic Extruders Heronrib Matting

Karama Mosque in Dubai has used a slip-resistant matting named as the Heronrib matting from the UK-based Plastic Extruders Limited to keep the devotees offering prayers in the mosque safe.

Specified by Intercare Ltd, Plastex distributor in the UAE, the Heronrib matting has been installed over the tiled floors in the mosque’s several ablution areas. Here, the ablution, ‘Wudu’, is performed five times a day, the ceremony which involves washing the head, hands, face and feet before walking barefoot into the prayer areas. Ensuring hygiene for bare feet, the slip-resistant, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal Heronrib matting reduces the risk of cross-contamination. Featuring embossed surface, the Heronrib matting provides a comfort element to the bare feet.

Manufactured from hard wearing non-porous vinyl with a two layer open grid construction, Heronrib is widely used in swimming pools, changing rooms and showers. Providing safety solution for the wet areas, Heronrib matting features channeled underbars to help water drain away easily in all directions, which keeps the embossed surface relatively dry and slip- resistant. Available in several colours, the Heronrib matting is normally supplied in 10m long rolls with widths of 50cm, 1m and 1.22m.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]


Putin Makes Depardieu Russian Citizen

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday granted fast-track citizenship to France’s Gérard Depardieu after the movie star complained about his Socialist government’s proposed 75 percent tax on the rich.

The decision appears to give Depardieu — already a frequent guest of the Moscow celebrity circuit — a chance to pay the flat 13 percent income tax levied in Russia on everyone from billionaires to the poor.

“Vladimir Putin has signed a decree granting Russian citizenship to France’s Gerard Depardieu,” the Kremlin said in a brief statement.

The decree cited an article of the 1993 constitution extending presidents the right to issue citizenship or to grant political asylum.

Depardieu said on Sunday that a decision by France’s highest court to strike down the proposed rate on millionaires changed nothing in his highly publicised and much debated decision to move out of France.

The French government has vowed to push ahead with the tax — applicable to anyone who makes more than a million euros ($1.3 million) a year — and propose a new measure that would conform with the constitution.

Putin at his end-of-year press conference in December said he was ready to offer the 64-year-old cinema veteran a Russian passport to resolve the row.

His comments initially generated snickers from reporters. But the Russian strongman quickly made clear that he was entirely serious.

“If Gerard really wants to have a residency permit in Russia or a Russian passport, we can consider this issue resolved positively,” Putin said at the time.

The 60-year-old Russian leader referred to Depardieu both as a successful businessman and a friend who loved his country and would therefore be unlikely to leave France for good.

Yet Putin also added that the French prime minister’s famous remark about Depardieu being “pathetic’ for threatening to leave his country had hurt that star’s feelings and may eventually force him to move.

“An artist is easy to offend,” Putin remarked.

Depardieu had previously mentioned moving to Belgium — where the tax on millionaires is 50 percent — and had reportedly purchased a new home near the French border for the specific purpose of avoiding the tax.

The hulking actor has been a star in Russia since the Soviet era and still retains cult status among many movie buffs.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Anti-Piracy Marines Return to India Friday

Latorre and Girone leave Italy after Christmas permit expires

(ANSA) — Rome, January 3 — The attorney for the two Italian marines facing trial in India for allegedly killing two Indian fishermen during an anti-piracy mission said that they will land in the Indian city of Kochi on Friday at 8:30am local time.

Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone are in Italy after being given a two-week permit to return home for the Christmas holidays by an Indian court. They will be flown back to the state of Kerala on an Italian military aircraft then be driven to the city of Kollum three hours away where they will hand their passports back to Indian authorities.

The pair have been at the centre of a diplomatic row between Italy and India after they allegedly shot fishermen Jelestine Valentine and Ajesh Binki off the southern Indian coast last February.

They face homicide charges.

The marines were released from detention on bail in June, but were confined to Indian territory until they were granted the permit for Christmas.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Danish Soldier Killed in Afghanistan

COPENHAGEN, Denmark — An elite Danish soldier has been killed in southern Afghanistan by an explosive device, military officials said Thursday. The blast is said to have happened late Wednesday or early Thursday and came as members of Denmark’s Ranger and Frogmen units were on a joint patrol with an Afghan police’s elite unit…

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

India: Muslims to Witness RSS ‘Ekatrikaran’ Programme

INDORE: The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh seems to have taken a step to reach out to Muslims by allowing 100 Muslims from different parts of the country to witness its ‘ekatrikaran’ or ‘gathering’ programme. The programme will be addressed by the RSS sarsanghachalak Mohan Bhagwat on January 6. Mubarak Khan of Muslim Rashtriya Manch confirmed that around 100 Muslims would be present at the function in traditional attire and skull cap. “We sought permission for 150 Muslims but got permission for only 100,” he said, adding that apart from the Rashtriya Muslim Manch members, there would be representatives of maulanas, businessmen, professors and doctors…

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Indonesia City to Ban Women ‘Straddling Motorbikes’

A city in the Indonesian province of Aceh province which follows Sharia law has ordered female passengers not to straddle motorbikes behind male drivers.

Suaidi Yahya, mayor of Lhokseumawa, says it aims to save people’s “morals and behaviours”. Leaflets have been sent out to government offices and residents to inform them about the regulation. Aceh is the only Indonesian province that follows Sharia law…

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Iranian MPs Due in Myanmar to Examine Rohingya Muslims’ Situation

An Iranian parliamentary delegation will soon visit Myanmar to examine the latest situation of the ethnic Rohingya Muslims and find out ways to help the minority in the Southeast Asian country.

The representatives of Iran’s Foreign Ministry, Imam Khomeini’s Relief Committee and the Iranian Red Crescent Society will accompany the lawmakers in their two-day visit, which is scheduled to start on January 9, deputy chairman of the Majlis Committee on National Security and Foreign Policy Mansour Haqiqatpour said on Thursday…

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Malaysia: OIC to Address Religious Intolerance Against Muslims

KUALA LUMPUR: The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) will hold a meeting with legal and human rights experts to address religious intolerance against Muslims, it said in a statement Thursday. The meeting, to be held in Istanbul on Jan 6 and 7, will be opened by OIC Secretary-General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, it said, adding that in November 2012, the Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) had met in Djibouti, and the council had decided to have a meeting this year. In a resolution passed at the CFM meeting, Ihsanoglu was required to form a panel of eminent people to advise OIC member states on international law and to combat discrimination and intolerance against Muslims…

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Pakistan: US Drone Strike Kills Taliban Commander Mullah Nazir

A US drone strike has killed a Taliban commander, his deputy and eight others in northern Pakistan.

Maulvi Nazir Wazir, also known as Mullah Nazir, an important commander from the Wazir tribe, was killed on Wednesday night when missiles struck a house in Angoor Adda, near the capital of Wana, South Waziristan, near the Afghan border, seven intelligence sources and two residents from his tribe said. His deputy, Ratta Khan, was also killed, three sources said. He preferred attacking American forces in Afghanistan rather than Pakistani soldiers in Pakistan, a position that put him at odds with some other Pakistan Taliban commanders…

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Pakistan: Bigotry That Kills

The Taliban murdered innocent aid workers in Pakistan because of a paranoid conspiracy theory about polio vaccine

Pakistan’s Islamist radicals are willing to kill teenage girls for going to school, or cast acid in the faces of their teachers. The murder of seven local aid workers on New Year’s Day shows that vaccinating children against polio has entered their litany of capital crimes. Even by the depraved standards of the Pakistani Taliban and its allies, the cold-blooded execution of these innocent people — six of them women — was a profoundly wicked act.

If anyone believes that conspiracy theories are harmless fantasies, consider why this outrage took place. The Taliban and its friends think that polio vaccines are a Western plot designed to make Muslims infertile — or perhaps give them Aids. This peculiarly paranoid conspiracy theory, which tends to vary with the teller, has taken hold in areas of Pakistan, Afghanistan and northern Nigeria. Consequently, these countries are the only places where polio remains endemic…

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Top Pakistani Militant Commander Killed in US Drone Strike

An American drone strike in Pakistan has killed top Taliban commander Maulvi Nazir, a senior intelligence official confirms to

Nazir, along with five close associates, was killed in a US drone strike, which took place near the town of Wana in Sar Kanda area of Birmil of South Wazristan Agency, one of seven federally administered tribal areas where militants thrive.

“The information we have received from our ground sources confirmed the death,” a senior Pakistan Army Intelligence official told “The vehicle in which the key Taliban war lord was traveling in was struck by two missiles.”

The Pakistani official spoke on the condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to talk to the media.

The U.S. rarely comments on its secretive drone program, and Pentagon spokesman George Little said he could not confirm Nazir’s death, but he added that if true, it would be “a significant blow” to extremist groups in the region.

He said it would be helpful not only to the U.S. and to Afghanistan but also to Pakistan, because “this is someone who has a great deal of blood on his hands.”

At least four people were killed in a separate drone strike Thursday in the North Waziristan tribal region.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Violence Against Women: Despite Progress, A Long Way to Go in Afghanistan

In June 2012 a woman from Parwan province, Afghanistan was publicly executed following allegations of adultery made against her by the Taliban. In July, the head of the Women’s Affairs Department in Laghman province was assassinated and her successor, Najia Seddiqui was murdered just a few months later, in December.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Why the Rise of ‘Good Taliban’ In Afghanistan Worries India and Iran

by Rajeev Sharma

The importance of Iran for India cannot be over stated. Iran is a vital cog in the wheel of the Indian scheme of things for reaching out to Afghanistan. But the question is: whether both India and Iran are about to lose their leverage on Afghanistan? The good news is that Iran is as uncomfortable as India on the back-room developments with regard to Afghanistan as the United States-led international community seems hell bent on “good” Taliban taking over the land-locked country in the post-2014 scenario of withdrawing American forces from Afghanistan…

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Far East

Catastrophic Eruption is Brewing in Japan

One of the most seismically active countries in the world and home to more than 100 active volcanoes, experts say Japan is at risk of a major volcanic eruption that would cause chaos across the nation.

Thin wisps of smoke and ash continue to seep from the vast crater atop Sakurajima, as they have done more or less uninterrupted for nearly half-a-century. Once in a while, a minor eruption will release a small flow of lava and a towering column of debris that is taken by the wind.

This is nothing compared to the eruption in January 1914 that shook what was then an island off the southern tip of Kyushu and the city of Kagoshima. The blast was the most powerful eruption in Japan in the 20th century, flows of lava bridged the narrow straits between the island and the mainland and the surrounding countryside and Kagoshima City were covered with a thick layer of ash.

Fortunately, indications that the volcano had emerged from a period of dormancy had been noted and most local residents had been evacuated, but a series of earthquakes in the hours and days leading up to the eruption caused at least 35 deaths.

That event was nearly 100 years ago, but Yoichi Nakamura, a professor of volcanology at Utsunomiya University, north of Tokyo, believes that an eruption on a similar scale is imminent. And a blast with a Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI) reading of four would cause havoc across large areas of this densely populated nation.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Hong Kong: Mosques Needed in New Territories, Says Islamic Expert

HK’s Islamic population has quadrupled in five decades, but no new mosques have been built

Hong Kong should build more mosques and community centres for its growing Muslim population, an Islamic organisation said yesterday. Khan Muhammad Malik, chairman of the Federation of Muslim Association in Hong Kong, noted that while the Islamic population had grown five-fold in the past five decades the number of mosques in the city had remained the same. Furthermore, there were too few public places where Muslims could gather as a community, he said at a press conference. The city has five mosques, four on Hong Kong Island and one in Tsim Sha Tsui. Malik said new mosques should be built in the New Territories, where many Muslims live in Tuen Mun and Yuen Long without easy access to a place of worship…

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Australian Scientists Discover Deep Sea Corals

Australian scientists mapping the Great Barrier Reef have discovered corals at depths never before thought possible, with a deep-sea robot finding specimens in waters nearly as dark as night.

A team from the University of Queensland’s Seaview Survey announced the unprecedented discovery 125 metres (410 feet) below the surface at Ribbon Reef, near the Torres Strait and at the edge of the Australian continental shelf. Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, chief scientist on the project, told AFP on Thursday that coral had previously only been shown to exist to depths of 70 metres and the finding could bring new understanding about how reefs spawn and grow…

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Giant Rubber Duck Swims Through Sydney Harbour

A giant rubber duck took to the waters of Sydney Harbour on Thursday in a dawn rehearsal for a Sydney Festival event which organisers say will turn the harbour into a “giant bathtub”.

The 50-foot duck will sail through Darling Harbour to be part of the launch of the Sydney Festival on Saturday with the aim of opening the event to new audiences. “People will see it from the highway, will see it from the harbour, it’s five storeys high, and it’s just a very quirky way to say ‘the festival is on, please join us in the party’“, Sydney Festival director Lieven Bertels said. The rubber duck, designed by Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman , is made out of PVC material and took three weeks to make, according to Sydney Festival officials.

Hofman said his giant duck “brings people together”. The duck will remain moored in Darling Harbour for the duration of the Sydney Festival which ends on January 23.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Suspicious Fire Destroys Melbourne Mosque

Police are investigating a suspicious fire which has destroyed a mosque in Melbourne’s north. Police and firefighters were called to the blaze on Somerton Road in Greenvale at around 2.30am (AEDT). Fire crews are still damping down the fire.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

‘Tsunami Bomb’ Tested Off New Zealand Coast

The United States and New Zealand conducted secret tests of a “tsunami bomb” designed to destroy coastal cities by using underwater blasts to trigger massive tidal waves.

The tests were carried out in waters around New Caledonia and Auckland during the Second World War and showed that the weapon was feasible and a series of 10 large offshore blasts could potentially create a 33-foot tsunami capable of inundating a small city.

The top secret operation, code-named “Project Seal”, tested the doomsday device as a possible rival to the nuclear bomb. About 3,700 bombs were exploded during the tests, first in New Caledonia and later at Whangaparaoa Peninsula, near Auckland.

The plans came to light during research by a New Zealand author and film-maker, Ray Waru, who examined military files buried in the national archives.

“Presumably if the atomic bomb had not worked as well as it did, we might have been tsunami-ing people,” said Mr Waru.

“It was absolutely astonishing. First that anyone would come up with the idea of developing a weapon of mass destruction based on a tsunami … and also that New Zealand seems to have successfully developed it to the degree that it might have worked.” The project was launched in June 1944 after a US naval officer, E A Gibson, noticed that blasting operations to clear coral reefs around Pacific islands sometimes produced a large wave, raising the possibility of creating a “tsunami bomb”.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Ethiopia: Members of an Al Qaeda-Affiliated Terror Cell Arrested

The National Security and Intelligence Agency announced on Wednesday (January 2nd) that fifteen members of a terrorist cell affiliated with Al Qaeda’s network in East Africa had been arrested. Military training manuals, jihad war videos and a variety of weapons were also found. The fifteen 15 suspects were arrested after the National Task Force for Counter-Terrorism, drawn from members of the Federal Police and the National Security and Intelligence Agency, secured a warrant for the arrests…

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Somalia: Roadside Bomb Hits Amisom Patrol in Merka Town

Merka — A roadside bomb has hit a Burundian contingent of African union forces who were on a patrol in the beachside town of Merka in southern Somalia, according to residents in the town. Eyewitnesses say that three civilians have been wounded in the explosion but residents could not confirm any casualty on the side of Amisom troops, who were the target of the attack…

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Latin America

Argentina: Argies in Falkland Ads Blast at Britain

ARGENTINA’S president today launches a fresh attack on Britain by declaring her nation was “forcibly stripped” of the Falkland Islands.

Cristina Kirchner has put an advert in UK and US newspapers demanding David Cameron restores power to the South American country. The ad, set to appear in some broadsheets on the 180th anniversary of the alleged takeover, takes the form of an open letter to the PM. She says Argentines were “expelled by the Royal Navy” on January 3, 1833, “in a blatant exercise of 19th-century colonialism”. Britain then began “a population implantation process”. Britain rejects that version of events, saying no civilians were expelled. Islanders face a March referendum on whether they want to stay British.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Falkland Islands Row: Argentina’s Understanding of History is ‘Laughable’

Argentina’s demand that David Cameron ‘hand back’ control of the Falkland Islands is based on a ‘laughable’ understanding of history, an academic has said.

Cristina Kirchner, the Argentine President, has been left “frustrated” by the refusal of other Latin American nations to back Argentina’s long-standing claim to the Islands, Klaus Dodds, Geopolitics at Royal Holloway, University of London, said. An emotional open letter from Kirchner to David Cameron demanding the return of the Islands which she claims were “forcibly stripped” from her country, published today in the Guardian newspaper, is a sign of “profound weakness,” Prof Dodds said. The Islands had no established Argentine population at the time the British took control — and Mrs Kirchner’s country was itself an ambitious colonial power in the nineteenth century, he added. The Argentine junta invaded the Falkland Islands in 1982, at a cost of 659 Argentian lives and 258 British. In the letter, Kirchner called on Mr Cameron to honour a United Nations resolution dating from 1965 and start negotiations about handing over the islands…

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]


45 Migrants Picked Up in Puglia

‘Of various Asian nationalities,’ police say

(ANSA) — Lecce, January 3 — Italian police on Thursday picked up 45 migrants walking along a coastal road in southern Puglia.

Police said the migrants, “of various Asian nationalities”, had just landed from a boat near the port of Leuca.

They were taken to a reception centre.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Immigrants Flooding Into Ireland Despite Bad Economic Times There

Over 80,000 approved for visas despite massive unemployment, emigration

Though Ireland’s economy remains in poor shape, there is no shortage of foreigners from around the world seeking legal residency and citizenship there, new Irish government figures show.

The reports that there was a six percent rise in the number of foreigners applying for visas last year compared to 2011. Out of the roughly 88,000 visa applications received, 91 percent were approved, with the biggest number going to natives of India (16 percent), followed by Russia, China, Nigeria, and Turkey.

Justice Minister Alan Shatter’s office revealed that the Irish Naturalization and Immigration Service received some 165,700 applications for a number of services, including visas, residency, protection and naturalization.

The figures show that nearly 115,000 non-European nationals received permission to remain in Ireland. Again, natives of India represent the highest number at 11 percent of this total, followed by Brazil, Nigeria, China, the U.S. and the Philippines.

More than 25,000 citizenship cases were decided last year. Also, more than 31,000 non-European foreign students are registered for study in Ireland.

Asylum applications have fallen drastically from a peak of 11,600 in 2002. Last year there were only 950 requests for asylum. Almost 2,700 people were deported from Ireland last year.

“Reform of the immigration system will be sustained in 2013 and I will be focusing on major legislative and procedural measures such as the Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill and further civilianization of Immigration Officer functions at Dublin Airport,” Shatter said in a statement.

           — Hat tip: McR[Return to headlines]

Italy Grants Public Healthcare to Illegal Immigrant Minors

Health coverage and residency extended for pregnant mothers

(ANSA) — Rome, January 2 — Underage illegal immigrants are now covered by the Italian national healthcare system thanks to an agreement reached in recent days at a conference for national and regional government relations, Italian Health Minister Renato Balduzzi said in a note published Wednesday.

The concession covers foreign minors holding a social security number but not a residency visa. In Italy, foreigners can obtain a social security number simply by presenting identification, but must meet far more rigorous requirements to obtain a residency visa. The new accord also extends health coverage and residency for undocumented immigrants who are pregnant. Women can now reside in Italy and receive public healthcare for up to one year after the birth of their babies. Previously, undocumented mothers were expelled from the country when their babies reached six months of age. Balduzzi wrote that the initiative supports “article 32 of the (Italian) Constitution” which mandates that “no one is excluded from assistance with a view on equality and justice”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Revealed: 3 in 4 of Britain’s Danger Doctors Are Trained Abroad

The vast majority of doctors who have been struck off in the past five years were trained abroad, new figures from the General Medical Council show.

The full extent of the danger presented by foreign doctors working in the health service can be revealed.

New figures from the General Medical Council (GMC) show that the vast majority of doctors who have been struck off were trained abroad.

The revelations will add to concerns that NHS patients are not adequately protected from health professionals from countries where training is less rigorous than in the UK, and from those who are unfamiliar with basic medical practices in this country.

The figures, disclosed for the first time and obtained by The Sunday Telegraph using freedom of information laws, show:

Three quarters of doctors struck off the medical register this year were trained abroad.

Doctors trained overseas are five times more likely to be struck off than those trained in the UK. The country with the biggest single number of doctors who have been removed or suspended from the medical register, is India, followed by Nigeria and Egypt.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Turkish Limbo Pushing Afghan Refugees to EU

Istanbul — Refugees and asylum seekers from Afghanistan in Turkey are caught in a legal limbo, pushing some into the arms of smugglers.

Turkey does not give refugee status to anybody from Afghanistan or outside Europe.

The situation arose as far back as 1951, when it opted for a “geographical limitation” in its adoption of a UN refugee convention, which reserves the status only for “persons who have become refugees as a result of events occurring in Europe.”

Even if the UN refugee agency, the UNHCR, takes somebody under their wing, when they get to Turkey they have to pay for their own temporary residence.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: 4,000 Foreign Murderers and Rapists We Can’t Throw Out. . . And, Yes, You Can Blame Human Rights Again

Nearly 4,000 foreign murderers, rapists and other criminals are roaming the streets, free to commit new crimes.

The Government wants to deport them but admits that many cannot be kicked out because of their human rights.

A Parliamentary answer reveals that 3,980 foreign criminals who should have been sent back to their country of origin are ‘living in the community’.

[Return to headlines]

UK: Councils Refuse to Reveal Number of Homes They Give to Foreigners: Authorities Stop Giving Figures Amid Worries Over Impact of Immigration

Councils are trying to cover up the number of taxpayer-subsidised homes they are handing to foreigners, it was claimed yesterday.

Local authorities have stopped giving figures for how many houses and flats they have given to foreign citizens amid rising worries over the impacts of immigration, a report said.

Councils in London, where one in five publicly-financed homes are already known to be occupied by foreigners, are among those no longer supplying the figures.

[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

France’s Censorship Demands to Twitter Are More Dangerous Than ‘Hate Speech’

Few ideas have done as much damage throughout history as empowering the government to criminalize opinions it dislikes

Writing in the Guardian today, Jason Farago praises France’s women’s rights minister, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, for demanding that Twitter help the French government criminalize ideas it dislikes. Decreeing that “hateful tweets are illegal”, Farago excitingly explains how the French minister is going beyond mere prosecution for those who post such tweets and now “wants Twitter to take steps to help prosecute hate speech” by “reform(ing) the whole system by which Twitter operates”, including her demand that the company “put in place alerts and security measures” to prevent tweets which French officials deem hateful.

This, Farago argues, is fantastic, because — using the same argument employed by censors and tyrants of every age and every culture — new technology makes free speech far too dangerous to permit.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italy Hospital Drops ‘Father’ Bracelets for Lesbian Parents

Tags changed to ‘partner’ in maternity ward

(ANSA) — Padua, January 2 — The maternity ward at the Padua Hospital in northeastern Italy has stopped issuing bracelets that read ‘father’ in favor of ones that read ‘partner’ in order to accomodate lesbian parents. According to local media, the change was put into effect after a woman last month was waiting to visit her female companion who had just given birth.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

UK: Archbishop Nichols Ends ‘Soho Masses’ After Six Years

Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster has announced that Masses in Soho organised for gay people are to end. He also revealed that the church where the Masses took place will be entrusted to the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. The fortnightly “Soho Masses” at Our Lady of the Assumption Church in Warwick Street were established by the diocese almost six years ago. They were intended to be “particularly welcoming to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered Catholics, their parents, friends and families”. Archbishop Nichols said today that, while the Masses will stop, pastoral care of the community will continue at the Jesuit Farm Street church in Mayfair on Sunday evenings…

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Are Christians Being Persecuted in Britain?

by Isabel Hardman

Douglas Murray makes a striking point on his Spectator blog about the violent persecution that many Christians face across the globe, while the Church of England fights over gay marriage and women bishops. Christians in this country do fear that they are being persecuted, too, with a case making the headlines at the weekend about a Baptist who had unsuccessfully sued her employers for forcing her to work Sundays…

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Guardian: Paedophiles Are ‘Ordinary Members of Society’ Who Need Moral Support

by Damian Thompson

Britain most persecuted minority have found a new advocate. An article this morning in the Guardian by feature writer Jon Henley addresses misconceptions about paedophiles, quoting one “expert” who believes that: “It is the quality of the relationship that matters”. No, this is not not some sick send-up on my part. “If there’s no bullying, no coercion, no abuse of power,” says Tom O’Carroll, “if the child enters into the relationship voluntarily … the evidence shows there need be no harm.” O’Carroll is a former chairman of the Paedophile Information Exchange with a conviction for distributing indecent photographs. The Guardian acknowledges this, but gives him a respectful hearing and points out that “some academics do not dispute” his views…

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]


Cloud of Atoms Goes Beyond Absolute Zero

Nothing is colder than absolute zero, so it seems nonsensical to talk about negative temperature — but now there is a substance that must have just that. The revelation could shake up our ideas about temperature and help us understand strange entities such as dark energy, as well as the interactions of subatomic particles.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]