Friday, December 30, 2011

French Citizenship: Learn French, Learn French History, Adopt French Values, or Don't Bother.

It may be too late.


France makes it harder to become French

By FRANCE 24  
Foreigners seeking French nationality face tougher requirements as of January 1, when new rules drawn up by Interior Minister Claude Guéant come into force.

Candidates will be tested on French culture and history, and will have to prove their French language skills are equivalent to those of a 15-year-old mother tongue speaker. They will also be required to sign a new charter establishing their rights and responsibilities.

“Becoming French is not a mere administrative step. It is a decision that requires a lot of thought”, reads the charter, drafted by France’s High Council for Integration (HCI).

In a more obscure passage, the charter suggests that by taking on French citizenship, “applicants will no longer be able to claim allegiance to another country while on French soil”, although dual nationality will still be allowed.

Guéant, a member of President Nicolas Sarkozy’s ruling UMP party, described the process as “a solemn occasion between the host nation and the applicant”, adding that migrants should be integrated through language and “an adherence to the principals, values and symbols of our democracy”. He stressed the importance of the secular state and equality between women and men: rhetoric perceived largely as a snipe at Muslim applicants, who make up the majority of the 100,000 new French citizens admitted each year.

France’s interior minister has made it clear that immigrants who refuse to “assimilate” into French society should be denied French citizenship.

Earlier this year, Guéant intervened personally to ensure an Algerian-born man living in France was denied French nationality because of his “degrading attitude” to his French wife.

That followed an earlier push by France’s former Immigration Minister Eric Besson to revise existing laws in order to strip polygamists of their acquired citizenship.

Pandering to the far right?

Guéant has come under criticism numerous times over the past year for allegedly pandering to the whims of far-right voters in his efforts to secure a second term for Sarkozy in 2012. The UMP has edged progressively further right over the course of Sarkozy’s term, even as the far-right National Front party continued to bite into its pool of voters.

Marine Le Pen, the popular leader of the anti-immigration National Front, has been campaigning in favour of a ban on dual citizenship in France, which she blames for encouraging immigration and weakening French values. While several UMP members have endorsed her stance, Guéant has stopped short of calling for a ban on dual nationality, largely because of the legal difficulties such a move would entail.

But the interior minister has taken a hard line on immigration, announcing plans to reduce the number of legal immigrants coming to France annually from 200,000 to 180,000 and calling for those convicted of felony to be expelled from the country.

François Hollande, the Socialist Party’s candidate in forthcoming presidential elections, described Guéant’s stance as “the election strategy of a right wing ready to do anything in order to hold on to power”, adding that his own party would tackle all criminals “irrespective of their nationality”.

Under further proposals put forward by the ruling UMP party, non-French children who would normally be naturalised at the age of 18 (those who are born in the country and have spent most of their childhood there) would instead have to formally apply to the state.

Should Sarkozy and his party secure a second term in 2012, analysts predict a return to an immigration stance that hasn’t been seen in France for almost two decades. They point to a case of déjà vu: in 1993 Charles Pasqua, then France’s interior minister, coined the slogan “zero immigration” and introduced a bill that made it virtually impossible for children born in France to non-French parents to be naturalised.


Thursday, December 29, 2011

Priests Brawling at Church of the Nativity (again)

Why?  Why do they do this every year (or it seems like every year)?  If religious priests cannot demonstrate the values taught by Christ, how ... how can they be allowed to remain in those positions.  Their actions bring disrespect upon Christianity.

From Enas Muthaffar and Kevin Flower, CNN
December 28, 2011

Bethlehem, West Bank (CNN) - Clergy from two Christian sects came to blows in the Church of the Nativity on Wednesday morning, prompting police to storm the Bethlehem holy site.

Several dozen Greek Orthodox and Armenian priests were cleaning the interior of the church Wednesday morning when, according to witnesses, two of them began fighting.

The fight quickly escalated, and soon, 50 to 60 priests were exchanging blows with broomsticks.

Bethlehem police were sent in to quell the fighting, Palestinian police Maj. Ahed Hasayen said.

"This is an internal problem related to the Nativity church only. The Palestinian police had to interfere to stop the clashes as soon as possible to avoid devastating consequences," he said.

According to tour guide Ghassen Tos, the fight, while intense, was short in duration.

“This did not last for long as soon as the Palestinian police interfered and succeeded to halt the clashes immediately,” he said.

There were no reports of any serious injuries.

The Church of the Nativity is built in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on the site where Christian tradition holds Jesus Christ was born, and it is a major attraction for tourists coming to the Holy Land.

The interior of the church is traditionally cleaned by priests in between celebrations of Christmas on December 25 and the Orthodox celebration in the first week of January.

The church is administered jointly by the Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Armenian religious authorities, and tension between the sects is not uncommon.

In 2007, clergy from the same sects came to blows in a similar incident.


Iran: Amadinejad and Bush - throw the shoes and see where they land.

I can't remember.  What happened to the guy who threw shoes at Bush?  You know, Muntadar al-Zeidi.  The guy who threw his shoes at Bush in December 2008. 

Published December 29, 2011

The man who was arrested for tossing his shoes at Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during a speech earlier this month could face execution for his act of defiance.
Rashid Shahbandi, who has been in custody since his arrest at the time of the incident, has been tortured and is facing heavy punishment with a strong possibility of a death sentence, opposition groups told the Iran Khabar Agency, an independent news service.

The former textile worker, who had recently lost his job at the factory in the city of Sari, was in attendance there when Ahmadinejad was speaking to workers about the great achievements of his government.

Sources say Shahbandi, who is under financial distress due to the high medical cost of his son’s burn injuries, grew angry while listening to the speech and hurled his shoes — considered an ultimate insult across the Middle East — at Ahmadinejad.

Shahbandi has a history of defiance; he has previously insulted Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and thrown eggs at former President Sayyid Mohammad Khatami when he was in office.
It was not immediately clear when and if Shahbandi will have a trial.
At the time of his arrest, Western observers speculated that Shahbandi might have started a movement to ignite public discourse in Iran.

“Iran is an autocratic society. If people start to lose fear of that autocratic regime, then it collapses,” Michael Rubin, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a public policy think tank, told at the time of the incident.
“He might unfortunately be a little bit of a martyr. But Iranians rally around a martyr, which could make him a hero. The fact that someone doing this in public shows that there is cracks in the regime. Perhaps the Supreme Leader has no clothes.”


The Obama Justice Department quietly issued a legal opinion – just before a long Christmas weekend – that allows states to set up nonsports Internet gambling. The opinion upends decades of contrary decisions, but its real effect will be on the poor (and young) who suffer the most from gambling.

By the Monitor's Editorial Board / December 27, 2011

A campaign by powerful gaming interests to legalize online gambling in America has won a crucial victory from the Obama administration. On Friday, the Justice Department issued a legal opinion that allows states to authorize Web-based, nonsports gambling within their borders.

For one, big doubts remain over whether states can indeed restrain such digital games of chance to residents while also keeping children from playing them. State lotteries, for examples, have a poor record of preventing retailers from selling tickets to minors.

And even if states can outsmart tech-savvy teens or out-of-state gamblers, once enough states jump into Internet gambling they will likely be able to work together and create a national scheme for such activity. That would violate the spirit if not the letter of a 2006 federal law banning such interstate activity.

Most of all, bringing Internet gambling to America would hurt the poor, who are most affected when people lose money in government-approved games of chance such as state lotteries or casinos – not to mention the way it would reinforce a belief that one’s future depends on “luck” instead of individual merit.

In effect, President Obama and his appointed Justice officials have bowed to political pressure from states that seek a new source of revenue in Internet gambling rather than taking the difficult decisions to raise taxes or cut spending.

The timing of the memo’s release is telling about its politics. It was dated last September but was quietly made public just before the long Christmas weekend, perhaps to prevent political waves. And it came a day after Nevada officials approved in-state online gaming.

Critics also point to another possible political connection. The memo was written by Virginia Seitz, head of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel and a possible Obama nominee to the Supreme Court. To win Senate approval to serve on the court, she would need the support of Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D) of Nevada. Last year, most of Nevada’s big casinos became big backers of an effort to overturn the federal Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006.

Still, Ms. Seitz’s professional opinion tries to make a case that the 1961 Wire Act – which deals with communication of bets – was passed only to prevent interstate betting on sports, thus allowing states to approve nonsports Internet gambling.

While the law’s language is not totally clear, her opinion overturns decades of contrary interpretations under previous presidents, as recently as 2007. She contends that she is correcting a “syntax error” following a request from New York and Illinois for a department ruling.

The Obama Justice Department can hardly be that indifferent, however, to the research about effects of Internet gambling, whether on the poor, children, or the 1 to 2 percent of people prone to gambling addiction. Regulatory safeguards to contain Internet gambling would require a vast and intrusive scheme to keep Web-based gambling from slipping over borders or being used by underage users.

And states seeking revenue from Internet gambling have yet to add up the millions of dollars in additional costs to prevent abuse or deal with the effects of such gambling on individuals, families, and communities.

The annual social costs of gambling-related addiction, bankruptcy, and crimes is nearly $7 billion, according to the National Council on Problem Gambling. Nearly half a million teens are gambling addicts, or about the same number as those who abuse prescription drugs.

When will states, and now this administration, drop the political and economic reasons for Internet gambling, and wake up to its harm on the poor and the young?


Monday, December 26, 2011

Jobs and Unicorns

Paul Roderick Gregory


Tax policy should be serious business carried out by serious politicians using real facts and figures. This is why we have the Library of Congress and the Congressional Budget Office, among other expert institutions.

How can we take Congress seriously when the Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, makes patently inaccurate, outrageous and bizarre claims on an important tax-policy issue without any heads being turned? I guess this is what we have come to expect of Congress. No wonder citizens with favorable opinions of Congress are as rare as unicorns, to borrow a phrase.

Harry Reid’s statement on December 6 on his proposed 1.9 percent surtax on million-dollar incomes has kicked up some dust. Here is his statement:

“Millionaire job creators are like unicorns. They’re impossible to find, and they don’t exist… Only a tiny fraction of people making more than a million dollars, probably less than 1 percent, are small business owners. And only a tiny fraction of that tiny fraction are traditional job creators…Most of these businesses are hedge fund managers or wealthy lawyers. They don’t do much hiring and they don’t need tax breaks.”

Taking their cue, National Public Radio launched a search for one millionaire job creator. They triumphantly announced:

“NPR requested help from numerous Republican congressional offices, including House and Senate leadership. They were unable to produce a single millionaire job creator for us to interview.”

Were it not for Google, I would have accepted Harry Reid’s unicorn story and NPR’s confirmation. Unlike Harry Reid’s office, I went to the IRS’s Table 1.4 “Sources of income, adjustments, and tax size of adjusted gross income, 2009” to check things out. (I summarize my sources in a separate blog posting). Here is what I found:

There are 236,883 tax filers with incomes of a million dollars or more. By Harry Reid’s count, only one percent, or 2,361 of them, are business owners, and a tiny fraction of them create jobs. I do not know what Harry means when he says “a tiny fraction of a tiny fraction.” If we let 5 percent represent Harry’s “tiny fraction,” we are left with 118 businesses owners who earn a million or more and create jobs. Yes, they are only slightly less rare than unicorns, if Harry is to be believed.

This leaves 236,765 million-dollar-plus tax payers, most of whom are “hedge fund managers and wealthy lawyers” who “don’t create jobs and don’t need tax breaks.”

My Google search for Harry Reid’s quarter million hedge fund managers and wealthy lawyers came up empty handed. I could identify at most sixteen thousand “wealthy lawyers and hedge fund managers,” not Harry Reid’s quarter million.

Well, Harry Reid’s numbers leave much to be desired, but maybe he is right that millionaire business owners do not create jobs.

What does the IRS have to say about this? Millionaire tax filers earn a total taxable income of $623 billion, on which they pay the highest average rate (30 percent) of any tax bracket. (Either Warren Buffet’s secretary has an incompetent tax accountant or Buffet has some pretty juicy tax breaks. I think the latter is more likely). A 1.9 percent tax surcharge on million-dollar-earners would yield $11 billion, assuming those shifty millionaires take no evasive action to avoid the tax.

Millionaire tax filers earn $221 billion – almost a quarter of a trillion — from business and professions, partnerships, and S-corporations. This is puzzling: If Harry Reid’s figure is correct (2,361 millionaire businesses), then the average millionaire-owned business earns almost a hundred million dollars, and all, except 118 of them, do this without hiring anyone. These super heroes do their own typing, selling, drafting. public relations, building, and manufacturing. They do not need employees. Remarkable!

To summarize:

Millionaire tax filers earn almost a quarter trillion dollars from their businesses. They must hire hundreds of thousands of employees to do so.

There are a trivial number of millionaire hedge-fund managers and wealthy lawyers (who, according to Harry, do not hire anyone and don’t need tax breaks). The millionaire tax surcharge is not aimed at them, but at the tens of thousands of millionaire business owners.

A 1.9 percent surcharge on millionaires would raise at most eleven billion dollars. By today’s standards, this is chump change, within the federal budget’s rounding error.

The millionaire’s tax is not about balancing the budget. It is about gaining political advantage through the use of envy and greed (two of the seven deadly sins).

Why would Harry Reid tell such whoppers, which are so easily disproved?

Ryan Streeter has hit the nail on the head. He writes that even bearded Occupy Wall Street misfits understand the difference between “earned” and “unearned” success. Those who earn success by creating value honestly are the true heroes in our economy. They should be lauded rather than targeted. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are heroes. Bernie Madoff and, now it seems, John Corzine are not, and everyone, irrespective of their political leanings, understands this.

Reid, in his clumsy way, is trying to portray Republicans as the party of dishonest millionaires, who have not earned their wealth, have not created jobs, detract rather than create value, and refuse to pay their fair share. Such class warfare will be the anchor of the Democrat election playbook.


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Eurozone - Collapse Inevitable

The engine that keeps Europe from falling into the abyss, is about to expereince the effects of a recession minus the hundreds of billions it had two years ago.

Analysis: Germany faces recession risk as crisis hits confidence

Wed, Dec 21 2011
By Sarah Marsh

BERLIN (Reuters) - After breezing through the euro zone debt crisis for the past two years, Germany's economy could fall into recession as anxious businesses hold off on investment and exports wither.

Economists who once predicted a mere slowdown in growth for Europe's largest economy are now slashing their forecasts and predicting contraction, possibly for two consecutive quarters, depriving the region of its most powerful motor.

In a sign the government is worried about the darkening economic outlook, Berlin last week resurrected its bank rescue fund and said it could reinstate "Kurzarbeit" subsidies that helped firms pare back working hours without firing staff.

Both measures were first introduced at the height of the global financial crisis, when the German economy suffered its worst annual contraction since World War Two.

"It's not a classical recession, here we are dealing with a large amount of uncertainty due to the euro zone crisis which will weigh on investment and trade," said Felix Huefner, an economist at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in Paris, who follows Germany.

"The fundamentals actually look better than in other countries, with little need for fiscal consolidation, solid household debt levels, unemployment at a 20-year low."

Huefner said Germany had nonetheless entered a "mild recession," with the economy likely to contract in the fourth quarter, and stagnate in the first three months of 2012.

Some are much more gloomy: the Duesseldorf-based IMK on Tuesday became the first major German economic institute to predict the economy would shrink over the full year, forecasting contraction of 0.1 percent.

Firms look set to hold back on investment because they are uncertain they will be able to sell their wares with key export markets reducing spending and implementing austerity measures.

This will deprive the economy of what was one of the main drivers of growth. Capital equipment spending contributed 0.2 percentage points to third quarter expansion.

The ZEW index of German analyst and investor sentiment has declined nine times over the past ten months.

"The key factor is the euro crisis which has been getting worse over the last month," said Christian Schulz of Berenberg Bank, which sees the economy contracting 0.1 percent in Q4 and 0.9 in the first quarter of 2012.

"There was hope the EU summit might resolve it, but those hopes were disappointed," he said, referring to a meeting of European leaders on December 9th at which they agreed to move towards a form of "fiscal union" but failed to map out a clear path for shielding big economies like Spain and Italy.

Recent data showed German exports falling in October at their sharpest rate in half a year. A breakdown of unadjusted month-on-month data showed exports to the crisis-hit euro zone dropping 8.5 percent, versus a 6.1 percent overall slide.

Economists say emerging markets, where growth is strong but easing, are unlikely to lend enough support to compensate.

The head of Germany's exporters' association (BDA), Anton Boerner, has likened the euro zone debt crisis to a "sword of Damocles" hanging over the real economy.

The export-dependent manufacturing sector contracted for a third straight month in December on a steep fall in new orders, Markit's purchasing managers' index showed last week.

Several German firms have already fallen victim to the tougher climate. Solar module maker Solon and the world's No.3 printing machine maker Manroland have both filed for insolvency.

Not everyone is so downbeat, however. After reporting a slight rise in its business climate index this week, the Ifo think tank played down the prospects of a recession.

"Europe will end up getting a mild recession while Germany will be able to disconnect from that somewhat. We don't see any signs of a recession for Germany at the moment," Ifo economist Klaus Abberger told Reuters.


Private consumption, which grew at its strongest pace in more than a year in the third quarter on a robust labor market, offers a glimmer of hope for the economy.

Unemployment fell more than expected in November and the jobless rate is at a 20-year low. Trade unions have been negotiating higher wages and consumer morale held steady into January on better income expectations and views of the economy.

However, private consumption is taking off from a very low level in Germany where savings levels are traditionally high and consumers wary, and it will not be able to offset the decline in investments and exports.

Economists also see downside risks for consumption because of the euro zone crisis. Metro, the world's No.4 retailer, issued a profit warning this month, saying the crisis was undermining sentiment and Christmas trade had started slowly.

Employment trends lag changes in growth and cautious German unions may be more focused on job security than seeking large wage hikes amid so much economic uncertainty.

Any small wage rises will be offset by inflation, which is stronger in Germany than the euro zone at large, market researchers GfK said, predicting consumers' purchasing power would stagnate next year in real terms.

Thus, this downturn will expose again the imbalances in Germany's economy - its dependency on external demand and the weakness of its domestic sector.

"Germany won't be able to rely on exports to drive growth and business investment will only hold up if there is a recovery in domestic demand," said Simon Tilford, chief economist at the Centre for European Reform in London.

"So everything hinges on getting domestic demand growing sustainably and there are some formidable obstacles to that."

Tilford said Germany should for example hike wages and ease back on fiscal consolidation - unlikely given Berlin is Europe's fiscal hawk.

"Germans' outlook is better than much of Europe but the idea Germany is on the cusp of a decade of rapid growth is fanciful," he said. "The outlook for German growth is pretty poor."

MEANWHILE, yet another European nation has lost its economic engine -

Hungary is having to pay more to borrow money after the ratings agency Standard and Poor’s downgraded the country’s credit score to junk.

Hungary’s rating went down from BB+ to BBB minus. The agency said it had doubts about the central bank there.

S&P said changes in the constitution had undermined the independence of the bank, and Hungary’s policy framework had become more unpredictable.

AND if Hungary wasn't enough - Greece, Ireland, Portugal, and Spain following suit, followed closely by Italy ... the worst possible for the poor French -

Dec 20 11:41 AM US/Eastern

It would be a miracle for France to retain its triple-A credit rating, threatened by the eurozone debt crisis, the head of its main market regulator said on Tuesday.
"Keeping it would amount to a miracle, but I'd still like to believe it," said Jean-Pierre Jouyet, the outspoken head of the AMF regulation agency.

Ratings agencies have warned that France is exposed to the sovereign debt crisis gripping southern Europe and have threatened to downgrade its hitherto perfect rating.

The government has protested that it has embarked on an austerity programme backed by a pact with fellow eurozone members to guarantee deficit reduction.

"I find it wholly regrettable that we are accepting the loss of our triple-A with a kind of fatalism. This loss is not banal, because it will have an effect on the interest rates the state pays," he said.

He also warned that if France was downgraded it would weaken the status of the European Financial Stability Facility and the European Stability Mechanism, two instruments set up by eurozone leaders to confront the crisis.

Any suggestion that France's debt of 1.7 trillion euros ($2.2 trillion) is becoming unmanageable could send the interest rate it pays on bonds soaring.

Earlier, the French treasury announced that it would need to raise 178 billion euros ($232 billion) in medium and long-term bonds next year.

The Fitch credit rating agency also warned on Tuesday that the eurozone's new bail-out fund could lose its triple-A debt status.

"Fitch Ratings says the 'AAA' rating on debt issues of the European Financial Stability Facility largely depends on France and Germany retaining their 'AAA' status," the company said in a statement.

"The revision of the rating outlook on France to 'negative' last Friday implies that the risk of a downgrade of EFSF debt has increased," it said.

Last week, Fitch "affirmed France's 'AAA' status but warned that there is a slightly greater than 50 percent chance of a downgrade within the next year or two.

"France is the most exposed of the 'AAA' euro member states to a further intensification of the eurozone sovereign debt crisis," it added.

Another agency, Standard and Poor's, has warned that it is re-examining France's rating and it is expected to announce a downgrade soon.


Stupid People: Fall Out of the Trees Every Day

We all know who the children are, out in the tents and cardboard boxes.  Children who enjoy whining.  Whining about the 1% who have everything.  Whining about not having jobs.  Whining about the rich taking advantage of the 99%, jobs lost due to the 1% wanting profits over compassion ... we know they are children and that they whine a lot. 

Now we know they will cost someone or many people their jobs, and additional services and funds will be cut.  Funds that might help the 99%.  Funds that will never be received now, due to the children requiring parental supervision, and refusing to clean up their messes and go home.

Children who whine.  Let them tell the employees laid off or the family without services why.  Let them explain that their whining did anything but cost human beings their jobs and their assistance.

Let them eat cake.  Would make as much sense.

December 21, 2011 1:10 AM

LOS ANGELES (CBS) — The City of Los Angeles reportedly faces millions of dollars in expenses brought about by the Occupy LA movement.

City agencies have been ordered to calculate what was spent on the Occupy LA protests.

Repairs to City Hall’s lawn where the Occupy group set up camp on Oct. 1 will require an estimated $400,000. The police action to clear out the encampment on Nov. 30 cost more than $700,000.

Additional expenses are attributed to hauling away debris from the camp, and cleaning up graffiti that defaced City Hall marble walls and trees.

Mayor Villaraigosa says more budget cuts will be necessary to offset the costs.


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

At least 675 women have been killed for "honor" in Pakistan in 2011.

In Pakistan, at least 675 women and girls were murdered in the first nine months of 2011 for defaming their family's so-called honor, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan told AFP.

So-called honor based violence can occur in communities where the concepts of honor and shame are fundamentally linked to the behaviors of both individuals and families, particulary of women, according to the HRC.

Though there has been some progress in Pakistan on protecting women's rights, activists say that the government needs to do far more to prosecute murders that are largely dismissed by the police as private, family affairs.

Ali Dayan Hasan, Pakistan director at Human Rights Watch, said to the AFP that Pakistan's "inability to enforce rule of law, leaving matters in the hands of tribesmen and local elders" was a major factor in the number of honor killings.

“We have a system in Pakistan where the state and judicial recourse are absent and the vacuum is filled by local elders,” he said.

“A combination of legal reforms, exercise of administrative authority and social awareness can greatly help check the honor killings,” he added.

According to the Pulitzer Center, local tribal assemblies declare a woman "kari" - which literally translates to "black female"- if she marries someone of her own choosing or is rumored to have acted "dishonorably." In order to restore the family’s honor, the family or the tribe must kill the woman.

A full report on honor killings in Pakistan is expected in February.

According to the HRC, at least 71 of the victims were under the age of 18.

According to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to the AFP, there is no discernable decrease in killings this year. In 2010, there were 791 honor killings in Pakistan.

About 450 of the women killed from January to September were accused of having "illicit relations" and 129 were accused of marrying without permission.

Some of the victims were raped or gang-raped before being killed. The official also stated that 19 were killed by their sons, 49 by their fathers, and 169 by their husbands.

According to the Asian Human Rights Commission, men in Pakistan can also be the victims of honor killings.

Earlier this month, a Belgian court sentenced four members of a Pakistan family to prison for the honor of their law student daughter and sister, AFP reported.


Canada Honor Killings

Peace and Toleration.  As long as it conforms to their values.  If it doesn't ... may the devil shit on your grave.

An Afghan immigrant allegedly murdered his three daughters because they wore short skirts and flirted with boys. "They betrayed everything," he said.

December 21, 2011 06:26

TORONTO, Canada — The alleged “honor killing” of three teenaged daughters by their Afghan-born parents has shocked a country that prizes multiculturalism and sparked debate about the integration of immigrants.

In the widely-followed trial, polygamist Mohammad Shafia is accused of murdering his three daughters and his first wife. Also accused of four counts of premeditated murder is Shafia’s 20-year-old son, Hamed, and Shafia’s second wife, Tooba Mohammad Yahya, the mother of the three dead girls.

The family lived in Montreal but the trial is in the eastern Ontario city of Kingston, where Lake Ontario meets the St. Lawrence River. The accused are alleged to have drowned the victims, whose bruised bodies were found piled inside a car at the bottom of the Rideau Canal on June 30, 2009.

Prosecutors have referred to the deaths as so-called “honor killings” — the murder of women for perceived violations of sexual or behavioral norms imposed by tradition. The United Nations has estimated that 5,000 occur worldwide every year.

Having daughters that acted like normal Canadian teenagers made Shafia furious, the jury has heard. The girls — Zainab, 19, Sahar, 17, and Geeti, 13 — dressed in short skirts and flirted with boys.

Evidence presented includes cellphone pictures of the girls hugging boyfriends.

Shafia, a 59-year-old businessman, came to Canada with his second wife and their seven children in 2007. His first wife, Rona Amir Mohammad, arrived months later, officially introduced to Canadian immigration officials as the children’s aunt. Polygamy is illegal in Canada.

In the months before their deaths, the three sisters told social workers, school officials and police they were verbally and physically abused at home. Zainab spoke of enduring long periods of forced isolation in her bedroom. She fled to a shelter for abused women two months before she died. Sahar attended school with scratched and bruised arms, and attempted suicide by swallowing pills.

Child-welfare workers and police visited the home but didn’t remove the children, the court heard, apparently because the sisters refused to repeat their complaints in front of their parents.

Five weeks before her murder, Zainab married her boyfriend in a Montreal mosque. The marriage was dissolved the next day after pressure from her parents.

The accused have pleaded not guilty. They say Zainab took her sisters and “aunt” for a joyride while the rest of the family slept in a motel on the way back to Montreal from a visit to Niagara Falls, and likely had an accident.

Police suspected murder almost immediately. Pieces of a headlight from Shafia’s Lexus were found at the crime scene, and damage to the front of his car matched damage to the back end of the car in which the women were found.

Autopsies concluded that all four drowned. But police suspect they may have been killed before the car ended up at the bottom of the canal. The bodies were found piled in a way that made it impossible to figure out who was driving.

None wore seatbelts, and despite the driver’s window being fully opened, police say the position of the bodies suggests no one tried to escape from the submerged car. It was found in less than 7 feet of water.

Whatever the final verdict, the evidence so far has been chilling. Shortly after the deaths, police placed a listening device in Shafia’s car.

“They committed treason from beginning to end,” Shafia told the other two accused during one conversation in the car. “They betrayed humankind, they betrayed Islam, they betrayed our religion and creed, they betrayed our tradition, they betrayed everything.”

In another wiretapped conversation, Shafia, speaking to his second wife, is in a rage: “Even if they come back to life a hundred times, if I have a cleaver in my hand, I will cut (them) in pieces. Not once but a hundred times, as they acted that cruel towards you and me. For the love of God, what had we done to them? What excess had we committed … that they undressed themselves in front of boys?”

At one point, he is heard referring to his eldest daughter, Zainab: “Is that what a daughter should be? Would a daughter be such a whore?”

Then this outburst: “May the devil shit on their graves.”

Taking the witness stand in his defense, Shafia blamed his outbursts on photos he found, after their deaths, of his daughters hugging boyfriends and wearing short skirts.

“You believe there’s no value in life without honor, don’t you?” prosecutor Laurie Lacelle asked him.

“My honor is important to me,” he replied. “But you can’t regain your honor with murder … I’m a strict Muslim, but I’m not a killer.”

Later, Lacelle put it to him bluntly: “You believe their actions brought about their rightful deaths, don’t you?”

“Yes,” Shafia replied.

For many following the trial, it was a shocking and incomprehensible moment — a father who believed his daughters deserved to die.

Expert witness Shahrzad Mojab, a University of Toronto professor, said male-dominated societies see honor killings as a way of “cleansing” the perceived disgrace a woman has brought on the family. Mojab argued it predates the major religions and has been found among Muslims, Jews, Hindus and Christians.

“Even a rumor can cause the killing of a young woman,” Mojab told the court.

The murder trial led dozens of Canadian Muslim organizations — on two separate occasions this month — to publicly denounce honor killings as horrific violations of Islam.

One report says 12 women were the victims of honor killings in Canada between 2002 and 2010.

One widely publicized case in 2010 saw Muhammad Parvez plead guilty to strangling his 16-year-old daughter, Aqsa, because she refused to wear a hijab, would not dress in traditional Pakistani clothes, and hung out with non-Pakistani girls. Parvez’s 29-year-old son also pleaded guilty to murder.

Asked by his grief-stricken wife why he killed their daughter, Parvez said: “My community will say you have not been able to control your daughter. This is my insult. She is making me naked.”

Like the Parvez case, the Shafia trial has raised questions about Canada’s 40-year-old policy of multiculturalism. Some argue integration in Canadian values is taking a back seat to tolerance of cultural differences. They point to the social workers who visited Shafia’s home and accuse them of letting multicultural sensitivities blind them to abuse.

Recently, the ruling Conservative government revised Canada’s citizenship guide to say that the country’s “openness and generosity do not extend to barbaric cultural practices that tolerate spousal abuse, ‘honour killings,’ female genital mutilation, forced marriage or other gender-based violence.”

Indeed, many argue that the underlying issue is violence against women, which afflicts mainstream Canadian culture as much as any other.

In the province of Ontario alone, there were 230 “domestic homicide-related deaths” from 2002 to 2007 — 142 women, 23 children and 65 men. All but 13 of the men who died in those incidents committed suicide after killing their wives, girlfriends or children.

The Shafia trial resumes Jan. 9.


Biden and Obama White House: Taliban not the enemy

Taliban is and never has been an enemy of the United States, but on the other hand - it has been and is still an enemy of the United States.  A column by Kerry Patton outlines the complications with the term and why it may be inaccurate to jump all over Biden for his statement (and the White House supporting what his position).

On the other hand - as soon as Obama was elected, he sent emissaries to Afghanoistan to begin negotiations with the Taliban.  He was not thinking, at that time, about the distinction between what the word means and those who perpetrated attacks upon the United States and or on Americans in Afghanistan.  His intent, his sole intent, was to extricate the United States as quickly as possible so he could claim victory and end our years in Afghanistan.  How do we know this?  He was just elected.  He had nearly na whole year experience as a US Senator, less than 8 years in his state as a legislator ... he knew nothing except his political ideology was opposed to our involvement in Afghanistan from the start.  His promise to the Left was to end that war.  Even if it meant negitiating with people who did nto attack us, but who aided and gave comfort to those who attacked us and did so knowingly and willfully.

They have not changed - any of them.  Those who never fought the US are still not fighting the US.  Those who did and have walked away have done so because we wore them down and they tired of being killed and blown up.  Did more arrive - yes, but unlike what we did in Iraq (eventually) where we used on the ground resources and sects opposed to other sects, against one another to eventually dominate - we did not begin this process in Afghanistan until much later, and under Obama, we have given up on that tact.  Instead, we have promised to send many prisoners from Guantanamo back to Afghanistan.  This is our expression of trust to those who destroyed 5,000 year old Buddhist monuments.

Send back to Afganistan men who are for the most part NOT Taliban, but rather, are al qaida - men who attacked or planned to attack and kill Americans and other allies.

Smart move.

Published December 19, 2011

The White House on Monday defended Vice President Joe Biden for saying that the Taliban isn't an enemy of the United States despite the years spent fighting the militant Islamic group that gave a home to Al Qaeda and its leader Usama bin Laden while he plotted the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

"It's only regrettable when taken out of context," White House spokesman Jay Carney said of the vice president's remarks in an interview published Monday.

"It is a simple fact that we went into Afghanistan because of the attack on the United States on Sept. 11, 2001. We are there now to ultimately defeat Al Qaeda, to stabilize Afghanistan and stabilize it in part so that Al Qaeda or other terrorists who have as their aim attacks on the United States cannot establish a foothold again in that country," Carney continued.

During Biden's interview with Newsweek last week, the vice president said it's "good enough" for the U.S. if Afghanistan stops being a "haven for people who do damage and have as a target the United States of America" and its allies. He added that the U.S. is supportive of a reconciliation process between the Afghan government and the Taliban even if it's questionable whether a reconciliation is possible.

"Look, the Taliban per se is not our enemy. That's critical," Biden said. "There is not a single statement that the president has ever made in any of our policy assertions that the Taliban is our enemy, because it threatens U.S. interests. If, in fact, the Taliban is able to collapse the existing government, which is cooperating with us in keeping the bad guys from being able to do damage to us, then that becomes a problem for us."



Bush Thank You

These people are in Syria.  They may be Kurdish or Turkish, but whatever their history - they are Syrian and they get it.
(not to imply that I believe these people are humanitarians just that they get it. )

Dec 20 12:54 PM US/Eastern
Agence France Presse

The United States will cut the number of national guard troops patrolling the border with Mexico as it steps up other surveillance on the porous southern border, officials said Tuesday.
The effort reflects "a new strategic approach," that includes "a number of new multi-purpose aerial assets equipped with the latest surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities," according to a statement from the departments of Homeland Security and Defense.
Homeland Security will have additional civilian personnel on the border enabling the Defense Department "to reduce the number of national guard troops at the southwest border while enhancing border security," the statement said.
President Barack Obama's administration had deployed around 1,200 troops, having been pressed by governors of border states who fear an influx of crime and a spillover of drug-related violence from Mexico.
But the statement said security would be boosted by more air surveillance, leaving fewer personnel on the ground.
The change in strategy will begin in January, with aircraft in place by March 1, the statement said.
"The air assets will reduce enforcement response time, enabling Border Patrol officers to quickly move from one location to another on short notice to meet emerging threats of illegal activity or incursion," said the statement.
In the fiscal year ended September 30, the number of border apprehensions was 340,252, down 53 percent from three years earlier and one-fifth of what they were at their peak a decade ago.


Monday, December 19, 2011

Christians: 2.2 billion. Muslims: 1.6 billion

Dec 19, 4:16 PM EST

AP Religion Writer

NEW YORK (AP) -- The Christian population has shifted dramatically over the last century away from Europe to Africa, Asia and the Americas, yet Christians overall remain the largest religious group in the world, according to a new analysis released Monday.
Europe is home to about one-quarter of the world's Christians, compared to two-thirds a century ago, according to the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life. About one-quarter of the global Christian population can now be found in sub-Saharan Africa, while 37 percent live in the Americas and 13 percent reside in the Asia-Pacific region.
Brazil has twice as many Roman Catholics as Italy, while Nigeria has more than twice as many Protestants as Germany, where the Protestant Reformation began, the study's authors said.
Despite these changes, Christians are still the world's largest faith group, with nearly 2.2 billion adherents. Muslims comprise the second-largest group, with about 1.6 billion people, or slightly less than a quarter of the global population, the study's authors said.
Pew compiled the study from national censuses, population surveys, estimates from church groups and other sources in which respondents identified their religion. Analysts compared the findings to surveys from 1910, including data from the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Mass.
The shifting Christian population has been a major concern of church leaders, as they try to build stronger ties with fellow believers across geographical boundaries and reconcile differing views of the Bible.
As just one example, mainline Protestants in the developing world tend to be more theologically conservative than church members in the United States and Western Europe. The tensions have been most visible in the global Anglican Communion since 2003, when the Episcopal Church, which is the Anglican body in the United States, elected the first openly gay bishop, V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire. The 77-million-member fellowship has been fracturing ever since.
Pew researchers concluded that the Christian population is so widely distributed that no specific region can claim to be the center of the faith.
The smallest concentration of Christians can be found in the area where the faith began, the Mideast and North Africa, where Christians are only about 4 percent of the population. Egypt has the largest Christian population in the region, with about 4.3 million Christians, mostly Orthodox, who have been targets of violence, especially in the upheaval since the fall of President Hosni Mubarak.
Still, all but 10 percent of the world's Christians live in countries where they are the religious majority, according to the study.
The countries with the largest number of Christians are the United States, Brazil, Mexico and Russia. Christians comprise nearly 80 percent of the U.S. population, and about 74 percent of Russian citizens.
About 5 percent of China's residents, or 67 million people, are Christian, according to the study's authors. However, accurately estimating China's Christian population is notoriously difficult, due to the mix of government-sanctioned churches and grassroots house churches that operate illegally underground.


Make Mine Freedom - 1948

American Form of Government

Who's on First? Certainly isn't the Euro.