Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Views on the News - 11-12-2009

Sarkozy tells Muslims to hide their faith

Nicolas Sarkozy stoked the debate over immigration today with a warning to Muslims to practise their religion discreetly or face rejection by moderate Islam in France. The President voiced sympathy for Swiss voters who opted last week to ban minarets as he tried to reassert himself in a debate over national identity which he launched last month. In a column for Le Monde, Mr Sarkozy said that the result of the Swiss referendum showed how important it was for France to define its identity. "Instead of condemning the Swiss out of hand, we should try to understand what they meant to express and what so many people in Europe feel, including people in France," he wrote. "Nothing would be worse than denial." Addressing himself to Muslims, he wrote that anything that could appear as a challenge to France's Christian heritage and republican values would "doom to failure" a moderate Islam in France. Opinion polls show rising unease over the population of 6 million Muslims. A survey last week found that 46 per cent favoured banning minarets, with 40 per cent against. More than 40 per cent opposed building any mosques, compared with only 19 per cent in favour. France has 64 mosques with minarets but only seven are deemed to be full height, according to Brice Hortefeux, the Interior Minister.

Record number of Americans receive state food hand outs

A record 37.2 million people, or about one out of every eight Americans, received food stamps in September, as the recession drove a surging jobless rate, according to a government report. Recipients of the subsidy for retail-food purchases climbed 18 percent from a year earlier, according to a statement posted today on the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Web site. Participation has set records for 10 straight months. The government boosted food aid as unemployment soared, heading to a 26-year high of 10.2 percent in October. The jobless rate cooled to 10 percent last month, the Labor Department said on Dec. 4. "We've been working to get that money out the door" to families that need assistance, Deputy Agriculture Secretary Kathleen Merrigan said last week in an interview.

Canadian Newspaper Calls for Global Population Reduction Policy

Diane Francis, writing for Canada's Financial Post, begins an editorial by declaring a myth - the world is over-populated. "The ‘inconvenient truth' overhanging the UN's Copenhagen conference is not that the climate is warming or cooling, but that humans are overpopulating the world," she writes. "A planetary law, such as China's one-child policy, is the only way to reverse the disastrous global birthrate currently, which is one million births every four days."

Karzai wants crusaders to stay till 2024

President Hamid Karzai said Tuesday that Afghanistan would not be able to pay for its own security until at least 2024, underscoring his government's long-term financial dependence on the United States and NATO even as President Obama has pledged to begin withdrawing American troops in 2011. "For another 15 to 20 years, Afghanistan will not be able to sustain a force of that nature and capability with its own resources," Mr. Karzai said, referring to the force required to secure the entire country. The price of building up Afghan forces to take over significant security duties could be enormous. Some estimates say it will take up to $50 billion over five years to increase army and police rolls to 400,000, the level sought by General McChrystal. At the news conference, Mr. Gates held out the possibility that a future improvement in Afghanistan's finances would defray some of the costs. "Whether that is 15 or 20 years, we'll hope for accelerated economic development in Afghanistan," he said, adding that "as the Afghan economy expands, then the proportion of the costs of supporting the Afghan security forces will diminish."

Zardari loots Pakistanis to a tune of $1.5 billion

The President of Pakistan, Asif Ali Zardari, has assets of $1.5 billion (£920 million) around the world, according to the country's main anti-corruption body. A report by the National Accountability Bureau said that the wealth accumulated by Mr Zardari was "beyond his means". It said Mr Zardari allegedly owned properties and bank accounts in several countries, including Britain, the US and Spain. In 1996 he allegedly bought a $4 million, 355-acre estate in Surrey. Investigators said that most of Mr Zardari's fortune was made during his wife Benazir Bhutto's two terms in office as Prime Minister in the 1990s. They alleged that the money had come from kickbacks and commissions on government deals. The report was given to the Supreme Court as it deliberated over a proposed amnesty for the country's leaders. The amnesty, brokered by the US and Britain, was introduced by former President Pervez Musharraf.

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