Thursday, April 28, 2011
One of the 16 points in the proposed secularism package by the ruling Union for a Political Movement (UMP) is that no religious community has the right to request a privilege.
UMP Secretary General Jean-François Copé noted that asking for cancellation of exams by educational institutions on the occasion of certain religious holidays as a case in point.
However, it soon came into light that some engineering schools have been pressured by the Elysée to postpone exams coinciding with the Jewish holiday of Passover so that Jewish students could freely participate in the tests.
A senior official in the French Education Ministry leaked the news to a number of websites and the magazine Le Point commissioned its reporters to pursue the case.
The schools, however, declined to comment on the issue, but two school officials acknowledged that they have been under pressure to adjourn the exams but they did not give in to Elysée.
The French government soon denied the allegations but failed to forestall the reflections in the media.
Eventually, the Chief Jewish Chaplain for the French Army, Major General Rabbi Haim Corsia admitted to his efforts to use his position to serve religious purposes.
He said that he asked President Nicolas Sarkozy to order the delay of the Passover exams and that Sarkozy issued a decree in this regard.
The French Jewish Council later said the move was not in contradiction with the concept of laïcité.
But the usually Islamophobic secular sites, normally replete with materials against the faith of Islam and its spread across France, published articles criticizing Sarkozy's move as a threat to secularism in the country. But the articles were removed after a day.
The attempt also sparked an outrage among the country's Muslim population who condemned Sarkozy's hypocrisy.
Now it appears that the entire secularism debate in France, claimed to cover all religious groups, was merely aimed at covering the discriminatory approach adopted by Paris against Muslims in the country and a gateway from religious discrimination charges.
The recent revelations is widely viewed as a scandal that lays bare the French government's double standards in its dealing with religious issues as well as the influence of Jewish lobbies in the country.
Gueant said that he plans to make praying in the streets for Muslims illegal, although all public prayers in France receive government approval beforehand.
“Here we have the hypocrisy of the French right. On one side, they authorize in the street and on the other side, they say 'look French people, Muslims are taking over our streets and speak of invasion',” French lawmaker Axel Urgin told a Press TV correspondent.
Even though France has the greatest Muslim population in Europe, Paris has only one mosque. This lack of mosques leaves French Muslims no choice but to attend Friday prayers at about a dozen street locations across France.
“If we are praying in the street, it's because we have no other choice. We are using what we have, and that is the street,” the president of Muslim Association of Openness, Moussa Niambele said.
French politicians use the country's 1905 secularism law as reasoning why taxpaying Muslims cannot be financially assisted by the government to build mosques. Right-wing mayors also allegedly refuse issuing construction permits to those who have the money.
Although another large mosque is currently under construction in the French capital of Paris, many say it will not be sufficient.
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Criminals discover that what goes on Facebook doesn't stay on Facebook.
Chron.com reports that four young people have been charged with robbing a bank in Houston, Texas of $62,000, after police learned about the alleged crime from the suspects' Facebook updates.
Police say the March 23 robbery of the International Bank of Commerce on 1545 Eldridge Parkway was planned by two 19-year old bank tellers, Estefany Martinez and Anna Margarita Rivera.
The young woman allegedly recruited Martinez's 18-year-old boyfriend, Ricky 'Ricko Gee' Gonzalez and Rivera's 22-year-old brother, Arturo Solano, to don plastic masks and stage an armed robbery at the bank at a time when no one else was working there.
One day after the alleged heist, Gonzalez reportedly posted on his Facebook page: 'WIPE MY TEETH WITH HUNDEREDS …'
He also allegedly boasted of wiping another part of his anatomy with $50 bills.
Two days after the robbery, Martinez posted: 'IM RICH …' followed by an obscene rhyme.
The Real IRA has threatened to "execute" police officers and warned that the Queen's first visit to the Republic of Ireland is an "insult".
But the dissident republican group behind the latest threat to police officers in Northern Ireland was criticised for being "morally and politically bankrupt".
A statement from the terrorist group was read by a masked man on Monday in a Londonderry cemetery at a rally organised by the 32 County Sovereignty Movement to mark the anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising.
It comes as security forces face a heightened threat after the recent murder of Catholic Constable Ronan Kerr, 25, in a booby-trap bomb under his car in Omagh, Co Tyrone.
In a statement, the masked member of the Real IRA said: "Oglaigh na hEireann (the IRA) urge all self-respecting Irishmen and women to resist the upcoming insult that is the visit of a British monarch to Irish soil, the criminal free state government invite is not on behalf of the Irish people but to further the selfish interests of a self-serving elite.
"Despite the best efforts of the media, big business, and other power blocks to portray this visit as acceptable we clearly state that the Irish people will not capitulate. The Queen of England is wanted for war crimes in Ireland and not wanted on Irish soil. We will do our best to ensure she and the gombeen class that act as her cheerleaders get that message."
The Real IRA said police officers would be targeted "regardless of their religion, cultural background or motivation".
Foyle MP Mark Durkan said their pretensions to legitimacy would impress nobody. Former SDLP leader Mr Durkan said: "The Real IRA's words are intended to intimidate everyone but their pretensions to legitimacy will impress no one. Politicians do not really have to argue that this group is morally and politically bankrupt when they are driven to attack and threaten nationalists who want to serve the community and their country through a policing vocation. Their statement speaks for itself."
Amid the violence, the Queen's forthcoming visit to Dublin is an effort to strengthen ties between the two countries. Irish president Mary McAleese extended the invitation.
This month motorists near Newry, Co Down, close to the border with the Irish Republic, drove past a car bomb when they moved cones placed there by police.
Monday, April 25, 2011
Saturday, April 16, 2011
By John O'Doherty
MPs have criticised the management of the UK's purchase of Typhoon fighter jets –currently being used in Libya –saying the Ministry of Defence failed to cost the project correctly in advance, or provide evidence that the contract achieved value for money.
The report also criticised the management of Typhoon's maintenance and upkeep, saying that there was a lack of spare parts for the jet.
"The history of the Typhoon fighter aircraft represents yet another example of over-optimism, bad planning and an unacceptably high bill for the taxpayer," said Margaret Hodge, chair of the Committee on Public Accounts, which released a report on the matter on Friday.
"The MoD is now buying 30 per cent fewer Typhoon fighter aircraft than originally planned, the cost of the project is now expected to be £3.5bn more than was originally approved and if we take all expenditure into account, the cost of each aircraft has increased by 75 per cent."
Along with the older Tornado, the Typhoon is Britain's main fighter jet. The first batch ordered by the UK were so-called "air-superiority" fighters, intended to defend UK airspace against enemy combat planes, and have been upgraded to make them ground-attack capable.
The second tranche all have the capacity to strike targets on the ground as well as in the air. However, in the current operations on Libya, the RAF has mostly used the Tornado for ground attacks.
The Typhoon is built by a consortium of BAE Systems, Finmeccanica and EADS in conjunction with Germany, Italy and Spain. The project is expected to cost the UK £37bn, including acquisition and support of the aircraft over the next 20 years.
The report criticised the way in which the MoD managed the changing roles of the Tornado and Typhoon. It said that the £119m upgrade to equip the Typhoon for ground attack was subsequently negated by a decision to reprioritise it for air-superiority, calling into question the value of the £119m spent.
Because of the lack of spare parts, mechanics had been forced to "cannibalise" parts from other aircraft to keep Typhoons flying.
This reduced the number available to the MoD, and five pilots had to be grounded in 2010. The report said that this reduced availability left only 8 out of 48 pilots trained in the plane's ground attack capability.
Liam Fox, the defence secretary, said the problems had now been resolved.
"The NAO's March report concluded that after years of financial mismanagement and project delays under the previous government, the Typhoon project has been turned around," he said.
"The Typhoon is a world beating air-to-air fighter and is fast developing a ground attack capability as is being demonstrated in Libya. We have sufficient numbers of qualified ground attack pilots to meet our operational tasks and this number is increasing all the time."
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