Reader’s Links for December 14, 2018

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Canadian artist and counter-jihad and freedom of speech activist as well as devout Schrödinger's catholic

133 Replies to “Reader’s Links for December 14, 2018”

  1. Nigeria military bans UNICEF, claiming it trains Boko Haram ‘spies’ (defensepost, Dec 14, 2018)

    “Nigeria’s military on Friday, December 14 suspended the United Nations children’s agency UNICEF from operating in the country’s ravaged northeast over claims it was training “spies” who are supporting Boko Haram.

    The military later on Friday said it had “lifted the three months suspension” after an emergency meeting with representatives of UNICEF.

    The earlier statement said that UNICEF was “training selected persons” to sabotage counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency efforts.

    “There is credible information that some of them are indulging in unwholesome practices that could further jeopardize the fight against terrorism and insurgency, as they train and deploy spies who support the insurgents and their sympathizers,” said a press release signed by Colonel Onyema Nwachukwu.

    “Consequently, the Theatre Command Operation LAFIYA DOLE is suspending the operations of UNICEF in the North East theatre until further notice,” the military said, AFP reported.

    “This has become inevitable since the organization has abdicated its primary duty of catering for the wellbeing of children and the vulnerable through humanitarian activities and now engaged in training selected persons for clandestine activities to continue sabotaging the counter terrorism and counterinsurgency efforts of troops,” The Guardian Nigeria reported the statement as adding.

    The statement said that sabotage was via “spurious and unconfirmed allegations bordering on alleged violations of human rights by the military,” Today(.)ng reported.

    It further said information obtained by the command indicated that UNICEF “commenced the said training on Wednesday 12 December 2018 at the Ministry of Finance Conference Hall, Musa Usman Secretariat, Maiduguri and ended on 13 Thursday December 2018,” Sahara Reporters reported.

    “The Theatre command will not tolerate this kind of sabotage from any individual, group of persons or organization,” it continued.

    The original statement appeared to have been inaccessible from the PR Nigeria website on Friday afternoon, but some users saved screenshots…”

  2. Iraq Summons Turkish Ambassador over Air Strikes (aawsat, Dec 14, 2018)

    “The Iraqi foreign ministry summoned on Friday the Turkish ambassador in protest against Ankara’s air strikes against Kurdish positions in northern Iraq.

    The ministry said in a statement that it had rebuked Turkey over two air raids on Iraq’s Sinjar and Makhmour mountains the previous night, where the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) operates.

    It deemed the raids a violation of national sovereignty.

    Hours earlier, the Turkish military said on Twitter it had killed eight fighters from the outlawed PKK in air strikes targeting the Zap, Hakurk and Haftanin regions of northern Iraq.

    Turkey has regularly carried out air strikes on PKK bases in northern Iraq, as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pursues his stated aim of ending the group’s presence near Turkey’s borders. Ankara has also threatened to launch a ground offensive in northern Iraq.

    PKK fighters in Sinjar helped liberate the mountainous northern region from ISIS in 2015.

    Turkey said the operation was aimed to secure its border and prevent terror attacks.

    Turkey’s parliament in October renewed the military’s mandate to carry out cross-border operations against its enemies in Syria and Iraq.

    The PKK is designated a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union. It has waged a three-decade insurgency in Turkey’s largely Kurdish southeast that has killed about 40,000 people.”

  3. Hundreds of children of IS members jailed in Iraq set to return to Turkey (mee, Dec 14, 2018)

    “Hundreds of children whose Turkish parents have been convicted in Iraq of belonging to the Islamic State (IS) group are set to return to Turkey in the next few days, Middle East Eye has learnt.

    There are currently estimated to be at least 328 Turkish women in Iraqi prisons. Almost 250 of them were initially sentenced to death, but following recent appeal processes some of their sentences were reduced to life imprisonment.

    In total, there are thought to be 456 children who previously lived with Turkish parents accused of being members of IS, which controlled a large area of territory in Syria and northern Iraq between 2014 and 2017.

    Most of those children are currently in prison in Baghdad with their mothers or other female relatives who were handed down death sentences or life imprisonment for being members of IS.

    “There is no reason to prolong the aggrieved situation of those children who are in jail with their mothers,” an official Turkish source told MEE.

    “The official communication from the appeal court did not arrive yet, but we have been told that their punishment was reduced,” the same official source explained.

    However, according to Yasin Maden, whose nieces were abducted by their father, an IS member, and taken to Syria, not all of the women have had their sentences reduced to life terms.

    Speaking about the return of those women’s children to Turkey, he said the process was moving slowly although developments were expected very soon.

    “Hopefully they will come to Turkey in three separate groups at three separate times. The first group will be the ones whose official paperwork have been completed. Then, we will receive the second group when the processing on them is finished.

    “These first two groups are in prison with their mothers. But the third group is in juvenile prison. There are around 40 children, aged between 12 and 18. They are convicted, too,” Maden said.

    Most of those women and children were in Syria with their husbands and fathers who joined IS and later fled to Tal Afar after US-led coalition air strikes began in Syria…”

  4. Erdogan: Israel tries to dim Islam’s traces in Jerusalem (memo, Dec 14, 2018)

    “Turkish president on Friday accused Israel of trying to deliberately wipe out traces of Islamic heritage in Jerusalem over the last 50 years, Anadolu Agency reports.

    “You [Israel] will not be able to wipe out,” Recep Tayyip Erdogan said at an Inter-parliamentary platform on Jerusalem in Istanbul.

    You are deceiving yourself if you think you can destroy Jerusalem’s spiritual identity by moving a few embassies and consulates there, Erdogan said.

    Tension has been running high in the occupied Palestinian territories since last year when U.S. President Donald Trump unilaterally recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

    Jerusalem remains at the heart of the Israel-Palestine conflict, with Palestinians hoping that East Jerusalem — now occupied by Israel — might eventually serve as the capital of a future Palestinian state.

    Erdogan said criticizing the misconducts of Israel never means anti-Semitism, adding: “Some European countries side with the US and do not raise voice against Israeli occupation policies due to shameful scenes from World War II.”

    Bombing children playing ball along the coast of Gaza is a crime against humanity as bad as the Holocaust, he said.

    The Turkish president said Jerusalem is not merely a cause of a handful of Muslims in Palestine, but it is “our common cause.”

    Erdogan thanked “heroes” who uphold the honor of Jerusalem and humanity and protect the dignity of the Muslim Ummah against occupiers.

    Palestinians must put an end to discord among themselves in order to see the outcome of their friends’ efforts, the president added.”

  5. Egypt: Children being tortured in Cairo orphanage (memo, Dec 14, 2018)

    “Egypt’s National Council for Childhood and Motherhood (NCCM) yesterday announced that it had received a report through the Child Rescue Line “16000? claiming that children were being abused and tortured in an orphanage located in the Cairo province of Giza.

    NCCM’s Secretary General Azza El-Ashmawy said that after the complaint was received, “an immediate fact-finding committee was formed in coordination with the General Child Protection Committee in Giza to investigate the matter.”

    The investigative committee, Al-Ashmawy explained, found that two boys – aged 11 and ten – had been assaulted by a supervisor who had handcuffed and beaten them.

    “The case has been referred to the Ministry of Social Solidarity for action to be taken,” she added, noting that the perpetrator was being quested by police.

    “We are closely coordinating with the ministry and monitoring the investigation,” Al-Ashmawy said.”

  6. Egypt’s late president Anwar Sadat awarded US Congressional medal of honour (ahram, Dec 14, 2018)

    “Late Egyptian president Anwar Sadat will be awarded the US Congressional gold medal, the American embassy in Cairo said on Friday.

    The embassy said that US President Donald Trump had signed into law an act giving the posthumous award to Sadat in recognition of his “heroic achievements and courageous contributions to peace in the Middle East.”

    Sadat is the first Arab person to be awarded the medal.

    He was jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize with Israel’s Prime Minister Menachem Begin in 1978 after negotiations for a peace treaty were begun between the two countries.

    The text of the US act notes that the late US President Ronald Reagan described Sadat as “a courageous man whose vision and wisdom brought nations and people together. In a world filled with hatred, he was a man of hope. In a world trapped in the animosities of the past, he was a man of foresight, a man who sought to improve a world tormented by malice and pettiness.”

    The act further notes that, “President Sadat is recognized in the United States and throughout the world as a respected leader and champion of peace whose vision provided a roadmap for the peaceful resolution of conflict that endures nearly 40 years after its inception. President Sadat bravely reached out to Israel and dedicated himself to peace, furthering the national security of Egypt and the stability of the Middle East.”

    The Act concludes by noting that “the Camp David Accords and the Peace Treaty continue to serve the interests of the United States by preserving peace and serving as a foundation for partnership and dialogue in a region fraught with conflict and division.”

    Mohamed Anwar El-Sadat was the third president of Egypt, serving from 15 October 1970 until his assassination by Islamists fundamentalists on 6 October 1981.

    He led Egypt to victory in the October War.

    The war eventually led to Israeli forces withdrawing from the Sinai Peninsula on 25 April 1982 after 15 years of occupation, based on a peace treaty signed between Egypt and Israel in 1979.”

  7. Turkey targets military over alleged Gulen links (ahram, Dec 14, 2018)

    “Turkish authorities on Friday ordered the arrest of over 200 military personnel in new raids against suspects linked to the attempted coup in 2016, state media reported.

    The Istanbul public prosecutor ordered arrest warrants for 219 soldiers on active duty including four colonels and five lieutenant colonels, state news agency Anadolu said.

    Istanbul police launched an operation to capture the suspects on Friday morning.

    They are believed to have ties to the group led by US-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen, a former ally turned foe of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

    Ankara accuses Gulen of being behind the failed coup but he strongly denies any links.

    In Ankara, the capital’s public prosecutor issued arrest warrants on Friday for 48 people, mainly working in the arms industry, also over alleged links to Gulen.

    Turkey refers to the group as the “Fethullah Terrorist Organisation” but followers insist they have peaceful goals of promoting Islam and secular education.

    Over 50,000 people have been arrested since the failed putsch in a purge lambasted by human rights activists and Ankara’s Western allies.

    Nearly 130,000 public sector workers have been sacked.

    Last week, dozens of people including airforce personnel were detained for suspected links to coup-plotters in nationwide operations.

    Turkish officials insist the raids are necessary to cleanse state institutions of the “virus” of infiltration by the Gulen movement.”

  8. Six security personnel martyred as convoy attacked in Turbat (tribune, Dec 14, 2018)

    “Six security personnel were martyred as their convoy was targeted following an operation in Turbat, Balochistan on Friday.

    “An intelligence based operation was conducted on terrorists’ hideout in Wakai area near Buleda [area],” the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said in a statement.

    “Terrorists targeted one of the vehicles of security forces through IED [improvised explosives device],” the military’s media wing said. “Six security personnel embraced Shahadat. In exchange of fire, four terrorists killed.”…”

  9. Taliban executioner killed in U.S. drone strike in Zabul province (khaama, Dec 14, 2018)

    “A key Taliban group leader who was also the executioner of the group in southern Zabul province was killed in an airstrike of the U.S.forces.

    The provincial police commandment in a statement said the Taliban leader Haroon was killed along with two other militants in a drone strike in Kajer Khel area of Shajoi district.

    The statement further added that the airstrike was carried out at around 4pm local time on Thursday.

    In the meantime, Colonel Mohamamd Mustafa Mayar, the Police Chief of Zabul, said commander Haroon was involved in several beheadings of the tribal elders and security personnel.

    Col. Mayar further added Haroon was also shadow military chief of the group in Shahjoi district of Zabul province and was planning and coordinating suicide attacks.

    The anti-government armed militant groups including Taliban have not commented regarding the report so far.

    Zabul is among the relatively volatile provinces in South of Afghanistan where the Taliban militants are active in some of its districts and often carry out terrorist related activities.”

  10. VICE News – Climate Scientists Are Leaving The U.S. To “Make Our Planet Great Again”

    After the United States pulled out of the Paris Agreement in 2017, French president Emmanuel Macron made the world’s climate scientists an offer to work in France. That offer came in the form of a grant with a cheeky name — “Make Our Planet Great Again.”

    The grant has since been awarded to dozens of scientists — many of them, based in the United States. Ben Sanderson is one of those grant recipients. He had been living and working in the U.S. for nearly a decade when the 2016 election results caught him by surprise.

    “I think it’s a strange time for climate science in the U.S.,” Sanderson told VICE News. “People are a little bit wary of proposing research which would be deemed to be political.”

    And so, Sanderson, along with his wife and young son, packed up their lives and moved to Toulouse, France. There, Sanderson will work at a French research institute for the next five years.

    Meanwhile, some researchers still working in the U.S. are worried that a Trump-era brain drain could stunt America’s role in the field . As climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe told VICE News, “…we could end up losing a large number of key people that would really help to advance the research.”

  11. Turkish ‘expert’ claims footage shows jinn, deletes post after it was revealed as monkey (hurriyetdailynews, Dec 14, 2018)

    “A Turkish man who presents himself as a “bioenergy expert and metaphysicist” has triggered a social media storm after he posted a video claiming that it shows a “jinn.”

    “This video was recorded yesterday by one of my followers. For those who asked us what it is, we have detected that it is a jinn wandering in a field,” Salih Memi?o?lu said in an Instagram post on Dec. 10.

    As it almost always happens with allegedly supernatural “proofs,” the video was in extremely low resolution. Still, the post went viral on social media this week and the reactions apparently exceeded Memi?o?lu’s expectations.

    “How cute!” one social media user said jokingly, while hundreds of others shared their suspicions that the “jinn” simply looked like a monkey wearing a T-shirt.

    As tongue-in-cheek comments poured in, Memi?o?lu deleted his post.

    In a confusing statement on Dec. 11, he said the text in his post was not written by himself, although he did not deny that he shared the video.

    “I apologize for the misinformation. Please do not believe in any information that you do not personally hear from me through any platform,” he said in a tweet.

    According to local media reports, Memi?o?lu was an advisor for the Turkish horror movie series titled “Azazil.”

    Jinn, also Anglicized as genies, are supernatural creatures in early pre-Islamic Arabian and later Islamic theology.”

  12. Domestic violence victim lawyer trained to consult victimized women (hurriyetdailynews, Dec 14, 2018)

    “Günçe Çetin is a lawyer and a victim of violence against women. She had been exposed to violence that gradually increased by time by her boyfriend in the Aegean district of Bodrum.

    Although a lawyer, she couldn’t do anything; she didn’t even think of going to the police. But the final act of violence weighed heavily. Having defied all the violence, Çetin now gives legal consultancy to other female victims.

    Çetin initially always blamed herself, for not being tolerant enough or not being able to make her abusive boyfriend happy. But Çetin now stands firmly and says she was subjected to “systematic, psychological, physical and economic violence.”

    “It got to a point where I was being exposed to a level of violence that I was unable to hide. My right eardrum burst. I had cuts in my mouth that needed stiches,” she said. Escaping the violence, she sought refuge at a law office where her friends work. They urged her to file a complaint.

    What led her to offer legal counseling to victims of domestic violence was a question she got asked at the police station where she filed her complaint. “Even you, Ms. Attorney? Did you get beaten up, too?” a police officer had asked her, having recognized Çetin.

    “I kept hearing this voice in my head. How could I? With the false perceptions we have, we think that we will not be subjects of violence because we are educated, we make our own money, we were brought up by good families, and we were not traumatized as children. So why should we be subjected to violence?” said Çetin.

    Her violent boyfriend’s sentence was postponed, Çetin said. “These offences do not have prison sentences. But the violence was recorded as actual bodily harm.”

    In 2006, she applied for a training announced by the Foundation of Women’s Solidarity for lawyers who would work in the foundation voluntarily. “As a woman that had been subjected to violence, I had to stand up for this right,” she said.

    ‘I blamed myself until the trainings’

    “Until these trainings, I kept thinking: ‘I did this to myself. I allowed this to happen to me. I ruined my life.’ Yet I saw that it was very hard for me to realize that the vicious circle of violence was multifaceted,” she said.

    In the trainings, Çetin was informed about international agreements which she now uses widely but are non-existent in local laws. “The agreements Turkey has signed, such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Istanbul Convention, are hierarchically higher than the law,” she said.

    61 women attorneys trained

    “Implementing norms, changing minds” is a U.N. Women regional program that aims to support a reduction in discrimination and violence against women and girls. With the support of this program, rights group KAGED is implementing a project with the partnership of the Foundation for Women’s Solidarity (FWS) to strengthen the capacities of women lawyers to provide better service to women victims of violence and increase their access to the justice system. Sixty-one women from 43 provinces attended the Capacity Building Trainings to work as volunteers in women’s NGOs.”

  13. EU leaders urge ‘urgent response’ to disinformation (AA, Dec 14, 2018)

    “EU leaders on Friday urged “an urgent response” to the spread of deliberate, large-scale, and systematic disinformation, calling it “an acute and strategic challenge for our democratic systems.”

    The response to disinformation “needs to be sustained over time, in full respect of fundamental rights,” the 28 EU leaders said in a statement of conclusions following their meeting in Brussels.

    The EU Council stressed the need for a determined response and called for the prompt and coordinated implementation of the Joint Action Plan on disinformation.

    The bloc also called for swift and decisive action at both the European and national levels on securing free and fair European and national elections.

    The bloc’s 28 heads of state also adopted conclusions on external relations, climate change, security and defense, and the fight against racism and xenophobia.

    Racism, xenophobia and migration

    The EU Council condemned “all forms of antisemitism, racism and xenophobia” and underlined the importance of combating intolerance.

    The EU leaders welcomed adoption of the Dec. 6 Council Declaration on the fight against anti-Semitism.

    Noting that the number of detected illegal border crossings was brought down to pre-immigrant crisis levels, the leaders stressed the continuing downward trend.

    “This is the result of the external migration policy of the Union and its Member States, based, in particular, on control of the external borders, the fight against smugglers and cooperation with countries of origin and transit, which has been intensified in recent months,” they said in the statement, vowing to continue developing the same policies.”

  14. Erdogan reaches out over loss of Hamas leader’s brother (AA, Dec 14, 2018)

    “Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday offered condolences to the leader of Palestinian group Hamas over the death of his brother, presidential sources said.

    In a phone call, Erdogan offered condolences to Ismail Haniyeh over the death of his brother, Khalid Haniyeh, said the sources, who asked not to be named due to restrictions on speaking to the media.”

  15. YPG/PKK attacks FSA emplacements in N. Syria (AA, Dec 14, 2018)

    “YPG/PKK terrorists attacked Free Syrian Army (FSA) emplacements in north Syria on Saturday, local sources said.

    Terrorists targeted north Syria’s Mare district near the Turkish border.

    FSA forces responded with gunfire and the clash between the sides lasted for three hours.

    It is said that no one from FSA was killed or injured.

    These FSA emplacements attacked by YPG/PKK terrorists were in the Operation Euphrates Shield zone.

    Turkey’s Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch operations in northwestern Syria liberated the region of YPG/PKK and Daesh terrorists, making the return of Syrian civilians to homeland possible.

    Separately, the Syrian regime attacked some FSA emplacements in Syria’s Al-Bab for 10 minutes.

    No one was killed or injured in this attack.

    Al-Bab is roughly 26 miles (42 kilometers) from Aleppo.

    In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK — listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the EU — has been responsible for the deaths of some 40,000 people, including women and children. The YPG is its Syrian branch.”

  16. Italian reporter shot in Strasbourg attack has died (ansa, Dec 14, 2018)

    “Antonio Megalizzi, a young Italian reporter who was shot in the head in Tuesday’s terrorist attack at Strasbourg’s Christmas market, has died, foreign ministry sources said on Friday.

    “This news saddens me a great deal,” Premier Giuseppe Conte told a news conference following this week’s European summit.

    “Affectionate, emotional thoughts go to his girlfriend. “We must unite in this pain”. Photo: an image from Antonio Megalizzi’s Facebook profile.”

  17. Austrian jihadist recruiter gets eight-year jail term (thelocal, Dec 14, 2018)

    “An Austrian man under whose influence two couples went to Syria to join the Islamic State (Isis) group taking their nine children with them was on Wednesday jailed for eight years.

    The 38-year-old was convicted of recruiting for Isis while a 24-year-old

    Bulgarian was given seven years after being found in possession of plans for terrorist attacks.

    Prosecutors said the older man played “a central ideological role” in a radical religious grouping and had convinced several people to travel to Syria to join Isis.

    Among those who prosecutors said left under his influence were two sets of parents who took their nine children to Syria. They subsequently returned to Austria and were themselves convicted.

    The younger man convicted on Wednesday had himself originally gone to Syria before returning in 2015.

    A raid at his home revealed a USB stick containing instructions on how to use explosives and chemical weapons, including how to detonate devices using a mobile phone.

    Around 300 people have either left or been intercepted trying to leave Austria to fight in Syria or Iraq since 2011, according to the interior ministry. Some 50 have died there while around 100 have come back.”

  18. Swiss activists among group jailed for illegally aiding migrants (thelocal, Dec 14, 2018)

    “A court in southeast France on Thursday sentenced seven people including three foreigners for illegally helping a group of migrants cross into France over an Alpine pass from Italy.

    Two Frenchmen who had previous court convictions were given four-month jail terms.

    The others, who included an Italian woman, a Swiss man and a Swiss-Belgian man, received suspended six-month sentences.

    The activists, whose supporters dubbed them the “Briancon 7”, took part in a solidarity march of 100 people escorting some 20 migrants over an Alpine pass in April this year.

    They were responding to a blockade at a nearby pass set up by several dozen far-right activists from Generation Identitaire (Identity Generation) who want to keep migrants out.

    The activists had argued they took part in a “spontaneous demonstration” intended only to counter the far-right protest.

    France’s Constitutional Court ruled in July that people could not be prosecuted for aiding migrants in distress, saying this went against the basic French principle of solidarity.

    However the court’s ruling does not allow people to directly facilitate illegal border crossings.

    “Everyone here can demonstrate in order to defend their ideas, even the most radical, but without breaking the law,” prosecutor Raphael Balland said at their trial.

    The activists have 10 days to appeal the ruling by the court in Gap, where around 100 supporters gathered outside the courthouse Thursday.

    The Gap sentencing came a day after another migrant activist, Cedric Herrou, saw his suspended prison term overturned by France’s top appeals court on Wednesday.

    Herrou, an organic olive grower in southern France, had been charged with illegally offering aid to migrants at his farm near the Italian border.

    The appeals court cited the Constitutional Court’s decision against prosecuting so-called “crimes of solidarity”.”

  19. Denmark makes daycare compulsory in disadvantaged areas (thelocal, Dec 14, 2018)

    “Denmark on Thursday adopted legislation making daycare mandatory for all children over the age of one in disadvantaged neighbourhoods, and parents who do not comply will lose their family allowances.

    “When some of these children start school, they risk being up to two years behind (their peers),” Social Affairs Minister Mai Mercado told news agency Ritzau.

    Disadvantaged neighbourhoods in Denmark tend to have large immigrant populations, with some children not learning Danish.

    School is mandatory for all children from age six.

    The reform — a deal reached by the centre-right government, the
    anti-immigration Danish People’s Party and the Social Democrats — will bring “only good things”, Mercado said.

    “We are offering a framework for learning, encouraging their language development and helping them prepare for school,” she added.

    A total of 43 neighbourhoods are concerned by the new legislation, which is to take effect on July 1st, 2019, and has already come in for harsh criticism.

    “It’s obscene to discriminate against people living in Denmark based on where their residence is located and whether or not they live in a so-called ghetto,” the head of Denmark’s Council for Socially Marginalised People, Jann Sjursen, told Ritzau.

    Earlier this year, Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen of the Liberal (Venstre) Party announced a “zero ghetto” target by 2030.

    He said too many immigrants were living “concentrated in a small number of neighbourhoods”, and behaving “differently” than “the average Dane”.

    Other elements the government’s so-called ‘ghetto plan’ include demolition of housing units, double punishment for certain crimes in certain areas, stricter rules regarding social welfare benefits, easier access for municipalities to residents’ data and financial incentive for municipalities to achieve high levels of integration.”

  20. Germany integrating migrants quickly, according to business chief (thelocal, Dec 14, 2018)

    “Many among the more than one million people who arrived in Germany as migrants or refugees since 2015 are integrating speedily through work, the head of a key business group said Friday.

    “Today more than 400,000 are in employment or training… even I am surprised at how quickly it’s progressing,” Ingo Kramer, head of the Confederation of German Employers’ Associations (BDA), told the Augsburger Allgemeine newspaper.

    “The vast majority are in jobs subject to social security contributions, and that integrates them into society,” he added. “Business leaders are getting it done.”

    Kramer’s optimistic tone matches that from the Federal Labour Agency (BA), which counts 30,000 young refugees currently in training.

    But some 177,000 refugees were still registered as unemployed in November.

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel chose in late summer 2015 not to close Germany’s borders to hundreds of thousands of people fleeing the Middle East and Africa.

    The decision stoked support for the anti-immigration populist party Alternative for Germany (AfD), ultimately ushering a potent far-right political force into parliament for the first time since 1945 and weakening Merkel.

    While the veteran leader stopped using the phrase “we can manage it” to reassure her people soon after the mass arrivals, Kramer said that “Merkel was right to believe that”.

    Businesses in Germany are desperate for new workers, as with economic recovery the headline unemployment rate has sunk over the years to 5.0 percent, making available skilled labour increasingly scarce.

    “Most young migrants can speak German so well after one year of study that they can follow classes in a vocational school,” Kramer said.

    That was good news for “Mittelstand” small- and medium-sized firms — often hailed as the backbone of the German economy — in their search for employees, he added.

    “We shouldn’t be afraid of migration but see people who come to us and work here as an enrichment” Kramer said.

    Like other bosses, Kramer complained about frequent deportations of workers or trainees who arrived as refugees.

    Merkel’s conservatives have pushed through tougher immigration laws since 2015 in a bid to make up ground lost to the AfD.

    Meanwhile, the German Institute for Human Rights highlighted in its annual report this month that foreigners are often underpaid, hired without formal contracts or pushed to work overtime with no pay.”

    • AfD’s Björn Höcke faces probe for posting photo of murdered woman (DW, Dec 14, 2018)

      “State lawmakers have agreed to lift the parliamentary immunity of regional leader of the far-right AfD, Björn Höcke. The politician is accused of using photos of a victim of a murder for his own political ends.

      The Justice Committee of Thuringia’s state parliament on Friday said it was prepared to lift Björn Höcke’s parliamentary immunity after a complaint about the unauthorized use of an image on his Facebook page.

      The decision paves the way for prosecutors to investigate Höcke, who is accused of exploiting a picture of 28-year-old Sophia Lösche, who was killed in June, for his own political purposes. Chemnitz prosecutors said they had filed a request with parliament for a preliminary investigation.

      Lösche’s parents filed a complaint against Höcke at the end of September over photos that he published of their daughter on his Facebook page without their agreement.

      Under German law, an individual’s consent is required if their pictures are published or exhibited. If the person has died, their next of kin must give permission.

      Enlarged photos of victims

      Lösche’s image was among several used by anti-immigrant protesters at a “funeral march” in the city of Chemnitz. The march was called after the killing of 35-year-old Daniel H., for which a Syrian man is currently in custody and an Iraqi suspect is still at large. Another Iraqi man who had been taken into custody after the killing has since been released without charge.

      The victims’ photographs were blown up into large format and paraded along the street. Photos of the demonstration appeared on Höcke’s Facebook page.

      In their complaint, Lösche’s parents claim that Höcke — seen as one of the AfD’s more extreme members — exploited their daughter’s image for his own political purposes.

      Höcke called the allegations completely unfounded. “I posted photos on my Facebook of the demonstration that I attended. That is to say, I documented a public event on my Facebook page. There’s nothing more to add.”

      Killed while hitchhiking

      Lösche, who was a member of the youth wing of Germany’s center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) and a volunteer who worked with refugees, went missing in June while cycling and hitchhiking from the eastern city of Leipzig to her home in northern Bavaria.

      A Moroccan truck driver was arrested in Spain, south of Madrid, in connection with the killing after police followed GPS tracking of the vehicle. The remains of Lösche — who had sent a picture of the vehicle license plate to her family — were found in the Basque region of Spain.

      A week after Lösche’s murder — long before the Chemnitz protest — her brother Andreas lamented that her death was being used to spread racist messages. In October, he was interviewed by the German magazine Cicero about hate mail that had been sent to the family.

      Paragraph 22 of the German copyright law prohibits the publication or dissemination of images of people without their consent if the depicted persons can be recognized.

      The law on photography came into effect in 1907 after two photographers took pictures of Chancellor Otto von Bismarck on his deathbed.”

  21. Anti-AfD activists prank populists with hoax corporate ads (DW, Dec 14, 2018)

    “Fake Coca-Cola and McDonald’s advertisements criticizing the far-right Alternative for Germany are springing up around the country. The punchline? It has forced a number of well-known brands to take political stands.

    At first glance the posters for Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Nutella and Früh Kölsch beer look like ordinary advertisements. But the accompanying slogans aim not to whet consumer appetites but to turn people off the far-right populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party.

    Most of the posters feature puns that aren’t easily translatable. But a hoax ad for breakfast spread Nutella that appeared earlier this week in downtown Berlin read “Better brown on your bread than brown in your head” — brown being the color associated with fascism and National Socialism.

    To drive home the point, at the bottom of the poster are the words “Against racism, intolerance and the far-right hate-mongering of the AfD!”

    An Internet group called the Stay Behind Foundation said that activists associated with their network had been responsible for the hoax Nutella ad. The group’s website also offers a downloadable fake AfD poster, made to look like an ad for detergent, on which the right-wing populist party is renamed the “Alternative to Democracy.”

    “100 percent old-school natural,” the poster proclaims. “Purity guaranteed since 1933,” referring to the year the Nazis came to power.

    The organization takes its name from the term for partisans in war who stay behind the front line of an invading enemy and attack the occupiers from the rear. And the hoax poster campaign has succeeded not only in eliciting chuckles at the AfD’s expense but in forcing the companies whose corporate identity has been “brand-jacked” to stake out a position toward the far-right populists.

    Not everything goes better with Coke

    The first hoax ad was a fake Christmas billboard in Berlin for Coca-Cola featuring the familiar figure of Santa Claus holding bottles of soda with words “For a peaceful season, say no to the AfD.” An Internet group called Modus claimed responsibility. The prank was part of #AfDentskalender, a collection of 24 anti-AfD initiatives the group has planned in December.

    Coke was quick to point out that the company had not put up the ad, but the company’s spokesman also tweeted, “Not every fake is necessarily wrong.” Fast-food giant McDonald’s also expressed support for a fake ad’s anti-racist message while criticizing the “poor imitation” of its corporate identity.

    The populists were not amused and sought to counter with a fake Pepsi billboard and the message, “say yes to the AFD,” earning the party a prompt cease-and-desist order from the soft-drink manufacturer. And that wasn’t the last of the populists’ missteps.

    AfD members called for a boycott of Coke and began searching for alternatives. Member of parliament Malte Kaufmann posted a photo of himself drinking German beverage Fritz Cola, reaping scorn as users pointed out that the brand is known for its explicit left-wing politics.

    Ultra-right-wing AfD regional leader Björn Höcke posted a picture of himself enjoying a Vita Cola with the caption “There’s always an alternative” — only for the company to object to being politically instrumentalized and to proclaim its support for openness and tolerance.

    That led 24-year-old radio host and comedian Sophie Passmann to comment: “2018 will go down as the year when cola companies took a clearer stand against Nazis than the Interior Minister.”

    Gauland not amused

    Many of the hoaxes and responses associated with the campaign have gone viral on social media. But when asked for his take on the Yuletide brand-jacking spree, 77-year-old AfD chairman Alexander Gauland’s mood turned Grinch-like.

    “What am I supposed to think of this?” Gauland told DW. “It’s silly. And wrong. We’re not in favor of fake news. I can’t judge whether the companies concerned have done enough to prevent this. But of course, we think it’s silly.”

    At least the party won’t have to worry about a further blunder with alternative soft drinks.

    “On general principal, I don’t drink Coca-Cola, said Gauland. “No matter whether ads are directed against us or not.””

  22. Engineer, 32, who posted Islamic State propaganda videos on Facebook in a bid to encourage terrorism is jailed for seven years  (dailymail, Dec 14, 2018)

    “A civil engineer and father-of-one who shared videos encouraging people to ‘support, justify and glorify the actions of Islamic State’ has been jailed for seven years.

    Abdulrahman Alcharbati, 32, shared links to the horrific videos on his Facebook page in the early hours of February 8 last year, with a judge saying they had been ‘intended to encourage acts of terrorism’.

    During his trial at Newcastle Crown Court, it was also revealed jurors were told how one of the films showed Syrian soldiers being violently beaten to death and dragged away.

    His Facebook page had been suspended eight times between December 2016 and March 2017 – but he managed to get it reinstated on each occasion by claiming that he was merely ‘exposing what was happening’ and that he needed to use the site for work.

    The court also heard how another of the videos depicted young children at an orphanage being given Islamic State ‘indoctrination’ and being taught how to be a ‘thorn in the side of enemies of religion’…”

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