German Minister Says Syrian Passport in Paris May Have Been Planted.

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A Syrian passport found next to a suicide bomber in the Paris terror attacks may have been planted, German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said.

Reports that the identity in the passport may have been registered in several countries along the so-called Balkan route raise the suspicion that it could be a deliberate attempt to implicate refugees and “make people feel unsafe,” de Maiziere said.

“There are indications that this was a planted lead, but it still can’t be ruled out that this was indeed an IS terrorist posing as a refugee,” he told reporters in Berlin on Tuesday, referring to Islamic State, which France blames for organizing the violence.

Any link between France’s worst terror attack since World War II and Europe’s refugee crisis would raise the stakes for Chancellor Angela Merkel as she defends her open-door policy for asylum seekers in Germany’s debate over immigration and security.

French prosecutors have said the remains of an assailant who attacked the Stade de France stadium during a soccer game between France and Germany matched the fingerprints of an individual registered by Greek authorities as an asylum seeker in October. Investigators were weighing the authenticity of the passport, made out to Ahmad Al Mohammad, 25, born in Idlib, Syria.

“It’s certainly unusual that such a person would have been faithfully registered in Greece and Serbia and Croatia, while we’re constantly pressing for registration and aren’t happy that it isn’t happening to the necessary extent,” de Maiziere said.

Source: http://bloom.bg/1MMBTuD

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UN Report Slams Israel’s Response to Child Prostitution.

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A report by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child criticized the way Israel deals with children exploited for prostitution. It said there is insufficient coordination between different state agencies, no clear-cut plan for dealing with the problem, a shortage of data on its scope and insufficient prosecution and punishment of sex offenders. The Knesset Committee on the Rights of the Child discussed the report on Monday.

A source familiar with the issue said that despite growing awareness of the problem, helping juvenile prostitutes “still falls between the governmental cracks.”

Moreover, of all the police probes opened into sex crimes against minors last year, about 45 percent have been closed.

In 2008, Israel ratified the portion of the Convention on the Rights of the Child that deals with trafficking in children and child prostitution and pornography. The UN committee publishes periodic reports on how well the convention’s signatories are meeting their obligations. Its latest report on Israel, which was published this summer, voiced dismay over what it termed Israel’s lack of a comprehensive strategy for dealing with these problems and its slow progress toward implementing a recommendation made in the previous report – setting up a state agency dedicated to children’s rights.

The report was scathing about Israel’s handling of cases against people suspected of sex crimes against minors. It said the number of cases investigated was low to start with, and only a small percentage of them actually go to trial.

Moreover, even when convictions are obtained in child prostitution or pornography cases, the sentences don’t always match the severity of the crimes, the report said. It recommended instituting stiffer sentences for obtaining sexual services from a minor.

The latest data compiled by the Knesset’s research center seem to confirm the report’s findings. This data shows that of 2,349 cases opened into sex crimes against minors in 2014, only 11 percent have yet produced a verdict.
Moreover, almost 45 percent of these cases were closed – 30 percent because the criminal was unknown and 13 percent due to lack of public interest.

MK Yifat Shasha-Biton (Kulanu), who chairs the Knesset Committee on the Rights of the Child, also echoed the UN report’s complaint about lenient sentencing. “A sentence of up to three years for obtaining sex services from a minor is ridiculous,” she said. At Monday’s meeting of the Knesset committee, a representative of the Social Affairs Ministry confirmed another criticism in the UN report, regarding Israel’s lack of a system for coordinating among different government agencies involved in this issue. He said his ministry “works to rehabilitate minors employed in prostitution, but doesn’t coordinate with the Education Ministry on preventing [minors] from sliding into prostitution or on locating minors employed in prostitution.”

An Education Ministry representative said the ministry provides lesson plans on healthy sexuality and instructs teachers on how to identify children at risk, but there are no lesson plans dealing specifically with prostitution. “It’s preferable to speak with the students first about healthy, normative sexuality before we get into the issue of prostitution,” she said.

The UN report also criticized the lack of data about the scope of sexual exploitation of children in Israel. State Comptroller Joseph Shapira leveled similar criticism in a report published in December 2014, writing that “government ministries, local authorities and aid organizations only possess estimates and assessments.”

About three months ago, Haaretz reported that the Social Affairs Ministry knows of at least 970 children exploited for prostitution, but estimated the true figure at around 1,250. “Despite the progress that has been made, there’s still no known, agreed figure on the number of minors exploited for prostitution,” said a source familiar with the issue. “This is in gross contradiction of a series of public and governmental committees which said that gathering data is the essential first step in dealing with the problem.”

The UN report also charged that Israel lacks adequate systems for identifying children at risk of becoming crime victims. But Reut Guy of ELEM – Youth in Distress said such children are hard to detect.

“Often, professionals oppose branding a 15-year-old girl as a prostitute, and therefore, her treatment evaporates,” she said. Moreover, some local authorities avoid the issue, she said: “On the periphery, there are towns that are afraid to touch it.”

The Social Affairs Ministry said it runs a nationwide program to help child prostitutes and plans to open centers in 15 additional cities once the 2016 budget is approved. It added that it cooperates closely with the justice and public security ministries, but has some professional differences with the Education Ministry on this issue.

Source: http://bit.ly/1lAZVlA

Majority of fatal attacks on U.S. soil carried out by white supremacists, not foreign terrorists.

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In the 14 years since the Sept. 11 terror attacks, nearly twice as many people have been killed in the United States by white supremacists and anti-government radicals than by Muslim jihadis, according to a new study.

White supremacists and anti-government radicals have killed 48 Americans, including last week’s deadly attack in South Carolina, versus 26 killings by Muslim radicals, according to a count by New America, a Washington research center.

New America program associate David Sterman said the study shows that white supremacy and anti-government idealists are a major problem, that their growth rate needs to be addressed and that there is an “ignored threat” woven in the fabric of American society.

“Each time it [right-wing, radical violence] comes up, there’s a tendency to dismiss it as lone actor, mental health issues,” he said. “So it’s important to not ignore threats,”

The suspect in last week’s slaughter of nine people inside a Charleston church, Dylann Roof, 21, had posted a manifesto that lays out a racist worldview, posted pictures online featuring white supremacist imagery and a T-shirt featuring the number “88,” which is often used as a symbol for “Heil Hitler.” He faces federal hate crime charges.

Attacks by Muslim extremists appear to center around military targets, such as Fort Hood, a U.S. military post in Killeen, Texas, and areas where the possibility of mass casualties is high, such as the Boston Marathon, New America says. Meanwhile, the killing sprees of right-wing extremists lean more toward police ambushes and were rooted in anti-government sentiment, according to data compiled by the research center.

Experts say the research findings could be an indicator the nation’s intelligence collectors have been paying more attention to thwarting potential terror plots against the homeland concocted by Islamic extremists and less attention to the anti-government attacks of right-wing extremists.

“There has certainly been a tremendous concentration — not just by FBI and law enforcement, but intelligence community intelligence — focused on both the foreign born and the homegrown Islamic extremist terrorist threats,” said Ron Hosko, president of Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund and former assistant director of the FBI. “And you’re talking about people in the military, intelligence, all the alphabet soup agencies as well as local law enforcement.”

There is also the possibility that the U.S. government has better information on Islamic extremist attacks because its surveillance techniques and information data collection techniques, said John Malcolm, a senior legal fellow at The Heritage Foundation. As a result, government agencies may be able to thwart those plans before they come to fruition, which might account for the low number of Islamic extremist attacks.

Mr. Sterman agrees. He said the data does show a potential imbalance in the type and amount of intelligence gathering that the government’s various agencies are doing. It also shows that there is another “ignored threat” woven in the fabric of American society, he said.

Terrorism should not be measured by whether the perpetrator is Muslim, he said. Additionally, indicators of a pending plot should not slide under the radar simply because the plot is not tied to the Islamic State or some other foreign terrorist organization, he said.

“For example, in the Dylann Roof case, in the Charleston attack, you do see that he is leaking quite a bit of information to people around him about his view point and his desire to commit violence,” Mr. Sterman said.

If an Islamic extremist were to do something similar, he or she would attract the attention of federal authorities and keep their attention until they no longer posed a threat, he said.

Source: http://bit.ly/1MY2qnV

WikiLeaks cables expose Saudi Arabia as a cash machine for terrorists.

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Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest source of funds for Islamist militant groups such as the Afghan Taliban and Lashkar-e-Taiba – but the Saudi government is reluctant to stem the flow of money, according to Hillary Clinton.

“More needs to be done since Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qaida, the Taliban, LeT and other terrorist groups,” says a secret December 2009 paper signed by the US secretary of state. Her memo urged US diplomats to redouble their efforts to stop Gulf money reaching extremists in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

“Donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide,” she said.

Three other Arab countries are listed as sources of militant money: Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.

The cables highlight an often ignored factor in the Pakistani and Afghan conflicts: that the violence is partly bankrolled by rich, conservative donors across the Arabian Sea whose governments do little to stop them.

The problem is particularly acute in Saudi Arabia, where militants soliciting funds slip into the country disguised as holy pilgrims, set up front companies to launder funds and receive money from government-sanctioned charities.

One cable details how the Pakistani militant outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba, which carried out the 2008 Mumbai attacks, used a Saudi-based front company to fund its activities in 2005.

Meanwhile officials with the LeT’s charity wing, Jamaat-ud-Dawa, travelled to Saudi Arabia seeking donations for new schools at vastly inflated costs – then siphoned off the excess money to fund militant operations.

Militants seeking donations often come during the hajj pilgrimage – “a major security loophole since pilgrims often travel with large amounts of cash and the Saudis cannot refuse them entry into Saudi Arabia”. Even a small donation can go far: LeT operates on a budget of just $5.25m (£3.25m) a year, according to American estimates.

Saudi officials are often painted as reluctant partners. Clinton complained of the “ongoing challenge to persuade Saudi officials to treat terrorist funds emanating from Saudi Arabia as a strategic priority”.
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Washington is critical of the Saudi refusal to ban three charities classified as terrorist entities in the US. “Intelligence suggests that these groups continue to send money overseas and, at times, fund extremism overseas,” she said.

There has been some progress. This year US officials reported that al-Qaida’s fundraising ability had “deteriorated substantially” since a government crackdown. As a result Bin Laden’s group was “in its weakest state since 9/11” in Saudi Arabia.

Any criticisms are generally offered in private. The cables show that when it comes to powerful oil-rich allies US diplomats save their concerns for closed-door talks, in stark contrast to the often pointed criticism meted out to allies in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Instead, officials at the Riyadh embassy worry about protecting Saudi oilfields from al-Qaida attacks.

The other major headache for the US in the Gulf region is the United Arab Emirates. The Afghan Taliban and their militant partners the Haqqani network earn “significant funds” through UAE-based businesses, according to one report. The Taliban extort money from the large Pashtun community in the UAE, which is home to 1 million Pakistanis and 150,000 Afghans. They also fundraise by kidnapping Pashtun businessmen based in Dubai or their relatives.

“Some Afghan businessmen in the UAE have resorted to purchasing tickets on the day of travel to limit the chance of being kidnapped themselves upon arrival in either Afghanistan or Pakistan,” the report says.

Last January US intelligence sources said two senior Taliban fundraisers had regularly travelled to the UAE, where the Taliban and Haqqani networks laundered money through local front companies.
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One report singled out a Kabul-based “Haqqani facilitator”, Haji Khalil Zadran, as a key figure. But, Clinton complained, it was hard to be sure: the UAE’s weak financial regulation and porous borders left US investigators with “limited information” on the identity of Taliban and LeT facilitators.

The lack of border controls was “exploited by Taliban couriers and Afghan drug lords camouflaged among traders, businessmen and migrant workers”, she said.

In an effort to stem the flow of funds American and UAE officials are increasingly co-operating to catch the “cash couriers” – smugglers who fly giant sums of money into Pakistan and Afghanistan.

In common with its neighbours Kuwait is described as a “source of funds and a key transit point” for al-Qaida and other militant groups. While the government has acted against attacks on its own soil, it is “less inclined to take action against Kuwait-based financiers and facilitators plotting attacks outside of Kuwait”.

Kuwait has refused to ban the Revival of Islamic Heritage Society, a charity the US designated a terrorist entity in June 2008 for providing aid to al-Qaida and affiliated groups, including LeT.

There is little information about militant fundraising in the fourth Gulf country singled out, Qatar, other than to say its “overall level of CT co-operation with the US is considered the worst in the region”.

The funding quagmire extends to Pakistan itself, where the US cables detail sharp criticism of the government’s ambivalence towards funding of militant groups that enjoy covert military support.

The cables show how before the Mumbai attacks in 2008, Pakistani and Chinese diplomats manoeuvred hard to block UN sanctions against Jamaat-ud-Dawa.

But in August 2009, nine months after sanctions were finally imposed, US diplomats wrote: “We continue to see reporting indicating that JUD is still operating in multiple locations in Pakistan and that the group continues to openly raise funds”. JUD denies it is the charity wing of LeT.

• This article was amended on 15 December 2010. The original caption referred to the Chatrapathi Sivaji station in Mumbai. This has been corrected.

Source: http://bit.ly/1Yfbr3T

Buddhist Monks Issue Death Threats To Social Activists for Teaching Sexual Health

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Female activists in Myanmar, also known as Burma, say they’re receiving death threats from extremist Buddhist monks with the Ma Ba Tha, the nationalist group that controls much of the country. The activists are attemping to teach fellow Burmese women about sexual health, an effort that’s turning them into enemies of the state.

The Guardian has a fascinating story today about one piece of the struggle for women’s rights in Myanmar: the fact that Burmese has no word for “vagina.” That makes it extraordinarily difficult to communicate about women’s health issues or articulate if something is wrong. A local paper that recently printed the word “vagina” in English also faced a barrage of angry emails. There are also powerful social taboos dictating that anything having to do with a woman’s genitalia is unclean:

Garments that have come into close contact with a woman’s lower half, such as the traditional htamein (a wraparound skirt worn by most women in Myanmar) or underpants, are considered unclean, even after they have been washed. They are also believed to have the ability to rob men of their hpoun – a concept that could roughly be translated as “masculine power”.

As such, it is taught that these items of clothing should never be hung in a place where men will have to walk under them. It is also unacceptable to wash men’s clothes in the same bowl or machine as women’s garments, for fear of contamination or loss of power.

“It’s not right that people should tell us we’re dirty just because we menstruate. It is discrimination,” says 19-year-old Thu Thu, an activist from Shan state.

Activist organizations are increasingly running workshops to teach women about sexual and reproductive health and women’s rights. That’s drawn the ire of the Ma Ba Tha, they told the Guardian; the organization is known in English as the Committee to Protect Race and Religion. The Ma Ba Tha has broad political and social control in the country: they recently backed a law preventing Buddhist women from marrying non-Buddhist men. It was one of four laws dealing with “race and religion” protection; all of them are seen as efforts to crack down on both women’s rights and to discriminate against the Rohingya, the country’s small Muslim minority.

One activist who asked not to be named told the Guardian that she and other people she works with have found their “names, photos and phone numbers” put on posters and displayed at Ma Ba Tha monasteries. They’ve received death threats, intimidation and public humiliation from the monks, she says. Human Rights Watch recently reported that supporters of the Ma Ba Tha recently held a massive, jubilant rally, celebrating the passage of the race and religion laws and signaling the monks’ growing power.

Source: http://bit.ly/1StLxpe

Starbucks Offers All Veteran Employees Free College For Their Spouse Or Child.

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What a gift, timed perfectly for Veterans Day: Seattle-based coffee giant Starbucks has just announced that it will now extend a 100% tuition-free four-year college benefit to the spouse or child of every U.S. veteran or active military reservist employed 20 or more hours a week.

This new benefit, whose zero-tuition price point results from a 42-58 partnership between ASU and Starbucks, will be an additional benefit atop the previously-announced college benefit (also four years, 100% tuition free) that Starbucks extends to every employee who works 20 hours per week or more, which is offered through the online campus of Arizona State University (ASU), an accredited (and generally well-respected) institution, in an approach that has been lauded by the leadership of the U.S. Department of Education.

Starbucks will also now be paying for up to 80 hours per year for service obligations of employees who are active duty or reservists in the U.S. Armed Forces or National Guard.

Starbucks: Air Force Spouse Apron • Credit: Starbucks Coffee

Starbucks: Air Force Spouse Apron • Credit: Starbucks Coffee

At the same time, Starbucks also announced a variety of other benefits, support, and milestones related to the employment of U.S. veterans, active military reservists and military spouses.

These include two achievement milestones in its provision of services for veterans and their families:

• Starbucks announced that it has already succeeded in hiring more than 5,500 veterans and military spouses, fulfilling more than 50% of the commitment made just two years ago to employ at least 10,000 vets and their spouses by 2018. In order to achieve this, Starbucks has invested in several specific strategies: It hired four dedicated military recruiters in key focus cities across the country including Seattle, D.C. and Austin, established more than 80 connections with military bases, installation transition and educational offices across the country and overseas, attended more than 200 military hiring fairs across the nation that recruit veterans and military spouses, and expanded their employee affinity group, the Starbucks Armed Forces Network, from one to 12 regional chapters. (Starbucks Armed Forces Network is intended to connect veterans and create mentorships across the company to ease transition from military to civilian life.)

• The company has extended its ambitious Military Family Stores commitment with plans to reach 30 Military Family Stores near U.S. military bases in 2016. Starbucks’ Military Family Stores are run by veterans and military spouses and partner with service and community organizations like Blue Star Families, Team Red, White and Blue, The Mission Continues, USO and others to offer transition services and build connections between military and civilian communities.

Source: http://onforb.es/1PFOu72

Research shows children from religious homes are less generous than non-religious children.

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An argument often advanced for the encouragement of religion is that, to paraphrase St Matthew’s report of Jesus’s words, it leads people to love their neighbours as themselves. That would be a powerful point were it true. But is it? This was the question Jean Decety, a developmental neuroscientist at the University of Chicago, asked in a study just published in Current Biology.

Dr Decety is not the first to wonder, in a scientific way, about the connection between religion and altruism. He is, though, one of the first to do it without recourse to that standard but peculiar laboratory animal beloved of psychologists, the undergraduate student. Instead, he collaborated with researchers in Canada, China, Jordan, South Africa and Turkey, as well as with fellow Americans, to look at children aged between five and 12 and their families.

Altogether, Dr Decety and his colleagues recruited 1,170 families for their project, and focused on one child per family. Five hundred and ten of their volunteer families described themselves as Muslim, 280 as Christian, 29 as Jewish, 18 as Buddhist and 5 as Hindu. A further 323 said they were non-religious, 3 were agnostic and 2 ticked the box marked “other”.

Follow-up questions to the faithful among the sample then asked how often they engaged in religious activities, and also about spirituality in the home. That let Dr Decety calculate how religious each family was. He found that about half the children in religious households came from highly observant homes; the spiritual lives of the other half were more relaxed. He then arranged for the children to play a version of what is known to psychologists as the dictator game—an activity they use to measure altruism.

In truth, the dictator game is not much of a game, since only one of the participants actually plays it. In Dr Decety’s version, each child was presented with a collection of 30 attractive stickers and told that he or she could keep ten of them. Once a child had made his selection, the experimenter told him that there was not time to play the game with all the children at the school, but that he could, if he wished, give away some of his ten stickers to a random schoolmate who would not otherwise be able to take part. The child was then given a few minutes to decide whether he wanted to give up some of his stickers—and, if so, how many. The researchers used the number of stickers surrendered as a measure of altruism.

The upshot was that the children of non-believers were significantly more generous than those of believers. They gave away an average of 4.1 stickers. Children from a religious background gave away 3.3. And a further analysis of the two largest religious groups (Jews, Buddhists and Hindus were excluded because of their small numbers in the sample), showed no statistical difference between them. Muslim children gave away 3.2 stickers on average, while Christian children gave away 3.3. Moreover, a regression analysis on these groups of children showed that their generosity was inversely correlated with their households’ religiosity. This effect remained regardless of a family’s wealth and status (rich children were more generous than poor ones), a child’s age (older children were more generous than younger ones) or the nationality of the participant. These findings are, however, in marked contrast to parents’ assessments of their own children’s sensitivity to injustice. When asked, religious parents reported their children to be more sensitive than non-believing parents did.

This is only one result, of course. It would need to be replicated before strong conclusions could be drawn. But it is suggestive. And what it suggests is not only that what is preached by religion is not always what is practised, which would not be a surprise, but that in some unknown way the preaching makes things worse.

Source: http://econ.st/1kFkwo0