Culture Wars, Shari’a Finance, Syria, Cyber, Latin America

Subject: Culture Wars, Shari’a Finance, Syria, Cyber, Latin America EWI Digest Posting No. 335, December 1-3, 2012

CULTURE WARS

> ITEM 1: Simeon Kerr: Qatari poet jailed for ‘insulting emir’
> http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/41246042-3a2f-11e2-a00d-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2DdMZ24C4
> [http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?e=0018JUSLxMeuHIct2gi1v4WSc9hF7FJiDkLj52l4dc1StE7ioxNwB6lzb-XwOVr0nyVzkHXxmU7KEexrNCyFP59v_1oy7M2tmfBjyPpqC7MdC3hZgy9ysoIdEgVq3M48u8khMiZBcPR6tccnsc4zRFpe6w4YzxSLDL6Y5wodg_JB2kToa4Zzdyikzno98QbfQQc9iQjrgDnVxLiePUw13d4GQ==] > ITEM 2: Soeren Kern: Muslims Pressing for Blasphemy Laws in Europe
> http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/3474/blasphemy-laws-europe [http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?e=0018JUSLxMeuHLUeda-EIUP4yzNIM6v_aBsSFaHRqRNzmMKU8KkDcbhjrglkoFI8lbkmeUc2yEzmepS3v9oBAHTH6gj-uTASfplEq1JQJdFZ9klyoToJv15ficzDGcamtBhyoMiZTTq9chG-iztxvTDfhwKZswAu5xmIF0doMnn0Gc=] > SHARI’A FINANCE
>
> ITEM 3: INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ISLAMIC THOUGHT: IIIT Sponsored Forum at the > United Nations on Zakat’s Potential Role in Accelerating Global Development
> http://www.iiit.org/NewsEvents/News/tabid/62/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/281/Default.aspx
> [http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?e=0018JUSLxMeuHKpptVJj97I7DueLtYqu_ho1krU6dIH2ro2SsIYO102–HkS2QqgcQjJyRif5TmZst3_26i8m44RQMLBsr-4JnHctJrXf9QSsa4mjewCnJ2_gb_po8Xph5CBdxK1KHFhXUIlXMK7KChr3o-7AGLHHEAmDDwvQ3Bl8Ga_9npxNnET9VH8031YHWccWd8v2MGDL2KjExbA15p9TIS1PxtaFEZJOl-FwtvOQ8=] > SYRIA
>
> ITEM 4: Reuters: Syria opposition government nears, Brotherhood flexes muscle
> http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/sns-rt-us-syria-crisis-oppositionbre8as122-20121129,0,923202.story
> [http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?e=0018JUSLxMeuHJiCxzRHp3f9I1vYyRZJd-TMY2AOUr-Bil0uvZnA8jKbhZ81ALb6L7_9BjALW7QqzxGST8uVMQiMA2ANb2p2opgDBrVokDvD8qii9mz59sxKk0WK3Db725CYNIUotSk_JL_9hTl8jJW2MHom0XkCFuNPzRJ4r7gABfsWBKN_EI4vMMx5JkccEuarPA7SFoAVCmp4H3nSXVkYkx3rS3Us_Vy]
> ITEM 5: Lee Smith: Communications Blackout in Syria. Internet, landlines, and cell > phones are affected.
> http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/communications-blackout-syria_664191.html [http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?e=0018JUSLxMeuHKEyLgZswLj2mGY7KVMW8WTx7dMclLstLmpW7NP_2p2PiX53JRTd-Iv6ujeH83j5TQMA7o0dcYMZfVxCInbU4dgZBhHHQ5QZuRsHLiAfTMTBWPBPh1b9W5SLGtHb53mCG9CTlIRV9CAzuTPYjgz28C4eXN7DMOk_6R8Gv_KXpdCMgVtcCZRUm1k] > CYBER
>
> ITEM 6: Greg MacSweeney: Can Banks Prevent the Next Cyber Attack?
> http://www.informationweek.com/quickview/can-banks-prevent-the-next-cyber-attack/2047?wc=4
> [http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?e=0018JUSLxMeuHLHszDjmT0OFPAcUZztjoSj3US3ulWKTz3mfU3fKKGpEVzwzsuxDgSUwAjUH3Z0nt-ehwuxGMQ7D1blhqcbl6sO2AcnwFHXMzpgcKPcWAKYp3eil9Fmm9MRdfLn4bv3k5O8QSIzJ1r3bYMZ1pA7W4Hy0TTYFAqD0hEHYnfVg5TdxfFb6mLtU1URr0DgWIusGoYYMrvnGs4fSw==] > LATIN AMERICA
>
> ITEM 7: Jeff Fick: Rio de Janeiro Raises Pressure Over Oil Revenue
> http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324469304578143350126726548.html?mod=WSJ_World_LEFTSecondNews
> [http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?e=0018JUSLxMeuHLP3zoMCCBPTJZGsW6HjHgYOfOvIy_TOkKZkvzMwC4Sapgz-0y6-z_8eCR9gOgelgY69Pu_8rk0Cu2AOGuQyg-GzJCXclxxee7ib53js7vwn9DX5wcFzwvcVtklJIiN_z0C8_0KUBcqrcUoTvVFJp6Mo1z97UtFXJ-hVJFRnQC0n1HwdxYwq6LwLeIjK8htxL2JnpmWtlmD6gNCN27nxHk7wyXnj2bDO74=]
> ITEM 8: Mary O’Grady: The Dominican Republic’s Taxing Turn. Servicing its debt will > take 44% of government revenue by 2015, despite steep new taxes.
> http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323713104578136991656612384.html [http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?e=0018JUSLxMeuHIthWEAPGUOdS2RpeGFCUR-gtr6Jyp0aSu9YXYanyyh9Wjda12HQONLiK51uCW32n7e8kCp2Btzv2gNk_Dni3kbHHdx3JIwGpvJNQWgkK06uwG4uY0GX3emogjN5qJqmKHr_6JWiqZcgJXGF3eBLIsTTV_4ar64SxMh2NVoWzToSEOS6uAmvjoo] >
> FULL TEXTS FOLLOW BELOW

CULTURE WARS
> “Life” for Insulting the Emir of Qatar, Even Indirectly
> Simon Kerr, writing in the Financial Times, tells the story of the life sentence
> recently handed out to Mohammed ibn al-Dheeb al-Ajami, allegedly for insulting > the Emir of Qatar:
> “The poet wrote the widely distributed ‘Jasmine Poem’ in 2011, which criticised
> Gulf rulers in the wake of the Tunisian revolution. The controversial poem was interpreted
> as attacking the emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani. ‘We are all Tunis in the > face of the repressive elite,’ it read.”
> If this seems like a stretch in penalizing free speech, it certainly is. However,
> it is utterly consistent with tendencies across the Middle East and among Muslims
> in Europe to regard any dissent as objectionable. If one can’t insult a country’s
> leader, there is no possibility of popular government and, therewith, the possibly > responsible leadership vanishes.
> Only Muslim Blasphemy Laws in Europe?
> Soeren Kern reports that the fifty-seven countries of the Organization of Islamic
> Cooperation (OIC) are pressuring Western states into making it an international
> crime to criticize Islam or Mohammed. This, as Kern says, is being done in the
> name of religious tolerance. The ill-logic of this is obvious. Kern reports that
> the Dutch parliament has approved a motion to revoke Article 147 of the country’s
> penal code, which in the 1930s made it a crime to insult God. This is the latest
> of actions in some parts of Europe to overturn old-fashioned blasphemy laws in the
> cause of free speech. However, the tendency is not widespread, and Kern reports
> that the OIC is pushing everywhere for both their retention and broadening with
> specific references to Mohammed and Islam. In Europe, blasphemy is still an offense
> in Austria, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Italy, Liechtenstein, the Netherlands and
> San Marino: “In addition, ‘Religious Insult’ is a criminal offense in Andorra, Cyprus,
> Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Italy,
> Lithuania, Norway, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain and Switzerland.”
> It’s odd that a continent that refuses to acknowledge or defend its religious roots
> has left such laws on the book for this long. It will not be surprising when the
> same countries both revoke those laws and create new ones specifically of Muslim > interest.
> SHARI’A FINANCE: Why is the UN Helping?
> IITT, the activities of which have been looked at time and again by U.S. official > entities concerned about terrorism funding, reports itself that
> “On November 16th, The International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT) sponsored
> a forum at the United Nations brining together international development leaders
> and experts to look at the importance of Zakat in advancing the global UN development
> agenda at a forum titled ‘Linking Muslim Giving to the MDGs’. The forum was co-hosted
> at the United Nations by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), The World > Congress of Muslim Philanthropists, and the UN Millennium Campaign.
> “‘While some countries have made impressive gains in achieving Millennium Development
> Goals (MDGs), others are falling behind. The Muslim world is no exception. Faith
> emphasizes building communities, sharing wealth and upholding the rights of the
> poor and marginalized. Faith-based giving such as Zakat which amounts to billions
> of dollars needs to be spent in more strategic and effective ways to accelerate
> development in OIC member countries’ stated Ambassador Ufuk Gokcen, the permanent > observer of OIC at the United Nations, in his address.”
> What does this tell you about the UN? One might have very serious doubts about the
> role of Zakat in development, even in OIC countries. Put the cosponsorship down
> to mindless bureaucratic activity on the part of the UN, but please also consider > that this may be a form of simple pandering.
> SYRIA
> Muslim Brotherhood Takes Control of the Syria Opposition
> Reuters reports that Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood, which had been so influential in
> the predecessor organization representing the Syrian opposition, has already taken > over the new opposition council formed in Qatar:
> “In a sign of its strength within the leadership of the opposition, the Brotherhood
> and its allies pushed for the adoption of an internal constitution that allows choosing
> the prime minister and the cabinet with a simple majority, rather than a two-thirds > majority.
> “Since the coalition was set up in Qatar earlier this month with Gulf and Western
> support, the Brotherhood has swiftly assembled a de facto majority bloc, according > to insiders keeping tabs of changes in the membership of the coalition.”
> So much for U.S. efforts to keep Islamists from taking over the Syrian opposition. > One wonders how Hillary Clinton will describe this now.
> Communications Blackout in Syria
> The Weekly Standard’s Lee Smith reports that two technology firms that monitor global
> Internet traffic report that Syria has been cut off from the Internet. Smith was
> told by an opposition leader than regular landline and cell phones have been affected. > All involved suspect the Assad regime. Smith says that
> “Opposition activists and armed rebels have their own communications system, explains
> NOW Lebanon editor in chief Hanin Ghaddar. ‘They have satellite phone with internet
> connectivity, so they can download information, and send videos and messages. However,
> I’m seeing some concern among activists on Facebook that with the main comms system
> offline their separate systems might now be easier to detect and they might be easier
> to find.’ Ordinary Syrians in towns and villages, most of whom don’t have their
> own internet service, but rely on Internet cafes, are virtually cut off from the > rest of the world.”
> CYBER: Can Banks Prevent the Next Cyber Attack?
> Perhaps the most important piece in today’s posting is by Greg MacSweeney of Information
> Week. He reports on the discussions during the recent Bloomberg’s Link Enterprise > Risk Conference.
> Talking about the Iranian-sanctioned Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Cyber Fighters who attacked
> banks in September, “Mike” McConnell of Booz-Allen, former Director of National
> Intelligence (and everywhere taken by the media almost as if he were still a government > spokesman), indicated that
> “Luckily for the global economy, this September’s attacks against the banks, which
> targeted Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo and PNC Bank, did not impact
> some of the industry’s critical shared infrastructure. ‘If the DDoS broke into the
> clearing banks and froze their systems, the global financial markets would freeze,’
> McConnell said, which could cause financial panic, such as a run on banks and wild > swings in the financial markets.
> “The September attack was most likely sanctioned by the Iranian government, according
> to McConnell, which raises the threat level and calls into question what response > other nations should have to these types of attacks.
> Here, McConnell goes beyond anything he, or anyone else, has said before about the
> cyber threat to the U.S. economy. Heretofore, U.S. Administration spokesmen have
> talked almost exclusively about threats to public infrastructure (e.g., electricity > grids, water systems) managed by private firms.
> However, Andy Ozment, the senior director for Cybersecurity on the National Security
> Council staff, is reported to have said at the same event that “private industry, > not the government, is usually the first responder to cyber attacks.”
> Ozment then said that “we are debating the level of government involvement. The
> question is at what point does the federal government get involved. In all cases
> the federal government has to be invited to help by the companies. A lot of firms > are uncomfortable with this, and that is understandable.”
> McConnell also said that
> “taking action against economic cyber espionage, such as the DDoS attacks against
> the banks, can cause other problems. ‘The US does cyber espionage and we are the
> best in the world at it,’ he said. ‘But the US does not do economic espionage.
> We are a free market’ and taking those types of actions has broader implications.”
> Ozment’s and McConnell’s statements, taken together, frame the chief problem in
> U.S. economic cyber security. The private sector is the primary target. Government,
> on the other hand, holds the tools for a proper defense against attacks. The private
> sector is forbidden by law to indulge in cyber espionage and offensive action against
> attackers. The government, at least according to these two men, has to wait for
> private sector invitations to help. This does not mean that the government is
> obliged to help the private sector or that, when it does so, it feels any obligation
> to protect private-sector interests. The way the laws stand, the government has
> to decide what is a threat to “American” interests, where no definition thereof > obtains.
> One begins to wonder if the American administration wishes to remain one of the
> few countries that feel no compulsion to protect private-sector economic activity.
> There is something anomalous about the seeming administration standing on the “free
> market” principle to keep government from working productively with the private
> sector in cyber security while it is opposed to free market principles in allowing > the financial community to regulate and protect itself.
> LATIN AMERICA
> Oil Revenue “Inequality” in Brazil
> Last Monday, November 24, Rio de Janeiro ground to a halt due to protests demanding
> the Dilman Rouseff veto legislation that would redistribute oil revenue to the three
> states in Brazil that produce most of it in favor of spreading it around to the > other 24 states of the country.
> “While the changes are largely about dividing revenue from future production at
> large oil fields lying off the nation’s southeast coast, the three states are outraged
> that the legislation would also take away an estimated six billion Brazilian reais
> ($2.9 billion) a year in revenue coming from oil wells that are already operating.
> Rio officials have warned the move could hinder its ability to host the 2014 World > Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics.”
> This comes from Jeff Fick of the Wall Street Journal.
> Dominican Republic’s Taxing Turn
> Mary O’Grady, also in the Wall Street Journal, reports on the Dominican Republic’s
> steep new taxes. The country’s debt service will take 44% of government revenue > by 2015 despite the taxes:
> “The Santo-Domingo-based Regional Center for Sustainable Economic Strategies (CREES)
> has written a summary on the new tax package that Dominicans, with their annual
> per capita income of $5,500, will have to bear. Some of the lowlights in the report
> include an increase in the 16% value-added tax to 18%, increases in excise taxes
> on gasoline and diesel fuel, and a new tax on CO2 emissions added to the price
> of a new car. The center also reports that taxes on alcoholic beverages, tobacco, > cable television and owning an automobile will go north.
> “Savers and investors will be hit with new taxes on dividends and interest. Salary
> indexation for inflation on individual earnings will be suspended for three years,
> which will push low-income earners into higher tax brackets. To target the informal
> sector there is also a new minimum annual tax of $300 for any business with monthly
> purchases of $1,250 or more. How that will be enforced is not clear. Free-trade > zones will face higher income taxes on domestic sales.”
> Debt issues in most states are extremely discouraging, but this may be the worst. > As O’Grady says
> “Think the deficits are about ‘investing’ in education, necessary roads or bridges?
> Not quite. What’s draining the treasury is debt service, subsidies to the government-owned
> electricity distribution companies, unjustified public-works programs, and a bulbous > public-sector payroll for those beholden to Mr. Fernández as their ‘patrón.'”
> ITEM 1a: Simeon Kerr: Qatari poet jailed for ‘insulting emir’ http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/41246042-3a2f-11e2-a00d-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2DdMZ24C4
> [http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?t=twsgmmlab.0.ohofmmlab.wus7micab.3290&ts=S0849&p=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ft.com%2Fintl%2Fcms%2Fs%2F0%2F41246042-3a2f-11e2-a00d-00144feabdc0.html%23axzz2DdMZ24C4] > November 29, 2012 3:49 pm
> A Qatari poet has been sentenced to life imprisonment after a trial that highlights > the broadening crackdown on dissent across the Gulf, rights groups say.
> Mohammed ibn al-Dheeb al-Ajami, who has been detained in solitary confinement since
> his detention in November 2011, was sentenced by the court of first instance after > being charged with insulting the emir and trying to overthrow the government.
> The ruling, which can be appealed, is the latest in a string of repressive moves
> by Gulf monarchies against domestic critics who dare to challenge the status quo > of loyalty to the region’s absolute rulers.
> “The verdict has sent out shockwaves among activists in Qatar and the Gulf region,”
> said Dina El-Mamoun, researcher with Amnesty International. “It is an outrageous > betrayal of free speech.”
> As well as becoming an increasingly active global investor, Qatar has – home to
> the US military’s regional forward base – played a leading role in promoting change
> in the Middle East since the Arab spring swept away four dictators in the past two > years.
> But rights groups say the gas-rich state is less keen on highlighting abuses in
> Gulf nations or at home. Qatar is coming under increasing scrutiny after its selection > as host for the 2022 football World Cup.
> The poet wrote the widely distributed “Jasmine Poem” in 2011, which criticised Gulf > rulers in the wake of the Tunisian revolution.
> The controversial poem was interpreted as attacking the emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa > Al Thani. “We are all Tunis in the face of the repressive elite,” it read.
> The critique echoes the concerns over development among other opposition movements
> in the richer Gulf states of Qatar and the UAE, where rulers secure loyalty via > cradle-to-grave welfare payments.
> The clampdown on criticism of the region’s ruling families has swept across the
> Gulf monarchies since the Arab spring spread from Tunisia and Egypt in February > 2011, as serious protests rocked Bahrain and Oman.
> Qatar joined Gulf troops that crossed into Bahrain to back the minority Sunni government’s > violent crackdown on the protest movement led by the majority Shia.
> Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates have all launched legal action > against critics of their respective ruling families.
> The move in Doha comes after a UN committee this week called on Qatar to strengthen > its domestic laws and practices to end abuses.
> The UN committee on torture called on Doha to ensure safeguards to prevent torture
> during detention, such as allowing the state-approved national human rights committee
> access to inspect detainees, while also criticising what it described as a lack > of judicial independence in practice.
> The concerns were raised by the UN committee against torture after reviewing Qatar’s
> second periodic report on human rights, which had been submitted to the UN three > years late.
> The UN committee said it “regretted” the lack of information in the case of Sultan
> al-Khalaifi, the founder of a human rights group arrested in March 2011, who was
> detained for a month without charge. The UN committee raised concerns about pieces
> of Qatari legislation that are used to hold suspects without charge, which prevents
> them from gaining access to a lawyer, doctor, as well as the right to notify family
> members and challenge the legality of the detention. Qatar, however, defended its > human rights record.
> “While in Qatar we have the feeling that we have achieved significant attainments
> in a short period of time, we realise however that much more needs to be done,” > the government’s representative said in a response to the UN.
> ITEM 2a: Soeren Kern: Muslims Pressing for Blasphemy Laws in Europe http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/3474/blasphemy-laws-europe
> [http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?t=twsgmmlab.0.phofmmlab.wus7micab.3290&ts=S0849&p=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.gatestoneinstitute.org%2F3474%2Fblasphemy-laws-europe] > November 30, 2012 at 8:00 am
> The Organization of Islamic Cooperation, a bloc of 57 Muslim countries, is pressuring
> Western countries into making it an international crime to criticize Islam or Mohammed > – all on the name of “religious tolerance.”
> The Dutch parliament has approved a motion to revoke a law that makes it a crime > to insult God.
> Free speech activists say the move represents a significant victory at a time when
> Muslim groups are stepping up pressure on European governments to make it a crime > to criticize of Islam or the prophet Mohammed.
> Article 147 of the Dutch Penal Code was drafted in the 1930s and had not been used
> for half a century; leading legislators said there was no longer a need for it.
> The decision to abolish the law follows national elections in September 2012, in
> which two liberal parties (the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) and > the Labour Party (PvdA) emerged victorious.
> The issue was brought to the attention of the Dutch parliament in June 2011, when
> Geert Wilders, a MP who crusades for free-speech, was acquitted after facing trial
> on charges of inciting hatred and discrimination against Muslims. The judge ruled
> that Wilders had the right to criticize Islam, even though his opinions may have > insulted many Muslims.
> Wilders, who leads the Freedom Party, had described Islam as “fascist,” and compared
> Islam’s holy book, the Koran, to Adolf Hitler’s political manifesto “Mein Kampf.”
> Amsterdam judge Marcel van Oosten said Wilders’s statements were directed at Islam,
> not at Muslims, and ruled that the statements were “acceptable within the context > of public debate.”
> Wilders said at the time that the verdict was “not only an acquittal for me, but
> a victory for freedom of expression in the Netherlands.” But many European countries
> still have blasphemy laws which restrict freedom of expression, and in some cases,
> such laws have been replaced with more general legislation that criminalizes religious > hatred.
> The decision to scrap the country’s blasphemy law has been hailed internationally > by activists, who have long called it outdated and a threat to free speech.
> The Venice Commission, the Council of Europe’s advisory body on constitutional matters,
> issued a report about “The Issue of Regulation and Prosecution of Blasphemy, Religious
> Insult, and Incitement to Religious Hatred.” The report noted that, in Europe, blasphemy
> is an offense in Austria, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Italy, Liechtenstein, the Netherlands > and San Marino.
> In addition, “Religious Insult” is a criminal offense in Andorra, Cyprus, Croatia,
> the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Lithuania, > Norway, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain and Switzerland.
> Britain, for example, abolished the common law offences of blasphemy and blasphemous
> libel in England and Wales in 2008. But in 2006 the British government enacted the
> Racial and Religious Hatred Act, which created a new crime of intentionally stirring
> up religious hatred against people on religious grounds. The new law has led to > zealousness bordering on the irrational.
> In Nottingham, for example, the Greenwood Primary School cancelled a Christmas nativity
> play because it interfered with the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha. In Scarborough,
> the Yorkshire Coast College removed the words Christmas and Easter from their calendar
> not to offend Muslims. In Scotland, the Tayside Police Department apologized for
> featuring a German shepherd puppy as part of a campaign to publicize its new non-emergency
> telephone number. As Islamic legal tradition holds that dogs are impure, the postcards
> used in the campaign were potentially offensive to the city’s 3,000-strong Muslim > community;
> In Glasgow, a Christian radio talk show host was fired after a debate between a
> Muslim and a Christian on whether Jesus is “the way, the truth and the life.” In
> Birmingham, two Christians were told by police “you cannot preach here, this is
> a Muslim area.” In Cheshire, two students at the Alsager High School were punished
> by their teacher for refusing to pray to Allah as part of their religious education
> class. Also in Cheshire, a 14-year-old Roman Catholic girl who attends Ellesmere
> Port Catholic High School was branded a truant by teachers for refusing to dress > like a Muslim and visit a mosque.
> In Liverpool, a Christian couple was forced to sell their hotel after a female Muslim
> guest accused the pair of insulting her during a debate about Islam. In London,
> Rory Bremner, a political comedian, said that every time he writes a sketch about
> Islam, he fears that he is signing his own death warrant. At the same time, Scotland
> Yard says that Muslims who launch a shoe at another person are not committing a > crime because the practice is Islamic symbolism.
> In recent months, however, Muslims have been lobbying to reinstate blasphemy laws
> in Britain. A petition reportedly sent to British Prime Minister David Cameron reads:
> “It is axiomatic that Great Britain is a key player in global harmony. British parliamentarians
> have made outstanding progress in eradicating racism, anti-Semitism, discrimination,
> inequalities and other factors causing hurt to all citizens. The trust and hope
> of millions of British Muslims is placed in yourselves as representatives and Members
> of Parliament to call for changes in the law to protect the honor of Faith Symbols > of Islam and other faiths.”
> In February 2012, it emerged that a Muslim activist group with links to the Muslim
> Brotherhood had asked the British government to restrict the way the British media > reports about Muslims and Islam.
> More recently, a Muslim lobbying group called ENGAGE launched an exhibition and
> a month-long campaign “Islamophobia Awareness Month,” highlighting the spread of
> “Islamophobia” in Britain. The exhibition was held in the British Parliament and
> ENGAGE activists pressed Members of Parliament to strengthen the existing religious > hatred law to provide more protections for Muslims.
> In Ireland, a new blasphemy law went into effect in January 2010. The Irish Defamation
> Act, which created the crime of blasphemous libel, makes “publication or utterance > of blasphemous matter” punishable by a fine of up to ?25,000 ($32,500).
> According to the Irish Times, Ireland’s blasphemy law is being cited by Islamic
> states “as justification” for persecuting religious dissidents. Pakistan, for example,
> has cited the Irish statute at the United Nations to support its own blasphemy laws.
> In Denmark, blasphemy is outlawed by Paragraph 140 of the penal code, which states:
> “Anyone who publicly mocks or insults the tenets of faith or worship of any religious
> community existing in this country legally will be punished by fine or imprisonment
> for up to four months.” The law has not been used since 1938. Measures were proposed
> in 2004 to abolish the blasphemy article, but the proposals were not adopted and > the law remains on the books.
> The rules against hate speech and racism are set down in the infamous Paragraph
> 266b of the Danish penal code, which states: “Whoever publicly, or with intention
> to disseminating in a larger circle makes statements or other pronouncements, by
> which a group of persons is threatened, derided or degraded because of their race,
> color of skin, national or ethnic background, faith or sexual orientation, will > be punished by fine or imprisonment for up to two years.”
> Free speech advocate Lars Hedegaard was prosecuted under this statute for remarks
> made to a blogger in December 2009 criticizing Islam. He was finally acquitted by
> the Danish Supreme Court in April 2012, which ruled that it could not be proven > that he intended the statements to be published.
> Also in Denmark, Jesper Langballe, a Danish politician and Member of Parliament,
> was found guilty of hate speech in December 2010 for saying that honor killings > and sexual abuse take place in Muslim families.
> Langballe was denied the opportunity to prove his assertions: under Danish law,
> it is immaterial whether a statement is true or false. All that is needed for a
> conviction is for someone to feel offended. Langballe was summarily sentenced to > pay a fine of 5,000 Danish Kroner ($850) or spend ten days in jail.
> In Finland, blasphemy is covered by Section 10 of Chapter 17 of the Criminal Code.
> In March 2009, Jussi Kristian Halla-aho, a politician and well-known political commentator,
> was taken to court on charges of “incitement against an ethnic group” and “breach
> of the sanctity of religion” for saying that Islam is a religion of pedophilia.
> A Helsinki court later dropped the charges of blasphemy but ordered Halla-aho to
> pay a fine of ?330 ($450) for disturbing religious worship. The Finnish public
> prosecutor, incensed at the court’s dismissal of the blasphemy charges, appealed
> the case to the Finnish Supreme Court. In June 2012 the Supreme Court found Halla-aho > guilty of both disturbing religious worship and ethnic agitation.
> In Germany, blasphemy is covered by Chapter 11, Article 166 of the German Criminal
> Code (Strafgesetzbuch), which states: “Whoever publicly or by dissemination of writings
> defames, in a manner suitable to disturb the public peace, the substance of the
> religious or world view conviction of others, shall be fined or imprisoned for up > to three years.”
> In February 2006, a German political activist named Manfred van H. received a one
> year suspended jail sentence and 300 hours of community service for breaching Article
> 166. He had had rolls of toilet paper with the words “Koran, the Holy Koran” printed
> on them and distributed to mosques and media outlets. This followed the London bombings
> in July 2005 and Manfred claimed his motives were “to find out who is on whose side > in today’s Germany.”
> In Austria, where the government of Saudi Arabia has officially opened the King
> Abdullah International Center for Inter-Religious and Inter-Cultural Dialogue (KAICIID)
> to “foster dialogue” between the world’s major religions in order to “prevent conflict,”
> critics say that KAICIID’s work will parallel long-standing efforts by the Organization
> of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), a bloc of 57 Muslim countries, to pressure Western
> countries into making it an international crime to criticize Islam or Mohammed > — all in the name of “religious tolerance.”
> This was effectively confirmed by the Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic
> Cooperation (OIC), Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, who spoke at the inauguration ceremony
> of KAICIID in downtown Vienna on November 26. Ihsanoglu declared: “Islamophobia
> leads to hate crimes and as such, it generates fear, feelings of stigmatization,
> marginalization, alienation and rejection. The West must define hate crimes broadly
> and address the information deficit as well as enact adequate legislation and implement
> this legislation effectively. In conjunction with national legislation, they should > also implement international commitments and agreed norms.”
> ITEM 3a: INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ISLAMIC THOUGHT: IIIT Sponsored Forum at the
> United Nations on Zakat’s Potential Role in Accelerating Global Development http://www.iiit.org/NewsEvents/News/tabid/62/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/281/Default.aspx
> [http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?t=twsgmmlab.0.qhofmmlab.wus7micab.3290&ts=S0849&p=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.iiit.org%2FNewsEvents%2FNews%2Ftabid%2F62%2FarticleType%2FArticleView%2FarticleId%2F281%2FDefault.aspx] > Wednesday, November 21, 2012
> On November 16th, The International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT) sponsored
> a forum at the United Nations brining together international development leaders
> and experts to look at the importance of Zakat in advancing the global UN development
> agenda at a forum titled “Linking Muslim Giving to the MDGs”. The forum was co-hosted
> at the United Nations by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), The World > Congress of Muslim Philanthropists, and the UN Millennium Campaign.
> “While some countries have made impressive gains in achieving Millennium Development
> Goals (MDGs), others are falling behind. The Muslim world is no exception. Faith
> emphasizes building communities, sharing wealth and upholding the rights of the
> poor and marginalized. Faith-based giving such as Zakat which amounts to billions
> of dollars needs to be spent in more strategic and effective ways to accelerate
> development in OIC member countries” stated Ambassador Ufuk Gokcen, the permanent > observer of OIC at the United Nations, in his address.
> Speakers from UNDP, International Institute of Islamic Thought, Islamic Relief USA,
> and Kimse Yok Mu shed light on the role of faith based giving in improving lives
> and shared real examples from around the world of successful partnerships between
> faith based organizations and development agencies. Ms. Corinne Woods, the director
> of UN Millennium Campaign, Mr. Anir Dossal, the Chairman of Global Partnerships
> Forum, and Dr. Imtiaz Khan, the Chairman of Board of Directors of WCMP also addressed > the forum.
> Dr. M. Yaqub Mirza, representing IIIT, addressed the forum and presented an overview
> of the significance of zakat in Islam, a presentation that incorporates the years
> of experience and research by Dr. Mirza and IIIT in applying this key pillar of
> Islam within the modern global context. “Zakat is a unique pillar in that it requires
> you go out and touch someone else. We need to be involved in the community and
> know who is deserving zakat”, mentioned Dr. Mirza highlighting the aspect of zakat
> that relates to “making people self-supporting and able to stand on their own feet.”
> These practical faith-based practices are exactly what is needed to turn the MDG > into a lived reality.
> World Zakat Organization (WZO), an OIC affiliate project was also showcased at the
> forum. The main focus of WZO activity will be eradication of poverty among the poor
> and needy on permanent basis through developing sustainable projects in the area
> of food security, human resource development in particular skill training and small > and medium enterprises financing programs.
> “This event is an effort in this direction. We need to examine the potential of
> Zakat, tailor out a development strategy in the context of local realities, and
> identify right regional and international partners, said Dr. Tariq H. Cheema, the > CEO of the World Congress of Muslim Philanthropists.
> Soeren Kern is a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute. He is
> also Senior Fellow for European Politics at the Madrid-based Grupo de Estudios Estratégicos > / Strategic Studies Group. Follow him on Facebook.
> ITEM 4a: Reuters: Syria opposition government nears, Brotherhood flexes muscle
> http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/sns-rt-us-syria-crisis-oppositionbre8as122-20121129,0,923202.story
> [http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?t=twsgmmlab.0.rhofmmlab.wus7micab.3290&ts=S0849&p=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.chicagotribune.com%2Fnews%2Fsns-rt-us-syria-crisis-oppositionbre8as122-20121129%2C0%2C923202.story] > 3:38 p.m. CST, November 29, 2012
> CAIRO (Reuters) – The Syrian opposition made progress on Thursday toward forming
> a transitional government at the first meeting of their new coalition in Cairo
> and the Muslim Brotherhood emerged as an overwhelmingly powerful kingmaker, delegates > said.
> In a sign of its strength within the leadership of the opposition, the Brotherhood
> and its allies pushed for the adoption of an internal constitution that allows choosing
> the prime minister and the cabinet with a simple majority, rather than a two-thirds > majority.
> Since the coalition was set up in Qatar earlier this month with Gulf and Western
> support, the Brotherhood has swiftly assembled a de facto majority bloc, according > to insiders keeping tabs of changes in the membership of the coalition.
> The meeting in a luxury Cairo hotel, now in its second day, was held behind closed > doors.
> “It looks like the internal constitution will be pushed through without any real
> discussion. The Brotherhood has Qatar behind it and they are getting what they > want,” one delegate said on condition of anonymity.
> The formation of a transitional government could encourage greater Western backing
> for the 20-month revolt against four decades of autocratic rule by Assad and his > later father, President Hafez al-Assad.
> The bloody repression of an armed Islamist uprising against the elder Assad’s rule
> in the 1980s killed many thousands of Brotherhood followers, as well as leftists, > and forced many Syrians to leave the country.
> Membership of the Brotherhood became punishable by death and the movement was decimated,
> to the point that the Brotherhood announced in 2009 that it was ‘suspending’ opposition > to Assad.
> The revolt in March last year revived the Brotherhood’s fortunes and opened more > sources of financing for the organisation from exiled conservative Syrians.
> But independent delegates at the Cairo meeting said the process by which a transitional
> government is being pushed through does not bode well for a democratic future for > Syria.
> “The West is sending a signal that it is ready to accept the Brotherhood as the
> only guarantee of stability other than Assad. It has not learnt from what happened
> in Egypt. I am afraid Syria will become like Iran, rather than a democracy,” said > one of them, speaking on condition of anonymity.
> INTERNATIONAL SUPPORT
> France, Britain, Turkey and Gulf Arab states have already recognized the coalition
> as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people. The United States has been > more cautious.
> U.S. ambassador to Syria Robert Ford said on Thursday Washington “strongly, strongly,
> strongly” supports efforts to develop the coalition. “We would like to see them
> continue to develop as an organisation, as a coalition. They are making real progress
> and I expect that our position with them will evolve as they themselves develop,” > he said in Washington.
> Conspicuously absent from the Cairo discussions was Sheikh Moaz al-Khatib, the coalition’s
> president, a popular Damascene preacher who is increasingly seen as a religious
> figurehead who is respected inside Syria and an interlocutor with outside powers, > rather than a hands-on leader.
> Aware they could quickly lose credibility with rebels and opposition activists inside
> Syria, the 60 delegates postponed possibly divisive discussions on the final membership
> of the coalition and began talks on an internal constitution as a first step toward > forming a transitional government.
> Liaison between the coalition and rebels has been assigned to former Prime Minister
> Riad Hijab, the highest ranking official to defect since the revolt, coalition sources > said.
> Hijab, a lifelong apparatchik in Assad’s Baath Party before his defection, is also
> being touted as a possible prime minister but his history in Assad’s Baath Party > could exclude him.
> Rima Fleihan, one of a handful of minorities in the coalition, said the government > will be small at first, perhaps with four to five members.
> Fleihan said the coalition will make it clear that any government it appoints will
> reject any deal to negotiate a transitional period in Syria unless Assad steps down,
> a condition not included in international proposals to solve the crisis that has > cost tens of thousands of lives.
> “The coalition will have nothing to do with any political process that includes
> talks with the regime, keeps Assad and his security apparatus and does not hold > him and his cohorts accountable for 50,000 Syrians dead,” she said.
> Fleihan, from Syria’s Druze community, had previously resigned from the Syrian National
> Council (SNC), the first major opposition grouping formed in Istanbul last year > that became dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood.
> The SNC won scant international support. A Western and Gulf backed effort produced > the new coalition earlier this month.
> The coalition is holding its first full meeting in Cairo ahead of a conference of
> the Friends of Syria, a grouping of dozens of nations that had pledged mostly non-military
> backing for the revolt but who are worried by the influence of Islamists in the > opposition.
> Assad, who belongs to the minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi’ite Islam that
> has dominated power in Syria since the 1960s, has painted the opposition as Sunni
> extremists and al Qaeda followers and presented himself as the last guarantor for > an undivided Syria.
> Sources at the meeting said the coalition could eventually raise its membership
> from around 60 to 80 to include more minorities and Sunni figures who were overlooked.
> But Michel Kilo, a veteran Christian opposition campaigner and a member of the coalition
> has not attended the Cairo meeting. The main Kurdish political bloc, the Kurdish > National Council, has also refused to join.
> ITEM 5a: Lee Smith: Communications Blackout in Syria. Internet, landlines, and cell
> phones are affected. http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/communications-blackout-syria_664191.html
> [http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?t=twsgmmlab.0.shofmmlab.wus7micab.3290&ts=S0849&p=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.weeklystandard.com%2Fblogs%2Fcommunications-blackout-syria_664191.html] > 2:00 PM, NOV 29, 2012
> Two technology firms that monitor global Internet traffic report that Syria has
> been cut off from the Internet. Regular landline phone and cell phones services
> have been affected as well, Syrian opposition activist Ammar Abdulhamid told me.
> “Therefore, the possibility of accidental damage can be discounted,” said Abdulhamid.
> “This is something done intentionally by the regime, and reflects growing desperation > on account of the recent advances made by rebels, especially in Damascus.”
> The communications blackout may signal that the 20-month-long uprising against Bashar
> al-Assad has moved to a new and even more violent stage, in what some are calling
> the battle for Damascus. “With Assad forces now conducting major operations in Damascus,”
> says Abdulhamid, “they will cover it up as much as possible and create their own > version of the truth.”
> Opposition activists and armed rebels have their own communications system, explains
> NOW Lebanon editor in chief Hanin Ghaddar. “They have satellite phone with internet
> connectivity, so they can download information, and send videos and messages. However,
> I’m seeing some concern among activists on Facebook that with the main comms system
> offline their separate systems might now be easier to detect and they might be easier > to find.”
> Ordinary Syrians in towns and villages, most of whom don’t have their own internet
> service, but rely on Internet cafes, are virtually cut off from the rest of the
> world. The worry, says Ghaddar, is “that cutting off the internet is an indication
> that the regime is planning something like a huge massacre.” A recent YouTube video
> taken of Aleppo after an air attack shows much of the city in ruins and evidence
> of large-scale civilian casualties, which activists fear is merely a prelude of > what is yet to come.
> Assad’s desperation, said Abdulhamid, is a product of the rebels’ recent advances.
> “In the last two weeks, the regime has lost six air bases around Damascus and Aleppo,”
> Abdulhamid said. “The rebels might not be able to hold all those bases, but they’ve
> lifted arms from those bases, including the surface to air missiles with which they’ve > brought down 9 aircraft in the last two days-5 MiGs, 4 helicopter gunships.”
> In effect, the opposition has begun to carve out a small no-fly zone of its own. > “The rebels,” says Abulhamid, “are quietly laying siege to Damascus.”
> Opposition activists anticipate that battle for Damascus is about to begin. Assad
> forces have been recalled from the provinces, in order to protect regime holdings
> in the Syrian capital, including the presidential palace. Much of the fighting is
> reportedly taking place on the main road to the Damascus airport. Emirates airline > has suspended flights into Damascus, and so has Egypt Air.
> In the meantime, the Obama administration is contemplating taking stronger action
> against Assad. After sitting on the sidelines during the course of the uprising,
> in spite of American allies like Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and most recently
> British prime minister David Cameron urging the White House to take the lead, Obama > has demurred.
> “The administration has figured out that if they don’t start doing something, the
> war will be over and they won’t have any influence over the combat forces on the
> ground,” Jeffrey White of the Washington Institute told the New York Times. “They
> may have some influence with various political groups and factions, but they won’t
> have influence with the fighters, and the fighters will control the territory.”
> If the battle for Damascus is indeed underway, the White House may have already > forfeited its ability to shape a post-Assad Syria.
> ITEM 6a: Greg MacSweeney: Can Banks Prevent the Next Cyber Attack? http://www.informationweek.com/quickview/can-banks-prevent-the-next-cyber-attack/2047?wc=4
> [http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?t=twsgmmlab.0.thofmmlab.wus7micab.3290&ts=S0849&p=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.informationweek.com%2Fquickview%2Fcan-banks-prevent-the-next-cyber-attack%2F2047%3Fwc%3D4] > -Thanks to David Hamon-
> November 29, 2012
> Normally, if enterprise IT security professionals know about a potential threat > in advance, they can take steps to mitigate or prevent the damage.
> However, when the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Cyber Fighters telegraphed their pending
> action against major US financial institutions in September, banks were not able
> to stop the distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, resulting in some disruptions
> to banking websites and the ability for customers to access information and complete > transactions.
> “The attack in September was probably the largest DDoS attacks in history,” said
> John M. “Mike” McConnell, the former Director of National Intelligence (DNI) and
> current vice chairman of Booz Allen Hamilton at the Bloomberg Link Enterprise Risk > Conference. “The interesting thing is they announced it in advance.”
> While it was alarming that the DDoS was not able to be prevented, often these types
> of actions are used to by hackers to gather information and expose vulnerabilities.
> During the panel session “When State-Based, State Sponsored Actors Target Financial
> Institutions,” participants said the DDoS was likely also an attempt to gather information > and expose gaps in the banks’ security perimeters.
> [For more recent analysis of the DDoS attacks that hit banks in September, read
> Bank DDoS Strikes Could Presage Armageddon Attacks http://www.informationweek.com/security/cybercrime/bank-ddos-strikes-could-presage-armagedd/240142631?itc=edit_in_body_cross
> [http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?t=twsgmmlab.0.whofmmlab.wus7micab.3290&ts=S0849&p=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.informationweek.com%2Fsecurity%2Fcybercrime%2Fbank-ddos-strikes-could-presage-armagedd%2F240142631%3Fitc%3Dedit_in_body_cross] > .]
> “DDoS attacks are battering rams on the front door,” said Carl W. Herberger, vice
> president, security solutions, Americas at Radware. “Once you break down the front
> door, and the associated security devices, an attacker can have free reign inside
> the organization.” For instance, the 2011 Sony data breach started as a DDoS, but
> “eventually resulted in the leakage of usernames, passwords and credit card information,” > Herberger added.
> Luckily for the global economy, this September’s attacks against the banks, which
> targeted Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo and PNC Bank, did not impact
> some of the industry’s critical shared infrastructure. “If the DDoS broke into the
> clearing banks and froze their systems, the global financial markets would freeze,”
> McConnell said, which could cause financial panic, such as a run on banks and wild > swings in the financial markets.
> The September attack was most likely sanctioned by the Iranian government, according
> to McConnell, which raises the threat level and calls into question what response
> other nations should have to these types of attacks. Comparing a cyber attack to
> a natural disaster, Andy Ozment, senior director for Cybersecurity, National Security
> Staff, The White House, said that private industry, not the government, is usually > the first responder to cyber attacks.
> “We are debating the level of government involvement,” Ozment said. “The question
> is at what point does the federal government get involved. In all cases the federal
> government has to be invited to help by the companies. A lot of firms are uncomfortable > with this, and that is understandable.”
> However, now that other nations are targeting the US and private industry, other
> panelists questioned if the US government should take a more proactive approach.
> For instance, argued Dimitri Alperovitch, co-founder and CTO of CrowdStrike, if
> Iran was to blockade shipping lanes and impede commerce, diplomatic followed by > military action would be realistic options.
> “I don’t see that the government is understanding what the severity of these threats
> are,” Alperovitch said. “If we don’t respond with a message of deterrence, this
> will continue. It may take the adversary 10 tries and we may block 9 of them. But > on the tenth try, they might succeed.”
> McConnell, who served in the intelligence community under four presidents, warns
> that taking action against economic cyber espionage, such as the DDoS attacks against
> the banks, can cause other problems. “The US does cyber espionage and we are the
> best in the world at it,” he said. “But the US does not do economic espionage.
> We are a free market” and taking those types of actions has broader implications.
> “The US certainly has the ability to break in and destroy” all types of systems
> and data, McConnell added. “I have been in lots of policy discussions about this.
> But if you go on the offense, what are the secondary and tertiary effects. The US > is more dependent on technology than anyone else in the world.
> That’s the policy dilemma. We are relying on technology, but we are far more vulnerable” > than many of our adversaries.
> ITEM 7a: Jeff Fick: Rio de Janeiro Raises Pressure Over Oil Revenue http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324469304578143350126726548.html?mod=WSJ_World_LEFTSecondNews
> [http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?t=twsgmmlab.0.uhofmmlab.wus7micab.3290&ts=S0849&p=http%3A%2F%2Fonline.wsj.com%2Farticle%2FSB10001424127887324469304578143350126726548.html%3Fmod%3DWSJ_World_LEFTSecondNews] > Updated November 26, 2012, 4:55 p.m. ET
> RIO DE JANEIRO-The city of Rio de Janeiro ground to a halt Monday afternoon as thousands
> of protesters marched through its downtown demanding President Dilma Rousseff veto
> legislation that would result in three Brazilian states losing out on billions of > dollars in revenue from oil production.
> Most of Brazil’s oil and natural gas is produced in the states of Rio de Janeiro,
> São Paulo and Espírito Santo. They face a struggle to overturn the bill recently
> passed in Congress, as they are heavily outnumbered by the other 24 states that > stand to gain from a redistribution of oil royalties.
> While the changes are largely about dividing revenue from future production at large
> oil fields lying off the nation’s southeast coast, the three states are outraged
> that the legislation would also take away an estimated six billion Brazilian reais
> ($2.9 billion) a year in revenue coming from oil wells that are already operating.
> Rio officials have warned the move could hinder its ability to host the 2014 World > Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics.
> Brazil’s president has until Friday to decide whether to sign the legislation as
> sent by Congress, make changes or veto it outright. Hanging in the balance is the
> threat of lawsuits by the energy-producing states that could further delay oil-industry > development.
> Protesters fill the street Monday while holding signs during a demonstration in
> Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Tens of thousands of residents in Rio de Janeiro attended
> a rally urging Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff to veto an oil royalties law that > the state’s governor claimed will derail the 2016 Olympics.
> Despite cloudy skies that threatened rain, the colorful event took on the character
> of one of the city’s famed Carnival street parades, with protesters waving flags
> and banners. Drum corps from several of the city’s samba schools thumped rhythmically
> and large trucks packed with speakers-known as “trios eletricos”-blasted music as > they inched through Rio’s crowded downtown business district.
> Organizers expected about 100,000 people to show up. State and city governments
> in Rio and Espírito Santo arranged free rail, road and ferry transportation for > people to travel to the rally.
> At a rally in 2011, some 150,000 people showed up to protest similar legislation.
> Former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva vetoed the proposed law then, just days
> before he left office, because it would interfere with the existing oil revenue.
> For the president, the desire to drive the oil industry may outweigh the outcry
> over royalties, said Christopher Garman, a political analyst at Eurasia Group. “Our
> sense is that the government doesn’t want to run the risk of delaying new bid rounds, > so [President Rousseff] will probably approve the bill,” Mr. Garman said.
> Alternatively, the president might try to sidestep the dispute by using a new education
> plan to channel the funds, a person familiar with the president’s thinking said.
> The government would seek to include a provision in the legislation that would > claim all royalties revenue to finance education.
> “We’re trying to figure out a way to deal with it and re-establish the president’s
> goals,” the person said. “What she has indicated is that the new national plan for > education might be a good way to readdress and re-establish the proposal.” > A spokesman for the president declined to comment.
> With a re-election campaign expected to heat up in the second half of next year.
> Ms. Rousseff may opt to seek other ways to compensate oil-producing states. The
> debate cuts across party lines that could disrupt delicate alliances within the
> ruling coalition formed by Ms. Rousseff’s Workers’ Party. Congress may even opt > to overturn an eventual veto.
> “We trust that the president will veto the bill,” Espírito Santo Gov. Renato Casagrande
> told the O Globo newspaper. “If Congress overturns the president’s veto, then there > could be a debate over compensation.”
> Mr. Casagrande of the Brazilian Socialist Party and Rio de Janeiro Gov. Sergio Cabral
> of the Democratic Movement Party both represent large parties in the coalition that
> could be key to Ms. Rousseff’s re-election bid in 2014. Both governors were expected
> later Monday to speak at the event-where they will be joined by officials from the
> São Paulo state government-of the opposition Brazilian Social Democratic Party, > or PSDB.
> The protest was a sign of the “strong unity” among Rio de Janeiro state political
> leaders, the private sector and citizens against the change, Mr. Cabral said last
> week. “I believe that President [Rousseff] is going to veto the bill,” he added.
> ITEM 8a: Mary O’Grady: The Dominican Republic’s Taxing Turn. Servicing its debt
> will take 44% of government revenue by 2015, despite steep new taxes. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323713104578136991656612384.html
> [http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?t=twsgmmlab.0.vhofmmlab.wus7micab.3290&ts=S0849&p=http%3A%2F%2Fonline.wsj.com%2Farticle%2FSB10001424127887323713104578136991656612384.html] > November 25, 2012, 4:32 p.m. ET
> If Democrats had done better in the House on Nov. 6, President Obama might not have
> to negotiate with Republicans to avoid going over the fiscal cliff. Instead he could
> simply send his tax increases on “the rich” to Congress where they probably would > be approved, without debate, in a matter of days.
> That sounds good to pundits who bemoan gridlock. And when higher taxes from the
> 2% didn’t curb ballooning deficits, the president could ask Congress to target the > earnings of even greater numbers of middle-income Americans.
> Welcome to the Dominican Republic, which has seen nine “reforms” featuring either
> new taxes or increases since 2000. The new revenues have never been enough to close
> a growing hole in the fisc. And so this month President Danilo Medina, using his
> majorities in the House and the Senate, has rammed through steep tax increases > on savers, consumers and producers.
> Mr. Medina has only been in office since August. But his Dominican Liberation Party
> has held the presidency for 12 of the past 16 years, with former PLD President and
> party boss Leonel Fernández at the helm. Mr. Fernández is a career politician who,
> judging from his record, believes that the more people the party bosses have working > for the state, and depending on it, the more successful his party will be.
> The Santo-Domingo-based Regional Center for Sustainable Economic Strategies (CREES)
> has written a summary on the new tax package that Dominicans, with their annual
> per capita income of $5,500, will have to bear. Some of the lowlights in the report
> include an increase in the 16% value-added tax to 18%, increases in excise taxes
> on gasoline and diesel fuel, and a new tax on CO2 emissions added to the price
> of a new car. The center also reports that taxes on alcoholic beverages, tobacco, > cable television and owning an automobile will go north.
> Savers and investors will be hit with new taxes on dividends and interest. Salary
> indexation for inflation on individual earnings will be suspended for three years,
> which will push low-income earners into higher tax brackets. To target the informal
> sector there is also a new minimum annual tax of $300 for any business with monthly
> purchases of $1,250 or more. How that will be enforced is not clear. Free-trade > zones will face higher income taxes on domestic sales.
> The new taxes are supposed to produce additional annual government revenue of $1.15
> billion, though that seems optimistic. CREES expects something on the order of $800
> million in the first year and a decline thereafter as Dominicans adjust behavior > in response to higher taxes.
> In the meantime, the cost of government is soaring. CREES says government debt (excluding
> central bank debt and the debt of the state-owned commercial bank) increased to
> $16.6 billion at the end of 2011 from $6.6 billion at the end of 2004. That’s a > 152% bump over seven years.
> CREES forecasts that even if the new additional annual revenue reaches $800 million,
> the cost of servicing that debt will amount to 44% of total government revenue by
> 2015, well over the 30% maximum required for sustainability. By the end of this
> year, interest payments by the treasury are forecast to be up 269% in dollar terms
> from 2004. According to CREES estimates, after the tax increases, interest payments
> will reach 30% of total revenue by 2016, significantly more than the 15% typically > used to measure sustainability.
> Think the deficits are about “investing” in education, necessary roads or bridges?
> Not quite. What’s draining the treasury is debt service, subsidies to the government-owned
> electricity distribution companies, unjustified public-works programs, and a bulbous > public-sector payroll for those beholden to Mr. Fernández as their “patrón.”
> Consider these facts: CREES says government spending on personnel in 2011, in dollar
> terms, was up 262% from 2004. Separately, transfer payments to fund public entities
> was up 608% in dollar terms over the same period. Public works spending is up 288%.
> CREES estimates that while government revenue will be up 167% in dollar terms for > the period 2004-2012, spending will have increased 234% over the same period.
> Perhaps not coincidentally, the Dominican Republic now leads the world in important
> corruption measures. Out of 144 countries in the World Economic Forum’s 2012-2013
> Global Competitiveness Index, the DR is 142nd in “diversion of public funds” and
> at the very bottom-144th-in “favoritism in decisions by government officials” and > in “wastefulness of government spending.”
> Perhaps no single institution captures the bureaucratic bingeing on taxpayer dollars
> quite like the country’s Foreign Service. According to DR journalist Juan Bolívar
> Díaz, writing on Jan. 22 at the website Hoy, the Foreign Service has “660 diplomats
> and 503 consular-level personnel” around the world, “many of whom are the product
> of political clientism and nepotism.” The DR diplomatic corps dwarfs that of many > much larger countries.
> Mr. Fernandez, who had to step down after two consecutive terms, will be permitted
> to run again in 2016 and probably will. If so, his populist, political-patronage
> model is expected to take him to victory. But at some point he will have to pay
> for it all. With almost 60% of the economy now “underground,” he may find that > increasingly difficult, even if he does control Congress.
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