Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Muslim Swiss Youth Must Shake Teacher's Hand; Families of Kids Refusing to Do So Face $5K Fine

In Switzerland, the humble handshake between a teacher and children at the beginning and end of the school day -- a tradition throughout much of the country -- has become a battleground in a public debate about religious freedom and sexual equality, the Washington Post website reports today (May 25, 2016). 

Now, one Swiss canton has added a financial element to the controversy, warning families of children who refuse to shake hands with their teachers that they would face a fine of up to $5,000.

In April, two students at a school in the town of Therwil, near Basel, had requested an exemption from shaking a teacher's hand. The two teenagers -- brothers from a Syrian family -- had suggested that shaking a woman's hand went against Islamic teachings. In a compromise, the local school district ruled that the two children would not have to shake any teacher's hand, whether male or female.

However, the regional education authorities in the Basel-Country Canton released a statement today that reversed the school district's decision. The schoolchildren would be required to shake the hand of their teacher, the statement said, or their guardians would be fined up to $5,000.

Blair: Defeating IS Needs a "Proper Ground War;" Former British PM Says Airstrikes Alone Will Fail

Former British prime minister Tony Blair said yesterday that the Islamic State (IS) group will be defeated only with a ground war involving Western troops, the Times of Israel website reports today (May 25, 2016).

Blair said airstrikes alone wouldn't defeat the militants.

He asserted, "Instead, you are going to have to go and wage a proper ground war against them," with British, American and other Western troops playing a supporting role.

"The armed forces of America, the UK, France, other major countries have both experience and capability so even if we are using them in support of local forces, you have just got to decide what our objective is," Blair stated at a discussion on foreign affairs in London. "Is our objective to defeat this enemy? My answer to that is yes."

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Greece Buses Thousands of Idomeni Refugees; Most Being Exiled South to State-Run Centers

Bulldozers and hundreds of riot police moved into the Idomeni refugee camp in northern Greece at dawn today (May 24, 2016), ordering residents to leave, according to the Euro News website.

At least 8,000 people have been stuck at the site since March after the Greek-Macedonian border was closed.

Despite terrible living conditions, many of the migrants and refugees in the camp had previously resisted attempts by Greece's government to get them to leave. Most have now been bused to state-run centers further south.

At its peak in February, more than 12,000 people were stranded in the Idomeni camp, having been prevented from continuing their journey further north, due to fences that were built along Greece's border.

Christian Population in England, Wales Skidding; People Having No Religion Outnumber Christians

A new analysis shows that the number of people who say they have no religion is rapidly escalating and significantly outweighs the Christian population in England and Wales, The Guardian website reports today (May 24, 2016).

The proportion of the population who identify as having no religion -- referred to as "nones" -- reached 48.5 percent in 2014, almost double the figure of 25 percent in the 2011 census. Those who define themselves as Christians -- Anglicans, Catholics, and other denominations -- made up 43.8 percent of the population.

"The striking thing is the clear sense of the growth of 'no religion' as a proportion of the population," said Stephen Bullivant, senior lecturer in theology and ethics at St. Mary's Catholic University in Twickenham, England, who analyzed data collected through British Social Attitudes surveys over three decades.

He added, "The main driver is people who were brought up with some religion now saying they have no religion... The reason for that is the big question in the sociology of religion."

Monday, May 23, 2016

IS Executes Its Worst Leaders with Attack Dogs; Does So to Intimidate Its Soldiers to Obedience

Being enraged by its recent loss of territory to Kurdish and Iraqi forces, the Islamic State (IS) decided to take savage punitive action against several of its own leaders by using attack dogs to execute them, the Clarion Project website reports today (May 23, 2016).

IS found several of its leaders guilty of failing to carry out their duties, so it tied them to trees and set mad dogs on them. The dogs mauled them to death.

Hasan Khala Hasan -- a Peshmerga (Kurdish Army) commander on the front line -- reported the news. He said IS uses a variety of ultraviolet tactics to intimidate its soldiers into obedience.

"IS uses any members who are thought to be of no use, for the organization to frighten other members," Dier Ahmed, a Kurdish sociologist said.

Over 100 Killed as 7 Bombs Hit Two Syrian Cities; ISIS Claims It Attacked the Cities of Jableh,Tartus

At least 101 people were killed today (May 23, 2016) in two Syrian regime bastions in a spate of bombings claimed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) jihadist group, according to the Times of Israel website.

Fifty-three people were killed in the city of Jableh and another 48 died in Tartus further south, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group.

Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said they were "without a doubt the deadliest attacks" on the two cities since Syria's civil war erupted in March 2011.

Seven bombs -- most of them suicide attacks -- hit Jableh and Tartus almost simultaneously this morning.

45% of Netherlands Babies Have Unwed Parents; Over 95% Born before 1980 Had Married Parents

The latest figures from Statistics Netherlands show that nearly 45 percent of babies in the Netherlands are born to unmarried parents -- continuing a trend that began in the 1990s -- the Dutch News website reports today (May 23, 2016).

The proportion for first-born babies is even higher, with 52 percent born to parents who are unmarried and have no registered partnership.

Before the 1980s more than 95 percent of children were born to parents who were married or registered as partners.

By 2000 the proportion had dropped to 75 percent and in 2008 it fell to less than six in 10.