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Saturday Papers – 12th December 2015

ISIS and Libya

The Telegraph leads with Britain ‘moving towards military action against Isil in Libya’

Britain could launch military action in Libya next, Government sources have said amid fears that Islamic State militants will use their new stronghold along a stretch of the Mediterranean coast to target Europe. Ministers at the Foreign Office and Ministry of Defence say they are “extremely concerned” by the rapid rise of Isil and other extremist groups in Libya and are considering plans for intervening to tackle the threat.

A Government source said ministers were “moving in the direction” of a plan to send military support alongside European allies to defeat Isil in Libya. The French Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, on Friday called for international efforts to crush the Islamic State jihadists to extend to the north African country. “We are at war, we have an enemy, that we must fight and crush in Syria, in Iraq and soon in Libya too,” he said.

France has been sending spy planes over Libya to assess the scale of the threat posed from the country, which has fallen into chaos since its dictator, Col Muammar Gaddafi, was ousted with Western military backing in 2011. The UN believes 2,000 to 3,000 fighters are operating there and Isil now controls a stretch of the Mediterranean coastline around the northern Libyan city of Sirte.

Islam and Gambia

The Guardian reports that Gambia now an Islamic republic, says President Yahya Jammeh

Gambia has been declared an Islamic republic by President Yahya Jammeh who said he wanted to further distance the west African state from its colonial past. The tiny, formerly secular country – named after the river from which British ships are said to have fired cannonballs to fix its borders – joins the ranks of other officially Islamic republics such as Iran and Afghanistan.

“In line with the country’s religious identity and values I proclaim Gambia as an Islamic state,” said Jammeh on state television. “As Muslims are the majority in the country, the Gambia cannot afford to continue the colonial legacy.”

Gambia’s population of 1.8 million people are 95% Muslim. Jammeh said citizens of other faiths would still be able to practise. Jammeh, an animated orator who has earned the reputation for making surprise declarations over the course of his 21-year presidency, pulled Gambia out of the Commonwealth in 2013, calling it neo-colonial. In 2007 he claimed to have found a herbal cure for Aids.

Jeremy Corbyn and “Stop the War”

The Independent reports that “Jeremy Corbyn defies Labour critics to attend Stop the War fundraising dinner

Jeremy Corbyn has defied his critics in the Labour Party by turning out at a fundraising dinner for the left-wing Stop the War coalition. Labour MPs and party activists had called on their leader to give the event a miss despite his 14-year association with Stop the War, including four years as its chairman.

Opponents say that Stop the War goes further than simple opposition to British military intervention in the Syrian civil war and other conflicts and is run by far-left ideologues who are “anti-West”. But Andrew Murray, the chairman of Stop the War, described criticism of Mr Corbyn’s decision to attend the dinner as “absurd”. He told diners: “Stop the War has faced a hurricane of malicious attacks in recent weeks, largely as a proxy means of trying to undermine Jeremy Corbyn.”

Mr Corbyn is expected to give a speech saying that the group was a “vital force” and “one of the most important democratic campaigns of modern times”, which had “brought hundreds of thousands of people” to demonstrations, according to the BBC.

Taxation

The Daily Mail tells us we must now “Fill in your tax returns four times every year: Self-employed workers, landlords and small business owners faced with ‘strangling’ quarterly returns

Mllions of earners are to be forced to file tax returns four times a year. Self-employed workers, landlords and small business owners currently have to submit their figures just once every 12 months. Switching them to quarterly returns will bring them into line with big corporations. But financial experts say the move will simply add to the reams of red tape already strangling small firms.

These changes are going to be very onerous,’ said Chas Roy-Chowdhury, of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants. ‘It is not just about filling in a form, it is going to be a real burden. Workers will have to make sure their books and records are up to date at least four times a year in case the taxman decides something is amiss and investigates them.’

Initially workers will not have to pay tax four times a year. But accountants suspect quarterly returns are a step toward this. The plans were slipped out in the small print of George Osborne’s autumn statement. Around four million people will be affected: the self employed, small business owners and landlords who make more than £10,000 a year profit.

The Mirror also reports on this.

Immigration

As if Cameron had not diluted his “renegotiation” enough already, now the Telegraph says “David Cameron will dilute his flagship migrant benefit reforms in order to save his EU referendum negotiation

David Cameron will dilute his flagship migrant benefit reforms in order to save his EU referendum negotiation and allow a vote to take place in June before the likely peak of next year’s migration crisis. The Prime Minister travels to Brussels on Thursday for a showdown meeting with European leaders, who have made clear in recent weeks that they oppose his plans to stop EU migrants claiming in-work benefits in the UK for four years.

Mr Cameron will offer concessions over the benefits plan in a bid to ensure that the in-out referendum can be held in June next year. Downing Street is increasingly concerned that a spike in the number of migrants coming to continental Europe, predicted in the summer, could push Britain out of the EU if the vote is held late next year or in 2017.

It came as the International Monetary Fund warned that the “uncertainty” around the referendum will harm the British economy. Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the IMF, said that “certainty is always better than uncertainty”.

Comments are “closed” on that article, so we know what the punters think of it!

“British Values”

The Mail reports that “Ofsted may swoop on Sunday schools, church youth groups, and even choirs, to check they support ‘British values’ in bid to curb extremism

Ofsted inspectors may monitor Sunday schools as part of new proposals to stop extremism – in a move Christian groups called ‘profoundly insulting’. The proposal could see inspectors swoop in on church youth groups, and even choirs, to check they support ‘British values’, the Christian Institute fears.

The group compared the inspection plans to ‘the kind of thing they do in China’. The proposal, which has been supported by David Cameron, could mean all ‘out-of-school education settings’ having to register and face inspection.

Checks on ‘British values’ in education programmes were sparked after the Trojan Horse incident alleged Birmingham schools were teaching radical religious agendas. The new criteria means schools must be shown to teach ‘democracy’ and ‘tolerance’. The plans would apply to any education-related programme given to under-19 year olds for more than six hours a week.

Climate Change

The Guardian reports from the Paris climate talks: Obama calls Xi Jinping in final push for a deal

Barack Obama phoned the Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, in a last ditch effort to thrash out a climate change agreement that can be unveiled at the UN climate talks in Paris on Saturday.

As the negotiations ran into overtime – something that has happened at virtually every meeting of the last 20 years – Laurent Fabius, the French foreign minister called for a cooling off period to allow more high level lobbying behind closed doors. Fabius put off planned public plenary sessions, which risk being volatile, and gave the floor over to closed meetings in a last push for an agreement.

The French hosts were still insisting they expected the final draft text – the skeleton of a climate change agreement – to be ready by Saturday when more peaceful protests are planned by climate activists across Paris. Civil society groups will hand out thousands of red tulips to represent red lines they say should not be crossed, and hold a rally under the Eiffel Tower if and when a deal is reached.

The Independent also reports in “hopeful” terms from Paris: “COP21: World leaders agree to cut global official warming target to 1.5C

World leaders stand on the brink of a historic deal to tackle climate change after agreeing to cut dramatically their official target for global warming – from 2C to around 1.5C. The latest draft of a crucial global warming agreement being worked on in Paris includes a pledge for a new goal “to keep the rise to well below 2C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5C”. A final deal is expected to be clinched today.

And while negotiators cautioned that the clause could be changed at the very last minute – or pulled from the final agreement altogether – they said that was highly unlikely. The expected reduction in the long-standing official global warming target was broadly welcomed as a major breakthrough in the battle to curb climate change.

However, concerns remain about other sections of the draft agreement as rich countries and developed nations clashed over how responsibility for tackling climate change should be shared between them.

Angela Merkel and Donald Trump

Charles Moore has an opinion piece in the Telegraph: Angela Merkel is doing more damage to the future of the West than Donald Trump

One day, a historian will pinpoint exactly when we in the West started talking about Muslims. It came surprisingly late. Even in anti-immigration rhetoric, mention of religion used to be rare. The issue then was race. Enoch Powell’s famous “Rivers of Blood” speech of 1968 did not tackle religion. In the index of Simon Heffer’s definitive biography of Powell, the words “Islam” and “Muslim” do not appear.

Probably the first time in modern Britain that Muslims, so named, became the big headline was in 1989. The Ayatollah Khominei’s fatwa called for the death of Salman Rushdie because of his “blasphemous” novel The Satanic Verses. This made waves in the United States too, but my guess is that the question of Islam did not reach the front of the American mind until 11 September 2001.

Fewer than 15 years later, it is the hottest subject. This week, Donald Trump made it hotter still. He wants a “complete and total shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s elected representatives can work out what is going on”. How have we reached this plight? Until we know the answer, we shall not begin to be able to decide how to get out of it.

Meanwhile The Independent follows Donald Trump more on his campaign trail: Donald Trump the entertainer takes centre stage again – and he knows how to play to his crowd

Maybe you missed it, the latest episode of “Make America Great Again” just the night before last. It was a good one, a reminder of what’s giving Donald Trump a unique edge in the race to be the 2016 Republican presidential nominee. He made his money putting his name on buildings. But he also made it being a TV entertainer.

For his first proper outing since he proposed his “total and complete shutdown” of Muslims entering the United States, Mr Trump is in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. (An interesting choice as it calls itself “The Open Door City”.) The occasion would surely have been a snooze were it any of his rivals up there on the stage. Actually, two stages.

He is here to accept a big endorsement from the New England Police Benevolent Association, the union for police officers and prison guards. Yes, New England, a place we tend to think of as largely liberal.

While the Daily Mail says “Donald Trump claims more British Muslims join ISIS than the armed forces sparking new row

DONALD Trump was at the centre of fresh outrage yesterday as he claimed that more British Muslims join ISIS than the armed forces. The controversial 69-year-old US Republican presidential candidate also refused to back down in his ongoing verbal spat with British politicians.

Earlier this week he claimed that parts of London were so radicalised that police refused to enter. Scotland Yard refuted the claim but some officers later came forward to confirm their fears of terrorism.

Mr Trump’s claim that more Muslims join ISIS than the British army came in a Twitter post. The billionaire tycoon tweeted a link to a magazine article that referenced the claim, which was based on figures from England’s first Muslim MP.

Ed – His claim is quite correct, the article goes onto say

Khalid Mahmood, the Labour MP for Birmingham Perry Barr, said in August 2014 that there were about 2,000 British jihadis – a higher number than the Government’s estimate. And this figure was then compared to Ministry of Defence data showing there were about 600 British Muslims in the Armed Forces at the time – just 0.4 per cent of total personnel.

Iraq and Turkey

The Guardian reports that Iraq appeals to UN and demands Turkey withdraw troops from its north

Iraq’s prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, has called for the immediate withdrawal of Turkish troops from northern Iraq in a national address, insisting no foreign forces are needed to fight the Islamic State group in his country.

Turkey has had troops in northern Iraq to help train local Kurdish and Sunni forces since 2014 but the arrival of additional troops last week sparked an uproar in Baghdad. Turkey subsequently halted new deployments but has refused to withdraw its soldiers

Iraq had already tried to solve the crisis with “peaceful and diplomatic means”, Abadi said in the televised address on Friday night. “We gave our neighbour Turkey a time limit to withdraw its troops and not to close the door to dialogue,” he said. Earlier on Friday, Abadi asked his foreign ministry to submit a complaint to the United Nations about the presence of Turkish troops near the Isis-held city of Mosul.

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