The Hague, Aug 30 (AP/UNB) — A Dutch anti-Islam lawmaker canceled a planned Prophet Muhammad cartoon contest Thursday following death threats and concerns other people could be put at risk.
"To avoid the risk of victims of Islamic violence, I have decided not to let the cartoon contest go ahead," far-right opposition politician Geert Wilders said in a written statement.
Wilders, who for years has lived under round-the-clock protection because of death threats sparked by his fierce anti-Islam rhetoric, said he does not want others endangered by the contest he planned for November.
The planned contest sparked angry protests in Pakistan and a death threat this week from a 26-year-old man, reportedly a Pakistani, who was arrested Tuesday in The Hague.
Physical depictions of the prophet are forbidden in Islam and deeply offensive to Muslims.
"It's not just about me," Wilders said in the statement. Strong opponents of the event "see not only me, but the entire Netherlands as a target."
The contest was to have been held at the tightly guarded offices of his Party for Freedom in the Dutch parliament building.
Earlier Thursday, a Dutch judge extended by two weeks the detention of the man who allegedly threatened to attack Wilders.
Prosecutors said in a statement that an investigating judge ordered the suspect held while he is investigated on charges of making a terrorist threat, making preparations for a terrorist murder and incitement.
The Dutch government had been at pains to distance itself from the contest.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte last week questioned Wilders' motive for organizing the contest.
"His aim is not to have a debate about Islam. His aim is to be provocative," the prime minister said.
However, Rutte added that people in the Netherlands have far-reaching freedom of speech rights and the government did not intend to seek the contest's cancellation.
In a clear indication of the anger Wilders had generated, thousands of hard-line Islamists marched toward Pakistan's capital Thursday in protest.
Some 10,000 supporters of the Tehreek-i-Labaik group, which helped Imran Khan to become prime minister following last month's national elections, set out on the march Wednesday, calling on Khan to cut diplomatic ties with the Netherlands.
Chemnitz, Aug 30 (AP/UNB) — Hundreds of people protested and expressed disdain for politicians in east Germany on Thursday as a regional governor visited a city where the fatal stabbing of a German citizen sparked violent clashes over immigration.
Saxony state Gov. Michael Kretschmer held a town hall meeting in Chemnitz under the watch of tight police security as about 500 people demonstrated outside.
Many of the protesters refused to talk to the media, but the ones who did said they felt abandoned by politicians and were angry at the crimes committed by migrants.
At the site where the 35-year-old man was wounded in an altercation with migrants over the weekend, a message placed among the flowers and candles read: "Take away their knives or we'll take away your elected offices."
Authorities denied online rumors that the victim was protecting a woman from harassment when he was stabbed, saying there was no evidence this had been the case.
The slaying has become a rallying point for far-right groups in Germany. At least 18 people were injured Monday when their supporters, mobilized from surrounding areas and further afield, clashed with counter-protesters in Chemnitz.
The public display, which included neo-Nazis hurling abuse and bottles as police struggled to keep the groups apart, has raised fresh concerns about the threat posed by far-right extremists in Germany.
Green party lawmaker Claudia Roth told German news agency dpa that "organized far-right extremists" appeared to be using public anger over the killing for their ends. Footage showing numerous protesters performing the stiff-armed Nazi salute was evidence of their extremist ideology, Roth said.
Public displays of the salute, the Nazi swastika and other efforts to glorify Adolf Hitler's National Socialist regime are forbidden in Germany and can result in fines or prison sentences.
Saxony state has long been a hotbed of anti-migrant sentiment. It is home to the group Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West, or PEGIDA, and a stronghold of the far-right Alternative for Germany party, which received almost a quarter of the vote in the state last year.
There have been regular attacks against migrants over the years in Saxony, especially since the influx of more than a million refugees to Germany in 2015 and 2016. While the share of foreigners in Saxony remains below the national average, concern among the population about migrants committing crimes is particularly high.
Chemnitz prosecutors said a 22-year-old Iraqi and a 23-year-old Syrian were arrested on suspicion of manslaughter in connection with Sunday's killing.
Kretschmer, an ally of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, faces a state election next year. Adding to the pressure on him, opposition parties have called for an investigation into alleged collusion between Saxony police and far-right extremists after the arrest warrants for the two suspects were leaked on social media.
Later Thursday, Saxony's state justice department said it suspended a prison guard for leaking the copy of an arrest warrant for one of the suspects.
Meanwhile, daily newspaper Die Welt reported that the Iraqi suspect had applied for asylum in Bulgaria before coming to Germany. Under European Union policy, he should have been deported back to the eastern European country. The newspaper said German authorities did not follow through on returning him to Bulgaria.
Authorities in Saxony have requested the help of federal police to prevent further outbursts of violence in coming days. The regional police department came under suspicion this week after a man at a far-right protest was filmed harassing journalists.
Police subsequently held the reporters for 45 minutes — ostensibly to check their identities — preventing them from covering the demonstration. It later emerged that the protester was a civilian employee of Saxony's criminal police department.
On Thursday, the state police department said that after talks with the man and his lawyer, the man would resign next week, dpa reported.
In a separate incident, police said Thursday that a 20-year-old Syrian man was hospitalized after he was attacked in the northern city of Wismar by three German-speaking men shouting anti-migrant slurs.
He was released after treatment for a fractured nose and bruises to his face and upper body.
The co-leader of Alternative for Germany, which placed third in last year's national election, said he understood the public anger over the German man's death.
Alexander Gauland told Die Welt in an interview published Wednesday that "when such a killing occurs, it's normal for people to snap."
Sofia, Aug 31 (AP/UNB) — Three Bulgarian ministers have resigned in the aftermath of a bus crash that killed 17 people and injured several others.
Prime Minister Boyko Borissov called Friday for the resignations of his interior, transport and regional development ministers over the crash, and Valentin Radev, Ivaylo Moskovki and Nikolay Nankov later agreed they would take political responsibility and resign.
The resignations of the three men, who had been nominated for the posts by Borissov's center-right GERB party, require approval by Parliament to take effect.
The crash last Saturday saw a tourist bus overturn and fall off the highway, about 50 kilometers (30 miles) north of Sofia, the capital. Thirteen people died at the scene, including a 13-year-old boy, and four others died in the hospital. The crash's cause is under investigation.
London, Aug 31 (AP/UNB) — Cambridge University says economist James Mirrlees, the co-winner of the 1996 Nobel prize in economics, has died. He was 82.
Mirrlees, who died Wednesday, studied public economics, or the role of the public sector in the market economy.
He examined devising an optimal income tax regime balancing efficiency and equity. He shared the Nobel with William Vickrey of Columbia University.
Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon paid tribute to Mirrlees for service to the council of economic advisers, saying he had "a way of conveying the essence of any economic issue in a manner which was clear, thoughtful and accessible."
He is survived by his widow, Patricia, daughters Catriona and Fiona from his first marriage to Gill who died in 1993, stepson Rory and four grandchildren.
Dhaka, Aug 30 (UNB) - A small village on the southern coast of New Zealand is planning to implement a radical plan to protect its native wildlife: ban all domestic cats, reports the BBC.
Under the initiative, proposed by Environment Southland, cat owners in Omaui will have to neuter, microchip and register their moggies with local authorities.
After their pet dies, cat lovers in the community will then not be allowed to get any more.
It sounds extreme, but it may be something more communities should be considering: after all, cats are responsible for the death of billions of birds and mammals each year - and, according to some, it is all our fault.
Dr Peter Marra, the head of the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Centre, has authored journals and books on the issue.
Contrary to preconceptions about him, he insists he is not anti-cat or against cat ownership.
"Cats make wonderful pets - they're spectacular pets! But they shouldn't be allowed to roam outside - it's a really obvious solution," he told the BBC.
"We would never let dogs do that. It's about time we treat cats like dogs."
In Omaui, officials say the measure is justified because cameras have shown roaming cats preying on birds, insects and reptiles in the area.
"So your cat can live out its natural life at Omaui happily doing what it's doing. But then when it dies, you wouldn't be able to replace it," bio-security operations manager Ali Meade explained.
Under the plan, anyone not complying would receive a notice, before officials would remove the pets - but only as an "absolute last resort".
The initiative is part of the regional council's proposed regional pest management plan, which was opened for consultation on Tuesday.
John Collins, chairman of the Omaui Landcare Charitable Trust, championed the ban to protect "high-value" nature reserves there.
'We're not cat haters, but we want our environment to be wildlife-rich," he said, the Otago Daily Times reports.
How big a problem are cats?
The debate about cat populations and local eco-systems is not unique to Omaui.
Conservation scientists have long warned about the impact of feral and outdoor cats on the global eco system - and they've been ranked among the 100 worst non-native invasive species in the world.
Dr Marra says 63 species extinctions around the world are now linked to the booming cat populations. The problem is exacerbated in areas with very sensitive eco-systems, like New Zealand.
"It sounds extreme," he says. "But the situation has got out of control."
He believes cat-lovers around the world need to embrace a "different mind-set" toward the animals. He believes they should be adopted where possible, then neutered and exercised at home using toys, or in a controlled environment - for example, on a leash.
"This predicament is not the fault of cats - its humans' fault," he insists.
Because of their popularity on social media and in memes, the global pet population shows no sign of abating.
"They are just cute - everything about them, which makes this whole thing more difficult."
Accurate estimates are hard to ascertain, but in the US there are about 86 million pet cats - roughly one in every three households.
Unquantifiable amounts live stray or feral, meaning huge casualties in the environment.
It is estimated that as many as four billion birds and 22 billion mammals are killed by cats in the US every year.
Even in the UK, populations are on the decline, and experts blame cats. The Mammal Society says that about 55 million birds are falling casualty each year.
It's not the first time cats have been painted as a menace in New Zealand - a country boasting a feline in almost half its households.
They're a hot issue in Australia too, where feral and outdoor cats are blamed for millions of native species' deaths every night.
The nation has been funding grassroots culling initiatives since 2015, boasts the world's largest cat-proof fence and has even considered introducing a national curfew for domestic cats.
Councils and state governments have been taking the cat problem into their own hands - forcing cats to stay indoors at night, implementing household quotas and mandatory identification and neutering.
Nevertheless, initiatives against felines remain controversial. Last year animal rights groups laid particular scorn at one Queensland local council who were offering $10 bounties for feral cat scalps.
In Omaui, residents told local media they were "shocked" and "hoodwinked" by the proposed ban and have vowed to resist it.
Nico Jarvis, a local resident who says her three cats help combat rodents in her house, compared the proposal to a "police state".
''It's not even regulating people's ability to have a cat. It's saying you can't have a cat,'' she told the Otago Daily Times.
Paw Justice, a New Zealand-based non-profit that focuses on animal abuse, posted about the plan on Facebook, questioning the evidence behind it.
Cat-lovers on the group's Facebook page reacted angrily to the news and pointing out that poisons, cars and humans also damage native species.
Local residents have until the end of October to register their submissions to Environment Southland's plan.