News in Brief: Punk Jihad: Riots Erupt in France, Burqa Ban Gains Steam

Tensions in France reached a boiling point this week after controversial legislation that would ban traditional Muslim veils succeeded in the French lower house and violent riots erupted in Grenoble where a suspected Muslim robber was killed by police. Angry Muslims have posted ominous messages online raising concerns of a repeat of the widespread violence that rocked France in 2005 after two Parisian teenagers died fleeing police.

The rioters in Grenoble burned at least 50 cars, attacked a tram railway and shot at police, who returned fire, but no casualties have been reported, according to the Israeli news site YNetNews.com. The riots erupted after two alleged Muslim robbers held up a casino and engaged in a shootout with police, leaving 27-year-old Karim Boudouda dead and one policeman injured.

French lawmakers on Tuesday overwhelmingly supported a ban on burqas, the traditional veils often worn by Muslim women, with only one lawmaker voting against the ban, according to Voice of America. The legislation must still pass the French senate. Supporters say the ban upholds the nation’s secular tradition, but legal challenges are inevitable as critics say it violates human rights and the French constitution.

US intelligence reported last week the al-Qaeda’s North Africa wing encouraged French Muslims to retaliate against the ban, according to conservative blog Atlas Shrugs. An anonymous post in response to the riots appearing yesterday on the anarchist news site Infoshop.org read, “The punk jihad in France is back. The hudna [peacemaking or truce] is over. Hostilities resume. Thousands of burning cars redux?”

During the 2005 riots, which occurred in rough suburbs across France where immigrants and industrial workers reside, hundreds of buildings and 10,000 cars were burned. At least 130 police and protesters were injured.

Democrats May Continue Tax Cuts for the Wealthy

Bush-era tax cuts for America’s wealthiest families are set to expire this year, but Democrats in Congress are considering continuing the cuts despite President Obama’s campaign promise that he would do away with them, according to The Hill. Democrats reportedly fear that ending the tax cuts could cause further damage to the economy and could lead to a backlash from the rich voters in upcoming elections.

Legal Commercial Weed in Oakland?

The Oakland, California, city council reported today that it approved draft legislation that would make the Bay Area city the first to allow commercial marijuana production. The legislation will be considered again next week, and if approved, commercial weed production could begin as early as January. Don’t get confused: they aren’t legalizing the cheap stuff, we’re talking medical grade here, and you will still need a prescription.

Barefoot Bandit Has Troubled Past

The new American folk antihero – or hero, depending on your perspective – Colton Harris-Moore, also known by his moniker the Barefoot Bandit, began his career as a thief and petty criminal stealing from his neighbors during his allegedly hungry and abusive childhood, according to The New York Times.

Harris-Moore lived with his single mother in Camano Island, Washington, where neighbors say the hungry boy regularly stole groceries from his neighbors between spats with his mother, who refused to talk with the press. He also had trouble staying in school and was known to be a bully. Harris-Moore was recently captured in the Bahamas after fleeing police for months via a stolen boat and several planes he crash landed, walking away “barefoot” each time.

Egyptian Authorities Back Down as Labor Takes the Streets

Fearing wider political unrest, Egyptian security forces have shown an unusual tolerance toward the growing number of strikes and sit-ins that have erupted across Cairo as workers from both the public and private sector demand higher wages and reform, according to the Gulf News. Labor activism in Egypt received a boost by an administrative court ruling in April that demanded the government set a “fair” minimum wage for workers, and Egyptian authorities have not shown their usual knack for violent repression toward protesters and labor organizers in fear that their growing numbers could become unruly.