News Feed 20120212

Financial Crisis
» Anti-German Sentiment Rising in Greece
» Greece: Poll Points to a Shift in Voting Intentions
» Greek PM Warns Austerity Needed to Avert ‘Catastrophe’
» Greek Parliament Approves Austerity Package
» Seehofer Calls for People’s Vote on Euro
 
USA
» Massimo Zanetti Buys U.S. Coffee Business
» Muslim Mother ‘Beat Daughter, 19, And Locked Her to a Bed After She Was Seen Speaking to a Boy’
» Sex Abuse Cost Church $2 Billion
 
Europe and the EU
» Denmark: Muslim Women’s Virginity Fix Still Causing Controversy
» Germany: Hamburg Lake Draws 100,000 Skating Fans
» Germany: Nazi Comedy Unexpected Hit at Berlinale
» Italy Tax-Dodge Curb With US, UK, France, Germany, Spain
» Spain: U.S. Court Orders Sunken Treasure Returned to Madrid
» Sweden: Malmö Murders Linked to Fake Online Firms: Report
» UK: Qatada Banned From the School Run: Curb on Hate Cleric as He is Freed Today With Security Operation Costing US £10,000 a Week
» Which Population in the 1000 Genomes Project Samples Has the Most Neandertal Similarity?
 
North Africa
» Music: China to Build Opera House in Algiers as Gift
» Tunisia: State Intervention on Continuous Price Rises
 
Middle East
» Bahrain’s King Says Assad Should Listen to His People
» Interpol Accused After Journalist Arrested Over Muhammad Tweet
 
Immigration
» Australia: Pay for Our Trips Home — The Islamic Women’s Welfare Association
» Fun With Numbers: Find Out How Many Refugees Came to Your Town in Last 10 Years
 
Culture Wars
» Italy: Gay Association Asks for Valentine’s Day Discount

Financial Crisis


Anti-German Sentiment Rising in Greece

Greeks are stepping up their anti-German rhetoric, in part by increasingly comparing modern day Germans to Nazis, according to Germans who have lived many years in Greece and reports by Greek newspapers.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Greece: Poll Points to a Shift in Voting Intentions

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, FEBRUARY 8 — Dissent-ridden Greek Socialist party PASOK is on a downward spiral and conservative New Democracy is maintaining its popularity while the Democratic Left has attracted the support of a large segment of austerity-weary Greeks, according to the results of a new opinion poll that also show that nine in 10 Greeks are unhappy with Prime Minister Lucas Papademos’s coalition government.

The new poll, carried out by Public Issue for daily Kathimerini, showed ND to have inched forward to 31%, consolidating its growing popularity, while PASOK continues to languish in fifth place with 8%. The poll, carried out on a sample of 1,002 people last week, showed the Communist Party (KKE) and the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) to be holding firm at 12.5% and 12% respectively. But the Democratic Left has surged in popularity, garnering 18% of the public vote (up 4.5% since last month).

All together, the leftist parties garner an impressive 42.5%, but as KKE has ruled out cooperating with other parties, the figure is misleading. Support for the right-wing Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS), the third party in the tripartite coalition, slipped to 5% — from 8% during its heyday in 2010 — while the extreme-right Chrysi Avgi (Golden Dawn) has surged to 3%, hitting the threshold for entering Parliament. The poll’s results for parties are broadly reflected in the support for the politicians that lead them. Democratic Left leader Fotis Kouvelis tops the list, attracting the support of 56% of respondents, followed by 41% for SYRIZA’s Alexis Tsipras and ND chief Antonis Samaras with 31%. Respondents were divided on Papademos, with 48% expressing a negative opinion and 46% a positive one. Respondents were virtually unanimous though in their criticism of his government’s achievements, with 91% expressing disappointment.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Greek PM Warns Austerity Needed to Avert ‘Catastrophe’

(ATHENS) — Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos on Saturday urged parliament to pass painful austerity measures demanded by creditors, warning of “economic and social catastrophe” if it doesn’t. The legislature in crisis-weary Greece will be asked Sunday to approve budget cuts demanded by the EU and IMF in return for a 130-billion-euro ($171 billion) rescue package that Athens needs to avoid default in March.

Hours after thousands of protestors, watched over by riot police, demonstrated in Athens against the further belt tightening, Papademos insisted that the alternative, a default, was far worse. “The Greek parliament is asked to take a historic responsibility, examine and authorize the new economic programme of Greece, the pre-condition for financing the country over the coming years,” he said.

He acknowledged that the new round of cuts would heap further hardship on Greece, where unemployment is over 20 percent — but the alternative, a default on the country’s massive debt, was much worse, he warned. “The social cost of this programme is limited in comparison with the economic and social catastrophe that would follow if we did not adopt it,” he said in a nationally televised address.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Greek Parliament Approves Austerity Package

As hooded youths torched shops and battled police in the streets of Athens on Sunday, lawmakers approved a tough austerity package that is expected to help the country avoid default.

Parliament accepted the plan after Greece’s so-called troika of foreign lenders — the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund — had demanded the measures in exchange for about $170 billion in bailout money. The troika had also made passage a condition for sealing a deal in which private creditors will take voluntary losses of up to 70 percent on Greek debt.

[Return to headlines]



Seehofer Calls for People’s Vote on Euro

Horst Seehofer, the head of the Christian Social Union party, wants Germans to vote on whether the euro should be saved or not and is calling for a change to Germany’s Basic Law, or Constitution, to allow that to happen.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

USA


Massimo Zanetti Buys U.S. Coffee Business

Italian giant takes over NJ Coffee Roastery

(ANSA) — Rome, February 7- The United States arm of the northern Italy-based Massimo Zanetti coffee giant has bought a gourmet US coffee business that will add more than $150 million to its annual revenue.

Massimo Zanetti Beverage USA, Inc. bought NJ Coffee Roastery from the Sara Lee Corporation.

The parent company, the Massimo Zanetti Beverage Group of Villorba near Treviso, is one of the world’s largest coffee companies. The acquisition will increase the group’s global coffee production to more than 330 million pounds a year, with a workforce of more than 3,000 in over 100 countries.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Muslim Mother ‘Beat Daughter, 19, And Locked Her to a Bed After She Was Seen Speaking to a Boy’

An Iraqi woman has been accused of beating her teenage daughter and padlocking her to a bed after she was seen speaking to a young man.

After Yusra Farhan was arrested in the Arizona hospital where her daughter was being treated for her injuries, she told police she wanted to punish the girl for violating her ‘culture’.

Farhan, 50, faces charges of aggravated assault, unlawful imprisonment and resisting arrest. She was being held in a Maricopa County jail. Police did not identify her daughter by name.

The incident started on Tuesday, when the daughter was spotted by her father talking to a 19-year-old man at a high school parking lot in Phoenix.

Police said her father became angry and took her home, striking her several times.

The mother arrived home later and admitted to hitting her daughter with her hands and a shoe, and tying her to the bed with a rope around her waist that was secured with a padlock, court records showed.

Farhan told police she hit her daughter because she ‘was speaking to a male subject and her Iraq culture states a female is not allowed to be having contact with males because females are not allowed to have boyfriends,’ court records said.

The daughter was allowed to leave for school the next morning and was taken to St Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix after telling school officials about the incident.

Police arrived at the hospital and attempted to arrest Farhan, but she and other family members struggled with officers.

She was ultimately arrested with the help of additional officers and hospital security. No other arrests were made.

‘In an attempt to diffuse the situation in the hospital, officers determined that it would be better to just remove the mother from the scene,’ a police spokesman said, adding that additional charges were expected to be filed in the case.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]



Sex Abuse Cost Church $2 Billion

‘Financial losses hurt mission’ study finds

(ANSA) — Rome, February 8 — Sexual abuse claims have cost the Catholic Church roughly $2 billion, according to a report Wednesday.

“Financial losses are affecting the current mission of the Church,” said the report by Americans Michael Bemi, president of the National Catholic Risk Retention Group, and Patricia Neal, child protection consultant from Oklahoma.

They presented their findings at the international symposium Healing and Renewal, meant to address the Church sex-abuse scandal.

The four-day event, which opened Monday at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, hosted 110 delegates from various bishops’ conferences around the world, medical professionals and the Father Superiors of 30 religious orders.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU


Denmark: Muslim Women’s Virginity Fix Still Causing Controversy

Three years after call for ban, doctors continue to profit by performing ‘virginity restoration’ procedure on young Danish women

Young Danish women with immigrant backgrounds — most of them Muslim — continue to flock to private clinics across the country to have their ‘virginity’ restored for a few thousand kroner.

Several years after the little-known procedure became a topic of political debate, doctors are reporting that demand for hymenoplasty operations has not decreased.

Doctors who perform these operations have come under sharp criticism for legitimising the procedure and thereby protecting what critics say is the chauvinism and oppression that underlies the demand that new brides must be verified virgins.

“I don’t have any scruples about helping. The important thing is that these girls have good lives moving forward. You could call it my form of foreign aid,” Dr Christine Felding, who performs 30 to 40 hymenoplasty procedures each year, told Berlingske newspaper.

The procedure involves reconstructing the hymen — the membrane that partially covers the opening to the vagina, and which is presumed to tear and bleed the first time a woman has sexual intercourse. The doctor literally sews bits of the vaginal lining together to narrow the opening. It takes a little over an hour and is done under local anaesthesia. Felding charges 5,000 kroner. Other doctors charge as much as 12,000 kroner.

Felding estimates that three or four women with immigrant backgrounds call her each week asking about the procedure. Most of them, she said, are frightened about what will happen if their fiance’s or their families find out that they are not virgins.

Women have been known to suffer rejection, public shaming and even violent retribution at the hands of men in their own families if there is a lack of ‘proof’, in the form of a bloody bed sheet, on the wedding night.

“It is more cultural than religious. If the bride is not a virgin and does not bleed on the wedding night, it is a big shame on the family. There have been honour killings in extreme cases,” Dr Magdy Hend, a UK surgeon who performs several hymenoplasties a week, told the UK tabloid Daily Mail.

Doctors in the UK, France, Germany and Belgium also report that the procedure is highly sought after in Muslim communities. The irony, as Time magazine’s Bruce Crumley writes, is that “the increase in the procedure reflects the growing emancipation of women from tradition-rooted communities, but also the ongoing male oppression signified by the obsession with female virginity.”

Even though the focus on virginity remains strong among conservative families living in Western countries like Denmark and the UK, Felding believes it will wane — eventually.

“It’s something that this generation of young immigrant women still have to live with. But I don’t think that their daughters will still suffer under it. Times change,” she told Berlingske.

Change, however, is exactly what Felding and doctors like her are preventing, according to nurse and social counsellor Kristina Aamand.

Aamand believes that by providing hymenoplasties, doctors are sheltering ignorance and helping a backwards tradition to persist in modern society.

The daughter of a Danish mother and Pakistani father, Aamand knows well the confusing messages and conflicting pressures young Muslim women growing up in Denmark experience. That’s why she started NyMødom.dk, an advice website which aims to dispel myths about female virginity and the hymen.

On NyMødom.dk, young women are encouraged to confront their families and fiance’s about these myths, instead of opting for a secret surgery to create the illusion of virginity.

“The young women see [a hymenoplasty] as a little thing next to the anxiety they feel. They see it as something they just have to get through. But the fear of being discovered remains, and ten little stitches in the vagina won’t change that,” Aamand told Berlingske.

In 2009, Socialdemokraterne and Socialistisk Folkeparti, then in the opposition, challenged the old Venstre-Konservative government to outlaw hymenoplasties, along with other “religious- or culturally related surgical procedures”. Then-health minister Jakob Axel Nielsen (Konservative) refused, noting that they were medically approved by the national board of health, Sundhedsstyrelsen.

Jonas Dahl, the health issues spokesperson for the Socialistisk Folkeparti, remarked last week that it was “worrying” that they were still sanctioned by Sundhedsstyrelsen, that private doctors were still earning money peddling them to frightened young women and that demand for the procedures from young immigrant women was still strong.

“I hoped and expected that they would decrease. That’s something we need to work at,” he said.

           — Hat tip: AC [Return to headlines]



Germany: Hamburg Lake Draws 100,000 Skating Fans

Some 100,000 skating fans were celebrating winter Saturday afternoon in Hamburg with an ice party on the outer Alster, one of two artificial lakes running through the city. The festivities started Friday and run through Sunday. It’s being billed as Germany’s largest winter party and occurs when the river freezes over sufficiently to support a crowd.

The last outer Alster festival was 15 years ago. Weeks of below freezing temperature have made this year’s party possible. On Saturday afternoon there were impromptu ice hockey games taking place on the 164 hector river in the middle of the city. Others just skated. Some brought their children for a first time experience.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Germany: Nazi Comedy Unexpected Hit at Berlinale

A sci-fi black comedy about Nazis from the moon invading Planet Earth is one of the hottest tickets at the Berlin film festival, which is better known for its gritty political fare. “Iron Sky”, a B-movie spoof drawing the crowds at the 11-day event in the German capital, imagines that Hitler’s surviving henchmen set up a lunar colony after the fall of the regime in 1945, biding their time to strike back. The photo shows the cast of the film, which premiered at the festival, known as the Berlinale.

The opportunity comes in 2018 when a US astronaut exploring the dark side of the moon comes face to face with a Nazi soldier clad in a black uniform and a breathing mask. Behind him, a secret military base shaped like a swastika looms into view, prompting giggles from the packed audience.

The intergalactic farce produced mainly in Finland pits the would-be Fourth Reich against an America led by a Sarah Palin double, who is seen incessantly jogging in the Oval Office. “This basically came from a stupid joke dreamed up after a trip to the sauna,” said director Timo Vuorensola, who generated much of the financing for the film among fans online. “But we couldn’t get the idea out of our heads and we got more and more ambitious as we worked on the story.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Italy Tax-Dodge Curb With US, UK, France, Germany, Spain

Deal will intensify the fight against international tax evasion

(ANSA) — Rome, February 8 — Italy has agreed with the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Spain to use the American Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) to hunt international tax dodgers.

The move will “intensify the fight against international tax evasion,” the Italian economy ministry said, vowing to find more and better ways to trade information.

The Italian government has launched a high-profile campaign against tax dodgers. photo: tax police car

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Spain: U.S. Court Orders Sunken Treasure Returned to Madrid

(ANSAmed) — MADRID — Treasure found at sea in 2007 on board a sunken ship, the “Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes”, which sank in 1804 off the coast of Portugal in a battle with the English fleet, has been ordered to be returned to the Spanish government according to a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court. The highest court of appeals in the U.S. rejected the latest appeal by Odyssey Marine Exploration, a company specialising in ‘treasure hunting’, report sources from the Spanish Culture Ministry today cited by Europa Press. With the decision, the high court ordered the company that recovered the treasure, which included 15 tonnes of gold and silver coins, to return it to the Spanish government within 10 days, starting from the time in which the Atlanta court of appeals officially communicates its rejection of the appeal made to the Court of Tampa, where the case was heard. Sources in the ministry expressed “great satisfaction” over the ruling and underlined how “Odyssey’s arguments had been rejected in all legal” venues.

The decision by the Supreme Court rejected an appeal by the treasure-hunting company. The ruling stated that the Spanish ship from which the treasure of 500,000 ancient gold and silver coins was extracted was a ship owned by the state and not a merchant vessel, making it the property of its state of origin. The precious treasure was recovered by Odyssey on May 18 2007 in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Spain and taken to the United States on a private airplane. The North American treasure hunters renamed the sunken ship ‘Black swan’, stating that the ship was not on a military mission when it sunk. But an investigation opened by the Spanish government in collaboration with Armada, the national archaeological museum, the Royal Historical Academy and other institutions, allowed for it to be established that the sunken ship was the ‘Nuestra Senora de la Mercedes’, which was part of the Spanish fleet and that it was found in Spanish territorial waters.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Sweden: Malmö Murders Linked to Fake Online Firms: Report

Several of the recent killings in Malmö have been linked to financial fraud and fake companies trading online, according to sources close to the ongoing murder investigations. Malmö police are currently working on eight unsolved murders and it is reported by news agency TT that its sources within the police have indicated that at least four of the murder victims have this connection.

The police were however unwilling to confirm which of the cases were involved. The recent slew of bloody killings in Malmö have recently shifted media focus onto the crime situation in the city. Malmö mayor Illmar Reepalu last week detailed plans for the city’s politicians to write open letters to the community in a plea to help curb crime, a tactic designed to increase the flow of tips and information from the general public.

Malmö police recently admitted that they are “embarrassed and irritated” that crime has continued to rise despite a significant increase in police presence. Despite this massive influx of resources, no breakthrough has been made in any of the investigations into the shootings in the city.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



UK: Qatada Banned From the School Run: Curb on Hate Cleric as He is Freed Today With Security Operation Costing US £10,000 a Week

Hate preacher Abu Qatada will be banned from taking his youngest child to school when he is released from jail tomorrow.

The Government has won a court ruling preventing him from flaunting his freedom at the school gates while ministers battle to find a way of deporting him.

At a cost to taxpayers of £10,000 a week, a team of up to 60 police officers and MI5 agents will provide round-the-clock protection for a man described as Osama Bin Laden’s ambassador in Europe when he returns to his London home.

Under the terms of his release, Qatada must obey a 22-hour curfew, wear an electronic tag and is banned from using the internet and telephone.

But, fearful about the prospect of a terror suspect being free to do the school run, the Home Office went to court on Friday to obtain an order to ensure his two hours of freedom each day do not coincide with school opening and closing times.

Concerns were raised after the Mail’s revelations last Tuesday when a judge ruled Qatada must be allowed to walk his youngest son to school.

A senior legal source said: ‘There was a hearing on Friday. The court came back and said the Home Office request was fine. Abu Qatada won’t be able to do the school run.’

Despite that victory, ministers are prepared for a fresh public backlash today as details emerge of the huge sums that will be spent protecting the extremist.

Security costs are estimated to be around £500,000 a year on top of the £1million in benefits, prison costs and legal fees the terror sympathiser has drained from the public purse.

A panic alarm has been installed in his house amid fears that the bailed Muslim cleric, his wife and five children could be attacked by vigilante mobs. Plans have also been drafted to move them to a safe house in an emergency.

But police insist they have a ‘duty of care’ to Qatada, who has provided spiritual inspiration to a string of Al Qaeda terrorists including the September 11 hijackers who murdered 3,000 innocent people in 2001.

It has also emerged that the tight restrictions he faces under his bail conditions could be relaxed as soon as April, enabling him to spread his poisonous views in the run up to the Olympics.

Incredibly, even though ministers believe Qatada, 52, poses a serious risk to national security, he could be totally free within two years.

Tory MP Patrick Mercer, a former infantry officer, said: ‘This is a disgrace. The money will be spent as much on protecting him as protecting us and adds insult to the injury on the taxpayer pocket.’

Kim Beer, whose son Phil, 22, died in the July 7 terror bombings in London in 2005, said: ‘What gives these people the right to be free?

‘They don’t care about the rights of the people they want to kill. My life ended the day my son was murdered.’

Robin Simcox, of the Henry Jackson Society, a foreign policy think-tank, said: ‘The situation should have been resolved long ago.

‘Qatada was here illegally on a forged passport and spent a decade encouraging young British Muslims to fight and die in foreign places in the name of religion.

‘The fundamental question is whether the country should be able to decide whether a dangerous man with a litany of terror connections should live here. That we are paying to protect him with police officers is utterly obscene.’

The scandal has erupted because ministers’ attempts to deport Qatada to Jordan to stand trial on terror charges were blocked three weeks ago by the European Court of Human Rights.

It ruled the extremist could not be sent back while there was a risk of torture-obtained evidence being used against him.

And last week an immigration judge in London decided Qatada could not be kept behind bars while awaiting deportation, having been locked up without charge for six and a half years.

Mr Justice Mitting said he should be released on bail from Long Lartin high-security prison in Worcestershire to his home, thought to be in Wembley, north-west London.

But he also warned tough bail conditions could be eased on April 17 unless Britain makes progress in negotiations with Jordan.

Security minister James Brokenshire is expected to travel to Jordan as early as today in the hope of finalising an agreement that evidence acquired through torture will not be used against Qatada if he is kicked out of Britain.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes [Return to headlines]



Which Population in the 1000 Genomes Project Samples Has the Most Neandertal Similarity?

Synopsis:

Europe has a touch more Neandertal than East Asia; Tuscans have more than any other European sample

The Tuscans have the highest level of Neandertal similarity of any of the 1000 Genomes Project samples. They have around a half-percent more Neandertal similarity than Brits or Finns in these samples. The CEU sample is slightly elevated compared to Brits and Finns as well.

It is tempting to interpret these differences as a north-south cline in Neandertal ancestry. I wouldn’t jump too quickly on this idea, because Holocene population movements in Europe are now known to have covered up or erased a substantial fraction of the Upper Paleolithic gene pool. If we have a bonus of extra Neandertal ancestry in southern Europe, we need to explain how that cline persisted across subsequent history. Still, the difference is statistically very strong and deserves some explanation. Likewise, the populations within East Asia have some differences in Neandertal similarity.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

North Africa


Music: China to Build Opera House in Algiers as Gift

(ANSAmed) — China will build an opera house in Algiers. The agreement was signed in an exchange of official letters, reports APS, between Foreign Ministry Secretary General, Boudjemaa Delmi, and Chinese Ambasador, Liu Yuhe. The deal involves the construction of the opera house as a gift from China, while the Algerian government will make the land available in the Ouled Fayet area in the western part of the capital. The opera house will seat 1,400 and will cost an estimated 30 million dollars.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Tunisia: State Intervention on Continuous Price Rises

Illegal food exports to Libya one of the causes

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, FEBRUARY 7 — The sharp rise of food prices in Tunisia has caused a dilemma for the authorities, who have to protect the victims of this trend (families) on the one hand, and avoid launching measures that compromise the country’s production system on the other. The question is an important one, considering the general economic crisis that has hit Tunisia. One year after the “jasmine revolution”, the country is finding it hard to recover as a consequence of several — often external — factors.

One of these factors is the situation in Libya, which forces the country to buy its oil elsewhere (Turkey), where it first arrived through the Libyan pipeline thanks to an agreement signed with Gaddafi in the ‘70s. This deal included a fixed price of 30 USD per barrel, but can no longer be sustained now. Tunisia therefore has to face the crisis with instruments that must take household income into account, without damaging the producers. The Tunisian market often goes through price trends that are difficult to explain, because these price rises don’t seem to take the fact that many food products are produced locally, freeing them from the logics of the international crisis, into account. Another factor is that despite everything, producers and distributors are still supported. But still prices continue to rise, reaching levels that were unthinkable only a few months ago. This becomes clear when looking at the prices of products sold by large-scale retailers but particularly when listening to the complaints made by the people who go shopping every day. An example is white meat, which keeps getting more and more expensive despite the high availability of animals. The same is true for eggs. Tunisia’s Ministry of Commerce and Handicrafts, Bechir Zaafouri, is dealing with the problem, chairing several meetings. The idea is to find a solution or, on the short or medium term, a way to curb the out-of-control price rises, which are being examined. This is happening at the general market of Tunis, the most important market in the country, which serves the capital and the entire region. One reason for the price spikes seems to be the illegal exports of food products, particularly to Libya. The Libya market currently needs to import much food and can offer much higher prices than those paid on the domestic market. This phenomenon is difficult to stop because of the traditional permeability of the border between the two countries and, most importantly, the impudence and aggression of the smugglers, both Tunisians and Libyans. Tunisian customs officers are well aware of this problem. They are continuously faced with aggression and have asked the government to do something about it, and to supply the necessary means to deal with the problem. Another problem is looming on the horizon: inflation, which is expected to reach 3.5%, close to 2007 levels, but still considered acceptable.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Middle East


Bahrain’s King Says Assad Should Listen to His People

Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa al Khalifa has called on Syrian President Bashar Assad to listen to his people. Hamad, who put down an uprising in his own country a year ago, told SPIEGEL that he regretted the events but had to intervene to stop the violence and protect women.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Interpol Accused After Journalist Arrested Over Muhammad Tweet

Saudi Arabia used Interpol’s system to get journalist arrested in Malaysia for insulting the Prophet Muhammad on Twitter

Interpol has been accused of abusing its powers after Saudi Arabia used the organisation’s red notice system to get a journalist arrested in Malaysia for insulting the Prophet Muhammad. Police in Kuala Lumpur said Hamza Kashgari, 23, was detained at the airport “following a request made to us by Interpol” the international police cooperation agency, on behalf of the Saudi authorities.

Kashgari, a newspaper columnist, fled Saudi Arabia after posting a tweet on the prophet’s birthday that sparked more than 30,000 responses and several death threats. The posting, which was later deleted, read: “I have loved things about you and I have hated things about you and there is a lot I don’t understand about you … I will not pray for you.”

More than 13,000 people joined a Facebook page titled “The Saudi People Demand the Execution of Hamza Kashgari”. Clerics in Saudi Arabia called for him to be charged with apostasy, a religious offence punishable by death. Reports suggest that the Malaysian authorities intend to return him to his native country.

Kashgari’s detention has triggered criticism by human rights groups of Malaysia’s decision to arrest the journalist and of Interpol’s cooperation in the process.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Immigration


Australia: Pay for Our Trips Home — The Islamic Women’s Welfare Association

NEW migrants should get taxpayer subsidies to visit overseas relatives, an Islamic group has told the Federal Government.

The Islamic Women’s Welfare Association also says Muslims prefer to live close to their own people and Australia should consider how to “facilitate the purchase of homes for new migrants”.

In a submission to a federal multicultural inquiry, the association has urged the Government to give tax deductions to newly arrived migrants so they can visit relatives in their homelands.

“Migrants face a lot of sacrifices such as having to travel long distances to visit relatives, spending on communication costs, missing out on some events occurring in native countries etc,” the submission said.

“This loss should be compensated by the Government in one way or the other to retain migrants in their country of adoption.”

Victorian Muslim and president of the Australian Council of Bosnian Organisations Senada Softic-Telalovic said while some help might be justified for needy refugees who had to go overseas to settle their affairs, she didn’t support travel compensation for all newcomers.

That type of argument will bring out further outrage from those who are so anti-migrant and so anti-multiculturalism,” she said. Ms Softic-Telalovic said that Australia was seen as an ideal migration destination and new arrivals shouldn’t take the country for granted.

“Migrants and refugees who come out now are in a significantly better position and you could say a more privileged position than those who came out in the 1970s,” she said.

Victorian Multicultural and Citizenship Minister Nick Kotsiras said tax breaks for migrant trips abroad was a ridiculous idea.

“We are all equal and no one should get special privileges,” he said.

The Islamic welfare association is based in Lakemba, Sydney, which has one of the highest Muslim populations in Australia.

Its submission also said that migrants should be free to build their own places of worship “without prejudice or discrimination from the communities they live (in)”.

           — Hat tip: Salome [Return to headlines]



Fun With Numbers: Find Out How Many Refugees Came to Your Town in Last 10 Years

Just this morning as I wrote the previous post on an Iraqi woman who beat her daughter, I had a close look at some databases at the US State Department’s Refugee Processing Center.

They have a database where you can see how many refugees and from what countries were resettled in your town. And, I mean town! Apparently the cities are overflowing with immigrants and the State Department is busy spreading new refugees out to even small towns. They want to make sure you too experience the joys of multiculturalism.

Keep in mind, a refugee might be resettled in a particular town, but they are free to move after in some cases 3 months (it’s called secondary migration). No one tracks where they go (this is America you will be reminded by open borders activists), but the problem is that, assume they are receiving treatment for TB where originally resettled, there is no way of knowing if they continue the meds after moving.

So those resettled in your town may no longer be there, or conversely they have attracted secondary migrants to come to your town and the numbers of a particular nationality are now larger.

Go here and scroll down to “Arrivals by destination city by nationality” open link to a ‘fun’ database.

This post will be archived in our ‘where to find information’category.

           — Hat tip: AC [Return to headlines]

Culture Wars


Italy: Gay Association Asks for Valentine’s Day Discount

State museums offering half price for couples

(ANSA) — Rome, February 10 — Gay advocacy association Equality Italia has asked that gay and lesbian couples be included in cultural initiative discounting entrance fees for Italian state museums on Valentine’s Day.

According to a bulletin published on the Italian Culture Ministry’s website, February 12 and 13 Italians and foreigners alike can take advantage of half-price tickets for a romantic day of “culture inspired by love”.

The mnistry has yet to confirm that gay couples will be allowed the same discount, said Equality President Aurelio Mancuso.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

News Feed 20120211

Financial Crisis
» Hundreds Head to Lisbon for Anti-Austerity Demo: Unions
» Protestors Mass in Greece After Cabinet OKs Debt Deal
» Spanish Unions Call for Mass Protests on February 19
 
USA
» Diana West: “Why Wasn’t Obama in Contempt of Court?”
» Minneapolis Helps Muslim Businesses Follow Sharia Law
» Occupy DC Plans Mayhem for Major Conservative Conference
» OWS & the Planned “Endgame” For the U.S.
» U.S. Air Force May Buy 18,000 Apple iPad 2s
 
Canada
» Mosque May be Shipped to Iqaluit From Winnipeg
» Muslims Preparing for Annual Eid-E-Milad Event
 
Europe and the EU
» Court: Norway’s Breivik to Undergo Constant Psychiatric Scrutiny
» Dutchman to Sell Rare 250-Year-Old Liquor Collection
» EU Slams PVV Anti-Polish Website
» How Your Cat is Making You Crazy
» Italy: Foreign Minister Calls for End to Female Genital Mutilation
» Italy: Berlusconi’s Party, PD Find Common Ground on Election Reform
» Italy: Case Dropped Against ‘Bunga Bunga’ Witnesses
» Massive Street Protests Wage War on Acta Anti-Piracy
» Scotland: Rare Whisky Sells for £44,000
» UK: Any Fool Can See It’s About Floating the Tumbleweed
» UK: Fury Over Moves to Hold More Court Cases in Secret Which Will ‘Sweep Away Centuries of Fair Trial Protections’
» UK: Fears Over Future of Sun Newspaper After More Arrests
» UK: Former Pub Could Become Mosque
» UK: Taj Hargey Renews Attack on Tablighi Jamaat Over Newham ‘Mega-Mosque’
» UK: There’s No Place for Dreaming Spires in Professor Les Ebdon’s World
 
North Africa
» Egyptian Presidential Candidate Says No Freedom in Islam
» Egyptian Authorities Arrest American and Australian
 
Middle East
» Iran: Supreme Leader: Unified World Muslim to Conquer All Enemies
» Syrian Military Hospital Chief ‘Killed in Damascus’
 
Russia
» Russia Sounds Alarm Over Spiralling Teenage Suicides
 
South Asia
» Bagladeshi Jamaat-E-Islami Activists Vandalize Hindu Temples
» Bangladesh: Jamaat-E-Islami Activists Vandalise Hindu Temples
» India: Woman Killed for Practising Witchcraft in Assam
» India: Something Wicked This Way Comes
 
Far East
» Beijing Cares Little About Its “Citizens”, a “Domestic Market” Is Needed to Save China
 
Sub-Saharan Africa
» Kenya: Four Injured at Clashes at Mosque
 
Latin America
» Argentina: Falkands Are Britain’s ‘Last Refuge of Declining Empire’
 
Immigration
» UK: Sex Attacker’s ‘Human Right to Family Life’ To Stay in the UK (But Are His Wife and Child Even Here?)
 
Culture Wars
» Spain: Same-Sex Marriage Not Unconstitutional, Minister
» Tel Aviv More Gay-Friendly, Taboos Turn Into Business
» UK: Doreen’s Story: The Heart-Rending Truth About ‘Lazy Cow Syndrome’
» UK: Gay Killing Trio Jailed Under New Hate Crime Legislation
» UK: We Must Stop Anti-Religious Groups From Removing the Christian Fabric of Our Society
 
General
» Why White Men Are More Attracted to Women With Asian Faces: Humans Are Hardwired to Fancy Other Races

Financial Crisis


Hundreds Head to Lisbon for Anti-Austerity Demo: Unions

Hundreds of protestors were heading to Lisbon on Saturday to take part in a demonstration against austerity measures ahead of next week’s talks with international creditors, unions said. “Judging by the hundreds of cars that are en route to Lisbon … I think that we will have a big demonstration of indignation,” said Armenio Carlos, general secretary of the CGTP union which called the protest.

Organisers said that vehicles were heading to the capital from both northern and southern areas. The protest comes just days before officials from the so-called Troika — the European Union, European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund — arrive in Portugal on their latest mission to evaluate progress on the country’s bailout programme.

Portugal became the third European Union member state — after Greece and Ireland — to seek international aid when it received a loan of 78 billion euros ($103 billion) from the EU and the IMF last May.

In return it agreed to sell-offs of public companies and labour reforms including less holiday time, which sparked protests in several cities.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Protestors Mass in Greece After Cabinet OKs Debt Deal

(ATHENS) — Thousands of protestors massed in Greece under heavy police watch Saturday after the government approved unpopular austerity cuts to get vital rescue funds and avoid the “chaos” of a default. More than 3,500 people streamed to Syntagma Square in Athens on a second day of protests and a general strike, with hundreds of riot police standing guard following clashes that erupted during the rallies on Friday.

The defection-hit coalition government approved in the early hours on Saturday the painful belt-tightening measures that the EU and the IMF have demanded in return for a 130 billion euro ($171 billion) rescue package that Athens needs to avoid default in March. “We are here to say no to what they want to impose on us,” said Sophia, a 38-year-old researcher, as other protestors held up a banner reading: “They Are Ruining Our Lives.”

The general strike brought public transport to a halt in the Greek capital, with no metro, bus or trolley services. In the northern city of Thessaloniki, police estimated a crowd of some 4,000 at a similar protest.

As the cabinet debated the measures on Friday, Prime Minister Lucas Papademos issued a stern warning after six members of his coalition government resigned in protest at the new cuts.

“A disorderly default would plunge our country into a disastrous adventure,” he told the cabinet. “It would create conditions of uncontrolled economic chaos and social explosion.” “Sooner or later, (Greece) would be led out of the euro,” he warned.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Spanish Unions Call for Mass Protests on February 19

Spain’s two biggest unions called Saturday for nationwide protests on February 19 against labour reforms which they said would destroy jobs. “On February 19 we want the streets of Spain to be filled with noisy protests against the labour reforms,” the head of the CCOO union, Ignacio Fernandez Toxo, told a joint news conference with UGT union boss Candido Mendez.

“We will set in motion a process of mobilisation that we hope will grow,” Toxo said. The reforms “will destroy jobs in the short term and increase job insecurity in the medium term (and) increase the frustration of people” already reeling under earlier austerity measures, Mendez added.

Spain’s conservative government on Friday slashed employees’ maximum severance pay as part of sweeping labour reforms to confront a jobless rate of nearly 23 percent. “The government’s goal is to fight joblessness,” Employment Minister Fatima Banez told reporters.

Hundreds of people protested in Madrid on Friday night against the reform, in the latest of a string of demonstrations against austerity measures.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

USA


Diana West: “Why Wasn’t Obama in Contempt of Court?”

One thing I’ve learned while researching my new, nearly finished book is that both history and news, history’s so-called rough draft, are not written by the “victors” as much as they are censored, twisted and reconfigured by what I can best describe as “the mob.”

I’m not referring to the Mafia. What I’m talking about is a mob-like amalgam of sharp elbows and big mouths who dictate acceptable topics, their narrative flow and an approved range of opinion — the consensus-makers. Defying consensus, breaking what amount to Mafia-like vows of “omerta” — silence — and delving into the verboten, is the worst possible crime of anti-mobness, punishable by eternal hooting and marginalization.

Few transgress. Which explains the news blackout on an extraordinary chain of recent events that took place in and around a Georgia courtroom and pertained to challenges to President Obama’s eligibility to be a presidential candidate in Georgia in 2012. In the end, the president defeated the challenge. He will be on the Georgia primary ballot come March. But therein lies an amazing tale.

Already I can feel the chill hiss of “birther” at the mere mention of these events, all because I haven’t included the mob-requisite catcalls that are “supposed” to go along with such accounts. But there’s nothing to mock here.

Last month, after Administrative Law Judge Michael Malihi denied motions by President Obama’s lawyer Michael Jablonski both to dismiss proceedings against the president and to quash a subpoena, three attorneys made history. For the first time, attorneys were permitted to enter evidence into the court record challenging Barack Obama’s constitutional eligibility to be president.

Georgia state law stipulates: “Every candidate for federal and state office … shall meet the constitutional and statutory qualifications for holding the office being sought.” Plaintiff attorneys Van Irion and Mark Hatfield, who is also a Georgia state representative, argued that President Obama, an American citizen, fails to meet these qualifications because he is not a “natural born” citizen, the constitutional requirement for the presidency. This is due, they argued, to the uncontested fact that his father, Barack Obama Sr. of Kenya, was a British subject, not an American citizen. A third plaintiff attorney, Orly Taitz — object of an eternity’s worth of “two-minute hates” within the media mob — introduced evidence that the 44th president of the United States has engaged in what appears to be identity fraud.

Such evidence, as gleaned from a partial list of exhibits introduced in the hearing and published at the American Thinker website, included affidavits from security professionals and other documentation attesting that Obama is using a Connecticut Social Security number (he never lived in Connecticut); that Obama’s purported Social Security number was never issued to him; and that — my favorite — his Social Security number “does not pass E-Verify.” Another affidavit from an Adobe Illustrator expert maintains that Obama’s birth certificate, released last spring to much hype and ballyhoo, is a computer-generated forgery.

Frankly, I was unimpressed with the presidential defense in pre-hearing arguments…

           — Hat tip: TV [Return to headlines]



Minneapolis Helps Muslim Businesses Follow Sharia Law

Loans that collect interest are considered by some to be sinful under Sharia law.

In 2005, Afrik Grocery and Halal Meat on Cedar Avenue needed to expand. Owner Abdi Adem, who operates his business under Sharia law, needed to find a loan that funded the expansion and complied with his religious beliefs. Finding the loan was easier than he expected. Since December 2006, the city of Minneapolis, in partnership with the African Development Center, has given out 54 loans in a way that is compliant with Islamic law by using a fixed rate in place of a variable interest rate, which some considered sinful.

Instead of charging interest, the city and the ADC estimate how long it will take the business to pay off the loan and totals what the interest would be. That amount is added as a lump sum to the total cost of the loan. “It feels like, looks like and acts like a loan, but it’s just a different way of looking at it,” said Hussein Samatar, executive director of the ADC.

Abdulwahid Qalinle, an adjunct associate professor of Islamic law at the University of Minnesota, said interest rates can be considered sinful under Sharia law. “Islam has specific guidelines where people can acquire wealth and how to spend their wealth,” Qalinle said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Occupy DC Plans Mayhem for Major Conservative Conference

The “Occupy DC” protest group is planning to disrupt the upcoming Conservative Political Action Conference using a range of potentially illegal tactics that could even include violence against participants, Scribe has learned.

The planned disruptions at CPAC come only days after U.S. Park Police raided Occupiers’ tent cities at McPherson Square and Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C., confiscating a number of tents, and prohibiting Occupiers from camping out there any longer.

During a Thursday meeting at McPherson Square, until Saturday the epicenter of the protests, Occupiers brainstormed tactics for shutting down or disrupting the conference, according to a source who was present at the meeting.

The protesters suggested pulling fire alarms in the hotel where the conference will take place, screaming “fire” during conference activities, “glitter-bombing” participants, cutting electrical power, and barricading entrances to the hotel, according to the source, who requested anonymity.

“Speakers will be physically assaulted, not just verbally confronted,” the source told Scribe in an email. Two Occupiers, who the source also identified as members of the New Black Panther Party, “said they would be disappointed if they didn’t get arrested and planned to ‘make it count.’“

The source quoted another protester as saying, “Mitt (Romney) has Secret Service now, but (Newt) Gingrich and (Andrew) Breitbart don’t,” seemingly suggesting that the latter two would not be as heavily guarded.

Protesters planned to conduct most of these activities on Saturday, the last day of the conference, so as not to overlap with the recently announced protests by labor groups on Thursday and Friday.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



OWS & the Planned “Endgame” For the U.S.

Buckle up, America. It’s going to be a very long, hot summer

Are you baffled by the wording, timing and bipartisan support of recent legislation such as the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the Expatriation Act, SOPA, PIPA and ACTA? Are you concerned over the enhancement of domestic security measures that appear to be targeting and incrementally ripping away the rights of law abiding American citizens? Are you concerned about the evolving DHS “domestic extremist” definitions? Have you wondered about the true origins of the financial crises and what appears to be a quickening of events in all sectors of our lives? How about the origins of the current “Occupy Movement?” When and why everything started? Who and what is to blame? If so, you’re not alone.

We conducted an extensive investigation of the occupy movement to identify the people involved, as well as the money and influence behind it. What we found is that nothing related to the “Occupy Movement” is what it appears. In fact, nothing from Arab Spring, to DHS policy and beyond is what it appears to be. We found unsettling relationships between people, elected and appointed officials, groups, and organizations that extend back many years.

Investigative integrity demands a deliberate blindness to political party affiliations, but not ignorance to political associations. Consequently, our results will most assuredly anger many on both sides of the political aisle. If it does, we’ll know that we’ve done our job. Our findings might also brand us as conspiracy theorists too. If so, we’ll know that we’ve done our job well. Our findings are bound to make some people nervous. We hope they do, as we will then know that we’ve put our investigative skills and experience to good use.

Based on our investigative findings, we have arrived at a very startling and irrefutable conclusion. We are witnessing the orchestrated destruction of America. Soon, in the streets of the U.S., we will see some of the most violent events in modern history take place, likely to result in the implementation of public curfews, restrictions on travel, and possibly even Martial Law. That appears to be the plan. It is not a new plan, but one that has been in the works since the early twentieth century. We have created an in-depth report that reveals the individuals and groups behind these events, their motives, tactics and methods. The following is a summary of that report and our investigative findings…

[Return to headlines]



U.S. Air Force May Buy 18,000 Apple iPad 2s

The U.S. Air Force may buy as many as 18,000 iPad2s in what would be one of the military’s biggest orders of computer tablets, accelerating Apple Inc. (AAPL)’s inroads into the federal government. The service’s Air Mobility Command plans to issue a request for proposals to buy between 63 and 18,000 “iPad 2, Brand Name or Equal devices” to lighten the load of flight crews, according to a notice posted on the Federal Business Opportunities website.

The goal is to replace the bag of manuals and navigation charts weighing as much as 40 pounds that are carried by pilots and navigators, said Captain Kathleen Ferrero, a spokeswoman for the command. “The airline industry is way ahead of us on this,” she said in a telephone interview. “Most, if not all of the major airliners are already switching to tablets.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Canada


Mosque May be Shipped to Iqaluit From Winnipeg

Zubaidah Tallab Foundation shipped a mosque to Inuvik, N.W.T., in 2010

The Winnipeg group that sent a mosque to Inuvik, N.W.T., is planning to send another one north, this time to Iqaluit. The Zubaidah Tallab Foundation transported a pre-built mosque by road and barge from Manitoba to Inuvik in 2010. People who worship there say the Midnight Sun Mosque has helped bring people in the community together. Hussain Guisti, general manager of the foundation, said it wants to do the same for Muslims living in Nunavut’s capital. “For a Muslim community, a mosque is everything. It’s the epicentre of daily life,” he said. The igloo-shaped St. Jude’s Anglican church is one of Iqaluit’s landmarks. There’s also a Catholic church, a Pentecostal church and a place of worship for people of the Bahai faith, but no mosque. There are few plots of land available in the quickly-expanding town and just getting the building to the city would be difficult. There are no roads to Nunavut, and the building would have to come as freight on the annual sealift, which would be expensive. But Guisti said he’s ready for those challenges and wants to help the 80 or so Muslims that live in Iqaluit. “They’re cold and there’s not much to do. So a mosque would serve to bring the entire community together as a social and gathering place for Muslims.” He said the city could have it by this fall, if he can collect enough funds.

[Reader comment by Allworld on 11 February 2012 at 09:04 ET]

“Have mosque, will ship”

Says the Muslim man,

A mosque for Iqaluit

In Canada’s Northern land.

“Will ship it by Sealift”

To arrive in the Fall,

Although it’s costly to ship this way

Iqaluit’s Muslims will have a place to meet and pray.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



Muslims Preparing for Annual Eid-E-Milad Event

Muslims in Calgary will again be celebrating their annual Eide-Milad event, which celebrates the birthday and the life of the Prophet Muhammad. The program takes place Sunday at the Epcor Centre for the Performing Arts, at Jack Singer Hall, 205 8th Ave. S.E. The program will start at 5 p.m. Atthar Mahmood, vice-president of the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada and president of Muslims Against Terrorism, says the guest speakers include: Brig.-Gen. Paul F. Wynnyk; Qari Syed Muhammad Fassiuddini from Karachi, Pakistan; Dr. Munir El Kassen; Senator Grant Mitchell; MP Ralph Goodale; and MP Jim Karygiannis. Local speakers include Senior Imam Syed Soharwardy, Imam Qari Ghalib Chisty, Imam Zareef, and Mahmood. “This is a program of learning for everyone about the life of (the) Prophet Muhammad,” says Mahmood. Dinner will be served as part of the program. “Calgary holds one of the largest programs in Canada, where approximately 1,500 to 1,800 people every year (attend),” Mahmood says.

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU


Court: Norway’s Breivik to Undergo Constant Psychiatric Scrutiny

Oslo, Norway (CNN) — A Norwegian court ordered Anders Behring Breivik, charged with killing 77 people last July, to undergo a month-long psychiatric evaluation as experts seek to determine his mental state ahead of a trial.

Breivik is accused of killing eight people in a bomb attack in Oslo and 69 more in a gun rampage on nearby Utoya Island on July 22. It was the deadliest attack on Norwegian soil since World War II.

Two court-appointed psychiatric experts recommended that Breivik should spend four weeks under 24-hour psychiatric monitoring so the court can get the fullest possible picture of his behavior, according to court documents released Friday.

He should be kept away from other patients but will still have to interact with psychiatric staff, the documents say. The observation will be carried out in facilities at Ila Prison, where he is being held.

Breivik has said he will not cooperate with the two psychiatric experts, which underlines the need for constant observation, the court documents said.

The two experts were appointed last month to evaluate his mental state after the court requested a second opinion because of the importance of the question of his sanity to Breivik’s trial.

In November, prosecutors said psychiatrists had determined Breivik was paranoid and schizophrenic at the time of the attacks and during 13 interviews experts conducted with him afterward.

Breivik has pleaded not guilty, though he has admitted carrying out the attacks, the judge handling his case said previously.

It may not be possible for him to be sentenced to the maximum punishment for the crimes if he’s deemed insane.

A court ruled Monday that Breivik can legally be kept in custody until his trial starts in April.

Breivik reiterated some of his extremist views during Monday’s hearing, which began with him entering with a smile and offering up a raised, clenched-fist salute.

Breivik says nobody could believe that he was insane, and describes questions about his mental condition as ridiculous, his lawyer, Geir Lippestad, told the court.

Breivik claims the shooting rampage was a matter of self-defense, meant to save Norway from being taken over by multicultural forces and to prevent ethnic cleansing of Norwegians, Lippestad said.

Authorities have described him as a right-wing Christian extremist. A 1,500-page manifesto attributed to Breivik posted on the Internet is critical of Muslim immigration and European liberalism, including Norway’s Labour Party.

The victims on Utoya Island were among 700 mostly young people attending a Labour Party camp on the island.

Breivik’s trial is scheduled to begin April 16 and is expected to last 10 weeks.

           — Hat tip: The Observer [Return to headlines]



Dutchman to Sell Rare 250-Year-Old Liquor Collection

Thousands of bottles of rare cognac and other drink, some dating back to the French Revolution, went up for sale Friday, with its Dutch collector expected to reap several million dollars. Describing it as the “largest collection of old liquors in the world”, a spokesman for Breda publisher Bay van der Bunt said around 5,000 bottles of cognac, whisky, armagnac and other liquors are to be sold for a total estimated price of eight million dollars (six million euros).

Van der Bunt “promised his wife he’d sell his collection when she retired at age 65 and he’s making good on that promise,” Bart Laming told AFP. He said that Van der Bunt, 63, who inherited part of the collection from his father and grandfather and stored it in a cellar at his home in the southwestern Dutch city, had no children to hand it to.

The collection includes a hand-blown six-litre bottle of 1795 Brugerolle cognac believed to have been requisitioned by French revolutionary army officers. “It is believed this bottle also accompanied Napoleon Bonaparte on his campaigns and is the only one left in the world,” Laming said.

On its own, the bottle has an asking price of 138,000 euros, although Van der Bunt is hoping to negotiate a sale for most of the collection as a single lot.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



EU Slams PVV Anti-Polish Website

Brussels has come out strongly against the website for complaints about Central and East European migrants in the Netherlands launched by Geert Wilders’ populist Freedom Party PVV. The European Commission is calling on Dutch citizens not to heed “this open call for intolerance”. Instead it says they should leave messages on the website pointing out that Europe is a place for freedom.

European Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship Commissioner Viviane Reding says the PVV site flies in the face of European principles. “In Europe, we stand for freedom. We stand for an open continent where citizens can move, work and study wherever they want,’ she said. “We solve our problems by showing more solidarity, not by telling tales about our fellow citizens.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



How Your Cat is Making You Crazy

Jaroslav Flegr is no kook. And yet, for years, he suspected his mind had been taken over by parasites that had invaded his brain. So the prolific biologist took his science-fiction hunch into the lab. What he’s now discovering will startle you. Could tiny organisms carried by house cats be creeping into our brains, causing everything from car wrecks to schizophrenia? A biologist’s science- fiction hunch is gaining credence and shaping the emerging science of mind- controlling parasites.

By Kathleen McAuliffe

No one would accuse Jaroslav Flegr of being a conformist. A self-described “sloppy dresser,” the 63-year-old Czech scientist has the contemplative air of someone habitually lost in thought, and his still-youthful, square-jawed face is framed by frizzy red hair that encircles his head like a ring of fire.

Certainly Flegr’s thinking is jarringly unconventional. Starting in the early 1990s, he began to suspect that a single-celled parasite in the protozoan family was subtly manipulating his personality, causing him to behave in strange, often self-destructive ways. And if it was messing with his mind, he reasoned, it was probably doing the same to others.

The parasite, which is excreted by cats in their feces, is called Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii or Toxo for short) and is the microbe that causes toxoplasmosis—the reason pregnant women are told to avoid cats’ litter boxes. Since the 1920s, doctors have recognized that a woman who becomes infected during pregnancy can transmit the disease to the fetus, in some cases resulting in severe brain damage or death. T. gondii is also a major threat to people with weakened immunity: in the early days of the AIDS epidemic, before good antiretroviral drugs were developed, it was to blame for the dementia that afflicted many patients at the disease’s end stage. Healthy children and adults, however, usually experience nothing worse than brief flu-like symptoms before quickly fighting off the protozoan, which thereafter lies dormant inside brain cells—or at least that’s the standard medical wisdom.

But if Flegr is right, the “latent” parasite may be quietly tweaking the connections between our neurons, changing our response to frightening situations, our trust in others, how outgoing we are, and even our preference for certain scents. And that’s not all. He also believes that the organism contributes to car crashes, suicides, and mental disorders such as schizophrenia. When you add up all the different ways it can harm us, says Flegr, “Toxoplasma might even kill as many people as malaria, or at least a million people a year.”…

           — Hat tip: Nilk [Return to headlines]



Italy: Foreign Minister Calls for End to Female Genital Mutilation

United Nations could pass resolution in 2012

(ANSA) — Rome, February 2011 — Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi said Monday that Italy would continue to support the worldwide campaign against female genital mutilation or cutting (FGM/C).

In a statement released on Monday, the International Day of Zero Tolerance against female genital mutilation, Terzi said that 2012 “could be the year that the international community, through a United Nations General Assembly resolution, condemns the barbaric practice that strongly damages the dignity and psychophysical well-being of women”.

Over 140 million women each year are victims of the practice.

“Our country has always supported measures against FGM/C,” added Terzi, who has been personally involved since 2009 when Italy organized a meeting in New York of African countries actively addressing the issue. The minister underlined the need for “persistent educational initiatives while respecting cultural traditions, and to promote social and cultural changes from within the countries involved”.

The true protagonists in the battle are the African countries dedicated to the abolition and “the best way to commemorate the day is to continue to encourage these countries in their efforts,” concluded Terzi.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Italy: Berlusconi’s Party, PD Find Common Ground on Election Reform

Parliament’s two biggest groups agree on need to change law

(ANSA) — Rome, February 8 — The prospect of Italy’s much-criticised electoral system being changed has increased after the country’s two biggest parties, former premier Silvio Berlusconi’s centre-right People of Freedom (PdL) and the centre-left Democratic Party (PD), found common ground on the issue.

The current law has been widely criticised for distancing politicians from voters, who effectively cannot pick their representatives, as party leaders have the power to name candidates on so-called ‘blocked lists’, which are then voted on.

As a result, candidates do not need to champion the concerns of constituents so much but they do need to lobby within their parties to get high enough on the lists to be elected.

The law has earned derision from many experts and even its author, Northern League heavyweight Roberto Calderoli, who famously admitted soon after he conceived it in late 2005 that it was “crap”.

The PD, who were in opposition to Berlusconi’s government but have joined their centre-right rivals in supporting Premier Mario Monti’s emergency administration of technocrats, and the PdL released a statement of areas of agreement following a meeting of party officials on Tuesday.

The parties agreed on the need to change the current system and said that voters should be given back the power to choose their representatives.

They also both thought that the new system should be designed to limit political fragmentation, so that there are not too many parties in parliament, and conserve the current party system based on two major rival coalitions.

PdL representatives will meet with officials from a coalition of the centrist parties calling itself the ‘Third Pole’ and the left-wing SEL for more talks on electoral reform on Wednesday.

The parties are trying to reach an agreement for a new system after a proposal for a referendum to change the electoral law was rejected last month by the Constitutional Court.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Italy: Case Dropped Against ‘Bunga Bunga’ Witnesses

Fede took them to alleged Berlusconi sex party, women say

(ANSA) — Rome, February 8 — A Milan judge has dropped a case filed by veteran TV anchor Emilio Fede accusing two young women of defamation for saying he took them to an alleged sex party at ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi’s Milan villa.

In his lawsuit filed last April Fede said the statements leaked to the press were “absolutely false and denigratory” to himself and other persons cited.

The two former beauty contestants, Ambra Battilana and Chiara Danese, gave detailed accounts of the former premier’s alleged ‘bunga bunga’ parties and claimed Fede said they should have sex with him and Berlusconi if they wanted to further their careers.

Berlusconi said he was “disgusted” by the women’s account while Milan prosecutors said the testimony was an “important” part of their case.

The ex-premier denies having sex with an underage prostitute called Ruby and using his power to spring her from a jail cell in an unrelated case.

Fede denies separate charges of supplying Berlusconi with prostitutes.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Massive Street Protests Wage War on Acta Anti-Piracy

The world is witnessing the largest offline protest against copyright legislation today. Massive demonstrations against the draconian anti-piracy treaty ACTA are spanning four continents, with protests in more than 200 European cities alone. Hundreds of thousands of people are taking to the streets to prevent their countries and the European Parliament from putting the free Internet at risk by ratifying ACTA,

Last month the European Union officially signed the controversial “anti-piracy” trade agreement ACTA.

The EU followed in the footsteps of Australia, Canada, Japan, South Korea, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore and the United States, who already signed it last October. This brings ACTA a step closer to passing, but individual EU member states and the European Parliament still have to ratify the treaty later this year.

To prevent this from happening, hundreds of thousands of people across the world are taking to the streets today, and millions more are expected to do their part online. In Europe demonstrations are being held in more than 200 cities, the largest in Sofia, Bulgaria, with more than 50,000 participants.

           — Hat tip: Kitman [Return to headlines]



Scotland: Rare Whisky Sells for £44,000

A rare bottle of 1955 Glenfiddich single malt whisky has sold at auction for £44,000 — around £1700 a nip.

The bottle of Glenfiddich Janet Sheed Roberts Reserve was sold at auction in London to an anonymous telephone bidder. It is the second of 11 bottles to be released to the public. The first sold at Bonhams in Edinburgh in December for a record breaking £46,850, topping the previous world record of just under £30,000 for a bottle of single malt.

The 11 bottles of the 1955 tipple are being released to honour Janet Sheed Roberts, the granddaughter of William Grant who founded the Glenfiddich distillery. Mrs Roberts, who celebrated her 110th birthday in August, is the oldest living person in Scotland, a spokeswoman for the distillery said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



UK: Any Fool Can See It’s About Floating the Tumbleweed

[…]

Here’s some unsurprising news: the BBC has apparently banned its reporters from referring to Abu Qatada as an “extremist”. He has to be described as a “radical”. Well, quite. It really wouldn’t do to describe Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man, who has twice been convicted of terrorist bomb plots and who has said it is the duty of Muslims to kill Jews, as an extremist. This is not surprising, because the BBC has for years been in thrall to a form of liberal cringe, a mindset which holds that expressing anything which might be construed as a value judgment is the ultimate journalistic crime. But there’s a huge irony. So suffused is the BBC with Lefty-liberals that what it considers non-judgmental reporting is actually riddled with its own prejudices. There are certain views which, in the BBC worldview, “normal” people don’t hold. Anyone who has heard the way advocates of withdrawal from the EU are treated, for instance, knows how true this is. But the giveaway is that word “extremist”. On the day the BBC edict was issued about Abu Qatada, its reporters referred to “far-Right extremists” in their coverage of a select committee report about terrorism. For the BBC, if you’re a far-Right terrorist, you’re an extremist. If you’re a Muslim terrorist, you’re just a bit outré.

[…]

[JP note: The BBC is floating the tumbleweed on behalf of multiculturalism.]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: Fury Over Moves to Hold More Court Cases in Secret Which Will ‘Sweep Away Centuries of Fair Trial Protections’

Radical changes to the justice system will sweep away centuries of fair trial protections, senior lawyers and civil liberty campaigners warned yesterday.

Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke wants ministers to have the power to withhold evidence they deem ‘sensitive’ from civil court hearings.

But critics say the reforms will lead to a rise in the number of secret hearings and would deny defendants the right to challenge evidence used against them.

There would be more ‘Closed Material Procedures,’ where evidence is only disclosed to a judge, minister or ‘Special Advocate’ — a barrister authorised to work on national security cases.

Often, the minister exercising this new power would be a party to the case in a move which campaigners argue is an extraordinary conflict of interest.

           — Hat tip: Kitman [Return to headlines]



UK: Fears Over Future of Sun Newspaper After More Arrests

Fears are mounting over the future of The Sun newspaper after more of the tabloid’s journalists were arrested by police investigating alleged corruption.

Five top journalists, believed to include Geoff Webster, the newspaper’s deputy editor, were detained on suspicion of making illegal payments to police officers and other officials. For the first time, the arrests broadened beyond payments to police, with a Ministry of Defence employee and a member of the Armed forces also being held by police.

The development suggests Scotland Yard’s Operation Elveden, set up to investigate illegal payments to police officers, is now focusing on a wider range of alleged illegal activity than previously thought. The five Sun staff were held in a series of early-morning raids after information was handed to the Metropolitan Police by News Corporation, the tabloid’s parent company.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



UK: Former Pub Could Become Mosque

AN ISLAMIC group is hoping to convert a former pub into a mosque to meet the need for its own place of worship. With no mosques in the town, the Bury group of the Suffolk Islamic Cultural Association (SICA) hires a room each Friday at the Centre in St John’s Street, Bury St Edmunds. But the group has now launched a petition to gather support from the community to turn the former Falcon Pub in Risbygate Street into a mosque. Pub giant Greene King recently closed the pub, despite a campaign to save it, citing poor trading conditions and competition from nearby licensed premises. The firm successful applied for planning permission for it to be turned into three homes and it is now on the market at a guide price of £325,000.

SICA wants to purchase the former pub — which had served the community for more than 130 years — and will be submitting a planning application soon. President Syed Nurul Haque said there was a great need for a mosque in the town, adding that about 60 to 70 people on average came to worship at the Centre. His son, Umor Haque, said there was no mosque within a 10-mile radius. He said: “People praying as a Muslim in this town have had to do so in a whole mixture of makeshift places. The Suffolk Islamic Cultural Association feels it’s now time to have a mosque because it’s been many, many years coming to be honest.” He said over the 14 or so years the group had been going members had worshipped in collection of places, including restaurants. “I think due to the fact we are in the year 2012 and lots of places already have mosques and for a town like Bury — it’s a very big town and its quite known across the country — I think it would make sense to have a mosque.”

As well as allowing the Muslim community to be together more and worship more frequently in a better-suited location, Umor said another advantage of having their own mosque was increasing people’s awareness of their faith. If their plans for a mosque are successful they are hoping to have a conference to bring together people from all faiths each month.

Cynthia Capey, an inter-faith consultant who is involved with the Suffolk Inter-faith Resource (SIFRE) and the East of England Faiths Agency (EEFA), said it was “very important” for a group to have its own place of worship. “For Muslim communities a mosque is the centre of their lives, it’s not just the place they go for prayer. It becomes a community centre as well.” Ward councillor Paul Farmer said: “This is certainly an interesting change of use which I hadn’t expected. I look forward to finding out its details when the application has been registered, and hearing the views of local people.”

To support the proposal contact Syed on 07595 827323.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: Taj Hargey Renews Attack on Tablighi Jamaat Over Newham ‘Mega-Mosque’

A Muslim scholar who has courted controversy in Islamic circles for his progressive views on women has stepped into the equally fiery territory of contemporary architecture.

Taj Hargey is an imam and the director of the Muslim Educational Centre of Oxford who is best known for allowing men and women to pray together and for discouraging veils. He describes himself as a “thorn in the side of Muslim hierarchy”. Now he is risking a similar status in architecture after weighing into the long-running row over plans for a giant mosque on the Olympic fringes. Cambridge practice Nicholas Ray Associates & Plastik Architects (NRAP) is the third architect in five years to work on the project in Newham for Islamic group Tablighi Jamaat, after it dropped Mangera Yvars and then Allies & Morrison.

Newham Council insists the 7ha project must be mixed-use and the latest plans are for a 9,500-capacity mosque surrounded by a park, shops and 300 flats in five blocks of up to seven storeys. But Hargey described the plans as “smoke and mirrors” designed to “dupe” the local authority into granting planning permission. “Tablighi Jamaat presents itself as inclusive but is anything but,” he said. “It is a sectarian group that does nothing much for social cohesion with its fundamentalist view of Islam. If someone wanted to open a lingerie shop there, can you imagine they would be allowed to? It will only be Muslim-approved businesses.” He added: “This should have been a golden opportunity for a fusion of the best of British indigenous architecture fused with eastern design. Islam does not have a culture — Muslims do. Muslims in Britain want to bring the culture and style of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia but it’s not healthy, especially in this post-9/11 world.” A statement on the Riverine Centre website insisted Tablighi Jamaat was a peaceful group and said: “We believe that our plans will give the site a new lease of life and allow the community to make better use of it. This is an important boost for the local economy, being financed entirely from private donations and creating a new wave of jobs in the construction industry as the Olympic construction comes to an end.”

Building Design, 10 February 2012

Hargey, you may recall, has been campaigning against the Newham project in an alliance with right-wing Christian fundamentalist Alan Craig.

[JP note: Link to the Riverine Centre website: http://riverinecentrenewham.co.uk/about/ ]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: There’s No Place for Dreaming Spires in Professor Les Ebdon’s World

by Charles Moore

Should this epitome of educational mediocrity be gatekeeper to our finest universities?

In Thomas Hardy’s great and gloomy novel, Jude the Obscure, the poor boy Jude hears of Oxford (called Christminster in the novel) from his good teacher who is heading there. Jude wants to follow him to this place of promise. His aunt discourages it — “We’ve never had anything to do with folk in Christminster” — but Jude longs at least to see from afar what he imagines to be “the heavenly Jerusalem”. Reflecting that “the higher he got, the further he could see”, he climbs a ladder on to the roof of a barn and looks out. Across the vale, he discerns the university of Christminster in the evening light, and gazes “on and on till the windows and veils lost their shine” in the dusk. If you look on the website of Parliament, you can watch the proceedings of the House of Commons Select Committee on Business, Innovation and Skills. Last week, the committee interviewed Professor Les Ebdon, who is the Government’s preferred candidate to run OFFA, the Office for Fair Access. This is the body which forces our universities to make agreements with it about how they will admit more pupils from “disadvantaged” backgrounds.

The quality of the recording is rather poor, and so, unless one listens intently, one can hear only Professor Ebdon’s vast stock of cliche’s and buzzwords — “I’m passionate about… social mobility… transform hundreds of thousands of lives… best practice… evidence-based… open and transparent…” — droning out across the floor of Parliament’s Thatcher Room (named after someone who, despite being a woman from a lower-middle-class family none of whose members had been to university, and having had no assistance from any “access regulator”, got into Oxford in 1943). At one point, however, Prof Ebdon does something more striking. He praises the young woman called Elly Nowell who recently applied to Magdalen College, Oxford, but then sent it a “rejection” letter. At her interview, she wrote, the college had failed to pass her exacting tests of suitability, and had intimidated her by putting her in “grand formal settings”, so she would be applying elsewhere. Prof Ebdon agreed with Miss Nowell that universities “can make ourselves look rather frightening” and that it was unfair of them to sit interviewees in “baronial halls”.

People such as Professor Ebdon will never understand poor people like Jude the Obscure. Without even thinking about it, the Ebdons reject the dream that lies behind that phrase “the higher he got, the further he could see”. They do not recognise that what they call the “frightening” quality of a great university is part of its allure, as it must be frightening to face selection to play football at Old Trafford or cricket at Lord’s. The fear one feels is a function of one’s respect for something great and challenging — for the best, in its field, that there is. It is a proper fear, and if you don’t feel it, you probably aren’t cut out for a really good education. For Professor Ebdon, the sort of awe Jude felt is a bad thing. If any student arriving for interview is frightened, then the university in question is at fault. It must be “elitism” at work. From which it follows that it is our best universities that will always be seen by the Ebdons of this world as our worst. No doubt he would boast that candidates for his own University of Bedfordshire are welcomed in a “user-friendly” way and feel no fear. But then I don’t suppose that latterday Judes climb barns to gaze upon his Luton campus and dream of what they might learn there.

Thanks to a selection process that is run by bureaucrats who naturally advance their own kind, it was only at a regrettably late stage that anyone began to notice the problem with Professor Ebdon. This man is a trade unionist for the former polytechnics. He chairs their “think tank” (actually a pressure group) called million +, whose chief executive was a would-be Labour candidate at the last election. He writes articles in favour of teaching “Mickey Mouse” subjects at university. He is the epitome, the crème de la condensed milk of the cult of educational mediocrity. He seems perfectly nice, by the way, but to put him in charge of who gets in to some of the greatest universities in the world would be like putting a scoutmaster in charge of recruitment to the Army.

It would be hard to imagine someone less likely to win the respect of the top universities, such as the Russell Group, which Professor Ebdon wishes to put in the access spotlight. Surely the trick would be to appoint a “poacher turned gamekeeper”, such as a leading ex-public school headmaster who understands the game of admissions to top universities, or a non-partisan professor of unimpeachable academic reputation, or the head of a slum school who had made it great. To put in a member of the old “polyocracy” is the precise reverse of this Government’s wider educational aims. At the very moment when Sir Michael Wilshaw has been asked by Michael Gove to make our worst schools raise their standards, along comes Professor Ebdon to order our best universities to lower theirs.

It was only when, at the committee hearing, Professor Ebdon spoke of using the “nuclear option” of refusing access agreements to universities if they did not satisfy him, that MPs at last woke up. He also told them that he would like a “tactical strike option” to sanction particular universities. MPs noted with dismay that he placed no blame on schools for the failure of children from difficult backgrounds to apply for good universities. The committee withheld parliamentary approval for Prof Ebdon’s appointment. So now there is something which, in Coalition parlance, is called a “pause”. The Business Secretary, Vince Cable, wants Professor Ebdon, and the appointment is his. The universities minister, David Willetts, whose famed two brains enable him to listen to both sides of any argument for a dangerously long time, is also supporting Professor Ebdon, sort of. Most Tories, however, are exasperated, especially the Prime Minister. During the current parliamentary recess, some thinking will go on.

It would be rash to predict the result. On the one hand, Mr Cameron has to assuage Liberal Democrat guilt about voting for the increase in tuition fees. In ministerial terms, this is Mr Cable’s call. On the other hand, the point of these select committee hearings is to give more authority to Parliament. If this committee does not want this candidate, how will he have the political backing to do his job? The most Machiavellian way to handle it would be to let Professor Ebdon take on the post and fail, as he surely will. Mr Cameron is quite capable of Machiavellianism, and the needs of the Coalition are pressing, so this outcome is possible. But surely coalitions discredit themselves when they become no more than the means of dividing the spoils of office. The public likes them when they add to the possibilities of what a government can do. In the field of education, this Government is more seriously committed than any of its predecessors to letting good schools flourish and making bad ones close. Tories and Liberals agree on this to a surprising extent. Getting bright pupils from poor backgrounds into good universities is the natural, wonderful result of that policy. Finding ways, with universities, of advancing that access, is a proper, though delicate part of it. So government must appoint people who go with the spirit of what it wants. When they go against that spirit, nothing works.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

North Africa


Egyptian Presidential Candidate Says No Freedom in Islam

by Raymond Ibrahim

In a recent TV interview, Hazim Abu Ismail, a candidate for Egypt’s presidency with affiliations to both the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis, made clear that the hijab, or veil for women, would be enforced under his leadership. More importantly, along the way he exposed his general views—that there is little freedom under Islam. Especially telling is the military analogy he used: being a Muslim is like being a member of the military; you must obey all its dictates, including dress codes. He fails to add, however, that, whereas much military service is voluntary, in Islam, if you are simply born to Muslim parents, then you have joined Islam—whether you like it or not. Hence, all the persecution of Muslim apostates. But, as Abu Ismail puts it, “This is Islam.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Egyptian Authorities Arrest American and Australian

(AGI) Cairo — Egyptian authorities have arrested an American student and an Australian journalist. The two are accused of paying workers to take part in the general strikes called by unions to pressure the Supreme Military Council to affect an immediate handover. The strikes took place on the first anniversary of former president Mubarak’s ousting. According to the Washington Post the two foreign nationals were arrested along with their two local guides in the town of Mahalla al-Kobra after being denounced by locals. The US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, is in Cairo in attempts to bring about mediation.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]

Middle East


Iran: Supreme Leader: Unified World Muslim to Conquer All Enemies

Tehran, Feb 10, IRNA — Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei said Friday that Muslim Ummah will attain dignity and prosperity through their allegiance to the path of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH).

The Supreme Leader made the remarks in a meeting with a group of officials, participants and ambassadors of the Muslim countries attending the 25th Conference on Islamic Unity in Tehran on Friday. In the meeting, Ayatollah Khamenei congratulated the audience on the occasion of the auspicious birth anniversary of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) and birth anniversary of Imam Jafar Sadeq (the sixth Imam of infallible prophet’s household). Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) is the manifestation of science, justice, ethics, blessings, said the Supreme Leader, adding that the people throughout history have always sought high morals and the role and responsibility of the Muslim Ummah is of prime importance to this effect.

God has promised to help the true followers attain their lofty aspirations, said Ayatollah Khamenei. World Muslims are in dire need of unity, said the Supreme Leader and referred to awakening of world nations and their uprising. ‘Regional and global developments along with unleash of revolutions in the region have placed the US and the Zionist regime in their weakest status which have created an unprecedented situation for Muslim Ummah,’ he added.

Ayatollah Khamenei said that there is no doubt that the Muslim Ummah will attain its dignity once again in the world. The enemies of the Islamic revolution spared no effort to quell the voice of this revolution, but to no avail they failed achieving their objectives, said the Supreme Leader. The Supreme Leader went on to say that the Iranian nation who remained committed to the path of Late Imam Khomeini could conquer all plots hatched by the enemies with success. Prior to Supreme Leader’s remarks, President Ahmadinejad also congratulated the auspicious occasion and said the Islamic revolution and other freedom-seeking movements throughout the world have been inspired by the teachings of prophet Mohammad (PBUH). Recent developments in the region should be regarded as the continuation of path of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) which will lead the world to a desirable status to get rid of all tyrants and Zionists, said the Iranian president.

[JP: Calm down, dear, and have a nice cup of tea.]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



Syrian Military Hospital Chief ‘Killed in Damascus’

The government says 2,000 members of the security forces have died fighting “gangs and terrorists”

The head of a Syrian military hospital has been killed by members of an “armed terrorist group” in the capital Damascus, the state news agency says

           — Hat tip: KGS [Return to headlines]

Russia


Russia Sounds Alarm Over Spiralling Teenage Suicides

Top Russian psychiatrists on Friday called for urgent measures to battle the soaring teenage suicide rate, one of the world’s highest. The number of 15 to 19-year-olds taking their own lives is almost three times higher than the world average at 19 to 20 per 100,000, the health ministry’s chief psychiatrist Zurab Kekelidze told a round table in Moscow.

Four thousand teenagers commit suicide every year, Russia’s presidential ombudsman for children, Pavel Astakhov, said Thursday. Kekelidze said psychology must be taught in schools to help children resolve their problems by and also called on the Russian Orthodox Church to extend support to disturbed youths.

“We have developed a programme and very soon …start implementing it,” Kekelidze said, cited by the RIA Novosti news agency. He also denounced controversial Internet forums that advise on the different ways of commiting suicide. Boris Polozhy, one of the main doctors at Moscow’s Serbsky Centre psychiatric hospital said: “The situation is extremely bad in our country.”

This week, two teenage girls jumped together off the roof of an apartment building in the town of Lobnya in the Moscow region in the third such double suicide in Russia since October. On Friday investigators said they were looking into the death of a 12-year-old boy, who hung himself on a horizontal bar at his home in Siberia’s Krasnoyarsk region.

Russia now has the world’s third highest rate of suicides among adolescents, according to UNICEF and the Russian health ministry. Since the turbulent 1990s, the country saw an overall fall in the number of suicides, with statistics showing a decline from 42 suicides per 100,000 people to 23.5 suicides between 1995 and 2010.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

South Asia


Bagladeshi Jamaat-E-Islami Activists Vandalize Hindu Temples

Several Hindu temples were ransacked and vandalized by Islamic extremists on Friday. Footage of the temples shows broken windows, overturned and smashed furniture, and even statues and paintings of Hindu deities thrown to the ground or broken.

           — Hat tip: A. Millar [Return to headlines]



Bangladesh: Jamaat-E-Islami Activists Vandalise Hindu Temples

New Delhi: Fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami activists vandalised several Hindu temples in the Hathazari area of Chittagong in Bangladesh on Thursday and Friday, forcing the law enforcement authorities to impose Section 144 of the Bangladesh Penal Code that bans public gatherings in the affected area. According to the website bdnews.com, Muslims, allegedly instigated by the fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami, first damaged a temple in the compound of the Loknath Sebasram at Nandirhat on Thursday evening and blocked the Chittagong-Rangamati Road on Friday morning in retaliation to a mosque being damaged by people coming out of the Loknath Sebasram. The website report further said that at least three other Hindu temples were attacked by the Islamic activists. It said that damage was inflicted on the Sri Sri Jagadeshwari Ma Temple, the Jagannath Bigroho Temple at Nandirhat and the Kalibari Temple in Sadar Upazila. The Sri Sri Jagadeshwari Ma Temple was also burnt, it added. The Primary and Mass Education Minister of Bangladesh, Afsar-ul-Ameen, has visited the area and instructed local authorities to take steps to normalise the situation. Local administration officials blamed the Jamaat-e-Islami and its student wing, the Islami Chhatra Shibir, for the incidents.

Reacting to the incident, liberal and secular minded people in Bangladesh said such events could pose a threat to the country’s secular fabric. Haroon Habib, a 1971 war veteran and a senior journalist, told ANI in a telephonic interview that: “These are very tragic events. Bangladeshis were never communal even under military rule. People must see a definite political motive behind these events.” He added: “There is a definite extremist political agenda behind these attacks. There are elements who want to destabilise the incumbent Hasina Government.” Haroon also blamed the local administration for not acting tough against fundamentalist elements in the area.

Allegations have it that houses belonging to Hindus in the area were also vandalised. Leaders of the minority Hindu community have blamed the “indifference” of the administration for the prevailing situation. Rejecting suggestions of fundamentalism being on the rise in Bangladesh, Haroon said there was no existential threat to the current regime, but he cautioned the Sheikh Hasina government not to be complacent. He also opined that there were many elements in Bangladesh who were unhappy with Sheikh Hasina’s close ties to New Delhi, as also her move to make the Constitution of the country more secular. Recently, the Bangladesh Army had foiled a coup attempt by retired and serving Army officers who had fundamentalist leanings. India has said that it is keeping a close watch on emerging developments in both Bangladesh and Maldives.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



India: Woman Killed for Practising Witchcraft in Assam

A woman was killed and buried by villagers for allegedly practising witchcraft in Assam’s Sonitpur district, police said today. The woman, identified as Lakshmi Gaur, was killed and buried at Misamari’s Milanpur area on Thursday on suspicion of her practising black magic and witchcraft, police said

Police have apprehended six persons in this connection. In a similar incident on Friday, a 45-year-old tribal woman, a mother of five children, was burnt alive.

An estimated 200 persons were killed during the last five years for allegedly practising sorcery and witchcraft

           — Hat tip: Kitman [Return to headlines]



India: Something Wicked This Way Comes

In a village near Suryapet, Nalgonda, a man parades around the village with his mother’s head attached to his bicycle. Her crime? She happened to be visiting around the same time her grandson happened to fall deathly ill. The village, which had earlier driven her away on the same charge, immediately concluded that it was her “witchcraft” that caused the boy’s affliction, not the water contamination prevalent in the village.

The rising number of cases relating to witchcraft in the State tell their own story. But the government has taken no discernible actions to address the issue despite cases of torture, child-sacrifice, kidnapping, discrimination, murder and even displacement of whole villages routinely make headlines. Veeraswamy, director of NGO Spoorthi, works towards empowerment and education in Suryapet.

He says, “The official numbers are misleading because most of these cases are not reported. Personally, I have known of over 100 of these incidents in the past six years. The government knows, the ministers know, everyone knows. No one cares enough to do anything about it. The police arrive after the crime is committed and book the offenders under some petty sections. So there is no real fear of repercussions.”

           — Hat tip: Kitman [Return to headlines]

Far East


Beijing Cares Little About Its “Citizens”, a “Domestic Market” Is Needed to Save China

Asia’s juggernaut is the world’s second biggest economy but only 8 per cent of its GDP is for local needs and consumption. The rest goes into useless speculation that is harmful to the national economy. Change is needed before it is too late. The great dissident provides his analysis.

Washington (AsiaNews) — China’s current Communist government only wants to make “money” and does not feel “accountable to the people”. However, by lowering the cost of money and developing a domestic market, it could avoid social, political and economic “collapse”, this according to Chinese dissident Wei Jingsheng who in this article looks at economist Lang Xianping’s own analysis to outline ways to save China.

Recently, Economics Professor Lang Xianping had some accurate comments about the current economic situation in China. However, he was not willing to link the responsibilities to the political system, and thus was unable to provide a realistic prescription. Nevertheless, the situation he described according to the surveyed data is indeed the real picture of China’s economy. The data may seem like exaggerations; in fact, they are not. Not only is the data true, long ago, a lot of the contents were already haltingly delivered by other experts who are familiar with the matter. The reason that Professor Lang’s comments produced a sensational effect is because he dared to voice a conclusion that others have not dared.

One of his important conclusions is that Chinese economic structure is extremely irrational and very deformed. During a speech in Shanghai, he pointed out that the Chinese people’s total consumption is a shocking 8% of the total GDP (Gross Domestic Product), even lower than the least developed African nation at 16%. During his recent lecture in northeast China, he also pointed out that 70% of the GDP used in construction and related industries. The words Professor Lang used were “to produce reinforced concrete”. That leaves only 30% for all the Chinese people across the country, and most of that is exported in exchange for foreign currency.

Most of that 30% went to the pockets of corrupt officials and both Chinese and foreign capitalists. Thus, the 1.3 billion Chinese people could only consume that mere 8% of the GDP — a living fraction lower than that of Third World countries in a country that is known as the world’s second largest economy. The two irrational structures, the minimal public consumption and the excessive construction are the root cause of unsustainable development in China, as well as the root cause of most of social conflict in China. Not only is China’s economy not sustainable; its politics is unsustainable as well.

So, regardless of whoever is in power, whether the Communist Party dictatorship or a democratic replacement, that government must change the economic structure making the whole and each detailed part more reasonable. Then, the development of China and the Chinese people’s living standard could be on the right track, the society could be in relative harmony, and politics would be relatively stable. Otherwise, intense social and economic conflicts will inevitably lead to the collapse of the government and social unrest.

How to change to make it reasonable? Let us examine the problems first. The two irrationals pointed out by Professor Lang, minimal consumption and excessive construction, are in fact two aspects of one irrational policy. From one perspective, the peoples’ consumption is too low, which results in a small domestic market. From another perspective, the government invests most of the money on real estate projects for high profit, meanwhile holding down the exchange rate in an effort to dump consumer goods, which could be used domestically, in the international market. Some of this foreign currency was used for foreign goods in an attempt to increase consumption, mostly among the wealthy, but that was just a small part. This profiteer type of development strategy, like fishing by draining the whole pond, is the root cause that leads to deformities of the economic structure. This is that mercantilist strategy very politely referred to by the international media and scholars.

Under the control of this profiteering strategy by Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin, and Hu Jintao, the people of China and the United States have given away high profit to the Chinese government, and the bureaucratic capitalist class and international capital that has relations with the Chinese government. The result after they united and made huge money is the impoverishment of the people in China and other countries including the United States, thus resulted the decline of the global consumer market, thus the global economic recession. During this recession, the most miserable ones are the Chinese people.

The consumption level of the Chinese people was designed at a minimum for survival. Now with the economic recession, naturally the Chinese government transfers the crisis to its poorest citizens. More and more people cannot survive by relying on their meagre income. This is when politics has entered a state of crisis. So adjusting the economic structure is not only what the people need, but also any government in China would pressingly need.

From the overall level, this adjustment must start from increasing the domestic consumption of the Chinese people first. Simply put, there are two things that must be done immediately. One is to stop the real estate investment contributing to the bubble economy, and move toward investment in other consumer goods. The lower real estate prices could help to recycle the surplus of currency in circulation, and to curb inflation in China. Another is to improve the RMB exchange rate, to increase imports to fill in the shortage of the domestic market. This can also recycle currency in circulation in the domestic market and curb inflation.

These two simple measures could both curb inflation and improve people’s living standards. The subsequent result is that China’s economic development model would gradually move towards something more reasonable, while political crisis will tend to ease. However, the cost of these measures is what the Communist Party and its bureaucrat-capitalist class would not accept. The cost is that the government’s revenue, along with that of the bureaucrat-capitalist class and the multinational companies, would drop significantly, even becoming negative.

If the Chinese government was a democratic government that must be accountable to the people, or even if it was only a kingdom or dynasty having a leader who is not fatuous enough to be irresponsible for the regime, it would take these simple measures of Robin Hood to save the country, unless it has already lost authority to take the measures.

But the current China is a deformed country, with a deformed government. The government does not need to be accountable to the people, nor responsible to the state. They are only responsible to the interest groups of their own bureaucrat-capitalist class. When the class of rich and powerful say no, the government will not do anything. You need not ask them what they would do when this country collapses. That is easy. They already know this government will collapse. They have already transferred or are transferring what they treasure — their wallets, their wives and children — to other countries that are governed well. Even their mistresses have opened money-laundering enterprises in the West, which has traumatized anti-drug police to wonder which kind of money is getting laundered. So there is a modern vocabulary term in China now called “stripped officials”, along with a saying called: “I am a rogue, so why should I be afraid”. Whether China collapses or nor really has little to do with these Communist officials.

Under the control of a bureaucrat-capitalist class that is not responsible and does not want to be responsible, will anyone be able to pay a price of their own to save this country? So Professor Lang had to use language that does not belong to a professor: “You all should go cry.” Although he does not dare to say the meaning clearly, his conclusion is indisputable. Without overthrowing the rule of the bureaucrat-capitalist class that is neither responsible nor wants to be responsible, there is no hope for China. So, crying becomes the only option and no one can save you all.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa


Kenya: Four Injured at Clashes at Mosque

A former envoy’s son was among four people seriously injured on Thursday night at a mosque after two groups of faithful clashed over the annual Maulidi festival

Mr Amir Hemed, son of former Kenyan envoy to Saudi Arabia Said Hemed, was among dozens of Muslims who had gathered at Mombasa’s Mlango wa Papa mosque to mark the annual event when a group opposed to the festival stormed the mosque, demanding its cancellation.

War of words

The war of words degenerated into a fight that left several injured and property damaged. Police rushed to the scene and ended the clashes. Senior clerics and Mombasa DC Abdi Hassan who tried to reconcile the rival sides failed as both camps stood their ground. The two factions eventually dispersed but police remained on guard at the mosque until early Friday morning. Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya organising secretary Sheikh Mohamed Khalifa on Friday called for restraint from both sides. “For Muslims to fight inside a mosque is great disrespect to the house of Allah,” he said. Maulidi celebrations are usually held worldwide every year in the third month of the Islamic Calendar to commemorate the birth of Prophet Muhammad.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Latin America


Argentina: Falkands Are Britain’s ‘Last Refuge of Declining Empire’

Argentina has claimed Britain is treating the Falkland Islands as the “last refuge of declining empire” as it urged the United Nations to stop the “militarisation” of the area.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Immigration


UK: Sex Attacker’s ‘Human Right to Family Life’ To Stay in the UK (But Are His Wife and Child Even Here?)

A foreign nurse who sexually assaulted a pregnant patient has avoided deportation because of his ‘right to family life’ — even though his wife and children may have returned to India.

Milind Sanade was jailed for 12 months after he groped a vulnerable 21-year-old he was examining for signs of breast cancer.

Following his release from prison, Indian national Sanade, 36, should have been deported.

But he appealed on the grounds of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, after fathering two children in England. He was granted leave to stay because his family life deserved ‘respect’.

           — Hat tip: Kitman [Return to headlines]

Culture Wars


Spain: Same-Sex Marriage Not Unconstitutional, Minister

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, FEBRUARY 7 — Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardon does not see elements of “unconstitutionality” in the law on same-sex marriage, though the Constitutional Court still has to give its verdict on the appeal that was lodged in 2005 by the People’s Party. This statement was made today on radio Cadena Ser by Minister Gallardon, who specified that his remark is a “personal view”. The government of PP leader Mariano Rajoy has not taken a public stance yet on the possible revocation of the law on same-sex marriage, legalized by the Zapatero government in June 2005. The new government has confirmed that it wants to reform the abortion law on the other hand. “My party will respect the verdict of the Constitutional Court” on same-sex marriage, said Gallardon. “My personal view is that the law is not unconstitutional, but the Court must decide on that.” The Minister added that the law on same-sex marriage will be in force until the supreme court reaches a verdict.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Tel Aviv More Gay-Friendly, Taboos Turn Into Business

Pockets of prejudice & unpunished violence in Israel remain

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, FEBRUARY 6 — In Tel Aviv, homosexuality is not a taboo, it is increasingly becoming a business. The Israeli Tourism Ministry has understood this for some time, and in the last three years in particular has developed special communication strategies to consolidate Tel Aviv’s fame as “the gay-friendly capital of the Middle East”. Although there are no official figures, rough estimates show that the move is paying off and the city’s fame at an international level is on the rise. Last month, the city that is already nicknamed the “Israeli Barcelona” due to its intense nightlife and many pickup bars that have sprouted up over the last decade, conquered the title of “Best Emerging City for Gay Tourists” in a competition sponsored by GayCities.com and American Airlines. Tel Aviv, where the second largest homosexual community in the world in terms of percentage after San Francisco resides, beat cities like New York, Berlin and Toronto. Labour Party Mayor, Ron Huldai, rubbed his hands in satisfaction: “It is a victory for a free city, where everyone can be proud of themselves,” he commented on his Facebook profile. In any case, fighting homophobia pays off. According to Thomas Roth, the president of Community Marketing (a research centre based in San Francisco which specifically deals with the gay market), “gay tourism now contributes to over 10% of the Israeli tourism industry and is a sector that is undergoing constant growth”. Gay-friendly bars, parties and beaches do not draw negative attention. On the street or at the sea, few people are shocked if they see a same-sex couple holding hands or showing affection. “Tel Aviv,” Adir Steiner added, who coordinates the traditional and colourful local Gay Pride parade each year, far from the identity-related tensions in Jerusalem, “is highly appealing because it is an oasis in a region — the Middle East — where homosexuality still provokes widespread marginalisation and repression.” Excluding Tel Aviv and the surrounding area, Israel is no exception. “Our reality, and even more so for transsexuals, is highly contradictory in this country,” said Shaul Gonen, a gay activist and member of Agudah, “the only GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender) association active in the entire Middle East”. On the other hand, Jerusalem is just 60km from Tel Aviv, and it is there that Orthodox Jews and Arab Muslims represent two-thirds of the nearly 800,000 inhabitants. For many of them, “homosexuality is a disease, a perversion that needs to be repressed,” admitted Kobi Arieli, a fervently religious journalist, but with a very open mind. “Among strictly observant Jews,” he said, “homosexuality is severely in contradiction with divine law. In the Torah it is written: ‘You will never have relations with a man that you will with a woman’. And the same holds true for lesbian relations.” In ultra-Orthodox areas, just as in similarly conservative Arab areas, intolerance and discrimination are frequent. Children who find the courage to come out are usually forced to cut ties with their family and community, and many end up on the streets.

Even in Tel Aviv the scar of the ‘2010 massacre’ has gone unpunished, when an unknown man (never identified, aside from suspicions raised by police of a mentally unbalanced man close to Jewish far right nationalist circles) broke into a support centre for young homosexuals in the city centre, and went on a killing rampage with an automatic weapon. A bloody memory that seems to underline how (gay) pride and prejudice in Israel still go hand and hand.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



UK: Doreen’s Story: The Heart-Rending Truth About ‘Lazy Cow Syndrome’

by Damian Thompson

A five-minute film called Doreen’s Story went viral this week. It begins with the heart-rending throb of synthesised strings that the BBC reserves for tragic documentaries. “I first noticed it was a problem when I was, like, 20,” says a woman with a strong Black Country accent. She’s fighting back tears. “I went to the doctors and he sent me to the specialist and he spotted it and I shall never forget his words. He says it’s confirmed. I’m a lazy cow. My mother had it, and there’s a good chance I shall pass it on to my kids. ‘Cos it’s genetic.

“Of course, my movements are severely restricted even today after all the therapy. I have trouble shifting me a***, and I’m on loads of drugs. Heroin. Ecstasy. Bit of crack at the weekend.”

I need hardly tell you that this isn’t a BBC film. It’s a “mockumentary” by David Tristram satirising benefit scroungers and the exaggerated respect with which they’re treated by right-on filmmakers. He says it isn’t intended as a political statement, but it will drive the Left bananas. “Let’s be honest, there’s prejudice,” says Doreen, played with artful sincerity by the actress Gill Jordan. She describes the ordeal of the job interview: “As soon as I tell them I don’t want the job they ain’t interested.” Fortunately, Doreen can rely on the support of her daughter Trojan, who’s expecting a baby — “her fourth, by five different fathers and one of them’s twins…” The “demonisation” of “chavs” is the Right’s new tactic for dismantling the welfare state, according to Owen Jones, a young Left-wing historian who could claim disability benefit himself if they handed it out for crippling smuggery. (“The specialist told me I was pathologically pleased with myself. And it’s incurable.”)

But Doreen’s Story has been watched nearly 400,000 times on YouTube. That’s an awful lot of heartless Tories laughing at the plight of people on benefits. There’s another possibility, however, which is that the 400,000 hits come from a cross-section of the public — including working-class people from the West Midlands who have a Doreen living next door and don’t see why they should subsidise her lifestyle while they work their butts off to pay the electricity bill. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t hate benefit scroungers. I once shared a council house with some: an “unemployed” mechanic and his girlfriend who persuaded Thatcher’s brutal government, no less, to pay for at least a dozen pints of lager a day in the local pub. These were fun people who were happy to tip some of their taxpayers’ beer down my throat. I don’t recall refusing on ideological grounds. This was in the Eighties, when the Left could get away with presenting all benefit claimants as victims and anyone who disliked the Tories would buy the argument.

No longer. Solid Labour voters have equal contempt for oily bankers and obese chav slackers. They cheerfully “demonise” people from their own class — and they don’t recognise the distinction between benefit claimants and benefit cheats because they’ve been watching it disappear in front of their eyes. The message for the Tories is simple: you can safely push through these welfare reforms. Working-class people aren’t about to take to the streets to defend Doreen. As for the lady herself, I’m sure she’s bitterly aggrieved at the thought of losing her pocket money — but she won’t be joining Owen and Laurie Penny on one of their awayday demos because lazy cow syndrome makes it very, very difficult to shift your backside.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: Gay Killing Trio Jailed Under New Hate Crime Legislation

Three men were yesterday jailed after becoming the first to be convicted of stirring up hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation for handing out a leaflet calling for gay people to be executed.

Ihjaz Ali, Kabir Ahmed and Razwan Javed gave out the pamphlet, entitled The Death Penalty?, that showed an image of a mannequin hanging from a noose and quoted Islamic texts that said capital punishment was the only way to rid society of homosexuality.

Ali was jailed for two years and Ahmed and Javed for 15 months each.

the first prosecution of its kind since legislation came into force in March 2010.

Two other men, Mehboob Hussain and Umar Javed, who were also charged with the same offence, were found not guilty.

Sentencing the men, Judge John Burgess, Recorder of Derby, told them: “You have been convicted of intending to stir up hatred.

“It follows that your intention was to do great harm in a peaceful community.”

He went on: “Much has been said during the course of this trial about freedom of expression, and the freedom to preach strongly held beliefs; beliefs, which may have some foundation in scripture. Freedom of speech is a cornerstone of democracy and a basic ingredient of any free society.

           — Hat tip: Kitman [Return to headlines]



UK: We Must Stop Anti-Religious Groups From Removing the Christian Fabric of Our Society

by Nadine Dorries

Parliament now has to face a new problem, which is how to legislate to reverse the decision made yesterday by Mr Justice Ouseley, that the 600 year old practice of Bideford council to say prayers at the start of each council session are not lawful under section 111 of the Local Government Act of 1972. Because there is one thing which is for certain, the attack upon Christian belief in this country is plumbing the depths of what reasonable people will accept. This ruling is in itself a catalyst which will have prompted a fight back which will set those determind to impose their own secular beliefs upon a Christian society into reverse. In December, David Cameron described Great Britain as ‘a Christian country and we should not be afraid to say so’. This sentence in itself is revealing. Of course we shouldn’t be afraid to say so, but when a van driver loses his job for hanging a crucifix from his cab mirror or a social worker is suspended for wearing a cross and chain around her neck, people are afraid, which is why those words were included in the speech. There is recognition that Christians are being silenced by systemic attack upon their faith and constantly being challenged through the courts.

Bideford council had already voted twice to continue with their prayer tradition following attempts by Liberal Democrat councillor, Mr Bone to have them stopped on the basis that he, a lonely-voiced councillor who wanted them to cease, was having his human rights infringed as he felt embarrassed having to leave the chamber whilst the prayers took place. Not happy, lonely LibDem Mr Bone went to court. It seems he’s not too keen on democracy. Interestingly, and with a sigh of relief from many, the judge found that Mr Bone’s human rights had not been infringed and it appears the judge took his decision upon what would be described as a narrow technical point. I have bad news for Mr Bone. Parliament doesn’t have much difficulty in dealing with ‘technical points’. Mr Bone is no hero secular warrior. As the voice upon earth of the Bideford branch of the National Secular Society, his action was supported by the larger organisation.

I once regarded the National Secular Society and the British Humanist Association in much the same vein, two organisations which believed in, well, nothing much really and were therefore harmless. I have learnt during my time as an MP that both are very far from harmless, extremely political and intent on imposing their anti-faith view, which is in itself rigid and dogmatic, pursued mainly by zealots, so it can only be described as a form of belief in its own right. This, in a country in which 70% of people describe themselves as Christian. If the National Secular Society had its way, all vestige of religion would be removed from the state and society. Without doubt, their next move will be to have the same ruling applied to Parliament, but that isn’t going to happen. If Mr Bone had won under section nine of the Human Rights act it can only be imagined what would happen to the Queen as head of the Church of England and her role within the state. Would prayers be said at a Coronation or a state funeral? Would the Queen be able to continue as the Monarch? What would have happened to Remembrance Sunday, bank holidays at Easter and Christmas?

It is only when someone attempts to unpick the accepted fabric of our society that one begins to realise the extent to which the National Secular Society and the British Humanist Association wish to alter our spiritual landscape which is based upon tolerance and freedom. In Parliament, we also have prayers which take place each and every sitting day before the chamber’s business commences. The division bell will ring five minutes before and we MPs who wish to participate in prayers attend the chamber. It is an intimate service which takes place before the cameras are switched on, presided over by the Speaker and the House of Commons Chaplain during which we all say the Lord’s Prayer together, pray for the Queen and ask to be given wisdom during the day in executing our duties.

The three minutes of prayer are a time for sombre reflection and always during this time the privilege I have been afforded to serve my constituents in the historic mother of parliaments washes over me as I am sure it does others. It is a wonderful thing to begin your days work saying sorry for what you have done wrong and thank you for all that has gone well. Those MPs of no faith will sit or stand and read the order paper or simply take the time to reflect upon the day ahead. It works for us. Until this is sorted, and I am sure it can be with existing legislation or via a Statutory Instrument, I would urge Bideford councillors to meet five minutes before their agenda begins until legislation can allow them to continue with a practice which has been in place since the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. It would be a travesty for Mr Bone to win in reality. What is certain though is that re-election for Mr Bone is unlikely. The British people are reasonable by nature and don’t like bullies, and Mr Bone appears to shun one and embody the other.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

General


Why White Men Are More Attracted to Women With Asian Faces: Humans Are Hardwired to Fancy Other Races

Are human beings ‘hardwired’ to find different the faces of different races attractive?

Scientists have discovered that white people tend to choose other races when asked to rate which faces they find most attractive.

The scientists discovered that white men prefer the facial features of Asian women while white women go for the faces of black men.

Dr Michael Lewis, who led the research project, said: ‘It will come as no surprise to many that facial attractiveness makes up part of the decision of who we marry.

‘And it’s no coincidence that groups perceived as more attractive — black males and Asian females — feature more often in mixed-race marriages.

           — Hat tip: Kitman [Return to headlines]

News Feed 20120210

Financial Crisis
» 10 Things That Every American Should Know About the Federal Reserve
» A Guide to the Horrible Youth Unemployment Mess in Europe
» China’s Trade Activity Slows Down Markedly in January
» ECB Keeps Interest Rate at One Percent
» European Union Keeps Pressure on Athens
» European Central Bank Battles Credit Crunch
» Eurozone Gives Greece Ultimatum for New Bailout
» Germany Promises Portugal Programme Adjustment After Greece
» German Finance Minister Suggests Lisbon Bailout Flexibility
» Greeks Strike in Defiance of EU Ultimatum on Debt
» Greek Coalition Buckles Amid Strikes, EU Diktat on Debt
» Greeks Seize on Tourism to Boost the Economy
» Slovak Finance Minister Lashes Out at Greece
» Spain: Property Crisis Continues, Trading Down 17.7% in 2011
 
USA
» Big NASA Budget Cuts to Slash Mars Missions, Experts Say
» Islamophobia is America’s Real Enemy
» Republicans Starting to Reap the Kosher Vote, Says Poll
 
Europe and the EU
» Belgium: Muslim Anger Over Photo of Nude Woman Under Veil
» Brits in Sweden to Forge Northern Alliance: Paper
» Denmark: Psychologist Fined 45,000 Kr for Keeping Client’s Secrets
» First Neanderthal Cave Paintings Discovered in Spain
» From Dietrich to Tarantino: Germany’s Studio Babelsberg Recalls a Century of Film History
» Germany: Artist Compensated for Two Lost French Fries
» Germany: Shooter of US Airmen in Frankfurt Gets Life
» Germany: Attacker Gets Life for Murder of US Servicemen in Frankfurt
» Kroes Threatens Nuclear Option Against Hungary
» Malta: Road Works Unearth Turkish Slaves’ Cemetery
» Minus 31.5c Degrees in Austria
» Norway: Women Plotted Grisly Axe Murder: Prosecutor
» Norway: Breivik Planned to Steal Plane and Fly to Serbia
» Norway: Happy Hunting on Massacre Island: Teacher
» Outrage Over ‘Prime-Time Racism’ Against Turks
» Plot Kill Pope: Italian Media
» Poland, Lithuania Eye Eur 471m Gas Link
» Poland Hopes Shale Gas Will Free it From Gazprom
» Sweden: Disgruntled ‘Black Cobra’ Threatens Hairdresser
» Sweden: Four Arrested for Malmö Gang Slaying
» The Netherlands Takes to Its Skates
» UK: A Note to Wayne Rooney and Rio Ferdinand: Just Shut Up and Play
» UK: Anti Muslim Grafitti Insulting Allah Scrawled on Kensington Insurance Shop
» UK: Aina Khan to Speak at ‘The Way Forward for Islam and English Law’ Seminar
» UK: Cardiff Councillor Mohammed Sarul Islam Receives ‘Threatening Letter’
» UK: Education and Race: An Alternative View [Ray Honeyford, The Salisbury Review, 1984]
» UK: Ignore the Judges and Kick Out Qatada Now! Tories Urge Cameron to Deport Hate Preacher
» UK: Mr Honeyford’s Lesson
» UK: Maths ‘Too Hard for Students and Dons’: Universities Drop Subject From Science Courses
» UK: Nazi Stag Party MP Accused of Texting and Dozing at Auschwitz
» UK: Ray Honeyford: Racist or Right?
» UK: Race Attack on Grieving Family…
» UK: School Cancels ‘Terror Charity’ Event
» UK: Terrorism Gang Jailed for Plotting to Blow Up London Stock Exchange
» UK: White Man Bottled and Teenager Punched in Second Unprovoked Asian Gang Race Hate Attack in Just Days
 
North Africa
» Egypt: ‘The Uprising Was Not About Liberal Democracy’
» Egypt Protesters Head to Tahrir Square for ‘Friday of Departure’
» Muslim Brotherhood General Guide Muhammad Badi’: Our Ultimate Goal, Establishing a Global Islamic Caliphate, Can Only be Achieved Gradually and Without Coercion
» Tunisia: Salafists Protest Outside American Embassy
 
Israel and the Palestinians
» Caroline Glick: The Fatah-Hamas Peace Process
» US Election Hands Netanyahu Giant Dilemma on Iran
 
Middle East
» Iran’s Final Solution for Israel
» Muslim Clerics: Cyber Warfare Against Israel is a Form of Jihad
» Qaradawi Meets With Hamas, Says “Victory is Near and at the Door”
» US Disarmament Expert: ‘The Risk That Nuclear Weapons Will be Used is Growing’
 
South Asia
» India: Witchcraft: Man Axed to Death in Gumla
» India: Witch Hunting: Villagers Set Woman Ablaze
» Stakes High for the Gandhis in Uttar Pradesh Polls
 
Far East
» China Unveils Best Moon Map Yet From Lunar Orbiter
» Director Zhang Presents Hollywood, Made in China
» Urdu Daily: Chinese Military Taking Over Gilgit Baltistan, Pakistan Considering Proposal to Lease the Disputed Region to China for 50 Years
 
Sub-Saharan Africa
» Dutch Cabinet Must Protect Afrikaners
» Julius Malema: The Man Who Scarred South Africa
» Nigeria: Gunmen Kill Man for Publicly Criticising Boko Haram
» Somalia Militants Officially Join With Al Qaeda
» South Africa: Paraplegic Afrikaner Raped
 
Immigration
» Deaf Girl: 10, ‘Trafficked to UK and Kept as Sex Slave in Cellar by Elderly Couple for Almost 10 Years’by Jaya Narain
» Migrants Wake Up to a Nightmare in Europe
» Spain’s Immigrants
 
Culture Wars
» Ken Livingstone Has Form When it Comes to Homophobia
» Norway: Feminist Fightback Cash Lands Minister in Trouble
» ‘Sweden is the Most PC Country in the World’
» UK: Ken Livingstone’s Problem is His Judgment, Not His Supposed ‘Homophobia’
» UK: Ken Livingstone: Gay Bankers Who Go to Dubai ‘Could Have Penis Lopped Off’
 
General
» Ancient Poop Science: Inside the Archaeology of Paleofeces
» Blind Quantum Computing Points to the Future
» How Earth’s Next Supercontinent Will Form

Financial Crisis


10 Things That Every American Should Know About the Federal Reserve

What would happen if the Federal Reserve was shut down permanently? That is a question that CNBC asked recently, but unfortunately most Americans don’t really think about the Fed much. Most Americans are content with believing that the Federal Reserve is just another stuffy government agency that sets our interest rates and that is watching out for the best interests of the American people.

But that is not the case at all. The truth is that the Federal Reserve is a private banking cartel that has been designed to systematically destroy the value of our currency, drain the wealth of the American public and enslave the federal government to perpetually expanding debt. During this election year, the economy is the number one issue that voters are concerned about. But instead of endlessly blaming both political parties, the truth is that most of the blame should be placed at the feet of the Federal Reserve. The Federal Reserve has more power over the performance of the U.S. economy than anyone else does. The Federal Reserve controls the money supply, the Federal Reserve sets the interest rates and the Federal Reserve hands out bailouts to the big banks that absolutely dwarf anything that Congress ever did. If the American people are ever going to learn what is really going on with our economy, then it is absolutely imperative that they get educated about the Federal Reserve.

The following are 10 things that every American should know about the Federal Reserve….

#1 The Federal Reserve System Is A Privately Owned Banking Cartel

The Federal Reserve is not a government agency.

The truth is that it is a privately owned central bank. It is owned by the banks that are members of the Federal Reserve system. We do not know how much of the system each bank owns, because that has never been disclosed to the American people.

The Federal Reserve openly admits that it is privately owned. When it was defending itself against a Bloomberg request for information under the Freedom of Information Act, the Federal Reserve stated unequivocally in court that it was”not an agency” of the federal government and therefore not subject to the Freedom of Information Act.

In fact, if you want to find out that the Federal Reserve system is owned by the member banks, all you have to do is go to the Federal Reserve website….

[Return to headlines]



A Guide to the Horrible Youth Unemployment Mess in Europe

Earlier today, we learned that Greece’s unemployment surged to 20.9 percent. However, the youth unemployment rate spiked to 48 percent.

In fact, a colossal 5.493 million youth were unemployed in December, according to latest data from Eurostat. And the EU saw its overall youth unemployment rate at 22.1 percent.

The European crisis has obviously hit the under-25 age group hard, since 3.29 million of these youth are in the euro area.

           — Hat tip: Kitman [Return to headlines]



China’s Trade Activity Slows Down Markedly in January

China has reported a drop in exports and imports for January. Analysts say the slowdown is also the result of the eurozone debt crisis, but warn that figures may be distorted for seasonal reasons. Trade in China fell in January, Beijing customs officials said in a statement on Friday. Exports dropped by only 0.5 percent year-on-year to $149.94 billion (113 billion euros). But imports plunged a frightening 15.3 percent to $122.66 billion.

The figures mark the country’s worst trade data since 2009 after the onset of the global financial crisis. Because of the much sharper drop in imports, China’s precarious trade surplus widened to $27.28 billion from $16.52 billion in December of last year.

Analysts said the latest trade figures added to mounting evidence that the world’s second-largest economy was slowing as the eurozone crisis and current US economic woes impacted demand for Chinese products.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



ECB Keeps Interest Rate at One Percent

The European Central Bank decided to leave its interest rate unchanged at 1% for a second-straight month, amid signs that the eurozone economy is stabilising and Greece’s government may be nearing a deal with creditors that would avoid a messy default. ECB chief Mario Draghi warned of “continued instability” ahead.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



European Union Keeps Pressure on Athens

Greek political leaders announced on Thursday that they were bowing to all European Union austerity demands. But euro-zone finance ministers are skeptical, saying several details need to be clarified. Even if Athens ultimately receives a new bailout package, however, its debt problems will not be solved.

Relief was certainly not the predominant emotion in Brussels on Thursday evening. In faraway Athens, Greek party leaders had announced that, following weeks of talks and delays, they had finally agreed to accept the stark austerity conditions imposed on them by their European Union partners. But euro-zone finance ministers were skeptical as they arrived for their pre-planned consultations in the European Council building on Thursday.

“There are still a lot of uncertainties,” noted Jean-Claude Juncker, who chairs meetings of euro-zone finance ministers, a body known as the Euro Group. German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble told reporters that the news from Athens was still not enough to trigger the release of the second bailout package for Greece, worth €130 billion ($172 billion).

The uncertainties remained even after the five-and-a-half hour Euro Group gathering. No decisions were made. On the contrary, Juncker announced afterwards that the Euro Group would have to meet once again next Wednesday. Greece has until then to fulfil several remaining conditions.

Europe, it is clear, is turning the thumb screws. Juncker made clear what Brussels expects: “No disbursement without implementation,” he said. “We can’t live with this system while promises are repeated and repeated and repeated and implementation measures are sometimes too weak.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



European Central Bank Battles Credit Crunch

Although the ECB is legally prohibited from becoming a lender of last resort, analysts and experts are concerned that the central bank is circumventing its own rules and buying bonds through the backdoor.

For many financial market experts, the European Central Bank (ECB) is the last hope for containing the sovereign debt crisis in Europe. The highly indebted states within the 17-member euro currency zone as well as Great Britain and the US continue to demand that the ECB fire up the presses and flood the market with cheap money.

In Washington, the Federal Reserve — the US central bank — has printed money for years to ease its economic woes, a policy it calls “quantitative easing.” The Bank of England also adheres to this prescription. But ECB chief Mario Draghi and the German Central Bank are strict advocates of monetary stability.

Draghi rejects “quantitative easing” out of concern that it could trigger inflationary pressures. He also does not want to bring out the proverbial “bazooka,” which would allow the ECB to directly purchase bonds of indebted eurozone states. Europe’s chief central banker points out that this would violate the EU’s treaties and statutes.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Eurozone Gives Greece Ultimatum for New Bailout

(BRUSSELS) — Eurozone finance ministers put off a decision Thursday on a new bailout to save Greece from bankruptcy, giving Athens less than a week to meet three conditions in return for 130 billion euros in aid. The deadline was set after talks in Brussels between Greek Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos and his 16 eurozone counterparts, who were unmoved by a deal rival Greek politicians struck hours earlier on austerity measures demanded by lenders.

“Despite the important progress achieved over the last days, we did not have yet all necessary elements on the table to take decisions today,” Eurogroup chief Jean-Claude Juncker told a news conference. The eurozone will hold a new meeting next Wednesday if all conditions are met, said Juncker, Luxembourg’s prime minister.

Venizelos had urged his counterparts to endorse the debt relief deal, but the ministers first demanded that the Greek parliament approve the austerity measures agreed by the political parties when it convenes on Sunday. The two other conditions are additional structural spending cuts of 325 million euros for 2012 and a written pledge from coalition leaders that they will implement austerity measures, Juncker said. “These three elements that I mentioned need to be in place before we can take decisions,” he added.

In a backdrop of elections looming in April, Venizelos, a socialist, charged that eurozone ministers had taken into account the refusal of Conservative leader Antonio Samaras to sign a written commitment to the cuts. With bond payments of 14.5 billion euros due March 20, Venizelos warned that Greece’s place in the eurozone was now in the hands of the conservative party.

“It must decide — if they want (Greece) to stay in the eurozone, they have to say so clearly. If they don’t, then they have to say that clearly as well,” he said. “The choice is between two decisions — very difficult, and very, very difficult.”

In Athens, some 8,000 angry Greeks took to the streets while unions called a 48-hour strike from Friday over what they called “barbaric” wage and pension cuts.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Germany Promises Portugal Programme Adjustment After Greece

BRUSSELS — German finance minister Wolfgang Schauble on Thursday was caught on tape promising Portugal an adjustment to its programme after a deal with Greece is sealed, the first time an EU minister has publicly spoken of such plans. The footage was caught by Portugal’s TVi24 cameraman during the ‘roundtable’ shots at the beginning of a eurozone ministers’ meeting on Thursday (9 February).

Schauble, unaware of the rolling camera, is seen telling his Portuguese counterpart Vitor Gaspar that after the Greek deal is done, Berlin will approve a loosening of the conditions attached to Portugal’s €78bn bail-out programme.

“If at the end we need to make an adjustment to the programme, having taken large decisions about Greece … This is essential. But then, if necessary, an adjustment of the Portuguese programme, will be prepared,” he says.

The Portuguese minister is grateful saying: “Thank you very much.” “No problem,” Schauble replies. “It is that members of the German parliament and public opinion in Germany does not believe that our decisions are serious, because they don’t believe in our decisions about Greece.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



German Finance Minister Suggests Lisbon Bailout Flexibility

Many economic experts agree that Portugal may be the next Greece. On Thursday evening, a senior European official seemed to confirm such fears. German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble was caught on camera offering Portugal “adjustments” to its bailout program.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Greeks Strike in Defiance of EU Ultimatum on Debt

(ATHENS) — A new three-day campaign of protests against draconian budget cuts hit Greece Friday in defiance of a eurozone ultimatum for even tougher conditions for a debt rescue. The hard line in a new five-day deadline from the eurozone was clear: “The Greeks have to help themselves. There is no other way,” French central bank governor Christian Noyer told Europe 1 radio.

But Greek unions went ahead with a 48-hour general strike and a third day of protests against what they describe as “barbaric” wage and pension cuts. This backs up a 24-hour general strike held three days ago.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Greek Coalition Buckles Amid Strikes, EU Diktat on Debt

(ATHENS) — Greece’s ruling coalition reeled on Friday amid protest violence, with the far-right party that supports the government rejecting tough conditions demanded by the eurozone for a debt rescue. As the prospect of a chaotic default reappeared over the country, far-right leader George Karatzaferis said his deputies would not approve a new round of wage and pension cuts heading to a parliament vote on Sunday.

“We are not going to vote,” Karatzaferis, leader of the small LAOS party, told a news conference, adding: “Humiliation was imposed on us. I do not tolerate this. And I do not allow it, no matter how hungry I might be.” Blasting Berlin’s line on debt, Karatzaferis said, “Greece must not and cannot be outside the EU. But it can do without the German boot.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Greeks Seize on Tourism to Boost the Economy

The Greek economy depends on revenue from tourism; experts believe the sector has plenty of potential for growth. But only if the state creates the right conditions.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Slovak Finance Minister Lashes Out at Greece

Greece must accept wage cuts to avoid a messy default and deliver on reforms, Slovak finance minister Ivan Miklos said on Thursday ahead of a Eurogroup meeting. “Promises are no longer enough,” he said, while adding that he would prefer private bondholders to take higher losses rather than the ECB.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Spain: Property Crisis Continues, Trading Down 17.7% in 2011

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, FEBRUARY 10 — The property market in Spain recorded a marked fall in 2011, with a total of 361,831 operations completed, some 17.7% fewer than in 2010, according to the country’s statistics institute (INE). The figure contrasts the recovery recorded in 2010, when property transactions increased by 6.8%. The sector, which has been hit hard by the crisis and by the bursting of the property bubble in 2007, is showing no signs of recovery, having already registered a 24.9% fall in transactions of 24.9% in 2009 and 28.6% in 2008. The INE puts last year’s drop in buying and selling down to an end in tax deductions on first house purchases. In 2011, new and existing accommodation purchases collapsed by 19.7% and 15.7% respectively, while social housing operations were down 19.4%.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

USA


Big NASA Budget Cuts to Slash Mars Missions, Experts Say

NASA’s budget for the next fiscal year is likely to include deep cuts to planetary science programs, forcing the space agency to withdraw altogether from an international effort to send two new missions to Mars, experts say. President Barack Obama is slated to submit his administration’s federal budget request for fiscal year 2013 on Monday (Feb. 13), and NASA will hold a series of briefings to discuss its share on the same day. While exactly how much money is allocated to NASA is unknown, insiders expect a significant reduction in the portion slotted for robotic exploration of Mars and other solar system bodies.

The cuts probably will compel NASA to bow out of the European Space Agency-led ExoMars missions, which aim to launch an orbiter and a drill-toting rover to the Red Planet in 2016 and 2018, respectively, says one space policy expert.

“NASA has, I think, already told ESA it’s not going to be able to provide a launch vehicle in 2016,” said John Logsdon, professor emeritus at George Washington University. “So that is going to cause a big international uproar on one dimension. And the planetary community in the U.S. is going to be very unhappy about the fact that there’s no money for major new planetary missions.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Islamophobia is America’s Real Enemy

by Daisy Khan

The hysterical campaign to stigmatise US Muslims poses a far greater threat than radicalisation to America’s civic union

A report released this week has at last confirmed what we Muslim Americans have long known to be true: the threat posed to US national security by the radicalisation of its Muslim community is minuscule. The study, by the Triangle Centre on Terrorism and Homeland Security, found that only 20 Muslim Americans were charged with violent crimes related to terrorism in 2011, and of the 14,000 homicides recorded in the United States in that year, not one was committed by a Muslim extremist. We are thrilled that an objective, comprehensive investigation has revealed that only a tiny percentage of American Muslims support violent acts. However, we remain concerned that the greater danger to America’s civic union comes from an increasingly organised campaign that portrays all Muslims as potential terrorists and traitors. Yes, there may be some Muslims who resort to violence; but it’s clear that these individuals signify nothing more than a statistical aberration, and are no more representative of the Muslim community as a whole than Timothy McVeigh, Jared Lee Loughner, or Anders Behring Breivik represent Christianity.

In recent years a network of politically motivated special interests has emerged that is determined to stigmatise and marginalise Muslims in all areas of American public life. After the Cordoba Initiative’s proposal to build an Islamic community centre near Ground Zero were distorted into a manufactured controversy by one such group, we were called “stealth jihadists” and “wolves in sheep’s clothing”. One person even claimed: “They seem like nice people now, but they will probably turn into extremists in 10, 15, or 20 years.” What began as the work of fringe groups with racist ideologies has moved into the mainstream. The Islamophobic film The Third Jihad was played continuously between training sessions for new recruits to New York’s police. The film-makers were linked to an organised movement with a budget of more than $40m and sophisticated lobbying efforts in all 50 states. Republican congressman Peter King — even as opponents questioned his own ties to IRA and Catholic terrorism in Ireland — convened a series of congressional hearings on the radicalisation of American Muslims that can only be described as a witch hunt. And on the campaign trail, Republican presidential candidates from Herman Cain to Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum have used their platform to demonise American Muslims and question our loyalty to our country.

It was not always this way. Following the 9/11 attacks President Bush, at the Islamic Centre of Washington, said: “The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam … When we think of Islam we think of a faith that brings comfort to a billion people around the world … America counts millions of Muslims amongst our citizens, and Muslims make an incredibly valuable contribution to our country.” Our allies in the interfaith and civil rights communities are working to counteract the fabricated opposition to Islam that is gaining strength in America today. In response to King’s hearings, a coalition of 150 interfaith organisations sponsored a rally proclaiming “Today I am a Muslim too”. It is the Brennan Centre for Justice at New York University that took a lead in exposing the New York City Police Department’s missteps with regards to the Muslim community. We know that the bulk of the American public recognises the truth of Islamic moderation and tolerance. The hysterical invective may be well-funded, but it does not capture the heart of the nation. By standing tall together we will overcome those who spread hate and suspicion and return respect and trust to their rightful place at the centre of American political and civic life.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



Republicans Starting to Reap the Kosher Vote, Says Poll

The stereotype of the Jewish voter as a confirmed Democratfrom cradle to grave is starting to crack. A study this month by the respected Pew Research Centre, comparing polls from 2008 and 2011, shows a significant increase in Jewish support for Republicans over that period. Pew found that while Jews favoured Democrats by a 52-point margin in 2008, the Democrats now have a much smaller 36-point margin among Jewish voters. In fact, more Jews than ever are identifying as Republicans, not just “leaning Republican”, according to the Pew report.

This news comes as no great surprise to Jewish Republicans, since it confirms a trend we have been watching for some time. It reinforces two data points from last year that indicated a strengthening of Jewish support for Republicans. In September, there was a special election to fill the congressional seat in New York’s ninth district, after a scandal forced the resignation of Rep Anthony Weiner. New York’s ninth is overwhelmingly Democratic in voter registration and at least one-third Jewish. Despite this, Republican Bob Turner won, becoming the first Republican to represent NY-9 since 1920. That race was considered a bellwether for 2012, offering Republicans a glimpse of the effects a sour economy and tensions between the Obama administration and Israel were having on Jewish voters.

Jewish Republicans were further encouraged by a national poll, conducted by the American Jewish Committee last September, which showed that President Obama’s approval rating among Jewish voters had dipped significantly. In that poll, President Obama’s overall job rating was 48 per cent disapproval to 45 per cent approval. (In 2010 those numbers were 44 per cent disapproval and 51 per cent approval.) On the economy, Jews disapproved of Obama’s performance by a wide margin, 60 per cent to 37 per cent. On the US-Israel relationship, the majority of Jews disapproved, 53 per cent to 40 per cent. For the first time in an AJC poll of Jewish voters, either a plurality or a majority of the respondents disapproved of the President’s handling of these key issues. That puts President Obama’s approval rating at near-Jimmy Carter depths among Jewish voters.

Matthew Brooks is Executive Director of the Republican Jewish Coalition

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU


Belgium: Muslim Anger Over Photo of Nude Woman Under Veil

(ANSAmed) — ROME, FEBRUARY 10 — The publication of a photo of a naked girl wearing a niqab has angered Muslims in Belgium, who see the picture as an insult of the image of Muslim women and a profanation of the inviolable nature of their bodies. But it was particularly the slogan that infuriated the Belgian Muslim community: the photo shows a (19-year-old) girl wearing a bikini under an open veil with the text “freedom or Islam” written at breast height and another written over the area of her lower middle saying “pick one of the two.” According to the Daily Mail, the photo is part of a campaign waged by the girl’s father, politician of Vlaams Belang, which wants more freedom for women and urges women to side against the Islam. The politician has declared: “Women are a problem in the Muslim religion and we only want to let them know that they are free to choose.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Brits in Sweden to Forge Northern Alliance: Paper

Nordic, Baltic and British leaders have been gathering in Stockholm, ostensibly to discuss shared future challenges. But commentators think the meeting has a bigger purpose — as part of a British-led strategy to forge a new ‘northern alliance’ in Europe. In an editorial on Thursday, Dagens Nyheter (DN) writes that behind the headline discussions on pension ages and women in boardrooms, the meeting might have a longer-term strategic purpose, at least for British Prime Minister David Cameron: to forge a long-term alliance between the Northern European countries:

“There’s a risk that David Cameron wants the northern partnership to challenge Brussels,” the pro-EU liberal paper writes. Britain’s Financial Times offered a similar view, saying that Cameron, who has a long-standing friendship with Swedish PM Fredrik Reinfeldt, was looking to find allies to counterbalance French views on economic management:

“Behind the scenes, this “Northern Alliance” will also debate ways to frustrate a “French model” for the European economy; most of the nine leaders are opposed to stricter regulation and new taxes, notably a Tobin tax on financial transactions,” the FT wrote.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Denmark: Psychologist Fined 45,000 Kr for Keeping Client’s Secrets

Former military psychologist says she’ll pay, but won’t break pledge to client

A retired military psychologist has been fined up to 45,000 kroner for refusing to divulge what her former client, a military interpreter, may have told her about the abuse of Afghan prisoners by Danish and American troops.

In October Merete Lindholm was held in contempt of court for holding her tongue. On Thursday this week, Copenhagen City Court fined her 500 kroner per day, every day for three months, or until she agrees to tell the court what her client told her. Lindholm maintained that her pledge of confidentiality to all her clients was “inviolable” and above the law.

The prosecution asked the court to hold Lindholm in custody until she speaks, but the judge refused.

Lindholm’s former client was sent to Afghanistan in 2002 as a military interpreter. When he returned from duty, he told military investigators that he had witnessed prisoners being abused by both Danish and American soldiers, and that there was photographic evidence to prove it. The interpreter allegedly also told Lindholm about the abuse and the photographs.

A decade later, allegations of abuse have been lodged against the Danish military by former Afghan prisoners, and the military’s investigators want to see the pictures that the interpreter said he saw.

But the interpreter now denies his former claim, and Lindholm refuses to say what, if anything, he told her in treatment. Lindholm has maintained that she is ready to pay the price to defend her client’s trust. “What it comes down to is whether I will still be able to look myself in the eye in terms of the pledge of confidentiality I have with all my clients. I can’t break that now. So, I guess I’ll have to pay the price. And what price is too high to be able to look yourself in the eye?” she said, following Thursday’s ruling.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



First Neanderthal Cave Paintings Discovered in Spain

Cave paintings in Malaga, Spain, could be the oldest yet found — and the first to have been created by Neanderthals.

Looking oddly akin to the DNA double helix, the images in fact depict the seals that the locals would have eaten, says José Luis Sanchidrián at the University of Cordoba, Spain. They have “no parallel in Palaeolithic art”, he adds. His team say that charcoal remains found beside six of the paintings — preserved in Spain’s Nerja caves — have been radiocarbon dated to between 43,500 and 42,300 years old.

That suggests the paintings may be substantially older than the 30,000-year-old Chauvet cave paintings in south-east France, thought to be the earliest example of Palaeolithic cave art.

The next step is to date the paint pigments. If they are confirmed as being of similar age, this raises the real possibility that the paintings were the handiwork of Neanderthals — an “academic bombshell”, says Sanchidrián, because all other cave paintings are thought to have been produced by modern humans.

Neanderthals are in the frame for the paintings since they are thought to have remained in the south and west of the Iberian peninsula until approximately 37,000 years ago — 5000 years after they had been replaced or assimilated by modern humans elsewhere in their European heartland.

Until recently, Neanderthals were thought to have been incapable of creating artistic works. That picture is changing thanks to the discovery of a number of decorated stone and shell objects — although no permanent cave art has previously been attributed to our extinct cousins.

Neanderthals’ creativity

Now some researchers think that Neanderthals had the same capabilities for symbolism, imagination and creativity as modern humans.

The finding “is potentially fascinating”, says Paul Pettitt at the University of Sheffield, UK. He cautions that the dating of cave art is fraught with potential problems, though, and says that clarification of the paintings’ age is vital.

“Even some sites we think we understand very well such as the Grotte Chauvet in France are very problematic in terms of how old they are,” says Pettitt.

If the age is confirmed, Pettitt suggests that the cave paintings could still have been the work of modern humans. “We can’t be absolutely sure that Homo sapiens were not down there in the south of Spain at this time,” he says.

Sanchidrián does not rule out the possibility that the paintings were made by early Homo sapiens but says that this theory is “much more hypothetical” than the idea that Neanderthals were behind them.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



From Dietrich to Tarantino: Germany’s Studio Babelsberg Recalls a Century of Film History

It’s where Marlene Dietrich made her name, Fritz Lang created “Metropolis” and Quentin Tarantino and Roman Polanski sat in director’s chairs. Studio Babelsberg, the world’s first major film studio, turns 100 on Sunday.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Germany: Artist Compensated for Two Lost French Fries

A Munich court on Thursday awarded an artist €2,000 in damages because a gallery lost two 22-year-old chips that were the basis of an artwork in which the fries lay across each other in a cross. The artwork comprised a cross made of two golden chips, alongside two normal fries, deep-fried and not gold-leafed. The catalogue for the original 1990 exhibition “Pommes d’Or,” described the work of artist Stefan Bohnenberger as “the metamorphosis of a profane everyday object into a sacred artwork.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Germany: Shooter of US Airmen in Frankfurt Gets Life

A German court handed down a life sentence Friday to a man who has confessed to killing two US soldiers at Frankfurt airport in what has been called Germany’s first deadly jihadist attack. Arid Uka, 22, from Kosovo, was convicted of killing two soldiers and wounding two others when he opened fire outside the airport on March 2 last year on a group of US soldiers on their way to serve in Afghanistan, said the higher regional court in Frankfurt.

Presiding judge Thomas Sagebiel told the court: “The accused has been convicted to a life sentence for two counts of murder and three counts of attempted murder.” Uka, wearing green trousers, a black jumper and a brown hooded top, appeared relaxed as the verdict was handed down, even smiling occasionally. US soldiers Nicholas Alden, 25, and Zachary Ryan Cuddeback, 21, were killed in the shooting. Two other soldiers were wounded.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Germany: Attacker Gets Life for Murder of US Servicemen in Frankfurt

It was the first successful Islamist attack in Germany. Almost a year ago, Arid U. shot and killed two US servicemen at the Frankfurt airport. On Friday, he was sentenced to life in prison.

During the attack, say witnesses, he cried out “Allahu akbar!” Periodically during the trial, Judge Thomas Sagebiel expressed frustration at U.’s apparent unwillingness to cooperate and the accused refused to reveal how he had obtained the 9 mm pistol used in the attack. In August, U. told the court: “Looking back, I don’t understand myself.”

As Sagebiel read out the sentence on Friday, U. sat motionless, his arms crossed in front of him. “Yes, this is indeed the first Islamic-motivated terror attack to have happened in Germany,” the judge intoned.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Kroes Threatens Nuclear Option Against Hungary

BRUSSELS — The European Commission has indicated it is ready to use its nuclear option — Article 7 on political sanctions — against Hungary if it continues to flout EU law. In a testy exchange of views between EU digital agenda commissioner Neelie Kroes and Hungary’s deputy prime minister Tibor Navracsics at a European Parliament committee hearing in Brussels on Thursday (9 February), Kroes said she would ask the commission to take “appropriate action” if needed.

Her spokesperson later confirmed to this website that she means Article 7. The EU Treaty clause says the commission can trigger a procedure to determine if an EU country is in “serious and persistent breach” of treaty “principles.” If found guilty, the other EU member states cans suspend its voting rights in the EU Council.

The Kroes-Navracsics dispute concerns a set of new media laws in Hungary which appear to threaten media diversity. The commission in January already started a separate legal procedure against Budapest in January over its new constitution, said to undermine the independence of judges and the central bank.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Malta: Road Works Unearth Turkish Slaves’ Cemetery

Experts from the Superintendence of National Heritage are examining old human remains unearthed during road works near Marsa Creek.The remains are believed to be those of Turkish slaves buried in a cemetery which, according to documents, existed in the area close to Spencer Hill at the time of the Knights. The remains were found during works on the new €7m road which will lead from Marsa to the Valletta Waterfront. The works in that part of the project have been suspended while the site is investigated. Some of the remains are being left in place while others are being removed for examination. The site is also believed to have included a Mosque. The cemetery was destroyed by the British some 200 years ago when the area was redeveloped.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



Minus 31.5c Degrees in Austria

Austria’s coldest temperatures this winter were recorded last night. Temperatures fell as low as minus 31.5C degrees last at the weather station in the Ötztaler Alps. The warmest temperature recorded last night in Austria was minus 9.1C degrees in Carinthia. Austria’s highest weather station, which sits at a height of 3,440 metres on the Brunnenkogel mountain, recorded however the freezing temperature of minus 31.5C.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Norway: Women Plotted Grisly Axe Murder: Prosecutor

Two young women charged in connection with the brutal axe murder of 23-year-old Hans Rickard Strømner deliberated for around a week before deciding how to kill him, a prosecutor has said.

Strømmer’s body was found by two girls behind a shed in Oslo’s Klemetsrud district in October, having lain there since the summer.

His 21-year-old ex-girlfriend is charged with having attacked Strømner’s upper body with an axe as he lay in bed at her home in nearby Rustadsaga.

Her 22-year-old friend is accused of having helped her to dispose of the body by rolling it in a plastic covering and hiding it near an animal shelter in Klemetsrud.

“The two girlfriends charged with premeditated murder have now admitted they were present when it was carried out and that they planned it for around a week,” prosecutor Kristin Rusdal told newspaper VG.

A text message to a friend on July 9th was the last sign of life from Strømmer.

A ward of the state from the age of five until he turned 23, friends described him as a meek individual who shunned large crowds and occasionally suffered from substance dependency, VG reported in October.

He had told close friends he felt under threat from people he knew and was concerned for his safety.

Police have not released any details about a possible motive for the killing.

The two friends at the centre of the case had considered poisoning Strømner before choosing to use an axe, according to the prosecutor.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Norway: Breivik Planned to Steal Plane and Fly to Serbia

Confessed mass killer Anders Behring Breivik planned to hijack a small plane and fly solo to Serbia in the immediate aftermath of the twin terror attacks that left 77 dead last July. Breivik told police interviewers he had learned how to fly a Cessna plane by watching videos on YouTube and downloading user manuals from the internet, newspaper Bergens Tidende reports. “Landing is the hard part. Taking off and flying at altitude isn’t so difficult,” he said.

Breivik’s plan was to make his way to Fornebu airfield near Oslo and steal a small Cessna aircraft. The 32-year-old Norwegian said he was inspired by Carlos the Jackal, one the most highly feared international terrorists of the 1970s and 1980s. He told police he intended using a specially designed bag to refuel the plane in mid-air. This, he hoped, would enable him to reach potential destinations such as Moldova, Belarus or Serbia.

Alongside Armenia and Israel, Serbia is listed as a country Breivik considered amenable to his aims in his lengthy terrorist manifesto. “Breivik has said he intended to flee and talked about reaching friendly countries in a plane,” Oslo police spokesman Roar Hansen told the newspaper. “He considered it but deviated from the plan, concluding that Utøya would be his final stop,”

Breivik told police he rethought the idea after deciding it would have been tricky to get away alive. Furthermore, any potential host destination would likely have extradited him under enormous pressure from Western countries, he said. “He concluded that it wasn’t feasible,” said Hansen.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Norway: Happy Hunting on Massacre Island: Teacher

A primary school teacher in a town in eastern Norway has outraged parents after posting Facebook messages in support of confessed mass killer Anders Behring Breivik. Many residents in the town of Ringsaker were also shocked to learn that 28-year-old Kjetil Wangen spends much of his leisure time making films that depict scenes of extreme violence and rape.

School leaders suspended the teacher this week when they became aware of his involvement in the amateur films. Wangen’s after-school activities came under the spotlight after a number of his acquaintances reacted furiously to recent status updates on Facebook, local newspaper Hamar Arbeiderblad reports.

In one message he referred to the cold-blooded fatal shootings of 69 mostly Labour Party youth wing (AUF) members on the island of Utøya last July: “Hope the Labour Party sends more AUF members to Utøya in the coming year, and that this year yields another great hunting season out there.” On Monday, shortly after Breivik appeared in court for a custody hearing ahead of his trial in April, the teacher wrote: “The good man cuts a fine figure on television.”

Town councillor Jørn Strand said the municipality was seeking to resolve issues surrounding the teacher’s employment contract as quickly as possible. Wangen has been employed as a substitute teacher since the autumn.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Outrage Over ‘Prime-Time Racism’ Against Turks

A Turkish newspaper and the Foreigners’ Advisory Council in the German state of Hesse have expressed outrage at a televised Karneval monologue that made several jokes at the expense of Turkish Germans. “Humour is when you laugh despite yourself — but in this case the laughs stuck in our throats,” said Corrado Di Benedetto, head of the Foreigners’ Advisory Council in Hesse. “The freedom of the Karneval is valuable. And satire is allowed to do anything — except degrade others. This violated all the rules of decency.”

The council called the show “prime-time racism.” The monologue, aired nationally on state TV on February 2, but reported Thursday by the European edition of Turkish paper Hürriyet, was part of the “Frankfurt: Helau” sitting at the Karneval season in the Rhineland.

According to a report in Bild newspaper, 39-year-old Mainz dentist Patricia Lowin took to the stage in a headscarf and announced in an exaggerated Turkish accent and broken German, “Here on Döner TV, I will show you what is integration,” and then revealed she was wearing a Bavarian dirndl dress in her “favourite colour: Turk-oise.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Plot Kill Pope: Italian Media

Claims of a bizarre plot to assassinate Pope Benedict XVI are reverberating through Italy in what observers say signals the latest twist in an increasingly cutthroat internal Vatican power dispute.

The Italian daily Il Fatto Quotidiano published the sensational “mordkomplott” letter detailing an alleged plot against the pope on its front page on Friday. Despite a Vatican spokesman’s claiming it was “nonsense not to be taken seriously”, the content of the anonymous warning letter, dated 30 December 2011, was reported widely in Italian and German media.

           — Hat tip: Kitman [Return to headlines]



Poland, Lithuania Eye Eur 471m Gas Link

(VILNIUS) — Poland and Lithuania’s gas supply companies said on Friday they intended to build a 471-million-euro ($625 million) pipeline to hook the Baltic states to the rest of the EU’s energy market. “We found this to be the most efficient measure to solve the problem of security of supply in the entire Baltic region,” said Rafal Wittman, development and investment director of Poland’s Gaz-System.

“This will let us end the isolation, or so called energy island, here,” he told journalists in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius as he set out the plan. He said the construction of the 562-kilometre (349-mile) pipeline was expected to begin in 2016, and that it would have an annual capacity of 2.3 billion cubic metres.

Gaz-System and its Lithuanian counterpart Lietuvos Dujos have asked the European Union for financial backing, while Lithuania’s fellow Baltic republics Latvia and Estonia are also expected to step in. Currently, Russian energy giant Gazprom is Lithuania’s only natural gas supplier, via a pipeline across Belarus.

Lithuania, a nation of three million people, is working to end Gazprom’s politically-tinged monopoly and already plans to build a liquefied natural gas terminal by the end 2014.

Lithuania’s Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius hailed the planned land-link with neighbouring Poland, saying it would boost the energy independence drive. “It is very important for the Baltic states to integrate their gas pipeline systems with the rest of Europe’s systems. That’s why I welcome steps towards the realisation of such a project, though it is not an alternative to the LNG terminal,” he told journalists on Friday.

Lithuania, which declared independence in 1990 after five decades of Kremlin rule, has repeatedly locked horns with Gazprom, accusing it of abusing its market clout to impose unfair pricing. Gazprom has denied the claims.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Poland Hopes Shale Gas Will Free it From Gazprom

A gold rush is underway in Poland, where international energy companies are scrambling for the right to drill for shale gas. Poland’s government sees the extraction as a ticket to independence from Russia’s Gazprom, but some residents near the drilling sites are wary of the risks.

BNK Polska is a subsidiary of the California-based energy company BNK Petroleum, Inc. The company holds six of the 110 permits granted thus far for test drilling in Poland, the country with the largest shale gas deposits in Europe.

The estimated 5.3 trillion cubic-meter deposit of recoverable natural gas is stored between layers of argillaceous rock that is often also called shale. Of that, at best one-fifth is considered to be accessible, but even that fact has led to a gold-rush-like situation in Poland over the past two years. International companies including Chevron, ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips, as well as the national energy giant Polish Petroleum and Gas Mining (PGNiG) and some smaller local companies, are currently conducting test drilling in Poland in a “gas strip” stretching from the Gdansk region in the north, past Warsaw, to the southeastern part of the country.

The Polish government is excited about shale gas because it represents a shot at energy independence. The country is currently one of the largest customers of Gazprom, the Russian energy giant, buying 10.25 billion cubic meters of natural gas from it last year alone. Gazprom’s opaque pricing policies related to Poland are a constant source of tension between the countries. The fact that the Kremlin-cozy company has delivered 7 percent less gas to the Poland since last Thursday, while Europe suffers from a record cold snap, hasn’t helped, either.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Sweden: Disgruntled ‘Black Cobra’ Threatens Hairdresser

A man in southern Sweden has been charged with assault after threatening to ‘bring in his gang’ to a local hairdressing salon after being refused a haircut. “I’ll come back here with my Black Cobra friends and sort this salon out!” said the man, according to Skånskan newspaper.

Black Cobra is the name of a Danish gang, that has crossed the border into the troubled Malmö district of Rosengård, specializing in drug trafficking, extortion and murder. The hairdresser had initially refused the man service as he seemed drunk, but soon realized that the man wasn’t as harmless as he seemed.

Angry to be turned down, the man informed the woman that he was a feared criminal, and threatened to ‘sort out’ (göra fint) the salon if she didn’t comply with his request. He then proceeded to throw Christmas baubles at the hairdresser. The woman told him she would check her office to see what she could do about finding a free time in her schedule for a cut, and meanwhile called the police.

The police arrested the man shortly after. While the woman was initially frightened by the man’s threats, she later learnt that he wasn’t a feared criminal at all. In fact, in police questionings the man denied any affiliation with the Black Cobra gang, and claimed he couldn’t remember mentioning them, nor the alleged threats.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Sweden: Four Arrested for Malmö Gang Slaying

Four men have been arrested for the “execution style” killing of a 19-year-old man in Malmö in August 2011 in what police believe was a settling of scores among criminal gangs.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



The Netherlands Takes to Its Skates

The Dutch will take to their skates en masse this weekend as the big freeze enters its last days. Dozens of official routes have been opened up across the country’s lakes and waterways. The 200 km 11-city skating race around Friesland’s may not be going ahead but hundreds of people on Friday followed the Elfstedentocht route unofficially.

However, the Friesland ice association warned that parts of the route are extremely dangerous because the ice is not thick enough in places. Instead, there are some 30 other official routes in the northern province for skaters to follow, the association says. The province’s water authorities have also agreed to keep pumps turned off for the duration of the weekend, to allow skaters to make the most of the ice, and good weather.

In Amsterdam, skaters have been able to take to the city’s 17th century canals for the first time in 15 years. On Saturday, short track races will be held in the city centre. Elsewhere, there are dozens of official ice trails set out for keen skaters to follow. For a full listing, see www.schaatsen.nl The thaw is forecast to set in on Sunday.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



UK: A Note to Wayne Rooney and Rio Ferdinand: Just Shut Up and Play

England’s great World Cup-winning goalkeeper Gordon Banks tells this nice story. He’d finished playing in a routine friendly at Wembley, a match England had won comfortably, and was getting ready to leave. Taking his coat off his peg, he turned to his manager, Alf Ramsey, and said casually, “See you, Alf.” “Will you?”, Ramsey responded caustically. At that time Banks was at the top of his game, which meant he was playing to a standard unsurpassed by anyone else on the planet. And yet with that one statement Ramsay had given his star a valuable reminder. No one can afford to take their place in my team for granted.

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: Anti Muslim Grafitti Insulting Allah Scrawled on Kensington Insurance Shop

Bangladeshis in Kensington said they are living in fear after Muslim hate graffiti was found on a storefront in the neighborhood’s bustling shopping strip. The manager of TDS Insurance on Beverly Road near McDonald Avenue, came to work Monday and spotted a nauseating sight: “It was written on the outside — ‘Allah is s — t,’“ said Abu Chowdhur, 51, who immediately called the cops. “I have no enemies,” he said. “We are not a religious business.” Although the hateful message was erased hours later, Bangladeshis said the sight left them emotionally scarred. “It is just shocking,” said Mamnunul Haq, a Bangladeshi community leader. “No one wants to see anything like that.”

“We are a very peaceful people,” Haq added.

Kensington is one of the most diverse areas in the city — home to a Muslim stronghold mainly comprised of Bangladeshis and Pakistanis, living among Mexican families and Orthodox Jews. Bangladeshis joined their Hasidic neighbors in July during the search for Leiby Kletzky, the 8-year-old boy who went missing in Borough Park and was later found dead. They also blasted the vandal or vandals who painted a half dozen swastikas around Midwood last month. “It happened in the Jewish community. And now it is happening in ours,” Haq said.

Hoping to quell the growing anxiety, Councilman Brad Lander (D-Kensington) held a meeting Wednesday night with Bangladeshi, Jewish, and Latino residents discussing ideas about how to prevent future hate crimes in their hood. Lander wants to put a set of trees and benches in front of TDS Insurance, calling it “Kensington Plaza,” serving as a mixed race meeting spot. “In the face of hatred, this community is coming together,” Lander said. “When these things happen, you have to stand up.”

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: Aina Khan to Speak at ‘The Way Forward for Islam and English Law’ Seminar

Ain Khan, Solicitor and Head of Islamic Legal Services will be speaking at a thought-provoking seminar presented by SOAS University and the Centre of Ethnic Minority Studies (CEMS). Aina will converse about her daily experience of practising Islamic law in England & Wales. She will highlight three case studies which illustrate:

1.   Should Islamic marriage be recognised by English law?
2.   Should a woman’s right to Islamic divorce be made more easily accessible, without recourse to Sharia Councils?
3.   Should there be more education about the importance of the Mehr (Islamic financial settlement) and could this be protected with a pre-nuptial agreement?

The seminar will be held on Friday 24th February 2012, between 6pm-7.30pm at SOAS — University of London:

Room G51

SOAS main building,

Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square,

London WC1H OXG

All are most welcome — no booking required

For further information please email sq1@soas.ac.uk

[JP note: The only way forward is backwards.]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: Cardiff Councillor Mohammed Sarul Islam Receives ‘Threatening Letter’

A Cardiff councillor says he has received an anonymous threatening and intimidating letter from Islamic extremists.

Mohammed Sarul Islam, who represents the Riverside area, told BBC Wales he was being blamed for a recent police operation at Canton Community Hall, in Canton. South Wales Police are investigating. The letter claimed Mr Islam was an “enemy of Allah”. In January, anti-terrorist police halted a meeting at the community hall over fears of a link to banned Islamist group Muslims Against Crusades. Welsh Extremism and Counter Terrorism Unit officers were called to the centre following concerns raised by members of the local Muslim community.

One man was arrested for assault and a public order offence. “I feel the letter is very intimidating and personal to myself and to my families,” said Mr Islam. Mr Islam said he was not at the community centre during the incident. “I wasn’t anywhere near that place,” he said. “We, the local community, will always condemn any kind of extremism that is going to affect our diverse and peaceful community and I will stand against it in any time, regardless whoever it is, and therefore I will speak for truth and I will stand by my principles and by my ward.”

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: Education and Race: An Alternative View [Ray Honeyford, The Salisbury Review, 1984]

This article, which we published in 1984, cost Ray Honeyford his job as a head teacher. For speaking the truth he was subjected to a long and bitter campaign, including death threats and other forms of persecution orchestrated by an assortment of vehement agitators. His prophetic observations will be illuminating now — particularly for our younger readers. We salute his courage and intellectual integrity, which has been so clearly vindicated by recent events and U-turns in the multicultural establishment.

The issues and problems of our multi-racial inner cities are frequently thrown into sharp relief for me. As the head teacher of a school in the middle of a predominantly Asian area, I am often witness to scenes which have the raw feel of reality — and the recipient of vehement criticism, whenever I question some of the current educational orthodoxies connected with race. It is very difficult to write honestly and openly of my experiences and the reflections they evoke, since the race relations lobby is extremely powerful in the state education service. The propaganda generated by multi-racial zealots is now augmented by a growing bureaucracy of race in local authorities. And this makes freedom of speech difficult to maintain. By exploiting the enormous tolerance, traditional in this country, the race lobby has so managed to induce and maintain feelings of guilt in the well-disposed majority, that decent people are not only afraid of voicing certain thoughts, they are uncertain even of their right to think those thoughts. They are intimidated not only by their fear of giving offence by voicing their own reasonable concerns about the inner cities, but by the necessity of conducting the debate in a language which is dishonest.

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: Ignore the Judges and Kick Out Qatada Now! Tories Urge Cameron to Deport Hate Preacher

Tory MPs last night called for Abu Qatada to be deported without delay amid fears that the hate preacher could stay in Britain for years.

Senior backbenchers demanded that the UK ignore rulings from the European Court of Human Rights and send him to Jordan to face terror charges.

David Cameron won backing from King Abdullah of Jordan last night to thrash out a deal over Qatada’s future.

           — Hat tip: Kitman [Return to headlines]



UK: Mr Honeyford’s Lesson

The former headmaster’s views on multicultural orthodoxies, for which he was vilified, are now accepted by many.

As his obituary in this newspaper yesterday reminded us, Ray Honeyford was nothing if not outspoken. In 1984, he was forced from his job as a school headmaster in Bradford for challenging the multiculturalist orthodoxies that had taken a grip on the education system, and on much of public life. He accused the race relations lobby of fostering “a whole set of questionable beliefs and attitudes about education and race which have much more to do with professional opportunism than the educational progress of ethnic minority children”. Mr Honeyford believed that multiculturalism was doing a disservice to children from immigrant backgrounds, who were denied the benefits of full integration with the society into which they would grow up. His bitterness over the treatment he endured was not mitigated by the fact that multiculturalism was later disavowed by many of those who once championed it most assiduously. The bombings on the London transport system in July 2005 led to a recantation by the last government, many of whose members had been among Mr Honeyford’s most vociferous detractors. Today, it is a commonplace for politicians on the Left to acknowledge that separation of ethnic groups was a mistake, leading to communities in our cities living parallel lives and hardly ever meeting, let alone integrating. The lesson here is that shutting down debate about cultural assimilation is short-sighted and dangerous. The vilification of Mr Honeyford played into the hands of extremists seeking to foment discord, such as Abu Qatada. Public debate in this country became fixated on ethnic and religious identity rather than the civic values of personal freedom, parliamentary democracy and the rule of law that make a nation. Mr Honeyford saw the truth of that nearly 30 years ago.

[Reader comment by ethelred on 10 February 2012 at 08:51 am.]

Mr Honeyford was a sacrificial victim, effectively martyred to appease the baying Asian mob and its far-left white appeasers. Reading his obituary, I was struck by how absolutely correct his views were, and so how abhorrent they would be to those whose dearest wish it would be to destroy our world. And, to give them their due, they have certainly succeeded. I think a statue should be erected of Mr Honeyford, to remind us of what happens in a previously democratic and fairly decent country when primitive and violent invaders who are allowed power and influence far beyond their worth howl for the blood of someone who — unlike them — believes in freedom of thought and expression. The mob is still here, of course, in ever-increasing numbers, ready to erupt in violence, but they rest easy in the knowledge that those whose business it is to protect us, and our way of life, have long since sold the pass.

[Reader comment by henrietta on 10 February 2012 at 09:58 am.]

Mr Honeyford’s tragedy was that he really believed in education. He believed that we lived in a democracy with freedom of speech, in which all opinions could be expressed. That is the world I remember. He didn’t know a dogmatic and intolerant clique who couldn’t bear to hear views contrary to their own had taken over academia and government. It now seems that we had a brief moment of freedom of thought and expression in the middle of the 20th century, which has now been extinguished. What I took to be the norm in the post WWII era was in fact a blip. We are now in many ways back to a kind of 16th century shutdown on free discussion. Few could have foreseen it. Malcolm Bradbury in The History Man had it spot on: Sociology is the new orthodoxy and will tolerate no dissent from its dogmas and righteousness. It is neither a science nor an art, and it does not search for truth, it is merely a set of precepts.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: Maths ‘Too Hard for Students and Dons’: Universities Drop Subject From Science Courses

Universities are dropping maths from degree courses because students — and their lecturers — cannot cope with it, a report warns today.

Decades of substandard maths education in schools has led to a ‘crisis’ in England’s number skills, threatening the future of the economy, it says.

Universities are being forced to dumb down degree courses requiring the use of maths, including sciences, economics, psychology and social sciences.

Students are unable to tackle complex problems and their lecturers struggle to teach them anyway, it is claimed.

The reputation of the country’s universities and graduates is now under threat, according to the report, ‘Solving the Maths Problem’, published by the education lobby group RSA.

           — Hat tip: Kitman [Return to headlines]



UK: Nazi Stag Party MP Accused of Texting and Dozing at Auschwitz

Aidan Burley was said to have been “texting and dozing” during a talk by a Holocaust survivor at the concentration camp earlier this week.

Friends of the MP for Cannock Chase denied any disrespectful behaviour but admitted he had sent at least one text message during Wednesday’s talk at the camp in Poland.

Mr Burley was sacked in December as a parliamentary private secretary after it was revealed he attended a stag party in France where a guest wore a replica SS uniform and others toasted the Third Reich.

After his dismissal, Mr Burley apologised and said he would visit Auschwitz to learn about the Holocaust and other Nazi-era atrocities. He made a two-day visit to Holocaust memorial sites, including Auschwitz, this week. Allegations about his behaviour during that trip were raised in the House of Commons yesterday by Ian Austin, a Labour MP.

           — Hat tip: Kitman [Return to headlines]



UK: Ray Honeyford: Racist or Right?

Ray Honeyford, the head teacher who caused a national controversy over his outspoken criticisms of multiculturalism in schools, has died. But have his views, which once polarised opinion, become mainstream? He was, taken at face value, an unlikely critic of multiculturalism.

Ray Honeyford was the head teacher of a school in inner-city Bradford where more than 90% of pupils were non-white. But he had had enough of the prevailing educational beliefs. In 1984 he wrote an article for the right-leaning Salisbury Review which turned him into a figure of both hatred and hero-worship.

Mr Honeyford dismissed what he saw as many of the ills of the educational legislation and attitudes of the time, arguing there were a “growing number of Asians whose aim is to preserve as intact as possible the values and attitudes of the Indian sub-continent within a framework of British social and political privilege, ie to produce Asian ghettoes”. He also criticised “an influential group of black intellectuals of aggressive disposition, who know little of the British traditions of understatement, civilised discourse and respect for reason”. In other words, multiculturalism — by Mr Honeyford’s definition, allowing different cultures to remain separate within the same country — was wrong.

‘Mindless zeal’

He went on to attack political correctness as a force for holding back ethnic minority pupils. He was particularly keen that all children should be taught English as their main language from a young age, writing: “Those of us working in Asian areas are encouraged, officially, to ‘celebrate linguistic diversity’, ie applaud the rapidly mounting linguistic confusion in those growing number of inner-city schools in which British-born Asian children begin their mastery of English by being taught in Urdu.” Mr Honeyford berated the “determined efforts of misguided radical teachers to place such as the following alongside the works of Shakespeare and Wordsworth — ‘Wi mek a lickle date / fi nineteen seventy eight / An wi fite and wi fite / An defeat di state.’ (From Inglan is a Bitch, Linton Kwesi Johnson)”. Anticipating that he might be accused of “racism”, he added: “It is the icon word of those committed to the race game. And they apply it with the same sort of mindless zeal as the inquisitors voiced ‘heretic’ or Senator McCarthy spat out ‘Commie’.” The article went largely unnoticed for a couple of months before it was picked up by the mainstream press. Its language and sentiments caused a sensation. Bradford’s then Labour Mayor, Mohammed Ajeeb, called for Mr Honeyford’s dismissal.

Hate Mail

In April 1985 he was suspended from duty, but he appealed to the High Court and was allowed to go back to work in September.

However, disgruntled parents and others formed an action group, with large-scale protests taking place outside the school. About half the pupils ceased to attend lessons. Mr Honeyford was given police protection. In December 1985 he agreed to retire early, with a pay-off of more than £160,000 from the council, admitting that “anxiety” was getting the better of him. He never worked as a teacher again.

The case still divides those involved, some saying he had to go and others arguing that he was hounded out by a “hate mob” led by left-wing agitators. Mohammed Ajeeb stands by his actions more than a quarter of a century later. He told the BBC: “The article was very critical of the Muslim culture and the race relations situation in the city was not very good at that time. If he wanted the Asian children to get better equipped with linguistic skills, he could have advocated the policy of dispersal of pupils among different schools into other areas, which is what I wanted. He could have done that if he was interested in the harmony and mixing of different races and living and working together. But he chose simply to criticise the culture and religion. He was not critical of the education system, which I think in those days was responsible for the perpetuation of schools developing in such a way that they were more apart. It smacked of cultural chauvinism.”

‘Breath of fresh air’

He added: “Britain has irreversibly become a multiracial country, a multicultural country. The aim should be how we move forward as a nation, irrespective of religion or national background, to learn to live together with mutual respect and tolerance. I thought that Ray Honeyford was trying to promote himself as a cultural defender of certain values, rather than saying there was something that needed to change in the state education system. He was a highly intelligent, educated person. His job was not to wander into race politics. His comments were taken up by racist people who made him a hero. I received hate mail saying I should go. I still have a sack full of racist letters I’ve kept. “It made my life difficult. My family was threatened. It showed how deep British racism was at the time. It’s not the substance of what he said that was so offensive. It’s how he said it and the right-wing journal in which he chose to say it.”

Mr Ajeeb refutes the idea that “the left” in Bradford and elsewhere tried to “drive out” Mr Honeyford. But, in a parliamentary debate held in April 1985, when the head teacher was under suspension, the Conservative MP Marcus Fox argued exactly the opposite. He called Mr Honeyford’s views “a breath of fresh air in the polluted area of race relations”, although speaking out had “brought down a holocaust on his head”. Mr Fox added: “One would think that somehow in this day and age it was racist to teach English.”

‘Thought police’

Mr Fox died in 2002, but another MP who took part in the debate was the Liberal Michael Meadowcroft. Now a director of the Democracy International consultancy group, he told the BBC: “I found Ray Honeyford extremely right-wing. I didn’t like his views at all. They were expressed badly, but that’s not the point. You can’t have thought police.” Mr Meadowcroft, who protested against Mr Honeyford’s suspension and dismissal, added: “There wasn’t a problem with the way he ran the school. He followed the local authority’s guidelines. People are able to have their own policy views but still do their job to the best of their ability. Ray Honeyford was very popular with the parents at the school, but the campaign against him was very nasty. Feeling was whipped up in the community. The Labour left was really powerful at the time. It did the whipping up. The Labour left was upset that he made the case that young kids should learn English from the age of four or five. But that idea’s become much more acceptable since then.”

‘Heroic’

In 2004, Trevor Philips, the head of the Commission for Racial Equality and a former Labour parliamentary candidate, asserted that children needed to be given a “core of Britishness”. Multiculturalism, he argued, suggested “separateness”. In words reminiscent of Mr Honeyford’s, yet more delicately put, he said: “For instance, I hate the way this country has lost Shakespeare. That sort of thing is bad for immigrants.” The irony was not lost on Mr Honeyford, who wrote in the Daily Mail the next year: “He is lauded for his wisdom. I was sacked for my alleged racism and was never allowed to work as a teacher again.” In his tribute to the former head teacher, who has died at the age of 77, the editor of the Salisbury Review, Roger Scruton, wrote: “Readers will be grateful for the life of this exemplary, heroic and profoundly gentle man, who was prepared to pay the price of truth at a time of lies.” Mr Ajeeb said: “I wish his family well and I respect him, but I still disagree with him.” Political opinion may have moved in Mr Honeyford’s direction, but not completely.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: Race Attack on Grieving Family…

A MUM and daughter paying their respects in Dewsbury Cemetery were subjected to a torrent of racist abuse by a gang of up to 20 Asians.

The 39-year-old white woman, who was with her 11-year-old daughter, was going to lay flowers at her mother’s grave.

The mum and daughter had just been dropped off at the Pilgrim Crescent entrance while the woman’s husband went to park up.

It was at this point that a gang of Asian youths gathered and began taunting them.

They were called “white slags” and “white trash” as they laid flowers on a grave only yards away.

The woman, who asked not to be named, said her daughter was reduced to tears and added: “She was shaking. I had to hold her hand to keep her calm.

“I was frightened and thought we were about to be attacked. Thankfully they stayed by a wall near the cemetery gates.”

The woman, originally from Westtown, had travelled from Hull with her daughter and husband to visit her mother’s grave.

They had just been dropped off by her husband at around 3pm on Sunday when the incident happened.

The husband realised what was happening and drove back to pick them up.

“My husband could see that things were not all right,” said the woman. “Our daughter had drawn a picture for her gran and was putting it on the grave.

“She couldn’t understand why these youths would be so abusive and I don’t either. My mum died only recently and things are still a bit raw.

“Westtown used to be a lovely area when I lived here 20 years ago. I don’t know what’s happened to it. There’s just no respect any more.”

A West Yorkshire Police spokesman said the victim made a complaint after returning to Hull and would be interviewed by Humberside Police.

He urged people to report incidents as soon as possible and added: “We take any form of hate crime extremely seriously.

“Such incidents should be reported to us as soon as possible so that we can get to the area and deal with the offenders.”

           — Hat tip: Steen [Return to headlines]



UK: School Cancels ‘Terror Charity’ Event

A school-based charity event organised by a group with links to Hamas has been cancelled following consultation with anti-extremism experts from the Department for Education. Human Appeal International was expected to run a women-only social evening at Parrs Wood High School, a specialist technology college in Didsbury, south Manchester, on February 18. HAI claims to work with the victims of “poverty, social injustice and natural disasters” in 27 countries, including the Palestinian territories, Afghanistan and Iraq. But it is also on the US State Department’s list of charities linked to terrorism. Parrs Wood had received complaints from representatives of Manchester’s Jewish community and pro-Israel activists about its renting of a room to the group. Concerns had also been raised with the DfE and a department spokesman confirmed earlier this week that experts from its preventing extremism unit had spoken to headmaster Andrew Shakos to remind him of impartiality guidelines.

It is understood that following the discussions the school took the decision to cancel the event. Mr Shakos and governors are also thought to have ruled that no charities with political links will in future be able to rent rooms at Parrs Wood. A message posted on Human Action International’s Facebook page this morning confirmed the event had been “postponed”. HAI previously hosted a “Day for Gaza” fundraising event at Parrs Wood, close to its UK office in nearby Fallowfield, in 2009. In 2003, the FBI said HAI had a “close relationship” with Hamas. Two years later, it was named by Israeli authorities as one of a number of organisations that had diverted donations to fund terror and support the families of suicide bombers.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: Terrorism Gang Jailed for Plotting to Blow Up London Stock Exchange

A gang of Muslim extremists inspired to launch a deadly UK terror campaign by hate preacher Anjem Choudary were jailed for a total of nearly 95 years today.

Lynchpin Mohammed Chowdhury, 21, and righthand man Shah Rahman, 29, planned to plant a bomb in the Stock Exchange and were seen scouting other potential targets including Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and the London Eye. A handwritten hit list containing the names and addresses of Boris Johnson, the dean of St Paul’s Cathedral, two rabbis and details about the American Embassy was also found at Chowdhury’s east London home. Members of the gang hoped to launch a co-ordinated shooting and bombing attack on the capital in a ‘Mumbai-style’ atrocity in the run-up to Christmas 2010. Six of the nine men had been personally taught by former Islam4UK spokesman Choudary, while four were also in contact with notorious convicted terrorists Abu Izzadeen and Sheikh Faisal. Choudary has since claimed his former pupils’ plans were ‘taken out of context’ by police.

The terrorists collected hate-filled texts by al-Qaeda ‘ink bomber’ Anwar Al-Awlaki, the mastermind behind a plot to send bombs disguised as printer cartridges to the US synagogues on cargo planes. That plan failed when the packages were intercepted en route, while Al-Awlaki was killed by a US drone strike in Yemen last September. Gang members Abdul Miah, 25, and his brother Gurukanth Desai, 30, were secretly recorded denying the Holocaust and chatting about Muslims fighting alongside Hitler in the Second World War. The group, whose members hailed from Cardiff, Stoke-on-Trent and east London, also considered attacks on synagogues and pubs in the West Midlands. They were all British citizens from Bangladeshi and Pakistani families, aside from Chowdhury and Rahman who moved to the UK from Bangladesh. Stoke-based gangsters Mohammed Shahjahan, 27, Usman Khan, 20, and Nazam Hussain, 26, were raising money to set up a terror training camp on land owned by Khan’s family in Kashmir, Pakistan. Khan and Hussain planned to fly out to the site, next to an existing mosque, in January 2011. They hoped to send 100 UK nationals for firearms training and discussed using bank fraud and even signing up for the dole to get the cash. The group had already raised more than £2,000 when all nine defendants were arrested on December 20, 2010, after months of covert surveillance by the security services.

They were due to stand trial at Woolwich Crown Court but last week admitted a string of terrorist offences in an eleventh-hour plea bargain. They had initially claimed their meetings were part of an innocent plan to raise money for an Islamic project in Kashmir. Chowdhury, described as the ‘lynchpin’ of the terrorist plot, could now serve just six years in prison after pleading guilty to preparing to commit an act of terrorism. Nicknamed JMB by his co-defendants — short for banned terrorist group Jammat-ul Mujahideen Bangladesh — was jailed for at least 13 years and eight months. But he is likely to spend less than half of his sentence behind bars due to time served on remand. The maximum sentence for the offences he admitted is life imprisonment. Shah Rahman, from east London, along with Cardiff-based Miah and Desai, also admitted the offence. Rahman was jailed for at least 12 years, Miah for at least 16 years and 10 months and Desai was jailed for at least 12 years. They planned to make a bomb and detonate it at the Stock Exchange by posing as traders and planting explosives in the toilets in the hope the building would catch fire.

The gang also discussed sending explosives to the other targets in the Square Mile by Royal Mail and via courier firm DHL, in a plot inspired by Al-Awlaki. They hoped to send five mailbombs to UK targets in the Christmas post and launch an even bigger attack the following Easter. Stoke-based Mohammed Shahjahan, 27, Usman Khan, 20, and Nazam Hussain, 26, admitted travelling to attend operational meetings, fundraising for terrorist training and preparing to travel abroad with intent to commit acts of terrorism. Shahjahan was given an indeterminate sentence with a minimum term of eight years and ten months. Khan and Hussain were both given indeterminate sentences with a minimum term of eight years. Mohibur Rahman, 27, also from Stoke, was jailed for five years after pleading guilty to possession of al-Qaeda magazines featuring bomb-making instructions ‘for a terrorist purpose.’

And Omar Latif, 28, from Cardiff, admitted assisting the others to engage in acts of terrorism by attending two planning meetings and was jailed for 10 years and four months.

Sentencing the gang to a total of 94 years and eight months, Mr Justice Wilkie said: “About a year or more before the offences the offenders became actively engaged in the Muslim faith. They were attracted to and espoused a radical version of Islam that is rejected by most Muslims in the UK as illegitimate and a perversion of the faith. They became attracted to the influence of radical clerics who preached the obligation to become involved in a struggle not only to fight occupiers in Muslim lands but to attack non-Muslims in the UK. These views were associated with the radical cleric known as Anwar Al Awlaki, whose message included attacking Western countries by any means necessary. Great praise is due to the security services both for the thoroughness and sophistication of their monitoring of these defendants and their ultimate intervention before any harm could be done.”

Chowdhury, Shahjahan, Khan and Rahman all had the numbers of hate-preachers Choudary, Izzadeen and Faisal in their phones at the time of their arrest. Chowdhury made two phone calls to Izzadeen, born Trevor Brooks but often called Omar Brooks, in the days following his release from prison in October 2010. A spokesman for banned Jihadi group Al Ghurabaa, he described the 7/7 London bombers as ‘completely praiseworthy’ and was jailed in April 2008 for terrorist fundraising and inciting terrorism overseas. Sheikh Faisal, born Trevor Forest, was jailed for nine years for urging his followers to murder Jews, Hindus, Christians and Americans in 2003 and later deported to Jamaica. Andrew Edis, prosecuting, said Chowdhury had been involved with radical Muslim activism including banned groups like Islam4UK since around 2008 and ran his own radical chatroom on the Paltalk website. He added: “Mohammed Chowdhury attended protests and demonstrations and made contact with the other defendants via Paltalk. He distributed deliberately provocative posters and leaflets and he has attended poppy-burning protests, among other things.”

The nine terrorists first met face-to-face in Cardiff’s Roath Park — an inner city beauty spot popular with young families and students — on November 7, 2010, to discuss their ideas and potential targets. Already suspicious they were being watched, they chose the meeting place to make surveillance difficult. MI5 agents watched them praying and discussing their ideas near Roath Park Lake between 1.30pm and 5pm, before leaving in two cars. The gang soon moved on to testing out bomb recipes, which they referred to as ‘cooking’, with Miah and Desai apparently causing an explosion in the street at one of their meetings in Wales. Chowdhury and Shah Rahman are also understood to have started building pipe bombs at Chowdhury’s home in Poplar, east London.

Seven of them met a second time in the Cwm Carn Country Park in Newport, south Wales, to discuss their planned attacks on December 12, 2010. They were seen talking for two hours, from 12.30pm to 2.30pm, and engaging in prayers led by Shahjahan. Chowdhury admitted planning to bomb the London Stock Exchange, but denied his intention was to cause death or injury. His defence team argued he had been aiming to cause panic and economic damage. The gang are believed to have followed instructions in an Al-Qaeda magazine — published just five days before their first meeting — to copy Al-Awlaki’s mailbomb attacks on the US. The publication, called Inspire 3, described the attempt by the leader of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) to post bombs disguised as printer cartridges to synagogues in October 2010. All three were intercepted before they reached their targets, but the plan was still hailed as a success because of the fear and disruption it caused. Chowdhury, Desai, Miah, Shah Rahman and Mohibur Rahman were found with copies of the magazine as well as an earlier edition, Inspire 2. The publications included bomb-making instructions and articles praising Osama Bin Laden and ‘underpants bomber’ Umar al-Faruq Al Nigiri, who unsuccessfully tried to blow up a plane on Christmas Day 2009. One passage reads: ‘Have a convincing cover story for anything suspicious. The story needs to be good enough to convince a jury if you ever get that far.’ Another tells would-be terrorists: ‘The best operation leads to maximum casualties or, equally important, maximum economic losses.’

The defendants also planned to use a notorious explosives recipe in one of the magazines called ‘Make A Bomb In The Kitchen Of Your Mom.’ Chowdhury and Rahman visited London landmarks including the London Eye and Westminster Abbey after a meeting with Miah and Desai on November 28, 2010. They were also seen looking at Westminster Abbey, The Palace of Westminster, Blackfriars Bridge and the Church of Scientology on Queen Victoria Street. The pair caught a bus to Trafalgar Square, central London, at about 3.30pm and walked around the city centre before stopping for dinner at McDonald’s on Cannon Street and leaving at 9.30pm.

Chowdhury, of Poplar, east London; Shah Rahman, of East Ham, east London; Khan, of Stoke-on-Trent; Hussain, of Stoke-on-Trent; Shahjahan, of Birmingham; Miah, of Cardiff and Desai, of Cardiff all admitted engaging in conduct in preparation for acts of terrorism, contrary to section 5 (1) of the Terrorism Act 2006. Mohibur Rahman, of Stoke-on-Trent admitted possession of an article for a terrorist purpose, contrary to Section 57 of the Terrorism Act 2000, namely copies of Inspire Magazine Summer 2010 and Inspire Magazine Fall 2010. Latif, of Cardiff, admitted assisting others to engage in preparation for acts of terrorism, contrary to section 5 (1) of the Terrorism Act 2006, by travelling to and attending meetings on November 7 and December 12, 2010. All nine defendants denied conspiring to cause an explosion or explosions of a nature likely to endanger life or cause serious injury to property. Those charges will now lie on the file. Chowdhury, Shah Rahman, Latif, Desai and Miah further denied possessing a document or record containing information of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing for an act of terrorism. Those charges, which will also lie on the file, variously relate to copies of Inspire Magazine Summer 2010, Inspire Magazine Fall 2010, and 39 Ways to Serve and Participate in Jihad.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: White Man Bottled and Teenager Punched in Second Unprovoked Asian Gang Race Hate Attack in Just Days

A white man was hit with a bottle and his teenage friend punched in a race hate attack by a gang of Asians, it emerged today.

The pair were set upon on a footpath near a retail park in Rochdale, Greater Manchester — the second such brutal attack within days.

A 21-year-old man was hit with a bottle before being repeatedly kicked and punched to the head and body as he lay on the ground. His 16-year-old friend was also punched in the face.

It follows reports of a similar incident in Hyde, Greater Manchester, in which trainee chef Dan Stringer was repeatedly kicked and punched by a mob of up to eight people after he was chased down a street.

Mr Stringer has undergone surgery and is now in a stable condition following the attack on Saturday. A 21-year-old man has been charged with assault in connection with the incident.

The second unconnected assault in Rochdale happened at about 8.15pm on Saturday, January 28.

Both victims were walking with friends towards a canal towpath off Sandbrook Retail Park in Edinburgh Way when they were approached from behind by three men.

The three assailants ran at them, causing a number of the group to run off while the two victims continued to walk.

Their attackers later ran off in the direction of Deeplish.

One man is described as being Asian, in his mid-20s, around 5ft 10in, with black hair. He wore a long white coat with two pockets over the knees.

The second man is described as being Asian and of stocky build. He wore a black jacket with bright orange stitching on the shoulders and arms.

The third man is described as being Asian.

Police are investigating the incident as a hate crime, as perceived by the victims, though no racist or other comments were directed at either victim.

Detective Constable Ben Harris from Rochdale CID said: ‘This was a completely unprovoked and relentless attack that has left both victims shocked by their ordeal. The 21-year-old man needed hospital treatment for his injuries and the 16-year-old boy was left with visible facial injuries.

‘I can understand why this has caused concern within the community. However, we cannot speculate why they were attacked and I do not want anyone to presume this has happened for a specific reason.

‘I would urge anyone who was in the area at the time of the attack or may have seen the offenders running in the direction of Deeplish, near to the towpath, to contact police.’

           — Hat tip: Nick [Return to headlines]

North Africa


Egypt: ‘The Uprising Was Not About Liberal Democracy’

A year ago Hosni Mubarak was toppled from power. A spirit of hope hung heavy in the air, however one year on people in Egypt are still coming to terms with his legacy. DW talked to Andrea Teti about the country’s future. Andrea Teti is a lecturer in International Relations and expert on contemporary Middle East affairs at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland.

DW: Does Egypt have better chances today to become a liberal democracy compared to one year ago?

Andrea Teti: That is a million-dollar question. What I would say is that the uprising was not about liberal democracy. In the west, we’ve become accustomed to thinking about democracy as something which has more or less to do with voting, free speech and freedom of information. For Egyptians across the political spectrum — and this is true across the Arab world — the issue is much broader than that. They wanted political rights but they also wanted social justice. The people want the downfall of the regime — the way of life as it were, not just Hosni Mubarak, (former Tunisian President Zine El-Abidine) Ben Ali etc. That challenge is much greater than simply switching to free and fair parliamentary elections.

In Egypt today, the situation remains very fluid. It’s still possible that there is a movement toward democracy but it requires a very fine balance of conditions and, frankly, the precedents that have been set over the past year are not particularly encouraging.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Egypt Protesters Head to Tahrir Square for ‘Friday of Departure’

Cairo’s flashpoint square remains calm ahead of planned demonstrations calling for immediate surrender of power by Egypt’s ruling military

Protesters have begun trickling into Cairo’s iconic protest grounds, Tahrir Square, to kick off the “Friday of Departure” — a million man march to the Ministry of Defence planned by forty Egyptian parties and movements calling for a speedy handover of power. Participants in Friday’s march demand that the ruling junta, the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF), release a timetable for the transfer of power to a civil authority. They also reject a recent announcement by the SCAF opening the door for candidates to register themselves for presidential elections on 10 March. Protesters, rather, demand that the window for registration open no later than 11 February — the first anniversary of the ouster of president Hosni Mubarak. Activists have also communicated their refusal of drafting a new constitution or holding presidential elections under military rule and ask that the ruling junta step down from power immediately.

The participating groups call on the ruling military council to cease its use of violence against protesters and to comprehensively restructure the reviled Ministry of Interior. Furthermore, those responsible for the killing of protesters during Egypt’s recurrent street battles between police and protesters must be put on trial and held to account.

Following Friday prayers — at around 1pm, ten different marches are expected to set off for the Ministry of Defence from the following locations: Youssef Al-Sahabi Mosque in Hegaz Square; Rabaa Al-Adaweya Mosque in Nasr City; Matariya Square, Alf Maskan Square and Sheikh Mosque in Hadayek Al-Kobba; Cleopatra Church in Heliopolis; Al-Fath Mosque in Ramses Square; Al-Khazindar Mosque in Shubra; Orabi Bridge in Shubra Al-Kheima; and Al-Nedir Mosque in Al-Zawiya Al-Hamra. A planned anti-SCAF march on the defence ministry in July of last year was thwarted when military police sealed all entrances to Cairo’s Abbasiya district, eventually leading to limited clashes between protesters and security forces.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



Muslim Brotherhood General Guide Muhammad Badi’: Our Ultimate Goal, Establishing a Global Islamic Caliphate, Can Only be Achieved Gradually and Without Coercion

In a recent sermon, the General Guide of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, Muhammad Badi’, set out his vision for his movement and for Egypt in the post-revolutionary era. Citing Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan Al-Bana, he stated that the movement has two goals. The immediate goal is to prepare the hearts and minds of its members, which involves “purifying the soul, amending behavior, and preparing the spirit, the mind and the body for a long struggle.” The second, long-term, goal is to affect “a total reform of all domains of life,” which will eventually result in establishment of an Islamic state governed according to Koranic law — first in Egypt and eventually in the entire world.

Badi’ stressed that this long-term goal can only be achieved by gradual stages: by “reforming the individual, then restructuring the family, then building society and the government, then (establishing) the rightly guided Caliphate, and (finally achieving) mastership of the world.” He also emphasized that this must be achieved through cooperation among all the forces and sectors in Egypt, and without any coercion: “All these purposes and goals… must be realized… through unity of ranks (not division), by persuasion, not coercion, and by love, not by force.” Badi’ warned against the “attempts to split up the united ranks (of the nation) and drive a wedge between young and old, men and women, Muslims and Christians, and (different religious) schools and groups,” saying that the Egyptian nation will need all of its human resources in order to meet the challenges that lie ahead. Finally, he advised his followers not to follow their emotions but to manipulate the circumstances rationally and realistically: “Do not fight the ways of the world because they are overpowering. (Instead), try to overcome them, use them, change their course, and pit some of them against others.”

The following are excerpts from the sermon, which was posted December 29, 2011 on the Muslim Brotherhood website ikhwanonline.com.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Tunisia: Salafists Protest Outside American Embassy

Demanding liberation of Pakistani woman held in US

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, FEBRUARY 10 — Dozens of Salafists (bearded men known locally as “barbus” and women wearing the niqab) have protested outside the US embassy compound in Tunis to demand the release of a Pakistani woman being held in an American jail. Protesters say that the woman, Afya Seddiki, a Muslim doctor, has been sentenced to 86 years behind bars and is reported to have been abused inside the prison. The protest passed off peacefully, with the Salafists chanting slogans and hoisting black palls. Two of the protesters also met the US embassy’s press officer, to whom they explained the reasons for the demonstration.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians


Caroline Glick: The Fatah-Hamas Peace Process

On Monday afternoon, the Palestinians destroyed officially whatever was left of the concept of a peace process with Israel.

When PA Chairman and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas signed a deal with Hamas terror-master Khaled Mashaal in Doha, Qatar, the notion that there is a significant segment of Palestinian society that is not committed to the destruction of Israel was finally and truly sunk…

           — Hat tip: Caroline Glick [Return to headlines]



US Election Hands Netanyahu Giant Dilemma on Iran

The strategic timetable for the next nine months is becoming increasingly clear. Israel’s apparent plans to strike Iran this year are limited by one crucial date: November 6 — the day of the US presidential elections. Although he wishes with all his heart for a Republican victory, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is predicting the re-election of Barack Obama. A second-term president, not constrained by electoral necessities, will be able to apply a lot more pressure on the Israeli government not to attack. Israel’s window for action will probably close even earlier than November. The first reason for that is also electoral. Mr Netanyahu fears that a re-elected President Obama may find ways of supporting Israel’s opposition parties, so he is expected to call early elections, probably by October.

The two men who are most in favour of a strike on Iran, the Prime Minister and his Defence Minister, Ehud Barak, will not wait for someone else to give the order — if an attack has to be launched, it is their destiny to make that call. Aside from the American and Israeli election seasons, weather also affects the timing of a potential operation. While Israeli planners are certain that the air force has sufficient planes with the necessary range and payloads to cause enough damage to set the Iranian nuclear programme back, at least by three years, optimal conditions are needed to maximise that damage. That means a strike some time between May and September, when the Persian skies are clear of clouds.

The third factor is the Iranian effort to move its uranium enrichment process underground, to the subterranean installation near the city of Qom. Mr Barak and other senior Israeli defence officials claimed last week at the Herzliya Conference that the Iranians are close to entering this “zone of immunity”. The inference is clear: an attack will have to take place before that. If it does not, Israel will not be able to prevent a decision by Tehran to make a quick dash for nuclear-military capability. Now that the timetable is clear, the terms of reference for the debate within Israel, and between Jerusalem and Washington, are also clarifying. Messrs Netanyahu and Barak are convinced that action is needed before the centrifuges are moved underground and, if no one else acts, it rests on Israel to do the deed.

Some very senior figures in Israel’s defence and intelligence community believe that this is not “the last chance” and that an attack at this junction will be counter-productive. They are supported by the fact that the White House and Pentagon also believe that there is still enough time to let the new sanctions on Iran take effect before resorting to the military option.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Middle East


Iran’s Final Solution for Israel

Persian Shiite anti-Semitism is deep-seated and points to genocide.

By Andrew Bostom

The writings and career of Mohammad Baqer al-Majlisi elucidate the imposition of Islamic law (Sharia) on non-Muslims in Shiite Iran. Al-Majlisi (d. 1699) was perhaps the most influential cleric of the Safavid Shiite theocracy in Persia. For six years at the end of the 17th century, he functioned as the de facto ruler of Iran, making him the Ayatollah Khomeini of his era. By design, he wrote many works in Persian to disseminate key aspects of the Shia ethos among ordinary persons. In his Persian treatise “Lightning Bolts Against the Jews,” Al-Majlisi describes the standard humiliating requisites for non-Muslims living under sharia, first and foremost the blood-ransom jizya, or poll-tax, based on Koran 9:29.

He then enumerates six other restrictions relating to worship, housing, dress, transportation, and weapons, before outlining the unique Shiite impurity or najis regulations. It is these latter najis prohibitions which lead anthropology professor Laurence Loeb — who studied and lived within the Jewish community of Southern Iran in the early 1970s — to observe, “Fear of pollution by Jews led to great excesses and peculiar behavior by Muslims.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Muslim Clerics: Cyber Warfare Against Israel is a Form of Jihad

A cyber war is currently raging on the Internet between Arab hackers (most of them Saudi) and Israeli hackers. In the first half of January, a team of Saudi hackers led by an individual calling himself OxOmar published personal details of over 400,000 Israelis, including tens of thousands of credit card numbers. A few days later, Arab hackers attacked Israeli websites, including those of the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, the national carrier El Al, several banks and hospitals, Israel’s fire and rescue services, and the Haaretz daily. In response, Israeli and pro-Israel hackers attacked the websites of the Saudi and Abu Dhabi stock exchanges, and published the details of Saudi credit cards and of thousands of Facebook accounts belonging to Arabs.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Qaradawi Meets With Hamas, Says “Victory is Near and at the Door”

A Hamas delegation headed by the self-proclaimed Prime Minister of Gaza met Yusuf al Qaradawi, the highly influential Muslim Brotherhood theologian, in Qatar Saturday. In the love fest which followed, as reported on Qaradawi’s website, “His Eminence also gave the people of Gaza and Palestine the good news that victory is near and at the door.”

Along with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, the delegation included Yehya Al-Sinwar, a top security strategist, and his deputy Rawhi Mushtaha, recently released from long terms in Israeli prison as part of the prisoner swap. They invited Qaradawi to visit Gaza, where he could broadcast over Hamas’s media outlet, al Aqsa TV. They also prayed that God would extend the Sheikh’s life to allow him to pray alongside them in Jerusalem’s Al Aqsa Mosque….

In a 2009 speech before the Arab Spring Qaradawi was less optimistic and merely hoped to die fighting the Jews: I’d like to say that the only thing I hope for is that as my life approaches its end, Allah will give me an opportunity to go to the land of Jihad and resistance, even if in a wheelchair. I will shoot Allah’s enemies, the Jews, and they will throw a bomb at me, and thus, I will seal my life with martyrdom.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



US Disarmament Expert: ‘The Risk That Nuclear Weapons Will be Used is Growing’

Anxieties are mounting as nuclear weapons make their way into unstable regions. In a SPIEGEL ONLINE interview, US disarmament expert Richard Burt discusses the growing risk of their use, why allowing Iran to get the bomb could trigger a Sunni-Shiite arms race and how an attack could make citizens demand a police state.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

South Asia


India: Witchcraft: Man Axed to Death in Gumla

GUMLA: An elderly man was axed to death after being branded as a practitioner of witchcraft at Bagsera-Morcha in Gumla district, the police said on Tuesday.

Sixty-year-old Bandhan Oraon was sleeping at his home last night when he was killed allegedly by two village men, the sources said.

The body was recovered this morning. The victim’s son Sukra filed an FIR with the Palkot police station charging Vikram Oraon and Chanda Oraon with murder, the sources said.

           — Hat tip: Kitman [Return to headlines]



India: Witch Hunting: Villagers Set Woman Ablaze

Guwahati : In a case of witch hunting, a 45-year-old tribal woman was burnt alive by villagers in upper Assam’s Sivsagar district on Friday. At least 24 people have been arrested for the crime, police said.

The victim was identified as Phuleswari Halowa.

“The incident started on Thursday evening when she was on her way to another village to give medicines to some person. The villagers caught her and tied her to a tree with rope,” he said. Then they mercilessly beat her before setting her ablaze Friday morning, he added.

Sonari, located about 30 km off Sivsagar town, is a tea belt area and there is a sizable population belonging to tea tribes and other communities in Sonari. The practice of witch hunting is common among Adivasi, tea tribes community, the Bodos and Rava communities.

Various steps has been taken both by government agencies and non-government organisations to stop the social menace but with very little success.

           — Hat tip: Kitman [Return to headlines]



Stakes High for the Gandhis in Uttar Pradesh Polls

The high-decibel battle for the ballot in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous and politically crucial state, has begun with the credibility of the Gandhi dynasty at stake.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Far East


China Unveils Best Moon Map Yet From Lunar Orbiter

China’s space agency released an amazingly detailed map of the moon this week, marking the best view yet of the lunar surface as seen by a Chinese spacecraft, according to state officials.

The new moon map is made up of many high-resolution photos snapped by China’s second lunar probe — the Chang’e 2 orbiter — and stitched together into complete view. China’s State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense revealed the moon map during a ceremony on Monday (Feb. 6), and the country’s Ministry of National Defense posted the photos on the Web.

Liu Dongkui, deputy chief commander of China’s lunar probe project, reportedly said the Chang’e 2 lunar map is the highest-resolution view of the moon ever recorded, according to a Xinhua news agency report.

While other spacecraft, such as NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, have taken better photos of certain portions of the moon, the Chang’e 2 map is the most detailed view of the entire lunar surface, he added.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Director Zhang Presents Hollywood, Made in China

Chinese director Zhang Yimou was long considered a critic of his country’s regime. Lately, though, he has focused on sumptuous period pieces — and Beijing hopes his new film, “Flowers of War,” will establish the country as a cultural world power.

In China, meanwhile, Zhang’s film was the year’s most successful local offering, trumped only by American imports such as “Transformers 3.” “People in China have been talking for years about stepping out into the world, into the economy, sports and culture,” Zhang says. “That’s something the entire nation wants. Films are no exception.”

Chinese President Hu Jintao recently published an essay in a party magazine in which he lamented: “We must clearly see that international hostile forces are intensifying the strategic plot of Westernizing and dividing China.” Hu suggested that China needs to intensify efforts to develop its own cultural products, and “should deeply understand the seriousness and complexity of the ideological struggle,” adding that “the international culture of the West is strong while we are weak.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Urdu Daily: Chinese Military Taking Over Gilgit Baltistan, Pakistan Considering Proposal to Lease the Disputed Region to China for 50 Years

According to a report published by an Urdu-language newspaper, Pakistan is considering a proposal to lease the strategic region of Gilgit Baltistan to China. The Pakistani move is aimed at fortifying its strategic relations with China amid the irreparable rupture in U.S.-Pakistan relations over the past year. Gilgit Baltistan, previously known as the Northern Areas, shares the international border with China.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa


Dutch Cabinet Must Protect Afrikaners

Dutch columnist John Jansen Van Galen wrote in the highly-regarded left-wing daily Parool.nl that it was high time that the Dutch cabinet started protecting and fighting for the rights of besieged Afrikaners in SA — just as much as they had fought for the ANC during the 1970s…

In his personal opinion column headlined Broken Souls —Stukkende Siele — Parool, Feb 8 2012 — Van Galen wrote the following: (English translation below)

…A tsunami of horrific ‘plaasmoorde’ — farm murders’ is taking place in which entire Boer families at distant homesteads are being wiped out — repeatedly upsetting this farming community and also chasing away a considerable number of them from the country altogether — which seems to be the intention (*of the ANC-regime).

“In Nov 2012 in the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ budgetary debate, the SGP MP Kees van der Staaij and the ChristianUnion MP Joël Voordewind submitted a motion asking The Dutch Cabinet to look into what can be done by the Netherlands to stop this violence and discrimination against Afrikaners, and to help protect the Afrikaners’ rights to press-freedom and other constitutional rights in present-day South Africa.

“The motion received wide support from the left to the right of the Dutc h political spectrum — but not from the traditional middle: the Christian Democrats, the Labour Party and the liberal VVD parties — so this motion was not adopted. Later on, (Geert Wilders’) PVV Freedom Party tried it again, but without success.

“Afrikaner word in the motion was apparently the bugbear’…

           — Hat tip: Kitman [Return to headlines]



Julius Malema: The Man Who Scarred South Africa

For as long as anyone can remember, white South Africans have feared that a wild and dangerous black man would get his hands on too much power. He would be charismatic and he would be angry. He would be coarse, garish and corrupt. The ranks of his followers would swell. He would convince them that everything white people have always had — the swimming pools, the cars, the holidays by the sea — should be shared, not at some deferred time, but now, right now.

This fearful vision is wired into white South African DNA. From the extreme left to the far right, there isn’t a white leader in the last century who has not warned of a racial timebomb.

So used were white people to these genteel black leaders that when the character of their nightmares stepped into the real world in 2007, they mistook him for a clown. Julius Malema was lean and young and casually dressed, his taste for champagne and Breitling watches as yet unacquired, and from the moment he opened his mouth, it was clear he was offering a dare. I will bring the roughest streets of this country on to the national stage, he was saying. I will promise violence and anger. Do you have what it takes to take me on?

           — Hat tip: Kitman [Return to headlines]



Nigeria: Gunmen Kill Man for Publicly Criticising Boko Haram

KANO (AFP) — Gunmen in Nigeria’s flashpoint city of Kano on Thursday shot dead a man known for publicly criticising Boko Haram Islamists, blamed for a series of recent attacks in the area, residents said. Alhaji Muhammadu, 60, was shot by two men riding on motorcycles as he left a mosque in the Hoton Fulani area Kano city. He died in hospital. “We had just finished our evening prayers and he was heading home when two men on motorcycles stopped close to him and shot him twice before they drove off,” resident Maikudi Danlami said.

“They were from all indication members of Boko Haram because after shooting him they said, ‘let’s see how you are going to be critical of us. Let’s see what your boasting can achieve,” said Danlami, who witnessed the shooting. A nurse at a local hospital said Muhammadu “was shot twice at close range.” Residents said that Muhammadu was known for openly criticising Boko Haram, who have claimed a series of attacks in Kano, including a January 20 assault that killed at least 185. “He never hid his aversion to Boko Haram and would voice his disapproval of the sect publicly,” said Hasan Kawu, another resident. The Boko Haram insurgency has already claimed more than 200 lives this year. The Islamists have largely struck at the police and other symbols of authority, but Christians have also been targeted. In a leaflet distributed around Kano last month, Boko Haram said it would target anyone who “collaborates” against the group, “even if he is a Muslim.”

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



Somalia Militants Officially Join With Al Qaeda

CBS/AP) NAIROBI, Kenya — Al Qaeda’s leader says that the Somali militant group al-Shabab has formally joined al Qaeda. A video translation by the Site Intelligence group released on Thursday said that al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri gave “glad tidings” that al-Shabab had joined al Qaeda. Al-Zawahri said al-Shabab would support the jihad movement against what he called the “Zio-Crusader campaign.” Al-Shabab leaders have pledged allegiance to al Qaeda in the past, but the video — which was posted on an Islamic Internet forum on Thursday — is the first formal welcoming of al-Shabab by al Qaeda. The al-Shabab-al Qaeda alliance in Somalia counts hundreds of foreign fighters among its ranks. The group is already on the U.S. State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations, and al-Shabab has publicly aligned itself with international jihad as espoused by al Qaeda since at least 2010. In a video posted on jihadist websites the groups declared at the time, “We are your soldiers, O Osama.”

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



South Africa: Paraplegic Afrikaner Raped

Volksblad journalist Tom de Wet interviewed the heart-broken Thys Henzen, 43, a paraplegic man who lives in a wheelchair and who told the journalist about his night of hell in a Welkom police cell when he was helpless — and raped. “I feel dirty, abused, humiliated. What does a man do with the rest of his life after such an ordeal?” he asked with eyes brimming with tears.

His ordeal started on 29 January 2012: he was roughly arrested that evening inside his own home, brutally assaulted, thrown into the police vehicle despite his physical frailty — and a few hours later the totally helpless Afrikaner man was dragged from his wheelchair inside the SAPS-cells — and raped with considerable violence by a black detainee: one man had held a blanket over his mouth while another sodomised him. He has been examined and given a first round of antiretroviral medicine to prevent AIDS-transfer. However — he cannot afford the entire course of medicines he would need to make sure he won’t end up with AIDS after his ordeal.

If anybody can help please email tdewet@volksblad.com.

           — Hat tip: Kitman [Return to headlines]

Immigration


Deaf Girl: 10, ‘Trafficked to UK and Kept as Sex Slave in Cellar by Elderly Couple for Almost 10 Years’by Jaya Narain

A deaf orphan girl was trafficked into Britain and forced to act as a virtual slave for a couple, a court was told.

Locked in a cellar each night, the ten-year-old was repeatedly raped and forced to carry out chores including cooking, cleaning, sewing and washing.

Ilyas Ashar, 83, and wife Tallat, 66, regularly beat the girl — dragging her by the hair if she was too slow and slapping her if the food was too hot or spicy.

The court was told the girl was repeatedly raped and sexually abused by Ashar and stabbed in the stomach.

Peter Cadwallader, prosecuting, said the girl had been brought from her home in Pakistan in 2000 after being told her parents had died.

Profoundly deaf and unable to speak, she went to live with the Ashars at their Victorian house in Eccles, near Manchester.

‘She was brought to this country and exploited,’ said Mr Cadwallader. ‘She was a victim of threats and violence throughout her life from being a little girl.

‘She was the subject of forced labour in that she was made to work for Ilyas and Tallat Ashar as a domestic servant and do other work for them.

‘She was made to cook, clean and do the washing and ironing. She was also made to clean houses and business premises for friends and relations of Mr and Mrs Ashar.

‘She also washed cars in the drive of the house — in essence she lived in a state of servitude.’

He told Minshull Street Crown Court in Manchester: ‘She was physically abused, she was sexually abused, which included being raped by Ilyas Ashar. She was exploited economically, in that benefits were obtained in her name, the money being kept by the Ashars.

‘At night the door at the top of the stairs down to the cellar was locked and bolted so she could not get out during the night.

‘During the day, presumably when she displeased Tallat Ashar, she was pushed into the cellar, pushed down the stairs and the door locked. She would sit there for hours crying and locked in.’

Police called at the house in 2009 and found the girl — now aged around 19 — sleeping in the cellar.

Mr Cadwallader said the girl had remained a captive for almost ten years because she knew no one and had absolutely nowhere to go.

‘For her that’s all she had really known and she was forced to accept it as her way of life,’ he added. ‘She knew nothing else.’

The Ashars, who ran a market stall and sold cars, both deny two counts of human trafficking for exploitation and a single count of false imprisonment.

Ilyas also denies 12 counts of rape. Tallat denies one count of sexual assault and wounding and the pair, along with their daughter Faaiza, 24, deny charges of benefit fraud.

The case continues.

           — Hat tip: Seneca III [Return to headlines]



Migrants Wake Up to a Nightmare in Europe

Many Africans often go through an odyssey on their way to Europe. For many it is an odyssey of horror: Months or even years of fear, violence and torture pass until they finally set foot on European soil.

Once illegal immigrants reach European soil it would seem to be a moment of their dreams coming true. But in many cases they turn into nightmares. On the Canary Islands, the Strait of Gibraltar, the Italian island Lampedusa, the Greek islands as well as on the international airports throughout Europe, wherever migrants get caught without a valid visa, the next stop is generally a detention center, which is often followed by a plane sending them back where they came from.

In many of the detention centers, the living and sanitary conditions are poor. The UN refugee organization UNHCR, Doctors Without Borders and other international organizations regularly visit these camps and have documented the poor sanitary facilities Germany and other European governments provide the people they are interring as well as violence among those being held and even human rights violations.

The UNHCR and the Council of Europe have worried that the unbearable situation in detention centers in Greece will not improve and have called on the other EU member states not to send any more migrants back to this country.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Spain’s Immigrants

Amid Spain’s economic crisis, many illegal immigrants want to return to Africa, but lack the means to get home.

Most Africans living in the Níjar area came to Spain on a “patera,” a crowded boat that ferries refugees across the Mediterranean. Isaak started his 1,120 euro ($1,500) trip in Mauretania. After several days the vessel reached the Canary Islands, where Isaak was detained by police and issued a deportation order. But instead of being sent back to Africa, he was flown to the Spanish mainland.

The story is similar for many other migrants; very few of whom were actually flown back to their home countries. Isaak was not unhappy with his life in Ghana, where he worked as a cobbler. But one of his friends wooed him with stories of getting rich in Europe. And despite his mother’s objections, Isaak was determined to give it a try.

Ultimately, he didn’t find the material wealth he was looking for — and since then, life has been a vicious circle. “The problem is that I don’t have any papers,” Isaak said. “Without papers, there’s no decent apartment, and without papers there’s no work.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Culture Wars


Ken Livingstone Has Form When it Comes to Homophobia

Defenders of Ken Livingstone claim that his offensive comment about the Conservative Party being “riddled” with gays was a chance remark. They claim that there is nothing to suggest homophobia in Livingstone’s record. Certainly Livingstone has tried to divide society up into interest groups and part of that electoral strategy has been to win gay votes.

But as this film demonstrates and Peter Tatchell has detailed there is worrying form from Livingstone in defending bigotry on this issue — something far more serious than his recent crass remark for the New Statesman. Livingstone hosted Dr Yusuf al-Qaradawi as an “honoured guest” at City Hall and claimed that Qaradawi is a “moderate.” Yet Qaradawi , in his book, The Lawful and the Prohibited in Islam, denounces homosexuality as “perverted” and “abominable.” He says it is an “aberration” and an “unnatural, foul and illicit practice.” He believes it should be punishable by death. However in a Guardian interview he says punishment for homosexuality should be “a matter for the state.”

[Reader comment by Axstane on 9 Feb 2012.]

Ken is not responsible for what he says. Like all elderly Socialists he has gone mad. That is a natural result of the conflict between their ideology and what they actually see around them. It is inevitable and strikes them all somewhere beyond the age of 50. Some change from youthful socialist idealism to conservatism when they have gained some knowledge of the real world but that must happen by 30 otherwise insanity is guaranteed without hope of cure.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



Norway: Feminist Fightback Cash Lands Minister in Trouble

Norway’s equality minister, Audun Lysbakken, admitted on Monday that his department broke the rules when it granted funding to a feminist self-defence organization attached to his own Socialist Left Party.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



‘Sweden is the Most PC Country in the World’

Two days before the premiere of ‘Kontoret’, the Swedish version of The Office, The Local’s Oliver Gee chats with the cast about the show, their goals, and whether Sweden needs its own version of a show that’s already proved to be a winning concept worldwide.

Henrik Dorsin, in a direct reprisal of the hugely popular Ove Sundberg character from Swedish sitcom Solsidan, will be playing the dreaded boss. According to Dorsin, Sweden’s quite specific social values bring a lot to the table that other countries haven’t offered. “Sweden is the most politically correct country in the world,” he tells The Local. “You can’t say anything in Sweden without offending people, and that creates a very tense environment.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



UK: Ken Livingstone’s Problem is His Judgment, Not His Supposed ‘Homophobia’

Occasionally Ken’s chief media groupie, the Guardian’s Dave Hill, writes something which makes up for having to read his blog. Today was one of those days. In urgent need of an excuse to spin why his hero had described the Tory party as “riddled with” people “indulging in” homosexuality, called Margaret Thatcher “clinically insane” and warned gay bankers that they would “get their penises chopped off” if they moved to Dubai, Dave pleaded that Ken was merely indulging in “absurdist satire.” Pure PR gold! If anyone’s being satirical here, Dave, I hope it’s you…

When I read Ken’s interview, I ignored his remarks about gay people and wrote about something else he said because I hate Lee Jasper-style professional offence-takers. It was also depressing to see Labour try to counter Ken’s gaffe with an outraged sectional interest of its own, Boris’s unconscionable slurs against those paragons, Sinn Fein. We must resist this New York-like attempt to carve us all up into little interest-group ghettoes. Ken is not a homophobe — though it also feels rather out of date to describe him as an active supporter of gay rights. The slightly more nuanced truth is that gay rights was one of several causes he has adopted, then relegated from favour as progressive fashion changed. Other interests, with rather more votes at their disposal and strong views on “sexual deviance” claim priority these days.

Ken, like the rest of us, has the right to be offensive. The real question — as with all his previous outbursts — is whether it is sensible for someone in his position to exercise that right. Was it sensible to call Boris Johnson’s chief of staff a mass murderer, to advocate hanging the Chancellor, wish that Tory councillors would “burn in hell,” compare Boris himself to Hitler? These remarks may not tell us much about what he really believes, but the fact that he chooses to keep making them every few weeks tells us a great deal about his judgment.

For a long time, Ken has presented himself as the serious, competent alternative to Boris, who he described on his eve-of-poll leaflet in 2008 as a “joke.” Yet it is in fact Boris who has shown far greater discipline — not just in what he says, but also in policy. Ken’s rhetorical incontinence has been matched by his apparent willingness to promise anyone that they can have whatever goodies they want, without much of an idea of how it will be paid for. It can’t be long before this starts to fall apart. Is it, perhaps, he who is the real joke?

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: Ken Livingstone: Gay Bankers Who Go to Dubai ‘Could Have Penis Lopped Off’

Ken Livingstone says gay bankers risk having their penis ‘cut off’ if they abandon London to go to Dubai.

The mayoral hopeful was criticised for his remarks after saying he was confident bankers would not leave the capital for the Arab financial powerhouse because of intolerance towards gay men. Asked about his views on bankers leaving, Mr Livingstone told Metro: ‘Our only real competitor is New York.’ When it was suggested they might move to Dubai — which is trying to attract financial firms with low tax rates — he said: ‘Would you want to get your penis chopped off? A gay banker would get his penis cut off in Dubai.’ Geneva? ‘Too boring.’ Shanghai? ‘And risk being overthrown by revolution?’ He added: ‘It’s about getting the infrastructure in place in London and the rest will follow.’ His comments come after he told the New Statesman that the Conservatives are ‘riddled’ with gay politicians who hypocritically voted against gay rights before coming out. Chris Doyle, of the Council for Arab British Understanding, which seeks to increase understanding of the Arab world in Britain, called Mr Livingstone’s comments ‘ridiculous’. He said: ‘This is a desperate attempt to grab headlines using damaging stereotypes about chopping off body parts. It is true that many areas of the Arab world are not as tolerant towards homosexuals as we are in Britain, but many gay men travel to the region and work there and conduct their private lives in private.’ Meanwhile gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell defended Mr Livingstone’s record.

He said: ‘Ken Livingstone is not homophobic.’

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

General


Ancient Poop Science: Inside the Archaeology of Paleofeces

As one of the great works of Western literature once so cogently observed, everybody does it — and in the 99% or so of human history without sanitation services, humans pretty much just pooped wherever there was space. These “nonhardened fossils”, as archaeologists have euphemistically referred to them, account for a shockingly high percentage of the material found in ancient cave sites. There’s such a ridiculously high quantity of preserved human poop — paleofeces, if we’re being technical — that being able to extract any amount of DNA would make them a massively useful resource.

Luckily, the dry, cool conditions of these caves provide workable conditions to preserve DNA for posterity, and the paleofeces provide the carrier that protects the DNA on its journey into history. The ancient dung can hold onto recoverable DNA through a process known as the Maillard reaction. As the feces dried out all those thousands of years ago, the sugars from the digested plant material began to react with surrounding amino acids, forming larger sugar compounds that formed around and encased the DNA, preserving it for future extraction. This same chemical reaction is crucial today in the coloring and flavoring of a bunch of foods, including French fries, biscuits, maple syrup, and brioche.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Blind Quantum Computing Points to the Future

A Vienna team has shown how to send encrypted data to a quantum computer. But a stable and powerful quantum computer remains a long way off.

Imagine, for a moment, that the promise of powerful, super-fast quantum computers has materialized. In the beginning at least, there will only be a few of them, housed in special facilities.

Users who want to harness their quantum capabilities will need to send data to a remote location, allow the computer to do its magic and send back the results. Quantum physicists have now shown that there’s a way to do this that’s absolutely securely — meaning the remote quantum computer will never understand the true data even while it is manipulating it.

Though other researchers have described the theory behind such a “blind quantum computing” protocol a few years ago, a group of scientists in Vienna have now become the first to demonstrate that this works. Their results were published last month in the journal, Science.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



How Earth’s Next Supercontinent Will Form

The Earth has been covered by giant combinations of continents, called supercontinents, many times in its past, and it will be again one day in the distant future. The next predicted supercontinent, dubbed Amasia, may form when the Americas and Asia both drift northward to merge, closing off the Arctic Ocean, researchers suggest.

Supercontinents are giant landmasses made up of more than one continental core. The best-known supercontinent, Pangaea, was once the world’s only continent — it was on it that the dinosaurs arose — and was the progenitor of today’s continents.

Conventional models of how supercontinents evolve suggest they form on top of the previous supercontinent, known as introversion, or on the opposite side of the world from that supercontinent, known as extroversion. Under these models Amasia would therefore either form where Pangaea once was, with the Americas meeting with Asia to close off the Atlantic Ocean, or form on the other side of the planet from where Pangaea was, with the Americas merging with Asia to close off the Pacific Ocean.

Now, geologists suggest that Amasia might emerge sideways from where Pangaea once existed, in what is now the Arctic, a process known as orthoversion. Moreover, this new model seems consistent with models of how past supercontinents formed, said researcher Ross Mitchell, a geologist at Yale University.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

News Feed 20120209

Financial Crisis
» Commission ‘Unaware’ of New Deadline for Greek Funding Gap
» Crisis: Troika Gives Greece 15 Days to Find 300 Mln Euros
» France and Germany Pressure Denmark on Finance Tax
» Germany: Exports Top €1 Trillion Despite Euro Crisis
» Greece Says Agreement Reached on Austerity Measures: ECB
» Greece: PM Reaches Deal With Party Leaders Over Bailout Terms
» Greek Talks Break Off Despite Looming Bankruptcy
» Greek Austerity Talks Stalled Ahead of Key Eurozone Meet
» Greek Future Hangs on a 300 Million Euro Thread
» Greek Debt Rescue Hits 625-Million-Euro Hurdle
» Greek Unemployment Passes 20 Percent, 48 for Youth
» Ireland Will Not Seek Writedown on Debt, Says PM
» King May Add to Gilt Stash in 50-Billion Pound Insurance Gambit
» ‘News of Germany’s Strong Exports Isn’t Welcome Everywhere’
» No New Aid for Greece Beyond Current Bailout: Slovakia
» Portugal’s Official 2011 Trade Deficit Narrows Sharply
» Railing Against the ‘Fourth Reich’: Anti-German Mood Heats Up in Greece
» Record Number of Belgians Reliant on Food Parcels
» Spain Sees Economic Slump Deepening in 1st Quarter 2012
» Spain: Madrid Civil Servants Protest Spending Cuts
» Sweden: SAS Earnings Hit by Spanair Bankruptcy
 
USA
» Drug of Choice: United States of Coffee Addicts?
» Her Highness Sheikha Moza: An Apology
» John Walker Lindh, The American Taliban, Seeks Irish Citizenship
» Kansans Called to Stand Against Sharia
» Milestone at University of Michigan: Muslim Chaplain
» Report Calls Muslim Terrorism a ‘Minuscule Threat’
» Saudi Prince Who Funded Harvard Program Visits
 
Canada
» Huffington Post Targets Quebec With French Site
» New Muslim Mosque Built for New Generations, Growing Community
 
Europe and the EU
» Airbus A380 Flaws Spark Saftey Checks
» An Undersea Passage Across the Gulf of Finland?
» Arctic Cold Wreaks Quirky Havoc Across Germany
» Austria: FPÖ Under Fire After Trip to Grozny
» Cyprus: Reunification: Talks to Continue on February 14
» Double-Barrel Profit Hike for Norway’s Statoil
» EU Commission Position Remains Same on Hungary
» France: Parfumier on Trial Today in Paris for “Racism”
» France: The Gueant “Controversy” Gets Dangerously Stupid: Liberty = Nazi Ideology?
» France: Car Breathalyzers to be Compulsory From July
» France: Depardieu to Star as Strauss-Kahn in Film
» French Minister Caves: Didn’t Mean Any Culture in Particular
» Germany Expels Four Syrian Diplomats (2)
» Germany Expels Four Syrian Diplomats (1)
» Hopes Fade for Unique Dutch Ice Race
» Meanwhile: Back in France …
» Mystery of Britain’s Largest Meteorite Solved
» Norway: Breivik ‘Addicted to Computer Games’
» Obama Moves Closer to Post-Religious Europe
» Revealing Conversation With German Diplomat: Did Spanish King Sympathize With Coup Attempt?
» Romania and Bulgaria Lagging Behind on Reforms
» Star Wars in Swedish Causes Fan Outrage
» Sweden: ‘Hugging’ Thieves Baffle Stockholm Police
» Sweden: 15-Year-Old Girl Abducted by Father and Armed Men
» Switzerland: Plans Revived for World’s Deepest Train Station
» UK: ‘Man Killed by Shotgun’ In Leeds Park
» UK: BBC News Chief: No “Value Judgements” About Abu Qatada
» UK: Charlene Downes’ Brother Arrested
» UK: Extremist Urged Benefit Claims
» UK: Islam Week: Message of Love
» UK: Ken Livingstone: I Have Never Told a Lie
» UK: Police Chief Thinks EDL’s Facebook Messsages Are Merely ‘Inappropriate, Brash or Insensitive’
» UK: Ray Honeyford
» UK: Tunstall Terrorist Recorded Inviting Muslims to Jihadi Training Camp
» UK: The Rule of Law in Britain is Diminished by the Furore Over Efforts to Deport Abu Qatada to Jordan
» UK: US Olympic Team Visit Mile End Stadium as They Choose Tower Hamlets as Their Base
 
North Africa
» Muslim Council in Egypt Evicts 8 Christian Families, Seizes Their Property
» Muslim Brotherhood
» Tunisia: The Long Political Transition
» Tunisia: City Police Calls National Strike
 
Middle East
» Demography is Destiny in Syria
» Iran Turns to Barter for Food as Sanctions Cripple Imports
» Israel’s Stance on Iran Could be ‘Catastrophic’: Moscow
» Jordan: Making a Call on Qatada
» Syria: Moscow ‘Concerned’ Over Qatar and UK Units in Homs
» Turkey: The Church That Politics Turned Into a Mosque
» Turkey: Complaint Filed Against Twitter User Alias @allah
» US Experts Warn of Israeli Attack on Iran
 
Russia
» A New Generation Aims to Revitalize Russia
» Antarctic Lake Could Reveal Evolution, New Life: Scientists
» Gorbachev: Putin Has Run Out of Gas
» Putin Wins Backing of Russia’s Religious Leaders
» Russian Cold Snap Kills 110: Ministry
 
South Asia
» The Himalayas and Nearby Peaks Have Lost No Ice in Past 10 Years, Study Shows
» Turkmen Leader: Dentist Turned Enigmatic Strongman
 
Far East
» Buying Germany’s Hidden Champions: Takeover Could Signal New Strategy for China
 
Australia — Pacific
» Evidence of Cruelty Halts Sydney Abattoir
» Terrorism as Male Bonding
 
Immigration
» As English Stops Being the First Language of Most London Children, Is Britain Ready for the Great Integration Challenge?
» Greek ‘Wall’ Is Negative Symbol, Turkey Says
 
Culture Wars
» France: ‘Negro’ Remark Lands Parfumier in Court
» France: Gay Wedding Ceremony Aims to Push Law Change
» France: MPs Approve Public Sector Quotas for Women
» Swedes’ Anti-Gay Flyers Not Free Speech: Court
» UK: Boss of Football’s Anti-Racism Group is Branded a Racist After Calling Asian Fan a ‘Coconut’
» UK: Four-in-10 Children ‘Have Never Been to an Art Gallery’
» UK: Ken Livingstone: Tories Are ‘Riddled’ With Homosexuals
» UK: Six-Fold Rise in Underage Girls Given Contraceptive Implants Past Five Years
» YWC Still Stands Against Sharia Law
 
General
» Breaking the Code: Why Yuor Barin Can Raed Tihs
» Our Galaxy’s Giant Black Hole May Munch on Asteroids
» Sharks’ Scales Create Tiny Whirlpools for Speedy Swimming
» Study: Schizophrenia’s Hallucinated Voices Drown Out Real Ones

Financial Crisis


Commission ‘Unaware’ of New Deadline for Greek Funding Gap

“I am not aware of any extension of any sort,” EU commission spokesman Amadeu Altafaj Tardio said Thursday in reference to reports of a 15-day deadline to cover a €300million funding gap. Tardio said there “a lot of new elements” for the finance ministers to discuss on Thursday, however.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Crisis: Troika Gives Greece 15 Days to Find 300 Mln Euros

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS — The troika has reportedly given Greece 15 days to find 300 million euros of cuts to avoid reductions to pensions after party leaders objected to this measure during marathon talks that ended early on Thursday, as daily Kathimerini reports. Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos flew to Brussels for a meeting of the Eurogroup in the hope that his eurozone counterparts would be satisfied with the fact that all other aspects of the reform program drawn up with the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund were agreed upon by the leaders of PASOK, New Democracy and Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS). “I leave for Brussels with the hope that the Eurogroup will take a positive decision on the new program, on which the survival of the country for the next few years depends,” said Venizelos upon exiting Prime Minister Lucas Papademos’s office at about 6 a.m.

Venizelos took part in talks with the troika and Papademos that began at about 1 a.m. after the party leaders concluded their meeting, which had lasted almost eight hours. The negotiations between the prime minister and the leaders concluded that the government would have to find a way to make 300 million euros of savings in order to avoid 15% cuts to supplementary pensions and another 15% to basic pensions. The troika had projected 635 million euros of savings from reductions in state-backed pensions. Government sources told Greek media that 325 million would be cut from elsewhere, probably defense spending, but Athens is still looking for another 300 million in savings. The same sources said that the troika had agreed to give a grace period of 15 days for the savings to be found. The 50-page document details the austerity measures and reforms Greece will have to agree to secure a crucial 130-billion-euro bailout. It foresees savings of some 3 billion euros this year and another 10 billion until 2015. Many changes are also foreseen for the private sector. The monthly minimum wage, which is currently at 751 euros, is to be reduced by 22%. It will be cut by an additional 10% for those aged under 25 in a bid to tackle youth unemployment, which stands at around 40%.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



France and Germany Pressure Denmark on Finance Tax

Nine EU countries urge Denmark to place financial transaction tax on the agenda while sceptical finance minister is accused of being in the pocket of banks

Pressure is mounting on Denmark after nine Eurozone countries demanded that the EU presidency place the drafting of a European financial transaction tax (FTT) on the agenda. The European Commission proposed the FTT in September last year, and while the government is concerned about its potential effect on growth, most of Europe’s major economies support the proposal.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Germany: Exports Top €1 Trillion Despite Euro Crisis

German exports topped €1 trillion for the first time in 2011, but fell at year-end as the eurozone debt crisis hit demand for goods made in Germany, official data showed on Wednesday. Europe’s biggest economy exported €1.06 trillion ($1.4 trillion) in the whole of last year, exceeding the one-trillion mark for the first time, the national statistics office Destatis said in a statement. Imports also rose to a record €902 billion.

Exports declined by 4.3 percent in December alone to their lowest level since April, as the effects of the region’s debilitating debt crisis increasingly made themselves felt, the data showed. And with imports also falling by 3.9 percent, Germany’s trade surplus — which had ballooned to €158.1 billion throughout the whole of 2011 — contracted to €13.9 billion in December.

The full-year data place Germany as the world’s number two exporter behind China which posted exports worth a total €1.432 billion and a trade surplus of €117 billion in 2011.

China, along with the eurozone’s second-biggest economy, France, are Germany’s main trading partners. But France posted a trade deficit of almost €70 billion in 2011. France has a structural trade deficit and is increasingly looking to the German model as a guide to raising competitiveness and exports.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Greece Says Agreement Reached on Austerity Measures: ECB

(FRANKFURT) — A deal has been reached among Greek political leaders on additional austerity measures demanded by EU-IMF creditors in return for a loan bailout, European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi said Thursday. Draghi told a news conference that he had received a phone call from Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos just minutes earlier and “he told me that agreement has been reached and has been endorsed by major parties.”

Quizzed about the possibility that the ECB could take losses on its holdings of Greek government bonds, which it has amassed under its controversial bond-buying programme, Draghi refused to be drawn on the issue. But he pointed out that the ECB is “not a negotiating party” in the talks between Greece and its creditors over a write-down of its private held debt.

“Everybody has been talking about what the ECB could or could not do. But the ECB hasn’t said anything,” he said. Nevertheless, “it’s not our intention to violate the prohibition on monetary financing,” he insisted, referring to a policy whereby a government in effect prints money to boost liquidity. “All this talk about the ECB sharing the losses (is) unfounded,” Draghi said, added that “the vibrations that we’re getting is that the parties are pretty close to an agreement.”

Greece’s private creditors are being asked to write off about half of the 200 billion euros’ worth of government bonds they hold to help cut the country’s total debt burden to a sustainable level. The ECB has come under pressure to take losses on the Greek government bonds it holds as the restructuring by private creditors is unlikely to bring down Greece’s debt to the target of 120 percent of GDP in 2020 from 160 percent at present.

On Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal said the ECB had agreed to exchange the government bonds it purchased in the secondary market last year at a price below face value, provided the debt-restructuring talks have a successful outcome.

The ECB bought the bonds beginning in May 2010 in an effort to push down borrowing costs for Athens. The effort failed and Greece has in effect been locked out of the bond markets ever since, relying on funds from a first bailout in May 2010 worth 110 billion euros.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Greece: PM Reaches Deal With Party Leaders Over Bailout Terms

Government sources have revealed that a deal has been reached over how to find the 300 million euros in savings that the troika was demanding to prevent cuts to pensions that three parties in Greece’s coalition government were not willing to accept. An official in the premier’s office told Kathimerini English Edition that Prime Minister Lucas Papademos had held talks with New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras and a solution had been reached.

Samaras had objected to auxiliary pensions falling below 300 euros per month. He was supported by Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) leader Giorgos Karatzaferis. PASOK chief George Papandreou had objected to any shortfall being made up by cuts to basic pensions.

The government official said that the 300 million euros would come from cuts in defense spending and other areas but did not give any other details. A statement is expected shortly.

In a news conference, European Central Bank president Mario Draghi confirmed that a deal had been reached. “I received a phone call a few minutes ago from the Greek prime minister and he told me that an agreement has been reached and endorsed by the major parties,” he said. Draghi refused to comment on whether Greek bonds held by the ECB would be included in the country’s restructuring scheme.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Greek Talks Break Off Despite Looming Bankruptcy

BRUSSELS — Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos has failed to secure political backing for further austerity measures despite days of talks and a seven-hour-long meeting on Wednesday (8 February). Referring to an ongoing dispute on pensions reform, his office said in a statement that “there was broad agreement on all the programme issues with the exception of one, which requires further elaboration and discussion with the troika. This discussion will take place immediately, so as to conclude the agreement in view of the Eurogroup meeting.”

Papademos is under pressure from EU leaders and international financiers after already missing several deadlines. He needs the backing of the three coalition parties for the cuts to go ahead and for the EU to agree a second bail-out worth €130 billion. Without the money, Greece will default on bond payments in March.

A snap meeting of eurozone finance ministers is to take place on Thursday in Brussels at 6pm local time. For his part, Greek finance minister Evangelos Venizelos hopes he will have enough to put on the table for colleagues to approve the extra aid by the time they get down to business. “I leave for Brussels with hope that the eurogroup will take a positive decision concerning the new aid plan,” he told press prior to his departure from Athens to the EU capital.

The 50-page austerity plan includes a 22-percent cut in the minimum wage, a 32-percent cut in salaries for young employees and the sacking of 15,000 public sector workers.

The measures prompted new strikes and protests this week. But financial newswires report they still fall short by some €300 million in terms of demands by the so-called troika of lenders — the European Central Bank (ECB), the European Commission and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The three factions in the coalition — the centre-left Pasok, centre-right New Democracy and right-wing Laos parties — are reluctant to sign up to unpopular reforms ahead of elections in April.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Greek Austerity Talks Stalled Ahead of Key Eurozone Meet

(ATHENS) — Greek leaders Thursday fell short of striking a deal on austerity cuts, even as their finance minister headed to Brussels Thursday for crucial eurozone talks on a new bailout to avert a debt default. Before leaving Athens, Greek Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos said he remained hopeful of winning the bailout loan from eurozone finance ministers.

“I leave for Brussels with hope that the Eurogroup will take a positive decision concerning the new aid plan,” Venizelos said. The three coalition partners in Prime Minister Lucas Papademos’ government held nearly eight hours of talks overnight on a rescue plan for the debt-strapped Greek economy, said Papademos’ office. They had agreed on all “points of the plan except one”, according to Papademos’s office.

The sticking point was “the reduction of pensions,” a government source told AFP after the marathon talks, which began Monday and broke up in the early hours of Thursday. Government spokesman Pantelis Kapsis said they still needed to cut 600 million euros, 325 million of which would be obtained by pensions cuts. “For the rest (275 million euros) our creditors have given us a 15-day delay to find a solution,” he added.

Greece’s politicians must reach a deal before their country can receive vital bailout funding from the European Union and International Monetary Fund. The bailout is vital to prevent Greece, a eurozone member, from defaulting on 14.5 billion euros ($19.2 billion) of payments to bond holders due on March 20. All eyes are on Greece amid fears a failure to meet its debt obligations could spark a domino effect that undermines the entire euro common currency project.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Greek Future Hangs on a 300 Million Euro Thread

Greek political leaders on Wednesday night were unable to come to agreement on a European Union demand for 300 million euros worth of pension cuts. The snag could jeopardize an EU aid package worth 130 billion euros — and Greece’s ongoing membership in the euro zone. Elsewhere, though, progress appears to have been made.

At stake is a €130 billion ($170 billion) bailout package, Greece’s future in the euro zone and the potential damage that a disorderly national insolvency could do to European banks and the global economy. A mere €300 million in budget cuts seems but a trifle in comparison.

That, though, is the amount by which Greek political party leaders have come up short in their weeks of talks aimed at fulfilling European Union demands that they push through additional savings worth €3.3 billion as a condition for the vast bailout. On Thursday, Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos is off to Brussels for meetings to finalize the aid money. But the failure to agree on all the belt tightening measures sought by the EU has now put the bailout in doubt.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Greek Debt Rescue Hits 625-Million-Euro Hurdle

(ATHENS) — A debt rescue for Greece hit an 11th hour hurdle on Thursday over cuts of 625 million euros ($823 million) with eurozone ministers poised to meet on a package to avert default. Greek unions announced a 48-hour general strike in another campaign against the latest austerity cuts, following a 24-hour strike on Tuesday.

As officials said Greece had two weeks to find a solution, Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos flew to Brussels with an incomplete deal on additional budget action which has left Greeks aghast. “I leave for Brussels with hope that the Eurogroup (of finance ministers) will take a positive decision concerning the new aid plan,” Venizelos said.

The sticking point was “the reduction of pensions,” a government source told AFP after marathon talks which broke up in the early hours of Thursday.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Greek Unemployment Passes 20 Percent, 48 for Youth

Greece’s jobless rate rose to a fresh record of 20.9 percent in November 2011 from 18.2 percent in October, statistics service ELSTAT said on Thursday, as the debt crisis and austerity measures took their toll on the labour market. This rise takes the number of unemployed in Greece to 1,029,587 people. It also represents an increase of 7 percent since November 2010, when unemployment was at 13.9 percent.

The number of employed fell by 9.4 percent (405,786 people) year on year and by 4 percent (164,506 people) month on month. The unemployment rate for people under the age of 25 reached 48 percent in November 2011.

Greek unemployment figures are not adjusted for seasonal factors. The average jobless rate in the 17 countries sharing the euro rose slightly to a seasonally adjusted 10.4 percent in November from 10.3 in October.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Ireland Will Not Seek Writedown on Debt, Says PM

Irish PM Enda Kenny has once again underlined that Ireland will not impose losses on the holders of Irish debt. “It’s very clear that Ireland has not sought and will not seek any writedown. We’ll pay our dues in full and on time,” he told Bloomberg TV.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



King May Add to Gilt Stash in 50-Billion Pound Insurance Gambit

Feb. 9 (Bloomberg) — Bank of England Governor Mervyn King may pump another 50 billion pounds ($79 billion) into the U.K. economy today as he ramps up protection for a nascent recovery from the threat posed by Europe’s debt crisis.

The nine-member Monetary Policy Committee will raise the target for bond purchases to 325 billion pounds, more than a quarter of current outstanding gilts, according to 34 of 50 economists in a Bloomberg News survey. Fifteen economists forecast a 75 billion-pound increase and one no change. The bank will announce the decision at noon in London.

Indexes of services, manufacturing and construction all showed growth in January, suggesting the U.K.’s fourth-quarter contraction may not mark the start of a second recession. Still, officials in Greece are struggling to obtain the political assent needed to secure a second bailout and help stem turmoil in the euro area that has threatened Britain’s economy.

“It’s a choice of doing too much, and creating too much growth and inflation, or doing nothing, and scaring the gilt market while choking off the recovery,” said Alan Clarke, an economist at Scotia Capital in London. “Given the choice between those two extremes, I’d go with too much growth every time. So on balance, they’ll do another 50 billion.”

Policy makers have primed investors to expect another round of so-called quantitative easing after they completed 75 billion pounds of bond purchases this month. King said Jan. 24 the central bank has “scope” to add to stimulus, while Adam Posen said last week there’s a case for another 75 billion pounds.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



‘News of Germany’s Strong Exports Isn’t Welcome Everywhere’

German exports reached an all-time record in 2011, a development that may lead to increased criticism of its trade surplus, with many countries arguing it worsens global imbalances. Editorialists say the country’s economy is already slowing and such criticism may be shortlived.

Germany continued to defy the global downturn in 2011, with one glowing economic report after the other, even as other countries in the euro-zone fell into recession and economies around the world struggled to find their footing. On Wednesday, the country’s Statistical Office announced that exports for the past year reached €1 trillion, representing 11.4 percent growth over 2010 and becoming the greatest amount in history. Some have even speculated that the crisis has benefited the German economy.

The largest growth was achieved in countries outside the common currency zone, which has been saddled with the debt crisis and stalled or shrinking growth. In non-euro-zone countries, exports increased by 13.2 percent, with deliveries within the currency bloc rising by 8.6 percent.

In emerging economies like China, Russia, India and Brazil, demand for the “Made in Germany” label is greater than ever before. They purchase German cars, power plants, heavy machinery and large quantities of high quality, highly specialized products that make the economy here buzz. Those exports helped the number of unemployed in Germany to drop to 3 million, the lowest level seen in 20 years.

As these countries’ economies continue to grow, they are increasing exports and also building up their own infrastructures — and are relying on German products as they do so. They often turn to German small- and mid-sized business for their technology and know-how.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



No New Aid for Greece Beyond Current Bailout: Slovakia

(BRATISLAVA) — Slovakia opposes further aid to embattled eurozone member Greece, beyond a 130-billion-euro ($173 billion) loan package which Athens is trying to unlock, Finance Minister Ivan Miklos said Thursday. “We don’t want the volume of public resources (in the rescue package) to be increased above the already agreed 130 billion euros, we want any other increases to by funded through the participation of the private sector,” Miklos told reporters in Bratislava, ahead of a crunch meeting among eurozone finance minister later Thursday in Brussels.

“We also want Greece to take measures that will make its public debt sustainable — at 120 percent of GDP or slightly higher,” he said, adding that it would require not only restrictive measures but also structural reforms to boost economic growth.

Greece has been locked in talks with officials from the European Union, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank — also dubbed the “Troika” — on fresh austerity measures needed to trigger the release of the loan package. Greece needs the loan from the European Union and International Monetary Fund to meet debt payments due in March.

“Promises and declarations are not enough, we expect specific measures to be approved by the Greek parliament,” Miklos said. “If Greece won’t be willing to accept the Troika proposals, including salary cuts in the private sector, there won’t be any other alternative but default,” he added.

Slovakia, a former communist economy which joined the EU in 2004 and the eurozone in 2009, has repeatedly expressed its discontent about bailouts in the 17-nation currency bloc. It was the only member state that refused to participate in the first rescue package for Greece in 2010.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Portugal’s Official 2011 Trade Deficit Narrows Sharply

Portugal’s 2011 trade deficit narrowed 25 percent to 15.2 billion euros ($20 billion) as exports grew sharply in the bailed-out country, official data showed on Thursday. The state statistics agency INE said exports rose 15 percent to 42.3 billion euros while imports were little changed at 57.6 billion euros.

The government, struggling to stabilise the strained public finances with the help of a 78 billion euros EU-IMF debt bailout, is counting on exports to get the economy growing again as stiff austerity measures dampen demand. The economy is expected to shrink 3.0 percent this year. But December exports were down 15.4 percent from November at 3.2 billion euros, reflecting a sharp drop in sales to the EU, INE said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Railing Against the ‘Fourth Reich’: Anti-German Mood Heats Up in Greece

Nazi flags are hardly a rarity at Greek demonstrations these days. Anti-German tirades on primetime television have likewise become a staple. In Greece, a consensus has developed as to who is to blame for the country’s economic misery. Age old stereotypes are flourishing.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Record Number of Belgians Reliant on Food Parcels

The number of people in Belgium who are dependent on food aid has reached alarming levels. Last December 117,440 Belgians were receiving food parcels. The figure is up 3,000 on the year. People who have to get by on a monthly income of less than 740 euros qualify for food parcels from the food banks. Food banks collect food from Belgian supermarkets and are also subsidised by the European Emergency Fund.

Alfons De Vadder of the Food Banks Federation: “Often our customers are single mums, people who have lost their unemployment benefit or immigrants.” Last year Belgian food banks received 13,385 tons of food. The share contributed via the supermarkets is getting smaller. Over half the food is paid for by the European Union.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Spain Sees Economic Slump Deepening in 1st Quarter 2012

Spain warned Thursday its jobs-starved economy will shrink at an even faster rate in the first quarter of 2012, plunging the country back into recession. Economy Minister Luis de Guindos gave the grim forecast, piling on the agony after the economy shrank 0.3 percent in the final quarter of 2011 with a soaring unemployment rate of nearly 23 percent.

“The first quarter will be tough, very tough, this quarter could probably be the worst, worse than the final quarter of last year,” the minister told Onda Cero radio. “Nevertheless I hope that the second quarter will be a bit less bad and that in the second half of the year we will already have a situation of stabilisation.”

A recession is broadly defined as two consecutive quarters of economic contraction. Spain emerged only at the start of 2010 from an 18-month recession triggered by a global financial crisis and a property bubble collapse that destroyed millions of jobs and left behind huge bad loans and debts.

“But the future is not written in stone, it depends on us,” the economy minister said. “That is where economic policy comes in: analysis, the measures we are taking, banking reform, labour market reform, the adjustment that has to be made in the regional governments’ public deficit,” De Guindos added. “That is what in some way must bring Spain back to the path of growth and job creation.”

The grim forecast added to the gloom cast over Spain’s future by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy the previous day, when he predicted that jobless queues will grow even longer. Spain’s unemployment rate hit a 17-year record of 22.85 percent at the end of 2011 — the highest in the industrialised world — as the number of job seekers shot above the five-million barrier.

“Unfortunately, these figures will not get better in the short term. More than that; in 2012 they will get worse,” Rajoy, who took power in December after his Popular Party won by a landslide in November 20 elections, told parliament. The Bank of Spain has forecast that Spain’s economy will shrink by 1.5 percent in 2012.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Spain: Madrid Civil Servants Protest Spending Cuts

Thousands of public sector workers took to the streets of the capital on Tuesday evening to protest cutbacks introduced by the cash-strapped Madrid regional government.

Plainclothes policemen and firemen in uniforms marched with teachers, healthcare workers and other civil servants, some accompanied by their families, under the banner: “The public sector is for all. No cuts.”

The regional government’s austerity drive includes increasing the working week from 35 hours to 37.5 hours, a measure labor unions calculate could deprive temporary and relief workers of some 8,000 jobs.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Sweden: SAS Earnings Hit by Spanair Bankruptcy

Scandinavian airline SAS said Wednesday it improved its operating profit last year but that it was dragged into loss as its former subsidiary Spanair filed for bankruptcy. The airline, struggling to cut costs to remain competitive, said even despite the exceptional items it trimmed its losses last year to 1.69 billion kronor ($253 million) from 2.22 billion kronor in 2010.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

USA


Drug of Choice: United States of Coffee Addicts?

Americans consume 400-million cups of coffee per day, making the US the leading consumer of coffee in the world. But is this love too dangerous? According to medical experts, the daily intake of caffeine should not exceed 300 milligrams, or 15 ounces, of coffee. One large cup of Starbucks exceeds an entire day’s worth. However, many Americans are far from restricting themselves to just one cup. Nutritionists are concerned that caffeine over-consumption jeopardizes the health of many Americans.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Her Highness Sheikha Moza: An Apology

Further to our article “First Lady’s luxury buys boost Agent Provocateur” (Jan 30), we would like to make clear that the “shopping spree” involving Her Highness Sheikha Moza and Michelle Obama that we referred to in fact never occurred, and that Her Highness has never been shopping with Mrs Obama, at Agent Provocateur or otherwise, and has never sought to have any part of New York closed off to enable her to shop undisturbed. We apologise for the distress and embarrassment this article caused.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



John Walker Lindh, The American Taliban, Seeks Irish Citizenship

Irish American likely to settle in Ireland on his release if given citizenship

The father of American-born Taliban solider, John Walker Lindh, who is serving 20 years in prison, is petitioning for his son to be granted Irish citizenship. It is likely he will seek to settle there on his release.

Frank Lindh also believes that the Irish government could question his son’s treatment by American authorities if he was an Irish citizen.

When John Walker Lindh was captured in Afghanistan he told the soldiers he was Irish to try and disguise his US citizenship. His preferred name is now Abu Sulayman al-Irlandi (the Irlandi title refers to Lindh’s claim to be Irish).

The young man’s father, who is Irish American, spoke to Newstalk Radio about his son and his plan to get Irish citizenship. Frank Lindh’s mother is from Donegal.

Walker Lindh and his father visited Ireland in 1998 (see photo above) at the time “he found Irish people to be open and accepting,” according to a Broadsheet.ie report.

In his interview on Newstalk radio in Ireland Lind’s father stated tthat

  • He believes his son will be released from his 20 yrs sentence in 7 yrs on parole.
  • He hopes his son could live in Ireland when he gets out of prison.
  • He says his son will not be safe in America. That’s why he hopes his son might be able to live in Ireland.
  • He thinks many in America believe his son was involved in 9/11. He says that statements by Pres Bush & others have marked John out as a terrorist.
  • He is working on getting Irish passports for all three of his kids.
  • He expects no issue getting Irish citizenship for JWL
  • He figures Irish govt should support him because of human rights issue in John’s case.

Last year, Lindh spoke at the University of San Francisco, School of Law and told of how his son was handling prison nearly a decade after being captured. In 2002, his son pleaded guilty to supplying the Taliban government and carrying explosives for them. He was charged with conspiring to kill Americans and support terrorists. Those charges were dropped in a plea agreement.

Lindh has been running a campaign to clear his son’s name. He maintains that Walker Lindh was falsely accused and claims that the media wrongly named him a terrorist.

He said his son was serving with the Taliban in order to protect civilians who were being victimized by the Northern Alliance.

Currently, Walker Lindh is being held in a special unit of a Terre Haute Indiana federal prison, which holds mostly Muslim inmates. Their communication with the outside world is limited.

At first, Walker Lindh was held in a SuperMax prison for a year. His father said he remembers his son being brought to see him in chains. However, now Walker Lindh can leave his cell and socialize with his fellow inmates.

Speaking at the Commonwealth Club in California for the first time since his son was captured in 2006, Frank Lindh spelt out his son’s story.

Lindh said, “This is the story of a decent and honorable young man, embarked on a spiritual quest, who became the focus of the grief and anger of an entire nation,” according to AlterNet.

The father explained that Walker Lindh has first become interested in Islam in 1993, and eventually converted when he was 16. His father said, “I thought he had always been a Muslim, and he simply had to find it for himself.”

At the age of 17 he travelled to Yemen where he studied Arabic. In 2000 he made the decision to travel to Pakistan to continue his study of Islam, memorizing the Koran with the aim of becoming a Muslim scholar.

In April 2001, he wrote to his father to tell him he was going into the mountains to get away from the heat. Lindh said, “What he didn’t tell us, what we didn’t learn until later, was that John was going over the mountains, into Afghanistan, intent on volunteering for military service in the army of Afghanistan.”

He continued, “John received infantry training at a government-run military training camp. But the training camp was funded by Osama bin Laden…John actually saw Osama bin Laden and met him on one occasion. He came away from those encounters very skeptical about bin Laden because John recognized instantly that bin Laden was not an authentic Islamic scholar based on what John himself knows.”

John Walker Lindh was captured near Tahar in early September 2001.

John was spotted and removed from the body of prisoners for questioning. The moment was recorded on video and later seen by millions on television.

In the video, Lindh sits mutely on the ground as he is questioned about his nationality by a CIA agent Mike Spann late rkilled by the Taliban.

“Irish? Ireland?” Spann asks.

Walker remains silent.

As shown on British Channel 4 news, Spann then asks Lindh, “Are you a member of the IRA?

“Who brought you here?… You believe in what you are doing that much, you’re willing to be killed here?” Spann asks.

He continued, “John received infantry training at a government-run military training camp. But the training camp was funded by Osama bin Laden…John actually saw Osama bin Laden and met him on one occasion. He came away from those encounters very skeptical about bin Laden because John recognized instantly that bin Laden was not an authentic Islamic scholar based on what John himself knows.”

John Walker Lindh was captured near Tahar in early September 2001.

John was spotted and removed from the body of prisoners for questioning. The moment was recorded on video and later seen by millions on television.

In the video, Lindh sits mutely on the ground as he is questioned about his nationality by a CIA agent Mike Spann later killed by the Taliban.

“Irish? Ireland?” Spann asks.

Walker remains silent.

As shown on British Channel 4 news, Spann then asks Lindh, “Are you a member of the IRA?

“Who brought you here?… You believe in what you are doing that much, you’re willing to be killed here?” Spann asks.

           — Hat tip: McR [Return to headlines]



Kansans Called to Stand Against Sharia

A Kansas-based pro-family organization is encouraging people of faith to support a legislative effort to keep sharia law out of The Sunflower State. A radical Islamic organization known as the Islamic Circle of North America has lately been running paid radio commercials and billboards in Kansas City to promote its “National Sharia Campaign.” It offers a hotline and a website for people who want to know more about sharia law and Islam as a whole. But Donna Lippoldt of the Culture Shield Network (CSN) says the campaign is nothing more than Islamic propaganda aimed at whitewashing the negative aspects of Islam. “Sharia law says that a man can just declare that he is divorced, and a woman has no recourse; a man can have multiple wives, and a woman just has to be silenced and abused,” Lippoldt notes. She suspects that the Islamists are trying to head off Senate Bill 2087, which would prohibit the use of any foreign law in Kansas. However, she believes the measure can withstand the legal challenge that befell similar legislation in Oklahoma last year, when the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the American Civil Liberties Union successfully blocked implementation of an anti-sharia law that 70 percent of voters approved. “We believe that our Kansas Constitution will back us up,” the CSN founder asserts. “We are aware of what happened in Oklahoma, but I will tell you that there have been people in our capital, in Topeka, from the Muslim faith trying to influence the legislators to be very sensitive and that they do want sharia law implemented in Kansas.” So Lippoldt is calling on people of faith to stand against sharia in the name of Jesus Christ.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



Milestone at University of Michigan: Muslim Chaplain

Mohammed Tayssir Safi began as the Muslim chaplain at the University of Michigan this semester. His position is the first endowed Muslim chaplaincy at a public university. Although the population of Muslim students is growing, there are only about 30 Muslim chaplains at colleges across the country. This semester, the University of Michigan became the first public university with an endowed position for a Muslim chaplain. “Muslims need to rely on somebody through times of hardship,” says Mohammed Tayssir Safi, who was recently hired for the chaplaincy. The university has an estimated 850 Muslim students on campus. The transition to college can be hard for Muslim students, who often come from tight-knit immigrant communities centered around mosques. Keeping their faith can be challenging because college life can glorify alcohol and premarital sex, which are forbidden by Islam. At a gathering of Muslim students at a Middle Eastern restaurant, Safi says, “There’s not a solid environment where a Muslim feels — perhaps ‘safe’ is the right word, not from violence but safe as in they feel safe and at home in being able to express themselves and who they are.”

Funding A Religious Position

Although he’ll work with students, Safi’s salary won’t be paid by the university. “The university is very supportive of the idea, but they can’t lend even a penny toward the cause because of separation of church and state,” says Chris Abdur-Rahman Blauvelt, chairman of the Michigan Muslim Alumni Foundation. Blauvelt reached out to fellow alumni and parents for donations through a crowd-funding campaign and raised $30,000 in a matter of months. With enough money for a part-time salary, Safi was hired. He’s now one of about 90 religious counselors on campus. They represent a long list of Christian groups, a number of Jewish ones and a Hindu mission. Reid Hamilton, president of the university’s Association of Religious Counselors, says it’s about time Muslims were represented in a professional capacity. “I think it’s vital that they be part of the whole religious conversation here on campus,” he says.

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



Report Calls Muslim Terrorism a ‘Minuscule Threat’

The threat of homegrown Islamic terrorism is “tiny” and often exaggerated by government officials, a leading anti-terrorism expert said in a report released Wednesday (Feb. 8).

Charles Kurzman, a sociologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a researcher at the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security, said 20 Muslim Americans were indicted for violent terrorist plots last year, down from 26 in 2010. Kurzman’s report, “Muslim-American Terrorism in the Decade Since 9/11,” said that compared to the 14,000 murders in the U.S. last year, the potential for Muslim Americans to take up terrorism is “tiny.” In the 10 years since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, 193 Muslim Americans have been indicted in terrorist plots, or fewer than 20 per year, Kurzman said.

[…]

[JP note: Better focus on all those right-wing extremists then.]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



Saudi Prince Who Funded Harvard Program Visits

Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdulaziz Alsaud of Saudi Arabia-who donated $20 million to create the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Islamic Studies Program at Harvard in 2005-discussed the future of the Middle East at a panel on Wednesday. His donation, one of his six multimillion dollar contributions to fund academic centers at universities around the world, has endowed four professorships and pushed the program to the forefront of the University’s efforts to improve teaching and learning and to promote international engagement at Harvard. “At Harvard, we’re talking about teaching and learning initiatives, but what this network does is provide us with partners to be able to take this teaching and learning initiative to new heights.” said Director of the Islamic Studies Program Ali S. Asani ‘77, referring to the other five institutions-Georgetown University, the University of Edinburgh, the University of Cambridge, the American University of Cairo, and the American University of Beirut-that received donations from the Prince and attended the conference.

Asani currently teaches an Extension School course in a “virtual classroom,” where he lectures and holds sections online with students from around the world. He hopes to offer this course to students at the College in the future, he said. Asani also said he believes that the program will encourage similar efforts in other areas of the University. “It has become a catalyst,” said Asani. “Fortuitously, it happens at a time when Harvard is rethinking teaching and learning and has new ideas about global education.” For Alwaleed, the donations were intended to promote an international dialogue between Islamic nations and the West, according to Asani. The initiative began as an effort to combat Islamophobia after September 11. “The whole idea behind these centers is to bridge gaps and bring people closer together. In the end, it’s about breaking misconceptions,” said Nadia H. Bakhurji, secretary general of the Alwaleed Bin Talal Foundation. Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter how much publicity we do, in the end, there is such an anti-campaign against Islam in general in the world.”

Each center has taken on different roles and specializations, which Georgetown director John L. Esposito said is vital to the overall mission. “All bases are being hit,” he said. “Our specific focus is on the interaction between religion and international affairs.” Bakhurji said she particularly admired the outreach initiatives taken by the University of Edinburgh. Hugh P. Goddard, the director, said that his center works within the context of Scotland and the United Kingdom. “Many [British] people don’t know much about Islam, if at all. Education is really the key. We are helping to address the gap with more accurate information,” he said. University of Cambridge Director Yasir Suleiman stressed producing credible information as a research center, not a think tank. “The purpose of our center is not to promote Islam or promote a positive image of Islam. Our image is to create knowledge and produce knowledge about Islam that is balanced, contextualized, and put out into the public sphere,” Suleiman said.

Though the Saudi royal family has been criticized for its repressive policies, Alwaleed is known as an international philanthropist and an advocate for women’s rights and an “evolution” towards democracy, according to Asani. “I think it’s human nature-freedom, liberty, and deciding your own fate. At the end of the day you have to have some structural political changes,” Alwaleed said during the panel. Among these changes, he suggested, would be a democratically-elected parliament that has authority.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Canada


Huffington Post Targets Quebec With French Site

The Huffington Post launched a French-language edition on Wednesday targeting Canada’s Quebec province — the fourth foreign version of the popular news and opinion website. Le Huffington Post Quebec joins the flagship US site and editions in Britain, France and one aimed at English-speaking Canada.

Quebec has a population of just eight million but Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington said its unique culture raises the need for a site distint from The Huffington Post Canada. “We want to be present in all of Canada,” Huffington said in an interview with AFP.

“Quebec is a very important part of Canada and has its own character, its own culture, its own institutions and we want to capture that through a dedicated site,” she said. Le Huffington Post Quebec is based in a tiny office on the 24th floor of a downtown Montreal skyscraper looking over snow-capped Mount Royal.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



New Muslim Mosque Built for New Generations, Growing Community

Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin strides across the yard, gently takes the hand of little Bayan Hamado and guides her over to a group of Muslim men who are happily turning sod. “It’s for them, right?” Fortin says of the youngest Muslim children who are the inspiration behind a new Muslim mosque that will be built on Quadra Street in Victoria, across from Crystal Pool and Fitness Centre. Nearby, Bayan’s mother, Leticia Villalpando, proudly watches her four-year-old grasp a shovel during Friday’s ground-breaking ceremony, attended by more than 70 Muslims. “It’s so exciting,” the Victoria resident said. “I can’t believe it’s happening.” Many of the 1,200 to 1,500 Muslims in the Capital Region have been attending prayer services at two adjacent homes the Muslim community purchased in 1996, at 2216 and 2218 Quadra St.

Until last week, women and children attended lectures and prayer services in one house, while next door men prayed and attended classes and other activities at the mosque, which accommodated just 40 people. For that reason, space for prayers is rented at the University of Victoria and Gordon Head Recreation Centre. “You always see the churches, the synagogues,” Villalpando said. “For us it’s always (been) the houses. For us to have an actual mosque is very important.” Deconstruction of the houses began Monday to make way for the new Masjid Al-Iman. Construction will take about 10 months, and the three-level centre will feature prayer space for men and women, an activity room and a kitchen when it’s doors open at the end of October. Construction costs are estimated at $1.56 million, according to the Victoria branch of the B.C. Muslim Association’s project website. “The community is growing and that’s why we need a bigger space,” said Villalpando’s husband, Ali Hamado, Victoria branch treasurer. The new mosque will be four times larger and accommodate 160 people for daily prayers. “We are building it for our future generation, to be able to provide services for our Muslim community and the non-Muslim community as well,” said Hamado. “It will be a learning centre for those who would like to learn more about Islam.”

While other faiths are struggling to fill the pews of their churches, Greater Victoria’s Muslim community is booming. That is largely due to the 400 international Muslim students who come from around the world to attend post-secondary schools in the region, Hamado said. “Victoria attracts many people for many reasons — the weather, the safety and the friendliness,” he said. For details on the reconstruction project, please visit www.masjidal-iman.com.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU


Airbus A380 Flaws Spark Saftey Checks

European air safety authorities ordered safety checks last month on all 68 Airbus A380 passenger jets, reports the Independent on Thursday. Small cracks have been found inside its wings. The aircraft is the world’s largest. Airbus say said the cracks, found on brackets, do not affect the planes.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



An Undersea Passage Across the Gulf of Finland?

Entering the train in Helsinki’s Pasila, passengers would be whisked to Tallinn in less than an hour. In other words, Helsinki and the neighbouring capital of Estonia would be in the same commuting area. Moreover, it would take only five hours to travel to Berlin. No queuing at the airport, no sulphur emissions from ships, no weather worries. Tractors from a factory in Central Finland would be carried by train directly to fields in Poland, without transshipment. Naturally this is all on the condition that Rail Baltica, the rail link from Tallinn to Poland, would have been completed.

The idea to build a rail tunnel between Helsinki and Tallinn is alive and well, at least inside mining engineers’ minds. It also continues to be one of the alternatives when civil servants are trying to imagine future traffic arrangements between the two cities. “It is nothing more peculiar than building a metro line in a tunnel”, says Regional Director Keijo Nenonen of the Geological Survey of Finland.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Arctic Cold Wreaks Quirky Havoc Across Germany

The bitter cold is wreaking havoc across Germany in unexpected ways, with the subzero temperatures freezing an ice cream factory, forcing gravediggers to use jackhammers and driving penguins indoors. But Hamburg can look forward to a party. Residents in the northern port city can look forward to the so-called Alstervergnügen frozen lake festivities, which will take place for the first time in 15 years this weekend.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Austria: FPÖ Under Fire After Trip to Grozny

The Freedom Party (FPÖ) has been harshly criticised for meeting with Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov.

It emerged yesterday (Weds) that a delegation of FPÖ officials travelled to Chechen capital Grozny to meet with the autocratic leader of the country which still suffers from the effects of several military conflicts and a dramatic civil war. FPÖ foreign affairs spokesman Johannes Hübner said his team’s intention was to make Chechnya a safer place. Speaking to a Chechen TV station, the member of the Austrian parliament (MP) said he was “impressed” by the Caucasian country’s progress.

The Austrian foreign ministry branded the FPÖ’s decision to travel to Chechnya as “absurd”. A spokesman for the ministry underlined yesterday (Weds) that the right-wing opposition party failed to inform Austrian authorities about their meeting with Chechen politicians and businessmen in Grozny. The foreign ministry also said that the journey of the FPÖ delegation was “politically irrelevant”.

Greens MP Peter Pilz said the FPÖ acted “irresponsibly”. Pilz said a parliamentary commission must investigate the background of the trip. He called on the FPÖ to clarify whether it financially benefited from the gathering with Kadyrov. Pilz said yesterday it seemed that the FPÖ was seeking new friends after its partnership with Muammar al-Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein.

Late FPÖ leader Jörg Haider, who founded the Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZÖ) seven years ago, met with the late Libyan dictator several times. Haider, who died in a car accident in 2008, also travelled to Baghdad to meet with Hussein, the late leader of Iraq. The trip caused worldwide outcry while some observers claim that the Austrian right-winger may have spoken with a lookalike of the infamous dictator of the war-shattered Arabian country.

There are rumours that Gaddafi and Hussein agreed to finance several FPÖ election campaigns.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Cyprus: Reunification: Talks to Continue on February 14

(ANSAmed) — NICOSIA, FEBRUARY 9 — The leaders of the two communities in Cyprus, president Dimitris Cjhristofias and turkish-Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu, will be meeting on February 14, in the UN protected area of Nicosia, in the context of direct talks to solve the Cyprus problem, as CNA reports. It will be their first meeting after a meeting in New York in late January with the UN Secretary General. Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. UN-led talks are currently underway with an aim to reunify the island.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Double-Barrel Profit Hike for Norway’s Statoil

The Norwegian oil group Statoil said on Wednesday that its net profit doubled in 2011 to 78.8 billion kroner ($14.3 billion) on higher prices and sustained output. In the last three months of the year, the group’s profit leapt to 25.5 billion kroner from 9.5 billion in the same period a year earlier, largely owing to capital gains from the sale of a stake in the Gassled pipeline network.

Statoil, which is the biggest northern European company by market capitalisation, said its sales had climbed by 22.5 percent last year to 645.6 billion kroner. It was also able to present a reserve replacement ratio of 1.17 which means it had discovered more energy sources than it had consumed and was in a better position for the future. In particular, Statoil found a giant oil reserve in the North Sea last year that might become the third-biggest ever discovered on Norwegian territory.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



EU Commission Position Remains Same on Hungary

The EU commission Thursday said its position on Hungary “has not changed” as it is still awaiting a reply from Budapest in response to its decision to launch legal proceedings against the country due to concerns about certain domestic laws, relating to the central bank, the judiciary and data protection.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



France: Parfumier on Trial Today in Paris for “Racism”

by Diana West

For years now, we’ve watched an increasingly totalitarian Europe arise in the courtrooms of infamous speech trials in Holland, Belgium, Austria, Denmark, France, England and elsewhere as dictatorial government authorities use the courts to maintain their political power against political rivals and freethinkers who dare call out the dishonesty and deceptions of the State. With the speech trial today of a fabled and elderly parfumier in Paris (described below), however, we see a strain of totalitarianism that is qualitatively different but equally sinister.

When parfumier Jean-Paul Guerlain (picture above) told an TV interviewer in 2010 that in order to create the popular perfume Samsara (“blends notes of ylang-ylang, jasmine, sandalwood, and tonka bean”) “for once, [he] started working like a negro,” he threatened no government power structure, he called out no deception. He made a banal comment, simply not worth parsing although it’s hard to resist noting that he chose the simile to convey something he is obviously proud of — a sustained and apparently arduous effort to create something beaitiful. But that is utterly and completely beside the point: The French state here is more and more inserting itself into the regulation of its citizens’ minds, not in an overt attempt to maintain political power (Wilders, Dewinter), not to destroy facts and principles that threaten its fabrications (Sabaditsch-Wolff, Hedegaard, Robinson), but rather, in the evil tradition of Communism’s relentless social engineers, to rewire all thought processes down to the most trivial. It is the totalitarian effort to create the New Man.

The Australian reports:…

           — Hat tip: Diana West [Return to headlines]



France: The Gueant “Controversy” Gets Dangerously Stupid: Liberty = Nazi Ideology?

by Diana West

The French prime minister and his cabinet have stormed out of parliament after an opposition MP accused the rightwing interior minister of flirting with Nazi ideology.

The Socialist Serge Letchimy, from Martinique, questioned the interior minister and close Sarkozy ally, Claude Guéant, over his controversial comments this weekend that “not all civilisations are of equal value”, and his assertion that some civilisations, namely France’s, are worth more than others.

Letchimy (pictured above) said Guéant was “day by day leading us back to these European ideologies that gave birth to concentration camps”.

After a loud interruption of protests, he added: “Mr Guéant, the Nazi regime, which was so concerned about purity, was that a civilization?”

What a fat, gorgeous softball to bat out of the park — if only Gueant and his fellow ministers had just one single clue among them. This was the perfect moment to read Gueant’s original discussion, which as reported by AFP, was this:

“Contrary to what the left’s relativist ideology says, for us all civilisations are not of equal value,” Guéant told a gathering of right-wing students.

“Those which defend humanity seem to us to be more advanced than those that do not,” he said.

“Those which defend liberty, equality and fraternity, seem to us superior to those which accept tyranny, the subservience of women, social and ethnic hatred,” he said in his speech, a copy of which was obtained by AFP.

He also stressed the need to “protect our civilisation”…

           — Hat tip: TV [Return to headlines]



France: Car Breathalyzers to be Compulsory From July

France is battling drink-driving by forcing every car driver, including visitors to the country, to carry a single-use breathalyzer kit from July. Officials at the transport ministry confirmed to The Local on Monday that the rules will apply to anyone driving on French roads, including foreigners visiting the country.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



France: Depardieu to Star as Strauss-Kahn in Film

After months of rumours about a possible film covering the fall from grace of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, an American director has confirmed he plans to make a movie with Gérard Depardieu in the leading role.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



French Minister Caves: Didn’t Mean Any Culture in Particular

by Diana West

France 24 updates the continuing Gueant controversy, which grew from an anodyne but heterodox remark by the French interior minister on Saturday that cultures which defend liberty, equality and fraternity (sounds like France) “seem to be” superior to those which accept tyranny, the subservience of women, social and ethnic hatred (Islam to a T).

Questioned on Sunday evening on France Inter radio, Gueant insisted he had not targeted “one culture in particular”.

Wow. That was quick. But not enough. Never enough.

French Muslims asked interior minister Claude Gueant on Monday to clarify his recent statement that not all civilisations have equal value — words that were widely interpreted in France as targeting Islam. …

“Clarify” means recant.

In a letter that was leaked to several French news agencies, the president of the French Council of the Muslim Faith, Mohamed Moussaoui, said that “many of our citizens of Muslim faith felt targeted by these statements… and let us know about it.”

Moussaoui went on to ask the interior minister, who is in charge of both the immigration and religion portfolio in Sarkozy’s government, to “reassure” Muslims that his speech was not referring to Muslim civilisation, “as was clearly portrayed by certain media.”

“Reassure” means retract, too — or else who knows what “many of our citizens of Muslim faith” might do next?

Whatever it is, chances are France 24 and its colleagues in French media won’t consider it nearly as “inflammatory” as anything Gueant says. The news organization adds in a little B-matter:

           — Hat tip: TV [Return to headlines]



Germany Expels Four Syrian Diplomats (2)

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said on Thursday Germany was expelling four diplomats from the Syrian embassy in Berlin after the arrest of two men suspected of spying on regime opponents.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Germany Expels Four Syrian Diplomats (1)

Germany has expelled four Syrian diplomats, apparently in connection with the arrest of two suspected Syrian spies earlier this week. German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle also called Thursday for a new attempt to reach a UN resolution on the ongoing violence in the country.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Hopes Fade for Unique Dutch Ice Race

The Netherlands was picking itself up by its bootlaces Thursday as hopes faded that a near-mythical ultra ice skating race on frozen canals will become a reality for the first time in 15 years. Race organisers said Wednesday night the long-expected 16th Elfstedentocht (Eleven Cities Race) was for now called off, as forecasters Thursday predicted warmer weather melting ice already formed on the route in northern Friesland.

“I don’t have good news,” race organiser Society for the Frisian Elf Steden (Eleven Cities) Wiebe Wieling told a packed press conference in the Frisian capital of Leeuwarden, broadcast live on national television. “It’s not happening at this point,” Wieling said. Royal Dutch Metereological Institute forecaster Rob Groenland added: “We are expecting the weather to warm up from Sunday.” “This is bad news for any hope that the ice will thicken,” he told AFP.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Meanwhile: Back in France …

by Diana West

Silvio Berlusconi’s finest 1/2 hour came shortly after 9/11 when he became the first and only Western leader to point out the duh-obvious distinctions between Western civilization and Islam — essentially, one culture enshrines liberty, one does not — and made the rather modest call for us to be aware of the distinction. For this he was pilloried, excoriated, heaped with scorn the world over, and beat a retreat rapido. (I discuss the episode at some length in The Death of the Grown-Up.)

This plain-as-the-nose-on-your-face observation thus successfully purged from the political mainstream, it became the hotly controversial domain of so-called “far right” political figures across Europe, from Filip Dewinter in Belgium to Geert Wilders in Holland to Oskar Freysinger on Switzerland to Heinz Christian Straache in Austria to Pia Kjærsgaard in Denmark and on into Italy, Britain, France, Germany and more.

Now, a French interior minister in Nicolas Sarkozy’s government has stepped onto the chopping block with the same message, albeit with more bite. Not only should we be aware of the distinction, we should protect our pro-humanity Western civilization. He made his “outrageous” comments on Saturday. Now, watch the dunications fly.

Suspense: Will he cave?

AFP reports:…

           — Hat tip: TV [Return to headlines]



Mystery of Britain’s Largest Meteorite Solved

With a weight that rivals a baby elephant, a meteorite that fell from space some 30,000 years ago is likely Britain’s largest space rock. And after much sleuthing, researchers think they know where it came from and how it survived so long without weathering away. The giant rock, spanning about 1.6 feet (0.5 meters) across and weighing 205 pounds (93 kilograms), was likely discovered by an archaeologist about 200 years ago at a burial site created by the Druids (an ancient Celtic priesthood) near Stonehenge, according to said Colin Pillinger, a professor of planetary sciences at the Open University.

Pillinger curated the exhibition “Objects in Space,” which opens today (Feb. 9) and is the first time the public will get a chance to see the meteorite. The exhibition will explore not only the mystery that surrounds the origins of the giant meteorite, but also the history and our fascination with space rocks. As for how the meteorite survived its long stint on Earth, researchers point to the ice age.

“The only meteorites that we know about that have survived these long ages are the ones that were collected in Antarctica,” said Pillinger, adding that more recently, some ancient meteorites have been collected in the Sahara Desert. This rock came from neither the Sahara Desert nor Antarctica, but rather the Lake House in Wiltshire.

“Britain was under an ice age for 20,000 years,” Pillinger told LiveScience, explaining the climate would have protected the rock from weathering. At some point, the Druids likely picked up the meteorite when scouting for rocks to build burial chambers. “They were keen on building burial sites for (the dead) in much the same way the Egyptians built the pyramids,” Pillinger said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Norway: Breivik ‘Addicted to Computer Games’

Confessed terrorist and mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik has been described as being “addicted to computer games,” spending thousands of hours on war-themed games in the years before he bombed Norway’s government headquarters and gunned down Labour Party summer campers.

Newspaper Aftenposten reported Thursday that police have found logs indicating that Breivik spent even more time on computer games than he’d admitted to under questioning. He’d said he spent around 8,700 hours playing the games between 2006 and 2010. Police found that between November 2010 and April 2011, Breivik spent 500 hours playing “World of Warcraft” alone. He had claimed he spent all his time in the months leading up to his July 22 attacks on planning them.

‘Damaging’

In addition to playing “World of Warcraft,” Breivik also played computer games including “Modern Warfare,” “Elder scrolls,” “Dragon Age” and “Warhammer.” Hans Olav Fekjær, a Norwegian psychiatrist and expert on addiction, told Aftenposten that spending so much time on computer games “will often be so damaging that it would be called addiction.”

Breivik has claimed that playing war games was merely “camouflage” for planning his terrorist attacks, and that to “reward” himself, he decided to devote most of an entire year to them.

His obsession with “World of Warcraft” reportedly began in 2006, when Breivik moved home to his mother’s apartment in Oslo. Police believe he played “World of Warcraft” up to 12 hours a day over a two-year period.

Probing fellow players

Aftenposten reported that police are probing all persons Breivik has been in contact with, and that includes other game players. Police are also keen on establishing whether Breivik played in a group.

“We’re retrieving information from the (games) suppliers,” prosecutor Christian Hatlo told Aftenposten. At times, Breivik was believed to have been logged onto two computers simultaneously for playing, and police are also investigating whether Breivik paid others to play for him.

“World of Warcraft” is called an MMORPG — Massively multiplayer online role-playing game — and considered the most popular game in the world with more than 10 million subscribers. Around 70,000 of them are in Norway. Fekjær said the game contains elements that make it difficult to give up.

“You play on a guild, or team, with others and there can be great pressure against withdrawing,” Fekjær told Aftenposten, adding that many players can “disappear” into the games virtual and aggressive world. Breivik has used terminology from the game in his so-called “manifesto.”

           — Hat tip: The Observer [Return to headlines]



Obama Moves Closer to Post-Religious Europe

A quite unexpected hurricane has hit the Obama campaign ship. The President has done what is, on the face of it, a startlingly foolhardy thing. He has provoked outrage in the Catholic church and thus in that huge US constituency — now larger than ever due to a vast increase in the Hispanic community — which takes its Roman Catholic faith very seriously. One of the provisions of Obamacare’s Affordable Care Act which obliges employers to provide mandatory health insurance, is that such policies must cover the provision of contraceptive services. While churches and specifically religious institutions (such as convents presumably) are exempt, other places of employment run by the Church would not be. So a Roman Catholic school, university or hospital would be obliged to provide contraception for its employees even though this goes against its religious beliefs and teaching. The Obama administration is now facing opposition not only from the Republicans — who see it as a straightforward breach of the First Amendment right to freedom of religious observance — but from Democratic Congressmen and Senators many of whom come from states with large Catholic populations.

So why has the President chosen this high-risk path? The White House spokesman says simply that the administration is committed to giving women access to these services “no matter where they work”. In other words, this is an issue of equality: everyone must have the same access to identical provision even if they (knowingly) work for an employer who is opposed in principle to such provision. This is a classic case of government-backed equality vs individual freedom of conscience, of a kind with which we are very familiar in Britain. It is, in fact, a direct consequence of the uniformity which any national healthcare plan must involve.

But it is also a departure from the traditional American view (enshrined in the Constitution) that the government shall not interfere in the people’s right to religious assembly and practice. What the Obama White House has effectively decided is that religion can not be allowed to interfere with the secular values which government has decreed — such as the right to equality in contraception services. Religion itself is being firmly put in its box. If the state decides that contraception must be available to all, then no church or theological text will be allowed to stand in the way. Once again, the US is following where Europe leads: to a future in which all values will be determined and enforced by the state.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



Revealing Conversation With German Diplomat: Did Spanish King Sympathize With Coup Attempt?

A newly declassified document from the German Foreign Ministry archive contains revealing new information about the failed 1981 coup in Spain. According to the report, Spanish King Juan Carlos apparently showed sympathy for the plotters in a private conversation with the German ambassador.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Romania and Bulgaria Lagging Behind on Reforms

BRUSSELS — Bulgaria and Romania still need to do more to tackle corruption and organised crime, the European Commission said Wednesday (8 February), in a refrain familiar since the two countries joined the EU almost five years ago. The European Commission reports, which are published twice a year, focus on a number of benchmarks that need to be addressed or improved upon.

And while Brussels notes that both countries have made “significant” steps to improve their judiciary systems, outstanding issues remain. Bulgaria’s courts and its prosecution services have improved but its courts still need to deliver more convincing results on corruption and organised crime.

Six magistrates were acquitted by court in six cases related to corruption and abuse of office in 2011, with another 28 magistrates currently involved in 27 other criminal proceedings. Ten have so far been convicted with another six receiving suspended sentences. The report also highlights allegations of electoral fraud, made by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, following the Bulgarian presidential and local elections of last October.

For its part, Romania still needs to improve its judicial transparency, tackle conflicts of interest, and continue its struggle against high- and low-level corruption.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Star Wars in Swedish Causes Fan Outrage

Star Wars, The Phantom Menace, is about to hit Sweden’s cinemas in 3D, dubbed into Swedish, a move which has infuriated die-hard fans and prompting them to lobby for a boycott of the film. “It fills me with disgust,” wrote daily newspaper Aftonbladet’s Magnus Edlund. “There are some things you know you should instinctively avoid, like jumping off a cliff, or hitting your temple with a hammer,” he wrote. And so it is, he claimed, with Star Wars in Swedish.

Edlund’s article has called for all fans of the series to boycott the film in an effort to prevent the other films in the Star Wars franchise from losing the appeal that comes with the original English dialogue. And the readers have responded in full force. A poll on the newspaper showed that 80 percent of voters were ‘disgusted’ with the dubbing.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Sweden: ‘Hugging’ Thieves Baffle Stockholm Police

A gang of tactile thieves in central Stockholm has embraced a new pickpocketing technique, leaving police baffled and dozens of victims stunned and phoneless. “Even men have fallen victim,” said Gunnar Thun of Stockholm police to newspaper Metro. “But in those cases it’s more of an embrace or a pat on the back.”

According to Stockholm police, one of the thieves usually approaches the victim, and without any words of greeting or warning, hugs the victim — sometimes even lifting them off the ground. Meanwhile, an accomplice who is aware of the location of the victim’s valuables, takes the chance to pinch things from his or her pockets.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Sweden: 15-Year-Old Girl Abducted by Father and Armed Men

A 15-year-old girl, taken into custody by social services last week, was removed on Sunday from her foster home by four armed men, one of which was her father. “I can confirm that we are dealing with a case of abduction. I can’t disclose more than that due to the sensitive nature of the case,” said Johan Frisk of the Jönköping police to daily Aftonbladet. According to the paper, the girl came to Sweden with her parents a few years ago.

She was removed from her home last week after social services found out that her father had been beating her. Local authorities placed her in a foster home in the nearby community of Sävsjö. But on Sunday four men armed with guns and axes turned up at the foster home looking for the 15-year-old. After overpowering and tying up the foster parents the men took off with the girl.

“It could be honour-related,” an anonymous source told the paper.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Switzerland: Plans Revived for World’s Deepest Train Station

Private investors are stepping in to save what could be a landmark project in Switzerland. Compared by enthusiasts to the likes of the Eifel Tower in Paris or the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco, the Porta Alpina project envisages the building of a new train station at record depths of 800 metres.

The station would be located inside the world’s longest railway tunnel, the Gotthard Base Tunnel, which is expected to open to the public in 2016. One of the world’s longest lifts would then link the station to the village of Sedrun. Locals are said to be enthusiastic about the project, which could see tens of thousands of tourists visiting the region each year.

The proposed site sits a little way along the mountain range from Andermatt, where Egyptian billionaire, Samih Sawiris, plans to build a new super-resort, and there is talk that one day the two attractions could somehow be linked. Sawiris said he would be sorry if this “unique construction” was not realised.

Despite 75 percent of local Graubünden voters approving cantonal contributions to the project in 2005, local government determined that it was unable to spend the 20 million francs ($21.98 million) needed to build what would be one of Europe’s most spectacular train stations. Nevertheless, Basel public relations entrepreneur Manfred Messmer, speaking on behalf of a group of investors, confirmed in a report by St. Galler Tagsblatt that he was very optimistic about the project.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



UK: ‘Man Killed by Shotgun’ In Leeds Park

A man was fatally injured after being “stalked” and blasted in the face with a shot gun, a jury heard.

Gavin Clarke, 34, died four days after being allegedly shot by Afzal Arif in Savile Avenue, Chapeltown, Leeds, on August 8 last year.

Leeds Crown Court heard Mr Clarke was shot after leaving nearby Savile Park where he had been doing fitness training.

Arif, 23, is on trial for murder alongside Sohail Mahmood, 23, who is alleged to have helped by acting as a “scout” by identifying Mr Clarke.

Three others are on trial accused of helping the pair cover up their involvement in the shooting.

Paul Greaney, prosecuting, said the motive for the killing was still a mystery but it may have been to do with Arif’s relationship with one of Mr Clarke’s relatives.

He told the court that Mr Clarke had expressed concerns to his partner that Arif may have been beating her up.

Arif, 23, of Elford Grove, Harehills, denies murder but admits manslaughter. He has also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

Sohail Mahmood, of Savile Road, Chapeltown, denies murder, manslaughter or conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

Ibrar Din, 23, of Mexborough Street, Chapeltown, and brothers Shahid Hussain, 32, and Sajjad Hussain, 38, both of Harrogate Road, Leeds, all plead not guilty to conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

           — Hat tip: Kitman [Return to headlines]



UK: BBC News Chief: No “Value Judgements” About Abu Qatada

by Diana West

As readers know, I go back a long ways with Abu Qatada —hands down, my favortite jihadist ever since 2003 when he said the immortal words: “I am astonished by President Bush when he claims there is nothing in the Koran that justifies jihad or violence in the name of Islam. Is he some kind of Islamic scholar? Has he ever actually read the Koran?”

Now he’s back in the news — or rather his “extremistm” and fatness are due to instructions from on high that journalists mustn’t talk about them. Might imply a “value judgement.”

The Telegraph, via Andrew Bostom, reports

The BBC has told its journalists not to call Abu Qatada, the al-Qaeda preacher, an “etremist.”

In order to avoid making a “value judgment”, the corporation’s managers have ruled that he can only be described as “radical”.

Journalists were also cautioned against using images suggesting the preacher is overweight.

Like this one, I suspect.

A judge ruled this week that the Muslim preacher, once described as “Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man in Europe”, should be released from a British jail, angering ministers and MPs.

Adding to the row, Kenneth Clarke, the Justice Secretary, yesterday insisted that Qatada “has not committed any crime” and said his release has nothing to do with the European Court of Human Rights.

A British court has called Qatada a “truly dangerous individual” and even his defence team has suggested he poses a “grave risk” to national security.

Despite that background, BBC journalists were told they should not describe Qatada as an extremist…

           — Hat tip: TV [Return to headlines]



UK: Charlene Downes’ Brother Arrested

BREAKING NEWS — We have been told that Charlene Downes’ brother has been arrested after an alleged assault on one of the Muslim men tried for Charlene’s murder.

Given the fact that the takeaway shop remained a centre for grooming other young girls, it is no surprise if someone has taken the law into their own hands.

If Robert wants us to, we will demonstrate in support of him when he is taken to court, and we call on all patriots of all groups to join us.

           — Hat tip: Kitman [Return to headlines]



UK: Extremist Urged Benefit Claims

An al Qaida-inspired extremist from Stoke-on-Trent called on British Muslims to claim benefits to raise funds for a terrorist training camp, a court has heard. Usman Khan, 20, was secretly recorded talking about plans to recruit UK radicals to attend the camp in Kashmir, London’s Woolwich Crown Court was told. He said there were only three possible outcomes for him and his fellow jihadists: victory, martyrdom or prison. Khan’s home in Persia Walk, Stoke-on-Trent, was bugged as he discussed plans for the firearms training camp, which was to be disguised as a legitimate “madrassa”, an Islamic religious school, the court heard. Discussing terrorist fundraising, he said that Muslims in Britain could earn in a day what people in Kashmir, a disputed region divided between Pakistan and India, are paid in a month. During the late-night meeting on December 4, 2010, Khan contrasted the action he was planning in support of jihad with the passive approach of Muslims like radical cleric Anjem Choudary.

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: Islam Week: Message of Love

Charity celebrates goodwill and understanding as the central message of its awareness week

Islamic charity to spread its messages of love during Islamic awareness week…

The Islamic Society of Britain (ISB), a charity dedicated to promoting positivity and inclusivity is launching Islam awareness week with a special focus on good community values and understanding. Established in 1990, the charity offers a flavour of how philanthropic and respectful Islamic values have been incorporated into Britain’s multi-cultural and multi faith society… and seeks to open up dialogue in society across different faiths and traditions. The charity says it especially seeks to open dialogue with Muslims about understanding their faith in a British context. The Islamic Society of Britain has announced Islam awareness week from March 12 to 18 will have the theme of love…

The charity initiated Islam awareness week in 1994, to raise awareness and remove misconceptions surrounding Britain’s second largest faith group. The charity presents Islam awareness week as an opportunity for all people to come together and address the dangers posed by such misunderstandings. During the week ISB encourages communities to volunteer their time to organise events celebrating dialogue, as well as promoting arts and culture. The charity believes that such events are vital to support good community relations.

Muslims contribute enormously to the economic and cultural fabric of Britain and also make substantial commitments to charity and voluntary work the year round as they do throughout the world.

The charity Islamic Society of Britain has been involved, for instance, in practical campaigns including helping homeless people with essential support and supplies. As such it is typical of the philanthropic efforts of millions of Muslims all around the world especially at times of the calendar such as Ramadan, a major focus at this time being a pledge of support for others and for charity giving. Charities such as Muslim Aid, for instance, are also heavily involved in ongoing humanitarian and sustainable development projects around the world, including providing emergency shelter, health services and other humanitarian services… The Islamic Society of Britain however, says it aims to be very much a community based charity encouraging British Muslim volunteers, from a wide variety of backgrounds, to take part in projects offering support for local communities.

[JP note: Love, but not as we know it.]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: Ken Livingstone: I Have Never Told a Lie

Quote of the year from Ken comes in tomorrow’s New Statesman, when the Greatest Living Londoner avers: “I think I have gone through my entire public career never telling a lie. I have made mistakes but I never knowingly lied.” As one editor I worked for used to say, faced with a particularly preposterous statement by a public figure: “This one I frame.”

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: Police Chief Thinks EDL’s Facebook Messsages Are Merely ‘Inappropriate, Brash or Insensitive’

The Yorkshire Post (via Expose) has an interesting interview with Sir Norman Bettison, Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police, in connection with the specialist unit he has set up to monitor violent extremism on the internet. Bettison is one of the few leading police officers to have taken the threat from the English Defence League seriously, and he has readily used his powers under the Public Order Act to restrict the EDL’s attempts to mount intimidatory protests against the Muslim community. When the EDL demonstrated in Dewsbury last June, for example, West Yorkshire Police refused to let them enter the town centre to hold their intended rally outside the town hall and confined them to the station car park where they couldn’t do any harm. So it is regrettable that Bettison appears to regard the EDL’s presence on the internet as posing less of a threat than its presence on the streets. He is quoted as saying that there is “really quite a high threshold to cross into criminality” and that messages posted on the internet by the EDL rarely warrant prosecution, as they are merely “inappropriate, brash or insensitive”. Perhaps it’s just lack of resources — Bettison says his unit only has a dozen people — but it is difficult to believe that anyone who has monitored the continuous incitement to racial hatred and repeated threats of anti-Muslim violence that have been posted on the EDL’s Facebook page (see for example here, here and here) could come up with such a bland and inaccurate characterisation of the EDL’s role on the internet.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: Ray Honeyford

Ray Honeyford, who has died aged 77, was the unknown headmaster of a school in Bradford until, in January 1984, he published an article critical of multiculturalism and its effect on British education; widely accused of racism, he was subjected to a barrage of abuse, forced to take early retirement, and never taught again.

Honeyford had been headmaster of Drummond Middle School — where some 95 per cent of the pupils were Asian — for four years when he wrote his article for the Right-wing Salisbury Review. Local politicians and pressure groups responded with a campaign to get him fired; he received death threats, and had to enter his own school under police protection owing to the presence of pickets. His health, and that of his wife, began to suffer, and in December 1985 he accepted early retirement.

Honeyford’s article did not pull its punches, and his critics viewed some of his language as intemperate. He referred to “a growing number of Asians whose aim is to preserve as intact as possible the values and attitudes of the Indian subcontinent within a framework of British social and political privilege, ie to produce Asian ghettoes”, and “an influential group of black intellectuals of aggressive disposition, who know little of the British traditions of understatement, civilised discourse and respect for reason”.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



UK: Tunstall Terrorist Recorded Inviting Muslims to Jihadi Training Camp

TERRORIST Usman Khan was recorded inviting fellow Muslims to his jihadi training camp in Pakistan. Khan’s attempts to recruit others to his cause were captured by bugs hidden by the security services at his Tunstall home. The 20-year-old was also heard talking about how state benefits could be used to fund the training facility, which he had set up with his fellow radicals. Khan is awaiting sentence at Woolwich Crown Court after admitting preparing for terrorist acts, along with two others from Stoke-on-Trent. Prosecutor Andrew Edis yesterday read excerpts from a conversation between Khan and an unknown man, which had been recorded at Khan’s home in Persia Walk, Tunstall, in December 2010. The two men discussed politics, ideology and their love of Osama bin Laden, who they described as “beautiful”. Khan then went on to talk about the terrorist training camp in Kashmir, which he and his colleagues Mohammad Shahjahan and Nazam Hussain had been funding. He invited the other man to come to the camp, arguing that training for armed jihad is preferable to engaging in dawah, or preaching, in the UK. Khan says: “Brothers should encourage other brothers to come. We’ve got something serious set up. If you want to see the set-up, go there, check it out. Invite brothers to come and check it out.” He said that once trained the jihadist could then return to the UK, with the only possible outcomes being victory, prison or martyrdom.

Khan also talked about the funding of the training camp in Kashmir, which had been disguised as a normal madrassa (an Islamic seminary). He explained that he could make more money on Jobseeker’s Allowance in a day, than he could earn in a month in Kashmir. Mr Edis said: “Khan’s intention is to supply money and people to something which is described as an existing set-up. “He had recently returned from Pakistan and we draw the inference that he had been there and he was going back there within a few weeks. He says that this set-up seems on the surface to be a normal madrassa, but the inference is that it is actually a place where firearms training takes place. It’s also quite clear that the hope is that there will be a significant number of UK citizens who will attend there. His concern is to make it clear that this is a serious project, which is in contrast to just sitting around doing nothing and watching videos.”

The court also heard excepts from a later conversation at Persia Walk, where Khan was discussing planting bombs in Stoke-on-Trent pubs with his fellow terrorists. Shahjahan, a 27-year-old, of Burmarsh Walk, Burslem, talked about doing “a little vigilante thing” involving two pubs, before the other cell members left for the training camp in Pakistan in January.

They questioned whether they would have to buy drinks as a pretext for their presence in a pub and discussed getting a white man to plant the bomb for them. This plot was never taken any further, as all four members of the Stoke-on-Trent cell were arrested on December 20, along with five others in Cardiff and London. Shahjahan, Hussain, aged 26, of Grove Street, Cobridge, and Khan admitted being engaged in conduct in preparation for acts of terrorism between November 1 and December 20, 2010. Mohibur Rahman, aged 27, of North Road, Cobridge, admitted possessing an article for a terrorist purpose. In total, the nine men involved in the network were arrested in police raids in December 2010.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: The Rule of Law in Britain is Diminished by the Furore Over Efforts to Deport Abu Qatada to Jordan

The British Parliament has lost sight of the noble principles that Strasbourg has upheld.

It has been very clear for a long time that something has gone wrong with British justice. A succession of Home Secretaries have targeted, at different times, each of the central principles that underlie the national system of law: trial by jury, habeas corpus, free speech, as well as the abiding tenet that there should be a strict separation of powers between the judiciary and the executive. This magnificent legal inheritance has been a guarantee of freedom and fairness in this country since the Middle Ages. But — as Tuesday’s wretched debate in Parliament about Abu Qatada demonstrates so nicely — this tradition is no longer of interest to the political class. Abu Qatada certainly seems to be a thoroughly undesirable and nasty piece of work. Tapes of his sermons were discovered in a flat used by one of the Twin Towers bombers. He is accused of being the spiritual leader of al-Qaeda in Europe, and is sought in his native Jordan for an attempt to murder tourists. Not merely that — he is on record as justifying suicide-bombing and, it is said, preaching anti-Semitism.

On top of everything else, there is the fundamental, stinking hypocrisy of a man who appears to have a contempt for human rights making use of the best British lawyers to guarantee his own freedom to live with his large family on British benefits.

Most of the above is an offence under the British legal system, which regards incitement to murder and hate crimes as very serious offences. Indeed, if even a fraction of what is claimed is true, it would surely have been an easy matter to press charges against Qatada and have him sent to jail for a long period. But this has not been the approach taken by the British Government. We have preferred not to press charges, instead holding him under the various forms of house arrest made possible by recent anti-terrorism legislation. More recently, we have attempted to deport Qatada to Jordan, but this strategy has rightly fallen foul of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg — which refuses to countenance the idea that any individual should be deported to a country that practices torture. Mysteriously, however, this decision has been condemned as an outrageous assault on British sovereignty, while the Strasbourg Court is under attack as an alien construction, hostile to British history, law, freedom and our national identity.

It is time that the case was heard for the defence. Certainly, it should be conceded that those who claim protection from the European Court are often suspicious or unattractive men and women, and many of them foreigners. Abu Qatada is a near perfect example of this kind of phenomenon. But the brutal truth is that obnoxious and unpopular figures are exactly those who most desperately need the protection of the law. Consider this: there is nothing on this earth more British than the instinct to stand up for the underdog or the pariah, however unpopular or unattractive he or she might be. And there is no institution — not even the MCC or the Lawn Tennis Association — more British than the European Court of Human Rights. It was inspired by Sir Winston Churchill, eager in the aftermath of the Second World War and the Holocaust to export the British system of fairness and decency. Churchill ensured that its founding document was drafted by a British politician, David Maxwell Fyfe, later to become a Conservative Lord Chancellor. Every single one of the great ideas that were to be embodied in the European Convention — freedom from torture, restraint on the power of the state, freedom under law — was an ancient British principle transferred on to the European stage.

It should be a matter of enormous national pride that an institution so profoundly British in its inspiration has refused to send an Arab fundamentalist (however despicable his crimes are alleged to be) to Jordan, where he might be tortured, or at best face the prospect of being sent to jail on the back of evidence acquired from a torture victim. Yet this decision has been greeted with horror by all three of our main political parties. Tuesday’s Commons debate, in particular, was a day of shame for Parliament, once famed as the cockpit of freedom and justice. MPs combined to demand that Britain flout the European Court. Only one solitary backbencher, Labour’s David Winnick, asked the obvious question: if Abu Qatada is such a bad egg, why not press charges and secure a sentence in court?

It is more than 60 years since Churchill made his famous “Iron Curtain” speech in Fulton, Missouri, in which he defended the Western tradition of the rule of law. This is what he said: “We must never cease to proclaim in fearless tones the great principles of freedom and the rights of man which… through Magna Carta, the Bill of Rights, habeas corpus, trial by jury and the English common law, find their most famous expression in the American Declaration of Independence.” Churchill was clear, too — as he wrote to a constituent in 1938 — that “the use of instruments of torture can never be regarded by any decent person as synonymous with justice”. In the immediate post-war era, with the memory of Nazi barbarism so clear, there would have been nothing even remotely controversial about such statements. They would have been accepted without demur by every right-thinking and decent person. Today, however, Churchill might be denounced as some eccentric, mad-eyed human rights fanatic if he repeated them. For over the past 15 years, the political elites of Britain and America have increasingly confined the right to a free trial to a minority of privileged citizens in their own countries.

Foreigners (and even some of their own citizens) have been subject to an improvised method of executive justice. Their rights have been denied and suppressed. Indeed, if only the MPs who sounded the alarm about Abu Qatada so stridently all this week had shown an ounce of the same outrage about Guantánamo or the victims of extraordinary rendition, they would deserve a certain amount of respect. It was Tony Blair who first made the disreputable argument that “the rules of the game have changed” and that the threat from al-Qaeda was so severe and unprecedented that terrorist suspects should be deprived of the protections granted to ordinary citizens. But Mr Blair was wrong for two reasons. First, by abandoning the rule of law, we have turned our back on the exact values that have brought honour, worth and distinction to Western civilisation. Second, we are according men such as Abu Qatada a significance and mystique they do not remotely possess. If he is guilty of the charges laid at his door, he is not, at bottom, guilty of terrorism. He is a common criminal, and should be treated as such. If this alleged hate preacher is such a menace, he should be brought to trial, asked to confront the evidence, and sent to jail. Anything less is a betrayal of everything that Britain stands for.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: US Olympic Team Visit Mile End Stadium as They Choose Tower Hamlets as Their Base

Children in Tower Hamlets will be able to watch the US Olympic team train at Mile End Stadium for this summer’s Games as the team invest a six-figure sum in the venue. Four times Olympic champion Teresa Edwards, who has retired from basketball and is now the team’s ‘chef de mission’ flew, in from the States this week, after it was announced that their track and field team will train at Mile End Park. She was joined by gold medallist relay sprinter Jon Drummond and sprint hurdler Benita Fitzgerald-Mosley, who will be training at Mile End Stadium. The pair spoke to more than 200 children, aged 11-14 from 30 Tower Hamlets secondary schools at Mile End Park Leisure Centre, on Tuesday. During the event called ‘Win with Integrity’ they encouraged them to get involved in sport and highlighted the importance of leading an active healthy lifestyle. Tickets will become available for school children during the Games to watch the athlete’s train at the stadium.

Ms Edwards and her team also took part in an official reception at Canada Square, hosted by the Canary Wharf Group and Tower Hamlets council, attended by Mayor Lutfur Rahman and other councillors. Ms Edwards, who visited the Olympic Park earlier in the day, said: “It was just beautiful. I can already see all the flags in there. “This time I won’t be competing, so for the first time I’ll be able to enjoy all the sights and look forward to getting a low down on Tower Hamlets.” Exactly how much the team is investing in Mile End Stadium is a tightly kept business secret, but the track, pole vault and high jump areas are being resurfaced and improvements made to the throwing cirles -which will be left behind for the community. Mayor Lutfur Rahman said: “It’s fantastic. Their investment into the stadium and commitment to engage with our young people will provide long lasting benefits.” The US will have bases across London for different parts of their Olympic team, including at the University of East London campuses in Docklands and Stratford. Langdon School is Poplar will be home to the Canadian Olympic team.

[JP note: Someone forgot to tell the Americans that Tower Hamlets is the UK’s first Islamic Republic and that Mayor Lutfur Rahman is a well-known Islamic extremist.]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

North Africa


Muslim Council in Egypt Evicts 8 Christian Families, Seizes Their Property

by Mary Abdelmassih

(AINA) — National and international rights groups have consistently criticized the recourse to the so-called “reconciliation meetings” — dubbed “Bedouin sittings” — that take place between Copts and Muslim assailant after every attack on Copts. The meetings are conducted under the auspices of state security. Last week a series of meetings were held by radical Muslims to decide on the fate of the Copts in a village in Alexandria, and Muslims insisted that the whole Coptic population of 62 families must be deported because of an unsubstantiated accusation levied against one Coptic man.

Copts in the village of Kobry-el-Sharbat (El-Ameriya), Alexandria, were attacked on January 27 by a mob of 3000 Muslims led by Salafi leaders, who looted and torched homes and shops belonging to Copts. The violence was prompted by allegations made by a Muslim barber named Toemah that a 34-year-old Coptic tailor, Mourad Samy Guirgis, had on his mobile phone illicit photos of a Muslim woman. Mourad denied the accusation and surrendered to the police for fear for his life. Muslims looted and torched his workshop and home after he surrendered to the police, and his entire family, including his parents and his married brother Romany, were evicted from the village. He is still in police detention. (AINA 1-28-2012).

Three “reconciliation meetings” were held at the El-Ameriya village police headquarters. They were attended by Salafi and Muslim Brotherhood representatives from neighboring villages, as well as church representative. Muslims demanded the eviction of all Coptic inhabitants from the village because “Muslim honour had been damaged.”

Many believe that the mobile phone story was fabricated as an excuse to start violence against the Copts. According to the police, the woman in question denied the story and no photos were found on Mourad’s mobile phone, according to Ihab Aziz, a Coptic-American activist who is presently in Egypt.

During the first reconciliation meeting it was agreed that only Copts who were directly involved with the Mourad incident would be evicted, and the church demanded compensation of two million pounds for the innocent Copts whose homes and businesses were torched on January 27. Muslims, especially Salafis from the neighboring villages, refused any kind of compensation and insisted on the eviction of all Copts.

On January 30 a Muslim mob attacked Copts in Kobry-el-Sharbat for the second time, and torched three Coptic homes in the presence of the security forces, “which took the role of an onlooker and made no effort to stop the violence,” according to Joseph Malak, lawyer for the Coptic church in Alexandria. “This proves that the assailants were not afraid of the security forces or the law.”

Muslim representatives demanded the eviction of the wealthy Coptic merchant Abeskhayroun Soliman, together with his four married sons and their families, accusing them of causing sedition by shooting in the air when Muslims broke into and torched their home while the family was inside. “No one was wounded due to the alleged shootings, which the family says never took place. The police authorities issued an arrest warrant for two of the Soliman sons,” said Ihab Aziz.

The Solimans have been in hiding with a Muslim family which saved them from their burning homes, and is presently giving them protection. Muslims threatened that if eight Coptic families were not evicted by February 3rd, all remaining 54 Coptic families in the village would be subjected to violence after Friday prayers. They called it “Friday of Eviction” and “Friday of Clean-up.”

On Wednesday February 1, a hastily organized reconciliation meeting was arranged by security authorities, and was attended by Ebeskharion Soliman and one of his sons.

The terms of the agreement which resulted were:

eviction of eight Coptic families, namely three of the Mourad families, in addition to five Soliman families.

selling of the assets of the wealthy Abeskhayron Soliman family within three months by a committee, under the supervision of Salafi shaikh Sherif el Hawary. Soliman has no right to get involved in the sale or even accompany a prospective buyer.

the Committee is to collect any money accrued from the sale of his land, properties, businesses as well as collect promissory notes pending from business transactions by the Soliman-owned chain of stores.

in case of non-implementation of this Agreement, all Copts in the Kobry-el-Sharbat village will be attacked, their homes and property completely torched.

Abeskhayron Soliman signed the agreement, which most Copts viewed as “humiliating.”

Father Boktor, who attended the meeting, described the reconciliation agreement as “utter injustice.”

Wissa Fawzi, member of the Maspero Coptic Youth Union in Alexandria, said that Soliman has nothing at all to do with the Mourad story, but signed the agreement to save his family and the Copts in the village, “otherwise there would have been a massacre of the Copts on that Friday.” He said that Security authorities pressured Soliman into accepting the terms of the agreement by threatening him with refusal of police protection for him and his family. “What constitutes the real crisis is the complicity of security officials in the process of displacement,” said Fawzi.

Copts in Kobry-el-Sharbat were stunned after hearing the news of the eviction of the “top Copt” in their community, whose wealth is estimated at more than 20,000,000 Egyptian pounds. “There is a feeling of humiliation and being completely under the mercy of the radical Muslims,” said Rami Khashfa of the Alexandria Maspero Youth Union “they are terrorized and are scared of the future. Copts in the neighboring villages are also scared.” He said that Copts in the village are thinking of moving elsewhere.

Speaking on US-based Christian TV channel Al-Karma, Magdy Khalil, head of the Middle East Freedom Forum, said that reconciliation meetings made up of Salafis and members of the Muslim Brotherhood, and arranged by security officials are illegal and forced eviction is one of the crimes under international law. “Who gave them the right to form a committee headed by a Salafi to sell Christian property? This is thuggery and blatant targeting of Copts.”

Khalil called on the Coptic Melli Council, which is the civilian body that represents Copts in the Egyptian State, to protest this agreement and ask for the return of the Copts to their homes. “If we accept it, this will open the door for an avalanche of forced evictions.” He believes that radical Muslim have a bigger plan they hope to achieve by terrorizing the Copts, namely displacing and dispersing them from places with high Coptic population density, taking their property and weakening them economically..

Ihab Aziz, like many others, believes that “Coptic capital” is targeted everywhere in Egypt. He said that members of the Egyptian parliament have been made aware of the El-Ameriya forced displacement, and the issue will be brought before parliament shortly.

           — Hat tip: Mary Abdelmassih [Return to headlines]



Muslim Brotherhood

by Sam de Brito

So, in an attempt to counteract the bellicose hysteria about Muslims, Islam and the Middle East that seems to be generated or insinuated by many mainstream media organisations, I bin educamating meself. In order to do so, I’ve been listening to lecture series about those subjects by Professor Richard Bulliet of Columbia University, Professor Martin W. Lewis of Stanford University and a scholar named Dr Graham Leonard, who has lived in the Middle East for more than 35 years. All these dudes are whiteys, at least one is a Jew, two have spent long periods living in the region and it’s fair to say they know their stuff. Bulliet, for example, has done work on the Middle East for everyone from the US and Iranian governments to Time magazine and The New York Times. I’d also generalise and say they aren’t terrified of Islam, don’t see it as a “threat” — at least not one that will topple our Western way of life — and have a respect for the Muslim world … something that usually happens when you’ve experienced a people, rather than taken Today Tonight’s word on the matter.

[…]

Anyway, I found this fascinating — in fact, I dare say I have more in common with many Muslim brothers than I do with some of the people I see out on a Friday night, especially some of the d****** I dealt with on Australia Day. And the way I’m feeling at the moment about my life, I might see myself joining such an organisation — because it would give me hope, purpose and a feeling of being part of something doing great things in the world. The thing that would prevent my participation in the organisation would be MB’s attitudes to women, but on other subjects, well, I’d at least be sympathetic. If I was a poor, 20-year-old Muslim guy living in the slums of Egypt, I’d probably be there with bells on. Your thoughts?

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



Tunisia: The Long Political Transition

Ghannouchi reassuring, but opposition fears Islamic state

(ANSAmed) — ROME, FEBRUARY 8 — Today, there appears to be no remaining trace of the bread revolt. The very definition has disappeared from the Tunisian press. After exploding at the end of December 2010, the bread uprising of Sidi Bouzid was transformed at the beginning of January 2011 in to the “Thawrat al-karama wa al-hurriyya”, the “Revolution of dignity and freedom”, with protesters descending upon Tunis and the fall of the Ben Ali regime turning the uprising into what was called the Jasmine Revolution.

In the national press, the issue of political transition occupies the front pages and blacks out other developments in the country. Yet the issues that pushed young people in Sidi Bouzid to protest have not disappeared. They shared Mohamed Bouazizi’s frustration over unemployment and the rise in prices of basic goods such as bread, flour, sugar and milk.

“The pace of change is too slow,” says Amnesty International’s report on post-revolution Tunisia. This change has cost and continues to cost the national economy dear. The country’s most important economic indicators have never been so low, with the exception of the war years. The rate of GDP growth failed to exceed 0.2% in 2011, having reached 4.5% in 2010. The rate of unemployment is above 18% and continues to grow with the constant influx of Tunisian workers who had been in Libya. Around a quarter of the country’s population lives in poverty, on less than 2 dollars a day, according to figures from the Ministry for Social Affairs.

With such a bleak outlook, there is no little concern over the debate raging on the deal to divide the new Tunisian government’s institutional standing among the three leading parties from the elections held on October 23. The debate is hindering the task of re-establishing security, which in turn is fundamental to the country’s economic revival.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Tunisia: City Police Calls National Strike

The protest will last from Feb 20 to Feb 23

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, 9 FEBRUARY — For the first time in Tunisia’s history, the police corps of Tunisian cities will be on strike in the framework of a protest on the national scale called by the police trade unions. The strike will begin on February, 20th and will continue until February, 23rd. According to Arabic-language Achourouk, 25,000 policemen and police officers will take part in the strike. Among other things, police corps are asking for a new charter of city policemen.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Middle East


Demography is Destiny in Syria

Among the second wave of Arab Spring uprisings that followed Tunisia, Syria was the most spectacular “out of the blue” that suddenly arose in the face of the media and analytic community. Just days before Deraa exploded with protests last March, some analysts were still scrutinizing Syria’s circumstances and declaring the country to be immune from the Arab Spring. Nor did reporters who visited the country spot signs of a brewing storm.

In fact, throughout the Arab Spring, the media and experts repeatedly fell into the same trap of confusing the capital city with the whole country. On the eve of the Islamist landslide in Egypt’s elections various polls and informed individuals were putting the popularity of radical Salafis at between 5% and 10%. The Salafis have indeed won about 10% of the vote… but only in Cairo. Nationwide they took almost 30%, beating even those unrepentant pessimists who were betting on a Muslim Brotherhood spring. In some provinces they grabbed all of 50%.

This routine of the periphery ambushing the media and analysts during the Arab Spring and making a mockery of their reports and predictions has reached such grotesque proportions in Syria partly thanks to the media restrictions imposed by the regime, but mostly owing to the very peripheral nature of the Syrian uprising itself. This “peripheralism” has also laid waste to the best efforts of Iranian advisers who came to Syria to share with their Syrian colleagues the know-how accumulated by the regime in Tehran in crushing the Greens.

In truth, the escalation in Syria took by surprise only the people who never bothered to examine Syria’s population pyramid. It was no “out of the blue” to anybody even slightly familiar with the basic facts on demography and climate in the region. In the Middle East’s long list of hopeless basket cases Yemen is surely beyond competition. However, for quite a while Syria has positioned herself as a formidable contender for respectable second place.

In some respects, the seeds of the current disaster were planted as far back as 1956, when Youssef Helbaoui — head of economic analysis in Syria’s Planning Department — famously declared: “A birth control policy has no reason for being in this country. Malthus could not find any followers among us.” Since then Syria has been living in a state of one uninterrupted demographic cataclysm. The regime was so obsessively pro-natalist that in the early 1970s, the trade and use of contraceptives in Syria were officially banned. By 1975, the birth rate reached 50 live births per 1,000 people, with Hafez al-Assad asserting that a “high population growth rate and internal migration” were responsible for stimulating “proper socio-economic improvements” within the development framework.

Even when other nations in the Middle East began to take measures to curb their population growth as the danger of demographic collapse started to loom over the region, the regime in Syria was struggling to make up its mind on the issue. Only in recent years has the regime introduced some measure of family planning, but by now the sheer amount of population momentum accumulated in previous decades has kept the population swelling to new highs. It’s true that the average Syrian woman entering the child bearing age now is expected to have no more than three children in her lifetime. Yet, the sheer proportion of such young people in the population continues to propel the population forward. And the workforce is still expanding at a neck breaking rate of 4%.

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



Iran Turns to Barter for Food as Sanctions Cripple Imports

PARIS/TEHRAN (Reuters) — Iran is turning to barter — offering gold bullion in overseas vaults or tankerloads of oil — in return for food as new financial sanctions have hurt its ability to import basic staples for its 74 million people, commodities traders said Thursday.

Difficulty paying for urgent import needs has contributed to sharp rises in the prices of basic foodstuffs, causing hardship for Iranians with just weeks to go before an election seen as a referendum on President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s economic policies.

New sanctions imposed by the United States and European Union to punish Iran for its nuclear program do not bar firms from selling Iran food but they make it difficult to carry out the international financial transactions needed to pay for it.

Reuters surveys of commodities traders around the globe show that since the start of the year, Iran has had trouble securing imports of basic staples like rice, cooking oil, animal feed and tea. Grain ships have been held at its ports, refusing to unload until payment can be received for cargo.

With Iran’s rial currency tumbling, the prices of rice, bread and meat in Iranian bazaars have doubled or more in dollar terms in recent months.

Iranian grain importers have in the past side-stepped sanctions by booking business through the United Arab Emirates, traders said, but this option was cut off by the UAE government in response to sanctions.

Iran has been trading oil in currencies like Japanese yen, South Korean won and Indian rupees, but such deals make it difficult to repatriate profits.

Deals revealed Thursday appear to be among the first in which Iran has had to result to offering cashless barter to avoid sanctions, a sign of new urgency as it seeks to buy food and get around the financial restrictions.

“Grain deals are being paid for in gold bullion and barter deals are being offered,” one European grains trader said, speaking on condition of anonymity while discussing commercial deals. “Some of the major trading houses are involved.”

Another trader said: “As the shipments of grain are so large, barter or gold payments are the quickest option.”

Details of how the barter deals work are still unclear as the payments problem is so new, and traders did not disclose the exact size of such deals.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes [Return to headlines]



Israel’s Stance on Iran Could be ‘Catastrophic’: Moscow

Israel’s hard-line approach to speculation that Iran is seeking to develop a nuclear weapon could have “catastrophic consequences”, a senior Russian foreign ministry official warned Thursday. “The inventions” concerning the possible development of nuclear arms by Iran “are increasing the tension and could encourage moves towards a military solution with catastrophic consequences,” Mikhail Ulyanov told the Interfax news agency on Wednesday.

Speculation has risen in recent weeks, driven in part by comments made by officials in the Jewish state, about the possibility of an Israeli military strike on Iran. Israel and much of the international community believe that Iran’s nuclear programme masks a covert weapons drive, a charge Tehran denies.

The “noise” about Iran’s nuclear intentions “have political and propaganda objectives which are far from being inoffensive,” said Ulyanov, head of the security and disarmament department in Russia’s foreign affairs ministry. Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak said last month that any decision by Israel on whether to attack Iran in a bid to halt its nuclear programme remained “very far away.”

However Israel’s chief of military intelligence, General Aviv Kochavi, told a security conference last week that Iran had enough radioactive material to produce four nuclear bombs. Widely believed to be the Middle East’s only nuclear power, albeit undeclared, Israel has supported tough sanctions against Iran but also insists on retaining the military option to halt its nuclear activities.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Jordan: Making a Call on Qatada

The Prime Minister, we are told, has been trying to reach the King of Jordan to see if some kind of arrangement can be made so that Abu Qatada can be deported legally and that no forms of torture-gained evidence will used against him in a Jordanian court. This seems like a sensible thing to do. But it is important that the government balances its counter-terrorism policy with its foreign policy.

Here is what I mean. Jordan is a friend of Britain, but the King is under tremendous pressure to reform. There are daily demonstrations against his rule and the protests are gathering pace. His reforms, meanwhile, have been limited and the country is running out of money. It is no longer unfeasible that Jordan could face what many other countries in the region has seen. So the King is doing what he and his family has done so well over the years — showing how indispensable he is to the West. He is revving up efforts on the Middle East Peace Process and is going to go out of his way to solve the Qatada problem for Britain. He will use the goodwill garnered — and money from the West and Saudi Arabia — to shore up his rule.

But if he does not undertake genuine reforms, his rule may be shakier than most people realise. And if swept from power, Britain could be seen — much as Italy was after cutting deals with Muammar Gaddafi to keep Libyan immigrants away from Italy — as only to happy to prop up the Middle East’s authoritarian rulers, and so not a real friend of the Jordanian people. This would be an awful outcome, especially after Britain’s role in Libya’s liberation. So while it may be the right thing to deport the troublesome cleric, we ought to ask: at what cost?

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



Syria: Moscow ‘Concerned’ Over Qatar and UK Units in Homs

(ANSAmed) — MOSCOW, FEBRUARY 9 — Moscow has announced that it will verify the news that there may by special troops from Qatar and the UK in Homs, Syria. An “alarming” aspect, said the spokesperson of Foreign Minister Aleksandr Lukashevich, commenting on the news reported by several international media. Unites of special forces from the two countries are reportedly present in Homs to give military advice to the rebels, news agency Interfax reports. The presence of British units on the side of the Syrian rebels is reported by The Guardian, which also mentions ‘rumours’ of American military actions. The Israeli website Debka writes about the alleged infiltration in Homs of military advisors from Britain and Qatar. The Israeli site does not supply further details regarding the origin of the information, only mentioning “exclusive sources”. Some of the reports released by Debka have proved to be reliable, but others were denied later.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Turkey: The Church That Politics Turned Into a Mosque

ISTANBUL — As worshipers knelt to face the Qiblah for noon prayers in the Hagia Sophia of Iznik last week, a caretaker beckoned to a couple of tourists tiptoeing around behind them.

“Look,” he whispered, pointing to a faded fresco on the wall, as the imam intoned the prayer and the worshipers faced Mecca. “It’s Jesus, Mary and John the Baptist.” The caretaker, Nurettin Bulut, a Culture Ministry employee, has been showing visitors around the ancient church in northwestern Turkey for three years, pointing out its Byzantine mosaics and relating its history as the venue of the seventh Ecumenical Council of Christendom and, later, as an Ottoman mosque.

Until three months ago, he was showing them around a museum, with a sign saying “St. Sophia Museum” posted outside, a ticket booth charging 3 lira, or $1.70, per visitor, and a strict ban on prayer enforced inside, just like in its eponymous sister church-turned-mosque-turned-museum in Istanbul. But in October, the Hagia Sophia of Iznik was closed to the public for several days of construction work by the Directorate General of Foundations, a department of the prime minister’s office in Ankara which manages historical buildings around the country. When it reopened in early November, a raised wooden platform had been set into the nave and covered with carpets, and green-and-gold plaques with Koran suras had been affixed to the Ottoman mihrab, or prayer niche. The museum sign was replaced with a new one reading “Mosque of Ayasofya,” the Turkish spelling of Hagia Sophia, and loudspeakers were hoisted on the Ottoman-era minaret. And with dawn prayer on Nov. 6, the first day of Eid al-Adha, the Hagia Sophia was reopened for service as a mosque.

The response from residents has been less than enthusiastic. On a recent weekday, only 18 men answered the call to noon prayer, huddling in a corner of the carpeted platform with the imam to perform their devotions.

Outside, local residents voiced bitterness over the conversion of the landmark, which sits on the main crossroad at the center of the historical town. “It’s completely unnecessary,” said Emin Acar, a local farmer enjoying the winter sun outside a teahouse within view of the Hagia Sophia. “We have plenty of mosques here,” Mr. Acar said, in remarks echoed by shoppers and strollers up and down the main street. “What we need are tourists, but they won’t be coming anymore.” The town, whose income depends largely on surrounding olive groves, had also begun to trade on its eminent place in the history of Christianity to attract faith tourism from the West. It was here in ancient Nicaea, as the town was then called, that bishops from all over the Roman Empire gathered to craft the Christian creed at the first Ecumenical Council in the year 325. Four and a half centuries later, the seventh and last of the Ecumenical Councils still recognized by most churches in the world today met in the Hagia Sophia of Nicaea in the year 787 to denounce iconoclasm, opening the door to a millennium of Christian religious art.

The site was converted into a mosque by the Ottoman conquerors of Iznik in the 14th century, but fell into disrepair and was abandoned long before the Turkish Republic was founded in 1923. Restored by district authorities and the foundations directorate in 2007, the Hagia Sophia became in the past few years the focal point of Christian tourism to Iznik. Last year, 40,000 foreign tourists visited the town, according to its chamber of commerce. “They came for the Hagia Sophia, but they won’t be coming anymore,” said Ilknur Gunes, who sells her hand-made jewelry a block from the ex-church. “If someone converted a historical mosque I wanted to see into a church, I wouldn’t want to go anymore, either. Historical sites should be kept as museums.”

Emerging from the Hagia Sophia, a German tourist, Claus Stoll from Stuttgart, said he did not mind the conversion, “as long as the building is preserved.” Turkish tourists were more skeptical. “It’s not a good place for a mosque,” said Gokturk Tutuncu, on an outing with his family from Istanbul. “It should have remained a museum,” Nilgun Tuna, visiting from Istanbul, said. “We should protect our historical heritage, and that includes the Christian heritage.” One young man from Istanbul, who declined to give his name, was in favor of the conversion. “And high time too,” he said. “Next, I want to see it happen in the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul.”

In the Iznik City Hall, across the street from the Hagia Sophia, Deputy Mayor Kenan Zengin of the Nationalist Action Party shook his head when asked about the conversion. “We had nothing to do with the decision,” Mr. Zengin said. “In fact, we were not even asked.” While the conversion was technically decided by the Directorate General of Foundations, the political decision was made by Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc, local officials said. “We first heard of it when Mr. Arinc visited Iznik” in late September, Mahmut Dede, chairman of the local chamber of commerce, said in his office behind the Hagia Sophia, adding that the business community had initially been upset about the plan and publicly protested it. But after a chat with the local chairman of the ruling Justice and Development Party, known as A.K.P., to which Mr. Arinc belongs, “We said, okay, if a deputy prime minister sees fit to do so, then let’s wait and see,” Mr. Dede said. “And now we are waiting to see what happens to Iznik” when the tourism season begins in April.

Mr. Arinc acknowledged his role in the decision last year on Olay TV, a station in Bursa Province, to which Iznik belongs and which he represents in Parliament. “This is the happiest day of my term in office, because I have contributed to such a good work,” he said according to a transcript posted on his personal Web site. Mr. Arinc said that, unlike the Hagia Sophia of Istanbul, the Iznik site had never been formally registered as a museum at the foundation of the republic, and thus remained by rights a mosque even though it had been not used as such for a century. He added that his office had turned down an earlier request from the Culture Ministry to take over the administration of the Hagia Sophia. “We told them that it is a mosque and that it cannot be used for any other purpose,” he said. His stance seemed to put him at odds with Culture Minister Ertugrul Gunay, who has been at pains to foster the Christian heritage of Anatolia as a means of attracting faith tourism. “As the venue of two Ecumenical Councils, Iznik really has the potential to draw a lot of interest from all over the world,” Mr. Gunay said last year. “So we are trying to promote Iznik and to restore it.”

As of this week, three months after the conversion to a mosque, the Hagia Sophia was still listed as a museum on the Culture Ministry’s Web site. While these clashing approaches would seem to put the two ministers on a collision course, analysts say it is all part of the A.K.P.’s political strategy. “Even though it is generally seen simply as a conservative party, the A.K.P. in fact unites very different currents and views under its roof,” Adil Gur, a political analyst and owner of the A&G polling company, said by telephone this week. Within the cabinet, for example, Mr. Gunay represents a social democratic tradition, while Mr. Arinc speaks for the pious wing of the party, Mr. Gur said. He also mentioned Interior Minister Idris Naim Sahin of the party’s nationalist wing and Egemen Bagis, the liberal and pro-Western minister for E.U. affairs, are further examples of the party’s internal diversity. The leaders of these diverging currents occasionally make “strong statements” for the benefit of their respective followers, Mr. Gur said. “At first glance, this can sometimes give the impression of fissures or infighting within the party, but it is in fact not so,” he added. “It is just the way the A.K.P. keeps all the diverging currents together in one party.” Outside the Iznik mosque, Fahri Ugur, a taxi driver, shrugged and ordered another tea from the corner store. “We had just begun to make a few pennies from tourism,” he said. “Now we can forget that again.”

[JP note: The politics that turned Turkey into a theocracy.]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



Turkey: Complaint Filed Against Twitter User Alias @allah

User has 200,000 followers, sued by tv presenter

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA — A Twitter user has gained almost 200 thousand followers under the username “@allah”.

Charges have been filed against him and while the result of the case is uncertain, it has drawn the attention of an information website. The lawsuit against the account “twitter.com/allahcc” was opened by television presenter Serdar Tuncer, who claims that the more than 4,600 tweets sent by this tweeter mock the Islam and other religions and humiliate their faithful. Tuncer, who presents television programmes dedicated to Ramadan, as the website Bianet reports, has said that “the correspondence between the person called @allah (cc) and his readers” violates article 216/3 of Turkish Criminal Law on “denigration of religious values”.

The messages sent by “@allah”, listed in the complaints, include: “We have been god for so many years and we are still cooking pasta with tomato sauce.” “Fortunately, we created sour cherry.” “With my present mind I would not have created the little finger of human beings.” “Our side over here is very safe because there is no police.” The tweets contain “humiliation and insults against Islam and Muslims”, the plaintiff claims, asking the prosecution to focus on the article in Turkish law that sentences “anyone who openly denigrates the religious values of a part of the population” to imprisonment of from six months to one year, “where the act is sufficient to breach public peace”.

A lawyer concluded by the secular website, Efkan Bolac, said that no prosecutor will open a case for such a reason, because the tweets quoted as examples in the petition do not contain humiliation, hatred or a breach of public peace. The followers of @allah, according to the lawyer, could not be involved anyway: “Lodging a criminal complaint about 200,000 people because they read a certain account cannot find a response in law.” In a reply to the complaint written by “@llah” himself, he wrote with obvious deride: “Only god can judge me.” The lawsuit was opened a few days after Twitter announced ‘selective’ censorship of some messages if governments ask for it for legal reasons. Turkey, a country with a Muslim majority but secular constitution introduced by Kemal Ataturk almost a century ago, has had a moderate Islamic government for nine years, led by Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Turkey is a model of democracy for the entire region, but is criticised on international level. The EU and OECD criticise internet censorship in the country for example: access to thousands of websites (the most reliable estimates range from 5,000 to 37,000, but some go as high as 1.2 million) is blocked due to their sexual content (like youporn) but also their political comments, like in the case of insults to the memory of Ataturk or statements issued by terrorists of the Kurdish PKK.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



US Experts Warn of Israeli Attack on Iran

While America says it wants a peaceful resolution to tensions between Israel and Iran, some US experts say an Israeli military attack is possible — this year, in fact. And they are warning of devastating results.

US President Barack Obama had tried to calm tensions between Israel and Iran last Sunday with the words that Tel Aviv, as far as he could see, had yet “to make a decision” as to whether it would strike Tehran militarily. But it failed to stop Iran flexing muscles in a military exercise on its border with Afghanistan over the weekend. Tehran threatened retribution if Israel were to strike. Many think it will — especially against Iranian nuclear installations.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Russia


A New Generation Aims to Revitalize Russia

Russia’s young people are growing up with more freedom than ever. Twenty years after the end of communism, the first post-Soviet generation is transforming the country — whether the once and future president likes it or not.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Antarctic Lake Could Reveal Evolution, New Life: Scientists

Russian scientists said Thursday a probe to a pristine lake deep under the ice of Antarctica could bring revelations on the planet’s evolution and possibly even new life forms. A Russian team drilled down to the surface of Lake Vostok, which is believed to have been covered by ice for millions of years, in a breakthrough officially announced Wednesday by the Institute of the Arctic and Antarctic.

Scientists said that water samples to be taken from the lake later this year could reveal new forms of life, despite the extreme conditions. “We expect to find life there like nothing on Earth”, Sergei Bulat, a molecular biologist at the Petersburg Nuclear Physics Institute, told AFP.

“If there is life there, it will be a form of life that is unknown to science. In that case we are talking about a fundamental discovery, a new page in our scientific understanding of life.” “We have discovered a new subject for science, no one has ever seen anything like this,” added Vladimir Syvorotkin, a geology and mineralogy specialist at Moscow State University. “Biologists will probably find some unknown bacteria that has adapted to such conditions,” he told AFP.

The lake’s sediment will also reveal changes to the Earth and its climate over the last 20 million years, said German Leichenkov of the Institute of Geology and Mineral Resources of the Ocean in Saint Petersburg. “For geologists, it is important to drill down and bring back the bottom sediments. They contain information about changes to the natural environment, the climate in the last 15 to 20 million years,” he told AFP. “We have very little information on this in the Antarctic and this could be a unique source of information.”

Working in extreme conditions in eastern Antarctica, where the average temperature is around minus 50 degrees Celsius (minus 58 Fahrenheit), the expedition drove a probe through the ice over many months, using kerosene as antifreeze.

“This is our technical victory. Drilling in such complex climatic conditions is difficult, plus the factors of high altitude and the strong ice,” said Leichenkov. “It’s an important technical and pyschological victory. It’s important to congratulate them with this, especially as there are no other victories. These people are heroes,” said Syvorotkin of Moscow State University.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Gorbachev: Putin Has Run Out of Gas

The first and only President of the USSR, Mikhail Gorbachev, has said that in his view the whole Russian system must change and Vladimir Putin is incapable of making this change, even though the PM will most likely win the presidential elections. Gorbachev was delivering a lecture at Moscow’s International University on Thursday and said that Vladimir Putin had done a lot of good for the country, but has already exhausted is reserves of political authority.

“Most likely Putin will manage to become president. But if he does not overexert himself and conduct things in a different way then everyone would walk into the streets. This is impermissible. People will take to the streets in our country if the situation does not change after the presidential elections,” Gorbachev said.

The former Soviet leader also said that in his view it was unlikely that Putin will change the whole system. “He will not manage it, with the newly-elected parliament, with the situation, with his entourage. They are all appointed and nepotism is rife there,” Gorbachev said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Putin Wins Backing of Russia’s Religious Leaders

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has received the backing of Russia’s powerful Orthodox Church, its chief rabbi and top Islamic leader as he seeks a return to the presidency next month. Putin met the three religious leaders on Wednesday in the latest in a series of gatherings with leading cultural and public figures ahead of the March 4 vote.

“I would like to thank you. You once said that you are working as a slave in the galley,” Patriarch Kirill said at the meeting. “But with the only difference being that a slave lacked the degree of commitment to work that you have,” Kirill said in comments posted on Putin’s campaign website.

“Thanks to the Almighty, the country has been saved from ruin,” added Russia’s Chief Mufti Talgat Tadzhuddin. “And one must add — with your direct involvement!” Chief Rabbi Berl Lazar for his part thanked Putin “for everything you have done for Jews.”

A series of mass protests that followed fraud-tainted December parliamentary election have posed the most serious challenge to Putin’s 12-year domination of Russia as president and head of government. The swelling wave of demonstrations and dip in Putin’s public approval ratings have prompted his team to seek the public backing of top celebrities and clerics.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Russian Cold Snap Kills 110: Ministry

Exceptionally cold weather in Russia has killed at least 110 people since the beginning of the year, the health ministry said Wednesday. “By this morning, 110 adults have died” from the cold, ministry spokesman Konstantin Proshin told AFP, adding that official data did not include children under 18 years of age.

An abnormally cold front sweeping across Central and Eastern Europe over the past week has also led to numerous deaths in neighbouring Ukraine as well as in Poland and Romania. In the southern Krasnodar region on the Black Sea, the authorities have closed schools amid severe weather conditions.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

South Asia


The Himalayas and Nearby Peaks Have Lost No Ice in Past 10 Years, Study Shows

The world’s greatest snow-capped peaks, which run in a chain from the Himalayas to Tian Shan on the border of China and Kyrgyzstan, have lost no ice over the last decade, new research shows. The discovery has stunned scientists, who had believed that around 50bn tonnes of meltwater were being shed each year and not being replaced by new snowfall.

The study is the first to survey all the world’s icecaps and glaciers and was made possible by the use of satellite data. Overall, the contribution of melting ice outside the two largest caps — Greenland and Antarctica — is much less than previously estimated, with the lack of ice loss in the Himalayas and the other high peaks of Asia responsible for most of the discrepancy. Bristol University glaciologist Prof Jonathan Bamber, who was not part of the research team, said: “The very unexpected result was the negligible mass loss from high mountain Asia, which is not significantly different from zero.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Turkmen Leader: Dentist Turned Enigmatic Strongman

President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, set to be re-elected with little contest on Sunday, has moderated the wildly eccentric personality cult of his predecessor but done little to change Turkmenistan’s reputation for isolation. The former dentist, 54, became president in 2007 after the death in late 2006 of Saparmurat Niyazov, who became globally notorious for excesses that included erecting a golden statue of himself that revolved to face the sun.

Despite now being in power for half a decade, little is still known about the matt-haired Berdymukhamedov’s personal background except that he took an unusual path to the top by rising through the ranks of the dental profession. The famous golden statue has now been moved from the centre of the capital Ashgabat and the country opened cautiously to foreign investment, with Russia, the European Union and China all eagerly eyeing its vast gas reserves.

Turkish and French firms have flocked to Ashgabat to take advantage of a multi-billion dollar construction spending spree on new hotels and government buildings. The authorities have coined the slogan “Era of Rebirth” to describe Berdymukhamedov’s rule and he is known locally as the “Arkadag” (Protector), a slightly more humble title than Niyazov’s “Turkmenbashi” (Father of All Turkmens).

But, critics say, the country remains without any political opposition while dissent is brutally supresssed, though officially he has halted one-party rule. Berdymukhamedov’s portraits adorn government buildings, hotels and shopping centres. Daily newspapers are littered with his images, as articles sing praises to his policies.

His books on medicine and horses have become best sellers in the country. In October last year he received the title of “hero” of Turkmenistan from the national Council of Elders.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Far East


Buying Germany’s Hidden Champions: Takeover Could Signal New Strategy for China

Concrete pump manufacturer Putzmeister is the first top-tier German company to be acquired by a Chinese company eager to get its hands on Western know-how, but it is unlikely to be the last. The acquisition could be the start of a new strategy as China tries to transform itself into a high-tech economy. And the Germans might even benefit too.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific


Evidence of Cruelty Halts Sydney Abattoir

Slaughtering has been halted at a Sydney abattoir after video evidence of animal cruelty.

The NSW food authority said in a statement on Thursday that it had seen disturbing video footage of what it described as “gross animal mistreatment”.

“The video shows the slaughter of sheep, cattle, goats and pigs that allegedly breaches the Food Regulation 2010 and the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979,” it said.

An investigation involving the RSPCA is underway, it says.

A spokeswoman for the NSW food authority said it received the video, taken at Hawkesbury Valley Meat Processors at Wilberforce, in Sydney’s west, on Wednesday.

“The video shows one of the staff members at the abattoir hitting a pig and there’s a cattle prod being used on cattle,” she told AAP.

“We’ve gone in and taken their stamps, which means they can’t slaughter any more animals, and then there will be an investigation into their processes.”

She said the operation employed about 20 people and did halal and non-halal slaughter.

A spokeswoman for the abattoir confirmed it was under investigation but declined to comment further.

The video was provided to the food authority by the ABC, the spokeswoman said.

The closure of the Sydney abattoir comes after videos showing the mistreatment of cattle in Indonesia halted live animal sales last year.

Steve Coleman, the CEO of RSPCA NSW, said the state’s food authority provided him with the footage on Thursday.

“I and the chief investigator have had a look at that footage and we have concerns, and we intend to launch an investigation commencing first thing tomorrow morning,” he told AAP.

Mr Coleman said the footage raised concerns about slaughter methods and animal handling practices at the abattoir.

It wasn’t the first time concerns had been raised about the operation, Mr Coleman said.

“We have certainly received complaints over the years,” he said.

           — Hat tip: Nilk [Return to headlines]



Terrorism as Male Bonding

Sam de Brito

Some years ago, Columbia University Professor Richard Bulliet was engaged by several British police forces to review and write reports about allegedly jihadist materials seized during investigations in the cities of Leicester and Edinburgh … “The Leicestershire constabulary liked my report, recommended me to Edinburgh, Edinburgh obviously did not like my report and Edinburgh never paid me,” the professor said in his lecture series, History of the Modern Middle East, “and since that time, no one has sought my expertise. “I think it’s because I said ‘most of this literature is aimed at the overthrow of the Algerian government and I don’t see anything wrong with that,’“ Bulliet said to a hall full of laughing Columbia University students. If you’re new to Algeria, it might help to know that “official” (read, lowballed) unemployment figures in the country were put at 10.2 per cent last year, but unemployment among university graduates has hit 23.5 per cent, with 71,000 Algerian university graduates estimated to have moved overseas between 1994 and 2006. (Imagine what the real figures are.)

As part of his work for the police, Bulliet said he watched 20 to 30 video tapes put out by various unidentified Islamic groups, advertising their militant activities and looking for recruits. He also listened to audio tapes and reckoned, “There’s a special genre of Jihadist music. I don’t think anyone has really studied it, but it’s rather interesting. “It has to be unaccompanied male voices … it’ll start out with a baby crying, gunfire, bombs in the background, then this really jaunty melody will come along.” Aside from the tapes opening the professor’s eyes to the musical abilities of jihadists, he had something of an epiphany about what the attraction was to young men for the work done by militant Islamic groups. The tape he found most “suggestive” was a video made in Algeria, of which he saw more than a dozen different copies, some edited slightly for length.

“It was called The Ambush, one of the few that had a title. You start out tracking a handful of college-age men, and they’re going up into the mountains … They get up into the camp, and most of the film is related to life in the camp. You see them baking bread and sewing equipment and having a good time. It’s basically like Outward Bound, combined with a US Army ad. The whole idea is you’re with the other guys … you’re there, it’s male solidarity and finally you load up, you go down the mountain and you blow up an Algerian army convoy, then you zoom in on all the weapons you’ve captured and then, finally, you show the martyrs. And there you see, in split screen, the guys on your side who were killed, lying on their backs, faces up, pieces of white cloth tying the head, and then, on the other split of the screen, you see them back at the camp, joking and singing and baking bread. It’s really a notion of male solidarity, that you are with the youth and you were together, you camped together, you got to shoot guns together and some guys died and that’s sad and maybe it’s my turn next but there isn’t a mention of Islam, at least not a strong mention of Islam, anywhere in the tape,” Bulliet said.

As with my post last week about the Muslim Brotherhood, I guess what I’m trying to illustrate is how little separates your average Aussie bloke from your average Muslim — even a so-called terrorist. Imagine if Australia had a s****y, violent, corrupt, repressive government and you couldn’t find work, let alone go out on the piss and get silly — and it had long been this way. The you hear about a group which says, “Hey, let’s change this. Let’s go blow up some of the people who repress us, shoot some guns, but most of all, hang with all your mates doing cool s***!” You can’t tell me there wouldn’t be plenty of takers in Australia: you could fill a bus at most pubs, I reckon.

Now imagine that’s all you know; you’re unemployed, you’re no one, Islam isn’t some weird foreign thing, it’s the very crucible of your life, it’s the thing you respect more than anything, that gives you some structure and direction in the world. And then there’s this group of dudes who are heavy, serious, respected and they respect you, they give you juice, they give you gravitas and they let you blow up s***.

Tempted? I’m in no way trying to justify terrorist acts against innocent people — but there’s “terrorism” like the Bali bombing or 9/11 and then there’s trying to overthrow a repressive government like they have done in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and are attempting to do in Syria.

Up until a year ago, the dudes in the mountains blowing up the army convoys of any of these governments were called “terrorists” — so you be the judge of how porous that definition is. And then think about how different you, me and them really are

           — Hat tip: Nilk [Return to headlines]

Immigration


As English Stops Being the First Language of Most London Children, Is Britain Ready for the Great Integration Challenge?

by Neil O’Brien

There is a lot of discussion in the media about immigration, but relatively little about integration. Leaving aside how many people should come to the UK, or who they should be, shouldn’t we think a bit more about what happens to people once they get here? In other countries (I’m thinking of Canada in particular) the government and voluntary groups make big efforts to make people feel like they fit in. In the UK we have had a much more laissez-faire approach. By and large it has worked out OK: new migrants developed regional accents, adopted football teams, and felt British. But it doesn’t always work out. Some new arrivals don’t feel part of Britain, can’t communicate, get stuck in a ghetto, or struggle to get work. After a decade of faster migration, and with some level of continuing migration in the future, these issues are going to become more acute. I was set thinking about this because I was having a drink with some teachers the other day. One made the point that in her school roughly two thirds of the children had English as a second language. That prompted me to go and look up the statistics. I think they are quite striking, and tell us something about the scale of the integration challenge we are going to face in the future.

[…]

[JP note: No.]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



Greek ‘Wall’ Is Negative Symbol, Turkey Says

BRUSSELS — Turkey’s EU affairs minister has described the Greek anti-migrant fence as a symbol of division between the Union and outside countries. Alluding to the Berlin wall, which used to separate western Europe from the Soviet bloc, Egemen Bagis told EUobserver on Wednesday (8 February): “It is not the time to talk about new walls in Europe — we need to talk about new bridges. Europe paid the cost of walls in the recent past and … everyone should work to build new bridges between different views, different cultures and different countries (instead).”

He added that “Turkey is a bridge between east and west” and that the Islamic country’s EU entry would “symbolise an alliance of civilizations.” Greece this week began construction of a razor-wire barrier on its 13-km-long land border with Turkey. The fence is designed to deter the thousands of irregular migrants from Asia and north Africa who come each month to seek asylum in the Union.

The European Commission has described it as “pointless.” A Brussels-based NGO, the European Council on Refugees and Exiles, said it would be a “tragedy” if it keeps out people fleeing conflicts in Afghanistan and Syria.

The Turkish minister’s remarks come in the context of prickly EU-Turkey relations — accession talks stopped over a year ago and the EU refuses to start negotiations on visa-free travel.

“The citizens of Belize, Paraguay, the 190 million citizens of Brazil, or the citizens of Malaysia — with all due respect to them — can travel to the (EU passport-free) Schengen zone without a visa, but my citizens have to wait in line … it is not correct,” he noted.

The EU says it will start visa talks only if Turkey signs a pact on taking back illegal migrants. Bagis said the visa talks must come first: “Turkey is ready to initial the readmission agreement if the EU Council authorises the commission to launch visa facilitation talks leading to visa liberalisation.”

Greece is one of the main opponents of Turkey’s EU entry due to its occupation of northern Cyprus.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Culture Wars


France: ‘Negro’ Remark Lands Parfumier in Court

Jean-Paul Guerlain will appear in a Paris courtroom on Thursday to answer for remarks he made in a television interview that provoked controversy in France and abroad. Guerlain, a descendant of the founder of the company that bears his name, was answering questions on the lunchtime news programme of France 2 in October 2010 about a new perfume.

“For once, I starter working like a negro,” he said. “I don’t know if negroes have always worked like that, but anyway…” In French, “pour une fois, je me suis mis à travailler comme un nègre. Je ne sais pas si les nègres ont toujours tellement travaillé, enfin…”

The comments quickly led to a wave of protest around the world, with threats of boycotts of the company’s products. Twitter users spoke of “colonial racism”, “Guerlain, the perfumer who stinks” and “the nauseating emanations of Monsieur Guerlain.” Politicians from left and right were also quick to condemn the remarks.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



France: Gay Wedding Ceremony Aims to Push Law Change

The mayor of the southern Paris suburb of Villejuif will officiate at a marriage between two men on Saturday, although the union will get no legal recognition. Same sex marriage is illegal in France, although Socialist presidential candidate François Hollande has made changing the law one of his manifesto promises if he is elected.

The communist mayor of the town, Claudine Cordillot, hopes the symbolic marriage will help advance the cause of same sex marriage in France.

In January 2011, the country’s highest authority on the constitution, the Conseil Constitutionnel, ruled that “marriage is the union of a man and a woman.” The issue was brought to parliament in June 2011 but MPs voted against a proposal to change the law by 293 votes to 222.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



France: MPs Approve Public Sector Quotas for Women

France’s lower house National Assembly on Wednesday approved a government plan to introduce quotas for the hiring of women to top public sector posts that will hit 40 percent by 2018. The law, which must still be approved in the Senate, requires the government to hit targets of 20 percent next year and in 2014, 30 percent from 2015 to 2017 and 40 percent from 2018.

Women currently account for 60 percent of public sector employees but hold only 10 percent of upper management positions. Government bodies that do not reach the hiring targets will face financial penalties under the law. France in October 2010 introduced a similar law mandating 40 percent representation of women on the boards of publicly listed companies within six years.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Swedes’ Anti-Gay Flyers Not Free Speech: Court

Sweden’s Supreme Court (Högsta domstolen) was right to convict four men of hate crimes for distributing homophobic flyers at a school, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled. According to the ECHR, finding the leaflets were “unnecessarily offensive” to be protected by free speech laws.

The men, who were aged between 19 and 24 at the time, distributed roughly 100 flyers into student lockers in a school in Söderhamn in eastern Sweden in December 2004. They were told to leave the premises at the time by school officials. The flyers contained messages discussing the mens’ views on homosexuality, which they referred to as “deviant sexual proclivity”.

The flyer also stated that homosexuals had “a morally destructive effect on the substance of society” and were responsible for the development of HIV and AIDS. According to the men, their objective was not to promote hate speech, rather to create a debate concerning the school’s objectivity in their education system.

The men were later accused of promoting hate speech, and the Supreme Court in Sweden convicted them in 2006 of agitating a minority community, stating that the men had given the students no possibility to refuse the flyers by leaving them in the lockers. Three of the men received suspended sentences, and were given fines ranging from €200 to €2,000 ($265 to $2650).

They four men then take their case to the European Court of Human Rights in January 2007, arguing the Supreme Court ruling constituted a violation of their freedom of expression. In a statement released on Thursday, the European Court declared the applicants’ complaint was “inadmissible as being manifestly ill-founded”.

The ECHR also noted that discrimination based on sexual orientation is as serious as those on “race, origin or colour”, and that the flyers had been unnecessarily offensive. It also stated that the Supreme Court’s sentence was reasonable.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



UK: Boss of Football’s Anti-Racism Group is Branded a Racist After Calling Asian Fan a ‘Coconut’

A leading force in football’s battle against racism has been criticised after he called an Asian supporter a ‘coconut’.

Piara Powar, who is the executive director of the Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) organisation, has been a vocal figure in the game’s recent rows.

But an exchange on Twitter has left Mr Powar, who is also Asian, embroiled in a race controversy of his own making.

Liverpool fan Parmjit Singh, 34, tweeted @piarapower: ‘Interesting how u haven’t given your opinion on the news that a £mufc fan was arrested on Wednesday for alleged racial abuse.’

He received a staggering reply from Mr Powar, who used Twitter’s private messaging function to contact Mr Singh, which said: ‘Get lost Singh. Have no false consciousness. Don’t be a coconut.’

Mr Singh was referring to Manchester United fan Howard Hobson, 57, who was today fined £200 for chanting racist abuse at a black Stoke City player during a match on January 31.

           — Hat tip: Kitman [Return to headlines]



UK: Four-in-10 Children ‘Have Never Been to an Art Gallery’

The ‘culture starved’ generation emerged in a study of 2,000 parents of five to 12 year-olds throughout the UK. Four in 10 children have never seen the inside of an art gallery, while 17 per cent haven’t visited a museum with their parents. The research, which was commissioned by Visit Birmingham, also revealed that a quarter of children haven’t been to the theatre, while six in 10 have never heard or been to a classical music concert.

One in 10 kids hasn’t even left their home town to visit other cultural sites in the UK. And half of parents admit they make little effort to educate their children on culture or history, relying on schools to do so.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



UK: Ken Livingstone: Tories Are ‘Riddled’ With Homosexuals

Ken Livingstone, Labour’s candidate for London mayor, has said that the Conservative Party used to be “riddled” with homosexuals and claimed Baroness Thatcher was “clinically insane” while prime minister.

Mr Livingstone also said he is refusing to watch the Iron Lady, a film that depicts Lady Thatcher’s experience of dementia. “I do not want to feel sympathy for her. I feel sympathy for the people whose lives she destroyed,” he said, describing the former premier as “clinically insane”.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



UK: Six-Fold Rise in Underage Girls Given Contraceptive Implants Past Five Years

The number of girls aged 15 or younger having contraceptive implants has risen six-fold in only five years, official figures show.

Some 4,900 teenagers below the age of consent were given the devices last year, up from 800 in 2005/6.

Yesterday it was revealed how girls as young as 13 are having the implants fitted at school without their parents’ knowledge.

As part of a scheme to reduce teenage pregnancy, nurses are visiting nine Southampton secondary schools and two sixth form colleges to offer the implants, which are inserted in the arm and release hormones into the blood.

           — Hat tip: Kitman [Return to headlines]



YWC Still Stands Against Sharia Law

by Matthew Heimbach, President, Youth for Western Civilization

People may say a great deal about Youth for Western Civilization, but I was surprised to read that the newest slur against us, in Monday’s editorial “Towson students should be more respectful,” called us cowards. YWC is always willing to go toe-to-toe with those who seek to undermine and destroy our civilization. We are not embarrassed or ashamed to openly stand against radical Islam (hence our protest last semester where we did hold signs and distribute literature to students). The very idea that writing “Kick Sharia Out of America” is controversial is absurd. YWC took a stand against an ideology that calls for the execution of homosexuals, third-class citizenship for non-Muslims (for those of you unschooled in the Islamic occupation of Western nations look up dhimmi), and a totalitarian regime that forces women to cover themselves or face being publicly beaten or executed. This is not an attack on Muslims, only the Islamo-fascist ideology. “Sharia Law Zones” in Muslim communities throughout Europe, honor killings, and home grown terror attacks have rocked the West into realizing the huge threat of Islamic extremism. Here in America many are blind to the creeping Sharia that has made its way into our everyday life. YWC is dedicated to awakening not only the campus, but the local community about the threat of Islamic extremism here in our own country. As my hero Geert Wilders once famously said about Islamization, “Enough is enough. We will defend ourselves with democratic means.” And that is exactly what YWC plans to do.

[JP note: From the comments section — Matthew Heimbach: Sharia has been stuck on stupid since the 7th century.]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

General


Breaking the Code: Why Yuor Barin Can Raed Tihs

You might not realize it, but your brain is a code-cracking machine. For emaxlpe, it deson’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod aepapr, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer are in the rghit pcale. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit pobelrm.

S1M1L4RLY, Y0UR M1ND 15 R34D1NG 7H15 4U70M471C4LLY W17H0U7 3V3N 7H1NK1NG 4B0U7 17. Passages like these have been bouncing around the Internet for years. But how do we read them? And what do our incredibly low standards for what’s legible say about the way our brains work?

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Our Galaxy’s Giant Black Hole May Munch on Asteroids

The gigantic black hole at the heart of our Milky Way galaxy may be devouring asteroids on a daily basis, a new study suggests. For several years, NASA’s Chandra spacecraft has detected X-ray flares about once a day coming from our galaxy’s central black hole, which is known as Sagittarius A* (Sgr A* for short). These flares may be caused by asteroids falling into the supermassive black hole’s maw, according to the study.

“People have had doubts about whether asteroids could form at all in the harsh environment near a supermassive black hole,” study lead author Kastytis Zubovas, of the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom, said in a statement. “It’s exciting because our study suggests that a huge number of them are needed to produce these flares.” Zubovas and his colleagues suggest that a cloud around Sgr A* contains trillions of asteroids and comets that the black hole stripped from their parent stars.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Sharks’ Scales Create Tiny Whirlpools for Speedy Swimming

Razor-sharp scales on their skin seem to make it easier for sharks to race through the water, by generating whirlpools that help pull them along, researchers say. This research eventually could lead to an artificial shark skin that enhances the swimming of underwater robots, the researchers add.

Harvard University bioroboticist George Lauder and graduate student Johannes Oeffner created a simple robot and placed real shark skin around it to study the skin’s properties. They discovered that the toothlike scales, called denticles, generated vortexes on the front edge of the skin, eddies that essentially would help suck the shark forward. “Leading-edge vortices are well-known in insect and bird flight,” Lauder said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Study: Schizophrenia’s Hallucinated Voices Drown Out Real Ones

A new finding in brain science reveals that the voices in a schizophrenia patient’s head can drown out voices in the real world — and provides hope that people with the disorder can learn to ignore hallucinatory talk. The new research pulls together two threads in earlier schizophrenia studies. Many scientists have noticed that when patients hallucinate voices, neurons in brain regions associated with processing sounds spontaneously fire despite there being no sound waves to trigger this activity. That’s an indication of brain overload.

But when presented with real-world voices, other studies showed, hallucinating patients’ brains often failed to respond at all, in contrast with healthy brains. These studies pointed to a stifling of brain signals.

By analyzing all of these studies together, biological psychologist Kenneth Hugdahl of the University of Bergen in Norway found the simultaneous over-stimulation and dampening of brain signals to be two sides of the same coin. The findings help explain why schizophrenia patients retreat into a hallucinatory world. Now, Hugdahl wants to use this knowledge to help patients reverse that tendency.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

News Feed 20120208

Financial Crisis
» ‘Could the Germans Survive a Crisis Like Greece’s?’
» Few Swedes Ready to Work Until They’re 75: Poll
» France Signals Nine Eurozone States Ready to Trigger FTT
» Greek Strike Protesters Burn German Flag
» Nine EU Countries Form Splinter Group on Financial Tax
» Swiss Central Bank Stays Firm on Currency Cap
» Why is Global Shipping Slowing Down So Dramatically?
 
USA
» Caesars Entertainment Soars 33 Per Cent in First Day of Trading on the Nasdaq
» Harry Potter Overlooked by Oscars, Says Daniel Radcliffe
» Marine Ecology: Attack of the Blobs
» Minneapolis Helps Muslim Businesses Follow Sharia Law
» Most Fish in the Sea Evolved on Land
» Pinterest Hits 10 Million U.S. Monthly Uniques Faster Than Any Standalone Site Ever — ComScore
» Racial Tensions Flare in Protest of South Dallas Gas Station
» Stakelbeck on Terror Show: Iran’s War on America
» States Reach $25 Billion Deal With Banks Over Foreclosure Abuses
» World’s Highest-Pitched Primate Calls Out Like a Bat
 
Europe and the EU
» British Muslims Try to Ban Negative Reporting of Islam
» Concerned Over Cracks: European Safety Authority Orders Checks on All A380s
» Controversial Appointments in New Romania Government
» France: Teacher Stabbed While Breaking Up Fight
» France: Angry MPs Storm Out After ‘Nazi’ Taunt
» Germany: Breaking Global Warming Taboos: ‘I Feel Duped on Climate Change’
» Germany: Print Mein Kampf to Fight Neo-Nazi Extremism
» Guinea Pigs Were Widespread as Elizabethan Pets
» Holland Abuzz About ‘Mythical’ Skating Race
» Hungary: Orban Makes Another U-Turn on Constitution
» Ice Freezes Transport in Switzerland
» Islamophobic Filmmakers Promote Comment Seeking to Legitimate Norway Terrorist’s Views
» Italy: Wolves Seek Shelter From Harsh Weather Conditions
» Italy Braced for Cold Snap to Intensify
» Swiss Architects Team With Ai Weiwei for London Pavilion
» UK: A Hate Preacher Gets Silenced
» UK: Building Trust, Peace and Harmony Through Inter-Faith Relations
» UK: Birthday Celebrations for Mohammed
» UK: BBC Tells Its Staff: Don’t Call Qatada Extremist
» UK: Court Clerk Caught Watching Pornography During Rape Trial by Judge
» UK: Every Woman’s Nightmare: Sex Attacker Raped Young Mum at Knifepoint in Her Manchester Home
» UK: Hospital A&E Sex Assault Doctor Jailed
» UK: LSE Cancels Extremist Speaker Event
» UK: The ECHR: Cameron is Trapped in a Bind Which He Himself Has Approved
» UK: Will Hate Preacher Hamza be Set Free Next? Qatada Ruling Could Open Door After His Appeal to Europe Over Human Rights Judges to Rule on Whether Hamza and Five Others Can be Extradited to U.S.
 
Balkans
» FYROM: The New Kosovo?
 
North Africa
» Reinforce UN Mission in Libya, Italy’s FM
» Tunisia: Salafite Shadow With Threats and Calls for Sharia
» Weather: Algeria, 80 Killed by Cold, Mayors Against Gvt
 
Middle East
» Arab World: UN Appeal, Improve Food Security
» Ihsanoglu to Discuss a Strategy to Combat Islamophobia in Geneva Next March, OIC Makes International Contacts on Syria …
» Karman, The Smiling Face of Political Islam
» Lebanon: Nasrallah Calls for Unconditional Dialogue on Syria
» MCB Condemns Ongoing Violence in Syria
» Minister Baird Visits the Bahá’í World Centre
» Neo-Ottomanism in Action: Turkey as a Regional Power
» PM David Cameron Fears Syria Might Yet Become Another Kosovo
» UAE: Jail for Westerner Over Mosque Insults
 
Russia
» Polishing Putin: Hacked Emails Suggest Dirty Tricks by Russian Youth Group
» ‘Russia is a Victim of Western Media’ Claims Russia Expert
» Russia and the Western Media
» We Have Breached Lake Vostok, Confirms Russian Team
 
South Asia
» Maldives Mob Smashes Buddhist Statues in National Museum
 
Australia — Pacific
» Did Easter Islanders Mix it Up With South Americans?
» Pacific Battlefield Tourism: A Dream Island Littered With Deadly Relics
 
Sub-Saharan Africa
» Nigeria: There’s No Terrorism in Islam, Says the Dean of a University Faculty
» Oldest Animal Discovered — Earliest Ancestor of us All?
 
Immigration
» 14 Million New Migrants Flocked to Russia in 2011
 
Culture Wars
» Should We Study White People?
» Swiss Philosopher Plans London Atheist Temple
» UK: Contraceptive Implants Are Secretly Given to Girls Aged 13
 
General
» “Ping-Pong” Planets Can Bounce From Star to Star
» Higgs Signal Gains Strength

Financial Crisis


‘Could the Germans Survive a Crisis Like Greece’s?’

Time is running out for the Greek government, which needs to reach a deal on unpopular austerity measures if it is to secure a second EU/IMF bailout. German commentators argue the country has already suffered enough, saying what are needed now are measures to stimulate growth.

The left-leaning Die Tageszeitung writes:

“In Germany, there is a widespread feeling that the Greeks must be to blame (for the fact that its situation isn’t improving). They are not economizing enough, are still earning too much and are simply not carrying out reforms, so the thinking goes. In Germany, resentment is rife and there is a general suspicion that the Greeks simply can’t manage it.”

“But could the Germans? Would they survive a crisis like the one in Greece? … The Greeks are in their fourth year of a recession, and there’s no end in sight. Its economy will probably shrink by a total of 20 percent. If Germany was hit by a similar scenario, its economic output would fall by around €500 billion. This is simply unimaginable. Here, there is already a crisis if the federal government wants to cut €5 billion from its budget.”

“It is pointless to push the Greek economy over the edge through austerity. The victims are not only the Greeks, but also their foreign creditors, the other euro-zone members. Greece is going to cost money. Part of the emergency loans that the Europeans are giving the country will never be seen again. The only question is how high the losses will be. And even though it is counter-intuitive, the more generous the Europeans are now, the smaller the final write-downs are likely to be. They have to invest in growth in Greece.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Few Swedes Ready to Work Until They’re 75: Poll

An overwhelming majority of Swedes disagree with Swedish prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt’s suggestion that workers should be ready to stay on the job until they are 75, a new poll shows. In a survey carried out by the Novus polling firm for Sweden’s TV4, 73 percent answered no when asked if they thought Sweden’s retirement age should be raised to 75.

Twenty percent of those polled supported the idea, while 7 percent were uncertain. “It’s too long. If someone’s been working since they were 18, then it’s enough to work until they’re 65,” worker Stefan Nyman told TV4 when asked if he could imagine to work until he was 75.

The survey comes following comments by Reinfeldt, published on Tuesday in the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper, in which the prime minister said Sweden’s workers shouldn’t expect to be able to retire at 65. “The pensions scheme isn’t based on magic. It is a welfare ambition based on large-scale re-distribution and citizens’ own work. If people think that we can live longer and shorten our work life, then pensions will get lower,” he told DN.

Reinfeldt went on to say that Swedes may have to stretch their working life to 75 years of age if they want to maintain the same standard of living as while working.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



France Signals Nine Eurozone States Ready to Trigger FTT

(PARIS) — French Finance Minister Francois Baroin signalled Tuesday that nine eurozone governments are ready to press ahead with the introduction of a Paris-inspired financial transactions tax. Baroin’s office said the minister had written to the European Union’s current Danish presidency asking for examination of a draft law championed by French President Nicolas Sarkozy to be examined by the summer.

The fact that nine countries are signatories to the letter is highly significant, as it paves the way for a special provision of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty that allows at least one third of the EU’s member states to trailblaze new laws by themselves.

This comes in the face of fierce opposition to an EU-wide tax from Britain, whose Prime Minister David Cameron said during the last EU summit that French banks would up sticks and move to the City of London to escape the tax.

The so-called “enhanced cooperation” provision has already been used to overcome difficulties in harmonising some aspects of cross-border divorce law, and is also being used in moves to drive through a single EU patent despite decades-long objections.

The nine countries are: Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain. The letter is signed by the finance ministers of the nine countries, Baroin’s office said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Greek Strike Protesters Burn German Flag

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, FEBRUARY 7 — Hundreds of Greek protesters chanting “Nazis Out!” clashed with police outside parliament in Athens during a general strike rally today against austerity. Police used pepper spray against the protesters, who burned a German flag, during a brief flare-up of violence at the rally which was joined by some 25,000 people despite the heavy rainfall, as daily Athens News website reports. The generally peaceful rally, organized separately by general and communist trade unions, was called against widely reported plans by the government to slash the minimum wage and impose other drastic cuts. Unions and employers have already rejected calls to cut the minimum wage, currently at 751 euros per month, arguing that it would make the country’s four-year recession even worse.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Nine EU Countries Form Splinter Group on Financial Tax

BRUSSELS — A group of nine euro-countries led by France and Germany on Tuesday (7 February) asked the Danish EU presidency to fast-track plans for a financial transactions tax — a move indicating they will forge ahead on their own in the absence of an EU-wide consensus.

“We strongly believe in the need for a financial transactions tax implemented at European level as a crucial instrument to secure a fair contribution from the financial sector to the costs of the financial crisis and to better regulate European financial markets,” the letter says.

The nine signatories are the finance ministers of France, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Finland, Greece, Spain, Portugal and the Prime Minister of Italy, Mario Monti, who also holds the finance portfolio.

They group asks the Danish presidency “to accelerate the analysis and negotiation process” of a proposal by the EU commission to introduce a 0.1 percent tax on stocks and 0.01 percent on trading in derivatives — the larger and riskier financial market held widely responsible for the 2008 financial crisis.

For its part, the Danish EU presidency “welcomes” the letter and is “currently looking into how to accommodate the request” at the technical level — meaning a new political discussion among finance ministers — it said in an emailed statement to press.

Britain and a handful of other countries fiercely oppose the tax arguing that it will lead to business flight and job losses in their financial sectors, making an EU-wide tax highly unlikely.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Swiss Central Bank Stays Firm on Currency Cap

Switzerland’s central bank said Tuesday it would fight any appreciation of the already strong Swiss franc, which has in recent days edged closer to the bank’s cap of 1.20 francs per euro. “This commitment applies at any time, from the moment the market opens in Sydney on Monday to when it closes in New York on Friday,” said Swiss National Bank (SNB) vice chairman Thomas Jordan.

“We will not tolerate any trading below the minimum rate,” he said in a speech at the Swiss-American Chamber of Commerce in Geneva. Jordan stressed the bank’s readiness to buy unlimited amounts of foreign currency and take further measures if necessary.

The franc, considered a safe haven in times of financial turbulence, posted a sharp gain in value last year, going from 1.23 per euro at the beginning of July to less than 1.05 a month later. The franc was at 1.2088 to the euro in afternoon trade Tuesday. The strong currency was biting into exporters’ earnings and the central bank imposed a 1.20 cap in September.

The vice president said a solution to the eurozone debt crisis would help reduce demand for the currency. “If the European authorities were to credibly commit to a sustainable solution soon, existing uncertainties would be reduced substantially,” said Jordan.

“In such a scenario, demand for perceived safe financial assets would fall in general, and for the Swiss franc in particular.” The SNB predicts the Swiss economy will slow considerably this year to 0.5 percent growth, down from the expected 2011 figure of 1.5 to 2.0 percent.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Why is Global Shipping Slowing Down So Dramatically?

If the global economy is not heading for a recession, then why is global shipping slowing down so dramatically? Many economists believe that measures of global shipping such as the Baltic Dry Index are leading economic indicators. In other words, they change before the overall economic picture changes. For example, back in early 2008 the Baltic Dry Index began falling dramatically. There were those that warned that such a rapid decline in the Baltic Dry Index meant that a significant recession was coming, and it turned out that they were right. Well, the Baltic Dry Index is falling very rapidly once again. In fact, on February 3rd the Baltic Dry Index reached a low that had not been seen since August 1986. Some economists say that there are unique reasons for this (there are too many ships, etc.), but when you add this to all of the other indicators that Europe is heading into a recession, a very frightening picture emerges. We appear to be staring a global economic slowdown right in the face, and we all need to start getting prepared for that.

If you don’t read about economics much, you might not know what the Baltic Dry Index actually is.

Investopedia defines the Baltic Dry Index this way…

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

USA


Caesars Entertainment Soars 33 Per Cent in First Day of Trading on the Nasdaq

NEW YORK, N.Y. — Shares of casino operator Caesars Entertainment Corp. jumped 33 per cent Wednesday in its first day of trading on the Nasdaq. The company’s stock rose $2.97, or 33 per cent, to $11.97 in morning trading. Caesars had priced its initial public offering of 1.8 million shares at $9 apiece.

The Las Vegas company said late Tuesday that it expected to raise about $16 million from the offering before deducting costs. The offering values Caesars at about $1.14 billion overall because it includes just 1.4 per cent of the company’s outstanding stock. In 2007, when Caesars was known as Harrah’s, Apollo Management Group and Texas Pacific Group paid $17.1 billion and assumed $12.4 billion in debt to take the company private.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Harry Potter Overlooked by Oscars, Says Daniel Radcliffe

Harry Potter star expresses disappointment that latest instalment has failed to enchant Academy, saying ‘snobbery’ has prevented franchise from winning more accolades

According to their star Daniel Radcliffe, the Harry Potter films have been overlooked for next month’s Oscars due to snobbery over commercial films. Speaking to the Radio Times, the 22-year-old actor said he was disappointed by the Academy’s failure to honour the final instalment in the fantasy series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2. The film has only three nominations in technical categories ahead of the ceremony in Los Angeles later this month, contrasting with 11 for Martin Scorsese’s 3D children’s film Hugo and 10 for black-and-white silent film The Artist.

“I don’t think the Oscars like commercial films, or kids’ films, unless they’re directed by Martin Scorsese,” Radcliffe said. “I was watching Hugo the other day and going, ‘Why is this nominated and we’re not?’ I was slightly miffed.”

He added: “There’s a certain amount of snobbery. It’s kind of disheartening. I never thought I’d care. But it would’ve been nice to have some recognition, just for the hours put in.”

Six of the eight Harry Potter films have been nominated for Oscars — all in technical or craft categories — but the series has not yet carried off a single Academy award, despite the $7.7bn (£4.87bn) the series has grossed world wide.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Marine Ecology: Attack of the Blobs

Jellyfish will bloom as ocean health declines, warn biologists. Are they already taking over?

Last summer, intrepid surfers flocked to Florida’s east coast to ride the pounding swells spawned by a string of offshore hurricanes. But they were not prepared for a different kind of hazard washing towards shore — an invasion of stinging moon jellyfish, some of which reached the size of bicycle wheels. The swarms of gelatinous monsters grew so thick that they forced a Florida nuclear power plant to shut down temporarily out of concern that the jellies would clog its water-intake pipes.

Earlier in the year, similar invasions had forced shut downs at power plants in Israel, Scotland and Japan. The gargantuan Nomura’s jellyfish (Nemopilema nomurai) found in Japanese waters can weigh up to 200 kilograms and has plagued the region repeatedly in recent years, hampering fishing crews and even causing one boat to capsize. Jellyfish have destroyed stocks at fish farms in Tunisia and Ireland. And in the Mediterranean Sea and elsewhere, officials have built nets to keep out jelly swarms.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Minneapolis Helps Muslim Businesses Follow Sharia Law

MINNEAPOLIS (USA), 16 Rabi al-Awwal/8 Feb. (IINA)-In 2005, Afrik Grocery and Halal Meat on Cedar Avenue needed to expand. Owner Abdi Adem, who operates his business under Sharia law, needed to find a loan that funded the expansion and complied with his religious beliefs. Finding the loan was easier than he expected. Since December 2006, the city of Minneapolis, in partnership with the African Development Center, has given out 54 loans in a way that is compliant with Islamic law by using a fixed rate in place of a variable interest rate, which some considered sinful. Instead of charging interest, the city and the ADC estimate how long it will take the business to pay off the loan and totals what the interest would be. That amount is added as a lump sum to the total cost of the loan. “It feels like, looks like and acts like a loan, but it’s just a different way of looking at it,” said Hussein Samatar, executive director of the ADC. Abdulwahid Qalinle, an adjunct associate professor of Islamic law at the University of Minnesota, said interest rates can be considered sinful under Sharia law. “Islam has specific guidelines where people can acquire wealth and how to spend their wealth,” Qalinle said.

Through the Alternative Financing Program, small lenders — usually the ADC — will offer a loan and the city will match it up to $50,000. Business owners will then pay back the lender and the city. The loans can be used for buying equipment or making renovations. Becky Shaw, an economic development specialist with the city, said most loans are around $5,000 to $10,000 and are paid off within three years. Shaw added that although the loans are targeted toward Muslims, any business owner can apply for a similar loan with an interest rate that has a similar effect as the Sharia law loans. The city also offers a handful of other business assistance programs. Of the 54 loans the city and the ADC have given, only one has gone into default. According to a 2009 report from the Small Business Administration, the national default rates are around 12 percent. “This really, truly has been one of the phenomenal success stories of Minneapolis,” Samatar said. Through the loan, Adem borrowed $42,000 and was able to move his business down the street, expand his halal meat section and purchase new equipment, which he said helped attract new customers. Adem paid off his loan in 2009. “I benefited very much from the loan. The customers liked the new store and we liked it,” said Adem. Although he has no immediate plans to expand his business, Adem said it’s nice to know the loans are available to him. “I don’t want to go to the bank and get charged for interest,” he said. “If I need more funds, I can use [the program] again, not now, but if I need it I can go and get it.”

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



Most Fish in the Sea Evolved on Land

Family histories don’t come much more bizarre. Three-quarters of the fish in the sea can trace their origins back to a freshwater ancestor. The finding highlights how important rivers and lakes are as a source of new species, just as that supply is under threat from disappearing freshwater habitats.

Fish first evolved in the sea. The oceans have been teeming with them for almost half a billion years, so there is no reason to doubt that the fish living there today did all their evolving in salt water — until you take a closer look at their family tree.

Greta Vega and John Wiens at Stony Brook University in New York noticed something peculiar while studying the evolutionary tree of ray-finned fish, a mega-group comprising 96 per cent of all freshwater and marine fish species on the planet.

They realised that all the fossils belonging to the ancestral group that gave rise to ray-fins some 300 million years ago — known as the polypteriformes — came from freshwater deposits. In fact, according to Vega and Wiens’s tree, the ray-fins may not have taken to the sea in large numbers until about 170 million years ago. Their descendants now make up three-quarters of all marine fish (see diagram).

We’ve seen this kind of topsy-turvy evolution before. Most whales, dolphins and porpoises, live in the sea, but like the ray-finned fish, they all evolved in rivers.

Michael Benton of the University of Bristol, UK, says that combined with what we know about whales and dolphins, the new study may point to a more general pattern: that most major groups of vertebrates came from land-based ecosystems. But we’ll need many more studies to confirm that, he says.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Pinterest Hits 10 Million U.S. Monthly Uniques Faster Than Any Standalone Site Ever — ComScore

It’s beautiful, it’s addictive, and now Pinterest is having its glorious hockey stick moment. TechCrunch has attained exclusive data from comScore showing Pinterest just hit 11.7 million unique monthly U.S. visitors, crossing the 10 million mark faster than any other standalone site in history.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Racial Tensions Flare in Protest of South Dallas Gas Station

Marcus Phillips was 26 and fresh out of prison for several robberies when he committed his final crime. One morning just before dawn, Phillips grabbed the cash register at a South Dallas gas station. The clerk picked up a shotgun and ordered Phillips down. Phillips ran from the store and across the parking lot, the cash register under his arm, the clerk not far behind. There was a struggle, more running, then another struggle. Then came a warning shot and a final, fatal blast.

Most of those now protesting the Diamond Shamrock Kwik Stop on Martin Luther King Boulevard never knew Phillips or even his name. But his death in 2010 has become a symbol in their fight to shut the station down. The dispute revolves around issues of race: Phillips was black, and the clerk—and the store’s owner—are of Korean descent.

“I didn’t expect it was going to explode like this,” Pak said of the encounter. “It was a personal argument.” Muhammad, 44, who was appointed to his post in 1994 by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, says Pak must go. So should other Asian-American merchants in black neighborhoods, he says. “They are just the latest in a long line of people who have come to this country—like Jews, Italians, Indians and now Asians—who have sucked the blood of and exploited the black community,” Muhammad said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Stakelbeck on Terror Show: Iran’s War on America

On this week’s episode of the Stakelbeck on Terror show, we analyze the Iranian regime’s ongoing 32-year war against America, and how Iran’s nuclear weapons program is not just a threat to the Middle East, but to the world—contrary to some dangerous misperceptions that have been gaining traction in a few places (like Ron Paul’s campaign headquarters).

We take down Rep. Paul’s dangerous Middle East polices and examine the Iranian regime’s apocalyptic beliefs and how they motivate its jihad against the nation it calls “The Great Satan”—America.

That includes an in-depth look at how Iran and its proxy, Hezbollah, are establishing a network throughout Latin America—at the very doorstep of the United States.

Former Israeli Ambassador Yoram Ettinger, an expert on U.S./Israeli relations, also joins us to discuss Iran, the so-called “Arab Spring,” the folly of a Palestinian state and whether war is in on the horizon in the Middle East.

Plus: don’t miss this week’s “Sharia Flaw” segment, where we take aim at the Iranian regime’s recent jihad against…Barbie. Yes, the doll.

           — Hat tip: Erick Stakelbeck [Return to headlines]



States Reach $25 Billion Deal With Banks Over Foreclosure Abuses

More than two million American homeowners will get at least $25 billion in relief from the nation’s biggest banks as part of a broad settlement to be announced as early as Thursday with state and federal authorities. It is the latest effort by the government to halt the housing market’s downward slide.

Despite the billions earmarked in the accord, the aid will help only a relatively small portion of the millions of borrowers who are delinquent and still facing foreclosure. The success could depend in part on how effectively the program is implemented, because earlier attempts by Washington to help troubled borrowers aided far fewer than had been expected.

Still, the agreement marks the broadest effort yet to help borrowers who owe more than their houses are worth, with roughly 1 million to see their mortgage debt reduced by banks. In addition, 300,000 homeowners are to be able to refinance at lower rates, while another 750,000 people who lost their homes to foreclosure between September 2008 and the end of 2011 will receive checks for about $2,000.

Brokered by officials in Washington, the final details of the pact were being negotiated until the last possible minute, including how many states would participate and when the formal announcement would be made in Washington. The two biggest holdouts, California and New York, now plan to sign on, according to officials familiar with the negotiations.

[Return to headlines]



World’s Highest-Pitched Primate Calls Out Like a Bat

A huge-eyed little primate of the Philippines can communicate in pure ultrasound — issuing calls so high-pitched that human ears can’t detect them. Study researcher Marissa Ramsier noted the ironic discovery in an animal that has always been considered a quiet night creature. “It turns out that it’s not silent. It’s actually screaming and we had no idea,” said Ramsier, an evolutionary biologist at Humboldt State University in California.

The shrillest noise a human can hear has a frequency of about 20 kilohertz. The Philippine tarsier can hear up to 91 kilohertz, and it cries out in the 70-kHz range. Those numbers put the tarsier’s hearing abilities in the same range as bats and far beyond those of any other primate ever known.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU


British Muslims Try to Ban Negative Reporting of Islam

by Soeren Kern

A Muslim activist group with links to the Muslim Brotherhood has asked the British government to restrict the way the British media reports about Muslims and Islam.

The effort to silence criticism of Islam comes amid an ongoing public inquiry into British press standards following aphone-hacking scandal involving the News of the World and other British newspapers.

The Leveson Inquiry, established by British Prime Minister David Cameron in July 2011, is currently considering how to increase government oversight of the British media.

But in a move that many worry will result in government regulation of the Internet, Lord Justice Leveson, a British judge who serves as Chairman of the inquiry, now says he wants to include Internet bloggers into any system of press regulation that he proposes.

Observers say the Leveson Inquiry’s effort to regulate blogging, combined with the Muslim attempt to ban negative reporting about Islam, poses a clear threat to free speech in Britain.

Appearing before the Leveson Inquiry on January 24, Muslim activist Inayat Bunglawala said the amount of negative stories about Muslims in Britain is “demonizing” Islam and fuelling a “false narrative.” He called on the government to do all it can to “ensure a fairer portrayal, a more balanced portrayal of the faith of Islam” in the British media…

           — Hat tip: Steen [Return to headlines]



Concerned Over Cracks: European Safety Authority Orders Checks on All A380s

Australian airline Qantas has temporarily suspended flights on 10 of its A380 super jumbo jet aircraft after hairline cracks were found. In the light of the discovery, Europe’s aviation safety authority has ordered inspections on all the Airbus double-decker planes in service.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Controversial Appointments in New Romania Government

The Romanian president has appointed foreign intelligence service chief Mihai Razvan Ungureanu as the country’s next premier after the cabinet resigned on Monday. A former Monsanto director, Stelian Fuia, has been nominated for the agriculture post. The parliament is set to vote on the new cabinet on Thursday.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



France: Teacher Stabbed While Breaking Up Fight

A 37-year-old male teacher was stabbed on Tuesday while breaking up a fight between two pupils at a school in the south-east suburbs of Paris. The attack happened at the 1,200 pupil Maximilien-Perret school in Alfortville when two older students started arguing at around 10.15am.

One teacher told Le Parisien newspaper how staff tried to stop the fight. “With my colleague, we tried to separate them,” said Guillaume Lombardeau, a maths teacher. Lombardeau explained that one of the pupils got out a knife and “in the struggle, my colleague got hurt.”

The injured teacher was taken to a local hospital where his condition was not believed to be life threatening. One of the boys was held by police shortly after the incident, while the other fled the scene and is still being hunted.

A union representative told Le Parisien that the attack took place in circumstances that are “more and more difficult and tense because there is less and less time spent with the pupils.” Additional security has been sent to the school, which will reopen on Wednesday.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



France: Angry MPs Storm Out After ‘Nazi’ Taunt

French Prime Minister François Fillon and his ministers stormed out of parliament in protest on Tuesday after an opposition deputy accused the government of flirting with Nazi ideology. The accusation from opposition Socialist lawmaker Serge Letchimy came in response to Interior Minister Claude Guéant’s remark at the weekend that not all civilisations were equal.

Letchimy said in parliament: “You, Mr. Guéant… you bring us back day after day to those European ideologies which gave birth to the concentration camps”. He then asked: “Mr. Guéant, the Nazi regime, which was so worried about purity, was that a civilization?”

That provoked uproar among government ministers and deputies from President Nicolas Sarkozy’s right-wing UMP party, who walked out en masse. The weekly question time was subsequently suspended. Guéant, who is also responsible for immigration and is known as a hardliner, provoked a storm of controversy with the comments on Saturday.

“Contrary to what the left’s relativist ideology says, for us all civilizations are not of equal value,” he told a gathering of right-wing students. “Those which defend liberty, equality and fraternity seem to us superior to those which accept tyranny, the subservience of women, social and ethnic hatred,” he said in his speech, a copy of which was obtained by AFP. He also stressed the need to “protect our civilisation”.

The left denounced his speech as an attempt by Sarkozy’s camp to woo supporters of rival candidate Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Front ahead of the two-round presidential election in April and May.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Germany: Breaking Global Warming Taboos: ‘I Feel Duped on Climate Change’

Will reduced solar activity counteract global warming in the coming decades? That is what outgoing German electric utility executive Fritz Vahrenholt claims in a new book. In an interview with SPIEGEL, he argues that the official United Nations forecasts on the severity of climate change are overstated and supported by weak science.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Germany: Print Mein Kampf to Fight Neo-Nazi Extremism

The proposed publication of Hitler’s Mein Kampf in Germany has sparked outrage and worries it would give voice to neo-Nazis. But The Local’sMoises Mendoza argues it is time for the country to fight extremism by supporting free speech.

In any other country, the recent announcement would have been greeted with shrugs: British publisher Peter McGee wants to sell excerpts of Adolf Hitler’s racist tome Mein Kampf in Germany.

Of course, there’s a reason the Bavarian state government, which holds the copyright to Mein Kampf, has fought McGee’s plans and even received a court injunction this week blocking them.

It’s the same reason anti-Semitic speech is illegal in Germany, as is the open display of the swastika or holocaust denial — and it’s why publishing Mein Kampfwould incense so many.

This is where Hitler began his campaign to exterminate Jews, socialists, homosexuals and Roma, among countless others. Germany can never let this tragic Nazi history repeat itself. So the country has put in place some of the toughest laws regulating “hate speech” in the western world.

But, nearly 70 years after the end of World War II, banning free speech in Germany is doing nothing to prevent far-right hatred. In fact, it mystifies it, making extremist propaganda more appealing to those yearning for primary source information.

Worst of all, attempting to censor hate speech suggests that the German people have learned nothing from their dark past.

It implies the country is inherently racist, that young Germans share guilt for the Holocaust, that without patronising rules they will inevitably repeat the awful sins of their grandfathers.

Of course, there’s the clear and present danger posed by the country’s extreme right-wing scene. But sceptical young people don’t take kindly to being told something is evil without being able to examine it in all its unvarnished horror (technically Nazi propaganda can be reproduced for educational purposes, but it often comes heavily censored or with invasive commentary).

We know from the recent past — especially the revelations of neo-Nazi killersamong us — that the most extreme elements of the far-right underground arebolder than we thought and thriving out of sight of mainstream society.

But we don’t know how strong they really are. Because they are forced into the shadows we must rely on reports from the government and activist organisations to gauge their danger — and these groups have their own agenda to push. In an environment where it’s preferable to censor speech rather than counter it, young people can get sucked into the world of right-wing extremism without being exposed to differing perspectives. In an increasingly interconnected world, it’s foolish to think that society’s restrictions will prevent them from encountering extremism in the first place.

The entire point of banning speech in Germany is being defeated every day on the internet.

The solution is simple: Allow every perspective to be heard freely. Let the neo-Nazis spout their hate. Let them wave their flags. Let Mein Kampf be read freely by the masses. But let’s make sure we shout them down and educate the next generation to think critically and reject their evil propaganda.

Germany knows its painful history and Germans want to confront it. We’re well past laws that stifle even odious speech.

Rather than fretting that the publication of Mein Kampf will somehow damage society, we should view it for what it is: A first chance to directly confront those who hate.

Moises Mendoza

           — Hat tip: Steen [Return to headlines]



Guinea Pigs Were Widespread as Elizabethan Pets

When Spanish conquistadors brought guinea pigs from South America to Europe, the tiny “curiosities” were bred as pets across a wide swath of Elizabethan societal classes, a new study suggests. The evidence comes from a guinea pig skeleton discovered in 2007 in the backyard cellar of a former middle-class house in Mons, Belgium, once part of the Spanish Empire.

Radiocarbon dating of the bones revealed that this guinea pig lived between the end of the 16th and the beginning of the 17th centuries-very soon after the Spanish arrived in South America, said study leader Fabienne Pigière, of the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences in Brussels.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Holland Abuzz About ‘Mythical’ Skating Race

The event hasn’t been held for 15 years. But, this week, Holland is abuzz with anticipation that the famed “11 Cities Tour” might take place in the coming days. All that’s needed are a few more cold nights before 16,000 skaters can take to the 200-kilometer course.

Called the Elfstedentocht, or 11 Cities Tour, the event follows a course almost 200 kilometers (125 miles) long through the extensive network of canals, lakes and rivers in Friesland, the Dutch province in the very north of the tiny country, passing through 11 towns in the region. And it can only be held when the ice along the entire track reaches a thickness of 15 centimeters (six inches).

“We have to be sure the ice is safe,” Immie Jonkman, a board member of the Frisian Eleven Cities Association, which organizes the event, told SPIEGEL ONLINE. “The ice on some parts of the course is really great. But, in other parts, it’s really bad.”

With a frigid high pressure system having been parked over northern Europe for the last week, canals in Amsterdam, Utrecht and elsewhere in the country have been jammed with skaters, and some cafe’s in the capital have even set up tables and chairs on the frozen waterways. The national obsession with skating has only heightened the excitement about the possibility that the Elfstedentocht could once again be held.

The event, the brainchild of Willem “Pim” Mulier, was first held in 1909. But given the need for a long cold snap to create the necessary conditions, it has only been held 14 times since then. When it is held, though, it’s a national event. While only 16,000 skaters are allowed to participate, there were some 1.5 million onlookers lining the route in 1997, the last time it was held. In 1986, Dutch Crown Prince Willem-Alexander famously took part in the race. “It’s just a skating event,” Jonkman said. “But there is something mythical about it.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Hungary: Orban Makes Another U-Turn on Constitution

Hungarian leader Orban in a state-of-the-nation speech Tuesday defended the country’s new constitution despite earlier telling the EU he will change it due to complaints it undermines the independence of the judiciary and central bank. “I am proud of the new and modern constitution,” he said, the NYT reports.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Ice Freezes Transport in Switzerland

The number of distress calls made by motorists has increased dramatically in recent days, as sub-zero temperatures paralyze Switzerland.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Islamophobic Filmmakers Promote Comment Seeking to Legitimate Norway Terrorist’s Views

The Clarion Fund, an organization which produces Islamophobic documentaries, came under renewed scrutiny last month when news broke that their film “The Third Jihad” was screened at an NYPD conference. Facing calls for his resignation, NYPD commissioner Raymond Kelly, after some dissembling, admitted he was interviewed for the project and apologized for his role, calling the film “inflammatory.” Clarion, however, bragged about the attention. Now, Clarion appears to be throwing caution to the wind — along with any plausible defense that the group is not Islamophobic — by promoting a comment from a reader seeking to redeem the views of the anti-Muslim right-wing extremist who terrorized Norway this summer, killing 77, including 69 people at a youth camp. In an e-mail newsletter to supporters, Clarion Fund quoted the reader suggesting that a recent report that militant Islamic extremism posed the top threat to Norway redeemed the unheralded warnings of Anders Breivik, the anti-Muslim killer. The newsletter, published by the organization’s radicalislam.org website, promoted the comment from a “reader in Norway.” It read:

What a hot current topic this is! Just today the news came out in Norway, “officially” and in spite of all the PC-ness of this government, that according to the national security forces, the threat of Islamist terrorism is the foremost threat against Norway. You probably remember the July 22 shootings. One of Breivik’s arguments was that the authorities were not taking this threat seriously because you musn’t offend a Muslim. Interesting development.

Clarion’s willingness to promote and publish an e-mail sympathetic to Breivik seems a bizarre move for an organization under fire for Islamophobia, especially when the comment obfuscates the bigoted point Breivik was making about Islam at-large — the very same conflation between extremism and the whole faith the Clarion Fund has repeatedly been accused of making. Breivik’s warnings did not focus on Muslim extremism, but rather on Islam at-large. Breivik’s 1,500-page manifesto is littered with comments about Islam in general, for instance arguing that the Muslim veil “should more properly be viewed as the uniform of a Totalitarian movement, and a signal to attack those outside the movement.” He called Islam a “totalitarian, racist and violent political ideology,” and said its holy book, the Koran, should be banned. Breivik’s warning was not about, as the reader wrote, “Islamist terrorism,” but about Islam:

What is likely to happen to the West, if it continues to follow its present policy of ‘political correctness’ and apathy towards the hostile teachings of Islam, [will be like] “the Islamic conquest of India…” “In order to wake up the masses,” the soon-to-be killer wrote before attacking government offices and a political youth camp, “the only rational approach will be to make sure the current system implodes.”

Breivik went on in his manifesto to cite the writings of numerous American right-wing Islamophobes and recommended the Clarion Fund’s film “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West” for “further studies.” He even included a link to it. While the Norwegian security services’ report did indeed cite Islamic-inspired extremism as the country’s top threat, that assessment actually proves Breivik’s assertion wrong: Norwegian authorities seem rather well-attuned to the serious threat posed by the few radicalized, extremist Muslims in Norway. Despite the citations, Clarion is not, of course, responsible for Breivik’s attack. But by singling out and publishing a reader comment that whitewashed and sought to exonerate Breivik’s murderous ideology, the Clarion Fund may be tipping their hand as to how closely their views dovetail with his. (HT: Demographics United)

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



Italy: Wolves Seek Shelter From Harsh Weather Conditions

Sightings in Northern and Central Italy

(ANSA) — Rome, February 7 — Extreme weather conditions gripping Italy are taking a toll on the country’s wildlife, as well as its inhabitants.

Sightings of the once-endangered Apennine wolf near inhabited areas have been reported in the Dolomite mountains. In Central Italy near the town of Filettino in the province of Frosinone, a pack of wolves was sighted near an elementary school, sparking concern.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Italy Braced for Cold Snap to Intensify

Extreme weather has claimed at least 40 lives this month

(ANSA) — Rome, February 8 — Italy is braced for the wave of cold weather and snow that has gripped the nation for over a week, claiming at least 40 lives, to intensity this weekend.

Rome and much of central and southern Italy may well be in for more heavy snow later this week, according to forecasts.

The capital is only just returning to normality after rare snowfalls on Friday and Saturday caused chaos and virtually paralysed the city. Schools reopened Wednesday after three days and government offices reopened on Tuesday.

Other parts of the country have not had a break in the snow at all, especially in regions on the Adriatic coast and parts of the north, although it has been falling less heavily in recent days.

The River Arno at Florence has iced over. A special committee on Italy’s gas-supply crisis, caused by soaring demand and imports from France and Russia falling, will meet again on Wednesday.

Officials have said they may start rationing gas supplies to industrial clients while promising that there is no question of domestic clients having their gas cut off.

Premier Mario Monti has backed the head of Italy’s Civil Protection Department, Franco Gabrielli, after the department’s response to the disruption caused by the weather was criticised by Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno and the governors of some regions.

For his part, Gabrielli said recent law changes have tied the department’s hands so that it is like “a truck with a 16th-century engine”.

Monti has called on his ministers to work “more incisively” to avoid the disruption of the last few days, which has included some high-profile cases of passengers being trapped inside stranded trains for many hours.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Swiss Architects Team With Ai Weiwei for London Pavilion

Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei is reuniting with the Swiss architects with whom he created Beijing’s spectacular Bird’s Nest Stadium, to build a pavilion for this year’s London Olympics.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



UK: A Hate Preacher Gets Silenced

There was good news yesterday when it emerged that London School of Economics Students’ Union had cancelled a planned meeting that was to addressed by the radical Islamist preacher, Haitham Al Haddad.

Haitham Al Haddad is reported to have branded Jews “the enemies of God, and the descendants of apes and pigs” and has quoted the notorious antisemitic forgery, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. He has also cited the declaration that “Jews and Christians to be kuffer, and the necessity of hating them, and avoiding them”.

He believes women are not equal and he heads a Sharia “court” that advises women who have been raped as children that if they don’t have sex with their husband on demand, the “angels will curse” them.

Haitham Al Haddad was supposed to be speaking at an event organised by the Islamic Society, but after the intervention of the Union of Jewish Students and then the Students’ Union itself, the meeting was cancelled.

While common sense has prevailed at the LSE, it seems that Haitham Al Haddad is in demand elsewhere. He is spoken at several other Universities and is one of the headlined speakers at the London Muslim Centre on 18th March.

Al Haddad’s teachings has even been cited by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the 24-year-old Nigerian man who pleaded guilty to trying to blow up a transatlantic flight on Christmas Day 2009.

The Union of Jewish Students applauded the LSE decision but also expressed their annoyance that it had got to this stage. “There’s something deeply flawed in the LSE’s procedures on speaker events when someone like Al Haddad is approved without due consideration.” said Jay Stoll, President of LSE Jewish Society. “We are thankful to LSE Students’ Union for their strong stance against antisemitism and all forms of discrimination.”

           — Hat tip: Nilk [Return to headlines]



UK: Building Trust, Peace and Harmony Through Inter-Faith Relations

The Interfaith Relations Committee of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) is holding an event under the heading of ‘Building Trust, Peace & Harmony through Inter Faith Relations’ on Monday 6th February from 7.00 pm until 9.00 pm at the House of Lords, hosted by Lord Sheikh of Cornhill. On the initiative of HRH King Abdullah of Jordan, on 20th October 2010, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously endorsed the suggestion that the first week of February would be celebrated as World Inter Faith Harmony Week. The MCB is honoured to welcome as their Guest of Honour, HRH Princess Badiya El Hassan of Jordan who will present a message on behalf of her father, HRH Prince Hassan bin Talal of Jordan. Guest speakers for the evening are HE Mazen Homoud, Ambassador of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in London, and Professor Mohamed El-Gomati, OBE, President, Foundation for Science, Technology & Civilisation. A number of community and faith leaders, together with representatives from the younger generation will be sharing their own experiences in support of world peace and harmony. Farooq Murad, Secretary General of the MCB, and Dr Manazir Ahsan, Chair, MCB Inter Faith Relations Committee, applaud the United Nations resolution to celebrate World Inter Faith Harmony Week, recognising the imperative need for dialogue among different faiths and religions to enhance mutual understanding, harmony and co-operation. The foundation of mutual respect for one another irrespective of religion, race or ethnicity is the foundation for establishing a worldwide culture of peace and hope to take on the challenges faced in the world today.

More information on World Interfaith Week can be found at:

worldinterfaithharmonyweek.com/

www.un.org/en/events/interfaithharmonyweek/

[JP note: Building castles in the sand would probably be more profitable, and fun, but I doubt Islam knows anything about fun.]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: Birthday Celebrations for Mohammed

Hundreds of Sufi Muslims from across the area took part in a peace procession on Sunday to mark the birthday of the prophet Mohammed. The annual Eid-Milad parade travelled from the Ghausia Jamia Mosque in Savile Town to the Gulzar-E-Medina Mosque in Westtown. Organisers said around 1,500 were involved in the procession, waving green flags and handing out free food to passers-by. Mohammed Chaudhary, from the Gulzar-E-Medina Mosque, said: “It’s very important for us to get together and celebrate and the procession this year was, like every year, a huge success. “So many people turned up, from children as young as five or six to their grandparents and the older generations.” Also at this year’s Eid-Milad procession were Chief Insp Ian Gayles, of West Yorkshire Police, and Allen Senior, crew manager for the West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service. They presented Imams from local mosques with flowers on behalf of local police and firefighters. Mr Chaudhary also thanked the police and all those who helped to make sure the procession ran smoothly.

[JP note: A little bit of dhimmitude never goes amiss.]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: BBC Tells Its Staff: Don’t Call Qatada Extremist

The BBC has told its journalists not to call Abu Qatada, the al-Qaeda preacher, an “extremist”.

In order to avoid making a “value judgment”, the corporation’s managers have ruled that he can only be described as “radical”. Journalists were also cautioned against using images suggesting the preacher is overweight. A judge ruled this week that the Muslim preacher, once described as “Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man in Europe”, should be released from a British jail, angering ministers and MPs. Adding to the row, Kenneth Clarke, the Justice Secretary, yesterday insisted that Qatada “has not committed any crime” and said his release has nothing to do with the European Court of Human Rights. A British court has called Qatada a “truly dangerous individual” and even his defence team has suggested he poses a “grave risk” to national security. Despite that background, BBC journalists were told they should not describe Qatada as an extremist. The guidance was issued at the BBC newsroom’s 9.00am editorial meeting yesterday, chaired by a senior manager, Andrew Roy. According to notes of the meeting, seen by The Daily Telegraph, journalists were told: “Do not call him an extremist — we must call him a radical. Extremist implies a value judgment.”

The guidance was criticised by experts and MPs. Maajid Nawaz of Quilliam, a counter-extremist think tank, accused the BBC of “liberal paralysis” over Islamic extremism, saying journalists must be honest about Qatada’s record. He said: “A radical is someone who is different from the norm. An extremist is someone who promotes extreme views and actions, like killing innocents.” James Clappison, a Conservative member of the Commons home affairs select committee, said the guidance was unjustifiable. He said: “Given the evidence about this man, it makes you wonder what you have to do for the BBC to call you an extremist.” BBC staff were also cautioned against using library images suggesting the cleric is overweight, because he has “lost a lot of weight”. A BBC spokesman said: “We think very carefully about the language we use. We do not ban words — the notes are a reflection of a live editorial discussion about how to report the latest developments on this story.”

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: Court Clerk Caught Watching Pornography During Rape Trial by Judge

A court clerk who watched hardcore pornography during a rape trial ‘because he was bored’ was caught looking at the explicit material right under the nose of the judge.

Debasish Majumder, 54, accessed the obscene images while the victim gave her harrowing evidence at Inner London Crown Court.

He looked at photographs of topless women being gagged and couples engaged in sexual acts, Kingston Crown Court was told.

However the judge, who was sitting directly behind him, spotted the filthy pictures as the prosecution evidence was being given.

           — Hat tip: Kitman [Return to headlines]



UK: Every Woman’s Nightmare: Sex Attacker Raped Young Mum at Knifepoint in Her Manchester Home

She woke up at 3.30am in the morning to find him standing above the bed she shared with her two-year-old child, his face concealed with a towel and a kitchen knife in his hand. He had climbed in through a downstairs window, Neil Usher, prosecuting, told Manchester Crown Court.

“The victim in this case suffered what may properly be described as every woman’s nightmare — having broken into her home while she was asleep, having woken her, you repeatedly raped her at knifepoint and inflicted upon her the most dreadful indignities and humiliations. The victim would have been terrified both for her own life and for that of her daughter,” the judge said.

The judge has recommended that Macanda, who has lived in Britain since he was 12, be deported to his native Angola on release.

Read more at:

           — Hat tip: Kitman [Return to headlines]



UK: Hospital A&E Sex Assault Doctor Jailed

A doctor who subjected a patient to “shocking and distressing” sex abuse at the Queen Elizabeth II hospital in Welwyn Garden City has been jailed for three years.

Dr Hassan Khan, 42, of Romford, Essex, attacked the woman on 10 April 2011.

The victim was “sexually humiliated” during an examination at the accident and emergency department, St Albans Crown Court heard.

Khan had denied two sexual assault offences.

The court heard Khan squeezed the woman’s breasts then told her to undress so he could give her an internal examination.

           — Hat tip: Kitman [Return to headlines]



UK: LSE Cancels Extremist Speaker Event

An extremist speaker will no longer address students at the London School of Economics after complaints from Jewish students. Haitham Al Haddad, who is alleged to have described Jews as “the enemies of God, and the descendants of apes and pigs” and stated that it is necessary to hate Jews and Christians, was due to speak at the university this evening.

The event had been organised by the LSE Islamic Society. Members of the LSE JSoc and the Union of Jewish Students prevailed on the union to prevent Al Haddad from appearing, following an LSE Students’ Union vote last month on strengthening its challenges to antisemitism. Jay Stoll, LSE JSoc president, praised the union for deciding to cancel the event and taking “a strong stance against antisemitism and all forms of discrimination”. But he added: “There’s something deeply flawed in the LSE’s procedures on speaker events when someone like Al Haddad is approved without due consideration.” Dan Sheldon, UJS campaigns director, said that while he was committed to safeguarding freedom of speech on campous, it should not come at the expense of student welfare. “We should have no truck with those who seek to spread hate on our campuses,” he said. The event was arranged just weeks after a Jewish LSE student was left with a broken nose after he confronted fellow students playing a Nazi card game on an Athletics Union ski trip.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: The ECHR: Cameron is Trapped in a Bind Which He Himself Has Approved

David Cameron may find a solution to the Abu Qatada problem “within the existing legal regime”, as the Home Secretary put it yesterday. Britain may reach a new agreement with Jordan about evidence that could be used in court. An appeal to the European Court of Human Rights’s Grand Chamber might just work. It may even be that the new Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures (TPIM) regime is amended on the hoof, as the control order system that preceded it used to be. But whether or not Abu Qatada remains free for long to take his children to school — we await an ECHR ruling declaring that he has a human right to become a parent governor — the Prime Minister is trapped in a bind which he himself has approved.

On the one side of the argument are Nick Clegg, Ken Clarke, Dominic Grieve, the Liberal Democrats, the Guardian and the BBC (which has apparently instructed its staff not to call Qatada an extremist): their bottom line is that Britain must obey the rulings of the ECHR. On the other are almost the entire Conservative Party, most of the press — the entire media “quad” would have editorialised today against the ECHR decision had not the Daily Telegraph already done so — and the voters: their strong inclination is that we must quit the court if necessary.

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: Will Hate Preacher Hamza be Set Free Next? Qatada Ruling Could Open Door After His Appeal to Europe Over Human Rights Judges to Rule on Whether Hamza and Five Others Can be Extradited to U.S.

Abu Hamza and five other dangerous terror suspects could follow Abu Qatada in being freed to walk Britain’s streets.

Unelected Euro judges are preparing to rule if the six — who are accused of running terror camps and extremist websites or plotting atrocities — can be extradited to the U.S.

And, in the wake of Europe’s ruling that fanatic Qatada cannot be kicked out of Britain, Whitehall officials are braced for defeat.

Hate preacher Hamza is claiming that his potential jail term in America could constitute a breach of his human rights because it is potentially ‘inhuman’ or ‘degrading’.

Once there is a Euro court ruling that any of the six cannot be extradited, British judges are expected to follow the precedent set by the Qatada case and free them on bail.

In a worst-case scenario, it could mean Hamza and his fellow fanatics being released in the run-up to the London Olympics — the biggest security challenge this country has faced in peacetime. Experts have already warned there are up to 200 would-be suicide bombers in the UK, including ‘lone wolves’ seeking religious justification from the likes of Hamza or Qatada to carry out atrocities.

The Strasbourg judges are considering whether jail terms of up to 50 years in the U.S. without parole — the sentences faced by Hamza and the others — would breach Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which bans ‘inhuman or degrading treatment’.

For all the defendants, except Hamza, they also agreed to examine whether their potential detention in ‘supermax’ high security prisons was a breach of human rights.

The court said Hamza had no case against the conditions at a supermax prison because his disabilities — he lost his hands in an explosion in Afghanistan and is blind in one eye — mean he would spend only a short time there before being transferred to a prison with a less severe regime.

The latest revelations came after another day dominated by the disclosure that Qatada, one of the world’s most dangerous fanatics, will be released on bail within days.

Immigration judges ruled he could be released in the wake of the European Court of Human Rights ruling that he cannot be deported to Jordan in case some of the evidence used against him in a planned terror trial has been obtained by torture.

Home Secretary Theresa May was called to the Commons to explain how she intends to protect the public from Qatada, a man rated so dangerous that he will be placed on a 22-hour curfew.

She told the Commons she ‘vehemently’ disagreed with the bail decision, saying: ‘It simply isn’t acceptable that, after guarantees from the Jordanians about his treatment, after British courts have found he is dangerous, after his removal has been approved by the highest courts in the land, we still cannot deport dangerous foreign criminals.’

She added: ‘The right place for a terrorist is a prison cell and the right place for a foreign terrorist is a foreign prison cell, far away from Britain.

‘That’s why we will do everything we can within the existing legal regime to deport Qatada, and we’re doing everything we can to reform that regime to avoid these cases in future.’

But backbench Tories queued up to demand Britain’s immediate withdrawal from the European Court of Human Rights and moves to neuter the power of the Strasbourg judges.

Shipley MP Philip Davies told Mrs May: ‘It is no good you huffing and puffing about the decision — what the British public want to know is if we cannot secure the reforms we need from the European Court of Human Rights, are we going to withdraw from the European Convention?’

Mark Pritchard, secretary of the Tories’ powerful 1922 committee, said the ECHR was ‘undermining British justice and British national security’.

It emerged yesterday that Qadata could be free from all controls within just two years if he stays in Britain. By the end of 2014 both bail and control order powers will have expired — leaving him entirely at liberty.

Previous control orders could be repeatedly renewed. TPIMs can be renewed in exceptional circumstances, but this is expected to be extremely difficult.

A ruling by the Euro judges is expected as early as this month on whether it would be a breach of human rights to extradite Hamza and the five others who the Americans are desperate to put on trial.

They include Hamza’s trusted lieutenant Haroon Aswat, who is wanted by the U.S. authorities for plotting to set up a jihadi training camp in Oregon.

Hamza was jailed for seven years in February 2006 for preaching hate and inciting murder at Finsbury Park Mosque in North London. His sentence has now been served and, if extradition proceedings are abandoned, he would be eligible for release.

Baba Ahmad and Seyla Ahsan, accused of conspiracy to commit terrorist atrocities overseas and supporting terrorist groups, have been held in high-security British jails for between five and seven years while they fight extradition on human rights grounds.

Another man, Khaled Al Fawwaz, has been in jail here since 1999. Allegedly a close associate of Osama Bin Laden, he was arrested in connection with bomb attacks on two U.S. embassies in east Africa which killed more than 200 in 1998.

The sixth man, Adel Abdul Bary, is also wanted in connection with the embassy bombings and has been held in prison for 13 years.

The British court’s ruling on Monday that Qatada should be freed on bail is based on the fact that, if the prospect of extradition or deportation becomes unlikely, it is unfair to continue to hold a suspect indefinitely.

Officials fear this principle would also be applied in the case of the six wanted by the U.S., in the event of an adverse verdict from Europe.

Releasing the men would give security officials a massive headache in the run-up to the Olympics.

Monitoring fanatics round-the-clock is hugely expensive and time consuming.

‘Benefits to fund gun camp’An extremist inspired by Al Qaeda called on British Muslims to claim benefits to fund a terrorist training camp, a court heard yesterday.

Usman Khan, 20, was bugged at his home by MI5 discussing plans to recruit 100 radicals to attend the camp in Kashmir to learn to use guns.

Discussing fund-raising during a late-night meeting, he declared radicals could receive in benefits in a day what people earn in a month in the disputed region split between India and Pakistan. ‘On Jobseeker’s Allowance we can earn that, never mind working for that,’ he said.

Khan added that there were only three possible outcomes for him and fellow jihadists: victory, martyrdom or prison.

Members of the group also discussed launching a ‘Mumbai-style’ atrocity in London while others talked about setting off pipe bombs in the toilets of two pubs in Stoke, the court heard.

The group’s other targets included the London Stock Exchange and the capital’s Mayor Boris Johnson, Woolwich Crown Court heard.

Andrew Edis, QC, prosecuting, said members of the group were recorded in December 2010 calling the late Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden ‘beautiful’.

Khan, of Stoke-on-Trent, is one of nine men being sentenced for terror offences.

He has admitted engaging in the preparation of terrorism.

The hearing continues.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes [Return to headlines]

Balkans


FYROM: The New Kosovo?

by Srdja Trifkovic

An Orthodox church was set ablaze in the southwestern part of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) on January 30. The incident reflects raising tensions between local Christian Slavs and Albanians, more than a decade after an Albanian rebellion brought FYROM to the verge of an ethnic war. It also evokes memories of the early stages of the conflict in Kosovo, in the late 1980s.

The church of St. Nicholas, in the majority Albanian-Muslim village of Labuniste, was two centuries old and housed valuable icons. The arson at Labuniste followed the burning of a Macedonian flag and the raising of Albanian and Islamic banners in the neighboring town of Struga, allegedly in reaction to an incident of “mocking Islam” at a local carnival last month. The town, on the shores of Lake Ohrid, lies at the southern edge of the line of ethnic separation between the two communities. The exact figures are disputed, but Macedonian Slavs account for about two-thirds (1.3 million) and Albanians for 30 percent (600,000) of the republic’s two million people. The latter, 98 percent Muslim, have had a remarkable rate of growth since 1961, when they accounted for only 13 percent of the total. Albanian birthrate has been more than twice that of Slavs for decades.

Following the signing of the NATO-brokered Ohrid Agreement that ended the 2001 Albanian rebellion by the “NLA” (a KLA subsidiary), FYROM has become bi-national and bilingual and the Albanians its second constituent nation. They are guaranteed proportional share of government power and an ethnically-based police force. This has turned FYROM into the weakest state in the Balkans and its de facto ethnic partition has become formalized and internationally guaranteed.

Having secured their dominance along the borders of Albania and Kosovo, the current main thrust of the Albanian ethno-religious encroachment has the country’s capital city as its primary objective. It is a little-known fact that today’s Skopje is effectively as divided as Nicosia or Jerusalem. Once a city quarter becomes majority-Albanian, it is quickly emptied of its Slavic, non-Muslim population. The time-tested technique is to construct a mosque in a mixed area, to broadcast prayer calls at full blast five times a day, and to create the visible and audible impression of dominance that intimidates non-Muslims (the locals call it “sonic cleansing”).

During the 2001 Albanian rebellion the NLA was largely financed by the smuggling of narcotics from Turkey and Afghanistan. In addition to drug money, as The Washington Times reported on June 22, 2001, “the NLA also has another prominent venture capitalist: Osama bin Laden.” French terrorism expert Claude Moniquet told The Christian Science Monitor in 2006 that up to a hundred fundamentalists, “dangerous and linked to terrorist organizations,” were ready in sleeper-cells in Macedonia. New recruits are offered stipends to study Islam in Saudi Arabia, and they are given salaries and free housing to spread the Wahhabi word on their return to FYROM.

In March 1999, on the eve of the war in Kosovo, I wrote in The Times of London that NATO support of ethnic Albanian separatists in Kosovo would unleash a chain reaction whose first victim would be Macedonia, because “once KLA veterans acting as policemen start to patrol Kosovo, the rising expectations of Macedonia’s Albanians will be impossible to contain.” “Nonsense,” a U.S.. State Department official snapped at a conference in Washington a few days later. “The problem in Kosovo is Milosevic. In Macedonia the Albanians don’t need to make trouble because their rights are respected.” The issue was that of “human rights,” he said, not nationalism: the notion of Greater Albania was a Serb paranoid invention…

           — Hat tip: Srdja Trifkovic [Return to headlines]

North Africa


Reinforce UN Mission in Libya, Italy’s FM

(ANSAmed) — ROME, FEBRUARY 8 — From a viewpoint of illegal immigration and refugees from Libya, “the presence of the United Nations, a mission of around 200 people while this number should increase, is positive,” said Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi in a hearing by the Senate Human Rights Commission in Senate. “We are working together with the Un Secretariat to strengthen the presence of the United Nations in Libya, because we believe this is a form of help, even guarantee” regarding these aspects, which are a sources of “deep concern” for Italy. Our country, Terzi added, will also be “better represented in checking the treatment of people in case they are sent back.” The Minister also said regarding the question of facilities in the transit countries that it is “an important proposal” and that its “feasibility on European level should be studied.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Tunisia: Salafite Shadow With Threats and Calls for Sharia

Banned ‘Hezb Ettahir’ party attacks government and West

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS — With Salafite-inspired terrorism casting a shadow on Tunisia’s presence, the country’s future could be even more cause for concern, faced with the enigma of ‘Hezb Ettahir’, the most fundamentalist party in Tunisia. The party continues its activities undisturbed despite the fact that it has been virtually banned by the Interior Ministry. The government has not taken a clear stance against the party, and secular Tunisians have said that this ambiguous approach allows the party to do as it pleases, with proselytism (political and religious, which go hand in hand), initiatives and threats hiding behind simple “advice”. At the country’s universities for example, where the niqab or full Muslim veil has become the cause of a real battle between fundamentalists, students and teachers. Salafism is and remains a fringe movement of the Islam in Tunisia, but is becoming more visible because it is taking advantage of the long transition period from the fall of Ben Ali (January 2011) to the general elections that should be held next year. The most recent initiative of Hezb Ettahir is an open letter sent to Premier Hamadi Jabali and to all Muslims. The letter harshly accuses the government of failing to respect the will of the people and of failing to “respect the Islam and God’s word.” This use of words is a clear call to conform the social and legal system to the sharia. In an Islamic country with an officially secular State everything, daily life, can be brought back to a religious level. Therefore also a position statement like the one made by Hezb Ettarhir has a clear political value in the light of an interpretation of fundamentalist Islam. For example, the presence of Jabali at the economic forum in Davos, seen as the ‘waiting room to hell’ for Tunisia, is almost considered an act of treason in this light, with Jabali asking the United States, “which desecrate Muslim land”, France “which sows corruption in our country” and the UK “which has brought the Islamic caliphate to the fall”, for help. All united to support the eternal enemy, the Jews.

The open letter was published today on the website of Hezb Ettarhir, on the day the birth of the Prophet is remembered.

Copies were handed out at the exit of mosques in many Tunisian cities, despite the official ban on political activities. As if that is not enough, the demonstrations that continue to be staged by the Salafite movement show that the Interior Ministry’s “no” is completely ignored. In fact nobody has even considered ending the protest in Avenue Bourghiba against the general director of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde. The protesters shouted slogans and showed photographs of the director with her face made look bloody with red paint, and nobody took the initiative of removing the photos.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Weather: Algeria, 80 Killed by Cold, Mayors Against Gvt

Several centres isolated, out of food and gas

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS — The death toll of victims of cold and snow in many regions of Algeria gets worse and worse and so does the dispute between the local communities and the government, which was accused of being extremely slow in adopting emergency measures. The latest news report that there are already approximately 80 victims; 30 of them were killed in car accidents caused by icy roads. Other causes of death include carbon monoxide leaks caused by either faulty devices or the fact that because of the lack of butane gas for heating, many families make fires in the fire escape and shut all windows and doors, preventing air circulation and turning their houses into death traps.

Several centres are still isolated and even if the Army’s vehicles or volunteers succeed in digging a passage in snow, no food or fuel actually gets to town. In some municipalities, the furious residents have occupied the town hall to protest. Daily newspaper el Watan, usually very critical of the government, used the word “martyrdom” to describe the suffering of Algeria’s people.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Middle East


Arab World: UN Appeal, Improve Food Security

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, FEBRUARY 8 — The participants of a 2-day international conference held in Beirut have launched an appeal to boost growth, create jobs and encourage exports to finance food imports in those countries in the Arab world that have the highest ‘food insecurity’. The event was organised by the United Nations regional economic and social development commission in Western Asia (ESCWA) and the international institute for research on food policies. The theme of the conference was “a food secure Arab world”.

The fact that food insecurity was among the main causes of the uprisings in the region was underlined during the event. A statement issued by ESCWA reads that the conference has resulted in an appeal for better market integration by strengthening small enterprises and by making access to financial resources easier. Moreover, recommendations were made to invest in science and technology, to develop regulations for the labour market to benefit young people, to increase agricultural output and to cooperate in the management of water resources to reduce the risk of conflicts .

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Ihsanoglu to Discuss a Strategy to Combat Islamophobia in Geneva Next March, OIC Makes International Contacts on Syria …

JEDDAH, 15 Rabi al-Awwal/7 Feb.(IINA)-Official spokesperson of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Ambassador Tariq Ali Bakhiet, disclosed that the OIC is making international contacts on the current developments following the failure of vote on the draft resolution on the situation in Syria at the UN Security Council. Bakhiet noted during the media briefing which he held at OIC headquarters in Jeddah on Monday, 6 February 2012 that the Organization will announce the results of these contacts later. Ambassador Bakhiet renewed the OIC support for the Arab initiative on Syria, stressing that the Foreign Ministers’ meeting on Syria which was held by the OIC last November was of the idea not to have numerous initiatives on Syria, however, in this regard, he stressed that the OIC could not be excluded from any international role to find a way out of the crisis in Syria, referring to the announced by Paris to form a Syrian people friends. He reiterated the Organization’s position which called on Syrian to start internal reform process, through serious national dialogue and to stop violence and bloodshed. Bakhiet also said that the Syrian government rejected the OIC’s request to send humanitarian organizations to Syria, pursuant to the call of the final communiqué of the OIC Foreign Ministers meeting held last November, noting that Damascus confirmed in its response that there is no need for external humanitarian aid.

On the other hand, the Spokesman for Cultural Affairs at the OIC, Mr. Rizwan Sheikh underlined that the OIC Independent and Permanent Human Rights Commission will discuss all issues of human rights, without ignoring the issues of human rights violations in Syria during its forthcoming first meeting in Jakarta, Indonesia, on 20 February 2012.

Mr. Rizwan also noted that the OIC Secretary General, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, will take part in the meeting of the UN Human Rights Council expected to be held in March, pointing out that the Secretary General will discuss an international strategy of how to combat Islamophobia in order to implement resolution 16/18 which calls for the protection of the followers of different religions from hate campaigns, a move that will support the OIC’s efforts to combat the growing phenomenon of Islamophobia in many European countries.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



Karman, The Smiling Face of Political Islam

(ANSAmed) — ROME — Tawakkul Karman is the new face of political Islam. She wears a veil, but talks of democracy. She fights against despots, but preaches non-violence. She asks the West for respect, but at the same time wants to work together. She is religious, but no fundamentalist.

The Yemenite winner of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize, heroine of the revolution that has driven out President-dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh, represents the new political class that emerged from the Arab uprisings. Religious, but moderate (at least for now). A political Islam that has nothing to do with the Islam of the bearded terrorists who formed an obsession in Western public opinion after September 11, in the Bush era. An Islam that speaks of democracy and human rights, that was reduced to silence for years by the old secular dictators, relics of Arab nationalism, socialists when they were young and pro-Americans when they got old.

Tawakkul is 33 years old, married and has three children. Daughter of a former Minister of Saleh, she has a degree in Political Science. As a journalist, she has been fighting for freedom of expression in her country for years. When the Arab Spring started, she became one of the icons of the movement in Yemen and was even imprisoned. She is member of the Islamic party Al Islah, linked to the Muslim Brotherhood and embodies its more moderate spirit.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Lebanon: Nasrallah Calls for Unconditional Dialogue on Syria

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah reiterated his party’s solidarity with the Assad regime on Tuesday, accusing Western-backed powers and Arab autocracies of using the protests to try to force President Bashar Assad out of power to undermine resistance forces in the region. In a wide-ranging televised speech to commemorate the birth of the Prophet Mohammed, Nasrallah also explicitly stated that his party receives financial support from Iran, without which, he said, the resistance in Lebanon would not have persisted and triumphed. Nasrallah called for unity among Sunni and Shia Muslims in the face of US designs. The US, he pointed out, cares solely about the political loyalty of a leader, not their sect, citing the case of Iran’s Shah who was Shia. “For America it is not about a sect which the leader belongs to, it is about his political orientation. The guilt of [the Iranian revolution] is that it overthrew America’s ally,” he said. Speaking about the continued conflict in Syria, which has seen breakaway groups clash with government forces and over 5,000 people killed according to the UN, Nasrallah indirectly blamed the rebels for pushing for civil war when offered concessions by the governments. Currently many rebel leaders have refused to meet with government figures without an explicit promise that Assad step down but Nasrallah called on all sides to negotiate without delay. “The opposition in Syria has refused reforms and dialogue which triggered a civil war, not a sectarian one,” he said. “Those who are keen on Syria should engage in dialogue without conditions.” Nasrallah also accused the Western media of deliberately overestimating the scale of the violence to try and help foreign powers influence the agenda in Syria.

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



MCB Condemns Ongoing Violence in Syria

The Muslim Council of Britain calls upon President Assad and his regime to exercise the utmost restraint in dealing with the ongoing disputes in Syria. By attacking its own people, and pursuing those seeking human rights and democracy, the Syrian government has pushed the country deeper towards civil war: risking the country’s rich heritage and diverse religious traditions. Farooq Murad, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain today said: “The appalling violence that we are witnessing coming out of Syria is deeply concerning. There is never any justification for the sort of oppression of civilians that we are increasingly seeing in media reporting. Over the last year we have seen citizens across the Arab world call for greater democratic rights, and the response to that call by different countries has been variable, but the outcome inevitable. The Syrian people, in their call now for greater democratic rights, should be supported and not isolated, and President Assad in his response should be in keeping within the boundaries of International Law and fundamental respect of human rights.” He further added, “We call on the Syrian government to remove, as a matter of urgency, their troops from the streets of the country and to engage in an open and transparent process, to address the needs of the people of Syria. Any external military intervention in Syria, however appealing its case may seem, is unlikely to offer any lasting and just solution. The Syrian people have to be persuaded to look to solving their problems by dialogue and negotiations. We call on the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation to exert its influence and persuade the government of Bashar al-Assad to heed the calls of the international community.” The Muslim Council of Britain has supported the democratic aspirations of the Arab and Muslim world since the start of the Arab Spring. Whether it be Egypt or Libya, Bahrain or Yemen, the MCB believes that it is now time for the people of the Middle East to be allowed to live in peace, dignity and freedom.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



Minister Baird Visits the Bahá’í World Centre

Haifa, Israel, 6 February 2012 (CBNS) — Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird visited the Bahá’í World Centre in Haifa.

Minister Baird has spoken up many times for the Bahá’í community around the world, including while addressing the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

Bahá’ís continue to face persecution in Iran where its leaders are imprisoned on unfounded charges.

Speaking in London about human rights, Minister Baird said, “These abhorrent acts fly in the face of our core principals, our core values. And nowhere is religious intolerance more present than in Iran. Bahá’ís and Christians are consistently threatened with death and torture simply for believing.”

Baird used this latest opportunity to speak with Albert Lincoln, Secretary-General of the Bahá’í International Community, about the importance of religious freedom in emerging democracies and how Canada can continue to be a staunch advocate for these freedoms.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes [Return to headlines]



Neo-Ottomanism in Action: Turkey as a Regional Power

Over the past decade Prime Minister Rejep Tayyip Erdogan’s government and his AKP (Justice and Development Party) have been successful in undermining Mustafa Kemal Ataturk’s legacy and the character of the state founded upon that legacy. What remains is an increasingly empty shell of constitutional secularism. That shell was nevertheless an obstacle to the formal grounding of the new legitimacy in Islam at home and neo-Ottomanism abroad. Erdogan and his team were determined to remove such vestiges, however, and on September 12, 2010, they succeeded. On that day Turkey’s voters approved, by a large margin, a 26-article package which ended the role of the Army as the guardian of secularism. In 2011 Erdogan was duly reelected with a substantial majority for a third term.

Davutoglu’s Strategic Depth — What has become known as Turkey’s neo-Ottoman strategy became prominent with the appointment of Ahmet Davutoglu as foreign minister in 2009. As Erdogan’s long-term foreign policy advisor, he advocated diversifying Turkey’s geopolitical options by creating Turkish zones of influence in the Balkans, the Caucasus, Central Asia, and the Middle East. On the day of his appointment Davutoglu asserted that Turkey’s influence in “its region” will continue to grow: Turkey had an “order-instituting role” in the Middle East, the Balkans and the Caucasus, he declared, quite apart from its links with the West.

In Davutoglu’s own words, Turkish foreign policy has evolved from being “crisis-oriented” to being based on “vision”: “Turkey is no longer a country which only reacts to crises, but notices the crises before their emergence and intervenes in the crises effectively, and gives shape to the order of its surrounding region.” He asserted that Turkey had a “responsibility to help stability towards the countries and peoples of the regions which once had links with Turkey” — thus referring to the Ottoman era, in a manner unimaginable only a decade ago: “Beyond representing the 70 million people of Turkey, we have a historic debt to those lands where there are Turks or which was related to our land in the past. We have to repay this debt in the best way.”

This strategy was based on the assumption that growing Turkish clout in the old Ottoman lands — a region in which the EU has vital energy and political interests — could prompt President Sarkozy and Chancellor Merkel to drop their objections to Turkey’s EU membership. If on the other hand the EU closes its door to enlargement — as now seems imminent — then Turkey’s huge autonomous sphere of influence in the old Ottoman domain would be developed into a major and potentially hostile counter-bloc to the West.

Prime Minister Erdogan is no longer as eager as before to minimize or deny his Islamic roots, but his old assurances to the contrary — long belied by his actions — are still being recycled in Washington and treated as reality. This reflects the propensity of the Obama administration, just like its predecessors, to cherish illusions about the nature and ambitions of America’s regional “allies,” such as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. The implicit assumption in the U.S. foreign policy community — that Turkey would remain “pro-Western,” come what may — should have been reassessed years ago. Since the AKP came to power the Army has been neutered, confirming the old warning of the Turkish top bras that “democratization” would mean Islamization. To the dismay of its Westernized secular elite, Turkey has reasserted its Ottoman and Muslim legacy with a vengeance.

We are witnessing the end of a process that could be predicted with precision. Nine years ago I wrote in Chronicles (April 2003) that the Bush Administration was mistaken to pretend that Turkey was “a truly indispensable nation” — as a senior U.S. Administration official, Paul Wolfowitz, called it at the time:…

           — Hat tip: Srdja Trifkovic [Return to headlines]



PM David Cameron Fears Syria Might Yet Become Another Kosovo

At yesterday’s meeting of the National Security Council, the Prime Minister and his colleagues acknowledged both the geopolitical complexity and the humanitarian simplicity of the escalating Syrian crisis. There is no taste whatsoever for military intervention by the West. For now, the Arab League is in the lead, pressing President Bashar al-Assad to yield power to Vice-President Farouk al-Shara, so that he in turn may form a unity government. For now, Western support is likely to be channelled through an Arab-led “Friends of Syria” group.

In the Commons on Monday, William Hague set out a seven-point UK strategy, ranging from assistance to the Syrian opposition (“there is no limit on what resources we can provide”) to fresh European Union sanctions upon the Assad regime. This is the strategy that informed the NSC’s deliberations yesterday, and, while robustly expressed, the Hague plan is conspicuously clear in the limits it sets upon British action.

Yet the necessary pragmatism of the NSC’s discussion was tempered by horror at the bloodshed in Homs, Syria’s third-largest city, under siege from the Assad regime. Bombardment by artillery and land-to-air missiles is taking a terrible toll upon its citizens — at least 14 of whom were slaughtered yesterday, including a couple and three of their children. According to one senior source, the PM and his security council colleagues shared a “great consciousness that we don’t want Homs to become a Middle Eastern Sarajevo”. One of David Cameron’s greatest achievements to date was something that did not happen: namely, Colonel Gaddafi’s threatened slaughter in Benghazi last March, a systematic atrocity that was averted only by the determination of the Prime Minister and M Sarkozy. But what if the thwarted horrors of Benghazi are made real 11 months later in Homs? It is axiomatic to Mr Cameron’s foreign policy that there are no templates — no “neo-con” blueprints or doctrinal maps. Partly, this is a reflection of the obvious: the situation in Syria is patently very different from the fall of Gaddafi, just as the Libyan end-game was anything but a replay of the liberation of Iraq.

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UAE: Jail for Westerner Over Mosque Insults

Abu Dhabi Court of Appeals upheld the verdict of the Abu Dhabi Misdemeanour Court which awarded a one-month jail term to a British engineer after he was found guilty of insulting religious sentiments. According to an ‘Al Ittihad’ report, the accused was inspecting construction work at a mosque along with others from his work department. They allegedly heard him use abusive language when referring to the mosque and filed a complaint. The defendant was sentenced to a month in jail by the Misdemeanour Court. He later moved the Abu Dhabi Court of Appeals that upheld the verdict. Meanwhile, he stressed that what he uttered — “finish this building, this mosque…” — was not against the mosque. He clarified that he was referring to the delay in work undertaken at the mosque and added that he completely respected Islam and the beliefs of the nation.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Russia


Polishing Putin: Hacked Emails Suggest Dirty Tricks by Russian Youth Group

Exclusive: Nashi runs web of online trolls and bloggers paid to praise Vladimir Putin and denigrate enemies, group claims

A pro-Kremlin group runs a network of internet trolls, seeks to buy flattering coverage of Vladimir Putin and hatches plans to discredit opposition activists and media, according to private emails allegedly hacked by a group calling itself the Russian arm of Anonymous.

The group has uploaded hundreds of emails it says are to, from and between Vasily Yakemenko, the first leader of the youth group Nashi — now head of the Kremlin’s Federal Youth Agency — its spokeswoman, Kristina Potupchik, and other activists. The emails detail payments to journalists and bloggers, the group alleges.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



‘Russia is a Victim of Western Media’ Claims Russia Expert

Srdja Trifkovic, Foreign Affairs Editor of Chronicles and Executive Director of The Lord Byron Foundation for Balkan Studies, in a recent article has claimed that Western media reporting on Russia is “biased” and “stereotypical”, and has said that the “West” should put more trust in Russia.

Trifkovic said: “Most Western media professionals tend to subscribe, consciously or not, to a neo-liberal world outlook in general and to the tenets of multiculturalism in particular. The result is notable media favouritism of allegedly disadvantaged, non-Western, traditionally non-Christian societies.

“Behind the veneer of all-embracing diversity, however, we find a carefully calibrated scale of acceptance or rejection of “the Other” depending on the cultural and political preferences of the media professionals themselves. The result is moral and intellectual relativism, which enables the media elite to pick and choose, which group or nation will be approved for the status of sympathy or victimhood, and which will be denied the benefit of the doubt.

“The image of Russia in the Western media indicates that Russia has been relegated to the latter category. “It sounds paradoxical,” said Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, referring to the Western attitude toward Russia, “but there was more mutual trust and respect during the Cold War.” His correct hint is that the Western opinion-makers detest post-Soviet Russia — the state that no longer is subservient, as it had been in the 1990s, but reviving its statehood and identity — more than the Cold War leaders of the West detested the USSR…

           — Hat tip: Srdja Trifkovic [Return to headlines]



Russia and the Western Media

by Srdja Trifkovic

Most Western media professionals tend to subscribe, consciously or not, to a neo-liberal world outlook in general and to the tenets of multiculturalism in particular. The result is notable media favoritism of allegedly disadvantaged, non-Western, traditionally non-Christian societies.

Behind the veneer of all-embracing diversity, however, we find a carefully calibrated scale of acceptance or rejection of “the Other” depending on the cultural and political preferences of the media professionals themselves. The result is moral and intellectual relativism, which enables the media elite to pick and choose, which group or nation will be approved for the status of sympathy or victimhood, and which will be denied the benefit of the doubt.

The image of Russia in the Western media indicates that Russia has been relegated to the latter category. “It sounds paradoxical,” said Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, referring to the Western attitude toward Russia, “but there was more mutual trust and respect during the Cold War.” His correct hint is that the Western opinion-makers detest post-Soviet Russia — the state that no longer is subservient, as it had been in the 1990s, but reviving its statehood and identity — more than the Cold War leaders of the West detested the USSR.

The problem of bias, stereotypical reporting and quasi-analysis is by no means new. The collapse of Russia’s institutions and social infrastructure under Yeltsin was accompanied by Western approval of the key engineers of the disaster (Anatoly Chubais, Yegor Gaidar, Boris Nemtsov, Vladimir Ryzhkov…). Their small political factions, lionized by the Western media, were duly supported by the quasi-NGO network funded in part by the Western taxpayers.

Various anti-Russian stereotypes notably prevailed over common sense and journalistic integrity at the time of Mikhael Saakashvili’s attack on South Ossetia in August 2008, with the mainstream media pack attacking Russia’s “aggression” and criticizing Western “passivity.”

While never missing an opportunity to hector Russia on democracy and criticize her human rights record, the Western media have been and still are notably silent on the discriminatory treatment of large Russian minorities in some former Soviet republics.

           — Hat tip: Srdja Trifkovic [Return to headlines]



We Have Breached Lake Vostok, Confirms Russian Team

Russian scientists have now confirmed that they have indeed breached Lake Vostok. It is the first time one of Antarctica’s subglacial lakes has been penetrated. According to an official statement (in Russian), the drill entered the lake at 20.25 Moscow time on 5 February. Thirty to forty metres of water rose into the borehole, confirming that the drill had reached the lake itself and not a small pocket of liquid water above the lake surface.

A Russian drilling team is trying to confirm that they have finally hit Lake Vostok, a vast subglacial body of water hidden 3.5 kilometres beneath the surface of the Antarctic ice sheet. Lake Vostok has been isolated from the surface for millions of years, and many hope it contains bizarre new life forms. At present, however, that seems unlikely.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

South Asia


Maldives Mob Smashes Buddhist Statues in National Museum

Police said Wednesday a mob had stormed the Maldives national museum and smashed Buddhist statues, an act of vandalism which former president Mohamed Nasheed blamed on Islamic radicals.

“A mob entered the museum yesterday (Tuesday). They smashed many statues. This included some statues of Buddha,” police spokesman Ahmed Shiyam told AFP.

In an interview with AFP on Wednesday, Nasheed said a mob including Islamist hardliners had attacked the museum because they believed some of the statues inside were “idolatrous.”

Islam is the official religion of the Maldives and open practice of any other religion is forbidden and liable to prosecution.

Nasheed’s resignation came after a small band of policeman mutinied on Tuesday morning and refused to obey an order to break up an anti-government protest where demonstrators were demanding the president step down

Islamist radicals had been used as part of the attack on his record in office, he said, referring to public statements alleging he was under the influence of Jews and was trying to bring Christianity to the Muslim nation.

“They (the opposition) feared they had no chance in the election next year,” he said. “There is no reason why people should be toppling the government.”

Presidential elections are scheduled for November 2013.

Since the initial mutiny on Tuesday morning, Nasheed said mobs had smashed up the offices of his Maldivian Democratic Party and a party worker had been murdered.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes [Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific


Did Easter Islanders Mix it Up With South Americans?

Erik Thorsby, an immunologist from the University of Oslo, found genetic markers in blood samples taken from Easter Islanders that he thinks could indicate contact with South Americans before the arrival of Europeans in the New World.

Scholars have seen some other hints of contact between Polynesians and the people of the New World. Some plants, such as the sweet potato, originated in the Andes Mountains but apparently spread across the Pacific Ocean before the arrival of Columbus. Researchers have noted hints of linguistic and artistic similarities between the western South American and the Polynesian culture. But definitive archaeological evidence is lacking. Finding genetic proof of Native American and Polynesian mixing prior to Columbus’s arrival in the New World in 1492 would demonstrate that Polynesians had the capacity to reach South America. Still, Thorsby’s assertion is being greeted with polite skepticism from one scholar familiar with Easter Island’s past.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Pacific Battlefield Tourism: A Dream Island Littered With Deadly Relics

World War II ravaged the tiny island of Peleliu in 1944 as US and Japanese forces clashed in one of the fiercest battles of the Pacific campaign. Rusting tanks, wrecked aircraft and live shells strewn across the island continue to attract battlefield tourists to this beautiful but dangerous place.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa


Nigeria: There’s No Terrorism in Islam, Says the Dean of a University Faculty

SOKOTO (Nigeria)- 16 Rabi al-Awwal/ 8 Feb.(IINA)-The Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Islamic studies of Usman Dan Fodio University, Sokoto (Nigeria), Prof. Aliyu Muhammad Bunza has said that Islam, which is a religion of peace, brotherhood, tranquility and justice, does not agree with or promote terrorism. He stated this in a paper titled, “Islam and the Current Challenges” delivered at a workshop organised by NACOMYO in conjunction with other Islamic organisations in Sokoto, Monday. According to Bunza, Boko Haram is not Islamic but a figment to discredit the religion of Islam by some elements set to achieve their motive. “It is an attempt to cripple Muslims and Islam by all means in its entirety. They want to destabilize the country and make Islam unattractive to the world, especially the west which sees it as anti-democratic and western culture.” Explaining that the so-called Boko Haram was unfounded in Islam and terrorism was a conspiracy to destabilize the country and paint Islam black, Bunza advised traditional and spiritual leaders to restrain themselves from making unguided utterances that could incite subjects and followers against each other. He further said that government should be sincere, open and honest at taming the menace of killings, stressing that “government should step up efforts through collective responsibilities to bring to book the culprits and make public their identities for commensurate punishment.” Bunza noted that the country will not break if leaders and followers tune to the path of justice, equity and fairness to all, a development he observed that the western world was against.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



Oldest Animal Discovered — Earliest Ancestor of us All?

Microscopic, sponge-like African fossils could be the earliest known animals-and possibly our earliest evolutionary ancestors, scientists say. The creature, Otavia antiqua, was found in 760-million-year-old rock in Namibia and was as tiny as it may be important.

“The fossils are small, about the size of a grain of sand, and we have found many hundreds of them,” said study leader Anthony Prave, a geologist at the University of St. Andrews in the U.K. “In fact, when we look at thin sections of the rocks, certain samples would likely yield thousands of specimens. Thus, it is possible that the organisms were very abundant.”

From these tiny “sponges” sprang very big things, the authors suggest. As possibly the first muticellular animals, Otavia could well be the forerunner of dinosaurs, humans-basically everything we think of as “animal.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Immigration


14 Million New Migrants Flocked to Russia in 2011

Almost 14 million foreigners and stateless people legally arrived in Russia last year, the head of the Federal Migration Service said at a news conference Thursday. Konstantin Romodanovsky announced that 13.8 million people had legally entered the country in 2011, among them 9.7 million citizens of CIS countries.

Of the legal immigrants, about 2.7 million were from Ukraine, about 2 million from Uzbekistan, less than 1.5 million from Kazakhstan and just less than 1 million from Tajikistan. Azerbaijan, Moldova, Kyrgyzstan and Armenia all had in the neighborhood of half a million each, according to a diagram presented by Romodanovsky.

In 2011, migration officials registered almost 10 million foreigners and stateless individuals, almost 810,000 more than in 2010, according to another table on the FMS website. The FMS press office could not immediately explain the discrepancy between the 14 million migrants mentioned by Romodanovsky and the 10 million migrants indicated in the table. It also couldn’t provide a breakdown of how many of those 10 million immigrants arrived legally.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Culture Wars


Should We Study White People?

This semester I am teaching a new (for me) course: “White People.” The course considers the historical formation of whiteness as well as its current cultural and economic manifestations. For me, teaching “white people” is an obvious way to work through some of the key issues of critical race studies: How did our current racial categories form and under what conditions? How are these racial categories intertwined with one another? How does race depend on class, gender, sexuality and often geographic location to make sense?

On the one hand, I am disturbed by Kellogg’s claim that teaching whiteness is equivalent to pointing out white privilege. But as disturbing as I found Kellogg’s description of white studies, I found the comments to his article even more disturbing. Consider these:

Let whites keep busy on the work of science and technology, advancing the human species. No! we must degrade whites and tell them they are racists and show no appreciation for what they are and have done for humanity. Does demeaning of whites help the cause of human progress?

and this:

“Whiteness studies” are a product of a genocidal anti-white regime. Anti-racist is a code word for anti-white.

Indeed, reading the responses to Kellogg’s article is a reminder of how much resistance there is among those marked as “white” to even acknowledge that they have a racial position in the world, let alone a privileged one.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Swiss Philosopher Plans London Atheist Temple

Swiss philosopher and writer, Alain de Botton, is proposing to build a temple to atheism in the heart of London’s financial district. De Botton’s idea is to build a 46-meter high black tower, decorated on the outside with binary code representing the human genome, with exhibits inside tracking the evolution of life through time.

“It’s not about worship but a kind of art installation,” de Botton told online news website 20 Minutes. “My passion for architecture is 100 percent the reason for this project.” De Botton wants to create an architecturally impressive space without having a deity as the inspiration. Having been admittedly affected by many great religious buildings, de Botton now wishes to create something architecturally extraordinary without crediting supernatural forces.

The plan has met with some resistance even from within the atheist camp. Richard Dawkins, a well-known proponent of modern atheism, criticized the idea as an attempt to create a “stamp of atheism”, and described the project as a waste of money, 20 Minutes reports.

Others have argued that building a temple implies worship and goes against critical notions of atheism. “The name is a misnomer,” de Botton admitted. “We could instead speak of a ‘place of contemplation.’ That would not bother anybody.”

Of the one and half million francs ($1.64 million) needed to build the tower, already half this amount has been put up by anonymous donors.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



UK: Contraceptive Implants Are Secretly Given to Girls Aged 13

SCHOOLGIRLS as young as 13 have been fitted with contraceptive implants without their parents’ consent.

There was a furious reaction last night when the scheme, part of a government ­initiative to cut teenage pregnancies, was revealed.

One mother, whose 13-year-old daughter was given the implant without parental knowledge, described it as “morally wrong”. She said the school had put the implant in her daughter’s arm without even consulting their family doctor.

           — Hat tip: Kitman [Return to headlines]

General


“Ping-Pong” Planets Can Bounce From Star to Star

Worlds would switch stars for millenia before being ejected, models hint.

A planet in a two-star system can end up in a gravitational ping-pong match that can last for millenia before the planet gets ejected into interstellar space, a new study suggests. Scientists had previously theorized that gravitational interactions among multiple planets orbiting a star can sometimes cause a world to get ejected from its system, leaving the rogue planet to wander alone.

Now a complex set of computer simulations shows that certain types of binary star systems might not let go of wayward worlds so easily. Instead, when a planet gets tossed out by its binary parent, the world can bounce over to the stellar companion. The hapless planet then begins to orbit wildly, only to end up being tossed back to the original star.

This gravitational bouncing can go on for as long as a million years, until ultimately the planet gets flung completely out of the binary system. “The trigger for the bouncing is the close approach of another planet” also orbiting the initial star, said study co-author Dimitri Veras, an astronomer with the U.K.’s University of Cambridge. “Once the bouncing has begun, the (ejected) planet is moving too fast to settle into a long-term stable orbit around either star.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Higgs Signal Gains Strength

Latest analyses from the Large Hadron Collider boosts case for particle.

Today the two main experiments at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the world’s most powerful particle accelerator, submitted the results of their latest analyses. The new papers boost the case for December’s announcement of a possible Higgs signal, but let’s not get too excited.

First, there are no new data in there — the LHC stopped colliding protons back in November, and these latest results are just rehashes of that earlier run. In the case of the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS), physicists have been able to look at another possible kind of Higgs decay, and that allows them to boost their Higgs signal from 2.5 sigma to 3.1 sigma. Taken together with data from the other detector, ATLAS, Higgs’ overall signal now unofficially stands at about 4.3 sigma. In other words, if statistics are to be believed, then this signal has about a 99.996% chance of being right.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

News Feed 20120207

Financial Crisis
» Citigroup Sees 50-50 Chance of ‘Grexit’
» Dutch Commissioner: Euro Could Survive Greek Exit
» EU Commission is Losing Patience With Greece
» EU’s Barroso: ‘We Want Greece in the Euro’
» France: Trade Deficit Hits Record High in 2011
» General Strike Hits Greece, EU Raises Pressure on Debt
» Italy: Spread and Yield Down, Bourse Up
» No Reason to Talk of Portugal Default: EU’s Barroso
» Portugal’s Economic Future in Limbo
» Top Spanish Banks Book 6.1 Bn Euros for Doubtful Loans
» Tunisia: Foreign Investments Plummet in 2011
» Why Germany Isn’t Benefiting From Euro’s Woes
 
USA
» Mind Control Could be Future of Warfare
» Mosque Nears Completion in Rock Hill
» Skydiver to Attempt Record-Breaking Supersonic Space Jump
» Supreme Court Justice Openly Disses U.S. Constitution Before Whole World
» Twin Victories Revive Santorum’s White House Hopes
 
Canada
» We Must be Honest About Honour Killings
 
Europe and the EU
» ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ As Britain Marks Dickens Bicentenary
» After the Oslo Massacre, An Assault on Free Speech
» Belgium: Skate at Your Peril in Most Places
» Belgium: Stock Exchange to be Turned Into a Beer Museum?
» Belgium: Solvay Hails World’s Largest Fuel Cell of Type in Flanders
» Commission Still Pulls the Strings on EU Foreign Policy
» Dutch Burqa Ban Legislation Row Heating Up
» European Deep Freeze Refuses to Relent
» Europe Freeze: Emergencies in Italy, Greece and Serbia
» France Opens First Official Muslim Cemetery
» France Inaugurates First Official Muslim Cemetery
» France Inaugurates First Public Muslim Cemetery
» Germans Jailed in UK for Owning Terrorist Material
» Holland: “Islam Democrat” Wants Dogs Banned
» Hope Grows for Unique Dutch Ice Skate Marathon
» Is NASA Pulling Out of Europe’s Mars Exploration Missions?
» Italy: Police Crackdown on Naples’ ‘Handicapped’
» Italy’s Mosque Wars
» Limerick, Ireland Hospital ‘Unsafe’ — Nurses
» Lost Treasures: The Napalm of Byzantium
» Many Water Pipes Frozen in Holland
» Norway: Survivors Laugh at Self-Styled Hero Breivik
» Norway’s ‘Other’ Terrorists File Appeal
» Norway: Handcuffed Breivik Back in Court
» Not All Civilisations Equal, French Minister Says
» OSCE Calls for Muslim Umbrella Organisation
» Signs of Ancient Ocean on Mars Spotted by European Spacecraft
» Sweden: School Rapped Over Bullying Victim’s Suicide
» Sweden: Girl to Friend: ‘I Think I’Ve Got a Knife in My Throat’
» Sweden: Malmö Mayor in Non-Violence Plea to Residents
» Swedish PM Wants People to Work Until Age 75
» Switzerland: Turkish Minister Probed Over Armenia Remarks
» UK: Abu Qatada Back on the Streets Within Days
» UK: Five Lessons From Prevent — Following Today’s Home Affairs Select Committee Report
» UK: Fanatic Qatada Out of Jail in Days
» UK: George Monbiot’s Worst-Ever Guardian Column — and That’s Saying Something!
» UK: Journalist: Some British Papers Spread Anti-Muslim Propaganda
» UK: MPs Urge Action on Online Radicalisation
» UK: Qatada Has to Go
» Up to 10,000 African Girls in Spain ‘Risk Genital Mutilation’
 
Israel and the Palestinians
» EU to Keep Paying New Hamas-Linked Government
 
Middle East
» Ayatollah: Kill All Jews: Annihilate Iran Lays Out Legal Case for Genocidal Attack Against ‘Cancerous Tumor’
» Caroline Glick: Obama’s Rhetorical Storm
» Emirates: Construction Abu Dhabi Mega Airport Approved
» ‘Iran Can Destroy Israel in 9 Minutes’
» Iran: Muslim Poets Meet Islamic Revolution Leader
 
Russia
» Kremlin’s Tough Top Diplomat: Russian Foreign Minister is Nobody’s Fool
» Shaken by Rallies, Putin Says Russian Civil Society Maturing
 
South Asia
» Facebook and Google Remove ‘Offensive’ India Content
» India: Uttar Pradesh Polls: Parties Go All Out to Woo Muslim Voters
» Indonesia: West Borneo: Festivities for Year of Dragon Amid Islamic Threats
» Yoga: From Ritual Sex to Middle-Class Ritual
 
Far East
» Beijing and Brussels at War “Over Planes”
» Philippines Searches Swamps for Kidnapped Europeans
 
Australia — Pacific
» March Date for Mosque Plan
 
Sub-Saharan Africa
» South Africa: Woman Found Dead at Mosque
 
Immigration
» Greece Starts Building Fence on Turkish Border
» Greece to Build £2.5million Six-Mile Razor Wire Wall to Block Worst Illegal Immigration Route Into Europe
» Netherlands: Growing Support for Children’s Amnesty
» Spain: Brain Drain, 300,000 Leave Country Due to Crisis
» Switzerland: Asylum Seekers Sanding Off Fingertips: Report
 
Culture Wars
» Netherlands: Euthanasia on Wheels Starts Next Month
 
General
» Entire Genome of Extinct Human Reconstructed
» I Want to Take the First Picture of a Black Hole
» Islam’s Groundhog Day

Financial Crisis


Citigroup Sees 50-50 Chance of ‘Grexit’

Citigroup has said the probability of Greek euro-exit in the next 18 months is 50%, compared to 25-30% in November. The “Grexit” would lead to “a sequence of sudden stops in the external financing” of southern euro-countries, with further exits “reducing the euro-area to a greater DM zone,” it noted.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Dutch Commissioner: Euro Could Survive Greek Exit

EU digital agenda commissioner Neelie Kroes, a Dutch politician, has told Dutch paper Volkskrant that a Greek euro exit would not destroy the single currency: “They always said: if a country is let off or asks to get out, then the whole edifice collapses. But that is simply not true.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



EU Commission is Losing Patience With Greece

The EU commission is pushing Greece to finally implement reforms, warning that otherwise Athens might not receive any more bailout cash from Europe. The representatives of the European Commission have shown the patience of a saint when it comes to matters concerning Greece. And they have often been very restrained when speaking in public. But it seems this is now coming to an end.

For months, the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund, known together as the troika, have been negotiating with the Greek government concerning a second bailout. This despite the fact that Greece has yet to fully implement the conditions attached to the first bailout. In addition, there have been doubts whether all of Greece’s parties even feel bound by the commitments.

Antonis Samaras, the head of the conservative New Democracy party, has been openly disputing the latest austerity measures called for by Greece’s international creditors. Weekend negotiations with the party leaders in the transitional government of Prime Minister Lucas Papademos also failed to come to any agreement.

“The truth is that we are already past the deadline,” European Commission spokesman Amadeu Altafaj said in Brussels on Monday. “The ball is in the court of the Greek authorities.” Speaking in Brussels, Altafaj said Greece had to bring something to the table in order to receive help from the eurozone, adding that Greece had “lived beyond its means for a very long time.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



EU’s Barroso: ‘We Want Greece in the Euro’

(BRUSSELS) — European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso insisted Tuesday that Greece will remain in the eurozone after one of his deputies suggested the eurozone would survive a Greek exit. “We want Greece in the euro,” Barroso told reporters. “The cost of a Greek exit from the eurozone would be higher than the cost of continuing to support Greece,” he said before talks with his predecessor Jacques Delors.

He added that Greece was “very close” to an agreement on a debt rescue package, which includes a new bailout from governments and banks taking losses on their bond holdings. “We, the commission, are doing all we can to reach a solution.”

European Commission vice president Neelie Kroes, in an interview with a Dutch newspaper, stressed she was not in favour of Athens going back to the drachma but said a Greek departure from the monetary union would not be a disaster.

“It is not a train crash if someone leaves the eurozone,” Kroes, also commissioner for digital technology, told De Volkskrant daily newspaper. “It is still being said that if you let one country leave or ask them to leave, then the entire structure collapses. That is simply not true.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



France: Trade Deficit Hits Record High in 2011

France’s trade deficit with the rest of the world hit a record €69.6 billion ($91.3 billion) last year according to figures given by a minister in a newspaper interview.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



General Strike Hits Greece, EU Raises Pressure on Debt

(ATHENS) — A general strike gripped Greece on Tuesday to warn against ever deeper austerity measures being demanded with increasing urgency by the European Union as part of a debt rescue deal with banks. Greece is at the limit of a timetable to agree new budget measures, and to conclude a debt-write-off deal with banks, under a second rescue package which it needs to avoid debt default in about six weeks’ time.

The 24-hour strike against severe budget action began under the slogan “That’s enough, we can’t take any more.” Protesters were set to converge on Syntagma Square in central Athens, a landmark of Greek anger against austerity measures from the EU and IMF.

Work in schools, ministries, hospitals and banks, were markedly reduced and in Athens buses and metros were delayed. Air travel was expected to be unaffected however. Yiannis Panagopoulos, leader of the GSEE union, has described the measures as a “death sentence” for the country, aimed at slashing salaries by 20-30 percent on top of previously imposed cuts.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Italy: Spread and Yield Down, Bourse Up

Greek bailout hopes give market boost

(ANSA) — Rome, February 7 — Signs that a Greek bailout agreement would soon be reached brought down both the yield and the spread and gave a small boost to the Milan bourse on Tuesday. The spread between 10-year Italian and German bonds, a measure of Italy’s credibility on the sovereign-debt market, dropped to 363 as the yield went down to 5,59%, correcting the damage caused Monday by fears of a default in Greece.

The Milan Ftse Mib index went up 0.62% to close at 16.491 points

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



No Reason to Talk of Portugal Default: EU’s Barroso

European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso said on Friday there was no reason to speak of a possible Portuguese default, in the wake of market fears about the country’s financial health. “Portugal is applying its assistance successfully and with the approval of its international partners,” said Barroso.

“There is no objective reason to talk of a default or to feed catastrophe scenarios,” Barroso, Portugal’s former prime minister said in Lisbon. “I am convinced, as president of the European Commission but also as a Portuguese citizen, that Portugal will succeed in overcoming its difficulties,” he told a meeting of industrialists.

Portugal became the third European Union member state — after Greece and Ireland — to seek international aid when it received a loan of 78 billion euros ($103 billion) from the EU and the International Monetary Fund last May. In return it agreed to sell-offs of public companies and labour reforms including less holiday time, which provoked protests in several cities.

On January 13, ratings agency Standard & Poor’s cut Portugal’s credit worthiness to below investment grade. The centre-right government last month signed agreements with employment and labour leaders which officials said would result in growth, competition and jobs. The EU/IMF loan is being paid over a three-year period, subject to Portugal’s implementation of reforms.

But investors and analysts have in recent days expressed growing concern that the country will not be able to meet its repayments and, as Greece has had to do, will ask to renegotiate its debt burden. Portugal Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho dismissed such fears in an interview published Friday.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Portugal’s Economic Future in Limbo

The situation in Portugal remains uncertain as the government, economists and investors take opposing views. The government is optimistic, economists expect a haircut, and investors are cautious. Getting a clear, consistent line on Portugal’s economic outlook is hard. Analysts, creditors, economists, the country’s politicians and the Portuguese people themselves all take different views on the situation.

In light of the eurozone crisis, Portugues Finance Minister Vitor Gaspar has been trying to put his country in a good light. Mounting debt, gaping holes in the budget, weak growth rates and poor economic performance are all to blamed for Portugal’s dependence on an EU bailout package. “For more than a decade, the macroeconomic inbalance and structural weaknesses have increased,” Gaspar explains in a frank attempt to regain public trust.

But Gaspar says his country is on the right track, with the help of a 78 billion euro (US$102 billion) bailout package from the EU and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). An associated reform package aims to push economic growth, create jobs, balance the budget and raise Portugal’s international competitiveness. For the Portuguese people, the reforms mean tax hikes and lower wages. The cuts are also affecting social services and more and more Portuguese are voicing their criticism of the harsh austerity measures.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Top Spanish Banks Book 6.1 Bn Euros for Doubtful Loans

Spain’s top three banks announced Tuesday they are putting aside 6.1 billion euros ($8.0 billion) to cover for doubtful property loans in 2012 as part of a banking sector shake-up. The banks — Santander, BBVA and CaixaBank — are being forced to act under a government-led reform aimed at cleaning up balance sheets weighed down with an estimated 176 billion euros in risky assets.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Tunisia: Foreign Investments Plummet in 2011

Down by more than 29% compared to previous year

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, FEBRUARY 6 — In 2011 foreign direct investments (FDIs) plummeted, dropping from 2.147 billion euros in 2010 to 1.711 billion euros last year, amounting to a dramatic drop-off of 29.2%. Numbers alone which indicate how the economic crisis hitting the country is structural, affecting all sectors, not allowing anyone to escape unscathed from the rising sea of difficulties. One figure that stands out involves the country’s major industry, tourism, which suffered an 83.3% decline in FDIs last year. To better define the dramatic nature of this figure, one only needs to remember that nearly 10 Tunisians out of every 100 make a living from tourism through direct employment and the allied industries. And when the downward spiral of the tourism sector’s effects become evident (closing businesses and layoffs in the short and medium term), Tunisia will suffer another blow.

But other sectors have also been heavily affected by the free-fall in the investment sector. In 2011 the decline in investments in the manufacturing sector amounted to 42.4%, while the decrease in the energy sector was 19.3%.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Why Germany Isn’t Benefiting From Euro’s Woes

There is a widespread belief that Germany is the big winner of the euro crisis, as investors stash their money in the euro zone’s last safe haven, driving interest rates on German bonds down to record lows. But the idea is just a myth. Indeed, the crisis could end up costing Berlin dearly.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

USA


Mind Control Could be Future of Warfare

Wars of the future might be decided through manipulation of people’s minds, concludes a report this week from the UK’s Royal Society. It warns that the potential military applications of neuroscience breakthroughs need to be regulated more closely. “New imaging technology will allow new targets in the brain to be identified, and while some will be vital for medicine, others might be used to incapacitate people,” says Rod Flower of Queen Mary, University of London, who chairs the panel that wrote the report.

The report describes how such technology is allowing organisations like the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to test ways of improving soldiers’ mental alertness and capabilities. It may also allow soldiers to operate weaponry remotely through mind-machine interfaces, the report says.

Other research could be used to design gases and electronics that temporarily disable enemy forces. This potentially violates human rights, through interference with thought processes, and opens up the threat of indiscriminate killing. The panel highlights the time that Russian security forces ended a hostage siege in a Moscow theatre in 2002 by filling the venue with fentanyl, an anaesthetic gas. Along with the perpetrators, 125 hostages died.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Mosque Nears Completion in Rock Hill

Rock Hill Muslims look forward to sharing new home with community

Rock Hill — a city with a rich history of downtown churches that were crucial to its growth and development — will soon open its newest downtown church without a single cross in sight. The religious building is a Muslim mosque. There is no mistaking the cream-brick building on West Main Street. There is a Middle Eastern arch over the front door. The minaret — a tower from which the faithful are called to prayer five times a day — rises from the southwestern roof facing busy Main Street. York County’s first built-from-the-ground-up mosque is set to open in late spring if construction that has gone on for two years, including a time where work stopped to raise money, finishes up as local Muslim leaders expect.

The mosque will replace a small Islamic Center of South Carolina, in a strip mall on Cherry Road. As soon as prayers are ready to be said, an open house for the community is planned, said James “Jumah” Moore, director of the Islamic Center. Area religious, political and social leaders will be invited to tour the building. The public will be invited, too.

“This has always been a dream of ours — to have a place where Muslims can come together — and share it with the people of this community,” said Moore, a Rock Hill native. “We believe we have much to contribute to the city.” Unlike mosques in other parts of the country that faced public opposition after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, any public outcry against plans to build the Rock Hill mosque has been muted or nonexistent. The Rock Hill Muslim group, which has publicly denounced terrorism and terrorist acts through interviews and opening its meetings and religious services to the public and the media for several years, has openly sought public acceptance and review. The mosque has been planned since 2007, and construction began two years ago — all of it as publicly as possible. True Muslims, these men have said repeatedly, denounce all violence.

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



Skydiver to Attempt Record-Breaking Supersonic Space Jump

One man’s quest to make a record-breaking leap from near the edge of space is nearing make-or-break time. Sponsored by energy drink Red Bull, Austrian extreme athlete Felix Baumgartner, 41, plans to skydive from a balloon in the stratosphere at an altitude of 120,000 feet (36,576 meters).

If he can do it, he’ll become the first person to break the sound barrier outside of an aircraft. He’ll also break a trio of other records that have stood for more than 50 years: Baumgartner’s plunge would mark the highest skydive, the highest manned balloon flight and the longest free fall, at about 5 minutes and 30 seconds.

The quest, called Red Bull Stratos, recently got back on track after being stalled by a legal challenge claiming that the idea of the dive was earlier suggested to Red Bull by California promoter Daniel Hogan. That suit has now been settled out of court, and the Red Bull Stratos project is moving forward.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Supreme Court Justice Openly Disses U.S. Constitution Before Whole World

“I would not look to the U.S. Constitution if I were drafting a constitution in the year 2012,” Ginsburg said in the interview, which aired on Jan. 30 on Al-Hayat TV…

[S]he argued that the United States has the “oldest written constitution still in force in the world,” so instead “you should certainly be aided by all the constitution-writing that has gone one since the end of World War II.”

“I might look at the constitution of South Africa,” Ginsburg said. “That was a deliberate attempt to have a fundamental instrument of government that embraced basic human rights, had an independent judiciary.” . . .

[Note from Egghead: Note that white people in South Africa are in DIRE straights. A genocide is predicted upon Mandela’s death. And, Bader-Ginsburg wants the U.S. to adopt a Constitution like that of South Africa! The kicker is that her interview is with a Muslim TV station — and Muslims FULLY plan to impose and inflict Sharia Law on the world in individual countries and via the United Nations. In fact, torture and murder in South Africa is allegedly FUNDED by Muslims who offer bounties for crimes against white people.]

           — Hat tip: Egghead [Return to headlines]



Twin Victories Revive Santorum’s White House Hopes

(Reuters) — Former Senator Rick Santorum rejuvenated his presidential hopes on Tuesday with overwhelming victories over front-runner Mitt Romney in Republican nominating contests in Missouri and Minnesota.

Santorum, who until Tuesday had won only one of the first five Republican contests, crushed his rivals in a non-binding primary in Missouri and in the Minnesota caucuses. His previous victory had been by a slim margin over Romney in Iowa.

Results were still being tallied in the caucuses in Colorado, the third state to vote on Tuesday in the state-by-state battle for the Republican nomination to face President Barack Obama in the November 6 election.

On the first day of multiple nominating contests in the 2012 primary season, networks projected Santorum as the winner in Missouri and Minnesota. In Missouri, with 86 percent of the vote counted, Santorum had 56 percent to Romney’s 25 percent, according to the secretary of state’s website.

With 56 percent of the vote counted in Minnesota, the secretary of state’s website said Santorum had 45 percent of the vote, U.S. congressman Ron Paul was in second with 27 percent and Romney a distant third with 17 percent. It marked the first time so far in the 2012 Republican race that Romney did not come in first or second in a state contest.

The victory gives new hope to Santorum, a staunch social and religious conservative, and new momentum in his battle with former U.S. House of Representatives speaker Newt Gingrich to be viewed as the top conservative alternative to the more moderate Romney.

“Wow. Conservatism is alive and well in Missouri and Minnesota,” Santorum told supporters in St. Charles, Missouri after results came in from those two states.

“I don’t stand here to claim to be the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney, I stand here to be the conservative alternative to Barack Obama,” he added to cheers from the crowd…

[Return to headlines]

Canada


We Must be Honest About Honour Killings

by Michael Coren

White guilt has terrible consequences. This was made profoundly clear in Canada during the three month trial of Mohammad Shafia, his wife Tooba Yahya and their son Hamed. They were convicted a week ago of the first-degree murder of Zainab (19), Sahar (17) and Geeti Shafia (13), and 50-year-old Rona Amir. The three teens were Mohammad Shafia and Tooba Yahya’s daughters, Hamed’s sisters. Rona was Mohammad Shafia’s first wife. The four women had been drowned in their car in June, 2009. The killers had chosen a canal in Kingston — a university town half-way between Toronto and Montreal — because they assumed that the local police would be less sophisticated and able than those in a larger city. They had also researched murder techniques on the internet, and planned this honour killing long in advance.

The case has naturally shocked the country, but is in fact only the most recent of a dozen murders in the last twelve years, most involving Muslim patriarchs aided by sons, cousins, and wives, killing young girls who wanted to be horribly western by wearing nice clothes, dating nice boys, doing nice things. In the Shafia episode, the three daughters had refused to wear the burka, and one of them had even dared to wear a bikini. Rona Amir had been unable to give her husband children, so he had taken a second wife, even though polygamy is illegal in Canada. Although not the girls’ biological mother, Rona had loved them and tried to protect them. She had to die too.

Which brings us to the greater point here, with more long-term consequences than this single repugnant case. The authorities — be they police, politicians, social workers, media — are obsessed with appearing to be progressive and non-judgmental where Islam is concerned; partly out of a fear of being accused of Islamophobia, but also because they genuinely believe that the white, Christian West has more to learn from Islam than the contrary. The Shafia girls had pleaded with their teachers for help, and while front line social workers acknowledged that the situation was potentially disastrous, the concerns evaporated as soon as they reached middle management. So Mohammad Shafia — who had written of his daughters, ‘may the devil shit on their graves’ — was effectively permitted to commit mass murder.

Even now, commentators are embarrassingly, cringingly reluctant to link the crime in any way with Islam. Moments after the verdict was announced, the lead detective in the case told the public that ‘domestic violence is a terrible thing’. It is — but this wasn’t domestic violence. It was yet another example of a psychosis that has its epicentre in Pakistan, but extends to most parts of the Islamic heartland, and many in the Muslim diaspora. It’s a self-evident truth that not all Muslims behave so brutally, but it’s also undeniable that Islam teaches that a woman is the property of a father, then a husband. Most fathers and husbands are kind, but if they are not they are empowered by Koranic teaching and the prism of Sharia law to behave pretty much as they like. Quite simply, honour killing is not considered a crime in much of the Islamic world.

While it’s true that honour killings are not exclusively Muslim, Islam is the only faith that boasts textual defence and sacred justification for such grotesque acts. When 16-year-old Aqsa Parvez was murdered in Canada in a 2007 honour killing by her Pakistani father and brother, CAIR Canada — an oft-quoted and worryingly influential Islamic group — told the gullible that, ‘It’s important not to generalise. There are cases of violence across all faiths and all cultures’. That was rubbish; but worse than Muslim extremists hiding the truth are non-Muslims embracing lies without question. We saw this during the Parisian riots, when mobs of overwhelmingly Muslim youths beat and torched their way through the city, often screaming ‘Allahu Akbar’. Yet they were almost never described as being Muslim by the media. So different from when the Norwegian killer Anders Behring Breivik, a freemason who wrote that he had no relationship with God and had not attended a church in fifteen years, was repeatedly defined as a ‘Christian fundamentalist’ on international television.

Similarly with gangs of young Asian men in England who groom women to be sexual commodities. The fact that they are invariably Muslim suddenly becomes irrelevant to journalists who otherwise assume every background detail to be essential to a good news report. In the United States, President Obama played this game of obscene hide-and-seek when he dealt with Major Nidal Malik Hasan, the US Army psychiatrist who killed 13 colleagues and wounded dozens more. Even though Hasan identified himself as a Muslim radical and told friends that it was the duty of a Muslim to wage war against the US Army, Obama refused to refer to the man’s religion.

He has gone further. Under the current administration, and to a degree even under his predecessor, moderate Muslims have been marginalised and almost excluded from the political establishment and halls of power. It’s the racism of lowered expectations. Fundamentalist organisations have convinced white liberals that only activists with beards or burkas are genuine Muslims, and to think otherwise is colonial and patronising.

It leaves us in a situation where will be more honour killings, and more Shafia girls murdered merely for being who they are. The killers can be dealt with, but not their politically correct enablers. There’s something terribly unjust about that.

Michael Coren is host of The Arena, a nightly current affairs show on Canada’s Sun News TV

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU


‘A Tale of Two Cities’ As Britain Marks Dickens Bicentenary

Britain marked the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Dickens on Tuesday with the laying of a wreath at his grave in Westminster Abbey in London and a street party in his native Portsmouth. Prince Charles and Ralph Fiennes, who will star in the latest film version of Dickens’ masterpiece “Great Expectations”, attended the ceremony in Poets’ Corner at the abbey, where Dickens was buried in 1870.

The congregation included what is believed to be the largest ever gathering of descendants of the Victorian novelist as well as representatives from the worlds of literature, film and theatre. An event was held simultaneously in Portsmouth, the port on England’s south coast where Dickens was born on February 7, 1812.

In a message read in Portsmouth, Prince Charles said: “Despite the many years that have passed, Charles Dickens remains one of the greatest writers of the English language, who used his creative genius to campaign passionately for social justice. “The word Dickensian instantly conjures up a vivid picture of Victorian life with all its contrasts and intrigue, and his characterisation is as fresh today as it was on the day it was written.”

The author had asked to be buried at Rochester Cathedral in his beloved Kent in southeast England, but a public outcry led to him being placed in Poets’ Corner. Fiennes, who will star as Magwitch in the adaptation of “Great Expectations”, read an extract from another of Dickens’ greatest novels, “Bleak House”.

At a church service in Portsmouth, actor Simon Callow read from “David Copperfield”, which was first published as a novel in 1850. The tale was inspired by Dickens’ experiences as a boy working in a leather blacking factory when the family fell on hard times after his father was sent to the debtors’ prison. But by his mid-20s, Dickens was a literary star and his fame continued to grow.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



After the Oslo Massacre, An Assault on Free Speech

Norway’s left seeks to silence Islam’s critics by linking them to a mass murderer.

By Bruce Bawer

Last July 22, a powerful explosion rocked a government building in downtown Oslo, killing eight people. Later that day, 69 people, mostly teenagers, were shot to death by a lone gunman at a Labor Party camp on the nearby island of Utøya. By nightfall, police had a suspect in custody: a 32-year-old Norwegian named Anders Behring Breivik, who had apparently carried out both attacks on his own.

Contrary to nearly everyone’s original assumption that Islamic terrorists were behind the Oslo attack, a 1,500-page “manifesto” by Breivik showed that he opposed the mass immigration of Muslims into Norway and had targeted the Labor Party gathering because of the party’s role in shaping the country’s multicultural immigration policy.

As an American who had lived in Oslo since 1999, I was deeply distressed by the atrocities of July 22. But when I learned that they were the work of a native Norwegian who claimed to have acted in opposition to Norwegian multiculturalism, I was even more devastated. For I saw at once what this would mean.

Consider this: Criticizing Islam is now a punishable offense in several European countries. In the past few months alone, a Danish court fined writer Lars Hedegaard for talking about Islam’s treatment of women in his own home, and activist Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff was found guilty of lecturing about Muhammad’s marital history in what an Austrian court considered an inappropriate tone.

Critics of Islam have yet to be put on trial in Norway. But as I watched Norwegian TV’s coverage of the massacre in Oslo and at Utøya, it was clear to me that such critics—who were already used to being labeled racists and “Islamophobes”—would have an even rougher time after July 22.

“In Norway,” I wrote in these pages on July 25, “to speak negatively about any aspect of the Muslim faith has always been a touchy matter . . . . It will, I fear, be a great deal more difficult to broach these issues now that this murderous madman has become the poster boy for the criticism of Islam.”

This statement was harshly criticized by Norway’s multicultural left. How dare anyone speak of such issues at a time like this! It was as if the concerns I had raised were abstract or narrowly political…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Belgium: Skate at Your Peril in Most Places

The cold snap, snow and freezing temperatures have encouraged many people in Flanders to reach for their skates and risk a jaunt on the ice. Saturday night was particularly cold. Daytime temperatures on Sunday failed to rise above freezing creating conditions favourable for skaters. In Veurne, Woumen and Diksmuide in West Flanders skaters ventured onto the ice often risking life and limb because in many places the ice was not thick enough. Often though signs warning against skating were ignored.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Belgium: Stock Exchange to be Turned Into a Beer Museum?

The city of Brussels confirmed its plan to turn the current stock exchange building in the capital’s Anspach Avenue into a beer museum in 2014. “We want to give the building back to the public and turn it into an attraction that will create a lively neighbourhood and increase the tourist potential of this part of the city,” mayor Freddy Thielemans PS said yesterday. The city confirmed that it is currently looking into various possible new uses for the stock exchange building; one of them being a beer museum. To prepare the public to the new purpose of the building the Federation of Belgian Beer Brewers will be staging part of its annual beer weekend early in September at the stock exchange building.

The project, the Belgian Beer Temple, is set to cost at least 15 million euros, with 70% of the financing coming from the Brussels Region, the City of Brussels and the Federation of Brewers. Unlike the Netherlands with their Heineken Experience, Belgium only has a number of small beer museums. If one considers the huge role of beer in the identity of the country, the notion of a beer museum makes perfect sense and both the Flemish tourist organisation Flanders Tourist Office and Visit Brussels back the project as an excellent tourist attraction. “A large museum such as this will help us focus our attention on beer,” says Catherine Dardenne, culture and leisure manager at Visit Brussels.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Belgium: Solvay Hails World’s Largest Fuel Cell of Type in Flanders

Chemicals giant Solvay hailed Monday the successful entry into service in Flanders of what it said was the largest fuel cell of its type in the world. A super-battery that produces enough electricity to power nearly 1,400 homes, the Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) fuel cell has been producing clean electricity at a “steady rate” for weeks at a SolVin plant part-owned by Germany’s BASF in Antwerp, northern Dutch-speaking Belgium. SolVin is a market leader in vinyl, or PVC production.

The fuel cell converts the chemical energy from hydrogen into clean electricity through an electrochemical reaction with oxygen, and “has generated over 500 MWh in about 800 hours of operation,” Solvay said in a news release.

The company said this equates to the electricity consumption of 1,370 families over the same period. Fuel-cell technology is tipped by developers as a future power solution for everything from cars to ships.

Flanders has benefited from a 14-million-euro investment in this applied technology, with the EU, the Dutch and the Belgian Flemish governments backers of Solvay’s 5.0-million euros investment.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Commission Still Pulls the Strings on EU Foreign Policy

BRUSSELS — A new deal between the European Commission and Catherine Ashton sheds light on how much power the EU executive still has on foreign relations. Coming one year after the launch of her European External Action Service (EEAS) and two years after the Lisbon Treaty, the so-called inter-service agreement — a 40-page paper dated 13 January and seen by EUobserver — details who does what in the EU’s day-to-day dealings with foreign countries.

It says the commission and the EEAS “jointly” plan overall spending strategies on the Union’s €9.5-billion-a-year external relations budget. But development commissioner Andris Piebalgs, neighbourhood commissioner Stefan Fuele and aid commissioner Kristalina Georgieva keep full control of designing and implementing actual projects in the 104 countries and €7.5 billion covered by their portfolios.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Dutch Burqa Ban Legislation Row Heating Up

The far-right anti-Islam Freedom Party PVV, which props up the minority government in parliament, has demanded that the Dutch police corps enforce the burqa ban. The PVV is supported by Justice Minister Ivo Opstelten on the issue. PVV MP Joram van Klaveren was speaking on Sunday in response to remarks made by the chief of Amsterdam’s police corps, Pieter-Jaap Aalbersberg, on national TV talk show g. Mr Aalbersberg said it should be left up to the police officer on duty to decide whether or not to write out a ticket for a Muslim wearing a burqa or niqab. The police chief added issuing a warning should also be an option.

The burqa ban in the Netherlands has stirred up a national debate. Earlier, other police chiefs from various Dutch corps announced they did not intend enforcing the new law when it is passed. The lower and upper houses of parliament still have to vote on the legislation which will ban all clothing which covers a face in public.

The burqa ban was part of the PVV’s election programme and its implementation was part of a deal negotiated by the Freedom Party and the coalition partners, the conservative VVD and the Christian Democrats. Geert Wilders’ party gives parliamentary support to the minority government.

In neighbouring Belgium, the second EU country after France to implement a burqa ban, the campaign of the far-right Vlaams Belang ‘Flemish Interest’ also stirred up considerable controversy. The daughter of Flemish Interest leader Philip Dewinter featured on the campaign poster wearing a niqab and a bikini top with the text “Freedom or Islam?”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



European Deep Freeze Refuses to Relent

The cold snap which has held Europe in its grip for over a week has yet to relent. Several countries have reported rising numbers of casualties as a result of the deep freeze. Holland, meanwhile, hopes the cold continues long enough to hold the mythical ice-skating race called Elfstedentocht.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Europe Freeze: Emergencies in Italy, Greece and Serbia

Italy has imposed emergency measures on businesses to conserve gas supplies as freezing weather continues to grip the country and much of Europe. An “emergency situation” is in place in southern Serbia where 70,000 villagers are stranded by snow.

In Greece, several villages near the Bulgarian border have been evacuated after the River Evros burst its banks. A day of mourning has been declared in Bulgaria, where a dam collapsed leaving nine people dead, A 2.5m (8ft) torrent surged through the south-eastern village of Biser on Monday. Five people were killed in the village itself and four more died elsewhere when their cars were swept away by the flood.

Two more dams were said to be on the brink of collapse and officials declared a code orange for much of the country, a severe warning of the risks of damage or injury from the harsh wintry conditions. In Greece, a state of emergency was declared in the Evros region.

Many of the victims of Europe’s cold snap have been homeless people in Ukraine and Poland. Forecasters says the icy conditions will last at least until the end of this week.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



France Opens First Official Muslim Cemetery

STRASBOURG — France has opened the first Muslim-only cemetery in the northeastern city of Strasburg, a move hailed by Muslims as a step toward integrating one of the country’s largest minority group.

The cemetery’s opening is a “historic” moment for Muslims in France that is “an important symbol of belonging” for the community, Mohammed Moussaoui, the head of the French Council of the Muslim Faith, told Agence France-Presse (AFP) on Monday, February 7.

A host of local officials and Muslim leaders attended the opening of the cemetery, which has space for about 1,000 graves.

The cemetery, which cost around 800,000 euros, faces Makkah, has a room for washing before prayers and a separate prayer room..

Sending their dead to be buried in their home countries for decades, French Muslims have long called for having an official cemetery to bury their beloved on French soil.

It was felt Muslims may be discouraged from burying members of their family in the cemetery over fears their remains may one day be exhumed and destroyed to make room for other burials.

“If a religious community is to feel entirely at home in a city, it must be helped in building places for worship and for the burial of its believers,” Strasbourg Mayor Roland Ries told AFP.

France is home to a sizable minority of six million Muslims, the largest in Europe.

Islam calls for respecting human beings whether alive or dead

A Muslim’s dead body should be immediately taken to a mortuary for washing and preparation.

Two or three adult Muslims should wash the body and then put on the shroud (kafan). Before the burial, the funeral prayer should be done.

The burial should be done as soon as possible. It is makruh (reprehensible) to delay the burial of the dead.

Integration

Though the French law forbids the public building of cemeteries restricted to one religion only, the Alsace-Moselle region benefits from a different law governing the separation of the Church and State.

“Local law in the Alsace-Moselle region allows us to construct a cemetery run by the local council,” Anne-Pernelle Richardot, deputy mayor of Strasbourg, told RFI radio.

France’s 1905 law on the separation of church and state forbids the building of municipal cemeteries restricted to only one religion.

But the Alsace-Moselle region, which includes Strasbourg, operates under different basic laws dating from its reversion from German to French control after World War I.

The only other Muslim-only cemetery in France is a private one in Bobigny which was built in 1934 as an annex to a hospital.

Elsewhere in France, towns have had to create Muslim-only sectors of public cemeteries.

There has been an increase in the number of Muslim-only sections in local cemeteries over the past few years, but some Islam specialists say the 200 sections currently in France are not enough to meet demand.

A report published by the Regional Council for Muslim Affairs, CRCM, in the Rhone-Alpes region estimated some 600 Muslim-only sections were needed in France and every town which had a mosque should provide this facility.

“This cemetery meets a pressing and legitimate need by Muslims and shows how migrants are increasingly putting down roots,” said Erkin Acikel, head of the CRCM.

“We belong on this soil and being buried here is a sign of integration.”

           — Hat tip: Steen [Return to headlines]



France Inaugurates First Official Muslim Cemetery

France inaugurated its first municipal Muslim cemetery in the city of Strasbourg on Monday, a move hailed by Islamic leaders as a step in recognising one of the country’s largest minority groups. Local officials and Muslim leaders attended a ceremony in the northeastern French city to launch the cemetery, which has space for about 1,000 graves.

Mohammed Moussaoui, the head of the French Council of the Muslim Faith, hailed the cemetery’s opening as a “historic” moment for Muslims in France and said it was “an important symbol of belonging” for the community. “If a religious community is to feel entirely at home in a city, it must be helped in building places for worship and for the burial of its believers,” Strasbourg Mayor Roland Ries told AFP.

France’s 1905 law on the separation of church and state forbids the building of municipal cemeteries restricted to only one religion. But the Alsace-Moselle region, which includes Strasbourg, operates under different basic laws dating from its reversion from German to French control after World War I.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



France Inaugurates First Public Muslim Cemetery

PARIS — France’s first public cemetery for Muslims was inaugurated Monday in the city of Strasbourg. Strasbourg Mayor Roland Ries said the cemetery, which has space for about 1,000 graves, demonstrated the continuation of harmonious relations between the different religious communities in the city, as he opened it. Until now, Muslims in France have buried their dead in specially assigned areas in Christian graveyards, where there is an acute shortage of space. Previously, many Muslims had sent their dead to their home countries to be buried, but the practice is declining due to the expense involved. The Alsace region, of which Strasbourg is the capital, allows the public funding of cemeteries, unlike the rest of the country. The city has paid about $1.05 million toward the graveyard. The dead will have to be buried in coffins, in accordance with French law, rather than simply using shrouds, although talks are planned to see if the law can be relaxed to accommodate Muslim customs.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



Germans Jailed in UK for Owning Terrorist Material

Two German men were jailed in Britain on Monday after pleading guilty to possessing articles from an al-Qaida magazine. Police seized a hard drive and laptop from Christian Emde, 28, and Robert Baum, 24, both from Solingen in western Germany, when they arrived in the southern English port of Dover on July 15 last year.

Emde received a 16-month term, minus 193 days he has already spent in custody, and Baum received 12 months after they both pleaded guilty to having material which could be of use to someone preparing an act of terrorism. Emde admitted four offences under the Terrorism Act for possessing online copies of the al-Qaida magazine “Inspire”, which contained titles such as ‘Destroying Buildings’ and ‘Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom.’

Baum admitted one charge under the same act of having an article entitled ‘39 Ways Of Participating Or Serving In Jihad.’ Their lawyers had argued that Emde, who is unemployed, had been studying extremism but was not a terrorist and was not going to pass the documents to anyone, while Baum was studying Islam while searching for a purpose in life.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Holland: “Islam Democrat” Wants Dogs Banned

In Holland there is something that will soon be in Germany as well: an Islamic Party. The party, ironicallly, is called “The Islam Democrats,” as though Islam and democracy have anything at all to do with each other, or should have. The newest, overall intelligent recommendation by this party in The Hague city council is the banning of dogs. In our part of the world, the dog is man’s best friend. In the Muslim world, it’s quite the opposite. Dogs are considered najassah (unclean), and the word “dog” is also used as an insult.

Hasan Kücük, member of The Hague city council for the Islam Democrats has therefore demanded that the ownership of dogs as house pets become a crime. This bill, of course, has led to protests among the Dutch people. Many of them see this bill, and rightly so, as a part of the advancing islamization of Europe.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Hope Grows for Unique Dutch Ice Skate Marathon

The Dutch are sharpening their skates in the hope that a legendary long-distance race on frozen canals may be held for the first time in 15 years, but organisers said Monday the ice was still too thin. “At this point we cannot set a date. It all depends on the weather,” Wiebe Wieling, chairman of the Society for the Frisian Elf Steden (11 cities), the race organiser, told a press conference in the northern city of Leeuwarden, broadcast on national television.

“Although we have excellent quality ice in northern Friesland, there is a problem area in the south — the ice is simply too thin,” Wieling said. “Today we can unfortunately not give any conclusion (whether the race will be held),” he said.

Officially skated for the first time in 1909, the so-called Elfstedentocht (Eleven Cities Race) is a race over 200 kilometres (120 miles) on the frozen canals that run through Friesland province’s main cities. Seen as the Netherlands’ ultimate ultra-race, it can only be held if the ice is thick enough — at 15 centimetres (six inches) — to hold some 16,000 skaters, cheered on by two million spectators, Wieling said.

Since 1909, the Elfstedentocht has only been skated 15 times, notably three times in a row during World War II in 1940, 41 and 42, making it a rare event that has been dominating headlines in the Dutch media since cold weather set in a week ago.

Dependent on weather conditions, the race had no set date and race organisers usually give 48 hours’ notice before its start, setting in motion an army of volunteers to prepare for the invasion of skaters and spectators. Wieling said Monday more inspections would be done, particularly in southern Friesland with the next announcement on ice conditions expected by Wednesday. “Our motto is that if it’s too dangerous, we won’t do it,” he added.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Is NASA Pulling Out of Europe’s Mars Exploration Missions?

The BBC is reporting that the U.S. space agency is close to officially announcing its intention to step away from the European-led ExoMars mission that was scheduled for a (delayed) 2016 and 2018 launch to the Red Planet.

Composed of a Mars satellite and drilling rover, the combo would make invaluable measurements of atmospheric methane — a potential sign of microbial life on the surface — and drill deep into the ground, accessing a subterranean environment no robot has ever touched before. Of course, the prime objective is to search for the biosignatures of Martian life, but the whole kit would also understand how much water is locked just below the surface and help to assess the Mars environment for future manned missions.

Unfortunately, it looks like there’s bad news on the horizon; the European Space Agency’s (ESA) key partner may be pulling out. “The Americans have indicated that the possibility of them participating is now low — very low. It’s highly unlikely,” said Alvaro Gimenez, ESA’s director of science. “They are interested, they know it’s a very good option for them — but they have difficulties putting these missions in the budget.” This news comes ahead of President Obama’s announcement of next year’s budget that will undoubtedly see NASA in its cost-cutting cross hairs.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Italy: Police Crackdown on Naples’ ‘Handicapped’

Naples, 1 Feb. (AKI) — Italian police on Wednesday arrested dozens of people suspected of defrauding the state by collecting money for fake handicaps in Naples, the southern city where about 4 percent of the population are registered as having disabilities.

With the fresh arrests, 201 people have been detained and 5 million euros of assets seized from the recent start of a crackdown on false disabilities.

Italy’s National Security Institute, INPS, pays out tens-of-millions of euros in false handicap claims every year.

The crime now carries harsh undertones as Italy is at the centre of a European economic crisis that toppled Silvio Berlusconi’s government in November and prompted his unelected successor to push through massive painful cost-cutting measures that include tax hikes and pension reform.

In January, police filmed a “blind” man near Milan riding a bicycle and driving a car to the supermarket. He was arrested after he pocketed government funds totalling 160,000 euros over around 18 years.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]



Italy’s Mosque Wars

The southern Italian island of Sicily is about to become the proud new owner of a multi-million euro mega-mosque. The mosque, to be built in the medieval town of Salemi in southwestern Sicily, is being paid for by the oil-rich Persian Gulf Emirate of Qatar. Supporters of the mosque hope it will become a reference point for Muslims in Sicily as well as the rest of Italy. Construction of the mosque reflects the growing influence of Islam in Italy, which is now home to an estimated 1.5 million Muslims. In an interview with the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, the mayor of Salemi, Vittorio Sgarbi, said: “Sicily is excited about hosting Islam. Nothing is more important than finding common feelings and beliefs in the different religions that believe in a single God. This is one of the reasons that, just as our cities have Christian places of worship, I think it is important for a mosque to be built in Salemi for citizens of Arab culture and language. History imposes it upon us.”

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



Limerick, Ireland Hospital ‘Unsafe’ — Nurses

Nurses have said that the main regional hospital in the mid-west of Ireland is currently unsafe due to over-crowding across the entire facility.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) said that the Mid Western Regional Hospital in Limerick currently had 96 additional in-patients “above the normal capacity of approximately 350 in-patient beds”.

The union said the hospital was facing its worst-ever pressure and called on the HSE (Health Care Executive) to implement its major disaster plan for the region. It also urged General Practitioners in the locality to attend the hospital to provide any assistance possible.

It said the hospital was “stretched beyond manageable and safe parameters in terms of the volume of admitted patients requiring medical and nursing care, and available beds and nursing staff to administer safe care”.

In a statement the nurses’ union said that in the hospital this morning there were 34 patients on trolleys (gurneys) in the emergency department (three of whom were children), 12 admitted patients on beds in the medical assessment unit, 11 patients on beds in the surgical day ward, 25 on beds in ward 1B where closed beds had re-opened with skeleton staff and 14 patients on extra beds/trolleys around wards.

The union said staff at the hospital could not deliver safe care to such volumes of additional patients without extra personnel.

INMO industrial relations officer, Mary Fogarty said: “In February 2012 this hospital is under the worst pressure ever experienced and, despite the Minister’s assurances of improvements and “Special Delivery Unit” recommendations; the situation is deteriorating further.”

Ms Fogarty said additional nursing staff and acute in-patient beds must be prioritised to address the crisis and “to prevent a major unavoidable incident at the Mid West Regional Hospital”.

“It is incomprehensible that a hospital is allowed to reach such levels of over capacity, which undoubtedly lead to unsafe practices, low standards of care, mistakes and neglect of ill patients.”

The union called on the HSE to implement the major disaster plan and also called on GPs in the region to attend the hospital to provide any assistance they may be able to offer.

A spokesman for the HSE in Limerick said that the hospital was facing pressures. He said that it had appealed to members of the public not to attend the Mid Western Regional Hospital except in cases of genuine emergency.

           — Hat tip: McR [Return to headlines]



Lost Treasures: The Napalm of Byzantium

It was one of the most terrifying weapons ever made. But the secret ingredients and technology required to make the incendiary substance “Greek fire” has defeated scientific minds ever since the 12th century. Greek fire was a flaming mixture fired from the ships of the Byzantine empire from the 7th century. The fire would cling to flesh and was impossible to extinguish with water. This deadly concoction was created by a family of chemists and engineers from Constantinople, and the secret recipe died with them.

John Haldon from Princeton University has a hunch though: he suspects it was a petroleum-based liquid modified to increase its potency. He thinks the key ingredients were a highly flammable light crude oil called naphtha, and pine resin, which is sticky and would have made the mixture burn hotter and longer.

But there was more to the mystery of Greek fire than its ingredients alone. “When enemies captured elements of the equipment, they just weren’t able to work out how to use it to recreate the same effects,” explains Haldon. Historians have the same problem, but they’ve deduced that a bronze pump probably pressurised heated oil, which was then ejected through a nozzle and ignited. In 2002, a reconstruction was built for a National Geographic TV programme, using a mixture of light crude oil and pine resin. Their flame destroyed a ship in minutes.

Uncertainties remain because the secret was never written down, but the power of Greek fire is beyond doubt. “It was definitely an effective weapon of terror,” says Haldon.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Many Water Pipes Frozen in Holland

A record number of people in the Netherlands spent the weekend without water because of frozen or burst water pipes. Water Company Vitens said it received some 2,000 calls for help from people who had no running water.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Norway: Survivors Laugh at Self-Styled Hero Breivik

The Norway gunman who killed 77 people in twin attacks in July asked an Oslo court Monday to immediately free him and demanded the country’s highest military award, sparking derision from survivors.

Showing no sign of remorse, 32-year-old Anders Behring Breivik said the massacre was “a preventive attack against state traitors” who were guilty of “ethnic cleansing” due to their support for a multi-cultural society.

“I do not accept imprisonment. I demand to be immediately released,” the right-wing extremist told the court before it ordered that he be held in detention until his trial opens on April 16th.

Hollow laughter erupted in the rows where several dozen survivors and families of the victims were seated, when Behring Breivik twice demanded his immediate release.

Wearing a dark suit and pale blue tie, Behring Breivik entered the courtroom and touched his heart with his handcuffed fists, then lifted them straight out toward those seated in the courtroom, in what his lawyer Geir Lippestad described as a “right-wing extremist salute.”

“He wanted to show the far right that he is one of them,” Lippestad said.

With his blond hair parted on the side and a thin strip of beard along the jawline, Behring Breivik refused to plead guilty but admitted to committing the acts he said were necessary to “defend the ethnic Norwegian population.”

“We, the Norwegian resistance movement, will not just stand by and watch while we are made a minority in our own country,” he said, adding that he had acted “to defend his people, his culture, his religion.”

He also asked to be decorated with a bravery medal, saying: “I want the Norwegian army to recommend me for a War Cross with three swords.”

Behring Breivik, who has claimed to be on a crusade against multi-culturalism and the “Muslim invasion” of Europe, set off a car bomb outside government buildings in Oslo on July 22nd, killing eight people.

He then went to Utøya island, some 40 kilometres north-west of Oslo, and, dressed as a police officer, spent more than an hour methodically shooting and killing another 69 people, mainly teens, attending a summer camp hosted by the ruling Labour Party’s youth wing.

The massacre was the deadliest committed in Norway since World War II.

During Monday’s hearing, Behring Breivik turned around to face the media several times, a smile on his lips.

He reiterated his belief that the court was not a competent authority to try him, accusing judge Wenche Fliflet Gjelsten of being “appointed by those who support multi-culturalism.”

“The Labour Party traitors of the nation use asylum, family regroupments, asylum on humanitarian grounds and immigration quotas as tools for Islamic colonialisation,” Behring Breivik told the court.

“It’s good to see him like that, surrounded by police officers, just a dozen metres away from me,” said Magnus Haakonsen, a young Utøya survivor who fled the shooting spree by dashing into the water and swimming away.

“The first time I saw him on Utøya, he was also a dozen metres away but he was pointing a gun, at me. Now, in a way, the weapons are pointed at him, the weapons of justice,” he said.

According to the 18-year-old, who escaped two of Behring Breivik’s bullets, “a good way to disarm his arguments is to laugh at him.”

“He has a completely demented vision of things,” chimed in another survivor, Jørgen Bunk, who turns 18 soon.

“I understand that he wants to be released, seeing that he thinks he’s a hero. For us, it’s obviously completely crazy,” Bunk added.

A first psychiatric evaluation conducted last year found that Behring Breivik was criminally insane. A second opinion is expected by April 10th, and if it confirms the first diagnosis he will likely be sentenced to psychiatric care in a closed ward instead of prison.

It will ultimately be up to the Oslo district court to decide whether he is sane and to determine his sentence.

           — Hat tip: The Observer [Return to headlines]



Norway’s ‘Other’ Terrorists File Appeal

UPDATED: Mikael Davud, sentenced last week to seven years in prison in Norway for planning a terrorist attack, has decided to appeal his conviction. One of his two partners was also sentenced to prison in what were called “historic” court rulings, and he’s appealing, too.

Davud and Shawan Sadek Saeed Bujak, both of whom came to Norway as refugees, are the first to be convicted on charges of terrorist association in Norway. They were arrested in July 2010 and ultimately put on trial for planning terrorist attacks against the Danish newspaper Jyllandsposten and/or its artist Kurt Westergaard. The attacks allegedly were planned in response to the newspaper’s publication of Westergaard’s cartoons that many Muslims find offensive.

A third man now known as David Jakobsen was also charged in the case but acquitted of actually planning terrorist attacks. He was convicted, though, as an accomplice because he aided Davud in acquiring hydrogen peroxide that could be used to produce explosives.

Davud, formerly known as Muhammed Rashidin, is a Uighur from western China who came to Norway in 1999 and was granted Norwegian citizenship in 2007. Bujak is an Iraqi Kurd who also arrived in Norway in 1999 and later obtained permanent residence, while Jakobsen, formerly known as Abdulaif Alisjer, is originally from Uzbekistan and came to Norway as an asylum seeker in 2002.

Prosecutors in the case, which involved participation of terrorism investigators from the US, UK and other countries, had sought sentences of 11 years for Davud and five years for Bujak and Jakobsen. Their defense attorneys argued that all should be acquitted and Davud’s attorney, Carl Konow Reiber-Mohn, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) Monday morning that he’d be filing an appeal on behalf of Davud.

Another defense attorney, Arild Humlen, told NRK that Davud claims there’s no evidence he had any agreements, as alleged, with terrorist organization al-Qaida, nor did he have any pact with Bujak. Humlen also said the defendants don’t believe any terrorist acts were involved and that a seven-year jail term for Davud was too long.

“He believes the conviction is unfair, and is sorry he wasn’t believed, that his purchases (of potential explosives) were to be used against the Chinese Embassy in the fight for Uighur rights,” Humlen told NRK.

Bujak also decided to appeal, while Jakobsen has accepted his four-month term. All the defendants are receiving credit for time already spent in custody, which amounts to 606 days for Davud and Bujak and 132 days for Jakobsen.

           — Hat tip: The Observer [Return to headlines]



Norway: Handcuffed Breivik Back in Court

Mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik dressed for the occasion when he knew he’d be photographed and filmed just before his latest custody hearing began on Monday. Wearing a dark suit and tie, along with a pair of handcuffs, he posed willingly and then pulled out notes for some prepared remarks.

Confessed terrorist and mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik met the gaze of a large press corps on Monday, and state broadcaster NRK carried his brief court appearance live on national TV until the judge ordered cameras to be turned off. Breivik was seated between his defense attorneys Vibeke Hein Bæra (left) and Geir Lippestad. NRK’s text notes how the court allowed photos until legal proceedings began. PHOTO: NRK / Views and News

It was the last custody hearing to be held before Breivik’s trial begins on April 16, and the first time media were allowed to photograph the man who bombed Norway’s government headquarters and then gunned down 69 persons at a Labour Party summer camp on July 22. Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) was among those who carried live coverage from the Oslo City Court (Oslo Tingrett) despite strong protests from many survivors and victims’ families.

They don’t want Breivik to gain any publicity for what he’s called an effort to halt Norway’s emergence as a multi-cultural society. Breivik has never shown any regret for his murderous rampage, which left a total of 77 persons dead, and legal experts told NRK he appeared well-prepared for his 20 minutes in court.

He immediately raised his arms upon walking into the courtroom, showing his handcuffs in what some observers interpreted as a right-wing extremist greeting. Police escorts quickly steered him to his seat between defense attorneys Vibeka Hein Bæra and Geir Lippestad.

After the judge ordered cameras to be turned off, Breivik was given one minute to speak. NRK reported how he said he did not recognize the validity of the Norwegian legal system and thus demanded to be released. He once again admitted carrying out the actual events that led to his arrest, but claims he shouldn’t be punished, because he was simply acting on orders from the organization of which he claims to be a commander. His mission, he said, was to carry out attacks on “traitors” who are allowing an “Islamic colonization” of Norway, specifically, as he sees it, the Labour Party.

He was simply launching a “preventive attack” to “protect the native population” of Norway, he said. His remarks came as the country marked the annual observance of Samifolkets dag on February 6, honoring Norway’s indigenous Sami people. It wasn’t clear whether that was the “native population” Breivik had in mind.

Some legal experts speculated that Breivik’s remarks are part of a legal defense strategy to uphold a determination by court-appointed psychiatrists that Breivik is insane. If he was sane, they reasoned, he’d recognize Norway’s legal system, while his other remarks highlighted what Lippestad long has called Breivik’s altered state of reality. Breivik will be allowed as much as a week during his trial to explain how and why he carried out the bombing and massacre on the island of Utøya on July 22.

The only relevant portion of his prepared remarks at Monday’s custody hearing was the demand to be released, because custody hearings are only meant to address the terms of his incarceration. Lippestad said he supported his client’s request for release, “but that’s his (Lippestad’s) job,” legal analyst Gunhild Lærum told NRK.

Breivik will instead continue to be held for at least 10 more weeks. His custody hearing lasted less than half an hour.

           — Hat tip: The Observer [Return to headlines]



Not All Civilisations Equal, French Minister Says

French Interior Minister Claude Gueant, who also holds the immigration portfolio, caused political uproar by claiming that not all civilisations are equal, with some more advanced than others.

“Contrary to what the left’s relativist ideology says, for us all civilisations are not of equal value,” Gueant on Saturday told a conference in the French parliament building, but closed to the media.

“Those which defend humanity seem to us to be more advanced than those that do not,” he argued in his speech at a meeting organised by a right-wing students group.

“Those which defend liberty, equality and fraternity, seem to us superior to those which accept tyranny, the subservience of women, social and ethnic hatred,” he went on his speech, a copy of which was obtained by AFP.

He stressed the need to “protect our civilisation.”

The interior minister’s comments provoked a torrent of criticism from the opposition and on the Internet, less than three months a head of a French presidential election.

           — Hat tip: Kitman [Return to headlines]



OSCE Calls for Muslim Umbrella Organisation

Experts from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) have recommended the establishment of an umbrella organisation for all Swiss Muslims. In their report, seen by the Swiss News Agency on Tuesday, three OSCE experts who visited Switzerland in November warned that intolerance and discrimination against Muslims had increased since 2001, and were being exploited by “the extreme right and populist parties”.

“Groups like Bosnians and Albanians, who were previously defined by their ethnicity, are now identified by their religion,” they found. The report also cites discrimination against Muslims when they apply for citizenship or look for jobs.

It is not the first time that the issue of an umbrella organisation has been raised. Representatives of 30 Muslim communities discussed it back in 2010, but were unable to reach a conclusion. There are more than 300 Muslim associations in Switzerland, and several umbrella organisations, but none is regarded as being representative of Muslims as a whole.

There are thought to be about 400,000 Muslims in Switzerland, nearly 90 per cent of them of foreign origin. The largest single group is from the former Yugoslavia, followed by those from Turkey. Much smaller numbers come from Africa, both north and south of the Sahara, and from other places. About 10,000 are Swiss converts.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Signs of Ancient Ocean on Mars Spotted by European Spacecraft

A European spacecraft orbiting Mars has found more revealing evidence that an ocean may have covered parts of the Red Planet billions of years ago. The European Space Agency’s Mars Express spacecraft detected sediments on Mars’ northern plains that are reminiscent of an ocean floor, in a region that has also previously been identified as the site of ancient Martian shorelines, the researchers said.

“We interpret these as sedimentary deposits, maybe ice-rich,” study leader Jérémie Mouginot, of the Institut de Planétologie et d’Astrophysique de Grenoble (IPAG) in France and the University of California, Irvine, said in a statement. “It is a strong new indication that there was once an ocean here.” As part of its mission, Mars Express uses a radar instrument, called MARSIS, to probe beneath the Martian surface and search for liquid and solid water in the upper portions of the planet’s crust.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Sweden: School Rapped Over Bullying Victim’s Suicide

A 15-year-old girl from southern Sweden took her own life after several years of bullying during which her school’s idea of combatting the problem had been to make her go tell the other students that their taunts upset her. The girl had been experiencing problems in school since the age of thirteen and frequently had abuse hurled at her by a gang of boys.

According to the family, the girl, who had a reputation as a “good student” was transferred together with a friend into a class with an unruly boy gang. The girl was seated next to the boys, who started to call her names, write taunts about her on the board and send her dirty pictures over the internet.

The problems then escalated when she was 14, when profanities were graffittied onto the girl’s locker, cans were thrown at her and she had to listen to abuse every day. The parents felt that the teachers had lost control of the social climate of the whole form.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Sweden: Girl to Friend: ‘I Think I’Ve Got a Knife in My Throat’

Police continue to hunt for the man suspected in the stabbing a 10-year-old girl outside of her school in Gothenburg on Monday. As the girl recovers in hospital, local residents remain on edge following the attack. “I saw blood when I came up to her. She said, ‘I think I’ve got a knife in my throat’,” a 9-year-old friend of the victim told the Metro newspaper.

The friend at first thought the 10-year-old had a bloody nose, but soon realized her friend lying on the ground had a knife protruding from her neck. She then saw a strange man running from the scene. “He was wearing white trousers and a black leather jacket and had something in his mouth,” the girl told Metro.

The day after the attack, more officers are out on patrol in the neighbourhood near the Bergsgård school where the stabbing took place. “We’ve boosted our presence in the area,” police spokesperson Elf Edberg told the TT news agency on Tuesday morning. “If for no other reason than to increase the sense of security.” Edberg refused to say, however, exactly how many additional officers were on patrol in the Hjällbo district.

The stabbing, which took place Monday morning, left the school in shock. “Obviously it’s worrisome. What’s happened is just tragic,” parent Jama Abdi Qafaar told the local Göteborgs-Posten (GP) newspaper. He placed some of the blame on the inadequate security at the school. “They should have wardens out during recess. It’s too easy to get in here,” he told the paper.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Sweden: Malmö Mayor in Non-Violence Plea to Residents

Politicians in Malmö are planning to write open letters to the community in a plea to help curb crime, a tactic which has already proven successful with local police. “To those who have heard or seen anything in these different crimes, be sure you come forward as soon as possible to police and others,” the letter will say, the Social Democrat mayor of Malmö, Ilmar Reepalu, told Sveriges Radio (SR).

Reepalu wants to follow in the footsteps of the local police, whose letters to residents have sparked a strong reaction from the public in the last month, resulting in more tips and showing that residents are eager to help quash crime and solve the city’s escalating problems with violence

The police have received numerous tips, including help from people who are members of criminal gangs. “We have seen a strong change in society. People want to help and contribute with as much information as possible,” said Mikael Mattsson of the Malmö police to the TT news agency.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Swedish PM Wants People to Work Until Age 75

Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt wants people to consider working until age 75 and employers to be open to hiring those over 55, he said in an interview Tuesday.

The conservative, who heads a centre-right coalition, said Sweden’s generous welfare state and pension system would not be sustainable with an ageing population unless people worked longer.

In an interview with the Dagens Nyheter daily which sparked a strong reaction from labour unions, he said attitudes needed to change and employers needed to start viewing those over 50 differently.

“To hire someone who is 55 who says ‘yes, I plan to work until I’m 75’ — that’s 20 years, that’s a very long and interesting employment relationship compared to a person who at that age plans to start winding down in five or six years,” the prime minister said.

Sweden has a flexible retirement age, where workers can begin drawing on their pension at 61 or keep working until 67. Of Swedes over 65 years old, 7.8 percent were employed in 2010, says Statistics Sweden.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Switzerland: Turkish Minister Probed Over Armenia Remarks

Swiss prosecutors have launched a probe into alleged remarks by Turkey’s EU affairs minister denying the Armenian genocide, a crime under Swiss anti-racism laws, ATS news agency said on Monday.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



UK: Abu Qatada Back on the Streets Within Days

Abu Qatada, the radical Islamic preacher once described as Osama bin Laden’s “right hand man in Europe”, will be back on the streets within days after being granted bail.

A senior immigration judge said yesterday that Qatada could be released despite even his own defence team suggesting that he posed a “grave risk” to Britain’s national security.

Qatada was granted bail by Mr Justice Mitting after the European Court of Human Rights ruled last month that he could not be deported to his native Jordan. The bail conditions will be similar to those set in 2008, with the cleric confined to his home for all but two one-hour periods each day. He will also be allowed to take one of his five children to school. Restrictions on his movement, however, could be lifted if the Home Secretary fails to show within three months that progress is being made in negotiations with Jordan regarding his extradition. Mr Justice Mitting, the president of the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (Siac), said yesterday: “If by the end of that, the Secretary of State is not able to put before me evidence of demonstrable progress in negotiating sufficient assurances with the government of Jordan … it’s very likely that I would consider that a continued deprivation of liberty is no longer justified.”

The release of Qatada will intensify concerns that European courts are eroding the sovereignty of Britain’s justice system. David Cameron said after last month’s ruling that decisions by European courts were “distorting” and “discrediting” the concept of human rights. The decision to release Qatada, a 51-year-old father of five, means he can return home and will be able to claim up to £1,000 a month in state benefits. The taxpayer will also have to foot up to £500,000 a year for his security surveillance. Critics attacked the decision as a “disgrace”, while the Home Office warned that Qatada remained “a dangerous man” who posed a “real threat to our security”. Charlie Elphicke, a Tory MP, said: “This is a man who is seeking to undermine our country at every turn. It is clear that Qatada should not be in this country another day.” Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, said no bail decision should “interfere with keeping our country safe”. She said Mrs May’s “foremost responsibility is the protection of the public and national security”, adding: “Abu Qatada should face terror charges in Jordan, and the Home Secretary needs to urgently accelerate discussions with the Jordanian government to make that possible.”

Qatada is being held in the high security Long Lartin prison in Worcestershire. He was described by a Spanish judge as “Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man in Europe” and Siac previously described him as a “truly dangerous individual”. He was granted bail following a decision by the ECHR that he could not be deported to Jordan without assurances that evidence gained through torture would not be used against him. His defence argued there was therefore no realistic prospect of deportation and claimed his detention was unlawful. The Home Office argued that he should be detained while officials sought further assurances from Jordan. Mr Justice Mitting concluded that his detention had been justified but the chances of his removal were “slimmer than they were” before the human rights ruling. He said the risks to national security and of absconding had not significantly changed from May 2008, when he last granted bail. Qatada was recalled within six months of his release for breaching the terms of his licence.

Edward Fitzgerald QC, representing Qatada, had told the immigration judge in central London that Qatada should be released regardless of the risk he posed to national security. “However grave the risk of absconding, however grave the risk of further offending, there comes a point when it’s just too long,” he said. Qatada is believed to have spent longer in custody “than any other detainee in modern immigration history”, according to his legal team. He arrived in Britain on a forged passport in 1993. In 1999 in Jordan, he was sentenced to life imprisonment in his absence for conspiracy to carry out bomb attacks. He was first detained in Britain in 2002, when an immigration court described him as a “truly dangerous individual”.

Tim Eicke QC, for the Home Secretary, said Qatada “should remain detained”. He was “someone who poses an unusually significant risk to the UK” and “the mere passage of time certainly hasn’t rendered it [his continued detention] unlawful”, Mr Eicke said. He added that there was “no indication here from the appellant that he has changed his views or his attitude to the UK and the threat he poses to it”. Qatada had also shown a “willingness to ignore the rules”, he said, even while behind bars as a category A prisoner. Mr Justice Mitting admitted himself that in 2008 Qatada “expressed very forcefully his views direct to me” and he “has shown no inclination of any change in attitude”. A Home Office spokesman said it had argued for the “strictest possible bail conditions” to be imposed. “This is a dangerous man who we believe poses a real threat to our security,” he said.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: Five Lessons From Prevent — Following Today’s Home Affairs Select Committee Report

by Paul Goodman

I haven’t yet had the opportunity to read today’s Home Affairs Select Committee report in to Prevent in full, but the Home Office presumably has: it says that the committee “broadly support[s] the outcome of the Prevent review and the revised strategy”. The Committee’s alertness to the dangers of neo-nazi terrorism — which the BBC has swooped on — and the need to remove violent extremist material from the net seem sensible. I look forward to reading the whole report. Its publication is as good a moment as any to ask what lessons can be learned from the history of Prevent — and recent events in relation to violent extremism and extremism more broadly. I draw five conclusions.

  • Government knows more about Britain’s Muslim communities than it did before 9/11. Britain’s three million or so Muslims are extremely diverse in terms of their theological, national and ethnic background. It follows that no single organisation speaks for them. Whitehall has always hankered after a single phone number for British Muslims (the parallel is with Kissinger’s alleged desire for a single phone number for Europe) and before 9/11 it looked to the Muslim Council of Britain to provide it. The events of that day and what followed gradually brought about change. During Labour’s first term, Tony Blair said that the MCB was “doing a lot of impressive work making the voice of the Muslim community heard”. During Labour’s third one, Hazel Blears ended dealings with it during the Daud Abdullah controversy. The present Government has no official relations with the MCB. Whatever one’s view of the organisation, polling has found that only 6 per cent of British Muslims believe that the MCB represents them. Whitehall didn’t know this until fairly recently, but has grasped the point thoroughly now. In short, government may not know all that much about British Muslims, but it knows a lot more than it did.
  • The Coalition has learned lessons from Labour’s Prevent failures. Blair’s reaction to 7/7 was first to commission the Preventing Extremism Together together project, then abandon it in favour of a twelve-point plan which was never fully implemented (and of which his Home Secretary, Charles Clarke, may not have been aware before its publication), and then introduce a revised Contest policy, including the overhauled Prevent. Labour spent £70 million on it over three years. Goodness knows what the bill for the whole programme has totalled. I doubt if there has ever been a full audit, but some of the money was unaccounted for (as both I and the Taxpayers Alliance pointed out) and parts of it spent on activities distant from counter-terrorism: the Coalition pointed out in its revised Prevent Strategy that 19% in one year went on arts and cultural activities (“local theatre production”) and 13% on sports and recreation (“boxing clubs, football clubs”). In other words, much of Labour’s Prevent programme securitised integration and cohesion policy — a tangling which this Government has begun laboriously to unknot.
  • Big majorities of British Muslims reject Al Qaeda. The most authoritative polling to date reported that only 7 per cent of British Muslims admired the organisation (and the author of the report concerned, Munira Mirza, found that “it is is difficult to know how to interpret such statistics”). And the last big terrorist attack in Britain took place the best part of five years ago. It is reasonable to conclude from what’s happened since that there is less support for terrorism “on the ground” than there seemed to be in the aftermath of 7/7. That conclusion comes with a warning. It is impossible to know how many plots the security services have thwarted. There were convictions in relation to one last week. There has been at least one narrow escape. But given the drama of the last decade — Afghanistan, the promotion of Wahhabiism in Britain from abroad, Iraq, the self-serving clashes between the English Defence League and Unite against Fascism, Israel’s incursions into Lebanon and Gaza, the antics of Anjem Choudary, and so on — it is worth reflecting on how little Islamsist terror there has been in Britain, not how much. Like everyone else, most British Muslims have political views. And like everyone else again, these are less important to them than home, work, family and getting on with their lives.
  • The Arab revolts against dictatorship present fresh challenges. I don’t like “Arab spring”, which suggests that all will inevitably turn out well in the middle east, or “Arab winter”, which does the opposite. What we know is that the Muslim Brotherhood is now the main governing force in Tunisia, is set to play the same role in Egypt, and is leading the government in Morocco. The brotherhood is playing a significant part in the opposition to Assad in Syria and is evidently a rising political force in the region. The agony of Syria is a reminder that the revolts and the strife between two extremisms — one Shiite, emanating from Iran, the other Sunni, emanating from Saudi Arabia — are impacting on each other. Labour was clearly not ready for the knock-on effects of Israel’s 2009 incursion into Gaza on community relations in Britain. It is worth asking whether this Government in general — and DCLG in particular — is prepared for the possible consequences of, say, a sudden Israeli attack on Iran (anti-semitic incidents would surely rise), a “lone wolf” neo-nazi strike on a mosque or an Al Qaeda-inspired terror bomb with mass casualties (Muslims would rightly be fearful of the consequences): the Government’s draft integration policy suggests not.
  • Britain is set to begin a new relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood. Parallels beween western democracies and the middle east are misleading, but one way of describing the turn-around in the region is that a year ago the brotherhood was in opposition and today it is in government (or on the way there). Some of those who until very recently were languishing in exile — or prison — now sit behind Ministerial desks. In time, they will surely urge the British Government to be less suspicious of — and perhaps even enter into partnership with — their friends and allies in the UK. This would put Conservative Ministers in a difficult bind. On the one hand, they will not want to help build up the position of Islamism in Britain; on the other, they will not wish to offend countries with which we trade and do business. The decisive factor will be how Muslim Brotherhood-led governments actually govern — and in particular, what happens to religious freedoms and the position of women. If the countries concerned turn into Sunni Irans, British Christians will become more outspoken about the plight of their co-religionists abroad: as I’ve noted before, the volume has gradually been rising for some time. If, however, the Brotherhood lives up to its progressive and pluralist rhetoric, doors that are shut to it in Britain may open.

We shall see. The only Tory position to take is to learn from the past and prepare for the worst, hopeful that matters may turn out better than expected. But until or unless they do, prepare in particular for the churches to become more vocal about the treatment of Christians abroad. Above all, the most crucial area will probably turn out to be not the middle east but Afghanistan and Pakistan — given the size of our Pakistani and Kashmir-origin communities. Were Pakistan to collapse, or war to break out between it and India, the consequences here would be serious. Whatever the merits of the Home Affairs Select Committee’s report may be, it is time for its counterpart, the DCLG Select Committee, to try to establish the facts about the scale of anti-Muslim hatred and violence in Britain.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: Fanatic Qatada Out of Jail in Days

JAILED hate preacher Abu Qatada will be back on British streets within days. A judge yesterday granted the Islamic fundamentalist bail despite claims that he is a “serious risk” to UK national security. Qatada, 51, who was once dubbed Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man in Europe, will walk free from prison next week. Lawyers for Home Secretary Theresa May failed to keep locked up the extremist reckoned to be Britain’s most dangerous man. A Home Office spokesman said after the ruling by the Special Immigration Appeals Commission: “Qatada should remain in detention — our view has not changed. “That is the argument we made to the court today and we disagree with its decision. This is a dangerous man who we believe poses a real threat to our security and who has not changed in his views or attitude to the UK.”

The fanatic — behind bars for six years — applied to be freed after European human rights judges ruled he could not be deported to Jordan because he would not get a fair trial. They said he could not be sent back to his homeland, where he is wanted on bomb plot charges, without guarantees that evidence gained by torture would not be used against him.

Ministers wanted him to remain behind bars at Long Lartin maximum security jail, Worcs, while they fought the decision. The judge at yesterday’s hearing in London, Mr Justice Mitting, said Qatada, who has cost taxpayers £1million in benefits, legal fees and jail costs, should be “bailed on highly prescriptive terms for three months”.

Earlier Ed Fitzgerald QC, for Qatada, said: “The detention has now gone on for too long to be reasonable or lawful and there is no prospect of the detention ending in any reasonable period. “However grave the risk of absconding, however grave the risk of further offending, there comes a point when it’s just too long.” Qatada’s legal team claimed that he had spent longer in custody “than any other detainee in modern immigration history”. But Tim Eicke QC, for Mrs May, said: “The Secretary of State has taken all steps to diligently try to achieve removal and deportation as soon as possible.” Qatada’s bail conditions will be similar to those set in 2008, with him allowed out of his London home for two one-hour periods per day. He will be allowed to take one of his five children to school. Qatada was granted asylum in 1994 despite arriving on a forged passport.He has called on British Muslims to be martyrs in a holy war. Qatada featured in hate sermons found on videos in the flat of one of the September 11 bombers and a Spanish judge branded him “Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man in Europe”.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: George Monbiot’s Worst-Ever Guardian Column — and That’s Saying Something!

George Monbiot has outdone himself in the Guardian today. Citing the recent Canadian study that purports to show a link between conservative views and low intelligence (reported in the Mail last week), he claims that the current government was elected by “misinformed, suggestible voters”. “It feels crude, illiberal to point out that the other side is, on average, more stupid than our own,” he writes. “But this, the study suggests, is not unfounded generalisation but empirical fact.” Moonbat is far from the only Lefty to seize on this study (Charlie Brooker devoted his Guardian column to it yesterday). Indeed, this must be the first time the Twitterati have linked en masse to a Daily Mail article since they erupted in a fit of moral outrage about Jan Moir’s obituary of Stephen Gately.

The first thing to be said about this supposedly definitive piece of research — Moonbat calls it “embarrassingly robust” — is that the authors, Gordon Hodson and Michael A Busseri, rely to a great extent on a measure of intelligence that has been discredited. The bulk of their data is drawn from two British longitudinal studies, the 1958 National Child Development Study and the 1970 British Cohort Study. The “cognitive abilities” of both groups was assessed using “standardised measures”, i.e. IQ tests, with the first group being tested aged 11 and the second group aged 10. Now, as numerous Left-wing critics of grammar schools have pointed out, trying to measure a person’s “cognitive ability” at such a tender age is fraught with difficulty. According to a recent paper in Nature, IQ fluctuates dramatically during adolescence, with some people’s scores improving and others’ deteriorating, and only becomes relatively static once the brain has stopped growing. It follows that a person with a below-average IQ score at the age of 10 or 11 will not necessarily have a below-average score in adulthood. (My solution to this problem, as a defender of grammar schools, is to test children again at the age of 14, allowing for a degree of movement in and out of the schools at that point.)

Hodson and Busseri make much of the fact that when the participants in the two studies were asked their views about a range of issues in their 30s, those who’d scored at the lower end of the ability spectrum 20 years earlier were more likely to have “ideological orientations rooted in resistance to change and a desire to maintain existing social stratifications”. However, given that the participants weren’t re-tested in their 30s, we simply don’t know whether the group exhibiting these characteristics were at the lower end of the ability spectrum or not. Not “empirical fact”, then, but a piece of research that’s largely worthless because of its reliance on flawed data. Even if we ignore this problem, the “evidence” that Hodson and Busseri have assembled is hardly conclusive proof that Right-wing views are inferior to Left-wing ones, as Moonbat seems to think. Apparently, he’s unfamiliar with the fallacy of ad hominem, defined as “an attempt to negate the truth of a claim by pointing out a negative characteristic or belief of the person supporting it”. If he’d studied elementary logic he’d know that you cannot judge a particular set of beliefs by examining the characteristics of those who hold them. Doesn’t matter what those characteristics are, they’re all equally irrelevant. From a logical point of view, Moonbat’s argument is analogous to claiming that Right-wing beliefs are inferior to Left-wing ones because Right-wingers are more likely to have red hair. (Moonbat has form when it comes to ad hominem, as James Delingpole has pointed out.)

To see how idiotic George Monbiot’s argument is, let’s assume for a moment that there is a connection between a person’s intelligence and the worth of his or her political beliefs. Indeed, let’s take the example of Moonbat himself. The rebellious public school boy was a year above me at Brasenose College and took a second in Zoology in 1985. (This is described as an “upper second” in a 1995 profile of him in the Independent, but the journalist must have got the wrong end of the stick — God knows how — because Oxford didn’t distinguish between upper and lower seconds until 1986.) Now, David Cameron graduated from the same Oxford college three years later and not only did he get a better degree than Moonbat — a first — but it was in a subject generally considered a lot more difficult than Zoology — Philosophy, Politics and Economics. According to Moonbat’s own twisted logic, therefore, David Cameron’s pragmatic conservatism must be superior to Moonbat’s anti-capitalist, tree-hugging, eco-toff, bat-sh*t crazy, loony tunes Left-wing-ery. Which, of course, it is, but for reasons completely unrelated to the yawning chasm that separates their respective IQs. I’m no fan of Moonbat’s (can you tell?), but even he can do better than this. Generalising about a group of people on the basis of their average IQ score is reckless at the best of times, particularly when the data you’re relying on is questionable. But when it is done to advance a particular political cause, it becomes downright pernicious.

Stop Press: Gordon Hodson and Michael A Busseri’s study has been described as “a contender for the worst use of statistics in an original paper ever” by Dr William M Briggs, Professor of Statistical science at Cornell (hat tip: Libertarian View). You can read Professor Briggs’s analysis here.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: Journalist: Some British Papers Spread Anti-Muslim Propaganda

He also noted that statistics about immigrants in the country were being changed to present a negative picture of them.

A former Daily Star journalist has repeated accusations that a number of British daily newspapers put pressure on journalists to fabricate anti-Muslim stories. Richard Peppiatt, who worked as a full-time freelance journalist at the Daily Star for two years, claimed that editors forced journalists to fabricate news that suggested Muslims and immigrants were threatening national security. He said the fabricated stories were mainly related to Muslims, depicting them as a threat to British society. The defamatory stories became more widespread after the bombings in London on June 7, 2005 — often referred to as 7/7 — and the Sept. 11, 2001 attack on the United States. “Especially since 7/7 and, to a degree, since 9/11, Muslims have certainly been painted as the ‘cartoon baddy.’ Definitely in the tabloids. Someone always has to be blamed, you can’t just leave it up in the air when something happens; somebody always needs to take the blame. Sadly it’s the Muslims that have been chosen to be portrayed as the ‘baddies’,” he told Cihan in a phone interview.

Peppiatt noted that it was not possible for Muslims to take action against the publication of derogatory articles because it is only possible for an individual who has been mentioned by name to make a complaint to the Press Complaints Commission (PCC), the regulatory body for UK magazines and newspapers. However, if a group or a religion is targeted it is difficult to file a complaint.

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: MPs Urge Action on Online Radicalisation

A parliamentary committee has warned that the internet is a “fertile breeding ground for terrorism”, posing more danger than extremism on campus. MPs have found that online activity is influential in almost all instances of violent radicalisation, yet it is not sufficiently monitored for counter-terrorism purposes. The nine-month investigation by the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee concluded that the web was “now one of the few unregulated spaces where radicalisation is able to take place”, representing a greater risk than prisons, universities or places of worship. “There is seldom concrete evidence to confirm that [universities or prisons] are where they were radicalised”, the report said. One member of the committee, Cardiff MP Alun Michael, said that during the investigation “one Muslim said to me that ‘you should worry more about Sheikh Google than about what’s happening at the mosques’.

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: Qatada Has to Go

The Government must reassert its rights and eject Abu Qatada whatever the European Court thinks.

The 10-year saga of Abu Qatada’s battle to avoid deportation to Jordan as a threat to national security epitomises the waning power of the British state to decide who can and cannot remain in this country. At every turn, efforts to remove him have been thwarted by human rights considerations. Now, he is to be released from prison on bail in order to continue his legal action to be allowed to stay. We are no longer able to protect our own citizens by ejecting wrong-doers from the country. Lady Justice Hallett, hearing a rape charge against a known Lithuanian sex offender this month, asked: “Do we just let anyone in, even if they have such a serious conviction?” More to the point, why are we not able to kick them out when it is apparent that they pose a risk? The highest court in the land ruled three years ago that guarantees offered by Jordan that it would not torture Abu Qatada removed the barrier under Article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights preventing his deportation. But this was overridden by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, which moved the judicial goalposts by ruling that he should not be deported to stand trial in Jordan since evidence against him might have been obtained by torture. In doing this, the Strasbourg court added to the substantial hurdles that already hindered the UK’s ability to deport serious criminals and suspected terrorists, a further example of unacceptable expansionism by this supra-national body. Qatada, who was imprisoned for breaching the terms of a control order, is now to be released because it is unjust to keep him in custody when there is no realistic prospect of removing him. This Catch-22 is making a mockery of the British justice system. The Government must reassert its rights in this area and eject Qatada whatever the European Court thinks.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



Up to 10,000 African Girls in Spain ‘Risk Genital Mutilation’

THOUSANDS of young girls in Spain could be at risk of undergoing female circumcision without an anaesthetic when they reach puberty, disturbing figures show. Around five million girls worldwide, aged between toddlerhood and around 18 years old suffer this potentially deadly mutilation every year. But around 10,000 in Spain are also at risk, having been born into families from one of the 27 countries around the globe — most of which are in sub-Saharan Africa and particularly include Sénégal, Mali and Nigeria — where this barbaric practice is not against the law.

It consists of removing all outer parts of the girl’s genitals and stitching them up, and is rarely carried out using any form of sedation. Often, it takes place in the desert with sharp instruments such as a broken shard of glass or a stone. Since age commands respect in many African countries, parents often find themselves overriden by grandparents or elderly women inn their villages if they try to refuse to put their daughters through the process.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians


EU to Keep Paying New Hamas-Linked Government

BRUSSELS — The EU has said it will keep on giving money to the Palestinian authorities despite their new deal with Hamas, an EU-designated terrorist group.

Foreign relations spokesman Michael Mann said on Monday (6 February) that it’s business as usual after the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) and Hamas in Qatar earlier the same day agreed to form a unity government. “The EU looks forward to continuing its support, including through direct financial assistance, for a new Palestinian government that should uphold the principle of non-violence,” he noted in a written statement.

An EU diplomat based in Israel told EUobserver: “We need to see what this new government will look like — it’s very early. We need to know who will be the ministers and what they will say. We expect a technocratic government that will prepare for elections.” The EU currently gives the Palestinian side some €450 million a year in aid meant to help refugees and support state-building measures, such as creating a decent civilian police force in the West Bank. It has already signed up for €150-million-worth of new projects for 2012.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Middle East


Ayatollah: Kill All Jews: Annihilate Iran Lays Out Legal Case for Genocidal Attack Against ‘Cancerous Tumor’

The Iranian government, through a website proxy, has laid out the legal and religious justification for the destruction of Israel and the slaughter of its people.

The doctrine includes wiping out Israeli assets and Jewish people worldwide.

Calling Israel a danger to Islam, the conservative website Alef, with ties to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said the opportunity must not be lost to remove “this corrupting material. It is a “‘jurisprudential justification” to kill all the Jews and annihilate Israel, and in that, the Islamic government of Iran must take the helm.”

The article, written by Alireza Forghani, an analyst and a strategy specialist in Khamenei’s camp, now is being run on most state-owned sites, including the Revolutionary Guards’ Fars News Agency, showing that the regime endorses this doctrine…

           — Hat tip: TV [Return to headlines]



Caroline Glick: Obama’s Rhetorical Storm

The Obama administration is absolutely furious at Russia and China. The two UN Security Council permanent members’ move on Saturday to veto a resolution on Syria utterly infuriated US President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and UN Ambassador Susan Rice. And they want us all to know just how piping mad they really are.

Rice called the vetoes “unforgivable,” and said that “any further blood that flows will be on their hands.” She said the US was “disgusted.”

Clinton called the move by Moscow and Beijing a “travesty.” She then said that the US will take action outside the UN, “with those allies and partners who support the Syrian people’s right to have a better future.”…

           — Hat tip: Caroline Glick [Return to headlines]



Emirates: Construction Abu Dhabi Mega Airport Approved

(ANSAmed) — DUBAI — The Midfield Terminal Complex (MTC) for the Abu Dhabi international airport has been approved by the Emirate’s authorities, with the area now set to become one of the Middle East’s most futuristic architectural structures, both in terms of design and eco-sustainability. The Midfield, so-called because it will be built in between two runways, is the focal point of the multi-million dollar restructuring of the airport, which in turn is part of the economic diversification scheme (Strategic Plan 2030) drafted by Abu Dhabi to overcome the Emirate’s dependence on oil.

Once complete, in 2017, the airport will be able to cope with a transit of 30-40 million passengers per year, says the ADAC, the company that manages the airports in the Emirate.

The figure is currently 12 million, which is estimated to be a considerable increase, given the trend of recent years. There has been a record increase of 19.7% over the last five years, as a result of the rapid growth of the Emirati flagship airline Etihad Airways and of Abu Dhabi as a tourist and business destination. The terminal’s main hall is the size of three football pitches, up to 52 metres in height and visible from over 1.5 kilometres away, and has been conceived with attention to eco-sustainability.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



‘Iran Can Destroy Israel in 9 Minutes’

Iranian blogger urges Tehran to exploit West’s inaction to ‘wipe out Israel’ by 2014; lays out strategy

An Iranian blogger on Saturday urged Tehran not to delay an attack on Israel, claiming that the Islamic Republic could destroy the Jewish state in “less than nine minutes.”

Alireza Forghani, a computer engineer, wrote in his essay that Tehran should exploit the West’s dawdling over a strike on Iran to “wipe out Israel” by 2014 — that is, before President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s term runs out. The post was widely covered in the Iranian media on Saturday.

Forghani lays out the religious justifications for the attack and presents strategies for an offensive that would target key Israeli sites using land-to-land missiles.

The first step in the strategy, Forghani suggested, should be to launch ballistic Sijil missiles on Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa, as well as power stations and other energy sources, sewage facilities, airports, nuclear plants, media hubs and transportation infrastructure. In the second step, Shahab 3 and Ghader missiles should target the rest of the country’s population centers. Total annihilation, he asserts, could be achieved within nine minutes.

‘Killing civilians justified’

Forghani posited that targeting civilians could be justified with revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s ruling that Muslims must wage a Jihad against an enemy who attacks an Islamic nation.

“So since Israel has attacked Palestine and occupied this part of the Islamic Entity, defending the oppressed Palestinian Muslims is compulsory,” Forghani wrote.

The blogger appears to quote Ynet security analyst Ron Ben-Yishai as saying that there is no spot in Israel that is not vulnerable to an Iranian missile attack, although Yishai referred in his column to the capabilities of Syria, Hamas and Hezbollah, not the Islamic Republic.

Forghani, who describes himself as an enthusiastic supporter of the Iranian government and a former member of the Revolutionary Guard’s Basij militia, stressed that the opinions presented in his post are his own and do not represent the regime’s position.

Dr. Raz Zimt, a research fellow at the Institute for Iranian Studies at Tel Aviv University, claimed that the stir that the post caused in the Iranian media might indicate the dawn of public discourse about a preemptive strike on Israel. The article might also signify the effect that the global discussion about a possible military operation in Iran has on the Islamic Republic.

           — Hat tip: TV [Return to headlines]



Iran: Muslim Poets Meet Islamic Revolution Leader

Poets and participants of a major international gathering on the current Islamic Awakening (wrapped up in Tehran Monday) met with the Islamic Revolution Leader Ayatollah Sayyed Ali Khamenei Monday night in a week dedicated to unity between Muslims worldwide. The meeting commenced with several poets from Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, Lebanon, Sudan, Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the Islamic Republic of Iran reading out their latest works on the theme of an Islamic Awakening movement that has been inspiring the Muslim nations in their struggle against Zionism and Imperialism. Other poems were about the Holy occupied al-Quds city, the Palestinian issue, the 33rd anniversary of the Islamic Revolution of Iran (1979), and the auspicious birth anniversary of the Noblest Messenger of Allah Hadhrat Muhammad, whose birth time provided the theme for calling the week as week of unity among Muslims.

[…]

[JP note: Political agitprop not poetry.]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Russia


Kremlin’s Tough Top Diplomat: Russian Foreign Minister is Nobody’s Fool

Sergey Lavrov has reaped massive criticism for Moscow’s veto of the UN Security Council resolution on Syria, but the Russian foreign minister remains unmoved. The top diplomat, who met with Syrian President Bashar Assad in Damascus on Tuesday, has a track record of standing up to the West.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Shaken by Rallies, Putin Says Russian Civil Society Maturing

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, facing an outburst of protest against his rule, called Monday for an update of Russia’s political system in response to what he said was a maturing civil society. “We need to create a political system where people can and must speak the truth,” Putin said in a wordy article which also quoted Soviet dissident writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn.

“Our civil society has become incomparably more mature, active and responsible. We need to update the mechanism of our democracy. They must fit in growing public activity,” Putin said in the article published on his campaign website and in the business broadsheet Kommersant. Putin said the middle classes had become more “demanding” of politicians. “The new demands towards the authorities, the middle classes’ emergence from their narrow world of building their own prosperity is the result of our efforts. We worked on this,” he wrote.

In a rare acknowledgement of the role of the Internet, which has galvanised the opposition movement, Putin called for the parliament to be obliged to discuss any public petition that manages to gather 100,000 signatures on the Internet.

Putin is battling the worst legitimacy crisis of his 12-year rule. Tens of thousands took to the streets since disputed December parliamentary elections in a wave of protests unseen since the early 1990s. Opposition activists said more than 120,000 people braved frosty weather to attend an opposition rally on Saturday, the budding protest movement’s third since December.

In the piece — his fourth campaign article — Putin stressed that direct elections of regional governors would be reintroduced, a system he eliminated under his presidency in 2004. But at the same time he said Russia must avoid “the temptation to simplify politics, to create a fictitious democracy” and insisted the country needed a “strong, effective and respected federal centre.”

Putin has written four articles since January on subjects including Russia’s economy and illegal immigration, although he has refused to take part in debates with the other presidential candidates.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

South Asia


Facebook and Google Remove ‘Offensive’ India Content

Facebook and Google say they have complied with an Indian court directive and removed “objectionable” material.

They are among 21 web firms, including Yahoo and Orkut, facing a civil suit in Delhi accusing them of hosting material that may cause communal unrest.

A criminal case of similar allegations is due to be heard next month.

Judges have threatened to block sites that fail to crack down on offensive content, but many firms say it is impossible to pre-filter material.

Late last year, Communications Minister Kapil Sibal met officials from Google, Facebook and other websites and said the government would introduce guidelines to ensure “blasphemous material” did not appear on internet.

The Delhi High Court last month asked Facebook and Google India to “develop a mechanism to keep a check and remove offensive and objectionable material from their web pages” or “like China, we will block all such websites”.

The civil case being heard in Delhi on Monday was filed by Muslim petitioner Mufti Aizaz Arshad Kazmi, who alleged the companies were hosting material intolerant to religious sentiment.

Google and Facebook told the court they had complied with an earlier order by a Delhi district court judge to take down certain material.

           — Hat tip: Kitman [Return to headlines]



India: Uttar Pradesh Polls: Parties Go All Out to Woo Muslim Voters

Azamgarh: With less than 24 hours to go before Uttar Pradesh votes in the first phase, all eyes are on the state’s large 18 per cent Muslim vote. How crucial will it be this time around? Young Muslims of Uttar Pradesh are debating quota for the Muslims announced by the Congress and the Samajwadi Party. A Muslim voter in Uttar Pradesh Madiur Rehman believes that caste is a reality in India and benefits extended to Hindu backward should be extended to Muslim backwards as well. From quota within quota to sops for the Muslim weavers political parties are going all out to woo this crucial 18 per cent constituency of Muslim voters, but their announcements are seen with skepticism. The experts say that issues among Muslims are similar to that of others hence the political class may get it wrong by thinking of them as an en-masse voting block. Political scientist Zoya Hasan said, “It’s a myth to say that Muslims vote en-block. Muslim vote has gone to the SP, the BSP and the Congress, if they were to vote en-block the way dalits have been voting for the BSP then one of the three parties could have won the elections quite easily, that’s not the case.” When Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi came campaigning to Azamgarh last month the students of Shibli National College showed him the black flag. The demand for a judicial probe into the Batla House encounter of 2008 has been a long pending one and Muslims of Uttar Pradesh want the terror tag to be removed and are doubtful of the intentions of the Congress party. Fair justice is just one of the many demands of Uttar Pradesh Muslims. What’s at the top of their minds is education and job.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



Indonesia: West Borneo: Festivities for Year of Dragon Amid Islamic Threats

Up to a million people took to the streets of Singkawan, to attend celebrations for the Cap Go Meh. In recent days, extremist leaders have shouted slogans against the party, branded as “anti-Islamic”. Authorities and police have monitored security, no major accident or collision.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) — The Indonesian community of Chinese origin, local and foreign tourists have flocked to the town of Singkawang — about 100 miles north of Pontianak, the provincial capital of West Borneo — to attend the celebrations for the Cap Go Meh. The traditional street party with dancing, music, songs, falls exactly 15 days away from Imlek — the Lunar New Year on 23 January, which marked the beginning of the Year of the Dragon — and attracted the attention of hundreds of thousands, perhaps a million people from all over the archipelago and overseas. To cast a shadow on festivities, some threatening banners hoisted — most likely — by members of Islamic extremist fringe, but the tight control of the police has prevented any incidents of violence.

Singkawang is the favorite destination for tourists and Indonesians of Chinese origin, who have invaded the city — according to some sources reaching one million, ed — for the celebrations linked to Cap Go Meh. Yesterday dozens of people dressed in colourful traditional clothes, dancing to the sound of music in streets and squares, as every year, the culmination of the festival is represented by a folk performance by renamed Tatung, the most famous event and appreciated by participants. Among them Jacky Cheung, a famous singer in Hong Kong who came to witness the event firsthand. ,

However, banners and signs appeared in the days preceding the festival the streets of the town — majority Chinese — which called on the Muslim community to boycott the festival. Local sources report that the perpetrators of the act are to be found among the leaders of the extremist fringe, according to who the Cap Go Meh celebrations, “are contrary to Islam” and its principles.

The presence of senior officials, including the governor of West Borneo, and police officers at the averted the possibility of violence or riots. Imposing security measures, for an event that has sold out hotels and hostels since the past few months. Also yesterday, celebrations and festivities were held in Bogor, about 60 km south-west of Jakarta, with dance performances including the artistic tribal Reog Ponorogo dance and the Papu dance to mark the Lunar New Year.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]



Yoga: From Ritual Sex to Middle-Class Ritual

The practice of yoga has come a long way from its origins in India thousands of years ago. Here are a few facts about the popular activity.

Yoga means ‘union’ in Sanskrit — of mind, body and spirit. The practice of yoga is thousands of years old and originates in India. Yoga hasn’t always been so clean: the original yogis were often “vagabonds who engaged in ritual sex” according to William J. Broad. It was rebranded as a healthy way of life in the 1920s by one Jagannath G Gune, an Indian nationalist. Many well-known exercises, like the Sun Salutation, are 20th century inventions.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Far East


Beijing and Brussels at War “Over Planes”

China does not intend to submit to air carbon tax scheme, which provides for a limitation of carbon dioxide in the mainland airports, and calls for Europe to act “wisely” in view of the next bilateral summit focused on the crisis.

Beijing (AsiaNews / Agencies) — The Chinese government today banned national airlines to adhere to the air carbon tax implemented by the European Union last February 1 and has allowed companies to charge a fee to travelers to pay any extra fines imposed by the Old Continent. This is the last act of a battle between Beijing and Brussels on the eve of next week’s summit between the leaders of China and the EU.

The EU scheme provides for a significant reduction in the emission of gases harmful to the environment, for continental airplanes or foreign airlines that use European airports. It involves a fine of 100 Euros per tonne of carbon dioxide emitted outside standard EU parameters. China has decided not to adhere to the scheme because it believes the deal “an unfair trade barrier, intended to limit the entry of Chinese airlines in other markets.”

An anonymous director of Chinese Civil Aviation this morning told the Xinhua news agency of the scheme, that “China hopes for Europe to act in a broader spectrum of action to combat climate change and improve Chinese-European relations. For our part, we will consider all necessary measures to defend the Chinese consumer and industrial development. “

The clash over emissions is part of a larger game being played by Beijing and Brussels. The leaders of China and EU are ready for a bilateral meeting set for next week, and the continent is hoping in Chinese investment to emerge from the current recession. China, for its part, said it “wants to help”, but has remained vague about the contents of this help: this is why, on several occasions, the two governments have used trade agreements as a bargaining tool.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]



Philippines Searches Swamps for Kidnapped Europeans

Philippine troops were scouring mangroves on remote southern islands on Monday as the search for two kidnapped Europeans intensified, security officials said. Hundreds of naval troops and Marines have been deployed to search for Swiss Lorenzo Vinciguerra, 47, and Dutchman Ewold Horn, 52, in the remote Tawi Tawi archipelago, said Colonel Jose Johriel Cenabre.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific


March Date for Mosque Plan

THE planning application for a proposed mosque in Munster will not come before Cockburn council next week as first anticipated. Due to the high volume of submissions received from the public, the item was deferred by council officers and is likely to appear again in March for consideration by councillors. A City statement released last week said submissions had “identified several areas of the application that require detailed consultation with the applicant before a recommendation can be finalised”. Last November, tensions arose after comment on the proposal by the South Metropolitan Muslim Association was offered only to residents of properties directly surrounding the proposed 1.23ha site on the corner of Russell and Lorimer roads, forcing the City to re-open consultation to the wider community. The consultation period closed on December 16. The City received 424 submissions, with 298 in support of the proposal and 126 against. Of the 25 submissions from landowners within 300 metres of the site, 23 objected to the proposal. Since then, conservationists and supporters of the Carnaby’s black cockatoo have inundated the City’s Facebook page with pleas to reject the application on the grounds that the site is a known nesting place for the endangered birds.

[JP note: Let us pray that common sense prevails and Carnaby’s black cockatoo is saved.]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa


South Africa: Woman Found Dead at Mosque

Cape Town police are investigating the death of a young Blue Downs woman after her body was found at a mosque in the area on Monday morning. An inquest docket has been opened.

Janine Philander’s mother and sister cried uncontrollably while her body was removed from the backyard of the Tuscany Glen Mosque. Both were comforted by community members.

Blue Downs resident Debby Cookson says she felt unsettled by the death of the 22-year-old, adding instances like these are rare. “I’m concerned about what’s happening in the community because I’m raising children here.” It is not yet clear how Philander died. Police say there are no marks on the victim’s body, which means she may have been strangled.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Immigration


Greece Starts Building Fence on Turkish Border

Greece on Monday started building a 10-km long fence on its border with Turkey to keep out thousands of irregular migrants seeking to cross into Europe. “This is a project which has practical and symbolic value,” citizen protection minister Christos Papoutsis told reporters. Its cost is estimated at €5.5 million.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Greece to Build £2.5million Six-Mile Razor Wire Wall to Block Worst Illegal Immigration Route Into Europe

The busiest crossing point for illegal immigrants into Europe is set to be blocked with a new £2.5million razor wire wall.

Greek authorities plan to erect the six mile, 13ft high double fence, on an area bordering Turkey which sees an average of 245 people per day crossing illegally, the EU’s border agency Frontex’s figures show.

And according to latest estimates, around 90 per cent of all illegal immigrants into the EU have come through Greece.

Once inside Europe’s visa-free Schengen zone, people are free to travel unchecked through internal borders, and many travel on to the UK.

Greece has been warned that failure to step up border controls would leave the country at risk of being expelled from the Schengen zone.

Speaking to reporters while inaugurating a new police command centre on the border, Public Order Minister Christos Papoutsis told reporters: ‘This is an opportunity for us to send a clear message … to all the EU, that Greece is fully compliant with its border commitments.’

‘Traffickers should know that this route will be closed to them. Their life is about to get much harder.’

More…

Papoutsis said work on the fence which will stretch between the villages of Kastanies and Nea Vyssa in the Evros border region, near the north eastern town of Orestiada, would begin next month.

It should be linked to a network of fixed night-vision cameras providing real-time footage to the new command center.

Most of Greece’s 125-mile border with Turkey is delineated by the Evros River — called the Meric River in Turkey — but the fence will cover a short stretch where the two countries are divided by land.

WARNINGS OVER VISA-FREE SCHENGEN ZONE:

Only weeks ago, the head of Interpol warned the failure of many European countries to check passports against an international database of lost and stolen travel documents could ‘lead to another September 11’.

Secretary General Ronald Noble, a former head of the US Secret Service, said the security gap could allow potential terrorists to enter Europe and cross multiple borders undetected.

Mr Noble said the Schengen Agreement, which allows people to travel across much of the EU without a passport, meant a single weakness in border security could put the whole of the European mainland at risk.

He said: ‘So many basic steps aren’t being taken, which could lead to another September 11, another July 7, another March 7 in Madrid.

The lesson that should have been learned…is that people carrying stolen travel documents, if they are not stopped, can enter your country and mastermind a horrible attack.’

Greece is already receiving emergency assistance at the Evros border from the EU border protection agency, Frontex.

Despite police efforts to seal the border, illegal immigrants continued to walk across.

Three men spotted walking across the frontier in torrential rain told The Associated Press that they had come from strife-torn Syria.

‘We’ve been walking for seven days,’ said one of the men, who only identified himself as Said, 24, but gave no other details. ‘I’m trying to reach an uncle of mine who lives in Hungary.’

Mr Papoutsis’ plans for a strengthenedborder have been controversial in the past with the European Commission critcising them as a ‘short-term measure’ that did not deal with the root of the problem.

Last year he had said the wall was a necessary measure after more than 100,000 people illegally entered the Mediterranean nation in the previous 12 months.

According to the EU’s border agency Frontex, the area concerned has become the main entry point for migrants travelling from war-zones and conflict in the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

He added: ‘The Greek public has reached its limit in taking in illegal immigrants. We are absolutely determined on this issue. Greece can’t take it anymore.’

           — Hat tip: Steen [Return to headlines]



Netherlands: Growing Support for Children’s Amnesty

More than 25 local councils have expressed support for an amnesty for underage asylum seekers whose applications have been rejected. The councils believe young asylum seekers who have lived most of their lives in the Netherlands should not be sent back to their country of origin — where they usually do not even speak the language.

The 25 local councils include major cities such as Enschede, Eindhoven, Arnhem, Utrecht, Amsterdam en Breda. The councillors in these cities have called on their mayors to raise the issue with Immigration Minister Gerd Leers. A petition on the internet has been signed by 118,000 people. The petition is an initiative of Green Left MP Tofik Dibi, and is supported by various entertainers, writers and sports figures. Mr Dibi launched the petition just before Christmas after failing to convince the immigration minister to grant asylum to Angolan boy Mauro, a case that received widespread national attention.

Tofik Dibi’s petition is meant to help other such children before their case hits the headlines. Estimates of how many children such a pardon would affect vary depending on the criteria — it could be as many as several thousand. According to the regulations, Immigration Minister Gerd Leers has no choice but to have these children deported. But he does have discretion to decide on a case-by-case basis whether to grant asylum on humanitarian grounds. That is how the coalition government would like it to stay.

Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party agreed to support this coalition on the condition that immigration would be dramatically reduced. The last thing the Freedom Party wants is another amnesty for asylum seekers.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Spain: Brain Drain, 300,000 Leave Country Due to Crisis

2011, more emigrants than immigrants, 1st time in 10 years

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, FEBRUARY 6 — With a record youth unemployment figure close to 50% and double the European average, the phenomenon of brain drain in Spain has turned into a bonafide exodus since the start of the crisis. In the country, which recorded a new all-time record with 4,599,829 jobless in January, the year 2011 ended for the first time in 10 years with a negative migration balance, according to data issued by the National Statistics Institute (INE). Overall, more people have left Spain — 507,740 — compared to the number of people who have entered the country (417,532). Over 300,000 people, including tens of thousands of young people, have moved abroad in search of work, according to the INE’s study. These emigrants are young, between the ages of 25 and 35, with a qualified professional or educational resume and without any dependents. The new emigrants head mainly to Germany and France, as well as Great Britain and Eastern European countries like Poland, where experienced professionals are in demand. Others move to emerging economies like Brazil or Argentina.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Switzerland: Asylum Seekers Sanding Off Fingertips: Report

Many Eritrean and Somalian refugees are taking extreme measures to destroy their fingerprints to avoid being identified and returned to the first country they entered in Europe.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Culture Wars


Netherlands: Euthanasia on Wheels Starts Next Month

In the Netherlands, six specialised euthanasia teams consisting of one doctor and one nurse will begin making house calls as of next month. Their patients will be people who meet the criteria of Dutch euthanasia laws but feel they are not being taking seriously by their GP. Euthanasia organisation Right to Die-NL announced on Monday the ‘end-of-life clinic’ will become operational on 1 March.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

General


Entire Genome of Extinct Human Reconstructed

How’s this for impressive: a genome pieced together from a 30,000-year-old finger bone contains fewer errors than genomes generated using samples from living people. The genome, published online today, is from an extinct group of hominins called the Denisovans.

Fossils of the Denisovans, close relatives of the Neanderthals, were discovered in Siberia in 2008. A draft genome was released in 2010 by Svante Pääbo of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, which revealed that Denisovans interbred with modern humans. However, each position in the genome was read only twice, so the fine detail was unreliable.

The new genome covers each position 30 times over. Pääbo plans to use it to estimate how much genetic variation was present among the Denisovans, revealing whether they suffered population crashes.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



I Want to Take the First Picture of a Black Hole

Images of a black hole could test general relativity as well as prove they exist, says astronomer Dan Marrone

A black hole, by definition, is black. So how are you going to take a picture of one?

If you look right at the black hole it should look quite dark, as very little light escapes. But just around the edge of it you see a bright ring, which is due to the photons that barely missed going into the black hole and skimmed around the edge of it a couple of times. This light is what we think we will be able to detect with the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT).

The EHT is a “whole Earth telescope”. How does it work?

In radio astronomy, to get a higher resolution than you can from a single telescope, you record signals from many telescopes around the world and multiply them together with a special computer. It is as if you have a single telescope almost the size of the Earth.

Which black holes are you targeting?

Sagittarius A*, which is the supermassive black hole at the centre of our galaxy, and the black hole at the centre of M87, the biggest galaxy in the Virgo cluster of galaxies. With a telescope the size of the Earth and at the frequencies we are observing, we can just make out black holes of this size.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Islam’s Groundhog Day

by Daniel Greenfield

Groundhog Day is the long eternal tragedy of Islam, which always sees its shadow and always ends up with six weeks, six months or six hundred years of more winter. That hopeful time when the bitter cold of winter begins its slow transition into the warmth and renewal of spring never comes for Islam. In a reversal of the cycle of season, the Arab Spring led to the Islamic Winter, but that is the endless pattern of Islamic attempts at reform and rejuvenation, which rather than finding renewal in their attempts at transformation only go on perpetuating the same cycle of violence, tyranny and oppression. There is a peculiar tragedy to a religion which cannot escape its own destructive nature, each time it reaches for some form of redemption, its hands come up dripping with blood and it all ends in more bodies and petty tyrannies.

The film Groundhog Day showed us a man who was doomed to repeat the same day over and over again until he learned to use his time to become a better person. Islam has been stuck in its own form of that cycle, repeating the same century over and over again, moving from religious ecstasy to holy war, seeking redemption through religious tyranny, and finding that there was no escaping the internal decay and instability in the veins of its religion. Islam’s only redemption lies in establishing a theocracy. Its commitment to power and the indulgence of the earthly and heavenly paradise of loot, slaves and violence led to its own degeneration over and over again. Having no other spiritual form than the exercise of power, it has corrupted itself each time, and then attempted to exorcise the corruption through more of violence.

[…]

This is the terrible cycle that repeats itself without hope of redemption. This is the rite of winter that is at the heart of Islam. It is a dark and bloody rite that has not changed in a thousand years. What we are witnessing in Islamic oppression and terror is the ancient ceremony of death, the ritual sacrifices of Ayatollahs and Mullahs over deserts and dusty fields, which hold back the coming of the spring.

[JP note: Nice analogy and one which would be difficult to fault — it will all end in tears.]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

News Feed 20120206

Financial Crisis
» Australian FM Castigates Navel-Gazing Europe
» Crisis Desperation Drives Merkel to Campaign for Sarkozy
» Delayed Austerity Talks: Merkel Demands That Greece Take Quick Action
» EU Says China May Become Its Biggest Market in 2012
» Euro Group President Jean-Claude Juncker: If Greece Doesn’t Reform, ‘it Can’t Expect Solidarity’
» Europe Crisis Could Halve China’s Growth: IMF
» Focus on French Economy Fuels Gains by Far Right
» Greece: Karatzaferis Asks for “Italian-Style” Gvt
» Greece: Unions Plan Strike on Tuesday
» Italy: Monti Says Italy ‘Eager’ To Follow OECD
» Papademos Meets Creditors as ‘Sacrifice’ Looms
» Poll Shows Most Germans Want Greece Out of Eurozone
» UK: Radical Muslims Target Young Inmates in Prison
 
USA
» Lawrence: Woman Talks About Turkey to Church Audience
» Parents Protest at Scandalized LA Grade School
» Sandia Labs Engineers Create ‘Self-Guided’ Bullet
 
Europe and the EU
» 3D Printer Provides Woman With a Brand New Jaw
» Finns Elect New Centre-Right President
» France: Nicolas Sarkozy Spends £10k a Day Food, Keeps 121 Cars
» France: Le Pen Claims Presidential Candidacy in Doubt
» France: Minister Under Fire for ‘Civilisations’ Remarks
» Fury as War Crimes Suspect is Allowed to Stay in Britain
» Germany: Leftist Crime on the Rise
» Italy: Heating Consumption Hits Record After Historic Storm
» Netherlands: Dutch Burqa Ban Legislation Row Heating Up
» Norway Mass Killer Decries “Cultural Destruction”
» Norway: Breivik Asks Court for ‘Immediate Release’
» Norway: Breivik Planned to Publish Own Magazine
» Patch of Seagrass is World’s Oldest Living Organism
» Poland Suspends Ratification of Acta Bill
» Romanian PM Resigns Over Protests
» Situation ‘Tragic’ As Winter Weather Blankets Europe
» Sweden: Attackers Carve ‘Whore’ Into Woman’s Arm
» Sweden:10-Year-Old Girl Stabbed in the Throat at School
» Switzerland: Media Blame Banks for Caving in to US Pressure
» UK: Another Racially Motivated Attack
» UK: Al-Qaeda Bid for Brit Girl Bombers
» UK: Extremism Report: What About the Far Right?
» UK: Grievances ‘Drive Radicalisation’
» UK: Home Affairs Committee Warns of Far-Right Terror Threat
» UK: It Took Years to Jail Him, But Now MPs Visit Abu Hamza at Belmarsh to Canvass His Views
» UK: Is David Cameron More Yellow Than Blue?
» UK: Internet Biggest Breeding Ground for Violent Extremism, Ministers Warn
» UK: Menace of Sex Abusers Preying on Leeds Kids
» UK: Pictured: Swollen Face of Trainee Chef Left for Dead After He Was Savagely Beaten ‘By Asian Gang in Hate Crime Attack’
» UK: Tim Farron Misses a Golden Opportunity to Compare Cameron’s Britain to Nazi Germany
 
North Africa
» Danish Citizen Arrested on Terror Charges in Morocco
» Snow in Algeria, Deaths & Controversy
 
Israel and the Palestinians
» The Mainstreaming of Hamas Continues as Palestinian Unity Gains Steam
 
Middle East
» Amid Crippling Sanctions Over Its Nuclear Weapons Program, Iran is Continuing to Prepare Itself for War Against the West, And Now is Warning of a Coming Great Event.
» Fatah-Hamas Agreement on Unity Gvt Signed in Doha
» Iran: More Jew-Annihilationist Jihad Rhetoric (And Jihad Taqiyya)
» The Syria Veto: Leaders Vent Frustration Over Chinese and Russian ‘Scandal’
 
Russia
» Gazprom Says Unable to Meet European Gas Needs
 
South Asia
» Bangladesh: “Angry Brides “: An Online Game to Fight Dowry Murders
» Graft, Politics, Militant Islam Shake Indian Ocean Island
» Obama Admin Overlooks Rampant Pedophilia in Afghanistan
 
Far East
» China Bans Airlines From Paying EU Carbon Charges
» Emissions Scheme Dispute: China Bans Airlines From Paying EU Carbon Tax
» World’s ‘Most Expensive’ Tea Grown in Chinese Panda Poo
 
Immigration
» Time for Soft-Touch Britain to Get Tough on Immigration
» Why the UK Cannot Deport Thousands of Criminals
 
Culture Wars
» UK: Prominent Tory Disowns ‘Religious Right’ And Supports Gay Marriage
 
General
» Mars ‘Super-Drought’ May Make Red Planet Too Dry for Alien Life
» Pirate File-Sharing Goes 3D

Financial Crisis


Australian FM Castigates Navel-Gazing Europe

Australian foreign minister Kevin Rudd Saturday suggested the EU risks becoming so wrapped up with its economic problems that it talks itself into irrelevance. He suggested Europe “runs the risk of talking itself into an early economic and therefore globally political grave.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Crisis Desperation Drives Merkel to Campaign for Sarkozy

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s move to help President Nicolas Sarkozy in his bid for re-election is unprecedented. But so too is the European debt crisis. Berlin is driven by the fear that a Socialist president in Paris may overturn its strategy to rescue the euro. But Merkel’s campaign assistance poses risks.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Delayed Austerity Talks: Merkel Demands That Greece Take Quick Action

Patience with Greece is wearing thin in Europe. On Monday, Chancellor Merkel became just the latest EU leader to demand quick action from Athens. But talks on additional austerity measures there continue to go nowhere despite the looming threat of bankruptcy. Greek politicians, after all, must answer to their voters.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



EU Says China May Become Its Biggest Market in 2012

(BEIJING) — The EU ambassador to China said Monday the Asian powerhouse could become Europe’s biggest export market this year, overtaking the United States, as Beijing boosts domestic demand. His comments come after Premier Wen Jiabao said China was considering helping the crisis-hit eurozone by contributing to regional bailout funds, and that a stable Europe was crucial for Beijing.

“There are indications that in 2012, China may become Europe’s biggest export market,” Markus Ederer told reporters in Beijing. “European exports are growing at a higher pace than European imports from China,” he said, adding the forecast was based on current trade trends. He gave no concrete figures.

The European Union has long been the biggest market for Chinese goods, and trade between the two grows every year, reaching $567 billion in 2011. But while Chinese exports to the European Union grew by 14.5 percent last year from 2010, the Asian country’s imports of European goods rose at a higher rate of 25.6 percent in 2011, according to official Chinese data.

Beijing is increasingly looking to reduce its dependency on exports and focus more on domestic demand. But its economy — which grew at a rate of 9.2 percent last year, down from 10.4 percent in 2010 — is still export-driven and Beijing has watched with increasing concern as Europe’s debt crisis deepened, impacting its growth.

Last week, Wen said solving the crisis — which has seen a wave of credit-rating downgrades and brought Greece to the brink of bankruptcy — was “urgent” and urged global cooperation on the issue. After talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who was on a trip aimed at boosting her hosts’ confidence in Europe, Wen said China “was investigating and evaluating ways” to become more involved in solving Europe’s debt problem.

European leaders have repeatedly called on China, which has the world’s largest foreign exchange reserves at around $3.2 trillion, to invest in a bailout fund, but Beijing has so far made no firm commitment. Any move to bail out wealthier European nations using public funds would likely face strong resistance in China, where millions still live on less than a dollar a day.

After raising the possibility of a contribution during Merkel’s visit, Wen told businesses in the southern manufacturing hub of Guangdong at the weekend that Europe was important for China. “Helping stability in the European market is actually helping ourselves,” he said.

During her visit, Merkel sought to assure Beijing that the crisis was under control, saying the euro currency had made Europe stronger, and pointing to an EU treaty agreed last week that aims to stop countries from overspending. On Monday, Ederer sought to further boost confidence in the eurozone, and said the EU welcomed any Chinese initiatives, “both in terms of political support and also in terms of state debt and investment in Europe.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Euro Group President Jean-Claude Juncker: If Greece Doesn’t Reform, ‘it Can’t Expect Solidarity’

In a SPIEGEL interview, Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, head of the Euro Group, talks about the need for Greece to push ahead with economic reforms. If the country doesn’t meet Europe’s demands, it will have to declare bankruptcy in March, he says.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Europe Crisis Could Halve China’s Growth: IMF

(WASHINGTON) — An escalation of Europe’s debt crisis could slash China’s economic growth in half this year, the International Monetary Fund said Monday, urging Beijing to prepare stimulus measures in response. The IMF, in an economic outlook report on the world’s second-largest economy, highlighted China’s vulnerability to global demand.

“The global economy is at a precarious stage and downside risks have risen sharply,” the IMF said. “The most salient risk is from an intensification of feedback loops between sovereign and bank funding pressures in the euro area, resulting in more protracted bank deleveraging and sizable contractions in credit and output in both Europe and elsewhere.”

The IMF outlined the negative impact if the eurozone crisis tipped Europe into a deep recession, dragging China’s growth lower mainly due to shocks through trade. In that “downside scenario” China’s growth would fall by around 4.0 percentage points this year from the 8.2 percent rate the IMF projected in January, the Washington-based institution said.

In that case, “China should respond with a significant fiscal package.” “The weak external outlook underscores the importance of accelerating the transformation of China’s economy to reduce its vulnerability to the vagaries of global demand.” The IMF forecast last month that its “downside scenario” would shave 1.75 percentage points off 2012 global growth, currently projected at 3.3 percent.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Focus on French Economy Fuels Gains by Far Right

ABBEVILLE, France — This small city in northern France has few immigrants and little crime. But in the last local elections here, the candidate of the far-right National Front eliminated the standard-bearer of President Nicolas Sarkozy’s party in the first round of voting and then won 30.2 percent of the vote in the runoff, losing to a Socialist.

With the presidential election less than three months away, Mr. Sarkozy’s party fears the same results on a national scale. The president is facing strong competition on the right from the National Front and its leader, Marine Le Pen, and his party is worried that she may eliminate the sitting president in the first round of voting on April 22.

What is most striking is how well she and the party are doing not only in the south of France, where immigration and radical Islam are traditional issues, but here in the post-industrial north, where the issues are more economic: unemployment, factory closings, competition from inside the enlarged European Union, from Poland and Slovakia, and from outside, particularly China.

In Abbeville, a city of 25,000 on the Somme River, numerous jobless workers who say they feel betrayed by the European Union, globalization and deindustrialization are turning not to the Socialist Party, but to the National Front, which promises a kind of patriotic focus on French jobs, French pride and French money. Some who once voted Communist now join others who are traditionally on the right — like the hunting and fishing lovers who abound here — to support Ms. Le Pen.

There are, of course, those who insist that France is being polluted by immigration and undermined by Islam. Anti-Semitism, however, an underlying theme of the party’s founder, Jean-Marie Le Pen, has been disavowed by Ms. Le Pen, his daughter. She concentrates more on Islam and those who, she says, refuse to assimilate to French habits, laws and culture, including secularism and gender equality.

“The motivations for a vote for the National Front are very diverse,” said Nicolas Dumont, 35, the Socialist mayor of Abbeville. “It can be a way to say ‘stop’; it can be a way to” express fury, he said, using a vulgar term.

“It’s a way to make things move,” he added. “It’s the cry of victims, of people who think they can find easy solutions to difficulties.”

Mr. Dumont, elected in 2008, is a local Socialist star. He thinks that Mr. Sarkozy’s efforts to co-opt the voters of the National Front, which worked in the 2007 election, have since served to normalize the party and its discourse. “There is a porosity of themes and ways of speaking on these topics that has removed inhibitions,” he said.

“My real fear is that Ms. Le Pen won’t come in second in the first round, but that she will come in first,” Mr. Dumont said. His expectation, of course, is that the Socialist Party’s candidate, François Hollande, will then have an easier path to the presidency in the May 6 runoff.

Ms. Le Pen, because she is a woman and, at 43, a fresh face with less baggage than her father, has been easier for voters to support, Mr. Dumont said.

The northern province of Picardy remains important for French industry, but Abbeville does not. There are few immigrants because there are few large factories, and one of the last, the Beghin-Say sugar works, closed in 2009. The reason, Mr. Dumont says, as the National Front charges, is “Europe” — beet-sugar quotas were shared with new members of the European Union, reducing the French quota, and the sugar factory, its chimney still prominent on the horizon, is empty.

“The National Front doesn’t need propaganda; it attracts people naturally, as a protest vote,” said Robert, 56, a bus driver who declined to give his last name. “There’s a complete loss of bearings,” he said, getting a kebab. “We don’t believe in politicians anymore. There’s a rejection of the political class. People are refusing both left and right and go toward the extremes.”

Eric Rambure, 38, said, “The system is spoiled.” He will not vote, he said; his wife cannot find a job, and his father-in-law was laid off. “Everyone is worried,” he said. “There’s no work.”

Jean-Yves Camus, a political analyst who is an expert on the National Front, said the party was the strongest advocate of state control in Europe, attracting a generation that experienced the economic boom of the 1950s and the current decline.

It remains “the last party to represent a revival of the state, based on industrial value and injection of public money,” Mr. Camus said, making it seem to some the true inheritor of Gaullism.

The leftist newspaper Libération caused a fuss here last month with a long article about Abbeville, describing it as a prototypical French town, white, peaceful and provincial, embracing the National Front. A front-page headline in the local newspaper, Le Journal d’Abbeville, asked “Abbeville, City of Racists and Rednecks?”

Local leaders of the National Front think the article was exaggerated. Michel Chevalier, 63, is the party’s treasurer for the Somme district. “It’s a very Parisian view,” he said. “There are very few rednecks and racists here.” People are turning to his party “because they are disappointed with both the politicians and the unions,” he said.

Workers “are sick of paying for people who aren’t working, and I’m not speaking just of immigrants,” he said. But immigration is an issue, said his colleague, Christian Mandosse, 51, who runs a party Web site. People are tired of “France importing the unemployed and their families,” he said, especially those who do not share French “culture, values and religion.”

Mr. Chevalier, who voted for the Socialist François Mitterrand as president, said that “people are so fed up there’s potential for political revolution.” The party officials denounced what they said was the effort of Mr. Sarkozy’s party to deny Ms. Le Pen enough signatures to get on to the ballot.

“It’s not democracy when you deprive people of the right to speak or vote for whom they want,” Mr. Mandosse said.

They believe that Ms. Le Pen will get at least 25 percent of the vote in the first round and could run ahead of Mr. Sarkozy and even Mr. Hollande.

Emanuel Ozanon, 38, who runs the restaurant Le Charlotin here, said he was considering a vote for Ms. Le Pen. “There’s a lot of insecurity and sadness, a sense of no solution and that it’s time for real change,” he said. “I’m not a very political person. But I understand what’s happening. Hollande is full of hot air, and she has the ambition to change things.”

Mr. Dumont concedes that voters are fed up. “There’s a loss of faith in the capacity of both the right and the left to change their lives,” he said. Part of the failure, he admits, belongs to his own Socialist Party — “Since 1995 we have not known how to talk to these people.” But what consoles him, he said, is the unpopularity of Mr. Sarkozy.

“There’s a real will to reject Sarkozy and kick him out, like I’ve never seen before,” he said, then smiled a bit. “It’s easier to say ‘stop’ then to say ‘again.’ “

Maïa de la Baume contributed reporting.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]



Greece: Karatzaferis Asks for “Italian-Style” Gvt

A letter to Prime Minister Lucas Papademos

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, 6 FEBRUARY — Giorgos Karatzaferis, the leader of extreme right-wing party Laos, which is supporting the Greek “national rescue” government or “transition government”, as Nea Dimocratia leader prefers to call it, together with Pasok (Socialist party) and Nea Dimocratia (centre-right) wrote a letter to Prime Minister Lucas Papademos, asking a re-organization of the government aimed at replacing the heads of important ministries with experts, as in Mario Monti’s Italian government. “While we face the last and crucial phase of our initiative aimed at rescuing our Country”, Karatzaferis wrote, “I suggest that, for a number of reasons, the government is re-organized according to the same principles underlying Mario Monti’s government”.

As for the meeting with the Prime Minister and with the other parties supporting the government is concerned, Karatzaferis delivered a speech to the leaders of his party, stating that negotiations were continuing in a satisfactory way and stressing that he and Antonis Samaras (Nea Dimocratia leader) succeeded in “saving” the thirteenth and fourteenth month salaries. “We are halfway of a long journey”, Karatzaferis stated, “Negotiations are continuing in a satisfactory way. A hard struggle was underway with the government”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Greece: Unions Plan Strike on Tuesday

GSEE and ADEDY, Greece’s two major labor unions, have planned a 24-hour strike on Tuesday against belt-tightening measures and reforms demanded by foreign creditors in exchange for a new bailout package. Despite our sacrifices and despite admitting that the policy mix is wrong, they still ask for more austerity,” chief of ADEDY public sector union said.

Representatives from the two unions were to meet on Monday to finalize plans to strike. European governments maintained pressure on Greece to accept terms demanded by international lenders during a weekend of talks to avert a financial collapse.

Prime Minister Lucas Papademos struck a tentative deal with party leaders to boost economic competitiveness and extend spending cuts after eurozone finance chiefs told them an increase in the 130 billion-euro ($170 billion) aid package wasn’t forthcoming. The four men would resume their meeting on Monday.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Italy: Monti Says Italy ‘Eager’ To Follow OECD

Gurria praises government’s structural reforms

(ANSA) — Rome, February 6 — Italian Premier Mario Monti expressed his readiness to follow advice from the Organization for European Cooperation and Development on Monday. “The government is eager to cooperate with the OECD and to have its input and recommendation,” he said after meeting with OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria in Rome. “They are concerned with the things that we want in Italy, with accelerated implementation, starting with structural reform”. The Paris-based organization, which forecasts a 2012 recession in Italy, pledged to support the Monti government’s reform agenda while calling on it to continue its crackdown on tax evasion and to strengthen social safety nets as the euro crisis drags on. In December the OECD praised the former European Commissioner for his 30-billion-euro austerity package of tax increases and spending cuts to help put Italy’s public finances in order.

The administration is now seeking to implement structural measures to make the sluggish Italian economy more dynamic.

It unveiled a series of liberalisations and simplifications last month that it intends to push through parliament.

The government is in sensitive talks with unions on measures to reform the labour market and make it easier for women and young people to find jobs.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Papademos Meets Creditors as ‘Sacrifice’ Looms

Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos began a second round of negotiations with international creditors in Athens to stave off default as political leaders waver on budget measures and unions call their first general strike of the year.

Papademos met with representatives from the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund to continue talks on possible spending cuts that Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos said would determine whether Greece can stick to its plan to remain in the euro area.

“The salvation of the country, remaining in the euro, means great sacrifices,” Venizelos told reporters in Athens late yesterday after meeting with the so-called troika of representatives. “Failure of these talks, failure of the plan, the country’s bankruptcy, means even greater sacrifice.”

With Greece’s stability at stake and the country set to pay a 14.5 billion-euro ($19 billion) bond due on March 20, Papademos will bring the leaders of the three parties supporting him back to the table later today in a bid to forge agreement on terms for a second aid package to prevent the country’s collapse.

European leaders stepped up pressure on Greek politicians to meet the conditions of the 130 billion-euro bailout yesterday as Papademos delayed the meeting with party leaders a day. In Paris, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said time is running out. French President Nicolas Sarkozy said there could be no funds without reforms.

Allowing Greece to go bankrupt “isn’t an option,” he said…

[Return to headlines]



Poll Shows Most Germans Want Greece Out of Eurozone

A poll published in Sunday’s edition of Germany’s mass-selling Bild newspaper found that 53% of Germans would prefer to see debt-ridden Greece leave the eurozone, while only 34% felt it should keep the euro. The same poll found that 80% opposes releasing a second rescue package unless Greece implements reforms.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



UK: Radical Muslims Target Young Inmates in Prison

Jailed terrorists are radicalising vulnerable young Muslims in prison, a report by MPs has disclosed.

Despite being sent to maximum security jails, extremists are preaching hate to new inmates, breeding a fresh generation of radicals willing to launch terror attacks. A nine-month inquiry by the home affairs select committee into the roots of violent radicalisation found that, in some cases, inmates were being persuaded to carry out suicide missions within days of entering prison. The findings are published as four radical Islamists are due to be sentenced for plotting a major terror attack before Christmas on the London Stock Exchange, the London Eye and other important landmarks. Mohammed Chowdhury, 21, Shah Rahman, 28, Abdul Miah, 25, and Gurukanth Desai, 30, will be sentenced at Woolwich Crown Court today for the Mumbai-style terror plot. It is believed Miah was radicalised in prison after being sentenced for drugs and weapons offences. A former neighbour of his in Cardiff said he had “gone into prison as a petty criminal and came out spouting extremist views”.

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

USA


Lawrence: Woman Talks About Turkey to Church Audience

[Note from HRW: the following is a report of Turkish version of taqiyya served up in Central NJ . . .note the change in identity from Interfaith dialog Center to new identity]

A country that is about the size of Texas, Turkey has been called the crossroads of civilization — and the heart of the Ottoman Empire, which ruled large swaths of Asia and Europe for more than 600 years.

Turkey also is a place where Christians, Jews and Muslims lived together in peace for hundreds of years under the Ottoman Empire, which lasted from 1299 to 1923, said Yesim Acikel, who outlined the country’s history to about 60 people at the Presbyterian Church of Lawrenceville,

Ms. Acikel was invited to speak to the congregation Sunday afternoon by the church’s Peacemaking Committee. She is a member of the Turkish Cultural Center and the Peace Islands Institute, formerly known as the Interfaith Dialog Center.

Turkey, which was formerly known as Anatolia, straddles Europe and Asia, Ms. Acikel said. The largest part of the country, however, is in Asia. Neighboring countries include Syria, Bulgaria, Greece, Georgia and Armenia, she said.

Turkey is a democratic, secular and social state, governed by a parliamentary system that provides for a separation of powers — the legislative branch, the executive branch and the judicial branch, Ms. Acikel said.

There are many religious sites associated with Christianity inside Turkey’s borders — from the House of the Virgin Mary, where she lived her last days, to the Hagia Sophia built by the Roman Emperor Justinian in 537 and which was the largest church in the Christian world for 1,000 years, she said.

“I remember going to the site (the House of the Virgin Mary) and feeling the presence of Mary,” said Ms. Acikel, who is a Muslim.

Modern-day Turkey is an offspring of the Ottoman Empire, which lasted for more than 600 years, Ms. Acikel said. It had its beginnings when leader Osman Bey saw the weakness of the Byzantine Empire and began the empire’s conquest of neighboring countries.

As the Ottoman Empire expanded, it brought Islam with it. “Islam” means peace, submission and obedience, Ms. Acikel said. Muslims believe in only one God, who is the same god for Christians and Jews. In fact, the Koran — which is the word of God for Muslims, just as the Torah is for Jews — refers to Christians and Jews as “the people of the book,” she said.

Ms. Acikel said the leaders of the Ottoman Empire accepted the differences of the Christians and the Jews, and wanted them to integrate into society — but not necessarily to assimilate, although some Muslim men married Christian women. They recognized the “authenticity” of the two faiths and did not try to crush them, she said.

The leaders of the Ottoman Empire told their new subjects that they wanted peace, progress and to build the economy, Ms. Acikel said. The leaders told them they could live in peace, and they were expected to help grow the economy and to pay taxes to help support the empire.

The Ottoman Empire also gave much freedom to its newly conquered subjects because there were too few Turks to control all of its lands, which stretched from the Crimea in the north to Yemen and Sudan in the south, and from Iran and the Caspian Sea in the east to the Vienna in the northwest and Spain in the southwest, she said.

Nevertheless, it was made clear to Christians and Jews that within the legal system and the public realm, the superiority of Islam was to be recognized, Ms. Acikel said. A kadi, or local magistrate, was sent to the countries under the Ottoman Empire’s rule to work with the local population to maintain balance and order, she said.

But things began to change in the 1800s and 1900s in the Ottoman Empire, Ms. Acikel said. As Europe gained economic and ideological power, the Ottomans were attacked physically, through wars, and ideologically by the concept of nation-states. There were too many states and ethnic groups in the Ottoman Empire.

Many of the Ottoman states — such as Greece, Bulgaria and Egypt — sought to separate from the Ottoman Empire and waged wars for their independence, she said. As the empire began to lose land, Muslims and Turks who had settled in Bulgaria, Romania and Greece, for example, emigrated back to Anatolia, or modern-day Turkey.

Out of that process emerged the modern country of Turkey, which was formed in 1923, Ms. Acikel said. Turkey, which is 99 percent Muslim, is not a diverse country in terms of religion. It is a Western, secular and democratic country. Turkey is a member of the European Union.

“Some people say that East and West cannot live together, but (Muslim) origins and traditions disagree. We lived together for hundreds of years,” Ms. Acikel said of the Muslims, Christians and Jews.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]



Parents Protest at Scandalized LA Grade School

LOS ANGELES — Many children stayed home Monday while parents demanded more protection at an elementary school where two teachers are suspected of molesting students in class.

Nearly a quarter of the students at Miramonte Elementary School were absent, with attendance reaching just 72 percent, according to figures from the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Meanwhile, about three dozen parents and supporters protested in front of the main doors off the school. Some carried a banner reading, “We the parents demand our children be protected from lewd teacher acts.”

School police watched and sheriff’s deputies were on hand, but there was no violence.

Elsewhere, a janitor at a San Fernando Valley elementary school was arrested on suspicion of committing a lewd act with a child on a campus.

Paul Adame, 37, was taken into custody after a mother told police on Sunday that he had inappropriate contact with her child during school hours Friday at Germain Elementary School in the Chatsworth area of Los Angeles, police Capt. Kris Pitcher said at a news conference.

The captain declined to provide details but urged anyone who might know of other possible victims to contact police.

There was no immediate word of any connection between the arrest of the janitor and the cases at Miramonte, which is 15 miles away in an unincorporated county area of South Los Angeles.

The Miramonte protesters demanded greater communication with education officials and the placement of cameras in classrooms and hallways.

Arianna Perez, 30, also wants a new principal and teachers, or at least a new round of background checks for the 50 or so instructors. She kept her two sons out of the school on Monday.

“I’m not letting them in (school),” she said of her children. “They’re scared to be in. I’m not going to put them in risk of (teachers) doing something to them.”

Neither of her boys was a student of the two teachers named in the allegations.

“I don’t want to go to the school anymore,” said son Luis, 11. “I feel unsafe. and I feel like something bad’s going to happen, like what happened to others.”

The protest was an unusual event in the poor, overwhelmingly Latino neighborhood, where many parents and students struggle with the English language…

[Return to headlines]



Sandia Labs Engineers Create ‘Self-Guided’ Bullet

Figuring out how to pack a processor and other electronics into a machine gun bullet has been a challenge for engineers at Sandia National Laboratories, so weapons experts say the miniature guidance system the lab has developed is a breakthrough. Three years in the making, the bullet prototype represents another step toward a next-generation battlefield that scientists and experts expect to be saturated with technology and information.

“In the laboratory, I’m able to make machines so incredibly small it kind of boggles my mind,” said Red Jones, one of the Sandia researchers who helped develop the laser-guided .50-caliber bullet. “Where we’re headed, we’re going to be limited only by our imagination.”

The idea behind Sandia Labs’ bullet is rooted more in the M2, a belt-fed machine gun that became standard issue in the U.S. Army nearly 80 years ago. Pairing the M2 with the guided bullet would allow soldiers to hit their mark faster and with precision. At 4 inches long and a half-inch in diameter, the bullet directs itself like a tiny guided missile and can hit a target more than a mile away. It’s designed to twist and turn, making up to 30 corrections per second.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU


3D Printer Provides Woman With a Brand New Jaw

An 83-year-old Belgian woman is able to chew, speak and breathe normally again after a machine printed her a new jawbone. Made from a fine titanium powder sculpted by a precision laser beam, her replacement jaw has proven as functional as her own used to be before a potent infection, called osteomyelitis, all but destroyed it.

The medics behind the feat say it is a first. “This is a world premiere, the first time a patient-specific implant has replaced the entire lower jaw,” says Jules Poukens, the researcher who led the operation at Biomed, the biomedical research department of the University of Hasselt, in Belgium. “It’s a cautious, but firm step.” Until now, the largest 3D-printed implant is thought to have been half of a man’s upper jawbone, in a 2008 operation in Finland.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Finns Elect New Centre-Right President

Sauli Niinisto from the centre-right National Coalition Party was elected Sunday as Finland’s new president in the second round of voting, gaining 62.6% of the votes. His green challenger Pekka Haavisto received 37.4%. Niinisto will take office on 1 March with Finland’s president having certain foreign policy powers.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



France: Nicolas Sarkozy Spends £10k a Day Food, Keeps 121 Cars

Nicolas Sarkozy has been promising to cut back on his presidential spending, but he’s actually splashing out £10,000 a day on food and keeps 121 cars under the Elysee Palace, according to a new book.

Socialist MP Rene Dosiere, in L’argent de l’État (Money from the State), sets out what he sees as extraordinary excesses by the French President.

In the explosive book, he accuses Sarkozy of ‘ignoring the most elementary principles of the separation between private and public accounts’.

Sarkozy, whose palace budget exceeds that of the Queen, recently stated that there will be a ‘rupture’ with his past money-splurging ways and more transparency.

           — Hat tip: Kitman [Return to headlines]



France: Le Pen Claims Presidential Candidacy in Doubt

French far-right leader Marine Le Pen may not be able to gather enough signatures to make her eligible to run in April’s presidential elections, with candidates needing signatures of 500 mayors in order to stand. Le Pen, heading up the National Front, says that just 320 mayors have signed up.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



France: Minister Under Fire for ‘Civilisations’ Remarks

French Interior Minister Claude Guéant said on Sunday he stood by remarks that not all civilisations are equal, as critics denounced his comments as dangerous and xenophobic. Guéant, who is also responsible for immigration and is known as a hardliner, provoked a storm of controversy with the comments on Saturday. “Contrary to what the left’s relativist ideology says, for us all civilisations are not of equal value,” Guéant told a gathering of right-wing students. “Those which defend humanity seem to us to be more advanced than those that do not,” he said.

“Those which defend liberty, equality and fraternity, seem to us superior to those which accept tyranny, the subservience of women, social and ethnic hatred,” he said in his speech, a copy of which was obtained by AFP. He also stressed the need to “protect our civilisation”. “I do not regret (the comments),” Guéant said on Sunday, though he accused critics of taking them “out of context”.

The left denounced his speech as an attempt by President Nicolas Sarkozy to woo supporters of the the far-right National Front (FN) ahead of a two-round presidential election in April and May. Harlem Desir, the number two in the French Socialist Party, slammed “the pitiful provocation from a minister reduced to a mouthpiece for the FN”. Bernard Cazeneuve, a spokesman for Socialist presidential candidate François Hollande, denounced the remarks as “divisive and degrading” while former Socialist candidate Ségolène Royal called them “dangerous.”

Sarkozy’s allies were quick to defend the minister, however. Defence Minister Gerard Longuet said it was simply “common sense” to suggest that civilisations could be ranked according to values such as “respecting personal rights, rejecting violence or abolishing the death penalty”. Finance Minister François Baroin accused the left of “exploiting the statements for electoral gain”.

Foreign Minister Alain Juppé suggested that his colleague had meant to say that “all ideas, all political systems are not equal”. Speaking on BFM television, Juppé said however one should avoid talking of a shock of civilisations, suggesting the term was “inadequate”.

Guéant has repeatedly linked immigration with crime in France and last month said the delinquency rate among immigrants was “two to three times higher” than the national average. In April, he declared that an increase in the number of Muslim faithful in France posed a “problem”. He has also said that he wants to reduce the number of legal immigrants entering France, including those coming to work legally or to join their families.

His latest comments came as the FN’s presidential candidate Marine Le Pen is credited with about 20 percent support in opinion polls.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Fury as War Crimes Suspect is Allowed to Stay in Britain

CAMPAIGNERS have condemned a legal ruling that a war crimes suspect should stay in Britain because he has a human right to “a family life”.

Dejan Tolic, 36, admitted being a member of Serbian paramilitary group The White Eagles, linked to atrocities in the former Yugoslavia.

He also served as a bodyguard for leading Serbian nationalist Vojislav Seselj, who is on trial at the International Criminal Tribunal in The Hague over the massacre of Bosnians and Croats.

Mr Tolic applied for asylum in the UK in 1999 claiming he would be in danger if he returned to Serbia, but his application was rejected by the Home Office. Before he left Britain in 2004, he married a British woman and they had a son.

He returned to the UK and now a judge has ruled he should be allowed to stay on human rights grounds.

Mr Tolic’s lawyers told the court it would be “disproportionate” to remove him because of his relationship with his son, now aged six.

           — Hat tip: Kitman [Return to headlines]



Germany: Leftist Crime on the Rise

New figures on politically-motivated crime show a sharp increase in leftist crime in Germany last year, along with a slight fall in far-right crime, it was revealed Monday.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Italy: Heating Consumption Hits Record After Historic Storm

Possible shortages as Siberian cold front endures

(ANSA) — Rome, February 6 — Gas consumption reached a record high Monday as Italy climbed out of the biggest snow storm in over 20 years and braced itself for freezing temperatures and possible heating shortages through the middle of February.

“The gas crisis could lead to shutting off heat to some companies on Thursday,” said Paolo Scaroni, CEO of energy provider Eni. More than 440 cubic meters of heating gas were consumed by Monday, according to the ministry for the environment, which signalled an “alert for the exceptional peak”. Officials said they were exploring new avenues to import gas as crucial supplies from Russia, which has also been hit hard by a Siberian cold front, were diminishing. “The situation is certainly critical,” said Industry Minister Corrado Passera. “But it is being closely monitored”. Passera is scheduled to meet with Scaroni on Tuesday to address possible solutions to the crisis.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Netherlands: Dutch Burqa Ban Legislation Row Heating Up

The anti-Islam Freedom Party (PVV), which props up the minority government in parliament, has demanded that the Dutch police enforce the recently approved burqa ban. The PVV is supported by Justice Minister Ivo Opstelten on the issue.

PVV MP Joram van Klaveren was speaking on Sunday in response to remarks made by Amsterdam police chief Pieter-Jaap Aalbersberg on a national TV talk show. Mr Aalbersberg said it should be left up to the police officer on duty to decide whether or not to write out a ticket for a Muslim wearing a burqa or niqab. The police chief added issuing a warning should also be an option. The burqa ban in the Netherlands has stirred up a national debate. Earlier, other police chiefs from various Dutch corps announced they did not intend enforcing the new law if it were passed. The lower and upper houses of parliament still have to vote on the legislation, which will ban all clothing which covers the face in public.

Burqa part of election deal

The burqa ban was part of the PVV’s election programme and its implementation was part of a deal negotiated by the Freedom Party and the two coalition partners, the conservative VVD and the Christian Democrats. Geert Wilders’ party gives parliamentary support to the minority government. Minister Opstelten is from the largest coalition party, the VVD.

In neighbouring Belgium, the second EU country after France to implement a burqa ban, the campaign of the far-right Vlaams Belang (‘Flemish Interest’) also stirred up considerable controversy. The daughter of Flemish Interest leader Philip Dewinter featured on the campaign poster wearing a niqab and a bikini top with the text “Freedom or Islam?”

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



Norway Mass Killer Decries “Cultural Destruction”

Norwegian killer appears before Oslo court

OSLO (Reuters) — Anders Behring Breivik, who killed 77 people in Norway, said Monday his massacre was necessary to prevent his country’s cultural destruction.

“We in the Norwegian movement will not sit and see that we are made a minority in our own country,” the anti-Islam fanatic told a packed courtroom in only his second public comments since the attack in July.

“The attacks on the government headquarters were preventive attacks on people committing cultural destruction of Norwegian culture and Norwegian ethnicity,” he said and demanded to be released immediately.

The 32-year-old has admitted detonating a fertilizer bomb that killed eight people at a government building in Oslo in July and hours later committing a shooting spree at an island camp for the Labor Party youths, killing 69.

“I acknowledge the acts but I plead not guilty,” said Breivik, whose attacks were the worst outburst of violence in Norway since World War Two.

The custody hearing, required periodically to keep a suspect detained, was Breivik’s fifth and the second one open to the public as Norway prepares for his trial, set to begin on April 16.

He entered the courtroom with a faint smile, wearing a black suit with a silvery tie, and raised his arms to show off his cuffed hands.

In a manifesto posted online before the attacks, Breivik wrote that he was targeting “traitors” whose leftist views and softness on immigration had brought the country low.

“The ethnic Norwegians will be a minority in Oslo in the next 10 years. It is a fact. I represent Norwegian resistance,” he told the court.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]



Norway: Breivik Asks Court for ‘Immediate Release’

The Norway gunman who killed 77 people in twin attacks in July asked an Oslo court on Monday to release him immediately, saying his massacre was a “preventive attack against state traitors.” “I do not accept imprisonment. I demand to be immediately released,” Anders Behring Breivik, a 32-year-old right-wing extremist, told the Oslo court that was convened for a hearing on his detention. Hollow laughter erupted in the rows where survivors and families of the victims were seated, when Behring Breivik twice demanded his immediate release.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Norway: Breivik Planned to Publish Own Magazine

Long before last July’s dual terrorist attacks, confessed killer Anders Behring Breivik planned to publish a monthly magazine promoting what he described as cultural conservative views.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Patch of Seagrass is World’s Oldest Living Organism

It’s green and very, very old. A swathe of seagrass in the Mediterranean could be the oldest known living thing on Earth. Carlos Duarte of the University of Western Australia in Perth sequenced the DNA of Posidonia oceanica at 40 sites spanning 3500 kilometres of seafloor, from Spain to Cyprus. One patch off the island of Formentera was identical over 15 kilometres of coastline.

Like all seagrasses, Posidonia oceanica reproduces by cloning, so meadows spanning many kilometres are genetically identical and considered one organism. Given the plant’s annual growth rate the team calculated that the Formentera meadow must be between 80,000 and 200,000 years old, making it the oldest living organism on Earth. It trumps a Tasmanian seagrass, Lomatia tasmanica, believed to be 43,600 years old.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Poland Suspends Ratification of Acta Bill

Poland Friday suspended the ratification of the international copyright treaty, Acta. Prime Minister Donald Tusk said there would have to be further discussion on the bill which has sparked widespread criticism in Poland, with opponents saying it will curb internet free speech.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Romanian PM Resigns Over Protests

Romanian Prime Minister Emil Boc on Monday announced his resignation after three weeks of anti-government protests in the country. He said he took this decision in order to calm “social tensions” and so the “economic stability of the country” is not affected.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Situation ‘Tragic’ As Winter Weather Blankets Europe

Heavy snow left several Italian villages paralyzed and without power as winter weather and cold temperatures spread across Europe, the mayor of one village said. Many of the 32 villages in the Aniene Valley, near Rome, lost electricity on Friday when an electric pylon fell because of the snow, said Piero Moscardini, mayor of Vallinfreda.

The valley, home to about 50,000 people, has received some 100 cm (39 inches) of snow, Moscardini said. “It’s the worst snow since 1956,” he said. “The situation is tragic. We need the Army to save us.” Ambulances cannot traverse the roads, he said, and some villagers cannot reach their stables to feed livestock.

Meanwhile, deaths continued to increase from the cold. In Romania, four people died on Saturday and another six on Sunday, authorities said. A total of 34 people have died since the cold snap began in late January. Nineteen national roads and one highway remained closed on Sunday. More than 30 cities and villages are isolated, authorities said, and power outages were reported in 200 cities and villages. More than 3,000 employees belonging to the Interior Ministry were involved in rescue operations, as hundreds sought refuge in temporary shelters and hundreds more were hospitalized because of hypothermia.

In Poland, TVN Poland said a total of 53 people have died, eight of them in the past 24 hours. The victims are mainly homeless people, according to the report.

Heathrow Airport, one of the world’s busiest international airports, canceled about half of its flights Sunday, its owner said Sunday — about 260 more flights than it expected to cancel as of the night before. Between two and four inches of snow fell on London overnight, as the British capital became the latest European city to be hit by winter weather wending its way west.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Sweden: Attackers Carve ‘Whore’ Into Woman’s Arm

A 20-year-old woman had the word “whore” carved into her arm in connection with a knife attack in Landskrona in southern Sweden. The woman told police she was attacked around 11pm on Saturday night when she got off a bus in central Landskrona, the local Helsingborgs Dagbladet newspaper reported. Two men suddenly appeared and threw the woman to the ground. One then held her down while the other took out a knife and carved “hora”, the Swedish word for “whore” into her arm.

The woman, who was also reportedly cut in the face, was later taken to hospital by relatives. Local police confirmed the incident for the newspaper, but refused to divulge many details about the circumstances of the attack. “We have quite a bit to go on and we’re doing our best to solve it,” a police spokesperson told Helsingborgs Dagbladet.