News Feed 20120125

Financial Crisis
» Czech Cabinet Agrees 1.5bn Euros for IMF Eurozone Package
» Europe’s Trade Unions Call Feb 29 Protest Against Austerity
» Fed to Maintain Rates Near Zero Through Late 2014
» IMF Cuts Global Growth Citing Eurozone Problems
» Polish PM Makes Explicit Threat on Fiscal Treaty
» Swiss Central Banker Sees Franc Weakening
» The Nine American Cities Nearly Destroyed by the Recession
» Archbishop Calls Obama Habitual Violator of Constitution
» Convicted Terrorist Accused of Plotting to Kill Witnesses
» Europe Low on Obama’s Radar
» Frank Gaffney: The Audacity of Deceit: Notes on the State of the Union
» High School Football Players Arrested for on-Field Assault — With Photos (R.O.P. Alert)
» JFK: ‘Well, That’s a Tough Day’
» Keystone Calamity
» No Mention of Health Care in White House’s State of the Union Talking Points
» Obama’s State of Omission
» Report: Buffett’s Railroad to Benefit From Obama Keystone Pipeline Rejection
» Solar Storm Engulfs Earth
» The Great Renewable Energy Scam: Is There a Change in the Wind?
» Momin Khawaja Burned in Prison Attack With Boiling Water
Europe and the EU
» Erdogan Slams ‘Racist’ France Over Genocide Bill
» France: Faltering Sarkozy Mulls End of Career
» Hedge Funds Bet on Profits From Greek Debt Talks
» ‘It Really Makes Me Think About Becoming a Muslim’: Liam Neeson Considers Converting to Islam Following Trip to Istanbul
» Norway Mulls One-Man Hospital for Killer: Report
» Norway Aglow in Northern Light Show
» Sky Shimmers After Solar Storm
» Spectacular Northern Lights From Solar Storm Wow Skywatchers
» UK: Police Attacked for Wrongly Writing Off Thousands of Crimes
» Organised Crime Problem Dogs EU Record on Kosovo
North Africa
» Egyptian Judiciary Accused of Collusion in Kidnapping and Forced Islamization of Christian Minors
» Egypt’s Youth Mark Anniversary With Calls for More Changes
» Foreign Woman Stripped of Clothes, Assaulted, In Egypt’s Tahrir Square
» Swiss Return $1.8 Billion in Seized Arab Spring Assets
Middle East
» Can Iran Survive Now That Europe Has Also Agreed to Boycott Its Oil?
» Female Driver Who Defied Saudi Motoring Ban Dies in Fatal Road Accident
» The ‘Vogue of the Veiled’: Turkish Women’s Magazine Targets the Chaste
» Turkish Women Victims of “Permitted” Rape
South Asia
» Peace Pipeline May Finally Have Its Day
Far East
» Analysis: Chinese Solar Companies Sell Below Cost
Australia — Pacific
» What Obsesses the Political Class on Australia Day?
Sub-Saharan Africa
» Danish Hostage Freed in Somalia Raid
» Danish and American Hostages Rescued by Navy Seals
» Somali Pirates Chop Off Hostage Captain’s Arm to Elicit $3m Ransom
» U.S. Forces Rescue Kidnapped Aid Workers Jessica Buchanan and Poul Hagen Thisted in Somalia
» Sweden: Website Touts Ruse to Turn in Illegal Immigrants
Culture Wars
» New York Times Ignores March for Life for Fifth Year in a Row
» Norway: Non-Darwinist Doctor Refused Job
» Facebook’s Timeline
» Huge Solar Eruption Sparks Strongest Radiation Storm in 7 Years
» Hyperactive Sun Clears Space Junk — for Now
» ‘Space Hurricane’: Huge Solar Storm is Pounding Earth Now
» White Middle-Schooler Beaten Unconscious by Group of Black Students

Financial Crisis

Czech Cabinet Agrees 1.5bn Euros for IMF Eurozone Package

(PRAGUE) — The Czech government on Wednesday approved a 1.5-billion-euro ($1.95 billion) loan to the International Monetary Fund, less than half its expected contribution of 3.5 billion euros, the premier said. As the eurozone debt crisis mounted last year, the 17 countries that share the single currency pledged 150 billion euros in bilateral loans to the IMF, to be ploughed back into the debt-laden single currency region if needed.

At a December 9 summit, European leaders called for the IMF to be provided with a total of 200 billion euros, including contributions from non-eurozone countries like the Czech Republic, whose contribution was originally pegged at 3.5 billion euros. “The government approved a request to the central bank to release 1.5 billion euros which it will provide as a loan to the IMF from its foreign currency reserves,” Prime Minister Petr Necas told reporters. “The original figure was really hard to accept because 50 percent of the bank’s euro reserves would be exposed to the IMF,” Necas added.

The loan is now to be submitted to a vote in parliament, where it should easily pass, given that Necas’ coalition controls 115 of the chamber’s 200 seats.

The eurozone is the key trading partner for the Czech Republic, a nation of 10.5 million which is bound to join the 17-member bloc under the terms of its 2004 European Union admission. But Necas has refused to fix a date to adopt the euro during his current term, which ends in 2014, citing the eurozone’s ongoing debt crisis as the primary reason.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Europe’s Trade Unions Call Feb 29 Protest Against Austerity

(BRUSSELS) — Europe’s trade unions Wednesday called a continent-wide anti-austerity protest on February 29, eve of an EU summit expected to usher in a new treaty to tighten eurozone budgetary discipline. “The slogan will be ‘Enough is enough!’ Austerity measures are not the only response to the crisis,” said Bernadette Segol, secretary-general of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC). “The treaty offers no solutions,” Segol said. “It will act as a brake on growth.”

Heads of state and government are to gather in Brussels on March 1 and 2 to agree a so-called “fiscal compact” aimed at tightening budgetary discipline between the 17 eurozone nations. “The treaty is going absolutely in the wrong direction,” said Brendan Barber, general secretary of Britain’s Trades Union Congress (TUC). “It is time to give people hope rather than despair.” “We are facing a continuous crisis because of the policies of our governments which are dragging down prospects of recovery.”

EU unemployment peaked to 9.8 percent at the end of 2011, meaning more than 23 million people were out of work — one out of five of them youths. The compact, which is aimed at avoiding a repeat of the eurozone debt crisis, is expected to be agreed in principle at an informal summit Monday before formal acceptance at the March gathering.

Under its terms, countries that do not adopt a so-called “golden rule” of balanced budgets would be brought before the European Court of Justice. Germany, the biggest contributor to bailouts and a promoter of strict fiscal discipline, has insisted on the court having a role in policing budgets.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Fed to Maintain Rates Near Zero Through Late 2014

The Federal Reserve said Wednesday that it intends to hold short-term interest rates near zero “at least through late 2014.”

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IMF Cuts Global Growth Citing Eurozone Problems

The IMF Tuesday curbed its global growth projections for 2012 to 3.25%, slower than the 4% it previously projected, citing concerns about the eurozone — a region it predicts will grow just 0.5% in 2012, down from a previous 1.1% estimate. “The epicenter of the danger is Europe,” it said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Polish PM Makes Explicit Threat on Fiscal Treaty

Polish leader Donald Tusk told Warsaw press Tuesday he will not sign the EU fiscal compact unless Poland is allowed to participate in eurozone summits: “I have told (EU Council) chief Herman Van Rompuy that (unless this happens) … it will be hard for us to sign the fiscal treaty.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Swiss Central Banker Sees Franc Weakening

The Swiss National Bank, which set an exchange rate floor against the euro of 1.20 francs to curb its spike in value, expects the franc to decline in the future, a board member said on Tuesday. “The Swiss franc is still highly valued but it should depreciate further in the future,” Jean-Pierre Danthine said in an address at Zurich University.

The SNB will continue to enforce the minimum rate by remaining prepared to buy unlimited quantities of foreign currencies, Danthine said, echoing a central bank statement released at the start of the year. 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.

It has remained near 1.20 since a central bank intervention in September. The SNB was dealt a blow with the loss of earlier this month of its head Philipp Hildebrand, who stepped down following an outcry over foreign currency exchanges made by his wife.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

The Nine American Cities Nearly Destroyed by the Recession

The nation continues to be mired in an anemic, jobless recovery. And according to a report commissioned by the United States Conference of Mayors, and prepared by IHS Global Insight, many regions in the country still continue to lose jobs. Of the 363 U.S. metropolitan regions reviewed by IHS, only 61 will fully recover all the jobs that were lost during the recession by the end of this year. The rest will recover far fewer — the average city will only recover roughly 40% of jobs lost from peak employment.

24/7 Wall St. examined the nine metropolitan regions that are projected to recover less than 5% of the jobs lost during the recession by the end of 2012. These cities, in particular, were hurt by the housing crash, the loss or decline of an industry, and a reduction in government services and jobs.

Many of the cities that will recover the least jobs by the end of this year experienced particularly heady housing markets through 2006. As a result, they also had among the worst housing crashes in the country. In Reno-Sparks, Nevada, median home values dropped nearly 40% between 2007 and 2010. Five of the nine cities on this list had a major decline in housing, with four markets losing 25% of their median home value.

These are the nine American cities nearly destroyed by the recession.

9. Norwich-New London, CT

8. Brunswick, GA

7. Abilene, TX

6. Wichita Falls, TX

5. Flint, MI

4. Champaign-Urbana, IL

3. Santa Barbara-Santa Maria-Goleta, CA

2. Reno-Sparks, NV

1. Carson City, NV


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Archbishop Calls Obama Habitual Violator of Constitution

Cardinal-designate Timothy M. Dolan, archbishop of New York and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, has recorded a video message bluntly stating that the Obama administration has a habit of advancing policies that violate the U.S. Constitution. …

The new video message is the latest step in an escalating and historically unprecedented confrontation between the Roman Catholic Church and an American president.

It centers around what the American Catholic bishops see as the Obama administration’s efforts to restrict the right of Catholic citizens and institutions to freely exercise their religion as guaranteed by the 1st Amendment to the Constitution.


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Convicted Terrorist Accused of Plotting to Kill Witnesses

RALEIGH, N.C. — A North Carolina man sentenced to prison recently as part of a homegrown terrorist ring has been accused in a federal court document of plotting to kill witnesses who testified against him at trial.

An affidavit unsealed in federal court Monday accuses Hysen Sherifi of plotting against the witnesses from his jail cell. Authorities say an FBI informant posing as a hit man met with Sherifi’s brother and a female friend and accepted $5,000 and a photo of an intended victim.

FBI agents have arrested the brother, Shkumbin Sherifi, and Nevine Aly Elshiekh, a school teacher. Now in federal custody at the New Hanover County Jail, each is charged with a felony count of use of interstate commerce facilities in the commission of murder-for-hire.

Hysen Sherifi, 27, was sentenced to 45 years in prison earlier this month in what prosecutors described as a conspiracy to attack the Marine base at Quantico, Va., and targets abroad. Five others, including construction contractor Daniel Patrick Boyd, have been sentenced to federal prison terms for terrorism charges related to raising money, stockpiling weapons and training in preparation for jihadist attacks.

No charges have been filed at this time against Hysen Sherifi related to the new plot, according to a search of a federal court database.

Shkumbin Sherifi and Elshiekh await a scheduled first appearance Friday in federal court in Wilmington. The two have applied for court appointed lawyers, who have not yet been assigned.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Raleigh has released no information about those arrested.

In a 10-page affidavit filed under seal Friday, FBI Special Agent James Langtry writes that he developed a source as a confidential informant inside the New Hanover County Jail near Wilmington, where Hysen Sherifi was sent after a jury convicted him in October.

The informant soon befriended Sherifi, who requested help in hiring someone to kill three people who had testified against him at his trial, according to the affidavit. Sherifi specified that he wanted the witnesses beheaded and that he would be provided photos of the severed heads as confirmation of the deaths, according to the document.

FBI agents said in the document that they arranged for a second informant to pose as a hit man and monitored Sherifi during a series of jailhouse visits with Elshiekh.

Following a Dec. 21 visit at the jail, Elshiekh left a voicemail on the fake hit man’s cell phone, identifying herself as “Hysen Sherifi’s friend,” according to the affidavit. It added that the FBI observed and recorded subsequent meetings between Elshiekh and the fake hit man, during which she provided names, addresses and photos of those targeted and $750 in cash toward the first murder.

Agents also observed Elshiekh meeting with Shkumbin Sherifi, who met with the FBI’s fake hitman on Jan. 8, the court document said. According to the affidavit, the brother traveled from Raleigh to Wilmington to provide the hit man another $4,250 in cash.

The affidavit provides no information about the nature of the relationship between Hysen Sherifi and Elshiekh, but a woman with that same name was quoted in media reports from last year’s terrorism trial in New Bern. The names of the witnesses allegedly targeted were redacted from the affidavit.

Nevine Elshiekh is listed as a special education teacher on the website for Sterling Montessori Academy, a charter school in Mooresville. Bill Zajic, the school’s executive director, did not return a message from the Associated Press on Tuesday.

No one answered the phone at Elshiekh’s Raleigh home Tuesday.

The Sherifi brothers and other family members emigrated from Kosovo following the wars that ravaged the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s. A call to the Sherifi family home in Raleigh on Tuesday was not returned.

Hysen Sherifi and others arrested in the terrorism conspiracy were members of the Islamic Association of Raleigh, the largest Muslim congregation in the Triangle. Several members of the mosque also routinely made the 4-hour round trip for the trial in New Bern to support the accused, who they described as innocent men being railroaded by overzealous federal authorities.

Messages to the media contact listed for the mosque were not returned.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Europe Low on Obama’s Radar

Relations with Europe were low on the list of priorities in US president Obamas traditional State of the Union speech on Tuesday. “Europe and Russia invest more in their roads and railways than we do”, he said and mentioned NATO cooperation has increased on “everything from counterterrorism to missile defence.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Frank Gaffney: The Audacity of Deceit: Notes on the State of the Union

Knowing President Obama’s Alinskyite proclivities, his third State of the Union address — coming as it did amidst a reelection campaign — could have been predicted to be filled with lofting, sometimes inspiring but routinely bait-and-switch rhetoric. Even so, his exploitation of the U.S. military for nakedly political purposes translates into an extreme plumbing of what might be called his audacity of deceit.

If the President had been simply paying homage to the amazing men and women in uniform and extolling their courage, patriotism and selflessness, that would have been one thing. It would have been understandable, even commendable, to have cited such qualities in a call for legislators to come together as our troops do to accomplish the difficult missions at hand…

           — Hat tip: CSP [Return to headlines]

High School Football Players Arrested for on-Field Assault — With Photos (R.O.P. Alert)

DEARBORN HEIGHTS — A figurative beat down turned literal beating has led to the felony arrests of a group of local high school football players.

Police arrested four Star International Academy seniors Wednesday on aggravated assault charges stemming from an altercation in the team’s last game of the season.

The players — Mohamed Ahmed, Fanar Al-Alsady, Hadee Attia and Ali Bajjey, all age 17 — are accused of gang-beating Lutheran Westland’s quarterback as time expired in Lutheran’s 47-6 drubbing of Star on Oct. 21.

According to numerous witness statements gathered by police, Lutheran’s quarterback was set to take a knee to run out the clock. Before the snap, referees told both teams to refrain from contact, police said.

After the snap, however, the four arrested Star players burst through the line and allegedly manhandled Lutheran’s quarterback. Police said they ripped off his helmet, threw him to the ground and punched and kicked him repeatedly. The incident came to an end after coaches, players and refs stepped in and broke it up.


[NOTE: Original URL, from Press and Guidecan be found at the URL above. The original story is datelined January 14th. No MSM coverage to be found. ]

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JFK: ‘Well, That’s a Tough Day’

Newly released White House tapes reveal one particularly eerie conversation between President John F. Kennedy and an aide just three days before his death. Kennedy, in the tape dated Tuesday, Nov. 19, 1963, is heard casually talking about his upcoming trip to Dallas that Friday, his weekend plans in Cape Cod, and how hard it was trying to schedule things for the next week.

That tape, dated 10 days before his death, shows Kennedy admitting that 1964 would be a tough race and that he had to find a way to convince voters to back him. “What is it we have to sell them? We hope to sell them prosperity, but for the average guy, prosperity is nil,” he admitted.

“He’s not unprosperous, but he’s not very prosperous. He’s not going to make out well off. “And the people who are well off hate our guts,” he added. Kennedy also acknowledged that his civil-rights record could turn off an average voter. “We’re the ones shoving the Negroes down his throat,” he said of the average voter.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Keystone Calamity

President Obama’s decision to postpone a thumbs up or thumbs down on TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline proposal until 2013 was a savvy political move. He didn’t want to alienate the greenies who are an essential part of his voter base. But it was a shortsighted economic decision.

The proposed link between the towns of Hardisty, in Alberta, Canada, and Nederland, in eastern Texas, would have helped reduce our dependence on oil imports and introduced efficiencies into the domestic market by increasing the flow of oil from refineries serving the Midwest-where it’s in oversupply-to refineries that serve the East Coast.

Keystone XL is an expansion project. There’s an existing Keystone Pipeline, built by TransCanada (ticker: TRP) from Hardisty across the Dakotas and through Nebraska and Kansas to Cushing, Okla. So much oil has been flowing to Cushing from Canada and U.S. Bakken formation areas (parts of Montana and North Dakota), that it’s caused a regional glut. That’s why West Texas Intermediate crude trades below the price of benchmark North Sea Brent crude. In an efficient market, the price would be equal.


Americans consume about 15 million barrels each day, and import about 10 million. Canada exports about two million barrels per day to the U.S., some by rail. The Keystone XL expansion would create a system capable of moving 1.1 million barrels a day across North America, compared with 591,000 barrels for the existing Keystone Pipeline.


It was last November that Obama first announced he would defer a pipeline decision until 2013-due to opposition by environmentalists and the state’s GOP governor-to a route across the Nebraska portion of the Ogallala Aquifer. TransCanada said it would find a new route. Republicans intent on making the pipeline an election issue passed a bill, signed into law by the president, requiring him to decide on the project by February. The GOP contends that pipeline construction would create tens of thousands of U.S. jobs. Obama last week said he couldn’t render a judgment because TransCanada hasn’t yet identified its alternate route.

[NOTE: If Ezra Levant’s opinion reflects that of the average Canadian, then Transcanada may indeed have an alternate route to the west coast of Canada and on to oil-hungry Asia. See his video, “Keystone Calamity”, here:

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No Mention of Health Care in White House’s State of the Union Talking Points

Fact-Checking President Obama’s Claims About Domestic Energy

The Obama campaign just released a website that purports to provide “the facts of President Obama energy record.” This is an intentional effort by the Obama campaign to distort the President’s abysmal energy record. After all, energy production on federal land is down under President Obama and the Obama campaign is trying their hardest to hide and obfuscate this basic fact.

Obama Claim: “Since President Obama took office, oil imports have been reduced by an average of 1.1 million barrels per day.”

Reality: A reduction of imports has happened without President Obama, not because of him. More than half of the reduction is because the ongoing recession and much higher price have made fuel so expensive that consumers are using less of it.


The reality is that oil production on federal lands is falling, while production on private and state lands is rising.[2] There is a long term trend of decreasing oil production on federal lands. In fact, oil production on federal lands has fallen by 43 percent over the past 9 years according to the Obama administration’s Energy Information Administration.[3] And it has dropped rapidly on President Obama’s watch.

…because of the actions taken by the Obama administration such as severely limiting the offshore areas where oil can be produced, cancelling oil leases, and withdrawing other oil leases, oil production on federal lands will most likely continue to fall. (More of the Obama administration’s anti-energy actions can be found here.)


Obama Claim: 2010 domestic crude oil production reached its highest levels since 2003.

Reality: This is true, but the average production per day for 2011 is only 0.3 million barrels per day higher than in 2009. And, as noted above, the reason that U.S. crude oil production is increasing is because of production on private and state lands while production on federal lands is decreasing.


Obama Claim: 2010 natural gas production reached its highest level in more than 30 years.

Reality: Yes natural gas production is up, but this is because of production on private and state lands because production on federal lands is decreasing. [4]

Obama Claim: The U.S. has become a net energy exporter.

Reality: This claim is 100 percent false. Because the Obama campaign does not provide a single citation or source for their information, it is impossible to know how great its ignorance of energy facts extends. Every year, the Energy Information Administration, which is part of the Obama administration’s Department of Energy, publishes an Annual Energy Review. If the Obama campaign understood energy facts, they would have looked at Table 1.4 of the 2010 Annual Energy Review. They would have found a table titled, “Primary Energy Trade by Source, Selected Years, 1949-2010.” That table shows that in 2010, far from being a net energy exporter, the U.S. had net imports of 21 quadrillion Btus of energy of the 98 quadrillion btus used.

Obama Claim: The Obama administration has proposed a five-year offshore drilling plan that makes more than 75 percent of undiscovered oil and gas resources off our shores available for development, while putting in place common-sense safety requirements to prevent a disaster like the BP oil spill from happening again.

Reality: When President Obama was inaugurated nearly 100 percent of the offshore areas were available for exploration and development. Since then, the Obama administration has imposed limitations and made it far more difficult to produce energy on offshore areas. For example, even though there is bipartisan support from the Virginia delegation, including the state’s Democratic Senators, the Obama administration refuses to allow energy exploration off Virginia’s coast.


the president’s claims are simply breathtakingly in their apparent assumption that no one will bother to fact-check his numbers.


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Obama’s State of Omission

Speaking last night from the U.S. Capitol, President Barack Obama described the state of the Union as he sees it — strong and getting stronger, with future growth fueled by his pursuit of progressive policies and an expansion of government, all architected to bring about his brand of “fairness.” The President essentially redelivered his 2011 State of the Union address — complete with the same empty rhetoric, class warfare cloaked in “fairness,” and proposals for massive tax and spending increases.

The speech was notable for the items he did not mention, including many of the failed spending programs and policies he undertook over the past three years, the foreign policy and defense challenges he has exacerbated, and the economic actions he failed to take that would have created jobs and spurred economic growth.

Governor Mitch Daniels (R-IN), who delivered the response to the State of the Union address, shined a light on those titanic omissions — the state of America’s economic and fiscal crises, the President’s promise to fix them, and his failure to do anything but make matters worse, all amid a trillion dollars in stimulus spending and a rapidly expanding bureaucracy:

Apart from the truth about the depths of America’s unemployment crisis and the scope of government spending, the President barely mentioned his signature legislative item, Obamacare, which is facing a Supreme Court constitutional challenge; Social Security and the country’s entitlement crisis; his decision to say “no” to the Keystone XL pipeline and the jobs it would bring with it; the Solyndra scandal and the failures of his green energy initiatives; the illegality of his appointments to the Consumer Financial Protection Board and the National Labor Relations Board; the Senate’s failure to pass a budget for 1,000 days under the leadership of his own party; the high costs that his additional regulations bring with them; his party’s opposition to free trade agreements; the fraudulent elections in Russia; the ongoing collapse of the Euro; warnings about his decision to slash defense spending; the remaining challenges in Afghanistan; and the violence that has erupted in Iraq after the departure of U.S. troops.

It’s not surprising, of course, that the President would want to hide from his failures, but it’s troubling to see that he plans to continue on the progressive course he has set for the country. In the President’s words, “We can either settle for a country where a shrinking number of people do really well, while a growing number of Americans barely get by. Or we can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.”

This “fairness” argument, which the President cloaked in the most moderate of terms, lays the foundation for a wholesale deconstruction of America as we know it. Instead of a country where individuals are free to rise and fall on their own merits, the President seeks a system where an all-powerful federal government guarantees equal outcomes, regardless of one’s merit


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Report: Buffett’s Railroad to Benefit From Obama Keystone Pipeline Rejection

By Jon E. Dougherty

A railroad largely owned by billionaire Warren Buffett stands to benefit financially from a decision by the Obama administration to reject a major oil pipeline project that would have stretched 1,700 miles south from Canada to refineries in Texas.

Bloomberg News reported Tuesday that Burlington Northern Santa Fe LLC is among U.S. and Canadian railroads that stand to gain from the U.S. State Department’s rejection last week of the Keystone XL pipeline project. Buffett is a long-time political and financial supporter of Obama.

“Whatever people bring to us, we’re ready to haul,” Krista York-Wooley, a spokeswoman for Burlington Northern, a unit of Buffett’s Omaha, Nebraska-based Berkshire Hathaway Inc., investment house, told Bloomberg. If the pipeline deal falls through, she added, “we’re here to haul.”

The State Department rejected TransCanada’s permit to build the pipeline on Jan. 18, saying a congressionally imposed deadline of Feb. 21 to study the project was not enough time.

TransCanada has said it would reapply for a route that avoids an environmentally sensitive region in Nebraska, but the Canadian government has also said it will consider selling its oil to China as a way to diversity its energy outlets.

Canadian Natural Resource Minister Joe Oliver said relying less on the U.S. would help strengthen the country’s “financial security.”

The “decision by the Obama administration underlines the importance of diversifying and expanding our markets, including the growing Asian market,” Oliver told reporters last week.

If completed, the Keystone XL project would transport about 700,000 barrels of oil a day from oil sands regions in Alberta to refineries in Texas.

Some analysts believe the pipeline project will eventually move forward, Bloomberg reported, noting that pipeline shipping costs less than moving oil by rail. Also, a shortage of transport rail cars could also make the pipeline more attractive.

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Solar Storm Engulfs Earth

A major space radiation storm has engulfed Earth. The sun unleashed a powerful solar flare yesterday, sending out a cloud of electrically charged particles, or plasma, that reached Earth today. But don’t fear: the Earth’s electrical systems will probably emerge unscathed.

Because of the storm, space radiation in Earth’s vicinity is now at its highest level since October 2003, according to the Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, Colorado. The level of radiation has reached 3 on a scale where 5 is the highest. This much radiation occurs about 10 times in every 11-year solar cycle and could cause some satellites to malfunction.

When strong solar outbursts occur, the bigger concern down on the ground is the potential for disruption to power grids. Knocking these out requires a powerful geomagnetic storm, which is a disturbance in Earth’s magnetosphere, a region of electrically charged particles trapped around Earth by our planet’s magnetic field.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

The Great Renewable Energy Scam: Is There a Change in the Wind?

by Patrick J. Michaels

People don’t like being forced to purchase things they may not want, which is why over half of us are hoping that the Supreme Court throws out the individual insurance mandate in President Barack Obama’s health care plan.

There’s also a worldwide rebellion brewing against being forced to purchase expensive electricity produced by so-called “renewable” sources, now being exacerbated by the availability of very cheap natural gas from shale formations.

But, here in the U.S. there are some 30 different statewide “renewable portfolio standards” (RPSs) that also mandate pricey power, usually under the guise of fighting dreaded global warming.

RPSs command tha. a certain percentage of electricity has to come from wind, solar, geothermal, or biomass. Given that this power generally costs a lot more than what comes from a modern coal or gas plant, your local utility passes the cost on in the form of higher bills, which the various state utility commissions are only too happy to approve in the name of saving the planet.

RPSs generally do not include hydroelectric power, which produces no carbon dioxide. It’s also much more predictable than solar or wind, and costs about the same as the average for gas and coal combined. It’s not in the portfolio standards because dams are soooo 20th century, and it isn’t a darling of the green lobby, like solar, wind and biomass. But hydro can deliver more juice than solar is ever likely to.

Nor do RPSs allow for natural gas. There are massive quantities in shale formations around the country, and new horizontal drilling techniques are releasing so much of it that it is now the cheapest source of electrical power. If our environmentalist friends were at all serious about climate change, they would enthuse over it becaus. it produces significantly less carbon dioxide than an equivalent quantity of coal when used for power generation. Instead, they are horrified that cheap gas will destroy solar and wind.

Their worries are quite well-founded. In November, NextEra Energy, the country’s largest wind-energy producer, said it would develop no new wind projects this year, as utilities sell cheaper gas power.

When are governments going to learn that they ought to butt out of the energy business? RPSs that specify certain technologies are essentially picking winners and losers based more upon political pull than market logic.

One needs to look no further than ethanol as a motor fuel, mandated by the feds. Sold as “renewable” and reducing pernicious carbon dioxide emissions, it actually produces more in its life cycle than simply burning an equivalent amount of gasoline. It also-unconscionably-consumes 40% of U.S. corn production, and we are the by far the world’s largest producer of this important basic food.

The popular revulsion against ethanol has succeeded in cutting its massive federal subsidy, of $0.54 per gallon, which ran out on Dec. 31. But that doesn’t stop the federal mandate. Last year it was for roughly 14 billion gallons from corn and it will be nearly 15 billion in 2012. By 2022, up to 20 billion gallons will be required — all from corn — unless there is a breakthrough in so-called “cellulosic” ethanol, which, no matter how much money the government throws at it, hasn’t happened. Indeed, the largest cellulosic plant, Range Fuels, in Camilla, Ga., just went bankrupt. The loss to American taxpayers appears to be about $120 million, or about 25% of a Solyndra.

Don’t expect Congress to zero the ethanol mandate anytime soon. Farm country tends to be conservative on pretty much everything except propping up corn prices, which is what ethanol mandates do.

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Momin Khawaja Burned in Prison Attack With Boiling Water

OTTAWA — Momin Khawaja, the country’s first convicted Islamic terrorist, is recovering from second-degree burns to his back, face and left eye after a fellow inmate, a member of the Toronto 18 terrorist cell, scalded him with a pot of boiling water.

The attack at the federal Special Handling Unit, the super-maximum-security prison in Ste-Anne-des-Plaines, Que., happened Jan. 16, the Citizen has learned, as inmates were preparing snacks in a common room before going to their cells for the night.

In the planned attack to settle an apparent ideological feud, the inmate waited for Khawaja, 32, to enter the common room and, once he walked past, doused him with the boiling water, according to his father.

Khawaja, screaming in pain, turned to defend himself, only to have guards subdue the fighting inmates and call paramedics.

Khawaja, who is serving life in prison for his role in an international terrorism plot, was transported to hospital in Montreal and returned to the prison last week.

Mahboob Khawaja visited his son on Saturday, reporting that he is in “quite a painful state.” The elder Khawaja did not detail the apparent ideological feud.

“We feel helpless about what’s happened to Momin because nobody at the prison will make themselves available to meet with us about it,” Khawaja’s father said. “It was horrifying to see him with burns on 60 per cent of his body. He is in great pain and we feel he should be in hospital, not prison, until he has fully recovered.”

Corrections Canada would not confirm the specifics of the report.

“I can confirm that an incident did happen, and that there is an investigation ongoing as a result of the incident,” said department spokesman Serge Abergel, saying the incident happened on Jan. 16.

Khawaja is now in segregation awaiting an appeal to be heard by the Supreme Court of Canada. He was convicted of participating in, contributing to, financing and facilitating a group of extremists plotting to bomb London and other British targets in 2004. In his father’s eyes, Khawaja was just misguided, guilty of nothing more than “loose talk” on the Internet with British conspirators. It was, he says, simply a “thought crime” that was never executed.

Khawaja’s lawyer, Lawrence Greenspon, said his client’s safety needs to be taken seriously…

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Erdogan Slams ‘Racist’ France Over Genocide Bill

The French Senate has passed a bill making the denial of genocide — including the massacre of Armenians in 1915 — a crime. The Turkish reaction has been furious. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan denounced what he called a “racist and discriminatory” attitude towards Turkey.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

France: Faltering Sarkozy Mulls End of Career

French media was buzzing with speculation about the political future of President Sarkozy on Wednesday after comments he made on an official to French Guiana. Left-leaning newspaper Libération led with the headline “Déjà abattu?” (“Already beaten?”). Le Monde’s Wednesday edition headlined that his camp was “stricken with fear of defeat”.

Sarkozy has raised the prospect of an end to his political career, less than three months ahead of a presidential election that is looking increasingly difficult for him to win. While the “hyperactive” Sarkozy is not expected to officially announce his candidacy before the end of February or early March, France knows he is already on the campaign trail.

With speculation about the president’s future rising, the harshest comment came Tuesday from centrist candidate Francois Bayrou, tipped to win between 12 and 14 percent of the first round vote on April 22nd. “Everyone can see that for Nicolas Sarkozy, his position is compromised. So it’s up to him to reflect, to look at the situation as it is,” Bayrou told RTL radio.

Latest opinion polls give right-wing Sarkozy around 23 percent of votes in the first round, 30 percent to his Socialist rival François Hollande, and 18 percent to far-right Front National leader Marine Le Pen. Faith in Sarkozy’s future, even within his own camp, has reportedly wilted in recent weeks.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Hedge Funds Bet on Profits From Greek Debt Talks

The negotiations over the Greek debt haircut are becoming increasingly suspenseful, with euro-zone finance ministers and the IMF pushing investors to accept greater losses. Hedge funds, more than any others, stand to profit, and are betting that the voluntary debt rescheduling will fail.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

‘It Really Makes Me Think About Becoming a Muslim’: Liam Neeson Considers Converting to Islam Following Trip to Istanbul

He may have been named after the local priest in his Irish hometown but Liam Neeson could be leaving his Roman Catholic beliefs behind.

The 59-year-old actor is said to be considering converting to Islam following a working trip to Istanbul.

According to The Sun, Neeson admitted that Islamic prayer ‘got into his spirit’ while he was filming in Turkey.

‘The call to prayer happens five times a day, and for the first week, it drives you crazy, and then it just gets into your spirit, and it’s the most beautiful, beautiful thing,’ he said.

‘There are 4,000 mosques in the city. Some are just stunning, and it really makes me think about becoming a Muslim.’

Neeson was raised in Northern Ireland as a devout Roman Catholic due to his parents beliefs.

           — Hat tip: Nick [Return to headlines]

Norway Mulls One-Man Hospital for Killer: Report

Norwegian health authorities may be forced to build a one-man hospital for terrorism suspect Anders Behring Breivik if a court finds he should be placed in psychiatric care, according to a media report.

Staff at the high security Ila prison have taken strict measures to keep Breivik apart from other inmates since his incarceration there in July after the dual terrorist attacks that left 77 people dead.

State-appointed specialists have previously found Breivik to be criminally insane, meaning he will be placed in psychiatric care unless that decision is overturned on appeal.

But none of Norway’s existing psychiatric institutions are considered anywhere near secure enough to house the 32-year-old right-wing extremist, newspaper VG reports.

Not even Dikemark hospital in Asker, home to some of Norway’s most dangerous individuals, is thought to be secure enough to prevent a potential Breivik escape, the newspaper said.

According to VG, health authorities are examining the possibility of constructing a miniature hospital within the confines of Ila prison, where Breivik would stay on as the sole patient.

“It’s correct that we’re looking at a number of options that take into account both his safety and concerns for the protection of the community,” said Secretary of Start Robin Kåss (Labour Party), who declined to confirm specific details.

Breivik has admitted to setting off a car bomb outside government offices in Oslo before gunning down 69 mostly young people at a summer camp on Utøya island on July 22nd last year.

His trial begins in April.

           — Hat tip: The Observer [Return to headlines]

Norway Aglow in Northern Light Show

Seasoned sky-watchers were left swooning on Tuesday night as a solar storm had large parts of Norway basking in the glow of spectacular northern lights. With sun particles swirling around the night sky at around five times their normal speed, the auroras on show were among the most dazzling in years.

As a gas cloud hit the Earth’s magnetic fields, the particles reached speeds of 2,000 kilometres per second. Elegant northern lights have been illuminating the skies over Norway for the past week, but Tuesday’s solar storm was the strongest in more than six years. After eleven years of relative calm, the sun has become more active over the last two years. This has resulted in frequent flares of powerful intensity.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Sky Shimmers After Solar Storm

A massive solar outburst buffeted the Earth yesterday, giving rise to beautiful auroral displays in many places, including Sweden, where this photo was taken by Göran Strand. Strand took a 360-degree panorama, then wrapped the results into a circle to give this unusual perspective. Auroras are produced by electrons and protons slamming into Earth’s upper atmosphere. Earth’s magnetic field funnels the particles towards the north and south poles, so auroras are more common at higher latitudes.

The sun sends a constant stream of particles at Earth in the solar wind, but it occasionally belches out bigger quantities of them, triggering more intense light shows. During yesterday’s outburst, the number of these particles in Earth’s vicinity reached their highest level since 2003.

In addition to triggering auroras, such outbursts can also wreak havoc with technology. Solar storms can interfere with navigation equipment on planes flying polar routes, as is common for flights between North America and Asia. Some airlines rerouted polar flights onto lower-latitude paths yesterday as a precaution.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Spectacular Northern Lights From Solar Storm Wow Skywatchers

A dazzling display of auroras lit up the far northern skies Tuesday night (Jan. 24) in a supercharged light show captured on camera by skywatchers around the world. “I was screaming from excitement like a small kid at Christmas,” said skywatcher Jens Buchmann, who watched the northern lights dance across the sky from Kiruna, Sweden.

The northern lights show was sparked by an intense solar flare that erupted from the sun late Sunday (Jan. 22). The flare unleashed a wave of charged particles, triggering the strongest solar radiation storm since 2005, NASA scientists said, adding that some minor satellite interference was possible.

Buchmann and a friend booked a last-minute flight from Stockholm to Kiruna after hearing about the solar storm. They braved freezing temperatures of about minus 22 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 30 degrees Celsius) in order to see the aurora display, moving inside only to thaw off before heading out again. Their photos show wispy green ribbons of energy rippling across the sky over a snow-covered landscape.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

UK: Police Attacked for Wrongly Writing Off Thousands of Crimes

Up to one in four incidents ignored by police should have been recorded as a crime, the police watchdog warned today.

Forces are failing to accurately log thousands of crimes, including some violent offences, and instead writing them off as “no crimes”.

It means police are not investigating incidents or helping victims in what should be recorded as a crime.

The study by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary said nationally some one in seven “no crimes” were dismissed wrongly but in the worst, and largest, offending force, the Metropolitan Police, it was as high as 25 per cent.

           — Hat tip: Kitman [Return to headlines]


Organised Crime Problem Dogs EU Record on Kosovo

BRUSSELS — Four years after the EU’s biggest-ever police mission came to Kosovo it has not indicted any top suspects on organised crime, posing questions about its work and the integrity of Kosovo’s leaders. Eulex itself is proud of its record. Its training of Kosovo police and customs is a success story. When the EU completes its Eulex review in the next few weeks, it is expected to reduce personnel to let local officers take over many day-to-day functions.

Eulex’ spokesman in Pristina, Nicholas Hawton, told EUobserver it also has “clear results” in chasing criminals in its war-scarred and politically complex theatre of operations.

He added it has 350 ongoing criminal investigations and that its judges have handed down 220 verdicts — 15 on organised crime and 20 on war crimes. One of the investigations concerns accusations that Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci used to run an organ trafficking gang. On the shocking case of Enver Zymberi — a Kosovar Albanian policeman murdered by a Serb sniper last year — its investigation has led Interpol to issue six arrest warrants.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egyptian Judiciary Accused of Collusion in Kidnapping and Forced Islamization of Christian Minors

by Mary Abdelmassih

(AINA) — An Egyptian court has ordered a 16-year old Christian girl to be held in a state-owned care home, instead of returning her to her family, allegedly for expressing her wish to convert to Islam. She is to be held in state care until she reaches the age of 18. The decision has been widely criticized by Copts, who say it encourages Islamists to continue unabated the abduction of Christian minors for conversion to Islam.

“The decision taken by a prosecutor in Boulaq El Dakrour district, Giza, makes him an abductor and makes the law an accomplice to the crime,” said Dr. Oliver, a Coptic activist. “What this prosecutor committed is a crime — he legitimized child abduction and detention.”

Dr. Oliver explained that these crimes are committed by thugs, criminals and kidnappers of children, and when the State legitimizes them it makes itself a partner. In addition, placing a girl under care for allegedly wishing to convert to Islam while still a minor is tantamount to abduction by the State.

The abduction of 16-year old Amira Gamal Saber, from Saft-el-Khamar village, Minya province, who disappeared from her home over 40 days ago, has turned into a tug of war between the Christian family and Islamist lawyers from an organization named Alliance for the Support of New Muslim Females. They claim that they are “defending the rights of their Muslim sisters” and that “according to the Egyptian constitution, the principal source of legislation is Islamic Jurisprudence (Sharia), which should apply to both Muslims and non-Muslims, and therefore at 16 years of age, Amira can chose her own religion.”

According to Al-Azhar Islamic Institution, a person cannot convert to Islam before reaching the age of 18 years.

In December 2011, Amira attended a school lesson but failed to return home. Her teacher said she had left school with two veiled girls. Her family looked for her in all the neighboring villages and were informed that she had accompanied three Muslim men to Cairo. They filed a report with the police on December 4. The head of security in Minya confirmed her kidnapping and assured her family that the culprits were being watched and not to take any action until they were detained. However, time passed and nothing was heard from security.

Attorney Tawfik Kamel, who accompanied the Sabry family to Giza, said that on January 15 a man named Mohammad Ahmed Ibrahim phoned the family and said that Amira had been staying at his home in Boulaq El Dakrour for the last 38 days and asked for 200,000 Egyptian pounds for her return. “The family asked to speak to their daughter, and she spoke to her mother,” he added.

According to Kamel, “We had no idea that Islamists were involved. We went to Giza to pay a ransom to someone and collect our daughter, instead we were directed to the police station where Amira is, and then we were told there that government prosecuters are handling the case.”

They were detained and interrogated for seven hours.

“We were surprised to find a bearded lawyer,” said Kamel, “backed by another 12 Salafist lawyers, appearing in the session, claiming that Amira wants to convert to Islam, and that she does not want to return home as she is afraid of retribution.” He presented prosecution with the birth certificate proving Amira is 16 years old and a certificate from the Fatwa department of Al Azhar saying they have no record of her, and conversion is not permitted for people under 18 years old.

“We thought we would bring Amira home but were stunned by the decision to send her to a care home in Giza until she reaches 18,” said her uncle.

Tawfik Kamel said that he heard that Amira is presently not in a state-owned care home, but in a home affiliated to the Sharia association in Giza, which is in violation of the court decision. He said that he is in the process of appealing the decision to the Attorney General.

The decision of the prosecutor in Boulaq El Dakrour was not the first time that prosecution has taken such a measure. On June 12, 2011, 14-year-old Nancy Magdy Fathy, and her 16-year old cousin Christine Ezzat Fathy disappeared from their home in Minya. The family accused two Muslim brothers from a neighboring village of abducting them. Two weeks later they were found in Cairo, but said they converted to Islam, refused to go back to their families and applied for protection from them.

Prosecution decided to put them in a state care home and provided protection for them, until completion of the investigations. It was discovered they had lied about converting to Islam, according to Al Azhar. “To this day they are still in the care home,” said activist Waguih Yacoub, “and no progress on their status had been made, except that the two brothers implicated of their disappearance were released” (AINA 6-26-2011).

According to Dr. Oliver there is an active ring called “Sharia Association of Ain Shams” in the Cairo suburb of Ain Shams, which kidnaps Christian minors. “It depends on the protection and backing of a prosecutor serving there who colludes with this association,” he said. “It is also not uncommon that prosecution detains parents of abducted minors so that they cease to search for their abducted daughters.”

Similarly organized Islamization rings, which depend on the protection and collusion of high profile personalities, including prosecutors and policemen, exist in Alexandria. They target Christian minor girls through sexual coercion (AINA 7-13-2011).

           — Hat tip: Mary Abdelmassih [Return to headlines]

Egypt’s Youth Mark Anniversary With Calls for More Changes

Wednesday marks the one-year anniversary of the revolution that ousted Hosni Mubarak from power. But, rather than celebrating, the country’s idealistic youth are taking to the streets once again to protest military abuses and the army’s continued hold on power.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Foreign Woman Stripped of Clothes, Assaulted, In Egypt’s Tahrir Square

“The woman, who’s identity has not been revealed, was taken away in an ambulance after being assaulted for 10 minutes. Her husband reportedly was unable to intervene and witnessed the incident.

“I saw the woman and then dozens of men surrounded her and started grabbing her, when she screamed for help some people came, but they were hit in the face,” wrote one witness.”

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

Swiss Return $1.8 Billion in Seized Arab Spring Assets

Switzerland said on Tuesday it has returned nearly 1.7 billion francs ($1.83 billion) in illicitly placed assets to countries involved in the Arab Spring regime changes. “The return of illicit assets is a key component of the system set up by Switzerland to protect its financial sector and to fight against international financial crime,” the foreign affairs ministry said in a statement.

It did not name the countries to which money had been returned however. Switzerland revealed the figures during a meeting of international experts on Monday and Tuesday in Lausanne that focused on the recovery of illicit assets held by autocratic leaders in countries where regime changes occurred. The seminar included experts from international aid organizations in 15 countries.

Meanwhile, Swiss courts have expanded investigations into frozen Tunisian and Egyptian assets, amid suspicions that a crime syndicate may be linked to them. “In addition to the suspicion of money laundering,” investigators are probing the possible involvement of a “criminal organization,” a spokeswoman for the Attorney General’s office, Jeannette Balmer, told AFP.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Middle East

Can Iran Survive Now That Europe Has Also Agreed to Boycott Its Oil?

by Juan Cole

The European Union threatened Iran on Monday with cutting off petroleum imports into the 27 EU member states, and announced sanctions on Iranian banks and some port and other companies.

Iran sells 18 percent of its petroleum to Europe, and Greece, Italy and Spain are particularly dependent on it. Europe also sells Iran nearly $12 billion a year in goods, which likely will cease, since there will be no way for Iran to pay for these goods. Some in Europe worry that the muscular anti-Iran policy of the UK, France and Germany in northern Europe will worsen the economic crisis of southern Mediterranean countries such as Greece.

Others think that Iran’s nuclear enrichment program is still primitive and that allegations that Iran is seeking a nuclear warhead are hype.


[Return to headlines]

Female Driver Who Defied Saudi Motoring Ban Dies in Fatal Road Accident

A woman who defied a driving ban on female motorists in Saudi Arabia has died in a car crash.

Another was hurt in the crash in the only country in the world where females are banned from getting behind the wheel.

A police spokesman said that one of the women was killed instantly but the other had to go to hospital to be treated for her injuries.

They were in a four-wheel drive on Saturday evening in the northern Hael province when the accident happened.

‘One woman was immediately killed and her companion who was driving the car was hospitalised after she suffered several injuries’ police spokesman Abdulaziz al-Zunaidi told AFP.

Their deaths come after they joined a growing number of women who have defied the ban since a high-profile campaign by a 32-year-old computer security consultant.

Manal al-Sherif was arrested and detained for 10 days in May after posting a video of herself on YouTube as she drover around Khobar, a city to the east of the country.

al-Sherif and a group of other women started a Facebook page called ‘Teach me how to drive so I can protect myself,’ which urged authorities to lift the driving ban.

Several other Saudi women went on to film themselves behind the wheel of a car in the days after al-Sherif’s detention.

Women struggle to get around in Saudi Arabia, and it isn’t just a result of the driving ban.

Taxis can be sparse and some men refuse to drive a woman without a chaperone — usually their husband or a close male relative.

One of the arguments that was thrown out by officials was that it was illegal for women to possess a driving license but not for them to drive.

In September, a woman in Jeddah named Shayma Jastaniah was found guilty of driving through the streets.

She was sentenced to 10 lashes as a result of the charges despite holding an international driving license.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

The ‘Vogue of the Veiled’: Turkish Women’s Magazine Targets the Chaste

Every lifestyle has its own magazine, from sailors to hunters, athletes to musicians. But headscarf-wearing women have been forced to do without — until now. The Turkish glossy Alâ has found a niche, and is fighting the ‘battle against nudity.’

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Turkish Women Victims of “Permitted” Rape

At the beginning of the New Year, as reported in the daily newspaper Haber Türk (Turkish News) of January 6, 2012, E.D., a 25-year old man in the northwestern Turkish city of Bolu, took his 11-year old “wife,” Z.Ç., to the hospital because she suffered pain. The news story identified the couple only by their initials. The doctor diagnosed the girl as eight months pregnant by her “husband.” Whether the girl was in a condition to consent to sexual relations is obviously questionable. One would more probably assume she was raped by the 25-year old.

Marriage to an 11-year old girl is illegal in Turkey, but such cases are a constant in the country’s life.

The doctor called for the girl to be kept in the hospital for in-patient care, but her “spouse” refused, and the couple returned to their village, Alpagut, near Bolu. The hospital released them after the girl signed a document declaring her wish to leave the facility.

Two days afterward, the governor of Bolu province stated that he had spoken with health authorities who assured him the girl must have been older than 11, given her bone structure.

E.D. and Z.Ç. told the doctor they had been married by an imam. Their neighbors had warned them that if they went to a city and disclosed this fact, they would face legal trouble.

In 1926, the Turkish Republic, founded three years before, adopted a legal code based on that of Switzerland. Civil marriage was introduced and “Islamic marriages” performed by an imam were reduced in status. Articles 230/5-6 of the Turkish Criminal Code prohibit a religious marriage ceremony unless a civil, state-recognized, official marriage has previously been contracted…


Nevertheless, “imam marriages” without civil registration still take place frequently in Turkey.


These “traditions,” including “marriage” to barely-pubescent girls, exist not only in Turkey but among Muslim immigrants in Germany. The girls are typically subjected to brutal rape. In May 2010, judicial authorities in Osnabrück, Lower Saxony, caused a scandal when the court delivered a suspended sentence to a Muslim man who had kidnapped and raped an 11-year old girl. The court justified its opinion on the grounds that such “marriages” are allegedly established in Islamic “tradition.” Such an attitude by the German government is insulting to Muslims who refuse to countenance such pathologies.

In 2002, a similar case transpired in Turkey. A 13-year old girl came to school with a baby in her arms. The girl belonged to a formerly-nomadic clan that had settled on the Aegean seacoast, and in which girls were married habitually before their 14th birthday — at the latest. Thirty men were called before the criminal court, but the village was viewed as representing an isolated case. That year, the Islamist “Justice and Development Party” (AKP) of Recep Tayyip Erdogan won its first national election, and Erdogan commenced his first term as prime minister.

Turkish feminists warn that under the three AKP administrations, long-controversial patriarchal habits have once again become the norm. Men make the rules, and women stay at home, with no opportunities for personal fulfillment in education or employment.

The situation of Turkish women is inconsistent, across the country. In the same article where Haber Türk reported on the case of Z.Ç. and E.D., the news portal stated that in Diyarbakir, a major city in southeastern Turkey, 415 girls aged 11 to 17 gave birth in the first 10 months of 2011…


[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Peace Pipeline May Finally Have Its Day

by Daniel Graeber

Indian and Pakistani officials this week are debating issues related to a natural gas pipeline planned from Turkmenistan. Pakistan’s energy minister left Monday for India to hold talks on the pipeline, which is the favorite of Washington. But Pakistan is running out of options to address energy shortages and explorers working on natural gas in Turkmenistan said the market wasn’t ripe yet for major energy developments. Iran, meanwhile, says its section of a gas pipeline from the South Pars gas field is ready to go, and with Islamabad growing increasingly frustrated with Washington, it would be no surprise if an unsteady government in Pakistan decides to hop in bed with Washington’s chief adversary, at least on energy issues.

Pakistani Energy Minister Asim Hussain left for New Delhi this week in an effort to settle issues related to transit fees for the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India natural gas pipeline. Various statements out of Islamabad, however, suggest the government isn’t sure if TAPI or the long-planned and dubiously named Peace Pipeline from Iran is the best option to address their energy concerns. Islamabad said liquefied natural gas is too expensive right now and security concerns in Afghanistan make TAPI a bit of a risk. Though New Delhi can’t seem to make up its mind on the pipeline from Iran, the Pakistani government said it felt that project might be worth exploring.


[Return to headlines]

Far East

Analysis: Chinese Solar Companies Sell Below Cost

The conclusion could kick off a trade war between the U.S. and China, and harm solar innovation.

It looks likely that a U.S. government investigation into the pricing of solar panels by companies in China will find that they are selling below cost, perhaps aided by government support.

A source involved in the investigation, which is part of a trade dispute initiated by a complaint from seven U.S. solar panel makers, says that analysis of available data suggests that the costs of making the solar panels are higher than the prices companies in China are selling them for. They’re able to survive, he says, because they have better balance sheets than their competitors, and can afford to sell at a loss, at least temporarily.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

What Obsesses the Political Class on Australia Day?

You would think that Australia Day would be time for a little patriotic pride. Unfortunately, that’s not how it’s treated in the media. The media is obsessed in the week leading up to Australia Day with endless handwringing about whether Australians are racist or not. They just can’t leave the issue alone — which reveals, I think, where their heads are at. Even in a relatively conservative paper like the Herald Sun, you just can’t escape the obsession — in today’s edition, for instance, there are no less than three columns all boringly saying the same thing. It’s not that they are sinking the boot in, it’s that their frame for discussing Australia Day is limited to the issue of whethr Australians are or aren’t racist in response to diversity and multiculturalism.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Danish Hostage Freed in Somalia Raid

Dane and American were taken hostage in October when bodyguard turned on them

One Danish and one American hostage were freed from Somali pirates in a night time raid by US Navy SEALs on Tuesday. According to US officials, 60-year-old Poul Hagen Thisted and American Jessica Buchanan, 32, were rescued by two teams of SEALs who landed by helicopter near the compound in central Somalia where the hostages were being held.

Six helicopters were involved in the operation, which used the cover of darkness to fly low and land just after 2am near the compound. Gunfire broke out as the SEALs approached and nine pirates are reported killed. Five other pirates were said to have been captured. There are no reports of injuries among the US troops and the hostages were unharmed.

The mission was reportedly carried out from an airport in the town of Galkayo, the largest settlement close to pirate strongholds in central Somalia. The helicopters flew to Galkayo from a US airbase in the coastal African state of Djibouti.

The two had been working for refugee agency Dansk Flygtningehjælp on a demining project in northern Somalia when they were kidnapped in October. According to local officials, the security teams hired to protect them were behind the kidnapping. Dansk Flygtningehjælp confirmed that they had been freed and will soon be on their way back to their families.

Commenting on the operation, PM Helle Thorning-Schmidt said: “I am of course overjoyed that the hostages have been freed and are safe,” she said. “This is excellent news.” Thorning-Scmidt said that her government had been informed by the US that they planned to attempt a rescue. She declined to elaborate on what she was told.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Danish and American Hostages Rescued by Navy Seals

American Jessica Buchanan, 32, and a 60-year-old Dane, Poul Thisted, were working for a Danish relief organization in northern Somalia when they were kidnapped last October. U.S. officials described their kidnappers as heavily armed common criminals with no known ties to any organized militant group.

According to the U.S. officials, two teams of Navy SEALs landed by helicopter near the compound where the two hostages were being held.

As the SEALS approached the compound on foot gunfire broke out, the U.S. officials said, and several of the militants were reportedly killed. There is no word that any of the Americans were wounded.

Poul Hagen Thisted, a Danish national who was taken hostage in Somalia alongside American Jessica Buchanan in October 2011. The pair were freed by a U.S. Navy SEALS raid.

The SEALs gathered up Buchanan and Thisted, loaded them onto the helicopters and flew them to safety at an undisclosed location. The two hostages were not injured during the rescue operation and are reported to be in relatively good condition.

The two had been working for the Danish Refugee Council on a demining project in northern Somalia. The humanitarian group has been providing relief to some 450,000 refugees in the Somalia-Kenya border region.


[NOTE: See URL for pictures and updates]

[Return to headlines]

Somali Pirates Chop Off Hostage Captain’s Arm to Elicit $3m Ransom

Somali pirates have started to cut off their hostages’ limbs in a bid to extract even greater ransoms from the owners of the ships they capture.

The horrific new tactic was used last Friday on the Vietnamese captain of a ship being held in the Somali pirate lair of Haradhere.

Chao-I Wu’s right arm was cut off after negotiations to pay a $3million ransom for his fishing ship, the FV Shiuh Fu-1, broke down.

Afterwards, the pirates allowed Mr Wu’s fellow crew members to call their families and describe what had happened.

‘This group of pirates were allowed the crew to call their relatives for only a few minutes — just long enough to tell their families about the amputation.

‘They begged their relatives to pay and some of them were crying.

‘It was a message to the owner and their families that if the owners don’t pay this amount of ransom they will hurt another crew member’, a pirate source told the Somalia Report news service.

Vietnamese newspaper Tuoi Tre News reported that crew member Tran Van Hung called his father to say that he had seen the pirates chop off the captain’s arm.

The pirates had also repeatedly beat him and the deputy captain, Mr Hung added.

The horrifying new tactic comes soon after a disabled French woman — whom pirates snatched from the Kenyan tourist spot — died while being held by her captors.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

U.S. Forces Rescue Kidnapped Aid Workers Jessica Buchanan and Poul Hagen Thisted in Somalia

U.S. Special Operations Forces stormed an outdoor encampment in Somalia early Wednesday, rescuing a kidnapped American aid worker and her Danish colleague and killing nine men who held them captive, officials said.

The Pentagon later confirmed reports that the rescue was carried out by the same Navy SEAL unit that found and killed Osama bin Laden — the Naval Special Warfare Development Group, also known as SEAL Team 6.

Jessica Buchanan, 32, who is originally from Ohio, and Poul Hagen Thisted, 60, were abducted Oct. 25 by a group of armed men in Galkayo, a sleepy regional capital in north-central Somalia.

Pentagon officials said there is no indication the men were connected to international terrorism or al-Shabab, Somalia’s al-Qaeda affiliate. Instead, they were criminals hoping to trade their captives for ransom, like the Somali pirate gangs infamous for hijacking ships off the coast of Africa in recent years.

Buchanan and Thisted worked for the land-mine clearance unit of the Danish Refugee Council, which provides shelter, protection, food and other assistance for thousands of displaced Somalis in Mogadishu. They were in Galkayo to monitor humanitarian aid activities, the council said.

Buchanan and Thisted were rescued early Wednesday local time (Tuesday evening in Washington). The U.S. Africa Command, based in Stuttgart, Germany, said Special Operations Forces received information about where they were being held, confirmed their presence and staged the attack.

After killing the Somali captors, the commandos found Buchanan and Thisted and freed them. Officials said the United States had been considering a rescue operation for weeks but stepped up its plans after receiving reports that Buchanan’s health was deteriorating.

“We wanted to act, and we did,” Vice President Biden told NBC’s “Today” show on Wednesday. Buchanan and Thisted were brought to a safe location, and are on their way to being reunited with their families, officials said.

No details of Buchanan’s health problems were provided. A spokesman for the Copenhagen-based refu­gee council said that neither Buchanan nor Thisted were in need of hospitalization. “Recognizing the circumstances, they’re both quite all right,” said communications officer Villads Zahle.

Buchanan, who went to high school in Cincinnati, attended Valley Forge Christian College in Phoenixville, Pa., Valley Forge President Don Meyer told CNN. She first traveled to Africa as an undergraduate, Meyer said, to work as a student teacher at the Rosslyn Academy, a private Christian school in Nairobi.

Buchanan became a full-time teacher at the school, which serves many children of missionaries, and “fell in love with Africa,” said Meyer. Buchanan’s sister also graduated from Valley Forge, and her brother-in-law is a student there, he said.

“She could hardly talk about Africa without tears in her eyes…. She was living out her love for Africa,” Meyer told CNN. He said Buchanan never expressed concerns about working in Somalia, where the weak central government has been unable to curb a rash of kidnappings and violence.

“She was passionate to serve, passionate to give,” Meyer said. “If there were any anxieties, they were never, ever hinted at.”…

           — Hat tip: AC [Return to headlines]


Sweden: Website Touts Ruse to Turn in Illegal Immigrants

An anti-immigrant website has urged readers to infiltrate a group focused on helping undocumented immigrants in Sweden in order to turn them over to police. The campaign by the Sweden Democrat-linked website Avpixlat (literally, “unpixelated”, but also a Swedish colloquialism meaning to “reveal” or “unmask”), comes in response to a call for help in finding housing for a family of undocumented immigrants published on Facebook last week by asylum advocacy group Asylgruppen Lund.

The website, launched in October 2011, was registered by Sweden Democrat MP Kent Ekeroth, and contains material which echoes the party’s negative line on immigration, multicultural society, and the mainstream Swedish media.

“Right now Asylgruppen Lund is looking for criminals in Sweden who are willing to offer housing to some illegals,” reads a posting on Avpixlat published on January 20th, the day following the Facebook appeal by Asylgruppen Lund.

The anti-immigrant website called on readers to respond to the request by the asylum advocacy group in order to “infiltrate” the organization and gather as much information as possible about the undocumented immigrants in need of housing and then hand the information to police.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

New York Times Ignores March for Life for Fifth Year in a Row

The Media Research Center (MRC) reports that the New York Times completely ignored the event for the fifth year in a row.

Humorously, the Times even ran a “Happenings in Washington” blog post Monday that mentioned that the Boston Bruins were set to be honored by Obama, and that South Korea’s ambassador to the United States would be in town to sign an environmental agreement.

Clay Waters of MRC points out: “Even the two references made about the march at were accidental, done to explain where Sen. Rand Paul was headed when he was stopped at airport security by TSA in Nashville.”

The mainstream media bias surrounding the annual March for Life is so ubiquitous and so brazen that it has become shrug-worthy, and the butt of jokes. And rightly so: it is so pathetic that it actually is funny.

Probably the most laughable example of this bias at work happened last year, when a CNN anchor actually wondered on air whether there were more pro-life or pro-abortion advocates at the March for Life — despite the fact that conservative estimates place several hundred thousand pro-life protesters in D.C. that day, compared to a few dozen, at most, pro-abortion counter-demonstrators.

           — Hat tip: Kitman [Return to headlines]

Norway: Non-Darwinist Doctor Refused Job

A doctor was denied employment at a Norwegian hospital because he did not believe in the Theory of Evolution.

Saying, “we are quite far apart when it comes to a view of the world”, an Oslo University Hospital official claimed the doctor would not get the job “because I don’t think this will quite work.”

The psychiatrist, who wished to remain anonymous for his future professional career possibilities, told Christian newspaper Vårt Land, “Both I and colleagues reacted strongly to that such a justification could be allowed.”

“I therefore decided to bring the matter further before an independent body to verify this was unacceptable.”

The Equality and Discrimination Ombudsman subsequently found in favour of the doctor, saying he had been subject to discrimination.

Agreeing that considering views about the theory was legitimate for an employer, as it central to understanding how the human mind develops, the ombudsman nevertheless ruled the hospital had violated the Equal Opportunities Act by not giving other grounds for refusal.

The psychiatrist accused hospital officials of narrow-mindedness, saying, “It’s about tolerance for thinking differently, […] and having more openness to other perspectives, which should be seen as a resource.”

“An employer should be allowed to ask about philosophy, even if they cannot handle the answer. The problem is how my view has been used as an argument to disqualify me as a professional. The refusal has not affected me, but it was an important matter of principle.”

           — Hat tip: The Observer [Return to headlines]


Facebook’s Timeline

Facebook’s Timeline — a new look for people’s Profile pages which exposes their entire history on the site — will become mandatory for all users.

The ‘new look’ has been voluntary up until now.

From now, users will simply be notified that they are being ‘updated’ via an announcement at the top of their home page, which users click on to activate Timeline.

           — Hat tip: Nilk [Return to headlines]

Huge Solar Eruption Sparks Strongest Radiation Storm in 7 Years

A powerful solar eruption is expected to blast a stream of charged particles toward Earth tomorrow (Jan. 24), as the strongest radiation storm since 2005 rages on the sun.

Early this morning (0359 GMT Jan. 23, which corresponds to late Sunday, Jan. 22 at 10:59 p.m. EST), NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory caught an extreme ultraviolet flash from a huge eruption on the sun , according to the skywatching website

The solar flare spewed from sunspot 1402, a region of the sun that has become increasingly active lately. Several NASA satellites, including the Solar Dynamics Observatory, the Solar Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO), and the Stereo spacecraft observed the massive sun storm.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Hyperactive Sun Clears Space Junk — for Now

Low Earth orbit just got a free spring-clean, thanks to the sun. It turns out that increased solar activity in recent years has removed some of the satellite debris that clogs this region, making it temporarily safer for other satellites and astronauts.

The sun will hit an 11-year peak in its activity — the solar maximum — in 2013. As this approaches, small increases in solar radiation warm the outer layer of Earth’s atmosphere, called the thermosphere, forcing it to expand into space. This places atmospheric molecules in the path of low orbiting debris, which brake their orbital velocity and cause them to re-enter the atmosphere sooner than expected, where they usually burn up.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

‘Space Hurricane’: Huge Solar Storm is Pounding Earth Now

A wave of charged particles from an intense solar storm is pummeling the Earth right now, which may trigger stunning aurora displays and cause minor disruptions to satellites over the next two days, NASA scientists say.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

White Middle-Schooler Beaten Unconscious by Group of Black Students

The story is shocking enough, even without bringing race into it: on the way to school in Ocala, FA, a thirteen-year-old girl was beaten unconscious and reportedly went into a seizure after being attacked on the school bus by a group of fellow students.

The girl reportedly was riding the bus for the first time. Someone threw a shoe at her, and she threw it back, hitting a student. That’s when the beating began. At least seven students surrounded the girl, punched her, held her head to the floor by her hair, and kicked her. The bus driver pulled the bus over, stopped the beating, and then continued driving. But the beating started again, so the driver diverted to a nearby school and called officials, and the girl was taken to the hospital.

Aside from the brutality, there was another troubling fact about this crime — a fact that predictably did not make it into the news: the attackers were black, and the victim was white. Yet, for the first few days after the attack, not a single news outlet reported on the race of the victim.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]