News Feed 20120127

Financial Crisis
» Critics Question Merkel’s Fiscal Pact Proposal
» EU and IMF Want More Greek Spending Cuts: Media
» German Minister Hits Out at Britain Over Fiscal Treaty
» German Finance Minister Losing Patience With Greece
» Greece: Severe Demands to Papademos From Troika
» Hopes Rise for Greek Deal as US Praises Euro Salvage Bid
» Italy: Strong Bond Auction Drives Drop in Yields
» Nokia Revenues Plunge, Cushioned Only by Windows Smartphone Launch
» Schäuble Slams Cameron for Blocking EU Deal
» Soros Damns German Handling of Euro Crisis
» Spain: Unemployment at 22.9%, Highest in 15 Years
» ‘There is No European Emergency Plan’
» Top Marks From Merkel for Spain’s Rajoy
» U.S. Economy Expanded at 2.8 Percent Rate in Fourth Quarter
» US May Go Along With IMF Boost if Brussels Commits First
» Arsenic Life Does Not Exist After All
» Blogwatch: Sikhs ‘Boycott Jay Leno’ on Internet
» Judge Sides With Alpharetta in Mosque Fight
» Lunar Landings and Lies: Republican Debate Veers Toward the Absurd
» Pentagon’s Preview of Defense Budget Indicates Future Military Will Lack Important Capabilities
» ‘Silicon Valley Reads’ Kicks Off
» Steven Spielberg Near Commitment to Direct Moses Epic for Warner Bros
» Richmond Mosque Opens Doors to Counter ‘Misconceptions’
» Toronto Teens Send Lego Man on a Balloon Odyssey 24 Kilometres High
Europe and the EU
» Burqa Ban Comes to the Netherlands. Finally.
» Denmark: Stamp ‘Collectors’ Charged With Multi-Million Heist
» Denmark’s New Princess
» Disruption on Eurostar and Thalys Trains
» Europeans Increasingly Converting to Islam
» First Chinese Car Plant to Open in Europe
» France: Police Treatment of Minorities ‘Shocking’: Report
» France: Marseille Hopes Culture Can Clean Up Gritty Image
» Gazprom Threatens ‘Countermeasures’ Against EU Energy Law
» Germany: No Recompense in Case of World’s Dearest Rug
» Germany: ‘Muslim Taxi’ Offers Gender-Segregated Rides
» Germany: Harburg: A Purely Muslim Shopping Center
» Germany: Roads of Arabia Run Through Berlin
» Italian Citizen Population Dropping
» Legal Battles Loom as Home 3D Printing Grows
» Netherlands: Cabinet Backs the Burka Ban
» PVV Votes Against Dutch Candidate for European Job
» Report: Bulgaria and Romania to be Kept Out of Schengen
» Sweden: Man Withdraws Mouse From Cash Machine
» Sweden: Artist Avoids Jail for ‘Negro Slave Taunt’
» Sweden: ‘High Hopes’ For Löfven as Social Democrat Head
» Turkey Following Investigation of Turks Killed in Germany, Bagis Says
» UK: 19th-Century Mechanical Computer Project Set to Begin
» UK: Anti-Israel Activist Convicted of Attack on Jewish Man
» UK: Arsonists Attack Mosque
» UK: How London Became the Censorship Capital of the World
» UK: Islington Girls Forced Into Marriage at the Age of Nine
» UK: Lawrence Convictions Only the Beginning
» UK: Man: 24, Who Was Scared of Dogs Drowned After Diving Through Hedge and Into Lake as He Fled From Bull Terrier
» UK: Misguided Liberals Are Playing US All Into the Hands of the Islamist Tyrants
» UK: Stepping Outside of Your Bubble
» UK: The Baby Born With No Blood
» UK: World of Roger Scruton, Writer and Philosopher
Mediterranean Union
» EU and Council of Europe Join Forces for South Med
North Africa
» Egypt: Human Rights Watch Gets Egypt All Wrong
» Egypt: Is it Starting to Kick Off?
» Post-Gadhafi Libya Still Struggling for Security
» Reports of Libyan Detainee Torture Drive Doctors Without Borders Away
Israel and the Palestinians
» EU: 55 Million Euros to UNRWA, Ashton
Middle East
» Caroline Glick: The Zionist Imperative
» Iran Oil Threat Targets Greece
» Iran Arrests Wave of Bloggers, Writers and Programmers
» Taliban Diplomats Arrive in Qatar
» Turkey Drops Heavily in Press Freedoms Rankings
» Gazprom Eyes German Power Generation Market
» Iran Crisis Worries Armenia
South Asia
» Bangladesh: Women and Children Are for Sale
Far East
» China’s Next Supremo Expected to Push Hawkish Policies
» Fora Fail as Asian Naval Race Goes Submarine
» Philippines Eyes Stronger Defense Ties With the US
» Samsung Posts Decent Q4 Profits Thanks to Smartphone
Sub-Saharan Africa
» For Uganda, The World is Not Enough
» German Engineer Kidnapped in Nigeria
Latin America
» Fortress of Solitude-Like Cave Houses Ridiculously Slow-Growing Crystals
» Finland’s Net Immigration at Exceptionally High Level
» New Mediterranean Migrants Feel at Home in Berlin
» UK: Sham Wedding Vicar Was So Corrupt He Didn’t Even Bother to Hold the Ceremonies for Immigrants to Whom He Simply Handed the Certificates
» Young Afghans Seek Asylum in Germany
» 20 Things You Didn’t Know About… Alcohol
» Did Earth’s Gold Come From Outer Space?
» How the Global Climate Cabal is Destroying Scientific Integrity
» Islam, Democracy and the Arab Spring: An Interview With Raphael Israeli
» No Need to Panic About Global Warming

Financial Crisis

Critics Question Merkel’s Fiscal Pact Proposal

It’s German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s pet project — a new European Union fiscal pact to insure members’ budgetary discipline through stricter controls. But European legal experts have doubts about its viability, while critics say there are more important issues at hand.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

EU and IMF Want More Greek Spending Cuts: Media

(ATHENS) — The EU and IMF want more cuts in Greek public spending and pensions, hikes in taxes and labour market reforms in exchange for further bailout funding, Greek media reported Friday. Dubbed the “10 commandments” by several Greek media outlets, the actions are reportedly preconditions for receiving any of the 130 billion euros ($170 billion) the eurozone promised Athens in principle last October.

The conditions were listed in a 10-page document that Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos gave to his ministers at a meeting on Thursday. The Greek state should make an additional 2.2 billion euros in spending cuts this year to compensate for not hitting agreed targets for 2011, which Greek media said the government would likely find in defence spending.

The EU and IMF also want cuts in state and private pensions, reforms in labour regulations to allow private employers more flexibility on wages and jobs, and cutting more public sector jobs cuts. They also want the Greek state, which will gain shares in banks as part of a recapitalisation to funded by the bailout if a writedown of Greece’s debt with private creditors is reached, to receive non-voting preferential shares.

The Greek government has previously insisted on receiving ordinary voting shares. According to the semi-official Ana news agency, Papademos indicated that the negotiations on the second bailout should be wrapped up by February, the same day the EU and IMF want a deal concluded on a debt writedown. The writedown of private debt aims to lop 100 billion euros off Greece’s total debt of over 350 billion.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

German Minister Hits Out at Britain Over Fiscal Treaty

(DAVOS) — German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble took a jab at Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron on Friday, blaming him for Europe’s failure to agree a common debt-reduction treaty. Cameron has refused to take Britain into a proposed EU fiscal pact, which would see member states agreeing to common deficit reduction targets, forcing other states to draw up an agreement outside the Union’s treaty structure.

Challenged at the World Economic Forum in Davos by Swedish Euro-MP Anna Maria Corazza Bildt over this approach, Schaeuble said: “I would like to give you the mobile number of David Cameron.” “Of course, this is not a joke,” he continued, as laughter erupted. “It would be much more better and better to understand for everyone outside of Europe, if we were to do what we will now have to do in our fiscal compact in the framework of European treaties.

“But that has to be done by unanimous decision, that is the basis of European treaties. Therefore, for the meantime, we go for 17 plus, I hope, nine. Everyone is invited to join,” he said. Following Cameron’s refusal to take part, Germany and France pushed for the 17 nations of the eurozone single currency bloc to take part and they hope that nine more non-eurozone members will join them.

Cameron has been unrepentant, coming to Davos on Thursday to berate his EU allies for failing to promote growth and for seeking to introduce a financial transaction tax he regards as sheer “madness”. European leaders will meet on Monday hoping to turn the page on the sovereign debt crisis that has undermined the euro and threatened the bloc’s weakest members with financial collapse.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

German Finance Minister Losing Patience With Greece

Germany has taken a tough stance on Greece cutting its spending and reducing its deficit, but as time goes on the biggest financier of Greece’s bailout package appears to be losing patience.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Greece: Severe Demands to Papademos From Troika

Progress in meeting between PM and Dallara (IIF)

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS — A decisive weekend lies ahead for the Greek economy and for the government of Lucas Papademos. In a letter from its representatives to the Greek Prime Minister, the so-called “troika” has made demands including the reduction of pension subsidies, the liberalisation of all closed professions, and radical changes in the private sector, such as the abolition of the collective work contract, cuts to end-of-year and holiday bonuses, greater working flexibility, redundancies in the public sector and in banks and a plan to fight corruption. All of these measures are aimed at ensuring a green light for the latest 130 billion euro loan decided at the European summit of October 26.

The meeting this afternoon or tomorrow between Papademos and the leaders of the three parties that make up his government — George Papandreou from the Socialist Pasok party, Antonis Samaras of the centre-right New Democracy and the far-right LAOS party’s Giorgios Karatzaferis — will take place amid tension caused by the severe demands made by the country’s international creditors.

Newspaper reports say that the Prime Minister, who has already forwarded the troika’s letter to party leaders and to ministers, intends to ask leaders to agree on its content and will repeat that time is running out for the government to negotiate, as pressure from the International Monetary Fund and the European Union remains strong, especially over the issue of reducing salaries.

Last night, Papademos held further talks with the director general of the Institute of International Finance (IIF), Charles Dallara. Following the meeting, an IIF statement spoke of “progress” made in talks between Greece and its private sector over Private Sector Involvement, underlining that “talks, which resume today, centred on technical and legal issues”. Local political analysts say that the statement is “positive” for the outcome of talks.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Hopes Rise for Greek Deal as US Praises Euro Salvage Bid

(DAVOS) — Europe’s economic pointman said Friday he expected Greece to agree a deal with private creditors to write down its debt this weekend as the US praised efforts to combat the eurozone crisis. Speaking at the Davos forum, EU economic affairs commissioner Olli Rehn said the Greek debt agreement may be hammered out before a gathering of European Union leaders Monday, in what would be a major shot in the arm to the summit.

“We’re very close,” he told the World Economic Forum in Davos. “They’re about to close a deal, if not today maybe over the weekend, preferably in January rather than February.” As he spoke in Switzerland, the Greek government in Athens was in talks with private creditors on a voluntary exchange of bonds that would wipe 100 billion euros ($130 billion) off the country’s debt of 350 billion euros.

The deal under discussion would see private creditors take a “haircut” of at least 50 percent on 200 billion euros in debt. Previous talks stalled over the amount of interest to be paid on the remaining debt. Any failure to strike a deal could trigger a messy default, which would be an economic disaster for Greece itself and a threat to banks holding too much sovereign debt while piling pressure on other eurozone states.

Rehn said Greece would remain a special case and that the private lenders would not be required to take losses on any other eurozone country’s debt, thanks to plans for a better eurozone financial safety net.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Italy: Strong Bond Auction Drives Drop in Yields

6-month borrowing costs below 2%, lowest since June

(ANSA) — Milan, January 27 — Italy’s six-month borrowing costs fell below 2%, their lowest level since June, at a bond auction on Friday. The Treasury, which received requests for 15 billion euros in state paper, sold the maximum 11 billion at 1.969% interest.

A lower yield was last seen in May. The country has experienced a recent drop in yields, mostly driven by demand from Italian banks holding cheap three-year loans from the European Central Bank. The spread between 10-year Italian and German bonds, a measure of Italy’s credibility on the sovereign-debt market, fell to 408 points.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Nokia Revenues Plunge, Cushioned Only by Windows Smartphone Launch

Mobile phone maker Nokia reported a fourth-quarter net loss of 1.07 billion euros ($1.38 billion) as sales slumped 21 percent. But it sold more smartphones than analysts predicted.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Schäuble Slams Cameron for Blocking EU Deal

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble took a jab at Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron on Friday, blaming him for Europe’s failure to agree a common debt-reduction treaty. Cameron has refused to take Britain into a proposed EU fiscal pact, which would see member states agreeing to common deficit reduction targets, forcing other states to draw up an agreement outside the Union’s treaty structure.

Challenged at the World Economic Forum in Davos by Swedish Euro-MP Anna Maria Corazza Bildt over this approach, Schäuble said: “I would like to give you the mobile number of David Cameron.” “Of course, this is not a joke,” he continued, as laughter erupted. “It would be much more better and better to understand for everyone outside of Europe, if we were to do what we will now have to do in our fiscal compact in the framework of European treaties.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Soros Damns German Handling of Euro Crisis

Prominent US investor George Soros launched a devastating broadside against the Germany’s handling of the European debt crisis, saying the eurozone was on a “self-destructive” course. Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on Wednesday, Soros said that Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government was “dictating” European policy.

“The trouble is that the austerity that Germany wants to impose will push Europe into a deflationary spiral,” Soros said on Wednesday. “To be sure, I am not accusing Germany of acting in bad faith. Germans genuinely believe in the policies they are advocating.” The investor said that beleaguered eurozone countries like Italy and Spain should have access to a lender of last resort composed of the European Central Bank (ECB), plus two rescue funds: the temporary European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF), and the future European Stability Mechanism (ESM).

Backed by these guarantors, Soros said countries would be able to refinance their economies cheaply. Soros sharply criticized Germany strategy of imposing austerity measures on debt-ridden countries and for forcing financial penalties on Greece as a condition for receiving its bailout packages.

“The rest of Europe is not like the rest of Germany. The fact that an unattainable target is being imposed creates a very dangerous political dynamic,” he said. “Instead of bringing the member countries closer together it will drive them to mutual recriminations.”

Soros also said that Germany was traumatized by its experiences with massive inflation, which was leading the country to underestimate the threat of deflation. He said deflation can lead to a permanent decline in prices and a decline in consumer spending that can hurt a recovery.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Spain: Unemployment at 22.9%, Highest in 15 Years

In 4th quarter 2011, more than double the European average

(ANSAmed) — ROME — The rate of unemployment in Spain soared to 22.9% in the fourth quarter of 2011, more than double the European average and the highest figure in 15 years, according to Spain’s institute of statistics.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

‘There is No European Emergency Plan’

Greece is struggling to reach an agreement on debt relief with its private-sector creditors. But even if it ultimately does, the country may need vastly more funding than has been envisioned so far. German commentators on Friday say it’s time for a bit of honesty from Europe’s leaders.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Top Marks From Merkel for Spain’s Rajoy

Spain’s Mariano Rajoy met with Angela Merkel ahead of a key EU summit to avoid yet another financial crisis. Merkel expressed respect for Spain’s steps to cut spending as it battles a crippling deficit.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

U.S. Economy Expanded at 2.8 Percent Rate in Fourth Quarter

The American economy picked up a little steam last quarter, with output growing at an annualized rate of 2.8 percent, the Commerce Department reported Friday.

[Return to headlines]

US May Go Along With IMF Boost if Brussels Commits First

(DAVOS) — US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner signalled Friday the United States is ready to go along with an increase the IMF’s ability to loan to Europe if Brussels boosts its own rescue kitty first. “The only way Europe is going to be successful … is for them to build a stronger firewall,” Geithner told the meeting of the world’s business and political elite at the Swiss ski resort of Davos.

“That’s gonna to require a bigger commitment to resources, the Europeans recognise that and it’s an unfinished piece of the framework for the moment that and they have to fix that. “If Europe is able and willing to do that, then we believe the IMF can play a supportive and constructive role,” he said.

The Treasury chief stressed that the IMF could not make up the total sum of additional funds required to ringfence the European crisis. But if Europe was able to itself boost its rescue funds, “then we are going to see the IMF and the major shareholders of the IMF and the emerging economies very supportive in trying to reinforce those efforts,” he said.

Geithner did not directly refer to a larger US commitment. The United States is the largest contributor to the IMF.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]


Arsenic Life Does Not Exist After All

LIFE may not be built on a foundation of poison after all. A year ago, Felisa Wolfe-Simon, then at NASA’s Astrobiology Institute in Menlo Park, California, stirred controversy with claims that, in the lab, she had encouraged bacteria from an arsenic-rich lake in California to swap the usual phosphorus in their DNA for toxic arsenic.

Now, after trying to grow the same strain of bacteria in a soup containing arsenic, other researchers have failed to repeat the findings. “To the limit of what our spectrometer will detect, there’s no arsenic in the DNA,” says Rosie Redfield of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, who posted her results to a blog this week.

Wolfe-Simon has defended her original results and is continuing to analyse her lab-grown bacteria at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. “As far as we know, all the data in our paper still stand,” she told New Scientist. “We shall certainly know much more by next year.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Blogwatch: Sikhs ‘Boycott Jay Leno’ on Internet

An American comedian is in the line of fire after a joke gone wrong insults Sikhs around the globe. Indian bloggers are especially vocal about their feelings about the sketch.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Judge Sides With Alpharetta in Mosque Fight

ALPHARETTA, Ga. – A federal judge ruled Wednesday that the city of Alpharetta didn’t violate religious land use laws when it denied a mosque’s expansion, according to a ruling obtained by Channel 2’s Mike Petchenik. The Islamic Center of North Fulton sued the city over its 2010 denial of a request to expand its facility on Rucker Road. At the time, council members cited a supposed agreement the center had made with a neighboring subdivision that it wouldn’t expand. While Senior U.S. District Judge J. Owen Forrester found no concrete evidence that such an agreement existed, he ruled there wasn’t a “substantial burden” put on the center because of the denial. “Simply bec ause a religious organization’s facility is too small does not give the organization ‘free reign to construct on its lot a building of whatever size it chooses, regardless of limitations imposed by the zoning ordinances,’“ Forrester wrote in his decision. Forrester also concluded there was no evidence Alpharetta treated the center any differently than it would other religious institutions, and therefore was not guilty of discrimination.

The lawsuit caught the eye of the United States Justice Department, which opened an investigation into the city’s decision, and garnered support from the Anti-Defamation League.

An attorney for the center, Andrea Cantrell Jones, told Petchenik Wednesday she would consult with her clients about their next move. The city of Alpharetta sent a statement late Thursday afternoon about the decision, saying, “The Judge’s ruling yesterday granted summary judgment to the City on all of the Islamic Center’s claims except certain state law decl aratory judgment claims, over which the federal court declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction. As the City’s position from the outset was that this case was about land use, not religion, the City is pleased with the Judge’s ruling and looks forward to the conclusion of this matter.”

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Lunar Landings and Lies: Republican Debate Veers Toward the Absurd

The US Republican candidates’ debate in Florida quickly devolved into a horror show of absurdities on Thursday night as candidates argued about immigration and moon colonies. Mitt Romney was branded the winner, but the real losers were the viewers, the truth and politics in general.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Pentagon’s Preview of Defense Budget Indicates Future Military Will Lack Important Capabilities

By Baker Spring

On January 26, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta provided the public with a preview of the defense budget request the Obama Administration will submit February 13. The full details of the fiscal year 2013 defense budget request will be released next month, but Panetta’s presentation makes it clear that the budget will not provide the United States military with the resources it needs. What Congress and the American people need to understand is that the stakes are exceedingly high. These stakes include the lives and well-being of many people around the globe, the preservation of the global trading system and future prosperity, and ultimately the cause of liberty worldwide.


After providing his cursory explanation of the budget numbers, Panetta went on to describe the capabilities that will be lost as a result of this budget. Accordingly, it is important for Congress to keep in mind that this budget is not just about cutting waste at the Pentagon. Specifically, the Secretary revealed that the lower budget would result in the following:

i. A smaller Army and Marine Corps. The budget will produce an active Army of just 490,000 people. This compares to a current force of some 562,000. On the force structure side, it will reduce the number of combat brigades, including by taking two such brigades out of Europe. The size of the active Marine Corps will be reduced from roughly 202,000 to 182,000. These personnel reductions will be spread over five years. In taking these steps, the Department of Defense raises questions about the level of protection provided to U.S. allies and interests in Europe and confirms that it will no longer be capable of sustaining long-term stability operations.

ii. A smaller tactical fighter fleet in the Air Force. The spending plan will disestablish six tactical fighter squadrons. An additional training fighter squadron will also be eliminated. Further, the procurement rate of the F-35 or Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) will be slowed. This will likely increase the unit cost of the aircraft and lead to a reduction in the size of the buy over time.

iii. Retiring older Navy ships while slowing the procurement of new ones. Under the budget, the Navy will move to retire seven cruisers and two amphibious ships at an early juncture while delaying or reducing the procurements of a large amphibious ship, a Virginia class submarine, the replacement strategic nuclear submarine, Littoral Combat Ships, and Joint High-Speed Vessels.

iv. Reducing air mobility. The budget will force the retirement of 27 C-5A and 65 C-130 aircraft. It will also divest the military of 38 C-27 aircraft.

v. Scaling back the missile defense program. In this case, the preview is quite vague. All that Panetta states is that not all funding was protected in this area and that the program will accept some risk in terms of deployable regional missile defense.

vi. Increased risk to the defense industrial base. The preview acknowledges that the defense industrial base “will require careful monitoring in the future.” This is code, meaning that its viability in certain areas will be difficult to maintain. Further, the Secretary talks about the industrial base in terms of “reversibility,” which means its health is on a downward trajectory.

vii. Future limits on military compensation. Panetta stated that military pay increases will be limited starting in fiscal year 2015. Health care for military retirees will be subject to increased fees, co-pays, and deductibles. While no specific changes in the military retirement system were proposed, the Department of Defense will establish a commission to make recommendations for restructuring the system. It is certain that the commission’s mandate will include finding ways to reduce costs.

A Shrinking Defense Budget

The Secretary of Defense indicated that the total defense budget will amount to about $635 billion in budget authority in FY 2013, some of which falls outside the Department of Defense and Panetta’s purview. By way of comparison, the total defense budget in FY 2010 was more than $721 billion. Thus, the Secretary of Defense is proposing a defense budget for FY 2013 that is more than $80 billion less than it was in FY 2010—three years earlier. Further, this does not account for the effects of inflation. When inflation is taken into account, the defense budget in FY 2013 will be more than $90 billion less (in FY 2005 dollars).

The decline, however, will not stop in FY 2013. While Panetta did not provide the full array of numbers for the defense budget in the years 2014 through 2017, he did say the budget would cut some $259 billion cumulatively over that period against an unspecified baseline. He made it clear that the budget to be submitted February 13 does not account for the application of automatic spending cuts under the Budget Control Act. The Budget Control Act, enacted late last summer, triggers automatic spending cuts that could amount to as much as $600 billion from the defense budget in addition to those already contained in the pending budget for the period covering FY 2013 through FY 2021. At this point, the only way to avoid these automatic cuts is for the Budget Control Act to be amended or repealed. President Obama, however, indicated last November that he would veto legislation that does either.

The defense budget Secretary Panetta has previewed raises the level of risk for the U.S. and its friends and allies around the world. He acknowledged that reality. What Congress and the American people need to understand is that the stakes are exceedingly high…


[Return to headlines]

‘Silicon Valley Reads’ Kicks Off

‘The Muslim Next Door’ and ‘The Butterfly Mosque’ are the headliners in Santa Clara County’s annual read-a-thon, which celebrates its 10th year

One book, one giant, city-wide conversation. That was the idea 10 years ago when Silicon Valley Reads was launched. In 2012, it’s two books, two authors and more. Poetry. Films. An art exhibition. A photo contest. Celebrity story time. Over the next three months, expect Silicon Valley Reads 2012 to celebrate its 10th year with many ways to plug into the themes raised by The Muslim Next Door and The Butterfly Mosque. It kicked off Wednesday night, at the Campbell Heritage Theater. Mike Cassidy, columnist for the San Jose Mercury News interviewed authors Sumbul Ali-Karamali of The Muslim Next Door and G. Willow Wilson of The Butterfly Mosque, around the theme, “Muslim and American: Two Perspectives.”

Like bookends, the two will close the program three months later, on April 29 at 2 p.m. at the Santa Clara Central Park Library, with a conversation led by Mercury News columnist Sal Pizarro. In between both authors will each appear solo at multiple events at libraries, schools and community centers during February, March and April. Other books, readings and events involving film, poetry, book clubs, panel presentations by others are included as part of the effort.


           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Steven Spielberg Near Commitment to Direct Moses Epic for Warner Bros

Steven Spielberg is near to etching in stone with Warner Bros on that biopic portraying the Jewish leader as the warrior to beat all warriors. With a working title of Gods And Kings, what’s envisioned is “a movie like a Braveheart-ish version of the Moses story,” an insider tells us. “Him coming down the river, being adopted, leaving his home, forming an army, and getting the Ten Commandments.” And despite the awesome screen possibilities of the parting of the Red Sea, the movie isn’t being contemplated in 3D. Back in 1956, Paramount released The Ten Commandments in VistaVision to give moviegoers a more spectacular experience of scenes like that.

But this film is as far from a remake of the Cecile B. DeMille-directed epic as you can get even though they cover similar ground. Instead Warner Bros wants Spielberg to direct it with the gritty reality of Saving Private Ryan, which is considered a masterpiece redefining battle movies. “There have been glossy versions of the Moses story but this would be a real warrior story,” an insider tells us.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]


Richmond Mosque Opens Doors to Counter ‘Misconceptions’

A Richmond mosque is opening its doors Saturday to educate the public about why Muslims fast during Ramadan, go on pilgrim-ages to Mecca, and promote modest clothing. The Az-Zahraa Islamic Centre, a Shia mosque at 8580 No. 5 Rd., opens its free exhibition, which runs from 5: 30 p.m. to 10 p.m., with a meal of Pakistani, Indian and Middle Eastern food.

The large mosque, with green minarets and onion dome, is one of many religious institutions representing a wide variety of faiths on No. 5 Road. The centre says some of its displays and talks will deal with what it calls “misconceptions” about Islam, including how Muslims view terrorism and the 9/11 attack on New York City.


[JP note: They will need to more than open a fe w doors.]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Toronto Teens Send Lego Man on a Balloon Odyssey 24 Kilometres High

Neither Mathew Ho nor Asad Muhammad can vote, or buy beer.

They haven’t been accepted to college yet, though that might change after this story.

The 17-year-olds have already sent a (Lego) man into space.

Two weeks ago, Ho and Muhammad launched a homemade balloon carrying a Lego passenger and four cameras. It fell back down to Earth 97 minutes later with astonishing footage from an estimated 24 kilometres above sea level, three times the typical cruising altitude of a commercial aircraft.

Their jerry-rigged contraption recorded the Lego man’s journey from a soccer pitch in Newmarket to the stratosphere — high enough to see their two-inch astronaut floating above curvature of our planet, clutching a Canadian flag with the blackness of space behind him.

The project cost $400 and took four months of free Saturdays. It wasn’t a school assignment. They just thought it would be cool.

“We didn’t really believe we could do it until we did,” says Ho.

           — Hat tip: Nilk [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Burqa Ban Comes to the Netherlands. Finally.

More than seven years after an Islamic extremist murdered Dutch filmmaker and commentator Theo van Gogh on the streets of Amsterdam; more than seven years after niqab-clad women exulted in Van Gogh’s hideous death (stabbed and shot, his throat sliced, and a knife plunged into his body pinning a lengthy note that promised a similar fate to others), and more than ten years after former Parliamentarian Ayaan Hirsi Ali warned of the oppression and radicalization taking place among Dutch Muslim women, Holland has, at last, banned the burqa. It becomes the third country in Europe to institute such a ban.

           — Hat tip: Steen [Return to headlines]

Denmark: Stamp ‘Collectors’ Charged With Multi-Million Heist

Delivery drivers made off with misprinted stamps worth 23 million, say police

Police have arrested four men from Ballerup — aged 31, 34, 43 and 54 — in connection with a humongous heist of new Danish stamps worth 23 million kroner. A fifth man, a 36-year-old, was arrested last week and charged with stealing some 150,000 kroner worth of stamps. Two others have been charged in the case, including one man who purchased the stolen stamps from the 36-year-old. Police contend that the men intended to sell the stamps on the black market, where they could fetch as much as half of their 23 million kroner face value.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Denmark’s New Princess

The first public picture of Denmark’s new princess

Denmark’s newest member of the royal family has been shown to the public for the first time as Princess Marie and Prince Joachim left the Rigshospitalet hospital to go home three days after delivery. The baby princess was born on Tuesday morning after a four-and-a-half hour delivery and measured 49 cms and 2,930 grammes at birth.

The baby is Princess Marie’s and Queen Margrethe’s younger son Prince Joachim’s second child. The couple’s first-born is 2-year-old Prince Henrik Carl Joachim Alain. Prince Joachim also has two sons with his former wife, the Countess Alexandra.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Disruption on Eurostar and Thalys Trains

A strike on Belgian railways will mean no Thalys trains will run on the Paris-Brussels-Amsterdam-Cologne network on Monday. All Eurostar trains due to cross Belgium on Monday will also be cancelled. The Belgian rail network will be shut from 10pm on Sunday (2100 GMT) until 11.59pm on January 30th, the two high-speed rail operators said.

“It’s almost certain that there will not be a single Eurostar running across Belgium on Monday,” said a spokesman. Travellers on Eurostar trains between London and Brussels — where European Union leaders are also staging a summit on Monday — can take replacement buses between Brussels and Lille near the French border, he added.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Europeans Increasingly Converting to Islam

by Soeren Kern

Irish actor Liam Neeson says he is thinking about becoming a Muslim after undergoing a spiritual awakening in Turkey.

Neeson, who was born into a Roman Catholic family in Ballymena, Northern Ireland, told the London-based newspaper The Sun that he was impressed by the religious atmosphere in Istanbul while filming a movie in the city.


Neeson is just one of hundreds of thousands of Europeans who are trading their Christian heritage for the supposed exoticism of Islam. The surge in conversions is contributing to the mainstreaming of Islam in Europe and contributing to the Islamization of the continent.

In Britain, the number of Muslim converts recently passed the 100,000 mark, according to a survey conducted by an inter-faith group called Faith Matters. The survey revealed that nearly two thirds of the converts were women, more than 70% were white and the average age at conversion was just 27.

The survey, conducted by Kevin Brice from Swansea University in Wales, asked converts for their views on the negative aspects of British culture. They identified alcohol and drunkenness, a “lack of morality and sexual permissiveness” and “unrestrained consumerism.”


Separately, government authorities revealed that an increasing number of inmates at British prisons are converting to Islam. For example, one-third of the inmates at one of Britain’s most notorious youth jails are Muslims and the religion is attracting a large number of converts.


Prison insiders say most non-Muslims are locked up during Friday prayers because so many guards are needed to monitor the lunchtime service. As a consequence, many disillusioned youngsters are becoming attracted to Islam by the prospect of getting better food and superior treatment at the prison.


In France, an estimated 70,000 French citizens have converted to Islam in recent years, according to a report by France 3 public television. As in Britain, the majority of converts to Islam in France are young women who say they are disenchanted with materialism.

Conversions to Islam are also rife in Austria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Holland, Hungary, Ireland, Luxembourg, Norway (and here and here), Poland, Portugal and Spain.

In Italy, Ambassador Alfredo Maiolese, an Italian MP, recently became a Muslim and now dedicates his time trying to improving the image of Islam in the West. In Sweden, there are now at least 5,000 converts to Islam.

In Germany, at least 20,000 people have converted to Islam in recent years, according to a report by RTL television. Some of these converts are playing a growing role in jihad in Germany. In 2010, for example, two German converts to Islam who were found guilty of plotting to create what a judge called a “monstrous blood bath” by carrying out terrorist attacks against American targets in Germany.

“This trend has taken on a very threatening quality toward our security, and while not every convert is a potential terrorist, we are facing a sort of homegrown terrorism that has sprouted in our own backyard,” according to Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble.

Many European coverts to Islam on fact become vastly more pious than Muslims who were born into Islam. Such converts, taking an absolutist approach, are often easily led into extremism.

In Belgium, for example, Muriel Degauque, a woman from Charleroi and a convert to Islam, committed a suicide car bomb attack in November 2005 against American troops in Iraq. A bakery worker, Degaugue had married a Muslim man and quickly became radical in her religious views.

In Switzerland, young converts to Islam are a potential threat to the country’s security, according to Alard du Bois-Reymond, who was head of the Swiss Migration Office until he was removed for his politically incorrect observations.

Du Bois-Reymond told the German-language newspaper NZZ am Sonntag that Swiss converts include people who want a “radically different society” and are “resistant to dialogue.” He described the Central Islamic Council of Switzerland, which was founded and is run by Swiss converts to Islam, as “the most radical group in Switzerland.”

Also in Switzerland, Daniel Streich, a former member of the Swiss People’s Party (SVP) who rose to fame for his campaign against the construction of minarets for mosques, converted to Islam. He now says Switzerland needs more mosques.

In Spain, at least 50,000 native Spaniards have converted to Islam in recent years, many of them women., a Spanish-language website devoted to propagating Islam in Spain, recently published an article that encourages Spanish women to wed Muslim men. The article describes marriage to a Muslim this way: “Multiculturalism is a rewarding experience for all concerned.”

[NOTE: See URL for links to each country’s data and for the particulars on British prison youths]

           — Hat tip: The Stonegate Institute [Return to headlines]

First Chinese Car Plant to Open in Europe

Chinese carmaker Great Wall Motor will on 21 February begin production in the northern village of Bahovitsa, Bulgaria, AFP reports. It will be the first such factory in the EU. It has a planned annual capacity of 50,000 cars and will employ up to 2,000 people.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

France: Police Treatment of Minorities ‘Shocking’: Report

French police use broad powers to conduct abusive identity checks on black and Arab young men and boys despite the absence of any evidence of wrongdoing, Human Rights Watch said on Thursday. A police spokesman denounced the HRW report as a “caricature” of the force.

HRW warned in its report that unwarranted checks and intimate searches, on top of police insults, were damaging police-community relations. “It’s shocking that young black and Arab kids can be, and are, arbitrarily forced up against walls and manhandled by the police with no real evidence of wrongdoing,” said HRW western Europe researcher Judith Sunderland. “But if you are a young person in some neighbourhoods in France, it’s a part of life.” Tension between the police and the community contributed to widespread rioting in French suburbs in 2005.

HRW criticised the fact that the searches were not recorded by police and that officers did not give any explanation to those people they searched. Police increasingly touched youths’ private parts during humiliating pat-downs, according to testimony collected by HRW: they could also slap, kick or use electroshock weapons against suspects during arbitrary searches.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

France: Marseille Hopes Culture Can Clean Up Gritty Image

Along the waterfront in the Old Port of Marseille, fishmongers shout out prices for the morning catch. Tourists stroll under sun-drenched skies. Old men sit sipping strong coffees or pastis, the anise-flavoured liqueur favoured in the south of France. This is the image Marseille wants to project as it prepares for its year in the spotlight as European culture capital in 2013 — cosmopolitan, urbane and civilised.

But a short walk from the Old Port, in the warren of streets that make up the impoverished neighbourhood of Noailles, the picture is very different. Prostitutes and drug dealers lounge in doorways, propositioning passers-by. Piles of overflowing rubbish litter the streets. Near the busy Noailles market, a grocery shop owner says he is afraid when he stays open after dark.

“I’ve heard about the capital of culture, there are going to be concerts and art exhibitions, yes?” said the shop owner, who gave his name only as Mohammed. “Who needs that? What we need is security and clean streets. For people to stop being afraid.” Marseille, a 2,600-year-old Mediterranean port and France’s second city, has long been plagued by a reputation for gang crime, drugs and lawlessness.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Gazprom Threatens ‘Countermeasures’ Against EU Energy Law

Gazprom chief Alexei Miller has told Sueddeutsche Zeitung the firm is considering “countermeasures” against an EU law forcing it to split its operations into separate companies for the sake of competition. He said the law will lead to lower investment in EU energy infrastructure and could lead to shortages.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Germany: No Recompense in Case of World’s Dearest Rug

A Bavarian auctioneer who priced the world’s most expensive rug at €900 has escaped paying damages to its former owner. The woman sued the Augsburg auction house after her rug reached €7.2 million at a Christie’s auction in 2011.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Germany: ‘Muslim Taxi’ Offers Gender-Segregated Rides

A German man has created a new website to arrange shared car trips with a twist — it’s targeted toward Muslims, and drivers can only offer transport to members of the same sex. Called, the site is based on the same principle as other popular websites like , which lets cost-conscious Germans arrange shared car rides.

Those interested in offering rides specify their gender, asking price and how many passengers they can accommodate. Potential passengers contact the driver directly. Selim Reid, a 24-year-old from Norderstedt, city of about 70,000 near Hamburg, told the Hamburger Abendblatt newspaper that he was inspired to create the site because of Muslims’ bad ride-sharing experiences.

In 1996, for instance, his parents, who are originally from Iraq, caught a ride with a Muslim-hating driver who spent the whole time criticizing them. “The driver and the people with him swore the whole way about foreigners in general and in particular about my mother’s head scarf,” Reid told the newspaper.

Of course, you don’t need to be a Muslim to use Reid’s service. In fact, he told the Abendblatt, that’s one of the main points of Muslim Taxi. “Those really looking for dialogue will find it by using Muslim Taxi,” he said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Germany: Harburg: A Purely Muslim Shopping Center

Things are moving full-steam ahead with Germany’s islamization: In the Hamburg township of Harburg, a shopping center is now being planned where only Muslims are allowed to run businesses. Now if that isn’t a valuable contribution to integration: Little Mecca right in the middle of the Hanseatic metropolis. The inferior Kuffar has nothing to find there for doing business.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Germany: Roads of Arabia Run Through Berlin

It is a premier for Germany. Never before have artifacts from Islam’s holiest site, the Kabaa in Mecca, been on display in the country. A new exhibit in Berlin’s famous Pergamon Museum traces history on the Arabian peninsula from the birth of civilization to the 20th century.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Italian Citizen Population Dropping

Foreign residents now account for 8% of country

(ANSA)- Rome, January 27 — The number of Italian citizens dropped below 56 million in 2011 as the arrival of migrants kept the overall population growing, a report from the national statistics office ISTAT said Friday. Approximately 65,000 fewer people could call themselves Italian in 2011 than in 2010.

That drop was more than compensated for by the number of foreign residents, which grew by 289,000 to more than 4.8 million, or 8% of the total population. The shrinking number of Italians is explained by the death rate that is outrunning the birthrate.

In 2011, there were 556,000 newborns — 6,000 fewer than in 2010.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Legal Battles Loom as Home 3D Printing Grows

Legal battles could soon emerge as digital sharing moves beyond copying media to taking files and transforming them into physical objects.

The controversial website The Pirate Bay announced this week that it would begin hosting digital files for visitors to download and print out on their 3D printers. The site has coined a new word — “Physibles” — for data objects capable and feasible of becoming physical. “We believe that things like three-dimensional printers, scanners and such are just the first,” the group wrote on its website. “We believe that in the nearby future you will print your spare parts for your vehicles.”

The site has faced extensive legal battles in its home country of Sweden over potential intellectual property infringement of digital content. The concern for many intellectual property owners is that just as there is piracy in the digital world, so too will there be in the physical world.

The Pirate Bay has waded into controversial territory before 3D printing, which has long existed in the industrial world, has started to make it into the hobbyist community in recent years. “Fablabs” have sprung up in cities worldwide that teach people how to print physical objects, ranging from spare parts to art, and even edible objects.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Cabinet Backs the Burka Ban

The cabinet on Friday voted to ban burkas and other face-covering garments from public places. Once the legislation has passed through parliament, the Netherlands will become the third country in Europe to ban the Islamic garment, after France and Belgium. The ban will apply to people wearing balaclavas and full-frontal motorbike helmets on the street as well as the estimated 100 burka wearers in the Netherlands.

Home affairs minister Liesbeth Spies said after the cabinet vote it is of ‘immense importance’ that burkas are banned. People in an open society should approach each other in an open way, she said. It is not yet clear when the draft legislation will be submitted to parliament and when it will come into effect. Earlier this week, regional newspapers reported the draft legislation had been heavily criticised by the government’s most important advisory body and needed significant amendments.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

PVV Votes Against Dutch Candidate for European Job

Labour supporter and diplomat Frans Timmermans failed to win enough support to become the Council of Europe’s new human rights commissioner on Thursday after the anti-Islam PVV voted against him. American-born Latvian Niels Muižnieks received 120 votes in the assembly with Timmermans taking 92 and Pierre-Yves Monette of Belgium on 27. The one-vote absolute majority for Muižnieks meant there was no need for a second ballot.

The PVV was against Timmermans getting the job because he has criticised the party in the past. The party had already vetoed his appointment to a top job in Limburg. ‘If we have to choose between people and don’t have much faith in one of them, then it is logical we don’t support that person,’ party leader Geert Wilders told television current affairs show Nieuwsuur.

Muižnieks has earlier criticised the PVV for using ‘racist and xenophobic language.’ PVV senator Peter van Dijk said he was not aware of Muiznieks’ position when he cast his vote and all that mattered was ‘not voting for Timmermans’. Van Dijk declined to say which of the three candidates he voted for.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Report: Bulgaria and Romania to be Kept Out of Schengen

AFP has cited EU sources as saying the European Commission in a report due next week will give a negative opinion on whether Bulgaria and Romania are fit to join the passport-free ‘Schengen’ travel zone. The Netherlands has promised to veto Schengen expansion unless the report is positive.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Sweden: Man Withdraws Mouse From Cash Machine

A bank customer in Ersboda, northern Sweden, got more than he bargained for when he made a withdrawal from a cash machine and pulled out his money, followed by a mouse.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Sweden: Artist Avoids Jail for ‘Negro Slave Taunt’

Malmö street artist Dan Park was handed a fine and a suspended sentence after being convicted on Thursday of defamation and racial agitation in connection with posters he made after students staged a “slave auction” at Lund University. Park created and distributed posters with a picture of Jallow Momodou of the National Afro-Swedish Association (Afrosvenskarnas riksförbund) superimposed on the image of a naked man in chains.

“Our negro slave has run away,” read the text on the posters. The controversial artist singled out Momodou for having reported a “jungle party” thrown by the Halland Nation student group during which three people with blackened faces and ropes around their necks were led into the party by a “slave trader” and later sold.

Park’s posters were distributed around Lund and also included Momodou’s name and contact details. Momodou claimed the posters were racist and offensive, while Park argued that the purpose of the posters was to highlight the issue of free speech. “I want to make fun of the fact that people get upset about something like this,” he told the Lund University’s student newspaper, Lundagård, in April.

In convicting Parks of racial agitation, the court found that the artist’s freedom of expression claims didn’t hold up as the posters were needlessly insulting and an attack on the rights of dark skinned people. In delivering the guilty verdict, the court handed Parks a suspended sentence, fined him 6,000 kronor ($890) and ordered him to pay 10,000 kronor in damages to both Lavesson and Momodou.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Sweden: ‘High Hopes’ For Löfven as Social Democrat Head

Stefan Löfven, a down-to-earth man from northern Sweden, politically inexperienced but with good chances of strengthening the crisis struck Social Democrats, received mainly flattering judgements from the nation’s editorialists. For the most part, the editorial pages of newspapers across Sweden offered generally flattering reviews for Löfven, who is expected to be formally installed as the successor of recently-resigned Social Democrat head Håkan Juholt.

The 54-year-old IF Metall union chief is described as pragmatic and endearing, but capable of being tough when needed. According to daily Svenska Dagbladet, an independent moderate paper, Lofven is better than a high-profile saviour for the party because he has a “a low profile, high integrity, and a good judgement.” Many editorial writers also hinted that Löfven was elected because of his abilities to unify a divided party.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Turkey Following Investigation of Turks Killed in Germany, Bagis Says

Turkey’s European Union Minister Egemen Bagis said Turkey was closely and seriously following the murder investigation of Turks by extreme rightists in Germany.

Speaking to Turkish reporters in Munich on Wednesday, Bagis said that Turkish Consul General in Munich was also following the investigations.

“It is humanity’s common duty to fight against racism, which is like a disease,” Bagis said, adding that Turkey also attached importance in integration of Turks in German society within that scope.

Recently, German officials discovered a neo-Nazi cell whose members have killed eight Turks in the past ten years. A hit list targeting 88 people, mostly immigrants, was found during a search into the homes of the suspected members of the neo-Nazi cell. The hit list includes prominent figures from Turkish and Muslim communities in Germany, as well as Munich politicians.

Bagis left for Davos, Switzerland following the press conference. He will attend a session on “The New Context in Europe” within the scope of World Economic Forum in Davos, and participate in inauguration reception of the forum.

           — Hat tip: The Stonegate Institute [Return to headlines]

UK: 19th-Century Mechanical Computer Project Set to Begin

Nearly 200 years ago, engineer Charles Babbage made plans for an engine with the basic components of a modern computer. The machine was never built, but now UK researchers are building the ancient mechanical computer.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

UK: Anti-Israel Activist Convicted of Attack on Jewish Man

A veteran anti-Israel campaigner has been convicted of slapping a Jewish man during a protest last summer. Carole Swords, chairman of the Tower Hamlets Respect Party and Viva Palestina supporter, attacked Harvey Garfield as he attempted to defend Israeli products from potential vandalism by protesters. Swords, of Bow, east London, entered a Tesco store in Covent Garden on the afternoon of August 13 last year after attending an anti-Israel demonstration outside the nearby Ahava cosmetics store. Volunteer Mr Garfield was at the supermarket helping staff protect Israeli products from potential acts of vandalism by the protesters. On trial at City of London Magistrates Court on Thursday, 59-year-old Swords claimed Mr Garfield had harassed and attacked her as she entered the store to buy a drink. But magistrates viewed CCTV footage of the incident and agreed with the prosecution’s case that Swords used “threatening and abusive words or behaviour to cause harassment”. The court heard how she told Mr Garfield “don’t you ****ing follow me” before turning around and landing the blow, knocking his spectacles to the floor. Swords, whose mother was from a Russian Jewish family, was found guilty on one charge of a public order offence and given a conditional discharge. She must also pay court costs of ?250.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: Arsonists Attack Mosque

ARSONISTS are believed to have started a fire outside a mosque in Redditch on Tuesday evening (January 24). Firefighters tackled a small fire at the front door of the building in Jinnah Road at about 10.20pm. No-one was injured and there was no major damage to the building. Police were also called and said they were treating the incident as arson.

An investigation is now underway and officers said the exact circumstances surrounding the fire were not yet known. Two fire crews from Redditch were sent and used one hose reel to douse the flames. Police officers are appealing for any witnesses who may have been in the area at the time of the fire to come forward. Anyone with any information should call West Mercia Police on 0300 333 3000.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: How London Became the Censorship Capital of the World

In 2006 the Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet began an investigation into the curious rise of the Icelandic bank Kaupthing, which had come from a small community on a volcanic island and become an unlikely giant, buying assets across Denmark. The paper found that the bank had links with Russian oligarchs and tax havens and, more worrying, may have overstretched themselves. Kaupthing sued them. The paper defended its journalism, and the Danish Press Council rejected the bank’s complaint. But then the bewildered Danish editors were informed that the bank was now suing them — in London, which because Bladet was available in Britain (thanks to the internet), they could do. The newspapermen came from a country where a ?25,000 libel suit was considered expensive, but soon racked up legal costs of ?1 million in London before the case even came to court. Ekstra Bladet agreed to pay substantial damages to Kaupthing and print an apology.

A few months later Kaupthing collapsed, along with the other Icelandic banks, Iceland’s GDP fell by 65 per cent, and Britain and Holland demanded compensation equivalent of the entire Iceland economy. As Nick Cohen writes in his study of modern censorship, You Can’t Read This Book: “As events were to turn out, the English legal profession had also stopped the British investors who were to lose deposits worth $30 billion in Iceland from learning that there was a whiff of danger around the country’s banks, although no lawyer showed remorse about that.”

At the risk of winning the Order of the Brown Nose, Cohen is perhaps t he most insightful, thought-provoking and entertaining political writer in Britain today, and comes from the honest tradition of English liberal thought that threads from John Milton to John Stuart Mill and George Orwell; for that reason he has fallen out with the dishonest liberal tradition, a split that began with the fatwa issued against Salman Rushdie on Valentine’s Day, 1989. He has that rare trait of being fair to all parties, refreshing in the tribal atmosphere of political debate, which has no doubt angered sectarians on his side. The first half of his book encompasses the self-censorship and self-deception that characterised the liberal response to radical Islam. The second half addresses the censorship that arises from the rise of the new class of super-rich — the world’s new plutocracy.

It’s worth recounting the raw statistics about inequality; for example, that between 2002 and 2007 65 per cent of income growth in the US went to the top 1 per cent; i n 2009, after the great bail-out, the top 25 hedge-fund managers received on average more than $1 billion each in 2009; the pre-tax income of the richest 1 per cent of American earners increased from 8 per cent of total in 1974 to more than 18 per cent in 2007. In the UK the collective wealth of the richest thousand people in Britain stood at ?98.99 billion in 1997; by 2009 it was ?335.5 billion. London is now home to 53 billionaires, 24 of whom come from the emerging BRIC nations, who will display increasing power in the next few decades at the expense of Europe. As Cohen says:

Government-run energy companies in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Venezuela, Russia, China, India and Brazil control 80 per cent of the world’s oil and gas supplies. India and Brazil are the only real democracies on that list, and the populations of both have to live with astonishing levels of inequality and corruption. I can think of few more important subjects for democratic citizens than the influence of the rich over politics, the damage business can do to the atmosphere and the environment, and the risks high finance brings to economic stability. Yet extreme wealth is creating societies in which it is harder to hold economic power to account. The new concentrations of wealth are not in democratic Europe or North America. Oligarchies with no traditions of freedom of speech or democratic government now hold much of the world’s wealth, and those who try to hold them to account run considerable risks.

The complacency that overtook the West after 1989 led to a strange assumption that liberal democracy is almost a natural state of nature, rather than a welcome aberration — and meant that few people have contemplated how the decline of liberal Europe over the next few decades will affect us. If power is in the hands of illiberal nations and their super-wealthy, will this not have an effect on the nature of the world? It already does, thanks to Britain. As the Kaupthing saga demonstrates, London is popular with the new billionaires not just because it has top public schools, low tax and a history of tolerance, but because it is home to the most oppressive libel laws in the world, which makes England’s claim to be a liberal bastion something of a joke. This is having a corrosive effect on our political culture, allowing the mega-rich, whether the likes of Robert Maxwell or Islamist-linked Gulf millionaires, to censor the press.

But at least Britain’s woeful censorship law could be changed by Parliament. Far harder to change is the culture of modern liberalism, which Cohen sees as deviating from the tradition of Mill. “Today’s liberals,” he writes, “have become as keen on censorship as conservatives once were. They want to silence those who pose no direct harm, comparable to Mill’s rabble-rouser urging on the mob outside the corn dealer’s home. Like homophobic conservatives, who worry that if societies’ taboos go, the promotion of homosexuality will turn young people gay, they worry that if the law allows unpalatable views to escape unpunished, hatred will turn to violence.” I disagree with Cohen on religion and censorship — although, honest as ever, he doesn’t pretend, like so many liberals do, that modern radical Christians and radical Muslims are equally threatening and dangerous. I think that liberalism flourishes best in fairly homogenous countries (historically England, the Netherlands and Denmark) and that multi-rel igious ones must inevitably become less free (Singapore being the prototype); and that mass immigration is not the best way to spread liberalism to the Muslim world and help their good guys.

But I agree with him that liberalism has lost its liberal streak, and that liberals — and everyone else — have to take a look at themselves, and be willing to criticise what they find: as Cohen says, “We must not only run the risks that our country/tribe/confessional group will punish us for questioning its taboos. We must be ready to confront our own taboos, our idea of ourselves.” Which is true, of course, for all of us. Apart from me; I’m perfect, and always right.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: Islington Girls Forced Into Marriage at the Age of Nine

AN alarming number of under-age girls — some as young as nine — are being forced into marriage in Islington, according to a leading campaign group.

The Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation (IKWRO) claim that at least 30 girls in the borough were forced into marriage in 2010.

The practice was condemned by the Imam of Finsbury Park Mosque, who said such marriages were against Islam and “unacceptable”.

He pledged to invalidate any marriage which he said were carried out by “back-street Imams”.

IKWRO, which made headlines last month when they revealed there had been almost 3,000 “honour-based” violence cases in 2010, has shown the Tribune records which revealed at least three 11-year-old girls and two nine-year-olds had been forced into marriage with older men within Islington. The oldest girls involved were 16.

They have warned that hundreds of Islington girls could be suffering sexual, emotional and physical scars as a result of the child marriages every year and are calling for teachers, social workers and police to be better trained to spot and manage the abuse.

Information from the Ministry of Justice, following a Freedom of Information request, revealed that 32 Forced Marriage Protection Order applications were made for children under 16 in Britain last year.

Six of these were made for under-16s within Islington at the Royal Courts of Justice, although these were not necessarily made for Islington residents.

At the Islington court, “five or fewer” orders were made to protect children between the ages of 9-11.

The orders are a form of injunction that threaten legal punishment if marriage takes place due to emotional or physical force.

In most cases, the children fear they will be killed if they reveal the truth to anybody, while others believe they will be separated from their families and taken into social services’ care.

Dianna Nammi, director of IKWRO, explained that the girls are married in a mosque’s sharia court. This means they are not legally married according to British law, rendering the Home Office unable to recognise or prove the abuse.

“They are still expected to carry out their wifely duties, though, and that includes sleeping with their husband,” she said.

“They have to cook for them, wash their clothes, everything. They are still attending schools in Islington, struggling to do their primary school homework, and at the same time being practically raped by a middle-aged man regularly and being abused by their families. So they are a wife, but in a primary school uniform.

“The reason it doesn’t get out is because they are too terrified to speak out, and also the control their families have over them is impossible to imagine if you’re not going through it. The way it is covered up is so precise, almost unspeakable.”

Ms Nammi said that one 13-year-old had to sneak out of a maths lesson to contact the group, because she was being monitored so closely by her family.

“Her teacher didn’t notice because she said she’d gone to the toilet, but when she got home that day she was beaten,” she said.

“Her father knew she hadn’t been in maths because he had sent an uncle to spy on who she was talking to through the classroom window.”

Ms Nammi said that the girls are married off to family friends or family members to stop them from losing their virginity to anyone not chosen by their father.

However, the incentive is also often financial.

“The girl automatically becomes her husband’s property, so he takes financial responsibility for her,” said Ms Nammi.

“In fact, often the husband has to start contributing to the girl’s family, so it becomes a way of bringing in another salary.

“Who are girls going to tell? Often they feel like teachers at school won’t understand what their families are like. They will think they’re like Western families, and won’t understand that if they pass on anything at all that they’ve been told to the family, then the girl will be killed. So they just chose not to tell at all.”

IKWRO offers counselling and support to the children, but does not force them to take any action until they are ready. Often, that involves being placed in social services’ care.

Finsbury Park Mosque imam Ahmed Saad said he was glad the issue was being highlighted, and stressed that it was not an Islamic problem, but a cultural one.

“This is down to ignorance, and ignorant people who will use any excuse they can to do this to their children,” he said.

“It is the practice in their home countries and they don’t want to stop that here, so they will say it’s in the Koran, when it is not. According to Islam, it is entirely unacceptable.

“My own grandmother was married at the age of 11, but that was in 1907 in Egypt when lifespans were much shorter.

“I have heard of this happening in Islington by back-street imams. They are imams who have little knowledge of Islam — they are not educated, and they simply lead prayers, and yes they will do this and it is very quietly kept a secret with no one admitting to it.

“Islam says both parties must truly consent in their hearts, and if the girl was forced into it in any way then she can invalidate her Sharia marriage with or without the husband’s permission.

“I will personally do that for anyone who comes to me. This is simply child abuse, as a child does not know what they are doing.

“My heart goes out to the girls.”

Imam Saad explained that Sharia law stated an individual can marry when they begin puberty, with the most important stipulation being that they are “rushd”, or mature enough to understand marriage.

A spokesman for the Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) said he was “unsure” whether the lack of legal status of the marriages affected whether the they could intervene or not, but directed the Tribune to government practice guidelines on dealing with forced marriage.

The spokesman added that due to the lack of legal status the marriages may be a “criminal matter that only the police can deal with”, but admitted to it being ““a very grey area”.

The FMU guidelines state: “It is probable that children’s social care will play a key role in protecting the interests of the child or young person. This can be achieved not only by arranging practical help such as accommodation and financial support, but also by co-operating and working with other agencies such as police, health and education professionals.”

Sibel Balci-Saner, a Turkish and Farsi speaking adviser at IKWRO, said while that the Islington Police’s domestic violence co-ordinators were “brilliant” at dealing with the cases, front-line officers “can make things worse by not being sensitive because they don’t really understand what’s going on”.

“When they try and speak to the child’s parents they often have a language barrier,” she said.

“Too often they don’t bother to call an interpreter so they don’t talk to the parents at all about what they’re doing, until it goes to court much later. A common complaint we have is that it depends on who you are, too — some women say that when they’re from poorer families the police don’t take them as seriously.”

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

UK: Lawrence Convictions Only the Beginning

The family of Stephen Lawrence have welcomed the conviction of two white men for the racist killing of their teenage son nearly 19 years ago, in a landmark case that exposed institutional racism in London’s Metropolitan Police Service over its failure to investigate properly. The jailing of Gary Dobson and David Norris is a vindication for one of the longest-ever campaigns for justice, which has included the milestone Macpherson Report of 1999 that led to changes to the law and the redefining of racial incidents. But questions remain what really has been achieved. According to the Institute of Race Relations (IRR), at least ninety-six people have lost their lives to racial violence — an average of five per year — since the killing of 18-year old Lawrence in 1993. “Our research shows that the main parties are in denial about the extent and severity of racial violence, and interested in rightwing extremism only when it challenges them electorally,” IRR said. It accuses the poli cies and pronouncements of mainstream politicians, on a range of issues from terrorism and foreign wars to cohesion, criminality and immigration, which “create the insidious popular racism in which such violence foments.”

One of the tragedies is that such murders hardly ever make news and the names of victims, who are overwhelmingly young men under the age of 30, are barely known to anyone but their immediate families. At least five of the deaths took place in similar unprovoked attacks: Zardasht Draey, Anthony Walker, Christopher Alaneme, Ahmed Hassan, Mohammed al-Majed. At least ten of those who died were refugees or asylum seekers and five killed between 2005 and 2012 were migrant workers. Many of the victims were also Muslim.

Macpherson did go one step further than the 1981 Scarman Report which drew attention to the problem of police racism but in doing so he defined institutional racism only as overt racist policy consciously pursued by an institution. Although more sophisticated, he still failed to locate its roots within the structure of operational policing and the relationship between police and minority communities. The result has not led to a policy agenda that has eliminated racist killings as the continuing figures show. Even Macpherson himself stopped short of characterising the Lawrence murder as a racist crime by locating the source of racism in the social and cultural life of police officers rather than in the dynamics of operational policing itself.

Within the Met, racism has continued to be a major problem that seems to have a specific Islamophobia dimension leading to all three senior Muslim commanders Shabir Hussein, Tarique Ghaffur and Ali Dizaei being suspended from duty in 2008. The case of Iranian-born Dizaei has been of epic proportions, winning back his position as a commander last year after successfully appealing against his dismissal on corruption charges that were squashed in May. His 25-year-old career as one of Britain’s most senior ethnic minority officers has been embroiled in controversy, having previously cleared his name after what he called a ‘police witch-hunt’ against him in 2003 that cost ?7 million. While criticism has been drawn about the Met behaving discriminatorily towards its own senior officers with ethnic and racial differences, there has also been the police response to the riots in northern English towns during the summer of 2001 involving clashes between poor white youth and Asians. The issue became lack of community cohesion and understanding but with the blame laid at the door of the ethnic minorities and their culture. It has only been more recently during protest demonstrations that police tactics have been scrutinised.

Macpherson, like Scarman before him, was entirely uncritical concerning the role of stop and search in damaging community relations with the police. The extension of police powers under terrorism legislation has only further damaged the image of the police through disproportionately singling out ethnic minorities, especially Muslims. In supporting political decisions to allow right-wing protests to go ahead, including the case of such groups as the English Defence League, the police have been identified, wittingly or unwittingly, with their cause.

One of the main causes of the rise of Islamophobia throughout Europe as well as in Britain has been blamed on politicians seeing Muslims only through the prism of terrorism. The Prevent agenda has led to Muslims being spied upon from cradle to grave and has provoked such situations as happened in Birmingham, when the police were found to be spying on the entire Muslim communities using CCTV on false pretensions of targeting criminal elements. If Muslims are perceived as an enemy within, it is the police that have the task of implementing such ill-conceived and misguided policies. The whole atmosphere is hardly conducive to improving community relations, while the police already are faced with internal problems of institutional racism. The issue needs to be put into a much wider context of Britain not being an egalitarian society and those at the bottom end of the ladder not receiving justice. This specially includes ethnic minorities, with Muslims being the latest flavour of the day for the most abused. It is within the country’s culture, wittingly or unwittingly, that needs to be addressed, whether this be in the behaviour of the police or the flames being fed by politicians and some of the laws enacted.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: Man: 24, Who Was Scared of Dogs Drowned After Diving Through Hedge and Into Lake as He Fled From Bull Terrier

A man with a fear of dogs drowned after he fled in terror from a Staffordshire Bull Terrier — straight into a lake.

Mohammed Faisal, 24, died after he jumped head-first into a bush which stood next to the lake, a former brick pit, Peterborough Coroner’s Court heard yesterday.

The inquest heard that the dog’s owner Ritchie Frost did his best to assist Mr Faisal, who could not swim, but that he died after the lake plunge on September 28, 2011.

Mr Faisal, from Millfield, Peterborough, had been walking home when he was scared by a Staffordshire Bull Terrier called Locki, which was being walked by Mr Frost and his children.

He died close to the nearby Ikea Distribution Centre, where he had worked as a call centre operator for about six weeks, at around 5.30pm.

In a police statement read out to the inquest Mr Frost, from the Fletton area of Peterborough, said he had taken the dog off its lead and was alerted to Mr Faisal’s presence after hearing a ‘scream’ from around a bend in the path.

Mr Frost said he saw Mr Faisal dive head-first into a bush towards the lake.

The dog tried to ‘trot’ after Mr Faisal, but obeyed when Mr Frost called it back.

The hearing was told that Mr Frost went over to the bushes and the edge of the lake to reassure Mr Faisal that his dog was ‘friendly’.

He saw his head ‘bob’ above the water before it disappeared beneath the surface and did not reappear.

Mr Frost said: ‘I saw him in the water. I saw him go out. My daughter gave me a branch to put out into the water but he was too far out.’

He then called the police for help.

The court also heard from Mr Faisal’s brother Ansar Khan, from Millfield, who confirmed that his brother had cynophobia — a fear of dogs — and was not able to swim.

The inquest heard evidence from Samantha Persaud, who was Mr Faisal’s work colleague at the call centre and had been walking behind him on a footpath near to the lake just before his death.

In her statement to police she said she briefly lost sight of Mr Faisal after he walked around a bend but he then reappeared, running past her looking ‘scared’ before hiding in a bush.

Ms Persuad then saw a dog as well as a nearby man and woman.

She said: ‘The dog appeared to be ambling along paying no attention to anything.’

She felt that Mr Faisal was ‘afraid’ of the dog but she did not feel there was a threat as the animal had a ball in its mouth throughout the whole incident and was not barking or growling, and so she continued on her journey.

The coroner also heard evidence from Detective Sergeant David Liddle, who told the court that there was no record of aggressive behaviour in the dog’s past according to its vet.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

UK: Misguided Liberals Are Playing US All Into the Hands of the Islamist Tyrants

A recent letter to The Guardian stated that ‘over the past decade, a number of academic studies have indicated a worrying and disproportionate trend towards negative, distorted and even fabricated reports in media coverage of the Muslim community’. It called for an inquiry into media representation of Muslims on a par with the Leveson inquiry. The letter had a long list of signatories including human rights solicitor Imran Khan, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Bianca Jagger, Navnit Dholakia the deputy leader, Liberal Democrats, House of Lords and Farooq Murad of the Muslim Council of Britain. Some of the signatories have questionable records, as was pointed out on Harry’s Place blog. Whatever their good intentions, the signatories to the letter make the mistake of using the phrase “Muslims and Islam” repeatedly, as though they were the same thing. Unfair, untrue and d istorted coverage of Muslim individuals — as with any minority group — is wrong and should be challenged. It hurts real people who are often innocent of any involvement in the events being reported.

But Islam is a religion, a set of ideas and philosophies that must, under no circumstances, be protected from examination, criticism or even ridicule. There is a world of difference between hurting real people through press exaggeration and throwing brickbats at ideas which are arguable. The Leveson inquiry seeks to protect people, not theologies. Islam must stand on its own merits and must be argued and defended with reason, not protected by law. We’ve done away with blasphemy laws in this country and we don’t want them back in another form. This conflation of religion with race is becoming an insidious tool to blackmail and manipulate people into ceasing their questioning of Islamists and their activities. To challenge any aspect of Islamic practice, however brutal and tyrannical, is now seen as an attack on people’s racial identity.

It is rather like the Hamas practice of using “human shields” — hiding their military forces in hospitals, schools and mosques to discourage attacks from enemy forces. The Islamist activists in this country hide their real motives behind claims of “Islamophobia” and “racism” and successfully silence their critics in this way. We’ve seen classic examples of that over the past couple of weeks with the bullying of university Atheist and Secularist groups. People who consider themselves liberal and who feel it is their duty to protect Muslims from discrimination — such a Students Union leaders — haven’t yet worked out that criticising Islam is not the same as persecuting Muslim people. We would all stand against unfair treatment of individuals. Equally, we must all stand against the restrictions on free speech that these attacks represent. The Guardian did not allow any response to the letter it printed. This is another indication that soon any public criticism of Islam as a theology will be completely impossible in this country. And that is the ultimate aim of the violent and intimidatory activists who were so evident in British universities last week. Read more about the incidents at University College, Queen Mary and the London School of Economics.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: Stepping Outside of Your Bubble

Islam brings about a different meaning for everyone. Most likely something that is not accurate or truthful about the faith. There are many misconceptions about Islam just as about any other religious group. The Muslim Student Association at UK brought speaker Abdel Rahman Murphy to speak about the misconceptions of Islam on Thursday night at the Student Center. Murphy touched on the most popular misconceptions about the faith and gave specific examples of how both Muslims and non-Muslims can help eliminate them. The event was held in the Grand Ball Room, where dinner was served as well, and the MSA had a full house. There was a great diversity among the attendees. First generation Muslims wearing their traditional hijabs and kufis accompanied by their daughters and sons who had a more “Americanized” style, as well as non-Muslims.

The speaker started out by welcoming the crowd with a traditional Arabic phrase “As-Salàmu ‘Alaykum,” translating to “May peace be upon you.” He then warned he was going to be bluntly honest. “This speech should no longer be given. It’s tired, it’s old. The fact that we have to have a discussion about misconception in a country like America is saddening,” Murphy said. Murphy said he did not only want to inform everyone present about Islam, but he also wished to transform the way they viewed it. “I hope that everyone in here today can learn something and pass it on to others who need the enlightenment,” Murphy said. Murphy recommended reading the “Quran” and “The Life of Muhammad” are the best ways to learn a clean, unbiased Islam. Throughout the speech Murphy gave those present many advices. “You should not judge a faith by its practitioner,” Murphy said. One of the biggest mistakes that create misconceptions about Islam is that things, or text in this case, is taken out of c ontext (from the Quran) Murphy explained. “We are used to looking at the people from the outside in,” Murphy remarked.

One of the biggest misconceptions about Islam is Jihad. Disturbing the peace and fighting. Murphy said. “It is very common in our (American) society to link Muslims to war and ‘killing people,’“ Murphy described. This is one of the examples that are taken out of context, according to Murphy. “If you have read the Quran and the life of Muhammad, you know that war is deception,” he said. The speaker then went on to mention specific text in the Quran to exemplify how misconceptions are created. One of the most famous phrases among Islamic misconceptions is found in chapter two, the chapter of the cow, verse 191, according to Murphy. “It says ‘kill them where you see them. But if you look at the verse before that, God says ‘Those who attack you, and transgress against you and are harming you,’“ Murphy said. “The next verse says if they desist, then you must stop as well’.” Murphy believes that those who believe in such misconceptions are the ones to blame for not searching for kn owledge before judgment. However, he also pointed out that Muslims themselves are not helping eliminate the stereotypes. “It is our fault, the blame falls right onto our shoulders. As Muslims we need to educate ourselves first, and speak up our faith,” Murphy said.

Those who attended seemed pleased with how the speaker approached the subject. “He used examples to show our reality,” Abdullah Aldahlan, chemical engineering freshman, said.

Aldahlan, a Muslim himself, liked the spontaneous way the speaker spoke of the misconceptions. “The specific examples he mentioned illustrate exactly how people perceive the faith without knowing about it,” Aldahlan said. Not only did Murphy talk to non-Muslims educating the crowd about Islam, he specifically mentioned ways Muslims themselves could help change this reality. “He talked in both perspectives. He spoke directly to us, Muslims, and that opens our eyes too,” Aldahlan said. Academic Director of the Lexington Universal Academy Robin Farlow became a Muslim at age 17 by choice and believes speaker Murphy touched Muslims in a positive way. “It is encouraging for us Muslims to get out of our bubble and reach out there,” Farlow said. Farlow mentioned it might be a challenge, but one worth working through. “We are used to being in our communities, but spreading the word and teaching about Islam is what we need to start doing,” Farlow added. Murphy ended the speech wi th an invitation to all. “Please, please, please educate yourself. Only by knowing can we end bigotry,” Murphy exclaimed.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: The Baby Born With No Blood

Docs save Oliver after it drains away in womb

MIRACLE baby Oliver Morgan was brought back from the dead — after being born with no blood in his body. A rare condition drained his tiny frame of virtually every drop while in the womb. When he was delivered he looked pale and stillborn — and doctors were unable to find a heartbeat for an astonishing 25 MINUTES.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

UK: World of Roger Scruton, Writer and Philosopher

The prolific author talks to Georgia Dehn about his daily routine, activism, education and the pleasure of drinking wine.

I don’t watch television at all and until I got married and had children it had never even occurred to me. I just didn’t have time — there are all those books to read. The children have a screen and video player to watch films, but they are not allowed a television at home. When my son was very little, he would travel around the nearby farms on his own and often visited people with televisions. He came back with some fascinating stories from his adventures as to what you could see on this extraordinary box.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union

EU and Council of Europe Join Forces for South Med

Aim is to support democratic reforms in the region

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, JANUARY 25 — The European Union and the Council of Europe joined the efforts to strengthen democratic reform in the Southern Mediterranean countries, with a 4.8 million euros joint programme. This programme will support democratic reforms and the independence and efficiency of the judiciary, whilst promoting good governance. According to the enpi website (, it will also target corruption and human trafficking and aim to promote human rights and democratic values, working through government officials, future leaders, youth and civil society.

It will be rolled out initially in Morocco and Tunisia, and some initiatives will be implemented over three years throughout the region. “With this programme — EU Commissioner for the Neighbourhood Policy, Stefan Fule, said — the EU complements its global response to the Arab Spring in supporting the countries willing to transform and to reform in order to answer their citizens’ call for democratic rights, dignity and prosperity. We want to build on long-standing expertise of the Council of Europe in providing guidance on sensitive political and governance issues to the fragile new democracies”.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egypt: Human Rights Watch Gets Egypt All Wrong

by Robin Shepherd

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has just released its World Report 2012, in which it warns western governments not to ignore the popular will in the Arab world just because that has resulted in a massive victory for political Islam. HRW is aware of the potential dangers for minority rights as well as of the possibility of a lurch back to authoritarianism but its thinking betrays a profound sense of confusion. Consider the following: “Much like the revolutions that upended Eastern Europe in 1989, the Arab upheavals were inspired by a vision of freedom, a desire for a voice in one’s destiny, and a quest for governments that are accountable to the public rather than captured by a ruling elite.”

It is vital that Western governments do not fall for this.

The fact that parties which can quite fairly be described as neo-fascist could attract such a vast share of the vote tells us that much of the Egyptian population is not inspired by a “vision of freedom” at all. The reference to 1989 is dangerously misleading. But there’s worse. The report says: “wherever Islam-inspired governments emerge, the international community should focus on encouraging, and if need be pressuring, them to respect basic rights — just as the Christian-labelled parties and governments of Europe are expected to do.” To the first part, yes, of course. But do they truly think the Muslim Brotherhood is like Germany’s Christian Democrats?

Not surprisingly, there’s the obligatory slating of Israel. “Many Arabs were naturally disturbed by Israel’s repression of the Palestinian people, and often protested,” the report notes.

For on e thing, Israel is not repressing the Palestinian people. It is they who have consistently refused to make peace, frequently opting for terrorism instead. For another, hostility to Israel is deeply intertwined with the kind of vitriolic mass antisemitism that, historically, has never sat well with efforts to build free societies. And that, in a nutshell, is the problem with the “Arab Spring”. The political culture is mired in multiple bigotries which will need to be rooted out if liberal democracy is to stand a chance. HRW makes some important points in its report. It’s a shame they missed the most important point of all.

Robin Shepherd is the owner/publisher of

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Egypt: Is it Starting to Kick Off?

The march proceeding from Al-Azhar Mosque is reportedly being attacked by thugs, according to activists. There are also reports that pro-SCAF civilians, termed honourable citizens by the ruling junta, are distributing flyers with anti-Tahrir Square and anti-protest rhetoric. Dr Mahmoud El-Shinnawi, a member of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, told Ahram Online that a group of thugs attacked the march, as security and police forces looked on in silence. El-Shinnawi added that no injuries have thus far resulted from the attacks. The march has now split, and the two offshoots have taken two different routes to Tahrir Square.

Anti-SCAF protesters attacked in Al-Azhar march to Tahrir — 25 January: Revolution continues — Egypt — Ahram Online


The killing of two Copts in Naga Hammadi, Qena Governorate on Thursday failed to ignite sectarian strife in the Upper Egyptian city but has instead turned up the heat on the local police. Police officers announced on Friday they had arrested those suspected of Thursday’s shooting, saying the prime suspect is an upholsterer named Adel, and was assisted by four others. All five have been captured, police said. The Mercedes believed to have been used for the crime, carrying the licence plate number 392, was also impounded. Initial investigations have shown the culprits intended to kidnap the victims and ransom them for around LE500,000. When the father put up a struggle, the assailants gunned them down, police said. Cement trader Moawad Assad, and his 25-year-old son Assad, an engineer, were both killed on Thursday when unknown assailants opened fire on them from a Mercedes carrying Cairo plates. Moawad’s second son, Paulos, survived the shootings. Hundreds took part in the funeral service later in the day, while demonstrators staged a sit-in before Naga Hammadi police station to protest the failure of the city’s law enforcement officers. On Friday morning, around 3,000 Muslims and Copts rallied before the station, facing off against a heavy security presence. Demonstrators blame the police for “easing off” their duties, and call for quick investigation into the shooting. The Qena Governorate has a history of sectarian violence, especially against Coptic Christians.…heat-on-p.aspx

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Post-Gadhafi Libya Still Struggling for Security

Earlier this week, clashes broke out between Libyan militias and local residents in a town with close ties to Libya’s former dictator. The violence shows that the country still has a long way to go toward true stability.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Reports of Libyan Detainee Torture Drive Doctors Without Borders Away

Allegations of torture at Libyan detention centers from two international humanitarian organizations have cast the country’s transitional government in a poor light.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

EU: 55 Million Euros to UNRWA, Ashton

Ceremony in Gaza with UNRWA commissioner Filippo Grandi

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, JANUARY 25 — EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton and the general commissioner of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), Filippo Grandi, today signed an agreement in Gaza regarding a financing of 55.4 million euros, the largest single donation ever received by the organisation. The money will be used to guarantee basic services like education, healthcare and to improve life in general in the refugee camps for Palestinian refugees in the West Bank, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. “The continuing support provided by the EU to UNRWA is crucial in our strategy to bring peace to the region,” said Ashton in a short ceremony in Gaza. Ashton called the UN agency “the driving force that guarantees organisation and provides essential services.” Filippo Grandi expressed his gratitude to the EU for the support that allows “the most vulnerable Palestinians to be less poor.

The concrete impact of this contribution is even more important because it comes at a time when millions of people in the region are asking for better living conditions and for more opportunities.” The EU is the largest multilateral donator to give international assistance to the Palestinian refugees. In the 2000-2011 period the EU allocated 1.2 billion euros to the Agency, not counting contributions from single member states.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Middle East

Caroline Glick: The Zionist Imperative

European and American perfidy in dealing with Iran’s nuclear weapons program apparently has no end. This week we were subject to banner headlines announcing that the EU has decided to place an oil embargo on Iran. It was only when we got past the bombast that we discovered that the embargo is only set to come into force on July 1.

Following its European colleagues, the Obama administration announced it is also ratcheting up its sanctions against Iran… in two months. Sometime in late March, the US will begin sanctioning Iran’s third largest bank…

           — Hat tip: Caroline Glick [Return to headlines]

Iran Oil Threat Targets Greece

Iran’s parliament is to vote on Sunday whether to immediately stop oil sales to EU countries in retaliation for an EU ban due to start in July. If it goes through, the measure could cause shortages in Greece, Italy and Spain, who are still seeking alternate suppliers.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Iran Arrests Wave of Bloggers, Writers and Programmers

A former DW blog award winner is jailed as Iran faces more political and economic pressure. Tehran is cracking down on people it says use the Internet to connect with foreigners to disrupt upcoming elections.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Taliban Diplomats Arrive in Qatar

A team of senior Taliban diplomats has arrived in Qatar in preparation for the opening of a political office to host negotiations between America, the insurgents and the Afghan government.

The envoys from the former regime have assembled in the past month and the first tentative talks could begin within weeks according to former Taliban officials now part of Hamid Karzai’s peace council. A Taliban declaration earlier this month that the movement would open an office “to come to an understanding with other nations” is seen as the most significant political breakthrough in ten years of conflict. The delegation was apparently granted safe passage to the Gulf state despite several members still being on a United Nations’ sanctions blacklist banning international travel. It includes Tayeb Agha, former secretary to Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, who has acted as go-between with American and German diplomats for more than a year. He is joined by Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai, a former deputy foreign minister, and Shahabuddin Delawar, a former envoy to Riyadh, according to Mohammed Qalamuddin.

Mr Qalamuddin, once chief of the Taliban’s “vice and virtue” police, told The Daily Telegraph the envoys were all well-educated, fluent in English and considered moderate, but committed to the movement. He suggested all had travelled with the knowledge of Nato and the United States, though added Taliban figures were also able to flout travel sanctions easily by using counterfeit passports. Abdul Hakim Mujahid, deputy leader of the peace council and the Taliban’s envoy to the UN at the time of the September 11 attacks, said one of his secretaries from New York, Sohail Shaheen, was also in Qatar. The delegation was completed by Hafiz Aziz Rahman, the Taliban’s third secretary in Abu Dhabi before 2001, who has lived in Qatar for several years. “He played a very important role in this process,” said Mr Mujahid. “They have all moved there,” he added.

Western sources confirmed the men were believed to be either in Qatar, or heading there, and the deleg ation made a “plausible” negotiating team. Zabiullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban, would not comment on the names, but confirmed a “preliminary” delegation was in Qatar. Diplomats in Kabul have stressed the office is not finally agreed and any resulting talks would likely take years, but have expressed cautious optimism that it may pave the way to a peace process. By opening the movement to face-to-face scrutiny, they argue it will force the Taliban to articulate their demands and make it harder for them to continue an indiscriminate bombing campaign. However deep mistrust remains on all sides.

Marc Grossman, American special envoy to the region, this week said during a visit to Kabul that he wanted clear statements from the Taliban that they had distanced themselves from international terrorism and were committed to a political settlement.

Others fear the Taliban still calculate they can defeat Nato by simply waiting for troops to withdraw. They ar gue the office is a ploy to buy time, or that it will only be used for fund-raising in the Gulf. Davood Moradian, professor of political science at the American University of Afghanistan and a former aide to Mr Karzai, said the West and Afghans “had scored three own goals” by agreeing to it. “We have given them political space, we have provided them with another source of funding and undermined the anti-Taliban forces,” he said.

Mr Karzai’s inner circle are suspicious the office is an American attempt to cut a secret deal behind their backs and Kabul withdrew its ambassador to Doha in protest at the lack of consultation. The Taliban also doubt America is genuine about negotiation, Mr Mujahid said, and have demanded the release of five senior leaders from Guantanamo Bay as a confidence-building measure. Bloodshed is likely to continue even if the office opens as both Nato and the militants first continue their military campaigns to try and strengthen their bargaining posi tions. Mr Mujahid said: “I think this is natural. Each side will try to show their superiority on the battlefield. This is the nature of the battlefield and the conflict, that each side try and show itself stronger.”

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Turkey Drops Heavily in Press Freedoms Rankings

Turkey took a big step backward in press freedom rankings, losing 10 places to place 148th out of 178 countries in the Reporters Without Borders’, or RSF, World Press Freedom Index for 2011 made public Wednesday.

Eritrea, North Korea and Turkmenistan came right at the bottom of the 10th annual list by the press freedom group, with the same clutch of European states — led by Finland, Norway and Estonia — at the top. Turkey’s fall came as a result of the pressure against journalists and media outlets.

“Far from carrying out promised reforms, the judicial system launched a wave of arrests on journalists that was without precedent since the military dictatorship,” the report said on Turkey.

According to the report, 2011 saw an escalation in the judicial harassment of journalists in Turkey, “despite the diversity and energy of its media.” The RSF also criticized the country’s anti-terrorism laws.

“Under the pretext of combating terrorism, dozens were jailed before being tried, above all, in the investigations into the Ergenekon conspiracy and the KCK [Kurdistan Communities Union], an alleged political offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK,” the report said. “The unprecedented extension in the range of arrests, the massive phone taps and the contempt shown for the confidentiality of journalists’ sources, have helped to reintroduce a climate of intimidation in the media.”

Ergenekon is an alleged ultranationalist, shadowy gang accused of planning to topple the government by staging a coup initially by spreading chaos and mayhem. It is also thought to be an extension of, or a different name, for the “deep state,” which is an alleged unofficial organization of bureaucracy and military operating behind the scenes of the official state structure.

The PKK is recognized as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.

This year’s index saw many changes in the rankings that reflect a year in which many media organizations paid dearly for their coverage of popular uprisings against veteran autocratic leaders, RSF said.

“Control of news and information continued to tempt governments and to be a question of survival for totalitarian and repressive regimes,” said the Paris-based group.

RSF said it was no surprise that the same trio of countries — – Eritrea, North Korea and Turkmenistan — were bottom of the list because they were “absolute dictatorships that permit no civil liberties”.

“They are immediately preceded at the bottom by Syria, Iran and China, three countries that seem to have lost contact with reality as they have been sucked into an insane spiral of terror,” it said.

           — Hat tip: The Stonegate Institute [Return to headlines]


Gazprom Eyes German Power Generation Market

The Russian gas giant Gazprom plans to invest in German power generation projects, following the collapse of talks with the German utility RWE.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]


Iran Crisis Worries Armenia

For Armenia, Iran is de facto the sole connection to the outside world. The transport routes through other neighboring countries are blocked. Yerevan fears isolation in case of a military conflict in the Gulf.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

South Asia

Bangladesh: Women and Children Are for Sale

by Mohshin Habib


Hundreds of young girls are being forced to stow away to go into Indian and Pakistani prostitution, to live a completely sub-human life. In the Middle East, most of the trafficked girls from Bangladesh are subjected of commercial sexual exploitation, perverted sexual abuse in the name of “domestic service.”

These are common scenarios of the remote areas and even sometimes in the district towns of Bangladesh, where the families are losing their daughters and young boys those are being used for terrible purposes.

On December 12, the Bangladeshi cabinet approved a new law that calls for the death penalty for human trafficking. Since December 12, there have been a dozen cases reported by the media after some victims died on the way to their forced destinations.

According to U.S. Department of State’s report 2011, however, “Bangladesh does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, and is placed on Tier-2 Watch List for a third consecutive year.” The Home & Communication adviser of the interim [dubbed an “emergency” government] government of Bangladesh in 2007, and later the elected relevant authority, confessed that the number of victims, as some non-government organizations also reported, is as high as 40 thousand a year.

The U.S. state department also reported that, “The Government of Bangladesh made some efforts to protect victims of trafficking over the last three years. The government’s insufficient efforts to protect victims of forced labor — who constitute a large share of victims in the country — and adult male victims of trafficking is a continuing concern. The government did not have a systematic procedure to identify trafficking victims and vulnerable populations, and to refer victims of trafficking to protective services.”

In a parliamentary election in Bangladesh in 2008, before which all political parties declared what was to be in their manifestos, it was extremely disappointing that not one political party proposed to stop trafficking. Instead, they all emphasized the “Blasphemy Act:” both the so-called secular and religious parties gave commitments not to prepare any law against the guidelines of the Koran.

This is why the new initiative, forced by the Western countries and taken by the Bangladeshi government, is not working properly.

Bangladesh is now the most densely populated country in the world. More than 80% of the people here are Muslim and strongly believe that Islam does not allow any kind of birth control. Consequently the average birthrate in the Islam dominated states is three times higher than the rest of the world. So we see a rickshaw-puller, a day laborer, having five or six children, while we see success stories of family planning in the formal papers of the government and the non-governmental organizations.

If the camel-jockey issue, of boys as young as six being forced to race camels has been eliminated after the international community noticed and took the problem seriously, so can trafficking, as well as child labor in shocking conditions, be eliminated, too.

           — Hat tip: The Stonegate Institute [Return to headlines]

Far East

China’s Next Supremo Expected to Push Hawkish Policies

China’s ‘crown prince’ Xi Jinping is expected to take over the party leadership from Hu Jintao this October. With the change of power not far away, many in and outside of China are wondering what to expect.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Fora Fail as Asian Naval Race Goes Submarine

Vast resources lie beneath the South China Sea, whilst upon it cruise myriad ships traveling one of the world’s major trade routes. For the Asian nations who claim these waters the battle is going submarine.

Something lurks beneath the South China Sea, keeping a watchful eye on what lies above, but also below. This is no kraken or Nessie, but rather a sleek, silent and deadly piece of weaponry: the submarine. Countries with claims to islands in these hotly contested waters see the submarine as their best way to counter a growing Chinese navy and maintain some modicum of influence over who ends up owning the vast, uncounted natural resources underneath the South China Sea. Also at stake is the control of trade routes worth an estimated $1.2 trillion (0.9 trillion euros) annually.

China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam and Brunei all have claims on either all or part of the South China Sea, with much attention focused on the Spratly Islands, a group of more than 750 islets, atolls and islands in the region’s south. As it stands, Vietnam controls 21 reefs, Malaysia eight, the Philippines eight, China seven and Taiwan one.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Philippines Eyes Stronger Defense Ties With the US

With one eye on securing territory in the contested South China Sea, the Philippines says it will significantly boost military cooperation with the United States. This could encompass a greater troop presence.

The Philippines government announced Friday it would significantly boost military cooperation with the United States as it seeks to secure claims to parts of the South China Sea. Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said Manila would accept a greater US military presence on its territory and engage in more joint exercises with its former colonial ruler.

“It is to our definite advantage to be exploring how to maximize our treaty alliance with the United States in ways that would be mutually acceptable and beneficial,” del Rosario said in a statement. Whilst not naming China specifically, Del Rosario said the boosted cooperation deal was with “territorial disputes” in mind.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Samsung Posts Decent Q4 Profits Thanks to Smartphone

Asia’s largest consumer electronics maker has reported a 17-percent increase in earnings in the fourth quarter of 2011. Only its fiercest rival, Apple, sold more smartphones.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

For Uganda, The World is Not Enough

His neighbors think he’s crazy, but Ugandan flight engineer Chris Nsamba wants to fly to the top layer of the Earth’s atmosphere in a homemade orbital glider. It could be the start of a Ugandan space program.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

German Engineer Kidnapped in Nigeria

Gunmen on Thursday abducted a German engineer working with a construction company on the outskirts of the violence-hit Nigerian city of Kano, police said. A driver along with two other assailants “came and abducted the engineer Raupach Edgar,” said police spokesman Magaji Majia. “They came and handcuffed him and put him in the boot and zoomed away.”

A spokesman for the German Foreign Ministry said that a crisis team had been formed and that it was working together with the local embassy to investigate the kidnapping. The embassy has declined to comment on the case as yet. A spokesman for Rhineland-based construction company Bilfinger Berger said Thursday evening that there were indications that one of their employees in Nigeria had been kidnapped.

It is not clear yet whether the kidnappers are simply criminals, or members of the radical Islamist Boko Haram sect, responsible for a series of terrorist attacks in Nigeria in recent weeks, including a bombing that killed around 190 people last Friday.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Latin America

Fortress of Solitude-Like Cave Houses Ridiculously Slow-Growing Crystals

Researcher uses a custom-built, ultrasensitive microscope to determine that a sample grew 0.000000000014 millimeter per second-the equivalent of a pencil width every 16,000 years.

The 36-foot-long beams of gypsum in Mexico’s Cave of Crystals are the largest exposed crystals on earth. Now Spanish crystallographer Juan Manuel García-Ruiz has awarded them another record: They exhibit the slowest crystal growth ever measured.

The cave’s stable temperature and mineral content fostered slow but steady growth for a million years or more. Such conditions may be ideal for crystals, but not for those studying them. “You’re in the house of Superman,” García-Ruiz says of the 110 degree, 99 percent humidity chamber. “But if you stay for half an hour, you die.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]


Finland’s Net Immigration at Exceptionally High Level

Last year, the difference between the number of immigrants entering Finland and that of emigrants leaving Finland was higher than ever before since the nation achieved independence in 1917. The fact is indicated by Statistics Finland’s preliminary population projection, published on Thursday. The figures will be revised in the spring. In the course of 2011, a total of 28,250 people moved into Finland, while the number of people emigrating from the country was 12,470. The statistics are based on the Population Register Centre’s data on the permanent residence of people living in Finland. In the current millennium, the number of immigrants has been higher than last year only once before, namely in 2008.

           — Hat tip: KGS [Return to headlines]

New Mediterranean Migrants Feel at Home in Berlin

There’s been a new migration to Berlin from across Europe since the EU opened up, but few have flocked in like the Spanish, it seems. As DW’s Stuart Braun found out, most have little choice but to stay.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

UK: Sham Wedding Vicar Was So Corrupt He Didn’t Even Bother to Hold the Ceremonies for Immigrants to Whom He Simply Handed the Certificates

A corrupt vicar who conducted 28 sham weddings was jailed yesterday.

The Rev Canon Dr John Magumba, 58, pocketed at least £8,300 after he agreed to marry Nigerians to Eastern Europeans living in Britain.

The unions enabled the Africans to stay in the UK and claim hundreds of thousands of pounds in benefits.

A court heard that the cost to the taxpayer of one immigrant wrongly entitled to services amounted to £100,000 over a decade, or £230,000 if they had a child.

Yesterday the Church of England vicar — who came to Britain from Uganda with his wife and six children — was told that he had brought scandal to his church as he was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in jail.

Investigators suspect no ceremony actually took place with the ‘couples’ simply given their marriage certificates — dubbed ‘golden tickets’ — after handing him hundreds of pounds.

On one occasion he married the same woman to different men twice in the space of a week, later changing her age in the register to try to avoid suspicion.

So many foreign couples tied the knot at his churches that the local diocese made him head of a committee aimed at detecting sham marriages — unaware that he was the main offender.

Magumba claimed to have conducted his first sham wedding out of compassion because he had been told the bride was HIV positive and urgently needed NHS treatment.

One Nigerian woman took part in ceremonies seven days apart, prompting a church official to demand why she had married two men in the space of a week.

‘He said they were twins, and in some African countries twins were given the same name,’ Joanna Rodikis, prosecuting, told Bolton Crown Court.

Magumba then tried to cover his tracks by crudely altering her age in one of the entries from 28 to 38.

Police became suspicious when they were alerted to the surge in the number of weddings at one of his churches, St Peter’s in Newbold, Rochdale.

There had been no weddings at all at the church between 1996 and 2007, but in the four years after he took over there had been 21.

Yet none of the fees he charged — at least £250 per ceremony — had made it into church accounts.

The vicar is even suspected of pocketing money from funerals, none of which reached church funds.

Magumba admitted conspiracy to facilitate a breach of UK immigration law as well as two counts of theft.

His barrister, Hunter Gray, said: ‘He has spectacularly fallen from grace.

‘One day in prison is going to be too much for him.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

Young Afghans Seek Asylum in Germany

Violence and a lack of prospects are driving many Afghans to leave their homes and come to Europe. Many of the asylum seekers are under age and their trips here are often long and perilous.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]


20 Things You Didn’t Know About… Alcohol

You can stash it in your muscles, you can make it in your intestines, and you can find it in space.

Sobering disclaimer: The family of compounds known as alcohols are all toxins that can kill you, whether instantly, quickly, or gradually. Yet one of them-ethyl alcohol, or ethanol-is a staple of the human diet. Archaeologist Patrick McGovern speculates that fermented beverages were made as early as 100,000 years ago, when people first spread out of Africa.

According to the Drunken Monkey Hypothesis, our zest for alcoholic beverages derives from our distant ancestors’ impulse to seek the ripest, most energy-intensive fruits.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Did Earth’s Gold Come From Outer Space?

The platinum in your wedding ring and the gold in your dental fillings most likely arrived on Earth in a furious meteoric bombardment 200 million years after the planet’s formation, University of Bristol geologist Matthias Willbold reports. According to standard planetary formation models, the gold, platinum, and tungsten that were present when Earth was born should have quickly bonded to iron and sunk into the planet’s core. Those precious metals are thousands of times more prevalent on the surface of Earth and in its mantle than the models predict.

Willbold proposes that a colossal meteor shower about 4 billion years ago deposited the additional bling. To test his theory, he measured the isotopic mix of tungsten in rocks from an ancient formation that predates the proposed meteor shower. He then compared the readings with isotopes found in more recent rocks. “If you look at really ancient rocks in Greenland, the tungsten composition is different,” he says.

Willbold’s group reported in a paper published last September that levels of certain isotopes in the newer rocks are slightly lower than in the old ones, indicating an addition of precious metals similar to what meteoric impacts would have produced. Beyond sprinkling the planet with riches, Willbold believes the meteor shower could have helped deliver the ingredients necessary for life: “Most of the water on Earth today may have been brought during that late bombardment.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

How the Global Climate Cabal is Destroying Scientific Integrity

As an increasing number of highly qualified scientists slowly began to realize that the “climate science” community was a facade—and that their vitriolic rebuffs of sensible arguments of mathematics, statistics, and indeed scientific common sense were not the product of scientific rigor at all, but merely self-protection at any cost—the veil began to drop on what has already become clear as the greatest scientific fraud in this history of mankind.

This is one of the darkest periods in the history of science.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Islam, Democracy and the Arab Spring: An Interview With Raphael Israeli

by Jerry Gordon and Michael Bates

Israeli: There is no democracy so far in the Arab-Islamic world which necessarily engenders anything but an oppressive regime of one way or another. Democracy as we understand it in the West is not part of the Arab or Islamic tradition. They always had an authoritarian regime one way or another. Incidentally that is the situation in Russia too. They had either the Czars or the Communist party and one was worse than the other. Now when Russians had a little democracy there was chaos until come Mr. Putin, who is also authoritarian, restored the an autocratic regime. You give them freedom they don’t know what to do with it and therefore they want somebody strong and authoritarian who tells them, who guides them, who orders them, who disciplines them and then you have peace and order but again, that’s not democracy. Apparently in these non-Western countries people who were never groomed for anything but disciplinarian and authoritarian regimes it is too early, too immature to demand or to expect that Western style democracy should be installed in place. It’s simply impractical.

Israeli: If the Americans were ready to give up their ally Mubarak of thirty years in order to please the Muslim Brotherhood whom they thought were the wave of the future why shouldn’t they do exactly the same thing in Afghanistan where they have somebody like Mubarak, President Karzai, who is also corrupt and authoritarian? If they sense they are losing the war in Afghanistan and the Taliban are the wave of the future they may after ten years of war, 5,000 casualties and the trillion dollars that they wasted end up supporting the Taliban against whom they started the war in the first place.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

No Need to Panic About Global Warming

There’s no compelling scientific argument for drastic action to ‘decarbonize’ the world’s economy.

Editor’s Note: The following has been signed by the 16 scientists listed at the end of the article:

A candidate for public office in any contemporary democracy may have to consider what, if anything, to do about “global warming.” Candidates should understand that the oft-repeated claim that nearly all scientists demand that something dramatic be done to stop global warming is not true. In fact, a large and growing number of distinguished scientists and engineers do not agree that drastic actions on global warming are needed.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]