News Feed 20120202

Financial Crisis
» Bank Survey Highlights EU Economic Gloom
» EU: the Enormous Burden of a Tiny Tax
» Eurozone Needs ‘Federal Fiscal Union’ To Survive: Czech PM
» Fiscal Treaty More About ‘Self-Control’ — Van Rompuy
» Germany Looks to China for Eurozone Support
» Greece: Ski Resorts Woo Visitors With Big Discounts
» IMF Worried by Social Cost of Greek Austerity
» Italy: Senate Follows House: Freezes Parliamentarians’ Salaries
» Italy Eyes Breakthrough in Fight Against Tax Evasion
» Political Discontent in Romania Reaches New Highs
» Public Transport Workers Go on Strike in Portugal
» UK Jobs May Disappear Over Arms Deal With India
» A Letter From 1865: Former Slave Says “Pay My Back Wages, Then We Talk.”
» Anonymous Attacks American Nazis
» BNP Links to US Extremists Revealed by Anonymous
» Graffiti Artist Who Took Shares Instead of Cash for Painting Facebook’s First HQ Seven Years Ago to Make $200 Million in Stock Market Float
» Groundhog Day: Phil’s Myth Stretches Back Centuries
» Inside the World of the Hollywood Paparazzi
» Stakelbeck: American Victims of Palestinian Terror Seek Justice
» The Un-Obama
Europe and the EU
» Britain Bans Iran’s Press TV — Finally
» EU Breast Implant Rules Not Tough Enough, Says France
» EU Envious of US Swiss Secrecy Success
» Extremist Arrested Over Islamist Threat Video
» France: Bardot and Platini on Test for Immigrants
» German Intelligence Under Fire for Spying on Parliamentarians
» Italy: Winter Weather Woes Increasing
» Italy: Police Bust ‘Holy’ Medicine Racket
» Muslim Arbitration in Germany
» PET: Denmark Still Top Terrorist Target
» Poland Gives Green Light to Massive Fracking Efforts
» PoliticsUK Question and Answer With the Muslim Council of Britain
» Spanish Museum Reveals ‘Younger’ Mona Lisa
» Sweden: Police ‘Embarrassed’ By Continued Violence
» Sweden: Gun Violence ‘Most Common’ In Malmö
» UK: ‘The Boy Punched My Mum and Hit the Baby in Her Tummy’
» UK: Outrage as Terror Plotters Plead Guilty in Turn for Light Sentences
» UK: Slow Graphene Down, Speed Computers Up
» UK: Tear Down Your Protest Camp! After Two Years of Protecting Green Belt Against Illegal Traveller Invasion, Villagers Get Their Marching Orders
» UK: Thousands Wrongly Labelled as Criminals
» Muslims in Macedonia (Fyrom) Riot Over Satirical Burqa Dudes at Vevcani Carnival
Mediterranean Union
» Morocco: Crucial Partner for Italy, Yes to Free Trade Area
» New Model Required, 80 Mln Jobs Needed
North Africa
» Egypt: Muslim Brotherhood in Lead Even in Upper House
» Egypt Riot Aftermath: Tear Gas Fired at Protesters
» Egypt: More Copts Coming to Italy, Riccardi
Middle East
» France Castigates Russia Over Syria ‘Scandal’
» Greece Seeking Backup Oil Supply Against Iranian Embargo
» Lebanon: Ain Ebel: School for Children of All Religions
» Merkel Urges China to Press Iran Over Nukes
» Merkel Wants China to Do More in Iran Debate
» New York Times Backs Islamist Movement Without Even Looking at it
» Putin Coy on Election Chances
» Putin Protest Soundtrack Becomes YouTube Hit
South Asia
» Calls to Behead Indonesian Atheist Alexander Aan
» India’s Panel Price Crash Could Spark Solar Revolution
» NATO Endgame in Afghanistan Brings Forth a Clash of Paranoid Fears
Far East
» Philippine Search Fails to Find Abducted Europeans
Sub-Saharan Africa
» SA Farmers Lodge Formal Genocide Complaint Against ANC-Regime
» Google Joins Twitter in Censorship Storm: Site May Now Block Blog Posts in Line With Requests From Oppressive Regimes
» NASA Report: Greenhouse Gases, Not Sun, Driving Warming
» NASA Mission Returns First Video From Moon’s Far Side
» The World’s Most Dangerous Book
» Triple-Star System May Host Habitable World

Financial Crisis

Bank Survey Highlights EU Economic Gloom

BRUSSELS — Euro-area banks are becoming less happy to lend and consumers are more reluctant to borrow, according to an authoritative new survey out Wednesday (1 February).

The European Central Bank (ECB) in Frankfurt in the past six weeks polled senior loan officers in 124 banks of various sizes across the 17-country single-currency zone. The answers that came back showed a “surge” in the level of fear on both sides of the table in a mini-credit crunch that will make it harder for Europe to avoid recession in the coming year.

Germany was the “notable exception” in terms of willingness to lend on the bank side. Meanwhile, Belgium, Finland, Italy, Malta, the Netherlands and Spain saw a particularly “strong deterioration” in terms of demand for mortgages from rank-and-file consumers.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

EU: the Enormous Burden of a Tiny Tax

While supporters of the European Financial Transaction Tax argue it could raise money for investment in society and discourage risky trading, some feel it could cripple our suffering economies

After the financial crisis of 2008, European economies were plunged into recession. Thousands lost their jobs and social welfare was cut as austerity began to bite. But the financial institutions — widely blamed for causing the crash due to their risky lending and trading practices — were bailed out using taxpayers’ money and banks continued to award themselves enormous bonuses. The unfairness of this scenario resounded loudly across Europe. Traders needed to give something back. But how?

One solution could be a financial transaction tax (FTT), more commonly known as a Tobin Tax or Robin Hood Tax by campaigners in the UK. The basic idea is to generate money from the financial services industry by placing very small taxes — usually less than one percent — on the sale of certain financial products such as securities, bonds and derivatives.

The European Commission (EC) — which published a report last September outlining the impact of introducing an FTT- estimates that up to €57 billion could be raised through their proposed model, money that could be reinvested into society while discouraging the risky trading behaviour that helped bring about the financial crisis in the first place.

But while public support for the measure has been growing, the Danish government remains hesitant to support it. Last week, both prime minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt and the economy minister, Margrethe Vestager, expressed concerns that an FTT would dampen growth and lead to thousands of lost jobs across Europe.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Eurozone Needs ‘Federal Fiscal Union’ To Survive: Czech PM

(PRAGUE) — Czech Prime Minister Petr Necas, who recently nixed his country’s membership in the EU’s new budgetary discipline pact, on Thursday said the eurozone needed a federal fiscal union in order to survive. “The eurozone has no choice now: either it will melt down — something which nobody wants — or it will move towards a federal fiscal body,” Necas told the Lidove Noviny daily Thursday.

Necas called the new pact on budgetary discipline, which all EU states save the Czech Republic and Great Britain intend to join, a “fundamental step in this direction.” “States are renouncing their right to a free vote in the EU on important topics concerning the budget, and they are giving up a part of their sovereignty,” he said.

Necas added that EU prime ministers were pressured for quick agreement on the new so-called “fiscal compact” at the Brussels summit on Monday, where he chose to keep the Czech Republic out of the pact. Leaders received the final draft of the pact “with important, hastily negotiated modifications and were forced to decide immediately, without any time to reflect, without being able to consult experts or their governments,” he charged.

“I’m not an 18th-century absolute monarch to be able to decide for my country just a couple minutes after having seen the modified text,” he said. Necas insisted that had Prague joined the deal, it would have “agreed to eurozone moving toward a future fiscal federation,” as well as shown its “willingness to participate in this project no matter the price.”

The Czech leader has however admitted the possibility of his country joining the pact in the future and possibly putting the issue to a public referendum. However, Czech President Vaclav Klaus, an ardent eurosceptic, has vowed to veto any Czech moves to adhere to the pact, designed to prevent future debt crises.

Pushed by Germany and the European Central Bank, the treaty — to be formally signed in March — will require governments to introduce laws on balanced budgets and impose near automatic sanctions on countries that violate deficit rules. Only those countries that sign up will be able to access bailout aid from a new rescue fund.

In the wake of the debt crisis, threatening to torpedo the 17-member eurozone, Necas’s centre-right government said it will not adopt the euro during its term ending in 2014.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Fiscal Treaty More About ‘Self-Control’ — Van Rompuy

EUROPEAN COUNCIL president Herman Van Rompuy said the new fiscal treaty was more about “self-control” than austerity, as MEPs criticised Europe’s response to the debt crisis.

“There is nothing virtuous about excessive debt — it means that more and more of your public expenditure is spent on servicing your debt instead of on public services and public investments.”

“Mrs Merkel is fighting for discipline, structural change and for growth,” said Elmar Brok.

“If you forget discipline then you are destroying the future of coming generations.”

Martin Callanan, leader of the British Tories in the parliament, said the treaty would remove the right to vote for “high-spending Keynesian” economic policies.

“We are making socialism illegal. This pact is effectively rendering all elections null and void across much of Europe,” he said.

United Kingdom Independence Party MEP Nigel Farage claimed the treaty would “destroy and humiliate nation states that do not live up to a Germanic view of how economies ought to be run.”

He suggested German proposals to send an EU budget commissioner to Greece with powers to override its government brought to mind gauleiters of the Nazi-era, as the party’s senior officials were known.

           — Hat tip: Kitman [Return to headlines]

Germany Looks to China for Eurozone Support

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has said Beijing will support Europe’s efforts to stabilize the euro, calling the European debt crisis an ‘urgent’ matter. Chancellor Merkel met with Wen at the start of a three-day tour.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Greece: Ski Resorts Woo Visitors With Big Discounts

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, JANUARY 31 — Hotel enterprises in winter resorts across Greece are proceeding to massive discounts of up to 60% as the occupancy rate has been particularly low this year, especially after the end of the Christmas vacation. Ski centers, particularly on weekdays, are reducing their rates, too, both in entrance cards and in other services they offer (equipment rental, ski lessons etc). As daily Kathimerini reports, in several resorts, such as Kalavryta, local enterprises are promoting all-inclusive packages that include accommodation, food, ski center entrance cards and equipment rental at very attractive prices, in a bid to bolster their visitors’ numbers. In Kalavryta those packages range between 55 and 65 euros per person per day.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

IMF Worried by Social Cost of Greek Austerity

BRUSSELS — Budget cuts alone will not save the Greek economy as the country is reaching the “limit” of what society can endure, the International Monetary Fund’s point-man for Athens has said, in a departure from the institution’s traditionally more technocratic communiques.

“We will have to slow down a little as far as fiscal adjustment is concerned and move faster — much faster — with the reforms needed to modernise the economy,” Poul Thomsen, a Danish IMF official overseeing the Greek austerity programme told Greek daily Kathimerini on Wednesday (1 February).

He spoke of the “limitations” of political support and social tolerance toward the deficit-cutting measures — Greece saw violent street clashes and several days of general strikes in protest at cost-cutting last year. Thomsen also called for political recognition of the painful reforms that Greece has already undertaken.

“I share the frustration of many Greek officials that much of the criticism from abroad overlooks the fact that Greece has done a lot, at a great cost to the population. While much still needs to be done, Greece has already come quite a long way. Failing to recognise this will not help mobilise support for the programme,” he said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Italy: Senate Follows House: Freezes Parliamentarians’ Salaries

Cut in gross income will prevent net increases

(ANSA) — Rome, January 31 — The Italian Senate followed the Lower House’s lead on Tuesday by cutting the gross salaries of its parliamentarians by 13%, although the politicians will not actually take home any less money.

The reduction of around 1,300 euros per month in gross salaries will prevent a recent change in the system for parliamentarians’ pension contributions leading to a big increase in their net salaries.

“It’s useful to be clear,” said Paolo Franco, a Northern League Senator and one of the leading officials in Upper House self-governing body.

“This is not a reduction in the salaries but a way to stop them increasing”.

Italian politicians have been under pressure to cut their salaries, with the rest of the country called on to make sacrifices after Premier Mario Monti’s government passed a tough austerity package in December to put the public finances in order.

Earlier this month Italy’s MPs came top of a parliamentary committee’s survey of European lawmakers’ salaries, with a gross monthly wage of over 16,000 euros, although the findings were disputed by many MPs.

House Speaker Gianfranco Fini said Tuesday that it was now necessary to reduce the size of Italy’s political class.

“The time has come to reduce the number of parliamentarians to reduce the overall cost of the political system, because 945 parliamentarians (between Senate and House) and hundreds and hundreds of city and regional councillors ends up leading to a significant cost,” Fini said. photo: the Senate

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy Eyes Breakthrough in Fight Against Tax Evasion

Inland Revenue to introduce new method to find dodgers

(ANSA) — Rome, January 31 — Italy is upping the ante in its fight against rampant tax evasion and is looking to make a breakthrough in the first half of this year with a new system to find dodgers by cross-checking incomes and spending, the head of the nation’s Inland Revenue Agency said Tuesday.

With the government needing cash for its bid to emerge from the debt crisis and balance the budget by 2013, Premier Mario Monti has launched a drive against tax cheats, who he recently said “are giving poisoned bread to their children”.

The campaign has featured a number of headline-grabbing operations among rich tourists in Cortina d’Ampezzo and the Ligurian Riviera, shoppers at exclusive stores in Rome and nightclub owners in Milan.

Now the Inland Revenue, or the Agenzia delle Entrate, is about to ramp up the pressure further with a new system that will trace individuals’ expenditure in 100 different categories to find anomalies between spending and declared income.

“It will be operative by the end of the first half of the year,” Agenzia delle Entrate Director-General Attilio Befera told the House’s finance committee. “It will analyse the data of over 22 million families, that is around 50 million individuals”.

Befera said the fight against tax evasion had generated 11.5 billion euros for the State in 2011.

Last year he estimated that around 120 billion euros’ worth of undeclared business was done on the Italian underground (black) economy each year.

The government campaign also features TV advertisements that brand tax dodgers as “parasites”.

Italy is trying to beef up cooperation with Switzerland too.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Political Discontent in Romania Reaches New Highs

Plummeting temperatures have exacerbated Romania’s chilly political climate as public dissatisfaction with austerity measures mounts. Even the prosecution of a corrupt former premier has failed to improve the mood.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Public Transport Workers Go on Strike in Portugal

Public transport workers in Portugal have launched a 24-hour strike to protest restructuring plans that are part of the government’s austerity measures. It’s the third such strike since November. Commuters in Portugal were left scrambling for alternatives on Thursday as public transport workers went on strike to protest restructuring plans that are part of the government’s latest austerity measures.

In the capital, Lisbon, the metro shut down at midnight and ferry services were stopped during rush-hour traffic. Trains and busses, however, were running as usual. The 24-hour action, third such strike since November, was launched to “protest against the strategic plan for transport,” Jose Oliveira, the coordinator for the Federation for Transport Unions (FECTRANS), told the Lusa news agency. Included in the plan are measures to reduce salaries, cut jobs and privatize some of the state-owned mass transit companies. The public will also be affected with planned service reductions and price hikes.

According to government figures, the public transport sector’s debts are in the range of 17 billion euros, or around 10 percent of the country’s annual gross domestic product. The center-right government is implanting a harsh austerity program as part of a financial plan put forth by the European Union and International Monetary Fund.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

UK Jobs May Disappear Over Arms Deal With India

India’s decision to purchase jet fighters from France’s Dassault instead of the UK’s BAE Systems could lead to job losses, British trade unions said Wednesday. The contract, lost to France, was worth £7 billion. However, BAE Systems said no jobs would be lost.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]


A Letter From 1865: Former Slave Says “Pay My Back Wages, Then We Talk.”

In August of 1865, a Colonel P.H. Anderson of Big Spring, Tennessee, wrote to his former slave, Jourdon Anderson, and requested that he come back to work on his farm. Jourdon — who, since being emancipated, had moved to Ohio, found paid work, and was now supporting his family — responded spectacularly by way of the letter seen below (a letter which, according to newspapers at the time, he dictated).

Dayton, Ohio,

August 7, 1865

To My Old Master, Colonel P.H. Anderson, Big Spring, Tennessee

Sir: I got your letter, and was glad to find that you had not forgotten Jourdon, and that you wanted me to come back and live with you again, promising to do better for me than anybody else can. I have often felt uneasy about you. I thought the Yankees would have hung you long before this…


I want to know particularly what the good chance is you propose to give me. I am doing tolerably well here. I get twenty-five dollars a month, with victuals and clothing; have a comfortable home for Mandy,—the folks call her Mrs. Anderson,—and the children—Milly, Jane, and Grundy—go to school and are learning well.


As to my freedom, which you say I can have, there is nothing to be gained on that score, as I got my free papers in 1864 from the Provost-Marshal-General of the Department of Nashville…I served you faithfully for thirty-two years, and Mandy twenty years. At twenty-five dollars a month for me, and two dollars a week for Mandy, our earnings would amount to eleven thousand six hundred and eighty dollars. Add to this the interest for the time our wages have been kept back, and deduct what you paid for our clothing, and three doctor’s visits to me, and pulling a tooth for Mandy, and the balance will show what we are in justice entitled to.

Please send the money by Adams’s Express, in care of V. Winters, Esq., Dayton, Ohio. If you fail to pay us for faithful labors in the past, we can have little faith in your promises in the future. We trust the good Maker has opened your eyes to the wrongs which you and your fathers have done to me and my fathers, in making us toil for you for generations without recompense.


In answering this letter, please state if there would be any safety for my Milly and Jane, who are now grown up, and both good-looking girls. You know how it was with poor Matilda and Catherine. I would rather stay here and starve—and die, if it come to that—than have my girls brought to shame by the violence and wickedness of their young masters. You will also please state if there has been any schools opened for the colored children in your neighborhood.


[NOTE:See URL for links to census information re Mr. Anderson’s futher life in Ohio]

[Return to headlines]

Anonymous Attacks American Nazis

Two major sites associated with hate speech were temporarily out of commission

In its latest effort to silence and expose those responsible for spreading anti-Semitic and racist hate speech around the Web, hackers associated with Anonymous have taken down and defaced the American Nazi Party website.

Uniting under the ongoing “Operation Blitzkrieg” banner, a group calling itself “SolSec” took down Saturday (Jan. 28) and continued attacks through the weekend, according to the AnonymousCenter Twitter feed.

The Examiner reported that Anonymous also took down the white supremacist site Monday (Jan. 30). Both sites later were back up.

The incidents come on the heels of Anonymous’ early January “OpBlitzkrieg” attacks on several German neo-Nazi and extremist groups, including Germany’s far-right National Democratic Party. On a site called Nazi-Leaks, Anonymous posted the names and addresses of NPD donors as well as email addresses, email messages and names taken from several American white-supremacist online groups, one of which was the American Nazi Party.

AnonymousIRC, another Twitter sounding board for the hackers, posted a link to another neo-Nazi group’s blog, which was hacked in December to expose the name, Social Security number, cellphone number, address and credit-card information of American Nazi Party member John Taylor Bowles.

           — Hat tip: Kitman [Return to headlines]

BNP Links to US Extremists Revealed by Anonymous

‘Hactivists’ target websites of far-right American Third Position and publish emails praising BNP leader Nick Griffin

Hacked emails from a far-right group appear to reveal links with the BNP, after the group of American “hactivists” Anonymous targeted a number of US extremists’ websites.

The group infiltrated the site of American Third Position, a white nationalist political group, in a campaign ironically dubbed “Operation Blitzkrieg”, publishing emails in which it praised the BNP leader, Nick Griffin.

In one January 2010 email from “WhiteNewsNow” with the subject “Your Beautiful Pontoon Bridge”, Griffin is described as “probably the most effective white activist in the world today”.

A member of the group writes: “I’ve got my tickets for Jared Taylor’s 2010 American Renaissance. Your fellow WhiteNewsNow members […] are meeting up with some more of us and probably the most effective White activist in the world today, Nick Griffin.”

In a statement, the hackers denounced American Third Position as “racist losers” who “try hard to maintain a professional public image to camouflage their vile racism […] we’re now airing all their dirty laundry all over the internet.”

It continued: “We call upon not only other anti-fascists but all those opposed to white supremacy to utilise this information and make hell for these white nationalist scumbags. It is essential if we wish to live in a world free from oppression to expose and confront racists at their jobs, their schools, at their homes and in the streets.”

           — Hat tip: Kitman [Return to headlines]

Graffiti Artist Who Took Shares Instead of Cash for Painting Facebook’s First HQ Seven Years Ago to Make $200 Million in Stock Market Float

A graffiti artist who painted the walls of Facebook’s first headquarters seven years ago is set for a bumper payday of $200 million after he agreed to take Facebook stock instead of cash for his work.

David Choe, 35, was asked to paint the offices in Palo Alto, California, in 2005, and was offered the choice by then-president Sean Parker of being paid a few thousand cash or the equivalent in shares.

Now, after a blockbuster $5 billion Facebook stock exchange flotation moved a step closer last night, he is one of at least 1,000 company employees finally on their way to becoming millionaires.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Groundhog Day: Phil’s Myth Stretches Back Centuries

On Thursday, a roly-poly rodent named Punxsutawney Phil will be hoisted from his burrow in front of TV cameras and cheering crowds and be called upon to predict the weather. If this famous groundhog casts a shadow, legend has it that winter is here to stay for six more weeks.

Weird tradition, huh?

In fact, relying on rodents as forecasters may date back to the early days of Christianity in Europe, when clear skies on Candlemas Day (Feb. 2) were said to herald cold weather ahead. In Germany, the tradition morphed into a myth that if the sun came out on Candlemas, a hedgehog would cast its shadow, predicting snow all the way into May. When German immigrants settled in Pennsylvania, they transferred the tradition onto local fauna, replacing hedgehogs with groundhogs.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Inside the World of the Hollywood Paparazzi

Paparazzi have a bad reputation for bending the rules to satisfy the world’s insatiable demand for celebrity photos. But the business is also incredibly lucrative, something that prompted Bill Gates’ Corbis photo agency to buy the world’s top paparazzi shop. Some in the industry are trying to free it from its sleazy image, but upstart agencies have few moral qualms.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Stakelbeck: American Victims of Palestinian Terror Seek Justice

Over the years, Palestinian terror groups have slaughtered countless Israeli civilians. Many people may not know that In the process, Palestinian terrorists also killed and injured dozens of American citizens.

Now there is a movement to have those Palestinians face justice here in the United States. But the hardest part may be getting the U.S. government to take action.

See my new report at the link above.

           — Hat tip: Erick Stakelbeck [Return to headlines]

The Un-Obama

by Victor Davis Hanson


…The economic stagnation between 2009 and 2012 has curbed energy demand, while private entrepreneurs have used new fracking and horizontal drilling technology on largely private lands to revolutionize the production of fossil fuels. Again, Obama seems to take credit for things that occurred over his opposition — as if to say, “You will like what they didn’t let me do.” In the fine tradition of American politics, the successes of others are Obama’s; Obama’s failures are the failures of others.


This year, Obama will run not so much on what he really did in 2009 and 2010, but more on what he wanted to do, but was stopped from doing, in 2011 and 2012. The president will tell his base that he really wished to go green in a big way while telling Middle America that lots of oilmen went ahead on their own to find new gas and oil. For his liberal supporters, Obama really did want to end the antiterrorism protocols, and for the rest of America he really did find those same protocols necessary to kill Islamic terrorists.

The message is clear: If voters do not see or hear the new un-Obama too often, if his left-wing legislative agenda is sidetracked, and if the private sector can ignore him, then voters may still sort of like the idea of him back as president.

[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Britain Bans Iran’s Press TV — Finally

by Shiraz Maher

The British broadcasting regulator, Ofcom, has finally done what it was long urged, and banned Press TV, the Iranian state broadcaster. The station is a rolling English language news channel owned by state-controlled Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), headquartered in Tehran. The station was long accused of being little more than a mouthpiece for the Iranian regime and broadcasting outright propaganda.

The station protested but could barely sustain its deceit when the Green Movement emerged in 2009 to protest the electoral fraud which resulted in Ahmadinejad’s re-election. Press TV’s director of news, Roshan Muhammed Salih, angry declared:

It is simply not fair to characterise Press TV as a mouthpiece for the Iranian government. It is true that we are state-funded, like the BBC World Service, but that does not mean we slavishly follow the Tehran line.

In the same breath, however, he continued:

I believe it [the Islamic Republic of Iran] is a fundamentally decent government run by a fundamentally decent man [Ahmadinejad]. The Iranian government supports Islam [Islamism] and resistance movements [Hezbollah and Hamas] in the Islamic world and opposes Western interference in the region.


The channel is willing to give a platform to legitimate actors whom the Western media will not touch, such as Hamas and Hezbollah, while at the same time reporting what the authorities are saying.

In itself, this is a staggering public statement for a supposedly impartial and dispassionate journalist to make — let alone one with control of editorial output. Describing Hamas and Hezbollah as “legitimate,” when both the United States and European Union have outlawed them as terrorist groups, reveals the extent to which the Iranian regime’s views are pervasive within the channel.

There is nothing, of course, inherently wrong with interviewing those movements. In the past, other organisations including the BBC and Sky News have done the same. The difference is one of degree. To simply offer these groups a platform without any challenge, scrutiny, and robust interrogation of their beliefs and methods is to cross the Rubicon from legitimate inquiry to loyalist apparatchik.


[Return to headlines]

EU Breast Implant Rules Not Tough Enough, Says France

French health authorities want tougher EU regulation on breast implants, Reuters reported Wednesday. The recommendations follow a two-year investigation into the recently closed French Poly Implant Prothese (PIP) company. Last December, French authorities recommended 30,000 French women have the pip implants removed.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

EU Envious of US Swiss Secrecy Success

The EU has been watching the success of the US attacks on Swiss banking secrecy with envy and hopes now to make progress on its own tax deal with Switzerland. Inspired by the Americans’ achievement, the Danish EU Presidency has said it is putting an EU tax agreement with Switzerland back on the agenda when EU finance ministers meet on February 21st, newspaper Tages Anzeiger reports.

The EU Commission has long wanted to close taxation loopholes with Switzerland and enter into new bilateral agreements for mutual assistance. “Switzerland’s European partners should be treated as well as or better than the United States,” the EU Danish Presidency said.

A deal with Switzerland at the European level could end up replacing separate Swiss bilateral agreements currently under negotiation with Germany and the United Kingdom. The Swiss announcement of the British and German negotiations divided opinion in Europe over how to tackle Switzerland’s stance on banking secrecy.

But many in Germany have not been pleased with the deal struck with Switzerland, believing that its terms do not go far enough. “We naturally ask ourselves why the United States achieves more with its threats than we do,” Lothar Binding, German Social Democrat and finance expert told Tages Anzeiger. “We feel badly treated by Switzerland,” he said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Extremist Arrested Over Islamist Threat Video

Police have arrested 26-year-old Islamic extremist Mohyeldeen Mohammad in connection with a hate-filled video posted to YouTube in mid-January that called for Allah to destroy members of the Norwegian government and royal family.

Norway’s domestic intelligence service, PST, announced on Twitter on Wednesday that it had made its second arrest in the case.

Mohammad’s lawyer, John Christian Elden, confirmed that his client had been apprehended and charged with threatening state officials.

“He denies committing an offence and says it’s paradoxical that the security police have arrested him for his part in a demonstration that was protected by Oslo police,” Elden told news agency NTB.

The video was posted to a Facebook page calling for Norwegian troops to leave Afghanistan.. Its appearance heightened tensions surrounding an anti-war demonstration due to be held outside the Oslo parliament just days later.

Amid huge media interest, the demonstration eventually passed off without major incident.

Last week, Mohammad drew the ire of the authorities with a message posted on the Facebook wall of Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, newspaper VG reports. The message read:

“To: Jens KAFIR Stoltenberg Enemy of Allah, mass murderer and terrorist! Pull the soldiers out of Afghanistan! Allah will punish you for your misdeeds, may you burn in Hell for all eternity!”

Mohyeldeen Mohammad has admitted to publishing the message on Stoltenberg’s wall.

Elden said he had no comment to make on his client’s Facebook posting.

“He hasn’t been charged over that, and I stay well away from his politics,” said the lawyer.

Mohammad previously caused outrage in 2010 with comments made after the publication in Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet of a caricature of the Muslim prophet Muhammad.

“Maybe we’ll have a 9/11 or 7/7 on Norwegian soil. This is not a threat, but a warning,” he said.

A 21-year-old old man from Skien, south-eastern Norway, remains in custody after his earlier arrest in connection with the contentious video.

The man, a Norwegian citizen with a Central American family background, was arrested at his home in the town on January 20th by officers from the Telemark police service and the PTS.

He faces charges of threatening state officials and incitement to terrorism.

In the video, images of Crown Prince Haakon, Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre are accompanied by a song in Arabic that contains the words: “Oh Allah, destroy them, and let it be painful”.

The clip, which is just over four minutes long, also features pictures of Norwegian soldiers and injured children. It ends with the sound of an explosion and a picture of a Norwegian vehicle in flames.

           — Hat tip: The Observer [Return to headlines]

France: Bardot and Platini on Test for Immigrants

60 questions on general culture ‘to become French’

(ANSAmed) — PARIS — Brigitte Bardot, Michel Platini and Napoleon: to become French, from July 1 it will no longer be enough to know the language, but one will also have to pass a test on history and general culture. In line with the latest directive issued by the Interior Ministry for immigrant naturalization procedures, a group of historians and experts, including the university professors Emmanuel de Waresquiel and Bruno Laurioux, have already prepared a package of multiple-choice questions on the history of France, its literature, geography, monuments and founding principles of the French Republic and Europe. Candidates will be asked at least ten during the exam in the prefect’s office, and to pass one needs to answer at least 80% correctly. “The questions are not difficult ones for which one might need encyclopedic knowledge,” noted the ministry, “they intend simply to verify that those wanting to become French have a high enough level of culture to feel close to the founding principles of our collective memory.” The questions will be modified every year to prevent candidates from memorizing the answers.

Among the subjects in the tests are, for example: “Was Brigitte Bardot an actress, a designer or the first female boxing champion?”, and “Was Michel Platini known for playing the violin, being a footballer or having played chess?”. Is the Arc of Triumph “associated with Napoleon, General De Gaulle or Julius Cesar?” There are also references to the Eiffel Tower, the Bastille, chanson francaise, women’s voting rights, the European Parliament, religious wars and the State’s powers. The decree just published by the ministry “on the level and the assessment of the knowledge of French history, culture and society required of those requesting French nationality” mentions not only knowledge of the French language, and especially “comprehension of the language necessary for daily life and the ability to formulate coherent discourse on subjects familiar to the candidate and in the areas of their interest,” but also “knowledge of French history, culture and society at the same level of a French student who has finished elementary school.” The ministry noted that this type of test is already used in Great Britain and Germany.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

German Intelligence Under Fire for Spying on Parliamentarians

The revelation that lawmakers for the Left Party are under observation by the German intelligence service has triggered a debate about the agency’s powers. The country’s highest court is expected to provide much-needed clarification this year. At what point should spies be allowed snoop on elected representatives?

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Italy: Winter Weather Woes Increasing

Siberian tentacles grip the Italian peninsula and Islands

(ANSA) — Rome, January 31 — Inclement weather and below-zero temperatures are gripping the Italian peninsula, causing school shut-downs, suspension of lorry transport between France and Italy and putting the national passion, soccer, at risk.

Freezing temperatures in the North began moving south on Monday, as Central Italy and the island of Sardinia are beginning to report snow and ice.

Authorities say that snow could fall on the nation’s capital by Thursday or Friday, while Tuscan town Florence and the area around Versilia, along with the region of Emilia, are predicted to see snow flurries by Tuesday afternoon.

Transportation authorities are requiring travellers to have snow chains on board or vehicles equipped with snow tires.

Turin is suffering train delays, is preparing road-clearing equipment and has issued an ice alert, along with Livorno that has also opened emergency relief centers and announced that schools will be closed on Wednesday. The Ligurian town of Genoa has also announced that schools will be closed on Wednesday.

At 3,000 meters on Mt Blanc in the northwestern region of Val’d’Aosta temperatures dipped to -21 celcius, while on Mt Rosa -27 and in the ski resort town of Cortina -12.

Many of Italian Serie A and B soccer matches are at risk and Sampdoria-Empoli slated for Tuesday has already been cancelled.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Police Bust ‘Holy’ Medicine Racket

Water from Lourdes, Fatima sold as cancer cure

(ANSA) — Ancona, February 2 — Police have busted a ring of alleged quack doctors who sold so-called holy water as a cure for cancer and other diseases, prosecutors said Thursday. A biologist headed up the list of 39 people in Ancona, Bari, Milan and Venice accused of conspiracy, fraud, personal injury and wrongful practice for selling ‘White Light Water’.

Suspects told customers online that the miracle cure came from the holy shrines of Lourdes, Fatima and Medjugorje, and asked as much as 200 euros per vial.

They then allegedly encouraged patients to abandon traditional medical treatment and rely instead on the ‘frequencies’ given off by the blessed water. Police impounded four doctor’s offices where the elixir was bottled and redistributed, plus 4,000 flasks of ready-to-ship water. (photo: pilgrims in Lourdes)

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Muslim Arbitration in Germany

Mediating disputes is an age-old tradition in the Arab world, which is also practiced in Germany. But experts warn of the danger of a parallel, Muslim judiciary. They do not wear black robes and most have not studied law at a university. Muslim arbitrators, also called justices of the peace, do not work in courts or law firms. Some are imams, who adhere to Sharia tradition. They act as a mediator in marriage and other family disputes. In an ideal world, they manage to de-escalate the situation and prevent further disputes.

Joachim Wagner, who has written a book on the topic called “Judges acting outside the law,” can see the positive aspect of that tradition, but his research has also yielded many negative examples.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

PET: Denmark Still Top Terrorist Target

Domestic security agency warns that terror attempts on Danish soil will continue in 2012

Denmark remains a “prioritised terrorist target,” according to a report released on Tuesday by the domestic security agency PET. The terrorism risk report is the first of its kind that PET has disclosed publicly and comes on the heels of the conviction in Oslo on Monday of two immigrants charged with planning a terrorist attack on the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in retaliation for publishing the Mohammed cartoons in 2005.

The clear conclusion of the PET report is that eight months after the death of Osama Bin Laden, and almost seven years after the Mohammed cartoon controversy, militant extremist Muslims still see Denmark as a key target for potential terrorist acts.

Organisations or people with connections to the Mohammed cartoons remain a particular target, according to PET, which claimed that a new kind of “solo terrorist” — a single individual, working alone to carry off a terrorist attack — has become more common, even as the al Qaeda terrorist network has become weaker.

Solo terrorists, including militant nationalists, are therefore a special area of concern for the security agency, which noted that Anders Behring Breivik’s solo terrorist attacks that killed 77 people in Norway last July might have an “inspirational effect for certain individuals” in Denmark.

PET foresees a continued threat from small numbers of foreigners, either acting alone or with extremist groups, who will plan or attempt terrorist attacks in Denmark. A spate of such cases has plagued Copenhagen over the last few years.

Lors Dokaiev, the ‘one-legged bomber’ from Belgium, the American-Pakistani terrorist David Headley, and four Stockholm-based immigrants who were arrested in Copenhagen with their car trunk filled with automatic weapons, are just three such cases from the past few years.

The two Norwegians convicted in Oslo on Tuesday were also planning an attack in Denmark against Jyllands-Posten newspaper in connection with the Mohammed cartoons controversy. Both men are immigrants who moved to Norway in 1999 — one from China and the other from Iraq. Both are legal residents and one had even obtained Norwegian citizenship. Norway’s security agency PST intercepted them before they could carry out their plan.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Poland Gives Green Light to Massive Fracking Efforts

by John C.K. Daly

There is perhaps no more controversial energy source after nuclear than “hydraulic fracturing,” or “fracking,” of subterranean shale deposits containing pockets of natural gas.

While the process can liberate previously unusable sources of natural gas, political, environmental and scientific concerns have risen along with production, as evidence mounts that fracking is responsible for everything from polluting subterranean aquifers to causing regional earthquakes.

But no matter — during his 24 January State of the Union address, U.S. President Barack Obama wholeheartedly embraced hydraulic fracturing without even mentioning it, telling his audience, “We have a supply of natural gas that can last America nearly 100 years. And my administration will take every possible action to safely develop this energy.”

Tree-hugging environmentalists and seismologists be damned — according to Obama, the full exploitation of these resources will “support more than 600,000 jobs by the end of the decade,” no small consideration in an election year.

Across the Atlantic, European Union members, particularly in Eastern Europe, are considering the benefits of fracking, though coming to differing conclusions.

On 18 January 166 members of Bulgaria’s Narodno Sabranie (National Assembly) 240 parliamentarians voted to impose an indefinite ban on shale gas exploration and extraction in Bulgaria using hydraulic fracturing or other similar technology. Six National Assembly members voted in favor of the practice, along with three abstentions.

Poland has taken a different tack, noting that thanks to fracking of natural gas shale deposits, in 2009 the United States became the world’s largest gas producer, overtaking Russia and driving down prices.

The day after the contentious Bulgarian vote Polish Treasury Minister Mikolaj Budzanowski told reporters that Polish companies with permits to explore for shale gas in the country must intensify drilling to start production of the fuel by 2014 or 2015, with Polish companies each drilling 12 wells and performing 12 hydraulic fracking operations annually.

The reason for such enthusiasm?

Simple, said Budzanowski — Poland’s shale-derived gas could be as much as 50 percent cheaper than the Gazprom natural gas Poland now receives from the 2,607 mile-long Yamal-Europe natural gas pipeline, which currently costs Warsaw more than $500 per 1,000 cubic meters (tcm)for West Siberian output.

Seeking to cut the expensive Russian natural gas umbilical cord, Poland has high expectations for its projected indigenous production shale natural gas, as it currently depends on Russian Gazprom supplies for nearly two-thirds of its annual gas consumption of 14 bcm, estimating its domestic reserves of conventional natural gas at some 100 bcm, which would only meet domestic needs for slightly more than seven years.

In contrast, the U.S. Energy Information Administration has estimated Poland could have the biggest shale natural gas reserves in Europe, amounting to some 5.3 tcm.

No wonder Warsaw is interested.

And, letting no grass grow under their feet, the Polish government has already granted more than 100 exploration permits to companies, including U.S. energy giants Chevron and Exxon Mobil.

Injecting a bit of nationalist pride however, Budzanowski reiterated an earlier appeal for state-owned utilities to participate in developing shale natural gas extraction. Leaving reporters in no doubt as to the importance that the Polish government placed on the rapid ramping up of shale natural gas production Budzanowski added, “I will expect the Treasury-owned companies to present plans to drill as many wells as possible within the next two years and this is the most important task from the perspective of (the nation’s) shale gas policy.”

Poland’s love affair with fracking began last year. On 18 September 2011 Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk told an audience in Lubocin, northern Poland, where shale natural gas exploration had begun, “Being a moderate optimist, the commercial exploitation of shale gas will begin in 2014” before adding that Poland could achieve “gas security” by 2035. Referring to the larger geo-strategic implications of such policies Tusk added, “After years of dependence on our large neighbor (Russia), today we can say that my generation will see the day when we will be independent in the area of natural gas and we will be setting terms” before insisting that he had been “assured that well conducted exploration and production would not pose a danger to the environment.”

Accordingly, whatever the ultimate fate of fracking in the U.S. and cautious European states like Bulgaria as additional environmental and scientific studies about the practice are conducted, Poland seems for better or worse to have firmly embraced the practice for the foreseeable future.

One can only hope that it is a judgment call that they will not soon have cause to regret in what in what Foreign Affairs Minister Radoslaw Sikorski has called “the gold rush of the 21st century.”

Coincidently, on 11 January Waldemar Tyl of the Warsaw Appeals Prosecutor’s Office announced that seven people, including government officials, have been charged with corruption during the granting of licenses for shale gas exploration, adding that bribes of tens of thousands of dollars apparently changed hands over the second half of 2011 alone.

Surely a coincidence, like those earthquakes and aquifer pollutants.

Nothing to see here, move along.

[Return to headlines]

PoliticsUK Question and Answer With the Muslim Council of Britain

Politics UK

We are now approaching the beginning of the Q&A so I would like to take this moment to introduce Dr Faisal Hanjra to the community of PoliticsUK.

Richard Frazer — PoliticsUK

Hello and welcome 🙂

Faisal Hanjra

Hello! Thank you for having me.

Richard Frazer — PoliticsUK

Not a problem and thanks for being here. If you are ready we will shortly begin by asking you a selection of questions our contributors have sent in over the last couple of weeks.

Richard Frazer — PoliticsUK

First Question: There are 1.6 million Muslims in the UK. What are the main aims and objectives for the Muslim Council of Britain?

Faisal Hanjra

Our primary aims consist of the following:

i To promote cooperation, consensus and unity on Muslim affairs in the UK.

ii To encourage and strengthen all existing efforts being made for the benefit of the Muslim community.

iii To work for a more enlightened appreciation of Islam and Muslims in the wider society.

iv To establish a position for the Muslim community within British society that is fair and based on due rights.

v To work for the eradication of disadvantages and forms of discrimination faced by Muslims.

vi To foster better community relations and work for the good of society as a whole

Richard Frazer — PoliticsUK

Thank you. Our second question: Do you believe that the Muslim community position within British society is a fair position?

Faisal Hanjra

Quite what a fair position is, is difficult to define. As with any community there are numerous challenges we face, which subsequently has impacted on our ‘position in society.’ Since the tragic events of 7/7 and prior to that 9/11 as a diverse community I think our challenges have been far more complex and much more intricate. Rather than dealing with relatively straight forward issues we’ve had to tackle the more complicated issue of terrorism. That has, I believe, to some extent raised challenges. Britain remains a fantastic place to live in as a Muslim but there are increasing number of Islamophobia incidences which we all, as a society, must be worried about.

Richard Frazer — PoliticsUK

Probably a related question then: What disadvantages and forms of discrimination are being faced by Muslims and how can the MCB eradicate them?

Faisal Hanjra

The most pressing issue we face as mentioned above is probably the issue of Islamophobia. The number of physical attacks on Muslims and institutions they attend have increased over the last few years. These attacks range from simple graffiti being sprayed on mosque premises to actual attempts to blow some of these places up, quite shocking when you think that this is Britain in 2012. The causes for this increase are numerous and range from poor media reporting to blatant racism. But it’s something which needs to be looked at urgently. The MCB continues to work with a variety of organisations, both Muslim and non-Muslim, to urgently redress this issue.

While this remains perhaps the most pressing issue, we do need to look at other problems, such as why certain elements of the Muslim community come from some of the most socially and economically deprived parts of the county.

Richard Frazer — PoliticsUK

Does the UK’s current immigration policy help promote good community relations?

Faisal Hanjra

In the context of resource limitation, strain on resources etc, it is important that the debate around immigration is sensible and balanced. And far more importantly it’s centred around facts rather than emotion. To that extent anything which puts pressure on local communities can lead to tension and immigration is one of the issues that can have that sort of impact. So it’s important that any policy is balanced and rationale.

Richard Frazer — PoliticsUK

OK a difficult one. How can the MCB combat Islamophobia in the UK?

Faisal Hanjra

It’s important that politicians lead the way on the issue and not a shy away from addressing legitimate concerns. But we shouldn’t allow the far right, sensationalist media reporting and irrational fears skew the outcome of any debate.

Richard Frazer — PoliticsUK

Which Party does the MCB support and why?

Faisal Hanjra

Sorry the post above was regarding immigration. In regards to Richard’s next question about Islamophobia. In the first instance we need to ensure we’re working hard to highlight the issue and bring it to the attention of wider society. The UK has a strong history of opposing racism and discrimination. Then I think we need to look to some of the underlying causes of racism. At the Leveson Inquiry recently the Editor of a tabloid newspaper was grilled around how her newspaper poorly covered issues relating to the Muslim Community. Just yesterday another tabloid newspaper ran a headline exclaiming ‘Strict Muslim raped 4 women at knife point’ as if his religion had anything to do with this vicious and despicable crime. The judge pointed out explicitly that the actions of this individual was in direct contradiction to the ‘strict’ Muslim lifestyle his family had adopted. The significant attention sections of the media gives to small and controversial organisations, Muslims Against Crusaders for example, also continues to perpetuate this myth that somehow the Muslim community is alien and anti-British. So I think this should be looked at in terms of addressing the wider issue of Islamophobia. Internally as a community we need to do more to ensure that we’re getting the message of Islam and what it means to be a Muslim out to wider society. We need to ensure we’re not allowing small fringe Muslim organisations to hijack our ‘cause.’ We need to be working harder to challenge the myths that racist organisations like the BNP and EDL pump out, and ensuring that racism wherever it is, is highlighted and tackled appropriately.

Faisal Hanjra

In regards to which political party the MCB supports, that’s an easy one — none in particular! We work with everyone and anyone on issues of common interest.

Richard Frazer — PoliticsUK

Next question: What are the MCB roles both inside and outside of politics? And how would you respond to the argument that there is no place in politics for religion?

Faisal Hanjra

The MCB works with all three main political parties to represent issues that are of particular concerns to the Muslim community. And that can be anything from the state of the economy to the need to address Islamophobia, or from issues around climate change to issues of young people doing well at school. It’s very broad. Within the Muslim community we work with other organisations to ensure greater democratic participation and awareness of rights and responsibilities.

Richard Frazer — PoliticsUK

The MCB have set up a programme called The Footsteps, involving establishing role models for the Muslim youth. How is this programme progressing?

Faisal Hanjra

Religion has been a force for good in this country, the Queen remains the head of the Church of England, so it’s been central to much of the workings of our various systems. Just yesterday the Church played an important role in defeating elements of the govt’s welfare bill based on their views around social justics. So religion plays an important and positive role in our democratic workings.

Faisal Hanjra

Footsteps was a programmed launched in 2007 around mentoring young people, it’s unfortunately come to an end but was a positive initiative which we’ll look to review in the future in regards to its potential to be pushed out again.

Richard Frazer — PoliticsUK

Thank you Faisal: What is your response to groups like EDL and BNP and should they be allowed to participate in the political process?

Faisal Hanjra

The EDL remain a problematic organisation because of the racism they espouse. Their marches, in various towns across the country, bring fear to communities and to that extent it’s important that the police and government recognise them for what they are — a racist organisation. I’m not aware of a definitive position that the MCB has on the issue, banning any organisation from the political process is problematic and contrary to our way of life in this country and the values we stand for, and that’s whether it’s a Muslim or a non-Muslim organisation. Often the best way to counter and defeat the sort of bigotry these organisations espouse is to show them publicly for what they are rather than ban them and drive them underground. But certainly no community should have to fear going out of their own homes and the police and CPS should prosecute aggressively any individual or organisation that falls foul of relevant legislation, and where legislation is poorly defined or non-existent, the government should look to tighten that up.

Richard Frazer — PoliticsUK

Next question: What future role will moderates have in helping to deal with dangers of extremists and do you feel that there is enough support from the state in helping moderates combat extremism?

Faisal Hanjra

The language and terminology used around dealing with the issue of terrorism has been problematic — in so far as different people meaning different things when using the same language! The various Muslim communities’ remains a key partner in tackling the tiny number of individuals who think it’s acceptable to commit criminal actions in the form of terrorism. And the MCB plays a crucial role in that.

Richard Frazer — PoliticsUK

Thank you: In which way(s) can the MCB promote cooperation, consensus and unity on Muslim affairs in the UK?

Faisal Hanjra

We remain an important platform via which different Muslim organisations, that represent different aspects of our large and diverse community, can come together and tackle common issues. We work hard to act as a catalyst to bring a common voice to some of the most difficult and divisive issues, not always with success I might add! But we try! 🙂

Richard Frazer — PoliticsUK

A sensitive one now: What is the MCB view of Al Qu’eda?

Faisal Hanjra

I think it’s common sense really. As any right minded individual or organisation, we condemn terrorism in any form and those organisations that seek it commit it.

Richard Frazer — PoliticsUK

So what are your thoughts on the Arab Spring uprising?

Faisal Hanjra

The Arab Spring has been so inspiring. If someone told me a year and a half ago that at the beginning of 2012 Gaddafi would be gone, Mubarek of Egypt on trial, and Ben Ali of Tunisia would be gone, I wouldn’t have believe them. I think there is a lot we can learn here in the UK from what has taken place across the world, in particular the sheer power of the people to achieve something when they set their minds to it, democracy in its purest sense!

Richard Frazer — PoliticsUK

Do the MCB think that “hate laws” are divisive?

Faisal Hanjra

Not particularly. Often this sort of legislation has arisen out of a real need to address an underlying problem.

Richard Frazer — PoliticsUK

Thank you. What is the MCB stance on publications which promote bigotry?

Faisal Hanjra

I think we need to always strike a balance between the freedoms we enjoy in this country, freedom of speech etc, and the need to ensure we don’t create division, incite hatred and cause fear amongst vulnerable communities, and that’s a difficult balancing act. We would always come out strongly against anything that causes the later, while working hard to protect the former!

Richard Frazer — PoliticsUK

An interesting fact that I have learnt is that although Muslims make up just five per cent of the population they consume an estimated 20 per cent of all lamb and mutton produced in Britain. On that note, can you explain the importance of Halal meat?

Faisal Hanjra

I’m not aware of actual statistics around the issue, that is an interesting fact! The importance of halaal meat, like kosher in the Jewish tradition, is to ensure that animals are treated humanely and with dignity while alive, and on being killed for food, are killed in a way that spares them suffering.

Richard Frazer — PoliticsUK

Is there ghettoisation taken place within the UK and what are you views on “Muslim-only” areas?

Faisal Hanjra

Ghettoisation — carries a lot of bagage! There are obviously areas where a lot of Muslims live, just like there are a lot of areas where Korean or Chinese or Indian people live, people tend to gravitate to where they are most comfortable and that is often where there are other people like them! We see migratory patterns often, so in the East End of London initially there was a large Jewish community, they then settled, and moved out, now we see the Muslim community predominantly, as they become more affluent more and more of them are moving out to other areas, I’m sure in thirty years time the East End of London will look very different.

Faisal Hanjra

And I have yet to visit a Muslim only area!

Richard Frazer — PoliticsUK

Is Poverty prominent in the Muslim Community?

Faisal Hanjra

That’s a difficult question and I don’t have a lot of information to hand regarding the facts and figures. There are areas of significant poverty within the community but that’s countered by areas of quite some wealth. But I guess a straight answer to your question is probably no, I don’t think poverty is prominent in the Muslim community.

Richard Frazer — PoliticsUK

Last of the presubmitted questions: What do the Muslims of Britain have to teach the rest of the UK about family values?

Faisal Hanjra

We’re well placed to remind, perhaps more than teach, society just exactly how important family values are. Family values have always been an important part of British society, but we’re losing that fast within society as a whole. Within the Muslim community the centrality of the family structure and values has remained an integral part of life.

Richard Frazer — PoliticsUK

Thank you for sticking through them. Some were tough questions I’m sure

Faisal Hanjra

Happy to move to contributors questions

Richard Frazer — PoliticsUK

Brilliant — First question: Is there much support for (Scottish) independence amongst Scottish Muslims?

Faisal Hanjra

Scottish Muslims, that I’ve met, are very defined by their Scottish nationality and are patriotically Scottish! So, anecdotally, I think their views wouldn’t be much different to what’s trending in wider Scottish society.

Richard Frazer — PoliticsUK

Why did MCB state on their website that Muslim women who don’t wear headscarves are not proper Muslims?

Faisal Hanjra

I have honestly never seen that posted or that link in particular. If you were just to attend one of our meetings, or looked perhaps through the pictures of some of our events, you would see a fairly diverse expression of clothing worn by everybody and anybody there! To directly answer the question, the idea that Muslim women who don’t cover are not ‘proper’ Muslims is certainly not our position or a view that we would condone!

Richard Frazer — PoliticsUK

I live in Newham in East London and we have a reasonably prominate Muslim member on our e-democracy forum who claims that as the borough is mainly inhabited by Muslims all the schools should be treated as Islamic faith schools that allow none muslin students — Howe do you and your fellow council members go about moderating such extremist views within the community to enhance social cohesion and is their anything that we in the non-Islamic community should be doing to assist in this?

Faisal Hanjra

It’s difficult to comment on the specifics of the question, but commenting more generally it is important that just because there happen to be a lot of Muslims in a particular area that somehow the needs of the non-Muslim community are not put on the backburner. If there is anything we can do at the MCB to help with this situation specifically do drop us an email.

Richard Frazer — PoliticsUK

What is your opinion about the Church of England’s official role in British politics? Would you like to see this reformed in any way? And if so would you like to see religions not being so directly involved, or would you prefer to see other religions also involved, such that representation matches the demographic makeup of the UK?

Faisal Hanjra

I have a lot of respect for the Church of England and I think it’s an important organisation in the workings of our national politics. I think religion generally, and this is a Christian country so it’s right that this is manifested through the Church of England, has a huge amount to offer to society. And that should be recognised.

Richard Frazer — PoliticsUK

Does your association protect just Muslims or do you mean to represent the people generally of this country? Because according to your religion, people who do not follow Allah should be ‘hated’ by Muslims. Not a personal hate of course — but how do you think this division is going to help you to integrate with a non Muslim community?”

Faisal Hanjra

Our organisation is a membership body and to that extent represents fundamentally our affiliates. While we work primarily to represent these organisations we know that the problems faced by the Muslim community are problems which are faced by many non-Muslims in this country. And so when we work on particular issues we work to benefit, hopefully (!), wider society. So our work on crime, or mentoring young people, or work around addressing social inequality, should be something that benefits everybody.

Richard Frazer — PoliticsUK

Islamophobia” can stem from the perception that Muslims create their own communities within a community, thus cutting themselves off. Are Muslims doing enough to integrate into the wider community?

Faisal Hanjra

I think there is certainly some truth in that, and as I mentioned earlier we need to work harder to tackle some of the issues within our own community. I think the issue of not going out and doing more to engage, is something which isn’t just unique to the Muslim community, but is common across various minority communities. I think the issue has been highlighted within our community primarily because of issues around counter-terrorism etc. So there are amazing examples of Muslims integrated, you see that in the City of London, at Banks, large accountancy firms, hospitals, etc but there are some examples where more needs to be done. And we’re committed, with our limited resources, to working on that!

Faisal Hanjra

With partners and friends of course!

Sofi Couvot What do you think of the movement ‘occupy the mosque’ that fights for more empowerment of Muslim women as per Tehmina Kazi’s description in the Guardian (dated 13-01-2012) and generally speaking about feminism and gender equality?

Faisal Hanjra

In regards to the status quo of mosques and, gender equality and women participation, there has been significant progress over the last few years, and we can see that for example in the building of a multi-million pound section at the East London Mosque, dedicated specifically for women (on top of the current prayer space), more though needs to be done.

Richard Frazer — PoliticsUK

Thank you for all your responses.

Richard Frazer — PoliticsUK

Well I would like to say a massive thank you to Faisal and his team at MCB for allowing this event to happen and we wish you all the best in the future

Faisal Hanjra

And I’m hopeful we’ll see further change over the next few years.


           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Spanish Museum Reveals ‘Younger’ Mona Lisa

A Spanish museum Wednesday revealed an authenticated contemporary copy of Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa found in its vaults, looking younger and more ravishing than the original, which sits in Paris’ Louvre museum. Madrid’s Prado Museum released images of the picture, which had been sitting in its vaults, showing it before and after restoration.

The pre-restoration version showed the same woman Da Vinci painted, looking younger and fresher-faced, but with the same pose and enigmatic smile. The background was black, covered by layers of black paint that experts have now painstakingly removed. The restored version shows the woman backed by a landscape of hills and rivers resembling that of the original masterpiece, which hangs in the Louvre museum in Paris.

According to details of experts’ findings published by the specialist British journal The Art Newspaper and the Spanish media, the work is a copy painted in Da Vinci’s studio by one of his pupils. The Art Newspaper said the find sheds light on how the Italian master’s original was painted. It added that the woman in the famous painting looks almost middle-aged due to traces of old varnish on it.

“This sensational find will transform our understanding of the world’s most famous picture,” the journal wrote. The museum confirmed the media reports and said it would give further details at a press conference later Wednesday.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Sweden: Police ‘Embarrassed’ By Continued Violence

Police in Malmö say they see no clear connection between Tuesday’s fatal shooting and the later bombing of a police station but that they are “embarrassed and irritated” that crime has continued to rise despite a recent increase in police presence. “The entire Swedish police force stands behind Malmö. We have received reinforcements and continue to work under previous guidelines,” said Hans Nordin of the Skåne Police to news agency TT.

On Tuesday night at 7pm, an emergency call was made to alert police that a 48-year-old man had been shot in his car. He died shortly after in hospital. Later on at 2.30am, a bomb exploded at a nearby police station. The explosion caused extensive damage to the building, although no one was injured. Police are now actively searching for clues that will lead to arrests, yet have stressed the importance of witnesses coming forward with information about both events.

“It’s important that those who know anything dare to come forward. We protect our witnesses,” said Börje Sjöholm of the Malmö police to TT news agency. While the bombing of the police station has not been connected by police to the murder, they have labelled the attack as a possible retaliation to their increased attention to crime fighting, particularly in their search for illegal weapons.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Sweden: Gun Violence ‘Most Common’ In Malmö

Guns are three times more common in Malmö compared to Stockholm when it comes to reported killings and attempted killings, new figures show. Guns are also twice as common in Malmö in comparison to Gothenburg for similar crimes, according to statistics from Sweden’s National Council on Crime Prevention (Brottsförebyggande rådet — Brå), the Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) newspaper reported.

The organization’s figures show that in 2011, firearms were used in 13 cases per 100,000 residents in Malmö, compared with four in Stockholm and six in Gothenburg. The nationwide figure is two cases per 100,000 residents.

In addition, reported violent crimes involving firearms have more than doubled in Malmö in the last five years — the largest increase in the country. Meanwhile, reported gun crimes have dropped by six percent in Stockholm over the same period, while in Gothenburg they’ve increased by about 30 percent.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

UK: ‘The Boy Punched My Mum and Hit the Baby in Her Tummy’

A GIRL of five sent a judge a moving letter describing how “terrified” she was when two teenage thugs punched her pregnant mum in the stomach.

In a victim’s impact statement, the woman told Bristol Crown Court: “At the time I was very upset, shocked and angry at the two boys, especially the one who grabbed my wallet and punched me when I was six-and-a-half months pregnant.

“I was so concerned about the baby being injured and my five-year-old daughter, who was very upset and crying.

Moffett and Thaberi, who pleaded guilty to robbery, attempted robbery and possession of bladed articles, were locked up for a total of 11 years yesterday.

During their trial, it was revealed Moffett threatened a 14-year-old boy with a knife to steal two mobile phones and 21p.

Francis also befriended a 17-year-old girl before pretending he had been robbed. He asked her to hand over her valuables too to give to a gang then met up with them later that day.

The pair also robbed a group of five schoolboys, making off with two mobiles after brandishing a knife.

The dad of one victim confronted the yobs when he found out they had stolen from his son — only for them to pull a blade on him too.

Sentencing Francis to six years and Moffett to five years in custody, the judge described their offending as a “campaign”.

           — Hat tip: Kitman [Return to headlines]

UK: Outrage as Terror Plotters Plead Guilty in Turn for Light Sentences

A terror gang who planned a Mumbai-style bomb blitz in London could walk free in less than six years after striking an extraordinary 11th-hour plea bargain.

The four Muslim fanatics intended to unleash a Christmas campaign of atrocities with targets including the Stock Exchange, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, the Palace of Westminster and the London Eye.

They and five others had been facing a five-month trial at Woolwich Crown Court and could have expected sentences of 20 years.

But at the 11th hour they decided to plead guilty after a judge indicated they would receive lesser sentences for admitting the plot.

The Crown wanted to avoid both the estimated £2.5million cost of a high-security trial and the possibility of acquittals.

           — Hat tip: Kitman [Return to headlines]

UK: Slow Graphene Down, Speed Computers Up

Astonishing conductivity helped the discoverers of graphene win the Nobel prize in physics in 2010. Now a way to switch off the easy flow of electrons in this wonder form of carbon is bringing superfast graphene computers closer. A sheet-like molecule just one carbon atom thick, graphene offers much less resistance to the flow of electrons than silicon. It has been hailed for its potential as the basis for computer circuits that operate at unprecedented speed. “It’s an extremely promising material,” says Konstantin Novoselov, who shared the Nobel prize with his co-discoverer, Andre Geim, both at the University of Manchester, UK.

But the ease of electron flow also creates a problem. To perform calculations, computers need to turn the flow of electricity on and off in their circuits. The gates that open and close to regulate the flow are called transistors. Making graphene-based transistors has proven difficult because it is such a good conductor.

Previous attempts have involved electrons confined to a single layer of graphene, but these still suffer from a leakage of electrons when the transistor is in its “off” state. Now Novoselov and colleagues have found a way to overcome this leakage problem by sandwiching a layer of molybdenum disulfide between two layers of graphene.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

UK: Tear Down Your Protest Camp! After Two Years of Protecting Green Belt Against Illegal Traveller Invasion, Villagers Get Their Marching Orders

For 642 days, the residents have camped out to prevent the spread of an illegal traveller camp on the edge of their village.

But now the vigilant villagers of Meriden are being thrown off their protest camp — while the travellers remain.


[Villagers] …warned the illegal traveller site was in danger of becoming Dale Farm II — a reference to the mass illegal occupation in Cray’s Hill, Essex, which only ended after a multi-million pound, decade-long planning row.


‘We are the people who have prevented hundreds of tonnes of hardcore being dropped on our otherwise unspoilt countryside. We are the people who have alerted the council to subsequent breaches of the injunction they imposed on the gypsies.

‘They have admitted we have a valuable role to play in monitoring the site but then decide to kick us off. It’s a disgrace that the planning system finds it easy to enforce against law-abiding tax-payers but seems to become paralysed when it comes to taking action against travellers and gypsies.’

           — Hat tip: Egghead [Return to headlines]

UK: Thousands Wrongly Labelled as Criminals

At least 20,000 people have been wrongly labelled as criminals or accused of more serious offences because of blunders by the police and the Criminal Records Bureau.

The errors are contained in vetting checks meaning many may have been unfairly turned down for jobs or had their reputations shattered.

In at least 3,000 cases the police record of an entirely different person was passed on while more than 3,500 people discovered their entries on the police national computer (PNC) were inaccurate.

It means people are linked with crimes they never committed or have more serious offences than put against them than they committed.

It also raises the prospect that genuine criminals slip through the net if incorrect records are attached to their names.

           — Hat tip: Kitman [Return to headlines]


Muslims in Macedonia (Fyrom) Riot Over Satirical Burqa Dudes at Vevcani Carnival

An Orthodox Christian church famed for its valuable icons was set alight in southern Macedonia overnight amid religious tension between Christians and minority Muslims over a carnival in which Orthodox Christian men dressed as women in burkas and mocked the Koran.

Firefighters extinguished the fire on Monday night in the two century-old Sveti Nikola church, near the town of Struga. The church’s roof was destroyed but its icons were not damaged, the fire service said.

Hours before the fire, Muslim leaders had appealed for calm among community members.

The January 13 Vevcani festival prompted angry, sometimes violent demonstrations by Muslims, who are nearly all ethnic Albanian and make up 33% of the country’s 2.1 million population and accuse the majority of stoking hatred against them.

Ethnic tension has been simmering in this small Balkan country since the end of an armed rebellion in 2001, when ethnic Albanian rebels fought government forces for about eight months, seeking greater rights for their community. The conflict left 80 people dead, and ended with the intervention of Nato peacekeepers.

The Vevcani carnival, said to have been held for some 1,400 years, attracts thousands of visitors. Local residents traditionally wear elaborate, frequently sarcastic masks, with some of the most common costumes including devils and demons.

But this year’s perceived mockery of the Koran and the burka costumes caused outrage.

On Saturday, protesters attacked an inter-city bus heading from Struga to Vevcani, throwing rocks at the vehicle but injuring nobody. They also defaced a Macedonian flag outside Struga’s municipal building, replacing it with a green flag representing Islam. On the same day, perpetrators attacked a church in the nearby village of Labunista, destroying a cross standing outside.

Macedonian Muslim leaders called for restraint but also accused the government of promoting Islamophobia.

Deputy Prime Minister Musa Xhaferi said such incidents “create discord” and “violate mutual respect and trust.”

As always, Muslims blame someone else (in this case, the Macedonians) for their own lack of self-control.

[Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union

Morocco: Crucial Partner for Italy, Yes to Free Trade Area

Talks in Rabat for Massari, Mediterranean special envoy

(ANSAmed) — ROME — Morocco is “a crucial partner” for Italy, “both in terms of bilateral relations and as an element of stability for North Africa”. This is the message sent to the Moroccan government and political forces in Rabat by Italy’s special envoy for the Mediterranean and the Middle East, Maurizio Massari, who is making his first visit to the region.

Massari told his Moroccan partners that Italy would make efforts to ensure that “Europe increases its attention and economic collaboration with North Africa and the Mediterranean”. The first important step will be the vote in mid-February, with which the European Parliament is due to approve a free trade and market area with Morocco, a key issue for the country’s development. Speaking after the round of talks in Rabat last night and this morning, Massari told ANSA that this was “a strong political and economic gesture towards the nation, and Italy has ensured its support”.

The special envoy of Italy’s Foreign Minister, Giulio Terzi, also met Morocco’s Finance Minister, Mizar Baraka, the Communications Minister (and government spokesperson), Mustapha Khalfi, and the Agriculture Minister, Aziz Akhannouch. Massari also spoke to the President of the Chamber of Deputies and to representatives of a handful of political parties, including the moderate Islamic party Justice and Development, which has a relative majority.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

New Model Required, 80 Mln Jobs Needed

Low-key ties with Italy, hope for Monti, Moroccan ambassador

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JANUARY 31 — Forty million jobs must be created in North Africa and forty million in the EU within 10-15 years. Eighty million new jobs. This figure alone — Morocco’s ambassador to Italy Hassan Abouyoub points out — underlines the significance of the challenges that lie ahead and shows the need for a real and institutionalised partnership between the two shores of the Mediterranean Sea, after “the administrative approach and the stream of rhetoric from Brussels.” “The Mediterranean area holds the future of Europe, the Arab world, Israel and Turkey,” the diplomat told ANSAmed in an interview.

Hassan Abouyoub, a well-known personality in his country and on international level, a humanist who is involved in the dialogue between civilisations, also speaks about the relations between Morocco and Italy. These ties, in his view, have remained at a disappointing level so far, but the ambassador is confident that they will be re-launched, thanks to the commitment shown by the Monti government. The substantial social changes caused by the Arab Spring and the economic crisis and demographic decline that are shedding doubt on many European mechanisms should not be feared, they are “an extraordinary opportunity to build a new model of relationship in the Mediterranean,” the ambassador explains. Before the crisis and the uprisings, Europe was in fact “hardly aware” of the interdependence of the two shores. But now it is obvious that “also Europe depends on what happens on the south side of the Mediterranean.” However, this new approach, ambassador Abouyoub explains, feels the continuous negative impact of “Europe’s inability to intervene in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” A historic inability, also caused by internal disagreement, which “has so far paralysed relations with the Arab world.” The relations between Italy and Morocco are also disappointing.

“If I said that they are a good example of cooperation I would be lying,” Abouyoub continued, mocking that he is “an ambassador, not a diplomat.” “But,” he continued, “the Monti government has created a new atmosphere by making the Mediterranean area its priority. This prospect can lead to a new partnership between Italy and Morocco.” Relations between the two countries have suffered from several basic problems, like a lack of “coordination.” “They are still based on the model used in the ‘60s, without any coordination between Italian and Moroccan companies, between Italian and Moroccan civil society, between universities and cultural bodies.” Looking at the future, “Morocco can become an important interlocutor for Italy in its relations with the Maghreb and Mediterranean area.” Italy on the other hand, “thanks to its geographic position, its economic and social structure, its culture and also its mentality, appears to be the country that is best suited to understand the dynamics on the southern side of the Mediterranean. Therefore, Italy and Morocco could lead the way in the construction of a new model of relations between the EU and the southern shore.” But the positive scenarios sketched by the Moroccan ambassador hide a problem: the “brutal ignorance” that exists in Italy and Europe regarding the Mediterranean and Arab world’s community. “Words like Islam and Sharia are brandished in the media to strike fear, to generate bias, without taking the reality and the differences between one country and the other into account.” And the Italian information system remains “absolutely silent” about Morocco.

Therefore few people know about the democratic process that started a long time ago (the one-party system was banned in 1962) and that is making courageous progress, particularly after the constitutional reform that was introduced by King Mohammed VI, in which historic privileges of the Royal Household have been eliminated. “The President of the Moroccan Council, appointed by the elected majority,” the ambassador added, “has more power than Italian Premier Mario Monti. But people don’t know that. Foreigners have a right to vote in Morocco, if the same is true in their country. But people don’t know that either. We have a constitution with much freedom for non-governmental organisations, a constitution that recognises its Berber and Jewish roots, apart from its Arab cultural roots.” Morocco has existed as central state for 1400 years now.

It was the first country to recognise the independence of the United States of America, the diplomat pointed out. Today the country is faced with a challenge that is also faced by many other developed countries: “overcome partitocracy and reinvent democracy from the bottom up, making it a democracy of all people, based on ‘res publica’, the common good.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egypt: Muslim Brotherhood in Lead Even in Upper House

Party site claims 45% support in first voting

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, FEBRUARY 1 — The Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party is preparing to repeat the success it saw in the People’s Assembly elections, raking in over 45% of the votes in the first round of elections for the Egyptian Consultative Council, the Shura. The figures published on the party’s official website say that the Freedom and Justice Party had taken in 45.2% of the approximately 3 million votes.

Twenty-six candidates will be competing in the run-offs on February 7 for 29 seats. The second round of voting — which began on January 29-30 — will be held on February 14-15.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Egypt Riot Aftermath: Tear Gas Fired at Protesters

Egyptian police fired tear gas at protesters to prevent them from reaching the interior ministry headquarters in Cairo, amid mounting anger over post-match violence that left scores dead, an AFP reporter said.

Protesters chanting slogans against the ruling military council and the police marched towards the ministry where riot police blocking the road fired the gas. Wounded protesters were being ferried out of the area on motorbike.

Medics told AFP around 20 people were injured after inhaling tear gas.

In nearby Tahrir Square, witnesses saw at least five ambulances rush in the direction of the clashes.

The confrontations, which a security official said saw protesters throw rocks at riot police, come a day after deadly clashes in the northern city of Port Said between fans of home team Al-Masry and Cairo’s Al-Ahly.

At least 74 people died and hundreds were injured in the football violence, underlining the instability plaguing Egypt since a popular uprising ousted veteran president Hosni Mubarak a year ago and left the military in charge.

[Return to headlines]

Egypt: More Copts Coming to Italy, Riccardi

Govt attentive to protecting minorities, minister

(ANSAmed) — ROME, FEBRUARY 1 — In Italy and especially in the Puglia region there has been an increase in Copts coming from Egypt after the violence against the community over the past few months. This was said by Minister for Cooperation and Integration Andrea Riccardi in a hearing before the Chamber and Senate Foreign Affairs Commissions today in the parliament, reiterating that “the Italian government is very attentive to the protection of religious minorities.” The minister also underscored that development aid to Arab Spring countries is meant as support not only for economic development but also for their transition to a democracy.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Middle East

France Castigates Russia Over Syria ‘Scandal’

French foreign minister Alain Juppe at the UN in New York on Tuesday said it was “scandalous” for Russia to oppose a resolution calling on Syrian leader Bashar Assad to step down. He said “nothing, absolutely nothing” in the draft text authorises outside military intervention — a key Russian concern.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Greece Seeking Backup Oil Supply Against Iranian Embargo

(ATHENS) — Greece on Thursday said it was looking for alternative options to counterbalance the effects of a planned European Union embargo on Iranian oil imports on its struggling economy. “Greece has expressed certain concerns regarding the effects of taking such measures on European economies,” foreign ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras told a news briefing. “The competent authorities in Greece have examined, and continue to examine, possible supply from other sources,” he said, without elaborating.

After weeks of fraught talks on an embargo which could hurt debt-straddled European Union nations, EU ministers last month agreed on an immediate ban on oil imports and a gradual phase-out of existing contracts between now and July 1. Crisis-hit Greece imports around a third of its oil from Iran at advantageous credit terms. Italy and Spain are also major Iranian oil importers.

In the toughest action yet against Iran’s ability to fund its nuclear programme, the EU outlawed petrochemical imports and investments and banned the sale of gold, diamonds and other precious metals. The EU and the United States seek to force Tehran to return to negotiations amid concerns it is inching ever closer to building a nuclear bomb.

The EU imported some 600,000 barrels of Iranian oil per day in the first 10 months of last year, making it a key market alongside India and China, which has refused to bow to pressure from Washington to dry up Iran’s oil revenues.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Lebanon: Ain Ebel: School for Children of All Religions

(ANSAmed) — AIN EBEL (LEBANON) — Lebanon is a mission, said Paul John II. And in the deep south, in Ain Ebel, a few kilometres from the Israeli border, a nun of the order of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, sister Josephine Nasr, is fighting her “battle” to offer serenity and security to the young students at her school, teaching them to respect others and to respect diversity. Religious diversity first of all, because the 800 students of the Saint Joseph College include Shiites and Christians, mainly from the Greek-Catholic rite. Sister Nasr arrived in Ain Ebel, in the mountains in the south, as volunteer, one year after the end of the conflict with Israel, to direct the school with students of all age groups (from nursery school to high school). “During those terrible 33 days of conflict, in 2006, the school was heavily damaged,” the director tells. “Those were hard times. The director who held the office before me decided to leave when she started suffering from a deep depression, and to return to the mother house.” In 2007, sister Josephine volunteered to take the job. “My goal was to make the students smile again. The school is located in a very poor area. After the war, the richest families left the region.” Ain Ebel is located a few kilometres from Beint Jbail, where the Israeli army was brought to a halt in the summer of 2006. Ain Ebel was besieged for 16 days. “Every day”, she continues, “I waited for the children at the school’s entrance with a smile on my face. I did that to calm the youngest students and to make them want to play, forgetting those moments.” Students visit the school from 19 nearby villages. The area is mainly agricultural, with olives, almonds, grapevines, chestnuts and walnut groves.

There are only four Christian villages, the director points out, “Rumaysh, Yaroun (where also Muslims are living), Debel and Al Qawzah. But the different religions play no role once the children are inside the school. “Each class houses around thirty students, some even more. There are 76 teachers, four of them religious,” sister Josephine specifies. The students study Arabic, French and English. “The institute is partly private and partly financed by the State. But we haven’t received any money from the State since the end of the conflict,” the director underlines. “The best things we have in this school are the result of donations,” she explains. Like the library that was created thanks to a Cimic project (civilian-military cooperation) of the Italian UNIFIL contingent in Lebanon.

“Italy has helped us a lot. We are really grateful for that.” The project, not completed yet, has cost 18 thousand euros. “On February 6 the library should be ready for its opening,” the sister says with joy. Sister Josephine has studied pedagogy at the University of Beirut but was born in Bekaa. She took the vows at the age of 16, and has dedicated herself to her Lebanon ever since.

Christians, she points out, should not leave Lebanon “because they are the roots of this country.” Her words hold a message of hope and faith, as well as respect for all religions. The relations with Hezbollah are good too, she said. “In fact, they support our activities.” But fears that things will get out of hand are always there, particularly in the neighbouring Syria. “If Assad steps down, it would mean the end for us. Christians in Lebanon are afraid the situation will get much worse.” But at the moment, after six years and a lot of hard work, the children of the Saint Joseph collage are smiling.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Merkel Urges China to Press Iran Over Nukes

German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Beijing Thursday to put pressure on Iran over its controversial nuclear programme as she began an official visit to China on Thursday. During Merkel’s three-day trip she will hold talks with Chinese leaders that are expected to be focused on Iran, Syria and the eurozone crisis.

In a speech to the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Merkel urged China — the world’s second-biggest economy — to use its influence on Iran, saying Tehran needed to be more “open and transparent” about its nuclear ambitions. A German government source said earlier the chancellor would also call on Beijing not to take advantage of Europe’s ban on Iranian oil — imposed on Tehran over its nuclear stance — to boost its own imports of the resource.

The United States, the European Union and others have ramped up sanctions to target Iran’s oil industry and central bank since a UN atomic watchdog report in November raised suspicions Tehran had done work on developing nuclear weapons. Iran insists its nuclear drive is for peaceful purposes and that the International Atomic Energy Agency report was based on “forgeries” provided by its enemies. Merkel, who will meet President Hu Jintao on Friday, also touched on Syria in her speech, saying it was “important that the international community speak with one voice at the United Nations.”

The German leader is expected to ask for Beijing’s support for a UN Security Council resolution against Syria, where fighting between President Bashar al-Assad’s security forces and rebels is escalating.

On bilateral trade between China and Germany — which reached $169 billion in 2011, an 18.9-percent increase from the previous year — Merkel called for a level playing field for German firms operating in China. “As German entrepreneurs, we want to be treated on an equal footing with Chinese companies,” she said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Merkel Wants China to Do More in Iran Debate

German chancellor Angela Merkel wants China involved in resolving Iran’s nuclear power programme, AFP reported Wednesday. In a speech delivered in Peking, the German leader said China should ask Iran to be more “open” and “transparent”. China is Iran’s largest trade partner.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

New York Times Backs Islamist Movement Without Even Looking at it

by Supna Zaidi

It seems strange that a newspaper as well-respected as the New York Times would publish an article, “In Police Training, a Dark Film on U.S. Muslims,” by Michael Powell that calls a documentary, The Third Jihad, Islamophobic without discussing its contents — preferring instead to paint NYC law enforcement as Islamophobes for simply watching the film, and its producers as pro-Israeli bigots.

“The Third Jihad,” narrated by an American-Muslim physician, Zuhdi Jasser, who practices in Arizona. From the documentary, it seems that Dr, Jasser simply wants American-Muslims to know the difference between a moderate Muslim — an individual who sees his or her faith as a personal matter — from an individual who practices political Islam, or “Islamism.” Proponents of Islamism desire to “Islamicize” social, legal and political institutions with their interpretations of Islamic doctrine through non-violent legal means — political parties, indoctrination of future generations through the educational system, and governmental institutions.

The Islamists’ agenda is as socially coercive, though not as extreme, as say the Taliban. As a result, their actions are likely to mimic the Islamist AKP party now in power in Turkey, whose leaders have detained countless journalists in the past year for speaking against the government. On a smaller scale, Islamist activity might resemble other religious groups which have been heavily criticized in the media such as the Haredi in Israel for their harassment of women, or evangelical Christians in the US for their political position on abortion thereby inciting the killing of abortion doctors in the US. Why Powell’s double-standard?

Western society, after centuries of religious-based wars, deliberately removed the hand of any one religion from Western nations. Individuals respect those of other faiths, and allow the practice of them as a personal matter, so long as no one is physically harmed. “To each his own,” however, only works when all of the individuals in a society respect this principal equally — and reciprocate in kind.

The narrator of “The Third Jihad,” Dr. Jasser, concedes in his rebuttal to the New York Times article, that while the number of Islamists may not be meaningful in the US at the moment, or even in one hundred years, but adds that this does not matter. Islamists’ international ties and access to foreign funding give them an advantage with which the typical first generation American-Muslim immigrant community of modest means cannot compete. As a result, the influence of Islamists in the US is in no way proportional to their numbers.

As a Syrian-American, Dr. Jasser, as with other Americans from the Middle East and South Asia, knows that anxiety about the spread of Islamism is not far-fetched. It has prevented the implementation of individual human rights standards and the growth of civil societies such as Saudi Arabia and Iran, and now threatens the successors to the Arab Spring.


[Return to headlines]


Putin Coy on Election Chances

Russia’s prime minister Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday there is a chance he won’t win the first round of the upcoming elections in March, reports the New York Times. Some analysts believe his announcement may be a ploy to debunk vote rigging accusations if he wins.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Putin Protest Soundtrack Becomes YouTube Hit

With Russians heading for the polls on March 4, a hit song on YouTube against Prime Minister Vladmir Putin is heating up the campaign trail. The band — made of former soldiers — is calling for Putin to step down.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

South Asia

Calls to Behead Indonesian Atheist Alexander Aan

A defiant declaration of atheism by an Indonesian civil servant has inflamed passions in the world’s most populous Muslim nation, pitting non-believers and believers against each other. The trouble began when civil servant Alexander Aan posted a message on the Facebook page of Atheist Minang, a group of Indonesians with godless beliefs. It read: “God doesn’t exist.”

The post so enraged residents in Aan’s hometown of Pulau Punjung in West Sumatra province that an angry mob of dozens stormed his office and beat up the 30-year-old.

To add insult to injury, police then arrested him and now want to press blasphemy charges that could see him locked up for five years. Muslim extremists have called for Aan to be beheaded but fellow atheists have rallied round, and urged him to stand by his convictions despite the pressure.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

India’s Panel Price Crash Could Spark Solar Revolution

SOLAR power has always had a reputation for being expensive, but not for much longer. In India, electricity from solar is now cheaper than that from diesel generators. The news — which will boost India’s “Solar Mission” to install 20,000 megawatts of solar power by 2022 — could have implications for other developing nations too.

Recent figures from market analysts Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) show that the price of solar panels fell by almost 50 per cent in 2011. They are now just one-quarter of what they were in 2008. That makes them a cost-effective option for many people in developing countries. A quarter of people in India do not have access to electricity.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

NATO Endgame in Afghanistan Brings Forth a Clash of Paranoid Fears

As NATO troops prepare to withdraw from Afghanistan by 2014, speculation is rife over what awaits the war-torn country when the transition period comes to an end and the era of transformation begins.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Far East

Philippine Search Fails to Find Abducted Europeans

Philippine authorities said Thursday they had failed to find two European birdwatchers, including Swiss national Lorenzo Vinciguerra, in the crucial 24 hours after their abduction and warned Islamic militants may be holding them. Hundreds of Marines quickly joined the search for Vinciguerra, 47, and Dutchman Ewold Horn, 52, who were seized by armed men on a tiny island in the lawless south of the country on Wednesday.

“There is a massive search-and-rescue operation right now to find the kidnappers and their captives,” regional military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Randolph Cabangbang told AFP. “Though, as of the moment, we have not pinpointed their exact location.” Cabangbang said it remained unclear who abducted the men, but noted a spate of other kidnappings of foreigners in the south that were blamed on the Al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group. “We cannot rule out the possibility that the Abu Sayyaf is involved,” he said. “However, I must stress there are other armed groups, including pirates, who also operate in these waters.”

Ivan Sarenas, a Filipino guide for the two wildlife enthusiasts, was also kidnapped, but said he managed to jump off a boat that was taking the abducted men away. “There was a passing boat and I decided to go for it. I held the barrel of the long firearm of the man in front of me with one arm and jumped out,” he told AFP by phone.

Cabangbang said the first 24 hours were crucial in deciding the fate of people kidnapped in the area because this was when they were typically taken into the abductors’ rugged jungle lairs on remote islands. “If the trail goes cold, the chances of recovering them swiftly will vanish little by little,” he said.

At least 10 other foreigners have been kidnapped in the south since the middle of 2010, in what is largely a ransom business with the Islamic militants demanding huge amounts of money for their captives’ release. Five of those kidnapped — an Australian, two Malaysian traders, an Indian married to a Filipina and a Japanese man — remain in captivity. Over the past decade, dozens of foreigners and locals have been kidnapped. Some of them, including an American, were beheaded after ransoms were not paid.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

SA Farmers Lodge Formal Genocide Complaint Against ANC-Regime

South African farmers in Transvaal Agricultural Union lodge formal genocide-complaint at International Criminal Court The Hague Feb 2 2012

“The farm murders are not ordinary crimes but fit into the context in which the ANC-regime wants to rid itself of especially its Afrikaner- and other white farmers purely for political reasons. This is in other words, a genocide and a crime against humanity.’

This was the shocking message by the South African Henk van de Graaf, the deputy-chairman of the Transvaal Agricultural Union. He was addressing the European parliament’s international conference, attended by more than 50 European parliamentarians and other high-level functionaries from Great-Britain, France, Italy, Flanders and Austria.

“The farm-murders are encouraged in a deliberate atmosphere of violence created by the ANC-regime against its (white) farmers. The ANC is for instance constantly telling unproven stories about farm-workers being poorly treated — even though the evidence is always sorely lacking for their claims.

Farmers also are unjustly and without any kind of proof, arrested and accused of crimes: one statement by (suspended) ANC youth leader Julius Malema was: ‘Shoot the Boers, they are all rapists’. The ANC is also constantly claiming that ‘the whites own 80% of all the land — when in fact the private-farmland ownership only was 33% ten years ago in 2001 — and has been rapidly dropping ever since. Meanwhile the extent of the farm murders indicates that this is a genocide: with the Transvaal Agricultural Union verifying 1,554 murders, this statistic is very understated, said Mr Van de Graaf. Thus far in January 2012, a total of 17 Afrikaner people were murdered — of whom at least six on farms.

“The Afrikaners are calling on the world to help stop the genocide, the farm murders, in South Africa. To this end the Transvaal Agricultural Union has lodged a formal genocide complaint at the International Criminal Court,’ he concluded.

Euro-MP Philip Claeys, who hosted the conference, said ‘we will do our utmost to continue to place this problem on our agenda over the next months,’ said at the conference’s conclusion.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]


Google Joins Twitter in Censorship Storm: Site May Now Block Blog Posts in Line With Requests From Oppressive Regimes

Google’s informal motto is ‘don’t be evil’, but a huge change to its Blogger service could see the search giant help oppressive governments stamp out voices of protest.

Bloggers who have relied on the popular service to organise dissent as seen during the Arab Spring could find their posts being blocked by Google itself.

The company will now block posts or blogs from being seen in a country if they their local laws, handing a victory to regimes that crack down on free speech to keep a lid on dissent.

The move has caused widespread concern — and echoes Twitter’s recent decision to block Tweets on a similar ‘per country’ basis to comply with local laws.

Internet freedom group Open Net Initiative said of Twitter’s recent policy change, ‘The change marks a new trend in American Internet companies bowing to the demands of authoritarian regimes.’

Amnesty International said, ‘As with other sectors, business decisions in the digital world have human rights implications. Human rights monitors and advocates have a lot more work to do since the digital revolution.’

‘Our collective vigilance is needed more than ever.’

Thailand heartily backed Twitter’s recent decision to block Tweets at the request of governments, as did China’s state-run newspaper.

But Google claims that the move will actually allow more freedom of speech.

The blogs will be visible from everywhere else in the world, but invisible in one country.

‘This will allow us to continue promoting free expression while providing greater flexibility in complying with valid removal requests in local law,’ said the company.

Blogger, a blogging service which launched in 1999, and was bought by Google in 2003, has previously been banned outright in repressive regimes such as Syria, Iran and China.

Print your own counterfeit trainers: Is 3D piracy closer than we think?

Blog services and social sites such as Twitter and Facebook were crucial to the recent ‘Arab Spring’ revolts in countries such as Egypt — acting as a conduit for news and carrying messages of freedom and democracy.

During the week running up to Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak’s resignation the number of Tweets about political change in Egypt rose tenfold.

Google and Twitter claim that their move will simply allow their services to co-exist with regimes, rather than being banned outright.

But many were concerned that the move could lead to protesting voices being silenced for good.

Tech blog Techdirt said, ‘If more and more companies follow the lead of Google and Twitter, as seems quite likely, it could represent the beginning of the end of the truly global Internet.’

‘In its place will be an online world subject to a patchwork of local laws.’

Read Write Web was more optimistic, ‘This is a way around censorship. Would you rather Blogger and Twitter be blocked in some countries outright?’

Neither Google nor Twitter are currently available in China due to the censorship demands of the government.

Both openly share the number of censorship demands they have received from governments around the world.

‘We believe that access to information is the foundation of a free society. Where content is illegal or breaks our terms of service we will continue to remove it,’ said a Google spokesperson.

Whether bloggers within repressive regimes will see it that way is open to question — their posts could become invisible to their audience.

Google ‘buried’ its policy change in a page of technical information about Blogger changing to separate internet domains for each country.

Previously, Blogger has been handled through one international domain.

[Return to headlines]

NASA Report: Greenhouse Gases, Not Sun, Driving Warming

A recent, prolonged lull in the sun’s activity did not prevent the Earth from absorbing more solar energy than it let escape back into space, a NASA analysis of the Earth’s recent energy budget indicates.

An imbalance like this drives global warming — since more energy is coming in than leaving — and, because it occurred during a period when the sun was emitting comparatively low levels of energy, the imbalance has implications for the cause of global warming. The results confirm greenhouse gases produced by human activities are the most important driver of global climate change, according to the researchers.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

NASA Mission Returns First Video From Moon’s Far Side

A camera aboard one of NASA’s twin Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) lunar spacecraft has returned its first unique view of the far side of the moon. MoonKAM, or Moon Knowledge Acquired by Middle school students, will be used by students nationwide to select lunar images for study. GRAIL consists of two identical spacecraft, recently named Ebb and Flow, each of which is equipped with a MoonKAM. The images were taken as part of a test of Ebb’s MoonKAM on Jan. 19. The GRAIL project plans to test the MoonKAM aboard Flow at a later date. To view the 30-second video clip, visit: .

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

The World’s Most Dangerous Book

The September 11th attackers based their actions in complete detail on verses from this book. Since 9/11 alone, there have been over 18,300 fatal, islamically motivated attacks. In the 1400 years of its existence, the aggression in the name of Islam has cost 270 million people their lives, according to the Shoebat Institute. Brothers use these verses when they kill their sisters who have lived “unislamically,” fathers to force their daughters into marriage. In many European cities, there are counter-societies growing that find their basis for walling themselves off from Western societies in this book: the Quran.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Triple-Star System May Host Habitable World

Astronomers have found the first potentially habitable planet in a triple-star system. The planet, unromantically named GJ 667Cc, orbits a small, dim dwarf star 22 light years away. That star in turn orbits a pair of sun-like stars that lie about as far away from it as Pluto lies from our sun. The stellar pair would shine more brightly than any others in the planet’s night sky.

More than 100 planets have been found in their stars’ habitable zones, where water can remain liquid. But only a handful of these are strong candidates for being rocky like Earth rather than gassy like Jupiter, making them better candidates for hosting life.

The other rocky candidates lie at the very edges of their stars’ habitable zones. But GJ 667Cc is just right. “It lies right in the middle of this habitable zone, roughly where Earth would be in that solar system,” says Guillem Anglada-Escudé of the University of Gottingen in Germany.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

One thought on “News Feed 20120202

  1. News about Malmo police embarrassed over increasing violence: “It’s important that those who know anything dare to come forward. We protect our witnesses,” HA! but if the witness says that the perpetrator was a “new swede”, then (s)he him/herself will be thrown into jail for racism! Such Idiocy!

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