News Feed 20120523

Financial Crisis
» CBO Says US Likely to Fall off ‘Fiscal Cliff’ If Bush-Era Tax Cuts Allowed to Expire
» China Fears the Impact of Greek Crisis on Its GDP and the Power of the Party
» ECB Will Not Name Banks Which Benefitted From €1trn Loan Scheme
» European Parliament Approves Contested Financial Tax
» Fitch Says Foreigners Flee Spanish, Italian Bonds
» Free Money: German Central Bank Issues Zero-Rate Bonds
» Hollande Says He Will Do All So Greece Stays in Euro
» How Facebook Could Destroy the U.S. Economy
» Incrementalism, Regionalism and Revolution
» Italy: Govt Gives ‘Fuel’ To Industry With Back-Payment Plan
» Italy on Track to Balance Budget in 2014, OECD Says
» Lagarde Warns of Greek Euro Exit ‘Contamination’
» Latvia Eyeing Euro Entry Despite Crisis: Prime Minister
» Netherlands: ‘Consequences of Greek Exit Not Great’
» Portugal Begins EU-IMF Bailout Review
» Schaeuble Reiterates German Anti-Eurobond Stance
» US Treasury Dept Running Secret Debt Sales to China, Bypassing Wall Street Entirely
» Wall Street Bankers Secretly Scammed Facebook IPO Buyers
» World Bank Fears Hard Landing for China Economy
 
USA
» Explosive Voter Fraud Video the Left Doesn’t Want Anyone to See
» Facebook Shares Slump After £65bn Flotation
» Figures Don’t Lie, Democrats Do
» In Everglades, Tracking Pythons May Provide Clues to Vanishing Wildlife
» Nigeria Opposes US Plan to List Boko Haram as Terror Group
» Pictured: The Moment Airline Passengers Wrestled Crazed Woman to the Floor After She Claimed to Have a Bomb Surgically Implanted Inside Her
» Police Set to Use Armed Drones Against Americans
» Ron Paul: On Indefinite Detention: The Tyranny Continues
» Should Black People Tolerate This?
» Smart Meter = Smart Surveillance
» SpaceX’s Commercial Spaceship Chasing Space Station in Orbit
» Stakelbeck on Terror Show: Battling the Islamist/Leftist Alliance
» Stuck Ketchup Problem Solved by MIT Engineers
» Woman Appeals Henrico County’s Approval of Mosque
 
Canada
» Big Montreal March Marks 100 Days of Student Anger
» Islamic Call to Prayer in the Royal Ontario Museum
 
Europe and the EU
» Berlusconi: Majority of Italians Don’t Support Left-Wing
» British Daredevil Leaps From Plane Without Parachute
» Brussels Critical of National Strategies on Roma
» Bulgaria Muslims Face Discrimination
» EU: Bilderberg Pushes Mandatory Internet ID for Europe
» Europe’s Airlines Gear Up for Turbulent Times
» France: Prisoner Escapes Just Minutes After Meeting French Justice Minister at Basketball Match
» Germany: Study: Net Replacing Drugs as Youth Habit
» Germany: Salafists and Right-Wingers Fight it Out
» Germany: Scientists Trial Lasers to Replace Pesticides
» Italy: Grassroots Comedian Grillo’s Party Wins Parma Mayoral Race
» Italy: Art: Islamic Calligraphy Revealed
» Italy: Party Funding to be Halved After House Vote
» Polish Children Boosting Standards Among English Pupils
» Swiss Court: Anti-Islam Group Must be Protected
» Switzerland ‘One of Europe’s Suicide Capitals’
» UK: ‘I Watched My Parents Suffocate Shafilea by Forcing a Bag Into Her Mouth, ‘ Says Sister of ‘Westernised Honour Killing Victim’
» UK: Cameron Pledges to Fight Diktat From Unelected European Judges Who Say Prisoners Must Get the Vote
» UK: David Cameron’s Five Point Plan to Win the Next Election
» UK: Disgraced Education Firm A4e ‘Sent Jobseeker to Look for Work at a Lap-Dancing Club’
» UK: Is it Your Time to Shine?
» UK: Kick in Ballots
» UK: More Than 30,000 People Turned Out for Boishakhi Mela Round Brick Lane
» UK: More Than 87,000 Racist Incidents Recorded in Schools
» UK: Old Guard Give Way to Canada’s Mounties at Buckingham Palace
» UK: Protests Over Birmingham City Council Labour Group’s Lack of Diversity
 
Balkans
» Skopje: Moslem Demo “Death to the Christians”
 
North Africa
» Egyptian Presidential Election: Why a Moderate Regime is Unlikely
» Egypt Presidential Election: Live
» Egypt: Tayyeb — Islam Bans Embodiment of Prophet Muhammad
» Egypt: Muslim Brotherhood Buying Votes With Food
» Franciscan Nuns, A Quiet Witness of Charity Among Libyan Muslims
» Tunisia: Salafite Party Calls for Polygamy and Halt to Adoptions
 
Middle East
» Bahrain: Gulf Army Needs to Leave, Opposition Leader
» Doha Bank Chief Confirms New World Order is Being Built at the Highest Levels
» ‘Donkey Rape’ Sparks Tribal Massacre in Yemen
» Iran and UN Close to Deal on Nuclear Programme as World Powers Meet for Baghdad Talks
» Iran Nuclear Talks Set to Open in Baghdad
» NGOs Warn, Yemen on the Verge of Food Emergency
» Syria: One Man’s Terrorist …
 
Russia
» Lithuania Creates Panel to Count Cost of Soviet-Era
» Medvedev Chats With US Cowboys Working in Russia
» Putin Supports Controversial Anti-Protest Bill
» Russia Tests New Long-Range Missile
» Village Grannies Make it to Eurovision Finals
 
South Asia
» Black Magic Practices in India
» Doctor Who Helped Find Bin Laden is Given Jail Term, Official Says
» India’s Health Services in Urgent Need of Treatment
» Indonesia: Umar Patek: Who Masterminded the Bali and Church Bombings, Asks for Forgiveness
» Indonesia: ‘Christians Should Thank’ Islamic Group Over Lady Gaga
» Italy-India: Detention of Marines ‘Unacceptable, ‘ Undermines Security
» Oscar-Winning Acid Attack Film Sparks Controversy in Pakistan
» Pakistani Clerics: Women With Cell Phones Can be Attacked With Acid, Secular NGO Workers Can be Forcibly ‘Married’ To Local Men
» This is Not an Exit Strategy for Afghanistan, It’s a Surrender Strategy
 
Far East
» China Warns Australia to Choose “Godfather” — China or U.S.
» Fukushima Disaster is ‘Nuclear War Without a War’
» Japan: Skytree Has Elevator Glitch on First Day
» Kidnapped Fishermen’s Case Angers Chinese Public
 
Sub-Saharan Africa
» University in South Africa Cancels Israeli Deputy Ambassador’s Lecture
 
Immigration
» Greece: Incidents Over Presence of Undocumented Migrants
» Italy: New “Slaves” in the Farms, 16 Arrested
» Number of Immigrant Organisations Run Into the Hundreds
» Spain: Ministry Bans Indiscriminate Stopping of Migrants
 
General
» Lack of Toilets Poses Serious Health Risk

Financial Crisis


CBO Says US Likely to Fall off ‘Fiscal Cliff’ If Bush-Era Tax Cuts Allowed to Expire

A new government study released Tuesday says that allowing Bush-era tax cuts to expire and a scheduled round of automatic spending cuts to take effect would probably throw the economy into a recession. The Congressional Budget Office report says that the economy would shrink by 1.3 percent in the first half of next year if the government is allowed to fall off this so-called “fiscal cliff” on Jan. 1 — and that the higher tax rates and more than $100 billion in automatic cuts to the Pentagon and domestic agencies are kept in place.

There’s common agreement that lawmakers will act either late this year or early next year to head off the dramatic shift in the government’s financial situation. But if they were left in place, CBO says it would wring hundreds of billions of dollars from the budget deficit that would “represent an additional drag on the weak economic expansion.” CBO projected that the economy would contract by 1.3 percent in the first half of 2013, which would meet the traditional definition of a recession.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



China Fears the Impact of Greek Crisis on Its GDP and the Power of the Party

China’s country fund, which has an estimated US$ 440 billion in assets, has stopped buying European bonds, accusing European authorities of “lack of leadership” in managing the eurozone crisis. Meanwhile, Asian shares continue to drop as China’s economic growth is at risk. If GDP growth declines, social tensions will rise, undermining the power of the Communist party.

Beijing (AsiaNews) — The eurozone crisis and Greece’s uncertain economic future could have a negative impact on the economies of China and Asia since Europe is their main export market. The uncertainty has already badly affected European shares, monopolising the attention of European governments. For this reason, the China Investment Corp (CIC) has stopped buying European sovereign debt, blaming European authorities for their “lack of leadership”.

For CIC supervisory board chairman Jin Liqun, the latter have been incapable of dealing with the euro area’s debt. If Greece exits the single currency bloc, other countries might follow. “Ever since the debt crisis broke out, there has never been a master plan for a resolution,” Jin said at an event hosted by the Centre for Policy Studies in London late yesterday.

With an estimated US$ 440 billion in assets, the CIC is the world’s fifth-largest country fund. Its president Gao Xiqing said on 9 May that the sovereign wealth fund has stopped buying European government debt on concerns about the region’s financial turmoil.

“Too much time has been wasted on endless bargaining on terms and conditions for piecemeal bailouts,” Jin said. “You cannot say there is no strategy altogether, but short-termism features prominently in the process for negotiations for bailout.” For him, the Greeks should be told to leave or work hard in the next ten years to stay in the euro.

The CIC is in dicey position. China is one of the world’s economic engines, but relies heavily on exports with Europe as its biggest export market, accounting for about 18 per cent of the nation’s overseas shipments.

Forced to maintain a 7 per cent annual growth rate, China’s Communist authorities are afraid of what might come from a collapse of the eurozone, putting at risk €400 billion worth of bailouts so far initiated in the region.

Markets too are pessimistic. In Asia, shares continue their slide, especially of exporters.

In Shanghai, some 7.7 billion shares changed hands yesterday, 14 per cent lower than the daily average this time last year.

The Bloomberg China-US 55 Index (CH55BN), the measure of the most-traded US-listed Chinese companies, retreated by almost 1 per cent in New York yesterday.

The Shanghai index has fallen 4.1 percent from this year’s high set on March 2 on concern a slowdown in growth at the world’s second-largest economy is deepening.

This is a headache for investors but also for the Chinese government, which set a 7.5 per cent growth target for this year.

If things continue as they are however, it will have to settle for 6.8 per cent. This would mean higher inflation and a credit crunch for private investors, with the prospect of greater social unrest.

Even the row over the yuan does not help. Even though China has refused to let it float freely in order to boost exports, it is already on “its way to become an international reserve currency,” but it will take “the next 10 or 20 years” before it “will play a more important role,” Jin said. “[C]ompared to euro, dollar, it will still be very insignificant”.

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



ECB Will Not Name Banks Which Benefitted From €1trn Loan Scheme

The European Central Bank has declined a request by German Green MP, Gerhard Schick to reveal the names of banks which received the more than €1 trillion in cheap loans between December and February, the Financial Times Deutschland reports. The banks pay only 1% interest rates on the money.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



European Parliament Approves Contested Financial Tax

(BRUSSELS) — The European parliament adopted by a strong majority Wednesday proposals on a French-inspired financial transaction tax (FTT) which has been bitterly opposed by Britain.

The resolution in favour of the FTT, approved with 487 votes in favour, 152 against and 46 abstentions, calls for the implementation of the tax by the beginning of 2015 “even if only some member states opt for it.”

The vote is likely to irritate Prime Minister David Cameron as he joins a European Union summit later Wednesday to discuss how to spur growth across crisis-hit Europe. Britain says the tax would undermine London as a global financial centre.

Nine countries have come out in favour, however — Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain.

“The FTT is an integral part of an exit from crisis,” said parliamentary rapporteur Anni Podimata, a Greek Socialist. “It will bring a fairer distribution of the weight of the crisis.”

“This FTT will not lead to relocation outside the EU because the cost of this is higher than paying the tax,” she added.

Parliament approved the tax rates proposed by the Commission, 0.1 percent for transactions of shares and bonds, and 0.01 percent for derivatives.

Pressure group Oxfam said that EU leaders “cannot afford to ignore this overwhelming vote” and that cash raised should be “used to help poor people at home and abroad hit by the economic crisis and to combat climate change.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Fitch Says Foreigners Flee Spanish, Italian Bonds

Foreign investors fled Spanish and Italian government debt in huge numbers in the first quarter of 2012, a report by Fitch Rating said on Wednesday. As foreigners pulled out from the two countries’ public debt, commercial banks financed with cheap loans from the European Central Bank were taking their place, it said. “We expect this trend to continue in the coming months,” warned the London-based rating agency.

The exit from Spanish debt accelerated in the first quarter of this year, Fitch said. Non-resident holdings of Spanish public debt plunged to 34 percent of the total in the first quarter from 40 percent at the end of 2011 and more than 60 percent in 2008, it said. In Italy, the pace of the withdrawal had slowed but the proportion of the public debt held by non-resident investors nevertheless decli

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Free Money: German Central Bank Issues Zero-Rate Bonds

For the first time in history, Germany issued long term bonds with a zero percent coupon rate on Wednesday. The demand reveals the deep concerns investors have about the euro zone and their desire for a safe place to park their capital — even if it costs them money to do so.

For now at least Germany and Greece share the same currency. But don’t tell that to investors. On Wednesday the German Finance Ministry pulled off a remarkable feat for a country in a threatened currency union: It issued €4.6 billion of two year bonds with a rate of zero percent. In other words, once inflation is factored in, investors are essentially paying to park their money with the German government.

Because of the strength of its economy, Germany has emerged as a significant benefactor from the problems being experienced by Greece as well as Spain, Italy and Portugal. In Greece worries that a government uncooperative with the European Central Bank could come to power after next month’s election forcing an exit from the euro zone has investors as well as ordinary citizens pulling their money out in droves. In Spain concerns over the health of the banking sector have driven up borrowing costs.

According to German officials on Wednesday, demand for the zero percent bonds was robust and added that Germany does not intend to offer up bonds with a negative interest rate. “As such, a coupon of zero percent is the lower limit,” Reuters quoted a finance official as saying.

Still, it seems likely that, with investors looking for safe havens for their money, even negative interest rate bonds might sell. “Many investors are putting their money only in places where they are guaranteed to get it back,” Commerzbank analyst Alexander Aldinger told the Berliner Morgenpost. “For a large degree of security, investors are willing to give up returns.”

Even while borrowing costs have spiked in other euro-zone countries, rates on shorter term German bonds have already hit zero and even ventured into negative territory, meaning investors have been paying the German government to hang on to their cash.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Hollande Says He Will Do All So Greece Stays in Euro

French President Francois Hollande said Wednesday he would do everything to keep debt-hit Greece in the eurozone after talks with Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

“I will do everything I can in my position to convince the Greeks to choose to stay in the zone and everything to convince Europeans who might doubt of the necessity of keeping Greece in the eurozone,” Hollande told journalists.

Hollande was speaking amid rising speculation that Greece might might leave the eurozone and after Germany reasserted its stance against eurobonds despite calls from other EU members and the IMF to consider this.

Socialist Hollande went on to criticise what he called a problem with the European Union’s decision-making mechanism that prevented the bloc acting more effectively against unemployment and other economic events.

“We have a problem with the decision-making mechanism within the European Union. Certainly instruments have been created… but we must move more quickly, more robustly,” Hollande said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



How Facebook Could Destroy the U.S. Economy

Facebook just joined a “troubled club,” warns the Economist. Now it’s just another “endangered public company.”

Yes, endangered. The number of public companies has declined 37% since 1997. The number of IPOs has dropped from 311 annually before 2000 to 99 the past decade. Meanwhile, the smart CEOs and the Super Rich are “going private,” to avoid government red tape restricting capitalism.

Over at BusinessWeek they’re warning investors that the growing number of “cutesy mascots” is a dangerous reminder “of the dot-com boom’s irrational exuberance.” They’re also red flagging new reports that “more Chinese investors are betting on U.S. start-ups.” And feeding the flames.

What’s going on? Facebook’s in trouble, that’s what. Now in the crosshairs of public scrutiny, everybody’s taking potshots. And the warnings are just beginning:

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Incrementalism, Regionalism and Revolution

Oh, there are plenty who can see exactly what is going on and can see who are the perpetrators of this take-over of America. But most of America is just wondering what hit them. If it could be explained in sound bites, we might get somewhere but the answer is not terribly complicated — just long.

So how did we get co-opted, and how did it start so long ago? I won’t go to the beginning. To know the early history of the American road to serfdom, read Fabian Freeway: High Road to Socialism in the U.S.A. 1884-1966 by Rose L. Martin (Jan 1, 1966), or The Creature from Jekyll Island : A Second Look at the Federal Reserve by G. Edward Griffin (May 1998). There are many more books and also videos that expose the early foundations of our downfall.

The result of Fabian planning, or better put, scheming is something called Communitarianism. This is the version of Collectivism or Socialism that is being foisted on the entire world. A simple definition is that the rights of the individual must be balanced against the interests of society as a whole. Where have we heard that before? We have been pummeled with the social justice notion of promoting the common good over that of the individual; that we must think of the community, the earth, our global neighbors, everything but us and our individual freedoms and rights.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Italy: Govt Gives ‘Fuel’ To Industry With Back-Payment Plan

Monti vows to pay off 20-30 billion euros this year

(ANSA) — Rome, May 23 — Premier Mario Monti has said a package of four decrees to settle back payments the public sector owes private companies will provide Italian business with much-needed “fuel” in a time of economic recession.

Monti said the government hopes the measures will enable it to pay back 20 to 30 million euros of the money ministries and local governments owe private companies supplying products and services to them.

The premier told a press conference that the moves would help “companies who need fuel to switch back on the engine of productivity”.

The Italian public sector’s debts with the private sector could run up to as much as 100 million euros, according to media reports.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Italy on Track to Balance Budget in 2014, OECD Says

But recession may make new measures necessary

(ANSA) — Paris, May 22 — Reforms adopted by Italy have placed it on track to balance its budget in 2014 but the country’s economy is in recession and this, along with the risk of contagion from the eurozone debt crisis, may force Rome to take further steps to curb spending, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

In its latest economic outlook, released here on Tuesday, the OECD said: “since the end of 2011 Italy has made important structural reforms, embarking on a path towards balancing public finances… these reforms must continue.

“The reduction of spending and the increase in taxes should reduce the deficit to a very low level in 2013 and fully eliminate it in 2014,” the report added.

The OECD went on to point out that the Italian economy “is once again in recession, under pressure from weakened European economies and this could have short-term consequences on budget rigors. Economic activity will probably continue to retreat next year but should pick up at the end of 2013”.

Because of the recession, the OECD said Italy may need to “adopt additional budget measures” to keep it on track.

Italian Premier Mario Monti has said Italy will be close to hitting its target of balancing the budget in 2013 without any addition measures on top of the austerity package of tax hikes and spending cuts approved in December.

The OECD outlook predicted that Italy’s GDP will fall by 1.7% this year and 0.4% in 2013. This contrasted with a forecast earlier this month from the European Union that said GDP would slip by 1.4% in 2012 and rise by 0.4% next year.

According to the OECD, the main risk Italy faces “despite the clear intention of the government to balance the budget” is the “contagion from weakness in the euro area that could boost interest rates on its public debt”.

The report went on to stress that the reforms Italy has adopted to date have “already improved long-term prospects and must continue” and a “reduction in salaries, to bring them greater in line with productivity, could have a stimulating effect on competitiveness and hold in check the rise in unemployment”.

Looking at the eurozone, the OECD said “the crisis in the eurozone has recently become more serious and it remains an important source of risk for the global economy”.

GDP in the euro area is expected to dip by 0.1% this year and then rise by 0.9% in 2013, the OECD said, adding that the decline in 2012 would be the result of growth being unchanged in the first quarter to then decline by 0.3% in the second quarter before it rises respectively by 0.3% and 0.7% in the third and fourth quarters.

The OECD predicted that GDP would climb progressively in 2013 with respective quarterly increases of 0.9%, 1.2%, 1.5% and 1.7%.

In its overview of the world economy, the OECD said that “the global economy is once again seeking to return to growth… but this is taking place at different paces, with the economies of United States and Japan expanding quicker than that of the euro area”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Lagarde Warns of Greek Euro Exit ‘Contamination’

“The Greek population has made huge efforts. But they have more to do”, IMF chief Christine Lagarde said in a BBC interview. She warned of the risk of “contamination” if Greece quits the euro and said integrity of the eurozone could be seen as worthwhile enough to keep supporting Greece.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Latvia Eyeing Euro Entry Despite Crisis: Prime Minister

(BRUSSELS) — Latvia intends to join the eurozone in 2014 despite the debt crisis, hoping it will bring an element of economic stability to the country, Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis said on Wednesday.

In an interview with AFP ahead of a meeting of EU leaders to thrash out possible ways to bolster growth in the debt-mired eurozone, Dombrovskis said Latvia was “on track” to meet the entry requirements to adopt the euro.

“We set this target several years ago and … the intention is still to join the eurozone on January 1, 2014,” he said.

He conceded that reservations had been raised, given the debt woes that have pitched the 17-nation zone into the most serious crisis in the bloc’s history and said Latvia had studied the euro entry experience of neighbour, Estonia.

“Despite the crisis, it also served as a positive signal of financial and economic stability in Estonia, and we expect a similar effect in Latvia,” he said.

Estonia became the 17th and latest member of the eurozone when it gave up the kroon on January 1, 2011.

Dombrovskis said he did not expect a negative impact on Latvia’s small economy. Rather he said it would “help attract investments, and actually reduce various transaction costs on currency exchanges.”

“Our currency is already fixed to the euro anyway, so why not join?” he said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Netherlands: ‘Consequences of Greek Exit Not Great’

THE HAGUE, 23/05/12 — Nobody benefits from a departure by Greece from the eurozone, but the country is too small for such a case to have a big effect on the Dutch economy, said Vice-Premier and Economic Affairs Minister Maxime Verhagen on RTLZ.

Smaller Dutch companies in particular will feel the effects. Big companies are however often better able to hedge their risks. The biggest effect of a Greek departure from the eurozone would be persistent unrest in the eurozone, which would hit the Netherlands as exporting country.

According to Verhagen, some 2 billion euros was exported last year from the Netherlands to Greece. He declined to go into what the cost would be for the Netherlands of Greece returning to its own currency.

The cabinet wants the Greeks to implement consistently the agreements with Europe on putting their government finances in order. Ultimately, the choice of keeping the euro is one that the Greeks themselves must make, Verhagen stressed. “You opt for the future or you opt for continuing problems.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Portugal Begins EU-IMF Bailout Review

Portugal began on Tuesday a new review of its 78-billion-euro bailout programme with the IMF and EU, with a minister saying no changes were planned despite rising tensions around Greece. “It will be about putting into action all of the programme, principally the structural reforms,” said Economy Minister Alvaro Santos Pereira.

He said carrying out the reforms would “allow us recover the credibility we lost” in the markets.

The talks between Portuguese officials and the international creditors are expected to last two weeks and are key for Portugal getting the next four billion euros out of its bailout, worth $100 billion overall.

Portugal has already received nearly 53 billion euros, or 70 percent of the total 78 billion it was promised as part of the rescue package agreed last year.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Schaeuble Reiterates German Anti-Eurobond Stance

(AGI) Frankfurt — German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble has reiterated Germany’s anti-eurobond stance. He maintains that they “provide totally the wrong incentive” as they “would not promote fiscal discipline, but the opposite. We’re ready to talk openly about any proposal. But we’re not going to do the opposite of what will solve (the eurozone’s) problems,” he said. Guenther Oettinger, the German EU Commissioner, on the other hand, “does not rule out” eurobonds, saying that it is “matter of timing” and that eurobonds could be given due consideration following the EU nations’ approval of the fiscal compact.

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



US Treasury Dept Running Secret Debt Sales to China, Bypassing Wall Street Entirely

(NaturalNews) In another sign of America’s increasing debtor status to China, the Obama administration is allowing Beijing to bypass Wall Street entirely when it comes to buy U.S. Treasury bonds, the first time a foreign country has ever been afforded such special treatment.

In a recent exclusive, Reuters said that, according to documents examined by its reporters, the arrangement means China — since June 2011 — has been able to purchase U.S. debt directly, which is differently than any other country in the world. That’s significant because of the secrecy surrounding the deal.

And by the way, this could not have happened without the approval and blessing of President Obama, the man who — in 2008 — campaigned on a promise to end China’s currency manipulation as a way to protect U.S. interests. Of course, he never said he would do anything to stop China’s manipulation of our currency.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Wall Street Bankers Secretly Scammed Facebook IPO Buyers

Wall Street Banks scammed the public when they shared secret earnings estimates and valuations of Facebook with insiders much worse than they publicly reported.

The plummet comes as Reuters revealed that Wall Street Banks scammed the public when the secretly cut their revenue estimates for Facebook during the IPO roadshow and only let their most lucrative retail investors know about the cuts.

By withholding the information from the public, millions of mom and pop retail investors were set up for a blood bath, and as quoted from the Yahoo! News article below, Facebook IPO buyers deserved to be “mad as hell” about it.

[…]

Those losses will only continue as financial news outlets report that the offerings IPO valuation of over $100 billion is up to 10 times higher than the price Facebook is actually worth.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



World Bank Fears Hard Landing for China Economy

With low demand in its main export markets, China must spur domestic growth to avoid a hard landing for its economy, the World Bank has said. It warns that a sharp downturn might ripple across Asia and the Pacific.

Economic growth in China will slow for a third year in a row, the World Bank said Wednesday, as it predicted a rate of expansion of 8.2 percent for this year, down from 9.2 percent in 2011 and 10.4 percent in 2010.

In its biannual East Asia and Pacific economic outlook, the world development lender said that the Asian economic powerhouse was facing a challenge “to sustain growth through a soft landing.”

“While the prospects for a gradual slowdown remain high, there are concerns that growth could slow too quickly,” the bank’s report said.

A primary “downside risk” for China was a further slowing of demand in “high-income countries” in the West which would “ripple quickly through” the region’s production and trade networks, in which China held a central position.

The report noted that the European Union, the United States and Japan accounted for 43 percent of the region’s exports, and added that Europe’s banks provided one-third of all trade and project financing in Asia.

In addition, China was facing the domestic risk of a sharp downturn in its property markets, the report said, adding, however, that corrections had so far remained “gradual and orderly.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

USA


Explosive Voter Fraud Video the Left Doesn’t Want Anyone to See

Attorney General Eric Holder’s Department of Justice is dragging states (Alabama, Texas, and South Carolina) through litigation over their voter ID laws. Meanwhile the state of Arizona just had their tougher voter ID laws upheld by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Given these scenarios it is obvious Holder is using his authority and position in an attempt to prevent tougher voter ID Laws from being implemented in this election year.

Holder isn’t alone. The Left is actively demonizing efforts to thwart voter fraud calling them racist, hate-filled efforts, and a particular burden on immigrants, students, the elderly, and poor.

Showing proper identification by U.S citizens is commonplace: from making credit purchases to coaching a little league team to gaining access into buildings and facilities — identification is the norm — not the exception!

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Facebook Shares Slump After £65bn Flotation

In the three days since his wedding — held the day after Facebook’s £65billion flotation on the stock market — the firm’s value has slumped by more than £12billion.

It meant Mr Zuckerberg’s personal fortune had fallen by £1.3billion in the middle of the day’s trading, as he saw his company’s share price tumble well below its £24 opening on Friday.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Figures Don’t Lie, Democrats Do

It’s been breaking news all over MSNBC, liberal blogs, newspapers and even The Wall Street Journal: “Federal spending under Obama at historic lows … It’s clear that Obama has been the most fiscally moderate president we’ve had in 60 years.” There’s even a chart!

I’ll pause here to give you a moment to mop up the coffee on your keyboard. Good? OK, moving on …

This shocker led to around-the-clock smirk fests on MSNBC. As with all bogus social science from the left, liberals hide the numbers and proclaim: It’s “science”! This is black and white, inarguable, and why do Republicans refuse to believe facts?

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



In Everglades, Tracking Pythons May Provide Clues to Vanishing Wildlife

Burmese pythons are native to Southeast Asia. No one knows for certain how the invasive snake entered the Everglades. The belief that Hurricane Andrew blew them there from exotic pet shops and houses in 1992, or that numerous pet owners released them when they grew too large, is likely a myth, according to Frank J. Mazzotti, a professor of wildlife ecology and conservation for the University of Florida. “All it takes is three snakes,” he said, mating and laying an average of 50 eggs, and up to 100 eggs, per year. Their population in the Everglades is estimated at anywhere between 5,000 and 100,000 by USGS.

Pythons prefer warmth, but many in the Everglades have managed to survive hard freezes, leading some biologists to worry about their ability to adapt and travel north. The snake has already been swimming and slithering south toward the Florida Keys.

Once pythons are established, trouble seems to follow. A study co-authored by Hart, Mazzotti and other researchers showed that when pythons started to appear in large numbers in the late 1990s and early 2000s, mammals in the southernmost part of the Everglades started to disappear.

For the study, researchers traveled nearly 40,000 miles over 11 years, observing wildlife in the southern area. They found that 99 percent of raccoons, 98 percent of opossums and about 88 percent of bobcats were gone. Marsh and cottontail rabbits, as well as foxes, could not be found.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Nigeria Opposes US Plan to List Boko Haram as Terror Group

(AGI) Abuja — Nigeria has voiced its opposition at the US government’s plans to include Boko Haram on its terrorist watch list. Nigeria’s ambassador to Washington Ade Adefuye and the country’s National Security advisor, General Abdrew Azazi, formally requested that the United States not include Islamist militant group Boko Haram in its watch list of foreign terrorist groups posing a threat to the US or its global interests. They made their request at the end of a series of meetings with senior White House officials. Nigeria fears that including Boko Haram in the US watch list could make it more difficult for Nigerian citizens to travel to the US and further affect bilateral trade between the two countries. Nigerian authorities said they would manage to counter the threat posed by Boko Haram, as they did in the past with other terrorist or rebel groups operating in the country. Over the past few days, President Barack Obama has come under increased pressure from the US Congress to include Boko Haram in the terrorist watch list. A group of US Senators and House Representatives also wrote a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, criticising the Obama administration for acting “too slowly” on this issue and claiming that “ten years after 9/11, we cannot allow bureaucratic stovepipes and interagency turf battles to prevent us from protecting the US homeland and US global interests”. The letter mentioned some recent attacks carried out by Boko Haram against Christian churches in Nigeria and against the UN headquarters in the capital Abuja (August 2011) in which 25 people were killed. Early this morning, a group of Boko Haram militants attacked a police station in the town of Sokoto, in north-western Nigeria, killing a police officer and a civilian. Italian engineer Franco Lamolinara was killed in a failed rescue attempt in Sokoto on March 8, after being held hostage by Boko Haram militants for 10 months.

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



Pictured: The Moment Airline Passengers Wrestled Crazed Woman to the Floor After She Claimed to Have a Bomb Surgically Implanted Inside Her

A crazed woman had to be restrained by fellow air passengers after she started raging about having an explosive device implanted within her.

The terrifying incident forced the pilot of U.S. Airways flight 787, traveling from Paris to Charlotte, North Carolina, to divert and make an emergency landing.

Fighter jets were scrambled to intercept the the troubled plane and guided it into land at a Maine airport, where passengers were evacuated and the woman arrested.

[…]

She is French citizen, born in Cameroon, Africa, who was set to visit the U.S. for 10 days, CNN reported, but had no checked luggage.

Doctors on board the flight examined her, but found no evidence of wounds or scars that would indicate recent surgery, according to the news channel.

US officials told NBC that initial reports suggested the passenger, a woman, appeared to be mentally unstable.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Police Set to Use Armed Drones Against Americans

First we were bombarded with the news that 30,000 drones would be spying on us domestically and within weeks the agenda has already moved on to arming the drones with non-lethal weapons.

CBS DC reports that the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office in Texas “is considering using rubber bullets and tear gas on its drone.”

“It’s simply not appropriate to use any of force, lethal or non-lethal, on a drone,” responded Catherine Crump, staff attorney for the ACLU.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Ron Paul: On Indefinite Detention: The Tyranny Continues

The bad news from last week’s passage of the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act is that Americans can still be arrested on US soil and detained indefinitely without trial. Some of my colleagues would like us to believe that they fixed last year’s infamous Sections 1021 and 1022 of the NDAA, which codified into law the unconstitutional notion that some Americans are not subject to the protections of the Constitution. However, nothing in this year’s bill or amendments to the bill restored those constitutional rights.

Supporters of the one amendment that passed on this matter were hoping no one would notice that it did absolutely nothing. The amendment essentially stated that those entitled to habeas corpus protections are hereby granted habeas corpus protections. Thanks for nothing!

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Should Black People Tolerate This?

by Walter E. Williams

Each year, roughly 7,000 blacks are murdered. Ninety-four percent of the time, the murderer is another black person. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, between 1976 and 2011, there were 279,384 black murder victims. Using the 94 percent figure means that 262,621 were murdered by other blacks. Though blacks are 13 percent of the nation’s population, they account for more than 50 percent of homicide victims. Nationally, black homicide victimization rate is six times that of whites, and in some cities, it’s 22 times that of whites. Coupled with being most of the nation’s homicide victims, blacks are most of the victims of violent personal crimes, such as assault and robbery.

The magnitude of this tragic mayhem can be viewed in another light. According to a Tuskegee Institute study, between the years 1882 and 1968, 3,446 blacks were lynched at the hands of whites. Black fatalities during the Korean War (3,075), Vietnam War (7,243) and all wars since 1980 (8,197) come to 18,515, a number that pales in comparison with black loss of life at home.

Racist attacks have been against not only whites but also Asians. Such attacks include the San Francisco beating death of an 83-year-old Chinese man, the pushing of a 57-year-old woman off a train platform and the knocking of a 59-year-old Chinese man to the ground, which killed him. For years, Asian school students in New York and Philadelphia have been beaten up by their black classmates and called racist epithets — for example, “Hey, Chinese!” and “Yo, dragon ball!” But that kind of bullying, unlike the bullying of homosexuals, goes unreported and unpunished.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Smart Meter = Smart Surveillance

We have all heard a lot of discussion lately on the energy department’s move toward a “smart grid” and the use of “smart meters” fueled by the stimulus funding from the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. This smart grid promises to “increase energy efficiency, bolster electric power grid reliability, and facilitate demand response, among other benefits.” However the devil is in the details; as they say.

In order for the smart meter program to be of any benefit to the grid as a whole it would necessitate nearly universal usage across the country. The concept on the surface is actually a good idea if energy demand is the actual goal. For that matter, energy consumption demands could be ascertained at the point of separation to the public at the local power sub-stations that serve individual communities and thus alert the system of increased demand and therefore increased production requirements. So why are they pushing to install one in every home in America?

To get the answer is very easy indeed as the Congressional Research Staff has compiled a research paper on this exact topic and from which I have derived much of my article today and this is what they reported.

The report states that to fulfill their desired ends: “smart meters must record near-real time data on consumer electricity usage and transmit the data to utilities over great distances via communications networks that serve the smart grid.” Okay, that makes sense but again why every household and not at distribution points within the neighborhood which monitors the near real time usage in that local?

Well thanks to the report they also tell us that: “Detailed electricity usage data offers a window into the lives of people inside of a home by revealing what individual appliances they are using.“ Now let’s look at that statement a moment — their “stated” goal for this device was so that they could better regulate the grid reliability and better demand response. What does it matter to an energy supplier what appliances I am running in my home if their real concern was just to provide better control of the grid supply? Could it possibly be that this is a big brother conspiracy of a pending police state? And is it still a conspiracy if it is in fact true?

Within the opening paragraphs of the report they state that they are looking at this, among other things, from a 4th Amendment concern and “As we progress into the 21st century, access to personal data, including information generated from smart meters, is a new frontier for police investigations.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



SpaceX’s Commercial Spaceship Chasing Space Station in Orbit

The first commercial spacecraft ever launched toward the International Space Station is playing a game of catch-up today (May 23) as it heads toward an unprecedented rendezvous with the orbiting lab.

Dragon, built by commercial rocket firm Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX), launched atop a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida early Tuesday (May 22). The unmanned capsule will become the first non-governmental vehicle to meet up with the space station and attach to it at 240 miles (390 km) above Earth.

The spacecraft is packed with about 1,200 pounds ( 544 kilograms) of supplies for the space station, including food, clothing and student scientific experiments. The launch went off flawlessly, after an earlier attempt on May 19 was called off less than a second before liftoff because of a rocket engine glitch.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Stakelbeck on Terror Show: Battling the Islamist/Leftist Alliance

On this week’s episode of the Stakelbeck on Terror show, we examine the unholy alliance that has developed between radical Islam and the radical Left. I recount my recent experience at Portland State University, where an event I headlined was protested by pro-Palestinian radicals and posters advertising my speech were defaced with anti-Semitic symbols.

We then move on to Brussels, where my CBN colleague Dale Hurd recently sat down with a leading radical Islamist who wants to establish sharia law in Belgium.

Plus, check out extended clips from my recent keynote address at the annual Christian/Israel Solidarity event at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C. A much friendlier venue than Portland State, needless to say…

Click the link above to watch.

           — Hat tip: Erick Stakelbeck [Return to headlines]



Stuck Ketchup Problem Solved by MIT Engineers

Tired of vainly thumping the bottom of a ketchup bottle, trying to knock loose that last inch of condiment? There’s good news: A team of engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has invented a bottle coating that makes ketchup pour as easily as milk. They say it could save 1 million tons of perfectly good but inaccessible ketchup and other food from being thrown out each year — not to mention saving untold hours spent in frustration.

MIT doctoral candidate Dave Smith and his team of mechanical engineers and nanotechnology researchers spent the past two months considering, and then solving, the notorious difficulty of pouring thick sauces out of bottles. They invented LiquiGlide, a slippery coating made of nontoxic, FDA-approved materials that can be applied to the insides of food packaging, such as ketchup and mayonnaise bottles, and honey jars.

LiquiGlide is unique because it’s “kind of a structured liquid,” Smith told the website FastCompany. “It’s rigid like a solid, but it’s lubricated like a liquid.” The substance can be sprayed onto the surfaces of many types of packaging, including glass and plastic. As you can see in the video, the coating allows thick sauces that would normally move sluggishly against those materials’ surfaces to slide out of their containers, as if suspended in space. “It just floats right onto the sandwich,” Smith said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Woman Appeals Henrico County’s Approval of Mosque

HENRICO, Va. (WTVR) — Just days after ground was broken on a new mosque in the West End, a woman has filed an appeal with Henrico County. Sylvia Hoehns-Wright is trying to stop plans to build an even bigger Islamic worship center in her neighborhood in the 8000 block of Hungary Road. Hoehns-Wright doesn’t have a problem with the mosque, but is angry at the Henrico County Board of Supervisors. Hoehns-Wright, who lives near the Islamic Center of Richmond, claims the small building already does not have enough parking for worshipers as it is. Imagine, she says when the 31,000 square-foot mosque is built on the same property. She wonders where everyone will park.

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Canada


Big Montreal March Marks 100 Days of Student Anger

Thousands of people marched through central Montreal on Tuesday to mark the 100th day of student protests over tuition increases, a campaign that is turning into a broader movement against the Quebec government and aspects of the capitalist system.

The government in the predominantly French-speaking Canadian province, fed up with sometimes violent demonstrations, last week unveiled a tough proposal that would make protests more difficult to organize and impose stiff fines on those who disobey.

Quebec’s bar association, trade union leaders and other commentators quickly denounced the draft legislation — known formally as Bill 78 — and said the Liberal government of Premier Jean Charest had gone too far.

“We don’t care about the special law!” some marchers chanted as they set off in the light rain to the sounds of horns and trumpets. One marcher held an umbrella on which the number 78 was painted with a line through it.

“Charest, you have met your Waterloo,” read one banner. Many protesters wore small red cloth squares, which have become the symbol of the campaign.

A Leger Marketing poll released on Tuesday showed 73 percent of Quebecers felt the law would not help quell the protests against planned tuition increases. Many students say they would ignore the legislation once it is adopted.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Islamic Call to Prayer in the Royal Ontario Museum

On Monday, May 21st (Victoria Day), I was guiding the children of a friend around the Royal Ontario Museum when I heard the Muslim call to prayer belting out of the PA system. After the full call was recited, there was an announcement that all would be welcome to join the prayers. I didn’t recognize where the room was in the building (perhaps because of the sound of my teeth grinding). Then the Muezzin’s call wailed on again. After that, presumably for ‘balance’ some church-bells dinged away for a little bit.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU


Berlusconi: Majority of Italians Don’t Support Left-Wing

(AGI)Brussels-Most Italians don’t support left-wing parties said Silvio Berlusconi, who then invited moderates to act responsibly. “We’ll see; I do what is necessary for the good of Italy, moderates and our political group,” Berlusconi commented regarding his future in the PdL (People of Freedom) party. “In any case we’re confident because since 1948 Italian citizens who don’t support the left wing are the majority,” the former Prime Minister stated, then urged all mainstream party leaders to behave “with a sense of responsibility”.

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



British Daredevil Leaps From Plane Without Parachute

A British stuntman became the world’s first skydiver to land without a parachute on Wednesday, falling 731 metres (2,400 feet) to drop safely onto a crash-pad of cardboard boxes.

Wearing a specially-made “wing suit”, Gary Connery leapt from a helicopter over Henley-on-Thames in southern England, aiming — with his life hanging in the balance — at a “runway” of 18,000 cardboard boxes.

After plunging at a speed of approximately 130 kilometres (80 miles) an hour the 41-year-old landed successfully onto the boxes, but the anxious crowd had to wait several minutes before he emerged from the pile.

Connery, who has appeared as a stuntman in films including “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” and the Bond movie “Die Another Day”, said the experience had been “absolutely amazing”.

“I’m in a strange space, if I’m totally honest,” he told Sky News. “I guess I haven’t digested what’s just happened.” “(The landing) was so comfortable, so soft — my calculations obviously worked out and I’m glad they did,” he added. Connery’s wife Vivienne said simply: “I’m relieved it’s all over.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Brussels Critical of National Strategies on Roma

National Roma integration strategies submitted by member states to the European Commission fail to fully assess the needs of Europe’s largest minority. Speaking to reporters in Strasbourg on Wednesday (23 May), EU justice commissioner Viviane Reding said the desperate situation of Roma is “a wake-up call for leaders.”

EU leaders in June 2011 had backed a European Commission plan to end the centuries-old exclusion of the continent’s 10 to 12 million Roma minority. Most live in Bulgaria, followed by Slovakia, Romania and Hungary. Access to education, jobs, healthcare and housing are among the four policy priorities.

The scope and detail of the strategies vary. The Dutch national strategy, for instance, is six pages long whereas Sweden’s is 68. Others do not bother to address healthcare and housing at all.

Millions of Roma continue to suffer daily discrimination, stigmatised by some mainstream politicians, as well as street violence and poor health. Life expectancy of Roma is now 10 years below the EU average.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Bulgaria Muslims Face Discrimination

(Ahlul Bayt News Agency) — Anti-Muslim discrimination continues to grow in Bulgaria, with no legislative reforms or judicial actions taken in the past year to secure Muslim rights.

Bulgarian Muslims are concerned by the rising trend of discrimination against Muslim communities, with very few legislative actions proposed to stem the problem. Moreover, analysts point out that some Muslim victims have been taken to court and sued for hooliganism. Experts say Bulgarian Muslims continue to be deprived of access to proper education, healthcare, jobs or political representation. Last month, Amnesty International had issued a report calling on European governments to do more to clear prejudices against Islam.

On May, 2011, members of the far-right Bulgarian Ataka party attacked several Muslims who gathered for their usual Friday prayers at a main mosque in downtown Sofia. The Bulgarian government has forbidden passport pictures with women’s headscarves and banned religious literature from focusing on Islam in a move that has been widely viewed as part of a smear campaign against Muslims in the country. There are about one million Muslims living in Bulgaria — approximately one-tenth of the total population — in centuries-old local Muslim communities, not new-comers like in Western Europe, which is seen by many as a “role-model for tolerance”.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



EU: Bilderberg Pushes Mandatory Internet ID for Europe

While the international ACTA treaty and United States’ CISPA legislation are setting the stage to clamp down on the world wide web, technocrats are working overtime to try to pin down your identity and make sure all your activities are thoroughly monitored and under control.

The European Union is now moving to create a mandatory electronic ID system for all EU citizens that would be implemented across Europe to standardize business both online and in person, authenticating users via a common ‘electronic signature.’ A single authenticating ID would guard access to the Internet, online data and most commerce. It is nothing short of an attempt to phase in a Mark of the Beast system, and a prominent Bilderberg attendee is behind the scheme.

Neelie Kroes is the EU’s Digital Agenda Commissioner, and is introducing legislation she hopes will force “the adoption of harmonised e-signatures, e-identities and electronic authentication services (eIAS) across EU member states.”

The extent of such a system would, of course, expand over time, particularly as many EU nations have resisted the big government encroachment of ID requirements on civil rights grounds, which even now smack of the Nazi regime’s draconian “papers please” policies that empowered their other avenues of tyranny. According to EurActiv.com, Neelie Kroes would later “widen the scope of the current Directive by including also ancillary authentication services that complement e-signatures, like electronic seals, time/date stamps, etc,” as the supra-national body attempts to corral more nations into participation.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Europe’s Airlines Gear Up for Turbulent Times

Ryanair fears an end to its run of success; Lufthansa saves, invests and modernizes; Air Berlin wants to introduce discount fares. Europe’s airlines are fighting for market share in an industry in flux.

Europe’s biggest discount airline, Ryanair, was always good for new savings ideas — most of which normally came from the boss himself, Michael O’Leary. By reducing the amount of ice in drinks, for example, the airline shed thousands of kilos and saved thousands of euros in the process. Ryanair even considered using just one pilot per flight — although, apparently, nothing ever came of that.

Not all companies are considering such measures, though, despite Europe’s ongoing economic woes and the high fuel costs that are increasing pressure on European airlines. As aviation expert Heinrich Großbongardt said, the airlines are continuing to groan under oil prices, which are expected to rise even further throughout the year.

“And then you’ve got the ‘little things,’ like aviation taxes and emission credits, on top of that,” Großbongardt said in an interview with DW. And European airlines are also dealing with tougher competition as a result of the expansion of state aviation companies from the Persian Gulf region.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



France: Prisoner Escapes Just Minutes After Meeting French Justice Minister at Basketball Match

France’s new justice minister Christine Taubira is facing nationwide ridicule after a prisoner on day-release escaped just minutes after meeting her.

The fugitive was among dozens of convicts that met Miss Taubira when she attended a prison inmates basketball match at Paris’s Bercy sports arena.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Germany: Study: Net Replacing Drugs as Youth Habit

Young people are getting hooked on the internet more than drugs, a new report says. As many as 250,000 14 to 24-year-olds are now addicted to the internet, while drug abuse is dropping.

For girls the irresistible pull of social networking, for boys the escapism of online gaming. Teenagers — particularly those that fail to find work after leaving school — are increasingly turning to online distractions rather than substance abuse, according to a government report published on Tuesday.

Particularly worrying is the trend toward “excessive or pathological computer game and internet use,” Drug Commissioner Mechthild Dyckmans, author of the “Drug and Addiction Report 2012.” told the Berliner Morgenpost newspaper on Wednesday.

The report also says more young people are gambling than ever before. In 2011, around 25 percent of 16 and 17-year-olds said they had played a commercial gambling game in the past 12 months, compared with just 15 percent in 2009.

Above all, young males out of work are most likely to become addicted to online games or public slot machines, said the paper.

The number of young males aged 18 to 20 who said they had used a slot machine at least once in the past 12 months has increased by 14 percent since 2007. Twice as many girls are now using slot machines as in 2007, with the figure now up to 5.5 percent.

The government is now looking at ways to better protect young gamers, including closer surveillance, tougher requirements and higher penalties, Dyckmans told the paper.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Germany: Salafists and Right-Wingers Fight it Out

A radical German-born Islamist has called on Muslims to kill German politicians. The threats are aimed at the far-right party Pro NRW, a regional right-wing group in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

The Pro NRW party, which has been classified as anti-constitutional because of its extremist, right-wing tendencies, has been railing against non-Germans and Muslims for years. The party “rejects foreigners because of their background or faith and portrays them as criminals,” according to a court ruling in the western German city of Münster.

In recent weeks, Pro NRW has been concentrating its efforts on Salafists, Muslims who want to see a world-wide Islamist theocracy. As part of its recent state election campaign in North Rhine-Westphalia, the party displayed posters showing the prophet Muhammad as a terrorist.

Strict Muslims interpret the depiction of the prophet in that way as a punishable offense. Last weekend, a video was published on the Internet showing a radical Islamist calling on fellow Muslims to kill members of Pro NRW.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Germany: Scientists Trial Lasers to Replace Pesticides

Researchers in Germany are working on an alternative to poisonous herbicides. They’re aiming lasers at weeds. A team of scientists at Leibniz University and a laser center in Hanover are developing an alternative to herbicides that would use robots or flying drones to zap weeds with laser beams.

Chickweed, dandelion and shepherd’s purse are typical pests that have beleaguered farmers in central Europe since the arrival of agriculture. Today these weeds compete with sprouting corn, rapeseed or turnips for sunlight, water and soil nutrients.

Until now, conventional farms have battled these pests with expensive herbicides that are often poisonous and can spread to land and water beyond the target plant.

“Our goal is to develop a more environmentally-friendly way of getting rid of weeds. The use of herbicides is associated with risks”, said Christian Marx, a researcher with the Laser Zentrum Hannover.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Italy: Grassroots Comedian Grillo’s Party Wins Parma Mayoral Race

Palermo, 22 May (AKI) — In the most stunning result of local elections in which protest movements trounced mainstream political parties in several key cities, a party inspired by comedian and political activist Beppe Grillo won the mayoral run-off in the prosperous northern city of Parma.

Federico Pizzarotti, from Grillo’s grassroots Five Star Movement was elected mayor on Monday with 60.33 percent of votes compared to 39.78 percent for Italy’s main centre-left Democratic Party candidate, Vincenzo Bernazzoli.

“I would say this is an important victory, above all because it shows that normal people can win elections because they create a relationship with citizens,” commented 39-year-old Pizzarotti, an IT consultant in the financial sector.

“We won because we led our campaign amongst the citizens and stayed close to their needs.”

Grillo has advocated Italy leaving the euro and defaulting on or only repaying a part of its massive national debt. He campaigns to clean up politics and business, promote renewable energy and dismantle monopolies and privileges.

According to Grillo, Pizzarotti’s victory in Parma was achieved with a campaign budget of just 6,000 euros. The average age of the four mayors elected by the Five-Star Movement on Monday was 31 and its electoral support is now estimated at around 12 percent, making a major force in Italy’s fragmented political landscape.

In the recession-hit country where voters are angry with austerity measures that have raised taxes and made it harder to retire, protest parties are benefiting from a slump in support for a political class that is seen to have done little other than feather its nest.

In the southern Italian city of Palermo, veteran mayor and anti-mafia campaigner Leoluca Orlando on Monday won a landslide victory in the run-off to become mayor for the third time. He took 72.54 percent of votes leaving his conservative opponent Fabrizio Ferrandelli trailing behind with just 27.57 percent.

The separatist-leaning Northern League was arguably the biggest loser in the local polls: all seven of its candidates who made it through to the second round of voting lost the run-offs as voters punished the party for several graft scandals involving its founder and former leader, senator Umberto Bossi.

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



Italy: Art: Islamic Calligraphy Revealed

An exhibition of decorative artworks

An exciting exhibition of contemporary Islamic calligraphic art entitled “Reflections from Heaven, Meditations on Earth” (Riflessioni dal Cielo, Meditazioni in Terra) is on show until June in the museum area of the ruins of Trajan’s Market above the Roman Forum. The works on display come from the collection of the Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts in Amman and offer a rare and illuminating overview of the wide variety of styles used by modern Islamic artists from all over the world, demonstrating how the long, unbroken tradition of Arabic calligraphy, an art form which died out in Europe with the advent of the printing press, continues to be developed and adapted to the present day.

The exhibition was three years in preparation, explained Princess Wijdan bint Fawaz al-Hashemi of Jordan, president of the Jordan Royal Society of Fine Arts and for five years Jordanian ambassador to Italy. The choice of venue inside one of Rome’s most important ancient monuments was influenced, she said, by the fact that she particularly admires the blend of old and new architecture created in the Trajan Markets when restorers encased the great entrance hall in glass panels to protect and enhance the ancient ruins. “We found this combination of old and new very appropriate for an exhibition of calligraphic art which is also a combination of the classic and the modern,” she said.

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



Italy: Party Funding to be Halved After House Vote

Move comes amid public disaffection with political class

(ANSA) — Rome, May 23 — Italy’s political parties are set to see their funding slashed after the Lower House voted to halve their electoral reimbursements.

The move comes amid widespread public skepticism about the effectiveness and honesty of the country’s parties following a series of corruption scandals to hit various parts of the political spectrum.

State funding will be cut to 91 million euros per year.

The so-called ‘anti-politics’ Five Star movement of comedian Beppe Grillo capitalised on the disaffection to make big gains at local elections this month, with their candidate being voted in mayor of Parma on Monday.

Grillo, who is opposed to the current party system and has said Italy should abandon the euro, has called for party funding to be abolished completely Commentators said the public’s disaffection with the established parties was also shown in the low turnout registered in this month’s elections, which voted in administrations for around 1,000 Italian towns and cities.

The three main political groups supporting Premier Mario Monti’s emergency government of non-political technocrats have also reached an agreement for measures to create greater transparency in party funding in a bid to combat the negative perception of the country’s political class.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Polish Children Boosting Standards Among English Pupils

Roman Catholic schools in particular have seen a surge in demand for places since the enlargement of the European Union eight years ago.

But while many of the new pupils arrived with little or no English, they do not appear to have held their classmates back even in reading and writing.

And in mathematics, the researchers found evidence that they had a positive influence on the others, the researchers found.

One theory is that the Polish children were better educated than their British counterparts in the first place and that they brought with them the same “work ethos” which brought their families to Britain.

As a result they may have been that they had a positive influence on their peers, it is thought.

           — Hat tip: WM [Return to headlines]



Swiss Court: Anti-Islam Group Must be Protected

The Federal Court says an anti-Islam group has the right to give out leaflets from an information booth if it wants — and the local authorities must protect them.

Fribourg Council banned the group — The Movement Against the Islamization of Switzerland — from setting up an information booth Place Georges-Python during the anti-minaret campaign in 2009.

It said it refused to give permission because of a fear that violence and unrest would break out as a result, provoking a legal challenge.

The Federal Court upheld the group’s complaint that the authorities had impinged on its freedom of expression as well as on freedom of information, newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung reported.

The court said the local authorities should instead have taken additional measures to safeguard against such an event.

In particular, the court said that the authorities could have drafted more police in to safeguard the site.

Although public law does grant local authorities powers to ban demonstrations from public spaces, the court confirmed that they may not do so simply because they disapprove of the ideas being communicated.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes [Return to headlines]



Switzerland ‘One of Europe’s Suicide Capitals’

Between 15,000 and 25,000 people attempt to kill themselves in Switzerland every year, according to a new survey, confirming Switzerland’s place as one of the suicide capitals of Europe.

The number of actual deaths from suicide is about 1,000 per year, a number that represents three times the number of deaths through road traffic accidents, newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung reported.

“We are one of the countries which traditionally has the highest figures in suicides. Not everybody is happy here,” Ambros Uchtenhagen, Professor Emeritus for Social Psychiatry at Zurich University told The Local.

The survey, conducted by Swiss market research company Isopublic, found that many people were either ill-informed or had misconceptions about depression and suicide. For example, the report showed that many believe suicide to be a well thought out and planned act.

“A suicide is not a well-considered act, but a desperate act that the person would not have committed in a different situation,” Konrad Michel, psychiatric specialist at the University Hospital of Bern, told NZZ.

A new initiative called “Lean on me” has been launched. Supported by doctors and other health professionals, the initiative’s aim is to raise awareness about depression and suicide, and to highlight the fact that some 70 percent of suicide cases involve depression.

“Lean on me” also hopes to change the perception held by many of depression as something that the individual sufferer can overcome by himself. A better understanding of the illness is of great importance, particularly since many depressives do not share their suicidal thoughts.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



UK: ‘I Watched My Parents Suffocate Shafilea by Forcing a Bag Into Her Mouth, ‘ Says Sister of ‘Westernised Honour Killing Victim’

Younger sister Alesha told police she saw parents force bag into Shafilea’s mouth and suffocate her

She was arrested in 2010 for her involvement in a robbery at her parents’ home during which her mother, two sisters and brother were tied up

Six days later she alleged to police that her parents killed Shafilea

Shafilea decomposed remains were found in February 2004

Parents Iftikhar and Farzana Ahmed are accused of killing her in September 2003 but deny murder

Police placed listening device in the family’s home in November 2003 and heard them telling their children ‘not to say anything’ at school

Victim ‘drank bleach after being forced to visit Pakistan for to meet future husband in arranged marriage’

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



UK: Cameron Pledges to Fight Diktat From Unelected European Judges Who Say Prisoners Must Get the Vote

David Cameron put the UK on a collision course with Europe today as he promised to fight a ruling forcing Britain to give prisoners the vote.

The Prime Minister insisted the decision was one for MPs, not a ‘foreign court’, after human rights judges issued an ultimatum giving the Government six months to change the law.

European judges rode roughshod over British sovereignty yesterday by ruling that prisoners must be allowed to vote.

In a devastating blow, they rejected last year’s overwhelming vote by MPs for maintaining our historic blanket ban on voting by convicts.

The unelected judges instead gave David Cameron until the end of the year to obey their diktat or risk having to pay £150million in compensation to killers, rapists and other prisoners.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



UK: David Cameron’s Five Point Plan to Win the Next Election

by Paul Goodman

Senior CCHQ sources tell me that plans for fighting the next election are already being mapped out. These have less to do with policies or even delivery (which are presumably covered elsewhere) than with “values” — presumably on the ground that if uncommitted voters don’t like or at least respect you, they won’t vote for you. Indeed, “values” is the foundation on which the five points to which I refer above are built. In this context, the word seems to mean convincing floating voters that David Cameron is “on the side of people who work hard, want to get on and play by the rules”, as his post-local elections Daily Telegraph article earlier this month put it. The other main parts of the plan are:

  • Addressing the “wrong track” issues. This is the sense that Britain’s economy and society are getting worse rather than better. CCHQ recognises that success at the next election is inextricably linked to reversing it.
  • Winning support on the NHS. Never forget the stress that Mr Cameron put in opposition, second only to restoring the party’s reputation for economic competence, on trying to establish that the NHS would be “safe in his hands”.
  • Closing the gender gap. Traditionally, the Conservatives were propelled into office by women’s votes. New Labour reversed this position; Mr Cameron began to restore it — but has run into problems since the 2010 election.
  • Winning non-white support. The number one driver of not voting Conservative is not being white. Tim Montgomerie and I have explored the problem here and (for example) here. So has Lord Ashcroft in a major report.
  • Organisation in marginals. The bottom line ambition is to win roughly 35 Labour seats and 15 Liberal Democrat ones. This relatively modest ambition seems to be a reflection both of psephological realities and the difficulty of winning seats when in power.

I understand that party organisers:

  • Are conducting extensive focus groups among non-white voters in 40 marginals.
  • Now have the capability to explore voting records and intentions by ethnicity and religion.
  • Will focus particularly on about 15 seats with large ethnic majority populations, with an MP working closely with the local Association in each one. These MPs will have experience of such seats themselves. Names mentioned to me included Bob Blackman, the MP for Harrow East and Gavin Barwell, the MP for Croydon Central.
  • Have asked Alok Sharma, MP for Reading West, and Paul Uppal, MP for Wolverhampton South-West, to write a campaign guide on working with ethnic minority voters. Both are of Indian origin and their role may reflect the party’s better performance among such voters compared to voters who originate from Pakistan.
  • Will be taking advice from Jason Kenney, Canada’s conservative Minister for Citizenship and Multiculturalism , as has been reported previously.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: Disgraced Education Firm A4e ‘Sent Jobseeker to Look for Work at a Lap-Dancing Club’

Controversial welfare-to-work firm A4e was facing fresh police investigation last night as it emerged it had once sent a jobseeker to look for work in a lap dancing club.

Three whistleblowers yesterday handed MPs a ‘damning’ dossier of alleged fraud at the firm, which is one of five prime contractors on the Government’s flagship £5 billion Work Programme.

Following an extraordinary row between Labour and Tory MPs on the powerful Commons public accounts committee they were ‘gagged’ from giving their evidence in public — partly because of fears it could compromise future police investigations.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



UK: Is it Your Time to Shine?

Muslim Writers Awards is back and is inviting your submissions for its 2012 competition.

You can now submit to the following:

  • Muslim Writers Awards (over 16’s)
  • Young Muslim Writers Awards, presented by the Yusuf Islam Foundation (under 16’s)
  • The Spirit of Cordoba Prize, with The Cordoba Foundation

This year the competition is bigger than it’s ever been with three new categories, plus favourites from last year including the Young Journalist Prize (16-25) which was presented by BBC News reporter and presenter Asad Ahmad. The competition is a great platform for emerging writers, with a number of shortlisted entrants going on to further success in the literary industry. Mina Muhammad, winner of the Short Story Prize in the under 16’s Young Muslim Writers Awards, was successful in publishing her novel See Red, soon after being shortlisted — at the age of 15! Our judging panels offer years of experience and knowledge from within the industry. Past judges have included stage, TV and film actor Nadim Sawalha (Syriana, The Avengers, East is East), Shannon Park (Editorial Director, Fiction for Puffin Books) and Simon Prosser (Publishing Director of Hamish Hamilton & Penguin Books) amongst others. If you think it’s time for your writing to shine, click here for further details and how to enter. http://muslimwritersawards.org.uk

[JP note: And the Spirit of Conquest award?]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: Kick in Ballots

THE votes-for-lags ruling ought to be a deal-breaker between Britain and the European Court of Human Rights.

Let’s hope it is. A chamber of pompous foreign judges has ordered Britain’s Prime Minister to give prisoners election rights despite OUR Parliament overwhelmingly ruling it out.

David Cameron has an unmissable chance to tell them where to go. The argument is simple. If you flout the law seriously enough to be locked up, you forfeit a say on who makes the law while you’re inside. Once you’re out, you can vote again. It’s straightforward and fair. But Strasbourg doesn’t get why the ban applies to ALL prisoners. Some ought still to vote, they say, or it’s a breach of their human rights. So now we are at a crossroads. A decision that was approved overwhelmingly by MPs elected by the British people, and backed by the vast majority of the British public, is overturned by faceless foreigners we do not know and did not elect. In January Mr Cameron demanded that Strasbourg’s judges treat national decisions “with respect”. They have laughed in your face, PM. So it’s time to get angry — and to hell with the consequences. Tell them enough is enough.

OUR Government runs Britain. No one else.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: More Than 30,000 People Turned Out for Boishakhi Mela Round Brick Lane

More than 30,000 people lined the street around Brick Lane for this year’s Boishakhi Mela at the weekend.

Traditional Bangladeshi acts took to one of the stages in Bethnal Green park while local and international artists showcased their acts on a second stage aimed at younger audiences.

In Brick Lane restaurants set up stalls for visitors to sample currys while watching the Mela’s Grand procession which saw sculptures, dancers and entertainers parade through Banglatown. For the first time the celebrations also included a Bangladeshi trade fair. A police spokesman said 44 special constables had volunteered to help ordinary officers patrol the area. He said: “The event largely went off peacefully. There were around 10 arrests, mostly for public order offences, which is a small number for such a larger event.”

[JP note: Special constables or Islamic morality police?]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: More Than 87,000 Racist Incidents Recorded in Schools

Nearly 88,000 racist incidents were recorded in Britain’s schools between 2007 and 2011, the BBC has found.

Data from 90 areas shows 87,915 cases of racist bullying, which can include name calling and physical abuse. Birmingham recorded the highest number of incidents at 5,752, followed by Leeds with 4,690. Carmarthenshire had the lowest number with just 5 cases. A racist incident is defined as any situation perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person. In response to the local authority figures, obtained under a Freedom of Information request, the Department for Education said racism needed to be “rooted out”.

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: Old Guard Give Way to Canada’s Mounties at Buckingham Palace

Plumed helmets gave way to Stetsons outside Buckingham Palace on Wednesday as Canadian Mounties took over guarding Queen Elizabeth II for the day in honour of her diamond jubilee. Fifteen red-coated Royal Canadian Mounted Police became the first non-British civilian force to guard the queen, who is also Canada’s head of state, when they took over in a special changing of the guard ceremony.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



UK: Protests Over Birmingham City Council Labour Group’s Lack of Diversity

Birmingham City Council’s Labour leadership has promised to encourage more African-Caribbean community candidates to come forward in future following a protest over its lack of diversity.

About 40 people gathered to demonstrate at the new Labour administration and its mainly white male Cabinet. Of eight councillors selected only one is Asian and one is a woman.

But Labour issued a statement insisting it was committed to all residents of the city and would look to encourage more party candidates from the African Caribbean community at elections. Labour leader Sir Albert Bore said: “We acknowledge that some in the African Caribbean community feel under-represented and we have already had productive talks with leaders of the community.”

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Balkans


Skopje: Moslem Demo “Death to the Christians”

Back in March, PI reported about the numerous outbreaks of violence between the Muslim-Albanian minority and the non-Muslim-Slavic majority in Macedonia. Currently, the situation appears to be heightening once again after a series of murders of Christians. As Austrian news magazine “Unzensuriert” (“Uncensored”) reports, in the Macedonian capital city of Skopje, slogans like “Allahu akbar,” “Death to Christians,” and “Jihad” were shouted by several thousand Moslems in a demonstration parade after the traditional Friday prayers.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

North Africa


Egyptian Presidential Election: Why a Moderate Regime is Unlikely

By Barry Rubin

Consider one fact that demolishes the apparatus of nonsense about moderate Islamists and the credibility of those claiming there is nothing to worry about. These are the same people who have been declaring for more than a year that the Muslim Brotherhood is moderate. Yet now the Brotherhood’s presidential campaign has shown it to be extraordinarily radical, openly demanding a caliphate and Egypt being a Sharia state.

Suddenly the subject is changed. Nobody acknowledges that they were wrong about the Brotherhood. They focus now on a different candidate who we are told is the true moderate Islamist, as if their previous favorite “moderate Islamist” movement has now thrown off its camouflage.

“Democracy, as Western democracies have long known,” wrote Shadi Hamid, in predicting a Brotherhood majority in the parliamentary election some months ago, “is about the right to make the wrong choice.” True. But foreign policy, as everyone has long known, is about dealing with the consequences of wrong outcomes and trying to prevent them if possible.

We are told that Abdul Moniem Abul Fotouh is the “moderate Islamist” candidate for president of Egypt whom the West should support. He promises that Egypt will be an Islamic but civil state with equality for all of its citizens. The problem is that Abul Fotouh keeps making statements that belie that image, statements never mentioned by those who ridicule fears about Egypt’s new government.

One ignorant neoconservative wrote in a Canadian newspaper that the regime couldn’t be dangerous because in the presidential debate the question of Israel was only raised near the end. Naturally, the debate structure wasn’t determined by Fotouh and what he said about Israel was quite threatening, namely that it is a racist enemy based on occupation and threatening Muslims with 200 nuclear weapons. At any rate, the main problem is not what the new regime will do to Israel but what it will do to Egypt, eventually followed by what it will do to Israel.

This follows, of course, the national security editor of the National Journal explaining that there’s no danger of a radical Islamist Egypt because he could find one (neo)conservative who agreed with him on that issue. What’s truly funny here is that I’m not exaggerating in describing their best arguments.

Here is a new statement by Abul Fotouh. In an interview on an Egyptian television station, Abul Fotouh said he was against “terrorism” but then explained that Usama bin Ladin was not a terrorist, that the United States only called him one in order to “hit Muslim interests,” and that the killing of bin Ladin was an “act of state terrorism.” In other words, he’s saying September 11 wasn’t an act of terrorism but that Obama’s policy is anti-Muslim and terrorist.

I’d agree that he’s better than the official Muslim Brotherhood candidate but there are lots of other problems with this “moderate Islamist”:…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin [Return to headlines]



Egypt Presidential Election: Live

Polls have opened in the historic Egyptian presidential election, the final phase of a tumultuous transition that began with the ousting of Hosni Mubarak last year.

  • 13 candidates standing in first round
  • Mubarak’s former foreign minister Amr Moussa frontrunner
  • 150,000 troops to be deployed to ensure security
  • Army tries to allay fears it will rig presidential elections
  • Voting takes place over two days at 13,000 polling stations

Latest

09.47 With 30 per cent illiteracy, voting at all is a challenge for many. In the parliamentary elections, all the parties were given symbols — from a set of scales to, strangely, a banana. That hasn’t been followed this time. Oliga Yousef, an 80-year-old woman walking with a stick out of the polling booth, said she was excited to vote for the first time and wanted to help create a better life for her children. Unfortunately, as she explained: “I don’t know who I voted for. I can’t read or write, so I asked the man inside what I should do. He said, just tick a box. So I ticked a box, but I don’t know who it was.”

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



Egypt: Tayyeb — Islam Bans Embodiment of Prophet Muhammad

Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar Ahmed el-Tayyeb asserted on Monday 21/5/2012 that Islam bans the embodiment of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in any artistic works.

This came during a meeting with head of the Iranian interests section in Egypt Mojtaba Amani.

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



Egypt: Muslim Brotherhood Buying Votes With Food

by Raymond Ibrahim

News continues to emerge days before Egypt’s presidential elections indicating that the Islamists are relying on any and every strategy to gain votes for their pro-Sharia candidates.

As we just saw, any number of Islamic authorities-from Yusuf al-Qaradawi to the Sharia Body for Rights and Reform-said that it is an “obligation” to vote only for those Muslims who plan on implementing Sharia law, while it is “forbidden” to vote for any of the secular candidates. In other words, the threats of hell fire are being used to influence Muslims at the voting booths.

But beyond threats and commands are sheer bribes-or, in the following case, a sort of Islamic “bread and circuses.” As they were accused earlier, the Muslim Brotherhood was just caught bribing Egypt’s poor with packets of food. Yesterday an Egyptian activist posted a video on YouTube about “the Brotherhood’s scandal: they buy the votes of the poor through food and drink.” The video shows several poor women sitting with bags of food from the Muslim Brotherhood’s “Freedom and Justice” party. The Egyptian activist keeps asking them, “Really, is that how they bought your vote?” even as the women hide their faces and leave.

Bribery is a form of deceit, and these presidential elections are something of a war for Egypt’s future, so, considering that Islam’s prophet Muhammad famously declared that “war is deceit,” all of the aforementioned approaches become legitimate.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Franciscan Nuns, A Quiet Witness of Charity Among Libyan Muslims

Sister Bruna Menghini and three fellow nuns did not flee from Yefren (150 km from Tripoli) during the civil war. For more than 40 years, she has worked with the sick, the elderly and people left to fend for themselves in the predominantly Muslim country. Friendships and dialogue with Muslims were nurtured by small acts of charity and love. The bad blood left from clashes between Gaddafi supporters and rebels as well as the country’s disorganisation cast a shadow on June’s elections.

Yefren (AsiaNews) — “The horrors of war brought us closer to the Libyan people. By helping the sick and sharing suffering with the people, we realised we are part of the community and not outsiders. They are the ones who convinced us to stay,” said Sister Bruna Menghini, a nun with the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, who spoke to AsiaNews about her experience in Yefren, a small town some 150 kilometres from Tripoli. In Libya for the past 43 years, she and three fellow nuns chose to remain with the local population despite NATO airstrikes and the fighting between rebels and Gaddafi forces.

“Helping the sick and the elderly takes up much of our day,” Sr Bruna said. “It is often hard for us to work according to our method. Those who run the facility see things differently. However, in the past few years, we have been able to develop a relationship with patients and staff. When we go home, our mission continues as we have developed friendly relations with the residents of our neighbourhood who respect us and hold us in high esteem.”

The town’s residents are from the same tribe and over time, they have come to accept the small community of nuns. “The war showed us that we are part of their community,” Sr Bruna explained. “When unrest began in March 2011, our neighbours came every day to see if we needed anything. Without them, we would not have made it.”

During the heated months of fighting against Gaddafi, she said, the town of Yefren was left without food supplies for weeks. Many families could hardly afford to buy enough food on the black market to feed their children. Still, people in the nuns’ neighbourhood shared everything with the nuns.

“Everyone in Yefren knows that we are Catholic nuns,” she said. “We have no reason to hide it. Sometimes we can even express our religious beliefs with women in our neighbourhood. But our silent and unobtrusive actions for the elderly and the sick have fed the curiosity of Muslims and encouraged dialogue.”

For Sr Bruna, Christian charity never goes unnoticed. Muslims, especially the older ones, appreciate those who work with the heart and not only for money. Overtime, this selfless approach has overcome mistrust and fear among Muslims.

For the past few weeks, Sr Bruna said, she and her fellow sisters started to take care of an elderly woman left alone, abandoned by everyone. Every day they visit her at home, help her get up, wash and get dressed, spending part of the day with her.

“Many of the neighbours were amazed by this act of humanity towards the poor widow,” she said. “Men, who are usually not interested in such issues, have started to stop us in the street to ask about the lady’s health, wanting to know if we needed help.”

Such deeds, born from the love for mission Jesus showed them, led her and her fellow nuns to stay despite the dangers.

Ordinary people are slowly getting over the civil war, but the country is still a disaster zone. “People were not ready for such quick and sudden change. Many people continue to support Gaddafi. Now they could be killed if they spoke their mind. In many provinces, clashes are still taking place. No one has figured out who is in charge.”

The country’s first free elections will be held in June. However, the National Transitional Council (NTC) has not explained how the vote will be done and how candidates will run. “People don’t know for whom to vote,” Sr Bruna noted. “People do not know what freedom and democracy mean. They must be educated to understand these values, which have never been part of their culture.”

The presence of many candidates connected with extremist Muslim groups, men like former al-Qaeda member Abdel Hakim Belhaj, a onetime military chief in Tripoli, does not frighten Sr Bruna. She remains confident that the Catholic Church has a future in Libya.

“Libyans are Muslim and so follow and have high regard for radical Islamists,” she noted. “Yet, the closeness they showed us over the years is a sign that some emotions and facts touch heart irrespective of culture. God created us equal in his image and likeness. Thus, some of him is in all of us. We have faith in Him. Our task is to stand by these people in such a sensitive moment. Our Muslim friends are happy to see us among them.”

The Franciscan Missionaries of Mary came to Libya in 1925. Five nuns currently live in the country, two working as nurses at Yefren’s public hospital, one at a small government social assistance centre. In view of her advanced age, Sr Bruna takes care of the nuns’ small home in a residential area of the predominantly Berber town. A fifth nun lives in Tripoli, where she works in a rest home for the elderly and the disabled.

Altogether, some 20 Catholic nuns operate in Libya. Four belong to the Little Sisters of Jesus, five to Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, eight to the Missionaries of Charity (in two communities) and four to the Daughters of Charity.

They work in hospitals, social welfare centres and refugee camps.

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



Tunisia: Salafite Party Calls for Polygamy and Halt to Adoptions

Tunis, 23 May (AKI) — The recently legalised Tunisian Salafite party ‘Jabhet al-Islah’ has called for polygamy to be allowed and adoption to be outlawed.

“It is no longer the time for armed jihad (holy war). We don’t intend to use force to stop the sale of alcohol or the wearing of bikinis on the beaches. But we will not tolerate any atatck on the symbols of Islam,” the party’s president Khouja Mohamed told Tunisian daily Le Temps daily Wednesay in an interview.

Protests erupted in Tunisia last October after official election results showed that the country’s Islamist party Ennahda had won the first democratic elections since the Arab Spring uprisings, taking 41.47 percent of the vote and 90 seats in the new 217-member assembly.

The assembly has been tasked with rewriting the constitution, appointing a president and forming a caretaker government. Its nearest rival, the secularist Congress for the Republic, won 30 seats.

Jabhet al-Islah (The Salvation Front) admits it is the successor of the Tunisian Salvation Front party, which was founded in the 1980s and put on a US list of terrorist organisations.

But the party says it does not reject pluralism, while claiming that religion and politics cannot be separated.

“We believe Islam is a religion of democracy and freedom,” Mohamed said.

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

Middle East


Bahrain: Gulf Army Needs to Leave, Opposition Leader

Reconciliation still possible, Al-Marzooq (al Wefaq)

(ANSAmed) — DOHA, MAY 23 — The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) army — the Peninsula Shield Force — must leave Bahrain, said Khalil Ebrahim Al-Marzooq, one of the leaders of the Bahraini opposition group Al Wefaq. “The GCC Army is being used against the population of Bahrain and is seen as oppressive, not defensive,” Al-Marzooq said. “Maintaining troops in the territory leads the Bahraini population to believe that Gulf countries want to support local regimes independently of how they treat citizens. Withdrawing the troops from Bahrain will relieve tension,” he added, saying that the repression in Bahrain was harming the image of the entire Gulf. The Iranian influence denounced a number of times by the Al Khalifa family in power in Bahrain is — according to the opposition leader — simply an alibi to avoid bringing in reforms demanded by the population. “We have been asking for the same democratic reforms for decades, and the king has always evoked the spectre of an external enemy: first it was the Soviets, then 60 years ago the Egyptians and now the Iranians. However, in reality there is only the Bahraini population, which is demanding democratic reforms and greater participation,” Al-Marzooq said. For this reason, according to him, Kuwait’s model of government could be a step forward. More than 30 mosques have been destroyed, 4,400 people (about 3% of the overall workforce) have been laid off for political reasons and the media continue to document violence.

Nonetheless, the Al Wefaq opposition leader believes that reconciliation is possible between the rulers and the population, as well as the constitution of a regime in which the king is granted power but is also flanked by a Parliament with legislative powers, a government answering to the parliament, an independent judiciary and security forces made up not only of those loyal to the king.

“The democratic transformation process is already underway and will penetrate all Gulf countries,” Al-Marzooq said.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Doha Bank Chief Confirms New World Order is Being Built at the Highest Levels

With the backing of media-giant Bloomberg, Qatar has been picked to provide the QIBOR (a replacement for the staggering LIBOR) providing a daily reference point for banks borrowing unsecured funds from other banks. Total amount of funds affected? Up to US$90 trillion.

[…]

Mr. Seetharaman correlated the UN millennium development goals with regulatory reforms and economic development. He said “The current realignment of global architecture will support the achievement of one of the 8 UN Millennium development goals “to develop a global partnership for development” which aims to develop further an open, rule-based, predictable, non-discriminatory trading and financial system. Economies need to integrate the principles of sustainable development into their policies and programs and reverse loss of environmental resources.

This will also enable such economies to achieve the UN Millennium development goal of “Ensure environmental sustainability”. Qatar’s National Vision 2030 has also considered environment development as one of the pillars of its vision. Financial sector can also participate in this sustainable development by taking initiatives to “Manage Climate Change and Mitigate Global Warming.”

Thanks, Mr. Seetharaman for providing a glimpse as to how global regulatory reform is being tailored to support eco-fascism. The question is how.

The answer is … (of course) by force.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



‘Donkey Rape’ Sparks Tribal Massacre in Yemen

Fifteen people were killed or injured in tribal fighting in Yemen after a male donkey chased an ass and raped it just near the house of its owner.

Newspapers in Yemen said the owner of the ass got mad after he saw the donkey attacking his animal, prompting him to chase the donkey and hit it.

The attack infuriated the donkey owner, who called his armed tribe men and asked them to take revenge.

“The problem snowballed into an armed fight between Makabis tribe, which owns the donkey, and Bani Abbas which owns the ass…15 people were either killed or injured in the battle,” the Saudi Arabic language daily Aleqtisadiah said, quoting newspapers in Yemen.

A large police force intervened and stopped the fighting at a village in the southwestern province of Abb, newspapers said, adding that police had arrested eight persons involved in the conflict.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]



Iran and UN Close to Deal on Nuclear Programme as World Powers Meet for Baghdad Talks

Iran could be allowed to continue with its nuclear programme if it agrees to stop enriching uranium to a critical level from which it could quickly produce a nuclear weapon.

Western powers are ready drop demands for a complete halt to all Iran’s nuclear work, provided the regime pledges to halt uranium enrichment to the crucial 20 per cent threshold, The Daily Telegraph understands.

The proposal would be a key element of a compromise deal, to be discussed by leading world powers in Baghdad on Wednesday, that could also see Iran open up its secret military facilities to United Nations inspectors.

In return, sanctions against Tehran would be eased, with some even suspended should the Islamic regime successfully prove that its intentions are peaceful.

Last night, a deal to resolve the impasse was said to be close. Yukia Amano, the head of the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said he expected an agreement to be signed “quite soon” that would allow inspectors greater access to the key scientists, documents and suspicious facilities.

Tehran’s nuclear ambitions have been subject to widespread suspicions that it is trying to acquire nuclear weapons, with Israel fearing it would be the target of an Iranian strike. It has threatened a pre-emptive military strike in response.

Baroness Ashton, the EU’s chief foreign affairs representative, will on Wednesday lead representatives from six world powers — the US, Russia, China, the UK, France and Germany — in crucial negotiations that could prove a turning point on the issue.

The so-called “P5+1” grouping are due to meet Iranian representative, Saeed Jalili, in Baghdad.

Diplomats now expect the talks to yield an Iranian offer to suspend part of its nuclear programme in return for negotiations on dismantling the UN sanctions regime that includes the prospect of a US and European-driven oil embargo. This could include an offer to limit uranium enrichment to 3.5 per cent.

The hopes of a breakthrough follow two days of preliminary talks between Mr Amano and Mr Jalili in the Iranian capital.

Speaking as he returned yesterday, Mr Amano said: “The decision was made to conclude and sign the agreement … At this stage, I can say it will be signed quite soon.

“We understood each other’s position better.”

The Iranian regime quickly made clear however, that any concessions must be immediately reciprocated — probably with an agreement “turn down the volume” on sanctions.

“It is of crucial importance that our cooperation will entail reciprocal steps, that is, our nation’s trust should be built in the trend of talks and cooperation,” Mr Jalili said.

The West’s main concern is Iran’s production of uranium enriched to 20 per cent, which is far higher than needed for regular energy-producing reactors. The US and its allies fear the higher-enriched uranium could be quickly boosted to warhead-grade material.

One Western official told The Daily Telegraph on Tuesday night: “The meaningful issue must be the 20 per cent enriched material — then some sort of pause on sanctions is not a difficult thing.

“The key thing is what is good enough and what prevents a third party strike on Iran.”

As part of any agreement, Mr Amano is focused on getting Iran to let UN experts into high-profile Iranian sites, including the Parchin military complex southeast of Tehran.

Israel however, warned yesterday of the dangers of Iranian tactics.

“Iran wants to destroy Israel and it is developing nuclear weapons to fulfill that goal,” Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister, said. “Against this malicious intention, leading world powers need to display determination and not weakness. They should not make any concessions to Iran.”

Hillary Clinton, the Secretary of State, has publicly denied she has eased the US stance in pursuit of President Barack Obama’s policy of talks with Iran.

It was Mrs Clinton’s husband, Bill, as president who first imposed restrictions on Iran over its nuclear programme banning companies from investing in Iranian oil and gas and trading with Iran in 1995.

The net has closed ever tighter with four rounds of UN sanctions between 1996 and 2010 and a raft of bilateral restrictions, including moves by the EU and US to impose a semi-global oil embargo by the end of June. As Opec’s second largest producer, Iran’s oil industry has been pitching into chaos by the embargo.

While fixated on the removal of sanctions, Iranian officials maintain the country has a legal right to nuclear technology. One diplomat close to the talks said that the ultimate success of the diplomacy would hinge on conceding this point to Iran so it can portray the negotiations as a victory at home.

“It’s a myth the West doesn’t accept their nuclear entitlement but it has be framed in a way that allows them to claim victory on this as a sweetener to real concessions,” the diplomat said.

           — Hat tip: Nick [Return to headlines]



Iran Nuclear Talks Set to Open in Baghdad

A group of six world powers is due to hold fresh talks with Iran about its controversial nuclear programme. The talks are being held in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, at Iran’s request.

They come a day after the UN’s nuclear watchdog held talks with Iran to try to gain better access to the regime’s nuclear installations. Tehran insists its uranium enrichment programme is for peaceful purposes, but the West fears Iran is developing a nuclear weapon. The five permanent members of the UN Security Council — the US, Britain, France, Russia and China — plus Germany will try to persuade Iranian officials to scale back their nuclear programme. Security is tight, with about 15,000 Iraqi police and troops protecting the venue inside Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone. Previous talks in Istanbul in mid-April managed to find enough common ground to arrange a further meeting in Baghdad.

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



NGOs Warn, Yemen on the Verge of Food Emergency

30 countries gathered in Riyadh promise USD 4 bln aid

Yemen has been troubled by protest against former President Ali Abdallah Saleh, for over a year now, and torn by tribal unrest and fight against Al-Qaida: the country is now “on the verge of a food emergency”, with 44% of its inhabitants, totalling ten million people, without enough food. The warning was launched earlier today by seven non-governmental organizations, including Oxfam, on the same day when 30 countries belonging to the “Friends of Yemen” group in Saudi Arabia promised to allocate USD 4 bln as aid for Sanaa, USD 3.25 bln of them will be allocated by Riyadh. “A child out of three in Yemen suffers from malnourishment”, the seven NGOs stated, while the UN estimates that the life of 267,000 children is at risk.

The NGOs point out in their appeal that 5 million people need urgent help. The aid promised today in Riyadh, as the Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al Faysal emphasized “are aimed at preserving Yemen’s stability and security”. Large areas in the southern parts of the country have been under Al Qaida’s control since last year, when Al Qaida settled there taking advantage of the central government’s weakness during the protests against Saleh.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Syria: One Man’s Terrorist …

by Rod Liddle

I wonder if our government will demand more information and threaten reprisals over the case of the two ‘British citizens’ killed by the Syrian Army? Or if, instead, it won’t say very much at all and just deny they are British? This was a story which emerged over the weekend but has not gained very much traction. Easy to see why this would be the case. Hassan Blidi and Walid Hassan were on a list of names of ‘foreigners’ who the Syrians say were engaged in terrorist activities in the country. Reading between the lines, one supposes that Hassan and Walid were the sort of jihadi Norman Wisdoms whom this country unwittingly exports to all areas of the Middle East and beyond. Usually, when they’re caught running around Afghanistan or Baluchistan or Yemen with beards and Kalashnikovs, we have them arrested upon their return and brand them terrorists. But in the case of Syria, we allied ourselves with the armed opposition to Assad and should therefore view Hassan and Walid as freedom fighters and martyrs, and give them a state funeral. The UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon has blamed the latest attacks in Syria upon al-Qaeda. It always was, wasn’t it?

[Reader comment by Simon Fay on 22 May 2012 at 9:53am.]

Violent death in the Middle-East is no reason not to award this lovely couple three or five full cycles of IVF on the NHS, and to honour their posthumous wishes that the embryo be screened to ensure a Jihadist baby.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Russia


Lithuania Creates Panel to Count Cost of Soviet-Era

Lithuania on Wednesday set up a commission focused on opening talks with Russia to evaluate the damage inflicted over 50 years of Soviet occupation in the Baltic state, a claim unrecognised by Moscow.

Lithuania’s government tasked the body with preparing an action plan for talks with Russia focused on the “damage inflicted to the Republic in Lithuania by the USSR in 1940-1991 and the Russian Federation’s military in 1991-1993.”

Relations between the Baltic nation of three million with Soviet-era master Russia have been fraught since Vilnius declared independence from the Soviet Union in 1990. Lithuania’s entry into the European Union and NATO in 2004 further vexed Moscow.

“The mandate is very clear — to prepare our negotiating positions in talks with Russia,” Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius said in Vilnius Wednesday, referring to the commission’s initial agenda.

Kubilius also said he hoped the new Russian government and President Vladimir Putin would “take more courageous steps to evaluate their own history.”

The nine-member commission, including historians and officials from the foreign, justice and culture ministries, is to draft an agenda for talks with Moscow by July 1.

Commission chairwoman Terese Birute Burauskaite admitted it was “naive” to expect the Russians to suddenly agree to direct talks. Russian leaders have repeatedly denied Moscow had occupied Baltic states during the Soviet era.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Medvedev Chats With US Cowboys Working in Russia

Russia’s prime minister has visited a cattle farm where some American cowboys are working to help Russians develop their struggling meat industry. Dmitry Medvedev chatted with one cowboy from the U.S. state of Idaho, who introduced him to his young son and wife.

Medvedev asked whether they had managed to learn to speak any Russian, and the man said that other than “please” and “thank you,” the most important words in his Russian vocabulary were those needed for taking care of the cattle: “open the gate” and “close the gate.”

Medvedev’s visit Wednesday was shown on Russian television, but the names of the Americans were not given. The farm in the Bryansk region has more than 7,000 head of Angus cattle, many of them imported from the U.S.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Putin Supports Controversial Anti-Protest Bill

President Vladimir Putin signaled his support Wednesday for a controversial bill now working its way through Russia’s parliament that would increase fines 200-fold for those taking part in unsanctioned protests. The bill received preliminary approval Tuesday in the elected lower house, where the Kremlin’s United Russia party holds a majority. All three of the other parties voted against it.

Observers’ reports of widespread fraud to boost results for United Russia in December’s parliamentary election set off mass street protests that were unprecedented in post-Soviet Russia. The protests have evolved into regular rallies and, in Moscow, continuous Occupy-style demonstrations decrying Putin’s subsequent election to a third presidential term.

Opposition lawmakers have warned that the new fines will only fuel broad outrage and destabilize Russia by depriving the public of a legal way to voice grievances. The bill raises fines for joining unsanctioned rallies from the current maximum of 5,000 rubles ($160) to 1,000,000 rubles ($32,250).

Yet Putin defended the bill Wednesday, describing it as “strengthening democracy.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Russia Tests New Long-Range Missile

Russia has successfully test-fired a new intercontinental ballistic missile. The launch comes just days after NATO formally activated the first stage of a missile defense shield that Moscow vehemently opposes.

The new missile was launched from the Plesetsk launchpad, about 790 kilometres north of Moscow, the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement. The Interfax news agency said the missile traveled some 6,000 kilometers to hit a target at the Kura firing range on the far eastern Kamchatka peninsula.

The agency said the missile was likely to be an updated version of Russia’s Topol-M. The Topol-M is a mobile intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of reaching most targets in the northern hemisphere.

A Defense Ministry spokesman told the news agency that the launch had tested new technologies aimed at cutting costs and increasing reliability.

A senior Russian general told Interfax that the missile was part of Moscow’s response to the new United States-backed missile shield in Europe, whose first stage was officially declared operational by NATO at its Chicago summit on Sunday.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Village Grannies Make it to Eurovision Finals

Russia’s hip group Buranovskiye Babushki has made it into finals of the Eurovision Song Contest in Azerbaijan, bringing the elderly folk singers from a far-off Russian village to the attention of more than 100 million viewers around the world. The Buranovskiye Babushki, or Buranovo Grannies, won the right to contend in the finals with their song Party for Everybody, whose title is sung in English as the song transitions from a traditional village song to an upbeat disco tune. They competed against Iceland, Hungary, Greece, and others. In the final round, the group will face the U.K., Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Azerbaijan, and the victors of the next semifinals. The women, all above the age of 70, come from a village in the Udmurtia republic and have endeared themselves to the country with their mix of traditional singing in Russian and Udmurt with international music hits.

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

South Asia


Black Magic Practices in India

Recent incidents of killings in the name of superstition show the dark side of India’s progressive society. And all is being done in the name of bringing peace, harmony and prosperity to those involved.

When all efforts fail to keep hope alive and life on a steady keel, then a large number of people in India still turn to black magic and superstitious practices for quick-fix solutions.

The so-called curators, known as ‘Tantrik’, or ‘Baba’ (occult and black magic practitioners), claim to be able to resolve issues of marital discord, or health and financial problems. Not only do the poor or uneducated fall victim to their claims, but the educated and the elite of society do as well.

Early this week, in one of the cities of West Bengal, a beheaded body of a local Ayurveda doctor was found near a temple. His head was found near a crematorium with some flowers, incense sticks and blood. “This made the foul play of black magic very clear,” local police said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Doctor Who Helped Find Bin Laden is Given Jail Term, Official Says

A Pakistani doctor who helped the Central Intelligence Agency pin down Osama Bin Laden’s location under cover of a vaccination drive was convicted on Wednesday of treason and sentenced to 33 years in prison, a senior official in Pakistan said.

A tribal court in northwestern Pakistan here found the doctor, Shakil Afridi, guilty of acting against the state, said Mutahir Zeb Khan, the administrator for the Khyber tribal region. Along with the jail term, the court imposed a fine of $3,500. Dr. Afridi, who may appeal the verdict, was then sent to Central Prison in Peshawar.

He had been charged under a British-era regulation for frontier crimes that unlike the national criminal code does not carry the death penalty for treason. Under Pakistani penal law, he almost certainly would have received the death penalty, a Pakistani lawyer said.

Dr. Afridi’s fate has been an added source of tension between Pakistan and United States, at a time when the two countries remain at loggerheads over reopening supply lines through Pakistan to Afghanistan.

In January, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta confirmed that the United States had been working with Dr. Afridi while trying to confirm the location of Bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad in the months before the raid. American officials had previously said that the doctor been running a hepatitis B vaccination program as a ruse to obtain DNA evidence from members of Bin Laden’s family, who were thought to be hiding in the city. American officials say Dr. Afridi did not know the identity of his target.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



India’s Health Services in Urgent Need of Treatment

India spends only 0.9% of GDP on public health, merely one-third of the less developed countries’ average, says a WHO report. This has encouraged private health care, which is largely inaccessible to most of the public.

Ram Manohar, a poor farmer, has walked some 10 kilometers to reach the nearest public health care center in his village in the east Indian state of Orissa. The drugs necessary to cure his ailment are out of stock, so he receives a simple painkiller and a drip of glucose instead. In another case, Aditya, a corporate executive, gets admitted into a state-of-the-art private hospital for a stomach upset. He gets the best treatment, paid for by his medical insurance.

The two cases show a gaping disparity in India’s health services, considered to be one of the most privatized in the world, according to a report by India’s Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability (CBGA).

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Indonesia: Umar Patek: Who Masterminded the Bali and Church Bombings, Asks for Forgiveness

Dubbed ‘demolition man’, the Muslim extremist acknowledges his guilt and errors. “I am sorry for my misdeed,” he said. Reactions from ordinary Indonesians are mixed. Some hope for real redemption; others suspect he might be trying to avoid prison.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) — An apparently contrite Umar Patek has admitted to his responsibilities, asking everyone for forgiveness, from the Christian community for the attacks against churches on Christmas in 2000 to the families of the victims of the Bali bombings in 2002, and the Indonesian government for faking documents and betraying the trust of his compatriots.

During his hearing before the Jakarta District Court on Monday, the mixed Arab-Javanese Muslim terrorist from Central Java known as ‘demolition man’ who was involved in several deadly attacks, acknowledged his errors and said he was ready to atone for them.

His request for forgiveness elicited different responses among ordinary Indonesians. Some believe in the sincerity of his words. Others are more inclined to think he is trying to obtain the judges’ clemency to avoid life in prison or the death penalty.

“I personally ask for Christians’ forgiveness for what I have done to them,” Umar Patek al Hisyam bin Ali Zein said. “I am sorry for my misdeed.”

After rejecting all charges against him, he eventually pleaded guilty, saying that his late admission of responsibility was due to “strong pressures” from extremist leader Dulmatin, his accomplice in crime who was killed by Indonesian Special Forces in March 2010.

‘Demolition man’ was arrested by Pakistani police in January 2011 in Abbottabad, the same town where al-Qaeda’s founder and leader Osama bin Laden was killed. After long months of negotiations between Jakarta e Islamabad, he was handed him over to Indonesian authorities.

Speaking about the church attacks, he said he did not intend to kill innocent people because “they were not involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

Many Indonesians hope the terrorist’s request for a pardon may be heeded and that Patek may receive a pardon because his remorse is genuine.

Others see him instead as criminal genius and believe that his statement before the judges is just another attempt to escape justice or at least the maximum penalty under the law.

One thing is certain however. However delicate a pardon is, the fight against terrorism and the dismantling of criminal networks remain a priority.

For Muslim scholar Djohan Effendy, jihad must be seen as “an effort to maintain good relations among human beings, without distinctions.”

For human rights activist Imam, “If he [Umar] is sincere, this is a good starting point.”

Benjamin, a Catholic, said he hoped “Patek’s conversion and request to the victims and their families for forgiveness were sincere.”

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



Indonesia: ‘Christians Should Thank’ Islamic Group Over Lady Gaga

Jakarta, 23 May (AKI/Jakarta Post) — An Islam Defenders Front (FPI) spokesman, Munarman, has told reporters that Indonesian Christians should praise the FPI, as well as other Islamic organizations for opposing the American singer Lady Gaga’s concert in the country.

“Lady Gaga has obviously misused symbols of Christianity, such as the cross, in her work,” he said on the sidelines of a meeting with the House of Representatives Commission III overseeing law and human rights, citing Gaga’s song “Judas” as an example.

“We should be praised for what we have done instead of being condemned for threatening religious minority groups,” he added

The FPI and other fellow hard-line groups went to the House’s Commission III on Tuesday to ensure House members supported the police’s decision to ban Gaga’s concert.

House Commission III plans to summon the National Police over the Gaga saga, as well as the escalating violence against minority groups, by the end of this week.

“We are ready to be anybody’s enemy, including the media, if they stand against our effort to combat culture that promotes pornography, as well as satanic values,” Natsir Bachtiar of the Assembly of Indonesian Muslim Young Intellectuals (MIUMI) said. (iwa)

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



Italy-India: Detention of Marines ‘Unacceptable, ‘ Undermines Security

Rome, 23 May (AKI) — Italy’s foreign minister Giulio Terzi has told the United Nations chief that India’s detention of two Italian marines is “unacceptable” and threatens international peace.

During a meeting late on Tuesday with Ban Ki-moon Terzi told the UN secretary-general the situation “endangers common efforts toward international security,” he said in a message on Twitter.

Italy on Friday recalled its ambassador to India on after a court in the southern Indian state of Kerala charged Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone with crimes related to killing the Indian fishermen in February.

Latorre and Girone were been charged with attempted homicide, homicide, criminal association, damages and intent to injure. The marines are being detained in a Kerala prison.

The marines were guarding an Italian tanker from pirates off the Kerala in February when they mistook an Indian fishing vessel for pirates.

Italy claims jurisdiction over the case saying the incident happened in international waters.

India says the shooting occurred in its own territory.

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



Oscar-Winning Acid Attack Film Sparks Controversy in Pakistan

Some of the survivors of acid attacks portrayed in a recent documentary about their fates fear reprisals if the film is broadcast in Pakistan. Acid crime affects hundreds every year.

In February, there was jubilation in Pakistan when Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy became the first Pakistani filmmaker to win an Academy Award. “Saving Face,” Obaid-Chinoy’s 40-minute documentary, is about the victims of acid attacks in Pakistan.

It focuses in particular on two women, Zakia and Rukhsana, who fight to rebuild their lives after being attacked by their husbands, and on the Pakistani-born plastic surgeon Mohammad Jawad who tries to restore people’s faces by using artificial skin substitutes, grafts and other surgical techniques.

“No-one who sees these women could fail to be moved,” the London-based surgeon posted on his blog after the Oscars ceremony. “Each beautiful in their own way, their lives have been destroyed, their faces and bodies disfigured, often by members of their own families. They are the real heroes here. They have been ostracized from society following the terrible attacks that have been inflicted upon them.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Pakistani Clerics: Women With Cell Phones Can be Attacked With Acid, Secular NGO Workers Can be Forcibly ‘Married’ To Local Men

The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) is reporting on a particularly disturbing string of events throughout Pakistan that neither the Pakistani government nor the international community seem in a hurry to condemn.

Not content with terrorizing women with the threat of honor killings, it seems, a Pakistani cleric in the Baluchistan province has issued a fatwa declaring that any woman using a cell phone can justifiably be attacked with acid, while former Pakistani lawmaker and prominent cleric Maulana Abdul Haleem announced that secular women working with NGO’s can becaptured and forcibly “married” to local men if they dare work on women’s education, health, or welfare projects in the district of Kohistan.

Whether the women would be trapped there indefinitely in the conventional meaning of “marriage,” or if it would be a “temporary marriage” that sometimes enables affairs, prostitution, or worse, is unclear.

And according to MEMRI, Maulana Abdul Haleem is not just any cleric and former lawmaker.

“A member of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F) party, [he] is known to have nurtured a generation of Islamic clerics in Pakistan. In 2002 he was elected a Member of the National Assembly, the lower house of the parliament, from the platform of Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), an alliance of religious-political parties cobbled together at the behest of then-Pakistani military ruler General Pervez Musharraf.”

The cleric’s other accomplishments, according to a Pakistani daily, include declaring poppy cultivation in Kohistan to be “in accordance with Islam.”

But despite the obvious danger they invite by speaking out, two women in particular are fighting— even ridiculing— the new declarations.

Fouzia Saeed wrote in an article: “Who will tell the ‘fatwa guys’ that they are nearly an extinct species? Who will tell these men that they need to wake up to 2012…Perhaps they should be kept in a museum with the caption: ‘we used to have people like this who thought work for women was ‘un-Islamic,’ but marrying them by force was ‘Islamic.’ Idiots who thought talking on a cell phone was ‘un-Islamic,’ but throwing acid in women’s faces was ‘Islamic’!”

Another woman, Tazeen Javed, wrote: “[We] are teeming millions of people who cannot feed themselves, have limited access to energy, and will be dumber and weaker in the future because of the stunted mental and physical growth of our children due to the lack of education. At such a juncture in history, amongst us are individuals who issue fatwas and promote misogyny and obscurantism against hygiene, education, health, and progress.”

She continued: “In short, a former legislator issues fatwas during a Friday sermon inciting hatred against [NGO workers] and declaring the constitutional rights of getting an education for half of the population forbidden and no one, barring a few bloggers and tweeters, raises even an eyebrow.”

           — Hat tip: Steen [Return to headlines]



This is Not an Exit Strategy for Afghanistan, It’s a Surrender Strategy

by Con Coughlin

President Barack Obama believes the Afghan war “as we know it” will be over in two years when combat operations are ended. If he really believes that then he is living in cloud cuckoo land. We all know that Mr Obama and David Cameron have lost interest in the Afghan campaign. It’s too costly, and there are no votes in it. So let’s get out at the earliest opportunity and leave the Afghans to clear up their own mess. Hurrah, I hear you say. After more than 400 British dead, and hundreds more seriously wounded , not to mention the mind-boggling $350 billion price tag, the campaign has so far cost, it’s high time we brought home our brave boys and girls and turned our attention to more pressing concerns, such as reviving the economy and making Britain a great nation once more.

But there is one enormous snag to this otherwise commendable plan: the Afghans are not capable of clearing up their own mess, and won’t be in a position to do so for at least a decade. Remember, when all this started, serious military men like General Sir David Richards, now the head of our Armed Forces, and General David Petraeus, the mastermind of the counter-insurgency strategy to defeat Islamist terrorists, warned that this would take at least a decade, if not more. Instead, out of pure political expediency, Messrs Obama and Cameron are running up the white flag before the job is done, and all the hard work and suffering of the past decade could end up being worthless. Not even their own military and Nato advisers agree with the decision they’ve taken at the Chicago summit, warning that there is every likelihood the Taliban and their al-Qaeda allies will be back in control of large parts of Afghanistan once we have withdrawn, with all the implications that will have for our own security.

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Far East


China Warns Australia to Choose “Godfather” — China or U.S.

It is rare in diplomatic circles for governments to speak bluntly, particularly in the Orient, where manners are highly prized.

The exceptions to this rule are retired military officers, who are often able to voice sentiments too impolitic for other channels.

One of the more startling pronouncements in this vein occurred last week when Song Xiaojun, a former senior officer of the People’s Liberation Army, warned that Australia cannot juggle its relationships with the United States and China indefinitely and “Australia has to find a godfather sooner or later. Australia always has to depend on somebody else, whether it is to be the ‘son’ of the US or ‘son’ of China. (It) depends on who is more powerful, and based on the strategic environment.” Noting the rising importance of China as an export market Song added that Australia depended on exporting iron ore to China “to feed itself,” but “Frankly, it has not done well politically.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Fukushima Disaster is ‘Nuclear War Without a War’

(NaturalNews) It has been more than a year now since the massive 9.0-plus magnitude earthquake and corresponding tsunami devastated the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant on the eastern coast of Japan, sending untold amounts of nuclear radiation into the environment. And to this day, the threat of nuclear fallout is ever-present all around the world in what some have described as a “nuclear war without a war.”

Though governments and many media outlets have downplayed the disaster, its aftermath continues to threaten the health and wellbeing of plants, animals and humans not only in Japan, but all around the world. Far worse than Chernobyl, the Fukushima catastrophe truly is a nuclear holocaust event with gradual, long-term consequences that we are only just now beginning to recognize and grasp.

Though the devastation was not delivered in one fell swoop via an atomic bomb, radioactive elements from Fukushima continue to be quietly delivered through air and ocean currents to soils, drinking water supplies, farms, lawns, children’s playgrounds, airplanes and countless other sources. Products made with elements and materials that have been contaminated with radiation, particularly in Japan, are also exposing untold thousands, if not millions, of people to dangerous levels of nuclear radiation.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Japan: Skytree Has Elevator Glitch on First Day

Despite cold and rainy springtime weather Tuesday, Tokyo Skytree attracted thousands of people to the new landmark as the world’s tallest tower opened to the public.

But the first day didn’t go off without a hitch. High winds forced two elevators to halt at around 6 p.m., stranding visitors in the No. 2 observatory, 450 meters above the ground. The elevators soon resumed operations, but at 7:36 p.m. the No. 2 observatory was closed due to the wind.

A total of 200,000 people were expected to visit Tokyo Skytree Town, the complex in which the tower stands in Sumida Ward, on the first day alone. Skytree Town is a commercial complex combining the 634-meter-tall broadcast tower, an aquarium, a planetarium and the Tokyo Solamachi complex, which boasts 312 shops and restaurants.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Kidnapped Fishermen’s Case Angers Chinese Public

The plight of 28 Chinese fishermen, who were kidnapped, robbed, stripped and held for 13 days by North Koreans, has inflamed Chinese public opinion, with many Internet users taking to microblogging sites to question the Beijing government’s close relationship with its reclusive ally in Pyongyang.

But for the moment, experts and diplomats said, the episode seems unlikely to shake China’s alliance with its troublesome neighbor, or to cause Beijing’s Communist authorities to heed Washington’s call to apply more pressure on North Korea.

The fishermen, in three boats, were seized May 8 in waters between the two countries. The ships’ owners said they were in Chinese waters. The Chinese Foreign Ministry did not report the incident for several days.

As the Chinese fishermen were released Sunday and returned this week to the Chinese port of Dalian, emerging details of their captivity have only added to the national sense of indignation. Wang Lijie, the captain of one of the seized fishing boats, said in an interview Wednesday with The Washington Post that five fishermen remained hospitalized, their legs swollen from beatings received during captivity. He described their captors as North Korean sailors, who gave them only grain to eat, stripped them to their underwear, repeatedly beat them severely and drained their boats of fuel before releasing them.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa


University in South Africa Cancels Israeli Deputy Ambassador’s Lecture

(Ahlul Bayt News Agency) — The University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) in South African has cancelled a lecture which was to be given by Israel’s deputy ambassador to the country, Yaakov Finkelstein. The decision was made by UKZN’s deputy vice-chancellor, Professor Joseph Ayee, on Sunday afternoon after coming under pressure from student organisations and academic staff to cancel Finkelstein’s lecture. UKZN School of Social Sciences senior lecturer, Dr Lubna Nadvi, said: “This is a positive and encouraging move by UKZN. Israel is fast becoming a pariah state, like apartheid South Africa did, that no one really wants to be associated with…” Israeli radio claimed that Palestinian supporters’ campaign against Finkelstein’s lecture of the Israeli deputy ambassador to South Africa, Yaakov Finkelstein, according to the Israeli embassy. This is yet another blow to Israel-South Africa relations that have recently become tense after the South Africa’s decision to treat products of the Israeli settlements differently than those of the occupation state.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Immigration


Greece: Incidents Over Presence of Undocumented Migrants

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, MAY 23 — Serious incidents occurred yesterday afternoon in the city of Patras between policemen and inhabitants of the port area, where last Saturday the 29-year-old Greek national Athanasios Lazanas was killed by three undocumented Afghan nationals. For a number of hours members of the far right organisation Chisi Avgi (Golden Dawn), which in the May 6 elections raked in 6.97% of votes and 21 seats in the Parliament, had blocked the entrance to an abandoned building where the migrants had taken refuge, throwing stones and other objects at the police who attempted to get them to leave. Seven civilians and three policemen were slightly injured and damage was done to the vehicles of the police, who detained five people.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Italy: New “Slaves” in the Farms, 16 Arrested

(AGI) Rome — Illegally smuggled in the country, they were forced to work in the fields, ‘prisoners’ of their tormentors, living in squalid conditions. The Lecce ROS has enforced 16 out of 22 arrest warrants issued for the crimes committed in various dates, from January 2009 to March 2010, the summers of 2010 and 2011 and the fall of last year. The investigation has revealed an international criminal network, formed by Italian, Algerian, Tunisian and Sudanese co-conspirators, operating in Apulia, Sicilia, Calabria and Tunisia. The victims were Tunisian e Ghanese nationals.

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



Number of Immigrant Organisations Run Into the Hundreds

An event exhibiting old Somali wedding traditions has been arranged by the Finnish Somali League in the Entresse Public Library in Espoo. The Somali League is one of the large body of immigrant associations in Finland. The number of such organisations is increasing slowly but surely. Miikka Pyykkönen, who has been studying immigrant associations at the University of Jyväskylä, says that the current number of such organisations is about 750, which is 100 more than five years ago.

However, some of the associations exist only on paper. It is impossible to calcuateount the precise number of such organisations. In the past two months alone, at least 14 new immigrant associations have been registered.

These associations form a substantial volunteer reserve, and in practice, they do a lot of social integration work. The organisations brief newcomers on the mysteries of Finnish culture and bureaucracy, provide them with interpretation services, and help them to get acquainted with their first friends in the foreign country.

The immigrant associations receive financial support for example from the state-owned Finnish Slot Machine Association (RAY), ministries, and municipalities. The Somali League of Finland is an umbrella organisation of several Somali NGOs. League Chairman Abdirashid Awad Dirie says that the League looks after the interests of Somalis who live in Finland and gives advice to all Somali newcomers.

According to Awad Dirie, there is a lot of cooperation between the Somali League and Finnish authorities. In Miikka Pyykkönen’s view, this kind of collaboration is the most fruitful possible. “Immigrant associations have a lot of potential leads that the authorities do not. The associations can reach immigrants better, but joint projects work best”, Pyykkönen adds.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Spain: Ministry Bans Indiscriminate Stopping of Migrants

The Interior Ministry is expected on Monday to issue an internal memo to law enforcement bodies to prevent the indiscriminate stopping of people suspected of being illegal migrants.

The memo does not allude to any allegation that has been brought up in the past by NGOs, which say that police are illegally stopping people at bus stops and Metro stations because they appear to be foreign-born.

The ministry’s memo simply tells police officers “to avoid any practice that entails unjust restriction of rights and liberties of migrants.”

For years, NGOs have filed complaints with the Interior Ministry charging that officers were stopping people because of the way they dressed or because of the color of their skin. Interior officials have always denied the allegations.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

General


Lack of Toilets Poses Serious Health Risk

Around 2.6 billion people worldwide live without a toilet. They relieve themselves in latrines, rivers, buckets or behind the next bush — and risk their health. Diarrheal diseases and Cholera can quickly cause death.

In his career as a physician, Dieter Häussinger has traveled extensively. One of his recent lecture tours led the professor of medicine at the University Hospital in Dusseldorf to the Indian metropolis of Calcutta.

As he drove through the city one early morning, he noticed several children squatting on the roadside with their pants pulled down relieving themselves. “This is clearly a way to transmit diseases,” said Häussinger, who heads the gastroenterology, hepatology and infectious diseases clinic at the Dusseldorf hospital.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

News Feed 20120522

Financial Crisis
» Cyprus Concerned by Bank Exposure to Greece
» ECB Official Calls for Eurozone Integration
» EU Statistics Office to Double-Check Spanish Deficit
» Fitch Downgrades Japan
» Greece: No to Austerity and Merkel, Winds of Change, Tsipras
» Greece Bookings Plunge as Germans Holiday Elesewhere
» Italy: Monti Does Not See Another Budget Package on Horizon
» Italy Set to Stay in Recession Until Late 2013, Says OECD
» Portugal Begins EU-IMF Bailout Review
» Sarrazin Strikes Again: German Author Says Berlin is Hostage to Holocaust in Euro Crisis
» Spain: General Strike Against Public Education Cuts
» Spanish Teachers Strike in Face of Education Cuts
» Tax Rates on the Rise in the EU
 
USA
» Baltimore Leaders Increase Security at Inner Harbor
» Foundation Fights ‘Craven’ Auction of Vial Purportedly Containing Reagan’s Blood
» More Families Building Their Own Tornado Shelters
» NASA Hails SpaceX Launch as ‘A New Era’ For Spaceflight
» SpaceX Launches Private Capsule on Historic Trip to Space Station
» Superfuel: Thorium, The Green Energy Source for the Future
» Trusted Travelers Zip Into the United States
» What Will a White-Minority US Look Like?
 
Canada
» Canada, Netherlands Step Up Partnership
 
Europe and the EU
» France: The Burqa and the New Religious Intolerance
» Rapper Faces New Trial for Threatening PVV Leader Geert Wilders
» Robotic Fish Shoal Sniffs Out Pollution in Harbours
» UK: Abu Hamza ‘Changes Name to Escape Past’
» UK: Extension Plan at Islamic School Site
» UK: Mehdi Hasan: Liar Leaves Job
» UK: Staines Renamed After Ali G Embarrassment
 
Mediterranean Union
» Malta: Valletta Joins EuroMed Sme Centre
» Morocco-Spain: Economic Ties Intensify
 
North Africa
» Egypt: Islamo-Christian Violence in Minya: Life Imprisonment for 12 Copts, Eight Muslims Acquitted
» On Eve of Historic Egyptian Vote, Crime Wave is the Main Topic
» Sect or Mainstream Movement?
» Tunisia Vows to Punish Attacks on Alcohol Vendors
 
Israel and the Palestinians
» EU Fed Lies About Israel and West Bank
» Israel Implanting Thousands of ‘Fake’ Jewish Graves Around Aqsa Mosque: Palestinian Group
 
Middle East
» Cypriot President: Turkey Must Recongise Cyprus
» Lebanon’s New Wild Card: Shaker Al-Barjawi
» The Scourge of Araby
» Turkey and Cyprus at Odds Over Gas and Oil Deposits
» Yemen: Missing Spanish Policeman Found Shot Dead
 
Russia
» Business as Usual in the Kremlin
 
Caucasus
» Azerbaijan: Autocracy in an Oil Paradise
 
South Asia
» India Enlists German Help to Dispose of Bhopal Waste
» Indonesia: When Vigilantes Are Morality Police
» Indonesia: Lady Gaga Speaks Out on ‘Censored’ Concert
» Modern, Moderate Malaysian Muftis Mull Maledicting Manji’s Muslim Misrepresentation
» NATO Sets ‘Irreversible’ Roadmap to Withdrawing Troops From Afghanistan
 
Far East
» A Tower of Fun: World’s Tallest Lego Structure Unveiled in South Korea to Mark Toy’s 80th Birthday
 
Australia — Pacific
» Dud Obama Mugs Buried at Parliament
» Psychiatrists Identify ‘Asylum Seeker Syndrome’
» Who is Christopher ‘Badness’ Binse?
» Woman in House With Gunman at Melbourne Siege
 
Sub-Saharan Africa
» U. S. Rules Boko Haram Threat to National Interests
 
Immigration
» Dutch and Iraqi Ministers to Meet to Discuss Ter Apel Protest Camp
» Egypt: 560 Unaccompanied Children Entered Italy in 2011
 
Culture Wars
» Gay Marriage: Advertising Watchdog Accused of Bias Over Chairman’s Campaign Video

Financial Crisis


Cyprus Concerned by Bank Exposure to Greece

Cypriot President Demetris Christofias said discussions are underway on how to protect the island’s second largest bank from Greek exposure. Christofias said the Cyprus Popular Bank is vulnerable to Greece’s financial and political instability. Cyprus aims to recapitalise the bank, reports the Associated Press.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



ECB Official Calls for Eurozone Integration

ECB governing council member Joerg Asmussen said that the “benefits of a currency union are so outstanding” that they should be stabilised by “a fiscal union and banking union as well as a democratic legitimised political union,” reports the Irish Times.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



EU Statistics Office to Double-Check Spanish Deficit

The EU statistical office, Eurostat, will this week send experts to Spain to double-check why the country’s deficit for 2011 is worse than previously declared. The move was confirmed by a commission spokeswoman on Monday (21 May), amid attempts by Spain to convince investors that it is different than Greece.

The Spanish government last week informed Eurostat that an investigation into regional spending, following the passage of a new financial disclosure law, revealed that the 2011 budget deficit is in fact 8.9 percent of GDP. The new number represents almost half a percent more than previously reported and comes after the public deficit was already revised twice in less than six months.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Fitch Downgrades Japan

Fitch Ratings cut Japan’s credit rating Tuesday, citing “growing risks” from the country’s “rising public debt ratios.” Fitch forecast that the Japanese government’s debt will reach 239% of gross domestic product by the end of the year, which would be the highest of any countries rated by Fitch.

Fitch also criticized Japan’s plan to control in its debt as being too “leisurely.” The rating agency downgraded Japan’s long-term foreign and local currency issuer default ratings to A+ from AA and AA-, respectively, with negative outlooks for both.

The yen continued to weaken against the U.S. dollar, falling nearly 0.5% to ¥ 79.70 early Tuesday. The Japanese currency is down nearly 4% against the greenback so far this year.

But the rating agency praised Japan for maintaining “exceptional financing flexibility” and its ability to “fund itself at low nominal yields.” “This funding strength is based on the deep pool of Japanese private sector savings,” said the agency.

Japan has shown resilience in the face of a tsunami-earthquake that devastated part of its coastline last year, killing thousands of people, wiping out entire communities, and triggering the meltdown of a nuclear power plant.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Greece: No to Austerity and Merkel, Winds of Change, Tsipras

Syriza leader meets ‘Gauche’ in Paris, today in Berlin

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, MAY 22 — “Our victory in the elections of June 17 will lead to change across Europe.” And Angela Merkel must understand that the eurozone is a shared place without “tenants or owners.” These statements were made by Alexis Tsipras, leader of the Coalition of the Left (Syriza, radical party), which became Greece’s second-largest party in the elections of May 6. Yesterday he visited to Paris to meet the leader of the Front de Gauche party, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, and the president of the European Left and leader of the Communist party, Pierre Laurent. Today he will have talks in Berlin with Klaus Ernst and Gregor Gysi of the Linke party.

Addressing a large group of journalists in the National Assembly, Tsipras — who is soaring in the polls and who may be the next premier of Greece according to some observers — lashed out against the austerity plan imposed on Greece by the European Union, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and European Central Bank (ECB). The left-wing leader told German Chancellor Angela Merkel that she cannot consider Greece to be a “protectorate” of Germany. “Merkel must understand that she is an equal partner with others in a euro zone that has no tenants and owners.

Greece is a sovereign country and it’s not for Madame Merkel to decide if we hold a referendum or not.” From Berlin, spokesman for Merkel Georg Streiter once again denied that the German leader has suggested to hold a referendum on the euro in Greece.

In Paris, Tsipras also spoke out against the austerity plan of EU, IMF and ECB, the so-called ‘Memorandum’. He insisted on the need to “re-found the European Union on the principles of social cohesion and solidarity. The wind of change is blowing and our victory will be decisive,” he promised.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Greece Bookings Plunge as Germans Holiday Elesewhere

There’s been more bad news for crisis-stricken Greece as a number of German travel companies reported a marked decline in holidaymakers’ bookings. Tourists have become wary of the situation on the ground.

Two more German travel companies on Tuesday reported a steep drop in bookings for Greece, saying they were seeing a 30-percent plunge year-on-year in reservations for the highly indebted Mediterranean nation.

Germany’s second largest carrier, Air Berlin, said more and more tourists were obviously shunning Greece at the moment. “Greece is doing very badly, just like North America,” Chief Executive Hartmut Mehdorn said in a statement on Tuesday.

Mehdorn expressed the hope that the negative trend could be stopped soon, adding that Greece largely depended on a thriving tourism sector to wriggle out of its current financial woes. Tourism has long been a vital source of income in Greece, accounting for about one fifth of gross domestic product (GDP) in the country.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Italy: Monti Does Not See Another Budget Package on Horizon

OECD said additional measures could be required

(see related stories) (ANSA) — Rome, May 22 — Premier Mario Monti said on Tuesday that the government has no plans for another package of spending cuts and tax increases after the OECD suggested further measures could be needed to balance the budget.

“I don’t see another budget package on the horizon to further perfect the public finances and I don’t have any intention to proceed with one,” Monti said.

“Europe is praising us (for our efforts)”.

The OECD said on Tuesday in its latest economic outlook that Italy should be able to balance the budget by 2014 but added that “additional budget measures” could be needed because of the recession and the weakness of other European economies.

Monti has said several times Italy will be close to hitting its target of balancing the budget in 2013 without any additional measures on top of the austerity package of tax hikes and spending cuts approved in December.

The premier welcomed the praise the OECD gave the Italian government for the structural economic reforms, including liberalisations and labour-market measures, it is bringing in to revitalise the economy.

“The OECD comforts us, and comforts Italy, for its overall evaluations of the economic-policy operations and structural reforms,” Monti said.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Italy Set to Stay in Recession Until Late 2013, Says OECD

Downturn to last with European weak and austerity

(ANSA) — Rome, May 22 — The Italian economy is likely to stay in recession for the rest of this year and most of 2013, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) said in a report on Tuesday.

The OECD said the general weakness of European economies and the effects of government austerity meant the country would probably not return to growth until “towards the end of 2013”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Portugal Begins EU-IMF Bailout Review

Portugal began on Tuesday a new review of its 78-billion-euro bailout programme with the IMF and EU, with a minister saying no changes were planned despite rising tensions around Greece. “It will be about putting into action all of the programme, principally the structural reforms,” said Economy Minister Alvaro Santos Pereira. He said carrying out the reforms would “allow us recover the credibility we lost” in the markets.

The talks between Portuguese officials and the international creditors are expected to last two weeks and are key for Portugal getting the next four billion euros out of its bailout, worth $100 billion overall. Portugal has already received nearly 53 billion euros, or 70 percent of the total 78 billion it was promised as part of the rescue package agreed last year.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Sarrazin Strikes Again: German Author Says Berlin is Hostage to Holocaust in Euro Crisis

Germany is Europe’s paymaster because it committed the Holocaust, claims a new book by Thilo Sarrazin, a firebrand author and former board member of the German central bank. The claim by the controversial writer achieved the desired effect of stoking publicity for Tuesday’s launch of ‘Europe Doesn’t Need the Euro.’

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Spain: General Strike Against Public Education Cuts

Protest over gov’t austerity measures to reduce deficit

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, MAY 22 — Over a million workers in the school and university sector and seven and a half million students of all faculties and levels have today been called upon to take part in the general strike of the sector called in Spain by unions, student organisations and parents against the cuts to public education approved by the government to bring down the high public deficit. The protest — which involves all of the country’s regions except for the Basque Country, La Rioja and the Balearic Islands, which have opted for other mobilisation methods — is the first encompassing all levels of public education, from nursery school to university.

Taking part of the main unions of the education sector — FETE-UGT, Fe-CcOo, ANPE, CSIF and STES, which called for a million working in the sector to go on strike, most of whom teachers. The sharp economic crisis and cuts to public spending have hit particularly sensitive sectors like public education, in which unions estimate overall reductions of about 20% of funds, due to the 3 billion euros in cuts approved by decree over the past few weeks by the government as part of the 10 billion in cuts for the 2012-2013 period for public education and healthcare. The aim is to bring the public deficit from 8.9% in 2011 to 3% in 2013.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Spanish Teachers Strike in Face of Education Cuts

In a sign of protest against austerity measures that have meant deep cuts in education, Spanish teachers and students have taken part in a day-long strike. School teachers and their colleagues in universities went on strike across Spain on Tuesday to protest deep cuts to the country’s education sector as part of austerity measures aimed at reining in the country’s public debt.

Some took to the streets in demonstrations, with tombs being erected in front of universities to symbolize the view that the country’s schooling system is dying.

Union officials said all but three of Spain’s 17 regions took part. They say the cuts will put 100,000 substitute teachers out of work. Millions of students were also called on to join the one-day strike.

The cuts in government spending have led to a lack of teachers, larger class sizes, increased university fees, and a declining number of extra-curricular activities. All told, Spain’s regions were told to slash 3 billion euros ($4 billion) from education spending. This was part of a plan to reduce Spain’s public deficit from 8.9 percent to 5.3 percent of its gross domestic product.

The graduation rate for high school students is 74 percent, below the European Union average of 85 percent. The unemployment rate for people under 25 is at 52 percent. Total national unemployment is 24 percent — the highest in the EU.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Tax Rates on the Rise in the EU

Eurostat, the EU’s statistical office, said standard and top personal income tax rates are on the rise. The EU’s average standard VAT rate varies from 15% in Luxembourg to 27% in Hungary. The average top personal income tax rate varies between 56.6% in Sweden to Bulgaria’s 10%.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

USA


Baltimore Leaders Increase Security at Inner Harbor

The rash of fights, stabbings and the beating of a tourist in downtown Baltimore is raising concerns and city leaders are taking action. Mike Hellgren takes a closer look at the security enhancements.

Even the rain couldn’t keep throngs of tourists away from the Inner Harbor. But a string of violence downtown, including a beating caught on tape, groups of fighting teenagers and several stabbings during the St. Patrick’s Day weekend, have police beefing up their presence, including 50 more officers on the streets, new school police patrols to control youth causing problems and better camera technology including clearer, high-definition lenses in the network of 100 cameras with their eyes downtown.

It comes as Baltimore prepares for major events, including Memorial Day weekend, the War of 1812 bicentennial celebration and the Grand Prix.

“You’re going to have issues that happen (with) large groups coming downtown. It’s going to happen in Washington, it’s going to happen in Baltimore, it’s going to happen in Philadelphia. What people have to know is that the Baltimore police department is prepared and we know how to respond to those,” Guglielmi said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Foundation Fights ‘Craven’ Auction of Vial Purportedly Containing Reagan’s Blood

The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation is fighting to stop a British company from auctioning off a vial it claims contains the dried blood of late President Ronald Reagan. The item is up for sale on the website of PFC Auctions, and by Tuesday morning the bid was approaching $12,000. The auction is set to run until Thursday. “If indeed this story is true, it’s a craven act and we will use every legal means to stop its sale or purchase,” foundation director John Heubusch said in a written statement.

The auction site claims the vial was originally obtained by a woman working at a lab in Columbia, Md., in 1981, at the time Reagan was shot by John Hinckley Jr. “Her lab did the bloodwork and testing for President Reagan,” the site says. The woman, who died in 2010, kept the vial — and her son is now trying to sell it.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



More Families Building Their Own Tornado Shelters

When deadly twisters chewed through the South and Midwest in 2011, thousands of people in the killers’ paths had nowhere to hide. Now many of those families are taking an unusual extra step to be ready next time: adding tornado shelters to their homes.

A year after the storms, sales of small residential shelters known as safe rooms are surging across much of the nation, especially in hard-hit communities such as Montgomery and Tuscaloosa in Alabama and in Joplin, Mo., where twisters laid waste to entire neighborhoods.

Manufacturers can barely keep up with demand, and some states are offering grants and other financial incentives to help pay for the added protection and peace of mind.

Tom Cook didn’t need convincing. When a 2008 tornado barreled toward his home in rural southwest Missouri, Cook, his wife and their teenage daughter sought refuge in a bathroom. It wasn’t enough. His wife was killed.

Cook moved to nearby Joplin to rebuild, never imaging he would confront another monster twister. But he had a safe room installed in the garage just in case.

On May 22, Cook and his daughter huddled inside the small steel enclosure while an EF-5 tornado roared outside. They emerged unharmed, although the new house was gone. “It was blown away completely — again,” he said. “The only thing standing was that storm room.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



NASA Hails SpaceX Launch as ‘A New Era’ For Spaceflight

In a pivotal moment for private spaceflight, a towering white rocket lifted a cone-shaped capsule into space early Tuesday on a mission to the International Space Station. SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket carried the unmanned Dragon capsule into space after a 3:44 a.m. EDT launch from Cape Canaveral, Fla., marking the first time a private company has sent a spacecraft to the space station.

The mission is considered the first test of NASA’s plan to outsource space missions to privately funded companies now that its fleet of space shuttles is retired. SpaceX aims to prove to NASA that its Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule are ready to take on the task of hauling cargo — and eventually astronauts — for the space agency.

“Today marks the beginning of a new era in exploration; a private company has launched a spacecraft to the International Space Station that will attempt to dock there for the first time,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden in a speech at the cape. “And while there is a lot of work ahead to successfully complete this mission, we are certainly off to good start.”

In a separate news conference, Elon Musk, SpaceX’s 40-year-old billionaire founder and chief executive, spoke at company headquarters in Hawthorne. It was there that SpaceX employees had gathered, watched and cheered as the Falcon 9 climbed toward the heavens.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



SpaceX Launches Private Capsule on Historic Trip to Space Station

A private space capsule called Dragon soared into the predawn sky Tuesday, riding a pillar of flame like its beastly namesake on a history-making trip to the International Space Station.

The unmanned capsule, built by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX), is the first non-governmental spacecraft to launch to the space station, ushering in a new era of partnership between the public and private spaceflight programs.

“I think this is an example of American entrepreneurship at its best,” said Alan Lindenmoyer, manager of NASA’s commercial crew and cargo program, in a briefing before the launch. About 100 VIP guests were on hand to witness the launch, NASA officials said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Superfuel: Thorium, The Green Energy Source for the Future

Last year’s tsunami-induced nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan, raised concerns about the safety of high-pressure water-cooled nuclear reactors and cast doubt on the future of nuclear power. Uranium-fueled reactors such as the ones at Fukushima pose a number of problems, including the risky disposal of radioactive waste. According to Martin, thorium is a far superior reactor fuel because it is less radioactive and more abundant than uranium and also produces much less waste. This thorough book details the history of research into thorium reactors.

In the 1960s, the United States developed an experimental thorium reactor at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, but the Nixon administration later abandoned the project for budgetary and bureaucratic reasons. Today, the governments of China, India, and Japan are developing thorium reactors, as are private-sector players in South Africa and the United Kingdom. Martin urges the United States to get back into the action, since in his view thorium offers the ideal material for satisfying the world’s burgeoning demand for electricity without relying on fossil fuels.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Trusted Travelers Zip Into the United States

[Note from HRW: Color me skeptical but given the current climate within our Islamophilic administration — such conveniences seem foolhardy.]

Under the harsh lights of the interrogation room a bead of sweat slowly trickled down my forehead.

“You are self-employed? That’s a red flag,” declared Agent “Smith” as he scrutinized my passport and paperwork.

“What is it that you do?” he demanded to know.

“I’m… I’m a journalist,” I stammered.

“And just who do you work for?”

“AAA World … AARP … Consumer Reports.”

He silently scribbled down each outlet. Had I made a horrible mistake? How had I ended up in the Customs & Border Protection Office at Houston’s Bush InterContinental Airport?

Turn back the clock to October 2009. Entering the U.S. Arrivals area at the Houston airport after a trip to Guadalajara, Mexico, I encountered a line longer than the one for the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride at Universal Orlando.

My travel companions and I spent more than an hour making small talk, mostly about the one passport control line travelers breezed through. It wasn’t for hoity-toity dignitaries, but instead savvy Americans enrolled in the Department of Homeland Security’s Global Entry program. High-tech, self-service kiosks at most major U.S. airports scan scan passports and fingerprints of Global Entry members, then send them on their way.

I lucked out and made my airline connection. Most of my pals didn’t. That’s when I vowed, channeling Scarlett O’Hara, “I’ll never be stuck in an immigration line again!”

Soon after, I applied for Global Entry using the Global On-line Enrollment System (GOES). A week later I received an email invitation to “visit an enrollment center within 30 days to complete the process.” With no center at my home airport and the clock ticking, I opted for a trip to Houston where I could combine my interview and a visit with the parental units.

On interview day I followed the “special instructions” received with my confirmation including a phone number to call upon arrival (though darn it, no super-secret password). My mind raced. What if they quizzed me on my answers to application questions? Did I name Pal or Linus as my favorite pet? What was my best subject in school? Lunch?

The officer took me behind locked doors and…

All right already, it wasn’t quite that dramatic. No Law and Order-style grilling. In fact, the CBP officer was really nice. Once he understood I was a globetrotting writer, not some nefarious smuggler, he was thrilled. Really. He said Global Entry is not only good for frequent international travelers, but makes life easier for immigration officers, who’d love shorter lines so they can focus on suspicious-types entering this country.

He asked me to spread the word. Which is exactly what I’m doing, but — nah, nah, nah fellow travelers — no longer in some endless U.S. Arrivals line.

In case you need one more reason to sign up for Global Entry, consider this. In the last few months, airports across the country, in conjunction with TSA and various airlines (like Delta and American, with United to follow soon) are allowing Global Entry members to participate in new Trusted Traveler screenings at major airport security areas.

This program is expanding, meaning Global Entry members can also register their ID number with an airline, in hopes of being selected to bypass those long security lines for a special expedited one. You still have to go through security, but those who have participated in the new program report waits of less than five minutes and often not having to remove shoes or other articles of clothing…

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]



What Will a White-Minority US Look Like?

“The whole complexion of the US is going to get darker — we’re going to look like (bi-racial baseball player) Derek Jeter.” The shift is already apparent in advertising and will become more so, says Howard Buford, president of Prime Access, a multicultural marketing agency in New York.

“A large part of advertising is showing relatable portrayals — ‘people like me’,” he says. “The hair is becoming darker, the skin is becoming darker. That idea of ‘too ethnic’ is going away.” The baby on the Downy fabric softener logo for decades was blond-haired and blue-eyed, he notes. Now, the child has dark hair and eyes and olive skin.

“The best days for America are ahead, not behind us,” he says. “Demographics precipitates economics, and the demographics of the US and the demographics of the continent of the Americas is very good.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Canada


Canada, Netherlands Step Up Partnership

THE HAGUE, 22/05/12 — Canada and the Netherlands are to work together more closely in a number of areas, both political and economic, the Foreign Ministers of the two countries, Baird and Rosenthal, have agreed in Ottawa. The Netherlands will support Canada in concluding the CETA free trade treaty with the EU. The Netherlands is the biggest export market for Canada in the EU after the UK. And the Netherlands is the biggest investor in Canada after the US.

Canada and the Nederland are also stepping up their political cooperation, for example vis-a-vis the Middle East, Iran and in defending freedom of religion and ideology. The two countries are organising a meeting on religious freedom during the United Nations General Assembly in New York in September.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU


France: The Burqa and the New Religious Intolerance

by Martha Nussbaum

In April 2011, a law took effect in France according to which it is illegal to cover the face in any public space, from parks to marketplaces to shops. Although the law does not mention the words “women,” “Muslim,” “burqa,” or even “veil,” it was introduced by then President Nicolas Sarkozy as a ban on Muslim veiling, which, according to him, “imprisons” women and threatens French values of dignity and equality. The new law renders illegal both the burqa and the niqab. (The words are variously used and defined, but typically the burqa is a full-length garment that includes a mesh or gauze screen over the eyes, while the niqab is a face veil with a slit for the eyes, usually worn in conjunction with a full-body covering. From now on I shall use only the term burqa.) Although France is the first country to enact a full ban on the burqa in public space, similar restrictions are being considered all over Europe, and many countries and regions have adopted some type of restriction. What does political philosophy have to say about all these developments? As it turns out, a long philosophical and legal tradition has reflected about similar matters.

[…]

Philosophical principles shape constitutional traditions and the shape of political cultures. I have tried to articulate some important principles behind traditions of religious liberty and equality in both the United States and Europe. Today, a climate of fear and suspicion, directed primarily against Muslims, threatens to derail these admirable commitments. But if we articulate them clearly and see the reasons for them, this may help us oppose these ominous developments.

Martha Nussbaum is the Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics in the Philosophy Department, Law School and Divinity School at the University of Chicago. Her latest book is The New Religious Intolerance: Overcoming the Politics of Fear in an Anxious Age.

[Reader comment by Jack on 22 May 2012 at 3:45:11 pm.]

A very long winded piece of over analysis that totally misses the the point. If the French wished to live in a Muslim country they would simply move there. They have the right to insist that those who come to France to live, live in a French way, not seek to change the day to day experience of the host community. If Muslims wish to follow an Islamic lifestyle, then why did they move to a liberal western country? We did not accept that people who fled the iron curtain set up organizations to spread the spread of communist dictatorships.

As for fear, anybody who spends a little time studying the history of Islamic expansion, the writings in that book touted as holy and the daily acts of violence committed by Muhammad’s followers in his name would be excused for being fearful. Tolerance for a religion that would be outlawed as a dangerous cult except for the number and aggression of its brigade of followers is not logical.

[Reader comment by Carol on 22 May 2012 at 10:24:51 am.]

Martha, your academic approach to this issue is admirable and the text reads well. However, I feel that you have missed the point; this is Australia and our heritage is firmly rooted in the western secular and Christian tradition. From this history, women have been granted, given and have fought for individual freedom to be who we are and the right to live as distinct from men. Advanced, intelligent women do not feel that they must refer to men to make a life though of course most do but on their own terms. Our western democratic way may be flawed but I, as a woman and free thinking citizen, think it golden and you must know that there is no way that Australia will ever take on board Islamic principles on women. This argument is not an intellectual one but is on the level of soul. Freedom is all, it is everything and if you wear your burqua at the behest of a man then you are not free and if you think that God cares that you wear it then perhaps you could investigate the notion of God in a different way.

Many Australians would not be aware that the last time Islam made forays into the west they converted Christians and others by cutting off heads and invading countries. Australia is a land young and free so adopt it. We Aussies keep our religion personal and private and we are secure enough not to force conversions or to take over the world with a misguided interpretation of very dubious scripture. Remove your veil and be seen. One imprisoned women means all of us are.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



Rapper Faces New Trial for Threatening PVV Leader Geert Wilders

A Rotterdam rapper who wrote a text apparently threatening PVV leader Geert Wilders should be retried on the same charges, the High Court ruled on Tuesday.

Mohammed B was found not guilty of threatening the MP with death on appeal, but the High Court said the appeal court failed to argue its decision properly when it dismissed the charges in 2010.

The appeal court had said it was not proven that the rapper had placed the text of the rap with a video clip on YouTube which included the sound of a pistol shot. The CD version does not include the sound of a gun going off.

The text includes the rapper saying it will be ‘bam bam’ if he meets Wilders. The rapper also calls on Wilders to take back his words if he wants to stay alive and says ‘this is no joke. Last night I dreamed I chopped your head off.’

The appeal court ruled that even though Wilders had felt threatened by the combination of words and music, there was no evidence B himself had uploaded the video to YouTube.

However, the High Court said the appeal court had failed to explain properly why B could not be convicted on the basis of the text alone and ordered the case to be heard again.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Robotic Fish Shoal Sniffs Out Pollution in Harbours

There is something unnatural lurking in the waters of the port of Gijon, Spain, and researchers are tracking its every move. It is not some bizarre new form of marine life, but an autonomous robotic fish designed to sense marine pollution, taking to the open waves for the first time.

“With these fish we can find exactly what is causing the pollution and put a stop to it right away,” explains Luke Speller, a scientist at the British technology firm BMT and the leader of SHOAL, a European project involving universities, businesses and the port of Gijon, which have joined forces to create the fish.

Currently the port relies on divers to monitor water quality, which is a lengthy process costing €100,000 per year. The divers take water samples from hundreds of points in the port, then send them off for analysis, with the results taking weeks to return. By contrast, the SHOAL robots would continuously monitor the water, letting the port respond immediately to the causes of pollution, such as a leaking boat or industrial spillage, and work to mitigate its effectsMovie Camera.

The SHOAL fish are one and a half metres long, comparable to the size and shape of a tuna, but their neon-yellow plastic shell means they are unlikely to be mistaken for the real thing. A range of onboard chemical sensors detect lead, copper and other pollutants, along with measuring water salinity. They are driven by a dual-hinged tail capable of making tight turns that would be impossible with a propeller-driven robot.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



UK: Abu Hamza ‘Changes Name to Escape Past’

Radical preacher Abu Hamza is insisting he is called by a new name is an attempt to distance himself from his past, it has been claimed.

He is said to have instructed prison guards to call him by his birth name Mustafa Kamal Mustafa to allow him to shed the “enormous amount of baggage” brought about by his nom de guerre, Abu Hamza al Masri. The newspaper reported a Whitehall source saying: “He is trying to shed the enormous amount of baggage associated with his old name. “He can call himself what he likes officially but he will be forever known as Abu Hamza.” The preacher, who is known for his prosthetic hook, was born Mustafa Kamel Mustafa in Alexandria, Egypt, on April 15, 1958. After studying civil engineering and moving to London to be a nightclub bouncer, he married a British woman and went on to have seven children.

[…]

[JP note: Mustafa laugh.]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: Extension Plan at Islamic School Site

LEADERS of an Islamic school have revealed plans to develop it into a state-of-the-art teaching facility. In February, Bolton Council backed a plan for a group called Masjid Nooor ul Islam to open a community and prayer centre for Islamic teaching at the former Bowling Green pub in Eskrick Street, Halliwell. There is a prayer hall, a meeting room and space for children aged six to 16 to learn Arabic and lessons about prayer and faith between 5pm and 7pm on weekdays.

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: Mehdi Hasan: Liar Leaves Job

by Andrew Gilligan

The New Statesman has today parted company with Mehdi Hasan as its senior editor, politics. Mehdi is an effective polemicist, increasingly beloved of BBC discussion programmes — but the job needed more reporting scruples than he possessed, and his temper sometimes get the better of him. My own experience with this came in November 2010. I’d done something to annoy Mehdi — not that hard — so he accused me (in his New Statesman blog) of a long list of crimes including working for the Iranian state-funded broadcaster, Press TV. “Sources at Press TV tell me Gilligan is among the highest-paid, if not the highest-paid, employee at the channel,” wrote Mehdi, asking: “So, Andrew, when will you quit your lucrative job at Press TV?”

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: Staines Renamed After Ali G Embarrassment

The town used as the launch-pad for Sacha Baron Cohen’s comedy career has opted to change its name to remove the stigma left by Ali G. Councillors in the Surrey town of Staines agreed to rename their home as Staines-upon-Thames, in a bid to shake off the legacy left by the foulmouthed comic character. Celebrations were held in the town on Sunday after the name-change, with a maypole dance and a regatta.

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union


Malta: Valletta Joins EuroMed Sme Centre

Promos initiative for growth. Malta-Italy trade rising

(ANSAmed) — MILAN, MAY 22 — Following yesterday’s signing by the Egyptian investment authority, the Maltese development agency for attracting foreign investment Malta Enterprise has become part of the Euro-Med Centre for SMEs Development, an initiative promoted by Promos to create a network of technical centres for the growth of small and medium enterprises in the Mediterranean region.

Those who have thus far joined the centre are development institutions and agencies from Morocco, Lebanon, Albania, Tunisia, Slovenia, Montenegro and Egypt.

The agreement was made during an Italian-Maltese business forum organised by the Milan Chamber of Commerce to present business opportunities in the country and strengthen cooperation, already positive in terms of commercial relations. Trade grew 17% in 2011 compared to the previous year, with Italian exports rising to 1.4 billion euros. Malta already has 30 Italian firms engaging in productive activities and about 500 businesses, mainly commercial, owned by Italian shareholders. Among the most promising sectors, according to the forum organizers, are the pharmaceutical, maritime (both for tourism and logistics) and energy sectors, especially with as concerns green energy.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Morocco-Spain: Economic Ties Intensify

Rabat Minister in Catalonia to promote investments

(ANSAmed) — RABAT, MAY 21 — The bilateral economic cooperation between Spain and Morocco continues to intensify. The head of the Moroccan government, Abdelilah Benrikane, has gone to Catalonia last weekend to promote the consolidation of the presence of Catalonian investors in the Kingdom.

In this time of economic crisis, Morocco offers enormous investment opportunities to Catalonian and Spanish firms”, said Benkirane during a joint press conference with the President of the Autonomous Community of Catalonia, Artur Mas. Marocco, Benkirane added, is busy promoting cooperation with all Spanish regions, speaking particularly about small and medium enterprises from Catalonia who might wish to begin a partnership with their Moroccan colleagues, in order to develop projects in promising sectors such as in agriculture.

Benkirane then stated he wanted to take advantage of his positive Catalan experience and apply it to the ongoing regionalisation process in Morocco, especially in the field of Health and Education.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

North Africa


Egypt: Islamo-Christian Violence in Minya: Life Imprisonment for 12 Copts, Eight Muslims Acquitted

The conviction for the death of two Muslims, during the assault on a Christian village. At the base of the fighting, a street brawl, which ended with a beating. Activists and legal experts criticized the ruling, which is not appealable. Only the military council has the power to seek a new trial.

Cairo (AsiaNews/Agencies) — An Egyptian court has sentenced 12 Coptic Christians to life imprisonment and acquitted eight Muslims, in a trial heavily criticized by human rights activists and legal experts. The ruling came yesterday, at the end of a trial called to shed light on the sectarian violence last year in the province of Minya, in the southern part of the country, about 220 km from Cairo. Ishak Ibrahim, a researcher and expert on Egyptian law, emphasizes that “the acquittal of the eight Muslim defendants” shows that “the investigations started from the beginning by the attorney general are unfair and wrong” because there was “clear evidence of guilt against them, for having set fire to Christian properties.”

The accused Christians were sentenced for inciting public disorder, possession of illegal weapons and the murder of two Muslims. The incident happened in April 2011 and has helped to exacerbate a situation of deep inter-religious tension in the area of ??Upper Egypt, which then continued in the following weeks (see AsiaNews 06/27/2011 Upper Egypt, violence against Christians on the rise. Eight houses burned).

The violence erupted when a Muslim minibus driver, angered by the presence of a speed bump outside a house owned by a wealthy Christian, got into a fight with the house’s security guards. Upon returning to his home village, the Muslim driver assembled a group of people to get revenge for the alleged wrong and the violence suffered.

The retaliation squad was joined by groups of Islamic extremists, who surrounded the homes of Coptic Christians, intending to launch an attack. In fear of being overwhelmed, the inhabitants opened fire from the roofs of buildings, killing two people in the crowd and wounding two others. In the days following, Muslim groups torched dozens of Christian houses and shops to avenge the dead.

The eight Muslims on trial were accused of illegal possession of weapons and having burned the Christians’ buildings. However, the court ruled for aquittal of the charges.

The judgment delivered by the judges of the State Security Court is not appealable and the 12 Christians risk spending the rest of their lives in prison. Only the military council could — in what is a very remote hypothesis, moreover — request a retrial.

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



On Eve of Historic Egyptian Vote, Crime Wave is the Main Topic

Parts of the ring road encircling the capital are dangerous no-man’s lands, unsafe to drive on, by day or night. Kidnappings and bank robberies are common around the city. And women report sexual assaults by taxi drivers, even in broad daylight.

Across the country, carjackers have grown so bold, they steal their victim’s cellphones and tell them to call back to negotiate for the return of their cars. And in Sharqiya, a rural province in the Nile Delta, villagers have taken the law into their own hands — mutilating and burning the bodies of accused thugs and hanging their corpses from lampposts.

On the eve of the vote to choose Egypt’s first president since the ouster of Hosni Mubarak, this pervasive lawlessness is the biggest change in daily life since the revolution and the most salient issue in the presidential race. Random, violent crime was almost unheard-of when the police state was strong.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Sect or Mainstream Movement?

The Two Faces of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood

The Muslim Brotherhood is the strongest political force in Egypt, which is holding presidential elections this week, yet opinions are divided over the nature of the movement and what it really wants. A visit to Ismailia, the small city on the Suez Canal where the movement began, provides an insight into the Islamists’ goals.

A dredger moves slowly through the glistening, soupy waters of Egypt’s Lake Timsah, also known as Crocodile Lake. A Mubarak doll, dressed in faded jeans and with a noose around its neck, hangs at the jetty for the ferry across the Suez Canal.

If it weren’t for Hassan al-Banna, there wouldn’t be much else to report from Ismailia, a provincial city redolent of eucalyptus, located two hours northeast of Cairo next to Lake Timsah. Banna was a 20-year-old elementary school teacher who came to the city in 1927.

Banna’s arrival in Ismailia marked the beginning of a story that has had as much of an impact on Egypt and the world as the famous canal. It is the story of the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood to become the strongest organized force in political Islam, as well as a powerful player in Egypt, where a new president will be elected on May 23 and 24. One of the key issues in the election is the question of what role Islam will play in the future life of the republic.

Candidate Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh represents, for the first time, a reasonable chance that a former top member of the Brotherhood could assume one of the most powerful offices in the Arab world. For some it would be the culmination of the revolution, but for more secular skeptics it would mark its end.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Tunisia Vows to Punish Attacks on Alcohol Vendors

By Tarek Amara

TUNIS, May 21 (Reuters) — Tunisia’s Islamist-led government said on Monday it would punish conservative Salafi Muslims who attacked alcohol shops in a central town over the weekend, raising religious tensions in the home of the Arab Spring. Clashes broke out after dozens of Salafis armed with sticks and knives raided bars and stores in Sidi Bouzid, where the suicide of a street seller last year sparked Tunisia’s revolution and the Arab Spring uprisings, witnesses said. Shop owners fought back, chasing Salafis to the main mosque and opening fire on them, the witnesses added. Bullet marks could be seen on the wall of the mosque on Monday. “They have crossed all red lines and will be strictly punished … The opening they were granted has ended,” Justice Minister Noureddine Bouheri told Express FM radio station in the first government reaction to the clashes.

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians


EU Fed Lies About Israel and West Bank

On May 14, EU foreign ministers officially condemned Israeli policy in “Area C”, that part of the West Bank under Israel’s responsibility according to the Oslo frameworks. Their words adopt the Arab narrative and are far removed from the complex reality. Such statements reflect the degree to which the EU and its member states have outsourced their policies on Israel and the conflict to a small group of Israeli and Palestinian NGOs. When these ideological NGOs misrepresent reality, it is then reflected in EU rhetoric. As detailed in a new report by NGO Monitor, Highly Sensitive EU Documents Repeat False NGO Claims, between December 2010 and February 2012, six documents from the EU offices were systematically leaked to the media. The documents, dealing with the highly sensitive issues of Jerusalem, the status of Israeli-Arab citizens, violence in the West Bank, and “Area C”, repeat false allegations and distortions by EU-funded NGOs — in some cases, word for word. This echo chamber contains a narrow fringe of the political spectrum, whose influence is artificially enhanced by massive European government funding. Other views, including those from Israel’s elected leadership and civil society representatives of Israeli public opinion, are simply erased from European policy-making on extremely sensitive issues.

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



Israel Implanting Thousands of ‘Fake’ Jewish Graves Around Aqsa Mosque: Palestinian Group

Israel is implanting “thousands of fake” Jewish graves in the land surrounding al-Aqsa Mosque “at the pretext of carrying out repair and maintenance works and new excavations” in a bid to lay hand on Palestinian and Islamic endowment lands, Al-Aqsa Foundation for Endowment and Heritage said in a report on Monday. “The Israeli occupation of Jerusalem is committing a very ugly crime on Palestinian lands, on Muslim endowment lands, and that is the implanting of thousands of fake Jewish graves in this site,” Abdel Majeed Mohammad, of the Aqsa Foundation was quoted in report as saying.

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Middle East


Cypriot President: Turkey Must Recongise Cyprus

Cypriot President Demetris Christofias said on Monday that Turkey needs to recongise Cyprus’ sovereignty. He described Turkey’s position as leaning “towards threats”. Christofias said he intends to unify the island despite Turkey’s “unacceptable attitude”. The northern half of the island is ruled by the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Lebanon’s New Wild Card: Shaker Al-Barjawi

DAMASCUS — The handwriting had been on the wall for weeks, signaling that Lebanon might explode — at any minute. The reason was Syria. For more than a year, battlelines have been clearly drawn between pro-Bashar al-Assad and anti-Assad politicians in Lebanon, with the March 14 Alliance desperate to see regime change in Syria, and Hezbollah and its allies willing to fight until curtain-fall with Syrian officialdom. On Arabic satellite talk shows, members of the two camps had blasted at each other for months, once even getting into a fist-fight live on air.

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



The Scourge of Araby

by Victor Sharpe

In the 1921 hit song, The Sheikh of Araby, there is one line that goes as follows, “…While you’re asleep, into your tent I’ll creep.” Of course the song was referring to the sheikh who romantically pursued the headstrong British heroine who then fell in love with him only to find that he was, in reality, not an Arab at all but the son of a British father and Spanish mother. However, like the sheikh, Islamic triumphalism and jihadi ideology today is creeping more and more into the Arab tent while part of the Arab world and most of the duped West remains asleep.

[…]

With the misnamed Arab Spring infesting Jordan, with the Muslim Brotherhood growing in power inside it, and with the inherent hatred for the Hashemite rule reaching boiling point, it is only a matter of time before that horrible frigid winter blast, which has swept away one Arab regime after another and replaced it with Islamic tyrannies, brushes aside the Jordanian monarchy. Then there will be no excuse to claim that a Palestinian state — one which dwarfs in size the tiny Jewish State of Israel — does not already exist. Interestingly, the Sheikh of Araby was written almost at the same time Britain and France were carving up the Middle East, betraying the terms of the original Palestine Mandate and Jewish aspirations, and creating many new artificial Arab states and Sheikhdoms. The “Sheikh of Araby,” a melodious 1921 hit tune, so beloved of early Jazz musicians, now, some 91 years later has, in geo-political terms, become a discordant and ugly melody better termed, “The Scourge of Araby.”

Victor Sharpe is a freelance writer and author of the trilogy, Politicide: The attempted murder of the Jewish state.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



Turkey and Cyprus at Odds Over Gas and Oil Deposits

Turkey has threatened sanctions against 29 companies bidding to explore for oil and gas deposits off the Cypriot coast, reports AFP. US firm Nobel Energy discovered some 226 billion cubic metres of gas offshore last year. Cypriot President Demetris Christofias said exploration will continue regardless of Ankara’s objections.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Yemen: Missing Spanish Policeman Found Shot Dead

Sanaa, 22 May (AKI) — A policemen from the Spanish embassy in Yemen has been found dead with a gunshot wound to the head in a remote area of the country after he disappeared last week, Spain’s interior ministry said.

The death of 38-year-old Antonio Cejudo was being investigated, the ministry stated.

Cejudo had been stationed in Yemen for two years and is believed to have been dead for several days. His service revolver was found beside his body. The ministry would not say if it was in his holster or on the ground, or whether he may have killed himself.

Spanish daily newspaper El Pais said the alarm was raised when Cejudo failed to arrive in Madrid last Thursday as planned for a holiday.

Italy, France and Germany were among countries assisting Yemeni authorities with the investigation into Cejudo’s disappearance and death, El Pais said.

Spanish authorities were on Tuesday arranging for Cejudo’s body to be repatriated, according to El Pais.

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

Russia


Business as Usual in the Kremlin

Russia’s Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev boasted that he’d brought fresh faces into the new government in Moscow which, he also said, is about change and reform. But why then are old names in all the key positions?

“This is no new start,” commented Hans-Henning Schröder of Berlin’s Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), after Medvedev presented his new cabinet to President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Monday.

Medvedev, who changed places with Putin just two weeks ago, would disagree with Schröder; at least three quarters of the new members in cabinet, Medvedev pointed out, hadn’t been there before.

Fair enough — it’s true that new names are to be seen among the Kremlin’s new ministers. But the key positions — including the foreign, defense, justice and finance ministers — belong to those exact people who held the posts when Putin was president last time around.

Of the ministers who make up the Silovik (Russian for “structures of force”), the term for those ministers who control force, only the interior minister was replaced.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Caucasus


Azerbaijan: Autocracy in an Oil Paradise

Oil is central to Azerbaijan. The former Soviet Republic, in which the Eurovision Song Contest is due to take place at the end of May, is one of the richest countries in the region — but it is also an autocracy.

If it takes a lot of money to put on a good show, then Azerbaijan is surely well-equipped. When the Azerbaijani duo Ell & Nikki triumphed at the Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) in Düsseldorf in 2011, it meant this year’s ESC final would take place in Baku on May 26. The event is a welcome PR exercise for the country, which up to now is probably best known for its oil reserves. It will be one of the most expensive shows in the history of the contest.

Oil production in Azerbaijan began over a century ago when the region was still part of the Russian czardom, and Azerbaijani oil reserves are estimated at 14 billion barrels. Since the country gained independence in 1991, western companies have profited massively from these.

With the so-called “Century Contract” agreed in 1994, Azerbaijan allowed dozens of oil companies, including giants such as BP and Exxon, to exploit the oil fields in the Caspian Sea. According to official figures, around $20 billion (15.7 billion euros) were invested in Azerbaijan in 2011 alone.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

South Asia


India Enlists German Help to Dispose of Bhopal Waste

The Indian government has decided a German agency will dispose of toxic waste that leaked from a Union Carbide plant in central India almost 30 years ago. At least 15,000 have died as a result of the Bhopal gas tragedy.

In 1984, some 3,500 people were immediately killed when a storage tank at Union Carbide India Ltd’s Bhopal factory in central India leaked, spewing methyl isocyanate and other poisonous substances into the surrounding slums.

According to government figures, the total death toll from the pollution and its side effects had climbed to over 15,000 by 2007. Activists place the figure at twice that number. More than 27 years later, there are still 346 metric tons of toxic waste that need to be disposed of in the area around the plant, which was bought by Dow Chemicals in 1999.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Indonesia: When Vigilantes Are Morality Police

by Endy Bayuni

JAKARTA, Indonesia — The stage was already set for battle between the 52,000 Indonesian fans of Lady Gaga, who bought and paid for tickets to see her perform, and the 30,000-strong Islamic Defenders Front, who promised to disrupt her concert in Jakarta scheduled for June 3. Going by the Twitter and Facebook posts this week, the Little Monsters (as fans of the American pop singer call themselves) say they are not intimidated by threats from the FPI, Indonesia’s notoriously violent, self-proclaimed morality police. “If it’s a fight they want, then it’s a fight they’ll get” is essentially the attitude of the mostly young Lady Gaga fans. But now it looks as if the showdown will never materialize. Who blinked? The police. The real ones, paid with taxpayers’ money. Faced with the prospect of an ugly street fight between the two groups, the Jakarta police announced this week it would not issue the permit for the concert at Bung Karno Sports Stadium to take place. The police say they cannot guarantee the security of the concert or the safety of the performers and audience.

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



Indonesia: Lady Gaga Speaks Out on ‘Censored’ Concert

Jakarta, 22 May (AKI/Jakarta Post) — US pop singer Lady Gaga has broken her silence on the long-running drama over her planned Jakarta concert, making note of censorship concerns and threats of violence against her.

After more than a week conflicting statements and international headlines over whether authorities would allow the 3 June concert in Bung Karno Stadium in Jakarta to go ahead, Gaga used her Twitter account, @ladygaga, to provide two brief statements.

“The Jakarta situation is 2-fold: Indonesian authorities demand I censor the show & religious extremist separately, are threatening violence,” she posted on Tuesday. “If the show does go on as scheduled, I will perform the BTWBall [Born This Way Ball] alone.”

One of those authorities is Religious Affairs Minister Suryadharma Ali, who said last week that Gaga “indulges in pornography by wearing revealing costumes” and that she would have a negative influence on young Indonesians.

There are also groups like the Islam Defenders Front (FPI), which has expressed strong opposition to the Grammy Award-winning artist, with one FPI chief, Habib Salim Alatas, saying that Gaga brings “the faith of Satan to our country and thus will destroy the nation’s morals”.

Her ability to perform in the country hinges on whether the National Police issues her a concert permit.

Indonesian law giving the police the power to “to issue a permit for, and monitor activities, involving crowds”.

After saying last week that it would not issue a concert permit for the pop singer, the National Police are now saying that one would be issued if Gaga’s concert promoters can get recommendations from the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) and the Religious Affairs Ministry.

In response to the move made by the National Police, University of Indonesia sociologist Sarlito Wirawan Sarwono has accused police of trying to “make friends” to divert some of the blame over the Lady Gaga controversy.

“Police rarely get support from the community, no matter what they do. So this time they make friends with those institutions so they are not the only ones to be blamed,” he said.

Sarlito said that behind all the Gaga brouhaha lies the competition to show which group had the most power and could benefit from it.

“Unfortunately, we find no role for the state to calm things down and take control of everything,” he said.

Meanwhile, a criminal sociologist from the same university, Muhammad Mustofa, said the inconsistency between the two police forces showed that there was no clear criteria dividing them.

In related development of the concert, The Immigration Office has revealed that American singer Lady Gaga has already obtained a visa to enter Indonesia.

Immigration Office spokesman Maryoto Sumadi said that the visa was issued last month.

“Administrative-wise, every requirement has been met,” Maryoto said on Monday, as quoted by tempo.co.

Maryoto said the singer, whose full name is Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, also had a sponsor for her stay in Jakarta.

“The status of her sponsor is also clear for us,” he said, without elaborating on the sponsor’s identity.

He said that although Gaga has not been barred from entering the country, the Immigration Office cannot provide assurances about her upcoming Jakarta concert as it was up to other government agencies to decide on the event.

More than 52,000 tickets, with prices ranging from Rp 465,000 (US$50.75) to Rp 2.25 million, have been sold for the concert since they went on sale on March 10.

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



Modern, Moderate Malaysian Muftis Mull Maledicting Manji’s Muslim Misrepresentation

Irshad Manji’s expansive and broad-minded Islam is her own creation, with no basis in Islamic tradition. Hugh Fitzgerald said it back in 2008: “Irshad Manji has certainly created her own private Islam. She is the child of Asian refugees from Uganda. She has never lived in a Muslim society. She has always enjoyed the freedoms of the West. But she feels, out of filial piety, and perhaps for other reasons, that she will do best if she continues to identify as a Muslim and if, furthermore, she keeps claiming that Islam itself is or can be made into something perfectly acceptable to people such as herself. She’s wrong. And any apostate, who had been born into and grown up in a society suffused with Islam, would be able to set her right.”

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



NATO Sets ‘Irreversible’ Roadmap to Withdrawing Troops From Afghanistan

Barack Obama and Nato have set an “irreversible” roadmap to “gradually and responsibly” withdraw 130,000 combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

But they also ordered military officers to begin planning a post-2014 mission to focus on training, advising and assisting Afghan troops to ensure the government can ward off a stubborn Taliban insurgency. “As Afghans stand up, they will not stand alone,” Mr Obama told the gathering of more than 50 world leaders, focused on ending a decade of war that has left over 3,000 coalition soldiers and tens of thousands of Afghans dead. Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who attended the talks, sought to reassure nervous allies that the sacrifices made on all sides would not have been vain, maintaining Taliban Islamic militants could not recapture power. “The Taliban may have the ability to launch attacks, to explode IEDs (improvised explosive devices), to send suicide bombers. But for them to come and take over the country and take it backwards, no,” Mr Karzai told CNN. “Afghanistan has moved forward, and Afghanistan will defend itself. And the progress that we have achieved, the Afghan people will not allow it to be put back or reversed.”

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Far East


A Tower of Fun: World’s Tallest Lego Structure Unveiled in South Korea to Mark Toy’s 80th Birthday

The World’s tallest Lego tower has been erected in Seoul, South Korea, built by 4,000 children, using 500,000 bricks and measuring a dizzying 31.9 metres (105ft) high. The toy tower was unveiled on Sunday by Danish Crown Prince Frederik, who laid the final record-breaking brick, as part of a celebration to mark Lego’s 80th birthday. The structure, which stands in front of Seoul’s Olympic Stadium beats the previous record, set in France last October, by just 30 centimetres.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific


Dud Obama Mugs Buried at Parliament

Faulty coffee mugs made to celebrate US president Barack Obama’s Australia visit have been destroyed in a “mafia-style execution”.

The Department of Parliamentary Services had 200 coffee mugs made to sell in the Parliament gift shop ahead of Mr Obama’s planned visit two years ago. But somehow the mugs were ordered with the president’s first name wrongly spelled — with two Rs. A total of 198 of them were subsequently destroyed, but not before a journalist could purchase two.

Bronwyn Graham from the Department of Parliamentary Services (DPS) used Estimates to explain to Labor Senator John Faulkner how and why the dud mugs were crushed. “The mugs were destroyed into fragments,” she said. “They were then disposed of onsite into a planned concrete pour.” “They ended up in a concrete pour? That’s got a touch of the Mafioso about it doesn’t it Senator Hogg?” Senator Faulkner said. “I wouldn’t say that,” president of the Senate, Senator John Hogg responded. Ms Graham says the concrete pour now rests at Parliament. “Senator, the sensitivity associated with the mistake that was made with the president’s name — the last thing we wanted was for the fragments to be found on a garbage tip somewhere,” she said.

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



Psychiatrists Identify ‘Asylum Seeker Syndrome’

A group of Australian psychiatrists has identified a new mental illness syndrome unique to asylum seekers. The group is presenting its evidence on Prolonged Asylum Seekers Syndrome at an international psychiatry conference in Hobart. It was identified after studying the mental health of asylum seekers and refugees living in Melbourne. Major depression was diagnosed in more than 60 per cent of asylum seekers and about 30 per cent of refugees. Associate Professor Suresh Sundram, from the University of Melbourne, says asylum seekers who had their applications rejected repeatedly showed clinical symptoms not seen before.

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



Who is Christopher ‘Badness’ Binse?

Convicted prison escapee Christopher ‘Badness’ Binse, 43, is the gunman currently holed up in a north Melbourne home. Read more about the man who has spent about half his life in prison and more recently, has managed to keep police officers at bay during a lengthy siege that is still unfolding.

Binse is a repeat bank robber and jail escapee, who since the age of 13, has spent most of his life behind bars.

In 2005, he told ABC Radio National he was made a ward of the state as a child. I’d run away and break into cars and steal cars just to sleep, and stuff like that, and that caused me to come into contact with the police, be arrested, and sent to juvenile detention centre. It wasn’t a place I should have been really at the end of the day.

I should have been somewhere else, I should have been sent to a psychiatrist or whatever, or psychologist, to see what was the cause of me running away, it was as simple as that. If they had have addressed the issue then, then I wouldn’t have chosen this path. That didn’t help me at all, if anything it just spiralled things further. I just started to learn more about crime, how to break into other cars, it was education in further crime.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



Woman in House With Gunman at Melbourne Siege

Victorian police have revealed there is a second person in the house at the centre of a Melbourne siege that has been playing out for more than 33 hours. Police say the woman is an acquaintance of Christopher Binse, also known as “Badness”, but will not confirm if she is his girlfriend. Authorities have spoken to the woman and she is not considered a hostage.

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa


U. S. Rules Boko Haram Threat to National Interests

(AGI) Abuja — The U.S. Congress is pressuring President Obama to add Boko Haram to the list of foreign terrorist organisations. Pressure recently came from a group of senators and congressmen who wrote to Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, accusing the government of moving “too slowly” on this issue, stating that “after 9/11 we cannot afford excessive bureaucracy to protect our country and our interest in the world.” The letter from the people’s representatives also spoke of Boko Haram’s attacks on Christian churches in Nigeria and against United Nations headquarters in the capital Abuja in August 2011 when 25 people were killed. The Nigerian army has reported that in the last two days armed commandos linked to Boko Haram have killed four people in Maiduguri, the capital of the federal north eastern state of Borno, the heart and headquarters of the Islamic terrorist group.

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

Immigration


Dutch and Iraqi Ministers to Meet to Discuss Ter Apel Protest Camp

The failed asylum seekers living in a camp outside the Ter Apel refugee centre in Groningen will be offered accommodation until June 15, immigration minister Gerd Leers said on Tuesday. The camp began as a protest against deportation by around 50 Iraqi nationals, but by last week they had been joined by Somalis, Iranians, Eritreans, Azerbaijans and Afghans.

Leers made the offer after telephoning his opposite number in the Iraq government, Dindar Najman Shafiq Duski, according to media reports. Duski agrees with Leers that the Iraqis must return to Iraq and the two are keen to find a solution, the media reports say. The Iraqi minister will be in the Netherlands on June 15 to discuss the matter with his colleague.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Egypt: 560 Unaccompanied Children Entered Italy in 2011

Save the Children research presented in Cairo

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO — In 2011 alone, 560 ‘unaccompanied children’ crossed the sea from Egypt to Italy. Many more could follow their example in 2012. Immigrants continued to arrive from Egypt in constant numbers between September 2011 and January 2012, while the flow from other North African countries has almost come to a halt. These results were revealed by researchers of Save the Children, the organisation that protects children in difficult situations. Save the Children is based in the U.K. and U.S. and has presented a report on Egyptian children and young people who risk their lives to make the voyage to Italy in small boats, under terrible conditions, to look for work. The figures themselves are not very impressive when they are put next to the total numbers of migrants arriving in Italy from various African countries. But they are important considering the national and international protection and rights promised and guaranteed to children, at least in words, allowing them to study, play and develop a balanced personality. “There is nothing here, while there is work over there,” said Sami, 12 years old and Sherif, 13, interviewed in Khamara and Abu Qir, two towns on the sea near Alexandria. Small boats carrying 100 people or more start their journey from these places, some of them never reach their destination. This happened for example to Gharbya, a 17-year-old boy from the Nile Delta, who drowned by the end of April. He was thrown out of the boat off the Sicilian coast and tried to reach the coast, but could not swim. “When they reach Sicily, Calabria or Apulia, most of these children try to go to the three large Italian cities: Rome, Turin and Milan, where Egyptians from Gharbya, Qalyubeya and Assiut have been living there for years. They hope these Egyptians will help them get a better life and find work,” said Carlotta Bellini, who coordinated the research in Italy. But often these “uncles” don’t protect them or even abuse them, forcing them into prostitution for example. If they are lucky they will find a job at the general markets or pizza restaurants, or have to harvest fruit and vegetables on the countryside.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Culture Wars


Gay Marriage: Advertising Watchdog Accused of Bias Over Chairman’s Campaign Video

The Advertising Standards Agency has been accused of bias after its chairman publicly campaigned for gay marriage while it has placed advertisements from opponents of a change in the law under investigation.

The watchdog rejected calls for Lord Smith of Finsbury — the former Labour cabinet minister, Chris Smith — to resign last night but accepted that he had a “conflict of interest” on the matter and therefore would not vote. It emerged last week that the ASA is investigating an advertisement from the Coalition For Marriage (C4M), which campaigns against changing the law, following claims it is “offensive” to homosexual people. Archbishop Cranmer, a popular political and religious blog, was asked to justify carrying the advertisements, which also appeared in a host of other media after 11 complaints to the ASA. It came on the same day as the Law Society banned a conference on marriage due to be addressed by a senior High Court judge because it did not promote same-sex marriage. The advertisements carried on the Cranmer blog promoted the C4M petition, which has attracted more than 500,000 supporters so far, and polling figures suggesting that 70 per cent of people believe marriage should remain between a man and a women.

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

News Feed 20120521

Financial Crisis
» ECB Increasingly Concerned Over Aid to Greek Banks
» EU Summit on Wednesday: Hollande to Confront Merkel on Euro Bonds
» Europe Banks Fear a Flight
» Ex-Banker: German Euro Rescue is Holocaust Guilt
» Greek Firms to Increase Prices Amidst Market Losses
» Hollande to Reiterate Eurobond Proposal in Brussels
» Italy: Man Kills Self, Throws His Two Small Children From Window
» More Airlines Stop Direct Flights to Greece
» Spain: No Need for European Funds to Help Banks
» Tax Burden on Italian Labor Highest in Eurozone
 
USA
» Afghan, 22, Rebuilding Her Life in the U.S. After Having Her Nose Hacked Off in Her Homeland
» Agenda 21 Conspiracy Theory or Threat, Part 1 and 2
» Defense and Debt: NATO Leaders Focus on Funding in Chicago
» Dharun Ravi Sentenced to 30-Day Jail Term in Rutgers Bias Case
» Fourth Protester is Charged With Plotting NATO Attacks
» Frank Gaffney: Bad Timing for L.O.S.T.
» Global Cinema Giant Emerges as Wanda Buys AMC
» Mosque or Mom’s House? Dispute Over Big House in West Miami-Dade
» Obama Has 115. 2 Million in His Coffers
» Obama and the Muslim Brotherhood
» Oldest Fossilized Ink Found in Ancient Squid Cousin
» Telerobotics Offers Third Way for Space Exploration
» The Truth About the U.S. Postal Service
 
Europe and the EU
» David Littman, 1933-2012: He Showed us the Mettle of His Pasture
» Europe’s Largest Solar Telescope Opens in Canary Islands
» France’s New Burqa-Friendly Government
» German Muslim Calls for Murder of German Far-Right Party: Media
» Germany: Islamist Urges ‘Death for Far-Right Party Members’
» Islamic Culture: A Week to Get to Know it Returns to Rome
» Italy: ‘Anti-Politics’ Movement Lands Parma in Election Runoffs
» NATO Declares First Stage of Missile Shield Operational
» Netherlands: Roma Family Offered Housing Dozen Times
» Norway: Sympathy for the Devil: Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Anders Breivik
» Norway Separates Church and State
» Norway: Witness: I Will Not Testify in ‘Twisted Killer’s Show’
» Romania Expects Freeze of EU Aid Payments
» Shafilea Ahmed Case: ‘Sister Saw Parents Commit Murder’
» Suu Kyi to Give Nobel Lecture During Norway Visit
» Sweden Drifting From ‘Swedish Model’: Report
» Switzerland: Court: Anti-Islam Group Must be Protected
» Talent Abounds in Switzerland, Says OECD
» UK: Islam and the Issue of Exploiting Minors
» UK: London Gang Stabs Football Fan to Death After Chelsea FC Win Champions League — and Father is Knifed as He Runs to Help
» UK: Nadine Dorries MP: The Rochdale Girls Were Let Down by the Very Institutions Which Should Have Cared for Them
» UK: Parents ‘Murdered Daughter for Bringing Shame on Family’
» UK: Parents ‘Murdered Their Westernised Teenage Daughter in Front of Her Sister Because They Thought She Was Bringing Shame on the Family’
» UK: Slow Police Response Time for Hammer Attack on Dance Class Father
» UK: The Extraordinary Karma of Gordon Brown
 
Balkans
» Nikolic New President of Serbia, Tadic Acknowledges Defeat
» Serbian Election: The End of the Beginning
 
North Africa
» Muslim Brotherhood Attempting to Disenfranchise Egyptian Christian Voters
» World’s Tallest Mega-Mosque Being Built in Algeria
 
Israel and the Palestinians
» Palestinian Paralympians Visit Jerusalem Holy Site
 
Middle East
» Cyprus: Israel Denies Plan to Send Troops to Island
» Iran Holds the First International Congress on Islamic Humanities
» Iranian Calls for ‘Islamic Awakening’ To Destroy Israel
» Lebanon: Tense Calm in Beirut After Clashes in the Night
» Lebanon: Beirut Gunbattles Leave 2 Dead, Syria Spillover Feared
» Suicide Bombing Hits Yemeni Military Parade Rehearsal
» Syria: Al-Qaeda Aligned Group Claims Northeast Bombing
» US Leads Major War Drill in Jordan — Israel Not Invited
» US Officially Arming Extremists in Syria
» Warnings From Capitol Hill That Iran and Its Terror Proxy, Hizbullah, May be Planning 9/11 Scale Attacks on the United States
» Yemen: Almost 100 Die in Suicide Blast
» Yemen: Soldier Turns Bomber, Killing 96
 
Russia
» Artists Lead Thousands Against Putin in Moscow
 
South Asia
» Al-Qaeda Could ‘Re-Emerge in Afghanistan After NATO Withdrawal’
» Hollande Confirms Early Afghan Pull-Out
» Indonesian Islamists, Joined by Women and Children, Attack (Yet Again) Bekasi Christians
» Nepal: Muslims Call Off Stir
» Pakistan: Christian Couple Acquitted in Lahore Over False Blasphemy Charges
» Pakistan: Dispute Over ‘Slipper’ Claims Four Lives
» Twitter Row Reveals the Trouble With Pakistan
 
Far East
» Fukushima Reactor 4 Poses Massive Global Risk
 
Sub-Saharan Africa
» First Muslim Radio in Nigeria
» Ghana: Rights of Muslims Must be Respected — Ahlussunna
» Nigeria: Lagos Shuts Churches, Mosques Over Noise Pollution
 
Immigration
» Nearly a Million New Immigrants in Germany
» Netherlands: Asylum Seekers’ Protest Camp Grows
 
Culture Wars
» UK: GMP [Greater Manchester Police] Flies Rainbow Flag for IDAHO
 
General
» DARPA Building Very Fast Robotic Hunter-Killers to Chase You Down
» Scientists Create Lethal Bird Flu That is Transmissible Between Humans… Then Tell World How to Fabricate it

Financial Crisis


ECB Increasingly Concerned Over Aid to Greek Banks

The European Central Bank is keeping Greek banks afloat with emergency assistance even though urgently needed banking reforms have been put on hold in the election campaigns. As Greeks withdraw money from the banks amid fears of a euro exit, the ECB’s own risk exposure is mounting.

When the head of Greece’s central bank, George Provopoulos, recently met with his European counterparts, the session turned into a confession. His fellow Greeks had just withdrawn €800 million ($1.022 billion) from their bank accounts, within just a few days. Consequently, at a meeting of the Governing Council of the European Central Bank (ECB) last Tuesday, Provopoulos had to ask for money — once again.

Most Greek banks are currently cut off from the usual ECB lines of credit. They no longer have sufficient collateral. A number of banks are even currently operating without sufficient capital as a risk buffer for their activities. Indeed, Provopoulos had to accept last week that yet another crop of Greek banks were branded as unfit for ECB refinancing.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



EU Summit on Wednesday: Hollande to Confront Merkel on Euro Bonds

French President Hollande will put German Chancellor Merkel under pressure at Wednesday’s EU summit to agree to euro bonds, which she has so far strictly opposed. Italy and Britain are expected to back Hollande in a further sign that Merkel is increasingly isolated in Europe with her austerity plan for saving the euro.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Europe Banks Fear a Flight

The specter of funding problems is once again haunting Europe’s banks. Even after the European Central Bank pumped more than €1 trillion ($1.278 trillion) of cheap three-year loans into hundreds of banks, the Continent’s financial system remains vulnerable to the prospect that stampedes of customers could yank their deposits from institutions perceived as shaky. That threat was shoved into the spotlight last week when customers withdrew more than €700 million from Greek banks in a single day.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Ex-Banker: German Euro Rescue is Holocaust Guilt

Ex-federal banker turned controversy merchant Thilo Sarrazin has attracted fresh outrage with a book claiming Germany’s European policy is driven by guilt for World War II and the Holocaust.

Sarrazin appeared on a state TV talk show on Sunday evening to defend his thesis against former Finance Minister Peer Steinbrück, who overcame his usual reserve and described Sarrazin’s ideas as “bullshit.”

In his new book “Europe Doesn’t Need the Euro” Sarrazin says Germany’s efforts to rescue the euro were “driven by the very German reflex that the Holocaust and World War II will only be finally atoned for when all our other interests, including our money, is in Europe’s hands.”

Both Steinbrück and Sarrazin are members of the centre-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) and both have experience of administering state finances — Steinbrück was German finance minister under Chancellor Angela Merkel from 2005 to 2009, while Sarrazin was finance minister for the state of Berlin from 2002 to 2009, before joining the board of the German Federal Bank.

He was forced to leave this last post in 2010, after publishing the provocative book “Germany Does Away With Itself”, in which he blamed Germany’s immigrant community for the country’s economic and social problems.

Sarrazin describes his new book as an answer to Merkel’s statement, “If the euro fails, then Europe fails,” and said Germany’s export-driven economy did not need the euro.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Greek Firms to Increase Prices Amidst Market Losses

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, MAY 21 — Certain Greek companies couldn’t care less about the financial crisis consequences hurting the average Greek family and are pushing for increases in product prices while the country’s economy sinks in bottomless waters.

Trustworthy information from protothema.gr reports that companies, such as the Fillipou family-owned Elbisco (Yiannis and Kiriakos Phillipou), demand a retail increase of 15% despite the significant reduction of Greek household income. These, as Greek.Reporter website notes, are increases which appear absolutely unjustified due to the labor cost cuts both companies have made and cannot be accepted given the devastated market.

At the same time, it is not only the two famous food industries that want increases but also others, such as Coca Cola, which demands increases of about 5%. The price increases will not stop there, since other Greek companies want to follow in the same steps as Elbisco, arguing that the continued increase in production costs due to taxes imposed on the entire chain make the increase in retail prices unavoidable.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Hollande to Reiterate Eurobond Proposal in Brussels

(AGI) Brussells- French President Francois Hollande will reiterate the proposal for adopting Eurobonds in Brussels.

Despite opposition from Berlin, EU sources confirm this news which Mr Hollande had already put forward at the G8 in Camp David. The French will be able to count on Italian, Spanish and EU Commission support. Today Germany reiterated its opposition to Eurobonds. Berlin has the support of the Netherlands and Finland, the two other triple-A countries in the EU. “This isn’t something which will happen overnight”, said EU sources, “but there is a will to enact a European plan”. Even Slovak President Robert Fico told his MPs that he intends to support the French proposal.

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



Italy: Man Kills Self, Throws His Two Small Children From Window

Man died instantly, children passed away in hospital

(ANSA) — Brescia, May 21 — A man leapt to his death on Monday from a residential building in the northern city of Brescia after killing his two children aged one and four by throwing them out of a window.

Forty-one-year old Marco Turrini died instantly while the two children passed away in hospital. The man, who is said to have argued with his wife beforehand, reportedly attempted unsuccessfully to push his spouse from the balcony before jumping. According to investigators, the unemployed publicist suffered from depression, but had no criminal record or history of violence. One year ago Turrini’s father committed suicide by hanging himself.

Since the beginning of 2012, Italy has seen a wave suicides that are being linked to the widespread economic crisis.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



More Airlines Stop Direct Flights to Greece

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, MAY 21 — One by one, foreign airlines are ceasing their direct flights to Greece and vice versa, realizing these itineraries are unprofitable, as Greek.Reporter website writes. Athens has, during the past two years, lost many of its tourists. International media shows a country with financial problems and possible riots at any time and many visitors are changing their plans and travel to other places, mostly neighboring, such as Turkey and Italy. Athens appears as a capital where demonstrators destroy the city; this unacceptable reaction of the demonstrators takes place only around the Parliament. As a result, the once top European destination with the once flourishing culture has now been transformed into a “must-not” holiday destination.

The country’s high petrol prices and Greece’s small market are also a negative aspect. Globally, however, airlines report a fall in their flight and income. Tony Tyler, Director General and CEO of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), announced that by the end of 2012, the airlines’ income will be 3 billion USD, far less than that of 2011, amounting to 7.9 billion USD. According to Tyler, an additional reason to this significant drop is the excessive taxation imposed by the states. Singapore Airlines company announced few days ago that it ceased routes to Greece. The same happened with American-based Delta Airlines less than a month ago, a company which used to operate services from New York to Athens. The European airlines sector reported similar losses by 2.5 billion USD in 2010. The value of the airline market decreased by 10% for domestic flights and by 90% for the international.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Spain: No Need for European Funds to Help Banks

Bankia, the nationalized Spanish bank which had to reassure savers last week to fend off a reported run on its deposits, needs to strengthen its capital defenses by as much as €7.5 billion ($9.56 billion), the economy minister said Monday.

The minister, Luis de Guindos, said Bankia needed to find around €7 billion to €7.5 billion to meet the Spanish government’s new provisioning requirements designed to strengthen the country’s banking industry against further economic shocks. If Bankia cannot raise the money itself, it will have to tap the state bank rescue fund, FROB. This could increase the government’s bill for keeping Bankia afloat to €12 billion.

Like other banks, Bankia has until June 11 to tell the government how it plans to come up with the money for stronger defenses.

Spain has essentially taken over Bankia by turning a €4.5 billion aid injection made in 2010 into shares in Bankia’s parent company. Many Spanish lenders are heavily exposed to Spain’s imploded real estate bubble, and Bankia is the worst off of all, with €32 billion in toxic assets.

Last week Bankia had to fend off a newspaper report that its savers were rushing to withdraw their funds since the bank was taken over by the government. Its shares dropped as much as 27 per cent on Thursday, before recovering the following day. Bankia’s shares were 2.8 per cent higher in afternoon trading Monday at €1.81.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Tax Burden on Italian Labor Highest in Eurozone

Citizen taxes to go up almost 2%, Eurostat says

(ANSA) — Brussels, May 21 — Italy has the highest tax burden on labor in all the eurozone, European Union statistics bureau Eurostat said Monday. In 2010 the burden on business personnel rose from 42.3% to 42.6% when labor taxes and social-security contributions are combined. The average among the 17 eurozone nations is 34%. Eurostat also said that the tax burden on the general public in Italy is expected to rise from 45.6% to 47.3% in 2012, following a series of tax hikes as part of a government austerity program approved in December.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

USA


Afghan, 22, Rebuilding Her Life in the U.S. After Having Her Nose Hacked Off in Her Homeland

[WARNING: Disturbing content.]

Aesha Mohammadzai was horrifically disfigured and left for dead for trying to flee abusive forced marriage

The 22-year-old fled to America, aged 18, for reconstructive surgery and won political asylum

Aesha now battling to put traumatic past behind her and adapt to her new life

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Agenda 21 Conspiracy Theory or Threat, Part 1 and 2

Those who simply read or quickly scan Agenda 21 are puzzled by our opposition to what they see as a harmless, non-controversial document which they read as voluntary suggestions for preserving natural resources and protecting the environment. Why the fear? What exactly bothers us so much?

The problem is, we who oppose Agenda 21 have read and studied much more than this one document and we’ve connected the dots. Many of us have attended those international meetings, rubbed elbows with the authors and leaders of the advocated policies, and overheard their insider (not for public distribution) comments about their real purpose.

Here are a few examples of those comments made by major leaders of this movement as to the true purpose of the policies coming out of these UN meetings:

[…]

For the past three decades through the United Nations infrastructure, there have been a series of meetings, each producing another document or lynchpin to lay the groundwork for a centralized global economy, judicial system, military, and communications system, leading to what can only be described as a global government. From our study of these events, we have come to the conclusion that Agenda 21 represents the culmination of all of those efforts, indeed representing the step by step blueprint for the full imposition of those goals. Here’s just a sample of these meetings and the documents they produced:

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Defense and Debt: NATO Leaders Focus on Funding in Chicago

NATO leaders gathered in Chicago are faced with an ever-worsening conundrum: How can they cut military expenditures while at the same time boosting the alliance’s military capabilities? The answer is called “Smart Defense,” and critics worry it could result in the weakening of the alliance.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Dharun Ravi Sentenced to 30-Day Jail Term in Rutgers Bias Case

Dharun Ravi, a former Rutgers University student, was sentenced to 30 days in jail by a judge in New Brunswick, N.J., on Monday following his conviction on charges that he had used a webcam to spy on his roommate having sex with another man. Mr. Ravi had faced up to 10 years in prison.

Judge Glenn Berman of Middlesex County Superior Court said that the jail term was for witness- and evidence-tampering and lying to police, and not for Mr. Ravi’s bias crimes against his roommate, Tyler Clementi, who jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge three days after one of the webcam viewings, three weeks into their freshman year in September 2010.

[Return to headlines]



Fourth Protester is Charged With Plotting NATO Attacks

(AGI) Chicago — Four portesters have been charged with terrorism ahead of the Nato summit which is due to get underway on Sunday in Chicago. Sebastian Senakiewicz, 24 , has been charged with one count of terrorism. He was preparing a fire bomb to be launched during the demonstrations, Chicago Police Department spokesman reported. The arrest of Senakiewicz is not directly connected to the other three men who the police caught while making Molotov cocktails, which they were planning to use against President Obama’s re-election campaign headquarters, as well as several Chicago police stations and banks

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



Frank Gaffney: Bad Timing for L.O.S.T.

This week, the Obama administration will roll out its big guns in support of President Obama’s latest assault on American sovereignty and security interests: The UN Law of the Sea Treaty (better known as LOST). Of course, when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey appear before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday, they will appear to be talking about another accord altogether — one that strengthens our sovereignty and is deemed by the U.S. military to be essential to our security.

So which is it?…

           — Hat tip: CSP [Return to headlines]



Global Cinema Giant Emerges as Wanda Buys AMC

In the largest ever takeover of a US company by a Chinese investor, Dalian Wanda Group has bought US cinema chain AMC Entertainment Holdings. The acquisition makes the group the world’s biggest cinema owner.

Dalian Wanda Group will purchase AMC Entertainment Holding for $2.6 billion (2.03 billion euros), and will invest another $500 million to fund “future initiatives,” the Chinese conglomerate said in a statement Monday.

AMC, which is based in Kansas City, United States, operates 346 cinemas in the United States and Canada, while Danlian Wanda Group is a private Chinese property group operating hotels, department stores and tourism businesses, as well as 86 cinemas.

Wanda’s investment is intended to ease AMC’s financial problems created by high debt-servicing costs, as well as to allow major renovations of cinemas, including equipping theatres with the latest 3-D and IMAX technology.

“We have absolute confidence in the future of the company,” said Wanda chairman Wang Jianlin at the signing ceremony, adding that he would support AMC to “become bigger” not only in the US, but in global markets, too.

Wang Jianlin founded Wanda Group in 1988 and was ranked China’s sixth richest men last year, owning a personal fortune of $7.1 billion. The group created revenue of $16.7 billion in 2011.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Mosque or Mom’s House? Dispute Over Big House in West Miami-Dade

A county commissioner thinks a three-story house under construction in his district may not be what it appears. The homeowner says he’s being discriminated against because he’s Muslim.

County Commissioner Javier Souto suspects that a seven-bedroom, 11-bathroom house under construction in his West Miami-Dade district is destined to be used as a religious sanctuary — possibly a mosque. He has complained to the county’s building and zoning departments. He flagged the inspector general, the state attorney and the governor. He also urged his colleagues to initiate an investigation and issue subpoenas. But property owner Samir Ghazal says he’s just building a house for his mother — an 8,190-square-foot house, featuring a nearly two-story high, Moorish-style arch over the front door. The dispute came to a head last week, when Souto, grilling county administrators about the house, said he smells corruption and wants drastic action. I want somebody to go to jail here,” he said. Ghazal says racial and religious intolerance — not the house size — are driving the complaints. “I think it’s discrimination, when two blocks away there’s a lady who built a house, same size, and she’s a white Cuban. I think it’s because my mother is a black Cuban,” said Ghazal, 36. “Because I practice Islam.” Administrators say the three-story Westwood Lakes house, while dwarfing neighboring one-story homes, follows the county’s building and zoning codes. Ghazal insists the house will be just that — a home — and not a mosque.

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



Obama Has 115. 2 Million in His Coffers

(AGI) Washington — Barack Obama is sitting on a little treasure of 115,2 mln Dlrs. This is despite Wall Street’s big funders stopped financing him in 2006. This is what the fund amounts to according to the Federal Election Commission data updated to the 30th of April.

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



Obama and the Muslim Brotherhood

(AMERICAN THINKER) — On July 2, 2011, Rep. Trent Franks, a member of the House Committee on Armed Services, denounced the Obama administration’s policy of “limited contacts” with Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood. Franks emphatically stated that “the [Obama] administration is fooling themselves as well as placing the United States and Israel in severe danger if they fail to recognize the fallout that would stem from the Muslim Brotherhood gaining significant and newfound influence in Egyptian policies following the September elections.”

Completely ignoring this grave security risk, Obama enlarged the “limited contact” to a full public endorsement of a group whose codified aim is to murder Jews, exterminate Israel, and infiltrate the West and destroy it from within. According to Discover the Networks, Muslim Brotherhood operative Mohamed Akram espoused the “common goal of dismantling American institutions and turning the U.S. into a Muslim nation.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Oldest Fossilized Ink Found in Ancient Squid Cousin

The oldest fossilized pigment ever found has been discovered inside the preserved ink sacs of an ancient cuttlefish ancestor.

The ink sacs belonged to a cephalopod, the group that includes squid, octopus and cuttlefish, 160 million years ago, during the Jurassic era. The molecular structure of the ancient ink is surprisingly similar to that of modern cuttlefish Sepia officinalis, said study researcher John Simon, a professor of chemistry at the University of Virginia.

“They’re essentially indistinguishable,” Simon told LiveScience.

Previous studies have turned up tiny structures in everything from fossil fish eyes to dinosaur feathers containing the dark brown or black pigment melanin. But it can be tough to tell pigment structures, called melanosomes, from fossilized bacteria. Simon and his colleagues used a barrage of chemical tests to examine two fossil ink sacs found in the United Kingdom. These tests gave them a remarkably detailed look at the molecular makeup of the ink sacs’ contents.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Telerobotics Offers Third Way for Space Exploration

SPACE exploration may have a new direction. In the 1960s, humans did the exploring but since the last moon landing in 1972, NASA’s only explorers beyond low Earth orbit have been semi-autonomous robots. Now the agency is pondering a third approach, sending astronauts who would remain in orbit around alien worlds and explore via robotic rovers.

On Earth, human-controlled robots are used for tasks ranging from delicate surgery to exploration of the deep sea. But in space, robotic “telepresence” could be even more promising.

Telerobotics would be orders of magnitude more productive for exploration than semi-autonomous robots like the Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity, says NASA’s George Schmidt, an organiser of the Exploration Telerobotics Symposium earlier this month at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “Nothing beats having human cognition and dexterity in the field,” he says.

But there is a hitch in trying to control from Earth a robot that’s exploring another planet: the huge time lag as the signals travel back and forth. Real-time reactions are needed for it to work. For example, surgeons can perform operations well as long as the robot responds to their actions within about half a second. Greater latencies cause problems.

Latency on Earth is no more than a few hundred milliseconds, but latency between the Earth and moon is about 3 seconds, and that delay is enough to slow telerobotics dramatically, says Daniel Lester of the University of Texas at Austin, another organiser of the symposium. “You could use telepresence to tie a knot in 30 seconds on Earth, but it would take 10 minutes to tie it with 3-second latency.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



The Truth About the U.S. Postal Service

Since 1971, the postal service has not taken a dime from taxpayers. All of its operations — including the remarkable convenience of 32,000 local post offices — are paid for by peddling stamps and other products.

The privatizers squawk that USPS has gone some $13 billion in the hole during the past four years — a private corporation would go broke with that record! (Actually, private corporations tend to go to Washington rather than go broke, getting taxpayer bailouts to cover their losses.) The Postal Service is NOT broke. Indeed, in those four years of loudly deplored “losses,” the service actually produced a $700 million operational profit (despite the worst economy since the Great Depression).

What’s going on here?

In 2006, the Bush White House and Congress whacked the post office with the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act — an incredible piece of ugliness requiring the agency to PRE-PAY the health care benefits not only of current employees, but also of all employees who’ll retire during the next 75 years. Yes, that includes employees who’re not yet born!

No other agency and no corporation has to do this. Worse, this ridiculous law demands that USPS fully fund this seven-decade burden by 2016. Imagine the shrieks of outrage if Congress tried to slap FedEx or other private firms with such an onerous requirement.

This politically motivated mandate is costing the Postal Service $5.5 billion a year — money taken right out of postage revenue that could be going to services. That’s the real source of the “financial crisis” squeezing America’s post offices.

In addition, due to a 40-year-old accounting error, the federal Office of Personnel Management has overcharged the post office by as much as $80 billion for payments into the Civil Service Retirement System. This means that USPS has had billions of its sales dollars erroneously diverted into the treasury. Restore the agency’s access to its own postage money, and the impending “collapse” goes away.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU


David Littman, 1933-2012: He Showed us the Mettle of His Pasture

By Andrew Bostom

My friend and generous mentor, the historian and fearless human rights activist, David Gerald Littman, died yesterday, May 20, 2012, succumbing to acute myelogenous leukemia, after a stoic, typically intrepid struggle.

In addition to amassing own his unique and prodigious output, David was a devoted husband and champion of the pioneering scholarship of his wife of 53 years, Gisele Orebi, better known under her nom de plume, Bat Ye’or [2]. Despite stultifying modern taboos, together, the Littmans worked indefatigably to educate humanity—non-Muslim and Muslim, alike—about the genocidal living legacy of jihadism [3].

David’s remarkable personal biography [4] melded first-rate, original scholarship, with uniquely erudite and brave activism—combined efforts spanning over 50 years.

For example, Littman was the driving force behind the daring 1961 Operation Mural (chronicled in this 55 minute documentary [5]). Mural was Mossad’s code-name for David whose cover was a public-school-educated Anglican gentleman, a cordial tennis partner with the British consul, and also possessing excellent security contacts in Casablanca. David Littman successfully completed the mission: defying the Moroccan ban on Jews wishing to emigrate to Israel, he smuggled 530 Jewish children out of Morocco to what the Moroccan authorities thought was a holiday camp in Switzerland—in reality, a mere way-station to their permanent re-location to Israel.

Ever resilient, David Littman overcame a speech defect (i.e., stuttering), and developed into a truly gifted orator, who made countless presentations [6] to the Orwellian-named UN Human Rights Commission (UN-HRC). These frequently memorable appearances showcased David’s erudition, valor, and wry sense of humor, while he tackled vexing and critically important issues—cynically ignored by all other UN-HRC representatives in there monomaniacal focus on Israel’s putative “abuses”—including: the first public exposures of Hamas’ 1988 charter sanctioning the jihad genocide of Israeli Jews, the related heinous advocacy by Islamic religious clerics of jihad “martyrdom operations,” i.e., homicide bombings, which included the deliberate targeting of non-combatants, and Iran’s nuclear jihad genocidal aspirations toward Israel; highlighting the scourge of female genital mutilation, and its specific sanctioning, for example, by the Shafiite school of Sunni Islamic “jurisprudence,” which helped elucidate, unapologetically, why this misogynistic barbarity was an overwhelming problem in Islamdom; and the repeated exposure of mainstream institutional Islam’s efforts—via the Organization of the Islamic Conference (now Organization of Islamic Cooperation)—to impose Sharia-sanctioned abrogation of freedom of conscience and speech and nullify modern human rights constructs, founded upon the US Bill of Rights and the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

As a trained historian, and meticulous independent scholar, David was equally bold and original…

           — Hat tip: Andy Bostom [Return to headlines]



Europe’s Largest Solar Telescope Opens in Canary Islands

A powerful solar telescope billed as the largest in Europe opened Monday on Spain’s Canary Islands which scientists say will allow them to study the sun in unprecedented detail.

With a mirror diametre of 1.5 metres (4.9 feet), the Gregor telescope will be able to show structures on the sun on scales as small as 70 kilometres (43.5 miles), the Astrophysical Institute of the Canary Islands said in a statement.

The telescope was built on the island of Tenerife at a cost of 12.85 million euros ($16.4 million) by a German consortium led by the Kiepenheuer Institute for Solar Physics in Freiburg which covered the majority of the expense.

“Its advanced technology will allow the scientific community — Spanish, German and international — to study the sun in an unprecedented level of detail,” the statement said.

In addition to the large diametre of its mirror, the telescope features a retractable roof that prevents air turbulence in its optical path which allows it to deliver “images of a sharpness that up until now no terrestrial solar telescope has ever obtained.”

The solar telescope is the largest in Europe and the third largest in the world, the institute said. “Gregor was built mainly to study physical processes on the surface of the sun,” said Oskar von der Luhe, the director of the Kiepenheuer Institute.

“In these layers we see how energy from its interior emerges and then is launched into space, and on some occasions, reaches the Earth,” he added. Named after 17th century Scottish mathematician and astronomer James Gregory, the telescope will be used at night to observe stars.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



France’s New Burqa-Friendly Government

Posted by Daniel Greenfield

Francois Hollande may be the first Muslim-elected president of France. With an estimated 93 percent of Muslim voters casting their ballots for Hollande, in a close election, their numbers may have made the difference between victory and defeat. The makeup of France’s new government reflects the debt that Hollande owes to his Muslim voters.

Hollande had said during the campaign that he would uphold the law on the burqa ban, with the caveat that he would apply it in the best ways possible-a statement which leaves plenty of wriggle room for minimizing enforcement. And his appointment of Christiane Taubira as Justice Minister suggests that soon enough Mademoiselle Liberty will don the burqa.

Taubira, a Guyanese radical leftist, who despite being appointed Justice Minister has no law degree, voted against the law banning hijabs in schools- one of only a handful of members of the National Assembly to do so. She did not cast a vote at all on the 2010 burqa ban, but this year she signed on to an MTE petition on behalf of “veiled mothers” which denounced the “endless series of offenses” against Muslims, a list which included the “anti-headscarf law” and “anti-niqab legislation.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



German Muslim Calls for Murder of German Far-Right Party: Media

BERLIN: A conservative German Muslim is calling for the murder of members of a far-right party that regularly provokes ultra-conservative Muslims using cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed (pbuh), a newspaper reported. According to an article due to appear Monday in the Tageszeitung daily, a conservative Muslim from Bonn in western Germany has appeared in a video on an Islamic forum in which he encouraged “the killing of all activists from the Pro NRW party”. Members of the small extreme-right political party held a campaign event using anti-Islamic caricatures ahead of an election in Germany’s most populous state North Rhine-Westphalia on May 13. In his appeal, he urged the collection of personal information on Pro NRW members, including their home addresses and work schedules, with the goal of attacking them.

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



Germany: Islamist Urges ‘Death for Far-Right Party Members’

A German Islamist has called for the murder of members of a far-right party that regularly provokes ultra-conservative Muslims using cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.

The taz newspaper reported on Monday that an Islamist from Bonn, western Germany, appeared in a video on an Islamic forum in which he encouraged “the killing of all activists from the Pro NRW party”.

Members of the small extreme-right political party held a campaign event using anti-Muslim caricatures ahead of an election in Germany’s most populous state North Rhine-Westphalia on May 13.

In his appeal, the Islamist urged the collection of personal information on Pro NRW members, including their home addresses and work schedules, with the goal of attacking them.

“We take this message seriously,” an interior ministry spokesman told the newspaper, which said the man had broadcast messages for the “Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan”.

Several police were injured during recent clashes between Islamists and Pro NRW members.

The right-wing activists have for several years campaigned against the construction of mosques and have in some protests marched with cartoons of Mohammed that were initially published by a Danish newspaper in 2005, leading to a wave of violence and anger across the Muslim world.

Islam strictly prohibits the depiction of any prophet as blasphemous.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Islamic Culture: A Week to Get to Know it Returns to Rome

(ANSAmed) — ROME — Getting to know the culture of Islam as part of the dialogue between peoples and different religions: in this spirit the ‘Week of Islamic Culture’ will re-open in Rome between May 20 and 28. In the Capitoline Museum, the Museum of Rome, in libraries and in theatres, in the Great Mosque and in other Islamic centres round tables, exhibitions, book presentations, film reviews, contemporary art installations, musical evenings and tastings of Halal cuisine have been scheduled. This year’s featured countries are the nations of the Gulf.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Italy: ‘Anti-Politics’ Movement Lands Parma in Election Runoffs

Centre-left perform well elsewhere, League meltdown continues

(ANSA) — Rome, May 21 — The so-called anti-politics Five Star movement of comedian Beppe Grillo pulled off a major coup on Monday when its candidate was elected mayor of Parma in a runoff with the centre-left’s representative.

Federico Pizzarotti prevailed with just over 60% of the votes for the grassroots movement, which also won a number of runoffs in smaller towns after making big gains in the first round of local elections earlier this month.

“Parma goes to Five Stars,” said Grillo, who is opposed to the current party system and has called for Italy to leave the euro, via Twitter.

The outcome is likely to be seen as a major protest vote against Premier Mario Monti’s austerity measures and a sign of frustration with Italy’s political class as a whole. Former Silvio Berlusconi’s centre-right People of Freedom (PdL) party, which support Monti’s emergency administration of technocrats, suffered a series of heavy defeats in the first round two weeks ago.

The Third Pole, a coalition of centrist parties that form the other main group supporting Monti, also performed badly.

The centre-left Democratic Party (PD) was the only one of the three big groups backing Monti to see its support hold up.

Aside from Parma, the PD did well, with candidates it backed winning the runoffs in Genoa and L’Aquila and many smaller towns.

“Of the 177 towns voting with under 15,000 inhabitants, we won in 92,” said PD leader Pier Luigi Bersani. “We won, no ifs and no buts”.

However the PD-backed man lost the contest in Palermo to former mayor Leoluca Orlando, who was representing a smaller centre-left party, Italy of Values (IDV).

The Northern League, which until November was allied with the PdL in government, was clobbered by voters again in the wake of a corruption scandal that caused Umberto Bossi to resign as leader last month.

The populist party lost all seven of the towns where it was involved in run-offs.

As in the first round of voting, which affected almost 1,000 Italian cities and towns, turnout was down in the runoffs.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



NATO Declares First Stage of Missile Shield Operational

The 28 NATO allies have moved the first stage of their joint missile shield into place over Russian objections. The allies have also unveiled plans to pool their resources in order to make up for defense budget cuts.

The NATO allies on Sunday announced that the first stage of a European missile defense shield had become operational, despite Russian objections to the project and threats of retaliatory steps.

US President Barack Obama declared during the Western military alliance’s summit meeting in Chicago that the missile shield had an “interim capability.” The operational first stage of the shield consists of a radar facility in Turkey and US ships with anti-missile interceptors in the Mediterranean Sea. The command and control center is located in Ramstein, Germany.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Netherlands: Roma Family Offered Housing Dozen Times

A Roma gypsy family living in the Dutch city of Utrecht has been offered housing at least 13 times over the last 30 years, Dutch daily reports.

The family were evicted at least five times due to disorderly conduct or rent arrears. The housing offered included houses four times, hotels twice, bungalows or a camping seven times, the newspaper says quoting documents it obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. Earlier this week, it emerged the municipality had paid 29,000 euros to house the family in various locations. The family are said to have repaid 12,000 euros. The family have had no fixed abode since 2009, when disorderly conduct led to their eviction from a flat.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Norway: Sympathy for the Devil: Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Anders Breivik

(HT Politblogger) Darling of the Islamophobic right, fellow at the neo-conservative American Enterprise Institute and serial liar Ayaan Hirsi Ali was in Berlin last week to receive the Axel Springer Honorary Prize. In her acceptance speech, which was delivered in English, she attacked the “advocates of silence” who censor the truth about Islam and the Muslim extremists who are destroying Europe:

The advocates of silence warn us that publishing these facts or debating them in the media and in parliament will transform the existing resentment towards Muslims into violent behavior. Censorship and silence, we are told, are the best preventive remedies against hatred and violence. I believe that the advocates of silence are wrong, profoundly and dangerously wrong.

Just who these “advocates of silence” are Ayaan Hirsi Ali never says, but presumably they are anyone who rejects hate speech against Muslims or anyone who proposes peaceful dialogue and reconciliation among different faiths. But Ayaan Hirsi Ali has a great deal of understanding for mass murder Anders Behring Breivik, who was forced to kill 77 mostly young people because of the treachery of the “advocates of silence”:

Fourthly and finally, that one man who killed 77 people in Norway, because he fears that Europe will be overrun by Islam, may have cited the work of those who speak and write against political Islam in Europe and America — myself among them — but he does not say in his 1500 page manifesto that it was these people who inspired him to kill. He says very clearly that it was the advocates of silence. Because all outlets to express his views were censored, he says, he had no other choice but to use violence.

Yes, the “advocates of silence” left Breivik with no other choice than to hunt down teenagers systematically. Who wouldn’t be driven to desperate acts by this terrible “leftist” conspiracy? Maybe because Ayaan Hirsi Ali was speaking English her words didn’t provoke outrage among the German listeners. On the contrary, her speech was met with a prolonged standing ovation. The first to leap to his feet and clap was the writer Henryk Broder — cited by Anders Behring Breivik numerous times in his manifesto as an inspiration.

Fortunately for us, however, a voice of reason was in the audience, and his reaction was reported in Cicero:

“Träume ich oder passiert das gerade wirklich?”, fragt raunend Daniel Gerlach, Chefredakteur der Zeitschrift Zenith, der im Publikum sitzt. “So reden rechtsradikale Verschwörungstheoretiker. Das ist der Gipfel, den Massenmord durch Breivik damit zu erklären, dass die islamische Gefahr in Europa von dunklen Mächten verschwiegen worden sei.” Gerlach scheint einer der wenigen Zuhörer im vollbesetzten Festsaal zu sein, die über die Rede entsetzt sind.

(Am I dreaming, or did this really just happen?” asked an astonished Daniel Gerlach, editor-in-chief for the magazine Zenith, who was sitting in the audience.”This is how right-wing conspiracy theory believers talk. This really takes the cake, explaining Breivik’s murderous rampage as the result of mysterious dark powers keeping quiet about the dangers of Islam in Europe.” Gerlach seems to be one of the few listeners in the packed hall who is shocked by the speech.)

In his 1500-page manifesto, Breivik expresses his deep admiration for Ayaan Hirsi Ali, writing that she deserves the Nobel Prize. For the time being, she will have to make do with the Axel Springer Bild-Zeitung Prize.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



Norway Separates Church and State

The Norwegian parliament has voted to abolish the state church, a decision which is set to be confirmed in a constitutional amendment on Monday. The vote last Wednesday was backed by parties across the political spectrum and has the effect of severing the connection between Norway and the Church of Norway, making Norway a secular state.

Svein Arne Lindø, chair of the church council, welcomed the decision which is the result of an agreement signed between the government and the church in 2008. “Once the decision to change the constitution is made on Monday, it will be a great day for us. It’s a great day for both church and country,” he told state news agency NRK.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Norway: Witness: I Will Not Testify in ‘Twisted Killer’s Show’

Norwegian author and historian Hanne Nabintu Herland has refused a court summons to testify in the trial of Anders Behring Breivik, saying that she would rather be imprisoned than ‘run the gauntlet’.

Hanne Nabintu Herland has stated that she has refused a court summons to testify as a witness in the terror case against Anders Behring Breivik, accusing the killer’s defence counsel of ‘calling in people with so-called media appeal in an attempt to generate sympathy’.

In an article in the Aftenposten daily on Monday, Herland explained her position and confirmed that she has informed the Oslo District Court of her decision.

“If it means that I am dragged to prison, then they can very well turn me into a political martyr. I refuse either way to run the gauntlet in the twisted killer’s show where he and his lawyers call in people with so-called ‘media appeal’ in the attempt to generate the killer sympathy,” Nabintu Herland wrote.

The well-known author and debater argued that the summons against her serves no purpose for the outcome of the trial. “I was not in Norway on July 22nd. My testimony has no bearing on the question of guilt or sanity. I am neither a forensic psychiatrist, lawyer nor terrorism expert,” she argued.

In her article, entitled “Political witch-hunt”, Nabintu Herrland claims that Norway is in the grip of a “crude tug of war” in which those opposed to the Labour Party (Arbeiderpartiet) are treated with suspicion. “As it is now, it almost such that if you are critical of the Labour Party, then you are automatically put in the same category as a mass murderer,” she claimed.

She continued to argue that political debate is becoming stifled in Norway, going as far as to claim that “we are well on our way to becoming the new East Germany, where intolerant socialists man the front line”.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Romania Expects Freeze of EU Aid Payments

(BUCHAREST) — Romania is expecting the European Commission to freeze funding for human resources development programmes amid concerns of irregularities, the government said Monday.

“It is likely that the European Commission will decide to suspend payments in the coming days”, the minister for European Affairs Leonard Orban told AFP after a joint press statement with Prime minister Victor Ponta.

An audit by the European Commission which has not been made public yet is expected to show irregularities in the evaluation and eligibility of the programmes, he added.

If Brussels decides to suspend funding, Romania could lose 100 million euros this year and more than one billion euros next year. “I hope we will be able to improve the situation before the end of this year”, Prime Minister Victor Ponta told reporters.

On February 20, Brussels already halted funding after the Romanian auditing authority found irregularities in the management of the human resources development programme, worth a total of 3.5 billion euros ($4.6 billion).

But payments resumed in April pending further checks.

Romania, one of the poorest EU countries, can use up to 20 billion euros in European aid between 2007 and 2013 in order to catch up with the more advanced bloc members.

So far barely 6.3 percent of this amount has been used, official figures show. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) said the use of European Union funds should be a priority to stimulate growth in Romania.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Shafilea Ahmed Case: ‘Sister Saw Parents Commit Murder’

The sister of a Cheshire schoolgirl who went missing in 2003 saw their parents kill her, a court has heard.

Iftikhar Ahmed, 52 and Farzana Ahmed, 49, of Warrington, deny the murder of 17-year-old Shafilea, whose remains were found in Cumbria in February 2004.

At the start of their trial at Chester Crown Court, the jury heard Alesha Ahmed witnessed the killing.

The prosecution allege Mr and Mrs Ahmed killed their daughter because she refused to obey them.

Andrew Edis QC said the couple believed Shafilea’s conduct was bringing shame on the family.

Opening the case against them, he said: “The defendants, having spent the best part of 12 months trying to really crush her, realised they were never going to be able to succeed and finally killed her because her conduct dishonoured the family, bringing shame on them.”

He said they embarked on a “campaign of domestic violence to force her to conform”.

Mr Edis said: “The prosecution alleges that she (Shafilea) was murdered by the two defendants, her parents, at the family home on the night of September 11/12, September 2003. She was 17 years old.”

He said the case had taken a “very long time” to be brought to trial because it was not until August 2010 that a witness to the crime came forward.

“This witness is Alesha Ahmed, Shafilea’s younger sister,” he said.

The court heard how Alesha had kept quiet for seven years and only told police after she was arrested for taking part in a robbery at her parents’ home in Liverpool Road, Warrington.

Mr Edis said Alesha witnessed the killing of her sister by their parents “acting together”.

“This evidence was the final piece of the puzzle which the police had been trying to solve for many years.”

The court was told that Shafilea had suffered domestic abuse at the hands of her parents in the year before her disappearance.

Mr Edis said: “She was a thoroughly Westernised young British girl of Pakistani origin. Her parents had standards which she was reluctant to follow.”

The court heard that the defendants put their daughter under “intense pressure” and were seeking to control her.

“She was unwilling to do this and she resisted,” he said.

Shafilea disappeared from the family home in Great Sankey, Warrington, in September 2003.

Her body was found by workmen on the banks of the River Kent, near Kendal, six months later.

The trial continues.

           — Hat tip: Seneca III [Return to headlines]



Suu Kyi to Give Nobel Lecture During Norway Visit

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi will finally get a chance to deliver her acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize, nearly 21 years after winning the prestigious award. Suu Kyi is set to deliver her speech in Oslo’s City Hall on June 16, during a visit to Norway, Nobel Peace Institute spokeswoman Sigrid Langebrekke told The Associated Press on Monday.

After becoming leader of Myanmar’s pro-democracy movement, Suu Kyi was placed under house arrest for 15 of the following 22 years of military rule. Her confinement kept her from attending the ceremony for the 1991 peace prize.

Norway’s government said Suu Kyi also will meet Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg during her June 15-18 visit. She also is expected to visit Britain during her first travels abroad since 1988, when she returned to Myanmar to care for her ailing mother. She received her first passport in 24 years earlier this month.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Sweden Drifting From ‘Swedish Model’: Report

Sweden’s historically generous social safety net isn’t as robust as it once was, according to a new report, which reveals Sweden has fallen below the average for many other developed countries when it comes to various types of social insurance.

In 2005, Sweden had the second most generous unemployment insurance scheme in the world, but according to a new report the income replacement benefits for out of work Swedes ranks below the OECD average. And for the first time since 1952, the duration of Sweden’s sickness insurance benefits, 52 weeks, is below the OECD average.

The report, commissioned through a parliamentary inquiry into Sweden’s social insurance system, indicates that while the most drastic decline in Sweden’s welfare system has occurred in the country’s unemployment insurance schemes, other welfare benefits are also less generous than in the past when compared to other developed countries the Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) newspaper.

Joakim Palme, an author of the report, told the paper that Sweden was in the process of abandoning the famed “Swedish model”, marked by generous social insurance benefits for all citizens.

“The Swedish model was built on the idea that the majority of the population gets something for their tax money. We have come to a breaking point when not even the average Swede gets adequate income protection from general social insurance schemes,” he told SvD.

“It’s not just the high income earners who are dependent on supplementary health insurance.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Switzerland: Court: Anti-Islam Group Must be Protected

The Federal Court says an anti-Islam group has the right to give out leaflets from an information booth if it wants — and the local authorities must protect them. Fribourg Council banned the group — The Movement Against the Islamization of Switzerland — from setting up an information booth Place Georges-Python during the anti-minaret campaign in 2009.

It said it refused to give permission because of a fear that violence and unrest would break out as a result, provoking a legal challenge. The Federal Court upheld the group’s complaint that the authorities had impinged on its freedom of expression as well as on freedom of information, newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung reported.

The court said the local authorities should instead have taken additional measures to safeguard against such an event. In particular, the court said that the authorities could have drafted more police in to safeguard the site.

Although public law does grant local authorities powers to ban demonstrations from public spaces, the court confirmed that they may not do so simply because they disapprove of the ideas being communicated.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Talent Abounds in Switzerland, Says OECD

A new study by the OECD has found that Switzerland has a very high proportion of the world’s most sought-after workforce. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development has found that of the 6.2 million people judged as having the most sought-after skills in the world, some 200,000 live in Switzerland, newspaper Tages Anzeiger reported.

The majority of those living in Switzerland are from the expat community, who are attracted, together with their families, to the country’s high quality of life as well as to top salaries.

A recent study conducted in Basel also showed that expats earn more than their Swiss counterparts for the same work, Tages Anzeiger reported. The study found that the Swiss were happy with their salaries, but that the expats had made acceptance of the overseas job conditional on a higher salary.

The numbers of expats in Switzerland are causing the cost of living to rise. This is leading to concerns that locals are being priced out in cities like Zug, where rents have become prohibitively high due to the amount of accommodation occupied by employees of the foreign companies registered there.

The study also found that foreigners are staying longer in Switzerland on average than previously.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



UK: Islam and the Issue of Exploiting Minors

By Osman Mirghani

Over the past few days, Britain has been preoccupied with the prosecution and imprisonment of nine Muslim men (eight Pakistanis and one Afghani) on charges of being part of a child sex exploitation ring. Much has been said about the religious and ethnic background of the defendants, not to mention their victims, who were all white minors suffering from social problems, to the point that all issues became tangled up and intertwined; criminal considerations, religious and ethnic backgrounds and racial sensitivities. The result was heated discussions that mostly inclined towards unfair generalization, the promotion of a stereotyped image of Islam and false accusations against it. Islam is a religion that is embraced by over 1.5 billion Muslims around the globe, approximately 2.8 million of whom live in Britain. Islam is Britain’s second largest religion, and Muslims make up nearly 5 percent of the country’s population. Of course, there were some rational and balanced discussions of this case; however this all went out the window amidst the clamorous voices that highlighted the religious and racial features of a purely criminal case in which the defendants are a small handful of people who represent only themselves and their own deviant behaviour.

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: London Gang Stabs Football Fan to Death After Chelsea FC Win Champions League — and Father is Knifed as He Runs to Help

A father threw himself on top of his son in a desperate bid to shield him from a knife-wielding gang who stabbed him to death in the street. Luke Fitzpatrick, 25, was murdered after a group of men armed with bats and knives dragged him out of a north London pub on Saturday night. Friends and relatives of the roofer told today how his father, Bernard, was stabbed several times while trying to protect him from his attackers. Mr Fitzpatrick’s attackers were described as acting like “a pack of wolves” by storming into the the pub near his home in Dollis Hill. Police said the killing followed an argument in the pub though some witnesses said it ocurred after a dispute in a shop opposite. Three people were arrested, including two 17-year-old men who still being questioned in custody today.

The victim’s best friend, Ricci Whiteside, 25, who was with him all evening said: “There was an argument in the shop opposite the pub at half-time. Luke wasn’t anything to do with it, but we all heard that something had gone on. A group of black guys arrived at the door of the pub with bats and knives and they were looking for someone who had been outside the shop earlier. People were throwing chairs at the door to try and stop them from coming in. There was a lot of confusion. They got Luke and dragged him outside. They were pulling him up the road. His dad was running after them. But by the time he got to Luke he was already on the floor. Bernie threw himself on top of Luke. He was trying to protect him, but it was too late.”

Tess Fitzpatrick, Bernard Fitzpatrick’s sister, said: “The men who came for Luke were like a pack of wolves. My brother ran after them as they were dragging Luke up the street.

“He covered him with his body, but they had already stabbed Luke all over.” Ms Fitzpatrick said she had spent yesterday at the bedside of her brother, 56, who is believed to have been stabbed four times. He suffered massive internal injuries after one of the stab wounds punctured his liver.

Last night more than 100 friends and family gathered at the crossroads outside The Ox and Gate Pub on Oxgate Lane, where Luke was watching the Champions League final prior to the attack. Many left tributes and flowers. One card read: “Luke, you was a true gent. I’ll never forget you.” Friends and family told described Luke, who was single, as a big-hearted, energetic hard-worker, who was well known in the community. Luke’s mother Constance, 56, was in Majorca with her other son Ryan, 21 on Saturday night. She flew back to London yesterday morning. A relative at their home, just metres from the pub said last night: “She has just come back and she is grieving. She is terribly upset.” A forensic tent was in place this morning at the murder scene, which remained cordoned off. Detective Chief Inspector Tim Duffield said: “We urgently need to hear from anyone who was in or near the Ox and Gate pub around 11.30pm that evening.” Any witnesses should call the incident room on 020 8358 0400 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: Nadine Dorries MP: The Rochdale Girls Were Let Down by the Very Institutions Which Should Have Cared for Them

Sayeeda Warsi doesn’t often catch a fair wind in the British media. That’s not really a surprise; very few female politicians do once they hold a position or take a view. I have always had a great deal of respect for Sayeeda. She will, if she gets the remotest chance, say it just as it is. This week, in an interview in the Evening Standard, she made the following comment:

“There is a small minority of Pakistani men who believe that white girls are fair game and we have to be prepared to say that. You can only start solving a problem if you acknowledge it first… This small minority who see women as second class citizens, and white women probably as third class citizens, are to be spoken out against.”

Last week, in the Sun newspaper, I wrote about the issue of the gang of nine Asian men who had been imprisoned at Liverpool Crown Court for the grooming, sexually abusing and raping of underage girls. I accepted the offer to write the article as I felt very strongly that the girls who had been subjected to the rape and sexual abuse were being let down by the authorities in whom they had attempted to place their trust, and that in order for any good to come out of what had happened, everyone needs to be fully aware of exactly what is happening.

[…]

When the Rochdale girls originally told people that they were being abused, there was no sense of urgency to protect them or investigate and prosecute the offenders. They were ignored, and for some, the abuse continued. The accusations are that the police didn’t act for fear of being called racist and the Crown Prosecution Service decided that abused young girls would not be ‘credible’ as witnesses. Failed by a dysfunctional family life and social services, they were then failed again by the police. That these girls were repetitively failed in such a miserable, petty-bureaucratic way is utterly heartbreaking.

Following the ruling, Michael Gove has asked Sue Berelowitz, the Deputy Children’s Commissioner for England, to produce recommendations on how to protect young girls in care from being preyed upon by men for sex. Unfortunately, Berelowitz has herself been less than forthcoming in accepting the fact that a problem in northern towns exists with regard to the cultural attitudes of some young Pakistani men towards young white girls. This is why Sayeeda’s interview was so important. Until Berelowitz accepts that fact, which she has yet to do publicly, her report to Michael Gove may not have provided recommendations which would be useful or creative in dealing with this very specific problem. Sayeeda has laid the ground in terms of expectations for future action and has replaced the politically correct barrier for one of common sense. Having been let down by family, social services, the police and the CPS, the person now bravely speaking out for such girls, with a voice which carries weight and influence, is that of a Muslim woman, and there is a certain justice in that.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: Parents ‘Murdered Daughter for Bringing Shame on Family’

Shafilea, 17, had resisted plans for an arranged marriage and tried to go on dates with young men. Her Pakistani-born parents, Iftikhar Ahmed, 52, and Farzana, 49, had spent a year trying to “crush” their daughter’s will. When on September 11, 2003 the couple realised they would never succeed they murdered her at the family home in Warrington, Cheshire.

Andrew Edis, QC, prosecuting, told a jury at Chester Crown Court: “They finally killed her because she had dishonoured the family and brought shame on them. “They had despaired of her ever becoming a daughter they could ever be proud of”.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



UK: Parents ‘Murdered Their Westernised Teenage Daughter in Front of Her Sister Because They Thought She Was Bringing Shame on the Family’

Shafilea Ahmed’s decomposed remains were found in February 2004 Her parents Iftikhar and Farzana Ahmed are accused of killing her in September 2003 Their daughter Alesha is said to have witnessed the killing and will give evidence against her parents Police placed listening device in the family’s home in November 2003 and heard them telling their children ‘not to say anything’ at school Victim ‘drank bleach after being forced to visit Pakistan for to meet future husband in arranged marriage’

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



UK: Slow Police Response Time for Hammer Attack on Dance Class Father

A father told today how a fellow parent ambushed him with a claw hammer as he was picking up his daughters from a dance class — and that police took more than 24 hours to respond. Paul Dilworth feared he was going to die as he tried to shield himself from the blows the stranger aimed at his head. His ordeal — which left him with a badly injured hand — began as he chatted to his sister-in-law outside Sanders Draper School in Hornchurch, when a car with a mother and father inside nudged him. Mr Dilworth, 43, said: “The lady then walked past without an apology, so I sarcastically said ‘excuse me’. Her partner shouted a torrent of abuse at me, then drove the car into my leg.” Shaken but uninjured, Mr Dilworth left and returned three hours later to collect his seven-year-old twins, Elise and Tabitha. But he said the other father and a friend were lying in wait armed with a foot-long claw hammer.

Mr Dilworth, from Collier Row, said: “They got out of a van and started walking quickly towards me, and he said ‘Do you remember me, pal?’ I couldn’t believe what was happening. I just thought, ‘I’m going to die’.” The man allegedly launched three swings at Mr Dilworth’s head, which he protected with his hands, and punched him in the jaw. Mr Dilworth said he wanted to protect his head because of brain injuries suffered in a motorbike accident in 1999. He said: “If one of those [blows] had struck me in the head, I would be dead. I was scared and when I saw the van, the only thing I could think of was to start reciting the name of the company on the side and registration plate — I was amazed they were so stupid.”

Mr Dilworth rang 999 but after waiting an hour and half he drove himself to Queen’s Hospital in Romford, where doctors treated his hand. Detectives finally spoke to Mr Dilworth last Monday, more than a day after the attack. Mr Dilworth said: “The police did apologise but I can’t believe they’re letting lunatics run round hitting people with hammers. It should be a very easy job to find them, I’ve got the company on Google Maps.” A spokesman for Havering police said: “If any member of the public is unhappy with the response to an incident then they are free to make an official complaint.” No arrests have been made.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: The Extraordinary Karma of Gordon Brown

Does Suzi Leather have good karma? By which I don’t mean, in the wishy-washy Western sense, “Is she a good person?” (I suspect we all have our views on that). I mean something that’s rather more important: namely, how long will her ideology survive? Karma, as any good Buddhist will tell you, is defined as the ripples our actions leave in the material world, which can be felt for months — even years — after we die. And I’m starting to think it’s a rather useful way of analysing politics. For example, Dame Suzi’s most notorious accomplishment, before resigning as head of the Charity Commission last week, was to question the charitable status of independent schools, and force them to pass nebulous tests of “public benefit” (against the traditional, and rather better, idea that education of any kind is a noble and charitable endeavour). If that principle is abandoned by her replacement, Dame Suzi’s imprint on history will be relatively modest. If it is retained — if she has put enough of a stamp on the Commission that any new regime will be Continuity Leatherism — her karma will remain strong even in retirement, as her influence continues to be felt.

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Balkans


Nikolic New President of Serbia, Tadic Acknowledges Defeat

(AGI) Belgrade — Conservative candidate Tomislav Nikolic has been unexpectedly elected as the new president of Serbia. His rival, outgoing president Boris Tadic acknowledged his defeat.

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



Serbian Election: The End of the Beginning

by Srdja Trifkovic

Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning, quipped Churchill in November 1942, following Montgomery’s modest success at El Alamein. The same applies to Tomislav Nikolić’s victory in the second round of Serbia’s presidential election last Sunday.

The defeat of Boris Tadić—amply and inappropriately assisted in the final stages of his campaign by the unspeakable, greasy-haired, gay-pride-marching U..S. ambassadress Mary Worlick—is certainly not the end of the global-imperial lethal grip on Serbia. It is to be hoped that is heralds the beginning of its end, but it certainly is the end of the “pro-Western” regime’s four-year-long exercise in self-abasement abroad and ruthless robbery at home.

The robbery included the regime’s theft of some hundreds of thousands of opposition votes following the parliamentary election on May 6. For reasons too technically complex to elucidate here—the seedy details are available to the curious (provided they are not faint of heart)—the ruling coalition of thieves and traitors seems poised to form the next government of this long-suffering land, regardless of Sunday’s presidential race upset. That upset was only made possible by the fact that in a two-candidate race it is much, much harder to engineer the wholesale robbery (nearing 7 percent of all votes cast) that we have witnessed in the multi-party ballot on May 6.

The yawning gap between Serbia’s popular will and Belgrade’s declared political outcome was brazenly glossed over in the Western media two weeks ago, however. The Leninist dictum that the morality of an act depends on the progressive status of its perpetrator still applies. In that spirit, Mr. Nikolić’s “ultranationalist” credentials of yore are routinely invoked as his defining trait of today. The comparison is somewhat strained, but just imagine our mainstream media insisting that a dubiously reconstructed “Anti-White, Foreign-Born Radical Leftist” was elected President in November 2008.

In media shorthand the accurate description of President-elect Nikolić would be “a pro-EU moderate nationalist.” In reality it is hard to be both, of course, but many decent Europeans are trying to square the circle, from Scotland and Catalonia to Poland and Slovakia…

           — Hat tip: Srdja Trifkovic [Return to headlines]

North Africa


Muslim Brotherhood Attempting to Disenfranchise Egyptian Christian Voters

by Mary Abdelmassih

(AINA) — The Egyptian presidential election campaigns are coming to an end, with voting slated for May 23 and 24. Ruthless smear tactics have been used by the different candidates to disqualify each other, most of these targeting candidates who advocate a civilian state. An intensive psychological war is being waged against the Christian voters to disenfranchise them by “spreading lies around their preferred candidates and using tricks to weaken their vote by dividing it,” says Coptic activist Waguih Jacob.

Because of their considerable numbers, the Copts have been approached by nearly all candidates for their support, some even promising to make one of the presidential deputies a Copt. According to the Coptic Church’s registry of births and deaths, its followers are between 15-17 million in a total Egyptian population of 82-85 millions. “They make a big voting block which can tip the scales towards a particular candidate,” says Dr. Emad Gad, vice-director of the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies and an elected member of parliament. “Their vote would be particularly effective in a run-off, if no candidate scores more than 50 percent in the first round.”

Coptic organizations conducted several polls which consistently showed that although Coptic votes are split, they are inclined to vote for Ahmed Shafik, Mubarak’s civil aviation minister and his last prime minister, and Amr Moussa, former Egyptian foreign minister and former Arab League chief, as well as the Nasserist candidate Hamdeen Sabahi. These three candidates advocate a civilian state. Ahmad Shafik is favored with the Copts because of his long-standing friendship with the late Pope Shenouda, whom Shafik calls his “Big Brother.”

Though Shafik and Moussa are from the previous regime, their supporters believe they have administration experience and would bring stability to the country.

The Coptic Church issued a statement saying “the Church stands at an equal distance from all candidates and does not support any candidate. It prays for Egypt to get a good president who supports the civilian state, the law and equal citizenship rights.”

A poll conducted on May 19 showed 70% of Copts favor Shafik, 16% Amr Moussa and 13% Hamdeen Sabahi. “In other words, Copts will not vote for any Islamist presidential candidate,” said Dr. Naguib Gabriel, president of the Egyptian Union of Human Rights Organization, which conducted the poll. The poll also showed that Copts were not concerned about candidates who were in the former Mubarak regime.

In an effort to sway the Coptic vote, the semi-official Al-Ahram daily published on May 18 a story saying a military court has acquitted the three soldiers charged with killing protesters during the Maspero Massacre of October 9, 2011, which claimed the lives of 26 and wounding 329 Copts. The Court emphasized in its ruling that the soldiers were in a legitimate case of self-defense, reported the newspaper. All other media copied this news.

This news was denied by Coptic attorney Nabil Gabriel, one of the lawyers for the Maspero victims. He said that it was a shame on Al-Ahram newspaper to publish false news and cause pain to the Copts for political purposes. “The reason behind publishing this completely false news, in my opinion, is to set Copts against the military and in the end sway the Copts away from voting for Shafik, who has a military background.” Gabriel said the Maspero case has been postponed until May 31.

Activist Mark Ebeid believes that the newly founded General Coptic Organization, with its head Dr. Sherif Doss, who is a member of the election campaign of Abou el Fetouh, the former deputy counselor of the Muslim Brotherhood, was planted to recruit Coptic votes for el Fetouh. “Several disputes took place between him and other Coptic organizations, who suspected that by using the name of his Coptic organization he was misleading Copts to vote for Abou el Fetouh,” said Ebeid.

Dr. William Wissa, a Coptic writer, said that many Copts believed at first that Abou el Fetouh was a liberal and were inclined to vote for him, until his role in creating the “Islamic Jamaa” groups, which carried out terror attacks against Egyptians in general and Copts in particular and killed over 1000 persons in the 1970s, was exposed. He said the Copts will definitely not give their votes to any Islamist candidate.

To alienate Copts from the former regime candidates, newspapers articles have published stories about the Copts who were murdered by the Mubarak regime and its former members, and SMS messages have been sent to Copts, saying “I hope that you choose to vote for Dr. Mohamed Morsi [Muslim Brotherhood candidate] but if you are not convinced then chose another one, but remember the martyrs if you are thinking of voting for Moussa or Shafik.”

In another example, Waguih Jacob said the Muslim Brotherhood attempted to co-opt the Coptic vote by secretly supporting a completely unknown Coptic presidential candidate named Nageh Meligy. Mr, Meligy, a post office director, obtained as required 30 signatures of Members of Parliament, but none were Coptic members. He refused to disclose their names, so as not to “cause them embarrassment with the political parties they represent,” reported the State news agency MENA. Meligy advocated a modern civilian state. “The Copts saw through this trick,” said Jacob, “and Meligy disappeared suddenly from the scene.”

           — Hat tip: Mary Abdelmassih [Return to headlines]



World’s Tallest Mega-Mosque Being Built in Algeria

A big religious feeling deserves a big house of worship. Algeria is set to get its own mega-mosque with the tallest minaret in the world. Almost as tall as the Eiffel Tower, the $1.3-billion mosque will stand on 20 hectares of land and will be capable of hosting 120,000 worshippers within its prayer room. Its minaret will soar 270 meters high. Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika said he wanted to “leave his mark” and enter history with this epic building. The construction is currently underway in the city of Algiers, as the foundations began to be laid on Sunday. The building is due to be completed in 2015. China State Construction Engineering Corporation will build the mega-mosque, Al Arabiya reports. It will also feature a library containing one million books and manuscripts, a museum and a research center. The new mosque will be one of the world’s largest. Only those in Saudi Arabia’s Mecca and Medina, one in Iran’s Mashhad and one in Bhopal, India are capable of welcoming more worshippers. One of Europe’s biggest mosques is situated in Grozny, Russia’s Chechen Republic. The world’s highest mosque resides on the 158th floor of the tallest manmade structure — the 830-meter Burj Khalifa in Dubai. The world’s tallest mosque is currently the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca, Morocco. Its minaret is 210 meters tall. The Prophet’s Mosque in the city of Medina is 105 meters high.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians


Palestinian Paralympians Visit Jerusalem Holy Site

Gazan athletes take in al-Aqsa Mosque ahead of Games after Israel grants exit permits applied for by British consulate

In al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam, Moussa Qadoom sank to the floor and wept into the gold and red carpet. As swallows swooped between the white marble columns of the vast edifice, the athletics coach from Gaza City surrendered to the emotion of the moment. “I’m 31 years old, and I have only ever seen this place in newspapers and on television,” he said a few minutes later. “I never imagined in my whole life that I would come and pray in al-Aqsa.” The distance between Gaza City and Jerusalem is less than 50 miles, but one that is near-impossible for most Palestinians in the tiny enclave to undertake. But Qadoom was one of nine athletes and coaches — four of whom will compete in the Paralympics in London this summer — to visit the holy site on Monday, courtesy of the British consulate in Jerusalem to mark 100 days to the start of the Games.

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Middle East


Cyprus: Israel Denies Plan to Send Troops to Island

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, MAY 21 — Israel today denied the information reported by the Turkish press regarding the alleged existence of a plan to send large numbers of Israeli troops to the southern sector of Cyprus, to protect Turkey’s energy interests in an area that appears to hold much natural gas.

“This information” the Israeli foreign ministry wrote in a statement, “is not based on reality.” The ministry added that Israel has never sent its troops abroad. The news was published today by a Cypriot newspaper, the Famagusta Gazette.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Iran Holds the First International Congress on Islamic Humanities

(Ahlul Bayt News Agency) — Experts from India, Malaysia, Palestine, Pakistan, Lebanon and Turkey discussed approaches to Islamic Humanities in the world of Islam and the connections between humanities and natural sciences during the one-day event. Iran’s Judiciary Chief Ayatollah Sadeq Amoli Larijani directed the congress held at the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) International Conference Hall on Sunday. ‘Meaning, nature and features of Islamic humanities,’ ‘philosophy and methodology of Islamic humanities,’ ‘ideas, approaches and theories raised in Islamic humanities,’ and ‘issues and barriers to making Islamic humanities functional’ were among the topics discussed at the congress.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



Iranian Calls for ‘Islamic Awakening’ To Destroy Israel

An Iranian official called this week for an ‘Islamic Awakening’ movement to help Palestinian Authority Arabs “demolish the Zionist regime”, the IRNA news agency reported.

The comments were made at a conference in Tehran in honor of Nakba Day — the day of catastrophe — which is what the Arabs call the English date of May 15, when the State of Israel was re-established with a declaration of independence in 1948.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Lebanon: Tense Calm in Beirut After Clashes in the Night

Two dead in fighting between pro and anti-Assad factions

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT — Tension-fuelled calm has descended today on the west of Beirut, which was the setting last night for clashes between Lebanese supporters and opponents of the Syrian President, Bashar Al Assad, in which two people were killed. The fighting followed the killing yesterday in the north of Lebanon of a Sunni sheikh known for his anti-Assad rhetoric. A number of schools in the Lebanese capital remain closed today, while the funeral will be held later for Sheikh Ahmed Abdul Wahed, who was killed at an army checkpoint in the province of Akkar, along with his aide, Mohammad Hussein Merheb, as the two travelled to a protest by the Al Mustaqbal (Future) movement with an anti-Syrian stance.

Lebanon’s leading political forces have appealed for calm to avoid the country, the setting for a civil war that lasted from 1975 to 1990, being sucked back into the spiral of violence affecting Syria, which continues to wield significant influence over the country. “Lebanon at boiling point after the killing of the sheikh,” is the front-page headline in today’s English language newspaper Daily Star, while the Francophone paper L’Orient le Jour leads with “Lebanon dragged by force into Syrian storm”.

The head of the armed forces in the country, General Jean Qahwaji, expressed his sorrow for the killing of the Sunni sheikh, and said that his troops were committed to ending the sedition, while the judge Saqr Saqr, a commissioner at Lebanon’s military tribunal, has announced the arrest of 3 officials and 19 soldiers as part of the investigation opened into the deaths of Abdul Wahed and Merheb. Last night’s clashes in the Tariq al Jedideh area of Beirut pitted militants from Al Mustaqbal, who oppose the Syrian regime, against those from Al Tayyar al-Arabi, also a Sunni movement but one that backs President Assad. A dozen people died last week in clashes in the city of Tripoli, in the north of Lebanon, between supporters and opponents of the Syrian regime.(

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Lebanon: Beirut Gunbattles Leave 2 Dead, Syria Spillover Feared

At least two people are killed in overnight clashes in the Lebanese capital Beirut during clashes between pro- and anti-Syrian regime groups

Street battles between pro- and anti-Syrian groups in Beirut overnight left two people dead, a security official said Monday, sparking fears the conflict in Syria is spilling across the border into Lebanon. “During the night, groups of young men cut off the road in the Tareek el-Jdideh district and street battles followed,” the official said, requesting anonymity.

“Two people were killed and 18 were wounded,” he said, adding that machineguns had been fired and that the fighting had raged until about 3.00 am (2400 GMT). An office housing a small pro-Syrian party was torched during the clashes and the facade of the building was riddled with bullets, said an AFP correspondent. Several motorcycles and cars parked on the street below were burned. The situation in the mainly Sunni district of west Beirut had returned to calm Monday morning and students could be seen heading on foot to the nearby Arab University. The fighting erupted after reports emerged that army troops had shot dead an anti-Syria Sunni cleric when his convoy failed to stop at a checkpoint in north Lebanon on Sunday.

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



Suicide Bombing Hits Yemeni Military Parade Rehearsal

A suicide bombing in the Yemeni capital on Monday claimed the lives of many soldiers. The attack comes as the country’s army tries to oust Islamist militants from strongholds in the south of the country.

Security officials in Yemen said a suicide bomber killed a large number of soldiers and wounded many others on Monday at an army parade rehearsal in the center of the capital, Sana’a.

Reports say more than 60 people have been killed and hundreds more injured in the attack. An official said the bomber, dressed in military uniform, blew himself up in the midst of a battalion rehearsing for a parade to mark the 22nd anniversary of the unification of north and south Yemen.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Syria: Al-Qaeda Aligned Group Claims Northeast Bombing

Damascus, 21 May (AKI) — A terrorist group aligned with Al-Qaeda on Monday claimed the deadly bombing in the northeast Syrian city of Deir Ezzor at the weekend in which at least nine people died.

“This dictatorial regime is extending its group to all of the provinces and showing its hatred of the country’s villages and cities,” said a message from the ‘Salvation Front’ group posted to the Internet.

“Deir Ezzor is one of these cities which have been assaulted and bombed,” said the message.

“The soldiers of the Salvation Front have punished the regime’s dogs by striking at the head of serpent.

On Saturday night our soldiers attacked one of the city’s security headquarters. The suicide car bomber Abu Mouawiya launched himself against one of the security services’ headquarters, killing dozens of regime stooges,” the message continued.

The blast late Saturday in Deir Ezzor was the first since the rebellion against the authoritarian rule of president Bashar al-Assad broke out in March last year. Syrian state TV reported that nine people were killed and 100 injured in the bombing.

There was no immediate independent verification of the blast as al-Assad has limited journalist access to the strife-wracked country.The attack came a day after Syrian troops foiled a would-be car bombing in the same city, which is about 110 kilometers from the Iraqi border.

An opposition group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said the blast was near military intelligence offices and was followed by heavy gunfire.

The group said the bomb went off on a street where a military hospital and air force intelligence offices are also located.

According to the Observatory, more than 12,000 people have been killed in Syria since the revolt broke out in March last year, most of them civilians.

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



US Leads Major War Drill in Jordan — Israel Not Invited

The United States is leading what it described as the “largest military exercises in the Middle East in 10 years” in Jordan on Tuesday. Eager Lion 2012 “is the largest exercise held in the region in the past ten years,” Major General Ken Tovo, head of the US Special Operations Forces, told reporters in Amman.

“Yesterday we began to apply the skills that we have developed over the last weeks in an irregular warfare scenario … They will last for approximately the coming two weeks,” he added. “The message that I want to send through this exercise is that we have developed the right partners throughout the region and across the world … insuring that we have the ability to … meet challenges that are coming to our nations,” Tovo said.

Israel — despite having extensive security agreements with Jordan — was not invited to participate in the exercises. Several Arab nations participating in the drill are still formally at war with the Jewish state.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



US Officially Arming Extremists in Syria

Recently reported in “Brookings Announces Next Move in Syria: War,” it was stated that “by the US policy think-tank Brookings Institution’s own admission, the Kofi Annan six-point peace plan in Syria was merely a ploy to buy time to reorganize NATO’s ineffective terrorist proxies and provide them the pretext necessary for establishing NATO protected safe havens from which to carry out their terrorism from.” It was also examined in detail, how in 2007, US, Saudi, and Israeli officials admittedthey were creating a militant front of extremists for the sole purpose of causing the destabilization of Syria we see today, and ultimately overthrowing the Syrian government. It was noted how these extremist militants had direct ties to Al Qaeda.

Now it is fully admitted that weapons, cash, and logistical support is indeed being provided to terrorist forces in Syria by the United States, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and other Gulf States. This, despite a current UN ceasefire the West has continuously berated the Syrian government for violating, indicates that indeed reorganizing, rearming, and redeploying NATO’s terrorist proxies is complete, and another round of destructive violence has begun.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Warnings From Capitol Hill That Iran and Its Terror Proxy, Hizbullah, May be Planning 9/11 Scale Attacks on the United States

In March, House Homeland Security Committee chief Peter King voiced the belief that there may be hundreds, if not thousands, of Hizbullah operatives inside the United States, capable of launching a major attack on US soil. Now, warnings from lawmakers on Capitol Hill suggest that Iran and its terror proxy, Hizbullah, may have the ability of staging an attack on New York City comparable to the terror that was unleashed on the World Trade Centers on 9/11.

According to one NYPD official, there have been at least five instances of what he called “hostile reconnaissance” against New York City by Iranian agents. “They see that attacking New York or threatening the facilities in New York will destabilize the financial markets and automatically harm the U.S. economy,” former CIA agent Reza Kahlili told CBN News.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Yemen: Almost 100 Die in Suicide Blast

Sanaa, 21 May (AKI) — A suicide attack in the Yemeni capital Sanaa killed at least 96 people and 300 injured on Monday when a bomber disguised as a soldier blew himself up at a military parade rehearsal, according to news reports.

The attacker detonated the bomb when he was mingling among students and security forces who were practising for the parade to mark Yemen’s national day holiday on Tuesday, the al-Arabiya news channel reported.

Yemen’s security agency blamed Al-Qaeda for the attack.

Al-Qaeda’s branch in Yemen is considered one of the terror group’s most dangerous. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s (AQAP) was formed in January 2009 by a merger between two regional offshoots of the international Islamist militant network in Yemen and Saudi Arabia.

The United States is aiding Yemen’s fight against militants with drone attacks. Two such attacks on Tuesday killed eight civilians in the southern part of Yemen on Tuesday, three Yemeni security officials said in reports.

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



Yemen: Soldier Turns Bomber, Killing 96

A YEMENI soldier packing explosives under his uniform blew himself up in the middle of an army battalion in Sanaa yesterday, killing 96 troops.

The suicide attack wounded a further 300 and was the deadliest in the country’s capital since newly-elected President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi pledged to oust al-Qaida militants from Yemen’s mostly lawless and restive southern and eastern provinces. Medics, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the casualties were being treated in seven hospitals across Sanaa. All the dead and injured were soldiers, they added. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the massive blast which according to witnesses echoed loudly across the city, causing panic among residents. Yemeni police officer Colonel Abdul Hamid Bajjash, in charge of security at the blast area, said the attack “bears the hallmark of al-Qaida”.

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Russia


Artists Lead Thousands Against Putin in Moscow

Dozens of Russian artists with brooms in hand carted their most expressive works across the boulevards of Moscow on Saturday in a show of exasperation at Vladimir Putin’s return to a third Kremlin term.

Several thousand Muscovites joined them in a second such intellectual stroll in a week. More than 10,000 had supported a group of writers last weekend on a quiet walk along the very same streets.

“I got a call from the authorities” with a request to cut the walk short, said organiser and former Sakharov Museum director Yury Samodurov. “But I refused,” he told the Interfax news agency.

Russia’s nascent protest movement is busy seeking new strategies to keep its relevance under Putin’s new term while at the same time avoiding the violent confrontations with police that have estranged them from some supporters.

Police have been making dozens of brief daily detentions for most of the past week as they disperse young protesters from public square and other gathering places they had been trying to use for Occupy-style protests.

Some protest leaders such as the whistleblower Alexei Navalny are completing 15-day jail terms while the Kremlin-controlled parliament is planning to radically raise fines for shows of civil disobedience and unapproved rallies.

About 20 of Moscow’s more well-known contemporary artists said Saturday they wanted to keep testing the limits of the authorities’ willingness to accept free expression under Putin by rolling their works onto the streets.

Samodurov said it gave artists a chance to “express visually and not in words their anger at today’s developments.” But he was also careful not to call it a protest against Putin since this would turn their walk political — which under Russian law would require city approval.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

South Asia


Al-Qaeda Could ‘Re-Emerge in Afghanistan After NATO Withdrawal’

A senior US general also warned that Nato forces would face combat with the Taliban until the very last day of the alliance mission in Afghanistan. The downbeat assessments of Afghanistan and its prospects emerged even as Nato leaders met at a summit in Chicago and outlined plans to withdraw their forces by the end of 2014. President Barack Obama declared that the Afghan war was now “effectively over”, while David Cameron said the handover plan was “on track and on target”.

However, despite their optimistic appraisal, Nato officials conceded the possibility of al-Qaeda and other groups returning after the West’s withdrawal. “It is unrealistic to assume that Afghanistan is going to be completely secure and there is no possibility of a terrorist threat reemerging,” said a senior British official.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Hollande Confirms Early Afghan Pull-Out

French President Francois Hollande said on Sunday he had reached agreement with his NATO allies over his decision to withdraw French troops early from Afghanistan, saying they had understood his position.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Indonesian Islamists, Joined by Women and Children, Attack (Yet Again) Bekasi Christians

The Hkbp Filadelfia Protestant community again targeted by extremists during Sunday services. At least 400 people surrounded the area and throwing sewage, used oil and eggs on the congregation. Christian leader: not even the police can protect us from attack.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) — A mob of Islamic extremists struck again the prayer house of the Hkbp Filadelfia Protestant community (Protestant Christian Batak Church) in Bekasi, a suburb of Jakarta (West Java), despite the presence of the police deployed to defend Christian worship. The assault took place yesterday morning, while the faithful gathered for Sunday celebrations. On May 17, coinciding with the feast of the Ascension of Jesus, the place of worship was attacked, during which the fundamentalists hurled stones and bags full of urine against the faithful (cf. AsiaNews 18/05 / 2012 Muslim extremists throw stones and urine at Bekasi Christians).

Local witnesses report that yesterday — on the arrival of the Faithful — a group of extremists blocked access to the “Church Street “, forcing people to abandon their motorcycles and cover the last part of the journey to the place of worship on foot . The police were deployed around the perimeter of the building, to allow the smooth running of the function, but a crowd of about 400 extremists “surrounded” the area and started to rant against members of religious minority.

Among the fundamentalist group there were not only men but also women and children. After the threats came blows. The crowd began to throw water, sewage, used oil, mud, rotten eggs, sticks and other blunt objects. A “brutal” attack aggravated by the presence of a swarm of “infiltrators” who has passed the cordon of officers and attacked the faithful of the Christian community the “from within”.

Reached by AsiaNews, the Rev. Palti H. Panjaitan Sth — head of the Protestant community Hkbp Filadelfia — emphasized that “what scares us most is that the number of police was so small compared to the angry mob.” He adds that “it is clear that they did not have the strength to repel the attackers” and journalists, activists and lawyers who fight in defence of human rights can do nothing either.

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



Nepal: Muslims Call Off Stir

KATHMANDU: Muslim organisations have called off their agitation after the government agreed to address their key demands. The government, in an 11-point agreement with the National Muslim Struggle Alliance, has pledged to form a Constitutional Muslim Commission and recognise the community’s separate identity. The alliance has also called off its general strike slated for May 21-22. “The government has agreed to recognise a separate Muslim identity when deciding the name(s) of Madhes pradesh(es), if they reflect multiple identities,” said Taj Mohmmed Miya, chief of National Muslim Federation — one of the 35 negotiators from the alliance. “The government has accepted our demands. But it remains to be seen how our concerns are reflected in the constitution,” said Miya of the alliance, headed by independent lawmaker Sardul Miya Haq. Zakir Hussain, general secretary of the alliance, said the government also agreed to mention Muslims, along with women and Dalits, in the fundamental rights’ chapter of constitution.

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



Pakistan: Christian Couple Acquitted in Lahore Over False Blasphemy Charges

Charged in December 2008, they were initially given life in prison. After four years behind bars, they were acquitted. A Muslim man had accused them in a personal vendetta over a row among children. For the judges, the accusations were a frame-up over a personal dispute.

Lahore (AsiaNews) — “The court took a brave decision by releasing the married couple. They were unfairly accused and jailed for a crime they never committed,” said Fr John Mall. The priest from the Diocese of Lahore welcomed the ruling by the High Court that acquitted Munir Masih and his wife Ruqayya for lack of evidence. The parents of six children had originally received a life sentence.

In the first trial held in Kasur in 2010, the court dropped the charge of insulting the Prophet Muhammad, which carries the death penalty. It was clear even then, that the couple was not guilty of any crime. However, they had to wait four years before the second charge was also thrown out.

“No one testified against the couple on the matter of blasphemy,” the couple’s lawyer Chaudhry Naeem Shakir said. The contradictions in the complaint against 32-year-old Munir and his wife were apparent.

Their accuser, Muhammad Yousaf, had said that they had used the Qur’an for exorcism. The court found his story too inconsistent, ruling that it was made only in revenge in a “personal dispute”.

A quarrel between the Christian couple’s children and those of Muhammad Yousaf, from Kasur in Punjab, drove the latter to use the ‘black law’.

Muhammad Yousaf induced his driver, Muhammad Nawaz, to bear false witness and accuse the Masih of blasphemy on the basis of sections B and C of Article 295 of Pakistan’s penal code. Seven other people were also named as witnesses to the crime.

Following the Lahore High Court’s decision, Munir Masih was released on bail. The charges against him were deemed weak from the start. His wife’s release from the Sahiwal Women’s Prison is expected shortly. She should be then reunited with her husband and six children (two boys and four girls).

“The court took a brave decision,” Fr John Mall told AsiaNews. “The blasphemy law is used to settle personal scores, especially in Punjab,” he exaplined. “The Catholic Church has appealed several times to the government to act against its abuse.”

“Many cases of blasphemy have occurred and many acts of violence have been perpetrated against minorities in the area,” said Fr Amir Romail, a priest in Kasur.

In view of this outcome, he said that he hopes to see judges making similar decisions “in other cases where the accused languishes in prison for years waiting for a judgement.”

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



Pakistan: Dispute Over ‘Slipper’ Claims Four Lives

A petty dispute over an alleged stealing of a slipper from a mosque in Landhi turned gory and claimed lives of four persons, including a minor boy and his father, when two families exchanged fire on Friday. Police said that the unfortunate incident took place after Friday prayers when the slippers of a man, identified as Zakaullah, went missing from a local mosque. Zakaullah asked some children about his slippers and they reportedly informed him that some children belonging to a policeman’s family could be involved in the missing footwear. An enraged Zakaullah went to the house of Farooq, the policeman, from where his relative Fazal Mehmood came out. An altercation broke out between the two sides.

Later the event took an ugly turn and men from both sides pulled out their guns and opened fire on each other resulting in the deaths of two persons from each side. Those killed in the incident were identified as Fazal Mehmood, 52, his 10-year-old son Hayat Fazal, and Siraj Ahmed and Dua Sher from the other side. A woman, Riyasat Bibi, and a passer-by were also wounded in the firing.

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



Twitter Row Reveals the Trouble With Pakistan

If ever there was a metaphor for Pakistan’s woes it was yesterday’s farcical Twitter blackout. An affront to religious or cultural sensitivities prompted a knee-jerk ban on Twitter, which was feebly implemented and ridiculed by thousands of users — including members of parliament and government advisers — before the whole shoddy mess was ditched 10 hours later, just as hastily as it was conceived. First things first. Drawing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed is not big and it’s not clever. It’s deeply offensive to Muslims who view any depiction of the Prophet as blasphemous. So it was no surprise two years ago that plans for an Everyone Draw Mohammed Day on Facebook sparked widespread anger, anger that led to the Lahore High Court ordering a ban on a host of social networking sites. Two years later and the event has been turned into an annual chance to poke fun at Muslims on May 20, with links and chatter being swapped on Twitter.

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Far East


Fukushima Reactor 4 Poses Massive Global Risk

More than a year after a devastating earthquake and tsunami triggered a massive nuclear disaster, experts are warning that Japan isn’t out of the woods yet and the worst nuclear storm the world has ever seen could be just one earthquake away from reality.

The troubled Reactor 4 at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant is at the centre of this potential catastrophe.

Reactor 4 — and to a lesser extent Reactor 3 — still hold large quantities of cooling waters surrounding spent nuclear fuel, all bound by a fragile concrete pool located 30 metres above the ground, and exposed to the elements.

A magnitude 7 or 7.5 earthquake would likely fracture that pool, and disaster would ensue, says Arnie Gundersen, a nuclear engineer with Fairewinds Energy Education who has visited the site.

The 1,535 spent fuel rods would become exposed to the air and would likely catch fire, with the most-recently added fuel rods igniting first.

The incredible heat generated from that blaze, Gundersen said, could then ignite the older fuel in the cooling pool, causing a massive oxygen-eating radiological fire that could not be extinguished with water.

“So the fear is the newest fuel could begin to burn and then we’d have a conflagration of the whole pool because it would become hotter and hotter. The health consequences of that are beyond where science has ever gone before,” Gundersen told CTVNews.ca in an interview from his home in Vermont.

Worst-case scenario

There are a couple of possible outcomes, Gundersen said.

Highly radioactive cesium and strontium isotopes would likely go airborne and “volatilize” — turning into a vapour that could move with the wind, potentially travelling thousands of kilometres from the source.

The size of those particles would determine whether they remained in Japan, or made their way to the rest of Asia and other continents.

“And here’s where there’s no science because no one’s ever dared to attempt the experiment,” Gundersen said. “If it flies far enough it goes around the world, if the particles stay a little bigger, they settle in Japan. Either is awful.”

Essentially, he said, Japan is sitting on a ticking time bomb.

The damaged Reactor 4 cooling pool was reinforced by workers who went in and “jury-rigged” it after the tsunami, but the structure still contains a massive amount of fuel, Gundersen said.

Reactor 3 has less fuel inside its cooling pool, but it has not been strengthened since the disaster and poses a greater risk of failing.

“Reactor 3 has a little less consequences but a little more risk, and Reactor 4 has more consequences but…a little less risk,” he said.

Finding a fix

The solution, Gundersen said, is for the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) to immediately begin the process of transferring the fuel rods from the cooling pools to dry cask storage — a massive and costly endeavour, but one he said is absolutely essential.

To even begin the removal process at Reactor 4, TEPCO would first have to construct a crane capable of lifting the 100-tonne fuel rod canister, since the original crane was destroyed in the disaster last year.

In order to do that, they would have to build a massive structure around the existing pool to support the new crane, which would then be used to lift the fuel rod canister from the water, down to the ground and into a steel and concrete dry-cask.

All this of course, has to be done in a highly contaminated area where workers must wear protective suits and limit their radiation exposure each day, adding time and expense to the process.

Still, with the consequences so high, Gundersen said there’s no time to lose.

“This is a ‘now’ problem, this is not a ‘let’s-wait-until-we-get-the-cash-flow-from-the-Japanese-government’ problem. The consequences of a 7 or 7.5 earthquake don’t happen every day, but we know it happened last year so you have to anticipate that it will happen,” Gundersen said.

‘Fate of the world’ depends on Reactor 4

He’s not alone in pressing the Japanese government to adopt a sense of urgency about the Reactor 4 dilemma.

Robert Alvarez, a former top adviser at the U.S. Department of Energy, also expressed concern in a letter to Akio Matsumura, a Japanese diplomat who has turned his focus to the nuclear calamity.

Matsumura had asked Alvarez about the risk associated with Reactor 4.

“The No. 4 pool is about 100 feet above ground, is structurally damaged and is exposed to the open elements,” Alvarez said in his response. “If an earthquake or other event were to cause this pool to drain this could result in a catastrophic radiological fire involving nearly 10 times the amount of Cesium-137 released by the Chernobyl accident.”

Mitsuhei Murata, Japan’s former ambassador to Switzerland and Senegal, has also made it his mission to convince the UN and the world that urgent action is needed.

“It is no exaggeration to say that the fate of Japan and the whole world depends on No. 4 reactor,” Murata said in a recent letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in which he urged him to back efforts to address the problem…

           — Hat tip: JLH [Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa


First Muslim Radio in Nigeria

(Ahlul Bayt News Agency) — “The Voice of Ummah or Quds Radio hopes to fill that gap, providing high quality Islamic contents to more a million listeners in Nigeria,” Daood Imran Molaasan, President of the Jama’atu Ta’awun Muslimeen (TAWUN) said. Owners of the radio say it aims to correct misconceptions fuelled by Christians-dominated media in Nigeria about Islam. “The station’s programming reflects a desire to reach people on a different level, to broaden the horizons of all listeners,” Molaasan said. “In the race for excellence, there is no finish line and The Voice of Ummah programming and broadcasting philosophies will Inshallah be a testimony to that.” Muslims make up nearly 55 percent of Nigeria’s 140 million population, while Christians account for nearly 40 percent.

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



Ghana: Rights of Muslims Must be Respected — Ahlussunna

The General Secretary of Alhassunna Wal Jama’a, Sheik Yacoub Shuaib Abban, has called on heads of government assisted secondary schools to respect the religious rights of Muslim students. He said even though Ghana was a secular state, some heads of public and government assisted secondary schools had refused to respect the religious rights of Muslims.

Speaking at a press conference on the theme ‘Politics and Education’, Sheik Abban said Muslim students were prevented from praying in some public schools and also discouraged from fasting during the month of Ramadan. He said apart from forcing them to attend church services like morning devotion and Sunday church service, some school heads had made it an abomination for Muslim students to send copies of the Qur’an to school. Sheik Abban said, “These are clear violation of our Muslim children and grandchildren’s religious rights. We have endured this humiliation for far too long and will henceforth not take such actions lightly.” He said, “We can be persuaded to let bygones be bygones but we are calling on government to ensure that the secular status of Ghana is duly respected in all public and government assisted schools.”

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



Nigeria: Lagos Shuts Churches, Mosques Over Noise Pollution

Officials of the Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency, (LASEPA) yesterday shut three churches and two mosques within the metropolis for violating the laws of the state against noise pollution.

The affected churches are Lord’s Chosen Charismatic Mission Church, Anthony Village; Christ Chosen Church, Onipanu and Evangelical Apostolic Church, while the mosques are Darusalam Mosque at Sabo, Yaba and Ayegbesin Mosque at Mafoluku, Oshodi. Also shut was Sunplast Plastic industries in Isolo, whose generating set was allegedly emitting hazardous fumes into a nearby school, and Scott industries in Matori for engaging their workers in dehumanising working conditions that that also constitute environmental nuisance.

The LASEPA team led by Mr. Kayode Bello, a senior official of the agency, backed by the Lagos State Taskforce on Environmental and Special Offences (Enforcement) Unit, stormed the affected churches and mosques and shut them down for refusing to comply with relevant environmental laws of the state. General Manager, LASEPA, Engr. Rasheed Shabi, said the development was as a result of a petition filed to his office by residents who had complained about the blazing noise pollution from the churches and mosques.

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Immigration


Nearly a Million New Immigrants in Germany

Germany has been looking for skilled workers, and last year saw the highest rate of immigration in more than 15 years. More and more people are coming from crisis-wracked EU countries.

Pigi Mourmouri is close to retirement, but for the last year she has had more work than ever. Up to 20 immigrants come to her Catholic Church counseling service in Berlin each week. The advice-seekers have just arrived in the German capital from Greece and want to know how things work. A year ago, she had, at most, four immigrants a week.

“The number is growing at an alarming rate,” said Pigi, who left Greece 45 years ago.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Netherlands: Asylum Seekers’ Protest Camp Grows

A campsite in the province of Groningen inhabited by rejected asylum seekers continues to grow as more people join the protest. Around 300 asylum seekers are living in tents in Ter Apel. The group has gathered to protest their impending deportations; a spokesperson for the applicants said he expects the camp to continue to grow.

Earlier in the week, the expansion of the camp led to shortages of water, tents and blankets. A number of relief organisations stepped in to help while the Ministry of the Interior and the local municipality provided toilets, trash cans and drinking water.

The camp was founded by a group of Iraqi asylum seekers who will be sent back to Iraq despite their claims that it’s unsafe for them to return home. Since then, asylum seekers from Somalia and Iran have joined them.

Immigration Minister Gerd Leers has given the protesters a week to consider their options, in the hope that they will voluntarily return to their own countries. The protesters have rejected the offer.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Culture Wars


UK: GMP [Greater Manchester Police] Flies Rainbow Flag for IDAHO

Greater Manchester Police is flying the rainbow flag at the Force’s new headquarters at Central Park and at divisional headquarters across the county today, Thursday 17 May, to support IDAHO 2012 (International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia). The Forces participation in the annual event marks its support for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) communities in Greater Manchester and across the world. IDAHO takes place every year on 17 May to mark the day in 1990 when the World Health Organisation removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders.

[…]

[JP note: Heigh-ho, heigh-ho, it’s home from Idaho we go.]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

General


DARPA Building Very Fast Robotic Hunter-Killers to Chase You Down

DARPA may be the Big Dog of robotic cargo transport for now, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only game in town. A new design from the Italian Institute of Technology may look like the Army’s pack-bot but it runs like a Ferarri—or, at least, a skittering, mechanical Ibex. Led by Professor Darwin Caldwell, a team from the IIT’s department of Advanced Robotics has spent nearly half a decade designing, building, and testing the meter-long, 70 kilogram hydraulically-driven quadraped—Hydraulically-driven Quadraped, HyQ.

Being hydraulically activated and constructed from lightweight aluminum, the HyQ is one of a handful of robots capable of the instantaneous corrections needed for off-road deployment. It employs 12 active joints—eight hydraulically-powered, four electrically-powered—to generate the necessary torque for moving nimbly over rough terrain. And boy can it move.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Scientists Create Lethal Bird Flu That is Transmissible Between Humans… Then Tell World How to Fabricate it

The emergence of the avian flu in 2003 caused alarm around the world as it spread through countries in Asia, leaving victims in its wake. While largely contained to the bird population, for the relatively few humans unlucky enough to catch it the flu proved deadly.

Now, two groups of perhaps seemingly mad scientists have successfully modified the H5N1 virus so that it could be passed easily between humans. One of them has already published the work for all the world to see, and the second is soon to follow. What kind of dangers will materialize in a world where the laboratory formulas for superflus and other potential bioweapons are out in the open?

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

News Feed 20120520

Financial Crisis
» Congressional Leaders Gird for ‘Chaos’ Session Over Tax Hikes, Debt Ceiling
» Europe on Journey to the Unknown if Greece Exits
» Every Italian Forks Out €2,849 for Public-Sector Workers
» G8 Leaders Want Greece to Remain in Eurozone
» Greece Tourism Hit by Euro Crisis
» Italy: Trade Surplus Posted From Non-EU Demand
 
USA
» 12 Images That Demonstrate How the New World Order Openly Mocks US
» Mark Steyn: Eternally Shifting Sands of Obama’s Biography
» New World Order: Death of America
» Officials: Tinley Park Melee Begun by Protesters Targeting Alleged White Supremacists
» Revving Up the Race Card
» Source: Group Beaten at Tinley Park Restaurant Was White Supremacists
 
Europe and the EU
» 4 Killed After Magnitude-6.0 Earthquake Shakes Northern Italy
» Belgium: Rightist EU MP Filip Dewinter, Dad of an-Sofie, Welcomes Jewish Envoy to Parliament
» Earliest Wall Art is Found in France
» Humanity’s Best Friend: How Dogs May Have Helped Humans Beat the Neanderthals
» In Memoriam David Littman: 1933-2012
» Israel Seeks to Deploy 20,000 Commandos in Greek Cyprus
» Italy’s Elderly Ruling Class
» Italy: Finmeccanica Board Member Probed for Illegal Party Financing
» Powerful Earthquake Hits Northern Italy
» The Oldest Farming Village in the Mediterranean Islands is Discovered in Cyprus
 
North Africa
» Lockerbie Bomber Megrahi Has Died in Libya: Brother
» Lockerbie Bomber Abdel Baset Al-Megrahi Dies in Libya
» The Rise of Islamist Political Economy: The New Capitalists
 
Israel and the Palestinians
» Dutch Gas Companies Set Sights on Israel
 
Middle East
» Iranians Protest Against Gulf States Union
» Mixed-Sex Wrestling Under Investigation in Turkey
 
Russia
» Bronze Age ‘Facebook’ Discovered by Cambridge Experts
 
South Asia
» Pakistan Blocks Twitter, Cites “Blasphemous” Content
» Stone Carvers Defy Taliban to Return to the Bamiyan Valley
 
Far East
» China: State TV Host Offers Advice on How to Throw Out ‘Foreign Trash’
» Two Big Stories, One Conclusion: China Has No ‘Legal System’
 
Latin America
» ‘Suicide’ Art Statues Spark Panicked Calls to Cops in Brazil
 
Culture Wars
» Feminist Group Protest at Cannes Premiere

Financial Crisis


Congressional Leaders Gird for ‘Chaos’ Session Over Tax Hikes, Debt Ceiling

Republican and Democratic congressional leaders are stepping up their war of words over a looming lame-duck session that is already being described as “chaos in Congress,” as they gird for a marathon debate tackling everything from the debt ceiling to hundreds of billions of dollars in scheduled tax hikes.

At the center of the debate is the scheduled expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts. This, combined with other changes like the expiration of the payroll tax cut backed by President Obama, will add up to a roughly $310 billion tax hike, according to a letter penned by Senate Republicans this past week.

“This would be, without any exaggeration, the largest tax increase in American history,” they wrote.

The tax provisions, though, are just part of the mix. The country could bump up against the debt ceiling by early next year, leading House Speaker John Boehner this past week to once again demand spending cuts in exchange for a vote to increase that cap. In addition, spending cuts to the military and other areas triggered by last year’s debt-ceiling deal are scheduled to kick in at the beginning of 2013.

With so much clumped on Congress’ plate at the end of the year, leaders in both parties are calling on one another to begin dealing with the issues now — as in, before the November election. They’re also moving to insulate themselves politically, by claiming to take the initiative on problems that months from now could end in stalemate.

House Speaker John Boehner and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi traded barbs on the issue Sunday. Pelosi, on ABC’s “This Week,” accused Boehner of going “over the edge.” She said threatening to hold up the debt-ceiling increase “is not a responsible, mature, sensible place for us to go.”

But that was then, and now Biography is also about maps. For example, have you ever thought it would be way cooler to have been born in colonial Kenya?

Whoa, that sounds like crazy Birther talk; don’t go there! But Breitbart News did, and it turns out that the earliest recorded example of Birtherism is from the president’s own literary agent, way back in 1991, in the official bio of her exciting new author:

“Barack Obama, the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review, was born in Kenya and raised in Indonesia and Hawaii.”

So the lunatic theory that Barack Obama doesn’t meet the minimum eligibility requirements to be president of the United States was first advanced by Barack Obama’s official representative. Where did she get that wacky idea from? “This was nothing more than a fact-checking error by me,” says Obama’s literary agent, Miriam Goderich, a “fact” that went so un-”checked” that it stayed up on her agency’s website in the official biography of her by-then-famous client up until 2007:

“He was born in Kenya to an American anthropologist and a Kenyan finance minister.” And then in April 2007, someone belatedly decided to “check” the 16-year-old “fact” and revised the biography, a few weeks into the now non-Kenyan’s campaign for the presidency. Fancy that!

When it comes to conspiracies, I’m an Occam’s Razor man. The more obvious explanation of the variable first line in the eternally shifting sands of Obama’s biography is that, rather than pretending to have been born in Hawaii, he’s spent much of his life pretending to have been born in Kenya.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Europe on Journey to the Unknown if Greece Exits

As investors and European leaders big and small tot up the potential cost of Greece departing the euro, the European Union too stands perilously close to meltdown after six decades in the making.

Weeks ago still an elephant in the room, Athens’ looming exit from the club of 17 nations sharing the single currency has become the hottest topic in town since Greece’s inconclusive elections this month.

Markets put the collateral damage of “Grexit” — Greek Exit — at between 150 to 500 billion euros, while political analysts see the bloc at worst tumbling like a house of cards, at best pulling together to pluck a new future from the ruins.

“It is a very very risky game, a very unpredictable situation,” Jan Techau, director of the Carnegie Europe think-tank, told AFP. “Once you pull the plug no one knows what will happen, which is why everyone’s trying so hard to avoid this.”

Credited with underpinning European peace and democracy for more than half a century, the EU has seen rough-and-tumble times, but the sovereign debt crisis has spawned its worst nightmare — prospects of a failed Greek state on its periphery and a domino-effect shrinkage of the bloc.

Analysts paint a bleak picture of events in Greece should it quit the euro, with banks collapsing, the currency nose-diving, unemployment ballooning and riots in the streets.

“The greater political symbolism would be hugely damaging for European integration,” added Techau. “It would undermine the idea of solidarity, shattering efforts to construct Europe.”

“If the glue comes undone it will hurt the entire European project.”

Worried by the prospect of anti-austerity Greeks winning a vote re-run next month and refusing to pay back hundreds of billions in loans, European leaders, including austerity hardliner German Chancellor Angela Merkel, have softened their line.

A Greek exit “will delight extremists. It’s a very bleak option, which is why we’re hearing all these calls to Greece not to depart,” said Jean-Dominique Giuliani, who heads the Robert Schuman foundation in Brussels.

But such talk may be too little too late.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Every Italian Forks Out €2,849 for Public-Sector Workers

Court of Auditors warns of falling productivity and criticises public-sector agreement

ROME — If we consider public-sector wages in proportion to the number of taxpayers, Italians pay more than Germans at €2,849 each in comparison with €2,830 in Germany. No surprise there. What is more surprising is that Italy’s per capita spending is higher than either Greece’s (€2,436) or Spain’s (€2,708). We should note that some countries are even more generous than Italy, such as the UK (€3,118) or Holland (€3,557), to say nothing of France (€4,001), where spending is set to rise this year by a further €4 billion.

But the real issue is not the level of spending. Italy is well within the European average at 11.1% of GDP, albeit fully 3.2 percentage points above Germany, where spending has fallen by 0.3% in ten years while Italy’s has risen by 0.6%. What matters is efficiency, a sore point with Italian public administration. All this comes across in a report from the Court of Auditors: “In a context of lower system-wide competitiveness in Italy, there are worrying signals regarding public-sector productivity”.

The report just released by Luigi Giampaolino and his fellow magistrates has a chart showing that productivity, which rose by more than 2% in 2010, has fallen back to zero and even started to decline in 2012 “in line with GDP trend estimates”. In other words, the labour cost per unit of product is starting to rise again. So who is to blame? The lack of meritocracy. The report points out that the suspension of contract negotiations put in place in 2010 to slow expenditure has “entailed delayed implementation of the most significant regulations for the evaluation of individual employee merit and diligence contained in legislative decree no.150/2009”. It has also “blocked the launch of the new model for union relations outlined in the 30 April 2009 agreement, oriented principally towards the effective correlation of disbursement of additional pay to the recovery of administrative efficiency”.

It’s music to the ears of former civil service minister Renato Brunetta, who masterminded the operation, and whose former head of secretariat and successor, Filippo Patroni Griffi, followed suit: “Rewarding the best and increasing productivity are our priorities. We need to put them into practice”. However, the Court of Auditors appears unconvinced, judging by the “perplexities” over the “contents of the recent agreement of central government, regions, provinces, municipalities and unions” that emerge from the report. The agreement, says the report, undoes the progress made by the Brunetta reform and could leave everything the way it was, allowing the public sector to prefer “indiscriminate distribution of additional pay uninfluenced by genuinely selective, reward-focused criteria”.

In the meantime, the effects of the clampdown a couple of years ago have made themselves felt in no uncertain terms. Proof is there in the fact that in 2010 the cost of public-sector workers fell for the first time since a “private-sector element” was introduced to labour relations. The exact figure was 1.5% for a total expenditure of €152.2 billion. Not earth-shaking, perhaps, but a milestone for a country like Italy. By the end of 2010, there were 3,458,857 public-sector employees, 67,174 fewer than the previous year. Cuts were made everywhere, with one or two exceptions. As usual, provincial authorities and special-statute regions continued to hire in 2010, even in sectors like education. In the rest of Italy, schools lost about 32,000 employees while in Trento and Bolzano, staffing numbers rose by 441…

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



G8 Leaders Want Greece to Remain in Eurozone

Leaders of the eight largest economies have affirmed their commitment on Saturday to a “strong and cohesive” eurozone with Greece as a member. They also stressed the need to promote growth and fiscal discipline.

G8 leaders meeting at US President Barack Obama’s weekend retreat of Camp David in Maryland said on Saturday that they want to see Greece remain in the eurozone as part of a “strong and cohesive” eurozone to ensure “global stability and recovery.”

The leaders of the US, the UK, Germany, France, Canada, Russia, Japan and Italy also committed themselves to “take all necessary steps to strengthen and reinvigorate our economies and combat financial stresses, recognizing that the right measures are not the same for each of us,” hinting at the ongoing debate about stimulating growth versus fiscal discipline.

Earlier on Saturday, British Prime Minister David Cameron had agreed with German Chancellor Angela Merkel that “growth and austerity aren’t alternatives,” suggesting that measures for economic stimulus as well as austerities had to come together.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Greece Tourism Hit by Euro Crisis

(ATHENS) — Europeans are avoiding vacations to Greece this summer fearing instability sparked by the debt crisis, industry sources say, inflicting a hard blow to the country’s already devastated economy.

“From the aftermath of the elections on May 6, we have experienced a 50 percent drop in bookings,” said George Drakopoulos, director general of the association of Greek tourism enterprises (SETE).

Though tourism from Germany this year is back on the rise, overall booking numbers are still plummeting ahead of the busy summer season, Drakopoulos said.

“Hotels make appealing offers, but that is not the issue here. For many of the tourists visiting Greece, it is a matter of security on top of value for money.”

This comes after a particularly profitable 2011 season, where Greece benefited from the unrest in the northern Africa.

According to SETE, tourism represents 15.7 percent of Greece’s output and employs 768,000 people, either directly and indirectly.

Panagiotis Moriatis, president of the association of hotel owners of Nafplion — a highly popular tourist destination close to the Bronze Age site of Mycenae — said business this year should drop by up to 15 percent.

Moriatis blamed bad publicity: “Foreign media only portray the troubles in Athens and show nothing of the rest of Greece, where conditions are the exact opposite.”

“Athens is the city that has suffered the greatest damage. Fewer tourists visit Athens and this takes its toll on other cities,” Moriatis added.

Germans in particular are thought to be avoiding Greece in fear of retribution by angry locals for two years of austerity measures many Greeks link to Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel.

“Last year we had a 10 percent rise in German tourists. This year we have a 25 to 30-percent drop. German tourists are afraid that they are in danger if they visit Greece,” said SETE’s Drakopoulos.

But Sybille Zeuch of the German Travel Association (DRV) said that, despite a lukewarm start in early 2012, bookings are on the rise over the past few weeks. “Many (German tourists) are regulars and they know that islands are not affected (by events taking place in Athens),” she said

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Italy: Trade Surplus Posted From Non-EU Demand

Rome, 16 May (AKI) — Italy in March posted a trade surplus as demand for the country’s products picked up outside the European Union.

Exports of Italian goods rose 1.7 percent over February, with exports to non-EU members rising 4.1 percent, national statistics agency Istat said on Wednesday.

Exports rose 4.9 percent compared with the same month in 2011.

Italy and the other eurozone countries are in recession. Consumers are spending less as governments cut spending and raise taxes to put their financial houses in order.

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

USA


12 Images That Demonstrate How the New World Order Openly Mocks US

If you know what to look for, it quickly becomes obvious that the elite of the world are not even trying to hide their insidious plans for the planet. They hope to unite the entire globe under their leadership, and they don’t think that we are strong enough or smart enough to stop them.

They openly embed symbols expressing their desire for a one world economic system, a one world religion and a one world government on our buildings, on our monuments, and on our money; and they think that it is funny that most people have no idea what those symbols mean.

The New World Order openly mocks us and they seem to take pleasure in giving us “clues” about what their plans are for humanity.

The following are 12 pictures that demonstrate how the New World Order openly mocks us….

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Mark Steyn: Eternally Shifting Sands of Obama’s Biography

It used to be a lot simpler. As E.C. Bentley deftly summarized it in 1905:

“Geography is about maps. But Biography is about chaps.”

But that was then, and now Biography is also about maps. For example, have you ever thought it would be way cooler to have been born in colonial Kenya?

Whoa, that sounds like crazy Birther talk; don’t go there! But Breitbart News did, and it turns out that the earliest recorded example of Birtherism is from the president’s own literary agent, way back in 1991, in the official bio of her exciting new author:

“Barack Obama, the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review, was born in Kenya and raised in Indonesia and Hawaii.”

So the lunatic theory that Barack Obama doesn’t meet the minimum eligibility requirements to be president of the United States was first advanced by Barack Obama’s official representative. Where did she get that wacky idea from? “This was nothing more than a fact-checking error by me,” says Obama’s literary agent, Miriam Goderich, a “fact” that went so un-”checked” that it stayed up on her agency’s website in the official biography of her by-then-famous client up until 2007:

“He was born in Kenya to an American anthropologist and a Kenyan finance minister.” And then in April 2007, someone belatedly decided to “check” the 16-year-old “fact” and revised the biography, a few weeks into the now non-Kenyan’s campaign for the presidency. Fancy that!

When it comes to conspiracies, I’m an Occam’s Razor man. The more obvious explanation of the variable first line in the eternally shifting sands of Obama’s biography is that, rather than pretending to have been born in Hawaii, he’s spent much of his life pretending to have been born in Kenya.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



New World Order: Death of America

The map above was copyrighted in 1942 and published in Philadelphia PA. It was likely compiled before Pearl Harbor and a copy was received by the Library of Congress on Feb. 25, 1942 as shown by the stamp. Another stamp suggests it was entered into the map collection on Mar. 31, 1942. I regret I had to sacrifice a bit of quality to reduce loading time here.

Below is the plan outlined at the bottom of the map. I removed it from the map to speed up the display in my original post in blogspot. I’m leaving it here for those who may want to copy the text. It’s a lot easier than trying to pull it off the map. Reading it is essential to understanding the map and what these “elites” have planned for us under the tyranny of them, by them, and for them.

[…]

39. In the New World Moral Order which we seek to establish, beside the essential political freedom, the following fundamental economic changes are imperative:

(a) Nationalization of all natural resources and equitable distribution of same to all nations everywhere in the world;

(b) Nationalization of international banking, foreign investments, railroads and power plants — everywhere in the world;

(c) Nationalization of an armaments producing establishments by all remaining military powers;

(d) Federal control of foreign commerce and shipping;

(e) The establishment of a world common monetary system;

40. To retain the victory and leadership of our united democratic effort the aim of which is not vengeance or exploitation, but freedom and security to all nations for peaceful progress — the unified “Supreme War Command of the United Nations” at the conclusion of the present war, shall be reorganized and transformed into a permanent “Supreme Military and Economic Council” collaborating with the “World League of Nationalities” in post-war reconstruction and to enforce world peace.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Officials: Tinley Park Melee Begun by Protesters Targeting Alleged White Supremacists

The melee at a Tinley Park restaurant Saturday appears to have been the work of radical protesters who wanted to attack a gathering of alleged white supremacists, the mayor and a law enforcement source said.

Ten people were injured at the Ashford House Restaurant on 159th Street after 15 to 18 young people, wearing hooded black jackets and wielding bats and hammers, burst inside and attacked another group of 12 to 15 people who were meeting there, officials said.

Mayor Ed Zabrocki said police believe the attackers were from a group called Anti-Racist Action, which on its website described the assault as a strike against a gathering of white supremacists.

The law enforcement source said the victims included several people with ties to a white supremacist group. Zabrocki said that was his understanding, too, but that police were still trying to clarify those links.

Five people remained in custody in connection with the attack, Zabrocki said, adding that the state’s attorney’s office was exploring criminal charges.

Restaurant owner Mike Winston said the group that was attacked had made a reservation, saying they were from an Irish heritage association.

“We had no idea who these people were,” he said. “We don’t ask for people’s political stuff when they come in the door.”

The trouble put a deep dent in his business, he said. A wedding shower booked for Sunday was canceled, he said, and the normally packed dining room was practically barren.

           — Hat tip: Takuan Seiyo [Return to headlines]



Revving Up the Race Card

Democrats’ backers deploy radical tactics to expand welfare state

A George Soros-funded pressure group is behind a new drive to teach Democratic congressmen how to smear their opponents as racist.

Last week House Democrats were tutored by the radical, left-wing, racial spoils group known as the Center for Social Inclusion. The group was brought in “to address the issue of race to defend government programs,” Joel Gehrke reported in the WashingtonExaminer.

“The prepared content of a Tuesday presentation to the House Democratic Caucus and staff indicates that Democrats will seek to portray apparently neutral free-market rhetoric as being charged with racial bias, conscious or unconscious,” Mr. Gehrke wrote.

Trainer Maya Wiley of the Center for Social Inclusion lectured the assembled lawmakers that “conservative messages” are “racially ‘coded,’ “ and suggested ways to combat this sinister subliminal messaging cooked up by the Wile E. Coyotes of the Republican National Committee.

Facts don’t matter in Ms. Wiley’s estimation. “It’s emotional connection, not rational connection that we need,” she said.

Ms. Wiley argued that Newt Gingrich labeling President Obama a “food stamp president,” cannot possibly be “a race-neutral statement, even if Newt Gingrich did not intend racism.” In other words, even though the federal food stamp program has ballooned under the Obama administration, all criticism of Mr. Obama for that increased welfare spending — however seemingly legitimate — is rooted in racism.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Source: Group Beaten at Tinley Park Restaurant Was White Supremacists

TINLEY PARK, Illinois (STMW) — A law enforcement source Sunday said the group beaten at a Tinley Park restaurant Saturday was made up of white supremacists, and those who assaulted them were protesters attacking their beliefs.

Police had five people in custody after the attack, which occured at The Ashford House, 7959 W. 159th St. around noon. No charges have been filed yet, and the suspects did not appear in bond court Sunday.

Tinley Park Mayor Ed Zabrocki on Sunday said police do not know if the protesters had any connection to the NATO Summit in downtown Chicago.

He said police still have 35 to 40 people to interview, and charges could come Monday

The men in custody aren’t talking yet to police, he said.

Restaurant owner Mike Winston said he was working in the kitchen the restaurant during the lunch rush when a waitress screamed that a fight had broken out in the dining room.

Winston said a mob wielding metal batons and hammers hurt ten diners in the attack, and three of those were hospitalized.

Winston said 18 young men, all wearing hooded jackets and obscuring their faces with scarves and other coverings, stormed into the restaurant. Police said there were 15 to 18 attackers.

“They came running in the door single file,” said Winston, who owns the restaurant and the adjacent Winston’s Market.

Winston and police said the men knew who their targets were and that the attack wasn’t a random act of violence. Winston said the mob “targeted” a group of 20 diners, all of whom were from out of state.

“Once they attacked the table, they went and started hitting random people,” Winston said.

Along with hammers, the men used what Winston described as “old-fashioned police batons” as well as metal batons.

“Four or five people got knocked over the head pretty good, enough to require stitches,” he said.

He chased after one of the attackers “and had him on the ground, then five guys got out of a car and started kicking the (crap) out of me,” Winston said.

Winston said he was kicked in the back of the head and suffered several bruises, but he was the only restaurant employee who was hurt.

“They did a whole lot of damage,” he said. “They flipped over tables, they broke half the dishes.”

Surveillance cameras inside the restaurant captured the attack and footage was turned over to Tinley Park police, Winston said.

Police said the attackers fled in three vehicles, and that one vehicle was stopped near the intersection of 159th and Harlem Avenue.

Winston said that during the attack most of the men’s face coverings were torn off.

“Most of these kids were white, and they all looked like they were between 18 and 25,” he said.

In a news release, police tried to assure residents the attack was “an isolated incident” and that “there is no immediate threat to the community.”

           — Hat tip: Takuan Seiyo [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU


4 Killed After Magnitude-6.0 Earthquake Shakes Northern Italy

A magnitude-6.0 earthquake shook several small towns in northeast Italy Sunday, killing four people, knocking down a clock tower and other centuries-old buildings and causing millions in losses to the region known for making Parmesan cheese.

The quake struck at 4:04 a.m., with its epicenter about 35 kilometers (22 miles) north of Bologna at a relatively shallow depth of 5 kilometers (3.2 miles), the U.S. Geological Survey said. Civil protection agency official Adriano Gumina described it as the worst quake to hit the region since the 1300s.

Premier Mario Monti, in Chicago for the NATO summit, told reporters he was returning to Italy before the meeting ends because of the quake. The quake struck in the farm region known for production of Parmigiano and Grana cheeses. Italy’s farm lobby Coldiretti said that some 200,000 huge, round cheeses were damaged, causing a loss to producers of euro50 million ($65 milion).

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Belgium: Rightist EU MP Filip Dewinter, Dad of an-Sofie, Welcomes Jewish Envoy to Parliament

“The European countries must understand that without the State of Israel there’s no stopping the Islamic tide from washing up Europe, and that without Judea and Samaria the State of Israel is not viable,” — Gershon Mesika, Shomron Regional Council

The flamboyant and outspoken leader of the Belgian rightist libertarian party Vlaams Belang Felip DeWinter has welcomed a top Israeli patriot to Brussels. DeWinter, father of anti-Islamist activist An-Sofie DeWinter, told media representatives that support for Israel was important for the preservation of Western civilization.

From Arutz Sheva, “European Parliamentarians Pleased with Mesika’s Visit to the EU — European parliamentarians pleased with speech by the head of the Shomron Regional Council, reaffirm support for Israel” May 17:

Belgian MP Frank Creyelman told Arutz Sheva that meetings with both Jews and Arabs are important because they help Europeans better understand the issues at hand.

“Encounters like this are very important because we see not only the Jewish side of the story, which we know and which we support, but also the Palestinian side of the story,” he said. “And of course, being a nationalist, I can cope with both these native peoples who have their way of thinking about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

Creyelman added, “In our country it’s quite important because we have a lot of Muslim immigrants who tend to be more radical than they are in the Middle East.”

His remarks were echoed by Belgian MP Tanguy Veys, who noted that “in Europe and Belgium, most supporters of the Palestinian cause are Muslim extremists and extreme left politicians. For the first time, I felt that there’s also a possibility to have a peace message.”

European Parliament member Filip DeWinter echoed his colleagues’ sentiments and also had an important message for Israelis.

“People in Israel have to know that they have a lot of friends here in Europe, because I think we have a common struggle going on: the struggle against radical Islam,” said DeWinter. “We are aware of the fact that Israel is the only European, Western and democratic country in the Middle East, surrounded by radical Islamic countries who want to kick all the Israelis into the sea.

           — Hat tip: TV [Return to headlines]



Earliest Wall Art is Found in France

A massive block of limestone in France contains what scientists believe are the earliest known engravings of wall art dating back some 37,000 years, according to a study published Monday.

The 1.5 metric ton ceiling piece was first discovered in 2007 at Abri Castanet, a well known archeological site in southwestern France which holds some of the earliest forms of artwork, beads and pierced shells.

According to New York University anthropology professor Randall White, lead author of the paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the art was likely meant to adorn the interior of a shelter for reindeer hunters.

“They decorated the places where they were living, where they were doing all their daily activities,” White told AFP. “There is a whole question about how and why, and why here in this place at this particular time you begin to see people spending so much time and energy and imagination on the graphics.”

The images range from paintings of horses to “vulvar imagery” that appears to represent female sex organs, carved into the low ceiling that rose between 1.5 to two meters (yards) from the floor, within reach of the hunters.

The work is less sophisticated than the elaborate paintings of animals found in France’s Grotte Chauvet, which was more remote and difficult to access, believed to be between 30,000 and 36,000 years old.

In contrast, the engravings and paintings at Castanet, which carbon dating showed were about 37,000 years old, are rougher and more primitive in style, and were likely done by everyday people.

“This art appears to be slightly older than the famous paintings from the Grotte Chauvet in southeastern France,” said White, referring to the cave paintings discovered in 1994. “But unlike the Chauvet paintings and engravings, which are deep underground and away from living areas, the engravings and paintings at Castanet are directly associated with everyday life, given their proximity to tools, fireplaces, bone and antler tool production, and ornament workshops.”

However, even though the artwork is vastly different, archeologists believe the artists came from the same Aurignacian culture which comprised the first modern humans in Europe, replacing the Neanderthals. They lived from 40,000 years ago until about 28,000 years ago.

“Early Aurignacian humans functioned, more or less, like humans today,” said White. “They had relatively complex social identities communicated through personal ornamentation, and they practiced sculpture and graphic arts.”

Co-authors on the paper came from leading archeology labs and universities in France and Britain.

In a separate study published last week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, French scientists described the paintings at Chauvet as “the oldest and most elaborate ever discovered.” Those finding were based on an analysis — called geomorphological and chlorine-36 dating — of the rock slide surfaces around what is believed to be the cave’s only entrance.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Humanity’s Best Friend: How Dogs May Have Helped Humans Beat the Neanderthals

Over 20,000 years ago, humans won the evolutionary battle against Neanderthals. They may have had some assistance in that from their best friends.

Anthropologist Pat Shipman of Pen State University thinks that modern humans may have had an advantage over Neanderthals in Europe through the assistance of domesticated dogs. A 27,000-year-old dog burial has been unearthed in the Czech Republic, along with dog teeth that may have been worn as jewelry. Also, dogs are rarely depicted in cave art, suggesting that Paleolithic people viewed them as fellow hunters, rather than game animals.

It has been shown that modern humans and dogs are able to communicate with eye contact. Shipman suggests that people may have evolved expressive eyes with highly visible sclera for silent communication while hunting in groups with dogs. “No genetic study has yet confirmed the prevalence or absence of white sclera in Paleolithic modern humans or in Neanderthals. But if the white sclera mutation occurred more often among the former — perhaps by chance — this feature could have enhanced human-dog communication and promoted domestication,” she said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



In Memoriam David Littman: 1933-2012

by Jerry Gordon

We are saddened to report the passing today after a long illness of David Littman in Geneva, Switzerland . A funeral will be held in Geneva on Wednesday, May 23rd with interment at the Jewish Cemetery in adjacent Veyrier, France. A memorial in his honor will be held subsequently. The following is an excerpt from his biography:…

           — Hat tip: Jerry Gordon [Return to headlines]



Israel Seeks to Deploy 20,000 Commandos in Greek Cyprus

Israel wants its energy projects in Greek Cyprus to be run by Israelis and is seeking to deploy as many as 20,000 commandos for their protection, Anatolia news agency reported today.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Greek Cypriot counterpart, Demetris Christofias, met on Feb. 16 to discuss the two countries’ joint ventures. Details of the talks between the two leaders were kept secret.

Anatolia cited a source it said was close to the Greek Cypriot government who reportedly said Christophias specifically asked Netanyahu to convince Israeli businessmen to halt their investments in Turkish Cyprus during the meeting.

Netanyahu reportedly offered during the same meeting to undertake all the expenses required to construct a gas plant needed to extract the natural gas found in the Mediterranean Sea, the report said. In exchange, Netanyahu asked that all the 10,000 personnel that would work at the plant be brought in from Israel with their families, which would increase the number to nearly 30,000.

The high number of Israelis in Greek Cyprus would present a security issue, which Netanyahu suggested be solved by sending as many as 20,000 Israeli commandos to safeguard both the Israelis and the natural gas plant, the agency said.

Israel’s offer sought to place the personnel and commandos in Limassol in Greek Cyprus.

Anatolia’s source in Greek Cyprus reportedly said, “The Israelis were coming here to settle for good.”

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



Italy’s Elderly Ruling Class

Average age (59) is highest in European Union. Coldiretti warns top job-holders will retire before crisis is beaten. Oldest professors in world

MILAN — With their average age of 59, Italy’s ruling classes in politics, the economy and public administration are the oldest in Europe. The picture emerges from the first report on the average age of credit-crunched Italy’s ruling classes, presented at the assembly of the Coldiretti farmers’ association youth section and compiled in collaboration with the university of Calabria. “The majority of the current ruling classes will probably retire before the crisis has been overcome, even taking into account the reforms of employment minister Elsa Fornero”, quipped Coldiretti’s national youth delegate, Vittorio Sangiorgio. He went on to point out that “record youth unemployment is not just a family or social issue. It causes ageing of the ruling classes in a country that has to face the crisis while denying itself energy and resources that are crucial to growth”…

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



Italy: Finmeccanica Board Member Probed for Illegal Party Financing

Defence giant under bribery investigation

(ANSA) — Rome, May 16 — Franco Bonferroni, a board member of Italian defence giant Finmeccanica, is under investigation for illegal party financing, a shareholders meeting revealed Wednesday. The company has been hit by an investigation into allegations that its managers were involved in issuing false invoices and the creation of slush funds to bribe politicians.

Pier Francesco Guarguaglini, who had been Finmeccanica’s chairman and CEO since 2002, was forced to resign in December after being named as one of the probed managers.

Fimeccanica is also currently linked to a bribes probe with the scandal-plagued Northern League party, whose ex-leader, Umberto Bossi, was also placed under investigation Wednesday for alleged fraud in a separate case. Chairman and CEO Giuseppe Orsi was placed under investigation three weeks ago for allegedly paying millions of euros in bribes to the League.

The Northern League and Finmeccanica have both denied kickbacks reports.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Powerful Earthquake Hits Northern Italy

At least six people have died and dozens more were injured by a 6.0-magnitude earthquake in northern Italy early on Sunday. The tremor caused extensive property damage in the historic region.

A powerful earthquake struck Italy’s industrial and densely populated northeast early on Sunday, killing six people and injuring dozens. Homes, factories and churches around the historic city of Ferrara have been badly damaged, and it is feared that historic buildings have been badly affected.

“Italy is a very quake-prone country. What we can say is that 5.9 or 6.0 is the maximum strength there has ever been in these zones in the past,” said Enzo Boschi, a well-regarded seismologist in Italy.

Rescue services said at least 50 were injured in the 6.0-magnitude quake, which struck around 4 a.m. local time (0200 GMT). The epicentre, according to authorities, was the commune of Finale Emilia, 36 kilometres (22 miles) north of Bologna.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



The Oldest Farming Village in the Mediterranean Islands is Discovered in Cyprus

The oldest agricultural settlement ever found on a Mediterranean island has been discovered in Cyprus by a team of French archaeologists involving CNRS, the National Museum of Natural History, INRAP, EHESS and the University of Toulouse. Previously it was believed that, due to the island’s geographic isolation, the first Neolithic farming societies did not reach Cyprus until a thousand years after the birth of agriculture in the Middle East (ca. 9500 to 9400 BCE). However, the discovery of Klimonas, a village that dates from nearly 9000 years before Christ, proves that early cultivators migrated to Cyprus from the Middle Eastern continent shortly after the emergence of agriculture there, bringing with them wheat as well as dogs and cats.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

North Africa


Lockerbie Bomber Megrahi Has Died in Libya: Brother

TRIPOLI (Reuters) — Abdel Basset al-Megrahi, the Libyan convicted of the 1988 bombing of a PanAm flight over Lockerbie, died of cancer on Sunday aged 60, leaving many questions on the attack and its aftermath unanswered.

Megrahi who said he was not responsible for bringing the jumbo jet down on the Scottish town and killing 270 people, was found guilty in 2001 but released in 2009 and returned to Libya because he had terminal cancer and not expected to live long.

That decision by officials in Scotland angered relatives of many victims, 189 of whom were American, and was criticized by Washington as Megrahi returned to a hero’s welcome from Muammar Gaddafi. That he survived for nearly three more years, outliving Gaddafi himself, who was overthrown last year, caused discomfort in Britain. Prime Minister David Cameron, visiting the United States on Sunday, said Megrahi should never have been freed.

Megrahi’s brother Mohammed told Reuters he had died at his home in the Libyan capital from complications from prostate cancer. “He was too sick to utter anything on his deathbed,” another brother, Abdulhakim, said outside Megrahi’s house.

“Just because Abdul Basset is dead doesn’t mean the past is now erased,” he said. “We will always tell the world that my brother was innocent.”

Megrahi, the only person convicted for the bombing, was found guilty under Scots law of secretly loading a suitcase bomb onto a plane at Malta’s Luqa Airport, where he was head of operations for Libyan Arab Airlines in December 1988.

The suitcase was transferred at Frankfurt to another flight and then onto New York-bound PanAm Flight 103 at London’s Heathrow airport, concluded Scottish judges sitting at a converted Dutch military base selected as a neutral trial venue.

All 259 people aboard the aircraft were killed when it exploded and 11 people in the small town of Lockerbie died when homes and vehicles were obliterated by falling debris.

Megrahi, handed over by Gaddafi under a U.N.-brokered deal, always insisted he was merely an airline executive, not a Libyan intelligence agent as prosecutors charged.

His trial was part of a process of rapprochement by which Gaddafi distanced himself from association with groups regarded as terrorists in the West and secured renewed cooperation with Western firms keen to exploit Libya’s oil and gas reserves.

Controversies

Reaction to Megrahi’s death reflected the controversies that have raged for years over his role.

Many people in Britain say they believe he was a scapegoat, while many in the United States have accused Britain of releasing him to help secure oil deals in Gaddafi’s Libya. Britain has denied the charge.

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer of New York, who wanted the Libyan government that took over after Gaddafi’s ouster and killing by rebels to take Megrahi into custody, said his return to Libya was a major injustice.

“The whole deal smelled of a deal for oil for this man’s freedom and that was almost blasphemy given what a horrible person he was and the terrible destruction and tragedy that he caused,” Schumer told CNN.

“I don’t know if we’ll ever get to the bottom of it now.”

British Prime Minister David Cameron, who was in opposition when Megrahi was freed, said in Chicago: “I’ve always been clear he should never have been released from prison.

“Today is a day to remember the 270 people who lost their lives in what was an appalling terrorist act. Our thoughts should be with them and their families for the suffering they’ve had.”…

[Return to headlines]



Lockerbie Bomber Abdel Baset Al-Megrahi Dies in Libya

Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, a Libyan intelligence officer who was the only person ever convicted in the 1988 Lockerbie bombing, died at home in Tripoli Sunday, nearly three years after he was released from a Scottish prison to the outrage of the relatives of the attack’s 270 victims. He was 60.

Scotland released al-Megrahi on Aug. 20, 2009, on compassionate grounds to let him return home to die after he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. At the time, doctors predicted he had only three months to live.

Anger over the release was further stoked by the hero’s welcome he received on his arrival in Libya — and by subsequent allegations that London had sought his release to preserve business interests in the oil-rich North African nation, strongly denied by the British and Scottish governments.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



The Rise of Islamist Political Economy: The New Capitalists

After gaining power during the Arab Spring, Islamist parties are seeking solutions to improve the economy of the Islamic states. For Fawaz A Gerges, professor of international relations at the London School of Economics, free market capitalism is the new model used by the Islamists after years of socialism. Turkey the flagship of the new Islamic movements.

London (AsiaNews / Open Democracy) — In the aftermath of the Arab uprisings, Islamists or religious-based activists are poised over coming years to take ownership of the seats of power in the Arab heartland. They have already won majorities of parliamentary seats in a number of countries, including Tunisia, Egypt and Morocco, and will likely make further gains in Libya and Jordan (and maybe even in Syria after the dust settles on the raging battlefield there).

In the last four decades, centrist or modernist Islamists, most of whom accept the rules of the political game, brilliantly positioned themselves as the alternative to the failed secular “authoritarian bargain”. They invested considerable capital in building social networks on the national and local levels, including non-government professional civil society associations, welfare, and family ties. In contrast to their secular-minded opponents, Islamists have mastered the art of local politics and built a formidable political machine that repeatedly has proved able to deliver the vote. Islamists’ recent parliamentary victories are not surprising, because they had paid their dues and earned the trust of voters. These results show that they are cashing in on social investments made under authoritarian rule in their local communities.

Although Islamists did not trigger the revolts that shredded the Arab authoritarian order to pieces, their decades-long resistance to autocratic rulers turned them into shadow governments in the peoples’ eyes. A vote for the Islamists implied a clean break with the failed past and a belief (still to be tested) that they can deliver the goods — jobs, economic stability, and transparency. Thus the political fortunes of rising Islamists will ultimately depend on whether they live up to their promises and meet the rising expectations of the Arab publics.

The business agenda

Islamist parties are increasingly becoming “service” parties: an acknowledgment that political legitimacy and the likelihood of re-election rests on the ability to deliver jobs, economic growth, and to demonstrate transparency. This factor introduces a huge degree of pragmatism in their policies. The example of Turkey, especially its economic success, has had a major impact on Arab Islamists, many of whom would like to emulate the Turkish model. The Arab Islamists have, in other words, understood the truth of the slogan, “It is the economy, stupid!” The Turkish model, with the religiously observant provincial bourgeoisie as its kingpin, also acts as a reminder that Islam and capitalism are mutually reinforcing and compatible.

It is notable that the Islamists’ economic agenda does not espouse a distinctive “Islamic” economic model. This is unsurprising, however, as an Islamic economic model does not exist. Islamists suffer from a paucity of original ideas on the economy and have not even developed a blueprint to tackle the structural socioeconomic crisis in Arab societies.

Nevertheless, what distinguishes centrist religious-based groups from their leftist and nationalist counterparts is a friendly sensibility toward business activities including wealth accumulation and free-market economics. Islamism is a bourgeois movement consisting mostly of middle-class professionals, businessmen, shopkeepers, petty merchants and traders.

If there is a slogan that best describes Islamists’ economic attitude, it would be: “Islam-is-good-for-business”. Many Arab Islamists admire and wish to imitate the example of Turkey, even though they know little about the complexity of the country’s economy and lack Turkey’s strategic economic model. What impresses them is Turkey’s economic dynamism, especially the dynamism of the religiously observant provincial bourgeoisie who have turned Anatolian towns such as Kayseri, Konya and Gaziantep into industrial powerhouses driving the growth of the Turkish economy.

For example, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt has assured the western powers of its commitment to free-market capitalism. The architect of the Brotherhood’s economic policy, the millionaire businessman Khairat al-Shater, has silenced voices within the organisation that call for a more egalitarian, socialist approach. Although he does not hold elected office, in April 2012 he met the International Monetary Fund team which is negotiating a $3.2-billion loan facility with the Egyptian government. The IMF has said it wants broad political backing for the deal.

After the Brotherhood confirmed al-Shater as a presidential candidate (and prior to his disqualification by Egypt’s election commission), the group intensified its contacts with western states; al-Shater himself offered direct reassurance to diplomats and economists from the United States during their visits to Cairo (see Ramadan Al Sherbini, “Broherhood Courts the West,” Gulf News, 5 April 2012).

In an interview with Al-Jazeera, al-Shater said that economic development would be the most pressing priority for his administration and would be based on structural reforms and growth (see Anas Ziki, “Al-Shater: We are competing for president because of a plot to make us fail”, Al-Jazeera [in Arabic], 12 April 2012). Mohamed Habib, a former deputy supreme guide of the Brotherhood, said that “[the Brothers] tightened the screws on anyone who had different ideas about economics” (see David D Kirkpatrick, “Keeper of Islamic Flames Rises as Egypt’s New Decisive Voice”, New York Times, 12 March 2012).

The “Islamic” economy

Yet if centrist-Islamists are generally for free-market economy and have always been, they are also likely to seek religious legitimation for their economic policies. For example, Islamist parties have publicly vowed to promote social justice and have stressed their long record of social work among the poor. Most have chosen names like “Justice and Development” or “Freedom and Justice”, a choice which shows their concerns, if not their priorities. In this sense, some Islamist-specific economic measures and ideas will be introduced to complement free-market capitalism (for a detailed account of the Brotherhood’s economic plan and the projects it intends to launch, see Hani al-Waziri, “Al Masri Al Youm publishes details of the ‘Brotherhood’s renaissance’ plans: Economic restructuring according to Islamic principles…and 100 national projects”, Almasry-alyoum [in Arabic], 26 April 2012).

The Muslim Brothers, along with the Salafists, who are religiously ultra-conservative but are less enamoured with the free market than the Brothers, have already called for the introduction of an index of companies that comply with Sharia law, as part of a wider move toward an “Islamic” economy. The idea is designed to appeal to their base and to attract investments from the Gulf Arab region, where a Sharia-compliant economic system exists, but does not alter the basics of Islamists’ preference for free-market capitalism (see Heba Saleh, “Egyptian officials look to set up Islamist index”, Financial Times, 1 February 2012).

Similarly, according to one of the architects of Ennahda’s economic programme in Tunisia, Ridha Chkoundali, “The banking system will be diversified and the Tunisian financial market will therefore be made up of traditional and Islamic banks… As a result, there will be more competition between the banks.” In Morocco too, the newly designated prime minister Abdelilah Benkirane ackowledged the importance of addressing economic issues: “We will do everything to encourage foreign and domestic investment to create a climate of prosperity” (see “Morocco Embraces Democracy as King Mohammed VI Appoints New Cabinet ? “, Morocco News Agency, 3 January 2012).

The dual challenge

There is nothing in Islamists’ current statements and ideas that shows them to be socialist-oriented, though most readily accept the Keynesian model of active state intervention in the economy. Among Islamists, the interventionist approach appeals most to Salafists, who forcefully call for the adoption of distributive measures to address rampant poverty. Yet the dominant Islamist approach to the economy, with minor variations, is free-market capitalism. In Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco, the Brotherhood, Ennahda and the Justice & Development Party have sufficient interests to deal with global financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank; they do not have the luxury or ideological sensibility to be insular because their countries do not have access to huge rents and raw resources, especially petroleum.

These Islamists also face a huge challenge: to deliver critical economic improvements in the short term, while devising a long-term comprehensive reform agenda that lays the foundation of a productive economy. The dismal socioeconomic conditions in transitioning Arab countries — abject poverty, double-digit unemployment, the absence of a competitive private sector, against a background of rising expectations — mean that the new governments will be hard pressed to focus on distributive policies and urgent short-term needs.

Yet like other political groups, Islamist parties have their sights on the electoral map and want to be re-elected. Will they have the time, space and vision to invest in innovation, technology and the knowledge economy in order to engineer sustainable development; or will they succumb to instrumentalist political temptation by pursuing short-term electoral gains?

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

Israel and the Palestinians


Dutch Gas Companies Set Sights on Israel

Large natural gas reserves discovered under the Mediterranean sea close to the Israeli city of Haifa are proving a draw to Dutch firms, news agency ANP reports on Friday.

Gas companies Kiwa Gas Technologies and civil engineering group DHV are part of a trade mission to Israel in June and hope to move in on the find, ANP says.

‘The Dutch gas and energy sector has a lot of experience in extracting gas, processing it and transporting it, thanks to the Slochteren and North Sea fields,’ said Bert van der Heide from Kurtz Marketing, the company organising the mission.

‘Israel is looking for specialised partners… and that offers opportunities to Dutch firms, although it is not clear how many jobs would be generated.’

US and Norwegian firms have also approached Israel about exploiting the fields, Van der Heide said.

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

Middle East


Iranians Protest Against Gulf States Union

Tehran calls for demonstrations against a plan to unify the Arab Gulf states, “a dangerous plot” instigated by “the American-Zionist-Britain evil triangle”. Bahrain and the Gulf Cooperation Council slam Iran for interfering in their domestic affairs.

Tehran (AsiaNews/Agencies) — The Islamic Propagation Coordination Council (IPCC) organised state-backed demonstrations today in Iran “to protest against the American plan to annex Bahrain to Saudi Arabia and express their anger against the lackey regimes of Al-Khalifa and Al-Saud.”

The demonstrations targeted a plan by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which includes Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, United Arab Emirates and Kuwait, to turn itself into a European Union-styled organisation. On Monday, GCC leaders agreed to a first step. Next December, a transitional deal should be signed that would see Saudi Arabia and Bahrain form a union.

Bahrain is governed by a Sunni monarchy even though most of the population is Shia. For more than a year, the archipelago has been rocked by protests and demonstrations that were met with repressive measures, in some occasions backed by Saudi security forces.

For the IPCC, the union plan is a “dangerous plot” instigated by “the American-Zionist-Britain evil triangle to prevent popular uprisings spreading into other countries of the region and to control the internal crisis in Bahrain which has been caused by the inability of the Al-Khalifa regime to control the situation”.

“Al-Saud and Al-Khalifa should be aware that with this kind of plot they will not stop the popular movement in Bahrain and the movement of Islamic awakening in the region,” the Council added.

“Any kind of foreign intervention or non-normative plans without respecting people’s vote will only deepen the already existing wounds,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said.

For their part, Bahrain and the GCC condemned Iran for making “provocative” comments, which show Tehran’s “hostile” and “bad intentions” whilst causing “anxiety and tension across the region.”

Bahrain’s main opposition group, al-Wefaq, slammed the proposal. In a statement, the group said that no country has the right to undermine Bahrain’s sovereignty and independence.

Al-Wefaq leader Sheikh Ali Salman called instead for a referendum on the issue in all the six Arab Gulf countries.

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



Mixed-Sex Wrestling Under Investigation in Turkey

Authorities have launched an official investigation into male-female wrestling that occurred during May 19 celebrations in the Black Sea province of Samsun, daily Hürriyet reported today.

“An investigation has been launched about wrestling between male and female athletes, which is not part of our ancient sport of wrestling,” Samsun Gov. Hüseyin Aksoy said.

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

Russia


Bronze Age ‘Facebook’ Discovered by Cambridge Experts

Ancient rock art has been likened to a prehistoric form of Facebook by a Cambridge archaeologist. Mark Sapwell, who is a PhD archaeology student at St John’s College, believes he has discovered an “archaic version” of the social networking site, where users share thoughts and emotions and give stamps of approval to other contributions — similar to the Facebook “like”.

Images of animals and events were drawn on the rock faces in Russian and Northern Sweden to communicate with distant tribes and descendants during the Bronze Age.

They form a timeline preserved in stone encompassing thousands of years.

Mr Sapwell said: “Like a Facebook status invites comment, the rock art appears very social and invites addition — the way the variations of image both mirror and reinterpret act as a kind of call and response between different packs of hunters across hundreds — even thousands — of years.”

The two sites he is investigating, Zalavruga in Russia and Nämforsen in Northern Sweden, contain around 2,500 images each of animals, people, boats, hunting scenes and even early centaurs and mermaids.

He is using the latest technology to analyse the different types, traits and tropes in the thousands of images imprinted on the two granite outcrops, where the landscapes of early Bronze Age art stretch across areas of rock the size of football pitches.

Mr Sapwell, 28, explained: “These sites are on river networks, and boat is likely how these Bronze Age tribes travelled.

“The rock art I’m studying is found near rapids and waterfalls, places where you would have to maybe leave the river and walk around — carrying your animal-skin canoe on your back — natural spots to stop and leave your mark as you journey through, like a kind of artistic tollbooth.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

South Asia


Pakistan Blocks Twitter, Cites “Blasphemous” Content

Pakistan blocked access to Twitter on Sunday, citing “blasphemous” material as the reason for the move against the social networking site.

Twitter users in Pakistan may have to wait some time before tweeting friends again after the government blocked access to the messaging service.

“The website has been banned by Ministry of Information Technology and the decision was conveyed to us. There was blasphemous material on Twitter,” said Mohammad Younis Khan, spokesman for Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA).

Khan explained that there had been a planned competition to “post caricatures of Prophet Mohammed” on the site. Islam prohibits any depiction of the prophet as blasphemous.

Muslims protested widely in 2005 when a Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published satirical cartoons depicting the prophet by the Danish artist Kurt Westergaard. In 2010 a Somali man was jailed for 10 years in Denmark after he broke into Westergaard’s home armed with an axe.

Pakistan: Twitter failed to respond

An official from the Ministry of Information Technology said it had requested several times that the competition not be held on the website, but Twitter failed to respond.

PTA chairman Mohammed Yaseen did not specify which users or messages had prompted the ban. The Internet Service Providers Association of Pakistan said its members have been asked to block Twitter indefinitely.

Yaseen said the ban would be lifted after ongoing discussions between the government and Twitter about the blasphemous material are resolved.

This is not the first time Pakistan has blocked a social networking site. In May 2010, it blocked access to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and about 1,000 other sites for nearly two weeks over blasphemous content.

Twitter as become increasingly popular in Pakisan in recent years. Even politicians and government officials have used the site for communication purposes.

Officials from the Ministry of Information Technology and from Twitter were not immediately available for comment.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Stone Carvers Defy Taliban to Return to the Bamiyan Valley

Afghan students learn the centuries-old skills that carved out the giant buddhas blown up by extremists

The Bamiyan valley is pockmarked with hundreds of caves that were once part of sumptuous monasteries, packed with statues and lavishly painted with frescoes. This rich artistic heritage was funded by centuries of taxes on caravans passing through what is now an isolated backwater, but was once a wealthy and important stop on the silk road.

“There must have been at least 2,000 years of sculptural tradition,” said Praxenthaler. “Even excavating the caves is a kind of architectural sculpture. It was not just hacking holes into the cliff but also shaping the rooms, and they are quite extraordinary.”

That tradition was probably killed off around 1,000 years ago, Praxenthaler said, when the valley was conquered by Mahmoud of Ghazni, a leader whose epithet suggested little interest in figurative art. “Anyone who calls themselves the ‘destroyer of idols’ probably wouldn’t support further stone carving,” Praxenthaler said.

Sculpture has remained largely off limits in Afghanistan because of strict Islamic prohibitions on idolatry. Depictions of any human or animal are strongly discouraged in art, and calligraphy, floral and geometric patterns dominate the country’s more recent cultural heritage, from the majestic minaret of Jam, to mosques and monuments in cities such as Kabul and Kandahar.

“As you know, extremists often make propaganda about idols. But this is our heritage, not something religious,” said 20-year-old Abdur Rahman Rosta, one of the student sculptors.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Far East


China: State TV Host Offers Advice on How to Throw Out ‘Foreign Trash’

With a surge of anti-foreigner bile rising in Beijing, one might expect a prominent Chinese TV personality whose job it is to interview foreigners to weigh in with a few calming words.

One would be dead wrong.

In a rather perplexing move this week, Chinese Central Television host Yang Rui added a dose of poison to an already vitriolic debate about the behavior of foreigners in the Chinese capital by posting a message online in which he accused foreign spies in the city of pursuing Chinese women to cover up their activities, blamed Western residents for encouraging Chinese people to move abroad and appeared to take a certain vulgar delight in the recent expulsion of al-Jazeera correspondent Melissa Chan.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Two Big Stories, One Conclusion: China Has No ‘Legal System’

The illegal harassment of Chen Guangcheng and the reign of Bo Xilai in Chongqing each in their own way signal the fundamental weakness of Chinese law and the extent to which it serves as a tool to maintain the Party’s control of Chinese society.

Chen, the blind self-educated “barefoot lawyer,” was a victim convicted in a sham trial, imprisoned for over 4 years, and subsequently illegally held under house arrest for two years and brutally beaten by security forces before he escaped.

By contrast, Bo, the “princeling” son of a revolutionary, was the perpetrator of brutality. After becoming Communist Party boss of the world’s largest municipality, he launched an organized crime crackdown described by the New York Times as “a security apparatus run amok: framing victims, extracting confessions through torture, extorting business empires and visiting retribution on the political rivals of Mr. Bo.”

In each case, the question is whether formal legal measures will eventually be used to punish alleged violations of law.

Legal institutions in China, especially the criminal law, are part of a political system that ultimately directs their application and their use. They are essentially grounded on the dominant notion that law is to be used to keep the Party in power.

Laws are not implemented in a uniform manner in China. They are often vague, giving local officials the opportunity to ignore or vary their application and to exercise considerable discretion in many cases. Enforcement can be overly lax (as in cases of unlawful property takings by local governments or violations of food safety laws), excessively harsh, or downright ignored, as they were by officials in Shandong where Chen was harshly treated.

It is impossible to believe that Chen’s treatment was not well-known at high levels in Beijing.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Latin America


‘Suicide’ Art Statues Spark Panicked Calls to Cops in Brazil

THEY stand like nude sentinels, hundreds of feet above the stone pedestrian streets of central Sao Paulo. The life-size human silhouettes appear tense, perched on the edges of high-rises, prepared to dive to their deaths below. Passers-by point toward the sky, with perplexed expressions and mouths agape.

“What is that … a man? No. What … ?” Jessica Santana, a 20-year-old municipal worker, uttered to a friend Friday as they walked through Patriarca plaza, eyes fixed high above.

The 31 iron and fiberglass statues bolted atop several buildings are part of the first South American exhibit for British artist Antony Gormley, who has won many awards, among them the prestigious Turner Prize.

The sculptures, based on Gormley’s own body, are burnt auburn in color, some with arms slightly bent, others ramrod straight. They appear to stare into the horizon, gazing at the endless sprawl of tall buildings in this city of 20 million people.

The exhibit, “Still Being,” officially opens Saturday, runs through July 15 and will also appear in Rio de Janeiro and Brasilia. It includes other works shown in Sao Paulo’s Banco do Brasil Cultural Center.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Culture Wars


Feminist Group Protest at Cannes Premiere

A French feminist group upset about the lack of female directors at this year’s Cannes Film Festival staged a hairy protest on the red carpet Sunday. Five women from La Barbe donned fake, different colored beards and stood in the torrential rain at the premiere of Michael Haneke’s “Amour.” They carried signs that said, “Marveilleux,” “Merci!!!” “Splendide,” “Incredible!” and “Le Barbe.”

None of the 22 films competing for the Palme D’Or prize at the festival this year was directed by a woman. La Barbe, which means The Beard, previously had a letter complaining about the male-dominated festival line-up published in Le Monde and The Guardian newspapers.

The lack of women directors at the festival also has spurred protest in the United States, where a petition has been signed by almost 2,000 people, including feminist icon Gloria Steinem and director Gillian Armstrong.

The festival’s artistic director, Thierry Fremaux, has defended the woman-free line-up, saying he does not pick movies based on who has made them.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

News Feed 20120519

Financial Crisis
» Italian Families Spending More for Day at the Beach
» Thai Living Standards Grows: Solidarity Against the Economic Crisis
» UK: Cuts? What Cuts? Ignore the BBC and the Left, Public Spending is Higher Than Under Labour
 
USA
» Demographic Tipping Point: Whites Now Less Than Half of US Births
» Murfreesboro Author: Extend Hand to Muslims
» Muslims Rally Against ‘Islamophobic Agenda’
» The Villification of CAIR
» Thomas Sowell: A Censored Race War?
 
Europe and the EU
» Difficult to Find More Resources, EU
» Islamic Finance Growing But Not in Italy
» Italy: Justice Undersecretary Quits Over Tax Investigation
» Italy: Wild Boars Roam Florence Neighborhood
» More Norwegian Media Lies to Support War Against Muslims!
» Pope Makes Appeal to Keep Sunday a ‘Day of Rest’
» Squirrel Wars: Italy Vows to Eliminate Its American Invaders
» Syriza, Nea Dimokratia Neck to Neck Ahead of Greek Vote
» UK: A Small Minority of Pakistani Men, Warns Syeedi Warsi, See Women as “Second Class Citizens” And White Women as “Third Class Citizens”
» UK: Ali Koc: Sadistic Killer is Jailed for Life After Battering Two OAPs to Death and Attacking Five Others in North London
» UK: Career Criminal With 100 Theft Offences Walks Free Again After Judge Fails to Enact Suspended Prison Sentence
» UK: Fighting Back
» UK: Hate Preacher Qatada Could be Walking Streets in a Month
» UK: Invisible Art Exhibition to ‘Set Imagination’s Alight’
» UK: Jessica Had a Loving, Very Middle-Class Upbringing. So How Did She Become a Victim of the Rochdale Sex Gang?
» UK: MP’s Wife Sent Dead Bird in Post
» UK: Pictured: Battered Face of Great-Grandmother, 64, Who Was Beaten and Left Unconscious by Schoolboys for Her £20 Ring
» UK: Samantha Tells Her Harrowing Story
» UK: The Queen’s Handshake and Kate’s Curtesy for a Despot as They Entertain Brutal King of Bahrain at Jubilee Lunch
» UK: Tory Cabinet Minister Baroness Warsi Calls on Mosques to Act After Rochdale Grooming Gang Scandal
» UK: Warsi Condemns Sex Scandal Muslims
» Ukraine: Deputy Secretary General [Muslim Council of Britain, UK] At International Conference on “Global Winds of Change: Religion’s Role in Today’s World; The Challenges in Democracies and Secular Society”
 
North Africa
» Radical Mosques Invite Young Tunisians to Jihad in Syria
 
Middle East
» British Officers Could be Deployed to Syria to Increase Pressure on Assad Regime
» UAE: World’s Priciest Sunglasses on Auction for 300,000 Euros
» UAE: Dubai Mosque Hosts Quran Recital Contest
 
South Asia
» Afghanistan: Teenager Tells of How Man She Turned Down in Marriage Scarred Her With Acid
» Pakistan: Appeal for Christian Girl Kidnapped and Forced to Convert to Islam
 
Far East
» Blind Chinese Dissident Leaves on Flight for the United States
» China: Chen Guangcheng and Beijing’s Failure to Reform
 
Sub-Saharan Africa
» Kenya: Mombasa Muslims Protest Khan’s Killing
 
Culture Wars
» Cyprus: Few Rights for LGBTs in Society, Survey
» Less Than Half of Italians Support Gay Marriage, Says ISTAT

Financial Crisis


Italian Families Spending More for Day at the Beach

Fewer long vacations, more nearby outings

(ANSA) — Rome, May 16 — Italian families will be spending more for their days at the seaside this summer, said a report released on Wednesday by consumer group Federconsumatori.

A day at the beach will cost a family of two adults and two children 79 euros, approximately 4% more compared to last year.

Travel to the beach will also reflect the economic crisis, with gas prices up 19% since 2011.

The consumer watch-dog also noted that 66% of Italians will give up traditional, extended summer vacations and opt for city activities during the week and seaside outings at the weekends.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Thai Living Standards Grows: Solidarity Against the Economic Crisis

Recent statistics show that in Thailand the standard of living of the population is growing, but even if the poverty rate is one-fifth compared to 20 years ago, the problem of debt, insufficient income to savings, access to education basic social security and career opportunities are still factors in the lives of the poor.

Bangkok (AsiaNews) — Recent statistics show that in Thailand the standard of living of the population is growing, but even if the poverty rate is one-fifth compared to 20 years ago, the problem of debt, insufficient income for savings, ‘access to basic education, social security and career opportunities are still factors in the lives of the poor.

Compared to 20 years ago, the percentage of people living below the poverty line has fallen from 42% in 1988 to 8.1% in 2010. Nevertheless, about a fifth of Thai families do not own their home and about two thirds of households have debts and can not earn enough to create savings.

In February, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra called 2012 “a year of challenge” and encouraged people to take action in the midst of the various challenges”. In this regard she has promised that the government will encourage the private sector to increase incomes to encourage spending. And Prasarn Triratvorakul, Governor of the Bank of Thailand, in May, revised the GDP upward of 6% from 5.7% and 4.9% respectively in March and January.

The latest statistics conducted by the National Research Committee indicate a population of 62,926,261 people in 77 provinces of the country. The quarterly figure for 2011 shows only 39,317,200 people employed, with household debt at 136,562 baht per year (about 4,600 dollars).

The two following stories are examples of how people in the economic crisis seek the cooperation and solidarity within their communities, using natural and intellectual resources to create a small “family business” with sincerity, energy, patience and honesty.

The first is Boonkum Barn, community leader of Baan Bua Doke, in the northern province of Phayao. The inhabitants are mostly farmers and craftsmen who work on bamboo. Barn Boonkum in 2009 won the award for best village chief. “I attended various training courses at the Department for Community Development — he says — and I have brought economic self-sufficiency to the actual practice of everyday life by getting the villagers to grow organic vegetables, and fish frogs and catfish. In addition to this, to increase in income we will use the bamboo to make baskets. Residents participate in decisions on the community board. “ Barn emphasizes that it is important that everyone in the community rely on each other, for authentic solidarity.

The second story is about Vicha Phromyong, known internationally as “Coffee Man”, but called “Ah Po” in Doi Chang, in the northern province of Chiang Rai, which means “Venerable elder.”

“Ah Po”, who is 60, recalled that the tribal people of the northern mountains — without the possibility of formal education — are traditionally dedicated to the cultivation of opium. “When the government launched a project to change the culture of economics, Ahdel came to me, a village chief and friend, to ask for advice. In the area there was an area of 500 rais (1600 sqm) cultivated for coffee, but the price was not good. “ He then began to study in detail how to make the production cost, before investing the initial 325 thousand Baht (11 thousand dollars). “We worked very hard”: “Young men helped build enough roads and schools for the children, everyone worked not for money but for the development of their communities.”

“On my own I could not do anything, but today our ‘Doi Chang’ is coffee is sold in Dean and Deluca in Harrods Department Store in England. Foreigners are amazed, because they have never seen such an operation performed by people who are both the farmer, the producer and the exporter”.

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



UK: Cuts? What Cuts? Ignore the BBC and the Left, Public Spending is Higher Than Under Labour

If we were to ask a hundred people in any High Street, 99 of them would say there have been significant cuts. How could it be otherwise when the whole world is telling them so? Some might say the cuts are painful, but necessary. Others would opine they are painful and destructive. Either way, there is virtual unanimity that the Government is slashing public expenditure.

The trouble is that it isn’t. Earlier this week, the City bond trading firm Tullett Prebon produced a report that confirmed what some of us have been saying for months. To all intents and purposes, there hasn’t been any overall cut in public expenditure in the two years since the Coalition came to power.

Spending rose 0.3 per cent in the first year and fell by 1.5 per cent in the second. That makes a tiny overall decrease of just more than 1 per cent over two years. To put it another way, the supposedly ‘savage cuts’ delivered by the Government amount to only fractionally more than £1 in every £100. Most household budgets have suffered far more dramatic cutbacks.

Meanwhile, our national debt — what we owe as a nation — continues to soar. According to International Monetary Fund projections, it will increase faster over the next two years than any other leading European country apart from Spain. Proportionate to the size of our economy, our debt is one of the two or three highest in the developed world. When the Coalition took over, it stood at a stonking £1,002 billion. By the time of the next election, it will have risen to an unbelievable £1,613 billion.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

USA


Demographic Tipping Point: Whites Now Less Than Half of US Births

Bill Clinton once said that he looked forward to the day when whites were a minority in America. While he won’t live to see such a time, a demographic milestone that should send a tingle up Slick Willie’s leg was just reached. Writes The New York Times:

“After years of speculation, estimates and projections, the Census Bureau has made it official: White births are no longer a majority in the United States.

Non-Hispanic whites accounted for 49.6 percent of all births in the 12-month period that ended last July, according to Census Bureau data made public on Thursday, while minorities — including Hispanics, blacks, Asians and those of mixed race — reached 50.4 percent, representing a majority for the first time in the country’s history.”

Obviously, a big reason for this demographic shift is migration — and mainly the legal variety. As a result of Ted Kennedy’s Immigration Reform Act of 1965, the level of yearly immigration increased from approximately 250,000 prior to ‘65 to about 1,000,000 afterwards. And its nature changed also: 85 percent of our new arrivals now hail from the Third World and Asia. This radical departure from America’s traditional immigration patterns has created a demographic transformation possibly unprecedented in world history — except for cases of actual invasion.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Murfreesboro Author: Extend Hand to Muslims

NASHVILLE — Jerry Trousdale wants Christians to become friends with Muslims. After all, he says, that’s what Jesus would do. Trousdale, a former Church of Christ missionary and former executive at Thomas Nelson, is the author of a new book called Miraculous Movements: How Hundreds of Thousands of Muslims Are Falling in Love with Jesus. He’s also the featured speaker at a seminar today at New Song Christian Fellowship in Brentwood, aimed at helping Middle Tennessee churchgoers share their faith with Muslims and other neighbors. It starts with prayer and being genuinely interested in your neighbors, he said.

[…]

[JP note: And ends when the fat lady sings.]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



Muslims Rally Against ‘Islamophobic Agenda’

About 25 Muslims attended a rally Friday at the Statehouse urging Gov. Sam Brownback to veto a bill banning “foreign laws” that they say is a thinly veiled attack on Islam.

Faizan Syed, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ St. Louis branch, said similar “American Laws for American Courts” proposals have been floated in almost half of the 50 states this year. He said proponents have made them purposely vague to avoid running afoul of the Constitution like a 2010 Oklahoma law that specifically targeted Islamic law, or sharia.

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



The Villification of CAIR

By Rabia Chaudry

The is the first in a two-part series on the vilification of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and how the American Muslim community has responded.

There is only one national organization in the United States whose primary mission is protecting the civil liberties of American Muslims, and that is the Council on American-Islamic Relations, commonly referred to as CAIR. Since its inception in 1994, CAIR has battled countless smears and attacks against its work and reputation, which intensified after being named an unindicted co-conspirator in the notorious Holy Land Foundation case in 2007.

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



Thomas Sowell: A Censored Race War?

When two white newspaper reporters for the Virginian-Pilot were driving through Norfolk, and were set upon and beaten by a mob of young blacks — beaten so badly that they had to take a week off from work — that might seem to have been news that should have been reported, at least by their own newspaper. But it wasn’t.

“The O’Reilly Factor” on Fox News Channel was the first major television program to report this incident. Yet this story is not just a Norfolk story, either in what happened or in how the media and the authorities have tried to sweep it under the rug.

Similar episodes of unprovoked violence by young black gangs against white people chosen at random on beaches, in shopping malls or in other public places have occurred in Philadelphia, New York, Denver, Chicago, Cleveland, Washington, Los Angeles and other places across the country. Both the authorities and the media tend to try to sweep these episodes under the rug as well.

In Milwaukee, for example, an attack on whites at a public park a few years ago left many of the victims battered to the ground and bloody. But, when the police arrived on the scene, it became clear that the authorities wanted to keep this quiet.

One 22-year-old woman, who had been robbed of her cell phone and debit card, and had blood streaming down her face said: “About 20 of us stayed to give statements and make sure everyone was accounted for. The police wouldn’t listen to us, they wouldn’t take our names or statements. They told us to leave. It was completely infuriating.”

[…]

Trying to keep the lid on is understandable. But a lot of pressure can build up under that lid. If and when that pressure leads to an explosion of white backlash, things could be a lot worse than if the truth had come out earlier, and steps taken by both black and white leaders to deal with the hoodlums and with those who inflame the hoodlums.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU


Difficult to Find More Resources, EU

European Union has moved East, political intent is more limited

(ANSAmed) — PALERMO, MAY 16 — “Compared to 15 years ago, Europe’s centre has moved more towards Eastern Europe. It is difficult to mobilize many additional resources only for the Mediterranean because of the competition coming from the East”.

Fabrizio Di Michele of the European External Relations Service and Chairman of the Maghreb-Mashrek think-tank, reported yesterday in Palermo at the Third Interinstitutional Forum “United by the Mediterranean” in occasion of the International Al Idrissi Award 2012.

Di Michele added that “the ongoing negotiations in Brussels regarding the financial prospects for 2014-2020 should allow to increase the resources for territorial cooperation and at the same time improve the systems of management of these resources which are to be redefined by the European Commission. However, the effort which the European Union is putting forward is clashing with some evident commitments. Regarding funds, access to markets, mobility of people and university students, there are some very ambitious objectives but also some limits in Europe’s capacity to bring them to their completion.” He concluded adding that “No doubt there is a political will shared by the member states to make an extra effort for the Mediterranean and Maghreb countries. But we must always come face to face with the balance which has changed a bit and with the economic crisis within each single member state.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Islamic Finance Growing But Not in Italy

Could help SMEs to capital, Abou Said (Al Baraka Banking)

(ANSAmed) — MILAN, MAY 16 — Islamic finance is growing at an annual rate of 20%. It has a global value of 1,600 trillion USD and counts 400 institutes with their offices. But the system is not breaking through in Italy, but according to Hatem Abou Said of Al Baraka Banking Group (Bahrain) “it could be useful also to support SMEs, which have limited access to credit through the traditional systems, with their internationalisation process.” Abou Said spoke during a conference in Milan on the issue, saying that the crisis in the West and the Arab Spring “there is complementarity”. It would be useful, in his view, to “attract the attention of Islamic finance to help Italian companies that could be active in the re-launch of the countries on the southern shore of the Mediterranean Sea.” “Islamic finance,” Abou Said continued, “is determined to help the European economies that are in difficulties. But I’m afraid that people in Italy have wrong ideas about these instruments, which are meant for everybody, not only for Muslims.” In this context, Pierfrancesco Gaggi, head international relations of Italian Banking Association ABI admits, “little has changed since a few years ago” and the debate that was opened to change regulations to allow the introduction of ‘sukuk’ and other Islamic instruments in Italy as well has been halted by the crisis. “The banking sector had to deal with more urgent issues,” Gaggi confirmed.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Italy: Justice Undersecretary Quits Over Tax Investigation

Second junior member of Monti’s govt to step down

(ANSA) — Rome, May 16 — Justice Ministry Undersecretary Andrea Zoppini has resigned from Premier Mario Monti’s emergency government of non-political technocrats after being informed he was being probed for alleged tax irregularities.

Zoppini is the second member of Monti’s administration to be forced to step down after former cabinet undersecretary Carlo Malinconico resigned in January following a furore over hotel bills paid by a construction businessman under investigation for alleged corruption.

The fact that Zoppini is being probed does not necessarily mean he will be charged with a criminal offence.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Italy: Wild Boars Roam Florence Neighborhood

Police say the animals were looking for food

(ANSA) — Florence, May 17 — Residents of a suburban neighborhood in the central Italian city of Florence called police on Thursday after sighting a pair of wild boars running between parked cars.

Officers who managed to surround the boars and drive them back to the nearby countryside said that the animals were looking for food.

Wild boar, called cinghiale in Italian, is considered a Tuscan delicacy.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



More Norwegian Media Lies to Support War Against Muslims!

Reports in Norway today have stated that I am asking Muslims abroad to take Norwegians hostage in return for the release of Mullah Krekar. This is simply not true but rather I have stated that western hostages are already in the hands of Muslims in various countries such as in Iraq, Afghanistan and in Somalia etc… and a decent option for both parties might be to consider exchanging hostages, the non-Muslims already being held for Muslim hostages held in the West such as Sheikh Abu Qatada and Mullah Krekar.

Moreover I have made it abundantly clear that Muslims living in the West live under a covenant of security and that in return for their life and wealth being secure they are not permitted to violate the life and wealth of those with whom they live.

In addition it is the Islamic position that Muslims are obliged to do all they can to release Muslim hostages wherever they are being held and this will usually involve helping with the legal fees, making awareness about their plight, exposing the oppression which they are facing at the hands of barbaric regimes such as the Norwegian, the US and British regimes etc… and if Muslims are able to spend money to release them then there is no amount of money which would be enough to effect the release of one Muslim being held by non-Muslims, indeed Muslims believe this is one of the best acts of worship in Islam.

The situation of Muslims being held by Western regimes is dire, with the use of torture being sanctioned by the US regime such as water-boarding, the use of extraordinary rendition being engaged in by the likes of the UK and sustained and brutal ritual abuse at the hands of the enemies of Islam and Muslims in places such as Guantanamo Bay, Bagram air base and Abu Guraib. The cases of Aafia Siddiqui, Babar Ahmad and Sheikh Omar Abdul Rehman remind us all about the sheer hypocrisy and duplicity of the US and their allies where on the one hand they call for freedom, democracy, human rights and civil liberties but on the other hand engage in oppression, dictatorship, degrading treatment and injustices of the highest scale.

Attempts by the Western media, such as this latest one by the Norwegians, is not uncommon where first a Muslim is tried and found guilty by the media and then ministers and police respond to the frenzy into which the masses are whipped. A person living in the West is today innocent until proven Muslim. Laws are specifically targeted just at Muslims, longer sentences are set aside for Muslims, Judges are picked who are already biased against Muslims and police and prosecution services are prejudiced against Muslims.

The latest obfuscation into which the case of Mullah Krekar has been thrown should not detract attention away from the fact that he is an innocent man who has lived in Norway for over two decades, that he is a political pawn in the hands of the Norwegians eager to please their masters the Americans, that he has merely stated the Islamic position relating to various matters as a scholar as he has done for decades and that the real criminals are not Mullah Krekar and those trying to seek his release but the Norwegian authorities, the Norwegian Courts, the Norwegian special police and of course their magicians, the Norwegian media!

Mr Anjem Choudary

Lecturer in Shari’ah Law

Manager of the Shari’ah Court of the UK

           — Hat tip: Steen [Return to headlines]



Pope Makes Appeal to Keep Sunday a ‘Day of Rest’

Pontiff tells faithful to balance work and family life

(ANSA) — Vatican City, May 16 — Pope Benedict XVI on Wednesday made an appeal during his general audience to keep Sunday as “a day of rest, dedicated to strengthening family ties”.

The pontiff referred to the May 15 celebration of the United Nations International Day of Families and underlined the need to balance “work and family life”.

Speaking in Italian from St. Peter’s Square, Pope Benedict reminded the crowd that work “should not be an obstruction to family, but support and unite it”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Squirrel Wars: Italy Vows to Eliminate Its American Invaders

Italy loves its indigenous red squirrels — so much so that it is waging a full on war, at a cost of millions of euros, to get rid of the American grey squirrels, which have invaded the northeastern region of Liguria

Italy is waging war on a group of American invaders that are threatening the existence of their European peers. American grey squirrels, which were first introduced into Europe in 1948, have thrived in the parks of the northeastern region of Liguria since the 1960s. With 10-inch-long bodies, equally long tails and a weight that can reach 21 oz., American grey squirrels are bigger than European red squirrels. These strong Americans invaders steal the Europeans’ food and carry diseases that are lethal to locals.

To defend the indigenous squirrel population, Liguria, Piemonte and Lombardia regions, as well as the Italian Environment ministry, have launched a project aimed at uprooting the estimated 300 American grey squirrels living in the Levante Genovese Park. The cost of the war against American squirrels — nearly 2 million euros — is partially covered by the European Union.

This squirrel war has its ‘general,’ Andrea Balduzzi, a professor of natural sciences at the University of Genoa. At dawn, the professor and his student troops go after the invaders, armed with traps and cages. Once caught, the animals are transferred to vets to be sterilized before being released in natural parks. And it seems all is fair in love and war: squirrels caught outside the park are executed by euthanasia.

*This is a digest item, not a direct translation.

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



Syriza, Nea Dimokratia Neck to Neck Ahead of Greek Vote

(AGI) Athens — With less than 1 month before early elections in Greece, the Radical Left and the conservatives are neck to neck. Opinion polls in Greece show that Alexis Tsipras’s Radical left party (Syriza) and Antonis Samaras’s Nea Dimokratia conservative party are neck to neck ahead of the June 17 early elections in the country. Two of the four surveys whose results were published today suggest that Syriza is the leading party while the other two put Nea Dimokratia in the front, with a small margin of less than 1.7%. Winning the elections will prove crucial, because according to the Greek electoral law, 50 seats in the Parliament out of 300 are reserved for the winner.

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



UK: A Small Minority of Pakistani Men, Warns Syeedi Warsi, See Women as “Second Class Citizens” And White Women as “Third Class Citizens”

by Tim Montgomerie

“There is a small minority of Pakistani men who believe that white girls are fair game and we have to be prepared to say that. You can only start solving a problem if you acknowledge it first… This small minority who see women as second class citizens, and white women probably as third class citizens, are to be spoken out against.”

With these words the straight-talking Baroness Warsi, the co-Chairman of the Conservative Party, has entered the debate about the sexual grooming of young girls in Rochdale by men, mainly of Pakistani origin. If Muslim and other leaders fail to be “open and front-footed” she warns that extremists such as the BNP will fill the gap and peddle hate. Former Home Secretary Jack Straw had been the most senior politician to comment until now. He had stated “there is a specific problem which involves Pakistani heritage men… who target vulnerable young white girls” and see them as “easy meat”.

Read Baroness Warsi’s full interview in the London Evening Standard. Her comments follow tip-toeing and obfuscation by other public figures. The Assistant Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police, Steve Heywood, has for example denied race and origin as an important factor. “It just happens,” he said, “that in this particular area and time, the demographics were that these were Asian men.” Sue Berelowitz, the Deputy Children’s Commissioner, had also tried to diminish the cultural factors in Rochdale. This is not the first time the Tory Chairman has tackled extremists within the Muslim and Asian communities. She did so two years ago after fanatics pelted her with eggs.

[Reader comment by Sandy Jamieson on 18 May 2012 at about 2300 hrs.]

I do find the term “small minority” rather obscure although I suspect we would not be able to be more precise and it seems the Pakistani community may have been in denial over this. It is not clear if any of the Pakistani community gave evidence for the prosecution. It is certainly the case that the actual police investigation was triggered by one of the victims (eventually) rather than individual iimigrants reporting their suspicions.

I accept the deeds were effected by a minority but rather like Catholic Priests in Ireland, it is no longer a community we can trust in our land. I am certainly disappointed that the Judge in the Case seems not to have issued any deportation orders against any of the guilty men so in ten, fifteen years time they will be back on the streets. If any of the them have joint citizenship then their British citizenship should be revoked.

As for others concerned, I am surprised that no investigation has been initiated into Rochdale Social Services. Many of these young girls were in their care and they seem to have been grossly negligent in their duties. I suspect their political left wing prejudices meant they were intellectually incapable of accepting the racist nature of the guilty men

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: Ali Koc: Sadistic Killer is Jailed for Life After Battering Two OAPs to Death and Attacking Five Others in North London

[WARNING: Disturbing content.]

A sadistic loner who went on the rampage after his benefits were cut, battering two men to death with a ‘caveman’s club’ and attacking five others, was jailed for 35 years yesterday.

Ali Koc, 30, spent a month stalking parks and woodland in North London pouncing on joggers and dog walkers.

He beat them with lumps of wood, head-butted, punched and kicked them after selecting them entirely at random.

Police fear the jobless Turkish immigrant, who lived on benefits and petty crime after his family came to Britain in 1990, may have attacked scores of others during his 26-day rampage in January last year.

The court heard Koc’s benefits were stopped in December 2010 and he was unable to draw out cash on January 5 last year. He fatally attacked his first victim, Mr Parsons, hours later.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



UK: Career Criminal With 100 Theft Offences Walks Free Again After Judge Fails to Enact Suspended Prison Sentence

A career criminal with more than 100 offences has again walked free from court, despite getting a ‘last chance’ from the same judge two years ago.

Judge Carol Hagen decided it was ‘not in the interests of justice’ to enact the suspended sentence drug addict Sundee Spaulding had been serving during her shoplifting spree.

The mother-of-one, 25, already has 33 convictions for more than 100 theft-related and dishonesty crimes.

But Judge Hagen gave her one ‘final chance’ and let her walk free — even though she had broken her supposed ‘last chance’ given after her last conviction.

Judge Hagen has previously been criticised for declining to send serious offenders to jail [long list follows]:

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



UK: Fighting Back

Today, in our sister paper the Oldham Chronicle, Samantha Roberts bravely waived her right to lifetime anonymity as she urged David Cameron to bring about change following the Rochdale sex attacks. Samantha says she was “horrified” when her rapist, Shakil Chowdhury, was sentenced to only six years in prison in October 2007. Top judges refused to increase what was deemed a “lenient” sentence at the Court of Appeal, despite a plea by the Baroness Scotland. Chowdhury, 39 at the time of the crime, served only three years before being released on licence. As a youngster Samantha was lured into a car on Manchester Road, Oldham in October 2006 and taken to Chowdhury’s home in Chadderton where he subjected her to a sickening ordeal.

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: Hate Preacher Qatada Could be Walking Streets in a Month

HATE preacher Abu Qatada could be walking the streets of Britain again by the end of the month.

Qatada — described by a judge as Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man in Europe — will have an application for bail heard by a senior immigration judge on May 28, the Judicial Communications Office has revealed. If it is granted he could be freed on bail within weeks. The radical cleric is being held in a high security prison while he fights deportation to his home country, Jordan, over terror charges. A Home Office spokeswoman said: “We believe Qatada poses a real risk to national security and will continue vigorously to resist any application for him to be bailed.”

[…]

[JP note: Perhaps he could be appointed by Camden council as an Interfaith Harmony officer. This might help keep him out of mischief, and, more importantly, he would have to start paying taxes.]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: Invisible Art Exhibition to ‘Set Imagination’s Alight’

Ralph Rugoff, director of the Hayward Gallery, has promised it will “set our imaginations alight”.

And so his gallery’s latest exhibition will have to, considering the fact that every piece of art inside it will be invisible. From a bare plinth to a canvas painted entirely with invisible ink, the imagination of the paying public will play a decisive role in the success or failure of the show, the first of its kind in Britain. For £8 visitors will be able to marvel at — or search in vain for — 50 works of “invisible art” by leading names including Andy Warhol, Yves Klein and Yoko Ono. Invisible: Art about the Unseen 1957 — 2012, which opens on June 12 and has been billed as “the best exhibition you’ll never see”, is designed to show how the goal of art is to stimulate people’s imagination rather than merely present interesting things for them to look at. Among the chief attractions is a bare pillar which Andy Warhol once briefly stepped on, which Mr Rugoff said would allow viewers to be in the presence of the artist’s “celebrity aura”.

[JP note: They pretend it’s art and we pretend to see it.]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: Jessica Had a Loving, Very Middle-Class Upbringing. So How Did She Become a Victim of the Rochdale Sex Gang?

[WARNING: Disturbing content.]

As a child, Jessica loved playing in the tent in the garden, or walking her pet dog on the beach in sight of Blackpool’s famous tower, seven miles away up the Lancashire coast. She would go back to her family’s smart home for an early supper with her father Jim, a successful property developer, mother Jennifer, and her sister Melissa, who is three years younger.

The family moved to Rochdale, Greater Manchester, when Jessica turned 13, and it was the same story of happy family life. ‘The girls always came home for our evening meal together,’ remembers Jim today. ‘Even as young teenagers, they were not allowed to stay out after 7.30 in the evening. We set down rules, and they had a childhood full of ballet classes and wonderful holidays.’

Yet, to the bewilderment of her loving parents, Jessica’s behaviour suddenly changed. ‘By the age of 15, she wanted to be out late at night all the time. If we kept her in, she’d climb out of the upstairs window on to a flat roof above the porch, jump down and disappear into the streets. It was much worse than normal teenage rebellion.

[…]

For years, a dangerous myth has surrounded this type of sex crime. In this era of political correctness, it is a myth promoted by the police, the BBC, and many media commentators. They insist that the perpetrators come from every ethnicity and not, primarily, from the British Muslim Pakistani community.

In fact, almost all of the scores of men convicted of street-grooming schoolgirls for sex — and there have been at least 21 court cases since 1997 — have had exactly this ethnic background.

And now, a new myth is being peddled: that the girls themselves are somehow to blame. A picture has been painted of them as the wild progeny of feckless parents, or as girls lost in the care system who are prepared to sell themselves, as one male BBC Question Time panellist put it this week, ‘for a packet of crisps or a bit of credit on their mobile phone’.

But as Jessica’s parents prove in this haunting interview, that is not necessarily the case at all.

The Rochdale gang convicted last week beguiled naive girls, one barely out of primary school, with bottles of vodka, cigarettes and mobile phones. And then, these children were forced to have sex with the gang members and scores of their friends.

To silence their victims, many of whom came from decent homes like Jessica’s, the gang threatened to tell their families they were prostitutes, rape their little sisters or kill their parents with knives or firebombs.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



UK: MP’s Wife Sent Dead Bird in Post

A Labour MP’s wife has spoken of her shock after being sent a dead bird in the post. Newly-elected councillor Jo White, the wife of Nottinghamshire MP John Mann, discovered the decomposing bird at their home earlier this week. In a statement, Ms White said she was left shaken and frightened after finding the package on treturning home from her first official meeting at Bassetlaw District Council. “I came home and found a pile of post waiting for me,” she said. “While there was an unpleasant smell, I thought nothing of it until I began opening the last package, when the smell became so overwhelming I retched and felt really sick.” Ms White, who was elected to the Worksop East ward at this month’s local elections, added: “I put the package outside and called the police, who have been absolutely brilliant. They took away the bird along with the package for DNA investigation — I really hope they find whoever did this.” John Mann, who has represented the Bassetlaw constituency since 2001, said: “It’s appalling that a new councillor should have to deal with this in their first week.”

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: Pictured: Battered Face of Great-Grandmother, 64, Who Was Beaten and Left Unconscious by Schoolboys for Her £20 Ring

[WARNING: Disturbing content.]

This is the battered face of a great-grandmother who was savagely beaten by two schoolboys — for a £20 ring.

Patricia Thistleton, 64, was left unconscious in a pool of blood by the boys, as young as 14, outside an off-licence in Preston on Tuesday evening.

One of them even snatched the silver ring from her finger as she lay bleeding from a head wound in the quiet residential street.

A passerby came to her rescue and helped her back to her nearby flat. But the retired care worker, who has four children and eight grandchildren, has been unable to leave her home since.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



UK: Samantha Tells Her Harrowing Story

‘Everyone blames themselves at first, but then you realise it’s not your fault’

THINGS are looking bright for Samantha who after years of mental torture has turned a corner. Blissfully engaged to Steven Walker and making steps to achieve a career in teaching youngsters with disabilities, 2012 seems a world away from the dark days following the attack. “I knew I couldn’t let this, let them, beat me. I don’t feel like that was me anymore, but it feels a relief to finally speak about it,” she said. The five and a half years since the terrifying ordeal have been a rollercoaster for the girl, now 18. She said: “Everyone feels ashamed and everyone blames themselves at first but then you realise it’s not your fault.” She says she will never forget the day she was picked up in a car in Werneth and driven by Chowdhury to a house in Chadderton. After the ordeal she struggled to concentrate at school and became a pent-up prisoner in her home. While others were out with friends and having fun, Samantha was struggling to get back to some sort of reality. “I didn’t deal with it — I got to the point where I self harmed. I hit rock bottom,” she admits. As part of her mission to face up to what had happened, Samantha even went back to the house where she was attacked. “it wasn’t as scary as I thought, but that was an important moment for me,” she confessed. Now she is studying for her GCSEs, is planning her future and says she wants nothing more than to make a difference in her fight for tougher sentences.

The full version of this story can be read only in our print and eChron versions

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: The Queen’s Handshake and Kate’s Curtesy for a Despot as They Entertain Brutal King of Bahrain at Jubilee Lunch

(So who was at biggest gathering of world royals since the Coronation?)

The lunch for Sovereign Monarchs at Windsor Castle was almost certainly the largest gathering of crowned heads of state since the Coronation in 1953. All senior members of the Royal Family were present.

The seating plan detailed 24 kings and queens, one emperor, a grand duke and a sultan, along with eight princesses, an emir and an empress.

[…]

Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell declared: ‘Queen Elizabeth II is hosting seven royal tyrants today: Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Brunei, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Swaziland.

‘Inviting these blood-soaked dictators brings shame to the monarchy and tarnishes the Diamond Jubilee celebrations. It is a cruel betrayal of pro-democracy campaigners and political prisoners who are suffering under these totalitarian royal regimes.’

           — Hat tip: Egghead [Return to headlines]



UK: Tory Cabinet Minister Baroness Warsi Calls on Mosques to Act After Rochdale Grooming Gang Scandal

Muslim cabinet minister Baroness Warsi today dramatically hit out at the ‘small minority’ of Pakistani men who see white girls as ‘fair game’ for sexual abuse.

In comments following the Rochdale grooming scandal involving nine Muslim men, the Conservative Party co-chairman admitted that race was a factor.

She urged Muslim leaders to address the issue and ensure that men who regard white women as ‘third class citizens’ are isolated by their communities.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



UK: Warsi Condemns Sex Scandal Muslims

Muslim cabinet minister Baroness Warsi has hit out at the “small minority” of Pakistani men who see white girls as “fair game”. In outspoken comments following the Rochdale grooming scandal involving nine Muslim men, the Conservative Party co-chairman acknowledged that race was a factor. She urged Muslim leaders to address the issue and ensure that men who regard white women as “third-class citizens” are isolated by their communities. Nine Muslim men, mainly of Pakistani origin, were found guilty last week of plying girls as young as 13 with drink and drugs so they could “pass them around” and use them for sex.

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



Ukraine: Deputy Secretary General [Muslim Council of Britain, UK] At International Conference on “Global Winds of Change: Religion’s Role in Today’s World; The Challenges in Democracies and Secular Society”

Friday 18 May 2012

The Deputy Secretary General of the MCB, Dr Shuja Shafi, attended a two day International Conference on “Global Winds of Change: Religion’s Role in Today’s World; The Challenges in Democracies and Secular Society” in Ukraine. The event was organised by the Kyiv Interfaith Forum and was held at the Intercontinental Hotel in Kyiv on 25th and 26th April 2012. The conference touched upon many important issues such as Religion in Global Society, Media and Religion in the 21st Century, Analysis of Contemporary Developments within Christianity, Islam and Judaism in the Modern World and Modern Religious Conflicts: Causes & Resolutions. Dr Shuja Shafi provided many recommendations at the conference, one of which was to establish an International Interfaith Committee on health issues. He suggested that Faith communities must work together to defend their religious rights with responsibilities. Imam Dr Abdul Jalil Sajid, Vice Chair of MCB’s Inter Faith Relations committee, also spoke at the event about the about value of faith communities and stressed on working together between different faiths and cultures on local, regional, national and International levels.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

North Africa


Radical Mosques Invite Young Tunisians to Jihad in Syria

Some of Tunisia’s radical mosques are calling on young people to fight in a jihad in Syria against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, a religious affairs official said Friday.According to official estimates, about 400 of Tunisia’s approximately 5,000 mosques are now in the hands of radical Islamists. The number has grown since the Tunisian revolution, which started at the end of 2010 and led to the overthrow of longtime dictator Zine ElAbidine Ben Ali. “It’s a problem, and we are looking for solutions,” Ahmed Bergaoui, a religious affairs ministry official, said of the jihadi calls. On Thursday, Interior Minister Ali Larayedh also raised concerns over the issue, but provided no figures on how many had gone to fight in Syria. “We deplore these young people going on misadventures,” Larayedh said. “Some have been killed, others imprisoned and others continue to fight in Syria. We are watching these things closely.”

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Middle East


British Officers Could be Deployed to Syria to Increase Pressure on Assad Regime

British military personnel could be deployed to Syria to increase pressure on the Assad regime over human rights abuses, David Cameron has signalled.

As unrest continued to spread in Syria, the Prime Minister last night told fellow world leaders that more must to done to stop Bashar al-Assad oppressing his own people. Britain is prepared to contribute officers to an enlarged international monitoring mission in Syria, Mr Cameron told a Group of Eight summit in the US. There are more than 200 United Nations monitors inside Syria, where more than 9,000 people have died since last year as the regime tries to suppress opposition to Mr Assad’s rule. There are more than 200 United Nations monitors inside Syria, where more than 9,000 people have died since last year as the regime tries to suppress opposition to Mr Assad’s rule. The monitors are in the country as part of a deal negotiated with Mr Assad by Kofi Annan, the former United Nations secretary-general. The Annan deal is supposed to lead to a ceasefire and talks between the regime and its opponents. However, Mr Assad’s allies “continue to show wanton disregard” for the Annan process, Mr Cameron told the Camp David summit last night, saying the regime must be put under much greater pressure.

[…]

[JP note: Britain continues to dance to the Muslim Brotherhood tune.]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UAE: World’s Priciest Sunglasses on Auction for 300,000 Euros

Produced by Chopard, gold frames & 51 diamonds

(ANSAmed) — DUBAI, MAY 15 — On auction with a starting price of 300,000 euros, the most expensive sunglasses in the world are on display for the public today in Dubai. At Paris Gallery, a luxury retail store at Dubai Mall, one of the largest shopping centres in the world, the public can admire these sunglasses produced by Chopard. Designed by De Rigo Vision, the frames are made of 60 grams of 24Kgold and feature 51 diamonds totalling four carats. Three collectors, including two Emirate-natives and one Russian, will bid on the expensive sunglasses, writes Dubai Gulf News. At the end of the first day of bidding yesterday, the offer on the item had reached 360,000 euros. The silent auction could continue for another one to two weeks, said the organisers. Last summer the same store was selling Bulgari’s Le Gemme collection, a sophisticated line of sunglasses costing between 34,000 and 80,000 euros, encrusted with semi-precious stones, believed at the time to be among the most expensive in the world.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



UAE: Dubai Mosque Hosts Quran Recital Contest

DUBAI // One of the emirate’s most striking mosques is hoping to attract non-Muslims to an international Quran recital contest it is hosting. The five-day Dubai International Holy Quran Award begins tomorrow at Al Farooq Omar Ibn Al Khattab Mosque and Centre in Jumeirah. The competition is open to all and will include recitals by imams and children. “It’s a real honour for us to be chosen to stage this competition,” said Abdel Malek Abdel Khalek, the manager of the mosque and centre, which opened last July. “We are inviting non-Muslims to take a look and be part of the event. One of the key missions we have here is to encourage better understanding between East and West. The contest is being held in the mosque’s main prayer hall, with competitors from the Middle East, Asia and Africa.”

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

South Asia


Afghanistan: Teenager Tells of How Man She Turned Down in Marriage Scarred Her With Acid

An Afghan teenager has told of the horrific moment she was left scarred for life after the man she turned down in marriage attacked her with acid.

Mumtaz, 18, was the victim of a scorned man who decided if he couldn’t marry her, he’d make sure no one else would want to.

She said: ‘I feel so bad, I do not look at myself in the mirror anymore.’

The man had asked for her hand in marriage, but Mumtaz’s family declined the offer.

Then, she said one night several men showed up at their home and attacked her family.

Finally two armed men held her, pulled her head back, and let the man who had wanted to marry her pour acid all over her face.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Pakistan: Appeal for Christian Girl Kidnapped and Forced to Convert to Islam

To date, the police refuses to liberate the girl, despite the repeated requests of the family. Mary Salik (fictitious name) was kidnapped last May 4 near Faisalabad by an uncle who had converted to Islam. The girl’s father denounces conspiracy against his family: “My daughter has heart problems and was kidnapped by deception”.

Faisalabad (AsiaNews) — The family of Mary Salik (fictional name for security reasons) asks for justice for the 14 year old Christian girl, kidnapped last May 4 in Ali (Faisalabad, Punjab) and forced to convert to Islam. The author of the kidnapping is the uncle of the girl, who embraced Islam about a year ago and since then ended all contact with the family of origin. He kidnapped the young girl to marry her off with his son Kashif. The wedding was celebrated on 7 May.

The girl’s father, told AsiaNews that “my daughter is only 14 years old and suffers from the birth from heart problems and can not do heavy work. After converting my brother is conspiring against our family and kidnapped Mary with deception “.

Immediately after the seizure, the father of the young Christian girl turned to local police and demanded the immediate release of his daughter, but the agents refused to return Mary to her family. According to police, the girl converted of her own free will and submitted as evidence a written statement in which the girl says to “be mature and have embraced Islam without coercion or threats.”

To get their daughter back, the parents decided to find a compromise with the help of some influential people in the area and have filed a petition against the police officers.

Fr. Bonnie Mendes, priest and activist, former secretary of the Pakistan National Commission for Justice and Peace, speaks of the abuses suffered by the Christian community. “Although we are free to pray — he says — and to practice our religion, we are threatened when we try to defend our rights.” The priest denounces the problem of cases of forced conversions to Islam of young Christians, which together with the blasphemy law is one of the most severe violations of religious freedom to the detriment of minorities. For Fr. Mendes Mary’s case is against the teachings of Islam. In fact, those who want to convert require an iddat, a discernment period that must last at least three months. However, due to ignorance, illiteracy and social injustice, most Muslims do not observe this rule.

Each month between 25 and 30 young girls suffer similar abuses, for a yearly total of about 300 conversions and forced marriages. Hindu girls — but also Christian — who are torn from the family while very young and delivered into the hands of their husbands / torturers. One case recently made headlines when the Pakistani Supreme Court forced three young Hindu women to return to their Muslim husbands, despite the desire of the young girls to return to their family. The young women were kidnapped in February, forced to convert to Islam and marry Muslim men. On March 26 Rinkle Kumari, one of the girls, told the judges of the Court that there “is no justice in this country only for Muslims, justice is denied Hindus. Kill me here, now, in court. But do not send me back to the Darul-Aman [Koranic school] … they will kill us. “ The other two young girls, Lata and Asha, had expressed, in vain, the desire to be reunited with their families.

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

Far East


Blind Chinese Dissident Leaves on Flight for the United States

BEIJING — Chen Guangcheng, the blind legal defender who made a dramatic escape from house arrest and whose decision to seek refuge in American Embassy jolted American-Sino relations, left China aboard a commercial flight bound for the United States, according to friends who have spoken to him.

Mr. Chen left Beijing on a United Airlines flight bound for Newark with his wife and two children at around 5:30 p.m. after facing earlier delays.

Earlier Saturday Mr. Chen told friends over a cellphone that he was excited to be leaving China but that he was also worried about the fate of relatives he leaves behind. “He’s happy to finally have a rest after seven years of suffering but he’s also worried they will suffer some retribution,” said Bob Fu, president of ChinaAid, a Christian advocacy group based in Texas.

[Return to headlines]



China: Chen Guangcheng and Beijing’s Failure to Reform

Individuals activists are not China’s real challenge, social stability and keeping the Communist Party in power are. Chinese leaders run the risk however of losing control of the huge, expensive and ever-expanding security apparatus they are building. As illustrated by the Bo Xilai case, this could lead to unexpected and disastrous consequences. Here is the analysis of one of the foremost experts of modern China.

Beijing (AsiaNews) — The blind lawyer Chen Guangcheng’s plight, which piqued much of the world’s attention the past fortnight, has fully exposed the shocking failings of China’s law-enforcement apparatus. Chen was forced to seek shelter in the U.S. Embassy in Beijing due to the Chinese authorities’ systematic violations of his civil liberties. After having served a four-year jail term under the dubious charges of “obstructing traffic and destroying property,” Chen was kept under illegal house arrest in his native Dongshigu village, Shandong Province, from 2010 until his daring escape last month. Neither human rights activists nor reporters were allowed to visit him in Dongshigu. As a result of protracted negotiation between the Chinese and U.S. authorities, it seems Chen, who is now recuperating in a Beijing hospital that is heavily guarded by police, will be allowed to go to New York University as a visiting scholar later this year. Yet serious questions remain about the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) labyrinthine zhengfa (“political and legal”) bureaucracy, which controls the police and judicial organs. Given the bad publicity that the Chen case has generated, will the new leadership that will be endorsed at the 18th CCP Congress this autumn overhaul this police-state establishment? Or is it more likely that, given the party elite’s obsession with wei-wen (short for weihu wending, or preserving stability), one of the party-state’s largest operations will continue to grow in clout and influence?

It is instructive to first take a look at how the law-enforcement apparatus, which is under the leadership of Politburo Standing Committee (PBSC) member Zhou Yongkang, has amassed so much power in the past few years. The Central Political and Legal Commission (CPLC), or zhengfawei, which Zhou chairs, is in charge of the Ministry of Public Security (or police), the Ministry of State Security (or secret police), the Procuratorate (or prosecutors’ offices) and the courts. In tandem with the Central Military Commission (CMC), the CPLC also exercises control over the people’s militia as well as the People’s Armed Police, which is a paramilitary unit charged with tackling riots and disturbances. Additionally, there appears to be unofficial security forces hired by local governments and the center. The zhengfa system hires “informants,” citizens who are asked to provide information to the police when they spot suspicious characters or hear about “anti-government plots” in the neighborhood. No one knows how many informants there are, but one report suggested a high concentration. In Kailu, an Inner Mongolian county, public security recruited 12,093 informants out of 400,000 inhabitants (Hong Kong Economic Journal, February 24; News.China.com (Beijing), January 21; The Guardian, February 9, 2010).

The exact number of official, unofficial and informant personnel under the zhengfa apparatus is a state secret. Yet, it is well known that the budget, staff and power of the law enforcement establishment has grown substantially since 2008, which witnessed not only the Beijing Summer Olympics but also the worst outbreak of rioting in Tibetan areas since the end of the Cultural Revolution. It was also in the same year that CCP authorities employed Mao Zedong’s “people’s warfare” concept to boost internal security (See “Beijing Revives Mao’s ‘People’s Warfare’ to Ensure Trouble-Free Olympics,” China Brief, July 17, 2008). Wei-wen expenditures available to departments under the CPLC grew from 514.0 billion yuan ($81.3 billion) in 2010 to 624.4 billion yuan ($98.8 billion) in 2011-and to 701.7 billion yuan ($111.1 billion) this year. In both 2011 and 2012, the wei-wen budget exceeded even that of the publicized outlays of the People’s Liberation Army (Reuters, March 4; Ming Pao [Hong Kong], March 4). While Zhou has played a sizeable role in extending his zhengfa empire, he enjoys the support of other PBSC members, particularly President Hu Jintao. In numerous speeches the past few years, Hu has called upon central and regional cadres to “consider preserving stability as [their] foremost task” (China.com, March 15; CNTV.com, March 9).

Much of the expansion of the Zhengfa Empire has taken place in the localities. According to Chen Guangcheng, wei-wen expenditures for Dongshigu Village and its vicinity were 60 million yuan ($9.5 million) last year, double the 2008 budget of 30 million yuan ($4.8 million). A team of at least 200 police and informants were responsible for the “safety” of Chen (Hong Kong Economic Times, May 2; China Times [Taipei] May 1; Ming Pao, May 1). The apparent overzealousness of many grassroots wei-wen units might give rise to the impression that central authorities are not necessarily at fault: the local units might have given excessively draconian interpretations to instructions from on high. As Northwestern University political scientist Victor Shih pointed out, Beijing appears to give local zhengfa units some autonomy so that “if they make a mistake, all the blame can be put on local officials without jeopardizing the entire model” [1]. Yet given the national if not international fame of activists such as Chen, it is hard to believe that the CPLC has not explicitly authorized the extra-legal treatment that has been meted out to these thorns in the side of the authorities.

In fact, it is the zhengfawei-and its sister unit, the Commission for Social Management and Comprehensive Treatment of Law and Order-which has established a plethora of local-level units for the purpose of ensuring better implementation of central edicts. From the mid-2000s, offices for Upholding Stability and the Comprehensive Treatment of Law and Order began to be set up in every city district and every village town or township (Southern Weekend [Guangzhou], August 19, 2010; Wall Street Journal, December 9, 2009). That the zhengfawei has enhanced its control over grassroots offices-and at the same time expanded its overall national clout-is evidenced by the increasing number of regional law-enforcement chiefs who have been appointed deputy party secretaries of provinces and zhixiashi (provincial-level municipalities). In at least five of China’s 31 provinces, autonomous regions and zhixiashi, heads of zhengfa departments double as deputy party secretaries. These include the Tibet and Inner Mongolia Autonomous Regions-which have high concentrations of ethnic minorities-in addition to Qinghai and Zhejiang Provinces and the Beijing municipality (Oriental Outlook Weekly [Beijing], April 16; Southern Metropolitan News [Guangzhou], February 18). In the interest of administrative streamlining, the number of deputy party secretaries of provinces and zhixiashi has been reduced to two. Without an exception, the governor or mayor occupies one of the two slots of deputy party secretary. That the second deputy party secretary is in charge of law-enforcement testifies to the importance that Beijing has attached to upholding stability. At least theoretically, this also makes it easier for the provincial or municipal zhengfa chief to exercise tighter supervision over wei-wen units within his or her jurisdiction.

While it is true that quite a number of grassroots zhengfa cadres may have exaggerated the dangers of “destabilizing elements” in their localities to get more funding from either the provincial capital or Beijing, many more local cadres are worried about losing their jobs should they be seen as failing to uphold law and order. In most provinces and cities, a grassroots official is liable to be summarily fired if a major destabilizing incident-for example, a riot involving thousands of protestors or the sudden disappearance of an influential human rights activist such as Chen-was to take place (Yangcheng Evening Post [Guangzhou] April 10; Chinanews.com, November 16, 2011).

By the same token, a cadre with the reputation of a tough law-and-order enforcer is seen as having a sure-fire ticket for promotion. Before his downfall in March, former Chongqing Party Secretary Bo Xilai became a national hero due to the apparent success of the dahei (“crack down on underground gangs”) campaign in his metropolis. Bo’s anti-triad operation, which was run as a Maoist-style political movement, fully illustrated the problems of China’s law enforcement model. Quite a number of the triad bosses were incarcerated on trumped up charges-and without due judicial process. Bo and his power wife, the lawyer-businesswomen Gu Kailai, had a reputation of subjecting their foes to extra-legal punishments such as torture or even murder. In early February, Bo’s former police chief Wang Lijun, the erstwhile “national dahei hero,” tried to seek political asylum at the U.S. consulate in nearby Chengdu due to fears that Bo had turned his ire on him (New York Times, May 6; Ming Pao, May 5; Wall Street Journal, April 8).

Not surprisingly, Beijing’s approach to upholding stability has attracted intense criticism from relatively liberal academics and public intellectuals. According to a recent report compiled by the social stability research group at Tsinghua University, the authorities are trapped in a vicious cycle of “society becoming even less stable even as more resources are being devoted to wei-wen.” The report added, “Various levels of government have earmarked massive human and material resources for upholding stability, yet the quantity of incidents relating to social contradiction and confrontation has ceaselessly increased” (People’s Daily, February 2; Southern Weekend, April 15, 2010). According to Wenzhou University social scientist Wang Yong, “wei-wen has exacted huge social costs to which we must pay attention.” For example, since the law-enforcement apparatus has often used political movement-style maneuvers to stamp out the seeds of instability, “normal administrative regulations and the rule of law has been damaged,” according to Professor Wang. Wang also wrote, “The [normal] voices of society have disappeared even as the private [social] sphere has shrunken even further” (Truth Seeking [Nanchang Journal], February 2012).

Zhou Yongkang, the CPLC chairman since 2007, has taken flak for the Shandong police’s failure to keep a blind man under house arrest. He also was exposed to ridicule and criticism for the overall lawlessness in Chongqing. There was even innuendo that the PBSC member had conspired with Bo to enable the latter to not only join the PBSC later this year but to eventually become CCP general secretary (Washington Post, April 21; Associated Press, April 19). Given that Zhou, age 69, is set to retire at the 18th Party Congress, will there be a restructuring of the zhengfa bureaucracy-as well as the wei-wen mindset-by the next leadership, or at least Zhou’s successor?

Northwestern University’s Shih thinks significant changes in either the clout or the approach of the law enforcement apparatus are unlikely. “The growth of the security apparatus has to do with the rising need of the regime to prevent ‘sudden incidents’,” Shih said, “Any major weakening of this capacity can bring unexpected consequences” [2]. Bo Zhiyue, a veteran analyst of Chinese elite politics at the National University of Singapore, said future developments hinged on which PBSC member would assume the zhengfa portfolio after the 18th CCP Congress. “Much depends on who will become the new head the CPLC-and how much this leader is willing to shake up the establishment,” he said. Bo speculated, “The expansion of the zhengfa apparatus has been partly due to the division of labor among PBSC members and partly due to the need to maintain stability. If Zhou has a lot of say in choosing his own successor and his successor is loyal to his policies, then there is no hope of fundamental changes. If Zhou’s successor is chosen to shake up the apparatus, there would be substantial changes” [3].

As things stand, there seems to be a strong consensus among the PBSC members-including Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang, who are expected to form the axis of the upcoming Fifth-Generation leadership-that the leadership must pull out all the stops to boost security and stability. The urge to preserve the Maoist “one voice chamber” has grown in light of fissures at the CCP’s top echelons exposed by the Bo Xilai scandal (“Beijing’s Post-Bo Xilai Loyalty Drive Could Blunt Calls for Reform, China Brief, March 30). As was the case in 1989, the party leadership appears anxious to prevent dissidents from exploiting factional strife within the CCP to “make propaganda” for Western-style political reforms. This perhaps explains why, despite Beijing’s pledge to continue “human rights dialogues” with the United States and other Western countries, the wei-wen apparatus has been cracking down even harder on so-called destabilizing agents. Several public intellectuals and human rights lawyers who have helped Chen in the past few years have been subjected to brutal treatment. Globally famous activist Hu Jia and his wife have been put under house arrest. Attorney Jiang Tianyong, who tried to visit Chen in the hospital, was badly beaten up by police and prevented from leaving his apartment to seek medical care (Cable TV Hong Kong, May 6; Radio Free Asia, May 4). Even as the international media speculates upon whether Beijing would honor promises made to both U.S. officials and Chen about fulfilling his wishes to pursue further studies abroad, China’s zhengfa machinery continues in overdrive.

Notes:

Author’s interview with Victor Shih, May 2012.

Ibid.

Author’s interview with Bo Zhiyue, May 2012.

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

Sub-Saharan Africa


Kenya: Mombasa Muslims Protest Khan’s Killing

CLOSE to 500 Muslims in Mombasa yesterday took to the streets to protest the delay in the investigations into the murder of Muslim cleric Samir Khan and the disappearance of his colleague Mohammed Kassim. The Muslims began with prayers at the Baluchi Mosque along Makadara road from where they matched through Digo road, Nkrumah road into Serani road. Mombasa police boss Kipkemoi Rop was roughed up by the angry youth as he attempted to stop them from proceeding to the Urban police station. Rop had to take out his pistol to scare away the angry youth.

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Culture Wars


Cyprus: Few Rights for LGBTs in Society, Survey

(ANSAmed) — NICOSIA, MAY 16 — The Republic of Cyprus has proven to be close to the bottom of the list once again in rights for LGBT individuals (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender), according to the latest statistics reported today by Cyprus Mail.

ILGA-Europe’s Rainbow Map for 2012 puts Cyprus on the same rung as Latvia and Georgia in terms of laws that ensure the rights of these individuals. The association for lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender and intersex rated 49 European countries.

Worse than Cyprus were countries such as Turkey, Russia and Belarus. The statistics were presented yesterday during a news conference by Cyprus association for LGBT individuals Accept-LGBT to mark International Day Against Homophobia tomorrow, with this year’s campaign being Voices against Homophobia. “Homophobia in Cyprus dominates many areas such as the media, schools and family,” said Giorgis Renginos, spokesman for Accept-LGBT. According to a survey carried out by Accept-LGBT and the Cyprus Family Planning Association, around 47% of LGBT individuals in Cyprus suffer psychological violence and in around 8% it happens repeatedly, with around 15% suffering some kind of physical attack.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Less Than Half of Italians Support Gay Marriage, Says ISTAT

Only 20% agree with homosexual couples adopting

(ANSA) — Rome, May 17 — Most Italians believe that gay couples living together should have the same rights as heterosexual ones, but less than half think they should be allowed to marry, Istat said on Thursday.

The national statistics agency said 43.9% of Italians agreed with gay marriage in the results of a study released on the International Day against Homophobia.

Same-sex marriages are not legal in predominantly Catholic Italy.

Istat added that only 20% of Italians thought gay couples should be allowed to adopt children.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

News Feed 20120518

Financial Crisis
» Commissioner Says Planning in Hand in Case Greece Defaults
» Crisis of Confidence: Fears of Bank Runs Mount in Southern Europe
» EU Commissioner: Greek Eurozone Exit ‘Manageable’
» Greece: Germany Wants New Government Able to Act
» No Fiscal Treaty Without Growth Pact, Says French Finance Minister
» Spain Hit by Downgrades Amid Greek Contagion Fears
» Spanish Bank Crisis Deepens; Markets Await Summit
» Wealthy French Take Their Assets to London
 
USA
» Agenda 21: Conspiracy Theory or Threat
» Breaking News! Vindication for Obama Birthers?
» Conservative Billionaire Knocks Down Supposed Plan to Air Obama-Wright Ads
» Illinois Senate Nixes Member of Human Rights Commission Over Views
» It’s Impossible, Never Been Done Before, Let’s Do it!
» Kuhner: Jeremiah Wright Can Sink Obama
» New Book Casts Doubt on Obama’s Christian Identity
» Obama’s Literary Agent Says He Was ‘Born in Kenya.’ How Did the Mainstream Media Miss This?
» Prof Sues Over Muslim Tiff
» Sack the Senate: Voted Down 5 Budget Bills
» Stakelbeck: Islamist/Leftist Protesters Neutralized at My Portland State Speech
» Utah School Fined $15,000 for Selling Soda at Lunch
 
Europe and the EU
» Big Brother? New UK Surveillance Program Would Give Government Access to Personal Data
» European Parliamentarians Pleased With Mesika’s Visit to the EU
» Europe’s Failed Natural Gas Strategy: Gazprom Hopes to Build Second Baltic Sea Pipeline
» German Universities Move to Train Next Generation of Imams
» Germany: Five Siblings Jailed for ‘Honour Killing’ of Sister
» Italy: Facing Mafia Charges: Sicilian Governor Lombardo Resigns
» Scotland: Streets in Banff Closed Off by Police Due to ‘Bomb’ Alert
» Swiss Study Tips ‘Autism Gene’
» UK: An Open Invitation From Imam Irfan Chishti MBE
» UK: Baroness Warsi: Some Pakistani Men Think Young White Girls Are “Fair Game” For Sex Abuse
» UK: Camden Council Giving Al-Qaeda Group Freedom to Preach
» UK: Cameron Hits Out at ‘Truly Dreadful Case’
» UK: Protesters Sign Brick Lane Petition to Save View of Roa’s Crane Painting
» UK: Turn Off Your iPad, David Cameron, And Start Dealing With Britain’s Debt
» UK: This Bookseller Deserved His Incitement to Terrorism Conviction
» UK: Wathamstow: EDL March ‘Will Inflame Tensions’
 
Balkans
» Bosnia: Ratko Mladic is a Substitute Hitler for Today’s Bored and Mission-Less Western Hacks
 
Mediterranean Union
» Brussels, EU Must Strengthen Relations With Neighbours
» EU Supports South Med Countries Committed to Reforms
 
North Africa
» Gaddafi Properties Seized on Pantelleria
 
Israel and the Palestinians
» Caroline Glick: Let us Embrace Our Friends
» Irish Minister Told Israel Boycott Will Not Secure Peace
» Labour Palestine Group Comes of Age
» Museum in Jerusalem Reopened With Italian Support
 
Middle East
» Turkey: Threats of Reprisal to Cypriot Project Candidates
» Turkey Accuses Israel of Violating Northern Cyprus Airspace
» UN Suspects Al Qaeda in Damascus Bombs
 
South Asia
» Afghanistan’s Neighbors View US Influence With Misgiving
» Charges Against Marines in India ‘Filed in Court’
» Italy Recalls Ambassador to New Delhi Over Marines
» Saudi Government to Build Mosques in the Maldives
 
Far East
» China Denounces US Duties on Solar Panels
 
Australia — Pacific
» Muslims Sick of Irrational Terrorism Stigma
 
Sub-Saharan Africa
» 95,000 Nigerian Muslims to Perform 2012 Hajj — Commission
» Nigeria: Sharia: Zamfara Rehabilitates Amputees
 
Immigration
» Switzerland: Grounds for Asylum Under Attack
 
General
» Arctic Microbe Hunt Could Aid Search for Alien Life
» Buried Microbes Exist at Limit Between Life and Death

Financial Crisis


Commissioner Says Planning in Hand in Case Greece Defaults

(BRUSSELS) — The EU’s Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht said on Friday that the commission and European Central Bank had begun “emergency” planning in case Greece defaults. He did not specify whether this also concerned a possible exit from the eurozone.

“Today, whether within the European Central Bank or the European Commission, services are studying emergency scenarios where Greece cannot manage,” De Gucht told Flemish daily De Standaard in comments translated into French by national news agency Belga.

De Gucht said officials in both institutions were preparing plans that would minimise any “domino effect,” which he said was a “danger” 18 months ago, although he also suggested that the issue may yet be put to a referendum among the Greek people if June 17 polls were again inconclusive.

A hard-left anti-bailout leader has emerged as the favourite to win the most votes after a May 6 election failed to produce a governing coalition.

In the interview, De Gucht said an “endgame” was underway, although he maintained the EU line that the “only rational alternative” was for Greece to “implement the agreements it has struck.”

These refer to cuts and reforms in exchange for a 237-billion-euro bailout, between eurozone and IMF loans and a private debt write-down.

However, De Gucht acknowledged that “this is possible only if the Greek people are able to make a rational judgment at the ballot-box: the problem being, these people are desperate.”

Senior Commission economics spokesman Olivier Bailly said on Twitter that “the European Commission denies firmly working on an exit scenario for Greece,” stressing that Brussels “wants Greece to remain in the euro area.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Crisis of Confidence: Fears of Bank Runs Mount in Southern Europe

Following the downgrade of 16 Spanish banks by Moody’s, the focus in the euro crisis is back on the banking sector. Greeks are withdrawing hundreds of millions from their accounts, with reports that the same is happening in Spain. Experts are calling on the European Central Bank to step in and prevent full-scale bank runs.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



EU Commissioner: Greek Eurozone Exit ‘Manageable’

The European Union stands ready to face the aftershocks if Greece were to leave the eurozone, the EU’s Trade Commissioner maintains. He says officials are already working on an emergency blueprint on how to survive.

The European Commission and the European Central Bank (ECB) are feverishly working on an emergency plan of action to be activated if debt-stricken Greece has to leave the 17-nation euro area, EU Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht said in an interview for Friday’s edition of the Dutch-language De Standaard newspaper.

His comments appear to be the first time that a high-ranking EU official has confirmed the existence of contingencies being taken for a possible Greek exit from the single currency bloc.

“A year and a half ago there may have been the danger of a domino effect,” de Gucht said in reference to the risk of debt crisis contagion to other eurozone countries such as Spain and Italy. “But today there are, both within the European Central Bank and the European Commission, services that are busy working out emergency scenarios in case Greece doesn’t make it.”

De Gucht, a former Belgian foreign minister, hastened to add that in his opinion Greece had no better option than sticking to unpopular austerity measures and staying in the euro area. “But the endgame has started, and I do not know how it’s going to play out,” he commented.

The EU Trade Commissioner’s message was echoed on Friday by the floor leader of Germany’s co-ruling Free Democrats, Rainer Brüderle. “It would cost a lot of money, if Greece was to leave the club, but it would be manageable,” he told the Handelsblatt business daily.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Greece: Germany Wants New Government Able to Act

No to new talks with Troika on agreed reforms

(ANSAmed) — BERLIN, MAY 18 — German Chancellor Angela Merkel had a telephone conference this morning with Greek President Karolos Papoulias on the difficult situation in Greece. The chancellor, her spokesperson explained, has made it clear that Germany and the other European partners expect to see a new government that is able to act formed immediately after the elections of June 17. German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle has spoken on the phone with his counterpart in the Greek interim government.

Westerwelle has pointed out that there will be no new negotiations on the reforms agreed with the EU, ECB and IMF troika nor on the bailout programmes.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



No Fiscal Treaty Without Growth Pact, Says French Finance Minister

New French finance minister Pierre Moscovici Thursday said that Paris is “firm” on adding growth elements to the fiscal treaty. “What we’ve said is the treaty will not be ratified as it stands,” Moscovici said. He added that the pact must be fleshed out with “an ambitious growth strategy.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Spain Hit by Downgrades Amid Greek Contagion Fears

Spain’s economic woes deepened on Thursday (17 May) as 16 of its banks and four regions were downgraded by Moody’s ratings agency, while statistics confirmed the country is still in recession.

The US-based ratings agency cut between one and three notches the ratings of 16 Spanish banks — many of them regional banks — and of Santander UK, the British subsidiary of the big Spanish lender, due to the “renewed recession, the ongoing real-estate crisis and persistent high levels of unemployment,” Moody’s said in a statement.

It also invoked the “reduced creditworthiness” of the Spanish state, as its borrowing costs have again spiked close to bail-out territory earlier this week, which in turn makes it difficult for the government to support banks.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Spanish Bank Crisis Deepens; Markets Await Summit

(MADRID) — Spanish banks fell deeper into a loans crisis on Friday as world leaders headed to a Camp David summit to prevent a Greek-inspired eurozone catastrophe.

With a growing sense that the Greek crisis is spiralling out of control, volatile trading gripped Madrid, in particular, with troubled Bankia leaping more than 20 percent only one day after plummmeting.

Spanish banks reported doubtful loans had climbed to 147.968 billion euros ($188 billion) in March, equal to an 18-year record 8.37 percent of the total, central bank data showed.

But only hours after Moody’s Investors Service announced a severe downgrade of 16 Spanish banks by one to three notches, citing a recession and the state’s reduced creditworthiness, Spain’s bank stocks soared.

Bankia, which plunged the day before on rumours of a bank run, surged 22.93 percent by mid-afternoon while Spain’s number-one bank Santander gained 4.23 percent and rival BBVA rallied 4.49 percent.

Just nine days earlier, Madrid announced it was taking over Bankia to salvage a balance sheet with problematic property assets amounting to 31.8 billion euros.

Pablo del Barrio, analyst at Spanish brokerage XTB Broker, said Bankia stock had been subject to speculation in past days and investors may now be anticipating a government clampdown to stop short-selling.

Germany tried to shore up confidence.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Wealthy French Take Their Assets to London

During the election campaign, French President François Hollande threatened to slap an income tax rate of 75 percent on high earners. Since then, wealthy French have been looking for ways to get themselves and their money out of the country. And nowhere looks more attractive than millionaire-friendly London.

It began in 2010, when wealthy Greeks started coming to London and buying up expensive townhouses in upmarket neighborhoods. Amid fears that Greece might leave the euro zone, they believed their money would be safe in Britain in its splendid isolation from the euro and the Continent’s sovereign debt crisis.

Then rich Spaniards started arriving. They were following by well off Italians, who at the start of the year overtook Russians as the biggest group of foreign buyers snapping up property in London, according to a survey.

Whenever the euro crisis heats up somewhere in Europe, the demand for expensive homes increases in Western Europe’s largest city particularly among well-heeled foreigners beset by asset angst.

London real estate agents are like the canary in the coalmine for the debt crisis. They can sense early on the next country to get sucked into the vortex. So who’s up next? Apparently it’s the French.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

USA


Agenda 21: Conspiracy Theory or Threat

The battle over Agenda 21 is raging across the nation. City and County Councils have become war zones as citizens question the origins of development plans and planners deny any international connections to the UN’s Agenda 21. What is the truth? Since I helped start this war, I believe it is up to me to help with the answers.

The standard points made by those who deny any Agenda 21 connection is that:

[…]

Well, first I have a few questions of my own that I would love to have answered.

Will one of these “innocent” promoters of the “Agenda 21 is meaningless” party line, please answer the following:

If it all means nothing, why does the UN spend millions of dollars to hold massive international meetings in which hundreds of leaders, potentates and high priests attend, along with thousands of non-governmental organizations of every description, plus the international news media, which reports every action in breathless anticipation of its impact on the world?

It if all means nothing, why do those same NGO representatives (which are all officially sanctioned by the UN in order to participate) spend months (sometimes years) debating, discussing, compiling, and drafting policy documents?

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Breaking News! Vindication for Obama Birthers?

BREAKING NEWS that could change everything!

As reported, our 44th President appears to have been born in Kenya:

Breitbart News has obtained a promotional booklet produced in 1991 by Barack Obama’s then-literary agency, Acton & Dystel, which touts Obama as “born in Kenya and raised in Indonesia and Hawaii.”

The booklet, which was distributed to “business colleagues” in the publishing industry, includes a brief biography of Obama among the biographies of eighty-nine other authors represented by Acton & Dystel. It also promotes Obama’s anticipated first book, Journeys in Black and White— which Obama abandoned, later publishing Dreams from My Father instead.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Conservative Billionaire Knocks Down Supposed Plan to Air Obama-Wright Ads

The billionaire conservative who reportedly was considering a proposal to fund ads reconnecting President Obama with his controversial former pastor distanced himself from the proposal Thursday and said through an aide it would not move forward.

The proposal was reportedly commissioned by Joe Ricketts, the founder of the TD Ameritrade brokerage firm, and targeted for a run in September. The $10 million campaign, according to The New York Times, would have highlighted Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s controversial comments which first surfaced during the 2008 presidential campaign.

“The world is about to see Jeremiah Wright and understand his influence on Barack Obama for the first time in a big, attention-arresting way,” said a copy of the proposal, obtained by the Times.

The mere specter of Wright, though, touched off a rapid-fire trade of accusations from the campaigns of both Obama and Mitt Romney — with each accusing the other of character assassination before the proposal was effectively canned.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Illinois Senate Nixes Member of Human Rights Commission Over Views

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — A black Muslim activist’s nomination to the Illinois Human Rights Commission has been rejected by the Illinois Senate, after white conservatives slammed him over statements on a website he operates that voices opposition to “race mixing” and interracial marriage. The nomination of Munir Muhammad was defeated on a 20-30-4 Senate vote. The opposition was led by Republicans who criticized him over the racial content of the website connected to a group he operates in Chicago.

The group is called “The Coalition for the Remembrance of Elijah Muhammad,” who was an early leader of the Nation of Islam. The group’s website had contained a list of Elijah Muhammad’s beliefs, which included white reparations for slavery, racial separatism and a prohibition of interracial marriage. “He is unfit to serve on the Human Rights Commission,” Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon, who is white, said in floor debate. He slammed the racial separatism beliefs, and asked colleagues to consider “if the situation were reversed” and the nominee were a white member of the Ku Klux Klan, advocating the same kind of beliefs. “Would we be so tolerant? I think not.”

Muhammad’s defenders — most of them black Chicago Democrats — argued that the comments on the site weren’t from the nominee, but were merely quotations from a historic figure. They noted that Munir Muhammad has said the site’s designers put the quotations on it, that he didn’t know they were there, and that he had agreed to take them down.

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



It’s Impossible, Never Been Done Before, Let’s Do it!

The threat of Communism and fascism has transformed itself into more palatable names such as progressivism which is the love child of Hillary and Obama. Conservatism and frankly much of the GOP has shifted so far to the 50 yard line to gain more votes, they have nearly gutted all of their principles of real leadership. They too appear as progressives.

[…]

The Russian military, estimated 30-100,000 troops have been invited in a few short weeks over to Colorado (God knows where else) for military exercises. Troop movement have been building in city after city and 450 million hollow point bullets purchased by our Government. Why? Doug Hagmann pointed out in one of his recent articles that a DHS informant stated that the Government fears a civil war or uprising and is preparing for it.

My strategy to obtain ballot access is to get patriots in the key Electoral College states to lead in getting the signatures signed and turned into the prospective Secretary of State in each state. I need thousands of volunteers and I need them now in the following states:…

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Kuhner: Jeremiah Wright Can Sink Obama

President’s former pastor telling story of betrayal and bribery

By Jeffrey T. Kuhner

He’s back. And this time, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright threatens to engulf President Obama in a major scandal — one that could doom his re-election. Edward Klein in his recent biography of Mr. Obama, “The Amateur,” interviewed Mr. Wright about the president’s past. On tape and on the record, Mr. Wright claims that in 2008, the Obama campaign offered $150,000 to buy his silence. If this is true — and I stress if — Mr. Obama may have committed a crime, and if so, he should be prosecuted and sent to prison. Wrightgate could bring down the Obama presidency.

America was introduced to Mr. Wright in the spring of 2008. The racist, America-hating pastor quickly became an embarrassment to then-candidate Barack Obama. The more cable TV shows endlessly looped Mr. Wright’s extremist, bigoted tirades, the more of a political liability he became to the Obama campaign. Mr. Obama was in full panic; the long association with his radical pastor threatened to derail the Democratic nominee’s chances to defeat Sen. John McCain. Mr. Klein says that according to Mr. Wright, the Obama campaign sent an emissary. The goal: to bribe Mr. Wright in exchange for his agreement to disappear from public view until after the election.

In particular, Mr. Wright alleges that Dr. Eric Whitaker, a close Obama friend, sent an email proposing $150,000 to muzzle the pastor; Mr. Wright says he refused. (The Obama administration recently awarded a $6 million grant to the University of Chicago Medical Center’s Urban Health Initiative. Who runs the initiative? You guessed it: Dr. Whitaker.) Then, Mr. Wright claims, Mr. Obama personally visited him, urging the pastor to remain silent and do nothing that would cripple the Obama candidacy.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



New Book Casts Doubt on Obama’s Christian Identity

The liberal media have harangued figures such as Franklin Graham when they have refused to state categorically that Barack Obama is a Christian. Now comes author Edward Klein telling Sean Hannity that Jeremiah Wright, former pastor of United Church of Christ in Chicago, told him that he “made it comfortable” for Obama to accept Christianity “without having to renounce his Islamic background.”

All of this is consistent with our point, made in 2010, that Muslims could join Wright’s church without giving up their Muslim faith. And while Obama accepted Christianity, in the sense of calling himself a Christian, there is no evidence that he was ever officially baptized into Wright’s church. We pointed out that Obama’s claim about his own baptism, as reported in his second memoir, The Audacity of Hope, is subject to interpretation because of the lack of detail about how and when he was baptized and by whom.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Obama’s Literary Agent Says He Was ‘Born in Kenya.’ How Did the Mainstream Media Miss This?

by Tim Stanley

Whatever you think of Breitbart.com’s punishing vetting process, it has exposed just how little work the mainstream media did in investigating candidate Obama back in 2008. Not all of Team Breitbart’s revelations have been election-deciders, but they have often been stuff that a simple Google would have uncovered. If they revealed tomorrow that he’d had his own cross-dressing-themed sitcom on primetime TV in the 1980s, I wouldn’t be surprised. The latest find is a fascinating inversion of the birther conspiracy. Breitbart.com has discovered that in 1991 Barack Obama’s literary agent (who also represented New Kids on the Block) published a booklet that included a biography of the future President. The audience was “business colleagues” in the publishing industry and it was designed to promote Obama’s anticipated first book (later abandoned) called Journeys in Black and White. Here’s how it describes the author’s origins.

Barack Obama, the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review, was born in Kenya and raised in Indonesia and Hawaii. The son of an American anthropologist and a Kenyan finance minister, he attended Columbia University and worked as a financial journalist and editor for Business International Corporation. The key phrase here is “was born in Kenya” — and this bio line was apparently being used as late as 2007.

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



Prof Sues Over Muslim Tiff

INDIANAPOLIS — A Purdue University political science professor has sued officials and other professors at the school’s campus in northwest Indiana for the treatment he received after he posted criticism of Muslims on Facebook. Maurice Eisenstein claims in the suit that Purdue-Calumet officials violated his rights of freedom of speech and religion by subjecting him to a disciplinary investigation which eventually yielded mixed results. The lawsuit filed May 10 in a Lake County court says Eisenstein was cleared of the initial allegation that he had violated the school’s policy against discrimination and harassment, but officials reprimanded him for what they considered retaliation against the two professors who filed the complaints.

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



Sack the Senate: Voted Down 5 Budget Bills

Last week, the Senate gave We, the People, a clear and unmistakable illustration of why we need to sack all the Democrats, and a bunch of the RINOs, too. They voted down not one, not two, but five budget bills, four of which would actually have done America some good. This comes as we move into the fourth year that the Senate has failed to do its duty by passing a budget, leaving the country economically adrift.

The mind boggles that they’ve gotten away with this. Can you imagine a private company, especially a large one that is in deep financial trouble, whose management refuses to produce a budget, much less a budget aimed at solving the problems that threaten to put them out of business? Can you imagine stockholders of such a company pretending that this is just hunky-dory, no problema, gonna be just fine?

[…]

I have mentioned before that there are several incredibly dangerous, sovereignty-destroying U.N. treaties hidden in the wings, just waiting for the traitors in the Senate to ratify. That great patriot and Swift Boat Hero from his four whole months in Vietnam, John Kerry (R-MA), has vowed to get them onto the Senate floor for votes as soon, he hopes, as this summer. They include:

  • The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS or LOST, “Law of the Sea), which cedes control of all the world’s oceans and their contents, including our territorial waters, to the U.N.;
  • The United Nations Arms Trade Treaty, aka, Small Arms Treaty, that would virtually outlaw privately owned firearms or ammunition of any sort;
  • The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), which takes away parental rights to raise their children as they choose, and gives them to the U.N.;
  • The International Criminal Court, which allows foreigners to have Americans arrested and tried in kangaroo “international” courts, using foreign law;
  • The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which destroys, among many other things, marriage;
  • And a host of outrageous environmental treaties that would doom most of the world’s people to Third-World level poverty in a world-wide police state.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Stakelbeck: Islamist/Leftist Protesters Neutralized at My Portland State Speech

Last week, I reported on the anti-Semitic threats and intimidation surrounding my May 14th speech at Portland State University about the threats gathering against America and Israel.

Well, I gave the speech this past Monday night and it went off without a hitch, as some 40 Islamist and Leftist protesters in attendance were neutralized.

But not without some fireworks first.

Read my latest blog for a recap of the event, as I went head-to-head with the unholy Islamo/Leftist alliance.

           — Hat tip: Erick Stakelbeck [Return to headlines]



Utah School Fined $15,000 for Selling Soda at Lunch

Davis High School in the Salt Lake City area is having to fork over a whopping $15,000 in fines to the Feds because it accidentally sold soda through a vending machine during lunch.

A Utah high school is learning the hard way that the government is serious about nudging students away from food it doesn’t want them to consume. Davis High School in the Salt Lake City area is having to fork over a whopping $15,000 in fines to the Feds because it accidentally sold soda through a vending machine during lunch.

Federal law requires the school to turn off its soda machines during the lunch period, which is 47 minutes a day. And Davis High school did turn off the machines in the lunch room. However, the school didn’t realize that there was another machine in the school bookstore that wasn’t being turned off. And when the food police realized it, the school was hit with a $0.75 fine per student for the duration of the offense.

Now the school is going to have to cut money to fine arts programs to make up the cost.

           — Hat tip: McR [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU


Big Brother? New UK Surveillance Program Would Give Government Access to Personal Data

British officials have given their word: “We won’t read your emails.”

But experts say that its proposed new surveillance program, unveiled last week as part of the government’s annual legislative program, will gather so much data that spooks won’t have to read your messages to guess what you’re up to.

The U.K. Home Office stresses that it is not seeking to read the content of every Britons’ communications, saying the data it was seeking “is NOT the content of any communication.” It is, however, seeking information on who’s sending the message, whom it’s sent to, where it’s sent from, and potentially other details including a message’s length and its format.

The government’s proposal is just a draft bill, so it could be modified or scrapped. But if passed in its current form, it would put a huge amount of personal data at the government’s disposal, which it could potentially use to deduce a startling amount about Britons’ private life — from sleep patterns to driving habits or even infidelity.

“We’re really entering a whole new phase of analysis based on the data that we can collect,” said Gerald Kane, an information systems expert at Boston College. “There is quite a lot you can learn.”

The ocean of information is hard to fathom.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



European Parliamentarians Pleased With Mesika’s Visit to the EU

European parliamentarians pleased with speech by the head of the Shomron Regional Council, reaffirm support for Israel.

European parliamentarians were pleased on Thursday with the speech that was made by Gershon Mesika, the head of the Shomron Regional Council, at an official meeting of the EU Parliament in Brussels.

Mesika is the first leader of the settlement enterprise in Judea and Samaria to participate as a guest of honor at an official event in the European Parliament. During the special conference, the parliamentarians met with Jews from Judea and Samaria, as well as with Arabs from the region.

The conference was a reciprocal event to a tour in Samaria taken four months ago by the Vice Chairman of the Foreign Committee of the European Parliament, Dr. Fiorello Provera…

           — Hat tip: TV [Return to headlines]



Europe’s Failed Natural Gas Strategy: Gazprom Hopes to Build Second Baltic Sea Pipeline

With the planned Nabucco natural gas pipeline in southern Europe hitting snag after snag, Russian natural gas giant Gazprom is considering the construction of a second Baltic Sea pipeline to go with the just-finished Nord Stream. With unconventional natural gas from the US flooding the market, however, the strategy is not without risk.

Seven years later, it is now clear who won the duel. When the government of Social Democratic Chancellor Gerhard Schröder came to an end in 2005, both he and his foreign minister, Green Party éminence grise Joschka Fischer, embarked on second careers as energy lobbyists.

Schröder is in the service of Russian energy giant Gazprom — as chairman of the board of the Nord Stream natural gas pipeline on the Baltic Sea floor. The pipeline went into operation six months ago and now natural gas from Siberia flows through the 1,200 kilometers (745 miles) of pipe to the German city of Greifswald.

Fischer is an advisor to Nabucco, the consortium favored by the European Union, which also includes German electric power company RWE. The Nabucco pipeline is intended to transport gas from the Caspian Sea region, along a 3,900-kilometer southern route to Baumgarten in Austria, bypassing Russia in the process. But not a single meter of the pipeline has yet been laid, and that will likely remain the case. The Nabucco project will not be implemented as planned.

Three weeks ago, Hungary’s MOL Group voiced significant doubts about the project, and now another consortium member is thinking of pulling out. RWE executives have already prepared politicians in Brussels and Berlin for the worst case in recent weeks. They haven’t made a final decision yet, but the chances that the company will remain committed to Nabucco are not good.

One reason is that the estimated total cost of over €15 billion ($19 billion) is more than twice as high as the original projection. Another is that potential suppliers Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan have not yet provided definitive commitments to supply natural gas to the pipeline.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



German Universities Move to Train Next Generation of Imams

by Isabelle de Pommereau

Concerned about the influence of foreign imams on Germany’s Muslim community, the government is funding Islamic theology departments in its public universities to train imams at home.

Tübingen, Germany

For years Aysen Yüsra Yilmaz, the daughter of Turkish immigrants who came to Germany as guest workers, looked for a way to ground her religion in the German culture she has adopted as her own. She finally found it this year in Germany’s first publicly funded university Islamic theology department, connected to Tübingen University in the Black Forest’s foothills and one of Germany’s oldest universities. “We live in Germany, so we have to be able to represent our religion in German,” says Yilmaz, who is one of 36 students enrolled in a brand new bachelor’s degree program there.

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



Germany: Five Siblings Jailed for ‘Honour Killing’ of Sister

Four brothers and a sister were jailed in Germany for the killing their sister who the judge said was simply a “little girl who wanted to be happy”, but whose choice of German boyfriend was not tolerated by her family.

The 18-year-old woman, identified only as Arzu Ö., was violently kidnapped from her boyfriend’s flat in Detmold, North Rhine-Westphalia, last November, and taken to a motorway services station where she was shot dead.

Judge Michael Reineke heard that she had been beaten several times by members of her own family, particularly her brother Osman, and that in September 2011 she had fled to a refuge and filed official complaints against her brother and father.

“That was pretty much her death sentence,” the judge said, according to a report in the Berliner Zeitung newspaper on Wednesday. Referring to the Kurdish roots and Yazidi faith, he said that those who live in Germany must live by the values of this country, and not those of their origin.

Her brother Osman, 22, was jailed for life for her murder after having admitted to firing the shots. Her sister Sirin, 27, and brother Kirer, 25, both received 10-year sentences for kidnapping her and assisting in her killing. Her brothers Elvis, 21, and Kemal, 24, got five and-a-half years in jail for the kidnapping.

State prosecutor Ralf Vetter had asked for life imprisonment not only for Osman but for Sirin and Kirer and called for Kemal and Elvis to be given at least 11 years in prison. The lawyers for Elvis, Kirer and Osman want to appeal the sentences.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Italy: Facing Mafia Charges: Sicilian Governor Lombardo Resigns

Region set for elections in October

(ANSA) — Palermo, May 18 — Sicilian Governor Raffaele Lombardo, who is facing charges of colluding with the Mafia, said Friday that he has resigned from the helm of the regional government.

The decision means Sicily will have new elections for the governorship and its regional assembly on October 28 and 29.

Last month prosecutors presented a request to try Lombardo and his brother Angelo, an MP for Lombardo’s Movimento per l’Autonomia (MpA) party, for allegedly swapped votes for favors with Vincenzo Aiello, a prominent member of the powerful Catania-based Santapaola clan.

Aiello was arrested in 2010 on a range of Mafia charges.

Lombardo has denied the accusations.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Scotland: Streets in Banff Closed Off by Police Due to ‘Bomb’ Alert

A LARGE area at the heart of a former fishing town on the Moray Firth coast is at the centre of a “bomb” alert tonight.

Army explosives experts were called to deal with suspicious materials found at a house in the Low Shore area of Banff in Aberdeenshire.

Residents in nearby homes and businesses, including a major Tesco store, were evacuated and the area sealed off after the alert was sounded.

Grampian Police refused to comment on local claims that the emergency began after “chemicals capable of making a bomb” had been discovered in a house close to the town’s harbour area and the local police station.

A force spokesman said the incident began after officers had attended an address in the Low Shore area of Banff following concerns raised by a member of the public. He said that the bomb squad — the Army’s explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) team — had been called to the scene.

He added: “Officers have been carrying out investigations at the scene and have called in the EOD as a precaution, following the discovery of materials. There have been no injuries as a result of this incident, however, Grampian Police is now carrying out a controlled evacuation of the surrounding area as a precautionary measure to ensure the continued safety of the wider public. Grampian Police has deployed additional officers to the area to assist with the evacuation of a small number of residents from their homes with some local businesses also being affected.

“As a result of the developing inquiries officers have identified materials within a property and are working their way out from the locus to a distance of 100 metres to evacuate surrounding streets.”

Residents and businesses in seven streets — Carmelite Street, Reid Street, Bridge Street, Church Street, Water Lane, Crown Court and Old Market Place — were evacuated before the bomb disposal experts arrived. A temporary reception centre was set up for the families affected in Banff Academy.

Chief Inspector Derek Hiley of Grampian Police said: “We would like to reassure members of the Banff community that officers are taking these initial steps as a precaution whilst the EOD attend to assist with the management of materials found within a property.

“Arrangements have been made in conjunction with Aberdeenshire Council for a reception centre to be set up at the local school and all residents affected by the 100 metre cordon have been offered a place.”

He continued: “Obviously our initial concerns are around ensuring beyond all doubt that the community is completely safe. We would like to reassure members of the local community that our officers have experience of dealing with incidents such as these and have worked regularly with the EOD in the past.”

One local, who did not wish to be identified, told the Scotsman: “There are lots of police in the area. The bomb disposal people are here. The building at the centre of the alert is a house in the Water Lane area of the town.

“There have been claims that chemicals have been found in a house that would be capable of forming a bomb.”

A spokeswoman for Grampian Police declined to comment on the claims.

           — Hat tip: Nick [Return to headlines]



Swiss Study Tips ‘Autism Gene’

Researchers in Lausanne have identified a gene thought to be involved in autism and schizophrenia. A team of researchers from the University of Lausanne and the University Hospital in the canton of Vaud have identified the human gene “KCTD 13”, the absence of which could be the cause of conditions such as autism, newspaper Tribune de Genève reported.

In 2009, a 16-year-old autism patient visited Professor Jacques Beckmann at the Faculty of Biology and Medicine. He together with two other researchers, Sebastien Jacquemont and Alexandre Reymond, decided to expand their research, and they began to conduct studies involving both zebrafish and mice embryos.

They identified and studied a short genetic sequence, noting that certain changes seemed to correspond with certain conditions.

They noted that a repetition of the sequence related to abnormal thinness and small head size as well as to schizophrenia. In contrast, they found that where the sequence was lacking entirely, patients were predisposed to suffer from severe obesity, abnormal largeness of head size, and autism. The results of the study appeared on Thursday in the scientific journal Nature.

“We are still far from a possible treatment,” Jacques Beckmann told the newspaper. “We still need to determine whether other genes are involved, and how it works. But it is a necessary first step.”

Parallel research carried out by a team in the USA led by Nicholas Katsanis from the Duke University Medical Centre, was published on Wednesday. The study also found a relationship between the presence or absence of the KCTD13 gene with head size and mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and autism.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



UK: An Open Invitation From Imam Irfan Chishti MBE

Rochdale Community Forum

In the past week and months Rochdale as a town has been maligned because of the actions of a minority of men. Their actions have triggered much discussion and debate locally and nationally and has lead to the far right targeting our town with the aim of damaging what are very good community relations. Each and every member of the Rochdale community is totally appalled and disgusted by the crimes that have been committed and whole heartedly condemn the perpetrators.

Despite the fact the Police have clearly stated that race is not an issue, as the men were from a Pakistani background, many have turned towards the Rochdale Pakistani community for answers.

The Rochdale Community Forum exists as a coalition of grassroots organisations from groups who have been working for several years in partnership with various agencies, focussing in the main with the large Asian Muslim community which exists in Rochdale. This CSE case has brought to light the urgent need for all communities within Rochdale to work together collectively to tackle this issue. Therefore the Rochdale Community Forum must extend to other community sectors and organisations.

We would like to invite groups through the Rochdale Online to join The Rochdale Community Forum and actively lead this campaign with us. This is a very complex area of work that requires open and honest collaboration and with this in mind we have approached experts in the field that have worked on this for many years. Safe and Sound in Derby are an established charitable organisation whose work has received national recognition and we hope to work together closely in the future. We are in discussion with their training enterprise, Just Whistle to inform this strategy and encourage best practice in safeguarding young people.

The magnitude of the crimes committed has exposed many shortcomings in our public sector services (LEA, Social Services, Police, CPS) as well as within the community. We all need to address these issues collectively, as one Rochdale community. We are therefore proposing a community initiative with the following three core aims:

  • To shed a positive light back onto Rochdale
  • To work collaboratively with all Rochdale communities and grassroots organisations to tackle this issue
  • To use the outcomes of this initiative as a possible blueprint for tackling on-street grooming nationally

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: Baroness Warsi: Some Pakistani Men Think Young White Girls Are “Fair Game” For Sex Abuse

Some Pakistani men believe “white girls are fair game” for sexual abuse, the Cabinet Minister and Tory co-chairman Baroness Warsi says today. In an exclusive interview Sayeeda Warsi, Britain’s most senior Muslim politician, calls on mosques and community leaders to condemn “a small minority” of their members with racist and sexist views. “There is a small minority of Pakistani men who believe that white girls are fair game,” she told the Evening Standard. “And we have to be prepared to say that. You can only start solving a problem if you acknowledge it first.”

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: Camden Council Giving Al-Qaeda Group Freedom to Preach

A leading local authority has refused to sever its links to a group which promotes the ideology of Osama bin Laden at a taxpayer-funded centre and encourages young Muslims to prepare for jihad. Camden Council has repeatedly rejected the opportunity to take action over the Ministry of Dawah, which holds weekly lectures glorifying the al-Qaeda leader and extreme Islamist clerics such as Anwar al-Awlaki.

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: Cameron Hits Out at ‘Truly Dreadful Case’

The sex grooming scandal that saw nine local men jailed was a “truly dreadful case” which must be investigated further, David Cameron said. Speaking during Prime Minister’s Question Time Mr Cameron said: “There are particular problems in particular communities … and we need to face up to these problems if we are going to deal with them.” Mr Cameron said England’s Children Commissioner, Maggie Atkinson, would investigate the girls’ plight and he would consider launching a serious case review after calls from local MPs. The PM added: “It is a truly shocking case and we need to look very carefully at what went wrong. We need to look at why information wasn’t passed more rapidly from children’s homes to police, why action wasn’t taken more rapidly. It’s very important we get to the bottom of a truly, truly, dreadful case.”

Mr Cameron praised Rochdale MP Simon Danczuk for raising the issue along with Manchester Central MP Tony Lloyd who urged Mr Cameron to consider an inquiry into whether privately-run care homes were well funded with properly-trained staff, and demanded a better inspection regime. Mr Danczuk said: “I want to speak about the girls in that case — the vulnerable girls who went to hell and back through what they experienced. I pay tribute to their bravery in coming forward and standing up to their abusers. They did it to get justice and to stop it happening to others. Vulnerable girls like that do not usually get heard by politicians. They do not get easy access to power or influence.”

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: Protesters Sign Brick Lane Petition to Save View of Roa’s Crane Painting

Hundreds of protesters have signed a petition to get a council hoarding removed that advertises Brick Lane’s ‘Curry Mile’ in London’s East End-because they say it obstructs a view of an iconic wall painting of a crane bird by an internationally-renowned artist.

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: Turn Off Your iPad, David Cameron, And Start Dealing With Britain’s Debt

by Fraser Nelson

The Prime Minister David Cameron talks about fiscal sanity but is borrowing like a drunken Keynesian.

No one dispenses advice to the eurozone better than David Cameron. His speech yesterday was a fountain of good sense and hard truth. Quite rightly, he said there’s no point in any uncompetitive, debt-addicted country thinking it can just muddle along. Radical, structural reform is needed. He didn’t say which of the many basket-case European economies he had in mind, but one sticks out. It is increasing its debt faster than anywhere else in Europe. It languishes behind even Pakistan and Nicaragua on the global regulation league tables. Its growth prospects have almost evaporated. How do you solve a problem like the United Kingdom?

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: This Bookseller Deserved His Incitement to Terrorism Conviction

by Matthew Tariq Wilson

I was a witness in Ahmed Faraz’s trial — this is the first time anyone involved has spoken about what really happened

The trial and conviction last December of a Muslim bookseller, Ahmed Faraz, for incitement to acts of terrorism, generated a great deal of suspicion and misunderstanding within the Muslim community. People with little or no first-hand knowledge of the proceedings spun the events surrounding the trial into a freedom of expression issue. I was an expert witness in Islamic theology called to Faraz’s trial and until now, no one directly involved has spoken about what really happened. I am doing so for the first time.

The indictment against Faraz (under Sections 1 and 2 of the Terrorism Act 2006) comprised 30 counts regarding material contained in books and video tapes, many of which had been found in enormous quantities in premises connected to a bookshop, Al-Maktabah, that Faraz managed in Birmingham. Many of these items had also been found in the possession of the 7/7 bombers and other recent terrorists whose attacks mercifully failed or were foiled. Of the eight books under scrutiny, only one looked like the type that might possibly be found in a school or university library. The other editions were amateurish productions with garish covers, including images of scimitars, machine guns, carrying politicised sub-titles and littered with typographic errors.

The editions went under the names of well-known Muslim figures: these included Ibn Taymiyyah, the 14th-century theologian and jurist; Sayyid Qutb, the Egyptian modernist thinker who was imprisoned by Nasser; and Abdullah Azzam, an ideologue of the Afghan resistance during the Soviet invasion in the 1980s. However, most people — including most Muslims — do not realise that the proportion of the original texts in these editions was often surprisingly small. For example, of the indicted edition of Milestones: Special Edition by Sayyid Qutb, only 44% was a translation from the original Milestones. The rest was long separate texts included as appendices. Only 39% of The Religious and Moral Doctrine of Jihad by Ibn Taymiyyah was a translation of the original. A great deal of textual material by other writers was presented under the auspices of these well-known authors.

This is important. Much of the media discussion of the trial treated the texts as if they were translations of originals. In fact, all of the original texts had been doctored or adulterated in extremist ways. For example, appended to the text of item one in the trial, Milestones: Special Edition, was a fatwa by a medieval imam, Ibn Nuhaas, translated by the late al-Qaida ideologue Anwar al-Awlaki. It was a full-scale homily to the cult of “martyrdom”. This extra fatwa included sections such as The Virtues of Killing the Non-Believer, which legitimised throwing oneself at the enemy against all odds, using the types of arguments that have become the stock-in-trade of those who promote suicide killing.

Forty-four per cent of item five, The Azzam Edition of The Lofty Mountain by Azzam was, in fact, an added homage to Osama bin Laden praising him in eulogistic terms usually reserved for key Muslim figures such as the Prophet Muhammad. I discovered after the trial that this particular book was found in the possession of Mohammad Siddique Khan, the leader of the 7/7 plot, after he had died. It was also found on both of the leading figures in the 2006 transatlantic airlines bomb plot, Abdulla Ahmed Ali and Assad Sarwar.

The videos featured in the trial employed a toxic mix of propagandist speeches by known terrorists alongside footage glorifying extreme violence. For example, item two was a video entitled Malcolm X — Bonus Disc. It had nothing to do with Malcolm X. It began with a caricatured portrayal of all American forces in Iraq as barbaric torturers and continued with extended footage of a young man being driven on a suicide mission singing songs glorifying his impending “martyrdom” — and then showed him blowing himself up.

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: Wathamstow: EDL March ‘Will Inflame Tensions’

TENSIONS could rise in the community if far-right group the English Defence League (EDL) is allowed to march through Walthamstow, critics claim. Both the Waltham Forest Anti-Cuts Union and Trades Council have criticised plans posted online for an EDL demonstration in the area on Saturday August 18. The EDL, which describes itself as an “inclusive movement” opposed to Islamic extremism, denies being a racist organisation. But a spokesman for the WF Trades Council said: “There is no other reason that this organisation should come to Waltham Forest other than to seek to divide our multicultural community and to incite racial tension”.

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Balkans


Bosnia: Ratko Mladic is a Substitute Hitler for Today’s Bored and Mission-Less Western Hacks

by Brendan O’Neill

The cut-throat gesture made by Ratko Mladic on the opening day of his trial at The Hague sent a frisson of excitement through the press corps. Never mind that it’s now reported that the gesture could have been a demand for a toilet break rather than a threat to the Bosnian Muslims sitting in the gallery (ie. Mladic was saying, “Let’s cut for a minute, I need a leak”). The media still lapped it up, cock-a-hoop that their favourite evil man had done a really evil thing on the first day of his trial for being evil. They had the image they wanted, the image that would further boost the shtick they’ve been performing for 20 years now: the one in which the Serbs play the role of modern-day Nazis who love killing and raping people, and the moral crusaders of the Western media play the role of unimaginably brave witnesses to this Nazi-style nastiness.

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union


Brussels, EU Must Strengthen Relations With Neighbours

Important to deliver on its commitments with Southern Med

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, MAY 17 — “In spite of its economic difficulties, the EU must remain open and outward looking, strengthen neighbourly relations even further and firmly support its partners’ efforts to make their countries more democratic, more prosperous and hence, more stable”. These are the conclusions of the joint communication of European Commission and High Representative of the EU for foreign policy, one year after the launch of the new neighbourhood policy strategy.

According to the document, the EU’s new policy approach, founded on an incentive-based approach supporting partners that are committed to reforms “is firmly established”. “Most partner countries — the communication added — have welcomed it and a number of them are ready to pursue political and economic reform with increased determination and to engage more deeply with the EU”. However, this is a time of transition. Countries are engaged in drawing up new constitutions, establishing new institutions, building internal consensus in support of democratic transformation and electing new leaders. It will take time to resume dialogue with the EU and in this situation, “it is important for the EU — concludes the document — to deliver on its commitments to the Southern Neighbourhood”.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



EU Supports South Med Countries Committed to Reforms

First report on the new neighbourhood policy

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, MAY 17 — Building sustainable democracies where the right to vote is accompanied by other rights such as free speech, competing political parties, freedom or religion etc. is one of the main objectives of the Roadmap guiding EU policy towards its Southern partners, according to a document released by the EU in the framework of its annual assessment of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP).

According to the report, the EU’s “support for the Southern Mediterranean peoples’ drive towards greater respect for human rights, more democracy, dignity and prosperity”. It recalls the Partnership is founded “on an incentive-based approach supporting partners that are committed to reforms. It focuses on three elements: democratic transformation; a partnership with people and civil society, and sustainable and inclusive growth”. As part of the new policy approach, the report says, the EU has launched discussions with Morocco on a new Action Plan in the framework of its Advanced Status and has initiated talks to upgrade relations with Tunisia. In response to Algeria’s interest in engaging with the ENP for the first time, it has started discussions on negotiating an EU — Algeria Action Plan.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

North Africa


Gaddafi Properties Seized on Pantelleria

Ex-Libyan strongman’s assets worth 20 million euros

(ANSA) — Rome, May 16 — Hotel properties valuing 20 milion euros belonging to the ex-Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi were seized on the southern Italian island of Pantelleria on Wednesday.

The seizure was issued by the Rome Court of Appeals last March when Italian financial police confiscated 1.3 billion euros in assets belonging to the ex-Libyan strongman, his son Saif Al Islam and former intelligence chief Abdullah Al Senussi.

All of Gaddafi’s known assets were frozen following two UN resolutions passed in February and March of 2011, early in the leader’s bloody campaign to quell a popular uprising that led to his overthrow and death last October at the hand of insurgents.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians


Caroline Glick: Let us Embrace Our Friends

Two weeks ago, US Congressman Joe Walsh published an op-ed in the The Washington Times in which he called for the US and Israel to abandon the two-state solution.

After running through the record of Palestinian duplicity, failed governance, terrorism and bad faith, he called for Israel to apply its sovereignty to Judea and Samaria. In his words, Israel should “adopt the only solution that will bring true peace to the Middle East: a single Israeli state from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. Israel is the only country in the region dedicated to peace and the only power capable of stable, just and democratic government in the region.”

The evidence that the two-state paradigm has failed is overwhelming. The Palestinians’ decision to reject statehood at Camp David in 2000 and launch a terror war against Israel made clear that they had not abandoned their refusal from 1947 to accept partition of the Land of Israel with the Jews.

So, too, the Palestinians’ election of Hamas in the 2006 elections, and their missile war against Israel from Gaza in the aftermath of Israel’s complete withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, all made clear that they are not interested in a Palestinian state. Rather, their chief desire is Israel’s annihilation…

           — Hat tip: Caroline Glick [Return to headlines]



Irish Minister Told Israel Boycott Will Not Secure Peace

Supporters of Israel are calling on the Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs to “build bridges” rather than seek a boycott of Israeli goods.

Earlier this week Eamon Gilmore hinted that he planned to push the European Union to block goods produced in the settlements, in order to pressure the Israeli government into making changes in policy. Mr Gilmore said settlements in the West Bank were “making the achievement of a two-state solution in the Middle East impossible. “If there isn’t a change in Israeli policy in relation to settlements in particular, I think we may have to look at some additional measures,” he said.

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



Labour Palestine Group Comes of Age

by Martin Bright

On Monday, Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle East held its annual parliamentary reception. The usual backbench phalanx was there, including Jeremy Corbyn and Richard Burden. But the organisation has undergone a renaissance under Ed Miliband’s leadership. It is no longer the fringe group of the Blair-Brown era. Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander and Shadow Justice Secretary Sadiq Khan spoke from the platform . Shadow Business Secretary Chuka Umunna and Labour rising stars Anas Sarwar and Lisa Nandy were also there, along with former Communities Secretary John Denham. With a few exceptions, this is Ed Miliband’s inner circle.

[…]

There was a time when an ambitious young member of the Labour Party was well-advised to join Labour Friends of Israel but from Monday’s turnout it is now clear that Labour Friends of Palestine is the place to be seen.

[…]

[JP note: Labour’s election strategists know where the votes are.]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



Museum in Jerusalem Reopened With Italian Support

Ceremony attended by Pna Premier Salam Fayyad

(ANSAmed) — ROME, MAY 18 — The Palestinian Heritage Museum in Jerusalem will be reopened thanks to Italian support. The opening ceremony was held yesterday evening at Dar al-Tifl al-Arabi (the Arab Children’s House, historical Palestinian cultural institute and seat of the museum) in the presence of a large delegation of Palestinian authorities, including Prime Minister of the Palestinian National Authority Salam Fayyad.

The Italian Consulate in Jerusalem and the Province of Pisa have sponsored the project — which has taken two years costing around 400,000 euros -, organising training courses for museum staff, particularly in the field of restoration of textile, documents and jewelry. “This initiative,” Consulate officials explained, “aims to protect and enhance Palestinian cultural heritage and identity by exhibiting ancient jewels, precious traditional clothes and tools, which were kept in the institute’s storerooms.” Cooperation Councillor of the Province of Pisa Silvia Pagnin has suggested to “organise temporary exhibitions in Italy showing part of the museum’s collection.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Middle East


Turkey: Threats of Reprisal to Cypriot Project Candidates

“Whoever participates will be excluded from future cooperation”

(ANSAmed) — ISTANBUL — The Turkish Foreign Minister has asked candidate groups for a Greek-Cypriot tender on the exploration of gas and petroleum off the island to withdraw, threatening them in case they do not step back, to exclude them from any future project of cooperation in Turkey.

“As our Prime Minister has already said”, commented the Minister of Foreign Affairs in a note reported by Anadolu agency, “firms which will cooperate with the Greek-Cypriot administration will not be able to participate in energy projects in Turkey”.

Ankara has in this way renewed its announcement of a boycott towards energy groups which take part in the search for hydrocarbons on behalf of Cyprus. The Foreign Minister’s words refer to a second tender for the search of hydrocarbons off Cyprus, the Turkish agency pointed out, referring to the island divided in 1974 after a Turkish military intervention and now at the centre of tensions due to the drilling in search of petroleum and gas in the southern region which is recognized by the international community. The Turkish minister “invites all countries involved and the gas companies to have some common sense and not participate in the activities of this maritime sector which creates a problem for the Cyprus issue.” In the note the Ministry “invites the groups to also withdraw their bids from the abovementioned tender”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Turkey Accuses Israel of Violating Northern Cyprus Airspace

Turkey Thursday accused Israeli airplanes of violating the airspace of northern Cyprus — recognised only by Turkey. Ankara said the Israeli plan was driven off by Turkish fighter planes. The incident happened on Monday and comes as Turkey and Israel’s relations have soured recently.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



UN Suspects Al Qaeda in Damascus Bombs

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has said he believes al Qaeda was behind the deadly bomb blasts that rocked Syria last week, killing 55 and wounding hundreds.

Last week’s deadly car bombs that struck Damascus and killed 55 people bore the marks of al Qaeda, according to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.

“Very alarmingly and surprisingly, a few days ago, there was a huge serious massive terrorist attack. I believe that there must be al Qaeda behind it. This has created again very serious problems,” said Ban from UN headquarters Thursday evening.

The two car bombs injured an additional 372 people and left a massive crater on a busy road in the Syrian capital. It was the deadliest attack in Damascus since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began in March 2011.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

South Asia


Afghanistan’s Neighbors View US Influence With Misgiving

As Washington and Kabul deepen their post-2014 cooperation, the neighboring states have certain misgivings about their own role in the resource-rich region.

Although foreign troops are due to leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014, there is no end in sight to the US presence there. The US plans to continue supporting the weak Afghan government — with military means if necessary. In the recent strategic agreement signed between Kabul and Washington, the US committed to supporting Afghanistan’s social and economic development, security, institutions and regional cooperation for 10 years — until 2024. There were few concrete details about what possible military support might entail.

Iran was the first state to protest openly against the agreement. “Iran has had to live with a US military presence in Qatar, Bahrain, Iraq and Turkey. Now Afghanistan,” Iran expert Farzaneh Rostayi told DW. “Iran feels completely surrounded by the US military and perceives this situation as a great threat.”

Although there is a passage in the agreement which points out that the US does not seek “permanent military bases in Afghanistan,” there are no official figures about how many US troops will remain after 2014. Experts estimate that between 10,000 and 20,000 soldiers and trainers will stay.

Apart from Iran, Pakistan — a close US ally in the fight against terrorism — also has its misgivings about the US maintaining a long-term presence in the region.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Charges Against Marines in India ‘Filed in Court’

Homicide said to be included in police dossier

(ANSA) — Rome, May 18 — Charges against the two Italian anti-piracy marines accused of killing two Indian fishermen February were presented in court in the southern Indian province of Kerala on Friday, according to India media.

Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, who are being held in a special section of the Pujapoora jail in the southern city of Thiruvananthapuram, are being charged with attempted homicide, homicide, criminal association, damages and intent to injure, said the Indian daily newspaper The Indian Express, which reportedly has access to the court documents.

The news of the charges came as the two marines were being visited by Foreign Undersecretary Staffan de Mistura, a longtime ex-United Nations diplomat liasing with Indian authorities on the case.

Police also disputed in the dossier whether the vessel was in international waters when the incident took place, said the Indian daily.

Italy says it should have jurisdiction for the case, not India, as the soldiers were guarding an Italian merchant vessel in international waters. The Italian government believes that, regardless of who has jurisdiction, the marines should be exempt from prosecution in India as they were military personnel working on an anti-piracy mission.

The dossier was filed one day before the three-month detainment period allowed by the Indian judicial system expired for the marines, who have been at the centre of a diplomatic row between the countries since February.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Italy Recalls Ambassador to New Delhi Over Marines

Giacomo Sanfelice to return for consultations

(ANSA) — Rome, May 18 — Italy has recalled its ambassador to New Delhi for consultations amid tension with India over the case of two Italian anti-piracy marines accused of killing two Indian fishermen in February.

The foreign ministry said Giacomo Sanfelice had been recalled after police filed charges against Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Saudi Government to Build Mosques in the Maldives

Islamic Affairs Minister Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed has revealed that the Saudi government had pledged assistance to construct additional mosques in the Maldives. A SMS sent to Haveeru by the Minister last night during the current visit to Sri Lanka stated that he has had held discussions with various Ambassadors of Islamic nations based in Colombo accredited to the Maldives including Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Egypt.

The discussions with the Saudi Ambassador had also entailed extending the Hajj pilgrimage quota for the Maldives and financial assistance to train 500 Hafizs in the Maldives, Shaheem said. Minister further detailed that the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Saudi government would be signed in the near future and also relayed the assurances of the Saudi Ambassador to extend the fullest assistance to the Maldives from Saudi Arabia.

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Far East


China Denounces US Duties on Solar Panels

China has voiced its anger over a preliminary decision by the US administration to levy heavy duties on solar panels. Washington believes that China’s current price policies undermine fair competition.

China on Friday criticized US tariffs on solar panels, saying they were unfair and damaging to both producers and consumers. Beijing called the planned duties of between 31 and 250 percent on Chinese exporters and producers “protectionist”.

“Such practices do not fit with the fact that Chinese enterprises are market economy participants and highlight the United States’ tendency towards trade protectionism,” Commerce Ministry Spokesman Shen Danyang said in a statement. “The US ruling is unfair and China is extremely dissatisfied.”

Several Chinese solar cell companies branded Washington’s plans as being short-sighted and warned they could lead to a full-blown trade war between the two global powers.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific


Muslims Sick of Irrational Terrorism Stigma

MUSLIM Australians have linked the Arab-Israeli conflict to violent extremism here, a federal parliamentary inquiry has been told.

Attorney-General’s Department senior official Jamie Lowe told a recent hearing that people at a community engagement forum had said that solving the Middle East conflict would get rid of the “violent extremism problem”. Ms Lowe said that the comment was tongue-in-cheek because Australia was powerless to solve the crisis, but her department had passed it on to the Foreign Affairs Department as being of serious concern. “Things happening in their countries of birth obviously have an impact on them here,” she told the federal multicultural inquiry.

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa


95,000 Nigerian Muslims to Perform 2012 Hajj — Commission

A total of 95,000 Muslim pilgrims from Nigeria are to perform the 2012 hajj exercise at the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, with the first flight taking off on September 18. Alhaji Muhammad Bello, chairman, National Hajj Commission, told Honourable Nnenna Elendu-Ukeje-led House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs, in Abuja, on Wednesday, adding that the 2012 hajj arrangements commenced early, so as to have a smooth and hitch-free exercise. He said the number was 4,000 lower to the allocated hajj slots to Nigeria in 2011, adding that 10,000 slots were allotted to the private hajj operators in the country, while the commission and the state pilgrim boards would share 85,000 slots.

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



Nigeria: Sharia: Zamfara Rehabilitates Amputees

By Saminu Ibrahim

Gusau-Zamfara State Government has rehabilitated two men whose hands were amputated under the Sharia law about 12 years ago.

The amputees are Bello Buba, who reportedly stole a cow, and Mallam Lawali Isa, who confessed that he stole a set of bicycles.

The first victim of the Sharia Law, Buba, has been given N500,000 to start cow rearing business, while Isa is now a cement distributor in Gusau, courtesy of the state government. Former Governor of the state, Senator Ahmed Yerima, whose administra-tion introduced the law, facilitated their rehabilitation by the government, following persistent complaints by the victims.

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Immigration


Switzerland: Grounds for Asylum Under Attack

The Council of States wants to change the law so that people cannot claim political asylum because they have deserted their country’s army. The aim is to make it harder for Eritreans to seek asylum in Switzerland.

The Council of States, also known as Switzerland’s upper house, wants to stop asylum seekers being able to use desertion as a ground upon which to claim asylum, newspaper Tribune de Genève reported.

Some two thirds of asylum seekers from Eritrea now use their desertion as the basis for the asylum applications. The introduction of desertion as a valid ground for claiming asylum in 2005 led to a dramatic increase in applications.

Number rose from 200 in 2005, to more than 1,000 in 2006. In 2011 more than 3,000 applications were registered and the first quarter of 2012 has already exceeded the figures for the first quarter of last year by some 41 percent.

It is hoped that removing desertion as a ground for asylum will dramatically reduce the number of entrants to Switzerland, but critics say it will make little difference as Eritreans will still be able to claim at least temporary asylum for other reasons due to the continuing war with Ethiopia.

Swiss People’s Party representative, Heinz Brand, is optimistic that the move will yield results.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

General


Arctic Microbe Hunt Could Aid Search for Alien Life

Microbes living at the edges of Arctic ice sheets could help researchers pinpoint evidence for similar microorganisms that may have evolved on Mars, Jupiter’s moon Europa or Saturn’s moon Enceladus, researchers say. Scientists are investigating the receding edge of ice sheets on Earth to study the release of methane there.

Methane is a colorless, odorless, flammable gas. On Earth, some methane is produced abiotically — not by life — through reactions between water and rock, as well as through the breakdown of hydrocarbons by geological processes.

On the other hand, some methane comes directly or indirectly from methanogenic microbes, as a byproduct of fermentation of acetate — a derivative of vinegar — into methane and carbon dioxide.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Buried Microbes Exist at Limit Between Life and Death

Look and learn, sloths: the microbes deep beneath the Pacific ocean take inactivity to new heights. They are so slow on the uptake of nutrients from their environment that they barely classify as alive. Their very existence could help define the limit between life and death. Paradoxically, though, they may also be among the oldest living organisms on Earth.

Everything happens slowly in the North Pacific gyre, one of the five largest ocean gyres in the world. Sand and mud washing off the continents rarely finds its way there, so the seafloor accumulates sediment at a sluggish rate. The clay just 30 metres below the seafloor was deposited 86 million years ago, almost 20 million years before Tyrannosaurus rex graced the Earth.

That clay contains so little energy in the form of nutrients that it should be incapable of supporting a living community. Microbes have been found in other, only slightly more energy-rich communities below the seafloor, though.

In a bid to hone in on the lower energy limits for life, Hans Røy at Aarhus University in Denmark probed the clays below the North Pacific gyre. Under the microscope, he found a community made up of bacteria and single-celled organisms called archaea in vanishingly small numbers.

“There are only 1000 tiny cells in 1 cubic centimetre of sediment, so finding just one is literally like hunting for a needle in a haystack.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

News Feed 20120517

Financial Crisis
» Bilderberg Scheme to Save the Euro
» Britain’s Cameron Ups Pressure on Eurozone Leaders
» ECB Turns Taps Off to Four Greek Banks
» Greece: Tsipras to CNN, We Are Going Straight to Hell
» Greek Worries Push European Markets Down Further
» Italy: Monti Shows Support for Under-Fire Tax Authorities
» Italy: Tax Collectors on Front Line of Backlash
» Italy, Spain Call for Action in Defense of Euro
» One Elderly American Out of 7 Risks Going Hungry
» Spain: Rush to Bankia Counters, Over 1 Billon Withdrawn
» Spain Falls Into Recession Amid Fears of Eurozone Bank Run
 
USA
» Double Jeopardy Looms for George Zimmerman in the Trayvon Martin Case
» Hill GOP Wants Answers on Hezbollah Leader Tied to Soldiers Killings, Set for Release
» Minorities Now Surpass Whites in US Births, Census Shows
» Sun is Moving Slower Than Thought
» The Facebook Deal Worth $100billion That Will Make Bono the World’s Richest Rock Star (But at What Cost to Your Privacy?)
» US Nuclear Weapons Upgrades: Experts Report Massive Cost Increase
 
Canada
» Quebec Considers Emergency Law as Thousands of Students Protest Tuition Hikes
» Updated: Board Suspends Toronto Islamic School’s Operating Permit After Row Over Anti-Jewish Curriculum
 
Europe and the EU
» EU and Turkey Set to Revive Talks Over Membership
» European Commission Should be EU Government, Says Germany
» Europe: Will Eurosceptics be Blamed for Eurogeddon?
» Finland: Reindeer Herders See Rise in Income
» French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault’s Name Sounds Like the Arabic for Penis
» Italy: Former Northern League Leader Bossi Under Investigation
» Italy’s Economic and Political Elite Oldest in Europe
» It’s Getting Lonely for Merkel Within Her Party
» Netherlands: Four Teenagers Held Over Video Showing Sexual Assault
» Norway: Utøya Survivor ‘Hid Under Friends’ Dead Bodies’
» One in Three Irish Undecided on Fiscal Compact Referendum
» Sweden: School Burns in Tensta Teenager Unrest
» Switzerland: Vintage Wine Sells for $49,000 in Geneva
» Switzerland: Historic Diamond Sells for $9.7 Million in Geneva
» UK: Chingford: Live Blog: Stow Stadium Car Park Will Become Bus Depot
» UK: Man Still Quizzed Over ‘Threat to Kill’ Allegation at Tower Hamlets Council
» UK: Protests in Rochdale and Heywood
» UK: Seven Up!: A Tale of Two Englands That, Shamefully, Still Exist
» UK: Six Arrested After 50 Brawl in Blackburn Street
» UK: Three Held Are Northern Far-Right Protest Over Child Grooming Case
» UK: Tower Hamlets ‘Headless’ After Deadlock Over New Chief Executive
» Vatican: Benetton ‘Donated to Charity’ To Settle Papal Advertising Spat
 
North Africa
» Egypt: Thieves Grab Mameluke Knockers
» Libya: Islamist Commander to Form New Party
» Seven People Die in Libya in a Raid on the Algerian Border
 
Israel and the Palestinians
» Chair of Manchester Palestine Solidarity Campaign Declares Israeli Hoopoe Birds ‘Aves No Grata’.
 
Middle East
» Abu Dhabi Majlis Lights Up New York’s Times Square
» British Woman Faces Jail for ‘Sex in Backseat of Dubai Taxi After All-Day Drinking Binge’
» Investments: General Electric Signals Interest in Turkey
» Iran Outraged by Plans for Saudi-Bahrain Union
» Italy: Inland Revenue Rejects Mediation for Maradona in Tax Dispute
» Jordan King Inaugurates Prophet Mohammed Museum
» Kuwait: Rapists Caught for Raping a Teenager Inside a Mosque
» Syria: More Arms to Rebels From Gulf With US “Consulting”
» Syria’s War is Between Alawis and Sunnis, Not Against Christians
» Terror Experts Called in After Turkish Villagers Mistake Bird for Israeli Spy
» Turkey: Ankara Sparks ‘Positive Dialogue’ With the EU
 
Russia
» Russian Police Break Up Protest Camp, Detain Activists
 
Far East
» China Stumbles Into Fishing Scrape With North Korea
» Forty Million Japanese in ‘Extreme Danger’ Of Life-Threatening Radiation Poisoning, Mass Evacuations Likely
 
Australia — Pacific
» New Zealand: New Service Targets Mental Health in Auckland’s Muslim Community
 
Sub-Saharan Africa
» El Dorado in Angola: Portuguese Find Oasis From Crisis in Former Colony
» Kenya Struggles to Contain Al-Shabab Threat
 
Immigration
» Greece Struggling to Manage Asylum Seekers
 
Culture Wars
» UK: Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World is Upon Us
» What Words Really Mean

Financial Crisis


Bilderberg Scheme to Save the Euro

Globalists fear Greece could exit single currency and stage a miraculous economic recovery

Paul Joseph Watson

The Bilderberg Group is terrified that Greece’s potential exit from the eurozone could lead to a dramatic economic recovery and provide a template for other countries to follow suit, threatening to torpedo the euro single currency and the entire agenda for a European federal superstate.

One of the primary discussion topics at this year’s upcoming Bilderberg Group meeting in Chantilly, Virginia will revolve around how the elite plan to address the issue that threatens to bring their agenda for global governance crashing down — the euro crisis.

The increasing threat of Greece abandoning its promise to honor draconian bailout terms agreed with Brussels and Berlin last night led German chancellor Angela Merkel to acknowledge for the first time that Greece could exit the euro, a likelihood that has sent the single currency along with financial markets plunging in recent days.

The euro crisis is now at its most severe point in history, outstripping similar crisis points which coincidentally also occurred just before the annual Bilderberg Group meetings in 2010 and 2011.

On both of those occasions, political consensus formed by Bilderberg members was enough to keep the euro on life support for another 12 months each time, and the same globalists will once again try and hammer out a strategy behind closed doors that will provide redemption for their cherished pet project.

In 2010, “the future of the euro” took center stage in Spain as Spanish Prime Minister Luis Rodriguez Zapatero was joined by numerous financial heavyweights to try and solve the crisis as Bilderberg members panicked about the possible collapse of the single currency.

A year later during the 2011 meeting in St. Moritz, Switzerland, the euro crisis was again at the top of Bilderberg’s agenda as globalists expressed fears that the demise of the single currency could also torpedo hopes to create multi-regional currencies.

Bilderberg is terrified not only that Greece will exit the euro, but that in doing so it will go on to see a massive economic rebound and become an example for other eurozone countries to follow the same course…

[Return to headlines]



Britain’s Cameron Ups Pressure on Eurozone Leaders

(LONDON) — British Prime Minister David Cameron on Thursday renewed his call for eurozone leaders to take decisive action or face the break up of the single currency over the Greek debt crisis.

In a speech in the northwestern city of Manchester, Cameron urged core countries in the 17-member eurozone, of which Britain is not a member, and the European Central Bank to support demand and cut deficits.

Cameron admitted that his message would be unpopular in Europe where he angered many leaders by delaying a fiscal treaty last year, but said his priority was to protect Britain.

“The eurozone is at a crossroads,” Cameron said in the speech to business leaders. “It either has to make up or it is looking at a potential break-up. Either Europe has a committed, stable, successful eurozone with an effective firewall, well capitalised and regulated banks, a system of fiscal burden sharing, and supportive monetary policy across the eurozone. “Or we are in uncharted territory which carries huge risks for everybody.”

Cameron was due to hold a videoconference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, new French President Francois Hollande, Italian premier Mario Monti and the top EU officials later Thursday.

The meeting was called to discuss the upcoming G8 meeting of industrialised nations in the United States at the weekend, but Cameron’s Downing Street office said the eurozone was likely to come up.

Fears of a Greek exit from the eurozone have spiked after voters on May 6 supported anti-austerity parties that want to tear up an EU-International Monetary Fund bailout agreement and reverse harsh austerity measures.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



ECB Turns Taps Off to Four Greek Banks

The European Central Bank Wednesday said it would temporarily stop offering liquidity to four unnamed Greek banks considered insolvent. Once a recapitalisation of the banks is finalised, they would regain access to standard liquidity operations, FT reports. Meanwhile the banks must rely on loans from the Greek central bank.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Greece: Tsipras to CNN, We Are Going Straight to Hell

Syriza leader, let’s scrap memorandum, renegotiate at EU level

(ANSAmed) — ROME, MAY 17 — Alexis Tsipras, head of SYRIZA, said on Wednesday that the radical left coalition wanted to put an end to austerity, keep Greece in the eurozone and strike new alliances to overcome the crisis.

“We will do whatever we could do in this direction, to keep Greece inside the eurozone and inside Europe,” said Tsipras in an interview with CNN, quoted by Kathimerini. Tsipras said that the left coalition wants to “cancel the memorandum, then renegotiate on a European level,” in search of a common solution to exit the crisis which he said was not just a Greek problem, but a European problem.

To do so, Tsipras said that he would look for partners in southern as well as central Europe.

“We are going directly to hell”, Tsipras added with regards to the austerity measures, accusing German Chancellor Angela Merkel of putting the eurozone at risk. On the subject of what a drachma comeback would mean for Greece and Europe, Tsipras responded that although he disagreed with Merkel on many issues he did agree with a statement she had made a month ago, saying that if Greece were to exit the eurozone, markets would immediately go in search of the country that would follow suit, such as Italy or Spain.

Tsipras said that going back to the old currency would mean “poor people to have drachmas and the rich people to buy everything with euros.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Greek Worries Push European Markets Down Further

Fears that Greece might leave the euro currency union, with uncertain consequences for the rest of Europe, pushed the continent’s markets down again on Thursday, though Asian stocks eked out gains thanks to good economic growth figures out of Japan.

Greece called another round of elections for June 17 after the last one proved inconclusive and coalition talks to form a government fell apart. Greeks gave strong support to parties that reject the country’s international bailout and the tough austerity measures it comes with.

But without that rescue package, Greece will likely default and have to leave the 17-country eurozone. That would result in financial disaster for Greece and send shockwaves through European markets, destabilizing other weak countries.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Italy: Monti Shows Support for Under-Fire Tax Authorities

Agencies have been hit by series of threats, attacks

(ANSA) — Rome, May 17 — Premier Mario Monti visited the Rome headquarters of Italy’s tax authorities on Thursday to express his support for them after a series of threats and attacks.

“I wanted this meeting to bring the unconditional support of the government and of myself after the numerous acts of intimidation and aggression which recently have repeatedly occurred frequently and which should be condemned with great firmness,” Monti said.

A businessman held a inland-revenue clerk hostage for six hours in Bergamo earlier this month, and police received a bomb threat Monday for a similar office in the southern city of Bari, amid widespread tension provoked by the economic recession and government austerity measures.

Tax-collection agency Equitalia has been hit by a string of letter-bomb and petrol-bomb attacks, including one at the weekend.

Equitalia is thought to be a possible target of an anarchist group, Informal Anarchists Federation (FAI), that claimed responsibility for shooting Ansaldo Nucleare CEO Roberto Adinolfi in the leg last week and has promised to carry out at least eight acts of terrorism.

A letter threatening Monti in the name of the FAI was sent to some Italian dailies on Wednesday although police have doubts about its authenticity.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Italy: Tax Collectors on Front Line of Backlash

Rome, 17 May (AKI/Bloomberg) — For 10 years, Daniela Ballico has been knocking on Romans’ doors seeking back taxes. Now with Italy’s tax-collectors on the front line of an anti-austerity backlash, she no longer has the courage to ring their bells.

Equitalia, the state tax-collection agency, has been targeted in a wave of attacks as Italians chafe under stepped-up efforts to recover an estimated 120 billion euros in lost revenue from evasion. On May 12, a Molotov cocktail exploded outside Equitalia’s Livorno office, one day after a parcel bomb was delivered to the Rome headquarters, site of a December explosion that tore off part of the general manager’s hand.

“I have never seen such a tense atmosphere” said Ballico, who has been employed by Equitalia since 1998 and is now on temporary leave to work for the UGL labor union. “They call us loan sharks, bloodsuckers; my colleagues have to deal with anxiety and stomach aches every day and they are scared.”

The crackdown is part of Prime Minister Mario Monti’s 20 billion-euro austerity plan that also brought higher taxes, cuts in public spending and record gasoline prices. While the measures may have helped bring down bond yields from euro-era records, they helped push the economy into its fourth recession since 2001, making it harder even for law-abiding Italians to keep up with tax payments.

Rising Violence

Monti today reiterated his government’s “unconditional support” for the tax revenue agency, “firmly” condemning the attacks, he said in a statement after meeting with the agency’s head, Attilio Befera, and Equitalia staff, in Rome. “We can and we must discuss how to reduce the fiscal burden, trying to go after those who escape from taxation,” he said.

The country’s top security officials are also gathering today at the Interior Ministry to discuss ways to combat the rising violence.

The government has already raised alert levels at some sensitive sites and may even use the army to defend the tax agency, Interior Minister Anna Maria Cancellieri told newspaper la Repubblica in an interview on May 13.

Attacking State

“I would like to stress that attacking Equitalia is the equivalent of attacking the state,” she told the daily.

The government predicts that the country’s tax burden, or tax as a percentage of gross domestic product, will rise to 45.1 percent this year from 42.5 percent in 2011, and won’t start falling until 2015. Italy ranked fourth-highest in the European Union by that measure in 2011.

Italy’s tax-revenue agency recovered 12.7 billion euros from evasion in 2011, up 15.5 percent from 2010. Monti’s government is counting on a further increase this year to help meet its pledge to slash the deficit even with the recession deepening.

Budget Plan

The government didn’t include revenue from evasion in its 2012 budget and plans to use any recovered funds as a buffer should regular income miss its target because of the slump. The government forecasts the economy will contract 1.2 percent this year, while the International Monetary Fund predicts a contraction of 1.9 percent.

As part of the crackdown on tax evasion, authorities have targeted owners of luxury cars and boats to stop transgressions by the wealthiest Italians. Still, much of the anger directed at Equitalia is from people with more modest means as the agency is responsible for collecting everything from missed mortgage payments to parking tickets and delinquent school lunch fees.

Hostages

Earlier this month, a 54-year-old small businessman facing financial difficulties and tax debts of around 2,400 euros, took 15 hostages at an Equitalia office near Bergamo for several hours before surrendering to police.

Even as Monti and other politicians seek to quell rising social tensions, anti-austerity protests are spreading with Equitalia serving as a symbol of broader indignation. Around 200 former Fiat SpA (F) workers occupied the Equitalia office in the Sicilian town of Termini Imerese on May 9 to protest the Italian automaker’s decision to shut a plant employing more than 1,400 workers. On May 11, demonstrators clashed with police outside Equitalia’s offices in Naples.

Years of Lead

Authorities are concerned that the rising discontent will fuel more violent attacks in a country with a history of domestic terrorism. Hundreds of people were killed in bombings by the leftist Red Brigades and fascists groups in the 1970s and 1980s in a period known as the Years of Lead. In a throwback to the days when executives and politicians were kneecapped, or shot in the knees, an executive of a Finmeccanica SpA (FNC) unit was shot in the leg outside his home in Genoa on May 7 in an attack claimed by a group calling itself the Informal Anarchist Federation.

The FAI yesterday made a written threat against Monti, Cancellieri and senior officials of Italy’s tax agency.

“As the debt crisis worsens, we are likely to see more episodes like this,” said Alberto Mingardi, head of the pro- free market Bruno Leoni research center in Turin, about the attacks on Equitalia.

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



Italy, Spain Call for Action in Defense of Euro

A sharp spike in yields of Spanish and Italian bonds has led the two countries’ leaders to call for a strong message in defense of the euro project. Growth is pivotal, they say, and Greece must be kept in the eurozone.

The risk premium on Spain’s and Italy’s sovereign debt soared Wednesday, as the threat of a Greek eurozone exit was shook the single currency area.

The yield on Spain’s benchmark 10-year government bonds spiked to a peak of 6.51 percent, hitting a level considered too high for the state to refinance its debts.

The 10-year Italian bond yield opened at 6 percent, the highest rate since January 31, before slipping to just below 6 percent in trading later in the day.

By contrast, Germany paid an average rate of 1.47 percent at an auction of 10-year bonds on Wednesday, as risk-averse investors flocked to German sovereign debt seen as safe haven.

Describing Spain’s refinancing situation as “very complicated,” Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said he would like to see “a clear and forceful message in defense of the euro project and an affirmation of the sustainability of public debt of all the European countries.

“Austerity, yes, growth too,” Rajoy told reporters in Madrid, adding that his government was taking the measures “that must be taken” as he was pushing through sweeping cutbacks despite a recession and a 24-percent jobless rate.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti called for decisive EU action in a telephone conversation with US President Barack Obama late on Tuesday. The two leaders “agreed on the need to intensify efforts to promote growth and job creation,” according to a statement issued in Washington on Wednesday.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



One Elderly American Out of 7 Risks Going Hungry

(AGI) Washington — There are 8.3 million elderly Americans, 14%, who risk hunger and malnutrition. Between 2001 and 2010 the number of elderly people who cannot afford to eat adequately has increased by 78%. During the recession period alone, from 2007 to 2010, the number of elderly people at risk rose by 34%. Figures were revealed in the “Senior Hunger in America 2010: an Annual Report” published last week by researchers at Illinois University.

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



Spain: Rush to Bankia Counters, Over 1 Billon Withdrawn

Nationalised institute leads drop in stock exchange

(ANSAmed) — ROME, MAY 17 — Spain is seeing a surge in withdrawals from the counters of Bankia, the institute nationalised by the government last week. According to reports by El Mundo, in the last few days Bankia’s customers have withdrawn over a billion euros from the bank.

Bankia’s shares in the stock exchange are continuing to drop for the tenth consecutive week. At midday the stock had lost up to 28.2%, then rising again to -17%.

From its debut onto the stock market last July with a value of 3.75 euros, Bankia’s shares have already lost 60% of their value. The stock exchange capitalisation went from 4.89 billion euros of last May 4 to the 2.5 billion today according to financial sources quoted by the Spanish national radio RNE.

Bankia’s quotations, which haven’t been suspended by the National Market Values Commission, have been conditioned by the resignation of former president Rodrigo Rato, from the change in the group’s directors, from the announcement of the nationalisation of the subsidiary BFA and the necessity for further financial provisions of 4.81 billion euros in order to save the financial group’s property portfolio.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Spain Falls Into Recession Amid Fears of Eurozone Bank Run

(MADRID) — Spain tumbled into recession and European stock markets and the euro fell Thursday as Greece installed a crisis government to tackle its crippling debt, EU leaders prepared for talks and analysts raised the spectre of a run on eurozone banks.

“Markets are worried about eurozone bank deposit runs and an escalating banking crisis,” London-based VTB Capital economist Neil MacKinnon told AFP. Heavy withdrawals of deposits have been reported in Greece and Spain, and top European Union leaders were to hold a videoconference later in the day.

They were initially to discuss an upcoming G8 meeting of industrialised countries but were now faced with a serious deterioration of the situations in Greece and elsewhere across the eurozone.

A caretaker government took office in Athens on Thursday to organise its second election in six weeks after an inconclusive May 6 vote as fears over its possible euro exit rocked Spain and Italy.

The election left Greece in limbo and the new poll on June 17 offers no guarantee of a viable government able to implement an EU-IMF bailout which has divided the country.

Meanwhile, Europe’s single currency nosedived to a four-month low at $1.2667.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

USA


Double Jeopardy Looms for George Zimmerman in the Trayvon Martin Case

by Hans Bader

In 2009, a liberal Congress enacted a broad federal hate-crimes law, to take advantage of a loophole in constitutional protections against double jeopardy. Supporters of the hate crimes bill wanted to allow those found innocent of crimes in state court to be reprosecuted in federal court if their crime was supposedly motivated by race. As one supporter put it, “the federal hate crimes bill serves as a vital safety valve in case a state hate-crimes prosecution fails.” The constitutional ban on double jeopardy prevents a state from reprosecuting a person after they are found not guilty. But a loophole in protections against double-jeopardy, known as the “dual sovereignty” doctrine, allows the federal government to reprosecute a person in federal court after they have already been acquitted in state court of committing the same or similar crime.

Supporters of the hate crimes law saw it as a way to prosecute people in federal court even in cases where the evidence was so weak that state prosecutors lost their case in state court, or decided not to prosecute in the first place. Attorney General Eric Holder pushed for the hate crimes bill as a way to prosecute people whom state prosecutors refuse to prosecute because of a lack of evidence. To justify broadening federal hate-crimes law, he cited three examples where state prosecutors refused to prosecute, citing a lack of evidence. In each, a federal jury acquitted the accused, finding them not guilty.

As law professor Gail Heriot notes, some supporters of the hate-crimes bill “even called for federal prosecution of the Duke University lacrosse team members—despite strong evidence of their innocence.” Advocates of a broader federal hate-crimes law have pointed to the Duke lacrosse case as an example of where federal prosecutors should have stepped in and prosecuted the accused players — even though the state prosecution in that case was dropped because the defendants were actually innocent, as North Carolina’s attorney general conceded (and DNA evidence showed), and were falsely accused of rape by a woman with a history of violence (including trying to run over someone with her car) and making false accusations.

Now, Eric Holder’s Justice Department has dispatched the FBI to Florida, to try to build a case that George Zimmerman — who is himself 1/8 black and once protested police brutality against a black man — committed a racial “hate crime” against the black teenager Trayvon Martin, notes Reason Magazine’s Jacob Sullum. The purpose of this effort is to lay the groundwork for prosecuting Zimmerman in federal court if he is found not guilty in state court. (Zimmerman has been charged with second-degree murder in state court). Former Massachusetts ACLU leader and veteran criminal-defense lawyer Harvey Silverglate told me yesterday that in light of recently-released evidence such as Zimmerman’s medical report, “Prosecutors will have a very hard time winning this case, which is why a federal ‘civil rights’ prosecution likely will follow the state trial. This is a case, truly, of a rush-to-judgment. No wonder the prosecutor brought the charge herself rather than go through a grand jury.”

As Sullum observes, the Justice Department “should stop” pursuing this angle, for several reasons. One is that “there is very little evidence that Zimmerman hates black people, let alone that he shot Martin because he hates black people.” Another is that “federal hate crimes laws” unfairly…

[Return to headlines]



Hill GOP Wants Answers on Hezbollah Leader Tied to Soldiers Killings, Set for Release

Republicans on Capitol Hill are furious over the Obama administration’s handling of a purported Hezbollah commander, who was connected to the killing of five U.S. soldiers in 2007 and now is set for release by an Iraqi court.

The most recent GOP lawmaker to express frustration and to demand answers from the administration is Florida Rep. Allen West, who on Wednesday sent a letter to President Obama questioning why Ali Musa Daqduq was turned over to Iraq in December 2011.

West dismissed the argument by Obama officials that they were forced under a Bush administration agreement to release Iraqi citizens upon exiting in December 2011, saying Daqduq was in fact a Lebanon citizen.

“You had options when dealing with this terrorist,” wrote West, a 22-year Army veteran. “When you were elected president, the American people expected you to provide leadership.”

West suggested Daqduq should have been transferred to the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where he could have been tried before a military commission. He also called Daqduq’s release an “utter betrayal” to American soldiers who have died in Afghanistan and Iraq.

U.S. officials think Daqduq, while helping train insurgent groups, plotted and orchestrated the attack in the Iraqi city of Karbala that resulted in the deaths of the soldiers.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Minorities Now Surpass Whites in US Births, Census Shows

America hit a demographic milestone last year, with new census figures showing for the first time more than half the children born in the U.S. were minorities.

That percentage just barely eked over the halfway mark, with minorities making up 50.4 percent of U.S. births in the 12-month period ending July 2011. But it marks a steady trend — minorities represented 37 percent of births in 1990.

As a whole, the nation’s minority population continues to rise, following a higher-than-expected Hispanic count in the 2010 census. Minorities increased 1.9 percent to 114.1 million, or 36.6 percent of the total U.S. population, lifted by prior waves of immigration that brought in young families and boosted the number of Hispanic women in their prime childbearing years.

The numbers also serve as a guide to where taxpayer dollars could be going in the coming decades. With minority populations growing faster than white populations, robust minority population centers are sure to increase in electoral heft in the coming decades.

“This is an important landmark,” said Roderick Harrison, a former chief of racial statistics at the Census Bureau who is now a sociologist at Howard University. “This generation is growing up much more accustomed to diversity than its elders.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Sun is Moving Slower Than Thought

“Shocking” find may redraw picture of solar system’s cosmic shield.

The sun is moving through the Milky Way slower than previously thought, according to new data from a NASA spacecraft. From its orbit around Earth, the Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) satellite measured the speeds of interstellar particles entering at the fringes of our solar system, 9 billion miles (14.5 billion kilometers) from the sun.

Plugging the new data into computer models, the IBEX team calculates that the sun is moving at about 52,000 miles (83,700 kilometers) an hour-about 7,000 miles (11,000 kilometers) slower than thought.

The discovery suggests that the protective boundary separating our solar system from the rest of the galaxy is missing a bow shock, a major structural component thought to control the influx of high-energy cosmic rays.

The sun is constantly sending out charged particles in all directions, forming a cocoon around the solar system called the heliosphere. Like a boat moving through water, it’s long been thought that the “bow” of the heliosphere forms a crescent-shaped shockwave as our solar system plows through the surrounding cloud of interstellar gas.

But the new IBEX findings mean the sun is moving so slow that pressure from material flowing around the heliosphere is 25 percent lower than expected-not enough for a bow shock.

Until now, “all the solar system models and theories included a bow shock,” said study leader David McComas of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas. “Having learned for nearly three decades about it, I was literally shocked when we found it was missing.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



The Facebook Deal Worth $100billion That Will Make Bono the World’s Richest Rock Star (But at What Cost to Your Privacy?)

Tomorrow, Wall Street will invite the world to buy shares in Facebook and take what is expected to be a $104 billion gamble on its guiding light, Mark Zuckerberg, a hoodie-wearing 28-year-old who, only a few years ago, gave out business cards that read: ‘I’m CEO, b*tch’.

It’s no wonder, then, that Friday’s stock market launch — or initial public offering (IPO) — of the internet’s most popular social network has evoked almost as many shivers of fear in the business world as it has gasps of excitement.

By the end of the first day’s trading his personal stake in the company will be worth $24 billion (£15 billion), making him the world’s 15th richest man — and a clutch of other bright sparks who were in on Facebook’s early years will be billionaires, too.

But for Facebook’s 901 million monthly users — including more than 30 million in Britain — the future looks rather less rosy.

If any of them have ever wondered how a website which allows ordinary people to share the trivial details and pictures of their everyday lives can be worth so much money, the answer is staring at them in the mirror. They are the cash-cow and they need to get used to the fact that the milking has only just begun.

[Comment by MWeather, USA: “ Facebook: “Build Your Own Dossier!”. What a time-saver for the government. “ ]

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



US Nuclear Weapons Upgrades: Experts Report Massive Cost Increase

The cost of modernizing US nuclear weapons, including those stationed in Germany, has risen sharply, according to estimates. Several independent experts told SPIEGEL ONLINE that the bill for renewing the B61 atomic bomb will rise to $6 billion. The project will also upset Russia, they say.

The B61 is the last remnant of the Cold War in Germany. An estimated 10 to 20 of the atomic bombs are thought to remain in storage at a German Air Force base in Büchel, a village in the Eifel mountains of western Germany. Should war break out, the Tornado aircraft belonging to the German Air Force could immediately be armed with the weapons for sorties under US control.

But the fact that such a scenario is considered extremely unlikely has not prevented the US from embarking on an effort to upgrade the stockpile, as it is doing with much of its nuclear arsenal. The Life Extension Program (LEP) for the B61 — of which there are between 160 and 200 in Europe — is considered to be the most difficult and expensive of all. In 2010, the Department of Energy requested almost $2 billion (€1.6 billion) for the project, to be spent over four years. Later, the number rose to $4 billion.

Now, the total is expected to by closer to $6 billion, as several experts have reported independently. The first to write of the exploding costs was Hans Kristensen of the Federation of American Scientists (FAS). Other experts are not surprised. “The $6 billion estimate for B61 LEP is consistent with our estimates,” wrote executive director of the Arms Control Association in Washington, Daryl Kimball, in an email.

In late April, several senators demanded that funding be cut to the B61 refurbishment program, at least until the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), which is responsible for the upgrades, presents a detailed timeline and funding plan. That the costs for the project are now three times the original estimate is not likely to meet with euphoria in Washington. The NNSA also hinted to SPIEGEL ONLINE that the expenses threaten to be higher than anticipated. “We are formally validating costs and expect to have something in the coming months,” NNSA spokesman Josh McConaha said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Canada


Quebec Considers Emergency Law as Thousands of Students Protest Tuition Hikes

Quebec was set to consider emergency legislation Thursday aimed at calming weeks of student protests over rising tuition costs, after thousands took to the streets once again and more than 100 were arrested. Authorities said 122 were arrested late Wednesday as thousands of demonstrators spilled into the streets of Montreal, with some smashing bank windows and hurling objects at police.

Legislation could be introduced as early as Thursday amid student strikes. Dozens of protesters on Wednesday stormed into one Montreal university for the first time, breaking up classes. Premier Jean Charest said he would table emergency legislation aimed at ending the disorder, while sticking to the planned tuition hikes.

“It’s time for calm to be restored,” Charest said Wednesday. He added, “The current situation has lasted too long. … Quebecers have a right to live in security.”

Under the latest version of its tuition plan, the government would increase fees by $254 per year over seven years. That would mean tuition increases of more than 75 percent for Quebec students, who pay the lowest rates in Canada.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Updated: Board Suspends Toronto Islamic School’s Operating Permit After Row Over Anti-Jewish Curriculum

TORONTO — An Islamic school that had been using teaching materials that disparaged Jews and encouraged boys to keep fit for jihad has lost its license to use Toronto District School Board property. The board suspended a permit issued to the Islamic Shia Study Centre, which operated the East End Madrassah out of a Toronto high school until an outcry last week over the content of its curriculum booklets.

“The Islamic Shia Study Centre will not be able to permit TDSB property until the police investigation is complete and they are able to demonstrate that they comply with board policies and procedures,” Ryan Bird, a TDSB spokesman, said Wednesday.

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU


EU and Turkey Set to Revive Talks Over Membership

EU enlargement commissioner, Stefan Füle is scheduled to visit Ankara Thursday to announce discussions with Turkey on eight policy areas of their membership application. “Turkey is changing, the EU is changing and the new Europe cannot be without Turkey,” Egemen Bagis, the Turkish minister in charge of EU affairs said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



European Commission Should be EU Government, Says Germany

The European Union needs to become more integrated with a common finance policy and a central government, German finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said Wednesday (16 May). “I would be for the further development of the European Commission into a government. I am for the election of a European president, he said at an event in Aachen, reports Reuters.

“I am in favour of being more courageous on Europe,” said Schaeuble, who is one of the German government’s most pro-European ministers. He said this is a longterm response to the current eurozone crisis, which many have said has been exacerbated by the fact that the EU lacked the tools — such as a central transfer system — to effectively deal with it.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Europe: Will Eurosceptics be Blamed for Eurogeddon?

by Ed West

Yesterday was the anniversary of the Treaty of Westphalia, which ended the catastrophic Thirty Years’ War, a conflict that proportionally killed more Germans than 1914-1945. The treaty, which brought about the concept of Westphalian Sovereignty and the nation-state, was the starting point of Misha Glenny’s very interesting recent radio series The Invention of Germany. The series charts the story of how Germany as a cultural entity became a nation, through the wiliness of the Elector of Brandenburg, and that state’s evolution into the militaristic Kingdom of Prussia and eventually the German Empire, a state far too big and powerful for Europe to accommodate happily. (I wonder what might have happened had Germany been united by a state in the Rhineland. Would it have become a larger version of the Netherlands? Or perhaps it was inevitable that the most militaristic of entities would come to turn 300 states into one.) Glenny’s series ended with the reunification of 1990, and the difficulties still facing national identity, but I felt that we are now living the next chapter — The Invention of Europe.

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



Finland: Reindeer Herders See Rise in Income

Profitability of reindeer herding remains weak. However, the 2010-2011 reindeer herding year showed an improvement, according to a study released on Tuesday by Agrifood Research Finland (MTT). According to the survey, income from herding reindeer grew by 28 per cent over the previous year.

The rise was attributed to an increase in the price of reindeer meat and higher compensation for damage caused by predators, as well as a slower increase in expenses incurred by raising reindeer than before. The price of reindeer meat rose by ten per cent, and the amount of money spent on compensation doubled from the previous year. Increased expenses included feeding costs and equipment, while the number of working hours declined.

According to MTT, reindeer herding is profitable in the Sami regions, where it is often the main source of income. The reindeer herding year stretches from early June through the end of May. The first tasks of the year are the earmarking of reindeer calves born in May and June.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault’s Name Sounds Like the Arabic for Penis

France’s new prime minister Jean-Marc Ayrault has triggered confusion and embarrassment in Arabic-speaking countries — because his surname sounds like their word for ‘penis’.

Newsreaders in Arab nations have swiftly come up with a host of strategies to avoid pronouncing his name correctly.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Italy: Former Northern League Leader Bossi Under Investigation

Firebrand politician accused of fraud against the State

(ANSA) — Rome, May 16 — Former Northern League leader Umberto Bossi was informed on Wednesday that he is under investigation for alleged corruption.

The firebrand politician stepped down in April after his family was linked to probes into alleged fraud by former party treasurer Francesco Belsito.

Bossi, who in the 1980s spearheaded the movement that eventually became the Northern League, is being probed for fraud against the State for alleged involvement with Belsito in irregularities in documentation to obtain reimbursements for electoral spending.

Bossi’s sons Renzo, who was being groomed for a political career before the scandal exploded, and Riccardo are also being probed for allegedly using party funds for personal use.

A number of high-profile League members have resigned from their positions after it emerged that prosecutors in Milan, Naples and Reggio Calabria launched probes into the party’s financing.

These include Renzo Bossi, who quit his role as a Lombardy regional councillor.

The support levels of the party, which wants greater autonomy for wealthier northern regions and adopts far right positions on issues such as immigration, plummeted in the first round of local elections in some 1,000 Italian cities earlier this month.

Bossi said at the start of May that he would run for the League leadership again at the next party congress although he has since reportedly agreed to let former interior minister Roberto Maroni stand unopposed for the position.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Italy’s Economic and Political Elite Oldest in Europe

Average age in powerful positions 59

(ANSA) — Rome, May 17 — Italy’s managerial and political class is the oldest in Europe, a report by farmers’ association Coldiretti said on Thursday.

The overall average age of those in positions of power in Italy is 59, according to the report.

Among the oldest managers are those in the banking world with an average age of 67, followed by politicians with the average age of 64, while top managers in listed companies tend to be slightly younger, averaging 57.

In the academic world, a professor’s average age is 63. In the world of politics, Italy’s Premier Mario Monti is 69 years old, while the youngest ministers, Renato Balduzzi and Filippo Patroni Griffi, are both 57.

In comparison, David Cameron took office in Britain when he was 43, Tony Blair at 44, John Major was 47 and Gordon Brown just over 50.

Coldiretti President Sergio Marini commented that the government’s “ideas for tackling the economic crisis are (also) old and too few”.

Italian politicians are “trying to reproduce development models based on financial and economic policies that have already failed,” said Marini.

At the same time, Italy’s youth unemployment continues to soar, reaching 35.9% in March, up 2% since February, according to a report from the national statistics agency ISTAT earlier this month.

Monti and his emergency government have vowed to promote labour market changes to make it easier for women and young people to find jobs.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



It’s Getting Lonely for Merkel Within Her Party

Chancellor Angela Merkel has shown her tough side by firing Environment Minister Norbert Röttgen after he lost a key state election for her conservative party. The demise of the former political star is yet another sign of the ongoing disintegration of Merkel’s government. Röttgen is the latest in a long line of senior conservatives who has met with a sticky end.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Netherlands: Four Teenagers Held Over Video Showing Sexual Assault

Four boys, two aged 13, have been arrested in Tilburg in connection with an internet film which appears to show a 14-year-old girl being sexually assaulted.

‘The youths are all suspects,’ a police spokesman told news agency ANP. ‘They are suspected of involvement in the incident as well as making the film and spreading it on the internet.’ The two other boys are aged 15 and 16.

The story broke after television programme PowNews broadcast part of the film, resulting dozens of tip-offs about the identity of the boys and the girl. She was questioned by police on Tuesday, ANP said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Norway: Utøya Survivor ‘Hid Under Friends’ Dead Bodies’

A young survivor of self-confessed killer Anders Behring Breivik’s massacre on a Norwegian island told his trial Wednesday how she stayed alive by hiding behind the dead bodies of her friends. Ingvild Leren Stensrud, who suffered bullet wounds in her thigh and her shoulder when Breivik went on his bloody rampage on Utøya in July last year, said she played dead in the cafeteria, hidden by her friends’ bodies.

As the sound of gunshots receded, Stensrud said she heard “what sounded like battle cries” but was not able to make out what Breivik was saying. She also described how she heard numerous cell phones ringing and going unanswered at the massacre scene, where Breivik gunned down 69 people, most of them teenagers attending a summer camp of ruling Labour Party’s youth wing.

With one dead body slumped over her and surrounded by others, she used a victim’s cell phone to call her family. But when the same phone rang again and the caller ID showed “Mum”, she didn’t have the heart to answer.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



One in Three Irish Undecided on Fiscal Compact Referendum

(AGI) Dublin — With the fiscal compact referendum just a fortnight away, compact, a third of voters are yet to make their mind up. According to an Irish Independent-Millward Brown Lansdowne survey some 37pc of the electorate is in favour of the fiscal compact, 24pc against and 35pc undecided. Ireland is the only country to hold a referendum on the EU’s new budget regulations. As in the past Ireland has ranked among the foremost opposers of EU treaties, including the Nice and Lisbon treaties (both subject to two referendums prior to ratification).

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



Sweden: School Burns in Tensta Teenager Unrest

Eight teenagers were arrested on Wednesday night on suspicion of offences including throwing stones at police, vandalism and setting fire to a school in the Stockholm suburb of Tensta. The unrest began at around 6.30pm on Wednesday evening when a police unit approached the youths and was met with stone-throwing. Four teenage boys were arrested.

The next incident occurred at around 10.30pm when police received a call that school buildings were on fire. Four teenagers were subsequently arrested in the vicinity of Bussenhus school.

“The material damage to the Bussenhus school is extensive. This is a concern when the school is supposed to open again after the weekend. There is also a nursery school,” said Simon Jonasson, station officer at Stockholm Police.

In total, some 30 young people were reported to have been involved in the violence. They also vandalized parts of the local swimming pool and the Tensta Gymnasium high school. During the course of the evening up to 21 police units from several precincts across the city were in Tensta. Despite the heavy police presence, the teenagers were able to set alight to several cars at around 12.30pm.

Police confirmed that no injuries were reported during the unrest which tailed off during the early hours of the morning.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Switzerland: Vintage Wine Sells for $49,000 in Geneva

A bottle of French wine dating back to 1774 fetched 46,000 francs ($49,200) at auction in Geneva on Tuesday. An anonymous internet buyer purchased the “Vin Jaune” which hails from Arbois in the eastern Jura region.

Sellers Christie’s said the wine had been stored for generations in a vaulted underground cellar by the Vercel family. The purchase price, which included the buyer’s premium, met the estimated price tag of between 40,000 and 50,000 francs.

Christie’s said a bottle from the same batch was tasted by wine experts in 1994 who deemed the vintage, with notes of cinnamon, curry and vanilla, “excellent.”

“Nicknamed ‘the wine of kings and the king of wines,’ this extraordinary bottle is probably the oldest unfortified example of what is to be still an astonishing wine and another true rarity for wine lovers and connoisseurs,” said the auction house ahead of the sale.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Switzerland: Historic Diamond Sells for $9.7 Million in Geneva

A centuries-old diamond passed down through generations of European royalty fetched nine million francs ($9.7 million) at auction in Geneva on Tuesday. The 35-carat “Beau Sancy” diamond was worn by Marie de Medici, Queen consort of Henry IV, at her coronation in 1610.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



UK: Chingford: Live Blog: Stow Stadium Car Park Will Become Bus Depot

[…]

10.27pm

Decision Passed Unanimously. Mosque Can Expand

10.23pm

Local resident Mr Lee said he feared the impact on surrounding roads from extra traffic but the councillors seem to agree with the applicant that most worshippers will be coming by bus.

10.15pm

Another one down, then. Everything’s been passed after being recommended by the council officers for approval so far. Now the committee is considering a mosque’s application for a temporary hut for its members to pray in. Masjid al-Tawhid mosque in High Road wants permission to build a temporary timber building to use it as a prayer hall for its growing congregation. So far it has been forced to use a marquee to the rear of the site to contain all its members. It’s been recommended for approval as long as it is used for a maximum of four years, there is no amplified sound, and that it is only used each Friday between 12.30pm and 2.30pm. Thirteen neighbours from High Road, Albans Court and Leslie Road have objected on grounds of increased noise disturbance, loss of light and privacy from the three-metre high structure.

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: Man Still Quizzed Over ‘Threat to Kill’ Allegation at Tower Hamlets Council

A man is still being questioned in custody this-afternoon by police following at incident at last night’s meeting of Tower Hamlets Council in east London when two councillors had to be physically separated.

The incident began during a debate at the end of the council meeting behind closed doors after press and public had been excluded to discuss the appointment of a chief executive to the vacant post and an emergency motion. The row was in Bengali, said witnesses in the council chamber. Three councillors then intervened and had to separate them, it is understood. Cllr Rania Khan was later seen in tears getting into the lift leaving the building. Security officers then cleared the lobby outside and ordered waiting journalists down to the ground-floor reception area.

A councillor at the closed meeting said: “Tempers were high-I’ve never seen anything like that in a council chamber. It was shocking.”

The council later confirmed that police were called. A spokesman said: “We understand they interviewed members of the council. We will be helping police with their enquiries as required.” Scotland Yard later confirmed that they arrested a 45-year-old man at the Town Hall.

A police spokesman told the Advertiser: “The man was arrested on suspicion of making threats to kill. He is still in custody and we’re still questioning him. We have up to 48 hours. Even that can be extended if necessary.” No charges had been made by 12 noon. The man is a believed to be a Labour councillor.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: Protests in Rochdale and Heywood

Police have made a small number of arrests after two simultaneous protests held by far-right groups in Heywood and Rochdale. An operation was put in place by Greater Manchester Police, Rochdale Council and the community in the lead up to today’s flash demonstrations. At about 5.00pm on Wednesday, 16 May 2012, a group of around 10 members of the British National Party held a demonstration in Heywood town centre. This was peaceful and passed off without incident.

However, around the same time a group of around 40 far-right protestors from the Infidels of Britain, the National Front and Combat Ex-Forces, arrived outside Rochdale town hall. They attempted to force their way into a council function inside, but were prevented from doing so by GMP officers. Three men were arrested at this time, two for a breach of the peace and another for a racially-aggravted public order offence. The protestors then congregated outside the town hall before dispersing shortly after.

Supt Chris Hankinson said: “This evening’s events show that far-right groups are now prepared to use different tactics in order to get their views across. On this occasion, they appear to have planned a seperate demonstration in Heywood, to draw attention away from a larger event in Rochdale. Thankfully, they came up against our determined and professional officers who prevented them getting into the town hall where they were cleafrly intent on causing as much disruption as possible. We took swift action to stop this and restored peace as quickly as possible. I want to thank the communities of Heywood and Rochdale for not engaging in today’s activities and we will continue to work qwith them to ensure disruption from these types of events are kept to a minimum.”

Jim Taylor, Chief Executive of Rochdale Borough Council, said: “The police have done a fantastic job in making sure these small demonstrations in Heywood and Rochdale caused minimal disruption and passed off with only a small number of arrests. We have an excellent relationship with our partners in the police and times like this show how important this relationship is.”

[JP note: Determined ? Professional? Words not usually associated with Rochdale’s police force.]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: Seven Up!: A Tale of Two Englands That, Shamefully, Still Exist

This superb documentary confirms the damning news that Britain has the worst social mobility in the Western world.

“It’s not where you’re from, it’s where you are going.” This week, Baroness Warsi became the latest in a line of Tory ministers to trot out that smug, scripted platitude, which was first uttered by David Cameron when he was leader of the Opposition. Once, it seemed as though a person’s origins might become irrelevant. No longer. In 2012, our country has just received the damning news that it has the worst social mobility in the Western world. There are foster babies in Baku with more prospect of social advancement than a child in Corby. Half of all children in Britain will never escape the circumstances into which they were born, compared to 15 per cent in countries like Denmark. It’s not where you’re going that counts, Lady Warsi; too many young Britons are going precisely nowhere.

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: Six Arrested After 50 Brawl in Blackburn Street

FIFTY people were involved in a street brawl in Blackburn, police said. The fight is believed to have started after a dispute between two men got out of hand and extended family members joined in. The incident happened in Chester Street in the Audley area of the town at 7pm on Tuesday. Salim Mulla, chairman of the Lancashire Council of Mosques and a local councillor, said he was ‘disappointed’ to hear of the incident. He said: “I am saddened to hear that something of this nature has taken place in the heart of the community.”

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: Three Held Are Northern Far-Right Protest Over Child Grooming Case

Three people were arrested as far right-groups were accused by police of using diversionary tactics to promote their message. The British National Party organised simultaneous protests in Rochdale and Heywood, Greater Manchester, over a child sex grooming case. Police said around 10 BNP supporters held a peaceful demonstration in Heywood town centre at around 5pm yesterday. But at the same time approximately 40 far-right protesters from groups including the Infidels of Britain and the National Front tried to force their way into a council function at Rochdale town hall. Police took “swift action” to stop the demonstrators from disrupting the gathering. Two men were arrested for a breach of the peace and another for a racially-aggravated public order offence.

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: Tower Hamlets ‘Headless’ After Deadlock Over New Chief Executive

Tower Hamlets council in east London is now officially without a chief executive, after last night’s heated meeting failed to appoint anyone to the vacant role.

It is also-for the moment-without a legally required Head of Paid Services, the officer responsible for the authority’s £1.2 billion annual budget and for staff wages and discipline. The Deputy Chief Executive, Aman Dalvi, who has been in the driving seat temporarily since Dr Kevan Collins left eight months ago, was shortlisted for the job. But councillors meeting into the night behind closed doors at the end of the council open session, when press and public were excluded, refused to let him continue in the role or be appointed permanently. He now goes back to his old post as Development & Renewal director.

Instead, councillors in an emergency resolution offered the temporary role of Head of Paid Services to the only other director eligible who doesn’t have legal commitments that would clash, acting Development & Renewal director Steve Halsey, who didn’t even apply for the £190,000-a-year chief executive post. The council was still waiting for his response today. “The whole thing has sunk into chaos because of personalities,” said one councillor at the closed session. “We’re running headless-no chief executive. By law we must have a Head of Paid Services responsible for wages, employees and conduct, but don’t even have that at the moment.”

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



Vatican: Benetton ‘Donated to Charity’ To Settle Papal Advertising Spat

Vatican, 15 May (AKI) — The Benetton clothing retail group made a charitable donation to a cause the Vatican supports rather than paying monetary damages for using Pope Benedict XVI’s image in a controversial advertising campaign, the Vatican spokesman said on Tuesday.

“In place of monetary compensation (the Vatican) has asked and received from the Benetton Group an act of generosity, effective even if limited, toward one of the Church’s charitable activities,” Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said in a statement.

The Vatican in November said it was considering suing the Ponzano, Italy-based company for using an image of Benedict locking lips with Egypt’s top imam as part of its Unhate” advertising campaign of doctored images featuring world leaders reconciling their differences.

Benetton on Friday issued a statement apologising for causing any offence by using the pope’s image without any prior authorisation.

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

North Africa


Egypt: Thieves Grab Mameluke Knockers

Two copper door knockers belonging to the Qagmas Al-Ishaqi and Al-Gay Al-Yussufi mosques have been reported missing

The two Circassian Mameluke mosques of Qagmas Al-Ishaqi and Al-Gay Al-Yussufi, both of which are open for worship, stand in Al-Darb Al-Ahmar at the heart of Islamic Cairo. It was at some point between last night and this morning that priceless copper door knockers from both were removed by unidentified thieves. The Ministry of State for Antiquities (MSA) has started all legal procedures in an attempt to retrieve the two objects and police investigations are in full swing.

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



Libya: Islamist Commander to Form New Party

Tripoli, 16 May (AKI) — A Libyan Islamist who has commanded the Tripoli military council since the fall of late strongman Mummar Gaddafi has resigned from his post and announced he is forming a new party.

Abdel Hakim Belhaj, said that his party, Hizb al-Watan (The Nation), will formally launch next week and will field candidates for Libya’s 19 June polls to elect a 200-seat assembly, Arabic satellite TV channel Al-Jazeera reported.

The Constitutional Assembly will draft a constitution setting out a political framework for the country after more than four decades of authoritiarian rule under Gaddafi.

Belhaj, a key brigade leader in the 2011 toppling of Gaddafis is a former commander of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, which led an armed insurgency against Gathafi during the 1990s.

He is currently suing the British authorities for their alleged role in his 2004 rendition to Libya, where he was tortured.

Belhaj was released in 2010 along with more than 200 opposition Islamists as part of a reconciliation deal led by Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam.

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



Seven People Die in Libya in a Raid on the Algerian Border

(AGI) Tripoli — 7 people died and 20 others were wounded during a raid by armed nomads in the city of Ghadames, in South-West Libya on the border with Algeria and Tunisia. The government’s spokesman Nasser-al Manaa pointed out that 6 of the 7 victims were part of the armed group. However he did not provide further details on the attackers. However officials, who spoke on condition of anonimity, said they believed them to be armed Tuaregs, stressing that insecurity still plagues Libya. The same sources reported that armed Tuaregs clashed with residents of Ghadames, a major hub for illegal trafficking, mostly drugs.

An official of Ghadames city council said that tensions had been building for days between locals and Tuareg tribesmen, who backed Ghaddafi during the fighting. The nomads roam the desert crossing the borders between Libya and its neighbours.

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

Israel and the Palestinians


Chair of Manchester Palestine Solidarity Campaign Declares Israeli Hoopoe Birds ‘Aves No Grata’.

Courtesy of the anti-racist website ‘Engage’, here’s a funny-but-true story to ease us into the weekend. It appears that the British publication the ‘Morning Star’ — originally the organ of the Communist Party of Great Britain — recently ran a quiz in which one of the questions concerned Israel’s national bird, the Hoopoe. This apparent counter-revolutionary faux pas resulted in two indignant letters to the newspaper from two senior members of the Manchester Palestine Solidarity Campaign who, despite their being married to each other, obviously do not deal in philatelic skimping when it comes to advancing the workers’ cause.

I often wonder why so many of its readers find the Morning Star so exasperating. Despite its condemnation of zionists (sic) it yet finds space to include an item in its daily quiz about Israel’s national bird. Is the Star not aware there’s a cultural boycott going on? And then, despite it’s (sic) condemnation of the Bahrain Grand Prix and rightly so, it then goes on to tell us who won. For goodness sake comrades, get your act together.

George Abendstern

Rochdale

[…]

The Morning Star has always been the newspaper you could rely on to support the cause of the Palestinians, so why of all the birds in the world did you choose the Israeli national bird to include in your quiz? Maybe you don’t support the methods chosen by the International Solidarity Movement of BDS to assist the Palestinians in their struggle for freedom and justice — a demand that came from them originally. This includes any reference to their wildlife.

Linda Clair

Rochdale

And there’s a sequel; read the rest here. This rather Voldemortesque (he-whose-name-shall-not-be-spoken) approach to the world is of course thoroughly in keeping with the institutional culture of fringe movements of single-issue obsessives, the members of which frequently appear to be vying with each other for the title of how to appear…well… most mad. Perhaps Linda Clair will be disappointed, but I am obliged to report that the pair of Hoopoes which live in my back garden seemed remarkably unperturbed when informed this morning of their new ‘Aves non grata’ status.

[JP note: For hoopoe wisdom, here is Adrian Morgan commenting at Harry’s Place on 17 May 2012 at 2:02pm. hurryupharry.org/2012/05/17/the-bbc-and-the-jewish-lobby-two-pieces-you-should-read/#comments ]

I was surprised at how recently the hoopoe has become the national bird of Israel — after a national poll, it was selected as the national bird in May 2008. Apparently its spectacular plumage must have won it its place. In the Tanach, it is forbidden to be eaten (Leviticus 11:19, Deuteronomy 14: 18), and in the Ethiopian “Kebra Nagast” from the 13th century repeats the claim of the hoopoe as an unclean bird. But the bird does feature in the myths of Solomon, both in Jewish legend (Haggada) and in the Koran (Sura 27, The Ants, v. 20 et seq.), as a messenger who is instrumental in bringing Bilkis, the Queen of Sheba, to meet with Solomon.

In ancient Egypt, the blood of a hoopoe, dripped onto bands of linen and worn by a practitioner of magic, could reinforce the power of the charm, and in 17th century France, Sieur Jean de Nynauld gave a recipe for becoming a werewolf. Amongst all the usual psychotropic plants (source of the actual — though imagined — transformation) is found the optional addition of the blood of bat, hedgehog or hoopoe. Another French folk tradition from the 13th century asserted that when a sleeping man had the blood of the hoopoe dropped onto him, devil would strangle him. In Medieval Europe it was thought that young hoopoes would tend to old parents, and rejuvenate them. For a whole load of European folk legends on the hoopoe, see here.

www.archive.org/stream/hoopoestudyineur00kunsuoft/hoopoestudyineur00kunsuoft_djvu.txt

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Middle East


Abu Dhabi Majlis Lights Up New York’s Times Square

NEW YORK CITY // As unsuspecting tourists thronged Times Square in New York City, munching hot dogs under the sunny glow of colossal advertising screens, photographing themselves in front of their favourite images, and enjoying the balmy spring breeze, the lights suddenly went out.Some in the crowd last night stopped to look up at the screens where Seventh Avenue meets Broadway. After a few seconds of disconcerting darkness, the screens blinked back to life, and a silky video began to play, featuring Abu Dhabi’s photogenic attractions — the Sheikh Zayed Mosque, dunes and traditional bedouin life, and dhows gliding on turquoise waters. “Dude, I’m not gonna lie to you,” said Mike Clinton, an aspiring actor waiting with his high school class to see a play. “What is it?” “I don’t know,” replied Tom Roth, a similarly baffled classmate standing next to him. “But it’s awesome.”

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



British Woman Faces Jail for ‘Sex in Backseat of Dubai Taxi After All-Day Drinking Binge’

A British businesswoman faces up to three years in jail for allegedly having sex in a taxi in Dubai while she was drunk.

Rebecca Blake, 29, and Conor McRedmond were arrested after an all-day drinking binge.

They were held for five days and accused of having sex outside marriage and being drunk in a public place — both criminal offences in the strict Islamic state.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Investments: General Electric Signals Interest in Turkey

(ANSAmed) — ISTANBUL, MAY 17 — Turkey’s new incentive package geared towards drawing strategic and large-scale investments to the country is beginning to pay off as American industrial conglomerate General Electric (GE) signals new investments in Turkey in a variety of fields, as daily Hurriyet reported. GE’s President and CEO of the Middle East, North Africa & Turkey region and country head Kursat Ozkan, laid out investment plans in a meeting with Minister of Science, Industry and Technology, Nihat Ergun, last week that include investments in the energy, healthcare, aerospace and transportation sectors.

“GE is interested in increasing its investments in Turkey and intends to focus on energy, locomotives, medical devices and aircraft engines”, Ergun said about the meeting with GE executives. “Setting up a research and development center is also on the table”, he noted, adding that the new incentive package was instrumental in the company’s decision to increase its investments in Turkey. GE’s healthcare unit is headquartered in Turkey and the company has operations in the energy, aerospace, transportation and banking sectors in the country.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Iran Outraged by Plans for Saudi-Bahrain Union

TEHRAN (AFP)- Iran hardened its tone against a plan to unite Bahrain with Saudi Arabia, calling on its people to protest Friday against what it described as a US plot to annex the tiny Gulf archipelago.

The Islamic Propagation Coordination Council, which organises state-backed protests, urged Iranians “to protest against the American plan to annex Bahrain to Saudi Arabia and express their anger against the lackey regimes of Al-Khalifa and Al-Saud.”

Leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) discussed on Monday plans to turn the bloc into a union, starting with Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.

“This dangerous plot is the result of the American-Zionist-Britain evil triangle to prevent popular uprisings spreading into other countries of the region and to control the internal crisis in Bahrain which has been caused by the inability of the Al-Khalifa regime to control the situation,” the council said on its website.

“Al-Saud and Al-Khalifa should be aware that with this kind of plot they will not stop the popular movement in Bahrain and the movement of Islamic awakening in the region,” it added.

The announcement comes after Tehran warned Riyadh’s plans to form a union with Manama would deepen the crisis in Bahrain, where dozens of people have been killed in violence since February 2011. Saudi Arabia had earlier told Iran to keep out of its relations with Bahrain, a Shiite-majority but Sunni-ruled kingdom.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Italy: Inland Revenue Rejects Mediation for Maradona in Tax Dispute

Naples, 14 May (AKI) — Italy’s tax agency has rejected a request for mediation by Argentine soccer legend Diego Maradona, who owes it 40 million euros in unpaid taxes and interest.

The agency’s main office in Naples said on Monday in a letter seen by Sky TG24 that it will not attend a meeting with mediators requested by Maradona for 15 May.

“Mediation cannot be extended to tax matters,” said the letter.

Maradona is due on 17 May to attend in person the next hearing in his long-running dispute with Italy’s tax authorities.

The hearing is due to take place in Naples, where he played from 1984 to 1991.

Maradona said on Sunday in a statement received by Adnkronos from his lawyer Angelo Pisano that he has been unjustly “persecuted” for decades by Italy’s tax agency.

“No-one knows better than I do what it means to be persecuted by the inland revenue. I have experienced it first-hand for over 25 years,” Maradona said.

“During that time, I have been treated like a criminal, my dignity has been violated and my image as a sportsman has been sullied,” Maradona added.

In January 2010 Maradona’s diamond earring was sold for 25,000 euros at an Italian auction. The money went to paying off a nominal part of the tax debt he allegedly accrued during his years playing for Naples.

The earring was seized in September when Maradona was visiting a northern Italy health spa to treat obesity and stress.

The 51-year-old is currently coach for United Arab Emirates side Al Wasl in Dubai. He led Naples to league titles in 1987 and 1990 , a feat it has not been able to repeat. Considered by many to be the greatest footballer of all time, he is venerated by Neapolitans.

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



Jordan King Inaugurates Prophet Mohammed Museum

(MENAFN — Jordan Times) His Majesty King Abdullah on Tuesday inaugurated the Prophet Mohammad Museum at the King Hussein Mosque. The King toured the facility, where some of the prophet’s belongings were on display, including a single hair from his beard and his letter to the Byzantine emperor of Eastern Roman Empire, in which he urged him to covert to Islam, a Royal Court statement said.

[…]

[JP note: By the Prophet’s beard! — I hope the museum invites Robert Spencer to examine this solitary hair.]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



Kuwait: Rapists Caught for Raping a Teenager Inside a Mosque

Two men were arrested at Saad Al-Abdullah for raping a teenager inside a mosque in the area. The crime reportedly took place inside a room in the mosque, where the two Indian cleaning workers are employed. The 15-year-old victim was escorted by his father to the police station as soon as he told him about the incident. Officers headed directly to the scene and put the suspects under arrest. They remain in custody pending investigations, as well as the forensic examination results.

           — Hat tip: RR [Return to headlines]



Syria: More Arms to Rebels From Gulf With US “Consulting”

(AGI) Washington — Syrian rebels that are fighting against Assad’s regime are receiving more higher quality and innovative arms. The support operation is paid by Persian Gulf countries and, although partially, it is allegedly coordinated by the United States. This is reported on today’s Washington Post, which quotes other US administration sources. These sources say that Washington, allegedly, is not sending lethal material, but rather giving “consulting” services to the Arab monarchies on the credibility and efficiency of the opposition forces.

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



Syria’s War is Between Alawis and Sunnis, Not Against Christians

AsiaNews sources criticise the exploitation of recent anti-Christian attacks. For them, they are due to the war, not any planned persecution. So far, either Muslim extremists or government forces have targeted no church.

Damascus (AsiaNews) -”It is too early to speak about religious hatred against Christians in Syria. In a year of conflict, Muslim extremists have not yet attacked a church,” sources in Syria told AsiaNews in order to correct reports about anti-Christian attacks that have recently appeared in Western media.

“The attack against Fr George Louis, parish priest at St Michael Greek Catholic Church in Qara and the expulsion of Christian families from the village of Al Borj Al Qastal are very serious, but they are the result of a climate of war, violence and lawlessness,” the sources explained. “Relations between Christians and Muslims are one of the few positive aspects in such an atmosphere of brutal violence.”

On 11 May, armed men attacked Fr George Louis at his home in Qara in order to extort money from him. They knocked him unconscious to stop him from sounding the alarm. Only hours later was he able to call a member of his parish for help.

On the same day, Free Syrian Army militias took over the homes of ten Christian families in al-Borj al-Qastal forcing them to leave. It is not clear whether the families were expelled outright or left of their own accord.

Something similar occurred in Homs in late March. Western media reported the expulsion of more than 50,000 Christians from the city held by Muslim rebels, but local Jesuits denied the claim, saying instead that the families voluntarily left to escape the violence.

“Various Italian and international newspapers describe recent events as anti-Christian persecution,” the sources said. “However, they do not take into account that outside of the capital and a few other cities, Syria has turned into a no man’s land, with unscrupulous criminals attacking anyone who is without defence. Most of the people, whether Christian or Muslim have been at the mercy of these gangs for all this time. Syrian troops and police do not intervene to avoid violent reactions that more radical groups could exploit.”

In one year of conflict, Syrian Christians have rarely been attacked in a persecutory way by Islamists like in Iraq and Egypt, this despite the presence of domestic and foreign Muslim extremists.

The real sectarian fight is between Alawis and Sunnis, sources said, as recent events in Tripoli, northern Lebanon, show.

“At checkpoints, both rebels and regular soldiers treat minority Christians with respect. The Assad regime has made of religious tolerance a pillar of its power; persecuting Christians would discredit it. This is true for the rebels as well because they want Western backing.”

In a year of civil war, no church has yet been targeted by Muslim extremists or by government forces.

Islamises have only uttered verbal threats against minorities because of their support for the regime. However, many Christians have expressed support for the rebel point of view. Many of them took part in anti-Assad demonstrations last year.

Until now, shelling and clashes between regular army troops and rebels have damaged places of worship, not targeted attacks.

In such a climate of chaos and violence, anyone could attack a monastery, convent, church or men or women religious without fear of reprisal.

“The situation is worse in Iraq, Turkey, Egypt, and even in Jordan, where anti-Christian feelings just lurk below the surface, well rooted in society, oftentimes stirred by government institutions.” (S.C.)

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



Terror Experts Called in After Turkish Villagers Mistake Bird for Israeli Spy

Finding a dead animal is never a pleasant experience for anyone.

But when the locals in one south-eastern Turkish village found a dead migratory bird, it created quite a stir.

Incredibly, the villagers mistook the common European bee-eater for an Israeli spy.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Turkey: Ankara Sparks ‘Positive Dialogue’ With the EU

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, MAY 17 — Turkey and the EU have today officially initiated new “Positive talks” during the visit of European Commissioner for Enlargement Stefan Fule, running in parallel with the talks for joining the EU, essentially stalled for two years. Turkey now hopes to once again kick start the negotiations to join the Union after the exit of French former President Nicolas Sarkozy who had basically put his veto to opening towards Ankara. The new French Socialist President Francois Hollande is thought to be in favour of recommencing talks with Turkey.

The start of these “Positive talks” with Brussels, said the Turkish Minister for Europe Egemen Bagis, is “a new step to overcome the stop in our relations”. According to Fule it will give “a new dynamic profile and new lease of life to our relations after a period of arrest which led to frustration from both sides”. Begun in 2004, Turkey’s EU accession programme managed to initiate only 5 chapters out of 35. Only one of them was finalised. Other than the French opposition, talks have been difficult also due to the Cyprus issue, the Mediterranean island whose Northern part Ankara has occupied since 1974.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Russia


Russian Police Break Up Protest Camp, Detain Activists

In Moscow, police have broken up a protest camp and detained several activists. The opposition movement is fighting to maintain momentum after Vladimir Putin’s election victory and inauguration as president. Russian police arrested at least 20 protesters on Wednesday night, after breaking up a sit-in demonstration at a central Moscow park.

Moscowauthorities launched a morning raid against a camp of activists in the center of Chistoprudny Boulevard. A court had ordered the site cleared, citing complaints by local residents as well as city officials, who claimed that the demonstrators had caused 20 million rubles ($646,000 or 507,000 euros) worth of damage.

The protesters subsequently moved to another park, located at Kudrinskaya Square, where several hundred other activists had gathered. The state news agency, RIA Novosti, reported that the detentions began when police were investigating food deliveries to the demonstrators and their attempt to set up a field kitchen.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Far East


China Stumbles Into Fishing Scrape With North Korea

A dispute has emerged after three Chinese fishing boats were seized in North Korea. Pyongyang’s traditional ally Beijing is treading diplomatically, more used to fishing disputes with other neighbors. The crew of a North Korean vessel is reported to have boarded the three fishing boats, seizing control and locking up the 29 Chinese fishermen on board earlier this month.

Chinese state media said on Thursday that a ransom of 1.2 million yuan (190,000 US dollars) was being demanded for the release of the men and vessels. The owners were quoted by the Beijing News newspaper as saying that the boats had been seized in the Yellow Sea by what appeared to be a North Korean gunboat on May 8.

According to the paper, the boat was manned by armed men in blue hats and uniforms. It remained unclear on Thursday whether the seizure was sanctioned by the North Korean government or was the independent initiative of local officials.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Forty Million Japanese in ‘Extreme Danger’ Of Life-Threatening Radiation Poisoning, Mass Evacuations Likely

(NaturalNews) Japanese officials are currently engaging in talks with Russian diplomats about where tens of millions of Japanese refugees might relocate in the very-likely event that the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility’s Reactor 4 completely collapses. According to a recent report by EUTimes.net, Japanese authorities have indicated that as many as 40 million Japanese people are in “extreme danger” of radiation poisoning, and many eastern cities, including Tokyo, may have to be evacuated in the next few weeks or months to avoid extreme radiation poisoning.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific


New Zealand: New Service Targets Mental Health in Auckland’s Muslim Community

Muslim Aucklanders are set to benefit from a new health service aiming to boost awareness of mental health issues within their community. The Auckland District Health Board is launching a Muslim Mental Health Liason Service after a report indicated there was a lack of mental health awareness within the Muslim population. The report, called Muslim Mental Health Awareness: Exploring the Needs of the Community, showed Muslims have less knowledge of mental health issues than other population groups in Auckland. It also indicated Muslims tended to talk to community and religious leaders rather than mental health professionals. According to 2006 Census figures, around 37,000 New Zealanders are Muslim, with an estimated 63 per cent of them based in Auckland.

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa


El Dorado in Angola: Portuguese Find Oasis From Crisis in Former Colony

Headhunters in Lisbon are currently lining up highly skilled Portuguese workers for good paying jobs in Angola, an African country currently experiencing enviable growth. There is no economic crisis in the former Portuguese colony and it offers something that is currently scarce in Portugal: jobs.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Kenya Struggles to Contain Al-Shabab Threat

Kenyan police have arrested a suspect in a grenade attack on a restaurant in Mombasa that killed one person on Tuesday. It is the latest in a string of attacks since Kenya launched a military intervention in Somalia.

Kenya has been hit by a series of grenade attacks since it sent tanks and troops into Somalia late last year. The authorities are blaming the Somali Islamist group al-Shabab for the violence.

“It is about time that al-Shabab gives up and takes part in a peace process,” tweeted the Kenyan military spokesperson Emmanuel Chirichiri on the social network Twitter in April. A tweet in response was not long in coming. “Al-Shabab encourages and supports all Kenyan Muslims who want to fight a jihad against the Kenyan government,”

Although there is no evidence that the tweet came from al-Shabab, this conversation shows that Kenya and al-Shabab are at war, not only online but across the region.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Immigration


Greece Struggling to Manage Asylum Seekers

Nearly 30,000 irregular border crossings were detected on Europe’s external borders in the last three months of 2011, the European Commission said on Wednesday (16 May).

In its first annual report on the Schengen agreement, also released Wednesday, the Commission says around 75 percent of the crossings occurred at the Greek-Turkish border. Most were Afghan and Pakistani nationals.

Many then transit through the Western Balkans or travel directly through Greece and onto Italy, says the EU’s Warsaw-based border control agency Frontex. Previously, most entered from Albania but detections dropped when the EU granted Tirana a visa-free regime in December 2010.

Greece maintains managing the asylum seekers would be facilitated if its larger Turkish neighbour signed the EU readmission agreement. The agreement eases the expulsion process of non-EU citizens and was adopted by the Council in February 2011. Over 100 nationalities require a visa to enter the EU, covering more than 80 percent of the world’s non-EU population.

Turkey has yet to sign the agreement, pending conditions linked to its desire to obtain a visa-free regime with the EU.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Culture Wars


UK: Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World is Upon Us

by The Rev Dr Peter Mullen

I was in the middle of arranging the order of service for the funeral of a friend when I was interrupted by something gormless on Thought for the Day by Canon Angela Tilby who reminded us that we are in Death Awareness Week. Apart from bringing on a bout of hysterics accompanied by the sense I was about to throw up, I wondered what this particular example of infantilisation reminded me of. And then it dawned on me: the novel Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.

[…]

The Rev Dr Peter Mullen is a priest of the Church of England and former Rector of St Michael, Cornhill and St Sepulchre-without-Newgate in the City of London. He has written for many publications including the Wall Street Journal.

[JP note: The good reverend’s Politically Incorrect Lexikon is available here http://www.amazon.co.uk/Politically-Incorrect-Lexicon-Peter-Mullen/dp/1907791426 — see What words really mean piece below.]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



What Words Really Mean

by Rod Liddle

I met a very interesting chap while doing my weekly video film for the Sunday Times. This was Dr Peter Mullen, Rector of St Michael, Cornhill. He hove into view like a disreputable clergyman from a lateish Graham Greene story, dog collar, strange hat, impish grin. He has just written a book — The Politically Incorrect Lexicon — which is very funny; intemperate, intolerant, astute and great fun. There’s a forword to it by Quentin Letts, but you can skip that. Here are some of my favourite definitions from the book:

Islamophobia: Unreasonable dislike of suicide bombers.

Vulnerable to Eating Disorders: Greedy, self-obsessed.

Classic: Any pop song more than five years old.

Banana: Fruit used to demonstrate to junior school children how to put on a condom.

Inclusivity: Equal access for Oiks. The abolition of all rational evaluative criteria for admission. See University.

Poetry: Any lines of words which don’t quite reach the margins.

Love Child: Accidental bastard.

Minorities: Politically preferred sub groups of undesirables.

[JP note: And some gathered from the reader comments.]

Awesome: Rather ordinary.

Care: An expensive bureaucratic form of domestic service practised by an egalitarian state in which the potential for cruelty is inverted, but uneducated women still provide the labour.

Cast Iron: A soft, fragile, extremely malleable political element, cast into shape by spin not principle.

Context: Something that no Islamic cleric is ever quoted in, e.g. “When questioned regarding a recent speech in which he stated that he wished to see ‘the streets of Britain run red with the blood of infidels,’ Radical cleric Mohammed al-Jihad claimed that his words had been ‘taken out of context.’“

Far right/extremist: Anything the majority of normal Britons believed in before 1967.

Feminist: A male who writes for the Guardian.

For your safety and security: In direct continuity with our policy of unrelenting and unsanctioned expansion of the state.

PC: Post-Caucasian.

Political class: Pretends to use language and we pretend to understand it.

Uncalled for: The quality of saying what you think.

The Politically Incorrect Lexicon is available here http://www.amazon.co.uk/Politically-Incorrect-Lexicon-Peter-Mullen/dp/1907791426 ]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

News Feed 20120516

Financial Crisis
» “Major Error” If Greece Leaves Euro, Spanish PM Rajoy
» Britain’s Cameron Says Eurozone Must Make Up or Break-Up
» ECB Strongly Prefers Greece Stay in Euro: Draghi
» Eurozone Debt Crisis: Fears of ‘Panic’ As Investors Pull Out 1.4billion Euro in Two Days
» Germany: ‘Blockupy’ Protests Paralyse Frankfurt
» Greece: Fear of Euro Exit, 700 Million Withdrawn From Banks
» Greeks Withdraw Millions of Euros From Banks
» IMF Warns Swedish Economy ‘Vulnerable’
» IMF: Italy a ‘Model’ For Reforms
» Italy: Europe Managed Greek Crisis ‘Very Badly’ Says Industry Min
» Lagarde: Outcome of Greece Euro Exit Could be ‘Quite Messy’
» Leftists Target Head of EU’s Greece Task Force
» Merkel and Hollande Want Greece to Stay in Euro
» Moody’s Blasted for Downgrading 26 Italian Banks
» Obama and Monti Agree to Speed Growth
» Portuguese Official Unemployment Rate Rises to Record 14.9%
» Tax Commissioner Lashes Out at Austria and Luxembourg
» The Netherlands Remains in Recession
» UK: Long-Term Unemployment is at Highest Level for 16 Years as King Warns Economy Won’t Return to Pre-Crisis Level Until 2014
» Wilders Seeks Injunction to Block Fiscal Pact
» Zero Growth in Eurozone
 
USA
» Barack Obama Recycles a German Socialist Campaign Slogan From the 1960s
» Brookfield Council Approves Mosque
» CAIR: Kansas Governor Asked Not to Sign Anti-Sharia Bill
» Class Materials From Military’s Anti-Islam Class Repeatedly Cite Islamophobic Authors
» Does Sugar Make You Stupid?
» Muslim Leaders Explain Sharia Law Amid Mosque Concerns
» Mysterious Illness Strikes Hundreds of Flight Attendants, Causes Rashes and Hair Loss — Are ‘Toxic Uniforms’ Really to Blame or is it Fukushima?
» New Jersey Man Sues Walmart for $1m Over Racist Remark
» Stakelbeck: Will Iran Attack New York City?
» U.S. Leads Effort to Criminalize Free Speech
» United States Socialist Republic (USSR), Part 1
» Viruses May Someday Power Your Cellphone
 
Canada
» Dead Muslim Women as Opportunities
 
Europe and the EU
» Arab Press Blushes at New French PM’s Name
» Germany: Merkel Kicks Out Minister After Election Disaster
» Ireland: €40m Islamic Centre for Clongriffin
» Italy: Xenophobic Party Founder, Berlusconi Ally, Probed for Corruption
» Norway: Greens Hail Statoil Oil Sands ‘Victory’
» Norway: Terror Repair Costs Double
» Norway: 17th of May Even ‘More Meaningful’
» Politesse Trumps Policy as Hollande Meets Merkel
» Racial Relations in Czech Republic Strained, Poll Shows
» Spain: Islam Arrives in the Basque Country
» Sweden: Mosques’ Advice: ‘Don’t Report Abusive Husbands’
» Switzerland: Richemont Says Asian Demand for Luxury Goods Boosts Profits
» UK: 10,500 Army Personnel for Olympic Games
» UK: Complaints Over Use of ‘Asian’ Label in Grooming Cases
» UK: Enjoy Homemade Curries for Queen
» UK: Give All Police Taser Guns to Quell Riots, Federation Says
» UK: Health, Hajj and the Olympics: How Mass Events Medicine Affect Communities
» UK: Labour Selects Tower Hamlets’ New First Citizen and Council Chairman
» UK: Ofsted Investigates Children’s Home at Centre of Sex Abuse Ring
» UK: Ofsted Turns Sights on Children’s Home at Centre of Sex Abuse Ring
» UK: Rochdale Grooming Case: Nothing to be Gained From ‘Shying Away From’ Race, Says Children’s Minister
» UK: Single Mother of Three ‘Feral’ Children Known as ‘Ma Baker’ Is Run Out of Housing Estate After Three-Year Campaign of Terror
» UK: There’s a Vital Ingredient Missing in Downing Street — Pure Hatred
 
Balkans
» Russia Warns Kosovo Against Training Syria Rebels
» Turkey in the Balkans: Myths, Illusions and Realities
 
Mediterranean Union
» EU-Turkey: Soon to Integrate Air Transport Says Kallas
 
North Africa
» Egyptian Policeman Sentenced to Death for Killing Christians
» Egypt: Islamic Hate for a Dead Pope
» Egypt and Islamic Sharia: A Guide for the Perplexed
» Egypt: Artists Between Boycott and Islam Fears
» EU Working on Partnership With Tunis, Rabat
» Italy Signs Deal to Foster Tunisian Trade With EU
» Libya: Ex Guantanamo Inmate, Belhaj, Enters Political Fray
 
Israel and the Palestinians
» ENP Package, Country Progress Report — Israel
» IOC: No Silence for Munich at London Games
» Norris Seeks Middle East Debate
» Right of Return, Prisoners and Al-Aqsa Mosque Are “Indivisble”
 
Middle East
» Iranian Rapper Faces Death Threats for ‘Insulting’ Song
» Israel-Turkey: Ankara Suffers Spy-Bird Psychosis
» Kuwait: Two Rape Handicapped 15-Year Old in Mosque
» Turkey’s Attack on Civilians Tied to U.S. Military Drone
» Turkey: Did Mossad Send a Big-Nosed Bird to Spy on Turkey?
» Turkey: We Want to Pray in Hagia Sophia, Muslim Activists Say
» Turkey: Hollande Arrives and Ankara Dreams of Europe
 
Russia
» Russian Textbooks to Expose ‘Falsifications of History’
 
Caucasus
» Russia Kills Seven Caucasus Militants
 
South Asia
» A Cheaper BMW May be Bad News for India’s Carmakers
» Germany to Give Long Term Military Aid to Afghanistan
» Indonesia: Gag is Not the End to Gaga Saga
» Indonesia: Maluku: Christian Neighborhood Attacked
» Intelligence Officials Unveil Scale Model of Bin Laden Compound Used to Plan Raid
» Lady Gaga ‘Embargo’: Singer Refused a Work Permit to Perform in Jakarta, Indonesia
» Pakistan: Muslims Asked to Remove Wrong Perceptions of Islam
» Pakistan: Seminar on Muslims and Modernity: ‘Jihadi Danger is From the Elite, Not the Poor’
» Spot-Fixing Controversy Highlights Corruption in Indian Cricket
 
Far East
» Chinese and Indian Airlines Flout EU Carbon Rules
» Excuse Me, Do You Speak Chinglish?
» Philippines: Inquirer Apologizes for Labeling Muslim Woman ‘Security Risk’
 
Australia — Pacific
» Australian Muslims Farewell a Founding Father
» Northern Suburbs a Hotbed of Terror
» Western Sharia
 
Sub-Saharan Africa
» Nigeria: Kano Pays N10,000 Dowry on Each Bride at Mass Wedding
» Obama’s Father Exposed as Anti-White Terrorist by British, U.S. Intel
 
Immigration
» 60% of Belgian Residents Will be of Foreign Descent by 2060
» Beijing Launches Campaign Against Illegal Foreigners
» Canada Charges Two More in Human Smuggling Case
» Caritas Warns, New Flow From Libya Soon
» Greece’s Migrant Influx Spurs EU Anger Crossing Border From Turkey,
» Napolitano in Tunis, Immigration Enriches Social Texture
 
Culture Wars
» Dutch Prosecutors Seek Ban on Child Sex Advocacy Group
» Your Horse is Gay: MP’s Campaign Group Wants Insulting Language Law Scrapped
 
General
» Into the Darkness
» Liberalism After Liberalism
» The Trouble With Liberalism
» Uncovering Early Islam

Financial Crisis


“Major Error” If Greece Leaves Euro, Spanish PM Rajoy

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, MAY 16 — A possible Greek exit from the eurozone “would be a major error, very bad news,” because “the euro needs to be strengthened.” This statement was made today by Spanish Premier Mariano Rajoy in a press statement. “I don’t want Greece to leave the euro, that would be very bad news,” he said. In a climate of rising market tensions caused by the uncertain political situation in Greece, he urged the European Union to defend the solidity of the public accounts of EU member states. “We must guarantee the sustainability of the public debt and honour all our commitments,” the premier continued. “Spain is doing this, as well as Italy and other countries are trying to do the same.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Britain’s Cameron Says Eurozone Must Make Up or Break-Up

(LONDON) — British Prime Minister David Cameron told eurozone leaders Wednesday to sort out their debt problems soon or risk the collapse of the single currency as they grapple with the crisis in Greece. Cameron’s comments were his most pessimistic yet on the issue and are sure to annoy European leaders who were angered by the refusal last year of Britain, which does not use the euro, to endorse a new EU fiscal treaty.

“It either has to make up, or it’s looking at a potential break-up,” Cameron said in his weekly question-and-answer session in parliament. “That is the choice they have to make and it’s a choice they cannot long put off,” he added.

“If the eurozone wants to continue as it is then it has got to build a proper firewall, it’s got to take steps to secure the weakest members of the eurozone, or it’s going to have to work out it has to go in a different direction.”

Fears that Greece could be forced out of the eurozone have rocked the financial markets after voters earlier this month deserted the main parties that had supported tough measures included in an EU-IMF bailout. Greece will go to the polls again on June 17 after the May 6 poll failed to produce a government.

British officials have said that they are making contingency plans for a possible break-up of the eurozone. The British leader meanwhile said he hoped to discuss European growth with new French president Francois Hollande when they have bilateral talks before this weekend’s G8 meeting in the United States.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



ECB Strongly Prefers Greece Stay in Euro: Draghi

(FRANKFURT) — The European Central Bank would like Greece to stay in the eurozone, its president Mario Draghi said on Wednesday, amid continued political uncertainty that threatens to force it out of the bloc.

“Our strong preference is that Greece will continue to stay in the euro area,” Draghi told a conference here, adding that it was not up to the central bank to decide the fate of the Greeks. “Since the (EU) Treaty does not foresee anything on exit, this is not a matter for the ECB to decide,” Draghi said.

He reiterated that the bank’s sole duty was “keeping price stability over the medium term in line with treaty provisions” and “preserving the integrity of our balance sheet.”

Greece’s inability to form a government since inconclusive elections in May has threatened to force it out of the eurozone, as the country goes to the polls a second time on June 17, according to the Athens News Agency.

For the ECB, keeping the 17-nation bloc intact has always been sacrosanct, but this latest round of Greek turmoil has seemingly reduced their attachment to the debt-wracked nation.

Belgian central bank chief Luc Coene has recently talked of an “amicable divorce” in the Financial Times. And Irish central bank governor Patrick Honohan has said that a Greek departure from the eurozone “isn’t necessarily fatal” and could “technically” be managed.

Draghi hailed the “difficult and significant reforms” carried out by several eurozone countries to tackle the crisis, while urging them to do even more. He also said Spain had asked the ECB to help the government reform its banking sector — a request the bank was considering.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Eurozone Debt Crisis: Fears of ‘Panic’ As Investors Pull Out 1.4billion Euro in Two Days

David Cameron will today express grave doubts about the survival of the euro amid fears that a collapse could drag Britain into a decade-long depression.

He will warn of ‘perilous economic times’ and launch a startling attack on the failure of Germany and other major European countries to take the necessary steps if they want to prevent the euro breaking apart.

‘The eurozone is at a crossroads — it either has to make up, or it is looking at a potential break-up,’ the Prime Minister will say, insisting that sticking to the Government’s austerity measures is the only way to ‘keep Britain safe’.

With signs of a full-blown bank run beginning in debt-stricken Greece, experts warned that if the crisis is not quickly contained, as much as 10 per cent of national income could be wiped out in countries across the EU.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Germany: ‘Blockupy’ Protests Paralyse Frankfurt

Germany’s financial centre was in lock-down on Wednesday, with Frankfurt police advising those bankers insisting on turning up to work early not to wear suits — as police moved in to clear a protest camp in the centre of the city.

The camp was peacefully cleared by midday on Wednesday, with police carrying the protesters away after a court had ruled they had to leave the area surrounding the Euro sign in front of the European Central Bank (ECB).

Around 40 groups had designated the long weekend one of action to protest the power of banks and “the Europe-wide impoverishment policies”. The groups, which included trade unions, the globalisation critics Attac and various left-wing initiatives adopted the slogan “Blockupy” for the weekend.

The protest was supposed to kick off on Thursday, a bank holiday, when the plan was to occupy central squares, and on Friday a blockade of the ECB was planned. A court had disallowed many of the planned demonstrations, although a rally on Saturday was granted permission. It was expected that many protesters would try to blockade the banks regardless and fears of violence rose during the early part of the week.

By Tuesday evening metro stations had been closed and the Commerzbank said it was going to close its two sky scrapers, while the German Central Bank confirmed on Wednesday it had held a meeting of ECB executives on Tuesday — a day earlier than planned.

And the farewell ceremony for departing ECB executive board member Jose Manuel Gonzalez-Paramo, due to be held in a city centre luxury hotel on Wednesday, was moved to a venue in the countryside.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Greece: Fear of Euro Exit, 700 Million Withdrawn From Banks

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS — MAY 16 — The fear of a potential exit from the eurozone by Greece has led many Greeks to withdraw their savings from the banks. The amount taken out since Monday has apparently already reached 700 million euros. Radios from Athens have been reporting the news quoting a discussion by the governor of the central bank Giorgos Provopoulos with President Karolos Papoulias.

Papoulias spoke to the leaders of the parties who met yesterday in order to form a technical government and said “Provopoulos told me there is no reason to panic, but there is great fear which could lead to panic. The withdrawals carried out at their banks by citizens were, on Monday afternoon at four o’clock, when I called him, had already reached 600 million euros and were about to reach 700 million.” According to data from the Central Bank, at the end of March businesses and private citizens had 165 billion euros in the Greek banks, in other words what remained after they had withdrawn 72 billion euros from their accounts starting from January 2010.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Greeks Withdraw Millions of Euros From Banks

Around €700m were withdrawn from Greek bank accounts on Monday, AFP reports. “The governor of the bank of Greece, Georges Provopoulos, told me that situation of the banks was very difficult,” said President Carolos Papoulias. Greece has been in political uncertainty since the 6 May election.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



IMF Warns Swedish Economy ‘Vulnerable’

Sweden’s economy is structurally sound but vulnerable because of its exposure to strained European economies which could impact its growth, the International Monetary Fund warned on Tuesday.

Sweden has long secured strong growth thanks to its “robust policy frameworks and sustained reform initiatives,” the IMF said in its country report, but “after many years of success, the outlook for growth is clouded.”

Sweden’s economic health “is closely tied to that of Europe given that the economy is very open and that two-thirds of exports go to Europe, as does much of the financial sector’s external lending.”

The IMF noted that as elsewhere in Europe, stresses in Sweden’s banking system have risen since the autumn of 2011 and growth momentum has weakened, led down by exports.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



IMF: Italy a ‘Model’ For Reforms

Work still to be done, says European director

(ANSA) — Rome, May 16 — The director of the International Monetary Fund’s European department, Reza Moghadam, said at a meeting in Rome on Wednesday that Italy is “truly a model for Europe” and has made “notable progress” in the last six months.

Moghadam added that Premier Mario Monti’s government still needs to do more for growth, should press ahead with labor market reforms and said that public services need improving.

Monti’s government of non-political experts, which replaced Silvio Berlusconi’s in November, is now seeking to put growth at the top of both the domestic and European agendas.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Italy: Europe Managed Greek Crisis ‘Very Badly’ Says Industry Min

Passera believes euro can survive without Athens

(ANSA) — Rome, May 16 — Italian Industry Minister Corrado Passera blasted the European Union for its handling of the crisis in Greece, but stressed that he believes the euro will survive even if Athens defaults and is forced to leave the single currency.

Greece is in political and economic turmoil with talks on forming a new government failing this week after the parties that backed austerity measures agreed with the EU to obtain bailouts performed badly at elections on May 6.

“It’s necessary to help Greece get out of this situation,” Passera, who stepped down as CEO of the Intesa Sanpaolo bank group to join Premier Mario Monti’s emergency government of technocrats in November, said on Rai television.

“The problem was relatively small (as Greece) represented a small percentage of European GDP. But the situation has been managed very badly.

“Perhaps even now Europe is demanding impossible things after the great sacrifices the Greeks have made”.

He added, however, that “the credibility of the euro is not in question” and that “the euro could hold up even without Athens”.

He also said that Europe has not put enough emphasis on economic growth.

“Europe has shown a great lack of leadership regarding growth,” Passera said.

“It seems to me that greater awareness is taking hold of the importance of growth, together with rigour (in public finances), but Europe must show this in practice”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Lagarde: Outcome of Greece Euro Exit Could be ‘Quite Messy’

The consequences of Greece leaving the euro zone would be difficult to assess, but the situation could easily degenerate into turmoil, the head of the International Monetary Fund said Tuesday.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Leftists Target Head of EU’s Greece Task Force

A group of left-wing extremists in Germany has claimed responsibility for an arson attack aimed at the EU task force leader for Greece. His efforts to implement painful reforms there are unwanted, said the group, which has also threatened further attacks.

As head of the European Union task force that is helping Athens implement tough structural reforms, Horst Reichenbach is an unpopular man in Greece. Now it would seem that even in his native Germany the official can’t escape his critics.

Unknown perpetrators attacked his home in Potsdam, near Berlin, on Sunday night, torching his wife’s car and lobbing red paint at the property, a police spokesman told news agency Reuters late on Tuesday.

Left-wing extremists claimed responsibility for the attack on Tuesday, and the investigation points to a politically motivated crime, the police spokesman said.

The car destroyed in the arson attack belonged to Reichenbach’s wife, Dagmar Roth-Behrendt, who is a member of the European Parliament. In a letter to daily Berliner Morgenpost, a group calling itself “Friends of Loukanikos” wrote that the fire was a message for the task force leader.

“Loukanikos” is a scrappy stray dog famous for taking part in Athens protests in recent years. He and a handful of other “riot dogs” like him have become symbols of the Greek protests, gaining fans worldwide.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Merkel and Hollande Want Greece to Stay in Euro

France’s newly elected president and the German Chancellor on Tuesday (15 May) both said they want Greece to remain in the eurozone, even as coalition talks collapsed over the EU-sponsored bail-out and the country is set to hold new elections in June.

“We want Greece to stay in the euro,” Germany’s Angela Merkel said in Berlin alongside Francois Hollande. She added that their governments were ready “to study the possibility of additional growth measures in Greece.”

Hollande centred his election campaign around the argument that German-driven austerity alone is not the solution for Europe. He vowed to attach a “growth pact” to the Berlin-inspired fiscal treaty enshrining budgetary discipline in national law.

He repeated that stance on Tuesday: “I said it during my election campaign and I say it again now as president that I want to renegotiate what has been agreed to include a growth dimension.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Moody’s Blasted for Downgrading 26 Italian Banks

ABI says move ‘irresponsible, unjustifiable’

(ANSA) — Rome, May 15 — Italian banking association ABI on Tuesday blasted the Moody’s rating agency for downgrading the long-term debt and deposit ratings for 26 of the nation’s banks.

The agency said the recession Italy is enduring and government austerity measures that are hitting short-term demand were factors that contributed to the downgrades.

Italy’s two biggest banks, Unicredit and Intesa Sanpaolo, both saw their deposit ratings drop to A3 from A2. The rating of the third biggest, Monte Dei Paschi di Siena, went from Baa1 to Baa3. ABI described the downgrades as “irresponsible, incomprehensible (and) unjustifiable.

“It is an (act of) aggression on Italy, on its companies, on its families and on its citizens,” added ABI.

“Once again the rating agencies have proven to be an element of market destabilisation with partial, contradictory judgements”.

Pier Ferdinando Casini, the leader of a coalition of centrist political parties called the ‘Third Pole’, went even further.

“Moody’s decision is of unprecedented seriousness,” Casini said. “The ratings agencies have a criminal design against Italy and against Europe”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Obama and Monti Agree to Speed Growth

US President Obama and Italy’s Premier Monti agreed Tuesday in a telephone conversation on the need to “intensify efforts to promote growth and job creation,” according to a statement from the White House. The talks was part of Washington’s preparations for the G8 summit at Camp David starting on Friday.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Portuguese Official Unemployment Rate Rises to Record 14.9%

The Portuguese unemployment rate set a record of 14.9 percent in the first quarter of 2012, official data showed on Wednesday, up from 14 percent late last year as the economy was hit by austerity measures. The number of those registered as looking for work rose to 819,300 in a workforce that totals 5.48 million people, an increase of 18.9 percent from the same period a year earlier.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Tax Commissioner Lashes Out at Austria and Luxembourg

“I will be blunt. The position that Austria and Luxembourg have taken on this issue is grossly unfair,” tax commissioner Algirdas Semeta said Tuesday after Austrian and Luxembourg ministers vetoed the start of negotiations on an EU-Switzerland deal allowing governments to tax savings held by their nationals in Swiss banks.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



The Netherlands Remains in Recession

Netherlands is still in recession. In the first quarter of 2012, the Dutch economy shrank by 1.1 percent compared to figures from last year. The Dutch Central Statistics Bureau released this information in a provisional estimate. When compared to the last quarter of 2011, the economy shrank by 0.2 percent during the first quarter of this year.

This means the Dutch economy has shrunk for three consecutive quarters. An economy is said to be in recession when it shrinks two quarters in a row. The Dutch economy was officially declared in recession in February, as a result of a poor showing during the third and fourth quarters of 2011, when the economy shrunk by 0.7 percent and 0.4 percent respectively.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



UK: Long-Term Unemployment is at Highest Level for 16 Years as King Warns Economy Won’t Return to Pre-Crisis Level Until 2014

The number of people out of work for more than 12 months has risen to the highest level in 16 years, official figures showed today.

Data from the Office for National Statistics showed the number of people unemployed for more than a year increased by 27,000 to 887,000 — the highest total since 1996.

In the three months to March, a third of all unemployed people had been out of work for more than a year. The number of people unemployed for more than two years rose by 5,000 to 428,000.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Wilders Seeks Injunction to Block Fiscal Pact

Freedom Party PVV leader Geert Wilders is seeking an injunction against the Dutch state in a bid to scrap the European Stability Mechanism, a permanent bailout fund which is part of a EU fiscal pact to reinforce economic surveillance. Wilders said on Wednesday that leading lawyer Bram Moszkowicz will represent him.

The PVV leader wants the court to block what he has described as “an unlawful action”. Wilders claims that by agreeing to the new pact, the Netherlands will be handing over more power to Brussels. He says that it is not right that a caretaker government should make such important decisions without taking voters’ wishes into account.

Wilders had tried to garner support on the issue in parliament, but only 41 out of a total of 150 MPs backed him — not enough to postpone a decision until after general elections on 12 September. Wilders referred to the MPs who backed him as “a substantial minority”.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Zero Growth in Eurozone

Figures from the EU’s statistical office, Eurostat, on Tuesday showed zero growth in the eurozone, with Spanish GDP contracting by 0.3% in the first quarter of 2012, while the Italian economy shrank by 0.8% and France had zero growth. Germany returned to growth, 0.5% and Finland reported 1.3% growth.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

USA


Barack Obama Recycles a German Socialist Campaign Slogan From the 1960s

by Nile Gardiner

Barack Obama recently unveiled his new campaign slogan “Forward” in a seven minute “kitchen-sink” video. Sounds familiar? It may be to millions of Germans who voted in the 1961 West German federal election, contested by Konrad Adenauer of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), Willy Brandt of the Social Democratic Party (SPD), and Erich Mende of the Free Democratic Party (FDP). The CDU ultimately won enough seats for Adenauer to remain as Chancellor, but he was compelled to form a coalition with the SPD and FDP.

[…]

[JP note: Forward — the only way is barack!]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



Brookfield Council Approves Mosque

Islamic society’s project to begin in summer

Brookfield — The Common Council gave final approval Tuesday for construction of a mosque, the first in Waukesha County. The decision comes after months of discussion about fears of Islamic radicalism, the mosque’s impact on traffic and the environment, religious freedom and local Muslims’ desire to worship closer to their homes. The council voted unanimously to approve a conditional use permit for the project. “We’re elated” said Mushir Hassan, a physician and secretary of the Islamic Society of Milwaukee, which has been working to build a mosque in the Milwaukee area’s western suburbs for more than a decade. “The unanimous vote reflects the tremendous hard work that has gone into this project and the positive relationship we have with the city. We’ve done our best to make this open and transparent. And that will continue.” Groundbreaking is expected this summer on a 13,000-square-foot mosque and community center on Pheasant Drive east of Calhoun Road. The Islamic Society estimates 100 Islamic families live within a four-mile radius of the site — many of them Brookfield residents who have turned out at city meetings, including Tuesday’s, to advocate for the project. The mosque had garnered support from individuals and religious groups, including the Brookfield-Elm Grove Interfaith Network and the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee. But it also drew criticism from skeptics who voiced concerns ranging from traffic to terrorism.

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



CAIR: Kansas Governor Asked Not to Sign Anti-Sharia Bill

WASHINGTON, May 15, 2012 — /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) today called on Muslims and all other Americans who value civil liberties to contact Kansas Governor Sam Brownback to ask that he not sign a bill (House Substitute for Senate Bill 79), the sponsors of which admit is designed to attack Sharia, the religious principles of Islam.

On May 11, the Kansas Senate approved Senate Bill 79 by a vote of 33-4, sending it to the governor’s desk for approval. The bill is one of more than 25 similar pieces of discriminatory and unconstitutional legislation that have been introduced in state legislatures nationwide. These legislative initiatives are promoted by those who seek to marginalize American Muslims and demonize Islam.

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



Class Materials From Military’s Anti-Islam Class Repeatedly Cite Islamophobic Authors

A class taught by the military to officers at the Joint Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Virginia, came under fire when a report on Wired’s Danger Room blog last week exposed it for teaching soldiers to engage in a “total war” on Islam and taking a war on Islam “to the civilian population wherever necessary.” The full set of course materials, hundreds of documents and slide shows obtained by ThinkProgress, reveal just how deep Islamophobia ran through the military instruction. The material contained dozens of citations to the work of some of America’s best known anti-Muslim bigots.

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



Does Sugar Make You Stupid?

A study on rats suggests that eating a high fructose diet for as little as six weeks may make you stupid. Luckily, a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids can counteract this IQ loss, researchers suggest.

“Our findings illustrate that what you eat affects how you think,” study researcher Fernando Gomez-Pinilla, of the University of California, Los Angeles, said in a statement. “Eating a high-fructose diet over the long term alters your brain’s ability to learn and remember information. But adding omega-3 fatty acids to your meals can help minimize the damage.”

The study was published in the May 15 issue of the Journal of Physiology. The research was done on rats, but the researchers believe their brain chemistry is similar enough to humans to extend the findings.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Muslim Leaders Explain Sharia Law Amid Mosque Concerns

The Brookfield Common Council may vote Tuesday night on preliminary and final approvals for a mosque.

With Brookfield aldermen poised to vote Tuesday on a proposed mosque, one concern raised by critics has been Sharia law. At a public information session held at Gethsemane Evangelical Lutheran Church, leaders of the Islamic Society of Milwaukee explained how Muslims use Sharia law, that they do not apply it to non-Muslims and they obey the U.S. Constitution. Some residents were not convinced.

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



Mysterious Illness Strikes Hundreds of Flight Attendants, Causes Rashes and Hair Loss — Are ‘Toxic Uniforms’ Really to Blame or is it Fukushima?

(NaturalNews) Hundreds of Alaska Airlines flight attendants have filed a formal complaint about uniforms they suspect might be causing their skin to rash and develop lesions, and their hair to fall out. But based on the timing of the symptoms and their relation to similar symptoms in local marine life and polar bear populations, it appears as though radiation from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster may also be a potential culprit.

[…]

But not everyone is convinced that the uniforms are to blame, including Alexander Higgins who recently connected the dots to discover a potential link to the Fukushima Daiichi disaster. After comparing the flight attendants’ symptoms to those reported on polar bears and marine life from the northwest U.S. throughout the past year, the timing and correlation of the two is highly suspect.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



New Jersey Man Sues Walmart for $1m Over Racist Remark

Wal-Mart is being sued for $1 million by a man who claims he was traumatized by a racist comment made over an intercom at a southern New Jersey store two years ago.

Donnell Battie, of Winslow, accuses Wal-Mart of being negligent in failing to control access to the store’s intercom, which was used to broadcast an announcement ordering all black people to leave the Washington Township store. A 16-year-old boy was arrested days later and charged with harassment and bias intimidation.

Battie claims he has needed medical care due to the March 2010 comment. He says it caused him “severe and disabling emotional and psychological harm.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Stakelbeck: Will Iran Attack New York City?

From the 1993 World Trade Center bombing to 9/11, and more recently, the Times Square bomber, Islamic terrorists have repeatedly targeted Manhattan.

Now Iran, the world’s largest state sponsor of terror, is reportedly taking aim.

My latest report examines threats by the Iranian regime and its proxy, Hezbollah, against the Big Apple.

Click the link above to watch.

           — Hat tip: Erick Stakelbeck [Return to headlines]



U.S. Leads Effort to Criminalize Free Speech

by Ann Snyder

The Human Rights Council concluded its nineteenth session on March 23, 2012 and adopted, without a vote, yet another resolution aimed at restricting freedom of speech throughout the world. While its title[1], as usual, suggests it is about combating intolerance based on religion, its plain language shows that, once again, speech is the real target.

One of its sponsors, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (formerly the Organization of the Islamic Conference or “OIC” ), has, for over a decade, introduced speech-restrictive resolutions at the United Nations. In the past, these resolutions contained explicit language about “defamation of religions.” Last year, however, when the OIC introduced Resolution 16/18 without the term “defamation of religions,” the West’s resistance to the OIC’s efforts faltered (discussed here). The “defamation of religions” concept had been easy for Western countries to rally against, in part, because it seemed to attach rights to a concept (here, religion) rather than to individuals. But, dropping that term was little more than a cosmetic change leaving speech-targeting language behind and the OIC’s speech-restrictive agenda intact.

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



United States Socialist Republic (USSR), Part 1

The Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 played havoc on the nation of Russia. According to Wikipedia

The Russian (Bolshevik) Revolution is the collective term for a series of revolutions in Russia in 1917, which destroyed the Tsarist autocracy. The Tsar was deposed and replaced by a provisional government in the first revolution of February 1917. In the second revolution, the October Revolution, the Bolshevik party, led by Vladimir Lenin, and the workers’ Soviets, overthrew the Provisional Government in St Petersburg. The Bolsheviks appointed themselves as leaders of various government ministries and seized control of the countryside, establishing the Cheka to quash dissent. Eventually, civil war erupted between the “Red” (Bolshevik), and “White” (anti-Bolshevik) factions, which was to continue for several years, with the Bolsheviks ultimately victorious. In this way the Revolution paved the way for the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). [1]

But, what gave Lenin the opportunity to succeed in his efforts to win the Russian (Bolshevik Revolution) and turn Russia into a Communist nation? According to Robert D. Clare in his article entitled “Why did the Bolshevik Revolution of November 1917 Succeed,” there are seven powers that Vladimir Lenin had. They are as follows:

[…]

Needless to say, President Obama does have most of the powers that Lenin had that he could use to turn America into a socialist state, but probably not into a Communist state, since it would require an army that would actually kill its own citizens. First, America’s elected Congress is weak, just like the Provisional Government in Russia prior to the Bolsheviks Communist takeover. The United States Congress is definitely unpopular and weak. Sadly, Congress is so weak that it cannot stop President Obama from usurping its power and the Constitution of the United States. Also, its popularity rating is less than ten percent. Unfortunately, though, the idea of checks and balances is almost null and void in America today. The President continually uses his executive powers to usurp the constitutional powers of Congress.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Viruses May Someday Power Your Cellphone

cientists have just put pesky viruses to work, for us, using the teensy particles to generate electricity. So far, they have produced enough energy with these harmless viruses to power a small liquid-crystal display.

The researchers think their findings could lead to a “personal power generator in the near future,” study researcher Seung-Wuk Lee of the University of California, Berkeley, told LiveScience. “Therefore, by walking around, we can charge our cellular phone.” The device could also replace batteries as a self-sustaining power source for environmental sensors. And being that the device would be biocompatiable, Lee foresees its use in biomedical devices, powering pacemakers and hearing aids, for instance.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Canada


Dead Muslim Women as Opportunities

By Sana Saeed, May 15, 2012

In April of 2011, 20 year-old Jessica Mokdad was allegedly gunned down by her stepfather Rahim Alfetlawi. The media uproar over the murder was immediate and, unsurprisingly, cloaked under the sensationalized trope of “honor killing.” While Mokdad’s family, including her biological father, stressed that Alfetlawi had issues of control and was not acting out of some religious convictions, the use of “honor killing” continued and served, also, most poignantly as a source for protest against even attempted popular normalization of Muslims a la TLC.

Despite evidence that emerged earlier this year that Jessica, herself, had gone to the police two weeks prior to her murder, claiming that her step-father had raped her as a teen and she now feared for her life (falling in the face of the reductionism of “Islamic honor”), her murder still ignites whispers of an honor-based killing. And these particularly loud “waswasa” have come from-wait for it-the efforts of the ever-lovable trifecta of Pamela Geller-Robert Spencer-Tasteless Opportunism.

[…]

Sana Saeed is a white-washed Kashmiri looking for some culture, based in Canada with roots in the United States. She is currently a Masters student in Islamic Studies, writing a political history relating to the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon during the Oslo period. She hopes for her PhD to be a little bit more uplifting. In terms of writing, she knows no bounds — topical or ethical. She is interested in issues relating to western Muslim identity formation, shar’iah in the modern context, civilizational wardrobe wars, everything hip hop, skin-bleaching and state-citizen relations. When she’s not at MMW, she’s blogging at the ever-irreverent KABOBfest.com. She aspires to be paid one day for doing what she does.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU


Arab Press Blushes at New French PM’s Name

The Arab-speaking media was in a quandary after the appointment of Jean-Marc Ayrault as France’s new prime minster on Tuesday — about how to mention the head of the French government without causing offense. Transcribed into Arabic from the French pronounciation of his name, “Ayrault” refers to the male sexual organ in several Arabic dialects.

The problem lasted for hours after French President Francois Hollande named the head of the Socialist bloc in parliament as his prime minister, with Arab journalists trying different possible pronunciations of his name. Some newspapers referred to him as “Aro,” others prefixed his name with an “H,” while some chose to spell out the last two silent letters.

The conundrum was finally resolved by the French foreign ministry, which issued an official edict on subject permitting his name to be transcribed as written, and saving the blushes of many an Arabic editor.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Germany: Merkel Kicks Out Minister After Election Disaster

Chancellor Angela Merkel fired her environment minister on Wednesday afternoon, kicking out Norbert Röttgen who led her conservative party to a historic loss in the country’s most populous state, North Rhine-Westphalia on Sunday.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Ireland: €40m Islamic Centre for Clongriffin

A DUBLIN-BASED Muslim group is in advanced discussions to develop a € 40 million Islamic Cultural Centre including a substantial Mosque at Clongriffin on the northern fringe of the city. A formal planning application for the six-acre campus is to be lodged with Dublin City Council by the end of this summer. The complex is expected to give a major boost to Dublin’s newest town centre and lead to the creation of up to 500 construction jobs over a three year period. The promoters have agreed purchase terms for the extensive site with Gerry Gannon’s development company, which has already spent a fortune on providing a range of public facilities at Clongriffin including an impressive new Dart railway station, an internal street network, a 460-space park-and-ride facility, supermarket and department store, apartments and houses as well as a string of retail units.

Dublin’s other sizeable Mosque at Clonskeagh — there is also a small one at South Circular Road — caters for only a fraction of the 40,000 Muslims currently residing in the city and suburbs. A two-year search for a suitable site for another Mosque along with a range of support facilities including a 34-classroom school, conference centre, assembly hall, playground, swimming pool and on-site apartments, has culminated in an agreement to locate the development on part of the extensive lands owned by Gannon Developments near the recently-opened Dart station. Swords estate agent Shane Redmond was involved in the negotiations between the Muslim group and Gannon Developments.

The group is anxious to make it known that the proposed amenities will be available not only to the Muslim population but also to families of other faiths — or no faith — with the intention of promoting harmonious relations. Funding for the development has been promised by 10 wealthy individuals as well as charitable organisations in the Middle East.

Most of the Dublin-based group promoting the Islamic Cultural Centre are professionals working in medicine, research and the universities. Once the centre has been developed, it will be capable of accommodating up to 5,000 people at any one time. The new campus will also include 147 houses and apartments.

Gannon Developments, whose loans are currently managed by Nama, is awaiting planning permission for 147 houses close to the six-acre site. Nama will have to give its approval for the Islamic centre. Only about one-third of the 3,678 new homes already approved for the Clongriffin area have so far been built, while no more than 20 per cent of the commercial projects have also been completed. Building operations in the area have virtually ground to a halt since the collapse of the property industry. There is considerable optimism among those associated with the proposed Islamic centre that if it works out successfully “it could put Ireland in a very favourable position in the Muslim world and lead to significant inward investment”.

Plans for the Islamic centre drawn up by architects and urban designers Conroy Crowe Kelly show that the proposed buildings will cover an area of 16,257sq m (157,000 sq ft) next to Panhandle Park, halfway between Fr Collins Park and the railway station. The mixture of cultural uses will be arranged around a series of public civic spaces and private courtyard gardens. The Mosque will be dominant and will define the complex. The various building will be accessed from a central civic space. The architects say the centre will have a “strong sense of place, be of unified design, encompass high-quality public civic spaces and provide glimpses through to calm, private enclosures within: the Islamic tradition of the wall and the garden.

[JP note: “The Mosque will be dominant … “ note the early onset of inappropriate capitalization.]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



Italy: Xenophobic Party Founder, Berlusconi Ally, Probed for Corruption

Milan, 16 May (AKI) — Umberto Bossi, the ex-leader of an Italian anti-immigrant party whose support kept Silvio Berlusconi governments afloat is under investigation for knowing of the defrauding the state of campaign funds.

Northern League party founder Bossi and his sons Renzo and Riccardo are also targets of the probe by Milan investigators for using campaign reimbursements for personal use.

The investigators say that Bossi who signed off on party accounts last summer had to know that some of the tens-of-million-of-euros of campaign funds were being misused.

A determining factor to open the probe against Bossi was the declaration of the head of the party’s administration who told investigators that Bossi gave his okay the party’s accounts.

The gruff 70-year-old cigar-chomping politician who morphed a northern secessionist movement into a powerful force from Italy’s wealthy industrial north had won a cult-like following in part by boasting of a corruption-free party while accusing Rome of thievery.

Bossi, who stepped down as League secretary last month amid news that his son Renzo was receiving personal spending money from the party treasurer, earlier this week announced he wouldn’t try to regain his position.

Prosecutors in Naples, Milan, and Reggio Calabria have opened investigations into into the financing.

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



Norway: Greens Hail Statoil Oil Sands ‘Victory’

STAVANGER: A pleased environmental front has been celebrating some progress in getting Statoil to pull out of its Canadian oil sands project following the company’s AGM in Stavanger, Tuesday. At the same time, Statoil’s board voted to pour 20 billion kroner into owners’ pockets.

According to Greepeace, this year’s share value vote for withdrawal is almost twice that of last year’s. 2.14 percent (equivalent to to a share value of 7.6 billion kroner) voted in favour.

Amongst the voters were Norwegian financial services company Storebrand and Sweden’s Folkesam insurance company. As previously threatened, the Norwegian Church also sold its portfolio of shares to the value of 15 million kroner.

“The WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature) and Greenpeace are pleased that support for our cause is increasing amongst private and professional shareholders. Simultaneously, we are disappointed that the government still maintains its support for Statoil’s tar sands,” head of WWF Arild Skedsmo and Greenpeace leader Truls Gulowsen say in a joint statement.

           — Hat tip: The Observer [Return to headlines]



Norway: Terror Repair Costs Double

Clean-up and repair costs following last summer’s terrorist attacks in Oslo have more than doubled from the initial estimates made last fall. As the government rolled out its revised state budget on Tuesday, officials were already facing billions worth of unwanted bills.

“This just shows what enormous damage resulted from the attacks, what consequences it has for the state and how much money it’s going to take to repair,” Rigmor Aasrud, the government minister in charge of renewal and administration, told newspaper Aftenposten.

The government initially thought the cost of clearing the rubble, immediate repairs, new temporary offices for all the ministries hit by the bombing of July 22 and increased security in the area around the government complex downtown would amount to around NOK 590 million.

Now that’s been increased by another NOK 770 million, to a current total of NOK 1.45 billion (around USD 26 million). “It’s a huge cost,” Aasrud said. “There are a lot of other things we could have used that much money for.” She also warned the costs can keep rising.

The increase is blamed on expensive clean-up measures that have taken much longer than expected. Discovery of asbestos inside the buildings, for example, meant that every single page of recovered documents needed to be carefully vacuumed of all dust, and safety measures have been expensive and extensive as well.

The need to move several ministries into new quarters has also been expensive, at least NOK 133 million in unexpected leasing costs so far. The need to more than double the budget comes even before plans are laid for reconstruction of the area. That will cost billions more.

Economy strong, budget restrained

Finance Sigbjørn Johnsen, meanwhile, could report that Norway’s economy remains strong as he unveiled the state’s revised budget through the rest of the year. The state has collected far more taxes and fees than expected, but Johnsen nonetheless claimed it was necessary to cut back on spending.

He delivered a revised state budget that calls for using NOK 16 billion less of the oil revenues Norway could use under generally accepted spending rules. That’s NOK 6 billion less than originally budgeted, because of the boost in tax and fee revenue, and the total will amount to 3.5 percent of the size of Norway’s oil fund. Johnsen could have used up to 4 percent of the fund under Norway’s so-called handlingsregelen, the rule that governs use of oil revenues.

“It’s naturally tempting to spend more money,” Johnsen told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). He said that other economic factors affecting inflation and the strength of the Norwegian currency meant that it was wisest to avoid the temptation.

The bottom line seems to be that Norway has so much money it literally can’t spend it all, even though demands continue for better roads, better schools and better health care. Government officials are allocating more funding in the transport sector and Health Minister Anne-Grethe Strøm-Erichsen could present funds for a few new projects that meet demands, for example, for reconstructive breast surgery after cancer operations and continued use of Aker Hospital.

           — Hat tip: The Observer [Return to headlines]



Norway: 17th of May Even ‘More Meaningful’

As Norwegians prepared for their annual, festive Constitution Day holiday on the 17th of May, a new public opinion poll indicated that it would be even “more meaningful” this year than it usually is. Last summer’s terrorist attacks on Norway’s democracy have given the Norwegians yet another reason to wave the flag.

Flags will be waving all over Norway on Thursday, when Norwegians celebrate the signing of their constitution on the 17th of May in 1814. PHOTO: Views and News

The poll, conducted for Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK), showed that 30 percent believe the 17th of May will mean more for