Gates of Vienna News Feed 11/30/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 11/30/2009The aftershocks from the Swiss vote on the minaret ban are still rumbling across the globe. The response thus far from the Muslim world has been somewhat muted. Perhaps the OIC is waiting for Switzerland’s high court to overturn the referendum — there are rumors that such an outcome is a distinct possibility.

Condemnation of the Swiss among the world’s elites has been nearly unanimous. All major governments plus the Vatican have expressed shock and horror at this outbreak of “intolerance” and “Islamophobia”.

The architect of the Cologne mosque even referred to the referendum as “undemocratic”, which is a bit incoherent. War is Peace and Freedom is Slavery, eh wot?

In other news, a new Polish law applies the same rules to Communist symbols as it does to Nazi ones. It clears the way for a ban on the hammer and sickle, and may pose a threat to the trade in Soviet kitsch.

Meanwhile, a hospital in Bolivia funded by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad now requires its nurses to wear the Islamic veil.

Thanks to Andy Bostom, C. Cantoni, CSP, Esther, Fausta, Gaia, Insubria, JD, TB, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
Senator Opposes Fed Chief Bernanke Renomination
Anti-Semitism Chief Was Anti-War Activist
Boy Scout, SEIU Clear Brush, Bury Hatchet
Can You be Blamed for Sleepwalking Crimes?
CIA Goes Hiring in Heart of Arab America
Do I Hear $400,000,000.00?
Frank Gaffney: The Speech We Need
The J Street Jewish Lobby Group
White House ‘Gatecrashers’ Tied to Terror Sympathizer
Youtube Assault Video Worsens Somali Reputation
Europe and the EU
Czech Republic: Counter-Intelligence Service Confirms it Averted Iraq Planned Attack in 2003
Denmark Approves New Police Powers Ahead of Copenhagen
EU: Minarets: Swiss Minister Tells EU, Vote Not Anti-Islam
Greece Backs Turkey in EU Bid
In Lord Pearson, UKIP Has Acquired a Formidable Leader
Italy: Northern League Calls for the Cross on the Italian Flag
Most Dutch Understand Turkey’s Rejection of Wilders
New Polish Law Equates Communist and Nazi Symbols
Sweden: Bildt Blasts ‘Prejudice’ Of Swiss Minaret Ban
Sweden: Muslim Dentist Loses Discrimination Suit
Swiss Minaret Ban Sparks Heated German Debate
Switzerland: Minaret Ban, Anger and Surprise on Islamic Blogs
Switzerland: Critical Reactions in Israel to Minaret Law
Switzerland: Referendum Outcome Shock, No to Minarets
Switzerland Minaret Ban Slammed as “Prejudice”
UK: £250,000 Study to Tell US Ten-Pin Bowling is Dangerous
UK: £500 to Spy on Your Neighbour: State ‘Bribe’ To Tip Off Council if House is Being Illegally Sub-Let
UK: GPs ‘Should Offer Climate Change Advice to Patients’
UK: Parents Vetted to Check They’re Not Paedophiles Before Being Allowed to Attend Christmas Carol Services With Their Children
UKIP Leader Lord Pearson Claimed £100,000 Allowances for £3.7m London Home
Croatia-EU: Drobnjak, Negotiations Continue, Membership in 2012
Minorities: Italo-Albanian Dictionary, Second Volume Out
NATO: Rasmussen in Balkans, Doors Open to New Members
North Africa
Morocco: 1 Mln Euros From Italy to Promote Energy-Saving Bulbs
Israel and the Palestinians
A Kidnapped Soldier Worth a Thousand Criminals?
Prisoner Swap: Haaretz, Release Barghuti
Middle East
Andrew Bostom: Minarets and Islamic Supremacism
Dubai: Moslem Holiday Cushions Impact of Crisis
Dubai & Abu Dhabi Markets Plunge on Debt Woes
Dubai: Boy Raped and Killed in Mosque Toilet, One Held
Emirates: Markets Reopen, Huge Losses in Dubai and Abu Dhabi
Five British Sailors Taken Hostage in Iran
Hezbollah Cuts Islamist Style From New Manifesto
Iran Defies UN by Announcing Plan to Built 10 Uranium Enrichment Sites
Iran Guard Take Over Naval Forces in Gulf: US Intelligence
Jordanian Journalist Lifts Veil on Honor Killings
Saddam Ordered Attack on Radio Free Europe: TV
Syria: 50 Mln Euro Funding From EIB
The Press in Turkey is Anything But Free
“Train Crash Organized by Putin’s Enemies”
Russian Orthodox Uneasy With Protestant Trends
South Asia
Jamaat-E-Islami Hold a Protest in Pakistan.
Malaysia Seeks to Recover Child From Belgium in Custody Dispute
U.S. Offers New Role for Pakistan
Far East
Japan Seeks Baby Boom to Defuse Population Timebomb
Russia Wants to Build Orthodox Church in Seoul
Australia — Pacific
Muslims Targeted by Mohammed SMS Hoax
Sub-Saharan Africa
3 Spanish Aid Workers Kidnapped in Mauritania
Navy Regularly Releases Somali Pirates, Even When Caught in the Act
Somali Training Camps Fuel Threat of Attacks on US
Latin America
Bolivia: Nurses Forced to Wear Veil
Cuban Migrants Land at Turkey Point, Raising Security Questions
Culture Wars
Players Have Dirty ‘Gay’ Sex in Hit Game
Rabbi Nachum Shifren: The ADL vs. Faith and Freedom
Attention Lawyers! Make Millions Off of Climategate Crooks!
Climate — Still Not Getting it!
McCartney Calls for Meat-Free Day to Cut CO2
The Great Climate Change Science Scandal
The OIC Secretary General is Disappointed and Concerned Over Swiss Ban on Minarets in Switzerland

Financial Crisis

Senator Opposes Fed Chief Bernanke Renomination

Under Bernanke’s leadership, the Fed has greatly expanded its role in the economy, moving beyond its core monetary policy function to financing emergency bailouts of major financial firms in an attempt to stem the capital markets crisis.

Along the way, the Fed has drawn sharp criticism from skeptical lawmakers, some of whom are now moving to check the Fed’s power and expose its decisions to greater scrutiny.

In a more tempered assessment of Bernanke’s record, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham told the ABC that the Fed chief has done a good job and has made bold decisions “that kept the economy from going into a depression.”

But, he added, “We need more transparency and accountability … The Fed needs to be looked at closely.”

In an unusual move, Bernanke on Friday spoke out in a column in The Washington Post against attempts to strip the Fed of some of its regulatory responsibilities and to expose it to audits by a congressional watchdog.

Such steps would “impair the prospects for economic and financial stability in the United States,” he said.

A proposal to audit the Fed’s monetary policy deliberations won a committee vote earlier this month over the objections of House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]


Anti-Semitism Chief Was Anti-War Activist

Husband worked with founder of socialist party in which Obama participated

President Obama’s new anti-Semitism czar was a 1960’s anti-war activist and community organizer whose husband worked with the founder of a socialist party, of which, according to documentary evidence, Obama was a member.

Hannah Rosenthal, a former Health Department regional director under the Clinton administration, started her position last week as the State Department’s new special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism. She previously headed the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, an umbrella U.S. Jewish organization.


Obama’s campaign last year denied the then-presidential candidate was ever an actual member of the New Party.

But the New Zeal blog dug up print copies of the New Party News, the party’s official newspaper, which show Obama posing with New Party leaders, listing him as a New Party member and printing quotes from him as a member.

The party’s spring 1996 newspaper boasted: “New Party members won three other primaries this Spring in Chicago: Barack Obama (State Senate), Michael Chandler (Democratic Party Committee) and Patricia Martin (Cook County Judiciary).

The paper quoted Obama saying, “These victories prove that small ‘d’ democracy can work.”


Rosenthal, meanwhile, serves on the board of J Street, a lobby group that is mostly led by left-leaning Israelis and that receives funds from Arab and Muslim Americans.

J Street brands itself as pro-Israel. It states on its website it seeks to “promote meaningful American leadership to end the Arab-Israeli and Israeli-Palestinian conflicts peacefully and diplomatically.”

J Street, however, also supports talks with Hamas, a terrorist group whose charter seeks the destruction of Israel. The group opposes sanctions against Iran and is harshly critical of Israeli offensive anti-terror military actions.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Boy Scout, SEIU Clear Brush, Bury Hatchet

Upper Saucon teen’s project sparked national controversy when SEIU official griped.

Hauling brush and old tires out of the woods in Allentown early Friday, members of the Service Employees International Union learned an Eagle-Scout-to-be is just as forgiving as he is trustworthy, loyal and helpful.

The Eagle Scout service project of Kevin Anderson, 17, of Upper Saucon Township was caught up in a national media firestorm after Nick Balzano, an Allentown union official, threatened to file a grievance over Kevin’s work clearing a trail in Kimmets Lock Park. Conservative pundits seized on the remark as evidence of the SEIU’s “thuggery,” and Balzano later resigned.

To show there were no hard feelings, SEIU members from as far away as Philadelphia and New Jersey accepted Kevin’s invitation to help with the project Friday.

“They completely agreed — to come out, to help, to make amends,” said Kevin, a member of Troop 301 of Center Valley. “I’m just glad it’s all coming together.”

As a result of the extra attention, Kevin found himself in charge of at least 40 volunteers, including Boy Scouts, parents, union members, a few Girl Scouts and the mayor of Bethlehem.

“I’ve never experienced leading this many people before,” admitted Kevin, who’s been working in Kimmets Lock Park with his 23-member troop since August. He spent Friday’s chilly morning juggling sign-in sheets and his cell phone, supervising installation of a silt fence and helping to rip a rusted drainpipe out of the ground.

Wayne MacManiman, who leads the SEIU’s Philadelphia-based mid-Atlantic district, said he thought Kevin’s invitation was a great idea.

“Everybody’s here on their day off, volunteering,” said MacManiman, of Burlington County, N.J. He noted SEIU members from Allentown had signed up to be part of the union’s 20-member crew.

“Kevin’s doing an amazing thing.Â?We’ve always supported the Boy Scouts, whether it’s here in Allentown, Bethlehem or Philadelphia,” MacManiman added, gathering branches alongside Bethlehem SEIU chapter leader Bill Tone.

Balzano’s remark, made in the aftermath of Allentown’s layoffs of 39 union employees in July, grabbed the attention of conservative commentators after it was published in a Nov. 15 Morning Call story. Pundits including Fox News commentator Glenn Beck and columnist and blogger Michelle Malkin slammed Balzano, saying the union was bullying Boy Scouts to protect their jobs.

Kevin had started planning the project long before Allentown’s July layoffs and had abided by union rules, making sure he and other volunteers worked only during off-hours. He never imagined he’d end up in the middle of a media frenzy.

“FOX called me at my house. NBC was at my high school,” Kevin said. Some reporters even tried to track him down through his soccer coaches, he said.

After a few initial interviews with The Morning Call, Kevin and his family tried to stay out of the media spotlight and referred all questions to officials with the Minsi Trails Council, which includes Troop 301.

When Morning Call journalists showed up at Kevin’s project Friday to interview and photograph him for this story, they were encouraged to help pick up trash and brush along with the volunteers — and did.

Even in the woods, politics were impossible to ignore. In the wake of U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent’s Nov. 17 letter supporting the Boy Scouts and calling on Balzano to apologize, Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan showed up in work clothes Friday morning. Callahan, a Democrat, is challenging Dent, R-15th District, for his seat next year.

Asked what it’s like to be directed by a 17-year-old, Callahan laughed. “I’d gladly take orders from Kevin,” he said. “I told him I was very impressed with how he’s handled this situation.”

Kevin and fellow Scouts had logged a combined total of 250 hours on the project before Friday, carving out the 1,000-foot trail in August while clearing brush that was taller than they were. Many seemed unsure what to make of the media attention but said they didn’t mind the extra help from the union.

“They’re volunteering, so I appreciate the time they put in to help out,” said Tony Bucha, 19, an assistant Scoutmaster with Troop 301 and an Eagle Scout.

“It’s what should happen,” agreed Bruce Anderson, Kevin’s dad and Troop 301’s committee chairman.

By 10:30 a.m. Friday, Kevin’s crew had cleared out what appeared to be at least a ton of tires, rusted car wheels, tree branches, old beer cans and other debris, in addition to installing a 400-foot silt fence.

“How did it get done so fast? Who’s in charge of this job?” Bruce Anderson teased his son as they surveyed the work.

Kevin has until his 18th birthday, 11 months away, to wrap up the requirements for the Eagle Scout rank. After he finishes the service project, he still needs to earn two more merit badges.

His dad suggested a public relations merit badge would help meet that requirement, but Scouting doesn’t have one.

“Looking back on this project, yeah,” Kevin agreed. If he’d been working toward a PR badge, “It would’ve helped a lot.”

[Return to headlines]

Can You be Blamed for Sleepwalking Crimes?

“If you look at the media reports there appears to be an upsurge in the use of the sleepwalking defence,” says Michel Cramer-Bornemann of the Minnesota Regional Sleep Disorders Center in Minneapolis.

Thomas had a genuine sleep disorder, but Cramer-Bornemann is concerned that in many other cases, the sleepwalking and other sleep-related defences are misused. Studies on the causes of sleepwalking may eventually make it easier to identify who has a genuine sleep disorder that could occasionally result in violence, and who is making it up.

Lucid Dreamers

Last month, Ursula Voss of Bonn University in Germany and colleagues reported that even during lucid dreaming — a state in which some people claim to be able to control their dreams — some areas of the brain associated with intent stayed offline, while other areas associated with consciousness were active.

“As long as you are in a dream, you have no free rein on your actions and emotions,” says Voss.

Although this research didn’t look specifically at sleepwalkers, it tallies with a previous study by Claudio Bassetti at the University of Zurich in Switzerland, who once managed to manoeuvre a sleepwalker into a brain scanner during a sleepwalking episode.

He found the sleepwalker also showed no activation in the areas of the brain associated with intent, though emotional areas and those associated with movement were active.

“Our judgement is off and our ability to act out emotionally is on,” says Rosalind Cartwright of the Sleep Disorder Service and Research Center in Chicago. She believes a confirmed diagnosis of sleepwalking would make a strong defence in court, but says better tests are needed to establish who has a genuine sleep disorder.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

CIA Goes Hiring in Heart of Arab America

DEARBORN, Michigan (Reuters) — At Tuhama’s Lebanese deli in Dearborn, and at bakeries and barbershops throughout town, it’s no secret the CIA is looking for a few good spies.

“There is a lot of talk, and nobody likes it,” said Hamze Chehade, a 48-year-old Lebanese-American, taking a bite of his chicken shawarma.

In dire need of agents fluent in Arabic, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency has made an unusual public show of its recruiting effort in Dearborn — a city of 100,000 with the densest Arab population in the United States.

The agency has bought full-page ads in Arabic-language newspapers and it is rolling out TV ads aimed at luring Arab-Americans and Iranian-Americans to spycraft.

But despite a weak economy and high unemployment, the CIA will find it hard to hire here, residents say. Many see U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East as misguided and anger over the perceived mistreatment of Arab-Americans runs deep.

It won’t be easy to win hearts and minds here, they say.

“If anyone goes, they would be just going for the money, not following the heart,” said Chehade, a cabinet-maker who immigrated from Lebanon 21 years ago.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Do I Hear $400,000,000.00?

By Jayme Evans

Now that the US Senate has voted to begin debate on their vision of a health scare bill, Congress has moved our entire country one step closer to the national nightmare of government-controlled health care that millions of people strenuously reject and simultaneously fear. If Nancy Pelosi’s bill placed one of the nation’s feet in the grave, then Harry Reid’s bill placed the other squarely in the path of the banana peel. All the while, Barack Obama has stood ready with the first shovel full of dirt. A couple more steps, and in we go…

[Return to headlines]

Frank Gaffney: The Speech We Need

President Obama’s much-anticipated speech at West Point Tuesday night [tonight] constitutes an opportunity with the potential to be as strategically momentous as Richard Nixon’s visit to China in 1972. Mr. Obama is in a unique position to tell the truth about the nature of the enemy we confront, not just in Afghanistan but worldwide, and thereby put the effort to defeat that enemy on a sound, coherent and supportable footing. Will he rise to the occasion?

With a Muslim background and a year-long record of assiduous efforts to cultivate better relations with what he calls the “Muslim world,” the incumbent President can exploit the sort of latitude his anti-communist predecessor did thirty-seven years ago with an opening to Red China. If Mr. Obama’s bow to the Saudi monarch, his highly publicized addresses to Muslim audiences in Turkey and Egypt, his efforts to curry favor with the Palestinians and his co-sponsorship with the Organization of the Islamic conference of a resolution limiting free speech are of any positive value, they should afford him the running room to say the following…

           — Hat tip: CSP [Return to headlines]

The J Street Jewish Lobby Group

La vie des idees 20.11.2009 (France)

In an comprehensive article, Pauline Peretz introduces the young Jewish lobby group, J Street, which is giving established Jewish-American lobbyists a run for their money. The liberal organisation, which enjoys the support of people like Jimmy Carter and Israeli writer Amos Oz, is pushing for the immediate end to settlement expansion and talks for a two-state solution. And unlike the conservative lobby group Aipac, it makes no bones about exercising sharp criticism of Israeli policy. “For its rivals, who have been established in Washington for several decades, it is a radical organisation, which is threatening the unity of the community and discrediting the positions of the Israeli government — and it is necessary to fight its influence. For liberal Jews on the other hand, J Street represents a chance to finally make themselves heard in Washington. And J Street is a valuable ally of the Obama administration, because it is able to make its critical position on Israel acceptable even to a public which tends to reject new policies. And the media, for its part, is fascinated by the impact of this meteorite in the Jewish world.”

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

White House ‘Gatecrashers’ Tied to Terror Sympathizer

Salahi served in same anti-Israel group as Obama’s Palestinian professor pal

The Virginia couple who allegedly crashed a White House state dinner is tied to Rashid Khalidi, a pro-Palestinian professor who excuses terrorism and has been a close associate to President Obama.

Michaele and Tareq Salahi met Obama in a receiving line at last week’s event, with a “deeply concerned and embarrassed” Secret Service stating it never checked whether the two were on the White House guest list.

Tareq Salahi served on the board of the American Task Force for Palestine, where Columbia University Professor Khalidi served as vice president. The American Power blog noticed both Salahi’s and Khalidi’s names have been scrubbed from the Task Force website, although Salahi’s bio still comes up on a Google cache search of the site.

The Task Force lobbies for a Palestinian state and demands the so-called right of return for Palestinian “refugees” — a formula Israeli officials across the political spectrum have warned could destroy Israel by population genocide, with the Jewish state forced to accept millions of Arabs, thus diluting its Jewish majority.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Youtube Assault Video Worsens Somali Reputation

A group of Minneapolis teenagers have found themselves making headlines after publishing a video of themselves pushing people over in the street. Identified as of Somali origin, the pranksters will, our observer explains, only add fuel to the fire for the local anti-Somali press.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Czech Republic: Counter-Intelligence Service Confirms it Averted Iraq Planned Attack in 2003

Security experts and the public alike were left reeling on Sunday after a Czech TV station revealed that Iraqi intelligence agents working for Saddam Hussein plotted an attack on the Prague headquarters of Radio Free Europe. Spokesman Jan Šubert of the Czech intelligence service told TV Nova that the agents planned a machine gun and rocket propelled grenade attack on the building in a plot ordered by Saddam Hussein.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

Denmark Approves New Police Powers Ahead of Copenhagen

Controversial legislation gives police sweeping powers of ‘pre-emptive’ arrest and extends custodial sentences for acts of civil disobedience

The Danish parliament today passed legislation which will give police sweeping powers of “pre-emptive” arrest and extend custodial sentences for acts of civil disobedience. The “deeply worrying” law comes ahead of the UN climate talks which start on 7 December and are expected to attract thousands of activists from next week.

Under the new powers, Danish police will be able to detain people for up to 12 hours whom they suspect might break the law in the near future. Protesters could also be jailed for 40 days under the hurriedly drafted legislation dubbed by activists as the “turmoil and riot” law. The law was first announced on 18 October.

The Danish ministry of justice said that the new powers of “pre-emptive” detention would increase from 6 to 12 hours and apply to international activists. If protesters are charged with hindering the police, the penalty will increase from a fine to 40 days in prison. Protesters can also be fined an increased amount of 5,000 krona (671 Euros) for breach of the peace, disorderly behaviour and remaining after the police have broken up a demonstration.

The Danish police also separately issued a statement in August (pdf) applying new rules and regulations for protests at the climate conference, warning that “gatherings that may disturb the public order must not take place”.

Earlier this month, the Guardian published a letter by environmental activists that described the new law as “deeply worrying” and called for the Danish government to uphold their right to legitimate protest.

Tannie Nyboe, a spokewoman from campaigning group Climate Justice Action in Denmark, said the new law was designed to control civil disobedience during the summit. “These laws are a big restraint in people’s freedom of speech and it will increase the police repression for anyone coming to Copenhagen to protest. Denmark normally boasts of how open and democratic a country we are. With this law we can’t boast about this anymore.

“It will increase the repression of any protester or activist coming to Copenhagen. This law creates an image of anyone concerned about climate change being a criminal, which will of course also influence the general treatment of any activist who comes into contact with the police or other authorities.”

A Danish justice ministry confirmed that the laws had been passed today and would come into effect before the climate conference starts on 7 December.

[Return to headlines]

EU: Minarets: Swiss Minister Tells EU, Vote Not Anti-Islam

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, NOVEMBER 30 — “I shall explain to the EU that this was not a vote against the Muslim religion, but against minarets as buildings”. Switzerland’s Justice Minister, Evelyne Widmer Schlumpf, was speaking on her arrival at a meeting of EU interior and justice ministers. At issue is the referendum in which Swiss citizens boycotted the building of minarets on their national territory. “In Switzerland, we honour freedom of worship: it is a very important right for us,” the Swiss minister said, acknowledging that the ballot’s outcome was not “a good sign for Switzerland”. “I am sure it will be possible to explain that our democracy holds this possibility of voting and that this was the outcome of the vote”, the minister said, insisting that this was not a vote “against the Muslim religion”. The current presidency of the EU, Sweden, has expressed surprise and regret at the result of the Swiss referendum. On his arrival at the European Council, the country’s immigration minister, Tobias Billstrom, said he was “somewhat surprised” and found it “strange” that this kind of matter should be decided by referendum. “In Sweden the question of the height of buildings is a matter for local administrations. It is unlikely that in Sweden such a matter would be down to the politician, partly because the right of worship is recognised in Sweden”, the minister pointed out. Sweden’s minister for integration, Nyamko Sabuki, went further, expressing “regret” that Switzerland should have decided such an issue in a referendum. “The Swiss system is a good one because it calls on its citizens to decide, but sometimes it can be used inappropriately, as has happened here”. “Europe does not have a minaret problem. There are no issues between Europeans and Moslems. Moslems are Europeans”, the Swedish minister underlined. “I do not understand what type of issue was being resolved in this referendum”, Sabuki stated. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Greece Backs Turkey in EU Bid

Greece backs Turkey’s bid to become a full member of the European Union provided Ankara meets all its EU obligations, Greek Alternate Foreign Minister, Dimitris Droutsas has said in an interview with a German newspaper.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

In Lord Pearson, UKIP Has Acquired a Formidable Leader

By Damian Thompson

Lord Pearson of Rannoch, elected leader of Ukip yesterday, is the first peer for a century to lead a political party. More significant, I think, is the fact that this is the first time for decades that a minor party has been led by a politician with deep roots in the British establishment — and formidable campaigning skills honed inside rather than outside the Palace of Westminster.

I came across Malcolm Pearson seven years ago, when I was working on an investigation for this newspaper into the BBC’s grotesque propagandising on behalf of the EU and the euro. Pearson, then a Tory peer, had sent a series of letters to senior BBC executives, naming instances of bias and pointing out precisely how they compromised the corporation’s charter obligations. These letters caused havoc at White City, not only because they came from the House of Lords, but also because Pearson had judged his tone and targets so carefully. They were a major factor in the BBC’s reluctant decision to give more air time to Eurosceptic arguments.

This morning David Cameron will be rejoicing, understandably, at the YouGov poll that shows him capturing northern marginals. But I’m sure he is displeased by the election of his fellow Old Etonian Pearson, who not only knows the Tory heartlands like the back of his hand, but has decided to launch a campaign against uncontrolled immigration and radical Islam that will resonate powerfully in those northern marginals.

You may think that Ukip’s new focus on the Islamification of parts of Britain is a dangerous strategy. And so it would be, if the party was in other hands. But Lord Pearson is still essentially a libertarian Tory: he would never stoop to sending out dog whistles to wavering BNP racists. His campaign against uncontrolled immigration and Sharia will be rooted in a defence of liberal democracy of the sort that other parties are too gutless to make.

The arguments against voting UKIP are still strong: Pearson wants to force a hung parliament, which would be a wretched result, since it would hand power to that most opportunistic of minority parties — the Lib Dems — rather than produce the realignment of British politics that he envisages. But Pearson still has (very) highly placed friends within the Conservative party, and if his presence on its borders can force the Tories to pay closer attention to public opinion on immigration and Europe, then he will have done us all a favour.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

Italy: Northern League Calls for the Cross on the Italian Flag

Castelli’s plans for the flag: “We should learn from Switzerland, and take a stand against Masonic, pro-Islamic ideology”

ROME — “Once again, the Swiss have shown us what civilisation is all about”. Overjoyed by the Swiss right’s referendum victory, the Northern League have come up with a new proposal. “We need to take a stand against the Masonic, pro-Islamic ideology to which even our political allies are sadly prone”, said Roberto Castelli, a senior party figure. “In the forthcoming constitutional reform bill, I believe that the Northern League may, and indeed must, ask for the cross to be added to the Italian flag”, he added.

THE NORTHERN LEAGUE — Roberto Calderoli, the Minister for Legislative Simplification, commented that “Switzerland has sent us a clear message: we need to put a check on Islamic politics and propaganda”. His words were echoed by Maurizio Gasparri, leader of the People of Freedom (PDL) in the Senate, who said that “Switzerland has been patient, but is now tired of rising immigration and the spread of Islam. The result of the referendum on minarets confirms this. We should continue to take a hard line in Italy, too, as is our sacrosanct right”. The Northern League MEP Mario Borghezio, meanwhile, praised “Switzerland’s courage”, adding that “the landscape in the historic homeland of federalism and freedom will be free from minarets, which have become more a dangerous symbol of the Islamic terrorist threat than places of worship. Long live white, Christian Switzerland!”.

Translation by Simon Tanner

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Most Dutch Understand Turkey’s Rejection of Wilders

From Dutch: 59% of the dutch say they understand why Turkey doesn’t want Geert Wilders coming as part of a parliamentary delegation. 58% are against Turkey in the EU.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

New Polish Law Equates Communist and Nazi Symbols

Europe has long been condemning the communist regime, but none of the countries has gone as far as Poland, where a law was signed allowing people to be fined or imprisoned for keeping and buying communist symbols.

Twenty years after the fall of communism in Eastern Europe, the Polish government are about to completely erase memories of the Cold War past and make everything from the hammer and sickle and red flag to trendy Che Guevara t-shirts and posters illegal.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

Sweden: Bildt Blasts ‘Prejudice’ Of Swiss Minaret Ban

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt on Monday slammed Switzerland’s referendum to ban the construction of minarets on mosques in the Alpine country.

“It’s an expression of quite a bit of prejudice and maybe even fear, but it is clear that it is a negative signal in every way, there’s no doubt about it,” Bildt, whose country holds the current European Union presidency, told Svergies Radio (SR).

Swiss voters on Sunday approved by a majority of 57.5 percent a ban on minarets in a referendum.

Bildt said he found it odd that such a decision was put to a referendum.

“Normally Sweden and other countries have city planners that decide this kind of issue. To decide this kind of issue in a referendum seems very strange to me,” he said.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Sweden: Muslim Dentist Loses Discrimination Suit

A Muslim woman from Kista north of Stockholm who was denied a job as a dentist after refusing to wear short-sleeved work clothes for religious reasons has lost her discrimination case against the Swedish Public Dental Service (Folktandvården).

“It’s incomprehensible,” the woman told The Local following the ruling by the Stockholm District Court.

Following the completion of her dental studies in January 2008, the now 29-year-old woman applied for a position with the public dental service in Stockholm.

During the hiring process, she was informed that the dental agency requires personnel to wear short-sleeved gowns when treating patients.

But the rules, put in place for hygiene reasons, came into conflict with her Muslim faith, which requires that she show as little skin as possible in public.

Looking for a solution, she said she would be willing to wear disposable arm sleeves over a long-sleeved gown.

“We presented evidence from Socialstyrelsen (National Board of Health and Welfare) that showed that using these disposable arm sleeves has the same level of hygiene,” she said.

After Folktandvården rejected the compromise, she sued the dental service for 150,000 kronor ($21,500) in damages alleging the organization’s refusal to accommodate her request to avoid short-sleeved work clothes amounted to discrimination.

But the Stockholm court sided with the dental service, finding that the decision not to hire the woman did not amount to discrimination.

In its ruling, the court cited health board regulations which recommend healthcare personnel use short-sleeved gowns when examining patients.

“Even it if means a disadvantaging of Muslims […], Folktandvården is required to follow the current guidelines for basic hygiene for the healthcare system,” the court wrote in its judgment.

The court also ordered the woman to pay 250,000 kronor to cover the dental service’s court costs, something which she said is not going to be easy.

“It’s pretty unacceptable. I’m not working right now and have no income,” she said, adding that she is currently supported by her father.

The 29-year-old told The Local she is considering an appeal, but has yet to make up her mind.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Swiss Minaret Ban Sparks Heated German Debate

The Swiss vote on Sunday to ban mosques with minarets has spurred heated debate in neighbouring Germany, where the Muslim population’s plans to build houses of worship has created controversy

Signalling increased fears of the so-called “Islamification” of their country, Swiss citizens voted overwhelmingly to enact a constitutional ban on constructing minarets at mosques. The two right-wing parties that brought the issue to vote called the towers a symbol of Islam’s supposedly political agenda.

Head of the Turkish Community in Germany (TGD) Kenan Kolat told Berlin daily Berliner Zeitung that the decision was “very regrettable,” adding that basic rights such as religious freedom should not be allowed to come to popular vote.

“A minaret belongs to a mosque,” Kolat said.

But Wolfgang Bosbach, a conservative Christian Democrat heading the parliamentary committee on interior policy, said that the vote should be taken seriously. He told daily Hamburger Abendblatt on Monday that the vote reflects a widely held fear of Islam within German society — though he said German laws provided enough solutions for practical decisions about minaret construction.

“But there are spectacular plans for large structures, such as in Cologne’s Ehrenfeld district or in Duisburg-Marxloh, for which there is a lot of resistance simply because of the size,” he told the paper.

Bosbach added that is “possible that some of these large buildings were planned to signal how strong Islam has become in Germany.”

But Sebastian Edathy from the opposition Social Democrats told Berliner Zeitung that the majority vote was “very problematic,” adding that countries guaranteeing religious freedom must allow members of different faiths to build houses of worship.

Meanwhile Islamic scholar Katajun Amipur told daily Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger that the referendum threatened to spark Islamophobia throughout Europe.

“If this initiative triggers a dynamic in other European countries — and the danger is there — then the Muslims will have no place in Europe in the end,” she said.

The architect in charge of a controversial new Cologne mosque Paul Böhm called the decision “undemocratic” and “unintelligent.”

Germany currently has some 206 mosques with minarets. Another 120 are being planned or are already under construction.

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

Switzerland: Minaret Ban, Anger and Surprise on Islamic Blogs

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT — The call to prayer from minarets rung out yesterday across the entire Islamic world, involved in the last hours of the Feast of Sacrifice (Eid Al-Adha) and the height of the pilgrimage to the holy sites of Mecca, while surprise and in some cases anger spread among Muslim TV commentators and internet users when pan-Arab media announced to the Islamic world the news that the Swiss referendum for a ban on minarets had received support from almost 60% of voters. On the popular site for Islamic news Islamonline, the jurisconsult and rector of an Islamic university in the United States, Taha Alwani, polemically asked “why the Swiss are afraid of minarets but show not the least concern when they buy oil from Islamic countries, when their companies do business in Arab-Muslim capitals, or when they decide to hold Muslim money in their banks.” A thinly-veiled suggestion for a campaign to boycott Switzerland, but one which for the moment no one seems to be following. However, the news also received broad coverage in the two pan-Arab TV channels, which for many hours opened with “Switzerland Bans Minarets”. In attempting to explain to Muslim public opinion the reasons behind Swiss concerns, an Al-Jazeera TV host asked one of the supporters of the referendum in an interview “why did you decide to make all of Switzerland take the trouble to vote on only four minarets?”, referring to the only ones in the Confederation at the moment. On online blogs and forums, however, discussion was a good deal more heated, with anger showing through at times. “There is a war against Islam in Europe,” wrote a Libyan reader of the Al-Arabiya site. “Today minarets, tomorrow mosques,” said Said Ardallah on an Al Jazeera forum. “With their money in Swiss banks Jews have the country in the palm of their hands,” added Ardallah. Muslim residents in Switzerland were less radical in their comments. “Switzerland welcomed us and we must respect their values,” said ‘Muhieddin’ in Zurich, adding that “I wonder whether Islam the-religion-of-tolerance would show itself such when there is a need to grant authorisation for the construction of new churches in Muslim countries.”(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Switzerland: Critical Reactions in Israel to Minaret Law

(ANSA) — TEL AVIV, NOVEMBER 30 — The outcome of the referendum held in Switzerland, to ban the building of minarets, has aroused much interest in the Israeli press and has come in for much criticism. As Maariv puts it: in Europe “a reaction has set in” against the Moslem population, being conducted by nationalistic and xenophobic forces in several countries simultaneously. Speaking in an interview on forces radio, Uriah Shavit, a researcher at Tel Aviv University and author of a book on Islam in Europe, stated: “This is a racist decision, perhaps the worst of its kind since the end of the Second World War… it is as if they had decided to cut all the ringlets out of the hair of religious Jews”. The same view has come from Sallah Aghbarya, spokesperson for the Moslem movement in Israel. An editorial in Maariv points out how in Europe “there are hundreds of Moslem preachers who inveigh against Christians, Jews and Hindus. Europe, having taken fright, prefers to hold its tongue and remain paralysed. If the referendum had been held on whether or not to expel them, it would have had a greater effect”. “Rather than tackling the content of the sermons in the mosques,” the paper concludes, “Switzerland has opted to concentrate on questions of architecture”. According to Shavit, behind the mobilisation of the Swiss against the minarets, there are also financial considerations: or rather the fear that their presence might lower the property prices in neighbouring areas. “As a nation that recognises freedom of worship, Israel should now openly condemn the outcome of the Swiss vote”.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Switzerland: Referendum Outcome Shock, No to Minarets

(ANSAmed) — GENEVA, NOVEMBER 30 — With a surprise outcome after polls had predicted otherwise, 57% of the voters of the Swiss Confederation said no to the building of new minarets in the country. Supported by rightwing nationalistic-conservative representatives to say “no to the Islamization of Switzerland”, the ban affects neither the mosques nor the four minarets already in existence, but does inflict a harsh blow to the image of Switzerland, which boasts peaceful coexistence among different cultures, languages and religions. For the government and the majority of the parties which had campaigned against the initiative, it is a keen and awkward defeat which may cast a shadow over the image of the neutral country, especially as concerns its relations with the Muslim world. The Muslim community in the country — numbering about 350-400,000 — have expressed their disappointment and bitterness over the outcome. Those voting against minarets were in the clear majority. Only 4 of the country’s 26 cantons — with a population of 7.7 million — rejected the anti-minaret initiative: Geneva, Basel City, Neuchatel and Vaud. In other cantons the initiative was widely supported with significant percentages, such as in Ticino (68.09%) and the inner part of the Appenzello (over 70%). The outcome of the referendum changes the Swiss Constitution by adding the following line: “The building of minarets is prohibited”. A very short sentence, the impact of which still seems difficult to assess. Those supporting the initiative were also surprised at its success. The anti-minaret campaign was led by numerous representatives of the large Democratic Union of the Centre party (UDC), which like in its previous anti-immigration campaign played on the population’s sense of fear, with billboards showing the country invaded by threatening minarets and burqa-clad women. During their election campaign, they had said that minarets “have nothing to do with religion, but are Islam’s symbol of its claim to political and social power.” In Bern, the government had to admit defeat and formally announce that in Switzerland the building of minarets would be prohibited. However, the ban does not affect the four minarets already standing, and new mosques can still be built. Muslims can continue to practice their religion either individually or as a community, reassured the government. Even some of the defenders of the ban on minarets were adamant about this last point. “The ban on minarets will not change anything for Muslims, who will continue to be able to practice their religion, pray and meet together. It is simply a message that civil society would like to stem the political-juridical aspects of Islam,” said Swiss Member of Parliament and UDC member Oskar Freysinger. Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf said that the outcome of the referendum was the expression of widespread fear among the populace as concerns Islamic fundamentalist movements. “These fears need to be taken seriously, and the Federal Council (government) has always done so and will continue to do so. However, the Federal Council felt that a ban on building new minarets was not an effective tool in the struggle against extremist tendencies,” she said. She then expressed concern over a potential negative impact on export to Islamic countries and tourism, which attracts many visitors to the country from the Arab world, especially the Persian Gulf. Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey said that the government would work to explain the ban to the Islamic world. The disappointment of Muslims in Switzerland is enormous. In the eyes of Yussef Ibram, imam of Geneva’s Islamic Cultural Centre, it is a “catastrophic event. We placed out trust in the lucidity of the Swiss populace, and the outcome has come as an enormous disappointment.” Impromptu demonstrations of a few hundred participants sprung up in the afternoon in Bern and Zurich, with young protestors in Bern marching through the streets with candles and cardboard minarets, along with a banner on which “This is not My Switzerland” written.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Switzerland Minaret Ban Slammed as “Prejudice”

Switzerland confronted an international backlash on Monday over a shock vote to ban new minarets and struggled to reassure stunned Muslims at home that they were not regarded as outcasts.

The Vatican joined Muslim leaders in expressing dismay after a referendum on Sunday voted for a constitutional ban on the construction of towers attached to mosques from where the faithful are traditionally called to prayer.

Some 57.5 percent of those who cast ballots supported the measure amid a high turnout by Swiss standards of 53 percent.

The result flew in the face of opinion polls that had predicted a ‘no’ vote, and caught out government ministers who had opposed the ban alongside the bulk of Switzerland’s political and religious establishment.

The government rushed to assure the country’s 400,000 Muslims, mainly from the Balkans and Turkey, that the outcome was not a rejection of the Muslim religion or culture.

However, the result was condemned in the world’s most populous Muslim nations and elsewhere in Europe as a display of intolerance.

Damaged image

Swiss newspapers also warned that the referendum had inflicted “spectacular damage” to the country’s international standing.

“Some people, traumatized by the crisis, put a vote of protest and suspicion, rather than hate or mistrust in the box. It has come out as a bomb,” Le Temps daily said.

The country’s leading business association, Economiesuisse, pressed authorities to approach Muslim nations to prevent potential harm to trade and tourism, while Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy Rey said plans were being drawn up for a diplomatic campaign abroad.

The imam of Switzerland’s biggest mosque, in Geneva, called on the Muslim world to “respect, without accepting,” the outcome, and to avoid abandoning ties with Switzerland.

But Youssef Ibram sharply criticized the Swiss government for not intervening more forcefully in defense of religious freedom before the referendum got off the ground.

“The most painful for us is not the minaret ban, but the symbol sent by this vote. Muslims do not feel accepted as a religious community,” he added.

Members of the hard right Swiss People’s Party (SVP) — Switzerland’s biggest party — and other right wing groups brought the referendum after petitioning 100,000 signatures from eligible voters.

The constitutional amendment only bans the construction of minarets, and has no other impact on mosques, while a cornerstone of the Swiss constitution, the freedom of religious worship, is unchanged.

Vatican criticism

Nonetheless, the Vatican on Monday endorsed criticism by Swiss bishops, underlining that the ban represented a blow to religious freedom.

Switzerland has just four minarets, which are not allowed to broadcast the call to prayer, as well as some 200 mosques, according to official sources.

While criticizing the ban, Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf acknowledged that the result “reflects fears among the population of Islamic fundamentalist tendencies” that “have to be taken seriously.”

International reaction was critical.

“It’s an expression of quite a bit of prejudice and maybe even fear, but it is clear that it is a negative signal in every way, there’s no doubt about it,” said Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, whose country holds the European Union presidency.

Bernard Kouchner, the French foreign minister, called the vote “an expression of intolerance and I detest intolerance.”

Egypt’s Mufti Ali Gomaa, the Egyptian government’s official interpreter of Islamic law, denounced the minaret ban as an “insult” to Muslims across the world.

Muslims account for just five percent of Switzerland’s population of 7.5 million people, and form the third largest religious group after the dominant Roman Catholic and Protestant communities.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

UK: £250,000 Study to Tell US Ten-Pin Bowling is Dangerous

It’s a peril that only a crack team of health and safety experts could have uncovered.

After two years and £250,000, they found that ten-pin bowling alleys up and down the country could be a ‘very dangerous’ environment for families.

They concluded that it was too easy for children or teenagers to run down lanes and get trapped in machinery that sets up the pins — even though there was no record of any such accident having happened.

The bizarre Health and Safety Executive report found that members of the public would be at risk if they walked along the 60-foot lanes to knock over pins by hand.

Its authors even considered ordering every bowling alley to put barriers across lanes. But they were forced to admit defeat — after realising that bowlers must be able to see what they are aiming at.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UK: £500 to Spy on Your Neighbour: State ‘Bribe’ To Tip Off Council if House is Being Illegally Sub-Let

Members of the public are to be given £500 to spy on their neighbours and tip off officials if the address is being sub-let to illegal tenants.

Ministers are setting up hotlines so that sharp-eyed neighbours who suspect illegal letting is going on can report their suspicions to housing officials.

The first 1,000 people who shop their neighbours and help housing chiefs repossess an unlawfully occupied house or flat will receive a £500 cash reward.

But the initiative has been attacked by civil liberty campaigners who warn that it is another example of ministers creating ‘an army of citizen snoopers’.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UK: GPs ‘Should Offer Climate Change Advice to Patients’

Doctors should give patients advice on climate change, a leading body of medical experts has claimed.

The Climate and Health Council, a collaboration of worldwide health organisations including the Royal College of Nursing, the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal Society of Medicine, believes there is a direct link between climate change and better health.

Their controversial plan would see GPs and nurses give out advice to their patients on how to lower their carbon footprint.

The Council believes that climate change “threatens to radically undermine the health of all peoples”.

It believes health professionals are ideally placed to promote change because “we have ethical responsibility…as well as the capacity to influence people and our political representatives to take the necessary action”.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UK: Parents Vetted to Check They’re Not Paedophiles Before Being Allowed to Attend Christmas Carol Services With Their Children

Parents are being forced to undergo checks to prove they are not paedophiles simply to accompany their children to school Christmas carol events.

Graham McArthur, headmaster of Somersham primary school in Cambridgeshire, said that criminal checks were being carried out on more than 20 parents volunteering to walk his 330 pupils to a carol service at nearby St John’s church later this month.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UKIP Leader Lord Pearson Claimed £100,000 Allowances for £3.7m London Home

The new leader of the UK Independence Party, Lord Pearson, claimed more than £100,000 in publicly-funded expenses on the basis that his £3.7 million house in London was his second home while also owning in a 12,000-acre estate with servants in Scotland.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch, a businessman and peer who warned that the MPs’ expenses scandal exposed a “growing gulf between the political class and the British people” was last week elected leader of Ukip.

He has sat in the Lords since 1990. Since 2001, the earliest year for which expenses records are available, he has told the Parliamentary authorities that his estate beside Loch Rannoch, Perthshire, is his “main home”.

This enabled him to claim about £100,000 in taxpayer-funded overnight subsistence allowances between April 2001 and June 2007 for staying at his town house in Victoria, one mile away from Parliament in central London, where he had no mortgage to pay.

Peers can claim £174 a night — with no receipts required — to cover the cost of staying at a second home or hotel room in the capital “for the purpose of attending sittings of the House”.

After selling the flat for £3.7 million In June 2007, Lord Pearson moved to another London flat two miles away in Kennington. He paid £1.2 million for the flat, again without a mortgage. He then claimed another £15,000 in allowances on the basis of his overnight stays there.

Lord Pearson has repeatedly declared in official company documents that his London home was his “usual residential address”.

His London house was also given as the address to which applicants wishing to work as a housekeeper or gardener at the Scottish estate should send their CVs, in an advert placed by Lady Pearson in The Scottish Farmer in January this year.

Lords rules state: “Members whose main residence is within Greater London cannot claim night subsistence.”

As well as claiming £115,683 for overnight subsistence, since 2001 Lord Pearson has claimed £56,685 in “day subsistence” allowances. Peers can claim £86.50 a day for meals, drinks and taxis while working in Westminster, with no need for receipts.

The peer — who was paid £40,000 a year for his remaining City work until being elected Ukip leader — also claimed £48,471 in travel expenses — including £10,064 for the cost of flying between Scotland and London in the last two recorded years alone.

Lord Pearson told the Daily Telegraph yesterday that rather than gaining from the allowances system, he had been “impoverished” by his political career. “Working in the Lords has cost me millions,” he said.

“I had to take a substantial cut in my city earnings … from memory I have given up about £200,000 per annum since 1990.”

He said: “My (main) home is in Scotland. I spend almost exactly half the year there.” He said he had cited the London home as his “usual” address in company documents “for convenience” in dealing with business correspondence.

Lord Pearson, 67, made his fortune from Pearson Webb Springbett, the insurance brokers he co-founded in 1964. He was chairman when it was sold to the THB Group in January last year for a multi-million pound sum.

Speaking in the Lords in July about what he called the “parliamentary expenses saga,” Lord Pearson said that he had long been “trying to warn of the growing gulf between us, the political class, and the British people.”

He said that the expenses scandal had “done nothing to endear the people to their political class.”

In a newspaper interview on Saturday he said Parliament had become “irrelevant”. “We should think about abolishing the House of Lords,” he added. “We in Ukip are anti the political class.”

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]


Croatia-EU: Drobnjak, Negotiations Continue, Membership in 2012

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, NOVEMBER 27 — Negotiations for Croatia’s membership to the EU are proceeding rapidly and the country could gain membership at the end of 2011 or at the start of 2012. The head Croatian negotiator for EU membership, Vladimir Drobnjak, was speaking at the end of the an accession conference with officials in Brussels today. After the end of the negotiations, the timeline for ratification for membership by the Member States was considered to at least one year. Croatia has today closed three chapters of EU membership negotiations and aims to take new steps forward in a new accession conference at ministerial level which will probably take place on December 21, still under the Swedish EU presidency. Zagrebs aim is to conclude negotiations by summer 2010. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Minorities: Italo-Albanian Dictionary, Second Volume Out

(ANSAmed) — SAN DEMETRIO CORONE (COSENZA), NOVEMBER 26 — Italian and Albanian publishing is enriched by anew volume. It is the ‘Fialor italisht-arbrisht-shqip iilustruar’ (Italo-Albanian illustrated dictionary, volume two), the book that takes into consideration the lexical and morphological variations of the words in use in the six Albanian language centres along the Ionic coast in the province of Cosenza: S. Giorgio Albanese, Vaccarizzo Albanese, S. Demetrio Corone, Macchia Albanese, S.Cosmo Albanese and Santa Sofia d’Epiro. Inserted as a part of the series “Linguistic minorities” from Edizioni Orizzonti Meridionali and financed by the “Destra Crati” Mountain Community and the City of S.Demetrio Corone, the publication is the result of the work of Costantino Bellusci from Plataci, a religion teacher at middle and elementary schools, and Flavia D’Agostino from Civita, a foreign languages teacher. The authors have included the terms that are most common in the spoken language, above all to allow the Italian-Albanian communities above to understand each other thanks to a clear and complete organisation; the association of images to the words, about 300 illustrations, which make memorising the terms easier. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

NATO: Rasmussen in Balkans, Doors Open to New Members

(ANSAmed) — PODGORICA (MONTENEGRO), NOVEMBER 27 — NATO secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen said last night in Podgorica, Montenegro, that the doors of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation were open to countries wanting to belong to it, according to the government of the Balkan country. The announcement was made at the end of a meeting between Rasmussen and Montenegro’s Defence and Foreign Ministers, Milan Rocen and Boro Vucinic. Rasmussen also expressed satisfaction over Montenegro’s decision to send 31 soldiers to Afghanistan. Montenegro is the first stop of the NATO secretary general on his visit to the Balkans. Today Rasmussen will be going to Bosnia, another country which aspires to become a NATO member.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

North Africa

Morocco: 1 Mln Euros From Italy to Promote Energy-Saving Bulbs

(ANSAmed) — RABAT, NOVEMBER 27 — Italy will donate a million euros to Morocco to promote the use of energy-saving lightbulbs. The agreement was signed in Rabat by the minister for Energy, Mining and the Environment, Amina Benkhadra, and by the director general of the Ministry for the Environment, Corrado Clini. The donation is part of the Mediterranean Renewable Energy Programme (MedREP) launched by the Italian Ministry for the commercialisation of 15 million energy-saving lightbulbs, aimed above all at the residential sector. Projects like this, said Clini, not only represent a concrete step towards the safety of energy provision, but they also contribute to the protection of the environment and to the reduction of greenhouse gases. The Moroccan minister declared that Moroccos strategy is heading in the direction of renewable energy and pointed out the project announced at the beginning of November for a solar complex which will have total power of 2000 MW. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

A Kidnapped Soldier Worth a Thousand Criminals?

Il Giornale, November 26, 2009

On these days, to exemplify the parable of Israel’s condition in the Middle East, you can look to the worst of all deals : the exchange of 1 innocent boy, an unexperienced Israeli army corporal, still held in cruel segregation from the day of the kidnapping in June 2006 by a gang of thugs, with 1400 Palestinian prisoners condemned by the most rigorous processes that can be ensured by justice. Among them, at least a hundred life convicts, murderers, serial killers of women and children.

Now is the time when definitive names are decided, while Israel is trying not to free the most fanatical murderers, those who probably will return to kill. But Israel is subject to two special extraordinary forces: total devotion to life and will of survival, saving the children for their parents and on the other hand, the cynicism of a world that always pushes Israel to consider giving up, as if it needed to make amends…!

As in a vortex of guilt Netanyahu, right in the middle of such controversial negotiation, announced yesterday his decision to stop any construction in the settlements for the next ten months, another seed of dissent within his people, as the one concerning Gilad too, but at the same time a proof of diligence and good behavior, demanded by the international forum.

Hamas, meanwhile, mischievous, puts off the decision on Shalit to Monday, with orders and counter-orders from Damascus and Cairo. The German mediator is in shambles, Shalit’s parents using every minute, and their heroic faith, to knock on the doors of politicians and rabbis to have them ask for an exchange. At the same time Roni Karman, Mendelevich Yossi, Yossi Tzur, the parents of three boys killed in the March 2003 on number 37 bus in Haifa are asking the High Court to oppose the release of murderers.

Is it right or wrong to consider the life of a soldier worth the release of such ferocity to the world? Just letting free Hammed Ibrahim, military leader of Hamas in the West Bank, who killed in the attacks he organized 76 people? Or Abdullah Barghouti “the engineer” who prepared all ther explosives that caused bloodshed in Jerusalem between 2001 and 2003? His victims, the Sbarro restaurant, the University Cafeteria of Mount Scopus, are at least 46. Or Sayed Abbas, who masterminded the suicide bombing in a Natanya hotel in 2002, in which 30 Israelis were killed, including many elderly Holocaust survivors who celebrated together with families, the ritual meal of Passover, and many others.

In the list the most famous is Marwan Barghouti, who is said that, once released, will replace Abu Mazen. If that happens, Hamas could support a single candidate because, once Barghouti is released owing to its good offices, the former head of the Fatah Tanzim will owe them this favour. His most recent photos show him smiling in prison among inmates of various political groups. But Barghouti has collected five life sentences, is the real organizer of the second Intifada, we interviewed him several times in Ramallah. He was Arafat’s man, who invented

and controlled on his behalf the logistics of the terrorists and their explosive belts. Barghouti, if released, can replace Abu Mazen, certainly, but this means nothing at all for peace.

The node is not political, is a moral one. What is right? Israel will make the impossible exchange, every soldier must be sure of being saved if he falls into captivity. It is understandable that a country, so little and abandoned to itself, is deeply united around the value of life. Too bad that, all around, millions of people will make of this choice an invitation to kidnap and kill again.

translated by Crystal K.

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

Prisoner Swap: Haaretz, Release Barghuti

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV — The release of Fatah leader Marwan Barghuti as part of a prisoner exchange between Israel and Hamas has been called for by the Israeli daily Haaretz. According to the authors of the article, Barghuti has proved to be a “leader of the Palestinian populace” and in the past also worked for reconciliation between the two populations. “Even if it is admitted that Barghuti is a dangerous terrorist,” wrote the newspaper, “he is certainly not the worst of those who will be freed as part of the exchange. The advantage for the peace process which could result from his release outweighs that of his being kept in prison.” Barghuti is currently serving five life sentences for his involvement in terrorist attacks. The ups and downs of a possible, imminent agreement with Hamas is given widespread coverage. Israel seems to continue opposing the release of Barghuti and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine leader Ahmed Saadat. Hamas, instead, is said to continue to reject compulsory exile for the leaders of its armed wing who would be released (in exchange for Israel corporal Gilad Shalit) and is willing to agree to this solution only in exceptional cases.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Middle East

Andrew Bostom: Minarets and Islamic Supremacism

The venerable Brill Encyclopedia of Islam (EOI) entry on minarets makes plain that minarets are a political statement of Islamic supremacism. Interestingly, given current Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan’s provocative statement while mayor of Istanbul (the full statement was quoted in a NY Times story [1] by Stephen Kinzer from 2/16/1998: “The mosques are our barracks, the domes are our helmets, the minarets are our swords, and the faithful are our army”), cited by opponents of minaret construction in Switzerland [2]—the observations from the Brill EOI about the Ottoman perspective on minarets are of particular note.

From the official Brill Encyclopedia of Islam entry on the minaret:

“It seems on the whole unrelated to its function of the adhan [q.v.] calling the faithful to prayer, which can be made quite adequately from the roof of the mosque or even from the house-top. During the lifetime of the Prophet, his Abyssinian slave Bilal [q.v.], was responsible for making the call to prayer in this way. The practice continued for another generation, a fact which demonstrates that the minaret is not an essential part of Islamic ritual. To this day, certain Islamic communities, especially the most orthodox ones like the Wahhabis in Arabia, avoid building minarets on the grounds that they are ostentatious and unnecessary. … It must be remembered, however, that throughout the mediaeval period, the role of the minaret oscillated between two polarities: as a sign of power and as an instrument for the adhan.”

[Re: Ottoman minarets]: “These gigantic, needle-sharp lances clustered protectively, like a guard of honour, around the royal dome, have a distinctly aggressive and ceremonial impact, largely dependent on their almost unprecedented proportions; the pair of minarets flanking the Süleymaniye dome are each some 70m. high.”…

           — Hat tip: Andy Bostom [Return to headlines]

Dubai: Moslem Holiday Cushions Impact of Crisis

(ANSA)- DUBAI, NOVEMBER 27 — While international financial markets continue their fits of jitters at a feared “domino effect of the Dubai affair”, the Emirate itself appears sunk in the hushed calm of the slow-paced days of Eid al-Adha, the feast of the sacrifice. Offices, banks and institutes closed: this is an aspect which Dubai World may well have considered in choosig the day on which to announce its request for restructuring of its debt — just a few hours ahead of the holiday. A cushioning period for the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and for the oil-rich Gulf states which observe Eid, sparing the Emirati and regional bourses the immediate impact and giving time to international stock markets to absorb the punch before the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) — Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, UAE and Oman, open for trading again. “The closure of the regional stock markets certainly helped in avoiding immediate fall-out in terms of stock prices” writes IRF Gulf Capital Market in its bulletin, stressing that no “significant manoeuvres” can be expected before next week. This appointment was also set by Sheik Ahmad al Maktum, who, in his statement thursday evening stressed that “Dubai World’s move had been carefully planned,” and anticipated that “further details” would soon be revealed “at the start of next week”. Between those running scared and others keeping their cool among global financial operators, the first statements of “a manageable crisis” have been heard among British economists interviewed by the Al-Arabya satellite network. Much calmer thoughts compared to the worrying negative analyses with which the Anglo-Saxon press is filled, almost in parallel to the detached and matter-of-fact tone in which news of the moratorium spread through the United Arab Emirates, where a much higher profile was given to the 5 billion dollars in bonds received by Dubai from two Abu Dhabi banks: the Al Hilal and the National. The role played by Emirati capital, which has already come to Dubai’s rescue over past months, is the question mark that crops up in Emirati financial circles. “Why didn’t Abu Dhabi intervene quicker? Why did it allow Dubai to slide into the perilous situation? Or maybe even Abu Dhabi finds itself in a tight financial spot and can’t bail out Dubai?”, speculated a director of Standard Chartered Bank (SCB), who prefers to remain anonymous, in an interview with ANSA. The coming weeks will supply the answers to these questions; SCB says in its briefing “it is likely that Dubai has to re-examine its economic model based on property investments and influxes of foreign capital”.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Dubai & Abu Dhabi Markets Plunge on Debt Woes

Stock markets in the Gulf emirate of Dubai and its neighboring capital of Abu Dhabi fell sharply on Monday and then ground to a halt amid a lack of buyers after Dubai World’s shock proposal to suspend debt payments.

Dubai’s benchmark DFM Index dropped by 7.30 percent as leading securities, including construction and finance, plunged almost by the maximum-allowed limit of 10 percent at the opening, which followed the four-day Eid holiday.

The market was trading in the midday session at 1,940.36 points, down 152.80 points from Wednesday’s close, just before the Dubai government’s shock announcement it wants to freeze debt repayments by Dubai World conglomerate for at least six months.

The DFM Index finished trading on Wednesday at 2093.16, up around 28 percent this year, though still two-thirds below its all-time highs two years ago.

The financial market of oil-rich Abu Dhabi also reacted negatively to Dubai’s debt woes, dropping 8.24 percent to 2,670.44 points in midday deals.

The two markets have so far shed around $10 billion of their market capitalization.

Trading almost froze in both markets amid high offers to sell and negligible offers to buy, with Dubai market registering only 31.5 million dirhams ($8.6 million) in turnover — less than 10 percent of average daily trade this year.

“This was expected because markets have panicked over exaggerated reports in the Western media,” Al-Fajr analyst Hamam al-Shamaa told AFP.

“We expect to see many foreign portfolios withdrawing from the market. Their exit obviously terrifies local investors,” he said, adding that the drop will continue on Tuesday.

“I do not expect investors to enter the market. Tomorrow will most likely be a similar day,” he added, pointing out that the markets go into another four-day holiday starting Wednesday.

But he expected local markets to bounce back after the holiday. “I expect good news during the holiday,” he said.


Meanwhile, Dubai World property unit Nakheel, builder of the iconic Palm Jumeirah man-made island, asked to suspend trading of its sukuks, or Islamic bonds, listed on the Dubai-based Nasdaq Dubai exchange.

One of the key loans affected by Dubai World’s planned debt moratorium is a Nakheel issue of $3.5 billion of Islamic bonds or sukuks, scheduled to mature on Dec. 14.

Securities listed by port operator DP World, part of Dubai World, on NasdaqDubai exchange dropped by 14.88 percent, and were the most active stock on the market, according to NasdaqDubai website.

Investors failed to draw reassurance from the UAE central bank’s announcement on Sunday that it was providing additional liquidity to the UAE banks.

Other Gulf stock markets have also been on holiday since Thursday for the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha, sparing them an immediate impact from Dubai’s announcement.

However, the news sent shock waves throughout other markets around the world on Thursday and Friday as investors feared a possible default by Dubai and its state-owned businesses, which together owe $80 billion.

Asian shares

Asian shares rebounded on Monday, with Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index closing 3.25 percent higher at 21,821.5, recovering some ground after Friday’s tumble of nearly five percent.

Dubai and Abu Dhabi are the only Gulf stock markets open on Monday. Kuwait follows on Tuesday and Saudi Arabia’s financial market, the largest Arab bourse in capitalization, will remain on holiday until Saturday.

Dubai does not have big oil reserves, unlike Abu Dhabi which sits on around 95 percent of the UAE’s crude deposits and runs the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund valued by analysts at $400 to $500 billion.

Two Abu Dhabi-controlled banks subscribed to Dubai bonds worth five billion dollars in a deal announced a few hours before Dubai revealed its debt problems.

But doubts have been growing about Abu Dhabi’s commitment to buoy Dubai, whose growth came to a screeching halt amid the global credit crunch before going into reverse gear.

Property prices in the once-booming desert city have slumped by 50 percent from their peak.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Dubai: Boy Raped and Killed in Mosque Toilet, One Held

DUBAI — A man who allegedly raped and murdered a six-year-old boy in the bathroom of a mosque in Dubai has been arrested. A Dubai Police source said the operations room received information that a Pakistani child was found dead in the bathroom of a mosque located in Al Qusais on Friday.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

Emirates: Markets Reopen, Huge Losses in Dubai and Abu Dhabi

(ANSAmed) — DUBAI — It was an extremely negative day for the stock exchanges in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which ended the day’s trading in sharp decline. The Dubai Financial Market (DFM) was down by -7.30%, after opening with an immediate plunge of around 5%. The Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange opened flat but then ended up suffering even larger losses and closed at -8.30%. The steep drop in the day of reopening after the five-day holiday has come on the heels of the announcement Wednesday of Dubai World’s debt restructuring, which had also shaken international markets over the past few days. Yesterday the Central Bank of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) took action to shore up banks operating on its territory, ordering liquidity to cushion the potential impact on the stocks of the credit institutes most-exposed to Dubai World’s request for debt restructuring. The announcement last Wednesday of a request for a debt moratorium came just before the Islamic holiday Eid Al-Adha, during which the stock exchanges of oil-rich Gulf countries were closed. On Saturday, Dubai’s neighbouring Gulf country and one of the largest oil exporters in the world — as well as capital of the United Arab Emirates — Abu Dhabi came to its rescue, though only with limited measures. It announced that it would help out the nearby, indebted emirate of Dubai, but only on a case by case basis and not underwriting all the debt of the state-held Dubai World. Meanwhile, technical experts at Deloitte, Rotshschild and Alix Partners are attempting to restructure Dubai World’s debt, and there will be a number of options to look into. The holding could pay off by December 14 the 3.52-billion dollar ‘sukuk’ (Islamic bond) issued by Nakheel, the real estate operator famous for having built the palm-shaped islands, and set other deadlines for the rest of the debt. Another solution may be to pay back 80% of the debt both to bond holders and to banks. Otherwise Dubai World could go forward with its plan to ask for the previously announced debt moratorium with a freeze on payments until 30 May 2010. In the worst case scenario, reports The National, Dubai World could bring in asset liquidation in response to possible legal actions on the part of its creditors.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Five British Sailors Taken Hostage in Iran

Five British sailors are being held hostage after their racing yacht may have inadvertently strayed into Iranian waters.

The Foreign Office confirmed that the racing yacht owned by Sail Bahrain and crewed by five British sailors was detained by the Iranian Navy on November 25.

The Team Pindar vessel is believed to have been sailing from Bahrain to Dubai on its way to the Dubai-Muscat Offshore Sailing Race which began on November 25.

The five crew members are still in Iran and are understood to be safe and well and their families have been informed, the statement added.

Foreign Office officials “immediately contacted the Iranian authorities in London and in Tehran on the evening of 25 November, both to seek clarification and to try and resolve the matter swiftly,” Foreign Secretary David Miliband said today.

‘Our ambassador in Tehran has raised the issue with the Iranian Foreign Ministry and we have discussed the matter with the Iranian Embassy in London.

‘I hope this issue will soon be resolved. We will remain in close touch with the Iranian authorities, as well as the families,’ he said.

However, an Iranian Foreign Ministry official said he was not aware of reports a British yacht had been stopped. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the press.

Fears were growing that the detention of the British sailors will dramatically increase tensions between Iran and the West. The country has come under increasing pressure in response to its plans to build 10 new nuclear fuel plants.

According to the Team Pindar website, members of Sail Bahrain were due to arrive in Dubai on November 26 on board the Kingdom of Bahrain race yacht. The event was to be the boat’s first offshore race, said its website, adding that the vessel had been fitted with a satellite tracker.

The site says: ‘Skippering the Kingdom of Bahrain entry is experienced offshore sailor and Team Director of Sail Bahrain, Nick Crabtree who, along with members of his shore crew, will be joined by Bahrain’s national sailing hero, Sami Kooheji and Captain Peter Gronberg, Managing Director of GAC, one of the largest shipping companies in the region and logistics partner to Sail Bahrain.’

So far the Foreign Office has refused to name any of the crew members being held.

Oil prices spiked as news of the crew’s plight broke, with crude oil climbing $1.40 to $77.45 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange after seesawing at around $76 for much of the session.

Prices rose on the specter of some kind of confrontation between the British and the Iranians, one of the world’s biggest producer of oil.

In March 2007 HMS Cornwall made headlines around the world in March when seven Royal Marines and eight sailors were arrested at gunpoint.

The humiliation was compounded as the Iranians gleefully exploited the propaganda opportunities in the following days, broadcasting footage of the hostages apologising for straying into Iranian waters, and warmly thanking president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for releasing them.

Finally the decision to let two of the sailors, Faye Turney and Arthur Batchelor, sell their stories back in the UK caused a fierce backlash and left Defence Secretary Des Browne fighting for his job.

The dramatic development came as Iran fought off an international backlash over its plan to build 10 new nuclear enrichment plants.

The US and its allies fear the facilities give Iran the capability to produce weapons-grade nuclear material and have called for an immediate halt to the enrichment of uranium.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

Hezbollah Cuts Islamist Style From New Manifesto

Lebanon’s Hezbollah group announced a new political strategy on Monday that tones down Islamist rhetoric but maintains a tough line against Israel and the United States, which it accused of terrorism while vowing to keep its weapons.

The new manifesto drops reference to an Islamic republic in Lebanon, which has a substantial Christian population, confirming changes to Hezbollah thinking about the need to respect Lebanon’s diversity.

Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, who read the new “political document” at a news conference, said it was time the group introduced pragmatic changes without dropping its commitment to an Islamist ideology tied to the clerical establishment in Iran.

“People evolve. The whole world changed over the past 24 years. Lebanon changed. The world order changed,” he said via a video link.

Stressing a history of struggle against Israel, the 32-page document said Hezbollah had to remain alert and wary of Israel: “Israel represents a constant threat and an impending danger to Lebanon.”

Nasrallah, reading from the document, said U.S. “arrogance” prevented Hezbollah and other Arabs and Muslims from forging a friendship with the United States, Israel’s chief ally.

“The American administration’s unlimited support to Israel … places the American administration in the position of the enemy of our nation and our peoples,” he said.

No disarmament

Nasrallah said Hezbollah needed to keep its arms, despite opposition from Western-backed political groups in Lebanon.

“The (resistance) is a permanent national necessity that should last as long as the Israeli threat, and in the absence of a strong, stable state in Lebanon,” he said, quoting the document.

Hezbollah was formed with the backing of Iranian Revolutionary Guards during Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 1982. It came out into the open as a mainly guerrilla group in 1985 but quickly began establishing social and medical networks among Lebanon’s impoverished Shiite community.

Nasrallah said a new political document for Hezbollah was needed to cope with events since the last manifesto in 1985, when Hezbollah was more of an armed resistance group fighting Israeli occupation forces.

Hezbollah members first entered parliament in 1992 and in 2005 the group it had its first government minister, completing its rehabilitation as a political party.

Attacks by Hezbollah, which is backed by Iran and Syria, were instrumental in Israel’s decision to withdraw from south Lebanon in 2000 after a 22-year occupation.

Hezbollah, listed as a terrorist group by the United States, also fought a war with Israel in 2006 that cost Lebanon a heavy civilian toll but its guerrilla force was not defeated on the ground.

The manifesto pledges that the group would strengthen itself despite a 2006 U.N. resolution than bans arms in south Lebanon.

Israel says Syria and Iran are arming Hezbollah against international law. The manifesto confirms the need to maintain close ties with the two countries.

Nasrallah said Hezbollah has become a global model of how to fight occupation.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Iran Defies UN by Announcing Plan to Built 10 Uranium Enrichment Sites

Iran has announced plans to build ten new uranium enrichment plants in a major expansion of its atomic programme, just two days after the U.N. nuclear watchdog rebuked it for carrying out such work in secret.

The defiant move by hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s government will further aggravate tensions between the Islamic Republic and major powers over Iranian nuclear activities, and may accelerate calls for more U.N. sanctions against the country.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Iran Guard Take Over Naval Forces in Gulf: US Intelligence

AFP — Iran has given the Revolutionary Guards Corps command over naval operations in the oil-rich Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz as part of a strategy to block access to vital sea lanes in the event of a war, according to a US intelligence study.

The military reorganization launched in 2007 transfers responsibility for the Gulf from the regular navy to the elite Guards’ naval force, which has an arsenal of small, high-speed boats and cruise missiles, said the study by the US Office of Naval Intelligence.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

Jordanian Journalist Lifts Veil on Honor Killings

According to the United Nations, five thousand women a year are victims of so-called “honor killings.” These women are murdered, often by family members, for perceived cultural offenses, like getting pregnant out of wedlock. Jordanian journalist Rana Husseini has spent more than a decade investigating honor killings in her home country. She talks about her new book Murder In the Name of Honor .

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

Saddam Ordered Attack on Radio Free Europe: TV

Saddam Hussein ordered his secret agents to attack the Prague headquarters of U.S. run Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty to end broadcasting to Iraq, a Czech intelligence service spokesman said on Sunday.

The attack was ordered by the then Iraqi leader in 2000 and Iraqi intelligence agents planned to use weapons including rocket propelled grenades, Kalashnikov rifles and submachine guns, spokesman Jan Subert told Czech TV Nova.

“Saddam Hussein ordered his intelligence to violently disrupt Iraqi broadcasting of the Radio Free Europe and for this operation he provided significant financial means,” Subert told the station.

He said the weapons had been stockpiled for the attack after they were brought into the country in an Iraqi diplomatic car.

It was not known when the attack was due to take place but Subert told the television station that Czech intelligence discovered the plot and the Iraqis submitted the weapons to Czech authorities in 2003.

The plan was for the attack to take place from the window of a nearby flat that the Iraqis planned to rent as an office for a fake company, he said.

There were fears the broadcaster, financed by the U.S. Congress, might be target of an attack after the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States.

In 2003, the police and the army temporarily boosted security in and around the radio station’s offices, located at the top of Wenceslas square in the historic centre of Prague at an old communist parliament premises.

The headquarters have since been moved to a new closely guarded building in a neighborhood on the outskirts of Prague.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Syria: 50 Mln Euro Funding From EIB

(ANSAmed) — ROME, NOVEMBER 27 — The EIB has granted Syria a 50 million euros fund to partially cover the projects presented for the improvement of local Syrian urban infrastructure. The agreement was signed in Damascus.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

The Press in Turkey is Anything But Free

L’Espresso 19.11.2009 (Italy)

The press in Turkey is anything but free, currently ranking 122 of 175 in the Reporters Without Borders’ press freedom index. And it looks set to drop further, writes Soli Ozel, in a tirade against Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan. The prime minister seems to have won the war against Aydin Dogan’s media group, even before the multi-billion tax fines were due for payment. “The prime minister has succeeded in dissolving the monopoly of the Dogan Group, by pulling strings and enabling his business allies to buy up its newspapers and TV channels. As a result the Turkish media has diversified, at least as far as ownership goes. But the new buyers are uncritical supporters of the ruling party. The newspapers and TV channels are the most important — if not the only — platforms where criticism and opposition can form against the government. To gag the media like this is an act of pure suppression and intimidation, not only of the publishers but of the entire economy.”

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


“Train Crash Organized by Putin’s Enemies”

Aleksandr Fomenko, an independent analyst, has claimed that the Nevsky Express train crash was specially orchestrated by the enemies of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

“Prime Minister Putin has got a lot of enemies — not only disappointed criminal Godfathers in the country or undisciplined oligarchs abroad, but also some global players. But, of course, we cannot know the exact name of the mastermind of this attack. The most important question is why this happened at this moment — after the reconciliation with the American administration, after the visit of Mr. Miliband to Moscow — when the international situation for Kremlin looked too good to last long. Especially when the economic situation is far from good. That is why these people decided to create some kind of instability in the country,” Fomenko believes.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

Russian Orthodox Uneasy With Protestant Trends

In October, Lutheran Bishop Margot Kässman of Hanover, Germany, was elected as the first woman and, at 51, the youngest cleric to head the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), an umbrella body of Protestant churches with 24 million members. She is known for her frank views and books about faith in daily life, including a book published in September recounting her diagnosis with breast cancer and subsequent divorce. The mother of four daughters was elected to chair the EKD Council for a six-year term.

In November, a cold wind from Moscow blew over the EKD decision.

Russian Orthodox Archbishop Hilarion, who directs external relations for that church, said on November 11 that Kässmann’s election as chairperson of EKD could terminate the half-century-old dialogue between the two churches.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

South Asia

Jamaat-E-Islami Hold a Protest in Pakistan.

The party stated that this ban ‘reflects extreme Islamophobia among people in the West.’

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani religious groups on Monday condemned a referendum in Switzerland that saw voters approve a ban on the construction of mosque minarets, calling it ‘extreme Islamophobia.’

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

Malaysia Seeks to Recover Child From Belgium in Custody Dispute

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Malaysia’s government is trying to help a woman recover her 5-year-old son from Belgium after her estranged husband took him there and defied an Islamic court order granting her custody of the child, news reports said Sunday.

The case has stirred religious sensitivities in this Muslim-majority country partly because Elis Syuhaila Mokhtar has voiced doubts about whether her Dutch husband, who converted to Islam before they married in 2001, was raising their child according to Islamic principles.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

U.S. Offers New Role for Pakistan

President Obama has offered Pakistan an expanded strategic partnership, including additional military and economic cooperation, while warning with unusual bluntness that its use of insurgent groups to pursue policy goals “cannot continue.”

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

Far East

Japan Seeks Baby Boom to Defuse Population Timebomb

The country’s new centre-left government — trying to defuse a ticking demographic timebomb — is working to change laws and mindsets in a bid to boost Japan’s birth rate, one of the world’s lowest.

Tokyo — There are many reasons Japan’s population is headed for a sharp decline, but one of them is that for working women giving birth usually spells the death of their careers.

The country’s new centre-left government — trying to defuse a ticking demographic timebomb — is working to change laws and mindsets in a bid to boost Japan’s birth rate, one of the world’s lowest.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

Russia Wants to Build Orthodox Church in Seoul

The Russian Embassy has been asking for a piece of land in Seoul to open a Russian Orthodox Church, diplomatic sources say.

Furthermore, what Russia has in mind is the spot of the former Russian legation, where Emperor Gojong (1852-1919) took refuge for one year to escape the Japanese who were planning to assassinate him.

The place is now designated as the nation’s Historic Site 253.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Muslims Targeted by Mohammed SMS Hoax

A three-year-old SMS message that falsely says ninemsn will publish blasphemous cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed is spreading through the Australian Islamic community again.

The message asks people to vote on a poll that this website posted in February 2006, which asked readers whether or not cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed should be published.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

3 Spanish Aid Workers Kidnapped in Mauritania

NOUAKCHOTT, Mauritania — Three Spanish aid workers were kidnapped while delivering supplies to impoverished villages in the desert West African nation of Mauritania, their organization said Monday.

Two men and a woman were kidnapped, according to Julia Tabernejo, a spokeswoman for Barcelona-based aid group Barcelona Accion Solidaria, which does humanitarian work in several African countries including Mauritania. She gave their names as Albert Vilalta, Roque Pascual and Alicia Gamez.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

Navy Regularly Releases Somali Pirates, Even When Caught in the Act

The Royal Navy is regularly allowing Somalian pirates to go free because of the risk they would claim asylum if prosecuted in Europe.

Pirates terrorising ships in the Indian Ocean, looting and taking hostages, are often given medical checks and fed after being caught, before being sent of their way.

This is also sometimes because although they are carrying guns and other weapons, they have not been caught in the act of piracy and therefore have not technically committed a crime.

More than 340 suspected Somalian pirates have been captured by international naval forces in the last year and subsequently released on the advice of lawyers.

Pirates are currently holding a British couple, Rachel and Paul Chandler, from Tunbridge Wells, Kent, who said recently they feared they would be killed if the £4.2 million ransom is not paid.

Last week it emerged that two other Britons, James Grady and Peter French, were on a Saudi oil tanker that was captured by Somalis.

Julian Brazier, Conservative shipping spokesman, said: “It’s shameful that so many pirates are being returned to do it again.

“The fault lies not with the hard-pressed naval commanders but the ridiculous rules of engagement and operating instructions they are given by their political masters.”

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

Somali Training Camps Fuel Threat of Attacks on US

MOGADISHU, Somalia — The recruits gather in scorching desert hideouts in Somalia, use portraits of President Barack Obama for target practice, learn how to make and detonate bombs, and vow allegiance to Osama bin Laden.

Training camps in the lawless nation of Somalia are attracting hundreds of foreigners, including Americans, and Somalis recruited by a local insurgent group linked to al-Qaida, according to local and U.S. officials. American officials and private analysts say the camps pose a security threat far beyond the borders of Somalia, including to the U.S. homeland.

In interviews with The Associated Press, former trainees gave rare details on the camps, which are scattered along desert footpaths, rutted roads and steamy coastal dens. They say the recruits are told the United States is the enemy of Islam.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

Latin America

Bolivia: Nurses Forced to Wear Veil

Semanario Verdad Latinoamericana reports that nurses in a Bolivian hospital are forced to wear a hijab veil at their jobs.

The article, Bolivia: enfermeras son obligadas a llevar velo, says that state newspaper Cambio (link to their website here, but no link to their report on the hospital) reported that following a donation of $1.2 million USdollars by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during his visit Wednesday last week, the nurses at a hospital in El Alto have to wear a veil due to the conditions set by Iran.

           — Hat tip: Fausta [Return to headlines]


Cuban Migrants Land at Turkey Point, Raising Security Questions

Thirty-three Cubans landed in the cooling canals of the Turkey Point nuclear power plant at mid-day Thursday, Florida Power & Light reported to nuclear regulators.

The site is supposed to be protected by around-the-clock security, but the report indicates that at 1:28 p.m. on Thanksgiving day a member of the Cuban group called the Turkey Point control room saying they had landed in the canal area with 29 adults and four children.

The control room then called plant security, “who located and assumed control over the Cuban nationals without incident.” Security called Miami-Dade police for assistance. Police arrived at 2:25 p.m., which then called U.S. Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

FPL did not immediately respond to a Herald question about why its security forces had not intercepted the Cubans before they landed.

After the 9/11 attacks, federal authorities demanded that nuclear power plants beef up security to make sure terrorists couldn’t get close to the reactors.

[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Players Have Dirty ‘Gay’ Sex in Hit Game

Trendy Christmas gift features characters naked, kissing in homosexual embrace

Note: An image in this story may be objectionable to some readers.

A popular role-playing combat video game featuring graphic homosexual sex between a man and an elf has hit store shelves just in time for Christmas.

“Dragon Age: Origins,” released Nov. 3 for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, depicts two men in various sex positions in a secret scene of homosexual seduction.

The game is by BioWare, makers of “Mass Effect,” “Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic” and “Baldur’s Gate.” It has a “Mature” rating.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Rabbi Nachum Shifren: The ADL vs. Faith and Freedom

How the ADL is working to destroy America

It is difficult to write about Jewish traitors, but I have the obligation to do so. My life as an American and a Jew is rooted in one miracle: individual liberty and freedom of speech and conscience. We are living in dangerous times, times when men of good will are afraid to speak out. There are some things you cannot say in America today.

I will say them anyway.


….Let’s be clear: The ADL has nothing to do with Judaism, Jews, or Jewish Survival. It is a collection of communists, anarchists, Jewish 60’s drop-outs, bitter about their nothing status and eager to spread their venom about a socialist paradise at which they believe only they can succeed. (The earlier Bolsheviks and Trotskyite’s, they assure us, just didn’t get it right.!)

It’s more than interesting how Obama has surrounded himself with these same radical leftist rejects from the 60’s. Interesting also, is how the ADL and the present administration are working hand in glove to make us safer with insane, counter-productive “Hate Crime” legislation.

Now, the ADL is on the warpath again, this time advocating for a federal data bank to be housed (with them?) in Washington, where each American can be monitored and pursued, for ever having said anything “hateful.”

And what is the definition of “hateful,” you ask? Simple, whatever the ADL dictates. And how, you’ll ask can that possibly happen here in the land of the Free, the home of the Brave? Again, simple: just play the anti-Semitic race card, and you will have people tripping all over themselves to acquiesce to your every whim.


Isn’t it amazing? We’re not allowed to have the Ten Commandments in our schools. No “minute of prayer” allowed. No mention of G-d allowed. But plenty of mind control about how the White Christians have destroyed the earth and must be neutralized. The Day of the multiculturalists is here, aided and abetted by the ADL, using “hate speech” as the Trojan horse that will destroy our once-great America.


I find myself having crossed the political Rubicon. As a conservative, passionate advocate of America’s freedom for individual liberties and speech, I have become a pariah in the Jewish community. Who knows, maybe the ADL is monitoring this very message?! But one thing is clear: I stand on the shoulders of many great Americans who have given their lives for this great land. I will not shirk from my responsibility as an American, as a beneficiary of this grand and blessed legacy. I hope that my urgent words are heeded and that people will wake up about those alien forces threatening our very lives.

To all my friends throughout America: G-d bless you, and G-d bless America

[Return to headlines]


Attention Lawyers! Make Millions Off of Climategate Crooks!

By Jim O’Neill

“What we are faced with is a tyranny, world wide, over the mind and body of man, and it is the duty of every red blooded United States citizen to oppose with every fiber of his being what is being done…by this Administration to try and sign away your Constitution at Copenhagen.” -Lord Christopher Monckton November 28, 2009 More…

“There’s gold in them thar hills!” Lawyers need to get off their butts, and realize what a financial bonanza the Climategate criminal scam represents. The possibilities for financial remuneration are mind boggling.

For patriotic, conservative lawyers, this should be a “no brainer.” But even ambulance chasing weasels, who care about nothing but money, should be clamoring to get on the bandwagon.

The possibilities for them to make money out of Climategate, are almost endless-as is the amount of money the public has been defrauded of, and continues to be robbed of. “Global warming” scam, Criminal intent to defraud the public of massive amounts of money, advance an ideological agenda

It is now clear that the entire CO2/global-warming scam has been one Big Lie; a lie that continues to bilk people out of billions, possibly trillions, of dollars. There is no reason to put litigation off any longer.

[Return to headlines]

Climate — Still Not Getting it!

By Barry Napier

I watch the news and comments about climate claims and The Copenhagen Summit with increasing frustration. Despite the recent email revelations and growing numbers of scientists who are defecting to the good side, people are still not getting it!…

[Return to headlines]

McCartney Calls for Meat-Free Day to Cut CO2

AFP — Paul McCartney is urging consumers to fight global warming by going vegetarian at least once a week, ahead of an address he will deliver on Thursday to the European Parliament.

“By making a simple change in the way you eat, you are taking part in a world changing campaign where what’s good for you is also good for the planet,” the former Beatle told the Parliament Magazine.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

The Great Climate Change Science Scandal

Leaked emails have revealed the unwillingness of climate change scientists to engage in a proper debate with the sceptics who doubt global warming

The storm began with just four cryptic words. “A miracle has happened,” announced a contributor to Climate Audit, a website devoted to criticising the science of climate change.

“RC” said nothing more — but included a web link that took anyone who clicked on it to another site, Real Climate.

There, on the morning of November 17, they found a treasure trove: a thousand or so emails sent or received by Professor Phil Jones, director of the climatic research unit at the University of East Anglia in Norwich.

Jones is a key player in the science of climate change. His department’s databases on global temperature changes and its measurements have been crucial in building the case for global warming.

What those emails suggested, however, was that Jones and some colleagues may have become so convinced of their case that they crossed the line from objective research into active campaigning.

In one, Jones boasted of using statistical “tricks” to obliterate apparent declines in global temperature. In another he advocated deleting data rather than handing them to climate sceptics. And in a third he proposed organised boycotts of journals that had the temerity to publish papers that undermined the message.

It was a powerful and controversial mix — far too powerful for some. Real Climate is a website designed for scientists who share Jones’s belief in man-made climate change. Within hours the file had been stripped from the site.

Several hours later, however, it reappeared — this time on an obscure Russian server. Soon it had been copied to a host of other servers, first in Saudi Arabia and Turkey and then Europe and America.

What’s more, the anonymous poster was determined not to be stymied again. He or she posted comments on climate-sceptic blogs, detailing a dozen of the best emails and offering web links to the rest. Jones’s statistical tricks were now public property.

Steve McIntyre, a prominent climate sceptic, was amazed. “Words failed me,” he said. Another, Patrick Michaels, declared: “This is not a smoking gun; this is a mushroom cloud.”


David Holland, an engineer from Northampton, is one of a number of sceptics who believe the unit has got this process wrong. When he submitted a request for the figures under freedom of information laws he was refused because it was “not in the public interest”.

Others who made similar requests were turned down because they were not academics, among them McIntyre, a Canadian who runs the Climate Audit website.

A genuine academic, Ross McKitrick, professor of economics at the University of Guelph in Canada, also tried. He said: “I was rejected for an entirely different reason. The [unit] told me they had obtained the data under confidentiality agreements and so could not supply them. This was odd because they had already supplied some of them to other academics, but only those who support the idea of climate change.”

IT was against this background that the emails were leaked last week, reinforcing suspicions that scientific objectivity has been sacrificed. There is unease even among researchers who strongly support the idea that humans are changing the climate. Roger Pielke, professor of environmental studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder, said: “Over the last decade there has been a very political battle between the climate sceptics and activist scientists.

“It seems to me that the scientists have lost touch with what they were up to. They saw themselves as in a battle with the sceptics rather than advancing scientific knowledge.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

The OIC Secretary General is Disappointed and Concerned Over Swiss Ban on Minarets in Switzerland

The Secretary General of the OIC, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu voiced his disappointment and concern with the result of the public referendum which took place in Switzerland yesterday, 29th November 2009, on the initiative to ban building of minarets in the mosques in Switzerland.

The Secretary General qualified the ban as an unfortunate development that would tarnish the image of Switzerland as a country upholding respect for diversity, freedom of religion and human rights and also as a recent example of growing anti-Islamic incitements in Europe by the extremist, anti-immigrant, xenophobic, racist, scare-mongering ultra-right politicians who reign over common sense, wisdom and universal values.

He recalled that the UN Commitee on Human Rights had clearly pronounced its concern on the ban as a disciminatory practice that violated fundamental human rights including the freedom of religion.

Secretary General Ihsanoglu expressed his deep regret that at a time when the Muslim world and Muslim societies around the world have been engaged in a struggle to fight extremism, the western societies are being hostage to extremists who exploit Islam as a scapegoat and a springboard to develop their own political agenda which in turn contributes to polarization and fragmentation in the societies.

He stated that the development also highlighted the need for promoting genuine dialogue at the grass-roots level to alleviate all misunderstandings and misinformation that lead to intolerance and misconceptions.

In this regard, he appreciated the position of many Swiss political and religious leaders from all sides who expressed unequivocally their rejection for any attempt to undermine the rights of Muslims in Switzerland.

The issue was taken up yesterday, between the OIC Secretary General and Foreign Minister of Swiss Confederation Mrs. Micheline Calmy-Rey who called the OIC Secretary General by phone following the official announcement regarding the results of the voting. The Secretary General conveyed to the Swiss Foreign Minister that with due respect to the sovereign and legitimate right of the Swiss people and democratic principles governing the Swiss Confederation in adopting any legislative measure, the decision of the Swiss people stood to be interpreted as xenophobic, prejudiced, discriminative and against the universal human rights values and it would tarnish the reputation of the Swiss people as a tolerant and progressive society. The Secretary General urged the Swiss authorities to remain vigilant in addressing any move, which may fuel extremism, misunderstanding, misperception and intolerance among communities and that he remained confident that Swiss political leaders would not spare any effort to preserve the image of their country as guardian of the international human rights instruments.

As the Muslim public opinion is following the issue with concern, the Secretary General appealed to the Muslim societies to abide by peaceful and democratic means in expressing their views on the issue. He stated that the OIC General Secretariat will continue to follow the developments very closely.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

On the Failure of Law Enforcement — Part 2

This is the second installment of El Inglés’ three-part essay “On the Failure of Law Enforcement”.


On the Failure of Law Enforcement — Part 2
by El Inglés

In the first installment of this essay, I laid down a rudimentary conceptual framework for understanding the nature and scale of the law enforcement challenges posed to us by certain alien groups within European societies, be they ethnically defined, religiously defined, or both. The focus of the essay was, naturally, Muslims, though the analysis could be equally well applied to any group. Here I would like to expand on my initial analysis by explaining the problems posed by what I have termed the dynamic of escalation.

The Dynamic of Escalation

In the first installment of this essay, I outlined the most important reasons why Muslim incarceration points in European societies would have a tendency to drift up relative to the baseline incarceration point, and similarly prove extremely difficult to force back down again. They were as follows:

1.   the prevalence of the narrative of oppression,
2.   the dynamic of escalation,
3.   the magnitude of the extra financial commitments required,
4.   electoral disadvantage, and
5.   demographic issues.

Apart from the dynamic of escalation, these barriers to bringing the incarceration points back together are all things that can, in principle, be overcome and presumably will be in time. Public opinion across Europe is slowly but surely waking up to what Islam is. Anti-Islamic political parties are making gains every day. Prisons can be built if budgets are cut in other areas.

Figure 3 Law Enforcement

However, the dynamic of escalation (hereafter referred to as the DoE) is different in this regard. It is not something that can be gradually overcome by an ever-more robust attitude towards Islam, but only by concerted action of a certain type. To understand why this us so, we need to first consider exactly what the DoE is, how it operates, and what problems it will present those who attempt to out-escalate it. How does it come to be the case that even fairly small clusters of Muslims, disproportionately dysfunctional and impoverished as they are, can force onto the back foot the law enforcement apparatus of wealthy, technologically advanced European countries, effectively creating a two-tier legal system to the Muslims’ own advantage?

If, in the small English village that I live in, I throw a rock at a police car as it passes by, the officers inside will get out, arrest me and charge me with the appropriate crime. If, however, on trying to arrest me the two police officers are attacked by five friends of mine who think the police are acting unfairly and who do not intend to let them carry out their duties, they will be forced to call for backup. How many officers will be dispatched? Let us say that another six are sent in two cars, in response to which some thirty other neighbourhood youths come to my aid by congregating in the area and flinging rocks and various choice epithets at the police.

What happens now? Do the police send out another sixteen officers in two vans? And if they do, what if my friends and I notify, via text and mobile phone call, other friends in the area, who notify others in turn, so that before too very long we have a hundred or so youths swarming around the area hurling debris at the police? In a situation such as this, it is clearly not going to be the priority of the police to effect my arrest, but instead to prevent a riot or contain it if it has already commenced. This is not an unworthy goal in its own right, but it does mean:

a)   that I have attacked the police with impunity unless they are prepared to come back for me another day and risk the same thing, and
b)   that a hundred youths have rioted with almost complete impunity, as only a small fraction of rioters at most riots are ever charged with any crime.

Next time I or someone else in my street throws a rock at the police, how will they respond? Are they going to try and arrest me? They might, but the harsh reality of the situation is that, if a violent, tribal reaction on the part of the people of my neighbourhood is guaranteed, they may well think better of it. Do the police really want to have to dispatch large numbers of officers to control riots that they themselves have, in a certain sense, helped whip up, all because someone threw a rock at them and missed?

This is not a theoretical concern. The first time the DoE impressed itself upon me was when I read a translation of an article from the German magazine Die Welt on the evolution of no-go zones in Essen, Germany. I urge readers who have not read the article (entitled In Enemy Territory) to do so to understand the sheer scale and severity of the problems that hostile, unassimilable foreigners are creating there. Here I will quote it at length, as it makes the point far more eloquently than I could (all emphasis added by me):
– – – – – – – –

Every other week some dozen policemen in olive-green coveralls enter the area in company with employees from the city’s civil services. The exact number is secret, “so that the foe can’t adjust“, say the police.

The “danger zone” encompasses three dozen streets. The civil servants enter gloomy tea-houses and oriental cafés, normally disguised as “cultural societies”, kiosks, telephone shops, internet cafés. It is a twilight infrastructure of the Lebanese “community”, holding around 5,000 persons in Essen. The civil service demands lists of employees and licenses. They are met with little courtesy and sour expressions as if they were entering alien territory. The city of Essen tries to counter a phenomenon well known to other German cities. Policemen talk of “parallel worlds” and “rooms of fear”. When confronted with such terms, the immigration-politicians cringe. But the experienced civil servants can’t come up with better terms. They don’t dare to enter such areas without protection, otherwise they risk riots and physical assault.


This is an unusual strategy in Germany, but no longer a breach of taboo, due to the resistance the almost 270,000 civil servants from state and local police have to confront on a daily basis in many regions. “The problem with violence against the police has escalated in recent years. The police have to concentrate increasingly on self-protection” says national chief of police Konrad Freiberg to Die Welt. “When a fellow policeman goes on duty, he never knows what might happen to him“.


Kircher says that unauthorized persons interfere when papers are checked or arrest are made, and oppose the police. For some time now, the police have been trained how to behave in crowds of people. When a patrol enters a bar in order to arrest a criminal, another patrol of equal strength is needed to control the crowd.


Chief Inspector Andreas de Fries is all too familiar with the hunch that makes the little hairs on his neck start to rise when in the middle of the night he wants to see the papers of a suspect and suddenly, as from nowhere, he is surrounded by two dozen people who push and yell. “The voices come from all over, and suddenly you feel a stab in the back. So fast you can’t even see it,” says de Fries.


“With the Turks and the Albanians the parents are helpful,” says Schwerdtfeger; usually, if a youngster makes trouble, a talk with the parent can solve the problem. But the youngsters who call themselves “Arabs” don’t acknowledge any borders or respect. There may be some hundreds in Marxloh and their behavior tends to engender a disgust for all foreigners. Eight-year-old boys kick old ladies, sexually harass women, throw water balloons at business windows, ignore traffic lights, and create havoc at road intersections. “They constantly provoke incidents, even in proximity to patrol cars,” says de Fries. As soon as you try to calm down the younger ones, the older, aggressive brothers show up. “This is our street,” they yell. Then it becomes dangerous. The Police President of Duisburg, Rolf Cebin, calls the problem by its name: “The gathering of various communities when the police show up is an increasing problem. One can’t avoid a sense of hostility towards the police.”

If this seems quite similar to the hypothetical scenario I laid out above, that is because it was the basis for it. What exactly has happened to the Muslim incarceration point in this part of Essen I cannot say, but it would be very hard to believe that it has not edged substantially upwards as a consequence of the DoE as it operates there. Of course there are other reasons that the Muslim incarceration point will creep up in such contexts, the most obvious being the unwillingness of victims and witnesses to cooperate with the police that is generally observed in situations of this sort. But this does not affect the key point here: that the DoE is active and that it is hard to see how the German authorities, having let it develop in the first place, will be able to overcome it by operating within their current paradigms. I will elaborate on this last claim in the next section.

Why the Dynamic of Escalation is Special

I suspect that many readers will intuitively agree with the claim that the DoE is unlike other mechanisms forcing apart Muslim and baseline incarceration points in that it cannot be dealt with in a gradual, organic fashion. In the interests of completeness, however, I would like to make the reasoning underlying this conclusion completely clear here. If the law enforcement apparatus of a given country wishes to crack down on gun crime, or drug crime, or any other type of crime, it is, on the whole, free to do so by intensifying extant operations. Why is this not the case vis-à-vis the DoE in general?

The key to understanding this point lies in the name of the problem — the dynamic of escalation. Let me try to express this in terms of the model I presented in the first installment of this essay. What happens if the attempts of law enforcement to enforce the law vis-à-vis Muslims results in the criminality profile of Muslims shifting to the right in some fashion for the duration of the attempt, as the brute tribal response of Muslims runs its course? This will result in substantially more crime, the precise opposite of the original intent of the police.

What this means is that Muslims are re-writing the short-term cost-benefit analysis of police action against their criminal actions. In any short-term cost benefit analysis, it is a simple matter for a community of Arabs dominating a German neighbourhood to render the costs of trying to apprehend an Arab thug throwing a rock at a police car greater than the benefits of doing so. When this comes to be the case, an irresistible pressure will be brought to bear on the police in these areas, either at a personal psychological level, or at an institutional chain-of-command level, or both. That the former pressure exists is fairly clear from the article quoted above, and that the latter exists is made fairly obvious by the Belgian example I referred to in the first installment of this essay.

Even without these concrete examples, though, we would be able to deduce with a high degree of confidence that these pressures existed. How could they not?

If the police respond to such a situation by further increasing the degree of law enforcement attention, only to be out-escalated again in the same fashion, then what are they supposed to do? Re-escalate? There are limits to how far this can be taken by law enforcement actors concerned with the short term and unaware of the long-term implications of their actions, as we saw in the hypothetical example above. All re-escalations against concentrations of tribal actors who hate the police and their host societies have the potential to turn into exercises in riot control, in which the original law enforcement objectives are forgotten, rendered impossible, or both, and at great expense, too. It is therefore entirely rational for the authorities to give in to the DoE if their time horizons are short. And they clearly have a tendency to be very short indeed, in Germany and elsewhere.

That said, ignoring Muslim crime on these grounds is a recipe for societal suicide in the long term. Are actors concerned about the long term therefore obliged to devise a way of out-escalating their opponents? The answer to this question must be ‘yes’ for those who believe that waiting for ‘moderation’ and ‘integration’ is not a realistic option. But the solution will be exceptionally difficult to implement, both politically and operationally. If it were not, the DoE would already have been defeated across Europe and I would not have felt compelled to write this essay.

Defeating the DoE

The DoE, by its nature, involves bringing the hostility and violence of more and more Muslims to bear on the police as they try to do their job, with the intention of rendering that job impossible. This means that whenever the DoE is operative, the police will be on the verge of facing a riot of some size, big or small. Our objective then, is to move from riot control to riot punishment. This cannot be stressed too strongly: the DoE is, at its heart, nothing more than an escalation of conflict by Muslims, at the point of contact between Muslims and law enforcement, with said conflict eventually turning into a riot. To break this dynamic by hurting (figuratively or literally) the rioters until they decide that rioting is not in their interests is, by definition, to have defeated the DoE.

Accordingly, all factors involved specifically in defeating the DoE rather than ‘just’ applying the law pertain to riot punishment, which I define as a set of responses to riots, big or small, that result in their costs significantly outweighing their benefits for their participants. It is therefore quite different to riot control, which — concerned with reducing the short-term human and economic costs of the rioting in question — has no such objective.

Let us consider, then, what defeating the DoE might look like, and then what it certainly will not look like, by examining certain recent events in Europe.

The Bradford Riots of 2001

In Bradford, England in July 2001, an estimated one thousand South Asian Muslims rioted for successive nights after a period of gradually increasing racial tension boiled over. Clashes and street violence between whites and Asians (as they tend to be called in Britain) had escalated to the point where substantial numbers of police were called in, whereupon the conflict turned into a battle largely between them and the Asians.

The build-up to the riots is complex and need not concern us here, where we are interested only in the operational characteristics of the law enforcement response. To give an account spliced together from different sources, 297 people were arrested, and 200 jail sentences for a total of 604 years were handed out, for riot and related offences. Over a year later, on September 5, 2002, David Blunkett, then Home Secretary, was quoted in The Independent as having said ‘The police have done a really good job in following this through and at last the courts are handing out sentences that are a genuine reprisal but also a message to the community.’ The time scale of the investigation gives, I feel, some indication of how assiduously the British police pursued the rioters, especially given the fact that the last conviction was gained six and a half years after the riots.

It is clear from all accounts of the riots and their aftermath that those convicted of riot and related offences were overwhelmingly Asian. Indeed, so many Asians were convicted and for such long sentences relative to the crimes they had committed, that the Bradford Fair Justice Campaign was founded to seek redress (unsuccessfully, it seems). CCTV footage was used extensively to identify rioters, which presumably accounts in part for the large numbers who came forward of their own account and surrendered themselves to the police. However, sentence reductions for this cooperation were apparently much less than is normal in the UK, which turned into another source of bitterness on the part of the Asian community.

It is worth pointing out that, according to Wikipedia, the greatest number of convictions ever handed out subsequent to any other riot in our history was only five. Five against two hundred! This makes it absolutely clear that despite my repeated and, I still feel, legitimate criticisms of the police in the UK, they and the Crown Prosecution Service at least had the sense to ‘go for’ the Bradford rioters fairly ruthlessly. Pursuing rioters for years if necessary; draconian sentencing; incarcerating a completely unprecedented fraction of them: this is what I mean by punishing riots rather than just controlling them. An intriguing question is whether or not this response has been at least partly responsible for the odd lack of endemic rioting and violent disorder from the Muslim population of the UK relative to its coreligionists in other European countries.

Either way, the British response to Bradford is the type of response that will be required to deal with the DoE, though it would need to be enhanced in certain regards to be all it could be even in the UK. But we must bear in mind that, as I pointed out above, the UK does not have the chronic problems with large-scale Muslim violence that other countries in Europe do, and provides only relatively poor and scattered examples of the DoE in action in the first place. This being the case, let us take some of the responses we saw implemented after the Bradford riots and ask ourselves how others might build on them in countries with more serious problems in this regard.

The French Riots of 2005

There are several countries in Europe in which extreme polarization between at least some Muslim groups and the state, accompanied by endemic anti-police violence and rioting, is already visible. France is the most obvious example. Though I cannot pretend to be any sort of expert on affairs in France, and find it frustratingly difficult to get satisfactory information on matters of interest there, I would like to concentrate a bit of educated guesswork on the country, for the following reasons:

a)   its Muslim population is by the largest as a fraction of population of any country in the West;
b)   relations between Muslims and natives are as polarized and bitter as anywhere else, as far as an outsider can discern; and
c)   large-scale rioting and violence appear to be endemic and conducted largely with impunity.

Let us consider the French riots of late 2005 in a slightly freewheeling and speculative fashion. Given that these disturbances continued for over three weeks, it is hard to know how many rioters there were in total. However, it would be instructive to try and compare these riots to those in Bradford in 2001, so let us try and determine how many rioters there were per night, on average. There is no figure for this anywhere that I can determine, so let us note that, approximately halfway through the riots, 18,000 police were deployed, with a reserve of 1,500 men. It seems to me that the ratios of police to rioters that seem to be deployed in response to riots in European countries is somewhere between 1 to 2 and 1 to 1. If we take the full figure of 19,500 to represent the number of police deployed to contain the riots specifically, then the number of rioters on any given night during the height of the riots was between 19,500 and 39,000. I will take 30,000 as a compromise figure for the purposes of the discussion, though I reiterate that I have no way of knowing how accurate this figure is. Note that the scale of the riots was approximately 30 times greater than that of the Bradford riots, in a country with a population size (though it should be pointed out that other areas in the northwest of England also had riots at about the same time).

If we take the maximum number of rioters per night, 30,000, divide it by 2 to get a figure for average rioters per night of 15,000 for the entire period, and multiply by the 23 nights that Wikipedia says the riots lasted for, then we obtain a figure of 345,000 man-nights of rioting. There is no way of knowing how much churn there was amongst rioters, how many of them rioted consistently, and how many rioted less frequently. However, it is inconceivable that only 30,000 rioted in total if that was the maximum number of rioters on any night, as it would imply that everyone who rioted at all rioted on that night. It is also inconceivable that no one rioted more than once, which, if it were true, would mean that we had 345,000 different rioters who rioted once and only once each. The total number of rioters would therefore seem to lie somewhere between 30,000 and 345,000. Making the not entirely unreasonable estimate that the rioting would have been concentrated amongst a hard-core of rioters and that the lower end of the estimate is therefore more likely to contain the true number of rioters, I will take a figure of 60,000 as the total number of rioters, i.e. the number who rioted at least once. This is twice the maximum number who rioted on any given night, indicating a significant degree of churn while still being compatible with the claim that there was a substantial hard core of regular rioters.

This is 60 times the number of people who rioted in Bradford. If the 1-in-5 conviction rate of Bradford had been obtained in France, this would have added, mainly over the couple of years subsequent to the riots, some 12,000 people to the French prison population if other factors were held the same. The French prison system currently holds about 64,000 people, which would mean a nearly 20% rise in that population to accommodate these people and a similar expansion in the size of the French prison system. In the UK, it costs about £30,000 per year to incarcerate someone (estimates differ), and the average sentence after the Bradford riots was apparently 3 years. Adding in the costs of arrest, investigation and trial, and assuming a mean sentence of three years for the French rioters (without early release), we can expect marginal costs in excess of £100,000 per rioter, i.e. in excess of £1.2 billion, even before the costs of building several large new prisons have been taken into account. Of course, the political capital that would have to be expended to implement such a response and the further poisoning of relations between France and its cultural enrichers are virtually impossible to imagine, as are the operational challenges that would be faced by a police force required to arrest thousands of rioters after the rioting had ceased, without re-inflaming it.

Now, the riots were indeed an escalation, starting as they did with the deaths of two immigrant youths who, fleeing the police (which is to say, law enforcement doing its job) for reasons that are still not clear, managed to electrocute themselves in the process. This, not the relatively minor example of the Bradford Riots I gave above, is the type of thing that the French need to be prepared to deal with if they are to defeat the DoE. But how could they ‘deal’ with it? The bloodless and number-heavy analysis of the previous paragraph notwithstanding, it is hard to see that the French state could possibly have punished the rioters without using the army and killing some substantial number of people.

Of course, we cannot say with any confidence what would have happened if such action had been taken. Would it have subdued rioters across the country (defeating the DoE), or inflamed them (simply creating counter-escalation)? Evidently, the French government was not keen to find out. A Bradford-style crackdown writ large probably has the potential to break France, by which I mean it could result in a degree and type of violence that would shatter forever the illusion that the disparate peoples of that nation could ever peacefully alongside each other. And where would the country go from there?

I cannot find a figure for exactly how many convictions were handed out subsequent to the riots. Figures for the number of arrests seem to vary between 3,000 and 5,000. If we suppose that the higher estimate was correct and that all 5,000 were incarcerated, that would correspond to a rise in the French prison population of about 8% in a single year or so. This is almost certainly not physically possible, let alone politically or financially possible. It therefore seems probable that most of these people were given a slap on the wrist at most, after having been detained long enough to prevent them returning to the riots. This is not riot punishment, and barely even riot control. Rather, it is the flailing of an apparatus of state that is rapidly losing the ability to even pretend that it knows what it is doing.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

Needless to say, the desired approach to the DoE looks a lot more like the British response than the French one. This is not patriotic boasting; on the contrary, I was amazed to discover that a Labour government had acted in such a draconian fashion with respect to the criminality of cultural enrichers, out-escalating the rioters quite effectively.

That said, note the analytical difficulties involved when trying to judge the performance of opposing sides in real riots rather than moving lines around on graphs. How much did the state out-escalate the rioters by? Were the respective escalations simultaneous, or was the crucial escalation by the British government the long, gradual, punishment of an unprecedented fraction of rioters? Did this move discourage future riots, or are other factors responsible for the relative lack of such violence in the UK?

In the French case, who ‘won’ the riots? Who gave whom the biggest black eye? Am I correct in feeling that the French state will be far more concerned about future riots than the rioters themselves will be? Is defeating the DoE a meaningful option now for the French? How has the weakness they seem to have displayed affected the likelihood and nature of future riots? Will they meet future riots in a more or less draconian fashion? Do the Muslim immigrants smell blood in the water? Or is the state getting ready to deal with what will eventually turn into insurrection?

None of these questions is easy to answer. But one thing is clear. Concerted action, with the political class, the police, the state prosecution apparatus and public opinion all in accord with one another, will be required if the DoE is to be defeated. Think again of the sheer magnitude of the task the French would have faced in applying a Bradford-style response to their 2005 riots. A society not unified in the face of what it considers to be an existential threat will never muster the will to implement such a set of policies.

This brings us back to the earlier claim that the DoE is especially resistant to piecemeal, seat-of-the-pants type solutions. Muslims can escalate and are escalating their response to police action in a highly effective fashion based on:

a)   a tribal identity at odds with the host society,
b)   a desensitization to violence, and
c)   local numerical superiority.

All three factors are simply features of these communities, and require no thought, advance planning, or financial expenditure to obtain or maintain. In contrast, the state must train, pay, equip, organize, and command the personnel to implement a specially-formulated response backed up by a massive and massively expensive infrastructure to even hope to contain this escalation, with no guarantee of success. To acknowledge this asymmetry is bitter indeed. But this is the nature of the situation, and this observation reinforces the impossibility of dealing with it in an impromptu fashion.


There is probably little to be gained by this layman trying to lay down what he considers to be the ideal approach to riot punishment, and, through it, the defeat of the DoE. The options available to those who would oppose rioters on their streets, in whatever fashion, and for whatever purpose, are easily discovered by anyone with an Internet connection and a little bit of spare time.

To adopt some poker terminology for a moment, the crucial issue is whether or not the political will can be generated to raise and re-raise rioters until they fold. To the extent that it cannot, then the DoE cannot be defeated, which means that the Muslim incarceration point cannot be forced back to the baseline. This in turn will condemn Western countries to the horrors of rapidly growing Orange Muslim populations operating under a two-tier legal law enforcement system that greatly favours them, in effect if not in intent.

Figure 5 Law Enforcement

On the other hand, if the DoE can be defeated, this will play a huge part in allowing a state to reunite the Muslim incarceration point with the baseline incarceration point, which is all the law enforcement apparatus of a country can really hope to do with respect to the problematic human substrate that Muslims are.

Of course, this leaves unresolved the core dilemma, to wit, that a criminal human substrate will have to be some combination of over-incarcerated and over-criminal for reasons already explained. Can this problem be solved, or have we condemned ourselves to suffer the disproportionate criminality and economic costs of our recklessly imported third-world populations in perpetuity?

The answer to this most important question will have to wait for the third and final installment of this essay.

Pelted With Culturally Enriched Eggs

Cultural Enrichment News

Multicultural trouble came to Luton today: a Muslim peer was egged by protesters during a walkabout in the city.

When I first saw the headline for this story, I thought, “Oh-oh — did some enraged Islamophobe take action against a Muslim? Will there now be Muslim riots in Britain and the rest of Europe?”

But it turns out that this is an Enricher-vs.-Enricher incident, and the good Baroness of Dewsbury was simply being punished by more pious Muslims for not being Islamic enough.

Many thanks to Vlad Tepes for youtubing the video:

According to the Beeb:

Tory Muslim Peer Pelted With Eggs

Conservative peer Baroness Warsi of Dewsbury, named Britain’s most powerful Muslim woman, has been pelted with eggs during a visit to Luton.

Baroness Warsi was taking part in a walkabout in the predominantly Muslim Bury Park area of Luton when she was confronted by a group of protesters.

The male protesters accused her of not being a proper Muslim and supporting the death of Muslims in Afghanistan.

– – – – – – – –

Baroness Warsi, who was hit by at least one egg, debated with the men.

The shadow minister for community cohesion and social action was then taken into a nearby shop.

‘Views challenged’

Baroness Warsi told the BBC that the men were “idiots who did not represent the majority of British Muslims”.

She said these type of protesters “bring Muslims into huge disrepute”.

“I stood up to this group and said I challenge your views,” she told BBC News.

“They just weren’t prepared to listen. They shouted. I said if you want to have this debate, listen.”

She continued her walkabout with a police escort.

One of the protesters against Baroness Warsi, Sayful Islam, told the BBC they were “against everything she stands for”.

He said: “She is not a practising Muslim. Clearly by looking at her she does not represent Muslims.”

He said he and his fellow protesters did not throw the eggs at her.

Baroness Warsi was named as one of the most powerful women in The Power List — chosen by a panel led by Trevor Phillips, chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

The award was set up to celebrate high performers in business, the arts, media, voluntary and public sectors.

For a complete listing of previous enrichment news, see The Cultural Enrichment Archives.

Hat tip: 4symbols.

Czech Muslims Ready to Welcome Geert Wilders

A Czech political party recently invited Geert Wilders to visit the Czech Republic, and then abruptly withdrew the invitation.

Now a Czech Muslim organization is ready to welcome Mr. Wilders with open arms. According to De Volkskrant, as translated by our Flemish correspondent VH:

Czech Muslims want to talk with Wilders

The Czech Muslim organization “Libertas Independent Agency” is planning to invite Geert Wilders to screen his film Fitna and to debate about it. This is what the Czech media reported Tuesday.

Earlier this week a senator of the ruling Civic Democratic Party had suggested that they would invite Wilders, but that plan was blocked by other politicians. Now the Muslim organization takes the initiative.

Spokesman Luke Lhotan thinks that showing the film and conducting an open debate is the best way to approach anti-Islamic sentiments. “We have seen what happens when prejudices are ignored, as in the twentieth century when anti-Semitism was largely ignored. That did not prevent the Holocaust. We decided to learn from history.”

Lhotan will send the invitation to Wilders by e-mail. It is unknown when he will do this. The organization’s preference is to see Wilders in discussions with the only Muslim spiritual leader in the Czech Republic, imam Emir Omic.

[Post ends here]

Fjordman: NYT Friedman compares US democracy unfavorably with China

Fjordman’s latest essay has been published at Democracy Reform. Some excerpts are below:

American journalist and author Thomas Friedman has written several columns in The New York Times during the fall of 2009 where he questions the Western democratic system. There are perfectly legitimate reasons for criticizing certain aspects of the democratic system, but I’m not sure if his are the right ones. If I recall correctly, Mr. Friedman applauded exporting democracy to an Islamic country such as Iraq, but he wants the democratic system abolished in the USA because it doesn’t support his Leftist pet causes.

The main reason for California’s decline is a decline in IQ among those who inhabit that region. This is again caused by mass immigration. The underlying structural problem for the USA now is that US national debt is rising even faster than US national IQ is declining. As long as this trend remains unchanged, continued US decline is all but assured.

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I remember hearing about a mother who tried to figure out how to deal with the concept of free will when dealing with her rebellious young daughter who wanted to wear clothes her mother didn’t approve. She came up with the idea of presenting her with two different sets of clothes, both preselected by the mother. This would maintain the illusion of free will while the mother had in reality made the decision beforehand.

This is essentially how Western “democracy” works. In the USA in 2008 you could vote for an open-border Leftist candidate or an open-border “right-wing” candidate who wanted to implement the Leftist agenda at a slightly slower pace, as Western “conservatives” have been doing for generations now.Once or twice every decade, Leftist writer Noam Chomsky says something worthwhile. One of his best quotes is that “The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum.” This is exactly what Western elites are doing today.

Read the rest at Democracy Reform.

Thou Shalt Not Kill

Back in the fall of 2004, just after Theo Van Gogh was murdered, an artist named Chris Ripke painted a mural on a Rotterdam street with the text: “Thou Shalt Not Kill”. A scriptural quote, but universally accepted, one would think, and not at all controversial.

Needless to say, local Muslims complained, and the municipality ordered city workers to remove the mural. A video reporter named Wim Nottroth stood in front of the mural in an attempt to prevent its removal, but he was arrested by police.

The authorities also ordered all news videos of the operation destroyed, but at least one survived and was uncovered by the diligent detective work of Vlad Tepes.

The video went to our Flemish correspondent VH for a translated transcript, and then back to Vlad for the subtitling. The result is below:

VH has translated some supplemental material about the incident. First, an email from Wim Nottroth, who was arrested:

A Rotterdam artist, Chris Ripke, created a piece to show his disgust over the murder of Theo van Gogh. A beautiful expression with an angel and the text “Thou shalt not kill”.

Chris is a very upright artist who for instance created these nice statues near Angelo Betti [trendy pizzeria].

His studio is right next door to the mosque in the Insulindestraat [the Turkish Iskender Pasa Camii Mosque]. The mosque found the text “Thou shalt not kill” to be offensive. So they called Ivo Opstelten [then mayor, VVD, center right]. As a journalist for the local television station Cineac North I went there to film this morning.

Initially I was asked not to film there because too much tension might then arise in the neighborhood. I was busy in a discussion when the spray-trolley wanted to get to work to spray away the art work. I could not stand that and then moved right in front of it.

After some scuffles with the police on the scene, I was arrested. I am now free again, the artwork is gone, the artist is flabbergasted, and I do not understand mayor Opstelten.

On top of that, my colleague Mireille was forced by the police to erase part of her recordings.

What a country. It is really unbelievable. Both Chris and I have been busy for with Turkish and Moroccan children / adults whom we try to involve. What a cramped government.

How beautiful that saying actually is: “Thou shalt not kill!” Something more universal is hardly possible. That you may not even put that on your wall!

I’m furious!

VH adds this: Only a few months later, an Imam of that Turkish mosque was deported.
– – – – – – – –

From Expatica: “Amid news that four imams will be deported for allegedly inciting Muslim radicalism, the Dutch security service AIVD has revealed it is keeping a close watch on six mosques and Islamic organizations. […] It has also been reported that a fourth imam will be deported. He is said to be an imam at Iskender Pasa Camii mosque at the Insulindestraat [map] in Rotterdam. He allegedly provoked hatred and incited people to jihad or holy war.”

From the newspaper Trouw: The Rotterdam imam was residing illegally in the Netherlands — According to a spokesman for the Immigration and Naturalization Service he aimed with “work” at Turkish youth: “He preached an orthodox, anti-Western and anti-democratic form of Islam. Journalist Mehmet Ülger reported that in the mosque anti-Western and women-unfriendly books were on sale.”

Meanwhile, an Interior Ministry report in August 2004, ‘Saudi Influences in the Netherlands’, described six mosques [one of them the Pasa Camii mosque in Rotterdam] or groups as “mosque associations with an outspoken Salafist character originating from a mission and finance from Saudi Arabia. […] An investigation by the AIVD indicated that the imams were consciously contributing to the radicalization of Muslims in the Netherlands. The imams are also accused of being involved in — or tolerating — the recruiting of Muslims for jihad or holy war. “

The man was active in the Iskender Pasa Camii-moskee at the Insulindestraat [map] in Rotterdam, which is located in a large social-cultural center. According to Isa Kandemir, chairman of the foundation behind this social-cultural center, the man was a volunteer at the mosque.

And from a sound file:

Interview with Wim Nottroth

Radio Rijnmond, Rotterdam

What happened yesterday, because how could this escalate, I almost should want tot say.

Yes, I do not understand it myself, I am just… I work for local TV, Cineac-North; in the past five years we have almost made 2000 items in Rotterdam Noord, as they say…

And you had heard there was a text, “that is what I want to film…”

Yes, there was something going on, so I jumped on my bike and went out to it, with the camera already on and all, and I get there and everyone starts, “no, do not film” and…

Who is that “everyone” in the neighborhood?

No, not in the neighborhood, there was an officer there and someone from the [Turkish] mosque, there were also a few people of the District [Rotterdam-North],

So there was commotion about the text…

Yeah, but as I found out they stood waiting for a spray trolley, so I started a bit of a discussion like “what is going on here” and “this is still a beautiful text” and I’m not religious, but I can find myself completely in it…

I just heard that it was the sixth commandment, I did not really know that myself, I knew it was one of the ten…

No, well it well have been the third, but perhaps it is also in the Koran or the Torah, or I don’t know what, but it is some sort of a universal text…

What happened when the spray trolley arrived, did you think “no way”?

Well, so I wanted an item, but yes, we did not really have very much yet, and when at one point that spray-trolley arrived… If I had done nothing than that spray-trolley would have started spraying and all would have blown over, and that was the intention. But I thought “what nonsense is this”, and I also had something like… look here, I find Theo van Gogh, and all his statements and such, that all I really found nothing, much too rude, that man, but I found it really terrible that he was killed. And… Well, that’s just a blow to us all. And well, there is another text on a wall, that really absolutely cannot be offensive, and that has to go! Well, I thought, “no way”, so stood in front of it and I said, well… I found that in a democratic constitutional state this slogan had be able in the Netherlands…

So they asked you three times to go away and you did not do that…

No, I stayed there, I raised the smallest blockade in Rotterdam…

And what was the result? A night in jail?

No, no, no, I finally, after a sort of altercation with the policeman, who began to lash at me and becoming annoying… what I found even more annoying is that my colleague who was still filming, he really started to threaten him in a very nasty way, and it this was really just ridiculous…

Yes I’ve seen the video… Something really bad would happen to you if you should continue filming, that is what was being said, I think…

Yeah, something like that, really, and that also my colleagues from other Cineac divisions in the city, they also have experienced the same recently, that every time by the police we… while we are just simply filming very much at street level…

Did they offer you an explanation afterwards? because that “Thou shalt not kill” is a subversive text goes very far…

I’ve heard absolutely nothing at all, I read in the [newspaper] Rotterdams Dagblad that Mr. Geelhof also finds it was a bit rude, how we had been dealt with…

Are you still going to take actions?

Well look here, I so far have only really been answering the phone, so every time I’m at work the phone rings and then Metro calls [a free newspaper where Van Gogh had a weekly column], and then that someone wants a comment, or…

And then we call…

… Radio Rijmond or so… So I’ve not really quite got to that.

But what if you think of it now?

Well I think it’s just ridiculous, I’d rather have it without a judge or whatever, because also we do not have that much money, and lawyers are expensive… Come on! It is the municipality that does this wrong; it is ridiculous that this artwork is removed from the wall, so just let someone for once be a brave guy and offer his apologies or something, then everything is normal again.

On this occasion a call to the Rotterdam police or the mayor, because he for that matter is in charge…

I would think so, yes.

Thank you.

A full transcript of “Thou Shalt Not Kill” video:

00:14   There it is, but eh, well now I’m here and have
a good look at that text, which is written underneath,
00:20   We somehow, because I also just arrived, get to
the conclusion that perhaps it is no Quranic text
00:27   but from the Bible [laughter].
But it really appears very Christian.
00:39   [locking the bike]
The guy there does not stand there for nothing.
00:46   When will Chris be back now? Oh? So he is still away?
What does that say? Do people not find…
01:01   The book of Deuteronomy is still the Bible.
”Yes, Chris had done that and that underneath was added later.”
01:07   “And Chris, when he called me, he said that was from the Quran and such, but…”
01:14   [with accent] Thou shalt not kill that is in the Quran, the Bible and such…
01:19   We all do agree to that, don’t we?
Thou shalt not kill, we all agree to, isn’t it?
01:25   Hold it, hold it, hold it, hold it…
01:26   “Will you stay there?”
Yes, I do not agree that the text has to go.
0:31   This is about a guy [man form Turkish Mosque],
I do not agree to this…
0:35   Thus I find that it is from Deuteronomy, it should be
possible here in a democratic eh…
0:39   You rather go stand there…
01:43   Well, then I will remain standing here…
01:48   If this goes away there will be more misery than there would be if you leave it.
01:57   I do not agree with you.
02:01   [officer] You better go because
Yes, but we must continue…
02:07   Then you better call someone, because I’m going to call all my pals and everyone I know who…
02:19   I think I act reasonably, I find in a democratic country…
02:23   You hinder me in my work, it comes down to that then,
02:28   I therefore order you, that you must go stand somewhere else now.
02:33   No, I’m not going to stand somewhere else.
02:35   I order you once again.
02:43   I order you for the third time that you
must go stand somewhere else.
02:49   Then we are going to arrest you now
03:15   Are you continuing filming?
”Then what?”
03:19   Then it will not go well with you.
05:12   I’m not sure though, but I think they cannot
forbid this. Because we are in a public space.
05:20 — 05:28   What do you say?
”Or someone shoots you dead, or the police eh…”
07:06   Chris Ripke, we are now standing next
to the panel where you actually made
07:12   a work of art that said “Thou shalt not kill”…
07:17   Yes, that text that I had made yesterday over
that angel and over the world underneath
07:22   because I was quite upset by the news about
[the murder of] Theo van Gogh.
07:33   And when I arrived here this morning, there was
another text over it that appeared seemingly
07:38   to explain away that such things happen,
that bastards until the tenth generation must be…
07:48   A short while later the police arrived.
07:51   And the police summoned me to remove the text “Thou shall not kill”…
07:58   According to the police it was ordered by “higher authorities” to remove it
08:02   ordered by the political police of which I have never
heard before, and through mayor Opstelten
08:06   and the chairman of the [Turkish] Mosque who was at the meeting.
08:10   We did not reach an agreement that we one way or another could also in a different way…
08:14   Why did the police actually find it had to go?
08:19   The police said it could be understood as a racist expression towards my neighbors.
08:27   That “Thou shalt not kill” or the text underneath? Other people had done that.
08:32   Yes, they have not mentioned that text… it was only about that “Thou shalt not kill”
08:37   But that is universal.
08:39   Yes that is universal, and “Thou” stands for everyone, and I have had absolutely no intention to direct it
08:47   to one person or a group, it was from sheer inability to understanding what kind of world we are in here.
08:54   That by “Thou” you in fact meant in general.
08:56   “Thou” is everyone. And it is not my text, it is a text of God according to the people who believe in that.
09:05   What do you think about its being removed?
09:07   I find it quite horrible, this whole business, I do not understand this state of affairs,
09:15   and I am still shaky all over, and I am nervous… I think this really… sucks.
09:26   Well uh… I wish you strength…
09:28   Thank you, I hope Wim [Nottroth, arrested] will get in trouble over this, because I really find…
09:34   but I better forget this… they say… well I will not forget this… but I must think about it for a while…
09:44   Yes, I understand… thanks
09:48   You also thanks that you still want to pick this up.

Gates of Vienna News Feed 11/29/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 11/29/2009The big news of the day was the vote on the Swiss referendum to ban minarets. I posted about it earlier today, but I’ve included some additional articles here which may be of interest.

In other news, the number of paid clergy in Church of England will reportedly be decimated within the next five years.

Thanks to C. Cantoni, Esther, Gaia, Insubria, JD, Sean O’Brian, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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FBI Moves to Seize CAIR Records From Author
His Name: Jihad. His Message: Peace
Impossible Numbers Certified in NY-23
Obama Administration a Master of Irony on Terrorism
Europe and the EU
A Baroness for Europe, A Baron for Britain
Film: Spain: EU Stops Aid, Directors Against Minister
Fr. Samir: In Switzerland, Yes Minarets, No to the Muezzin
Germany: Drunk British Soldier Puts Policewoman in Hospital
Government Seeks to Limit Impact of Minaret Ban
International Muslim Concern at Minaret Vote
Italy: Berlusconi Says Would Like to ‘Strangle’ Writers
Minaret Result Seen as “Turning Point”
Sweden-Finlad: “Now the Pages in the National Encyclopaedia Regarding Inland Ice Can be Torn Out and Burned”
Swedish Meats Chair Quits Over Pig Scandal
Taxed for Living
UK: Church of England Set to Lose a Tenth of Its Clergy in Five Years
UK: Home-Grown Terrorism: Our Values Are Not Optional for Minority Groups
UK: Heads or Tails? One of These £1 Coins is a Fake.
Women Lead Swiss in Vote to Ban Minarets
Mediterranean Union
Transport: Euromed Aviation, Extend Accords With EU
North Africa
Egyptian State Security Accused of Cover-Up in Muslim Riots
Egypt: France Grants 500,000 Books to Bibliotheca Alexandrina
Israel and the Palestinians
Chavez: ‘Israel Aims to Wipe Out Palestinians’
Israel: Orthodox Jews Spitting on Christians
Middle East
Bilingual Road Signs in Turkey’s Kurdish Villages
Expert Calls for a ‘Greener’ Hajj
Hizbollah Fears Al-Qaeda
Report: Suleiman to Meet Obama Next Month
Suleiman: Lebanon Has Right to Use All Legitimate Means to Liberate Lands
Turkey: ‘Valley of the Wolves’ Hopes to Spark More Nationalism
UK: Woman Fights for Son Taken by Sharia Court
South Asia
British Tip Off Led to Arrest of US Mumbai Suspect David Headley
Indonesia Minister Says Immorality Causes Disasters
Mount Everest to Host Nepal Cabinet Meeting
Nuclear: Obama and Indian PM Agree to Landmark Deal
Pirates Jailed for Yacht Murder
Thirteen Inmates Escape in W Afghanistan
U.S. Holds Detainees at Secret Afghan Prison, N.Y. Times Reports
Sub-Saharan Africa
Royal Marines Could Have Rescued Pirate Hostages, But the Order to Attack Never Came
UN Accuses Spanish NGOs of Supporting Rwanda Militia
Australia: Taps Off for Thirsty Asylum Seekers
Culture Wars
Out With Jesus, In With ‘Frosty the Snowman’
An Inconvenient Truth
Climate Battle Bill to Top $300 Billion: Guyana
Climate Change: This is the Worst Scientific Scandal of Our Generation
Evidence of Life on Mars Lurks Beneath Surface of Meteorite, NASA Experts Claim
Swine Flu Epidemic Escaped From Lab — Australian Scientists Say


FBI Moves to Seize CAIR Records From Author

In an unexpected move, the FBI and the Justice Department are wading into a court battle between a conservative author and the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

The feds reportedly served a grand jury subpoena Friday to seize thousands of pages of records allegedly stolen from CAIR by author David Gaubatz and his son Chris as part of an undercover infiltration of the group. The records were about to be returned to CAIR pursuant to a court order in a civil suit the organization brought against the pair.

Gaubatz, co-author of “Muslim Mafia,” which accuses CAIR of being a front for Islamic terrorism, agreed earlier this month to the order requiring the return of more than 12,000 pages of disputed records while a federal judge considered the lawsuit.

However, on Friday afternoon, the U.S. Government, which previously had no role in the civil lawsuit, filed a motion in the case. The legal papers were filed under seal, perhaps in response to complaints that the Justice Department unfairly smeared CAIR in a public court filing in 2007 suggesting CAIR had links to Hamas.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

His Name: Jihad. His Message: Peace

Jihad Turk — clean-shaven and youthful — is telling an interfaith audience that the prophet Muhammad traces his lineage to Abraham, the biblical patriarch.

Turk explains to the crowd of mostly Christians and Jews that Muslims also revere Jesus and Moses as prophets, and that Islam cherishes life.

But some in the Pepperdine University audience are skeptical. One man wants to know why so many Muslims are “willing with perfect ease to kill,” as he puts it, drawing brief applause.

A woman later needles Turk about what she views as Islam’s suppression of women. “You guys really need a good PR firm,” she tells him.

Without missing a beat, Turk responds: “If you know of one, let me know.”

U.S. Muslims are struggling mightily these days to win over a wary public. In Los Angeles, part of that task falls to the 38-year-old Turk, director of religious affairs at the Islamic Center of Southern California, one of the region’s most influential mosques.

Earnest and doggedly optimistic, Turk is an unflappable ambassador for an often embattled faith — a man whose American upbringing gives him a foothold in two sometimes colliding worlds.

The son of an American Methodist mother and a Palestinian Muslim father, Turk was elected homecoming king at his Phoenix high school and took some time off from college to explore his Islamic roots in Saudi Arabia and Iran.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

Impossible Numbers Certified in NY-23

CANTON, NY — The election results certified by the St. Lawrence County Board of Elections for New York’s 23rd Congressional District contain some numbers that are mathematically impossible. These numbers were requested in person and transmitted by e-mail just hours before certification on Tuesday, November 24th, 2009.

For six election districts in St. Lawrence County (the 2nd, 4th, 6th, and 7th districts in Canton, the 14th district in Massena, and the 2nd district in Oswegatchie) negative numbers appear in the column for “blank” ballots, known in other states as “undervotes.”

The Board of Elections stated repeatedly that their numbers add up, and strictly speaking, they do. But negative numbers should not be required to make this happen.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Obama Administration a Master of Irony on Terrorism

It’s time for liberals to make a choice. They can support the Obama administration. Or they can support civil liberties. But they can’t do both at the same time.

The tension between principles and partisanship has been building for months. The left gets nervous every time the White House seems to be lurching to the right — preserving the CIA policy of rendition of terrorism suspects, defending domestic wiretaps, dragging its feet on closing Guantanamo Bay.

More recently, many liberals are pleased with Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision to transport accused 9-11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed and other defendants to New York and try them in federal court, thereby granting them all the rights that go to defendants in criminal trials.

Conservatives were appalled by Holder’s gesture, but liberals gladly received it as it was intended — as a pointed, if petty, rebuttal of George W. Bush’s policies. But what the left should have real trouble with are some clumsy and inappropriate comments made by top administration officials about the Mohammed proceedings and the overall topic of how they would handle terror suspects.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

A Baroness for Europe, A Baron for Britain

On Tuesday the Lisbon Treaty comes into force and the European Union (EU) takes on the status of a genuine state with its own President and Foreign Minister. The Russian newspaper Pravda (Nov. 4) recently wrote that the EU is beginning to look like a “reincarnation of the USSR.” The appointment of Cathy Ashton as the first EU Foreign Minister (full title” “High Commissioner for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy”) would seem to confirm this.

In the 1980s, Ashton was the treasurer of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), a British organization, infiltrated by Marxists, which advocated the disarmament of the West in the face of the Soviet Union’s arsenal of SS-20 nuclear missiles. It is almost certain that CND received Soviet funding for its efforts to thwart the policies of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher which would lead to the collapse of the Soviet empire and the liberation of Eastern Europe.

Exactly 20 years after this liberation, at last month’s secret meeting of the governments of the 27 EU member states, Ashton, now a Baroness, was appointed Europe’s Foreign Minister. It came as an insult to the brave men and women who fought and died for Eastern Europe’s liberty in the four decades between 1945 and 1989. Last Wednesday, Nov. 25, Nigel Farage, a British member of the European Parliament (MEP), brought up Ashton’s CND past in a speech in the Parliament. He was shouted down and reprimanded by the Speaker. Farage was told that, if he continued to show “disrespect” for the EU leadership, he would face “disciplinary action.”

[Return to headlines]

Film: Spain: EU Stops Aid, Directors Against Minister

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, NOVEMBER 25 — Brussels has blocked aid to Spain’s film industry for which the contest for access to public contributions, which should have been published in Spain before December 31, will not be announced until next year. The postponement could cause the paralysis of the film industry for the foreseeable future, and is the consequence of the EU decision to push back the request of the Spanish government to approve to measure urgently, leaving the funding without judicial support. Brussels chose to use the ordinary procedures after having examined the recourse presented by a film association to which belong over 200 people from directors, producers, set designers, actors and technicians, against the ministerial text, who consider it against pluralism and cultural diversity because it favours large productions compared to smaller and independent ones. The ruling of the ministry, directed by Angeles Gonzalez-Sinde, who was also a director and head of Spain’s Film Academy, has been bitterly criticised since the publication of the monthly bulletin on October 24 because it states that public aid must be assigned on a central level and not in cooperation with the autonomous communities. For this reason, the filmmaker’s association criticised, it excludes the future contributions to the creation of the audio-visual sector or measures to support exhibitions, leaving films with a budget of less than 600,000 euros out of complementary aid, which would only be able to seek project funding: a maximum of 150,000 euros and in any case not superior to 50% of the total budget. According to the association, which includes some famous directors like Fernando Trueba, Oscar winner for the film Belle Epoque, Javier Rebollo and Salvador Garcia Ruiz, a segment of films that would be difficult to make would be created due to lack of funding from the state. From here came the decision to go to the European seat with the ministerial decision to see if it works against EU norms in the matter and spirit of public aid. As a part of the recourse, the association defined the implementation ordinance as a twisting of the text of the film law approved with parliamentary majority in December 2007. For its part, Spain’s Federation of Audio-Visual Producers, in a letter written to Brussels, expressed its support for the executive decision made in Madrid and that the lack of its implementation would be a catastrophe for Spanish cinema. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Fr. Samir: In Switzerland, Yes Minarets, No to the Muezzin

The referendum on whether to ban the construction of minarets in Switzerland is an opportunity to rethink the use of these architectural elements. Their use to call people to prayer; or the race to make them ever higher, competing with churches, is excluded. Europe must learn to live with Islam, but Islam also has to rethink its life in Europe as a minority.

Rome (AsiaNews) — On 29 November, Swiss voters will be asked to vote in a referendum calling for a ban on the construction of minarets in the country. The proposal is supported by the Swiss People’s Party that fears the minarets are a sign of a progressive Islamization of the Federation. There are about 400 thousand Muslims in Switzerland, the majority originating from Turkey or the Balkans. According to a government inquiry, only 15% of them practice their faith actively. To date, out of about 150 mosques in the country, only five have a minaret.

The discussion on the yes-or-no minarets has polarized the population. Those in favour of the ban rather than the minarets fear a spread of Islam and violence in the neighbourhoods of peaceful communities in Switzerland. The People’s Party quotes the Turkish premier Erdogan according to whom “minarets are the bayonets of Islam”. Those opposed to the ban are worried that it manifests xenophobia and betrays the tradition of openness and freedom in the country. Even the business community is concerned because it has many economic ties with Muslim countries and fear that a ban on minarets will produce a boycott of Swiss products in the markets of the Middle East, which recently recorded a growth of 14%.

The theme of the minarets in Europe, next to cathedrals and skyscrapers, is still an issue that needs to be addressed, given the growth of Islamic presence in the European Union. For Father Samir Khalil Samir the debate is an opportunity to help Europe welcome Islam and for Islam to integrate itself into the life of European society. Here is his expert opinion:

On 29 November in Switzerland will vote on a referendum to ban construction of minarets. How do we tackle this issue? By firstly looking at the facts. In the beginning of Islam there were no minarets. Only three generations later do we see the first ones appear, when watch towers were used to launch the call to prayer. These towers were not too high, to avoid the dispersion of the calling voice. Following this the minaret became increasingly common, until it became a symbolic and aesthetic ornament.

As long as it remains an aesthetic symbol, it can be accepted even in Europe. But if its purpose is to call people to prayer, this will create difficulties: microphones and loudspeakers will need to be powerful enough to be heard high above the horns of cars and traffic. Moreover, if the hours of prayer are being announced this means even those at 4 in the morning. And these times cannot be changed because they are established by God and not man. But this is the impasse: if one accepts that the minarets have microphones and the call to prayer, one must accept that it is also done at 4 am and 10 pm. It must be said that Saudi Arabia has minarets, but without microphones. The reason is that at the time of the Prophet these tools did not exist and therefore should not be used even now.

Yes then to the aesthetic symbol, but no to the muezzin and the call to prayer. Also because during the year, there are times such as Ramadan, in which the prayers are lengthy, such as reading the Koran.

Then the race to be the highest must be eliminated. In Islamic countries (and partly in Europe) the race is on to make the minarets taller than all surrounding buildings, especially churches. But then it would have to be admitted that the underlying reason for the construction of the minaret is to compete. On the other hand, saying it is merely a question of competition is not a good thing either because it ruins coexistence, which is why there is the demand for construction of minarets. If so there must be a minaret, it would be worthwhile for it to be a discreet symbol that meets with the consensus of the local population and surrounding environment.

This discussion on the minaret, the pros and cons, is an example of how to deal with your current situation in Europe, where increasingly there are Muslim communities. But it is also an opportunity for Muslims to rethink what it means to live among you, in a situation of welcome, but also as a minority. And being a minority they can not behave as in all Islamic countries, where they are the majority.

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

Germany: Drunk British Soldier Puts Policewoman in Hospital

A drunken British soldier bashed a German policewoman bloody and senseless in Lower Saxony at the weekend, during a brawl between soldiers and a group of local men, authorities said Sunday.

The 31-year-old policewoman was taken to hospital, a police spokesman said, while the 18-year-old soldier was taken in custody by British military police.

The assault happened in the town of Bad Fallingbostel, where there is a British army base.

The policewoman and a male colleague on patrol came across the brawl between the soldiers and locals. After calling for backup, they tried to break up the men.

But the men fled into a park. As the officers gave chase, the accused soldier allegedly turned on her and punched her repeatedly in the face and around the head.

He also tried to attack the second officer, who came to her rescue, but was stopped by the local men with whom he’d been brawling. The woman was left dazed and bleeding heavily.

Only when the police reinforcements arrived could the drunken soldier be subdued and arrested.

German police took an alcohol reading of the man before handing him over to British military police.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian [Return to headlines]

Government Seeks to Limit Impact of Minaret Ban

The government says voters’ approval of a ban on new minarets reflects fears among the Swiss population of Islamic fundamentalism.

However, it considers a ban is not the right way to prevent extremist tendencies. In an apparent effort to downplay the impact of the result, cabinet ministers maintained religious freedom for Muslims was not at risk and said inter-religious dialogue would continue.

The mood at Sunday’s news conference in the capital Bern was decidedly subdued when three cabinet members appeared before the media to comment on the outcome of the vote and take questions.

“The government is disappointed that it was not possible to convince voters to reject the initiative,” said Economics Minister Doris Leuthard.

In a major upset the proposal by members of rightwing parties won 57.5 per cent of the vote, despite recommendations by the government and a majority in parliament that the initiative be thrown out.

“Emotions were running high during the debate. This ruled out any possibility to show that a ban on minarets is a ‘proxy war’,” said Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf.

“The outcome of the vote is undeniably a reflection of the fears and uncertainties that exist among the population; concerns that Islamic fundamentalist ideas could lead to the establishment of parallel societies,” she added…

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

International Muslim Concern at Minaret Vote

Reaction to the Swiss anti-minaret vote in the wider Islamic community has reflected shock, sadness and concern, but also a determination to try to build bridges.

The vote revealed the hidden fears of many Swiss, and Muslims should respond by trying to build harmony across society, a leading Muslim scholar says.

The reaction of Ali Gomaa, the grand mufti of Egypt, was echoed by a number of other Muslim scholars and commentators whom spoke to outside Switzerland.

“This result should draw our attention to the reality of the hidden fears which have been underestimated by decision makers,” Gomaa told

“We think that priority should be given to meeting the challenge of building societies capable of integrating diversity and difference… and we are ready to give every support to such an effort,” he said.

The grand mufti is the highest official of religious law in a Sunni Muslim country. Gomaa is regarded as a champion of moderate Islam.

“My first reaction is one of surprise and disappointment,” Babacar Ba, the Geneva ambassador of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), told

“It is a bad answer to a bad question. I fear that this kind of thing is simply a gift to extremism and intolerance.”

“I think we must be very vigilant in the face of the upsurge of islamophobia,” he added. “This vote is an open door to the dangerous process of calling fundamental freedoms into question.”


It had been widely expected that the ban would be rejected by voters, but Jaber al-Alawani, a Muslim thinker and director of the Cordoba Institute in the United States, told that he was not surprised.

“Islamophobia is widespread in Europe, all the more so because rightwing extremists see it as a kind of defence of European identity, which they haven’t so far quite been able to define.”

A British Muslim, Imam Abduljalil Sajid, imam of Brighton, and a member of the national executive committee of Interfaith UK, warned that ordinary Muslims were likely to react angrily, even though, as he stressed, the minaret is not a religious requirement.

“It will be seen negatively throughout the Muslim world, [as yet] another problem of Islam versus the West. I don’t want to see it develop negatively, but unfortunately that will be the case,” he told

Palestinian law professor Anwar Abu Aisheh, speaking to the Swiss News Agency, agreed.

“The vote will give arguments to Muslim extremists. They will see a frontal attack against Islam and its symbols,” he warned.

Measured response

Despite the disappointment felt by many Muslims, Gomaa called for a measured response.

“It is really important not to exploit this result wrongly for political ends, but to regard it as a call to build cooperation and harmony between our different religions and societies, in a new spirit,” he said.

Ba agreed on the importance of not over-reacting and of trying to build bridges.

“The main thing is to keep calm and to realise how much work still needs to be done to defend basic freedoms. I think we must do this by … taking a constructive part in the debate on all issues which cause fear and concern, and to try to bring people together in order to confront extremism wherever it comes from.”

Alawani also appealed to Swiss Muslims to keep calm.

“Avoid irrational reactions, and respect the views of the Swiss voters,” he said.

Misfer al-Kahtani, a Muslim thinker from Saudi Arabia agreed. He pointed out that many Swiss had voted against the initiative, but said that the Muslim minorities in Europe had to take into account the fears that many Europeans have about their religion.

“The real challenge is for the Muslim community to accept the decision by Swiss society … and work to change the cliche’s adopted by those who called for the ban on minarets, by showing a good example and applying the ideas and values of Muslim civilisation,” he told


A number of commentators reflected on what the vote said about Switzerland.

“Switzerland is noted for its capacity to integrate culturally diverse components … and article 15 of the Swiss constitution guarantees freedom of conscience and belief,” Gomaa commented.

“This isn’t a show of racism by the Swiss, just an upsurge of selfishness, [they are] worried that nothing should come and trouble their peace,” said law professor Abu Aisheh.

Mohamed Munir al-Ghodban, a Muslim thinker from Syria, pointed out that minarets had nothing to do with the basic tenets of Islam. But he also told that Muslims in Switzerland felt the vote interfered with their religious practices “which contradicts the basic principles of freedom and democracy, which Switzerland has been so proud of for such a long time.”

Praise from European right

“Extreme right groups everywhere, in France, in Holland or anywhere in the world will use this vote in their favour,” Imam Sajid warned, and immediate comments by rightwing leaders bear him out.

There were warm words of praise for the Swiss vote from Italy’s Reform Minister, Roberto Calderoli, who told the Italian news agency ANSA that a clear sign had come from Switzerland: “Yes to church towers, no to minarets”. He said Switzerland should be a model for Italy in this respect.

The head of Austria’s rightwing Freedom Party, quoted by the Austrian news agency, also sees Switzerland as a model, a sentiment echoed by the general secretary of another rightwing party, the Alliance for the Future of Austria.

Marine le Pen, of the French National Front, said in a statement on the party’s website that the Swiss had demonstrated their attachment to their “national identity, their countryside and their culture”, despite calls from the “élites” not to vote in favour of the ban.

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

Italy: Berlusconi Says Would Like to ‘Strangle’ Writers

ROME — Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi would like to “strangle” people who write books or made films about the mafia, he told young supporters of his Forza Italia party on Saturday.

“If I find out who is the maker of the nine seasons of ‘The Octopus’ and who has written books on the mafia, which give such a bad image to Italy across the world, I swear that I will strangle them,” he said.

“The Octopus” — in Italian, “La Piovra” — was a mafia-themed television series aired on RAI public television from 1984 through 2001.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

Minaret Result Seen as “Turning Point”

Swiss voters’ clear decision on Sunday to ban the construction of minarets has generated a wide range of emotions, from stunned joy to rueful concern.

Supporters of the initiative said the Swiss electorate wanted to put a brake on the Islamicisation of their country, whereas opponents were concerned about the violation of rights, not to mention an international backlash and possible boycott of Swiss products.

“Forced marriages and other things like cemeteries separating the pure and impure — we don’t have that in Switzerland and we don’t want to introduce it,” said Ulrich Schlüer, co-president of the Initiative Committee to ban minarets.

Oskar Freysinger, a member of the rightwing Swiss People’s Party and a driving force in the campaign, said he was “stunned and dumbfounded” by Sunday’s result “since the entire establishment was against us”.

“I would like to say to all the Muslims listening that this will in no way change their right to practise their religion, to pray or to gather [in mosques],” he said. “However, society wants to put a safeguard on the political-legal wing of Islam, for which there is no separation between state and religion.”

The president of the People’s Party, Toni Brunner, said voters had clearly rejected the idea of parallel societies and the further expansion of Islam — including radical, political Islam — in Switzerland.

According to final results, 57.5 per cent of voters and a majority of cantons backed the initiative — up from 34 per cent last month. Turnout was high at around 53 per cent.

Brunner said people who settled here had to realise that they couldn’t turn up to work in a head scarf or get special dispensation from swimming lessons.

What’s this?

People’s initiative

Government reaction

The government said in a statement it respected the decision.

For Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf, the outcome reflected fears among the population of Islamic fundamentalist tendencies, “which reject our national traditions and which could disregard our legal order”.

“These concerns have to be taken seriously. The government has always done so and will continue to do so in future. However, we take the view that a ban on the construction of new minarets is not a feasible means of countering extremist tendencies,” she said.

Widmer-Schlumpf underlined that Sunday’s vote was only directed against the construction of new minarets. “It is not a rejection of the Muslim community, religion or culture. Of that the government gives its assurance.”

“Switzerland has lost”

Nevertheless, Saida Keller-Messahli, president of the Forum for an Advanced Islam, said the public’s fears had been too great and “hatred had won over reason”.

She said there would now be legal consequences, since the ban violated the freedom of religion.

The Federation of Islamic Organisations in Switzerland also regretted the result, saying the propaganda of the campaign supporters had succeeded in frightening the majority of voters.

The federation said it was too soon to judge the negative social and legal consequences — what was important now was to strengthen their public relations and clear up any misunderstandings or prejudices concerning Islam.

“Switzerland has lost,” said Rifa’at Lenzin from the European Project for Interreligious Learning in Zurich, adding that the country was “leading the way” for Islamophobia.

Lenzin was only partly surprised by the result, “which corresponds to the current mood”. She said she was astonished, however, that the “subjective and far-fetched arguments” of the minaret opponents had found such great support.

She added that the opponents of the initiative had completely underestimated the situation and that the political parties had been asleep, with only the centre-right Radical Party actively campaigning. The public spaces had been dominated by the campaign supporters, she said.

“ Switzerland is heading straight for a battle with Islam. “

Jacques Neyrinck Swiss values

Reinhard Schulze, a professor of Islamic studies at Bern University, said he was “very surprised” by the acceptance of the initiative.

He described the result as a “turning point”, in that after many years of going in the other direction, voters had once again spoken for an unequal treatment of faiths.

“The next thing is obviously to look at how this plays with international law,” he said, adding that he could already envisage complaints from the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

The Council of Religions, a body comprising Christian churches, Jews and Muslims, said in a statement it regretted the result. People of all faiths must work together even harder, it said, for the respect of rights of freedom, for dialogue with the Muslim community and for integration.

“These are values that make Switzerland strong,” it said.

Swiss image abroad

Looking at political reaction, the centre-left Social Democratic Party warned in a statement against the exclusion of Muslims in Switzerland.

“The yes vote was probably the result of a diffuse fear of a religious minority,” it said.

This fear must be taken seriously, it added, but it must not be misinterpreted as a vote of mistrust against all Muslims living in Switzerland.

The party said it was also concerned about Switzerland’s image abroad, saying that a foreign ministry offensive was clearly necessary, along with stronger integration efforts at all state levels.

Jacques Neyrinck from the centre-right Christian Democratic Party stressed that Switzerland would be the only country in the world to ban the construction of minarets.

“Switzerland is heading straight for a battle with Islam,” he said, adding that he feared a boycott of Swiss products.

“Dirty campaign”

The four minarets already attached to mosques in the country are not affected by the initiative, and the president of the Islamic community in Langenthal, canton Bern, assumed his organisation would be able to add a minaret to their mosque since it had already been approved.

Mutalip Karaademi said he was disappointed by the strong level of support and the “dirty campaign”, describing Muslims and Islamists and terrorists.

But Langenthal mayor Thomas Rufener, from the People’s Party, said he didn’t think the minaret would be built “for political reasons”.

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

Sweden-Finlad: “Now the Pages in the National Encyclopaedia Regarding Inland Ice Can be Torn Out and Burned”

People lived in the Torne River Valley on the border with Sweden and Finland some 11,000 years ago, an important new archaeological find has shown.

The settlement, found near Pajala in the far north of Sweden, are the oldest known find in the county of Norrbotten, according to the archaeologist Olof Östlund.

The find was uncovered when archaeologists were searching for ancient remains in the area around Kaunisvaar near Pajala where a new mine is set to open, according to a report in local newspaper Norrländska Socialdemokraten.

“Now the pages in the National Encyclopaedia regarding inland ice can be torn out and burned,” Östlund told the newspaper.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

Swedish Meats Chair Quits Over Pig Scandal

Lars Hultström has resigned as chair of Swedish Meats and all other leadership positions. Hultström owns one of the pig farms at the heart of an animal rights scandal.

In addition to resigning as the chair of Swedish Meats, an association representing more than 17,000 livestock farmers in Sweden, Hultström has also resigned his posts at Sveriges Grisproducenter, and association representing Sweden’s pig farmers, and the Federation of Swedish Farmers (LRF) as well as several other agricultural associations.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

Taxed for Living

Forget taxes on income or consumption, the ultimate in regressive taxation is a tax simply for living. ObamaCare’s mandatory health insurance or fine helps pioneer the notion that people should be taxed just for being alive. In his interview with George Stephanopoulos, Obama called his health care tax a fine. Which would then mean that the United States government is now fining people for living.

Democratic politicians from Obama on down have used the trite metaphor of a driver’s license. But a driver’s license is based on a choice. You can choose to buy a car or not. You can’t however choose to be alive, or rather you can but the only alternative is death. That essentially makes ObamaCare a tax or a fine just for living. Which can’t help but seem like a gateway arch to euthanasia, expressing a value system that sees human life itself as an unwanted nuisance at best and an offense at worst.

The stated rationale that people have to be fined ahead of time for the costs that their illness might impose on the government is not only unconstitutional, but a dangerous slippery slope. If we are going to tax people for their potential illnesses, why not tax parents of newborns for the potential expenses that their children will run up. This notion has already been percolating among some global warming agitators, which means that it will make it to congress sooner or later. Furthermore under the same rationale used for mandatory health insurance, women might be given a choice between using birth control or paying a potential child tax. If you think that’s far-fetched, you haven’t listened to the strident rhetoric of environmentalists pushing Zero Population Growth programs.

That is only one of a thousand possible examples where the slippery slope of fining people for being alive and a potential expense for the government can take us. Once we assume that the government can fine or tax people just for being alive or a potential liability, by the same logic it becomes possible to tax the elderly who have a higher probability of needing medical services. Similarly anyone above the government recommended weight can be taxed or fined based on the potential health problems they might cause. Such an approach would fall into line with the philosophy of Obama Regulatory Czar Cass Sunstein’s book, Nudge.

Essentially it would create on the one hand a whole new range of sin taxes targeting anything the government’s social monkeyers disapprove of, and on the other tax people for potential expenses they might incur, fleecing the sheep two ways for the benefit of an ever-expanding government bureaucracy constantly running short of new revenue sources. Essentially the US would turn into the EU with a government boot in everyone’s face, forever.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UK: Church of England Set to Lose a Tenth of Its Clergy in Five Years

The Church of England is facing the loss of as many as one in ten paid clergy in the next five years and internal documents seen by The Times admit that the traditional model of a vicar in every parish is over.

The credit crunch and a pension funding crisis have left dioceses facing massive restructuring programmes. Church statistics show that between 2000 and 2013 stipendiary or paid clergy numbers will have fallen by nearly a quarter.

According to figures on the Church of England website, there will be an 8.3 per cent decrease in paid clergy in the next four years, from 8,400 this year to 7,700 in to 2013. This represents a 22.5 per cent decrease since 2000. If this trend continues in just over 50 years there will be no full-time paid clergy left in Britain’s 13,000 parishes serving 16,000 churches.

Jobs will instead be filled by unpaid part-timers, giving rise to fears about the quality of parish ministry. Combined with a big reduction in churchgoing, the figures will add weight to the campaign for disestablishment.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UK: Home-Grown Terrorism: Our Values Are Not Optional for Minority Groups

It would be better if we enforced Britain’s cultural values on immigrant communities, rather than allowing them to dictate government policy

by Janet Daley

How do you create a home-grown terrorist? For a while, Britain seemed to hold the copyright on the formula for this. First, you import a huge number of people from places where there are unresolved historical conflicts, with no stipulation that they learn anything about their adopted homeland (not even its language). Then you make no attempt to integrate these groups — which are large enough to constitute self-sustaining communities — into the culture and political traditions of the country that is now their home, nor do you advise the schools to inculcate any sense of pride or pleasure in the new national identity to which they are entitled. Indeed, you do precisely the opposite of this: you positively encourage not only the incomers themselves but their British-born children to maintain a separate, inward-looking ethnic community that stands apart from the mainstream life of the society and whose values may conflict with it.

So eager are you to show that you accept other cultures whose attitudes and assumptions (on, for example, the treatment of women) are opposed to the official values of your society, that you benevolently overlook what is being taught in their schools even when those schools are being supported by government funding. When your Government is caught in the act of having provided such funding, as happened last week with schools in Slough and Haringey, both of which had a history of links with the Muslim extremist organisation Hizb ut-Tahrir, the ensuing row is on purely technical points: which school officials held, or were connected to people who held, actual positions in the organisation on what dates? The question of whether schools with an explicitly separatist ethos should qualify as providing acceptable basic education is not even addressed.

So there it is: an instant recipe for estrangement and alienation that can turn (or be turned), in susceptible personalities under the right circumstances, into terrorist fodder. Until recently, as I say, we led the world in this particular specialism: the United States in particular was inclined to believe that the phenomenon of the native (as opposed to foreign) terrorist was a peculiarly British problem, which is why it introduced additional security measures to apply to visa-waiver UK passport holders.

But the US, having been confident that it was a country that knew what was required for the successful absorption of immigrant groups, has now produced a home-grown terrorist of its own, and the controversy that this event has inspired is not irrelevant to our debate (to the extent that we are permitted to have one) in Britain.

When the Muslim American Major Nidal Malik Hasan opened fire at Fort Hood, he did not just murder his military colleagues: he killed the American illusion that “it couldn’t happen here”. And he unleashed an argument not just on practical topics such as racial profiling but on the much wider question of how much America’s foreign policy decisions — how it should conduct itself in Iraq and Afghanistan, for example — should be influenced by the feelings of minority groups within the US itself.

This dispute revolves around the personality of Major Hasan: was he just an unbalanced individual for whom Islamic fundamentalism was nothing more than a delusional pretext for a psychotic break? This account has gained favour in Left-wing American circles for fairly obvious reasons: it allows Islamic fundamentalism to become simply an unwitting accomplice to the act, rather than its actual cause, and the act itself to be seen as a random, unreasoning crime rather than a terrorist attack. No big national problem here: just a nutter whose instability should have been spotted sooner but whose religious-cum-political “motives” can be ignored.

According to commentators on the Right, such as Charles Krauthammer, this thesis is a pernicious attempt to “medicalise” Major Hasan’s crime in the interests of avoiding any implication that there was a meaningful connection between his Islamic religious beliefs and his act. By defining the act as literally meaningless (insane), defenders of the liberal orthodoxy are not taxed by the problem of how to deal with a possibly murderous minority within their own country.

The Left-liberal camp is now in the rather uncomfortable position of holding two contradictory interpretations of Major Hasan’s actions. There is the one that Mr Krauthammer describes: this incident is a one-off act of lunacy, so the fact that Hasan was a Muslim is of no importance (even if he thinks it was — after all, he is insane).

But the other argument made by the Left puts Hasan’s religion at the centre of his action: Muslims, even ones born and bred in the US, are being driven to violence by American foreign policy. It is the perceived American assault on Islamic peoples and countries that is responsible for pushing borderline personalities — who have been made susceptible by their cultural introversion — into extreme associations. So the conclusion is roughly this: the only possible way to avoid radicalising any more vulnerable, borderline psychotics who happen to be Muslims is to change our foreign policy so as not to inflame their hyperactive sensitivities.

Quite apart from the question of whether any ethnic group should be allowed to dictate government policy under the threat of violence, isn’t there a bizarre precedent here? Suppose an element within the animal rights lobby were to engage in a programme of major urban terrorism and threaten to persist until the consumption of meat was banned. Would we seriously entertain the idea that to continue to sell meat was an inexcusable provocation to a dangerous, unstable minority? And can there be any certainty about the causes of such provocation among Muslims? The grievances of Palestinians are the most frequently cited source of global Islamic anger, but most of the Pakistani recruits to Islamic fundamentalism in Britain have closer links with the Kashmiri cause than to any problems in Gaza. Add to this that a good few of those convicted of terrorist acts have been converts (such as Richard Reid, the shoe bomber) who had no inherited ties to any Muslim country.

What a miasma of moral confusion we are succumbing to — all for the sake of avoiding a question that must be asked: how does a liberal society cope with a minority in whose name acts of violence are carried out in its midst? Surely the answer must involve a much more muscular liberalism: a robust belief in the values that permit people of different beliefs to live together peaceably and an unapologetic determination to enforce those values in every quarter of the country.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

UK: Heads or Tails? One of These £1 Coins is a Fake.

Today every one in 40 is a counterfeit

In 2002, one in every 109 £1 coins was a fake. Today it’s one in 40. A former counterfeiter reveals how to spot the fake in your pocket… and asks the question: bearing in mind you can’t swap one for legal tender, would you throw yours in the bin?

In May a Liverpool businessman was jailed for producing 200,000 fake £1 coins. Mohmed Maljee had such confidence in the coins that he used a sidekick to deposit them in local banks before they were arrested in September 2006. The 39-year-old had the perfect cover: he owned a chain of petrol stations through which he would launder the counterfeit coins. Detectives believe that £200,000 was only the tip of the iceberg.

One of the reasons for their certainty that Maljee lay at the centre of a wider conspiracy was a discovery made in August last year, when two Albanians were stopped in a Hounslow car park after police noticed their Renault van was overloaded. Inside they found five oil drums packed with counterfeit £1 coins worth £125,000. Soca alerted Merseyside Police to the potential connection and it was discovered that the Hounslow coins were identical to those found in Maljee’s storeroom.

[Return to headlines]

Women Lead Swiss in Vote to Ban Minarets

People are worried about minarets dominating the Swiss skyline

Matthew Campbell

A right-wing campaign to outlaw minarets on mosques in a referendum being held in Switzerland today has received an unlikely boost from radical feminists arguing that the tower-like structures are “male power symbols” and reminders of Islam’s oppression of women.

A “stop the minarets” campaign has provoked ferment in the land of Heidi, where women are more likely than men to vote for the ban after warnings from prominent feminists that Islam threatens their rights.

Forget about tranquil Alpine scenery and cowbells: one of the most startling features of the referendum campaign has been a poster showing a menacing woman in a burqa beside minarets rising from the Swiss flag.

It seems to have struck a nerve in Langenthal, a small town near Bern where Muslims plan to put up a minaret next to their prayer room in a bleak former paint factory.

“If we give them a minaret, they’ll have us all wearing burqas,” said Julia Werner, a local housewife. “Before you know it, we’ll have sharia law and women being stoned to death in our streets. We won’t be Swiss any more.”

A spoof video game on the internet called Minaret Attack shows minarets popping up all over the idyllic Swiss countryside, after which a message proclaims: “Game over! Switzerland is covered in minarets. Vote to ban them on November 29.”

“It’s a dirty campaign,” said Mutalip Karaademi, an Albanian who leads Langenthal’s small Muslim community. “They’re trying to provoke us.”

A poll suggested the Swiss would narrowly reject a ban but the feminist involvement is having an effect: according to one poll, 39% of women were in favour of a ban, but only 31% of men.

Tatiana, a teacher who had previously voted for the left, was quoted in a newspaper as saying she would vote for the minaret ban as she could “no longer bear being mistreated and terrorised by boys who believe women are worthless”.

Socialist politicians have been furious to see icons of the left joining what is regarded as an anti-immigrant campaign by the populist Swiss People’s party, the biggest group in parliament.

One of them, Julia Onken, warned that failure to ban minarets would be “a signal of the state’s acceptance of the oppression of women”. She has sent out 4,000 emails attacking Muslims who condone forced marriage, honour killings and beating women.

Swiss business is horrified. There are fears of a reaction against Swiss products similar to the one suffered by Denmark over the publication of cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad in 2005.

“The brand ‘Swiss’ must continue to represent values such as openness, pluralism and freedom of religion,” said Hanspeter Rentsch, a member of the board of Swatch, the watchmaker.

The government, for its part, is worried about reprisals plunging Switzerland into the front line of the war against terror. Micheline Calmy-Rey, the foreign minister, said a yes vote “could make Switzerland a target for Islamic terrorism”.

With a Muslim population of 400,000 and some 150 mosques and prayer rooms, the Swiss thought they had avoided the kind of tensions that have arisen over Muslims’ rights in bigger neighbouring countries such as France and Germany.

That changed in 2006, however, when a Sikh temple, complete with a gleaming white crown, was inaugurated in Langenthal. Karaademi appears to have been struck with cupola envy.

“I said to myself: why not us?” he recalled last week, adding that he had applied for a permit to build what would be Switzerland’s fifth minaret and permission had been quickly granted.

Encouraged by this, Muslim communities all over the country began applying for permits to put up their own minarets, regardless of the fact that noise regulations prevent the towers from fulfilling their traditional function of calling the faithful to prayer.

People began to worry about minarets dominating the Swiss skyline.

“They felt threatened,” said Patrick Freudiger, a Conservative MP who likes to remember a comment by Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish prime minister, who once described minarets as the “bayonets” of the Muslim faith. “Minarets are symbolic of a quest for political and religious power,” Freudiger said.

A similar battle has been raging in Germany over plans to build one of Europe’s biggest mosques in the shadow of Cologne cathedral. The Danes are also locked in debate over plans for two grand mosques in Copenhagen.

In an initiative that would please Switzerland’s antiminaret campaigners, an Italian town seized the headlines last week by putting up signs banning women from wearing the burqa in public.

“If we ban the minarets, that won’t help communication between us,” said Thomas Ruefener, the mayor of Langenthal. “And immigration will continue all the same.”

Referendum or not, the arguments seem likely to continue. “In Switzerland,” said Hisham Maizer, president of the Swiss Federation of Islamic Organisations, “the debate about Islam is only just beginning.”

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

Mediterranean Union

Transport: Euromed Aviation, Extend Accords With EU

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, NOVEMBER 26 — “What we would like to do is to extend bilateral accords with the EU to the largest number of countries possible and over the long term we also have a multilateral outlook,” said Europeaid’s Roel Hoenders in summing up the outcome of the latest Brussels meeting of the Euro-med aviation project, which aims to promote a common air space between the EU and Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, the Palestinian Territories, Syria, Tunisia and Turkey. The project is financed by the European Union through the Euro Med Transport programme. The project is developing a road map for the creation of the Euro-Med Common Aviation Area (EMCAA). “At the moment there is no deadline,” said Hoenders, “but we have expressed our intention as a group, not only as the European Commission but also as partner countries, to stipulate bilateral accords and, once these are ready, also multilateral ones.” For the time being it is difficult to make a rough estimate of which Mediterranean countries will be the first to bring in a common air space with the EU. However, the European Commission has received authorisation from the Council to negotiate accords with Tunisia, Jordan, Lebanon and Israel. In pole position there is still Morocco, which activated the first bilateral accord of a country with EU-Med area in 2006.(ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egyptian State Security Accused of Cover-Up in Muslim Riots

by Mary Abdelmassih

Cairo (AINA) — In an effort to cover up the Muslim mob violence against the Copts which broke out last week in the town of Farshoot and neighboring villages (AINA 11-22-2009, 11-23-2009), and in view of the complete news blackout imposed by the Egyptian government, Egyptian State Security has intensified its pressure on the Coptic Church in Nag Hammadi and the victims of the violence into accepting extrajudicial reconciliation with the perpetrators, and opening their businesses without any compensation. Similar State Security scenarios have been experienced by Copts in all sectarian incidents in the past, in which they always come out as losers, having been forced to give up civil and criminal charges, while the criminals get away scot-free.

“There will be no reconciliation before full financial compensation has been paid to the Coptic victims, and the criminals are brought to justice, so that safety and security can be restored to the district,” said Bishop Kirollos of the Nag Hammadi Diocese.

Free Copts reported that Bishop Kirollos has sent his grievance to President Mubarak, the Prime Minister , the People’s Assembly and the Shura Council, asking for speedy financial compensation to the Coptic victims.

In solidarity with the affected businessmen, the remaining Farshoot Coptic merchants have closed their shops in protest.

It has been reported that orders were given to the police in Farshoot by Qena State Security not to issue police reports to the victims; instead, they have to travel 60 KM away to make their reports with the Attorney General in Qena. The authorities have not yet carried out estimates of the losses in spite of several demands made by the Church.

It is estimated that 10 pharmacies and 55 shops and businesses in Farshoot, Abu Shousha, Kom Ahmar and el-Aaraky were looted, vandalized and torched, with total losses exceeding 5 million Egyptian Pounds (1 million USD).

State Security has been putting pressure on the Church to convince the victims to open their stores, “despite the fact that they were told that the victims have no money to clean up and decorate their shops after being looted, vandalized and torched by Muslims, nor the money to buy stock,” Bishop Kirollos told activist Wagih Yacoub of the Middle East Christian Association (MECA). “Having failed to make me bend to their pressure, State Security has tried putting pressure on the victims, but without success. I told them that no pharmacy or shop will be opened before the rights of my children in the Diocese are fully restored.”

Having failed to get results from the Church, State Security has drawn in the help of the area’s members of parliament. “They are trying to pacify the people by holding conferences, to make the matter ‘go to sleep’, so that they would escape paying any compensation to the victims,” he commented. “But I am now sending a message to the parliament members: ‘If you don’t support the Christians, the Christians will boycott the coming elections.’ Let them look for someone else to make them win.”

People who were forced to attend those conferences said that they were told that having to close down their businesses “does not look good to the outside world, and would harm the reputation of Egypt on the international level.”

One other pressure tactic often used successfully by the State Security to enforce its decisions on the Church is taking into custody innocent Copts and using them as “hostages” in what has come to be know as their “Let go and I will let go” policy.

“State Security has taken into custody fours Copts who were victims of the violence, they were told they would be detained until they forfeit their claims and sign a ‘reconciliation’ note, so as to make it appear as a case of personal differences between individuals,” Bishop Kirollos told Free Copts.

A fact-finding commission of rights activists and journalists was refused entry on November 22, 2009 into the affected areas by State Security. “We were escorted to the Farshoot chief detective, Essam Ghanem, who cautioned us not to try to estimate the losses or take photos, and we were asked to leave town, otherwise charges will be brought against us,” said activist Rafat Samir. “The pretext they gave us was that we are strangers to the town, and when we asked him who gave such orders, he said it was from a higher authority.”

In an interview with Free Copts, Bishop Kirollos said “We gave the authorities the names of two of the perpetrators who are ex-convicts from Farshoot, they arrested then released them. They are the masterminds behind the latest attacks, and their presence presents a danger to us.”

Commenting on the deportation of 35 Coptic families from the villages of Kom Ahmar and Ezbet Sherif, he said “State Security told me that they fear for their safety, so I told them why don’t you protect them? If they wanted to protect them, they could have easily done that. State Security is mighty. However, after the families left, Muslims looted their homes and completely destroyed two of them.”

Many Copts believe that the increase in the deportation of Copts whenever there is a Muslim-Christian incident, is an objective of the government to migrate Copts from Upper Egypt, where they constitute the largest congregations of Christians in Egypt.

The violence that took place in Farshoot and the neighboring villages on November 21, 2009, was prompted by a rumor that the Copt Guirgis Baroumi allegedly sexually abused a 12-year-old Muslim girl. Although the girl’s family agreed with the Church to wait for the police investigations, a mob of nearly 3000 Muslims, mainly students from Al-Azhar Institute in Farshoot, incited by their Principal, went on a rampage of looting and burning Coptic-owned properties. “The family of the involved Muslim girl did not join in.” Bishop Kirollos told Free Copts.

Coptic Organizations in the Diaspora issued a joint communiquÃ(c) on November 25, 2009 condemning the attacks on Farshoot and the neighboring villages as well as the role of the State Security for failing to protect the Coptic citizens. The statement appealed to all human rights organizations in the world to join them in condemning the Egyptian government, and in protecting the Christians in Egypt from the war of systematic extermination waged against them, implementing the Wahhabi policy which is “against everything that is non-Muslim.”

[Return to headlines]

Egypt: France Grants 500,000 Books to Bibliotheca Alexandrina

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, NOVEMBER 27 — France has granted half a million books to the Bibliotheca Alexandrina (BA), Mena reported. France will hand over to Egypt a copy from all the books that were published during the period 1996 to 2006, the French culture ministry said Thursday. The first consignment, comprising 35,000 books, will arrive in Egypt on Monday from Marseilles, the ministry said. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Chavez: ‘Israel Aims to Wipe Out Palestinians’

In a meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Friday night, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez accused Israel of aiming to “exterminate” the Palestinians.

Standing beside Abbas at the presidential palace, Chavez saluted the Palestinians for what he called their “fight against the Yankee empire … against the genocidal state of Israel, which attacks, which kills, which attempts to exterminate the Palestinian people.”

Abbas thanked the Chavez government for its support and said: “We’re all on the same path.”

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

Israel: Orthodox Jews Spitting on Christians

News stories about young Jewish bigots in the Old City spitting on Christian clergy — who make conspicuous targets in their long dark robes and crucifix symbols around their necks — surface in the media every few years or so. It’s natural, then, to conclude that such incidents are rare, but in fact they are habitual. Anti-Christian Orthodox Jews, overwhelmingly boys and young men, have been spitting with regularity on priests and nuns in the Old City for about 20 years, and the problem is only getting worse.

“My impression is that Christian clergymen are being spat at in the Old City virtually every day. This has been constantly increasing over the last decade,” said Daniel Rossing. An observant, kippa-wearing Jew, Rossing heads the Jerusalem Center for Jewish-Christian Relations and was liaison to Israel’s Christian communities for the Ministry of Religious Affairs in the ‘70s and ‘80s.

For Christian clergy in the Old City, being spat at by Jewish fanatics “is a part of life,” said the American Jewish Committee’s Rabbi David Rosen, Israel’s most prominent Jewish interfaith activist.

“I hate to say it, but we’ve grown accustomed to this. Jewish religious fanatics spitting at Christian priests and nuns has become a tradition,” said Roman Catholic Father Massimo Pazzini, sitting inside the Church of the Flagellation on the Via Dolorosa.

These are the very opposite of isolated incidents. Father Athanasius of the Christian Information Center called them a “phenomenon.” George Hintlian, the unofficial spokesman for the local Armenian community and former secretary of the Armenian Patriarchate, said it was “like a campaign.”

Christians in Israel are a small, weak community known for “turning the other cheek,” so these Jewish xenophobes feel free to spit on them; they don’t spit on Muslims in the Old City because they’re afraid to, the clerics noted.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Middle East

Bilingual Road Signs in Turkey’s Kurdish Villages

DIYARBAKIR, Kurdish Southeastern region of Turkey, — The first bilingual road signs in Turkish and Kurdish have been erected in Turkey’s southeast as part of efforts by Ankara to win over its restive minority, an AFP reporter observed Thursday.

The direction signs feature the names in both languages of villages around Diyarbakir, the largest city of the Kurdish-majority region which has been the scene of a bloody insurgency since 1984.

The initiative was spearheaded by the Diyarbakir municipality, which is held by the Democratic Society Party, Turkey’s main Kurdish political movement.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

Expert Calls for a ‘Greener’ Hajj

An Islamic expert is calling on Muslims to reduce the environmental impact of Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca.

Dr Mawil Izzidien of the University of Wales, Lampeter, says the event is beset by wasted and misused resources.

He has called on Muslims to avoid air travel to Saudi Arabia where possible and stay in less luxury while there.

The Muslim Council of Wales said avoiding air travel and good hotels was unrealistic but agreed “a practical look” at the event’s future was needed.

Between 25-30 November around two million Muslims will converge on Mecca — the holiest place in Islam — to take part in an event which combines piety and passion.

One of the pillars of the Islamic faith, every adult Muslim must undertake Hajj at least once in their life if they can afford it and are physically able.

Many Muslims save for years in order to perform the pilgrimage, often having to travel thousands of miles to do so.

Dr Izzidien, a reader in Islamic Studies who has written about the environmental dimensions of the pilgrimage, said the main green issue surrounding Hajj was “to encourage Muslims to reduce the number of trips towards Mecca if they can.”

He said: “Rather than travelling twice, or performing Hajj twice, if they have done the first one then there is no need to do the second one.”

Funds to be used for a second Hajj would be better used helping other Muslims make the journey, or to tackle poverty in the world, he suggested.

Dr Izzidien also focused on the luxurious way in which he said many Muslims travel to, and stay in, Saudi Arabia.

“They travel by first class airplanes and when they arrive in Mecca they live like they are living in a five star hotel, and they pay lots of money to do that,” he said.

“Hajj is really all about travelling with difficulty. It is encouraged within Islam that the best Hajj is that which is performed with difficulty. The more difficulty a person has, the more reward he will have.

“Of course we are not saying that to travel from Africa or from Europe to Mecca on foot, but to reduce the amount of cost and carbon footprint is in many ways important.

“Maybe groups of pilgrims can perform Hajj by travelling by sea rather than by travelling by air. If they use a ship in order to travel from their location to Mecca, or to Jeddah and then to Mecca, that would reduce the environmental cost of Hajj.”

The amount of food wasted during Hajj, and the wastage of meat from sacrificed sheep are other issues which need addressing, Dr Izzidien said, though he added that the local organisers were to be commended for their efforts so far to make the event more environmentally friendly.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian [Return to headlines]

Hizbollah Fears Al-Qaeda

The primary concern for Hizbollah’s security wing at the moment has been a reported influx of Sunni jihadists from across the region who are drawn to Lebanon because of its poor internal security, proximity to Israel and its large population of Shiites, said the military wing official.

“The Qa’eda guys want to target us, you can see their statements on the internet about targeting the Islamic Resistance in Lebanon,” he said.. “Now we are seeing new things in many of the Sunni neighbourhoods: Women wearing the niqab, men who dress like Afghans or Pakistanis. We have put many of them under surveillance, but we know that real Qa’eda guys will cut their beards and dress as westerners to avoid us.

“We can’t really stop their first attack, if they decide to do a suicide bombing in the southern suburbs or near our facilities,” he added. “But we can make sure it’s only one attack. Lebanon is very small and doesn’t have many Salafist Sunnis, so we could shut them down and kill them all if we need to.”

The increased security procedures include mandating rigorous background checks for foreign workers employed anywhere near Hizbollah’s key power centres.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

Report: Suleiman to Meet Obama Next Month

President Michel Suleiman is expected to visit Washington next month for talks with U.S. President Barack Obama and other top officials, pan-Arab daily al-Hayat reported on Sunday.

The newspaper quoted diplomatic sources as saying that Suleiman will arrive in Washington on December 10 for a four-day visit.

The Lebanese president had met Obama in September on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly meetings in New York.

Al-Hayat said that Suleiman asked for an official meeting with Obama and the White House set the date for December.

Preparations are underway for an official and media delegation to accompany Suleiman to the U.S., according to the daily.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

Suleiman: Lebanon Has Right to Use All Legitimate Means to Liberate Lands

BEIRUT, Nov. 21 (Saba)- President Michel Suleiman said Saturday Lebanon has the right to resist to liberate its occupied lands through all legitimate means and available capabilities, according to Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) as reported on Saturday.

Suleiman, in a televised address on the eve of the Independence Day, said the collective will of the Lebanese people succeeded in confronting the Israeli aggression and liberate most of the occupied lands. This will, he added, has confronted terrorism.

Suleiman said Lebanon has the right to resist by all legitimate means to liberate the rest of its lands.

He said there should be a plan to reject any form of settlement for the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, but to work on clearning the Lebanese-Palestinian elations.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

Turkey: ‘Valley of the Wolves’ Hopes to Spark More Nationalism

In a line of TV series and movie adaptations, ‘Kurtlar Vadisi’ (Valley of the Wolves) franchise continues with a new movie. ‘Kurtlar Vadisi — Gladio’ hopes to follow the footsteps of its predecessors, aiming straight at the heart of frustrated crowds with a newfound nationalistic angst who can’t get more of deep state conspiracies.

The phenomenon that is “Valley of the Wolves” once again hopes to cash in on Turkey’s recent agenda of conspiracies of the “deep state” fuelled by the Ergenekon investigation, and draw frustrated crowds with a newfound nationalistic angst to movie theaters.

“Kurtlar Vadisi — Gladio” is yet another movie adaptation from the immensely popular Turkish TV series “Kurtlar Vadisi” (Valley of the Wolves), that ran for three seasons from 2003 with almost 100 episodes.

The cult TV series was created by director Osman Sinav, establishing a leading man in the image of a mafia-macho Turkish guy, admired by the unemployed and frustrated young men all over Turkey. Polat Alemdar (portrayed by Necati Sasmaz) was the Turkish equivalent of “24’s” Jack Bauer, entangled in the deep state, disguised as a mafia boss. Short and ordinary looking, Polat has a self-defined sense of justice that included hanging traitors in the city center of Istanbul.

“Kurtlar Vadisi” became an instant hit with its references to Turkish politics, its unabashed abuse of social sensitivities on patriotism, and with unprecedented scenes of violence that included assassination and torture on television. Not unlike John Woo’s “Face/Off,” an undercover Turkish agent goes through a set of plastic surgeries to infiltrate the mafia, along with a gunman who walks surefooted in this muddy underworld. The two go through ordeals of every kind for Polat to become the next baron so that he can break them apart.

The series had reached such a cult status that many young men officially changed their names to Polat Alemdar. The hype eventually got so big that the final episodes featured Andy Garcia as the big American mafia boss and Sharon Stone as his wife, eventually lending a kiss to our hero.

Polat travels to Iraq

Then came the movie “Kurtlar Vadisi — Irak” (Valley of the Wolves — Iraq) in 2006, the most expensive Turkish movie to date. The new installment in the franchise told the story of hero Polat Alemdar’s fight against the “evil” U.S. troops in Iraq. The movie opened in 14 countries, drawing an audience of over 2 million in less than two weeks in Turkey. When the movie version, with a storyline different from the series, came to screens with the anticipated hype, teenage boys all over Turkey found their way to movie theaters. For some of them, it was their first time in a cinema.

“Kurtlar Vadisi — Irak” based its story on real-life events that took place in Sulaimaniya during the occupation of Iraq, where 11 Turkish soldiers were detained by U.S. troops. Pictures of them with sacks over their heads were not taken lightly by the Turkish public at the time. The film showed Polat Alemdar and his men going to northern Iraq to fight with U.S. troops and avenge the honor of Turkish soldiers.

The cast included Hollywood actors Billy Zane and Gary Busey as the evil Americans. In terms of technical standards, the movie played above average, with impressive visual effects. But when it came to dramatic structure, the film was in shambles. Stereotypical does not explain the heroic Turks against the evil Americans. The one-dimensional, cardboard characters made ‘Rambo’ stand as a respectable war movie. In the movie, American soldiers raided a wedding, they shot innocent people, a Jewish doctor sold organs to rich people in the West, and they tortured the war prisoners. You can guess where all these led up to with our hero Polat in charge.

The enemy within

“Kurtlar Vadisi — Gladio” comes to theaters in the heat of the Ergenekon investigation, an alleged ultra-nationalistic organization with ties in the military, media and justice, and accused of terrorism, a media-favorite for the last six months. The film puts a peripheral character in the series at its center, Iskender Büyük (as ridiculous as it can get, his name translates as Alexander Great), a deep throat claiming that he knows the answers to such deep state secrets on the terrorist organization the Kurdish Workers’ Party, or PKK, coups in the last half-a-century, and alleged assassinations against a previous president, all stories bearing close resemblances to real events.

This time, however, U.S. is portrayed not as evil to be defeated but a reckoning force that puts an immediate halt to impending coups. The movie features a plethora of plot holes, inconsistencies within the script, with real time events, and with its predecessors. Those who are hoping for impressive action scenes like in “Kurtlar Vadisi — Irak” go home empty-handed as well.

The film, as everything else in the “Kurtlar Vadisi” franchise, feeds on the emerging neo-nationalist sentiments, reactions to the pro-Islamist government, and Turkey’s position with the European Union and the new world order. Nationalism in Turkey, more often than not, gains its power through creation and recreation of enemies. Turkish cinema history has had its fair share of enemies, from Byzantines and Vikings to Amazons and even aliens. It was time for a contemporary enemy. Now the Americans seem outdated as well, the enemy within seems to be the best option.

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

UK: Woman Fights for Son Taken by Sharia Court

Mrs Jones says her son was “kidnapped” while visiting his Arab relatives in the Gulf state eight weeks ago. She claims she was tricked into signing legal documents she did not understand.

Mrs Jones, a former bank executive who lives in Bahrain, has been told after a series of Sharia hearings that she is no longer the legal guardian of Adam. With the backing of human rights campaigners she is now seeking to have the case transferred to Qatar’s civil courts.

Last week she was allowed to meet Adam for the first time since he was taken away. During the tearful encounter she says the boy, who suffers from dyspraxia, begged to return home with his mother.

Mrs Jones, 43, who is originally from Sheffield, moved to Bahrain 25 years ago where her father worked for the Merchant Navy. She married Adam’s father, Jamal Al Madhaiki, in 1998. They were divorced the following year but remained on good terms until he was killed in a motorcycle accident in 2005.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

South Asia

British Tip Off Led to Arrest of US Mumbai Suspect David Headley

David Coleman Headley, also known as Daood Sayed Gilani, made frequent visits to the Indian city where he mixed with the Bollywood set as a cover for his activities, it is claimed.

He joined a local gym in the upmarket Breach Candy area and stayed at the Taj Mahal hotel, one of the targets, in April and May 2007.

In fact, according to a US indictment, Headley, 49, was a freelance reconnaissance agent for terrorist groups including Lashkar-e-Taiba, the group behind the Mumbai attacks a year ago that killed 173 people.

Sources have told the Daily Telegraph that the British collected vital information that identified Headley, a US citizen living in Chicago who was arrested in October. They declined to give further details for operational reasons.

British intelligence was responsible for the arrest of another US terrorist suspect, Najibullah Zazi, 24, who was allegedly planning attacks on the New York subway when he was arrested in Denver in September.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

Indonesia Minister Says Immorality Causes Disasters

A government minister has blamed Indonesia’s recent string of natural disasters on people’s immorality.

Communication and Information Minister Tifatul Sembiring said that there were many television programmes that destroyed morals.

Therefore, the minister said, natural disasters would continue to occur.

His comments came as he addressed a prayer meeting on Friday in Padang, Sumatra, which was hit by a powerful earthquake in late September.

He also hit out at rising decadence — proven, he said, by the availability of Indonesia-made pornographic DVDs in local markets — and called for tougher laws.

According to the Jakarta Globe, his comments sparked an angry reaction on the internet, particularly among those who followed him on social networking site Twitter.

Why focus on public immorality when there was so much within the government, one respondent reportedly asked.

More than 1,000 people died in the Padang earthquake, which toppled hundreds of buildings in and around the city.

Padang lies to the south of Aceh province, which was devastated in the December 2004 Asian tsunami.

Indonesia lies across a series of geological fault-lines and is prone to frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian [Return to headlines]

Mount Everest to Host Nepal Cabinet Meeting

Nepal is to hold a cabinet meeting on Mount Everest to highlight the threat global warming poses to glaciers.

On 4 December prime minister Madhav Kumar Nepal and those politicians physically fit enough will ascend 17,192ft (5,250m) to base camp.

In October the Maldives held a cabinet meeting underwater to warn of the effect of rising sea levels.

This meeting, to be held before the Copenhagen climate conference, aims to highlight Himalayan glacier melt.

With ice in the region melting at a rapid rate, lakes have been formed which could flood nearby villages.

Melted ice and snow also makes mountaineering routes more hazardous.

At such a high altitude health is a major concern, so a team of doctors will accompany the politicians.

They will fly to Everest’s only airstrip, Lukla.

Doctors will make a final health assessment before a helicopter takes the cabinet to base camp, at the foot of Everest.

Once there they will hold a brief outdoor meeting.

Mount Everest is the highest point on earth, with a summit 29,035 ft (8,850 m) above sea level.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian [Return to headlines]

Nuclear: Obama and Indian PM Agree to Landmark Deal

Washington, Nov. 25 (AKI/IANS) — United States president Barack Obama and Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh have vowed to implement a landmark nuclear agreement and reaffirmed the “global strategic partnership” between their two countries.

“The two leaders reiterated their intention to realise the full potential of the India-US agreement for cooperation concerning the peaceful use of nuclear energy through the implementation of its provisions,” the leaders said in a joint statement.

The statement was issued on Tuesday after talks in Washington between Obama and Singh during the Indian leader’s state visit which began on Monday.

The civilian nuclear deal gives Delhi access to US civilian nuclear technology and fuel in return for inspections of its civilian but not military nuclear facilities.

“They agreed to expedite US firms’ participation in the implementation of this agreement,” the joint statement said without indicating a time frame.

Obama and Singh also agreed to boost a high technology transfer, another key objective of Singh’s visit.

“Strengthening high technology trade between their countries is in the spirit of their strategic dialogue and partnership,” the statement said.

The two leaders pledged to deepen cooperation in areas from security and climate change to trade and education.

They committed to continue pursuing defence cooperation via security dialogue, defence exercises, trade besides technology transfer and collaboration.

They also agreed to collaborate in the application of their space technology and that related to development, including in the field of agriculture.

They announced eight cooperation memoranda including on education and green technology and and annual economic and financial forum to be held next year.

After their meeting, Obama said he had accepted an invitation to visit India next year and said he and Singh had agreed to work more closely on sharing information between law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

Obama also said he intends to ‘finish the job’ of rooting out Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, where over 60,000 US troops are currently deployed.

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

Pirates Jailed for Yacht Murder

Three Burmese teenagers have been jailed for murdering a yachtsman from East Sussex off the coast of Thailand.

Malcolm Robertson, 64, of Hastings, was bludgeoned and thrown overboard off the Andaman coast after the pirates boarded his vessel, the Mr Bean, in March.

His wife Linda, who was left fearing for her life as they kept her tied up for about 10 hours before they fled the yacht, welcomed the prison sentences.

She said she hoped the pirates would reflect on their “heinous” crime.

The Foreign Office said the killers were sentenced by a Thai court on Thursday.

They were named in reports from Thailand as Eksian Warapon, 19, an 18-year-old known as Aow, and a 17-year-old boy, known as Ko.

The men, who had pleaded guilty, were each sentenced to 25 years in prison at Satun Provincial Court.

The boy, who was convicted of murder, was jailed until he reaches the age of 24.

“I don’t want to trivialise Malcolm’s death but I don’t think 25 years in a Thai prison is going to be pleasant for them,” said Mrs Robertson, 59.

“I do hope the time they spend in jail will help them reflect and realise the heinous crime they committed.

“I also believe they were victims themselves.

“I don’t think they had any plan. The fact that they didn’t kill me, which they could quite easily have done, shows some compassion from them.”

Local reports said the killers had been stranded on an island after jumping from a Thai fishing ship.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian [Return to headlines]

Thirteen Inmates Escape in W Afghanistan

KABUL, Nov. 29 (Xinhua) — Over a dozen inmates escaped from prison in Farah province west of Afghanistan, provincial police chief Faqir Mohammad Askar said Sunday.

“Thirteen prisoners by digging a tunnel fled away from jail on the first day of Eidul Adha on Friday night,” Askar told Xinhua.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

U.S. Holds Detainees at Secret Afghan Prison, N.Y. Times Reports

Nov. 28 (Bloomberg) — The U.S. military is holding some detainees for weeks at a time and not allowing any visits from International Committee of the Red Cross representatives, the New York Times reported, citing unidentified human rights researchers and former detainees.

The site at Afghanistan’s Bagram Air Base isn’t subject to a recent order by President Barack Obama banning so-called black sites run by the Central Intelligence Agency, the newspaper said. The prison is run by U.S. Special Operations forces, the newspaper said.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Royal Marines Could Have Rescued Pirate Hostages, But the Order to Attack Never Came

The disturbing truth behind the Royal Navy’s failure to prevent Somali pirates kidnapping a British couple from their yacht can be revealed today.

An investigation by The Mail on Sunday demolishes accounts by the Ministry of Defence and the head of the Navy which suggest that a naval vessel at the scene had no rescue force available.

In fact, far from being a toothless bystander, the Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship Wave Knight was within seconds of unleashing a crack team of 20 lethally armed Royal Marines.

Wave Knight’s crew have been so angered by the official portrayal of events that one witness has given us a career-risking statement.

His evidence raises troubling questions about Government and military policy on piracy. And many people will want to know why an elite commando troop, mustered in black combat fatigues only yards from the kidnappers, was not permitted to put its air and seaborne assault training into action.

The astonishing stand-off occurred on day six of the hostage crisis as the pirates attempted to transfer Paul Chandler, 59, and his wife, Rachel, 55, to their mother ship.

The Chandlers had been seized early on October 23 as they tried to sail their yacht, Lynn Rival, from the Seychelles across the Indian Ocean to Tanzania.

The couple no doubt believed their voyage was safe. In the past, Somali pirates have operated closer to their home ports some 1,000 miles north.

But increasing anti-piracy patrols by Nato and other navies have pushed them south to seek new hunting grounds, and armed pirates aboard at least two fast motorised skiffs ambushed them only 150 miles into the trip.

The Chandlers, from Tunbridge Wells, Kent, managed to send out a distress call but were quickly overpowered.

Realising it would take too long and be too risky to sail Lynn Rival back to northern Somalia, the kidnappers radioed for support from one of the country’s most notorious pirate ‘nests’ — Haradheere.

Within 72 hours, accomplices were sailing south in the 24,000-ton container vessel Kota Wajar, itself hijacked while en route from Shanghai to Kenya on October 15.

On October 26, the commander of Wave Knight, Captain Clarke, was briefed on the crisis. Intelligence sources had uncovered Kota Wajar’s role as mother ship to the kidnappers and she was being tracked.

As the closest Royal Navy ship available, Wave Knight was ordered to find her and slow her down by any means. A Wave class supply ship, she is mostly crewed by 75 civilians working under military discipline.

‘They had just trained for exactly this scenario’However, crucially, Captain Clarke had on board the Marines, a Merlin helicopter and firepower in the form of 30mm and 50mm cannons. Around 25 Royal Navy sailors were also present.

The MoD’s first version of events avoided mentioning any chase, confrontation or rescue plan. This was all air-brushed out of the official picture — along with the Marines.

Indeed, the MoD at first acknowledged simply that an unnamed Royal Navy vessel had come across the Chandlers’ empty yacht. Only after the Daily Mail revealed that Wave Knight was almost alongside the Chandlers, her crew watching as the couple were hustled aboard the Kota Wajar, did the MoD change stance.

A second, carefully worded statement then claimed that ‘everything possible was done without further endangering the lives of Paul and Rachel Chandler’.

It added: ‘We do not comment on operational detail but RFA Wave Knight did very well under the circumstances.’

Days later, the head of the Navy, Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope, went further, insisting that Wave Knight’s ‘sailors with pistols couldn’t do the job of ensuring the safety of the Chandlers’.

And even last week he insisted that everything possible had been done to rescue the Chandlers.

In a speech at Chatham House, he said: ‘Wave Knight did exactly the right thing… Had there been an opportunity to intervene, while being sure of guaranteeing Paul and Rachel Chandlers’ safety, they would have done so.’

In fact, according to our source, these official explanations are travesties of the truth. His account states that Wave Knight left her British base at Bahrain around October 14 and headed south into the Gulf of Aden’s so-called ‘pirate alley’.

Her role included servicing and refuelling ships from Nato’s task force but she was also fully equipped for boarding operations.

As news of the Chandlers’ kidnap spread around the world, the crew kept in touch with developments via news websites. On October 26, Captain Clarke issued a loudspeaker announcement, or ‘information pipe’, explaining that they were heading south — away from traditional pirate waters. Although he didn’t mention the Lynn Rival by name, our source says it was obvious to the crew that a rescue attempt was ‘on the cards’.

The 31,500-ton Wave Knight sighted the Kota Wajar on the evening of October 28 and immediately tried to intimidate her by closing to less than 100 yards. At this point the Lynn Rival was not in sight so there were no hostages on board the pirate ship.

The supply ship was ‘closed up’ for action — meaning that all hatches, doors and gun emplacements were sealed with personnel out of sight. Lights were extinguished except for the powerful searchlights raking back and forth across the Kota Wajar’s hull.

At first the pirates appeared to be unconcerned. Their vessel was, in the source’s words, ‘lit up like a Christmas tree’ for the first 30 minutes.

But suddenly it, too, snapped out its lights and the two ships steamed alongside each other in darkness.

But Wave Knight’s tactics had no effect. Even warning bursts from one of her two bridge cannons, which fire 30mm shells with the power to penetrate the hull of a small air or sea craft, failed to alter the pirates’ course or speed.

The cannons have a range of about a mile and can fire up to 1,000 rounds a minute travelling at 600 yards per second. Undeterred, the pirates returned fire using small arms and the cat-and-mouse confrontation continued.

According to the source, it now became clear that the Marines were preparing for action. They had just completed two weeks of intensive training for precisely the scenario they faced — an air and seaborne assault on a pirate vessel.

‘In horror and disbelief, Wave Knight’s crew watched as a line was thrown from the Lynn Rival’The Wave Knight and the Kota Wajar were still some distance from the Lynn Rival and Chandlers, so there was no danger of the hostages being caught in crossfire.

Like all the ship’s military personnel they had been on a state of permanent readiness, known as ‘Alert 60’, for two weeks. This required that they could muster within an hour.

Twice that night, between 10pm and 1am, they went a step further. On each occasion the codeword indicating imminent action — Quickdraw — was repeated over the ship’s intercom.

Each time the Marines gathered quickly on deck, their all-black fatigues, balaclavas, night-vision goggles and carbines a picture of professional menace.

Close by, Royal Navy aircrew sat at the controls of the Merlin awaiting their start-up order.

The ship’s gun teams — who are also armed with general purpose machine guns firing 7.62mm rounds at up to 950 per minute with a range of 4,000 yards — stared out at target areas on the Kota Wajar.

But on each occasion the assault team — part of the Royal Marines Fleet Protection Group based at Faslane on the River Clyde — was stood down.

According to our source the pirates, still apparently believing that they were up against a mere supply ship, appeared almost contemptuous when they finally drew alongside the Chandlers’ yacht and hailed the kidnappers on board.

In horror and disbelief, Wave Knight’s crew watched as a line was thrown from the Lynn Rival. The yacht was then casually hauled in and moored alongside the Kota Wajar together with the pirate skiffs.

Throughout this 20-minute period, the Chandlers and their captors could be fleetingly glimpsed as shadows and silhouettes in the supply ship’s searchlight.

Although the Wave Knight remained darkened, it is inconceivable that the couple could have mistaken it for anything other than a naval vessel and perhaps dared to hope a rescue was imminent.

In the sweltering night, illuminated only by the stars and sweeps of the Wave Knight’s searchlights, the Chandlers could be seen climbing a ladder on the side of the Kota Wajar, with pirate guards above and below them.

Then they disappeared into the ship’s hull. The Kota Wajar turned and steamed slowly north with its hostages.

It was, according to our source, a surreal moment. Having been feet away, poised for a dramatic rescue, some of the world’s most feared fighting troops were now being ordered to pack their kit and go to bed.

A pursuit of the Kota Wajar was, apparently, deemed pointless.

The source added: ‘The mood among the Marines was one of intense anger and frustration. These guys were right up for it — absolutely champing at the bit. It was precisely the situation they had trained for.

‘We had all watched them practising rapid-roping [descending at speed on ropes from a helicopter] and sea-borne assaults. They knew exactly what to do. They were poised there like a bunch of Ninjas and the adrenaline was pumping.

‘They couldn’t believe the orders to stand down. The anger was obvious. I heard one joke later that they had all the gear while Northwood [UK command HQ] had no idea. We had a chance to strike a real blow at the pirates and send a message that you don’t mess with the Royal Navy.

‘Judging by its actions, the Kota Wajar had no idea who we had on board. They thought we were just a supply ship. There was a great opportunity to take them by surprise.’

The source recalled seeing the silhouettes of the pirates and the Chandlers being taken off the yacht.

‘The Marines were saying, “Now’s the time. Surely it’s got to be now.” But the order never came.

‘The Kota Wajar just sailed off slowly as if to say, “You can’t touch us now. We’ve got the hostages.” They knew they’d won.’

The crew member added: ‘The Marines were more than capable of seizing the Kota Wajar way before she got near the Chandlers.

‘At that time there were no hostages on board. You can argue that the Chandlers would still have been at risk from the pirates on their yacht. But we would have been in a strong position, having taken the Kota Wajar.

‘If the pirates had killed the Chandlers they would have had nothing and would have been totally exposed. It’s more likely that they would have negotiated a hostage exchange for their mother-ship and crew.

‘No rescue was without risk. But the Marines were in a great position and were never allowed to exploit it.’

The crew member is unsure precisely what weapons the Marines were carrying. But the Fleet Protection Group’s standard issue includes SA80 assault rifles, SA80A2K carbines, MP5a3 9mm sub-machine guns and high-power 9mm Browning pistols.

It can also deploy specialist marksmen known as Maritime Sniper Teams, skilled at ‘slotting’ enemy forces from distance. It is unclear whether an MST was present.

As dawn broke, the crew of the Wave Knight sighted their flagship, HMS Cumberland. The frigate had arrived some two hours after the Kota Wajar’s departure.

Between the two vessels the abandoned Lynn Rival drifted ghost-like on the breeze. She was eventually hauled on to Wave Knight.

According to our source, the Navy’s refusal to attempt a rescue of the Chandlers appears to have been at least partly influenced by plans for a covert operation involving HMS Cumberland and a Special Boat Service troop.

He says the idea was to parachute 20 SBS men from a military transport plane into the sea off the Somali coast. They were to be picked up by Cumberland — whose movements throughout have never been revealed — to lead a rescue attempt.

However, the source claims the plan went disastrously wrong from the off. He says the SBS team, assembled at RAF Brize Norton, was delayed for around six hours due to ‘unforeseen events’. By the time Cumberland picked them up from the drop zone they were at least two hours behind the action.

Wave Knight ferried the SBS team — complete with parachutes, arms and equipment — 1,000 miles north to the Omani port of Salalah. It was during this trip, says the source, that nuggets of information emerged from the SBS men in Wave Knight’s mess rooms.

They were, he says, appalled at the lack of flexibility among senior commanders to adapt the rescue plan and send in the Marines.

Within hours this sense of frustration was heightened further. The source says that en route to Oman, the supply ship came across another pirate vessel — little more than the size of a tug — which opened fire on them.

‘It makes you wonder, what is the Royal Navy for?’

By now Wave Knight had 20 Marines and 20 SBS soldiers on board — arguably the most lethal assault force of any Nato vessel in the anti-piracy operation. The pirates had no known hostages aboard.

An assault party was placed on ‘Quickdraw’ alert and expectation rose among the crew that at last action was imminent.

Our source said: ‘We thought it was inevitable. Pirates had fired first at a Royal Navy ship. If this doesn’t satisfy the Rules of Engagement, then what does?

The pirates wouldn’t have done that to an American ship because the Americans shoot back — with interest.

We had all the firepower and expertise we needed several times over. Yet again the order came to stand down. It makes you wonder, what is the Royal Navy for?’

The SBS force was flown off Wave Knight by helicopter on November 1, landing in Salalah. A military transport plane immediately returned them to the UK.

Frustration among Wave Knight’s crew was not lost on senior commanders and early that morning Captain Clarke included a long, personal communique to the entire company in his Daily Orders.

The document confirms the presence of Royal Marines but refers to the SBS only as ‘embarked forces’. It is headed: ‘Command Aim TLC [Tender Loving Care] for embarked forces and make preparations for the safe and timely disembarkation of RM [Royal Marine] passengers and 814 Sqn Det [Merlin helicopter crew].’

The captain passed on congratulations from commanders at Northwood, near London, the Navy’s operational HQ and home of the Armed Forces Permanent Joint Headquarters, which controls all UK overseas operations.

They emphasised that the ship’s conduct was a ‘success story’, despite Northwood’s refusal to sanction a Marine rescue attempt.

After disembarking the SBS, Wave Knight headed back to the UK Maritime Component Command base in Bahrain, where 25 Royal Navy crew were landed.

The ship went on to Cyprus, where most of the Marines were dropped off for a week’s leave before being re-deployed or returning to their families.

She then returned to the UK, docking last Thursday in Portland, Dorset, with only her 75 civilian crew aboard.

The Lynn Rival, which had been stashed on Wave Knight’s deck as our exclusive picture shows, was craned into the sea, then lifted on to a lorry and transported under cover to an unknown destination.

The Mail on Sunday’s revelations are certain to increase pressure on Admiral Stanhope to explain why he made an apparently misleading statement to The Times — an interview reprinted by other newspapers — on November 18.

His quote reads: ‘Two dead Chandlers would not have been good, and we wouldn’t have wanted to be part of that… It’s a huge piece of water and the fact that Wave Knight found the yacht was impressive, but we were not in a position to engage [the pirates]. We were too late for that.

‘You need special expertise to deal with hostage rescue, and we didn’t have that expertise [on board].

‘Sailors with pistols couldn’t do the job of ensuring the safety of the Chandlers. It was highly frustrating. There were broad rules of engagement that had to be followed, and it was a fairly easy decision to make because the security of the Chandlers was the most important thing.’

He added: ‘What could it [Wave Knight] do under the circumstances? Wave Knight is not a warship. There was only a flight [helicopter crew and engineers] on board, and as soon as they got close, the pirates threatened the hostages. They did the best they could, but the security of the Chandlers was the overriding factor.’

Last Friday he repeated his view in a speech at Chatham House, London, saying: ‘The sailors did a tremendous job in finding the Chandlers’ yacht in the first place. But once you have a hostage situation your military options, as most people would understand, are inevitably limited.

‘Had there been an opportunity to intervene, while being sure of guaranteeing the Chandlers’ safety, they would have done so. The decision not to was undoubtedly the right one.’

A senior Royal Navy source insisted last night that there were ten Marines on board Wave Knight, not 20.

An MoD spokesman said: ‘The First Sea Lord has always been clear that Wave Knight and those in command of this mission did exactly the right things.

‘As in all situations of this sort they had to balance capabilities and possible actions against the risk to life.

‘They did everything that they could in that operation and, could action have been taken, with a guarantee on the safety of the Chandlers, they would have done so.

‘Previous statements have only concerned detail that is already in the public domain, or would not be of use to the pirates we are trying to counter. We will not comment further on this detail. Discussing our capabilities in this way could reveal valuable information.’

For the Royal Marines and crew of the Wave Knight, those words surely carry a hollow ring.

As for the Chandlers, whose lives are being ransomed in Somalia for £4million, the agonising memory of October 28 is unlikely to fade soon.

They saw the Navy come to their rescue and then sink their hopes.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

UN Accuses Spanish NGOs of Supporting Rwanda Militia

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, NOVEMBER 25 — The UN has accused two Spanish NGOs of supporting Hutu guerrillas in the Congo, headlines daily newspaper Publico today. The newspaper reports on results from a confidential report to the Security Council drafted by a group of experts for the Democratic Republic of Congo, appointed by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. The report accuses two Spanish activists, members of organisations that have received public funding in Spain, of having given financial, logistical and political support to the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), the armed Rwandan group that opposes the regime of Kigali and which operates in the east of the Congo. According to reports in the newspaper, Joan Casoliva, president of the Inshuti/Amigos del Pueblo de Ruanda organisation registered in Barcelona, and Joan Carrero, president of the Fondacion Solivar, a Christian group registered in Palma di Majorca, which in the past has presented a denunciation to the Audiencia Nacional di Madrid against some 40 official of the current Rwandan regime. The report says that the FDLR has regularly received financial, logistical and political support from people belonging to both the charitable organisations, which in turn have received funding directly or indirectly from the government of the Balearic Islands. The UN Security Council is set to discuss the report today. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]


Australia: Taps Off for Thirsty Asylum Seekers

TONNES of bottled water, costing thousands of dollars, are being airlifted to Christmas Island for dehydrated asylum seekers as they step on to the arrivals wharf — despite a tap being just metres away.

And the Federal Government will not splash out a couple of thousand dollars to bring a new tap closer for the thirsty arrivals, preferring to jet in the expensive bottles.

Problems arise when refugees first land on the island.

Initial screening takes place at the wharf with the tap about 20m away.

The asylum seekers are then moved to a construction camp — formerly used by workers who built the detention centre and now housing refugees — where the Department of Immigration and Citizenship said there were “limited options for tap water”.

The latest shipment of water, about 2.5 tonnes, was flown to the island on Monday on a department charter flight.

The department would not reveal how much it cost, but a four-tonne delivery earlier this year is understood to have cost $6 a kilogram — or $24,000.

One long-standing islander, who did not want to be named said: “It’s bloody ridiculous. There’s plenty of water to drink on the island, there are taps near the wharf, but the Government won’t fix it up.

“I could do it for a couple of thousand dollars. No worries.”

Flying water to the island also angered local businesses but it is understood that when the Government invited them to tender for the supply their prices were higher than the cost of air-freighting.

A department spokesman said this week’s delivery was part of a freight consignment on a charter flight.

The spokeswoman said the department and its detention centre service provider Serco, had a duty of care to people in detention.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian [Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Out With Jesus, In With ‘Frosty the Snowman’

Federal court upholds school district’s ban on tunes about Christ

The 3rd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Philadelphia has upheld a school district’s ban on Christmas carols such as “Silent Night,” “Joy to the World,” “Oh, Come All Ye Faithful” and “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” — and approved “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “Frosty the Snowman.”

In the Nov. 24 ruling the Third Circuit approved the school policy banning all religious Christmas music, including instrumentals, that had been part of the South Orange—Maplewood School District’s Christmas program for years — until one parent complained.

Attorneys with the Thomas More Law Center, a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Mich., argued to reverse a lower-court ruling affirming the policy. The firm argued the district’s ban on religious music conveys a government-sponsored message of disapproval and hostility toward religion in violation of the Establishment Clause.

“Christmas is a national holiday that celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ, not the birth of Frosty the Snowman or Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” said Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Law Center. “This ruling is another example of how the courts have tyrannically twisted the Establishment Clause as a weapon against Christians in the War on Christmas.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]


An Inconvenient Truth

“One of the common failings among honorable people is a failure to appreciate how thoroughly dishonorable some other people can be, and how dangerous it is to trust them.” — Thomas Sowell

The brouhaha over the recent epiphany regarding junk science and climate change duplicity is a big deal.

Science is ‘supposed’ to be all about facts, evidence and proof. The scientific method that kids are taught at an early age is explained as “A method of discovering knowledge about the natural world based in making falsifiable predictions (hypotheses), testing them empirically, and developing peer-reviewed theories that best explain the known data.” It is not ‘supposed’ to be a sporting event of ‘us’ versus ‘them’ or team competition.

Reportedly, computer hackers obtained some 160 megabytes of emails from the Climate Research Unit a University in England. The e-mails were exchanges between researchers and policy advocates who shared a similar gospel according to them. Shockingly, authorities were discussing the “destruction and hiding of data that did not support global-warming claims”. HELL-0!?!?

Protestations to the contrary notwithstanding, exchanges about “the trick of adding in the real temps to each series…to hid the decline (in temperature),” is way egregious. Professor Phil Jones, head of the Climate Research Unit and professor Michael E. Mann at Penn State are now tap dancing.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Climate Battle Bill to Top $300 Billion: Guyana

AFP — The true cost of fighting climate change will top 300 billion dollars and developed countries may balk at footing the bill, Guyana’s Prime Minister Bharrat Jagdeo said Saturday.

Leading economists have calculated that “the cost of action and mitigation would be about one percent of the global economy,” he told journalists. “This is one percent of the GDP of a 30-trillion-dollar global economy,” he estimated.

“If resources of that magnitude were available then you’d be able to take serious mitigation action immediately.”

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

Climate Change: This is the Worst Scientific Scandal of Our Generation

Scientists at the University of East Anglia (UEA) have admitted throwing away much of the raw temperature data on which their predictions of global warming are based.

It means that other academics are not able to check basic calculations said to show a long-term rise in temperature over the past 150 years.

The UEA’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU) was forced to reveal the loss following requests for the data under Freedom of Information legislation.

The data were gathered from weather stations around the world and then adjusted to take account of variables in the way they were collected. The revised figures were kept, but the originals — stored on paper and magnetic tape — were dumped to save space when the CRU moved to a new building.

[Return to headlines]

Evidence of Life on Mars Lurks Beneath Surface of Meteorite, NASA Experts Claim

Nasa scientists have produced the most compelling evidence yet that bacterial life exists on Mars.

It showed that microscopic worm-like structures found in a Martian meteorite that hit the Earth 13,000 years ago are almost certainly fossilised bacteria. The so-called bio-morphs are embedded beneath the surface layers of the rock, suggesting that they were already present when the meteorite arrived, rather than being the result of subsequent contamination by Earthly bacteria.

“This is very strong evidence of life on Mars,” said David Mackay, a senior scientist at the Nasa Johnson Space Centre , who was part of the team of scientists that originally investigated the meteorite when it was discovered in 1984.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

Swine Flu Epidemic Escaped From Lab — Australian Scientists Say

Three Australian experts are making waves in the medical community with a report suggesting swine flu may have developed because of a lab error in making vaccines.

“It could have happened in a lab where somebody became affected and then travelled with it,” virologist Dr Adrian Gibbs said yesterday.

Conjuring up a vision of Frankenstein’s fictional monster fleeing the laboratory, he added: “Things do get out of labs and this has to be explored. There needs to be more research done in this area.

“At the moment there is no way of distinguishing where swine flu has come from.”

The research, published in the Virology Journal on Tuesday, was compiled by two former researchers at the Australian National University — Dr Gibbs and programmer John S. Armstrong.

Dr Jean Downie, once the head of HIV research at Westmead Hospital, was also involved. The article claimed the swine-origin influenza A (H1N1) virus that appeared in Mexico in April has at least three parent genes which originated in the US, Europe and Asia.

“The three parents of the virus may have been assembled in one place by natural means, such as by migrating birds, however the consistent link with pig viruses suggests that human activity was involved,” the research found.

[Return to headlines]

Coughing in Stereo

We did our best to keep out of the emergency room, but we failed.

Dymphna and the future Baron both woke up today with coughs that were significantly worse. Since each has asthma and is thus at risk, we decided that it was better to visit the emergency room on a mild and sunny Sunday afternoon than in the middle of night, or at some other time not of our own choosing. So off we went.

DoctorsThe ER doctor took note of their serious condition immediately, and ordered X-rays. Each has bacterial pneumonia, and the fB has it in two lobes, so his is more serious. The doctor thinks the fB has a strain of bacterium that is resistant to the antibiotic he was prescribed last week, so both patients are now on a newer wide-spectrum antibiotic. They also came home with a cough-suppressant narcotic that we know to be effective, but which many doctors are maddeningly reluctant to prescribe.

It’s too early yet to assess the effects of their new treatment regimen. When we left for the ER this afternoon, neither of them had enough breath to be able to speak very much. Tonight they’ve been talking a little, so that’s encouraging.
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My fever peaked early this morning at 101.4° (38.6°C), which is very high for me. It laughs out loud when it sees Ibuprofen coming, but it backed off when I threw some Tylenol at it, and stayed away all day. My cough is slight, so I don’t think I have pneumonia (yet; knock wood).

The future Baron and Dymphna have bedrooms at opposite ends of the house. Standing in the kitchen this evening I could hear almost identical coughing fits, one in my left ear, one in my right. Not the kind of sound a father/husband wants to hear.

I’ll give you another update sometime tomorrow.

Switzerland Says “No” to the Bayonets of Islam

The Swiss people went to the polls today in a referendum on the banning of minarets in Switzerland.

Minaret ban By the time they voted, they were well aware of the stakes in the issue. If they voted to approve the minaret ban, they would certify themselves as “racists” and “xenophobes”. They would show that hate and intolerance had won. They would be identified as worthy heirs of the Third Reich.

Yet, despite all of that, despite the pariah status that awaited them, the Swiss people voted overwhelmingly to approve the minaret ban.

So what happens next? What can the “world community” do to teach Switzerland a lesson?

If it were a member of the European Union, the solution would be easy. The example of Austria a few years back shows how the EU handles a member state whose internal politics violate the sensibilities of the bien-pensants in Brussels.

But Switzerland is a tougher nut to crack. Will the OIC call on its member states to boycott cuckoo clocks and watches? Will the jet set give up their skiing holidays in Switzerland? Will the rich and powerful close their numbered Swiss bank accounts and put their money elsewhere?

In any case, the Swiss people have made their opinion clear. According to AFP:

Switzerland votes to ban minarets

GENEVA — Switzerland on Sunday voted to impose a blanket ban on the building of minarets across the country, backing an initiative by far-right politicians.

A clear majority of 57.5 percent of the population and 22 out of 26 cantons voted to ban the towers or turrets attached on mosques from where Muslims are called to prayer.

Far-right politicians celebrated the results, while the government sought to assure the Muslim minority that a ban on minarets was “not a rejection of the Muslim community, religion or culture.”

The Swiss People’s Party (SVP) — Switzerland’s biggest party — had forced a referendum under Swiss regulations on the issue after collecting 100,000 signatures within 18 months from eligible voters.

Having won a double majority — both in terms of cantons and absolute numbers, the initiative will now be inscribed in the country’s constitution.

– – – – – – – –

“The Federal Council (government) respects this decision. Consequently the construction of new minarets in Switzerland is no longer permitted,” said the government, which had firmly opposed the ban, in a statement.

Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf said the result “reflects fears among the population of Islamic fundamentalist tendencies.”

“These concerns have to be taken seriously… However, the Federal Council takes the view that a ban on the construction of new minarets is not a feasible means of countering extremist tendencies,” she stressed.

She also sought to reassure the Muslim population, saying: “Today’s popular decision is only directed against the construction of new minarets.

“It is not a rejection of the Muslim community, religion or culture. Of that, the Federal Council gives its assurance.”

But the Muslim community, which makes up 400,000 out of 7.5 million people in Switzerland, was dismayed.

“The most painful for us is not the minaret ban, but the symbol sent by this vote. Muslims do not feel accepted as a religious community,” said Farhad Afshar, who heads the Coordination of Islamic Organisations in Switzerland.

The Christian community also expressed dismay, saying it was “inadmissible that the religious minority now have to subject to unequal treatment.”

For Amnesty International, the minaret ban is a “violation of religious freedom, incompatible with the conventions signed by Switzerland.”

“The initiators (of the referendum) have unfortunately managed to exploit fears towards Islam and stirred up xenophobic sentiments, it’s regrettable,” said Daniel Bolomey, who heads the Swiss chapter of the rights group.

Meanwhile, SVP Vice-President Yvan Perrin cheered the fact that his party had won the vote “without difficulty.”

He told Radio Suisse Romande that Swiss companies should not worry about suffering from a possible backlash from Muslim countries.

“If our companies continue to make good quality products, they have nothing to worry about,” he said.

Noting that the Swiss had made their decision after fervent debate on the issue, he said: “We won respectably.”

Hat tip: TB.

Gates of Vienna News Feed 11/28/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 11/28/2009A terrorist bomb planted under the railroad tracks in Russia exploded under a train yesterday and killed at least 26 people, some of them fairly high-ranking government officials. The Russian authorities say that the blast may have been the work of Chechen separatists.

In other news, Tiger Woods’ close encounter with a fire hydrant is now alleged to be the result of a domestic dispute. According to TMZ, Mrs. Woods was upset with her husband and chased him down the driveway with the golf club, using it to smash the back window of his SUV.

For a long time Tiger Woods seemed to be a cut above the rest of the celebrities — but then he had to go and get himself a Swedish wife. Maybe he and Paul Anka can exchange tips on how to deal with those hot-blooded Scandinavian women.

Thanks to C. Cantoni, Esther, Insubria, KGS, Sean O’Brian, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
Islamic Finance Was Not Immune to the Credit Crunch
“Party Crashers” Had Five-Year Relationship With Obama Before State Dinner
Christian Church, Native American Tribe Reconcile
Guess Who Came to Dinner?
Muslims Work Toward Mosque
Obama’s Personal Physician Friend Was a Marxist, Too
Publisher Admits Obama Book Ghostwritten by Bill Ayers
Synagogue in Virginia Opens Doors to Muslims
Tiger Woods: Injuries Caused by Wife, Not Suv
Canadian Health Care to US Up 450%
Europe and the EU
Austria, Germany Blocking EU-US Data Deal
British Policing Has ‘Lost Its Way’, Says Top Officer
Climategate Master Criminal Phil Jones Collected $22.6 Million in Grants
Denmark: Arabic on Copenhagen Schools Syllabus
Dutch FM Backs Turkey Over Wilders
EU Bureaucrats to Receive ‘Recession Proof’ Pay Rise
Germany Home to 90 Combat Islamists: Report
Germany: US Man Missing for Seven Days in Frankfurt
Italy: Pro-Cross Activist ‘Screamed Profanities’
Obama’s Visit Costs Norway Millions
Obama Going to Copenhagen Too Early: Sarkozy
Spain: Catalonia’s Papers Defend Statute in Joint Editorial
Spain: Editorial on Catalonia Statute Shakes Politicians
Switzerland: Divisive Minaret Ban Plans Face Voters’ Verdict
UK: Libel Tourism Gagging Scientific Free Speech
UK: Schizophrenic Who Stabbed a Vicar to Death ‘Was Not Properly Assessed’
UK: Theft Arrest for Chief Inspector
UKIP Offered Tories Election Deal in Return for EU Vote
North Africa
Egypt-Algeria: Diplomatic Clash Leaves Economic Shadow
Tunisia: Italian Navy Modernises Kuriat Lighthouse
Israel and the Palestinians
2,000 Protest Haredi Religious Coercion in Jerusalem
Gaza: Militant Struck by Israeli Air Fire Dies
Netanyahu Rejects Minister’s Comment on Obama
Middle East
Football More Important Than Palestinians
Lebanon: Hezbollah Arms Legitimized in Gov’t Draft Programme
Saudi Troops ‘Captured’ By Houthi Rebels in Yemen
Saudis Blast Govt After Deadly Jeddah Flood
Yemen: Rebels Block Key Highway
Russia Blames Terrorists as Dozens Killed in Train Crash
U.S. Gears Back Criticism of Two Russia-Backed Pipelines
South Asia
2 Afghans Allege Abuse at U.S. Site
NATO Has Lost Its Way in Afghanistan, Army Chief Tells Muslims
Pakistan: Taliban Trying to Destroy Buddhist Art From the Gandhara Period
Expert From Sweden: No Need to Fear China Nor Islam
French Parties Testing the Political Waters on Immigration Law Changes
French Film About Illegal Immigrant Trying to Enter Britain Wins Top EU Award
Ireland: Suspended Term for Trying to Bribe Immigration Officer
Spain: Congress Approves New Laws on Foreigners
Spain to Support Malta on Immigration
‘Gender Jihad’ In the Service of Women’s Rights

Financial Crisis

Islamic Finance Was Not Immune to the Credit Crunch

Times are difficult; we are still mired in a financial crisis. And debt is the problem, somehow: subprime mortgages stated this whole mess, along with mortgage-backed securities (MBS), collateralised debt obligations (CDO) and other debt and derivatives instruments.

But how? Is debt itself the problem? Were Islamic banks and institutions affected in the same way as conventional institutions? If not, why not?

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]


“Party Crashers” Had Five-Year Relationship With Obama Before State Dinner

While the big gun media and American Secret Service are out there investigating “party crashers” Tareq and Michaele Salahi, no one’s telling the truth: Obama knew the Salahis when he was still an Illinois senator.

Polo Contacts Worldwide could make it easy for the investigating Secret Service by brown-enveloping them this picture:

[Return to headlines]

Christian Church, Native American Tribe Reconcile

NEW YORK — Members of one of America’s oldest Protestant churches officially apologized Friday — for the first time — for massacring and displacing Native Americans 400 years ago.

“We consumed your resources, dehumanized your people and disregarded your culture, along with your dreams, hopes and great love for this land,” the Rev. Robert Chase told descendants from both sides. “With pain, we the Collegiate Church, remember our part in these events.”

The minister spoke on Native American Heritage Day at a reconciliation ceremony of the Lenape tribe with the Collegiate Church, started in 1628 in then-New Amsterdam as the Reformed Dutch Church.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

Guess Who Came to Dinner?

Given the deep-bow-to-American-enemies style of President Barack Obama, it is not even close to likely that Tareq Salahi was a party crasher at the president’s first official state dinner on Friday night.

Salahi is a former board member of The American Task Force on Palestine (ATFP), a 501(c), non profit, non-partisan organization based in Washington, D.C, established in 2003 “to provide an independent voice for Palestinian-Americans and their supporters and to promote peace”. While all references to Salahi have been scrubbed on its homepage, they can still be found on a Google search cache of ATFP’s site. (google-cache112809.jpg)

According to the ATFP home page, “Mr. Salahi travels the world as the Team Captain for the United States Polo team and represents both the United States and Palestine on his diplomatic polo tours.

[Return to headlines]

Muslims Work Toward Mosque

GLENDALE — The Islamic Center of Glendale celebrated the second most holy Muslim day Friday for the first time, a sign that it is building momentum toward establishing a mosque in the area, religious leaders said.

The center, a community nonprofit established earlier this year, welcomed about 400 Muslims from various ethnicities and backgrounds to celebrate the Prophet Ibrahim and Eid ul-Adha, a day celebrated by Muslims worldwide with the pilgrimage to Mecca, about 70 days after Ramadan.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

Obama’s Personal Physician Friend Was a Marxist, Too

The push to socialize US Heathcare came, not from from the “people”, but from small clique of Marxists, led by a man with close persional ties to president Barack Obama. This group’s goal is fully socialized, government run “single payer” healthcare-as long promoted through Congressman John Conyers’ National Health Insurance Act, or HR 676. The leader of this Marxist clique is Quentin Young-a retired Chicago physician, a life long Marxist activist and long time friend and political ally of Barack Obama.

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Publisher Admits Obama Book Ghostwritten by Bill Ayers

The founder of Times Books — publisher of President Barack Obama’s autobiography Dreams From My Father — Thomas Lipscomb recently dropped a huge bomb on the Obama White House. Now a senior fellow at the well-regarded Annenberg Center, Lipscomb contends that Obama’s story was actually ghostwritten by former terrorist and cop-killer William Ayers.

During the presidential campaign if asked how close he was with the former bomb-maker for Weathermen, Obama would claim that Bill Ayers was merely “a guy who lives in my neighborhood,” and “not somebody who I exchange ideas with on a regular basis.”

But according to Lipscomb’s Accuracy in Media report: “Obama had to give up on a $150,000 Simon & Schuster contract because he couldn’t complete the manuscript, his sources were telling him Obama finally had to bring in a ghostwriter to put together his highly praised Dreams From My Father for Times Books. He had a million pieces of tape, pictures, memos, notes, and no manuscript.”

Unfortunately for Obama, he was caught at a July 10, 2008, meeting in Fairfax, Virginia proudly saying the following: “I’ve written two books. I actually wrote them myself.”

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Synagogue in Virginia Opens Doors to Muslims

In the US state of Virginia there is a remarkable relationship between the local religious communities. The Muslim community is growing and mosques are filling up quickly, so Muslims have begun to visit synagogues.

Rizwan Jaka, a devout Muslim and community activist, finds nothing wrong with reciting his prayers in a synagogue.

“Coming here to the synagogue is just as comfortable for me as going to a mosque, and it is something that is very special for me and my family. I will remember this for the rest of our lives,” notes Rizwan.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

Tiger Woods: Injuries Caused by Wife, Not Suv

Tiger has yet to be formally interviewed by the Florida Highway Patrol — that should happen this afternoon. But we’re told Tiger had a conversation Friday — with a non-law enforcement type — detailing what went down before his Escalade hit a fire hydrant.

We’re told he said his wife had confronted him about reports that he was seeing another woman. The argument got heated and, according to our source, she scratched his face up. We’re told it was then Woods beat a hasty retreat for his SUV — but according to our source, Woods says his wife followed behind with a golf club. As Tiger drove away, she struck the vehicle several times with the club.

Tiger WoodsWe’re told Woods became “distracted,” thought the vehicle was stopped, and looked to see what had happened. At that point the SUV hit the fire hydrant and then hit a tree.

We’re also told Woods had said during the conversation Friday he had been taking prescription pain medication for an injury, which could explain why he seemed somewhat out of it at the scene.

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Canadian Health Care to US Up 450%

Record numbers of Ontarians are being sent to the U.S. by their government for routine health care that should be available at home. A Metroland Special Report shows thousands of others are funding their own medical treatments south of the border, at high personal cost. The numbers have been rising for the last 10 years. Government approvals for out-of-country health care funding are up 450 per cent. Should Ontarians have to use a passport to get health care?

Even though Ontario has taken measures to reduce wait times, the system is still sagging under pressure and generating patient angst. Need an MRI? The wait is 109 days, according to provincial wait-time figures. As of Nov. 1, nearly 140,000 people were on waiting lists for CT and MRI imaging alone. Centres such as Unasource are more than willing to welcome Canadians looking for expedited care. The modern rooms, high-tech equipment and plush extras may not surprise choosy American patients. For Ontarians who are focused on faster care, the extras are an added comfort.

At Sky Ridge, the wait time for a specialist appointment and joint-replacement surgery is measured in days. In Ontario, where more than 8,500 people are waiting for knee-replacement surgery, 90 per cent of patients will have the surgery within the provincial target of 182 days. But, that wait only starts after the surgery is scheduled, a process which can add months to the timeline as patients wade through referrals and specialist appointments. The waits can be agony, and many people look south out of desperation, said Janet Walker, a B.C. nurse who is researching the impact of wait times on patients. “In Canada, we hear that, yes there are waits, but it’s only for elective surgery,” she said. “So, we imagine that it’s not important and not painful, and that is just not the case.”

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Europe and the EU

Austria, Germany Blocking EU-US Data Deal

EU interior ministers meeting in Brussels on Monday — their last official talks this year — hope to endorse an interim agreement permitting US justice authorities to data from the interbank transfer service SWIFT.

Brussels — Austria and Germany were on Friday still blocking a planned accord allowing the United States to use data about European citizens in anti-terror investigations as a November 30 deadline closes in.

EU interior ministers meeting in Brussels on Monday — their last official talks this year — hope to endorse an interim agreement permitting US justice authorities to data from the interbank transfer service SWIFT.

If Austria and Germany continue to hold out, “the Americans will no longer have access to European data” from the SWIFT network from the end of the year, an EU diplomat said.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

British Policing Has ‘Lost Its Way’, Says Top Officer

British policing has “lost its way” amid the “noise and clutter” of Government targets, initiatives and new laws, the chief of inspector of police has said.

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Climategate Master Criminal Phil Jones Collected $22.6 Million in Grants

Excerpts from a post by Michael Shedlock — “It’s now official. Much of the hype about global warming is nothing but a complete scam. The global warming thesis was completely fabricated.

“Inquiring minds are reading Hacked: Hadley CRU FOI2009 Files on The Reference Frame by Luboš Motl, a physicist from the Czech Republic.

“So far, the most interesting file I found in the “documents” directory is pdj_grant_since1990.xls which shows that since 1990, Phil Jones has collected a staggering 13.7 million British pounds ($22.6 million) in grants.

“Phil Jones, the main criminal according to this correspondence, has personally confirmed that the website was hacked and that the documents are authentic. See Briefing Room.

I wonder if Phil remembers the $22.6 million in grants. I wonder if he “remembers” only those things that the IPCC wants him to remember.

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Denmark: Arabic on Copenhagen Schools Syllabus

City Council aims to recognise Arabic-speaking population by adding a new optional school subject School pupils in Copenhagen will be able to take Arabic as a second language from the age of 12, following a new decision from the Education…

School pupils in Copenhagen will be able to take Arabic as a second language from the age of 12, following a new decision from the Education Ministry.

Copenhagen’s city council had applied to the ministry to offer Arabic, alongside the existing language subjects of English, French and German.

The ministry has turned down the request as it wants to keep the standard languages, reports Jyllands-Posten newspaper, and instead Arabic will be an optional subject offered in 7th grade.

Danish People’s Party (DF) education spokeswoman, Marlene Harpsøe said the decision was a catastrophe.

‘It’s not public schools’ job to teach Arabic. It’s something you can do in your spare time. Arabic isn’t a language that you need in the same way as German for example, as Germany is a large trading partner,’ Harpsøe said.

Schools already have the option of offering languages such as Arabic as optional subject choices in 8th and 9th grade, but according to the ministry, no schools have chosen to do so.

The Danish Union of Teachers previously recommended that Arabic be introduced in schools and union spokeswoman Dorte Lange was pleased with the news about the Copenhagen project.

‘We live in a globalised world and every day deal with Arabic countries among others. Schools should also look past Europe and offer language subjects such as Arabic, Hindi, Chinese and Turkish,’ Lange said.

Social Democrat education spokesman for Copenhagen, Jan Andreasen, believes DF had misunderstood the inclusion of Arabic on the syllabus.

‘It won’t replace the teaching of Danish. We just want to utilise the fact we have a large Arabic population in Copenhagen who could be better at Arabic and use the language in their business career,’ said Andreasen.

‘Many of these young people have problems because they don’t speak Danish or Arabic so well’.

           — Hat tip: KGS [Return to headlines]

Dutch FM Backs Turkey Over Wilders

The Netherlands — Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen says his Turkish counterpart, Ahmet Davutoglu, is free to refuse to receive the Dutch populist politician Geert Wilders.

The PVV leader intends to travel with a parliamentary delegation to Turkey early next year but Turkey’s foreign ministry refuses to receive him.

Wilders has asked Foreign Minister Verhagen to lodge a complaint over the refusal. Verhagen is only willing to point out to Ankara the need for conversations with Dutch MPs and the attending advantages.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

EU Bureaucrats to Receive ‘Recession Proof’ Pay Rise

Baroness Ashton, the newly appointed EU foreign minister who is also a European Commission vice-president, will pocket an extra £9,000 on top of her basic annual salary of £241,000.

Eurocrats will get the 3.7 per cent pay rise despite negative or near to zero rates of inflation across Europe, soaring unemployment, falling wages and austerity measures in most national public sectors.

Despite never having been elected to public office, Lady Ashton will now earn over £52,000 more than Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister.

Unlike the Eurocrats, most British public sector workers, including front line doctors and nurses, are facing pay freezes as the government reins in public spending that has been bloated by bank bailouts.

EU officials, who already pay reduced taxes and who are currently demanding free travel on public transport, will get the pay increase, with six months paid retrospectively, in time to celebrate the New Year.

Meanwhile, average pay rises in Britain have fallen to one per cent, the lowest increase on record, as almost half of British firms have frozen their employees’ pay.

Mats Persson, a spokesman for Open Europe think tank, said that already well paid officials needed to wake up to “what’s happening outside the Brussels bubble”.

“This is a PR disaster for the Commission. No wonder people find it hard to identify with the EU institutions,” he said.

The commission, which disclosed the figures yesterday, insisted that the pay rise is calculated in reference to civil service pay averages in eight EU countries and a special cost of living index for Brussels.

“This is an objective method,” said a spokesman. “But I cannot tell you if the method has ever gone down as well as up.”

Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence Party, said: “There is no recession for the EU bureaucracy. After the Lisbon Treaty enters into force next week there be will be thousands more of them.”

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian [Return to headlines]

Germany Home to 90 Combat Islamists: Report

There are about 90 combat-trained Islamists in Germany moving among underground networks, Focus magazine reported Saturday, as intelligence agencies and police prepare to overhaul the country’s anti-terrorism approach.

Some 30 of them have actual fighting experience through clashes with US or Pakistani soldiers, the magazine reported, citing German security sources.

In total, 185 Islamists trained in terrorist camps in central Asia had lived or worked in Germany in the past 10 years, the sources said.

New, young radicals were no longer recruited only through mosques, but also in universities, prisons and sports clubs, the report said.

The security sources wanted Germany to take a stronger stance in the future towards deradicalising young Islamists.

According to a separate report in magazine Der Spiegel, the Joint Terrorism Defence Centre (GTAZ) — a co-operation between various German police and intelligence agencies — will hold a forum in December to overhaul the country’s anti-terrorism strategy and come up with fresh approaches.

The efforts would be aimed at native German converts to Islam, as much as radicals with immigrant backgrounds.

Until now, anti-radicalisation measures had been piecemeal across Germany’s states, ranging from educational comic books to one-on-one conversations with violence-prone Islamists, the Spiegel report said.

The forum, organised by the Interior Ministry, would also study Jihadists who had already been convicted and imprisoned, as they posed their own danger in jail, where they could radicalise other prisoners.

To fight this problem, moderate Imams and Islamic organisations could be brought into counter the influence of radicals in jails, the Spiegel report said.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian [Return to headlines]

Germany: US Man Missing for Seven Days in Frankfurt

A 22-year-old American man went missing in Frankfurt seven days ago — vanishing without a trace after attending a concert with a friend, his father told The Local on Friday.

Devon Hollahan and his friend Josh Friedman had travelled to Frankfurt from Prague, where Hollahan works as an English teacher, to attend a concert by the band Portugal The Man on November 20.

Hollahan and Friedman had been drinking beer and were “tipsy” after attending an after party with the band, his father said. They then took a taxi to central Frankfurt to find their hostel around 3 am, getting out at the Hotel Luxor before heading to the Taunusalange metro station — on the edge of the city’s red light district.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

Italy: Pro-Cross Activist ‘Screamed Profanities’

(ANSA) — Genoa, November 27 — A man campaigning to keep crosses in Italian classrooms shocked shoppers in Genoa Friday when he burst into profanities after being challenged by a passer-by.

Eye witnesses said the man, an activist for the regionalist Northern League, got into a heated argument while leafleting against a recent ruling against classroom crosses by the European Court of Human Rights.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

Obama’s Visit Costs Norway Millions

From Danish: The Norwegian gov’t gave the police 80 million kroner for th visit, and the army 12 million kroner.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

Obama Going to Copenhagen Too Early: Sarkozy

PORT OF SPAIN — French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Friday questioned US President Barack Obama’s decision to attend the start of upcoming negotiations on global warming instead of the decisive final days.

“We can’t allow the presence of one single head of state to stymie the world’s affairs,” Sarkozy told reporters ahead of the Copenhagen conference which opens on December 7.

“The decisive moment is December 17 and 18. If some come at the beginning and others at the end, when will we be able to take decisions?” he asked.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

Spain: Catalonia’s Papers Defend Statute in Joint Editorial

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, NOVEMBER 26 — The twelve daily papers published in the region of Catalonia put out a joint editorial today, entitled “The Dignity of Catalonia”, defending the Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia, for which the People’s Party presented an appeal to the Constitutional Court. Awaiting the court’s decision, the long editorial asks for the contents of the Autonomy Charter not to be reshaped. The preamble defines Catalania as a nation, approved by the Catalonian Parliament and ratified by referendum in 2006. The article calls into question the authority of the Constitutional Court to make a decision on the Statute, as only six of its twelve members are fully functioning at the moment (four have finished their terms and are awaiting substitution; one was declined, and one post is empty after the head of the court’s death). Directed at Spanish public opinon, as La Vanguardia notes, the article expresses the concerns of many sectors of Catalonian society, given the possibility of an extremely restrictive verdict. According to the text, expectations are high and there is no shortness of apprehension, given the evidence that the Constitutional Court has been pushed by events to act as a fourth chamber, in opposition to the Catalonian Parliament, the General Courts, and the opinions liberally expressed at the polls. The editorial was published in the following dailies: La Vanguardia, El Periodico de Catalunya, Avui, El Punt, Segre, Diari de Tarragona, La Maana, Diari de Girona, Regi 7, El Nou 9, Diari de Sabadell, and Diari de Terrassa. On Tuesday, Premier Jose’ Luis Rodriguez Zapatero appealed for calmness, throwing water on the flames of controversy provoked by indiscretions seeping into the verdict determining the constitutionality of the Statute, awaited for three years. I have faith in the Constitutional Court’s good judgement and in our constitutional system, assured Zapatero. But Catalonia remains on a war-path.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Spain: Editorial on Catalonia Statute Shakes Politicians

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, NOVEMBER 27 — The joint editorial published yesterday by newspapers and some radio stations in Catalonia in favour of the Statute for autonomy entitled “Catalonia’s dignity”, has shaken the political world in Spain. The initiative was supported by the four major unions, including UGT and Comisiones Obreras, the five main Catalan entities including the small and medium sized companies, seven professional associations, the Chamber of Commerce and groups like the Barcelona Futbol Club and the Economy Club. All support the position expressed by the tripartite governing Catalonia consisting of Psc-Erc and IU-Ivc, and by the opposition CiU, which warned on severe consequences of a judgement by the Constitutional Court limiting the preogatives contained in the Statute, which in the preamble defines Catalonia as “a nation”. After nearly three years of deliberations, the Constitutional Court wrote the judgement on the appeal on the constitutionality of the statute — approved by a majority and ratified by a referendum in 2006 — presented by the Peoples Party. The alarm rang in Catalonia on the news leaked by the press relative to the judgement of the unconstitutionally of more than 40 of the 126 articles. However, in the rest of Spain, the majority opinion, according to todays issues of newspapers like El Mundo, El Pais and the conservative Abc, consider the editorial published by the Catalan media insupportable pressure on the high court. To defuse political tension, the government attempted to douse the flames, hoping that the cuts in the Statute will be less than those leaked, according to sources cited today by Publico, a publication close to the government of José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. The premier asked the PP to retract the case of unconstitutionality. On the table, as underlined by La Voz de Galizia, there is the architecture of the pluralist state of the autonomous areas, as defined by the Spanish Constitutional Court. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Switzerland: Divisive Minaret Ban Plans Face Voters’ Verdict

Voters have the final say on Sunday on a proposal by members of rightwing and ultra-conservative groups to outlaw the construction of minarets in Switzerland.

The ballot puts the Swiss policy on religious minorities and integration of immigrants under the spotlight. But the highly divisive plan has limited chances of winning a majority, according to experts.

The government and most political parties as well as churches and the business community have come out strongly against a proposed ban.

“The initiative is a kind of ‘proxy war’. Its supporters say they are against minarets. But they want to fight what they consider creeping Islamicisation and sharia law;” said Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf.

Opponents also warn that approval of the proposal would fuel Islamic extremism and damage Switzerland’s image aborad, particularly in the Muslim world.

However, supporters of a ban argue minarets are a symbol of an Islamic claim to power.

“The Islamic religion is intolerant, but we do not want to limit freedom of religion, we want to outlaw the political symbol,” says Ulrich Schlüer, a member of the rightwing Swiss People’s party and one of the leading promoters of the anti-minaret initiative.

The group says it is time to act now before Christian values are undermined and violence flares in Muslim ghettoes as in neighbouring European states.

The promoters claim there is public concern about the growing Muslim community in Switzerland, radical imams, the role of women, as well as head scarves and other dress codes.

Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf Immigrants

The number of Muslim immigrants has increased to about 350,000 (up to 4.5 per cent of the Swiss population) since the 1990s. Most of them came from the former Yugoslavia and Turkey and are considered moderates.

There are an estimated 160 mosques and prayer rooms in Switzerland, mainly in disused factories and warehouses. Only four of them have a minaret, including the mosques in Geneva and Zurich.

In the wake of heated debates at a local level about requests to build more minarets, members of the People’s Party and the Federal Democratic Union collected enough signatures to force a nationwide vote.

The campaign in the run-up to the vote on Sunday was marked by a provocative poster campaign which was criticised as racist by non-governmental organisations and international bodies.

“The supporters succeeded in forcing a broader debate about integration of Muslims in Swiss society,” said political scientist Claude Longchamp.

An opinion poll by his gfs.berne research institute two weeks ahead of the ballot found the margin between opponents and supporters narrowing. Nevertheless a majority of potential voters still rejected a minaret ban.

Given that the issue is one that generates strong feeling on either side, turnout is expected to be above average — around 50 per cent.

Alongside the anti-minaret initiative, voters will also decide on a separate proposal by an alliance of peace groups and centre-left political parties to ban the export of weapons and other war materiel.

It is the third time in nearly 40 years that pacifists have sought to win a majority for their cause.

The pacifists, including the Group for a Switzerland without an Army, argue that arms exports are incompatible with Switzerland’s foreign policy aims and traditional neutrality.

The government and most political parties have warned the initiative would cost thousands of jobs and weaken Switzerland’s defence capabilities.

The initiative has no realistic chance of winning approval at the ballot box, but observers note that the campaign has appealed to young citizens and to women in particular.

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

UK: Libel Tourism Gagging Scientific Free Speech

Britain’s libel laws are strangling free speech, a doctor being sued by an American company after criticising its research has warned.

Peter Wilmshurst said that libel tourism, which allows foreigners to sue for damages in British courts, is endangering the right of scientists and academics to scrutinise each other’s works.

The consultant cardiologist at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital faces financial ruin after he spoke out at a conference in America, criticising the research of U.S. company NMT Medical into a device to plug holes in the heart.

His comments were picked up by an American health website and ran online for three days.

But he is being sued in the UK because, in theory, the website could have been viewed in this country and British courts are seen as more likely to award large payments for damages.

Dr Wilmshurst said: ‘I’m being sued for something that appeared on an American website for three days two years ago.

‘It makes me rather more angry that the law can be used in his way to suppress information that may be in the public interest for us to know.

‘There is a fundamental principle of science at stake here. People have to be free to challenge research.’

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UK: Schizophrenic Who Stabbed a Vicar to Death ‘Was Not Properly Assessed’

A cannabis-crazed psychopath stabbed a vicar to death after a series of blunders by mental health authorities, a damning report has found.

Geraint Evans, who was obsessed with Satanism, knifed Father Paul Bennett, 59, in his country churchyard in front of the vicar’s wife Georgina.

An investigation found Evans had walked out of an appointment with mental health assessors eight months before the tragedy — because they were 40 minutes late — yet no attempt whatsoever was made to contact him.

If he had received a full assessment, the report found, the 24-year- old would have been diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic and would have been given appropriate treatment, lowering the chances he would kill.

Last night Mrs Bennett said the assessors’ inaction had had ‘the most dire of consequences on her family’ and that her husband had made a ‘ terrible sacrifice’ so lessons could be learned.

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UK: Theft Arrest for Chief Inspector

A senior Nottinghamshire Police officer has been arrested on suspicion of shoplifting.

Ch Insp Kim Molloy was arrested on Tuesday at the Tesco Extra store on Top Valley Drive in Top Valley, Nottingham.

It is understood the arrest is in connection with the alleged theft of make up from the store.

Ch Insp Molloy was taken to a nearby police station and bailed pending further inquiries. She has not been suspended from her job.

A spokesman for Nottinghamshire Police confirmed that a 44-year-old woman was arrested in connection with the incident and had been bailed until February.

Ms Molloy is a long-serving officer with the force and heads up the Offender Management programme on its Community Engagement Committee.

She also conducted a review of the county’s special constabulary in 2008 which refocussed their efforts on community policing.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian [Return to headlines]

UKIP Offered Tories Election Deal in Return for EU Vote

The UK Independence Party says it offered not to fight the next general election if the Conservatives agreed to hold a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.

New UKIP leader Lord Pearson of Rannoch told the Times he offered a deal after its strong European elections showing.

He told the BBC he thought a referendum would have gone against the treaty — meaning Britain would have effectively left the EU and UKIP could disband.

The Conservatives said any mention of a deal had been rejected “straight away”.

The ex-Tory peer told the BBC: “Well, the version in the Times is slightly paraphrased and condensed.

“We offered that if we got a clear, written promise with an agreed wording for a referendum on whether we stayed in or left the European Union… then we would stand down for the general election, providing we had this absolutely clearly in writing.

“And then when we had the referendum — which we believed we would win — we would then be out of the European Union and then at that point UKIP, well it would have been up to UKIP, but it would probably have disbanded because its major point would no longer be in existence.”

Lord Pearson said he had taken the proposed deal to Lord Strathclyde, the Conservative leader in the Lords, after UKIP beat Labour into third place in this year’s European elections.

He said he was acting on behalf of Mr Farage and told Lord Strathclyde to relay the offer to Tory leader David Cameron.

Lord Pearson told the BBC: “We made this offer to Tom Strathclyde, who was going to see David Cameron two days later. He said I’ll talk to David.”

However Lord Pearson said in the end he did not get an answer. He told the Times: “I’m so angry with them now.”

The Times said both Mr Farage and Lord Strathclyde had confirmed the meeting did take place.


Shadow Europe minister Mark Francois said of Lord Pearson’s comments: “We don’t make policy on the basis of secret deals with other parties; we decide our policies on the basis of what is right for the country.

“As we have said, a made-up referendum after ratification would be pointless.”

Lord Pearson gained nearly half of the approximately 9,900 votes cast by UKIP members in the leadership contest.

Following his victory, he said the Lisbon Treaty was “the last nail in the coffin of our democracy” and his objective at the next election would be to force a hung Parliament and a “realignment” in British politics.

UKIP does not have any MPs but has 13 MEPs and among its key aims is pulling the UK out of the European Union.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian [Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egypt-Algeria: Diplomatic Clash Leaves Economic Shadow

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, NOVEMBER 27 — Egypt’s investments in Algeria total almost 740 million euros, as against the 11 million invested by Algeria in Egypt. These figures reflect a potential consequence of the politico-diplomatic war being waged between the two countries, triggered off by recent events on and off the football field in qualifying for the World Cup finals. These numbers alone are enough to show that, should the affair get worse and if appeals to boycott Egyptian products and calls to suspend trade launched by some Algerian MPs at the height of the crisis have any effect, it would be Egypt who comes off worse. “Business affected, too” reads the English-language weekly supplement to the government-backed daily Al Ahram. Apart from citing figures released by the General Authority for Investments and Free Zones, the paper speaks of damages totalling 54 million dollars being suffered by Orascom Telecom in the attacks on its group’s shops and premises following the spread of rumours in Algeria that some Algerian fans had been killed during the match on November 14 in Cairo. It also points out that the Francophone daily, Tribune, has over past days said that the Algerian government intends to nationalise the branches of foreign companies which intend to up roots from the country as well as to step up state control of the economy. The question relates not only to some recent measures taken by the Algerian government such as the non-retroactive one which obliges foreign-based import companies to cede 30% of their capital to a local partner, or require a 50% involvement of an Algerian partner in any foreign investment project. The newspaper in fact cites an Efg-Hermes study on the impact of the new measures which oblige foreign companies benefitting from tax relief to reinvest an equivalent amount in Algeria. It also reminds its readers of the intention of the Algerian government, announced by Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia on August 10, “to take a majority stake in any future investment project involving foreign capital, without specifying the date and the industries to which the measure would be applied”. Another piece of news at the centre of the issue was made official at the height of the soccer-fuelled political crisis: that the Algerian authorities are forcing Orascom Telecom Algeria to pay around 596 million dollars, in back payments for the period 2005-2007 and fines: it is a decision which Orascom soon said it would appeal against. On the other hand, Al Ahram also notes that the Ota subsidiary in Algeria, Diezzy, has over eight years taken about 63% of the market, without counting the Algerian activities of Orascom Cement, the construction arm of the group, and that of Arab Contractors, a company 100% owned by the Egyptian government. Today, says the French-language weekly of Al Ahram, there are 32 Egyptian investment projects in Algeria, with Egypt the main investor in the country and at least 10 thousand Egyptian citizens working there. As for trade, it is up 53% in the space of one year. These are figures that give an idea of the importance of the Algerian market for Egypt, but not only, if the rumours are true that in the event of a cooling in trade relations, other countries are standing by to jump in. Meanwhile in the shop windows of some Cairo streets, you can still read the sign: ‘Algerians not allowed in’.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Italian Navy Modernises Kuriat Lighthouse

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, NOVEMBER 26 — The lighthouse on the Kuriat island in the Gulf of Monastir has been entirely modernised by the Italian Navy. The intervention is part of the cooperation project between the two countries’ navies as concerns safety in navigation and the safeguarding of human lives at sea. The renovations were carried out by an officer and seven technical experts from the Lighthouse Technical Centre (Maritecnofari) of the Italian navy, with assistance from two units: the Tavolara and the Palmaria. The former was used for the transport of all materials necessary, while the latter was used for the pick-up of old equipment. The works were carried out by Rear Admiral Nicola De Felice, Naval Attaché at the Italian Embassy in Tunis which (at the end of the works donated a bronze commemoration plaque to the Tunisian Navy Lighthouse Service in Monastir. In the past the Italian navy had also modernised the Capo Bon lighthouse as well as the one on the Isola dei Cani. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

2,000 Protest Haredi Religious Coercion in Jerusalem

About two thousand secular Israelis demonstrated in central Jerusalem on Saturday evening, to protest police weakness in the face of what they branded ultra-Orthodox religious coercion and violence.

Police said there was no violence as protestors marched through the western part of Jerusalem, waving blue and white Israeli flags and holding placards reading “Jerusalem will not fall,” and “We are sick of [religious] coercion.”

The demonstration came after months of Haredi protests against parking lots in the capital that are open on Shabbat, which occasionally spilled over into violence.

There have recently also been demonstrations against computer chip manufacturer Intel for running a plant in Jerusalem on the Sabbath; earlier on Saturday, dozens of ultra-Orthodox Jews protested outside facility.

MK Nitzan Horowitz, of the left-wing Meretz party, participated in the march, during which he denounced the frequent recourse to violence by the ultra-Orthodox.

“Once its education, another time it’s Intel; once it’s the Pride March — but these are just excuses to demonstrate force, violence and coercion,” he said.

“There will be no Jerusalem without seculars, there will be no Jerusalem without a free Kiryat Yovel; and if Jerusalem will not be free, the State of Israel won’t be free either.”

Horowitz was referring to a largely secular Jerusalem neighborhood into which hundreds of ultra-Orthodox families have moved, leading the residents to fear a Haredi takeover.

The Forum of Organizations for a Free Jerusalem, an umbrella group for secular organizations, held the march under the slogan, “Taking Jerusalem back — and by walking.”

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

Gaza: Militant Struck by Israeli Air Fire Dies

(ANSAmed) — GAZA, NOVEMBER 27 — One of the four militants struck at dawn today in the Jabalya refugee camp in an attack by the Israeli air force has died in a Gaza hospital, local sources say. According to a military spokesperson in Tel Aviv, the four were armed and were preparing to launch a rocket into Israeli territory. The spokesperson added that the militia were alligned to ‘Jaljalat’, a fundamentalist Salafist group influenced by al-Qaeda. The spokesperson nonetheless reaffirmed that Israel holds Hamas responsible for the prevention of such incidents. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Netanyahu Rejects Minister’s Comment on Obama

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, NOVEMBER 27 — A remark by Israel’s Minister for Culture and Sport, Limor Livnat, gave rise to an extremely awkward situation within the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu, when in a meeting with Likud activists Livnat called the Obama administration “terrible” towards Israel. Netanyahu immediately issued a statement assuring that the female minister had not been expressing the position of his government which, instead, “highly esteems the close alliance with the United States, which is continuing with the Obama administration.” Today Livnat said that she did not remember using the word “terrible” (which, however, had been heard by a number of journalists), but reiterated that Obama stands out for his “rigid” stance towards the current Israeli government. Livnat’s remark has come at an unfortunate time for Netanyahu, just after the painful decision by his government’s Defence Council to freeze new building activities in the West Bank. The main aim of this decision, note observers, is to create a conciliatory climate in relations between Jerusalem and Washington. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Middle East

Football More Important Than Palestinians

From Dutch: Buthaina Shaaban, adviser to Syrian president Assad, says that Arabs should stop fighting about football and start worrying about protecting those under siege in Gaza, Jerusalem and other holy Arab places.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

Lebanon: Hezbollah Arms Legitimized in Gov’t Draft Programme

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, NOVEMBER 27 — The Lebanese government of national unity is preparing to approve the text of its programme, after a specially created commission within the executive finalised the draft, in which the right of the Shiite Hezbollah movement to use its arsenal against Israel in the name of resistance is confirmed. In their ninth consecutive sitting and despite opposition from several Christian ministers from the parliamentary majority, the members of the commission yesterday evening reached an agreement on the text that will be approved next week by the government in full. The text, like the one by the previous government formed in 2008, states that the executive, on the basis of its responsibility to safeguard the sovereignty, the independence, the unity and territorial security of Lebanon, repeats the right of the people, the army and the Resistance (synonym of Hezbollah) to liberate and take back the farms of Shebaa, the hills of Kfra Shuba and the northern part of the village of Ghajar, in reference to territories occupied by Israel and claimed by Lebanon. Among the other paragraphs of the draft that stand out: the one regarding the strengthening of Lebanese-Syrian relations, as they impose the historical bonds and the common interests of between the two peoples and the two states, and the one in which the government pledges to follow every effort on the issue of the death in Libya in 1978 of the Iranian-Lebanese Shiite imam Mussa Sadr and his two companions. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Saudi Troops ‘Captured’ By Houthi Rebels in Yemen

Nine Saudi soldiers have been captured by Houthi rebels during fighting in northern Yemen, a rebel spokesman says.

Speaking from Germany, Yahya al-Houthi told the BBC their grievance was with the Yemeni government and urged Saudi Arabia to stay out of the conflict.

The Saudi defence ministry has confirmed nine soldiers are missing and may have been taken prisoner.

The Houthis accuse Riyadh of supporting the Yemeni armed forces by letting them launch attacks from its territory.

Later, the rebels said on their website that Saudi planes had carried out bombing raids about 30km (19 miles) inside Yemen.

A statement said the attack on Saqayn district had caused civilian casualties, but gave no further details.

Saudi forces have been carrying out air and artillery strikes on Yemen for several weeks, after the rebels killed a border guard in a raid.


The Houthis, named after the family of their leader, say they are trying to reverse the political, economic and religious marginalisation of the Zaydi Shia community.

They also accuse Saudi Arabia of supporting the Yemeni armed forces by allowing them to launch attacks from its territory, a charge both countries deny.

The Yemeni government accuses the Houthis of wanting to re-establish Zaydi clerical rule, which ended in 1962.

The Zaydi community are a minority in Yemen, but make up the majority in the north of the country.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian [Return to headlines]

Saudis Blast Govt After Deadly Jeddah Flood

AFP — A Saudi lawyer said on Saturday he will sue the city of Jeddah, as thousands took to Facebook to blast authorities in a rare burst of open outrage after floods killed almost 100 people in the Red Sea port.

The toll jumped to 98 from Wednesday’s floods, after authorities discovered more bodies, said a civil defence official.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

Yemen: Rebels Block Key Highway

New York, 27 Nov. (AKI) — Armed militants have blocked the main highway in southern Yemen leaving dozens of people stranded for the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha. According to the Arab TV network, Al-Arabiya, many were people travelling from the north were unable to reach the southern port city of Aden for the festival.

Five Yemenis died in clashes on Wednesday between security forces and southern separatists who say the northern-based government discriminates against the south, where most of Yemen’s oil facilities are located.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]


Russia Blames Terrorists as Dozens Killed in Train Crash

Top government officials among the dead, as Moscow blames homemade bomb that could signal renewed campaign by Chechen rebels

Russia was tonight coming to terms with its most deadly terrorist attack in years after investigators confirmed that a powerful improvised bomb caused Friday’s devastating train crash in which at least 26 people, including several top government officials, were killed.

The head of Russia’s FSB counter-terrorism agency, Alexander Bortnikov, said the bomb, hidden on the railway line between Moscow and St Petersburg, contained the equivalent of 7kg (15.4lb) of TNT. Officers had found “elements of an explosive device”, he said.

Today two huge cranes lifted up wreckage at the crash site as workers searched for the missing. Officials said 18 people were still unaccounted for. Nearly 100 people injured in the crash were being treated in hospitals. Russia’s president, Dmitry Medvedev, called for calm amid speculation the explosion could be the start of a new campaign by Chechen extremists. “We need there to be no chaos, because the situation is tense as it is,” he told Russian TV.

The luxury Nevsky Express was carrying 682 passengers and 29 crew from Moscow to Russia’s second city St Petersburg. It was derailed at 9.34pm on Friday, close to the village of Uglovka, 250 miles north west of Moscow.

Yesterday witnesses described how they heard a “tremendous crash” as the train derailed. “At exactly 9.30pm, 15 minutes after we had passed Bologoye [in the Tver region], we heard an almighty slap,” survivor Boris Gruzd told radio station Ekho Moskvy. “It seemed to me as if we had lost a wheel or smashed through some kind of obstacle. I didn’t hear any explosion.”

Gruzd said the train driver braked severely. The passengers then spent 30 minutes unaware that the last three wagons of the 14-carriage train had flown off the rails. “The first wagon was 1.5-2kms away from the rest of the train. The second had completely flipped over. The third had come off the rails, but was near the main part of the train and was still standing vertically. As far as I know nobody from this wagon was seriously hurt.”

Passenger Igor Pechnikov described being in the second of the three derailed cars. “A trembling began, and the carriage jolted violently to the left. I flew through half of the carriage,” he said.

Gruzd said that the passengers immediately began collecting warm clothes and mattresses to help the injured. But he said it was extremely difficult to reach people trapped in the mangled carriages — with rescuers peering into the gloom and using flashlights.

So far investigators have not said who they believe planted the homemade bomb. In the days before the crash villagers reported seeing a suspicious individual. “As far as theories go … our main version is that this was an explosion of an unknown device, by unknown individuals. Put simply, it was an act of terror,” Vladimir Yakunin, Russia’s railways minister, said yesterday.

Yakunin said the incident was “analogous” to another derailment on the same line three years ago, also involving the Nevsky Express, in which 19 people were injured. Russian prosecutors blamed that derailment on Chechen rebels, who have been fighting an on-off war against the Russian state for two decades.

According to Ekho Moskvy, a radical neo-Nazi group opposed to migrants from the former Soviet republics of central Asia has claimed responsibility for Friday’s crash, which paralysed train travel yesterday and delayed 27,000 passengers. Other nationalist groups later denied the report.

There seems little doubt that the Kremlin will point the finger of blame at Islamist insurgents currently waging a guerrilla campaign across the north Caucasus. Rebel fighters have carried out numerous attacks in recent months, including suicide bombings, in their apparent attempt to establish an Islamic caliphate.

Russian prosecutors said they believed Pavel Kosolapov, an ex-solider and former associate of the late Chechen rebel leader Shamil Basayev, masterminded the previous derailment. Kosolapov is currently on the run. Prosecutors have arrested two residents of Ingushetia and charged them with helping carry out the 2006 attack.

Yesterday, investigators said they had discovered a 3ft crater beneath the rails where the bomb had gone off. Reuters, however, said that its reporters at the scene had been unable to find it. Earlier, Russian news agencies had quoted transport officials as saying the cause may have been an electrical fault. Russia has a poor record of serious accidents caused by Soviet-era infrastructure.

Among the named dead so far were several senior Kremlin bureaucrats, including Boris Yevstratikov, the head of Russia’s Federal Reserve Agency, and Lyudmila Mukhina, a deputy head in the Federal Fishing Agency. A former St Petersburg senator, Sergei Tarasov, also died.

[Return to headlines]

U.S. Gears Back Criticism of Two Russia-Backed Pipelines

The U.S. has toned down its once-strident criticism of two controversial Russian-backed pipelines, a shift in rhetoric that coincides with strong progress on the high-profile projects in recent months.

For years, the Bush administration argued against building the two gas pipelines — Nord Stream, which will run from Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea, and South Stream, which will cross the Black Sea into Eastern Europe. The pipelines steer clear of Ukraine, with which Russia has had a string of transit disputes that disrupted the flow of gas into Europe in recent years.

Some Eastern European states such as Poland also resisted Nord Stream, fearing it would deprive them of lucrative transit fees, while Germany said it would improve Europe’s energy security. The U.S. took the position that both pipelines, strongly promoted by the Kremlin, would increase Europe’s already heavy dependence on Russian natural-gas imports and stifle competition.

But the Obama administration has damped the anti-Russian rhetoric. Where U.S. diplomats once railed against the power of OAO Gazprom, the Kremlin-controlled gas company, and accused Russia of using its natural resources as a political weapon, they now emphasize engagement and dialogue.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian [Return to headlines]

South Asia

2 Afghans Allege Abuse at U.S. Site

Teenagers say they were interrogated at secretive Bagram holding center

KABUL — Two Afghan teenagers held in U.S. detention north of Kabul this year said they were beaten by American guards, photographed naked, deprived of sleep and held in solitary confinement in concrete cells for at least two weeks while undergoing daily interrogation about their alleged links to the Taliban.

The accounts could not be independently substantiated. But in successive, on-the-record interviews, the teenagers presented a detailed, consistent portrait suggesting that the abusive treatment of suspected insurgents has in some cases continued under the Obama administration, despite steps that President Obama has said would put an end to the harsh interrogation practices authorized by the Bush administration after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

NATO Has Lost Its Way in Afghanistan, Army Chief Tells Muslims

Nato has lost its way in Afghanistan and needs to rediscover the conviction to succeed against the Taleban, the head of the Army has admitted.

In a frank interview with a Muslim newspaper, General Sir David Richards, the Chief of the General Staff, compared the success of the initial operation to topple the Taleban in 2001 with the present counter-insurgency campaign that has led to thousands of casualties among Nato troops over the past eight years.

Speaking to Muslim News, General Richards said: “Look at the huge popularity of the Nato intervention in 2001. What we’ve done is lost our way a bit and need to find it again and have the moral and physical conviction that we can do these things.”

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

Pakistan: Taliban Trying to Destroy Buddhist Art From the Gandhara Period

Archaeologists and experts sound the alarm. The ancient Indo-Hellenistic heritage of the country could go the way of the Bamiyan Buddhas, in neighbouring Afghanistan. Digging and research have stopped; tourists are nowhere to be seen because of attacks and violence.

Islamabad (AsiaNews/Agencies) — Pakistani and foreign archaeologists have set off the alarm bell, warning that the Taliban are destroying Pakistan’s ancient Gandhara heritage, which includes some of the oldest representations of the Buddha. Because of violence, tourists shy away from the country’s northwest and local works of art are increasingly at risk of going the way of the Bamiyan Buddha statues, which the Taliban destroyed in 2001.

“Militants are the enemies of culture,’ said Abdul Nasir Khan, curator of Taxila Museum, home to one of the premier archaeological collections in Pakistan, some 20 kilometres south of Islamabad.

As one of the foremost archaeological sites in Pakistan, Taxila possesses some of the most important artefacts from the Gandhara civilisation, which peaked between the 5th century BC and the 2nd century AD.

Emerging in the wake of the conquests by Alexander the Great, the Gandhara kingdom blended Indian traditions and Hellenistic culture, with representations of the Buddha taking on human forms that resemble Greek divinities, especially the god Apollo.

“‘Even in Taxila we don’t feel safe. The local administration has warned us about a possible attack on this museum. We have taken some extra security precautions but they aren’t sufficient and we lack funds,” Khan said.

“For weeks we don’t get even a single foreign visitor. If visitors don’t come, if sites are not preserved and protected, if research stops, what do you think will be the future of archaeology?’“ he noted.

In March 2001, Taliban militants in neighbouring Afghanistan blew up two 1,500-year-old Bamiyan Buddha statues in defiance of international appeals.

The Taliban oppose all forms of art like music, dance, girls’ education and impose a strict interpretation of Islamic rules.

Their extremist vision has since spread into Pakistan and could negatively affect that country’s artistic and cultural heritage.

In September 2008, the Taliban twice tried to blow up 7th century Buddhist relics in the Swat Valley.

In recent months, the same area has been at the centre of fighting between the Taliban and the Pakistani military.

“This is the worst time for archaeology,” Khan said. “Militancy has affected it very badly. There were 15-20 foreign missions working in this field, now this research has completely stopped,”

Once Peshawar, the capital of the North-West Frontier Province, attracted thousands of tourists, eager to see the region’s rich artistic and cultural assets. Now it is off-limits to foreigners because of the ongoing violence.

“Tourist companies have closed. Foreign visitors have stopped coming and museums with monuments and other archaeological sites look deserted,” said Qazi Ijaz, an official at Peshawar museum.

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


Expert From Sweden: No Need to Fear China Nor Islam

Prague — The world of the 21st century undeniably faces new global challenges — from terrorism, nuclear power, ecological refugees to drug cartels and pirates.

“It is not as it used to be in the 1960s when one telephone call was good enough to secure the safety of the world,” Prague 6 mayor Tomáš Chalupa said at a conference titled the Security of the European Union and Czech Republic in the multipolar world in the 21st century that took place in Prague.

“Today we don’t even know what number to call,” he added half-jokingly.


The immigration policy issue is hotly debated these days in the EU. Do you think all the 27 EU member states are able to find a solution that everybody would be happy about?

The countries that are facing immigration more than the others (Spain, Greece, Malta) are doing it. They are pushing more than the rest of us. Some countries like Sweden have been pushing too for some time but without much success. But it is obvious the situation now cannot continue, though.

The Commission’s idea now is to reward countries that volunteer to accept asylum-seekers. Per each refugee they would receive 4,000 euro. This is probably the only way to do it.

Because if the Commission tries to make it compulsory, they will not succeed. And yet, there will be countries that will say that 4,000 euro is nothing compared to the expenses and dangers the countries face when they take refugees.

There has been much talk lately about the islamisation of Europe. Prague 6 mayor Tomáš Chalupa pointed out at the beginning of the conference that the name Mohammed is the most common name in Western cities. Should Europe fear islamisation then?

Mohammed is really the most common name now. But we should not divide people along the religion line. To some degree I can understand people that the world has changed totally for them and it may be difficult to accept that. It takes some time to adjust to the new world. In a way it is sad that the world is changing. But we have to find a way to live with each other. Otherwise we will have problems of all kinds.

What I don’t like is that some European countries do not agree to lift the free trade barriers in North Africa. Just because we do not want them to compete with us, especially with their agricultural products. But if we were a bit more generous with them, helping them to stay where they are, we would have less illegal immigrants coming to Europe.


But according to SIPRI China is among the first ten countries in the world that have spent on armament in 2009. It also supplying arms to Africa, Burma etc. There is still not a threat in your view?

It is not the main threat to the world but it is a problem. But there are many European countries that are doing the same. By the way, France is selling high technology weapons to Russia right now.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian [Return to headlines]

French Parties Testing the Political Waters on Immigration Law Changes

POLLING DAY may be four months away, but a political row over whether to issue undocumented immigrants with residence permits has shown France’s government and opposition parties already positioning themselves for next year’s regional elections.

With more than 5,000 long-term undocumented migrant workers having taken part in strikes since mid-October to demand official residence status in France, Socialist Party leader Martine Aubry this week proposed a “large scale regularisation” scheme for sans-papiers who met certain criteria.

“Those who are here a long time, who work, who pay their taxes — there is no reason why they shouldn’t have their rights,” Socialist former prime minister Laurent Fabius added.

The main opposition party’s intervention came in response to plans announced by the government last weekend to introduce tougher sanctions for companies that employ undocumented staff. According to the CGT trade union, there are up to 400,000 sans-papiers in France, with most concentrated in the catering, building and security industries.

“[The government] are going to close half of all restaurants,” scoffed a senior socialist quoted by the financial newspaper Les Échos .

While some interpreted the Socialists’ move as an attempt, in advance of the regional elections next March, to reclaim the ground it has recently lost to rival left-wing groups, the ruling UMP party — conscious of the need to guard its own terrain against incursions from the National Front — has not missed the opportunity to press its own credentials on immigration.

Minister for Immigration Éric Besson — a member of the Socialist Party before he defected in 2007 — called the opposition party “irresponsible” for broaching the idea of regularisation, while several of his colleagues said even mentioning the notion could attract more illegal immigration.

“As long as I am president of the Republic, I will not accept a comprehensive regularisation of those who don’t have their permits. I’ll never accept it, because it’s contrary to my idea of the values of the republic,” President Nicolas Sarkozy said during a visit to a Parisian suburb on Tuesday.

Several European countries — including France, Spain and Italy — have introduced amnesty schemes for different categories of undocumented immigrants in the past 20 years, but a spokesman for the Élysée Palace said EU states had agreed last year, during the French presidency of the European Council, that they would refrain from adopting any “mass regularisation” programmes.

While the debate has exposed differences of approach and rhetoric between Mr Sarkozy’s UMP and the Socialists, the parties’ policies do not appear radically different.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian [Return to headlines]

French Film About Illegal Immigrant Trying to Enter Britain Wins Top EU Award

A French film about an illegal migrant who tries to swim across the Channel from Calais to Britain has won a top EU award for its celebration of ‘integration’ in Europe.

The controversial movie called Welcome dramatises a ‘likeable’ migrant’s illegal attempt to reach our shores.

When released earlier this year the film was criticised by many who said it glamourised the illegal efforts of migrants to get into Britain.

But MEPs in Brussels this week awarded it the EU’s prestigious Lux Film Award.

The annual prize is given by the European Parliament for the film which best illustrates ‘the European integration process, topical European issues or cultural diversity in the Union’.

The film centres on a Kurdish refugee who has failed to sneak aboard lorries and ferries to the UK — so decides to swim the 18 miles to the Kent coast instead.

A French lifeguard played by popular actor Vincent Lindon decides to help the Kurd make the crossing.

But the attempt is unsuccessful, and the lifeguard is finally arrested by frontier police for trying to help a migrant enter Britain illegally.

The film’s director Philippe Lioret also whipped up a storm of controversy this year for likening the situation of Calais migrants to that of Jews under the Nazi occupation during World War Two.

As well as the award — shaped like a Tower of Babel — Mr Lioret was handed a cheque for £80,000, part of which he must use to have the film subtitled or dubbed into all 23 languages of the European Union.

A Calais police spokesman said after the film hit French cinemas in March: ‘I think we would be disappointed if it made breaching frontier controls look like some kind of noble quest.’

Council chiefs in Calais also said they hoped the film would not present sneaking into Britain as a ‘worthwhile task’.

A spokesman said: ‘The idea of making a refugee very likeable, then to have the audience rooting for him to successfully swim to Britain goes against everything border patrols in France and the UK are trying to achieve.

‘Anyone with a genuine case for asylum should have it heard through the correct channels, and not try to side-step customs and security.’

Mr Lioret said his film was aimed at criticising a French law that makes it a crime to help illegal immigrants.

He said: ‘To see that a decent guy can all of a sudden be charged and imprisoned for helping a migrant is crazy. It feels like it’s 1943 and we’ve hidden a Jew in the basement.’

The film’s main star Vincent Lindon, who plays the lifeguard, also spoke out in support of the hundreds of British-bound migrants massed on the French coast.

He said after the film’s release: ‘I believe we must respect human beings. The people in Calais are often treated worse than dogs.’

The EU’s website for the Lux film award says it is aimed at ‘showing the process of building Europe in a different light’.

It adds: ‘As the European Union works on a new treaty, the artistic and narrative quality of the winning film will give the audience a glimpse of a submerged dimension of the European venture the individual, perhaps the intimate, dimension.’

After receiving his award, director Mr Lioret said it showed that MEPs backed his film’s controversial view of illegal immigration.

He said: ‘We see this as a sign of support for the values which the film defends commitment, solidarity and open-mindedness against all attempts to go backwards.’

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian [Return to headlines]

Ireland: Suspended Term for Trying to Bribe Immigration Officer

A woman has been given a three-month suspended jail sentence after she pleaded guilty to attempting to bribe a garda to regularise work permits for two fellow employees at the restaurant where she worked.

Xuan Wang (27), Oliver Plunkett Hill, Fermoy, Co Cork, pleaded guilty at Fermoy District Court to attempting to bribe immigration officer Garda Maurice Mulcahy at Fermoy Garda station on May 31st.

Insp Tony O’Sullivan told how Garda Mulcahy had asked the two foreign nationals to attend Fermoy station in relation to work permit issues but Wang, who worked in the same restaurant, arrived instead accompanied by another person.

She handed her passport containing six €50 notes to Garda Mulcahy and whispered to him:

“You keep it, it’s for you.”

Garda Mulcahy immediately notified a Garda colleague of the attempted bribe and Wang was later charged.

Judge Michael Pattwell said bribery was a serious matter.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian [Return to headlines]

Spain: Congress Approves New Laws on Foreigners

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, NOVEMBER 26 — The Spanish Congress gave its final approval to law reforms for foreigners, with 180 votes in favour (Psoe, CiU, Coalicion Canaria), 163 votes against (PP, Pnv, UpyD, Erc, Iu-Icv e Nafarroa Bai), and 3 abstentions. The new reforms, the fourth in a short time, are: the maximum stay by immigrants in temporary detention centres increases from 40 to 60 days; a restriction in the possibility of reuniting families, consent for children who are minors and only family members over 65 or for humanitarian reasons; the legal protection of repatriated minors; the possibility of granting stay permits or work permits to immigrant women who are victims of domestic violence; the creation of a register of foreigners entry and departure. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Spain to Support Malta on Immigration

(VALLETTA) — Spain will support Malta’s bid to host a new European asylum bureau, the Spanish foreign minister said on Thursday.

Earlier this year the European Commission said it would set up the European Asylum Support Office to help member countries deal with immigration.

“Spain understands the problems Malta faces over illegal immigration and we will make this issue a priority of our European Union presidency,” Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos said.

Spain will take over the rotating EU presidency in January 2010.

At a joint press conference with his Maltese counterpart Tonio Borg, Moratinos said Spain wanted to address illegal migration in a concrete manner by giving Frontex, the EU’s border control agency, a new, more efficient role. Madrid will keep close contact with Malta, Greece and Cyprus to achieve better results on immigration, Moratinos said.

Malta and Spain on Thursday signed agreements on a range of subjects, including maritime affairs, education and culture.

Moratinos was in Malta accompanying Spanish King Juan Carlos on a two-day state visit ending later Thursday.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian [Return to headlines]


‘Gender Jihad’ In the Service of Women’s Rights

The 44-year-old US writer Asra Nomani is viewed as a prominent representative of “Gender Jihad”. For the former Wall Street Journal reporter, there is no contradiction between Islam and feminism. She spoke to Alfred Hackensberger

In both western countries and Muslim societies feminism and Islam are mostly regarded as irreconcilable opposites. Why are they not compatible?

Asra Nomani: Yes, I’m always hearing that view at my lectures. But as far as I’m concerned, the two go hand in hand. I think Islam was originally a feminist religion. The Prophet Mohammed was a feminist, like his first wife Khadija, his daughter Fatima and his wife Aisha. None of them allowed themselves to be pushed aside, and they all spoke their minds. I don’t think Islamic feminism is an apparent contradiction.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

Wanted: Some Good Old-Fashioned Snake Oil…

Snake Oil…or some other similar remedy to chase away this flu.

The future Baron is gradually improving. His cough is slowly receding, but he still has a fever, which is troubling.

On the other hand, the fB’s girlfriend, who visited with us a week ago, developed her own version of this creeping crud. She went to the doctor yesterday, and he told her that what she had was the common cold, and not the flu, swine or otherwise. Her symptoms were all but identical to Dymphna’s and mine.

So it could be that she unwittingly brought a whole new virus into the house and infected us all with it.

Dymphna’s cough is worrisome because of her asthma. We are hoping to avoid the emergency room between now and Monday, when we can visit our regular doctor.

I’ve had a relatively high fever, at least for me — 100.8° (38.2°) this afternoon. The Ibuprofen only puts a slight dent in it. As a result, most of the time I just sleep or lie around and read Elmore Leonard and Jack Vance books.

Last week Dymphna concocted a home remedy for the FB that I’ve been taking since I got sick: fresh ginger root ground up and made into a syrup, with seltzer added. It’s very strong, and only slightly sweet. Makes my buccal cavity sit up and take notice.

Tonight I will post another (only slightly abbreviated) news feed.

More later.

[Nothing follows]

A History of Geology and Planetary Science

The Fjordman Report

The noted blogger Fjordman is filing this report via Gates of Vienna.
For a complete Fjordman blogography, see The Fjordman Files. There is also a multi-index listing here.

This essay was originally published in three parts. See: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

People have appreciated stones for practical or decorative usages since prehistoric times. Flint has been utilized for tools for tens of thousands of years. Gemstones were valued and traded objects in ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt, China, India, the Americas and elsewhere. One of the most notable and systematic ancient works on what we recognize as mineralogy was On Stones by the Greek natural philosopher Theophrastus, completed just after 300 BC. In the first century AD, the Roman author Pliny the Elder described many minerals and their uses and was among the first observers to correctly identify amber as fossilized resin from trees.

There are those who claim that the history of geology begins in the eleventh century AD with the Persian polymath Avicenna, a view which is not entirely convincing.. In China, the polymath Shen Kuo upon noticing that there were seashells embedded in a sandstone cliff far above sea level inferred that the sandstone must have derived from an ancient beach that had somehow been compressed and elevated. While this insight was correct, it remained an isolated observation and was not followed up by other Chinese or Asian scholars. Moreover, the Greek philosopher Xenophanes of Colophon had observed already in the sixth century BC that seashells occur in mountains far away from where the sea is today. Geology, like modern science in general, was born in Europe after the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment.

There were a number of important medieval mines in the mountainous regions of Germany and Eastern Europe. After the introduction of Chinese gunpowder during the Mongol conquests and the independent development of large cannon in Europe, the demand for copper for the manufacture of bronze cannon in the fifteenth century was a stimulus for advances such as the “liquation” process, used in mixed ores to separate silver from copper.

The German scholar Georgius Agricola (1494-1555) was a Renaissance pioneer in the fields of mineralogy and metallurgy. He got a degree from the University of Leipzig and studied medicine in Italy. On his return to Saxony in 1526 he developed a life-long interest in mining and spent much time in Bohemia, probably the richest metal mining district in Europe. His work De Re Metallica, published posthumously in 1556, was a comprehensive summary of all aspects of mining and metal production then known. His work was highly regarded by contemporaries and has stood the test of time well.

Athanasius Kircher (1601-1680), a German Jesuit priest and universal scholar, explored the volcanoes of southern Italy. Mount Vesuvius had a large eruption in 1631. A few years later, Kircher had himself lowered by means of a rope into its crater to study its inner structure. In his work Mundus Subterraneus (Subterranean World) he postulated the existence of a central fire inside of the Earth which was feeding heat to the surface through various channels and fissures. The sources of the combustion were thought to be coal, sulfur and other materials.

Nicolas Steno, or Niels Stensen (1638-1686) from Copenhagen, Denmark, studied medicine and moved to Italy in 1665. In 1666, two fishermen caught a huge shark which Steno dissected. While examining its teeth he was struck by their resemblance to stony objects that were found in certain rocks. He argued that these objects had come from once-living sharks and come to be buried in mud or sand that was now dry land. His English contemporaries Robert Hooke and partly John Ray, too, argued that fossils were the geologically preserved remains of once-living organisms. In Agricola’s time, “fossil” was a term that was applied to virtually any object dug from the ground, be that organic remains such as ammonites and trilobites or regular rocks. Steno is especially famous for his law of superposition. In 1669 he concluded that layers of rock (strata) are arranged in a time sequence with the oldest on the bottom and the youngest on the top, unless later processes have disturbed this arrangement.

The French naturalist Jean-Étienne Guettard (1715-1786) was the first person to recognize the volcanic nature of the Auvergne region in central France. In addition to this he prepared early geological maps and identified heat as the causative factor of change in the Earth’s landforms. Nicolas Desmarest (1725-1815) in the 1760s studied the Auvergne region and found large basalt deposits and traces of flows of lava (magma, or molten rock) from nearby now-extinct volcanoes. Vulcanists such as Desmarest argued that basalts had flowed from volcanoes, and studies of extinct volcanoes confirmed this assertion. The German naturalist Alexander von Humboldt carried our major studies of volcanoes in the early nineteenth century.

The word “geology” as a term for the study of the Earth was popularized in the late eighteenth century by the Swiss (Genevan) naturalists Horace-Bénédict de Saussure (1740-1799), the aristocrat and scholar famous for his many voyages in the Alps, and Jean-André Deluc (1727-1817). Saussure is often considered the founder of alpinism or mountaineering and conquered Mont Blanc (4,810 m) in 1787. At the summit he tested the boiling point of water, the temperature of the snow and the pulse of his guides. Deluc was the son of a clockmaker and spent years climbing the Alps with his brother. He made accurate instruments to measure the height of mountains and in 1773 sought a place in England. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in London on the strength of his barometry and his instrumentation skills.

The German scholar Abraham Gottlob Werner (1749-1817) studied law at the University of Leipzig and later got a teaching appointment at the Mining Academy of Freiberg in Saxony, where he stayed for many years. As a talented mineralogist he worked up simple descriptive standards of classification and discovered eight new minerals. Mineralogy gradually diminished from the overarching category for the study of the Earth to a mere subdiscipline. While sometimes wrong, Werner was an influential geologist and the first to work out a comprehensive theory for the history of the Earth’s formation. He believed that all rock was once sediment or precipitate in a universal ocean, a view which became known as Neptunism.

James Hutton (1726-1797) was the leading representative of the rival Plutonist school. Born and educated in Edinburgh, Scotland, during what has become known as the Scottish Enlightenment, Hutton was a Newtonian in natural philosophy and counted among his friends the chemist Joseph Black, the economist Adam Smith and the inventor James Watt. Hutton proposed the uniformitarian view of geological history where all strata could be accounted for in terms of geological forces operating over very long periods of time, such as the slow erosion of rocks. His ideas were popularized by John Playfair (1748-1819) of the University of Edinburgh and picked up by the young Scottish geologist Charles Lyell (1797-1875).

Charles Lyell became fascinated with geology as a young man and took field trips to Continental Europe. Sicily with the active stratovolcano Mount Etna in particular impressed him. As a member of the Geological Society he took part in lively debates and supported the uniformitarian theory. Contrary to catastrophism, which indicated that our planet has been shaped primarily by sudden, violent events, uniformitarianism indicated the past to have been an uninterrupted period of erosion, sediment deposition, volcanic action and earthquakes. These slow and incremental processes, still going on today, could account for great changes if given enough time. This view implied that the Earth had to be many millions of years old.

Lyell’s Principles of Geology, first published in 1830, was very successful and accessible to a wider audience, something which Hutton’s work never had been. It went through many editions and brought the author an income so that he could travel and expand his ideas. Lyell influenced a number of men of science, including the young Charles Darwin. Modern geology can be said to have been born with Charles Lyell’s extension of James Hutton’s theories.

The principles of stratigraphy, the study of the Earth’s strata or layers of sedimentary rock, had been created by Nicolas Steno in the late 1600s and were rapidly extended between 1810 and 1840. Over the next century, geologists filled in the details of the stratigraphic column with ever-greater precision. By the turn of the nineteenth century it was generally accepted among Western European scholars that fossils could be used to identify and correlate strata.

The great naturalist Georges Cuvier (1769-1832), widely considered the founder of paleontology and comparative anatomy, together with fellow French scholar Alexandre Brongniart (1770-1847) produced a pioneering geological map of the Paris region in 1812. Brongniart had studied chemistry under the brilliant chemist Antoine Lavoisier. The fruitful collaboration between these two men established a scientific approach to stratigraphy and demonstrated that geological strata could be recognized by the fossils found within them.

The self-educated English surveyor, canal engineer and geologist William Smith (1769-1839) came from a family of small farmers. He received little formal education, but from an early age took an interest in exploring fossils. Based on careful stratigraphic investigations from canals and quarries he published his Geologic Map of England and Wales with Part of Scotland in 1815, the world’s first nationwide geological map. Partly due to his humble origins and limited education his great contributions were overlooked at first by the scientific community, and Smith suffered from severe financial difficulties for many years. Not until the later part of his life was his valuable work fully appreciated.

Although the marriage between geology and mining took a long time to yield practical results, the frequent claims that dynamic Britain during the Industrial Revolution was exhausting its coal supplies turned out to be false alarms. State-sponsored geological surveys were undertaken throughout Europe and North America after the mid-nineteenth century. This research would greatly benefit the mining industry as well as the emerging petroleum industry. Many geologists in the twentieth century found work in the oil industry, which joined geological surveys and mining as the main sources of non-academic employment.

Roderick Murchison (1792-1871) was born into a wealthy Scottish Highland family. He spent years in the army and became a very active member of the Geological Society of London, associating with Charles Lyell and the Englishman Adam Sedgwick (1785-1873). Murchison’s great work The Silurian System in 1839 established the Silurian geological time period of the Paleozoic Era, followed a year later by the Devonian while he was collaborating with Sedgwick. Murchison’s travels through Russia and Scandinavia after 1840 resulted in the establishment of the Permian period, which ended 250 million years ago with the greatest mass extinction of life on Earth, which wiped out perhaps 90% of all then-existing species.

Adam Sedgwick taught geology at the University of Cambridge. He proposed the Cambrian period, the first part of the Paleozoic, lasting from roughly 540 million to 490 million years ago. Judging from the fossil record this was an age of rapid development of complex life forms which is often referred to as the Cambrian Explosion. The American paleontologist Charles Walcott (1850-1927), then working for the Smithsonian Institution, in 1909 exposed the Burgess Shale, one of the world’s richest fossil fields, in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. It provides us with invaluable insights into what life was like 505 million years ago.

The first vertebrates (animals with a backbone) apparently evolved during the Cambrian and the ensuing Ordovician period. The twentieth century witnessed a greater ability to uncover evidence of Pre-Cambrian fossils of bacteria and primitive life forms such as stromatolites stretching back several billion years before the Cambrian period. Paleontology has been successfully adopted far beyond the Western world. Some very exciting finds of feathered dinosaurs were uncovered in China in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.

The first dinosaurs identified as such, not as “dragon bones” or something of that nature, were named in the 1820s, as was the entire field of paleontology. One of the earliest named was Megalosaurus by the English geologist William Buckland (1784-1856). In 1822 the wife of the influential English paleontologist Gideon Mantell (1790-1852) noticed an object which he recognized as a fossil tooth but was unable to match to any known creature. The respected scholar Georges Cuvier in Paris in an uncharacteristic error suggested that the remains were from a rhinoceros. In London, Mantell was shown the skeleton of an iguana with teeth almost identical to the ancient teeth that he had just found, though much smaller. He realized that he had discovered the remains of an extinct giant reptile which he called Iguanodon. Also in England, Mary Anning (1799-1847) was a professional fossil collector who produced many remarkable finds. Perhaps the most important one was her discovery of the first plesiosaur.
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The English paleontologist Richard Owen (1804-1892) coined the term “dinosaur” in 1842. The name means “terrible lizard” and is not very scientifically accurate, but it stuck. Owen was a quarrelsome man who claimed the discovery of the Iguanodon for himself when it had been done by Gideon Mantell, yet according to Bill Bryson in A Short History of Nearly Everything he contributed to the development of modern museums: “Owen’s plan was to welcome everyone, even to the point of encouraging working men to visit in the evening, and to devote most of the museum’s space to public displays. He even proposed, very radically, to put informative labels on each display so that people could appreciate what they were viewing. In this, somewhat unexpectedly, he was opposed by T. H. Huxley, who believed that museums should be primarily research institutions. By making the Natural History Museum an institution for everyone, Owen transformed our expectations of what museums are for.”

The Scottish geologist James Hall (1761-1832), a friend of James Hutton, founded experimental geology by artificially producing various rock types in the laboratory. He carried out dangerous experiments with limestone heated under pressure and lived to report that it did indeed consolidate under sufficient pressure. In the twentieth century Pentti Eskola (1883-1964), a professor of geology and mineralogy in Helsinki, Finland, applied chemical methods to the study of minerals and metamorphic facies (groups of mineral compositions in metamorphic rocks), thereby laying the foundations of studies in metamorphic petrology.

There are three main rock types: Igneous rocks are formed from the solidification of molten rock (magma). Intrusive igneous rocks such as diorite, gabbro and granite solidify below the Earth’s surface while extrusive igneous rocks such as basalt, obsidian and pumice solidify on or above the surface. Sedimentary rocks are formed by the accumulation of sediments. Some such as conglomerate and sandstone are formed from mechanical weathering debris. Organic sedimentary rocks such as coal form from the accumulation of plant or animal debris.

Metamorphic rocks have been modified by heat, pressure and chemical processes, usually while buried deep below the Earth’s surface. This has altered the mineralogy, texture and chemical composition of the rocks. Examples of this would be marble produced from the metamorphism of limestone or quartzite from the metamorphism of sandstone with quartz.

Scientific studies of mineralogy began with Georgius Agricola in the sixteenth century. The development of chemistry with figures such as Antoine Lavoisier and John Dalton led to a greater emphasis on this discipline when studying minerals. Abraham Gottlob Werner was one of those who favored a chemical classification. There were a few exceptions; the German mineralogist Friedrich Mohs (1773-1839) in 1822 devised the Mohs relative hardness scale where diamond was assigned the number 10. The method of comparing minerals by observing which ones can scratch others was mentioned already by Theophrastus around 300 BC.

The French mineralogist René-Just Häuy (1743-1822) in the early nineteenth century established the science of crystallography. The polarization of light, described by the French mathematician Etienne-Louis Malus in 1809, became a useful tool when combined with improved microscopes. The Encyclopædia Britannica online contains a very comprehensive entry covering all aspects of the Earth sciences. Here is what it says about mineralogy:

“In 1814 Jöns Jacob Berzelius of Sweden published a system of mineralogy offering a comprehensive classification of minerals based on their chemistry. Berzelius recognized silica as an acid and introduced into mineralogy the group known as silicates. At mid-century the American geologist James Dwight Dana’s System of Mineralogy, in its third edition, was reorganized around a chemical classification, which thereafter became standard for handbooks. The development of the polarizing microscope and the technique for grinding sections of rocks so thin as to be virtually transparent came in 1827 from studies of fossilized wood by William Nicol. In 1849 Clifton Sorby showed that minerals viewed in thin section could be identified by their optical properties, and soon afterward improved classifications of rocks were made on the basis of their mineralogic composition. The German geologist Ferdinand Zirkel’s Mikroscopische Beschaffenheit der Mineralien und Gesteine (1873; ‘The Microscopic Nature of Minerals and Rocks’) contains one of the first mineralogic classifications of rocks and marks the emergence of microscopic petrography as an established branch of science.”

The nebular hypothesis was first proposed in 1734 by the Swedish philosopher and theologian Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772), who was born in Stockholm and studied at Uppsala University. He wrote on mathematics, chemistry, physics, mineralogy and astronomy and made a sketch of a glider-type aircraft. The German Enlightenment philosopher Immanuel Kant developed this theory further in 1755, and the French astronomer Pierre-Simon Laplace also advanced a nebular hypothesis in 1796. Laplace suggested that our Solar System was created from the cooling and condensation of a large and hot rotating “nebula,” a gassy cloud of particles and dust. This idea strongly influenced scientists in the nineteenth century, and central elements of it have survived to this day. For a long time, geologists preferred the hypothesis that the Earth had cooled and contracted. The work on rates of cooling made by the brilliant French mathematical physicist Joseph Fourier seemed to support this model.

In 1831 the French geologist Élie de Beaumont (1798-1874) suggested that the Earth had cooled from a molten body and that the crust at intervals had buckled under the strain, throwing up mountain ranges. Variants of this contraction theory flourished, culminating in the four-volume Face of the Earth (1883-1904) by Eduard Suess (1831-1914), a professor of geology at the University of Vienna. Throughout the twentieth century, geologists amassed a mass of new data from all corners of the planet and, crucially, from the bottom of the oceans.

Geologists knew that there was evidence of past upheavals, but many still believed these had been caused by the Biblical Flood of Noah. There were a few individuals who believed that glaciation had been more extensive in the past than it is today, for instance because of the presence of huge stones (“erratics”) dumped far away from the strata where they belonged. They included the Norwegian geologist Jens Esmark (1763-1839) writing in the 1820s and the German-Swiss mining engineer and naturalist Jean de Charpentier (1786-1855).

In Norway and the Alps there are still surviving glaciers and the landscape was shaped by previous ones. The Norwegian fjords are valleys carved by glacial activity and now filled with seawater. The ideas of Charpentier and others in Switzerland were taken up and developed further by the Swiss paleontologist, geologist and glaciologist Louis Agassiz (1807-1873).

Louis Agassiz from Môtier, Switzerland studied medicine at Zürich and Heidelberg before moving to Paris, where he was influenced by the ideas of Georges Cuvier. Despite initial skepticism, after personal studies he became an enthusiastic supporter of the glacial model. In 1840 he published a work in two volumes entitled Etudes sur les glaciers (Study on Glaciers), which is considered the first mature scientific work on the existence of a previous Ice Age when glaciers had covered much larger land areas than they do now. Last Glacial Maximum was about 20,000 years ago. Agassiz moved to the United States and became professor of geology at Harvard University in 1847. Later scholars discovered evidence for several ice ages, not just one. Still, this left the unresolved issue of what could cause such ice ages.

The French mathematician Joseph Adhemar (1797-1862) suggested that ice ages were caused by astronomical forces. His theory was modified by the Scottish scientist James Croll (1821-1890) and above all by the gifted Serbian civil engineer and mathematician Milutin Milankovitch (1879-1958). Milankovitch studied at the Institute of Technology in Vienna in Austria-Hungary and later taught mechanics, theoretical physics and astronomy at the University of Belgrade in Serbia. During the turmoil in the Balkans following the collapse of the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian Empires he served in the Serbian army during World War I. He picked up an obsession with climate and a determination to set up a detailed mathematical explanation of how temperatures change as a result of changes in the eccentricity, axial tilt and precession of the Earth’s orbit around the Sun. His complex work on what has became known as Milankovitch cycles took years to complete and was carried out only with brain power. It was published in a 1920 book that met with widespread acclaim.

The reasons for the periodic ice ages we see in the geological records are not fully understood, but are believed to be at least partly related to cyclic changes in the Earth’s orbit and axial tilt. Other factors such as changes in the composition of the atmosphere or the position of the continents, eruptions of supervolcanoes or cometary impacts may contribute as well.

We currently know a lot more about the surface of other planets such as Mars than about the interior of our own, but what little we think we know to a large extent derives from the study of seismic waves. The Dutch mathematician Willebrord Snell in the seventeenth century in what has become known as Snell ‘s Law described the bending of light, or refraction, which takes place when light travels from one medium to a medium with a different composition and density, for instance from air to water. This effect can be seen by anybody in a small boat who puts an oar into the water and observes how it appears to be “bent.” This phenomenon is caused by the change in velocity that occurs when light waves pass from one medium to another. The same principle applies to other waves, too, for example seismic waves, the shock waves generated by earthquakes or explosions that travel through the Earth’s interior.

The Irish geophysicist Richard Dixon Oldham (1858-1936) discovered that seismic waves travel through the interior of the Earth in different directions and at different speeds. This insight was used by the Croatian seismologist Andrija Mohorovicic (1857-1936), who had studied physics in Prague and taught geophysics at the University of Zagreb.. By analyzing the data from a 1909 earthquake he realized that the velocity of a seismic wave is related to the density of the material that it is moving through. He interpreted the acceleration of seismic waves observed within Earth’s outer shell as a compositional change within the Earth itself.

This Mohorovicic Discontinuity, or “ Moho “ for short, is thought to constitute the boundary between the Earth’s crust and mantle. It can be found at an average depth of 8 kilometers beneath the ocean basin and as much as 32 kilometers beneath the continents.

Beno Gutenberg (1889-1960) was born in Darmstadt, Germany and completed all of his university education at the University of Göttingen. After earning his Ph.D., Gutenberg turned his attention to recent discoveries about the Earth’s interior. In 1913 he became the first person to give a reasonable estimate of the size and properties of the Earth’s core.

In 1930 Gutenberg became a professor of geophysics at the California Institute of Technology in the USA where one of his colleagues was the American seismologist Charles Francis Richter (1900-1985). They collaborated on the development of various scales using seismic waves so that observers could assign magnitudes to earthquakes. In 1935 this work resulted in the creation of a logarithmic magnitude scale that came to be named after Richter alone. Earthquakes below 2.5 or so on the Richter scale are too weak to be noticed by humans. Earthquakes with an intensity of 10.0 or more have so far never been measured, the strongest being one of 9.5 in Chile in 1960. Based on descriptions, the Great Lisbon Earthquake which destroyed the Portuguese capital city in 1755 may have approached a magnitude of 9.0.

The Moment Magnitude scale was introduced in 1979 at the California Institute of Technology by the American Thomas C. Hanks and the Japanese-born seismologist Hiroo Kanamori as a successor to the Richter scale. It is currently the preferred tool by seismologists for comparing the energy released by earthquakes as it is considered to be more precise.

The Danish seismologist Inge Lehmann (1888-1993) studied at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark and later worked on cataloging seismograms from Denmark and the Danish-ruled island of Greenland. In 1929 a large earthquake occurred near New Zealand. Lehmann studied the recorded shock waves, some of which were reflected back. In a 1936 she theorized that the Earth’s center consists of two parts: a solid inner core surrounded by a liquid outer core.

The outer core boundary lies below the mantle almost 2,900 km beneath the Earth’s surface. The inner core begins about 5150 kilometers beneath the Earth’s surface where the temperature is estimated to be around 6000 °C, similar to or maybe even slightly higher than that of the Sun’s surface. In total, the Earth’s core is believed to be more than 7,000 kilometers in diameter, making it roughly comparable in size to the planet Mars.

The French naturalist Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon in the 1770s made one of the first truly scientific attempts to establish the age of the Earth. He assumed that it had gradually cooled from a much hotter state in its early history. Based on experiments with heating balls of iron he estimated that the Earth was at least 75,000 years old. While this is far too young it was nevertheless a lot older than the six thousand or so years that a literal reading of the Bible would indicate. This brought Comte de Buffon condemnations from some Church authorities.

The French mathematical physicist Joseph Fourier (1768-1830) studied the mathematical theory of heat conduction and phenomena related to heat, including what we now know as the greenhouse effect. He established the partial differential equation governing heat diffusion and solved it by using infinite series of trigonometric functions we call Fourier series, which remain in active use today by astronomers and others. Fourier tried to maneuver through the turbulent times of the French Revolution. Having good relations with some of the leading French mathematicians of his day such as Joseph-Louis Lagrange, Pierre-Simon Laplace and Gaspard Monge helped him in this regard. Fourier went with Napoleon Bonaparte on his Egyptian expedition in 1798 and oversaw the publishing of the enormous work Description de l’Egypte afterward. His most famous work on heat began before 1807 but was expanded and finally published as Théorie analytique de la chaleur (The Analytical Theory of Heat) in 1822.

Fourier used his equations about heat flow to see how long it would have taken Earth to cool. His formula gives an estimated age of some 100 million years, vastly greater than any scholar had suggested before. Fourier appears to have been so stunned by his discovery that he never published it. The Earth has indeed cooled since its creation, but its core is still hot due to heat produced from radioactive decay. In 1859 Charles Darwin published an estimate of 300 million years for a piece of rock. Lord Kelvin calculated that it would take the Earth about 100 million years to cool from an assumed primordial molten condition to its present state.

The birth of geophysics as distinct from geology depended upon the discovery of radioactivity by Henri Becquerel and Pierre and Marie Curie in France in the late 1890s. In the early 1900s Ernest Rutherford together with Frederick Soddy discovered that radioactive elements such as uranium and thorium break down into other elements in a predictable sequence. Rutherford suggested that this decay of radioactive elements could be used to measure the age of rocks.

The American physical chemist Bertram Boltwood (1870-1927), a graduate of Yale University, in 1907 reasoned that since he knew the rate at which uranium breaks down (its half-life), he could use the proportion of lead in the uranium ores as a clock. His calculations put the Earth’s age at up to 2.2 billion years. The same idea was utilized by Arthur Holmes (1890-1965) in Britain and Clair Cameron Patterson (1922-1995) in the United States.

According to The Oxford Guide to the History of Physics and Astronomy, “Robert John Strutt and his student, the geologist Arthur Holmes, pursued Rutherford’s idea. By 1911, Holmes had used uranium/lead ratios to estimate the ages of several rocks from the ancient Precambrian period. One appeared to be 1,600 million years old. Many geologists were initially skeptical, but by 1930, largely as a result of the work of Holmes, most accepted radioactive dating as the only reliable means to determine the ages of rocks and of the earth itself. The discovery of isotopes in 1913, and the development of the modern mass spectrometer in the 1930s, greatly facilitated radioactive dating. By the late 1940s, the method produced an estimate of between 4,000 and 5,000 million years for the age of the earth. In 1956, the American geochemist Clair Cameron Patterson compared the isotopes of the earth’s crust with those of five meteorites. On this basis, he decided that the earth and its meteorites had an age of about 4,550 million years. All subsequent estimates of the age of the earth have tended to confirm Patterson’s conclusion.”

Since more than 70 percent of the Earth’s surface is covered by seawater, detailed studies of the oceans were of great importance to science as well as to practical navigation. The first modern text devoted exclusively to marine science was Histoire physique de la mer (1725) by the Italian military man and naturalist Luigi Ferdinando Marsigli (1658-1730), who assembled information about water temperature, salinity, currents, ocean plants and animals. The eighteenth century witnessed an acceleration of this trend as European explorers charted distant lands and the science of chemistry was rapidly maturing in Western Europe itself.

Ocean currents engaged the curiosity of scholars such as Benjamin Franklin who in the 1780s mapped the Gulf Stream, which originates in the Gulf of Mexico and brings vast amounts of warm water across the Atlantic Ocean to northwestern Europe, substantially contributing to the regional climate and the relatively mild winters there. Benjamin Thompson, Count Rumford’s heat experiments led him to attribute ocean circulation to differences in water density, a theory which was accepted after some delay. The English geographer James Rennell (1742-1830) served in the British Royal Navy, where his numerous voyages allowed him to make accurate maps and charts of currents and tides. His final work Currents of the Atlantic Ocean was a landmark study published posthumously by his daughter in 1832.

Matthew Fontaine Maury (1806-1873) of the United States Navy in 1842 became superintendent of the U.S. Depot of Charts and Instruments in Washington D.C. From the study of old ships’ captains logs Maury assembled data on winds, currents and other information and finally published his Physical Geography of the Sea in 1855, widely considered the first extensive textbook of oceanography. The Scots-Canadian oceanographer John Murray (1841-1914) was the first person to use the term “oceanography” and along with the Norwegian marine zoologist Johan Hjort (1869-1948) in 1912 published the influential book The Depths of the Ocean. The Norwegian oceanographer Harald Sverdrup (1888-1957) with associates in the USA developed a comprehensive theory of ocean circulation.

By the early twentieth century, several persons had suggested the existence of some form of continental drift, but it was the German meteorologist and geologist Alfred Wegener (1880-1930) who had the biggest impact. He had studied at the universities of Heidelberg, Innsbruck and Berlin. From 1906 to 1908 he worked as a meteorologist to a Danish expedition to Greenland. In 1910 he had been struck, as others had been before him, of how Africa and South America seemed to “fit together..” It was known that surprisingly similar fossils and landforms could sometimes be found on opposite sides of major oceans. Based on these findings Wegener proposed his theory of continental drift in 1915 in his masterpiece The Origin of Continents and Oceans (Die Entstehung der Kontinente und Ozeane). He suggested that there had once been a giant continent which he named “Pangaea” (“All-Earth”).

Scientists currently hold that Pangaea split up more than 200 million years ago. These ideas are now widely accepted; in fact, it is believed that the major continents have drifted apart and been reunited in supercontinents several times with intervals of some hundreds of millions of years. However, it took generations for this theory to be accepted, in part because scientists lacked sufficient information about the ocean floors and in part because Wegener himself could not properly explain exactly how continental drift happens or what drives it.

In the late nineteenth century the invention of reasonably accurate and compact seismographs spurred the development of seismology into a quantitative discipline. In 1880 the Englishman John Milne (1850-1913), the inventor of the first modern seismograph, as a foreign advisor to the Meiji government founded the Seismological Society of Japan. Scientists in earthquake-ridden Japan soon joined the Germans and the Americans as world leaders in geophysics.

In 1906 the French geophysicist Bernard Brunhes (1867-1910) discovered that the Earth’s magnetic field had changed direction in the geological past, but it took decades before his discovery was accepted by the scientific community. The Japanese geophysicist otonori Matuyama (1884-1958), the son of a Zen abbot, after studies at the Imperial University in Kyoto worked in Chicago with the American geologist Thomas Chamberlin (1843-1928). Matuyama proposed that long periods had existed in the geological past in which the polarity of the Earth’s magnetic poles was the opposite of what it is now. In a geomagnetic reversal the magnetic north and south become interchanged. In the past 4 million years there have been nine such reversals, which leave detectable magnetic imprints in certain rock samples.

The English geologist Arthur Holmes was a proponent of Wegener’s continental drift. His pioneering work on radioactive heat and geological time had led him to a profound understanding of processes in our planet’s interior. He proposed that very slow-moving convection currents in the Earth’s mantle cause continental breakup, seafloor formation and continental drift. The Dutch geophysicist Felix Andries Vening Meinesz (1887-1966) measured gravity anomalies above the ocean floors. Before the 1940s, most geologists had assumed that the sea floor represented the most ancient crust. When samples were finally obtained from the ocean beds it turned out that they were far younger than expected and that the youngest samples were found next to the volcanically active mid-ocean ridges.

The existence of a “mountain range” in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean had been suspected since the laying of the first transatlantic telegraph cable in 1858, but the global system of mid-ocean ridges was mapped only after 1950. Both the United States and the Soviet Union, the latter with less financial resources at their disposal than the former, needed to known more about the ocean environment to navigate with their nuclear submarines. The seas constituted an important frontline in their Cold War superpower rivalry. Research coupled with electronic computers greatly increased the understanding of oceanography and atmospheric physics and facilitated the integration of these various fields into the umbrella discipline of Earth science.

Studies of paleomagnetism (changes in the magnetic field “fossilized” in magnetic minerals) and distribution of fossils triggered a revolution in geology and the emerging Earth sciences. The great American geologist Harry Hammond Hess (1906-1969) while working as an officer in the US Navy during WWII conducted research of the ocean floors using the transport’s sounding gear. In 1960 at Princeton University, Hess put these pieces together and advanced the theory that the Earth’s crust moves laterally from volcanically active oceanic ridges.

“Sea-floor spreading” helped to establish continental drift as scientifically respectable. The Canadian geophysicist John Tuzo Wilson (1908-1993) created the new synthesis which became known as plate tectonics. Other major figures include the American geophysicist Maurice Ewing (1906-1974), the Englishman Dan McKenzie (born 1942) for his work on mantle convection, the French scientist Xavier Le Pichon (born 1937) and Edward Bullard (1907-1980), born into a family in Norwich, England made wealthy from brewing beer.

According to scholars Philip Rehbock and Gary Weir, “Wegener proposed that the present configuration of the continents, and other phenomena from stratigraphy, paleontology, and biogeography, could be accounted for by assuming the gradual movement of the continents horizontally over the face of the globe. The theory gained few adherents until the 1960s, by which time new lines of evidence helped bring about the plate-tectonics revolution. Evidence came from studies of paleomagnetism and polar wandering carried out by P. M. S. Blackett, S. Keith Runcorn, and their colleagues in Britain; heat flow from mid-ocean ridges, by British geophysicist Edward Bullard; seismological activity along mid-ocean ridges, by Americans Maurice Ewing and Bruce Heezen; and gravity anomalies, by the Dutch geophysicist Felix Andries Vening-Meinesz and the American Harry H. Hess. In 1960, Hess proposed the hypothesis, subsequently known as sea-floor spreading, that would explain all of these phenomena. In the mid-1960s, the British geophysicists Frederick Vine and Drummond Matthews confirmed the hypothesis by analyzing patterns of magnetic anomalies around mid-ocean ridges, and the Glomar Challenger drilled directly into the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. J. Tuzo Wilson’s 1965 concept that the earth’s surface consists of several rigid but mobile plates put the finishing touch on plate tectonics.”

If two of these plates are moving away from each other, an ocean ridge or continental ridge will form. If they collide, one may be pushed under the other in a process called subduction. If neither plate can subduct under the other they push up mountain ranges. The Mid-Atlantic Ridge straddled by volcanically active Iceland, famous for its geysers and hot springs, has churned out magma (molten rock) and expanded the Atlantic for millions of years. The Eurasian Plate collides with the African Plate in the Mediterranean region, which is why the eastern Mediterranean is a volcanically and seismologically active area with volcanoes Mount Etna on Sicily and Mount Vesuvius east of Naples. In the Aegean Sea, the massive Thera eruption at the island of Santorini around 1600 BC weakened the Minoan civilization.

Whereas the Alps in Central Europe were born through a collision between the African and European plates the Himalayas in Asia, the planet’s highest mountain range, were created by a collision between the Eurasian Plate and the Indo-Australian Plate. The so-called Pacific Ring of Fire is a very large region plagued by frequent earthquakes and/or volcanic eruptions, from California and the Andes region via Japan and Java to Mount Ruapehu and the volcanoes of New Zealand. Most of this can be explained by the movements of tectonic plates. The western Pacific Ocean contains the deepest trench on the Earth’s crust, the Mariana Trench, which lies at the subduction boundary between two tectonic plates.

While most of the volcanic activity on our planet can be understood by plate tectonics there are some exceptions. According to a theory formulated by the Canadian J. Tuzo Wilson in the 1960s, a hotspot is an area of persistent volcanic activity which originates at unusually hot areas of the mantle-core boundary in the Earth’s interior. Examples of this would be Galápagos, the unique Yellowstone area in the USA and Hawaii. According to this view, the Hawaiian Islands are peaks of an undersea mountain range created by the slow movement of a tectonic plate across a hotspot. The possibility that the Hawaiian Islands become younger to the southeast had been suspected by native Hawaiians based on observed differences in erosion. The nature of hotspots is not fully settled but remains a subject of active debate.

In 2009 the Norwegian geophysicists Rolf Mjelde and Jan Inge Faleide, based on overlapping evidence from Hawaii and Iceland, published a theory that the Earth has a heartbeat in the sense that events at the mantle-core boundary may be dispatching simultaneous plumes of magma towards the surface at these two widely separated regions every 15 million years. “These two are on very different parts of the Earth, so I don’t think the synchrony could be related to something in the mantle,” says Mjelde. “It must relate to the core somehow. I can’t see any other possibility.” Their claims were met with a mixture of fascination and skepticism among scientists as no presently known theory can explain why such a pulse exists, if it does.

The theory of plate tectonics triggered a revolution in the Earth sciences in the late twentieth century. There are those who view it as a paradigm shift like the ones described by the American philosopher Thomas Kuhn (1922-1996) in his influential work The Structure of Scientific Revolutions from 1962. Kuhn broke with several key positivist doctrines held by philosophers of science such as Karl Popper. According to him, science enjoys periods of stable progress punctuated by revolutions when one conceptual world view is replaced by another. Kuhn received some criticism for these views by scholars who claimed that it is more appropriate to describe the development of social ideas than the history of science; some postmodern thinkers have used his ideas to claim that there is no such thing as objective truth.

While the theory of plate tectonics is now almost universally accepted we still don’t know how this process got started in the first place. Scientists estimate that it began at least 2.5 billion years ago and possibly as much as 4 billion years ago. Geologist Vicki Hansen of the University of Minnesota in a controversial hypothesis from 2007 suggested that the impact of a large asteroid or comet in the distant past might have kick-started plate tectonics.

Stones falling from the sky were often viewed by ancient peoples as signs from the gods. In Enlightenment Europe, stories about such events were dismissed by many scholars as common superstition. The German naturalist Ernst Chladni (1756-1827), who is often regarded as the founder of meteoritics, in 1794 published a paper suggesting asserting that masses of iron and rock enter the Earth’s atmosphere from above and produce fireballs when heated by friction with the air. He concluded that meteorites must be extraterrestrial objects. This view was defended by the German astronomer Heinrich Olbers (1758-1840), but ridiculed by those who believed that meteorites were of volcanic, terrestrial origin.

Eyewitness accounts of fireballs were initially dismissed, yet fresh and seemingly reliable reports of stones falling from the sky appeared at the turn of the nineteenth century. The young English chemist Charles Howard (1774-1816) read Chladni’s work and decided to analyze the chemical composition of these rocks. Working with the French mineralogist Jacques-Louis de Bournon he made the first thorough scientific analysis of meteorites. Here is a quote from the book Cosmic Horizons, edited by Neil De Grasse Tyson and Steven Soter:

“The two scientists found that the stones had a dark shiny crust and contained tiny ‘globules’ (now called chondrules) unlike anything seen in terrestrial rocks. All the iron masses contained several percent nickel, as did the grains of iron in the fallen stones. Nothing like this had ever been found in iron from the Earth. Here was compelling evidence that the irons and rocks were of extraterrestrial origin. Howard published these results in 1802. Meanwhile, the first asteroid, Ceres, was discovered in 1801, and many more followed. The existence of these enormous rocks in the solar system suggested a plausible source for the meteorites. Space wasn’t empty after all. Finally, in 1803, villagers in Normandy witnessed a fireball followed by thunderous reverberations and a spectacular shower of several thousand stones. The French government sent the young physicist Jean-Baptist Biot to investigate. Based on extensive interviews with witnesses, Biot established the trajectory of the fireball. He also mapped the area where the stones had landed: it was an ellipse measuring 10 by 4 kilometers, with the long axis parallel to the fireball’s trajectory. Biot’s report persuaded most scientists that rocks from the sky were both real and extraterrestrial.”

The French physicist Jean-Baptiste Biot (1774-1862) also did work on the polarization of light and contributed to electromagnetic theory. He accompanied the great chemist Joseph Gay-Lussac in 1804 on the first balloon flight undertaken for scientific purposes, reaching a height of several thousand meters while doing research on magnetism and the atmosphere. The Montgolfier brothers had performed the first recorded manned balloon flight in France in 1783. The French meteorologist Léon Teisserenc de Bort (1855-1913) later discovered the stratosphere, the layer of the Earth’s atmosphere above the troposphere which contains most of the clouds and weather systems, by using unmanned, instrumented hydrogen balloons.

The French physicist Charles Fabry (1867-1945) discovered the ozone layer in the upper atmosphere in 1913. Ozone (O3) is tri-atomic oxygen that exists in the stratosphere as a gas and protects us from most of the harmful effects of ultraviolet radiation from the Sun. It was described by the German-Swiss chemist Christian Friedrich Schönbein (1799-1868) in 1840.

Unmanned gas balloons are still used for meteorological, scientific and even military purposes. Without a pressurized cabin, manned ballooning becomes dangerous in the upper reaches of the atmosphere due to the cold, the low pressure and particularly the lack of oxygen. The inventor Auguste Piccard (1884-1962), originally from Basel, Switzerland, served as a professor of physics in Brussels, created balloons equipped with pressurized cabins and set a number of flight records in the 1930s, reaching an altitude of 23,000 meters.

His son Jacques Piccard (1922-2008), a Brussels-born Swiss oceanographer, explored the deepest reaches of the oceans when he and the American Don Walsh (born 1931) in 1960 used the bathyscaphe Trieste to travel 10,900 metres down to the bottom of the Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench in the western Pacific. The pressure exerted by ten meters depth of water roughly equals one atmosphere. At the bottom of the Challenger Deep the pressure is consequently well over one thousand times the standard atmospheric pressure at sea level, yet amazingly Piccard and Walsh spotted certain types of fish living even under these conditions.

The French naval officer, explorer, ecologist, author and prizewinning filmmaker Jacques-Yves Cousteau (1910-1997) invented the aqualung together with the engineer Émile Gagnan (1900-1979) in 1943.. Cousteau was a pioneer in the development of underwater cameras as well. He possessed the rare gift of being able to communicate his love of the natural world to a mainstream audience and did a great deal to popularize knowledge of underwater biology.

The Austrian physicist Victor Francis Hess (1883-1964), educated at the Universities of Graz and Vienna, in a series of balloon ascents in 1911-13 established that radiation increases with altitude. Early explorers of radioactivity studied its intensity from church steeples and tall buildings.. Hess found that radiation declined during the first 1,000 m of ascent but then began to rise again, reaching double that at surface level at 5,000 m. By flying his balloon at night and during a solar eclipse he demonstrated that this radiation comes from outer space but not from the Sun. This high-energy ionizing radiation is now called cosmic rays.

The troposphere contains about 80% of the total mass of the atmosphere, with most of the rest concentrated in the stratosphere. The air temperature in the troposphere drops with altitude. The depth of this layer varies from 8 to 16 kilometers from the cold polar region to the warm tropics. Commercial airliners typically cruise at altitudes of 10 km to optimize jet engine fuel burn and stay above most of the turbulent weather found below. The Sun heats the Earth’s surface creating cycles of warming and rising air which later cools again. Coupled with the rotation of the Earth this moves heat and moisture around and creates weather patterns.

From an altitude of 11 to 50 kilometers above the Earth’s surface we find the stratosphere. The lower portion of this layer is influenced by the polar jet stream and subtropical jet stream, fast uniform winds concentrated in a narrow band. The stratosphere defines a layer in which temperatures rises with increasing altitude. This is caused by the absorption of ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the Sun by the ozone layer. Weather balloons filled with lighter-than-air gases such as hydrogen or helium may reach the stratosphere but cannot explore the layers above it as the decreasing pressure causes the balloons to expand until they disintegrate.

The mesosphere stretches from 50 km to 80 km. Temperatures here drop with increasing altitude to almost -100°C, making this the coldest atmospheric layer. The ionosphere can be found at an altitude of around 80 km, at the border to the thermosphere. Ultraviolet radiation from the Sun here causes ionization. While the temperatures here are very high the air is extremely thin. There is no specific height at which the atmosphere begins or ends, but the Kármán line, named after the Hungarian-born American physicist Theodore von Kármán (1881-1963), at 100 km above sea level is sometimes used to mark the beginning of space.

The International Space Station (ISS), a research laboratory in a microgravity environment and probably the most expensive man-made object ever created, is currently found in a stable Low Earth Orbit within the upper part of the thermosphere, between 320 and 380 kilometers above the Earth’s surface. Artificial satellites are usually not put into orbit at altitudes of less than 2-300 km as this is often considered impractical. While the air here is extremely thin, detectable traces of the atmosphere can nevertheless be found as high as 500 kilometers. With the exosphere, beginning at roughly 500 km, the atmosphere gradually turns into space.

Space is full or rocks of different sizes. A meteoroid is too small to be an asteroid or a comet. Even smaller particles are called cosmic dust. If meteoroids enter our atmosphere they become meteors. Most meteors, which often travel at several times the speed of sound, burn up by the friction, typically in the mesosphere, and create fireballs we see as shooting stars. The few that survive this fiery entry and reach the Earth’s surface are known as meteorites.

Many meteorite s are remnants of the Solar System as it was during its formation, most of them probably fragments of asteroids. There are some periodic meteor showers such as the Perseids and the Leonids when our planet is passing through debris trails left behind from certain comets. Based on their chemical composition, a few dozen meteorites are believed to come from the Moon or the planet Mars. Most likely, impacts from meteorites there fired fragments into space, a few of which eventually reached the Earth. The Martian meteorites in particular are treasured objects of study and worth many times their weight in gold.

There are three main meteorite types: iron, stony-iron and stone meteorites. The stony-iron meteorites, the least abundant of the three main types, are thought to have formed at the core/mantle boundary of their parent bodies. In some iron meteorites the iron-nickel alloys can grow into a complex interlocking crystalline pattern known as the Widmanstätten pattern, named after the Austrian scientist and director of the Imperial Porcelain Works in Vienna Count Alois von Beckh Widmanstätten (1753-1849) who described it in 1808, although the English geologist G. Thomson (1760-1806) had probably done the same independently just before. These beautiful patterns are visible when iron meteorites are cut, polished and etched.

By far the largest group in terms of numbers consists of stone meteorites, which once formed part of the outer crust of a planet or asteroid. According to science writer Geoffrey Notkin, “Some stone meteorites contain small, colorful, grain-like inclusions known as ‘chondrules.’ These tiny grains originated in the solar nebula, and therefore pre-date the formation of our planet and the rest of the solar system, making them the oldest known matter available to us for study. Stone meteorites that contain these chondrules are known as ‘chondrites.’“

The English chemist and physicist Henry Cavendish was an extremely meticulous experimenter. With a combination of many different intricate measurements, in 1797-98 he determined the Earth’s mass to within 1% of the modern estimate. Borrowing an idea from the French naturalist Charles-Augustin de Coulomb who had investigated the electrical force between small charged metal spheres, the English natural philosopher John Michell suggested using a torsion balance to detect the tiny gravitational attraction between metal spheres. Since Michell himself died in 1793, Cavendish carried out the experiment at his private home.

Henry Cavendish arrived at an average density of the Earth of 5.48 times that of water. The modern value for the mean density is almost 5..52 times the density of water. Since the density of the material we know from the Earth’s crust is significantly less than this, denser materials must exist within the Earth’s interior. The Earth’s total mass is 5.9736 × 1024 kg. By the late eighteenth century, European scholars had developed a reasonable understanding of the size of the Solar System, the size and mass of the Earth itself and its distance to the other planets.

The French geochemist and mining engineer Gabriel Daubrée (1814-1896) developed a classification system for meteorites and their composition. In 1866 he presented his theory that the Earth has an iron-nickel core, similar to the alloys we see in many iron meteorites.

In early planetary evolution, iron and other heavy elements separated from lighter ones to form dense cores. In the very young Earth the lightest minerals would consequently have floated to the surface. There is no scientific consensus on exactly when during the first Hadean period the Earth had cooled sufficiently to develop a solid crust, but the oldest terrestrial minerals so far discovered, zircons from Western Australia, are at least 4.4 billion years old. The crust is composed primarily, though not exclusively, of low-density rocks and silicate minerals (formed from oxygen and silicon) such as feldspars and quartz. The core is thought to consist primarily of iron, with some nickel and sulfur and traces of other elements.

As we have seen, the nebular hypothesis was presented in the eighteenth century by Emanuel Swedenborg, Immanuel Kant and Pierre-Simon Laplace. The planets and asteroids all revolve around the Sun in the same direction and roughly the same plane, which strongly indicates that they were created during the same process. In 1905 the geologist Thomas Chamberlin and astronomer Forest Ray Moulton (1872-1952) in the USA developed a theory that smaller objects, planetesimals, during the formation of the Solar System collided to build the larger planets. With certain modifications, some elements of their theory remain in use to this day.

We currently believe that almost 4.6 billion years ago the Solar Nebula, a cloud of interstellar dust and gas, was slowly spinning in a flat rotating disk. Many objects in the Oort cloud and the Kuiper belt may be chunks known as planetesimals left over from this period. The formation of protoplanetary disks can be studied in the Orion Nebula today. Small chunks of matter collided to form kilometer-sized planetesimals, some of which collided further to form planetary embryos and moons. As these entities grew larger and got nontrivial gravity their growth accelerated. It is possible that a protoplanet slammed into the young Earth and created our Moon; the Solar System was a much more turbulent place back then than it is now.

Well over 99 % of the material in the Solar Nebula gathered to form a protostar, until the temperature and pressure at the core was high enough to start hydrogen fusion and give birth to our Sun. It is possible for such clouds of collapsing gas and dust to break up into two or more centers, giving birth to binary star systems consisting of two stars orbiting around their common center of mass. We know from observations that systems of two, three or multiple stars are quite common in the universe, for example our neighbor the Alpha Centauri system.

The Italian astronomer Giuseppe Piazzi (1746-1826) studied at Milan, Turin and Rome, taught philosophy for a time at Genoa and mathematics at the University of Malta. Well-connected in Italy and within the European scientific community he managed to establish a decent observatory at Palermo, Sicily. In 1801 Piazzi discovered Ceres, the first known asteroid. He correctly believed it to lie in the orbital region between Mars and Jupiter but soon fell ill and lost track of the object. Based on the very limited number of observations the brilliant young German mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss successfully calculated its orbit.

Ceres is by far the most massive body in the asteroid belt. Its size is sufficient to give it a spherical shape and it is therefore considered a “dwarf planet.” It contains a significant quantity of water ice and probably preserves a record of what the Solar System was like when it was first condensing from cosmic dust into planetesimals and larger protoplanets. Many astronomers believe that it was the gravitational influence of the neighboring gas giant Jupiter that prevented the plantesimals of the asteroid belt from forming into a regular planet.

Soon after Piazzi’s discovery the German physician and astronomer Heinrich Olbers found two more asteroids, Pallas and Vesta. Next to his medical practice in Bremen, Olbers conducted astronomical observations and discovered several comets. He is famous for popularizing Olbers’ Paradox, a seemingly simple question which scholars found surprisingly difficult to answer: Why is the sky dark at night? If the universe is eternal and contains an infinite number of stars then presumably it should be much lighter than it is. The preferred answer to this, at least within the framework of the current Big Bang cosmological model, is that the universe is not infinitely old (less than 14 billion years old) and that it is expanding. Partial credit for providing the correct answer to this riddle has been given to the American author Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) as well as to the great British physicist Lord Kelvin.

After the introduction of photography, the German astronomer and astrophotographer Max Wolf (1863-1932) from the University of Heidelberg invented a technique for revealing asteroids by the streaks they left on photographic plates, thus finding hundreds of new ones. The discovery of the asteroid belt provided an explanation for many impact craters on various planetary bodies. The asteroid belt separates the four smaller, rocky terrestrial planets of the Inner Solar System, Mercury, Venus, the Earth (also known as Terra or Tellus) and Mars, from the four gas giants of the Outer Solar System, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.

The discipline of Earth science was invented in the 1960s and 70s when it replaced geology as the major discipline for studying our planet, just as geology had once replaced mineralogy. Geophysicists, geologists, oceanographers and meteorologists began working on related problems using similar techniques and implements. At the same time the first space probes were being sent to investigate other bodies in our Solar System, which meant that geologists could extend the scope of their investigations to the domain formerly dominated by astronomers. This led to the creation of planetary science and branches such as astrobiology.

The American geologist and astronomer Eugene Shoemaker (1928-1997) from Los Angeles, California was one of the pioneers of planetary science and arguably founded astrogeology in the 1960s. In much of his asteroid and comet work he collaborated with his wife Carolyn Shoemaker (born 1929), who has discovered many comets. The Shoemakers were co-discoverers of the comet Shoemaker-Levy 9, whose spectacular collision with Jupiter in 1994 was followed with great interest by astronomers. Eugene Shoemaker did much to bring attention to the significance of impacts from comets and asteroids during the Earth’s history.

“Fluid” or weak bodies such as comets that come within the so-called Roche limit of the large planets, named after the astronomer and mathematician Édouard Roche (1820-1883) from Montpellier, France, will be pulled apart by tidal forces. This is what happened to Shoemaker-Levy 9 before its various fragments collided with Jupiter in 1994..

We know from the fossil record that there have been several mass extinctions of life on our planet previously, but the causes of many of them remain hotly disputed. Many people believe that the extinction which ended the age of the dinosaurs roughly 65 million years ago was at least partly caused by the impact of a large asteroid or comet. The American experimental physicist and Nobel laureate Luis W. Alvarez (1911-1988) from the University of California, Berkeley together with his son Walter Alvarez (born 1940) suggested this theory in 1980.

One key piece of evidence is a clay layer (the K-T boundary) which contains an unusually high concentration of the platinum metal iridium. Iridium is very rare in the Earth’s crust because it is very dense and therefore presumably sank into the core during the differentiation period in the Earth’s molten childhood along with many other (though luckily not all) heavy elements. It is much more abundant in meteorites and by extension probably in asteroids and comets. Since then, a huge impact crater from this geological period has been identified outside of the Yucatán Peninsula, although doubts have been raised by some scholars as to whether this impact was the sole cause of this particular mass extinction. For instance, there was a series of massive volcanic eruptions in the Deccan Traps in India at about this time.

Auroras in the Northern Hemisphere are called northern lights; in the Southern Hemisphere southern lights. They appear as arcs, clouds and streaks which move across the night sky. The most common colors are green and red, although other colors may occur, too. Auroras have been observed on some other planets such Jupiter and Saturn as well, caused by their strong magnetic fields. They become more spectacular the closer you get to the Arctic or Antarctic regions, which is one of the reasons why their nature was finally worked out in Scandinavia.

The Swedish astronomers Anders Celsius and Olof Hiorter (1696-1750) in 1741 studied the aurora borealis and noticed that it disturbed magnetic compass needles, although they could not fully explain why. While in Paris, Celsius had become acquainted with the French naturalist Pierre-Louis de Maupertuis (1698-1759) who supported Isaac Newton’s theory that the shape of the Earth swelled near the equator and slightly flattened near the poles.

To settle the matter, in 1736 the French Geodesic Mission sent one expedition to Scandinavian Lapland under Celsius and Maupertuis and another to Ecuador close to the Equator. Their measurements proved that Newton’s theory was correct. Maupertuis is also remembered for advocating the physical principle of least action and for his work on heredity before the nineteenth century theories of evolution by the naturalist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck in France and those of Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace in Britain.

At Göttingen in Germany, the physicist Wilhelm Weber (1804-1891) cooperated closely with the brilliant mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss. The German naturalist and explorer Alexander von Humboldt in 1805 reported that magnetic intensity varies across the Earth’s surface and encouraged the establishment of an international network of magnetic observatories. By the 1830s Gauss and his younger collaborator Weber took over from Humboldt as leaders in geomagnetism. Accurate measurements were emphasized by both of them as they realized that these were crucial for developing and verifying physical laws.

During the Enlightenment it had been established that air can be electrically charged. In 1752 the Danish-Norwegian professor and bishop Erik Pontoppidan (1698-1764) suggested that the aurora borealis is an electrical phenomenon. The Scottish physicist Balfour Stewart (1828-1887), who studied terrestrial magnetism, in the 1880s proposed the existence of electrical currents in a high, conductive layer in the atmosphere to explain geomagnetic variations.

At this time the physical chemist Svante Arrhenius (1859-1927) from Sweden was developing his theory of ionic bonds, formed by the attraction between two ions with opposite charges. One example of this would be common table salt (NaCl). In the early 1800s the great English naturalist Michael Faraday had suggested that charged particles which he termed “ions” were formed by the process of electrolysis, but Arrhenius ‘ work led him to believe that electrolytes contain ions even when they are not exposed to electricity.

Ions are atoms that have acquired positive or negative net electric charge due to losing or gaining one or more electrons. The ionosphere is a layer of ionized air in the upper atmosphere, extending from about 80 km, where radiation from the Sun and to a lesser extent cosmic rays break apart molecules and atoms of air, leaving ions and free-floating electrons.

In 1902 the Italian physicist and radio pioneer Guglielmo Marconi successfully sent radio waves across the Atlantic Ocean. The English physicist Oliver Heaviside (1850-1925) and the American electrical engineer Arthur E. Kennelly (1861-1939) in 1902 independently predicted the existence of a conducting reflective layer that was bouncing radio waves back to the ground over vast distances in spite of the Earth’s curvature. The gifted English physicist Edward Appleton (1892-1965), who had studied under J. J. Thomson and Ernest Rutherford, in 1924 through a series of experiments proved the existence of the layer in the upper atmosphere now called the ionosphere. The ionosphere’s existence was fully established about 1930 by Appleton and Douglas R. Hartree (1897-1958) in Britain. Further studies of this layer were carried out by the English geophysicist Sydney Chapman (1888-1970).

The Norwegian physicist Kristian Birkeland (1867-1917) grew up in Kristiania (Oslo) and at the turn of the twentieth century undertook expeditions to near-Arctic regions to study aurora currents. He hypothesized that they were caused by the interaction of energetic particles from outside of the atmosphere with atoms in the upper atmosphere. He managed to experimentally reproduce the Solar System in miniature in his laboratory. He placed a magnetized sphere, a “ terrella “ representing the Earth, inside a vacuum chamber, aimed a beam of electrons towards it and could see that they were steered by the magnetic field to the vicinity of its magnetic poles. Birkeland’s ideas were nevertheless rejected by most scientists at the time and were only verified by satellites generations later. Even a brilliant man such as Lord Kelvin in 1892 erroneously stated that no matter passes between the Sun and the Earth.

In a drive to finance his often expensive research, Birkeland teamed up with the Norwegian industrialist Samuel Eyde (1866-1940) and invented the first industrial scale method to extract nitrogen-based fertilizers from the air. However, by the 1920s their method was no longer able to compete with the Haber-Bosch process. The German Jewish scholar Fritz Haber (1868-1934) invented a process, further developed by Carl Bosch (1874-1940), for mass production of nitrates, which in turn permits the mass production of fertilizers and explosives. Incidentally, Haber was also one of the developers of chemical warfare during World War I.

One large piece of the puzzle was the discovery of zones of highly energetic charged particles trapped in the Earth’s magnetic field. After the Soviet Union in 1957 launched the world’s first artificial satellite into orbit, the Sputnik 1, the United States launched its own Explorer 1 in 1958 whose Geiger counter detected a powerful radiation belt surrounding the Earth. This was the first major scientific discovery of the Space Age. The Van Allen radiation belts, named after the American space scientist James Van Allen (1914-2006), consist of two distinct parts, one inner and one outer belt, formed by somewhat different physical processes.

In 1959 the astrophysicist Thomas Gold (1920-2004) proposed the name “magnetosphere” to the highly magnetized region of space where a planet’s magnetic field dominates the plasma of the solar wind. The magnetosphere has a teardrop shape because it is compressed on the Sun side while its tail is pushed away from the Sun, similar to comet tails. Studies of comet tails by the German astronomer Ludwig Biermann (1907-1986) and others led to successful predictions of the solar wind and of the hydrogen halos around comets.

Hans Christian Ørsted in Denmark in 1820 found a connection between electrical and magnetic phenomena and opened up the study of electromagnetism. The French mathematical physicist and astronomer François Arago described the generation of magnetism by rotation in the 1820s, and his observations were expanded by Michael Faraday. As we have seen, the existence of a liquid outer core separated from a solid inner core inside the Earth was discovered in 1936 by the seismologist Inge Lehmann from Denmark. The German-born physicist Walter M. Elsasser (1904-1991) in 1946 published his theory that the Earth’s electromagnetic field is generated by an internal dynamo caused by currents in the outer core.

According to our best estimates, the planet Jupiter consists of almost 90% hydrogen and 10% helium by numbers of atoms, or 75/25% by mass, with additional traces of methane, water, ammonia and other chemical substances. This is believed to be close to the composition of the primordial Solar Nebula which existed 4.6 billion years ago. Saturn has a similar composition. The intense radiation surrounding Jupiter would be fatal to humans; its magnetosphere is immense and in volume even bigger than the Sun itself, making it arguably the largest structure in our Solar System. It is thought that Jupiter’s magnetic field is generated by an internal dynamo caused by the circulation of metallic hydrogen in that planet’s outer core.

The English geophysicists Sydney Chapman and Vincent Ferraro (1907-1974) in 1930 proposed that the Sun emits huge clouds of plasma, containing equal numbers of positive ions and electrons. It has since then been established that the Sun emits plasma at great speed at all times, not merely during magnetic storms as Chapman and Ferraro had assumed. This is the solar wind, whose existence was predicted in 1958 by the astrophysicist Eugene Parker (born 1927) at the University of Chicago in the USA against strong opposition. He developed his models when observations of comet tails still provided most of the available data. Parker’s work has greatly increased our understanding of the magnetic fields of the Earth and the Sun..

The American astronomer Fred Whipple (1906-2004) in 1950 proposed the “dirty snowball” model where comets have icy cores inside thin insulating layers of dirt. Whipple believed that jets of material ejected as a result of solar heating were the cause of minor orbital changes for some comets. This model is still held to be predominantly correct. The nucleus contains a mixture of dust and water ice with elements of frozen carbon dioxide, methane and ammonia.

Comets are frozen remains of the nebula that formed our Solar System. As they approach the Sun, heat vaporizes some of the frozen materials so that the comet’s nucleus spews gas and dust particles into space. Around the nucleus, which is normally a few kilometers in diameter, comets develop a cloud of diffuse material called a coma. Comet tails are pushed away by solar radiation and the solar wind and consequently always point away from the Sun. Some scientists believe that comets originally brought to the young Earth some of the water and carbon-based molecules that make up living things, although whether substantial amounts of water were brought from comets to our oceans has been disputed based on chemical analysis.

Sunspots are strongly magnetic and appear dark because they are slightly cooler than the regions that surround them. Based on daily observations between 1826 and 1843, the German amateur astronomer Heinrich Schwabe (1789-1875), a pharmacist living in the town of Dessau, in 1843 announced that sunspots vary in number in a cycle of roughly eleven years. He was originally looking for a yet-unknown planet moving inside the orbit of Mercury. His article caught the eye of Alexander von Humboldt, who in 1851 published Schwabe’s table updated to 1850. After that many scientists became interested in the 11-year sunspot cycle. It has later been established that periods with many sunspots correspond to high solar activity.

The Swiss astronomer Rudolf Wolf (1816-1893) had studied at the universities of Zürich, Vienna and Berlin, where the German astronomer Johann Franz Encke was one of his teachers. Wolf became director of the Bern Observatory in Switzerland in 1847 and in 1848 devised the “Zürich sunspot number” to gauge the number of sunspots.

A gentleman of independent means, the English amateur astronomer Richard Carrington (1826-1875), devoted himself to the study of sunspots. Carrington found by observing their motions that the Sun rotates faster at the equator than near the poles. Another early pioneer in the study of sunspot cycles was the German astronomer Gustav Spörer (1822-1895).

The Anglo-Irish geophysicist Edward Sabine (1788-1883) in 1852 found an association between the sunspot cycle and the occurrence of large magnetic storms. On September 1, 1859, Richard Carrington in England through his telescope, which projected an 11-inch-wide image of the Sun on a screen, observed what we now know was a huge solar flare, a magnetic explosion on the Sun. Only 17 hours later this event triggered a large magnetic storm on the Earth. Just before dawn the next day, auroras occurred even in Cuba and Hawaii. Spark discharges shocked telegraph operators in several regions and set telegraph paper on fire.

Unusual solar activity can cause geomagnetic storms (disturbances in the Earth’s magnetosphere) and interrupt electromagnetic communications, for instance by affecting the ionosphere. A powerful solar flare of the strength observed by Carrington could potentially cause quite serious damage today due to our much more extensive reliance on electromagnetic equipment and communications in the twenty-first century as compared to the mid-nineteenth.

Early estimates of stellar surface temperatures made using Newton’s law of cooling gave far too high temperatures. More accurate values were obtained by using the radiation laws of the Slovenian physicist Joseph Stefan in 1879 and the German physicist Wilhelm Wien in 1896. Stefan calculated the temperature of the Sun’s surface to about 5400 °C, which was the most sensible value by date. Stefan’s Law or the Stefan-Boltzmann Law, named after Stefan and his Austrian student Ludwig Boltzmann, suggests that the amount of radiation given off by a body is proportional to the fourth power of its temperature as measured in Kelvin units.

The part of the Sun that we normally see has a temperature of more than 5500 degrees C, almost 5800 K. Temperatures in the core, where nuclear fusion occurs, reach over 15 million K. The lowest layer of the atmosphere is called the photosphere. The next zone is the chromospheres, where the temperature rises to 20,000 K. The corona, the Sun’s outer atmosphere, is remarkably hot. In the part nearest the surface the temperature is 1 million to 6 million K, but it can reach tens of millions of degrees when a flare occurs. Sunspots are cooler regions where magnetic energy builds up and is often released in solar flares and discharges of charged particles known as coronal mass ejections. These events can trigger space storms that affect the Earth. The flow of coronal gas into space is known as the solar wind. The corona is visible during total solar eclipses as a large halo of white, glowing gas, but the relative rarity of such eclipses present logistical difficulties for detailed observations.

The technical problems associated with producing an artificial eclipse to study the Sun were solved by the French solar physicist Bernard Lyot (1897-1952), an expert in optics who had studied engineering in Paris in addition to mathematics, physics and chemistry. As an astronomer, Lyot found that the lunar surface behaves like volcanic dust and that Mars has sandstorms. In 1930 he invented an instrument dubbed the coronagraph, a telescope equipped with an occulting disk sized in such a way as to block out the solar disk, which is much more difficult than it sounds. By 1931 he was obtaining photographs of the corona. He found new spectral lines in the corona and made the first motion pictures of solar prominences.

In the 1930s, Lyot boldly inferred a coronal temperature of around 600,000 K. This claim was met with skepticism at the time. Acceptance of these very high temperatures came through the spectroscopic work of the German astrophysicist Walter Grotrian (1890-1954) and the Swedish astrophysicist Bengt Edlén (1906-1993) soon after, but an explanation for how the Sun’s upper atmosphere could be so much hotter than its surface took a long time to work out.

The Swedish physicist Hannes Alfvén (1908-1995) was one of the founders of plasma physics and magnetohydrodynamics, the study of plasmas in magnetic fields. Alfvén was born in Norrköping, Sweden. Both his parents were practicing physicians. He studied at Uppsala University and became a research physicist and professor in Stockholm. He made many discoveries in solar and space plasma physics and his work on cosmic rays led him to propose in 1937 the existence of a galactic magnetic field. The one discovery for which he is best known is the magnetohydrodynamic wave commonly called the Alfvén wave, whose existence for decades was difficult to prove. Finally in 2009, pictures taken by a team using the Swedish Solar Telescope in Spain’s Canary Islands revealed that “corkscrew” waves — Alfvén waves — were pushing heat from the Sun’s surface to its outer atmosphere, the corona.

The amount of energy the Sun puts out varies over an 11-year cycle which also governs the appearance of sunspots. While that cycle changes the total amount of solar energy reaching the Earth only by a tiny fraction, perhaps 0.1 percent, this small variation appears to be sufficient to affect our weather patterns; by how much remains a field of active research. We know that a period with very few sunspots called the Maunder Minimum, named after the English astronomer Edward Maunder (1851-1928), began around 1650, at the same time as a period of unusually cold weather called the Little Ice Age. Was this merely a coincidence?

Henrik Svensmark (born 1958) from the Center for Sun-Climate Research at the Danish National Space Center in Copenhagen has proposed that solar activity and cosmic rays are instrumental in determining the warming and cooling of the Earth. He builds on the work of physicist Eigil Fiin-Christensen who with Knud Lassen Fiin in 1991 looked at solar activity over the last century and found a remarkable correlation to temperatures on our own planet.

Cosmic rays are energetic particles, most of them protons, originating from outer space. Galactic cosmic rays are subatomic particles — protons along with some heavy nuclei — accelerated to velocities approaching the speed of light by distant supernova explosions. In addition to being modulated by the Earth’s magnetic field these have to enter the heliosphere, the protective bubble stretching beyond the orbit of Pluto where the solar wind, the plasma of electrons and atomic nuclei constantly ejected from the Sun, dominates interstellar space. When solar activity is strong, the solar wind allows fewer external cosmic rays to reach our Solar System and our planet.

Henrik Svensmark and his colleagues carried out a landmark study of cosmic rays and clouds. They demonstrated that such rays could produce small aerosols, the basic building blocks for cloud condensation nuclei. The condensation of clouds affects the energy balance and by extension the temperature on Earth. They received support for these studies from the Danish Carlsberg Foundation, founded by the beer producer which was an early pioneer in scientific brewing. As Mr. Svensmark puts it in an interview with the science magazine Discover:

“We live in a unique time in history, because this period has the highest solar activity we have had in 1,000 years, and maybe even in 8,000 years. And we know that changes in solar activity have made significant changes in climate. For instance, we had the little ice age about 300 years ago. You had very few sunspots between 1650 and 1715, and for example, in Sweden in 1696, it caused the harvest to go wrong. People were starving — 100,000 people died — and it was very desperate times, all coinciding with this very low solar activity. The last time we had high solar activity was during the medieval warming, which was when all of the cathedrals were built in Europe. And if you go 1,000 years back, you also had high solar activity, and that was when Rome was at its height. So I think there’s good evidence that these are significant changes that are happening naturally. If we are talking about the next century, there might be a human effect on climate change on top of that, but the natural effect from solar effect will be important.”

Far from all scientists agree that there is an intimate link between the alleged global warming going on today and cosmic rays, although the American astrophysicist Eugene Parker, the discoverer of solar wind, takes this hypothesis seriously. Nevertheless, these investigations contribute to an emerging multidisciplinary field of cosmoclimatology, the study of how “space weather” and events outside of the Earth itself may affect the climate on our planet.

According to NASA’s fine website there are at least 100 billion stars in our own Milky Way Galaxy, possibly much more than that, compared to a trillion (million times a million) or so in the huge neighboring Andromeda Galaxy. Our Solar System lies in a spiral arm about 25,000 light-years from the center of our galaxy and needs approximately 225 million years to complete one orbit of it. There are some scientists who speculate whether our position relative to the Milky Way ‘s center can be associated with certain geological time periods on Earth.

Scholars during the past two hundred years have vastly increased our knowledge about the chemistry of life. European chemists in the early nineteenth century made a distinction between inorganic and organic chemistry. They correctly considered the latter to be more complex, but mistakenly believed that organic substances could only be made by living creatures. This changed when the gifted German chemist Friedrich Wöhler (1800-1882), a student of the Swedish scholar Jöns Jakob Berzelius who also collaborated with the leading German chemist Justus von Liebig, in 1828 discovered that urea, an organic compound and one of the constituents of urine, could be synthesized from inorganic materials.

Gradually it became clear that there is no fundamental difference between organic and inorganic chemistry apart from the fact that organic compounds are often complex. They contain carbon atoms, which have the ability to combine with other atoms in numerous different ways. The German chemist Friedrich August Kekule von Stradonitz, or August Kekulé (1829-1896), who taught at the Universities of Heidelberg, Ghent and Bonn, in 1858 established the fact that carbon has a valence (combining power) of four. This insight was of fundamental importance in the evolution of organic chemistry, which is today synonymous with carbon-based chemistry. Kekulé had the idea that carbon atoms could link up in rings as well as chains. This was independently proposed by Archibald Scott Couper (1831-1892) from Scotland as well. In 1865 Kekulé described the ring structure of benzene molecules.

Carbon with atomic number six has physical properties which enable it to form millions of compounds. It has two common allotropes where its atoms are bonded together in different ways: Diamond is the hardest known naturally occurring mineral while graphite is soft and was named by Abraham Gottlob Werner from Greek for “to write” due to its use in pencils.

A more recently discovered class of carbon allotropes are fullerenes, hollow, cagelike molecules composed of at least 60 atoms of carbon. Spherical fullerenes resemble a European-style football and are called “buckyballs” after the American architect Buckminster “Bucky” Fuller (1895-1983), famous for his geodesic domes. C60 fullerene was discovered in 1985 by a team from Rice University in the United States and the University of Sussex in Britain. The English chemist Harold Kroto (born 1939) soon shared a Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the discovery with the Americans Richard Smalley (1943-2005) and Robert Curl (born 1933). Cylindrical fullerenes are known as nanotubes and are exceptionally strong.

The Russian biochemist Alexander Oparin (1894-1980) majored in plant physiology at Moscow State University and was influenced by the ideas of the English naturalist Charles Darwin. He extended Darwin’s theory of evolution backwards in time to explain how simple organic and inorganic materials might have combined into more complex compounds. In 1922 Oparin introduced the concept of a brew of organic compounds and carbon-based molecules, a “primordial soup,” as the origin of life on Earth. The English evolutionary biologist J. B. S. Haldane (1892-1964) independently proposed a closely related, though not entirely identical, hypothesis at roughly the same time.. These ideas initially faced powerful opposition but have since then become accepted in their main outlines. Oparin published the book The Origin of Life and organized the first international meeting on the origin of life in Moscow in 1957.

The Dutch-born astronomer Gerard Kuiper and the American physical chemist Harold Urey (1893-1981) renewed interest in the Solar System. Kuiper discovered the carbon dioxide atmosphere of Mars and contributed to the first phase of space exploration. Urey investigated the distribution of elements in the Solar System in his book The Planets: Their Origin and Development (1952) and helped to develop the field of cosmochemistry or astrochemistry.

Harold Urey in 1921 entered the University of California to work under Gilbert Newton Lewis. He spent the following year at Niels Bohr’s Institute for Theoretical Physics in Copenhagen, Denmark. In 1931 he developed a method for distillation of liquid hydrogen which aided the discovery of deuterium, for which he received a Nobel Prize in 1934. Deuterium is a stable isotope of hydrogen where the nucleus contains one proton and one neutron. Tritium is a radioactive and very rare hydrogen isotope with two neutrons.

Urey moved to Chicago in 1945. One of his doctoral students at the University of Chicago was Stanley Miller (1930-2007), who decided to test the Oparin-Haldane theory experimentally. The famous Miller-Urey experiment from 1953 mixed water, methane, ammonia and hydrogen in a chamber to simulate the Earth’s presumed early atmosphere and used an electric discharge to simulate lightning. After just a week, organic compounds had been formed in the shape of amino acids, the basic building blocks of life as we know it.

There are those who believe that the oceans appeared already within two hundred million years after the Earth was formed (it was too hot at first), while others think this happened later and that primitive life forms developed soon afterward, maybe 3.8 billion to 3.5 billion years ago. The oxygen-rich atmosphere we currently enjoy, which makes complex life forms such as ourselves possible, is the result of several billion years of work by cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, which use water, carbon dioxide and sunlight to produce oxygen.

Around the year 1900, several European scientists rediscovered a neglected research paper on heredity by the Bohemian monk Gregor Mendel, who had conducted breeding experiments with pea plants a few decades earlier. The American geneticist Thomas Hunt Morgan soon demonstrated that chromosomes are key factors in heredity. DNA had been isolated by the Swiss physician Friedrich Miescher already in 1869, but he didn’t grasp the importance of his find. In 1944 the Canadian-born USA-based medical researcher Oswald Avery and his co-workers more or less demonstrated that DNA itself was the unit of genetic inheritance, a fact that was further established through experiments conducted by the Americans Alfred Hershey and Martha Chase in 1952. Finally, James D. Watson and Francis Crick working at Cambridge University in England delineated the double-helix structure of DNA in 1953.

DNA, deoxyribonucleic acid, is the molecule that contains the genetic code for all currently known life forms on Earth except for some RNA-based viruses. Whether viruses constitute life forms is debatable since they have no metabolism and cannot reproduce without infecting a host cell. DNA consists of two long, twisted chains made up of nucleotides. Each nucleotide contains one base, one phosphate molecule and the sugar molecule deoxyribose. A gene is a segment of a DNA molecule that contains information for making a protein. Proteins perform the chemical reactions in our bodies and provide the body’s main building materials, forming the architecture of our cells. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. Chromosomes are cellular structures containing genes. Humans normally have 23 pairs of chromosomes.

During sexual reproduction the egg cell of the mother and the sperm cell of the father undergo cell division where the 46 chromosomes are divided in half and the egg and the sperm cells end up with 23 chromosomes each. The baby ends up with a complete set, half of them from each parent. In every cell in the human body there is a nucleus where genetic material is stored in genes grouped in chromosomes. Individuals suffering from the disorder known as Down’s syndrome, named after the English doctor John Langdon Down (1828-1896) who first described it in 1866, have three copies of chromosome number 21. The correct explanation for this was made by the French geneticist Jérôme Lejeune (1926-1994) in 1959.

Evolutionary biologists differ in their views of what came first, genes and then proteins or vice versa; this is the new version of the ancient chicken-or-the-egg debate. Unlike double-stranded DNA, the related ribonucleic acid (RNA) usually comes as a single strand and is quite flexible. According to the website of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, “Each year, researchers unlock new secrets about RNA. These discoveries reveal that it is truly a remarkable molecule and a multi-talented actor in heredity. Today, many scientists believe that RNA evolved on the Earth long before DNA did. Researchers hypothesize — obviously, no one was around to write this down — that RNA was a major participant in the chemical reactions that ultimately spawned the first signs of life on the planet.”

One of the most important breakthroughs in biology during the twentieth century was the realization from the 1970s and 1980s on that life on our planet is far hardier than scientists had previously suspected. Living organisms have been found in many extremely harsh and difficult environments ranging from the superheated waters of submarine volcanic vents to the ultra-dry bitter cold of the Antarctic Dry Valleys. We can encounter organisms living in boiling water or caves dripping with sulfuric acid. Most of these extremophiles are microbes.

The American research vessel Alvin in 1964 became the first deep-sea submersible capable of carrying a pilot and two scientific observers to a depth of 4,000 meters. It was used in the discovery of black smokers in 1977 as it surveyed the Galapagos Rift. A pioneer in the field of deep-water research and archaeology is Robert Ballard (born 1942), an explorer and oceanographer from the United States. Ballard is mostly remembered among the general public for his leading role in the discovery of the wreck of the famous RMS Titanic in 1985.

The Russian Mir submersibles, built in Finland for the Soviet Union in 1987, were used by director James Cameron (born 1954) for the underwater filming of the Titanic, located at a depth of 3, 820 meters, for his 1997 blockbuster Hollywood film of the same name. The expedition’s leader, the Russian scientist Anatoly Sagalevitch (born 1938), has also led diving expeditions to the unique Lake Baikal in eastern Siberia, the world’s deepest freshwater lake.

Black smokers are chimneylike structures on the ocean floor made up of sulfur-bearing minerals or sulfides. Just as we can find natural hot springs in certain volcanically active regions on land, similar phenomena called deep-sea hydrothermal (hot water) vents can occur under the oceans next to mid-ocean ridges, where molten rock bubbles up from the mantle to the sea floor and forms new oceanic crust. Here we can encounter unusual life forms such as tube worms and giant clams. Most notably, in this environment of perpetual darkness we can find entire ecosystems that exist totally without the aid of sunlight. They are based not on the common photosynthesis but on chemosynthesis, by converting heat, methane and sulfur into food and energy. A few researchers such as the German chemist Günter Wächtershäuser (born 1938) have suggested that life on Earth may have begun in environments similar to these.

Tardigrades, sometimes known as “water bears,” are tiny water-dwelling eight-legged critters that grow to a size of about 1 millimeter. They are able to survive extreme temperatures and live from the highest mountain tops to the bottom of the oceans. In 2008 a box of water bears was launched into orbit aboard the Russian Satellite FOTON-M3 and spent ten days in containers that exposed them to the vacuum, radiation and extreme cold of space. Amazingly, some of them survived this brutal treatment and returned to Earth where they managed to lay healthy eggs. While tiny and simple, tardigrades are nevertheless multicellular organisms technically classified as animals. This was the first time that it had been demonstrated that an animal with a mouth, head, brain, legs, eyes, nerves and muscles has the ability to survive unprotected in space — an ability previously only proved for some lichens and bacteria.

A few scientists support the idea of panspermia (“all seed”), according to which life exist all over the universe, or the more moderate concept of exogenesis (“outside origin”) where life on Earth originated elsewhere, maybe in the form of extraterrestrial microbes brought here with meteorites. These hypotheses are highly controversial and remain the view of a very small minority of scholars, but the fact that a few microscopic terrestrial organisms can survive in space is certainly interesting. Since life on our planet is hardier than we expected this increases the likelihood that it can exist elsewhere, too. This is especially intriguing now that we finally have the technological capability to explore other bodies in our Solar System.

The polymath Mikhail Lomonosov (1711-1765) was a pioneer of modern science in the Russian Empire. Born in a small village, his family were nominally peasants but still enjoyed a degree of freedom not known to serfs in Central Russia. He concealed his identity, as peasants could not attain the prestigious Academy in Moscow, and pretended to be the son of a priest to gain admission. He soon impressed his teachers with his intelligence. In 1735 he was selected to the new Imperial Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg. Lomonosov studied for several years in Western Europe and picked up a German wife. In 1748 he opened the first modern chemical laboratory in Russia. He also promoted Russian history and language.

According to the book Venus in Transit by Eli Maor, “It was during the 1761 transit that Lomonosov, observing from his home in St. Petersburg, saw a faint, luminous ring around Venus’s black image just as it entered the sun’s face; the sight was repeated at the moment of exit. He immediately interpreted this as due to an atmosphere around Venus, and he predicted that it might even be thicker than Earth’s. Lomonosov reported his finding in a paper which, like most of his written work, was only published many years after his death in 1765. But it was not until 1910, one hundred and fifty years after the transit, that his paper appeared in German translation and became known in the West. Up until then the discovery of Venus’s atmosphere had been credited to William Herschel.”

The Venera 7 probe from the Soviet Union in 1970 became the first space probe to transmit data from the surface of Venus. The Earth’s atmosphere is by volume composed of roughly 78% nitrogen gas (N2), 21% oxygen gas (O2), 0.9% argon (Ar), some water vapor (the gas phase of water, H2O), almost 0.04% carbon dioxide (CO2) and small amounts of a number of other gases such as methane (CH4). While the three latter gases constitute a tiny part of the atmosphere they trap heat from the Sun and warm the Earth through the greenhouse effect.

The mass of the atmosphere of Venus consist of 96.5% carbon dioxide and the planet is surrounded by thick clouds of sulfuric acid. The dense atmosphere produces a run-away greenhouse effect and the temperature at Venus’ surface is more than 460 degrees Celsius, hot enough to melt lead. It is highly unlikely whether life as we can conceive of it can exist in such an inhospitable environment, except possibly in the cooler upper atmosphere. The Martian atmosphere, too, is dominated by carbon dioxide at 95.3 percent plus some additional nitrogen, argon and water vapor, but at the surface the atmospheric pressure is typically 0.7 percent that of the Earth’s surface. In contrast, atmospheric pressure at the surface of Venus is about 92 times that of the Earth and by extension roughly ten thousand times that of Mars.

The astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli (1835-1910) from the winy Piedmont region of northwestern Italy explained regular meteor showers as the result of the dissolution of comets and proved this for the Perseids, thereby forging a link between comets and certain meteors. He studied Mars and named its “seas” and “continents.” According to the book The Planet Mars: A History of Observation and Discovery by William Sheehan, “In Italian, canali can mean either ‘channels’ or ‘canals.’ It is clear that Schiaparelli had completely natural features in mind—-indeed, he often used the word fiume (river) as a synonym. Strictly speaking, the term channel would have been preferable, but instead it was canal, with all its connotations of artificial waterways, that was adopted in English, with far-reaching consequences.”

Schiaparelli’s alleged observations of Martian canals stimulated the American businessman and astronomer Percival Lowell (1855-1916) to found his observatory in the 1890s and search for intelligent life on Mars. He also predicted the existence of a planet beyond the orbit of Neptune. The young American astronomer Clyde Tombaugh (1906-1997) discovered Pluto in 1930 while working at the Lowell Observatory in the USA. He used photographic plates, which were used in astronomy and particle physics long after they had gone out of popular use, although astronomers like most others later switched to digital cameras. In Roman mythology Pluto, the equivalent of the Greek deity Hades and his abode of the same name, was the god of the dark underworld. “PL” also happens to be the initials of Percival Lowell.

Our seasons are caused by the Earth being tilted on its axis by 23.5 degrees. This axial tilt is not constant but varies very slowly from 22.1 to 24.5 degrees in a cycle of 41,000 years. In June the Northern Hemisphere faces the Sun and receives more direct sunlight, which means that there is summer in the north and winter in the Southern Hemisphere. The exact opposite is the case six months later when the Earth is on the other side of its orbit and is tilted the other way vis-à-vis the Sun. The seasonal daylight differences and the gradual lengthening or shortening of days are subtle in the tropics, but the regions next to the poles will be in total darkness by mid-winter and in turn receive 24 hours of nonstop sunlight (the “midnight Sun”) in the middle of the summer, close to winter solstice and summer solstice, respectively.

Mars has an axial tilt of 25.2 degrees and has seasons just like the Earth, only longer ones since the Martian year — its orbital period around the Sun — is longer with 687 Earth days. One crucial difference is that while the Earth’s orbit is nearly circular, Mars has a significantly more elliptical orbit with a more pronounced orbital eccentricity. This means that the difference between the point when it is closest to the Sun, the perihelion, and the point when it is furthest away from the Sun, the aphelion, is small and climatically insignificant for our own planet but significant in the case of Mars. While the Martian atmosphere is thin it is still dense enough to support a weather system. Huge dust storms can cover almost the entire planet and are often strongest at perihelion when the Sun heats its atmosphere the most.

Mars is named for the ancient Roman god of war. Its reddish color, similar to that of rust (iron oxide), comes from iron-rich minerals in its soil. Large amounts of water probably once flowed on its surface, which contains many channels, gullies and huge valleys. The planet’s seasonal polar caps consist of a mixture of solid carbon dioxide (“dry ice”) and water ice.

Since there are currently no seas on Mars there is no “sea level” to measure from, but by any standard the massive shield volcano Olympus Mons is the largest known mountain in the entire Solar System. Standing about 25 kilometers higher than its surrounding landscape it is almost three times higher than Mount Everest. However, the force of gravity at the Martian surface is only about 38 percent that of the Earth. A mountain of similar size probably wouldn’t have survived on our planet as it would have been crushed under its own weight.

While it remains a possibility that plate tectonics once existed on Mars, astrogeologists believe that plate tectonics processes are no longer active there now. Olympus Mons is thought to be fixed over a hotspot which has allowed repeated eruptions to build it to its present height. On the Earth, hotspots remain stationary while crustal plates move above them. It is virtually certain that our hot sister planet Venus is still volcanically active. It is distinctly possible that cooler Mars is so as well, but we currently possess no proof of this.

Mars has no global magnetic field, which means that its core is probably entirely solid. The Earth’s magnetic field creates a protective bubble against the solar wind and harmful rays from space. Since Mars lacks this and has a thinner atmosphere, the planet’s surface is much more exposed to potentially harmful radiation. The average temperature is about -60 degrees Celsius, but varies considerably seasonally and regionally from a comfortable 20 degrees plus near the equator at summer to a staggering minus 130 degrees Celsius near the poles during the winter. Because of these factors, if evidence of past or present microbial life is ever found on Mars, many astrobiologists suspect that it will be located just below the surface.. There, microbes might be more shielded from cosmic radiation, and heat from the still hot Martian core makes it more likely that non-trivial amounts of water could still exist in liquid form.

Joan Oró Florensa (1923-2004) was a Catalan biochemist who graduated from Barcelona University in 1947 and emigrated from Spain to the USA in 1952. Following the Miller-Urey experiment from 1953, Joan Oró in 1959 demonstrated in a related experiment that adenine, one of the components of DNA, formed in abundance in his “primordial soup.” Oró was one of the first scientists to suggest the possibility that comets could have acted as carriers of organic molecules to the Earth’s early biosphere. From the 1960s he worked with NASA, including the Viking missions to Mars in 1976. While the results were inconclusive back then, it is possible that their equipment was not sensitive enough to detect life forms even if present.

In 2003-2004, American space scientists as well as data from the Mars Express Orbiter by the European Space Agency (ESA) found evidence of methane in the Martian atmosphere. There could be an active source of methane production on the planet. This is not by itself proof of the presence of life as methane can be produced through both biological and non-biological processes, but the discovery is definitely encouraging. Obviously, if we do find extraterrestrial life on Mars or elsewhere it is not at all certain that it will be carbon-based and DNA-based as life is on our own planet. Theoretically speaking, extraterrestrial life could be so different from the life forms we are familiar with that we would find it hard to recognize it as life at all.

From the Age of Exploration until the twentieth century, European explorers and eventually scholars reached almost all corners of the planet, including the polar region. Vitus Bering (1681-1741), a Danish navigator in the service of the Russian Navy, was the first known European to see Alaska. The Bering Strait, which separates Siberia and the Asian continent from North America, is named after him. Across this strait there was a land bridge during the last Ice Age. It is likely that nomadic hunters from Siberia entered Alaska and the Americas from here. There is archaeological evidence of the widespread presence of the Clovis culture in North and South America before 10,000 BC, but it is remains possible that there were several different waves of settlement and that the first one began even earlier than this.

The expeditions of the American explorers Frederick Cook (1865-1940) and Robert Peary (1856-1920) to the North Pole region and those of the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen (1872-1928) and the Anglo-Irish explorer Ernest Shackleton (1874-1922) to Antarctica, while greatly fascinating, were not noted primarily for their scientific interest; they were more about glory and adventure in addition to the possibility of discovering new and potentially important sea lanes. Modern polar science began with the first International Polar Year in 1882. This was the brainchild of the officer Carl Weyprecht (1838-1881) of the Austro-Hungarian navy, who had discovered Franz Josef Land in 1874 while searching for the Northeast Passage.

Expeditions to Greenland by the Norwegian explorer and scientist Fridtjof Nansen (1861-1930) in the 1890s and by Alfred Wegener from Germany in the early 1900s surveyed the glaciers and ice sheets there. The same was the case with the British Royal Naval officer Robert Falcon Scott’s (1868-1912) Antarctic expedition of 1901-1904. In recent decades, ice sheets have gained international attention for preserving some of the finest records of climate change over the last hundred thousand years or more. Glaciology, the study of ice, ice formations and glaciers, is of increasing importance to planetary scientists.

Next to Mars, the most promising candidates for primitive life in our Solar System might not be the planets but rather some of their moons. The study of ice on bodies such as Jupiter’s moons Europa, Callisto and Ganymede as well as Saturn’s icy satellites Enceladus with its large water vapor geysers and especially Titan with its dense atmosphere and surface liquid in the form of hydrocarbon lakes is an emerging scientific field. Ganymede is the largest satellite in the Solar System. Like Titan it is larger in diameter than the innermost planet Mercury but has less mass. Mercury is a dense object. Europa may harbor a large liquid water ocean and is therefore a priority target for future space probes. The same could be true of Callisto.

The fourth of Jupiter’s large Galilean moons, Io, is the most volcanically active body in the Solar System, with volcanoes spewing out sulfur and sulfur dioxide to a height of hundreds of kilometers. The heat is caused by massive tidal forces generated by Jupiter and other moons. Volcanism exists on other bodies, though not necessarily in the form of molten rock (lava) as is the case here on Earth. The path-breaking American Voyager 2 spacecraft in 1989 observed cryovolcanoes (ice volcanoes) on Triton, the largest moon of the planet Neptune. The temperature at the surface of Triton is only 34.5 K (-235 C), at least as cold as Pluto. In this extreme cold methane, nitrogen and carbon dioxide all freeze solid. The geysers Voyager 2 observed on Triton are probably nitrogen geysers driven by seasonal heating by the Sun.

A recent advance of tremendous importance is the discovery of the first extrasolar planets, planets orbiting other stars. Hundreds of these have been found during the first generation after 1990 alone. This has led to the establishment of a new branch within planetary science dubbed exoplanetology or exoplanet science. Most of the planets discovered so far have been gas giants detected through indirect means by observing the effects they have on the stars they orbit, but methods are rapidly improving and more Earth-like planets have been identified.

It is highly unlikely that we in the foreseeable future, if ever, will have the technological capability to send robotic probes to explore extrasolar planets, let alone manned missions. Nevertheless, by studying them from a distance we can learn a great deal about planet formation and about how common Earth-like planets are in our galaxy and in the universe.

Unlike most elements lighter than iron the alkali metal lithium with atomic number three is not easily produced in stars. According to current theories, most of it was probably created after the Big Bang. Yet astronomers see a wide range of different lithium levels in Sun-like stars. With the European Southern Observatory’s HARPS spectrograph survey of hundreds of stars, astronomer Garik Israelian of Spain’s Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias in Tenerife and his colleagues found that those that had an orbiting planetary system had lithium levels similar to the Sun’s while those that did not had higher levels. If this insight is correct it might suggest an easier way to look for undiscovered planetary systems around other stars.

Gates of Vienna News Feed 11/27/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 11/27/2009The big news of the day concerns the banking crisis kicked off by Dubai World’s announcement it would need to suspend payments on its debt. The prospect of default has sent a tremor through the world’s financial markets. Certain British banks are particularly exposed, and one of the side effects of the crisis may be a precipitous drop in London’s real estate prices.

In other news, Malcolm Pearson, Baron Pearson of Rannoch — who is familiar to regular readers of this blog — has been elected leader of the UK Independence Party.

Thanks to C. Cantoni, Esther, Gaia, Insubria, JD, KGS, Nilk, Paul Belien, TB, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
America as Texas vs. California
Dubai Debt Now British Banks Face Fresh Crisis After Investing Billions
Dubai Debt Crisis Could Lead to Fire Sale of London Properties
TARP, Recovery and Now … This!
Turkey: Hunger and Poverty Lines Increase in November
Interfaith Prayer Celebrates Thanksgiving
Jeremiah Denton: War Hero, Cultural Crusader
Obama Appoints Anti-Israel Lobbyist to Anti-Semitism Post
The New and Improved Iron Curtain
William Federer: Fort Hood and Separation of Mosque and State
Europe and the EU
Dutch More Worried About Their Culture Than Economy
Germany: Man Gets Life After Court Rejects Appeal for Sister’s ‘Honour Killing’
‘Grade-A Disaster’: Anti-Market French Federalist Handed Power to Oversee the City of London by the EU
Head of German Armed Forces Resigns Amid Accusations Over Afghan Military Strike That Killed 30 Civilians
Italy: PM’s Wife Seeks €43 Mln a Year in Divorce
Italy: Versace Boss Calls for Management Overhaul in South
Lord Pearson Becomes Leader of UKIP
Muslim Council of Britain Leader to Get Life Peerage
UK: Ed Balls Comes Out Fighting — for ‘Racist’ Islamic Schools
UK: Furious MP Uses Parliamentary Privilege to Accuse Council of ‘Kidnapping’ Nine-Week-Old Baby From Parents
Vatican: Churches Can’t be Put to Immoral Use
We Are All Belgians Now
Croatia: Roses Fashion Outlet, 41.1 Mln in Turnover
Croatia: Textiles, Good Results for Triko in 2008
Oil: Croatia: Survey, 2013 Requirement at 105,000 Barrels
Urbino: 100 Scholarships for Balkan Students
North Africa
Egyptians Don’t Stop Denouncing Our Lack of Arabism. We Tried to Explain Them That We Are Berbers
Feast of Sacrifice; Tunisia, Technology Has Effect
Israel and the Palestinians
Eilat Attack Prevented, Air Raid on Gaza
Lieberman Scorns Palestinian Rejection of Peace Talks
Netanyahu Proposal on Israeli Settlements a “Deception”
President Obama Wants the Israelis to Release 1,000 Terrorists…
Residents Warned Not to Speak With US Snoops
Statistics Bureau: Muslim Growth Rate on the Decline in Israel
Middle East
Beauty Which Goes Skin Deep
EU-Turkey: Bildt, Historic Mistake if Doors Close on Ankara
EU-Turkey: Euro Parliament Concerned About Free Speech
Health: Turkey to Warn Smokers on Packages
IAEA Chief: Iran Investigation at ‘Dead End’
New Lebanese Government to Endorse Hizbullah Attacks
Riyadh: Man to be Decapitated for Witchcraft
Saudi Arabia: Mufti Urges Muslims to Oppose Terrorism
Saudi Arabia: Two Million Muslims Prepare to Stone Devil at Haj
Turkey Pins Hopes on Spanish Presidency to Renew Vigor in EU Voyage
Turkey Stokes Azeri Irritation
Turkey: Children Posing With Weapons
Rising Tensions Between Orthodox and Muslims Following a Priest’s Murder
Russian Fighters Invade NATO Airspace
South Asia
American Suspect Eyed in Mumbai Attack, Might be a CIA Double Agent
Indonesia: The Terrorist Noordin Top Was Planning an “Bigger” Attack Than September 11
Thai PM Wants More Citizens Working in Qatar
The Bloody Network of Indian Maoists
Australia — Pacific
Australia: Senior Liberals Desert Turnbull
Kangaroo Bursts Through Bedroom Window, Ransacks House
Sub-Saharan Africa
Fifty Lashes for the Teenage Girl Who Wore an ‘Indecent’ Knee Length Skirt in Sudan
Latin America
Iran’s Leader Makes Inroads in Latin America
Culture Wars
High School Performs ‘Gay’ Musical on Thanksgiving
The Premium, The Button and the Incense
A Political Who’s Who of Global Warming Liars

Financial Crisis

America as Texas vs. California

Texas and California are America’s two most populous states, together numbering approximately 55 million people, which is only about 6 million less than the United Kingdom, where I live. California, as everyone knows, has a coolness factor that Texas cannot match. Hollywood, Silicon Valley, and wine. Say no more. But, unless one has been living in a cave, everyone knows that the cool state is also the broke state. If Hollywood turned California’s budget and fiscal position into a movie, it would be a blockbuster horror film indeed.

Texas, on the other hand, is growing, creating wealth, and attracting the entrepreneurial and creative classes that too many people think only go to places like New York and California. This interesting post by Tory Gattis at New Geography explains why. He shares a four-point analysis from Trends magazine:


By now, the subtext of this post should be clear: the Obama administration is behaving as though California were its model for growth. Increasing unfunded liabilities, proposing $1 trillion in new healthcare spending, responding to the economic crisis with new regulatory agencies but balking on the core causes of the problem—all of this and more betrays a sinister psychology of policy making.

Like California, the Obama team and their congressional allies seem to think that entrepreneurs and business leaders will simply sit there and take it, doing their “civic duty” by paying new direct and indirect taxes, and complying like obsequious puppies with new regulatory requirements. California provides pretty good evidence that this type of “civic duty” wears thin. The best and the brightest won’t just sit there and take it. We are already seeing this in the UK, where entrepreneurs and the job-creating class are leaving (witness this rather enjoyable account of the situation by London’s mayor, Boris Johnson).

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Dubai Debt Now British Banks Face Fresh Crisis After Investing Billions

British banks were teetering on the brink of a fresh meltdown today after it emerged they had invested heavily in crisis-hit Dubai.

An $80billion debt default in the emirate has already reawakened the spectre of a global ‘double dip’ — that the first shoots of recovery could be wiped out by a second wave of recession.

But the level of exposure that the crippled British banking sector faces is now under renewed scrutiny.

The crisis was prompted by Dubai World, the development company behind three palm shaped islands as well as an off-shore replica of the globe , defaulting on its debt.

Today it emerged that:

RBS — which has received the biggest state rescue anywhere in the world — is now effectively owned by the taxpayer.

As the money markets continued to falter, Gordon Brown moved to dispel investors’ panic, claiming that he believed British banks were ‘well-capitalised’.

Speaking at the Commonwealth summit in Trinidad, Mr Brown said: ‘I think we will find this is not on the scale of the previous problems we have dealt with.’

Asked if the Dubai situation could spark a ‘double-dip’ recession, he said: ‘You are obviously going to have setbacks with a bank here or an organisation there which has had problems, but I do believe the world has a better way of monitoring what is happening, so we can be sure that — despite setbacks — we will continue to go forward.’

Stock markets around the world have endured another turbulent 24 hours.

Wall Street plummeted 2 per cent when it opened at 2.30pm GMT this afternoon.

In London, the FTSE fell around 1.5 per cent first thing after a 3 per cent fall yesterday wiped almost £44 billion from blue-chip stocks.

The index recovered its poise to stand 0.5 per cent lower after the first hour of trading. It was at 5188.73 at 12.45pm, down from 5194.13 at start of trading this morning.

In Frankfurt, the Dax index fell 1.32 per cent to 5,540.34 while in France, the CAC lost 1 per cent to 3,639.66.

Asian markets were also under pressure overnight as Hong Kong’s Hang Seng fell more than 5 per cent and Japan’s Nikkei was 3 per cent lower.

Banks worldwide saw £14billion wiped off their market value yesterday.

Dubai’s rulers have done their best to calm fears, claiming the situation was under control.

Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed al Maktoum, the uncle of Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, said: “Our intervention in Dubai World was carefully planned and reflects its specific financial position.

‘The government is spearheading the restructuring of this commercial operation in the full knowledge of how the markets would react.

‘We understand the concerns of the market and the creditors in particular.

‘However, we have had to intervene because of the need to take decisive action to address its particular debt burden.’

Much of the debt default falls on Dubai World, which owns property developer Nakhell.

As of August, the conglomerate had $59billion of liabilities which it now hopes to avoid redeeming for six months.

Analysts had expected that the Dubai’s oil-rich neighbour Abu Dhabi would offer financial support.

But Dubai may have to abandon an economic model that focused on developing swathes of desert with foreign money and labour.

Even the prospect of an Abu-Dhabi-backed bailout did little to allay concerns among investors, already worried the global economy may not be recovering quickly enough to justify a near doubling of prices for emerging market stocks and many commodities since March.

Tokyo traders have already dubbed the development Financial Crisis Part II.

‘The panic button’s been hit again,’ said Francis Lun, general manager of Fulbright Securities in Hong Kong.

‘The biggest worry I have is whether this will trigger a repricing in the overall emerging market,’ said Arthur Lau, a fund manager in Hong Kong with JF Asset Management.

‘This an important reminder that the credit crisis is forgotten but not gone,’ Robert Rennie, strategist at Westpac Global Markets Group, said in a note.

Asian banks, like their European peers, scrambled to distance themselves from Dubai, a desert emirate that emerged from dusty obscurity to invest in global lenders such as Standard Chartered and lure fund managers with the promise of a tax-free lifestyle.

The nerves showed in credit markets, at the centre of the financial storm triggered by the Lehman Brothers’ bankruptcy last year.

Asian credit default swaps, used to insure against default, were at their widest in a month, with the Asia ex-Japan iTraxx investment-grade index touching 124/129 basis points.

Dubai’s credit default swaps were being quoted as high as 500-550 basis points, some traders said on Thursday.

Dubai’s debt problems are a hangover from a property bubble that imploded after the financial crisis derailed its plans to become a magnet for tourists and a regional hub for everything from shipping to entertainment.

Banks’ exposure to a Dubai default pales in comparison to the $2.8 trillion in writedowns the International Monetary Fund estimates U.S. and European lenders will have to make between 2007 and 2010 as a result of the credit crisis.

‘Similar stories to the one in Dubai are likely to come out, leading risk money to pull out from assets such as commodities and stocks,’ said Takahiko Murai, general manager of equities at Nozomi Securities in Japan.

Japan’s biggest bank Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group fell as Japan’s Nikkei average struck a four-month closing low. It also came under pressure from weak exporters after the dollar hit a fresh 14-year low against the yen. The Australian and New Zealand dollars retreated.

Shares in HSBC Holdings, one of the bookrunners on an outstanding $5.5 billion Dubai World loan, dropped more than 7 per cent and Standard Chartered losses topped 6 per cent.

The London listed shares of the two lenders led the biggest tumble in European bank stocks in six months on Thursday.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

Dubai Debt Crisis Could Lead to Fire Sale of London Properties

Shares slumped in the City for the second day running as the scale of the Dubai financial crisis became clear.

In early trading the FTSE-100 Index was down 54 points, or just over one per cent, to 5140, as fears grew that Dubai’s debts could usher in a second phase of the economic downturn.

It means that more than £60 billion has been wiped off the value of London shares in just over 24 hours.

The sell-off was triggered by an announcement by a Dubai state corporation that it could not pay its debts.

It has raised fears that Dubai investors could be forced into a fire sale of assets to raise funds, including some of London’s most prestigious properties.

Some of the capital’s most prestigious properties could be sold off in the wake of the financial crisis in Dubai, which wiped £44billion off London share prices yesterday.

Several could be put on sale if Dubai is forced to raise cash quickly to service its huge debts.

The properties include the Adelphi on the Strand and the Grand Buildings in Trafalgar Square, both owned by the giant conglomerate Dubai World’s investment arm, Istithmar.

Last month Istithmar sold two properties on Regent Street and another in Oxford Street to London group Great Portland Estates at what agents described as knockdown prices.

Dubai investors paid £155 million for One Trafalgar Square four years ago and, despite a recent upturn in the market, it would be lucky if it managed to make that much through an emergency sale today. Istithmar’s list of investments is valued at more than £2 billion.

They include a 20 per cent stake in Cirque du Soleil, the Canadian circus troupe which recently established a permanent basis in the emirate.

Another investment arm, Dubai Investment Capital, has a 17 per cent stake in Merlin Entertainments, which owns Alton Towers, Madame Tussauds and the London Eye, which is being lined up for a £2 billion stock market flotation later this year.

It also owns the budget hotel chain, Travelodge.

Last year Dubai investors bought the renowned Scottish golf course Turnberry for a reported £55million.

Other sporting interests include the Chris Evert tennis clubs in the United States, a ski resort in Aspen, Colorado, and major horse racing and stud stables including large parts of Newbury.

Dubai investors also bought the QE2 cruise liner for £50 million to turn it into a floating hotel to be moored off the Palm Islands development in the emirate.

The ship is currently moored in Cape Town, where it will be used for fans travelling to next year’s football World Cup in South Africa.

DP World owns container operations at Tilbury and Southampton docks after its £3.9 billion takeover of British shipping giant P&O three years ago and is also building the London Gateway project, which will create one of the largest shipping, freight and logistics operations in Europe.

Through DP World, Dubai also owns a stake in Elizabeth House next to Waterloo station and has interests in properties in Fulham, Brook Street, Petty France and the Nag’s Head shopping centre in Islington.

It is building the Aviator business park near Heathrow and the so-called Regent Quarter backing on to King’s Cross Station.

Dubai holds sizeable stakes in several major London-listed companies, including a 21 per cent stake in the London Stock Exchange and a large holding in Standard Chartered Bank.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

TARP, Recovery and Now … This!

Congress scrambles to write economic ‘jobs stimulus’ 3.0

Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama signed a combined nearly $1.5 trillion in federal spending in the attempt to correct the nation’s economic tailspin, but with unemployment soaring over 10 percent, Congress is gearing up to pass yet another economic “stimulus” package, perhaps as soon as January.

The Los Angeles Times reports that President Obama and fellow Democrats in particular are in process of assembling a new jobs package that would devote unspecified billions of dollars to projects meant to put people back on payrolls in 2010. The House version of “stimulus 3.0” may even be pushed through as quickly as next month.


Rep. John Carter, R-Texas, however, believes that more government spending will do nothing to solve unemployment.

“There is no doubt that the original stimulus failed to create jobs, and has in fact probably cost additional jobs and prolonged the recession,” he said. “To create jobs we need to lower the tax burden to stimulate investment, which is the exact opposite of what the Democrats did earlier this year and now contemplate again.”


Political columnist and former presidential appointee Armstrong Williams, however, disagrees:

“A second stimulus package … sorry … ‘jobs initiative’ … is the Democrats’ attempt to give the appearance that their plan is working,” Williams writes. “They know that if the levee cracks before the 2010 midterms, they will be swept out of office, just like the 1994 U.S. midterm elections. Calling a second stimulus package a ‘jobs initiative’ doesn’t change the fact that the administration’s response to the unemployment crisis has been an economic bust. It’s hard to see how more of the same will change that.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Turkey: Hunger and Poverty Lines Increase in November

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, NOVEMBER 26 — The monthly income necessary in Turkey to adequately feed a family of four, referred to as the hunger line, has increased to 778 Turkish Liras (347 euro) this month from TL 757 (338 euro) last month, according to the Confederation of Turkish Labor Unions (Turk-Is), as Today’s Zaman reports. The monthly Hunger and Poverty Line Survey, released by Turk-Is, revealed that the amount that a family of four must earn monthly in order to pay rent and meet basic needs, such as food, transportation, clothing and education, also referred as the poverty line, rose from TL 2,465 (1,100 euro) in October to TL 2,533 (1,131 euro) in November. Turk-Is stated that the living conditions of low income groups have worsened due to the economic crisis and increasing unemployment, arguing that in Turkey millions of families cannot afford diets which meet nutritional requirements and are living in conditions that fail to meet minimum standards. The statement said the minimum wage in Turkey is still TL 546.48 (244 euro) despite these figures. While the daily expenditure of a family of four should be approximately TL 85 (38 euro) to be above the poverty line, the minimum daily wage is TL 18 (8 euro), approximately one-fifth of the necessary amount, the survey stated. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]


Interfaith Prayer Celebrates Thanksgiving

WASHINGTON — In the United Christian Parish church in Reston, Virginia, the scene on the eve of America’s national celebration of Thanksgiving was so sublime with feelings floating in the air.

It was the night Christian, Muslim and Jewish communities from all across Virginia came together for one thanksgiving prayer to God.

“It is embracing the interfaith connection in this community,” said Rev. Joan Bell-Haynes, pastor of the church.

“We came together just to say thank you, regardless of what faith you are, what background you are. We came together to say thank you to God for who we are.”

The service started with the ringing of the church’s bell, then a rabbi blew his horn and finally a Muslim raised the call to prayer.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

Jeremiah Denton: War Hero, Cultural Crusader

Classic book resurrected with ‘rest of the story’ of man who defied communists

Adm. Jeremiah Denton was introduced to the nation in an extraordinary TV interview in 1966 in which he blinked in Morse code the word “t-o-r-t-u-r-e” to alert military intelligence to his plight at the infamous Hanoi Hilton during the Vietnam War.

Denton, whose Navy A-6E Intruder jet was shot down over the North Vietnamese stronghold of Thanh Hoa, recounted his remarkable struggle to survive eight years of brutal captivity in a classic book that WND Books is reissuing today, including a major new section written by Denton for today’s generation.

In the new “When Hell was in Session,” the former U.S. senator and legendary American military hero tells the rest of the story, starting with the shock he experienced upon his return to the United States in 1973 to find his beloved nation had drastically changed since his capture in 1965.

“I saw the appearance of X-rated movies, adult magazines, massage parlors, the proliferation of drugs, promiscuity, pre-marital sex, and unwed mothers.”

That scenario, he writes, was coupled with “the tumultuous post-war Vietnam political events, starting with Congress forfeiting our military victory, thus betraying our victorious American and allied servicemen and women, who had won the war at great cost of blood and sacrifice.”


Denton observes that since Reagan’s time, “things have not gone as well.”

“One malady continues to worsen: the on-going influence exerted by the misinformation campaign waged by the liberal media/academic community continues to confuse the citizenry,” he writes.

In an interview with WND, Denton said one of the problems he sees today is the disdain for “ideology” by many of the nation’s most influential leaders and lawmakers.

“They are acting like ideology shouldn’t be the point for any discussion of policy,” he said, with energy in his voice belying his 85 years. “[Balderdash!] Ideology is the basis for which you evaluate any policy.”


President Obama, Denton contended, is usurping the rights of God, “as did Hitler and Stalin and the emperors of Rome.”

“They all had gods — but when they didn’t have good enough gods to constitute a culture, they went to hell,” Denton told WND. “And we are too, if we continue to believe that man, all of us individually, or our government, can determine what the rights are and set up everything else to match that. We’re done.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Obama Appoints Anti-Israel Lobbyist to Anti-Semitism Post

J Street pick hints Jewish state to blame for hatred against its people

President Obama’s new anti-Semitism czar serves on the board of a controversial Israel lobby group accused of working against the Jewish state, while her writings suggest Israel’s policies are to blame for anti-Semitism.

Hannah Rosenthal, a former Health Department regional director under the Clinton administration, started her position earlier this week as the State Department’s new special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism. She previously headed the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, an umbrella U.S. Jewish organization.

Rosenthal, however, serves on the board of J Street, a lobby group that is mostly led by left-leaning Israelis and that receives funds from Arab and Muslim Americans.

J Street brands itself as pro-Israel. It states on its website it seeks to “promote meaningful American leadership to end the Arab-Israeli and Israeli-Palestinian conflicts peacefully and diplomatically.”

J Street, however, also supports talks with Hamas, a terrorist group whose charter seeks the destruction of Israel. The group opposes sanctions against Iran and is harshly critical of Israeli offensive anti-terror military actions.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

The New and Improved Iron Curtain

Back in 1946, Winston Churchill, in a speech delivered at Westminster College in Fulton, Mo., referred to an Iron Curtain that had descended across the continent, behind which all the capitals of the ancient states, from Berlin to Belgrade, from Budapest to Sofia, were under the boot of the Soviet Union.

Today, freedom-loving people are faced with a second such curtain. It doesn’t exist in Eastern Europe this time, but along the Potomac. On one side, there are despots like Obama, Pelosi, Reid, Waxman, Sunstein, Emanuel, Axelrod, Specter and Conyers. On the other side are those of us who are sick and tired of having ex—community organizers and their left-wing henchmen doing their best to enslave us. They treat the Constitution like toilet paper; they bribe millions of us, including illegal aliens, with cash and free health benefits, while simultaneously bankrupting the rest of us, along with our kids and their kids.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

William Federer: Fort Hood and Separation of Mosque and State

Thanks to liberal judges everywhere, virtually everyone has heard of the “separation of church and state.” But what about “separation of mosque and state?”

Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, an outspokenly aggressive Muslim, yelled “Allahu akbar,” Arabic for “Allah is great,” before killing 14 (a victim was pregnant) and wounding 31 at Fort Hood, Texas, on Nov. 5.

He had reportedly praised Muslim suicide bombers on the Internet; refused, in the name of Islam, to be photographed with female colleagues; listed his nationality as “Palestinian,” and dressed as a fundamentalist Muslim when not in uniform. In 2007, his supervisor at Walter Reed Army Medical Center wrote an evaluation that said of Hasan, “The Faculty has serious concerns about (Capt.) Hasan’s professionalism and work ethic. … He demonstrates a pattern of poor judgment and a lack of professionalism.” As National Public Radio reports, this memo was sent to officials at Fort Hood when Hasan was transferred there.

Even with all of this, some still question whether Hasan’s killing of U.S. soldiers was motivated by his belief in Islam or whether he got a pass from politically correct superiors fearful of accusations of religious bigotry.

Before we condemn as “hateful” those who dare ask such questions, it should be determined what is meant by the term “Islam.”

Is Islam 1) a religious system, 2) a political system or 3) a military system?

The answer is all three, as Muhammad was: 1) a religious leader 2) a political leader and 3) a military leader.

One may ask, what relevance does Muhammad’s life 1,400 years ago have today?

Well, since Muhammad was the best Muslim, those striving to be better Muslims are trying to imitate him, just as Christians try to imitate Jesus (WWJD, or What Would Jesus Do?).

Muhammad’s life is called “the Sunna,” which means “the way” or “the example.” By examining Muhammad’s life, we can gain insights into his followers’ motivations.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Dutch More Worried About Their Culture Than Economy

THE HAGUE, 27/11/09 — The Dutch are more worried about their culture than about the economy. They are also much more worried about ordinary crime than about terrorism, according to a survey by the National Anti-terrorism Coordinator (NCTB) for the Government Information Service (RVD).

Respondents were allowed to say spontaneously what causes them the most concern at the moment. The loss of (Dutch) standards and values emerged as of greatest concern (18 percent). This was followed by joblessness/employment (13 percent) and safety on the street (13 percent).

Only 1 percent named terrorism and terrorist attacks. This was also the case in 2008. On the other hand, 6 percent now say radicalisation is their greatest worry, where last year apparently nobody gave this answer (0 percent).

Also remarkable is the fact that the Dutch were most concerned about the economy (41 percent) last year, but that this worry is now no longer among the top three. The survey also showed that the Dutch have become more fearful in public transport; 35 percent said they sometimes or often feel unsafe in buses, trains or metros, compared with 27 percent in 2008.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Germany: Man Gets Life After Court Rejects Appeal for Sister’s ‘Honour Killing’

A German-Afghan man who stabbed his teenage sister to death in a grisly “honour killing” was sentenced to life imprisonment after a court in Karlsruhe rejected his appeal on Thursday.

In a crime that outraged Germany, the man, identified only as Ahmad-Sobair O. knifed his 16-year-old sister Morsal 23 times as he believed she brought dishonour to their family by wearing Western-style clothes and make-up.

The Federal Court of Justice said it was “convinced that the accused committed the crime because his sister, in his opinion, had ‘stained the family’s honour’.”

The court rejected the appeal that the man was psychologically deranged and upheld the initial judgement by a lower court in Hamburg, in the north of the country.

The killer, aged 24 at the time, had said during his trial that he was “sorry from the bottom of his heart” for his actions. “That was my sister and I loved her,” he told the court, breaking down in tears.

Germany has been shocked by around 50 so-called “honour killings” since 1996, mainly in the country’s large Turkish diaspora.

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

‘Grade-A Disaster’: Anti-Market French Federalist Handed Power to Oversee the City of London by the EU

The power to oversee the City of London was yesterday given to a Frenchman known for his dislike of the free market and love of a strong EU.

The unveiling of former French foreign minister Michel Barnier was seen as a severe blow for Gordon Brown.

The Government had campaigned against his appointment as European Commissioner for financial services and the internal market.

Mr Barnier is expected to push hard to give Brussels the power to regulate financial institutions here instead of the British authorities.

He helped draw up the original European constitution and has called for an end to Britain’s EU budget rebate.

The new commissioner has also repeatedly made statements attacking ‘too much free-market liberalism’ and called for ‘intervention’.

French government officials are on record as saying they want Paris to become ‘a rival’ to London, which is Europe’s dominant financial market and vital for the UK economy.

City insiders fear tighter regulations could drive British-based finance firms offshore or push them to list on the New York stock market instead.

Senior Tory MP Michael Fallon, who sits on the Treasury select committee, said: ‘It’s a grade-A disaster to have a Frenchman with his fingers on the City’s throat.

‘Gordon Brown has been completely outwitted at such a vulnerable time for the City.’

Business Secretary Lord Mandelson reportedly argued for Britain to hold out for an economic commissioner post.

However, the Prime Minister chose to push Baroness Ashton as EU foreign affairs High Representative instead.

That left the way clear for Britain’s rivals to secure the vital positions.

German Gunther Oettinger won the new post of Energy Commissioner and Joaquin Almunia of Spain was named as Competition Commissioner.

Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague said: ‘We repeatedly warned that going for the High Representative post and not a senior economic brief in the Commission could have worrying results.

‘Once again Gordon Brown has put the next day’s headlines ahead of the long-term British national interest.

‘Financial services are a vital British economic interest. While we want to co-ordinate regulation internationally, the European Commission’s proposals have the potential to do serious harm to our financial services industry.’

Mats Persson, research director of the Open Europe think tank, said: ‘An industry that is vital to the UK economy and national interest will now effectively be regulated by a protectionist Europhile.

‘The Government has failed to fight for the City of London and the Anglo-Saxon way of doing business.’

Mr Barnier’s appointment will make it far more difficult for the Government to water down any proposals for tighter controls over borrowing and lending.

The Commissioner has significant leeway to set the EU agenda for financial services and is responsible for drafting new legislation.

The EU is already creating a single regulator of financial markets with the power to overrule national regulator.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

Head of German Armed Forces Resigns Amid Accusations Over Afghan Military Strike That Killed 30 Civilians

The head of the German armed forces Wolfgang Schneiderhan has resigned over reports the military withheld information about an air strike in Afghanistan believed to have killed dozens of civilians.

The September 4 Nato strike, ordered by a German commander and carried out by a U.S. F-15 fighter, was the most deadly operation involving German troops since World War Two.

Initial reports suggested at least 70 civilians had been killed, but according to the Afghan government the strike killed 69 Taliban fighters and 30 civilians.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

Italy: PM’s Wife Seeks €43 Mln a Year in Divorce

Rome, 26 Nov. (AKI) — The wife of Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, Veronica Lario, is reported to be seeking 43 million euros a year in divorce proceedings. Lario, a former actress, announced her intention to divorce Berlusconi in May, after reports surfaced about his friendship with Noemi Letizia, the 18-year-old Naples lingerie model.

According to the Italian daily Corriere della Sera, Lario is seeking more than 3.5 million euros a month to maintain the lifestyle the couple shared prior to their separation.

Berlusconi has reportedly offered Lario, with whom he has three children, 200,000 euros a month.

Informed sources have said that Berlusconi considered his wife’s demand “exorbitant” and has offered between 200,000 and 300,000 euros a month.

Maria Cristina Morelli, Lario’s lawyer, declined to speak about the case to the media.

Berlusconi is believed to be worth up to 8 billion euros and is one of Italy’s richest individuals.

He had hoped for a consensual divorce settlement and wanted to avoid legal conflict over the division of his wealth between his three children with Lario and the two children from his first marriage.

Berlusconi was facing fresh pressure about his private life this week after a prostitute published new revelations about the night she allegedly spent with prime minister at his official Rome residence in November 2008.

In her book entitled ‘Gradisca Presidente’ (or ‘Take your Pleasure President’) on Tuesday, D’Addario discussed in graphic detail the night she spent with the premier.

The 73-year-old has said that he has never paid a woman for sex and preferred the pleasure of the ‘conquest’.

He has also denied any liaison with Letizia or any underage girl.

Under Italian law, couples can divorce after three years of separation.

Lario’s decision to take her husband to court means he may be forced to explain his alleged relationships with other women including showgirls and models.

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

Italy: Versace Boss Calls for Management Overhaul in South

Rome, 25 Nov. (AKI) — Southern Italy sufferers from inept and corrupt management which is the main cause of the underdeveloped region’s economic woes, the president of the Italian fashion house Gianni Versace, Santo Versace, has told Adnkronos.

“The south’s number one problem is its managerial class,” Versace said. “There have always been funds available to the region, but these have often vanished.”

He is the older brother of the late Italian fashion designer Gianni Versace who was brutally murdered in 1997.

Santo Versace comes from the southern region of Calabria and is an MP for Italy’s ruling conservative People of Freedom Party (PdL).

Versace expects a 30 percent drop in revenue this year and observers say the family-held firm must move quickly on its restructuring plan, including 350 job cuts worldwide, to stanch losses and return the group to profitability by 2011.

“We need a managerial class that is up to the job, something which requires a cultural and political revolution,” said Versace, who is also co-chief executive officer for Gianni Versace SpA.

The Italian state needs to step in and build infrastructure, including high-speed rail links and a highway connecting Calabria’s regional capital, Reggio Calabria, to the rest of Italy, he argued.

“The south is a gift from God. But you can’t get there easily,” he said.

Economic development in southern Italy is also being hampered by the problem of crime, according to Versace, who wants another 50,000 security forces to be deployed to boost security there.

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

Lord Pearson Becomes Leader of UKIP

It is often argued that frontline politics needs more colour, that dull careerists are robbing it of any interest for most people.

In electing Lord Pearson of Rannoch as its new leader, the UK Independence Party has gone some way to rectifying that situation.

The Eton-educated insurance broker is always up for a public fight — the bigger the opponent, it seems, the better.

In his time he has declared war on, among others, Lloyd’s of London, the Home Office and Marxism.

However, the foe which has taken central billing in the 67-year-old’s cast of villains is the European Union.

‘Head and shoulders’

For years he has railed against its inefficiencies and incursions on the UK’s national sovereignty.

As leader of a party calling for withdrawal from the organisation, he should be in his element.

But he is also under some pressure.

Previous leader Nigel Farage — who stood down to contest a Westminster seat at the next general election — is a difficult act to follow.

A polished media performer, he took UKIP to second place in June’s European elections, returning 13 MEPs.

Mr Farage has described Lord Pearson, his chosen successor, as “head and shoulders above” his four rivals in the leadership contest.

But in the bigger fight — to raise UKIP’s profile in the face of opposition from the “main political parties” — he will be more David than Goliath.

Jonathan Aitken, the former Tory cabinet minister, would argue that it is a role well suited to Lord Pearson, born Malcolm Pearson in 1942.

He told the Daily Telegraph: “In my eyes, he has more moral and physical courage — and the remarkable tenacity that goes with those qualities — than anyone I have ever met short of an SAS commander.

“In my first week at Eton in 1956 I saw this tiny little boy on the football field, not only playing with skill but also tackling boys three times his size.”

After school, Mr Pearson started a successful and lucrative career in the City.

Dissident groups

In 1964 he founded the insurance brokers Pearson Webb Springbett, which went public in 1984.

From 1975 he was involved in the so-called Savonita Affair at the insurance underwriters Lloyd’s of London. His refusal to accept a claim involving cars supposedly lost at sea, but later found to be on sale on the Italian black market, led to reform and a new Act of Parliament.

During the 1980s Mr Pearson gave what he calls “financial and other assistance” to dissident groups in Soviet-dominated eastern Europe.

And, in 1990, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, one of his political idols and a vociferous opponent of Marxism, recommended him for a Conservative peerage, which he accepted.

While in the Lords, though, Lord Pearson’s attitude towards the EU hardened.

He says it was his membership of the Lords EU select committee, from 1992 to 1996, which “led me to become a leading exponent of the case for the UK to leave the European Union”.

Dutch MP row

In 2004, unhappy with his party’s stance on the issue, he recommended that people should instead vote for UKIP in the European elections.

Lord Pearson lost the Tory whip and joined UKIP three years later, instantly becoming one of its best known figures.

But it was earlier this year when he came to wider prominence as a politician.

Lord Pearson invited controversial Dutch MP Geert Wilders to show his allegedly anti-islamist film Fitna in the House of Lords.

However, Mr Wilders was turned away from the UK in February on the grounds that he could stir up public disorder.

Lord Pearson responded with outrage, saying the visit was a “matter of free speech”.

Eventually the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal decided Mr Wilders could come and he did so in October, giving a press conference with the UKIP peer by his side.

Lord Pearson is expected to make a much stronger public stand on Islam than UKIP leader than Mr Farage did.

But Mr Farage, who will continue to lead the party in Brussels, could not have been less impartial in advocating Lord Pearson as his successor, as the UKIP leadership election approached.

He told the BBC: “There are five candidates standing. Only one of them is a serious, credible candidate and that’s Lord Pearson, who has had major achievements in his life in business and politics too… If it’s not Lord Pearson, things will be tricky.”

Some say that, if he fails in his bid to become MP for Buckingham at the next general election, Mr Farage may want to return to the party leadership.

This, it is argued, would make Lord Pearson little more than a flamboyant caretaker.

The peer, who advocates an “amicable divorce” from the EU, would probably disagree.

           — Hat tip: Paul Belien [Return to headlines]

Muslim Council of Britain Leader to Get Life Peerage

Gordon Brown will offer a life peerage to the head of the Muslim Council of Britain, Muhammad Abdul Bari — even though government links with the organisation are officially suspended.

The news comes from an unexpected quarter — the Jewish Chronicle, which explains that ministers are keen to find a prominent Muslim to enter the House of Lords as a way of balancing the peerage given to Chief Rabbi Dr Jonathan Sacks earlier this year.

[Return to headlines]

UK: Ed Balls Comes Out Fighting — for ‘Racist’ Islamic Schools

A trustee of one of the schools which Ed Balls is defending has written in a Hizb ut Tahrir journal condemning the “corrupt western concepts of materialism and freedom,” observes Andrew Gilligan.

Ed Balls has been playing politics with the issue of Islamic schools Photo: Philip Hollis

We connoisseurs of Ed Balls, a small but happy band, know from experience that the moment he gets that complacent little smile playing round his lips is the time to set the video; the moment when Her Majesty’s Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families is once more about to walk, unknowingly, into an open manhole.

Mr Balls has been having good sport with the Tories this week. On Newsnight on Wednesday, the little smile was in full operation as he expressed mock sympathy with their communities spokesman, Paul Goodman, for having to defend the “factual errors” and “irresponsible politics” of his leader, David Cameron, in the row over Islamic schools.

The Tories should have “checked their facts”, he chided. Ofsted, he told Radio 4, “have satisfied themselves that there were not problems in these schools”. The whole episode “casts real doubt on David Cameron’s judgment”, he said, sorrowfully.

Cameron had said that two schools run by members or activists of a thoroughly nasty extremist organisation, Hizb ut Tahrir, had been paid £113,000 of public money. The allegation came from a story of mine in the Telegraph four weeks ago.

The central charge is perfectly true, thoroughly documented — and a scandal. But Cameron made some mistakes in the detail, sending the Westminster media chasing down one of their classic “process issue” cul-de-sacs (whether the schools were registered, and which particular part of the Whitehall cake this slice of cash had come from) and allowing Balls to launch his attack on Cameron. He clearly thought he’d scored a bullseye: one-nil to the forces of Gordon.

But it turns out to be Ed Balls, just as much as Cameron, who’s been playing politics and failing to check the facts. The issue is not the situation with the schools now. It’s the situation at the time the public money was paid. It turns out that the schools’ chief Hizb ut Tahrir trustee, Yusra Hamilton, only resigned last month, in response to my story, long after the Government grant came in.

The headteacher of one of the schools, Farah Ahmed, who remains a trustee to this day, refuses to deny that she was a Hizb member and has written in a Hizb journal condemning the “corrupt western concepts of materialism and freedom.”

And Ofsted — far from “satisfying themselves that there were no problems” — actually condemned one of the two schools as “inadequate,” questioned the suitability of the staff, and said that it could do more “to promote cultural tolerance and harmony.” That was in November 2007.

By May 2008, according to a follow-up report, the school had been magically transformed, and was now “good”. That second report, however, was written by an inspector with, at the very least, personal connections to Islamic groups.

I fear Mr Balls’s heavy reliance on these Ofsted reports to defend the schools is about to make him look pretty silly. Ofsted is also, of course, the body that rated children’s services in Haringey “good” — in the same year that the borough was comprehensively failing Baby P.

But there’s a broader point. If taxpayer-funded schools were run by supporters of the BNP, there would be an outcry. Hizb ut Tahrir is an Islamic version of the BNP: not actually violent, but openly anti-Semitic, racist, and an enemy of liberal society.

Do Ed Balls and New Labour really want to be the friends and defenders of such people? Does Balls really think it’s good politics to be the Minister for Hizb ut Tahrir?

Not for the first time, the minister has allowed his thirst for a quick hit on the Tories to overcome his common sense. And not for the first time, he has scored a tactical victory, but dropped a massive strategic clanger.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

UK: Furious MP Uses Parliamentary Privilege to Accuse Council of ‘Kidnapping’ Nine-Week-Old Baby From Parents

Social workers who forced a couple to give up their 11-week-old baby for adoption have been accused of ‘child kidnap’ by an MP.

Staff waited until the girl’s father was out before launching a raid with police at the family home to ‘snatch the baby from the arms of her mother’.

Tory MP Tim Yeo used Parliamentary privilege to make the allegations in the Commons, saying Suffolk County Council had declared the couple to be unfit parents despite having no evidence of physical or emotional abuse.

‘This council actively seeks opportunities to remove babies from their mothers,’ he added.

‘Its social work staff do so in a manner which in my view is sometimes tantamount to child kidnapping.’

In a further claim, Mr Yeo told the Daily Mail that social services became involved only because the woman’s former husband had successfully sought custody of their son previously.

He alleged the ex-husband’s girlfriend, who works for Essex social services, had contacted a friend at Suffolk social services and a ‘ spurious’ concern over the mother’s parenting skills was concocted around an occasion when she refused to send her son to school.

The parents, who can see their daughter only once a month on a supervised visit, now plan to flee abroad because the mother is pregnant again and is terrified the new child will also be taken away.

Using fake names to protect the family’s identities, Mr Yeo said: ‘Carissa and Jim have not managed their lives particularly well but that does not disqualify them from being good parents.

‘The council could have provided help which would have allowed them to keep their daughter, Poppy.’

‘On October 27 last year, council staff — having ensured that Jim would be away from home — accompanied by police, arrived unannounced and snatched Poppy from the arms of her distraught mother.’

A legal battle was raging over her removal, he added, and throughout the process the council had repeatedly changed its grounds for intervening, alternating between blaming one parent and then the other.

‘The first doctor’s psychological assessment of Carissa declared she qualified for a diagnosis of factitious disorder [formerly known as Munchausen’s by proxy],’ he said.

‘Then a consultant forensic psychiatrist, after the briefest of assessments, decided that she fulfilled the criteria for the much more catch-all narcissistic personality disorder.

‘The first doctor assessed that Jim was ‘a pathological liar’ but later a consultant clinical psychologist ‘would not endorse the expression’.

‘The final favoured rationale given by social services for Poppy’s adoption order was based on nothing more than the possibility of future emotional abuse.’

[Return to headlines]

Vatican: Churches Can’t be Put to Immoral Use

(ANSA) — Vatican City, November 26 — Care should be taken to ensure disused churches are not turned to immoral purposes, a Vatican ‘minister’ warned Thursday. The head of the Vatican’s culture department, Archbishop Gianfranco Ravisi, cited a basilica in Hungary sold off some years ago. “It has now become a nightclub and a stripper performs her finale on the altar each evening,” he said. Ravasi, who heads the Pontifical Council for Culture, said it was understandable that dioceses would be forced to sell or demolish churches they could no longer afford to maintain. “Given the falling number of faithful, a problem that unfortunately exists even in the heart of Rome, and the exorbitant repair and maintenance costs, if churches contain no special art treasures then there are bound to be sales and demolitions,” he said.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

We Are All Belgians Now

How the European Union’s horse-trading over top jobs reflects murky coalition-building

EUROPE, it is said, must resist the temptation to become a giant Switzerland: ie, a smug, rich, insular place. But judging by the antics of European leaders as they filled two top European Union jobs on November 19th, the club faces another danger altogether: becoming a giant Belgium.

Lots of European countries indulge in shadowy coalition politics, with jobs divvied out among rival parties, but Belgium takes the biscuit. All Belgian governments are big coalitions, uniting parties that loathe one another, staffed by fixed quotas of ministers from the French- and Dutch-speaking communities (who also cannot stand each other). Democracy barely counts, as even parties thumped at the ballot box return to office. What is the link between this and the selection of Herman Van Rompuy as the first full-time president of the European Council, and of Catherine Ashton as a new foreign-policy chief? It is the European weakness for coalition politics, in which a quest for “balance” all too often trumps talent or merit.

There were winners and losers from the process that led to Mr Van Rompuy and Lady Ashton. The losers include those hoping for EU representatives to “stop the traffic” in Washington and Beijing. Mr Van Rompuy, an ascetic sort, has been prime minister of Belgium for less than a year: his name was pushed by France and Germany as a modest conservative from a small country who would chair EU summits without overshadowing them. Lady Ashton is capable and gets on with colleagues. But she has never held elected office and has no diplomatic experience. After a career in quasi-public agencies, she became a Labour minister, going to Brussels only in 2008 to take over the trade portfolio from Peter Mandelson. After the summit, Nicolas Sarkozy of France was asked why Lady Ashton was chosen. He gave three reasons: because it was felt a woman should hold a big EU job, because a centre-left politician was needed to “balance” Mr Van Rompuy and because “our British friends” wanted the post.

Arguably, the biggest winners were the pan-European parties that unite politicians from Europe’s centre-right and centre-left. These umbrella parties, matched by parallel groups in the European Parliament, are barely known to the voters. They strain credibility as ideological alliances. The centre-left Party of European Socialists (PES) unites ex-communists from eastern Europe with Nordic social democrats. Yet most Nordic socialists are more comfortable with the free market than some nominally centre-right parties from France or Greece, which sit in the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP).

Britain, as ever, is an outlier…

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Croatia: Roses Fashion Outlet, 41.1 Mln in Turnover

(ANSAmed) — ZAGREB, NOVEMBER 26 — Despite the crisis, fashion outlets continue to be a hit with Croatian consumers. A year after their opening, the shoppers, traffic and leasers continue to increase every month in the fashion outlets Sveta Helena and Roses Fashion Outlet of Sveti Kriz Zacretje. The Italian Trade Institute (ICE) office in Zagreb noted that, with its 70 shops and over 150 brands, Roses has seen over 2 million shoppers and HRK 3 million (about 41.1 million euros) in total revenue since it opened. Both shopping centres have land set aside for expansion projects in the next phases of development. While the Sveta Helena centre is weighing various options for the next development phase, in 2010 the Roses centre will be investing 20 million euros in its second phase of development.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Croatia: Textiles, Good Results for Triko in 2008

(ANSAmed) — ZAGREB, NOVEMBER 26 — In 2008, the Croatian textile manufacturer Triko, sub-supplier of Benetton Croatia, saw positive results with total revenue at HRK 5.3 million (about 720,000 euros). According to the Italian Trade Institute (ICE) office in Zagreb, in a sector hit hard by the crisis Triko has announced that it will be hiring 75 operators (adding to the 200 current ones). The average net salary is HRK 3500 (about 480 euros). Triko also announced that it would soon be building a new production facilities in the commercial zone Lovas, and has acquired the franchising licence for Benetton. It will soon be opening four Benetton shops in Vukovar. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Oil: Croatia: Survey, 2013 Requirement at 105,000 Barrels

(ANSAmed) — ZAGREB, NOVEMBER 19 — In four years Croatia will have a daily requirement for businesses and the population of 105,000 barrels per day, according to a report published by the portal Internet and quoted by the Italian Trade Institute (ICE) office in Zagreb. It is also forecast that by 2013 Croatia could participate with a 1.86% share in the overall demand for oil in Central and South-East Europe, while its participation in the supply might seem negligible, since Croatia’s current output is at 16,000 barrels per day and will drop to almost 11,000 barrels over the next four years. The survey also says that daily requirements in Croatia may rise at an annual rate of 1.5%, more slowly than other countries in the region, increasing its oil imports from 85,000 barrels per day in 2008 to 94,000 in 2013. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Urbino: 100 Scholarships for Balkan Students

(ANSAmed) — URBINO, NOVEMBER 26 — The University of Urbino strengthens relations with the Balkans through the Adriatic-Ionian Initiative (AII) established in 2000, in which eight countries participate: Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Greece, Italy, Montenegro, Serbia, and Slovenia. The university’s administrative council launched 100 scholarships in homage to the Declaration of Ancona, location of the AII secretary-general who hoped to strengthen the process of the region’s political and economic integration. The scholarships are reseved for students from the five AII countries not yet part of the European Union: Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, and Serbia. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egyptians Don’t Stop Denouncing Our Lack of Arabism. We Tried to Explain Them That We Are Berbers

As readers of The Lede will be aware, North Africa has been facing a new source of strife in recent weeks — soccer. Last Wednesday, after the Egyptian national soccer team lost its World Cup bid to rival Algeria 1-0 in Sudan, 32 police officers and 21 Egyptian fans were reportedly injured in violence. The next day, Egyptian demonstrations outside the Algerian embassy in Cairo turned violent.

The Egyptian anger was partly a response to anti-Egyptian rioting in Algeria in the days before the match, which was in turn sparked by the stoning of the Algerian national team’s bus at a previous game in Cairo the week before.*

In the days after the most recent match, tensions escalated as the governments of the two countries traded incendiary statements, and Egypt recalled its ambassador from Algiers.

According to Libya’s official news agency, an international leader has now stepped in to attempt to defuse the strife: Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi.

Colonel Qaddafi, known for his bombastic behavior and his iron-handed leadership, may seem an unlikely choice to fill a peacemaking role, but according to a report from the Libyan news agency, he is uniquely qualified to bridge the rift, given “the status the Leader enjoys with both sides.” The agency says that the Libyan leader’s intervention comes at the request of the Arab league, though reports on Tuesday of efforts by the pan-Arab body to find a solution to the feud made no mention of the Colonel.

In fact, Al Arabiya reported on Tuesday that a diplomatic source from the Arab League told the the broadcaster that grandstanding politicians might be part of the problem. According to Al Arabiya, the diplomat said that “one of the main proposals was a bid to ban celebrities and politicians from attending future matches between Egypt and Algeria as it was considered one of the major factors that led to the recent clashes that followed the game.”

Al Arabiya added that “Arab initiatives to solve the problem intensified in the wake of a provocative statement made by Israel and in which it offered to mediate between Egypt and Algeria.”

In recent months Colonel Qaddafi, in his role as the chair of the African Union, has expressed his desire to bring the disparate countries of the continent together. He advocates that the African Union become more like the European Union, with one passport and one currency. The current divide between Egypt and Algeria is a clear obstacle to that goal.

Diplomatic tensions between Egypt and Algeria escalated after last week’s match as each side accused the other of orchestrating the violence surrounding the two games. Observers have suggested that this aids leaders in both countries, since the fervor around soccer has roused nationalist zeal, distracting people from their governments’ shortcomings. Colonel Qaddafi, and by extension the Arab League and African Union, could by trying to redirect the ardent nationalism into a pan-African, pan-Arab enthusiasm. (Although some Algerians deny that they are Arabs at all. One of our readers, who joined the heated debate over the two recent matches between the national teams in the comments threads here on The Lede, wrote: “Egyptians don’t stop denouncing our lack of Arabism. We tried to explain them that we are Berbers.”)

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

Feast of Sacrifice; Tunisia, Technology Has Effect

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, NOVEMBER 27 — Technology has made it entrance in Tunisia in rituals that precede the ‘Festival of Sacrifice’ because, thanks to cellphones, sales of sheep (the animals that are sacrificed) are keeping the prices of the animals practically the same everywhere thanks to people keeping in touch telephonically. This is happening today, while in the past the buyers would circulate the markets, buying the animal at what they found to be the cheapest price. But today the prices are completely aligned, with a farewell to competition. As regards the sheep, they are divided into two categories: under or over 40kg. It is not a trifling distinction as the price varies according to the weight. This can bring about arguments and it is for this reason that many people take their own set of weighing scales when they go to buy the animal. And if negotiations produce positive results, it is not rare to see the buyers leaving the market with the animal strapped to the back seat of their vehicles, without the traffic police saying a word. As regards the butchering, while in Tunis and in other large cities there has been a ban for some time on doing it in street outside one’s house, this doesnt go for smaller centres. So, several days before the feast, knife sharpeners and butchers enter on the scene. The former to sharpen the blades with which they will slaughter the animal, the latter to do the killing itself. All for just a few dinars. Another custom in peripheral centres is to make the sheep fight. These fights are followed by many people, with bets and great participation. But a handsome sheep is also a sign of distinction for the family that has bought it, and thus it is also common to see it being taken for a walk on a lead. Until the morning of Eid al-Adha. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Eilat Attack Prevented, Air Raid on Gaza

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV — A sudden resurgence of violence is reported in Israel and in the Palestinian territories while the countries awaiting news on an prisoner exchange agreement with Hamas. The most potentially serious episode was north of the Israeli tourist city of Eilat, where last night a Israel patrol intercepted a man attempting to cross the border between Egypt and Israel. The man escaped but the soldiers found a bomb with 15 kilos of explosive in the area that was ready to be used. If the bomb had exploded in a crowded area of Eilat, military radio estimated it would have killed dozens of people. There was also tension on the border between Gaza and Israel. Yesterday Palestinian militants fired mortars at an area in the Israeli Neghev. Today the Israeli air force conducted a raid on the Jabalya refugee camp and are reported to have hit a militant cell. Of the four people injured, one is in serious condition. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Lieberman Scorns Palestinian Rejection of Peace Talks

Jerusalem, 26 Nov. (AKI) — Israel’s hardline foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman on Thursday said Israel “couldn’t care less” that Palestinians had rejected fresh peace talks offered by Israel. The Jewish state on Wednesday announced a 10-month halt in West Bank settlement construction to convince the Palestinian National Authority to restart peace negotiations.

“What we could have contributed, we did,” Lieberman said in an interview with Israel Radio.

“The Palestinians will make their considerations based on internal considerations that don’t need to concern us.”

Far more important were the reactions of the settlers and “Israel’s friends” around the world, he said.

Although Israel has made more gestures in the last 10 months than all previous governments, the Palestinians reacted by “cursing and quarrelling,” said Lieberman, adding that the ball was now “in their court”.

Israeli’s conservative prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced late Wednesday that Israel would freeze new buildings in the West Bank settlements for 10 months.

But he said the freeze did not apply to East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians consider as their future capital.

The security cabinet has approved Netanyahu’s proposal.

The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) said on Thursday that Israel’s plan to temporarily freeze settlement building in the West Bank did not present any basis for resuming peace talks and was a ploy aimed at deceiving the international community.

“Netanyahu’s plan is rejected and we Palestinians consider it a ploy and a narrow-minded manoeuvre,” said Yasser Abed Rabbo, secretary of the PLO’s executive committee.

“It doesn’t add anything new to the efforts of resuming the peace talks and it aims to avoid international pressure that rejects the settlements,” Abed Rabbo told journalists in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Israel’s plan will allow projects to be completed and will not stop building public facilities for nearly 300,000 Jews in the occupied West Bank.

Abed Rabbo said the negotiations could not resume without the full freeze of settlement buildings in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Another PLO condition for the resumption of peace talks is that Israel must recognise the borders of the territories occupied in the 1967 war as the boundaries of a future Palestinian state.

The United States has been urging the sides to resume peace talks and has said the Israeli move could help them do so.

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

Netanyahu Proposal on Israeli Settlements a “Deception”

The Israeli premier halts settlement construction for 10 months, but rules out restrictions on the natural growth of existing settlements. Even the settlements around East Jerusalem are exempt from restrictions. According to the Palestinians construction will continue, indeed “get worse.”

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) — Members of the Palestinian Authority have criticized the proposal by Israeli Prime Minister this morning to stop, the construction of Jewish settlements in the occupied territories for a 10 month period. “Israel talks about a slowdown, not a freeze,” said a representative of the PLO. And Mustafa Barghouti, Palestinian Parliamentary deputy, adds: “What Netanyahu has announced is one of the biggest attempts at deception in his life.”

Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday announced “with pain” that Israel will limit the construction of colonies for 10 months, to give “new impetus” to peace negotiations with the Palestinians.

But he also stated that “we will not stop existing building and will continue to build synagogues, schools, kindergartens and public buildings essential to normal life.” Moreover, he added, the restrictions would not apply to Jerusalem, “our sovereign capital.” Palestinians point out that the Netanyahu proposal in practice brings nothing new and that “the development of the settlements will go ahead as usual.”

Under international law, Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories during the war of ‘67 are illegal. Nevertheless to date there are at least 500 thousand Israelis living in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and the Israeli population in the colonies increases annually by 5-6%.

In 2003 Tel Aviv agreed to freeze settlements as a condition for peace talks with the Palestinians, but the halt never happened. In recent years Israel has built settlements in many areas including East Jerusalem and Bethlehem, calling them “part of Jerusalem.”

According to analysts, this allows Israel to break the territorial continuity between East Jerusalem and the West Bank, laying the foundations to make Jerusalem the only “sovereign and eternal capital” of Israel forever and subtracting East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.

“They want the green light to build in east Talpiyot, Gilo, Ramat Eshkol,” said a representative of the PLO. “These settlements are not even part of Jerusalem”, but were annexed to Jerusalem by law.

A few days ago the city government started the construction of 900 new homes in Gilo. According to the Palestinians the development in the West Bank will advance, indeed “things will be worse.”

In recent months the U.S. president Barack Obama had said that the bloc of settlements was a prerequisite for the peace process. Yesterday, George Mitchell, U.S. special envoy for the Middle East called the Netanyahu proposal “significant” and of “substantial impact.”

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

President Obama Wants the Israelis to Release 1,000 Terrorists…

The naive American President urged Israel today to release 1,000 terrorists in exchange for “peace” with the Palestinians.

Arutz Sheva reported, via Israel Matzav:

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said he could “guarantee” that arch-terrorist Marwan Barghouti would not be released from prison in any deal to exchange terrorists for kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit. “We have no intention to free the head of the murderers, a person who has been sentenced to four life terms in prison. There are red lines, and this is one of them,” Lieberman said.

In response to U.S. demands that Israel free an additional 1,000-some terrorists as a “gesture” to Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas, Lieberman said that previous releases of Fatah terrorists “have not proven themselves. The Olmert administration did this several times and it did not work, and we do not plan to allow it to happen,” Lieberman said.

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Residents Warned Not to Speak With US Snoops

( Veteran settler and ex-MK Elyakim Haetzni warns Judea/Samaria towns against divulging construction information to Obama’s roving representatives.

Emissaries of the Obama administration have been traveling around Judea and Samaria in recent weeks, asking residents about construction in their towns and passing the information back to Washington. In Efrat, for instance, the “capital” of Gush Etzion, Regional Council head Sha’ul Goldstein met with an American diplomat who asked for a briefing on the pace of construction in the region.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Statistics Bureau: Muslim Growth Rate on the Decline in Israel

The birthrate of the Muslim community in Israel is declining, according to data released by the Central Bureau of Statistics ahead of Eid al-Adha, the Muslim Feast of the Sacrifice.

According to the bureau’s report, the Muslim community’s growth rate dropped one percent in 2009 to 2.8 percent, down from 3.8 percent in 2008. However, the Muslim growth rate is still the highest among all groups in Israel, with the Druze population growing at 1.8 percent a year, Christian-Arabs at 1.3 percent and Jews at 1.6 percent a year.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

Middle East

Beauty Which Goes Skin Deep

Cosmetic companies have unleashed a new trend that has been gaining wild popularity in the Middle East. The large, untapped market of halal cosmetics — only in the Middle East — total to almost $600 million in value. This much-hyped phenomenon is touted to expand further in the region.

A 2008 survey conducted by Messe Frankfurt estimated that annually some $150 million halal merchandise is sold across the United Arab Emirates alone, the bulk of which comprise skin care products, according to the Halal Journal of Malaysia. Forecasts quoted by the Halal Journal state that the halal industry is expected to grow at a rate of 12 percent.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

EU-Turkey: Bildt, Historic Mistake if Doors Close on Ankara

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, NOVEMBER 25 — Closing the doors on Turkey would be an historic mistake for which Europe would pay the consequences for a long time, Swedens Foreign Minister, Carl Bildt, told the European Parliament today. Some people want to slam the door in Ankaras face, but if we close our door on Turkey, others will open for them, said Bildt, explaining that Turkey would turn elsewhere, to other neighbours. Something which would have consequences for us too, he concluded. But Ankara’s road towards the EU is not at all an easy one: There is still a long way to go, said EU Commissioner for Enlargement, Olli Rehn. Ankaras recent reconciliation with Armenia is not enough for Rehn, it must also resolve the Cyprus question, reopening its doors and airports to Cypriots: it is a crucial factor, he ended. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

EU-Turkey: Euro Parliament Concerned About Free Speech

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, NOVEMBER 26 — The situation regarding freedom of speech in Turkey and the Balkans is so worrying that new regulations are needed to safeguard the media: so says the EU Parliament, in a resolution approved today, asking the aspiring European countries to approve appropriate legal frameworks to safeguard basic freedoms. Approving a resolution presented by President of the Foreign Affairs Commission, Gabriele Albertini (Ppe), the European Parliament repeated its firm commitment to an enlargement policy which it says is one of the most successful of the EU policies which has brought benefits both to old and new member States. At the same time though, the Strasbourg Assembly notes with concern that in some countries like the Western Balkans and Turkey freedom of expression and of the media are not yet fully respected and invites them to set up appropriate legal frameworks. The Euro MPs are concerned about the fine for tax evasion imposed by the government in Ankara on Dogan Media Group (Dmg), Turkeys largest publishing group. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Health: Turkey to Warn Smokers on Packages

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, NOVEMBER 23 — Turkey will start warning smokers both in written and visual on packages as of January 1, 2010, as Anatolia news agency reports quoting the chairman of the Turkish Tobacco & Alcohol Market Regulation Board (TAPDK) Mehmet Kucuk as saying. “Besides written warnings, there will be 14 pictures on the cigarette and other tobacco product packages,” Kucuk said adding that the board would try to draw attention to the harms of cigarettes with this method. There are actually 180 different types of cigarette packages in Turkey. All the packages will be changed with the visual warning system. The cigarette packages produced till December 31, 2009 which only include written warnings can be put into market till June 30, 2010. Both visual and written warnings shall cover 65% of the cigarette packages. There will not be any cigarette packages without visual warnings in Turkey as of January 1, 2011. Turkey banned smoking on public transportation and in workplaces and malls in May 2008. It gave extra time to restaurants, bars and cafes to bring themselves in compliance with the smoking ban law. Expanded smoking ban went into effect across Turkey on June 19, 2009. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

IAEA Chief: Iran Investigation at ‘Dead End’

VIENNA — The outgoing head of the International Atomic Energy Agency said Thursday his probe of Iran’s nuclear program is at “a dead end” and that trust in Tehran’s credibility is shrinking after its belated revelation that it was secretly building a nuclear facility.

Mohamed ElBaradei’s blunt criticism of the Islamic Republic — four days before he leaves office — was notable in representing a broad convergence with Washington’s opinion, which for years was critical of the IAEA chief for what it perceived as his softness on Iran.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

New Lebanese Government to Endorse Hizbullah Attacks

( The new Lebanese government formed by Prime Minister Saad Hariri will officially endorse the Hizbullah terror militia and grant legitimacy to its attacks on Israel.

Hariri’s national unity cabinet, including two members of Hizbullah, has been attempting to hammer out government guidelines ever since its formation earlier this month. A central sticking point has been Hizbullah’s insistence that its independent arsenal of weapons be officially endorsed by the state. According to the Iranian-backed organization, its arms are non-negotiable. Cabinet members of the Phalangist Party and the Lebanese Forces insist that Hizbullah weapons undermine government authority and are in direct violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions. The two parties initially said they would refuse to sign off on any government guidelines that left Hizbullah free to use its arsenal freely.

After nine attempts, according to Lebanese Information Minister Tarik Mitri, a draft agreement was reached on Wednesday that grants the Hizbullah demand. According to Mitri, the government guidelines will recognize the right “of Lebanon, its government, its people, its army and its resistance” to liberate Lebanese territory. The “resistance”, in this case, refers directly to Hizbullah.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Riyadh: Man to be Decapitated for Witchcraft

In a recent report, Human Rights Watch calls for the sentence to be overturned. Each year, dozens of people are convicted in the desert kingdom for acts against Sharia.

Riyadh (AsiaNews/Agencies) — Saudi Arabia should overturn a death sentence imposed on a Lebanese national convicted of practicing witchcraft during a visit to the conservative kingdom, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report. The international human rights group also complained about the increasing use of charges of ‘witchcraft,’ crimes that are vaguely defined and arbitrarily used, to arbitrarily arrest and detain people across the kingdom.

The report highlights ongoing complaints over the Saudi justice system, which, whilst based on Islamic law, leaves a wide leeway to individual judges and can often result in dramatically inconsistent sentences.

Ali Sibat, a Lebanese psychic who made predictions on a satellite TV channel from his home in Beirut, was arrested by religious police in the holy city of Madinah during a pilgrimage in May 2008 and then sentenced to death by decapitation on 9 November this year.

“He was the most popular psychic on the channel,” said May al-Khansa, Sibat’s lawyer. “The number of callers, including from all over the Gulf, spiked in number when he appeared,” she added. “He was told if he confessed to witchcraft, he will be released and allowed to return to Lebanon.”

Sibat’s case is not unique. Dozens of people are arrested each year on charges like witchcraft, recourse to supernatural beings, black magic and fortune telling. These practices are considered polytheistic and severely punished according to Sharia rules.

HRW’s report also mentioned the case of Mustafa Ibrahim, an Egyptian pharmacist who was executed on 2 November 2007 for sorcery, which he allegedly used to break up a married couple.

In October 2006, a criminal court in the city of Jiddah convicted Eritrean national Muhammad Burhan for being a “charlatan,” based on a leather-bound personal phone booklet containing writing in Eritrea’s Tigrinya alphabet, and sentenced him to 20 months in prison and 300 lashes. He was eventually deported after serving more than double the time in prison.

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

Saudi Arabia: Mufti Urges Muslims to Oppose Terrorism

Mecca, 26 Nov. (AKI) — A key Islamic leader on Thursday urged Muslims to fight terrorism and oppose suicide attacks. In a sermon to mark the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia known as the Hajj, Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah Al Sheikh said the world was facing challenges related to terrorism and efforts were being made to destroy young Muslims.

In a sermon delivered at Arafat, he said the world knew more about Islam today than ever before and some people were trying to create misconceptions and doubts about the religion.

An estimated three million pilgrims from all around the world were gathering on the plains of Arafat for the annual pilgrimage.

Sheikh Abdul Aziz said that Islam was a religion of peace that opposed terrorism and he urged young Muslims to remain cautious.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

Saudi Arabia: Two Million Muslims Prepare to Stone Devil at Haj

MUZDALIFA, Saudi Arabia (Reuters) — Some two million Muslims headed to Muzdalifa on Thursday after spending the day at the plain of Arafat to prepare to cast stones at the devil in the most dangerous part of the annual haj pilgrimage.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Turkey Pins Hopes on Spanish Presidency to Renew Vigor in EU Voyage

During his official trip to Spain, Davutoglu visited the Mosque-Cathedral in Cordoba, with his Spanish counterpart, Miguel Angel Moratinos, on Sunday.

“We have great expectations of Spain because Spain understands the strategic asset of Turkey very well,” said Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu who was lobbying Spanish officials and businessmen last weekend for what he called an “accelerated pace for the accession process to the EU.”

Amid growing concerns on the Turkish side that the accession negotiations were becoming increasingly politicized and the chapters requiring completion are subject to veto and blockages, Turkey embarked on shuttle diplomacy to test the waters in European capitals and initiated a drive to convince the political actors for more engagement on behalf of Turkey. Spain is set to take over the rotating presidency of the European Union starting on Jan. 1, 2010 for a duration of six months.

Davutoglu’s visit to the country covering four major cities apparently aimed to engage Spanish officials in the Turkish process in advance of assuming this leadership role and urge them in favor of the Turkish position on a number of issues between Ankara and Brussels.

Speaking to Sunday’s Zaman on a flight to Cordoba to meet his counterpart Miguel Angel Moratinos, the Turkish foreign minister described relations with Spain as “excellent” and expressed his hope for movement on the stalled negotiation process once Spain takes over the presidency. He criticized some EU member countries for trying to halt the process or at least slow it down, saying this was discouraging to the Turkish side who wanted to move as fast as possible.

Turkey began EU membership negotiations officially in 2005, but has so far opened talks in only 11 of the 35 policy areas that candidates must complete. While France and Germany lead the pack in opposition to Turkish membership, Spain, in contrast, says it fully backs Turkey’s bid to join the bloc. Speaking to reporters after the meeting with Davutoglu, the Spanish foreign minister vowed to keep Turkey’s membership process as “irreversible” during their presidency and pledged to do everything possible to boost Ankara’s drive to be a full member.

Turkey hopes to be able to open at least two chapters during the Spanish presidency. The EU has suspended the opening of eight chapters, claiming Ankara refuses to allow Greek vessels and aircraft to use Turkish ports and airports. France, fiercely opposed to Turkish membership, has also unilaterally blocked five chapters. Ankara was especially infuriated when it learned the environment chapter, for which it had prepared a 1500-page strategy document for compliance with EU environmental policies, will be blocked politically by some EU member states.

Davutoglu said in Spain that an attempt to thwart the opening of new chapters is simply not understandable. “We are criticized by the Europeans for not being fast enough, but is it because of us or them?” he asked the crowd in a well-attended breakfast meeting in Madrid’s Carl Ritz hotel on Monday.

Earlier on the plane, speaking to Today’s Zaman, Davutoglu said: “We are faced with a political blockade from some countries on the opening of the environment chapter. Trying to block the process for political reasons is unfair.” Turkey has been planning to open the environment chapter next month at the Intergovernmental Conference. “In the beginning of the negotiation process, we were told that the chapter on the environment was one of the hardest to open,” he said. “But we fulfilled the opening criteria in less than a few months. Instead of encouraging, they indirectly discouraged us,” he said.

Multi-tiered strong relations with Spain

Davutoglu stresses that Turkey’s relations with Spain are not limited to the EU dimension and goes beyond that to cover bilateral relations, regional and global affairs as well. He said both countries that once fought as rival naval armadas to dominate the Mediterranean for centuries, are partners in the same place today.

The prime ministers of both countries agreed in September 2008 to hold bilateral annual summits which have upgraded relations to a new level. The first Spain-Turkey summit was held in April 2009 and the next is scheduled to take place in February 2010. On a side note, Turkish diplomats underlined that Spain had decided to postpone intergovernmental meetings because of the heavy burden of implementing the new Lisbon treaty when Spain takes over the rotating EU presidency next January, but has kept the meeting with the Turkish government on schedule. “That shows our relations are on solid ground,” said one diplomat, asking not to be named.

Davutoglu also conveyed the strong message to a group of businessmen and industrialists at a prestigious Nueva Economia Forum meeting. He said, “The dramatic growth in our bilateral trade and the development of our economic relations perfect match our political relations perfectly.” The trade volume between Turkey and Spain grew significantly in the last couple of years and has reached 8.6 billion dollars in 2008. Spain is the tenth most important trading partner of Turkey.

According to government data, there are currently more than 240 Spanish companies doing business in Turkey and around 70 Turkish companies in Spain. Spanish direct investment in Turkey has significantly increased in the last four years.

On a cultural level, the Turkish foreign minister pointed out the Alliance of Civilizations, launched in 2004 by Spain and co-sponsored by Turkey as part of an initiative to bridge different cultures in the world, has become a political reality enjoying the support of 88 countries and 16 international organizations.

The Madrid Forum held in January 2008 and the Istanbul Forum organized in April 2009 have laid the foundations of an action-oriented alliance. “I am confident that the next forum to be held in Rio de Janeiro in May 2010 will help us to continue to build upon that sound basis,” Davutoglu said.

Turkey is also hopeful that Spain will use its influence on the southern Cypriot government to push the ongoing talks between the north and south community leaders into bearing fruit. Spanish Foreign Minister Moratinos, who has very close personal ties with Greek Cyprus, is thought to be able to help in overcoming the problem.

Cyprus will continue to become an important issue during the Spanish term presidency. The upcoming elections in northern Cyprus will put more pressure on the EU to find some kind of settlement as it became obvious that moderate President Mehmet Ali Talat is certain to lose his seat to a hard-line candidate in the April 2010 elections.

“We believe that the situation is appropriate for a solution. We are going to use all our creativity and experience toward a possible settlement,” Moratinos told reporters after his meeting with Davutoglu in Cordoba on Sunday. The Greek Cypriots, on the other hvand, are avoiding rushing to an agreement in order to first see the European Council’s decision on the fate of the negotiations with Turkey by the end of this year. The council will review the negotiations on the basis of its 2006 decision after Turkey refused to open its ports to Greek Cyprus.

“With Spain’s continuing support, we believe we can inject a new vigor into Turkey’s accession process, which would create positive spillover effects in many fields,” said Davutoglu, who was on three-day four-city tour across Spain last week.

22 November 2009, Sunday


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

Turkey Stokes Azeri Irritation

BAKU — On a windswept hilltop looking down at the Azerbaijani capital Baku, Turkish flags flutter over a monument that testifies to decades of close ties between the two nations.

Surrounding an obelisk bearing the Turkish crescent and star, stone blocks carry the names of dozens of Turkish soldiers who died fighting for Azerbaijan’s independence before it was absorbed into the Soviet Union in 1922.

For Turks and Azerbaijanis, who share close ethnic and linguistic roots, the monument is a symbol of what officials in both countries frequently describe as “brotherly” relations.

So it came as a shock when Azerbaijan — angry over Ankara’s efforts at reconciliation with Azerbaijan’s archrival Armenia — removed the Turkish flags flying over the monument in October.

After some soothing words from Ankara, the flags soon returned.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

Turkey: Children Posing With Weapons

From Norweigan: Turkish site Sehadet Zamani, thought to be run by the Islamic Jihad Union (IJU) is featuring pictures of a couple of dozen children carrying weapons on its site. A year ago the site featured videos showing children going through battle and weapons training. German convert Eric Breininger is the IJU’s most well known European member.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]


Rising Tensions Between Orthodox and Muslims Following a Priest’s Murder

Patriarch Kirill and Grand Mufti Gainuddin try to calm things down. Fr Daniil Sysoyev, a fiery missionary, had many enemies among Islamic extremists and Russian ultranationalists. No lead has yet emerged in the investigation to find his assassin.

Moscow (AsiaNews) — Muslim and Orthodox religious leaders are trying to appease confessional tensions following the killing of a controversial Orthodox clergyman known for his outspoken criticism of Muslims. The “murder in the cathedral” of Fr Daniil Sysoyev, which took place the evening of 17 November, perhaps at the hands of a Muslim fundamentalist, might stoke tension between Christians and Muslims in Russia. The murder has set off alarm bells in a country where Islamophobia mixed with ethnic hatred have led to the highest number of violent deaths in Europe.

Ravil Gainutdin, chairman of the Muftis’ Council of Russia, extended his condolences to the Russian Orthodox Church and the family of the dead priest. The grand mufti called on people not to speculate on possible motives, and reiterated his community’s opposition to “any extreme act or act of terror”.

Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, tried to downplay the incident, urging people not to quickly draw any conclusions against this or that group. He also distanced himself from the 35-year-old dead priest who was a leading figure in the fight against Islamic extremism and ultra-nationalism.

Known as the Russian Salman Rushdie, Fr Sysoyev was shot four times in the Church of Saint Thomas in Moscow. The choirmaster was also wounded during the attack. The murderer entered the church wearing anti-flu masked and a gun with silencer.

Investigators believe that religion might be the main factor in the murder.

A missionary with the zeal of a latter-day crusader, Fr Sysoyev was also a respected theologian.

On his blog and in a recent interview with Komsomolskaia Pravda, he had said that he had received at least ten death threats by e-mail and phone (“They [radical Islamists] want to cut my head off”).

Russia’s security service, the FSB, was aware of the threats.

Given his work, it was easy for Fr Sysoyev to make enemies. Not only was he was involved in evangelisation among immigrants from the Caucasus and Asia, but he was especially known for promoting the idea in books and online that dialogue with Islam was impossible and that women were treated like slaves in the Muslim world.

His enemies included some ultra-nationalist groups and Stalinist diehards. On his blog LiveJournal, he wrote on the anniversary of the Bolshevik revolution earlier this month that Christians should not even sit at the same table with Communists.

There is no clear lead in the investigation yet, but for many he was an “infidel”. His death was in fact met with cheers on Internet forums for radical Islamists, some acknowledging that they had dreamt of knifing him to death personally.

Fr Sysoyev’s funeral took place last Sunday with hundreds attending. Many of those who left the church after the function expressed anger and blamed the Muslim community, the Russian press reported.

The crime continues to resonate across the country and is putting strains on the already fragile relationship between the dominant Orthodox Church and Muslims, who constitute Russia’s second largest religious group and Europe’s largest Muslim community (20 million members).

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

Russian Fighters Invade NATO Airspace

From Dutch: Two Russian TU-95 fighters invaded NATO airspace on Tuesday, without idenitfyig themselves. Dutch parliament members demannd that Russia stop with these provocations. Danish fighters escorted the Russians through Danish airspace, then they were met by Dutch fighters, and after leaving Dutch airspace, they were escorted by British fighters. Two years ago Russian fighters flew towards Noordwijk while there was a NATO gathering there..

The Russian side:

Russian strategic bombers conclude regular patrol flight

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

South Asia

American Suspect Eyed in Mumbai Attack, Might be a CIA Double Agent

Mumbai — It’s a plot that could be straight out of the bluff-and-double-bluff worlds created by John le Carre and Frederick Forsyth. Only, it seems to have played out in real life, to the tragic misfortune of hundreds of innocent people. The tantalising possibility that David Coleman Headley may have been a US undercover agent who turned rogue is vexing many here as American authorities keep the US-based Lashkar jihadi out of the reach of Indian investigators.

To make the tale even more dramatic, Headley may just have provided American intelligence agencies information that prevented a Lashkar attack on Mumbai in September. The theory — and it’s still a theory — is that Headley was used to infiltrate the Lashkar, but gradually went astray under the influence of the very terrorists he was supposed to be spying upon.

[Return to headlines]

Indonesia: The Terrorist Noordin Top Was Planning an “Bigger” Attack Than September 11

This is revealed by the Malaysian terrorist’s computer files. He was preparing an al Qaeda cell based in Indonesia and had collected “men and means” to launch attacks “bigger than the World Trade Centre”. Funds collected in Saudi Arabia to finance attacks.

Jakarta (AsiaNews / Agencies) — Noordin Muhammad Top, who died last September during a raid by Indonesian police, was setting up an al Qaeda cell to launch an attack “even more catastrophic than the Sept. 11” attack in New York. This is what emerges from the files on the computer of the Malaysian terrorist, found at his home in Solo (Central Java). He had already recruited fundamentalists and had organized a local fundraiser to finance the campaign of terror.

Indonesian police confirmed that the organization linked to Noordin had many supporters in the Malaysian extremist wing and could count on large sums of money. The death of the terrorist has only “slowed” the recruitment of volunteers for the jihad — holy war — but the threat remains “concrete”.

The scientific findings of Noordin’s computer revealed ties between the followers of the terrorist and unspecified “characters” in Saudi Arabia, dedicated to raising money to finance attacks. The sums were taken to Indonesia from Saudi Arabia by Ali Abdullah, the courier of the organization, arrested by police during the investigation into the attacks on the Marriot and Ritz Carlton, in Jakarta, on 17 July.

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

Thai PM Wants More Citizens Working in Qatar

DOHA: Thailand will be sending here more skilled workers especially in the construction industry as part of the Thai government’s effort to strengthen bilateral relations with Qatar.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva told journalist during a press conference at the Four Seasons Hotel on Wednesday night that his administration was giving priority to deploy more of his countrymen to the construction industry here where they excel in the manpower pool.

Vejjajiva said his country is keen on having more Thai construction companies in Qatar where the industry will bring their own workers from their country, an effort that would boost trade ties between the two countries after a memorandum of understanding was reached for the setting up of a joint higher committee for international cooperation.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

The Bloody Network of Indian Maoists

Continuous attacks by the Nassaliti rebels in the Indian states of so-called “red corridor”. The exploitation of the claims of tribals and peasants, confrontation with the Marxist Communist Party that governs West Bengal, links with the rebels in Nepal. Indian Maoists continue their standoff with New Delhi and will not let go of 13 of the 28 states where they are present.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) — On the night of November 24th a group of 55 Maoist rebels have blew up a government office in Kharakpur in Munger district of Bihar state. It was the latest in a series of attacks by insurgents along the so-called “red corridor” that runs through the states of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Jharkhand, Bihar and West Bengal.

The Maoists have spread to 13 of the 28 Indian states and are considered the most serious threat to the country’s internal security. The historic and strategic epicentre of the red revolt that has been sending shock waves through India for decades is West Bengal. For 32 years the Communist Party Marxist (CPM) has been in government in the state bordering Bangladesh, and has become a symbol of power. The opposition has been monopolized by the Maoists who are deeply rooted in tribal villages and forests.

The legal opposition, of course, is in the hand of the National Congress of Sonia Gandhi and the Trinamul Congress of Mamata Benerjee, but the defense of the most poor and needy tribals had been hijacked by the Maoists and many times in a violent way. Since November 2007, 69 CPM workers and 10 villagers had been killed in West Midnapore district alone. In June this year the Maoist raided the police station and kept under control the town of Lalgarh. Eleven companies of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) had been deployed against state government’s demand of 50. (See AsiaNews 06/23/2009 Maoist rebels call for truce as military advances on their positions in West Bengal).

There is no week without news of some ambush by the Maoists. On November 20 the Maoists threaten to kill Bihar ministers’ kin since the Bihar police machinery are letting loose a reign of repression against the families of the top Maoist leader Arvind Kumar. On the same day the Tata-Bilaspur passenger train was derailed after the Maoist blew up rail tracks near Goelkera railway station.

The Naxalite movement started in the sixties when Majumdar and Kanu Sanyal of the CPI (Marxist) inspired by Mao Zedong lead a violent Santhal uprising in West Bengal Naxalbari village. In 1969 the Communist Party of India (Marxist- Leninist) was born. The history of the communist movement in India went through a fragmentation that produced three communist parties.

In 1977, when the Congress Party lost control of the central government in New Delhi the Communist Party went to power in Calcutta (West Bengal) and is still in power now. For 25 years the mythical figure of Jyoti Basu held the reins of power, but his style of governance kept changing. When Deng Xiaoping in China embraced successfully the capitalist mode of development, the communist government of West Bengal follow suit, but the most poor of the poor felt betrayed and reorganized themselves in the jungle. After Jyoti Basu, came Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee who open up to many industrial houses and started expropriating agricultural land to build industrial estates alienating the farmers. “Calcutta runs after Shanghai” writes Federico Rampini.

That was the occasion when the Maoists jumped in to the fray, organized the farmers and resisted the take-over. That is what happened in Singur and Nandigram. The Tatas had to shift their Nano plant to Gujarat. This success emboldened the Maoists who multiplied their attacks.

But the presence of Maoists is not confined only to the state of West Bengal. The red belt cuts across India, starting from Nepal in the North, through West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, west Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh in the South. They put their training camps on the border regions so that they can easily escape from the police of one state crossing over the border. Recent reports in the press give the origin of the supply of their arms from Nepal, Bangladesh and China. At least 30 different groups are active across the country with a combined membership of around 50.000 activists. But their differences over their perceived revolutionary roles often result in bloody battles. Many groups are accused of land grabbing and extortion. In 2004 the Maoist Communist Centre and People’s War join hands to form the Communist Party of India (Maoist), which is now the biggest armed group ever to challenge the very existence of the Indian state. An estimated 20.000 are bearing arms, one fifth of India’s forest is under their control. And they are active in 165 districts of the 604. Now the central government is in a fix. The state governments ask assistance from the centre and request also the help of the army particularly for military aerial survey. The helicopters are vulnerable also to small arms, but the central government does not allow to return fire.

The centre has extended its full support to the Left Front government in Bengal to combat Maoist terror in the state. The move could spark fresh tension between the Congress and UPA ally Trinamul Congress whose leader, Mamata Banerjee is keen on a dialogue between the state and the Maoist Red brigade. But the Interior Minister, Chidambaram and the Bengal Chief Minister Bhattacharjee agreed that there should be “no talks with the Maoists, unless they agree to completely surrender their arms and come for a dialogue under the constitutional framework”. Bhattacharjee requested the Centre to start operations in the neighbouring Jharkhand as well, where the Naxals, on rum from Bengal, are taking shelter only to return later. But the Centre can not intervene unless it is called by the State.

But a day after Chidambaram’s tough talk Maoists kill 17 cops in Gadchiroli district, at Laheri, in the neighbouring state of Maharashtra, 18 km from the border, on 8 October. Early this year, Maharashtra state cops lost 15 men in Maekegaon and 16, including 5 women, at Hattigota, both in Gadchiroli district. According to sources, the Maoist numbered more than 300 and comprised mobile military dalams that have recently moved from Chattisgarh. Police said there were many from Nepal among attackers who were equipped with sophisticated weapons and ammunition. In two days the Maoists struck three attacks, beside Laheri, they set on fire a gram panchayat building in Irupdhori village, and killed a farmer, Suresh Halami suspected to be a police informer. These three attacks have shattered the morale of the district police.

The Maoists are very vindictive with police informers. On the 5 October, in Taliban-style execution, they beheaded a special branch inspector, Francis Indwar, and threw his body on a branch road leading to National Highway 33 that connect Patna to Jamshedpur, 20 km from Ranchi.. The officer was abducted few days before and held hostage demanding a swap for arrested Maoist ideologues Kobad Ghandy in New Delhi and Chhatradhar Mahato in Kolkata and another captured leader Chandrabhusan Yadav.

On 21 Settember, Maoists launched a massive attack on CPM party office at Enayetpur, 15 km from Midnapore, triggering a gunfight that left at least 15 people dead. Witness say that at least 10.000 tribals took part in the assault.

Going back in time the list of attacks is very long:-on July 12, twenty-three cops, including a DSP, were killed in ambush in Rajnandgaon in the state of Chhattisgarh;- on May 22, sixteen cops killed in Gadchiroli; on Feb 1, a party of policeman walk into trap laid in Dhanora, Gadchiroli district, to probe arson and 15 were killed; June 29 2008, 38 specially trained Greyhounds were killed in Malkhangiri in the state of Orissa.

There are, of course, successful police operations against the Maoists. On 16 September 8 Maoists had been gun down and a gun factory destroyed in Chinta Gufa of Dantewada district in Chhattisgarh state. But a real undeclared war is going on with success and defeat on both sides.

Also on the political scene accusations and contra-accusations are hurled at each other. The Trinamul Congress chief, Mamata Banerjee accused of being sympathetic with the Maoists returned the fire suggesting that the Maoists an the Marxists of the government were two sides of the same coin. “They are working together” she said. Mamata’s outburst came a day after chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee asked her party to “sever links with the rebels”. CPM veteran leader Jyoti Basu, too echoed his words, charging the Trinamul with joining hands with the Maoists to unleash violence in the state. “Everyday our workers are getting killed. Our party offices are burnt. The Trinamul Congress an the Maoists are doing this together. They are taking law into their own hands” said Basu.

At the beginning of November, after being in the denial for months, the Nepalese Maoists admitted that they are extending “full support and cooperation” to the Naxals in India. A senior standing committee member of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal Maoist (UCPN-M) CP Gajurel, was quoted in a daily as saying: “We have extended our full support and cooperation to the Indian Maoists, who are launching armed revolt.” The same newspaper had also earlier carried a report that a Maoist leader had met Indian leader Kishenji at an undisclosed place in October.

Faced with the Maoist menace the Left Front government in Bengal is now planning to spend Rs 1.600 crore for the development of the three Naxal-hit districts of West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia. The chief minister of West Bengal, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, at the beginning of November paid a visit to Jangalmahal in Midnapore district. In sheer defiance of the huge police bandobast for the chief minister visit, the Maoists ambushed a patrol party 50 km from Midnapore town and just 30 minutes after the CM left, killing four soldiers. Eyewitness said the Maoists sprayed bullets from AK-47 rifles, looted arms from the vehicle, and walked away without any resistance.

On 27 October, tribal activists, backed by armed Maoists, under the name of local outfit People’s Committee against Police Atrocity (PCPA) seized the Bhubaneswar-Delhi Rajdhani Express in West Midnapore district and detained it for five hours before security forces could free the hostages. The railways continue to be a vulnerable target.

What is shocking is that in these states where the Maoist revolt is burning the local governments are only busy rewarding their own cadres and forgetting the large populations. So it is with the CPM in West Bengal and also in Chhattisgarh a recent scandal has revealed that a former tribal chief minister, Madhu Koda, in four years as chief minister, has increased his declared assets of 20.000 Euro in 2005 to an estimated 60 million Euro today, with illegal investments allover the world. Before becoming a deputy he was a daily wages earner. Corruption and police atrocity seem to be the upsetting causes.

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

Australia — Pacific

Australia: Senior Liberals Desert Turnbull

The Liberal Party is in turmoil with the resignations of five frontbenchers from their portfolios this afternoon in protest against the emissions trading scheme.

Tony Abbott, Sophie Mirabella, Tony Smith and Senators Nick Minchin and Eric Abetz have all quit their portfolios because they cannot vote for the legislation.

Senate whip Stephen Parry has also relinquished his position.

The mass resignations will put huge pressure on Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership after only just surviving a push for a spill yesterday.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Kangaroo Bursts Through Bedroom Window, Ransacks House

An Australian man fought off a 90-pound kangaroo after it burst through his bedroom window and rampaged around his house, terrifying his young children.

The confused marsupial smashed its way into Beat Ettlin’s home in the Canberra suburb of Garran.

“I just saw this black thing. I thought it was a lunatic ninja, an intruder,” the 42-year-old man told Sky News Online. “It just fell on top of us on the bed. A couple of seconds later I realised it was a kangaroo.”

As the creature began bouncing on their bed, Ettlin’s wife Verity tried to protect their 9-year-old daughter Beatrix who was also sleeping in their bed.

Verity, 39, told Sky News Online: “I just pulled the covers over our heads and screamed. It jumped on my shoulder, bounced across the bed and onto the bedside table. Can you imagine how close it was to my head?”

           — Hat tip: Nilk [Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Fifty Lashes for the Teenage Girl Who Wore an ‘Indecent’ Knee Length Skirt in Sudan

Silva Kashif was punished without her family being told after she was arrested while walking alone near her home in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum.

Her mother, Jenty Doro, said: ‘I only heard about it after she was lashed. Later we all sat and cried.

‘She is just a young girl but the policeman pulled her along like she was a criminal. It was wrong.’

She said she would sue the police and the judge because her daughter is a Christian and underage.

The law states that under-18s should not be given lashes.

Doro said Khashif was taken to Kalatla court where she was convicted and punished by a female police officer in front of the judge.

‘I only heard about it after she was lashed. Later we all sat and cried … People have different religions and that should be taken into account’ she said.

Khartoum is governed by Islamic sharia law. But although Miss Kashif is living there she is originally from the south of the country, which is not.

The government is supposed to be working to soften the impact of sharia for southerners living in Khartoum.

Her lawyer, Azhari al-Haj, said: ‘She was wearing a normal skirt and blouse, worn by thousands of girls. They didn’t contact a guardian and punished her on the spot.’

The case will add fuel to a debate already raging over Sudan’s decency laws after this year’s high-profile conviction of Sudanese U.N. official Lubna Hussein, who was briefly jailed for wearing trousers in public.

Hussein, a former journalist who used her case to campaign against Sudan’s public order and decency regulations, is touring France to publicise her book about the prosecution.

She had faced the maximum penalty of 40 lashes but was given a lighter sentence.

Arrests for indecency, drunkenness and other public order offences are not uncommon in Khartoum which is governed by Islamic sharia law.

Earlier this year Sudanese UN official Lubna Hussein was briefly jailed for wearing trousers in public.

           — Hat tip: KGS [Return to headlines]

Latin America

Iran’s Leader Makes Inroads in Latin America

Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won support for his country’s nuclear ambitions and expanded his reach in Latin America in a three-country goodwill tour that took him to close ally Venezuela for his final stop.

Venezuela’s main opposition political parties condemned the Iranian president’s visit before he arrived late Tuesday, saying in a statement that President Hugo Chavez is developing a “dangerous alliance” with Teheran.

Chavez’s enthusiastic embrace of Iran, which shares his hostility toward the US and Israel, has made Venezuela a gateway for the Iranian government to make diplomatic inroads in Latin America.

In Bolivia on Tuesday, Ahmadinejad signed an agreement with leftist President Evo Morales committing Iran to help the Andean country do research on exploiting lithium, the lightweight metal used in electric cars and other batteries. Bolivia possesses half the world’s known lithium reserves.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

High School Performs ‘Gay’ Musical on Thanksgiving

Students sing for public, ‘Don’t make noise, but Daddy’s kissing boys’

Editor’s note: Description of the musical’s content includes examples of its profane, lewd and possibly racist material, which may be objectionable to some readers.

Students at a high school in Massachusetts are opening theater doors today for a free performance of scenes from their upcoming musical, a tale about a bisexual father torn between his family and his “gay” lover.

Seven students of Concord-Carlisle High School in Concord, Mass., are cast in the school’s rendition of “Falsettos,” a Tony-award-winning production described by a local newspaper as “a musical comedy about life, love and loss in which the characters renegotiate their definitions of family.”

But one organization in Massachusetts is objecting to how the plot redefines “family” and pointing to some of musical’s content — including the songs “My Father’s a Homo, “Everybody Hates His Parents” and “Four Jews in a Room B——ing” — as blatantly offensive.


Kevin Jennings, President Obama’s safe schools czar, was a teacher at the Concord Academy preparatory school when he founded the nation’s first ‘gay-straight alliance,’ before shortly thereafter founding the national Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Alliance.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

The Premium, The Button and the Incense

As WorldNetDaily’s Bob Unruh reported on Nov. 5, U.S. House Minority Leader Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, stated that the government health plan currently before the Senate will require all participants to pay a “monthly abortion premium.”

It took awhile for that to sink into my head after I read it. Surely it must mean something other than what it clearly sounds like. Anything else.

“The premium will be paid into a U.S. Treasury account — and these federal funds will be used to pay for the abortion services,” Boehner wrote on his blog. “The commissioner must charge at a minimum $1 per enrollee per month.”

In other words, unless I misunderstand, the socialized medicine plan from hell would not only bilk other patients to provide elective abortions for those who want them, but require all enrollees — even those who view those abortions as murder — to finance them! Sure, this may be in the Constitution, but … on what planet?

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]


A Political Who’s Who of Global Warming Liars

As the global warming fraud unravels, it’s a good time to look at the politicians who have been some of the most outspoken advocates, using global warming/climate change to advance “Cap-and-Trade” legislation and other related laws and regulations.

Top of the list is President Barack Obama who has made many references to “climate change” and “global warming” to further this national and international fraud. He’ll pick up his Nobel Peace Prize in December; the same one given to Al Gore and the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change a few years back. Further proof of his mendacity will be his attendance at the UN Climate Change Conference in Denmark.

Speaking on World Environment Day last June, Obama said of global warming, “We’re going to have to make some tough decisions and take concrete actions if we are going to deal with a potentially cataclysmic disaster.” This mirrors years of similar doomsday statements by former Vice President Al Gore.

This is the kind of drivel Americans and others around the world have heard from their supposed “leaders” for far too long.

[Return to headlines]


Well, the Fates have a peculiar sense of humor, and have played a cruel joke on our family.

SickbedDymphna and I have come down with the flu. It may or may not be swine flu, and it may even be a cold. But both of us have a fever and a cough and feel terrible.

The future Baron is getting better, but I am the least sick of the three of us, so I get to play “last man standing” and do all the things that have to be done, waiting on the other two and taking care of such chores as I can manage. I’ve dosed myself up with painkillers, but even so I spent most of the day in bed.

So, needless to say, there will be a bit of a hiatus here while we recuperate.

I won’t be completely out of commission — I can function a little bit — but a lot of my time will be taken up with caring for two invalids, and possibly going to the emergency room if Dymphna gets a lot worse.

I’ll try to keep up with the news feed every day, and check in from time to time with a medical status report.

Y’all play nice in the comments.

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