Gates of Vienna News Feed 3/4/2013

Secretary of State John Kerry has announced the release of hundreds of millions of dollars in promised aid to the governing Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Egyptian opposition groups have refused to meet with Mr. Kerry, due to his support for the regime of President Mohamed Morsi. Meanwhile, a worse than usual seasonal plague of locusts has descended on Egypt, and is alarming the Israelis, who fear that it may do severe damage to their country.

In other news, the level of unemployment in Spain set a new record, with more than five million people reportedly out of work now, the highest figure since records have been kept.

To see the headlines and the articles, click “Continue reading” below.

Thanks to C. Cantoni, CSP, Erick Stakelbeck, Fjordman, Insubria, JD, JP, Lurker from Tulsa, MC, Nick, Steen, and all the other tipsters who sent these in.

Notice to tipsters: Please don’t submit extensive excerpts from articles that have been posted behind a subscription firewall, or are otherwise under copyright protection.

Caveat: Articles in the news feed are posted “as is”. Gates of Vienna cannot vouch for the authenticity or accuracy of the contents of any individual item posted here. We check each entry to make sure it is relatively interesting, not patently offensive, and at least superficially plausible. The link to the original is included with each item’s title. Further research and verification are left to the reader.

Financial Crisis
» Greece Writes Off 44 Bln Euros for Tax Cheats
» Hundreds of Thousands March Against Austerity in Portugal
» Italy’s Banco Popolare Says 2012 Losses Up to 330 Million
» Obama Talking Medicare, Social Security Cuts
» OECD Calls on Italy to Continue Economic Reforms
» Spain to Negotiate New Cuts for 2014 With Brussels
» Spain: Registered Jobless Break 5 Million Record
» “Battleground Texas” Defines New Left Plans to Eliminate Republican Strongholds
» 225,000 American Patients Die in Doctors’ Hands: Silence of the Lambs
» Bob Woodward Retreats: Death of the Free Media
» Breaking the Law, By Reading it
» DARPA Wants a Searchable Database of All Your Conversations
» Democrats Launch “Battleground Texas”
» Fatter NYC Fire Dept Recruits Failing
» Frank Gaffney: Putting Politics Over Public Safety
» Grocery Loyalty Card Purchases Surveilled by Insurance Companies to Raise Rates and Deny Claims
» Gun Grabbers Are Holocaust Deniers, Claiming Hitler Never Engaged in Gun Confiscation
» Handcuffs 2.0: Restraints of the Future Will Have Built-in Shocks and Sedation
» Hindenburg Mystery Solved After 76 Years
» Houston Cops Push for Law to Grab Guns From Citizens
» Is Copyright Infringement Now Seen as Terrorism?
» Israel Lobby Tiptoes Around Hagel Nomination
» More Republican Governors Drink Medicaid Kool-Aid
» Obama DHS Purchases 2,700 Light-Armored Tanks to Go With Their 1.6 Billion Bullet Stockpile
» Seattle Becomes Next City to Use Crime Prediction Software
» Sharia Education in Texas
» St. Louis Residents Get “Strange” Text Message From Feds
Europe and the EU
» Belgian Islamophobia: MPS Vow to ‘Impeach’ Muslim Extremists
» Fake Bishop Sneaks Into Pre-Conclave Meeting at Vatican
» Germany: Nazis May Have Killed Up to 20m, Claims ‘Shocking’ New Holocaust Study
» Greece: Socialist Pasok Looking for New Identity
» Ireland: Apology Ordered for Irish TV Host Who Called Israel ‘Cancer’
» Italian Elections: Europe’s Lost Generation Finds Its Voice
» Italy: Parish Priest Burns Image of Benedict XVI
» Italy: Businessman Sentenced for Bid to Extort From Berlusconi
» Italy: Grillo’s Anti-Politics MPs Test Political Waters in Rome
» Italy: Grillo’s Five Star Lawmakers Won’t Back Coalition Govt
» Scotland: ‘Sexual Conduct Fell Below Standards Expected of Me’
» Spanish City’s Ban on Islamic Veils Overturned
» The Crumbling Swedish Welfare State
» The Holocaust Just Got More Shocking
» UK: 13 Charged Over Violent Clashes at Millfield Mosque Demonstration
» UK: A Woman Who Stabbed a Grandmother to Death in the Street After Her Pleas to be Sectioned Were Ignored Has Been Jailed for a Minimum of 37 Years Today.
» UK: Adrian Hilton: A Good Cultural Education Makes Good Individuals and a Good Society
» UK: Blood Donation for North East Muslims
» UK: Four British Al-Qaeda Inspired Fanatics Face Jail After Admitting Terror Plot
» UK: Girl Told Friend of Rape and Being Sold for Sex [Bullfinch Trial]
» UK: Home Affairs Committee HC 837 — Minutes of Evidence
» UK: Israel Apartheid Week: A Time Where Hatred is Unleashed
» UK: Nurse in ‘Cannibal Plot’ Denies Wrongdoing After Police Dig in His Garden
» UK: Postmodern Tories
» UK: Risk of Undermining Human Rights
» UK: Roger Scruton Versus the Post-Modern Conservative Party
» UK: Tory MP Questions ‘Plebgate Element’ In Six-Month Racism Probe
North Africa
» 2 Killed, 5 Injured in Northern Egypt Amid Diesel Crisis
» Egypt: Five Dead After Demonstrations, Clashes in Port Said
» Egyptian Opposition Refuses to Meet With Kerry
» Egypt: Christians and Muslims Protest in Cairo Against Anti-Minority Violence
» Egypt: Bearded Police Officers Protest Demanding Return to Work
» Kerry: US to Release Millions in Aid to Egypt
» Libya: Gunman Fires at Catholic Priest, ‘Meant to Kill Him’
» Libya: Army at ENI Complex, Jihadists Against European School
» Stakelbeck: The Real Mohammed Morsi
» Tunisia: Watchdog Reports Surge in Attacks on Journalists
» Tunisia: State of Emergency Extended by Three Months — President
» Tunisia: ‘Harlem Shake’ Pits Students Against Salafists
» U.S. Welcomes Egyptian Strawberries — Ambassador
Israel and the Palestinians
» MK Feiglin Explains Attempt to Enter Dome of the Rock
» Obama Wants West Bank Withdrawal Timetable From Netanyahu
» Report: Obama Wants Timetable for Israeli Pullout
Middle East
» Bahrain: Emir Declines to Participate in National Dialogue
» Kerry Meets With Abu Mazen in Riyadh
» Kerry Announces Renewed Effort Against Syria and Iran
» Lebanon: Grand Mufti Denounces Beirut Mosque Incident
» Locust Alert in Middle East as Plague Descends on Egypt and Creates Panic in Israel
» Obama, Beware of Benevolent Ethnocentrism
» Palestine Axis of Unity Between Muslim Countries: Iran’s Jalili
» Syria: Militias Attack Military Convoy in Iraq, Killing 40
» Syria: Country on Path of Destruction, UN Official Says
» Syria: ‘Rebels Overrun Northeast City, Down Statue of Assad’s Father’
» Turkish Group Seeks Islamic Debt for Istanbul Finance Hub
» Ex-Russian General: America Must be Kept at Gunpoint
» Moscow Mayor Says No to More Mosques in the City
South Asia
» Bangladesh Students Held for Murder of Anti-Islam Blogger
» Dozens Die as Bangladesh General Strike Continues
» Pakistan Bomb: Karachi Standstill After Shias Attacked
Far East
» China’s Space Station to Welcome Int’l Scientists
» China: World’s Biggest Mall a ‘Ghost Town’
» KFC Halts Chicken Supply From 1,000 Chinese Farms After Antibiotics Scare
» Rodman’s North Korea Trip Turns Total Evil Into a Joke
Australia — Pacific
» “Unfit” Shari’ah Infuriates Aussie Muslims
» Anti-Islam Leaflet Incites Tension
» Muslim Groups Attack Findings on Sharia
Sub-Saharan Africa
» Corruption ‘Main Deterrent to Investment in Mozambique’
» Mali: Dozens of Islamists Rounded Up in Mali, DNA Tests on Corpse of Possible Aqim Leader
» Namibia: On the Spot — ‘Islam is a Universal and Authentic Way of Life’
» Somalia: Blasts Kill Two at Mogadishu Beach
» The New Patriarch of the Ethiopian Tewahdo Orthodox Church — Abune Mathias
» Violence Begins as Kenyans Start Voting in Crucial Election
» Will Kenya’s Democracy Hold?
» UK: Census That Revealed a Troubling Future
Culture Wars
» Detroit Conference for Gay and Lesbian Muslims Aims for Inclusion, Empowerment
» Roger Scruton on Lord Rennard, Cardinal O’Brien and Inappropriate Behaviour
» Alien Life Could be Detectable on Planets Around Dying Stars
» Hell Holes: Torture, Starvation and Murder the Norm at World’s Worst Gulags
» Where’s Hobbes?

Greece Writes Off 44 Bln Euros for Tax Cheats

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, MARCH 4 — Under intense pressure from its international lenders, the Greek government said that after breaking repeated promises to do so, that this time it will chase tax cheats who owe 55.5 billion euros, although the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said 80%, or about 44 billion, can’t be collected because the debts are too old, companies have gone out of business, or for other reasons.

With tax revenues falling far short of expectations despite big tax hikes because austerity measures have made Greeks slow spending almost to a standstill — retail sales fell 32% in January, during an annual sales period offering discounts up to 80% — the government is desperate to find cash wherever it can and said it will finally start focusing on going after those who haven’t paid, as GreekReporter website writes.

Expired debts are being placed into two groups, the daily Kathimerini reported, those that can be repaid and those that cannot, so that the monitoring mechanism can focus on cases that will bring quicker results and bolster state revenues. This is included in a draft law prepared by the Finance Ministry concerning the capital market.

As an incentive for tax cheats to pay what they owe, their fines will be reduced 80%, the government said, while other Greeks who have been paying taxes but can’t because of pay cuts, tax hikes and slashed pensions will still have to pay 100% of what they owe, including doubled property taxes put into electric bills under threat of having power turned off for non-payment. Income taxes have also been doubled for those who pay them.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Hundreds of Thousands March Against Austerity in Portugal

Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets of Lisbon and other Portuguese cities Saturday to protest against the government’s austerity measures aimed at rescuing the debt-hit eurozone nation.

The rallies were organised by a non-political movement which claimed 500,000 marched in the country’s capital and another 400,000 in the main northern city of Porto. There have been no official estimates of the crowds.

But the mood of the crowd was clearly political, calling for new elections with banners declaring “Portugal to the polls!” and “If you fall asleep in a democracy, you wake up in a dictatorship”.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Italy’s Banco Popolare Says 2012 Losses Up to 330 Million

Bank blames rising cost of credit

(ANSA) — Milan, March 4 — Banco Popolare warned Monday that its 2012 losses could reach 330 million euro.

The bank, which updated its account estimates after markets closed, blamed the losses in part of the rising cost of credit in the fourth quarter.

It also cited losses on its investment in consumer credit firm Agos-Ducato.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Obama Talking Medicare, Social Security Cuts

U.S. President Barack Obama is talking to Democrats and Republicans about cutting Medicare and Social Security entitlements, a White House official said.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

OECD Calls on Italy to Continue Economic Reforms

Good laws important, but implementation essential, says Padoan

(ANSA) — Rome, March 4 — Italy must not stop its work on reforming the country’s tax policies and other fiscal and economic regulations, the chief economist of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) said Monday.

Pier Carlo Padoan said other top priorities for Italy, if it is to recover from recession, include boosting the efficiency of the justice system and fighting corruption.

And just as important as good laws is the political will to implement them, added Padoan, who was speaking after a conference of the Confartigianato organization, which represents small businesses and artisans.

Italy faces a period of political uncertainty after its general election failed to produce a clear winner.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Spain to Negotiate New Cuts for 2014 With Brussels

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, MARCH 4 — The Spanish government will not adopt new measures to cut the public deficit in 2013 but will have to negotiate them with Brussels for 2014, secretary of state for the budget Maria Fernandes Curras told financial daily Cinco Dias in an interview published Monday.

‘Brussels asked for more economic measures for 2014’, said Fernandez Curras. ‘We are discussing and analysing the effects agreed in the biennial programme presented last year and the entire reform plan scheduled’.

‘Logically, this debate will continue while the 2014 budget is drafted. But in 2013 there will be no further measures’, she added.

Spain will have a deficit of 6,7% of GDP this year and 7,2% in 2014, according to Brussels’ latest estimates.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Spain: Registered Jobless Break 5 Million Record

In February, 60,000 more registered on unemployment list

(ANSAmed) — ROME — Spain has a record 5 million workers registered as unemployed, the labour ministry said on Monday in the worst result in its historic series. The number of workers recorded on the unemployment list in February exceeded 5 million and were 60,000 more than in January and 328,000 more than in February last year.

According to figures from the national statistics agency, which under Eurostat’s European regulations include those actively looking for a job, Spain’s jobless are almost 6 million. Under these guidelines, data in 2011 already indicated that over 5 million workers were without a job in Spain. Data provided by the labour ministry instead only considered workers on the unemployment list, ruling out for example those who were looking for a job after or during their studies. In spite of the negative figures, the ministry registered ‘a trend’ with unemployment growing at a slower rate, which in February was 7% against the 13% growth recorded in May 2012.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

“Battleground Texas” Defines New Left Plans to Eliminate Republican Strongholds

Launched on February 26, 2013, Battleground Texas (BT) seeks to transform the traditionally Republican Lone Star State into a Democratic stronghold.[1] At its inception, BT pledged that over the next several years it would “focus on expanding the electorate by registering more voters—and, as importantly, mobilizing those Texans who are already registered but who have not been engaged in the democratic process.”

Toward that end, BT relies heavily on the efforts of volunteers and organizers “knocking on doors, registering voters, and engaging Texans” to support Democratic candidates. By BT’s telling, large numbers of Texans are “tired of not being heard, tired of not being represented … and tired of the same Republican playbook which is failing our communities and ignoring the[ir] needs.” Vowing to “change the face of presidential politics in this country as we know it,” BT points out that “with 38 electoral votes at stake, a blue [Democratic] Texas would be a surefire road to the White House.” In short, the objective is to make it impossible for Republicans to ever again win a presidential election.

BT notes that as of 2012, Hispanics constituted 41% of Texas’ citizenry, while whites were 43%. This is highly significant because Hispanics tend to vote heavily Democratic. In BT’s calculus, existing demographic trends (birth rates, immigration rates, and the gradual maturation of Texas’s large pre-voting-age Hispanic population) will eventually—by themselves—make Texas a plurality-Hispanic state by 2017 and a majority-Hispanic state by 2036. But the organization aims to accelerate these eventualities as much as possible, by focusing its efforts on three major priorities:

1) Voter Registration: Observing that Hispanics in Texas have been far less likely than their white counterparts to be registered voters, BT places heavy emphasis on registering the state’s 1.5 million unregistered Hispanics.[2] It also seeks to target the 500,000 unregistered African-Americans and 200,000 unregistered Asian-Americans, groups that are likewise reliable supporters of Democrats.

2) Voter Participation: Noting that Hispanics have been significantly less inclined than whites to vote even when registered, BT devotes many of its resources and energies to voter-mobilization initiatives.[3]

3) Voting Blue: BT strives to influence public opinion in Texas via messaging that depicts Republicans as racists who do not understand the needs and concerns of nonwhite voters.

BT’s senior adviser is Jeremy Bird, who served as national field director of President Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign and is the founder of a consulting firm called 270 Strategies; Bird previously worked on the presidential campaigns of Obama in 2008, John Kerry in 2004, and Howard Dean, also in 2004.

In his 2012 work for Obama, Bird revolutionized the effectiveness of the traditional campaign field model. Specifically, he coordinated the registering of some 361,000 left-leaning voters in Florida, 156,000 left-leaning voters in Colorado, and 96,000 left-leaning voters in Nevada. These contacts were not limited solely to Democrats, but also targeted Republicans and undecided voters who, based upon personal information the Obama campaign had collected, were deemed likely to respond favorably to pro-Obama messaging.


[Return to headlines]

225,000 American Patients Die in Doctors’ Hands: Silence of the Lambs

In my previous article, I examined the silence of the lambs (media) concerning the collusion between Monsanto and the FDA.

In the case of medical care in America, that purposeful silence reigns supreme as well.

By the most conservative estimate, researched and published by mainstream medical sources, the US medical system kills 225,000 people each year.

That’s 2.25 MILLION deaths per decade.

You’d think such a mind-boggling fact would rate a relentless series of page-one stories in the press, along with top-story status on the network evening news.

But no. It’s wall-to-wall silence.

Why? We can list the usual reasons, the medical/pharmaceutical advertising dollars spent on television and in newspapers being the most obvious reason.

We have the reality that, of those 225,000 annual deaths, 106,000 occur as a direct effect of pharmaceutical drugs. The FDA is the single government agency tasked with certifying all medicines as safe and effective before they’re released for public use. Any exposure of the medical death statistics would automatically indict the FDA. Major media won’t take on the FDA at that level.

One of the many truths which would come to light in the event that the press did attack the FDA full-on? The FDA spends an inordinate amount of time, energy, and money going after the nutritional supplement industry, which causes virtually no deaths in any year or decade.

The public would of course discover that, by certifying medical drugs as safe and effective, drugs that kill, like clockwork, 106,000 people a year, the FDA is colluding with, and serving, Big Pharma.

You can’t possibly approve so many drugs that wreak so much human destruction through mere incompetence. Apologists for the FDA might like to think so, but they are terribly, terribly wrong. They are whistling in the dark, trusting “science” as our guide.

Since I’ve been reporting these medically-caused death figures — I started 12 years ago — people have told me, “This is impossible. If it were true, the media would be reporting it.”

That argument is upside down. The statistics are real and true. In fact, they are very low estimates. Therefore, the press is colluding to keep them well under the radar.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Bob Woodward Retreats: Death of the Free Media

During the Clinton era that would include anyone who dared to challenge the official narrative during the investigation into the death of Vince Foster or Oklahoma City bombing. Remember how Chinagate and Pardongate were shut down? Did Woodward not see how people were trashed during impeachment? How about getting a straight answer from both the Bush and Obama administrations about their mutual unwinnable war policy called “catch and release” where year after year troops have been sent to war and ordered to catch terrorists only to release them? How many books has Woodward written on these administrations six, seven, eight? I don’t recall him ringing any alarm bells, do you?

No, instead of using his prominent stature to always speak truth to power and stand with others who do despite being threatened or smeared, Woodward’s response to being made to feel “uncomfortable” by his friend of 20 years in the Obama White House was to preserve his access…

The dirty little secret politicians and editors do not want you to know is how access has been used by elected leaders and their political appointees to compromise the integrity of journalists for decades. Those in power do not take kindly to journalists who ask tough questions and deny them access. Editors demand their reporters have access. Woodward is legendary for his extraordinary access. However access does not always mean the public is told the truth. The public is told what the players want them to know by granting access. It’s called publicity stunts disguised as news. More and more journalists act like stenographers and have abdicated their critical role as truth tellers to stay employed.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Breaking the Law, By Reading it

The United States continues to keep some of its most important laws behind a paywall. Many of the US’ public safety standards must be paid for before you can even know what they are, after being developed in partnership with private standards developing organizations (SDOs). This is accomplished through “incorporation by reference”, where public law refers the reader to a private booklet and says you have to do whatever the booklet says.

For example, just following core occupational workplace safety regulations requires buying around 200 different standards documents. The law is kind enough to give you the addresses and telephone numbers to reach the people who will sell you the rest of it.

These standards are critical, and everywhere. Making oil drilling safety standards public was a part of how the United States responded to the BP oil spill of 2010. The Pipeline Safety Act mandates the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHSMA) make any rules incorporated by reference publicly available for free. PHSMA is extremely unhappy with this new rule.

The SDOs’ justification for the practice of selling their standards is that developing these rules costs substantial money and resources, and the only way to make this work sustainable is to copyright and sell the results.

Carl Malamud has been this line of argument’s most visible opponent. In early 2012, he bought over $7,000 worth of incorporated standards, copied them, and mailed them back to the standards bodies with a request for comments and a notice that he’d be publishing them online. In his words:

All nonprofits need money and SDOs are no exception. But, no matter how you slice the cheese, you can’t do this on the backs of the informed citizenry. Access to the law is a fundamental legal right.

At the same time, the Office of the Federal Register issued their own request for comments on whether all private rules should be free to the public. The RFC was in direct response to a petition for such public access, submitted by Peter Straus and signed by Carl Malamud as well as a number of law professors and lawyers.

This notice drew out well over 100 replies over an extended 100-day docket, including many from private industry organizations defending their revenue model and right to copyright over the rules. Even the national Chamber of Commerce rang in to oppose the proposed changes. On the other side, various citizens rang in to support access — from architect to web developer to local library board chairman to medical practices scholar.

Peter Strauss, the petition’s coordinator, argues in his first comment that the Office of the Federal Register itself is hostile to the petition. He says OFR distorts the letter and intention of their petition by excluding the petition’s proposed regulatory text, and by slanting its own questions in its Request. The OFR opens by asking whether providing additional regulations online creates “a digital divide by excluding people without Internet access”. Strauss points out that this question is so absurd as to be astonishing, especially given and the many other government programs dedicated to online public access.

Whether the Office of the Federal Register hates the idea or not, there’s been no followup since the comment period closed. And in the meantime, Carl Malamud, after posting nearly 1,000 US federal standards online, has been threatened with legal action over one of them. It’s not the first takedown notice he’s received, but it’s the first one where the standards body responded with a confident, detailed legal rebuttal to Malamud’s arguments. So now it’s going to court.

Whatever happens in court, the moral lines are clear: if we’re obliged to follow a law, we have to be able to read the law. And today, for something to be publicly available means it has to be online. Business models that depend on controlling access to the law must adapt — to not do so is a failure of imagination, and an injustice to the public.

[Return to headlines]

DARPA Wants a Searchable Database of All Your Conversations

DARPA is working on an embryonic project that would store your every verbal conversation on an Internet server, creating a searchable chat database that would represent the ultimate privacy killer.

Having failed to establish its infamous Total Information Awareness system, although the project was continued under numerous different guises, DARPA is attempting to create a world in which your every utterance is stored in perpetuity.

But don’t worry, the servers on which your conversations are stored will be owned by the individual or their employer, and the government promises to never access the information using their vast new $2 billion dollar spying hub in the middle of the Utah desert. Honest.

Described as being, “like a Twitter feed or e-mail archive for everyday speech,” day to day conversations, “could be stored in archives and easily searched.”

Imagine a situation where, in the name of preventing terrorism, the Department of Homeland Security is given access to the database and uses it to search for spoken keywords, as it already does online with social networks. Forget slippery slope, this would be a rapid descent into the maelstrom of ubiquitous surveillance — the type George Orwell couldn’t even conjure up in his worst nightmare.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Democrats Launch “Battleground Texas”

On Tuesday morning, the Democrats launched an independent group called Battleground Texas, which is capable of making the Lone Star state a battleground by 2016 and a lean-Democrat state by 2024, effectively breaking the back of the national GOP and blocking a Republican path to the White House.

Yes — that Texas: The state that has not elected a single statewide Democratic official in 10 years, with Republicans going 100-0; the state that has had an entirely Republican government since 2002, with current super majorities in the legislature; and the state that hasn’t voted for a Democratic president since Jimmy Carter in 1976.

History aside, if neither party lifts a finger to change current trends, the demographic changes taking place in Texas will — by themselves — seal it as blue by around 2040. The Democrats, however, plan to lift more than a finger; and if they play their cards right, they could speed the process up by 25 years, putting Texas in play much sooner.


[Return to headlines]

Fatter NYC Fire Dept Recruits Failing

They’re New York’s Fattest.

The Fire Department’s new class of recruits — all current city EMTs or paramedics who want to become firefighters — are flaming out fast, failing the Fire Academy in record numbers, according to FDNY sources.

As many as 30 of the 318 probationary trainees — who are older, weaker and fatter than those in previous years — have already quit, and more are expected to drop out before their 18-week course on Randalls Island concludes in May, the sources said.

During the first week of the academy, 166 of the probies flunked the physical-fitness test — which requires four pull-ups, 30 push-ups in one minute, 30 sit-ups in one minute and a 1.5-mile run in 12 minutes.

Recruits are required to pass the physical-fitness test in order to graduate.

“There are a lot of people saying this is the worst FDNY class in the department’s history,” said a source.

The oversized and under-performing candidates will be given remedial physical training. They’ll also catch a break on the running requirements, according to one high-ranking FDNY insider.

“They’re allowing them to do it in 13 or 14 minutes,” he said.

The Academy class, the first in the FDNY since 2008, was formed after a federal judge forced the department to become more racially diverse, finding that its recruitment practices discriminated against minorities.

So FDNY Commissioner Salvatore Cassano excluded applicants from the general population for this Academy class, limiting the pool to medics, whose ranks include a higher percentage of minorities than is found in firehouses.

This year’s class is the most diverse ever — 42 percent are black, Hispanic or Asian, and six are women.

But they were rated only on a written exam. In years past, applicants had to score high on both a written and a physical test.

About 870 medics took the written test and were ranked by score. But 300 were dropped after failing a cardiovascular stress test on a stair-climbing machine, sources said.

More flunked out when they failed to complete an obstacle course in time, failing at such tasks as dragging a hose and a weighted dummy, carrying equipment, and raising a ladder. Insiders note this Candidate Physical Ability Test is less challenging than the one required for graduation.

So instead of plucking the cream of the EMT crop, the department “had to keep going farther down the list,” a source said.


Veteran firefighters are fuming over the quality of the new recruits…

[Return to headlines]

Frank Gaffney: Putting Politics Over Public Safety

An ominous pattern has been developing, particularly of late: The Obama administration seems determined to subordinate public safety to political expediency. If a course-correction is not effected promptly, the result is predictable. Americans will be needlessly harmed, and perhaps killed.

The most recent and obvious example was the release last week of hundreds of reportedly dangerous illegal aliens from federal detention. The rationale given was that the sequestration-dictated budget cuts made their incarceration unaffordable. The White House has disavowed any involvement in this reckless decision. But it was certainly in keeping with the President’s erstwhile mantra that extremely dire repercussions — including the disruption of critical public services — would flow from a fiscal train-wreck that he has refused either to acknowledge devising or to stave off…

           — Hat tip: CSP [Return to headlines]

Grocery Loyalty Card Purchases Surveilled by Insurance Companies to Raise Rates and Deny Claims

(NaturalNews) I warned Natural News readers about this years ago: those grocery store “loyalty cards” that they push on you to enjoy discounts on groceries are actually a behavior surveillance technology that’s used to capture and profile your grocery purchasing patterns. This data is then sold off to insurance companies who use it to raise your rates by linking your grocery purchases with the risk of disease.

Buying a lot of ice cream? You’re more likely to be obese and diabetic.

Purchasing a lot of processed meats and homogenized milk? You’re more likely to develop cardiovascular disease.

Bringing home a lot of processed food with additives, chemical sweeteners and chemical preservatives? You’re far more likely to get cancer.

Health insurance companies are now using this data to develop these sorts of “risk profiles” of individual consumers. And it’s all enabled because people are so incredibly obedient that they actually fill out their real names and addresses on these grocery loyalty cards. Health insurance companies simply use credit reporting databases to link your grocery loyalty card account number to your health insurance account number, and from there, your insurance rates can be adjusted based on what you buy to eat.

Even worse, they can use this data to deny your health insurance claims. For example, if you get diagnosed with cancer, your health insurance company can look through your grocery purchasing history and show that you bought processed meat products containing cancer-causing sodium nitrite. They can use this data to deny payment on your claims and push the blame on YOU for living a “cancer lifestyle.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Gun Grabbers Are Holocaust Deniers, Claiming Hitler Never Engaged in Gun Confiscation

History revisionists and Holocaust deniers seem to be gaining ground in recent months as the Obama administration pushes for new gun control measures, thanks in large part to a burgeoning propaganda machine fed by a growing number of useful idiots.

Hitler had Joseph Goebbels; today’s modern deniers and propagandists have the Internet, and this incredible power to deceive is being employed by agents seeking to “fundamentally change” the country, to borrow a campaign phrase from the president himself.

In particular, the anti-gunners “have had tremendous success garnering support by using false statements and outright propaganda, so they have intensified their use of this despicable and nasty tool,” says a poster calling himself “Fight4Freedom” at the blog site.

“The trend is to attack history and feed the sheeple with supposed ‘facts’ debunking some of histories most notorious precursors to genocide,” he writes.

Propagandizing the ‘Net for the purposes of pushing a gun control agenda’

In particular, he says a Google search of the terms “Hitler Gun Control” produce so-called “research studies” claiming that “either these atrocities never really occurred (such as the Jewish Genocide) or that the facts are wrong,” Fight4Freedom says.

“No matter what, the idea is to use FALSE statements and FALSE information to continue to gain momentum in calling for disarming of the American People,” he wrote. “The most fundamental question is why should what happened in Nazi Germany have any bearing on calling for Gun Control in the U.S.? They are not related. It is merely a propaganda tool. Our God given right to self-defense, backed by the U.S. Constitution is all that matters.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Handcuffs 2.0: Restraints of the Future Will Have Built-in Shocks and Sedation

Ever wondered why handcuff technology hasn’t progressed much in the last 50 years? Wonder no more: In late November, the website Patent Bolt noticed an application filed by a company called Scottsdale Inventions for an “Apparatus and System For Augmented Detainee Restraint.”

This handy new device can be “configured to administer electrical shocks when certain predetermined conditions occur” as well as being activated by remote control. The patent application compares this function to the workings of a stun gun or Taser.

What’s more, the cuffs could potentially be configured to administer “a liquid, a gas, a dye, an irritant, a medication, a sedative, a transdermal medication or transdermal enhancers such as dimethyl sulfoxide, a chemical restraint, a paralytic, a medication prescribed to the detainee, and combinations thereof” without directly involving human law enforcement officials.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Hindenburg Mystery Solved After 76 Years

Scientists believe that a series of events sparked by static electricity lead to the 1937 explosion

The dream was a fleet of hydrogen-filled airships criss-crossing the globe, silvered hulls shining in the sunlight. And for a while the fantasy became reality, For the Hindenburg was the Concorde of its day — able to cross the Atlantic in about three days, twice as fast as going by sea.

With nearly 100 on board, the 245m airship was preparing to land at Lakehurst, New Jersey, on 6 May 1937, when the age of airship travel ended. In front of horrified onlookers, the Hindenburg exploded and plunged to the ground in flames. Thirty-five of those on board died.

Now, 76 years later, a team of experts claims to have solved one of the greatest mysteries of the 20th century: the real cause of the Hindenburg air disaster. And they name static electricity as the culprit.

Led by a British aeronautical engineer, Jem Stansfield, and based at the South West Research Institute in the US, the team blew up or set fire to scale models more than 24m long, in an attempt to rule out theories ranging from a bomb planted by a terrorist to explosive properties in the paint used to coat the Hindenburg.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Houston Cops Push for Law to Grab Guns From Citizens

Now that politicians and the establishment media have intertwined mental health and proposed gun laws, the top cop in Houston wants to change Texas law to make it legal for police to seize guns from citizens they determine are mentally ill.

Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland wants the Legislature to require a judge to decide if citizens referred for mental health treatment are qualified to exercise the Second Amendment. McClelland has teamed up with Republican state Rep. Allen Fletcher who is drafting a bill to keep firearms confiscated from citizens by the police in a property room until a judge decides if it should be returned.

“I’m not trying to take guns from citizens in this country, but there should be an additional judicial review,” McClelland told the AP. “Someone, other than the police, should have to review that case or that incident requiring that mental evaluation, to tell me if this person is still qualified to own or carry a firearm” and have it returned.

McClelland said police need the ability to confiscate a firearm prior to a determination by the state.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Is Copyright Infringement Now Seen as Terrorism?

We reported last year:

The government treats copyright infringers as terrorists, and swat teams have been deployed against them. See this, this, this and this.

As the executive director of the Information Society Project at Yale Law School notes:

This administration … publishes a newsletter about its efforts with language that compares copyright infringement to terrorism.

The American government is using copyright laws to crack down on political dissent just like China and Russia.

We noted last month that the “cyber-security” laws have very little to do with security.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Israel Lobby Tiptoes Around Hagel Nomination

Chuck Hagel’s notorious 2008 statement about the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the leading institution of the pro-Israel lobby, claimed that “the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here [in Congress]. I’m a United States senator. I’m not an Israeli senator.”

Then a strange thing happened: no sooner did Barack Obama nominate Hagel for secretary of defense on Jan. 7, when AIPAC announced it would not oppose the former Republican senator from Nebraska. Indeed, so neutral did it wish to be on this delicate topic that its spokesman even avoided mentioning Hagel’s name, declaring only that “AIPAC does not take positions on presidential nominations.” AIPAC then kept a complete silence through Hagel’s confirmation on Feb. 26. More important, it did not lift a finger to influence the vote.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

More Republican Governors Drink Medicaid Kool-Aid

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has become the eighth Republican governor to agree to expand Medicaid coverage in his state under the provisions of Obamacare.

Is the last line of Republican resistance to Obamacare disintegrating?

In 2011, 26 states joined a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the provision of Obamacare, that forced them to participate in expanding Medicaid coverage as a condition to continue to participate in the program. The Supreme Court ruled in their favor last year, negating the mandatory requirement, so it is now voluntary for states to expand Medicaid coverage…

Christie and seven other Republican governors are taking the bait. And Christie says, clear as a bell, that he is doing so even though he knows he is strengthening a program that is bad for this country. Assume that Christie’s assessment is correct. Multiply by 50 and we might have 50 states agreeing to take a bribe to strengthen and advance a program that will hurt the country.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Obama DHS Purchases 2,700 Light-Armored Tanks to Go With Their 1.6 Billion Bullet Stockpile

This is getting a little creepy.

According to one estimate, since last year the Department of Homeland Security has stockpiled more than 1.6 billion bullets, mainly .40 caliber and 9mm.

DHS also purchased 2,700 Mine Resistant Armor Protected Vehicles (MRAP).

Modern Survival Blog reported:

The Department of Homeland Security (through the U.S. Army Forces Command) recently retrofitted 2,717 of these ‘Mine Resistant Protected’ vehicles for service on the streets of the United States.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Seattle Becomes Next City to Use Crime Prediction Software

Seattle has become the next city to start using crime prediction software. Mayor Mike McGinn and Police Chief John Diaz announced that two precincts in the Southwest and East will begin using the software known as PREDPOL, short for “predictive policing.”

“The predictive policing software is estimated to be twice as effective as a human data analyst working from the same information. It’s all part of our effort to build an agile, flexible and innovative police department that provides the best service possible to the public,” said Diaz.

The program consists of a mathematical algorithm similar to the one used in earthquake prediction. Sociological information about criminal behavior and five years’ worth of past crime data is compiled to predict when and where a future crime will likely take place, down to a 500-square-foot area.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Sharia Education in Texas

by Michelle Malkin

Texas is a right-minded red state, where patriotism is still a virtue and political correctness is out of vogue. So how on earth have left-wing educators in public classrooms been allowed to instruct Lone Star students to dress in Islamic garb, call the 9/11 jihadists “freedom fighters” and treat the Boston Tea Party participants as “terrorists”?…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

St. Louis Residents Get “Strange” Text Message From Feds

Thousands of St. Louis residents reported receiving a “strange” text message from the government over the weekend, unaware that their cell phones had been automatically enrolled into a FEMA alert program that they cannot opt out of completely.

“It’s called the Wireless Emergency Alert system and people here are wondering why and how it showed up on their phones…(the message) was about an AMBER Alert issued for a young girl missing from the Springfield, Missouri area.,” reports

The text message asked residents to be on the lookout for a 2002 gray Nissan Maxima and included the license plate number.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Belgian Islamophobia: MPS Vow to ‘Impeach’ Muslim Extremists

Belgian politicians have submitted a proposal to impeach or limit the influence of Muslim extremists in power. MPs fear that Muslim politicians do not shake hands with women and are creating an isolated community. Alain Destexche, a liberal member of the Federation Wallonia-Brussels, and Deputy Mayor of Koekelberg Philippe Pivin submitted the proposal in front of the Belgian Parliament on Wednesday to exclude extremist parties from a range of local functions. The proposal is currently open for signatures by other members of Parliament…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Fake Bishop Sneaks Into Pre-Conclave Meeting at Vatican

Imposter blends in with cardinals despite scarf for sash

(ANSA) — Vatican City, March 4 — A fake bishop managed to sneak into a pre-conclave meeting of cardinals at the Vatican on Monday. The imposter’s cassock was shorter than standard, the chain on his crucifix was unusual, and his purple episcopal sash turned out to be a scarf. But he still managed to blend in for some time with the more than 100 cardinals assembled from around the world at the general congregation, which precedes the secret meetings of the conclave to elect a new pope later this month. The phony, reportedly Australian, was eventually identified and kicked out to the visible amusement of journalists nearby.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Germany: Nazis May Have Killed Up to 20m, Claims ‘Shocking’ New Holocaust Study

The Nazi Holocaust may have claimed up to 20 million lives, a figure far greater than previous estimates, new research has revealed.

The millions disappeared into a Nazi imprisonment and killing machine that covered a bloody swathe of Europe and appears to have been far more deadly than has been thought.

Up until now, the Holocaust is thought to have consumed between five and six million Jews, with an estimated further six million other people also murdered by the Nazi regime.

The new figures of 15 to 20 million, which have astonished some Holocaust historians, come after thirteen years of painstaking study at Washington’s Holocaust Memorial Museum. Historians at the museum brought together and studied the huge amount, and often disparate, files and research on the Holocaust.

“The results of our research are shocking,” Geoffrey Megargee, the director of the study, told The Independent newspaper. “We are putting together numbers that no one ever compiled before, even for camp systems that have been fairly well researched — and many of them have not been.” While Auschwitz and the Warsaw Ghetto became infamous names linked to the system of mass killing, the museum found that they were just part of a extensive network that imprisoned and obliterated millions of lives…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Greece: Socialist Pasok Looking for New Identity

Party congress wraps up in Athens while Syriza grows

(By Demetrio Manolitsakis) (ANSAmed) — ATHENS, MARCH 4 — The ninth congress of Pasok, the Greek Socialist party founded by Andreas Papandreou in 1974 just days after the fall of the colonels’ regime, wrapped up Sunday in Athens. In a short period of time Pasok, under the leadership of its founder, was able to win national elections with 48,06% of the vote and govern Greece for almost two decades during which the country changed significantly.

Today’s Pasok however has very little to do with that party perhaps also because, apart from the political errors committed by its leaders, it had the misfortune to lead the country in the first years of the grave economic crisis which hit the country.

In recent elections in June 2012, Pasok lost over two thirds of votes shrinking from 43,92% (3.012.373 votes) to 12,28% (755.868 votes). Most lost voted — 40% according to local analysts — went to radical left party Syriza, which rose from 4,60% in 2009 to 26,89% obtained at the 2012 elections, thus becoming the main opposition party. The situation could get worse for Pasok with the latest surveys indicating only 5,3% of would-be voters would cast their ballots for Pasok today.

Closing the congress, the party’s President Evanghelos Venizelos said Pasok does not intend to leave the government coalition — which it supports together with Nea Dimokratia of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and the Democratic Left of Fotis Kouvelis — and stressed there is no alternative to this government. Venizelos said instead that Pasok should participate more, stressing that ‘it is not possible to fool around with early elections during the critical phase of the implementation of a programme to re-launch the economy’ agreed with international creditors. He also announced that Pasok will soon ask for an update of a programme agreement with government allies.

The new programme should include, among other things, the approval of a fairer tax system, an economic development plan and measures for low-income families. Moreover Venizelos means to ask government partners to send a clear message to international creditors stressing that ‘Greek nationals cannot sustain more austerity measures’.

Venizelos will also ask for more transparent and efficient rules for parliament and the government to avoid misunderstandings which could endanger the cohesion of the cabinet, something which already happened, and called on the Democratic Left to join forces at the next elections in order to create a large centre-left bloc, like Italy’s ‘Olive tree alliance’, ruling out an alliance with Syriza. The proposal, added Venizelos, also concerns the balance of powers inside the government, which in this way would have two political blocs, one conservative and the other progressive, rather than three.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Ireland: Apology Ordered for Irish TV Host Who Called Israel ‘Cancer’

Irish TV channel TV3 has been ordered to apologise live on air after its presenter Vincent Browne called Israel a “cancer”. The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland has upheld a complaint against the well-known TV host of Tonight With Vincent Browne, who said on an October show that Israel was “the cancer in foreign affairs.”…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Italian Elections: Europe’s Lost Generation Finds Its Voice

For years, Europe’s young have grown increasingly furious as the euro crisis has robbed them of a future. The emergence of Beppe Grillo’s party in Italy is one of the results — and is just the latest indication that disgust towards European politics is widespread.

Only a few weeks ago, they hardly would have thought it was possible. But now here they are; their first public appearance following their surprise success in the Italian general election. In a hotel in Rome, not far from the Piazza San Giovanni, eight of the 162 newly elected parliamentary representatives of Movimento 5 Stelle (the Five Star Movement, or M5S) are squinting into the spotlights and speaking softly — and what they are saying actually sounds reasonable.

They are talking about empowering Italians and giving people more of a say in political decisions — and they want to know how their tax money is being spent. Grassroots politics is the goal. Their efforts remain somewhat clumsy, but they are sincere.

This group includes a male nurse, an IT specialist and a single mother — all in their 30s or 40s with good educations and no previous political experience. Soon, they will enter the newly constituted parliament, which will be younger, have more women and, on the whole, be best less politically experienced than any other in Italian history. M5S emerged as the strongest single party in the lower house of parliament, the Chamber of Deputies, and the second strongest party in the upper house, the Senate. The party garnered nearly one-third of its votes in Sicily. The “Grillini,” as the followers of former comedian Beppe Grillo are called, are the true miracle of this otherwise so chaotic election.

They are not clowns, but rather sincere young people who see themselves as a mouthpiece for everyday Italian citizens. These fledgling politicians do not rant and rave like Grillo, the founder of their movement…

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

Italy: Parish Priest Burns Image of Benedict XVI

(AGI) Castelvittorio, March 3 — Father Adrea, a parish priest in the small village of Castel Vittorio near Ventimiglia, burned an image of Benedict XVI before delivering his homily accusing the Pope Emeritus of have “abandoned his flock.” He was watched by the astonished faithful, including about ten children, who left the church looking horrified.

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

Italy: Businessman Sentenced for Bid to Extort From Berlusconi

(AGI) — Naples — Businessman Valter Lavitola has been sentenced to jail for attempting to extort money from former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. He was sentenced to two years and eight months on Monday. The court acquitted the other defendant, Carmelo Pintabona.

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

Italy: Grillo’s Anti-Politics MPs Test Political Waters in Rome

Movement holds balance of power in parliament

Beppe Grillo, leader of the 5-Star Movement

(By Paul Virgo) (ANSA) — Rome, March 4 — Newly elected lawmakers for Beppe Grillo’s 5-Star Movement (M5S) held their first meeting in a Rome hotel on Monday after rocking Italy’s political establishment with a stunning performance in last week’s general election.

The former comedian’s movement holds the balance of power in parliament after winning a total of 163 seats in both houses and stopping Pier Luigi Bersani’s centre-left coalition gaining a working majority in the Senate.

Grillo, who has not personally been elected, has said his movement will not vote confidence in a government formed by Bersani or ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi, whose centre-right coalition came second in the vote.

He also said he has knocked back attempts from Bersani to lure him into a post-election pact by offering institutional positions for members of his movement, including the speaker of one of the houses of parliament, saying he would not get involved in “horse trading”.

Grillo has, however, said the movement that grew out of his blog will vote in favour of bills that are on its agenda.

Nevertheless, the distance separating him from Bersani, whom he last week called a “dead man talking”, has led to big doubts about whether it will be possible to form a government.

Bersani has ruled out forming a grand coalition with Berlusconi’s bloc.

This means there is a real possibility that Italy will have to return to the polls later this year to break the deadlock.

This may be what Grillo wants. The stated aim of the 64-year-old from Genoa, who has been blasted as a populist rabble rouser advocating policies that would take Italy towards a Greek-style economic meltdown, is to destroy the current party system.

“We’ll be besieged, they are possessed,” Grillo said at Monday’s meeting at Rome’s Hotel Universo.

“They cannot understand that we want to push forward a project, (with measures) such as that for a basic income guarantee.

“We’ll be united and all in agreement to go down our road and (bring about) change with the laws we propose”.

The M5S’s success has been interpreted as a sign that the Italian public is tired of a political class that has been tainted by a series of corruption scandals and has proved unable to address the country’s economic ills.

The Internet-based movement, which was founded just over three years ago, targets the political establishment in several of its main policy proposals.

These include the abolition of public funding for parties, a ban on elected officials having other jobs, a two-term limit for public officials and rendering people who have had a criminal conviction ineligible for office. Indeed, Grillo himself did not stand for parliament because of a manslaughter conviction in relation to a 1981 car accident in which three of his friends were killed in a car accident while he was at the wheel.

The movement’S MPs are political novices who were chosen in an online primary of around 20,000 people. Their lack of political experience could be seen in the nerves shown by many of the new parliamentarians as they introduced themselves at Monday’s meeting, which was transmitted on the M5S’s website.

Nevertheless, Grillo stressed that the “atmosphere here is good, with competent, valid people”. The movement’s manifesto, which has been criticised for being too vague, also features pledges to promote free broadband access, the abolition of stock options, a cap on the salaries of senior executives, a ban on the privatisation of local water companies, more energy saving and renewables, the aforementioned basic income guarantee and a conflict of interests law.

Grillo, a loud, often foul-mouthed, passionate public speaker, has also said Italy should have a referendum on whether the euro should continue to be its currency and has proposed that all trade unions be abolished.

The lawmakers representing the movement, which won more votes than any other single party in the House contest, said they were backing Grillo’s line and would not be lured away to rival groups trying to find recruits to have a majority in parliament.

“We have said that we will not vote for the confidence of the (established) parties,” said Vito Crimi, a 40-year-old Palermo native who was named the M5S’s “spokesman” in the Senate.

The M5S’s House “spokesperson”, a figure media outlets are comparing to a conventional party’s whip, will be Roberta Lombardi, a 40-year-old Roman.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Grillo’s Five Star Lawmakers Won’t Back Coalition Govt

Rome, 4 March (AKI) — Newly elected lawmakers for former comic Beppe Grillo’s anti-austerity Five-Star movement vowed on Monday they would not vote confidence in any minority government formed after Italy’s split election result last week.

“We won’t give a confidence vote to a government made up of parties and will just do our duty in parliament,” the Five Star movement’s newly elected chief whip in the Senate, 40-year-old Vito Crimi told the 163 lawmakers at their first meeting, held in a Rome hotel.

“We must remove the parliament’s subjection to the government,” he said.

“I agree with what Vito said,” commented Grillo, who has over the past week reiterated that the Five Star Movement won’t back any government and will give or withhold support for individual laws on a case-by-case basis.

The lawmakers are political novices who were chosen in an online primary of around 20,000 people. Their internet-based movement streamed its meeting live from the Rome hotel via Grillo’s blog.

Grillo’s movement emerged as a surprise kingmaker after the split vote in the 24-25 February election and is the largest parliamentary party. It has 54 seats in the upper house Senate, denying Pier Luigi Bersani’s centre-left coalition a working majority there, although Bersani has a majority in the lower house.

Its legislative priorities include the abolition of public funding for parties, a ban on elected officials having other jobs, a two-term limit for public officials and rendering people who have had a criminal conviction ineligible for office.

Grillo, whose critics view him as a dangerous populist rabble-rouser, has scathingly scorned overtures from Bersani who he has called a “dead man talking”. He has said he won’t take part in “horsetrading” and has warned the Five Star members of parliament they will be kicked out of the movement if they accept offers of insitutional positions from the established parties.

Meanwhile Bersani has ruled out a possible alliance with former conservative prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s bloc and Bersani’s economic policy spokesman Stefano Fassina said on Sunday the country may have to hold new elections “in a few months” if Bersani doesn’t get a majority in parliament.

Another possibility is another technical government replace that led by prime minister Mario Monti, appointed by Italian president Giorgio Napolitano but this is likely to be unpalatable to many Italians who rejected Monti’s austerity policies.

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

Scotland: ‘Sexual Conduct Fell Below Standards Expected of Me’

CARDINAL Keith O’Brien has admitted that his sexual conduct fell “below the standards expected of a priest” in a move that has further rocked the Catholic Church.

The cardinal — until last week the most senior cleric in Britain — last night broke his silence on the allegations of “inappropriate behaviour” by asking for forgiveness for his actions and announcing that he would immediately withdraw from public life.

Contextual targeting label: Charity

One leading Church commentator said the latest move is likely to leave Catholics in Scotland and the rest of the UK with a deep sense of betrayal.

The cardinal’s admission came after a week of turmoil following claims of “inappropriate behaviour” from four men — one former and three serving priests.

Cardinal O’Brien, a long-standing and vociferous opponent of gay marriage, had announced his immediate retirement as Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh last Monday.

In a brief statement last night, the 74-year-old cardinal said: “In recent days certain allegations which have been made against me have become public. Initially, their anonymous and non-specific nature led me to contest them.

“However, I wish to take this opportunity to admit that there have been times that my sexual conduct has fallen below the standards expected of me as a priest, archbishop and cardinal.

“To those I have offended, I apologise and ask forgiveness. To the Catholic Church and people of Scotland, I also apologise. I will now spend the rest of my life in retirement.

“I will play no further part in the public life of the Catholic Church in Scotland.”…

           — Hat tip: Nick [Return to headlines]

Spanish City’s Ban on Islamic Veils Overturned

In 2010, Lleida, in the northeastern region of Catalonia, banned face-covering Islamic veils in municipal buildings

A Spanish court has overturned a city’s ban on wearing face-covering Islamic veils in municipal buildings, saying it infringes religious liberties. In 2010, Lleida, in the northeastern region of Catalonia, became the first Spanish town to impose such a ban. It was temporarily suspended by a regional court following an appeal by a Muslim association but then later upheld. Spain’s supreme court on Thursday accepted a second appeal and said the city was not entitled to order such a ban…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

The Crumbling Swedish Welfare State

Sweden is on a downbound path that sooner or later will hurl the country into social chaos. The fact that this has not happened yet is entirely due to Swedes still believing that their country is a stable, functional welfare state. They are like the famous bumble bee, which can’t fly but does not know it can’t.

           — Hat tip: Steen [Return to headlines]

The Holocaust Just Got More Shocking

THIRTEEN years ago, researchers at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum began the grim task of documenting all the ghettos, slave labor sites, concentration camps and killing factories that the Nazis set up throughout Europe.

What they have found so far has shocked even scholars steeped in the history of the Holocaust.

The researchers have cataloged some 42,500 Nazi ghettos and camps throughout Europe, spanning German-controlled areas from France to Russia and Germany itself, during Hitler’s reign of brutality from 1933 to 1945.

The figure is so staggering that even fellow Holocaust scholars had to make sure they had heard it correctly when the lead researchers previewed their findings at an academic forum in late January at the German Historical Institute in Washington.

“The numbers are so much higher than what we originally thought,” Hartmut Berghoff, director of the institute, said in an interview after learning of the new data.

“We knew before how horrible life in the camps and ghettos was,” he said, “but the numbers are unbelievable.”

The documented camps include not only “killing centers” but also thousands of forced labor camps, where prisoners manufactured war supplies; prisoner-of-war camps; sites euphemistically named “care” centers, where pregnant women were forced to have abortions or their babies were killed after birth; and brothels, where women were coerced into having sex with German military personnel.

Auschwitz and a handful of other concentration camps have come to symbolize the Nazi killing machine in the public consciousness. Likewise, the Nazi system for imprisoning Jewish families in hometown ghettos has become associated with a single site — the Warsaw Ghetto, famous for the 1943 uprising. But these sites, infamous though they are, represent only a minuscule fraction of the entire German network, the new research makes painfully clear…

           — Hat tip: Lurker from Tulsa [Return to headlines]

UK: 13 Charged Over Violent Clashes at Millfield Mosque Demonstration

Police have charged 13 people after a demonstration at the site of a new mosque in Sunderland turned violent, as far-right groups including the EDL clashed with local Muslims and anti-fascists.

Around 200 people attended the pre-planned demonstration on St Mark’s Road in Millfield on Saturday, October 6, 2012, where a former council transport depot is being converted into a mosque for up to 150 Pakistani Muslims. The English Defence League, Scottish Defence League and Sunderland Anti-Fascist Coalition were among the protesters…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: A Woman Who Stabbed a Grandmother to Death in the Street After Her Pleas to be Sectioned Were Ignored Has Been Jailed for a Minimum of 37 Years Today.


Nicola Edgington, 32, almost decapitated 58-year-old Sally Hodkin and tried to murder Kerry Clark, 22, in Bexleyheath, south east London, in 2011.

Edgington had previously been detained in a mental health unit after stabbing her mother to death in 2005 but was released into the community in 2009.

She made five 999 calls on the day she killed Mrs Hodkin asking to be sectioned under the Mental Health Act as she believed herself to be a danger but her claims were ignored.

Hours after walking out of a mental health unit after being taken there by police, she killed Mrs Hodkin.

Jailing her at the Old Bailey this afternoon, the Recorder of London Judge Brian Barker said Edgington should stop blaming others for her actions and take responsibility.

He sentenced her to a minimum term of 37 years for Mrs Hodkin’s murder and a concurrent sentence of 20 years for attempted murder.

Judge Barker told Edgington, 32, her behaviour had been ‘consistent and calculated’.

He said: ‘You are manipulative and exceptionally dangerous. What you did could not have been more selfish.

‘I disagree that the responsibility for these acts can be laid on others.

‘You made your choice and these were terrible acts for which you must take responsibility.

‘You have come as near as can be to having three deaths on your hands.’

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UK: Adrian Hilton: A Good Cultural Education Makes Good Individuals and a Good Society

Adrian Hilton is a conservative academic, religious and political commentator, journalist and author. On his Daily Mail blog he is currently campaigning for Ann Widdecombe to be awarded a peerage.

Matthew Arnold — poet, essayist and Her Majesty’s Inspector of Schools — famously wrote that culture is concerned with knowing “the best that has been said and thought in the world”. This has become the leitmotif of Michael Gove’s educational revolution: if children are not exposed to the classics of literature, music, theatre, dance, film, painting, sculpture — what we terms the “fine arts” — then society is impoverished, civilisation declines and future generations are inculcated with nothing but the banal, mediocre and vulgar…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: Blood Donation for North East Muslims

Muslims who have never given blood are being called upon to donate.

The Islamic Diversity Centre in Newcastle has arranged for a temporary donation centre in the city’s West End. The centre’s founder, Abu Tayeb, said it was a “religious duty” for Muslims to give blood despite the possible misconception that it is forbidden in the teachings of Islam. The NHS blood service said patients often responded better to blood from people of “the same ethnic background”. It said only 4% of the UK population gives blood on a regular basis and the figure is lower among British Muslims…

[JP note: North by Northwest.]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: Four British Al-Qaeda Inspired Fanatics Face Jail After Admitting Terror Plot

Four British al-Qaeda inspired fanatics are facing jail after admitting they were planning a terrorist attack using home-made bombs.

The gang, from Luton, Beds., downloaded computer files giving instructions on how to launch an attack, discussed possible targets and took part in military-style physical training.

They were due to stand trial next month but pleaded guilty in a hearing at Woolwich Crown Court in London today. Zahid Iqbal, 31, Mohammed Sharfaraz Ahmed, 25, Umar Arshad, 24, and Syed Farhan Hussain, 21, admitted one charge of engaging in conduct in preparation for acts of terrorism. According to the details of the charge, between Jan 1, 2011 and April 25 last year the four discussed “methods, materials and targets for a terrorist attack, including firearms and improvised explosive devices” and downloaded files “containing practical instruction for a terrorist attack”. They also facilitated and planned overseas travel, took part in physical training, bought survival equipment and collected and supplied funds for terrorist purposes overseas…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: Girl Told Friend of Rape and Being Sold for Sex [Bullfinch Trial]

MEN accused of raping and prostituting children were “always” seen with young girls, the Old Bailey heard yesterday. A young woman told the Oxford sex exploitation trial her dad warned her aged nine to stay away from defendants Akhtar and Anjum Dogar. The 20-year-old, who lived at care homes with complainants known as Girl 2 and Girl 4, said: “They always used to be with younger females. “The majority of them would be white girls. They were usually a lot younger than them.” She also told the jury she saw Anjum “Jammy” Dogar being forceful with a girl and gripping her arm as he tried to kiss her. The brothers liked to think they owned the Cowley Road area, the court heard…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: Home Affairs Committee HC 837 — Minutes of Evidence

Oral Evidence Taken before the Home Affairs Committee on Tuesday 5 February 2013

Members present:

Keith Vaz (Chair)

Mr James Clappison

Michael Ellis

Lorraine Fullbrook

Bridget Phillipson

Mark Reckless

Chris Ruane

Mr David Winnick

Examination of Witnesses

Witnesses: Clare, Alison, and Lisa, gave evidence.

Q1 Chair: Perhaps I can start with a question to you, Clare, in respect of what you have been through? How much of a shock was it to find out that the person that you were in a relationship with was in fact an undercover police officer?

Clare: A massive shock. I had no idea. Sorry, we have talked beforehand and we have bits to say, and Alison was going to go first.

Chair: Yes, we are going to ask all of you questions…

Alison: We had the argument right at the beginning among ourselves about whether there was ever a case, and the two examples that completely swayed me to believe that there was never a time when it was okay were: would you task an officer with raping a child to infiltrate a paedophile ring, and would you task an officer with raping a woman to infiltrate a human trafficking ring? Maybe they do, but it doesn’t seem right to me…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: Israel Apartheid Week: A Time Where Hatred is Unleashed

by Stephen Hoffman

All this week in Universities across the UK, Israel Apartheid Week has taken place. This appears to be an excuse for those who hate Israel more than they care about the Palestinians to gather, to discuss and inform people how terrible Israel is. In all of this the truth is often a stranger, something (from having attended a few of the events this week) I saw with my own eyes. I also provided briefings for supporters of Israel attending the meeting, so they could challenge, through questions, the lies being said. I believe this is important, so those attending the events who do not have strong opinions either way are shown a point of view that counters the scare stories portraying Israel as a pariah state…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: Nurse in ‘Cannibal Plot’ Denies Wrongdoing After Police Dig in His Garden

A male nurse arrested by police investigating a plot to kidnap, rape and eat women has denied any wrongdoing as it emerged that a police search team dug up parts of his garden.

Dale Bolinger, 57, was held at his home in Canterbury, Kent, last week by police hunting the British “mentor” of a New York policeman who used internet chat rooms to discuss torturing and cannibalising women. Another man aged 30 was also arrested in Canterbury. The British contact of Gilberto Valle, who is currently on trial in the US, told him he had eaten two women in the past and offered to fly to America to help him butcher women…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: Postmodern Tories

by Roger Scruton

What does the Conservative party believe any more?

The mid-term of a government is a time of reflection, in which the parties can revive their attachments and reformulate their message. Two recent volumes, Britannia Unchained, co-authored by a group of young Conservative MPs, and Tory Modernisation 2.0, issued by Bright Blue, an organisation that campaigns for reform within the Conservative party, give us some indication of the forces now at work in shaping Tory thinking. The volume by the MPs—Kwasi Kwarteng, Priti Patel, Dominic Raab, Chris Skidmore and Elizabeth Truss—is a detailed analysis of the ways in which Britain has been failing, and the ways in which it could regain some, if not all, of its former stature. The volume by Bright Blue is a plea for the party to “modernise.” The one calls on Conservatives to save the country, the other calls on them to update themselves in order to solve their image problem. These two messages correspond closely to David Cameron’s policies over the last two years. So it is worth enquiring whether the messages are really compatible, and whether they stem from some long-term vision that will re-establish Conservatism at the centre of British politics…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: Risk of Undermining Human Rights

While David Cameron was issuing assurances yesterday that he will not “lurch to the right” after his party was left trailing Ukip in the Eastleigh by-election, his tough-talking Justice Secretary was letting it be known that a future Conservative government would scrap the Human Rights Act.

Chris Grayling’s statement, clearly designed to placate right-wingers, goes further than any other minister since the Coalition was formed. He does not specify which human rights the Tories would abandon but says he wants “a dramatically curtailed role for the European Court of Human Rights in the UK”. Meanwhile, Home Secretary Theresa May is reported to be working on plans for Britain to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) if the Conservatives win an overall majority in 2015.

Contextual targeting label: Block list

Those who believe the UK should represent the gold standard in protecting human rights must take this threat seriously. The paradox is that while the Human Rights Act is often depicted as being a European imposition, the UN Declaration on Human Rights, on which it is based, is basically a British export and one we should be proud of. It was framed as Europe emerged from the horrors of the Second World War and was forged from a determination not to repeat such atrocities. Britain was one of the first signatories in 1948.

Yet from the moment the Labour Government enshrined human rights in domestic law in 1997, much wilful misunderstanding has gone into the reporting of this issue. Certain sections of the media have used it as a cipher for knee-jerk anti-Europeanism and a vehicle for demonising asylum seekers.

Yards of column inches have been devoted to often ill-informed stories about prisoners and terror suspects using the legislation. For instance, murderer Denis Nilsen did not, as was claimed, use the act to access pornography in his cell. The case was thrown out. The legislation has been used to prevent the deportation of terror suspects to countries that employ torture, but the UK needs to be consistent. The Government cannot oppose torture but then allow certain people to be tortured. Human rights are by their nature universal or they are worthless.

It is less well known that the Human Rights Act has upheld the rights of kinship carers. It has laid a duty of care on the Army after a British soldier in Iraq died not from enemy fire but heatstroke. It has given deaf patients the right to an interpreter during operations under local anaesthetic. It has obliged local authorities to consider the emotional and physical health of residents before closing care homes and enabled a couple married for 65 years to be cared for together.

It is up to supporters of human rights to challenge the mythology that has grown up around this legislation…

           — Hat tip: Nick [Return to headlines]

UK: Roger Scruton Versus the Post-Modern Conservative Party

Of the many inconsistencies associated with the Tory ‘modernisers’, one of the most glaring is the moderniser label itself. As all the cool kids know, modernism is terribly 20th century. We’re very much into the post-modern era now. (In case you’re not up to speed with the philosophical niceties, the basic distinction between modernism and post-modernism is that while the former is all about reason and structures, the latter is all about feelings and appearances.) In a book review for Prospect, Roger Scruton has some sharp things to say about the influence of post-modernism on the Conservative Party:…

Scruton is surely right: The persuaders now run the show. In all political parties — including the Conservative Party — power and influence has shifted decisively from men and women of conviction, knowledge and experience and towards the communicators, manipulators and emoters. Those of us who would fight back face an uphill struggle. “Conservatism”, says Scruton, “is difficult, intricate and true. Today’s winning political rhetoric, by contrast, is simple, persuasive, and false.”…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: Tory MP Questions ‘Plebgate Element’ In Six-Month Racism Probe

A former minister will ask a chief constable today if there was an “element of ‘plebgate’“ in the force’s decision to launch a six-month racism investigation into his description of a gypsy as looking “unkempt”.

Tim Loughton, the ex-Children’s Minister, said he wanted to know if officers simply wanted to “have a pop at a Tory MP” as they carried out the inquiry which saw him interviewed under caution by detectives for 90 minutes last August…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

2 Killed, 5 Injured in Northern Egypt Amid Diesel Crisis

CAIRO, March 3 (Xinhua) — Two people were killed and five others injured in a fighting over diesel in northern Egypt on Sunday, Xinhua reporter said from the spot. In Zagazig city, capital of Sharqiya governorate, two families quarrelled over their places in a long queue at a gas station, which then escalated into violent fighting. Both families used weapons, leaving two people dead and five others injured…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Egypt: Five Dead After Demonstrations, Clashes in Port Said

Protest against transfer of defendants for deadly football match

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, 4 MAR — Following late-night clashes between police and protesters in Port Said, the pivotal city at the Suez Canal, the government reports five deaths, including three civilians and two policemen, Al Ahram online reports.

The two civilians died of skull fractures: sixteen year-old Sayed Ali El-Sayed from a heavy metal object thrown from the top of the central governorate building and Abdel Rahman El Said Ali, 22 years old, after being hit to the head by bricks also thrown from the top of the building.

The other two, the Interior Ministry says, were conscripts: Ibrahim Abdel-Azim Mostafa and Alaa Mohamed El-Shawadfi, killed as a result of gunshot wounds to the head and neck by unknown assailants that randomly fired near the Port Said security directorate. Cairo health ministry sources say over 500 were injured in clashes last night: three hundred of those suffered tear gas suffocation, 43 gunshot wounds (4 policemen and 40 civilians) and 20 miscellaneous injuries. Moreover, four of the injured were transported from the Port Said hospital to Cairo, while two others were transported to the Eye Surgery Centre in Mansoura for treatment.

Clashes broke out Sunday as police fired intense rounds of teargas throughout the day at demonstrators who opposed an interior ministry decision to transfer 39 prisoners from the Suez Canal city to the other side of the Nile Delta in Wadi Natroun jail in Beheira governorate. The prisoners were convicted in the first round of a highly-publicised case of a deadly attack during a football match in Port Said stadium that killed more than 70 Ahly fans in February 2012.

This comes ahead of the expected second phase of Port Said trial scheduled for 9 March, where the 52 remaining defendants out of the total 73 will be issued verdicts.

Thousands of Port Said residents have been conducting a campaign of civil disobedience during the past two weeks to protest marginalisation policies at the hands of the central government and to demand justice for more than 40 killed in clashes with the police on 26 January as they were demonstrating on the second anniversary of the January 25 Revolution.

In an unusual twist, several media outlets gave conflicting reports of police and army soldiers exchanging fire at the end of the tense day. Egyptian armed forces official Spokesperson Colonel Ahmed Ali denied the reports on his Facebook page Sunday night.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Egyptian Opposition Refuses to Meet With Kerry

Sabbahi compares U.S. support for FJP to that of Mubarak

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, MARCH 1 — Two leaders of Egypt’s opposition National Salvation Front (NSF), Hamdeen Sabbahi and Mohamed ElBaradei, will not be attending the meeting with U.S.

Secretary of State John Kerry. The head of U.S. foreign policy will be arriving in Cairo on Saturday evening for a two-day visit. The announcement was made by Sabbahi, former presidential candidate and leader of the Nasserist left, in an interview with the television network ONTV. “We will make our decisions with our own minds, and Kerry must understand that our decision to boycott the elections is exceptional, since democracy is not just slogans but rules for all.” Sabbahi said Kerry should address “the unjust power that barricades itself behind an unbalanced constitution and young people exposed to bullets”.

He urged the U.S., which “supports democracy, to address the totalitarian regime and not the opposition”. “Washington is satisfied as far as its interests go with the Muslim Brotherhood in power, since there is no difference between the power of Mubarak and that of Morsi,” he stressed.

During his visit, Kerry will meet with Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi, Defence Minister Abdel Fatah Sisi, Arab League Secretary General Nabil El Araby and representatives of Egyptian civil society.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Egypt: Christians and Muslims Protest in Cairo Against Anti-Minority Violence

Since January, Salafists and other Muslim radicals have attacked Christians in four locations, setting fire to churches and homes. In Bani Suef, a court sent to prison two minors as well as a woman and her seven children on issues related to religion. In Alexandria, Salafist gunmen kill five men suspected of building a church.

Cairo (AsiaNews) — Thousands of Christians and Muslims demonstrated yesterday in front of the United Nations Information Office in Cairo to protest the continuing violence and harassment of minorities.

In a press release, the Maspero Youth Union, an organisation that defends the rights of Christians and young people involved in the Arab spring, slammed the Salafists for attacking Christians in four different locations since January.

During the attacks, churches and homes were set on fire in Shubra al-Kheima, in Greater Cairo, as well as Sarsena (Tamiya District, Fayoum, central Egypt), Bani Suef (115 km south of Cairo) and Kom Ombo (Aswan province, Upper Egypt).

The activists blame the Muslim Brotherhood-controlled government for allowing local clerics and religious authorities to “stir anti-Christian hatred” and letting “Salafists attack people and property undisturbed”.

The worst case was reported on 23 February in Borg el Arab, just outside Alexandria, when armed men killed four Christians and a Muslims, guards at a construction site.

Raymon Malak Zaki, the brother of one of the Christians killed, said that area belongs to his family. To stop a spate of thefts and attacks, his brother and four friends had decided to guard the area.

Earlier, Islamists had seized the site claiming that Christians wanted to build a church. They eventually left after the owners signed a note promising that a church would not be built on it.

“We bought the land, and we have paid local Islamists to end their threats, and yet the violence has not stopped,” Zaki said.

Gunmen, he explained, forced their way into the homes of three of the four Christians and shot them in cold blood. The fifth man, a Muslim, was killed at the construction site.

All this occurred with impunity. “The day of the murders I waited at the morgue for a whole day for the coroner,” he explained.

Although police inspected the crime scene, no autopsy has not been done yet.

Zaki fears that the authorities are trying to cover up the incident to avoid further sectarian violence.

For decades, Islamists have used the country’s vague rules on places of worship, adopted under the Mubarak regime, to prevent Christians from building their own places of worship. Even repairing an existing building can take years because of red tape.

Since the Muslim Brotherhood came to power, the situation has worsened. Feeling emboldened, Islamists now go so far as to try to prevent Christians from building houses for themselves.

Making matters worse, Muslim radicals are not the only group harassing Orthodox Copts and other Christians.

Courts are now going after minorities as well, especially in Upper Egypt, where judges affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood constitute a powerful lobby.

Last week, a court in Beni Suef refused to hear an appeal for the release of two children, aged nine and ten, from prison. They have been behind bars since October 2012 waiting to go on trial for desecrating the Qur’an.

On 14 January, the same court sentenced a woman and her seven children to 15 years in prison for converting to Christianity.

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

Egypt: Bearded Police Officers Protest Demanding Return to Work

Dozens staged protests on Friday in front of Abdeen Palace in downtown Cairo to demand allowing bearded police officers back to work. A number of Salafi (ultraconservative) Parties joined the protests dubbed “No to exclusion.” According to the Facebook page, ‘I am a bearded police officer’, Secretary General of the Police Officers Association Ashraf Banna announced his support for the right of officers to grow their beards…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Kerry: US to Release Millions in Aid to Egypt

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says Washington will provide Egypt with immediate financial aid because of the nation’s “extreme needs.” Kerry announced the deal after meeting Sunday with Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi. Cairo is the first stop in the Arab world for Kerry as he makes his inaugural trip as the top American diplomat.

Secretary of State Kerry says the United States will make $190 million available immediately from a promised $450-million package for budget support. He also pledged $60 million toward a new enterprise fund.

Kerry, who met with President Mohamed Morsi Sunday in Cairo, said the United States made the offer after assurances from the Egyptian leader of political reform and his commitment to securing a much-delayed loan from the International Monetary Fund.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Libya: Gunman Fires at Catholic Priest, ‘Meant to Kill Him’

Mons. Martinelli, worried by Salafite movement in country

(ANSAmed) — ROME, MARCH 4 — A gunman on Sunday walked into Tripoli’s Catholic cathedral and fired at a priest, Father Magdi, missing his target. ‘He wanted to kill him, he opened fire from 2-3 metres with an Ak47’, said the Apostolic Vicar in Libya, Monsignor Giovanni Martinelli, explaining that authorities are investigating.

‘It is the first time something like this happened, we are extremely worried’, said Monsignor Martinelli. The man, whose identity is unknown, walked into the church of Saint Francis in the Libyan capital and fired twice at the priest, missing him.

‘We informed the authorities and are trying to understand the motivations behind this surprising gesture’, said Martinelli.

‘There is a Salafite movement in the country which is trying to confuse ideas: they do not admit a confrontation, they fire, invade and kill. It is not an Islam which looks for dialogue. It is something new for Libya which cannot leave us indifferent’, he said.

Threats against westerners and non-Muslims have doubled in Libya since the beginning of the year but this is the first such case in Tripolitania. In Cyrenaica, and in particular in Benghazi, intimidations have continued after an assault on September 11 last year against the US diplomatic compound left four Americans dead, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.

Authorities have blamed the Ansar al Sharia militia for the attack.

In January, gunmen opened fire on the car of Italian Consul Guido De Sanctis who was miraculously unharmed while in February Coptic Christians were targeted by Islamic brigades. In the past days some 11 people with an Egyptian passport were arrested on ‘proselytism’ charges while on February 28 an armed commando stormed a Coptic church, attacking a priest and his aide.

On Sunday, Ansar al Sharia militants surrounded the European school in Benghazi accusing teachers of publicizing pornography after they gave students books on sexual education. No incidents were reported during the demonstration though the school’s teaching staff was shaken by the episode.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Libya: Army at ENI Complex, Jihadists Against European School

Gas exports towards Gela suspended

(ANSAmed) — ROME — Libya is once again forced to deal with its instability. Eni had to stop gas exports to Italy and renewed tensions were registered in Benghazi after armed jihadist militants surrounded the European school accusing teachers of pornography.

The clashes between rival militias last Saturday near Eni’s Mellitah complex forced the suspension of gas exports to Gela, in Sicily. The government’s mediation led to an immediate ceasefire and security forces sent by the defence ministry took over control of the complex. Gas supplies are expected to resume soon though it is still unclear when exactly this will happen.

‘At least 48 hours will be necessary’, said a local official.

The suspension of supplies, high Libyan officials explained, also caused problems in Wafa, where Italy’s energy giant Eni has another complex, and in Sabratha. Some 8 billion cubic metres of gas are pumped from Mellitah through the Greenstream pipeline.

Libya provides 10% of Italy’s gas supplies.

Clashes erupted on Saturday between militants with the Zintan and Zuara brigades, both seeking to control the management of security at the complex. At least one person died and several were wounded, including two workers at Mellitah, according to unconfirmed reports. The government cracked down on the disruption: ‘The main threat against stability in Libya is constituted by those who refuse to hand over weapons and use them for their personal interests’, said Libyan premier Ali Zeidan, warning militias that if they will not make themselves available to the government they will be dissolved.

Everybody in Libya has weapons except for the government in a paradox which the cabinet hopes to stop by pushing the UN to lift the embargo. The government hopes to be able to sign new military contracts, also with Italy.

But while Zeidan was speaking at a press conference, new clashes were recorded in Mizdah, south of Tripoli, causing an unspecified number of casualties and injuries.

Meanwhile in Cyrenaica, growing religious tensions are causing great concern. On Sunday in Benghazi, jihadists with Ansar al-Sharia, the group held responsible for the assault on the US diplomatic compound in which Ambassador Chris Stevens died, surrounded the European school in the city, accusing teachers of pornography. The school gave students a book on sexual education featuring scientific illustrations which were considered unacceptable by the extremists. The demonstration did not result in any damage and staff members ‘are fine’, a sources close to the teachers told ANSA.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Stakelbeck: The Real Mohammed Morsi

Secretary of State John Kerry was in Cairo this weekend meeting with Egypt’s new president. Mohammed Morsi and announcing that the U.S. would provide $250 million in aid to Egypt’s new, Muslim Brotherhood-led government.

My latest report examines who Morsi really is, what he and the Muslim Brotherhood want and what they believe.

Hint: it’s not good for America or for Israel.

Click the link above to watch my report.

           — Hat tip: Erick Stakelbeck [Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Watchdog Reports Surge in Attacks on Journalists

Tunisia, 4 March — More than 50 attacks on journalists took place in Tunisia in February, almost twice the number reported in the previous month, according to a local press watchdog.

The Centre for Press Freedom said it believed security forces were behind at least 20 of the attacks in Tunisia, which has been ruled by the Islamist Ennahda party since its electoral victory of October 2011.

The watchdog was founded in March 2011, after longterm strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fled into exile after a revolt against his rule dubbed ‘The Jasmine Revolution’.

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

Tunisia: State of Emergency Extended by Three Months — President

Carthage — Caretaker President Moncef Marzouki decided to extend the state of emergency by three months starting from March 3 to June 3, 2013 the Presidency of the Republic announces Friday. This decision was taken after consultation with outgoing Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali, and National Constituent Assembly Speaker Mustapha Ben Jaafar, a communiqué of the Presidency specifies…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Tunisia: ‘Harlem Shake’ Pits Students Against Salafists

Tunis — In Tunisia, an internet dance craze has turned into a mode of protest against extremist violence.

A group of baton-wielding salafists on Saturday (March 2nd) prevented secondary school pupils from performing the “Harlem Shake” dance in El Kef. The incident at the “Ahmed Amara” lyceum in the northern governorate came a day after hundreds braved the rain in front of the education ministry in Tunis to perform the dance…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

U.S. Welcomes Egyptian Strawberries — Ambassador

U.S. Ambassador to Egypt Anne W. Patterson announced Thursday that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has granted market access for Egyptian fresh strawberry exports to the United States. “We are committed to continuing to work with the Egyptian authorities to increase market opportunities for Egyptian exports,” said Ambassador Patterson. “Increasing trade between our two countries is a key component of boosting employment and economic growth in Egypt.”…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

MK Feiglin Explains Attempt to Enter Dome of the Rock

“I am not calling on Jews to begin making pilgrimage to the location of the Temple itself,” MK wrote.

MK Moshe Feiglin (Likud) explained on his Facebook page Monday why he asked to enter the Dome of the Rock, which is located atop the spot where the Holy of Holies of the Jewish Temple stood.

Entry into the actual area where the Jewish Temple stood is strictly forbidden by all major streams in Judaism, and this is doubly true as regards the area of the Holy of Holies.

MK Feiglin explained, however, that in attempting to enter the Dome of the Rock, he is relying on statements by Rabbi Shlomo Goren Z”l, who was the Chief Rabbi of the IDF and Israel’s Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi.

“In the introduction to his book, ‘The Temple Mount,’ Rabbi Goren ztz”l wrote: ‘There is no doubt that in a case such as this, when there is a danger of a takeover by foreigners of Har Hamoriah [the Temple Mount], it is permitted even to enter the zone of the Azara [which includes the Temple building itself and the place of the altar], so as not to give them a foothold on the Mount of G-d, because the ascent of Jews to the Mount in this situation is considered an act of conquest and prevention of a foreign takeover of [the Mount].”

“From the moment I became a Knesset Member — in other words, a representative of Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel — I felt that this statement by Rabbi Goren obligates me to enter any place on the Temple Mount. This morning, I did so, and I had no idea how right I was. It turns out that the Dome of the Rock (which is not a mosque), was blocked to the entry of Jews and tourists about two years ago.

“‘Only Muslims may enter,’ the Waqf man told me when I politely asked to enter. I explained to the police officer who showed up at the spot that according to law, an MK’s entry into a location may not be impeded, and this is certainly true of a place to which other citizens may enter. The officer’s answer was amazing: ‘The place belongs to the Muslim Waqf.’ It turns out that the heart of hearts of the Land of Israel, the place of the Holy of Holies, has been handed over de facto to Muslim sovereignty — for the simple reason that no Jewish foot has stepped there because of its sanctity.”

“It is important to stress,” MK Feiglin added, “that I am not calling on Jews to begin making pilgrimage to the location of the Temple itself. There is a difference between me as an MK and the general public. But what has become clear, based upon what happened this morning, is that there is a clear admission of the loss of Jewish sovereignty on the Mount, and we must all begin to ‘use our feet’ in order to change the situation.”

           — Hat tip: MC [Return to headlines]

Obama Wants West Bank Withdrawal Timetable From Netanyahu

(AGI) Washington — The U.S. president has asked the Israeli premier for a timetable for a withdrawal from the West Bank .

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

Report: Obama Wants Timetable for Israeli Pullout

Unconfirmed report in World Tribune says Obama wants a detailed Israeli withdrawal plan from Netanyahu.

U.S. President Barack Obama has demanded a timetable for an Israeli withdrawal from Judea and Samaria, according to an unconfirmed report by World Tribune.

The report quotes anonymous “Israeli sources.”

According to the report, Obama, who is scheduled to arrive in Israel on March 20, wants Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to present him with a detailed Israeli withdrawal plan during his visit to Israel. The sources said the Israeli plan “would be considered in what could be an imminent U.S. initiative to establish a Palestinian state in the West Bank in 2014.”

“Obama has made it clear to Netanyahu that his visit is not about photo-ops, but the business of Iran and a Palestinian state,” a source said. “The implication is that if Israel won’t give him something he can work with, then he’ll act on his own.”

The sources noted that “Obama aides” have stressed that Congress supports the establishment of a Palestinian state as a U.S. priority.

“The Obama people are making this a litmus test of Netanyahu’s leadership and credibility,” the Israeli sources said. “Obama supporters in Congress have sent Netanyahu a similar message.”

           — Hat tip: MC [Return to headlines]

Bahrain: Emir Declines to Participate in National Dialogue

In interests of neutrality, amid ongoing nationwide turmoil

(ANSAmed) — DUBAI, MARCH 4 — While the country continues to repress dissidents in the face of a damning report from Human Rights Watch, the emir of Bahrain on Monday declined to participate in the ongoing national dialogue, either in person or through a representative.

“King (Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa) considers all parties in the national dialogue as equals and therefore maintains an equidistant position because the sovereign is one and he is for all,” read a communique issued by royal spokesman and minister, Sheikh Khalid al-Khalifa. The national dialogue kicked off on February 10 in an effort to reconcile a nation torn apart by the violent repression of popular protests sparked by the Arab Spring of 2011.

In this Shiite-majority country ruled by a Sunni Muslim monarchy, initial demands for more democratic institutions and less discrimination degenerated into sectarian revolt. It was quelled at the cost of 40 lives, following an intervention by troops from Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates.

Dialogue participants include representatives from six opposition blocs, ten political movements, parliament and the government. They have met five times so far.

The dialogue almost unraveled following the deaths of a young protesters and a policeman during street clashes two weeks ago. At the last meeting, opposition delegates called on the emir to sit in.

His refusal in the interests of neutrality follows on a February 28 Human Rights Watch (HRW) report accusing Bahraini authorities of not fulfilling promises of reform, liberating political prisoners, and punishing officers found guilty of torturing dissidents during the uprising of February-March 2011.

The interior ministry merely said the HRW report is filled with “contradictions, inaccuracies and inconsistencies”.

Meanwhile, an appeals court sentenced Zeinab al-Khawaja to three months in prison for insulting a public official, overturning an initial acquittal. Her father is renowned Shiite activist Abdul Hadi al-Khawaja, who led demonstrations in Manama’s Pearl Square and whose long hunger strike catapulted him onto front pages around the world. He was sentenced to life in prison.

The smallest of the Gulf oil monarchies, Bahrain hosts the Fifth Fleet of the US Navy.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Kerry Meets With Abu Mazen in Riyadh

US to give Egypt $190+ mln, but gov’t must ensure stability

(ANSAmed) — ROME, MARCH 4 — US Secretary of State John Kerry met with Palestinian President Abu Mazen in the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh, the US State Department tweeted on Monday along with a photo of the two delegations sitting at a table.

Kerry is in Saudi Arabia on the last leg of his mission to Europe and the Middle East, which wraps after stops in Abu Dhabi and Qatar.

Kerry yesterday left Egypt after two days of talks with President Mohamed Morsi and opposition leaders. The US will help Egypt overcome its severe economic crisis, but the Muslim Brotherhood-led government must ensure stability, Kerry said. The US will give Egypt a first tranche of $190 million (out of the $450 million currently under congressional debate) plus $60 million from a fund to support businesses, because the crisis is connected to the political instability that followed the overthrow of the pro-Western, authoritarian regime of Hosni Mubarak two years ago, Kerry said. Kerry will likely bring up this issue at the meetings in Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi and Qatar, although the official agenda only includes the Syria and Iran questions.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Kerry Announces Renewed Effort Against Syria and Iran

Secretary of State John Kerry has signaled that the global elite are ready to up the ante in Syria and Iran. On Monday, following meetings in Saudi Arabia, Kerry and Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal told reporters at a news conference the United States and the Saudi kingdom will work together to overthrow the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria.

Last week Kerry said the United States will provide “non-lethal assistance” to al-Qaeda in Syria. Britain and France, two trusted players in the globalist effort to change the political landscape of the Middle East, are expected to soon announce they will provide what the establishment media describes as “defensive military equipment” to the Free Syrian Army, the mercenary paramilitary force dominated by al-Qaeda.

Kerry’s announcement is a moot point — the CIA, through its Turkish intermediary and the British and U.S. intelligence asset the Muslim Brotherhood, have provided al-Qaeda with automatic rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, ammunition and antitank weapons paid for by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar in their effort to unseat the Shia regime in Damascus.The CIA has refused to comment on its aid to the FSA and al-Qaeda. According to FSA commander Abdel al-Salam Tabsah, the al-Nusra Front (an al-Qaeda affiliate) receives financial and logistical support from more “democratic” elements within the paramilitary coalition are denied.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Lebanon: Grand Mufti Denounces Beirut Mosque Incident

BEIRUT: Grand Mufti Sheikh Mohammad Rashid Qabbani condemned Friday a recent incident at the Mohammad al-Amin Mosque in Beirut which Dar al-Fatwa said saw a group of youths harassing the preacher delivering a sermon at the place of worship. Dar al-Fatwa’s General Directorate of Islamic Endowments, in a statement, said a number of youths had hurled insults at Sheikh Hisham Khalifa, the general-director of Islamic Endowments, who was delivering a sermon at the central Beirut mosque. “A dispute occurred at the Mohammad al-Amin Mosque … while … Khalifa was delivering the Friday sermon wherein a number of young troublemakers hurled insults and obscenities and tried to remove Sheikh Khalifa from the pulpit,” it said…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Locust Alert in Middle East as Plague Descends on Egypt and Creates Panic in Israel

As swarms of locust devour Egyptian crops, the Middle East is bracing for the destructive bugs to migrate their way ahead of the Passover holiday.

A swarm of an estimated 30million insects has been devastating crops in Egypt, fuelling apocalyptic fears because of the infestation’s proximity to the Bible story of Passover in which a swarm of locusts, the eighth of ten plagues, is imposed on Egyptians by God for enslaving and abusing ancient Hebrews.

Israel’s Agriculture Ministry set up an emergency hotline today and urged residents to be vigilant in reporting sightings of the insects to prevent an outbreak.

The locusts pass through the country as part of their normal migration from north east Sudan to Saudi Arabia, the Egyptian Agriculture Ministry said, emphasising that Egypt was just ‘a transfer station’ for the locusts, which were in larger numbers this year.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Obama, Beware of Benevolent Ethnocentrism

by Yoram Ettinger

On the eve of President Barack Obama’s visit to the Middle East, he should examine the damage to vital U.S. economic and national security interests caused by benevolent ethnocentrism.

Ethnocentrism — judging other cultures by one’s own standards — is morally wrong, especially when motivated by superiority complex or racism.

Benevolent ethnocentrism — the assumption that other cultures are ready to embrace one’s own standards and worldview — is morally flawed and strategically self-destructive. This reflects a superficial view of global complexity and undermines one’s posture of deterrence in a world of intensifying disorder, and increasing hostility toward Western values, in spite of President Obama’s outreach campaign since 2009…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Palestine Axis of Unity Between Muslim Countries: Iran’s Jalili

Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council Saeed Jalili says Palestine is “the axis of unity” among Muslim countries.

Jalili made the remarks in a meeting with Mousa Mohammed Abu Marzouk, the deputy chairman of the Hamas Political Bureau, in Tehran late on Sunday, ISNA reported. “Resistance for the freedom of Palestine is the best axis for the unity of the world of Islam, and this strategy can prevent conflicts in the Muslim world,” Jalili said. Marzouk stressed the importance of Iran’s role in solving the conflicts in the Islamic world, and presented a report regarding the latest developments in Palestine and the region to Jalili…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Syria: Militias Attack Military Convoy in Iraq, Killing 40

33 Syrian soldiers, 7 Iraqis dead. Ar Raqqah seized by rebels

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, MARCH 4 — Unidentified militia attacked an Iraqi military convoy, killing 33 Syrian soldiers and seven Iraqis in Anbar Province near the Syrian border, police sources said on Monday.

Dozens of Syrian soldiers were killed when militia attacked an Iraqi convoy transporting Syrian military personnel, according to a local correspondent from Al-Arabiya Pan-Arab TV.

Also on Monday, government forces lost their first provincial capital as rebels seized the city of Ar-Raqqah, the capital of the Ar-Raqqah Governorate in northen Syria, Al-Arabiya reported.

According to the Observatory for the Human Rights, dozen of rebels and loyalist soldiers died in battle.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Syria: Country on Path of Destruction, UN Official Says

Crisis will last years more; no humanitarian aid reaches Assad

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, MARCH 4 — Syria “is on the path of destruction” and “Syrians will pay the price of all this for a long time”, UN humanitarian aid for Syria coordinator Radhouane Noucier told ANSAmed in an interview on Monday.

“The crisis will go on for a lot longer than we think, and civilians are paying the highest price as the fighting continues. They will have to do so for a long time, maybe years,” said the Tunisian official, who works out of the Damascus office of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Speaking with ANSA in Beirut during a visit, Noucier denied reports that some of the UN aid for Syria is ending up in the coffers of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. “That is totally false. The Syrian government does not get a cent of the funds we raise for humanitarian aid. As happens in other scenarios, we distribute the aid through local and foreign NGOs on the ground in Syria,” Noucier explained.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Syria: ‘Rebels Overrun Northeast City, Down Statue of Assad’s Father’

Reqqa, 4 March (AKI) — Syrian rebels on Monday seized the strategic northeastern city and amateur videos showed residents destroyed a statue of president Bashar al-Assad’s father and predecessor Hafez according to a watchdog.

A police chief was killed and two senior security officials captured by the opposition fighters and jihadists from the Al-Nusra Front fought in the battle for Reqqa, the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

“This is the first provincial capital in Syria where rebels have made such progress. They now have near-total control of Reqqa city, except for some regime positions, including the military security and Baath party headquarters,” said the watchdog’s director Rami Abdel Rahman.

The city is strategically located on the Euphrates river near the Turkish border, and the Tal-Abyad border crossing was under rebel control, Rahman said.

Around 800,000 people forced to flee violence in other parts of Syria have sought shelter in Reqqa there ever since the revolt against Bahsar al-Assad’s authoritarian rule began in March 2011.

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

Turkish Group Seeks Islamic Debt for Istanbul Finance Hub

Project part of plan to boost Turkey’s economy and importance

(ANSAmed) — ISTANBUL — Agaoglu Group, a Turkish company with interests in construction, energy and tourism, plans to raise USD 2 billion in Islamic debt to finance the construction of Istanbul’s financial district as Bloomberg reports.

Aktif Bank is in talks with banks in the Gulf Cooperation Council to sell ‘sukuk’ in April, Agaoglu Chairman Ali Agaoglu said in an interview in Dubai, where he opened a representative office to lure Gulf wealth to Turkey’s construction industry. The Istanbul Financial Center project is part of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s plan to boost Turkey’s regional importance and make the economy one of the world’s 10 biggest by 2023. Construction has already begun on the Asian coast of Istanbul, a city of 13 million, in a district called Atasehir. Turkey sold its first Shariah-compliant bonds last year, setting a benchmark for companies to lure Middle East investors.

Sales of bonds that comply with Islam’s ban on interest in the GCC tripled last year to USD 21 billion, according to Bloomberg.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Ex-Russian General: America Must be Kept at Gunpoint

Retired Russian General Leonid Ivashov told Pravda in a recent interview that America must be held at gunpoint by means of of tactical nuclear weapons which “should constantly be aimed at the United States.”

Ivashov was former chief of general affairs in the Soviet Union’s Ministry of Defence before becoming vice president of the Academy on Geopolitical Affairs.

“Tactical nuclear weapons that are constantly threatening the United States must become the factor that will deter large-scale aggression. Holding it at gunpoint — this is the deterrent,” Ivashov told Pravda.Ru editor-in-chief Inna Novikova.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Moscow Mayor Says No to More Mosques in the City

The Mayor of Moscow says there are no plans to build a new mosque in the city, and says the ‘excessive’ number of economic migrants was a ‘harmful thing’. “It has turned out that the praying Muslims are not at all Russian citizens and they are not Moscow residents. They are labor migrants. There are only 10 percent of Moscow residents among them and building mosques for everyone who wants it — I think this will be over the top,“ Sergey Sobyanin said in an interview with Moscow’s Echo radio…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Bangladesh Students Held for Murder of Anti-Islam Blogger

DHAKA: Bangladesh police arrested five students of an elite private university on Saturday on charges of murdering an anti-Islamist blogger whose death triggered nationwide turmoil.

The students allegedly confessed to hacking to death Ahmed Rajib Haider, 35, on February 15 after he helped organise protests against leaders of the Jamaat-e-Islami party on trial for war crimes, police said. “They targeted him because of his allegedly blasphemous writings against Islam and the Prophet Mohammad (SAWW),” Dhaka police deputy commissioner Masudur Rahman told. All five of the young men arrested are students of the prestigious North South University, Rahman said. Haider’s body was found with hatchet wounds to the head in what police said was an apparent attempt to behead him…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Dozens Die as Bangladesh General Strike Continues

(AGI) Dacca, March 4 — Dozens of people have died on the second day of a general strike called by Islamist groups in Bangladesh .

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

Pakistan Bomb: Karachi Standstill After Shias Attacked

The Pakistani city of Karachi is in mourning after a powerful bomb ripped through a mainly Shia Muslim area, killing at least 45 people.

Schools and businesses are closed after a strike was called to protest against the attack in Abbas Town. No group has yet said it planted the bomb, which went off near a mosque as worshippers left evening prayers. Pakistan’s Shia minority are the target of frequent sectarian attacks from Sunni militant groups…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

China’s Space Station to Welcome Int’l Scientists

BEIJING, March 1 (Xinhua) — China’s planned space station will offer scientists from around the world opportunities for research and experimentation, the lead designer of China’s manned space program told Xinhua on Friday. Zhou Jianping said the space station, which is expected to be built by 2020 and is aimed at engaging in space exploration and research on space resources, will include three capsules. It will be capable of docking one freight spacecraft and two manned spacecraft, and the entire system will weigh over 90 tonnes…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

China: World’s Biggest Mall a ‘Ghost Town’

New South China Mall in Guangdong Province opened in 2005. With 5 million square feet of shopping area, the mall can accommodate 2,350 stores, making it the largest shopping center in the world in terms of leasable space — more than twice the size of Mall of America, the biggest shopping center in the United States.

At the outdoor plaza, hundreds of palm-trees blend with a replica Arc de Triomphe, a giant Egyptian sphinx, fountains and long-stretching canals with gondolas.

Only problem is, the mall is virtually deserted. Despite the bombastic design and grand plans, only a handful of stores are occupied. “Most of it empty, with little consumer traffic and a high vacancy rate,” according to a report last year by Emporis, a global building data firm. “It has been classified as a ‘dead mall.’“

[Return to headlines]

KFC Halts Chicken Supply From 1,000 Chinese Farms After Antibiotics Scare

Another day, another Chinese food scare. KFC is dropping more than 1,000 farms from its network of suppliers in China to make sure the food it serves is safe after a scandal over tainted chicken hurt company sales in that key (meaning large) emerging market last year.

The issue came up in December when officials in China’s commercial hub of Shanghai and the northern province of Shanxi were looking at KFC suppliers following claims that the chicken the company was selling had a high antibiotics content.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Rodman’s North Korea Trip Turns Total Evil Into a Joke

Last Thursday, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met with, of all people, former basketball player Dennis Rodman in what is being billed as an attempt at “basketball diplomacy.”

The trip was filmed to be aired on HBO, and occurs amid strained diplomatic relations with the U.S., who among other nations, recently denounced North Korea’s nuclear testing.

More importantly, Rodman’s meeting with the infamous despot shows how sick as a culture we have become that we take total evil as a joke.

Rodman told ABC News host George Stephanopoulos that the 28-year-old ruler “is not his father” and “don’t want to do war.” Rodman also said, “I don’t condone what he does,” speaking to the murderous regime’s notorious reputation of systemic dehumanization, torture and forced labor camps, but failed to come up with an explanation on why he didn’t bring any of it up to the leader.

In an interview last week, Rodman expressed his “love” for Un and labeled him “really awesome.” He also said he thought Un’s father and grandfather, Kim Jong Il and Kim Il Sung, “were great leaders.”

In reality, North Korea is an over-the-top tyranny, where its 20+ million people are starved and all aspects of political life are tightly controlled by a party of thugs.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

“Unfit” Shari’ah Infuriates Aussie Muslims

CAIRO — A parliamentary report denouncing Islamic Shari’ah and polygamy as unfitting the basis of multiculturalism in Australia is inviting criticism from the Muslim community in the country. “Shari’ah is just a term that applies to all religious practices, including being good neighbors and citizens,” Keysar Trad, assistant secretary of the Federation of Islamic Councils, told The Australian on Monday, March 4…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Anti-Islam Leaflet Incites Tension

Residents have been bombarded with an anonymous anti-Islamic letter drop, protesting against the proposed development of 150 houses by Qartaba Homes in Riverstone and Schofields

Rivo Respect, Responsibility & Recognition founders Danielle Fragomeli and Carroline Parkes said hundreds of flyers titled ‘Future of Riverstone a Muslim enclave’, as well as an eight-page booklet titled “Islam Aggressive Religion, Totalitarian Political System’ had been distributed. The pair said the letter-drop had caused panic among some community members…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Muslim Groups Attack Findings on Sharia

MUSLIM groups have criticised the findings of a forthcoming parliamentary report on multiculturalism that denounces Islamic law and polygamous marriages.

Federation of Islamic Councils assistant secretary Keysar Trad said the report’s findings, revealed in The Australian’s Sunday edition yesterday, showed a “continued misunderstanding” of sharia . “Sharia is just a term that applies to all religious practices, including being good neighbours and citizens,” he said…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Corruption ‘Main Deterrent to Investment in Mozambique’

(AGI) — Maputo, March 4 — Corruption is one of the main factors hindering improvement in Mozambique businesses, reported the Business Environment Index for 2012. “Corruption is a factor that discourages potential investment, increases costs and reduces business opportunities. Consequently it reduces economic growth,” said the index published by professional services company KPMG in Maputo.

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

Mali: Dozens of Islamists Rounded Up in Mali, DNA Tests on Corpse of Possible Aqim Leader

French and Malian troops have rounded up about 50 suspected Islamist fighters on an island near north Mali’s main town, Gao. French and Algerian experts are carrying out DNA tests on a corpse to confirm suspicions that local Al Qaida high-up Abou Zeid was killed in fighting in the Ifoghas mountains this week. In an operation Thursday, French and Malian troops swooped on an island near the village of Kadji and detained up to 50 men…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Namibia: On the Spot — ‘Islam is a Universal and Authentic Way of Life’

THE Head of the Windhoek Islamic Centre based in Windhoek West, Dr Armas Abdul Malik Shikongo, spoke with New Era journalist, Alvine Kapitako, about the religion of Islam and its similarities with Christianity, as well as other issues pertaining to the faith.

Islam is one of the leading and fastest growing religions in the world. When did Islam really start taking centre stage in Namibia?

“Yes, it is true that statistically and globally Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world, yet Islam is hardly known in Namibia, as the history of Islam in the country is very short. The first indigenous female Namibian is believed to have embraced Islam in the 1940s, while the first indigenous male is believed to have embraced Islam in 1979. Though individual Muslims and few Muslim families have been in Namibia, mainly from South Africa, before independence, Islam only started to pick up more followers from the local population after 1990. The total number of Muslims before independence was estimated by Muslims themselves to have been around 250, but now the total number of Muslims in the country, inclusive of expatriates and non-indigenous Namibians is estimated at between 4500 — 5000 with most Muslims residing in Windhoek, possibly between 1000 — 2000. This is a mere 0.5 percent of the total Namibian population, and as such the Muslim population in Namibia is a tiny minority.”…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Somalia: Blasts Kill Two at Mogadishu Beach

Mogadishu — Twin explosions have rocked a restaurant near the Lido resort beach in Mogadishu, Friday killing two people including the suicide bomber and wounding seven others.

According to witnesses, the first attack was by a suicide bomber wearing a vest packed with explosives that blew up inside the restaurant but only killing the perpetrator…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

The New Patriarch of the Ethiopian Tewahdo Orthodox Church — Abune Mathias

The Ethiopian Tewahdo Orthodox Church has elected Abune Matthias as its new Patriarch, replacing Abune Paulos who passed away in August last year. Under the title “His Holiness, Abuna Mathias, Sixth Patriarch and Catholicos of Ethiopia” the new Patriarch was elected by 500 votes out of 806 cast by members of the church synod living in Ethiopia and elsewhere…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Violence Begins as Kenyans Start Voting in Crucial Election

Long lines of Kenyans queued from far before dawn to vote Monday in the first election since the violence-racked polls five years ago, with a deadly police ambush hours before polling started marring the key ballot.

The tense elections are seen as a crucial test for Kenya, with leaders vowing to avoid a repeat of the bloody 2007-8 post-poll violence in which over 1,100 people were killed, with observers repeatedly warning of the risk of renewed conflict. Voters standing in snaking lines several hundreds of yards long — and several people thick — crowded peacefully outside polling stations to partake in one of the most complex elections Kenya has ever held.

People began lining up outside polling stations from as early as 4:00 am (0100 GMT) to cast their votes, two hours ahead of the official opening of the polls, with delays reported in some areas. In middle-class areas of Nairobi, parked cars blocked the streets around polling stations. Tensions were high in the port city of Mombasa, where an ambush blamed on a separatist movement killed at least 12 people hours before the opening of polling stations, police said…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Will Kenya’s Democracy Hold?

by Garvan Walshe

Kenyans go to the polls today to elect a president for the first time since their last violently disputed general election five years ago. Some 1300 people died in the fighting that broke out in December 2007 and January 2008, as supporters of rival candidates clashed on ethnic lines, and began to burn down houses and villages. This time two of the candidates, whose supporters meted out violence to each other last time, Uhuru Kenyatta, son of the independence leader and sometime resident of Pimlico’s Alderney Street Jomo Kenyatta, and William Ruto, have formed an alliance…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: Census That Revealed a Troubling Future

by Douglas Murray

Imagine yourself back in 2002. The census for England and Wales, compiled the previous year, has just come out, showing the extent to which the country has changed. You decide to extrapolate from the findings and speculate about what the next decade might bring. “The Muslim population of Britain will double in the next ten years,” you conclude. “White Britons will become a minority in their own capital city by the end of this decade.”

How would those statements by your younger self have been greeted? The terms “alarmist” and “scaremongering” would certainly have been used, as most likely would “racist” and (though the coinage was in its infancy) “Islamophobe”. Safe to say, your extrapolations would not have been greeted warmly. Readers inclined to doubt this might recall that when the then Times journalist Anthony Browne made far less startling comments in 2002, they were denounced by then Home Secretary David Blunkett — using parliamentary privilege — as “bordering on fascism”.

Yet that widely abused younger self of 2002 would be proved utterly right. The 2011 census, published at the end of last year, revealed the following facts and more. It showed that the number of people living in England and Wales who were born overseas rose by nearly three million in the last decade alone. Only 44.9 per cent of London residents are now white British. And nearly three million people in England and Wales live in households where not one adult speaks English as their main language…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Detroit Conference for Gay and Lesbian Muslims Aims for Inclusion, Empowerment

Gay and lesbian Muslims are holding a two-day conference in Detroit this weekend featuring a gay Muslim leader who grew up in Detroit. Called the “Queer Muslim Gathering,” the event is hosted by Kick, an African-American gay and lesbian group based in Detroit, and Muslims for Progressive Values…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Roger Scruton on Lord Rennard, Cardinal O’Brien and Inappropriate Behaviour

Our society has not come to terms with the sexual revolution, and one proof of this is the extent to which people seem now free to accuse each other of sexual misdemeanours and ‘inappropriate’ advances, without knowing or caring whether these constitute a crime. This matter is of great concern to conservatives who, for all their reticence in the matter, are well aware that sexual life ought not to be a free for all, and that conventions, manners and a certain distance between the sexes are fundamental to both individual happiness and social peace. Like other modern people, however, they stumble through this dangerous territory without the light of religious principle to guide them, and leaning, when it is necessary to lean, on an entirely makeshift philosophy. Indeed, it seems to me that the absence of a robust view of sex is one reason for the ideological weakness of the Conservative Party. The hesitation over family values, the sudden and unexplained enthusiasm for gay marriage, the easy toleration of ‘non-discrimination’ laws that marginalise the old morality — all these are ways of papering over an enormous hole in the conservative vision, and one that simply did not exist when the founding fathers of conservatism wrote in the 18th century…

[Reader comment by Gary Powell on 2 March 2013 at 9:29 am.]

Rather ironic that Roger Scruton writes about matters that he thinks should be “governed by manners”, whilst taking the liberty of describing Lord Rennard’s appearance as “hideous”. Whatever Lord Rennard may or may not have done, such gratuitous rudeness is uncalled for, and has no place in intelligent and mature discussion.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Alien Life Could be Detectable on Planets Around Dying Stars

A white dwarf is a dead star that slowly cools down until it fades into oblivion. Yet it has been predicted that habitable planets can orbit a white dwarf. If we can somehow detect these planets, would we also be able to spot signs of life?

Scientists have created an artificial spectrum showing that the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) will be capable of detecting oxygen and water on an Earth-like planet orbiting a white dwarf.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Hell Holes: Torture, Starvation and Murder the Norm at World’s Worst Gulags


The imprisonment of American Christian Pastor Saeed Abedini in Iran’s infamous Evin prison has sparked an international outcry and shined a spotlight on one of the world’s cruelest gulags.

But Evin is just one of many prisons where conditions exist that would shock medieval jailers, and where the level of human misery is incalculable. Prisoners brazenly carrying guns and machetes, guards rousting inmates in the night for mock executions and captives forced to stand in water up to their noses for 24 hours when they’re not being worked literally to death are common at the world’s most draconian dungeons. Most operate in rogue nations, beyond the influence of human rights organizations or appeals from Western nations. The few who have escaped or been freed carry the scars from their imprisonment for the rest of their lives.

CAMP 22 and the North Korean gulag system:

Also known as Hoeryong concentration camp, and part of a large system of prison camps throughout the communist dictatorship, Camp 22 is an 87-square-mile penal colony located in the North Hamgyong province colony where most of the prisoners are people accused of criticizing the government.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Where’s Hobbes?

by David Runciman

Why did Hobbes write Leviathan? With some philosophical masterpieces this might seem a redundant question: they got written because their authors felt the truths in them had to be set down. But Thomas Hobbes broke off from writing what was meant to be his philosophical masterpiece in order to produce Leviathan. In the late 1640s, while in Paris to escape the extreme hazards of the English civil war, Hobbes had been labouring away on De Corpore, the foundational part of a projected Latin trilogy of natural and social philosophy. He was stuck, bogged down in intractable puzzles of metaphysics and mathematics. For years he had been promising friends it was nearly done; for years he had been missing his self-imposed deadlines. The third part of the trilogy — the political part — was already finished and had been published in 1642 and then more widely in 1647, under the title De Cive. Yet in the summer of 1649 Hobbes stopped work on De Corpore to churn out another treatise on politics that essentially rehashed the arguments he had circulated two years before (as Noel Malcolm says, the earlier book was almost certainly open on his desk as he wrote the later one). His progress on Leviathan was as fast as his work on De Corpore had been slow: he had a draft of the first thirty-seven chapters written in less than a year, and the whole thing (over 200,000 words) was done by early 1651. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that the greatest work of political philosophy in the English language was a giant displacement activity…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

One thought on “Gates of Vienna News Feed 3/4/2013

  1. A propos the matter of the self-proclaimed “cannibals:” I respectfully propose that human ingestion of human flesh henceforth be criminalized as Race Treason. These self-styled “cannibals'” stock-in-trade seems to be misogynistic sadism. The activity in which they hypothecate engaging is anti-human apostasy from the human race.

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