News Feed 20111220

Financial Crisis
» A Currency Crisis Debate: ‘The Euro-Zone Bailout Programs Must be Stopped’
» Belgian Unions Call General Strike Over Pension Reform
» Brussels: France Telecom Pension Funding Approved
» EU States Fail to Cobble Together €200bn for IMF
» Euro is ‘Irreversible’ And ‘Permanent’, Says ECB Chief
» IMF Releases 2.9 Bn Euros to Portugal
» ‘Miracle’ if France Keeps Triple-a Rating: Market Regulator
» Now Germany Woos Britain Over EU Rift: PM’s Defiance Rewarded as Merkel’s Man Snubs Sarko
» Party for Freedom: “Barroso: Avoid a Global Trade War”
» Resistance in London: Britain Refuses to Boost IMF Aid for Euro Crisis
» Spain Raises 5.640 Bn Euros in Short-Term Debt
» What Crisis? German Economy Defying European Gloom
» Caroline Glick: Tom Friedman’s Losing Battle
» Frank Borzellieri: Victim of the New Orthodoxy
» Hindu Americans Shocked and Outraged at Attempts to Ban the Bhagavad Gita in Russia
» It’s a Small World: Kepler Spacecraft Discovers First Known Earth-Size Exoplanets
» Justice Dept. Silent as Holder Charges Critics With Racism
» MA Man Guilty of Plot to Kill Soldiers
» Over 2 Bln Christians Worldwide, US Study Shows
» Republicans in House Reject Deal Extending Payroll Tax Cut
» US Investigation Links Lebanese Canadian Bank to Hezbollah
Europe and the EU
» Congolese Protesters Clash in Brussels
» COPPEM: Foundation for Interreligious Dialogue in Palermo
» France: Croissant Robber Terrorizes Paris Bakeries
» Germany: Anti-Fascists Brick Up Neo-Nazi Politician’s Front Door
» Italy: Berlusconi Sex-Case Woman Gives Birth to Baby Girl
» Italy: Mussolini Likens Monti to Fidel Castro
» Liège Killings: Justice Minister Tightens Up Arms Legislation
» Maggots Clean Wounds Faster Than Surgeons
» Moroccan Imam Should be Barred: Dutch Minister
» Spain: Iran and S. Arabia Launch 2 TV Channels in Spanish
» Switzerland: Readers Flee Basel Daily After Blocher Takeover
» The Far-Right Undertones of Romanian Politics
» UDC Leader Wants Citizenship for All Those Born in Italy
» UK: Foreign Student, 22, Arrested at Birmingham Airport on Suspicion of ‘Carrying Terrorist Document’
» UK: Jihad and Jews Don’t Go Together
» UK: Judge’s Fury at Billionaire Arab Prince After He Fails to Attend High Court Over Claims He Married Model in Secret Ceremony
» UK: Lutfur Rahman Can be Described as Extremist-Backed Rules Press Complaints Commission (But We Will Publish His Denials)
» UK: Martin Bright Continues His Campaign to Poison Relations Jewish and Muslim Communities
» UK: Rioting Arsonists Could be Shot if They Endanger Lives
North Africa
» Clinton: “Violence on Women Dishonours Revolution”
» Egypt Riots Threaten Cultural Sites as Cairo Library Goes Up in Flame
» Egypt Releases 27 Copts Falsely Detained in Maspero Massacre
» Egypt: Thousands of Women March Against Mistreatment in Tahrir Square After Protester Was Stripped to Bra and Beaten by Troops
» Napoleon’s ‘Description De L’Egypte’ Lost to Fire Amid Clashes
» Obama Praises Tunisia’s “Inclusive Transition”
Middle East
» Crisis Unfolds in Iraq
» France-Turkey: Paris and Ankara at Loggerheads Over Armenians
» US Concerned About Arrest of Iraq’s Vice President Hashemi
» Indian Uproar at Call in Russia to Ban Hindu Holy Book Bhagavad Gita
» Russian Church Keen to Limit ISKCON Activities
South Asia
» 675 Pakistan ‘Honour Killing’ Victims
» India Slams ‘Absurd’ Bid to Ban Gita in Russia
» Indonesia: Thousands of Police to Guard Christmas
» Indonesian Widows to Seek Dutch Justice
» ISKCON Monks Demonstrate in Front of Russian Consulate
» Pakistani Chops Off Wife’s Nose, Lips
Far East
» Kim Jong-Il, the Leader From Hell
» Next N. Korea Leader Got Swiss Education: Reports
» Uncle Jang: The Real Power Behind Kim the Younger
Latin America
» Mystery of Amazonian Tribe’s Head Shapes Solved
» Denmark: Over-Qualified Immigrants Outnumber Over-Qualified Natives
» UK: The Killer Shielded by the Home Office: Family’s Fury as Officials Say it is Against Law to Reveal if Son’s Murderer is an Illegal Migrant
Culture Wars
» Apostasy and Blasphemy Codes Are Choking Freedom Worldwide
» Norway: Minister Mulls Local Election Gender Quotas
» Santa Claus to Visit Schools in Saugus After All, After Initially Being Told to Stay Away
» Boob Job Vouchers ‘Not a Good Gift Idea’

Financial Crisis

A Currency Crisis Debate: ‘The Euro-Zone Bailout Programs Must be Stopped’

How to save the euro? Some believe that the European Central Bank is the key to any solution. Others think that the euro zone should be contracted and the weak members squeezed out. SPIEGEL spoke with two leading German economists about the currency’s future. Their one area of agreement? Something must be done quickly.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Belgian Unions Call General Strike Over Pension Reform

Belgian trade unions called for a general strike in the public sector on Thursday to protest the new government’s pension reform plans, aimed at making it tougher to take early retirement. fter a 24-hour strike call from late Wednesday through Thursday by the SNCB railworkers’ union, other public sector unions Monday joined the protest, urging a stop-work in public transport, postal services and the administration.

The one-day strike will throw up the first challenge faced by Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo’s centre-left government, which took office December 6 pledging to cut spending to trim the country’s debt and deficit — respectively at 96.2 percent and 4.1 percent of GDP in 2010. The Socialist party leader has pledged to maintain pension payments but due to the aging population is proposing to delay early retirement, except in some cases.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Brussels: France Telecom Pension Funding Approved

Attention to market liberalisation of sector crucial

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, DECEMBER 20 — The European Commission has said that funding for the pensions of France Telecom officials are in line with EU regulations on state aid. The reduced contributions by the telecommunications company had been compensated with a 5.7 billion-euro payment by France Telecom to the French state in 1997. This decision is linked to the July 2012 alignment of the calculation for annual contribution by France Telecom with that of its competitors, instead of continuing to pay less than in the past, receiving de facto state aid. This will happen without any impact on employee contributions or on the amount of their pensions. “Maintaining healthy competition,” said Joaquin Almunia, EU Competition Commissioner,” among the large European operators in the telecommunications field is crucial for the competitiveness of our economies and employment. After complete market liberalisation, the EU Commission must keep a watchful one on the dossiers in relation to the former monopolies.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

EU States Fail to Cobble Together €200bn for IMF

Eurozone countries on Monday (19 December) agreed to pay €150bn to a special IMF fund but failed to reach their total ceiling of 200bn among all EU states, as pledged at a summit on 9 December, with Britain refusing to contribute to the euro-saving scheme. After a three-hour long conference organised by Jean-Claude Juncker, Luxembourg’s Prime Minister and head of the informal group of eurozone finance ministers, only the contributions of the euro countries were clearly spelled out, amounting to a total of €150 billion.

Germany will be the largest contributor, with €41.5 billion, followed by France (€31.4bn), Spain (€14.8bn) and the Netherlands (€13.6bn). Euro-countries already under an EU-IMF bail-out — Greece, Ireland and Portugal — are not listed as contributors. IMF- supported EU countries outside the common currency — Hungary, Romania and Latvia — will also not be coughing up. Lithuania, still recovering from the financial crisis, and Bulgaria, the EU’s poorest member, are not participating, either. Britain refused to contribute to this special IMF fund to be set up for the eurozone rescue, saying it will top up its share to the general IMF reserves.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Euro is ‘Irreversible’ And ‘Permanent’, Says ECB Chief

The euro is “irreversible” and will overcome the crisis, European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi said in his first appearance in front of the European Parliament’s economics committee on Monday (19 December), while making the case for austerity and fiscal discipline. In line with Berlin and the ECB’s own stance so far, Draghi rejected calls for his institution to step in majorly to alleviate the borrowing costs of Italy and Spain, which in turn would help them restore economic growth and jobs.

Pressed by MEPs to explain why the ECB puts its “credibility” higher than actually boosting economic growth and jobs in troubled eurozone countries, similar to what the US Federal Reserve or the British central bank are doing, Draghi insisted that his institution does not have “the mandate” for such intervention. “The Fed’s mandate is different, it is also geared on growth and jobs. We are much more restricted to monetary stability,” he explained.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

IMF Releases 2.9 Bn Euros to Portugal

The International Monetary Fund said Monday it would release 2.9 billion euros ($3.8 billion) to Portugal in the newest installment of the country’s huge rescue loan. The release follows the second IMF formal review of Portugal’s progress on budget austerity and economic reforms under the 78-billion-euro IMF-European Union bailout program launched last May.

Last week the government announced it was well below the ceiling for the fiscal deficit set under the IMF-EU program. The government headed by Pedro Passos Coelho said the deficit would likely not exceed 4.5 percent of output this year, sharply below the maximum 5.9 percent set by creditors. Last year, the deficit hit 9.8 percent of gross domestic product.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

‘Miracle’ if France Keeps Triple-a Rating: Market Regulator

It would be a miracle for France to retain its triple-A credit rating, threatened by the eurozone debt crisis, the head of its main market regulator said on Tuesday. Keeping it would amount to a miracle, but I’d still like to believe it,” said Jean-Pierre Jouyet, the outspoken head of the AMF regulation agency.

Ratings agencies have warned that France is exposed to the sovereign debt crisis gripping southern Europe and have threatened to downgrade its hitherto perfect rating. The government has protested that it has embarked on an austerity programme backed by a pact with fellow eurozone members to guarantee deficit reduction.

Any suggestion that France’s debt of 1.7 trillion euros ($2.2 trillion) is becoming unmanageable could send the interest rate it pays on bonds soaring. Earlier, the French treasury announced that it would need to raise 178 billion euros ($232 billion) in medium and long-term bonds next year.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Now Germany Woos Britain Over EU Rift: PM’s Defiance Rewarded as Merkel’s Man Snubs Sarko

Germany launched an extraordinary charm offensive to try to get Britain back to the EU negotiating table last night despite George Osborne’s refusal to contribute billions to a Brussels begging bowl.

Guido Westerwelle, the German foreign minister, used a visit to London to extend an olive branch, lavishing praise on the UK as an ‘indispensable partner’ and promising a ‘hands-off’ approach to our financial services industry.

There are increasing signs Germany is prepared to go behind France’s back and contemplate giving David Cameron the special protections for the City of London that were refused at a crunch summit this month, prompting the Prime Minister to veto an EU-wide power-sharing treaty.

Mr Westerwelle, speaking alongside Foreign Secretary William Hague, promised a prosperous future for the City. He said Germany wanted the EU’s next steps to involve all 27 member states, adding: ‘My main message is for the British people — you can count on us, and we can count on you.

‘There is no doubt that we want to make the next steps in the EU together as 27. I am here to show you that we are willing to build bridges over troubled water.’

The remarks about ‘building bridges’ were in stark contrast to days of aggressive rhetoric from the French, who appear keen to see Britain exit the EU altogether.

Ministers were privately appalled by suggestions from France, which looks likely to lose its gold-plated credit rating within weeks, that the UK should be downgraded first.

The Chancellor risked heightening tensions last night as he confirmed Britain will not sign up to a 200billion-euro package of European loans to the International Monetary Fund, the world’s economic rescue service.

Mr Osborne is refusing to expose more British taxpayers’ cash through the IMF to a eurozone bailout package, despite suggestions that we should contribute about £25billion.

In a conference call with 26 other EU finance ministers, Mr Osborne repeated the Government’s position that the UK is prepared to increase contributions by up to £10billion, but only when EU leaders boost their own bailout fund and not for any scheme specifically for the single currency.

‘The UK has always been willing to consider further resources for the IMF, but for its global role and as part of a global agreement,’ a Treasury spokesman said.

A Government source said no one in Europe should be surprised at Britain’s stance, which had been clear for several weeks. ‘It’s called “doing what you say you’re going to do”. Get used to it,’ the source said.

Eurozone countries appear to have cobbled together their own 150billion-euro boost for IMF resources — nowhere near enough to bail out Italy, Spain or other debt-stricken economies in peril.

To the frustration of British officials, the European Central Bank again rejected suggestions that it should embark on a programme of quantitative easing — effectively printing money — in order to help governments repay their debts.

The bank has refused to do so, insisting it is up to national governments to put their houses in order.

ECB president Mario Draghi said EU rules ‘forbid monetary financing of states’ by the central bank.

A report from a key UN body yesterday warned the world is heading for a repeat of the Great Depression of the 1930s.

The UN Commission for Trade and Development issued the strongest warning yet from a major international organisation.

It said: ‘Unless there is a rapid policy turnaround, the world is in danger of repeating the mistakes of the 1930s.

In today’s highly integrated global economy, the contractionary contagion will affect all countries. Emerging and developing economies need to prepare contingency plans.’

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former head of the IMF, warned the EU’s firewall to staunch the spread of the crisis ‘doesn’t really exist’.

           — Hat tip: KGS [Return to headlines]

Party for Freedom: “Barroso: Avoid a Global Trade War”

The Party for Freedom delegation in the European Parliament has sent a letter to the President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso. They urge him, in this letter, to end the unilateral introduction of the European CO2 emission trading system (ETS) for aviation. The unilateral introduction of the ETS is likely to result in a global trade war while Russia, India, China and the US threaten to retaliate.

Member of the European Parliament Laurence Stassen: “Barroso has to withdraw the ETS proposal. The introduction of the ETS will lead to a rapidly deteriorating competitiveness of European airline companies and might trigger a global trade war. The U.S. is even preparing legislation that forbids US airline companies to respect the forthcoming European legislation.”

The Party for Freedom delegation sounded the alarm several times in recent months (*) and is afraid that Brussels is only interested in a political objective and that they have lost sight on the potential economic impact of the introduction of the ETS.

           — Hat tip: The PVV [Return to headlines]

Resistance in London: Britain Refuses to Boost IMF Aid for Euro Crisis

EU finance ministers wanted to raise 200 billion euros to boost the International Monetary Fund’s firepower in the euro crisis, but they only raised 150 billion on Monday, largely due to resistance from Britain. Germany, meanwhile, will have to rework its 2012 budget to help finance the new permanent euro rescue fund.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Spain Raises 5.640 Bn Euros in Short-Term Debt

Spain raised 5.640 billion euros ($7.4 billion) in an auction of short-term debt on Tuesday, borrowing more money than first planned as it locked in sharply lower borrowing rates. Spain had originally planned to sell 3.5-4.5 billion euros in three- and six-month bills in Tuesday’s auction.

Rates fell dramatically from the previous comparable auction last month, a sign of easing market tension, and European stock markets and the euro rose firmly in response to this and strong confidence data from Germany. Investors have shown concerns this year over Spain’s debt because of doubts over its ability to repay borrowers at a time of bulging deficits and an economic slump that has created a 21.5-percent jobless rate.

A new conservative government takes power on Thursday after winning a November 20 election by a landslide on promises to cut the deficit and boost jobs. In Tuesday’s auction the borrowing rate on the three-month bills was down to 1.735 percent from 5.110 percent in the last sale. For the six-month bills, the rate fell to 2.435 percent from 5.227 percent.

Demand was very high, with investors bidding for 18.4 billion euros of bills in total, encouraging the Treasury to borrow more than the amount first planned — as it had also done in the two previous debt auctions. Spain has promised to slash its public deficit from 9.3 percent of gross domestic product last year to 6.0 percent of GDP this year, 4.4 percent of GDP in 2012 and 3.0 percent of GDP — the European Union limit — in 2013.

In a speech on Monday ahead of his investiture, incoming prime minister Mariano Rajoy laid out his plans to create jobs, clean up banks and reassure investors that he can stabilise Spain’s finances. He said Spain would take measures to cut its deficit by 16.5 billion euros in 2012 but acknowledged that it may fail to meet the 6.0-percent deficit target this year.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

What Crisis? German Economy Defying European Gloom

German companies and consumers are upbeat about the future, according to economic surveys released on Tuesday. They show that Europe’s largest economy has remained resilient in the face of the euro crisis despite expectations that the common currency zone is headed for recession.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]


Caroline Glick: Tom Friedman’s Losing Battle

For decades New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman balanced his substantively anti-Israel positions with repeated protestations of love for Israel.

His balancing act ended last week when he employed traditional anti-Semitic slurs to dismiss the authenticity of substantive American support for Israel.

Channeling the longstanding anti-Semitic charge that Jewish money buys support for power-hungry Jews best expressed in the forged 19th century Protocols of the Elders of Zion and in John Mearshimer’s and Stephen Walt’s 2007 book The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy, Friedman denied the significance of the US Congress’s overwhelming support for Israel.

As he put it, “I sure hope that Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, understands that the standing ovation he got in Congress this year was not for his politics. That ovation was bought and paid for by the Israel lobby.”…

           — Hat tip: Caroline Glick [Return to headlines]

Frank Borzellieri: Victim of the New Orthodoxy

Frank Borzellieri was the principal of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, a predominantly black and Hispanic Catholic elementary school located in the Bronx,New York. This past summer, in spite of having had a stellar record during his tenure, Borzellieri was abruptly terminated from the office that he held for two years. Unlike those sexually abusive priests who the Church harbored for decades, Borzellieri is not guilty of any crime. In fact, he isn’t so much as suspected of having engaged in any criminal activity whatsoever. Nor is it the case that Borzellieri, a committed Catholic, was deemed to have deviated from Our Lady of Mount Carmel’s Catholic mission.

Still, Borzellieri was judged, and justly, of holding quite heterodox views. But the orthodoxy from which he deviated is not that of Catholicism, but that of “Political Correctness. Borzellieri, you see, dared to defy the conventional dogma on race. For this, he was essentially branded a “white supremacist” by the New York Daily News and fired by the Archdiocese of New York. In early August of this year, the Archdiocese of New York released a statement in which it said that Borzellieri’s views were “incompatible with the philosophy and practices of Our Lady of Mount Carmel School, and with Catholic schools throughout the archdiocese.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Hindu Americans Shocked and Outraged at Attempts to Ban the Bhagavad Gita in Russia

Washington, D.C. (December 20, 2011) — The Hindu American community expressed shock and outrage over a recent attempt in Russia to ban the Bhagavad Gita, one of Hinduism’s holiest scriptures. The case was reportedly initiated by state prosecutors in the Siberian town of Tomsk, where they are trying to ban the scripture by labeling it “extremist.” According to representatives of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) in Russia, the state prosecutors have taken select words from the Bhagavad Gita out of context, in an effort to officially proscribe the text. The version of the Gita in question is a Russian translation by A C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder of ISKCON.

In response to the case, a number of Hindus in Russia have come together to form the Hindu Council of Russia in order to protect their rights. Hindu community leaders have also approached the Indian embassy in Russia for assistance, while the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) has formally presented its concerns to Russian embassy officials here in Washington, D.C. (click here to download the letter) and requested a meeting to further address the situation.

“The actions of Russian prosecutors are indefensible and represent a draconian attempt to restrict the religious freedom of Hindus in Russia,” said Suhag Shukla, HAF Managing Director and Legal Counsel. “By promoting a narrow and intolerant agenda that demonizes a sacred scripture revered by more than one billion Hindus worldwide, Russian officials are acting contrary to the principles of a free democratic society.”

Originally scheduled to issue its verdict on Monday, December 19, the court reviewing the case decided to postpone its verdict until December 28 to gather additional opinions of experts from Moscow and St. Petersburg.

“We urge the Russian judiciary and government to uphold the basic rights of their Hindu citizens,” said Jay Kansara, HAF’s Washington, D.C. based Associate Director. “Any court ruling or law that would prohibit the Bhagavad Gita or any other Hindu religious literature would be considered a direct attack on the civil liberties of Russia’s Hindu community and an affront to Hindus throughout the world.”

           — Hat tip: RW [Return to headlines]

It’s a Small World: Kepler Spacecraft Discovers First Known Earth-Size Exoplanets

NASA’s planet-hunting observatory claims its smallest two finds yet, but neither looks hospitable to life

NASA’s Kepler spacecraft is starting to put the pieces together in its search for virtual Earth twins in other planetary systems. Kepler, which launched in 2009, is on the lookout for planets that are about the size of Earth and have temperate surface conditions. One half of that formula was realized on December 5 when mission scientists announced the discovery of a planet in the so-called habitable zone, called Kepler 22 b, a few times larger than Earth. Now Kepler has located its first two Earth-size worlds, and although neither are plausibly hospitable to life, it seems only a matter of time before the mission scores its ultimate goal.

The two new worlds orbit a sunlike star 950 light-years away called Kepler 20. One has dimensions almost identical to our own planet; the other is just 87 percent Earth’s diameter. The planets, which by convention have been assigned the names Kepler 20 f and Kepler 20 e, respectively, are the smallest exoplanets for which diameters are known. Francois Fressin and Guillermo Torres of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and their colleagues announced the discoveries in a paper published online December 20 in Nature. (Scientific American is part of Nature Publishing Group.)

“For the first time, we’ve crossed the threshold of finding Earth-size worlds,” Torres says. “The next step is having an Earth-size planet in the habitable zone.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Justice Dept. Silent as Holder Charges Critics With Racism

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder (2nd L)) points his finger as he talks to a member of the press at the end of an event to launch a campaign to combat the purchase and sale of counterfeit and pirated products November 29, 2011 at the South Court Auditorium of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building of the White House in Washington, DC. According to a news release from the Department of Justice, the campaign will educate the public on various forms of intellectual property theft, from counterfeit consumer goods and pharmaceuticals to illegal downloads and other pirated materials, with highlight on the potential health, safety and economic consequences for American citizens. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Attorney General Eric Holder accused his growing chorus of critics of racist motivations in a Sunday interview published in the New York Times. When reached by The Daily Caller Monday morning, the Department of Justice provided no evidence to support the attorney general’s claims.

Holder said some unspecified faction — what he refers to as the “more extreme segment” — is driven to criticize both him and President Barack Obama due to the color of their skin. Holder did not appear to elaborate on who he considered to make up the “more extreme segment.”

“This is a way to get at the president because of the way I can be identified with him,” Holder said, according to the Times. “Both due to the nature of our relationship and, you know, the fact that we’re both African-American.”

The White House hasn’t returned requests for comment on whether President Barack Obama agrees with his top law enforcement officer’s allegations of racial motivations. Holder’s accusations come as resignation calls mount from a growing list of 60 congressmen, two senators, every major Republican presidential candidate and two sitting governors, spurred on by the congressional investigation into Operation Fast and Furious.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

MA Man Guilty of Plot to Kill Soldiers

Tarek Mehanna found guilty on all counts

BOSTON (AP) — A Massachusetts man was convicted Tuesday of conspiring to help al-Qaida and plotting to kill U.S. soldiers in Iraq.

Tarek Mehanna, 24, of Sudbury, faced four terror-related charges and three charges of lying to authorities. A federal jury convicted him Tuesday of all counts.

Prosecutors said Mehanna and two friends conspired to travel to Yemen so they could receive training at a terrorism camp and eventually go on to Iraq to fight and kill U.S. soldiers there.

When the men were unable to find such a training camp, Mehanna returned home and began to see himself as part of the al-Qaida “media wing,” translating materials promoting violent jihad and distributing them over the Internet, prosecutors said.

Mehanna will be sentenced April 12 and could be sent to prison for the rest of his life. His mother, Souad Mehanna, sobbed after the verdict was read and was consoled by her younger son, Tamer. Mehanna’s lawyers also cried.

The defense lawyers portrayed Mehanna as an aspiring scholar of Islam who traveled to Yemen to look for religious schools, not to get terrorist training. They said his translation and distribution of controversial publications was free speech protected by the First Amendment.

Prosecutors focused on hundreds of online chats on Mehanna’s computer in which they said he and his friends talked about their desire to participate in jihad, or holy war. Several of those friends were called by prosecutors to testify against Mehanna, including one man who said he, Mehanna and a third friend tried to get terrorism training in Yemen so they could fight American soldiers in Iraq.

Mehanna’s lawyers told jurors that prosecutors were using scare tactics by portraying Mehanna as a would-be terrorist and were trying to punish him for his beliefs.

The defense built its case on the testimony of a half dozen terrorism experts. Mehanna did not testify.

His lawyers acknowledged that Mehanna expressed admiration for Osama bin Laden, but said he disagreed with bin Laden and other al-Qaida leaders about many things, including the use of suicide bombers and the killing of civilians.

Jurors began deliberating Friday. In his instructions to them, U.S. District Judge George O’Toole Jr. told jurors that in order to find Mehanna guilty of conspiracy to provide material support to al-Qaida, they must find that he worked “in coordination with or at the direction of” the terrorist organization. He said independent advocacy on behalf of the organization is not a violation of the law.

           — Hat tip: AC [Return to headlines]

Over 2 Bln Christians Worldwide, US Study Shows

(AGI) Washington — A US study show that Christians account for almost one third of the world’s population, estimated at 6,9 bln. According to the study, carried out by the Pew research Center, most of the world’s 2.18 billion Christians are living in the United States, Brazil and Mexico. Russia is the European country with the highest Christian population, while most of Asian and African Christians live in the Philippines and Nigeria, respectively. Half of all the Christians in the study were Catholics, 36.7% Protestants and 11.9% Orthodox.

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

Republicans in House Reject Deal Extending Payroll Tax Cut

House Republicans on Tuesday soundly rejected a bill approved by the Senate that would have extended the payroll tax cut for most Americans beyond the end of the year and allowed millions of unemployed people to continue receiving jobless benefits.

The House vote, which passed 229 to 193, also calls for establishing a negotiating committee so the two chambers can resolve their differences. Seven Republicans joined Democrats in opposition.

But the Senate has left town for the year, and Democrats say they do not intend to call it back, putting continuation of the tax cut in jeopardy and leaving a shadow over many unemployed Americans as the holidays near.

[Return to headlines]


US Investigation Links Lebanese Canadian Bank to Hezbollah

A US investigation has revealed that proceeds from drug smuggling and other criminal enterprises have been laundered through a prominent Lebanese bank and used as funding for militant group Hezbollah.

A six-year investigation by the United States into the inner workings of the Lebanese Canadian Bank (LCB), one of Beirut’s many secretive financial institutions, has revealed an intricate web of money laundering and criminal activity through which the militant group Hezbollah has been deriving new strands of funding.

In an extensive report by the New York Times last week, the US operation into the LCB’s activities, which began shortly after Hezbollah’s 2006 summer war with Israel, has revealed that the depths of the bank’s connections with the powerful Lebanese militant group have been carefully buried under untainted assets for years.

After painstakingly gathering information from undercover sources and networks, the investigation, according to the NYT, has hit pay dirt in the last few months with damaging evidence emerging during the sale of the LCB, a former subsidiary of the Royal Bank of Canada Middle East, to a Beirut-based partner of the French banking giant Société Générale.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Congolese Protesters Clash in Brussels

A hundred and forty-four people were detained on Saturday night as a thousand demonstrators protested against the result of the presidential elections in Congo. The demonstrators were unhappy with the decision of the Congolese High Court to declare incumbent President Joseph Kabila the winner of the presidential poll.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

COPPEM: Foundation for Interreligious Dialogue in Palermo

(ANSAmed) — PALERMO, DECEMBER 19 — The 2012 projects of the standing committee for the Euro Mediterranean partnership of local and regional authorities (COPPEM), which came together this weekend in Palermo for its sixteenth general assembly, include the constitution of a foundation for interreligious and intercultural dialogue supported by COPPEM, by the Sicily region and the Theology Faculty of Sicily. In May a conference on tourism will be organised in Marmaris, in Turkey, in cooperation with the Turkish, Israeli and Greece partners. In January there will be a mission to Libya to start the procedures for Libya’s accession to the COPPEM. SO far, Libya has participated in the assemblies as observer. Last weekend’s meeting was attended by mayors and governors of Mediterranean countries, representatives of the Arab Towns Organisation (ATO), of the congress of local and regional authorities of the European Council, of the Euro-Mediterranean Regional and Local Assembly (ARLEM) and of the Union of Mediterranean Universities (Unimed).

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

France: Croissant Robber Terrorizes Paris Bakeries

French police said on Tuesday they were on the hunt for a man in his forties who has held up a series of bakeries in Paris suburbs to steal croissants and other baked goods. Since December 9, the man has robbed five bakeries in western suburbs, police said, each time using the same modus operandi.

After placing an order, the man holds up what appears to be a fake revolver, points it at the person behind the cash register and takes his pastries without paying. No one has been injured in the robberies and in each case the value of the goods stolen has been low, at between €8 and €20.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Germany: Anti-Fascists Brick Up Neo-Nazi Politician’s Front Door

Anti-fascists in Lower Saxony bricked up the front door of a top member of the extreme-right National Democratic Party’s (NPD) home to protest against his presence at a city council meeting on Monday. The front door was neatly walled in overnight, and sealed with a poster reading, “House arrest for Nazis.” An antifascist spokeswoman said the action was a symbolic attempt to stop him leaving the house.

Police were called to the house in Oldenburg where Ulrich Eigenfeld, treasurer of the NPD, lives, after other people living there opened the front door and found their exit blocked. “The line is crossed for us when they leave the house with their misanthropic thinking,” said a spokeswoman for the group in an email, according to the Oldenburger Lokalteil website.

She said that although anti-fascists were against walls in society, naming nationalism, racism, sexism and the class system as examples, this was a different case. “We say — tear down walls! But for Nazis we make an exception,” she said.

Eigenfeld made it to the meeting of the Oldenburg council, but his speech was disrupted by a group of around 50 protesters who shouted while he tried to talk, and held up banners against the NPD, the Süddeutsche Zeitung reported on Tuesday.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Italy: Berlusconi Sex-Case Woman Gives Birth to Baby Girl

Karima El Mahroug’s partner say happiness ‘undescribable’

(ANSA) — Genoa, December 20 — The young woman former Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi is on trial for allegedly paying to have sex with before she was 18 gave birth to a baby girl here on Tuesday.

“She is well and with her mother,” said Karima El Mahroug’s partner, Luca Risso, after the birth of Sofia Aida Risso. “My happiness is undescribable”.

Prosecutors say El Mahroug, a Moroccan runaway and belly dancer also known as Ruby, was working as a prostitute at the time when she attended parties at the former premier’s home aged 17.

Berlusconi denies that he had sex with her and that he abused his power as premier to try to cover up the case. If found guilty, Berlusconi faces a total of 15 years in prison — three for paying for underage sex and 12 for abuse of power when he phoned a Milan police station where Ruby had been detained on an unrelated theft allegation.

The ex-premier says he believed Ruby was the niece of then Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and he was hoping to avoid a diplomatic incident with Egypt.

In three ongoing trials and many previous cases, Berlusconi has always denied wrongdoing, claiming he is the victim of a minority group of allegedly left-wing prosecutors and judges who he says are persecuting him for political reasons.

In more than a dozen cases, the ex-premier has never received a definitive conviction, sometimes because of law changes passed by his governments, while some other charges were timed out by the statute of limitations.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Mussolini Likens Monti to Fidel Castro

‘He does not have his stature’, says MP

(ANSA) — Rome, December 20 — Rightwing MP Alessandra Mussolini has likened Italy’s Premier Mario Monti and Industry Minister Corrado Passera to Cuba’s Communist dictator Fidel Castro.

“First you tax Italians, then you make them leave their work and beat them in the head and finish that without even allowing them to take their pensions,” Mussolini said. Mussolini, granddaughter of Benito Mussolini, was speaking on a TV programme on state broadcaster RAI.

“This is a government of ‘Cuban’ technicians. They have succeeded in taxing Italians. “Passera is like Fidel Castro, Premier Monti does not have his stature”.

Mussolini founded the national conservative political party Social Action and served in the European Parliament before becoming an MP in the Italian Parliament.

She is aligned with the People of Freedom party led by former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Liège Killings: Justice Minister Tightens Up Arms Legislation

Belgium’s brand new Justice Minister Annemie Turtelboom has plans to tighten up arms legislation following last week’s Liege massacre. Killer Nordine Amrani possessed a whole arsenal despite being refused a licence ten times.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Maggots Clean Wounds Faster Than Surgeons

The idea of putting maggots into open flesh may sound repulsive, but such a therapy might be a quick way to clean wounds, a new study from France suggests. Men in the study, all of whom had wounds that wouldn’t heal, were randomly assigned to have dead and unhealthy tissue removed from their lacerations by either standard surgical therapy or maggots (that eat dead tissue).

After about a week, men who received the maggot therapy had less dead tissue in their wounds than men who underwent surgery, the researchers said. However, after two weeks, the immature insects had lost their advantage: Both groups had about an equal amount of dead tissue in their wounds. And in the end, the maggots did not help the wounds heal faster.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Moroccan Imam Should be Barred: Dutch Minister

A Moroccan imam who has issued a religious decree that girls as young as nine years old can marry should not be let into the Netherlands, the Dutch foreign minister said Monday. “There are reasons why this person should be refused a visa,” Uri Rosenthal said in a letter, written to the country’s lower house of parliament.

Mohamed Al-Maghraoui was supposed to take part in a conference organised by The Hague-based As-Sunnah mosque later this week, Dutch media reported, but so far has not applied for a visa, said Rosenthal. “Seeing the amount of time needed to process the visa through consultation with the Schengen partners, the issuing of such a visa is practically not possible,” he added.

Rosenthal did not give reasons why the imam would be refused a visa. Author of a 2008 fatwa, or religious opinion that girls as young as nine can marry, Al-Maghraoui was condemned by Morocco’s top body of Islamic scholars for his views. His website was closed down the same year. The minimum marrying age for women in Morocco is 18.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Spain: Iran and S. Arabia Launch 2 TV Channels in Spanish

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, DECEMBER 20 — Two Islamic television channels in the Spanish language arrive around Christmas in Spain. The first, an Iranian channel, will start broadcasting on December 21, the second, a Saudi channel, on January 1. Both will use the Hispasat satellites for broadcasts in Spain and South America. According to sources in the audiovisual sector quoted today by El Pais, Hispan TV has started counting down to the day of tomorrow, when it will start broadcasting from Tehran. Its programmes are aimed at the a Spanish-speaking audience and can count on collaboration with Spanish journalists. The channel will start with 16 hours of television per day, which will be extended to 24 hours by the end of this winter. Its schedule includes information services, news, television series made in Iran and dubbed into Spanish, discussions on film, literature and religion. The programme ‘Debate abierto’ (Open debate) will focus on spreading the Shiite Islam, the dominant religion in Iran. “This new television network in Spanish will play a crucial role in reflecting the ideological legitimation of our system in the world,” Ezotollah Zarqami explained in October to the media. Zarqami is president of Irib, the organisation that groups Iranian public television channels, and Hispan TV will also join this organisation. The second new channel, Cordoba Television, will start its satellite broadcasts on January 1. It is managed by a Saudi foundation and can be received in Spain and South America. Its programmes, in Spanish, focus on the Islamic doctrine of Wahabism. Cordoba Television has its headquarters in the industrial centre of San Sebastian de los Reyes, in Madrid, and is part of the Foundation for the Message of the Islam, chaired by sheikh and theologian Abdulaziz al Fawzan — member of Saudi the council of wise men — and is backed by the Saudi royal family. Its schedule will initially include eight hours of television per day, in blocks that are repeated three times per day, mainly documentaries and debates on religion. The network has hired converted Spanish citizens and the sheikh can count on around fifty reporters from private national television networks Antena 3 and Telecinco. The second part of the sheikh’s plan includes, according to sources quoted by newspaper ABC some time ago, broadcasts of Cordoba TV in France, the UK and China as well. “This way Saleh Al Fawzan” according to the conservative newspaper, “not only fulfils one of the precepts of his doctrine, spreading this doctrine outside Saudi borders, but also makes his project part of the offensive of Islamic fundamentalism for the ‘recovery of Al Andalus’, which Muslims see as a lost paradise that has been occupied by the Spanish.” University professor of Islamic theology Imam Mohamed Ibn Saud is mentor of Cordoba TV and member of the Sharia (the Islamic legal system used in Saudi Arabia) Supervisory Board and of the Human Rights Committee, an organisation at the service of the Saudi government. “Sheikh Al Fawzan,” El Pais points out, “has been dedicated to spreading Wahabism, the ultra-conservative form of Islam that reigns in Saudi Arabia, for years. He preaches inflammatory sermons on Saudi television channel Al Ikhtariya and UAE channel Al Majd, in which he underlines the need to profess ‘a positive hate’ towards Christians and justifies the marginalisation of women in his country.” According to anti-terrorism experts, Cordoba TV could become a dangerous instrument of proselytism of radical Islam, destabilising the resident Muslim community in Spain. The name ‘Cordoba’ was not picked randomly: it was the capital of the Caliphate, in the tenths and eleventh century, established in the Iberian Peninsula by the Arab domination. It represents the climax of Islamic religion according to Muslim theologians.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Switzerland: Readers Flee Basel Daily After Blocher Takeover

The Basler Zeitung has lost more than 1,000 subscribers in a single week after it was revealed that the paper is owned by the family of far-right Swiss People’s Party (SVP) deputy leader Christoph Blocher. In an interview with newspaper Sonntagsblick, the Basel daily’s editor-in-chief, Markus Somm, confirmed the “dramatic figure” and said he understood the sudden departure of many customers who felt cheated.

Massive subscription cancellations have not been the only form of protest. On Saturday, several hundred people rallied on the streets of Basel to voice their discontent with the recently unveiled ownership of the paper. Writing in the Sunday edition of the Basel paper, Somm said it had been a mistake for Christoph Blocher, the outspoken figurehead of Switzerland’s largest political party, not to have explained his financial connection to the Basler Zeitung.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

The Far-Right Undertones of Romanian Politics

After the fall of the Romanian dictator Ceausescu all that was left of his national-Communist system was nationalism. DW takes a look at how old-fashioned, chauvinist cliches emerged from the rubble of a dictatorship.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

UDC Leader Wants Citizenship for All Those Born in Italy

(AGI) Florence — UDC leader Casini said it is important that those born in Italy are considered Italians for all legal purposes. “I’ve had an amazing meeting with the Senegalese community. They are responsible and serious people who fully understand that Italy can’t be mixed up with some episodes of violence and racist intolerance. Speaking before children, I reiterated that I consider it important that those born on our national territory can be Italians for all legal purposes, which may require adequate legislative measures”, Pierferdinando Casini said on the sidelines of an UDC dinner in Florence.

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

UK: Foreign Student, 22, Arrested at Birmingham Airport on Suspicion of ‘Carrying Terrorist Document’

A 22-year-old student was arrested last night at Birmingham Airport on suspicion of carrying with him a terrorist document.

Police seized the Pakistani national — who lives and studies in the UK — after he got off a flight from Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates.

A West Midlands Police spokesman said he was held on suspicion of being in possession of a document likely to be of use to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism.

Last night he was being questioned by officers from West Midlands Police’s Counter Terrorism Unit.

It’s unclear whether police and customs were acting on intelligence or whether the suspect was arrested after a routine customs search.

The suspect is on a student visa studying in the UK.

A spokesman for West Midlands Police told MailOnline: ‘A 22-year-old man was arrested last night at Birmingham airport on suspicion of being in possession of a document likely to be of use to a person committing a terrorist offence under section 58 of the Terrorism Act 2000.

‘He was questioned by officers from the counter terrorism unit as he arrived on a flight from Dubai.

‘He is a Pakistani national with a student visa, studying at a fully accredited institution.’

The spokesman added: ‘The suspected document was found in his possession.’

Police would not give any further details in response to questions.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

UK: Jihad and Jews Don’t Go Together

by Martin Bright

This summer, we warned readers to be careful about overtures from the “community organisers”, London Citizens. These darlings of the political class campaigned on behalf of low-paid workers and asylum seekers, and, on the face of it, appeared to be an entirely admirable organisation. Unfortunately, as we revealed, its deputy chair, Junaid Ahmed of East London Mosque, gave a speech at the height of Operation Cast Lead paying tribute to Hamas terrorists. Rabbi Jeremy Gordon told his New North London Synagogue congregation of his “pain” at Hamas leaders being held up as heroes, while Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg of North London Synagogue told the JC that he abhorred Mr Ahmed’s views.

The result? Junaid Ahmed remains a trustee and deputy chair of London Citizens and senior figures in the Jewish community continue to work with the organisation. The anti-Islamist website Harry’s Place has provided an important service in monitoring the activities of London Citizens and its continued relationship with East London Mosque. The mosque and its sister institution, the London Muslim Centre, has consistently hosted controversial speakers from the wilder fringes of the Islamist world. As the Daily Telegraph’s Andrew Gilligan reported just this month, the mosque advertised a discussion with Wahabi cleric Sheikh Saad al-Beraik. It is difficult to feel anything but “pain” when you read words attributed to Sheikh al-Beraik by the Saudi Information Agency: “Muslim brothers in Palestine, do not have mercy neither compassion on the Jews, their blood, their money, their flesh. Their women are yours to take, legitimately. God made them yours. Why don’t you enslave their women? Why don’t you wage jihad? Why don’t you pillage them?”

And yet, this week, the same Rabbi Wittenberg who found Mr Ahmed’s Hamas-worship so abhorrent, agreed to take part in a “multi-faith peace procession” alongside the chairman of East London Mosque, Mohammed Abdul Bari. Again, the avowed aim of the march is entirely admirable: reclaiming the streets after this summer’s riots. But why do respected Jewish leaders insist on making common cause with an institution that continues to host antisemitic hate preachers? The only possible argument for doing so would be to persuade East London Mosque to distance itself from the extremists in its midst. With absolutely zero evidence of this happening, the only conclusion is that Rabbi Wittenberg is fulfilling the traditional role of useful idiot to those with an entirely different agenda to his own.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: Judge’s Fury at Billionaire Arab Prince After He Fails to Attend High Court Over Claims He Married Model in Secret Ceremony

A High Court judge told of his ‘frustration’ after an Arab prince failed to appear at a court hearing to settle a dispute over an alleged secret marriage with an Egyptian model.

Nivin el-Gamal, 35, told Mr Justice Bodey yesterday that she married Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed al-Maktoum, chairman of Emirates Airlines, at a ceremony in London four years ago.

She wants the judge to rule that a marriage took place, declare it null and void and therefore put her in a position to claim maintenance.

But just moments before Sheikh Ahmed, whose airline sponsors Arsenal, was due to give evidence, his lawyer claimed his client had been ordered to stay in Dubai by the country’s ruler to attend a political meeting.

His counsel Martin Pointer QC said he was ‘unable to attend’ as he had ‘no practical choice’ but to attend the Gulf Cooperation Council Summit (GCC) in Riyadh.

Sheikh Ahmed, who is a member of the royal family of Dubai, has denied the claim made by Miss el-Gamal and said no ceremony took place.

Mr Pointer said the case would continue without his client’s oral evidence.

The judge said: ‘Why is it suddenly sprung on the court on Monday morning seconds before he comes into the witness box?

‘Provision could have been made for a video link.’

‘He is unable to attend to give evidence,’ said Mr Pointer. ‘He has been recalled by the ruler of Dubai to attend the GCC meeting in Riyadh.’

Mr Pointer added: ‘My client intends no disrespect at all to your lordship by not being here.’

Richard Todd QC for Miss el-Gamal who claims she married the Sheikh in a secret ceremony in January 2007 said it was ‘a very dramatic development indeed’.

He added: ‘We are frankly dumbfounded by this turn of events.’

Mr Pointer, who said the Sheikh would not now be coming to England to give evidence, then began his final legal submissions claiming there was ‘no evidence’ that the ‘marriage’ ever took place, apart from the ‘self-serving evidence’ from Miss el-Gamal.

There was no independent record and no evidence from the Imam who was said to have conducted the service or from the witnesses who were said to be there.

Last week, Miss el-Gamal was branded a liar who invented the ‘marriage’ in a bid to get £1million a year maintenance from him.

In what Mr Todd described as ‘the case of the Prince and the pauper’, she is seeking a declaration that the ‘marriage’ should be declared null and void.

But the Sheikh denies they were ever married although they did meet for sex and have a three-year-old son born in the U.S. in April 2008.

The Sheikh, worth an estimated £19billion, is the uncle of Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

UK: Lutfur Rahman Can be Described as Extremist-Backed Rules Press Complaints Commission (But We Will Publish His Denials)

Since April Lutfur Rahman, the extremist-backed mayor of Tower Hamlets, has been pursuing a PCC campaign against the Telegraph. He has over the last eight months made four complaints, all of which were finally resolved to our satisfaction last week.

1. That we described him as “extremist-backed” by virtue of his “close links” to an extremist Islamic organisation, the Islamic Forum of Europe. Rahman claimed that he had “repeatedly and consistently denied links to the IFE.” We pointed out that he had in fact repeatedly refused to deny having links to the IFE, including here and here. We pointed out that many others in Tower Hamlets politics, including the chief coordinator of his own mayoral election campaign, Bodrul Islam, have stated his links with the extremists in terms and on the record.

The PCC rejected Rahman’s complaint, saying that to describe him as being “extremist-backed” and as having “close links” to the IFE was “not misleading.” We will continue to detail Rahman’s many links with extremism, but have agreed to start including the denials which he has recently started making.

2. That we gave the impression he had been charged with fraud in a blogpost headlined “Lutfur Rahman councillor is charged with fraud.” Rahman claimed that the article, about one of his supporters, Cllr Shelina Akhtar,could confuse people whose English was poor. As we pointed out, the very first sentences of the piece read: “One of the most prominent supporters of Tower Hamlets’ extremist-backed mayor, Lutfur Rahman, has been charged with fraud. Councillor Shelina Akhtar appears in court next month.” The piece goes on to say that “Akhtar is accused… She is charged with… She remains a member of Tower Hamlets council at the time of writing.” As we said, it is perfectly clear that the mayor was not the individual charged. His name is not Shelina Akhtar, he is not a councillor and he is not a woman.

The PCC rejected Rahman’s complaint,saying: “The article made clear from the opening paragraph that it was the councillor and not the complainant who had been charged. The Commission did not agree that readers would be misled.”

3. That in our reporting of his decision to give a character reference to a convicted sex attacker, we failed to mention that the reference had subsequently been withdrawn. We pointed out that the man, a minicab driver, had pleaded guilty to a serious sexual assault on a helpless woman passenger seven full weeks before Rahman gave his reference in court, at the sentencing hearing. Rahman withdrew the reference only once the matter got into the press, well after the man had already been sentenced. By that time it was too late to do the attacker any harm or his victim any good.

The PCC rejected Rahman’s complaint, saying: “As the reference had been a feature of the active consideration of the case, the Commission did not consider the omission of any mention of its later withdrawal would have significantly misled readers.”

4. That in our reporting of allegations from October 2010 onwards that Rahman took illegal donations, we failed to point out that a subsequent police enquiry had (in February 2011) found “no case to answer.” We pointed out that Rahman had refused to respond to our inquiries about the allegations, or to deny the allegations in other forums, when they were first made. He had subsequently started denying them, and we had reported those denials. We told the PCC (and have also reported) that the allegation was never investigated seriously (the police did not, for instance, interview several key witnesses), and that the main complainant, Tower Hamlets’ opposition leader Peter Golds, continues to make the allegations, which he and many other figures across the political spectrum believe to be true. Nonetheless, two blogposts after February 2011 made reference to the allegations without adding the police point. We offered to add the police point to the first blogpost, and have done so. We unfortunately omitted to add the police point to the second blogpost.

The PCC said that our adding the police point to the first blogpost was a “sufficient remedy,” but said it should also have been added to the second blogpost, upholding this part of the complaint. We have now added the police point to the second post.

As this blog will detail in the coming days, Rahman and his cronies have in recent months embarked on an aggressive campaign on several fronts, not just the PCC, to stifle criticism of their car-crash mayoralty. In our case, despite eight months of trying, they have comprehensively failed. We are delighted that all the key pillars of our reporting have, once again, been vindicated.

[JP note: Good show … now flush out all the other extremist-backed, Muslim entities in every sphere of public life.]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: Martin Bright Continues His Campaign to Poison Relations Jewish and Muslim Communities

The current edition of the Jewish Chronicle has yet another piece by the paper’s political editor Martin Bright attacking the East London Mosque. Entitled “Jihad and Jews don’t go together”, this is just the latest installment in the JC‘s obsessive (and so far entirely futile) campaign to destroy the relationship between community organisers London Citizens and ELM (see here, here, here, here, here, here and here).​ An outraged Bright relates the shocking news that Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg of North London Synagogue “agreed to take part in a ‘multi-faith peace procession’ alongside the chairman of East London Mosque, Mohammed Abdul Bari”.

While the print edition of the JC features Bright’s article denouncing Rabbi Wittenberg for daring to participate in a community procession with Dr Bari, the paper’s website carries a report by Jennifer Lipman that gives favourable coverage to the role of the Joseph Interfaith Foundation’s Council of Imams and Rabbis in presenting a joint Jewish-Muslim response to the English Defence League. In an admirable letter to the home secretary the council expressed its concern about the EDL’s attempts to “incite hatred and antagonism in our society” and “drive a wedge between the Jewish community and our Muslim neighbours”.

Yet among the “organisations which we regularly cooperate with” listed on the Joseph Interfaith Foundation’s website we find … the East London Mosque. A recent example of such cooperation was seen during Inter Faith Week last month, when the Council of Imams and Rabbis and ELM jointly held an event for local mosques and youth organisations at the London Muslim Centre, entitled “Meet the Rabbis and Ask Questions”. It took the form of a seminar consisting of a short introduction about Judaism followed by a Q&A session with a panel of rabbis. How long, you wonder, before Bright and the JC extend their vicious witch-hunting to Mehri Niknam?

As evidence of ELM’s extremism Bright refers JC readers to fellow witch-hunter Andrew Gilligan’s sloppily researched piece on his Telegraph blog attacking the mosque for hosting Sheikh Saad al-Beraik. This accusation against ELM is based on a single, decade-old quote from the Saudi Information Agency, which is hardly a reliable source, being a dubious website run by a Saudi dissident — though Bright doesn’t mention this, allowing his readers to assume that the quote is from an official Saudi government website. Furthermore, during his visit to the UK Saad al-Beraik also spoke at the London Central Mosque in Regent’s Park, where he led the Jumma prayer and delivered the khutbah. Unsurprisingly, given its close links to the Saudi embassy, appearances by such “Wahabi clerics” are hardly unknown at the London Central Mosque. Yet that hasn’t prevented the Board of Deputies of British Jews from attending interfaith events there. Can we take it that the BoD too is going to be denounced by the JC for associating with an institution that hosts “controversial speakers from the wilder fringes of the Islamist world”?

The idea of the JC witch-hunting the Joseph Interfaith Foundation or the Board of Deputies might appear far-fetched, but since his appointment as the paper’s political editor Bright has made a speciality of persecuting members of the Jewish community who refuse to boycott Muslim organisations and individuals of whom he disapproves. Earlier this year the JC published a front page article accompanied by an op ed from Bright attacking the prominent Jewish philanthopist Trevor Pears for funding the organisation Forward Thinking, which had hosted a meeting at the House of Commons featuring a so-called “jihadist” named Tafazal Mohammad. Bright’s accusations against Tafazal Mohammad were shown to be baseless and the JC was forced to publish an apology.

The bottom line here is that Bright is intent on discrediting and marginalising organisations that support the Palestinian cause. However, if Jewish leaders are to boycott Muslims who sympathise with the Palestinian resistance, as Bright demands, then Muslim organisations could equally well refuse to cooperate with Jews who continue to support Israel despite its acts of state terrorism against the Palestinian people. If the Israel-Palestine conflict is allowed to determine relations between Jews and Muslims in the UK, then interfaith initiatives become almost impossible. Bright is quite happy to poison relations between the Jewish and Muslim communities because he isn’t a member of either and doesn’t have to live with the consequences of his inaccurate and irresponsible journalism. His approach does play well with the likes of Melanie Phillips, of course, but more thoughtful members of the Jewish community must surely question the damage done by Bright’s use of the JC as a platform to pursue his malicious campaigns against representative Muslim institutions.

[JP note: The East London Mosque poisons the entire community with its presence.]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: Rioting Arsonists Could be Shot if They Endanger Lives

Arsonists who put lives in danger during riots could be shot by the police, a review of public order tactics concluded yesterday.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

North Africa

Clinton: “Violence on Women Dishonours Revolution”

(AGI) Washington — Violence on women in Egypt during last few weeks’ protests “dishonours the revolution” says the Us secretary of State, Hillary Cinton. She dubbed as “shocking” the images of troops ripping off a female protester’s clothes..”Recent events in Egypt have been particularly shocking. Women are being beaten and humiliated in the same streets where they risked their lives for the revolution only a few short months ago” Clinton said on Monday. “This systematic degradation of Egyptian women dishonours the revolution, disgraces the state and its uniform and is not worthy of a great people” .

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

Egypt Riots Threaten Cultural Sites as Cairo Library Goes Up in Flame

The heavy handed crackdown on protesters demanding the ruling military council to step down and hand power to a civilian government is unprecedented. However, another victim of the recent round of violence was a library holding some of Egypt’s most precious manuscripts, maps, and books, after a fire broke in Cairo’s Scientific Complex. According to caretaker Prime Minister Kamal Ganzouri, the damage included irreplaceable maps dating from Napoleon’s conquest of Egypt in 1798.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Egypt Releases 27 Copts Falsely Detained in Maspero Massacre

by Mary Abdelmassih

(AINA) — The Cairo Criminal Court decided this week to accept the appeal and release, pending investigations, the remaining 27 Coptic detainees arrested in connection with the events of Maspero Massacre on October 9, where 27 Copts were killed and 329 injured (AINA 10-10-2011).

This decision was hailed by the church and the various Coptic rights groups. Besides welcoming the decision of the civilian court as a just verdict considering that the detainees were all innocent, it showed, according to various Coptic organizations, the injustice of the military prosecution’s investigations. A view shared among all Copts is that releasing the detainees is not enough, those responsible for the killings should be brought to justice.

The Maspero case was first brought by the military prosecution, but was later referred to state security interrogation upon an order from the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF). Early last week, upon the request of the defendants’ lawyers, the general prosecution transferred the case to an independent investigations judge.

The 30 Copts originally detained and the prominent Muslim activist Alaa Abd El-Fattah, who is expected to be also released next week, were charged with the murder of one soldier, the theft of guns from the armed forces, and damaging private and public property. Two weeks ago three Christians minors, Abanob, Andrew and Hana, aged 16 and 17, who did not participate in the Maspero demonstration, but were arrested from the streets because their Christian tattoos, were released (AINA 11-5-2011).

The Coptic Orthodox Church, which had previously demanded the release of the detainees, expressed its satisfaction with the verdict. However, outspoken Coptic Priest Filopateer Gameel, founding member of the Maspero Youth Federation, one of the organizers of the October 9 Maspero march, said “Where is the accountability of the persons responsible for the blood that was shed in Maspero?” adding that the decision to release the detainees confirms the fairness of the Egyptian judiciary, but it also raises questions about the circumstances under which the military police arrested them, and the unlawful renewal more than once of their detention by the military prosecution.

Fr. Filopateer demanded the prosecution of those responsible for the killing of civilians and of the person who gave orders on that night for the military armored vehicles to move to crush the Christian protesters under their wheels, referring to the report of the Egyptian National Council for Human Rights, which although could not identify those who shot at the demonstrators, confirmed that there were 12 dead people who were crushed by armored vehicles. He said “We will not be happy just to get the innocent out of prison, , and this will definitely not be the end of the case; the authorities must be held accountable for the killing of the demonstrators.”

Copts Without Borders said in a statement that past experience with regards to Coptic cases have the same trend. They start with arbitrary detention of Copts, which aims at twisting the arm of the Copts to relinquish their rights and be diverted away from them by their concern over the detainees. “This limits the ambition of the Copts, of bringing the criminals to justice, and all their hopes are thereby confined to getting the detainees out of prison.”

Copts Without Borders views the decision to release the 27 Maspero detainees as a precursor to entirely closing the Maspero case by the authorities, similar to all previous cases of violence against the Copts including the incident of the Church of the Two Saints in Alexandria, which was bombed on New Year’s Day, 2011 (AINA 1-2-2011). It declared its non-acceptance of the decision to merely release the detainees, without punishment of the killers, demanding the opening of a new impartial investigation into the events including the disclosure of the names of those involved from the military who gave orders to fire live ammunition and for the armored vehicles to run over the demonstrators.

Prominent Muslim attorney Essam Kandil, one of the 35-man Maspero defense team, said that he offered his voluntary services because of the “glaring injustices in the case, especially that the victims were picked up from the streets based on being identified as Christians.” He said the entire defense team will fight until all Coptic victims of the Maspero Massacre, whether those killed, injured or detained for 66 days unlawfully, have received the justice they deserve.”

           — Hat tip: Mary Abdelmassih [Return to headlines]

Egypt: Thousands of Women March Against Mistreatment in Tahrir Square After Protester Was Stripped to Bra and Beaten by Troops

Thousands of Egyptian women marched in the streets of Cairo today, protesting against the abuse of female demonstrators by soldiers.

The march was a rare protest by women and its numbers — about 10,000 — underlined the depth of anger over the crackdown by the ruling military.

Earlier today, a teenage protester was shot during a police raid in the Egyptian capital.

Following the women’s protest, the ruling military council issued an unusual apology for what it called ‘violations’ — a sudden U-turn after days of ignoring the demonstrations.

The council expressed ‘deep regret to the great women of Egypt’ and reaffirmed ‘its respect and total appreciation for the women of Egypt and their right to protest.’

Ringed by a protective chain of male protesters, women from different social classes and religious background gathered in Tahrir Square and marched through the streets of Cairo.

Many carried pictures of soldiers attacking women — particularly one of a veiled woman whose clothes were half pulled off, baring her down to her blue bra, by soldiers who beat her and stomped on her chest.

‘They say they are here to protect us, but they are stripping us naked,’ the marchers chanted.

‘The girl dragged around is just like my daughter. They do that and then call us thugs,’ said Um Hossam, a 54-year old woman in traditional black dress and a veil. ‘I am a free woman and attacking this woman or killing protesters is just like going after one of my own children.’

This morning, in the second dawn raid in as many days, troops and riot police descended on Cairo’s Tahrir Square in a bid to evict protesters.

Dr Ahmed Saad, a volunteer at the field hospital in the square, said a 15-year-old was in a critical condition after being shot.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

Napoleon’s ‘Description De L’Egypte’ Lost to Fire Amid Clashes

Thousands of irreplaceable manuscripts at Cairo’s Institute for Scientific Research are lost to fire amid attack military attack on protesters at nearby Cabinet building

A fire that erupted on Saturday in Egypt’s Institute for the Advancement of Scientific Research has resulted in the loss of several precious manuscripts, according to Zein Abdel-Hadi, head of Egypt’s Libraries and Archives Department, which has taken possession of many of the books rescued from the fire. The original manuscript of Napoleon’s historic “Description De L’Egypt” was reportedly among the losses.

Young revolutionaries rushed into the institute — which is located next to the Cabinet building, the site of ongoing clashes between security personnel and anti-government protesters — as soon as the fire erupted in hopes of rescuing the thousands original manuscripts housed there. Nearly 30,000 books were rescued out of a total of around 196,000 in the institute’s collection, estimated Abdel-Hadi, who went on to commend the young activists’ courage.

The “Description De L’Egypt” was initially drawn up by the team of French scientists who accompanied French empire-builder Napoleon on his invasion of Egypt (1798-1801). The 20-volume book was originally entitled “Description of Egypt, or the Collection of Notes and Research Done in Egypt during the French Campaign by Napoleon Bonaparte.”

After the scientists’ return to France, the French interior minister at the time, Jean Antoine Schpetal, organised a special committee mandated with collecting and publishing all the material, which was eventually published in ten volumes of engravings, nine volumes of research, and one atlas. The volumes are considered among the most important historical works of the early nineteenth century.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Obama Praises Tunisia’s “Inclusive Transition”

(AGI) President Barack Obama called Tunisia’s interim prime minister, Hamadi Jebali to congratulate him for the ongoing “inclusive transition” policies in the North African country. A White House communique said, “The president praised Tunisia for its inclusive transition, which offers historic possibilities of greater political and economic opportunities for all Tunisians.” .

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

Middle East

Crisis Unfolds in Iraq

By Frederick W. Kagan and Kimberly Kagan

We interrupt President Obama’s celebration of keeping a campaign promise to bring you news from Iraq, where a political crisis has been unfolding since just hours after Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta departed on Thursday. The ethno-sectarian settlement achieved at such cost to Iraqis and Americans is unraveling rapidly. The principal Sunni bloc has withdrawn its members from the Iraqi Parliament and is threatening to withdraw from the government altogether within two weeks unless Prime Minister Nuri al Maliki adheres to the written commitments he made during the negotiations to form a government.

Maliki prompted their action by arresting and torturing the bodyguards of Sunni vice president Tariq al Hashemi. Multiple unconfirmed reports indicate that on Thursday night, Maliki moved elements of the Baghdad Brigade, commanded by his son, to surround the residences of Sunni political figures, including Hashemi. In retaliation for the Sunni parliamentarians’ walkout, Maliki has demanded a no-confidence vote for Sunni deputy prime minister Salah Mutlaq, and indicated his intent to bring charges against Hashemi and others for conspiring to assassinate him…

           — Hat tip: DS [Return to headlines]

France-Turkey: Paris and Ankara at Loggerheads Over Armenians

Parliament confirms discussion on Thurs. Gul, ‘unacceptable’

(ANSAmed) — PARIS — Tensions between France and Turkey skyrocketed after a decision was made by the French National Assembly not to withdraw a bill that criminalising the denial of the Armenian genocide between 1915 and 1917, despite the discontent expressed by the government in Ankara. The proposal will be regularly discussed on Thursday in the French National Assembly, reported French Parliamentary Relations Minister Patrick Ollier, who specified that the idea of postponing the vote was not even taken into consideration in today’s meeting with parliamentary group leaders, which sets the agenda for the week.

The decision greatly irritated Turkish President Abdullah Gul, who launched a harsh warning to Paris. “It is not possible for us to accept this bill (…) which denies the right to reject baseless and unjust accusations against our country and our nation,” explained Gul, calling for France to abandon this “unacceptable” law.

The bill establishes a sentence of one year in prison and a fine of 45,000 euros for denial of the Armenian genocide, which France recognised in 2001 and which, according to many scholars, caused the death of 1.5 million people. Turkey has acknowledged that 500,000 people died between 1915 and 1917, but considers these people to be victims of World War I and not of genocide.

Yesterday two Turkish delegations of MPs and businessmen arrived in Paris to try to stop the law approving criminalising the denial of the Armenian genocide from being passed.

Today, Turkish MPs are set to meet with President Sarkozy’s diplomatic advisor Jean-David Levitte, and the head of French diplomacy, Alain Juppé. If a crisis were to erupt between France and Turkey it would come at a difficult time for France, in a regional context in which Turkey plays an essential role in resolving the situations involving Iran and Syria.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

US Concerned About Arrest of Iraq’s Vice President Hashemi

(AGI) Washington — The US has expressed concerns about the arrest of Sunni Vice President Hashemi by the Iraqi authorities. Tareq al-Hashemi, one of Iraq’s two vice presidents, is charged with involvement in terror activities.

It was announced by White House spokesman Jay Carney.

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


Indian Uproar at Call in Russia to Ban Hindu Holy Book Bhagavad Gita

Angry Indian lawmakers forced parliament to close on Monday and protesters gathered outside a Russian consulate over a Siberian trial calling for one of Hinduism’s most holy books to be put on a list of banned literature that includes Hitler’s Mein Kampf. The case filed by state prosecutors in the Siberian city of Tomsk says a translation of the Bhagavad Gita is extremist because it insults non-believers, local media in Russia say.

“We will not tolerate an insult to Lord Krishna,” members of parliament shouted, until the house speaker adjourned parliament for several hours.

The Bhagavad Gita takes the form of a conversation between Hindu god Krishna and a prince called Arjuna prior to a battle. Its philosophical insights were praised by Albert Einstein and forms a bedrock of the Hindu belief system.

India and Russia enjoy close diplomatic and defence ties and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh returned from an annual visit to Moscow at the weekend. Lawmakers demanded to know if he had raised the issue of the trial with Russian officials.

The translation up for trial is called “Bhagavad Gita as It Is,” and is central to the global Hare Krishna movement. Members of the movement link the case against the text to the Russian Orthodox Church, which they claim wants to limit their activities. Dozens of Hare Krishna adherents in orange robes shouted slogans and danced outside the Russian consulate in the eastern Indian city of Kolkata, a Reuters witness said. More than 20,000 people signed an online petition against the trial and the word Gita was one of the main Indian trends on Twitter on Monday.

           — Hat tip: RW [Return to headlines]

Russian Church Keen to Limit ISKCON Activities

The court case against a translation of the Bhagavad Gita in the Siberian city of Tomsk is linked to long-running attempts by the Russian Orthodox Church to limit the activities of the Hare Krishna movement, branding it as a totalitarian sect.

Earlier this year, the authorities banned the construction of an ISKCON community village in the Tomsk region. Seven years ago, the Moscow city government did not allow the movement to build a sprawling prayer-cum-cultural complex in central Moscow. Later, ISKCON was permitted to set up its centre in a Moscow suburb.

ISKCON says it has one lakh Russian followers and more than 100 communities but the Orthodox Church claims the number is in a few thousands.

Russian ambassador to India Alexander Kadakin regretted that the case was being heard in the university city of Tomsk, famous for its secularism and religious tolerance, and reiterated the secular credentials of Russia (the Interior Minister is a practising Muslim.)

Mr. Kadakin considered it “categorically inadmissible when any holy scripture is taken to…courts. For all believers, these texts are sacred.”

A second-term ambassador, whose first posting was in India in 1971 and who for years taught about India, Mr. Kadakin said the Bhagavad Gita, along with the holy scriptures of other faiths, was a great source of wisdom for the people of India and the world. “Russia, as is known to anyone, is a secular and democratic country where all religions enjoy equal respect. This is even more applicable to [the] holy scriptures of various faiths, whether it is the Bible, the Holy Quran, the Torah, the Avesta and, of course, the Bhagavad Gita, the great source of wisdom for the people of India and the world,” he said.

“It is not normal either, when religious books are sent for examination to ignorant people. Their academic scrutiny should be done at scientists’ fora, congresses, seminars, etc., but not in court. It is strange that such events are unfolding in the beautiful university city in Siberia, as Tomsk…is famous for its secularism and religious tolerance. Well, it seems that even the lovely city of Tomsk has its own neighbourhood madmen. It is sad indeed.”

           — Hat tip: RW [Return to headlines]

South Asia

675 Pakistan ‘Honour Killing’ Victims

AT least 675 Pakistani women and girls were murdered during the first nine months of the year for allegedly defaming their family’s honour, a leading human rights group says.

The statistics highlight the scale of violence suffered by many women in conservative Muslim Pakistan, where they are frequently treated as second-class citizens and there is no law against domestic violence.

Despite some progress on better protecting women’s rights, activists say the government needs to do far more to prosecute murderers in cases largely dismissed by police as private, family affairs.

“A total of 675 women and girls were killed in the name of honour across Pakistan from January to September,” a senior official in the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan told AFP today.

They included at least 71 victims under the age of 18.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said figures were still being compiled from October to December, and that a full report would be released in February.

The Commission reported 791 honour killings in 2010 and there was no discernible decrease this year, the official added.

Around 450 of the women killed from January to September were accused of having “illicit relations” and 129 of marrying without permission.

Some victims were raped or gang raped before being killed, he said. At least 19 were killed by their sons, 49 by their fathers and 169 by their husbands.

Rights groups say the government should do more to ensure that women subject to violence, harassment and discrimination have effective access to justice.

Ali Dayan Hasan, Pakistan director at Human Rights Watch, told AFP that the state’s inability to enforce rule of law, leaving matters in the hands of tribesmen and local elders, was a major factor.

“We have a system in Pakistan where the state and judicial recourse are absent and the vacuum is filled by local elders,” he said.

“A combination of legal reforms, exercise of administrative authority and social awareness can greatly help check the honour killings,” he added.

Earlier this month, a Belgian court sentenced four members of a Pakistani family to prison for the murder of their daughter and sister, who defied them by living with a Belgian man and refusing an arranged marriage.

           — Hat tip: Nick [Return to headlines]

India Slams ‘Absurd’ Bid to Ban Gita in Russia

India’s foreign minister condemned Tuesday a “patently absurd” court case in Russia seeking to ban a version of one of Hinduism’s most important and scared texts, the Bhagavad Gita. The case filed by state prosecutors in the Siberian city of Tomsk claims that a renowned translation of the text, titled “Bhagavad Gita As It Is” is “extremist literature” and should join Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf on a list of banned books.

Speaking in parliament, Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna said the lawsuit was the work of “ignorant and misdirected or motivated individuals” and an attack on a religious text that defines the “very soul of our great civilisation”. “While this complaint is patently absurd, we have treated this matter seriously,” Krishna said, adding that formal protests had been registered with senior government officials in Moscow.

“We are confident that our Russian friends, who understand our civilisational values and cultural sensitivities, will resolve this matter appropriately,” he said. “Bhagavad Gita As It Is” — first published in 1968 — is a translation of and commentary on the original text by Swami Prabhupada, the founder of the international Hare Krishna movement, ISKCON.

ISKCON members have linked the court case to the Russian Orthodox church, which they claim wants to limit their activities in Russia. O Monday, the Indian parliament had to be adjourned after an uproar over the issue and protestors gathered outside the Russian consulate in the eastern city of Kolkata.

The Siberian court has postponed its judgement on the case until December 28. If it rules in favour of the suit, the book would be placed on a list of banned works that includes Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf.

New Delhi and Moscow have enjoyed close ties that date back to the 1950s. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh returned from an annual visit to Moscow at the weekend after sealing a preliminary deal to buy 42 jets. In a statement Monday, the Russian ambassador to India, Alexander Kadakin, voiced his concern and sadness that the case was ever allowed to reach the court.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Indonesia: Thousands of Police to Guard Christmas

Jakarta, 19 Dec. (AKI) — The Jakarta Police says it will deploy more than 7,000 security personnel to carry out a “2011 Lilin Jaya” operation to secure churches and recreation spots throughout the Christmas and New Year period.

“The Jakarta Police, backed by the National Police, will be sending 5,899 personnel, and will be assisted by another 1,500 personnel from the local administration,” Jakarta Police operation chief Sr. Comr. Agung Budi Maryoto said on Monday, as quoted by

He said that from Dec. 23 to Jan. 3, the personnel would be on guard at places considered to be prone to possible disturbances, including 45 churches that have been listed as a priority.

The 45 churches, located in South and Central Jakarta, would need special security attention because they are known to have huge congregations, he said

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

Indonesian Widows to Seek Dutch Justice

Widows of Indonesian men killed by the Dutch colonial army in 1946 and 1947 on Saluwesi island are planning to seek justice before a court in the Netherlands, their lawyer said Tuesday. “We are exploring the possibilities of legal action,” Amsterdam-based lawyer Liesbeth Zegveld told AFP, following a landmark ruling earlier this year which found the Dutch state responsible for another massacre in Indonesia in 1947.

The new case was “not about money” but “about getting recognition for the harm that has been done to them,” said Zegveld. In September a court in The Hague found the Dutch state responsible for executions committed by its colonial army in 1947 in the village of Rawagede on Indonesia’s Java island.

The court ruled in favour of eight widows and a survivor of the Rawagede massacre during Indonesia’s fight for independence, where men and boys were executed by the colonial Dutch army as relatives and friends looked on. Zegveld said the new legal action could start “within two or three months in the Netherlands.” “So far, we have spoken to about 10 widows who could enter the Dutch courts,” she added.

Residents claim some 40,000 Indonesians were killed by the Dutch army in Sulawesi’s south between December 1946 and February 1947 while conducting operations to look for opponents of the former Dutch colony. The Dutch government says there were between 3,000 to 5,000 deaths, according to figures quoted in the Dutch media..

Zegveld said events to open proceedings are being studied, citing examples such as executions in the Sulawesian villages of Pare-Pare, Bulukumba, Lombok and Supa-Galung. The Dutch government formally apologised earlier this month for the Rawagede massacre on the country’s Java island in an emotional ceremony.

Dutch officials say some 150 people were killed, but a support group and the local community say the death toll was 431. Indonesia gained its independence in 1949.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

ISKCON Monks Demonstrate in Front of Russian Consulate

Monks belonging to ISKCON sect today staged a demonstration in front of the Russian consulate here decrying any move by a Siberian court to ban Bhagwad Gita across Russia.

Holding placards and posters and chanting ‘Hare Rama, Hare Krishna’ to the beating of drums and cymbals, nearly 100 monks of International Society of Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) appealed to all MPs to pass a resolution in Parliament condemning the action of a group linked to the Christian Orthodox Church which has moved a Russian court seeking a ban the holy book by describing it as ‘extremist’.

“These initiatives of the Tomsk Prosecutor’s office offend the religious sentiments of all followers of Hinduism and bring disgrace to the country of Russia,” the ISKCON posters said.

“Gita, the holiest Hindu scripture, is facing a legal ban and the prospect of being branded as an extremist literature across Russia,” they said.

           — Hat tip: RW [Return to headlines]

Pakistani Chops Off Wife’s Nose, Lips

A teenage Pakistani woman yesterday told of her terror as her husband chopped off her nose and lips in a furious marital row, and threatened to kill herself unless the police brought him to justice.

The horrifying case underscores the brutal violence suffered by some women in Pakistan, where a domestic violence Bill lapsed in 2009 after being held up in the Senate due to objections from religious parties.

Salma Bibi, 17, said her husband, 22-year-old Ghulam Qad-ir, subjected her to a beating, then bound her hands and feet with rope and hacked into her face with a razor in a remote village in Baluchistan.

“He repeatedly slapped my face and then went into the room and brought with him a locally made, sharp razor,” she said, speaking Baluchi in remarks translated by her uncle from a hospital bed in central Multan city.

“I started shouting in panic. He tied my hands and foot with a rope and chopped off my nose and lips,” she added.

The teenager said police refused to register a case when her family complained about the attack, and threatened to kill herself.

“I want justice and if it is not delivered to me, I will immolate myself in front of the Supreme Court.”

Ghulam and Salma married last year and live in the village of Karkana, 475 kilometres southwest of Islamabad.

Local officials insisted they were searching for Ghulam and would arrest him when caught.

           — Hat tip: Nick [Return to headlines]

Far East

Kim Jong-Il, the Leader From Hell

by Srdja Trifkovic

Kim Jong-il, the North Korean “Dear Leader” (as well as Secretary-General of the Workers’ Party of Korea, Chairman of the National Defense Commission, Supreme Commander of the Korean People’s Army, etc, etc.) is dead at 69. The news that the diminutive leader of the most unpleasant despotism in the world is no longer going to regale us with his elevator shoes, oversize glasses and bouffant hairdo would be unworthy of attention, were it not for the existence of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal and the anachronistic presence of U.S. troops in South Korea.

Kim was the son and heir of North Korea’s long-term Communist dictator Kim Il-sung. He was born in late 1941 in the Soviet Far East, where his father commanded a Red Army brigade composed of Korean and Chinese exiles. His official biography was doctored, however, to claim that he was born on Korean soil in 1942, in an area controlled by the Communist resistance forces led by his father. Everything else that is officially known about him is also a lie, including the miraculous signs that supposedly attended his birth (according to the official North Korean News Agency it was accompanied by the appearance of a bright star in the sky and a double-rainbow that touched the earth), the details of his education, and the intricacies of his complex family life. What we do know is that he was a film buff with a collection of 20,000 foreign movies and a connoisseur of fine French cognacs, neither of which appears to have softened his propensity to cruelty and capricious eccentricity.

By 1982 Kim Sr. had bestowed on him several senior Party, legislative, and military posts. As heir-apparent he took the designation of “Dear Leader” and was hailed as “the worthy successor to the cause of the revolution.” A grotesque personality cult was swiftly built around him, similar to the one enjoyed by his father, whom he succeeded on Kim Il-sung’s death in 1994. Hymns were composed in his honor, his images were hewn into rocky mountainsides, and his pictures added to those of his father in every office, classroom, and home.

In the late 1990s Kim Jong-il invested heavily into the already bloated military (songun, “army first”), with an emphasis on the nuclear program which was crowned with an A-bomb test in 2006, and a second shortly after President Obama’s inauguration. He pursued his father’s ruinous economic policy of strict autarky (“self-reliance,” juche) with fanatical zeal, effectively ending foreign trade even with North Korea’s only foreign friend, China. Economic mismanagement eventually resulted in a catastrophic famine which is conservatively estimated to have claimed over two million lives, or ten percent of the population, by 1997.

In late spring 2009 Kim Jong-il started grooming his youngest son, Kim Jong-un (b., 1983), as his successor. The youngster was duly designated “The Brilliant Comrade,” but since the rules of succession had not been formally announced prior to Kim Jong-il’s death it is uncertain whether it will proceed uncontested. His ability to establish himself in power will depend primarily on the loyalty of the army top brass and the willingness of the narrow ruling elite—which includes several relatives from his grandfather’s extended family—to respect Kim Jong-il’s wishes. The first signs are encouraging for the youngster: the ruling party has called on the nation to unite “under the leadership of our comrade Kim Jong-un,” and he was also named head of the committee that will oversee his father’s funeral on December 28.

On the foreign front the successors will inherit a position fairly stable in the short term. Kim Jong-il proved a capable negotiator, extracting a series of American concessions in return for a halt to his nuclear weapons buildup. The U.S. put North Korea on its list of state sponsors of terrorism after North Korean agents planted a bomb that blew up a South Korean passenger jet in 1987, on Kim Jong-il’s direct orders, according to one of the agents who was caught alive. In October 2008 the Bush Administration agreed to remove Pyongyang from its terrorism blacklist in return for the North’s commitment to dismantle its nuclear program. The deal was reached within the framework of the six-party talks (China, Japan, Russia, the United States, North and South Korea), whereby Pyongyang agreed to allow teams of international inspectors to visit its Yongbyon plutonium-processing facility in return for much needed foreign aid.

Playing the nuclear card—the only one he had amidst economic ruin and political isolation—had paid handsome diplomatic and economic dividends to Kim Jong-il over the years. “When the history of this era is written,” Graham Allison, a Harvard professor and expert on proliferation, was quoted in The New York Times as saying, “the scorecard will be Kim 8, Bush 0.” But if “he was the greatest master of survival, against all odds,” added Andrei Lankov, a North Korea expert at Kookmin University in Seoul, “it was his own people who paid the price, and the price was pretty high.”…

           — Hat tip: Srdja Trifkovic [Return to headlines]

Next N. Korea Leader Got Swiss Education: Reports

The man tipped to be North Korea’s next leader was schooled in Switzerland where he was an ambitious pupil who enjoyed basketball and even picked up the local dialect, reports said on Monday.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Uncle Jang: The Real Power Behind Kim the Younger

He has been described by some analysts as the power behind the throne in North Korea following the death of the “Dear Leader” Kim Jong-il.

But who is Jang Song-taek?

And why does he appear to wield more influence in the Hermit Kingdom than Kim Jong-un, the 27-year-old son of Kim Jong-il and his anointed successor?

Kim the younger … Kim Jong-un.

Kim Jong-un, dubbed the “Great Successor” by North Korean state media, had been groomed to take over North Korea, but is seen as young, untested and not yet ready to step up to the big stage alone, analysts say.

“[Kim] is turning 28 on January 8, and although he carries the title of General, Korea is a society that is attentive to age and seniority,” said Scott Snyder of US think tank the Council on Foreign Relations.

“And so the idea of a twenty-eight-year-old who also commands the military is hard for outsiders to grasp and it remains to be seen whether it is in fact sustainable.”

Jang is 65-years-old and was part of Kim Jong-il’s inner-circle, with some describing him as the Dear Leader’s right-hand man.

Other experts say he has been acting as a mentor for young Kim since his father suffered a stroke in 2008, and may have already been acting in a caretaker role.

But Jang’s first encounter with the Kim dynasty was not a wholly positive one, North Korean experts told MSNBC.

He was first purged from the corridors of power when he tried to marry Kim Jong-il’s younger sister Kim Kyong-hee.

In 1972, he did marry her and later became the vice chairman of the National Defence Commission — the second-in-command in North Korea, MSNBC reported.

But between 2003 to 2006, he appeared to have displeased Kim Jong-il — allegedly for attempting to accumulate power — and disappeared from public view again, MSNBC said, quoting military website

“In a way [Jang’s] biography reminds me of Deng Xiaoping’s,” analyst Marcus Noland told MSNBC.

“They keep throwing him to the countryside and he keeps coming back.”

Jang was reinstated in 2007, heading up public security at the Workers Party, South Korea’s The Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported.

So would Jang support or challenge Kim’s claim to power?

“There is the potential for tension between Kim Jong-un and Jang Song-taek which could result in one or both precipitating a crisis to prove the new government’s power to other senior leaders, although in the short term it is unlikely an internal struggle will be revealed publicly,” Brittany Damora, Asia analyst for the London-based risk consultancy AKE, told Reuters.

“I anticipate increased foreign policy tensions and, later down the line, with policy likely to remain highly erratic, there is the possibility of small-scale military attacks on South Korea.”

Her view was echoed by South Korean expert Ryoo Kihl-jae of University of North Korean Studies.

“Tension will arise between Jang and Kim Jong-in, because Kim will have no choice but to share some power with Jang,” Professor Ryoo told The Associated Press.

Last year, according to cables leaked by WikiLeaks, the US embassy in Seoul said experts doubted that “youngest son Kim Jong-un would be able to succeed his father without sparking instability in the North”.

“One argued his lack of leadership experience made it unlikely he would win the support of the ruling elites. They agreed Kim Jong-il’s brother-in-law Jang Song-taek would prove a strong rival for the younger Kim and would probably be tempted to challenge him.”

And Jang, despite not prominently featuring in last year’s 2010 party conference, had wider connections in North Korea’s bureaucracy, Mr Snyder said.

Jang also has strong support in the military as a result of his late brothers Jang Song-woo and Jang Song-gil, who held prominent positions in the armed forces, researcher Ryu Dong-ryeol of South Korea’s Police Science Institute told Chosun Ilbo in June.

His eldest brother, Jang Song-woo, was a Vice Marshal and commanded the Third Army Corps, while younger brother Jang Song-gil was a Lieutenant-General and tank commander, said.

With North Korea’s boasting a five-million-strong army and a nuclear arsenal of up to eight nuclear warheads, all eyes are on whether young Kim can keep a hold on the reins of power.

“There are real concerns that heir-apparent Kim Jong-un has not had sufficient time to form the necessary alliances in the country to consolidate his future as leader,” Asia analyst at IHS Global Insight, Sarah McDowell, told Reuters.

“There is now a heightened risk of an upturn in factional tensions within the North Korean political elite as senior political figures, doubting the capabilities of Kim Jong-un, could initiate a power struggle.”

           — Hat tip: RW [Return to headlines]

Latin America

Mystery of Amazonian Tribe’s Head Shapes Solved

Culture may trigger rapid evolution of various human features, suggests new research into the marital practices of a tribe from the Brazilian rainforest.

Evolution is often thought to be driven by environmental factors, including climate, or geographical obstacles such as rivers and mountains. Still, cultural factors — that is, groups of traditions and behaviors passed down from one generation to another — can have profound effects on behavior and also possibly lead to evolutionary changes.

To learn more, scientists analyzed genetic, climatic, geographic and physical traits of 1,203 members of six South American tribes living in the regions of the Brazilian Amazon and highlands. Their research found that one group, the Xavánte, had significantly diverged from the others in terms of their morphology or shape, possessing larger heads, taller and narrower faces and broader noses. These characteristics evolved in the approximately 1,500 years after they split from a sister group called the Kayapó, a rate that was about 3.8-times faster than comparable rates of change seen in the other tribes.

The major changes the investigators saw apparently occurred independently of the effects of climate or geography on the Xavánte. Instead, cultural factors appear responsible. For instance, in the Xavánte village of São Domingo, a quarter of the population was made up of sons of a single chief, Apoena, who had five wives. The tribe’s sexual practices allow successful men in that group to father many offspring, which in turn means that any traits of theirs can quickly dominate their population.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]


Denmark: Over-Qualified Immigrants Outnumber Over-Qualified Natives

Experts point to meager language skills, misunderstandings and discrimination as causes

Are you over-qualified for your current job? Your chances of being so are greater if you are an immigrant, according to a recently-released study from the European Commission’s statistical bureau Eurostat. In Denmark, 24 percent of immigrants are over-qualified for their jobs, whereas just 14 percent of people with traditional Danish backgrounds are.

Immigrants were also three times as likely as native-born Danes to be unemployed, according to the study. Albeit, unemployment rates for both groups were low — just two and six percent, respectively — in 2008, the year statistics for the study were gathered. The figures come from the 2008 European Labour Force Survey and pertain to native- and foreign-born workers aged 25-54 throughout the 27 EU states. People were considered ‘over-qualified’ if they had more education or experience than their current jobs required.

Despite the significant gap, immigrants in Denmark still fared better than the EU average, according to the study. Across the 27 EU countries, more than one-third of foreign-born workers were over-qualified versus just one-fifth of the native populations’ workers.

Moreover, Denmark also appeared to be a little ahead of its Nordic neighbours at utilising the skills and knowledge of immigrants, the study showed. Whereas Denmark showed a ten percentage point difference in over-qualified immigrants versus natives, point differences were even higher in Sweden (20 percent), Norway (17 percent), and Finland (12 percent).

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

UK: The Killer Shielded by the Home Office: Family’s Fury as Officials Say it is Against Law to Reveal if Son’s Murderer is an Illegal Migrant

A murder victim’s family who want to know if the man who shot their son is in Britain legally have been refused the information — to protect the killer’s privacy.

Wintworth and Lurline Deslandes are desperate to confirm suspicions that Saturday Hassan is a foreign national so they can ensure he is deported if he is released from jail.

But they have been told the killer — who shot their public schoolboy son Darren in the head after being thrown out of the family’s pub — must agree to details of his immigration status being handed over to their MP.

Officials said this ‘personal information’ needed to be ‘safeguarded’ and cited the Data Protection Act in their refusal to hand it over.

The UK Border Agency also insisted it needed ‘written authority’ from Hassan himself, who is serving life with a minimum term of 37 years, before any details could be released.

The Deslandes family are enraged by the response and their case has sparked a furious reaction at Westminster, with the couple’s MP branding the decision ‘ridiculous’.

Their son, a former Dulwich College schoolboy who attended Brunel University and worked for a housing association, was due to be married to Abigail Beresford earlier this year.

Last night Croydon North MP Malcolm Wicks said: ‘The logic of that answer is that I should write a nice letter saying, “Dear murderer, would you give me permission to find out if you are a foreign national, so I can make sure in the future you are deported”.’

The former Labour business minister added: ‘It’s ridiculous. The family of the murdered man had a suspicion for some reason he might have been a foreign national and it didn’t come out in court.

‘My experience as an MP is that if you find out some criminal is a foreign national, I do my best to pressure the Home Office to check the person out. That’s one reason an MP should be able to find out.’

Hassan, 31, was thrown out of the Deslandes family’s pub — the Newton Arms in Croydon, South London — on New Year’s Eve 2009 after threatening a customer.

Minutes later he returned with a semi-automatic weapon, firing at Darren, 34, and his younger brother Junior, who had evicted him.

Darren was shot in the head and died instantly. Junior, 26, was hit three times in the head, neck and shoulder. He was left critically ill but survived.

Last year Hassan was found guilty of murder and attempted murder at the Old Bailey and jailed.

Judge David Paget said: ‘What you did has taken the life of a thoroughly good and worthy young man with his life before him and has devastated the lives of the whole Deslandes family, of Darren Deslandes’s fiancée and I dare say of others near and dear to them.’

The family insist the question of Hassan’s immigration status never came up at the trial.

During the trial, Mr Wicks wrote to the Home Office asking for information on the killer’s immigration status after the family told him they believed Hassan was in the country illegally, having arrived here from Guyana in South America.

On December 2 last year the UK Border Agency wrote back. A letter signed by the then chief executive, Lin Homer, refused to divulge any details about Hassan’s past.

She wrote: ‘I hope that you will appreciate that in order to safeguard an individual’s personal information and comply with the Data Protection Act 1998, we are limited in what information we can provide when a request is made by someone, such as your constituent, who is not the subject of the application. Except in a few exceptional circumstances, we must ensure we have the written authority of the individual concerned before the information is divulged to anyone else.’

It also said the reply was a ‘proportionate response to protecting the privacy of the individual’.

Last night Mrs Deslandes, 57, said: ‘I do not see why he should have any data protection. He has killed someone. We are the victims and no one is there to protect us. He should be removed from the country.’

Mr Deslandes, 60, who is terminally ill with lung cancer, added: ‘He shot both of my sons and he tried to kill me as well, but he ran out of bullets.’

Raising the case in the in the House of Commons on Monday during a debate about the deportation of foreign nationals, Mr Wicks branded the decision ‘total nonsense’.

Immigration Minister Damian Green said he ‘rather agreed’ and described the situation as ‘absurd’. But officials admitted he was constrained by the Data Protection Act.

Last night a Home Office official said: ‘The minister is able to discuss more in some cases but the Data Protection Act is what it is and he can’t act above that.’

Mr Wicks raised the issue during a Commons debate on foreign criminals after a leaked Home Office report revealed foreign nationals allowed to remain in the UK have committed horrendous crimes including murder, rape and kidnap.

Ministers have pledged to increase the number of foreign nationals sent home but are being thwarted by the Human Rights Act, especially Article 8 which gives individuals a right to a ‘private and family life’.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Apostasy and Blasphemy Codes Are Choking Freedom Worldwide

Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Nina Shea, Director of the Center for Religious Freedom at the Hudson Institute. She is the co-author (with Paul Marshall) of the new book, Silenced: How Apostasy and Blasphemy Codes are Choking Freedom Worldwide.

FP: Nina Shea, welcome to Frontpage Interview. Tell us what inspired you to write this book with Paul Marshall.

Shea: We have been tracking and opposing the punishment of religious minorities and Muslim reformers in many Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) countries under apostasy and blasphemy codes for decades. As religious freedom advocates, we saw a horrific and spreading pattern of human rights violations that is being ignored in US foreign policy and in the media — though particularly egregious individual cases have been sporadically reported without much attention to their overall effect. This pattern of human rights violations should especially concern us because the practices and policies it evidences undermine the individual freedoms essential to liberal democracy. Even our national security is compromised since apostasy and blasphemy codes are used by Islamic radicals to crush their opponents and thus pose obstacles to moderation within Islam. So, it undermines a number of critical American interests.


           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Norway: Minister Mulls Local Election Gender Quotas

Norway’s Minister of Local Government, Liv Signe Navarsete, has said she won’t rule out forcing parties to put more women on their municipal ballots unless politicians take swift action to achieve a more equitable gender balance. Currently, 38 percent of politicians elected to municipal councils in Norway are women. This figure needs to increase, according to Naversete, who leads the Centre Party, a junior partner in the governing red-green coalition. “I think the time has come to discuss how the parties’ lists are compiled,” she told national broadcaster NRK. “If the distribution between men and women is too skewed, we’ll have to take a look at it.” Navarsete said she wanted to examine the possibility of requiring Norway’s political parties to ensure every second candidate on their council election ballots is a woman.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Santa Claus to Visit Schools in Saugus After All, After Initially Being Told to Stay Away

SAUGUS — Santa Claus will be visiting Saugus schools after all.

The town’s superintendent on Monday announced that he was ending a nearly 50-year-old tradition of off-duty firefighters dressed as Santa visiting elementary schools to hand out coloring books and crayons to children because he said Santa is a religious figure.

Richard Langlois reversed his decision later in the day after an outcry from firefighters and citizens who say Santa is a secular symbol.

Fire Chief James Blanchard told The Daily Item of Lynn he was “taken aback” by the original decision, but is glad it was reversed.

School Committee member Arthur Grabowski says the superintendent didn’t consult the board before making the original decision he said was “political correctness gone awry.”

The superintendent said the tradition will be revisited next year.

           — Hat tip: AC [Return to headlines]


Boob Job Vouchers ‘Not a Good Gift Idea’

People planning to give their loved one a nip and tuck at Christmas could be risking more than upsetting their partners — cheap seasonal offers with time limits are not to be recommended, a top surgeon has warned.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

News Feed 20111219

Financial Crisis
» “Serious Social Effects” Plague Greece
» Greece to Find Another 3 Bln Euros in Early 2012
» Greece Has Highest Suicide Rate in Europe
» Ireland Seeks to Ease Debt Burden
» Italians Among Richest Even After Wealth Decline
» Italy: State Employees Striking Against Budget
» Race Against Clock as EU Hits IMF Bailout Funding Deadline
» Spain’s New Leader Vows 16.5-Billion-Euro Cuts
» Turkey New Migration Alternative for Greeks
» Donor of $350 Million Cornell Gift is Identified
» Reusable Rockets to Take Giant Leap From Spaceport America
» Exhibition Promotes Peaceful Islam
Europe and the EU
» ‘Europe Has Become Poorer’: A Continent Mourns the Passing of Vaclav Havel
» Europe’s Islamic Future
» German Neo-Nazi Terror Investigation: Intelligence Agency Reportedly Sabotaged Police
» Italy: Vandal Damages Santa Maria Maggiore Church in Rome
» Lottery: Spain Holds Its Breath for Record ‘Gordo’
» Norway: Butter Crisis Exposes ‘Soviet Conditions’
» Resentments Reawaken: Britain’s Mounting Distrust of Germany
» Severino: In Italy 15-20 Thousand Inmates Less With New Law
» Swedes in Norwegian Butter Smuggling Bust
» Sweden to Denmark Subway Line Suggested
» Swedish Butter Hustlers Arrested in Norway
» UK: ‘Nazi’ Stag Party MP Loses His Job
» UK: ‘Creating Hope’ Conference
» UK: Children Are Focus of Safety Project
» UK: Foster Father Fights to Illegalise Indoctrination of Muslims
» UK: MCB Beats Drum for British Business
» UK: Makeshift Purley ‘Mosque’ Shut Down by Croyden Council
» UK: Prince Harry in BlackBerry Mugging Drama: Royal Races to the Rescue in Car as He Hears Friend Being Robbed During Phone Conversation
» Merkel Urges Start of Joint Serb-Kosovo Border Controls
» Srdja Trifkovic: A Balkan Travelogue
Mediterranean Union
» Cyprus to Host an EU-Arab League Informal Meeting
» EuroMed: Economic Governance, Challenge for Arab Transitions
North Africa
» Egypt: Fresh Clashes in Tahrir Square, Two Dead
Middle East
» Kuwait is Experiencing Its Own Arab Spring
» Lebanon: Clashes Between Palestinian Factions in Refugee Camp
» Qatar Embraces Wahhabism to Strengthen Regional Influence
» Turkey Business Leaders Warn France Over Genocide Bill
» Russian Court Mulling Ban on “Extremist” Holy Book That Incites to Violence: The Bhagavad Gita
Far East
» Chinese Rocket Launches Powerful Nigerian Satellite Into Orbit
» Death of a Dictator: Kim’s Youngest Son to Become ‘Great Successor’
» Foreign Workers Squeezed by New Chinese Law
» Satellite Image Shows Kim Jong Il’s Dark Legacy
» The Psychology of Dictatorship: Kim Jong-Il
Latin America
» Yeti Crab Grows Its Own Food
Culture Wars
» New ‘Mythbuster’ Website to Fight Racism in Sweden
» Discover Interview: The Radical Linguist Noam Chomsky

Financial Crisis

“Serious Social Effects” Plague Greece

The political mood in Greece has calmed down since the appointment of a coalition government last month, the Swiss ambassador in Athens tells

Lorenzo Amberg said the will for the necessary change was slowly gaining a foothold, but admitted many ordinary Greeks were struggling to afford food and medicine.

On November 11, a new coalition cabinet led by Lucas Papademos was sworn in, easing the political tension.

On December 6, Athens witnessed riots following a ceremony to mark the shooting of a teenager by a police officer in 2008. But two earlier demonstrations — one in mid-November to mark the anti-junta Polytechnic uprising of 1973, as well as the general strike on December 1 — proceeded peacefully.

Lorenzo Amberg: There is less uncertainty than at the beginning of November. We now know there’s a coalition government that is endeavouring to carry out these cutbacks and economic measures.

That doesn’t mean this increased calm will last for ever, since there could be new elections in February or March. But for the moment people want to give the new government a chance and let it do its job.

L.A.: All fears exist in such a situation. Above all the realisation has spread that this is not just a Greek crisis but a pan-European crisis. That does not mean, however, that all Greeks believe Greece will leave the eurozone tomorrow.

According to surveys, a significant majority of Greeks believe Greece will remain in the eurozone. Most people are pro-European. There’s no noticeable anti-European feeling. People know that the country’s fate is closely tied to Europe.

L.A.: There’s a widespread view that for a long time Greece experienced growth that was based not on production but on consumption, that people spent money that didn’t belong to them but was lent to them by the banks and the EU. They realise things can’t continue like that.

The penny’s dropping that certain structural adjustments must be made — in politics in general, in the running of individual ministries, in public life. What exactly that will look like, no one really knows. But the political will to change is there.

L.A.: This poverty can be seen in certain districts in Athens, not only among the illegal immigrants — that’s always existed — but increasingly also among the Greek population. Organisations such as Médecins Sans Frontières or the charitable wings of the Orthodox Church are reporting a large increase in those in need of medical aid or food.

It’s true that this crisis is having serious social effects. On top of that there’s unemployment, which according to official figures is at 18 per cent. Among young people it’s double that.

L.A.: This issue has generated a lot of interest in the street and also in parliament. According to the Swiss finance ministry, meetings took place this year at a state secretary level. Bern also signalled its readiness to negotiate and informed Greece of the main features of an agreement, like those it has already signed with Germany and Britain.

L.A.: Yes, for example in the area of migration. Switzerland and Greece are both members of Schengen [an EU agreement which did away with internal border controls]. We’ve established that Greece has serious problems dealing with waves of illegal immigrants, simply because it lacks many structures that exist in Switzerland…

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

Greece to Find Another 3 Bln Euros in Early 2012

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, DECEMBER 19 — If Greece thought it had done enough to satisfy the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund — collectively known as the troika — with the measures it set out in its 2012 budget, it appears it was mistaken as the country’s lenders are demanding that the government find a way to raise or save another 3 billion euros. Sources told Sunday’s Kathimerini that following a visit to Athens last week, troika officials informed the government that it would have to come up with 3 billion euros worth of measures by next month, when the inspectors are due back in Greece. It appears that the troika wants these extra measures to be implemented in the first three months of 2012 and to be included in any agreement between Greece and its lenders for a second bailout. The government is currently negotiating a loan package for 130 billion euros. The budget for 2012, which Parliament approved earlier this month, foresees some 5 billion euros in spending cuts and another 3.6 billion in tax collection. The chief aim is to report a primary budget surplus of 1.1% of gross domestic product next year. Sources said that the troika has not stipulated where the extra 3 billion euros should come from but wants greater emphasis to be placed on speedier structural reforms. Greece’s lenders also indicated that they would accept measures for 2013 and 2014 being finalized in June, when any new loan agreement is due to be signed.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Greece Has Highest Suicide Rate in Europe

The suicide rate in Greece has reached a pan-European record high, with the rise thought to be due to the economic crisis, the Guardian reports. Greek ministry of health statistics show a 40% rise in suicides between January and May this year compared to the same period in 2010.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Ireland Seeks to Ease Debt Burden

Dublin is in talks with EU institutions and the IMF to try to find a way of reducing the debt burden on the country for the bank bailout, the Irish Times reports. Irish government circles are already saying a debt deal would facilitate a referendum Yes on the new treaty.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Italians Among Richest Even After Wealth Decline

Rome, 16 Dec. (AKI/Bloomberg) — Italians remain among the richest and least-indebted people in the world, even as net household wealth declined last year, according to the Bank of Italy.

Total household net wealth fell 1.5 percent in 2010 from the previous year to 8.6 trillion euros when adjusted for inflation, and was down 3.2 percent from its peak at the end of 2007, the central bank said in a report. Net wealth probably rose 0.4 percent in nominal terms in the first half of 2011, according to the report.

Gross household wealth at the end of 2010 amounted to 9.53 trillion euros, or almost 400,000 euros per family, with real- estate accounting for almost two-thirds, the Bank of Italy said.

Italians’ net wealth in 2009 was 8.3 times gross household disposable income, more than the 8 times for the U.K., 7.5 times for France, 7 times in Japan, 5.5 times in Canada and 4.9 times in the U.S. Figures for Germany weren’t given.

Italy, the euro region’s second most-indebted country after Greece, is struggling to tame borrowing costs that have surged to record highs amid Europe’s sovereign crisis. Prime Minister Mario Monti’s Cabinet approved a sweeping budget plan on Dec. 4 aimed at raising revenue and spurring economic growth in a bid to persuade investors Italy can avoid following Greece, Ireland and Portugal in seeking a bailout.

Five percent of financial assets held by Italian families were directly invested in Italian government debt at the end of 2010, down from 5.8 percent the previous year, the report showed. Household debt in Italy amounted to about 82 percent of disposable income in 2009, compared with about 100 percent in France and Germany, 130 percent in the U.S. and Japan and 170 percent in the U.K., the Bank of Italy said.

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

Italy: State Employees Striking Against Budget

Protests in many cities, possible problems for hospitals

(ANSAmed) — ROME — Today is seeing a national strike by public-sector workers called by the FP-CGIL, CISL-FP, UIL-FPL and UIL-PA unions for the entire day. All across Italy there will be protests to demand “radical change in the budget for equity”. There may also be problems for hospitals, with doctors and nurses taking part: specialist examinations, diagnostic exams and non-urgent surgeries may be at risk, while emergency services, ambulances and urgent surgical operations will be guaranteed. In Rome — according to the union federations — in Montecitorio Square from 9:30 am there will be a national demonstration. The focus of the unitary mobilization is the demand to modify the text during the parliamentary procedure to obtain: reform of social security which “is not offloaded onto the shoulders of workers and pensioners”; measures which strike out “for the first time, at tax evaders and those with large asset holdings”; tax reform easing employee and pension income taxation; an upgrading of public spending making it possible to find resources for growth; contract renewals; the elimination of further cuts to local autonomies to safeguard local welfare and healthcare; restructuring of central and local institutions which “avoid rushed media and accounting operations”, such as in the case of provinces and social security agencies (e.g.super-INPS) aiming to ensure job places and to improve services.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Race Against Clock as EU Hits IMF Bailout Funding Deadline

European Union finance ministers race against the clock on Monday to meet a self-imposed deadline to raise 200 billion euros ($260 billion) for new eurozone bailout funding. The target figure and a 10-day deadline to deliver the cash pledges to the IMF was decided by EU leaders in the early hours of a December 9 summit and effectively expires at midnight (2300 GMT).

International credit rating giants such as Fitch, which warned on Friday it might soon downgrade six countries, including two of the most heavily debt-laden or growth-stunted in Spain and Italy, are watching EU efforts closely. At the same time as those talks get under way from 4:00 pm (1500 GMT), European Central Bank (ECB) chief Mario Draghi will go before the European Parliament’s economics committee — fresh from an interview in the Financial Times in which he warned the central bank alone could not resolve all the eurozone’s ills.

Asked if the ECB could step in and act as a US-style lender of last resort, Draghi put the onus back on European governments by saying: “The important thing is to restore the trust of the people — citizens as well as investors — in our continent.” “We won’t achieve that by destroying the credibility of the ECB.”

At the summit, EU leaders decided to tap into IMF credibility after struggling in a months-long bid to increase the lending capacity of their stretched eurozone bailout fund, the 440-billion-euro European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF).

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Spain’s New Leader Vows 16.5-Billion-Euro Cuts

Spain’s incoming prime minister Mariano Rajoy vowed on Monday to slash the public deficit by 16.5 billion euros to calm financial markets with deep cuts to rescue the economy from crisis. With five million people unemployed and warnings of a fresh recession looming, Rajoy gave the first details of how he plans to create jobs, clean up banks and reassure investors that he can stabilise Spain’s finances.

Only pensions will escape the knife, he said in a speech to parliament ahead of his investiture, also vowing to complete a purge of Spain’s financial sector and guarantee that it balances its budget. “We will have to reduce by 16.5 billion euros ($21.5 billion) the shortfall between revenues and spending for the whole public administration,” he told parliament in an investiture speech. “This is our commitment and we are going to achieve it.”

Rajoy’s speech was keenly watched by markets, which have been anxious for months that debt crises in Greece and Italy may spread to Spain and across the eurozone. Rajoy’s speech appeared to provide some relief on Monday, with the Madrid stock market moving 1.38 percent higher. He reiterated his pre-election vows to make deep cuts and sweeping reforms, filling in some of the details for the first time since the election.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Turkey New Migration Alternative for Greeks

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, DECEMBER 19 — To find a remedy to the economic crisis, many Greeks are thinking to migrate to other countries and generally they preferred overseas countries and Western Europe, although in the last months — according to Greek Reporter Online — Turkey began to be seen as a country of immigration. According to a recent show on a Turkish television program, a woman from Athens with a daughter wants to migrate, because she cannot see the perspective of a future in Greece for her daughter, she says. If it is not possible in Istanbul, at least they want to migrate to Australia, she says. Professor of International Relations and European Studies Centre, Dimitrius Triantafilu emphasized that many things have changed in the relations between the two countries. “Turkey as a country of immigration has become almost a recipe for success” Triantafilu says, stressing that according to statistics, at least two of the world’s top 100 universities are located in Turkey. “Greece has nothing to such”,he said. Moreover, Turkey is a very attractive destination not only for its economic development but also for the short distance between Turkey and Greece. Turkey’s everyday life carries similar characteristics to Greek life.

This is the main reason for Greek migration to Turkey.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]


Donor of $350 Million Cornell Gift is Identified

Atlantic Philanthropies, whose gift will be critical in building Cornell’s new high-tech school on Roosevelt Island in New York City, was founded by Charles F. Feeney, a Cornell alumnus who made billions of dollars through Duty Free Shoppers. Mr. Feeney, 80, has spent much of the last three decades giving away his fortune. Cornell officials revealed in 2007 that he had given some $600 million to the university over the years, yet nothing on its Ithaca campus, where he was graduated from the School of Hotel Management in 1956, bears his name.

[Return to headlines]

Reusable Rockets to Take Giant Leap From Spaceport America

Billed as the nation’s first dedicated commercial spaceport, New Mexico’s Spaceport America is becoming a desirable location to experiment with new types of reusable booster systems.

Armadillo Aerospace, of Heath, Texas, used the site on Dec. 4 to test their STIG A reusable suborbital rocket technology. The rocket shot to a projected suborbital altitude of 137,500 feet (about 42 kilometers) above the Earth. The STIG A flight demonstrated a number of technologies that Armadillo is assessing for a human-passenger suborbital program, said Neil Milburn, vice president of program management at Armadillo Aerospace.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]


Exhibition Promotes Peaceful Islam

‘Love for all, hatred for none’

Members of a local mosque are holding an open house at the Millennium Library to demonstrate that Islam is a faith of peace. The Holy Qur’an Exhibition opened Sunday afternoon and continues today and Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. “One of our campaigns is to demonstrate that the Muslim faith promotes peace,” Hammad Ahmad said. “The motto of our community is ‘love for all, hatred for none,’“ said Afzal Muhammad, local president of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at, an Islamic movement with a mosque in a former bank building on Kylemore Avenue near the Fort Rouge Leisure Centre. Muhammad said there is a great deal of misunderstanding about Muslims and the Qur’an, most of it fuelled by the activities of fundamentalist Muslims who dominate news coverage. “Ninety per cent of Muslims are peaceful but they haven’t been loud enough, they haven’t made that effort,” Muhammad said. “The other 10 per cent who are violent are louder than the 90 per cent who are peaceful.” At the open house, Ahmad, a missionary with the Ahmadiyya movement, and Muhammad are available to answer questions about Islam and the Qur’an. They encourage non-Muslims to pick up free copies of Islamic tracts on a variety of issues, including the hijab and the Islamic view of Jesus. The mosque is also giving away copies of the Qur’an. The group also held an open house at the mosque in October and an interfaith conference at the Fort Rouge Leisure Centre in November.

[JP note: Gibberish.]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

‘Europe Has Become Poorer’: A Continent Mourns the Passing of Vaclav Havel

Leaders from the Czech Republic, Europe and beyond have expressed their sorrow at the death of Velvet Revolution leader Vaclav Havel. Thousands gathered in the heart of Prague on Sunday evening to mourn the passing of one of the communist-era’s greatest dissidents.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Europe’s Islamic Future

Islam is on its way to become the most practiced religion in Europe. In a new book published by the University of Leuven, “The Iris and the Crescent,” sociologist Felice Dassetto says that Muslims will comprise the majority of the population of Brussels by 2030. The title of the book refers to the yellow flower symbol of Brussels’ region and to the Islamic emblem: While the first is decaying, the second is growing. Muslims now make up one-quarter of the population of the capital of the enlightened Europe and they are asking to use the empty churches for Islamic prayers. Since 2008, the top seven baby boys’ names in Brussels were Mohammed, Adam, Rayan, Ayoub, Mehdi, Amine and Hamza. Mohammed is also the most popular name for baby boys in Belgium’s second-largest city, Antwerp, where an estimated 40% of elementary school children are Muslim. Antwerp is also home to Belgium’s first Islamic Sharia law court, which began operating in September.

Yet Belgium is not an isolate case. Rabbi David Rosen, a moderate voice in the Jewish establishment, has warned that Europe risks being “overrun” by Islam. According to a recent report of the US Pew Center, Islam is already “the fastest-growing religion in Europe,” where the number of Muslims has tripled over the past 30 years. One third of all European children will be born to Muslim families by 2025. Islam is the most practiced religion in the United Kingdom. In London, more Muslims attend mosques on Friday than do Christians churches on Sunday. The Oude Kerk, the oldest church in the city of Amsterdam, where the kings of Holland were crowned, is now a museum. The only “church” in the largest Dutch city that is crowded is the church of Scientology, a six-story building in the thick of the city center. Only 7% of Dutch Catholics now go to Sunday Mass and 16% of children are baptized.

In Austria, which was 90% Catholic in the 20th Century, Islam will be the majority religion among Austrians aged under 15 by 2050. The French case also shows that the often exaggerated “Eurabia” threat is more a quality phenomenon of religious attendance than of demographic takeover. In France, there are now more Islamic mosques being build — and more frequently so — than Catholic churches, and there are more practicing Muslims than practicing Catholics in the country. Overall, the total number of mosques in France has already doubled to more than 2,000 in the last 10 years. The best known French Islamic leader, Dalil Boubakeur, Rector of the Great Mosque of Paris, recently suggested that the total number of mosques should double yet again, to 4,000, to meet the growing demand. Meanwhile, the Catholic Church in France had only 20 new churches built in the last 10 years, and formally closed more than 60 churches, many of which became mosques, according to research conducted by the French Catholic daily La Croix. Princeton University’s Bernard Lewis once told the German daily Die Welt that “Europe will be Islamic by the end of the century.” At the time, Brussels’ political and cultural elites expressed outrage at the alarmist prediction. Yet if the current trends persist, Mr. Lewis may yet be proven right.

Giulio Meotti, a journalist with Il Foglio, is the author of the book A New Shoah: The Untold Story of Israel’s Victims of Terrorism

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

German Neo-Nazi Terror Investigation: Intelligence Agency Reportedly Sabotaged Police

The police investigation of what is now known as the Zwickau neo-Nazi terror cell was likely hindered by domestic intelligence sabotage, a media report said on Monday. Intelligence agents in the state of Thuringia allegedly disrupted and betrayed police surveillance to those under observation.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Italy: Vandal Damages Santa Maria Maggiore Church in Rome

Homeless man attacks bronze doors with a rock

(ANSA) — Rome, December 19 — One of Rome’s oldest and most beautiful churches, the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore (Saint Mary Major), has been damaged by a vandal.

The vandal climbed over two railings and attacked the basilica’s bronze doors with a rock, knocking off six saintly badges and “seriously” damaging a bas-relief portrayal of the Annunciation to the Virgin Mary, church sources said on Monday.

Police are said to have arrested a Romanian homeless man and Vatican gendarmes are also investigating, since the church, although across the city from the Holy See and close to Termini rail station, is a Vatican ‘extraterritorial’ site.

Experts from Rome’s art heritage superintendency said the damage ran into thousands of euros.

“It’s serious damage, quantifiable in a few thousand euros,” they said.

One of the fences the man climbed over was a couple of metres high and the other six metres high, police said.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Lottery: Spain Holds Its Breath for Record ‘Gordo’

Most generous prizes on record for hard times Xmas

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, DECEMBER 16 — To distract a little from the crisis that has brought the country to its knees, with an army of five million unemployed, Spain awaits the Christmas draw of the state lottery’s “El Gordo” (the fat one) prize, which will be the most generous yet on record. This, the world’s oldest lottery, is an event that has excited people across Spain each year since it started in 1832. It is estimated that every person in the country spends an average of 72 euros on buying tickets for El Gordo, and patience always wears thin.

The draw takes place each year on December 22 and the country holds its breath during the live radio and television event as the names of the winners are sung out by a boys’ choir from Madrid’s San Ildefonso college. The first prize — ‘El Gordo’ itself — will be 4.4 million euros this year, but the lottery will hand out thousands more prizes, ranging from one million down to around 100 euros. A ticket for one ‘tenth’ costs 20 euros. This year’s draw of El Gordo will coincide with another event of interest for the country — the formation of its new government, led by centre-right premier Rajoy, successor to socialist José Luis Zapatero.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Norway: Butter Crisis Exposes ‘Soviet Conditions’

Norway’s butter crisis has prompted severe criticism of the country’s dairy system, as consumers grapple with shortages that an Oslo management school dean has likened to conditions in the Soviet Union.

Trond Blindheim, dean of the Oslo School of Management made his comments after 40 percent of respondents in a Sentio survey published by newspaper Nationen said they had formed a more negative view of dairy giant Tine in the wake of the butter shortage.

The butter shortfall had been avoidable, Blindheim said, adding that Tine’s failure to avert the situation could eventually lead to its downfall.

“The system we have today, in which Tine more or less has a monopoly on dairy products, is the kind of system they had in the 1920s.”

Referring to what he described as the “Soviet conditions” that have prevailed this autumn, with butter absent from supermarket shelves, Blindheim said voices calling for free market reform in the dairy sector were gradually succeeding in getting their message across.

“A lot of people would probably say that Tine is living on borrowed time. The way things are now, the situation benefits producers but not consumers,” he told Nationen.

Tine spokesman Øystein Knoph said the company understood that consumers felt let down by the company.

“The dip in confidence is deserved, and we’re not surprised people are disappointed and irritated.

“The butter shortage is regrettable and should have been avoided. We are critical of our own failure to fully foresee the combined effect of reduced milk supply and a major increase in demand for butter,” said Knoph.

Tine could at least take some comfort from the fact that eight out of ten people surveyed by Sentio said they had not felt personally affected by the butter shortfall.

The lack of butter in Norway has been attributed to a mixture of rising demand amid a high-fat diet fad, and a drop in the supply of raw milk after a wet summer led to lower feed production.

Prohibitively high tariffs on the import of butter have also made foreign dairies disinclined to enter the Norwegian market.

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

Resentments Reawaken: Britain’s Mounting Distrust of Germany

In Britain, distrust of Europe goes hand-in-hand with distrust of Germany. Relations between the two countries have cooled following the furore caused by the latest EU summit, and British euroskeptics are once again resorting to old stereotypes.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Severino: In Italy 15-20 Thousand Inmates Less With New Law

(AGI) Rome — The Italian government estimates that the new decree-law will reduce the number of inmates by15-20 thousand people. In Italy, there are currently 67 thousand inmates compared to the 45 thousand places available. The Minister of Justice Ms Severino said: “We cannot exactly say how many inmates will be released. The provision on the so-called ‘revolving doors’ for those who have been arrested for only three days concerns 15-18 thousand inmates. The provision allowing inmates to serve their last 18 months as home confinment touches 3 thousand people”.

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

Swedes in Norwegian Butter Smuggling Bust

Police in Norway apprehended two Swedish men over the weekend with more than 250 kilogrammes of butter after they reportedly had been trying to sell contraband spread at 250 kroner ($42) a packet. “They allegedly sold the coveted butter packets in Beitstad Steinkjer before they drove north along the county road 17. Then they were stopped by a police patrol, which found 250 kilogrammes of butter in the small van,” said police officer Lars Letnes of the Nord-Trøndelag Police District to Norwegian daily Adresseavisen.

The men had reportedly driven into Norway via the Swedish ski resort Storlien, one kilometre from the Norwegian border, on the night to Saturday. With them they had brought 250 kilogrammes of butter in 500 gramme packets.

On Saturday evening, police were tipped off about the crafty butter salesmen and were able to apprehend them around 7pm. Both men were taken in for questioning. According to Adresseavisen, the two men soon admitted to being in Norway to turn a profit from the Norwegian butter shortage.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Sweden to Denmark Subway Line Suggested

Ever-growing numbers of commuters between Malmö, Sweden’s southern-most large city, and the Danish capital, Copenhagen, require new infrastructure solutions. A bold new suggestion currently being investigated involves a subway line connecting the neighbouring countries. “The tracks on the Öresund Bridge won’t be enough for all trains in the future,” said Malmö mayor Ilmar Reepalu to newspaper Dagens Nyheter (DN).

“That’s why we need to plan for increased capacity now, so commuters aren’t forced to take their cars.” The subway would cost roughly 13 billion kronor ($1.87 billion), and take 15 years to complete. Malmö and Copenhagen will be conducting a joint study planned to be completed by the end of 2013, investigating how a subway connection in a new tunnel under the Öresund could increase transport capacity between the two cities and increase growth in the area.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Swedish Butter Hustlers Arrested in Norway

Police in Norway arrested two Swedish men over the weekend as they sought to sell 250 kilos of smuggled butter at 250 kroner ($42) a packet.

The men drove to Norway via the Swedish ski resort Storlien, one kilometre from the border, in the early hours of Saturday morning, newspaper Adresseavisen reports.

“They allegedly sold the coveted butter in Beitstad Steinkjer before driving north along county road 17,” police officer Lars Letnes of Nord-Trøndelag Police told the newspaper.

“Then they were stopped by a police patrol, which found 250 kilos of butter in the small van.”

Police were tipped off about the crafty butter salesmen on Saturday evening and were able to apprehend them, together with their cargo of 500-gramme blocks, at around 7pm.

Both men were taken in for questioning.

According to Adresseavisen, the two men admitted to being in Norway to try turn a profit from the country’s butter shortage.

“They have confessed that they bought butter in Sweden to sell at a profit in Norway. They were hoping to make some money by selling butter to Norwegians,” legal counsel Amund Sand told the paper.

Sand added that police will destroy the butter since it had not been declared at customs, no doubt to the horror of many spread-hankering Norwegians.

According to border official Hilde Petterson Ruud, the incident was unusual but not unexpected.

“We have heard about black market prices, and it was not a surprise that this happened,” Pettersson Ruud told Adresseavisen.

With no sign of a let-up in the country’s butter crisis, Norwegian radio reported that Norwegians are flocking over the border to purchase the sought-after product in Swedish stores.

Retailers on the Swedish side of the Svinesund Bridge reported selling twenty times more butter than usual, with an estimated nine out of ten butter customers coming from Norway.

Dairy giant Tine, which enjoys near-total market dominance in Norway, has indicated the shortage is likely to stretch beyond Christmas and into January.

The shortfall has been attributed to a mixture of rising demand amid a high-fat diet fad, and a drop in the supply of raw milk after a wet summer led to lower feed production.

Prohibitively high tariffs on the import of butter have also made foreign dairies disinclined to enter the Norwegian market.

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

UK: ‘Nazi’ Stag Party MP Loses His Job

The MP for Cannock Chase has been sacked a week after it emerged that he attended a Nazi themed stag party. Aidan Burley, who was elected in 2010, was at a party in a French ski resort where one guest dressed up in SS uniform and others toasted senior Nazis including Hitler. Mr Burley’s behaviour was condemned but the Conservative party initially resisted calls to remove him from his position. However he has now been sacked as a parliamentary private secretary (PPS) to Transport Secretary Justine Greening for “offensive” behaviour. His actions will also be investigated. A Party spokesman said: “Aidan Burley has behaved in a manner which is offensive and foolish. “In light of information received the Prime Minister has asked for a fuller investigation into the matter to be set up and to report to him.” The JC had been among those who called for him to step down in the wake of the scandal. The Mail on Sunday reported this morning that Mr Burley had ordered the uniforms.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: ‘Creating Hope’ Conference

The conference will have International speakers such as Sheikh Rachid Ghannouchi, Sheikh Dr Essam Al-Bashir, Sheikh Dr AbdUllah Basfar and Sheikh AbdouRahman Bashir. Also, from the UK: Noureddine Miladi, Anas Al-Tikriti, Mohamed Ali Harrath, Salma Yaqoob, Zahid Parvez, Abdul Aziz Belattar, Murtaza Awan and many more. The event is co-sponsored by the MCB and speakers will also include: Farooq Murad, Secretary General of the MCB and Dr Faisal Hanjra, Assistant Secretary General. Please see the leaflet for the full list of speakers.

The Venue:

The Conference would be held in the prestigious New Bingley Conference Hall, in Birmingham.

A purpose built venue for the conference, which can house over 3000 people.

Full Address: 1 Hockley Circus, Birmingham B18 5BE.

Creche facilities would be available for younger children.

Be Entertained:

In addition, come and listen to some live nasheed performances and sessions of light entertainment.


Register now at:


There would be free accommodation in the nearby Masajid. Please bring your sleeping bags and pillows. Separate facilities for sisters / families. Alternatively, you can book a hotel / B&B room.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: Children Are Focus of Safety Project

A major project is under way to help protect the safety of the 9,000 children being taught in Madrassahs in the district. Bradford Council for Mosques is working alongside the Bradford Safeguarding Children Board and the NSPCC to help improve safeguarding procedures at Muslim faith institutions. The scheme comes less than a month after religious teacher Sabir Hussain, 60, was sentenced to ten weeks in prison after admitting four charges of assaulting pupils at the Markazi Jamia Mosque, in Emily Street, Lawkholme, Keighley, where he was teaching the Koran. The project will start with a consultation on Saturday at the Khidmat Centre, in Spencer Road, Bradford, where parents, community leaders and Madrassah committee members, teachers and Imams will have the chance to contribute. The meeting will be the first in a series of events with briefings and focus group sessions also planned.

Ishtiaq Ahmed, a spokesman for the Council For Mosques, said: “There has been a lot of discussions around faith institutions and about what is happening around the safety and wellbeing of children. We felt it was only right to respond effectively and creatively and work with mosques and faith schools to make sure all their policies and procedures are in place and they have adequate training, so when issues do come up they are well placed to respond quickly, efficiently and constructively.” Professor Nick Frost, chairman of the Bradford Safeguarding Children Board, said: “The board places the effective safeguarding of all of Bradford’s children as our central priority. As part of this we have initiated a partnership project with the Council Of Mosques and the NSPCC which aims to ensure high quality safeguarding practice exists wherever children learn. “In order to make this happen we want to engage with parents, carers and other community members and listen to their views. The event at the Khidmat Centre on Saturday is part of a series of consultations with a wide range of relevant parties. At the end of the process we hope there will be wider awareness of any issues building on the effective policies and practices in place.”

Saturday’s meeting will run from 10am to 1.30pm. For more information call (01274) 521792.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: Foster Father Fights to Illegalise Indoctrination of Muslims

A Stockport resident has founded a campaign and charity that aims to raise awareness on the indoctrination of British Muslims overseas. Benedict Garrett created the Azadi campaign and the Azadi-Freedom charity, after informally fathering a young boy who was sent to Pakistan to study in a radical Islamic school, a Madrasah, by his mother. Mr Garrett, more famously known as Johnny Anglais, became a media sensation this year after his previous employer, Beale High School in London, terminated his contract after discovering he was moonlighting as a stripper.


           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: MCB Beats Drum for British Business

The Muslim Council of Britain has been busy promoting British entrepreneurs at the Young Entrepreneurship Conference in Istanbul.

The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) has been busy drumming up business for Britain, as the only British organisation represented at an important entrepreneurial conference in Turkey. A joint delegation from the MCB’s Business and Economics and Youth Affairs Committee attended the two-day Young Entrepreneurship Conference entitled ‘Change is Future’ on 9 and 10 December in Istanbul. Joining over 2,000 other delegates from 35 countries, the event was hosted by Young Musiad, Turkey’s foremost independent business lobby bringing together businesses and young entrepreneurs. The two-day congress consisted of special sessions and workshops to help develop and increase the social and economic level of participation from youth. The various sessions focused on change through different channels such as mass communications, non-governmental organisations, youth entrepreneurs and sports organisations. Khalid Sharif, Vice-Chair of the MCB’s Business and Economics Committee, was a member of the panel ‘The Role of Youth Entrepreneurs in Change’ and shared his experience as CEO and founder of Ummah Foods, generating plenty of interest and contributions from the audience. Farooq Murad, Secretary General of the MCB: “This was a great opportunity for British businesses and young entrepreneurs to shine. We are proud of our colleagues’ achievements, whether they be Muslim or not. In these economically dark times, Britain continues to lead the way ahead and as a rising economic power, Turkey is an important ally for us not only economically, but in bridging the gap between East and West.”

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: Makeshift Purley ‘Mosque’ Shut Down by Croyden Council

AN UNAUTHORISED makeshift “mosque” looks set to be shut down by Croydon Council. Worshippers have been using a back room at vacant shop Tip Top TV to pray five times a day during the week, after turning it into a prayer space. But the council says using the premises, in Old Lodge Lane, Purley, as a place of worship breaches planning laws, and that it will soon clamp down on “unauthorised activity”. The makeshift “mosque”, with shoe rack, prayer mats and a 99 Names Of Allah wall chart installed, has also proved controversial with local residents, who say the location is inappropriate. Diane Hearne, chairman of Hartley and District Residents’ Association, said: “It is an unusual location for a mosque, and the objection is that it is on a road where there is not enough parking. “We have had a number of phone calls from people concerned about it because they hadn’t been told anything and wanted to be informed. There should be a planning application so people can have their say. It is not about it being a mosque, it would be the same for any place of worship, because there is not enough parking on that road and so we feel it is not an appropriate location.”

The Advertiser visited the premises on Monday where around seven men, three of whom said they were locals, are using the building for prayers between 6.45am and 8pm. Proprietor Kamran Hussain, who also runs the nearby mini cab office, said: “I suppose it was out of desperation as there were no facilities available to my staff that I opened the space. “I have never openly advertised it as a mosque, I have not employed a priest or Imam and am sorry if it has caused any distress. If the public feel that we should not allow Muslims to privately pray in a private room then with sadness I will explain to my staff that they have to go somewhere which allows them to pray.” A worshipper, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “We just come peacefully here and go home peacefully. We come here to pray, nothing more.” Steve Hollands, borough councillor for Kenley, said planning permission would be needed for the men to continue using the shop as a place of worship. Monir Mohammed, 40, a trustee of Purley Islamic Community Centre (PICC), said: “I think it reinforces the need for an Islamic centre in the community, one that is established through the correct channels.” PICC is currently in talks to buy an empty building near the Purley War Memorial Hospital to create such a centre. A council spokesman said: “The council is aware of concerns regarding this address, has investigated the matter and has contacted the occupier of the premises with a view to ceasing any unauthorised activity.”

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: Prince Harry in BlackBerry Mugging Drama: Royal Races to the Rescue in Car as He Hears Friend Being Robbed During Phone Conversation

Prince Harry became embroiled in a real-life crime drama when he came to the rescue of one of his best friends after he was mugged on a London street.

According to police records, the Prince was on the phone to Thomas van Straubenzee at the exact moment a robber took his friend’s BlackBerry mobile.

Harry heard the scuffle taking place and immediately drove to the scene with his protection officer. Fearing 28-year-old Mr van Straubenzee had been hurt, the Prince circled the streets of Battersea, South-West London, looking for him.

When he could not find his friend, he drove to the nearest police station where he found Mr van Straubenzee reporting the crime. Because he had overheard the mugging taking place, Prince Harry was required to give a police statement, which is now part of an ongoing investigation.

Last night, Wandsworth police told The Mail on Sunday that they had arrested a man in connection with the robbery and recovered the stolen mobile phone. The man was released on bail.

It is believed to be the first time a senior Royal has walked into a police station to report a crime.

A police source said: ‘Prince Harry came into the station to give a statement. It was a separate statement from the one given by his friend who was mugged.’

A police spokesman said: ‘Police are investigating an allegation of personal robbery which occurred at approximately 8.30pm on Wednesday, November 30, in Albert Bridge Road, SW11.

‘A mobile phone was taken during the robbery. This allegation was taken seriously, as are all allegations of robbery. A man was arrested on Thursday, December 1 on suspicion of robbery and bailed to return in January pending further inquiries. Police from Wandsworth are investigating.’

           — Hat tip: Takuan Seiyo [Return to headlines]


Merkel Urges Start of Joint Serb-Kosovo Border Controls

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday called on Pristina and Belgrade to start joint border controls as agreed to quell the unrest in Serb-majority northern Kosovo. “(In northern Kosovo) we need to find smart ways of dealing with each other, joint border controls can be such a way,” Merkel said during a snap visit to the territory to meet prime minister Hashim Thaci and German troops serving with the NATO-led KFOR force there.

“It is important that the joint border controls are implemented,” she said, urging the majority ethnic Albanian goverment in Pristina also to fulfil its obligations under the deal. Two weeks ago EU leaders delayed a decision on whether to grant Serbia candidacy status until March. Germany especially stressed that Belgrade needs to improve its relations with Kosovo before it can become a candidate to join the bloc.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Srdja Trifkovic: A Balkan Travelogue

It’s been some years since Tom Fleming and I have indulged in seven-day mad dashes across the Balkans, speaking, lecturing and giving interviews, meeting interesting people over good food and drink. Last week’s tour, which took us to Belgrade and Banja Luka, had the tempo and feel of the old times, but it was on balance a melancholy affair. After two decades of trials and tribulations, Serbia is on what appears to be an irreversible downward spiral.

The dilemma facing the country was summed up by Dr. Fleming [start watching at 0:05:15] at a symposium at Belgrade’s Media Center on December 5. How does a small and weak nation respond to the challenge of a hostile and mighty foreign power which seeks to subjugate it? What is the right balance between defiance and subservience? That dilemma will not be resolved by a party program or by intellectuals writing manifestos. The only way to meet the challenge is to maintain faith and identity… and to procreate. In other words, the solution to Serbia’s woes is not structurally different from the solution to the malaise of some bigger and more important countries on both sides of the Atlantic which are also experiencing moral and cultural decrepitude and demographic decline.

This was inevitably the topic of conversation at a dinner we shared that evening with Dragan Acoviæ, our polyglot friend whose professional and social pursuits make him one of the best informed people in Belgrade.. His assessment was gloomy: the West may be declining, but Serbia’s decline is far swifter. The country may be further fragmented (Vojvodina, Sanjak) well before America finally gives up her imperial pretensions and the European Union disintegrates under the weight of its insoluble contradictions. The cumulative effect of relentless Western hostility over the past two decades, currently on display in northern Kosovo, has taken its toll. Belgrade’s political scene is dominated by a corrupt “pro-European” coalition led by the Democratic Party (DS) of Boris Tadiæ. While it claims to be more patriotic, the leading opposition party—the Serbian National Party (SNS) of Tomislav Nikoliæ—is almost equally enthusiastic about the alleged advantages of joining the EU, and just as ambivalent when it comes to maintaining and defending Serbia’s claim to Kosovo. The Socialists (SPS), opportunistic as ever, are likely to remain in the ruling coalition no matter who forms the government after the next election. The Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) of my old friend Vojislav Koštunica and Šešelj’s Radicals (SRS) may get a third of the vote between them but are more or less certain to remain in the opposition.

On Tuesday, December 6, we attended an international conference on World War I in the Balkans which was jointly organized by the Institute for Contemporary History in Belgrade and the Russian World Institute in Moscow. The opening, at the ornate Senate Room of the National Assembly, was a major affair attended by government ministers and by the Russian Ambassador, Aleksandr Konuzin, who was to host a large reception at the Embassy in the evening. The following day, however, it transpired the conference itself was practically ignored by the Belgrade media. According to one of the organizers, editors received a discrete signal from on high that appearing too chummy with the Russians was not a good idea on the eve of the much anticipated EU decision on Serbia’s application for candidate status.

In the event Brussels said “no,” as expected, and Mr. Tadiæ pretended to be surprised…

           — Hat tip: Srdja Trifkovic [Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union

Cyprus to Host an EU-Arab League Informal Meeting

(ANSAmed) — NICOSIA, DECEMBER 19 — Cyprus is planning to host an Informal Meeting of EU Ministers of Foreign Affairs with their Arab League counterparts, during the Cypriot EU presidency at the 2nd half of 2012, Minister of Foreign Affairs Erato Kozakou-Markoullis has said. Addressing a seminar on Thursday at the University of Cyprus on Cyprus, Europe and the Middle East, Markoullis noted that the Cyprus EU presidency is a very important opportunity to further consolidate and deepen Cyprus’ role in the region as an honest and impartial EU link with the Arab countries. “Right now we are planning to host an Informal Meeting of EU Ministers of Foreign Affairs with their Arab League counterparts, a meeting which will be extremely useful”, she said as reported by CNA. Markoullis pointed out that organizing such a meeting is of great importance. Such a ministerial forum will aim to review political changes after the “Arab Spring”, as well as the effect it has had on Europe, she added. She further said that High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton and Arab League Secretary General Nabil el-Araby have both expressed to her their strong support and wish that this initiative takes shape.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

EuroMed: Economic Governance, Challenge for Arab Transitions

Interview with Andreu Bassols, director of IEMed

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, DECEMBER 16 — “The economic governance of the Arab Spring countries is a real challenge, because it is a crucial element for the democratic durability of a good government.” This is how Andreu Bassols, general director of the European Institute of the Mediterranean (IEMed), summarised the topics discussed yesterday and today in the Pedralbes building in Barcelona by experts and representatives of research centres in the forum: ‘What form of economic governance for the Arab transitions’. The event is organised by IEMed, the Union for the Mediterranean, in collaboration with the European Investment Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the programme for investments in the Middle East and the Maghreb of the COED. It is part of the ‘Promoting Mutual Awareness, Understanding and Cooperation between the European Union and the European Neighbourhood Region’ programme and is co-funded by the EU through the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument.

“Economic reforms and system sustainability are the two pillars on which the progress of countries in North Africa and the Middle East, where a transition is in progress, is resting,” Bassols explained. From the development of professionalised institutions and new systems of public administration to the redefinition of the role of central banks, from macro-economic policies that guarantee free competition and stimulate the creation of jobs to the role of Europe and the international institutions and the need for a Marshall plan for the Mediterranean. “What is on the table is more than a Marshall plan, it is an aid package developed by the partners of the Deanville partnership, formed during the last G8 summit, to give economic support to the Arab Spring in Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and Jordan,” the director of IEMed continued. An economic agenda that will allow reformed governments “to respond to the desire of their people for strong and all-inclusive growth,” as the final statement of Deanville reads.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egypt: Fresh Clashes in Tahrir Square, Two Dead

Elections, another Islamist victory in second round

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO — Two protestors have died in clashes with Egyptian security forces which broke out this morning in Tahrir Square, according to on location sources. The two protestors reportedly died of tear gas inhalation after security forces entered the square and launched tear gas to clear out a few hundred people gathered in several different points, where they had spent the night. According to news via Twitter, on the other hand, the two had been shot in the head.

At the moment it is impossible to verify the reliability of the news.

Meanwhile the Islamists have won yet another victory in the second round of parliamentary elections, in which — according to the initial estimates of the electoral committee — turnout stood at about 68.5%. The Muslim Brotherhood estimates that their Freedom and Justice Party has racked up 40% of votes, followed by the Salafis of the Al Nour party with 35%. If the figures from the December 15-16 elections in the second group of governorates are confirmed, the Islamist bloc will have taken 75% of votes against a backdrop of clashes which continued even yesterday despite a few attempts at a truce. On the contrary — a fight almost broke out amid the remains of the tents burnt to the ground by the military between exasperated protestors in the third day of a “cat and mouse” battle with soldiers and police and a delegation of politicians and activists who wanted to propose mediation to put an end to the clashes in which at least 10 have died and 500 have been injured.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Middle East

Kuwait is Experiencing Its Own Arab Spring

Protest from classrooms to streets, for reforms not overthrow

(ANSAmed) — DUBAI — Kuwait’s version of the Arab Spring is less violent, less noisy and has a character of its own. Events in the country have not made international headlines but a “historic” shift has been achieved in recent weeks with the overthrow of Nasser al-Mohammed al-Sabah, a prominent member of the royal family and the first and only Prime Minister that the oil-rich Emirate has known in its recent democratic history.

After six years of uninterrupted power at the head of seven different governments, the PM was forced to bow to the age-old stand-off between Parliament on one side, and growing pressure from civilians on the other. For the first time, he was not re-elected in his role. With Parliament dissolved and a new Prime Minister appointed, the country is now awaiting a royal decree, expected on Sunday, which will sanction legislative elections for February 2.

“Kuwait finds itself in the middle of its own particular Arab Spring, which has the aim of strengthening its democracy,” says the director of the department of political science at Kuwait University, Abdullah al-Shayji. “The Prime Minister was eventually forced to give in to popular pressure, boosted by determined opposition and a growing youth movement,” he explains.

Although the concept of applied democracy in Kuwait bears no resemblance to that of the West, the emirate remains one of the first oil monarchies to introduce a Constitution, a Parliament and to allow women the right to vote.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Lebanon: Clashes Between Palestinian Factions in Refugee Camp

Two Fatah militants killed

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, 19 December — The tension is up at red alert level in Ain al Hilweh, the biggest Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon, due to clashes between militants of Al Fatah and the Islamic fundamentalist group Fatah al-Islam.

The Beirut press reports that two bodyguards of Fatah’s military commander in field, Mahmoud Issa, were killed in attacks carried out by unknown assailants on Wednesday and Sunday. The second attack, which took place in the fruit and vegetable market, also injured a Lebanese civilian and four Palestinians, including a six-year-old. Until late last night patrols from the two sides faced off in the camp, inhabited by tens of thousands of refugees.

Mahmoud Issa, speaking to Al Jadid TV, accused Fatah al-Islam of being responsible for the two assassinations, but the fundamentalist group’s spokesman in the camp, Haitham Shaabi, told the Daily Star newspaper that Fatah al-Islam had nothing to do with the attacks. Meanwhile, many families have left the camp due to fear that these incidents could lead to open battle between the Palestinian factions, while the Lebanese army has set up a security cordon around the camp, preventing access.

An agreement signed in Cairo in 1969 with the government Lebanese, recognised the right of Palestinian factions to keep their weapons in Lebanon’s 12 refugee camps.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Qatar Embraces Wahhabism to Strengthen Regional Influence

Qatari Emir inaugurates ‘Imam Muhammad Ibn Abdul Wahhab’ Mosque in Doha, vows to spread ‘teachings of Islam in whole world’.

DOHA — Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani inaugurated on Friday the “Imam Imam Muhammad Ibn Abdul Wahhab” Mosque in Doha. During the opening, Sheikh Hamad reaffirmed his commitment to spare no efforts to carry the message and spread the teachings of Islam in the whole world, noting that the Muslim nation is now in need of renewal and inspiration of the experience of Wahhab’s da’wah (call) while keeping pace with the era and its developments. The inauguration started with a recitation of verses from the Holy Qur’an followed by the screening of a documentary on the mosque. Ibn Abdul Wahab (1703-1792) preached a return to “pure Islam” and called for purging Islam of what he considered “impurities and negative innovations.” In his teachings, he urged Muslims to uphold only “the original principles of Islam as typified by the Salaf” and to reject “corruptions introduced by bidah (negative innovations and heresy). The scholar emphasized that there could be no intercession between God and worshippers.

Located in the Jubailat district of Doha the newly-built State Mosque will be formally opened for prayers on Friday. Situated on the northern side in the central part of Doha city, it overlooks the Qatar Sports Club. The mosque covers a total area of 175,164 sq.m. As many as 11,000 men can offer prayers in the air-conditioned central hall of the mosque and the adjacent special enclosure is spacious enough for 1200 women. Ideologically, in recent years Qatar, which like Saudi Arabia is Wahhabi, has assisted Islamic movements in the Arab world. Islamists, of course, have proved to be major players so far, and with influential clerics such as Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi theologising for years on al-Jazeera’s screens, Qatar has since long had a direct channel to most Islamist parties in the region. Rather than imposing an Islamist agenda on the region, as some have accused it, Qatar is taking advantage of the clout it has built with them over the years to position itself as a leading interlocutor. Equally at ease with Islamist and secular parties, with liberals and conservatives, Qatar is reaping what it sowed and patiently nurtured years ago, giving it enough political capital on top of its formidable wealth to influence the region.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Turkey Business Leaders Warn France Over Genocide Bill

Turkish business leaders warned France on Sunday that its adoption of a law criminalizing denial of the Armenian genocide would have devastating consequences for trade ties. “If this bill is passed, it will cause serious damage to economic and trade ties,” Rifat Hisarciklioglu, the head of the Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey (TOBB), told AFP.

If French lawmakers pass the bill on Thursday, there was a risk of Turks boycotting French products to the detriment of the 960 French firms based in Turkey. “It is unthinkable for TOBB to initiate such a movement, French companies are among our members and we also protect their interests … But Turkey’s population is young and boycott calls could surface on social networks,” Hisarciklioglu said.

According to official figures, bilateral trade soared by 17 percent in 2010 to reach €11.6 billion euros ($15.1 billion). Boycott calls were issued when the French parliament first passed a law to recognize the Armenian genocide in 2001. The movement was poorly heeded but French firms were snubbed for several major state tenders.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]


Russian Court Mulling Ban on “Extremist” Holy Book That Incites to Violence: The Bhagavad Gita

With Chechnya and the Caucasus always simmering with jihad, and Beslan, and jihad attacks and plots in Moscow and everywhere, Russian authorities are waking up to the possibility that religious texts can incite people to violence. And so they’re considering banning…the Bhagavad Gita. No kidding.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Far East

Chinese Rocket Launches Powerful Nigerian Satellite Into Orbit

China launched a massive Nigerian communications satellite Monday to link Africans with television programming, education services and navigation signals. Manufactured by the China Academy of Space Technology, the Nigcomsat 1R satellite will replace a craft that lost power and failed in November 2008, less than 18 months after its launch on a Chinese rocket. Nigcomsat Ltd., a company chartered by the Nigerian government, will operate the satellite for up to 15 years.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Death of a Dictator: Kim’s Youngest Son to Become ‘Great Successor’

North Korean leader Kim Jong Il has died of a heart attack and his son Kim Jong Un is set to take the helm, according to state media. But who is the young man dubbed the “Great Successor” and how will he lead the reclusive nation?

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Foreign Workers Squeezed by New Chinese Law

Paying half their wages into social security — since autumn that’s been the harsh reality for the 230,000 foreigners working in China, many already taxed at home.

Swiss expats and business representatives are by and large unhappy with the situation and have appealed to Bern for help.

Forced to pay unemployment insurance? Fair enough. But according to Chinese law, foreigners who lose their job have to leave the country. Medical cover? Great, but that’s only for public hospitals, into which foreigners rarely venture.

A pension fund? Good idea, but when foreign workers retire, they are asked to return home. Maternity benefit? OK, but what happens if you have a second or third child in a country with a one-child policy?

These are some of the unanswered questions raised by China’s new social security law.

Since October 15, every foreigner with a permit to work in China is supposed to pay tax.

The sum can be up to 50 per cent of their salary, of which three-quarters is paid by the employer and one quarter by the employee.


“If I have to pay anything, I’m going to resign and leave China,” said one Swiss in Beijing who works for a Swiss employer.

Like the vast majority of his expatriate colleagues, he remains connected to the Swiss system and would thus be taxed twice. Many people think this is unacceptable.

“You work in China — so adapt to Chinese laws.” This was the response of Xu Yanjun, head of the Chinese ministry for human resources and social security, at a media conference at the end of October.

He had called the gathering to try to explain the contradictions of the new law. In fact, all he succeeded in doing was adding to the confusion, admitting that modes of enforcement had yet to be established.

By mid-December, people still don’t know how much, where and how to pay.

The only certainty — hammered out by Xu — is that the law is in force.

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

Satellite Image Shows Kim Jong Il’s Dark Legacy

The world’s most secretive country is also one of its darkest. This satellite image shows night in North Korea. The capital Pyongyang, near the western coast, is one of the only places in the country with electricity. At the top of the picture, the illuminations show cities in China. At the bottom right, Kyushu and the southern islands of Japan.

The bright line in the middle of the peninsula marks the demilitarised zone between North and South Korea, and the southern capital, Seoul, is the blaze of white just across the border. Night-time luminosity is thought to correlate with economic prosperity, by which measure North Korea is practically penniless.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

The Psychology of Dictatorship: Kim Jong-Il

As long as there have been political dictators, psychologists have been fascinated with them. While many psychologists try to understand what happens in normal, rational people that leads them to follow such clearly dangerous leaders, some psychologists have been more interested in characterizing the personality profiles of dictators themselves. After all, who hasn’t attempted an armchair psychiatric diagnosis of a famous personality?

In 1939, Carl Jung met Hitler and Mussolini in Berlin and observed their interactions. Personality psychologists Coolidge and Segal from the University of Colorado write that “Jung said Hitler never laughed, and it appeared as if Hitler was sulking and in a bad mood. Jung viewed him as sexless and inhuman, with a singleness of purpose: to establish the Third Reich, a mystical all-powerful German nation, which would overcome all of Hitler’s perceived threats and previous insults in Germany’s history.” Hitler inspired in Jung only fear. By contrast, Mussolini apparently came off to Jung as an “original man,” who had “warmth and energy.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Latin America

Yeti Crab Grows Its Own Food

Deep-sea species farms bacteria on its own claws.

In the deep ocean off the coast of Costa Rica, scientists have found a species of crab that cultivates gardens of bacteria on its claws, then eats them. The yeti crab — so-called because of the hair-like bristles that cover its arms — is only the second of its family to be discovered. The first — an even hairier species called Kiwa hirsuta — was found in 2005 near Easter Island.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

New ‘Mythbuster’ Website to Fight Racism in Sweden

The Swedish government has launched a new website to combat the proliferation of inaccurate and racist myths about minorities and immigrants in Sweden. “Extremism has found a new forum which is also very effective when it comes to spreading myths and prejudice,” integration minister Erik Ullenhag of the Liberal Party (Folkpartiet) writes in an opinion piece published Monday in the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper.

Ullenhag cites a report issued earlier in the year by the Forum for Living History (Forum för levande historia) which found there had been a dramatic increase in the number of racist websites in Sweden in recent years. While racism is hardly a new phenomenon, writes Ullenhag, racist myths and stereotypes have found a new foothold on the web, and must be addressed there. “Prejudice will be met with the facts that exist,” he writes. The new site,, attempts to debunk a number of “common internet myths about immigrants and minorities”.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]


Discover Interview: The Radical Linguist Noam Chomsky

For centuries experts held that every language is unique. Then one day in 1956, a young linguistics professor gave a legendary presentation at the Symposium on Information Theory at MIT. He argued that every intelligible sentence conforms not only to the rules of its particular language but to a universal grammar that encompasses all languages. And rather than absorbing language from the environment and learning to communicate by imitation, children are born with the innate capacity to master language, a power imbued in our species by evolution itself. Almost overnight, linguists’ thinking began to shift.

Avram Noam Chomsky was born in Philadelphia on December 7, 1928, to William Chomsky, a Hebrew scholar, and Elsie Simonofsky Chomsky, also a scholar and an author of children’s books. While still a youngster, Noam read his father’s manuscript on medieval Hebrew grammar, setting the stage for his work to come. By 1955 he was teaching linguistics at MIT, where he formulated his groundbreaking theories. Today Chomsky continues to challenge the way we perceive ourselves. Language is “the core of our being,” he says. “We are always immersed in it. It takes a strong act of will to try not to talk to yourself when you’re walking down the street, because it’s just always going on.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

News Feed 20111218

Financial Crisis
» A Financial Dunkirk: Britain Draws Up Plans to Rescue Expats if Spain and Portugal Are Hit by Financial Oblivion
» Austerity Package Very Convincing But More Needed Says Rehn
» Berlusconi: Either EU Solves Problems or Any Action Useless
» Eurozone Unlikely to Experience Hyperinflation, But Worries Remain
» Greece: Ever More People Giving Up Cars
» Greece: Finger Pointed at Job Mobility Law
» Italy: Monti ‘Hopes’ This Austerity Package Will be the Last
» Italy: Salaries of Palazzo Chigi Employees Rose 15. 2% in a Year
» Italy: Failing in First Try, Govt ‘Will Beat Lobbies’ To Open Job Mkt
» Italy: Thirty-Three Billion Euros in Austerity Passes Test
» Sweden: Sitting on the Fence
» Christian, Muslim Leaders Protest in Solidarity at Lowe’s in Allen Park
Europe and the EU
» Cyprus: British Bases Are Illegal, Says Nicosia
» EU Hands Out Holidays Paid for by Taxpayer
» Finnish Officials Mull Taking Children Into Care Over Low-Carb Diet
» Italy: Explanation of Knox Acquittal Issued
» Netherlands: Commission Identifies 800 Priests, Monks Who Abused Children
» Norway Should Dump EU Trade Pact: Navarsete
» Portugal: Vandalism and Violence Against Motorway Toll
» Spain: Basque Government Regulates Cannabis Sale and Use
» Spain: Fishing Deal Ended, Madrid Demands Damages
» Switzerland: Newspaper Takeover Reveals Rightwing Strategy
» UK: The Death of History: Experts Fears After Shocking Figures Show Subject is All But Extinct in Some Areas
North Africa
» Egypt: the Brave Women of the Female Protesters Brutally Beaten With Metal Poles as Vicious Soldiers Drag Girls Through Streets by Their Hair in Day of Shame
» France Accuses Cairo of Heavy-Hand in Tahrir Square
» Islamists Win 70 Percent of the Vote in Second Round of Egypt Elections
Israel and the Palestinians
» Israel to Release 550 Palestinian Prisoners Today
Middle East
» Ancient Texts Tell Tales of War, Bar Tabs
» FIFA to Review Hijab Law for Women Players
» Saudis Complain of Huge Losses From Escaped Workers
South Asia
» Italian Defence Minister Confirms Post-2014 Afghanistan Commitment
» Women, the First Victims of Taliban Violence in Pakistan’s Tribal Areas
Far East
» North Korea Says Leader Kim Jong Il Has Died
» 220 Illegals Rounded Up in Two-Day Raids in Dubai
» Housh Bakr: Refuge for African Illegals in Makkah
» Israel: Yishai: Every African ‘Infiltrator’ Will Return Home

Financial Crisis

A Financial Dunkirk: Britain Draws Up Plans to Rescue Expats if Spain and Portugal Are Hit by Financial Oblivion

Evacuation plans for British expats stranded in Spain and Portugal if their banking systems collapse are being drawn up by the Foreign Office.

The contingency plans are being put in place to help thousands of Britons if they were unable to get to their money in the event of a catastrophic banking collapse in two of the most vulnerable eurozone economies.

Around one million British expats live in Spain, particularly around Marbella and Malaga, and some 50,000 in Portugal.

The Foreign Office is concerned that those who have invested savings in their adopted countries would face losing their homes if banks called in loans and they were unable to access money.

Last week ratings agency Standard & Poor’s downgraded 10 Spanish banks, including Banco Popular.

Among options being considered for a ‘nightmare scenario’ include sending planes, ships and coaches to evacuate expats — some through Gibraltar.

Small loans could also be made available to stranded Britons and pressure would be exerted on the Spanish and Portuguese governments to allow access to funds to pay for everyday essentials.

Both countries have a deposit guarantee, like the UK, which means depositors are covered for up to €100,000.

But in the event of a collapse, most banks would limit withdrawals.

Many expats have retired to the south of Spain on fixed incomes, having used their savings to buy villas and apartments.

A senior Foreign Office source told The Sunday Times: ‘The nuclear scenario would be having thousands of Brits stranded at the airports in Spain and Portugal with no way to get money from the cash dispenser and no way to get home.

‘Who would be blamed for this? The Foreign Office.

‘We are looking at how we can help evacuate them if the banks in Spain and Portugal collapse, getting people cash, things like that, sending planes.’

Expats could face losing their villas and apartments because they were unable to afford mortgage payments or withdraw enough cash as banks tried to stop money leaving the country.

They could also lose savings if banks in either country collapsed.

Jeremy Cook, chief economist at World First — foreign currency exchange specialists — told the newspaper: ‘Countries have individual safeguards on deposits but for people with large deposits in a bank it would be difficult to say whether all that money would be protected.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

Austerity Package Very Convincing But More Needed Says Rehn

‘Structural reforms for growth and jobs in next package’

(ANSA) — Brussels, December 16 — The new Italian government’s 30-billion-euro austerity package is “very convincing” but “much more” is needed to spur growth and create jobs by enacting structural reforms, the European commissioner for economic and monetary affairs, Olli Rehn, told reporters after a confidence vote Friday.

“The package that won the confidence of the House is very convincing although there is still a lot to be done, especially for employment and growth,” Rehn said in Brussels.

“It is natural that the government focused on fiscal consolidation with this first package but in the next one it is important that there be more emphasis on structural reforms, to reform services and professions,” he added.

The first package of tax hikes and pension reforms, expected to receive final approval before Christmas, aims to draw the sting out of money-market attacks on Italian bonds and ease the eurozone debt crisis.

Premier Mario Monti has promised to follow the package with a second one in January to boost growth and create jobs, especially for women and young people.

The under-30s now make up 40% of Italy’s 2.1 million unemployed, according to a report out Friday.

Reforms to Italy’s rigid labour market were not included in the first package, and measures to free up taxis and pharmacies were removed in the face of lobbying that Industry Minister Corrado Passera called “crazy”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Berlusconi: Either EU Solves Problems or Any Action Useless

(AGI) Rome — Silvio Berlusconi said that either we resolve problems at a European level or no action will work. Leaving the Chamber of Deputies after the vote of confidence on the austerity package, the former prime minister commented: “It is not an Italian situation but a general one. Either we resolve these problems at the European level or no action will work.

Asked whether the Monti government’s package will be sufficient or other measures will be necessary to put the nation’s finances in order, he replied: “We are especially exposed because we have accumulated an excessive debt. This is a legacy we carry with us.” .

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

Eurozone Unlikely to Experience Hyperinflation, But Worries Remain

Economists define hyperinflation as a monthly inflation rate of 50 per cent or more. The current average monthly inflation rate in the Eurozone is three per cent.

WHEN IT comes to the task of ensuring a stable currency, the memories and experiences hyperinflation and its disastrous effects in Europe’s history are powerful motivators for the European Central Bank (ECB). Hyperinflation destroyed the economies of Germany and several other countries in the 1920s and 1930s. The problem is by no means a thing of the past, since hyperinflation has afflicted over 30 national economies throughout the past century.

Hyperinflation is usually linked to periods of acute unrest, including wars and revolutions. But this alone is not enough to spark off runaway inflation rates: the problem also required drastic levels of incompetence, such as the decisions of a country’s political leadership and banks to increase the amount of money in the economy through increasing the deficit and printing banknotes.

Some of the painful lessons of the past have been learnt, making it unlikely that the Eurozone’s continuing debt crisis will lead to hyperinflation. However, crippling levels of debt do still bring a risk of uncontrollable inflation rates. Out-of-control price rises wreak more havoc on a country’s economy than the more dramatic onset of hyperinflation.

The heavy levels of debt industrialised countries have run up in recent years seem set to ensure high inflation rates for the foreseeable future. The most heavily indebted countries have debts as large as their entire annual Gross Domestic Product. In the United States and the United Kingdom, inflation levels are currently aggravated by the high rate at which their central banks are supplying those country’s governments with printed money.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Greece: Ever More People Giving Up Cars

They can no longer afford to pay the circulation tax

A man rides his bicycle in Athens, in Greece even more people are giving up their cars for money problems

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS — Every day in Greece more and more people are giving back to the tax agency the licence plates of their cars since they can no longer afford to pay the circulation tax on their vehicle. According to Finance Ministry data, at the end of 2011 the number of those who will have given back their licence plates will be 200% over the figure from the previous year.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Greece: Finger Pointed at Job Mobility Law

Number of ministers admit measure has not worked

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, DECEMBER 16 — The Greek government’s implementation of the law that will see 30,000 surplus public sector workers temporarily suspended from work (or placed in “mobility”) by the end of 2011, as part of the programme to reduce public spending, was at the centre of talks in yesterday’s Council of Ministers, with the Minister for Administrative Reform, Dimitris Reppas, admitting that the measure had not worked. Of the 30,000 employees due to have been put on income support before being made redundant according to the law on temporary suspension, the minister said, only a touch above 10,000 had left their positions. Other ministers also gave their opinions on the measure, newspapers report, saying that the measure has not worked and that the government needs to bring in structural reforms. “The measure for temporary suspension from work was wrong,” said the Justice Minister, Miltiadis Papaioannou. “We need to intervene. The Minister for Public Education, Anna Diamantopoulou, meanwhile, insisted that the government should “define now the targets for 2012 to avoid repeating the same mistakes”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Monti ‘Hopes’ This Austerity Package Will be the Last

Europe ‘lacking in policy for growth and development’

(See related story on austerity package) (ANSA) — Rome, December 16 — Premier Mario Monti said Friday that he hoped the package of measures his emergency government is passing through parliament will be the last bout of austerity Italy needs to lift itself out of its debt crisis.

“I hope so,” he told parliament when asked if this austerity package was the last after his administration’s measures were approved by the House in a confidence vote.

He added that he was confident Italy would save itself from the threat of defaulting on its massive national debt.

“I feel that all of us have the same goal at heart, working for the good of Italy” he told the House.

“If we all do our duty and continue with a sense of responsibility, I have no doubt that Italy will save itself”.

He added that, with countries throughout Europe adopting austerity measures in a bid to halt the eurozone crisis, the European Union had to do more to promote economic growth.

“Many have already said it and I’m saying it as premier — Europe is lacking as regards a union-wide policy of growth and development,” he said.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Salaries of Palazzo Chigi Employees Rose 15. 2% in a Year

(AGI) Rome — In a single year, from 2009 to 2010, the salaries of the employees at Palazzo Chigi (the centre of the Italian Government) rose 15.2%, much more than all other public or private categories. From the Istat annual of statistics, it is clear that the salaries of the employees of Ministries rose 0.7%, as those of public school teachers (+0.6%). Second in the list are the dockworkers and private school teachers, both +3.7%, followed by employees in information and communication services (among them, journalists, +5.7%).The lowest salary rise was for firemen, police officers and military personnel (+0.4%).

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

Italy: Failing in First Try, Govt ‘Will Beat Lobbies’ To Open Job Mkt

Rome, 16 Dec. (AKI) — After back peddling on a plan to weaken the power of trade interest groups and open professions to more competition, Italy’s government says it will continue the battle next month.

“We will beat the lobbies,” said under secretary to the prime minister’s office Antonio Catricala, in a Friday interview with the La Repubblica newspaper. “We’ll go ahead with the plan starting in January.”

Catricala in November left his job as Italy’s competition watchdog to join the former European Union anti-trust head and country’s new prime minister Mario Monti in a new government of non-political experts charged with passing reforms. The team aims to bring life to the economy and reduce the country’s 1.9 trillion euro debt. The government is due to step down in 2013 when Italians are scheduled to elect a new government.

The presentation of its plan to raise taxes and introduce reforms was met with heckling in the Senate and House of Deputies. Italy’s main unions joined forces in a series of nationwide strikes. A confidence vote on the package of measures is scheduled in the House of Deputies for Friday and should be voted on in the Senate on 23 December.

Monti pledged to open create a more competitive job market by taking on the taxi, pharmacy and other guilds that have rules imposing strict limits on new entrants. Critics says the closed job market keeps prices high and limits options for those seeking careers in the protected sectors.

“No privilege falls from the first blow. Some things have rooted themselves in the political convictions of many lawmakers,” Catricala said.

Monti, an economist holding both the prime minister and minister of finance portfolios, was the EU competition chief between 1999 and 2004 when he successfully battled American business giants Microsoft and General Electric.

“The resistance we meet in liberalizing markets is nothing new to me,” Monti said on Thursday.

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

Italy: Thirty-Three Billion Euros in Austerity Passes Test

Rome, 16 Dec. (AKI) — Italy’s new government’s first effort to end the country’s debt and economic troubles overcame its first parliamentary hurdle on Friday by overwhelming surviving a confidence vote in the lower house of Parliament.

In a Chamber of Deputies confidence vote, the 33-billion-euro austerity package passed with 495 votes in favour, 88 against and four abstentions.

The measures were approved by both of Italy’s major political parties: the right-wing People of Liberty Party led by former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, and its Democratic Party rival from the left.

The government watered down many of the measures designed to overhaul the Italy’s pension system, force open the protected labour market and boost taxes. Prime minister Mario Monti pledged to continue reform in January.

Berlusconi resigned last month as his government was consumed by scandal and the sovereign debt crisis that is driving up borrowing costs and threatening to shatter the 17-member euro monetary union.

A team of so-called expert technocrats took charge of the government, tasked with putting the euro-zone’s finances back on track by passing measures to reduce its 1.9 trillion-euro debt and resuscitate the ailing economy which is in recession.

Monti is due to address the Chamber Friday evening ahead of further debate and a vote. It will then be passed to the Senate where a vote is expected by 23 December.

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

Sweden: Sitting on the Fence

“How does Prime Minister Reinfeldt see the new fiscal pact of the EU? Should Sweden be in it? Does he worry about a EU split in two?” These questions are getting no answers, writes the Dagens Nyheter, which finds Reinfeldt’s indecision astonishing. For the daily, Sweden is about to be separated from the decision-making centre of the EU: “As well, the prime minister should clearly explain the consequences of a ‘no’. And if the government is still convinced that Sweden ought to be at the centre of Europe, he must persuade Parliament to accept the agreement.”

The newspaper, reporting that Sweden said no to the euro in a 2003 referendum, fears that it will soon see —

one group of countries that travel first-class and take important decisions, and another of second-class passengers who are affected by the decisions but, in practice, have no say in them. And Sweden, accompanied by a few of these other countries, could end up on the platform, pondering its next steps.

Expressen also complains about the Prime Minister’s indecision:

Fredrik Reinfeldt wants to say ‘no’ to the euro club members — but in a gentle way. Above all, he wants to ensure that Sweden does not find itself in the third division, where David Cameron has put Britain.

Expressing its alarm at the consequences that can be expected from this agreement, Aftonbladet insists Sweden should not have any part in it:

Wage cuts, reductions in pensions, more unemployment and more power transferred to Brussels — none of which will solve the euro crisis. In this crisis, the only thing that makes sense is to force the ECB to act.

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


Christian, Muslim Leaders Protest in Solidarity at Lowe’s in Allen Park

Allen Park— Religious leaders, activists, elected officials and citizens expressed their anger at the company’s withdrawal of advertising on a program about Arab-Americans living in nearby Dearborn during an interfaith protest at a Lowe’s store Saturday.

“We are going to come back out here again, form our coalition and we are going to boycott Lowe’s until they make things right,” said Dawud Walid, executive director of the Michigan Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Walid joined dozens of other protesters this morning at the Lowe’s on Outer Drive in Allen Park. The demonstration challenged “Lowe’s Decision to Cave in to Hate” when it withdrew advertising on the TLC show “All-American Muslim.”

Protesters have claimed that Lowe’s pulled its ads after it received complaints from the Florida Family Association, which they characterize as a “small right wing fringe group” upset over the portrayal of American Muslims as “ordinary folks just like you and me.”

Dozens of demonstrators, both Christians and Muslims, called carried signs that read “Boycott Bigotry” and “Lowes Remember All-American Muslims Shop Too.” Some held American flags.

“The majority of American society does not hate Muslims,” Walid said to the crowd. “They need to know us better. That’s what ‘All-American Muslim’ is all about. If we as American Muslims are seen by the broader American public, they’re going to love us because we embody all of what America loves. We’re for family values. We’re for public safety. We’re for economic dignity. We’re for the rights of all people.”

Rev. Edie Worthy of Hartford Memorial Baptist Church said she came to support the demonstration to send a message to Lowe’s.

“We’re hoping that this boycott picks up and that it does affect Lowe’s business and let them know this is America,” she said. “Everyone has a right to live and be free.”

Not all the demonstrators were angered at Lowe’s. About a dozen or so people came in support of the store.

Pat Jackson of Clarkston said that the protesters are overreacting at Lowe’s decision. She held a sign that read “I support Freedom to advertise or not” on one side and “A Christian who loves Lowe’s” on the other.

           — Hat tip: RE [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Cyprus: British Bases Are Illegal, Says Nicosia

(ANSAmed) — NICOSIA, DECEMBER 16 — News that the British Bases will remain operational in Cyprus has provoked a furious reaction from House Speaker Yiannakis Omirou, who has urged the government to react strongly to what he described as “provocative statements” made by the British Defence Minister Philip Hammond. Yesterday the British Government said it has no intention at present of relinquishing control or sovereignty over its bases in Cyprus. Omirou — as Famagusta Gazette reports today — told journalists that Hammond’s remarks on the future of the bases at Dhekelia and Akrotiri were “provocative and cynical and an example of modern imperialist mentality.” He added that the bases in Cyprus represent the “remnants of colonialism and are therefore illegal based on resolutions of the UN General Assembly.” In a written statement to parliament yesterday, Philip Hammond confirmed Britain’s “enduring commitment” to the bases, saying they had proved their worth during air operations in Libya and as a logistic hub for activities in Afghanistan.

“The sovereign base areas are in a region of geo-political importance and high priority for the United Kingdom’s long-term national security interests,” he added. The bases have been a constant cause of friction between London and Nicosia since Cyprus won independence in 1960, with rumours that the bases would close circulating in 1962, 1967, 1976 and again last year.

In 1962, President Makarios described the bases as being “rather useless in this atomic age.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

EU Hands Out Holidays Paid for by Taxpayer

Tens of thousands of political activists, including hundreds from the BNP, have been given free or subsidised holidays by British and European taxpayers.

Even as it grapples with the financial crisis, the European Union is paying almost £25 million this year to subsidise the trips, arranged through MEPs.

The BNP, which has two Euro-MPs, has made heavy use of the scheme to thank some of its most prominent members at taxpayers’ expense. One BNP official boasted that it was “a good way of rewarding our activists” that “didn’t cost the party a penny”.

The trips are ostensibly “study visits” to the European Parliament buildings in Brussels or Strasbourg, but the holidaymakers need spend only a fraction of their time at the parliament to claim the full subsidy, which can be collected in cash without the need for receipts.

One subsidised trip to Strasbourg last week, promoted by the Labour MEP Peter Skinner, lasted six days, with only a few hours spent at the parliament.

The rest of the visit, according to a programme seen by The Sunday Telegraph, included a river cruise, a tour of the cathedral, a visit to the city’s Christmas market, champagne tasting, a battlefield tour in Ypres and sightseeing in Reims. Like most MEPs, Mr Skinner did not join the party, but hosted a free dinner for the participants…

           — Hat tip: PS [Return to headlines]

Finnish Officials Mull Taking Children Into Care Over Low-Carb Diet

Finnish officials have told a family of low-carbohydrate enthusiasts that their children would be taken into care if they failed to heed nutrition advice, provincial paper Iisalmen Sanomat reported Sunday. Ursula Schwab, a clinical nutrition specialist at the University of East Finland, said at least one family had received such an ultimatum after parents ignored healthcare staff’s warnings about the dangers of an imbalanced diet for children.

“If a child’s growth slows down because of a poor diet, one must send a wakeup call to parents,” Schwab told the Finnish News Agency. “Should this prove ineffective, the child must be moved to a place where he receives enough nutrition.”

Schwab added that she knew of parents who had put toddlers on so-called low-carb diets. “A strict low-carb diet is very fatty, and it suppresses hunger. If you down eggs and bacon for breakfast it will take hours before you can even imagine eating again.” “A growing child needs a varied diet.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Italy: Explanation of Knox Acquittal Issued

‘No guilt or motive proven’ judges say on Kercher murder

(ANSA) — Rome, December 15 — A Perugia appeals court on Thursday issued its detailed explanation of why it acquitted US student Amanda Knox and her Italian ex-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito of the 2007 murder of Knox’s British roommate Meredith Kercher.

The evidence against the pair “does not allow us to come to the conclusion that guilt has been in any way proven,” the judges said about their keenly awaited October 3 verdict in the sensational case, which overturned previous lengthy convictions.

They noted that the evidence was largely circumstantial and prosecutors had been unable to prove motive.

The judges said they could not say how the murder took place, whether “one or more” people killed Kercher, or whether other leads had been “neglected”.

Knox, 24, is back home in Seattle and Sollecito, 25, in Puglia, leaving Rudy Guede, 24, an Italian-Ivorian drifter, the only person in jail for the murder.

Guede opted for a fast-track trial separately from Knox and Sollecito and was given a 30-year sentence, later cut to 16 years on appeal, a sentence confirmed by Italy’s court of last instance, the Cassation Court.

In the last verdict against the Ivorian, whose DNA was detected all over the murder house, he was found to have committed the crime “with others”, identified at the time as Knox and Sollecito, during a sex game that got out of hand.

Kercher’s family have vowed to continue their battle to find out “who are the other people responsible” for the death of Kercher, 20 when she was found stabbed to death on the night of November 1-2 2007.

“Our family is not interested in seeing Amanda or Raffaele in jail, or anyone else who has shown they aren’t guilty, but there’s still the question mark over who else (committed the murder) as well as Rudy,” they said after the acquittals.

Perugia prosecutors have appealed to Italy’s last court of appeal, the Cassation Court, to try to get the acquittals reversed.

Knox is believed to be unlikely to return to Italy to attend the sessions though Sollecito’s father has said his son has no reason to flee the country.

On the night of October 3, the pair were acquitted by two judges and a jury after independent experts had cast doubts about the soundness of the DNA evidence that led to 26-year and 25-year sentences respectively for Knox and Sollecito at the original murder trial in 2009.

Knox was given a three-year sentence, which she had already served, and ordered to pay 20,000 euros in damages for having falsely accused a Perugia pub owner, Congo native Patrick Lumumba, of the killing in the early stages of the investigation.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Commission Identifies 800 Priests, Monks Who Abused Children

At least 800 Roman Catholic priests and monks were involved in abusing children in their care between 1945 and 1985, according to a comprehensive report into the church sexual abuse scandal published on Friday.

In addition, church officials, bishops and lay people were aware of what was going on but failed to take action to protect children, the commission, lead by former Christian Democratic party chairman Wim Deetman, said.

The commission was set up by the Catholic church in March 2010 after the sexual abuse scandal broke in the Netherlands and hundreds of victims came forward. Over 2,000 people have now registered their abuse with the authorities and a number of cases will be taken to court.

The 1,100-page report aims to establish the size of the scandal, the consequences of the church’s silence and make recommendations for dealing with abuse in the past and in the future.


In its report, the commission says it has identified at least 800 priests, monks and other members of religious orders who were involved in abuse, of whom 105 are still alive. The commission did not say how many of them are still working for the church.

‘To prevent scandals, nothing was done: [the abuse was] not acknowledged, there was no help, compensation or aftercare for the victims,’ the report says. There was a policy of ‘not hanging out the dirty washing,’ Deetman told a news conference on Friday morning.

There is a ‘cultural silence’, Deetman said. There were rules for dealing with abuse and in some places they were enacted. The claim that church officials did not know what was going on does not hold water, Deetman said.


In total, several tens of thousands of children were faced with unwanted sexual contact from church officials between 1945 and 1985, Deetman said.

A survey by the commission shows that one in 10 people who were children during that period had to deal with abuse or potential abuse, but within church institutions the figure was one in five, the report said.

However, there is no difference between abuse within church and other institutions, the report shows.

Another commission, lead by senior justice ministry official Rieke Samson-Geerlings, is looking into the role of social services in placing children in institutions and foster homes where they were open to abuse.


While there is no scientific proof of a link between Catholic church celibacy rules and the sexual abuse of children, according to church records, some of the instances of abuse could be described as ‘out of sexual need’, Deetman said.

‘We do not consider it impossible that a number of cases would not have happened if celibacy was voluntary,’ he told the news conference.

In November, bishops and church officials voted in favour of giving compensation to hundreds of victims of sexual abuse. The total bill for the church could be as high as €5m.

In a statement later on Friday, Catholic bishops said they were shocked and shamed by the report.

Earlier stories

Catholic church knew of the abuse for decades

Church agrees to compensation sexual abuse victims

Catholic church admits abuse, prepares compensation

Dutch Salesian church sacked for paedophilia comments

Bishop says sexual abuse was not an issue until 1990s

Church abuse: commission calls for better registration

Catholic priest was member of paedophile promotion group

Church abuse: ‘Wir haben es nicht gewusst’

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

Norway Should Dump EU Trade Pact: Navarsete

Norway needs to seriously consider severing its ties with the European Economic Area (EEA), Centre Party leader Liv Signe Navarsete has said.

With the European Union mired in an enduring debt crisis, polls have shown that Norwegians are increasingly keen to extricate themselves from an agreement that has bound them to the EU’s internal market since 1994.

Navarsete, whose party is a junior partner in the country’s red-green coalition government, believes the time has come for a change in policy.

“The EEA agreement has been a sacred cow in Norwegian politics. Powerful forces within the parties and the bureaucracy have managed to keep a lid on the EEA debate,” she said.

“It has been considered laughable to be opposed, but the picture has changed radically in recent times. Now, for the first time since we got the EEA agreement, the scene is set for a real popular mobilization against the EEA.”

Navarsete, currently Norway’s Minister of Local Government, said she hoped for the growth of a grass-roots movement that would gradually help push through a Norwegian rejection of the pact.

The Centre Party leader said she would be open to the issue being decided either by a referendum or a parliamentary resolution.

She added that her party would petition the government to examine alternatives to the EEA agreement if the red-green coalition is returned to power after the 2013 general election.

“People are starting to realize that they’ve had the wool pulled over their eyes,” said Navarsete.

The European Economic Area comprises all 27 EU member states, along with Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.

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

Portugal: Vandalism and Violence Against Motorway Toll

Gunshot fired at official, tollbooths in flames

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, DECEMBER 15 — An official of the company that manages the motorway was injured by a rifle shot, tollgates have been vandalised, many number plates have been stolen to deceit the cameras: the introduction of toll at the A22 in Portugal, crossing the Algarve in the direction of Ayamonte (Huelva) in Spain, known as the ‘Via do Infante’, has triggered serious protests that started on December 8.

An official of the company that manages the motorway in question was injured by a rifle shot at km43, direction Agoz-Guia, in Albufeira. Yesterday at dawn he approached a tollbooth while vandals were trying to set fire to it. Local police sources, quoted today by the Portuguese media, report arson at the tollgates in Boliqueime, on the same motorway, as well. And public security officials in Olhao, in the Algarve, have linked the wave of number plate thefts to the start of toll payments on the A22 on December 8. The police think these plates are used to pass the gates without paying toll, so that the fines are sent to the owners of the plates. The introduction of electronic motorway toll collection on the four Portuguese motorways is part of the package of cuts that were approved by the previous socialist government, led by José Socrates, but the conservative government of Pedro Passos Coelho has implemented the measure. There have been serious protests against the move, because it has raised the costs of driving substantially. Portuguese residents in fact have to get an electronic device that reads the number plate and costs 27.5 euros, and is connected to a current account. As an alternative, they can also pay toll in one of the Correios de Portugal post offices within five days after using one of the motorways.

Electronic booths have been set up for foreign tourists, where they can buy prepaid cards that are valid for three or five days. However, the media have described many cases in which the devices failed to function correctly during the first days of toll payments. The high prices and complexity of payments, in a time of deep economic crisis and strict austerity measures taken by the Portuguese government to contain the country’s deficit, have triggered protests which are spreading rapidly. There have been slow marches on the motorways and appeals for boycotts by associations and citizens. But the alternative to using the A22 motorway is a national road that is completely blocked by traffic, now that lorries are using it again to avoid the high cost of toll payments.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Spain: Basque Government Regulates Cannabis Sale and Use

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, DECEMBER 12 — The Basque Parliament will approve a law bill in the first few months of 2012 on drug addiction, which will regulate “the growing, sale and consumption of cannabis”. This is according to the second in command at the region’s health authority, Jesus Maria Fernandez, who was quoted by the EFE agency. “It is better to regulate than to ban,” said Fernandez, who called the consumption of cannabis “a practice that is already consolidated”. His words were echoed by the leading health official, Rafael Bengoa, who said: “We do not want to be prohibitionists”. The consumption and possession of cannabis are regulated by the penal code and by the law on citizen security. For the new ruling, for which “technical and legal studies have been undertaken”, the regional government wants to “open a debate” with associations in favour of consumption and to “shape their rights”. The law bill on drug addiction also features prevention and treatment for gambling addictions, which affect 2% of the Basque population, and for addiction to new technology.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Spain: Fishing Deal Ended, Madrid Demands Damages

Decision yesterday by European Parliament

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, DECEMBER 15 — The decision not to extend the fishing agreement between the European Union and Morocco has wreaked havoc in the Spain’s fishing sector, in Andalusia and the Canaries in particular, where 90% of the fishing fleet has a licence to fish in the waters of the North African country. The backlash has been such that the outgoing Minister for the Rural and Maritime Environment, Rosa Aguilar, told the media that she had requested compensation from the EU upon her arrival at the Council for Agriculture and Fisheries in Brussels. “We are talking about around 70 fishing vessels and more than 500 direct jobs and many other indirect jobs being jeopardized. This damage must be compensated by the EU, not only to the owners of the fleet, but to crews working on the boats,” Aguilar told Spanish national radio. The Spanish minister will inform her counterparts and the European Commissioner for Fisheries, Maria Damanaki, of the concern in Spain over the European Parliament’s decision, which means an immediate interruption of fishing activity by European boats in Moroccan waters. “Spain respects the decision but does not agree with it,” Aguilar insisted, demanding a new mandate for the European Commission for the negotiation of a new deal with Morocco. “There are while towns in Andalusia that effectively live off fishing in Moroccan waters,” the minister said.

This is the case in Barbate (Cadiz), where 5,000 of the town’s 23,000 inhabitants are already unemployed, and where the European Parliament’s decision leave 800 fishermen without work.

“90% of the fleet has a licence to fish in Morocco, and the ban on fishing in Moroccan waters is now compounded by the biological ban imposed on the Gulf of Cadiz between December and February,” said the vice-president of the local fishing association, Ambrosio Ruiz.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Switzerland: Newspaper Takeover Reveals Rightwing Strategy

The takeover of the Basler Zeitung by rightwing Swiss People’s Party strongman Christoph Blocher could herald a new polarisation of the Swiss press.

The Basel paper is now officially in the hands of Blocher, through his daughter Rahel, after months of denials by the controversial politician that he had either a “direct or indirect” financial connection to the media company.

Other newspapers are crying foul and alleging oligarchy, most stridently the Tages-Anzeiger, which complained in its editorial that “with the Blochers, Switzerland now has an oligarchy family: complete with a castle, companies, factories and newspapers”.

The Zurich-based Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ) also viewed the takeover critically, calling the deal a fiasco and the game of hide-and-seek over ownership embarrassing.

Three Swiss media unions issued a joint statement bemoaning the threat to the independence of the media and calling on the Blochers to sell their interest in the paper to a non-political buyer.

“When one of the richest Swiss — and vice-president of the strongest party — buys into the media, we are on the way to Berlusconisation,” the statement said, referring to former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who is also the controlling shareholder of the media company Mediaset.

Media evolution

The purchase of a newspaper by a political figure marks a change in the evolution of the Swiss press in recent years, according to Heinz Bonfadelli, professor of journalism at Zurich University.

“In the past 25 years we have seen a move away from party newspapers based on a political ideology. Most have turned into what we call in German ‘forum newspapers’, independent of a political line, that define themselves as a platform or forum for the broad political spectrum,” Bonfadelli told

Vinzenz Wyss, media professor at Winterthur’s Institute of Applied Media Studies, said the difficult financial climate for media companies was making them a soft target for political or religious actors.

“What worries people is that a political figure is grabbing a media company to build up his political power,” Wyss told…

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

UK: The Death of History: Experts Fears After Shocking Figures Show Subject is All But Extinct in Some Areas

Experts have warned of the ‘death of History’ after shocking figures revealed the subject is becoming virtually extinct in some areas of the country.

MPs have been appalled to read new research stating that in one local authority — Knowsley, on Merseyside — just four pupils managed to pass the exam in the entire region.

The report concludes that a child growing up in the Home Counties is 46 times more likely to pass A-level History than a pupil living in deprived parts of the North.

The findings, contained in a report being published tomorrow, come amid growing alarm in Government over the lack of historical knowledge being demonstrated by school leavers.

Education Secretary Michael Gove was horrified by a recent survey that found that half of English 18 to 24-year-olds were unaware that Nelson led the British to victory at the Battle of Trafalgar, while a similar proportion did not know that the Romans built Hadrian’s Wall.

Mr Gove has ordered schools to widen their teaching away from narrow syllabuses which have been mockingly summarised as ‘Cowboys and Nazis’.

The report, produced by Tory MP Chris Skidmore for the Commons All-Party Group on History, shows how the subject is being concentrated in private schools and selective grammars — and increasingly neglected in comprehensives.

Last year, less than 30 per cent of 16-year-olds in comprehensive schools were entered for GCSE History, compared with 55 per cent of pupils in grammar schools and 48 per cent in private schools.

Alarmingly, there were 159 comprehensives where not a single pupil was entered for GCSE History; and in a majority of state secondaries, less than a quarter of pupils now take the exam.

Mr Skidmore says the fact that the subject is increasingly being confined to the most academic schools — which tend to be concentrated in the south of the UK — has produced a growing North-South gulf.

Teachers in comprehensives appear more likely to put their pupils forward for ‘soft’ subjects such as Media Studies, which are less valued by employers.

He will argue this week that pupils should no longer be able to drop History at 14, with the subject instead being made compulsory until the age of 16.

In Knowsley, one of the most deprived areas in the country, out of nearly 2,000 18-year-olds who had been eligible to take A-levels, just 11 pupils took the History exam and only four passed.

In the whole of Leicester, out of 1,638 A-level candidates, just 68 passed History.

This contrasts with affluent southern areas such as Cambridgeshire, where 665 pupils (out of 6,038 candidates of A-level age) took the exam and 557 passed.

Even if Knowsley were as populous as Cambridgeshire, according to the analysis, only 33 pupils would have taken the exam and just 12 obtained passes — making it 46 times less likely that they would leave school with the qualification.

Mr Skidmore, MP for Kingswood, said: ‘There are now areas of the country where History has become a dead subject, forgotten by schools and pupils once they are able to drop it at 14.

‘The future study of the past is being eradicated in entire regions. A subject that should unite us as one nation has now become the subject of two nations. In entire communities and schools, often in some of the most deprived areas of the country, the study of history has been shunned; elsewhere, it has become the preserve of more affluent areas and schools.

‘This cannot be healthy for the future of the nation. This needs to end. There has never been a stronger case for making the subject compulsory to 16.’

Last night, Mr Gove said reforms he had introduced, including the introduction of an English Baccalaureate, had already started to reverse the decline in the number of history students.

‘Every child deserves a chance to study history,’ Mr Gove said.

‘It helps us appreciate the heroism and sacrifices of those who fought to make this country a home of liberty and it enables all students to analyse evidence so they can sort out good arguments from bad.

‘Under the last Government, history was neglected and the poorest students in the most deprived areas suffered most.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egypt: the Brave Women of the Female Protesters Brutally Beaten With Metal Poles as Vicious Soldiers Drag Girls Through Streets by Their Hair in Day of Shame

After being viciously beaten by a 10-strong mob of Egyptian male soldiers, this woman lies helplessly on the ground as her shirt is ripped from her body and a man kicks her with full force in her exposed chest.

Moments earlier she had been struck countless times in the head and body with metal batons, not content with the brutal beating delivered by his fellow soldier, one man stamped on her head repeatedly.

She feebly tried to shield her head from the relentless blows with her hands.

But she was knocked unconscious in the shameful attack and left lying motionless as the military men mindlessly continued to beat her limp and half-naked body.

Before she was set upon by the guards, three men appeared to carry her as they tried to flee the approaching military.

But they were too slow and the soldiers caught up with them, capturing the women and knocking one of the men to the ground.

The two other men were forced to abandoned their fellow protestors and continued running, looking helplessly back at the two they left behind being relentlessly attacked as they lay on the ground.

This is just one of the hundreds of shameful injustices seen in Cairo’s Tahrir Square where Egypt’s military took a dramatically heavy hand on Saturday to crush protests against its rule.

Aya Emad told the AP that troops dragged her by her headscarf and hair into the Cabinet headquarters. The 24-year-old said soldiers kicked her on the ground, an officer shocked her with an electrical prod and another slapped her on the face, leaving her nose broken and her arm in a sling.

Mona Seif, an activist who was briefly detained Friday, said she saw an officer repeatedly slapping a detained old woman in the face.

‘It was a humiliating scene,’ Seif told the private TV network Al-Nahar. ‘I have never seen this in my life.’

In Bahrain a similar pictured was emerging with a video clip showing a female human rights activist being hit by a policewoman during clashes between police and anti-government protestors.

Police fired teargas to break up a demonstration by several hundred people on the outskirts of the capital, Manama where several women staged a sit-in protest trying to block a main road.

After nearly 48 hours of continuous fighting in Egypt’s capital more than 300 were left injured and nine dead, many of them shot dead.

The most sustained crackdown yet is likely a sign that the generals who took power after the February ouster of Hosni Mubarak are confident that the Egyptian public is on its side after two rounds of widely acclaimed parliament elections, that Islamist parties winning the vote will stay out of the fight while pro-democracy protesters become more isolated.

Still, the generals risk turning more Egyptians against them, especially from outrage over the abuse of women.

‘Do they think this is manly?’ Toqa Nosseir, a 19-year old student, said of the attacks on women. ‘Where is the dignity?’

Nosseir joined the protest over her parents’ objections because she couldn’t tolerate the clashes she had seen.

‘No one can approve or accept what is happening here,’ she said.

‘The military council wants to silence all criticism. They want to hold on power … I will not accept this humiliation just for the sake of stability.’

Nearby in Tahrir, protesters held up newspapers with the image of the half-stripped woman on the front page to passing cars, shouting sarcastically, ‘This is the army that is protecting us!’

‘No one can approve or accept what is happening here,’ she said.

‘The military council wants to silence all criticism. They want to hold on power … I will not accept this humiliation just for the sake of stability.’

Nearby in Tahrir, protesters held up newspapers with the image of the half-stripped woman on the front page to passing cars, shouting sarcastically, ‘This is the army that is protecting us!’

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

France Accuses Cairo of Heavy-Hand in Tahrir Square

(AGI) Cairo — Egypt’s foreign ministry reports at least 9 killed and 361 injured during Friday’s Cairo protests. France has meanwhile accused the Supreme Military Council of resorting to “excessive use of force” in its handling of the protests.

Calling for calm on all sides, Paris issued a communique’ submitting its “concerns at the violent incidents in Tahrir square.” ..

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

Islamists Win 70 Percent of the Vote in Second Round of Egypt Elections

Unofficial results put Muslim Brotherhood ahead with 39 percent of the vote, Salafi Al Nour with 31 percent; liberal Wafd party wins 22 percent.

The Muslim Brotherhood party secured 39 percent of the vote, while the Salafi Al Nour party won 31 percent of the vote in the second stage of Egyptâ€(tm)s landmark post-Mubarak elections, according to unofficial results published on the website of Egyptâ€(tm)s Al-Ahram newspaper on Sunday.

The unofficial results for the second stage of elections for the lower house of the Egyptian parliament also showed that the secular, liberal Wafd party won 22 percent of the vote.

Islamist parties won some 70 percent of the total vote, a similar result to the first stage of elections, which took place on November 28.

Turnout in the second round of voting in Egypt’s parliamentary elections reached 67 per cent, with most constituencies expecting run-off votes, elections officials said Sunday, with more than 12 million citizens casting their ballots on Wednesday and Thursday.

The turnout was higher than that of the first round, estimated by the High Elections Commission at 60 per cent. A final round, with the remaining nine provinces, has been set for January.

The elections took place in nine provinces, in Islamiyya, Suez and Giza. The gap between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Al Nour party shrank in this round of voting, with the Brotherhood winning 49 percent of the vote, and Al Nour won 20 percent in the previous round.

Violence continued on Sunday for the third day straight in Egypt, where the military sought to isolate pro-democracy activists protesting against their rule, depicting them as conspirators and vandals. Troops and protesters pelting each other with stones near parliament in the heart of the capital.

           — Hat tip: Steen [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Israel to Release 550 Palestinian Prisoners Today

(AGI) Jerusalem — Israel will today release 550 Palestinian prisoners, following the agreement to free Gilad Shalit. The operation will start in the afternoon, when the detainees will be transferred to the border crossings with the West Bank and Gaza. They include six women and Hamura Salah, a Palestinian of French origin convicted of plotting the assassination of a Jewish religious leader.

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

Middle East

Ancient Texts Tell Tales of War, Bar Tabs

A trove of newly translated texts from the ancient Middle East are revealing accounts of war, the building of pyramidlike structures called ziggurats and even the people’s use of beer tabs at local taverns. The 107 cuneiform texts, most of them previously unpublished, are from the collection of Martin Schøyen, a businessman from Norway who has a collection of antiquities. The texts date from the dawn of written history, about 5,000 years ago, to a time about 2,400 years ago when the Achaemenid Empire (based in Persia) ruled much of the Middle East.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

FIFA to Review Hijab Law for Women Players

FIFA is considering changing their laws to allow women to wear a hijab, or headscarf when they play in official matches. Prince Ali Bin Hussein of Jordan, 35, the youngest member of FIFA’s executive committee and the Asian vice-president, made a presentation to members at their meeting in Tokyo on Saturday and was given the go-ahead to present the case when the law-making International Board meets in Bagshot, England, next March.

In a statement, Prince Ali said he wanted the International Football Association Board (IFAB) to sanction a safe, velcro-opening headscarf for players and officials and asked them to re-consider the law when they meet on March 3. “I look forward to presenting the case at the IFAB meeting,” he said.

“This issue impacts on millions of women worldwide and it is crucial to address, in the best possible way, the issue that ensures the safety of the players, respects culture and promotes football for all women without discrimination.” He added: “This is a crucial step forward. Our goal at the end of the day is to ensure that all women are able to play football at all levels without any barriers.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Saudis Complain of Huge Losses From Escaped Workers

Expatriate workers in the Kingdom find it very easy to escape from their sponsors — either a person or a company — without losing money. Despite the difficulties that Saudi citizens and companies face to import workers in addition to the money they pay for visas — SR7,000 or more per worker — Saudi Arabia does not have a strict law to protect the rights of the citizen or company when the worker escapes. Economists estimate that Saudi Arabia loses SR38 million annually on escaped workers.

Arab News spoke to lawyers and officials in the Ministry of Interior, who confirmed that the government had nothing to do with escaped workers apart from deporting them. They also confirmed that the citizen is the only loser in such cases.

“It is common these days to hear about escaped workers, maids and drivers. They sometimes escape from their sponsor while looking for higher payment and better treatment,” said Abdulrahman Al-Jehani, head assistant of the recruitment department in the ministry.

The government duty, in this case, is to arrest the escaped worker and deport him or her, said Al-Jehani. He added that workers sometimes escaped because of bad treatment or because they had not been paid their salary on time, but “workers should know that escaping is not the solution for them.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

South Asia

Italian Defence Minister Confirms Post-2014 Afghanistan Commitment

(AGI) Herat — During his first visit to Afghanistan as defence minister, Giampaolo Di Paola pledged Italy’s support beyond 2014. Visiting Italian troops in Herat, Di Paola assured Italy and the international community’s support will continue after the troops’ departure, albeit “in a different way.” The minister’s statements sought to underscore commitments agreed to in Bonn, which “Italy will abide by.” Visiting several outposts in the province of Herat, Di Paola thanked troops for their “excellent work.” .

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

Women, the First Victims of Taliban Violence in Pakistan’s Tribal Areas

A report published by the Human Rights NGO Khwendo Kor documents cases of abuse, including honour killings, rapes, mutilations and acid attacks. Government inertia gives extremists control of Fata. Vicar of Faisalabad: punish practices against women. Muslim Activist: united against violence.

Islamabad (AsiaNews) — “Five Muslim extremists raided the house and cut off my cousins breast because she was breastfeeding her child. A member of the gang then ordered the women to eat the remains. “ This horror told by Kiran Bibi is just one of many “tales of ordinary madness” that come from the tribal areas of Pakistan, that are Taliban-controlled with the tacit consent of Islamabad. The 22 year old Cheryl Shaz — both names are fictitious, ed — from the Jalozai refugee camp adds: “A security guard forced me to have sex with him, in exchange for cooking oil and a handful of beans.” The incidents described are just two of many stories published in the report “Impact of the crisis on women and girls in FATA”, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, published by the organization Human Rights Khwendo Kor — the home of sisters , in Pashto — with the support of women’s groups of the United Nations. The document contains the stories of everyday violence, long unchecked, in north-western Pakistan along the border with Afghanistan.

The area is controlled by the Taliban, to which the central government in Islamabad has granted broad powers — including the introduction of Islamic law, Sharia — in order to reach a truce with the Islamists. Since the end of the war between the army and militia, women are the most affected by extreme violence, in particular, the two groups most at risk are widows and young girls. Forced sexual relations in exchange for food, water, basic necessities, women prefer not to use the showers and facilities, the lack of privacy, an increase in honor killings against women first raped and then excluded because considered a “ disgrace “the family which then kills them. Added to this is a progressive decline (from 39 to 19%) of the influence “female participation” in Pakistani society, the inability to gain their inheritance rights in shariah courts, claims of land ownership that go unheard, unheeded ..

A dramatic situation that provokes the angry reaction of Christian and Muslim activists and intellectuals, who are appealing to the government and the international community to intervene to protect the rights of women, stemming the progressive “Islamization” in Pakistan. The editor and journalist Farrukh Shahzad speaks to AsiaNews of a “painful reality” and “deteriorating conditions”, despite the efforts made by organizations and nongovernmental organizations. He turns to politicians and statesmen, so that “they understand the seriousness of the matter”, even the media, he adds, “are limited in their access to the populations of FATA because of the militia fighters.” He is echoed by Amina Zaman, Muslim activist for human rights, that the situation does not just regard FATA, but a large part of Pakistan and invites civil society “to speak out against this terrible violence against women.”

The vicar general of the diocese of Faisalabad links this violence to the government bill, in the approval process, which aims to “punish practices against women.” “It’s an attempt at resistance — says Fr. Khalid Rasheed Asi — to make it clear that the government will not accept laws favorable to women in the FATA. “ Shazia George, women’s rights activist, rattles off all the “serious abuses” that underlie women in Pakistan: genital mutilation, acid attacks, rape and murder, she adds, in the vast majority of crimes go unpunished . The Christian activist hopes that those responsible for “inciting hatred of gender” are arrested and punished. We need, she concludes, models of “resistance to injustice,” equal access to legal protection and respect of women’s rights.

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

Far East

North Korea Says Leader Kim Jong Il Has Died

REPORTING FROM SEOUL — North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, the mercurial strongman extolled at home as the “Dear Leader” and reviled abroad as a tyrant, has died at 69, North Korean media reported Monday.

Kim’s death was announced by state television from the North Korean capital, Pyongyang. No cause of death was reported, but Kim was believed to have suffered in recent years from diabetes and heart disease.

The diminutive leader was believed to have suffered a stroke in 2008 but nonetheless appeared in numerous photos released by state media as he toured state facilities and in recent months embarked on rare trips outside North Korea -— to China and Russia.

In September 2010, Kim announced that his foreign-educated third son, Kim Jong Eun, would succeed him as the regime’s third leader since its emergence more than a half century ago.

Kim, who came to power in 1994 upon the death of his father, North Korea founder Kim Il Sung, led one of the world’s most enduring dictatorships, a repressive regime that has long defied predictions of its demise. Against the odds, it survived into the 21st century while its people went hungry and its allies drifted away to pursue globalization and reform…

[Return to headlines]


220 Illegals Rounded Up in Two-Day Raids in Dubai

The General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs in Dubai rounded up 220 illegal residents in round-the-clock raids in the last two days. Major-General Mohammad Ahmed Al Marri, Director-General of the directorate, said the UAE law in general and the residency rules in particular are meant to ensure public safety and security. “Any violation of these regulations poses a grave risk to the individuals’ safety since an illegal resident may easily turn into a criminal as being out of control,” he said.

Lt-Col Khalaf Ahmed Al Ghaith, Assistant Director-General for Investigation and Illegals Follow-up Sector, said the inspectors combed every nook and corner of the emirate. “Illegals shall be tracked down, arrested and referred to the bodies concerned for legal action,” he said. The Illegals and Foreigners Sector in Dubai arrested 8,339 illegal residents — 6,068 men and 2,271 women — from January 1 to September 8 this year.

Under the UAE labour laws, an expatriate holding an employment visa from one sponsor is not allowed to work even part time for anyone else unless permitted by the sponsor. Visit visa-holders are not allowed to work at all. First Lieutenant Majid Mohammed Al Shaer, Head of the Search and Investigation Section, warned that law violators would face hefty fines and legal action. “As per the law, a jail term of not less than two months and a fine of Dh50,000 shall be imposed on any employer who provides work or safe haven to an illegal expatriate or worker not on his/her sponsorship,” he said.

Urging cooperation, Al Shaer called upon UAE nationals and residents of Dubai to report illegals, be they infiltrators, residents, workers or sponsors through toll-free ‘AMER service’.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Housh Bakr: Refuge for African Illegals in Makkah

MAKKAH: The Holy City is among the few cities, if not the only one, in Saudi Arabia with the largest number of illegal foreign residents. It is more or less the main haven for illegal foreigners, mostly African nationals. The reason for this is because foreigners who come to the Kingdom for Umrah or Haj tend to just stay here.

There are at least nine underdeveloped districts in Makkah. Each district is made up of at least 10 quarters. Africans of the same nationality would choose one of the districts and make it their permanent home in Makkah. They even change the names of the old districts, giving them African-sounding names.

The most popular of these areas for illegal African overstayers is the Al-Mansour district, which has been known by this name for more than half a century. The district is about 1.5 km away from the Grand Mosque. It is occupied by thousands of African men, women and children.

Saudi residents of Makkah commonly believed that the Al-Mansour district is a real threat to the security of the holy city. They said the area was a haven for crime and unethical practices. The Makkawis were unanimous that the area needed to be redeveloped. Commenting on this issue, police spokesman Lt. Col Abdul Mohsen Al-Miman said such areas were constantly under surveillance by police, security patrols and passport and traffic police. He said a number of raids were organized during which many criminals and illegal overstayers were arrested.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Israel: Yishai: Every African ‘Infiltrator’ Will Return Home

Interior minister dismisses notion that some Africans are asylum seekers or refugees: “These are economic migrants.”

Interior Minister Eli Yishai vowed Thursday to exert every effort to see that “the last of the infiltrators return to their countries,” referring to the some 50,000 African economic migrants, asylum seekers and refugees currently in Israel.

Speaking with Army Radio, Yishai dismissed the notion that Sudanese, Eritreans and other Africans in Israel have any standing to seek political asylum. “These are not refugees, these are economic migrants who want to come to Israel for work,” he said.

Their presence “is an existential threat” to the State of Israel, he asserted, vowing to “defend the Jewish majority.” The interior minister added, “Each and every one of them will return to their countries.”

           — Hat tip: Steen [Return to headlines]

News Feed 20111217

Financial Crisis
» Greece: Restaurant Sector Badly Hit
» Senate Votes to Extend Payroll Tax Cut for Two Months
» Stocking Up for Doomsday: As Economists Predict Meltdown, Meet the Families Ready for the Worst
» Christian Leaders Join Muslims in Lowe’s Protest
» Is Anti-Muslim Politics on the Rise in Florida?
» Jacksonville Mosque Bomb Scare Sparked by Unknown Package
» Please Sign 1Lt. Michael Behenna’s Petition for Clemency
» Sun Rips Tail From Comet During Solar Close Encounter
» The Madness Over All-American Muslim
» Waging a One-Man War on American Muslims
» Calgary Imam Apologizes for Holocaust Comparison
» Murder Victim Just Turned 17
Europe and the EU
» Anti-Kabila Protesters From DRC Clash With Brussels Police
» Austrian Teens Exposed as Xenophobic by Study
» Belgium: You Can Only Speak Dutch in Grimbergen
» Case of Anti-White Racism on Trial in France
» Europe’s Jews Need This Union
» France: Armenian Vote: Turkey Ready to Recall Ambassador
» If This is a Planet: Celestial Body Named for Author, Auschwitz Survivor Primo Levi
» Italy: House Arrest for Last 18 Months of Prison Sentences
» Netherlands: People From Brabant Lose Faith With Catholicism
» Netherlands: Cannabis Cafe Membership May be Delayed
» Norway Issues Pre-Christmas Reindeer Slaughter Threat
» Norwegians on Ola Tunander
» Spain: Police Accused of Rampant Racial Profiling
» UK: Cordoba Foundation Seminar ‘Behind Closed Doors’ At London Muslim Centre on Monday 19 December
» UK: Muslims and Christians Unite to Oppose Alcohol Licence. “It’s Not a Religious Issue, “ Says Welfare Director Toufic Kacimi
» UK: Sir Iqbal Sacranie
» UK: Scandal of How Councils Are Squandering £37,000 a Day on Interpreters
North Africa
» Egypt: Clashes Between the Army and Demonstrators Continue in Front of the Houses of Parliament
» Egypt Violence Resumes Near Parliament Building
» Italy’s Minister Welcomes Sanctions Lifted on Libyan Banks
» Italy Remains Libya’s Leading Trade Partner, Terzi Says
Israel and the Palestinians
» A Bridge Too Far for ‘Outraged’ of Hamas
Middle East
» Cyprus Pop Hits Halt Call to Prayer
» Iranian-Origin CIA Spy Arrested in Iran, ISNA Agency Says
» Qatar: Emir Opens Imam Abdul Wahhab Mosque in Doha
» The £7m Christmas Tree: Hotel Unveils Fir Draped in Diamonds (And No Prizes for Guessing It’s in the UAE)
» The Arab Spring in Jordan: King Compelled to Make Concessions to Protest Movement
South Asia
» Bangladesh: ‘I’Ve Got a Surprise for You’: Husband Blindfolds His Wife…. and Then Chops Off Her Fingers to Stop Her Studying for a Degree
» Bangladesh: Man Accused of Cutting Off Student Wife’s Fingers
» India: Muslims to Expose Congress Reservation Ploy
» Tajikistan: Dushanbe Mayor Demands Review of Local Imam-Hatibs’ Activity
» Veena Malik Goes Missing in Mumbai
Far East
» China: Land Grab in Guangdong and Jiangxi Trigger Peaceful Demonstrations and Suicides
Sub-Saharan Africa
» South Africa: ‘We’ll Teach the Whites’
» Uganda: Kyotera Muslims Leadership Wrangles Escalate
» Europe-Regions: Schengen: EU, Deal on Free Travel Stop
Culture Wars
» Spain: Use of Day-After Pill Up 83% in 2010
» UK: David Cameron: ‘We Are a Christian Country and We Should Not be Afraid to Say So’
» UK: David Cameron Attacks Archbishop of Canterbury Branding Rowan Williams Out of Touch
» UK: Speak Up for Christianity, Cameron Tells Archbishop: PM Calls on the Church to Defend ‘Values and Moral Code’ Of the Bible
» UK: Why I Prefer the Beano to the Church Times
» Meet the Internet’s Newest Boy Genius
» Senior Al-Qaeda Operative: The World is on the Brink of Anarchy; The Mujahideen Have a Chance to Fill the Vacuum and Establish the Caliphate

Financial Crisis

Greece: Restaurant Sector Badly Hit

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, DECEMBER 16 — The sight of a restaurant full of customers in Greece is a rarity these days, as supported by figures reported by the SEPOA association of restaurateurs on Thursday which pointed to a 40% decline in turnover year-on-year this fall, or since the increase of value-added tax from 13 to 23%. SEPOA representatives asked for VAT to be reduced to 9%, adding that dozens of enterprises have been forced to shut down due to the big drop in consumption that has led to the loss of about 15% of the sector’s jobs. As reported by Kathimerini, the association estimates that next year the number of jobs lost in the sector will add up to 120,000, while the state will also suffer as a result, as the drop in business and the rise in tax evasion have led to smaller-than-expected tax revenues.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Senate Votes to Extend Payroll Tax Cut for Two Months

WASHINGTON — In the ultimate cap to a year of last-minute, half-loaf legislation, the Senate voted overwhelmingly on Saturday to extend a payroll tax cut for a two months, with the chamber’s leaders and the White House proclaiming victory, even as they pushed the issue of how to extend the tax cut and unemployment benefits into the new year.

In an unusual Saturday vote, the Senate approved a $30 billion package to extend unemployment benefits, a payroll tax holiday for millions of American workers and to avoid cuts in payments to doctors who accept Medicare through February, when Congress will once again be locked in battle over whether and how to further extend those provisions.

The agreement — should it get through the House — mirrors a series of 11th-hour deals devised by the the 112th Congress that appear to solve an impending crisis, but simply push forward, most notably the agreement last summer to raise the debt ceiling. That created a 12-member Congressional committee whose job was to complete the deficit reduction goals that Congress failed to achieve on their own. That group achieved nothing, necessitating the legislation that Congress is wrangling with now.

A failure to even extend a modest tax break for 160 million Americans for a single year — something both sides would love as political feathers in their election-year caps — is particularly remarkable in a Congress charged with far more significant items.

“Today is an important day for our country,” said Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, as he explained from the Senate floor Saturday why his chamber would be voting on a bill, conceived Friday in private between Senate leaders to extend the tax for only two months. “We are doing today exactly what the Founding Fathers thought we would do,” and passage of the bills is “an accomplishment important for the American people.”

[Return to headlines]

Stocking Up for Doomsday: As Economists Predict Meltdown, Meet the Families Ready for the Worst

Picture the scene: It’s the end of January 2012 and already it is clear the year to come will make that which has just passed seem something of a picnic. The last strains of Auld Lang Syne had barely faded before Greece defaulted on its debts. Over the next few weeks, Italy and Spain will follow.

Across Britain and the Continent, bank after bank goes down, a domino effect exacerbated by panicking customers desperately withdrawing their savings. Where three years ago the giants of High Street banking were seen as too big too fail, now they are too big and too many for any Government to save.

Panic ensues. Within hours, the cashpoints are empty of money and the supermarket shelves stripped bare.

To make matters worse the country is hit by freezing weather. As temperatures plummet and snow falls, the road network stalls to a grinding halt, while large swathes of the country are hit by electricity blackouts.

The warning by economists that Britain is just ‘nine meals from anarchy’ is brutally borne out. Unlike last summer, the rioters on the streets aren’t looking for trainers and flat-screen TVs — just food.

An absurd fantasy? Perhaps so, but in an increasingly uncertain world, such a scenario can no longer be dismissed out of hand. And strange as it may seem, it’s one that many believe is worth preparing for.

Across the country, steps are being taken to cope with such a situation. But not by central or local government. Their contingency planning for such an emergency is focused on the most important and most vulnerable in society.

Instead it is ordinary people who are taking action: stockpiling their larders with non-perishable food, buying water-purifying pumps and camping stoves.

While five years ago such behaviour might have been dismissed as the activities of ‘end-of-the-world’ eccentrics, those doing so today are professionals from every walk of life.

Companies selling freeze-dried food rations, sealed in giant air-tight multi-serving tins and with a shelf-life of 25 years, have seen sales soar in recent months — increasing ten-fold compared to previous years.

Most popular are the packs of instant meals that will keep a family of four going for three months once water is added. At around £1,500 they are not cheap. But many of those buying these emergency rations see them as a wise investment — and they are well-placed to make such a judgment.

‘It is not “crazies” buying this,’ says James Blake, whose company Emergency Food Storage specialises in freeze-dried foods. ‘We get a lot of high-powered business people as customers. Most people buy insurance for their health, their house or their life — this is food insurance.

‘Of course, we hope it never happens, but if there is a major catastrophe, then money is not going to be worth much after a couple of days. It will be food that becomes the most needed thing.’

Dave Hannah and his company B-Prep sell similar products. He says a number of his customers are bankers. Their average spend is £3,000.

‘It makes you think: “What do they know?” ‘ says Hannah. ‘When we’ve talked on the phone, they’ve told me: “This whole thing is going to go down.” ‘

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]


Christian Leaders Join Muslims in Lowe’s Protest

ALLEN PARK, Mich. — A coalition of Christian, Muslim and civil rights groups has called a demonstration outside a suburban Detroit Lowe’s store to protest the home improvement chain’s decision to pull ads from a reality TV show about U.S. Muslims. Executives of the Mooresville, N.C.-based company say TLC’s “All-American Muslim” became a “lightning rod” for complaints. They acted after complaints from the conservative Christian group the Florida Family Association. A group of Detroit-area Christian, Muslim and civil rights groups says its members will demonstrate at 11 a.m. Saturday at Lowe’s store in Allen Park against what the coalition says was the company’s decision to “cave to anti-Muslim extremists.” The travel planning site also has pulled its ads from the show, which features five families in the Detroit suburb of Dearborn.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Is Anti-Muslim Politics on the Rise in Florida?

Clashes between Muslim activists and Florida conservatives have turned the state into a stand-off. Why? When hardware superstore Lowe’s pulled its advertising from the cable reality programme All-American Muslim, it did so at the behest of a small group called the Florida Family Association (FFA). The FFA’s previous letter-writing campaigns have been targeted at shows with both gratuitous and non-traditional sexuality, like Behind Girls Gone Wild and RuPaul’s Drag Race. All-American Muslim is the first show that FFA has targeted on the grounds that it obscured “the Islamic agenda’s clear and present danger to American liberties and traditional values”. But it’s not the first time Florida has made national headlines for sentiments hostile towards Muslims.

Last spring, pastor Terry Jones caused worldwide outrage when he burned a Koran at his church in Gainesville, Florida. In September, Nezar Hamze, head of the Florida Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), was the first person refused admission to the Broward County Republican party executive committee. And Congressman Allen West, who represents constituents in South Florida, was recorded by the liberal website ThinkProgress last August saying “Islam is a totalitarian theocratic political ideology, it is not a religion. It has not been a religion since 622 AD, and we need to have individuals that stand up and say that.”

‘Fear mongering’

The boycott by the FFA comes as distrust of Muslims is on the rise across the US. Statistics released by the FBI in November show that anti-Muslim hate crimes rose by about 50% in 2010. After a long quiet period, says Mark Potok, director of the intelligence project at the Southern Poverty Law Center, crimes against Muslims started up again in 2010 with the May fire bombing of a mosque in Jacksonville, Florida. The big spike in hate crimes across the US, he says, coincided with the summer controversy over plans to build an Islamic cultural centre near Ground Zero in New York City. “There’s been a dramatic increase thanks to this completely ginned up controversy about the imposition of Sharia law,” says Mr Potok. “What we’re seeing is fearmongering on an absolutely massive scale.” He is careful to point out that while speech against Muslims is not a hate crime, “words have consequences”. That being said, his office has not observed a noticeable rise in anti-Islamic group activity in Florida.

Sense of urgency

However, the debate over Muslim ideology has become a political fulcrum in Florida, especially for Tea Party candidates. “I’ve never seen anything like it,” says Matthew Hendley, a reporter for the New Times, a weekly paper in Palm Beach and Broward county. “Florida really is a hotbed for this kind of thing,” says Tim Murphy, a reporter for Mother Jones magazine who has covered the issue. He notes several factors that make Florida unique: a history of well-organised political activism, large populations of both pro-Israeli Jewish residents and pro-Palestinian Muslim residents, and a few high-profile arrests of Muslims suspected of terrorist activity. As reported in the Miami Herald, the FBI also investigated ties between the 9/11 hijackers and a Saudi family living in Sarasota, Florida.

To those concerned about Islamic extremism, says Mr Murphy, these arrests “give them a sense of urgency — ‘we need to act now.’“ In South Florida, political figures concerned with Muslim extremism and what they perceive as the spread of Sharia law are well-presented.

Joyce Kaufman, a south Florida radio host, frequently speaks out against Islam encroaching into classrooms and American culture, and her remarks are examples of the kind of extreme rhetoric now being heard. At an event hosted by the anti-Islamic activist Pamela Geller, Ms Kaufman said that “almost every act of political murder” has been done in the name of Allah. When a Tampa imam was arrested on suspicion of aiding the Pakistani Taliban, religious leaders held a protest, demanding the mosque be shut down.

Former Florida Representative Adam Hasner, who is now running for the US Senate, has been vocal in the fight against Sharia law and the threat of radical Islam. When he was speaker of the house in Florida, he invited the controversial Dutch politician Geert Wilders to speak at a summit. During his speech, Mr Wilders said while there may be moderate Muslims, “there is no such thing as a moderate Islam”.

A new approach

To that end, those who fight “radical Islam” often see any expression of Islam as a threat, say Muslim activists. “I’ve been in South Florida my whole life. It’s been on a steady rise for the last few years,” says Mr Hamze, the man who was excluded from the Broward County Republican party. “Since ‘07 or ‘08, there has been an increase in activity,” he says. “Now there are churches involved with this, politicians involved, radio stations involved.” Though his views as a Muslim hew closely to Republican views on social issues, his affiliations with CAIR — which opponents say is an organisation with extremist ties — factored into his exclusion. While Florida Republicans actively courted Muslim voters in 2000, the party has now found success rallying voters against the dangers of militant Islam. But they maintain that fight against Muslim extremism is not the same thing as a fight against Muslims. Rick Wilson, an advisor for Mr Hasner, says that CAIR and other groups “shout down any critique of extremism as a critique of Islam”. “Opposing Islamic radicalism and opposing Sharia Islam, these are things, as Adam has frequently said, that speak to our national security in the first and our national character in the second,” says Mr Walker.

All-American Muslims

A fear of Muslim extremism in the US is not solely a Florida phenomenon, after all. While the Florida Family Association initially pushed Lowe’s to drop their All-American Family advertising, the campaign has found support across the country. And Florida is not defined by groups like FFA. Hasan Shibly, the director of the Tampa chapter of CAIR, recently moved from New York to Florida. He says that he’s never known Islamaphobia to be so rampant, but believes that for the most part, those attitudes belong to a vocal but small minority.

“I really don’t think this rhetoric is reflective of Floridians as a whole.”

[JP note: Not content with appeasing Muslims in the UK, the BBC is now busy agitating on behalf of Muslims in America.]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Jacksonville Mosque Bomb Scare Sparked by Unknown Package

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Police have determined there is no threat to the community following a bomb scare at the Islamic Center. The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office bomb squad responded to the Islamic Center of Northeast Florida, in the 2300 block of South St. Johns Bluff Road,a round 2:30 p.m. JSO Sgt. Chris King said Imam Joe Bradford called police to be safe after a package was sent with wording on it that concerned the imam. There is no threat to the community or the Islamic Center, said King. The imam said there were no explosive devices or threatening material inside. It is unknown who sent the package. Bradford, who would not elaborate on the writing on the package, said he received the package. “Better safe than sorry.” Bradford is confident there is no threat, he said. The center’s spokesperson Muhammad Mansoori said he left the mosque this afternoon around 2:30 and at that point, nothing was unusual. Mansoori said he found out about the emergency when the media began calling him.

[JP note: Coincidence? Perhaps it is a bit too convenient for a Florida mosque to receive a bomb scare just as the New York Times and BBC America publish puff pieces about so-called anti-Muslim hate in the state. I would be tempted to speculate that the good Imam Bradford has concocted his story out of thin air.]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Please Sign 1Lt. Michael Behenna’s Petition for Clemency

by Diana West

A November update from Scott and Vicki Behenna (which I missed it when it arrived in my inbox last month):

To the thousands of supporters of 1Lt Michael Behenna,

It has been awhile since we sent out an update. Michael’s lawyers have filed the petition to the Court of Appeals of the Armed Forces (CAAF). The CAAF is the highest court for the military justice system and is similar to the Supreme Court as they do not have to take your appeal. There were four issues on Michael’s case presented to the CAAF and we would expect to hear within 30-60 days whether the CAAF will hear his case. If the CAAF does not choose to hear any of the issues, then Michael’s appeals are done. So you can see the importance of this appeal. We desperately need your prayers so that Michael’s conviction will be seen by the CAAF for what it is — an abomination of the military justice system. The CAAF judges are civilians, so it is our hope that they will look at Michael’s case much differently than how the military judges have thus far.

Michael has his next Clemency Hearing the first week of January 2012. Although the Clemency Board disappointed us last year in not granting any Clemency (despite Michael being a model prisoner for the past two years), we know we will get to present Michael’s situation before a new panel. In addition, we are hopeful that with the US military leaving Iraq at the end of December, that the atmosphere of appeasement towards the Iraqi government may be different. If you want to help with Michael’s Clemency you can draft a letter to the Clemency Board. A sample clemency letter is included below, but we ask that you PLEASE change up the language and add some additional thoughts, so the letters don’t all look the same.

Also, we would like to get Michael’s petition (currently 28,400) to over 35,000 signatures before our meeting with the Clemency Board. We would really appreciate it if you could blast out this request to everyone you can. You can sign the petition here.


           — Hat tip: Diana West [Return to headlines]

Sun Rips Tail From Comet During Solar Close Encounter

A newfound comet that plunged through the sun’s atmosphere Thursday (Dec. 15) — and amazingly survived — was visibly maimed by the encounter, which left the icy wanderer without its long, bright tail, a scientist says. According to Karl Battams, a solar researcher at the U.S. Naval Research Center in Washington, the death-defying comet Lovejoy slipped through the sun’s outer atmosphere (called the corona) with a bright tail in tow, only to reappear tailless on the other side.

The comet zoomed within 87,000 miles (140,000 kilometers) of the sun’s surface, making its closest approach at about 7 p.m. EST Thursday (midnight GMT on Dec. 16). Instruments called coronographs aboard several sun-watching space observatories caught the unexpected solar sight. “Somehow it survived being immersed in the several million-degree solar corona for almost an hour and has now re-emerged back into the views of the LASCO and SECCHI coronagraphs, almost as bright as before!” Battams wrote on his website Sungrazing Comets. “The only notable exception is that it appears to have lost its tail … In fact its tail is still gently floating out in space where it was before perihelion!”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

The Madness Over All-American Muslim

by John Esposito

Founding director, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, Georgetown University

“All-American Muslim” premiered on TLC with record 1.7 million viewers in November, earning critical acclaim from The New York Times, USA Today NPR, Time Magazine, The Atlantic and many major blog sites. The episode, “How to Marry a Muslim,” boosted TLC to post its highest Sunday primetime performance in more than a year in women 18-34. Was it too good to be true? Of course. The well-funded and organized xenophobic and racist Islamophobic cottage industry swung into full alert and initiated yet another anti-Islam and anti-Muslim campaign. No sooner had it premiered than the anti-Islam/Islamophobia industry frantically urged their supporters to contact the network’s advertisers and demand that they pull their commercial spots from that hour on TLC in an attempt to strangle the show off of the air.

Before a single advertiser could confirm or deny their position, the Florida Family Association (FFA), a small Tampa-based conservative Christian group, touted that advertisers were fleeing the show “like rats from a sinking ship.” Florida Family founder David Cato told AP his mission was to “defend traditional American biblical values.” Repeating a tired mantra, FFA charged that the show is “propaganda clearly designed to counter legitimate and present-day concerns about many Muslims who are advancing Islamic fundamentalism and Sharia law,” An FFA email to it’s members charged that: “The show profiles only Muslims that appear to be ordinary folks while excluding many Islamic believers whose agenda poses a clear and present danger to liberties and traditional values that the majority of Americans cherish,” urging them to contact dozens of companies and ask them to “discontinue advertising on this show.” The hardware and building supply chain Lowe’s from future episodes.

Islamophobic leaders in America were quick to join the chorus. Pam Geller, notorious anti-Muslim basher, who has been involved in virtually every major anti-Islam protest from Park 51, the anti-Sharia movement, and others charged: “Every company is to free to choose where they put their ad dollars. 64 companies have now pulled their ads. And rightly so. It’s is not that the show about Muslims. It is that the show was predicated on a lie and the relentless propaganda of Islamic supremacists.” Her compatriot and co-founder of Stop Islamization of America, Robert Spencer, also jumped into the controversy: “But Americans aren’t suspicious of Muslims who are trying to get married, open clubs, and play football. Americans are suspicious of Muslims who are trying to blow up American buildings, subvert American freedoms, and assert the primacy of Islamic law over American law. The problem people have with Islam is not with every Muslim person. It is with Islam’s teachings of violence against and the subjugation of unbelievers. It is with the supremacist ideology and the fervent believers in those noxious doctrines of warfare and subjugation. All-American Muslim addresses nothing of that supremacist ideology…”

The furor over All-American Muslim underscores yet again the extent to which Islamophobia exists despite the adamant claims of its enablers and practitioners that it does not. The fact that one cannot have a single show on a Muslim family without Muslim bashers insisting that portraying a normal family is somehow insidious because the show does not show the “dark side” of Islam demonstrates the extent to which they engage in the creation of a collective guilt, brush-stroking a religion and a majority of its followers with the actions a fraction of 1 percent of Muslims.

These preachers of hate use vitriolic xenophobic language and fear-mongering and ignore the facts. Major polling by Gallup and Pew and their reports have emphasized the extent to which the vast majority of American Muslims have become economically and increasingly politically integrated into mainstream American society. Muslims represent men and women spanning the socioeconomic spectrum: professionals (doctors, lawyers, engineers, and educators), corporate executives, small business owners, or blue-collar workers and laborers. The vast majority of Muslims reject extremism and terrorism and are loyal citizens like the vast majority of other Americans.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Waging a One-Man War on American Muslims

During the mid-1990s, after hearing about the harassment of gay students, the principal of Largo High School in Florida created a support group for them. Over the next year or two, the meetings also drew sympathetic friends, evolving into a club called the Gay Straight Alliance. For a while, it operated in comfortable obscurity. Then, in 1998, the principal, Barbara Thornton, began receiving postcards, many bearing the identical message bizarrely denouncing the alliance as a “government-funded witch hunt.” The local school board felt compelled to take up the issue, with 400 parents attending a meeting at which one speaker compared the gay students to murderers.

During that session, Ms. Thornton encountered the man who had manufactured the entire controversy: David Caton. An accountant turned rock-club owner, the author of a book about his pornography addiction, Mr. Caton had become a born-again Christian and the founder and sole employee of a fundamentalist group called the Florida Family Association.

This dispute, otherwise a mere footnote in America’s culture wars, matters very much right now. This same David Caton is the person who has maligned the television show “All-American Muslim” — a reality series on the Learning Channel about five families in Dearborn, Mich. — as a front for an Islamic takeover of America and pressured advertisers to pull their commercials. At least two, Lowe’s Home Improvement and, have acknowledged doing so, partly in reaction to Mr. Caton’s campaign. Subsequently, after being criticized by consumers and antidiscrimination groups, both companies issued statements declaring their support for tolerance and diversity.

It would be upsetting enough if a well-financed, well-organized mass movement had misrepresented a television show, insulted an entire religious community and intimidated a national corporation. What makes the attack on “All-American Muslim” more disturbing — and revealing — is that it was prosecuted by just one person, a person unaffiliated with any established organization on the Christian right, a person who effectively tapped into a groundswell of anti-Muslim bigotry. “We live in the age of the Internet and a well-organized extreme right,” said Mark Potok, who investigates hate groups for the Southern Poverty Law Center and has followed Mr. Caton’s activities. “This little man was able to have his voice amplified in huge ways.”

Wajahat Ali, who has written about “the Islamophobia network in America” for the Center for American Progress, a liberal research group, made a similar point in an interview. “It’s literally one dude with a poorly made Web site, one fringe individual with an e-mail list,” Mr. Ali said. “But by parroting the talking points created by this incestuous network, he’s triggered a national crisis.” Mr. Caton did not respond to numerous calls seeking comment. On his association’s Web site he had accused “All-American Muslim” of hiding “the Islamic agenda’s clear and present danger to American liberties and traditional values.” In an interview this week on CNN, he reiterated the thesis.

Yet, with its focus on such wholesome archetypes as a police officer, a newlywed couple and a football coach, “All-American Muslim” struck many reviewers as too tepid to be entertaining. It aspires to do for Muslims what earlier television series like “The Goldbergs” and “Julia” did for Jews and African-Americans — show they’re just regular folks. The question is why anybody, especially a major company like Lowe’s, would be swayed by Mr. Caton’s campaign. (A spokesman for Lowe’s declined the opportunity to comment.) The 2010 federal tax forms for the Florida Family Association list Mr. Caton as its only paid employee, earning $55,200. The association took in $172,133 in donations and closed out the calendar year with precisely $8,868.76 on hand.

Mr. Caton set up the Florida Family Association after having broken with the American Family Association, a more mainstream group within Christian activist circles, for reasons that remain unclear. Mr. Caton worked independently of such established groups as Florida Family Action, Focus on the Family and the Florida Baptist Convention during the 2008 campaign to amend the Florida Constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage. “His tactics may differ from other organizations,” said Mathew Staver, the chairman of Liberty Counsel, a nonprofit law and policy organization often involved in evangelical Christian issues. “Other organizations may have similar goals but use different tactics.”

For the first 15 years of his public life, Mr. Caton aimed almost entirely at homosexuals, whether with the high school club, the marriage amendment or gay rights measures in Tampa, Fla. He even urged Florida to fire an openly gay lawyer from the state attorney general’s office. Mr. Caton often used the tactic of pressuring advertisers on shows he depicted as advocating for homosexuality — “Sordid Lives,” “Degrassi High” and “Modern Family.” On the Florida Family Association Web site, he posted grandiose claims about the companies that pulled their advertising and the cable networks that canceled shows. He appears to have frequently exaggerated, but he was almost never publicly contradicted. Within the past two years, Mr. Caton has largely dropped the anti-gay banner in favor of a new villain: American Muslims. His concern about Sharia law partly grew out of a court decision in Tampa in which a judge allowed a mosque to settle an internal dispute according to religious law.

But Mr. Caton’s new obsession also drew upon the heated comments of such prominent anti-Muslim activists as Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer. And it coincided with the national controversies about the “ground zero mosque” — in fact, an Islamic cultural center several blocks from ground zero — and the hearings led by Representative Peter T. King, a New York Republican, on alleged subversion by American Muslims. If there is any upside to the campaign against “All-American Muslim,” it is that national scrutiny has cut Mr. Caton down to size. Several major companies that he claimed had stopped advertising — Home Depot and Campbell’s Soup — issued statements saying they had done no such thing. The entertainment mogul Russell Simmons paid the Learning Channel for the advertising revenue lost from Lowe’s. Mr. Caton’s broadsides have potentially created a larger, more sympathetic audience for the very series he reviles. That would not be the first example of unintended consequences in his career. “We found it a good thing he brought the issue out,” Ms. Thornton, the Florida principal, recalled. “It ended up with the student population at large supporting the Gay Straight Alliance because of the attacks from outside.”

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]


Calgary Imam Apologizes for Holocaust Comparison

CALGARY — An imam who caught flak last week over comments comparing the treatment of Canadian Muslims to Jews during the Holocaust said he was misinterpreted. Syed Soharwardy said on Friday that he regretted the portrayal of his comments. He said he did not mean to compare the banning of the niqab to the treatment of Jewish people during the Holocaust. Rather, he said, Muslims in Canada are starting to feel as if they are under attack much as the Jewish people were in the years leading up to the Holocaust. “I said the current situation of Muslims that we are facing is trending towards a situation that will be very very horrible,” he said on Friday. “I created a similarity just to make a point, not to insult, not to be unrealistic or insensitive or incorrect.”

Controversy flared after the Calgary imam gave an interview to CTV last week explaining his point of view on the government’s decision to bar the niqab during citizenship ceremonies. Then Soharwardy said: “Muslims are going through that situation right now where the Jews faced before the Holocaust.” On Friday, the imam tried to clarify his intent, saying he and other Muslims like living in Canada and that he is aware that there is no comparison to be made to the conditions the Jews suffered under Hitler. However, he fears the country may be heading in the wrong direction.


           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Murder Victim Just Turned 17

The killing of the city’s latest homicide victim, who just turned 17 in October, was “not a random act,” say police. Teen friends of Russell Haidar say despite his troubled history with the law, he was very giving to those who were close to him. Haidar, Edmonton’s 45 homicide of the year, was gunned down around 11:18 p.m. Wednesday in a park at Picard Drive and Proctor Way in the upscale Lewis Estates neighbourhood. He died in hospital at 1:30 a.m. Thursday. His funeral is set for Saturday at the Al-Rashid Mosque, 13070 113 St.

Friend Kaila Mackenzie said she can’t believe that her childhood friend has died in such a violent way. Mackenzie said though Haidar had a recent checkered past, he was known for taking care of his friends. “He was always really good to me — if I needed a place to stay, it was never a problem. He was always there for me when I needed him,” said Mackenzie.

A Thursday autopsy confirmed that Haidar died as a result of a gunshot wound. Homicide detectives Friday said the case does not appear to be a random killing, said cop spokesman Patrycia Thenu. Investigators are asking for anyone who believes they may have information relating to the case to contact police. One area resident, who declined to be named, was not surprised by the shooting. She said that there has been a steady uprising of drug trafficking in the area for quite some time. The Lewis Estates Community League is in the midst of trying to set up a neighbourhood watch program. Friend Mohamad Zain rejects the notion that Haidar’s slaying is related to drugs or gangs. “He was the last kind of person you’d think would get caught up in something like this,” said friend Zain. “It was a complete fluke.” Zain remembers Haidar as a “good hearted” guy, who had a close circle of friends.

All who were close to him are struggling to come to terms with his violent death. Zain saw his friend buying ice cream only a few days before he was slain, not realizing it was the last time the two would ever speak. “I just said, “What’s up?’ And then that was it. That was the last time we talked,” he said. A funeral is set for 12:30 p.m. Saturday, at Al-Rashid Mosque.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Anti-Kabila Protesters From DRC Clash With Brussels Police

(AGI)Brussels-Police in Brussels clashed with citizens from the Democratic Republic of the Congo protesting against the elections. The DRC nationals gathered to protest the outcome of the presidential elections announced on November 28 which saw Joseph Kabila’s controversial return to power, approved by the Supreme Court of Justice in Kinshasa yesterday.

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

Austrian Teens Exposed as Xenophobic by Study

Young Austrians’ views are strongly influenced by hostility to strangers and concerns caused by the economic crisis, according to researchers. The Institute for Youth Culture Research spoke with 400 residents of Vienna aged between 16 and 19 to find that 43.6 per cent of them agreed with the claim that “there are way too many Turks in Austria.”

Around 96,000 of the 248,000 members of the domestic Turkish community are born in Austria. Turks have been in the focus of anti-immigration political movements like the right-wing Freedom Party (FPÖ) over the years. FPÖ boss Heinz-Christian Strache has claimed he is not against successful integration but warns of the increasing dominance of Islam at the same time. Research shows that unemployment among Turks is around twice as high as among Austrians. Statistics also reveal that Turkish women have 2.41 children on average, significantly more than Austrian women (1.27). Austria has one of the lowest birth rates in Europe.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Belgium: You Can Only Speak Dutch in Grimbergen

Is it a crime to speak French in a Flemish municipality? MEP Frédérique Ries has asked the European Commission to respond to the creation by the CD&V (Christian democrat) authorities in the Belgian town of Grimbergen of a hotline to encourage the population to inform on people that use languages other than Dutch in public areas and businesses.

Le Soir reports that the liberal Belgian representative believes that this “invitation to act as an informer” is in breach of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and the Belgian constitution. The Brussels daily evokes the anger of Francophone politicians, who deplore:

… the linguistic intransigence of Flemish authorities (Grimbergen is one of many cases) that, in their bid to combat a decline in the use of Dutch in municipalities around Brussels, have resorted to measures that are anti-constitutional: article 30 of the country’s constitution stipulates that outside of matters involving public administration and the law, the choice of language is determined by individual preference.

What appears to be a majority of the members of the Flanders regional parliament supports the measure established by Marleen Mertens, Grimbergen’s CD&V burgomeister. In an interview with Le Soir, she argues that the initiative is “absolutely normal” :

If I travel to Wallonia, I use French when shopping. The same applies in Flanders. It’s a language exercise. It encourages people to use Dutch to facilitate their integration.

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

Case of Anti-White Racism on Trial in France

As protesters massed outside, the spokeswoman for a movement representing immigrants from France’s former colonies went on trial Wednesday for allegedly insulting white French in what may be the first anti-white racism case in France. The verdict, expected Jan. 25, may turn on a hyphen.

The trial grew out of a legal complaint from a far-right group, the General Alliance Against Racism and Respect for French and Christian Identity, Agrif, against Houria Bouteldja for using a word she invented to refer to white French that she claims was misconstrued. She was charged with “racial injury” and, if convicted, risks up to six months in prison and a maximum euro25,000 ($32,500) fine, though courts usually issue far lighter sentences.

Bouteldja, of the movement Indigenes of the Republic, called native white French “souchiens” in a TV interview. The word derives from “souche,” or stock, as native white French are commonly called, but could sound like a hyphenated word meaning “lower than a dog.”

Defense lawyer Henri Braun, asking the court to acquit his client, said Bouteldja was really denouncing “the rise in hate and racism and tensions over the mythical French identity which propagates the idea that there are real French,” and other French who are not real. “They want you (the court) to judge that French of stock exist and strengthen the legitimacy of this ridiculous notion,” he said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Europe’s Jews Need This Union

by Jonathan Freedland

There’s one number you won’t find in the torrent of opinion polls unleashed by David Cameron’s European summit veto. You can find the verdicts of men aged between 18 and 24 or of women in social class C2 — but if you’re looking for the attitudes of British Jews to Europe, you will search in vain. There is hardly any polling of British Jews on any topic, so we are left with the evidence of our own eyes and ears. Here’s what my own, unscientific survey has picked up: that this is a subject which, while hardly discussed, touches on sentiments that go very deep, pitting our gut instincts against our heads, our fears against our hopes. The gut instinct is one we’re wary of voicing it lest we sound stuck in the past — fear of Germany. Plenty of Europeans voice similar anxieties. Witness the nervous response when one of Angela Merkel’s allies quipped: “Suddenly Europe is speaking German.” Or the Greek magazine cover which, protesting at the subordination of Athens to economic decisions taken in Berlin, depicted a swastika on the Acropolis. Or look no further than the British press, which compared Cameron’s stance to Britain’s lonely defiance in 1940, recalling the famous cartoon of the solitary Tommy declaring: “Very Well, Alone!”

We’re not the only ones to worry. And yet these concerns hit a particularly raw nerve for Jews, one that goes deeper than tabloid headlines. I spoke to one especially thoughtful Jewish man of letters who confessed to being spooked by the pictures that came out of the Brussels summit: a German chancellor at the centre, the leaders of Lithuania or Croatia hovering close by, the smaller nations of Europe apparently reduced to mere satellites of mighty Berlin. Maybe that’s unfair or a distortion, but that’s how he saw it. Viewed through this lens, Cameron did the right thing. Anything that can stop a fiscal union that would have required the countries of the eurozone to have had their budgets approved, their homework marked, in effect, by Germany is to be welcomed. Never mind that none of those arrangements would have applied to Britain, still comfortably (and rightly) out of the eurozone. As far as this elemental Jewish gut instinct is concerned, talk of German domination is scary and we should support any move that stands in its way.

But that is not the only Jewish way to see the European question. Other Jews, no less haunted by the last century, might have the opposite reaction. They might, for a start, be alarmed at the prospect of the eurozone breaking apart in chaotic fashion. Everyone agrees that such a crash would see the economy tanking, not only across Europe, including Britain, but far beyond. You don’t have to have a doctorate in modern Jewish history to know that when a depression looms, so does trouble for the Jews. We may not have played the role of scapegoat for a while, but history remembers are past performances and the script is still there, always ready to be revived.

But even if the euro does not break up, Jews still have good reason to want the EU to succeed rather than fail. What motivated the founding fathers of the European project (among whom there was, incidentally, a strong Jewish presence) was a desire, after the horrors of two wars, to ensure the nations of Europe never fought each other again, to make them into trading partners rather than military rivals. It was a noble ideal and one in which Jews have a particularly high stake — for war in Europe has hurt us especially. Fear of Germany was central to this mission. The aim was to tie down the German Gulliver in bonds of commerce, the Lilliputians of the rest of Europe confining him in the shackles of shared sovereignty. In the post-1945 era Germany submitted willingly to those constraints, seeing the EU as the way it might be protected from its darkest self. Few British politicians speak this way now; the wartime generation has passed. But Jews have long memories. We should heed them, listening to our heads not our guts — and willing the EU to survive the current storm.

[JP note: As a good Guardian journalist should, Freedland forgets to mention the massive influx of Muslim migrants into European countries, aided and abetted by bureaucrats in Brussels, which does not bode well for the Jews of Europe.]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

France: Armenian Vote: Turkey Ready to Recall Ambassador

Paris, Ankara important ally

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, DECEMBER 15 — Turkey will recall its ambassador to France if the French National Assembly will vote for the draft bill that sanctions negation of the Armenian genocide in 1915. The news was reported by a spokesman of the Turkish embassy in Paris, Engin Solakoglu, to France Press.

“There will be unavoidable consequence in all sectors of bilateral relations. First of all our ambassador will be recalled for consultations on December 22 for an indefinite period, depending on the vote in the French National Assembly.” After the announcement of the Turkish embassy, spokesman of the French Foreign Ministry Bernard Valero said that “Turkey is a very important ally for France, we give the highest importance to our relations with Ankara, on international and regional issues. Regular contact between the countries”, he added, has in fact allowed us to make progress in the mutual understanding of our interests.” The French National Assembly will vote next week on a draft bill on sanctions for denying the Armenian genocide in 1915, recognised by France in 2001.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

If This is a Planet: Celestial Body Named for Author, Auschwitz Survivor Primo Levi

The Italian Jewish author and scientist lived through the worst that mankind has wrought. Now his name lives on beyond his work, and beyond the earth, in a 17-km-wide celestial body — discovered in 1989 — that has now officially been named planet Primolevi.

Ever since it was discovered in 1989 between Mars and Jupiter, the minor planet 4,545 existed without a proper name. It has one now, and it is indeed worth a closer look. The celestial body has been officially named Primolevi — one word, according to astronomy registry rules — after the renowned Italian author and chemist, who survived the Auschwitz concentration camp. The number 4,545 has indeed gained new meaning. Primo Levi, an Italian Jew, left Auschwitz in 1945. Furthermore, he kept for the rest of his life on his arm the record number 174,517, tattooed by his Nazi captors.

Mario Di Martino, astronomer of the Observatory of Pino Torinese, had the idea to the name a minor planet after Levi. The International Astronomical Union, the internationally recognized authority for assigning designations to celestial bodies, has now approved his proposal. The minor planet description reads: “Primo Levi (1919-1987) was an Italian chemist and writer. He was the author of two novels and several collections of short stories, essays and poems. His best-known work is If this is a man, his account of the period he spent as a prisoner in Auschwitz concentration camp.”

Minor planet Primolevi was discovered in 1989, by Belgian astronomer Henri Debehogne, with a telescope of the European Southern Observatory in the Andes Mountains of Chile. It is 17 kilometers in diameter, situated in the asteroid belt between March and Jupiter. It logs a five-year orbit, which was studied in 1,084 observations — most recently on October 28, 2011. Debehogne, who died in 2007 at 78, was an astronomer at the Royal Observatory of Belgium, specialized in astrometry of asteroids and comets, and discovered more than 700 minor planets…

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

Italy: House Arrest for Last 18 Months of Prison Sentences

(AGI) Rome — In an attempt to reduce overcrowding in prisons, at a cabinet meeting held today ministers amended the law so those with prison sentences may spend the last 18 months under house arrest. Funds amounting to 57 million have been allocated for prison construction projects and for completing prisons under construction as well as enlarging existing ones.

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

Netherlands: People From Brabant Lose Faith With Catholicism

At least 86% of the people living in Brabant have little or no faith in the Catholic church, according to a survey by local broadcaster Omroep Brabant.

The south was the centre of the Catholic faith in the Netherlands for centuries.

The survey was carried out among 4,000 people living in the south-eastern region. Of the 700 Catholics surveyed, 60% have lost their faith in the Catholic church.

On Friday the government commission investigating sexual abuse within the Catholic church will publish its findings. Some 88% of those polled do not think the church has dealt properly with the scandal.

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

Netherlands: Cannabis Cafe Membership May be Delayed

Cannabis cafes in the south of the country will have until May 1 2012 to turn themselves into members’ only clubs, justice minister Ivo Opstelten said on Thursday.

The minister had wanted to introduce the membership pass system in January, but many local councils had asked for a delay.

So-called coffee shops in Noord-Brabant, Limburg and Zeeland will now become members’ only clubs in May. The system will be introduced nationwide in 2013 Opstelten said.


Under the new system, only people who are officially resident in the Netherlands will be able to ‘join’ a cannabis club. Coffee shops will be allowed to have no more than 2,000 members and must be at least 350 metres from schools.

Opponents of the coffee shop pass system say it will lead to an increase in street dealing.

Earlier stories

Maastricht says cannabis pass system must be delayed

Cannabis cafes set to become private members clubs

Closure of massive cannabis café was right, says highest court

Fewer coffee shops as new rules begin to bite

This is what marijuana smells like, council tells residents

Border cannabis café closure boosts Breda

Maastricht can ban tourists from cannabis cafes, says top EU legal advisor

Mayors to get tough in Eindhoven drugs wars

Tourism prompts cannabis café closure

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

Norway Issues Pre-Christmas Reindeer Slaughter Threat

Norway’s agriculture minister has threatened to enforce a mass cull of tens of thousands of reindeer unless the Sami authority tasked with herding the animals steps up its efforts to cut the burgeoning population.

According to the Norwegian Reindeer Herders’ Association (NRL), the move would entail the slaughter of as much as a fifth of the reindeer population in the vast Finnmark region, newspaper Aftenposten reports.

“The state is calling for the compulsory slaughter of 60,000 reindeer. They have no right to intervene with such force,” said NRL chief Nils Henrik Sara.

He accused the state of repeatedly changing the rules governing reindeer husbandry without any forewarning or the provision of guidelines, and said the NRL would take a case to the international courts if necessary.

The state has long been on a collision course with reindeer herders from the indigenous Sami minority, and the comments made by Agriculture Minister Lars Peder Brekk when presenting the new strategy last week have done little to ease tensions.

“The high reindeer population is a threat to reindeer husbandry and the entire culture surrounding reindeer herding,” said Brekk (Centre Party).

The minister believes the current reindeer population is unsustainable and implored reindeer herders to take steps to impose a ceiling on the number of animals they keep.

Brekk’s department wants the herders to reduce their financial losses and increase production.

The authorities are also seeking to avoid a repeat of last winter’s scenes, when police received a worryingly high number of reports of dead reindeer thought to have starved to the death amid a grazing shortage on the Finnmark plateau.

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

Norwegians on Ola Tunander

Whilst there clearly are people who are receptive to the idea that Anders Brevik was recruited by Mossad to ‘discipline’ Norwegian society, the non morally failed rejection of Ola Tunander’s peddling of this in Nytt Norsk Tidsskrift (New Norway Journal) has been to unequivocally see it as a reworking of the calumny of a baleful, Wandering Jew wreaking havoc in foreign cities. One example of this comes from PhD candidate at the University of Oslo, Johannes Due Enstad who has published a denunciation of Tunander and the editorial department of the Nytt Norsk Tidsskrift in Aftenposten. Any Norwegian speakers able to offer a translation are welcome to do so. In the meantime, here are the hallucinogenic qualities of Google Translate.

The goal of the New Norwegian Journal (NNT) will be “to provide insight and profiled argument in the Norwegian public debate.” The journal is peer reviewed, which should mean that the articles are in print are the results of a thorough process to ensure scientific quality. Readers of a peer-reviewed journals should be confident that they will be served, maintain high professional standards.

In light of this, it is more than a little strange to watch Ola Tunander strange text Inspirational, Stakeholders, Initiation Master and Investors in Breivik’s World in print in the latest issue of NNT (4 / 2011).

This article is an insult to the informed public, it consists of a heat-up of insinuations, loose ends and vague statements that do not lead any other way than in a fog of conspiratorial ideas about hidden connections in which particular Israel occupies a Omino place.

Strange about the Israeli “stakeholders”

Really strange is the article in the discussion of Breivik’s “stakeholders”. According Tunander it is reasonable to interpret the controversial (and later editorial sorry) op-ed to Barry Rubin in the Jerusalem Post 31 July, which states that the AUF supports terrorism and that it was “ironic” that they themselves were affected by it, as a “threat” and a “half-public signal” from the Israeli side. “Was there anyone who would mark against Norway that the Norwegian-Israel policy is ‘unacceptable’?” Asks Tunander rhetorical, and follow up by mentioning the Lillehammer affair in 1973, where Mossad agents executed a Moroccan waiter (Tunander falsely claims that he was Palestinian) in the belief that he was one of the Palestinian terrorists involved in the Munich massacre.


           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Spain: Police Accused of Rampant Racial Profiling

Amnesty International on Wednesday accused Spanish authorities of using racial and ethnic profiling, with police singling out people who are not white in order to meet quotas. In a new report, the human rights group said some police stations in Madrid have weekly and monthly quotas for ID checks and detentions of immigrants not carrying residency papers or work permits, encouraging officers to target people belonging to ethnic minorities, even if they are living legally in Spain as residents or are citizens.

“People who do not ‘look Spanish’ can be stopped by police as often as four times a day,” said Izza Leghtas, the Amnesty researcher who investigated and wrote the Spain report. The group said African and Latin American immigrants — both legal and illegal — are most frequently targeted by officers who demand their IDs in neighborhoods with heavy immigrant populations, on public transportation and in parks.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

UK: Cordoba Foundation Seminar ‘Behind Closed Doors’ At London Muslim Centre on Monday 19 December

Ten years ago, shortly after the 9/11 attacks, the British government passed laws allowing them to detain and imprison foreign “terrorism suspects” without charge or trial. By December 2001, almost a dozen Muslim men, mainly from Algeria, had been detained and later became known, with others, as the “Belmarsh detainees”. They were held without trial or charge for over three years until the courts ruled this system illegal in 2004. The men were released but things did not get better for them or their families… control orders were introduced in 2005 and others were subject to harsh bail restrictions after being threatened with deportation to their countries of origin — Algeria, Jordan and Libya. Tagged, with restrictions on their freedom, all without having any idea of the reason why, this has been the life of at least 18 individuals and families over the past decade, with no end in sight… 10 years of not knowing the accusations, of coming up against a wall of silence and secret evidence by the Home Office in court, not knowing if they will be deported to countries that will torture, of abuse, misuse and being ignored by the wider community. At the same time, the British government is seeking to replace the control order regime with new Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures (T-PIMs), to broaden the number of countries so-called terrorism suspects can be deported to without knowing the reason why and to harshen its anti-terrorism laws.

Speakers include:

  • GARETH PEIRCE — Human rights lawyer

    JEAN LAMBERT — MEP (Green Party)

    ANAS ALTIKRITI — CEO, The Cordoba Foundation

    BRUCE KENT — Vice President, Pax Christi

    ASIM QURESHI — Executive Director, Cage Prisoners

Date & Time — Monday 19 December 2011 • 6pm — 9pm

Venue — London Muslim Centre, 46 Whitechapel Road London E1 1JX

Nearest tube: Aldgate East / Whitechapel



Supported by:

  • Campaign Against Criminalising Communities

    Cage Prisoners

    Islamic Forum of Europe

    Newham Monitoring Project

    Federation of Student Islamic Societies

    Peace & Justice in East London

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: Muslims and Christians Unite to Oppose Alcohol Licence. “It’s Not a Religious Issue, “ Says Welfare Director Toufic Kacimi

MUSLIMS and Christians have united to try to stop alcohol being sold at a grocery store almost next door to Finsbury Park Mosque. But despite more than 700 members of the mosque signing a petition asking licensing chiefs not to allow alcohol sales at the shop, the licence was still granted. The supermarket has been selling groceries and cigarettes next door to the Muslim Welfare House in Seven Sisters Road for 11 years. The Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, at nearby Rainbow Theatre in Seven Sisters Road, is also opposing the application. Muslims stress they are not opposing the application on religious grounds. They are arguing that it will attract drunks late on Friday nights when many women and children traditionally go to the mosque for prayer. “This is not a religious issue, it’s a community issue,” Toufic Kacimi, director of Muslim Welfare House, said. “We have been here for 40 years, and there is a big problem with crime in Finsbury Park. There is a well-known link between alcohol and crime, and that’s one major reason why we’re opposed to it. We have a lot of children coming here for evening classes, and hundreds of women coming to the mosque on Friday evening. With an off-licence next door, the Friday evening atmosphere here will totally change. Women are worried they will have abuse hurled at them by drunks.”

Mr Kacimi said the death of the Muslim Welfare House’s imam in August, an incident where a man was murdered nearby last year and a sexual assault a month ago had all increased tensions, which an off-licence could potentially add to. Muslim Welfare House says it has been consulting with Islington Council and with the Inter-Faith Forum since off-licence plans emerged two months ago. Paul Hill, the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God’s head of communications, said it could not support plans to sell alcohol. “We help a lot of people who suffer from alcohol addiction at this church,” he said. “Because of that we cannot support anywhere that sells alcohol.” Kayar Mustafa, who owns the shop with his father, maintained that it would not attract drunks. “This is not going to become a shop for alcoholics to gather outside,” he said. “It will be like a takeaway, where people can buy a drink, buy some food and then they go. There is nowhere for them to stay. This is a high street so they cannot just hang around outside. There are too many people walking around for that. We don’t want problems from drunks either. If someone comes in and they’re clearly drunk then we don’t serve them. We will be extremely strict with ID too.” Leisure chief Councillor Paul Convery said last night (Thursday) that an off-licence should not be next door to any place of worship “be that a church, a mosque or temple”. “It causes a disturbance and is not right,” he added. The licence to sell alcohol between 8am and 11pm was granted, however.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: Sir Iqbal Sacranie

In a Diary post by Paul Goodman (“Pickles and Warsi wrestle for control of Government strategy on anti-Muslim hatred”, 19 November) we repeated in good faith a statement wrongly reported elsewhere that Sir Iqbal Sacranie is a trustee of Union of Good, an organisation which has been listed by the US Treasury as a Special Designated Global Terrorist group. We also suggested (wrongly) that it was possible that, as a result of this association, the UK government had rejected Sir Iqbal as a possible candidate for membership of the Muslim Leadership Council (MLC). We now understand that in fact Sir Iqbal is not, and never has been, a trustee of Union of Good. We also accept Sir Iqbal’s assurance that while he was approached with a view to participating in the MLC initiative, he declined to do so. He was not on the list of individuals that was put forward and was not rejected by the government as we had suggested. We are sorry for any embarrassment caused to Sir Iqbal by our Diary post.

[JP note: All’s fare in love and lawfare.]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: Scandal of How Councils Are Squandering £37,000 a Day on Interpreters

COUNCILS are spending more than £1.1million a month helping residents who do not speak English, new figures reveal.

Taxpayers in England have had to foot a bill of £27million for translation and interpreting over the last two years — a staggering £37,000 a day. The total covers face-to-face interpreters, document translation and telephone assistance and comes as councils across the country are being forced to lay off tens of thousands of staff and cut back vital local services. Some areas are seeing their bills soaring despite official guidance calling on local authorities to find ways of helping people learn English. Figures provided by 354 local authorities in England show that over two years the bill for interpreting and translating was £26.5million. Kent is the highest spending single authority in the country with a two-year bill of £1.9million. However, the combined cost for the multi-cultural London boroughs is at least £10.3million.

The north London borough of Enfield spent £706,060 helping non-native residents. This is more than the whole of the city of Manchester, which used up £627,607 in public cash, and the cities of Leicester, Liverpool, Southampton, Sunderland and Norwich combined. Last night, Nick de Bois, Tory MP for Enfield North said: “At a time when council budgets are under pressure, people want to be reassured that their local council is getting its spending priorities right. Translating public documents cannot be a priority.” Matthew Elliott, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “It is incredible that councils are spending so much on translation. Local authorities shouldn’t routinely need translation services, they should only be required in a few exceptional cases.” Among the more notable figures revealed under Freedom of Information requests, the London boroughs of Haringey and Hackney spent £821,000 and £748,000 respectively.

Birmingham had a bill of £777,000 and in Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg’s constituency city of Sheffield — where 690 council staff face the axe — costs rose 150 per cent between 2009 and 2011 from £92,000 to £230,000. Coventry, the highest spending single city, had a two-year total of £1.1million. Guidance by the Department for Communities and Local Government says: “We would encourage local authorities to consider whether translation is necessary, whether it should be available on demand, and whether it can be done in a way that helps people learn English.”


Nick de Bois, Conservative MP for Enfield North

THE figures revealed in the Daily Express today are a wake-up call for local councils. That the sum of £27million was spent by local authorities in the past two years on translations is staggering. People in Britain will rightly argue that, in times of austerity, this is one cut we can all agree on. However, I would argue that even if we were not living in tough economic times, the use of taxpayers’ money in this way is very questionable indeed. Let’s be absolutely clear — there is no legal requirement on local councils to provide translation services. There are, in fact, guidelines recently issued by the Department for Communities and Local Government which encourage local authorities to think long and hard before offering translation services. Take as an example my own local council in the London Borough of Enfield.

Residents have recently had to fight a campaign against a threat to services at the much-used Ordnance Road Library, which is located in one of the more deprived parts of my constituency. It costs £220,000 a year to run and is a learning resource used by residents and schools alike. The fact that library services could be under threat when last year the council spent £350,000 on translation services speaks volumes. This is not what residents want and it is not what is good for our country. I say that because I want to make a wider point here. I’m all in favour of having people come to this country who want to make a better life for themselves and their families and contribute to society. To achieve this, learning the language is crucial. Without it, at best, your job opportunities are restricted and it’s far more difficult to realise your potential. At worst, you can’t integrate into society. What all areas of Government — from Whitehall to town halls — need to ensure is that policies are geared towards encouraging people to learn English, not allowing people to get by without doing so.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egypt: Clashes Between the Army and Demonstrators Continue in Front of the Houses of Parliament

The violence erupted yesterday afternoon during a demonstration against the army. The harsh reaction of the military resulted in eight dead and about 300 wounded. Young Coptic Catholic Egyptian emphasizes the shock of the population and describes senseless repression of the security forces.

Cairo (AsiaNews) — Clashes that began yesterday afternoon between the army and demonstrators demanding the resignation of the High Council of the military (Hull) in front of the parliament building in Cairo continue today. The toll is now eight people dead and 300 wounded. The escalation of violence has rekindled controversy against the army, which has bloodily suppressed all forms of protest by young people for months.

“We do not understand why we are doing this, the population is in shock and waiting for a response from Hull,” says Nagui Damian, a young Coptic Christian, close to the democratic movements that have emerged with the revolution of Jasmine. “The fighting — he explains — continued throughout the night. The army are attacking defenseless people without scruples. A girl (pictured) was beaten to death by other soldiers. “ The clashes took place a few days after the second round of Egyptian elections, the first since the fall of Mubarak. According to the young Christian, this climate may threaten the third phase of voting due to be held in January.

Sparked yesterday morning after the beating of a young protester by the military, the fighting reached its peak in late afternoon, when the army forcibly evacuated a camp set up by protesters near Tahrir Square. The young people responded by trying to force the barbed wire fence surrounding the parliament building. This in turn triggered the police violent response, who began throwing stones and tear gas from the roofs, forcing the activists to protect themselves with helmets, sheet metal and satellite dishes. In the evening the Prime Minister said that the ongoing violence “is not a revolution, but an attack on Egypt,” calling the young demonstrators counter-revolutionaries who want to destabilize the country.

Since last November 25, hundreds of Egyptians have been protesting the militaries appointment of Kamal el Ganzuri as new head of government. Ganzuri was prime minister under President Hosni Mubarak. The activists also demand the transfer of power by the Supreme Council of the armed forces to civil authority.

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

Egypt Violence Resumes Near Parliament Building

Protesters in Egypt have clashed with the security forces near parliament in Cairo, a day after eight people were killed in unrest there.

The demonstrators threw stones at riot police who had sealed off the streets around the building with barbed wire. Security forces responded with water cannon and some threw objects at the protesters from the tops of buildings. The demonstrators want an immediate handover to civilian rule in Egypt. They have been staging a sit-in in the centre of Cairo since mass protests last month in which nearly 40 people were killed. The unrest prompted Egypt’s governing military council to appoint a new prime minister. In the latest violence on Friday, the security forces stormed a protest camp to try to move the protesters away. Although they later pulled back, street battles continued for much of the day. Egyptian state television said eight people had been killed and about 300 injured.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Italy’s Minister Welcomes Sanctions Lifted on Libyan Banks

(AGI) Rome — Italy’s foreign minister, Giulio Terzi , expressed his satisfaction at the UN Security Council’s decision to lift the financial sanctions on the Central Bank of Libya and the Libyan Arab Foreign Bank. The sanctions were ordered against Gaddafi with the Council’s resolutions 1970 and 1973 to freeze substantial assets around the world that can now be used by the new Libyan government. Minister Terzi said:”I am particularly happy for this decision coming in such a delicate moment in the life of the country.” He added:”The Italian government took several measures to lead to this result. We will continue to support the reconstruction of the country in any possible way.” ..

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

Italy Remains Libya’s Leading Trade Partner, Terzi Says

(AGI) Bergamo — Foreign minister Giulio Terzi di Sant’Agata confirms PM Mario Monti’s near-term visit to Libya. Speaking at a conference in Bergamo, the minister said “Italy will continue to rank as Libya’s first trade partner” and underscored “our reactivation of the ‘Friendship Treaty’.”

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

Israel and the Palestinians

A Bridge Too Far for ‘Outraged’ of Hamas

by Tim Marshall

Hamas cannot see a top without verbally going over it. Even by the standards of their usual outbursts, they’ve excelled over the closure of a wooden ramp leading from the Western Wall to the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif. Spokesman Fawzi Barhum said this was a “violent act… a declaration of religious war on the Muslim holy places… a serious step that shows the Zionist scheme of aggression”. Another spokesman said the closure was “a criminal act… a flagrant violation… a provocation to the feelings of millions of Muslims”. The reaction is a mixture of the ranting of the People’s Front Of Judea from Monty Python, and Dave Spart from Private Eye. The rickety structure gives access to Islam’s third holiest site. The city council considers it a fire hazard and in danger of collapse. It is used almost entirely by tourists. Muslims tend to enter the Haram al-Sharif from one of the other 10 entrances. Despite this, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat believes “this shows their determination to Judaise Jerusalem and to take over the city’s Muslim holy places”. Behind the synthetic outrage is the real reason for these childish outbursts — every stone, every grave, every gate and every cherished memory, is regarded as a battle worth fighting, even if it results in death. Therefore, the usual suspects on the Palestinian side (and they have their Israeli counterparts) feel the need to whip even minor incidents into a matter of life and death. Would they rather the bridge collapse under the weight of 100 tourists? That it catches alight and the fire spread to the Haram al-Sharif? Many Muslims around the world will view this “outrage” with a shrug. There are genuine issues to care about, but Hamas wants permanent outrage. Without that, what do they have?

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Middle East

Cyprus Pop Hits Halt Call to Prayer

THE religious affairs directorate in the Turkish controlled sector of Cyprus has claimed that deliberate interference caused popular Greek-Cypriot radio programmes to broadcast from mosque rooftops instead of the Islamic call to prayer. Due to interference in radio frequencies which link the mosques PA systems, Greek pop hits could be heard yesterday blasting through the air. Each mosque broadcasts the call to prayer via powerful speakers placed on the minarets of the building. Shocked residents of several districts informed the ‘religious affairs directorate’ whose chairman Talip Atalay claimed that it was a deliberate action by Greek Cypriots. He said they had experienced similar problems in the past, but they were solved in cooperation with Turkey. He also noted that a specialist team was coming from Turkey in order to fix the problem and in 2-3 days the quality of the broadcasts would be better. It is understood that the problem was caused by weather related radio frequency interference which can bleed into sound systems from nearby radio stations. Cyprus has a crowded radio-waves spectrum with nearly 100 Greek and Turkish Cypriot stations operating on the FM dial.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Iranian-Origin CIA Spy Arrested in Iran, ISNA Agency Says

(AGI) Tehran — A CIA spy of Iranian origin was apparently arrested in the Islamic republic of Iran. The piece of news was disclosed by press agency Isna, which pointed out that the spy was arrested before accomplishing his espionage mission. “His mission was to infiltrate the intelligence ministry and provide information”, Isna reports, just mentioning that the man “cooperated with the US army in Iraq and Afghanistan” and was tracked down at Bagram airfield in Afghanistan. This is not the first time Tehran’s government announces that foreign spies have been arrested, without providing elements allowing foreign sources to ascertain it.

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

Qatar: Emir Opens Imam Abdul Wahhab Mosque in Doha

HH the Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani yesterday inaugurated the “Imam Muhammad Ibn Abdul Wahhab” Mosque in Doha.

The country’s biggest mosque has been named after the great reformer and renowned reviver in honour of the scholars who still carry Imam Abdul Wahhab’s thought and message to serve Islam and Muslims. In a speech on the occasion, HH the Emir expressed his belief that the mosque, which stems from the land of Qatar, will serve as a platform for reform and worshipping God Almighty in spirit and in truth away from fads and fancies. The Emir reaffirmed his commitment to spare no efforts to carry the message and spread the teachings of Islam in the whole world, noting that the Muslim nation is now in need of renewal and inspiration of the experience of Wahhab’s da’wah (call) while keeping pace with the era and its developments. He said no occasion was as lofty as this one and no event lived up to it, asking the Almighty Allah to provide us with His Grace after “we raised the bases of one of Allah’s houses and completed its construction.”

“Is there a greater and higher act of worship than the remembrance under the roof a new house of Allah’s houses?, the Emir inquired.

“I am confident that this mosque which stems from the land of Qatar, as an eternal part of it, will serve as a platform for reform and sincere call to the Almighty Allah away from fads and fancies to serve the people on earth while coping with the spirit of the era and saving them in the hereafter in order to please Allah and His Messenger (peace be upon him).”


           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

The £7m Christmas Tree: Hotel Unveils Fir Draped in Diamonds (And No Prizes for Guessing It’s in the UAE)

Surrounded by examples of decadent wealth, Abu Dhabi is probably the only place where an $11m Christmas tree might not seem a little over the top.

Dubbed one of the ‘most expensive Christmas trees ever’, the glitzy Emirates Palace hotel has unveiled the 40ft evergreen in its gold-leaf bedecked atrium.

Decorated with traditional silver and gold bows, baubles and white lights, the tree is also decked out in necklaces, earrings and other jewellery giving it its record value.

It holds a total of 181 diamonds, pearls, emeralds, sapphires and other precious stones according to Khalifa Khouri, owner of Style Gallery which provided the jewellery.

Hans Olbertz, general manager of the hotel, said: ‘The tree itself is about $10,000. The jewellery has a value of over $11million — I think 11.4m, 11.5m.’

He added that the hotel would apply to the Guinness Book of World Records to find out if its tree is the most expensive ever.

Asked if the tree might offend religious sensibilities in the United Arab Emirates, where the vast majority of the population is Muslim, Mr Olbertz said: ‘It’s a very liberal country.’

The hotel has had Christmas trees up in previous years, but this year ‘had to do something different’ and the hotel’s marketing team came up with the idea.

It is not the first extravagant offering at the Emirates Palace — a massive, dome-topped hotel surrounded by manicured lawns and fountains.

Billed as a seven-star hotel, it introduced a seven-day stay in February costing $1million.

Guests who take up the offer have a private butler and a chauffeur-driven Maybach luxury car during their stay, as well as a private jet available for trips to other countries in the region.

And in May, the hotel became the first place outside Germany to install a gold vending machine.

           — Hat tip: doxRaven [Return to headlines]

The Arab Spring in Jordan: King Compelled to Make Concessions to Protest Movement

Since January 2011, Jordan has seen a growing wave of protests and calls for reform by citizens, who have steadily increased the level of their demands. The protests are led by the Islamist movement, which dominates the political opposition, and by the popular protest movement, which encompasses numerous pro-reform organizations established in the recent months. Also prominent in the protest movement are organizations representing Jordan’s tribal population, which for decades was considered the powerbase of the Hashemite regime. In recent years, this population has developed a growing sense of resentment and discrimination as a result of the economic policy advanced by the Jordanian king. This has triggered the emergence of several pro-reform organizations representing the tribes. Political oppositionists have also intensified their criticism against the regime; prominent among them is Islamist oppositionist Laith Shbailat, as well as the former prime minister and chief of the General Intelligence Directorate (GID), Ahmad ‘Obeidat, who has recently emerged as a leading oppositionist and established the National Front for Reform.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

South Asia

Bangladesh: ‘I’Ve Got a Surprise for You’: Husband Blindfolds His Wife…. and Then Chops Off Her Fingers to Stop Her Studying for a Degree

A jealous husband is facing life in prison after chopping off his wife’s fingers because she began studying for a degree without his permission.

Rafiqul Islam, 30, blindfolded his wife Hawa Akhter, 21, and taped her mouth, telling her he was going to give her a surprise present.

Instead he made her hold out her hand and cut off all five fingers. One of his relatives then threw Ms Akhter’s fingers in the dustbin to ensure doctors could not reattach them.

Mr Islam, who is a migrant worker in the United Arab Emirates, had warned his wife there would ‘severe consequences’ if she did not give up her studies.

‘After he came back to Bangladesh, he wanted to have a discussion with me,’ Ms Akhter told The Times.

‘Suddenly, he blindfolded me and tied my hand. He also taped my mouth saying that he would give me some surprise gifts. But, instead he cut off my fingers.’

Mohammed Saluddin, the Bangladesh police chief said that Mr Islam had confessed after he was arrested in the capital, Dhaka, and will face charges of permanent disfiguration.

Human rights groups are demanding life imprisonment.

‘He was enraged. He was jealous because while he only had a grade eight standard education, she was off to college to pursue higher studies,’ said Mr Saluddin.

Ms Akhter says she is learning to write with her left hand and is determined to resume her studies. She is now back at her parent’s house.

The attack is the latest in a series of acts targeting educated women in the Muslim-majority company.

In June, an unemployed man gouged out the eyes of his wife, an assistant professor at Dhaka University, apparently because he could not stand her pursuing higher studies at a Canadian University.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

Bangladesh: Man Accused of Cutting Off Student Wife’s Fingers

Rafiqul Islam tied up his 21-year-old wife, taped up her mouth and then cut off the five fingers of her right hand just hours after he had returned from the United Arab Emirates, police chief Mohammad Salauddin said. “He was enraged because he did not like her studying at college. He was jealous because while he only had a grade 8 standard education, she was off to college to pursue higher studies,” Mr Salahuddin told AFP. Islam, 30, admitted to the crime after he was arrested in Dhaka, Salauddin said, adding that police had finished an investigation and would charge Islam with permanent disfiguration, which is punishable by life imprisonment.

The wife, Hawa Akhter, who has received medical treatment and is now back at her parent’s house, has said that she is still keen to complete her studies despite the attack. “My right hand has been cut off, but I can use my other hand,” she told local English-language newspaper The Daily Star.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

India: Muslims to Expose Congress Reservation Ploy

On the occasion of World Minority Day on Sunday, various Muslim organisations have arranged a convention of community intellectuals to “expose the poll gimmick of the Congress” and demand reservation for Muslims. The event will be held in Farrukhabad, the constituency of Union law minister Salman Khurshid who had recently said the Centre was working to give reservation to Muslims within the existing quota. According to Zafaryab Gilani, All India Muslim Personal Law Board member, the Congress was cheating the community by raising the reservation issue. “We doubt the UPA’s intention as it’s not talking about separate reservation for Muslims,” he said.

Surprisingly, the main speaker at the event will be Ashok Yadav, MLA from Shikohabad. He is the man on whose plea in 2002 the SC had stayed an ordinance passed by then UP government to remove the creamy layer from the OBC list and include backward Muslims in the 27 per cent quota. Yadav, when asked, said he’ll move court again against any move to curtail the OBC quota. “I’ll tell Muslims that the UPA is cheating them. I am not against reservation. But we can’t allow encroachment in the OBC quota,” he said. Rizwan Taj, Akhil Bharatiya Muslim Mahasabha chief, said: “Khurshid knows reservation on a religious basis won’t be possible without a constitutional amendment.”

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Tajikistan: Dushanbe Mayor Demands Review of Local Imam-Hatibs’ Activity

DUSHANBE — Dushanbe Mayor Makhmadsaid Ubaiduloyev December 13 asked the Tajik Islamic Centre’s Council of Scholars to examine the activity of the imam-hatibs of all mosques in the city. Ubaiduloyev made the request “to remove alien and provocative influence among the citizenry and to improve the religious atmosphere,” mayoral spokesman Shavkat Saidov said. A few days ago, the Council of Scholars closed the Mukhamadiya mosque and accused the politically prominent Turadzhonzoda family of using Ashura to spread conflict among the population. The Turadzhonzoda family has not commented publicly. The State Committee on Religion tested the religious knowledge of the country’s imam-hatibs earlier this year. In the first six months, it fired 39 of 327 imam-hatibs who underwent testing.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Veena Malik Goes Missing in Mumbai

Mumbai: Controversial Pakistani actress and model Veena Malik has gone missing in Mumbai since Friday morning, her manager said here Saturday. Shooting for a Bollywood flick, ‘Mumbai 125 kilometres’, at Film City in Goregaon of northwest Mumbai, Malik left in a car after pack-up Friday morning and was not reachable since.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Far East

China: Land Grab in Guangdong and Jiangxi Trigger Peaceful Demonstrations and Suicides

Southern China is increasingly rent by social unrest and class conflict. Residents in Wukan (Guangdong) protest again against government injustices. In Xiangtan, two peasant women try to kill themselves after their land is seized. “Mass incidents” are on the rise.

Beijing (AsiaNews) — In China social unrest is growing in intensity. After strikes hit Shanghai, it is the turn of the rich southern province of Guangdong to experience mass incidents. In Wukan village, thousands of residents staged a peaceful protest to protest against government repression. In Xiangtan, Jiangxi (another southern province), two peasant women tried to commit suicide after the authorities seized their land unlawfully.

In Wukan, thousands of residents took to the streets to protest against a decision by local authorities to deem illegal their petitions to the central government.

For the past two months, residents have been involved in a number of actions after farmland was seized on 21 September. On that occasion, when they took to the streets, they were met by police.

Yesterday, they were back in the streets accusing the government of not respecting its promises. Some carried a banner reading “Opposing Dictatorship”.

Despite such petitions, Beijing is ignoring grassroots demands. Instead, it has launched a crackdown and arrested protest movement’s leaders.

In some cases, matters are getting out of hand. Peaceful protests are turning violent and farmers are taking their own lives to protest the injustice they endure, which is what happened in Xiangtan, where two peasant women tried to kill themselves out of desperation after their land was forcibly seized.

Zhao Xiujun and Liu Lan lost their three mu (0.5 acres) of land, which the government bought at 20,000 yuan per mu and resold for 900,000. The first woman slashed her wrist with a knife and the other drank pesticide. Both are currently in intensive care.

The authorities seize land for resale to private developers in order to fuel the real estate bubble, which economists believe is close to its bursting point. In the past two months, housing prices have in fact started to come down for the time in many years across the country, including Beijing and Shanghai.

Under Chinese law, local administrations must pay expropriated farmers a fair price, but this is often not the case. And the seized land is often used in infrastructure plans profusely funded by big banks.

The ongoing land grab and the failure to pay fair or any compensation are the root cause of so-called “mass incidents”. In 1994, some 8,700 such incidents were recorded. In 2006, there were 127,000. Last year, the number jumped to 180,000.

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

Sub-Saharan Africa

South Africa: ‘We’ll Teach the Whites’

AfriForum charged police officer Juda Dagane with hate speech at the Human Rights Commission on Wednesday and called for his dismissal from the service. This, after the publication in Beeld newspaper of “blatant racist utterances Dagane had recently made on a Facebook page”, the organisation said in a statement.

It said the page had been launched in support of suspended ANC Youth League president Julius Malema. “When the black Messiah (Nelson Mandela) dies, we’ll teach the whites. We’ll commit genocide against them: I hate whites,” Dagane posted on the Facebook page on November 19, according to the report in Beeld.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Uganda: Kyotera Muslims Leadership Wrangles Escalate

The wrangles between the two Muslims factions in Nakasoga Mosque, Rakai district have escalated leading to the intervention of the government. Today, the Muslims in Kyotera mosque who pay allegiance to the Uganda Muslim Supreme Council Mufti, Sheikh Shaban Mubaje rejected the Imam Ismail Muwawu who pays allegiance to the Supreme Mufti, Sheikh Zubair Kayongo to lead the Juma prayer. The Mubaje faction wanted the prayers to be led by Sheikh Sulaiman Luyinda. The likely outbreak of chaos led the worshipers to pray amidst tight security from the police. The Kayongo faction conducted their Juma prayers in the compound while the Mubaje faction prayed within the mosque. The fragile situation that is likely to result into bloodshed has forced the Rakai RDC, David Kaboyo to call for a harmonization meeting between these factions.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]


Europe-Regions: Schengen: EU, Deal on Free Travel Stop

Protection clause on visa liberalisation

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, DECEMBER 14 — The European Commission has presented a proposal to the EU member States that introduces a ‘protection clause’ for the member States in the context of the current visa liberalisation regime for the Schengen area.

The goal of the measure is to give countries the possibility to temporarily require visitors from third countries, who are now allowed to travel freely within the Schengen area, like Albanians, to show a visa. The current regulations do not include this possibility, they only give countries the choice between a regime with or without visas. The European Council has agreed in principle with the proposal and has allowed countries to implement the clause if they see “a sudden and sharp increase” in the number of “clearly unfounded” asylum requests, or requests that are not in line with current conditions for international protection.” The visa liberalisation regime for citizens from third countries like Albanians, Bosnians, Serbs and Montenegrins means that there citizens can travel freely within the Schengen area (all EU member States except the UK and Ireland, plus Switzerland, Norway and Iceland) if they stay three months or less in the country of destination. After the measure was approved last year, some EU countries, Belgium for example, have recorded an increase in the number of groundless asylum requests by citizens from Balkan countries. The proposal will now be examined by the European Parliament.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Spain: Use of Day-After Pill Up 83% in 2010

It was first year of non-prescription availability

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, DECEMBER 14 — In Spain, the use of the so-called ‘day after’ contraception pill rose by 83% in 2010, the first year in which women were able to purchase the medication freely in pharmacies, without a doctor’s prescription. According to consulting company IMS, as cited in today’s El Pais, the increase took off from October 2010 onwards, when the decree liberalising the sale of the pill came into effect. Sales of the pill in 2009 had shown growth of 43% year-on-year. A large part of the increase in sales of the drug, experts say, corresponds to a decrease in its distribution through hospitals and family planning clinics, which is no longer compulsory under the law. Up until 2009, the drug was only available freely from family-planning centres in Andalusia, Cantabria and the Madrid municipality. Experts say talk of ‘abuse’ of the pill is inappropriate as, according to research by Spain’s association for contraception, a mere 0.4% of women aged between 14 and 50 have used the pill more than once a year.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

UK: David Cameron: ‘We Are a Christian Country and We Should Not be Afraid to Say So’

Earlier today, David Cameron gave a keynote speech to Church of England members at Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford, celebrating the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible. It was an unashamedly moral and pro-Christian speech. A flavour of what followed came in the introductory remarks, when Mr Cameron said “we are a Christian country. And we should not be afraid to say so.” His speech touched on some key themes, highlighted below.

Firstly, the Prime Minister paid tribute to the King James Bible’s cultural contributions: “Along with Shakespeare, the King James Bible is a high point of the English language… Like Shakespeare, the King James translation dates from a period when the written word was intended to be read aloud. And this helps to give it a poetic power and sheer resonance that in my view is not matched by any subsequent translation.”

Secondly, the Prime Minister explained the political legacy of the KJB: “The Bible runs through our political history in a way that is often not properly recognised. The history and existence of a constitutional monarchy owes much to a Bible in which Kings were anointed and sanctified with the authority of God and in which there was a clear emphasis on the respect for Royal Power and the need to maintain political order. Jesus said: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And yet at the same time, the Judeo-Christian roots of the Bible also provide the foundations for protest and for the evolution of our freedom and democracy. The Torah placed the first limits on Royal Power. And the knowledge that God created man in his own image was, if you like, a game changer for the cause of human dignity and equality.”

The Prime Minister extended this argument to praise the Bible’s role in inspiring Christian charities: “In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus says that whatever people have done “unto one of the least of these my brethren” they have done unto him. Just as in the past it was the influence of the church that enabled hospitals to be built, charities created, the hungry fed, the sick nursed and the poor given shelter so today faith based groups are at the heart of modern social action. … In total, there are almost 30,000 faith-based charities in this country, not to mention the thousands of people who step forward as individuals, as families, as communities, as organisations and yes, as churches and do extraordinary things to help build a bigger, richer, stronger, more prosperous and more generous society. And when it comes to the great humanitarian crises — like the famine in Horn of Africa — again you can count on faith-based organisations like Christian Aid, Tearfund, CAFOD, Jewish Care, Islamic Relief, and Muslim Aid to be at the forefront of the action to save lives.”

The Prime Minister then rejected the notion politicians shouldn’t “do God”, because Christianity has fundamentally shaped British civilisation. The Prime Minister said: “[A]s Margaret Thatcher once said, “we are a nation whose ideals are founded on the Bible.” Responsibility, hard work, charity, compassion, humility, self-sacrifice, love, pride in working for the common good and honouring the social obligations we have to one another, to our families and our communities these are the values we treasure. Yes, they are Christian values. And we should not be afraid to acknowledge that.”

Mr Cameron continued: “But they are also values that speak to us all — to people of every faith and none. And I believe we should all stand up and defend them. Those who oppose this usually make the case for secular neutrality. They argue that by saying we are a Christian country and standing up for Christian values weare somehow doing down other faiths. And that the only way not to offend people is not to pass judgement on their behaviour. I think these arguments are profoundly wrong. And being clear on this is absolutely fundamental to who we are as a people, what we stand for, and the kind of society we want to build.”

He then condemned a breakdown in morality in Britain, exemplified by the riots this summer: “Faith is neither a necessary nor sufficient condition for morality. … And whether inspired by faith or not — that direction, that moral code, matters. Whether you look at the riots last summer, the financial crash and the expenses scandal, or the on-going terrorist threat from Islamist extremists around the world, one thing is clear: moral neutrality or passive tolerance just isn’t going to cut it anymore. Shying away from speaking the truth about behaviour, about morality, has actually helped to cause some of the social problems that lie at the heart of the lawlessness we saw with the riots.”

Mr Cameron moved on to say: Bad choices have too often been defended as just different lifestyles. To be confident in saying something is wrong is not a sign of weakness, it’s a strength. But we can’t fight something with nothing. As I’ve said if we don’t stand for something, we can’t stand against anything. One of the biggest lessons of the riots last Summer is that we’ve got stand up for our values if we are to confront the slow-motion moral collapse that has taken place in parts of our country these past few generations. … Frankly, we need a lot less of the passive tolerance of recent years and a much more active, muscular liberalism.”

The Prime Minister concluded: I believe the Church of England has a unique opportunity to help shape the future of our communities. But to do so it must keep on the agenda that speaks to the whole country. The future of our country is at a pivotal moment. The values we draw from the Bible go to the heart of what it means to belong in this country and you, as the Church of England, can help ensure that it stays that way.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: David Cameron Attacks Archbishop of Canterbury Branding Rowan Williams Out of Touch

DAVID Cameron launched a fierce attack on the Archbishop of Canterbury yesterday, branding Rowan Williams out of touch. The Church of England chief has angered ministers by questioning the coalition’s legitimacy and calling for a new tax on bankers. Dr Williams declared over the summer that nobody voted for the Government’s brutal policies on welfare, health and education that were casing such anger. Mr Cameron hit back with a speech, quoting Margaret Thatcher, as he declared Britain “a nation whose ideals are founded on the Bible”. The Prime Minister said: “The Church of England has a unique opportunity to help shape the future of our communities. But to do so it must keep on the agenda that speaks to the whole country.” The attack comes after Dr Williams declared that Jesus would spend Christmas with demonstrators at St Paul’s “sharing the risks, not just taking sides”. Mr Cameron was marking the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible. The Tory leader declared: “The Bible has helped to give Britain a set of values and morals which make Britain what it is today.”

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: Speak Up for Christianity, Cameron Tells Archbishop: PM Calls on the Church to Defend ‘Values and Moral Code’ Of the Bible

David Cameron last night called on the Archbishop of Canterbury to lead a return to the ‘moral code’ of the Bible.

In a highly personal speech about faith, the Prime Minister accused Dr Rowan Williams of failing to speak ‘to the whole nation’ when he criticised Government austerity policies and expressed sympathy with the summer rioters.

Mr Cameron declared Britain ‘a Christian country’ and said politicians and churchmen should not be afraid to say so.

He warned that a failure to ‘stand up and defend’ the values and morals taught by the Bible helped spark the riots and fuelled terrorism.

At Christ Church Cathedral in Oxford, where Dr Williams used to teach, Mr Cameron said the time has come for public figures to teach ‘right from wrong’, and questioned whether the Church of England has done enough to defend those values in the face of the ‘moral neutrality’ that pervades modern life.

And taking aim at the Archbishop, Mr Cameron tackled head-on his public criticisms of the Government over the last 12 months.

The speech was a bold Christmas gamble by Mr Cameron. In making a speech about religion, he did something that Tony Blair always longed to do but was talked out of by spin doctor Alastair Campbell, who flatly told him: ‘We don’t do God.’

The clash between the Government and Church is at its most acute since former Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Robert Runcie clashed with Margaret Thatcher’s government in the 1980s.

The Prime Minister appeared emboldened by his opinion poll bounce since his decision to wield the veto during the Eurozone crisis summit in Brussels last week.

Admitting that he had ‘entered the lion’s den’ by addressing an audience of churchmen, Mr Cameron said: ‘I certainly don’t object to the Archbishop of Canterbury expressing his views on politics.

‘But just as it is legitimate for religious leaders to make political comments, he shouldn’t be surprised when I respond.

‘I believe the Church of England has a unique opportunity to help shape the future of our communities. But to do so it must keep on the agenda that speaks to the whole country.’

At an event to mark the 400th anniversary of the publication of the King James Bible, he said: ‘We are a Christian country and we should not be afraid to say so.

‘The Bible has helped to give Britain a set of values and morals which make Britain what it is today. Values and morals we should actively stand up and defend.

‘Whether you look at the riots last summer, the financial crash and the expenses scandal or the on-going terrorist threat from Islamist extremists around the world, one thing is clear, moral neutrality or passive tolerance just isn’t going to cut it any more.

‘Put simply, for too long we have been unwilling to distinguish right from wrong. “Live and let live” has too often become “do what you please”.

‘Bad choices have too often been defended as just different lifestyles. To be confident in saying something is wrong is not a sign of weakness, it’s a strength.’

Mr Cameron’s demands for a ‘moral code’ were directed at human rights apologists and Left-wing politicians who recoil from promoting Britain’s Christian heritage.

But they also covered the hand-wringing pronouncements of many senior churchmen, who refuse to condemn lawbreaking by rioters and show unwillingness to take on militant Islam for fear of offending Muslims.

The PM said an ‘almost fearful, passive tolerance of religious extremism’ had let Islamic extremism grow unchallenged and called for the promotion of ‘Christian values’ saying it was ‘profoundly wrong’ to believe that promoting Christianity would ‘do down other faiths’.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

UK: Why I Prefer the Beano to the Church Times

I was brought up in my grandfather’s newsagent’s shop and this meant that I got to read all the comics for free. The Dandy on Tuesdays and on Thursdays The Beano. How I looked forward to those days coming round each week. I have long since put away such childish things, but my weekly dose of hilarity comes these days on Fridays in the form of Church Times. Open it almost at random and you are guaranteed a mini Left-wing tract, half a dozen examples of begging the question and even, as Monty Python famously said, “A smile, a whistle and a logical inconsistency.” All this for a mere £1.60. But you have to provide your own whistle.

For a Left-wing rag, Church Times sometimes displays worrying signs of an instinctive conformism. Today, for instance, there is half a page devoted to the protests of some bishops and senior clergy about Cameron’s European policy. The Bishop of Guildford enjoys a good airing for saying: “It would be disastrous for Britain to be isolated from the rest of Europe.” The Bishop of Bradford put the federalist boot in too: “France and Germany have never known what to do with the UK. Even when we are in, we don’t seem to want to be.” All this report missed was the headline BISHOPS BASH TORY BRITAIN. But come on Church Times, surely you can do better than recycle such stereotypes and commonplaces? What, the bishops are Lefties? Gerraway! Now you tell us!

Also, “A senior church figure in Brussels” (was he too full of humility to be named?) complained: “Mr Cameron’s actions have sorely tested the goodwill of EU member states.” Well, Anonymous Ecclesiastical Sir/Madam, I don’t know about that. But I do know that the conniving attitude of many EU politicos towards Britain has sorely tested my goodwill. You would expect Church Times to show natural affection and strong support for the Occupy shambles outside St Paul’s, but even here we are likely to stumble over the sort of logical impediments discovered by Alice in her journey Through the Looking Glass. For example, prominent on the letters page is a comment bemoaning any criticism of the Occupy protesters:

The witness statement of the Registrar of St Paul’s cathedral accusing Occupy London of desecration and submitting photographs is a sad and unworthy denigration of people involved in a great movement. It is not right to blame them.

Not even when, on the writer’s own admission we have the photographic evidence depicting the disorder, damage and intimidation? Whom should we blame, then? I suppose, according to this twisted logic, it is all the fault of the cathedral clergy? I suppose right: “The Registrar can write only about the inconvenience of the congregation, clergy, staff and finances.” But it is precisely the job of the registrar to be concerned about these matters. That’s enough Church Times for me for one morning. Now where did I put my copy of The Dandy?

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]


Meet the Internet’s Newest Boy Genius

In my life I have met many smart people — Jeff Bezos, Andy Bechtolsheim, Larry Page, Andy Grove, Sergey Brin, Vinod Khosla and Bret Taylor. D’Aloisio belongs with them, I am convinced. Not because he has started the next hot company — who can predict what will be hot? But instead, he is a self-taught polymath, who is so adept at learning from reading, listening and observing. He is an old-fashioned technologist who was born this way.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Senior Al-Qaeda Operative: The World is on the Brink of Anarchy; The Mujahideen Have a Chance to Fill the Vacuum and Establish the Caliphate

On November 26, the jihadi website Shumoukh Al-Islam posted an article by senior Al-Qaeda operative ‘Abdallah Al-’Adam, known as “Abu ‘Ubaida,” titled “The World on the Brink of Anarchy.” In it, he claims that the Arab countries will not stabilize but deteriorate into anarchy, because the Muslims, and especially the Arabs, are not suited for democracy and can be ruled “only by force or through religion.” He also claims that the U.S. is about to collapse, and that its demise will generate a global economic crisis so severe that it will pitch the entire world into anarchy. Abu ‘Ubaida advises the mujahideen to take advantage of the power vacuum that ensues throughout the world, and to prepare public opinion for the coming of the Caliphate. He also advises them to prepare for the wars that will come by amassing weapons and turning their paper money into gold.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

News Feed 20111216

Financial Crisis
» Europe’s Seven Deadly Sins (1/2)
» Europe’s Seven Deadly Sins (2/2)
» European Markets Slip Into Red After Downgrades for Barclays, Goldman and Four More Global Banking Giants
» IMF Chief Warns of 1930s-Style Depression
» IMF Chief Warns of New Great Depression
» Italy: Monti Says Will Fight Lobbies
» Major European Banks Downgraded by Fitch
» Spain Appears to be a Safer Bet for Investors Than Italy
» Sweden Able to Lend 100bn Kroner to IMF to Solve Euro Crisis
» Barry Bonds Avoids Prison Time for Giving Evasive Testimony
» Good Luck, Newt Gingrich. You’ll Need it
» Hey, Stop This Dangerous Candidate! He’s Told the Truth!
» Let’s Face it: It’s the Radical Right, Not Islam, That is the Greatest Threat to the American Way
» U.S. Mosques: Repositories of Muslim Brotherhood Literature and Preachers
Europe and the EU
» Belgium: Grenade Attack Outside Courthouse Linked to Sentence in Honor Killing Case
» Burned for Spoiling Beer: Germany Rehabilitates Its Persecuted ‘Witches’
» Christopher Hitchens, Prolific Columnist, Is Dead at 62
» France: ‘Islam Compatible With Democracy’ — Juppé
» Independent Scotland May Turn to the Nordic Nations
» Italy Braces for Gales and Snowfalls in North
» Italy: Cabinet Approves Measures to Reduce Prison Overcrowding
» Netherlands: Catholic Abuse Scandal: Bishops Filled With Shame and Sorrow
» Norway: Labour Party Looks to Slash Oslo Immigrant Dominance
» Pope Benedict XVI Supports Teacher Accused of Showing Graphic Images of Apocalypse
» Report Reveals Internet Divide Across EU
» Report Finds Thousands of Abuse Cases in Dutch Catholic Church
» Swedish Mosque Starts ‘Halal’ Dating Site
» UK: Attack on Rhea Page
» UK: Do Books “Prime People for Terrorism”?
» UK: East London Mosque: Have a Happy Extremist Christmas
» UK: Home Office Responds on EDL Threat
» UK: Minehead Middle School Pupils’ Muslim Visit
» UK: Terrorists’ Favourite Bookseller Guilty
» UK: Time to Resign, Aidan Burley
» Bosnia: Serb Leader Says Muslim ‘Arrogance’ To Blame for Stalemate
North Africa
» Egypt: Where Did Nick Kristof Get the Idea That the Muslim Brotherhood is Moderate?
» France Flatters Islamists: Islam, Democracy Not Incompatible
» Frustration Threatens to Unleash Second Libyan Revolution
» Italy: Friendship Treaty With Libya Reactivated
Israel and the Palestinians
» Caroline Glick: Violent Rioters and Media Goons
» Iceland Formally Recognizes Palestinian State
Middle East
» Diana West: Iraq Hawks Leave a Door Open That Should be Slammed Shut
» Did Iran Capture US Drone by Hacking Its GPS Signal?
» Internet: Turkey: 57% of Population Don’t Use the Web, Study
» Saudi Arabia Executes 73rd Victim of Sharia Laws
» UAE: Zayed University Offers Master’s in Islamic Endowment
» EU Companies at Risk of ‘Raiders’ In Ukraine
» Radioactive Material Seized at Moscow Airport
» Russia Officially Admitted to WTO
» State-Sanctioned Theft: A Paradise for Car Thieves in Ukraine
South Asia
» Taliban Murder British Doctor Who Saved 2,000 Afghans
Far East
» Inside Wukan: The Chinese Village That Fought Back
Sub-Saharan Africa
» Nigeria: Muslim Lawyers Want Sharia Law in Southern States
» South Africa’s ANC to Help Robert Mugabe Retain Power
Culture Wars
» Would Muslims Praying in the Halls be Suspended?
» Democracy May Depend on the Ignorant

Financial Crisis

Europe’s Seven Deadly Sins (1/2)

Die Zeit, Hamburg

The politicians of Europe love to flourish the flag of Community togetherness. But in their day-to-day politicking they give the lie to their supposed virtues. Die Zeit has compiled a cheat-sheet of national egotisms that are harming the Community…

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

Europe’s Seven Deadly Sins (2/2)

Die Zeit, Hamburg

The politicians of Europe love to flourish the flag of Community togetherness. But in their day-to-day politicking they give the lie to their supposed virtues. The second part of Die Zeit’s list of national egotisms that are harming the Community…

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

European Markets Slip Into Red After Downgrades for Barclays, Goldman and Four More Global Banking Giants

European markets slipped into the red this afternoon as traders digested a downgrade for six global banking giants, including Barclays.

The FTSE 100 had spent the whole day trading in positive territory before finally succumbing to persistent fears surrounding the debt crisis, and closing 13.5 points down to 5,387.3.

Credit agency Fitch dropped Barclays from an ‘AA—’ rating to an ‘A’, while US giants Goldman Sachs and Bank of America were also downgraded.

The German and French markets closed 0.5-0.8 per cent down after Fitch also cut its ratings for France’s BNP Paribas, Germany’s Deutsche Bank and Switzerland’s Credit Suisse.

The mass downgrade heightened fears of a new credit crunch as the global banking system struggles to deal with massive levels of debt.

Nevertheless, Barclays shares were unruffled by the news and closed 2.1p up at 171.6p.

Fitch said the banks were ‘particularly sensitive to the increased challenges the financial markets face’. It added that the downgrades reflected challenges faced by the sector as a whole.

The wider market took the downgrades in its stride for most of the day, but the FTSE 100 index 13.5 points ahead at 5,387.3.

London shares were helped by positive sentiment in the U.S. and Asia overnight after a fall in U.S. unemployment, a stronger-than-expected rise in regional factory activity and better-than-forecast results from FedEx Corp.

‘There’s a growing sentiment that the European Central Bank is doing quite a good job and is ready to buy more bonds if needed, preventing stocks from a complete meltdown,’ said David Thebault, head of quantitative sales trading at Global Equities.

‘But at the same time, we have this sword of Damocles of rating downgrades waiting to happen, so it’s hard to go long.’

Standard & Poor’s recently warned that it could next week downgrade some or all of the 15 eurozone countries it has on review…

[Return to headlines]

IMF Chief Warns of 1930s-Style Depression

IMF head Christine Lagarde, speaking in Washington, said the world economic outlook is “quite gloomy” and warned that failure to act collectively could lead to a 1930s-style slump.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

IMF Chief Warns of New Great Depression

International Monetary Fund (IMF) chief Christine Lagarde has warned the Great Depression of the 1930s may repeat itself unless the EU pulls together and gets foreign help. Fresh unemployment statistics added to the gloom by highlighting the social cost of austerity. “If the international community does not work together, the risk from an economic point of view is that of retraction, rising protectionism, isolation. This is exactly the description of what happened in the Thirties and what followed is not something we are looking forward to,” Lagarde said in a speech delivered to the US State Department on Thursday (15 December).

She said eurozone countries “obviously” need to make “adjustments” in order to overcome the debt crisis, but also appealed to non-European donors, just one day after the US Federal Reserve said it had no plans in contributing to a eurozone bail-out.

“It is really that Gordian Knot that needs to be cracked, that needs to be addressed as collectively as possible, starting with those at the centre but with the support of the international community probably channelled through the IMF,” Lagarde said, in reference to a pledge by all EU leaders except Britain to boost their contribution to the IMF by a total of €200 billion and also look for non-EU aid.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Italy: Monti Says Will Fight Lobbies

‘Now for growth,’ says PM as austerity package nears approval

(ANSA) — Rome, December 15 — Premier Mario Monti said Thursday he would fight corporate lobbies after being criticised for removing moves to free up pharmacies and taxis from an austerity bill being pushed through parliament.

“I am determined,” the former EU commissioner said, also denying claims the package unfairly targets the tax-paying middle class who have been hit by previous cuts.

“It’s not true that the usual suspects will pay. New suspects will pay,” said Monti, who insisted that Italy would be “much worse off” without the 30-billion-euro package aimed at restoring market confidence in Italy’s ability to pay down its huge debt.

Monti said the government would move onto growth-boosting measures after the austerity bill is passed by a confidence vote on Friday. He was echoed by Industry Minister Corrado Passera who said “we will do almost everything we had in mind” to stoke growth in the eurozone’s worst-performing economy.

Monti was appointed last month at the head of an emergency technocratic executive tasked with easing the debt crisis that has pushed Italian bond yields to levels at which other countries have sought bailouts.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Major European Banks Downgraded by Fitch

US ratings agency Fitch has lowered the credit ratings for some of Europe’s — and the world’s — biggest banks including Germany’s Deutsche Bank. Fitch points “to the increased challenges the financial markets.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Spain Appears to be a Safer Bet for Investors Than Italy

While investors warm up to Spain, they remain cool to Italy. On Thursday, Spain sold twice as many bonds than planned, paying two percentage points less to borrow than Italy a day earlier.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Sweden Able to Lend 100bn Kroner to IMF to Solve Euro Crisis

Swedish Riksbank governor Stefan Ingves said Thursday Sweden is able to lend up to 100 bn Swedish kroner (€11bn) to the IMF to help solve the euro crisis. The Riksbank is now set to draft proposals for the parliament for it to make a final decision on the sum.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]


Barry Bonds Avoids Prison Time for Giving Evasive Testimony

Barry Bonds, baseball’s home run champion, avoided a prison term Friday when Judge Susan Illston sentenced him to 30 days of house arrest, 2 years of probation, 250 hours of community service with youth groups and a $4,000 fine for providing evasive testimony to a federal grand jury eight years ago.

Bonds’s lawyer told the judge that there would be an appeal and that Bonds would not admit guilt.

Bonds was convicted April 13 by a jury that listened to three weeks of often-graphic testimony about his suspected use of performance-enhancing drugs. It found him guilty on one of the four counts in the case, agreeing that he had obstructed justice by giving evasive answers to a grand jury in 2003 when asked if his former personal trainer Greg Anderson had ever injected him.

[Return to headlines]

Good Luck, Newt Gingrich. You’ll Need it

by Emanuele Ottolenghi

President Newt Gingrich will not be inclined to favour the demands of an invented people, as he defined the Palestinians in recent remarks. President Mitt Romney will make Israel his first foreign trip and President Barack Obama had a big Chanucah dinner. Every four years, this ritual repeats itself — Republicans think Jews may be persuaded to vote for their candidate and go out of their way to prove their credentials. Democrats know Jews will vote for their candidate but still go out of their way lest there will be significant defections.

There are reasons why, when all is said and done, Jews have historically voted for the Democratic party. These were eloquently dissected in a recent book by Norman Podhoretz, Why are Jews liberals? It stands to no reason that US Jews, who tend to be upper-middle income, family-oriented and pro-Israel, should lean so overwhelmingly towards the left wing of the Democratic party. And yet they do.

Jews have voted consistently for Democratic candidates when US non-Jews with comparable socio-economic backgrounds swung to Republicans and, even in years of sweeping Republican triumphs, like in Ronald Reagan’s 1984 landslide, Jewish defection from the Democrats was relatively low. This year, Republicans think it will go differently. And it may well do. After all, even as younger Jews are less sanguine about Israel than their parents and grandparents, disaffection with Obama’s foreign policy is high. So is disaffection with the economy. Equally troubling for many Jews is the slide of the left wing of the Democratic Party in the direction of European progressives — which can be best characterised as “Israel is always wrong” — especially on US campuses. Besides, while many younger Jews have become lukewarm towards Israel, the growing Orthodox community is swinging the Jewish vote to the right, and as they continue to grow and non-Orthodox US Jews continue to diminish through assimilation and Jewish illiteracy, the balance within the Jewish community will become gradually more favourable to Republicans. That is why Republicans, whose historic insularity from Israel and Jewish concerns is by now largely a thing of the past, think they have a chance.

Except that they are wrong.

Convincing a mostly liberal Jewish electorate to vote Republican is harder than changing the course of the earth around the sun — because even those among them who still care about Israel think that being Jewish is the equivalent of subscribing to progressive social causes and continue to rank the defence of reproductive rights and the crusade for gay marriage as more important than the Israel issue. Which is why all Obama had to do was organise a party and light a candle.

Emanuele Ottolenghi is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defence of Democracies

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Hey, Stop This Dangerous Candidate! He’s Told the Truth!

US presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich (whose Lazarus-like trajectory to the Republican nomination I flagged up here a month ago) has recently demonstrated yet again Melanie’s First Rule of Modern Political Discourse — the more obvious the truth that you utter, the more explosive and abusive the reaction. For Gingrich said the Palestinian Arabs were ‘an invented people’ — and the world promptly started hurling execrations at him, as if such a statement proved beyond doubt that Gingrich was indeed a dangerously extreme individual who, when it came to political positioning, was just off the graph altogether. So just what did he say? This:

‘ “Remember, there was no Palestine as a state — (it was) part of the Ottoman Empire. I think we have an invented Palestinian people who are in fact Arabs and historically part of the Arab community and they had the chance to go many places…” ‘

But of course, he is absolutely correct. As Elder of Ziyon pointed out, the Arabs who lived in Palestine were a disconnected bunch of tribes who had nothing in common with each other except that they were Arabs. They never were, are not and never will be a Palestinian people (the claim that they are now just because they say they are is risible and would be dismissed out of hand if applied to any other self-defined grouping). There is not and never has been any ‘Palestinian’ Arab culture, language, religion or national identity separate from that of the wider Arab nation. ‘Palestinianism’ was invented solely to destroy Israel. The one and only characteristic of this spurious ‘national’ identity is the aim of destroying another — authentic — national identity.


           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Let’s Face it: It’s the Radical Right, Not Islam, That is the Greatest Threat to the American Way

Projection is the name of the game.

They often use soft namesakes like “family” and “freedom” to give the impression of docility, and they inundate their websites and blogs with American flags and eagles to give the impression that they are the tried and true patriotic Americans who are best poised to speak for the majority.

They are not the majority, but they are not less than 1 percent either. They are in the millions, have access to billions of dollars, and have sufficiently organized at both the grassroots level and onas well as the internet in recent years to start to flex some muscle. (It is often stated that if fascism were to ever come to America, it would be wrapped in the US flag and bearing a cross.)

There is a ray of light. More Americans are beginning to wake up to the Islamophobia disease and the attempts at divergence from the real threat to our freedoms and democracy…

           — Hat tip: Van Grungy [Return to headlines]

U.S. Mosques: Repositories of Muslim Brotherhood Literature and Preachers

Study Shows U.S. Mosques Are Repositories of Muslim Brotherhood Literature and Preachers

Washington, D.C., December 14, 2011 – Perspectives on Terrorism, recently released a comprehensive study on violence-advocating texts in American mosques titled Sharia Adherence Mosque Survey: Correlations between Sharia Adherence and Violent Dogma in U.S. Mosques. The Shariah Adherence Mosque Survey found that 80% of U.S. mosques provide their worshippers with jihad-style literature promoting the use of violence against non-believers and that the imams in those mosques expressly promote that literature.

The study also found that when a mosque imam or its worshippers were “sharia-adherent,” as measured by certain behaviors in conformity with Islamic law, the mosque was more likely to provide this violent literature and the imam was more likely to promote it. Perspectives on Terrorism is a scholarly, peer-reviewed international journal of the Terrorism Research Initiative (TRI), a global initiative that seeks to support the international community of terrorism researchers and scholars through the facilitation of collaborative projects and cooperative initiatives. TRI was established in 2007 by scholars from several disciplines in order to provide the global research community with a common tool than can empower them and extend the impact of each participant’s research activities.

The research originally was published in the summer 2011 edition of Middle East Quarterly (MEQ) under the title Shari’a and Violence in American Mosques. The Middle East Quarterly is an academic, peer-reviewed journal which specializes on Middle East regional issues. Due to the ground-breaking nature of the study, which brings a rigorous empirical methodology to the question of home-grown jihadists, MEQ granted permission to Perspectives on Terrorism to publish a more extensive analysis of the study’s conception, methodology, and results. The new publication includes additional material, charts and graphs.


           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Belgium: Grenade Attack Outside Courthouse Linked to Sentence in Honor Killing Case

Not many details as of yet, but the Telegraph notes a link to an honor killing case that could indicate that this was yet another act of violence by Misunderstanders of the Religion of Peace. “Belgium grenade attack leaves at least two dead,” from the Telegraph, December 13 (thanks to Mick):

At least one person was killed and up to 47 others wounded Tuesday when up to four grenades exploded outside the main courthouse in the eastern Belgian city of Liege.

The attack took place around noon on Saint-Lambert square, home to the town’s courthouse and located near a busy Christmas market, Belga news agency said.

A two-year-old child is reportedly fighting for life in hospital. Six other victims are said to be gravely injured.

One of two or more assailants threw stun grenades into the courthouse while another was hurled at a bus shelter, RTL-TV1 said.

Shots were fired across the square by gunmen posted on the rooftop of a bakery shop, with further shots heard later from across town…

           — Hat tip: TV [Return to headlines]

Burned for Spoiling Beer: Germany Rehabilitates Its Persecuted ‘Witches’

Tortured and burned at the stake by the tens of thousands, Germany’s alleged witches have been largely forgotten. But thanks to efforts by a small group of activists, a number of German cities have begun absolving women, men and children who were wrongly accused of causing plagues, storms and bad harvests.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Christopher Hitchens, Prolific Columnist, Is Dead at 62

Christopher Hitchens, a slashing polemicist in the tradition of Thomas Paine and George Orwell who trained his sights on targets as various as Henry Kissinger, the British monarchy and Mother Teresa, wrote a best-seller attacking religious belief, and dismayed his former comrades on the left by enthusiastically supporting the American-led war in Iraq, died Thursday at the M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. He was 62.

The cause was pneumonia, a complication of esophageal cancer, said the magazine Vanity Fair, which announced the death. In recent days Mr. Hitchens had stopped treatment and entered hospice care at the Houston hospital. He learned he had cancer while on a publicity tour in 2010 for his memoir, “Hitch-22,” and began writing and, on television, speaking about his illness frequently.

“In whatever kind of a ‘race’ life may be, I have very abruptly become a finalist,” Mr. Hitchens wrote in Vanity Fair, for which he was a contributing editor.

[Return to headlines]

France: ‘Islam Compatible With Democracy’ — Juppé

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé argued on Thursday that Islam and democracy are not incompatible, insisting that the Arab Spring, which has already toppled three dictators, should open the way to political pluralism.

“I refuse to accept the idea that Islam and democracy are incompatible and that the Arab people only have a choice between dictatorship and fundamentalism,” Juppé told hundreds of students at the University of Tripoli. “It has been our desire to establish contacts and dialogue with all the actors of the Arab Spring, without exception, on the condition that they respect the rules of the democratic game, principal among which are the renunciation of violence, the rights of men and women, and respect for minorities. “We cannot refuse to people who have been so long condemned to silence the right to express their choices.

In Tunisia, the first Arab country to overthrow its dictatorship, the Islamist Ennahda party came out on top in October parliamentary elections. Islamists are also taking the lead in polls now underway in Egypt and gaining prominence in Libya. On Wednesday, during a press conference with Libyan Prime Minister Abdel Rahim al-Kib, Juppé declared that it was up to the Libyan people to “build democracy as they see fit” following the overthrow of strongman Moamer Kadhafi.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Independent Scotland May Turn to the Nordic Nations

Northern nation looks to its neighbours for inspiration and effective social welfare model

Existing on the fringes of a fragile union, they fish, harvest energy from the sea, air and ground, and call their children ‘bairns’ — the Scots seem to have a lot in common with Scandinavians. And yet their recent history has seen them develop a fractious relationship with England to the south, rather than with their one-time colonisers from the north and east.

And their gaze may be starting to shift. Last week the ruling Scottish National Party (SNP) revealed that if Scotland gained full independence from the United Kingdom, they would look to their Nordic neighbours for “partnerships, trade and key defence relationships, rather than continuing to focus on Western Europe and the Commonwealth, as the UK does now”.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Italy Braces for Gales and Snowfalls in North

Winds up to 100km forecast in Liguria

(ANSA) — Rome, December 15 — Italy is bracing for strong winds, heavy rain and snowfalls in the Alps in the first bout of severe winter weather on Friday.

In the northwest region of Liguria, the Civil Protection Department has warned people to avoid activities on the water and near the coast as high seas and winds up to 100 km per hour are expected in some areas.

Authorities have also issued a weather alert in Tuscany amid forecasts of heavy rain, gale-force winds and stormy seas there from midnight Thursday to midday Saturday.

Up to 50 cm of snow is expected to fall in the Alps at a height above 800 to 1000 metres, while snowfalls are also expected at lower altitudes in Abruzzo and Molise.

A weather warning has also been issued in the Campania region surrounding Naples urging maritime officials and boat captains to exercise great caution in commercial ports and tourist areas.

More than 20 people were killed in incidents of extreme weather in Italy in November and many were in the northwestern region of Liguria.

The region’s Cinque Terre coastal area, which is popular with Italian and international tourists, was particularly hard hit and is slowly pulling itself back together after the heavy rain and flooding.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Cabinet Approves Measures to Reduce Prison Overcrowding

(AGI) Rome — The cabinet has approved a package of measures to combat the overcrowding of prisons. These include the possible extension of house arrest. It also approved measures for criminal and civil trials, which were on the agenda.

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

Netherlands: Catholic Abuse Scandal: Bishops Filled With Shame and Sorrow

The findings of the Deetman commission on the sexual abuse of minors within the Catholic church are shaming and shocking, bishops said on Friday.

In a statement, Catholic bishops and officials united in the Conference of Dutch religious orders, said they are ‘shocked’ by the findings of the committee and ‘filled with shame and sorrow’.

‘The perpetrators are not the only ones to blame. Church authorities who did not act correctly… share this blame,’ the statement said.

In the future, the church will take ‘all measures provided for under church and civil law when there is any suspicion of sexual abuse’ and the public prosecutor will be notified, the statement said.

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

Norway: Labour Party Looks to Slash Oslo Immigrant Dominance

Leading Labour Party politicians in Oslo believe voters have too much influence in the city and are calling for changes to the country’s election laws after immigrant candidates snagged eleven of the party’s 20 seats on the City Council.

Among those backing legislative change is Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre, who sits on the board of a local Labour committee that wants parties to be able to present voters with a list of 15 hand-picked candidates.

In accordance with current rules, the party populated its list with ten names in this autumn’s city elections

This left voters with plenty of scope to select their own preferred candidates, enabling seven politicians with immigrant backgrounds to sail into winning positions after managing to secure enough personal votes for a seat.

“We’ve now got three representatives from Somalia and Somaliland. That’s in excess of what one might expect,” party veteran Rune Gerhardsen told newspaper VG.

Gerhardsen stressed that his desire for a rule change did not stem from any sense of dissatisfaction with the current councillors, but he did argue there was a need for greater balance.

“Comparatively small pressure groups can make relatively large gains when they apply enough resources. Ethnic groups have shown themselves to be good at mobilizing,” he said.

Abid Raja from the Liberal Party (Venstre) said he found the comments alarming.

“What he says about his own party colleagues with Somali backgrounds is way beneath his dignity,” Raja told news agency NTB.

“Instead of increasing the number of set candidates we should be going in the opposite direction and getting rid of it altogether.”

Raja pointed out that ethnic Norwegian candidates had also harvested their fair share of personal votes, with Rune Gerhardsen himself the main beneficiary. Of the Labour Party’s candidates, Gerhardsen and Libe Rieber-Mohn attracted the highest number of personal votes, followed by Abdullah Alsabeehg.

The 25-year-old Alsabeehg, whose family came to Norway as political refugees from Bahrain when he was very young, denied his election success had stemmed from a recruitment campaign targeting voters of the same ethnic background as himself.

Instead, he attributed his large personal vote haul to the backing he received from the Labour Party’s youth wing (AUF).

“I was the AUF’s youth candidate in the election and was supported by young people of various ethnic backgrounds from around the city,” he told NTB.

“I think it’s wrong to make a distinction between minority politicians and other politicians. Nobody uses the term minority footballer to describe Moa or Carew,” he added.

Among representatives of Norway’s other main parties, there was no support for the idea of lengthening pre-populated electoral lists.

“I can see that the Labour Party’s City Council group in Oslo is skewed, both from an ethnic and geographical perspective, but that just shows that party democracy is more or less dead within the Labour Party beyond the group of active immigrants,” said Conservative Party (Høyre) MP Per-Kristian Foss to

“That’s a problem for Oslo’s Labour Party; I don’t think parliament should change the election law,” he added.

Anders Anundsen from the Progress Party said Labour would be better advised to move in the exact opposite direction, a view supported by the Centre Party’s Per Olaf Lundteigen.

“Trust in politicians and political parties is dropping. That means voters should be given more of a say as to who gets elected in parliamentary, county, and municipal elections,” he told

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

Pope Benedict XVI Supports Teacher Accused of Showing Graphic Images of Apocalypse

An Italian religious studies teacher has been suspended for depicting the Apocalypse so vividly that it shocked an elementary school girl to tears. The teacher wrote to the Pope, who has sent her an encouraging response

Pope Benedict XVI has offered his support and blessing to an Italian elementary school teacher who was suspended for showing graphic images of the apocalypse to her students, leaving some in tears.

Cristina Vai, a religious studies teacher at Bombicci school in Bologna, gave a lesson to her mostly six-year-old students on the struggle between good and evil, showing graphic images of violent fights between angels and the devil, and God’s punishments.

The parents of a pupil complained with the school director that her daughter had been shocked by that lesson, and Vai was subsequently suspended. The veteran teacher called for help from the very top. “At the end of November, I wrote to the Pope, to tell him my situation and to thank him for his heroic battle against the current nihilist Zeitgeist,” she said.

A few days ago, she received an answer. In a letter from Peter Brian Wells, Assessor of the General Affairs of Vatican Secretary of State, the Pope is quoted giving his blessing to the teacher, and expressing his support for a profession “executed with commitment and dedication.” Benedict does not specifically cite the controversy, but thanks Vai for her “faithful gesture and for the sentiments that have inspired you. He prays for a constant generous commitment to shape a young generation of Christians.”

Fabio Garagnani, a member of the Italian parliament, who has backed the teacher from the beginning of the matter, said that now she should be reinstated in her job. “I hope that this letter from the Pope will finally clear that the teacher is in in perfect accordance with Catholic orthodoxy.” He said.

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

Report Reveals Internet Divide Across EU

A new report says that almost a quarter of the European Union’s 500 million citizens have never used the Internet and that there is a widening gulf between the web-friendly north of Europe and the poorer south and east.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Report Finds Thousands of Abuse Cases in Dutch Catholic Church

Thousands of children suffered sexual abuse in Dutch Catholic institutions, and church officials failed to adequately address the abuse or help the victims, according to the results of a long-awaited investigation.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Swedish Mosque Starts ‘Halal’ Dating Site

There are not enough places in Sweden for young Muslims to find a partner, according to the Gothenburg Mosque, which has started a net dating site for “halal” dating. “The mosque is not just a place for prayer, it is also a social place and the mosque is here for dealing with problems in society. One of these is that it is hard to find a partner,” Abu Mahmoud, the man behind the dating site, told Sveriges Radio (SR).

The service isn’t new per se, as young Muslim Stockholmers in need of a partner could previously browse a folder, located in the entrance to the mosque on Södermalm, in the south of the city. “We’ve already been doing this, but not digitally. We did it in paper form at the entrance, so the idea isn’t completely new,” said Andallah Salah, deputy head of the Islamic Association in Stockholm to SR.

However, the folder has been taken away, as it was impossible to make sure that those who read the contact details were serious in their endeavours to find a partner. But Salah told SR that the interest in getting help finding a suitable partner is still significant. The new dating service in Gothenburg will not feature pictures or bios. Instead contacts will be made through a website managed by Abu Mahmoud and his wife.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

UK: Attack on Rhea Page

It is unusual for the Federation of Muslim Organisations (FMO) to comment on individual judgements made by our courts system. However, if the story carried by sections of the media is fully and accurately reported, the FMO is deeply concerned about the way in which the perpetrators have linked their actions to a lax moment in their understanding of their faith. The FMO deplores in the strongest terms, the case of four Somali girls attacking support worker Rhea Page in which they were found guilty and handed suspended sentences.

Federation PR Officer Suleman Nagdi, said, “We condemn violence of any kind, especially mindless acts such as this, when a gang set upon a defenceless victim who herself works to support some of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged people in society. Alcohol is strictly prohibited in Islam and so the alcohol fuelled behaviour of these girls is a total contradiction to the teachings of Islam. The behaviour exhibited by the guilty parties has no relation to the behaviour of the general Muslim or Somali community who have worked hard and continue to do so to integrate into British society to make an invaluable contribution to the success of our nation. Drunken, yobbish and violent behaviour has no place in our society and our thoughts go out to Rhea Page who we hope makes a quick recovery so that she can continue the excellent work she is doing for the good of humanity. I echo her sentiments about the final judgement passed on the case. I would also like to acknowledge the role of the police in this case”.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: Do Books “Prime People for Terrorism”?

This week’s terrorism conviction has serious implications for freedoms of speech and thought in modern Britain.

In August 1966, Egyptian Islamist thinker and writer Sayyid Qutb was convicted in Cairo of conspiring against the state. The evidence used to incriminate him consisted primarily of extracts from his book Milestones, a treatise on Islamic governance written by Qutb during a previous stint in prison. For Egyptian President Nasser, the ideas contained in Milestones were as threatening to his position as the birth of Moses was to the Pharaoh thousands of years earlier. Nasser ‘s solution to his dilemma was little different from that of the Pharaoh. Kill the ideological revolution in its infancy. Qutb was executed in prison on 29 August 1966. All known copies of the book were confiscated and burned by military order, and anyone found in possession of it was prosecuted for treason.

Almost half a century later, on Tuesday 13 December 2011, British Muslim Ahmed Faraz was sentenced to three years in prison in London after being convicted of disseminating a number of books which were deemed to be terrorist publications and thereby “glorifying” and “priming people” for terrorism (despite, as the judge conceded, having had no role in any specific terror plots). One of those books is Qutb’s Milestones — which is considered by some to be one of the core texts of the modern Islamist movement and the ideological inspiration for Al Qaeda. In a trial which lasted over two months, jurors had the entirety of Qutb’s thoughts and ideas, as expressed in his book, read out to them to decide whether or not such ideas are permissible in 21st century Britain. They concluded that they were not and Milestones has now been deemed a “terrorist publication” and effectively banned in Britain.

Milestones is also published by Penguin Books, who previously found themselves in the dock in 1960 (around the same time that Qutb was writing Milestones) after publishing Lady Chatterley’s Lover, the last case of its kind until now. However, the CPS case was that the Milestones special edition published and sold by Faraz contained a number of appendices intended specifically to promote extremist ideology. Yet these appendices consisted of a series of articles about Qutb by contemporary thinkers and writers and a syllabus of three books taught by Hassan al-Banna, the founding ideologue of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is on the verge of being democratically-elected in post-Mubarak Egypt.

Other books Faraz was selling which are now also effectively banned include those of Abdullah Azzam, a Palestinian scholar who became one of the leaders of the jihad in Afghanistan against Soviet occupation, as well as a teacher and mentor to Osama Bin Laden. Ironically, Azzam’s Defence of Muslim Lands and Join the Caravan were ideological and theological texts that were heavily promoted in the Western and Muslim worlds to encourage young Muslims to join the Western-backed jihad against the Soviet Union . Until very recently, both books were readily available to purchase from mainstream booksellers, Amazon and Waterstones, yet neither company seems to have been threatened with prosecution.

Whatever your view of Qutb or Azzam’s works, the Faraz case has extremely serious implications for freedoms of speech and thought in modern Britain . In the land of Shakespeare and Wordsworth where more books are published every year than in any other country in the world, books could now be banned and ideas prohibited. Yet a core free speech principle is that the best way to defeat ideas is to debate and discuss them, not prohibit or criminalise them. Perhaps it is for this reason that Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf — the ideological inspiration for the most violent political movement of the 20th century — remains available in bookstores and libraries today. It is probably the same reason that the prosecution’s expert witness, US-based terrorism analyst Bruce Hoffman, admitted under cross-examination that none of the books would have been banned in the United States under the first amendment of its constitution.

Many will argue that since Faraz was also convicted of possessing information likely to be of use to a person committing or preparing for an act of terrorism (including military training videos and bomb-making instructions), the books ought to be viewed through this prism. The reality is that over the course of three years, the police seized and examined 19 computers, 25 hard drives, 15,000 books, over 9,000 DVDs and videos and millions of documents, all of which belonged to a busy bookstore. Out of these, they could only find four documents which the jury concluded fell afoul of this specific law and which it could not even be proven had ever been read by Faraz.

The case also has wider implications for political debate inside the British Muslim community. To believe or to even discuss an Islamic mode of governance, the political union of Muslim countries in a caliphate and issues related to military jihad and foreign conflicts seem to have become synonymous with “glorifying” terrorism. Now that the dissemination of books which promote and advocate such ideas is being criminalised, the logical next step may be to try and ban the ultimate source of all Islamic political thought — the Qur’an itself — as Dutch politician Geert Wilders once proposed. (For those who may accuse this writer of scaremongering, journalist Yvonne Ridley was met with the same incredulity five years ago when she announced to thousands of Muslims that the government would try and ban Milestones.) In Nasser’s Egypt , thousands of copies of Milestones were destroyed and burned by the state. In 21st-century Britain , will all of us who possess copies of it now have to burn them ourselves or risk being arrested and prosecuted for possessing “un-British” books and glorifying terrorism?

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: East London Mosque: Have a Happy Extremist Christmas

Christmas is always a busy time down at this blog’s favourite hub of moderation’n’tolerance, the East London Mosque, controlled by the extremist Islamic Forum of Europe. The punters have to be saved from what Mahera Ruby, the head of the IFE’s women’s section, called the “pagan myth of Santa Claus.” What’s that, Mahera? You mean Santa doesn’t really exist?

Tonight, there’s a special treat (strictly gender-segregated, of course) to get the non-festive season underway. It’s the final round of the “Battle of the Isocs,” a quiz for university Islamic societies, former stamping-grounds of so many of our finest young terrorists. Among the celebrity guests (see above) is a certain Haitham al-Haddad, a big favourite at the East London Mosque. One of his previous appearances there was at an event to pronounce music a “social ill.” Haitham has also described music as a “prohibited and fake message of love and peace.” Let’s hope there aren’t any questions about last year’s Christmas Number One, shall we? If Christmas without music sounds a bit dull, the East London Mosque has the answer. On Christmas Eve, there is a meeting about “the greatest prophet” with the IFE activist and one of Hamas’s most fervent fans, Junaid Ahmed. Then on Boxing Day the mosque hosts another event with another terrorist apologist, Zahir Mahmood. You’ve already missed, alas, the East London Mosque meeting last week about the rehabilitation of young offenders with Azad Ali, the IFE’s community affairs co-ordinator. Azad knows a bit about causing offence himself — he’s justified the killing of British troops…

[JP note: Where would be for laughs without the paraligion Islam and the pseudoprophet Mohammad? Probably headless. And what does the joke, pantomime-horse outfit, The Council of Imams and Rabbis of the Joseph Interfaith Foundation have to say about the East London Mosque and the London Muslim Centre? Nada, zilch, didley-squat … It’s behind you!]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: Home Office Responds on EDL Threat

The Home Office has written to an umbrella group representing a range of Jewish communal and religious groups in response to statements distancing themselves from the methods and aims of the English Defence League. Earlier this year the leaders of the United Synagogue, Reform, Liberal and Masorti communities, as well as the Board of Deputies and the Spanish and Portuguese Jews’ congregation, highlighted their opposition to the EDL’s tactics and called on the far right organisation to refrain from using Jewish and Israelis symbols in its campaigns. Under the umbrella of the Council of Imams and Rabbis of the Joseph Interfaith Foundation, they rejected in particular the EDL’s “efforts to incite hatred and antagonism in our society”, its attempts to “foment violence” and “drive a wedge between the Jewish community and our Muslim neighbours”. They attempted to draw a line under the EDL’s efforts to attract Jewish membership, which reached a peak with a rally “to oppose Islamic fascism” outside the Israeli embassy last year where EDL members waved Israeli flags. The EDL has a “Jewish Division”, but it has been beset by infighting and is understood to have only a handful of Jewish members.

James Brokenshire, the Home Office Minister responsible for policy regarding the EDL, has now sent a letter of response to Mehri Niknam, director of the Council of Imams and Rabbis. “We welcome your positive action to counter the divisive influence and minimise the impact of EDL activity,” he said. “As a government our position is clear, we will not tolerate groups like the EDL who spread hate, seek to divide us and deliberately raise community fears and tensions.” He said the government would continue to condemn the EDL’s views and actions when necessary and work with police and local agencies. Mr Brokenshire added that the government trusted local agencies to “put in place suitable local measures to counter the influence and minimise the impact of EDL activity. “We stand ready to provide advice and support where it is requested.”

[JP note: When it comes to the threat from Islam, the Home Office is nowhere to be seen.]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: Minehead Middle School Pupils’ Muslim Visit

MINEHEAD Middle School pupils have been learning about the importance of racial tolerance. The year eight group have been studying a topic called Islam and the Media as part of their Humanities class, which involves looking at common stereotypes and misjudgements made about religious people in the press and trying to dissuade youngsters from accepting religious intolerance. Their study was rounded off by a visit from representatives of the Islamic Awareness Education Program (IAEP). The Muslim visitors came into classes to spend time with the children and held workshops in the school hall. Sheila McBride, head of Humanities and Citizenships, said: “We’re trying to promote the fact that not all Muslims are terrorists. Some of the children looked at Muslims before and thought that’s what they were and they’ve now come away knowing that’s not the case. They asked the IAEP visitors some really good questions during the workshops and I’m very pleased with them.”

[JP note: For more on the IAEP see here ]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: Terrorists’ Favourite Bookseller Guilty

A Muslim radical has been sentenced to three years in jail for running an operation to publish extremist texts and violent DVDs and distribute them around the world with the aim of “priming” terrorists for action.

Material produced and distributed by Ahmed Faraz ended up in the hands of almost every major terrorist in Britain. His customers included Mohammed Sidique Khan, the leader of the July 7 bomb plot, and members of the trans-Atlantic airline gang, who quoted from his texts in their suicide videos. His books were found among the belongings of Habib Ahmed, a key al-Qaeda lieutenant from Manchester, and Andrew Ibrahim, who planned to blow up a shopping centre in Bristol. Among a series of raids on the bookshop was one in 2007 as part of an investigation into a plot to kidnap and behead a Muslim solider. Faraz was released without charge. The shop, Maktabah al-Ansar [library of the faithful], in Sparkhill, Birmingham, was originally founded by Moazzam Begg, who was arrested in Pakistan in 2002 after fleeing from Afghanistan during the fall of the Taliban and held in Guantanamo Bay.

Det Chief Supt Kenny Bell , head of the West Midlands counter-terrorism unit, said the trial was “about the defendant’s role in the mass distribution of material, which had been added to and manipulated, in order to prime would-be terrorists to commit violent acts.” He said some items contained explicit instructions on how to make explosive devises and how to kidnap people and added: “The content of some of the material that formed part of the investigation was so graphic we could not show it to the jury.” Max Hill QC, prosecuting, had told the jury at Kingston Crown Court in south west London, the material sold by Faraz “represents steps along the road to radicalisation of Muslims to engage in violent terrorist attacks around the world, including the UK.”

Faraz, 32, was born and bred in Birmingham to parents originally from Pakistan. He left school with A-levels in law, business studies and computer science and then worked in administrative positions for the car manufacturer Rover, the stock broker Charles Schwab and British Gas. He became involved with the bookshop at the age of 23, editing texts and producing DVDs. The following year he started studying for a degree in applied theology at Birmingham University, followed by a PGCE qualification to work as a religious studies teacher. At Maktabah, Faraz wrote his own forward to a book called “Milestones” by Sayyid Qutb, one of the leading influences on al-Qaeda, circulated books by Abdullah Azzam, mentor to Osama bin Laden, and produced and distributed a slick DVD called “21st Century Crusaders.”

Two of Azzam’s books were among a stash of radical material handed to a friend for safekeeping by Hasina Patel, wife of Mohammed Sidique Khan, the day after the July 7 attacks.

Videos discovered by police at Faraz’s home featured graphic images of murder, bomb attacks, shootings and 81 beheadings along with an al-Qaeda manual and instructional videos on how to make bombs and fire rocket propelled grenades. The Maktabah website received nearly 20m hits from 460,000 obsessive users, more than a third of whom lived in the US.

Faraz made profits of at least £62,000 and employed a number of salesmen, sending unsolicited copies of his books to Islamic shops around the country. Financial records showed that he had distributed his wares to bookshops including the al-Furqan bookshop at East London Mosque and another in Manchester. Faraz had even tried to sell his books on Amazon and had sent his products to countries including Egypt, India, Australia and South Africa. Faraz made no comment in police interviews and did not give evidence in his defence.

In a prepared statement, he said he considered his work “an instance of the freedom of speech and expression that he considered to be central to a free and open society.” Faraz was charged with a total of 30 counts of possessing and disseminating terrorist publications between April 13 2006 and January 26 2010. He was found guilty on 11 counts and not guilty on four counts. The judge directed that he should be found not guilty of a further eight counts and seven counts were left on file. The judge, Mr Justice Calvert-Smith, told him: “Maktabah was the only known commercial operation selling this wide ranging jihadist literature. “It’s no surprise that your books were found on the shelves of many of those convicted of serious terrorist offences — including the leader of the plot that resulted in the deaths of 52 people in London on 7/7. It was grossly irresponsible to publish them in the way they were designed to appeal, not to academics, but to young people, and young people who had recently converted to Islam or become more religiously inclined as they got older. These books did glorify terrorism, the killing and injuring of civilians and implied, either by silence or otherwise, approval of such atrocities as the 9/11 or 7/7 attacks. How any publisher of books and other media could diseminate this material after 9/11 and, in the case of Mile Stones, a few months after 7/7 and 21/7 is beyond me. I detect no sign of remorse and acceptance from you that you have in fact gone beyond the limits.”

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: Time to Resign, Aidan Burley

Sixty years on from the end of the Second World War, Britain’s role in the defeat of Nazism still dominates our national character. The evocation by some of the Churchillian “bulldog” spirit in the aftermath of David Cameron’s Eurozone veto demonstrates how powerful such historical imagery remains. The timing of the Mail on Sunday’s revelations about the Nazi-themed stag night attended by Conservative MP Aidan Burley could not have been more embarrassing for the Prime Minister. Aidan Burley has amplified his apology and emphasised that he now knows he should have walked away from someone dressed as an SS officer. Most decent people do not have such friends. But Mr Burley remained at a restaurant table as his tablemates cheered the names of Himmler and Eichmann, two men directly responsible for the Holocaust. He raised no objection to a toast to the Third Reich. And then he paid the bill.

Astonishingly, this man still holds a government post as Parliamentary Private Secretary to Transport Secretary Justine Greening. As Mr Burley now recognises, his actions will be particularly repellent to Britain’s Jews. But this is not just a Jewish issue. The Tory MP for Cannock Chase chose to participate in a celebration of this country’s historic enemies. In France, which suffered the humiliation of occupation by the Nazis, such treachery is a criminal offence. Mr Burley is clearly a very silly man. He has disgraced his country and his party. His apology shows he is deeply ashamed. He should save the Prime Minister further embarrassment and resign as PPS to Ms Greening.

But this is the second week in a row the JC has reported a UK politician apologising to the Jewish community. Last week it was Labour Paul Flynn atoning for comments he had made about the alleged “dual loyalty” of the UK’s first Jewish ambassador to Israel Matthew Gould. The most worrying aspect of this whole business is how unshockable people are. The Paul Flynn story made barely a ripple in the national media and not a single frontline Conservative politician has come forward to condemn Mr Burley’s actions. The incident was not mentioned at this week’s Conservative Friends of Israel business lunch. It is not just Mr Flynn and Mr Burley who should be ashamed.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]


Bosnia: Serb Leader Says Muslim ‘Arrogance’ To Blame for Stalemate

Belgrade, 16 Dec. (AKI) — Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik said on Friday Bosnia was falling apart, blaming the inability for the country to form a government on majority Muslim “arrogance” and what he considers their attempts to subjugate the other two ethnic groups, Serbs and Croats.

“Bosnia is in the phase of disintegration and no one can help it,” Dodik said in an interview with Belgrade daily Blic. “Political arrogance of Bosnian Muslims towards Serbs and Croats is so evident that no one serious believes in Bosnia’s survival,” Dodik said.

Almost a year and a half since last parliamentary elections, the country still doesn’t have federal government and no solution was in sight despite the pressure from the international community.

Dodik blamed the stalemate on Muslim political leaders, accusing them of undermining the Dayton peace accord which ended 1992-1995 war. According to the agreement, Bosnia was divided into two entities, a Muslim-Croat federation and a Serb entity Republika Srpska of which Dodik is president.

The accord treats Muslims, Serbs and Croats as three equal, constituent groups. But Croats have complaint of being discriminated and of feeling like “sub-tenants” in their own home, demanding their own entity.

The international community, which still supervises peace in Bosnia 16 years after the war, opposes Bosnia’s partitioning, but Dodik said the process was irreversible. Asked how long it may take, he said it depended on the circumstances.

“A plant, as an organic tissue, disintegrates rapidly,” Dodik said. “But if you have a political monster like Bosnia, it may take some time,” he concluded.

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

North Africa

Egypt: Where Did Nick Kristof Get the Idea That the Muslim Brotherhood is Moderate?

by Eric Trager

Alexandria, Egypt-Parliamentarians’ offices typically feature self-flattering photos and patriotic paraphernalia, so I was taken aback by the décor of recently elected Muslim Brotherhood MP Saber Abouel Fotouh’s Alexandria headquarters. The walls were mostly blank, except for a tremendous banner commemorating a protest that the Muslim Brotherhood had sponsored outside the local “Zionist consulate,” complete with an image of a burning Israeli flag. (The demonstration took place following an August 18 incident along the Egyptian-Israeli border, in which Israel responded to a cross-border attack in Eilat that resulted in the deaths of eight Israelis by inadvertently killing six Egyptian soldiers when it chased the attackers back into the Sinai.) When I asked Abouel Fotouh whether it was appropriate for a future parliamentary leader to display a neighbor’s flag in flames, he got rather defensive. “We burned [the Israeli flag] for our soldiers and for Gaza, and we will burn it again and again if they infiltrate anything in the region,” he said.

As the ascendant Muslim Brotherhood tries to project itself as a responsible actor, including by hosting credulous New York Times columnist Nick Kristof for a home-cooked meal, it is important to recall these kinds of statements. Over the past two weeks, I have interviewed seven Brotherhood parliamentarians-to-be. Far from being moderate, these future leaders share a commitment to theocratic rule, complete with a limited view of civil liberties and an unmistakable antipathy for the West. The Brotherhood’s theocratic vision presents itself in a number of forms. At the most basic level, the organization’s future parliamentarians insist that all law should be drawn exclusively from the sharia-and they are convinced that this is a goal shared by nearly all Egyptians. “Most political streams in Egypt-liberals, socialists, nationalists, and Islamists — demand that sharia be the main source of legislation,” Saad al-Husseini, the Brotherhood’s top candidate on a Gharbiya electoral list and a member of the Brotherhood’s Guidance Office, told me. A number of Brotherhood MPs-to-be even claimed that Egypt’s Christian community was pro-sharia. “The Christians are Egyptians, and true Egyptians will take the sharia‘s side, and not the side of the French,” said recently elected Alexandria MP al-Mohammadi al-Sayyid.

To be sure, the Brotherhood, unlike Egypt’s Salafists, does not intend to legislate based on a literal interpretation of the sharia. It claims instead to be guided by pragmatic interpretations of the sharia‘s true aims-or “maqasid,” as this principle known in the field of Islamic jurisprudence. But no matter how generously one interprets the sharia, certain prohibitions are unavoidable-and the Brotherhood’s parliamentarians vow to push those prohibitions into law. Policy-wise, the most important Qur’anic prohibition that the Brotherhood wants to implement is the ban on interest-based banking. The platform of the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party explicitly speaks of “fighting” usury, though the Brotherhood MPs-to-be that I interviewed tried to soft-pedal this language a bit. “We won’t ban [interest-based banking],” said Alexandria MP Sobhi Saleh. “But we will aim to decrease the interest rate to zero through economic growth.” Initially, the MPs said that the Brotherhood would simply broaden Islamic banking options and “let the people choose what they want.” But this gradualism will likely be challenged by the Salafists, who support implementing interest-free banking more rapidly. It hard to imagine the Brotherhood bucking them on this very basic Islamic issue.

Two other Qur’anic principles that the Brotherhood intends to implement are those banning alcohol and calling for modesty in women’s dress. Thus, Brotherhood political leader Saad el-Katatny, who previously chaired the organization’s parliamentary bloc, declared in August that Egypt “should not allow beach tourism,” railing against the bikinis and alcohol consumption that drive Egypt’s Red Sea tourism. Some of the Brotherhood’s future parliamentarians expressed support for these ideas. “Sharia controls our morals and we have a religious community here,” said Ali Fath al-Bab, a former MP who is now running for the Shura Council, Egypt’s upper parliamentary body. “Our rules and constitution should come from our tradition to express our religion.” Others, however, offered a compromise of sorts. “Are tourists coming just for beaches and alcohol?” Essam Mukhtar, who was recently elected in northern Cairo, asked me. Some are, I responded. “Then we can make private beaches here,” he said. Most of the Brotherhood MPs-to-be that I interviewed expressed their hope, however, that Egyptian tourism might be refocused towards hosting conferences and “medical tourism,” meaning visits to Egypt’s therapeutic natural spas.

Yet perhaps the most telling indicator of the Brotherhood’s theocratic outlook were the future parliamentarians’ comments on whether they would permit those who do not believe in the sharia to criticize or challenge it. The answer was, without exception, no. “It’s not allowed for Christians to come and say that the sharia is wrong,” said Abouel Fotouh. “They are not specialists.” Mukhtar agreed. “There is no ultimate freedom, because your freedom ends at the freedom of other people,” he told me. “And if I humiliate things that you respect, I violate your freedom.” When I told Mukhtar about a video that a friend had sent me depicting Salafists calling for holy war against the Jews, he laughed and suddenly transformed into a civil libertarian. “People are free to say what they want,” he said. He proceeded to rant against Israel.

But the Brotherhood’s antipathy isn’t reserved only for Israel. When I asked Saleh, who has been spoken of as a potential candidate for parliamentary chair, for his views on 9/11, the fast-talking lawyer suddenly got very serious. “I’m still not convinced [of the official story],” he said. “Crashing into the 100th floor does not turn a building into ash.” When he proceeded to cite unnamed “American scholars” to substantiate his views, I told him that Americans would find this offensive. “Does it make Americans angry that I read reports that came from them?” he asked. “I will have [these studies] with me when I go to America. … I will tell them that these are your [explanations], not mine.” Indeed, Saleh intends to preach 9/11 revisionism on his first trip to America. Perhaps he’ll do it at a home-cooked meal hosted by Nick Kristof.

Eric Trager is the Ira Weiner Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

France Flatters Islamists: Islam, Democracy Not Incompatible

Juppe argues Islam, democracy are not incompatible, insists Arab Spring should open way to political pluralism.

TRIPOLI — French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe argued on Thursday that Islam and democracy are not incompatible, insisting that the Arab Spring, which has already toppled three dictators, should open the way to political pluralism. “I refuse to accept the idea that Islam and democracy are incompatible and that the Arab people only have a choice between dictatorship and fundamentalism,” Juppe told hundreds of students at the University of Tripoli. “It has been our desire to establish contacts and dialogue with all the actors of the Arab Spring, without exception, on the condition that they respect the rules of the democratic game, principal among which are the renunciation of violence, the rights of men and women, and respect for minorities,” he added. “We cannot refuse to people who have been so long condemned to silence the right to express their choices”, Juppe said. In Tunisia, the first Arab country to overthrow its dictatorship, the Islamist Ennahda party came out on top in October parliamentary elections. Islamists are also taking the lead in polls now underway in Egypt and gaining prominence in Libya. On Wednesday, during a press conference with Libyan Prime Minister Abdel Rahim al-Kib, Juppe declared that it was up to the Libyan people to “build democracy as they see fit” following the overthrow of strongman Moamer Gathafi.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Frustration Threatens to Unleash Second Libyan Revolution

Growing frustration over the slow pace of reforms and a lack of transparency in the new Libyan government could push the war-scarred North African nation toward a second revolution, less than two months since the first.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Italy: Friendship Treaty With Libya Reactivated

‘Focus on new Libya’s priorities’ Monti tells Jalil

(ANSA) — Rome, December 15 — Italy and Libya on Thursday agreed to reactivate a friendship treaty that was interrupted by the war against late strongman Muammar Gaddafi.

The decision was announced by Premier Mario Monti after talks in Rome with the leader of Libya’s Transitional National Council, Mustafa Abdul Jalil.

Monti, who said he would visit Italy’s former colony “in mid-January”, stressed the move would help both countries “focus on the priorities of the new Libya” after the demise of Gaddafi, who was caught and executed by rebels on October 20. The treaty was signed by Gaddafi and then Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi in 2008.

Under the treaty, Italy agreed to pay colonial reparations of $5 billion over 20 years, including the construction of a coastal highway, while Libya pledged to help stop migrants crossing the Mediterranean.

Now that it has been reactivated, Italy will be able to fully re-open its oil and gas pipelines and Libya will pursue wide financial interests in Italy, helped by assets that had been frozen during the war.

“We agreed to reactivate the friendship treaty in the interests of both countries,” said Jalil, thanking Italy for raising the amount of unlocked assets from 230 to 600 million euros.

He said Libya’s oil and gas industry was now operating at 70% of its prewar capacity.

“I want to thank Italian firms and in particular (energy giant) Eni who decided to return to work beside Libyans despite the dangers,” Jalil said. Monti vowed to speed the full unfreezing of assets, saying Italy was “ready to assure immediate assistance on security, infrastructure and energy so that the (Libyan) people can benefit”.

Unlocked funds would also be used to help Italian firms recoup credits and regain certification for work in the north African country, the Italian premier said.

Jalil said a chunk of the assets would be used to free up such credits, “provided these credits are real and legitimate”. “We will work towards full transparency”, he said. Meanwhile, Italy’s biggest bank Unicredit noted that the treaty reactivation would enable Libya’s central bank, which holds a 4.99% stake in it, to underwrite its upcoming 7.5-billion-euro rights issue.

“The Libyan people is finally crowning its aspirations to democracy and freedom,” Monti told reporters, noting that Libya will elect a constituent assembly in a few months’ time.

“Italy intends to continue to assist Libya as it has done since the start of the revolution,” he said, adding that Libyans could come to Italy for professional training and medical treatment.

Jalil also thanked “Berlusconi, the foreign and defence ministers and the army chief of staff who supported the revolution from the start”.

Italy provided key air bases for the Nato-led Libya campaign as well as fighter-bombers that ran hundreds of sorties during the war.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Caroline Glick: Violent Rioters and Media Goons

On Monday night, hooligans identified with the national religious camp staged three unlawful, and in at least one case violent, protests against the IDF.

First, several dozen people surrounded by hundreds of reporters pretended to set up a new settlement along the border with Jordan. Their aim was to protest Jordan’s opposition to repairing the Mugrabi Bridge through which Jews and Christians alight to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

The second and third protests’ declared aim was to prevent the IDF from carrying out orders to destroy Ramat Gilad, a small enclave of homes in Samaria located on land owned by rancher Moshe Zar and named for his son Gilad who was murdered by Palestinian terrorists in 2001…

           — Hat tip: Caroline Glick [Return to headlines]

Iceland Formally Recognizes Palestinian State

One of the first Western countries to do so

(ANSAmed) — REYKJAVIK, decemeber 15 — Iceland has announced the formal recognition of the Palestinian State, becoming one of the first European countries to do so. “Today I present you the declaration of independence of the Palestine, in accordance with the will of the Icelandic parliament”, said foreign minister Ossur Skarphedinsson addressing his Palestinian colleague Riyad al Maliki. On november 29, the Icelandic parliament approved a resolution presented by the foreign minister authorizing the government to recognize the Palestinian state.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Middle East

Diana West: Iraq Hawks Leave a Door Open That Should be Slammed Shut

I wish I could find the perfect label for the depths of denial and the heights of delusion manifested in Frederick and Kimberly Kagan’s latest declarations on Iraq, published this week in The Washington Post as “opinion.”

Even as our troops withdraw after eight fruitless years, the husband-wife team still sees “American core interests” in Iraq, including “ensuring that Iraq contributes to the security of the Middle East, rather than undermining it through state collapse, civil war or the establishment of a sectarian dictatorship.”

Is that all? Ensuring that Iraq doesn’t collapse, enter civil war or establish a sectarian dictatorship requires an indefinite occupation on a colossal scale (why?) or the total transformation of Iraqi Man (read: Muslim Man), which is the Frankensteinian basis of “winning hearts and minds,” the cornerstone of counterinsurgency theory (COIN).

In another epoch, armies of Christian missionaries might have been the force of choice to rework Islamic culture to such an end; then again, Western nations haven’t fared so well in such endeavors. (Remember the Crusades.) COIN-inspired nation-building is the contemporary, secular alternative. Its adherents burn with a blind zeal that admits no cultural difference between the West and Islam, that sees most arrogantly a universal appeal in their own Judeo-Christian-derived values.

The only stumbling block between COIN values and Islamic acceptance, as COIN elites see it, is PR. The sales pitch. Take off those protective, ballistic glasses, soldier. Eat parasite-ridden goat and wreck your digestive system maybe forever, grunt. Smile. Get to know the people. Walk those roads (bang) and see that those wells and bridges are built, those mosques mended, those tribal conflicts settled, and don’t call in fire support when a “kinetic” incident occurs or the “population” will think you don’t trust them. And whatever you do, don’t forget the payola…

           — Hat tip: TV [Return to headlines]

Did Iran Capture US Drone by Hacking Its GPS Signal?

How did Iran manage to capture a US robotic surveillance plane, which looks remarkably undamaged in an Iranian video? The US initially claimed the drone went astray over Afghanistan and blamed a malfunction, but Iran said it had brought the craft down 200 kilometres inside its border earlier this month.

Now the Christian Science Monitor reports that Iran jammed GPS signals and fooled the drone into landing at an Iranian base. “The GPS navigation is the weakest point,” an unnamed Iranian engineer analysing the captured drone told a Monitor correspondent inside Iran. “By putting noise [jamming] on the communications, you force the bird into autopilot. This is where the bird loses its brain.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Internet: Turkey: 57% of Population Don’t Use the Web, Study

(ANSAmed) — ISTANBUL, DECEMBER 15 — In Turkey the 57% of the population do not use the internet at all while the 42% deems it harmful and the section of society using it the least is the electorate of the Islamic-rooted party AKP. According to a survey titled “Use of the Internet and Social Media” made from the Konda research company and reported by Bianet online. Considering political parties, supporters of the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) use the internet the most while the electorate of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is using it the least. The increase of internet users supporting the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) was assessed a “striking” result.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Saudi Arabia Executes 73rd Victim of Sharia Laws

In Saudi Arabia, Sharia court sentenced a woman accused of engaging in witchcraft to beheading by a sword. There are some unpleasant details: before dying, the “witch”, apparently, suffered as the beheading was performed gradually, in three steps. Thus, she became the 73rd person executed this year in the country living under Sharia.

The Kingdom authorities do not always provide accurate information on the number of women executed in Saudi Arabia. However, from time to time the details in this regard come out. For example, shortly before the “witch” was sentenced, by the verdict of the Sharia court an Indonesian woman was executed who killed her employer that tried to force her to have sex. In October, the sentence was carried out against a Saudi woman who killed her husband. In Saudi kingdom death sentence is given to rapists, murderers and drug traffickers. The execution is usually carried out through severing heads with a sword.


           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UAE: Zayed University Offers Master’s in Islamic Endowment

ABU DHABI — Zayed University has launched the world’s first master’s programme in charitable endowments, the centuries-old Islamic form of philanthropy. As the university launched its Institute for Islamic Higher Studies yesterday, religious and education officials said the degree was timely, as misconceptions were dogging Islamic transactions and procedures.

“People nowadays think that an endowment is only for building mosques,” said Dr Nasr Aref, the executive director for the institute. “It is whenever a social foundation creates an infrastructure that is not part of what a country’s government does. The West took the concept of endowments from us centuries ago but we are 1,000 years behind them in terms of developing and executing it.”

An endowment is the dedication of an asset’s profits towards charity, such as building schools, hospitals or shelters. “The first university in the world, which was created in the Muslim world, was from an endowment … and the first university built in the West, Oxford University, was also from an endowment,” Dr Aref said. Other examples of endowments from Islamic civilisation include building shelters for women who escape abusive husbands, and shelters for lost dogs and injured birds. The institute provides four programmes of study: Islamic economy, endowments, contemporary Islamic studies and managing resources. It has already accepted 130 students, which officials say is more than they expected. That number includes 20 students in the endowment programme.

The grand mufti of Egypt, Ali Jumaa, who attended yesterday’s launch, said Muslims should stop blaming others for the distorted image of Islam and return to the days of glory through knowledge and education. “There are some who have certain interests and want to damage the image of Islam and Muslims,” the grand mufti said. “This is their own matter. But we have to start with ourselves.” He said launching more master’s programmes in practical subjects such as Islamic economy would certainly help to clear up misconceptions.

There have been talks between the institute and Al Azhar University in Egypt about expanding cooperation. “Zayed University is a prestigious university and so is Al Azhar, so we encourage their co-operation,” the grand mufti said.

Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, the Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, and the president of Zayed University, said that with the global media providing misconceptions, people have become doubtful about the teachings of Islam. “So this institute is a leading message … in providing clear explanations and for development and to enable the Islamic ummah to take a status that is worthy of it,” Sheikh Nahyan said. Maha Al Sayigh, 27, is from Saudi Arabia but decided to enrol at Zayed University after moving to the UAE for family reasons. “It is interesting to study in a new place, especially since the Emirates is famous for its universities,” Ms Al Sayigh said.

[JP note: Shelters for lost dogs and injured birds? I find that difficult to believe.]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]


EU Companies at Risk of ‘Raiders’ In Ukraine

The top story on Ukraine these days is the jailing of former leader Yulia Tymoshenko. But businessmen and diplomats have also warned that investing in the country is becoming more dangerous due to state-sanctioned ‘corporate raiding’. Raiding is a form of hostile take-over in which someone bribes or blackmails courts to enforce a bogus claim against a profitable business.

It can involve a van-full of balaclava-wearing men breaking into your office one morning to tell you that you are no longer the owner. In extreme cases it can involve people shooting at your staff. Most victims are small-and-medium-sized Ukrainian firms in the agricultural sector. But big foreign companies are not immune.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Radioactive Material Seized at Moscow Airport

Russian customs officials have seized a stash of radioactive metal from the luggage of a passenger bound for Iran. Prosecutors have launched a criminal investigation into the incident.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Russia Officially Admitted to WTO

(AGI) Geneva — Russia has officially been admitted to the World Trade Organization after 18 years of difficult negotiations.

Russia is therefore the 154th member state and this country’s admission required more time than that of any other country.

Moscow now has 6 months to ratify its entry in the WTO and will become a full member 30 days after completing this procedure ..

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

State-Sanctioned Theft: A Paradise for Car Thieves in Ukraine

In Ukraine, the government is allowed to sell or use cars that have been stolen in other countries. The law creates the perfect conditions for organized gangs who steal luxury cars to order in Western Europe. There are even allegations that the Ukrainian justice minister’s official car was illegally appropriated in Germany.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

South Asia

Taliban Murder British Doctor Who Saved 2,000 Afghans

A British doctor shot dead by the Taliban was part of a humanitarian mission that had helped 2,000 Afghans, an inquest heard yesterday. Dr Karen Woo was executed alongside nine other aid workers after they tried to cross a mountain river in August last year.

The 36-year-old, who was due to get married a fortnight later, suffered ‘catastrophic’ injuries from two gunshot wounds in the attack. Shortly before her death she had helped to save the life of a baby boy who was struggling to breathe. Her team had been halfway through a 120-mile, three-week expedition in the northern Nuristan Province when they were ambushed.…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Far East

Inside Wukan: The Chinese Village That Fought Back

For the first time on record, the Chinese Communist party has lost all control, with the population of 20,000 in this southern fishing village now in open revolt. The last of Wukan’s dozen party officials fled on Monday after thousands of people blocked armed police from retaking the village, standing firm against tear gas and water cannons. Since then, the police have retreated to a roadblock, some three miles away, in order to prevent food and water from entering, and villagers from leaving. Wukan’s fishing fleet, its main source of income, has also been stopped from leaving harbour.

The plan appears to be to lay siege to Wukan and choke a rebellion which began three months ago when an angry mob, incensed at having the village’s land sold off, rampaged through the streets and overturned cars. Although China suffers an estimated 180,000 “mass incidents” a year, it is unheard of for the Party to sound a retreat.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Nigeria: Muslim Lawyers Want Sharia Law in Southern States

A group, Muslim Lawyers Association of Nigeria (MULAN) rose from their 5th annual general conference in Kaduna State, declaring that they will ensure that the introduction of Sharia legal system in the southern states as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution. The group said this against the backdrop that it concerns the determination of Islamic personal laws as it relates to marriage, divorce and inheritance. The lawyers also called for an end to the trial of the former Chief Security Officer (CSO) to the late Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha, Major Hamza Al-Mustapha, demanding that the judicial process be accelerated to end his long travail and persecution. In a communiuque at the end of the conference in Kaduna, MULAN said it would collaborate with the National Assembly to abrogate all discriminatory provisions in the constitution of Nigeria that tends to strengthen the settler/indigene dichotomy that has precipitated many crises in various parts of the country. The communiqué signed by the National President of the body, Alhaji Tajudeen Oladoja, the body also urged the Federal Government not to hesitate to invoke its power under the constitution by declaring a state of emergency in any state of the federation plagued by ethno-religious crisis.

The group decried the alleged constant breach of the fundamental rights of Muslims across the country with impunity under the pretence of National security. The association said: “It has become a routine exercise for security agencies to arrest, detained and harangued, intimidate and torture Muslims, especially those who wear long beards in the name of curbing the Boko haram menace” and called on the security agencies not to be partisan when discharging their duties.” They also called on security agents to respect the fundamental right of Nigerians and to desist from indiscriminate arrest and torture based on facial outlook and or dressing in the name of stemming the tide of ethno-religious crises in Nigeria. The body also called on the Federal Government and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to license non-interest banking for interested Nigerians, irrespective of their religious persuasions and not to be discouraged by critics of the ideal.

They also accused state government in the country especially those in the north of paying lip service to the formalisation of the Almajiri educational system thereby increasing the level of illiteracy in Nigeria, particularly in the north. They also accused states in the southern parts of the country of failing to recognize the rights of Muslims to have their disputes adjudicated on the principles of sharia as enshrined in the constitution of the country and congratulate the National Assembly for criminalizing same-sex marriage. They asked the government not to add to the hardship already existing in the country by removing fuel subsidy, asking the government to forget about the idea in the interest of the ordinary Nigerians.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

South Africa’s ANC to Help Robert Mugabe Retain Power

Zimbabwe’s main opposition party, the MDC, has written to regional leaders in protest at plans by South Africa’s ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC), to help President Robert Mugabe remain in power.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Would Muslims Praying in the Halls be Suspended?

Tebow has made headlines for the move, a display of his devotion to his Christian faith. The students were not suspended for bringing religion into the school, but instead for clogging the hallway.

Carney said that she supported the administration’s efforts to maintain a safe environment and was surprised that the incident has received this much attention. Since the news broke, Carney said she has been receiving hate mail from people charging that the suspension is due to religious prejudice.

“It’s very unsettling,” she told on Thursday. “It’s a shame that people out there are so ready to judge when they weren’t there to see what happened.”

Reports said that the students had been Tebowing all week, starting Monday. It was meant to be a joke, only paying homage to one of pro football’s newest stars. But other students started joining in and administrators claimed it had become a disturbance. District officials reportedly told the students that the celebration was making it unsafe for students walking the hall in between classes.

The incident saw about 40 students engaging in the popular Tebowing. Only the four students, all athletes, were suspended. Caroll told Prep Rally that the administration told them “that our Tebowing was blocking the halls and could potentially cause a riot, because they were growing in number and if the wrong kid gets pushed a brawl could ensue.”

           — Hat tip: Van Grungy [Return to headlines]


Democracy May Depend on the Ignorant

Ignorance can be bliss, but it seems it can also promote democracy. Strongly opinionated members can determine a group’s consensus decision, even when they make up only a small minority. New research of animal behavior shows, however, that adding ignorant or uninformed members to the group can counteract the minority’s powerful influence and promote a more democratic outcome.

Researchers used several computer models to investigate the decision-making process in various animal groups when a majority wants to travel in one direction and a minority wants to go in another. When the strength of the two packs’ preferences was equal, the group was much more likely to follow the majority. But when the minority had stronger feelings than the rest of the group about its direction, it was able to control the decision.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

News Feed 20111214

Financial Crisis
» Greece: IMF Says No More Scope for Tax
» Italy: Politicians Expected to Cut Their Own Pay
» Italy: ‘Party of Bankers’ Prompts Warning of Political Violence
» Italy: Bond Yields Up to 14-Year High
» Merkel Praises Italian Austerity
» Spanish Banks’ Debt to ECB Close to 100 Bln Euros
» Islam Will Protect America!
» Land Buys a Big Tri-Faith Leap
» Moderate Islam, Pop Culture, And the ‘All-American Muslim’ Boycott
Europe and the EU
» Belgium: Bulgarian Student Meters Away From Liege Deadly Shooting
» Belgium: Silence and Vigil in Belgium for Liege Attack Victims
» Belgium: Liege Killer Went on Gun and Grenade Rampage ‘Because He Feared Being Sent Back to Prison for a Sex Crime’
» Egypt Summons Dutch Ambassador Over MP’s Anti-Islamic Statements
» Fashion Model Tells Court How Mega-Rich Saudi Prince ‘Raped Her on Yacht in Ibiza’
» Norwegians Bidding for Black Market Butter
» Russian Aid to Serbs Kosovo Delayed
North Africa
» What the Salafists Want: Egypt Faces a Hardline Islamic Future
Israel and the Palestinians
» Mosque Torching ‘Could Ignite Relgious War’
» Settlers Raid IDF Base, Injure Commander
Middle East
» Caught on Camera: Shocking Moment Turkish Police Beat Handcuffed Woman… And Now She Faces Jail for ‘Reckless Behaviour’
» Gulf: Saudi Arabia Takes Over From UAE as Financial Hub
» Iraq: Christian Couple Killed in Mosul
» Lebanon: Hezbollah Reveals Names of Alleged CIA Agents
» Qatar Names Its Largest Mosque After Muslim Scholar
» Stakelbeck on Terror Show: Arab Spring Turns Islamist Winter
South Asia
» Indonesia: Ambon: More Muslim-Christian Violence: 16 Injured, Houses Burnt
» Indonesia: Bogor: Offer to Move Church May be “A Fatal Trap”
» Indonesia: This Won’t Make These Punks’ Day: Rock Fans Have Heads Shaved and Get ‘Cleansed’ In River in Islamic Law Crackdown
Latin America
» Iran, Venezuela, And a Cyber Attack in the Making
» U.S. Authorities Probing Alleged Cyberattack Plot by Venezuela, Iran
Culture Wars
» UK: ‘It’s Totally Bonkers’: Cambridge University Dons Warned Not to Shake Hands With Muslims or Disabled People in Case it Offends Them

Financial Crisis

Greece: IMF Says No More Scope for Tax

Cuts in public spending are crucial

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, DECEMBER 14 — As Greek government officials continued talks on a second rescue package for Greece with visiting foreign auditors Tuesday, the top envoy to Athens from the International Monetary Fund said that cuts to public spending were crucial, noting that there was no more scope for taxation on an austerity-weary public. “One of the things we have seen in 2011 is that we have reached the limit of what can be achieved through increasing taxes,” IMF mission chief Poul Thomsen told journalists in a conference call as reported by daily Kathimerini. Referring to the Fund’s latest report on Greece, Thomsen said reform efforts had fallen “well short” of expectations but that it was too early to to confirm whether new austerity measures would have to be taken in 2012. He stressed however that any additional measures should “be on the expenditure side.” His comments came as government figures showed that the budget deficit in November was 20.5 billion euros, a high figure but just within the revised target of 21 billion euros set by foreign creditors. Thomsen added that a voluntary bond swap — dubbed “private sector involvement” (PSI) and currently being discussed between government officials and private holders of Greek debt — was also crucial for fiscal recovery.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Politicians Expected to Cut Their Own Pay

Rome, 13 Dec. (AKI) — The Italian Parliament must cut its own pay as an angry public eyes the the 950 lawmakers who many believe enrich themselves while doing little to improve an economy besieged by the world’s fourth-largest debt and almost non-existent growth..

According to the text of an amendment of austerity measures to cut Italy’s 1.9 trillion-euro debt and breath life into its struggling economy, Italy’s parliament must pass a decree to bring members’ pay in line with the median salary of their European counterparts.

Italian members of Parliament net between 5,487 euros and 5,613 euros a month, in addition to about 3,500 euros in monthly living expenses. By contrast, the average monthly gross pay for an Italian worker is 2,033 euros, Bloomberg News reported, citing national statistics agency Istat.

The basic salary of an Italian lawmarket is 149,215 euros annually, double the salaries of the Germans and the British, three times the salary of the Portuguese, and four times that of the Spanish, according to data collected by the BBC.

Italians are facing painful changes to their pensions and tax increases as part of a 30 billion euro package of measures to put the country’s finances back on track. Separate unions have joined forces to strike in protest of what many workers say are unfair changes that don’t equally affect the wealthy.

Angry citizens often point to their political class, calling them corrupt and ineffective and demanding they share the pain of cost cutting.

After meeting resistance, the new government of so-called technocrats led by former European Union commissioner Mario Monti backed away from a rule giving Parliament a 31 December deadline to cut their pay. No timeline has been given for the initiative.

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

Italy: ‘Party of Bankers’ Prompts Warning of Political Violence

Rome, 14 Dec. (AKI/Bloomberg) — Letter bombs and bullets mailed to officials have prompted Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti to warn of political violence returning to Italy.

An official with Equitalia, Italy’s tax-collection agency, was wounded in the hand and face by a letter bomb on Dec. 9, a day after Italian anarchists said they tried to target Deutsche Bank AG Chief Executive Officer Josef Ackermann with a similar device. Letters with bullets sent to Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno and Justice Minister Paola Severino were also found this week.

“Threats and intimidations represent strategies of other eras that can’t and mustn’t return,” Monti said in a Dec. 12 statement that recalled the terrorism in Italy in the 1970s and 1980s, a period of bombs and bullets dubbed the “Years of Lead” that claimed hundreds of lives.

The tensions come as Monti, a former adviser for Goldman Sachs Group Inc., seeks to push through a 30 billion-euro austerity program by Christmas before taking steps next year to liberalize the labor market, a flashpoint issue that led Red Brigade terrorists to kill two officials about a decade ago.

Parliament’s Committee for Intelligence, Security Services and State Control will discuss the recent incidents at a meeting in Rome today, according to Giuseppe Esposito, the body’s deputy chairman. He said the panel will question Gianni De Gennaro, the head of Italy’s secret services.

‘Fraction’ of Threats

Monti leads a technocratic government that took over last month after former Premier Silvio Berlusconi resigned amid the deepening debt crisis. Monti’s Cabinet has been criticized by some groups, including Berlusconi’s former ally the Northern League, as the “party of bankers.”

Development Minister Corrado Passera is the former chief executive officer of Intesa Sanpaolo SpA, Italy’s second-biggest bank. His deputy, Mario Ciaccia, was head of infrastructure at Intesa. Labor Minister Elsa Fornero sat on Intesa’s board.

While this week’s events “are in no way comparable to the terrorist groups of the 1970s,” the media have reported on only a “fraction” of the threats, Esposito said. “I’ve received a similar letter myself,” he said in an interview.

In the 1970s and 1980s, Italy suffered terrorism of all political stripes, from the 1980 bombing of Bologna’s railway station by neo-fascists that killed 85 people to the murder of former Premier Aldo Moro in 1978 by Marxist-inspired Red Brigade militants. That group’s most recent victims were Labor Ministry consultants Massimo D’Antona and Marco Biagi, both of whom were working on overhauling the job market when they were gunned down in 1999 and 2002, respectively.

‘Banker Thieves’

In recent days, anarchist groups have spray-painted Intesa branches in some parts of Rome with graffiti and slogans such as “Down with Banker Thieves!” On Oct. 15, protesters rallying in an “Occupy Wall Street” demonstration set fire to cars and shattered windows at banks and a supermarket in Rome. The flags of Italy and the European Union were also burned at a hotel.

Police arrested five members of far-right group Militia in Rome today. The five are accused of “actions” against Rome’s Jewish community as well as against Alemanno, Parliament Speakers Gianfranco Fini and Renato Schifani and former U.S. President George W. Bush.

Symbols of Finance

“I don’t expect a return of the Red Brigades, but there is the risk of more or less organized attacks against people or institutions that are seen as symbols of global finance,” said Federico Niglia, who teaches a course on terrorism at St. John’s University in Rome. “The technocratic government may be seen as a target in this sense, and so are the executives of banks and multinational companies.”

Monti, a former EU competition commissioner, is seeking to push through spending cuts and tax increases that bring to 80 billion euros — equal to about 5 percent of economic output — the total bill of austerity measures that Italians have been asked to swallow since June. Monti’s popularity fell four percentage points to 58 percent after presenting the measures, according to a public-opinion poll published yesterday by IPR marketing.

The latest austerity package comes as Italy’s economy, which has trailed euro-region growth for more than a decade, is forecast by the government to enter contract next year. Italy’s jobless rate of 8.5 percent rises to 29.2 percent among those between ages 15 and 24.

Labor Unions

“In the 1970s terrorists found support in labor unions, in factories, a thing that is now unconceivable,” said Giancarlo Niccolai, an official with the then-ruling Christian Democratic Party who survived a 1977 attack by terrorist group Prima Linea in Pistoia, Tuscany. “Economic crises always boost support for violent people, but I sense that union members today are much more responsible.”

The explosive device sent to Ackermann was claimed by FAI, an Italian anarchist group which has undertaken several attacks in recent years including a 2003 letter bomb to the European Central Bank, Frankfurt prosecutors and state police said in a joint statement on Dec. 8.

“The authors speak of three explosions against ‘banks, bankers, ticks and bloodsuckers,’“ the police said in the statement. “It has to be assumed that another two letter bombs may have been sent.”

The next day, Equitalia official Marco Cuccagna was injured in the letter bomb attack in Rome. Investigators are looking into possible links with the German case, Ansa newswire said, citing sources close to the probe.

Italian police investigating the letters with bullets don’t see ties with the letter-bomb cases, Corriere della Sera reported, citing law-enforcement sources. Alemanno said that because the letters sent to him and Severino were signed by different groups, he believed they were unrelated.

After the attack on Cuccagna, the Facebook page called “Stop the Extra Power of Equitalia,” which boasts 7,706 “friends,” was flooded with messages. “They’ve been far too kind,” one said. “They’ll blame the anarchists, but maybe it’s just some father forced to pay usury-level interest rates,” read another one.

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

Italy: Bond Yields Up to 14-Year High

Monti says will rethink Tobin Tax in stormy Senate session

(ANSA) — Rome, December 14 — Italy on Wednesday successfully negotiated a keenly watched bond auction as Premier Mario Monti faced parliamentary protests against his ‘Save Italy’ austerity package aimed at recovering market confidence.

Three billion euros’ worth of five-year Treasury bonds were sold at the oversubscribed auction but the yield hit a new 14-year high of 6.47%.

Demand was 1.42 times the amount offered, compared to 1.47 at the last such auction in November.

The Monti government, which was appointed on a mandate to stop Italian financial problems feeding a eurozone crisis, has unveiled a 30-billion-euro austerity package aimed at persuading investors it can pay down the country’s huge national debt, 120% of GDP.

Illustrating amendments to the package in the Senate Wednesday, Monti was repeatedly interrupted by the populist Northern League, which waved placards saying Basta Taxes and It’s Not A Budget, It’s Robbery.

The Northern League, a former partner of ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi, is the only big party not supporting the Monti executive.

Monti has been criticised for allegedly not spreading the pain widely enough and unions have scheduled a number of strikes against the package.

They said Wednesday they would go ahead despite budget tweaking to protect the worse-off from some of the cuts.

Monti, who has said the package will be followed by a growth-boosting programme, claimed it was “tough but fair”.

He also told the Senate that Italy would rethink its opposition to a tax on international financial transactions, the so-called Tobin Tax.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Merkel Praises Italian Austerity

‘Important’ reforms and cuts, says German chancellor

(see related story) (ANSA) — Berlin, December 14 — German Chancellor Angela Merkel praised Italy’s efforts to steer itself out of its debt crisis and do its bit to save the euro on Wednesday.

In a speech in the Bundestag, Merkel expressed satisfaction at the “important saving measures and structural reforms” in Premier Mario Monti’s austerity package, which is currently being pushed through parliament in Rome.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Spanish Banks’ Debt to ECB Close to 100 Bln Euros

+59.2% in one year

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, DECEMBER 14 — The debt owed by Spanish banks to the European Central Bank (ECB) reached 97.970 billion euros in November, a 28.8% increase compared to October’s figure and 59.2% more than in November 2010, according to figures released today by Spain’s central bank. Debt is considered the live balance that Spanish financial bodies must repay to the ECB for financing already received. The Spanish bank’s debt last month reached its highest point since October 2010.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]


Islam Will Protect America!

by Dr. Ashraf Ramelah

Will we ever know the extent to which President Obama’s most recent submission to the pressured demands of Islamists has endangered American national security? When the Obama administration yielded to the outcries of Muslim-American citizens and Islamic organizations recently with the removal of FBI training manuals containing certain anti-terror material deemed “offensive,” the President was either ignorant of the goals of Islam, complacent about what he knows, or notching up another win for appeasement and promotion of Islam — for now a mystery.

One persuasive player in that ongoing scenario was Salam al-Marayati, the director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council and a member of the Executive Committee of the California Democratic Party and also a former Clinton delegate to the Democratic National Convention. He charged the FBI, which had documented facts about Islamic history and religious-political norms, with “ineptitude” in its use of erroneous and misguide d language leading to “biased and faulty policing.” Although former analysis of this event has been thorough, I wish to point out that this occurrence not only jeopardizes our safety but perpetuates the common theme that the Islam of our nation’s mosques and communities is somehow benign and different than the Islam of al-Qaeda. We must always be mindful of the motives and methods of Muslim-Americans who pressure the U.S. government for Sharia compliant revisions and what it means for our country. At the time of his op-ed article in The Los Angeles Times entitled The Wrong Way to Fight Terrorism (Oct. 20, 2011), Marayati, an Iraqi born Muslim, was on the verge of receiving very good news. Attorney General Holder would buckle under the pressure of Islamic pleas by withdrawing the FBI training manual. Contrary to Marayati’s assertion, the manuals were comprised of valuable information for American national security and served the performance of FBI officers free to do their duty under U.S. law, harming no one.

Using the method of furthering lies (Taquiyaa) and bolstering false assumptions already inserted into American culture, Marayati’s argument against the words used in the manual centered upon the absence of any link between the “cult” of al-Qaeda and the religion of Islam. Additionally he warned that facts about Islam and quotes from the Quran actually thwart the fight of terrorism because FBI use of them would lead to a breakdown of trust between Muslim-Americans and the FBI, made certain by him and those working with him.

Some argue that this would come on top of an already eroding trust between the non-Muslim and Muslim Americans because of Muslim resistance to assimilate: inching Islamic law into American courts, creating Sharia no-go zones, and adhering to Bedouin dress. But despite America’s reasons for suspicion, Marayati blames America for providing a tainted environment for Muslim immigrants asking, “How can we pe rsuade Muslim American communities to stay at the table when the food on the table is filled with poison?” — a wild accusation against Americans who have been open, friendly, polite and tolerant.

Marayati equated FBI teachings with al-Qaeda’s rhetoric of hate (law enforcement agents are on “opposite sides of the same coin of hate”), threatened that Muslims will stop cooperating with the U.S. government (“it will undermine the relationship between law enforcement and the Muslim-American community”) and distorted the facts (“baseless. .claims” contained in FBI manuals), in order to accomplish this dirty deed. The sinister point that Marayati makes is his insinuation that the harsh realities of Islam visible around the world today are based upon an Islamic religious jurisprudence which has no bearing on the workings of al-Qaeda, even as Jihad remains a pillar of all Muslim believers.

More outrageously Marayati suggested that “Muslim leaders, not FBI a gents, can more effectively battle al-Qaeda’s destructive ideas.” He justifies this by citing several incidents where Muslim-Americans have informed our government of the plots by fellow Muslims to help foil those attempts and lead to arrests. By this example alone, Marayati actually proves the legitimacy of the FBI training language he wants expunged. A man named Antonio Martinez, a convert to Islam (not to al-Qaeda) allegedly tries to blow up a military recruitment center and his whereabouts were given to law enforcement by the Maryland Muslim community. Martinez was not a Muslim fundamentalist or al-Qaeda member, proving the FBI does indeed need correct and accurate information about devout Muslims, their beliefs and their community.

After Marayati buried himself with his own argument, he brazenly concludes that America law enforcement must depend on Muslim leaders alone for their information. Marayati expects American national security at its highest level to b e placed in the hands of a “task force” of “experts” who worship and practice from the same book as al-Qaeda agents and have the same loyalties — all in the guise of promoting tolerance. He will get his way in this as well. The Muslim Public Affairs Council and CAIR have prevailed against the American people. As an American, Marayati should be considered a traitor to his country since he has propagated false impressions leading to the disarming and disabling of U.S. counter-terrorism. His efforts should have been dismissed by U.S. officials as paranoid at best, but instead were rewarded with a setback for national security — removing facts needed to fight terror (ironically as a bonus to him, facts in and of themselves now deemed a threat to national security), jeopardizing the safety of America, and demoralizing American self-defense.

Marayati and his cohorts have succeeded in expunging the “insults” about Islam from the training manuals because this is more impor tant than expunging dangerous elements from the country. Muslim supremacy, emanating from the victimhood complex inside America’s emergent Islamic community, impacts our courts, hijacks academia, and patrols free speech. So far Islamic leaders, out front and pro-active, encounter relatively little resistance from Americans just now beginning to detect the danger. Will Americans settle for a repressed society governed by political correctness waiting for Islam to build a stronghold inside our country? Immigrants living in America having once been subject to Islamic law are much more cautious than those who were born into freedom and have only known the freedom of the West. Take the word of the Copt living in America; the signs of Jihad are everywhere, seeking to dismantle our liberty and way of life. It is the Copt living in America who will speak the truth having lived it never allowing the falsehoods of Islam to dominate.

(The writer is the Founder and President the Vo ice of the Copts.)

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Land Buys a Big Tri-Faith Leap

Omaha Jewish, Muslim and Christian organizations have purchased land for neighboring houses of worship, and at least one, Temple Israel, plans to begin construction in the spring of 2012, leaders of the Tri-Faith Initiative said Tuesday. Construction also is expected to begin next year on a planned fourth building, called a Tri-Faith Center, with social, educational and conference facilities that all the groups could use. A synagogue for Temple Israel, a mosque and study center for the American Institute of Islamic Studies and Culture, a church for the Episcopal Diocese of Nebraska and the Tri-Faith Center would be built near 132nd and Pacific Streets, as part of a development on the site of the former Ironwood Country Club.


[JP note: A contender for a new category in the paraligiousympics — the Tri-Faith leap? Pray for soft landings.]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Moderate Islam, Pop Culture, And the ‘All-American Muslim’ Boycott

by E.D. Kain

I think Jonah Goldberg is making excellent sense with his assessment of the ‘All-American Muslim’ controversy we discussed yesterday:

I’d bet that TLC’s All-American Muslim is a pretty dull show that borders on hagiography. But I still don’t get why anyone would get so mad about it. As I understand it, the show depicts Muslim families as more moderate, more American than some stereotypes. Is that really so horrible? I know that there’s a lot of investment in the idea that there’s no such thing as moderate Muslims. My own view is that’s not true. A better and more accurate criticism — by my lights — is that moderate Muslims are too quiet, too reluctant to become a force for reform within the larger Muslim community. If that’s the case, then shouldn’t we be relatively happy that there’s a show pointing to a better model for Muslims than extremism? Isn’t it a good thing that there’s a show celebrating the fact that you can love America and be a Muslim?

Pop culture is designed, basically, to create an impression of what is and isn’t mainstream. So we’ve seen gay culture more and more presented as basically normal in pop culture and that’s shifted the popular impression of what it means to be gay in America and pushed opinion polls in a generally positive direction. So when a show like ‘All-American Muslim’ hits television screens, the idea is basically to normalize and mainstream moderate Islam — a brand of Islam that the previous president talked about quite a bit, actually, when urging Americans to be tolerant of Muslim Americans and convincing us that the moderates in the Middle East would prevail if only we helped tipped the scales a bit. So yes, it’s weird to boycott a show that tries to push the mainstreaming of a moderate vision of Islam. But bigoted opinions are rarely, if ever, rooted in logic. Attempting to approach them from a position of reason is a bit like blowing against the wind. The only way I can imagine myself joining a boycott of ‘All-American Muslim’ is if it were tied to a larger boycott of reality television. Then again, I don’t watch reality television, so me boycotting it would be an exercise in false valor. False valor can make us feel better about ourselves, but it’s calorie-free and short on nutrients.

[JP note: The author assumes that there is a moderate Islam which can be mainstreamed — Islam is not moderate and attempts to mainstream it will have adverse consequences for the rest of the population.]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Belgium: Bulgarian Student Meters Away From Liege Deadly Shooting


The city is to hold a minute’s silence and a vigil at midday on Wednesday.

[JP note: Yes it’s that time again — roll out the teddybears but make sure no accurate news reports surface. Above all else do not mention Islam.]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Belgium: Silence and Vigil in Belgium for Liege Attack Victims

The Belgian city Liege will hold a minute’s silence at midday for the victims of the gun and grenade attack yesterday. Five people, including the gunman, are dead and it’s now known around 125 have been injured. Police are trying to work out what made 33-year-old Nordine Amrani attack shoppers in a busy square. He’d spent time in prison for previous offences but wasn’t thought to have mental problems.

[JP note: Teddybear time: from CBBC — the BBC’s children’s channel. The BBC might as well as post this on its main news channel as it treats the rest of the population as if it was composed of infants. A sidebar at this webpage advises that ‘it is ok to be upset by the news.’ Yes it is but not in the sense the BBC would have it.]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Belgium: Liege Killer Went on Gun and Grenade Rampage ‘Because He Feared Being Sent Back to Prison for a Sex Crime’

Liege killer Nordine Amrani murdered four people and wounded 125 others because he feared being sent to back to prison for a sex crime, his lawyer said today.

The 32-year-old convicted criminal, who was due to marry his long-term girlfriend, used grenades and a semi-automatic rifle to cause carnage in the Belgian city before turning a revolver on himself.

Among his victims was a 45-year-old cleaning lady whom he shot dead near his home on Tuesday morning, as well as a 17-month old baby boy who died in the early hours today.

Defence lawyer Jean-Francois Dister said Amrani, a Belgian from a Moroccan background, was on parole and due to be questioned by police over an ‘immoral act’ — something which would have shocked his fiancée’s Middle Class family.

With previous convictions for a range of offences, including keeping an arsenal of weapons and supplying drugs, Amrani thought another custodial sentence was likely.

This would have meant his girlfriend, a nurse called Perrin Balon, finding out about the sex allegations against him.

‘He feared being returned to prison,’said Mr Dister. ‘He called me twice on Monday afternoon and on Tuesday morning about it.

‘What worried him most was to be jailed again. According to my client it was a set-up by people who wanted to harm him. Mr Amrani had a grudge against the law.

‘He thought he had been wrongfully convicted.’

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes [Return to headlines]

Egypt Summons Dutch Ambassador Over MP’s Anti-Islamic Statements

[Note: The last sentence of the Al Ahram article is incorrect. It is not Geert Wilders, leader of the Dutch Party for Freedom (PVV), who was recently banned by the Egyptian authorities from entering Egypt, but Raymond De Roon MP, one of the PVV’s foreign affairs spokesmen.]

The Egyptian foreign ministry airs its misgivings about the impending publication of a book promising to ‘examine the true nature of Islam’ by controversial MP Geert Wilders

Egypt’s foreign ministry Wednesday summoned Dutch Ambassador Susan Blankhart to protest against what it perceives to be a defamation of Islam by parliament member Geert Wilders.

According to Dutch reports, Wilders is set to release a book in April next year to “examine the true nature of Islam.”

The right-wing politician is no stranger to controversy, having released numerous statements that were deemed defamatory to Islam by the Arab and Muslim world.

His statements include accusing Islam of being violent by nature and saying that the Quran should be banned.

According to Egyptian diplomatic sources, the foreign ministry insisted it could not tolerate “such unacceptable acts that could affect the spirit of cooperation, which should prevail between countries.”

In June, a Dutch court cleared Wilders of inciting hatred and discrimination against Muslims.

Egyptian authorities have recently banned him from entering the country during a visit of a European Parliament delegation.

           — Hat tip: The PVV [Return to headlines]

Fashion Model Tells Court How Mega-Rich Saudi Prince ‘Raped Her on Yacht in Ibiza’

A fashion model who claimed she was raped by a wealthy Saudi Prince has given a fresh testimony after prosecutors said some details needed to be clarified.

The 23-year-old woman, who arrived at court today in Ibiza wearing a black hat and dark sunglasses, repeated her accusation against the prince, despite what her lawyer called ‘tough questioning’.

Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, 56 — one of the world’s richest men with an estimated fortune of £12.3billion — is accused of raping the model in Ibiza three years ago.

The alleged victim claims she was lured on to the 384ft yacht Turama after her drink was spiked in a nightclub on the island.

The prince is a leading investor in both Citigroup and Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. media empire, and held 26th place on this year’s Forbes list of the world’s richest people.

He is the nephew of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and bought London’s Savoy Hotel in 2005 for £250million.

CNN said a statement issued by the prince’s lawyer in Madrid reiterated the innocence of the billionaire.

The statement said the prince was with his family in France in August 2008, on a visit documented by his passport, mobile phone records, hotel receipts, photographs, video and eyewitness accounts.

The prince and his lawyers were not present at the hearing, but he insists he has not been in Ibiza in more than a decade, and that others have tried to impersonate him.

His lawyer Horacio Oliva said in a statement seen by CNN: ‘We strongly support the action of the Ibiza prosecutors and the judge to fully examine the false, unsubstantiated and constantly evolving story of the alleged victim, her mother and her lawyers.

‘The multiple inconsistent accounts lack even one corroborating witness nor do they present a single piece of evidence regarding [the prince].’

The two-hour, closed-door hearing included the woman, two of her lawyers, the prosecutor and the investigating magistrate who is in charge of the investigation, according to CNN.

The woman, a dual Spanish and German citizen, first made the allegation in Ibiza in August 2008, but a local judge shelved it last year on grounds of insufficient evidence.

However, after the model’s appeal to the Balearic Island Provisional Court, the lower court in Ibiza reopened the investigation last July.

It has made Prince Alwaleed a person ‘imputado’, or someone ‘under official investigation’, said CNN — which is a step short of an indictment. The prince has not yet been formally charged with any crime.

The magistrate is expected to ask the prosecutor to formulate questions that Spain will send to officials in Saudi Arabia to ask of the prince, according to CNN.

The woman’s lawyer, Max Turiel, said the prosecutor’s pointed questions treated her ‘as if she were the one under investigation and not the victim’, reported CNN.

According to an earlier court document, the woman believed her drink had been drugged and sent a text message to a friend stating as much.

She said she awoke on a yacht to find she was being sexually assaulted by a man she identified as Prince Alwaleed.

Mr Turiel told CNN last September that ‘there were remains of semen’ that should be examined against the prince’s DNA, as well as ‘remains of a tranquilizer that produced the symptoms she had’.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

Norwegians Bidding for Black Market Butter

As Norway’s butter shortage takes on ever more absurd proportions, one man in Lillehammer claims to have been offered 3,000 kroner ($515) for half a kilo of “almost unused” butter.

Lars Giæver, a local Green Party politician, placed an ad on buy-and-sell site on November 30th, just as Norwegians really began to fear the spectre of a butter-free Christmas, news website reports.

Seeking out the highest bidder, his ad promised a Yuletide status boost for the eventual recipient.

“Real Norwegian butter. Almost unused! Suits any occasion, whether you want to bake or have guests around for porridge. This is a unique product with special qualities. You won’t find it in stores. Be the envy of your friends. Get the smoothest Christmas accessory on your street!”

Giæver said he posted the ad as a joke, never actually intending to sell his treasured stash, but he has had his fair share of serious responses.

“One person was willing to pay 3,000 kroner; another wanted to pay it off in instalments,” he told

Giæver said he found it ludicrous that the butter shortage was being viewed as a crisis situation considering the real drama facing several debt-ridden nations across Europe. Anybody responding to his advert has instead received instructions on how to make their own butter.

Unlike Giæver, however, many people really are keen to make some pre-holiday money by auctioning their butter online.

“I want 800 kronor, at least. Then I can give 400 kronor to each of my children’s sports teams,” one would-be butter vendor, Tove Li, told Norwegian paper Verdens Gang (VG).

But the black market butter isn’t just draining consumers of money, it might also be a health hazard, according to Atle Wold at the Norwegian Food Safety Authority.

“Food should be purchased from professional and safe vendors, not in a private environment,” Wold told VG.

For Norwegians living close to Sweden, the benefits of cross-border grocery shopping have rarely seemed so great. But Swedish exporters remain less than enamoured with what they view as unnecessary barriers to trade with their nearest neighbour.

“They (Norway) have, as we see it, very restrictive trading politics, borderline protectionist,” Jonas Carlberg at the Swedish Dairy Association (Svensk Mjölk), told daily Dagens Nyheter, adding that high tariffs were a way to protect domestic production in Norway.

On Friday, a Russian man was caught trying to bring 90 kilos of butter over the Swedish border to Norway. Having failed to pay duty on the goods, he was forced to hand over the precious consignment to customs officials.

The butter shortfall, expected to last into January, amounts to between 500 and 1,000 tonnes, said Tine, Norway’s main dairy company.

The dire shortage poses a serious challenge for Norwegians who are trying to finish their traditional Christmas baking — a task which usually requires them to make at least seven different kinds of biscuits.

The shortfall has been blamed on a rainy summer that cut into feed production and therefore dairy output, but also the ballooning popularity of a low-carbohydrate, fat-rich diet that has sent demand for butter soaring.

“Compared to 2010, demand has grown by as much as 30 percent,” Tine spokesman Lars Galtung told AFP.

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


Russian Aid to Serbs Kosovo Delayed

A Russian truck convoy carrying humanitarian aid for Kosovo’s Serbian population is still stuck at the Kosovo border after daylong negotiations between Russia, EULEX and EU envoys to Kosovo proved fruitless.

The nearly five-month stand-off in the majority Serb-populated northern Kosovo has taken a new twist. A Russian humanitarian convoy was stopped by EULEX at one of the troubled border checkpoints. Moscow says it is a purely political move.

The Russian convoy, consisting of 25 trucks with humanitarian aid, including power-generators, blankets, food supplies, furniture and other necessities, had been heading for Mitrovica, the largest city in Kosovo’s Serb-dominated north. Two trucks were able to enter Kosovo through the Jarinje border checkpoint, but the rest were not allowed through by the EULEX police in charge of the post.

           — Hat tip: Nilk [Return to headlines]

North Africa

What the Salafists Want: Egypt Faces a Hardline Islamic Future

By Daniel Steinvorth

The Islamist Muslim Brotherhood led the way in the first round of parliamentary voting in Egypt. Second place went to the even more hardline Salafist party al-Nour. The group would like to see the introduction of an ultra-conservative brand of Sharia — and a ban on bikinis.

It’s a good thing that the visitor is a man. The sheikh doesn’t speak with women. But then again, the reporter is a foreigner, which is also worrisome. There are so many prejudices about Islam in the West, says Sheikh Fawzi al-Sayeed. But perhaps, he adds, this conversation will help to spread the truth.

Sayeed, 70, a serious-looking man with a full gray beard, is wearing sandals, a crochet cap and the traditional Egyptian garment called the Jellabiya. He invites his guest into the Al-Tawheed Mosque. It is 6:30 a.m., and those gathered inside have just completed their morning prayers. Now they are forming a half circle around their sheikh, who has taken a seat on a wooden chair in the middle of the room. The Al-Tawheed Mosque in the northern part of Cairo is a plain-looking building with no ornate columns or other decoration; no unnecessary details to distract the faithful from their devotion to God.

As he does every morning, Sayeed asks his followers to reaffirm their devotion to the “true faith.” He also asks them to film the interview that will follow the sermon with their mobile phones. It’s purely a precaution, says the sheikh. Sayeed, an electrical engineer by trade, is one of Egypt’s best-known Salafist imams. These days, it is not always easy to recognize the friends and the foes of Islam.

Since the Salafist Al-Nour Party, or “Party of Light,” came in second place in the first round of Egypt’s parliamentary elections, just behind the Muslim Brotherhood, the world has been looking to Cairo with concern. The two groups captured about 60 percent of those seats assigned on the basis of candidate lists assembled by the parties. One third of the seats are reserved for individual candidates. It is the first phase ofthe 2011-2012 parliamentary elections, with the second round beginning on Wednesday.

The election result confirms a clear trend, namely that wherever free elections have taken place in the Islamic Middle East in recent years, the religious parties have won: in the Gaza Strip in 2006, in Iraq in 2010, and in Turkey, Tunisia and Morocco in 2011.

Shocking Showing

But only in Egypt has such a radical group as the Salafists been able to establish itself as a party. This has serious implications, given that this is the most populous and culturally influential country in the Arab world; the revolutionary pulse that has been beating on Cairo’s Tahrir Square for the last 11 months can be felt as far away as Libya and Syria, Iran and the Gulf states…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Mosque Torching ‘Could Ignite Relgious War’

Residents of Jerusalem area where mosque was torched warn act threatens Jewish-Arab coexistence in city

Residents of the Jerusalem neighborhood where an abandoned mosque was torched in the early hours of Wednesday morning said the arson attack was “an act of ugly racists.”

Graffiti defaming Islam and Arabs on the building’s walls, as well as graffiti reading “price tag” were also found at the scene of the crime, less than a day after the right-wing extremist raid on the Ephraim Brigade IDF base in the West Bank. “These are crazy people who are set to ignite a religious war in the city. I hope the Arab population understands that this is a minority,” said one local. He added that vandals had already tried to torch the mosque in the past: “There are a lot of hooligans here.” The resident made it clear that “this is not our way.” Bafel, a resident of east Jerusalem who works nearby said: “Jews and Arabs can live together in this city, but not like this. We can’t have the people who did this walking the streets freely.”

MK Talab El-Sana (United Arab List-Ta’al( arrived at the mosque on Wednesday And said: “Whoever carried out this act is a person with no God and no values. He is the enemy of Islam and Judaism. This is a criminal act and should be seen as an act of terror. “It is the government’s responsibility to protect the holy places. Whoever tried to burn this mosque wants to create war in this region and the government’s silence gives them a green light to do so.” Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat strongly denounced the attempted arson: “We must show zero-tolerance for any kind of violence and maintain the coexistence in the city,” he said. Meanwhile, the IDF said that two Palestinian cars were set on fire in the West Bank overnight, one south of Nablus and the other near Qalqilya.

Reaching danger point

Political officials were quick to react to the recent violence, with the Head of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Knesset Member Shaul Mofaz saying: “I call on the prime minister, the time for denouncements is over. Now it’s time for action. Put an end to this sub-criminal and terrorist activity.” In light of the recent violence, social organizations battling for Jewish-Arab cooperation and equality in Israel are demanding that the state declare a state of emergency: “It is inconceivable that we wake up nearly every morning to hear about these dangerous, unbridled rampages by right wing extremists who endanger the lives of Arabs and peace activists. “We are concerned, and hope the police shares our concerns, that the spray painting of ‘death to Arabs’ and the torching of mosques will not end with that but might actually get to the point where there are fatalities.” Dozens of Arab from Jerusalem arrived on Wednesday at the mosque and condemned the arson att acks; they expressed their anger against the Jerusalem municipality for using the abandoned mosque as a warehouse. The mosque has not been in use for a decade. Rabbi Yaakov Levy added that “These things should not be done and we as rabbis say — don’t set fire to any mosque, just like you mustn’t set fire to synagogues.”

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Settlers Raid IDF Base, Injure Commander

Two violent incidents recorded overnight as settlers protest expected outpost eviction: Near Ramat Gilad settlers pelt IDF commander’s vehicle with stones, causing him, his deputy light injuries; another incident sees 50 settlers raiding IDF base in West Bank. One suspect arrested

Violent night clashes: Some 300 settlers hurled stones at Palestinian vehicles on the main road near the settlement of Ramat Gilad fearing an eviction on Monday night. They also opened the door of the Ephraim Brigade commander’s jeep and pelted the vehicle with stones causing the officer and his deputy light wounds. In a separate incident, some 50 settlers and right-wing activists broke into the Ephraim Territorial Brigade’s base in the West Bank in protest of the possible eviction of several illegal outposts early on Tuesday. Once inside the base, they torched tires, hurled Molotov cocktails and stones, and caused damage to vehicles. A settler from Beit El was arrested. Police have launched an investigation.

The IDF said it expected rabbis and Yesha leaders to condemn the act. “The IDF regards acts directed against the army and its soldiers, which prevent it from focusing on its prime task of protecting Israeli civilians and residents, with great severity,” a statement said. “The IDF takes orders from the political level and will continue to uphold the law in Judea and Samaria together with the police and Civil Administration undaunted by violence directed at it.” Monday saw tensions running high among West Bank settlers, ahead of the possible eviction of outposts. Hundreds of police officers and IDF soldiers were deployed in the Kedumim area and the sector supervised by the Shomron Spatial Brigade, equipped with bulldozers. Sources told Ynet that the illegal West Bank outpost of Mitzpe Yitzhar is likely to be evacuated overnight. Hundreds of settlers and right-wing activists gathered on the premises, as well as at the nearby outpost of Ramat Gilad.

Heads of the settlement movement held intense talks on the issue with various government representatives throughout the day. Yesha Council head Danny Dayan was told that Defense Minister Ehud Barak had decided to cause negotiations held recently on the matter to break down and that forces are preparing to clear Mitzpe Yitzhar and Ramat Gilad.

MK Yaakov Katz (National Union) turned to two ministers and 20 MKs to pressure Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the matter. He claimed that Netanyahu had intervened by ordering to spare Ramart Gilad and evacuate only Mitzpe Yitzhar. Mitzpe Yitzhar is adjacent to the settlement of Yitzhar and is home to five families and 20 more singles. Some 150 members of the Hilltop Youth camped out in Ramat Gilad on Monday night intending to resist any eviction attempt.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Middle East

Caught on Camera: Shocking Moment Turkish Police Beat Handcuffed Woman… And Now She Faces Jail for ‘Reckless Behaviour’

A group of Turkish policemen have sparked national outrage after they were caught on camera repeatedly slapping a woman in the face, throwing her to the ground and pulling her hair.

CCTV footage shows Fevziye Cengiz, who had been arrested after a nightclub raid for not having her ID, being beaten at the Izmir police station even after she had been handcuffed.

A high-ranking Turkish government minister is now calling for the speedy punishment of the officers — who are facing 18 months in prison for ‘causing injury through excessive force’.

Scroll down for video…

But, in a bizarre twist, Cengiz herself is facing six years in jail for ‘resisting arrest and reckless behaviour’.

Fatma Sahin, Turkey’s family and social policies minister, said: ‘The incident in Izmir is unacceptable and we definitely consider this incident as one for which the perpetrators should be punished.

‘There is political will and state authority to take the required action in a speedy way. Therefore, both legal and administrative investigations have been launched and those policemen are suspended.’

But Sahina also said the case was ‘an individual mistake’ and suggested it was not typical of all Turkish police.

Cengiz, who was dressed in shorts and a tank-top, is seen having a heated argument with two plain-clothed police officers.

Suddenly they start slapping her and yanking her hair. She is later wrestled to the ground. After being handcuffed, she is held against a wall and slapped in the face.

The incident took place in July but only provoked anger this week after the silent video was broadcast by Turkish television.

Cengiz’s lawyer Hanife Yildirim told CNN: ‘The violence against my client, which started when she was taken with the excuse that she did not have her ID, continued at the police station.

‘When I met my client almost a week later, she still had a black eye and there were other marks on her.’ Cengiz, on her release, filed a formal complaint against the police. But police pressed criminal charges against her for resisting arrest and ‘reckless behaviour’.

Yildirim added: ‘She is facing up to six years imprisonment. The charge against the policemen is ‘cause of injury through excessive force’ with up to 18 months punishment.’

The case sparked outrage throughout the media and among human rights groups in Turkey.

Coskun Usterci, of the Turkish Human Rights Foundation, said complaints of police torture had actually risen in 2011.

He also argued that the exposure of Cengiz’s case was a rarity, because under usual circumstances the in-house police station video camera would have been tampered with.

The two police officers shown beating Cengiz are expected to appear in court in February 2012.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

Gulf: Saudi Arabia Takes Over From UAE as Financial Hub

(ANSAmed) — DUBAI, DECEMBER 14 — The United Arab Emirates have lost their place as the financial heart of region to Saudi Arabia, according to a report by the World Economic Forum.

The Saudi kingdom has come in 23rd in an international league table for financial development, ahead of the UAE and Bahrain, whose prime position in the Middle East has been uncontested until now.

Saudi Arabia has come out on top in terms of “financial stability” and, the report says, “the country’s strength is to be attributed to its banking and monetary systems as well as to the low risks associated with the sovereign debt crisis”. The stability is underwritten by the kingdom’s enormous available oil reserves.

Up to the beginning of the present century, Bahrain was the uncontested financial services hub of the regions. But over recent months the country has witnessed some of the most serious incidents of the Arab Spring, damaging its reputation for stability. For its part, the UAE had overtaken the leadership role from Bahrain from 2006 onwards thanks to dizzying growth rate. But Dubai’s upward course came to a sudden halt with the global economic crisis which has brought its real estate sector — a pivotal sector of its economy — to its knees.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Iraq: Christian Couple Killed in Mosul

(AGI) Baghdad — Two Christians, a man and wife, have been killed in an armed attack in Mosul in north-west Iraq. Security forces reported the incident, saying that the killers blocked the couple’s car and gunned them down.

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

Lebanon: Hezbollah Reveals Names of Alleged CIA Agents

Washington, ‘only propaganda’

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, DECEMBER 14 — The Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah has started what it has defined as an “intelligence war” with the CIA. The movement has in fact revealed what it has presented as the identity of some secret agents of the American agency in Beirut, including station chief Daniel Patrick Mcfeely. But the CIA has responded from Washington that the move is nothing but “propaganda”.

Hezbollah revealed the names last week via television station Al Manar. The station mentioned the names of Mcfeely, as well as his predecessor until 2009, according to Al Manar, Louis Kahi.

“It should be pointed out” said CIA spokesperson Jennifer Youngblood, quoted by the Washington Post, “that Hezbollah is a dangerous organisation, and that Al Manar is its propaganda instrument. This fact alone should be enough to shed doubts on the credibility of these statements.” In the past days, a Hezbollah deputy, Nawwaf Mussawi, said that CIA agents were “openly having meetings in restaurants and night clubs” with their potential Lebanese informers. Mussawi has asked the government to end these activities.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Qatar Names Its Largest Mosque After Muslim Scholar

The mosque was renamed in honour of Mohammad Ibn Abdul Wahab

Manama: Qatar has named its largest mosque after Imam Mohammad Ibn Abdul Wahab, the influential Muslim scholar who lived in the 18th century in today’s Saudi Arabia.

“The mosque naming directive by the Emir Shaikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani is in honour of the reformer’s position and a reflection of Qatar’s keenness on the revival of the nation’s symbols and civilization values,” Qatar News Agency (QNA) reported on Tuesday. Ibn Abdul Wahab (1703-1792) preached a return to “pure Islam” and called for purging Islam of what he considered “impurities and negative innovations.” In his teachings, he urged Muslims to uphold only “the original principles of Islam as typified by the Salaf” and to reject “corruptions introduced by bidah (negative innovations and heresy). The scholar emphasized that there could be no intercession between God and worshippers.

According to Ibn Abdul Wahab, the “Quran and the Prophet’s Sayings are the only fundamental and authoritative texts, while commentaries and examples from the early Muslims are used only to support these texts and cannot be considered independently authoritative.” Ibn Abdul Wahab’s teachings are dominant in Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The new mosque in the Khuwair area in Doha can accommodate 10,000 worshippers at a time. It has a total area of about 19,550 square metres on three levels, with a land area of 175,000 square metres and incorporates traditional Islamic architectural elements. The striking feature of this domed beauty is more than two dozen big domes and as many small domes making up the upper portion of the structure.

[JP note: Not a good omen for the West and its allies.]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Stakelbeck on Terror Show: Arab Spring Turns Islamist Winter

On this week’s edition of the Stakelbeck on Terror show, we analyze the Muslim Brotherhood’s recent success across the Middle East and North Africa, and show how the group

is making major inroads across Europe (featuring an on-the-ground report from Norway with exclusive info) and even in the United States government.

We also sits down with Israeli Defense Forces spokeswoman Lt. Col. Avital Leibovich to discuss the threats gathering against Israel.

And a leading Iran expert explains why the mad mullahs would not hesitate to use a nuclear weapon.

All that and much more. Click the link above to watch.

           — Hat tip: Erick Stakelbeck [Return to headlines]

South Asia

Indonesia: Ambon: More Muslim-Christian Violence: 16 Injured, Houses Burnt

More unrest in the Moluccas, long-time site of sectarian clashes. Police seize weapons, including Molotov cocktails, arrows and machetes. On December 12, two wounded in an ambush. The central government condemns the incidents and calls for respect for the law. Army chief claims the situation is “under control”.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) — 16 people were wounded, one from a gunshot wound to the chest, in sectarian violence in the city of Ambon, the capital of the Moluccas. At dawn yesterday two opposing factions, separated by a road, clashed in a bitter battle at the end of which some houses were set on fire. Local sources said that the violence began late in the evening of December 12, with an exchange of insults and the throwing of fire bombs between the two opposing camps. Overnight, the situation degenerated to the point of urban warfare, only quelled by police intervention. Officers seized several weapons including Molotov cocktails and “traditional” arrows, machetes and spears.

Yesterday’s clashes followed just 24 hours after a previous episode of violence: on December 12 two people were seriously injured, following a knife attack, so far the police are not able to identify the assailants. Ambon police chief, Soeharwiyono, said yesterday that the violence is linked to the events of 11 September, when street clashes broke out between the Muslim majority and Christian minority.

The clashes were triggered by the accidental death of a Muslim taxi driver. The rumor spread among the Islamic community that he had been attacked by Christians and, in street battles that ensued, nine people were killed and 60 others injured. In late September, however, the police found three pipe bombs inside the Maranatha Protestant church, near the local bus station. The intervention of bomb disposal units averted further bloodshed.

Meanwhile in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country, the political controversy surrounding yesterday’s violence is mounting: Djoko Suyanto, ex army chief and Coordinating Minister for Legal, Political and Security Affairs strongly condemns the incident, at the same time, he has ordered the governor of the Moluccas and the chief of security in the region to “take appropriate measures” to contain further outbreaks of tension. In Jakarta Indonesian army chief Agus Suharto claims that the situation is now “under control”.

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

Indonesia: Bogor: Offer to Move Church May be “A Fatal Trap”

The Council of Yasmin Church rejects the Interior Ministry offer to find three alternative sites for the construction of the church opposed by the Mayor of Bogor. After the Supreme Court ruling, in favor of Yasmins Church, “The Ministry of Interior must apply the law, not the contrary.”

Bogor (AsiaNews) — The Indonesian Ministry of Interior has put forward a way to end the controversy over the construction of the Yasmin Church: namely, to propose three alternative locations to the Church Council (GKI) compared to the initial site, which generated the dispute . But the Church of Yasmin Council says that changing the site is not the solution, but only adds a new chapter to a new problem.

Opposition to the church building stemmed originally from the Mayor of Bogor, Diani Budiarto, who opposes the construction and now this opposition is supported by the Interior Minister Gamawan Fauzi, who said today to agree with Budiarto’s proposal: namely move the construction of the church to another place. According to Fauzi, the authorities in West Java have offered three sites that could be used for Yasmin Church, as an alternative to the place in dispute.

Yasmin Church spokesman, Bona Sigalingging however, tells AsiaNews that this option is not a solution to the problem, namely civil disobedience by Bogor Mayor Diani Budiarto. Even if the authorities in West Java offered three different locations free of charge, as announced by the Minister of the Interior, the GKI would not accept the offer. “We will not accept any proposal of that type. In our opinion, any offer to move the site of the church is illegal. “ Bona complained about a series of “infringements of the law” committed by the Interior Ministry, which overlook the verdict issued by the Indonesian Supreme Court. “The state, of which the Interior Ministry is part, must apply the law, and not the opposite, offering alternative solutions to end the dispute,” he said.

The GKI’s strong opposition to the relocation project is based on two basic reasons, according to Sigalingging. The first is of a legal nature, neither the Ombudsman nor the Indonesian Supreme Court has ever issued an option to place the construction of the Church elsewhere. Then there is a historical reason. The faithful of Citeking to Bekasi in West Java, received the offer to relocate the permanent site of the church in a hall owned by the local authority from Bekasi authorities. But the continuity of Sunday services is becoming uncertain.

“We will never accept this offer, because it could be a fatal trap for a religious minority group. The faithful have received the promise of Citeking local authorities to have their church, but so far the promise has vanished in the wind. “ He also rejects claims by followers of Budiarto, that the Yasmin Church used false signatures for the permit and says this must be brought to the attention of the judges. “It is absolutely immoral and illegal that a charge based on false arguments become the basis of the government’s decision to move the site of construction,” says the spokesman of the Church Yasmin.

Here are some videos related to the issue:

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

Indonesia: This Won’t Make These Punks’ Day: Rock Fans Have Heads Shaved and Get ‘Cleansed’ In River in Islamic Law Crackdown

Dozens of young punk rock fans have had their heads shaved and body piercings confiscated after police in Indonesia said they were a threat to Islamic values.

The 59 male and six female music lovers were also stripped of dog-collar necklaces and chains and then thrown in pools of water for ‘spiritual’ cleansing, police chief Iskandar Hasan said.

After replacing their ‘disgusting’ clothes, he handed each a toothbrush and barked ‘use it’.

The 65 youths were then sent to a police school to receive mental and spiritual guidance for ten days. Only then are they are allowed to return home.

It was the latest effort by authorities to promote strict moral values in Aceh, the only province in the secular but predominantly Muslim nation of 240million people to have imposed Islamic laws.

Adultery is punishable by stoning to death; homosexuals have been thrown in jail or lashed in public with canes; women are told that wearing headscarves is a must, but tight trousers are banned.

Punk rockers have complained for months about harassment, but Saturday’s round-up was by far the most dramatic treatment they have yet been subjected to.

Baton-wielding police broke up the concert, scattering young music lovers.

Dozens were loaded into vans and taken to a police detention centre in the hills, 30miles from the provincial capital, Banda Aceh, for ‘re-education’.

They will be held there for at least ten days, after which they will be returned to their parents.

Fauzan, a 20-year-old punk, was mortified.

‘Why? Why my hair?!’ he said, pointing to his cleanly shaven head. ‘We didn’t hurt anyone.

‘This is how we’ve chosen to express ourselves. Why are they treating us like criminals?’

Chief Hasan insisted he had done nothing wrong.

He said: ‘We’re not torturing anyone. We’re not violating human rights. We’re just trying to put them back on the right moral path.’

Aceh was given semi-autonomy as part of a peace deal with Indonesia’s central government after the province agreed to end a separatist struggle in 2005.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

Latin America

Iran, Venezuela, And a Cyber Attack in the Making

From Venezuela’s El Nacional, Iran may be planning a cyber attack against the USA

The Venezuelan connection

The onslaught would be against the information technology systems of the White House, nuclear power plants and federal agencies, such as CIA, FBI, the Pentagon and the top-secret National Security Agency (NSA). Some of the meetings were held inside the Venezuelan mission in the Mexican capital city, according to the pseudo-pirate

According to Gómez, the embassies both of Iran and Venezuela were willing to retrieve the passwords to access to the nuclear power plants to “directly attack security systems.”…

           — Hat tip: Fausta [Return to headlines]

U.S. Authorities Probing Alleged Cyberattack Plot by Venezuela, Iran

U.S. officials are investigating reports that Iranian and Venezuelan diplomats in Mexico were involved in planned cyberattacks against U.S. targets, including nuclear power plants.

Allegations about the cyberplot were aired last week in a documentary on the Spanish-language TV network Univision, which included secretly recorded footage of Iranian and Venezuelan diplomats being briefed on the planned attacks and promising to pass information to their governments.

A former computer instructor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico told Univision that he was recruited by a professor there in 2006 to organize a group of student hackers to carry out cyberattacks against the United States, initially at the behest of the Cuban Embassy.

In an undercover sting, instructor Juan Carlos Munoz Ledo and several selected students infiltrated the hackers and secretly videotaped the Iranian and Venezuelan diplomats.

Reports about Iran’s involvement in the suspected plot come amid the Islamic republic’s refusal to return a sophisticated, unmanned U.S. spy plane that crashed inside its borders this month. Iranian officials have laid claim to the drone, vowing to research it for its technology.

Calling the reports “disturbing,” State Department spokesman William Ostick said federal authorities are examining the cyberplot allegations but added that U.S. officials “don’t have any information at this point to corroborate them.”

Sen. Robert Menendez, New Jersey Democrat and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, called for hearings in the new year about Iranian activities in Latin America.

Some House lawmakers called for the expulsion of a Venezuelan diplomat in the U.S. who is implicated in the suspected plot.

The Univision documentary fanned fears among lawmakers that Iran’s recent diplomatic outreach in the region, particularly to Venezuela’s anti-American leftist President Hugo Chavez, might be a front for nefarious activities.

Earlier this year, U.S. prosecutors charged an Iranian official based in Tehran with trying to recruit a Mexican drug cartel to kill the Saudi ambassador to the United States by bombing a Washington restaurant.

“If Iran is using regional actors to facilitate and direct activities against the United States, this would represent a substantial increase in the level of the Iranian threat and would necessitate an immediate response,” Mr. Menendez said.

An aide to Mr. Menendez told The Times that the Univision report, which also said that Iranian extremists were recruiting young Latin American Muslims, is “one of a variety of concerns we have about Iran’s efforts to engage with countries and other actors in the region.”

Next year’s hearing will examine Iran’s “political and commercial outreach, as well as more nefarious activities,” the aide said.

“We monitor Iran’s activities in the region closely,” Mr. Ostick said. “That vigilance led to the arrest of the individual responsible for the recent assassination plot” against the Saudi ambassador.

“We constantly monitor for possible connections between terrorists and transnational criminals.”…

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes [Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

UK: ‘It’s Totally Bonkers’: Cambridge University Dons Warned Not to Shake Hands With Muslims or Disabled People in Case it Offends Them

Academics at Cambridge University have reacted with dismay after being ordered not to shake hands automatically with Muslims or disabled people in case it upsets them.

A directive sent to admissions tutors warns that some applicants are ‘culturally sensitive’ to traditional greetings and suggests that ‘suitable body language’ is just as welcoming.

A spokesman for the university said: ‘Dons should read the situation properly and bear in mind that not all people will want to shake hands.’

He said the warning related in particular to Muslim women and some people with disabilities.

Some tutors say they have been made to feel like ‘social misfits’ as a result.

One, who did not want to be named, said: ‘It seems to be totally bonkers. We know when to shake someone’s hand and when not to.’

‘All this seems to be stupid and pointless and could make interviews even more awkward.’

Sally Hunt, the University College Union general secretary, said: ‘While I am sure this advice is well-intentioned, academics are grown-ups and are intelligent enough to know when to shake a person’s hand or not.’

Cambridge University moved to integrate female Muslim students further in 2009 when it decided to allow them to wear burkas at graduation ceremonies.

By tradition, students are required to wear dark suits and white shirts under their graduation gowns.

The university had clamped down on breaches of the rules after officials complained students were increasingly wearing casual clothes to ceremonies.

But it clarified that clothing linked to religious observance, such as burkas, would still be allowed.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

News Feed 20111213

Financial Crisis
» Fed Keeps Rates Unchanged
» Greece: Troika Asks for Another 150,000 Layoffs
» Italy: Cuts to MPs’ Salaries Taken Out of Govt’s Hands
» Frank Gaffney: Silencing the Watchdogs of Religious Freedom
» NASA Blasted for Losing Space Samples in the Mail
» TCC [Tarrant County Colleges] Professor’s Lecture on Islam Causes Controversy
» Canada Withdraws as Kyoto Protocol Signatory
» Mixed Reaction From Calgary’s Islamic Community at Niqab Ruling
Europe and the EU
» Attack in Belgian City Leaves 4 Dead, 75 Wounded
» Belgium Grenade Attack Leaves at Least Two Dead
» Belgium: Liege Rampage: Deadly Grenade Attack in Belgium (Video, Photos)
» Belgium Grenade, Gun Attack Kills at Least Two, Injures 64
» Belgium Grenade Attack: Latest
» France: Nanterre: 350 Muslims Pray in Street to Ask for Legalisation of Mosque
» Greece: Israeli, US Interest in Oil and Gas Projects
» Italians Help Glimpse ‘God Particle’
» LHC Sees Hint of Lightweight Higgs Boson
» Lone Gunman Kills One, Wounds 64 in Belgian City Attack
» Man Shoots Christmas Shoppers in Belgium, Kills Three
» Norway Butter Crisis Eased
» Norwegian Peace-Researcher: Israel Behind Breivik?
» Switzerland: Anti-Islam Group Fights Fribourg Ban
» UK: Brain Scans Should Not be Used in Court… For Now
» UK: Plans Submitted for Eco-Friendly Mosques
» UK: Silly Me, I Didn’t Realise the Rioters Were Victims
» Woman Risks Jail for Wearing Full Veil in France
North Africa
» Libya: Qatar to Rebuild Post-Gaddafi Media System
Middle East
» Turkey: Jewish Community Wants Protection in New Constitution
» War Games: Iran to Close Strait of Hormuz
South Asia
» Pakistan: Chained and in Tears: Children Found in Basement as Police Raid Islamic School Thought to be a ‘Taliban Training Centre’
Far East
» China’s Ten-Year WTO Membership Overshadowed
» Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu: Illegal Immigration ‘A National Calamity’
Culture Wars
» UK: The Teenage Politics of the British Churches Are Summed Up by Their Pathetic Christmas Poster

Financial Crisis

Fed Keeps Rates Unchanged

The Federal Reserve said Tuesday that it will take no new steps to boost economic growth this year, citing mounting evidence that the American economy is chugging slowly toward good health.

The Fed said that recent improvements in the economy came despite the deterioration of global conditions, and it noted the continuing risk that a European meltdown could undermine the nascent American recovery.

[Return to headlines]

Greece: Troika Asks for Another 150,000 Layoffs

By 2015 to drastically reduce public spending

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, DECEMBER 13 — The troika is asking the Greek government to lay off another 150,000 civil servants, according to reports in the Greek newspapers today, which specified that this is only one of the measures that representatives for Greece’s international creditors requested yesterday during a meeting with Greece’s Minister for Administrative Reform, Dimitris Reppas. The minister, according to the Greek dailies, told troika representatives Matthias Mors, Mark Flamagan and Bob Traa that the measure to temporarily suspend jobs for surplus workers did not give the desired results because it was implemented too quickly and without a proper evaluation of the public sector. Also, according to a statement from the ministry, Reppas informed them about a series of reforms carried out in Greece since August 29 when the troika reps made their last visit to the country.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Cuts to MPs’ Salaries Taken Out of Govt’s Hands

Deadline of Dec. 31 set for proposals

(ANSA) — Rome, December 13 — A plan to cut Italian MPs salaries was taken out of the hands of Mario Monti’s government’s emergency government on Tuesday, at least for the moment.

Italian parliamentarians’ pay is well over the European average, according to many experts, and the issue has been at the centre of a major controversy, with Monti’s administration asking the nation to make big sacrifices to get Italy out of its debt crisis.

Monti’s so-called Save Italy package had stipulated that MPs’ salaries would be cut with a government decree, but this item was amended on Tuesday following protests from many parties.

Some commentators have said the MPs are reluctant to have their salaries touched, which suggests they do not want to do their bit to help the country of of the crisis.

Many MPs argue this is not the case, saying they will move fast on introducing cuts once it is clear how much higher their salaries are above the European average.

A parliamentary committee has been tasked with preparing a report on the average pay for MPs across the continent and drafting proposals for changes to salaries in Italy.

Tuesday’s amendment stated that if the committee does not finish its work by December 31, “parliament and the government, each in their own field of competence, will take immediate initiatives suited to achieving the objectives”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]


Frank Gaffney: Silencing the Watchdogs of Religious Freedom

We have been hearing a lot about the Muslim Brotherhood lately — and none of it is good news. Get used to it. With the Brotherhood’s ascendancy in the Middle East, North Africa, Turkey and beyond, the world is going to be subjected to a crash course in Islamist supremacism — and what it means for the rest of us.

We were on notice even before the Egyptian elections in which the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and their allies secured upwards of sixty percent of the votes in that country’s new, post-Mubarak parliament — and the murderous violence towards Coptic Christians that preceded them. A reminder came on December 7th when a three-judge panel of the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously affirmed convictions ofleaders of the MB-associated Holy Land Foundation. The earlier trial in 2008 did much to expose the totalitarian, supremacist nature and seditious objectives of that group, elsewhere and here in the United States…

           — Hat tip: CSP [Return to headlines]

NASA Blasted for Losing Space Samples in the Mail

We’re used to cheques getting lost in the mail — but moon dust? A recent report blasts NASA for losing hundreds of rock and dust samples from the moon and elsewhere — and the space agency says in some cases the postal service was to blame. NASA has a treasure trove of some of the world’s rarest materials: moon rocks, a pinch of comet dust netted by the Stardust space probe and Martian meteorites gathered from Antarctica. But hundreds of these samples have been lost or stolen over the years, according to a new report by NASA’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG), which provides independent oversight of the agency.

NASA officials told OIG investigators that 517 samples had been reported lost or stolen between 1970 and June 2010. Some of these were recovered not long after they went missing, including a stolen batch of over 200 lunar samples. But many appear to be lost to science forever, and the losses continue. In March, OIG investigators started checking on materials loaned to 59 US researchers. They found 22 meteorite samples and 2 comet dust samples from the Stardust mission were missing.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

TCC [Tarrant County Colleges] Professor’s Lecture on Islam Causes Controversy

FORT WORTH — The evening of Nov. 8 is being described as infamous by some students in Paul Derengowski’s Great Religions of the World class at Tarrant County College’s Southeast Campus. That’s when the second of the professor’s two lectures on Islam ended in a headline-grabbing controversy. Two Muslim students questioned Derengowski’s source material and objectivity. The students later aired their concerns to the college administration — a move that resulted in Derengowski’s Nov. 15 resignation and prompted other students to file grievances that question the college’s handling of the situation. Derengowski says the college took the politically correct route by focusing on his lesson rather than disciplining the students, who he said berated him and disrupted his class. “My recommendation was expulsion,” he said, explaining that the only way he would return to TCC if is the college apologizes, expels the students with failing grades and allows him to resume his lessons without stipulations that he be neutral.

The Muslim students believed that Derengowski, who on his website lists Islam as a cult, was disparaging their religion. Randa Bedair, one of the students involved, told the Star-Telegram that she was trying to stay out of the limelight and declined to comment. The male student could not be reached for comment. The case is an example for some in the Muslim community of how religious history or philosophy classes need to be handled through a neutral and impartial lens. When a professor’s objectivity is questioned, it detracts from the lesson, they said. “In terms of religion, we need to be religious neutral in terms of giving edicts about what you think religion is,” said Mustafaa Carroll, executive of CAIR Texas, an affiliate of the Council on American Islamic Relations. The Derengowski case is pending an investigation, said Frank Griffis, TCC spokesman. He said TCC won’t provide information while college officials are looking into it.


           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]


Canada Withdraws as Kyoto Protocol Signatory

(AGI) Ottawa — The Kyoto Protocol, even after the Durban Conference’s near failure, continues to lose signatories.

Canada has announced it is to withdraw from the emissions and climate change agreement.

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

Mixed Reaction From Calgary’s Islamic Community at Niqab Ruling

Zaheera Tariq looks back with pride on the day she became a Canadian citizen. The South African-born mother of three took her oath of citizenship alongside dozens of other new immigrants at the Harry Hays Building downtown five years ago. It was a happy day, joyful even- nothing like Monday when Tariq learned that from now on Muslim women who observe the custom of wearing a face-covering, like the niqab, will be required to remove it before taking the oath of citizenship. “It was really depressing to hear this news,” said Tariq, president of the Islamic Association of Canadian Women. “If a woman wants citizenship she must take off her niqab — but if she takes off her niqab, she is violating her (beliefs).” Tariq wears the hijab, a head scarf that doesn’t hide the face, but she supports women who make the choice to cover more. “When I go outdoors I don’t care if I’m in a bikini or a burka because in Canada I’m free to do what I want, as long as (it’s) not against the law,” said Tariq. “I think we should just honour and respect each other’s choices.”

But new Canadians won’t have a choice when it comes to swearing the oath of citizenship. Immigration Minister Jason Kenney announced Monday that effective immediately Muslim women will now have to remove their niqabs, burkas and other face-coverings before crossing that final hurdle toward becoming a Canadian citizen. Reaction from the local Muslim community was mixed.


           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Attack in Belgian City Leaves 4 Dead, 75 Wounded

LIEGE, Belgium (AP) — A man armed with grenades and an assault rifle attacked holiday shoppers Tuesday at a central square in the Belgian city of Liege, leaving four people dead and wounding 75 others, officials said.

It was not immediately clear what motivated the attack in the busy Place Saint-Lambert, the central entry point to downtown shopping streets in the industrial city in eastern Belgium. The attack ignited a stampede of hundreds, as shoppers fled the explosions and bullets.

Interior Ministry official Peter Mertens said the attack did not involve terrorism but did not explain why he thought that.

Belgian officials identified the attacker as Norodine Amrani, 33, a Liege resident who they said had done jail time for offenses involving guns, drugs and sexual abuse. He was among the dead, but Liege Prosecutor Danielle Reynders told reporters it was unclear if he committed suicide or died by accident. He did not die at the hands of police, she said.

The dead also included two teenage boys, 15 and 17, and a 75-year-old woman, she said. The La Libre newspaper reported that a 2-year-old girl was clinging to life.

Reynders said Amrani had been summoned for police questioning on Tuesday but the reason for the questioning was not clear. He still had a number of grenades with him when he died, she said.

Officials said Amrani left his home in Liege with a backpack, armed with hand grenades, a revolve and an FAL assault rifle. He walked alone to the central square, then got onto a platform that gave him an ideal view of the square below, which was bedecked with a huge Christmas tree and crowded with shoppers.

From there, Amrani lobbed three hand grenades toward a nearby bus shelter, which serves 1,800 buses a day, then opened fire on the crowd. The explosions sent glass from the bus shelter across a wide area.

“I heard a loud boom,” said witness Dimitri Degryse. “I thought it was something on my car that was broken or something. Then a few seconds after a second boom, and I saw all the glass breaking, I saw people running, screaming.”

As soon as the shooting began, hundreds of people fled the square as well as a Christmas market in an adjacent square, rampaging through old city streets looking for cover. Video from the scene showed people, including a large group of children, fleeing the city center, some still carrying shopping bags.

As police hunted for possible accomplices, residents were ordered to stay in their homes or seek shelter in shops or public buildings. As sirens howled and a police chopper roared overhead, a medical post was set up in the nearby courtyard of the Prince Bishops courthouse. Dozens of emergency vehicles took victims away for treatment.

Police closed off the area but found no accomplices and calm returned a few hours after.

The Place Saint-Lambert and the nearby Place du Marche host Liege’s annual Christmas market, which consists of 200 tiny shops and attracts some 1.5 million visitors a year. By dusk, with the Christmas lights gleaming again, King Albert II and Queen Paola came to pay their respects, as did Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo.

[Return to headlines]

Belgium Grenade Attack Leaves at Least Two Dead

At least two people have been killed and up to 47 others wounded when up to four grenades exploded outside the main courthouse in the eastern Belgian city of Liege.

The attack took place around noon on Saint-Lambert square, home to the town’s courthouse and located near a busy Christmas market, Belga news agency said.

A two-year-old child is reportedly fighting for life in hospital. Six other victims are said to be gravely injured.

One of two or more assailants threw stun grenades into the courthouse while another was hurled at a bus shelter, RTL-TV1 said.

Shots were fired across the square by gunmen posted on the rooftop of a bakery shop, with further shots heard later from across town.

Police cordoned off the square and gave chase to the assailants, one of whom was reportedly killed. The gunmen are thought to be hiding in Liege cathedral.

Gaspard Grosjean, a journalist for La Meuse Liege on the scene, told The Daily Telegraph there was panic and confusion on the streets of Liege.

“There is at least one dead and the attacker. Police are looking for another shooter. There are lots of ambulances and many casualties — at least 10 people.

“At the moment you can’t move in the city centre. People are crying and in shock — they do not know what is going on. Everyone has been told to stay inside and are hiding in shops.”

Local bus operator TEC said that its buses were no longer able to enter the city centre. A museum located on the square said it had taken in injured people.

“As we are very close and we have an open space where you can enter and leave with no problem. I can say there were injured, but don’t ask me if it’s five, seven, eight or nine. I don’t know,” said Archeoforum director Jean-Jacques Messiaen.

Police were not immediately contactable to confirm the toll or events.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

Belgium: Liege Rampage: Deadly Grenade Attack in Belgium (Video, Photos)

A grenade attack has killed up to four people and injured 75 on Tuesday in the eastern Belgian city of Liege, according to media reports quoting police sources. Although accounts differ, local authorities are now saying there was only one assailant. Liege Prosecutor Danielle Reynders said that a 15-year old boy, a 17 year-old girl and an elderly woman were among the dead, the Associated Press (AP) reports. Seven people have been taken to hospital with serious injuries, and a two-year old baby is in a critical condition. Interior Ministry official Peter Mertens said Tuesday that there was only one assailant, and that person had died in the attack. The Belgian Newspaper Le Soir has identified the attacker as 32-year-old Nordine Amrani.

Eyewitnesses had previously said that up to three men opened fire on a crowd and proceeded to lob grenades at a bus station in Place Saint Lambert Square. Police immediately cordoned off the area, as several suspect objects were reportedly found at the scene.Police now claim to have the situation under control. Previous reports had also stated that a second suspect has been detained, while the Belgian public broadcaster reports a third assailant is still at large. Police have urged people to stay home or seek shelter in shops or public buildings. Radio Television Belge Francophone says all buses have been asked to leave the city center. Many shops in the surrounding area have been shut down, leaving customers stranded inside, the Associated Press reports. Police helicopters are currently circling the city, as a first aid post has been set up in the courtyard of the palace of the Prince Bishops Courthouse. A museum located on the square says it has taken in many of the injured. “As we are very close and we have an open space where you can enter and leave with no problem. I can say there were injured, but don’t ask me if it’s five, seven, eight or nine. I don’t know,” said Archeoforum director Jean-Jacques Messiaen, Reuters cites him as saying.

Other unconfirmed reports claim that one of the attackers managed to flee inside the courthouse located on the square. RTL-TV1 television had previously said the gunmen threw stun grenades into the courthouse while one was thrown at a bus shelter in the area, RTE news reports. There is speculation that the attack might be connected with the country’s first “honor killing” trial, which concluded this week. On Monday, a Belgian court sentenced four members of a Pakistani family over the shooting death of 20-year-old Sadia Sheikh in October 2007. Other reports have said the attack was connected with a failed prison break from the nearby courthouse. However, no motive has been established for the attack.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Belgium Grenade, Gun Attack Kills at Least Two, Injures 64

(CNN) — A grenade and gun attack in the eastern Belgian city of Liege left at least two people dead and 64 wounded Tuesday, a spokeswoman for the governor of Liege province said. A post on the Twitter feed of the Belgian Crisis Center said “one lone individual” had opened fire and was dead. “The situation is under control at present,” the post said. Spokeswoman Katrin Delcourt of the provincial governor’s office earlier said that police were searching for at least one suspect. A source close to the government, who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak to the media, told CNN that a man had thrown explosives in a city center square, Place Saint Lambert. “We are not sure how many injured and dead there are,” he said. “We believe the man died in the explosion. We are also investigating the possibility of a second attacker. “There has been a meeting of the Internal Affairs department to try to gather as much information as possible.”

Liege resident Kevin Hauzeur told CNN he ducked for cover as he heard a “huge explosion and two or three gun shots.” A lot of people were in the area at the time to shop at a Christmas market, Hauzeur said. The crowd was “spinning around, crying — it was really chaotic,” he said. He said he had seen what appeared to be the body of an attacker before police cleared everyone from the area. Police told him the man had shot himself, Hauzeur said. Charles Boisoin, a Liege resident whose apartment overlooks the city center, told CNN he and his neighbors have been told they are not allowed to leave their homes. He said the city center is virtually deserted and all he can hear and see is helicopters flying overhead.

Photos purportedly from the scene, posted on Twitter by Gaspard Grosjean, showed blood on the sidewalk, as well as police officers and vehicles gathered near the scene. The Liege fire department said it was responding to an emergency but declined to give details. No one has yet claimed responsibility for the attack.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Belgium Grenade Attack: Latest

At least two people have been killed and dozens wounded when up to four grenades exploded outside the main courthouse in the eastern Belgian city of Liege.

16.27 Still confusion over whether the Liege gunman committed suicide or died by accident: [Twitter] #Liege: police still inquiring if the attacker committed suicide. No confirmation still

16.09 Officials now say Amrani was on his way for police questioning when he launched the attack. Liege Prosecutor Danielle Reynders said the attack, in which the man lobbed three grenades and opened fire, resulted in the deaths of the gunman and three other people — a 15-year-old boy, a 17-year-old girl and a 75-year-old woman. Seventy-five people were wounded. La Libre Belgique newspaper reported that a 2-year-old girl was clinging to life. Officials say he had more grenades with him.

16.00 Officials say Liege gunman had criminal record involving guns, drugs and sex offenses

15.59 Tributes to the dead in Liege continue to pour in on twitter: MY thoughts and prayers go out to the people Belgian city of Liege such sad news that people have loss there lives and many injured… RIP

15.51 In another shocking attack in Europe today, a far-Right lone gunman shot dead two Senegalese street vendors and seriously wounded a third in broad daylight at a market in Florence, before killing himself, according to reports:

Eyewitnesses said they saw the middle-aged man getting out of a white car and firing three shots with a handgun before driving off again, according to a report on the website of La Repubblica daily. Reports named the gunman as Gianluca Casseri, 50, who was a member of the Italian Far Right. A report by ANSA news agency quoted a newspaper seller saying he tried to block the man but was told: “Get out of the way, or I’ll bump you off next.”

15:43 Prosecutor Daniele Reynders said the gunman, Nordine Amrani, was among the four dead, along with a 15-year-old who died instantly, and a 17-year-old boy and a 75-year-old woman who died later in hospital.

15:28 Ahead of the press conference, which we hope might shed some light on Amrani‘s motives, the situation is thought to be as follows: there are four dead, including the lone attacker, and about 64 injured.

15:25 Such was the mobile phone traffic in the immediate aftermath of the incident, that many of the networks crashed.

15:21 The injured have been taken to six different hospitals. At Citadelle Hospital the majority were aged between 17 and 20 years old, mostly injured by flying debris.

15:18 A Belgian Interior Ministry official, Peter Mertens, says there was only one attacker, who was killed in the incident, adding that it was not related to terrorism.

15:13 The BBC is reporting claims that the grenades were dropped from rooftops by a man in his 40s.


           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

France: Nanterre: 350 Muslims Pray in Street to Ask for Legalisation of Mosque

On Thursday 9 December around 350 Muslims prayed in the street in front of the City Hall in Nanterre (Hauts-de-Seine) to ask the mayor to legalise a place of worship that has been temporarily established near the towers of the business district of La Défense. A big tent that serves as a mosque was set up in early October by the mayor of the neighbouring town of Puteaux, on land he owns but which is located within the territory of Nanterre. “We need a building permit to be granted in order to legalise the erection of the tent and obtain heating. But Patrick Jarry [the Gauche Citoyenne mayor of Nanterre] has refused to do this,” said Hassan Ben M’Barek, head of the Front des Banlieues Indépendant (FBI), explaining the origin of the street prayers. “We are asking Mr Jarry to show some humanity and common sense instead of keeping us in the cold. And that he stops holding us hostage to political quarrels with the UMP mayor of Puteaux” (Joëlle Ceccaldi-Reynaud), stated Abdellah Mouhine, spokesperson for the Association Solidarité Islamique of Puteaux. According to an associate of Patrick Jarry, “it is the prefect of Hauts-de-Seine and not the mayor of Nanterre who has to grant planning permission”. “Patrick Jarry can only offer a consultative opinion”, he added. And this opinion has been shown to be unfavourable, with the mayor of Nanterre taking the view that the building permit the mayor of Puteaux asked for did not conform to the Local Urban Plan (PLU), in particular over the issues of parking and the appearance of the place of worship.

Le Monde, 9 December 2011


           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Greece: Israeli, US Interest in Oil and Gas Projects

investigated the possibility of prospecting for oil near Crete

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, DECEMBER 13 — An Israeli company has investigated the possibility of prospecting for oil or natural gas south of Crete, Kathimerini has learned, while US Ambassador Daniel Smith has confirmed the interest of American firms in drilling for hydrocarbons off the coast of Crete and in the Ionian Sea. Representatives of the Delek Group visited Greece in summer to investigate the possibility of setting up an oil rig south of Crete, Kathimerini can reveal. Unconfirmed reports suggest Delek officials returned to Greece this week. Meanwhile the US ambassador in Athens has said that several American companies have expressed an interest in exploring for mineral fuels off the Greek coastline. Citing discoveries elsewhere in the Mediterranean, Smith told Kathimerini that “there is reason to believe there are significant opportunities.” In September, the US firm Noble Energy started drilling for gas deposits off the coast of Cyprus.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italians Help Glimpse ‘God Particle’

Collider researchers home in on Higgs boson

(ANSA) — Geneva, December 13 — Two Italian physicists on Tuesday unveiled to a hushed press the first possible signs that the Holy Grail of particle physics, the Higg’s boson or God Particle, may have been glimpsed.

“We have seen evidence of the boson,” the missing link in the standard model of physics which would explain the mass of everything in the Universe, said Fabiola Gianotti and Guido Tonelli, the spokespersons for two projects called Atlas and CMS at a giant particle collider at the CERN nuclear physics lab in Geneva. Gianotti and Tonelli said they could not speak of a firm find yet but there was “a very nice region” in recent tests at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) where the fabled particle might be present.

Finding the boson would be one of the biggest scientific advances of the last 60 years.

It is key to any explanation of how the Universe works.

The Atlas and CMS experiments have been looking for the Higgs separately.

Because the Standard Model does not posit an exact mass for the boson, accelerators like the LHC have to be used to seek it across a broad search range.

Gianotti and Tonelli said they’d both seen “spikes” in data at roughly the same mass: 124-125 gigaelectronvolts (Gev).

“The excess may be due to a fluctuation but it could also be something more interesting,” said Gianotti, the Atlas spokesperson.

Tonelli, the CMS spokesperson, said: “The excess is most compatible with a Standard Model Higgs in the vicinity of 124 GeV and below, but the statistical significance is not large enough to say anything conclusive.

“As of today, what we see is consistent either with a background fluctuation or with the presence of the boson”. Experts who flocked to Tuesday’s seminar at CERN were particularly excited by the fact that the two independent projects found broadly similar results. The Higgs boson, named after British physicist Peter Higgs and nicknamed the God Particle after a big-selling book, is the only predicted elementary particle that has not yet been observed in particle physics experiments.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

LHC Sees Hint of Lightweight Higgs Boson

The ultra-shy Higgs boson may have finally shown itself at the LHC. Both of the main detectors, ATLAS and CMS, have uncovered hints of a lightweight Higgs. If it pans out, the only remaining hole in the standard model would be filled. Even more exciting, a Higgs of this mass, about 125 gigaelectronvolts, would also blast a path to uncharted terrain. Such a featherweight would need at least one new type of particle to stabilise it. “It’s very exciting,” says CMS spokesman Guido Tonelli. “This could be the first ring in a chain of discoveries.”

As the leading theory for how particles and forces interact, the standard model has been spectacularly successful since it was proposed in the 1960s. But it works only on the assumption that the Higgs boson actually exists. The particle is the calling card of an unseen entity called the Higgs field, which is thought to give all particles their mass. The trouble is the standard model cannot predict what the Higgs itself weighs.

So physicists have been hunting for the simplest version of the Higgs at various particle colliders for years. Experiments have steadily ruled it out at a range of masses, except for a narrow window between 115 and 141 GeV. Now physicists at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, near Geneva in Switzerland, have probed that range in more detail than ever before. Today, Tonelli and Fabiola Gianotti, head of the ATLAS detector, separately presented results from more than 300 trillion high-speed particle collisions made in the last year.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Lone Gunman Kills One, Wounds 64 in Belgian City Attack

Liege — A lone gunman opened fire on a square packed with children and Christmas shoppers in the eastern Belgian city of Liege Tuesday, killing three people before turning the gun on himself.

More than 60 people were also wounded in the lunch-hour attack, public prosecutor Daniel Reynders said, adding that the gunman was among the two dead. The country’s federal crisis centre said it was neither a terrorist incident nor linked to a pending criminal trial.

“It was a lone gunman,” the centre’s Benoit Ramacker told AFP.

“It’s very difficult to determine the reasons for the attack, but we’re investigating all avenues.”Belgium’s Home Affairs Minister Joelle Milquet broke off European Union talks and was headed for Liege after the attack, as was newly-named Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo.

The attack sent terrified residents running for their lives, and hours later groups of people sat weeping on sidewalks across the windy city amid the screech of ambulance sirens and the roar of helicopters hovering overhead.

The shooting took place around noon on Saint-Lambert square, home to the courthouse and located near a busy Christmas market in the town of 196,000 people.

Some reports said it was a foiled bid to rescue a suspect from the courthouse but judicial sources named the lone wolf as Nordine Amrani, who was known to police.

The sources said police had raided his Liege home recently seeking cannabis plants but had found arms instead. In 2008 he was senteced to almost five years behind bars for illegal possession of arms and growing cannabis.

There was much initial confusion over the events, with initial reports of more than one gunman.

“We heard two huge deafening noises and then lots of explosions, people were running everywhere,” a baker named only as Patricia said on RTL-TV. “We closed the door, turned off the lights and hid behind the counter with the customers.”

Journalist Nicolas Gilenne told AFP he had just left the courthouse where he was covering a trial when the attack began.

“I saw a man wave his arm and throw something at the bus shelter. I heard an explosion. He turned around, picked something else up, pulled the pin. I started to run. He was alone and seemed very much in control.

“He wanted to hurt as many people as possible. I heard four explosions and shots during about 10 seconds.” Residents earlier told local television that shots were fired across the square by gunmen posted on the rooftop of a bakery shop and grenades hurled at bus shelters and into the courthouse.

Reports had also said that two to three gunmen armed with either explosive flash grenades or killer defensive grenades were involved.

“The city centre is completely cordonned off. People are sheltering in shops or in buildings. Police are in position,” said a town hall employee contacted by AFP who asked not to be identified.

“Luckily the mayor had postponed the opening of the Christmas market due to bad weather and high winds. Otherwise many more would have died,” the source added.

Belga news agency said several “suspect” objects were found on the square and that police bomb defusal experts were on the way.

[Return to headlines]

Man Shoots Christmas Shoppers in Belgium, Kills Three

LIEGE, Belgium (Reuters) — A man hurled grenades at a bus stop in the Belgian city of Liege and sprayed gunfire at a square crowded with Christmas shoppers and children on Tuesday, killing three people and wounding 123 others before fatally shooting himself in the head.

It was not clear what his motive was, but Belgian officials said there was no indication it was an act of terrorism.

Witnesses said the gunman, named as Nordine Amrani, 33, began his attack near the bus stop at Place Saint Lambert, a shopping area and the site of the Christmas market and main courthouse — sending shoppers scattering to flee the bullets.

Amrani, released from jail about a year ago after being convicted of possessing weapons illegally, ended it by shooting himself in the head with a handgun, the witnesses said.

“He had a bag. He got a grenade out of his bag. He threw the grenade at the bus stop. Then he had a Kalashnikov (rifle). He shot in all directions. Then everyone ran to try to save themselves. Then he got a revolver out and put a bullet in his head,” one witness told RTBF radio…

[Return to headlines]

Norway Butter Crisis Eased

Synnøve Finden is importing 300 tons of Belgian butter to help alleviate Norway’s shortage.

Reports suggest the first delivery was expected at 4pm in Alvdal, Thursday. There is also transport to take the butter to wholesalers Asko and Ica.

“I think it’s horrible that Norway’s biggest and, in fact, only supplier [TINE] doesn’t have control of its production,” Synnøve Finden’s press spokesperson, Harald Bjerknes tells The Foreigner.

He continues, “Having small, independent dairies to provide goods to the Norwegian market is crucial, especially when this type of situation occurs.”

The butter will be spread amongst all of Norway’s supermarket chains, is likely to be available from today or Saturday.

According to Synnøve Finden, prices are expected to be approximately 80 kroner per kilo.

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

Norwegian Peace-Researcher: Israel Behind Breivik?

The Norwegian peace-researcher Ola Tunander has committed an article that will raise eyebrows in many quarters. He links Anders Behring Breivik to Israel. The article appears in the respectable journal Nytt Nordisk Tidsskrift, at present under the editorial of Cathrine Holst.

The article is no less than scandalous, and raises questions not just about Ola Tunander, but also about Holst and her editorial board, which includes a lot of influtential people. Antisemitism has become more or less respectable in Norwegian academic circles. This article suggests that the price could be high.

From the english abstract: Inspiration, interests, initiation and investments in Breivik’s world

The terrorist attacks in Norway on 22 July 2011 were first described as an al-Qaeda operation. When Anders Behring Breivik was arrested and we were able to look at his video and read his manifesto, it became clear that he was inspired by Jewish-Christian anti-jihadist writers, the very individuals that had pointed to al-Qaeda in the first place.

Some critics argued that Breivik had been used by Israeli forces with an interest in changing Norway’s policy towards Palestine, as if Breivik had copied the Israeli bombing of the British headquarters in Jerusalem in 1946, on the very anniversary of that attack. However, inspiration and interests are not enough.

One also has to look at Breivik’s contacts that supposedly financed him and initiated him into his crusading “Knights Templar” order. Breivik himself points to Serbian crusaders, while others points to an East-European military mafia. The two converge, however, into one network that is surprisingly close to Saudi and Chechen intelligence and to the very Islamists that Breivik detests, as though Breivik’s Knights Templar were the mirror image of al-Qaeda.

           — Hat tip: KGS [Return to headlines]

Switzerland: Anti-Islam Group Fights Fribourg Ban

The Swiss Movement against Islamisation (MOSC) has said it will appeal a Fribourg district court decision blocking it from setting up a stand in the western town. In October 2009, a few weeks before Switzerland’s controversial vote on the banning of minarets, MOSCI asked the city of Fribourg for permission to erect a stand. The group said it wanted to present its ideas and ask citizens to vote against the Islamic spires. After conferring with cantonal police and the prefecture of Gruyère, Fribrourg decided not to grant permission. The town said it wanted to avoid incidents like those in Lausanne several weeks earlier when clashes broke out around a similar stand. MOSCI has angered many with its insistence that the Muslim prophet Muhammad was genocidal, as well as criticizing his union with Aisha, a very young girl. The organisation also considers Islam a “racist, warlike, and expansionist religion”.

Furious at Fribourg’s decision not to allow the stand, MOSCI took the issue to the district court, which last month ruled in favour of the city. But the Anti-Islam organization has vowed to put up a fight. On Monday, it announced it will appeal the decision to the Federal Court, Le Matin reported. “We were attacked in Lausanne, and then we were forbidden to have a stand at Fribourg for this reason,” said David Vaucher, president of MOSCI. “[This is like saying] that Islamist violence is right.” Christian Pfammatter, the judge who ruled against MOSCI, explained that his decision was motivated by the lack of “sensitivity” with which the group presents its ideas, and not their substance. However, Pfammatter accepted that the case dealt with “borderline” issues straddling the grey area between the prevention of hate speech and the rights of citizens to criticize religions. Lucia Dahlab, vice president of the Union of Muslim Organizations in Geneva, agreed the judge had been dealing with a borderline case. “We must defend freedom of expression, but if it leads to massacres like the one perpetrated by Anders Breivik in Norway, then there is a problem.”

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: Brain Scans Should Not be Used in Court… For Now

Should an offender’s sentence be decided on the basis of a brain scan? A group of neuroscientists have put together a report for the Royal Society to assess this issue and other ways that progress in brain science might impact the law. Neuroscience is already making waves in court: an Italian woman convicted of murder recently had her sentence reduced on the grounds that her behaviour could be explained by abnormalities in her brain and genes.

The authors on the Royal Society panel, led by Nicholas Mackintosh of the University of Cambridge, also flag up research that suggests the brains of psychopaths are fundamentally different. This raises the question: should individuals with the brain anatomy of a psychopath have their sentence reduced on the ground of diminished responsibility, or should brain scan evidence be used to keep dangerous individuals locked away?

Perhaps one day we may also be able to find neurological clues that help predict whether a criminal is likely to reoffend. The report only goes so far as to suggest that such information may be useful in conjunction with other evidence.

Another key issue is that of the age of criminal responsibility. In England, the age at which a child can be tried as an adult is ten — this is too low, say the report’s authors.

Recent research into brain development suggests that crucial brain regions — such as the prefrontal cortex, which is important in decision making and impulse control — don’t actually finish maturing until the age of around 20.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

UK: Plans Submitted for Eco-Friendly Mosques

Planning permission has been sought for what could be one of the UK’s most eco-friendly mosques, reports. Proposals for the £13 million project have been submitted to the council by Mark Barfield Architects and includes the construction of an underground car park, café, residential units and a garden with fountains. The three-storey main prayer room, which is accessed via a covered portico and atrium, is large enough to accommodate 1,000 people and replaces an overcrowded converted warehouse that is currently being used by the city’s 4,000 Muslims. Such an ambitious project will no doubt necessitate the recruitment of many skilled individuals, with construction, electrical and engineering jobs all up for grabs. Using energy-efficient lighting, rainwater recycling and heat recovery systems, the architects hope the building will deliver a far reduced carbon footprint. It will also channel natural light into the main prayer room, to be replaced by energy-efficient LCD lighting when the sun sets. According to FM World, the Muslim Academic Trust (MAT), for whom the mosque has been designed, carried out extensive public consultation with the public on the plans, in order to ensure it is secure, inclusive and “respectful of its context”. MAT chairman, Tim Walker commented on the plans: “Our hope is that this will become a landmark building that will inject new life into the Romsey area of Cambridge, a monument of which the local and wider Cambridge community can be proud.”

[JP note: They are still working on the concept of friendlypeople mosques — it could be a long wait.]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: Silly Me, I Didn’t Realise the Rioters Were Victims

Common sense is turned on its head as the Left finds its usual excuses for the thugs who ran riot in London, Manchester and Birmingham.

Well, that didn’t take long — just four months to turn the summer rioters from the scum of the earth into victims. There we all were during those tense few days in August, glued to our TV screens as shops were looted and homes burned to the ground, misguidedly thinking that the police had lost control of the streets to a rag-tag army of opportunistic, feral criminals.

In reality, what we were witnessing was a protest by politically sophisticated, disenchanted and alienated young people driven to despair by police brutality. This, at any rate, is what we are invited to believe by a study commissioned by The Guardian, in collaboration with the London School of Economics, and published across eight pages of the newspaper yesterday under the heading “Reading the Riots”. Needless to say, the BBC ran with the story all day.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Woman Risks Jail for Wearing Full Veil in France

A 32-year-old woman, Hind Ahmas, has been sentenced 15 days of ‘citizenship service’ after she was caught wearing a full-face veil in public and refused to remove it. Hind Ahmas says she will not obey the court’s ruling and refuses to remove her veil. She risks a two-year prison sentence and a €30,000 fine, if she does not perform her citizenship service, which includes classes on French Republican values, Le Figaro reports.

Ahmas heard her sentence on the pavement in front of the courthouse in Paris because she refused to remove her veil to face the judges. Her lawyer Gilles Devers says Ahmas is going to appeal and said that the French ban on the veil was illegal, AFP reports. The judge however insists her lawyer cannot appeal her decision because it is not a fine. Ahmas had already been fined €120 in September for wearing a full-face veil in public in Meaux east of Paris.

Another woman, Kenza Drider, who was also wearing the full-face veil, was at the trial. She says she is running for the presidential election and wants to repeal France’s ban on the veil. Ahmas and her pressure group, Don’t Touch my Constitution, insist France does not respect their rights and say they want to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights to see the ban overturned.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

North Africa

Libya: Qatar to Rebuild Post-Gaddafi Media System

Doha to organise satellite TV and train journalists

(ANSAmed) — DOHA, DECEMBER 13 — The spokesman and vice president of the National Transitional Council (NTC) Abdulhafeedh Ghoga has chosen Qatar’s capital Doha to inaugurate the opening of a new media system in Libya. The choice was by no means a random one, since the Emirate home to Al Jazeera is now the main promoter and financier of the press in Libya. The operation, which strengthens Qatari roots in the country’s post-Gaddafi reconstruction, is at the centre of much debate. A month ago the Egyptian press agency MENA had announced that Al Jazeera’s former director Wadah Khanfar was preparing the launch of a new satellite TV channel for Libyan news funded by Qatari investors. Now, through Qatar’s economic and logistical help, Libya has a media system. “With Gaddafi there was only chaos, while now Libya has a free, open and independent media and communications system,” said Ghiga.

Jan Keulen, director of the Doha Centre for Press Freedom, led a delegation in Libya to provide financial aid to set up the technical aspect and necessary infrastructure, in addition to organising training courses for journalists. Doha’s Northwestern University instead collaborated on the drawing up of a regulatory framework for the Libyan press. “The Libyan delegation has taken an important step forward towards the drawing up of the media system to be established in the country,” said Everette Dennis, the rector of the university. In drawing up the regulatory framework of the Libyan press there will be monitoring authorities, an ethical code and the establishment of media not subject to state control. In this sense Qatar has played a fundamental role in designing what the Libyan media system will be. However, many are wondering whether the media in a democratic Libya will be freer than those of the Gulf, where dictatorial regimes hold sway. Ghoga laughed in an embarrassed manner at the question, while his colleague Salem Gnan, member of the NTC’s Press Committee, said that Libya would be a democratic system. “Our people have paid a very high price to be free, and we will never allow any dictator to come back to the country.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Middle East

Turkey: Jewish Community Wants Protection in New Constitution

(ANSAmed) — ISTANBUL, DECEMBER 13 — One of Turkey’s most prominent Jewish groups, the Quincentennial Foundation, has called for provisions against racism and anti-Semitism in the new charter at a meeting yesterday with members of Parliament’s Constitution Conciliation Commission. According to Hurriyet Daily, foundation Chairman Naim Guleryuz said Jewish people in Turkey did not see themselves as “minorities” and wanted to be included in the future constitution as equal citizens of Turkey.

The main emphasis of their presentation was on a “liberal and inclusive” constitution that does not marginalize anyone.

The main concern of the Quincentennial Foundation was “racism and anti-Semitism,” Gueryuz reportedly said, and Jewish people did not intend to open a debate into the controversial 1942 wealth tax that stripped many members of Turkey’s non-Muslim communities from their fortunes. Guleryuz said the new charter should lead to amendments in the penal code article that punishes incitement of hatred on the basis of social, religious and racial differences that would ensure full protection for minorities. Hate crimes should be prosecuted directly, he said.

The Foundation, established in 1992, takes its name from the 500th anniversary of the arrival of Sephardic Jews, who were exiled from Spain and found refuge in the Ottoman Empire in 1492.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

War Games: Iran to Close Strait of Hormuz

TEHRAN (Reuters) — A member of the Iranian parliament’s National Security Committee said on Monday that the military was set to practice its ability to close the Gulf to shipping at the narrow Strait of Hormuz, the most important oil transit channel in the world, but there was no official confirmation.

The legislator, Parviz Sarvari, told the student news agency ISNA: “Soon we will hold a military maneuver on how to close the Strait of Hormuz. If the world wants to make the region insecure, we will make the world insecure.”

Contacted by Reuters, a spokesman for the Iranian military declined to comment.

Iran’s energy minister told Al Jazeera television last month that Tehran could use oil as a political tool in the event of any future conflict over its nuclear program.

           — Hat tip: KGS [Return to headlines]

South Asia

Pakistan: Chained and in Tears: Children Found in Basement as Police Raid Islamic School Thought to be a ‘Taliban Training Centre’

Forty-five students, among them young children, were discovered held in chains in a basement when police raided an Islamic seminary in Pakistan last night.

The male students, some said to be as young as 12 but appearing even younger, were found in what amounted to a dungeon at the Madrassa Zakarya in the Sohrab Goth district of Karachi.

Led barefoot from their prison, captives told officers they had suffered regular beatings and been hung upside down as a form of punishment.

Others said they had been visited by Taliban fighters and that 10 of their fellow students had disappeared in recent months.

One boy said that visiting Taliban members had told them to ‘prepare for battle’. Some Pakistani madrassas have long been suspected of grooming Islamic militants.

Police arrested a cleric and two others at the scene, but the madrassa’s administrator managed to escape during the raid, Pakistan’s Express Tribune reported.

Local police Superintendent Rao Anwar told the paper: ‘Those recovered are aged between 12 and 50 years and are mainly of Pakhtun ethnicity.

‘A few drug addicts and mentally challenged persons were also among those who were recovered.’

‘It seems that the administration was running a sort of religious school-cum-rehabilitation-centre and were receiving considerable sums of money from parents of those kept in for that purpose.’

Sanaa TV, a local station, showed footage of the raid and the chained students, who danced and cried as police began to free them.

‘We were kept in chains and hung upside down and beaten with sticks if we didn’t comply. We were told that we would be given training to fight in Afghanistan,’ one boy said.

Another told how Taliban fighters had visited the seminary, led prayers and told them to prepare for battle.

The raid came after an anonymous tip-off to authorities. Police official Mukhtiar Khaskheli told Agence France-Presse that a full investigation would probe any possible links with militants.

‘The madrassa officials claim that they had chained those students because they were drug addicts and they wanted to rehabilitate them and make them better Muslims,’ he added.

According to the Press Trust of India, most of the captive students had been brought to Karachi from remote parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhawa province, a hotbed of Taliban activities.

‘What we have learnt is that the parents used to pay the seminary for the education of their children who were sent to Karachi to get religious education,’ a police official told the agency.

Pakistani government records seen by AFP suggest there are 15,148 seminaries in Pakistan, with more than two million students.

But officials suspect many more unregistered schools exist, providing the children of Pakistan’s poverty-stricken majority with the only education they can afford.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes [Return to headlines]

Far East

China’s Ten-Year WTO Membership Overshadowed

Beijing celebrates the tenth anniversary of its entry in the World Trade Organisation, a period of extraordinary growth for its economy. However, behind the smiles, problems lurk, ranging from an undervalued yuan to unfair trading practices. A US ambassador goes further, attacking Beijing for using “intimidation as a trade tool”.

Beijing (AsiaNews) — China is marking the tenth anniversary of its entry into the World Trade Organisation (WTO) amid bright spots and dark shadows. On 11 December 2001, the People’s Republic was admitted in the organisation following a series of market reforms and overtures, an impressive record for a socialist state. Now it has become the world’s second largest economy.

However, if the 15 years it took Beijing to prepare this step are seen as impressive by historians and analysts around the world, the Asian giant has maintained its economic supremacy with instruments that range from currency undervaluation to bullying in trade relations.

Trade in goods such as clothing, electronics, toys and appliances soared to almost US$ 3 trillion last year from US $ 510 billion in 2001. China’s textile exports amounted to US$ 77 billion in 2010. Foreign financing in China has climbed to more than US$ 700 billion in the last decade.

However, these results have led to resentment. Both the United States and the European Union are involved in a number of trade disputes with China at the WTO. The 27-nation EU has imposes anti-dumping duties on almost 60 products from China whilst the US has lodged 12 complaints.

There is also a “perception among WTO members that Chinese government authorities at times use intimidation as a trade tool,” US Ambassador Michael Punke said. “China seems to be embracing state capitalism more strongly each year, rather than continuing to move toward the economic reform goals that originally drove its pursuit of WTO membership,” he added. In China, the statement was met with strong criticism with observers asking for evidence to back the claim.

China’s currency policy is another source of disagreement. Beijing is accused of keeping the value of the yuan low to cut prices and boost exports. This is a major irritant for Washington. In fact, China’s trade surplus with the US has helped the country accumulate a record US$ 3.2 trillion in foreign-exchange reserves

In China, the economy’s growth is also raising questions. After a scholar revealed the underlying weaknesses of the economy, President Hu Jintao tried to reassure the population.

“We will strengthen economic cooperation with countries that have substantial trade deficits with China, and work together with them to gradually resolve trade imbalances,” Hu said in a speech marking the tenth anniversary of China’s entry into the WTO.

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


Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu: Illegal Immigration ‘A National Calamity’

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that the infiltration of the migrants into Israel is a “national calamity in all fields — the economy, state security,” Israel Radio reports. Saying that Israel has no obligation to advance illegal immigration into its borders, he explained that “if we do not act to stop the flood, we’ll be washed away with it.” Netanyahu announced on Sunday that he will travel to Africa in an attempt to coordinate with state leaders the return of illegal African immigrants in Israel to their native countries.

Netanyahu’s trip comes as his Cabinet approves a $160 million program designed to stanch the flow of illegal African migrants into Israel. The plan calls for speeding up construction to complete within the coming year a border fence with Egypt. The fence is also meant to keep out Islamist militants. The new program allows for a monetary fine for the employing of illegal immigrants and, in some cases, the closing of offending businesses.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

UK: The Teenage Politics of the British Churches Are Summed Up by Their Pathetic Christmas Poster

The Baby Jesus will not be visited by Three Wise Men bearing gifts of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh this Christmas. Three different sorts of guys will turn up at the manger, bringing the young Son of God a Fabergé egg, a Swarovski crystal perfume bottle and a Damien Hirst skull. All this is on the seasonal advertising poster issued by the British Churches.

There are no shepherds either. These are replaced by a cycle courier and a plasterer. As King Herod himself might have said: “Gee, it’s so relevant and accessible it fair sets your teeth on edge.”

Jesus famously commanded us: “Take no thought for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat and the body than raiment? Why take ye thought for raiment?”

The British churches know better than Jesus. Their poster shows the characters at the Nativity in all the latest designer wear. Joseph wears a jacket by John Varvatos, a shirt by Uniglo, jeans by Topman, socks by Pantharella and shoes by Church’s. The Blessed Virgin Mary is togged out in a dress by Zara, shoes by Donna Karan and a cuff by Lara.

Cost a few bob that lot, eh? As they gathered that plush lot round the manger, I guess the British churches must have forgotten what Our Lady sang in the Magnificat: “The rich he hath sent empty away.”

Even the crib is by the designer Lyndsay Milne McLeod. No doubt all this clodhopping heavy glitziness will be described as “ironic” and “prophetic”. Well, I suppose we should all just enjoy a good giggle at the churches’ latest expedition into the land of idiocy. Except for one thing which troubles me deeply. The replacement Wise Men are cast as three successful entrepreneurs. And I worry as to how the church hierarchy will answer for this sign of conspicuous consumption and the virtues of capitalism when they next go to talk adolescent politics with their mates in the Occupy camp outside St Paul’s.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

News Feed 20111212

Financial Crisis
» ‘Cameron is a Coward’: European Politicians Slam British EU Veto
» Europe’s Top Bank Regulator: ‘The Crisis Has Reached a Systemic Level’
» Italy: Fornero Open to Minimum Wage, Matter of Citizenship
» Italy ‘Can Withstand High Yields for Some Time’, Says BIS
» Italy: Two-Year Low for Wage Growth
» More Greeks Moving to Cyprus in Search of Work
» The End of Old Europe: Why Merkel’s Triumph Will Come at a High Price
» ‘Half Black, Half White and Almost Everything it Does Stinks’: Racism Row Erupts as Tea Party Calls Barack Obama a Skunk
» The View From the Tower
Europe and the EU
» Corruption: Italy, Greece Are ‘Europe’s Most Corrupt’
» Greece: A Mosque Will be Built in Thessaloniki
» Infiltrating the Far-Right: German Intelligence Has 130 Informants in Extremist Party
» Is There Such a Thing as ‘Pure’ Chocolate? Italy Bitter Over European Ruling
» Italy: Tension After Turin Roma Camp Torched Over False Rape Claim
» Norway Farmers Slaughter Dairy’s ‘Butter Fingers’
» Sharia Law Already Devouring UK
» Spain and Italy in EU Immigrants Remittances Top
» UK: Mosque Protest Leaflet ‘Is Trying to Whip Up Hysteria’
» UK: Prominent London Mosque Goes Without Egyptian Imams
» UK: Sir Anthony Jay: Slash the BBC by Two Thirds!
Israel and the Palestinians
» Caroline Glick: Gingrich’s Fresh Hope
» Palestinian Authority: Pursuing Peace, Or Pushing Propaganda?
Middle East
» Iran: Blast at Steel Factory in Yazd Province
» Iran: Tehran “Cloning Crashed Drone”
» Saudi Arabia: Woman Beheaded for ‘Witchcraft, Sorcery’
» Stakelbeck: Iran/Hezbollah Spread Tentacles in Latin America
» Turkish Soap Operas Invade the Middle East
» Yemen: 12 Al Qaeda Terrorists Escape From Aden Jail
Far East
» Philippines: Mindanao: American Teen, 14, Escapes Captors, Wanders Barefoot in Jungle
» Face Time Required to Become Canadian Citizen
» Supreme Court to Rule on Arizona’s Immigration Law
Culture Wars
» RAI Bans “Condom” On AIDS Day

Financial Crisis

‘Cameron is a Coward’: European Politicians Slam British EU Veto

Following David Cameron’s veto of EU treaty reform, there is plenty of frustration in Europe over Britain’s stubborn attitude in the battle against the debt crisis. Prominent members of the European Parliament have strongly criticized the British prime minister and sent him a clear message: Europe doesn’t need you.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Europe’s Top Bank Regulator: ‘The Crisis Has Reached a Systemic Level’

A stress test performed on European banks last week found a capital shortfall of some 115 billion euros. In a SPIEGEL interview, European Banking Authority head Andrea Enria defends the decision to perform the stress test and discusses the huge challenges facing the European banking sector.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Italy: Fornero Open to Minimum Wage, Matter of Citizenship

(AGI) Rome — The Employment Minister, Elsa Fornero, has said that she is “personally” in favour of the introduction of a minimum wage in Italy. “I think that this is a matter of citizenship and, if we get the economy back on track, perhaps we can talk about it in more concrete terms,” said Fornero, who appeared on Lucia Annnziata’s “In mezz’ora” programme earlier.

Fornero said that she had already tackled the issue of the minimum wage in Brussels and that she had “not done so in terms of the government programme”, but rather, she explained, “I was talking about my own personal preferences”. Fornero added: “These preferences of mine have not changed and, while I am a minister, as far as I can influence the government’s agenda, I think that this is a matter of citizenship”.

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

Italy ‘Can Withstand High Yields for Some Time’, Says BIS

Debt crisis has put Italian bonds under pressure

(ANSA) — Rome, December 12 — Italy is not in danger of defaulting on its huge national debt in the short term, even though it is having to pay high yields with its bonds coming under pressure on the markets, according to a leading international financial body.

The spread between 10-year Italian Treasury bonds and the German equivalent, a key indicator of market confidence in Italy, rose from 421 to 465 in early trading on Monday.

The yield went up to 6.71%, back towards the 7% threshold that forced other states hit by the eurozone debt crisis to seek bailouts.

The yield on five-year bonds crossed the 7% mark, meanwhile, reaching 7.03%.

But the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) suggested Monday that, for the moment, Italy was not in danger of buckling under the weight of repayments of a national debt of around 120% of GDP.

“Simple simulations of the debt-service costs to the Italian Treasury in different yield-curve scenarios suggest that Italy should be able to withstand elevated yields for some time, provided it retains access to the market,” the BIS said in its quarterly review. “Given the relatively high average residual maturity of the Italian public debt, it would take a long time for elevated yields to translate into significant additional debt-service costs”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Two-Year Low for Wage Growth

Incomes still well behind inflation

(ANSA) — Rome, December 12 — In the third quarter of 2011 Italian wages posted their lowest quarterly growth since the third quarter of 2009, Istat said Monday.

The year-on-year growth in the quarter was just 1.4%, compared to a current annual inflation rate of 3.3%, the highest since October 2008.

The quarter-on-quarter growth, 0.3%, was the lowest since the first quarter of 2009, the national statistics agency said. Because of sluggish GDP growth, Italian wage growth has steadily lagged inflation over the last few years, eroding the incomes of salaried workers.

The new Monti government has pledged to help out the middle classes who have been struggling to make ends meet. Italy has had one of the lowest GDP growth rates among developed countries in the last decade.

It is expected to go into recession next year.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

More Greeks Moving to Cyprus in Search of Work

Especially in overcrowded education sector

(ANSAmed) — NICOSIA, DECEMBER 12 — The ongoing global economic crisis has led to record unemployment levels in Cyprus, but the figures in Greece are worse, and have led an increasing number of Greek citizens to emigrate to the Mediterranean island in search of work.

The rate of unemployment in Cyprus (which has a population of just under 800,000) is high, increasing from 7.9% in September to 8.2% in October, Eurostat says. In September, more than one in five people under the age of 25 (22.7%) was unemployed. The overall unemployment rate in Greece is more than double the figure in Cyprus, reaching 18.4% in August after standing at 17.7% in July. The rate of unemployment among Greeks under the age of 25 is today at 45.1%.

This has caused a mass exodus of Greeks, many of whom have come to the island to look for work, particularly in the employment sector, as Stelios Stylianou, the head of the Educational Service Commission (ESC), confirms. Stylianou says that the number of Greek teachers enrolled in the endless and effectively redundant “waiting list” created by the Ministry for Public Education has seen a “formidable” increase, more than doubling in 2010 compared to the previous year. The total number of teachers on the waiting list in January 2011 was 35,644, of which 7,128 (20%) were Greek citizens.

Yet finding a job remains a lottery, even if theoretically, seniority and experience should make the situation easier for Greek teachers than for their Cypriot counterparts. The annual turnover of teachers retiring is between 200 and 300, against 2,000-3,000 new sign-ups. “The way things are organised here, nobody will find a job, whether Greek or Cypriot,” says Marios Thoma, secretary of the “Movement of unemployed teachers” group, which represents around 6,000 candidates waiting for the sort of jobs for which he himself has been waiting for 20 years. “There were very few new appointments this year, so whether there are 10,000 or 100,000 of us on the list, things will not change. Only a handful of them will get a job. There’s no point talking about it,” he says.

According to estimates from the Greek embassy in Nicosia, there are around 32,000 Greek citizens living in Cyprus. In the last two years, almost 1,500 Greek businesses have upped sticks to the island as a direct consequence of the economic crisis at home, and now represent 10% of the total number of businesses operating in the country. The most significant concentration of Greek investments is in the financial sector, consultancy services, trade and construction.

As far as the employment market in Cyprus is concerned, Greeks have always worked in the hotel sector and in catering, but have now started to look for work in the public sector as well, the embassy reveals.

Even the health sector has become an attractive area for Greeks, as has television. A few days ago, the president of the union of Cypriot actors, Dinos Lyras, said that many young Greek actors are coming to the island to look for work, while the heads of a number of television stations have begun to hire renowned Greek actors to increase viewing figures in the soaps that they produce.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

The End of Old Europe: Why Merkel’s Triumph Will Come at a High Price

The euro crisis summit has caused a deep split in the European Union. Britain has been sidelined, and other member states feel steamrolled by Germany and France. The future of the common currency is as uncertain as ever.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]


‘Half Black, Half White and Almost Everything it Does Stinks’: Racism Row Erupts as Tea Party Calls Barack Obama a Skunk

An ultra-conservative ‘Tea Party’ group has defended its depiction of President Barack Obama as a skunk as satirical — after it was accused of being racist.

The Kansas-based Patriot Freedom Alliance came under fire for posting a photo of a skunk on its website.

The caption above it read: ‘The skunk has replaced the eagle as the new symbol for the president. It is half black, it is half white, and almost everything it does, stinks.’

Area president of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) Darrell Pope called the depiction a ‘blatant statement of racism’.

He said: ‘As far as I’m concerned it’s proof of the kind of organisation that they are, which I felt it always had racial overtones in the first place.

‘You would think that an organisation that claims to be about patriotism and what this country is supposed to stand for would have a better way of expressing it than what they’re doing.’

Thomas Hymer, who maintains the website, defended the post which has now been taken down by saying: ‘It’s satire is what it is. Satire in a politically incorrect form.’

And local tea party supporter Chuck Sankey said former U.S. vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin had been the target of worse insults.

He told the Hutchinson News: ‘It just makes a point that we’re in trouble and what’s happening doesn’t smell right. That’s what it means to me.’

Asked about the note to half-black, half-white, seen as a reference to Obama’s dual heritage of having a black father and white mother, he said: ‘Isn’t that the truth? ‘What’s wrong with the truth?’…

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes [Return to headlines]

The View From the Tower

by Diana West

If I were a psychiatrist I could find the perfect label for the depths of denial or the heights of delusion that manifest themselves in Frederick and Kimberly Kagan’s latest declarations on Iraq published in the Washington Post as “opinion.” “Fantasy” is a more like it. Their premise is that the American nation-building exercise in Iraq failed not because nation-building is pure academic utopianism (leftist cant) that withers in real-world conditions (Islam), but because the exercise didn’t go on long enough.

They pre-emptively score Prez Obama for the happy talk that’s the predictable outcome of his meeting today with Iraq’s Maliki. Fair enough. The image of Iraq he is sure to present, they write, “is a mirage.” But if we’re talking about disconnection from reality, the Kagans have once again pulled their own plug.

They write:…

           — Hat tip: Diana West [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Corruption: Italy, Greece Are ‘Europe’s Most Corrupt’

Berlin, 1 Dec. (AKI/Bloomberg) — Italy and Greece scored the lowest among euro-area countries in a global corruption ranking as their inability to tackle graft and tax evasion exacerbated the debt crisis, watchdog group Transparency International said.

Italy came in 69th and Greece placed 80th, down from 67th and 78th respectively in the 2010 ranking, the Berlin-based group’s Corruption Perceptions Index showed today. Ireland dropped five places to 19th, earning a score of 7.5 out of 10, a drop from 8 points in last year’s ranking, Transparency said.

“Euro-zone countries suffering debt crises, partly because of public authorities’ failure to tackle the bribery and tax evasion that are key drivers of debt crisis, are among the lowest-scoring EU countries,” the group said in the report.

Europe’s engulfment in the sovereign-debt crisis has exposed the failure of indebted governments to raise revenue and tackle reforms, prompting crowds of protesters to fill the streets to demand their ouster. Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi resigned as prime minister last month, two days after his Greek counterpart, George Papandreou, was forced out.

New Zealand maintained its top position in the ranking, alongside Denmark and Finland. North Korea debuted on the list with a score of 1, ranking last with Somalia, a rung lower than Afghanistan and Myanmar, according to Transparency.

The U.S. dropped two spots to 24, though the world’s biggest economy retained its 7.1 score. The index, which measures the perception of corruption in the public sector, showed that two-thirds of the 183 nations reviewed scored below five on a 0-to-10 scale, with 10 indicating the least corrupt, Transparency said.

Corruption Charges

Italy’s ranking placed it level with Ghana and lower than Saudi Arabia. Corruption allegations contributed to the slide in popular support for Berlusconi, who is on trial for bribery, abuse of power and paying for sex with a minor. He has faced dozens of corruption allegations since entering politics in 1994. Berlusconi has maintained his innocence and blames the charges on “left-wing” prosecutors who are out to destroy him politically.

The release of the report comes as a widening corruption probe threatens to topple the chairman of state-controlled defense contractor Finmeccanica SpA. (FNC) The company’s board meets today to consider limiting the powers of Chairman Pier Francesco Guarguaglini after allegations by prosecutors that company executives set up slush funds to bribe politicians.

In Greece, Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos in September announced plans to impose a special tax on all homeowners to meet budget targets for this year after admitting the country’s tax-collection system was failing.

Open Wounds

“There have been failures in the tax-collection system, tax evasion, delays, as well as the deepening recession,” Venizelos said. Greece’s measures had “opened wounds on the body of society,” which a “national struggle” against tax evasion would help close, he said on Oct. 18.

Countries in the Middle East that have been caught in the throes of the Arab Spring this year were also placed low on the list, with most of them ranking below a four. With publics rallying or fighting to overthrow governments weighed down by nepotism, bribery and systems of patronage, Transparency said the movement signified the proliferation of corruption.

Egypt, where a revolution ousted President Hosni Mubarak from power in February, plummeted 14 places in the ranking to 112th. Tunisia, where the movement began, fell to 73rd place from 59th, while Libya slid 22 slots to 168th. Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi was killed by militia fighters in October.

“This year we have seen corruption on protesters’ banners be they rich or poor,” Transparency International’s chief, Huguette Labelle, said in a statement. “Whether in a Europe hit by debt crisis or an Arab world starting a new political era, leaders must heed the demands for better government.”

The index has become a benchmark gauge of perceptions of a country’s corruption, an assessment of risks for investors. It’s an aggregate indicator that combines data from 17 different surveys assembled by independent institutions, including country experts and business leaders.

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

Greece: A Mosque Will be Built in Thessaloniki

Nearly 5,000 muslims live in the area

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, DECEMBER 12 — Yiannis Boutaris, the Mayor of Greek Thessaloniki city said that they launched initiatives to build a mosque in Thessaloniki where nearly 5,000 Muslims were living. Boutaris, as Anatolia news agency reports, visited Mayor Aziz Kocaoglu of Turkey’s Aegean province of Izmir, and the two mayors decided to conclude the initiative which had been previously launched to declare Izmir and Thessaloniki as sister cities. Kocaoglu wished that the required protocol for being sister cities would be signed as soon as possible. He said that the relations between Izmir and Thessaloniki would have a positive impact not only on Turkish-Greek relations but also on the relations in Balkans and the Mediterranean. Boutaris added that Thessaloniki — where Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of modern Turkey, was born in 1881 — was the Greek city which was a home to the highest number of Ottoman artifacts.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Infiltrating the Far-Right: German Intelligence Has 130 Informants in Extremist Party

Following revelations about a neo-Nazi terror cell believed to have murdered at least 10 people, Germans want to see the right-wing extremist party NPD banned. But new figures reveal just how hard that would be. SPIEGEL has learned that German intelligence has fully 130 informants in the party.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Is There Such a Thing as ‘Pure’ Chocolate? Italy Bitter Over European Ruling

Italy is in hot water with EU authorities over its insistence that chocolate be classified as “pure” or “less pure” depending on its vegetable fat content. According to the European Commission, chocolate is chocolate — and should be labeled as such

In Italy, some are calling it “Eurocioccolato-gate.” The European Court of Justice has ruled against Italy for not banning the denomination “pure chocolate” from its cocoa-based products.

The European Commission had ruled eight years ago that there is no difference between so-called “pure chocolate,” which uses only cocoa butter, and “less pure” forms of chocolate that mix in a bit of vegetable fat. Provided the vegetable fat content is 5% or less, “less pure” chocolate — as the Italians call it —is just as worthy of being called chocolate as “pure” chocolate, the Commission decided.

Both varieties, therefore, should just be called “chocolate” — no qualifying adjective needed.

Italy, however, refused to heed the European Commission’s directive. Stubbornly, it continued labeling its chocolate as “pure” and “less pure.” Under pressure from the European Union, Italian authorities promises last June that within a month they would finally do away with the law that mandates the country’s nit-picky chocolate distinctions. But that never happen. Determined not to give in on the escalating chocolate war, authorities in Brussels filed suit against Italy in the European Court of Justice. The Court found Italy in violation of the European Commission’s original 2003 chocolate law. Until Italy stops distinguishing between the two types of chocolate, it will now have to pay a daily fine.

For Italian chocolate producers, the ruling is an outrage. COLDIRETTI, and Italian farmers association, called it a threat to the country’s “Made in Italy” brand to be so loose with the labels. The association has already fought similar battles over “milk-less cheese” and “grape-less wine.”

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

Italy: Tension After Turin Roma Camp Torched Over False Rape Claim

Teenager apologies for violence caused by fabricated story

(ANSA) — Turin, December 12 — There was tension in Turin on Monday after a Roma gypsy camp on the outskirts of the city was torched by youths at the weekend following a false rape claim by a 16-year-old.

The girl admitted on Sunday that she had fabricated the story of being raped by two Roma men.

She said she had done so to avoid being hit by her family after her brother ran into her by chance and saw her clothing stained by blood after a consensual sexual encounter.

“I saw the images of the gypsy camp in flames and I felt ill,” the girl said in a letter of apology published in Italian newspapers on Monday.

“I’m dead ashamed. Only now do I realise what has happened. I made up that story… At the time I didn’t think about the consequences”.

Turin prosecutor Giancarlo Caselli said the violence that took place on Saturday was “a grave offence with clear racist connotations”.

Interior Minister Anna Maria Cancellieri also condemned the raid.

“Nothing can justify acts like this, not anger, marginalisation or prejudice,” Cancellieri said.

Police are working to track down the perpetrators.

According to some media reports, Roma groups are considering revenge attacks.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Norway Farmers Slaughter Dairy’s ‘Butter Fingers’

Last week’s news Norway is running low on butter and TINE’s subsequent appeals for help and decreased import duty levels have fallen on stony ground.

Whilst tolls are now lower, Oppland-based milk farmer Karl Emil Grina says, “It appears as though TINE has been neglectful. We’ve known milk production would decrease because of lots of rain and the fodder shortage for a long time. This shouldn’t have surprised TINE. It must be much better to raise quotas and allow us who can increase production do it instead of reducing duties.”

Stating he could have raised production by 20 percent, Mr Grina tells Nationen, “I’m sure thousands of other farmers could have done the same. However, I now will be sending several cows to the abattoir because TINE has not taken the initiative to raise quotas here.”

Dag Fossen, a dairy farmer in Buskerud finds it “strange” news of a 25-million litre milk shortage has only been reported now and that “TINE has not managed to reallocate milk from cheese to butter production, for example.”

He alleges this would not have happened if quotas had been increased in September or October. This would have meant the current situation would have been avoided in time.

“We considered we had enough milk for butter until quite recently and are currently discussing whether we should raise quotas,” TINE Communications Director Elisabeth Morthen tells The Foreigner, “but this won’t solve the problem and not have an effect until the first two months of 2012.”

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

Sharia Law Already Devouring UK

Examples on the ground from a premier religious freedom attorney.

In 2008, while arguing for the need to formally introduce Sharia law into the law of the United Kingdom, the Archbishop of Canterbury claimed Sharia law was “inevitable” in the UK . He denied it was an “alien” system and called for “constructive accommodation” of Muslim law. He did this in a calculated and provocative manner, while denying a place for its more “extreme punishments.”

It is unlikely that many members of the Muslim community would be satisfied with an Anglican primate determining the limitations of the Quran and Sharia law.

This argument was rapidly followed by the Lord Chief Justice: Lord Phillips helpfully said there was a place for Sharia law, particularly in mediation. He lamented the “widespread misunderstanding” of Sharia law. The newly established Muslim Arbitration Tribunals immediately put a picture of the Lord Chief Justice on their website in appreciation of his endorsement.

In the United Kingdom, the many thousands of Sharia courts can quietly go about their business of implementing “justice” in a form totally “alien” to the Judeo-Christian tradition, denying human rights to many of our citizens — particularly women.

The “constructive accommodation” of Muslim law reached a logical conclusion with the declaration this year of Sharia law controlled zones in a number of areas geographically spread over the country, where the Islamist militants enforce their will. Their posters declare: “No music or concerts, no porn or prostitution, no drugs or smoking, no gambling, no alcohol.” A reign of terror has begun, with threats of implicit violence against anyone who “insults” Islam, changes religion, or fails to dress appropriately. I have already been contacted about assisting two individuals subject to Islamist threats.

The police stand passively by, adhering to their diversity training…

           — Hat tip: Steen [Return to headlines]

Spain and Italy in EU Immigrants Remittances Top

91% of remittances from Greece sent to non-EU countries

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, DECEMBER 12 — The largest sum of remittances sent in 2010 by immigrants in the EU was sent from Mediterranean countries, led by Spain (23% of total remittances) with 7.2 billion euros. In the same year Italy was found on second place, with a 21% share and a total of 6.6 billion euros.

Only 10% (3 billion euros) was sent from Germany, followed by France (9% and 2.9 billion) and the Netherlands (5% and 1.5 billion euros). Among all EU member States, the largest slice of remittances sent to non-EU countries was recorded by Greece (91%), for a total of 783 million euros. But the highest value, considering the fact that the Spanish figure is not reported, was recorded by Italy, with 5 billion 347 million euros sent over EU borders.

Looking over a longer period, the total of remittances sent in 2010 by EU immigrants showed a slight increase from the past years, after the strong impact of the economic crisis in 2009, but still remained below 2007 levels. As a whole, the flow of money sent by EU immigrants last year reached 31.2 billion euros, against 30.4 in 2009 (+3%).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

UK: Mosque Protest Leaflet ‘Is Trying to Whip Up Hysteria’

A campaign against a mosque planned for Cambridge has claimed its dome is deliberately designed to “dominate” the skyline. Homes have been leafleted by opponents of the Mill Road Islamic centre — leading some residents to claim the leaflet is whipping up antagonism against the city’s Muslim community. The anonymous publication brands the centre a “megamosque” and claims it will cause massive traffic congestion, late-night noise and disturbance to residents. It also says the mosque’s dome will “overshadow” nearby homes because it is “twice the height of neighbouring houses”. The leaflet claims the building is “intended to overbear its surroundings and to send a message of physical and numerical dominance”. The flyer asks: “Does Cambridge need a megamosque?”

During Ramadan, it says, traffic will build up so much it will be “impossible for emergency vehicles” to gain access to neighbouring Brookfields Hospital and Arthur Rank Hospice, claiming 3,000 worshippers would attend. Plans were last month submitted for the new mosque to replace the one on Mawson Road. Kate Morris, 40, of Suez Road, said: “I was shocked to find the leaflet on my mat. I object to the fact that it referred to a ‘megamosque’, whatever that might be, and frankly don’t believe the claims that it will have 3,000 visitors and swamp our streets with extra traffic. “I am very happy that a place of worship and study centre are being built on the site. Much better that than another supermarket or industrial estate. But what angered me the most was the fact that the authors chose to remain anonymous. Are they ashamed of their views? This is an underhand attempt to whip up local antagonism against a group who are proposing to turn a derelict area of the city into someth ing much better.”

The three-storey building on the site of the former Robert Sayle warehouse will eventually cost £13 million. A city council consultation is under way on the designs, which include a prayer hall with capacity for about 1,000 people and the dome. Other facilities include a mortuary, library café, teaching area and two homes. Sarah Elgazzar, a spokeswoman for Cambridge Muslim Academic Trust, said: “Everybody deserves a say and we welcome that but they have to be accurate and this campaign is making some inaccurate claims. “The dome is well set back in the building and certainly has not been designed to dominate the area.”

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: Prominent London Mosque Goes Without Egyptian Imams

For first time in decades, London’s Islamic Cultural Centre is refusing to appoint Egyptian imams

The London Islamic Cultural Centre (ICC) is refusing to appoint any Egyptian imams in a move that Egyptian community leaders in the UK have described as a “very serious precedent.” The Saudi management of the ICC, which hosts the biggest mosque in the country, has refused to give UK authorities permission to issue entry visas to Egyptian imams, Ahram Online has learned. One Al-Azhar source said: “ICC Director-General Ahmad Al-Dubayan did not give his consent to the British consulate in Cairo to issue visas to two [Egyptian] Al-Azhar candidates to work as imams in the mosque.” The new restrictions mean that, for the first time in decades, there will be no Egyptian imams at the ICC.

The ICC is one of the biggest Islamic centres in Europe. The land on which it and its associated mosque were built was originally donated by George VI to London’s Muslim community in 1944 in return for a site in Cairo on which an Anglican cathedral was built. According to a decades-long agreement among Islamic countries, Saudi Arabia is in charge of ICC management while Egypt is responsible for religious affairs. ICC imams used to be supplied by Egypt’s Al-Azhar or the Egyptian Ministry for Religious Endowments (awqaf).

The last Al-Azhar imam to be appointed to the ICC was Sheikh Mohammad El-Salamony, whose tenure was terminated by Al-Azhar in 2009.

Al-Salamony lost his eyesight after being assaulted by a young Irish man inside the mosque in 2007. Al-Salamony later filed a lawsuit against the ICC, which refused to take responsibility for the attack. El-Salamony’s lawyer has argued that the attack would not have occurred had the ICC’s security system been working properly. Due to the ongoing legal dispute, El-Salamony has refused to leave his accommodations within the ICC, insisting on his right to stay put until the court issued a verdict on the matter. In a statement, the ICC hinted that delays in the appointment of new Imams to replace the blind sheikh had been due to El-Salamony’s failure to comply with its request to evacuate the premises.

Meanwhile, the ICC has appointed a number of Saudi-educated Asian imams.

The only Egyptian imam currently serving at the ICC is self-contracted sheikh Khalifa Ali. However, Ali was forced to go on sabbatical after Egypt’s religious endowments ministry refused to renew his ICC appointment. Ali told Ahram Online that the ministry had refused the ICC’s request to extend his appointment. “There was no explanation for the ministry’s decision,” he said. Mostafa Ragab, an Egyptian community leader in London, strongly criticised the move. “The central mosque is without an Egyptian imam or sheikh for the first time in decades,” Ragab told Ahram Online. “This is a very serious precedent.” He went on to urge Al-Azhar to bring “this unacceptable situation” up with the Saudi authorities.

Al-Azhar officials are currently reviewing the ICC issue in order to provide a report on the matter to Al-Azhar Grand Imam Ahmad El-Tayeb. “I’m sure the Grand Imam will raise the issue with the religious affairs authorities or the Saudi foreign minister,” an adviser to El-Tayeb told Ahram Online. Ragab, for his part, stressed the matter’s urgency. “I’m sure the Grand Imam will find a way to discuss it with Saudis,” he said. “The issue demands intervention by a high-level authority, such as Egypt’s Al-Azhar.” The ICC board of trustees includes representatives from Qatar, Saudia Arabia, Morocco, Iran, Oman, Syria, Pakistan, Bahrain, Malaysia, Yemen and Jordan, as well as Egypt.

[JP note: News stories like this only increase the impression that the UK is edging ever closer to full Islamic Republic status and all this entails.]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: Sir Anthony Jay: Slash the BBC by Two Thirds!

The BBC’s reporting of David Cameron’s recent adventures in Europe has been a disgrace. Last night — following the example set by that very exemplar of quisling Europhile values the Today programme — the BBC’s Ten O’Clock News managed to reiterate about half a dozen times its view that Britain had been left more “isolated” than ever by Cameron’s eminently sensible decision not to sell his country’s interests for a mess of pottage. To listen to Nick Robinson and co, you might actually have imagined that it was somehow a bad thing for Britain not to wish to shackle itself to the rotting corpse of the EU; you might even have thought that it was a good and desirable thing for Cameron to accede to an arrangement which hamstrung Britain’s financial sector (on which so much tax revenue and around ten per cent of our economy depends). And it was the same again today. Can you guess who BBC Radio 4 news managed to wheel out of retirement to represent the Conservative point of view? Yes of course you can. It was that bastion of traditional Tory Eurosceptical values Michael Heseltine. In the BBC bubble, you get the strong impression, the Euro is still a vibrant success for which we would be well advised very soon to ditch the pound, while the only people who oppose closer union with the great European miracle are swivel-eyed, xenophobic Little Englanders.


           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Caroline Glick: Gingrich’s Fresh Hope

Last Friday, the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination, former speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, did something revolutionary. He told the truth about the Palestinians. In an interview with The Jewish Channel, Gingrich said that the Palestinians are an “invented” people, “who are in fact Arabs.”

His statement about the Palestinians was entirely accurate. At the end of 1920, the “Palestinian people” was artificially carved out of the Arab population of “Greater Syria.” “Greater Syria” included present-day Syria, Lebanon, Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Jordan. That is, the Palestinian people were invented 91 years ago. Moreover, as Gingrich noted, the term “Palestinian people” only became widely accepted after 1977…

           — Hat tip: Caroline Glick [Return to headlines]

Palestinian Authority: Pursuing Peace, Or Pushing Propaganda?

The Palestinian Authority claims in English to pursue peace, but a new book says that in the Arabic-language media, their statements tell a different story.

Leaders of the Palestinian Authority (PA), including its chairman, Mahmoud Abbas, and prime minister, Salam Fayyad, stand accused of systematically deceiving the international community by portraying themselves in English as pursuing peace while in their Arabic-language media they relentlessly propagate hate speech and venerate terror.

Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel and Robert Bernstein, founder of Advancing Human Rights and chairman emeritus of Human Rights Watch, endorsed the charge when they spoke in New York on the release of a 269-page book and CD entitled Deception, published by the research institute Palestinian Media Watch.

Its Israeli authors, Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik, document hundreds of examples in print, websites, videos, and school texts that they say are not exceptional but wholly representative of the way the PLO has systematically betrayed promises made to President Obama and the peace-seeking Quartet (the United Nations, the U.S., European Union, and Russia) to commit to nonviolence, recognize Israel’s right to exist, and end incitements of hatred.

“It’s a terrifying book,” said Wiesel. “The Palestinian Authority is revealed as inciting young children to hate Jews, not only in Israel but wherever they live. They must be denounced by all students of history.” Bernstein commented: “The book is not advocacy but a factual catalogue of public statements of government-sponsored hate speech that is not only wrong but dangerous. The Western media has entirely missed the story of duplicity because few know Arabic.”…

           — Hat tip: WG [Return to headlines]

Middle East

Iran: Blast at Steel Factory in Yazd Province

Blast and subsequent fire at steel factory in Yazd province kills foreign nationals, among others, Iranian news agency reports.

Another mysterious explosion rocked Iran on Sunday night, killing seven people and injuring 16 others, some of them foreign nationals.

The deaths occurred in an explosion and subsequent fire at a steel factory in the central Iranian province of Yazd, Iran’s IRIB news agency quoted Yazd Governor Azizollah Seifi as saying on Monday.

           — Hat tip: KGS [Return to headlines]

Iran: Tehran “Cloning Crashed Drone”

Tehran, 12 Dec. (AKI) — An Iranian politician said his country can “clone” the technology of an American spy drone that recently crashed in Iran.

Iran claims that it hacked into the unmanned aircraft causing it to crash. The US says a technological malfunction was the cause of the crash.

Iranian television on Monday cited Parviz Sorouri , a member of the Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Affairs Commission, as saying the USA Rq 170 Sentinel’s computer code is being copied.

“At the moment we are deciphering the code,” he said. “It’s the first step toward the reproduction of the apparatus.”

Sorouri said “in the near future we will be able to reproduce the drone on a large scale” but the “Iranian version with be better than the American one.”

Iran on 4 December announced it had downed the drone that crashed in the Tabas desert. Iranian tv on Thursday broadcast images of the American drone.

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

Saudi Arabia: Woman Beheaded for ‘Witchcraft, Sorcery’

Riyadh, 12 Dec. (AKI) — A Saudi Arabian woman was beheaded Monday for ““practising witchcraft and sorcery,” according to the Saudi interior ministry.

Amina bint Abdulhalim Nassar was executed in the northern region of al-Jawf making hers the ultra-conservative country’s 73rd execution this year.

Nasser told her clients she could cure any ailment and charged them the equivalent of 800 dollars.

Saudi Arabia’s strict interpretation of Sharia, or Islamic law, mandates the death penalty for crimes including robbery, murder, drug trafficking and apostasy.

Saudi Arabia, China, Iran, the United States and Yemen are the countries that execute the highest numbers of people, according to human rights group Amnesty International.

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

Stakelbeck: Iran/Hezbollah Spread Tentacles in Latin America

Prior to 9/11, no terrorist group had killed more Americans than Hezbollah. Like its patron, Iran, the group is committed to America’s destruction.

Now the Iranian/Hezbollah axis is spreading its tentacles throughout Latin America and, according to experts, could go operational at a moment’s notice.

Click the link above to watch my new report showing how these jihadist forces are setting up shop in America’s backyard.

           — Hat tip: Erick Stakelbeck [Return to headlines]

Turkish Soap Operas Invade the Middle East

They exercise soft power for neo-Ottoman expansion, experts

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, DECEMBER 12 — People in more than 20 countries watch Turkish soap operas and experts say that these television shows are spreading Turkish values and lifestyle in the Middle East and North Africa. It is also believed that they exercise a “soft power”, supporting Ankara’s neo-Ottoman diplomacy.

Television serials like “Muhtesem Yuzyål” (“Magnificent” Ottoman “Century”), “Ask-i Memnu” (Forbidden Love) and “Yaprak Dokumu” (Falling Leaves) are breaking records in the number of viewers. The more than a hundred episodes that are in circulation have earned the producers the equivalent of more than 60 million USD this year only. These facts are reported by Turkish websites, which point out that a Japanese television channel has made a documentary on Turkish soap operas and their impact on tourism and export. And the American Time Magazine recently called these series “the secret of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan”.

“With the increase in the number of soap operas circulating internationally, learning the Turkish language and culture has become very important in the Arab and Balkan countries,” a sociologist of the Bahcesehir University in Istanbul, Nilufer Narle, wrote on the website of the Turkish newspaper in English Hurriyet Daily News. She added that “this is what we call ‘soft power’ in the context of cultural industry.” According to the internet site, the final episode of the Turkish soap opera “Noor” was seen by 85 million viewers, ranging from Syria to Morocco. Moreover, Hurriyet reports, 78% of people who were interviewed in a poll carried out in the Arab world and in Iran said that they had watched Turkish soap operas. Kemal Uzun, director of “Noor”, claims that viewers “feel part of what is happening” on the screen. “Our cultures and geography are closely related, we have strong ties,” he added. “These series have an enormous impact,” said Izzet Pinto, head of the company that distributes “Magnificent Century” and “Thousand and One Nights”, set in modern Istanbul. The writer of a report with the title “The image of Turkey in the Arab world,” Paul Salem, underlined that “the stars of Turkish television become pop idols” and these soap operas create “great sympathy for the Turkish identity, culture and values,” a role that was played in the past decades by Egyptian television and film. The spread of soap operas seems to follow the geography of Turkish foreign policies and even goes beyond that, following global taste: “We started broadcasting in the Balkan countries this year,” said Firat Gulgen, president of Calinos Holding which produces 80% of the series exported by Turkey. Pinto, chairman of distribution company Turkey’s Global Agency, pointed out that babies in the Balkan area are now named after characters from the series “Thousand and One Nights.” But Turkey also exports its soap operas to many countries in central and eastern Europe and the Far East, even to Japan and Malaysia.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Yemen: 12 Al Qaeda Terrorists Escape From Aden Jail

15 detainees escaped through tunnel

(ANSAmed) — ROME, DECEMBER 12 — Twelve Al Qaeda members have escaped from a jail in Aden, southern Yemen. Reports were from local authorities quoted by Al Arabiya. The broadcaster said that overall 15 prisoners had escaped from the Al Mansoura jail. The prisoners escaped through a tunnel they had dug.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Far East

Philippines: Mindanao: American Teen, 14, Escapes Captors, Wanders Barefoot in Jungle

Villagers in Basilan province help Kevin Lunsmann who was abducted in July with his mother and a cousin, by criminals linked to Abu Sayyaf.

Manila (AsiaNews/ Agencies) — A 14-year-old American teen, abducted in Mindanao five months ago by a terrorist group close to Abu Sayyaf, was able to escape from his captives. After two days wandering in the jungle without shoes, hungry and in shock, Kevin Lunsmann was found by residents of a village in Basilan province. After giving him something to eat, they handed him to Filipino authorities who flew him to Manila where he was turned over to US officials.

According to police, the youth was able to escape after he told his captors that he would take a bath in a stream. From there, he made a dash for freedom and followed a river down a mountain for two days.

“He was in fear so there was a bit of a chase before the villagers convinced him that they were friends,” Senior Superintendent Philippines police Edwin de Ocampo. Exhausted, hungry and still stunned, the boy initially fled from the villagers, de Ocampo explained.

From Virginia (US), Kevin Lunsmann was abducted on 12 July together with his Filipino-American his mother and a cousin whilst holidaying with relatives on an island near Zamboanga City.

The mother was freed two months ago after she was dropped off by boat at a wharf on Basilan. The boy’s cousin escaped last month when Filipino army forces managed to get near an Abu Sayyaf camp near Akbar town.

Predominantly Muslim, Mindanao has seen a rash of kidnappings for ransom by criminal gangs and armed groups linked to Abu Sayyaf, an Islamic terrorist group close to Al Qaeda.

For years, the group has also carried out attacks and abductions across the region. Its members are known for their penchant for beheading hostages when the ransom is not paid.

However, more and more kidnappers are common criminals attracted by the abduction business because of widespread poverty. The ransoms vary between 14,000 and 200,000 pesos for Filipinos and more than US$ 4,000,000 for foreigners.

Foreign missionaries working in Mindanao are the highest-risk group. In the past few years, 13 foreign missionaries have been abducted or killed, including two Italian priests from the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME), Fr Luciano Benedetti, abducted in 1998 and released after three months, and Fr Giancarlo Bossi, kidnapped in 2007 and released after two months.

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


Face Time Required to Become Canadian Citizen

If you want to become a Canadian, you’ll have to show your face.

Under sweeping regulations that take effect Monday, Muslim women will have to remove their niqabs or any other face-coverings such as burkas before reciting the oath of citizenship to become Canadian, QMI Agency has learned.

Those participating in citizenship ceremonies — the final step in the process to officially become a Canadian — will be given two warnings to unveil themselves.

The first would be upon arrival, when a department official will explain the requirement. If the person refuses, a citizenship judge will ask the individual to show her face before reading the oath.

If the person refuses the second request, the judge will ask them to leave, putting their citizenship in jeopardy. But they will be given other opportunities at future citizenship ceremonies if they change their mind.

If they don’t, they will remain permanent residents and give up their right to vote, run for office and hold certain jobs. Permanent residents can be deported for serious crimes.

The new rule requires the citizenship judge to see the person’s face as the oath is being spoken. Once the oath is completed and the national anthem sung, the individual can cover her face and begin a new life in Canada as a citizen.

The new rule is part of a wider package of reforms Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has implemented throughout the department.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes [Return to headlines]

Supreme Court to Rule on Arizona’s Immigration Law

The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to decide whether Arizona may impose tough anti-immigration measures. Among them, in a law enacted last year, is a requirement that police there question people they stop about their immigration status.

The Obama administration challenged parts of the law in court, saying that it could not be reconciled with federal immigration laws and policies. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco, blocked enforcement of parts of the law in April.

[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

RAI Bans “Condom” On AIDS Day

Internal email says ban is “ministry of health policy”

ROME — In 2011, the word “condom” is still taboo in Italy, at least for the state broadcaster RAI and the ministry of health, where Renato Balduzzi took over a few days ago. The word cannot be uttered, even on World AIDS Day, commemorated yesterday by various programmes on Radio 1. Presenters and editorial staff on the programmes involved received an email last Wednesday that left little room for doubt. “Dear colleagues, I would point out that a few hours ago, the ministry has underlined that no contribution should explicitly mention condoms. Contributors should restrict themselves to the general notion of prevention in sexual behaviour and to the need for HIV testing in case of potential risk. If you can, emphasise this point”.

The high-priority email is signed by Laura De Pasquale, a fast-tracked state television executive and partner of Silvio Berlusconi’s “personal cameraman”, Roberto Gasparotti. Predictably, eyebrows were raised. It’s not easy to make hours of programmes on AIDS without being able to mention condoms. But orders are orders. Besides, this is also the line of the ministry now in the hands of Mr Balduzzi, a Catholic, a good friend of Rosy Bindi, the man behind DICO civil unions and, until his appointment, a member of the Democratic Party’s (PD) rights committee, the body that seeks to soothe ethics-related strife within the party. Yesterday afternoon, the press office said: “We have no knowledge of any emails sent with these indications”…

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

News Feed 20111211

Financial Crisis
» As the Dust Settles: A Cold New Europe With Germany in Charge Will Emerge
» Franco-German Eurozone Plan is “Insufficient”
» Greece’s EU Fund Absorption Climbs to 27%
» IMF Economist Says E. U. Agreement is Partial Solution
» Inflation Officially Drops, But it is Not True as China Edges Ever Closer to a Crisis
» Italy: Schifani, Fini State Desire to Cut Parliament Salaries
» Netherlands: PvdA Threatens to Withdraw Support to Cabinet on Euro
» Netherlands: Next Year’s Bank Tax Will Also Tackle Excessive Bonuses
» Premier’s TV Warning — Italy Insolvent Without Budget
» Sovereignty Portions to be Yielded to EU Over Next Months
Europe and the EU
» EuroMP Suspected of Rake-Offs From Spastics Charity
» Italy: Bologna Named ‘Most Liveable City’ In Italy
» Italy: Former Economy Undersecretary Probed for Alleged Mafia Ties
» Italy: Powerful Mafia Group ‘For Decade’ Has Invaded Wealthy Milan
» Italy: Fight Against Mafia Means Attacking the Bosses’ Property
» Netherlands: Secret Service Worried About Radical Muslim Group
» Norway Dairy Sends SOS
» Sweden: Loose Wire Saved Dozens of Christmas Shoppers Caught in Suicide Bomb Attack by Taimour Abdulwahab
» The Netherlands Resists Pressure Over Bulgaria and Romania
» Vatican-OSCE: A Day Against the Persecution of Christians, But Especially Against Religious Intolerance
» Italy-Serbia: Andrea Confezioni Factory in Jagodina
Mediterranean Union
» Exchange With Italy Rises, 82 Bln Target for 2013
Middle East
» Jordanians Protesters Call for Reforms
» Lebanon: Political Dispute Over Electrical Blackout
» NATO Mission in Iraq to End Over Immunity Issue
» Turkey: Trial Starts for Shorn-Head Protesters
South Asia
» US Forces Leave Pakistani Air Base in Shamsi
Far East
» Across China’s Border, Myanmar’s Fate is a Question of Drugs as Much as Democracy
» South Korea to Allow 2 More Christmas Trees Near Border
Sub-Saharan Africa
» Bombs Explode in Kenyan Cities Near Somali Border

Financial Crisis

As the Dust Settles: A Cold New Europe With Germany in Charge Will Emerge

After the EU summit, the prospect is of a joyless union of penalties, punishments, disciplines and seething resentments

As a clear damp dawn rose over Brussels on Friday morning, the tired and tetchy leaders of Europe emerged, bleary-eyed from nine hours of night-time sparring over how to rescue the single currency and indeed the entire European project.

Brave faces were put on, bluffs called, counter-bluffs revealed, vetoes wielded. Histrionics from France’s Nicolas Sarkozy, poker-faced calm from Germany’s Angela Merkel, David Cameron gambling the UK’s place in Europe by opting to battle for Britain rather than helping to save the euro. When the dust settles, Friday 9 December may be seen as a watershed, the beginning of the end for Britain in Europe. But more than that — the emergence for the first time of a cold new Europe in which Germany is the undisputed, pre-eminent power imposing a decade of austerity on the eurozone as the price for its propping up the currency.

The prospect is of a joyless union of penalties, punishments, disciplines and seething resentments, with the centrist elites who run the EU increasingly under siege from anti-EU populists on the right and left everywhere in Europe.

“For the first time in the history of the EU, the Germans are now in charge. But they are also more isolated than before,” said Charles Grant, director of the Centre for European Reform thinktank. “The British are certainly more marginal than before. Their influence has never been lower in my lifetime.”

Whether or not the summit has saved the euro remains, of course, to be seen. At a single stroke, however, it has transformed Britain’s place in Europe. With the fate of the currency at stake in the EU’s worst crisis, Cameron opted for a fight and lost, placing the interests of the City of London before the European priority. Battling for Britain and wielding my veto in the Great British national interest, Cameron averred. There are senior UK officials who believe the prime minister betrayed the British national interest by picking the wrong fight at the wrong time, losing, and forfeiting a seat at the table that will determine the future shape of the EU…

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

Franco-German Eurozone Plan is “Insufficient”

As leaders prepare for a crucial European Union summit, Swiss specialists tell why the latest bid to save the euro currency from collapse is inadequate.

Over the next two days the leaders of France and Germany will be hoping to build support in Brussels for their plan for eurozone nations to submit their economies to much greater scrutiny.

René Schwok is a political scientist at Geneva University and Manfred Gaertner works as economics profesor at St Gallen University.

René Schwok: The latest proposals by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy are not original. They repeat those already adopted by the European Council on October 23. And they are well below the expectations of most observers.

Indeed, there is no proposal on an enhanced role for the European Central Bank (ECB). There is no mention either of the creation of eurobonds or equivalent instruments, and the European Commission would not get new powers to control budgets before adoption.

The “golden rule” is not original as it is a simple copy of the EU Stability and Growth Pact criteria [agreement adopted in 1997 to facilitate and maintain the stability of the Economic and Monetary Union]. The only novelty is that the imposition of sanctions will be automatic, unless a qualified majority of the European Council opposes it.

Even if they are going in the right direction, these proposals are insufficient to prevent further attacks against the eurozone area.

R.S.: Merkel and Sarkozy clearly state that these new agreements should be incorporated into EU treaties. Maybe this will appear in the form of a protocol to which only the 17 eurozone states subscribe. Under EU law this is called enhanced cooperation, allowing some states to move forward in some areas without forcing the others to follow. The only requirement is that recalcitrant states let the others go ahead.

I don’t see Britain preventing the 17 eurozone states making decisions for themselves. It is rather countries that aspire to join the eurozone like Poland, which do not like the idea that others decide the rules that will be applied to them in a few years without being able to participate in their elaboration…

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

Greece’s EU Fund Absorption Climbs to 27%

1,852 new projects add up to some 4 bln euros

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, DECEMBER 7 — Greek Development Ministry is trying to make the best possible use of European Union funds to bolster growth by including feasible projects in the funding framework and scrapping those that have remained idle, daily Khatimerini reports quoting minister Michalis Chrysochoidis as saying. In a joint press conference with Health Minister Andreas Loverdos, Chrysochoidis presented the implementation course of the National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF) and claimed that the acceleration achieved has led to the absorption of 27% of the funds for the period up to 2013. The 1,852 new projects included add up to some 4 billion euros, while the active contracts amount now to 8.2 billion euros. In the context of the effort to inject some much-needed liquidity into the market, negotiations with the European Commission and the European Investment Bank are close to completion regarding the creation of funds that will release resources for small and medium-sized enterprises and infrastructure projects. Chrysochoidis and European Commissioner for Regional Policy Johannes Hahn are likely to make formal announcements on the subject next week.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

IMF Economist Says E. U. Agreement is Partial Solution

(AGI) Tel Aviv — The IMF’s chief economist Olivier Blanchard said today that fiscal union is a step in the right direction for the EU, but it is not an overall solution for the sovereign debt crisis. “At the moment,” he said, “I am more optimistic than I was a month ago, and some progress has been made. “What took place last week was important and is part of a solution, but it is not an overall solution.” Blanchard did not address in detail the problems Europe must solve.

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

Inflation Officially Drops, But it is Not True as China Edges Ever Closer to a Crisis

China’s National Bureau of Statistics said today that inflation in November was 4.2 per cent. However, a closer look at prices shows that some have jumped as much as 36 per cent. Provincial and central government spending on dinners, receptions and parties is higher than the country’s education budget. Small- and medium-sized enterprises are closing whilst foreign investors are told to lie on their possible investments. According to Bloomberg, the crisis is near; according to Goldman Sachs, things are okay.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) — Consumer prices rose at 4.2 per cent last month compared with the same month last year, China’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said today, the lowest in 14 months. However, no one in the country gives much credence to the figure because people have seen prices surge, up to 30 per cent in some cases, rising much faster than official figures. In addition, fears are growing that China’s economy is edging ever closer to a hard landing.

Inflation increased by at 4.2 per cent in November from a year before, the National Bureau of Statistics against 5.5 per cent in October, after hitting a three-year high in July of 6.5 per cent. However, things are worse on the ground. “In fact, inflation is skyrocketing,” a businessman from China’s coast said. “Before, with 50 yuan three people could eat at a restaurant; now, it is not enough for one.”

Other indicators throw a different light on official figures. Meat jumped 36 per cent. Until two months ago, half a kilo of garlic cost two yuan. Now it takes half a yuan just to buy a single clove (when it is available). Now many working families cannot get to the end of the month.

But whilst ordinary people complain about extreme poverty, provincial and national authorities are spending lavishly on dinners, receptions, parties, etc, whose total cost is now higher than the country’s education budget.

Inflation has also risen because of the government’s attempt to shield the economy from the aftershocks of the 2008 subprime crisis. At the time, the authorities introduced a US$ 4 trillion stimulus package that led to runaway inflation caused by overproduction and excess investments. The result has been a real estate bubble with many new but empty houses and unused office space (at least 50 per cent), as well as factories with a lot of unsold inventories. Likewise, provinces have invested heavily in infrastructure, building high-speed railways, airports and port facilities that are underutilised or too far from markets.

Given the situation, the central government has cut lending. However, that and lower exports due to the world economic crisis have been hard on many companies, especially small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). In October, one fifth of Zhejiang’s 360,000 SMEs had to close for lack of credit.

At the same time, it order to maintain an appearance of growth, highly indebted provincial governments have told foreign investors to declare the amount of new capital they intend to invest, which is then classified as “new investments”.

Recently, Prof Larry Lang said that China was on the brink of collapse (see “As China’s govt cheats, its economy is “on the brink of bankruptcy”, Chinese scholar says,” in AsiaNews, 30 November 2011).

Similarly, 61 per cent of investors surveyed said they anticipate a crash in the financial industry in the next five years, Bloomberg reported, eroding confidence in the country’s leadership.

Enthusiasm for Chinese stocks has also flagged among Bloomberg subscribers. In the latest poll, 21 per cent called China one of the best places to invest over the next year. That was less than half the 44 per cent who named China in an October 2009 survey.

The scepticism contrasts with the outlook of economists from Goldman Sachs and the International Monetary Fund, who predict China will avoid a growth slump whilst defusing inflation. Goldman, in a 1 December report, projected the nation’s gross domestic product would rise 8.6 per cent next year and 8.7 per cent in 2013.

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

Italy: Schifani, Fini State Desire to Cut Parliament Salaries

(AGI) Rome — The Senate and House Speakers, Schifani and Fini, have announced quick action on parliamentary salaries. “The suppositions of some information fonts about the presumed unwillingness of Parliament to assume behaviors in line with the severity that the serious economic-financial crisis imposes on all, does not correspond to the truth.” Renato Schifani and Gianfranco Fini made the statements with regards to the reduction of parliamentary salaries.

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

Netherlands: PvdA Threatens to Withdraw Support to Cabinet on Euro

AMSTERDAM, 09/12/11 — Labour (PvdA) is threatening to withdraw its support for the cabinet regarding the tackling of the euro crisis. The biggest opposition party will press for elections if more power is shifted from the member states to Europe.

On Wednesday evening, the Lower House debated the Dutch effort at the European summit today and tomorrow on the euro crisis. PvdA MP Ronald Plasterk unexpectedly came out with threatening language. If substantial authority is to be transferred to Brussels, this must be presented to the electorate by means of elections, he said.

The PvdA is to date still supporting the cabinet of VVD and the Christian democrats (CDA) regarding the approach to the euro crisis. This support is of great importance because the PVV, the coalition partner of the minority cabinet, is against any rescue operation for weak countries.

It is expected that the PvdA will have to give way on this after the EU summit. PvdA leader Job Cohen however declined to respond yesterday morning to the question of whether he would indeed withdraw support for the cabinet’s European policy if the cabinet refuses to hold elections.

According to Premier Mark Rutte, no sovereignty whatever will be transferred to Brussels. He does expect a minor amendment of the EU treaty, But this will only amount to the enforcement of existing agreements on budget discipline.

Rutte is pushing for automatic sanctions to be enshrined in the EU treaty for when member states do not stick to budget agreements. He compared this with the introduction of speed limits on the roads.

“How do we enforce the standards? Not just with a board saying you can only drive at up to 50 kilometres, but also with an officer who says: You are driving too fast, I am going to fine you. This is not the transfer of sovereignty.

As far as Rutte is concerned, revision of the treaty is no goal in itself, but a means to prevent the budget rules once again being trodden underfoot. This may be possible without treaty amendment, if only this is sufficiently watertight judicially, according to Rutte.

Rutte did not want to give much comment on the proposals of Germany and France, but said he was not much in favour of a monthly meeting of the government leaders of the 17 eurozone counties, as Berlin and Paris want.

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

Netherlands: Next Year’s Bank Tax Will Also Tackle Excessive Bonuses

Draft legislation introducing a new tax on banks next year will also include an extra tax of 5% for banks which pay excessive bonuses to executives, the Volkskrant reports on Friday.

The extra tax will be imposed on banks which pay executives a bonus of more than one year’s salary, the paper said on its website.

The aim of the bank tax is to raise some €300m a year. Risky short-term debt will be taxed at a higher rate than long-term loans. The cabinet says the tax is justified because several banks were saved by billions of euros of taxpayers’ money during the 2008 crisis.

‘Now the time is right to ask for something back,’ the Volkskrant quoted junior finance minister Frans Weekers as saying after the weekly cabinet meeting.

He admitted banks would be able to pass the extra costs on to consumers but said he hoped they would primarily cut their own costs and bonuses.

Listed companies

Meanwhile, economic affairs minister Maxime Verhagen said on Friday the executives of listed companies should limit themselves to a golden handshake of no more than one year’s salary if they leave a company because of a difference of opinion.

However, the minister is opposed to anchoring some parts of the voluntary corporate governance code — which covers executive pay and standards — in law.

If this happened, managers would instead start ticking items off lists, rather than ‘thinking about what is socially acceptable’, Verhagen said.

Verhagen made his remarks in a speech at the presentation of a new report on monitoring corporate governance.

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

Premier’s TV Warning — Italy Insolvent Without Budget

PM confident Italians will understand. Pensions decision hardest. Little room for adjustments.

MILAN — Mario Monti took off his technocrat’s hat, and even got slightly sentimental, as he explained his emergency government’s swath of just-launched budget measures to an Italy getting ready to take its collective belt in another notch. “I’m here to explain, not to do you a favour”, was his opening gambit for interviewer Bruno Vespa, host of the TV talk show that earned the nickname of Parliament’s “third Chamber” for Silvio Berlusconi’s many appearances, including the one when he signed his “contract with the Italians”. The prime minister told his default anxiety-stricken fellow citizens that there was no alternative to the budget: “I invited everyone to consider that this operation of rigour, fairness and growth required sacrifice. But the other option wasn’t carrying on as if nothing was amiss. It was running the risk that the state might not be able to pay wages and pensions. Protests are justified but Italians will understand”. What follows is a summary of the main issues the premier discussed on his first television appearance, including a question on the women in his life, his mother and his wife.

MARKETS — “Today, the markets are wild beasts that have taken fright. It’s our task to tame them. We are working on behalf of Italians, not the markets. We have to take the markets into account because their function is essential but we don’t have to bend the knee”. “Who is the bogeyman?” asks Bruno Vespa. “There’s no bogeyman as such but there could be others, like the Chinese or Canadian investors. Anyone who moves assets around the world can take advantage of the little errors countries make but there are also speculators. We have to tame the markets”.

FAMILY — Mr Monti rejected criticism, mainly from Catholic circles, that he had neglected the needs of the family. He said: “That’s not true. We have taken care of women and young people, who are fundamental components of the family and of society. Although ‘tax relief’ isn’t a particularly fashionable word at the moment, there is a reduction of employment taxes, through IRAP, for businesses that hire women and young people on open-ended contracts. We have given no tax bonus for short-term employment”.

HOMES — “First homes are important for people’s lives but they also consume public resources. You need infrastructures around homes. Towns cost money. In all countries, first homes contribute to maintaining public services”, said the prime minister, justifying the re-introduction of the ICI property tax on first homes.

PENSIONS — “I sympathise with bewildered pensioners but Italy’s spending on pensions is skewed. Fairness includes fairness to future generations. This is not an abstract issue. In the past, politicians in search of consensus have satisfied everyone by passing the debt on to young people”, said the PM…

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

Sovereignty Portions to be Yielded to EU Over Next Months

(AGI) Cagliari — “Over the next months we will have to yield increasing portions of sovereignty to Europe, that is why the quality of politics must be heightened”. The leader of ‘Futuro e Liberta” (Future and Freedom) Gianfranco Fini spoke about what is happening to the European countries, in a speech at the Teatro Lirico in Cagliari tonight .

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

Europe and the EU

EuroMP Suspected of Rake-Offs From Spastics Charity

(AGI) Messina — EPP EuroMP Sebastiano Sanzarello is among those being investigated as part of the anti-Mafia Gothas 2 enquiry.

Sanzarello, a former regional health councillor from Mistreta (Messina) is suspected of misappropriation of funds by taking rake-offs worth over half a million euros from the Barcellona Pozzo di Gotto AIAS spastics charity. Sanzarello was denounced by the former chairman of the charity, Luigi La Rosa, commissioner for financial irregularities since 2010.

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

Italy: Bologna Named ‘Most Liveable City’ In Italy

‘We can overcome crisis’, says mayor

(ANSA) — Bologna, December 6 — The northern city of Bologna has been named the most liveable city in the country, according to a new survey.

Bologna has long been recognised as a centre of arts and culture and is home to the oldest university in the world, the University of Bologna, which was founded in 1088.

A poll conducted by the national business daily, Il Sole-24 Ore, announced the finding after assessing the quality of life in 107 provinces across Italy.

The survey looked at a number of issues spanning business, work, health and hospital services and the state of the local environment, public services and availability of free time. Bologna’s Mayor Virginio Merola welcomed the news saying the city was well-placed to weather the current economic crisis.

“I believe that this region and urban network has all the conditions for overcoming this crisis,” he said.

One of the major assets of the city is its commitment to childcare and education. In 2010 the city offered places for 3,275 children at nursery schools and kindergartens.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Former Economy Undersecretary Probed for Alleged Mafia Ties

Nicola Cosentino pressured Italy’s biggest bank, prosecutors say

(ANSA) — Naples, December 6 — Naples prosecutors on Tuesday requested an arrest warrant for former Economy Undersecretary Nicola Cosentino for suspicion of corruption and colluding with the mafia. Among other things, the former undersecretary from ex-Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi’s People of Freedom (PdL) party is accused of pressuring members of Italy’s largest bank Unicredit into providing financing for a shopping mall with alleged ties to the Camorra mafia, which is based in and around Naples.

Cosentino decided to resign last year after allegations of being part of a lobby that aimed to influence high-court judges in Berlusconi’s favour.

However, the former undersecretary did not give up his post as the ex-premier’s party leader in Campania, the region around Naples.

Cosentino was also accused by prosecutors in 2009 of links with the Camorra but parliament rejected an arrest warrant and Berlusconi turned down his proffered resignations from both his posts.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Powerful Mafia Group ‘For Decade’ Has Invaded Wealthy Milan

Reggio Calabria, 2 Dec. (AKI) — Milan is the centre of a decade-long invasion by Italy’s most powerful and violent mafia syndicate, according to a leading prosecutor from southern Italy.

A judge, regional politician, doctor, lawyer and police official were among the 10 suspects people arrested Wednesday in a probe that Milan prosecutors said shed light on the ‘Ndrangheta’s infiltration into Italy’s wealthy Lombardy region where Milan is the industrial and finance hub.

“The north, the heart of the country’s production, is the centre of an offensive by “Ndrangheta clans, Reggio Calbria head prosecutor Michele Prestipino told Italy’s Sky satellite news channel. The ‘Ndrangheta is based in the southern Calabria region where Reggio Calabria is the largest city.

“It’s an offensive that didn’t just begin today. It’s been happening for a decade The group has multiplied and created a grey area of infiltration inside the public administration. Investigations show the ties with civil servants and professionals that aim to create ways for clans to recycle money.”

Investigators say the affluent Lombardy region has fallen victim to a colonisation by the ‘Ndrangheta which invests billions of euros in businesses and real estate to launder money through illegal activities. Its activities have also been tracked to North and South America, Australia, as well as other European countries.

Italian authorities consider the ‘Ndrangheta the country’s most dangerous crime syndicate. It reportedly earns tens of billions of euros each year, largely from narcotics smuggled from Latin America, but also from extortion and other types of smuggling.

Among those arrested on Wednesday was Reggio Calabria Tribunal magistrate Giuseppe Vincenzo Giglio, who has headed an anti-organised crime unit, aided a member of the Lampada crime clan and “facilitated” ‘Ndrangheta activities.

Part of Giglio’s job was to order the seizure of assets of property belonging to convicted members of the mafia.

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

Italy: Fight Against Mafia Means Attacking the Bosses’ Property

(AGI) Naples — The fight against organized crime cannot be carried out without attacking the property of criminals and cutting the bonds between mafia and politics, especially in a moment in which crisis “lowered the defence mechanism of the economic, financial and political system”, as claimed by the writer Roberto Saviano in a videomessage to the initiative “Politics against Mafias”, organized by the City of Naples. The author of “Gomorra” aknowledged the merits of the former Interior minister Roberto Maroni, but he said that this action was not “fundamental”, since it progressively became “weaker and weaker and did not manage to change the economic policies”.

The role of politics in this field must be “to create instruments to allow the judges to attack the mafia’s real estate and liquid assets”. Saviano underlined that the Berlusconi Government “claimed they carried out a great campaign against mafia”, but this is “difficult to believe since the Finance Undersecretary was under investigation, and his arrest had been asked by the Mafia Prosecutor in Naples, and since one of the funding fathers of majority party was Marcello Dell’Utri”. Saviano stressed that Italians are “tired of being associated to mafia” and, repeating former premier Berlusconi’s expression, according to which those who talk about mafia smear Italy, he explained that “the truth is just the contrary of it: it is a way to defend our country, especially considering that we have the best antimafia legislation in the world”.

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

Netherlands: Secret Service Worried About Radical Muslim Group

The Dutch Intelligence Service, AIVD is worried about the rapid radicalization of the Muslim group “Sharia4Holland.” The AIVD remarked that the group appears increasingly in public and hands out flyers on the street. This group is held responsible for the disturbance in an Amsterdam meeting where Parliamentarian Tofik Dibi, (Green Left) had eggs thrown at him. Radical slogans were also shouted. Various parliamentarians of the Labor Party, the Christian Democrats and the Liberals have criticized the group. The Freedom Party wants the group to be prohibited.

           — Hat tip: KGS [Return to headlines]

Norway Dairy Sends SOS

Norway’s major butter producers are appealing for foreign help as they are struggling to keep up with demand.

“Butter has traditionally had a bad reputation, health-wise, but now everyone wants a lot of it,” Jon Holstad, head of TINE’s Voll dairy in Rogaland, western Norway, tells NRK.

In yesterday’s article on The Foreigner, both Tine and branch organisation Opplysningskontoret for Meieriprodukter (Dairy Product Information Office) blamed bad weather, poor harvests, and healthy cooking with fresh ingredients for the butter shortage. The finger has also been pointed at low carb diets.

A TINE representative also assured customers there would be an adequate supply if everyone remained calm.

Today, Mr Holstad says 4,600 packages per hour are insufficient. He says, “We are not accustomed to butter almost being taken out of our grasp. We used to have a supply in storage.”

TINE has called for lowered butter import duties during this exceptional period, the company has imported 150 tons for industrial use, and increased production by reducing the amount of cheese made. Supplies are still slipping away, however.

“These measures we have adopted won’t be enough,” says Executive Director Elisabeth Morthen.

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

Sweden: Loose Wire Saved Dozens of Christmas Shoppers Caught in Suicide Bomb Attack by Taimour Abdulwahab

The Stockholm suicide bomber Taimour Abdulwahab was carrying up to 17kg of nails and explosives when he blew himself up among Christmas shoppers a year ago but a loose wire meant the bomb did not detonate properly saving dozens of lives.

Details of the last hours of Luton extremist Taimour Abdulwahab were revealed by the Swedish security services as they laid out the results of a 12-month investigation.

The bomber arrived at Skavsta Airport, Sweden from Britain on November 19 and from there he went to Tranas where he stayed with his parents for three weeks, investigators said.

He had already begun purchasing bomb-making equipment in the form of a handheld pollen press on the internet before he left Luton, sources said.

They said that in Britain, Abdulwahab was not a “leading man who charismatically gathered people around him.”

“His views appear to have been shared with a handful of other people who were also part of his social network,” a security source told the Daily Telegraph.


Sweden: four arrested over ‘terror plot’

11 Sep 2011

Nursing student charged with funding Stockholm suicide bomber

14 Mar 2011

Sweden suicide bomber went to British university

12 Dec 2010

Investigators could find no evidence that he had accomplices with him in Stockholm when he launched the attacks but investigations are continuing in Britain where one man has been arrested and charged.

In Sweden, Abdulwahab apparently stayed around Tranås but investigators have been unable to discover where he assembled his bombs.

They have been able to establish that he bought a white Audi, which he used for the attack, in Tranås on November 22 and bought other bomb-making equipment in shops around the town…

           — Hat tip: Steen [Return to headlines]

The Netherlands Resists Pressure Over Bulgaria and Romania

Despite strong pressure from other EU countries, the Netherlands has refused to agree to Bulgaria and Romania joining the open border Schengen zone.

The two countries have still not done enough to combat corruptions and organized crime, prime minister Mark Rutte said.

The EU will consider the question again in March but ‘I do not rule out the Netherlands saying no again,’ Rutte was quoted as saying by news agencies.

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

Vatican-OSCE: A Day Against the Persecution of Christians, But Especially Against Religious Intolerance

Archbishop Dominique Mamberti appreciates the idea of an annual day to commemorate the 200 million persecuted Christians. But OSCE efforts against religious intolerance is important, especially in the countries of North Africa and the former Soviet republics.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) — An annual international day to remind the world of persecution of Christians: This is the idea that for some time now has been discussed within the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) and it has met with the appreciation of the Holy See, even if the Vatican seems to push more for a commitment against intolerance of all religions.

At the 18th OSCE Ministerial Council, held in Vilnius (Lithuania) on December 6, Msgr. Dominique Mamberti, Vatican Secretary for Relations with States, encouraged “the participating States to report hate crimes against Christians, I wish to express my hope that in the near future there is a sequel to the Rome Conference [held last September — ed], in particular in discussions with our partners for cooperation. The celebration of International Day against the persecution and discrimination of Christians could prove an important sign that governments are eager to tackle this serious issue. “

Referring to Benedict XVI’s Message for World Day of Peace 2011, religious freedom, Msgr. Mamberti recalled that “Christians are now the religious group that suffers the highest number of persecution because of their faith …. There may be more than two hundred million Christians of different denominations, who are in difficulty because of legal and cultural structures that lead to their discrimination. “

The Vatican Secretary expressed appreciation for the OSCE efforts to support religious freedom. He recalled that “the Astana Summit Declaration [of 2010] clearly stated that ‘ greater efforts must be made to promote freedom of religion or belief and to combat intolerance and discrimination’. The right to religious freedom, despite being repeatedly proclaimed by the international community and in the constitutions of most states, continues today be widely violated”.

“This commitment to combating religious intolerance is what motivates the Holy See,” a Vatican official told AsiaNews. “This work which is of utmost important would be fitting for the OSCE.”

The OSCE is an international organization that developed after the Helsinki Conference of 1973, for the promotion of peace, political dialogue, justice and cooperation in Europe. It currently has 56 member countries and is in fact the largest regional security organization. Among the member states and partners are the former Soviet republics and the countries of North Africa. In recent times in these two areas serious attacks against the religious freedom of Muslims and Christians have been registered.

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


Italy-Serbia: Andrea Confezioni Factory in Jagodina

Production of sheets to protect cars and motorcycles

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, DECEMBER 7 — The Italian company Andrea Confezioni is going to build a factory for the production of special canvas sheets for the protection of cars and motorcycles in Jagodina, a city in Serbia located 140km south of Belgrade. The contract for the project was signed by Serbia’s Vice Premier Verica Kalanovic, the mayor of Jagodina Dragan Markovic and, representing the Italian company, Paola and Andrea Tavelli.

Kalanovic has said that nine million euros will be invested in the construction of the factory, which will be completed in 2012 and will create jobs for 500 people. The clients of Andrea Confezioni include Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Audi, Bmw, Ford, Peugeot, Citroen, Aston martin, Hyundai, Lamborghini, Porsche and Suzuki.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union

Exchange With Italy Rises, 82 Bln Target for 2013

Report: southern firms want development after stabilisation

(ANSAmed) — NAPLES, DECEMBER 2 — “We believe that the current period of turbulence in the Mediterranean area could be stabilised within six months, paving the way for the significant recovery in the development of investments from Italian entrepreneurs and those from Campania in particular”. This bright outlook comes from the Paolo Scudieri, chair of the association Study and Research for the South (SRM), which presented its new report entitled “Economic relations between Italy and the Mediterranean” in Naples today.

The report shows that Italy is the leading trade partner of the Mediterranean area (which, for the sake of the study, includes the Middle East, North Africa and the non-EU Balkan states) with exchange totaling 63.3 billion euros, 30% of which concerning southern Italy. The study predicts that the figure will rise to 82.3 billion euros in 2013. Germany and France are currently in second and third place respectively, with totals of 52.4 and 46 billion euros. Net of energy trade, however, Italy slides down to third place with 35.9 billion euros, behind Germany and France with 46.7 and 37.1 billion euros respectively.

“Bridging the ten billion euro manufacturing gap with Germany must be the priority for Italy, and for the south in particular,” said Massimo Deandreis, the director general of SRM. “Just as Germany made the most of the transition of eastern European countries in the 1990s towards a market economy, Italy must accompany the growth of countries in the MENA area to revive its own growth”. The study sees this growth as constant, in spite of the international crisis. The GDP of the MENA area is predicted to rise by 3.7% in 2012, with Algeria, Egypt and Jordan expected to record above average rates of growth. Even the Arab Spring has failed to slow down trade with Europe and Italy in particular. In the first six months of 2011, growth was slower (only 2%) but weighed down significantly by the ban on imports of energy products, from Libya in particular.

Looking at financial flows, the SRM report highlights the role of sovereign funds in the area, which are the second richest in the world after those in the Far East, with assets worth over 1.750 trillion dollars, a figure expected to rise to 1.75 trillion dollars by 2015. The flow of investment of MENA area sovereign funds is expected to rise by between 4 and 10 billion dollars in the next four years. Analysis of economic relations then pays particular attention to infrastructure, with two figures used as a starting point. Firstly, 37% of Italian exports are carried out by sea. Secondly, between 2005 and 2010, Italian ports lost major market shares in container flows to other ports on the southern side of the Mediterranean, such as Port Said in Egypt and Tangiers Med in Morocco. The port of Gioia Tauro, in Calabria, has gone from 20% of the Mediterranean container market in 2005 to 14% today, while Port Said has grown from 10% to 17% in the same time, while Tangiers Med has gone from zero to 10%. “In this sense, the dredging plan recently launched by the port of Naples is very important, as it will allow big ships to dock there. This means that positive responses occur when entrepreneurs are spurred on by institutions, as occurred with the Campania region’s recent measures in favour of exports in the automotive industry. In terms of infrastructure, the report says, another topical factor in relations with the Mediterranean is the development of the production of alternative energy on a large scale. Authoritative studies have shown that thermodynamic solar power stations, set up over less than 0.3% of the entire surface area of deserts in North Africa, would be able to generate electricity and drinking water to meet demand in MENA countries and throughout Europe, as well as the estimated requirements for the near future. “These prospects, which may seem futuristic, actually represent concrete business, the feasibility of which is already being studied, and could seriously stimulate the increase in economic relations with our country”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Middle East

Jordanians Protesters Call for Reforms

(ANSAmed) — AMMAN, DECEMBER 2 — Throngs of Islamist leaning activists participated in a rally in Amman on Friday calling for genuine reforms and end to infested corruption in public institutions.

Demonstrators held placards to condemn lack of action against high profile corruption cases and the manner in which governments are formed. Security forces were visible in the area, but the rally ended without friction with protesters.

Opposition activists demand new parliament law and a system by which governments are formed based on parliament majority.

Opposition parties say the approve the king but want to trim powers of the monarch by pushing for constitutional monarchy.

Abdullah has promised to step up reform efforts.

“The reform we seek should see authorities capable of making liable corrupts and allow people take part in decision making,” said one protester as he marched waiving a flag of the Islamist movement.

Activists say recent constitutional amendments fall short of public aspirations.

The amendments allowed creation of independent committees to run elections and a constitutional court.

However, protesters said it kept the king in control of naming governments and dismissing the parliament at his wish.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Lebanon: Political Dispute Over Electrical Blackout

Workers cut power at plant in south;Shiite group Amal accused

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, DECEMBER 6 — A stoppage caused by workers at Lebanon’s second-largest power plant, which led to blackouts last weekend in Beirut and in several other areas in the country, has reignited controversies between political and confessional factions, causing continual and dangerous rivalries to re-emerge. The blackouts were a “national catastrophe” which “threatened to damage government institutions and installations”, denounced Energy Minister, Gibran Bassil, cited today by The Daily Star, a Lebanese newspaper. While Fares Souhaid, the leader of the ‘March 14’ opposition coalition, directly accused Amal, a Shiite movement with strong support in the region involved in the controversy, of being responsible for the incidents on Friday at the Zahrani power plant in Southern Lebanon, which provides nearly 40% of the country’s electricity. According to the press, the incident occurred when workers at the power plant autonomously decided to cut power because they received threats from residents in the area, who were furious with a decision by distribution company, Electricité du Liban, to move a transformer at the plant to another in Sidon. This sort of dissatisfaction is widespread in Lebanon, where chronic power shortages cause blackouts on a daily basis at various hours of the day, which cause residents to use private generators. In a statement, Electricité du Liban made accusations at “political parties that tried to use force to impose their domination over a public sector”. The reference is to Amal, a Shiite movement led by Parliament Speaker, Nabih Berri. And the crisis was only resolved after a meeting between Berri and Prime Minister, Najib Maqati, which took place at the private residence of the speaker in Zahrani. “Even during the civil war water and electricity were never deliberately cut,” said Minister Basil, an ally of Hezbollah, the other more powerful Shiite movement in the country. Basil said that the power shortage problem in Lebanon can be resolved by enacting a plan that he has presented and which has been approved by the government, which aims to increase production on a national level by 700 MW with investments of 1.2 billion dollars.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

NATO Mission in Iraq to End Over Immunity Issue

(AGI) London — NATO’s mission will not go beyond the end of the year, because Baghdad will not give NATO soldiers immunity from prosecution, said Falah al-Fayadh, and Iraqi national security advisor. “NATO surprised us with this decision,” said al-Fayadh speaking on the flight that is taking Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to Washington. “We are disappointed that NATO is withdrawing its mission from Iraq, because immunity is something the government has no control over.” said al-Fayadh, adding that the Iraqi government was informed of the decision on Thursday.

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

Turkey: Trial Starts for Shorn-Head Protesters

Far-left youths have been months in prison

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA — With the accompaniment of mass shaving of heads in a sign of protest, a controversial trial has begun in Ankara today of youths from far-left organisations after months of imprisonment. The youths stand accused of serious charges which, the country’s main opposition party says, are unfounded, but serve only to intimidate anyone opposing the government of Conservative Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

According to opposition newspapers and websites, among the 28 accused are at least three young people who have been arrested for having done no more than cut off their hair in a sign of solidarity with a companion whose hair was force-shaven when he was admitted to prison.

Although the youths made a point of having their protest photographed, the accusation was that they had cut off their hair in order to disguise themselves and thus avoid arrest.

In the trial, which has been called “one of the more controversial ones of recent years,” the defendants face the charge of belonging to a terrorist organisation, criminal damage and resisting arrest. The youths, almost all belonging to far-left collectives which are in the front line of opposition to Erdogan, were arrested when a protest demonstration degenerated into clashes in Ankara. The demonstration was organised on May 31 this year to protest against the death a few hours previously of a pensioner who succumbed to a heart attack when choked by tear gas and chilly-powder spray used by the police to break up an anti-Premier protest during electoral campaigning in Hopa on the Black Sea.

Some daily newspapers, including Hurriyet, have reported how many university students, professors, opposition MPs and other people have been cutting off their hair in a sign of protest at the charges levelled at the youths before the court.

The producers and writers of a popular TV programme have also joined in the protest. Photos show a “hair-cutting fest” during which around 200 participants — many of whom from universities — put their shorn locks into envelopes to send to the Ankara court. A paper which is even further on the side of the opposition, Cumhuriyet, claims that “the hair organisation” is a growing one.

A crowd, said to be a large one, followed court proceedings from outside chanting slogans such as “No surrender to the AKP” (the party giving the Premier his almost absolute majority) and “No room for Fascism”. Inside the courtroom, onlookers applauded the students at the dock. Ilhan Cihaner, an MP for the CHP, the main social-democratic party in the opposition, claimed that “the trial launches the message that those opposing the AKP can be arrested as members of terroristic organisations”.

The left-wing press is giving credence to an estimate whereby there are around 500 Turkish students in prison mainly for having protested against university fees but facing charges of terrorism. In Turkey, remand sentences can last for up to ten years and this has been a target of criticism from Europe.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

South Asia

US Forces Leave Pakistani Air Base in Shamsi

(AGI) Islamabad — The US has complied with Islamabad’s requests to evacuate the Shamsi air base, in Pakistan. The evacuation was demanded after a November 26 NATO air raid resulted in the killing of 24 Pakistani soldiers. “Americans have left the base in Shamsi, handing over to Pakistani security forces,” a Pakistani officer said. The incident which led to Islamabad’s evacuation demands occurred in the south-western Baluchistan province. The Shamsi base had been used as a strip for drone missions along the Afghan border.

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

Far East

Across China’s Border, Myanmar’s Fate is a Question of Drugs as Much as Democracy

Hillary Clinton makes a historic visit, Myanmar may be starting to edge to more openness, and perhaps even real democracy. But along the border with China, the so-called “golden triangle” is a haven of drug and human trafficking

Most people have probably never heard of this place named Ruili. And yet it should be mentioned in the same breath with the world’s other capitals of globalized crime: like the mafia base Gioia Tauro in the Italian region of Calabria, the European center of human trafficking in Veleshta, Macedonia, and Ciudad del Este, in Paraguay, where the black market is legal and no goods are taxed.

The city of Ruili has a population of 140,000 and is located in the Chinese province of Yunnan on the border of Myanmar. This “golden triangle” is the world’s second-largest producer of opium after Afghanistan, with hundreds of heroin and amphetamines refineries scattered across the landscape.

Reporters and activists are busy chronicling signs that Myanmar may be edging toward democracy. This week’s visit by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gives them even more to talk about. What isn’t being mentioned much, however, is that drug production and trafficking will have a decisive influence on the country’s future.

“In Ruili, you’ll see things you won’t see anywhere else in China,” says a taxi driver, stunned to meet an Italian. On the street leading into the city center, we encountered four roadblocks.

Unsurprisingly, the Chinese government has sent the army here. Burmese businessmen cross the borders nonstop to buy products on sale, browsing Ruili’s small parking slots, which have been turned into makeshift shops.

On the other side of the border, Chinese buy raw jade, wood, minerals, and exotic animals. Others export heroin and amphetamines from Myanmar through the check point between Ruili and the Burmese city of Muse. Then the drug is sold in South China, Canton, Hong Kong, and finally to the rest of the world.

Human trafficking is flourishing too. There are many young Burmese women in Ruili’s hundreds of brothels. Some of them came here looking for a new life. Many have been sold by their own families. Often, Chinese gangs cross the border to kidnap Burmese girls and sell them as wives in China. The first AIDS epidemic in China exploded here, and the area continues to have China’s highest percentage of HIV-positive people.

This is also a strategic area for the region’s energy future. A $2 billion oil pipeline projected to carry Middle East oil from the Bay of Bengal to Ruili via Myanmar is currently under construction. It will allow oil to be transported through the Malacca Strait where piracy attacks are too frequent…

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

South Korea to Allow 2 More Christmas Trees Near Border

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea will allow Christians to light two more Christmas tree-shaped towers near the tense border with North Korea despite strong opposition from Pyongyang, an official said Sunday. The South Korean government allowed a Christian group to light a massive steel Christmas tree near the border last year for the first time in seven years as tensions flared in the wake of two deadly attacks blamed on the North.

That tree will be lit again this month, while South Korea has also decided to allow other Christian groups to light two other front-line Christmas trees, a Defense Ministry official said. The decision is meant to help guarantee freedom of expression and religion, the official said on condition of anonymity, citing office policy.

Earlier on Sunday, North Korea’s state-run Uriminzokkiri website said that lighting the first tree was a form of psychological warfare and would trigger an “unexpected consequence.” South Korea’s military will bolster security near the three trees, located on the western, central and eastern portions of the border, the Defense Ministry official said. The trees will stay lit for 15 days starting Dec. 23.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Bombs Explode in Kenyan Cities Near Somali Border

(AGI) Isiolo — Two bombs have exploded in as many Kenyan cities close to the border with Somalia in what appears to be a coordinated attack for which Shabaab has claimed responsibility. Local police authorities have reported that a policeman has been killed and twelve people wounded. one of the bombs exploded in Mandera as a police patrol drove by wounding three officers. The second bomb instead was made to explode near a military base in Wajir .

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

News Feed 20111210

Financial Crisis
» Greece: Against 2-Speed Europe, Venizelos
» Greece: Privatisation of Ex Athens Airport Under Way
» Spain: Luxury Sector Sees Sales Increase by 25% During Crisis
» Stubb: EU Taking Step Towards Economic Union
» Sweden ‘Won’t Block’ Pact to Save Euro
» American Muslims Open Free Medical Clinic for Women in Charleston, South Carolina
» Islam is World’s Future: US Scholar
» Islamic Society of Augusta Honors Families Who Made Pilgrimage to Mecca
» The State Dept., Islam and Freedom of Religion
Europe and the EU
» Brussels: New EU Fisheries Fund Proposed for 2014-2020
» Czech Republic: With or Without Europe?
» Europe Should Investigate Telecoms Cartels, Says Dutch MEP
» Evangelical Churches Boom in Switzerland
» French Far-Right Group Has Message in Menu
» Germany: Pool Named After Spaghetti Western Hero Bud Spencer
» Italians Develop ‘Smart’ Brain Pacemaker for Parkinson’s
» Italy: ‘Teenaged Murderer’ Released After 10 Years
» Italy: Judge, Politician Arrested in ‘Ndrangheta Probe
» Netherlands: Catholic Priest Vows to Fight Sacking for Living With His Girlfriend
» Qatar Creates 50 Mn Euro Fund for French Suburb Start-Ups
» UK: East London Mosque Hosts Speaker Who Has ‘Called for Jewish Women to be Enslaved and Pillaged’
» UK: East Lancashire Girl Wins Global Accolade at the Tony Blair Faith Foundation Awards
» UK: MCB ReDoc Seminar: Beyond Competitive Victimhood: The Politics of Holocaust Memory in a Multi-Ethnic Society
» UK: Russell Jones & Walker Sets Up Sharia Law Team
» Serbia: Tadic: Fiat Among Most Modern Factories in Europe
Mediterranean Union
» EU: Workshop in Lyon for Young ‘Indignados’
North Africa
» Brothers of Egypt. But the Copts Are More and More Isolated
» Egypt: El Baradei to Islamists, Slogans Alone Not Enough
» Morocco: Productive Capacity Up 20% in 2 Years
» Unholy Alliance: Egypt’s Military & the Muslim Brotherhood
Israel and the Palestinians
» Condemnation of Israeli Draft Law to Ban Call to Prayer in All Mosques in the Green Line
» Gingrich: Palestinians an ‘Invented’ People
» Israelis to Debate Ban on Muslim Call to Prayer
» Italy-Israel: Drive for Space Cooperation
» MEP Sorry for ‘Put Pressure on Diaspora’ Blog
» Obama’s Man Comes Up With the Default BBC Line
Middle East
» Lebanon: Bombers Target UNIFIL Troops
» No Dinner With Israeli Minister, Turkish President Gul
» Terrorism Has No Religious Context
South Asia
» India: Karnataka: Ritual That Forces Dalits to Roll in Brahmin Leftovers Ends
Far East
» China: Increase in Women Smuggled Into China, Sex Slaves or Sold as Wives
» Bulgarian Passport Opens Doors to West

Financial Crisis

Greece: Against 2-Speed Europe, Venizelos

Finance Minister in Parliamentary debate on 2012 budget

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, DECEMBER 7 — “Greece is against a two-speed Europe.” This statement was made last night during a debate in Parliament on the 2012 budget by Greek Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos. “Europe,” the Minister continued, faces an important dilemma. If the eurozone countries are divided into countries with a surplus and countries with a deficit, Europe will lose its prospect and its stability and, from a historic viewpoint, will no longer promise what it must promise on its path towards European integration.” “A fundamental point has emerged from today’s debate,” Venizelos added: “our concern about the future of Europe, Europe cannot carry over its economic and financial unification or the its political and institutional integration.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Greece: Privatisation of Ex Athens Airport Under Way

For transformation into one of Europe’s biggest parks

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, DECEMBER 8 — The development of Athens’ former international airport “Ellinikon”, which stretches out over an area of 6.2 million square metres, has begun today. The Greek Deparment for the Development of State Property, which was created as part of the economic plan to restructure the Greek economy and promote the country’s privatisation programme, announced the opening of a tender for the purchase of the majority share package in the Elliniko AE group.

A statement from the Office for Development says that the aim is to redevelop the airport and part of its land — which features a 3.5 kilometre stretch of beach — and turn it into one of Europe’s largest parks. AT the beginning of the process, the statement says, participation requests will need to be presented by 17:00 (Athens time) on March 30 2012. Investors chosen for the subsequent stage will need to present binding offers as well as a business plan and will need to prove their ability to finance the work.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Spain: Luxury Sector Sees Sales Increase by 25% During Crisis

Increase generated by high-end tourism sector

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, DECEMBER 5 — The luxury sector in Spain will close out the year 2011 with sales amounting to 4.5 billion euros, a 25% increase compared to 2010 and in sharp contrast to the widespread decrease in spending on average due to the economic crisis, according to figures released today by Luxury Spain, a Spanish luxury sector association. The increase has mainly been attributed to the high-end tourism sector in cities such as Madrid, Barcelona and Marbella, on the Costa del Sol. To allow growth in the sector to continue, the sector is calling for the new government led by the People’s Party help with promotion outside of Spain for companies offering luxury services and goods, since the biggest consumers are tourists, explained Cristina Martin, the executive president of Luxury Spain, while speaking to the media. Many high-end consumers consider these types of purchases to be investments, and this, said Martin, is one of the reasons that the sector has predicted further growth in 2012, despite the economic recession. The Spanish luxury products with the highest demand on the market come from the culinary, beauty and hotel industries, while the fashion and accessory sector is growing.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Stubb: EU Taking Step Towards Economic Union

Finland’s Minister for European Affairs and Foreign Trade Alexander Stubb believes that the EU has taken a step towards creating an economic union. In an interview with YLE TV1 on Saturday, Stubb described Friday’s deal on a new fiscal compact as “historic”.

“We took an historic step towards a European economic union, a stability union that will reinforce discipline. Of course, the international agreement which will be created in perhaps three months from now is still a long way off, but at least it is the right direction,” Stubb said.

According to Finland’s Minister for European Affairs, the currency union needs the support of an economic union. He also believes that fiscal discipline will increase within the EU.

Stubb does, however, see certain illogicality on Finland’s part.

“In Finland we want more discipline, but when talk comes to what that discipline means, then there is discomfort about what this will mean, for example, for national decision-making,” Stubb pointed out.

           — Hat tip: KGS [Return to headlines]

Sweden ‘Won’t Block’ Pact to Save Euro

Sweden was one of four European Union member states to scupper hopes of a 27-country agreement to help strengthen the euro, but nevertheless plans to participate in the creation of a European bailout fund.

Speaking with the TT news agency on Friday morning, Swedish prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt also expressed doubts about the likelihood of Sweden agreeing to abide by the pact, which was forged by the 17 eurozone countries, and which six other EU member states had at that time elected to support.

“It’s not that Sweden, which isn’t a member of the euro, wants to tie itself to rules which are completely tailored for the eurozone,” he said.

“The whole text is written to make eurozone members submit to certain restrictions and do certain things. A non-eurozone country can’t reasonably sign up to that.”

Following an intense night of negotiations, Sweden, the UK, Hungary, and the Czech Republic refused signal their support for a deal requiring tighter fiscal discipline among the eurozone countries through changes to the current EU treaty.

Hopes for a deal stumbled in part over the UK’s desire to include protections from future financial regulations that would have accompanied the treaty changes proposed by Germany and France.

While Britain and Hungary at first refused to sign on to the deal, Sweden and the Czech Republic had requested time to consult with their respective parliaments before agreeing to the new pact.

As a result, the 23 remaining EU members states agreed to forge an agreement for rules that would penalize fiscal profligacy and to increase resources available to bailout troubled EU economies through additional pledges to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the establishment of a new European bailout fund.

Later on Friday morning, however, Reinfeldt received clearance from the Riksdag’s EU committee to approve the protocol changes agreed to by the eurozone countries, meaning Sweden has no plans to stand in the way of the deal.

Specifically, the committee approved Sweden’s participation in a loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that will help support a European bailout fund.

The committee also agreed to having Sweden support changes to the EU treaty that allow for countries that mismanage their economies to be punished, but stopped short of having Sweden abide by the new rules.

The question of the size of Sweden’s contribution remains up for negotiation, according to the, a Swedish news website focusing on EU politics.

“We’re not saying no. We think it’s good that the eurozone countries have come up with something in all this chaos and we’re not going to close the door on the eurozone countries as they try to put their economies in order,” EU committee vice chair Marie Granlund of the Social Democrats, told TT.

Liberal Party (Folkpartiet) MP Carl B.Hamilton, chair of the EU committee, was highly critical of the UK, which has refused to support the pact.

“They’re splitting Europe. Great Britain has acted in an nonconstructive way. ‘Unhelpful’ as they say in English,” Hamilton told

While there is no indication that Sweden plans to join the 23 other countries which have so far agreed to abide by the new budget rules, the possibility remains open that Sweden could join at a later date.

“We’ll have to see what is actually meant by joining voluntary. We can’t have any overoptimistic hopes that we can affect politics for the whole of Europe. But if we join, we can protect ourselves against having other countries make decisions that could injure us,” said Hamilton.

While Hamilton indicated his Liberal Party was open to Sweden eventually joining the pact, Granlund said the Social Democrats remain opposed.

“It would conflict with what the Swedish people have said in the referendum. It would mean an all to large involvement in the Swedish economy,” she told

Exact details of the deal remain to be worked out in the coming months and will be enshrined in an international agreement parallel to the EU’s current treaty.

However, the goal remains to eventually have the changes included in the EU treaty.

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


American Muslims Open Free Medical Clinic for Women in Charleston, South Carolina

(Ahlul Bayt News Agency) — Indigent women will have a new option for health care thanks to the efforts of a local Veterans Affairs doctor and funding from a national Islamic relief group. The Shifa Clinic will offer free care on Saturdays starting 7 January 2012. “The idea was just to serve and help,” said Dr. Reshma Khan, 41, a gynecologist at the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center. Routine gynecological exams including pap smears, breast exams and mammograms will be available at Shifa Clinic. Contraception, treatment of sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy testing will be offered but not obstetrics services. The care is for uninsured women between the ages of 17 and 65, Khan said. On Thursday, Imam Mohamed Melhem of Central Mosque of Charleston prayed in the waiting room of the new charity clinic, which he said is the first of its kind in the state. “In Islam, we believe that we have to do service and help everyone,” Melhem said.

Khan’s vision of establishing the free health care center is coming to life through her persistence and the generosity of the Islamic Circle of North America Relief USA (ICNAR), which is paying the rent on the three-room clinic located in an office building on Lowcountry Boulevard. “They are helping me set this up,” she said. She compared the process of getting the clinic running to learning how to ride a bike. After the initial cash infusion from ICNAR, she hopes the effort will become self-sustaining through local donations and grants. “I am just so happy. It is a dream come true for me,” she said. She talked of expanding the types of care if other physicians volunteer. The clinic needs nurses, she said. “This is in the true Islamic spirit. It will make its mark,” said Dr. Ghazala Javed of North Charleston.

Also on hand was the Rev. Ed Kosak of Unity Church of Charleston. “There are a lot of people who are needing it badly,” Kosak said of the clinic. Randy Becket of Harvest Free Medical Clinic concurred. “You are going to be a blessing to the medical community and you will not be short of patients,” he said. Because the clinic space will be used one day a week, Khan is considering other purposes for it, such as tutoring students in biology. She graduated from Ghandi Medical College in Bhopal, India, and trained in obstetrics and gynecology at St. Elizabeth Health Center in Youngstown, Ohio. The nameplate on the clinic door says ICNA Relief USA-Shifa Clinic. Shifa means “cure,” she said.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Islam is World’s Future: US Scholar

By Hasan Kamoonpuri — MUSCAT — Shaikh Khalid Yasin, a celebrated Islamic orator, delivered three very successful lectures on ‘The True Religion of God’, ‘Islam and Modern Challenges’ and ‘Purpose of Life’ at Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque Hall and Qurum City Amphitheatre from December 7 to 9. Yasin, a former Christian, in Oman on an invitation from the Diwan of Royal Court. After his erudite lectures explaining the significance of Islam in one’s life and outlook, a number of non-Muslims publicly embraced Islam. In one of his lectures, Yasin said it is the duty of every human being to try to understand who their creator is and what are his/her obligations towards the Creator. He said some powers have launched an info war with a view to tarnishing the image of Islam. But aware and awakened people know that no one should ever bow one’s head in front of Taghut (false gods) as explained in the Holy Quran.

Islam provides the best means to build connection between man and God. Those who lack this connection associate themselves with Taghut. The American Islamic scholar and preacher, who reverted to Islam in 1965, said no divine scripture except the Holy Quran was written down completely in the life of its messenger. The Holy Quran was written down in the life of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and there are no two versions of Quran in the world. In response to a question, Yasin said all Muslims irrespective of their School of Thoughts believe in one and the same Quran, Prophet, Qibla (Kaba as direction for prayers) and the basic Islamic principles such as Tauheed (Oneness of God).

Yasin, Executive Director of Islamic Teaching Institute, a premier organisation dedicated to the work of Dawah, has devoted his life to dispelling misinformation and doubts about Islam. He studied the Arabic in Madina, Saudi Arabia and Cairo, and has had many mentors and teachers who tutored him in Islamic Fiqh, Fiqh us-Seerah, Islamic History and the memorisation and recitation of the Holy Quran. He has delivered many lectures in about 61 countries which resulted in 36,000 people embracing Islam in his presence. Yasin has founded six organisations for the work of Dawah and Islamic studies. Islam is the future of humanity, says Yasin, adding that Islam is a “Deen” (a complete way of life) and it provides solutions to all issues of mankind, whether it is banking and finance, marriage, peace, brotherhood, or other complex subjects. The American Islamic scholar will also hold Dawah (Preaching) training courses in the Grand Mosque on December 11 and 12 from 10 to 12 noon and 4 to 8 pm.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Islamic Society of Augusta Honors Families Who Made Pilgrimage to Mecca

A month or two ago, Waranga Wassimi didn’t often wear the head scarf commonly worn by fellow female Muslims. That has changed since she returned from the Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca undertaken by all Muslims who are able at some point in their lifetime. Wassimi and her husband, Nasrat, were one of seven local families to take the journey this year. A reception was held in their honor Friday night at the Islamic Society of Augusta. It’s a blessing to have so many Hajjis, Imam Majed Sabke said. “They are an example to the community,” he said. Most traveled to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia from Nov. 28 to Dec. 10. “Ours were express (trips),” Wassimi said. “Some people go for months.” Either way, it makes for a life-changing journey, she said. “It was amazing there. It was such a beautiful place,” Wassimi said. “We prayed most of the time.” Wassimi also shopped for items to bring home, including a Quran and prayer rug. “It changed me,” she said. “Before I wouldn’t wear my head scarf often. Before I was rushing though my prayers. Now, I pray with all my heart. I wear my head scarf. People can see I’m Muslim, and it makes me proud.” The generosity and goodwill Faheem Nusrat witnessed was “inspiring,” he said. The Grovetown resident and his wife spent three days in Medina and nine days in Mecca. They visited the Kaaba, the most sacred site in Islam, at midnight, thinking they would avoid the crowds. But there were millions of pilgrims there praying, regardless of the time of day, Nusrat said. Name a country, and pilgrims from that place could be found in Mecca.

“The link between them was God,” he said.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

The State Dept., Islam and Freedom of Religion

In a few days, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) will meet in Washington with the express intention of building “muscles of respect and empathy and tolerance.” The invitation to meet in Washington was extended in July, when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addressed the OIC during its meeting in Istanbul, Turkey. However, despite the trappings of talk about tolerance, implementation of the OIC’s agenda would restrict the free speech around the globe. According to its website the OIC perceives itself to be the voice of the Muslim world:

“The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) (formerly Organization of the Islamic Conference) is the second largest inter-governmental organization after the United Nations which has membership of 57 states spread over four continents. The Organization is the collective voice of the Muslim world and ensuring to safeguard and protect the interests of the Muslim world in the spirit of promoting international peace and harmony among various people of the world.”

The OIC is also quick to link its own structure to the dreams of those who would see the whole of Islam — the Ummah — gathered as a political force, as it once was under the caliphate: “The Organization has the singular honor to galvanize the Ummah into a unified body and have actively represented the Muslims by espousing all causes close to the hearts of over 1.5 billion Muslims of the world.”

When Clinton was speaking to the OIC “High-Level Meeting on Combating Religious Intolerance” last July, she reminisced about the days when her husband was president, and catered to the universalistic notion of the equivalence of all religions:

“In our conversation 15 years ago, I remember the secretary general talking about the imperative for us to move beyond these differences and how much the three great monotheistic religions have in common, especially our respective commandments to love our neighbors and to seek peace and understanding. Well, today, this wisdom that is ageless is as important as ever.”

And, lest anyone imagine that the liberties enjoyed in the West were more advanced than those enjoyed in the Islamic world, Clinton pandered to her audience, “And in established democracies, we are still working to protect fully our religious diversity, prevent discrimination, and protect freedom of expression.”


           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Brussels: New EU Fisheries Fund Proposed for 2014-2020

Aim are new jobs and transition towards sustainable economy

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, DECEMBER 02 — New jobs and improve quality of life along European coasts: this is the aim of the projects financed by the new fund for the EU’s maritime and fisheries policies for the period 2014-2020 (EMFF), proposed by the European Commission today. According to Brussels, the Fund will help deliver the ambitious objectives of the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy and will help fishermen in the transition towards sustainable fishing, as well as coastal communities in the diversification of their economies.

The proposed envelope amounts to 6.5 billion euros for the period 2014 to 2020. “This new fund — said Maria Damanaki, Commissioner in charge of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries — will increase economic growth and create jobs in the sector. No more money will be spent to build big vessels. Small scale fisheries and aquaculture will benefit of this budgetary greening of the Common Fisheries Policy”. Red tape will be cut so that beneficiaries have easy access to financing.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Czech Republic: With or Without Europe?

“The EU is dead, long live the new EU. But where are the Czechs?” wonders Hospodárké noviny in a comment piece on the European summit, which opened on 8 December. The message is clear: Germany has imposed what it wanted, Great Britain is ready to leave the union, and the Czech Republic and Sweden have reserved the right to consult their national parliaments before adhering to the 23-country treaty which will institutionalise budgetary discipline, points out the Prague daily.

In the light of current debate on the issue of European integration in the Czech Republic, columnist Martin Ehl points to the risk that a majority in the country may favour the eurosceptic position of President Václav Klaus. However, the interests of the country, which is economically reliant on Germany, will be best served by “being present, not rocking the boat, and remaining close to the source of information,” remarks Ehl.

“Sooner or later, the economic reality will convince Czech politicians to rethink their ‘euro-prudent’ attitude. There will no longer be any possibility of continuing as a stowaway, who takes advantage of whatever he or she wants: the Czech Republic will either have to face political and economic isolation like Hungary (…) or climb on board the train of Europe’s future prosperity.”

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

Europe Should Investigate Telecoms Cartels, Says Dutch MEP

The European Commission should investigate possible Europe-wide cartels in the telecoms sector, PvdA MEP Judith Merkies said on Friday.

Merkies has written to the Commission asking if it has information about other telecoms cartels.

Earlier this week, the Dutch competition authority NMa raided the offices of KPN, T-Mobile and Vodafone in connection with price fixing for mobile internet.

‘These companies all operate in other European countries so it would be beneficial if the European Commission would instigate a European investigation,’ Merkies said.

Her call is supported by German MEPs, news agency ANP said.

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

Evangelical Churches Boom in Switzerland

In Switzerland, evangelical churches attract twice as many worshippers every Sunday as traditional Protestant churches.

Olivier Favre, pastor in a charismatic church and sociologist of religion at Lausanne University, tells the evangelicals are successful because they understand people’s needs.

Favre, who has documented the rise of the evangelical churches, sees no contradiction between his role as a detached observer and a committed man of faith.

Olivier Favre: The key strength of the Pentecostal movement is the idea that God intervenes in people’s everyday lives. It is true that people living in insecurity may be more attracted by this notion than those who are comfortably off. In our very individualised society, where many are alone, the idea of a personal relationship with God, belief that he answers prayers, that he can heal the sick and effect miracles meets a spiritual need. In addition, the very modern style of worship attracts young people.

This development also owes a lot to migration and the growth of so-called “ethnic” churches, mainly in cities. These churches operate as an entry point for African and South American migrants. They are places that offer essential support as well as the language and music of their home countries.

O.F.: Yes, in a sense. Ours is an individualised society, based on emotion and placing great importance on the quest for identity. Evangelical language is evolving and adapting to actual needs. It places less emphasis on sin and repentance and more on personal growth and development. And it does this on the basis of certain Biblical texts, believing that there is as much a spiritual as a psychological explanation.

O.F.: You can’t compare the religions market with the economic market. Religion would lose its meaning if it were just a mirror of society. The evangelicals have a critical attitude towards society yet incorporate the best in society. For instance, the evangelicals place strong emphasis on personal and spiritual gifts. The individual can expresses himself through his talents and abilities and speak out in meetings. In this sense you can say they have adapted to modern times.

For a religious movement to succeed, it has to be both strict and not fundamentalist. If it adapts too much to society it will grow cold, lose its fervour and have difficulty surviving without state support. On the other hand, if the movement is too fundamentalist it will exclude the rest of society and fail to attract. That goes for all religions.

O.F.: The evangelicals are often accused of simplifying their message or reality. This is true in part as far as understanding of the gospel is concerned. The approach is simple, the message clear and direct: to be saved you have to believe in Jesus Christ. Yet, in the socio-cultural make-up of the evangelicals you also find intellectuals and highly qualified people, people who reflect and who see life as being more complex.

O.F.: The comparison with the United States is a bit tricky. Most European evangelicals opposed the Bush administration policies and the war in Iraq. Surveys in Switzerland have shown that evangelicals vote like the average Swiss, that is they lean to the right. One vote in two goes to one of two evangelical parties, the rightwing Federal Democratic Union and the moderate Swiss Evangelical People’s Party. From an individual moral standpoint, the evangelicals are conservative, but very progressive on social issues such as ecology, with a simple respect for creation.

Samuel Jaberg,

(Translated from French by Morven McLean)

Switzerland’s evangelical churches

According to a recent study conducted as part of the National Research Programme, “Religions, the State and Society” (PNR 58), 690,000 people — one in 11 people — attend religious ceremonies each week. 38 per cent attend Catholic churches, 29 per cent attend evangelical churches, 14 per cent attend Protestant churches and 11 per cent attend Muslim services.

Researchers highlighted the fact that evangelical religious services attracted twice as many people each weekend than Protestant churches. Just two per cent of Swiss people are members of an evangelical church.

Leaders of evangelical organisations indicated that their services attract more worshippers than members, with a participation rate of 111 per cent. The participation rate for Catholics is four per cent, while it is three per cent for Protestants.

There are pronounced differences between evangelical churches. The “charismatic” organisations are experiencing the strongest growth, while more conservative organisations are in decline and traditional evangelical churches are stable.

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

French Far-Right Group Has Message in Menu

TOURVES, France (AP) — They feasted in the verdant back country of picture-postcard Provence, the delight of tourists and the pride of France. But it was no ordinary country idyll. The extreme right Bloc Identitaire, or Identity Bloc, was lashing out at Islam while dining on pork roast and local wine — off limits to practicing Muslims. The group, an emerging force on France’s far-right scene, likens Muslim immigrants to invaders threatening the identity of the French heartland and menacing European civilization. The movement — with a wild pig as its logo — is gaining traction through its blend of Islam-bashing and romanticizing of French rural culture. Increasingly, it is being used as an “idea box” for the National Front, a well-established far-right party and force in European politics that could play a crucial role in French presidential elections five months away.

The Bloc’s campaign against mosque building and its wine-and-pork strategies are also finding a more mainstream audience in the country with western Europe’s largest Muslim population, estimated at 5 million, the majority with origins in France’s former colonies in North Africa. A group of lawmakers from President Nicolas Sarkozy’s conservative UMP party has formed a hard-right wing, the Popular Right, that berates immigration and has espoused anti-Muslim themes in a low-key echo of Bloc Identitaire. “The combat is urgent. We don’t have the choice,” said Bloc Identitaire member Jean-Christophe Oberlaender, whose arms are tattooed with what he said are ancient religious sayings. He was among some 50 people attending a daylong Bloc meeting outside this small Provencal town whose origins date from Roman times. “These products will soon be very rare in France,” he said of the pork and wine being served at lunch.

Bloc Identitaire, also opposed to multiculturalism and globalization, has the largest footprint of myriad groups on the extreme-right fringes of France, and appears to be harnessing influence beyond its numbers. Bloc officials put membership at some 4,000 — a figure experts say is exaggerated. Regional alliances with other “identity” groups in France and their heavy use of the Internet to spread their word to the mainstream public make a real count difficult. The movement opposes violence in its bid to erase all traces of Muslim culture in France. But violence has been known to follow its members — something they blame on neo-Nazi hangers-on. Earlier this year, a rally in Lyon called the “march of pigs” turned into a clash between Bloc Identitaire supporters and extreme leftists — kept apart by hundreds of police called in ahead of time. Several local businesses were damaged, including a kebab restaurant.

Bloc Identitaire militants ferret out plans by Muslim communities to build mosques and campaign to stop them. An “identity guerrilla” pamphlet spells out how to raise awareness of Muslim initiatives, from mosques to halal food restaurants, and infiltrate culture or sports clubs popular with Muslims. A mosque project in the village of Tourrette in southern France was their latest target and, they claim, success. After discovering plans by a Muslim association to convert a villa into a mosque, Bloc Identitaire militants flooded the area with protest fliers, met with the mayor and organized a demonstration. The mosque project was scrapped in October, days before the rally was to be held. Nourreddine Benzirar, a dentist with Moroccan origins who led plans for the mosque, claimed the project collapsed over funding, not because of Bloc Identitaire, and vowed to press forward with a mosque once money is available. “Pressure doesn’t scare us,” he said by telephone.

France has passed laws in recent years banning Islamic headscarves in schools and banning Islamic face veils anywhere in public, laws embraced by the mainstream left and right as upholding secular French traditions but that many see as stigmatizing Muslims. The recent gathering of Bloc Identitaire revealed an ideological and religious mix, from pagans who worship the gods of the ancient Norse peoples, to devout Catholics and others simply searching for a voice that reflects their worries about France’s future. “Masters at home” is their motto, but “revolution” was the watchword at the gathering near the city of Brignoles, where a National Front member is mayor.


           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Germany: Pool Named After Spaghetti Western Hero Bud Spencer

The city of Schwäbisch Gmünd in Baden-Württemberg has officially named a swimming pool after Spaghetti Western film actor Bud Spencer after rejecting an elaborate internet campaign to name a nearby tunnel after him.

On a visit to Schwäbisch Gmünd to officially christen the swimming pool that he had once swum in as a child on Friday, the 82-year-old Italian action star said simply: “I am deeply touched.”

“Words fail me,” Spencer said to the small crowd present. “I love Schwäbisch Gmünd.”

Hundreds of of reporters and curious onlookers turned out for Spencer’s visit to Schwäbisch Gmünd, where he was feted by city leaders throughout the day. He was scheduled to appear at a later book signing and panel discussion.

Best known for his films with sidekick Terence Hill, Spencer acted from 1959 to the early 1990s in more than two dozen action movies that were quite popular in Germany. He also had a short sporting career in his early days, even competing as a swimmer in the 1952 Olympic Games. It was during this time that he swam in the Schwäbisch Gmünd pool that now bears his name.

But he once again shot into the public consciousness last summer when internet pranksters started a campaign to name a new local tunnel after him when city leaders asked for the public to vote for names online.

More than 20,000 people — most of them from outside the city — voted for Bud Spencer’s name to grace the tunnel. But at a sometimes tumultuous city council meeting in July, city leaders decided to name the pool after him.

They later declared that the tunnel would be called the Gmünder Unicorn Tunnel, because the mythical animal is part of the city’s emblem.

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

Italians Develop ‘Smart’ Brain Pacemaker for Parkinson’s

Device monitors cerebral activity before delivering stimulation

(ANSA) — Milan, December 2 — Italian scientists have developed a new ‘smart’ brain pacemaker to help Parkinson’s disease sufferers.

Brain pacemakers are surgically implanted devices that deliver electrical stimulation to areas of the brain that control movement.

This treatment, called deep brain stimulation (DBS), helps to block the abnormal nerve signals that cause symptoms linked to Parkinson’s, such as trembling, stiffness and slowed movement.

The device developed by Milan University researchers is a breakthrough as it monitors the patient’s neurone activity to see exactly where the electrical impulses are needed before delivering them.

This should lead to a significant increase in sufferers’ ability to carry out everyday tasks, experts say.

Patients who have traditional brain pacemakers will be able to have the new technology, which has been patented in the United States and Europe, incorporated to be used with their existing DBS systems.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: ‘Teenaged Murderer’ Released After 10 Years

Young woman and ex-boyfriend stabbed mother and brother 96 times

(ANSA) — Brescia, December 6 — A young woman convicted for one of the last decade’s most sensational murder cases in Italy was released Tuesday after 10 years for stabbing her mother and 12-year-old brother to death when she was a teenager. The case of Erika De Nardo, who has since turned 27, and her then boyfriend Mauro Favaro, riveted the Italian public when they were arrested for murdering Suzy Cassini and Gianluca De Nardo in 2001.

Initial sympathy for Erika De Nardo, who claimed to be the sole survivor of a bloody massacre by house burglars, turned to horror as police discovered that she and Favaro had inflicted a total of nearly 100 stab wounds on the victims.

De Nardo was sentenced to 16 years for the murders and Favaro to 14. Both defendants, who entered pleas of temporary mental infirmity, served reduced time.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Judge, Politician Arrested in ‘Ndrangheta Probe

Calabrian councillor Morelli ‘link to national politics’

(ANSA) — Milan, November 30 — A Reggio Calabria magistrate and a local politician were arrested Wednesday in a Milan-based probe into the national expansion of the Calabrian ‘Ndrangheta mafia.

Vincenzo Giuseppe Giglio, head of the crime prevention department of the Reggio Calabria court, was arrested on suspicion of tipping off ‘Ndrangheta members about police activity.

Calabrian Regional Councillor Francesco Morelli, a member of ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi’s People of Freedom (PdL) party, was arrested along with a lawyer in the Calabrian town of Palmi; a tax police officer, Luigi Mongelli; and a doctor, Vincenzo Giglio.

Police said Morelli, head of the regional budget committee, was “the link between (‘Ndrangheta) clans and national political circles”. The offices of two other lawyers were searched, as was the office of a judge in Palmi.

Ten people were arrested in all, including three suspected ‘Ndrangheta affiliates.

In July 2010 a massive police operation in Lombardy and Calabria caught ‘Ndrangheta’s No.1, the equivalent of Cosa Nostra’s ‘boss of bosses’, Domenico Oppedisano, 80, as well as its chief in Lombardy, Pino Neri.

A total of 304 ‘Ndrangheta operatives were arrested.

The operation, which involved 3,000 police officers, revealed that the Calabrians, already known to be more closely knit and impenetrable than Cosa Nostra, had a hierarchy similar to that of the Sicilian Mafia.

In March this year, 41 suspected ‘Ndrangheta members were arrested in their native Calabria, the northern Italian cities of Turin and Genoa, and Germany, Canada and Australia.

Among those detained was the former mayor of Stirling, outside Perth, Tony Vallelonga, who led that western Australian town from 1996 to 2005.

Six suspected mafiosi were taken into custody in Germany and five in Canada and Australia.

Police said the Calabrian mafia had replicated their operational units or ‘drine’ in northern Italy and abroad.

Reggio Calabria Chief Prosecutor Giuseppe Pignatone said the operation had provided “confirmation of the expansion of ‘Ndrangheta, not only into international drugs trafficking but also as a mafia organisation, outside Italy”.

Abroad, there is a perfect reproduction of the Calabrian organisation…but without any doubt the fulcrum remains Calabria and the province of Reggio Calabria in particular”.

‘Ndrangheta is now the most powerful mafia in Italy thanks to its hold on the European cocaine trade.

It has carried out many vendetta killings in recent years including the massacre of six men in Duisburg, Germany in August 2007, a crime that gained splash headlines for a syndicate that had been hitherto little known to the international public.

The Italian government has made the fight against ‘Ndrangheta a priority and has set up its national mafia assets seizure agency in Reggio Calabria.

‘Ndrangheta, whose name means ‘virtue’ or ‘heroism’ in a local form of ancient Greek, once dealt mainly in kidnappings and extortion and fed off the pickings of public tenders, living in the shadow of its Sicilian cousin.

But it has since expanded to northern Italy, northern Europe and other countries, where it invests its huge drugs profits.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Catholic Priest Vows to Fight Sacking for Living With His Girlfriend

An 81-year-old Catholic priest, expelled from the priesthood because he lives with his 85-year-old girlfriend, says he will take his case to the European Court of Human Rights if necessary, Trouw reports on Tuesday.

Jan Peijnenburg, who has lived with his girlfriend for 46 years, was sent a letter at the weekend telling him he has been suspended because he refuses to leave his partner.

According to Trouw, the suspension will have little effect because Peijnenburg is retired and only rarely fulfills church duties.


Peijnenburg and his friends are now preparing legal action to find out ‘if the rights of the church conflict with the rights of the citizen,’ the NRC quotes him as saying.

Rik Torfts, a professor in religious rights, told Trouw Peijnenburg has little chance of success because freedom of religion laws have priority over the right to marriage.

A survey among Dutch priests last year showed four in 10 want to reopen the discussion on celibacy.


Although other priests are known to live with partners, Peijnenburg was very open about his position and published pamphlets calling for an end to celibacy rules.

‘We cannot allow him to do that which is forbidden to others,’ spokesman Michiel Savelsbergh told news agency AFP last month.

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

Qatar Creates 50 Mn Euro Fund for French Suburb Start-Ups

(PARIS) — Qatar has set up a 50-million-euro ($67-million) fund for entrepreneurs from France’s often-deprived suburbs to set up businesses, the Gulf nation’s ambassador to Paris said Friday.

“Qatar is not just words. We must act. The emir (Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani) decided to create a 50-million-euro fund to work with you,” said ambassador Mohamed Jahan al-Kuwari.

“The fund can be increased,” Kuwari told a group of 10 French elected local officials, all of North African origin.

The French officials, five men and five women, travelled to Qatar last month to improve economic ties between the wealthy Arab state and France’s often-disadvantaged suburbs, where they were received by the emir.

           — Hat tip: KGS [Return to headlines]

UK: East London Mosque Hosts Speaker Who Has ‘Called for Jewish Women to be Enslaved and Pillaged’

I haven’t written about that self-proclaimed haven of moderation and tolerance, the East London Mosque, for a few weeks. After having their tolerance of hatred and extremism repeatedly exposed, they’ve been keeping their heads down. But now normal service is back. Last Friday, according to publicity material (above) and its Facebook page, the mosque was due to host that conspicuous moderate, Sheikh Saad al-Beraik, who has reportedly stated:

“Muslim brothers in Palestine, do not have any mercy neither compassion on the Jews, their blood, their money, their flesh. Their women are yours to take, legitimately. God made them yours. Why don’t you enslave their women? Why don’t you wage jihad? Why don’t you pillage them?”

This is the second time Beraik has appeared at the mosque this year. He was due to speak at an event there in March, but after a row he appeared without speaking (the organisers said that they simply ran out of time to hear from him, and it wasn’t that he had been banned.) Nice people, those East London Mosque folks!

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: East Lancashire Girl Wins Global Accolade at the Tony Blair Faith Foundation Awards

A 14-YEAR-old girl from East Lancashire has won a global accolade for a short film about her faith. Amna Aslam, a pupil at Hollins Technology College, Accrington, won the Action category at the Tony Blair Faith Foundation’s Faith Shorts film awards. The teenager was one of three winners on the night — with the two others travelling from the Philippines and Canada to collect their prizes at Bafta in Piccadilly, London. The Accrington school pupil impressed judges when she produced her film ‘Muhammad in Accrington Inspiring Me’.

The Tony Blair Foundation launched a competition for 14 to 18-year-olds to show how their faith inspires them. In the film the Amna challenges the views of Islam by documenting the way Prophet Muhammad motivates students at the Accrington school in their everyday lives. Amna and students at the school saw the film competition as an opportunity to challenge some of the stereotypes about Islam and its associations with terrorism. It was filmed during RE and citizenship lessons and Amna’s whole class were involved in the production Her winning film was premiered at the British Academy of Film and Television Art in front of more than 200 guests.

Amna received her award from Mr Blair and comedienne Dawn French and the students also saw a surprise video link on the night from boxer Amir Khan congratulating them on their success. Amna said: “I am so pleased that people like our film, we had a lot of fun making it. It is a real honour for me to collect this award and I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who helped in the planning and filming. The process has helped me to discover more about my faith. I really valued the opportunity to show how proud I am of my religion.” Tony Blair, patron and founder of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, said: “It is a great film which challenges some of the preconceived ideas about Muslims and Islam. All of the students from Hollins Technology College should be very proud of their achievement.”

[JP note: Clueless.]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: MCB ReDoc Seminar: Beyond Competitive Victimhood: The Politics of Holocaust Memory in a Multi-Ethnic Society

MCB ReDoc Faith, Society and Citizenship Seminar series Presents:

Beyond Competitive Victimhood: The Politics of Holocaust Memory in a Multi-Ethnic Society

Adam Sutcliffe, King’s College London

Friday, 16 December, 6.15-7.30 pm

Room S8.08. King’s College London, Strand

Collective memory is always political. The memory of the Holocaust, despite the fact that is often invoked as the ultimate transcendental event of incomparable horror, is also inescapably related to the ever-shifting politics of international relations and inter-ethnic rivalries. In his presentation, Adam Sutcliffe will offer a brief overview of the political and cultural forces that have shaped the changing significance of the Holocaust for Jews, in Israel, the United States and Britain, in relation to Zionism, collective identity, and changing attitudes toward particular non-Jewish groups. He will then offer some thoughts, drawing both on some recent theoretical work and on some current political observations, on the place of the Holocaust, and of other historical memories, in contemporary perceptions of anti semitism, Jewish identity and Jews, exploring also how this might relate to Islamophobia and attitudes toward Muslims. Adam hopes this will stimulate a wide-ranging discussion on both the problems and possibilities of Jewish / Muslim relations in contemporary Britain.

Dr Adam Sutcliffe is Senior Lecturer in European History at King’s College London. His research focuses on Jewish / non-Jewish relations, intellectual history, and the history of radicalism from the late seventeenth to the early nineteenth century. He is the author of Judaism and Enlightenment (2003), and the co-editor, most recently, of Philosemitism in History (2011).

Directions to venue:

MCB ReDoc 2011-12 Seminar Series: Citizenship, Faith & Society

The ReDoc Seminar series is intended to open a space for discussion of research and work in progress on Muslims in Britain and related topics concerning or affecting the Muslim community. Short presentations will be followed by Q&A and participative discussion.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: Russell Jones & Walker Sets Up Sharia Law Team

A Sharia law division has been set up by the family team at Manchester-based Russell Jones & Walker in response to client demand. The division, called RJW Islamic Legal Services, is led by new recruit Aina Khan, who has more than 15 years’ experience in the niche field. She has particular expertise in Islamic family law solutions which are compatible with UK legislation. Aina has worked with Sharia Councils, arbitration tribunals and other Muslim and Asian organisations, and is fluent in Urdu and Hindi. RJW will arrange Islamic divorces in tandem with UK law divorces. The division will specialise in achieving payments of the wife’s ‘Mahr’, or mandatory Islamic financial settlements and the recovery of assets, even if a marriage is not recognised by UK courts. As well as handling divorce proceedings, the team will draw up tailored Islamic marriage contracts, wills, insurance and mortgages, and will arrange mediation and arbitration in accordance with Islamic principles. Aina said: “It’s a pleasure to be part of a team that recognises the importance of offering this specialist service to Muslim and Asian communities.” Amanda McAlister, RJW’s Manchester-based national head of family law, said: “Aina is a renowned expert on Sharia family law and RJW is very excited about this new expansion of our already comprehensive family law offering.” Aina has become a media expert in the field and is in demand to lecture on the subject at universities in the UK and abroad. She is also advising on planned legislation and will speak at an international conference in Germany next March on the implementation of religiously-based rules in western legal systems. Aina qualified in 1991 and was previously the head of family law at Woodroffes Solicitors in London. Before that she ran her own practice.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]


Serbia: Tadic: Fiat Among Most Modern Factories in Europe

President visits Kragujevac plant. Sees new model

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, DECEMBER 6 — Fiat Serbia, the plant built by the Italian car manufacturer in the central Serbian town of Kragujevac, is destined to be one of the most modern factories in Europe, and is part of the vision of a modern Serbia. This is according to the Serbian President, Boris Tadic, who today visited the plant where a new model is soon to be built.

“This plant will be one of the most modern technological in Europe,” Tadic told journalists after a tour of the site’s new blocks, which are currently being extended and restructured. The Fiat plant, he added “is part of our idea for a modern Serbia that we had a few years ago. It is part of a Serbia that will have a highly modern and technological industry and a workforce able to make it function. You will have a phenomenal factory at Kragujevac,” he said.

Tadic said that he had seen the new “Zero” model, with production of two varieties of the model due to begin shortly. The car will be on display at the Geneva Motor Show in March. The President commented that he had seen the model a few months ago during a visit to Turin. The assembly of the new model will begin in Kragujevac on December 9, where some of the models due to be displayed in Geneva will also be built.

A few weeks ago, the new director general of Fiat Srbija, Antonio Cesare Ferrara, said that the test production of the new model would begin at Kragujevac at the end of the year, while the timeframe for the production of the series would be extended from eight to nine months, due to the need to carry out the necessary safety and reliability tests.

Tadic said that talks are ongoing for serious new investments in the car parts sector, with Belgrade already making contact with other car manufacturers. “Great possibilities are opening up, particularly in the production of car parts,” said the President, adding that leading Fiat officials at Kragujevac had today promised him that 200 new jobs would be created. Just over 1,000 employees currently work at the plant.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union

EU: Workshop in Lyon for Young ‘Indignados’

eadline application is 16 december 2011

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, DECEMBER 07 — Youth workers and representatives of youth organisations, as well as young people in general, are invited to take part in a seminar organised by the EU-funded Salto Youth programme on the theme of, “Euro-Mediterranean Youth: from indignation to contribution”, from 7 to 10 February 2012 in the French city of Lyon.

According to the Enpi website ( the seminar, to be organised in conferences and workshops addressed by experts, will seek to analyse the roots of youth protests and assess the political process they sparked, support youth actors in producing recommendations focused on education, participation and employability, as well as increase international institutions’ awareness in developing more targeted and effective cooperation programme in the field of youth. Boarding and lodging will be covered by the Hosting National Agency, which is paying also travel cost of Meda Countries. The deadline for application is 16 December 2011. The EU also funds a regional programme EuroMed Youth IV during the period 2010-2013 with a budget of 5 million euros under the European Neighbourhood Policy. The programme aims at stimulating and encouraging mutual comprehension among youth in the Euro-Mediterranean region, fighting stereotypes and prejudices and enhancing the sense of solidarity among youth by promoting active citizenship. It also seeks to contribute to the development of youth policies in the Mediterranean Partner Countries.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

North Africa

Brothers of Egypt. But the Copts Are More and More Isolated

The first electoral test has rewarded the Muslim Brotherhood, which is now professing democracy. But the Christians fear the worst, with the army not defending them anymore. Over the past century, they have never felt so deeply in danger. And they are starting to emigrate

by Sandro Magister

ROME, December 9, 2011 — The political elections in Egypt are being conducted in multiple successive rounds, and will last many months. But the first electoral test in Cairo, in Alexandria