Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20111228

Financial Crisis
»2012: Make-or-Break Year for the Euro
»Greece: Full Speed Ahead for Privatizations
»Italian Rates Plunge at Bond Auctions
»Italy: Bond Spread Falls Below 490 Basis Points
»Italy: Interest Rates Halved at Treasury Bond Sale
»A Fearful Symmetry
»Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton Again Top Most Admired List
»Floridians Want More Naked Germans to Visit
»Laughs for Islam
»Muslim Brotherhood ‘Has Infiltrated Our Highest Positions in Government’, Claims US Talk Show Host
Europe and the EU
»Germany: State Invests Millions in Revamping Nazi Retreat
»Germany: Air Berlin Takes Off With Etihad Airlines
»Greek Elections Pushed Back to April
»Ireland Plans Referendum Body to Prepare for Possible EU Treaty Poll
»Italy: ‘Spumante to Beat Champagne Worldwide on New Year’s Eve’
»Italy: Another Bit Falls Off Colosseum
»Netherlands: Jerusalem Post Gives Another Boost to Wilders’ Party
»Scotland: Miscarriage of Justice Points to Fingerprint Flaws
»Slovenia’s Maribor Mobilizes Residents for European Year of Culture
»Somalis ‘Shut Out’ of Sweden’s Health System
»Sweden: Court Orders Vilks Plot Suspects Released
»Swiss Data Hacked in ‘Anonymous’ Attack
»Tapping Algae for Fuel in Sweden
»UK: ‘Gangsta’ Faced Jail for Phone Robbery
»UK: 1.2m Criminals Get Benefits
»UK: Arguably Hitchens
»UK: Boxing Day Stabbing May be Linked to String of Gang Clashes on Oxford Street
»UK: EDL Leader in Lay-by Attack
»UK: I’m Sure Harriet Harman Enjoyed That Dr Who. But Did Anyone Else?
»UK: Middlesborough Deters Teens With Pig Dung
»UK: Plans Unveiled for a New Islamic Place of Worship in Purley Town Centre
»UK: Record Numbers of Parents Convicted of Letting Pupils Play Truant in One Year as 9,000 Are Charged
»UK: The Priest Who Thought Stalin Was a Saint
»UK: Wimbledon Guardian Review of the Year — April
North Africa
»Egypt Charges Three Soldiers With ‘Manslaughter’ In the Maspero Massacre
»Egypt: Unspoken Muslim Brotherhood-Military Agreement
Israel and the Palestinians
»Fighting in the Church of the Nativity
»No News: Hitler as Role Model
Middle East
»Ankara Accused of ‘Abandoning’ Israel and France by Dutch Freedom Party
»EU to Pursue Iran Sanctions Despite Threat of Strait Closure
»Iran: Judiciary Ruling in Execution of Woman Causes International Outcry
»Kuwait: Grand Mosque Showcases Array of Islamic Art
»Saudi Arabia: Kingdom Will Continue to Follow Salafist Ideology: Prince Naif
»Syria on the Brink of Civil War, Says German Defense Expert
»The Islamists Who Stole Christmas
»Russia, Turkey Clinch South Stream
»Russia Plans ‘Eurasian Union’ On EU Model
South Asia
»Afghanistan: Kabul Specifies Rules of the Game for Taliban Talks
»India: New Delhi’s Decision to ‘Muzzle’ The Net Creates Protest
Far East
»A Nervous Region Watches as North Korea Mourns Kim Jong Il
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Does Nigeria’s Taliban Have the West in Its Sights?
»Pope Condemns Nigeria Christmas Attacks
»Refugees in Nigeria
»Italy: Foreigners to Triple by 2056
Culture Wars
»The Left and ‘The Future of History’

Financial Crisis

2012: Make-or-Break Year for the Euro

The new year promises to be make or break time for the eurozone, with dramatic integration into a new fiscal union for most and predictions that one “small country” could leave the currency area. If 2011 went down as the “annus horribilis” for the European Union’s symbol of integration, leaders of Germany, France and debt-laden monetary partners face stark choices as they enter 2012, a decade after euro notes and coins first entered into everyday circulation.

The euro debt crisis could bring all of Europe to its knees, said French President Nicolas Sarkozy in a recent speech reflecting on contagion that spread from Greece through also bailed-out Ireland and Portugal before hitting Spain and finally Italy. “What kind of Europe will we have left if the euro disappears, if Europe’s economic heart collapses?” he asked.

A radical transformation is under way precisely to avoid that doomsday scenario, one that would eventually blur differences even in tax and welfare systems across the core eurozone economies. But one also that may not be without an early casualty: for instance, the chairman of the Royal Bank of Scotland, Philip Hampton, expects one “small country” to leave the eurozone in 2012. His comment, made as Greece was wrapping up painful negotiations over a massive write-down with some of the world’s biggest banks, was echoed by others in the City of London.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Greece: Full Speed Ahead for Privatizations

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, DECEMBER 28 — The Greek state privatization fund (TAIPED) is racing full throttle into the first quarter of the new year, having already chosen which state assets should be the first to go, as daily Kathimerini reports.

The sale of the Public Gas Corporation (DEPA), the Hellenic Gas Transmission System Operator (DESFA), Hellenic Defense Systems (EAS), the Greek Organization for Horse Racing (ODIE), the LARCO mining and metallurgical company and a small number of real estate properties are the most likely to see invitations for expressions of interest in the next one to three months, according to TAIPED officials. The same sources argue that the outcome of the new privatizations being prepared, as well as those already under way, such as the state lotteries and the former airport at Elliniko, depend primarily on economic developments in Europe and to a lesser extent on the climate in Greece. A key condition will be the successful completion of the new private sector involvement (PSI+) plan, a well-informed official noted. TAIPED is also preparing for other longer-term sell-offs, such as the extension of concession contracts for the major road projects around the country, for which a solution is being sought via negotiations with the contractors. TAIPED’s administration appears upbeat on the issue but hasn’t revealed any details.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italian Rates Plunge at Bond Auctions

Italy has paid dramatically lower rates at two bond sales on Wednesday. The fall in borrowing costs is being seen as a signal that market sentiment is becoming more positive as Italy’s austerity measures take effect.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italy: Bond Spread Falls Below 490 Basis Points

ECB deposits surge to record high

(ANSA) — Rome, December 28 — The spread between long-term Italian bonds and the German benchmark bond fell below 490 basis points on Wednesday after the European Central Bank reported record deposits from European banks overnight.

The spread on the 10-year Treasury bond was at 486.6 basis points in early trading with a yield of 6.8%.

On Tuesday the spread rose to 516.6 basis points in early trading before falling to 505.7 basis points at the end of the day. European Union banks left 452 billion euros with the Frankfurt-based ECB on Tuesday, the most since the euro’s introduction in 1999 and up from the previous record of 411.8 billion euros a day earlier.

The ECB last week loaned 523 banks a record 489 billion euros for three years to keep credit flowing through the 17-nation eurozone. Premier Mario Monti and his cabinet were due to meet on Wednesday to discuss the second phase of the government’s economic package and measures to stimulate growth.

The government’s credibility was to be put to the test with 11.5 billion euros worth of bonds to be sold at a Treasury bond auction on Wednesday and 8.5 billion euros worth of bonds to go on sale on Friday.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Interest Rates Halved at Treasury Bond Sale

But long-term spreads return to 500 mark

(ANSA) — Rome, December 28 — Interest rates were halved at Wednesday’s Treasury bond auction but the positive impact was short-lived as the spread between the long-term bond against the German benchmark returned to 500 basis points.

Interest rates at the six-month bond auction fell to 3.251% from 6.504% at the end of November.

But after 10-year bonds fell to 482 basis points in early trading, the spread surged to the psychologically significant 500-mark once again to deliver a yield of 6.91%.

The Treasury bond auction took place a day after European Union banks deposited a record 452 billion euros with the European Central Bank on Tuesday, the most since the euro’s introduction in 1999.

The ECB last week loaned 523 banks a record 489 billion euros for three years to keep credit flowing through the 17-nation eurozone.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


A Fearful Symmetry

What is happening in American politics is simply astounding. Here is an incumbent President whose approval ratings are rightly dire. He is the most far-left, dangerous and damaging President the US has ever known. In office, he has amply fulfilled the worst fears of those like myself who warned well before he was even elected that his agenda was to neuter America’s influence abroad and to extend the reach of the state into people’s lives at home. In foreign policy, he has made the world an immeasurably more dangerous place by strengthening America’s enemies and dumping on its allies (even vitiating the sacrifice of America’s own soldiers in Iraq, now poised to descend into world-threatening anarchy because of the militarily illiterate and defeatist withdrawal of US forces from there). With the US economy tanking so disastrously, one might think that such a President offered an open goal for the Republicans. Yet the amazing fact is that the Republicans just have not got a credible candidate. One after the other, they have been exposed as either embarrassingly third rate or off-the-wall or both.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton Again Top Most Admired List

Clinton Most Admired Woman a record 16th time

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama continue to be named by Americans as the Most Admired Woman and Most Admired Man living today in any part of the world. Clinton has been the Most Admired Woman each of the last 10 years, and Obama has been the Most Admired Man four years in a row. Oprah Winfrey, Michelle Obama, Sarah Palin, and Condoleezza Rice round out the top five Most Admired women, while the top five Most Admired men also include George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Billy Graham, and Warren Buffett.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Floridians Want More Naked Germans to Visit

Pandabare, a nudist community in western Florida, United States, has won an advertising grant to tempt German nudists to try stripping off stateside. According to the Reuters news agency, Pandabare were awarded $3,800 in tax money by the Pasco County commission to get Germans to holiday in one of the organization’s 16 resorts, campgrounds and clubs in the county north of Tampa. The ads, to be placed in European magazines, will promote Pasco’s reputation as the nudist capital of the US.

“The idea is to create a ‘Euro-bird’ season in July and August which are our worst two months of the year,” said Eric Keaton, public communications manager for the Pasco County tourist agency. Keaton claims nudism was an important part of the local economy. The primary target market for the ad campaign will be Germany which, according to Pandabare’s application document, is “a large and lucrative market whose millions of nudists are among the world’s most prolific travellers.” Keaton said the advertisements, set to launch in 2012, are still in the conceptual stage, but he promised, “They are very clean, and somewhat funny.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Laughs for Islam

Armed with humor and a desire to engage in dialogue about Islam, a troupe of four Muslim comedians performed in Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee. Billed as ‘The Muslims are Coming!’ comedy tour, they also set up a “Name that Religion” game in Birmingham, Ala. and an “Ask a Muslim” booth in Lawrenceville, Ga. What they found was often surprising.

Negin Farsad

Q. How do you identify with Islam?

A. I’m pretty secular. Maybe even super-duper secular. I consider myself culturally Muslim like Christian friends who might say they’re Christian but never go to church, or Jewish friends who barely celebrate Passover but have a great matzo ball soup recipe. I also view it as a minority/socio-political designation, i.e. to say you’re Muslim is to identify with a group that is being marginalized and by identifying with them, you may help bolster their cause. Because of the current climate, admitting that I’m a Muslim has taken on a larger political meaning.

Q. How much of a role does religion play in your daily life?

A. Religious edicts were passed down to my parents — edicts like, “don’t be a dick to people” (so to speak) and its those edicts that guide my every day (non-dickish) behavior. I don’t eat pork, not because there’s anything wrong with it — s***, sometimes its delicious! — but because I grew up in a household that didn’t eat pork. So, Islam has had an effect on me even though I don’t brandish a Koran around or pray multiple times a day. That’s how religion inserts itself into someone’s cultural reality and it certainly has inserted itself into mine.

Q. Years doing comedy as a full-time job?

A. 5 years as a standup comedian, filmmaker and television/web comedy writer (this is my third film so its more accurate to say I’m a “comedian/filmmaker”)

Q. Where does your comedic inspiration come from?

A. Ah… that’s a good question that even mystifies me. When I see ridiculous things, I write them down. When someone says something absurd, I write it down. When I feel like crap, and the root cause of it is something perfectly embarrassing, I write it down. And sometimes I just turn on Fox news and let the jokes flow over me. I don’t make religion funny. I think religious texts are hilarious because the parables in them are combination sci-fi flick and MMORPG. So those can be funny. A dude parted a sea, frogs rained, something about a hat — that’s all very funny. I hope no one gets their panties in a ruffle because you have to admit, its entertaining. But, what I don’t make fun of are the moral guidelines that people get from those parables or the basic ethical tenets of a religion. Ethics aren’t funny, they’re just good rules to live by. Even I have a line that I don’t cross when it comes to making light of religions — I can’t tell you exactly where that line is, but I know it when I see it.

Q. Childhood dream job?

A. I wanted to be President of the United States… and I settled on comedian.

Q. Favorite pizza topping?

A. PEPPERONI! That’s only half true because I’m actually one of those weirdos that loves pineapple on my pizza. Don’t judge me.

Q. If you weren’t a comedian, what would you be doing?

A. I would be a policy analyst-turned-elected official. In fact, before comedy I was a policy adviser for the City of New York. It was important stuff and I really believed in it but I just had to go through with this comedy thing.

Q. What’s next for you?

A. After “The Muslims Are Coming!” documentary feature is all done, I’ll be back to standup and then… eh, probably another movie. But more than likely I’ll settle on a really long nap.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Muslim Brotherhood ‘Has Infiltrated Our Highest Positions in Government’, Claims US Talk Show Host

Former “Saturday Night Live” actress Victoria Jackson, working on confidential information she as a web talk show host has special clearance to obtain, has claimed that the United States is being overtaken by radical Muslims bent on bringing the nation under Sharia law. “I just went to a briefing in Washington DC, across the street from the Capitol, at the Longworth building at 8:30 am two days ago and it changed my life,” Jackson said last week on her web show, “Politichicks.” “For six hours, I saw pictures and names and dates and facts and Islamic law books and Korans, Surahs for six hours and they proved to me… that the Muslim Brotherhood has infiltrated our highest positions in government and this is serious.”

Huffington Post, 27 December 2011

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Germany: State Invests Millions in Revamping Nazi Retreat

Germany’s North Rhine-Westphalia state is investing millions of euros in a plan to turn a former elite school for Nazi children into a popular tourist attraction. More than €32 million in government money will be invested in the Ordensburg Vogelsang project, which is to include several exhibition spaces on the history of the resort and the surrounding region, as well as a restaurant and welcome area by 2014.

Plans to open a youth hostel and a retreat building for young people have been scrapped for the time being due to funding issues, but officials said they still hope to see them constructed in the future. They are also hoping the state funding is seen as a positive signal by potential private investors, though they admit its isolated location and dark past may be seen as deterrents.

Ordensburg Vogelsang, in North Rhine-Westphalia’s Eifel National Park, was an elite education facility for young Nazi party members. Students there were usually the children of prominent party leaders who took part in intensive physical training and learned about Nazi ideals. After World War II Belgium used it as a training facility until it was handed back to the Germans in 2005. It has been open to civilian visitors ever since.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Germany: Air Berlin Takes Off With Etihad Airlines

Etihad Airways will increase its stake in financially troubled Air Berlin. The Abu Dhabi state-controlled airline and the German discount carrier will also cooperate commercially, including a code-sharing agreement.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Greek Elections Pushed Back to April

A general election in Greece to replace the technocratic administration of Prime Minister Lucas Papademos has been pushed back to April, governing parties have agreed, although the precise date remains unclear. The current government needs two additional months to settle plans outlining fresh austerity and structural adjustment demanded by international lenders and to complete negotiations with creditors over a multi-billion-euro debt write-down.

Speaking to a meeting of the political council of the centre-left Pasok, finance minister Evangelos Venizelos told his party colleagues that elections would be later than the 19 February date originally agreed. “Elections will be held after Easter, in late April,” he said, according to Agence France Presse.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Ireland Plans Referendum Body to Prepare for Possible EU Treaty Poll

Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny has said he intends to establish a permanent referendum commission so that the public is fully prepared for a possible poll on the fiscal discipline treaty currently being drawn up by member states. “I cannot give you an indication now as to whether there will actually be a referendum in respect of the inter-governmental agreement from the European business until the text is finalised and we get the advice of the attorney general,” said Kenny on Tuesday (28 December), according to PA.

“What I am going to do though is set up the Referendum Commission on a much more permanent basis so that the commission will be able to reflect in readiness as to what is actually going to happen.” Referendum commissions are set up ahead of each referendum in Ireland to give neutral information on the topic being put to vote.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italy: ‘Spumante to Beat Champagne Worldwide on New Year’s Eve’

Italian bubbly will edge out French rival thanks to record sales

(ANSA) — Rome, December 27 — Italian spumante will beat French champagne when corks are popped around the world this New Year’s Eve, Italian farmers’ association Coldiretti said Tuesday.

The Italian bubbly is set to edge out its French elder cousin thanks to a record 25% rise in sales in the first 10 months of the year, Coldiretti said, compared to just 3.5% for champagne.

More than 300 million bottles of spumante will be opened on the night of December 31 thanks to growth spurts of 37% in the United States, 25% in the UK and 8% in Germany, the leading spumante importer, Coldiretti said.

Among the new lovers of Italy’s bubbly is Russia, fourth in the import standings with a record rise of 40%.

“Italian spumante’s success abroad is accompanied by its unquestioned leadership in Italy where nine out of 10 toasts will be ‘Made in Italy’,” Coldiretti said. Coldiretti said spumante was riding high despite the economic crisis at home and abroad.

“Sales are anti-cyclic and there will be an estimated 2% rise in household consumption in Italy at the end of the year, in clear contrast with the general economic trend”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Another Bit Falls Off Colosseum

(ANSAmed) — Rome — The Colosseum lost another bit of masonry Tuesday following a fragment of wall that fell off on Christmas Day, fire services said. “Another small piece of tufa (stone) fell from an arch facing the Arch of Constantine,” they said. “No one was hurt, though tourists were a bit surprised”. The Christmas Day incident, which sparked headlines like Colosseum Falling on Tourists, spurred calls to bring forward a planned restoration of the iconic monument. Work is currently scheduled to start in March on a two-year revamp funded by footwear magnate Diego Della Valle.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Jerusalem Post Gives Another Boost to Wilders’ Party

The Dutch Freedom Party, the Netherlands’s third largest political party, urged the Foreign Affairs and Defense Ministries last week to reconsider Turkey’s continued membership in NATO. Geert Wilders, head of the party, and its Mideast expert, deputy Wim Kortenoeven, accused Turkey of abandoning its allies — Israel earlier this year, and now France.

Turkey severed diplomatic and military ties with France last week, over the French parliamentary resolution on the current Turkish government’s reaction to the Ottoman Empire’s massacre of Christian Armenians in 1915. The empire preceded the modern secular Turkish state founded in 1923, and the French deemed the state’s denial that these events represented genocide to be punishable by a monetary fine.

Kortenoeven, a leading European specialist on the Mideast and author of several books on the region, told The Jerusalem Post that since Turkey has a short but disturbing history of abandoning allies, it could be a lethal mistake to entrust them with the custody of a crucial element of the new Western/European defense system against nuclear rogue states such as Iran and Pakistan. The Dutch lawmakers asked that the slated missile shield to be installed in Turkey be reconsidered. The party’s military spokesman, Marcial Hernandez, also posed questions to the ministries regarding Turkey’s reliability as a NATO partner. The Dutch Freedom Party opposes militant Islam and has generated much controversy in Europe due to its criticisms of political and reactionary strands of Islam in Holland and throughout Europe.

Jerusalem Post, 26 December 2011

You’ll note that the report distorts the position of the PVV with regard to Islam. Wilders and his party have made it clear that they oppose not just “militant Islam” or “political and reactionary strands of Islam” but the entire faith. The Jerusalem Post can hardly claim ignorance of that fact. When Wilders visited Israel in 2008 to show his film Fitna, the paper reported that he described Islam as “a totalitarian ideology ‘full of hate, violence and submission’“. For an earlier example of the Jerusalem Post promoting the PVV (“The Party for Freedom has prioritized Israel’s security interests and sees combating extremist Islam as integral to defending Israel and Western liberal values”) see here.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Scotland: Miscarriage of Justice Points to Fingerprint Flaws

FINGERPRINTS were once the cornerstone of forensic identification. Now a report into a miscarriage of justice has renewed pressure on print examiners to improve their methods, while two new studies reveal the extent of their fallibility. The results could change the fingerprint profession worldwide.

The Fingerprint Inquiry was launched by the Scottish government after detective Shirley McKie was acquitted of perjury. Flawed fingerprint analysis was the only evidence against her. The report, published on 14 December, concludes that human error was to blame and voices serious concerns about how fingerprint analysts report matches. It recommends that they no longer report conclusions with 100 per cent certainty, and develop a process for analysing complex, partial or smudged prints involving at least three independent examiners who fully document their findings.

The recommendations lay bare fundamental problems which have demanded attention for decades, says Jim Fraser, a forensic scientist at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, UK. In interviews with 400 fingerprint experts from around the world, he found that 80 per cent believe fingerprint identifications are reliable. And although several recent cases have hinted that fingerprint analysis should be treated with caution, it remains a mainstay of forensic identification.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Slovenia’s Maribor Mobilizes Residents for European Year of Culture

Maribor, Slovenia’s second-largest city, hopes to activate locals and attract visitors as it celebrates its cultural heritage in 2012. Two decades after the fall of communism and the independence of Slovenia, the former industrial city of Maribor is striving to create a new cultural identity.

Located at the foot of the Alps in the eastern part of Slovenia, one of the EU’s smallest countries, Maribor is close to the Austrian and Croatian borders. Several notable Renaissance buildings, as well one of Europe oldest synagogues can be found in Maribor’s Old Town. But today, large residential areas and shopping centers give Slovenia’s second largest city another character.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Somalis ‘Shut Out’ of Sweden’s Health System

Many Somalis in Sweden feel dismissed when visiting a doctor in Sweden, according to a new study, which shows that many end up looking abroad for medical treatment as a result.

As a part of his study, Svenberg also interviewed doctors in training and found they sometimes find it difficult to understand patients from Somalia. There are often misunderstandings when an interpreter is present and some doctors tell of feeling left out when they cannot communicate directly with their patient.

Between the 2000 and 2010, around 25,500 Somalis applied for asylum in Sweden, according to figures from Statistics Sweden (SCB) and the Swedish Migration Board (Migrationsverket). During the same time period, around 14,000 Somalis took Swedish citizenship. As of 2010, there were approximately 30,800 Somali citizens in Sweden.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Court Orders Vilks Plot Suspects Released

The three men accused of planning to murder controversial Swedish artist Lars Vilks in a foiled attack in Gothenburg on September should be sentenced to prison, prosecutors argued in their closing arguments on Wednesday. “My client is incredibly relieved,” defence attorney Urban Gilborne told the TT news agency following news of his client’s release, announced late Wednesday afternoon by the Gothenburg District Court. “I’ve also spoken with his family and they are overjoyed and excited that he’s coming home.”

According to Gilborne, the court’s decision to life the remand order on the three suspects, who have been held in custody since September, is a sign that they are innocent. He emphasized, however, that the final verdict won’t be announced until January 20th. “I’ve claimed the whole time that the evidence was weak,” he said.

Vilks, known for his controversial artwork published in Nerikes Allehanda in 2007, has been subject to several attacks and threats and has received plenty of media attention. During a four day hearing, which concluded on Wednesday, prosecutors attempted to prove that the three men suspects intended to murder Vilks during a biennial art show at the Röda Sten gallery in Göteborg on September 11th.

The evidence against the three men, identified in court documents as Abdi Aziz Mahamud, a 26-year-old Somali citizen living in Sweden, and Swedish citizens Salar Sami Mahamood, 24, and Abdi Weli Mohamud, 26, consists of recordings of telephone calls between them. But Ulf Ahlstedt, the lawyer representing one of the three men, argued that the recordings weren’t sufficient enough to prove his clients’ guilt. “The recording quality of the telephone calls is not clear enough and this evidence cannot be relied on,” said Ahlstedt to news agency TT.

In closing arguments, the prosecutor argued the suspects should be convicted of conspiracy to murder and sentenced to at least three years in prison. In addition, the alleged murder plot could be seen as an attack on Vilks’ freedom of expression, which strengthens the cause for conviction, the prosecutor said. Whilst the men admit that they hate Vilks, they deny having plotted his murder. Swedish security service Säpo had had men under observation for several months prior to their arrest in early September 2011.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Swiss Data Hacked in ‘Anonymous’ Attack

The department of Foreign Affairs, the Swiss army, private bank Julius Bär and Nestlé are among the victims of a hacking attack targeting US security firm Stratfor on Christmas Eve. Swiss German-language public radio DRS revealed on Tuesday that it had received access to a vast file containing the credit card details, phone numbers, passwords and private addresses of Swiss citizens working for companies which use Stratfor’s services. The file, thousands of pages long, was one of the documents stolen by Anonymous, a hacking syndicate.

In an online message posted on Sunday, Anonymous derided Stratfor for exposing their clients to the risk of theft by neglecting to encrypt identity data. Stratfor, which is based in Texas, provides political, economic and military analysis that helps customers reduce their exposure to risk.

According to DRS, about a third of the information stolen, including credit card numbers, is still current and valid. Stratfor has promised to inform customers whose information was stolen by no later than December 28th. Aside from UBS executives, and employees of private banks such as Julius Bär, or international companies like Nestlé and ABB, Anonymous also stole data belonging to key staff at several Swiss media, such as the foreign news desk at the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, tabloid Blick, Swiss-German public ratio station DRS and national broadcaster SF.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Tapping Algae for Fuel in Sweden

The beaches of Trelleborg in southern Sweden are coated with algae each summer, choking marine life and disrupting holidays for tourists. But the green gloop may also hold huge economic and ecological benefits for the region. Scientists believe the reeds and plankton can used in the production of biogas. The fast-growing seaweed is being harvested on a large scale towards that purpose.

In the long term, the project is meant to include several Baltic Sea states. Sweden and Poland are leading the way. A biogas pilot plant is coming up in Sweden while Poland plans a small mobile biogas facility on the Baltic Sea. In Sweden, the project is to focus on using the biogas as engine fuel for trucks, thus lowering the dependance on fossil fuels in vehicular traffic. In Poland, the aim is to develop an alternative energy source.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: ‘Gangsta’ Faced Jail for Phone Robbery

Shop stab victim Seydou Diarrassouba, 18, in rap boasts

OXFORD Street murder victim Seydou Diarrassouba faced jail after he was accused of robbing a boy of 16 of his BlackBerry, it emerged last night. The 18-year-old appeared in court just a week before he was stabbed through the heart in front of horrified sales shoppers on Boxing Day. Seydou — who was chased and killed after two rival gangs argued over which trainers to steal from a Foot Locker store — also starred in a chilling “gangsta” rap video months before his murder. The teenager — known by the street name “Nutz” — boasted in the YouTube film that he had “shot men down” before a rival appears to be chased and gunned down in the street. At one point Seydou is surrounded by hoodie pals bragging they have access to “straps” or guns to shoot people for money. Seydou, of Mitcham, South West London, was also pictured striking a gangsta gun pose on a Facebook tribute page yesterday. But the menacing image was in stark contrast to the portrayal of the teenager by his devastated family and friends as “a nice boy”. His family — from the Ivory Coast — yesterday released a smiling picture of him taken a few years ago. Former school pal Munawar Shaikh, 20, said: “He was a good kid who always had a smile.” The CPS said yesterday that Seydou appeared at Inner London Crown Court over the alleged phone robbery of Nile Downes in Clapham, South London, in September. He was also charged with assaulting Nile and his brother Yafeu, 19. He was released on bail but was due to stand trial in the New Year. If convicted, he faced a long sentence because of Nile’s age.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: 1.2m Criminals Get Benefits

BRITAIN’S broken benefits system was exposed last night after official figures showed one in four jobless welfare claimants is a criminal.

Experts warned taxpayers risk “bank- rolling career criminals” as statistics revealed 1.23million people on unemployment handouts have been cautioned or convicted of offences in the last five years.

Figures also show that 33 per cent on Job- Seeker’s Allowance — 400,000 people — have records of offending over the same period.

The figures confirming the link between claiming benefits and law-breaking were disclosed last night by the Department for Work and Pensions and led to attacks from critics of Britain’s bloated welfare state.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

UK: Arguably Hitchens

It could never be said that Christopher Hitchens, who died on December 15, hid his light under a bushel. Yet there’s also no denying that this polymathic journalist and intellectual was himself a source of light, sometimes even sweetness and light, though his work generally revelled in the blazing illumination of the wrongs, failings and misjudgements of others. For more than forty years he was a flail and a scourge, but also a gift to readers everywhere. While many of the more than 100 pieces collected in Arguably, an oversized, magnificent and sometimes exasperating volume, might be reckoned book reviews, they aren’t really. Description and quotation, supported by personal stylishness, lie at the heart of true reviewing. But, in these pages, Hitchens doesn’t so much review books as exploit them. They are, to borrow I. A. Richards’s phrase, machines to think with. When he quotes, it isn’t to illustrate a book’s particular quiddity but to advance an argument of his own or to pillory perceived deficiencies in its style or logic. To have one’s work “reviewed” by Christopher Hitchens was invariably a mixed blessing, since he frequently conveys the impression that he himself could have done a much better job and that he, in fact, knows the subject in far greater depth than the obviously well-meaning but just slightly deficient author. When Hitchens does pass out compliments, they tend to be briefly adjectival, along the lines of “fine” or “brilliant”, conveying a slightly episcopal mixture of approbation and condescension.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Boxing Day Stabbing May be Linked to String of Gang Clashes on Oxford Street

The death of a teenager in front of crowds of shoppers on Oxford Street may have been just the culmination of a string of clashes as rival gangs converged in search of cut-price designer labels, police fear.

Seydou Diarrassouba, 18, bled to death in front of hundreds of onlookers after a fight in a shop selling trainers on Boxing Day. It was one of at least three suspected gang confrontations on Britain’s busiest shopping street during the day but it is thought there may have been many more. There are now fears that the killing could spark a spiral of revenge attacks following the stabbing of a second youth nearby only a few hours later. Detectives believe that the lure of cheap designer clothes and trainers drew gangs from across the capital onto Oxford Street for the post-Christmas sales. Seydou, 18, who was on bail for robbery and assault at the time, suffered a single stab wound to the heart during a clash in a branch of the Foot Locker, sportswear shop at lunchtime on Monday. He bled to death on the road outside as a passing detachment of police from Scotland Yard’s Diplomatic Protection Group battled to hold back an agitated crowd as first aid was administered.

The Muslim teenager was the 15th young person to be murdered on the streets of London this year. Last night 11 people, including a 16-year-old boy, were being questioned by police over the killing. A 21-year-old man was stabbed in the leg in a second attack on Oxford Street just a few hours later. Police have yet to establish a motive for the murder of the teenager but rumours that it have been sparked by a row over a pair of trainers were being played down last night. Instead, it is thought that the fight may have stemmed from an earlier, unreported, clash between two groups of youths in or around Oxford Street during the day. Detectives are preparing to scour hundreds of hours of CCTV from other shops to piece together the movements of Seydou and his friends in an attempt work out what led to the fatal confrontation. Police suspect that the second stabbing may have been an attempted revenge attack for the killing but have not publicly linked the two.

Last night it emerged that there was also a third suspected gang clash on Oxford Street, inside a shop next to the scene of the second stabbing, earlier in the day. It happened at around the time Seydou was stabbed and although it is not thought to be directly linked police see it as indicative of the number of gang members mingling among thousands of bargain hunters on Boxing Day. “If you went up to Oxford Street on that day you would have found members of gangs from all over London,” said one source. Yesterday, at their home in Mitcham, south London, Seydou’s family, including his brother Ali, 20, they were too upset to comment. Scores of friends posted messages on a dedicated Facebook site paying tribute to a boy with a “sweet smile”. But others referred to him as a “fallen soldier” — slang for a gang member — and one described him as a “martyr”.

But it emerged yesterday that Seydou appeared at Inner London Crown Court on December 19 — only a week before his death — to face charges of robbery and assault over an attack in Clapham on September 29. One source said that Seydou was known to be “on the periphery” of the south London gang scene. Meanwhile Scotland Yard moved to dispel controversy over footage posted on YouTube appearing to show a police officer using a Taser stun gun on a member of the crowd surging around the dying teenager on Monday.

Commander Steve Rodhouse of the Metropolitan Police later clarified that the Taser had been removed from its holster but not “deployed”. “Officers can be seen in the footage pushing the crowd back and one officer is shown to remove his Taser from its holster, although at no time was it ever deployed,” he said. “Clearly in those initial early stages, officers would have been unaware of what had occurred and where the suspects might be and their priority would have been to prevent further injury or loss of life to those in the area.”

Police last night issued an appeal for members of the crowd who filmed the incident and its aftermath to share their footage with detectives as they try to piece together the movements of those involved.

Detective Superintendent John Sweeney, from the Homicide and Serious Crime Command, said: “Our sympathy goes to the family of the victim at this time and we are appealing for witnesses to come forward. We know there were a number of people filming the incident inside Footlocker and may have captured the incident or its aftermath and we are appealing for these people to contact us.” Police recovered at least two knives from the scene although it is has not been confirmed whether one was the murder weapon.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: EDL Leader in Lay-by Attack

POLICE have launched an investigation after English Defence League leader Stephen Lennon was violently assaulted in a lay-by outside Luton.

Mr Lennon, who calls himself Tommy Robinson, says he was driving along the A6 at about 2am last Thursday (Dec 22) when he pulled over after another car, a black Vauxhall Zafira, flashed its lights at him.

When he got out of the car he was attacked by three men, with the beating only coming to an end when a ‘good Samaritan’ stopped at the scene, he said.

Mr Lennon, who runs a tanning salon in Luton, said: “I was on my way back from Dunstable and near Streatley I noticed the car flashing me.

“I pulled over and got out. The car was being driven by a girl and three lads jumped out and I took a beating.

“As soon as I got out the passenger leapt out and I could tell straight away what was going to happen.

“I started fighting back and then the other two got out.

“The geezer that pulled over to help me said one of them had a pole but I didn’t see anything. But the hospital said the injuries looked like they’d been caused by a blunt object.”

Mr Lennon drove to Bedford Hospital where he was given a CT scan, which revealed bruising on his brain. He was released later the same day.

“I didn’t want to go to hospital but the guy that helped me kept insisting that I had to go,” he said. “They had knocked me out when he arrived — he said if he hadn’t pulled over they would probably have carried on.

“I’ve never had a kicking like it. I had to go home to my kids looking like that.”

Mr Lennon said claims on an anti-EDL website that the attack had been faked or had been carried out by football hooligans were “pathetic” and had been fabricated by people who had been kicked out of the EDL for being too right-wing.

He described his attackers as being of Asian appearance and said they were wearing jeans and bomber jackets, with one wearing a checked scarf.

A spokesman for Bedfordshire Police said it was as yet unclear what the motive for the attack was.

They appealed for any witnesses to come forward, including the good Samaritan, saying: “He was driving a silver Ford Mondeo and was called John or Jonathan.

“The officer investigating this case is Det Con Tom Hamm, contactable direct on 01582 473322. He would like to hear from John or anyone who knows who John is.”

           — Hat tip: PS[Return to headlines]

UK: I’m Sure Harriet Harman Enjoyed That Dr Who. But Did Anyone Else?

We watched two television programmes on Christmas Day: The Nativity in the morning, and Doctor Who in the evening. Both were drenched in BBC Politics, but one overcame them. Strangely, it wasn’t the science fiction. The Nativity skirted perilously close to recasting the birth of Christ as a too-modern Leftist parable about the sin of judging single mothers: it showed Mary’s pregnancy taking place before her marriage to Joseph — not the version I remember from primary school. But if this was a perilous reworking, it was a very forgiveable one. Married or not, Mary must have had a hideous time attempting to explain her condition to unbelieving family, most of all to Joseph, who was shown in The Nativity first of all doubting Mary’s fidelity, before ultimately believing and re-affirming his love for her. Very human, very moving, beautifully shot and acted, The Nativity was a wonderful start to Christmas.

Doctor Who was execrable though. Labour Party supporter and chief writer Steven Moffat turned in a script that could have pleased few outside the living room of Harriet Harman. Every trite Left-wing cliché was in place. Noble trees threatened by acid rain: check. Said acid rain caused by rapacious humanoids: check. Worst of all was the misandrist posturing. The message, yelled at full volume, was that men are weak and women are strong. I’m not paraphrasing. Only women could save the acid-rain-threatened tree-people, the Doctor declared, though whether this was something to do with their two X chromosomes or the gynecological consequence of that was never (thankfully) explained. Even the rapacious, acid-rain-producing trio of alien humanoids appeared for long enough only to display men as useless (one burst into tears) and women sensible (the female acid-rain-producing etc instantly threw off her alien background to side with the protagonist, a middle-class 1940s mother). It was so narratively lazy, as well as politically predictable.

Since its reboot, Doctor Who has had two talented writers in charge, but both have flaws. Russell T Davies had a God complex about the Time Lord which became wearing towards the end. Steven Moffat’s politics are his own business, but when one of the most-watched children’s television characters becomes a cipher for Harmanism, then I object. And this culture we have, that bends over backwards to transmit a message about the supposed inadequacy of men: I can watch some science fiction riddled with it, roll my eyes at my partner, and pick up a novel to read instead. What impact does it have on viewers in the target age range? Unforunately, I imagine more children heard Steven Moffat’s line about weak men than absorbed the Gospel’s message about Joseph’s fortitude and love from earlier in the day.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Middlesborough Deters Teens With Pig Dung

It may not be the most conventional way of tackling crime, but a council has claimed success after using pig dung to eject teenagers from a woodland they used to drink and take drugs.

Elderly residents of Middlesbrough had complained to the that young people were smoking cannabis and drinking alcohol in a woodland area near the Coulby Newham housing estate.

In response, officials thinned out the trees so the area was more visible from paths and then spread a thick layer of pig manure on the ground — which has proved highly effective in deterring wayward teens.

“Following complaints, an inspection of the area revealed it was being used to drink alcohol and take drugs, as paraphernalia known as bongs (used to smoke cannabis) were found,” said a spokesman for Middlesbrough Council.

“Feedback from the residents indicated that, although there was a slight whiff in Willowbank, they would much rather have a pong than a bong.”

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

UK: Plans Unveiled for a New Islamic Place of Worship in Purley Town Centre

MUSLIMS set to create a place of worship in Purley town centre have unveiled plans they hope will provide “a chance for the community to build bridges”. At a meeting this week, members of Purley Islamic Community Centre (PICC) led town leaders round the proposed site and took questions from members of the public. The group — who have prepared for everything from opening the centre for mother and toddler groups to combating extremism — planned to submit a formal planning application by the end of Friday. The community centre, behind The Rectory pub in Russell Hill Place, would open seven days a week with local groups able to use the premises between prayer sessions. PICC volunteer and management consultant Usman Sadiq (far right of picture) said: “The key messages were that we are normal members of the community who will play a part in the cultural mix, and to say, ‘let’s talk as a community’. “We wanted to make sure we had answered the right questions before we put in planning permission. This project will be open to everyone in the community. We hope it can be a positive place for us and our children.”

Mr Sadiq added: “We believe in peace. We are just as frustrated about terrorism as everybody else, we abhor it. Islam on the whole is a law-abiding religion and that is what we wanted to show people. It is a chance for the community to build bridges. Extremism takes place because the sense of community disappears. When people are involved in a community there is much less chance of them being radicalised.” The group added they had contacted police and asked to be included in the mosque governance programme — a scheme which helps tackle extremism. The group estimates there are around 100 Muslim families in Purley who will benefit from the centre’s dawn-till-dusk prayer space, but that the facilities, only one fifth of which will be prayer space, will be open to the town. Parking concerns were allayed at the Monday night meeting, as the group cited 650 parking spaces within 150 metres of the centre.

Plans are also in place for the former Venture photography building to be used for homework clubs, a senior citizens’ club and keep-fit and cookery classes. The partitioned classrooms will also host Koran lessons. PICC trustee and mother-of-two Nirgis Haq said: “We have a lot plans. We are hoping to offer keep-fit and cookery classes for groups, and if anyone comes along with an idea we will be open with them. We want somewhere for our children to go. It will be great for them on a Friday night. It will be great for them to have somewhere to go. Not just Muslims.” The group, which has been renting churches to pray, says the centre will accommodate 50 to 70 people and hopes it will be open by summer 2012. It will purchase the building, comprising of a ground floor and basement, if planning permission for change of use proves successful. No external alterations will be made.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Record Numbers of Parents Convicted of Letting Pupils Play Truant in One Year as 9,000 Are Charged

A record number of parents have criminal records for allowing their children to skip school.

More than 9,000 were convicted last year, marking a threefold increase in nine years.

Almost two-thirds — 5,938 — were fined, but 25 were jailed, according to statistics released by the Ministry of Justice under the Freedom of Information Act.

Figures for 2011, available in the spring, are expected to show the trend continuing amid a growing crackdown on problem families.

Ministers are already looking at tougher sanctions for parents whose children miss school, including the withdrawal of child benefit.

Schools are also likely to face demands to monitor children’s attendance at a much earlier age, even tracking how often toddlers miss nursery classs as part of a Government review of discipline and attendance, due to be published in January.

Magistrates gained new powers to deal with the parents of truanting children in November 2000.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

UK: The Priest Who Thought Stalin Was a Saint

Charles Moore reviews ‘The Red Dean’ by John Butler (Scala).

As Canterbury Cathedral this week marks the anniversary of the death of its most famous “turbulent priest”, Thomas Becket, it is a good moment to study the life of its second-most famous one. Hewlett Johnson became the Dean of Canterbury in 1931, when he was already getting on for 60, and clung on to the post, despite numerous attempts to get him out, until 1964. Over those 33 years, Johnson devoted the bulk of his astonishing energy to proving that Soviet Communism, especially as practised by Stalin, was heaven on earth: “While we’re waiting for God, Russia is doing it.” In his bestseller The Socialist Sixth of the World, which was published not long after Stalin’s most extensive programme of mass murder, he wrote: “Nothing strikes the visitor to the Soviet Union more forcibly than the complete absence of fear.”

No Communist outrage could put Johnson off his stride. He supported the Nazi-Soviet Pact of 1939. In the face of all evidence, he praised the Soviets for their toleration of religion, excitedly reporting, after a private audience with Stalin, that the great man favoured freedom of conscience. He always refused to condemn Stalin. Neither would he condemn the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956. His methods, too, were sometimes unscrupulous. He repeatedly accepted free trips from VOKS, the Soviet cultural front organisation which suborned Western writers and intellectuals, never questioning its itineraries or facts. When he wrote his books, he copied out the economic statistics that VOKS sent him, without inquiry or even comprehension. The uncritical tribute he published on Stalin’s death was in large part plagiarised, without acknowledgment, from an existing piece of Soviet propaganda. The British intelligence services may well have been right to consider him an “agent of influence”.

Johnson did well from his views. In 1951, he was awarded the Stalin Peace Prize, for which he received £10,000 (roughly £230,000 in today’s money). The sales of his books were made enormous by the print runs which Stalin decreed for them. His stupendous vanity was gratified by meeting the dictators (including Mao, Fidel Castro and Rakosi in Hungary). He became a world celebrity, and regarded his main book as “dynamite, the most powerful war weapon, that starts factories working”. He was also, arguably, a hypocrite. Although certainly not personally luxurious (he liked nothing better than rolling in the snow in the Deanery garden rather than wallowing in a hot bath), he was pretty rich and employed several servants. He came from a prosperous Northern industrial family (Johnson’s Wireworks) and his first wife was richer still. When she died, she left him Chippendale, Sheraton and Hepplewhite furniture, silver, jewellery, fine carpets, Chinese and Japanese sculptures, a Broadwood grand, tapestries, paintings, glassware etc. By 1952, he owned 11 houses and garages, and plenty of shares, including some in Lonrho.

In 1937, when the pupils at the King’s School were making too much noise for his taste, he grabbed some of the school’s land for his garden to keep them at a distance. Criticised by the Archdeacon, he told him sharply that he should not be “worrying over small matters when so great things were at stake in the world”. He was off to the Soviet Union, he said, because “I ought to use all my spare time for bigger things” — without surrendering his horticultural conquest. During the war, it distressed Johnson that the servants were getting uppity. He was angry when his handyman got a bigger boiled egg for breakfast than he. Writing to his second wife — who, in wartime exile in Wales, was having trouble with her maid — he advised her: “Let her see that you are a lady and if she cannot rise to the privilege of comradeship then the older relationship of mistress and maid must continue… It is moral training. Russia has had to do this.”

What makes this book so interesting, however, is that the author wants us to see the good in Johnson. While never concealing or excusing his politics, John Butler draws on personal archives never before seen to paint an attractive picture of the private man — vigorous (his second wife was 32 when he married her at the age of 64), affectionate to his children (he first became a father when he was 66), brave in staying in Canterbury all through the war. He was popular with the people, though not the Chapter, of Canterbury. With his domed pate, long white hair, tall, imposing figure and old-fashioned decanal gaiters, he was a “character”. He worked relentlessly and preached often and well. In an odd way, he kept alight the beacon of the Anglican world at a time of great trial. I am glad that Mr Butler has approached his task in this way, because it makes the book much fresher than a work of character assassination. But its effect is to point up how extraordinary it was that a free country like ours could excuse people who defended mass murderers so long as they were from the Left. If Johnson had spoken of Hitler as he did of Stalin, no one would have received him in polite society.

For his unusual views, Johnson suffered nothing worse than a few cross letters from the Archbishop and semi-successful attempts to dislodge him from various Canterbury positions (“Ominously, the governors began to plot Johnson’s removal as Chairman of the Governing Body”). By contrast, the victims of the man he worshipped died in their tens of millions. His speeches and writings helped legitimise this. Johnson was told by Raul Castro (who, replacing brother Fidel, rules Cuba to this day) that people believed his pro-Communist writing because he was a priest. That is a terrible thought.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Wimbledon Guardian Review of the Year — April

Controversial plans to redevelop a mosque were given the green light — much to the delight of Merton’s council leader. The Darul Amaan mosque, in Merton High Street, Colliers Wood, was granted planning permission by Merton Council to demolish the current single-storey structure and build a new three-storey mosque with a basement, dome and minaret.


[JP note: As my Great Uncle Bulgaria might have said, “Make good use of bad rubbish.”]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egypt Charges Three Soldiers With ‘Manslaughter’ In the Maspero Massacre

by Mary Abdelmassih

(AINA) — The Supreme Military Court started today, December 27, procedures in the trial of three soldiers on charges of “manslaughter” of 14 Christian Copts during the Maspero Massacre which took place in front of the radio and television Building in Maspero on October 9. According to the indictment, the list of defendants were limited to three soldiers from the military police, who were charged with manslaughter, which under the penal code carries penalties of imprisonment of not more than seven years.

The military prosecution accused the three soldiers of causing “through their mistakes caused by their neglect and lack of precaution” the death of 14 people from the crowds in front of the Radio and Television Union Building. The indictment went on to say that the drivers of vehicles and armored vehicles of the armed forces “ drove randomly and did not match the condition of the road, which was full of protesters, leading to their collision with the victims.”

On October 9, 27 Christians were killed, 14 crushed under the wheels of military armored vehicles and the rest by being fired at with live ammunition. Another 329 Christians were injured. According to witnesses and video footage, the protestors were chased by armored vehicles chased over the pavements (video) and were shot at by snipers placed in the TV building and over bridges overlooking the TV Building (AINA 10-10-2011).

The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), a independent NGO, said that the military justice took into account only those victims who were trampled under the wheels of the military armored vehicles and excluded those victims who were killed by live bullets, including the prominent Coptic political activist Mina Daniel, known from the January 25 Revolution.

EIPR said the trial did not meet the minimum guarantees of seriousness and justice and is a continuation of the position of the military junta, which refused and still is refusing any recognition of its responsibility for this heinous crime which resulted in killing 28 protesters, mostly Copts. It also accused the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces of continuing to seek the protection of members of the military police from criminal accountability by bringing the three soldiers before a military tribunal, even before the investigating judge assigned by the public prosecution has completed his investigation into the same incident.

Hossam Bahgat, director of EIPR, who was honored this year by Human Rights Watch for upholding the personal freedoms of all Egyptians, said “Nearly three months after the Maspero massacre, the junta decided to select 14 of the victims of the massacre who were crushed under the wheels of the military armored vehicles, in front of our eyes and on television, and then go on to consider them as “victims of negligent military drivers, as if they died in an ordinary accident.”

Commenting on the indictment, Bahgat said “How can the killing of 14 citizens be considered a manslaughter misdemeanor? What about Mina Daniel and the rest of the victims of the massacre who were killed by live bullets? And why has the military decided to quickly make this mock trial without waiting for the report of the investigating civilian judge of the massacre? How can we trust in the military justice? We see them making every effort to shield its members and its leaders from accountability.”

Observers say the main purpose of the military trial is to confirm the account of the massacre given by two members of the Military Council at the press conference which was held on 12 October, during which they denied that the soldiers guarding the television building were armed, and instead accused the unarmed Coptic demonstrators of attacking the military police forces. They also said that the drivers of the armored vehicles were confused and trampled over the demonstrators. To prove their point, the police randomly arrested 27 Copts from the streets (AINA 11-5-2011), in addition to the prominent Muslim activist Alaa Abd El-Fattah, and accused them of inciting violence, the murder of one soldier, the theft of guns from the armed forces, and damaging private and public property during the October 9 Maspero Massacre, They were all released last week after being detained for 66 days (AINA 12-20-2011).

Ahmed Hossam, a lawyer with EIPR believes that no justice will ever be received for the victims of Maspero, or victims of any of the other crime committed by the military against the Egyptians, as long as the provisions of Code of Military Justice stands as a barrier to the ability of the prosecutors to investigate with the military in cases referred to them.

Activists have previously called for the need to amend these provisions to put an end to the impunity enjoyed by military of accountability to civil courts in crimes against civilians.

           — Hat tip: Mary Abdelmassih[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Unspoken Muslim Brotherhood-Military Agreement

To carry out elections

(ANSAmed) — DECEMBER 27 — Violence and bloodshed have once again marred the Egyptian parliamentary elections but have not halted them, as Islamic parties — the “moderates” under the Muslim Brotherhood and the “extremist” Salafis — strongly wanted votes to be cast on expectations of receiving a wide majority in the People’s Assembly, the lower house of the Egyptian parliament, and have no intention of breaking off their unspoken agreement with the ruling military council. Following the brutal intervention by the Army against protestors camped out in front of the government headquarters in central Cairo, which resulted in the death of fifteen people, a number of liberal and secular political parties as well as the youth movements at the centre of the revolution which ousted Hosni Mubarak’s regime have demanded that the military junta speed up the transfer of power and hold presidential elections on January 25, the first anniversary of the beginning of the revolution.

However, the powerful Muslim Brotherhood has disassociated itself, with its Justice and Freedom Party promptly making it known that an early transfer of power “will not solve the crisis”, while Secretary General Saad Katatni stated that his party would not budge from the previously announced position of presidential elections on June 30 2012. This was the same position taken by the Muslim Brotherhood in the days leading up to the first round of elections on November 28, when over 40 were killed in an initial outbreak of violence.

The axis with the military is of an instrumental nature for the Islamists, as when the Brotherhood has seen its interests and future advantages threatened by the military junta it has not hesitated to distance itself from the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF). Nonetheless, the Brotherhood is standing alongside the military in their attempt to discredit the protestors and movements demanding that the SCAF step down immediately, bolstered by consensus of a large part of the population, the ‘silent majority’ — which young activists call “hezb el kanaba” (“the sofa party”) — tired of protests and exhausted by the economic havoc wrought by them. Protests are now limited to Cairo, and even in the capital only a small portion of its 20 million inhabitants are involved.

Revealing is a video shot during the last incidents, in which three soldiers are seen dragging the bloodied body of a protestor while the surrounding traffic continues to flow normally. As concerns the most shocking incident, that of a young woman beaten and stripped by soldiers, the popular television preacher Khaled El Gendy has posed the question as to why the girl “was there, and who let her go out”. Military propaganda, which denounces “plots” and accuses those who continue to protest of wanting to destabilise the country with the aid of “foreign elements”, therefore is likely to have an influence on a large number of Egyptians, who consider them guarantors of their security. With the Army leaving by the wayside the “conciliatory attitude” which had characterised its actions for months, and the young revolutionaries seen as instigators of public disorder, the Muslim Brotherhood appear ever more as a stabilising force, and even in the West are seen as the lesser evil. They are part of the establishment — with their leaders mostly lawyers, doctors and engineers — and have made a number of reassuring statements on a wide variety of issues: from respect for women’s rights and those of minorities, to the reassurances to tourists that they will continue to be able to consume alcohol and wear bikinis on the beach, as well as a pledge to abide by the peace treaty with Israel. On the last point the Salafis of the alliance under the Al Nour party have also made their voice heard. In an unprecedented telephone call to the Israeli military radio, their spokesperson said that they intended to abide by the treaty with Israel. The Salafis are the thorn in the side of the Muslim Brotherhood in these first post-Mubarak elections, with their 20% of votes establishing them as competition to the Brotherhood on the latter’s own terrain, who the Salafis have also accused of sacrificing Islamic ideals too much for the sake of compromise.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Fighting in the Church of the Nativity

A fight broke out at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem after rival groups of Orthodox and Armenian clerics clashed over the boundaries of their jurisdictions inside the church.

           — Hat tip: alcade[Return to headlines]

No News: Hitler as Role Model

Under the somewhat tortured title “Finding Fault in the Palestinian Messages That Aren’t So Public,” New York Times (NYT) correspondent Isabel Kershner reports that a “new book by an Israeli watchdog group catalogs dozens of examples of messages broadcast by the Palestinian Authority for its domestic audience that would seem at odds with the pursuit of peace and a two-state solution.” Since at least half of the report is dedicated to “balancing” the evidence provided in the newly published book with anxious questions about the “political correctness” of reporting on the subject, Kershner doesn’t get around to mentioning one of the most widely discussed examples provided in the book: an essay in a youth magazine by a Palestinian girl who describes a dream encounter with various role models including a ninth-century Persian mathematician, an Egyptian Nobel laureate, the historic leader Saladin — and Adolf Hitler. As the authors of the book correctly point out, it is unfortunately hardly surprising that a Palestinian teenager, growing up in an environment where the killing of Israelis and Jews is routinely glorified, should regard Hitler as a role model.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Ankara Accused of ‘Abandoning’ Israel and France by Dutch Freedom Party

BERLIN — The Dutch Freedom Party, the Netherlands’s third largest political party, urged the Foreign Affairs and Defense Ministries last week to reconsider Turkey’s continued membership in NATO.

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

EU to Pursue Iran Sanctions Despite Threat of Strait Closure

The European Union is pressing ahead with plans to impose new sanctions on Iran, an EU spokesman said Wednesday after Tehran threatened to close a vital oil transit channel in response to Western measures. “The European Union is considering another set of sanctions against Iran and we continue to do that,” Michael Mann, spokesman for EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton, told AFP.

“We expect the decision will be taken in time for the foreign affairs council on January 30,” he said, referring to the next meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels. Iranian Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi warned on Tuesday that “not a drop of oil will pass through the Strait of Hormuz” if the West broadened sanctions against Iran over its nuclear programme.

The United States and the 27-nation EU are considering new sanctions aimed at Iran’s oil and financial sectors. But EU governments have been divided over whether to impose an embargo on Iranian crude. Oil from Iran in 2010 amounted to 5.8 percent of total EU imports, making Tehran the bloc’s fifth-largest supplier after Russia, Norway, Libya and Saudi Arabia. Spain represents 14.6 percent of Iranian oil imports to Europe, Greece 14.0 and Italy 13.1 percent.

More than a third of the world’s tanker-borne oil passes through the Strait of Hormuz, linking the Gulf — and its petroleum-exporting states of Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — to the Indian Ocean.

The United States maintains a navy presence in the Gulf in large part to ensure that passage for oil remains free. NATO officials declined to comment on the Iranian threat.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Iran: Judiciary Ruling in Execution of Woman Causes International Outcry

Iranian officials, already under fire for sentencing a woman to death by stoning, has done little to diminish international outcry by instead pursuing an execution by hanging.

Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, 44, was convicted back in 2006 for an “illicit relationship outside of marriage” and sentenced to death by stoning. The execution was delayed after protests across the globe, and Ashtiani has been detained in prison ever since.

On Sunday, the head judiciary, Malek Ajdar Sharifi said the prison does not have the “necessary facilities” to carry forth with the stoning and that they are considering hanging as an alternative.

Sharifi told the Isna News Agency that an investigation is being conducted to see if it is legally and religiously possible to execute Ashtiani by hanging and that once a determination is made, the sentence will be carried out.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Kuwait: Grand Mosque Showcases Array of Islamic Art

KUWAIT: The Fifth Islamic Arts Forum opened at the Grand Mosque on Sunday night, showcasing an array of works and products that attest to the fine caliber and beauty of Islamic art. Undersecretary of the Ministry of Islamic Affairs (MIA), Dr Adel Al-Falah, inaugurated the event. This year, the items on exhibit are the works of participants from 10 countries.

The official said this event is an opportunity to shed light on many fine artistic works and artisans’ products, whether they be textiles, pottery, ceramics, or calligraphy or some other form of art. The MIA aims at stressing the beauty embraced in Islamic culture and share it with people of other cultures and faiths.The event is sponsored by Mohammad Al-Nomas, Minister of Social Affairs and Labor, the Minister of Islamic Affairs, and the Minister of State for Housing Affairs. It is set to last till January 7. “Our calligraphers, artists, and artisans will help promote awareness of our great Islamic heritage through their fine works, and this is an opportunity for them to do the Muslim nation great service,” he said. This comes within the general understanding of the framework of the ministry’s duties, including educational, cultural and social aspects,” he added. The official also expressed his belief there is a great need to put more care into the introduction of Islamic arts and its legacy into school curricula.

Khlaif Al-Uthaina, Undersecretary for Cultural Affairs, said “the ministry aims to render the Grand Mosque a pioneering religious, cultural, social and educational institution at the local and regional level. It aims to make it a landmark sought for worship as well as interaction, and to foster more contact with the public. This exhibit, he stressed, helps within the overall effort to preserve our Islamic identity and heritage. “Art has always been a reflection and embodiment of national advancement. It could well be the lone and strongest representation a civilization leaves behind for posterity,” the official noted. Farid Al-Ali, Chairman of Kuwait Center for Islamic Arts, said the previous four forums proved a great success, and saw great popularity by enthusiasts both locally and from other parts of the world. “Visitors are in store for a magical journey in the world of color, brush-stroke, and font,” he promised. As part of the event, a workshop is set up for visiting children, who will be given tips on and the opportunity to experiment with special techniques in each of the arts represented. They will also be instructed on the arts of dialogue and interaction through work-groups, he divulged. Art supplies and books and compilations on Islamic arts are also on offer during the exhibit. They are offered by bookshops and establishments from other countries, he said. — KUNA

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Saudi Arabia: Kingdom Will Continue to Follow Salafist Ideology: Prince Naif

RIYADH: Crown Prince Naif, deputy premier and minister of interior, opened a symposium on “Salafism: A Shariah approach and a national demand,” organized by the Imam Muhammad bin Saud Islamic University here Tuesday and commended its objectives.

Prince Naif said Saudi Arabia would continue to follow the Salafist ideology and denounced those who create doubts about this moderate Islamic ideology and link it with terrorism and extremism. “Salafism is rooted in the Qur’an and Sunnah and calls for peaceful coexistence with other faith communities and for respecting their rights,” the crown prince said. “We have to stand united against those who launch smear campaigns on Salafism.” He also laid the cornerstone for a number of educational projects worth SR2.3 billion at the university.

Suleiman Abalkhail, president of the university, thanked Prince Naif for opening the event. “The Kingdom is based on the moderate Salafi ideology,” he said, adding that the Saudi government has been following the teachings of Islam in all its affairs and relations. He said more than 100 religious experts from around the world would take part in the symposium to discuss 120 research papers on seven core subjects. This seminar aims to achieve several goals such as shedding light on the doctrinal teachings of the Salafist movement, clear misconceptions about Salafism, clarify the roots of Saudi government regulations and its rightful principles and lastly provide a clear idea about Islam’s approach toward non-Muslims.

The core subjects include Salafism, an approach pursued by the state since its foundation and its connection to Islam; misconceptions about the Salafi approach; the Salafi approach and its connection with the modern religious discourse, the relationship between the Saudi state and the Salafi approach in terms of originality and application; and the link between the Salafi approach and school curricula.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Syria on the Brink of Civil War, Says German Defense Expert

As the violence continues in Syria, all eyes are now on the Arab League observer mission in the hope that it can achieve a breakthrough. Defense expert Gernot Erler says President Bashar al-Assad is playing for time.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

The Islamists Who Stole Christmas

It’s certainly not one of the endearing Christmas traditions, but exploiting Christmas for political purposes is unfortunately becoming a sort of Christmas ritual for activists who regard themselves as pro-Palestinian — and who are, in any case, fiercely against Israel. But as so often, the relentless focus on blaming Israel reflects a cynical approach that cares little about any kind of abuse or persecution that can’t be blamed on the Jewish state. As I’ve noted in a previous post, even though Christianity is doing very well globally, the picture in the region where it originated looks rather grim: today’s Middle East has the lowest concentration of Christians (just 4% of the population) and the smallest number of Christians (some 13 million) of any major geographic region. Contrary to what pro-Palestinian activists like to insinuate, Palestinian Christians under Palestinian rule in Gaza and the West Bank are affected by the very same dynamics that have diminished the ancient Christian communities all over the Middle East — and before they came for the Christians, they came for the Jews. Focusing on minorities in the Middle East, Zvi Mazel, a former Israeli ambassador to Egypt, notes in a recent op-ed:

“Nearly a century after they rose on the ashes of the Ottoman Empire, the Arab states have failed to cause the mosaic of ethnic, national and religious communities which form them to coalesce into nations with common goals and aspirations. Those societies have been torn by ceaseless internal and external squabbles, political and economic discrimination, revolts, civil wars and military coups — resulting in an estimated five million dead and countless wounded as well as a growing number of refugees.”

But if the Arab Middle East was often hostile to its minorities while secular Arab nationalism held sway, the now emerging Islamist-ruled Middle East is already threatening even Egypt’s ancient Coptic community whose roots go back centuries before the establishment of Islam and whose very name is associated with ancient Egypt. A depressing report in the Wall Street Journal notes that “[for] decades Copts have suffered attacks by Islamists who view them as ‘kafir’-Arabic for nonbelievers. […] This year, mobs have looted and attacked Coptic churches, homes and shops throughout Egypt. Churches have been burned down, and one Copt had his ear cut off by a Muslim cleric invoking Islamic law.” One woman quoted in the report says that she faced harassment because she did not go out veiled, and that she was openly told by a fellow-Egyptian: “We want to clean our country of you.” Hardly less alarming was her experience when a doctor who checked her 12-year-old daughter for a fever suggested that the girl should have her genitals mutilated. Estimates by human rights groups indicate that as many as 100,000 Copts may have already fled Egypt in the wake of the “Arab Spring.”

But for Egypt’s Copts, the year had already begun with sorrow and anguish when the bombing of a church in Alexandria killed 21 and wounded nearly 100 people leaving a New Year’s Mass. One of the victims was a young woman named Mariouma Fekry who, just before attending the mass, had written on her Facebook page: “I have so many wishes in 2011 … hope they come true … plz god stay beside me & help make it all true.” The Egyptian government eventually blamed the Gaza-based “Army of Islam” for the bombing; according to press reports, the group denied responsibility, but expressed praise for the perpetrators. This praise is hardly surprising given that also Gaza’s tiny Christian community faced violence and threats by Islamists already shortly after Hamas seized control of the territory in 2007. Ever since, Gaza’s Christians have been aware that they can’t celebrate Christmas publicly.

Moderate Islamism in action.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]


Russia, Turkey Clinch South Stream

Russia said Wednesday it had clinched a deal with Turkey allowing it to lay the South Stream natural gas pipeline to Europe through its territorial waters. The announcement delivers a vital boost to Moscow’s hopes of building the link by the end of 2015 and beating a rival US-backed project that is still struggling to get off the ground.

The pipe would run under the sea from energy fields in Russia to the Balkans and eventually pump up to 63 billion cubic metres (2.2 trillion cubic feet) of gas per year to markets stretching from Italy and Slovenia. “I would like to thank Turkey for its decision to issue final approval to construct the South Stream pipeline through Turkey’s special economic zone,” Putin said during talks with the visiting Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz.

Russia’s state-run energy giant Gazprom said it had also resolved a deliveries dispute with Turkey that saw Ankara revoke a contract with Russia earlier this year. Gazprom said delivery terms for both the Western Pipeline to Istanbul and the Blue Stream pipeline under the Black Sea had been agreed through the end of 2012.

Terms of the agreement were not disclosed but the Russian media had earlier reported that Turkey was purposely delaying its approval of the South Stream route in order to bargain for lower prices. South Stream has remained a controversial project because it threatens to increase further Russia’s current dominance in the European natural gas market.

EU states receive more than a quarter of their gas from the world’s largest energy producer and had been seeking to limit that dominance by diversifying import sources and breaking up Gazprom’s grip on European energy routes.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Russia Plans ‘Eurasian Union’ On EU Model

Twenty years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia wants to join two other former Soviet republics in a new integration project. The Eurasian Union is to be based on the EU — but its success is in doubt.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Afghanistan: Kabul Specifies Rules of the Game for Taliban Talks

With Taliban set to open an office in Doha, the Qatari capital, Afghanistan’s High Peace Council has set out the ground rules for engaging the Taliban.

In an 11-point note sent to foreign missions, the Council has said that Afghanistan is ready to accept a Taliban office in Qatar to help the peace talks, but that no foreign power can get involved in the process without Kabul’s consent.

Not that Doha would have been the government’s first choice. While opening the Taliban office in Doha is being seen — both by the West and by Kabul — as a way of creating distance from Pakistan, Afghan officials have been quoted by Reuters as saying that the government would have preferred Saudi Arabia or Turkey, being close to both the International forces in Afghanistan have become a target of violence

governments.International forces in Afghanistan have become a target of violence

The US and Qatar, helped by Germany, engaged in negotiations with the Taliban over setting up an office in Doha, keeping President Hamid Karzai’s administration in the dark. Kabul reacted angrily and also recalled its ambassador from Doha last week.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

India: New Delhi’s Decision to ‘Muzzle’ The Net Creates Protest

Social networking sites have been instructed by a Delhi court to remove derogatory content for allegedly webcasting objectionable material. India’s growing number of internet users fear this is tantamount to censorship. India’s articulate telecom minister Kapil Sibal is facing a deluge of protests in the online world after he threatened that the government would be forced to take remedial steps if social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Google failed to screen offensive material from their sites.

“Down with censorship! Down with the arrogance of the Congress Party,” “Democracy weeps! I honestly thought this was a joke,” “India going the China way” — were some of the posts, tweets and Facebook status messages of the burgeoning number of internet users in the country.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Far East

A Nervous Region Watches as North Korea Mourns Kim Jong Il

As North Koreans lined the streets of the capital at the start of a two-day funeral for their “Dear Leader” Kim Jong Il, region powers are asking what his son and “great successor” will do for the isolated state.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Does Nigeria’s Taliban Have the West in Its Sights?

The Christmas Day bombings could be a worrying sign of things to come, says David Blair.

The warning signs are familiar. An armed group begins by imposing the strictures of Islamic sharia on a Muslim population, using first moral persuasion and then actual violence. Having secured its hold over a region where central government has little control, it broadens its aims and resolves to take on “enemies of Islam” wherever they may be found. What had been a local security problem explodes into an international threat. So it was with the Taliban in the borderlands of Afghanistan and Pakistan — and so it may be with the radical Islamists of Nigeria. For the second Christmas Day in a row, a group known as “Boko Haram” has carried out bomb attacks on Christian churches, claiming dozens of lives in a country where religious strife poses a genuine threat to the survival of the state.

Boko Haram was born in northern Nigeria, a vast region bordering the approaches to the Sahara where Islamic radicalism has been gaining ground for generations. Since 1999, nine northern states have adopted sharia as the basis of their criminal and civil law, as well as parts of three more. In practice, this has made less difference than might be thought. With typical Nigerian pragmatism, the authorities have generally chosen to tread carefully when enforcing the full rigour of sharia: the kind of executions that were commonplace in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan — and still are in Saudi Arabia — have been rare. As elsewhere in the Muslim world, faith has been subtly moulded to fit local traditions.

None the less, critics always warned that opening the way for sharia, which offends the secular spirit of Nigeria’s constitution, would simply encourage more radical demands. So it has proved. Boko Haram emerged in 2002 with the aim of imposing the strictest interpretation of sharia first in the north, and then the entire country. Its initial targets were Nigerian Christians, along with moderate Muslims. Moving from its heartland in Borno state, in the far north-east, it joined the underworld of armed groups and criminal gangs spreading across the most populous country in Africa. In the process, it trod the familiar path of becoming steadily more extreme, soon labelling the Nigerian state an “enemy of Islam” and broadening its list of targets accordingly. In June, it bombed the federal police headquarters in the capital, Abuja.

The next big attack provided the clearest possible warning that Boko Haram had evolved into a genuinely international threat. In August, it dispatched a suicide bomber to the United Nations offices in Abuja, killing at least 21 people. A spokesman sought to justify the bloodshed in terms that could have been used by al-Qaeda itself: he denounced the UN as a tool of Western influence and warned that it would be “one of our prime targets”. This episode had striking parallels with an earlier event on the other side of the Sahara. In 2006, Algerian Islamists, having lost the country’s civil war, allied with Osama bin Laden to become “al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb” (AQIM), warning that they would strike against Western interests wherever they were found. They made their new purpose abundantly clear by launching a suicide attack on the UN headquarters in Algiers in December 2007.

Key figures in Boko Haram are understood to have met AQIM, which has a presence in neighbouring Niger. The danger, therefore, is that it has become the latest — if unannounced — member of the al-Qaeda franchise, focusing on Western targets not only in Africa, but further afield. If so, Britain would almost certainly feature on its hit list. At least 150,000 Nigerians are thought to live here, raising the possibility that cells loyal to Boko Haram could be infiltrated into the country. A group that began operating in the remote city of Maiduguri, near the border between Nigeria and Chad, could evolve into a threat to British security, too. There is nothing inevitable about this. While al-Qaeda did manage to extend its reach from the north-west frontier of Pakistan to the streets of London, it had key advantages that Boko Haram lacks. First, the British population of Pakistani origin is perhaps 10 times greater. Second, the determination of the Pakistani state to combat al-Qaeda’s brand of pitiless nihilism was always open to question — to put it mildly.

Nigeria’s government, by contrast, knows full well that religious extremism could tear the country apart. Christians and Muslims take a roughly equal share of the 170 million population, and attacks by one religion against the other have a history of triggering bloody cycles of retaliation and revenge. While security agencies may need to improve their ability to tackle Boko Haram, they do not lack the resolve. Already, the group’s founding leader and hundreds of its followers have been killed in clashes with security forces. The danger is that Boko Haram will continue to draw strength from all the factors that combine to cripple Nigeria: astonishing levels of corruption, the constant misuse of the country’s oil wealth and an ever-widening gap between a venal elite and the impoverished majority. Just as the largely Christian youth of southern Nigeria join militias who kidnap oil workers, supposedly to win a fairer share of their country’s natural wealth, so northern Muslims will be tempted by an armed group that claims to be fighting a corrupt and predatory government. And in this interdependent world, Nigeria’s domestic problems could soon be ours as well.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Pope Condemns Nigeria Christmas Attacks

Pope Benedict XVI has condemned a series of terrorist attacks carried out on Christmas Day in Nigeria, praying for the “hands of violence” to stop. The attacks were claimed by the Islamist sect Boko Haram. A day after a series of terrorist attacks killed dozens of churchgoers on Christmas Day in Nigeria, the head of the Catholic Church, Pope Benedict XVI, has pled for an end to violence that “brings only pain, destruction and death.”

The pope, speaking from his window overlooking St Peter’s Square in Rome, condemned the attacks since claimed by Islamist militants in Nigeria as an “absurd gesture” and prayed that “the hands of the violent be stopped”. Militants of the Boko Haram sect said they had set off the bombs, raising fears that they are trying to ignite sectarian civil war. Three of the five bombs hit churches and one killed at least 27 people at a Catholic church. A total of 39 people were killed in the attacks´.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Refugees in Nigeria

About 90,000 people have been displaced in clashes between militant Islamists and the security forces in Nigeria’s Damaturu city, an official has said.

           — Hat tip: alcade[Return to headlines]


Italy: Foreigners to Triple by 2056

(ANSAmed) — Rome, December 28 — Italy’s foreign population will triple by 2065, Istat said Wednesday. The foreign-born population is set to rise from 4.6 million now to 14.1 million in 2065, the statistics agency said in a report on future demographics.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

The Left and ‘The Future of History’

Francis Fukuyama of “End of History” fame is contemplating “The Future of History” in the new issue of Foreign Affairs. (Note that the article will be available to non-subscribers only until 12/29/2011.)

UPDATE: My link doesn’t seem to work for others, so try this one from CFR on Twitter: RT @foreignaffairs: Francis Fukuyama, the man who ended history, now says it could come back:

The central focus of his essay is the question if liberal democracy can survive the decline of the middle class that is currently struggling to cope with the impact of technological advances and globalization. Fukuyama argues that for the past few decades, “the ideological high ground on economic issues has been held by a libertarian right,” while the left has failed “in the realm of ideas.” He warns that the “absence of a plausible progressive counternarrative is unhealthy, because competition is good for intellectual debate just as it is for economic activity. And serious intellectual debate is urgently needed, since the current form of globalized capitalism is eroding the middle-class social base on which liberal democracy rests.”

Here is Fukuyama’s verdict on the left:

But the deeper reason a broad-based populist left has failed to materialize is an intellectual one. It has been several decades since anyone on the left has been able to articulate, first, a coherent analysis of what happens to the structure of advanced societies as they undergo economic change and, second, a realistic agenda that has any hope of protecting a middle-class society. The main trends in left-wing thought in the last two generations have been, frankly, disastrous as either conceptual frameworks or tools for mobilization. Marxism died many years ago, and the few old believers still around are ready for nursing homes. The academic left replaced it with postmodernism, multiculturalism, feminism, critical theory, and a host of other fragmented intellectual trends that are more cultural than economic in focus. Postmodernism begins with a denial of the possibility of any master narrative of history or society, undercutting its own authority as a voice for the majority of citizens who feel betrayed by their elites. Multiculturalism validates the victimhood of virtually every out-group. It is impossible to generate a mass progressive movement on the basis of such a motley coalition: most of the working- and lower-middle-class citizens victimized by the system are culturally conservative and would be embarrassed to be seen in the presence of allies like this.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]