Sunday, January 12, 2003

News Feed 20120227

Financial Crisis
»10 Signs That America is Decomposing Right in Front of Our Eyes
»8 Reasons Why the Greek Debt Deal May Not Stop a Chaotic Greek Debt Default
»A Warning Sign for the World
»Default Still Stalks Greece, Bonds Burden Its Banks: Moody’s
»‘Europe is Pouring Money Into a Bottomless Barrel’
»Europe’s Banks Are Addicted to ECB’s Cheap Money
»EU’s Rehn Eyes Bigger Euro Firewall in March
»German Minister Calls for Greek Euro Exit
»Merkel Rebukes Minister for Comments on Greece
»Most Germans Do Not Agree With Second Bail-Out for Greece
»Third Greek Bail-Out Not Ruled Out
»UK: Housing Benefit Caps: 100 Families Receiving Enough for a £1million Mortgage
»World Bank Sees China Growth Model at a ‘Turning Point’
»20 Signs That Dust Bowl Conditions Will Soon Return to the Heartland of America
»America 1950 vs. America 2012
»Sharia and the Constitution
»‘The Artist’, Jean Dujardin and Meryl Streep Take Top Honors at Oscars
»The Artist Sweeps the Board at Oscars
Europe and the EU
»A Policy of Energy Starvation in Germany: A Cautionary Tale
»EU Arms Trade Booming Despite Crisis
»Italy: ENI to Sell Stake in Snam by September 2013
»Mobile Phone Show Opens in Barcleona
»New Inquiry Into Austrian Abduction: Kampusch Kidnapper May Have Had Accomplice
»Proud and Prejudiced, Channel 4, Preview
»Sarkozy Rules Out Referendum on Fiscal Treaty
»Spain: King’s Son-in-Law Grilled for Two Days
»Spain Not Against Independent Scotland Joining EU
»Sweden: Saab Climbs on New List of Global Arms Dealers
»Swedish Inmates ‘Awash in Drugs, Guns and Porn’
North Africa
»Are the Muslim Brothers Muslim Republicans?
»France: Father Tries to Set 23-Year-Old Daughter Alight
»Islamists Win 80% of Egypt’s Upper Parliament Vote
Israel and the Palestinians
»West Bank: Israel Plans 500-Km of Railway, Haaretz
»Wife of Assassinated Scientist: Annihilation of Israel “Mostafa’s Ultimate Goal”
Middle East
»Clinton Issues Warnings on Afghanistan, Syria
»EU Ministers Voice Different Views on Iran
»Jordan: Tourism Loses $1 Billion After Arab Spring
»Syria: Putin Warns About Bypassing UN in Libyan-Type Scenario
»Turkey: Erdogan’s Reforms: Less Schooling, More Koran
»Turkey to Start Oil Drilling in Northern Cyprus
»Turkey Walks Out
»Russia Averts Plan to Kill Prime Minister: State TV
South Asia
»Germany Withdraws Staff From Afghan Ministries
»Pakistan: Blasphemy: Arrest Mark Zuckerberg, Fleming Rose, Says Petitioner
»The Darker Reality of India’s Nuclear Power Goals
Far East
»China Embraces Fracking in Seismically Active Province — Quakes to Follow?
»Bosnia Detains 15 Germany-Bound Afghan Migrants
»Denmark: Stateless Immigrants to be Granted Rights
Culture Wars
»Germany: Petition Demands More Women in Top Media Jobs
»How to Destroy America: A Speech by Governor Lamm
»‘Mademoiselle’ Officially Banned in France

Financial Crisis

10 Signs That America is Decomposing Right in Front of Our Eyes

The decay of society is so much harder to quantify than economic decline is. The government keeps lots of statistics on things like unemployment and inflation, but it really does not keep track of how sick and twisted people are becoming. Most of us recognize that the character of the American people has changed dramatically over the decades, but unlike the national debt, you can’t easily point to a chart or a graph to show exactly how bad things are getting.

In this article, my approach will be to point you to various “signs” of social decay. Signs tell us where we are at now and where we are headed. Some of the signs that I will use will be statistics while others will simply consist of anecdotal evidence. Yes, anecdotal evidence is not perfect, but when you put enough of it together it starts to paint a pretty clear picture of what is going on out there. America is becoming a truly frightening place. Our cities our decaying, thieves are becoming bolder, you never know who you can trust and everyone seems depressed. America is decomposing right in front of our eyes, and it is time that we all admitted it.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

8 Reasons Why the Greek Debt Deal May Not Stop a Chaotic Greek Debt Default

The global financial system is not a game of checkers. It is a game of chess. All over the world today, news headlines are proclaiming that this new Greek debt deal has completely eliminated the possibility of a chaotic Greek debt default. Unfortunately, that is simply not the case. Rather, the truth is that this new deal actually “sets the table” for a Greek debt default. When I was studying and working in the legal arena, I learned that sometimes you make an agreement so that you can get the other side to break it. That may sound very strange to the average person on the street, but this is how the game is played at the highest levels.

It is all about strategy. And in this case, the new debt deal imposes such strict conditions on Greece that it is almost inevitable that Greece will fail to meet some of them. When Greece does fail, Germany and the other northern European nations may try to claim that they “did everything that they could” but that Greece just did not “live up to its obligations”. So does this mean that we will definitely see a chaotic Greek debt default? No. What this does mean is that the chess pieces are being moved into position for one.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

A Warning Sign for the World

Any financial system that is based on debt is doomed to fail. Today, we are living in the greatest debt bubble that the world has ever seen, and if all of a sudden people could not use credit to buy things our economy would immediately ground to a halt. Unfortunately, no debt bubble can last forever. When this current debt bubble finally bursts, faith in the financial system is going to disappear, credit is going to freeze up and there is going to be a massive wave of bank failures.

Right now, Greece is a warning sign for the world. Nobody wants to lend money to Greece, the Greek banking system is dying, one out of every four businesses has already shut down, unemployment is soaring and the Greek economy has now been in recession for five years in a row. Sadly, the economic implosion in Greece is rapidly accelerating. The Greek economy shrunk at a 7 percent annual rate during the 4th quarter of 2011. That wasn’t supposed to happen. Things were supposed to be getting better in Greece by now. But instead the Greek depression is getting even worse, and very soon the rest of the world is going to be going through what Greece is currently experiencing.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Default Still Stalks Greece, Bonds Burden Its Banks: Moody’s

Greece will still be at high risk of defaulting despite the agreement last week on a rescue and part cancellation of its debt, credit rating agency Moody’s said on Monday. The agency also warned that the terms of the debt swap could result in a severe further weakening of the capital base of the Greek banking system.

Moody’s Investors Service said that “the 21 February announcement on support for Greece is an important step forward, but the risk of a default even after this distressed exchange (of bonds) is completed remains high.”

The agency’s senior analyst Sarah Carlson said in Moody’s weekly review of worldwide events affecting credit markets that “Greece’s debt burden will remain large for many years, and the country is unlikely to be able to access the private market after the second assistance package runs out.” She continued: “The outcome of elections, expected in April, also constitutes a source of political and implementation risk.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

‘Europe is Pouring Money Into a Bottomless Barrel’

A German minister has broken with the official government line by saying Greece should be encouraged to quit the euro. The comment, made to SPIEGEL, comes ahead of Monday’s parliamentary vote on the second bailout. Some newspapers, including the tabloid Bild, agree that it’s time for Greece to leave.

Monday’s German parliamentary vote on the second bailout package for Greece has been overshadowed by a rift within Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right coalition about the wisdom of granting fresh aid, with Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich saying Greece should be encouraged to leave the euro.

In an interview with SPIEGEL published on Monday, Friedrich said: “Greece’s chances to regenerate itself and become competitive are surely greater outside the monetary union than if it remains in the euro area.” He added that he did not support a forced exit. “I’m not talking about throwing Greece out, but rather about creating incentives for an exit that they can’t pass up.” It was the first time a member of the German government called on Greece to leave the currency.

An opinion poll published in Bild am Sonntag newspaper on Sunday showed a majority of Germans agrees with Friedrich, a member of the Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavarian sister party to Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union.

According to the survey conducted by pollster Emnid, 62 percent said they wanted parliament to vote “no” on Monday afternoon. Only 33 percent were in favor. Almost two-thirds said they were convinced that Greece can’t be rescued from state bankruptcy. The parliament is all but certain to back the €130 billion ($175 billion) package.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Europe’s Banks Are Addicted to ECB’s Cheap Money

The European Central Bank will give European banks another massive round of loans at bargain-basement rates on Tuesday, with financial institutions expected to borrow up to one trillion euros. The ECB is playing down the risks of providing so much cheap money, but critics say that banks have become too dependent on the flow of easy cash.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

EU’s Rehn Eyes Bigger Euro Firewall in March

Europe’s top economic official Sunday expressed confidence that the eurozone would bolster its financial firewalls next month — a key condition for others to loan more money to the IMF. Speaking after a meeting of finance ministers and central bankers of the group of 20 (G20) countries here, Commissioner Olli Rehn reiterated that the EU would look at the size of its bailout fund “in the course of March.”

“European leaders will reassess the adequacy (of the firewalls) and I trust decide to reinforce this combined lending facility in order to better contain market turbulence,” Rehn said. “The longer we wait, the more costly it tends to get,” added the official.

At the two-day meeting here in Mexico City, G20 countries insisted the eurozone had to bolster its anti-crisis firewall before they would boost IMF funds. The eurozone has called on countries outside the region to pour in more cash to the international lender in case other nations in the bloc need help. Eurozone countries themselves have committed 150 billion euros to the IMF.

However, in the words of British Finance Minister George Osborne, the other economies wanted to see “the color of the eurozone’s money” before dipping into their own resources.

IMF chief Christine Lagarde has said the Washington-based lender needs an additional $500 billion to combat the challenges posed by a deepening recession and an ongoing debt crisis. Countries outside the bloc — and several within — want to see the eurozone combine its existing bailout fund, the EFSF, with the permanent ESM pot that comes into effect in July. This would potentially give the bloc a war chest of some 750 billion euros ($1 trillion).

But Europe’s top economy and paymaster Germany is cool on the idea. Berlin believes that calmer market conditions have reduced the urgency of stocking up the fund.

“I am confident that we will come to a positive conclusion,” Rehn said. “As we say back home: planning is half the battle.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

German Minister Calls for Greek Euro Exit

German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich has said that Greece would have better chances of economic recovery if it left the euro zone. He told SPIEGEL that Athens should be offered a deal it couldn’t refuse, in order to encourage it to quit the currency union.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Merkel Rebukes Minister for Comments on Greece

Chancellor Angela Merkel made clear on Monday that she disagrees with Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich, who called for Greece to quit the euro zone. His comments in SPIEGEL exposed a rift in her coalition about how to manage the euro crisis ahead of Monday’s vote on the new Greek bailout.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Most Germans Do Not Agree With Second Bail-Out for Greece

Most Germans (62%) want their parliament to refuse to greenlight a second bailout for Greece, a poll for Bild am Sonntag showed Sunday. The same poll showed 33% favour the bailout while almost two thirds believe Greece cannot be saved from bankruptcy. The Bundestag will debate the issue Monday.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Third Greek Bail-Out Not Ruled Out

Eurozone chief Jean-Claude Juncker and German finance minister Wolfgang Schauble have said they do not rule out the need for a third Greek bail-out. Their words come ahead of a key vote in the German parliament, the Bundestag on Monday (27 February) to approve the just-agreed second aid programme.

Asked in a TV interview by the Qatar-based Al Jazeera news agency on Saturday if he is sure Greece would not need a third package, Juncker replied: “You cannot really exclude that, although we should not have as a starting assumption that a third programme will be (needed).”

“We made it clear last Tuesday in Brussels that we are standing ready to support Greece even beyond the time period of this programme but I have good reasons to believe that we should now not engage ourselves in a debate on a ‘maybe’ third programme. We should now … implement the second one,” he added.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: Housing Benefit Caps: 100 Families Receiving Enough for a £1million Mortgage

At least 100 families receiving housing benefit are living in luxury homes on handouts that could fund £1m mortgages, figures have revealed.

More than 30 of those families are being given a staggering £1,500 a week to live ‘swanky’ lifestyles — more than three times the national average wage.

Of the 100 families, 60 have their rent paid by the state to the value of £5,000 a month, according to the Department for Work and Pensions.

At a time when millions of people are struggling to get on the housing ladder, the handouts would easily cover the monthly payments on a £1m mortgage.


Abdi Nur, 42, an unemployed bus conductor, his wife Sayruq, 40, and their seven children moved to the three-storey home in the fashionable area of the capital after complaining that their previous home had been in a ‘poor’ part of the city.

In another case last year, a Somalian family moved from a house in Coventry to a £2m property in West Hampstead, north London.

Saeed Khaliiff was given £2,000 a week for the home despite having no links to the area, which has been home to George Michael, Sienna Miller, Jude Law and Helena Bonham Carter.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

World Bank Sees China Growth Model at a ‘Turning Point’

If China wants to maintain growth, it must curb the dominant role of state-owned companies and promote free enterprise, a World Bank reports has found. Even so, double-digit growth rates will be a thing of the past. Three decades after China cautiously allowed free market enterprise, private entrepreneurs have become world leaders in export-driven manufacturing, while state companies still control most domestic industries like steel, oil and telecommunications, the World Bank stated in a report published Monday.

This growth model was “unsustainable”, World Bank president Robert Zoellick said at a news conference in Beijing. He added that the Chinese economy was at a “turning point” and needed to “redefine the role of the state” if it wanted to avoid crisis and to keep growing.

The report — forecasting developments until 2030 — recommends a series of controversial reforms. They include forcing state companies to compete with private rivals, basing bank lending on market forces, and changing a household registration system that limits the free movement of rural migrant workers.

Zoellick said the reforms might “face opposition” from those who benefited from the old system, which is why he urged Chinese leaders to make changes “gradually to build support from those who stand to profit from them.” A major point of criticism is that most low-cost credit from government banks goes to state companies, while private businesses — which create most of the jobs and much of China’s wealth — are lacking state support.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


20 Signs That Dust Bowl Conditions Will Soon Return to the Heartland of America

For decades, the heartland of America has been the breadbasket of the world. Unfortunately, those days will shortly come to an end. The central United States is rapidly drying up and dust bowl conditions will soon return. There are a couple of major reasons for this. Number one, the Ogallala Aquifer is being depleted at an astounding pace. The Ogallala Aquifer is one of the largest bodies of fresh water in the entire world, and water from it currently irrigates more than 15 million acres of crops. When that water is gone we will be in a world of hurt.

Secondly, drought conditions have become the “new normal” in many areas of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and other states in the middle part of the country. Scientists tell us that the wet conditions that we enjoyed for several decades after World War II were actually the exception to the rule and that most of time time the interior west is incredibly dry. They also tell us that when dust bowl conditions return to the area, they might stay with us a lot longer than a decade like they did during the 1930s.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

America 1950 vs. America 2012

Would you rather live in the America of 1950 or the America of 2012? Has the United States changed for the better over the last 62 years? Many fondly remember the 1950s and the 1960s as the “golden age” of America. We emerged from World War II as the wealthiest and most powerful nation on the planet. During that time period, just about anyone that wanted to get a job could find a job and the U.S. middle class expanded rapidly. Back in 1950, America was still considered to be a “land of opportunity” and the economy was growing like crazy. There was less crime, there was less divorce, the American people had much less debt and the world seemed a whole lot less crazy.

Most of the rest of the world deeply admired us and wanted to be more like us. Of course there were a lot of things that were not great about America back in 1950, and there are many things that many of us dearly love that we would have to give up in order to go back and live during that time. For example, there was no Internet back in 1950. Instead of being able to go online and read the articles that you want to read, your news would have been almost entirely controlled by the big media companies of the day. So there are definitely some advantages that we have today that they did not have back in 1950. But not all of the changes have been for the better. America is in a constant state of change, and many are deeply concerned about where all of these changes are taking us.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Sharia and the Constitution

By Karen Lugo

Muslims are organizing discussions across America to assert that sharia is compatible with the U.S. Constitution. Since these presentations rarely involve a real debate there is no opportunity for thoughtful challenge to the questionable premise. In fact, if these “town halls” are conducted as the recent session in Garden Grove, CA, they will be characterized by partisan rants, baseless platitudes on harmonizing ambiguous values, and a total lock-down on dissent.

It is time to find out if there is a Muslim bluff to call on sharia and America foundational values. We can, and must, demand an answer to this urgent question: If American Muslims follow a unique interpretation of sharia — as is implicit in their claim to embrace American ideals — will they make an unequivocal statement condemning the sharia-justified violence in Islamic countries? In the face of rising violence and defiant death sentences, will American Muslims repudiate the oppression, persecution, and the killing committed in the name of sharia?

Right now, Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani is reported to be awaiting imminent execution under Iran’s sharia blasphemy laws; web developer Saeed Malekpour faces hanging in Iran on a trumped up corruption charge; Iranian bloggers and freedom activists are subjects of a brutal crackdown; Saudi Hamza Kashgari’s tweets are punishable by death according to Saudi sharia blasphemy laws; and, Christophobia currently rages through Nigeria, Sudan, Iraq, and Egypt in the form of massacres of Christians, maiming, looting, and burning of churches. The silence of American Muslim leadership in the face of this gathering cyclone of human rights abuses is deafening. Their claims that sharia is supportive of fundamental human rights — as long as they are not willing to repudiate this barbarism — is offensive. Of course, if there is a different interpretation of sharia applied in America, Muslim leadership bears the burden of making this emphatic distinction.

Thus far, all that American Muslims have done is produce aspirational statements like this from Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi, Chairman of the Fiqh Council of North America and anchor speaker at the Orange County “Sharia and the Constitution” town hall. As I asked him when Muslims would assume a leadership role in repudiating human rights abuses in the name of sharia, he gave rationalizations on how everyone suffered during the revolution in Egypt. He said that country and customs must be taken into consideration when assessing the application of sharia as he also offered that not all governments or actors in Muslim countries follow sharia. Then he tried a lopsided moral equivalence argument and countered that Americans do not speak out against the killing of innocent Muslims by predator drones. Finally, he referred me to the statements or fatwas issued on the violence in Afghanistan and “religious extremism” in general — but this was the same fluff that characterized his prepared statement: “we should all work for peace and respect for human life.”

Political leaders are complicit in sheltering Muslims from accountability. The Orange County discussion on sharia was unilaterally declared off limits to videotaping when Rep. Loretta Sanchez told an attendee that, if he was not “official,” he must “follow the rules” and stop taping her remarks. (A key event official has since told me that there was no rule prohibiting videotaping.) One has to wonder what is her understanding of the Constitution and how she defines her responsibility to her constituents? Informed reading of constitutional rights to assemble and to speak says that a public official has no expectation of privacy (the key element needed for making a legal argument against recording) when speaking in her official capacity — moreover at a public town hall meeting.

Rep. Sanchez may not want a youtube video in circulation showing the three Democrat congresswomen calling the legitimate congressional hearings on Islamic radicalization “witch hunts” and “a threat to national security” and “targeting Muslims.” Rep. Sanchez leveled the charge that the King hearings had one purpose and that was “to humiliate and offend the integrity of the American Muslim community.”…

[Return to headlines]

‘The Artist’, Jean Dujardin and Meryl Streep Take Top Honors at Oscars

The film “The Artist” won top honors at the Academy Awards Sunday, taking the Best Picture prize and marking the first time in 83 years that a silent film has won the Oscar. The black-and-white comic melodrama took four prizes Sunday, including best picture, actor for Jean Dujardin and director for Michel Hazanavicius. Not since the World War I saga “Wings” was named outstanding picture at the first Oscars in 1929 had a silent film earned the top prize.

Meryl Streep won the Oscar for Best Actress for her role as Margaret Thatcher in “The Iron Lady.” Streep played the British prime minister as a senile retiree, as well as a hectoring, dominant figure who instilled fear and respect in her own cabinet. At the film’s pinnacle, Streep as Thatcher is the backbone of a nation that goes to war over the distant Falkland Islands after Argentina invades in 1982.

Streep, 62, won best actress for her 17th Oscar nomination, the most times any performer has been nominated by the Academy. Her third win put her in a category with other three-time Oscar winners Jack Nicholson, Walter Brennan and Ingrid Bergman. Only Katharine Hepburn with four wins had more.

Christopher Plummer took home his first Oscar Sunday in a career that has spanned more than five decades for his role in the film “Beginners.” Plummer’s victory in the Best Supporting Actor category made history, with the 82-year-old being the oldest person ever to win the award.

“You’re only two years older than me, darling,” Plummer said, addressing his Oscar statue in this 84th year of the awards. “Where have you been all my life? I have a confession to make. When I first emerged from my mother’s womb, I was already rehearsing my Oscar speech.” The previous oldest winner was best-actress recipient Jessica Tandy for “Driving Miss Daisy,” at age 80.

Octavia Spencer took home the first big acting honor of the night, winning Best Supporting Actress for her role in “The Help.” Spencer’s Oscar triumph came for her role as a headstrong black maid whose willful ways continually land her in trouble with white employers in 1960s Mississippi.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

The Artist Sweeps the Board at Oscars

Jean Dujardin on Sunday capped a record awards season run with an Oscar for his turn as a struggling silent film star in “The Artist,” becoming the first Frenchman to win an Academy Award for acting. The first non-Anglo-Saxon film to take the top prize in Oscars history struck gold at the 84th Academy Awards ceremony, earning a total of five golden statuettes including best director. Other awards came for best original score and best costume design.

“I am the happiest director in the world right now,” Hazanavicius said as he accepted his directing prize. Dujardin — a 39-year-old already well liked at home for his work on stage and screen — joins Simone Signoret, Claudette Colbert, Marion Cotillard and Juliette Binoche in the elite club of French Oscar-winning actors.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

A Policy of Energy Starvation in Germany: A Cautionary Tale

When governments embrace the green fantasy, their economies inevitably suffer. Germany’s government went even more deeply into energy starvation than US President Obama’s government. Germany actually closed its cleanest and most reliable source of electric power: nuclear plants.

The energy supply is now “the top risk for Germany as a location for business,” says Hans Heinrich Driftmann, president of the Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce (DIHK). “One has to be concerned in Germany about the cost of electricity,” warns European Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger. And Bernd Kalwa, a member of the general works council at ThyssenKrupp, says heatedly: “Some 5,000 jobs are in jeopardy within our company alone, because an irresponsible energy policy is being pursued in Düsseldorf and Berlin.”

Germany’s ongoing demographic decline will only be made worse by such abysmally irresponsible policies as the current energy starvation policy. Shutting down reliable sources of large scale power makes a wide range of important industries instantly untenable. The inevitable loss of industry and jobs is accompanied by a tragic loss of opportunity at all levels of society.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

EU Arms Trade Booming Despite Crisis

Firms in the UK, France, Italy, Sweden, Germany, Spain and Europe’s own European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company made around €75 billion from selling weapons in 2010. In broader terms, the world arms trade is booming and has increased turnover by 147 percent since 2002, with companies based in western Europe and North America leading the sector.

In 2010 — two years after the eruption of the global financial crisis — some €305.6 billion of arms and weapons were sold on international markets according to a report released on Monday (27 February) by Swedish arms control NGO, the Stockholm International Research Institute (Sipri). “The data for 2010 demonstrates, once again, the major players’ ability to continue selling arms and military services despite the financial crises currently affecting other industries,” Sirpi’s Susan Jackson said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italy: ENI to Sell Stake in Snam by September 2013

Conditions for sale to be presented before May 31

(ANSA) — Rome, February 24 — Italian energy giant Eni must sell its controlling stake in the natural gas grid Snam by September 24. 2013, according to an amendment to the government’s deregulation bill currently before parliament.

Details on the operation, including a decisions on how much, if any, interest Eni can retain in its subsidiary and whether the separation will include gas storage as was as transport and distribution, will be issued in a cabinet decree before May 31, 2012, government sources said.

There are unconfirmed reports that the government will impose a 5% cap on Eni’s participation in Snam, Europe’s biggest regulated gas operator. Eni currently holds some 52% of the grid.

The deregulation bill is set to become law by March 24.

The government’s decision in January to separate Snam from Eni was part of its program to boost economic growth through deregulation and privatization.

Earlier this week Eni CEO Paolo Scaroni said the sale of its stake in Snam “must leave both companies stronger” adding “Eni’s shareholders must sell well”.

On Thursday, Snam and Belgium’s natural gas pipeline operator Fluxys agreed to buy stakes in assets Eni holds in northern Europe in a move to create a European gas transport network. Snam and Fluxys joined forces last month to seek out joint ventures to develop gas infrastructure projects.

The assets from Eni include an underwater pipeline between Belgium and Britain and a controlling stake in the Interconnector Zeebrugge Terminal facility provider.

In view of its separation from Eni, Snam is aiming to expand outside the domestic Italian market, while Fluxys has ambitions to become a leading European gas transportation infrastructure company.

Aside from leaving Snam, Eni is selling non-core assets in an effort to concentrate on its more profitable activities in the exploration and production business.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Mobile Phone Show Opens in Barcleona

The German tech industry estimates a record year for smartphones and mobile revenues. Meanwhile, Chinese companies are set to release $100 smartphones, which could significantly broaden the market for the devices.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

New Inquiry Into Austrian Abduction: Kampusch Kidnapper May Have Had Accomplice

Wolfgang Priklopil, the man who abducted Natascha Kampusch when she was 10 and held her captive for over eight years, may not have been acting alone, the head of a committee investigating the case has told SPIEGEL. The kidnapper may have had help committing suicide after she fled in 2006 — or may even have been killed.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Proud and Prejudiced, Channel 4, Preview

Paul Woolwich, the executive producer of new Channel 4 documentary Proud and Prejudiced, on getting to know two of Britain’s most controversial protest leaders

When Time magazine named ‘the protestor’ as its person of the year 2011 its editorial staff had in mind protest movements that had sprung from locations across the globe: Tunisia, Tahrir Square, Wall Street, Athens, Moscow and more. They were not thinking of Luton in Bedfordshire.

But it was in Luton, 30 odd miles north of London, that we spent most of 2011, getting to know two of Britain’s most prolific and controversial protest leaders for a Channel 4 documentary (Proud and Prejudiced). Tommy Robinson and Sayful Islam are two men unlikely to find themselves profiled in Time: they do not lead mass popular movements, but bands of angry extremists. Tommy leads the far-right English Defence League; Sayful leads a group of Islamist radicals. Both men are roughly the same age, both grew up on opposite sides of the same provincial town and both have become two of the most notorious political extremists in Britain.

Sayful Islam used to be a taxman until he became involved with Al-Muhajiroun, a fundamentalist Muslim organization. The group was outlawed in 2004, but since then, it has engaged in a bizarre game of cat and mouse with the authorities, changing its name every time it is banned. Sayful has been instrumental in the group under various names, whether Islam4UK or Muslims Against Crusades. They have become known for outrageous, headline-grabbing protests from burning poppies on Armistice Day to threatening to disrupt the Royal Wedding.

Tommy Robinson is a tanning shop manager.. In 2009, he brought two hundred or so Luton Town football fans to a rally in the town centre, protesting against Sayful’s activities in the town. Their placards read: ‘Ban Sayful Islam.’ It was to be the first of many protests for Tommy. Two years later and the English Defence League is now the biggest far-right protest movement this country has seen for a generation. Tommy has led his few thousand loyal followers into areas with large Muslim populations almost forty times, bringing town centres to a standstill and crippling police budgets.

We arrived in Luton in early 2011 in search of these two men, keen to understand how a small local feud had spilled so dramatically onto the national stage. Our search for Tommy began on February 5th, the day he brought the English Defence League back to Luton for the first time since it was born there two years earlier. By now the EDL was a national organization, with local groups or ‘Divisions’ across the country. Tommy was promising that this would be their biggest demonstration yet.

Luton was a ghost town: on a Saturday morning virtually every shop was boarded up and the town centre was abandoned. The only signs of life were the thousands of police officers, from 27 different forces who had been drafted in to keep the peace.

We found the English Defence League crammed into a road behind the station, awaiting the start of the march: a sea of England flags and skinheads. The protestors were spilling from the only pub in town left open, a tall, fortress-like establishment with no windows. The doorways heaved with EDL supporters, clutching pints of lager, drunkenly pushing in and out. It was 10 o’clock in the morning. We found Tommy inside, wandering through the bar with a small entourage of heavies, speaking to his followers. He flicked Churchillian ‘V’ signs at them as he passed; “Tommy Robinson!” they chanted back. One of the EDL lads paused in chanting his leaders name and shouted to us through the din: “This is better than England away, innit?”

You can’t understand the EDL without understanding football culture. Just like England away matches, the EDL rallies that Tommy has organized across the country are a chance for competing hooligan firms to put aside their differences and unite in hatred of one common enemy. In international football tournaments, it’s the Germans; at EDL rallies, it’s Islam. And with the notoriously well-organized hierarchies associated with football firms, Tommy has found himself with a ready-made army of followers, with a songbook of easily adaptable chants (“You’re not English anymore”,”No surrender to the Taliban”) who are ready to jump on coaches on a Saturday to travel half way across the country for a piss-up and a ruck.

‘Tommy Robinson’ is not his real name; it’s actually Stephan Lennon. When the EDL begans, he adopted the pseudonym of a local Luton Town football fan to protect his identity. The name has stuck. Tommy is unapologetic about the EDL’s hooligan roots: “You need a bunch of hard lads who aren’t going to back down,” he says.

Sayful Islam was easier to track down. His group is banned from most of the local mosques, so he takes his radical brand of Islam onto the streets. Every afternoon he can be found handing out flyers in Bury Park, the largely Muslim part of town. He wears a white robe and sports a long dark beard with a few flecks of grey. Radicalised in his mid-twenties, he quit his job to fight what he sees as a jihad against the West. He wants to overthrow democracy and replace it with Islamic law, Sharia. Like Tommy, he renamed himself for the fight. His birth name, Ishtiaq Alamgir, was dropped in favour of Sayful Islam, which means ‘Sword of Islam’.

On first meeting Sayful isn’t an obvious extremist firebrand. Whereas Tommy has been a self-confessed troublemaker since an early age, local people remember Safyul as being an unremarkable and shy teenager. He has a nervous laugh and an awkward habit of peppering his speech with the word ‘obviously.’ But these days he’s not lacking in a self-importance to rival Tommy’s. He tells us how he intends to marry a second wife. “Won’t your current wife be annoyed?”, “She’ll have to put up with it,” he says, puffing out his chest, “I’m Sayful Islam, innit?”

Like Tommy, Sayful is in his element at the demonstrations he organizes. Over the year we filmed perhaps a dozen of Sayful and Tommy’s protests. Both men like nothing more than to spend their Saturdays travelling across the country to make bombastic speeches to small groups of people who already agree with them. They both get a buzz from the camaraderie, the feeling of being united in a common goal and a common enemy. Both have a gift for rabble-rousing, and the same glint of excitement in their eye as they are passed the microphone on their makeshift stages. Our year following Tommy and Sayful, climaxed in two of the men’s most eye-wateringly offensive protests yet, staged within a week of each other in September.

First, Tommy led his supporters into Tower Hamlets, the most densely populated Muslim area in the country. Three thousand officers had to be drafted in to protect the local population. The protest descended into a farce. To avoid bail conditions that banned him from attending demonstrations (imposed after he allegedly head butted an rival at a protest in Blackburn five months before) Tommy came in disguise, arriving early and hiding in a local bar dressed as an orthodox Jewish rabbi. The subterfuge worked and he was able to sneak past the police to the stage where, drunk on his own power and half a dozen double vodka-lemonades, he tore off his false beard and made an invective-filled, off-the-cuff speech threatening the entire Muslim community.

Just a week later, Sayful led an equally audacious demonstration, as Muslims Against Crusades marched to the American embassy on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. As dignitaries and relatives of the victims gathered in the gardens of the embassy to remember their loved ones, Sayful made his own chilling speech outside. Promising their Jihad would never stop “until the American flag is under our feet” Sayful whipped his young followers into a frenzy. But their posturing as fearless religious warriors did not last long. As they left the demonstration the group was set upon by a band of EDL supporters, screaming ‘Scum! Scum! Scum!’ and throwing bottles. Cowering behind the few police present for protection, suddenly Sayful and his followers seemed less like committed Jihadists and more like vulnerable children.

This Tanning shop manager and ex-Taxman have found themselves with hundreds of loyal followers, a great deal of power and virtually no responsibility. It’s a dangerous cocktail, which results in demonstrations that are offensive, chaotic and extremely expensive to police. But both men thrive on the adrenaline of their demonstrations and revel in the notoriety that comes afterwards. And over the year, it became obvious that both men share more than just a love of the limelight.

A month or so after these demos, we found a placard we’d picked up from one of the protests at the bottom of a camera bag. Its slogan read: ‘Islam Will Dominate the World’. At first, it was hard to recall whether we’d found it at the EDL demo or the Muslims Against Crusades demo. It could have come from either.

The confusion says much about the two groups. Despite being sworn enemies, the way Tommy and Sayful see the world is actually remarkably similar. Both believe the implementation of Sharia law in the UK is imminent (it’s not) and that Islam and the West are locked in a centuries-old battle for supremacy. Both men inhabit the same fantasy world, where a medieval clash of civilizations is being played out day-to-day on the streets of modern-day Luton.

On its website, flags and official merchandise the EDL’s imagery is full of crusader knights retaking Europe from the armies of conquering Islam. They have even adopted as their own the Latin slogan of the Knights Templar: “In Hoc Signo Vinces,” which translates as ‘Under This Sign You Will Conquer.’ Sayful and his followers assume the opposite role. From the name Muslims Against Crusades to their websites and propaganda videos emblazoned with the iconography of Saladin, Sayful and his followers dream of the return of the medieval Muslim caliphate.

Both Tommy and Sayful’s fantasies sustain each other. It’s a phenomenon that Professor Roger Eatwell, an expert in far-right politics, has described as ‘cumulative extremism’. Supposedly opposing groups like the EDL and Muslims Against Crusades don’t check each other’s popularity, they fuel it.

During filming for this documentary Tommy and Sayful both knew we were filming with their rival. Far from being worried by this, they both encouraged it: each man believes the other proves his point. For Tommy, Sayful represents what he sees as Islam: an offensive ideology at odds with British values and determined to bring down our society. For Sayful, Tommy represents all that is wrong with Western culture: morally corrupt, valueless, violent and inherently Islamophobic.

Of course, there’s a certain silliness to all of this posturing. Tommy’s followers are more likely to be overweight, undereducated pub racists than knights of the realm, and Sayful’s followers are more likely to be disenfranchised, bookish young Muslim kids than Mujahedeen. And, despite their rhetoric, both Tommy and Sayful claim to reject violence.

But something happened during filming that was a stark reminder that these men’s rhetoric can be extremely dangerous. In July, Anders Breivik embarked on a devastating shooting spree in Norway. Breivik, a far-right extremist, imagined himself a crusader in a religious war and claimed his motivation for the attacks was to stop the ‘Islamisation’ of Europe. Tommy, who had originally presumed the attacks were the work of Islamist extremists, was soon informed that the real culprit was an EDL-sympathiser who had almost certainly attended one of Tommy’s demonstrations.

We filmed Tommy as he embarked on a desperate media campaign to contain the fallout of the revelations. From local radio, to Norweigan newspapers to a duel with Paxman on Newsnight, Tommy sought to distance the EDL from the murderous actions of the man Tommy called “that lunatic Norweigan”. But suddenly the EDL’s posturing as crusaders seemed far less frivolous.

As Tommy sat in his Luton tanning salon, answering questions about his links to Anders Breivik from one press agency after another, it was obvious that, despite the controversy — or perhaps because of it — Tommy was, once again, enjoying being centre stage. Sayful is the same. Both men thrive on the reputation for danger that surrounds them. Mounting controversy has not persuaded wither man to curb their rhetoric or tone down their protests, and in 2011 their spiraling feud has pushed police budgets and public patience to their limit.

Luton has always been an unlikely frontline in the clash of civilizations, and Tommy and Sayful have always been unlikely religious warriors. Despite its troubles, Luton is this year entering the running to be the only town awarded city status in honour of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. Tommy has now given up his Tanning Shop after being unable to keep up with the rent and Sayful has begun applying for new accountancy jobs. It’s still hard to believe sometimes that these local men are two of the most dangerous extremists in Britain.

Paul Woolwich is the Executive Producer of ‘Proud and Prejudiced’.

‘Proud and Prejudiced’ will be shown on Channel 4, on Monday 27 February at 10.00pm

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

Sarkozy Rules Out Referendum on Fiscal Treaty

French President Sarkozy has indicated France will not have a referendum on the fiscal discipline treaty, due to be signed off at an EU summit this week. “As it is a treaty with 200 or 250 articles, I don’t see what the clear question would be,” he told RTL radio.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Spain: King’s Son-in-Law Grilled for Two Days

Urdangarin rejects corruption charges, royal image tarnished

Spain is glued to the TV and its newspapers, watching with unbelieving eyes the legal case on King Juan Carlos’s son-in-law Inaki Urdangarin, husband of Infanta Cristina charged with corruption and grilled for the past two days by Palma de Mayorca judge José Castro — as if he were any other alleged criminal. Urdangarin, the former Olympic handball champion who became Duke of Palma de Mayorca after marrying the king’s youngest daughter in 1997, is charged with having used a “not-for-profit” foundation (the Noos Institute) to re-route funds to his companies, using false invoices and huge quantities of money funds paid out by the regional governments of Valencia and the Balearic Islands. The scandal is doing serious harm to the image of the monarchy, which was restored by the dictator Francisco Franco in violently bringing an end to the Second Republic.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Spain Not Against Independent Scotland Joining EU

Spain would “have nothing to say” if an independent Scotland wants to join the EU in the future, Spanish foreign minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo said in London on Friday. Critics have voiced concerns that Spain may veto Scotland’s EU membership over fears it would encourage separatism in its own country.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Saab Climbs on New List of Global Arms Dealers

Swedish defence contractor Saab has moved up in a ranking of the world’s 100 largest defence companies published Monday by a Stockholm-based think tank. Overall, the world’s 100 largest arms dealers, excluding China, sold weapons and military services worth $411.1 billion in 2010, a rise of one percent from 2009, the report published by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) found

“Total arms sales … maintained their upward trend in 2010, although at one percent in real terms, the increase was much slower than in 2009,” SIPRI said in a statement. In 2009, sales swelled by seven percent to 406 billion dollars.

“The data for 2010 demonstrates, once again, the major players’ ability to continue selling arms and military services despite the financial crises currently affecting other industries,” SIPRI arms industry expert Susan Jackson said.

American firms dominated the Top 100 list as usual, with sales by 44 US-based companies accounting for over 60 percent of the market, or $246.6 billion. Seven of them placed in the top 10, with Lockheed Martin in first place with sales of 35.7 billion dollars.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Swedish Inmates ‘Awash in Drugs, Guns and Porn’

Many of Sweden’s most dangerous convicts have access to illicit drugs, guns, and child pornography from inside the walls of psychiatric clinics where they are serving their sentences, newly released documents show. The documents also reveal how inmates are involved in extensive crime rings running inside the walls of Sweden’s psychiatric clinics.

According to the the documents, obtained by Sveriges Television (SVT), inmates are involved in a wide rang of criminal activities mostly made possible by the inmates’ access to mobile phones and the internet. The crimes, which have been estimated to number in the thousands over the past few years, have occurred in the four clinics located in Vadstena, Katrineholm, Sundsvall and Säter.

Since 2007, inmates have been legally authorized to use computers and telephones. But a physician may decide to shut down a patient for two months if they misbehave. However, there is little to prevent an inmate who has had his or her rights suspended from using someone else’s internet or telephone.

“In practice it is an empty gesture. It’s insane,” Kenth Persson, director of the Karsudden forensic psychiatric clinic located near Katrineholm in central Sweden, told SVT. “The truth is that we don’t control patients as a preventive measure. We’re not allowed to do it, so reasonably, we shouldn’t have any idea of what’s going on.”

In some cases, inmates have downloaded child pornography and have even been in contact with the children. “The most difficult issue in our eyes is when patients contact minors”, said Jan Cedergren Borg,” director of the clinic in Vadstena.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Are the Muslim Brothers Muslim Republicans?

Koert Debeuf lives in Cairo, where he represents the EU parliament’s Alde group. He is the former advisor of a Belgian prime minister.

When I talk to leading figures of the Brotherhood in Tunisia or Egypt, they seem to agree on a few principles. They want to fix the economy and fight against corruption. I have not heard one of them utter the words ‘islam’ or ‘muslim’. In fact, the Brotherhood vision as written down by Mohamed Morsi, the leader of the Freedom and Justice Party (the Egyptian political wing of the Brotherhood), could have been the program of almost any centrist party in the world.

For a European, it’s almost incomprehensible how politics and religion intermingle in US elections.

But although I can’t understand the GOP on an emotional level, I’m not afraid of them. It’s clear to me that however unfathomable their politics are, they believe in the process of democracy. Maybe the Muslim Brotherhood is just like the Republican Party in that regard. They might be hard to understand, but still be democrats. I hope that if once in power the Republicans will deliver less of what they say. And I hope the Brotherhood will not deliver more than what they promise. But I do think that, just like the United States, Egypt should have the right to have a democratic, religious conservative party.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

France: Father Tries to Set 23-Year-Old Daughter Alight

A man was being held by police on Monday after allegedly trying to set fire to his grown-up daughter in central Paris. Le Parisien newspaper reported that the man sprayed teargas in the young woman’s face and then covered her in petrol on Saturday evening.

The father was apparently annoyed that the woman planned to go out with a group of friends that evening and considered her “too emancipated”. The newspaper quoted a source describing him as a “Muslim fundamentalist.”

The daughter has a room in a building in the city’s 11th arrondissement, close to the Place de la Bastille. The 49-year-old man went there at around 11.30pm on Saturday evening and started arguing with her in the hall of the building.

He then attacked her with the teargas and poured petrol over her head and face, after which he pulled out a lighter, causing her to scream. “She managed to grab the lighter from his hands while passers-by heard her screams,” said a source close to the inquiry. “The man quickly made a run for it.”

The woman told police her father had been harassing her for several weeks. “She explained he was unhappy that she had a Jewish boyfriend,” said the source. Police caught up with the man on Sunday and are questioning him in connection with attempted murder.

The newspaper reported that the man had only recently reconnected with his daughter, after abandoning her as a child. He had recently taken her to his native country of Tunisia where he had tried to arrange a marriage for her. She had resisted, while promising to behave in accordance with his wishes back in Paris.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Islamists Win 80% of Egypt’s Upper Parliament Vote

Islamist parties won more than 80 percent of seats in Egypt’s upper house of parliament, the country’s election board announced Sunday.

The Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party took 58 percent of the seats in contention, while the harder-line Salafist Al-Nour party came in second with a quarter of allseats. The nationalist Wafd party came in third with just 7 percent of the vote.

The upper house, or Shura Council, has no legislative powers and fulfills a largely ceremonial function. Two-thirds of its 270 are elected, and the rest filled by government appointment.

Voter turnout was low for the upper house, which will hold its first session Tuesday.

Islamists also dominated voting for the lower house ofparliament, with the Brotherhood taking 38 percent and Al-Nour 27 percent.

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

West Bank: Israel Plans 500-Km of Railway, Haaretz

Plan for two sections to connect north and south, press

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV — An ambitious plan to build almost 500 kilometres of railways in the West Bank has been drawn up over the past few months by the Israeli Transport Ministry, reports the daily Haaretz. The plan calls for the lines to be made available to both the Israeli and the Palestinian populations, and would include two main tracts connecting the northern part of the West Bank with the southern one: an inner one between Jenin, Nablus, Ramallah, Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Hebron and another eastern one along the Jordan river to Jericho. At a later date it would become possible to travel from Hebron to Gaza and from Jericho to Amman. However, Haaretz warns that these plans do not seem possible for the near future, except for the short tract connecting Tel Aviv to the settlement city of Ariel in the northern part of the West Bank.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Wife of Assassinated Scientist: Annihilation of Israel “Mostafa’s Ultimate Goal”

TEHRAN (FNA)- The wife of Martyr Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan Behdast, who was assassinated by Mossad agents in Tehran in January, reiterated on Tuesday that her husband sought the annihilation of the Zionist regime wholeheartedly. “Mostafa’s ultimate goal was the annihilation of Israel,” Fatemeh Bolouri Kashani told FNA on Tuesday.

Bolouri Kashani also underlined that her spouse loved any resistance figure in his life who was willing to fight the Zionist regime and supported the rights of the oppressed Palestinian nation.

Iran’s 32-year-old Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan Behdast, a chemistry professor and a deputy director of commerce at Natanz uranium enrichment facility, was assassinated during the morning rush-hour in the capital early January. His driver was also killed in the terrorist attack.

Roshan was killed on the second anniversary of the martyrdom of Iranian university professor and nuclear scientist, Massoud Ali Mohammadi, who was also assassinated in a terrorist bomb attack in Tehran in January 2010.

The method used for Roshan’s assassination was similar to the 2010 terrorist bomb attacks against the then university professor, Fereidoun Abbassi Davani — who is now the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization — and his colleague Majid Shahriari. Abbasi Davani survived the attack, while Shahriari was martyred.

Another Iranian scientist, Dariush Rezaeinejad, was also assassinated through the same method on 23 July 2011. Iran has condemned the CIA, MI6 and Mossad for the five assassinations.

A series of CIA reports revealed that Israeli Mossad agents, posing as American spies, have recruited members of the terrorist organization Jundollah to stage terrorist operations against Iran. Foreign Policy magazine cites CIA memos from 2007-2008 that Mossad recruited members of Jundollah terror group to fight a covert war against Tehran.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Clinton Issues Warnings on Afghanistan, Syria

Criticism of President Barack Obama’s apology for the burning of Qurans in Afghanistanis not helpful, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Sunday in a wide-ranging interview with CNN.

“I find it somewhat troubling that our politics would enflame such a dangerous situation in Afghanistan,” Clinton said of the complaints by Republican presidential candidates and some experts about Obama’s apology.

Obama apologized Thursday in a letter to Afghan President Hamid Karzai for the burning of Qurans, which he called “inadvertent” and an “error.”

“It was the right thing to do to have our president on record as saying this was not intentional, we deeply regret it,” Clinton said.

At least four American troops have been killed in apparent revenge attacks in the past week, and dozens of Afghans have been killed or wounded in protests about the incident.

“We are hoping that voices inside Afghanistan will join that of President Karzai and others in speaking out to try to calm the situation,” Clinton said. “It is out of hand and it needs to stop.”

Clinton also said diplomatic efforts were under way to peel away support from Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad.

“We have a lot of contacts, as do other countries — a lot of sources within the Syrian government and the business community and minority communities — and our message is the same to all of them: ‘You cannot continue to support this illegitimate regime because it is going to fall,’“ she said.

But she said the Syrian National Council was not yet the kind of united opposition movement that toppled Moammar Gadhafi with international help in Libya last year.

The Libyan opposition base in the city of Benghazi gave the international community “an address” to deal with.

“We don’t have that in Syria,” she said. “The Syrian National Council is doing the best it can but obviously it is not yet a united opposition.”

Clinton also defended telling an audience in Tunisia Saturday that Obama would be re-elected…

           — Hat tip: Paul Green[Return to headlines]

EU Ministers Voice Different Views on Iran

Swedish FM Bildt in Brussels Monday said Iran’s recent offer to hold talks with EU foreign relations chief Ashton on nuclear enrichment is “basically satisfactory” and that negotiations should begin shortly. The UK’s Hague said Iran has “shown no good will” for talks despite the offer, however.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Jordan: Tourism Loses $1 Billion After Arab Spring

The government is working on tourism projects in key areas

(ANSAmed) — AMMAN — Political turmoil hitting the region cost Jordan’s ailing tourism sector a staggering one billion US dollars in lost revenues, a senior official said today. One year into the first spark of the Arab spring, Jordan stands amongst the countries to have suffered from lack of interest among European and other western tourists.

Speaking during a visit to the rock engraved cit of Petra, Tourism minister Nayyef al Fayyes said the government is working on reducing impact of lack of travellers on tourism projects in key areas. Losses come from cancelled bookings and lack of passengers flow from nearby airports.

Jordan offers some of the most exciting destinations on planet with the rosy city of Petra and the Dead Sea standing at the heart of its attractive venues. The royal Jordanian has recently decided to stop flying to a number of European and regional destinations due to lack of demand on these routs. It will also retire some of its fleet as part of cost reduction plan to trim mounting losses.

Jordan had its fair share of protests ever since the waive of the Arab spring started blowing a year ago with activists calling for an all out war on corruption and constitutional amendments to stop nepotism and favouritism.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Syria: Putin Warns About Bypassing UN in Libyan-Type Scenario

(ANSAmed) — MOSCOW, FEBRUARY 27 — Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin has warned the West not to bypass the UN Security Council, and thereby repeat the Libyan scenario in Syria. “I truly hope that the US and other countries will take into account the regrettable experience, and will not try to employ military means in Syria without authorisation from the Security Council,” he wrote in a long election campaign article on foreign policy published today in Moskovskie Novosti.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Turkey: Erdogan’s Reforms: Less Schooling, More Koran

Muslim veil knocking at door of Parliament amid criticism

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, FEBRUARY 24 — The goals of an education reform bill introduced by the Islamic party of Turkey’s Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan have been characterised by opposition parties as aiming to halve the length of compulsory schooling to promote more Koranic schools and veil wearing. The opposition secular press, trades unionists and other commentators, have for a month now, but especially over the past two days, been aiming their criticisms at the Islamic tendencies of the reforms of alleged faults in the country’s education system. Today the countries confederation of industry, the TUSIAD, has joined in the chorus of protest. The bill would in effect abolish the present laws obliging children to attend school for eight years, halving them to the period of primary education alone.

Although this radical move is softened by the offer of distance learning, critics are calling it an incentive to quit school, especially in the less developed eastern areas of the country, and in cultural milieu where the ban on wearing the veil inside school premises meets strongest resistance. The ban comes from the secular, Western stamp given to Turkey’s constitution in the 1930s by the country’s founder Kemal Ataturk. A reduction in the number of years of compulsory education would also promote the so-called “Imam Hatip Lisesi”, the religious Islamic schools, like the one in which Mr Erdogan was educated. Following its third electoral victory in succession, with nearly 50% of votes cast, Erdogan’s single-party pro-Islamic government has already abolished the minimum age requirement for attendance at such schools and this reform would encourage children to give up attending their secular secondary schools in favour of religious institutions which now would take over some of the functions of the grammar schools.

Some areas of the secular press, such as the daily Milliyet, as well as pro-Islamic organs such as Yeni Safak and the official mouthpieces of Erdogan’s AKP party, stress how the reform aims at correcting what was in effect a penalisation inflicted on Koranic schools following the “post modern” military coup of 1997, which overthrew Islamic premier Necmettin Erbakan, a role-model for Erdogan. Eight years of compulsory schooling was introduced then with the aim of undermining the Koranic institutions. The reform debate opens, indeed, as the 15th anniversary of that coup approaches (February 28), the highly secular daily Cumhuriyet wryly observes.

Without returning to accusations of a ‘hidden agenda to re-Islamise Turkey, Cumhuriyet links the reforms to the a proposal recently expressed by the premier “to raise a pious generation,” a “religious youth”. This phrase, accompanied by the rhetorical question, “Did you expect the conservative and democratic AKP party would bring up a generation of atheists?” sparked off a heated debate over the past three weeks, in which all of the moves made to re-introduce wearing of the veil in the country’s schools as well as moves to favour Koranic schools (moves that have often been blocked) have been recalled. The criticisms of TUSIAD, which is calling for the bill to be withdrawn, are based on a more technical consideration of the step backwards in the level of education of the upcoming generations. The move is seen as being linked to the increasing pressure on young girls in country areas to give up their schooling and the dangers deriving from a reduction of the age for starting an apprenticeship to eleven.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Turkey to Start Oil Drilling in Northern Cyprus

The state-owned Turkish Petroleum Corporation has announced it will start drilling oil in Northern Cyprus next week, Turkish daily Zaman reports. In response to a Greek Cypriot oil exploration partnership with Israel and US company Noble, the Turks have partnered with Royal Dutch Shell for operations in the Mediterranean.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Turkey Walks Out

From Yves Daoudal we learn that Turkey is in a snit, fortunately for Europe: According to Die Welt, the Turkish government announced to European authorities that it would suspend all official relations with the EU during the rotating presidency of Cyprus (during the second semester).

It had already warned that it would not negotiate its candidacy with a country it does not recognize. The admissions process will therefore remain a dead issue this year. Last year, for the first time since the start of the process, in 2005, no new chapter of negotiations was opened.

At Le Salon Beige this was welcome news. One commenter expressed what everybody was thinking: — In this case, couldn’t we grant a permanent honorary presidency to Cyprus?

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Russia Averts Plan to Kill Prime Minister: State TV

Russia’s state television says that Russian and Ukrainian special services have arrested a group of suspects accused of attempting to assassinate Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Russia’s Channel One television said Monday that the suspects had been plotting to kill Putin in Moscow immediately after the March 4 presidential election, a ballot Putin is almost certain to win.

The station said the suspects had been arrested in Ukraine’s Black Sea port city of Odessa, but gave no further details. It showed two men who said they were acting on the orders of Chechen warlord, Doku Umarov. The station said three plotters came to Ukraine from the United Arab Emirates via Turkey with what it said were “clear instructions from representatives of Doku Umarov.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Germany Withdraws Staff From Afghan Ministries

Germany said Sunday it had withdrawn 40 of its national and international staff from Afghan ministries after US members of NATO forces in Kabul were shot dead at the Afghan interior ministry. “The Risk Management Office on Sunday morning ordered its German and international experts in agencies and ministries to be withdrawn” in the Kabul area, the cooperation ministry said in a statement.

The decision was a “reasonable precautionary measure”, Cooperation Minister Dirk Niebel said adding that the experts’ security was a top priority. Niebel stressed however that Germany would stick to the commitments made in the Afghan conflict. “As soon as the situation has calmed down the staff will resume their work,” he said.

The French foreign ministry said earlier Sunday that its embassy in Kabul was temporarily withdrawing all French civilian mentors and advisors from Afghan government institutions. The withdrawal for “security reasons” comes as anti-US protests raged over the burning of Korans at a US-run military base.

The French foreign ministry said in a statement that the measure would be rescinded as soon as “conditions permitted.” NATO and Britain said Saturday they were pulling staff out of Afghan government institutions.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Pakistan: Blasphemy: Arrest Mark Zuckerberg, Fleming Rose, Says Petitioner

FAISALABAD: A case for the arrest of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Cultural Editor of Danish Newspaper Fleming Rose, for allowing ‘blasphemous’ caricatures of Prophet Mohammad (pbuh), was registered at the Kotwali Police Station in Jhang.

The case, FIR no 134/12, was registered after Advocate Muhammad Zahid Saeed, stirred by websites allegedly demeaning the Prophet (pbuh), filed a petition before the District Session Judge seeking a ban on websites including Facebook, YouTube, Google and others.

This is not the first time that a ban has been suggested or imposed on Facebook, YouTube and other sites in Pakistan. In September 2011, the Lahore High Court ordered the ministry of information technology to block access to all websites spreading religious hatred. The judge had, however, made it clear that no search engine, including Google, would be blocked.

Despite this assurance, a case was registered under Section 295-A of the Pakistan Penal Code (PCC) which deals with blasphemy.

Maintaining that the sentiments of the whole Muslim community were hurt, Saeed filed the petition under Section 22-A, 22-B of the Criminal Procedure of Code (CPC).

In his petition, Saeed said that on visiting some websites while on the internet, he and his companion found caricatures of the Prophet (pbuh) published which, he alleged, were “trying to create a war between Muslims and non-Muslims”.

He added that the caricatures were a form of “international terrorism and evil profession”.

Session Judge Arshad Masood responded to the petition by saying that the “deliberate and malicious act” of displaying derogatory caricatures is a “continuing offence” and a case must be registered in Pakistan and anywhere else in the world where the sentiments of Muslims were hurt.

Masood ordered the DPO Jhang and the Inspector General of Police, Lahore, to examine the matter in light of the petition and to pass an order if any cognizable offence was found to be made.

The Kotwali police, on receiving the court order, registered the case and assigned the task of investigation to Qaisar Younus.

Younus, while talking to The Express Tribune, said that after collecting the evidence and recording the statements of the petitioner and other witnesses, he would proceed for the arrest of the accused.

The petitioner had maintained that the proceedings against the accused should be served through the Danish Ambassador and US Ambassador in Pakistan.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]

The Darker Reality of India’s Nuclear Power Goals

by John Daly

India is betting heavily on nuclear power to meet its surging energy needs. While India currently has six nuclear power plants (NPPs) with 20 reactors generating 4,780 megawatts, seven other reactors are under construction and are expected to generate an additional 5,300 megawatts.

This current rate of nuclear power generation pales into insignificance with New Delhi’s future plans, as on 22 February Power Minister Sushilkumar Shinde told a seminar at the India International Nuclear Symposium, “India plans to have a total installed nuclear capacity of 63,000 megawatts by the year 2032, using both indigenous technology and imported reactors. Nuclear technology has several distinct advantages — it is compact and highly manageable in terms of handling, transportation and storage of the fuel. Thermal technologies have the problems of greenhouse gas emissions, fly-ash and handling, transportation, storage problems of large quantities of fuel as well as availability of coal.”

As for worries about the hazards of nuclear power generation, earlier this month Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Srikumar Banerjee told a gathering at the Department of Atomic Energy’s Raja Ramanna Center for Advanced Technology in Indore, “All atomic energy plants in the country are totally secured as per international standards and are also capable of dealing with natural calamities like tsunamis or earthquakes.”

But amidst the bland assurances lurks a darker reality.


[Return to headlines]

Far East

China Embraces Fracking in Seismically Active Province — Quakes to Follow?

by John Daly

While hydraulic fracturing, more familiarly known as “fracking,” a technique used to liberate shale oil and natural gas deposits, is in many countries coming under increased scrutiny because of environmental concerns, China has decided to embrace the process as a way to develop indigenous energy reserves.

According to the BP statistical review of world energy, In 2010 global natural gas consumption increased 7.4 percent, the biggest increase since 1984.

On 12 February China’s Ministry of Land and Resources (MLR) Vice Minister Wang Min said at a national geological survey conference that China will increase efforts to explore shale gas in 2012. Wang told his audience that China shale gas output will exceed 100 billion cubic meters by 2020.

Clearing the way for expanded shale gas production, China’s State Council recently decided to list shale gas as an independent mineral resource, bringing the country’s total number of shale gas resources discovered in China to 172.


[Return to headlines]


Bosnia Detains 15 Germany-Bound Afghan Migrants

(SARAJEVO) — Bosnian police have detained 15 clandestine migrants from Afghanistan, most of them younger than 18, who were trying to travel to Germany, the security ministry said on Monday. The migrants were found in a van with Montenegrin registration plates after they were stopped by police in northeastern Bosnia late Sunday. The driver of the van that entered Bosnia from Serbia fled and police are searching for him, the ministry added.

Police could not determine the migrants’ age as they did not have identification documents, but most of them are minors including several children, ministry spokeswoman Sanja Skuletic told AFP. The migrants will be sent back to Serbia. Bosnia and Serbia lie on the so-called Balkans route used by criminals to smuggle people, drugs and weapons into western Europe.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Denmark: Stateless Immigrants to be Granted Rights

Immigration Service acknowledges they systematically registered many stateless immigrants as having citizenship, depriving them of their rights under UN conventions

The Immigration Service has started sending out letters to a range of stateless immigrants from Syria, Bhutan and Burma who have been incorrectly registered as having a citizenship. The letters will inform them of their right to be correctly registered as stateless and will contain an application form that can be filled out and returned to the Immigration Service.

The Immigration Service will then assess whether the individual can be judged to be stateless under the UN conventions for stateless people. All applications are expected to be handled within three months. The change in status from holding a citizenship to being stateless will afford the individual greater rights in Denmark and will confer the automatic right to Danish citizenship to their children.

Information newspaper uncovered the existence of this group of incorrectly-registered individuals this summer after revealing how the Immigration Service had illegally turned down applications for Danish citizenship from stateless Palestinians residing in Denmark.

The move to offer a change of status was made after consulting with the Danish Institute for Human Rights (IMR), which helped draft the application form.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Germany: Petition Demands More Women in Top Media Jobs

Female journalists in Germany have launched a petition demanding the introduction of a 30-percent quota for women in senior editorial positions within the country’s media. “It’s time to change things,” the 350 journalists from daily newspapers, magazines, monthly publications, radio and television said in their petition, seen by news agency AFP on Monday, in the face of a media world they say is run predominantly by men.

“We demand that at least 30 percent of editorial management posts are held by women in the next five years,” they said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

How to Destroy America: A Speech by Governor Lamm

Back on October 3, 2003 in Washington DC, I sat dumbfounded at a speech given by former Colorado Governor Richard D. Lamm. He spoke on, “How to Destroy America.” I was the only journalist to report on the speech verbatim. The audience sat spellbound by the eight methods for destruction of the United States. Since that time, my piece on the speech has been circulated all over the world many times. His speech is being verified in the United Kingdom, France, Norway, Sweden, Holland, Canada and Australia.

“Here is how they destroyed their countries,” Lamm said. “First, turn America into a bilingual or multi lingual and bicultural country. History shows that no nation can survive the tension, conflict and antagonism of two or more competing languages and cultures. It is a blessing for an individual to be bilingual; however, it is a curse for a society to be bilingual. The historical scholar Seymour Lipset put it this way, “The histories of bilingual and bicultural societies that do not assimilate are histories of turmoil, tension and tragedy. Canada, Belgium, Malaysia, Lebanon—all face crises of national existence in which minorities press for autonomy, if not independence. Pakistan and Cyprus have divided. Nigeria suppressed an ethnic rebellion. France faces difficulties with Basques, Bretons and Corsicans.”

Lamm continued on how to destroy America, “Invent ‘multiculturalism’ and encourage immigrants to maintain their own culture. I would make it an article of belief that all cultures are equal. That there are no cultural differences! I would make it an article of faith that the Black and Hispanic dropout rates are due to prejudice and discrimination by the majority. Every other explanation is out of bounds.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

‘Mademoiselle’ Officially Banned in France

Using the word “mademoiselle”, or “miss”, on official forms will be banned in France after prime minister François Fillon issued an instruction to all ministries to drop the term. Asking a woman’s “maiden name” (or “nom de jeune fille” in French) or “married name” will also be banished from official documents.

Instead, all women will be known as “madame” in future, “just like the equivalent of “monsieur” for men, which does not prejudge their marital status” said the official note. Instead, the simple “nom de famille” (“family name”) will replace masculine terms such as “nom patronymique” and “nom d’époux”.

The prime minister has instructed his ministers to get the terms removed “as soon as possible” although officials will be allowed to use up existing stocks of forms so as not to waste public funds. The move is a surprise success for two feminist groups who launched a campaign to banish “mademoiselle”.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Anonymous said...

What is the point in posting such
clearly biased anti-EDL/anti-white
articles like 'proud and prejudiced'?Paul Woolwich is trying to demonise the EDL and is camouflaging his article/program by comparing EDL with a small, irrelevant, nutty Islamic group.The 'powers that be' and their army,the Police, are not comfortable with well-attended demos or marches. EDL must be on the right track.Notice the early reference to the EDL as 'far right'.TOSH