Sunday, January 12, 2003

News Feed 20120302

Financial Crisis
»Finns and Swedes Tough on Rule-Keeping
»Fresh Liquidity Buys Time for EU Leaders
»Spanish PM Reveals Big Gap in 2012 Deficit Figures
»Twenty Five EU Leaders Sign German-Model Fiscal Treaty
»BP and Plaintiffs in Gulf Oil Spill Case Reach Settlement
»Caroline Glick: Andrew Breitbart RIP
»Equality or Inequality
»Mars Scientists Propose Landing Sites for Future Rovers
»Minorities Form Racial Majority in 106 U.S. Cities
»Republican Congressional Candidate Says ‘Holocaust Never Happened’
»Zero-Gravity Roller Coaster Could Bring Weightless Thrills to Earth
Europe and the EU
»A Look at German Islam Through the Viewfinder
»British Peer Resigns After Criticizing Israel
»Denmark: LEGO Launches Asteroid Spacecraft Model Chosen by Fans
»Frenchman Sues Google After Urinating on Camera
»Germany: Bank Gives €200 Million to Man by Mistake
»‘Grey Mouse’ EU Chairman Picked for Second Term
»Italy: Govt ‘Mulling Vehicular Homicide Law’
»Italy: Costa Captain ‘Caused 2010 German Accident’
»No Charges Over Brit Killed by Polar Bear
»Norway: Prosecution May Accept Breivik Insanity Ruling
»Norway: Pristine Fishing Area Split on Prospect of Oil
»Norway Firm to Help Lithuania Break Free of Russian Gas Reliance
»Swatch Predicts Strong Growth in 2012
»Three Men Sentenced Over 1988 Greek Cruise Ship Attack
»UK: Barbaric Torture of 83 Children Branded Witches: Case of Boy Beaten to Death Over Four Days Exposes Horrifying Crimewave Fuelled by Medieval Beliefs
»UK: Respected GP Abused Female Patients, Complaints Ignored
»UK: Two Muslim Sisters Who Cut Off Their Younger Sibling’s Hair as a Punishment for Kissing a White Man Have Received 12-Month Conditional Discharges.
»UK: Two Men Who Raped a Woman in Lancashire Have Been Given Indeterminate Jail Sentences.
»Tadic Reminds Serbians That Their New Status Isn’t the Prize
Mediterranean Union
»UFM: Co-Presidency of North Shore to Ashton
Middle East
»Iran Clamps Down on Internet Activists
»Syria: French Officers Captured in Homs
»Russia’s Putin Says Won’t Quell Protests After Vote
»Shadow Economy and Media Control: Russians Fed Up With Putin’s Manipulations
South Asia
»Diana West: Jihad by Aggrievement, Submission by Apology
»Indian Court Puts Off Boat Shooting Jurisdiction Hearing
»Nepalese Maoist Leaders Evict the Poor, While Leading “Sumptuous” Lifestyles
Australia — Pacific
»Australia’s Prime Minister Reshuffles Rogue Cabinet
»Secret EU Deal Forces Britain to Take in 12,000 Indian Workers Despite Soaring Unemployment
»Jupiter Moon’s Ocean May be Too Acidic for Life

Financial Crisis

Finns and Swedes Tough on Rule-Keeping

The leaders of Finland and Sweden attending an EU summit in Brussels Thursday both expressed strong opposition to softening deficit targets, with recession-hit Spain hoping for some leeway from Brussels. “We have common rules for everybody. It would be completely wrong,” said Finnish PM Jyrki Katainen.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Fresh Liquidity Buys Time for EU Leaders

The European Union summit was free of drama on Thursday for what feels like the first time in years. That calm is misleading, though. It is the result of the massive injection of liquidity into European banks by the ECB. The move buys time — and it is up to EU leaders to use it wisely.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Spanish PM Reveals Big Gap in 2012 Deficit Figures

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy revealed on Friday the margin for error he wants from eurozone partners as his country’s public finances returned to the debt crisis frontline. Spain is in recession, and Rajoy said he would now aim to hold his country’s public deficit in 2012 at 5.8 percent of GDP, significantly above the 4.4 percent agreed with euro currency partners.

Under new rules for economic governance across the 17-nation eurozone, Spain could eventually face sanctions if the European Commission ordered it to maintain pre-set targets once in receipt of new budget projections. But he said his new 5.8-percent figure was a “sensible” target, despite eurozone partners having said they expected Madrid to stick to the plan agreed with the Eurogroup of finance ministers.

On Thursday night after initial talks among EU leaders, eurozone chief Jean-Claude Juncker, Luxembourg’s prime minister, said “Spain intends to respect the budgetary objectives set for it and which it has accepted.”

But ahead of his government presenting a new budget in April, Rajoy said “the public deficit figure that will be in our 2012 budget will not be the one that was presented to European leaders (the 4.4 percent of GDP).” He said he did not have to present this figure to European counterparts, adding: “This is a decision for Spaniards.”

Estimates for Spain’s 2011 public deficit rocketed from 6.0 percent of GDP to 8.5 percent of output, putting Rajoy’s government under mounting pressure over two days of talks in Brussels also gathering finance ministers.

Without giving out the figure, Rajoy’s Finance Minister Luis de Guindos said on Thursday that “given the changed circumstances, it is foreseen that a process of negotiations will begin now” with euro peers and the Commission.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Twenty Five EU Leaders Sign German-Model Fiscal Treaty

Germany’s vision of an EU of fiscally prudent states held in check by tight budgetary laws and the threat of legal action came a step closer on Friday (2 March) when 25 leaders signed a new treaty on fiscal discipline.

In a low-key signing ceremony, all countries except the UK and the Czech Republic, became signatories to the 16-article pact, which, after going under a variety of monikers, has now been lumbered with the title “Treaty on stability, co-ordination and governance in the economic and monetary union.”

“Its effects will be deep and long-lasting.” said EU council president Herman Van Rompuy ahead of the signing, adding that it will help prevent a “repetition of the debt crisis.”

In line with Berlin’s wishes, the text includes an article obliging those that ratify it to enshrine a balanced budget into national law, while a country breaching the budget deficit rules will be subject to intense surveillance, with curbed discretionary spending powers, and obliged to carry out an agreed list of structural reforms.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


BP and Plaintiffs in Gulf Oil Spill Case Reach Settlement

A federal judge said Friday night that BP had reached a settlement with a group suing the company over the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The trial in the case, which was scheduled to begin on Monday, was postponed by United States District Judge Carl J. Barbier, in order to allow the court to review the settlement.

Details of the settlement were not immediately available.

[Return to headlines]

Caroline Glick: Andrew Breitbart RIP

I just read the horrible news that Andrew Breitbart has died. I send from Jerusalem my heartfelt condolences to his widow and children.

I watched Andrew’s speech at CPAC on YouTube and have to admit that I thought he didn’t look well. He had put on some extra weight and to my eye seemed a bit short of breath. After watching, I found myself concerned that he may have a heart problem.

And I was concerned. Because Andrew was the sort of person we can’t afford to lose. He was an unapologetic political warrior. He was a conservative, American patriot and friend of liberty everywhere. He was also a big friend of Israel…

           — Hat tip: Caroline Glick[Return to headlines]

Equality or Inequality

by Walter E. Williams

Rick Santorum’s speech at the Detroit Economic Club stirred a bit of controversy when he said: “I’m not about equality of result when it comes to income inequality. There is income inequality in America. There always has been, and hopefully — and I do say that — there always will be.” That kind of statement, though having merit, should not be made to people who have little or no understanding. Let’s look at inequality.

Kay S. Hymowitz’s article “Why the Gender Gap Won’t Go Away. Ever,” in City Journal (Summer 2011), shows that female doctors earn only 64 percent of the income that male doctors earn. What should be done about that? It turns out that only 16 percent of surgeons are women but 50 percent of pediatricians are women. Even though surgeons have many more years of education and training than do pediatricians, should Congress equalize their salaries or make pediatricians become surgeons?

Wage inequality is everywhere. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Asian men and women earn more than white men and women. Female cafeteria attendants earn more than their male counterparts. Females who are younger than 30 and have never been married earn salaries 8 percent higher than males of the same description.

Nobel laureate Milton Friedman said: “A society that puts equality before freedom will get neither. A society that puts freedom before equality will get a high degree of both.” Equality before the general rules of law is the only kind of equality conducive to liberty that can be secured without destroying liberty.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Mars Scientists Propose Landing Sites for Future Rovers

Planetary researchers rush to gather surface data before an ageing satellite stops working.

It took years of fierce debate to winnow the dozens of potential landing sites for NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover down to just one. But although the US$2.5-billion machine won’t land in Gale Crater until August, Mars scientists are already thinking about where they want to go to next. On Wednesday, at a workshop held in Herndon, Virginia, 40 of them developed a list of ten high-priority sites that must be characterized in preparation for future missions.

Some would consider it premature to plan for a future rover, given that Curiosity could be the last in a long time. Just two weeks ago, NASA announced that it would be withdrawing from missions that it had been set to pursue with the European Space Agency (ESA) in 2016 and 2018. ESA says that it is working with Russia to fill the gaps left by the US withdrawal, but nothing has been decided.

Nevertheless, workshop organizers say that data must be gathered on the new sites as soon as possible. The urgency stems from worries about the longevity of the satellite that has done the bulk of the work so far: the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), which was launched in 2005. One of the 14 charge coupled device (CCD) detectors on its high-resolution camera no longer works, and one of the three cryogenic coolers used for its imaging spectrometer is now out of commission. There is nothing remotely similar planned to replace it.

Richard Zurek, project scientist for the MRO at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, says that researchers must wring as much science as possible from the orbiter while it is still functioning. “We’ve only seen a very small fraction of Mars with high resolution,” he says. “Maybe the best site is still out there.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Minorities Form Racial Majority in 106 U.S. Cities

More than 100 markets across America have qualified for “majority-minority” racial status, according to an On Numbers study of U.S. Census Bureau data. A majority of the residents of 106 metropolitan and micropolitan areas are members of minority groups, a term that encompasses blacks, American Indians, Asians and Hispanics.

The most extreme case is Rio Grande City-Roma, Texas, a micropolitan area that hugs the Mexican border. Only 1.2 percent of its residents are white. The other 98.8 percent are minorities. Almost all are Hispanics.

On Numbers analyzed raw data from the Census Bureau’s 2010 American Community Survey, making adjustments to isolate Hispanics as a distinct race. (The bureau classifies Hispanics as an ethnic group. It assigns separate racial identities to individual Hispanics — generally white or black. On Numbers removed those identities.)

Texas contains nearly a quarter of the nation’s “majority-minority” markets — 25 of 106. Next are California with 17, New Mexico with 13 and Mississippi with 10.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Republican Congressional Candidate Says ‘Holocaust Never Happened’

Art Jones, who hopes to challenge Democrat Dan Lipinski in Illinois’ 3rd Congressional District, neither denies nor repudiates his past affiliation with the neo-Nazi Party.

           — Hat tip: Freedom Fighter[Return to headlines]

Zero-Gravity Roller Coaster Could Bring Weightless Thrills to Earth

Think about the tallest, wildest roller coaster you’ve ever been on. If a Southern California design firm has its way, you haven’t felt anything yet. BRC Imagination Arts is proposing a “zero gravity” roller coaster that would give thrill seekers a stomach-churning ride including at least eight seconds of microgravity.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

A Look at German Islam Through the Viewfinder

An estimated 4 million Muslims live in Germany, but what does Muslim life really look like in the country? Eighty-four German photographers recently set out in search of answers — and came up with some surprising results.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

British Peer Resigns After Criticizing Israel

Baroness Jenny Tonge resigned from the Liberal Democrats after they demanded she apologize for her latest fusillade of anti-Israel remarks.

Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Jenny Tonge on Thursday resigned from her position as party whip over her strident and public anti-Israel views.

“Beware Israel: Israel is not going to be there forever in its present performance. One day the United States of America will get sick of giving £70 billion [$109 billion] a year to Israel,” she said, addressing a group of students at Middlesex University in London last Thursday.

Israel receives approximately $3 billion annually in military grants from the US, most of which is earmarked for purchases from US defense contractors. Other aid to Israel is given in the form of loan guarantees. Economic grants to Israel ended in 2007.

Tonge’s alleged USD 109 billion is nearly twice what the United States actually earmarked for all of its international assistance programs around the world in 2010, which was USD 58.3 billion.

Tonge criticized the relationship between the United States and the Jewish state, describing Israel as “America’s aircraft carrier in the Middle East.”

“There will come a day when the people in the United States will say “enough is enough.”

“It will not go on forever, it will not go on forever and Israel will lose its support, then they will reap what they have sown,” Tonge said.

The Liberal Democrats issued a statement saying Tonge did not speak for the party on the subject of “Israel/Palestine.”

“Her presence and comments at this event were extremely ill-advised and ill-judged,” a spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats said.

According to the Guardian, Liberal Democrat chief Nick Clegg — who serves as Britain’s deputy prime minister — contacted Tonge issued an ultimatum: apologize for her remarks or leave the Liberal Democrat faction in the House of Lords.

Tonge, The Guardian reported, told the leadership in a phone call that she would stand by her remarks.

Tonge has been sacked from the Liberal Democrats for her vituperative anti-Israel rhetoric before, most notably when she said she “just might consider” becoming a suicide bomber if she were a ‘Palestinian.’

In 2010, Cleg sacked her as health spokesperson for the party after she called for an inquiry into allegations Israeli troops were involved in organ-trafficking in Haiti. Clegg said her comments were “wrong, distasteful and provocative.”

Commenting on her most recent statements, Clegg said: “These remarks were wrong and offensive and do not reflect the values of the Liberal Democrats.”

           — Hat tip: Freedom Fighter[Return to headlines]

Denmark: LEGO Launches Asteroid Spacecraft Model Chosen by Fans

The world’s first spacecraft to collect samples from the surface of an asteroid and return them to Earth, Japan’s Hayabusa mission probe, is now available as a LEGO toy thanks to a homemade model and its thousands of fans.

The Denmark-based LEGO Group announced today (March 2) that its Hayabusa 369-piece building set is now on sale in Japan. A limited number of the sets will be made available worldwide exclusively through LEGO’s online store at a date to be decided for later this year. The model retails for $49.

The LEGO asteroid probe began as a fan-made model that was then posted to the LEGO CUUSOO website. Originally limited to Japan, LEGO CUUSOO allows fans of LEGO to share their ideas for new products and to collect votes to make those ideas become a reality. The site went global last October.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Frenchman Sues Google After Urinating on Camera

A French man is suing Google after a ‘Street View’ photograph showing the man urinating in his own garden has made him the ridicule of the town. “He discovered the existence of this photo after noticing that he had become an object of ridicule in his village,” lawyer Jean-Noel Bouillaud told AFP, asking for the name of the village not be published.

The slightly blurred photo, seen by AFP, shows an individual relieving himself in a garden in the village in the west-central Maine-et-Loire department. “My client lives in a tiny hamlet where everyone recognized him,” said Bouillaud, adding that his client was on his own property and that the gate to his garden was closed at the time the photo was taken.

The man is suing Google in a court in the city of Angers for infringement of his privacy and of his right not to have his photo published without his accord. As well as the removal of the photo from the internet, the man is also asking for compensation to the tune of 10,000 euros ($14,200).

“My client is not doing this for the money, he just wants his privacy to be respected,” said Bouillaud to Le Parisien. Google’s lawyer, Christophe Bigot, said the lawsuit against his company was “implausible”, explaining that “Google has implemented a very simple mechanism that, with a few clicks, blurs the features of a person completely when it is deemed necessary,” wrote Le Parisien.

Street View allows users to take a ground level panoramic view of some locations on Google Maps, based on still photographs taken by specially equipped vehicles. France’s data privacy regulator imposed a record fine of 100,000 euros ($142,000) on Google last March for collecting private information while compiling photos for the service.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Germany: Bank Gives €200 Million to Man by Mistake

A west-German man became an overnight multi-millionaire recently when his bank transferred €200 million to his account. Half a day later they demanded it back — with interest. Staff at the north German online bank removed €12,000 in interest from the man, who said he will be suing the company to have this sum returned, daily newspaper Die Welt reported.

“An amount of money that was clearly too large was transferred due to a technical malfunction,” a spokesman from the bank said. But the surprised recipient, who lived in Hessen, couldn’t resist the temptation and transferred €10 million to his checking account at his regular bank.

But the newly minted millionaire only had twelve hours to rejoice as the bank realised its mistake and demanded the money back — with €12,000 or 14.4 percent interest.

Legal precedent seems to be in favor of the unexpected millionaire, as in a similar case previously judges at the Federal Court of Justice found that accessing the money transferred accidentally by a bank is not a criminal act. The bank customer is not legally required to inform the bank of its mistake, as accessing money that was erroneously transferred is simply taking advantage of a given situation, the court ruled.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

‘Grey Mouse’ EU Chairman Picked for Second Term

BRUSSELS — Herman Van Rompuy, the Haiku-writing, self-styled “grey mouse” of European politics, has been elected to a second term as head of the European Council, with his understated style credited with keeping the “show on the road” during the ongoing eurozone crisis.

With little ado, and early on in the EU leader’s meeting beginning Thursday evening (1 March), the former Belgian prime minister — unchallenged — was tasked with carrying on for a further two and a half years.

“Very honoured that all European Council members have decided to ask me to continue as European Council President for a 2nd mandate,” Van Rompuy tweeted after the result.

The first ever to hold the post, which is vaguely defined in the EU’s latest treaty as driving forward EU leaders’ summits, Van Rompuy’s take on the job has been almost complete political self-effacement in return for gaining the trust of the 27 leaders.

He started the job at the beginning of 2010, just when the scale of the Greek debt crisis was becoming apparent. His first speech was on the importance of growing Europe’s economy. But most of his time has been spent managing the ensuing eurozone crisis — including keeping leaders from completely falling out with one another, blunting the feeling the EU is run by Berlin and Paris, and stopping major rifts between those in and outside the single currency.

The result has been the uncontroversial re-election on Thursday but at the expense of having a public persona — he remains little known outside the Brussels bubble.

One senior diplomat remarking on Van Rompuy’s tenure so far said: “He’s kept the show on the road, which is quite an achievement.” “I think the overall view is that in an extraordinary difficult time, he has handled matters pretty well. He has shown a level of discretion and diplomacy and he is well liked and respected by his peers.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italy: Govt ‘Mulling Vehicular Homicide Law’

DUI drivers who kill would be liable, transport minister says

(ANSA) — Rome, February 28 — The Italian government is thinking of introducing a vehicular homicide law similar to those in many US states, Transport Minister Corrado Passera told the House Tuesday.

The law would apply to drivers who kill others while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, said Passera, who is also industry minister.

Driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or drugs is on the rise in Italy and is a factor in many fatal crashes, according to recent surveys.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Costa Captain ‘Caused 2010 German Accident’

The captain of ill-fated Italian cruise ship Costa Concordia had crashed a luxury liner before while sailing too fast into a German port, according to leaks from an investigation published on Friday. Captain Francesco Schettino “manoeuvred at a speed of 7.7 to 7.9 knots during entry into the port of Warnemunde, causing damage to the Aida Blu cruise ship,” his employer notified him in a letter published by La Stampa daily, referring to an incident in June 2010.

Schettino responded in writing saying: “I did not know the speed limit and have not received notification of an infraction from the relevant authorities.” He said there were “probably other factors” behind the accident. Schettino has been accused of manslaughter and of abandoning ship before all the passengers were evacuated after the Costa Concordia crashed into the Italian island of Giglio on January 13 with the loss of 32 lives.

At the time of the incident in Germany, he was captain of the Costa Atlantica — another ship from the fleet of Costa Crociere, Europe’s biggest cruise operator based in the port of Genoa in northern Italy. Schettino, who has been dubbed “Captain Coward” by the tabloid press, is one of nine people under investigation for the Costa Concordia disaster including three Costa Crociere executives and five other crew members.

Leaked documents published on Thursday contained claims of a hard-partying atmosphere on board two Costa Crociere ships including the Costa Concordia, with officers seen snorting cocaine and getting drunk on a regular basis.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

No Charges Over Brit Killed by Polar Bear

The governor of Norway’s Svalbard archipelago has elected not to bring any charges in the case of a 17-year-old British schoolboy killed by a polar bear last summer. An investigation into the August 5th incident at the Von Postbreen glacier that left the Eton schoolboy dead and four others injured has concluded that no crime was committed, said deputy governor Lars Erik Alfheim in a statement.

The parents of the victim, Horatio Chapple, have appealed the governor’s decision. Chapple died after a polar bear attacked a group of young people touring Svalbard with the British Schools Exploring Society (BSES). The group had set up camp near the glacier, 40 kilometres from the regional capital Longyearbyen.

“Tripwire flares had been set up around the tent camp, and the group had two signal pens and a rifle,” according to the statement from the governor’s office. “The equipment had been tested earlier, but the tripwire did not detonate when the bear entered the camp. A leader tried to fire a shot with the rifle, but did not succeed. When he managed to fire the rifle, the bear had already killed the 17-year-old, and wounded four others, amongst them himself.”

The governor’s office said technical studies had revealed that there were no malfunctions to the rifle, the cartridges or the tripwire flares. Instead, the accident was the result of “a number of unfortunate circumstances”, leading the governor to conclude that neither BSES nor any of the individuals involved should be charged with criminal negligence.

The prosecutors’ office of Troms and Finnmark will handle the parents’ appeal.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Norway: Prosecution May Accept Breivik Insanity Ruling

A Norwegian prosecutor said on Friday he was conditionally ready to accept that the gunman who killed 77 people in twin attacks last July was not criminally responsible for his actions. This would allow Anders Behring Breivik to be sentenced to confinement in a psychiatric ward instead of a prison at the end of his trial.

“The way the case appears at the time the charges are being brought, there is no basis to request a regular prison penalty,” state prosecutor Tor-Aksel Busch wrote in instructions to the prosecutors handling the case. “But it must be clear in the charge sheet that the prosecution reserves the right, during the trial, to request a prison punishment or containment lasting 21 years (the maximum prison sentence for people deemed criminally responsible in Norway), based on the complete evidence shown to the court,” he added.

Busch said that the way it looks now, Behring Breivik will be tried as someone considered criminally insane, while stressing however that this position could change if new information about the 33-year-old right-wing extremist’s mental state emerges. Behring Breivik is currently undergoing a second court-ordered psychiatric evaluation, after the initial one late last year found him criminally insane, sparking objections in some quarters, especially among families of his victims.

But regardless of the findings of the second expert assessment of his criminal accountability, he will go on trial starting April 16th and it will in the end be up to the judge to determine whether he can be sentenced to prison.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Norway: Pristine Fishing Area Split on Prospect of Oil

Looking for oil outside your front door may sound exciting, but in the idyllic Arctic archipelago of Lofoten, one of Norway’s best fishing areas, the prospect of the black gold has sparked heated debate, writes AFP’s Nina Larson. “This issue has split the local community and the nation as a whole down the middle,” said Brigt Dale, who recently completed his doctorate on the controversy at the northern Norwegian University of Tromsø.

The question of whether Norway should allow prospecting in the waters around Lofoten’s 1,000 or so islands — whose snow-dusted, jagged black mountains rise up like frozen waves in between small, colourful fishing villages — has pitted environmentalists and some fishermen against the country’s mighty energy sector.

Many locals meanwhile side with the energy companies, insisting oil is needed to create work and growth in the archipelago, whose 25,000-odd inhabitants are facing a decline in jobs in the vital fishing industry, which has sustained habitation here for thousands of years. Although fishing catches have grown, Norway’s total number of fishing vessels has plummeted from 120,000 in 1946 to 12,000 today.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Norway Firm to Help Lithuania Break Free of Russian Gas Reliance

Norwegian company Höegh LNG on Friday signed a deal with Lithuania to build a liquefied natural gas terminal as the Baltic state strives to cut its politically-charged dependence on Russian supplies.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Swatch Predicts Strong Growth in 2012

The world’s biggest watch group Swatch on Thursday forecast 2012 sales growth of between five and ten percent. Nick Hayek, director of the Swiss group which also owns the Omega and Tissot brands, said January and February had seen double-digit growth but he did not expect this to be sustained throughout the year. In China, which accounts for 39 percent of Swatch sales, Hayek said Swatch had recorded a “very slight slowdown in growth” for the first two months.

The Chinese are still choosing to spend their cash on Swiss-made watches, he said, while noting a trend towards middle-range brands and away from luxury ones. The group announced earlier this month an 18.1 percent jump in net profit to 1.3 billion Swiss francs ($1.4 billion) for last year.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Three Men Sentenced Over 1988 Greek Cruise Ship Attack

A court in Paris has sentenced three ex-members of a radical Palestinian group in absentia to 30 years in prison for an attack on a Greek cruise ship over two decades ago. Nine people were killed in the attack. Three men were found guilty in absentia at a French anti-terrorism trial on Thursday for their role in an attack on a Greek cruise ship more than two decades ago. The men, who are suspected ex-members of the Palestinian group Abu Nidal, were each sentenced to 30 years in prison.

On July 11 1998, at least one gunman on the City of Poros cruise ship opened fire on passengers as the ship was returning to Athens after a one-day cruise, before throwing a grenade and a fire bomb. Nine people, including three French citizens, were killed and dozens more were injured.

“The message from this trial is that French justice never gives up on those who commit terrorist acts,” the victims’ lawyer Francis Szpiner said.

Lebanese-born Adnan Sojod was convicted of murder and attempted murder after being identified by some thirty witnesses as the main shooter. Meanwhile Abdul Hamid Amoud and Palestinian-born Jordanian national Samir Mohammed Ahmed Khaidir were convicted of conspiracy to commit murder and conspiracy to attempt murder.

New arrest warrants were issued for the men whose whereabouts remain unknown.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: Barbaric Torture of 83 Children Branded Witches: Case of Boy Beaten to Death Over Four Days Exposes Horrifying Crimewave Fuelled by Medieval Beliefs

More than 80 children have suffered appalling abuse after being branded as witches in a crimewave fuelled by medieval beliefs imported from Africa, Asia and the Caribbean.

The scale of the problem — with many youngsters being beaten, starved and kept in cages — was revealed as a football coach was found guilty of torturing a boy to death.

Eric Bikubi, 28, faces life in prison after murdering 15-year-old Kristy Bamu in a four-day orgy of almost unimaginable violence.

Over the past decade, Scotland Yard has recorded 83 cases of children suffering barbaric treatment, including bizarre exorcism rituals. But detectives fear there may be hundreds of other young victims.

Bikubi was in the grip of a lifetime obsession with kindoki, or witchcraft, and believed he had special powers to detect evil.

Kristy suffered 130 injuries as he was attacked with weapons including a metal bar, hammer, chisel, pliers and even heavy ceramic floor tiles.

He drowned in a bath on Christmas Day 2010 in front of his four terrified siblings as Bikubi hosed them down with freezing water in an abhorrent ‘cleansing’ ritual.

The murder took place just nine days after a woman disembowelled her four-year-old daughter as a sacrifice because she believed the child was possessed.

Shayma Ali, who was later detained indefinitely in a mental hospital, was obsessed with evil spirits and had removed all the eyes from the little girl’s toys.

Both cases, which took place just a few miles apart in East London, shocked detectives. They warned the number of cases linked to witchcraft is growing but the beliefs behind them remain little understood.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

UK: Respected GP Abused Female Patients, Complaints Ignored

A respected GP sexually abused nine female patients — the youngest just eight — over a decade, despite a string of complaints against him, a jury heard today.

Dr Markandu Ragupathy, 61, from Beckenham, south London, ‘used his position of trust to satisfy his own sexual gratification and curiosity,’ prosecutor Toby Fitzgerald claimed.

‘He would say there was a misunderstanding or miscommunication and this was accepted by the senior partner at the practise,’ Mr Fitzgerald told Woolwich Crown Court.

‘The defendant remained free at the practise to sexually assault other patients and believed the practise would accept any explanation and for some years he was correct in thinking this.’

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

UK: Two Muslim Sisters Who Cut Off Their Younger Sibling’s Hair as a Punishment for Kissing a White Man Have Received 12-Month Conditional Discharges.

Shamima Akhtar, 18, was seen by her sisters and brother kissing Gary Pain outside a pub in Basingstoke.

Sisters Nazira, 29, and Nadiya, 25, were convicted of actual bodily harm in a trial at Winchester Crown Court.

They were cleared of false imprisonment, as was their brother Kayum Mohammed-Abdul, 24.

Both sisters were also found not guilty of assault by beating on Shamima Akhtar.

The prosecution had said the case was about “honour-based domestic violence”.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

UK: Two Men Who Raped a Woman in Lancashire Have Been Given Indeterminate Jail Sentences.

Rezgar Sharif Nouri, 27, of Waltons Parade, Preston, and Mohammed Ibrahim, 23, of Aeroville, London , were both told they must serve a minmum of six years in prison.

Both men had each pleaded guilty to two counts of rape at Preston Crown Court on 24 November 2011.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]


Tadic Reminds Serbians That Their New Status Isn’t the Prize

Serbia’s president has welcomed the EU’s decision to formally name his country as a candidate to join the 27-member bloc. However, he stressed that this didn’t bring Belgrade any closer to recognizing Kosovo. Serbian President Boris Tadic has welcomed the European Union’s decision to grant his country official candidate status. Speaking to reporters in Belgrade, President Tadic said the move had come as a result of the positive developments in Serbia over the past few years.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union

UFM: Co-Presidency of North Shore to Ashton

Changes in key positions, awaiting new elements in south

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS — There has been something of a restyling today in two key positions within the Union for the Mediterranean (UFM). As of March 1, France is no longer at the head of the northern component of the UFM and is replaced by the new diplomatic service headed by the EU’s High Representative, Catherine Ashton. There is also an official handover in Barcelona, where the new secretary of the organisation, the Moroccan Fathallah Sijilmassi, takes over from his compatriot Youssef Amrani, who is now Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation in Morocco. Meanwhile, there are no changes to the co-presidency of the UFM for the southern shores, where Egypt no longer wishes to fill the role. The Arab League, Tunisia and Jordan have all been touted as potential successors.

According to new rules approved by EU Foreign Ministers, which will remain in place until March 2013, the northern part of the Union for the Mediterranean will be led by Ashton during meetings of Foreign Ministers, with the European Commission taking up the mantle in EU meetings, such as those on trade relations. In other sectors dependent on the national sovereignty of member states, such as energy, the environment or transport, ministers from the northern Mediterranean will consult a team made up of the European Commission and the rotating EU presidency, which is currently held by Denmark but which moves to Cyprus in July 2012. The European diplomatic service will co-preside the UFM in meetings of senior officials.

The next meeting is scheduled for April 26 in Barcelona, and will be attended by the organisation’s new secretary.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Iran Clamps Down on Internet Activists

The regime in Tehran is intensifying its persecution of Internet activists. Fearful of fresh protests as elections approach, a new cyber police force has increased surveillance of social networks and bloggers. Lashes for bloggers, arrest for web activists, attacks against Twitter: According to Amnesty International the persecution of opposition figures and Internet activists is on the rise in the run-up to the country’s parliamentary elections on March 2.

The human rights group says in its latest report that even ordinary Internet users are subject to surveillance and harassment. In an apparent effort to stymie protests against the ballot via the Internet, the Iranian regime has also introduced new surveillance measures. “A newly-created cyber police unit has been forcing the owners of Internet cafes, since last month, to install surveillance cameras and keep tabs on the identities of Internet users,” the report says.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Syria: French Officers Captured in Homs

Up to 19 French Officers have been captured in Homs by the Syrian Government.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]


Russia’s Putin Says Won’t Quell Protests After Vote

Vladimir Putin says he has no intention of putting down protests if they continued after Sunday’s presidential vote. The 59-year-old, who is almost sure to win the election, said he would appoint Dmitry Medvedev premier. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said in remarks published Friday from a meeting with Western newspaper editors that he would not order a crackdown on the opposition after national polls which are almost certain to return him to the country’s top office.

“Why do I need to do that?” he asked in response to a question about the possibility. “I don’t know where these fears come from. We are not planning anything of the kind.”

Over the past three months, Russia has experienced the biggest and most enduring protests since the collapse of the Soviet Union, with tens of thousands of people taking to the country’s streets. They were prompted by December 4 parliamentary elections, which the opposition said were marred by vote-rigging and should be held again. Putin even praised the demonstrations, calling them “a good experience for Russia.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Shadow Economy and Media Control: Russians Fed Up With Putin’s Manipulations

With Russia set to vote on Sunday, SPIEGEL continues to explore the atmosphere in the country in part two of its pre-election coverage. Vladimir Putin looks set to win the presidency, but residents are growing increasingly resistant to corruption and media control.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Diana West: Jihad by Aggrievement, Submission by Apology

Six U.S. military men have been murdered by Afghan security forces seized by what may be labeled Koran-Burning Rage.

Koran-Burning Rage follows Pastor Jones Rage, which, after a Florida pastor burned a Quran in 2011, seized Afghan Muslims and inspired rioting. Some rioters overran a United Nations outpost and murdered seven U.N. personnel.

Pastor Jones Rage followed “Fitna” Rage, which seized Muslims worldwide even before the release of Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders’ short 2008 film “Fitna.” That film sparked rioting, arson, boycotts, death threats and, as a bonus, charges that led to the protracted trial in the Netherlands of Wilders for “insulting Muslims.” (He was acquitted in 2011.)

“Fitna” Rage followed Teddy Bear Rage, which, in 2007, seized Muslims in Sudan after a British teacher, whose class named a teddy bear “Muhammad,” was sentenced to 15 days for “insulting religion.” Ten thousand Sudanese turned out to call for the teacher’s head instead.

Teddy Bear Rage followed Pope Rage, which seized Muslims after a 2006 address in which Pope Benedict XVI noted a historic reference to Islam’s propensity to spread by violence. Muslim rioting, arson (including church burnings) and the murder of a 65-year-old Italian nun in Somalia ensued.

All of these rages followed or coincided with the most sustained rage of all, Danish Muhammad Cartoon Rage, which, since the 2005 publication of a dozen Muhammad cartoons in a Danish newspaper, has seized countless Muslims in recurring waves of rioting, boycotts and arson. More than 100 deaths have resulted.

I could continue, but I think the pattern is clear. Critical discussion or representation of Islam — including stated facts; satirical, political or religious commentary; or acts deemed by Islam to be “blasphemy” or “desecration” — spur Muslims to violence. This violence spurs Westerners to apology. But apology is always an act of dhimmitude: submitting to Islamic definitions of crime or grievance that only under Islamic law require contrition.

Today, the pattern intensifies…

           — Hat tip: Diana West[Return to headlines]

Indian Court Puts Off Boat Shooting Jurisdiction Hearing

Italy wants jurisdiction in case of two anti-piracy marines

(ANSA) — Kochi, March 2 — An Indian court on Friday put off until Tuesday its discussion of an Italian appeal for jurisdiction in the shooting deaths of two Indian fishermen, allegedly by two Italian marines guarding a merchant ship against pirates.

Italy argues it should have jurisdiction because the incident took place in international waters.

The marines, who say they only fired warning shots, could face charges of murder.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Nepalese Maoist Leaders Evict the Poor, While Leading “Sumptuous” Lifestyles

At the center of the controversy the president Prachanda and senior party officials, who recently ordered the eviction of squatters from 15 thousand huts along the rivers, for “environmental” reasons. Maoist leaders charge: “we were cheated.” Criticism even from the communist youth movement.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) — After years of fighting for the rights of the proletariat and the poorest of the population, the Nepalese Maoist leadership has been criticized for a wild “sumptuous” lifestyle and even of being disinterested in the “basic rights” by lower level party members and party sympathizers. Fuelling the discontent, the recent government decision — headed by a Maoist-led coalition — to evict the poor and homeless who live near the rivers that flow in Kathmandu. The Executive Board decided on the eviction because the rivers are polluted with sewage and waste produced by those living in the shanty towns on the river banks, however, thousands now have no place to go, among them even members of the party.

The ruling — without the proposal of alternative accommodation — issued by the Government involves at least 15 thousand squatters who have occupied so far about 3 thousand huts. Among these is the 31 year old Pradip Bahadur Sunuwar, a Maoist leader, who lived along the river Bagmati. He does not hide his bitterness about the situation and charges: “We are poor, we were cheated by Maoist leaders.” He adds: “They promised a society dedicated to equality and better living conditions. […] But my sacrifices and those of hundreds of people like me have only served to enrich the Maoist leaders.”

Among the leaders of the party at the heart of the controversy is also the president of the Maoists, Prachanda, who is accused of having a “lavish” lifestyle, while the country is plagued by problems of different nature: a deep economic crisis, political instability, corruption and closure of industries for the ongoing labor strikes. Aji BK, 50, 10 years resident in one of the thousands of shacks next to the river is very bitter: “The Maoists have used me because I voted for them, but now I am forced to live on the edge of the road because of them.”

Interviewed by AsiaNews Mahesh Bahadur Basnet, member of the Standing Committee of the Maoist prime minister and political advisor, said that “the government is aware of the landless poor” and promises “an alternative for their accommodation.” He admits that the lifestyle of some leaders of the party is “lavish” but seeks to minimize this, underscoring that it concerns “only a few elements.” Criticisms have also come from the top Maoist youth movement, the Young Communist League (YCL), which has announced protests against the leading executives and President Prachanda.

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

Australia — Pacific

Australia’s Prime Minister Reshuffles Rogue Cabinet

Julia Gillard, who recently survived a leadership challenge from within her Labor party led by her predecessor Kevin Rudd, has reshuffled her cabinet — ousting some ministers who turned on her and sparing others. Prime Minister Julia Gillard on Friday reshuffled her cabinet, days after factions of her Australian Labor Party tried — and failed — to oust her from within.

The unsuccessful leadership challenge was led by former Foreign Affairs Minister Kevin Rudd, also Gillard’s predecessor as prime minister, who was automatically demoted to the backbenches as a result.

Gillard announced on Friday morning that Bob Carr, the former New South Wales state premier, would take over Rudd’s duties as Australia’s top diplomat. Carr had previously said he was not pursuing the job when rumors linked him with the post. In a joint press conference with Gillard, he said that returning to public office was a difficult decision to make.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Secret EU Deal Forces Britain to Take in 12,000 Indian Workers Despite Soaring Unemployment

Brussels has drawn up a secret diktat which could force Britain to admit 12,000 workers from India despite soaring unemployment at home.

The order is part of an EU-wide plan to boost trade with India.

EU officials say that, in return for opening up the jobs market, countries such as Britain will be helped to land lucrative export deals.

But, of 40,000 workers who will be allowed to live and work in Europe, Britain has been told it must take 12,000, according to leaked EU documents.

This is far more than any other EU nation — and three times the number which will be permitted France.

Even Germany, which has one of the world’s largest economies, will admit only 8,000 workers.

The Indian migrants, who can live and work in Britain for six months, will be in addition to people given visas under Britain’s supposedly strict immigration cap.

This is despite the EU not normally being allowed to meddle in Britain’s border controls. It comes at a time when UK unemployment is close to a 17-year high, at 2.67million.

The negotiations on the India deal — which have been led by Vince Cable’s Business Department — have been going on in the shadows for years.

A large number of the beneficiaries will be IT workers, who already arrive in large numbers from India.

Sir Andrew Green, Chairman of Migration Watch, said: ‘The (negotiations) are quite clearly against the interests of British workers at a time of very high unemployment.

‘That, presumably, is why the government has been keeping quiet about them.

‘The six month limit, although completely unenforceable, keeps them out of the official immigration figures. However, in practice, this agreement, if signed, would open the door for thousands of new migrants.

‘Of particular concern is our IT workforce — already being undercut by Indian IT companies — which will be put under further pressure.’

The details emerged in a leaked copy of the EU/India Free Trade Agreement, which is due to be signed later this year. It was first initiated by Former Trade Commissioner Lord Mandelson in 2007.

The aim is to encourage greater export trade between the EU and India.

Central to the agreement is the EU’s offer on what is known as ‘Mode 4’, which will allow Indian companies to bring temporary workers into the EU.

The EU has proposed that, overall, 40,000 Indian workers will be admitted without any labour market test as to their impact on the resident workforce. The proposal is for each member state to take a proportion of the EU commitment.

The UK allocation of 12,000 is 30 per cent of the total — despite the UK making up only 12 per cent of the EU’s population…

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]


Jupiter Moon’s Ocean May be Too Acidic for Life

The ocean underneath the icy shell of Jupiter’s moon Europa might be too acidic to support life, due to compounds that may regularly migrate downward from its surface, researchers say.

Scientists believe that Europa, which is roughly the size of Earth’s moon, possesses an ocean perhaps 100 miles deep (160 kilometers). This ocean is overlain by an icy crust of unknown thickness, although some estimates are that it could be only a few miles thick.

Since there is life virtually wherever there is liquid water on Earth, for many years scientists have entertained the notion that this Jovian moon could support extraterrestrials. Recent findings even suggest its ocean could be loaded with oxygen, enough to support millions of tons worth of marine life like the kinds that exist on Earth.

Researchers have proposed missions to penetrate Europa’s outer shellto look for life in its ocean, although others have suggested that Europa could harbor fossils of marine life right on the surface for prospectors to find, given how water apparently regularly gets pushed up from below.

However, chemicals found on the surface of Europa might jeopardize any chances of life evolving there, scientists find. The resulting level of acidity in its ocean “is probably not friendly to life — it ends up messing with things like membrane development, and it could be hard building the large-scale organic polymers,” said Matthew Pasek, an astrobiologist at the University of South Florida.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]