Friday, January 10, 2003

News Feed 20100416

Financial Crisis
»Debt’s All, Folks
»EU: Juncker: We Will Assess Situation of Spain and Finland
»Greece-Papandreou: IMF There Because of EU Conservatism
»TARP on Steroids
»UN Commissioner: Italy Has No Money for Cooperation
»A Week of Green Brainwashing
»Barack Obama: Enemy Within
»Beck Takes Sharp Turn to the Left
»Dealing With a Taxing Addiction
»GOP Official Brutally Attacked by Leftist Jindal Protesters
»Home-Grown, Solo Terrorists as Bad as Al-Qaeda: FBI Chief
»Nation’s Capital Rocked by Tea’d-Off Taxpayers
»Obama’s Secret Power Grabs
»Obama Makes Light of Anti-Tax Protests
»Photo: Come to St. Louis… Where Nazi Infiltrators Get Punked
»Press Tries, Convicts Doctor-Soldier
»Saving the Catholic Kennedy. A Reply to Archbishop Chaput
»Schools’ Assignment: Squelch Family Values
»Socialism: Rich Class, Poor Class, No Middle Class
»Tea Party Crash Fizzles Out
»Teacher Who Sought to ‘Demolish’ Tea Party Placed on Leave From School
»Time for a Republican Extreme Makeover?
Europe and the EU
»100,000 Britons Stranded in Europe by Volcanic Ash Cloud as Air Traffic Chiefs Extend Lockdown to 7am
»3-D Printing Device Could Build Moon Base From Lunar Dust
»Austria: Fritzl Victims Lawyer Attacks Church Over Abuse Claims
»Germany: Brotherhood Ordered Williamson to Skip Holocaust Denial Trial
»Greece: Synod Condemns Mass in Modern Greek
»Italy: Fini Threatens to Leave Premier’s Party
»Italy: Indian Priest Released Under ‘House Arrest’
»Italy: Bossi: We Won it All & Now We Want a Share of Banks
»Netherlands: Official Prostitution Age to be Increased From 18 to 21
»Netherlands: Secret Service Says Pro-Asylum Extremism Systematic and Increasing
»Pope in Malta Tomorrow, Party Mood But Shadows Remain
»Serbia-EU: Candidate Status Most Likely in 2011, Minister
»Spain: Telecinco to Apply Its Business Model to Cuatro
»Spain: Student Suspended for Wearing Islamic Headscarf
»UK: How I Was Horrified When I Went Back to My Home City of Cardiff to Assess the Effects of 24-Hour Pubs… And Found the Women as Bad as the Men
»Vatican: Card. Hummes, Calls Priests to Rome for Pope
»Volcanic Cloud Approaching Italy
»Days of Serbian Culture Kick Off in Istria
»Montenegro Donates a Submarine to Slovenia
North Africa
»Libya-USA: World Admires Obama and His Wisdom, Gaddafi Says
Israel and the Palestinians
»Gaza: France Condemns Execution of ‘Collaborationists’
»Hamas Condemns Two Israeli “Collaborators” To Death in Gaza
»Israel Costs Us “Blood and Treasure” — What About Obama?
Middle East
»Iran: The Persian Quest for Freedom
»Iraqi Refugees in Syria Not Going Back Soon
»Russia — Iran — China: Iran’s Bushehr Nuclear Reactor to Start Up in August
»Turkey: Traditional Curses Diyarbakir Women’s Way of Fighting Back, Study Says
»Turkey: Fear of ‘Missionaries’ Blamed for Martyrdom of 3 Christians
South Asia
»Afghanistan: Strada Repeats ‘Set-Up’ Claims
Far East
»Russia — China: Orthodox Missionaries for Chinese Students in Moscow
»S.Korea: Bodies of Missing Sailors Recovered as South Korean Navy Ship is Raised From Sea Bed After ‘Mysterious’ Explosion
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Bells Toll No More for Schools in Somali Town
»Genocide in South Africa
Latin America
»Lula to Decide on Battisti
»Italy: 4.3 Million Foreigners Live in Italy
Culture Wars
»Judge Rules National Day of Prayer Unconstitutional
»NASA Lab Accused of Crackdown on Intelligent Design
»Obama Extends Hospital Visitation Rights to Same-Sex Partners of Gays
»3D-TV Health Warning: Tuning in Can Cause Confusion, Nausea and Even Fits, Says Electronics Giant
»Even 9-Month-Olds Choose ‘Gender-Specific’ Toys
»Fight Al-Qaeda With Satire, Ridicule, Say UK Researchers
»Iceland Volcano — Weather and Agricultural Implications.

Financial Crisis

Debt’s All, Folks

What with the bailouts, the stimulus, and now the government health care takeover, we’re being told that we face $1 trillion annual deficits for the indefinite future, with a $12 trillion to $20 trillion debt by 2020. In February, Congress raised the federal debt limit to $14.3 trillion. That’s bad.

But it’s only the beginning. Does anyone seriously think the current spending binge is all we can expect from this Porky Pig Congress? Programs are sprouting like crabgrass. The horrifying numbers we are now hearing about future deficits reflect projections of existing program spending. They do not count the inevitable spending that will flow from all the yet-to-be unleashed goodies that Congress and Obama have in their hip pockets.

Federal programs grow like Paul Bunyan and live far beyond their usefulness. There is simply no incentive to cut programs or staff, which would signal loss of power and prestige. Government managers face no profit motive or expectant stockholders. Businesses and households cut back if they overspend. The government just comes up with more ways to tax us, and in increasingly sneaky fashion. Have you looked at your phone bill lately? Who stuck all those esoteric charges there, with such names as “federal connection fee” or “Fred the bureaucrat’s lakefront retirement home fund?”

But let’s get back to the big stuff.


The health bill alone is expected to create upwards of 159 new agencies. And then there are the three elephants in the room: Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, each of which is projected to break the Baby Boomer Bank in just a few years with unfunded liabilities in the trillions.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

EU: Juncker: We Will Assess Situation of Spain and Finland

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, APRIL 16 — “Vigilance must leave the budget out of the equation”, said Euro Group President and Prime Minister of Luxemburg, Jean-Claude Juncker, after the Euro Group meeting in Madrid. A “reformed vigilance” on the State accounts, which has become even more urgent because currently 20 of the 27 member States have and excessive deficit, starting with Greece. The case of Greece has made it necessary for Brussels to introduce new control instruments. Spain and Finland will be the first two countries in the Eurozone where an inspection will take place into the problems of competition which emerged with the crisis. From now on, not only the public deficit and debt will be checked, but other economic variables will be analysed as well, like the balance of payments and labour costs. After Spain and Finland, it will be the turn of Portugal and Luxemburg. According to Juncker there is an imbalance in competitiveness between countries in the Eurozone and this differences are likely to increase without interventions. “Wéll have to focus on problems of competitiveness, which will be long-lasting”, Juncker underlined. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greece-Papandreou: IMF There Because of EU Conservatism

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, APRIL 16 — Premier Giorgio Papandreou has confirmed that if Greece is forced to bring the IMF into the support mechanism, this would be the fault of the former centre-right government and of an EU dominated by conservatives of the PPE party. Addressing Parliament today, Papandreou, in taking a further step towards activating a control mechanism, said that “the IMF is already here. They are supervising us already”. But he defended his government’s line, stressing that it would make “all the necessary preparations” ahead of a request for aid if that was its resolved course “on the basis of the country’s interests”. In order to prevent the nation, he said, from “going under, as many were forecasting”. “Let’s not kid ourselves,” the Premier said in fending off a question from the far-left, “the IMF is already here, it has already taken up its place inside the mechanism. It is already supervising our efforts and our decisions”. But, he added; “now there is a mechanism where before there was nothing and that has been a great achievement”. The Premier added that the involvement of the IMF might have been avoidable if it hadn’t been for the bad policies of the previous centre-right government and if the EU had taken a different tack. This, he said, was because “its majority is unfortunately a conservative one”. The former governing centre-right New Democracy party (ND) reaffirmed its opposition to the involvement of the IMF, whose conditions may well prove “onerous”. The Premier’s statements follow a letter sent yesterday by Finance Minister Giorgio Papaconstantinou to the European Commission, to the ECB and to the FMI, asking for consultations to be set up in order to clarify the framework within which the support mechanism would be enacted. The minister noted that this is not yet a formal request for financial assistance, but all the observers, as all of the country’s press, are unanimous that recourse to the mechanism is now unavoidable. Today the country’s Stock Exchange closed at -1,64%, back under the critical 2,000-point threshold. Meanwhile, yields on Greek treasury bonds continue to rise: ten year bonds were up 13 base points at 7.42% which increases their spread against the German Bund by 25 to 426 points. Yields on Greek two-year bonds were up 14 base points at 6.96%. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

TARP on Steroids

True to form, Obamacrats pushed this 1,300-page bill through committee in a 21-minute partisan markup. The bill’s principal sponsor, Sen. Chris Dodd, warned Republicans that if they resist the bill, they’ll suffer the same fate they did on the health-care bill, which the National Legal and Policy Center’s Carl Horowitz aptly paraphrased as, “Get in our way, and we’ll mow you down.” (If you watched the news this week, you might have seen how they’ve already savaged Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell for daring to oppose the bill.)

The White House is also adopting the same divisive strategy it used in promoting Obamacare. It has picked scapegoats to vilify, “big Wall Street banks” (you will recall Obama has called them “fat-cat bankers”), and pitted them against the American people, saying they want to preserve the “status quo.” Jen Psaki explicitly framed the debate in those terms on the increasingly partisan White House blog.

Initially, even many Democrats were skeptical, such as Rep. Brad Sherman, who called the plan “TARP on steroids” and told Geithner, “You’ve got permanent, unlimited bailout authority.” “Permanent,” to be sure, which is why Horowitz dubbed the bill “PARP.”

Among the Republicans’ concerns about the plan is that it would create a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau with autonomous rule-making authority and the power to examine firms with $10 billion in assets. The bill would also create a new $50 billion fund to be used to “restructure” firms in emergency financial predicaments. According to Heritage Foundation expert David C. John, the bill would give the government “open-ended” power to “exercise discretion” based on “unspecified factors” to determine whether firms represent a “systemic risk.” Think about that. A vast new bureaucracy subject to political pressures, not the bankruptcy courts, would be making these vital decisions without clearly defined standards. We musn’t saddle the rule-makers with rules.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UN Commissioner: Italy Has No Money for Cooperation

(ANSAmed) — ROME, APRIL 16 — “Italians don’t know that they live in a country that has no more money for cooperation. This is serious for Italy, which has ambitions in the field of humanitarian aid and development cooperation”, Filippo Grandi, commissioner- general of UNRWA, United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, told ANSA. Grandi concluded his visit to Italy today. During his visit he had a meeting with Speaker of the House Gianfranco Fini and Foreign Minister Franco Frattini, among others. He said that the Italian government “no longer has the right financial instruments for a role that is important in the foreign policies of any country: cooperation”. And we, like many others, “are the victims of this situation”, he added. The UN commissioner summed up the cuts Italy has made to UNRWA funding: “In 2008 they totalled 12 million euros, this year if all goes well they will be hardly more than 5 million. And I have heard that next year there will be further cuts to cooperation”, Grandi explained. He pointed out that other countries contribute much more, despite the economic crisis: “the UK between 20 and 25 million, Spain, a country with a difficult economic situation, increased its contribution in the past years”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


A Week of Green Brainwashing

Brace yourself for a week of Green brainwashing when Thursday culminates in an orgy of Green propaganda called Earth Day.

Be alert to the tons and tons of Green stories in your weekly and daily newspaper of choice, the weekly snooze-magazines, and especially on television where all the local reporters will dutifully interview people who are recycling things destined for a landfill or protesting to save salamanders.

Amidst the deluge will be endless appeals to buy products deemed Green, but which are always more expensive than those that have not been blessed by the Sierra Club.

Your children, in particular, will learn precious little about the way the real Earth functions. Aside from the usual demented “global warming” scenarios guaranteed to give them nightmares, the schools will pretty much abandon efforts to teach anything resembling the way the Earth actually behaves.


Most certainly, the week will be full of talk about how we’re all going to die from too much carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere, but no one is going to die from the 386 parts per billion up there amidst the 95% water vapor.

Forget about “anthropogenic” (produced by man) CO2. The Earth generates 97% of all the CO2 in the atmosphere. We would all surely die if there was no CO2 because everything that’s really green, from a blade of grass to a giant Sequoia tree, depends on it.

The entire Green movement has depended on propaganda from its start around the time that Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” became a bestseller in 1962, even though most of the claims and predictions were and are sheer bunk. The same applies to the 1968 epic, “The Population Bomb”, and comparable Green pseudo-scientific garbage.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Barack Obama: Enemy Within

In addition to his humiliating world apology tour, the president recently gave us a sneak peek into this egalitarian mindset while preaching to the choir at his April 12 Nuclear Security Summit: “Whether we like it or not, we (the United States) remain a dominant military superpower,” he said.

“Whether we like it or not”? That Obama would even preface recognition of America’s precarious role as the “last remaining superpower” with “like it or not” betrays his fixed membership among the camp of self-loathing “or nots.”

I’ve been reluctant to climb aboard the “Obama wants to destroy America” conspiracy train. I’m no longer reticent to do so. As Newt Gingrich recently observed, we know this administration to be “far and away the most radical administration in American history.”


And that’s exactly what he’s doing. Obama has embarked upon the most brazen, slash-and-burn socialist restructuring scheme in our nation’s history. This president is many things, but he’s not stupid. He knows full well that his massive government takeover of health care, coupled with his global warmist “cap-and-trade” tax scheme — and his broader tax-and-spend-during-deep-recession game of economic Russian roulette — are undeniably unsustainable.

Not only will these policies bring down the private insurance industry (part of the plan), they will — if let stand — bring down the whole of private industry, crashing our entire free-market system (again, part of the plan).

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Beck Takes Sharp Turn to the Left

In a sharp turn to the left, Glenn Beck of Fox News featured Justin Logan of the Cato Institute on his Thursday night program. Logan had hailed Barack Obama as “a vocal advocate of direct diplomacy with America’s adversaries,” a stand that he claimed had been “well-received by the American people.”

Logan wrote that while a nuclear Iran would pose problems, Israel and the U.S. could deal with such a regime. Logan said Obama’s campaign statements opposing a nuclear Iran were designed to appease “the Israeli right and American neoconservatives.”

Those “neoconservatives,” such as William Kristol and Charles Krauthammer, just happen to be regular commentators on other Fox News programs.

Cato is often labeled as “conservative” or “libertarian,” but its foreign policy views are frequently in sync with the Obama Administration.

Logan appeared on the show along with another Cato scholar, Chris Edwards, who said that we should “pull back the foreign troops” and drastically reduce the U.S. defense budget. This will produce “higher security” for the U.S., he claimed.

Sounding like an anti-war progressive, Edwards charged that sinister arms manufacturers were pushing funding for unneeded weapons.

Nobody mentioned that Obama had cancelled the F-22 Raptor, the most advanced air superiority fighter in the U.S. inventory, at a time when the Russians are developing their own version of a fifth generation fighter.

The Cato Institute favored the Obama policy of killing the F-22.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Dealing With a Taxing Addiction

Washington is addicted! The Capital building has become one big crack house, and the drug of choice for the addicts who fill its halls is the hard earned money of the citizens of this country.


So here we are today, with an America that keeps sending addicts back to a crack house in Washington to get their cash fix. Where does it all end?

Like any normal family, dealing with an addicted family member is never easy. While some in the family chose to ignore the problem, some actually become enablers. Others may fall into denial, while some try to escape by running away. In any of these cases, allowing the problem to persist will only exacerbate the condition of the addict, and possibly destroy the entire family.

The only way to truly deal with any addiction is to confront the addict face-to-face.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

GOP Official Brutally Attacked by Leftist Jindal Protesters

Allee Bautsch suffered a broken leg from the beatdown outside to the SRLC dinner at Brennan’s Restaurant in New Orleans. She had her leg operated on over the weekend and it will take her months to recover. Her boyfriend Joe Brown suffered a broken nose, a broken jaw, and a concussion. They were attacked after leaving the Southern Republican Leadership Conference dinner at Brennan’s Restaurant.

A report on Yahoo! News says an attack last Friday that left Gov. Bobby Jindal’s campaign finance director with a broken leg and her boyfriend with a concussion and broken nose may have been politically motivated.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Home-Grown, Solo Terrorists as Bad as Al-Qaeda: FBI Chief

Al-Qaeda still aims to strike inside the United States but home-grown or unaffiliated extremists now “pose an equally serious threat,” FBI chief Robert Mueller warned US lawmakers Thursday.

“Al Qaeda and its affiliates are still committed to striking us in the United States,” Mueller told a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee, pointing to plots to bomb New York City subways and the failed Christmas airline attack.

“Home-grown and lone-wolf extremists pose an equally serious threat,” the Federal Bureau of Investigation director said, citing the shootings at the sprawling Fort Hood army base in Texas.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Nation’s Capital Rocked by Tea’d-Off Taxpayers

Thousands flock to Washington, put ‘gangster government’ on notice

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Thousands of enthusiastic tea partiers gathered along the lawn surrounding the Washington Monument today to mutually express grievances over what they regard as high taxes, big government and an even bigger nation debt.

Two rallies took place in Washington today: One at the Freedom Plaza this morning and another, hosted by FreedomWorks, at the Washington Monument. An estimated 3,000 to 4,000 people descended on the nation’s capitol tonight.

Rep. Michele Bachmann told the crowd at Freedom Plaza that “gangster government” has instituted a “takeover of one private industry after another.”

“We’re on to this gangster government,” she said.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Obama’s Secret Power Grabs

[Comments from JD: The excellent chart is a “must see”.]

While Congress considers sweeping new legislation to permanently institutionalize the bailouts and federal control of our financial system (right on the heels of their health care takeover, of course) several other sweeping power grabs are going on outside the spotlight of legislative debate. Indeed President Obama seems to believe that most of his sweeping agenda to transform the country can be accomplished without even a vote of Congress. The chart seen above and found here shows what the administration is up to.

As I’ve previously noted here in the Fox Forum, the EPA is pursuing an aggressive global warming power grab under the direction of White House Climate czar Carol Browner (who was not subject to Senate confirmation), and the FCC is pursuing a regulatory takeover of the Internet.

Both of those efforts are now escalating. The EPA has now finalized its vehicle emissions rule, for the first time regulating global warming under the 1970 Clean Air Act. While EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson is trying to calm a political backlash by promising the delay the onslaught of regulations (the overall blueprint is over 18,000 pages and regulates almost everything that moves and lots of things that stay put) she remains committed to them. The Senate will have a key vote on S.J. Res. 26, which would stop the EPA, some time in May.

The FCC was smacked down in court last week in Comcast v. FCC, which held that the Commission has no jurisdiction to regulate the Internet. Yet FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, a close friend of Obama’s, is now considering Internet regulations of an even more extreme nature and by an even more dubious mechanism—reclassifying the Internet as a phone system to regulate it like an old-fashioned public utility.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Obama Makes Light of Anti-Tax Protests

MIAMI (AP) — President Barack Obama said Thursday he’s amused by the anti-tax tea party protests that have been taking place around Tax Day.

Obama told a fundraiser in Miami that he’s cut taxes, contrary to the claims of protesters.

“You would think they’d be saying thank you,” he said.

At that, many in the crowd at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts stood and yelled, “Thank you!”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Photo: Come to St. Louis… Where Nazi Infiltrators Get Punked

Another day… Another St. Louis Tea Party Protest… Another Nazi Infiltrator getting punked.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Press Tries, Convicts Doctor-Soldier

As WND first reported, Lt. Col. Terrence Lakin, an Army doctor, is refusing to deploy as ordered to Afghanistan until Obama offers proof he is a natural born citizen, as required by the Constitution.

I guess it’s not enough that he’s facing court-martial, disciplinary action, possible jail time, dishonorable discharge. The media are hanging him out to dry — trying and convicting him before he’s even officially charged with misconduct.

And I’m not just talking about media like MSNBC, the New York Times, ABC, CBS and CNN. I’m talking about the Associated Press, the largest news-gathering operation in the world, and Fox News, the supposed “fair and balanced” alternative to the old guard.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Saving the Catholic Kennedy. A Reply to Archbishop Chaput

The archbishop of Denver has accused the former president of banishing religion from the public stage. Professor Diotallevi rebuts: “The Church gains nothing from relying too much on political power, not even when it is friendly”

ROME, April 11, 2010 — The refutation made by the archbishop of Denver, Charles J. Chaput, of the famous speech in which John F. Kennedy, exactly fifty years ago, explained to Americans how as a Catholic he could be a good president, is of the sort that leave a lasting impression.

Chaput’s indictment was released on www.chiesa a few hours after the archbishop had delivered it, on March 1, 2010, at the Baptist University of Houston, the same city in which Kennedy gave his speech:

The Doctrine of the Catholic Kennedy? Worthless

Chaput is one of the most influential figures of the United States episcopate. Together with Cardinal Francis George, archbishop of Chicago and president of the bishops’ conference, he is one of the leaders of the new course of the American Catholic Church, in strong agreement with Benedict XVI. Also part of this bloc is the new coadjutor bishop of Los Angeles, José Horacio Gómez, whom the pope appointed a few days ago to that diocese, the largest in the country.

So then, in Chaput’s judgment, with that speech the Catholic Kennedy cleared the way not for a more effective presence of the Christian faith on the public stage, but for a disastrous separation between Church and state, for the sequestering of religious faith in the isolation of the conscience and for its definitive emptying.

In other words, the Catholic Kennedy is alleged to have fostered a model of society inspired more by hostile French-style “laïcité” than by the “religious freedom” characteristic of America.

The dispute is not simply academic. Since Barack Obama became president, it has been at the center of the confrontation between his policies and the positions of the American Catholic episcopate, especially concerning life, the family, education.

It is a dispute that also reaches across and divides the Catholic world, in America and elsewhere. Is Chaput right in criticizing Kennedy so harshly?

From Rome, a scholar with extensive expertise in this field, Professor Luca Diotallevi, replies to the archbishop of Denver with the commentary published below.

Diotallevi teaches sociology at the University of Roma Tre, was a senior fellow at the Center for the Study of World Religions at the Harvard Divinity School, and recently published a book on the issues discussed by Chaput: “Una alternativa alla laicità.”

In this and other writings, Diotallevi has always shown particular attention to — and preference for — the American model of “religious freedom.”

His is not properly speaking a defense of Kennedy, but a critique of Chaput’s critique. All the more interesting in that Professor Diotallevi is vice president of the scientific committee of the “Social Weeks” for Italian Catholics, and the specialist in political science most trusted by the bishops’ conference headed previously by Cardinal Camillo Ruini and now by Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco…

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

Schools’ Assignment: Squelch Family Values

State lawmakers urge ‘meaningful’ counseling for wrong attitudes

Lawmakers in California have adopted a resolution calling for “meaningful” counseling for students, teachers or even parents who exhibit the wrong attitudes on school campuses, a move a critic calls the latest tool in an arsenal of weapons to squelch pro-family values.


“Putting these anti-family values in children’s heads is not enough,” he said. The state is “figuratively cutting out their tongues if they disagree.

“Children who believe that marriage is between a man and a woman and that there are different roles for men and women in the family will be subjected to reprimand, detention, suspension, corrective counseling or other punishments in order to serve as a bad example to other children,” he said.

In a letter to lawmakers, Thomasson cited a number of statements that could be subject to punishment:

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Socialism: Rich Class, Poor Class, No Middle Class

Ron and Anil Hira, internationally recognized experts on economic policy, in their 236 page book Outsourcing America: What’s Behind Our National Crisis and How We Can Reclaim American Jobs said even before the creation of our constitutional republic, America was recognized in Europe as the incubator of a new kind of society built on what is now called the “Middle Class.” It was the aspiration and realistic hope of every American that he could become self-sufficient, improve his economic standing and provide his children the means to enjoy an even better standard of living. For decades the American elite determined to undermine its moral foundation and a political ruling class bent on destroying the economic base that sustains it. The strip mining of America’s manufacturing and hi-tech sectors through “outsourcing” is the most visible front of that ongoing war against the middle class.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Tea Party Crash Fizzles Out

After several days of hype and hand-wringing about liberal plans to infiltrate Thursday’s tea party rallies, the great 2010 Tax Day Tea Party Crash did not produce much of a bang in Washington.

To be sure, a handful of obvious crashers engaged in some mostly non-confrontational back-and-forth with tea party activists at a Thursday evening rally that drew thousands to Washington’s National Mall near the Washington Monument. And some less overt crashers subtly mocked activists from amidst their ranks at both the evening rally on the Mall and an earlier event at Freedom Plaza near the White House. And there could have been other infiltrators who evaded immediate detection.

But activists and organizers interviewed by POLITICO said the mischief was nowhere near as widespread or disruptive as they feared earlier in the week, when a wave of attention focused on a website called that encouraged liberals to pretend to be tea partiers, attend rallies and voice fringe sentiments to marginalize the movement (the website appears to have been stripped of most of its content Thursday).

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Teacher Who Sought to ‘Demolish’ Tea Party Placed on Leave From School

An Oregon teacher who announced his intention to “dismantle and demolish the Tea Party” has been placed on administrative leave until his school district finishes its investigation into whether his political activity crossed the line.

The state’s Teacher Standards & Practices Commission is also conducting an investigation into Jason Levin, a media teacher at Conestoga Middle School in Beaverton.

“Jason is on paid administrative leave,” Maureen Wheeler, the school district’s spokeswoman, told She described the suspension as “standard practice during an internal investigation.”

Levin has come under fire for saying he’d do anything short of throwing rocks to bring down the Tea Party. In the last two days, the Beaverton School District has received thousands of e-mails and phone calls from people across the country who said they were outraged at his behavior.

The school district is defending Levin’s right to free speech, but it’s investigating whether he used district computers to spread his political message or worked on his “Crash the Tea Party” Web site during school hours.

Levin has said he would seek to embarrass Tea Partiers by attending their rallies dressed as Adolf Hitler, carrying signs bearing racist, sexist and anti-gay epithets and acting as offensively as possible — anything short of throwing punches.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Time for a Republican Extreme Makeover?

Jon Voight is a true champion of liberty. When he appeared on “Huckabee” last Saturday, it was a refreshing change from the usual cast of progressives and radicals whom Huckabee welcomes on board each week.

Voight is one of those rare celebrities who is not afraid to be specific in his criticisms of Barack Obama and his congressional allies. In his “Huckabee” appearance, he was clear and adamant in assuring the audience that the charges of hatred and racism against the tea-party people are completely without merit. He then read a letter he had written to “the people of America.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

100,000 Britons Stranded in Europe by Volcanic Ash Cloud as Air Traffic Chiefs Extend Lockdown to 7am

Thousands of Britons today remain stranded after a vast cloud of volcanic ash from Iceland crippled airports for a second day.

With the no-fly deadline pushed back to 7am tomorrow, an estimated 100,000 people were desperately trying to get back to the UK at the end of the Easter break.

The National Air Traffic Service (NATs) has eased the lockdown for a large part of Scottish airspace — which includes Shetney, the Orkneys and Northern Ireland — from 7pm today.

Nats said this meant that some North Atlantic services could operate and that there might be an opportunity for some flights to operate from the north into Newcastle after 1am tomorrow.

But the news offered only the briefest glimmer of hope as chaos continued across Europe.

There are also fresh fears that the deadline could be pushed back again as the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull shows no sign of subsiding.

Transport Secretary Lord Adonis said travellers could expect ‘significant disruption’ to services for at least the next 48 hours.

Earlier today, NATs allowed Manchester Airport to accept two diverted flights in a brief window in the dust cloud.

Three empty planes also left for long-haul destinations. They flew without passengers as there was not enough time to allow people to board.

Many British families are stranded in Spain where Malaga airport, on the Costa del Sol, was one of the worst hit, with the loss of 102 flights.

Twenty of the 50 flights from Madrid were axed this morning, as were 26 of the 127 to and from Tenerife. Smaller airports including Seville, Valencia, Murcia and Menorca were also expected to cancel all their flights.

The Met Office has only issued weather predictions until 1am tomorrow, but these show the ash cloud — at 30,000 feet, the altitude used by commercial airliners — widening its grip over the southern half of England.

A Met Office spokeswoman said this morning: ‘At the moment I don’t think the weather patterns are changing much.’

RICHARD LITTLEJOHN: A sensible precaution or elf ‘n’ safety paranoia?

Airports across Britain were deserted today after the unprecedented lockdown of airspace.

Some experts said there could be disruption for six months as a result of contaminated air drifting over northern Europe.

No jet planes can fly except in an emergency because the dust causes their engines to fail.

Health officials have told those with conditions such as asthma to stay indoors.

The cancellations have already caused the greatest mayhem to air travel since the Second World War.

This morning there were few passengers at UK airports — which usually cater for 500,000 people a day — with most chosing to stay home.

At 7am, which is normally one of the busiest times of the day, Newcastle International Airport was deserted.

Check-in desks were unstaffed and the only people waiting around appeared to be airport employees, police or air crew.

Only a limited number of flights could run to and from Northern Ireland and parts of Scotland but most of the nation’s airports were at a standstill.

A spokesman for Heathrow confirmed staff were coming into work as usual but said passengers were still being advised to keep away.

Some turned up only to sit with their luggage. Others had slept on the green seats in the arrivals hall overnight.

Debbie Eidsforth, 36, who had been visiting family in Preston, Lancashire, was trying to head home to Adelaide, Australia, via Hong Kong.

Her journey started yesterday morning when she travelled from Manchester to Heathrow by train — her flight having been cancelled.

She said: ‘I just stayed here, because my friend in Preston called around hotels for me but they were all full.

‘I just slept here on the seats, and there were quite a few other people dotted around. They should really have bought blankets and coffee around for us.

‘At the end of the day, this is nobody’s fault but it’s very frustrating when there’s no communication.’

Aberdeen airport also remained open but was ‘very quiet’.

Glasgow Airport, meanwhile, was preparing to deal with a handful of flights made possible by a ‘window of opportunity’ in the volcanic ash.

Three flights diverted from Gatwick are expected to land at the site where conditions are better than further south.

An Air Transat flight from Glasgow to Toronto in Canada left this morning.

The three services due to land at Glasgow are Thomson Airways flights from the Dominican Republic, Orlando Sanford and Cancun in Mexico.

BAA Glasgow spokesman Donald Morrison said: ‘The vast of majority of flights will not be operating, however between 1am and 1pm today there is a window of opportunity that might allow for some flights between Glasgow, the western isles, Northern Ireland and the North Atlantic if weather conditions permit.

‘We have staff on stand-by to allow for flights to operate. We’ve got check in and security staff on the ground to facilitate that.’

He advised passengers to check with their airline before leaving for the airport as most flights are still suspended.

A limited number of flights are also running to and from Northern Ireland.

Last night the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) lifted restrictions on flights to and from Cork and Shannon Airports and some of the regional airports, but restrictions would remain in force in Dublin until late this morning.

But the services will do little to help hundreds of thousands of travellers stranded by the chaos.

Families returning from the Easter break will be particularly affected with many children due to return to school on Monday.

The Health Protection Agency said the ash will cause itchy eyes, a runny nose, sore throat or dry mouth when the particles land.

Those with bronchitis, emphysema and asthma were advised to stay inside because the ash could seriously inflame their conditions.

The ash, which will drift down from the north of the country, was predicted to appear as a dusty haze and may smell of sulphur or rotten eggs, or strongly acidic.

A spokesman for the HPA said: ‘Any health effects are likely to be short term.’

Reports from Iceland said the eruption spewing ash into the atmosphere from Mount Eyjafjallokull showed no sign of abating after almost two days of activity.

A spokesman for the Icelandic Met Office said: ‘It is likely that the production of ash will continue at a comparable level for some days or weeks. But where it disrupts travel, that depends on the weather. It depends how the wind carries the ash.’

Even if the current eruption subsides within days, it may not be the end of the travel chaos that the volcano can cause.

It last erupted in the 19th century and Bill McGuire, professor at the Aon Benfield UCL Hazard Research Centre, based at University College London, said if the volcano continued erupting for more than 12 months, as it did the last time, periodic disruptions to air traffic could continue.

He added: ‘A lot depends on the wind. I would expect this shutdown to last a couple of days. But if the eruption continues — and continues to produce ash — we could see repeated disruption over six months or so.’

Even without further groundings, the knock-on effect of the initial disruption will take days to clear with planes, passengers and crew all in the wrong place.

In a blanket move — worse even than in the aftermath of the 9/11 terror atrocity — air traffic controllers were forced to completely close British airspace at midday yesterday as the volcano pumped massive clouds of ash thousands of feet into the air.

The huge dust cloud, unseen from the ground, slowly drifted across northern Europe at the height that jets cruise across the skies.

The volcanic ash contains tiny particles of rock and even glass which, when sucked into an aircraft’s jet engine, can potentially cause them to fail.

While skies above the UK remained clear but eerily quiet, runways emptied and planes were grounded, the air lockdown — the first in living memory — meant misery for millions.

More than 500,000 passengers a day fly in and out of the UK on around 5,300 flights and hundreds of thousands of travellers were left stranded abroad as they planned to return from their Easter breaks.

Airports across the UK became deserted as airlines told passengers to stay at home.

The travel chaos spread across mainland Europe, with airspace closed in Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark and all northbound flights from France and Spain cancelled.

For a second day running air passengers scrambled to take up other travelling options.

Channel Tunnel high-speed train company Eurostar reported a sell-out of its 48 London St Pancras to and from Paris and Brussels services.

A spokeswoman for the company said: ‘We are carrying more than 38,000 people today and all our trains are full.

‘We are telling potential customers without bookings not to come to St Pancras because they will not be able to travel.’

Cross-Channel ferry services have been inundated with passengers displaced by the airline chaos.

The Port of Dover said ferry operators made arrangements during the night to take additional foot passengers on sailings.

Millions face losing their holidays or the prospect of punishing bills as a result of the airport shutdown.

Those who booked flights as part of holidays they organised themselves are being offered a refund of their ticket price, but there is no right to compensation.

Airlines were yesterday clinging to a smallprint get-out clause in EU law that means they are not liable where cancellation is ‘caused by extraordinary circumstances which could not have been avoided’.

Many airlines will allow people to transfer their booking to the next available flight without extra charge. However seats are scarce and this could be days away.

The net result is that people who have lost their flights face being hit with big penalty charges associated with any hotel and car hire bookings that they cannot take up.

In theory, airlines should step in and help people who are stranded overseas because their return flights have been cancelled. This means providing hotel accommodation, meals and telephone calls until a new flight has been arranged.

However, it could be days before their airline finds them a flight home because most seats are fully booked around the Easter holidays.

As passengers scrambled to find other means of leaving the UK, Gordon Brown said the suspension of flights was a temporary decision and would be reviewed ‘at all times’.

But he added: ‘Safety is the first and predominant consideration, and if any travelling public are inconvenienced I apologise for that, but it is important that everybody’s safety comes first.’

Nobody was able to beat the flying ban. Those caught up included the Duchess of Cornwall, who had been due to fly from Aberdeen to London, and LibDem Treasury spokesman Vince Cable, who had to cancel election campaigning in Scotland.

There was one upside, however, with weather experts predicting that the particles in the atmosphere could cause some spectacular sunsets over the coming days.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

3-D Printing Device Could Build Moon Base From Lunar Dust

Future astronauts might end up living in a moon base created largely from lunar dust and regolith, if a giant 3-D printing device can work on the lunar surface.

The print-on-demand technology, known as D-Shape, could save on launch and transportation costs for manned missions to the moon. But the concept must first prove itself in exploratory tests funded by the European Space Agency (ESA)

“We will make very basic printing trials in a vacuum environment to verify if this is possible,” said Enrico Dini, chairman of Monolite UK Ltd and creator of D-Shape.

Dini’s D-Shape has created full-size sandstone buildings on Earth by using a 3-D printing process similar to how inkjet printers work. It adds a special inorganic binder to sand so that it can build a structure from the bottom up, one layer at a time.

The device raises its printer head by just 5 to 10 millimeters for each layer, moving from side to side on horizontal beams as well as up and down on four metal frame columns. Finished structures end made out of a marble-like material that’s superior to certain types of cement. The buildings do not require iron reinforcing.

Such a concept might help future lunar colonists live off the land, as well as provide thick-walled structures that protect against solar storms or micrometeorites.

Space agencies have already begun testing other technologies meant to mine water and oxygen from the lunar regolith. NASA scientists have also played with possible recipes for a sort of lunar concrete based on moon dust.

But D-Shape offers the added attraction of having a somewhat straightforward building process that does not require huge amounts of construction machinery or many robot laborers.

Making the device work in a lunar environment may yet prove tricky. A first challenge involves making D-Shape function within the vacuum environment on a moon that lacks any meaningful atmospheric pressure. But Dini remains self-admittedly optimistic by nature.

“I’m not a scientist and I’m not a technician — I’m an inventor,” Dini told He spent five years “facing unexpected issues and finding unexpected solutions” when he first designed D-Shape, before heeding the call from ESA.

Dini’s Monolite has teamed up with an Italian aerospace firm called Alta, which has a large vacuum chamber in its Pisa facilities. They hope to build a small structure perhaps just 3 feet (1 meter) on each side during the vacuum trials.

Other partners working on the ESA project include Foster+Partners, a UK architecture firm, and Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna Perceptual Robotics Laboratory, an Italian lab that specializes in robotics and automation.

A second challenge comes from the cost of running D-Shape trials by using expensive lunar regolith simulant. Dini has tried developing a possible alternative to NASA’s JSC-1 simulant that might work for his research. Structures built from such material will have to undergo resistance testing.

Even a functional D-Shape that works with lunar regolith would still face building limitations based on the amount of binder that a rocket could carry to the moon. Yet success would mean transforming lunar dust into part of the solution, rather than just a problem for astronauts and robotic explorers.

NASA researchers have experimented with a different type of on-site manufacturing device that could someday create spare parts or new materials for the International Space Station. D-Shape could also end up deploying beyond Earth for additional testing, if all goes well with the first phase.

The most important trials will be done in outer space,” Dini said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Austria: Fritzl Victims Lawyer Attacks Church Over Abuse Claims

A top lawyer has accused the Catholic Church of focusing on damage limitation instead of trying to help the hundreds of victims of abuse at the Church’s institutions.

Around 700 people got in touch with psychologists via new and existing hotlines to report their sex and violence abuse ordeals when serving as altar boys, choristers and in other functions.

Family Issues State Secretary Christine Marek and Justice Minister Claudia Bandion-Ortner, both of the conservative People’s Party (ÖVP) invited well-known youth psychiatrist Max Friedrich and other experts to a round table yesterday (Tues) to discuss future strategies in preventing sexual abuse.

But the group’s efforts have come in for criticism. Lawyer Eva Plaz, who specialises in handling sex abuse cases, said: “They focused mainly on prevention. This means they don’t look back and let the victims sort their problems out on their own.”

Plaz — who made a name for herself by representing the victims of “incest beast” Josef Fritzl — called the summit a “PR stunt in which nothing was done for the victims”.

Psychotherapist Manfred Deiser, co-initiator of an independent platform for victims of violence at clerical institutions called “Plattform Betroffener kirchlicher Gewalt” slammed the meeting organisers for failing to invite victims’ representatives.

Deiser suggested a victims fund financially backed by the Church should be set up to finance victims’ psychotherapy sessions. He also said all offenders must resign without any exceptions.

Plaz meanwhile claimed: “The Church focuses on damage limitation — for itself.”

The lawyer warned Waltraud Klasnic — the former ÖVP Governor of Styria assigned by Viennese Archbishop Christoph Cardinal Schönborn to head a team investigating abuse cases — might be overburdened with her new task.

“She [Klasnic] has said she wanted to speak with the victims. There is the risk of victims suffering re-traumatisation since Klasnic has no education in that field,” Plaz explained.

Plaz said it was “interesting” to call the Klasnic-headed team “independent” since it was established and financed by the Church.

Marek and Bandion-Ortner meanwhile said they plan to speak to Social Democratic (SPÖ) Education Minister Claudia Schmied about increasing the number of lessons pedagogues have in learning about how to recognise when a child was abused and how to react in such cases.

Friedrich said there should be changes in the education system to prevent abuse towards children: “We live in a rich country, and the protection of children needs money, money and more money.”

Earlier this week Greens juridical issues spokesman Albert Steinhauser called on the government to put 100 million Euros in a victims fund. He said this amount should be the first benchmark before discussing further action.

Steinhauser hit out at the SPÖ-ÖVP coalition “keeping quiet in humbleness towards the Church in a scandalous way”.

Meanwhile recent Karmasin research showed that 57 per cent of Austrians thought Pope Benedict XVI should resign were there a rule that enabled him to do so.

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

Germany: Brotherhood Ordered Williamson to Skip Holocaust Denial Trial

English Catholic Bishop Richard Williamson wanted to appear in court to fight Holocaust denial charges in Bavaria this week, but was ordered to stay away by his ultra-conservative Saint Pius X Society, his lawyer told The Local Thursday.

“He told me he wanted to appear and I told him, ‘Yes it looks better if you are there,’ but the brotherhood told him he could not come,” lawyer Matthias Loßmann said.

Williamson’s trial on Holocaust denial charges is set to begin Friday before a court in the southern city of Regensburg. He will not appear personally but will rather be represented by Loßmann.

The charges stem from remarks Williamson, a member of the breakaway ultra-conservative Saint Pius X Society, made during a television interview recorded in Germany in 2009 that “200,000 to 300,000 Jews perished in Nazi concentration camps, but none of them by gas chambers.”

“It was all lies, lies, lies,” he said in the interview, aired later on Swedish television, and “not one Jew” was killed in the Nazi gas chambers.

Williamson was fined €12,000 earlier this year by a Regensburg court but elected to contest that fine and face a court trial. Loßmann said that if Williamson were to lose the coming trial, he could face a harsher penalty, including even a prison sentence, though he would most likely simply have to pay the fine.

Loßmann acknowledged there was no doubt Williamson made the remarks, but said he had never intended the interview to be broadcast in Germany. The fact he made the remarks on German soil did not necessarily make him guilty under the country’s laws prohibiting the denial or trivialisation of the Holocaust, Loßmann said.

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

Greece: Synod Condemns Mass in Modern Greek

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, APRIL 15 — The Greek-Orthodox Synod has condemned the Mass in modern language officiated in the diocese of Nicopolis, claiming that it puts “the Church’s unity” at risk. Bishop Meletio of Nicopolis, in the northern region of Epirus, a long time ago authorised the translation of the Mass from liturgical Greek (close to the ancient Greek language and once spoken by the upper classes) into modern or “popular” Greek. Because, he justified his decision, “otherwise the faithful don’t understand the holy liturgy”. But the Synod, the press reports, has ruled that translating the holy texts is forbidden; it is only allowed “as an exception and after the authorisation” of the Church. In the absence of a joint version, according to the orthodox leaders, a spontaneous and causal translation of the liturgy “could jeopardise the Church’s unity”. The Synod has taken its decision despite the fact that Meletio seems to enjoy the support of his believers and has obtained the official support of other bishops. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Fini Threatens to Leave Premier’s Party

Berlusconi says he’ll have to stand down as speaker

(ANSA) — Rome, April 15 — Long-standing differences between Premier Silvio Berlusconi and House Speaker Gianfranco Fini appeared to have come to a head during talks Thursday with reports the two will split their recently founded People of Freedom (Pdl) party.

Party sources say Fini told Berlusconi during a working lunch at the premier’s office he believed the PdL’s agenda was being set by the Northern League, the devolutionalist ally which made huge gains in last month’s regional elections.

The sources said that during their meeting Fini threatened to break away from the PdL and set up his own groups in the Senate and the House.

Berlusconi reportedly warned that he would have to stand down as speaker if he went ahead, urging him to think it over carefully.

According to the sources, Fini said he would give Berlusconi an answer by next week. Leaving Palazzo Chigi, the premier was surrounded by a crowd of reporters but refused to answer any of their questions.

“You naughty reporters. I won’t say,” quipped the premier.

Later, quizzed again while taking a stroll in a central Rome street he said: “Well, ask someone else…you know that I’m very reserved”.

Fini’s spokesman, Fabrizio Alfano, said the Speaker had “nothing to say” and that “it was up to Berlusconi to comment on the meeting if he thought it best”.

However, in a statement released a few hours later Fini appeared to backtrack, saying that Berlusconi “must govern till the end” of his mandate because “that was what Italians had decided”.

But he said the PdL “must be strengthened” and make moves to respond to the country’s economic needs while spearheading a drive to promote constitutional reforms that should be backed by the centre-left opposition. Northern League leader Umberto Bossi denied he had problems with Fini, “at least for the time being”. But the speaker has publicly distanced himself from the League and Berlusconi on a number of issues since the centre-right coalition swept to power two years ago.

The PdL was officially founded last year by the merging of Fini’s National Alliance and Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party, although the two parties ran on a single ticket to win the April 2008 general elections.

Fini’s recent and more centrist stances on a number of issues, including voting rights for immigrants and criticism of the government’s reliance on confidence votes to push its bills through parliament, have placed him at loggerheads with many ex- Forza Italia MPs as well as the League.

On Wednesday, Bossi told reporters his party was also not ruling out that one of its men could become premier should Berlusconi step down at the end of his mandate in 2013.

Just before the key regional elections, Berlusconi had been forced to dismiss fresh rumours of a rift with Fini, ruling out “any problems” and saying that they were often in touch.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Indian Priest Released Under ‘House Arrest’

Teramo, 15 April (AKI) — An Indian priest who confessed to sexually abusing a 10-year-old girl in central Italy was released from prison under house arrest on Thursday. The priest, identified only as ‘David’, was transferred to an unnamed location, believed to be a local convent after being charged with sexual violence in the town of Teramo, 175 kms northeast of Rome.

His lawyer, Giovanni Gebbia, said that the 40-year-old priest from southern India was completely “demoralised” by his arrest and he expressed concern about his client’s mental health.

“He is very worried about his profile because he is both a priest and a foreigner,” Gebbia told Adnkronos International (AKI). “He is very depressed.”

The priest on Wednesday admitted to visiting the girl at her home on 19 December last year and after offering her a Santa Claus doll placed her hand on his genital area.

Gebbia sought to downplay the accusations on Thursday, saying the hand of his client “brushed against” her intimate area. “He approached her private parts, he brushed against her private parts,” Gebbia said. “ He did not have any bad intentions.”

Gebbia said his client had been singled out because of the “current climate” after a wave of sexual abuse allegations by priests has shaken the Catholic Church in the United States, Germany, Ireland, Italy and several other countries.

“He has suffered because of the current climate. This climate is not at all calm,” Gebbia said.

The head of the Teramo diocese, Bishop Michele Seccia, was not available for comment on Thursday.

Church spokesman Gino Mecca also expressed concern about the “current climate” over clerical sexual abuse which he likened to a “cyclone” sweeping the Catholic Church.

“It is very difficult for him,” Mecca said. “He is being made a scapegoat.”

He said he would face Italy’s criminal law before the church took any action on his future under canonical law.

Gebbia also expressed concern about the charge of sexual violence saying it encompassed a range of sexual crimes, which were far more severe than what the Indian priest had done. He declined to estimate the type of sentence his client could face but it could be several years.

“He is available under house arrest for any further interrogation by the magistrates,” he said.

The priest has been studying at Pontifical Gregorian University for two years and used to spend weekends celebrating mass and carrying out other duties in the Teramo diocese.

The priest, who was ordained in 1987, was arrested on Monday soon after he returned from India where he was visiting his ailing mother.

His lawyer said he had no relatives in Italy and had not had contact with his mother since his arrest.

He is the first priest to be arrested in Italy since the Vatican published revised guidelines stating that priests suspected of molesting children must be reported to police.

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

Italy: Bossi: We Won it All & Now We Want a Share of Banks

(AGI) — Rome, 15 April — “Anybody who is intelligent understands that we won it all and therefore we will inevitably also be entitled to a share of the banks”. The comment was made by Umberto Bossi. ..

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

Netherlands: Official Prostitution Age to be Increased From 18 to 21

The legal age for prostitution is to be raised from 18 to 21, the Telegraaf reports on Thursday. The paper says justice minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin has decided to increase the age after all and will incorporate the changes into new legislation on prostitution currently being processed.

Hirsch Ballin had earlier resisted the change because he was concerned younger prostitutes would move into the illegal sector.

But now he believes older girls are better able to decide for themselves whether to become prostitutes and deal with difficult clients, the paper says..

A majority of MPs back the age increase.


In addition, the minister is setting up a national register for prostitutes. To qualify for inclusion, women must have a face to face meeting with officials about the risks, healthcare and legal implications of becoming a prostitute.

Once registered they will be given an official licence with photograph. This will enable clients to make sure they are dealing with an official working girl, the paper says.

In January, Amsterdam city council executive Lodewijk Asscher called on the official prostitution age to be increased to 23.

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

Netherlands: Secret Service Says Pro-Asylum Extremism Systematic and Increasing

THE HAGUE, 16/04/10 — The AIVD secret service says opposition to Dutch aliens and asylum policy by activists has for some years “become systematic and is increasingly undergoing radicalisation”. It is the “most visible form of leftwing extremism,” says caretaker Home Affairs Minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin in a letter to parliament.

The modus operandi of pro-asylum extremists and that of animal rights extremists show similarities. As with the animal rights battle, “the opposition to asylum and aliens policy shows an intertwining of legal and illegal activities,” such as threatening people who are involved in the building of deportation or detention centres. In home visits by them, there is often “damage done to objects” and “in some cases, serious threats are made.”

Although the manner of working is virtually identical, the AIVD has no indications at present that there are systematic links between people involved in opposition to asylum and aliens policy and animal rights extremists.

On animal rights extremism, Justice Minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin says the Dutch arm of Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (Shac-Nederland) no longer exists but that the persons who were active within it “are now (again) active within the Respect for Animals” (Respect voor Dieren) group. “Whether this means that they will opt less often for home visits (…) has yet to be seen.”

The letter suggests that no de facto organised rightwing extremism exists in the Netherlands. There may be “rightwing activists and extreme expressions (…) which involve much police effort and other communal costs (…) but according to the AIVD (…) there is no question of farther- reaching radicalisation towards extreme right ideologies.” On this point, there is “no threat to national security.”

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Pope in Malta Tomorrow, Party Mood But Shadows Remain

(ANSAmed) — VALLETTA, APRIL 16 — With only a few hours until his arrival tomorrow afternoon, Malta is preparing an enthusiastic welcome for Pope Benedict XVI, who is ‘suffering’ after the paedophilia scandal that has recently hit the Church, but remains calm, according to the papal nuncio who was speaking in Valletta today. At the moment, no changes have been made to the schedule released previously by the Holy See, but Maltese victims of abuse at the hands of religious figures are growing more confident of the opportunity to meet the pontiff. After meeting the archbishop Paul Cremona, the group of victims, who are all male, today said that there had been a favourable response from the Promoter of Justice of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Monsignor Charles Scicluna. The information was released in a statement from the group’s spokesman Lou Bondi. The meeting, that the Vatican has not yet confirmed, is likely to take place in June, well away from the media spotlight. On an island where Catholics make up close to 100% of the population, there has been a positive reaction to the Pope’s imminent arrival, with the very few exceptions tending not to be local, such as the false announcement of the cancellation of the visit, which appeared for a few hours on a fake Facebook page purporting to represent an authoritative Maltese daily newspaper. A phallic statue has also been removed and sporadic offensive protests been and gone. Not only the victims are not on a war footing, they seem to have faith in the new direction mooted by Benedict XIV. ‘Finally, we can see that the Maltese Church and the Vatican are beginning to understand our pain and are dealing with our cause seriously,’ said Lawrence Grech, a member of the group. A sun-drenched Valletta is in party mode, with offensive scrawlings giving way to welcome banners. ‘We await you with enthusiasm and with open arms,’ said the Maltese President George Abela, in a message to the Pope marking his 83rd birthday. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Serbia-EU: Candidate Status Most Likely in 2011, Minister

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE — There is not yet complete agreement among the EU’s member states, which means that Serbia’s status as a candidate for EU membership will probably be put back to next year. The comments come from Serbia’s Vice-President Bozidar Djelic, who is also responsible for EU integration, and has calmed the expectations of Belgrade, which had hoped to be a candidate by 2010. “Within the EU, there is not yet full consensus on the submission of our candidacy request to the European Commission,” said Djelic in an interview with the daily newspaper Vecernje Novosti. The minister, who did not name the countries thought to be blocking Serbia’s path, also observed that his country is not lagging behind in terms of drawing closer to the EU. According to regulation, there is a period of one year between the presentation of the access request and its examination by the Commission and by the European Council. Belgrade presented its request in December of last year. Asked if this might herald a delay in obtaining the status of candidate country, Djelic said that “this will probably be the case”. “I think that June 2011 is a realistic date,” he added. According to minister Djelic, with every year that Serbia fails to join the EU, it loses between two and three billion dollars in lost funds. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spain: Telecinco to Apply Its Business Model to Cuatro

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, APRIL 15 — Telecinco and Prisa, together with the groups Mediaset and Sogecable, today signed a framework contract to define the schedule and terms of the integration of the live television business of private television networks Cuatro and Telecinco and the acquisition by Telecinco of 22% of Digital Plus. The companies have reported this in a statement to the national market value commission. After the agreement, Telecinco reported that it will apply its “business model” to Cuatro, based on in-house production with content produced by subsidiaries. To finance the operation, Telecinco expects to increase its capital by 500 million euros with preemptive right. Prisa will receive, directly or through its branch offices, new Telecinco shares which, after the capital increase, will have a value of 18.33% of Telecinco’s capital, plus 491.128 million euros in cash. There are several conditions to close the operation, including its approval by the competition authority. In yesterday’s shareholders’ meeting, the owners of Telecinco delegated the board of directors to increase the company’s capital up to 61.6 million euros in five years or less. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spain: Student Suspended for Wearing Islamic Headscarf

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, APRIL 16 — A public school in Pozuelo (Madrid) has suspended a 16-year-old female student, Najwa Malha, who is of Moroccan origin, Spanish nationality and is a Muslim, for wearing the Islamic headscarf, the hijab, which is prohibited by school rules. So reported El Pais. The student who studies at the upper school of Istituto Camilo José Cela, will spend school hours in the visitors’ room, waiting for the school to change its rules to resolve the conflict. Najwa made the decision to start wearing the hijab two months ago. She is accused of “violating the school rules” and of “in this way going against the rules of the classroom”, according to what was reported by the newspaper. The school rule bans dressing “in a provocative manner” and covering one’s head. The young woman, born in Spain to a family that emigrated from Morocco in 1996, decided to wear the hijab against the wishes of her father, a stretcher-bearer at a Madrid clinic. But, once she made the decision, her father supported her, presenting an appeal against her suspension imposed by the councillorship for education in Madrid, which has opened an administrative case. According to the appeal, the head covering “does not prevent identification” of the student and is an “expression of religious freedom”, guaranteed by the Constitution. The same arguments were supported by the Union of Islamic Communities in Spain and the Spanish Federation of Islamic Religious Entities, which have expressed their support for the student. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

UK: How I Was Horrified When I Went Back to My Home City of Cardiff to Assess the Effects of 24-Hour Pubs… And Found the Women as Bad as the Men

In the decades since then I have sunk more pints in Cardiff pubs than I care to count and, as a young man, I often went home the worse for wear. But I won’t be drinking in Cardiff city centre pubs again — at least, not on Friday or Saturday nights, and not unless things change very radically indeed.

What I experienced the last time I was there a few days ago shocked me — and it might have been almost any city centre or small town across the land on any Friday or Saturday night.

I was warned that there might be trouble. Indeed, that’s why I went there. I am compiling a series of reports for the Today programme on the way society in Britain has changed since Labour came to power and the extent to which politicians can be blamed (or praised) for it. One of those changes is the way we drink. Correction. The way we get drunk.


The first hint of trouble came when a drunken man, in a violent rage with his drunken girlfriend, started shouting and smashing his fist into a bus shelter window.

Sergeant Scott Lloyd, who was with me for the evening, remonstrated with him. I asked Sgt Lloyd why he hadn’t arrested the man. He was, after all, clearly drunk and disorderly and that’s an offence. By allowing this to happen, weren’t the police effectively allowing the drunks to take over the streets?

‘If we tried arresting everyone like him we’d run out of officers very early,’ he told me.

Fair enough, but I couldn’t help wondering whether the young sergeant wasn’t being a bit of a wimp, simply trying to avoid trouble. Maybe he was nervous of a confrontation with a violent young drunk. I was wrong. A few minutes later all hell broke loose.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Vatican: Card. Hummes, Calls Priests to Rome for Pope

(AGI) — Vatican, 14 April — Cardinal Claudio Hummes, prefect of the Congregation of the Clerisy has sent a letter to 400 thousand priests and 5000 bishops worldwide, asking them to gather in St Peter’s from all over the world on 11 June, ‘to offer to our beloved Pope Benedict XVI our solidarity, our support, our confidence and our unconditional communion, in the face of the frequent attacks on him at the moment, with regard to his decisions about clerics involved in the sexual abuse of minors’. In his letter the cardinal writes that ‘the accusations against the Pope are clearly unjust and God will bless you’. .

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

Volcanic Cloud Approaching Italy

Northern airports may be shut down during the weekend

(ANSA) — Rome, April 16 — A volcanic cloud from Iceland which has virtually paralysed air traffic in northern Europe is approaching Italy and if weather conditions do not change many airports in northern Italy will be shut down on Saturday, the civil protection department said on Friday.

A definitive decision on such action will be made Friday night once the latest forecasts come in.

“It is not possible to predict how long this phenomenon will last. At present the volcanic ash cloud is moving south and thus it is possible that by tomorrow (Saturday) it may be over the Po Valley,” observed General Luciano Massetti, head of the civil protection department’s office for aviation.

Massetti made his remarks following a meeting of civil protection officials, representatives of civil and military aviation authorities and representatives from the companies which run the country’s rail and motorway systems.

Aside from discussion on which airports may need to be closed, the meeting produced several contingency plans to reduce travel problems in the event airports are closed. Airports have been closed in much of northern Europe for two days, creating problems in global air traffic which have been compared to the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks in the United States. On Friday several countries not in northern Europe closed down air traffic including Hungary, Romania and Italy’s northern neighbor Switzerland.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Days of Serbian Culture Kick Off in Istria

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, APRIL 16 — The ‘Days of Serbian Culture’ opened yesterday at the Istrian National Theatre in Pula and will run to 18, a press released of the Serbian Ministry of the Diaspora reads, reports Tanjug news agency. “With the efforts of both countries’ state leaderships, which are actively working on the improvement of neighborly relations and regional stability, such events, like the presenting of the Serbian culture in Istria, the exchange of cultural programmes in general and the organizing of artistic events, are the fastest way to restore the trust and form a bond between the Serbian and Croatian people,” Miodrag Jaksic, state Secretary at the Serbian Ministry of the Diaspora, said in welcoming the attendees. “Let’s try to exchange only positive impulses and do our best to restore mutual respect through culture, art and other social activities, while preserving our special features and our identities,” Jaksic underlined.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Montenegro Donates a Submarine to Slovenia

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, APRIL 16 — Slovenian and Montenegrin Defense Ministers, Ljubica Jelusic and Boro Vucinic, signed in Podgorica a contract according to which Montenegro will give Slovenia a submarine manufactured in the 1980s, reports BETA news agency. The P-911 submarine, which has been in Tivat since 1997, will be part of the permanent collection of the Military Museum in Pivka, Slovenia. This is one of the six so-called “pocket submarines” manufactured for the need of the former Yugoslav Navy. Montenegro has another two such submarines. According to previous announcements, the Defense Ministry will give one to Serbia and the other to Croatia, also to be museum exhibits. After signing the agreement, Vucinic told journalists that he and his Slovenian counterpart also discussed joint engagement of the two countries’ armies in international peacekeeping missions. They also talked about Slovenia’s support to Montenegro’s membership in NATO, since it had applied to be Montenegro’s contact country in NATO from the beginning of 2011.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Libya-USA: World Admires Obama and His Wisdom, Gaddafi Says

(ANSAmed) — ROME, APRIL 16 — There is a honeymoon feeling about relations between Muammar Gaddafi and Barack Obama. The former arch-enemy of the USA, who is today a ‘convert’ following several years of ‘unwinding the tension’ with the West, has spoken in praise of the political “wisdom” of the US president for his pursuing peace for a world without nuclear arms. On the day following the ambitious mega-summit in Washington on nuclear disarmament, Gaddafi has called on “the whole world” to “give Obama time” and to “support his plans for peace”. “We shall place our trust in our son Baraka (which means ‘good fortune’ in Arabic) and, if he continues following these wise and peaceful policies, we shall help and support him”, he promised. This is not the first time that Gaddafi has lavished praised on the first black president in the history of the USA. But today is no normal day in Libya. The country’s leader was speaking in Sirte, the city of his birth, to mark the anniversary of the US bombardment of Tripoli and Bengasi on April 14 1986. The raid was ordered by the then US president Ronald Reagan, who had decided to punish the Colonel for the attack a few days earlier — attributed to Libyan agents — at Berlin’s ‘La Belle’ discotheque, which was packed with US military personnel at the time. On that April 14, an adoptive daughter of Gaddafi died under the bombs. And, as has recently emerged, the Colonel only managed to save himself thanks to ‘a warning’ issued, a few hours beforehand, by Italian politicians Craxi and Andreotti. On that night, taking shelter in a bunker, Gaddafi swore eternal war with the United States. But as the years have passed things have changed. And rapprochement with the United States had already begun during the last years of the Bush Jr. presidency. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Gaza: France Condemns Execution of ‘Collaborationists’

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, APRIL 16 — France condemned yesterday’s execution in Gaza of two alleged collaborationists with Israel. The two had been sentenced to death by a court of Hamas, the Muslim movement that controls the Gaza Strip. “We are outraged by what has been presented as an execution but what we call murder”, said the Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero in Paris. “Extremely concerned” about these developments, Paris launches “an appeal to fully respect civil liberties in Gaza”, Valero added. The two men were convicted in February and November 2009 respectively. They have been executed despite the protests of several human rights associations. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Hamas Condemns Two Israeli “Collaborators” To Death in Gaza

Palestinian law requires the approval of President Abbas to execute the death sentence. But everything in Gaza is now ruled by Hamas. HRW and local NGOs accuse the Islamist movement of summary executions to suppress opposition.

Gaza (AsiaNews / Agencies) — The authorities of the Islamic movement Hamas, which govern in Gaza, carried out death sentences on two Palestinians this morning for having collaborated with Israel during the Cast Lead operation in the winter 2008-2009. Many global and local humanitarian organizations demanded a halt to the executions.

According to the Hamas interior ministry, the two were “Mohammad Ibrahim Ismail (37), originally from Rafah, and Nasser Salameh Abu Freih (34) originally Jabaliya. The two were brought before a firing squad and their bodies later transferred to Al Shifa hospital in Gaza. According to Palestinian human rights organizations, 15 others have been convicted of collaborating with Israel.

Observers point out that this is the first time an execution has taken place with the consent of justice in Gaza, without complying with the law requiring the approval of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to carry out the death sentence. But because of a conflict between Fatah and Hamas since 2007, Gaza is actually ruled by the Islamic militants.

After the war in Gaza, Hamas has carried out several extrajudicial executions. In 2009, Human Rights Watch has accused Hamas of killing 32 opponents and suspected collaborators and of having “mutilated” dozens. Other human rights organizations in Gaza have demanded that Hamas stop all these executions, which are seen as a way to eliminate its opponents.

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

Israel Costs Us “Blood and Treasure” — What About Obama?

As the latest round of Tea Parties are upon us representing millions of focused and concerned, law abiding Americans, our President continues to pretend he is doing something historical, wise and insightful regarding his Nuclear and Middle East plans?

We are still reeling from Obama’s ‘pretend’ nuclear disarmament program, signed by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Obama recently. As you may recall, the goal is to start disarming, stop nuclear development and research, while committing in advance that we won’t use a nuclear response if we are attacked with a weapon of mass destruction. It will also render our arsenal of 9,400 nukes obsolete as rogue nations and other mystery groups rush forward with nuclear technology and weapons development…why, because they simply want to and plan to use them. It is shockingly rude that they don’t bow down to President Obama.


President Obama is now ramping up the pressure toward Israel, saying that the Israeli/Palestinian conflict has cost us too much ‘blood and treasure.’ We have seen the classic, Jimmy Carter slams on Israel, Obama’s first 15 months. The most recent lunacy was Hillary and Biden getting their knickers in a twist when Prime Minister Netanyahu didn’t kiss their booties when visiting over there to intimidate and manipulate him into submission. Instead of bow down he chose to exercise the rights of his country and build 1,600 new Jewish homes. Never mind those were homes in their country on land won in war, fair and square mega years ago.

Now we hear the mixed up and out of context diatribe in recent Obama speeches. He talks of the cost of war, blood and treasure via Afghanistan, Iraq, struggling Palestine, Iran and struggling relations with Muslims. The implication is that all this could simply be solved if Israel would give away more land; if Israel would stop building; if Israel would cut in half Jerusalem and their Holy places; Translation for those who are mentally impaired: IF ISRAEL AND THE JEWS WILL STOP EXERCISING THEIR GOD GIVEN RIGHTS AND WALK INTO THE SEA AND DROWN.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Iran: The Persian Quest for Freedom

The real courage to fight for freedom still exists, however, in some quarters today. Nowhere does the fire for freedom burn so bright as in the Persian people, many of whom, having fled the tyrannical Islamic regime in Iran over the last 31 years, now live in the United States. Indeed, it is industrious Persian-Americans who largely built Los Angeles into the great city is it today, cultivating the entertainment industry (our biggest and most influential American export), medicine, the law, sciences, media, entrepreneurship and business, and other fields.


That is not to denigrate other Middle Eastern peoples and cultures in particular; but the rare unique and proud sophistication of the Persian experience, and its ability to accept democracy and freedom, is far greater than in any country in the region except Israel, which is its equal. And, indeed, one can see this today with the opposition freedom movement in Iran and throughout the Persian Diaspora.

Let’s compare this movement to what is occurring in Iraq, for example. Now, “miraculously,” after our thousands of deaths of American servicemen, tens of thousands of young heroes maimed and wounded, and trillions of U.S. taxpayer dollars squandered, both the Bush and now surprisingly even the Obama administrations — with the help of the naïve and inattentive American media — have proclaimed that “democracy” is finally taking hold in Iraq. The NPL proudly declares that the recent parliamentary elections have shown that “democracy can happen” in an Arab country.

But wait! No sooner than the ink was dry on the Iraqi vote, as reported recently by the New York Times and other new outlets, the winning factions, comprised largely of Shiite Muslims including the terrorist gone “Democrat” soon-to-be Ayatollah Al Sadr, go on a pilgrimage to Tehran to get their “marching orders” from the likes of the illegitimate degenerate Iranian President Ahmadinejad and the supreme leader.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Iraqi Refugees in Syria Not Going Back Soon

Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees have been stuck in Syria for years. They are running out of money and into trouble.

By Carolien Roelants in Damascus

Burud (39) walks with a limp. She lifted her long dress to show she had been missing a foot ever since she came too close to an exploding bomb in Baghdad in 2005. After she recuperated from her injuries — most of them that is, she is still missing a hand and her body is full of shards left by the bomb — Burud fled to Syria, where she remains to this day.

She lives in the narrow Sha’ab street, out in the Damascus suburb of Yarmouk, with her six children, aged 4 to 17. For Burud, going back is not an option. “I have gone through enough,” she said. “And besides, we were kicked out of our house by Shiite militias.”

Most refugees are Sunnites

According to UN estimates, Syria harbours 900,000 Iraqi refugees at the most.

Of all registered refugees, 65 percent are from Baghdad province.

Most, (62 percent) are Sunnites. Only 19 percent are Shiites. Slightly less (11 percent) of refugees are Christian.

In Iraq, 60 percent of the population is Shia, 20 percent are Sunni and 1 percent is Christian.

Hundreds of thousands fled for Syria

Burud is just one of the hundreds of thousands Iraqi refugees who have been living in Syria for years now. Most of them live do not live in refugee camps but have found a place amongst the Syrians. To date, 163,000 refugees have officially been registered with the UN refugee agency UNHCR, but it is estimated an additional 400,000 to 800,000 now in the country have not. “Perhaps they don’t need our help. Or perhaps they don’t trust us,” said Farah Dakhlallah, a spokesperson for the UNHCR in Damascus.

After the bombing of the golden-domed Al Askari mosque in Samara in 2006 set off a wave of violence between the Sunni and Shia Muslims in Iraq, refugees started pouring into Syria in huge numbers. At one point, as many as tens of thousands were arriving weekly. Since 2008, Iraq has slowly become less violent. The number of people killed dropped from 2,000 a month to somewhere between 200 and 300. But, like Burud, many refugees have no intention of returning. They no longer have homes to go back to, or remain wary of conditions in their home country.

The UN has yet to give the green light for them to return. “A lot of problems remain with general security,” Dakhlallah said, sitting in the UNHCR’s Damascus office. “In addition, power and potable water are not readily available. Unemployment levels are high. We do not believe that the conditions allow for a safe, permanent return, particularly in the five central provinces. A lot of work remains to be done there.”

The Iraqi government promised large sums of money, housing and jobs to returning refugees. “But it has failed to make good on those promises,” said Filippo Rossi, with the UNHCR registration centre in Douma. Many people have returned without any assistance, the UN assumes some 60,000 did in the last year.

New refugees are still coming

But at the registration centre, dozens of new arrivals still awaited their turn. Every day, some 20 to 30 families, 150 a week, still check in here. Approximately 60 percent are fresh from Iraq. The others have been in Syria for a while but only register once they run out of money and need support. The slower influx of refugees means that their total number is now declining, but the Iraqis left here are doing worse and worse. “Most are middle-class Iraqis who have been pushed into the margins of society,” Dakhlallah said.

Official, refugees are not allowed to work in Syria. “Which forces them to work illegally,” said Dakhlallah. They lose their dignity and their families fall apart. Domestic violence becomes more frequent. Generally speaking, a lot of negative phenomena are on the rise: child labour, forced marriages, prostitution.”

Mazen (50) is a Sunni from the Al-Ghazaliya neighbourhood in Baghdad. “I had a prospering car rental business,” he recalled. “But Shiite militias took over my neighbourhood in 2006. I was threatened and told to leave. One day, militias gained access to my home by posing as a regular patrol and raped my wife. I took her, my daughter [now 14] and my two sons [18 and 21] and fled here. By now we have gone through all of our savings, and there is no work here for us.”

Mazen does not want to go back. Al-Ghazaliya is still under Shia control. “If we returned we would be killed. Here we are safe, but dependent on outside help. I have lost my dignity,” he said.

All registered refugees are entitled to food rations consisting of rice, sugar and tea. Vulnerable groups, single mothers especially, also receive financial assistance of some 80 euros a month. They pay only a nominal fee for basic medical care and their children can attend school for free.

The UNHCR is trying hard to prevent Syria’s better healthcare from drawing ‘medical tourism’ from Iraq. The UN support Syrian healthcare and education by building new schools and introducing new educational methods for instance. “It is important to continue this assistance,” Dakhlallah said. “So Damascus won’t suddenly decide it has had enough. So far, Syria has been more than generous.” Still, the UNHCR expects that international financial contributions will dwindle as the world’s attention shifts away from Iraq and its refugees. “Iraq is no longer the world’s biggest problem, but this would be exactly the wrong moment to pull out. A lot of refugees can’t return,” Dakhlallah said.

Burud’s husband returned to Iraq in 2006 to earn money. “He is risking his life,” Burud said. “At a certain point he was kidnapped ad by Shiite militias, held captive for three months and tortured.”

“In Iraq we are humiliated. We have asked our government for help, but only Shiites or people with wasta [connections] receive it. I am not going back,” Burud added.

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

Russia — Iran — China: Iran’s Bushehr Nuclear Reactor to Start Up in August

The Russian-built plant is right on schedule. For the United States, plans to start up the facility are “premature”. More sanctions against Tehran are on the table.

Tehran (AsiaNews/Agencies) — The Russian-built Bushehr nuclear power plant should be up and running by next August, Serghei Kiriyenko, head of Russia’s Rosatom Corp, said. The work is right on schedule, he added.

“Bushehr doesn’t threaten the regime of non-proliferation in any way. No one has any concerns about Bushehr,” he explained. Sanctions against Iran over its nuclear programme “have nothing to do with Bushehr.”

Construction of the reactor at Bushehr began 15 years ago; it will be Iran’s first nuclear power plant.

Taken by surprise at the news, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton criticised Russia’s plans to start up the nuclear power station, saying it was “premature”.

Sanctions against Iran are currently under discussion. Many believe the Islamic Republic will use its nuclear facilities to manufacture nuclear weapons.

Russia and China have doubts over the effectiveness of new sanctions against Iran’s oil industry.

Ambassadors from the US, Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia have resumed negotiations at the UN on possible sanctions.

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

Turkey: Traditional Curses Diyarbakir Women’s Way of Fighting Back, Study Says

Maledictions, or curses, provide a window into the minds and social status of women in Diyarbakir, according to a study conducted at Nevsehir University.

Professor Ahmet Cihan and master’s student Esra Buket Batur compiled maledictions common in the city and analyzed how they fit into Diyarbakir’s traditional society.

According to Cihan, maledictions are a form of wish fulfillment, an indication of an underlying conflict with certain people or unhappiness with events that the “curser” could not overcome on a social level. Rather than simply being a momentary expression of mood or the state of the psyche, he said, curses are meaningful on many levels and may even reflect the effect on gender inequality on a woman’s life.

Traditionally, the professor said, men express their anger through either physical or verbal violence, but women are only allowed to release it through curses, the socially legitimized version of verbal violence. “As a result of our analysis of these maledictions, we saw that they were more frequently used by women, because they cannot express their anger in physical ways,” Cihan said, adding that women curse their children, husbands, neighbors, daughters and mothers-in-law.

Maledictions used in Diyarbakir often reflect tensions between women and their mothers-in-law, a characteristic of traditional societies, the professor said. According to him, this tension likely stems from the pressure applied on women by the structure of large families, as it has been shown to decrease with the disintegration of the traditional family structure and the rise of “micro families” in traditional societies.

Some of the most common maledictions used in Diyarbakir include: “Be the flesh on my back and a flea on my collar” (so that I will not have to see your face), used by mothers against daughters-in-law, and “May these hands tailor your shroud!” (I hope you meet death at my hands), used by daughters against mothers-in-law.

“Shall you go but never come” (I hope you die and never make it home) is used by wives against husbands, while mothers may tell daughters, “Be the bride of one to tear you into pieces” (I hope you have an abusive husband).

The curse “Be hungrier than a dog and as naked as a snake” (be destitute for your entire life) is commonly used by women against their neighbors.

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

Turkey: Fear of ‘Missionaries’ Blamed for Martyrdom of 3 Christians

New video reveals Islamic activists carried notes: ‘They were attacking our religion’

[Comments from JD: WARNING: Disturbing Content.]

A new video about the martyrdom of three Christian workers at the hands of Islamic activists in Turkey reveals that while the government’s case against the alleged killers continues in turmoil and confusion, the Christian community in the Muslim nation views the tragedy as the will of God.

“Malayta,” available now as the April 18 third anniversary of the deaths approaches, is from Austin Stone Community Church, Voice of the Martyrs and Family Christian Movies. It tells the story of the martyrdom of Necati Aydin, Tilman Geske and Ugur Yuksel. The three, who were working at a Christian publishing house, had agreed to meet with several young Muslim men who expressed interest in the Bible.

Authorities have reported the Muslims first demanded that one of the Christians convert to Islam. When he refused, they pulled knives and tied up, tortured and stabbed the Christians for several hours before their throats were slit.

WND has reported on the case since the widow of one of the slain Christians created a tidal wave of reaction in Turkey by expressing forgiveness for the attackers.

When the publishing house attack became known, the response of Geske’s widow, Susanne, hit the front pages of the nation’s largest newspapers.

“Oh God, forgive them for they know not what they do,” she said, echoing the words of Christ on the cross in Luke 23.34.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Afghanistan: Strada Repeats ‘Set-Up’ Claims

‘High time’ workers were visited, NGO chief says

(ANSA) — Rome, April 16 — The head of an Italian warzone medical charity on Friday repeated his belief that three staffers arrested in Afghanistan in connection with an alleged bomb plot had been set up to remove witnesses to a NATO campaign’s toll on the civilian population.

Speaking after Foreign Minister Franco Frattini’s envoy Massimo Iannucci met the three for the first time since their arrest Saturday and found them in good health, Emergency chief Gino Strada said “it was high time”.

“Now I hope they’re freed as soon as possible and this stupid frame-up falls apart,” Strada told the foreign press in Rome.

He repeated Emergency’s assertion that the three had been denied access to a lawyer and were illegally detained.

“I’m glad someone saw them, that they’re alive and apparently no has touched them. But that doesn’t wipe out the rest: they they haven’t been charged with anything, that they’ve been stripped of their freedom for days and they haven’t even been able to see a lawyer”.

(In Kabul, Iannucci said he had not been told if the three could see a lawyer or when they might be released).

Strada asked the foreign press to watch out for a possible surge in military action in Helmand, the war-torn southern province whose governor the three are accused of plotting to assassinate.

“If there is, as I believe, an escalation in the attacks…that might explain the need to remove non-military sources of information”.

“If there are battles in that area over the coming months, the idea that they wanted to keep the horrors from emerging will become a certainty”.

Strada said the bombs found in the hospital at Helmand capital Lashkar Gah may have been brought in by one of Emergency’s Afghan unarmed guards who was “bribed or threatened”, or “directly by the Afghan security forces”.

He said he “hoped” it had not been done by the British troops who escorted the Afghan police in the raid.

Asking “how was the British government permitted to send soldiers into a hospital run by an Italian NGO,” Strada said he wondered whether the Italian foreign ministry had contacted the British military, which leads NATO activities in the area.

“All we expect from the Italian government is that it works fast and well to get out colleagues freed”.

Rejecting criticism of the NGO from some Italian politicians, Strada argued that it was a good “advertisement” for Italy, having treated 3.5 million worldwide and two million in Afghanistan alone.

“The Italian government should be proud of our reputation,” he said.

According to Italian Defence Minister Ignazio La Russa, the three may be held for two weeks “or perhaps longer” because of the suspected terrorist nature of the case.

Envoy Iannucci said the workers, who are being held separately, were “anxious, especially because their future is not clear”.

He said Garatti, the surgeon, had turned 41 Friday and sent his best wishes to his pregnant wife who has come to Kabul to support him.

The envoy said the interview with the three had taken place in English so as not to “exclude” the directors of the detention facility, which he said was “brand new”.

Despite the uncertainty over the probe, the workers appeared to be in good spirits, Iannucci said.

“Thanks for popping in,” they greeted the envoy and Italy’s ambassador to Kabul, Claudio Glaentzer.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Far East

Russia — China: Orthodox Missionaries for Chinese Students in Moscow

Activities included guided tours of Orthodox monasteries and churches and reading of religious texts in Chinese. Tourism becomes a path towards evangelisation.

Moscow (AsiaNews) — The missionary movement associated with Fr Daniil Sysoyev is promoting a number of cultural and religious initiatives among Chinese students in Russia. Fr Sysoyev is the Orthodox Russian Orthodox priest who was shot four times and killed by an unknown gunman in his Moscow church last November.

A guided visit to the Monastery of Saint Sergii for Chinese residents in Moscow was one of the first steps taken by the “Prophet Daniil movement”.

“We believe that the Lord did not bring foreign guests to our city only to work or study, but also to learn more about Orthodoxy,” said theologian Yury Maximov, leader of the movement.

“For this reason, we thought about all possible ways to further missionary work among foreigners living in Russia. In the end we decided to bring them closer to our religion by organising trips and tours in our monasteries, in their language,” he added.

The movement’s founder, Fr Daniil Sysoyev, had already approved the initiative before his death. Known as the ‘Russian Salman Rushdie’ for his strong views against Islam and religious extremism, the young clergyman was himself the victim of a Muslim fanatic.

“We prepared for a year,” Maximov said, “and for us it was a great pleasure to see how much the Chinese were interested in it and welcomed us. I thought only a few would join the initiative. Instead, in our first tour, there were 14 students, and all of them said they were interested in getting to know our religion better.”

Consequently, the ‘Prophet Daniil movement’ is already planning new initiatives, such as reading religious texts in Chinese.

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

S.Korea: Bodies of Missing Sailors Recovered as South Korean Navy Ship is Raised From Sea Bed After ‘Mysterious’ Explosion

Divers have begun retrieving bodies from a war ship after it three weeks after it mysteriously exploded in waters between North and South Korea.

Salvage workers have begun the job of recovering the 1,200 ton South Korean Navy ship Cheonan, which blew up during a routine patrol, killing dozens of sailors.

A huge naval crane hoisted the stern — where most of the missing sailors are believed to be trapped — a day after divers succeeded in tying the wreckage with chains.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Bells Toll No More for Schools in Somali Town

MOGADISHU (Reuters) — Somalia’s al Shabaab militants have ordered schools in Jowhar town to stop using bells to signal the end of classes because they sound like those of Christian churches, teachers said on Thursday.

Al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab is Somalia’s most powerful insurgent group and controls large parts of the south and the capital Mogadishu. It is battling the western-backed government for control of the Horn of Africa nation.

Teachers and a school headmaster in Shabaab-controlled Jowhar town, some 90 km (56 miles) north of Mogadishu, said an al Shabaab member had ordered schools to silence their bells because the sound was too similar to those in Christian churches.

“We were called by Sheikh Farah, the head of Al Shabaab’s education, and he told us that we can’t use bell sounds from now on. He said any school heard using bell sounds after now will be brought to Islamic justice,” a school teacher in Jowhar told Reuters by telephone.

A local headmaster confirmed the report and added that al Shabaab had informed his school that it would begin explaining to students the significance of Islamic Jihad.

Al Shabaab runs administrations in the areas it controls using a harsh version of sharia law, cutting off hands of thieves, making sure women wear veils and banning what it calls social vices, like music and TV sports.

Somali insurgent groups are fighting the interim government led by former rebel and current president, Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, but have been unable to deal a death blow in a nation that has been without effective central rule since 1991.

           — Hat tip: AA[Return to headlines]

Genocide in South Africa

Last week, South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) finally told its members to stop singing the song “Kill the Boer” — that is, murder white South Africans. (Boer is Afrikaans for “farmer,” but colloquially is a disparaging term for any white South African.) This came after ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema defied a court ruling and kept singing the song (he still refuses to stop), and after Eugene Terreblanche, leader of the noxious and hateful neo-Nazi Afrikaner Resistance Movement (AWB), was found savagely bludgeoned to death at his farm in South Africa’s North West province.

The international media focused on Terreblanche’s white supremacism, showing his followers giving the Nazi salute at his funeral. No account of his murder or funeral spoke about Malema, “Kill the Boer,” or black supremacism — yet that is the really important story in South Africa today.

Whites in South Africa are keenly aware of the plans to kill them. They expect mass killings to begin very soon after the death of Mandela, but to tell this to the world is a waste of energy. More than 3,000 white farmers have already been murdered, and Genocide Watch lists the Boer farmers in South Africa as victims of genocide — but the media couldn’t care less. Malema has praised Zimbabwe’s murderous seizure of white-owned farms as “courageous and militant.” White South Africans know what’s coming.


Under ANC rule, the government has stopped reporting the race of murder victims and the race of the murderer. This is because the international community (mainly was starting to notice the disproportionate number of whites being murdered in South Africa. The ANC stopped reporting the race of the victims of murder so there would be no way to track the number of black-on-white murders. Problem solved.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Latin America

Lula to Decide on Battisti

Brazilian president gets court papers on ex-terrorist

(ANSA) — Brasilia, April 16 — Brazilian President Inacio Lula da Silva was on Friday given the last word on Italy’s request to extradite former Italian terrorist Cesare Battisti.

Lula received the written ruling from the Supreme Court which in November turned down Battisti’s request for asylum and ordered him sent back to Italy where he has been convicted in absentia for complicity in four murders committed by a leftist militant group in the 1970s.

The Brazilian president, who has in the past indicated he might view Battisti’s case favourably, told Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi in Washington Monday that he was awaiting the high court papers.

But there was no word on which way Lula might be leaning.

The supreme court judges said his decision would have to square with bilateral agreements between Italy and Brazil.

They said Lula could say when the extradition should take place but not decide against it.

But Lula said the ruling didn’t tie his hands and that he was “free to play this however I want”.

If Lula stops Battisti’s return in a case the Berlusconi government has fought hard for, experts say the diplomatic repercussions would be considerable.

It could also be politically dangerous at home.

Parliamentary sources close to the Brazilian opposition say a group of MPs could decide to open proceedings against Lula for failing in his institutional duties if he decides to ignore the treaties and grant Battisti political asylum.

In addition to facing a life sentence in Italy, Battisti is also under investigation in Brazil where is suspected of having kept up his clandestine activities.

A month ago he received a two-year sentence for using a fake passport when he entered Brazil, a term he is serving in ‘semi-liberty’ but under surveillance so he can’t skip the country.

The 55-year-old Battisti was arrested in Brazil in April 2007, some five years after he had fled to that country to avoid extradition to Italy from France, where he had lived for 15 years and become a successful writer of crime novels.

In January 2009 the Brazilian justice ministry granted Battisti political asylum on the grounds that he would face “political persecution” in Italy.

The ruling outraged the Italian government who demanded that it be appealed to the Brazilian supreme court.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Italy: 4.3 Million Foreigners Live in Italy

(ANSAmed) — NAPLES, APRIL 15 — The number of foreigners living in Italy reached 4.3 million at the start of 2010. 74,000 of them were born in Italy but have maintained foreign citizenship, while 59,000 have obtained Italian nationality, a 10% increase on the beginning of 2009. The findings have been made by ISMU, a body promoting studies, research and initiatives on multiethnic and multicultural society, with particular emphasis on the phenomenon of international migrations. According to demographic indicators picked up on January 1 2010 and published on February 18 by ISTAT, the natural dynamic was negative during 2009 too, though the resident population grew again, thanks mainly to the positive overseas migration balance, as illustrated by 467,000 new registers against 83,000 cancellations. First among the new arrivals are Romanians (953,000, an increase of 20%), who are on the rise again after the large figures of 2007. Then come Albanians (472,000) and Moroccans (433,000), with both nationalities up by 7%. The Chinese are next (181,000, up 6%) along with Ukrainians (172,000, up 12%). 109,000 Moldovans arrived in the country, the highest rate of any national group in the top twenty with 22%, while about 100,000 new arrivals have been recorded from Poland, Tunisia, India and Macedonia. In 2009, 21.4% of babies born in Emilia Romagna had parents who were both foreign, around the same as Veneto (21.2%) and Lombardy, with 19.9%, while the average figure for the north of Italy was 19.5%. The percentage in the south slid to 3.5%, with minimum rates of 2.7% in Campania, Puglia and Sardinia. The average age at which foreign women gave birth in 2009 was almost 29, with a “projection” of 2.05 children each. On the other hand, the average age for Italian women giving birth was almost 32 (almost 33 in Tuscany and 30 in Sicily) with a final projection of 1.33 children per woman. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Judge Rules National Day of Prayer Unconstitutional

A Wisconsin federal judge was in rare form yesterday when she declared the National Day of Prayer to be unconstitutional. U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb defended her decision when she wrote, “It is because the nature of prayer is so personal and can have such a powerful effect on a community that the government may not use its authority to try to influence an individual’s decision whether and when to pray.”

The day of prayer was called into question in 2008, when the Freedom From Religion Foundation, an organization of atheists based in Madison, Wisconsin, filed a lawsuit against the federal government insisting that the day was a violation of the maxim, “separation of Church and state,” an axiom that does not appear in the Constitution. Judge Crabb’s ruling represents the decision for this case.

Established in 1952, it wasn’t until 1988 that the federal government determined that the National Day of Prayer would be celebrated on the first Thursday of every May. On this day, American Presidents issue a proclamation asking the citizens to pray. The relevant statute states, “The President shall issue each year a proclamation designating the first Thursday in May as a National Day of Prayer on which the people of the United States may turn to God in prayer and meditation at churches, in groups, and as individuals.”

President Obama’s administration has surprisingly defended the National Day of Prayer, explaining that it is simply an acknowledgement of the role religion plays in the lives of most Americans. Matt Lehrich, spokesman for Obama, indicates that President Obama still intends to issue a proclamation for the next National Day of Prayer, scheduled to take place on May 6.

In response to these claims, Judge Crabb contests, “It goes beyond mere ‘acknowledgment’ of religion because its sole purpose is to encourage all citizens to engage in prayer, an inherently religious exercise that serves no secular function in this context. In this instance, the government has taken sides on a matter that must be left to individual conscience.”

Stating that the National Prayer Day came about as a result of a speech given by Reverend Billy Graham, Crabb asserts that the day is a violation of the Establishment Cause of the First Amendment, which states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” How a request for citizens to optionally engage in prayer during their free time violates a law stating Congress cannot establish a national religion remains unclear.

Several groups have come out in opposition to the ruling. The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) has already indicated intent to appeal, accusing the judge’s reasoning as being “flawed.” Chief counsel of the ACLJ Jay Sekulow states, “It is unfortunate that this court failed to understand that a day set aside for prayer for the country represents a time-honored tradition that embraces the First Amendment, not violates it.”

The brief filed by the ACLJ points out that the United States has recognized a national day of prayer as far back as the 1700s, when the Continental Congress recommended that states set apart a day for prayer and thanksgiving.

The appeal filed by the ACLJ also represents 31 members of the 111th Congress, including Representatives John Boehner, Eric Cantor, and Mike Pence.

In addition to the ACLJ, the Alliance Defense Fund accuses Crabb’s ruling of rejecting American tradition that can be traced back to the country’s inception.

Crabb has acknowledged that her decision should not bar prayer days until “the conclusion of any appeals filed by defendants or the expiration of defendants’ deadline for filing an appeal, whichever is later.” The United States Justice Department is currently evaluating the ruling.

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

NASA Lab Accused of Crackdown on Intelligent Design

Complaint alleges harassment, secret investigation, gag order

A complaint has been filed against NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, which sent Galileo to Jupiter and dispatched a ship named Dawn to orbit asteroids Vesta and Ceres, claiming managers there discriminated against and demoted a key project worker because he shared intelligent design videos with co-workers.


“For the offense of offering videos to colleagues, Coppedge faced harassment, an investigation cloaked in secrecy, and a virtual gag order on his discussion of intelligent design,” said attorney Casey Luskin of Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture.


“Coppedge was punished even though supervisors admitted never receiving a single complaint regarding his conversations about intelligent design prior to their investigation, and even though other employees were allowed to express diverse ideological opinions, including attacking intelligent design,” Luskin said.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Obama Extends Hospital Visitation Rights to Same-Sex Partners of Gays

President Obama mandated Thursday that nearly all hospitals extend visitation rights to the partners of gay men and lesbians and respect patients’ choices about who may make critical health-care decisions for them, perhaps the most significant step so far in his efforts to expand the rights of gay Americans.


The action has the potential to increase conflicts between family members, same-sex partners and hospital staff over end-of-life decisions.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


3D-TV Health Warning: Tuning in Can Cause Confusion, Nausea and Even Fits, Says Electronics Giant

The world’s biggest electronics company has issued an extraordinary health warning about the dangers of watching 3D television.

Pregnant women, the elderly, children and those suffering from serious medical conditions are among a wide range of people said to be at risk.

The alert extends to those who have been sleep deprived or drinking. It highlights alarming side effects such as confusion, nausea, convulsions, altered vision, light-headedness, dizziness, and involuntary movements such as eye or muscle twitching and cramps.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Even 9-Month-Olds Choose ‘Gender-Specific’ Toys

When presented with seven different toys, boys as young as 9 months old went for the car, digger and soccer ball, while ignoring the teddy bears, doll and cooking set.

And the girls? You guessed it. At the same age, they were most interested in the doll, teddy bear and miniature pot, spoon and plastic vegetables.

“The boys always preferred the toys that go or move, and the girls preferred toys that promote nurturing and facial features,” said study author Sara Amalie O’Toole Thommessen, an undergraduate at City University in London.

So does this mean that boys and girls have an innate preference for certain types of objects? Or does socialization — that is, the influence of parents and the larger culture — impact children’s choice of toys very early in life?

It’s too soon to rule either out, said Walter Gilliam, director of the Edward Zigler Center in Child Development and Social Policy at Yale University.

“One of the things we’ve learned about babies over the many years we’ve been studying them is that they are amazing sponges and learn an awful lot in those nine months,” Gilliam said.

The study was to be presented Friday at the British Psychological Society’s annual conference in Stratford-upon-Avon.

In the 1970s and 1980s, there was lots of interest in the “nature” versus “nurture” debate, and developmental researchers did plenty of research on gender differences in play. However, most studies were inconclusive and interest faded, Thommessen said.

At the same time, roles within the home were becoming more fluid, with fathers taking on more child care and women working more and at a greater variety of jobs outside the home, though the marketing of children’s toys remained very stereotypical.

This latest study included 83 children aged 9 months to 3 years who were observed playing for three minutes. The time they spent touching or playing with each object was noted.

Researchers chose the toys by surveying 300 adults about the first toy that came to mind when they thought of a boy or a girl. About 90 percent said “car” for boy and “doll” for girls, with the remainder mentioning the other toys.

Children were also offered both a pink teddy bear and a blue teddy bear. “We were quite interested to see if boys had a color preference, but boys didn’t show any interest in the teddy bears at all,” Thommessen said.

Gender-specific preferences became even more pronounced as the children got older. By about age 27 months to 36 months, girls spent about 50 percent of their time playing with the doll, and were no longer much interested in the teddy bear, which had interested them when they were younger, or any of the other objects. The boys spent 87 percent of their time with the car and digger, ignoring even the ball.

The finding raises the possibility of a biological basis for toy choices. A study from 2001 found even 1-day-old boys spent longer looking at moving, mechanical options than 1-day-old girls, who spent more time looking at faces.

Yet the impact of socialization should never be underestimated, Gilliam said. Studies have shown parents and others interact differently with female and male babies from almost the instant they’re born, Gilliam said.

Even when they’re infants, fathers tend to encourage more active play with boy babies, by playfully tickling or poking them, while they tend to hold girl babies closer. Parents have also been observed spending more time talking to girls than to boys.

As they get older, studies have shown boys are encouraged to more actively explore their environment, while girls are encouraged to engage in quieter play.

“Even if your boy prefers playing with a truck, make sure you talk to him and teach him about nurturing,” Gilliam said. “Even if a girl is playing with a doll, every once in a while throw her a ball or take her on a run. Expose them to all the different possibilities, and then let them choose.”

And keep in mind just how much you may be dragging your own stereotypical notions into parenting.

In the study, researchers found no association between parents’ reported views on gender-appropriate toys for children, or parental roles at home, and the toys children chose. In other words, dads who did their share of housework and moms who held high-level jobs outside the home were just as likely to have girls who picked dolls and boys who picked cars and trucks.

But Gilliam remembers one family who brought their young son in to see him. There was an assortment of toys scattered on the floor, from which the boy chose a plastic figurine. “The mom said, ‘Oh, he wants to play with dolls.’ And the father replied, ‘He’s not playing with dolls. Those are action figures.’“

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Fight Al-Qaeda With Satire, Ridicule, Say UK Researchers

Defeat al Qaeda by removing its “cool” image

(Reuters) — The way to beat al Qaeda and stop Islamist groups gaining recruits to violent causes is to remove their “cool” image and make fun of terrorists instead, according to a major international study published on Friday.

The two-year study by the British think-tank Demos concluded that the notion of “cool jihad” was more important in seducing young Muslims to violence than radical preachers, the foreign policy of Western governments, or their social background.

Those who became interested in terrorism had more in common with subversive groups such as street gangs and soccer hooligans than with Muslims who held radical views but rejected violence, the Demos report said.

“Young people are drawn to radical causes, and to rebellion against authority,” said Jamie Bartlett, one of the report’s co-authors.

“For most radical young Muslims, this takes the form of protest, argument and learning, but for a minority, al Qaeda might seem a ‘cool’ gang to join, even though the truth is its members are ignorant and incompetent.”

The study, which focused on Canada but also looked at Britain, Denmark, France and the Netherlands, involved examining profiles of 58 “homegrown” convicted terrorists from seven cells across Canada and Europe, and interviews with 20 “radicals.”

Its aim was to understand why some radicalized Muslims became involved in al Qaeda-inspired violence while others, who shared similar views, did not.

Violent radicals tended to have a poor understanding of Islam, were less likely to have been brought up in religious homes, were less likely to have studied at university and less likely to have been involved in political protest, the study said.


What made them unique was a loathing of Western society and culture.

The authors argued that it was possible for people to read radical texts, be vocally opposed to Western foreign policy, believe in Sharia law, and support the principle of Afghan and Iraqi Muslims fighting coalition troops, while denouncing al Qaeda-inspired terrorism.

The report said governments and security services needed to make that distinction as targeting the wrong people bred resentment, and argued they should allow radical views to be aired, debated and renounced.

Authorities should not use the slogan “Islam is peace” as it did not work and radical preachers should be permitted, although those espousing violence, or religious or racial hatred should be dealt with.

The authors advocated using satire and pointing out militants’ incompetence to remove whatever glamour al Qaeda held, and suggested creating a U.S. Peace Corps-style program allowing Muslims to do volunteer work in countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq.

“Terrorist activity amounts, all too often, to teenage kicks that kill,” Bartlett said.

“The trick for Western governments is to welcome non-violent forms of radicalism — indeed to provide opportunities for young Muslims to engage in exciting, “radical’ activities such as overseas volunteering — while maintaining a zero-tolerance attitude to violence and terrorism.”

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

Iceland Volcano — Weather and Agricultural Implications.

I wrote about the Jet Stream patterns here, and about the importance of volcanic dust here.

Aircraft are grounded as the very fine dust particles when ingested into the engines cause them to fail. It is a very dangerous situation that occurs whenever eruptions occur. Longer term the very fine material will remain suspended for several years. It will block sunlight causing cooling but because most of it is sulphur it will tend to block more in the yellow portion of the light, a part important for plant growth. We witnessed both the cooling effect and the delayed ripening of the crop following the eruption of Pinatubo in 1991.


The impact for agriculture is disturbing because cooler growing conditions are already problematic. There is one positive side effect. Volcanic ash is almost the perfect fertilizer and so will increase crop yields after the temperatures increase again.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]