Friday, January 10, 2003

News Feed 20100804

Financial Crisis
»40 Billionaires Pledge to Give Away Half of Wealth
»China’s Real Estate Bubble Threatens to Burst
»EU: 25% Temporary Contracts in Spain in 2009
»Lebanon: Public Debt to 51.1 Bln USD in May
»Nugent: Drunk on Stupid
»Obama to Gulf: Drop Dead
»Office of Management and Budget Nominee “Errs” On Ethics Form
»Spanish Town Vying for Nuclear Waste Site
»Unicredit: Libya at 7%, No.1 Partner Ahead of Abu Dhabi Aabar
»Adams: Electoral College Under Assault
»An Invisibility Cloak Made of Glass
»Blacks and Whites Continue to Differ Sharply on Obama
»Code of Silence Corrodes Morality, Puts Blacks at Risk
»Concerns Voiced Over Protection of Soldiers’ Voting Rights
»Detroit: Bing Nominates Convicted Murderer for Police Board
»Miller: California’s Bad Chemistry
»Missouri Voters Say ‘No’ To Obamacare:
»Oil in Gulf Poses Only Slight Risk, U.S. Says
»Politically and Socially Castrated “Tolerance”
»Proposition C Passes Overwhelmingly
»Senate Debates Kagan Nomination
»‘The Printed Book Will Still Dominate for a Long Time to Come’
»Virginia AG: Obamacare Threat to Nation
»What Rifqa Bary’s Case Tells Us
Europe and the EU
»Danish Minority in Germany Stand Up for Their Heritage
»Italy: Premier Ready for Elections if Govt Falls
»Italy: Berlusconi to Confer With Cameron
»MPs Support Sweden Democrats Isolation: Poll
»Netherlands: Wilders Featured More in Leftwing Newspapers
»Netherlands: CDA Leader Under Fire in Parliament for Betraying Principles
»Solar Cycle May Drive Venice’s Floods
»UK: Burglar Who Broke Into Almost 700 Homes Finally Locked Up
»UK: Pope T-Shirt: The Winners
»UK: Revealed: ‘Wickedness and Vice’ Where Shakespeare Became a Hit
Israel and the Palestinians
»Ship to Gaza to Set Sail Again
»The Peace Process Story So Far: Israel’s Cooperation With the US
Middle East
»Blackberry: Saudi Arabia to Suspend Service From August 6
»Dubai: Immigrant Parents of Abadoned Babies Arrested
»Dubai: Alcohol Gangs Smuggle Adulterated Booze Into Camps
»Healthcare: Kuwaitis Live Longest Among Arabs, UN-ESCWA
»Homicide Jihadist Claim Japanese Tanker Explosion in Honor of the Blind Sheikh
»Iran’s Ahmadinejad Unhurt After ‘Attack’
»Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Survives Grenade Attack on His Convoy
»Lebanon: Beirut Confirms, No Israeli Violation
»Lebanon: Nasrallah Blames Hariri Assassination on Israel
»Oil Glut in Middle East
»Trees Being Cleared by IDF on Israeli Side of Border
»Update: Homemade ‘Grenade’ Was Lobbed at Mr Ahmadinejad
Far East
»3 Children and Teacher Killed in Another Knife Attack on China Kindergarten
Australia — Pacific
»Erecting a Pay Wall: New Business Model for the Internet
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Was the Poverty of Africa Determined in 1000 BC?
»Arizona Sheriff: ‘Our Own Government Has Become Our Enemy’
»Egyptians Warned Against Illegal Migration Via Yemen
»Finland: News Analysis: Frequent Updates for Parties’ Immigration Platforms
»Nuns Decry Focus on Immigration Status of Driver in Fatal Va. Crash
»UK: Church of England Suspends Two Vicars Arrested in Sham Immigrant Marriage Probe
»UK: Thousands of Illegal Immigrants Escape Deportation Because Police Fear Being Called Racist
»Westerwelle: Germany Needs Foreign Workers
»Caring for Animals May Have Shaped Human Evolution
»Food for Thought: Meat-Based Diet Made Us Smarter
»How Did Dogs Get to be Dogs?
»New Mars Orbiter Will be a Super-Sniffer
»The Hacker in Your Hardware: The Next Security Threat

Financial Crisis

40 Billionaires Pledge to Give Away Half of Wealth


In addition to Buffett and Gates — America’s two wealthiest individuals, with a combined net worth of $90 billion, according to Forbes — 38 other billionaires have signed The Giving Pledge. They include New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, entertainment executive Barry Diller, Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison, energy tycoon T. Boone Pickens, media mogul Ted Turner, David Rockefeller, film director George Lucas and investor Ronald Perelman.


NOTE: Just think of the harm they will do…this won’t be Andrew Carnegie opening public libraries.

[Return to headlines]

China’s Real Estate Bubble Threatens to Burst

Two years after the US subprime crisis, China is seeing its own real estate bubble as a result of massive state stimulus programs. Many economists are warning it could burst soon, with unpredictable results for the global economy.

An interminable sawing, screeching, drilling and hammering rips through the oppressive summer heat and humidity in the northern Chinese city of Tianjin. Here, on the city’s dusty outskirts, hundreds of new apartment buildings and houses in every imaginable style are springing up.

In an air-conditioned showroom, salespeople in yellow uniforms take potential buyers on tours of the facility. “In one year, we already sold 90 percent of North America, Asia and Europe,” customer consultant Qi Yunbu says proudly. “Now we’re preparing Africa, Oceania and South America for sale.”

“Xingyao Wuzhou,” loosely translated as “Shining Star over Five Continents,” is the name of this Chinese blend of Dubai and Disneyland, a €2.3 billion ($3 billion) development designed to imitate the world map. The gigantic residential and leisure complex is being built around and within an artificial lake.

The developers apparently want to make sure that the residents of this aquatic paradise will lack for nothing. The plans include the world’s largest indoor ski center, golf courses, a seven-star hotel, the world’s largest musical fountain and miniature replicas of famous structures like the Tower Bridge in London and San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge.

‘The World Is Yours’

Megalomania is in full swing in China’s booming economy. “The World Is Yours” is the slogan the developers are using to advertise the luxury project. Qi points to model villas in an exclusive waterfront location. These properties won’t be sold until the end, he says, winking conspiratorially. Since sales began, square-meter prices have already risen by 4,000 to 5,000 yuan (€450-€570 or $590-$740). The investors expect their handsome profits to increase with each new construction phase.

Calculated optimism forms the fragile base on which similar projects are thriving all across China. Doubts are taboo, especially now that the mood is beginning to shift, at least outside the flashy showrooms. There is more and more talk of the bubble bursting soon, with some saying that the tipping point has already been reached — with uncertain consequences for the rest of the global economy.

In June, real estate prices in 70 large Chinese cities declined over the previous month for the first time in almost one-and-a-half years — by 0.4 percent for new construction and 0.1 percent for existing structures. The government statistics office also reported sobering figures for the overall economy.

Statistics also show that the economy grew by only 10.3 percent in the second quarter, compared with the same period last year. Growth in the first three months of the year was still at 11.9 percent. This decline in growth seems ridiculous when compared with economic conditions in Western industrialized countries. But for the People’s Republic, whose development model needs record growth to keep the economy from quickly sliding downward, the recent data is unsettling…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

EU: 25% Temporary Contracts in Spain in 2009

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, AUGUST 4 — More than a quarter of Spanish workers ad a temporary contract in 2009. In the EU-27 this figure is only higher in Poland (26.5%) and is followed by Portugal (22%). The result was released in the latest Eurostat report on employment in the group of people between 15 and 64 years old. Last year the average percentage of temporary contracts reached 13.5% in the EU-27 and 15.2% in the eurozone. Malta and Italy are ranked at the bottom of the list of employment among women: 37.7% in Malta and 46.4% in Italy, against 51% in Croatia, an EU-27 average of 58.6% and an EU-16 average of 58.3%. Turkey stays well below European levels with just 24.2% of women employed, against 64.5% of men in the country.

Turkey scores higher on the other hand than several European countries regarding the use of part-time (10.6%), surpassing Greece (5.8%), Cyprus (7.4%), Portugal (8.4%), Slovenia (9.5%), but also Croatia (6.9%). The Turks come close to the figures of other Mediterranean countries like Spain (12.6%) and Italy (14.1%), but are still far removed from the 25% of Germany, the UK, Sweden and Denmark and the record 47.7% of the Netherlands. As a whole, the EU-27 employment rate in the age between 15 and 64 has been rising since 2002 (from 62.4% to 65.9% in 2008).

This growth came to a sudden stop in 2009 at 64.6%.

Among the Mediterranean EU countries, Cyprus recorded an employment rate of 69.9%, followed by Slovenia (67.5%), Portugal (66.3%), France (64.2%), Greece (61.2%), Spain (59.8%), Italy (57.5%) and Malta (54.9%). Employment in Croatia reached 56.6%, 44.3% in Turkey. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Lebanon: Public Debt to 51.1 Bln USD in May

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, AUGUST 4 — Lebanon’s public debt reached 51.1 billion USD in May, slightly less (0.05%) than by the end of 2009. According to the data released by the country’s Finance Ministry and quoted by the Italian Trade Commission (ICE) office in Beirut, the domestic debt climbed by 14.4% on the year to 30.1 billion USD and the foreign debt fell by 2.2% to 21 billion. The debt of commercial banks climbed to 60.1% from the 57.8% recorded in 2009, while the debt of the Central Bank of Lebanon decreased (23.1%) compared with last year’s 26.4%. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Nugent: Drunk on Stupid


Mr. Obama can squawk all he wants and blame everyone from President George W. Bush to Tea Partiers to Fox News, but our anemic economy is the result of his willingness to allow Fedzilla to gorge mindlessly on more and more grotesque spending and borrowing and to sign more blubber-infested bills that no one has read or knows how to implement or what the impact will be on the economy.

The evidence is glaring. The business community does not trust Mr. Obama…


[Return to headlines]

Obama to Gulf: Drop Dead

…Mr. Obama says the six-month ban on drilling is needed to buy time to investigate what caused the blowout, strengthen oversight and issue new regulations. This is nonsense. Copious investigation already has shown that a series of specific decisions and errors combined to cause the BP well to explode. Few details remain unanswered. Few if any new regulations are needed; the problem was in the failure to abide by existing regulations. Oversight at the Minerals Management Service (MMS) was extremely lax. It shouldn’t take six days, much less six months, to make MMS actually do its job.

Meanwhile, the detrimental effects of the moratorium are serious. “In its first six months, the moratorium could cost the Gulf Coast 8,169 jobs, $2.1 billion in economic activity and $98 million in state and local tax revenue”…


[Return to headlines]

Office of Management and Budget Nominee “Errs” On Ethics Form


Mr. Lew, a deputy secretary at the Department of State, reported leaving his job as managing director at Citigroup on Jan. 5, 2009, according to a recent ethics filing. Ten days later, Citigroup, propped up by a massive federal bailout, paid Mr. Lew a bonus of $940,000.

Such a timeline, with Mr. Lew getting a bonus after he left the company, could have posed troublesome questions for Citigroup and Mr. Lew, who is Mr. Obama’s nominee to replace Peter Orszag atop the White House Office of Management and Budget. Under Citigroup policy, only current employees are entitled to bonuses.

When questioned by The Washington Times about whether Mr. Lew received an exemption from the company’s policy, administration officials said Mr. Lew left Citigroup on Jan. 16, 2009 — not 11 days earlier as he recently reported on his ethics form…


NOTE: It was just a typo, see?

[Return to headlines]

Spanish Town Vying for Nuclear Waste Site


Spain’s decadelong construction boom brought new houses, employment and prosperity to places like Villar de Cañas. Now, the country’s fiscal meltdown—double-digit budget deficit, an unemployment rate of 20% and a troubled banking system—has quickly reversed all that, leaving the town’s dwindling population of 450 with few prospects for growth.

[The] town is among eight finalists battling for the dubious privilege of storing waste from the country’s eight nuclear reactors. Spain’s Industry Ministry, which is set to name the winner in coming weeks, had expected to field applications from towns close to nuclear-power plants, a spokesman said.


Town residents, in a twist on antinuclear protests, are rallying for nuclear waste…68% of its 357 registered voters supported hosting a nuclear-waste facility…

[Return to headlines]

Unicredit: Libya at 7%, No.1 Partner Ahead of Abu Dhabi Aabar

(ANSAmed) — MILAN, AUGUST 4 — Libyan partners “actually” own 7% of Unicredit. This is what has been learnt from financial sources, which confirm that the investment clocked up by Libya is effectively led by three different subjects and does not represent a simple transfer of shares amongst funds.

In this way, the Libyan partners thus also exceed the new shareholders of Abu Dhabi, Aabar, who were — until today — at the head of the shareholders of the bank with 4.99%. With the operation pulled off at the end of July by the Libyan Investment Authority, which brought their holding up to 2%, the share held by the partners of Tripoli rises to 7%, given that the Libyan Central Bank together with the Libyan Arab Foreign Bank have a total holding of a further 4.98%. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Adams: Electoral College Under Assault

In a strange and dangerous pandering to populism over constitutionalism, the Massachusetts legislature approved a law on July 27 that overturns the Electoral College in that state. In other words, nullification is alive and well in the Bay State. According to Democratic state Sen. James B. Eldridge, “every vote will be of the same weight across the country.” This nullification of Article 2, Section I, Clauses 2 and 3 (Electoral College) of the Constitution is meant to facilitate a particular political outcome.

The nullification phenomenon is all the more important because of the deafening silence from Washington…


[Return to headlines]

An Invisibility Cloak Made of Glass

From Tolkien’s ring of power in The Lord of the Rings to Star Trek’s Romulans, who could make their warships disappear from view, from Harry Potter’s magical cloak to the garment that makes players vanish in the video game classic “Dungeons and Dragons, the power to turn someone or something invisible has fascinated mankind. But who ever thought that a scientist at Michigan Technological University would be serious about building a working invisibility cloak?

That’s exactly what Elena Semouchkina, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at Michigan Tech, is doing. She has found ways to use magnetic resonance to capture rays of visible light and route them around objects, rendering those objects invisible to the human eye.

Semouchkina and colleagues at the Pennsylvania State University, where she is also an adjunct professor, recently reported on their research in the journal Applied Physics Letters, published by the American Institute of Physics. Her co-authors were Douglas Werner and Carlo Pantano of Penn State and George Semouchkin, who works at Michigan Tech and Penn State.

They describe developing a nonmetallic cloak that uses identical glass resonators made of chalcogenide glass, a type of dielectric material (one that does not conduct electricity). In computer simulations, the cloak made objects hit by infrared waves—approximately one micron or one-millionth of a meter long—disappear from view.

Earlier attempts by other researchers used metal rings and wires. “Ours is the first to do the cloaking of cylindrical objects with glass,” Semouchkina said.

Her invisibility cloak uses metamaterials, which are artificial materials having properties that do not exist in nature, made of tiny glass resonators arranged in a concentric pattern in the shape of a cylinder. The “spokes” of the concentric configuration produce the magnetic resonance required to bend light waves around an object, making it invisible.

Metamaterials, which use small resonators instead of atoms or molecules of natural materials, straddle the boundary between materials science and electrical engineering. They were named one of the top three physics discoveries of the decade by the American Physical Society. A new researcher specializing in metamaterials is joining Michigan Tech’s faculty this fall..

Semouchkina and her team now are testing an invisibility cloak re-scaled to work at microwave frequencies and made of ceramic resonators. They’re using Michigan Tech’s anechoic chamber, a cave-like compartment in an Electrical Energy Resources Center lab, lined with highly absorbent charcoal-gray foam cones. There, antennas transmit and receive microwaves, which are much longer than infrared light, up to several centimeters long. They have cloaked metal cylinders two to three inches in diameter and three to four inches high.

“Starting from these experiments, we want to move to higher frequencies and smaller wavelengths,” the researcher said. “The most exciting applications will be at the frequencies of visible light.”

So one day, could the police cloak a swat team or the Army, a tank? “It is possible in principle, but not at this time,” Semouchkina said.

Her work is supported in part by a grant from the National Science Foundation.

Michigan Technological University ( is a leading public research university developing new technologies and preparing students to create the future for a prosperous and sustainable world. Michigan Tech offers more than 130 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in engineering; forest resources; computing; technology; business; economics; natural, physical and environmental sciences; arts; humanities; and social sciences.

           — Hat tip: Zenster[Return to headlines]

Blacks and Whites Continue to Differ Sharply on Obama

Obama’s approval ratings among these groups are at or tied with their lowest levels to date

PRINCETON, NJ — President Obama’s job approval rating averaged 88% among blacks and 38% among whites in July, a 50-percentage-point difference that has been consistent in recent months but is much larger than in the initial months of the Obama presidency. Obama’s job approval ratings among blacks, whites, and Hispanics in July are all at their lowest levels to date, although the overwhelming majority of blacks still approve.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Code of Silence Corrodes Morality, Puts Blacks at Risk

For committing an act of pure decency, three black women are being ostracized by many other black people. • On the night of June 29, Delores Keen, Renee Roundtree and Rose Dodson rushed outside Keen’s apartment after they heard gunshots. They discovered two Tampa police officers, David Curtis and Jeffrey Kocab, lying together on the ground. The officers had been shot. Dontae Morris, a 24-year-old black ex-convict, would be charged in the shootings.

Roundtree checked the officers’ pulses, and Keen dialed 911. The three women stayed with the dying officers until others arrived. The Hillsborough County Commission honored the women for trying to help the officers.

Since their identities were made public, the woman have been criticized by fellow blacks almost everywhere they go, walking down the street, at local social clubs and in stores.

Their sin, considered by many to be perhaps the worst in American black culture, was helping “the enemy” — the police. You are guilty of helping the enemy in two main ways: You give the police, or another authority, information about a black person who has committed or is suspected of having committed a crime, which is “snitching.” Or, as is the case with the three women, you physically aid and comfort police in distress, which is treated the same as snitching.

By trying to help the officers, Keen, Roundtree and Dodson showed, in the eyes of many, that they are not “authentically black.” They are traitors to their race.

“I even had an ex-friend call and say, ‘That was f——- up. You turned my boy in,’ “ Roundtree told the St. Petersburg Times of a response to her attempt to help the officers.

The snitching ethos, or code of silence, runs so deep that many blacks who snitch or assist morally struggle with their decisions. Many apologize, while others, having acted, offer history and background as to why blacks see the police as the enemy.

“I expected it,” Dodson told the Times, rationalizing the criticism against her. “I don’t want to say black folks, but I’ve got to say black folks — some have faith in the cops and some of them have been harassed for so long, been profiled, that they don’t want nothing to do (with the police).

“When they hear someone was helping them, they wonder why. But they don’t understand. They weren’t in the situation. I don’t believe anyone would have been so coldhearted that they would have walked away.”

Dodson is being charitable in my estimation. The code of silence has coarsened black culture, especially in low-income communities, both rural and urban. It has created an acceptance of deception, divided loyalties, made pseudo-enemies, pitted neighbors against neighbors and turned criminals such as Dontae Morris into folk heroes.

One of the ugliest public displays of the snitching ethos occurred last year when Anderson Cooper interviewed rapper Cam’ron for 60 Minutes. Cooper asked Cam’ron what he would do if he knew he was living next door to a serial killer. Cam’ron said he would move away rather than snitch on the killer.

Law enforcement officials agree that the code of silence is the main reason they have not solved the murders of, among others, Tupac Shakur, the Notorious B.I.G. and Run-DMC’s Jam Master Jay.

In an article for New York magazine, writer Stanley Crouch, who has been condemned for advocating snitching, nicely summed up the lunacy of the code of silence: “The greatest threat to black life and limb is not the police; it’s criminals in our community.”

He is right. Black criminals victimize their own people. And we help them. If we do not call the police, we deserve the mayhem and dysfunction we suffer. When we conceal the identity of a murderer, we endanger everyone. When we turn our backs on drug deals near our homes, we cheapen the rule of law and destroy social values. In addition to its self-destructiveness, the snitching ethos alienates us from others, putting us at odds with normal behavior.

Would a decent person walk away and refuse to assist a mortally wounded fellow human being — a police officer? Would a decent person condemn someone for helping a police officer?

Blacks have only themselves to blame for giving other people good reasons to hold them in contempt. The code of silence is corrosive in every way.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Concerns Voiced Over Protection of Soldiers’ Voting Rights

The Election Assistance Commission reports that during the 2008 election, 17,000 American soldiers fighting overseas had their votes thrown out. According to J. Christian Adams, a former attorney for the Department of Justice’s Voting Rights Division, that year only an estimated 17% of deployed troops actually had their votes counted.

Election officials failed to count the remaining 83% because either the soldier never received a ballot, sent it in too late, never requested a ballot, lost the ballot in the mail, or did not complete the paperwork sufficiently. Adams also points to unwieldy voting regulations as another reason so few deployed military personnel had a voice in the last election. For example, the Minnesota requirement that the county notary notarize the ballot in order for it to count. “A soldier in a fox hole in Afghanistan is not going to have his county’s notary nearby,” Adams noted.

[Return to headlines]

Detroit: Bing Nominates Convicted Murderer for Police Board

Detroit — Some police officers are furious that Mayor Dave Bing wants to nominate a convicted murderer to serve on a board that metes out discipline to cops and sets department policy.

Others argue Raphael B. Johnson, who served 12 years in prison for second-degree murder and is now a motivational speaker, is an inspiration and would be a good fit for the unpaid, four-member Board of Police Commissioners.

“We can’t ignore the substantial number of ex-offenders in Detroit who are trying to contribute in our community,” Deputy Mayor Saul Green said in a statement. “Raphael Johnson is an example of someone who has made the most of a second opportunity. He can play an important role in strengthening our connection to the community to better address public safety.”

Bing has said he wants to put Johnson on the panel, but has not formally submitted the nomination to the City Council, said mayoral spokesman Dan Lijana.

Some, including several officers who did not want to be quoted, fearing reprisal from the Mayor’s Office, say the nomination plan sends a bad message.

“I’ve gotten more e-mails and phone calls about this issue than anything else since I’ve been on the council — all of it negative,” said City Council President Pro Tem Gary Brown, a former Detroit Police officer. “I have serious concerns, because the board sets policy for the Police Department.”

Johnson, 35, was convicted of second-degree murder in 1992. When he was 17, he got into a fight at a party, retrieved a handgun from a friend’s car and fatally shot Johnny Havard, who was not involved in the fight. Johnson ran for City Council last year, advanced past the primary and lost in the general election.

He argued that nothing in the City Charter says board members must have clean criminal records.

“It’s not set up for someone who aspires to be a police officer; it was set up for civilians,” said Johnson.

Johnson said he has paid for the crime. “What are the officers afraid of? I was 17 years old (when the crime was committed) — does that mean I’m marked for life? I’ve paid my dues; how long do you want me to suffer?”

Detroit Police Officer Ronald Griffin, whose father, the Rev. Ronald L. Griffin, formerly served as chairman of the board, said Johnson would make a good commissioner.

“When I was working in the Eastern District, we were doing youth crime intervention programs, and he was right there with us,” Griffin said. “He worked just as hard as any officer. He has a lot of respect in the community because he’s trying to get the youth on the right track. There are a lot of people who don’t have criminal records who have disappointed us.”

Since he was released from prison in 2004, Johnson has appeared on national television as a motivational speaker. He also led the search last year for a serial rapist on the city’s east side; his efforts were praised by former Police Chief Warren Evans.

“A lot of citizens in this city have been convicted of crimes,” Johnson said. “If people want to deal only with people who have never been arrested, they should move to Utah. I think I could bridge the gap of mistrust between the community and the Police Department.”

The City Council must approve mayoral appointments to the board, which establishes the department’s policies, rules and regulations, approves its budget and serves as the final appellate authority for officer discipline.

The Rev. Jerome Warfield, chairman of the board, said he has heard that some have problems with the plan for Johnson’s nomination. But Warfield said approving or disapproving mayoral appointments is outside his purview.

“I understand the controversy,” Warfield said. “But our job is to accept whoever is brought onto the board and work with them.”

Retired Detroit Police Officer David Malhalab said Johnson should be allowed to get on with his life, but there are “more than enough (other) qualified people to fill that position.”

“He made a mistake and shouldn’t be permanently scarred by it — but at the same time, there are certain things he shouldn’t be allowed to participate in because he committed a heinous crime,” Malhalab said. The position was left vacant when the term of former board Chairman Mohamed Okdie expired July 1.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Miller: California’s Bad Chemistry

…Last month, the California Environmental Protection Agency released proposed regulations under Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Green Chemistry Initiative, a plan for a comprehensive statewide chemical monitoring system. [This] approach…recalls H.L. Mencken’s observation that for every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple and wrong.

It will raise the costs of consumer goods and create an environment poisonous to business and job growth while doing nothing to protect Californians.


[Return to headlines]

Missouri Voters Say ‘No’ To Obamacare:

71% of the Show Me State voters said no to Obamacare— is an enormous story, one that ought to dominate the MSM today and through the week. Obamacare hasn’t gained fans —it has gained committed activist enemies who will punish the Democrats who jammed it down the country’s throat. Those same activists are listening to GOP candidates who pledge to repeal and replace the disaster for American health care…

[Return to headlines]

Oil in Gulf Poses Only Slight Risk, U.S. Says

The government is expected to announce on Wednesday that three-quarters of the oil from the Deepwater Horizon leak has already evaporated, dispersed, been captured or otherwise eliminated — and that much of the rest is so diluted that it does not seem to pose much additional risk of harm.

[Return to headlines]

Politically and Socially Castrated “Tolerance”

…there are many groups of Muslim Americans who believe America as a whole is not being tolerant enough to their desires and wants. Today, these Muslims want to build a mosque in the immediate vicinity of Ground Zero. A great majority of these Muslims are first and second generation Americans. Neither they nor their families ever lived inside the United States during World War II. They lack fundamental knowledge of what our country had done to the Japanese and German Americans living in this country. They lack realities as to how good they truly have it living inside the United States today.


We are still in a war where our American patriotic heroes face austere conditions being targeted by Muslim extremists throughout Africa, the Middles East, and Central Asia. We have advisors and special operators deep inside East Asia and the Pacific fighting the same ideological enemy. Many have lost their lives leaving their friends, children, and other family members behind.

[Return to headlines]

Proposition C Passes Overwhelmingly

Missouri voters on Tuesday overwhelmingly rejected a federal mandate to purchase health insurance, rebuking President Barack Obama’s administration and giving Republicans their first political victory in a national campaign to overturn the controversial health care law passed by Congress in March.


“The citizens of the Show-Me State don’t want Washington involved in their health care decisions,” said Sen. Jane Cunningham, R-Chesterfield, one of the sponsors of the legislation that put Proposition C on the August ballot. She credited a grass-roots campaign involving Tea Party and patriot groups with building support for the anti-Washington proposition.

…The measure, which seeks to exempt Missouri from the insurance mandate in the new health care law, includes a provision that would change how insurance companies that go out of business in Missouri liquidate their assets.

[Return to headlines]

Senate Debates Kagan Nomination

A highly informative analysis of Kagan’s basic ideology is a piece published last month in The New American by Gregory Hession, J.D. Hession points out that although Kagan has not produced a ruling, there is indeed a “public record” — and that this record “reveals something that mainstream pundits will not admit, lest the real game be given away.”

Kagan’s Philosophy: Legal Positivism

Hession’s comments deserve to be quoted at length.

“Attorney Kagan adheres to a philosophy called “legal positivism” and applies its worldview to her interpretation of the U.S. Constitution. Through the lens of the legal positivist, law has no fixed truth, but must be re-invented and bent to fit the changing needs of society. She has also associated throughout her life with lawyers, judges, and politicians who favor that position…

“If interpretation of the law is not based on the actual words in the statute or on the intent of the lawgiver, then the law comes to mean whatever the legal positivist wants it to be, and it can be changed at a whim. Expediency and the existence of a government edict are the only rules. Though this explanation reduces a complicated philosophy to a caricature, it illustrates the basic problem: In the view of modern jurists, law is not based on objective truth or even on the fact that words have meaning. ,,,

Arbitrary and Capricious

Application of this doctrine to Supreme Court cases means that a litigant cannot have the security of a predictable outcome, even when appealing to the plain meaning of the text of the Constitution.

Since the actual words of the Constitution are no longer the basis for legal rulings, litigants experience arbitrary and capricious results, which shift with the political winds. Once in a while they get lucky, and the justices will incidentally agree that a phrase in the Constitution actually means what it says, such as the recent Heller decision, affirming an individual right to keep and bear arms. But the court may equally discard its plain meaning, such as when it upheld most of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, in direct violation of the clear First Amendment language which says, “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech.”

An Exalted View of the Law

Another unstated premise of Elena Kagan’s legal positivism is her exalted view of the nature of law, lawyers, and judges, which lies at the heart of why her nomination should not be approved. Her belief is that the law should address all human interactions in a modern regulatory state, and that lawyers and judges are the proper guides for this elitist vision of American life.

Attorney Kagan’s extensive writing shows that she is in the grip of a big-government ideology that has done much to ruin the legal system and the entire political landscape. A 100-page piece that she wrote, which appeared in the University of Chicago Law Review, expounds her view. It is entitled “Private Speech, Public Purpose: The Role of Government Motive in First Amendment Doctrine.”…

Hession’s piece is very thorough — and must-reading if you want a picture of what lies ahead if she wins the Senate vote.

[Comments from JD: see url for link to Hession’s full analysis.]

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

‘The Printed Book Will Still Dominate for a Long Time to Come’

In a SPIEGEL interview, Random House CEO Markus Dohle, 42, discusses the world’s biggest publisher’s plans for the e-book age, his company’s tough negotiations with Apple and why the printed book will continue to dominate publishing.

SPIEGEL: Mr. Dohle, your rise to the top post in the world’s largest book publishing company two years ago was met with disdain in the literary community, especially in New York, where Random House is headquartered. You were seen as an outsider who had made a career at Random House’s parent company Bertelsmann in Germany, in the book printing and logistics business. Did you receive a correspondingly icy reception?

Markus Dohle: Let’s put it this way: The creative community was very surprised. And so was I, by the way. There were a few question marks at first, even within our company, which is why I immediately spoke with as many people as possible. After that, the first shock within the intellectual Manhattan establishment quickly disappeared.

SPIEGEL: Did you work your way through the literary canon in preparation?

Dohle: There was no time for that. I was set up in the United States within a few days. It went very quickly. And when I started the new position, I was in the process of reading the Random House book “You’re in Charge — Now What?” It was certainly appropriate reading material.

SPIEGEL: Aren’t you worried about embarrassing yourself while making small talk about literature with authors and agents?…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Virginia AG: Obamacare Threat to Nation

The attorney general for the state of Virginia, who recently won a preliminary round over the Obama administration in his state’s fight over Obamacare, says if it is upheld that the feds can order residents to purchase health insurance, then “they can order you to do anything.”

The result, according to Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, will be the end of the American way of life and government.

“An interesting thing for people to think about is, if this is activity that can be regulated under the Commerce Clause [of the U.S. Constitution], then the federal government can reach anything,” he said in a recent interview with Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

What Rifqa Bary’s Case Tells Us

America prides itself on religious tolerance. We welcome all houses of worship.

Increasingly, however, Islamist leaders are demanding even more religious tolerance, more mosques.

However, there is absolutely no reciprocity in the Muslim world…

..,the Arab Muslim Middle East is almost completely “Judenrein,” (free of Jews) since more than 800,000 Arab Jews were exiled or forced to flee their countries between 1948-1968.

Currently, Christians are being savagely persecuted…


America does not persecute converts…

Converts to Islam are not harassed, intimidated, shunned by their families…


…I was asked by Florida’s Attorney General to submit an Affadavit on Rifqa’s behalf. I did so, as did my friend and colleague, Ibn Warraq, the author of “Leaving Islam: Apostates Speak Out.”

We both explained that Rifqa’s fears were utterly realistic; that apostasy is considered a capital crime in Islam…


I can only hope and pray that the magistrate who is hearing Rifqa Bary’s case is brave enough to educate herself about the realities of apostasy…

Like Magdi Allam, Rifqa might require…

[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Danish Minority in Germany Stand Up for Their Heritage

German cuts to subsidies for Danish minorities in Schleswig-Holstein are vigorously opposed by residents’ groups

The Danish minority in the German state of Schleswig-Holstein are preparing to contest a controversial proposal by the state’s premier to make deep cuts in funding to Danish-language schools.

Nearly half of the 47 Danish-language schools in the German state of Schleswig-Holstein face closure if Minister President Peter Harry Carstensen carries out proposed cuts of 5 million euros to subsidies for schools catering for the Danish minority in his state.

Since he made his statement in June, the estimated 50,000-strong Danish minority in Schleswig-Holstein have rallied to the cause and vowed to challenge the minister president’s proposal.

For instance, the minority’s political wing, Sydslesvigsk Vælgerforening (SSV), has categorically refused to accept the cutbacks, which could close down as many as 20 Danish-language schools.

Anke Spoorendonk, who chairs the SSV, insisted that the party would not compromise on this issue and that the proposal must be abandoned.

‘If the proposal is passed it will be a catastrophe for the Danish educational system and Danish culture south of the border,’ she said. ‘And it would be a serious breach of the equality principle — which this government gave its support to in 2007 — that has underpinned the relationship between the German and Danish schools. That principle is not negotiable.’

Because the schools are used as venues for Danish youth organisations and sports clubs, as well as for local church gatherings, the cutbacks will not only affect educational opportunities for Danish-speaking children, they will also reduce the number of cultural activities on offer to the Danish minority.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Italy: Premier Ready for Elections if Govt Falls

But Berlusconi still confident crisis will be averted

(ANSA) — Rome, August 4 — Premier Silvio Berlusconi has told his MPs he is ready to go early elections if his government falls following a break with former ally, House Speaker Gianfranco Fini, who has set up his own break-away groups in parliament.

But the media magnate-turned politician told MPs of his People of Freedom (PDL) party ,at a private dinner Tuesday night, he was optimistic that a government crisis will be averted because the rebel group knows this would “have negative repercussions on Italy”.

“Right now Italy enjoys the confidence of Europe, the market and the rating agencies” so elections should be considered a “last resort”, the premier was reported to have said.

Berlusconi said he was also certain that Fini’s newly-founded ‘Future and Freedom for Italy’ groups in the House and the Senate would not want to take responsibility for a crisis which would damage the entire country.

The premier, whose tempestuous relations with Fini came to head in a public shouting match in May, threw the Speaker out of the PdL on Thursday.

Fini rejected Berlusconi’s demand to step down as Speaker and stressed that his new FLI groups would vote with or against the government according to whether it upheld the PdL’s electoral promises and “the general interest”.

The groups have been set up within the centre-right camp but if 27 of its House members were to vote against the government, it would go under.

Fini’s 10 senators are not enough to bring the government down in the Senate should they vote against it.

The breakaway MPs have said they will abstain in a key no confidence vote against Undersecretary Giacomo Caliendo late on Wednesday, saving the government and avoiding a show-down with their former colleagues.

Caliendo, who is being probed by Rome prosecutors for alleged involvement in a secret influence-peddling lobby that is believed to have worked to arrange political and judicial appointments, denies wrongdoing and is staunchly defended by Berlusconi. During the dinner the premier also brushed off suggestions that Economy Minister Giulio Tremonti, very close to the Northern League party — the PdL’s key ally — would consider offers to head a caretaker government.

Giulio Tremonti would never head a so-called ‘government of experts” but would instead agree to push for early elections, the premier said.

The Italian media has been nearly unanimous in agreeing that most MPs would not welcome early elections at the moment and the decision by Fini’s men to abstain on the Caliendo vote comes just before parliament breaks for the summer holidays.

Fini has said he is not out to “ambush” the government.

Interior Minister Roberto Maroni told reporters on Tuesday the country would head to early elections in October or November if the government is defeated in parliament.

His Northern League party would stick with Berlusconi and would not join a broad caretaker government, Maroni stressed.

“Without the League, you can’t do business,” he said, referring to speculation the party might consider offers to join a coalition government which would push through legislation on fiscal federalism, the party’s pet project.

“Moreover, any other government would fail to muster enough votes at the Senate,” he added.

On Wednesday, Maroni told Milan’s Corriere della Sera daily that Fini’s decision to set up his own groups had left the government “sailing without compass”.

But he made it clear that the Northern League was against a possible alternative government to steer the country through the end of the legislation in 2013.

Maroni also ruled out suggestions that Tremonti, a highly respected personality at home as well as abroad, would head an alternative government to Berlusconi’s, saying they had discussed the issue and “he is in perfect agreement”.

“Proposing Tremonti is a gesture of desperation on the part of people looking for a way out who have nothing to offer,” Maroni said.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Berlusconi to Confer With Cameron

Mideast, Afghanistan and Iran to top agenda

(ANSA) — Rome, August 4 — The Mideast crisis, the situation in Afghanistan and Iran’s nuclear ambitions are expected to top the agenda in talks Wednesday evening between Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi and visiting British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Attention is also expected to be paid to the the first signs of an economic recovery, after last year’s global recession, and bilateral relations.

This will be Cameron’s first visit to Italy since he took office in May but the two government chiefs met in June on the sidelines of the Group of Eight summit in Canada.

Observers view relations between Rome and London as important because within the European Union they represent a counterbalance the weight pulled by Berlin and Paris.

During their talks in Canada, Berlusconi and Cameron found common ground on the need to streamline the EU’s bureaucracy.

Wednesday’s talks follow the first four-way meeting between between British and Italian foreign and defence ministers, in London on July 21.

Following this meeting Italy’s diplomatic chief Franco Frattini said that Italy and Britain made a strong team in defence and security sectors and that existing partnerships should be strengthened.

“We would like to see cooperation between Italy and Britain strengthened, particularly in the sector of high technology for ports and airports, he said.

“Italy has lots to offer (in this area) which other European countries do not,” Frattini added.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

MPs Support Sweden Democrats Isolation: Poll

Of the 148 Swedish members of parliament from across the party spectrum interviewed in a new survey, 66 percent are prepared to cooperate across the political blocs to ensure a stable government if the far-right Sweden Democrats (SD) enter parliament.

The survey, commissioned by the Göteborg-Posten (GP) newspaper, comes after a voter opinion poll published on Tuesday which indicates that the anti-immigrant nationalist party held the support of 6.5 percent of the electorate and could thus hold the balance of power after the September general election.

Parliamentarians in favour of working to marginalise the Sweden Democrats argue that parties should cooperate to prevent them from attaining a possible kingmaker role.

But support is not unanimous with 19 percent ruling out a cooperation across the blocs and 15 percent responding that they were uncertain on what to do.

GP interviewed 148 of the 349 members of the Swedish parliament, the Riksdag.

SD representatives have argued in response that the survey’s results indicate a lack of respect for the electorate.

“Many would feel let down, which I think would benefit us in the longer term,” William Petzäll, SD press secretary, said to GP.

The United Minds-Cint poll, published in the Aftonbladet daily on Tuesday, handed the Sweden Democrats a record 6.5 percent support — well above the four

percent threshold for entering parliament.

The poll also indicated that nearly 46 percent of people intended to vote for the ruling centre-right coalition while 45 percent said they would vote for the centre-left opposition coalition, leaving neither side able to attain a stable majority of parliamentary seats.

With less than a percentage point difference between the two main blocs, SD, would likely hold the balance of power, observers said.

“It is probable that we will have a very messy parliamentary situation after the election,” Carl Melin of United Minds said.

All of Sweden’s parliamentary parties have ruled out cooperating with the Sweden Democrats, which has never held any parliamentary seats but is represented in several municipalities across the country.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Wilders Featured More in Leftwing Newspapers

AMSTERDAM, 04/08/10 — Leftwing newspapers have in recent years paid more attention to rightwing maverick Geert Wilders than rightwing papers. Nonetheless, media attention is to blame for his success, claims De Volkskrant.

“The media has helped Geert Wilders in the recent election gains by — for years — paying much attention to the Party for Freedom (PVV) leader and his statements,” De Volkskrant reported yesterday. The newspaper says this is one of the conclusions draw by Nederlandse Nieuwsmonitor, a scientific bureau that analyses media reporting.

The monitor looked at the attention paid to Wilders in De Volkskrant, NRC Handelsblad, Trouw and De Telegraaf since 2004. The last-named newspaper is known as rightwing, while the other three have a leftwing perspective.

Among the newspapers surveyed, De Volkskrant has paid the most attention to Wilders since 2004 with 2,639 articles, followed by Trouw (2,174) and NRC Handelsblad (2,168). De Telegraaf lags way behind with 1,436 articles.

The researchers did not explore why it is actually the leftwing newspapers that write so much about the PVV. Nor do they draw the conclusion that negative attention paid to the PVV has apparently made it more popular.

In fact, the researchers say that “the PVV can count on a harem” of journalists. That Wilders makes it into the media so easily is remarkable, as he has actually barred many of them. For example, he seldom or never appears on TV, on the grounds that most programmes are in his view too leftwing.

According to De Volkskrant, the researchers state that Wilders has the pick of the media platforms. “The PVV leader has been discussed in a hundred articles per month on average since 2004. (…) The media helped Wilders into the saddle,” the newspaper concludes.

Nonetheless, the Nieuwsmonitor says that the leaders of the Christian democrats (CDA) and Labour (PvdA) received more attention than Wilders.

Researcher Nel Ruigrok says Wilders is consistently able to hit the news with striking statements. Because others then react, the attention becomes even greater. According to Ruigrok, Wilders has become the ‘owner’ of themes like immigration, Muslims and Islam.

The Nieuwsmonitor was prompted to undertake the research by an interview with NOS Journaal chief editor Hans Laroes. In the magazine Maarten, he said last week that the public broadcaster’s daily news bulletins sometimes deliberately ignore news about the PVV leader to deny Wilders a platform.

According to Nieuwsmonitor, Wilders indeed came up less often on NOS Journaal during the campaign than on competitor RTL Nieuws. Meanwhile, Laroes claims he was misquoted in Maarten.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: CDA Leader Under Fire in Parliament for Betraying Principles

The leaders of the three right-wing parties who hope to form a new coalition government in the Netherlands on Wednesday refused to take part in a parliamentary debate on the issue.

Parliament is officially in recess for the summer break but was recalled to debate the decision of cabinet negotiator Ruud Lubbers to recommend a minority VVD and CDA government which will have PVV backing in parliament.

‘I understand the sour grapes but this is not the right moment for a debate,’ Geert Wilders, leader of the anti-Islam PVV, said. VVD leader Mark Rutte and the Christian Democrat’s Maxime Verhagen also refused to answer questions.


In return for agreeing to €18bn in austerity measures, Wilders has said he expects tough agreements on immigration, integration, public safety and care of the elderly. He will also be free to continue his campaign against Islam.

Left of centre MPs used the debate to criticise cabinet negotiator Ruud Lubbers for recommending a minority government, arguing that enough other majority cabinet options had not been explored.


CDA leader Verhagen came under particular fire for agreeing to join a coalition with the PVV.

After the June 9 general election, Verhagen refused to sit around the table with the PVV because of the party’s wish to introduce a tax on headscarves, ethnic registration and a ban on the Koran.

D66 leader Alexander Pechtold reminded Verhagen that four months ago he had accused Wilders of spreading hatred and damaging the reputation of the Netherlands abroad.

During a pause in the debate, Verhagen told Nos tv he had not compromised his principles. ‘That is why we are not discussing a majority cabinet,’ he said.

New negotiator

On Wednesday, queen Beatrix held talks with a number of her political advisors about Lubbers’ recommendations. He has nominated VVD chairman Ivo Opstelten as the next negotiator.

Opstelten will be the sixth formal negotiator involved with forming a government since the June 9 general election.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Solar Cycle May Drive Venice’s Floods

IF YOU want to see Venice while keeping your feet dry, don’t go when the sun has lots of spots. Peaks in solar activity cause the city to flood more often, apparently by changing the paths of storms over Europe.

Several times a year, but most commonly between October and December, Venice is hit by an exceptional tide called the acqua alta. David Barriopedro at the University of Lisbon, Portugal, and colleagues were intrigued by studies showing the tides followed an 11-year cycle, just like the sun, showing peaks when the sunspots were most abundant. They looked at hourly observations of sea level between 1948 and 2008, which confirmed that the number of extreme tides followed peaks in the solar cycle (Journal of Geophysical Research Atmospheres, DOI: 10.1029/2009JD013114).

Records of air pressure over Europe over the same period revealed “acqua alta years” saw a lot of low-pressure systems over the north Adriatic Sea, while in quiet years these systems were further south.

This make sense, because flooding events in Venice are known to be triggered by low-pressure systems from the Atlantic. These systems allow sea levels to rise, while stormy winds blow from south to north, piling up seawater around Venice. In quiet solar years, the storms are shifted to the south, but it remains unclear exactly how solar activity has these affects on the weather.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: Burglar Who Broke Into Almost 700 Homes Finally Locked Up

Bradley Wernham, 19, was caught trying to break into a house just three months after a judge had spared him prison to give him a ‘second chance.’

A teenager who burgled almost 700 properties during a £1million crime spree because he enjoyed the ‘buzz’ of stealing was finally jailed yesterday.

Bradley Wernham, 19, was caught trying to break into a house just three months after a judge had spared him prison to give him a ‘second chance.’

Today the judge, Christopher Ball QC, insisted he had been right to previously allow the ‘prolific and successful’ thief to go free and instead take part in a taxpayer funded scheme that provided him a rent free flat and job training.

Blaming the failure of the ‘gamble’ on Wernham’s immaturity, he told the court: ‘There are more ways of making life safer for the public than just locking people up.’

Police also said they would continue to use the ‘innovative’ scheme aimed at cutting reoffending with other persistent burglars.

The comments prompted fury from some of the teenager’s victims who described the decision not to jail him first time around as ‘ridiculous.’

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Pope T-Shirt: The Winners

Thanks to all the entrants for this: it was really quite difficult to whittle the thirty or so suggestions down to half a dozen. I wasn’t going to publish anything which was rude without being in the least bit funny; on the other hand, a lot of the pro-pope efforts also suffered from a certain earnestness. In any case, enjoy the results. I think this kind of competition should be repeated.

[JP note: almost superfluous to add that the Guardian would think twice before hosting a Mohammed t-shirt competition.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Revealed: ‘Wickedness and Vice’ Where Shakespeare Became a Hit

By David Keys, Archaeology Correspondent

Filthy lucre, booze and high drama — and that was behind the scenes. Archaeologists digging in East London have unearthed compelling new evidence of the seamier side of life at London’s oldest playhouse.

Excavations at the site of The Theatre in Shoreditch, which hosted premieres of several Shakespeare plays and which pre-dates The Globe, is shedding new light on a theatre that was called a “school for all wickedness and vice”.

Archaeologists, led Heather Knight of the Museum of London, have discovered not only traces of the original Shakespearean playhouse, built in 1576, but the remains of the ceramic money boxes where the earnings from each performance were temporarily kept before being emptied into a “common box”.

The broken, ceramic money boxes, which had to be smashed to give up their contents, have been traced to the playhouse’s accounts office. The earnings were the subject of dozens of lawsuits involving the actor and manager, James Burbage, and The Theatre’s other co-owner, John Brayne.

Burbage, originally a carpenter, had first become an actor and then a businessman and investor. Despite, or perhaps because of, his crooked, violent and ruthless ways, he made a modest fortune and died a relatively rich man.

Brayne, probably originally a grocer, initially provided most of the finance for The Theatre but he ended up being deprived of his share in the venture by Burbage and was finally reduced to bankruptcy, eventually dying penniless. The saga had all the ingredients of a Shakespearian drama.

The Theatre had a troubled reputation in its day. A year after it was founded, authorities in London referred to it as “a school for all wickedness and vice” and in 1580, the Lord Mayor sent his sheriff to the playhouse to interrogate the actors and investigate a riot there.

Other playhouses were regarded by London authorities as “an offence to the godly” and a “hindrance to the Gospel”. The playhouses were well known for “unchaste matters, lascivious devices and other lewd and ungodly practices”. Theatre-goers were seen as “the worst sort” of “evil and disordered people” who skipped work “to mis-spend their time”.

Excavations at New Inn Yard, Shoreditch, are building up that picture. Archaeologists have unearthed scores of fragments of mid- to late 16th century wine and ale flagons and mugs — found in what was probably the playhouse’s bar area. Disorderly behaviour, doubtless often partly fuelled by alcohol — was one of the reasons the authorities disliked the establishment.

Drunkenness was increasingly seen as an evil and England’s first anti-binge drinking laws were brought in during the Elizabethan period.

But playhouses couldn’t exist without plays and The Theatre appears to have been the venue for the premier of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and for early performances of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Merchant of Venice and Love’s Labour’s Lost.

“It was certainly one of the most important places in the history of English drama,” said Julian Bowsher, the Museum of London’s leading expert on Elizabethan theatre. Archaeologists have succeeded in unearthing remains of the playhouse’s inner wall, a probable fragment of the outer wall and much of the compacted gravel courtyard where the audience stood.

But nothing remains of the timber superstructure of the building because, in 1598, Burbage’s sons, Cuthbert and Richard, dismantled it and spirited it away, without the landlord’s approval, to create The Globe, on the other side of the Thames.

Now, for the first time in more than 400 years, actors are about to tread the boards at the original Shakespeare theatre. London’s Tower Theatre Company is to build a new playhouse on the site, which will allow a view of the preserved remains of the place Shakespeare used to call home.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Ship to Gaza to Set Sail Again

The organisers of an aid flottilla to Gaza said in Stockholm on Wednesday they would make a new attempt to reach the Palestinian territory before the end of 2010.

“We are going to send a flotilla if the siege is not lifted,” Ship to Gaza Sweden spokesman Dror Feiler told AFP after the group’s meeting in Stockholm.

A six-ship fleet first attempted to reach the Palestinian territory on May 31 but it was halted by an Israeli raid that left nine Turkish activists dead.

“We will go (again) before the end of this year and we are quite sure that this flotilla will be more boats, bigger boats, it will be several passenger boats,” said Feiler, who took part in the flotilla’s first trip.

“And as determined before, we will not accept Israeli control, we will not accept Israeli inspections and we will go to Gaza,” the Israeli-born Swedish artist and longtime activist said.

“We hope that Israel and the international community will realise it is not possible to stop this and that it is not acceptable to continue with the siege,” he added.

The Freedom Flotilla Coalition said in a statement it planned to enlarge the coalition “to include the various groups around the world that want to join us, as well as intensify our efforts to mobilise a new flotilla.”

“We are buying boats, we are getting a lot of funds to get more boats,” Feiler said, adding the “Ship to Gaza” movement had spread to France, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Norway, Australia, United States and Canada.

Wednesday’s meeting was “coordination of our efforts, discussion with the new groups,” Feiler said.

He said an exact date had not been set for the future attempt because of boat purchasing and licensing issues, and the weather.

Israel sparked international outrage when its commandos attacked the fleet early on May 31. Israeli troops then forced the six ships in the convoy to dock at an Israeli port, before detaining those on board.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon on Monday announced the formation of a four-member panel to probe the deadly raid. Israel has backed the investigation.

The Freedom Flotilla Coalition said Wednesday it had “fundamental concerns” with the panel, and that the easing of the Gaza blockade announced by Israel on June 21, was “purely cosmetic.”

Israel imposed the siege on the Gaza strip in June 2006 after its soldier, Gilad Shalit, was captured by Gaza militants, tightening it a year later when Hamas seized power in the coastal strip.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

The Peace Process Story So Far: Israel’s Cooperation With the US

by Barry Rubin

In one of his out-of-control anti-Israel rants, Andrew Sullivan included in his list of alleged evils that Israel had repeatedly “defied” the United States. That point stuck in my mind and made me reflect how demonstrably untrue is that charge contrary to what people might think.

Certainly, there have been incidents of friction and disagreement—though always fairly short-lived—and at times Israel has either convinced U.S. policymakers of its position or the two sides agreed. Yet consider on all the key issues of the last twenty years how Israel did heed every major U.S. request.

In 1991, President George Bush asked Israel not to respond to Iraqi attacks. This was a huge request for any country whose civilians were being targeted by missiles and especially for Israel which has always believed that retaliation is essential to maintain its credibility. I can speak from personal experience here, with the nearest hit about ten blocks away from my home. The country not only faced the terror of sudden missile attacks, with the possibility of bacteriological or chemical warheads, but was also largely shut down economically for weeks. Yet Likud Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir agreed, and Israelis stood by passive while the United States fought Iraq in Kuwait and Baghdad shot missiles onto its soil.

The Oslo agreements were an Israeli initiative yet during the nine years of negotiations that followed, Israel and the United States cooperated closely. Israel made a very forthcoming offer in 2000 supported by the United States that was rejected by the Palestinian leadership. There were no major incidents of conflict during the Clinton Administration.

The George W. Bush years were ones of relative amity. Ironically, the greatest disagreement, contrary to mythology, was Israel’s lack of enthusiasm for the Iraq war. The concern was that Israel would be asked to pay the political bill afterward, that Saddam might again fire missiles, and that the project of making Iraq into a democracy seemed ill-fated. But Israel supported its ally once the decision to attack Iraq was made.

The administration of Barack Obama has been seen as one of great tension and a U.S. policy less supportive of Israel. Yet every time Obama made a request or demand, Israel has complied, if not immediately then after a brief period, with concessions that were very difficult given internal politics and perceptions of its own interests:…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Blackberry: Saudi Arabia to Suspend Service From August 6

(ANSAmed) — DUBAI, AUGUST 4 — The Saudi Telecommunications Authority has announced that it will be suspending its Blackberry services beginning on August 6, reports the Saudi press. The Communications Commission (CITC) had granted to the three telephone operators — STC, Mobily and Zain — “a grace period to agree on the necessary requirements with Blackberry in order to keep its licence” according to a statement quoted by Arab News. “The grace period ends Friday August 6”, concludes the statement without specifying the requirements which were to be decided on nor the services to be suspended. There are about 750,000 Blackberry users in the Saudi kingdom, slightly over half a million in the United Arab Emirates, the other Gulf Cooperation Council country which announced on Sunday that it would be suspending its Blackberry services beginning on October 11. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Dubai: Immigrant Parents of Abadoned Babies Arrested

The mothers of two babies abandoned in a mosque earlier this year in Sharjah have been arrested.

A Somali imam on his way to morning prayers discovered the infants, born to different mothers, in March.

Three of their parents, including both mothers, were apprehended in Dubai in a joint police effort and handed over to Sharjah police, said Col Abdullah al Dukhan, the Sharjah police deputy director general. The other father has reportedly absconded.


The Dubai General Directorate of Residency and Foreign Affairs helped identify the mother of the abandoned five-month-old boy as the Filipina maid PP. She allegedly fled her sponsor’s home when pregnant and the sponsors reported the incident to authorities. She confessed to leaving her baby in the mosque and said she had been following media reports to keep up with the boy’s welfare, police said.

Police said both women said their children were fathered by Bangladeshi workers, and said they had no means to look after their babies and were afraid of prosecution after having engaged in illegal sex.

[Return to headlines]

Dubai: Alcohol Gangs Smuggle Adulterated Booze Into Camps


Gangs are cutting corners and thinning batches of alcohol with easily obtained but deadly additions such as valium or vehicle coolant, according to doctors on the front line.

And smuggling illegal alcohol can bring violence with it: in Dubai this week, two Syrian men were charged with attacking a police officer who was trying to arrest them on suspicion of trucking thousands of bottles of alcohol to Saudi Arabia.

Dr Ashraf El Houfi, head of the intensive care unit at Dubai Hospital, said: “We see a couple of fatalities [from poisoning] every few months. We only see the cases that are severe enough to come to the intensive care unit, but there will be many more we don’t get.”


Construction workers who cannot afford the prices of alcohol sold in liquor shops often buy from illegal vendors who sell locally manufactured batches, which could contain lethal ingredients, officials say.

[Return to headlines]

Healthcare: Kuwaitis Live Longest Among Arabs, UN-ESCWA

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, AUGUST 4 — Kuwaitis live the longest among inhabitants of Arab countries, according to a survey carried out by the UN’s Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA). The average life expectancy for Kuwaitis stands at 77.6 years, followed by inhabitants of the United Arab Emirates (77.4), Bahrain (75.7), Oman (75.6) and Qatar (75.5). As concerns other Arab countries, the figure is 74.1 for Syria, 73.9 for Tunisia, 73.4 for Palestine, 72.8 for Saudi Arabia, 72.5 for Jordan and 72.3 for Algeria. Bringing up the tail end of the ESCWA survey is Somalia with 49.6 years, just slightly better than the average life expectancy in Djibouti (55.3), Mauritania (56.6), Sudan (58) and Yemen (62.2).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Homicide Jihadist Claim Japanese Tanker Explosion in Honor of the Blind Sheikh

Militant jihadists have claimed that a suicide bomber blew himself up on a Japanese oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz last week, the US monitoring group SITE said.

Mitsui OSK Lines had previously reported that one of its tankers, the M Star, appeared to have been hit by an explosion on July 28 in the waterway between Iran and Oman.

SITE said the Brigades of Abdullah Azzam claimed in a message on jihadist websites that it had placed a suicide bomber on the tanker, identifying him as Ayyub al-Taishan.

It said the attack was carried out in the name of Omar Abdul Rahman, the Egyptian “Blind Sheikh” imprisoned in the United States for his role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing in New York.

The attack sought “to weaken the infidel global order which is thrust unto Muslim lands and which loots its resources,” the brigade said, according to SITE.

“We delayed the publication of the statement until our heroes returned safely to their bases.”

Mitsui OSK Lines officials had said crew members saw a flash and heard an explosion in the incident shortly after midnight local time a week ago.

One crewman was slightly injured in the explosion, which caused minor damage to the ship,

Mitsui had dismissed reports it might have been hit by a freak wave.


NOTE: It’s the freaks on the airwaves we have to watch.

[Return to headlines]

Iran’s Ahmadinejad Unhurt After ‘Attack’

State-run TV says explosion near president’s convoy was caused by ‘firecracker’

TEHRAN, Iran — Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was unharmed when a homemade explosive went off near his motorcade during a visit to the western city of Hamadan on Wednesday, a source in his office said.

But state media said only a firecracker had been set off by an young man excited to see the president and a police chief called news of an attack a “big lie” spread by foreign media.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Survives Grenade Attack on His Convoy

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has survived a grenade attack on his convoy in western Iran.

The blast from a homemade bomb took place today in Hamedan as Mr Ahmadinejad was travelling through a busy crowd to make an address at a sports stadium.

The president was unhurt, but other people in the convoy were injured. One person has been arrested over the incident.

Mr Ahmadinejad continued with his plans to make a speech in Hamadan, which was broadcast on Iranian television. He made no mention of an assault.

Iranian officials denied Mr Ahmadinejad was targeted, with the state-run Press TV adding ‘no such attack had happened’.

Officials said the blast was caused by a firework being set off by someone in the crowd to cheer the president.

‘It was a firecracker, and a statement will be released soon,’ an official inthe president’s media office said.

However, the conservative website Khabaronline said: ‘This morning a hand grenade exploded next to a vehicle carrying reporters accompanying the president in Hamedan.

‘Ahmadinejad’s car was 100 metres away and he was not hurt.’

Al Arabiya television said an attacker had thrown a bomb at Ahmadinejad’s convoy before being detained.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, although the populist, hardline Mr Ahmadinejad has accumulated enemies in conservative and reformist circles in the Islamic Republic as well as abroad.

Iran has also provoked anger from the UK and the U.S. over its controversial nuclear weapons’ programme, which it claims is for peaceful purposes.

During a speech to a conference of expatriate Iranians in Tehran on Monday, Ahmadinejad said he believed he was the target of an assassination plot by Israel.

‘The stupid Zionists have hired mercenaries to assassinate me,’ he said.

The oil market initially reacted calmly to reports of the attempted attack.

Paul Harris, head of natural resources risk management at Bank of Ireland, said: ‘I expect that any backlash there might be from Ahmadinejad will be far more important to the oil market than the initial attack itself.

‘You would expect the oil market to react if there is any attempt to link the attack to the current tensions with the West and the ramping up of sanctions.’

Baqer Moin, a London-based Iran expert, said Hamadan was a stable area without any notable ethnic or local tension.

‘Let’s wait and see who they accuse, an internal or an external enemy,’ he added.

Several armed groups opposed to the government are active in Iran, mostly fighting in the name of ethnic Kurds in the northwest, Baluch in the southeast and Arabs in the south west.

The banned Mujahideen Khalq, listed by the U.S. as a terrorist group, carried out several anti-government attacks after the 1979 Islamic revolution.

It was blamed for two 1981 bombings that killed dozens of senior officials in Tehran, including the president and prime minister.

Shahin Gobadi, French-based spokesman for the Mujahideen, now part of an opposition coalition known as National Council of Resistance of Iran, denied involvement.

Mr Ahmadinejad recently sought to isolate rival political factions by declaring that ‘the regime has only one party, which is the velayat’ — a reference to Shi’ite Islam’s hidden Imam, for now represented by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

One of Mr Ahmadinejad’s trademarks has been constant travel around his vast country to deliver provocative speeches before outwardly adoring crowds who shout ‘death’ to Iran’s foes.

On Monday, Mr Ahmadinejad called on U.S. President Barack Obama to face him in a televised one-on-one debate to see who has the best solutions for the world’s problems.

Mr Ahmadinejad, backed by Khamenei and the elite Revolutionary Guards, crushed street protests that greeted his disputed re-election in June 2009, although he has yet to silence losing reformist candidates Mirhossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi.

The president, first elected in 2005, also seems bent on displacing an older layer of conservative leaders and clerics whose influence dates back to the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Many of them resent the rising economic and political power of Ahmadinejad’s allies in the Revolutionary Guards and are disconcerted by his mystical devotion to the hidden Imam.

Conservatives such as parliament speaker Ali Larijani, a fierce critic of Mr Ahmadinejad’s economic policies, have tacitly urged Khamenei, the Islamic Republic’s ultimate authority, to rein in the fiery president, to little visible effect.

Reformists have blamed state ‘discrimination’ for creating discontent that has emboldened a Sunni Muslim rebel group behind two suicide bombings that killed at least 28 people in a Shi’ite mosque in southeastern Iran last month.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Lebanon: Beirut Confirms, No Israeli Violation

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, AUGUST 4 — The Lebanese government has confirmed that the Israeli army did not commit a violation in yesterday’s incident. Information Minister Tareq Mitri said in a press conference that the uprooting of a tree by Israel, which was interrupted yesterday and completed this morning, “took place on the southern side of the Blue Line”.

Minister Mitri pointed out that “on some locations the parties don’t agree on the course of the Blue Line” and that “the intervention of UNIFIL”, the UN force deployed in the south of Lebanon, “is required each time something happens or one of the two parties want to operate behind the line. What happened yesterday was an Israeli provocation” the spokesman of the Lebanese government said. “Because when the Israeli troops started working on the other side of the fence, our troops immediately asked UNIFIL to delay the operation”.

Mitri added that “at that point UNIFIL asked the Israelis to interrupt the operation but they continued, triggering the response of our soldiers”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Lebanon: Nasrallah Blames Hariri Assassination on Israel

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, AUGUST 4 — Israel was behind the 2005 killing of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri, claimed Sayyid Hasan Nasrallah, leader of the Shia movement Hezbollah, yesterday evening in a speech before thousands of his supporters in Beirut. Speaking on the occasion of the fourth anniversary of the “Divine Victory” against Israel in the 2006 summer war, Nasrallah announced that on August 9 he would be “holding a press conference in which I will present a detailed, in-depth report based on evidence that Israel is behind the assassination of Rafik Hariri.” Over the past few weeks the Shia leader had publically stated that the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, tasked with shedding light on Hariri’s assassination and other assassinations suffered by the country between 2004 and 2007, “will accuse Hezbollah members” of involvement in the crime. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Oil Glut in Middle East

The Gulf region, which supplies 40 per cent of the world’s oil, is glutted with crude that producers cannot immediately sell, even as US and European oil has risen above US$82 a barrel.

The amount of oil in long-term floating storage in the Gulf and Red Sea is estimated at 30 million barrels, or enough to supply all of North, South and Central America for a day.

The trouble is that most Middle East crude is not sold in the Americas. Instead, it is shipped to the growing economies of Asia and, to a lesser extent, markets in Europe.

While Europe is not oversupplied with crude because of a seasonal drop in North Sea oil output from maintenance and repairs at production plants, Asia has as much as it can use.

Increasing Russian supply to Asia is also a factor in slower Middle East sales there.

“The Asian market has had to deal with a supply overhang,” the Vienna-based consultancy JBC Energy said yesterday in a research note. “It’s likely we will see [price] cuts across the board in Asia.”

Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) has retroactively dropped its official selling price for crude loaded last month. It is now asking $73 a barrel for its flagship Murban crude after a price cut of $1.80 a barrel…


[Return to headlines]

Trees Being Cleared by IDF on Israeli Side of Border

Israeli troops today uprooted trees along the border with Lebanon, completing an operation interrupted by a deadly gunbattle with Lebanese soldiers.

The UN force stationed in southern Lebanon issued a statement today saying that the trees being cut were located on the Israeli side of the border.

The troops were seen using a crane that reached over a fence in a disputed border area near the village of Aadaysie and uprooting trees that were then thrown inside Israeli territory.

The same operation yesterday sparked a deadly border battle that killed two Lebanese soldiers and a journalist as well as a senior Israeli officer.

“We are continuing to operate. It will not be legitimate if they try to disrupt today, and we will have to respond,” Israel’s defence minister Ehud Barak said on Israel Radio.

The Israelis apparently proceeded with the operation as the trees blocked their view into Lebanon.


[Return to headlines]

Update: Homemade ‘Grenade’ Was Lobbed at Mr Ahmadinejad


An official in the president’s media office told AFP the explosion was from a “firecracker.”

The ISNA and ILNA news agencies also said the blast was caused by a “firecracker,” while Fars news agency said a “hand-made grenade” had been thrown at the motorcade.

“After the president’s motorcade passed someone threw a hand-made grenade at the vehicles behind it,” Fars said.

The agency used the Farsi word “narenjak,” which means both a hand grenade of the military sort and a noisy home-made firecracker, the size of a tennis ball, that Iranians set off at festive events such as the New Year fire festival.

“Security agents arrested the person who threw it,” Fars said, adding that the incident had “irritated” well-wishers, but not saying if anyone had been hurt.

The incident came only two days after Mr Ahmadinejad repeated his claim that Iran’s enemy Israel wants him dead.

“Stupid Zionists have hired mercenaries to assassinate me,” Mr Ahmadinejad said in a televised speech to expatriate Iranians on Monday.

Today, Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman also insisted that the hardliner is on Israel’s hit list.


NOTE: Kill Him with Firecrackers. Faster, please.

[Return to headlines]

Far East

3 Children and Teacher Killed in Another Knife Attack on China Kindergarten

About 20 pupils and staff were injured, two of the children seriously, in the attack in a suburb of Zibo in Shandong province, eastern China.

Three children and a teacher have been stabbed to death in an attack on a kindergarten in eastern China.

A man armed with a knife forced his way into the nursery at about 4pm yesterday by posing as a parent, as mothers and fathers were picking up their children, according to residents who live nearby.

About 20 pupils and staff were injured, two of the children seriously, in the attack in a suburb of Zibo in Shandong province, eastern China.

Police rushed some of the wounded from the Boshan District Experimental Kindergarten to hospital before ambulances had arrived.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Erecting a Pay Wall: New Business Model for the Internet

Appearing by video at a new media breakfast and panel debate hosted by Media in Sydney this morning, Mr Murdoch said tablet or slate computers were “a perfect platform for our content”.

“We can deliver our content to our readers when, where and how they want it. It’s cheap, convenient and constantly up-to-date,” Mr Murdoch said.


“As you know, we are rolling out a paid content strategy across our newspaper websites. Already The Wall Street Journal is the largest of its kind in the world with 1.1 million paying subscribers online.

“The Times of London and The Sunday Times last month started charging for access to their websites.

“It’s going to be a success. Subscriber levels are strong. We are witnessing the start of a new business model for the internet.

“The argument that information wants to be free is only said by those who want it for free,” Mr Murdoch said…

[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Was the Poverty of Africa Determined in 1000 BC?

The usual development conversation about determinants of per capita income revolves around modern choices of institutions or economic policies. But what if history is the main determinant of development today?

A paper by Diego Comin, Erick Gong, and myself was just published in the American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics. We collected crude but informative data on the state of technology in various parts of the world in 1000 BC, 0 AD, and 1500 AD.

1500 AD technology is a particularly powerful predictor of per capita income today. 78 percent of the difference in income today between sub-Saharan Africa and Western Europe is explained by technology differences that already existed in 1500 AD — even BEFORE the slave trade and colonialism.

Moreover, these technological differences had already appeared by 1000 BC. The state of technology in 1000 BC has a strong correlation with technology 2500 years later, in 1500 AD.

Why do technological differences persist for so long? The ability to invent new technologies is much greater when you have more advanced technology already. James Watt had acquired a lot of tech experience in the mining industry which he used to invent the steam engine. Other people with the ability to make steel could then slap his steam engine on a vehicle running along steel rails and give us railroads.

Past technology alters probabilities of future success, but does not completely determine it. The most famous counter-example: China was historically technologically advanced and did NOT have the industrial revolution.

A large role for history is still likely to sit uncomfortably with modern development practitioners, because you can’t change your history. But we have to face the world as it is, not as we would like it to be: deal with it. Perhaps when you acknowledge the importance of your own history, you are then more likely to transcend it.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Arizona Sheriff: ‘Our Own Government Has Become Our Enemy’

( — Pinal County (Ariz.) Sheriff Paul Babeu is hopping mad at the federal government.

Babeu told that rather than help law enforcement in Arizona stop the hundreds of thousands of people who come into the United States illegally, the federal government is targeting the state and its law enforcement personnel.

“What’s very troubling is the fact that at a time when we in law enforcement and our state need help from the federal government, instead of sending help they put up billboard-size signs warning our citizens to stay out of the desert in my county because of dangerous drug and human smuggling and weapons and bandits and all these other things and then, behind that, they drag us into court with the ACLU,” Babeu said.

The sheriff was referring to the law suits filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the U.S. Department of Justice challenging the state’s new immigration law.

“So who has partnered with the ACLU?” Babeu said in a telephone interview with “It’s the president and (Attorney General) Eric Holder himself. And that’s simply outrageous.”

Last week, U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton placed a temporary injunction on portions of the bill that allowed law enforcement personnel during the course of a criminal investigation who have probable cause to think an individual is in the country illegally to check immigration status. The state of Arizona filed an appeal on Thursday with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

“Our own government has become our enemy and is taking us to court at a time when we need help,” Babeu said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Egyptians Warned Against Illegal Migration Via Yemen

(ANSAmed) — ROMA, 4 AGO — Ambassador Mohamed Abdel-Hakam, the Assistant Foreign Minister for Consular Affairs, Egyptian Expatriates, Immigration and Refugees, said illegal immigration brokers have deceived a large number of Egyptian nationals into traveling to Yemen, telling them that they can immigrate to Europe via Yemen.

The Egyptians were forced to stay in Yemen or go to the Egyptian Embassy in Sanaa to help them return to Egypt, said Abdel-Hakam as reported by MENA. Abdel-Hakam added that the duped Egyptians were given fake air travel tickets. Such attempts will be doomed and the persons involved will be punished, Abdel-Hakam warned. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Finland: News Analysis: Frequent Updates for Parties’ Immigration Platforms

Striking similarities between True Finns’ and National Coalition Party’s statements on immigration

The immigration debate that has been raging in recent years has found its way into the declarations of Finland’s political parties.

Some of the most recent examples include a report drawn up by National Coalition Party MP Arto Satonen calling for “realism in asylum policy, resources for integration”, dating back to November 2009, as well as an interim report by the Social Democratic Party’s working group on immigration, setting a goal for “controlled immigration” released in May this year.

Last Saturday, 13 city councillors of the True Finns party put out their own “Reticent Election Manifesto”.

The parties do not draft these statements for no reason. They are loaded with charges, and sooner or later, they are assimilated into election platforms or party programmes.

The change in direction has been considerable. Helsingin Sanomat published a story on January 12th, 2009, for which parties in Parliament had been asked how they would deal with immigration.

It turned out that most parties had no broader policy lines on the matter, and most of them mentioned immigration only in a subordinate clause in their party programmes.

It is worth noting that as the story was being written — just a year and a half ago — the party secretary of a medium-sized opposition party confided to the journalist, saying that “We had to sit down for coffee and think what our opinion on the matter was”.

So how do the abovementioned programmes differ from each other? …

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

Nuns Decry Focus on Immigration Status of Driver in Fatal Va. Crash

The religious order that was home to three nuns whose car was hit Sunday morning by an alleged drunk driver in Northern Virginia said it is upset at what it views as the politicization of the incident.

Sister Glenna Smith, a spokeswoman for the Benedictine Sisters, said Tuesday that “we are dismayed” by reports that the crash, which killed one woman and critically injured two others, is focusing attention on the man’s status as an alleged illegal immigrant. Critics of federal immigration policy have seized on the crash.

“The fact the he had DUIs is really poignant, but he’s a child of God and deserves to be treated with dignity,” Smith said of the driver, Carlos A. Martinelly Montano. “I don’t want to make a pro- or anti-immigrant statement but simply a point that he is an individual human person and we will be approaching him with mercy. Denise, of all us, would be the first to offer forgiveness.”

Another nun said Montano’s parents, Maria and Alejandro Martinelly, appeared unexpectedly at the monastery in Bristow on Sunday night. Sister Andrea Verchuck, who has lived at the monastery for 66 years, said she was working at her desk that night when the doorbell rang.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: Church of England Suspends Two Vicars Arrested in Sham Immigrant Marriage Probe

Two clergymen suspected of officiating over sham marriages were released on bail today after a night in police cells.

The Rev Brian Shipsides, 54, and the Rev Elwon John, 43, were arrested yesterday as immigration officials and police swooped on their homes in east London.

The pair have been suspended from their Church of England duties while investigators probe claims they are linked to an immigration swindle.

Their churches, All Saints in Hampton Road and St Edmunds in Katherine Road, Forest Gate, have been searched for evidence and paperwork seized.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Thousands of Illegal Immigrants Escape Deportation Because Police Fear Being Called Racist

Thousands of illegal immigrants are escaping deportation as police fear being accused of racism if they question a suspect’s nationality, according to a Home Office report.

Failure to carry out the proper checks on migrants while they are in police custody is leading to huge amounts remaining in the country rather than being deported.

Police fear asking questions about their nationality because they will be hung out to dry by politically correct regulations.

The Home Office report recommends that more checks on suspects while in custody and a closer relationship with the UK Border Agency is needed to identify illegal immigrants.

A pilot study found that when enhanced checks were applied, more than three times as illegal immigrants were found. The 14 custody suites in England and Wales showed that the number of those identified rose from 73 to 250 during the three-month trial.

In one city, 20 suspected illegal immigrants were found during the first month, but only six were deported due to a lack of detention space. The rest were all given temporary release with conditions.

The Determining Identity and Nationality in Local Policing report also revealed that 435 foreign nationals were arrested in the same area and period — accounting for 25 per cent of all arrests.

‘The research demonstrated that more rigorous practices in custody suites could increase the number of foreign nationals and illegal migrants who are identified as being involved in criminal activity,” its authors said.

‘In some sites there was a marked reluctance to challenge arrestees who claimed to be British, even though officers suspected that the claims might be false.

‘This reluctance was commonly ascribed to the fear that any such challenge could result in an accusation of racism.’

The report also found that police officers were generally uncomfortable with detaining illegal migrants who had not been charged with a criminal offence and, in half of the 14 sites studied, ‘custody suite leads perceived illegal migrants as being a drain on custody suite time and resources’.

‘The use of police custody suites to detain arrestees because of their immigration status was a significant source of tension between the police and the immigration service in nearly every site visited,’ the report added.

Just under one in five of all suspected illegal migrants arrested were questioned over serious offences, compared with just over one in ten of UK citizens arrested, the report found.

A Home Office spokesman said: ‘This research is more than three years old, and we are committed to improving the way the police and UK Border Agency work together.

‘We have already started making improvements with better information sharing, joint Local Immigration Crime Teams, and the introduction of a 24-hour phone service allowing police officers to check an offenders’ nationality with the UK Border Agency.

‘The new Government has recognised that much more still needs to be done — that is why we are currently undergoing a summer of activity to crackdown on foreign lawbreakers, and why we are committed to speeding up the removals of those with no right to be in the UK.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Westerwelle: Germany Needs Foreign Workers

Europe’s economic powerhouse Germany needs to lure qualified foreign workers to address skill shortages, Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said Wednesday, wading into a fierce immigration debate in the country.

Speaking after chairing a cabinet meeting in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s absence, Westerwelle also said he was in favour of a “points system” to plug what experts say is a 60,000-strong gap in Germany’s skills set.

“It is of course right that we intelligently invite citizens to work in our country who are positive for us and for our development,” said Westerwelle, adding it was in Germany’s “national interest.”

Such a programme must run hand-in-hand with training home-grown talent and preventing well-qualified people from leaving the jobs market, he said.

“We have become an emigration land in recent years. Far too many talented people have left Germany. We need to make our country so attractive that people employ their talents here,” said the minister, who is also vice-chancellor.

Germany’s Economy Minister Rainer Brüderle kicked off what has become a passionate debate over immigrant workers when he suggested last week that firms should offer cash incentives to attract skilled workers from abroad.

Merkel dismissed the proposal and trade unions, opposition politicians and other members of the governing coalition in Berlin also expressed strong objections to the plan.

But with a plunging population and an increasing dearth of skilled employees, Germany is mulling ways to attract top brains to its shores. Consultancy firm McKinsey has estimated that the country will be short of two million skilled workers by 2020.

Germany introduced a “green card” system for qualified immigrant workers in 2000, which has enabled 33,000 people to come to Germany in those 10 years,

according to recent figures.

Despite this, Dieter Hundt, head of the German Employers Federation (BDA), wrote recently in Die Welt daily that the economy lacked more than 60,000 skilled workers and called for a points system to attract more.

Westerwelle said he had campaigned for such a points system while in opposition and found the scheme “as before positive.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Caring for Animals May Have Shaped Human Evolution

Our love of all things furry has deep roots in human evolution and may have even shaped how our ancestors developed language and other tools of civilization.

This “animal connection” compelled humans to learn about and care for fellow creatures, said Pat Shipman, a paleoanthropologist at Penn State University. She added that the behavior seems highly abnormal for other animals on the rare occasions that, say, captive tigers nurture pigs or vice versa.

“The animal connection runs through the whole [human history] and connects the other big evolutionary leaps, including stone tools, language and domestication,” Shipman explained. “Instead of being isolated discoveries, there’s a theme here. It’s very deep and very old.”

Such nurturing behavior also paid off when humans learned to harness animals as living tools rather than just as food or companions, as detailed in the August 2010 issue of the journal Current Anthropology. That allowed people to essentially use the evolutionary advantages of dogs, cats, horses and other animals for themselves.

The seemingly unique human tendency still persists in modern societies — for instance, more U.S. households have pets than have children.

“You see homeless people on the streets with pets, and people in dire circumstances keeping pets,” Shipman told LiveScience. “That suggests there’s something humans get out of it, which is pretty old.”

Sticks, stones and words

Humans may have begun honing the animal connection after they made the leap from prey (think saber-tooth tigers sinking their fangs into our ancestors) to competitive hunter. That change grew from the development of tools and weapons (to defend oneself) starting around 2.6 million years ago.

“Once you undergo that funny ecological transition that hardly any other animal has made, you have double the advantage if you become extremely alert and extremely observant of what other animals are doing, where they are, how they move, how they communicate with each other,” Shipman said…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Food for Thought: Meat-Based Diet Made Us Smarter

Our earliest ancestors ate their food raw — fruit, leaves, maybe some nuts. When they ventured down onto land, they added things like underground tubers, roots and berries.

It wasn’t a very high-calorie diet, so to get the energy you needed, you had to eat a lot and have a big gut to digest it all. But having a big gut has its drawbacks.

“You can’t have a large brain and big guts at the same time,” explains Leslie Aiello, an anthropologist and director of the Wenner-Gren Foundation in New York City, which funds research on evolution. Digestion, she says, was the energy-hog of our primate ancestor’s body. The brain was the poor stepsister who got the leftovers.

Until, that is, we discovered meat.

“What we think is that this dietary change around 2.3 million years ago was one of the major significant factors in the evolution of our own species,” Aiello says.

That period is when cut marks on animal bones appeared — not a predator’s tooth marks, but incisions that could have been made only by a sharp tool. That’s one sign of our carnivorous conversion. But Aiello’s favorite clue is somewhat ickier — it’s a tapeworm. “The closest relative of human tapeworms are tapeworms that affect African hyenas and wild dogs,” she says.

So sometime in our evolutionary history, she explains, “we actually shared saliva with wild dogs and hyenas.” That would have happened if, say, we were scavenging on the same carcass that hyenas were.

But dining with dogs was worth it. Meat is packed with lots of calories and fat. Our brain — which uses about 20 times as much energy as the equivalent amount of muscle — piped up and said, “Please, sir, I want some more.”

Carving Up The Diet

As we got more, our guts shrank because we didn’t need a giant vegetable processor any more. Our bodies could spend more energy on other things like building a bigger brain. Sorry, vegetarians, but eating meat apparently made our ancestors smarter — smart enough to make better tools, which in turn led to other changes, says Aiello.

“If you look in your dog’s mouth and cat’s mouth, and open up your own mouth, our teeth are quite different,” she says. “What allows us to do what a cat or dog can do are tools.”

Tools meant we didn’t need big sharp teeth like other predators. Tools even made vegetable matter easier to deal with. As anthropologist Shara Bailey at New York University says, they were like “external” teeth.

“Your teeth are really for processing food, of course, but if you do all the food processing out here,” she says, gesturing with her hands, “if you are grinding things, then there is less pressure for your teeth to pick up the slack.”

Our teeth, jaws and mouth changed as well as our gut.

A Tough Bite To Swallow

But adding raw meat to our diet doesn’t tell the whole food story, according to anthropologist Richard Wrangham. Wrangham invited me to his apartment at Harvard University to explain what he believes is the real secret to being human. All I had to do was bring the groceries, which meant a steak — which I thought could fill in for wildebeest or antelope — and a turnip, a mango, some peanuts and potatoes.

As we slice up the turnip and put the potatoes in a pot, Wrangham explains that even after we started eating meat, raw food just didn’t pack the energy to build the big-brained, small-toothed modern human. He cites research that showed that people on a raw food diet, including meat and oil, lost a lot of weight. Many said they felt better, but also experienced chronic energy deficiency. And half the women in the experiment stopped menstruating.

It’s not as if raw food isn’t nutritious; it’s just harder for the body to get at the nutrition.

Wrangham urges me to try some raw turnip. Not too bad, but hardly enough to get the juices flowing. “They’ve got a tremendous amount of caloric energy in them,” he says. “The problem is that it’s in the form of starch, which unless you cook it, does not give you very much.”

Then there’s all the chewing that raw food requires. Chimps, for example, sometimes chew for six hours a day. That actually consumes a lot of energy.

“Plato said if we were regular animals, you know, we wouldn’t have time to write poetry,” Wrangham jokes. “You know, he was right.”

Tartare No More

One solution might have been to pound food, especially meat — like the steak I brought. “If our ancestors had used stones to mash the meat like this,” Wrangham says as he demonstrates with a wooden mallet, “then it would have reduced the difficulty they would have had in digesting it.”

But pounding isn’t as good as cooking that steak, says Wrangham. And cooking is what he thinks really changed our modern body. Someone discovered fire — no one knows exactly when — and then someone got around to putting steak and veggies on the barbeque. And people said, “Hey, let’s do that again.”

Besides better taste, cooked food had other benefits — cooking killed some pathogens on food.

But cooking also altered the meat itself. It breaks up the long protein chains, and that makes them easier for stomach enzymes to digest. “The second thing is very clear,” Wrangham adds, “and that is the muscle, which is made of protein, is wrapped up like a sausage in a skin, and the skin is collagen, connective tissue. And that collagen is very hard to digest. But if you heat it, it turns to jelly.”

As for starchy foods like turnips, cooking gelatinizes the tough starch granules and makes them easier to digest too. Even just softening food — which cooking does — makes it more digestible. In the end, you get more energy out of the food.

Yes, cooking can damage some good things in raw food, like vitamins. But Wrangham argues that what’s gained by cooking far outweighs the losses.

As I cut into my steak (Wrangham is a vegetarian; he settles for the mango and potatoes), Wrangham explains that cooking also led to some of the finer elements of human behavior: it encourages people to share labor; it brings families and communities together at the end of the day and encourages conversation and story-telling — all very human activities.

“Ultimately, of course, what makes us intellectually human is our brain,” he says. “And I think that comes from having the highest quality of food in the animal kingdom, and that’s because we cook.”

So, as the Neanderthals liked to say around the campfire: bon appetit.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

How Did Dogs Get to be Dogs?

The origin of man’s best friend has been a source of wonder and heated debate for centuries.

Even Charles Darwin was unsure whether the dog’s true ancestry could be determined, because dog breeds vary so greatly. In fact, the domestic dog is far more variable in size, shape and behavior than any other living mammal, according to James Serpell, professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine and editor of “The Domestic Dog: Its Evolution, Behaviour, and Interactions With People” (Cambridge University Press, 1995).

There are many theories on how dogs evolved as a species, including the view that they are mixed descendants of two or more wild species, such as wolves, dingoes and jackals. But newer evidence hasn’t supported that theory.

“Nowadays, based on a growing body of anatomical, genetic, and behavioral evidence, most experts believe that the dog originated exclusively from a single species: the gray wolf, Canis lupus,” Serpell told Life’s Little Mysteries.

The similarities between wolves and dogs are great. In the 1960s, ethologist John Paul Scott tried to untangle the behaviors of these two species, and created a catalog of 90 behaviors of dogs. All but 19 of them, however, were also observed in wolves, and the missing behaviors tended to be minor activities that probably had not been recorded at the time but do occur in wolves, Serpell said.

“Recent anatomical and molecular evidence has confirmed that wolves, dogs and dingoes are all more closely related to each other than they are to any other member of the family Canidae,” Serpell said.

The oldest skeletal remains of probable domestic wolf-dogs were excavated from the Upper Paleolithic site of Eliseyevichi in western Russia, close to the Ukrainian border, and date as far back as 19,000 years. Two skulls resembled those of Siberian huskies in their general shape, according to Serpell.

Loyal companions

Bones of ancient domestic wolf-dogs also have been found in central Europe, the Near East and North America, where they appear to have been deliberately buried with their human companions or in separate graves.

The 14,000-year-old remains of a puppy and an elderly person were found buried together in Israel, Serpell said. The person’s left hand was apparently positioned so that it rested on the dog’s flank, which shows that the relationship between man and dog is one of the oldest and most durable of friendships, he said.

So what allows for dogs to get along with humans so well?

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

New Mars Orbiter Will be a Super-Sniffer

By Zoë Macintosh

The first joint U.S.-European mission to Mars now has a plan for its toolkit.

Scheduled for launch in 2016, the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter will study the chemical composition of Mars’ atmosphere with a suite of instruments specially suited to the task. These instruments are expected to take measurements 1,000 times more sensitive than those by previous Mars orbiters.

“To fully explore Mars, we want to marshal all the talents we can on Earth,” said European Space Agency scientist David Southwood.

The selection of the orbiter’s tools, which are being developed by both ESA and NASA, was announced Tuesday. The tools will include:

Two spectrometers that will detect very low concentrations of molecules and map their locations on the planet’s surface.

An infrared-sensitive radiometer that will continuously measure dust, water and chemicals in the atmosphere as a basis for the spectrometric data.

One camera that will provide 4-color simultaneous images of a 5.3-mile (8.5-kilometer) chunk of space, and another that will provide wide-angle images of the entire planet, across a range of wavelengths of light, to support the other instruments.

Traveling around Mars in a circular path, the ExoMars spacecraft will record spectra of the sun as its telescope picks up the light that reaches it through orbital sunrise and sunset. Depending on the composition of gas in the atmosphere, sunlight will pass through it differently.

“If you take the spectra fast,” said NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory researcher Geoffrey Toon, “you can measure the gas abundance at many different heights above the planet — 70 measurements as the sun rises, and 70 as it sets.”

The study of trace gases, especially methane, follows a general quest to determine the planet’s status as a potential habitat for past or present organisms.

“We got our first sniff of the gas with Mars Express in 2003; NASA has since clearly confirmed this,” said Southwood, ESA’s director of science and robotic exploration. “Mapping methane allows us to investigate further that most important of questions: Is Mars a living planet, and if not, can or will it become so in the future?”

Methane is released in both biological and geological processes, said California Institute of Technology researcher Paul Wennberg. Figuring out where Mars’ methane comes from will help scientists better understand the history of the planet.

The orbiter’s prime spectrometer, MATMOS (short for Mars Atmospheric Trace Molecule Occultation Spectrometer), will be sensitive enough to detect concentrations of gas down to parts per trillion — so if just a few molecules of methane are hiding among 1 trillion molecules of other gases in the atmosphere, this instrument will be able to sniff them out.

“We did a calculation which shows that the microbial community found in three cows’ bellies would produce an amount of methane that, in the Mars atmosphere, would be observable by MATMOS,” said NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory researcher Mark Allen, also at Caltech.

Other substances being targeted — carbon-, sulfur- and nitrogen-containing molecules, as well as sulfur dioxide and hydrogen sulfide — are similarly “diagnostic of active geological and biogenic activity” said Wennberg, who is the lead researcher of the MATMOS team.

“Independently, NASA and ESA have made amazing discoveries up to this point,” said Ed Weiler, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, D.C. “Working together, we’ll reduce duplication of effort, expand our capabilities and see results neither ever could have achieved alone.”

In addition to the Trace Gas Orbiter, the 2016 mission will include sending a vehicle to conduct observations and experiments on the ground.

In 2018, a pair of rovers, one European and one American, will take another crack at the Martian surface with a drill and a catching apparatus for bringing samples back to Earth.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

The Hacker in Your Hardware: The Next Security Threat

As if software viruses weren’t bad enough, the microchips that power every aspect of our digital world are vulnerable to tampering in the factory. The consequences could be dire

Your once reliable mobile phone suddenly freezes. The keypad no longer functions, and it cannot make or receive calls or text messages. You try to power off, but nothing happens. You remove the battery and reinsert it; the phone simply returns to its frozen state. Clearly, this is no ordinary glitch. Hours later you learn that yours is not an isolated problem: millions of other people also saw their phones suddenly, inexplicably, freeze.

This is one possible way that we might experience a large-scale hardware attack—one that is rooted in the increasingly sophisticated integrated circuits that serve as the brains of many of the devices we rely on every day. These circuits have become so complex that no single set of engineers can understand every piece of their design; instead teams of engineers on far-flung continents design parts of the chip, and it all comes together for the first time when the chip is printed onto silicon. The circuitry is so complex that exhaustive testing is impossible. Any bug placed in the chip’s code will go unnoticed until it is activated by some sort of trigger, such as a specific date and time—like the Trojan horse, it initiates its attack after it is safely inside the guts of the hardware.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]