Friday, January 10, 2003

News Feed 20100914

Financial Crisis
»The Global Economy ‘Still Has Deep-Seated Structural Problems’
»The Illusion of a Stimulus
»UK: Cuts Could Damage Race Relations, Warns Diane Abbott
»‘It Cannot Happen Here in America’
»Jon Voight Slams Time Magazine as Anti-Semitic for Its ‘Why Israel Doesn’t Care About Peace’ Cover
»Nobel Physicist: Building Hubble’s Heir in Deep Space
»Paladino Wins G.O.P. Nomination for Governor in New York
»Probe in New Black Panther Case
»Sears Yanks Shirts Showing Picture of Twin Towers With Word ‘Gotcha’
»U.S. Preparing Massive Arms Deal for Saudi Arabia, Defense Official Says
»Canadians Don’t Believe Muslims Share Their Values: Poll
Europe and the EU
»Analysis: Anti-Immigrant Wave Spreads Across Europe
»Anti-Immigrant Party Rises in Sweden
»Belgium: Paedophilia Report Shakes Church
»EU Referendum: Let the People Decide
»Europe Reverts to Type — the EU’s Response to Anti-Semitism? “No Comment.”
»France: EU Executive Plans Legal Action Over Roma Deportations
»French Senate Passes Ban of Full Muslim Veils
»Germany: East Closes Gaps 20 Years After Reunification
»Germany: Bremen: Security Officers Need Protection
»Hair Dryer Glitch Pushes Private Danish Rocket Launch to 2011
»Ireland: Lenihan to Launch Anti-Evolution Book
»Italy: New Caucus ‘Will Remove Threat to Govt’
»Medieval Castle Being Built in French Countryside
»Netherlands: Rightwing Cabinet “Reasonably Certain”
»Norway: Home of “Ice Giants” Thaws, Shows Pre-Viking Hunts
»On Day French Gov’t Bans Burkas, Bomb Threat Empties Eiffel Tower
»Roma: France Shocked by EU Statement, Rejects Controversy
»Spain Muslims Outraged at Mecca Discotheque
»Spain: 60 Mosques on Hold Because of Popular Protests
»Sweden: Left Party Employs Stripper at Election Party
»UK Gang Tried to Sell Virginity of Girls
»UK: Blow for Middle Classes as Gove Plans to Let Poor Pupils ‘Jump Queue’ In Shake-Up of School Admissions
»UK: Doctor Kept ‘£10-a-Month Slave Woman From Africa’ At Her £500,000 Home
»UK: Steve Partner: Is Angling a Racist Sport?
»UK: Seven Injured After Coffee Machine Explodes in Sainsbury’s Café
North Africa
»Algeria: Thousands of Soldiers, Prep for Sahara Guerilla
»Algeria: Two Fundamentalists Killed in East
»Egypt: Copt Wins Islamic Competition and Rejects Prize
»Egypt: El Baradei’s Boycott Call Could Erode Mubarak’s Legitimacy
Israel and the Palestinians
»Jihad Ban on Killing Elderly, Children ‘Doesn’t Apply to Israel’
Middle East
»Calls in the Muslim World to Intensify Jihad During Ramadan
»Caroline Glick: Saad Hariri’s Cautionary Tale
»Coastal Voters Main Naysayers in Turkish Referendum
»Iran: Journalist Sentenced to 5 Years of Prison
»Kuwait May Face Lack of Power in Future
»Lebanon: 16% of Children Suffer Sexual Abuse, Study
»Saudi Arabia: Women Allowed at Stadium for First Time
»Save Sakineh Ashtiani — Stop the Crimes Against Humanity in Iran
»‘Turkey Now Needs to Forge a New Political Culture’
»Turkey’s Opposition Parties Look to Decipher Impact of Referendum
»Turkey: Request to Put Former President Evren on Trial
»Turkey Throws Iran a Safety Net
»Turkish Dailies Split Into Three Groups on Referendum Results
»Turkish Referendum: Erdogan Buries Atatürk
South Asia
»Afghanistan: ‘Blade’ of Water That Can Cut Through Steel to be Used to Destroy Ieds
»Heading Towards a Taliban Takeover of Afghanistan
»India: Police in Kashmir Have Permission to Shoot-to-Kill
Far East
»China Diverting U.S. Military Technology to Iran
»Geology: A Trip to Dinosaur Time
»Lead Poisoning in Samurai Kids Linked to Mom’s Makeup
Australia — Pacific
»Judge Forbids Girl, 14, To Wed
»Video: Five Muslim Men Planned Armed Attack on Australian Army Base
Latin America
»Mexico Marks Anniversary of 1847 Battle With US
»EU Rebukes France Over Roma Expulsions
»Finland: Green MP: Somalis Should be Helped at Home
»Fishing Boat Machine-Gunned by Libyan Vessel With Six Italian Officers Aboard
»Mexico Lashes Out at US After Migrant Massacre
»Plane-Load of Ryanair Passengers Enters UK With No Passport Checks After Border Agency Blunder
»Study: 83% of Italians Say Flow Must be Slowed
»Crested Dinosaur Pushes Back Dawn of Feathers
»Equality is the One Item Nobody Wants on the UN Agenda Next Week
»Last Supper ‘Has Been Super-Sized’, Say Obesity Experts
»M-Theory: Doubts Linger Over Godless Multiverse

Financial Crisis

The Global Economy ‘Still Has Deep-Seated Structural Problems’

In a SPIEGEL interview, former German Finance Minister Peer Steinbrück talks about his role in fighting the financial crisis, how he pressured America to stop a second Lehman Brothers and why Greece is not out of the woods yet.

SPIEGEL: Mr. Steinbrück, why is it that the financial markets haven’t collapsed yet, even though you are no longer finance minister?

Steinbrück: You flatter my vanity with your question, which is why I prefer not to answer it.

SPIEGEL: But it must have been gratifying to you that you are seen as the man who saved the German economy from collapse.

Steinbrück: That’s a bit too much for me. I played a part in overcoming, as far as that was possible, the financial crisis. Characteristics were attributed to me that flatter me, nothing more than that.

SPIEGEL: It’s been almost two years since the financial crisis reached its climax. Has the worst been overcome?

Steinbrück: No one knows. There are still deep-seated structural problems that threaten the economic balance in the world: Between the United States and China, for example, but also within Europe. We have taken a few steps toward taming the financial markets, but we haven’t come nearly far enough to rule out a repetition of the crisis. The most important question hasn’t been answered yet: Who’s in charge, politicians or the financial industry?

SPIEGEL: In your new book “Unterm Strich” (“The Bottom Line”), you clearly have no doubt that the politicians were not in control, at least not in those dramatic fall days in 2008. How close did the world come to a total crash?

Steinbrück: The investment bank Lehman Brothers collapsed on Sept. 15, 2008, and the world’s largest insurance company, AIG, was threatened with the same fate. I’m convinced that if AIG had gone under, the financial sector would have reached a melting point. The world was indeed at the brink of disaster.

SPIEGEL: Were you alone in your assessment?

Steinbrück: No, my European counterparts agreed with me: Christine Lagarde from France, Alistair Darling from Great Britain, Wouter Bos from the Netherlands and, not least, the central bank governors from (Bundesbank President) Axel Weber to European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet. Then, in a coordinated telephone campaign, we implored then-US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson not to risk a second case like Lehman Brothers under any circumstances.

SPIEGEL: Are you saying that without European intervention there would have been a crash?…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

The Illusion of a Stimulus

WASHINGTON—Faced with voter anger at the failure of monetary and fiscal stimulus to stimulate, the Obama administration and the Federal Reserve are doubling down. The government is launching another spending spree with an initial outlay of $50 billion geared toward infrastructure projects, while Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke recently suggested that he is contemplating new forms of money printing—so-called quantitative easing.

Stimulus policies started during George W. Bush’s final year in office and have continued, with vehemence, under Obama—to no avail. The response to this failure betrays a mind-boggling inability to learn the lesson. If almost $1 trillion of fiscal spending and a tripling of the Fed’s balance sheet have not done the trick, leaders should realize by now that the process of economic healing—paying down debts, liquidating redundant assets, saving and, eventually, investing and consuming again—cannot be altered by political diktat. Since government stimulus detracts energy from the economy it is trying to reignite, and since the Fed’s “easy money” is not being channeled by economic players toward productive purposes, it should be obvious that current policies are futile.

Actually, stimulus is worse than futile—it compounds the problem. The Austrian school of economics, whose icons include the late Nobel laureate Friedrich von Hayek, has long maintained that the boom-bust cycle is provoked by government-engineered credit expansions and the inevitable corrections. Responding to a recession with another artificial credit expansion postpones the recovery and engenders, well, more boom and bust.

The history of U.S. recessions confirms this.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Cuts Could Damage Race Relations, Warns Diane Abbott

Planned spending cuts could set back race relations by a generation and risk social “instability”, Labour leadership candidate Diane Abbott has warned.

The cuts could hit ethnic minorities and women harder than other groups, she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

And she called for ethnic and gender monitoring to be carried out when public bodies axe jobs.

The five leadership contenders are making their final pitch to Labour MPs, members and trade unionists.

Many will have already cast their vote, with the winner to be announced at Labour’s annual conference later this month.

Ms Abbott, who is seen as the most left-wing of the five candidates, warned that a “last in, first out” approach to redundancies would hit black and female workers particularly hard.

She called for new rules to ensure local authorities and quangos are “mindful” of the race and gender distribution of any job losses announced in response to Treasury-imposed budget restrictions.

Ms Abbott, who was Britain’s first black female MP, said: “Black (people) and ethnic minorities are predominantly employed in the public sector, particularly women.

“My concern is that the progress black and ethnic minority workers have made in employment is relatively recent and if there have to be big cuts, it will be ‘last in, first out’ and these cuts will fall disproportionately not just on women but on black and ethnic minority workers.

“I think the public sector cuts have the potential to set back race relations and black and ethnic minority communities by a generation.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


‘It Cannot Happen Here in America’

by Gene

Nicholas Kristof writes in The New York Times:

In America, bigoted comments about Islam often seem to come from people who have never visited a mosque and know few if any Muslims. In their ignorance, they mirror the anti-Semitism that I hear in Muslim countries from people who have never met a Jew. One American university professor wrote to me that “every Muslim in the world” believes that the proposed Manhattan Islamic center would symbolize triumph over America. That reminded me of Pakistanis who used to tell me that “every Jew” knew of 9/11 in advance, so that none died in the World Trade Center.

It is perfectly reasonable for critics to point to the shortcomings of Islam or any other religion. There should be more outrage, for example, about the mistreatment of women in many Islamic countries, or the oppression of religious minorities like Christians and Ahmadis in Pakistan. Europe is alarmed that Muslim immigrants have not assimilated well, resulting in tolerance of intolerance, and pockets of wife-beating, forced marriage, homophobia and female genital mutilation. Those are legitimate concerns, but sweeping denunciations of any religious group constitute dangerous bigotry.

If this is a testing time, then some have passed with flying colors. Hats off to a rabbinical student in Massachusetts, Rachel Barenblat, who raised money to replace prayer rugs that a drunken intruder had urinated on at a mosque. She told me that she quickly raised more than $1,100 from Jews and Christians alike. Above all, bravo to those Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders who jointly denounced what they called “the anti-Muslim frenzy.” “We know what it is like when people have attacked us physically, have attacked us verbally, and others have remained silent,” said Rabbi David Saperstein. “It cannot happen here in America in 2010.”

Keywords: Anti Muslim Bigotry, Stateside

[JP note: Useless idiots contributing to the potential success of Islam’s aggressive march on the West.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Jon Voight Slams Time Magazine as Anti-Semitic for Its ‘Why Israel Doesn’t Care About Peace’ Cover

Appearing as a guest on Saturday’s Huckabee show on FNC, actor Jon Voight condemned Time magazine for the cover on its September 13 issue which provocatively displays the words “Why Israel Doesn’t Care About Peace” in the middle of a Star of David made from daisies. Voight charged that there must be anti-Semitism at Time magazine if such a cover could be devised.

[Comments from JD: see url for transcript.]

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Nobel Physicist: Building Hubble’s Heir in Deep Space

When the James Webb Space Telescope unfurls its mirror a million and a half kilometres out in space four years from now, it will be the culmination of nearly two decades of planning by John Mather. He tells Anil Ananthaswamy about the challenges of building an heir to the stunningly successful Hubble Space Telescope

Why do we need the James Webb Space Telescope, when Hubble is still up there?

The short answer is that Hubble has tantalised us by showing us signs of things that would be really exciting to know about, but are just beyond its reach.

What do you expect we will see?

The first luminous objects in the universe that formed a few hundred million years after the big bang. We have good evidence for them, but can’t yet see them directly. That’s because, as the universe expands, it stretches out the wavelength of their light beyond what Hubble can pick up. With the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) we think we will be able to see back to a couple of hundred million years after the big bang. We’ll see stars made from primordial material that has not already been cycled through previous generations of stars.

How will the JWST differ from Hubble?

The first requirement is that it should be an infrared telescope, while Hubble operates mainly in visible and UV wavelengths. This means it will have to be colder than Hubble so as not to swamp the cold infrared light.

Where are you going to station it to ensure that it stays cold enough?

We hunted for a long time to see if we could keep it near Earth like Hubble, and the answer was no. No Earth orbit, no combination of shielding could do the job. The best place turns out to be the Lagrangian point L2, which is 1.5 million kilometres away, on the opposite side of the Earth from the sun. A one-sided sun shield can cast a shadow over the telescope to block out any solar radiation and keep its temperature down to about 50 kelvin.

Are there any other key requirements?

The JWST needs to be as big as we can manage. A report for NASA, released in 1996, by astronomer Alan Dressler called for it to have a mirror diameter or “aperture” of at least 4 metres, because they knew that there were rockets that could launch a telescope of this size. Yet even then we were already thinking: “Does it have to stop there? How about building an even bigger segmented telescope that you fold up during launch?”

It turned out that the head of NASA at the time, Dan Goldin, knew about this technique, because he came from a company that had worked on segmented telescopes. Goldin was convinced that this is what we had to do. When he announced it to the American Astronomical Society, they gave him a standing ovation.

So it’s a telescope that can be folded to fit into the rocket and unfurled once it’s in space. That sounds frighteningly challenging.

Well, it is challenging. And if you are a serious engineer, you know that it’s frightening.

What are the other technically difficult bits about the JWST?…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Paladino Wins G.O.P. Nomination for Governor in New York

Carl P. Paladino, a wealthy Buffalo businessman and political neophyte, beat former Representative Rick A. Lazio in New York’s Republican gubernatorial primary on Tuesday night.

The victory for Mr. Paladino, whose agitating campaign strategy and attacks against Albany earned him a late surge in the polls, was a stunning win for the Tea Party movement, which backed the businessman against Mr. Lazio, a dyed-in-the-wool Republican mainstay.

[Return to headlines]

Probe in New Black Panther Case

The Justice Department’s internal watchdog is investigating allegations that its civil rights division enforced voting laws in a racially discriminatory manner, officials said Monday.

The review by Inspector General Glenn A. Fine is an outgrowth of the political controversy over a 2008 voter intimidation case against members of the New Black Panther Party. Some conservative lawyers, politicians and commentators have said that the civil rights division improperly narrowed that case, part of their broader allegations that the Obama Justice Department has failed to protect the civil rights of white voters.

The department’s Office of Professional Responsibility is looking into the matter, and two Republican congressmen, Frank R. Wolf (Va.) and Lamar Smith (Tex.) asked Fine to also investigate the department’s handling of the case, according to letters the congressmen sent Fine over the summer.

Fine, in a letter Monday to the congressmen, wrote that his office will not investigate the New Black Panther case specifically but is initiating a broader review of how the Justice Department enforces voting rights laws…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sears Yanks Shirts Showing Picture of Twin Towers With Word ‘Gotcha’

Sears department store is reportedly under fire for selling T-shirts depicting images of the Twin Towers with the word “Gotcha” emblazoned on the front of the clothing.

Sears, once the biggest retailer in the U.S., pulled the Sept. 11-related shirts from shelves in Kansas City, Mo., following complaints that the clothing was disturbing, reports.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

U.S. Preparing Massive Arms Deal for Saudi Arabia, Defense Official Says

Washington (CNN) — The Obama administration is preparing to notify Congress of plans to sell $60 billion of military equipment to Saudi Arabia, according to a U.S. defense official.

The official, who would not be identified because the proposal has not yet been sent to Congress, described the deal as “enormous.”

“We believe this is the largest of its kind in history,” the official said.

Congress would have to approve the deal.

The proposed package includes 84 newly manufactured F-15/SA fighter aircraft; 70 upgraded aircraft, 70 Apache helicopters, 72 Black Hawk helicopters, and 36 AH-6 Little Bird helicopters. A number of bombs and missiles also are in the deal, including the Joint Direct Attack Munition, a satellite-guided bomb, as well as a laser-guided Hellfire missile variant and some advanced targeting technology.

The Saudi arms effort is in large part directed at providing a modernized capability against Iran.

“This gives them a whole host of defensive and deterrent capabilities,” the official explained.

The official emphasized that nothing in the sale would change the qualitative edge that Israel seeks to maintain. A point reiterated by State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley.

“Suffice it to say that at the core of our policy is making sure that, you know, there is stability in the region and part of that stability is making sure that Israel has what it needs … to be able to provide for its own security,” Crowley said Monday. “So the United States would do nothing that would upset that — the current … balance in the region.”

The Obama administration hopes to send the proposed package to Capitol Hill no later than next week. The official emphasized it’s not clear yet whether the Saudis would follow through to buy all of the weapons and aircraft in the package because they are continuing to evaluate their own financial concerns.

Boeing Corp. has told the administration that if the entire package is sold, 77,000 company jobs would be “involved,” but there was no calculation on how many new jobs might be created over the five- to 10-year period of potential delivery, according to the official.

The official also indicated the United States is discussing with the Saudi government additional sales of a ballistic missile defense system and more modern warships.

           — Hat tip: CB2[Return to headlines]


Canadians Don’t Believe Muslims Share Their Values: Poll

OTTAWA — Nine years after the devastating 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center, a majority of Canadians don’t believe Muslims share their values, according to a new public opinion poll released exclusively to Postmedia.

The poll, conducted earlier this week by Leger Marketing in Canada and Caravan in the United States, found that 55% of Canadian respondents and 50.3% of Americans disagreed when asked whether “Muslims share our values.”

However, the poll reveals there are also significant regional differences in the way Muslims are viewed in Canada. While 72% of Quebecers said Muslims didn’t share their values, compared to 19% who said they do, that rate dropped to 35.5% in British Columbia where 40.8% saw shared values with Muslims.

Ontario and Alberta were closer to the national average. In Ontario, 54.5% said Muslims don’t share their values, compared to 34.9% who said they do, while in Alberta 57.9% of Albertans said values weren’t shared, compared to 32.4% who said they were.

Jack Jedwab, executive director of the Association for Canadian Studies, which commissioned the poll along with the Canadian Race Relations Foundation, said the opinion Canadians have of Muslims has been deteriorating over the past few years.

“I think the principal thing that worries me when you see these results is the tendency to generalize,” he said. “There is a tendency to see an incident arising with someone who is Muslim or a group of people who are Muslim are involved and there seems to be a ready tendency to generalize to the entire group.”

Ayman Al Yassini, executive director of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation, agreed the situation is getting worse and suggested Canada’s Muslim community reach out more to other Canadians.

“They have to communicate the true nature of Islam and build bridges.”

Older respondents in both countries were more likely to feel that Muslims share their values. While only 43.5% of Canadian 18- 24-year-olds felt that way, the rate rose to 70% among those 65 years old and older.

One of the biggest divides was between English- and French-speaking Canadians. The poll found 49.7% of English Canadians didn’t feel Muslims share their values (compared with 37.9% who felt they do). However, among French respondents, 74% said Muslims didn’t share their values and only 17.4% thought they did.

Among those whose first language was neither English nor French, 52.3% said Muslims didn’t share their values.

Jedwab said controversies and media reports in Quebec over the past few years on questions such as the reasonable accommodation of ethnic minorities or Muslim women wearing the niqab face veil likely contributed to the attitudes among Quebecers and francophones.

The surveys were conducted via the web during the week of Sept. 6 with 1,700 respondents in Canada and 1,000 in the U.S. The Canadian survey is considered accurate to within 2.3 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, while the American survey is considered accurate to within 3.5 percentage points.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Analysis: Anti-Immigrant Wave Spreads Across Europe

BERLIN (Reuters) — Few people outside of Germany paid much attention when a little-known Berlin politician named Rene Stadtkewitz convened a news conference last week and announced the formation of a new “Freedom” party.

But in the German capital, the founding of a movement modelled on the anti-immigrant party of Dutch populist Geert Wilders was a small political earthquake, whose tremors resonated in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s office across town.

“Right now we are focussed on building up this new party in Berlin, but if we have success here, I certainly can’t rule out extending it nationwide,” Stadtkewitz, who was kicked out of Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) for his views, told Reuters.

The 45-year-old from the east Berlin district of Pankow, who wants headscarves banned, mosques shuttered and state welfare payments to Muslims cut, is the newest face of a powerful anti-immigrant strain in European politics that is winning over voters and throwing mainstream politicians onto the defensive.

Parties with xenophobic-tinged programmes are not new in Europe. The National Front of Jean-Marie Le Pen has been a force in France for years, as has the Northern League, which is part of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s ruling coalition in Italy.

But experts say public concerns about immigration have grown in the wake of the economic crisis and politicians across Europe are scrambling like never before to exploit these fears, breaking unwritten post-war taboos along the way.

“What we are witnessing is not a new trend, but a deepening and acceleration of something that was in place,” said Dominique Moisi of the French Institute for International Relations (Ifri) in Paris. “These politicians are playing with fire, because feelings on this issue run very deep and may not disappear when the economy recovers.”


Wilders, who wants to ban the Koran and expel Muslims who commit crimes, has emerged in the span of a few months as arguably the most powerful politician in the Netherlands.

After an inconclusive June election, centre-right parties are relying on Wilders to form a minority government that could give him major sway over policy. If this coalition fails to come together and a new election is held, polls show his Freedom Party (PVV) would be the top vote getter.

In France, President Nicolas Sarkozy has taken pre-emptive action to prevent similar gains for the far-right National Front, announcing a crackdown on Roma people and criminals of foreign origin that has earned him rebukes from a United Nations human rights body and the European Parliament.

In Italy, which received the most immigrants of any EU country last year, Umberto Bossi’s Northern League has wielded huge influence over domestic policy, pushing through tough laws that allow authorities to fine and imprison illegal immigrants, and even punish people who provide them with shelter.

Heather Grabbe, director of the Open Society Institute in Brussels, says more European politicians are realising that by focussing on immigration, they can tap into voter fears about a range of issues — from the economy and jobs, to globalisation, change and an increasingly uncertain future.

“People in Europe have grown comfortable in the decades since World War Two and now they see that level of comfort threatened,” Grabbe said. “The result is that tolerance is no longer held dear as a European value, even in countries that used to be proud of being open and liberal.”…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Anti-Immigrant Party Rises in Sweden

MALMO, Sweden — Jimmie Akesson, 31, looks more like an up-and-coming advertising executive than a seasoned politician. But Mr. Akesson, the leader of the Sweden Democrats, does not believe in a soft sell: He wants to cut immigration by 90 percent, and he thinks that the growth of Sweden’s Muslim population is the country’s biggest foreign threat since World War II. [.]

At the main mosque and Islamic center in Malmo, Beyzat Becirov, who came to Sweden from Yugoslavia more than 40 years ago, said that most Swedes were welcoming, but that perhaps 2 to 4 percent of the population seemed to say “that economic problems are due to the Muslims.”

He said there had been dozens of attacks on the mosque, including a serious fire in 2003. In one office, he pointed to a window with a bullet hole. As for Mr. Akesson’s Sweden Democrats, he said that their support was not substantial, before adding, “But Hitler’s support started small.”

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

Belgium: Paedophilia Report Shakes Church

Le Soir, 11 September 2010

Belgium is again rocked by scandal after the September 10 publication of the final report of the Commission established by the Catholic church to investigate cases of paedophilia committed there by Catholic priests between 1950 and 1985. The testimony of the victims — some 475 “survivors”, plus 13 who have committed suicide — is so devastating, and the cases so widespread throughout congregations and Catholic boarding schools, that the report’s author, independent child psychiatrist Peter Adriaenssens, has called it “the Belgian church’s Dutroux case”, a phrase that Le Soir picked up for the title of its article, referring to a particularly detestable paedophile case in Belgium. While the daily condemns the “substantial responsibility of the Church” in the matter, it also points a finger at Belgian society as a whole, accusing it of failing to protect children because of the “poor organisation of its education system”, as well as to its excessive “submission to religious authority”.

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

EU Referendum: Let the People Decide

Telegraph View: The Government must prevent further erosion of national sovereignty by holding a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU.

The Conservative Party famously campaigned for a referendum on the Treaty of Lisbon, only to back down once Irish voters, at a second attempt, had approved it. Now the Coalition Government, of which the Tories are the dominant partner, has indicated where it would draw the line in future. Under the treaty, qualified majority voting (QMV), whereby changes will need the support of 55 per cent of member states representing at least 65 per cent of the EU population, will become the norm from 2014 onwards. Areas in which unanimity will be retained include tax, foreign policy and defence. The Government has made clear that any further extension of QMV or any future EU treaty would be put to the British people in a referendum.

Many will feel that all this is too little too late to check a newly authoritarian streak in the EU. French and Dutch rejection of the constitution in 2005 was blithely disregarded and the Lisbon treaty, an almost identical document, served up in its place. When the Irish rejected that, the same question was put to them 14 months later. Having backed a referendum on the constitution, the Labour government refused one on the treaty, arguing with shameless casuistry that the two documents were fundamentally different. The “ever closer union” specified in the Treaty of Rome means that the drive to limit the powers of the nation state is the EU’s raison d’être. The reaction of members to such encroachments has been lamentably weak.

The MEP Daniel Hannan is campaigning for a referendum on our membership of the EU. The Government is stopping well short of that, saying that it intends to be a “positive participant” in Europe. Given the nature of the union, however, it may soon have to take a lone stand against further erosion of national sovereignty by submitting it to popular vote…

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Europe Reverts to Type — the EU’s Response to Anti-Semitism? “No Comment.”

If a top European mandarin mouths off about Jews and the rest of Europe’s political class acts like it’s no big deal, does that make them cowards, accomplices—or just politically astute? Probably all three.

Earlier this month, Karel De Gucht, the European Union’s trade commissioner and a former foreign minister of Belgium, gave an interview to a Flemish radio station in which he offered the view that the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations were sure to founder on two accounts: first, because Jews are excessively influential in the U.S; second, because they are not the sorts to be reasoned with.

“Do not underestimate the Jewish lobby on Capitol Hill,” Mr. De Gucht said, dispensing with the usual fine-grained, face-saving distinction about the difference between a “Jewish” and an “Israel” lobby. “This is the best organized lobby, you shouldn’t underestimate the grip it has on American politics—no matter whether it’s Republicans or Democrats.”

Nor was that all the commissioner had to say on the subject. “There is indeed a belief—it’s difficult to describe it otherwise—among most Jews that they are right,” he said. “And it’s not so much whether these are religious Jews or not. Lay Jews also share the same belief that they are right. So it is not easy to have, even with moderate Jews, a rational discussion about what is actually happening in the Middle East.”

Here, then, was a case not of “criticism of Israel” or “anti-Zionism,” the usual sheets under which this sort of mentality hides. Mr. De Gucht’s target was Jews, the objects of his opprobrium their malign political influence and crippled mental reflexes. If this isn’t anti-Semitism, the term has no meaning.

But perhaps it no longer does, at least in Europe. “I regret that the comments that I made have been interpreted in a sense I did not intend,” Mr. De Gucht said, by way of non-apology. “I did not mean in any possible way to cause offense or stigmatize the Jewish community. I want to make clear that anti-Semitism has no place in today’s world.”

The comment admits of two interpretations: (1) that it is insincere, and therefore an act of political expediency; (2) that it is sincere, and Mr. De Gucht thinks that casually bad-mouthing Jews doesn’t quite reach the threshold of “anti-Semitism”—defined, as the saying has it, as hating Jews more than is strictly necessary…

           — Hat tip: TV[Return to headlines]

France: EU Executive Plans Legal Action Over Roma Deportations

Brussels, 14 Sept. (AKI) — The European Union executive is planning to take legal action against France over its controversial deportations of more than 1,000 Roma Gypsies last month, justice commissioner Viviane Reding said on Tuesday.

“I am personally convinced that the (European) Commission will have no choice,” Reding said during a media conference.

Reding called “a disgrace” the French government’s policy of expelling Roma Gypsies, also known as Roma, mainly to Romania.

The deportations have drawn international condemnation in recent weeks. Officials in France have dismantled over 100 illegal camps.

“Discrimination on the basis of ethnic origin or race has no place in Europe. It is incompatible with the values on which the EU is founded.

“National authorities who discriminate ethnic groups in the application of EU law are also violating the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, which all Member States, including France, have signed up to,” Reding stated.

She said she intended to recommend to EU commission president Jose Manuel Barroso “a fast track infringement procedure, so we lose no time.”

Reding said she had been “appalled” by Roma Gypsies being targeted for deportation.

“This is a situation I had thought Europe would not have to witness again after the Second World War,” she said in a reference to German Nazi leader Adolf Hitler’s persecution of the Roma, as well as Jews and other minorities.

Reding said she was asking the French authorities for an “immediate and swift” explanation of its Roma deportations.

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

French Senate Passes Ban of Full Muslim Veils

PARIS — The French Senate has voted overwhelmingly for a bill banning the burqa-style Islamic veil everywhere from post offices to streets, in a final step toward a making it law.

The Senate voted 246 to 1 Tuesday in favor of the bill, which has already passed in the lower chamber, the National Assembly.

Any dissenters have 10 days to challenge the measure in the Constitutional Council watchdog, but that is considered unlikely.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

Germany: East Closes Gaps 20 Years After Reunification

Twenty years after German reunification, the former communist eastern half of the country is slowly closing the gap economically with the west but has some way to go, according to a new study.

The survey, by the Ifo economic institute for glossy magazine Super Illu, revealed this week that workers in what was once East Germany now earn on average 83 percent of the equivalent salary in the west, compared with 53 percent in 1991.

Meanwhile, gross domestic product per capita in the east doubled from €9,751 ($12,398) in 1991 to €19,500 in 2009, while rising by only 12 percent during the same time period in the west.

The study “came to the conclusion that the initial expectations about the speed of the catching-up process in the east cannot be fulfilled. However, we have already gotten very close to the goals,” wrote Super Illu.

On October 3, Germany will celebrate the moment in 1990 when East Germany (known as the German Democratic Republic) officially joined the Federal Republic of Germany to unite the country.

However, despite billions of euros in transfers from the affluent west to the east, the unemployment rate in the former communist part of the country is still nearly twice as high as in the west.

The latest figures from the national statistics office Destatis showed that in August, 6.6 percent of western Germans were unemployed, compared with 11.5 percent in the “new federal states” as the former east is known.

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

Germany: Bremen: Security Officers Need Protection

In the Red-Green governed an the smallest and most stupid state of Germany, Bremen, the “Zero Tolerance Strategy” as well as the “Hot Autumn” and the “Hot Spring” somehow went totally missing in its effect on the brutal battle against the most hardened Kurdish-Arab clan. Now, two M’s have beaten up security service officers and threatened them with death so much, that even they need protection…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Hair Dryer Glitch Pushes Private Danish Rocket Launch to 2011

A powerless hair dryer was apparently to blame for thwarting the debut launch of a privately built Danish rocket, pushing the novel booster’s first flight back to sometime in June 2011.

The maiden launch of the Tycho Brahe space capsule, which has room for a human pilot to half-sit, half-stand in it, was to have carried a test dummy almost 19 miles (30 km) into the upper atmosphere on Sunday (Sept. 12). The capsule rested atop the Hybrid Exo Atmospheric Transporter 1X, or HEAT-1X, rocket, from a launch platform floating in the Baltic Sea.

But the suborbital rocket launch was scrubbed when a liquid oxygen valve in the rocket became stuck after a hair dryer lost electric power, exposing the valve to the frigid temperatures near the Danish island of Bornholm, the Copenhagen Post newspaper reported after a press conference with the rocketeers.

Rocket creators Peter Madsen and Kristian von Bengtson of the nonprofit Copenhagen Suborbitals did not sound discouraged. “We aim to launch ourselves into space,” von Bengtson told “The entire R&D and production of it is just as exciting as the launch attempt itself.”

The engineers, tackling the lofty goal of eventually launching a human, are relying on private funding and donations for their effort, which is costing just $70,000.

Their first launch try Sunday came after several days of delay.

The rocketeers have already compiled a list of improvements to work on before next year’s attempt, according to a Sept. 7 blog post by Madsen.

What went wrong

In his post, Madsen referred to the faulty valve-heater component as a blow dryer. The Copenhagen Post reported that it was a commercial hair dryer. [10 Private Spaceships Becoming Reality]

The cold proved the biggest obstacle to the HEAT-1X liftoff.

Madsen’s homemade submarine, called the Nautilus, had towed the floating platform to its designated launch site under an empty sky Sept. 5. The Nautilus’ engine supplied power for the hair dryer used in the rocket to keep the liquid oxygen valve from freezing. But the submarine’s engine was shut down for the launch — and a short launch delay may have sealed the deal.

It may have been frozen lubricant in the actuator that prevented the actuator from opening the valve, according to the Danes. Another possibility is that traces of water left from an earlier pressure test froze inside the valve.

“We had to leave the heating system without power for longer than planned,” von Bengtson said in an e-mail. “Those extra minutes without power were perhaps enough for the LOX valve to freeze up.”

There were other possibilities for the failure to launch, but such an investigation would have to wait for the engineers’ 21-person team to disassemble the rocket.

Team member Thomas Scherrer has proposed coming up with a more “elegant” heating solution for the valve, the Danes said, but either way, they plan to ensure next time that power is available leading up to the actual moment of rocket firing…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Ireland: Lenihan to Launch Anti-Evolution Book

Minister for Science Conor Lenihan is to officially launch a book exposing the “fiction of evolution”.

Mr Lenihan will attend the launch of The Origin of Specious Nonsense by Dublin writer John J May in Buswell’s Hotel on Wednesday evening.

According to the book’s website Mr May says evolution “cripples sanity, promotes myths and obscures reality”.

He also said anyone who teaches evolution is “either ignorant or deliberately suppressing the known scientific facts.

“It [evolution] is a toxic poisonous mind virus which destroys the hearts immune system against hope and common sense,” he added.

Mr Lenihan said he is not launching the book as Minister for Science but rather as a TD because Mr May is a constituent of his.

The “Gorillas and Girls” launch party will begin with a talk entitled “How evolution made monkeys out of man” at 7:30pm before the Minister launches the book at 8pm.

Michael Nugent of Atheist Ireland said the Minister’s appearance at the launch is an abuse of his position and an attack by the Government on both scientists and science education.

           — Hat tip: McR[Return to headlines]

Italy: New Caucus ‘Will Remove Threat to Govt’

20 MPs ‘ready to vote confidence, no need for FLI’

(ANSA) — Rome, September 13 — A nascent centrist caucus in the House will remove any threat to Silvio Berlusconi’s government, the leader of the new group said Monday.

“We have the numbers to support the People of Freedom (PdL) party. The caucus will be unveiled shortly before or after the premier’s confidence speech on September 28,” said Republican Party Secretary Francesco Nucara.

Nucara said the caucus would have 20 MPs ready to vote in the government’s favour, removing any need to rely on 35 Future and Freedom (FLI) breakaways under House Speaker Gianfranco Fini.

He refused to name the MPs, telling reporters “I know eho they are but I won’t tell you”.

When the FLI was set up after Fini was ejected from the PdL on July 29 it left the PdL and its Northern League ally ten votes short of a House majority.

Even though the FLI has said it will vote for the government’s revamped platform on September 28, Berlusconi has been seeking centrist support so as to avoid relying on Fini, who has turned from an heir-apparent to a fierce critic.

Nucara’s announcement appeared to confirm Berlusconi’s assurances over the weekend that the PdL no longer needed the FLI and the government would last out its term until 2013.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Medieval Castle Being Built in French Countryside

Archaeologist Michel Guyot had a dream to build a real Medieval castle with Medieval building techniques, and finally his dream is being realized.

Just south of Paris, France, in the rolling countryside a Medieval castle is being built. Techniques from the 13th century are being used (under the supervision of working regulations) which have not been used in more than 700 years, claims the AOL News article.

Michel Guyot was inspired when he discovered 13th century architecture that still remained in a 15th century castle not too far away from his own dream castle. However, the path toward this realization has been a long one that included regulations, paperwork and funding.

An entrepreneur by the name of Maryline Martin took interest in the endeavor, citing that the building would generate tourism (and money) for the area as well as jobs for the locals. This dream finally started construction in 1997 and still goes on today, thirteen years later. They started with only fifty workers.

As part of the on-going building, workers must wear Medieval styled clothing but also modernized hard hats, steel-toed boots and other safety regulated gear. Also, it brings about a bit more authenticity, as thousands of tourists visit annually—this year alone has seen 300,000 tourists already.

Though Guyot and Martin secured some funding, after three years into the project the castle lost all funding and has been completely self-funded.

To entertain the growing number of tourists who visit each year, workshops for kids have been set up that explain the Medieval building techniques being used and then kids can try it out for themselves, such as stone carving.

Despite the influx of interest, the workforce for the castle has been tiny compared to the times they are trying to emulate. Thus, the completion date is not until between 2023 and 2025.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Rightwing Cabinet “Reasonably Certain”

THE HAGUE, 14/09/10 — The conservatives (VVD), Christian democrats (CDA) and Party for Freedom (PVV) resumed their negotiations on the formation of a cabinet yesterday. There is a “reasonable degree of certainty” that they will succeed, said Herman Tjeenk Willink yesterday.

Tjeenk Willink has in the past week sounded out the wishes of the various parties in the Lower House. He presented his final report to Queen Beatrix yesterday. In it, he advises continuation of the negotiations for the “speedy realisation of a stable cabinet of VVD and CDA that with the support of the PVV can count on a fruitful partnership with parliament.”

The party leaders of VVD, PVV and CDA have indicated to Tjeenk Willink that there is a “reasonable degree of certainty” that their negotiations will lead to a coalition accord, according to the envoy for the queen. Mark Rutte (VVD), Geert Wilders (PVV) and Maxime Verhagen (CDA) are “very clear in their conviction that this can succeed.”

Tjeenk Willink yesterday morning advised the queen to re-appoint Ivo Opstelten as ‘informateur’ (chairman of the negotiations). She did so in the afternoon, after which the talks between the three parties were resumed in the evening.

Opstelen halted his work over a week ago when the PVV pulled out of the negotiations because there were three dissident MPs in the CDA. Following the departure of the most important of these, Ab Klink, the PVV decided it wanted to re-enter the talks. Tjeenk Willink was appointed to verify formally that the VVD and CDA also wanted this.

Tjeenk Willink advises Opstelten to find out from the future opposition parties whether they are prepared to support certain main points of cabinet policy. According to Tjeenk Willink, the new cabinet will need varying majorities for certain subjects.

He refers in particular to the “European agenda which will include important subjects in the coming months.” For this dossier, VVD and CDA may need support from a party other than the PVV. But this will not be easy.

Meanwhile Wilders’ speech in New York has not produced any friction. The PVV leader spoke at Ground Zero last Saturday at the memorial for the 9/11 attacks. Some followers thought that a fierce attack on Islam could spoil the atmosphere between the PVV, VVD and CDA, but there is no question of this having happened.

In his speech, Wilders opposed the construction of a mosque near Ground Zero. Even leftwing parties found that he was milder than usual. Leftwing Green (GroenLinks) MP Ineke van Gent, for example, wrote on “Weak texts for Geert’s doing. He wants to govern now and not to provoke. Too bad! The chances of a thundering rightwing cabinet are increasing.”

Beforehand, VVD leader Rutte had said that “we must not be too frenetic” about what Wilders says or does. He referred to an accord that the three parties concluded immediately at the beginning of their negotiations, which states that they differ and will continue to differ in their views on the nature of Islam.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Norway: Home of “Ice Giants” Thaws, Shows Pre-Viking Hunts

JUVFONNA, Norway (Reuters) — Climate change is exposing reindeer hunting gear used by the Vikings’ ancestors faster than archaeologists can collect it from ice thawing in northern Europe’s highest mountains.

“It’s like a time machine…the ice has not been this small for many, many centuries,” said Lars Piloe, a Danish scientist heading a team of “snow patch archaeologists” on newly bare ground 1,850 meters (6,070 ft) above sea level in mid-Norway.

Specialized hunting sticks, bows and arrows and even a 3,400-year-old leather shoe have been among finds since 2006 from a melt in the Jotunheimen mountains, the home of the “Ice Giants” of Norse mythology.

As water streams off the Juvfonna ice field, Piloe and two other archaeologists — working in a science opening up due to climate change — collect “scare sticks” they reckon were set up 1,500 years ago in rows to drive reindeer toward archers.

But time is short as the Ice Giants’ stronghold shrinks.

“Our main focus is the rescue part,” Piloe said on newly exposed rocks by the ice. “There are many ice patches. We can only cover a few…We know we are losing artefacts everywhere.”

Freed from an ancient freeze, wood rots in a few years. And rarer feathers used on arrows, wool or leather crumble to dust in days unless taken to a laboratory and stored in a freezer.

Jotunheimen is unusual because so many finds are turning up at the same time — 600 artefacts at Juvfonna alone.

Other finds have been made in glaciers or permafrost from Alaska to Siberia. Italy’s iceman “Otzi,” killed by an arrow wound 5,000 years ago, was found in an Alpine glacier in 1991. “Ice Mummies” have been discovered in the Andes.


Patrick Hunt, of Stanford University in California who is trying to discover where Carthaginian general Hannibal invaded Italy in 218 BC with an army and elephants, said there was an “alarming rate” of thaw in the Alps.

“This is the first summer since 1994 when we began our Alpine field excavations above 8,000 ft that we have not been inundated by even one day of rain, sleet and snow flurries,” he said.

“I expect we will see more ‘ice patch archaeology discoveries’,” he said. Hannibal found snow on the Alpine pass he crossed in autumn, according to ancient writers.

Glaciers are in retreat from the Andes to the Alps, as a likely side-effect of global warming caused by human emissions of greenhouse gases, the U.N. panel of climate experts says.

The panel’s credibility has suffered since its 2007 report exaggerated a thaw by saying Himalayan glaciers might vanish by 2035. It has stuck to its main conclusion that it is “very likely” that human activities are to blame for global warming.

“Over the past 150 years we have had a worldwide trend of glacial retreat,” said Michael Zemp, director of the Swiss-based World Glacier Monitoring Service. While many factors were at play, he said “the main driver is global warming.”

In Norway, “some ice fields are at their minimum for at least 3,000 years,” said Rune Strand Oedegaard, a glacier and permafrost expert from Norway’s Gjoevik University College.

The front edge of Jovfunna has retreated about 18 meters (60 ft) over the past year, exposing a band of artefacts probably from the Iron Age 1,500 years ago, according to radiocarbon dating. Others may be from Viking times 1,000 years ago.

Juvfonna, about 1 km across on the flank of Norway’s highest peak, Galdhoepiggen, at 2,469 meters, also went through a less drastic shrinking period in the 1930s, Oedegaard said.


Inside the Juvfonna ice, experts have carved a cave to expose layers of ice dating back 6,000 years. Some dark patches turned out to be ancient reindeer droppings — giving off a pungent smell when thawed out…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

On Day French Gov’t Bans Burkas, Bomb Threat Empties Eiffel Tower

News is starting to make its way around the world that the Eiffel Tower received a bomb threat hours after the French Senate voted to ban the burka, the face coverings forced upon Muslim women.


It should be no surprise that this threat came on the same day that the government voted to ban Muslim burkas. Tuesday morning, the Senate overwhelmingly voted to ban burkas worn in public on a 246 to one vote. The bill had already passed the lower house and it is assumed that the law will stick through the 10-day rebuttal period.

The Media are not saying that the bomb threat is tied to the burka ban, but it is hard to dismiss it all as mere coincidence.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Roma: France Shocked by EU Statement, Rejects Controversy

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, SEPTEMBER 14 — France rejected the “controversy” over its policy on Roma and nomadic people and said that it was shocked by the latest statements from Brussels about them, said the Foreign Ministry. “We learned about the statements made by Viviane Reding with great surprise. We do not think that with these types of declarations, the future and the situation of the Roma people will improve, who are at the heart of our worries and actions,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero. “This,” added Valero, “is not the time for controversy, it is not the time for these types of statements. It is the time to get to work to support the Roma people. It is with this spirit and this objective that we are working side by side with the authorities in Bucharest.” “A job,” he concluded, “that we want to carry out with our Romanian partners and with the European Commission.” This morning, from Brussels, the Vice President of the European Commission in charge of Justice and Fundamental Rights, Viviane Reding, launched a harsh attack against the crackdown in France against nomadic people and Roma (which she called “shameful”) and announced the imminent opening of an EU infraction procedure against France. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spain Muslims Outraged at Mecca Discotheque

The inauguration of a discotheque called Mecca in Spain infuriated Muslims in the country and raised questions about the position of Muslim workers offered jobs in the controversial place.

After 10 years of renovations, an old discotheque in the city of Aguilas in the southwestern province of Murcia opened its doors on June 18 under the name La Meca amid protests from Muslim individuals and organizations, the Arab Spanish newspaper Andalus Press reported Wednesday.

A poll conducted after the inauguration of the discotheque revealed the indignation of Spanish Muslims who viewed the action as disrespectful and prejudiced.

Mohamed Ali, head of the Spanish Federation of Islamic Religious Entities (Federación Española de Entidades Religosas Islámicas- FEERI), said Mecca is the most venerated place for Muslims all over the world.

“Muslims pray towards Mecca and it is there that the prophet received the holy Quran,” he said in a statement. “Calling a place for dancing and drinking by that name shows disregard to the feelings of Muslims.”

The inauguration of La Meca raised questions about Muslims who work there. In fact, a Moroccan man rejected an offer to work in the discotheque in protest of the name.

“It is up to him to decide,” Ali added. “It depends on his financial situation and whether he has the option to work in other places.”

Antonio García Petite, founder of the Committee of Muslim Arbitration and Good Deeds (Comité de Arbitraje Musulmán y Buenas Prácticas), said that the name Mecca is usually used commercially to refer to a center or destination of a specific activity.

“Expressions like ‘the Mecca of cinema’ and ‘the Mecca of Jazz’… etc. are commonly used without any offence,” he said.

However, he added, it is inappropriate to call a discotheque by that name.

“A discotheque is for worldly pleasures and what takes place inside it, like drinking alcohol, is not in line with the principles of Islam.”

As for the Moroccan worker, Petite said that he acted in accordance with his religious beliefs.

“We do support him in that,” he concluded.

           — Hat tip: Manuel[Return to headlines]

Spain: 60 Mosques on Hold Because of Popular Protests

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, SEPTEMBER 13 — Between 1995 and 2008 the construction of approximately 60 mosques has been put on hold or postponed indefinitely because of protests people living in the interested Municipalities, according to a report by professor Jordi Moreras, of the Universitat Rovira i Virgili in Tarragona.

Most of the suspended projects are located in Catalonia and mainly concern Municipalities that are unwilling to make land available for the construction of mosques. The most emblematic case, reported by newspaper Publico, is the Mosque of Seville where the Islamic community has been trying to erect a temple for the past 10 years, the largest in Europe, without any success. The Municipality originally granted to the Muslim community approximately 6,000 square metres in the Los Bermejales area, later withdrawn because of protests by local citizens. A new area for the mosque, identified in the area previously occupied by the Seville Expo that has been turned into a business centre, met with resistance by the industrialists. The last idea for a location, in the San Jeronimo neighbourhood, resulted in a group of radicals who buried pigs into the ground to keep the mosque away. At the end of August the city planning office still had to receive a plan for the new mosque in order to ascertain compliance with the city’s development plan.

According to Luis F. Bernabe’, professor of Arab and Islamic studies in the University of Alicane, citizens associate mosques with city degradation, but opposition to the Muslim temples is the child of diffidence towards Muslims and not towards Islam, which existed before the March 11 attacks in Madrid. He noted that “Aside from religion, there are other factors in play such as immigration, terrorism and prejudice”. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Left Party Employs Stripper at Election Party

Left Party supporters were treated to a female stripper at an open meeting in Järna near Stockholm over the weekend, causing several members of the crowd to storm out in disgust.

The stripper, who performs under the stage name Miss Cookie, is reported to have stripped down to all but her panties — with the party’s logo disguising her nipples.

But the show, entitled “Rock the arse off the right”, did not please everyone in attendance with several leaving in protest. The choice of entertainment was however defended by Södertälje councillor Staffan Norberg.

“As burlesque and circus and cabaret, which I think it was marketed as, I think it is okay,” he said.

Norberg interpreted the theme of the performance as an interpretation of the right’s superficiality falling away to reveal only the Left’s core.

“I thought that there was a political message,” Norberg said adding, “but broadly, naturally.”

Despite the Left Party’s high profile as a feminist party, Norberg remained unrepentant.

“If you don’t like burlesque and lack a sense of humour and satire then this was not the right place to be,” he said.

According to local media reports there were families with children in attendance. Several people are reported to have left during the strip show — but Norberg refuted the information. He underlined that there was also a half-naked man on stage.

“He juggled with knives and ate an apple at the same time, to great amusement among the audience,” he said.

According to the Dagens Nyheter (DN), Miss Cookie is unperturbed by the attention, arguing that her act should be considered “burlesque with an element of humour” and not “striptease”.

“I think that a woman has the right to use her body for humour. There was also a man in the show who stripped down to reveal a naked upper-body and was thus more naked than I, but no one is upset about that,” she said to DN.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK Gang Tried to Sell Virginity of Girls

Four members of a child prostitution ring are facing jail in the UK after they attempted to sell the virginity of young girls to wealthy Arab businessmen for up to STG150,000 ($A247,000).

The gang were caught in an undercover Scotland Yard sting after offering their services in a hand-written letter to the owner of the Jumeirah Carlton Hotel in Knightsbridge, central London.

A police officer contacted the gang by telephone posing as a potential client and was told they could provide girls from Iran, England and Eastern Europe aged between 14 and 20 for sex.

Mother-of-four Mahrookh Jamali, 41, of north west London, met the officer at the Lancaster London hotel, in Bayswater Road, and said some of her girls were virgins who could be “broken” by the client.

Dozens of emails were exchanged over the next fortnight, some including pictures of a 14-year-old girl who police believe was used as “bait” for a potential pedophile customer.

A second meeting was arranged and Jamali said she would bring up to five girls to London, including two 13-year-olds, and said she would expect between STG50,000 ($A82,000) and STG150,000 ($A247,000) for each girl.

The next day, September 30 last year, Jamali went to the hotel accompanied by Fatima Hagnegat, 24, who had travelled from her home in Wigan, Lancashire, with six girls, two of whom were aged 14 and 17.

The pair were arrested by police and the victims said they were driven down to earn money “dancing” for a party of rich men. They only found out they may be asked to have sex with the men when they arrived.

Police searched Hagnegat’s home and arrested her husband Rasoul Gholampour, 30. A third woman, Sara Bordbar, 43, of north west London, who provided a flat to be used as a base, was also arrested.

Details of the case were disclosed by police after the four pleaded guilty at Harrow Crown Court on Monday.

Jamali, Bordbar, Hagnegat and Gholampour pleaded guilty to conspiring to traffic six women aged between 17 and 22 from the North West to London between July and October last year for sexual exploitation.

The three women defendants, Jamali, Hagnegat and Bordbar, who wept throughout the hearing, also admitted conspiracy to incite prostitution for gain between the same dates.

The judge ordered the charge to lie on file for Gholampour. A third charge of conspiracy to arrange the prostitution of children will lie on file of all four defendants.

Prosecutor Bill McGivern said the 14-year-old girl used as bait was an “aggravating factor” of the case, but said there was no evidence she was to be used as a prostitute.

He said the young women were not forced into sexual services, but were “coerced” into offering them after dancing for clients. Hagnegat also offered to prostitute herself during the email correspondence.

Judge Alan Greenwood said the four, who have been in custody since their arrest last year, would be sentenced on Tuesday.

The court heard Gholampour admitted possessing extreme pornography, including images of bestiality, during a hearing at Southwark Crown Court in July.

Security guards were called to the courtroom after a friend of the defendants started shouting that the four were innocent after they admitted the offences.

Speaking after the case, Detective Chief Superintendent Richard Martin said: “This is a sad and harrowing case that involved the main defendants effectively selling the virginity of girls as young as 13 for as much as STG150,000.

“It is thanks to diligence of the hotel staff in the Jumeirah Carlton Hotel that this ruthless gang was caught.

“This case highlights the fact that trafficking is not just a crime that involves foreign nationals being brought in the UK. It is something that happens within the UK as well.

“We hope that this result will encourage any other potential victims to come forward and speak with police who may have felt that they couldn’t do so before.”

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

UK: Blow for Middle Classes as Gove Plans to Let Poor Pupils ‘Jump Queue’ In Shake-Up of School Admissions

Middle-class families could go to the back of the queue under explosive plans to tear up the schools admissions code.

Education Secretary Michael Gove is proposing to allow academies and a new generation of ‘free schools’ to select pupils on the basis of their family finances, with the poorest being given priority.

They would be allowed to discriminate in favour of pupils who qualify for free school meals — those whose household income, including benefits, is below £16,000 per year.

It is hoped that this would bring a halt to ‘selection by mortgage’ in areas where admissions are determined chiefly by the distance between home and school, meaning parents who can afford to buy a home nearby gain an advantage.

But it is likely to trigger a backlash from Right-wing conservative MPs and the party’s traditional middle-class supporters, who are already angry that the coalition Government has ruled out any return to selection by ability.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Doctor Kept ‘£10-a-Month Slave Woman From Africa’ At Her £500,000 Home

A retired doctor held a slave in her suburban home for four years, a court was told yesterday.

Saeeda Khan, 68, is accused of making Mwanahanisi Mruke work up to 24 hours a day cleaning, cooking and gardening.

She fed her scraps of bread and made her sleep on a thin mattress on the kitchen floor with only a sheet for warmth, it was alleged.

Khan and her late husband, who was also a doctor, allegedly paid Miss Mruke just £10 a month — a low salary even in Tanzania, the African country they brought her to Britain from in 2006.

Miss Mruke, 46, had all her calls monitored and was not allowed to leave the £500,000 home in Harrow, North West London, without Khan, Westminster magistrates heard.

‘She lived in extremely poor conditions for a number of years,’ prosecutor Malachy Pakenham told the hearing.

Additional payments of £40 a month were meant to go to a bank in Tanzania to pay for Miss Mruke’s daughter’s education, but much of this was never received, the court heard.

Khan, a British citizen who has lived in the UK for 30 years, is believed to be the first person charged with modern slavery.

Scotland Yard detectives started investigating the case in February following a tip-off.

Officers from the Human Exploitation and Organised Crime Command, known as SCD9, were involved.

Khan did not have to sit in the dock during the ten-minute hearing because she suffers from arthritis and has recently had an operation on her knees.

She pleaded not guilty to a charge of arranging and facilitating the arrival of a foreign national with the intention of exploitation in the UK and elsewhere.

The charge carries a maximum sentence of ten years in jail.

Khan was bailed to appear before the court next month. Before she came to the UK, Miss Mruke worked in a hospital run by Khan’s late husband in Dar es Salaam, the capital of Tanzania.

Khan is alleged to have kept her slave in her three-bedroom bungalow in Harrow which she shared with her 40-year-old son, who has mental health problems.

Khan’s daughter, who also has learning difficulties, lived in the property too but has since moved out.

Neighbours said Khan spent tens of thousands of pounds renovating the property when she moved in about a decade ago. Two cars, including a new Volvo estate, are usually seen parked in the driveway.

James Carpenter, who lives next door, said he often saw Miss Mruke going for walks with Khan’s son.

He said: ‘She would follow him up and down the street, normally about ten yards behind him.

‘She only spoke the East African language of Swahili, so we couldn’t communicate with her and she couldn’t really speak to anyone.

‘Sometimes, we would wave and nod at her just to be polite. She would normally wave back.

‘She wore normal, western clothing. I had no reason to suspect anything untoward was going on.

‘But it’s a very quiet area and nobody round here really knows their neighbours very well.’

Slave trading has been outlawed in Britain since the 19th century.

However, the UK remains a major destination for trafficked women.

Human rights organisations claim up to 1,000 people are made to work as slaves.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: Steve Partner: Is Angling a Racist Sport?

Five words, tiny sentence, huge question. Is angling a racist sport?

I urge you to think hard before you answer. Very hard. I want you to think about the number of black and Asian people you see on the bank, about how many ethnic minority stars appear in the fishing press, about the tackle shops, the fisheries, the matches, the shows. Think about wherever groups of anglers congregate. Think about the number of non-white faces you’re likely to see. Then answer the question.

Because even if angling isn’t overtly racist, then it’s a hobby that has failed to integrate what now amounts to a significant proportion of the UK population. And that’s not opinion. It’s indisputable, undeniable fact.

Fishing, whichever way you look at it, remains, overwhelmingly, the preserve of white, middle-aged, working class males.

It’s not alone, of course…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: Seven Injured After Coffee Machine Explodes in Sainsbury’s Café

Seven people were injured today when an industrial sized coffee machine exploded inside a supermarket cafe.

Stunned shoppers and staff were sent diving to the floor after the powerful blast ripped through the Sainsbury’s branch at lunchtime.

Emergency crews from the police, fire and ambulance services rushed to the scene and took six people to hospital — some suffering from head injuries.

The store, in Farnborough, Hants., was also evacuated while firefighters dealt with the incident and paramedics treated the injures.

A Health and Safety Executive investigation was expected to launched to establish how and why the large drinks maker exploded.

The drama happened at 12.25pm today as scores of shoppers sat down for lunch at the busy supermarket.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Algeria: Thousands of Soldiers, Prep for Sahara Guerilla

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, SEPTEMBER 13 — Thousands of soldiers from the Algerian army (ANP) are currently in Tamanrasset, southern Algeria, where they are engaging in special exercises to learn guerilla warfare techniques in the Sahara. It is a necessary formation, reports the daily paper El Khabar, given the steep increase in Al Qaida for the Islamic Maghreb attacks in the region.

In addition to special forces members, also soldiers from other African are taking part in the training course. The soldiers will be trained to carry out large-scale movements in the Sahara with camels or by marching on foot and will be made able to deal with climate conditions in the desert. They will also, according to El Khabar, learn to make use of the food available in the territory, tell the direction by using the stars and learn local dialects spoken by Tuareg tribes.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Algeria: Two Fundamentalists Killed in East

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, SEPTEMBER 13 — Two members of Islamic armed groups were killed last night in Algeria, in the Tebessa region, close to the Tunisian border.

APS quotes an official of Algerian security services saying that the security forces have opened fire on an armed group, responding to an attack on the municipal guard in Lefrahna, 50 km south of Tebessa, 600 km south-east of Algiers.

The source specifies that other members of the armed group have been wounded in the shootout. Around twenty fighters of the armed groups associated with Al Qaida for the Islamic Maghreb have been killed in several Algerian regions since the start of August. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Copt Wins Islamic Competition and Rejects Prize

(ANSAmed) — ROME, SEPTEMBER 13 — An Egyptian Copt won an Islamic competition set up by a member of Alexandria’s Muslim Brothers. The report was made by Egyptian newspaper Addestour.

The prize was a trip to Saudi Arabia for the rite of Umra, a pilgrimage that can be done at any time of the year. Copt Salah Bakheet, age 45, stated that he joined the competition to test his degree of knowledge of Islam. He explained that he did not plan on winning, and added that he handed over the prize to a Muslim friend of his. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egypt: El Baradei’s Boycott Call Could Erode Mubarak’s Legitimacy

For years, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has used manipulated elections to remain in power. But a new challenge from former International Atomic Energy Agency head Mohamed ElBaradei may threaten his grip on leadership. He has now called for a boycott of approaching parliamentary elections.

Hand-picked candidates, votes for sale and manipulated elections results: were Egypt to see electoral business as usual this campaign season, it seems certain that there would be no surprises in November parliamentary elections. The National Democratic Party of President Hosni Mubarak would secure impossibly large margins of victory and the foundations the “Pharaoh’s” 29-year grip on power would remain firm.

But there is a power struggle underway on the Nile, and these parliamentary elections are only a prelude. In the next 18 months there won’t just be elections for the National Assembly, but also for president. And whether Mubarak, or his son Gamal, who has been groomed for the throne, can maintain power is far from certain.

Perhaps the most dangerous threat to the Mubaraks is Mohamed ElBaradei. Earlier this week, the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was more critical of Mubarak than ever before. Speaking to a crowd of cheering followers, he compared the almost three decades of Mubarak’s rule to a “decaying, almost broken down temple,” that was built on poverty, illiteracy, and contempt for human rights.

He also laid out his blueprint for how the Mubarak era can be brought to an end. “If the whole population were to boycott the elections, in my opinion, it would be the end of the regime,” said ElBaradei, a recipient of the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize for his work at the IAEA.

Hereditary Egyptian Dictatorship

It was the most daring appearance ElBaradei has made since his return to Egypt in February of this year. And his appeal could be enough to unite unhappy Egyptians and deliver a serious blow to the regime. A boycott would deprive members of Mubarak’s clique, who have for years relied on fraudulent elections to maintain their grip on power, of their legitimacy. In the long run, he could also prevent Mubarak’s son from taking over from his sick father, thwarting their chances of establishing a hereditary Egyptian dictatorship.

Rampant electoral fraud has resulted in limited public enthusiasm for elections. At most, only 25 percent of the population voted in the last parliamentary election. If voter turnout drops even further this time, it would be a clear signal of growing dissatisfaction among the populace.

Conditions in Egypt would certainly warrant such dissatisfaction. One in four Egyptians lives under the poverty line and must get by on two US dollars a day. Illiteracy hovers around 40 percent. Economic progress made possible by ambitious reforms has not trickled down to the average citizen. The government hardly seems to care. Public anger is high.

The success of ElBaradei’s proposed boycott depends on the Muslim Brotherhood. The Islamists are the strongest opposition group in the country. Officially forbidden, they are tolerated by the government in part because their members have competed as independent candidates in past elections thus providing the polls with some legitimacy. Whether the Brotherhood will join the boycott, however, remains to be seen.

An opposition boycott of the parliamentary elections would likely only be the first step towards a season of civil disobedience — protests that could ultimately influence the presidential elections as well.

A Powerful Signal

And even beyond. Egypt, as the largest Arab country, remains a political heavyweight in the region. What happens on the Nile sends a powerful signal to its neighbors.

Many Egyptians are hopeful that ElBaradei can help end the misery of their people. Every 10th user of the Internet platform Facebook is a member of a group that supports ElBaradei as an alternative to Mubarak.

Yet the constitution doesn’t allow ElBaradei, who served at the top of the Atomic Agency for 12 years, easy access to the ballot. He would need the support of 250 representatives and municipal councils, a significant hurdle given that both the upper and lower houses of parliament and the provincial governments are strongly under the control of Mubarak’s National Democratic Party.

ElBaradei has called for a change to the constitution in order to clear his path to the polls. In addition, he has urged that all election results be checked by Egyptian courts and demanded that the state of emergency — which has, since it was established in 1981, allowed authorities to quickly squelch opposition — be abolished. Almost one million Egyptians have signed a petition supporting his calls for political reform.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Jihad Ban on Killing Elderly, Children ‘Doesn’t Apply to Israel’

Report says Islam commandment ‘eternal, most important’

Muslim publications have been busy during Islam’s month of Ramadan calling for increased jihad against “infidels,” describing it as an “eternal” and “most important” commandment and explaining that a ban on killing the elderly, women and children “doesn’t apply to Israeli society.”

The report was compiled by D. Hazan, a research fellow at the Middle East Media Research Institute, which monitors and analyzes Middle East media outlets.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Calls in the Muslim World to Intensify Jihad During Ramadan


During Ramadan, the printed and electronic Arab media, including the jihadist websites, published numerous articles on jihad, with a special focus on the link between jihad and Ramadan.

The main motifs of these articles were:

  • The month of Ramadan is the month of attacks, conquest, and victories, with an emphasis on the fact that many of the early Muslims’ victories over their enemies, such as at the battles of Badr, Hittin, and ‘Ain Jalut, came during Ramadan.
  • The importance of the commandment of jihad, particularly during Ramadan. Jihad is defined as one of the most important commandments of Islam, and its intersection with Ramadan, which is “the best month in Allah’s eyes,” is “a tremendous high point that none can attain but he to whom Allah has chosen to grant this tremendous honor of fasting and war.” Likewise, it is claimed that the commandment of jihad, which is said to be twice as important as ordinary commandments, is intensified during Ramadan, and takes first priority. One article included a point-by-point comparison of a Muslim who fasts during Ramadan and a mujahid, saying, inter alia, that “fasting is one of the means of educating the soul towards jihad.” Another article stated: “Real jihad is connected to real fasting; therefore, let us educate our children to pass the test of fasting so that they will succeed in liberating the [places] holy to us.”
  • A statement by Sheikh Yousuf Al-Qaradhawi that “jihad is an Islamic moral obligation.”
  • A call to Muslims to step up their jihad activity during Ramadan, as the Prophet Muhammad did: “Oh mujahideen… show us something that will gladden us and stoke the ire of the infidels, something that will please our mothers and sisters and brothers who have lost what is most precious to them [i.e. their loved ones].” One of the articles included a call to the mujahideen to purge Saudi Arabia of the Crusader infidels who violate the country’s sanctity with their presence. Another article included a call to the mujahideen to join forces and find new ways of striking at the enemy. Hamas’ ‘Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades boasted that in the early years of this decade, they had been the leaders in attacks on Israelis during Ramadan.

This paper will review the main points made by these articles and statements.[1]

Saudi Sheikh: Jihad against the Infidels Is an Eternal and Most Important Commandment

Saudi sheikh ‘Abd Al-Rahman bin Nasser Al-Barrak, a former lecturer at the Imam Muhammad bin Sa’ud Islamic University in Riyadh,[2] posted an article on his website titled “Jihad for the Sake of Allah is the Height of the Summit of Islam.” In it, he stated that jihad against the infidels is an eternal and most important commandment of shari’a, and that its supreme goal is to make the word of Allah supreme. Quoting from the Koran and the Hadith, he stressed that jihad is still a source of honor for Muslims, and that its absence is a source of their humiliation. Al-Barrak added that if the enemy is amenable to reconciliation, and this serves the interest of Islam and of the Muslims, they may reconcile with him, but only temporarily, not permanently — as the Prophet Muhammad did with the Jews concerning Al-Madina…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Caroline Glick: Saad Hariri’s Cautionary Tale

Lebanon is a sad and desperate place. And its disastrous fate is personified today by its prime minister.

All who claim to love freedom, democracy, human rights and dignity should take note of Saad Hariri’s fate. They should recognize that his predicament is a testament to their failure to stand up for the ideals they say they champion.

All those who say they seek a Middle East that is friendly to the West should see Hariri’s plight as a cautionary tale. Policy-makers in Washington, Paris, Jerusalem and beyond who envision the 21st century Middle East as a place where the US and its allies are able to project their power to defend their interests should study Hariri’s story.

All those who insist peace is possible and even incipient need to cast a long, lingering glance in his direction.

His story exposes all of their paradigms of peace and appeasement and compromise as nothing more than the hollow, callow, arrogant and irrelevant protestations of a transnational ruling class wholly detached from the reality of the world it would lead…

           — Hat tip: Caroline Glick[Return to headlines]

Coastal Voters Main Naysayers in Turkish Referendum

The end of a campaign held up as a preview of the general elections in 2011 leaves Turkish politics on the verge of a further deepening fissure between secularist and conservative poles. Once again, the coastal Aegean and Mediterranean regions are on the opposite side of the country’s interior.

Turkey’s coastal provinces along the Aegean and Mediterranean were outliers in Sunday’s constitutional referendum, with a majority of their residents casting “no” votes on the package of amendments approved by the country.

From the Thracian city of Edirne to the Mediterranean city of Hatay, most coastal voters objected to the proposed changes. Istanbul and nearby provinces along the Marmara Sea and more central regions along the Black Sea were exceptions to this rule, voting to approve the amendments package.

In a referendum seen as deepening the divide between secularist and conservative parts of Turkey, the geographic split in the results represents the overlap of politics and socio-economic status, one academic told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review on Monday.

The split is a natural result of a referendum that allows only a “yes” or a “no” vote, but has ramifications for the country that are worth analyzing, according to Mustafa Sen, an academic in Middle East Technical University’s sociology department.

Turkey’s coastal regions, which generally have residents with a higher socio-economic status as well as higher rates of literacy as a result of more highly developed industrial, agricultural and tourism industries, tended to say “no” while poorer and less developed parts of the country tended to say “yes” in the referendum, Sen said.

“However, it is alarming that the difference between these two main socio-economic groups is getting bigger and bigger,” he said.

The southern city of Antalya provided stalwart support once again for the main opposition Republican People’s Party, or CHP, which had campaigned strongly for a “no” vote Sunday. Local CHP official Özer Ahmet Ülken said the party had expected a 60 percent “no” vote in Antalya and attributed the actual result of 57 percent to people being away from the city during the Seker Bayram holiday. He said the main opposition had increased its voter base since the local elections, strengthening its position against the AKP and the third-ranked National Movement Party, or MHP.

“Antalya voters have already made their decisions for the general elections in 2011,” Ülken said.

The AKP’s provincial organization disagreed, saying the “no” votes in Antalya would not be reflected in the ballots cast in next year’s general elections.

Getting almost 43 percent “yes” votes in the province was a success for the ruling party, Hüseyin Samani, the head of AKP Antalya, told the Daily News. The AKP got 35 percent of the votes in the city during the 2009 local elections.

“This, however, does not mean the AKP increased its votes; nor did the CHP,” Samani said, explaining that people did not vote for the political parties, but for or against the constitutional changes, independent of their political views.

The main opposition’s branch in Izmir, another CHP stronghold, had also foreseen a higher percentage of “no” votes in the city although it expressed satisfaction with the eventual results of 63.7 percent.

‘General elections will reflect this vote’

Another city in the coastal region that opposed the amendment package was Balikesir, where almost 52 percent of voters said “no.” Although the main opposition is pleased with the results in Balikesir, the new constitution will create more adversity for democracy, Irfan Baris, the head of CHP Balikesir, told the Daily News.

“This referendum will be a good reference for the general elections, where we will definitely see the reflections of this vote,” Baris said.

The idea that the referendum had secured the CHP’s triumph during next year’s general elections was echoed by Tunç Aytur, head of the CHP in Aydin, who said the group was happy with the 64 percent “no” votes it achieved.

In the last local elections, the CHP, MHP and AKP got 26 percent, 25.4 percent and 25 percent of the votes, respectively, a parity that seems to have shifted significantly.

In Aydin, where more than 64 percent of the voters said “no” to the referendum, the general consensus is that while the CHP increased its potential substantially, the MHP and AKP have lost ground.

The northwestern province of Çanakkale was also a bright spot for the MHP and CHP, which saw the nearly 60 percent “no” vote as an 8 percent increase for the parties, which took a combined 52 percent of the votes in the last local elections.

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

Iran: Journalist Sentenced to 5 Years of Prison

Tehran, 13 Sept. (AKI) -An Iranian journalist and human rights activist has been sentenced to five years of prison, according to opposition web site Herana.

The site said Mohammad Qaznavian was found guilty of spreading propaganda against the Iranian government and for working with opposition groups located abroad.

Qaznavian, primarily an activist for the rights of minors and women, was arrested in February and released on bail after spending a month imprisoned in a prison in his native Qazin, 165 northwest of Tehran.

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

Kuwait May Face Lack of Power in Future

(ANSAmed) — ROME, SEPTEMBER 13 — Kuwait’s current energy requirements total 11 thousand megawatt and will be doubled in the coming ten years. This was announced by Ahmed Bishara, secretary-general of the Kuwait nuclear energy committee, quoted by the newspaper Asharq Al Awsat.

According to Bishara, the country may face a serious lack of power in the future. Kuwait has closed a deal with Japan for the production of nuclear energy for peaceful use. The agreement was signed for five years, with an option to extend it. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Lebanon: 16% of Children Suffer Sexual Abuse, Study

(ANSAmed) — ROME, SEPTEMBER 14 — In collaboration with the Swedish organisation Save the Children, the Lebanese association, Enough Violence and Exploitation, has organised a course in Beirut for the protection of children from sexual abuse. So reports Mena news agency, upon the results of a study carried out on Lebanese children.

The study says that the number of children who suffer sexual abuse every year has gone up to 16.1%, while 54.1% suffer physical abuse. Some 40.8% of children witness violence in their family, while 64.4% suffer psychological violence.

The course involved 25 people, who were given a guide helping children with self-defence in cases of sexual abuse. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Saudi Arabia: Women Allowed at Stadium for First Time

(ANSAmed) — DUBAI, SEPTEMBER 13 — A barely visible step forward or another fallen taboo. Women in Saudi Arabia have reached another milestone: they can now enter stadiums and attend the Eid ul Fitr celebrations for the end of Ramadan, a first in the history of the country.

Nonetheless, their access is regulated, wrote Saudi daily Okaz, because their entrances will be separated by a dividing barrier that will be built to divide areas for men and women. Also, mobile phones will not be allowed, which could take illegal pictures. In Saudi Arabia, women do not have several fundamental rights such as voting, driving or taking part in sports. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Save Sakineh Ashtiani — Stop the Crimes Against Humanity in Iran

[Video at link]

Af: Firoozeh Bazrafkan

Saturday September 18th: Citizens of the World against the Regime of Flogging and Stoning

I have given the Quran the same sentence as the Iranian regime has given Sakineh Ashtiani. If the Iranian regime stones her, I will stone the Quran. If they hang her, I will hang the Quran.

For now they have given her 98-99 or 100 lashes, so I gave the Quran 98 whip lashes.

Saturday September 18th:

Citizens of the World

against the Regime of Flogging and Stoning

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

‘Turkey Now Needs to Forge a New Political Culture’

Turkey’s hopes of joining the EU have been boosted by Sunday’s vote to curb the influence of the military and to enhance the parliament’s role in appointing judges, say German media commentators. But they add that more fundamental constitutional reform is now needed.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan got a strong boost on Sunday when 58 percent of voters backed his package of reforms of the country’s military-era constitution. The changes are aimed at bringing Turkey more in line with European Union standards and helping the country’s bid to join the bloc. They have also strengthened Erdogan ahead of a general election next year.

Erdogan said the result meant the country had “crossed a historic threshold toward advanced democracy and the supremacy of law.” The reform was held on the 30th anniversary of the coup in which the army seized power in 1980. It makes the military more accountable to civilian courts and hands parliament more power to appoint judges.

The European Commission and United States President Barack Obama welcomed the result. A White House statement said the president “acknowledged the vibrancy of Turkey’s democracy as reflected in the turnout for the referendum that took place across Turkey today.”

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle called the vote “an important step on Turkey’s path to Europe” but added that the outcome of accession negotiations remained open.

Erdogan’s Islam-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) has clashed repeatedly with Turkey’s highest courts, which see themselves as guardians of the country’s secular values. The opposition accused the AKP of trying to seize control of the judiciary as part of a back-door Islamist coup.

German media commentators say the referendum will help Turkey’s EU aspirations, and that Erdogan’s critics are wrong to claim that Turkey will be turned into an Islamic dictatorship as a result of the reform now approved.

But they add that the reform must just be a first step and that Turkey needs more fundamental constitutional change based on a broad compromise between the government, opposition and other major groups in society. So far Erdogan, self-assured after almost eight years in power, seems uninterested in taking that step. He should change his mind to tackle the growing impression that the AKP has become too authoritative and self-serving, German media commentators say.

The Berlin daily Der Tagesspiegel writes:

“The reforms won’t turn Turkey into an Islamic dictatorship, as Erdogan’s critics claim. On the contrary, they will make the country more democratic, even though Turkey has a long way to go before it reaches EU levels. To get there one thing above all has to happen. In this moment of triumph Erdogan should drop his ambition to do everything unilaterally. He could thereby hand Turkey an important gift — a new political culture.

“Erdogan’s victory is also a success for Turkey’s EU aspirations. Brussels had supported the reforms despite some objections, and the curbs to the army’s power were especially important to the EU.”

“The long and hard-fought campaign leading up to the referendum made clear how deeply large parts of the Turkish population mistrust the AKP. Many Turks no longer regard the AKP, which has now been in power for almost eight years, as a force for reform but as a party which polarizes people and focuses mainly on its own advantages. Few believe the AKP wants to turn Turkey into an Islamic theocracy. But many believe it is becoming more authoritative.”

“Basically all parties in Ankara agree that Turkey needs more than just repairs to the current constitution. Before the vote the opposition suggested bringing all parties and important associations together to talk about a completely new constitution. Erdogan himself spoke about the need for a new constitution. But so far the prime minister, so certain of his power and ability to enact change, has shown no inclination to accommodate the other parties. He should do so now.”

The left-wing Frankfurter Rundschau writes:

“The reform is a rebuff to the army’s self-proclaimed right to seize power whenever it sees fit as guardian of the republic. And it subordinates a justice system that had grown into a state within a state. For many older Turks the day of the referendum awakened bad memories because it was held on the 30th anniversary of the military coup. More than half a million people were imprisoned during the dictatorship and more than 500 sentenced to death, and hundreds died of torture. Many Turks will have voted in favor of constitutional change for that reason.

“The outcome of the referendum may be seen as a success for Erdogan, but that is not decisive. It isn’t Erdogan who has won, but Turkish democracy. But this reform is only a first step. The ‘generals’ constitution’ that is geared towards protecting the state from its citizens rather than strengthening the rights of citizens must now be comprehensively overhauled.”

The conservative Die Welt writes:…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Turkey’s Opposition Parties Look to Decipher Impact of Referendum

Whether the results of Sunday’s referendum represent a success or a failure for the main opposition has become a subject of debate immediately following the election, which some say could bring down the party’s leader.

The Republican People’s Party, or CHP, has claimed 35 percent of the 42 percent “no” votes in the Sept. 12 constitutional referendum, in which party leader Kemal Kiliçdaroglu failed to cast a vote due to a registration problem. Read more here.

MHP heads back to blackboard of nationalism

With its voter support shown to have declined since the 2007 general elections, the Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, has emerged as the party most disappointed by the results of Sunday’s constitutional referendum.

The MHP, which campaigned for a “no” vote on the constitutional changes approved by the country Sunday, failed to win a number of cities where it took mayoral seats in the 2009 local elections. Even Osmaniye, the home province of MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli, voted “yes” in the referendum, with 53 percent. Read more here.

Kurdish voters prove they must be heeded

The success of the main pro-Kurdish party’s boycott call indicates the increasing clout of the group and the need for the government to pay more attention to Kurdish issues, commentators have said following Sunday’s constitutional referendum.

“The result reveals that it is necessary to address the group that adopts Kurdish identity policies toward solving the Kurdish problem,” columnist Ahmet Insel wrote Monday in a piece in daily Radikal. Read more here.

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

Turkey: Request to Put Former President Evren on Trial

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, SEPTEMBER 13 — Following the outcome of yesterday’s constitutional referendum in Turkey, which also abolished the provisional article 15, which guaranteed a sort of preventative amnesty to the leaders of the 1980 coup, two human rights associations in Turkey presented a request to the public prosecutor in Ankara this morning for former President Kenan Evren, who led the military coup 30 years ago with four other generals, to be put on trial. The two organisations that presented the case are the Association for Human Rights (IHD) and the Association for Innocent Victims (Mazlum Der), which are both considered to be left-wing. The provisional article 15 was specially entered by Evren and his collaborators into the text of the Constitution passed by them in 1982 (and amended yesterday) in order to guarantee them future immunity for their actions. Despite the fact that yesterday’s referendum repealed article 15, several experts of Turkish law say that Evren, who is 93-years-old today, and his surviving two collaborators (one is 85-years-old and another 86-years-old), will never end up behind bars. In the first place, say the experts, due to their advanced age, it would be impossible to try them in court. And, even if they were possible, thanks to a law approved two years ago by the Islamic-inspired Justice and Development Party (AKP) of Premier Tayyip Erdogan in favour of former Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan (the historic leader of Turkish radical Islamic politics), since Evren and his collaborators are over the age of 80, they would not go to jail.

Secondly, say the experts, the crime for staging a coup and all those attributable to Evren, would be ‘pardoned’ since on November 7 1982, 91.37% of Turkish voters approved the new Constitution drawn up by the leaders of the coup in a referendum. Consequently, based on the principle that the law cannot be applied retroactively, the leaders of the 1980 coup will continue to benefit from the special amnesty that they were guaranteed by entering article 15 into the Constitution. For some time, Evren has also said that if he were to go on trial, he is ready to take his own life.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Turkey Throws Iran a Safety Net


Iran and Turkey are two large Middle Eastern neighboring countries with populations of approximately 67 million and 77.8 million, and GDP in purchasing power parity of 876 billion and 863 billion, respectively.[1] While both countries are Muslim, Turkey has a long tradition of a secular and democratic political system, although its secularism has come under stress in recent years under the rule of Justice and Development Party (AKP), which has strong Islamic roots.

The Turkish economy has done relatively well in terms of growth and diversification. Indeed, the IMF praised the Turkish economy for its quick recovery from “the precipitous drop in output triggered by the global crisis.”[2]

Iran is a potentially rich country with vast oil reserves estimated at over 130 billion barrels of crude and 27 billion cubic meters of natural gas. It is also rich in water and human resources. But Iran is under UN sanctions, and even more severe sanctions by the U.S. and the European Union, that have clipped its economic wings. The sanctions on Iran are meant to slow down its drive to pursue a nuclear program that almost everyone suspects it intends to have. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told a large gathering of enthusiastic supporters in Freedom Square in Tehran that Iran has become a nuclear state capable of enriching its uranium up to 80 percent, and added ominously that “Iran’s nuclear train is running without brakes.”[3]

Unlike relatively secular Turkey, Iran is a theocratic state with aspirations of regional hegemony, an active supporter of terrorism, and a declared enemy of the United State. The Iranian economy is statist, quite inefficient, and relies heavily on its oil sector which provides most of the government revenues. Private sector activity is typically limited to small-scale workshops. . Farina Adelphi, an Iran expert based in Paris, told the French daily Le Monde: “The industry is gasping for breath and half of the larger companies is said to be in a situation of bankruptcy, because the authorities have a chaotic, aberrant international trade policy.” Inconsistencies also prevail in the export sector, as some export items are “heavily subsidized at the discretion of the interests of a few oligarchs.” For example, the Samand car, which is derived from the Peugeot 405, costs $7,000 for Iraqis but $12,000 for Iranians.[4]

Heavy subsidies for oil, electricity, water, and food products, estimated at $100 billion, as well as other rigidities, weigh down the economy. Iran also suffers from double-digit unemployment and underemployment, particularly among the 15-25 age group. It is estimated that 14 million Iranians live below the poverty line.[5] According to the World Bank’s analysis, Iran struggles with “macroeconomic instability.” [6]

Early Cooperation between Iran and Turkey

Early cooperation between Iran and Turkey was rooted in the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) — an intergovernmental regional organization established in 1985 by Iran, Pakistan, and Turkey for the purpose of promoting economic, technical. and cultural cooperation among the member states. It was the successor organization to what was the Regional Cooperation for Development (RCD), founded in 1962, which ended its activities in 1979 with the advent of Khomeini in Iran. In the fall of 1992, the ECO expanded to include seven new members — Afghanistan and six former republics of the Soviet Union: Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. [7]…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Turkish Dailies Split Into Three Groups on Referendum Results

Reflecting the splits in society over Sunday’s constitutional referendum, Turkey’s dailies presented Monday morning a number of diverse evaluations of the previous day’s polls.

Three main groups emerged, with some papers celebrating the “yes” victory, pro-”no” dailies refusing to bow down and others urging respect for the results with neutral headlines.

The ‘cheerleaders’

Pro-”yes” dailies were euphoric Monday following Sunday’s poll victory. Daily Zaman’s headline was “The victory of democracy” and noted the importance of clearing the path for a new constitution on the 30th anniversary of the Sept. 12, 1980, coup that laid the foundation for Turkey’s present Constitution.

Daily Sabah said, “Turkey clears the shame of the coup — 58% Yes,” while daily Takvim, a sister daily to Sabah, wrote, “Here is the last word: Yes 58%, No 42%.”

Taraf and Star, two pro-yes dailies shared the same headline, “The people seize power,” referring to the famous special edition headline of daily Hürriyet on Sept. 12, 1980, which said, “The military seize power.”

Yeni Safak, an Islamist daily, was similar in its wording, saying, “The people win” and “Good luck with it,” in giant letters.

Extreme Islamist daily Vakit, meanwhile, wrote, “The people trounce all over the fake [election] polls — 58%” referring to the polls that claimed the “yes” and “no” votes were going head to head. The pro-Saadet (Felicity) Party, daily, Milli Gazete, wrote: “The choice of our nation — Now, a new constitution.”

Angry pro-no dailies

The daily Sözcü, a rising star on the ultra-nationalist anti-AKP front, came out with the strongest headline: “Long live my sultan” and included a photomontage of Erdogan as an Ottoman sultan.

Nationalist Yeniçag argued that the polarization of the country had been strengthened by the referendum, saying, “Sharp separation.”

The socialist BirGün led with the controversial headline, “The nationalist conservative picture fails to change again.” The newspaper also reported that the “no” front had been dominated by leftists, arguing that many Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, members had voted “yes” despite being urged to vote “no” by their party leader.

The neutrals

Some dailies preferred neutral headlines. Habertürk chose “Yes 57.9%” while Aksam preferred “Good luck with it — Yes 58%.” Both newspapers significantly had columnists who supported opposing sides in the referendum.

Daily Milliyet also had not declared a stance on the referendum, although the majority of its columnists were pro-no. On Monday morning, it said, “Yes by 6 million-vote difference.”

Some pro-no dailies also chose neutral headlines, with daily Vatan’s reading, “[Erdogan] won for the seventh time,” accompanied by a subtitle saying Erdogan had won the seventh electoral race in his career since he became Istanbul mayor in 1994.

Two pro-no dailies, Cumhuriyet, a left-of-center Kemalist daily, and Ortadogu, a right-wing ultranationalist newspaper, shared a neutral headline, saying, “Yes comes out from the ballot box.”

The socialist daily Evrensel, meanwhile, wrote, “Yes: 58% No: 42%.”

The daily Radikal chose one of the most enduring slogans of the referendum — “It is not enough but yes” — but with a twist, saying, “Yes, but it is not enough.” Radikal followed its headline up by saying all people in Turkey were demanding a new constitution regardless of their choice on the referendum.

Daily Hürriyet, in which all but one of its columnists supported a “no” vote, highlighted the part of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s victory speech in which he said, “Everybody won.”

The paper’s headline was “The second balcony speech” — the first being one Erdogan made from the balcony of the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, headquarters after he won 47 percent in 2007 general elections. At the time, Erdogan received a positive response after he said he was the prime minister even of people who did not vote for him.

Meanwhile, Posta, a sister daily to Hürriyet, said, “Turkey will change” in its Monday headline.

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

Turkish Referendum: Erdogan Buries Atatürk

In voting Yes to wide-ranging constitutional reform, the Turkish electorate has demonstrated a wish to modernise the country and seek ever closer links with the EU, even if this was not a part of the campaign agenda.

Fadi Hakura, who is a specialist on Turkey at Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London, in a recent article questioned the long and widely held view that without Europe “Turkey is unable or unwilling to become a liberal democracy.” (“European antipathy — A rising Turkey without EU?”) His argument was that “While the European Union accession process is comatose, Turkish society is undergoing a transformation to greater democracy, secularism and socio-economic rejuvenation… Europe is committing a major error in casting Turkey aside. Turkey stands out as a real beacon of hope and inspiration to many countries, both Muslim and non-Muslim, fashioning a future relying on its own wits. For Turkey, however, a reduced dependency on the European Union will finally debunk the myth that only Europe can spur the liberalization of Turkey and, by extension, of the Arab countries of the Middle East.”

Is Hakura right? This is certain: Ottoman modernization to a great extent pursued the European model. Modernization was perceived as Westernization. Republican Turkey, in its founding stage, was inspired largely by the authoritarian modernization models in Europe (Germany, Italy and the Soviet Union). For Turkey, Western democracies became the model after the end of World War II, and the European Union after the Cold War.

The declaration of Turkey’s candidacy for EU membership in 1999 did not only lead to the liberal transformation of Turkey’s sui generis Islamist movement, but also to the formation of a very broad pro-EU coalition, which even included the armed forces. Between 2001 and 2005, constitutional and legal reforms that initiated the transition from democracy under bureaucratic tutelage to one on European norms were adopted by consensus between the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government and the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP).

EU’s “soft power” over Turkey has declined considerably

Negative signals concerning Turkish accession coming out of the EU after 2005, including the argument espoused by France — that Turkey did not belong in Europe — led to a significant drop in popular support for EU accession. Consequently, the military and the opposition parties led by the “social democratic” CHP began fiercely resisting EU reforms. The EU’s “soft power” over Turkey, that is its capacity of setting an example, declined considerably if it was not entirely extinguished.

Turkey adopted yesterday by referendum some constitutional amendments that will mean a second giant step (following the reforms between 2001 and 2005) in the transition to becoming a liberal democracy. The reforms stipulated by the amendments are consistent with the requirements of the EU accession process. EU institutions, lead by the European Commission, have expressed their approval and support for the amendments — declaring them to be “in the right direction.”

Support coming out of EU circles, however, seemed to have little, if any, influence on the referendum campaign. All of the main opposition parties continued to campaign against the constitutional amendments package in every way they could, with the CHP’s new leader Kemal Kiliçdaroglu going as far as claiming that EU functionaries were bribed by the AKP into supporting the package. Certain oppositional circles even argued that it was necessary to reject the amendments in order to stop Turkey from being “run by Washington and Brussels.”

The spokespeople for the “yes” camp, led by the AKP government, made little reference to the EU process in defense of the package, and instead emphasized the need to put an end to the bureaucratic tutelage regime, to settle accounts with military coups and adopt the people’s constitution instead of the military’s, and continued democratization to further economic progress.


Europe’s press approves

The European press is a-buzz over the clear-cut “yes” (58%) to constitutional reform in Turkey after the 12 September referendum. For La Stampa, the core reforms, which will reduce the military’s control over civil justice, the constitutional court and the national security council, go to show that “this is not about details, but changes with far-reaching consequences, heralding the decline of Kemalism and the dawn of a sort of Islamic counter-revolution”.

“It’s safe to say Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has emerged victorious from this litmus-test referendum, which was essentially a verdict on his eventful eight years in power,” editorialises Enzo Bettiza. These have been “very complicated years for the relations Turkey has forged with an indecisive Europe on the one hand and with Islamism on the other”.

“The reforms will not turn Turkey into an Islamic dictatorship, as Erdogan’s critics claim,” counters the Tagesspiegel. “They will democratise the country, even though Turkey still has a long way to go to reach European standards.” For the Berlin-based daily, “the Turkish ‘yes’ is an important signal”.

El País opines that “For Turkey no longer to be an imperfect democracy and for it to adjust to EU values, it will need the military to keep to their barracks and the judges to confine themselves to being the ‘cold mouthpiece’ of the law. But it also needs political power to change hands on a regular basis,” as in any normal European country.

Over in Bucharest, Adevarul believes “Turkey has voted for Islamisation and demilitarisation”. But the Romanian daily points out that “Erdogan’s hobbyhorse”, stripping the 1980 military coup leaders of their immunity, “has lapsed”: their crimes have been statute-barred since the day of the referendum. So the trials of the generals called for by the EU are not going to happen.

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

South Asia

Afghanistan: ‘Blade’ of Water That Can Cut Through Steel to be Used to Destroy Ieds

A device that shoots a blade of water capable of penetrating steel is to be used in Afghanistan to help soldiers disable improvised explosive devices, or IEDs.

The Stingray was developed by Sandia National Laboratories and 3,000 of the gadgets are heading out to U.S. soldiers in the region this year.

Stingrays are filled with water and an explosive material that — when detonated — creates a shockwave that travels through the water and speeds it up, creating a thin, powerful blade of water capable of penetrating steel.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Heading Towards a Taliban Takeover of Afghanistan

I. The U.S. Exit — Emerging Chaos and Taliban Takeover

As U.S. troops begin to withdraw from Afghanistan in July 2011, an emerging fragile Afghan state under Hamid Karzai appears to be headed for a likely takeover by the Taliban.

Three major forces will impact the situation in Afghanistan: Pakistan, the U.S., and to a lesser degree India and Iran. An internal and regional power struggle will result. In fact, the regional powers have already begun to assert themselves with a view to acquiring a foothold in the power structure that will emerge after the U.S.’s exit. Recently, India has been turning to Iran to forge a common position on Afghanistan. And while the U.S. is seeking a return of the Russian presence to Afghanistan,[1] the Russian ambassador to New Delhi opposes the U.S.’s “hastened withdrawal” from Afghanistan because it could lead to “hell.”[2]

The emerging situation in Afghanistan will be primarily characterized by disorder: The federal government’s ability to govern will be limited to Kabul and some cities; vast regions will be controlled by the Taliban; and various Afghan leaders will maneuver to fill in the power vacuum and will position themselves as successor to Karzai, who cannot run for another term. The instability will be similar to what it was after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan.

II. Karzai’s Survival — Short Term Only

Amid a power vacuum that will originate around the time of the U.S. forces’ exit, Hamid Karzai has a chance of surviving in power for the short term only. He will be in a slightly better position to lead the fragile Afghan state than Najibullah was when the Soviets left Afghanistan. Being in power at the head of a fragile state, Karzai will become a target for the Taliban and other opposition parties. The chances of Karzai’s surviving this chaotic phase, and his eventual exit from the scene will be determined largely by the U.S.-supported secret peace talks between the Karzai government and the Taliban. The militants are already in control of vast swathes of Afghanistan and are backed by the Pakistani military’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the most powerful regional force.

The Obama administration’s Afghanistan policy has been characterized by three phases: a) during the initial months of U.S. President Barack Obama’s term, his officials favored peace talks with the Taliban; b) later, the officials resisted Karzai’s continuation in power and opposed any peace talks until the Taliban were subdued through military operations; and c) finally, they forced Karzai to embrace these inimical forces, especially through engaging Pakistan, thereby weakening him and foreclosing a visible path for the U.S. to succeed in Afghanistan. Despite U.S. criticisms against him over corruption, Karzai’s chances of surviving through a transition phase will be impacted to a large extent by the following:…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

India: Police in Kashmir Have Permission to Shoot-to-Kill

Spinagar, 14 Sept. (AKI/Dawn) — Indian police patrolled the streets of Kashmir on Tuesday, threatening to shoot anyone defying a rigid curfew imposed on the region a day after troops battled protesters in the streets in violence that killed 19 people.

The region has been wracked by anti-India protests throughout the summer, but the chaos Monday —exacerbated by reports of a Koran desecration in the United States —was the deadliest here since large-scale demonstrations began in June.

In an attempt to prevent another round of violence, police and paramilitary soldiers drove through the deserted streets of the main towns of Indian-administered Kashmir, using loudspeakers to announce that curfew violators would be shot on sight.

But scores of demonstrators took to the streets of Baramulla and hurled rocks at police.

Soldiers retaliated by firing shots in the air and launching tear gas shells, wounding three protesters, said a police officer speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media.

In overnight protests, demonstrators set fire to a police vehicle in Charar-e-Sharief, 45 kilometres southwest of Srinagar, police said.

The region has been roiled for months by separatist protests that often descend into clashes with government forces.

The violence has killed at least 88 people this summer —mostly teenage boys and young men in their 20s.

The anti-India protests turned into rare anti-America protests Monday as reports of a Quran desecration in the United States intensified the anger of demonstrators, with activists chanting “Down with America” and burning an effigy of President Barack Obama.

The protesters burned government buildings and a Christian missionary school and threw rocks at troops, who responded by firing into the crowds.

The death toll from that violence rose to 19 on Tuesday, including 18 demonstrators and one police officer.

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

Far East

China Diverting U.S. Military Technology to Iran

Front companies acquiring sensitive goods for missile, nuclear programs

As Obama administration policymakers press to liberalize U.S. export controls to placate the U.S. defense industry and make higher levels of technology more accessible to China, U.S. intelligence has determined that China in fact is acquiring U.S. “militarily critical” technology for Iran’s military and nuclear programs, according to a report from Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.

In addition, China is acquiring these technologies through various front companies set up in the United States

Once China sets up a corporation in the U.S., it has the same legal standing as U.S. firms run by Americans, thereby making them indistinguishable.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Geology: A Trip to Dinosaur Time

A project to drill a 10-kilometre-deep hole in China will provide the best view yet of the turbulent Cretaceous period. Jane Qiu reports.

The rock columns on the table are not much to look at. More than a metre long, 10 centimetres in diameter and mostly made up of oil shale and sandstone, they are a dull greyish green. But these, says Wang Chengshan, a geologist at the China University of Geosciences in Beijing, “are not ordinary rocks”.

Taken from depths of more than 2 kilometres into the Songliao Basin in northeastern China (see map), the rocks may hold clues to one of the strangest and most dynamic ages of Earth’s history: the Cretaceous period. Beginning about 145 million years ago, the Cretaceous was the heyday of the dinosaurs. It was a time of climatic extremes, when global temperatures exceeded even the most alarming forecasts for the greenhouse world of 2100, and sea levels were up to 250 metres higher than today, covering about one-third of the current landmass. It was also a period of great geological and biological unrest, associated with frequent volcanic eruptions, the formation of major mountain ranges and ocean oxygen depletion. And it ended in spectacular style, with the global catastrophe that saw off dinosaurs some 65 million years ago, an event known as the Cretaceous/Palaeogene (K/Pg) extinction.

Earth scientists have pieced together their understanding of conditions in the Cretaceous mainly from sediment cores drilled from the bottom of the ocean. But the cores being drilled from an oilfield in the Songliao Basin — which could eventually extend 10 kilometres deep — promise the deepest and best record yet of what was happening on land, and a chance to understand what drove the extremes of the time. “They are the key to unlocking the secrets of that fascinating period of Earth’s history,” says Wang, who, as the lead principal investigator, chaired a workshop in Beijing in early July on the Songliao Scientific Drilling Project. The cores that the researchers have seen so far, from depths of up to 2.5 kilometres, have offered insight into the Cretaceous climate and its massive fluctuations in temperature, atmospheric carbon dioxide and lake levels. The team is now hoping to muster support for a push to the very bottom of the basin, a further 7.5 kilometres down, where the rocks should date from before the start of the Cretaceous…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Lead Poisoning in Samurai Kids Linked to Mom’s Makeup

Lead poisoning isn’t just a problem for post-industrial city kids — the children of samurai suffered from it too, a new study suggests. An analysis of bones of children who lived as many as 400 years ago showed sky-high lead levels, which scientists now think came from their mothers’ makeup.

During the Edo period, from 1603 to 1867, Japan was ruled by a series of shoguns. Below the shogun, a few hundred feudal lords presided over the country’s agricultural domains, each from within a castle-town headquarters that was protected by a cadre of samurai military nobles.

At the castle town of Kokura, in the modern city of Kitakyushu, samurai and their families were buried in large clay pots at a local Zen Buddhist temple. A team lead by Tamiji Nakashima, an anatomist at the University of Occupational and Environmental Health in Kitakyushu, studied the remains of 70 samurai men, their wives and children. The researchers sampled the lead in rib bones, and X-rayed some of the children’s long arm and leg bones looking for signs of lead poisoning.

What they found surprised them: kids with enough lead in their systems to cause severe intellectual impairment. Children under age 3 were the worst off, with a median level of 1,241 micrograms of lead per gram of dry bone. That’s more than 120 times the level thought to cause neurological and behavioral problems today and as much as 50 times higher than levels the team found in samurai adults. Older kids’ levels were lower, but still very high.

What’s more, five of the children had unusual bone enlargements, and X-rays revealed banding that only turns up in children with at least 70 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood.

Scientists now understand that blood-lead levels of just 10 micrograms per deciliter can cause “lowered intelligence, reading and learning disabilities, impaired hearing, reduced attention span, hyperactivity, and antisocial behavior,” according to an Environmental Protection Agency website. And harmful effects have been noted at even lower levels.

Poison powder

Where might the samurai children have encountered enough lead to cause such extraordinary contamination? Globally, lead contamination is known to be much higher since the industrial revolution than at any other time in history, and Edo-period environmental levels were generally low, as were levels in Kokura.

In this and previous studies, Nakashima and colleagues showed that samurai women had higher lead levels in their bones than samurai men did, and the researchers’ suspicions settled on the women’s cosmetics. A lead-based white face powder was fashionable among the elite during the Edo period, introduced by celebrity geisha, courtesans and Kabuki actors.

The youngest children most likely picked lead up while nursing, Nakashima and his colleagues surmise. Little did the samurai mamas know, their quest for beauty may have stunted their babes’ development. Judging by the ones who didn’t make it to adulthood, the authors suggest that many surviving samurai children during the Edo period probably suffered from severe intellectual impairment.

And there’s reason to believe lead poisoning may have been widespread among elites: Nakashima and colleagues showed in an earlier study that samurai and merchants living in Kokura had much higher lead levels in their bones than did farmers and fishermen living nearby. They also point to individual shoguns known to have suffered from intellectual and health problems associated with lead poisoning.

“We assume that facial cosmetics were one of the main sources of lead exposure among the samurai class because they were luxuries at that time,” Nakashima explained in an e-mail. “The lower class people (farmers and fishermen) did not have the luxury of using cosmetics and the laws strictly prohibited [them] from using cosmetics because they were workers.”

Political effects

Nakashima and his team think a ruling class addled by lead poisoning may have contributed to political instability, and ultimately to the collapse of the seven-century-old shogun system in 1867, when power shifted cataclysmically from the shogun to the emperor, and life in Japan changed for good.

It wouldn’t be the first time lead poisoning rang in the end of an era. Others have suggested that “plumbism” among the Roman elite — whose fancy food and wine was laced with lead leached from cooking equipment — contributed to the fall of the Roman Empire.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Judge Forbids Girl, 14, To Wed

A 14-YEAR-old girl has been banned from leaving Australia and has had to surrender her passport to save her from an arranged marriage.

Just days before the girl’s father planned to whisk her overseas to marry a man she has never met, the Family Court ordered she must stay.

The Melbourne teenager is one of a number of Australian girls forced into arranged marriages overseas each year.

Her plight came to light when child protection officers received a report in June that the then-13-year-old had been taken out of school ahead of her intended marriage.

In a landmark decision published on Monday, the Family Court barred the girl, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, from travelling abroad until she turns 18.

Federal Police were ordered to place the girl’s name alongside the names of accused serious criminals and tax cheats on the official Watch List at departure points around the nation.

           — Hat tip: Anne-Kit[Return to headlines]

Video: Five Muslim Men Planned Armed Attack on Australian Army Base

Five Muslim men planned an armed terrorist attack on the Holsworthy Army Base in Sydney to further the cause of Islam by killing as many people as possible, a Supreme Court jury heard Monday. The men took a number of steps in preparation for the attack, including sending one of their number to Somalia to obtain a fatwa or religious decree to permit the plan to go ahead.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Latin America

Mexico Marks Anniversary of 1847 Battle With US

MEXICO CITY — President Felipe Calderon on Monday criticized both Americans and Mexicans for their roles in the 1846-1848 war that cost Mexico half its territory during a ceremony commemorating the definitive battle of the conflict.

Speaking on the 163rd anniversary of the Battle of Chapultepec, Calderon called the war an “unjust military aggression motivated by clearly imperialistic interests.”

Mexico lost about half its territory to the United States in the war, including much of what later became Arizona, Nevada, Utah and California.

But Calderon also said Mexicans deserved some blame.

“We lost because of the invasion and expansionist desires of our enemy, but also because of divisions among Mexicans,” the president said, noting a widely cited theory that Gen. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna refused to send reinforcements to another general because of bad blood between the two, contributing to a key U.S. victory that allowed the invading troops to advance to Chapultepec.

“Thus, while many Mexicans fought to the death in the war with the United States, others simply watched the American troops go by without standing up to them,” Calderon said.

“We only prosper when we are united,” Calderon told the crowd as Mexico prepares to celebrate the bicentennial of its 1810 independence Wednesday and Thursday. “That is the great lesson of our history.”

Even though Mexico lost at Chapultepec, on a hill overlooking the capital, the battle produced a symbol of national pride.

According to traditional accounts, six cadets — the “child heroes” — fought to the death rather than surrender to invading U.S. troops. One is said to have wrapped himself in a Mexican flag and leaped to his death from the battlements.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


EU Rebukes France Over Roma Expulsions

European Union Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding has called French closures of Roma camps and subsequent deportations a “disgrace.” She said that “discrimination on the basis of ethnic origin or race has no place in Europe.”

In an emotional statement on Tuesday, European Union Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding called France’s forced expulsion of the Roma from their borders “a disgrace,” and said the policy was probably in violation of EU law.

Speaking in Brussels, Reding said: “I personally have been appalled by a situation which gave the impression that people are being removed from a member state of the European Union, just because they belong to a certain ethnic minority. This is a situation, I had thought, Europe would not have to witness again after World War II.”

Reding said she was convinced that the Commission would have no choice but to take action against France for breaking an EU directive that allows citizens and their family members to move freely within member states.

At times Redel appeared angry and banged her podium, saying: “Enough is enough.”

Repatriation Campaign

French Foreign Ministry spokesman, Bernard Valero, meeting with reporters in Paris on Tuesday, expressed “astonishment” with the EU statement. “We don’t think that with this type of statement, that we can improve the situation of the Roma, who are at the heart of our concerns and our action,” he said, according to the Associated Press.

More than 100 Roma camps of have been closed down in recent weeks, as part of a French government campaign to repatriate them. An estimated 1,000 Roma have been sent back to their home countries, primarily Romania and Bulgaria.

The policy started this summer, and has been interpreted as a cynical effort to revive Sarkozy’s sagging popularity. The crackdown has been widely criticized, both in France and throughout Europe, where nervous neighbors with large Roma populations are closely watching events unfold.

The deportations continued Tuesday, when dozens of Roma arrived at Marseille’s airport in southern France before they were sent back to Romania. Under the French plan, Roma who agree to leave the country receive €300 ($387) and an additional €100 ($129) for each of their children.

Legal Ramifications

In recent weeks, French Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux, a personal friend of Sarkozy, has touted the policy.

Reding said that Monday afternoon Hortefeux signed a new circular on the matter, though, and eliminated references to a specific ethnic group, the Roma. She said her office is looking into the legal ramifications of the change, and asked the French authorities for an immediate and swift explanation.

An estimated 310,000 Roma live in France, according to the Berlin Institute for Population and Development. As citizens of the European Union, Roma are allowed to travel to member countries and may stay for up to three months before they are required to find work.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Finland: Green MP: Somalis Should be Helped at Home

Green League parliamentarian Pekka Haavisto says Somali refugees should receive more aid at refugee camps in Somalia, according to an interview published in the online news magazine Suomen Kuvalehti.

According to Haavisto, Finns are more concerned with the Somali refugees living in Finland than with the actual conflict. He says he believes the key issue is for refugees to be able to return to their homes.

Haavisto says he is in favour of introducing a biometric passport requirement for asylum seekers. It’s important that the EU harmonise its asylum policies to prevent asylum shopping within the union, he says.

Haavisto, a former Minister of the Environment and Development Co-operation, serves as the European Special Representative for Sudan.

Last week, calls were made to tighten rules on the family reunification of refugees after suspicions emerged that young Somali girls were being trafficked under the policy.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

Fishing Boat Machine-Gunned by Libyan Vessel With Six Italian Officers Aboard

No casualties during incident. Interior ministry and Agrigento public prosecutor’s office investigating

LAMPEDUSA — There were six Italian financial police officers on board the Libyan patrol boat that opened fire on Sunday evening on a Mazara del Vallo-registered fishing vessel. The news was released by the financial police general command, correcting an earlier report which mentioned only one officer on board the Libyan boat as an observer. Foreign Minister Franco Frattini had explained: “There was definitely an Italian financial police officer and technical personnel on board, as laid down by the original Italy-Libya agreement signed in 2007 by the Prodi government and supplemented by Roberto Maroni in 2009. But Libyan officers were in command. Our men obviously took no part in the operation. The Libyan commander ordered shots to be fired into the air but in the event the vessel was hit. As a result of our embassy’s intervention, the general command of the Libyan coastguard has presented its apologies for the incident to the Italian authorities”.

INQUIRIES — The vessel from which the shots were fired is one of six former financial police patrol boats handed over to Libya by the Italian government, three last year and three this year, as part of the agreement to combat illegal immigration. All six fly the Libyan flag and effectively belong to Libya. Under the agreement, Italian officers will for a certain period be on the vessels as observers and technical consultants. Interior minister Roberto Maroni has ordered an inquiry into the machine-gunning of the fishing boat to verify whether the vessels Italy has donated to Libya have been used in ways that contravene the terms of the 2007 treaty. An inquiry has also been opened by the Agrigento public prosecutor’s office. Meanwhile, Tripoli has announced that “the Libyan authorities have appointed a committee of inquiry into the reasons for the incident. The committee is open to the Italians, who will be able to take part”.

GUNFIRE — On Sunday afternoon off the coast of Libya, the Mazara del Vallo-based fishing boat Ariete was hit by machine gun fire from a Libyan patrol boat that had ordered it to heave to. The Ariete’s crew was unscathed and the vessel was able to avoid being boarded and move off. The Ariete then headed for Lampedusa, where it docked at 7.30. The coastguard has set up an inquiry to ascertain the circumstances of the attempted boarding and attack, to find out whether the Libyans had issued any warnings and to verify the actions of both parties.

“THEY SPOKE ITALIAN” — The Ariete, registered at the port of Mazara del Vallo, is a 32-metre fishing vessel with a crew of ten under the command of Skipper Gaspare Marrone. According to radio bulletins released by the Italian coastguard, the attack took place 31 miles from Al Zawara, a Libyan town in the gulf of Sirte on the border with Tunisia. Despite the rules of maritime law, the Tripoli authorities continue to consider the zone as their exclusive preserve. Skipper Marrone said that the order to heave to came from a man who spoke with a faultless Italian accent: “I think there might have been an Italian on board the patrol boat. He shouted: ‘Heave to or this lot will start shooting’. Why should he have said ‘this lot’? You’d have expected him to say: ‘Heave to or we’ll shoot’. And his accent was more Italian than mine is”, Marrone concluded. Machine gun fire riddled the side of the fishing boat and the dinghy tender. In the opinion of Commander Vittorio Alessandro from the coastguard general command, the crew were very lucky.

POLITICAL REACTIONS — “Following the barbarous refusals of entry to immigrants, the Libyans are now shooting at Italian fishing boats. The government should inform Parliament about this incident”, said Democratic Party (PD) senator Giuseppe Lumia. Italy of Values (IDV) has asked the foreign minister, Franco Frattini, to speak in Parliament.

PRECEDENTS — On 10 June, Libyan patrol boats seized three Mazara del Vallo-registered fishing vessels, which were released three days later when Silvio Berlusconi himself stepped in.

English translation by Giles Watson

14 settembre 2010

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

Mexico Lashes Out at US After Migrant Massacre

President Mauricio Funes of El Salvador said Friday he doesn’t blame Mexico’s government for the massacre of 72 mainly Central American migrants, and called for a joint effort to fight drug cartels.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon and Funes said after their meeting that the two countries have formed a high-level working group to develop joint strategies for combatting the drug gangs.

“We have come to have a conversation with the president of Mexico, not to condemn him or criticize him,” Funes said. “Rather the opposite, to show him our support and offer our help in this fight.”

Thirteen Salvadorans were among the dead identified so far in the massacre in late August, a killing blamed on one of Mexico’s drug cartels, the Zetas.

In a separate interview Friday, Calderon said the migrant massacre doesn’t undermine Mexico’s moral authority to demand better treatment for its own migrants.

“Of course we have the moral authority, because Mexican officials are not shooting Central American youths at the border, but U.S. agents are shooting Mexican migrants,” Calderon said in an interview with the Spanish-language Univision network.

“If we are talking about responsibility, at the root of this, in the case of immigration, is the lack of immigration legislation in the United States that would recognize this phenomenon,” Calderon said.

Funes, however, said during his joint appearance with Calderon that the home nations of migrants bear some of the responsibility for immigration problems.

“In part, the greatest responsibility lies with our governments, the Salvadoran government, for not having generated the employment conditions, the welfare conditions, that doesn’t leave our migrants any choice but to look for other opportunities in the United States and Canada.”

The massacred migrants were attempting to cross Mexico to reach the U.S. border when they were kidnapped by a group of Zeta gunmen, according to a man who survived the massacre.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Plane-Load of Ryanair Passengers Enters UK With No Passport Checks After Border Agency Blunder

A plane-load of people flew into Britain from Spain without having their documents checked in either country, officials have admitted.

Passengers on the Ryanair flight are furious that there was no system in place to check for possible illegal immigrants or terrorists.

The plane left Malaga and flew into Bournemouth, where the 180 passengers walked out of the airport without showing their passports.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Study: 83% of Italians Say Flow Must be Slowed

(ANSAmed) — ROME, SEPTEMBER 14 — Eighty-three percent of Italians (2% more than in 2007, most recent data) believe that immigrants can no longer be accommodated in Italy because “there are already too many for them to be absorbed economically and socially by the country”. At the same time, 56% (+9% compared to 2007) think that foreigners are an important economic resource for the development of Italy.

This was reported in the fourth edition of the Doxa study, “Barometer of the international solidarity of Italians”, presented today in Rome by FOCSIV. The data from the study refers to the last 12 months. “The idea that Italy’s economic situation is in such a state that we can no longer afford to accept immigrants is backed up by the opinion that immigration from poorer countries can be reduced by economically helping the countries where immigrants are coming from, held by 78% of those who were interviewed,” observed FOCSIV. On the other hand, the study showed that 45% of Italians (36% in 2007) believe that immigration flows “are an indirect method of helping poor countries”. In general, according to the study, two out of three Italians are “worried” about immigration: “while acknowledging the problem of inequality between the north and south and migratory flows,” explained FOCSIV in the study, “they worry about their own safety and wellbeing, while not requiring completely closing the country to all immigration”. Twenty-five percent are hostile and 9% are open to immigration. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Crested Dinosaur Pushes Back Dawn of Feathers

Hump backed reptile may have sported primitive plumage.

Concavenator corcovatus may have had quills and a mysterious hump.Raúl MartínA predatory dinosaur with bony bumps on its arms and a strange hump on its back provides evidence that feathers began to appear earlier than researchers thought, according to a report in Nature today1.

The new species, named Concavenator corcovatus, was about 4 metres long from nose to tail and lived during the Early Cretaceous period, about 130 million years ago. Its discoverers, led by palaeontologist Francisco Ortega of the National University of Distance Learning in Madrid, found the fossil in a semi-arid plateau called Las Hoyas in central Spain, which was likely to have been a subtropical wetland, comparable to the modern Everglades, during the Early Cretaceous.

But it is the bumps on the dinosaur’s arms that have caused a stir: the researchers think that they may have been part of structures that anchored quills to the creature’s bones.

One branch of the dinosaur family tree, called the Coelurosauria, is already known to have developed feathers and feather-anchoring structures. That lineage, which includes the dinosaur celebrities Tyrannosaurus Rex and Velociraptor, also contains the ancestors of modern-day birds. When Ortega and his team tried to place their find in the evolutionary tree, however, they found that subtle features such as the shape and texture of other bones placed it in the neighbouring branch of predators, the Allosauroidea, which until now has never had a hint of a feather.

Yet the bumps on Concavenator ‘s arms “look exactly like insertions on rather massive flight feathers on bird wings”, says Michael Benton, a palaeobiologist at the University of Bristol, UK.

If Ortega and his colleagues’ interpretation of the bumps is correct, it implies that dinosaurs showed feather-like structures much earlier than was thought. Because such structures are unlikely to have evolved separately in both groups, Ortega says that Neotetanurae, the common ancestor of the two predatory dinosaur branches, “could have been feathered”. As Neotetanurae lived during the Middle Jurassic (175 to 161 million years ago), before the the _Coelurosauria emerged, “We’re pushing back the time when bird-like structures appear,” Ortega adds…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Equality is the One Item Nobody Wants on the UN Agenda Next Week

In less than a week Barack Obama will be sitting down with 191 heads of government in New York to review progress on the most ambitious programme the UN has ever attempted. In 2000 the world signed up to eight goals which included halving those living in poverty, universal primary education, and reducing by two-thirds the number of children dying before they reach their fifth birthday. The millennium development goals are a fabulous, extraordinary wishlist. Next week all the rhetoric will be about galvanising commitment, urging one last heave in the final five years to the deadline.


[JP note: Today the Guardian luanched a new section on its website dedicated to development and aid. While the Guardian pays lipservice to the fatuous UN’s eight Millenium Declaration goals on poverty, it pursues the ninth of its own invention with extremist zeal.

1. To eradicate extreme poverty and hunger.
2. Achieve universal primary education.
3. Promote gender equality and empower women.
4. Reduce child mortality.
5. Improve maternal health.
6. Combat HIV/Aids, malaria and disease.
7. Ensure environmental sustainability.
8. Global partnership for development.
9. Eradicate Israel.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Last Supper ‘Has Been Super-Sized’, Say Obesity Experts

The food portions depicted in paintings of the Last Supper have grown larger — in line with our own super-sizing of meals, say obesity experts.

The Cornell University team studied 52 of the most famous paintings of the Biblical scene over the millennium and scrutinised the size of the feast.

They found the main courses, bread and plates put before Jesus and his disciples have progressively grown by up to two-thirds.

This, they say, is art imitating life.

Professor Brian Wansink, who, with his brother Craig, led the research, published in the International Journal of Obesity, said: “The last thousand years have witnessed dramatic increases in the production, availability, safety, abundance and affordability of food.

“We think that as art imitates life, these changes have been reflected in paintings of history’s most famous dinner.”

He says the finding suggests that the phenomenon of serving bigger portions on larger plates has occurred gradually over the millennium.

His team used computer-aided design technology to scan and calculate the relative measurements of items in the paintings, regardless of their orientation.

These included works by El Greco, Leonardo Da Vinci, Lucas Cranach the Elder and Rubens.

Based on the assumption that the width of an average loaf of bread from the time should be twice that of the average disciple’s head, the researchers plotted the size of the Passover evening dishes.


The main meals grew 69% and plate size 66% between the oldest (carried out in 1000AD) and most recent (1700s) paintings. Bread size grew by about 23%.

The sharpest increases were seen in paintings completed after 1500 and up to 1900AD.

Craig Wansink, who is a professor of religious studies, says the changes in portion sizes is probably a reflection of culture rather than theology.

“There is no religious reason why the meals got bigger. It may be that meals really did grow, or that people just became more interested in food.”

Charlene Shoneye, an obesity dietician for the charity Weight Concern, said: “I’m really not surprised by these findings because the size of our plates and food portions has increased.

“Twenty years ago, for example, most crisps used to come in packs that were 20g. Now they are 30g, 50g or even 60g, and we are still eating the whole pack.

“This super-sizing has changed our perception of normal.”

But she said it was not too late to reverse the trend and that individuals, society and the food industry should look to smaller portions.

“Part of the problem is the type of food that has increased in size. Portions of fruit, veg and salad have not grown. They should make up about a third of your plate, with the remaining two-thirds left for protein and starchy foods.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

M-Theory: Doubts Linger Over Godless Multiverse

STEPHEN HAWKING’S new book The Grand Design sparked a furore over whether physics can be used to disprove the existence of God. But few have noted that the idea at the core of the book, M-theory, is the subject of an ongoing scientific debate — specifically over the very aspect of the theory that might scrap the need for a divine creator.

That the laws of nature in our universe are finely tuned for life seems miraculous, leading some to invoke divine involvement. But if there is a multiverse out there — a multitude of universes, each with its own laws of physics — then the conditions we observe may not be unique.

Hawking suggests that M-theory, the leading interpretation of string theory, calls for a multiverse. Others are divided over the strength of this link. “My own opinion is that we don’t understand the theory well enough to be able to say whether there is one single universe or a multitude of universes,” says M-theorist Michael Duff of Imperial College London.

String theory’s grand claim was that it would be able to unite quantum mechanics with general relativity. Until the mid-1990s, however, five different versions of it, each featuring 10 spatial dimensions, were vying with each other, along with a sixth model known as 11-dimensional super-membrane theory. M-theory stitched these six theories together into one overarching theory. But while these six areas are fairly well fleshed out in M-theory, other parts of the theory are threadbare.

One major gap is how and where the seven extra spatial dimensions, beyond the three we experience, are hidden. “The conventional view is that the extra dimensions are very small,” Duff says. Alternatively, our universe could exist within a “bulk” that contains the extra spatial dimensions…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]