Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20110708

Financial Crisis
»Arrivals in Greece Up by Almost 10% in January-June
»High-Speed Trading Algorithms Place Markets at Risk
»Italy: Family Buying Power Slumps
»OECD Joins Criticism of Rating Agencies
»Strichet: Rating Requirements Suspended for Portugal
»UK: Victims of the Recovery: Women Lose 218,000 Jobs Since the End of the Recession (While Men Gain 768,000 Posts)
»Colorado Mastodon Dig So Big Scientists Call in Reinforcements
»Final Shuttle Launch Occasions Anxiety About Future of U.S. In Space
»NASA Launches Space Shuttle on Historic Final Mission
»Oil Giant ENI Starts Production in New Gulf of Mexico Field
»Threat of James Webb Space Telescope Cancellation Rattles Astronomy Community
Europe and the EU
»8,000-Year-Old Dog Tomb ‘Significant’ Find
»Belgian Government Talks Unravel, Again
»‘British Journalists Bend the Truth, Plagiarize Competitors and Break Laws’
»Democratization Can’t Save Europe: The Need for a Centralization of Power
»Faithful Fans Bid Tearful Farewell to Harry Potter
»Fossils in Saxony Shed Light on Ancient Lizard Life
»Future of Space Exploration is Bright, German Astronaut Says
»Ireland: ‘Race Hate’ Gang in Temple Bar Orgy of Violence
»Italy: Police Battle No-TAV Demonstrators Again
»Italy: Thousands of Troops in Foreign Missions to be Brought Home
»Man Receives World’s First Synthetic Windpipe
»Muslim Appeal on Swiss Minarets Rejected
»Polar Bears Can Claim Irish Ancestry
»Second World War Bombers Changed the Weather
»Swedish Woman Beats Up Groper — Goes Free
»Unless It’s Reformed, Europe’s Project is Doomed
»Vatican: Holy See Seeks to Boost Financial Watchdog’s Independence
»Albania: Brussels Wants Reasons for Tirana Mayor Decision
»Serbia: UN Tribunal Frees Former Yugoslav Army Officer
Mediterranean Union
»Business: Euro-Arab Conference in Milan to Support SME
»Media: Agreement Al Jazeera-ANSA on Editorial Cooperation
North Africa
»Algeria: Protest After Fundamentalist Attack on Prostitutes
»Libya: NATO: Mission Progress But Gaddafi Forces Regrouping
»Libya: Six Thousand Refugees Arrive Every Day in Tunisia
»Tunisia: Camel Drivers on Strike
Israel and the Palestinians
»Where is Promised Arab Funding for the Palestinians?
Middle East
»Caroline Glick: Rival Hegemons in Syria
»Opinion: Illegal Antiquities Trade Funds Terrorism
»Qatar Sets Sights on Stem Cells
South Asia
»Indonesia: Migrant Worker Taskforce to Focus on Saudi Deathrow Cases
»Kazakhstan: Astana: Praying for the Sick Without Authorisation Can Lead to Fines and Prison
Far East
»Saudi-Sino Relations Are Flourishing
»South Korea’s Pupils to Go Paperless by 2015
Australia — Pacific
»Climate Policy Turning Politics Upside Down
Sub-Saharan Africa
»South Sudan Independence: Thousands of Peacekeepers to be Sent to Prevent it Becoming Failed State
»‘Whatever We Do the Pirates Have Adapted’
»UK: Locked Up Again: The Somali Crook We Can’t Send Home Because of His Human Rightsby James Slack
Culture Wars
»Swedish Fire Service Sued Over Affirmative Action
»Commercially Valuable Fish Species Hit the Red List
»Homo Sapiens, Meet Your New Astounding Family
»Neptune Begins to Give Up Its Secrets
»The Anthropocene Debate: Do Humans Deserve Their Own Geological Era?

Financial Crisis

Arrivals in Greece Up by Almost 10% in January-June

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, JULY 8 — International arrivals in Greece rose 9.5% on an annual basis in the first six months of the year, according to the Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises (SETE), bringing the total to 4.2 million. Excluding the 3% drop at Athens International Airport, terminals outside the capital registered a record rise of 15.9%, led by the islands of Rhodes (up 33.2%) and Kos (31.1%).

SETE, as daily Kathimerini reports, argues that the rise is a result of the unrest in North Africa, the tension between Israel and Turkey, the reduction in value-added tax in accommodation prices and the improvement in the visa system in Russia.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

High-Speed Trading Algorithms Place Markets at Risk

Computers that buy and sell shares in a fraction of a second are in danger of destabilising stock markets around the world says Andrew Haldane, executive director for financial stability at the Bank of England. Speaking last night at the International Economic Association in Beijing, China, Haldane said that High Frequency Trading (HFT) firms were in a “race to zero” that could increase market volatility.

HFT algorithms can execute an order in just a few hundred microseconds, rapidly trading shares back and forth in order to quickly eke out profits from minor differences on the various exchanges. These trades are so fast that the physical location of the computers executing them becomes vital — even being a few hundred kilometres away from the exchange could mean missing out. It’s commerce far removed from any ordinary experience, as Haldane illustrated with an every day example: “If supermarkets ran HFT programmes, the average household could complete its shopping for a lifetime in under a second.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italy: Family Buying Power Slumps

Inflation outruns incomes

(ANSA) — Rome, July 8 — Disposable income for households slumped in the first quarter of the year, according to statistics released Friday, a further confirmation that the economy continues to struggle to recover from the 2008 economic downturn.

Adjusting for inflation, the effective purchasing power of families fell by 0.8% in the first three months of 2011, despite a net growth of 1.1% that has not kept pace with rising currency values since the same period last year, the data showed.

Household saving in the first quarter was down by 0.9% on the previous quarter with the average Italian family setting aside 11.5% of its income, roughly corresponding to the drop in household spending power.

Italy’s slow economic growth will also affect its targets to reduce the budget deficit and national debt and, according to Bank of Italy Director-General Fabrizio Saccomanni, corrective measures equal to 2.3% of GDP will be needed over the next three years to meet current goals.

“Until household spending picks up, industrial orders cannot rebound and employment will not improve,” according to consumer group Codacons.

“In other words, the key to pulling out of the crisis is to boost consumer spending”.

The government has just launched an austerity package to wipe out the budget deficit by 2016, but critics claim the economy also needs stimulus measures.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

OECD Joins Criticism of Rating Agencies

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development accused ratings agencies on Thursday of aggravating the eurozone debt crisis by creating “self-realising prophesies.” OECD chief economist Pier Carlo Padoan said in an interview with Italy’s Stampa newspaper: “Lately, rating agencies have proved that they are strongly ‘pro-cyclical’ and produce self-realising prophesies” Padoan said the agencies did not merely pass on information but “express judgements, speeding up trends already at work.” He said: “It’s like pushing someone who is on the edge of a cliff. It aggravates the crisis.”

Rating agencies came under strong attack from senior personalities in the European Union on Wednesday after Moody’s downgraded Portugal’s rating to “junk” status, casting new doubts on the markets over EU efforts to manage the eurozone debt crisis. Moody’s said that Portugal may need a second round of bailout funds before it can return to capital markets. Portuguese bank shares fell and the yield on 10-year government bonds climbed from 12.185 to 12.719 percent. Asked about the possibility of a second aid package for Portugal, Padoan said it was “too soon to say.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Strichet: Rating Requirements Suspended for Portugal

(ANSAmed) — FRANKFURT, JULY 7 — “We say no to selective default,” said president of the European Central Bank Jean-Claude Trichet regarding the idea that involving private lenders in the new bailout for Greece can include any form of insolvency by the country.

The executive council of the European Central Bank, Trichet continued, decided today to suspend the its minimum rating requirement for Portuguese shares by banks as collateral for loans. Earlier the ECB has done the same for Greece and Ireland.

Portugal has recently seen its rating cut to ‘junk’ by Moody’s.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

UK: Victims of the Recovery: Women Lose 218,000 Jobs Since the End of the Recession (While Men Gain 768,000 Posts)

Working women have suffered the most during the recession as bosses axe staff to survive the downturn, figures revealed yesterday.

The research, by the Office for National Statistics, found women were more likely than men to lose their full-time jobs.

Figures comparing June 2008 with June 2010 show a ‘net loss’ of nearly one million full-time employees in Britain.

‘Net loss’ is the difference between the new posts created and the number losing their job.

The ONS said there were 5.7 per cent fewer women in full-time work last year compared with 2008, while the full-time male workforce dropped by 4.7 per cent in the same period.

And the worst is not over. Experts warned yesterday that women were also facing a disproportionate threat as the Government begins to cut back the State workforce, expected to mean 400,000 job losses in the next five years.

Around two-thirds of the public sector workforce is female, meaning women are again far more likely to bear the brunt of job cuts.

The ONS research, published yesterday, also highlights significant regional differences in the impact of the recession.

In Yorkshire, 37,600 women lost their job, equal to 7 per cent of the total, compared with 39,900 men, only 4.2 per cent of the total.

One of the reasons is that women dominate the sectors which have been most affected by the downturn, such as retail and accommodation.

To make matters worse, since June last year, when the ONS’s analysis ends, the situation for women has deteriorated.

In the past year, unemployment among women jumped by 46,000, while falling by 103,000 for men.

Of all the new jobs created over the past year, just one in six went to a woman.

Brendan Barber, general secretary of the Trades Union Congress, said: ‘This analysis shows the recession was a devastating blow for millions of workers and their families.’

In total, the ONS report showed that in June last year there were 11,154,300 male full-time workers in the UK and 6,829,000 female.

The ONS figures also revealed that a typical family have seen their weekly income drop by £4 a week in a year. In 2008/9, average weekly household income in England and Wales was £703. A year later it had fallen to £699.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]


Colorado Mastodon Dig So Big Scientists Call in Reinforcements

Diggers at an excavation in west-central Colorado turned up almost 5,000 large bones in seven weeks from mammoths, mastodons, giant ground sloths, bison, horses, deer and camels. They also uncovered thousands and thousands of smaller remains, like rodent teeth and salamander vertebrae. The scientists in charge knew early on that this dig would require more shovel work than they could do alone, so they called in reinforcements, including 15 educators from the surrounding valley. These teacher-volunteers worked alongside the scientists and other volunteer diggers, turning up clues to the creatures that inhabited this area somewhere between 150,000 and 50,000 years ago. The dig ended Sunday (July 3), having yielded 4,826 large bones in seven weeks and leaving the teacher-volunteers with lessons to pass on to their students.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Final Shuttle Launch Occasions Anxiety About Future of U.S. In Space

There is a certain sense of unreality as I sit this morning at the Kennedy Space Center press site, with Atlantis on the launch pad just over three miles away awaiting its last mission (STS 135), NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver finishing a briefing on NASA’s ambitious plans for the future, a hundred enthusiastic young people from all over the country gathered for a “Tweetup” to communicate their impressions of being at a launch-while in Washington, D.C., the House Appropriations Committee apparently is intending today to cut almost $2 billion from NASA’s budget. There is a remarkable disconnect between the excitement surrounding the last shuttle launch, set to lift-off Friday, and the pervasive and merited anxiety about NASA’s future that is almost the first thing out of the mouths of any of the space veterans I have encountered in the past 24 hours.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

NASA Launches Space Shuttle on Historic Final Mission

The space shuttle Atlantis soared into the heavens and the history books Friday (July 8), kicking off the last-ever mission of NASA’s storied shuttle program.

Atlantis and its four-astronaut crew are headed for a rendezvous with the International Space Station. The main goal of the shuttle’s 12-day flight — Atlantis’ 33rd mission after nearly 26 years of flying — is to deliver a year’s worth of supplies and spare parts to the orbiting lab. But the world’s attention is fixed more on what Atlantis’ last mission means than on what it will accomplish in orbit.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Oil Giant ENI Starts Production in New Gulf of Mexico Field

San Donato Milanese, 6 July 2011 (AKI) — Italy’s Eni has started oil production at a new field in the Gulf of Mexico, the oil giant said on Wednesday.

The field is located 110 kilometres off the coast of the southern US state of Louisiana and the oil well lies at a depth of approximately 760 metres, southwest of New Orleans, Eni said, adding that it is operating the entire Appaloosa field.

Production began on 21 June and the well is presently flowing at a rate of approximately 7,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day, Eni stated.

Appaloosa is the second Eni field producing on the Corral Platform, which i is now processing 46,600 gross barrels of oil equivalent per day (33,000 net to Eni).

“This development, the second start-up this year for Eni in the US following the Nikaitchuq field start up in Alaska, further strengthens Eni’s role as an operator and enhances Eni’s position as one of the top producers in the Gulf of Mexico,” Eni said.

Eni’s total daily net production in the US is over 100,000 barrels of oil equivalent and it operates 60 percent of this.

The company owns lease interests in 333 blocks in the Gulf of Mexico and in 411 leases in the Barnett gas shales onshore Texas, in partnership with US natural gas and oil exploration and production company Quicksilver.

Eni said it owns interests in 140 leases in Alaska, between offshore and the North Slope, where it is currently operating the Nikaitchuq oil project.

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

Threat of James Webb Space Telescope Cancellation Rattles Astronomy Community

As NASA prepares to wrap up its shuttle program, leaving open questions about what comes next for U.S. human spaceflight, the next big thing in NASA’s astronomy program has been dealt a blow. The James Webb Space Telescope, a tennis court-size spacecraft that would take up a position in deep space to peer farther than ever into the cosmos, has been in development as a replacement for and successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, which has already logged 21 years in orbit. But the House Appropriations Committee, in a bill announced July 6, proposed axing the project entirely this week, citing mismanagement and bad budgeting. The bill, which would cut $1.6 billion, or about 9 percent, from NASA’s overall budget, would have to clear the full House and gain Senate approval before becoming law. But the specter of JWST cancellation looms large over a field already facing diminished resources.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

8,000-Year-Old Dog Tomb ‘Significant’ Find

Archaeologists have discovered an unprecedented 8,000-year-old dog tomb — the oldest in southern Europe — in a shell mound near the Portuguese town of Alcaçer do Sal. Project co-director Mariana Diniz told Lusa News Agency the find held “significant importance” because previously there had been no such sign of ancient “canine symbology” in southern Europe, in contrast to northern parts of the continent. “Eight thousand years ago [southern] communities domesticated dogs, an animal with an economic role, but also a symbolic one”, Ms. Diniz said “The ritual burial of dogs was done with care, not just any way, with special significance”, she added of the find. Lisbon’s National Museum of Archaeology has dispatched a specialist team to the site to consolidate and remove the tomb for conservation and future public display. The find was made by archaeologists from Lisbon University and the Spanish University of Cantabria.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Belgian Government Talks Unravel, Again

The long-standing political crisis in Belgium deepened on Thursday (7 July) when a fresh plan for restarting government coalition talks was rejected by the separatist Flemish party. Hopes were high that the 110-page position paper put forward on Monday by Socialist Elio Di Rupo could form the basis for further negotiations, with Belgium now getting on for about 400 days without a government. This is the eighth attempt to reach an agreement between the Flemish and the Walloons since elections in June 2010. The plan appeared to go a substantial way to meeting the demands of the Flemish separatists, the N-VA party — the biggest winners in last year’s elections — for more fiscal autonomy, institutional change and devolution of powers. However, Bart De Wever, the N-VA head, rejected the paper out of hand.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

‘British Journalists Bend the Truth, Plagiarize Competitors and Break Laws’

News International has decided to close the 168-year-old tabloid News of the World in response to a phone-hacking scandal at the newspaper. German commentators say the affair reveals just how murky the world of British journalism is.

It was a sentence that sent shock waves through the international world of media: “This Sunday will be the last issue of the News of the World.” The announcement was part of a statement by James Murdoch , the son of Rupert Murdoch and CEO of News Corporation Europe, that was read out to News of the World staff on Thursday afternoon. There will be no commercial advertisements in the paper’s final issue, and any advertising space will be donated to charity, Murdoch said in his statement. The shock decision to close the 168-year-old newspaper came after a week of revelations about a phone-hacking scandal that have put the paper’s owner News International — a subsidiary of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation — under increasing pressure.

On Friday, Prime Minister David Cameron promised to hold two investigations into goings-on at the News of the World and into future media regulation. Also on Friday, Andy Coulson, the former editor in chief of the newspaper who later became Cameron’s communications chief, was arrested on suspicion of conspiring to intercept communications and corruption. The tabloid, which is said to have the most readers of any English-language newspaper, is accused of hacking into phone messages belonging to crime victims, families of dead soldiers, celebrities and politicians. As many as 4,000 possible targets have been identified by police. It is also accused of paying police for information.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Democratization Can’t Save Europe: The Need for a Centralization of Power

Despite the myriad problems currently facing the European Union, democratization is not the answer. Rather, the EU’s elites need to improve — and power has to be taken away from the periphery. An Essay by Herfried Münkler

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Faithful Fans Bid Tearful Farewell to Harry Potter

There were tears and cheers from the cast and the crowd at the final Harry Potter premiere in London as the boy wizard waved his wand for the last time. Meanwhile in Indonesia, fans are missing out on the film. Thousands of fans braved the rain and security restrictions in London on Thursday to bid farewell to Harry Potter at the world premiere of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 2.” “Thank you for queuing up for the books for all those years, for camping out in a wet Trafalgar Square,” Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling told the crowd. The fans gathered along the red carpet hoping to catch a glimpse of the former child stars Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint, who starred as the main characters Harry, Hermione and Ron since the movie series was launched in 2001.

The movie is the final installment of a series of eight films, with the seven released so far grossing 4.5 billion euros ($6.4 billion) in ticket sales alone. Since 1997, British author J.K. Rowling’s saga about a boy wizard and the struggle of good against evil, which the movies are based on, sold more than 400 million copies worldwide, making Rowling the first billionaire author.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Fossils in Saxony Shed Light on Ancient Lizard Life

Scientists in Saxony have discovered 290-million-year-old fossil skeletons of a previously unknown, tree-dwelling lizard species in a perfectly preserved petrified forest that casts new light on the habits of ancient reptiles. The researchers in Chemnitz have found five well-preserved fossil skeletons of a reptile species that lived more than 50 million years before the reign of the dinosaurs. The species resembled a modern iguana and was 30 to 40 centimetres from head to tail. The species is unusual because it lived predominantly in trees rather than on the ground. Because of the fossils’ excellent preservation, scientists could learn a lot about reptile life in the Permian period between 300 million and 250 million years ago, said Jörg Schneider, professor of palaeontology at Freiberg University, who is involved in the excavation in Chemnitz.

“Most other reptiles lived on the ground,” he told The Local. “For the first time we really know this animal was specialized for living in trees … They have unusually long and slim fingers and very long tails … It is a completely new form that is unknown.” The Permian period was marked by the diversification of land vertebrates and appearance of modern trees such as conifers. All of the modern continents were clumped together in the single supercontinent, Pangea.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Future of Space Exploration is Bright, German Astronaut Says

In a DW interview, former astronaut Thomas Reiter says the space shuttle program’s end is just a ‘bottleneck.’ The European Space Agency official adds that China and India are rising space powers as well.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Ireland: ‘Race Hate’ Gang in Temple Bar Orgy of Violence

A MOB went on a wave of random race violence on Temple Bar, which left five Dubliners with horrific injuries.

One man — a Dublin DJ — was almost killed in the attack as he suffered serious head injuries when he was set upon by the gang.

The level of violence has shocked gardai and the many witnesses to the race hate orgy — believed to be the first of its kind in the city.

One member of the African gang was arrested today in pre-dawn raids by detectives across the capital.

Five Dubliners, all aged in their 20s, were left with horrific injuries in the October 2010 attacks, which have only come to light now.


The gang — all aged in their late teens — savagely attacked six Irish people in the Temple Bar area of the capital in the early hours of October 10 last.

The gang, who are heavily involved in other street robberies and beatings, are all expected to appear in court.

Sources say that even seasoned detectives were left “horrified and shocked” by the extreme level of violence used in the attacks which occurred in the Eustace Street and Curved Street areas of Temple Bar at around 3.30am on the date in question.

A senior source explained: “We believe that what happened on the night was motivated by racism — that is racism against white people.

“When the suspects were first questioned they tried to use racism as a defence — they tried to say that they had been racially abused by the victims for being black.

“But absolutely no evidence of that was ever uncovered and gardai are satisfied that the culprits were not racially abused.”

Dozens of people witnessed the shocking chain of events which started when two young men and a woman were randomly attacked at Eustace Street.

In the space of less than three minutes, five people were left with terrible injuries as bottles, punches and kicks were used to hurt the victims.

In the most serious incident, a DJ who was standing on Curved Street was set-upon and almost killed by the gang of thugs.

A source explained: “The DJ was standing outside a premises while other assaults were going on around him. His DJ bag — with records in it — was on the ground beside him.

“One of the gang picked up the DJ’s bag and ran off, with the victim running after him. Then the attacker turned around and punched the victim, knocking him unconscious.

“When the DJ hit the floor, the culprit stamped on the man’s head in what was a ferocious display of violence.

“This victim is very lucky to be alive — the entire left side of his head was broken because of that stamping incident. The victim ended up having to have a metal plate inserted into his head — if this did not happen he would have lost his eyesight.”

Sources have revealed that another victim suffered a fractured skull in an incident in which gardai believe a glass bottle was used.

The gang are now expected to face a huge number of charges, including multiple serious assault charges, violent disorder, theft and production of an offensive weapon.


The arrest was made this morning after a massive investigation by detectives from Pearse Street Garda Station.

Other suspects were being hunted today.

The mother of one of the suspects has a conviction and served jail time for trafficking children into France from Nigeria.

The gang is suspected of being involved in other street assaults and have links to a criminal who was involved in robbing head shops and has been convicted of hijacking a Dublin taxi.

           — Hat tip: Reinhard[Return to headlines]

Italy: Police Battle No-TAV Demonstrators Again

Work suspended as 188 officers are injured in attack on construction site. Protesters applaud successful operation

CHIOMONTE — The two Japanese tourists thought it was a village fair. No-TAV demonstrators had set up stalls laden with bottles of red wine, T-shirts, hats and maps explaining how to get to Cresta dei quattro denti, the highest peak above the “Free Republic of La Maddalena”, kept under close observation by 2,000 police officers. Genuine No-TAVers, the ones actually from Val di Susa, had been milling around the stalls in the centre of Chiomonte since early morning. More than 35,000 people, including families and groups of friends, were there to protest and watch battle commence. One middle-aged lady told us: “Those kids up there might be anarchists but we have to thank them for doing something for us”. Stefano, a mountain guide from Chiomonte, was shaking the hands of all the out-of-towners he bumped into: “Thanks for being here”.

In other words, the locals were out in force. They forgathered at 9 am outside the fortress of Exilles to start the first, larger, march. Younger protester met at Giaglione on the far side of the valley and began their own march. Both groups split up with the more battle-hardened heading off into the woods to join the black-clad “combatants”. Everyone else carried on down the hill to shout their support from the new protest site near the town’s hydroelectric power station at the start of the Avanà road, the very edge of the “red zone”. Each tear-gas canister explosion — and about a thousand projectiles were fired, about the same as last Monday — was followed by chants of “Shame, shame”…

English translation by Giles Watson

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

Italy: Thousands of Troops in Foreign Missions to be Brought Home

Rome, 7 July (AKI) — About one-quarter of Italian troops involved in military missions abroad will be brought home by the end of the year, Italy announced on Thursday.

Reforms minister Roberto Calderoli speaking at a Rome press conference with defence minister Ignazio La Russa said: “2,078 men will return home by the end of the year.”

Part of this troop reduction is made possible by Italy’s plan to repatriate its Garibaldi aircraft carrier Garibaldi and its 890 soldiers engaged in Nato’s Libya operation.

The ship will return to Italy by the end of July and be substituted by a smaller vessel, La Russa said.

Italy has soldiers involved in 29 overseas missions in 28 countries, the Italian defence ministry said on 30 June. Afghanistan has 4,200 Italian troops, followed by 1,780 in Lebanon and 650 in the Balkans.

Libya, where Italy’s warplanes and ships are taking part in the Nato mission, was not included on the list.

The Italian troop reduction will save the country 117 million euros a year, falling to 694 million euros from 811 million euros, La Russa said.

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

Man Receives World’s First Synthetic Windpipe

A 36-year-old man returned home this week after receiving the world’s first “synthetic” trachea in an operation at the Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm, Sweden. Made of a bendy polymeric nanocomposite material, the trachea could be the first of many “off-the-shelf” organs for transplant. Performed by Paolo Macchiarini of the Karolinska Institute, the surgery on 9 June built on earlier pioneering procedures in which Macchiarini transplanted into a female patient a section of windpipe taken from a dead donor, stripped chemically of the donor’s cells and recoated beforehand with the patient’s own cells. The advantage of the synthetic trachea is that no death or donation is needed.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Muslim Appeal on Swiss Minarets Rejected

A European court rejected appeals against a ban on the construction of new minarets in Switzerland.GENEVA — A Muslim appeal against a ban imposed on the construction of new minarets in Switzerland was rejected on Friday, July 8, by the European Court of Human Rights, saying that the plaintiffs were not victims of an alleged human rights violation.

“The main complaint was that a disputed constitutional provision offended their religious beliefs,” the court statement cited by Swiss Info news agency said on Friday.

“However, they did not allege that it had had any practical effect on them.”

The lawsuit was first filed in December 2009 by a former spokesman for a Geneva mosque and several Swiss Muslim groups.

The Strasbourg-based court on Friday announced that the complaints by the applicants were not admissible as the plaintiffs failed to show how the ban had harmed their human rights.

The applicants could not prove either that they were indirect victims because none of them was planning on building a mosque with a minaret in Switzerland in the near future, it added.

The controversial ban was enforced through a referendum called for by the far-right Swiss People Party.

After 57 percent of the voters agreed on the proposal, article 72, paragraph 3 was introduced in the Federal Constitution to bar the construction of minarets nationwide.

According to the CIA Factbook, Switzerland is home to some 400,000 Muslims, representing 5 percent of the country’s nearly eight million people.

There are nearly 160 mosques and prayer rooms in Switzerland, mainly in disused factories and warehouses.

Only four of them have minarets, none of them used to raise the Azan, the call to prayer, which is banned.

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

Polar Bears Can Claim Irish Ancestry

First it was JFK. Then Barack O’Bama. Now it seems even polar bears can celebrate their Irish roots. A team led by Ceiridwen Edwards — now at the University of Oxford but at Trinity College Dublin in Ireland during the study — has found that modern polar bears are descended from extinct brown bears that loped over the present-day islands of Britain and Ireland between 43000 and 3000 years ago. At times during this period the two islands were connected by an ice sheet. Edwards’s team analysed short chunks of mitochondrial DNA — each 100 to 176 base pairs in length — from the teeth and bones of 17 ancient bears from caves across Ireland, and then compared them with a global dataset of DNA sequences from polar bears and brown bears, extinct and modern.

Mitochondria have their own DNA, which is passed from mother to offspring through the egg. “The main reason for looking at mitochondrial DNA is that there is a very high number of copies in archaeological samples” says Edwards. This makes it more likely that enough mtDNA survives for analysis. “The mtDNA is passed down the matrilineal line effectively unchanged.” Ten of the Irish bears were from the maternal lineage that gave rise to all modern polar bears, but curiously not from the lineage that gave rise to modern brown bears. Among polar bears, though, the Irish line has beaten all comers.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Second World War Bombers Changed the Weather

Allied bombing raids during the second world war inadvertently experimented on the weather by producing huge contrails over south-east England. A study of one 1944 raid offers a rare opportunity to check our models of how contrails change temperatures. After listening to a radio programme in which an elderly woman recalled seeing a wartime sky “turn white with clouds” as fleets of bombers took off, Roger Timmis of Lancaster Environment Centre in the UK realised that the planes could have affected the weather. Contrails are known to have several effects on climate. On the one hand, they act as a blanket, trapping heat that would otherwise escape into space. On the other, during the day they reflect incoming sunlight, cooling the Earth below more than it is warmed by the other effect. But overall, the consensus among climatologists is that they warm the planet.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Swedish Woman Beats Up Groper — Goes Free

A Swedish woman who went berserk after being groped in the underground station will not be charged with assault, according to Swedish newspaper Metro. The woman was paying for her ticket in a Stockholm underground station when an inebriated man in his 40’s came up behind her and groped her buttocks. Footage from security cameras shows how the disgruntled woman responded by kneeing him in the groin, giving him a well-placed kick and punching him in the face. “She kicked my ass, basically,” said the man, who can’t understand why he is the only one facing charges, to Metro.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Unless It’s Reformed, Europe’s Project is Doomed

Europe is in a dire situation. If it doesn’t address the underlying causes of the Greek crisis quickly, Europe’s political project will face the same fate as communism and the US Confederacy, writes James K. Galbraith.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Vatican: Holy See Seeks to Boost Financial Watchdog’s Independence

Vatican City, 7 July (AKI) — In a bid to boost its new financial oversight agency’s independence, the Vatican Thurday relieved its president of his parallel duties running the office that oversees the Vatican’s assets.

Pope Benedict XVI replaced Cardinal Attilio Nicora with Bishop Domenico Calcagno as head of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See, leaving Attilio free to focus exclusively on his role as president of the Authority of Financial Information, the Vatican’s new financial watchdog.

The watchdog began work in April, tasked with ensuring that Vatican transactions comply fully with European Union and international anti-money laundering and anti-terrorism financing laws.

The agency’s creation in December 2010 came amid a probe by Rome prosecutors into suspected money laundering at the Vatican bank. The probe greatly embarrassed the Vatican as it sought to shed its image as a murky tax haven tainted by scandal and to issue new laws to comply with EU norms

The Vatican bank”s chairman Ettore Gotti Tedeschi and his deputy were placed under investigation and the Rome prosecutors seized 23 million euros which were allegedly transferred to German an Italian commercial banks illegally without identifying the send or recipient.

The two men have not been charged and prosecutors recently released the 23 million euros.

The Vatican has repeatedly said a “misunderstanding” arose over the suspect transaction, that there had been no wrongdoing by its bank or its employees and that it sought complete transparency in its financial operations.

It is not the first time the Vatican bank has been mired in scandal, however.

In November 2009, investigators were reported to be probing the bank for suspected money laundering via one or more accounts it opened with Italy’s largest commercial bank, UniCredit.

Some 60 million euros passed through UniCredit between 2006 and 2008, according to prosecutors spearheading a probe being carried out in conjunction with Italian tax police.

The Vatican bank owned a small part of the Banco Ambrosiano and was held partially responsible for the a fraud scandal that led to the bank’s 3.5 billion dollar collapse in 1982. At the time Banco Ambrosiano was then Italy’s largest lender.

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


Albania: Brussels Wants Reasons for Tirana Mayor Decision

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, JULY 8 — The European Commission is “awaiting” clear explanations on the final decision by the Elections Court on Albania’s local elections, with the win by Lulzim Basha, right-wing majority candidate under PM Sali Berisha, against Edi Rama, leader of the socialist opposition and outgoing mayor. This was said in Brussels today by Maja Maja Kocijancic, on behalf of European Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule in response to journalists’ questions. “We have been watching the developments in the May 8 elections,” noted the EU Commission spokesperson, “carefully and with much concern. We are waiting to see the what the reasons are behind it to gain a clearer perspective.” Before making any comments, “we first need to see details of the decision,” Kocijancic reiterated. The spokesperson then noted Brussels’ position on the possibility of Albania as part of the EU: “We want to see mature political dialogue and progress in the field of reforms.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Serbia: UN Tribunal Frees Former Yugoslav Army Officer

Belgrade, 7 July (AKI) — The United Nations war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia on Thursday freed former Yugoslav army officer Veselin Sljivancanin, after he served two thirds of his jail term.

Sljivancanin and two other officers, Mile Mrksic and Miroslav Radic, had convicted by the tribunal for aiding and for failing to prevent a murder of some 200 Croatian prisoners on “Ovcara” farm in eastern Croatia in November 1991.

Mrksic was sentenced in September 2007 to 20 year in prison, Sljivancanin to five years and Radic was acquitted.

The tribunal’s appeals panel increased Sljivancanin’s sentence to 17 years in 2009, but in a unique move, then cut it to ten years last December.

The tribunal president Patrick Robinson said Sljivancanin was released according to the rules of the tribunal, based on “good behavior” and the fact that he had expressed remorse for all crimes committed during the 1991-1995 war that followed the breakup of the former Yugoslavia.

Sljivancanin’s lawyers said he already arrived in the Serbian capital, Belgrade, on Thursday afternoon and rejoined his family.

Since it was founded by the United Nations Security Council in 1993, the tribunal has indicted 161 individuals, mostly Serbs, for crimes committed in the war. More than sixty have been sentenced to over one thousand years in jail.

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

Mediterranean Union

Business: Euro-Arab Conference in Milan to Support SME

(ANSAmed) — MILAN, JULY 8 — The second Euro-Arab Conference that will be held on Monday and Tuesday in Milan in support of small and medium-size enterprise aims to deepen relations between governments, institutions and economic players in European Union and Arab League countries. Two days of meetings and discussions with experts, agents, members of industrial and commercial institutions and associations about the impact of changes in the Mediterranean region on economic activities, the prospects of financial development and partnership opportunities. The organisers of the event explain that the main focus will be on sectors like agro-industry, furniture, textile and leather, electronics and automotive and construction materials. The initiative is organised by Promos and promoted by the League of Arab States, the Foreign Ministry, the Ministry of Economic Development, by the Lombardy Region and by the Chamber of Commerce of Milan. There will also be technical studies during the two days on how to develop business on both sides of the Mediterranean, with meetings between Arab and European companies.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Media: Agreement Al Jazeera-ANSA on Editorial Cooperation

(ANSAmed) — ROME — Al Jazeera and ANSA have signed in Doha (Qatar) a protocol to develop editorial cooperation to promote communication between social, cultural, and economic players worldwide and at regional level. Khalid A.AlMulla, Deputy Director General for Al Jazeera Network, AbdulAziz Al-Horr, Director of Corporate Development Bureau, Giuseppe Cerbone, Chief Executive Officer, and Luigi Contu, Editor in Chief have stressed the common grounds in independent and reliable news. The two companies will exchange news, videos, pictures, and business know-how.

The editorial cooperation will focus especially on editorial opportunities in the area of Web information services and portals. Web surfers and clients will find on ANSA and Aljazeera products and services, and in depth coverage about the areas of respective interest. Al Jazeera is a leading globally oriented media network based on high standards of values that strives for truth and facts. It provides a round-the-clock live worldwide coverage with high editorial standards due to the availability of its offices and correspondents in almost every part of the world. ANSA is the leading italian news agencies and one of the largest in the world with offices in all italian regions and in 80 countries around the world with its 700 journalists and correspondents, providing multimedia services in italian, english, arabic, and spanish.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Algeria: Protest After Fundamentalist Attack on Prostitutes

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, JULY 8 — A harsh condemnation of the fundamentalist-linked attacks on prostitutes in M’sila over the past few weeks has come from the Violence Against Women Observatory, which has released a statement censuring most especially the lack of reaction by institutions. The statement, quoted by El Watan, claims that enough is enough: “the Algerian authorities are obliged to protect women against the barbaric acts of men without honour who set themselves up as hangmen, guardians of women’s and the public’s morality,” in the absence of state institutions.

“We declare that the men carrying out these acts are dangerous for Algeria’s present and future,” said the statement, which went on to highlight how the latter attack “the weakest part of society, women”. These expeditions, stated the observatory, “take us back to 1980, when Islamic militias attacked women for the clothes they wore in order to safeguard Islamic morals.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: NATO: Mission Progress But Gaddafi Forces Regrouping

(ANSAmed) — NAPLES, JULY 7 — NATO has spoken of “tangible progress” during the Operation “Unified Protector”, the mission in Libya that began on March 23, and says that it is “certain that its task will be completed successfully”.

During a meeting at the Alliance’s “JFC Command Naples” to update the press on military operations, the military spokesperson, Lieutenant-Colonel Mike Bracken, speaking to Brussels via video link, said that “over 14,000 flight missions have been carried out”, reaching targets “with a high degree of precision”.

“The skies over Libya are well protected and the no-fly zone is being enforced,” the spokesperson said. The Alliance also believes that the naval embargo has also been positive, with the result that “people and humanitarian aid are able to move freely over Libya On the ground, however, referring to news of the killing of 14 rebels in Misrata by forces loyal to Gaddafi, the spokesperson admitted that NATO “has no direct information”. “Gaddafi’s determination remains intact,” Bracken said, “his forces are re-arming and regrouping in cities such as Misrata, Kiklah and Dafniyah”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: Six Thousand Refugees Arrive Every Day in Tunisia

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, JULY 8 — An average of six thousand refugees arrive every day in Tunisia, coming from Libya. The news was reported in a press meeting by colonel of the Tunisian Army Mokhtar Ben Nasr. Representing the Defence Ministry, the colonel explained the situation at the Libyan border, which he called “stable”.

On Wednesday night alone 7,115 refugees arrived at the Tunisian border crossings; 6,850 of these were Libyans. They have been sent to the Dehiba and Tataouine camps.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Camel Drivers on Strike

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, JULY 8 — In a Tunisia ever more plagued by strikes and sit-ins, streets blocked and factories unable to open their gates due to enraged workers, news of yet another strike could seem run-of-the-mill. But finding out that camel drivers taking tourists to Hammamet and Nabeul aournd have also decided to take to the streets in protest does have a certain effect. As must seeing them in Nabeul’s squares on their animals, demanding aid from the authorities at an extremely delicate moment for Tunisian tourism, which is forced to face up to a halving of its business. It is a colourful sit-in but a dramatic one at the same time, since — according to the camel drivers — due to a lack of tourists and reservations, many hotels have said they will no longer be able to make use of them to take foreigners around amongst the dunes and palm trees. In June they had staged a protest in front of the governorate’s offices without receiving any assurances or guarantees. They have resumed their protest today since their ordeal seems endless, as Le Temps put it today.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Where is Promised Arab Funding for the Palestinians?

Where is Palestinian Accountability?

by Khaled Abu Toameh

The Palestinian Authority has announced that it is facing a severe financial crisis, largely due to the failure of Arab countries to fulfill their promises to help the Palestinians. Because of the failure of the Arab countries to provide financial aid to the Palestinians, the Palestinian Authority is almost entirely dependent on US and EU contributions. The financial crisis in the Palestinian Authority raises doubts as to whether the Palestinians are indeed ready for statehood. If the Palestinian Authority has to ask Americans and Europeans to pay salaries to its civil servants, how can it demand an independent and sovereign state from the United Nations in September?

What other country in the world depends on foreign aid to support its civil servants and employees? In addition, the Palestinian Authority should launch a real and serious investigation to find out what happened to hundreds of millions of dollars that went missing under Yasser Arafat. Many Palestinians believe that the stolen money could resolve the current crisis and improve their living conditions. The Palestinian Authority should at least show the US and the EU countries that it is making an effort to restore the money and punish those responsible for embezzlement. Future aid to the Palestinians should be contingent on the Palestinian Authority leaders’ proving that they have done their utmost to get the money back.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Caroline Glick: Rival Hegemons in Syria

Last Saturday, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah gave Hezbollah-backed Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati the political equivalent of a public thrashing. Last Thursday, Mikati gave a speech in which he tried to project an image of a leader of a government that has not abandoned the Western world completely. Mikati gave the impression that his Hezbollah-controlled government is not averse to cooperating with the UN Special Tribunal for Lebanon. The Special Tribunal just indicted four Hezbollah operatives for their role in the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri.

But on Saturday night, Nasrallah gave a speech in which he made clear that he has no intention whatsoever of cooperating with the Special Tribunal and that since he runs the show in Lebanon, Lebanon will not cooperate in any way with the UN judicial body. As an editorial at the NOW Lebanon website run by the anti- Hezbollah March 14 movement wrote, last Saturday night Nasrallah “demolished Mikati’s authority and the office from whence it comes, and used it as a rag to mop up what is left of Lebanese dignity.”…

           — Hat tip: Caroline Glick[Return to headlines]

Opinion: Illegal Antiquities Trade Funds Terrorism

The illicit trade in antiquities is a worldwide epidemic on the list with drugs, weapons and human trafficking and yet it is rarely talked about. While I was serving in counter-terrorism operations in Iraq in 2003 as a Colonel in the United States Marine Corps, I volunteered to investigate the looting of Iraq’s National Museum. From my experience, I can say that the illegal antiquities trade has become a revenue stream for terrorist activity in the region. In 2005, every single weapons shipment that we seized, whether from terrorists or insurgents, also contained antiquities. These trucks, but also caves, buildings and other hiding places, would contain boxes of rocket propelled grenades alongside boxes containing ancient tablets and figurines.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Qatar Sets Sights on Stem Cells

Small nation has big plans for science.

Qatar intends to become an internationally respected scientific base for the Arab world. In 2006, the country’s head of state, Emir Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, committed to spending 2.8% of the country’s gross domestic product on research — an investment that came to an estimated US$3.5 billion in 2010. Much of that money flows through the Qatar Foundation, which was set up in 1995 with a multi-billion dollar endowment from the emir. One big focus of research is stem cells, and a dedicated centre is set to open next year. With funding flowing freely, can Qatar negotiate ethical concerns and build the expertise necessary to become a world leader in the field?

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Indonesia: Migrant Worker Taskforce to Focus on Saudi Deathrow Cases

Jakarta, 7 July (AKI/Jakarta Post) — Indonesia’s Migrant Worker Taskforce, established last week as a follow-up to directives from president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, will initially focus on advocacy for four migrant workers facing the death penalty in Saudi Arabia, a taskforce member says.

“The advocacy for those four migrant workers is urgent because there are no legal channels left,” taskforce spokesman Humprey Djemat told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday

Humprey was referring to migrant workers Siti Zaenab, Satinah binti Jumadi Ahmad, Aminah binti Hajibudi, and Darmawati binti Taryani.

Siti Zaenab and Satinah are facing the death penalty for allegedly murdering their employers, while Aminah and Darmawati were sentenced for allegedly killing and mutilating the body of another migrant worker.

Humprey said the taskforce would contact relevant Saudi officials, including ulema, to act as mediators between the taskforce and the families and relatives of the victims.

“We will be asking for pardon from family members or relatives, because that’s the only way left for those concerned workers to avoid death penalty,” he said.

At least 27 Indonesian migrant workers (TKI) are currently on death row in Saudi Arabia, Humprey said.

The president issued several directives in efforts to protect migrant workers, amid public protests over the shocking execution of Indonesian worker Ruyati binti Satubi in Saudi Arabia last month.

The execution, conducted without notifying Indonesian authorities or Ruyati’s family, angered the Indonesian government, which later recalled its Ambassador in Riyadh in a sign of protest over the execution.

Relations between the two countries somewhat soured following Jakarta’s decision to suspend Indonesia’s labor export to Saudi Arabia. Saudi authorities later announced a retaliatory policy, also banning work permits for domestic workers from Indonesia

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

Kazakhstan: Astana: Praying for the Sick Without Authorisation Can Lead to Fines and Prison

The secret police accuses a Protestant clergyman of harming a man’s health by praying for him. Another pastor is told to apply for the appropriate “authorisation” from the Health Ministry. For months, police have been going after Protestant meetings and identifying participants.

Astana (AsiaNews/F18) — Rev Yerzhan Ushanov, a pastor with the New Life Protestant Church in the city of Taraz, could face up to two years’ imprisonment if criminal charges of harming an person’s health are brought against him for praying for the patient, this according to the Forum 18 news agency, which also reports other examples of heavy handed actions against religious freedom by Kazakhstan’s National Security Committee (KNB), the country’s secret service.

According to the charges, Aleksandr Kereyev got sick after Ushanov used hypnosis against him in a church. Local sources say the patient was not a member of the community, and that he visited their church three or four times over a six-month period that ended in March.

“This is not the first time the authorities in the southern regions of Kazakhstan bring such absurd accusations against pastors for allegedly using hypnosis, while in reality all they do is pray for the sick,” New Life Church members, who asked for anonymity, told Forum 18.

Rev Ushanov is facing prosecution under Criminal Code Article 111 (“causing severe damage to health due to negligence”), which includes heavy fines and jail time.

In another case in Jambyl Region, the KNB charged another local Protestant clergyman, Rev Vissa Kim, pastor of Grace Light of Love Protestant Church, Forum 18 reported. The latter was given a fine of 141,300 tenge (almost US$ 1,000) for praying for a sick woman. The money is the equivalent of more than eight years of salary. The conviction was upheld in appeal and Kim was forced to pay the fine.

Eventually, the Kazakhstan Supreme Court overturned the lower court’s decision on a technicality but the clergyman has not yet been refunded.

Many members of the New Life Protestant Church want to know why the KNB and the Department for the Fight against Extremism, Separatism and Terrorism went after the Church.

The KNB has not stopped harassing the Church. On 19 June, it searched one of its places of worship in Taraz because a woman, Olesya Kotlyarova, had “complained that she was poisoned when she ate at the Church cafeteria recently”.

On 25 June, police searched Usharov’s home looking for evidence. They claimed to have found a book in Russian about modern hypnosis, which the reverend denies ever owning.

During the raid, the KNB seized his computer and hundreds of DVDs, Christian books, and documents and data concerning the Church’s membership. They told the clergyman to “change profession” and leave Taraz for his own good. They also warned him not to create “troubles” for the members of his Church.

Forum 18 contacted the authorities, which refused to discuss the case. However, the faithful continue to complain that the KNB has been interfering with their Church’s activities for months.

On 29 April, police barged into a church, interrupting a meeting. During their action, they videotaped those present and warned that their Church was a “dangerous sect”.

The church’s pastor, his wife and their three children were taken to a local station for questioning that lasted several hours.

In response to the Church’s subsequent complaint, Aktobe City Police responded in an official letter that the actions of the officers were “not appropriate” and that they would be “reprimanded”.

On various occasions in the past few months, police has put pressure on the New Life Church to cancel its meetings, as well as on those willing to rent them space.

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

Far East

Saudi-Sino Relations Are Flourishing

As a controversy rages in Germany about a reported secret deal to sell tanks to Saudi Arabia, another partnership is less known. China and Saudi Arabia have become increasingly close in recent years. Whether the Americans or the Chinese are the biggest consumers of oil in the world is still a matter for debate. However, what is clear is that China, alongside the US, is one of Saudi Arabia’s best customers. Saudi Arabia supplies China with a fifth of its energy needs, making Riyadh Beijing’s most important provider of “black gold.” But it is not all about oil — the Saudis buy food, textiles and industrial goods from China and bilateral trade is already worth over 40 billion dollars a year. There are more imported goods made in China than in the US on the Saudi market now. More and more Saudi Arabian students are coming to China to study and some oil sheikhs have started flying to China to buy furniture instead of jetsetting to New York, Paris or London.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

South Korea’s Pupils to Go Paperless by 2015

THE fusty aroma of old textbooks may take you back to your school years, but children starting school after 2015 in South Korea are more likely to recall the smell of an overheating tablet computer. That’s because the education ministry intends to transform schools into paperless digital operations by then, according to Korean news site The Chosun Ilbo. Under its Smart Education programme, announced on 1 July, the ministry is to spend 2.2 trillion Won ($2 billion) digitising all elementary and secondary school textbooks currently in use so they can be read on a variety of devices, including computers, interactive whiteboards, iPad-like tablets and smartphones. Classes will also be video-streamed online so children who can’t come in due to poor health or weather don’t miss out. Children with disabilities may also benefit: e-books could be controlled by eye-tracking or gesture recognition, for example.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Climate Policy Turning Politics Upside Down

In 2008, 67 per cent of the Australian population supported an emissions trading scheme, but Kevin Rudd could not get one through Parliament.

In 2011, only 38 per cent of Australians support a price on carbon, but Julia Gillard looks likely to win parliamentary approval for hers.

Again, climate change policy is turning the norm of politics on its head.

In a complete reversal of the usual instinct to run away from anything the public doesn’t like, this Parliament has strengthened its resolve on the issue even as it has become less popular.

The latest anomaly flows from the upheavals that have gone before — the clawing down of a Liberal leader who refused to renounce what he believed to be true, and then the stabbing of a Labor prime minister because of the public backlash when his party persuaded him to make exactly such a renunciation.

And it is not the result of a sudden assertion of deep inner political conviction.

Labor rediscovered its spine only because it ran out of expedient options, almost losing the 2010 election in part because of its lack of convictions and then re-embracing climate change policy as part of the price of forming minority government. The Greens, of course, discovered political pragmatism once they had a good look at Tony Abbott’s policy alternative.

The Prime Minister’s talking points say Labor has “always believed in the need to tackle dangerous climate change”. Yet everyone who has been paying even scant attention to this debate knows that belief was well hidden for a while.

And meanwhile, as the Nielsen polling figures show, its task had become much harder.

But again, not in the conventional way.

In the normal order of things, when a controversial public policy is unveiled, businesses and lobby groups would use the wavering balance of power holders in the Senate to prosecute whatever changes they desire.

The minor parties and independents propose amendments, the lobby groups exert public pressure, the amendments are haggled upon, the fate of the bills hangs in the balance and a compromise is finally agreed upon. But when the carbon tax is unveiled on Sunday, the deal to get it through the Parliament will have already been done.

The Greens and the three lower house independents have all said they will vote for it.

Tasmanian independent Andrew Wilkie was the last to declare, but as a former Green who won a Labor seat on Green preferences and who supports carbon pricing, voting down a Labor/Green carbon deal would have been a very brave career move.

So the climate deal will not be fought out in Canberra backroom deals over amendments or the passage of legislation. This is now a fight to the death in the arena of public opinion.

And because of Labor’s prevarications, Tony Abbott has had an 18-month head start in that battle … and he has spent his time well.

He has convinced many voters they should measure whether Australia is ahead or behind or in step with the rest of the world on the basis of whether other countries have a carbon tax — rather than whether they are going to meet the emission reduction targets that both major parties agree line up fairly against Australia’s bipartisan minimum target of a 5 per cent cut.

Abbott has tried hard to give the impression that his Direct Action alternative is painless and almost cost-free.

And he has embraced the climate sceptics by emphasising that his plan “makes environmental sense” even if you don’t believe in global warming.

Initially he hitched his anti-tax campaign to public anger about increases in power bills occurring for other reasons. Lately he has targeted the possible impact on mining and manufacturing industries, already under pressure because of the high dollar and the mining boom. It is through exactly those relevant electorates that he will “barnstorm” next week and throughout the five-week parliamentary winter recess.

His barnstorming is intended to stop the “Clean Energy Future” bills from passing Parliament in August or September by finding the political pain threshold of at least one of the parties who say they will vote for it.

Julia Gillard is banking on the underlying support in the community for taking some kind of action, as well as the fact that what she unveils on Sunday will not be anything like as scary as Abbott has been making out.

She is also banking on the fact that the members of the multi-party committee have just as much riding on this issue as she does.

But as well as Abbott’s untiring anti-tax campaign, Sunday will also mark the start of the Greens’ efforts to differentiate themselves from Labor, with claims about what they achieved in the carbon tax deal.

Labor will want to present the scheme as at least as cautious as Kevin Rudd’s carbon pollution reduction scheme. The Greens will emphasise all the other elements, like the flexibility to argue for more ambitious targets in the future and the extra money for renewable energy, which they insist makes it tougher, although not as tough as it should have been.

Lost in the entire melee will be the truth that, however it compares with the carbon pollution reduction scheme, the final package will be a modest scheme, imposing modest costs on households and businesses to achieve the gradual reductions in emissions which both major parties ostensibly support.

It will even include some elements of the Coalition’s Direct Action, including a tender for the early retirement of some of the highest-emitting, brown coal-fired power stations. It will leave fuel out, possibly dealing with transport emissions through regulation: which is exactly what the Coalition environment spokesman, Greg Hunt, said should happen back in 2008, when he insisted there was little evidence that higher petrol prices would drive down emissions and backed regulation as a more effective way to cut pollution in the sector.

In another political universe, in fact, this is the kind of scheme both major parties could have backed. In the current world of knock ‘em down and drag ‘em out politics, that really would be turning things on their head.

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

South Sudan Independence: Thousands of Peacekeepers to be Sent to Prevent it Becoming Failed State

A fresh force of international peacekeepers is expected to be agreed on Friday to protect South Sudan, the world’s newest nation, falling into chaos and becoming a failed state.

The UN Security Council will vote on sending up to 7,000 armed blue berets to the Republic of South Sudan, which wins independence from its former enemy Sudan at midday on Saturday.

Ban Ki-moon has recommended that the new mission should focus on protecting civilians — with force if necessary — and on reforms to the police, army and justice systems.

There are fears that from its outset, the world’s 193rd country will be unable adequately to police its territory, guard its borders or protect its eight million citizens.

Sudan’s majority Christian south fought its Muslim north for 38 of its 54 years of independence from Britain, and the hangover of that war is almost a million guns, mostly in civilian hands in the south.

The southern army, born from the rebel force which fought the war, is bloated with troops and drains as much as 60 per cent of South Sudan’s annual budget. One diplomat in Juba quipped that it was “in essence the state’s welfare system”.

The police force, provincial administration, courts and tax systems are, at best, stumbling, raising the risk of widening public anger among a population expecting an instant windfall from independence.

“We need to be modest in managing the expectations of what South Sudan can achieve, and how quickly,” said George Conway, deputy head of the UN Development Programme’s office in Juba, South Sudan’s capital.

“There has been good progress since the end of the war, but real change is going to be generational.” In reality, the Republic of South Sudan will from its first days easily fulfil most requirements of a failed state.

Separated from the more advanced north, it will also immediately knock Zimbabwe off the bottom spot on the index of human development.

At least 80 per cent of the population is illiterate — rising to 92 per cent for women — the majority of civil servants did not finish secondary school and there are estimated to be fewer than 500 trained doctors in a country the size of France.

A 15-year-old girl is more statistically more likely to die in childbirth than she is to finish school.

“It’s fair to say that these are political and security challenges that would tax even the most developed countries,” said a senior Western diplomat in Juba.

“South Sudan is facing all of them, and all at once.” There was little evidence of the severity of that challenge in Juba yesterday.

Ahead of tomorrow’s independence ceremonies, roads that were dirt a year ago are now freshly laid with asphalt.

Armies of women swept streets as government gardeners hastily planted bougainvillea bushes on the main roads preparing for an onslaught of VIPs.

William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, leads the delegation from London. Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the UN, will represent the Obama administration.

So many presidential planes from other African countries are due to land at the city’s ramshackle airport in the coming hours that civilian flights have been cancelled for two days.

“We are very happy to show the world the best of our new country,” said Abraham Mayom, 32, a mechanic working on a Chinese-made motorcycle by the roadside.

“But what of next week, or next month, or next year? We are like a baby not yet able even to crawl. We will need help for long before we are up on our two feet walking alone.” Almost £90 million of British aid will flow through the small Department for International Development office in Juba this year — almost £12 for each Southern Sudanese man, woman and child.

DfID is also outsourcing chunks of its work in Sudan to private British firms, including Mott McDonald, Atos Consulting and the Adam Smith Institute, which manage schemes focused on security, justice and government practice.

Even Sudanese refugees who fled to Britain during the civil war are returning home to invest money and spread technical know-how picked up during their education overseas.

Albert Rehan, 38, who won asylum in Britain in 1995, now runs a recruitment consultancy with offices in Juba and in Holborn, London, specialising on filling technical and managerial level jobs in South Sudan’s booming private sector.

“I’m still struggling to find good candidates,” he said, sipping sweet black tea under a mango tree in central Juba.

“But that’s because now clients demand people with the right skills for the job, not just the right family name. That in itself gives us reason to be optimistic.” That optimism must be tempered, however, by key planks in the peace deal that have still not been secured.

There is no agreement on sharing oil, which lies mostly under southern soil but must be refined and exported through the north. It is unclear how foreign debts, borrowed when Sudan was unified, will be repaid once it splits.

Of most concern, however, is the border between the two new neighbours.

Its precise route has not yet been decided. Already Omar al-Bashir, the president in the north, is accused of supporting loyal militia in the south to raise rebellion, especially in the oil-rich Abyei state.

Tens of thousands of northern civilians are still fleeing south after repeated bombing raids against them by the Sudan Air Force, under the instructions of Mr Bashir who is already wanted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court.

“The increasing violence and human rights violations this year underscore the need for a robust and flexible peacekeeping presence in South Sudan,” said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

‘Whatever We Do the Pirates Have Adapted’

On his first day captaining a new ship, Peter Newton was subject to an attack by pirates. Newton believes he only survived the attack in the South China Sea because he had not yet got around to installing an alarm on the safe in his cabin. “[The pirate] put me on my hands and knees and said ‘if the alarm sounds, you will die instantly.’ And I believed him,” said the now-retired British captain. In the event, the pirates, armed with knives and swords, made off with about €25,000 and Newton went on to sail another 18 years at sea.

But although he describes his experience as “quite terrifying”, Newton says the scale and type of piracy today, particularly in the Gulf of Aden and Arabian Sea where Somali pirates typically operate, is of a completely different order. “The nature of piracy has changed. It has now become big business for pirates. And it’s absolutely risk-free for them.” Neil Smith, an analyst from Lloyds agrees: “The thing that has changed with the Gulf of Aden is that the pirates recognize that there is a value for the vessels and the cargo but their main hook is holding onto the crew for ransom.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


UK: Locked Up Again: The Somali Crook We Can’t Send Home Because of His Human Rightsby James Slack

A serial criminal from Somalia who cannot be deported from Britain is back behind bars after committing yet more offences.

Abdisamad Sufi was jailed for two attempted burglaries only days after Strasbourg judges granted his release from an immigration detention centre.

MPs said the case showed how human rights laws had made a mockery of British justice.

The Home Office had been trying to kick him out after he was convicted of a string of offences dating back to 2005.

They include burglary, fraud, making threats to kill and indecent exposure.

But, in a shock ruling which could pave the way for up to 200 Somali criminals to stay in the UK, the European Court of Human Rights last week decided it would not be safe to send him back to his homeland.

Amazingly, a few days later, he was back in court for attempting to burgle homes in Shepherds Bush, West London, and then resisting arrest. He was found with screwdrivers and wire cutters and police had to use CS spray to detain him.

Magistrates sentenced him to six weeks in prison on Monday after he admitted the crimes.

However, upon his release, officials are likely to still find it impossible to remove him. Tory MP Philip Davies said the European court’s judgment had created ‘completely unnecessary victims of crime’.

He added: ‘It is just so predictable and pathetic. This man has seen you can do anything and everything in the UK and still not be deported so what incentive has he got to change?’

Sufi, 24, has at least 17 convictions since he entered the UK illegally eight years ago using a fake passport.

He claimed asylum on the grounds that he belonged to a minority clan persecuted by the Somali militia. His claim was rejected by officials and an appeal tribunal said his account was ‘not credible’.

Sufi was imprisoned on Monday just days after claiming that he had changed his criminal ways.

Speaking through an interpreter last weekend, he said: ‘I want to contribute to society, not to be costing the country money, but I have been unable to get education and skills here because of my status.

‘I am full of shame for having to beg or borrow to live and I do not want to be a burden to anybody.

‘I understand why people are angry that I committed crimes, I see their point of view and I am sorry. I did not come to Britain to commit crimes.’

‘This highlights exactly why we wanted to remove this individual from the UK and why we were so disappointed with the recent decision from the European Court. We are determined to remove foreign national criminals from the UK.’

- UK Border AgencyThe Strasbourg court ruled that Sufi and a second man, drug addict Abdiaziz Ibrahim Elmi, might be persecuted in war-torn Somalia, and that they must be allowed to stay to protect their human rights.

It means that, irrespective of how heinous their crimes are, or the danger they present to the public, Britain has no power to expel them.

The ruling, a test case, will now also apply to 214 other similar cases which have been lodged with the court using Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Article 3, which protects against torture and inhuman or degrading treatment, is an ‘absolute’ right, meaning that it applies regardless of the offences committed. The two men, who were both granted thousands in legal aid to fight their cases, were jointly awarded more than £20,000 for costs and expenses.

The judges said Sufi could not join his relatives in Somalia because they lived in an area controlled by a strict Islamic group.

If returned, he could face punishment according to their code — also a breach of his rights.

He would also be particularly vulnerable if forced to live in a refugee camp because he has a ‘psychiatric illness’, the court said. Tory MPs said the case showed that Britain no longer has control over its borders.

A UK Border Agency spokesman said: ‘This highlights exactly why we wanted to remove this individual from the UK and why we were so disappointed with the recent decision from the European Court. We are determined to remove foreign national criminals from the UK.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Swedish Fire Service Sued Over Affirmative Action

Södertörn’s fire department, just south of Stockholm, is being sued for actively choosing to hire women and people with foreign background, according to Sveriges Radio (SR). The fire deparment’s gender and ethnicity quota became an unpleasant surprise for Simon Wallmark, who was informed that despite having trained as a firefighter, he was not encouraged to apply for a summer job, on account of being Swedish and male. “The response I got from Södertörn was that I wasn’t qualified to apply for the summer jobs, because the jobs were reserved for women and people with an immigrant background,” said Simon Wallmark to SR.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Commercially Valuable Fish Species Hit the Red List

Study shows perilous state of fish stocks as management meeting begins.

Ahead of a key international meeting on tuna catches, an assessment is painting a bleak picture of the conservation status of some of the world’s most commercially valuable fish species. Bruce Collette, who studies ocean fish at the National Marine Fisheries Service Systematics Laboratory in Washington DC, and his colleagues conducted the first global assessment of the scombrids and billfish, groups of fish that include some of the species with the highest value as seafood, such as tuna and marlin, as well as staples such as mackerel.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Homo Sapiens, Meet Your New Astounding Family

Once we shared the planet with other human species, competing with them and interbreeding with them. Today we stand alone, but our rivals’ genes live on inside us-even as their remarkable stories are only now coming to light.

A single, unforgettable image comes to mind when we ponder human origins: a crouching ape slowly standing and morphing into a tall, erect human male poised to conquer every bit of habitable land on this planet. ?We walk this earth-we, this unparalleled experiment in evolution-reflexively assuming we are the crown of creation. Certainly we are rare and strange: As biological anthropologist Owen Lovejoy of Kent State University says, “The chances that a creature like us will ever happen again are so small that I can’t even measure them.”

But that ascent-of-man picture is looking as dated as the flat earth. A series of scientific and technological breakthroughs have altered much of our fundamental understanding of human evolution. In the new view, the path to Homo sapiens was amazingly dilatory and indirect. Along the way, our planet witnessed many variations on the human form, multiple migrations out of Africa, interspecies trysts, and extinctions that ultimately wiped out all hominid species except one (pdf). “Human evolution used to seem simple and linear,” says paleoanthropologist William Jungers of the State University of New York at Stony Brook. “Now, you look at almost any time slice and you see diversity. We may be special and we may be lucky, but we’re far from the only human experiment.” Unexpected fossil finds keep showing us an ever-expanding variety of human and prehuman species.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Neptune Begins to Give Up Its Secrets

Scientists have discovered how fast the Solar System’s outermost planet rotates, but it still holds many mysteries. Next week, Neptune will complete its first full orbit of the Sun since it was discovered in 1846.

There is also the question of why Neptune exists at all. The planet is 30 times further from the Sun than is Earth. That far out, planet-formation models suggest that the solar nebula, from which planets condensed during the formation of the Solar System, should have been very diffuse, says Francis Nimmo, a planetary scientist at the University of California, Santa Cruz. So scientists believe that Neptune formed closer to the Sun, where the nebula was denser, then moved outwards. But many Neptune-mass planets in other planetary systems seem to have migrated inwards, rather than outwards, says Nimmo.

Atreya says that understanding these “hot Neptunes” elsewhere in the Universe requires a better understanding of why our own large planets have ended up so far from the Sun. “The mystery of Neptune transfers to hundreds of exoplanets that superficially seem similar to Neptune,” says Geoffrey Marcy, an astronomer at the University of California, Berkeley, who hunts for planets outside the Solar System.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

The Anthropocene Debate: Do Humans Deserve Their Own Geological Era?

With climate change, concrete deserts and agriculture, human beings have fundamentally altered the face of the Earth. But have we really ushered in a new geological era, the so-called Anthropocene? Paul Crutzen, winner of the Nobel Prize in chemistry, finds it hard to believe. “It’s incredible to see what a single word changes,” he says. Crutzen coined the word “Anthropocene,” Greek for the “recent age of man,” 12 years ago at a scientific conference in Mexico. He used the term as a way of describing radical change in nature, saying that man’s influence on the environment was now so overwhelming that a new epoch — the “Anthropocene” — had begun.

For some geologists, the proposal has been nothing less than revolutionary, and an unwelcome challenge. Indeed, it has unleashed a heated debate that has now spilled over from the scientific world into the public realm. Newspapers and magazines are proclaiming the advent of the “age of man” on their cover pages, artists are invoking the Anthropocene and even German governmental advisers have adopted the term. Indeed, there are many who are enthusiastic about the defining of a human epoch.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]