Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20110720

Financial Crisis
»Asia: Rush for Gold as a Shelter Against Debt
»Barroso Lays Down the Line for EU Summit
»Dutch Government to Slash Culture Subsidies
»EU: Credit Line Considered to Stem Debt Crisis
»Eurozone Looks at Bank Tax to Help Greece, Fight Debt Crisis
»Greece: Privatisations According to Schedule, Athens
»Greece: Recession to be More Severe Than Estimated, Survey
»Greece: Taxi Owners Announce Indefinite Strike
»Greece; Consumers Forced to Talk Less on Cell Phones
»Italy: Industrial Output Increased in May
»Merkel Lowers Summit Expectations
»NASA Telescopes Face Budget Abyss
»Netherlands: More Older Workers, But Pressure Rises on Benefits System
»Nobel Laureate Says US Debt Limit Concept is ‘Crazy Idea’
»Quick Euro Deal Unlikely Says Merkel
»Strong Franc Gnaws Deeper Into Swiss Economy
»Bachmann Continues to Surge
»Chicago Man Kills Another Over Dripping Air Conditioner
»Exiled Islamists Watch Rebellion Unfold at Home
»Frank Gaffney: Anti-American Activities (A Cold War-Style Effort to Root Out ‘Civilization Jihad’)
»Last Chance to See a Space Shuttle in Night Sky … Ever
»Michele Bachmann Bashes the Black Farmer Settlement
»Private Space Race Heats Up as NASA Shuttles Retire
»Texas Case Puts Capital Punishment Center Stage
Europe and the EU
»Austria: Justice Commissioner Backs Austria in KGB Row With Lithuania
»Belgian Crisis Threatens European Integration: King
»Corruption in Bulgaria and Romania Still Goes Unpunished, EU Says
»Cyprus: 37th Anniversary of Turkish Invasion
»Cyprus Dispute: German Conservatives Welcome Turkey’s EU Threats
»Eco-Terrorism Trial Begins in Switzerland
»Germany’s Undernourished Democracy
»Germany Remembers Operation Valkyrie, The Plot to Kill Hitler
»Germany: Niebel Says Arms Sales ‘Compatible’ With Human Rights
»Heavy Metal: Armor Drained Medieval Knights’ Energy
»Ireland: Facebook Charge Man Bailed
»Italy: Shareholders in Talks to Have Italian Chairman
»Italy: Belpietro Charged for Offending President in Cartoon
»Italy: Islamic Reformists Speak Out on ‘’ Website
»Medieval Armor: Was it Worth the Weight?
»Stone Age Erotic Art Found in Germany
»Submarines Explore Mysterious, Murky Depths of Lake Geneva
»Sweden: Man Dies in Savage Lawn Mower Accident
»Sweden: Father in Custody After Wedding Stabbing
»Switzerland: Train Ticket Man Attacked Near Lausanne, Aggressor Flees
»UK: Arrest Fewer People, Police Told
»UK: Could Art Vandalism Become the New Terrorism?
»UK: Cameron: My Relationship With Murdoch Was Never a Secret
»UK: Man Held After Poussin Painting is Vandalised at National Gallery
»UK: Milliband: Cameron Made “Catastrophic Error of Judgement”
»UK: Painting by Poussin Vandalised at National Gallery
»UK: Poussin Vandalism Sparks Museum Fee Debate
»UK: Riot Police Demand Toilet Breaks Every 45 Minutes ‘To Stop Them From Wetting Themselves’
»UK: Teenager Arrested in Cybercrime Investigation
»UK: Why Poussin’s Golden Calf Was a Sitting Duck at the National Gallery
»UK’s Cameron Admits to ‘Errors’ In Wake of NOTW Scandal
»Welcome to the Age of the Splinternet
»Kosovo: Talks With Serbia Postponed, Both Sides Blame the Other
»Serbia: War Criminal Fugitive Goran Hadzic Arrested
»The Simpsons Provide Model to Poke Fun at Kosovan Political Figures
North Africa
»Al-Qaeda Members Part of New Libyan Government Recognized by U.S.
»Democratic Reforms Still Distant Dreams Six Months Into Arab Spring
»Egypt: Army Slowing Reforms to Sink Revolution
»Egypt: Saudi King’s Nephew Attacks Police — Forced to Leave
»Egypt: Army Must Think About Mubarak’s Funeral, Expert
»Libya Rebels Ask France for More Help
»Paris: Gaddafi Step Down and He Can Stay at Home
»Tunisia: Premier Distances Himself From Religious Parties
»Tunisia: Regueb Festival Postponed for Security
»Tunisia: Foreign Funding to Parties Banned
Israel and the Palestinians
»Israel-Turkey Reconciliation Far Away, Minister
Middle East
»Briton Fined AED3,000 for Insulting Ramadan
»Cyprus-Turkey: Erdogan Threatens UN and Cyprus Republic
»Iran to ‘Speed Up’ Uranium Enrichment at Nuclear Plants
»Iran: Ahmadinejad Threatens to Send US, Israel ‘To the Morgue’
»Jordan: First Mosque Dedicated to Jesus in Arab World
»No Final Decision on Saudi High-Speed Train: Official
»Opinion: Turkey’s Hard Line is Understandable
»Turkish Firm to Sign Gas Deal With Iran, Report
»Police Pay is Tripled in Anti-Graft Fight
»Stalin’s Translator Dead at 90
»‘Stripper Army’ Urges Putin Kremlin Return
South Asia
»Pakistan: US Citizens Stopped From Entering Peshawar
Far East
»ASEAN and China Agree on South China Guidelines
»‘US-China Cyber Diplomacy Unlikely to Curb Cyber Crime: ‘ Expert
Australia — Pacific
»Sharia Law at Work in Australia
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Kenyan Refugee Camps Struggling With Growing Somali Exodus
»Maghreb Al Qaeda Sets Up Sub-Saharan Army
»Somalia: Pope Sends 50,000 Euros to Africa for Famine Relief
»Netherlands: ‘Moroccans: Tackle Your Own Riffraff’
Culture Wars
»Black Privilege
»Is Race a Social Construct? The Natural History Museum Investigates
»Fourth Moon Discovered Around Pluto
»Milky Way’s Core Hides Big Twisted Ribbon
»Pluto Has Another Moon, Hubble Photos Reveal
»Scientists Sequence Potato DNA
»Twin Space Weather Probes Now Studying Moon’s Interior

Financial Crisis

Asia: Rush for Gold as a Shelter Against Debt

The precious metal comes close to US$ 1,660 an ounce today. Viewed as a “protective hedge” against the problems of European and US public debt, it could reach US$ 3,000 by the end of the year. Its rise highlights the vacuum created by a financial system incapable of generating wealth.

Rome (AsiaNews) — The price of gold rose again today, following an upward trend of almost 11 years. Yesterday, it closed just shy of US$ 1,600 an ounce. For analysts, the rush for gold is turning into a “frenzy” as investors try to find some “hedge” to protect their wealth against the abyss of European and US debt.

Under pressure from the International Monetary Fund, European governments will meet again in Brussels this week to reconsider the Greek debt. In the United States, President Barack Obama is trying to cope with the possibility that the ceiling of the US public debt may not be raised in time at a time when rating agencies are threatening to downgrade the US credit score.

This year, gold rose 13 per cent, its greatest increase in 90 years. According to analysts, the debt crisis might push the precious metal above US$ 1,650 an ounce by the end of the year, twice what it was just a few years ago.

Since China and India (and other emerging nations) are among its greatest buyers, gold might reach US$ 5,000 by 2020.

For economist Maurizio d’Orlando, “we could already see the price of gold double by this fall.”

“Some time ago,”, d’Orlando added, “I calculated that if we took the world’s monetary liquidity as expressed in the main reserve currency, the dollar, and we divided it by the amount of actually available gold, we could reach absurd figures, around US$ 30,000-60,000 an ounce.”

The real problem, according to the economist, “is that there is so much financial paper around and few goods of real value”.

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

Barroso Lays Down the Line for EU Summit

Amid continued uncertainty over whether Thursday’s summit will be a success, European commission president Jose Manuel Barroso has stepped into the breach with a list of five must-do tasks for eurozone leaders to achieve at the emergency meeting. Calling on the 17 eurozone countries to “show European responsibility”, Barroso said that the summit must at a “minimum” provide clarity on a second bailout for Greece and on the “feasibility and limits” of private sector involvement. “Leaders need to come to the table saying what they can do and what they want to do and what they will do. Not what they can’t do and won’t do” Leaders should also be clear on how the European Financial Stability Facility, the eurozone’s rescue fund, can be made more flexible, on what still needs to be done to repair the banking sector, and on measures to keep the banking system in liquidity. Barroso’s firm line on the issue is a direct challenge to German chancellor Angela Merkel, who has been playing for time as she insists on involving the private sector in a second Greece bailout, with Germans deeply unhappy at the prospect of more loans going to the Mediterranean country.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Dutch Government to Slash Culture Subsidies

Dutch artists are fearing a loss in cultural diversity as the government prepares to axe some 200 million euros in culture subsidies. Those feeling the pinch the most are in the performing arts in Amsterdam. When you stroll along the streets and canals of Amsterdam, you’re bound to pass a street musician or two, busking for a few coins. But beyond the streets, the Dutch capital is also home to half a dozen concert halls, featuring everything from Schubert to samba, four top international art museums, and numerous dance and theater companies. This cultural richness could be about to change in 2013, as the current government in planning to cut 200 million euros ($283 million) in subsidies.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

EU: Credit Line Considered to Stem Debt Crisis

Brussels, 20 July (AKI/Bloomberg) — European officials are considering steps previously rejected by Germany, including the use of precautionary credit lines, to prevent the spread of the region’s debt crisis, a person close to the talks said.

Other options up for discussion at Thursday’s Brussels summit include enabling the main 440 billion euro rescue fund to lend to recapitalize banks, said the person, who declined to be named because negotiations are in progress. Nothing will be decided until leaders convene.

Together with a second Greek aid package, the goal is to prove to markets that Europe has the will and the tools to prevent the 21-month sovereign debt crisis from engulfing Spain and Italy. The euro today rose against the dollar for a second day and Spanish and Italian bonds also gained as investors signaled optimism that policy makers are moving toward a deal.

“There needs to be a program with a certain amount of shock and awe to impress the market that the leaders are on top of the crisis,” said Robin Marshall, a London-based money manager at Smith & Williamson Investment Management in London.

The start of Thursday’s summit was delayed by an hour to 1 pm to allow more time for preparations, an EU official said. A working group meeting of euro-area officials was also pushed back to 9 am from 6 p.m. today, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because negotiations are still underway.

Talk of new rescue measures raises the pressure on German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who vetoed proposals to put more weapons in the rescue fund’s arsenal earlier this year amid misplaced optimism that Greece was turning the corner.

Merkel will meet today with French president Nicolas Sarkozy, who has swayed her stance on crisis-fighting in the past. U.S. President Barack Obama weighed in yesterday on a phone call with his German counterpart during which they agreed Europe needed to deal with its problems “effectively.”

Discussions of more flexibility for the European Financial Stability Facility come on the heels of last month’s accord to boost its lending power to its original target. International Monetary Fund-style credit lines would better able countries with stronger fundamentals than Greece to ward off speculative attacks.

Rescues for Ireland and Portugal partly funded by the EFSF already include some funds for helping banks, while Greece’s separate program also earmarks aid for its banks. Greater support for European banks may be necessary after stress tests on 90 left as many as 24 under pressure to show they can raise capital. Investors said Deutsche Bank AG, UniCredit SpA and Societe Generale SA should consider boosting capital after scraping through the probes.

As floated by finance ministers on July 11, the leaders will also look at empowering the EFSF to buy bonds in the secondary market and to enable crisis-hit countries to buy back their own debt, measures that may help reduce nations’ borrowing burdens. Spanish Finance Minister Elena Salgado, who is battling to prevent the crisis from engulfing her country, today said she supported such steps.

The extra yield that investors demand to hold 10-year Spanish bonds over German bunds rose to a euro era record of 367 basis points on July 18. The Italian spread hit 332 basis points.

With Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou saying in an interview yesterday that leaders face a “make-or-break” moment at the summit, success hinges on going beyond a second Greek package, which national officials continue to work on today. The IMF said yesterday that Greece’s crisis still risks contaminating the rest of the euro region even if officials avert a default there.

The main sticking point is how to get bondholders and banks to foot a share of the bill without sparking a new wave of financial turmoil. European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet says any default risks sparking a crisis on a par with the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. German policy makers, who are reluctant to keep forcing their taxpayers to aid the spendthrift, signal a restructuring may be unavoidable.

EU officials are aiming to narrow down a list of options to be presented to the leaders in Brussels, the person familiar with the talks said. Sarkozy and Merkel will meet for talks and dinner in Berlin, repeating the one-on-one talks the leaders of the two-largest euro-area economies have adopted in the past when trying to steer their region out of trouble.

One approach would see governments taxing financial institutions to fund a new bailout in addition to a voluntary rollover of Greek debt, according to an EU paper obtained by Bloomberg News. The other two options in the document involve either a partial or outright default.

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

Eurozone Looks at Bank Tax to Help Greece, Fight Debt Crisis

Eurozone leaders are looking closely at a tax on banks as part of a new plan to help Greece out of its debt crisis, despite protests from French and German banks in particular. French European Affairs Minister Jean Leonetti said on Monday that they were seriously considering the idea — and he made clear it would involve all banks, not just those holding Greek debt. Ratings agencies — and the European Central Bank — have already objected to German calls for private creditor banks to contribute to the bailout, saying it would amount to a default. Nor were they convinced by French suggestions that it would be on a “voluntary basis”, warning that despite this description, such a solution would trigger a default rating.

Backers of the new tax approach see it as a way of getting around this problem, which will be one of the central obstacles which eurozone leaders will try to overcome when they meet in Brussels on Thursday on a rescue for Greece. For as warnings rise that the crisis in the eurozone is dragging down other economies perceived as vulnerable, such as Italy and Spain, there is a sense of growing urgency about agreeing a new aid package for Greece. Several media reports citing sources close to the talks suggest that this tax could raise up to 30 billion euros ($43 billion) over two or three years. But Nicolas Veron, an economist with the Brussels-based Bruegel Institute, sees potential problems. “It’s fairly logical that given the difficulties of the talks on private sector participation, governments opt for financing through a specific tax…,” he said. “But it’s anything but a voluntary contribution.” The banks too, have their reservations.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Greece: Privatisations According to Schedule, Athens

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS — Just before tomorrow’s European summit, the Greek government has sent a clear message to markets and Greece’s creditors in saying that the privatisations from which the state hopes to bring in 50 billion euros for debt reduction by the end of 2015 are going forward as planned. The Finance Ministry, under pressure from the Mid-Term Programme which calls for coffers to be topped up through 1.7 billion euros in privatisations by September and five billion euros by the end of year, is seeking financial advisors to go ahead with the privatisation of the first seven companies in which the state holds shares, including — according to an announcement by the ministry itself — the Parnitha casino, the postal services, Trainose and the metallurgical firm Larco. For the Parnitha casino, the state — in addition to the sell-off of all its shares (49%) by the end of 2011 — also plans to grant new licenses for the opening of other casinos, while for the postal services (Elta), the government will seek to sell 40% of the 90% it currently holds by the end of 2011. By the end of the year, the government also intends to privatise Trainose and the company in charge of maintenance for railways, and will also license out for commercial use to private companies the largest train stations (Athens, Pireaus, Thessaloniki, Volos and Larissa).

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Greece: Recession to be More Severe Than Estimated, Survey

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, JULY 20 — The recession in Greece this year will be deeper than the government’s estimate of 3.9% and will close 2011 at 4.43% instead, according to the Center of Planning and Economic Research (KEPE), while inflation is seen remaining at 4%. The report, issued yesterday as daily Kathimerini reports, suggests that the continuing decline of the real gross domestic product primarily reflects the drops in private consumption and public spending as well as the decrease in investment which cannot be fully offset by the contribution of rising exports. The downturn in demand is supported by the high inflation rate, the uncertainty in the labor market, the reduction of the credit expansion to the private sector and the constant problems arising from the debt crisis. In a report issued three months ago, KEPE had estimated an end-year recession figure of 4.12%. The shift is due to the revision of data by the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) and the deterioration of virtually all economic activity indices concerning the real economy during the first quarter of 2011.

Second-quarter recession is estimated at 5.62%, but that will gradually decline, KEPE estimates. The report also refers to the paradox of a deep recession and a high inflation rate, dubbing it “one of the curiosities of the current economic conjunction.” This is attributed to the rise in energy prices, oligopolies in various sectors of the economy and the constant and major increases in taxes such as value-added tax and the special consumption tax.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Greece: Taxi Owners Announce Indefinite Strike

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, JULY 20 — Greek taxi owners on Tuesday decided to escalate labour action in view of the tough stance adopted by the Infrastructure, Transport and Networks ministry, announcing an indefinite strike. The decision — as ANA reported — was taken by the taxi-owners’ association SATA late on Tuesday afternoon and overturned an earlier decision to prolong the strike by just 24 hours, until 5:00 a.m. on Thursday. An announcement on SATA’s website dismissed news reports that the strike will end on Friday as unfounded and untrue. “The 48-hour warning strike will continue indefinitely since there has been no change and no meeting with the appropriate ministry,” the announcement said, noting that the strike will continue and, for the time being, had no specific termination date. The cabbies’ action, which entered its third day Wednesday, has created frustration for thousands of holidaymakers at the height of the tourist season. Protesting cabbies staged blockades at several ports including Iraklio on Crete, Patra, Kyllini and Katakolo in the Peloponnese, preventing thousands of visitors from boarding and disembarking cruise ships. Meanwhile several cruise liners that had been due to dock at the country’s main port of Piraeus opted to sail on to other ports such as Nafplio which were not under blockade.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Greece; Consumers Forced to Talk Less on Cell Phones

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, JULY 20 — As the financial crisis deepens in Greece, consumers are resorting to cutting down on their cell phone use, according to a Eurobarometer survey. The poll, concerning the period from February to March 2011, found that 84% of households had reduced the time they spent talking on their mobiles due to the cost, which is the highest percentage in the European Union.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italy: Industrial Output Increased in May

Rome, 20 July (AKI) — Italian industrial output in May increased as the euro zone’s third-biggest economy showed signs of recovery.

In May the seasonally adjusted industrial new orders index increased by 4.1 from April, national statistics agency Istat said on Wednesday. Sales for the same period declined 1.7 percent.

On an annual basis, adjusted for an additional working day, industrial orders in May jumped 10.8 percent over May 2010, Rome-based Istat said. Without taking into account a difference in working days, the output gained 14.3 percent.

Italy is expanding in fits and starts as it struggles to recover from the 2009 recession with caused the value of its economy to contract 5.1 percent.

The Italian economy grew 0.1 percent in the first quarter when companies shed 160,000 jobs, according to Istat. The 17-member eurozone, or countries that use the euro currency, grew an average 0.8 percent in the same period.

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

Merkel Lowers Summit Expectations

With officials working around the clock on the terms of a second bailout for Greece, German chancellor Angela Merkel has played down expectations that a wide-ranging deal will be reached at an emergency summit on Thursday (21 July). “Further steps will be necessary and not just one spectacular event which solves everything,” she said at a press conference in Hannover on Tuesday. Her bid to play down expectations came as others sought to emphasize the importance of the eurozone leader summit and of the EU finding a solution to its debt crisis, which has recently looked in danger of spreading to Italy and Spain. US president Barack Obama spoke by phone to the chancellor on Tuesday, later issuing a statement emphasizing the importance to the global economy of “dealing effectively” with the crisis. The International Monetary Fund, whose chief Christine Lagarde will attend Thursday’s summit, also underlined the potential global impact of not reaching a quick solution. “Delays in resolving the crisis could be costly for the euro area and the global economy,” it said in a report.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

NASA Telescopes Face Budget Abyss

Flagship missions at risk as astrophysics funding shrinks

As the space shuttle glides through its final week, another arm of the US space programme faces a bleak future. Astrophysics was once NASA’s highest-funded science division and, with the Hubble Space Telescope, a long-time public-relations winner. But its two flagship telescope missions, ranked as the highest priorities for US astronomy, are now under threat as budget constraints start to bite.

Stung by spiralling costs and charges of mismanagement, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) — Hubble’s long-awaited successor — is now seen by some critics as too expensive to fly. And the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST), which would hunt for exoplanets and probe the poorly understood phenomenon known as dark energy, may take too long to develop to be worthwhile. Added to that, the astrophysics division is facing a budget crunch while other science divisions within the agency weather the fiscal storm and even come out ahead.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: More Older Workers, But Pressure Rises on Benefits System

Efforts to encourage more older people to stay on at work are putting extra pressure on the social security system because many of them end up claiming incapacity benefit, according to a new report.

In 2010, 49% of the over-55s were still working, compared with just one third ten years ago. The rise is due to an increase in women working and efforts to discourage early retirement, the report for the UWV benefit agency shows.

However, around half of the people claiming incapacity benefits are aged over 55, as are 40% of long-term unemployment benefit claimants. Once they are in the benefit system, older workers find it more difficult to rejoin the employment market, the report states.

Negative image

‘Employers are still influenced by negative images about the skills and productivity of older workers,’ the UWV says. ‘Older people are less likely to be invited to an interview than a young person.’

Just 2% of job vacancies are filled by the over 55s.

Research by employment website, also out on Tuesday, shows that many people think the over 50s should be able to fudge their cvs in order to get a job. Almost half think the over 50s should be able to leave their age off a cv.

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

Nobel Laureate Says US Debt Limit Concept is ‘Crazy Idea’

Despite all the partisan political posturing, Nobel Prize winning economist Kenneth Arrow rates the risk that the US debt limit won’t be raised as low. He also tells Deutsche Welle why the debt limit is a crazy idea. Kenneth J. Arrow is professor of economics emeritus at Stanford University and winner of the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1972. He is the youngest Nobel Laureate to have been awarded the prize in economics. Arrow also served on the White House Council of Economic Advisers under President John F. Kennedy.

Deutsche Welle: What many people around the world probably still deem impossible and what for many experts seemed unrealistic just a few weeks back could become reality. The US, the world’s biggest economy and strongest power, may be unable meet its debt payments within days. How big is the risk that the US will in fact default?

Kenneth Arrow: I think it’s unlikely. I think that the pressures from the financial sector are going to be sufficient to avoid this. I have seen proposals such as the one by Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to somehow dodge the issue. I have a feeling that’s how it is going to end up, but you can’t be 100 percent sure. It could be that they somehow have a deadlock in which case the debt limit will be not raised. There’s a 10 percent chance that could happen.

My feeling is there would be lowering of the American economy and probably some of the European economies too because the banking systems are so interlinked. Probably China will be the net gainer in all of this. They will be getting more money on the bonds they hold on the United States.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Quick Euro Deal Unlikely Says Merkel

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has defied demands for a swift agreement on a new bailout for Greece, saying Thursday’s emergency summit is unlikely to produce a final deal. A panel of government economic advisors think that a restructuring of Greek debt is necessary. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has dampened hopes that the special euro zone summit on the common currency crisis on Thursday will break the impasse over a second bailout for Greece. Spain and Italy, whose economies are under threat of being engulfed by the crisis, are pushing for a swift deal to calm financial markets, and senior German economic advisors joined a chorus of warnings that the survival of the single currency was at stake. Speaking on Tuesday, Merkel said there was “a big yearning” for a “single large move — preferably spectacular” to solve the crisis. But there won’t be one, she said. “Further steps will be necessary and not just one spectacular event which solves everything,” Merkel told a joint news conference with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. “Whoever takes political responsibility seriously knows that such a spectacular step won’t happen.”

The comment sent the euro down against the dollar, and follows growing criticism of Germany’s hesitant response to the crisis, both in Europe and in Germany. Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero last week warned about “negative effects” caused by the endless debate about making private sector creditors share part of the burden in the debt crisis — a key demand voiced by Germany. The debate “had not been correctly started or finished,” Zapatero said at a meeting with European Council President Herman Van Rompuy. Ireland last year also accused the German government of exacerbating the crisis by calling for private sector involvement in sovereign bailouts. Meanwhile a panel of senior economic advisors to the German government warned of an “uncontrolled break-up” of the monetary union if Greece, Ireland and Portugal cannot repay the aid they have received.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Strong Franc Gnaws Deeper Into Swiss Economy

The sharply rising franc continues to hit the profitability of a wide range of industrial sectors with the Swiss currency approaching parity with the euro. The value of the dollar sank below the franc some time ago, and there are no signs of the trend reversing with the Swiss economy performing so robustly compared to debt-laden European countries and the United States. “It seems prophetic, and almost tragic, to say so now, but the Swiss economy has been the victim of its own success in surviving the financial crisis over the last couple of years,” Janwillem Acket, chief economist at Julius Bär bank, told “Something dramatic has taken place since the start of the year and our outlook is now a more sober one. We will really feel the pain of the over-valued franc in the coming months.” Acket has downgraded his predictions for Swiss gross domestic product (GDP) growth for this year to 1.4 per cent, compared to a 2.2 per cent forecast in January and 2.6 per cent made last year.

Joseph Jimenez, chief executive of Novartis warned on Tuesday that the drug maker would have to “reduce the total cost we have in Swiss francs” while referring to the damage caused by the strong currency. Also on Tuesday cabinet ministers interrupted their holidays to discuss via teleconference the strong franc. However, no measures were taken. This week, the franc recorded more gains against the euro — with one unit of the European currency costing SFr1.14 compared with SFr1.50 at the end of 2009. Many companies would go to the wall if the franc reaches parity with the euro, Peter Widmer, president of the Swiss export association, told the Blick newspaper in May. “If that really happens then thousands of companies would face bankruptcy,” he said. And it is not just engineering companies that face problems. The textiles industry has appealed to the government to provide bridging loans to stave off a looming crisis in that sector.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Bachmann Continues to Surge

Michele Bachmann’s momentum continues to build and she’s taken first place by the smallest of margins on PPP’s newest national Presidential poll. 21% of Republican primary voters say she’s their top choice to 20% for Mitt Romney, 12% for Rick Perry, 11% for Herman Cain, 9% for Ron Paul, 7% for Newt Gingrich, 5% for Tim Pawlenty, and 3% for Jon Huntsman. Bachmann’s rise has been fueled by her appeal to voters on the far right- and their skepticism about Romney. Romney has the lead with centrist Republicans (23-17) and with those defining themselves as only somewhat right of center (24-17). But among ‘very conservative’ voters only 48% have a positive opinion of Romney to 34% who view him negatively, weak numbers, and Bachmann’s capitalizing on that with a 26-15 lead over Romney, who’s in third place with that group of voters. Oddly enough one of the best things that could happen to Romney right now is the late entry of Sarah Palin into the race.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Chicago Man Kills Another Over Dripping Air Conditioner

A dripping window air conditioner led to the execution-style killing of a West Side man, police said Monday. Charles Sims, 28, shot Jimmy Parker eight times about 2 a.m. on June 2, police said. Sims appeared in court Monday on a charge of first-degree murder. He is being held without bond. Sims’ sister had complained to him that Parker dropped water on her from the window of an apartment building in the 5600 block of West Washington, police said. But the water was simply condensation falling from an air conditioner in a third-floor apartment where the 29-year-old Parker was visiting a woman, Chicago Police Detective Anthony Noradin said. The warm water fell on Sims’ sister when she returned home to the building shortly before midnight on June 1, police said. She called police to report the incident. She also told her brother, who returned to the building and confronted Parker outside, police said. When Parker denied it, Sims punched him, police said. Then Parker hit Sims, who allegedly pulled a 9mm handgun and shot Parker. Sims allegedly stood over Parker to finish him off, Noradin said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Exiled Islamists Watch Rebellion Unfold at Home

Abu Sohaib spends most of his time online these days, following the news from his native Libya. He is in constant contact with friends on the ground there, helping them map out strategy to fight the rule of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi. “I would like to be there myself; I tried to go,” he said, pausing to look at the car keys in front of him. “But Tunisia and Egypt wouldn’t let me in even after their revolution.” Abu Sohaib, his nom de guerre, is on a watch list for suspected terrorists not only in Libya and its neighboring countries, but also in some European countries. He is a senior commander of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, a former militant organization that once was aligned with Al Qaeda. The New York Times is withholding his real name because he said he fears for his safety.

Today, members of the group have renounced Al Qaeda and are part of the mosaic of rebel fighters united under the umbrella of the Transitional National Council, the opposition leadership that the United States formally recognized as Libya’s legitimate government on Friday. American, European and Arab intelligence services acknowledge that they are worried about the influence that the former group’s members might exert over Libya after Colonel Qaddafi is gone, and they are trying to assess their influence and any lingering links to Al Qaeda.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Frank Gaffney: Anti-American Activities (A Cold War-Style Effort to Root Out ‘Civilization Jihad’)

It is not exactly news that the Obama presidency is determined to go to unprecedented lengths to mollify, appease and otherwise pander to what it calls the “Muslim world.” But the question has begun to occur: At what point do these efforts cross the line from a misbegotten policy to one that is downright anti-American — hostile to our values, incompatible with our vital interests and at odds with our Constitution?

The evidence is rapidly accumulating that we have reached that point. Our representatives in Congress must have the courage to re-discover a lost vocabulary, one that is conscious of the fact that subversion of our counter-terror institutions—and, indeed, our very understanding of the threat we face—is a goal of our enemy in the War on Terror. The danger entailed cries out for congressional oversight, and corrective action.

What is needed is a new select committee modeled after the much-vilified, but ultimately vindicated, House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). (This vindication is comprehensively documented in Yale University Press’ groundbreaking Venona: Decoding Soviet Espionage in America by John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr, and expanded in M. Stanton Evans’ 2009 Blacklisted by History: The Untold Story of Senator Joe McCarthy and His Fight Against America’s Enemies. Members of Congress and their staff can only benefit from reading these studies to have a better understanding of the history of their own institution.) Such a panel needs a mandate to investigate in particular the extent to which the Obama administration’s anti-American activities reflect the success of the toxic Muslim Brotherhood (MB or Ikhwan) in penetrating and subverting both U.S. government agencies and civil institutions.

Consider a few examples of what appear to be such successes:

On June 30, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared that the Obama administration will “welcome…dialogue with those Muslim Brotherhood members who wish to talk with us.”

As former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy has observed, Eric Holder’s Justice Department appears to have basically stopped prosecuting alleged material support for terrorism. That was certainly the practical effect when it blocked prosecutors from bringing charges against Muslim Brotherhood fronts listed as unindicted co-conspirators in the Holy Land Foundation money-laundering case.

Such dereliction of duty would seem to be the practical upshot of President Obama’s much-ballyhooed “Muslim outreach” speech in Cairo in the Spring of 2009 when he pledged to eliminate impediments to zakat. Mr. McCarthy has noted that the only impediment to such Islamic tithing is the prohibition against the sort of material support to terror that is commanded by the Islamic political-military-legal doctrine known as shariah — which requires 1/8th of zakat to underwrite jihad…

           — Hat tip: CSP[Return to headlines]

Last Chance to See a Space Shuttle in Night Sky … Ever

Space shuttle Atlantis will be returning to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for the very last time on Thursday morning, so there are just two days left to spot the winged spaceship soaring across the twilight morning sky. Unfortunately, the viewing circumstances do not favor any views for most of North America, with the exception of some of the southernmost states, as both Atlantis and the International Space Station will not be making favorable passes over the contiguous U.S. and Canada until after sunrise (during the daylight hours) through much of this week. But skywatchers in some southern U.S. locations have chances to spot Atlantis fly overhead, weather permitting. NASA is retiring its shuttle fleet after Atlantis’ current flight so there will be no more shuttles to seek out one this mission ends.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Michele Bachmann Bashes the Black Farmer Settlement

Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann pointed to one program in particular Monday when talking about wasteful government spending: a multibillion dollar settlement paid to black farmers, who claim the federal government discriminated against them for decades in awarding loans and other aid. The issue came up after Bachmann and Republican Rep. Steve King of Iowa toured flooded areas along the Missouri River. During a news conference, they fielded a question about whether farmers affected by the flooding also should be worried by proposed U.S. Department of Agriculture cuts.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Private Space Race Heats Up as NASA Shuttles Retire

Long after the United States and the Soviet Union put their Cold War space race to bed, another cosmic competition is heating up. This one is taking place in the private sector. A handful of companies are vying for the right to carry American astronauts into orbit — a capability the nation temporarily lacks, now that NASA’s space shuttle fleet has seen its last launch. The iconic shuttle program will end in a matter of hours, when Atlantis touches down at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center early Thursday (July 21). Russian Soyuz vehicles will fly NASA astronauts to the International Space Station over the short term, but the space agency wants commercial craft to take over this role as soon as safely possible.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Texas Case Puts Capital Punishment Center Stage

Texas Governor Rick Perry has boasted that his state has executed 232 convicted criminals over the past decade. But human rights advocate Rick Halperin has found a case he hopes will give even Texans pause. The execution is scheduled for Wednesday.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Austria: Justice Commissioner Backs Austria in KGB Row With Lithuania

Austria had no legal obligation to deliver ex-KGB general Mikhail Golovatov to Lithuania, since the crimes he is accused of occurred eleven years before before the European arrest warrant entered into force, EU justice commissioner Viviane Reding has said. The release of Golovatov last Friday, less than 24 hours after his arrest, sparked an intense diplomatic row between Lithuania and Austria, with Vilnius accusing Vienna of violating EU and national law and lack of solidarity with another member state.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Belgian Crisis Threatens European Integration: King

Belgium’s King Albert II warned Wednesday that the country’s year-long political stalemate was now threatening to slow the momentum of European integration. On the eve of the divided nation’s national day, the monarch pleaded with feuding Flemish and French-speaking parties to resolve their differences and form a government, 402 days after legislative elections. “Our current situation is a cause for concern among our partners and could damage our position in Europe, and even the momentum towards European integration which has already been undermined by populism and euroscepticism,” the king said in a televised address.

A founding member of the European Union, Belgium has often been considered an example of integration in the European Union, with a Dutch-speaking community in the north and francophones in the south. But it now risks becoming a symbol of divisions in the 27-nation EU as politicians in Flanders and Wallonia struggle to strike a deal to transfer more federal powers to the regions.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Corruption in Bulgaria and Romania Still Goes Unpunished, EU Says

Corruption in Bulgaria and Romania continues to not be properly pursued by the judiciary, with cases taking too long and judges themselves prone to taking bribes, the EU commission said Wednesday (20 July). In both countries, the judiciary is too slow and often lets high level corruption cases drag on for so long that the suspects walk free as their alleged deeds reach the statute of limitations, the EU commission said in its latest reports under the so-called Co-operation and Verification Mechanism.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Cyprus: 37th Anniversary of Turkish Invasion

(ANSAmed) — NICOSIA, JULY 20 — This morning at exactly 5:20 AM (4:20 in Italy), in line with tradition while flags were flown at half-mast, alarm sirens rang out across Nicosia and the rest of the Republic of Cyprus — the free part of the country — for one minute. At the same time on July 20 1974, Turkish troops had invaded Cyprus in reaction to a failed coup attempt by Greek-Cypriot nationalists who — instigated by the colonels then in power in Athens — wanted to annex the island to Greece. In the Republic of Cyprus the commemoration was sad, with mourning for the dead and disappeared resulting from the Turkish armed intervention to defend the Turkish ethnic minority. It was an intervention which, in the eyes of Greek-Cypriots — was the beginning to a military invasion still in force, while in the eyes of Turkey it was a peace-keeping operation which is instead celebrated today in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), proclaimed in 1983 in the occupied part but recognised only by Ankara. Turkish prime minister Tayyip Erdogan paid a visit to northern Nicosia today to take part in the celebrations, in his customary first trip abroad after being sworn in as premier following his recent victory in Turkish elections.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Cyprus Dispute: German Conservatives Welcome Turkey’s EU Threats

The ongoing dispute over divided Cyprus may escalate problems between Turkey and the European Union after Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan threatened to freeze EU relations when the Greek Cypriots take on the rotating presidency in 2012. The move only serves to further disqualify Turkey’s plans to join the EU, German conservatives say. Greek southern Cyprus, a European Union member since 2004, is set to assume the EU’s rotating presidency in July 2012. But if the Greek Cypriots don’t agree to a deal ending the three-decade division from the Turkish northern part of the island, Turkey will refuse to recognize their EU leadership, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tuesday.

“Nobody should expect us to consider the administration of Southern Cyprus as an interlocutor,” Erdogan said during a press conference after meeting with Dervis Eroglu, the president of northern Cyprus. “We will never consider them as (an) interlocutor and sit at (the) table with them.” Erdogan’s two-day visit marks the July 20 anniversary celebration of Turkey’s 1974 invasion of Cyprus, which ultimately led to the island’s division. Turkey remains the only nation to recognize the internationally isolated Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, where it maintains a military presence. The situation is a major stumbling block to Turkey joining the EU. While the Turkish Cypriots voted in favour of reunification in a 2004 referendum, their southern neighbors rejected the measure, a perceived insult that has prompted stiff Turkish resistance to further efforts at finding a solution.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Eco-Terrorism Trial Begins in Switzerland

Two Italian environmental activists and a Swiss colleague went on trial on Tuesday for planning a bomb attack against an IBM research centre which was being built near Zurich. “The accused have been charged with planning an incendiary attack on a nanotechnology centre under construction,” Switzerland’s top criminal court said on its website, without giving further details about the suspects. The attorney general confirmed the nationalities of the suspects, adding that the Swiss national was resident in Italy. “The accused were allegedly in possession of explosives which they had allegedly transported into Switzerland without authorisation,” added the court.

The three individuals were arrested on April 15th 2010 with explosives and other components to build a bomb, and have been held in preventive detention since then, according to the Swiss attorney general’s office. They also carried with them 31 handwritten letters in German, claiming responsibility for a bomb attack on the IBM nanotechnology facility, on behalf of the “ELF Switzerland Earth Liberation Front,” added the attorney general. Meanwhile, about 50 demonstrators surrounded by police demonstrated in front of the courthouse in southern Switzerland’s Bellinzona in support of the accused. The late 2010 bomb attacks on the Swiss embassies in Athens and Rome were also launched in retaliation for their arrest, according to the Swiss Federal Intelligence Service.

The Earth Liberation Front, born in Britain in the 1990s, is made up of numerous autonomous cells around the world. During congressional testimony in 2004, FBI deputy assistant director John Lewis had said that the group had “emerged as a serious domestic terrorist threat.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Germany’s Undernourished Democracy

There is plenty to discuss these days. The European common currency is in trouble, pro-democracy movements have changed the face of North Africa and Germany has embarked on a radical new energy strategy. Chancellor Merkel’s silence clearly shows that her political communication is a disaster. A democracy is fed with words, they stimulate the organism of a society. Politics comes alive and becomes recognizable and comprehensible in discourse. Positions become apparent, as do the affirmation and rejection of individual issues. If discourse is successful, it creates affirmation of democracy and politics as a whole.

In Germany at the moment, that discourse is far from successful. The country is suffering from malnutrition and undernourishment , it is wasting away. The right words are missing, especially words coming from the chancellor. Angela Merkel refuses to engage in a discourse on any of the most important issues. The head of Germany’s government is serving up but a thin broth, if anything at all. She has never been known for her grandiloquence, she is not a tribune of the people but an engineer of power. This has always been regrettable, but now it is becoming harmful. She has made some weighty decisions this year: her government has pushed through a radically new energy policy, has pursued a restrictive policy on the European common currency and has approved the export of tanks to Saudi Arabia. Each of these decisions should have been accompanied by major speeches, but the speeches Merkel has given have been minor at best.

Her political communication is a disaster, and there are three reasons for this: incompetence, secretiveness and paternalism.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Germany Remembers Operation Valkyrie, The Plot to Kill Hitler

Wednesday marks the 67th anniversary of Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg’s attempt to assassinate Hitler. While some question whether he acted out of altruism, most Germans are taking a positive view. Annual commemorations take place in Berlin and Dresden on Wednesday to mark the anniversary of the failed plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler. The ceremonies begin with an ecumenical service at the Plötzensee Memorial Center in Berlin, which commemorates the victims of the Nazi regime. The center, formally a prison, was the site of nearly 3,000 executions.

There were also ceremonies at the Bendler Block, the site of the execution of some of the main conspirators, and now the German Defense Ministry. On July 20, 1944, Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg, an aristocratic colonel in the Nazi army, took the fate of the German people into his own hands. Increasingly disillusioned with Hitler’s campaign in the war, Stauffenberg and numerous other co-conspirators within the German military, including Friedrich Olbricht and Henning von Tresckow, plotted to assassinate the dictator and seize the reins of power.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Germany: Niebel Says Arms Sales ‘Compatible’ With Human Rights

Development Minister Dirk Niebel has waded into the controversy surrounding a deal to sell tanks to Saudi Arabia, saying German weapons exports can be compatible with human rights by stabilizing an entire region. In an interview with the weekly Die Zeit newspaper, Niebel said he could not comment on specifically on reports that the government intends to sell Leopard 2 battle tanks to the Middle Eastern Kingdom, but said Berlin would not make such a decision lightly.”Generally the government considers all necessary aspects when making such decisions — including the political situation of the entire region. Germany has a high standing there,” he said.

And when asked whether such a trade would be consistent with his ministry’s position on human rights, he said, “The stabilisation of a region contributes to the defence of human rights — perhaps not in the country in which one is active, but in the neighbouring countries.” When the interviewers asked whether this also included military goods, he said, “It is not always as simple as it seems. Remember the Cold War. Military deterrence contributed to the fact that war did not happen.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Heavy Metal: Armor Drained Medieval Knights’ Energy

As if flying arrows and burning pitch weren’t enough to worry about, medieval knights also had to battle their own armor. A new study that put armor-wearing volunteers on treadmills finds that wearing a full suit of armor (which might weigh up to 110 pounds, or 50 kilograms), takes more than twice the energy of walking around unencumbered. Even lugging around a backpack of equal weight is less energy-intensive than wearing armor, the study found, because wearing 17 pounds (8 kg) of steel plates on each leg requires no small amount of extra exertion. On occasion, armor’s weight may have turned the tides of battles, said lead study researcher Graham Askew of the University of Leeds. In 1415, heavily armored French knights advanced across a muddy field toward a lightly armored English force in the Battle of Agincourt.

“By the time they advanced across the field, they would have been exhausted,” Askew told LiveScience. “It’s possibly one of the reasons why the French lost, despite there being many, many more French soldiers than there were English.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Ireland: Facebook Charge Man Bailed

A KERRY man has been remanded on continuing bail at the District Court in Killarney, Co Kerry, on “a novel charge” relating to alleged comments about Travellers on a website.

The charge is being brought under the Incitement to Hatred Act and is the first of its kind dealing with online material on the internet site in question.

The hearing, scheduled for the autumn, will involve a lot of technical matter and is likely to be contested, the court heard.

The allegation relates to a Facebook page which has since been closed down, and to alleged anti-Traveller sentiments, it has previously been confirmed.

Patrick Kissane (27), of Knockasarnett, Killarney, is charged with “actions likely to stir up hatred” on October 1st, 2009.

The charge is brought under section 2 of the Prohibition Of Incitement to Hatred Act 1989, where it is an offence for a person to publish or distribute written material or to use words, behave or display written material likely to stir up hatred.

Yesterday, when the matter was called on the list of Director of Public Prosecutions cases, Pat O’Connor, solicitor for Mr Kissane, said he had only just received documents released to him under a discovery order granted by the court in April.

The charge his client was facing was “very novel”, he told Judge James O’Connor.

The judge adjourned the matter to September 30th next.

Representatives of the Irish Traveller Movement were in court to observe proceedings.

           — Hat tip: McR[Return to headlines]

Italy: Shareholders in Talks to Have Italian Chairman

Milan, 19 July (AKI/Bloomberg) — Edison’s shareholders may seek an Italian chairman with veto power as part of an agreement to cede control of the company to Electricite de France, said two people with knowledge of the talks.

The concession could help assuage government concerns that a deal will put Italy’s second-biggest power company into foreign hands, said the people who asked not to be identified because the negotiations are private. Other requests that may be put to the French include a higher valuation of Edison’s gas assets and an above market price for Edison shares. EDF may get 70 percent of the company from 50 percent now.

A preliminary agreement reached in March between EDF and Italian shareholders that gave EDF control in exchange for assets and cash was held up by the Italian government. On 7 July Brescia-based utility A2A, the largest Italian shareholder, said it would recommence negotiations seeking better terms.

A2A didn’t respond to e-mails or phone calls seeking comment. Edison declined to comment today. A2A said in a statement yesterday that no decisions had been made about what to offer EDF. A spokeswoman for EDF also declined to comment.

“A figurehead chairman with little control and the Italians at 30 percent seems like a scenario that the French might accept, I doubt the French would give away any real power though,” said Massimo Intropido, head of Milan-based financial research firm Ricerca Finanza. “In the end everybody wants this deal to go through, the French want to get on with business and the Italians need the money.”

A2A is cutting costs and selling assets to reduce debt which was 3.9 billion euros in 2010. The company posted 542 million euros in writedowns and depreciations in March partly related to its stake in Edison.

Edison’s biggest shareholder is Transalpina di Energia, a company half-owned by Paris-based EDF and half by Delmi, which in turn is owned by A2A and other Italian companies. Transalpina has a 61.2 percent stake in Edison. Taking into account direct and indirect stakes, EDF controls about 50 percent of the Italian utility.

Edison’s shareholders have until 15 September to reach an agreement, after which EDF and Delmi have to proceed with an auction of Edison shares. If a new preliminary agreement is reached the deadline may be put off further to allow a final deal to be hammered out, the people said.

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

Italy: Belpietro Charged for Offending President in Cartoon

(AGI) Milan — libero’s editor-in-chief Maurizio Belpietro is under investigation for offending the president’s honour in a cartoon published by the newspaper today and entitled “State pimps besieged” in which among many others there is also the face of the President of the Republic, Giorgio Napolitano .

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

Italy: Islamic Reformists Speak Out on ‘’ Website

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JULY 19 — After publishing an “intellectual chart” of reformers in Islam in its magazine ‘Reset’ in Italian, has already offered its English-speaking readers a first compass to navigate those encouraging dialogue in the Muslim world: first with a closer examination of three great thinkers, Abdou Filali-Ansary, Abdolkarim Soroush and Muhammad Talbi, and then with two profiles of thinkers committed to intercultural reflections: Nilüfer Göle and Navid Kermani . According to a press realease, today ResetDoc publishes three more profiles, those of three great “masters” of reformism: Mohammed Arkoun, Fuad Zakariyya and Mohamed Abed Al-Jabri, by Giancarlo Bosetti and Nicola Missaglia. On the anniversary of Egytptian philosopher Nasr Hamid Abu Zayd’s death, the website also publishes a new video. Silvio Fagiolo, former Italian ambassador to Egypt, and Algerian writer Amara Lakhous also write articles on the Arab revolutions.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Medieval Armor: Was it Worth the Weight?

Treadmill tests of volunteers in medieval armor revealed that the extra work required to move in the suits may have outweighed their protective benefits. Cynthia Graber reports

Medieval armor certainly looks heavy. And now researchers have demonstrated how the protection might have unwittingly put its wearers at a heavy disadvantage on the battlefield. An armored combatant in the 1400s had between about 60 to 110 pounds of steel on his head and body. The scientists wanted to know how that weight affected performance. They recruited battle experts from the Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds, in the U.K., who got into replicas of four types of European armor.

The weighted warriors then walked and ran on a treadmill while the research team measured their oxygen intake. Wearing the armor turned out to be a much greater burden than carrying the same weight in a backpack. Because the distribution of weight in the armor requires the wearer to use more energy to swing his arms or move his legs. The scientists published the research in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Armor wearers also wound up taking short, shallow breaths rather than the deep breaths associated with regular exertion. The researchers say that the tight, metal shell may have made the soldiers feel safer. But being weighted down probably made it a long day for a knight.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Stone Age Erotic Art Found in Germany

Researchers in Germany have discovered Stone Age cave art in the country for the first time including carvings of nude women that may have been used in fertility rites, officials said Wednesday. Archaeologists working for the Bavarian State Office for Historical Preservation came upon the primitive engravings in a cave near the southern city of Bamberg after decades searching, a spokeswoman for the authority said. The spokeswoman, Beate Zarges, confirmed a report to appear in the weekly newspaper Die Zeit that the engravings were believed to be around 12,000 years old, which would make them the first Stone Age artwork ever found in Germany. “They include schematic depictions of women’s bodies and unidentifiable symbols, among other things,” she said. The ancient artists appear to have taken their inspiration for the erotic images from rock formations in the caves resembling breasts and penises and then carved the images in the walls of the cave, Zarges said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Submarines Explore Mysterious, Murky Depths of Lake Geneva

Russia’s legendary “Mir” submarines have been used to reach the ocean floor beneath the North Pole, film the “Titanic” in its watery grave and search for the sunken treasures of Czar Nicholas II in Siberia. Now they are exploring the gigantic underwater gulches of Lake Geneva.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Man Dies in Savage Lawn Mower Accident

A man in his mid-forties died following a lawn mowing accident early on Wednesday morning in Kungsbacka in the county of Halland in southern Sweden. “We think he was mowing the grass in what turned out to be a too steep incline,” said Stefan Dalhielm of the local police to local paper Hallands Nyheter. The man, who was employed by the local authorities, was mowing the lawn outside a train station in Kungsbacka just before 8am on Wednesday morning. It is believed that he was trimming the edges next to an underpass by the station when the steep sloping ground made the ride-on mower topple over.

The man, who fell with the machine, went under the mower and was savaged badly by the blades. Despite the swift arrival of police and ambulance services the man’s life could not be saved. “The continued investigation will prove the exact chain of events,” said Dalhielm to Hallands Nyheter. According to figures from the National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen) from 2010, 6,000 people in Sweden seek medical attention annually for injuries sustained while carrying out gardening chores. Motorized lawn mowers are the most common gardening tool to be involved in accidents. For men, 26.7 percent of gardening accidents involve a motorized mower.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Father in Custody After Wedding Stabbing

A 52-year-old man, suspected of stabbing his son at his daughter’s wedding last weekend, was remanded into custody on Wednesday by the district court in Lund. “My client denies any responsibility in what occurred. He has acted in self defense and never had the intention to kill,” the man’s defense lawyer Leif Persson said in answer to the prosecutor’s account of events. During the wedding drama that unfolded at Trollenäs castle in Skåne on Saturday, local police have reported that a fight broke out between the man and several of the other guests, resulting in the man going berserk, and stabbing his son in the stomach. In the chaos that ensued, several other people were also stabbed, and the 52-year-old was wounded as well.

A total of six people were in the end taken to nearby Skåne University Hospital with knife wounds, according to police officers. The 52-year-old was taken by police into custody, but due to the head injuries he received during the fight was among those brought to the hospital. His son, although seriously wounded, is expected to survive his injuries. According to the 52-year-old’s lawyer, the background to the conflict between father and son is complicated.

“He didn’t really want to come to the wedding in the first place but did it for his daughter whom he loves,” said Persson, according to TT. “There is a deep rift between father and son after the son has changed sides and is supporting the regime of the country they are originally from,” he continued. According to Persson, the father claims his son came up to him and made an inappropriate remark whereupon he tried to punch his father. Several people then attacked the 52-year-old, who pulled out a knife to defend himself, according to his lawyer.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Switzerland: Train Ticket Man Attacked Near Lausanne, Aggressor Flees

LAUSANNE, SWITZERLAND — A 32-year-old ticket checker on a CFF train suffered a broken nose and facial lacerations when he was attacked by a man without a valid ticket last Friday, 15 July. His aggressor fled and police, who have a witness, turned the case over to judicial authorities, who have opened a criminal investigation. The man’s ticket had earlier been checked, shortly before Vevey on the Brig-Geneva airport train, and it was valid as far as Vevey. When the conductor spotted the man in the last car of the train from Vevey to Lausanne, at 13:30, he asked to see the ticket again, remembering that it was not valid.

He was starting to write out a fine when the man suddenly grabbed his ticket back and became “violent and uncontrollable” according to Vaud Police. He grabbed the CFF employee by the collar and began punching him in the face and kicking him. The two fell to the ground and the conductor, whose colleague was elsewhere in the train, tried unsuccessfully to hold onto the man at the Lausanne train station.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: Arrest Fewer People, Police Told

A police force is asking officers to arrest fewer criminals as 14 custody cells closed in a single town to cut costs.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: Could Art Vandalism Become the New Terrorism?

by Bob Duggan

The vandalizing of Nicolas Poussin’s paintings The Adoration of the Golden Calf and Adoration of the Shepherds at the National Gallery of Art in London just this past weekend sent shockwaves through the art world and while setting heads spinning, sent minds thinking. Reactions to the attack include a call for increased security in museums as well as the end of free admission to museums in order to pay for the increased security. Looking at the crimson spray paint crisscrossing Poussin’s painting (shown above), my reaction, after shock and sadness, was to wonder why it was done. Then, with the 10th anniversary of 9/11 looming, I wondered whether art vandalism could become the new terrorism?

I’ve read as much as I could about the attack, but details remain scarce, especially about the attacker. Last Sunday morning in London, a man entered the gallery in which the Poussins were hung and began to spray paint on them until stopped by security. An eye witness claims that the vandal made some statement in French, but wasn’t able to say what that statement was. Conservators rushed to save the works, which are already back on the same walls they graced Sunday morning. The talented staff of the National Gallery managed to erase the visual damage, but the psychic damage may take a little longer.

The usually level-headed Jonathan Jones of The Guardian pressed the huge red panic button in his blog post on the incident. Calling the paintings “sitting ducks” because of the National Gallery’s lax security, which doesn’t even check the bags of patrons as they enter, Jones demanded not only for increased protection, but also a cease to the free entry policy if that increased protection could only be financed by admission charges. “[M]odern society cannot be trusted — there is too much craziness out there. Museums should be more severe on visitors,” Jones misanthropically rails. “No visitor gets into the Louvre without a security scan… Free museums are very fine. But what is the point if people just come in and desecrate the world’s cultural heritage? Charge, search, protect.” Is there really “too much craziness out there” for our cultural treasures to be safe in anything less than a prison environment?

Before decrying the crazy, I think we need to define the crazy first. What motivated this attack? Was it pure schizophrenia, as in the case of Rembrandt’s The Night Watch-victim not once, but twice of vandals who thought figures in the painting spoke to them, which they naturally tried to stop with a knife and acid? That kind of “crazy” (not the politically correct term, of course) might be slowed by security, but I doubt it can be stopped completely. The TSA’s failure rate remains a sore point for all airline patrons, and it’s not like they’re dealing with Lex Luthor-level evil genius daily.

But what if this was “ism”-driven “crazy”? Fundamentalism, radicalism, nationalism-just pick one, but they all can end up in the same destructive certainty that motivates suicide bombers and, perhaps, art vandals. I’m struggling to piece together an “ism” scenario where a Frenchman destroys a French masterpiece on British soil, but that’s pure speculation until more information comes out. Both Poussin paintings dealt with religion, so maybe that’s the attacker’s motivation. Again, we just don’t know.

In a world looking for a grand gesture from the terrorists, the obvious targets seem to be centers of financial, political, or military power. But what if someone decides to attack a center of cultural power? What if the Mona Lisa were bombed tomorrow? Would the world mourn differently than the bombing of the White House?

Poussin seems an unlikely candidate for terrorism, especially the grand gesture variety. To study a Poussin is to enter a state of meditation. Too much thought is the opposite of terror. When T.J. Clark tried to write about 9/11, he adapted a book he had already begun on Poussin and called it The Sight of Death-a fascinating but frustrating “experiment” in art writing. Maybe art is too distant from the mainstream today to be a fitting target. If that’s the case, maybe art, then, is the cure for terrorism-the meditative antidote to the poison of destructive certainty. The conservators of the National Gallery saved the Poussins this time. Perhaps the Poussins, and similar artworks, can save us in return.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Cameron: My Relationship With Murdoch Was Never a Secret

(AGI) London — Cameron said he never kept secret his relationship with Murdoch. British prime minister David Cameron told the House of Commons today that he has never kept secret his relationship with Rupert Murdoch, and accused the opposition of being far less transparent on the issue.

Yesterday, Rupert Murdoch said he had entered the prime minister’s residence in Downing Street by the back door to meet Cameron after the last elections in which he openly supported the Tory leader. Cameron, however, dismissed this detail as “irrelevant”.

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

UK: Man Held After Poussin Painting is Vandalised at National Gallery

A 17th-century painting by Nicolas Poussin was vandalised at the National Gallery in London after a 57-year-old man reportedly sprayed it with red paint before being arrested by police. “The Adoration of the Golden Calf”, completed by the French classicist in 1634, along with a smaller painting on the adjacent wall in the Poussin Room, was attacked at around 5pm. Witnesses reported seeing a man spraying the paintings with a canister as security guards rushed over before detaining him in the room and contacting police. Five officers later came to arrest the man, who is thought to be French.

Steven Dear, who was visiting the gallery with friends, said: “I heard a lot of gasping and turned around and saw him finishing spraying the larger painting. My reaction was to stop him doing any physical damage. I thought he might try to pull it off the wall. “He was just stood there on his own.. He seemed proud of what he had done, giving a verbal protest — some kind of explanation in French as to why he had done it — and then just standing there waiting to be arrested. At no point did he try to escape. “The security guards then came over and snatched the paint cans from him, before clearing the room. It wasn’t obvious why he did it, perhaps it was some kind of protest. Maybe a protest at the nakedness of the painting. He covered it all.”

The oil-on-canvas painting depicts the worshipping of a calf by the Israelites during the absence of Moses as he climbed Mount Sinai to receive the tablets of the Ten Commandments.

A police spokesman said: “At 17.15pm police were called to the National Gallery after reports of damage caused to two paintings in the public area. Officers attended and arrested a man at the scene for criminal damage. He is currently in custody at a central London police station.” It is not the first case of a painting being attacked recently by a visitor to a major national gallery. Paul Gauguin, another French artist, had a painting exhibited in the National Gallery of Art in Washington attacked earlier this year when a woman tried to rip it from the gallery wall.

In 2006, a 69-year-old man was arrested after hurling a caustic substance at a 17th-century Dutch masterpiece by the painter Bartholomeus van der Helst. The man was a “known vandal” in the art world whose picture had been circulated to security guards at galleries to prevent his entry but still managed to slip in unnoticed.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Milliband: Cameron Made “Catastrophic Error of Judgement”

(AGI) London — Ed Miliband attacked premier Cameron on his handling of the phone-hacking scandal claiming he ignored the warnings. In a heated session at the House of Commons, Labour Leader Ed Milliband was the first to ask prime minister David Cameron questions about the phone-hacking scandal. After welcoming the announcement of a new inquiry, the leader of the opposition said Cameron made a “catastrophic error of judgment” and “preferred to ignore the warnings” when he hired a former News of the World editor as his chief spokesman.

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

UK: Painting by Poussin Vandalised at National Gallery

An eighteenth-century painting by Nicolas Poussin, The Adoration of the Golden Calf was vandalised at the National Gallery by a 57-year-old man who damaged the painting with red spray paint. The man was arrested by the police after the museum’s guardians restrained him. The man did not struggle, but is reported to have awaited the arrival of the British authorities and spoke French.

Three red horizontal stripes now cover the painting completed in 1634 by the French master. The accused is said to have painted over the characters dancing around the golden calf. No explanation for his conduct was provided, but it seems likely that there is some symbolical meaning behind the action.The Adoration of the Golden Calf depicts an episode from the Old Testament. Moses, who was leading the newly-liberated Hebrews from Egypt to the Promised Land, climbed Mount Sinai to receive the Tablets of Stone. In the meantime, the Hebrews built an idol, a golden calf, which they worshipped. Upon his return, furious at this idolatry, which is forbidden by the third commandment, Moses smashed the Tablets of Stone on a rock. This incident has once again raised the question of museum security. Acts of vandalism are a frequent occurrence, whatever the size and importance of institutions.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Poussin Vandalism Sparks Museum Fee Debate

During National Gallery visiting hours, somebody was able to brazenly walk up to a masterpiece and spray it with red aerosol paint — twice.

The freak act of rage has kick-started another debate on the viability of London’s free gallery entry system. The event happened shortly before 5pm on Sunday afternoon, one of the gallery’s busiest times. An alarm was raised by a member of staff shortly after, a suspect was arrested, and the two Nicolas Poussin paintings, The Adoration of the Golden Calf and the Adoration of the Shepherds, were removed. (The Guardian have a picture of the damage) The paintings have already been restored and returned to their hanging positions in the gallery’s permanent collection (room 19). Was it an accident waiting to happen? The Guardian’s Jonathan Jone calls The Adoration of the Golden Calf “a sitting duck” this morning. Admittedly, the event exposed a fatal blind spot in National Gallery’s policing. Our galleries, compared to most major international collections, appear relatively relaxed. Getting into Madrid’s Prado collection, for example, is like being admitted to a top security prison.

But the question is, would queuing, bag checking and paying for entry really stop these rare freak acts of violence? What fuels someone to do such a thing in first place? Historically, most acts of vandalism against great works of art have been committed either by wannabe artists trying to make a statement — as per, in 2007, artist Rindy Sam kissed the canvas of Phaedrus by Cy Twombly, leaving a red lipstick mark, and was subsequently arrested — or by people who have been proved psychotic. The famous serial vandal Hans-Joachim Bohlmann (1937-2009) ended up in an institution, as did the school teacher who famously attacked Rembrandt’s Night Watch in the Prado in 1975. Surely a psychotic will not be put off by an entry fee or a bag search? Poussin’s The Adoration of the Golden Calf may have been the unfortunate unwatched masterpiece that happened to catch the eye of a reckless opportunist vying to put their mark on a priceless historic object. But to take such a huge risk requires dedication, commitment.

Intriguingly, both paintings defaced resemble images of the Almighty being worshipped in earthly form: The Adoration of the Golden Calf depicts Moses’s anger when he returns from Mount Senai to find the Israelites have built an idol and are worshipping it with song and dance. And Adoration of the Shepherds depicts shepherds visiting the baby Jesus in a stable.

This suggests that Sunday’s obscene act of vandalism was fuelled by impassioned semantics. And — although it might make their job a little harder — rarely will a calculating messenger be discouraged by a light fee and a queue.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Riot Police Demand Toilet Breaks Every 45 Minutes ‘To Stop Them From Wetting Themselves’

Fear that lack of breaks drives force to ‘incivility’

Police are demanding to be rotated every 45 minutes when supervising riots and demonstrations — so that they can go for a toilet break.

Members of the West Midlands Police Federation complained in a survey of a ‘lack of comfort breaks’ during pre-planned public order duties.

Police chiefs fear the lack of loo breaks is behind complaints from members of the public of ‘incivility, impoliteness and intolerance’.

Bryan Higgins, lead on health and safety for the force’s federation, said officers cannot carry out duties effectively when they are desperate to use the toilet.

He told Police Review magazine: ‘If you have not been able to go to the toilet and you desperately need to go, you are not going to be concentrating on the task in hand.

‘You are going to be concentrating on not wetting yourself or not making a mess of yourself. It does cause major problems.

‘If you do not have sufficient staff on, the first thing to go is the ability to take a meal break or to go to the toilet.’

Mr Higgins revealed incivility was the biggest cause of complaints against the force, and warned the situation would be made worse by a lack of officers.

He demanded public order officers should be rotated from the front line after 45 minutes and forces must review ‘safe staffing levels’.

A spokesman for West Midlands Police said that adequate refreshment breaks were ‘fundamental’ to the planning process for major events.

He said: ‘In pre-planned operations, a greater number of staff than the number of fixed posts will usually be deployed, to allow rotation of staff and refreshment, welfare and comfort breaks.

‘All police officers are expected to act with self-control, tolerance and professionalism, treating members of the public and colleagues with respect and courtesy even in the most challenging of circumstances.’

A police chief apologised in February after officers complained of a lack of food, clothing and comfort breaks during last year’s papal visit.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: Teenager Arrested in Cybercrime Investigation

A 16-year-old boy has been arrested in Britain on suspicion of being connected with computer hacking group Anonymous.

The teenager was arrested at a south London address yesterday and taken to a central London police station, where he remains in custody, police said. He was held on suspicion of breaching the Computer Misuse Act 1990. The Metropolitan Police is liaising with the FBI and authorities in the Netherlands, a police spokesman added. It is understood that he is suspected of being connected with hacking group Anonymous. It came as 14 people were arrested in the US for allegedly mounting a cyberattack on PayPal’s website in retaliation for suspending the accounts of WikiLeaks.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: Why Poussin’s Golden Calf Was a Sitting Duck at the National Gallery

Following a red spray paint attack on one of its paintings, should the National Gallery tighten up security — and charge visitors?

The photograph of Poussin’s painting, The Adoration of the Golden Calf, sprayed with red paint, as if this precious work of art were just a wall or a bridge to be adorned with graffiti, is obscene. It is horrific.

Poussin painted this mighty work in 1633-4. It is about the forces that can destroy civilisation.. On their trek out of captivity in Egypt, the Israelites have raised up an idol of a golden calf and are wildly worshipping it. Poussin finds in this idol-worship an image of the seductions of wealth and glamour, the power of folly and the madness of crowds. It is a stern painting; it is a challenging painting. It is also very beautiful: the bizarre harmony of the crazed crowd’s interlinked dance seems balanced in such a way as to prove that there is order in the universe after all — which means there will be retribution.

Someone took a spray can to the National Gallery at the weekend and spurted a red bloody trail all over the lower half of the painting. The red line appears to rope together the dancing bodies, as if the attacker had some secret meaning in mind..The art of Nicolas Poussin might obsess someone whose head was full of conspiracy theories. In a book published long before The Da Vinci Code, seekers of the Holy Grail and the Rosicrucians claimed to find secret messages in his masterpiece in the Louvre, Et In Arcadia Ego. Was this assailant pursuing some fascination with the Poussin code?

That is possible, but there is another blunt fact that may be more relevant. Poussin’s paintings — a second work is also said to have been damaged — hang in one of the quietest parts of the National Gallery. They are in a suite of galleries that are slightly off the beaten track, on the northern side of the building. They are also near the virtually unused but always open north entrance. So an opportunist with a spray can might judge Poussin a sitting duck. London museums all have different policies on security. Some have bag searches on entry, others don’t. The National Gallery does not. That may be pleasant for visitors — but perhaps it is not so good for the museum.

A painting like Poussin’s Golden Calf is made by a great artist, cherished by owners, and miraculously preserved down the centuries. It is looked after in a museum, cleaned, studied, and silently enjoyed by thousands. And then in an instant someone can brutally attack this venerable human creation and make a vile mark on it. That cannot be allowed, and modern society cannot be trusted — there is too much craziness out there. Museums should be more severe on visitors. No visitor gets into the Louvre without a security scan. It looks like no one should get into the National Gallery without such scrutiny either. If this is too expensive, museums should charge to cover the costs. Free museums are very fine. But what is the point if people just come in and desecrate the world’s cultural heritage? Charge, search, protect.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK’s Cameron Admits to ‘Errors’ In Wake of NOTW Scandal

(AGI) Rome — Having come under tabloid-gate fire Cameron admits errors before the Commons, but attacks his Labour predecessors.

During a heated Lower House debate session, Labour leader Ed Miliband accused prime minister David Cameron of making a “catastrophic error of judgement” in hiring former News of the World editor Andy Coulson as his spokesman.

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

Welcome to the Age of the Splinternet

Openness is the internet’s great strength — and weakness. With powerful forces carving it up, is its golden age coming to an end?

How quickly the world changes. In August 1991 Tim Berners-Lee, a researcher at CERN near Geneva, Switzerland, posted a message to a discussion forum detailing a new method for sharing information between networked computers. To make his idea a reality, he also set up a server running on one of CERN’s computers. A mere two decades later, some 2 billion of us are hooked up to Berners-Lee’s invention, and the UN General Assembly last month declared access to it a fundamental human right. It is, of course, the World Wide Web.

Today, most of us in the developed world and elsewhere take the internet for granted. But should we? The way it works and the way we engage with it are still defined by characteristics it has inherited from its easy-going early days, and this has left it under threat — from criminals, controlling authorities and commercial interests. “The days of the internet as we used to think of it are ending,” says Craig Labovitz of Arbor Networks, a security software company in Chelmsford, Massachusetts. Could we now be living in the golden age of the internet?

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Kosovo: Talks With Serbia Postponed, Both Sides Blame the Other

Belgrade/Pristina, 20 July (AKI) — European Union-sponsored talks between Kosovo and Serbia, scheduled to be held in Brussels on Wednesday. Belgrade and Pristina each blamed the other for the delay. The head of Kosovo delegation Edita Tahiri said “the sixth round of the dialogue was annulled by Serbia’s fault” because Belgrade wasn’t ready to accept an agreement on free trade and customs. “By this attitude Serbia continues to trample the freedom of movement of goods as one of fundamental principles of the European Union,” Tahiri said.

Earlier this month the two sides reached an agreement on freedom of movement of people and recognition of university diplomas. On today’s agenda were the problems of communications, free trade and land books. The head of Serbian delegation Borko Stefanovic told media the talks were postponed because Pristina insisted on displaying “sings of Kosovo statehood”, which were unacceptable to Belgrade. Kosovo majority Albanians declared independence from Serbia in February 2008, which Belgrade opposes, but the two sides agreed on “technical talks” which would facilitate life for ordinary people. EU mediator in the talks, Robert Cooper, said the two sides needed more time to think over some proposals. He said it was clear that no agreement could be reached on Wednesday and decided that there was much better chance in September.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Serbia: War Criminal Fugitive Goran Hadzic Arrested

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE — Goran Hadzic (in a picture from 1991), the last Serbian war criminal still wanted by the authorities, has been arrested, according to the Serbian TV station B92. Hadzic, the former political leader of Serbs in Croatia , had still been on the run after the May 26 capture in Serbia of Ratko Mladic, the former Bosnian Serb commander arrested after 16 years of living as a fugitive from justice. He is accused of genocide and crimes against humanity for atrocities committed during the war between 1991-1995 Serbia and Croatia, which broke out with Krajina’s succession following Croatia’s proclamation of independence. The International Criminal Court in the Hague has not yet made any statement as it is awaiting official confirmation from Belgrade authorities.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

The Simpsons Provide Model to Poke Fun at Kosovan Political Figures

An important symbol of US popular culture, the Simpsons have been a global favorite for more than two decades. Now the satirical cartoon has been adapted to provide a vehicle for political activism in Kosovo.

Three years ago, Ismaili was responsible for creating a symbol of optimism for the newly independent Kosovo — a sculpture in the capital city Pristina that spells out “newborn” in giant yellow letters. But recent events have damaged his optimism, and Ismaili now believes that political power is being traded with little concern for what the people want. It was while watching the presidential ceremony that Ismaili found his inspiration for “The Pimpsons.” He thought the American ambassador looked uncannily similar to “The Comic Book Guy,” a minor character from The Simpsons. “I took that character and some other characters from the Simpsons, put them together, made my first episode, a mockup parody of the Simpsons: I called it the Pimpsons because I consider these people to be the pimps of Kosovo.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Al-Qaeda Members Part of New Libyan Government Recognized by U.S.

But they say they’ve renounced al-Qaeda, so all is well. They couldn’t be lying, of course. And if they’ve renounced al-Qaeda, that must mean they’re moderate, right? That must mean they’ve renounced jihad, and Islamic supremacism, and the oppression of women, and dhimmitude, and the denial of the freedom of speech and the freedom of conscience, and are practically by now registered Democrats, right?

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Democratic Reforms Still Distant Dreams Six Months Into Arab Spring

The Arab Spring could turn into a Summer of Discontent as those countries which saw major upheavals and uprisings over the last six months remain as resistant to change as they were before the wave of revolution began. Some countries such as Libya and Syria are still in chaos as opposing sides continue to battle for control while those who have overthrown their dictators, like Tunisia and Egypt, have seen a return to protest over the lack of concrete progress toward reform. Elsewhere, months of simmering discontent still threaten to boil over as autocratic governments struggle to keep a lid on unrest.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Army Slowing Reforms to Sink Revolution

The economic crisis is killing the ideals of the Arab spring. The military are against democracy, and refuse to hand over former regime officials to the justice system. More than US$ 9.5 billion in aid are still lying unused in state coffers. Sources tell AsiaNews that they fear the rise of a theocratic regime with the tacit agreement of Western nations.

Cairo (AsiaNews) — “The Egyptian Revolution could fail and everything we won could be lost. The country’s leaders are establishing a new regime with the backing of the Muslim Brotherhood and the tacit agreement of Western nations,” sources in Egypt told AsiaNews. The sources accuse the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces of being against democracy and the real development of the country and its population. So far, Arab countries and the United States have provided Egypt with US$ 9.5 billion in aid that have not yet been used.

Initially, high unemployment and food prices as well as corruption and a wide gap between rich and poor trigged the ‘Jasmine Revolution’.

Six months later, economic growth in the first part of 2011 was only 1 per cent compared 4.5 per cent last year. The largest drop (45 per cent) came in the tourist sector, which drives the Egyptian economy. At the same time, imports rose by 30 per cent. For months, many companies, especially in the manufacturing sector, have not paid their employees.

In six months, sources say, nothing has changed. The country’s resources have dwindled, widening the gap between rich and poor. In fact, the army of the jobless now stands at 11.9 with a peak of 50 per cent for those under 30.

Demands for political reform have been betrayed, starting with the trials of Mubarak’s men, many of whom are now involved with the new government.

“The military have no interest in bringing these people to justice because the officers who now rule the country would end up before the judges,” sources say.

“Elections have been postponed by three months not to help liberal forces, but to boost the alliance with the Muslim Brotherhood and the anti-democratic groups,” they add.

“The army has made some small changes, but they continue to lie to the people. Ordinary Egyptians instead want a real revolution and radical change for the country. Those in power do not want democracy and are playing with the economic crisis to tire people. They want to stifle protests, not violently, but through popular frustration, showing how serious the consequences of Mubarak’s fall are.”

Still, the economy is not the real problem. What really concerns people is the total lack of security. The army is unable to keep under control the social and ideological tensions unleashed by Mubarak’s fall.

“Salafis are everywhere. They threaten everyone, not only Copts but also Muslims. Many Christians are fleeing the country. In Cairo’s poor neighbourhoods, people are terrified and lock themselves in their homes, surviving on a few dollars a day.”

According to sources, Christians and other minorities are preparing for a theocratic state run by the military, politicians and business interests.

The revolution’s failure is also due to the United States and Western nations, which do not support democratic groups, and are out to protect their own economic interests. (S.C.)

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

Egypt: Saudi King’s Nephew Attacks Police — Forced to Leave

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JULY 18 — Egypt’s authorities have decided to kick prince Ahmed Turki Ben Abdulaziz, the Saudi King’s nephew, out of the country for attacking police officers at Cairo airport a few days ago. Egyptian newspaper ‘Al Masry Al Yaum’ also noted that the prince’s name has been added to the airport’s blacklist.

After the prince and his bodyguards attacked the officers, the police arrested him and his “gorillas” for 18 hours. The Saudi embassy in Cairo had to step in to have the prince released.

Airport authorities handcuffed and shaved the heads (for an unknown reason) of the 5 bodyguards, of whom three are American and two are South African. They, too, were released following the intervention of their respective embassies in Cairo. The newspaper stresses that the King’s nephew’s family is familiar with run-ins with the Egyptian police; it has been living in Cairo for many years, over which it has collected a host of charges for failure to pay and for attacking the cleaning staff of the hotel where it has been living for many years.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Army Must Think About Mubarak’s Funeral, Expert

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JULY 20 — Egypt’s armed forces will be forced to organise a military funeral for former president Hosni Mubarak should he die before a ruling is issued against him by the tribunal. The statement was made by Sameh Al Yazel, a military security expert quoted by the Middle East Online website.

The expert claimed that according to Egypt’s martial law a military funeral must be provided to all officers from the level of general and up, even when they are retired, on condition that they have not been sentenced by a tribunal. In the event of his death before being sentenced, Egypt will thus have to allow presidents and kings of other countries to attend the funeral, albeit in private instead of official form. Potential guests will not be formally received and the national anthem will not be played. The military council will also have to send some of its representatives to welcome the guests. As for the presence at the funeral of his two sons Gamal and Alaa, who are now being held in jail, the military expert claimed that it is up to the ministry of interior affairs to authorise relatives awaiting trial (a condition also shared by the wife, Suzanne).

The health conditions of former president Hosni Mubarak remain unclear.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Libya Rebels Ask France for More Help

Military leaders from the rebel-held Libyan city of Misrata asked French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Wednesday for extra aid to defeat ruler Moamer Kadhafi, a member of their delegation said. Sarkozy held talks at his Elysee presidential palace with rebel General Ramadan Zarmuh, Colonel Ahmed Hashem and Colonel Brahim Betal Mal, as well as Suleiman Fortia, a local representative of the rebel leadership in Misrata. “With a little bit of help, we will be in Tripoli very soon. Very soon means days,” Fortia told reporters after a meeting with Sarkozy. “We are here in France to discuss how we can do the job.” France is taking part in NATO-coordinated strikes against Kadhafi’s military assets and was the first outside state to formally recognise the rebels’ Transitional National Council.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Paris: Gaddafi Step Down and He Can Stay at Home

(AGI) Paris — France is ready to accept Muammar Gaddafi staying in Libya as long as he retires from politics. The statement was made by French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé. “This is what we expect”, he added, “before starting a process leading to a ceasefire”. The possibility of the Colonel staying in his Country was recently also accepted by the insurgents who are nonetheless deternined to not give in on the fact that Gaddafi step down from power.

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

Tunisia: Premier Distances Himself From Religious Parties

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, JULY 19 — Beji Caid Essebsi is a politician with stamina and nothing he does bears traces of impetuousness or improvisation. Therefore the extremely harsh speech he gave yesterday to reiterate that the Tunisian government, even if only provisional, will continue in its place until the very end (that is, at least until the October 23 elections) to do its duty, seems to be a way of aggravating the complicated political situation in Tunisia. Essebsi had harsh tones for those seeking to destabilise the country by fostering disorder and guerrilla acts, knowing well that, even if he did not cite any specific names, he would spark reactions: as he did. Ennahda reacted the most, the Islamist party which may well see a crushing victory at the elections. It is by no means simply a coincidence that today the Ministry for Religious Affairs asked to keep mosques out of the political struggle, where during prayers — especially the Friday ones — imams champion the ideas held by Ennadha in de facto support for the movement. The security situation seems to be slowly restabilising, not so much on account of reasons for protest drying up but because security forces (the police, National Guard, army) have opted to prevent instead of treat — as any good doctor would — and thereby stopped protests and rioting in Menzel Bourguiba, one of the centres of revolt, as soon as it started. That there is a common cause behind the riots is likely, especially if we take into consideration the fact that revolts broke out in a number of cities and neighbourhoods at the same time. That a political reason was behind them is also highly probable. What the government and its prime minister instead take as being obvious is that at the origin there are extremist groups who are attempting to gain ever greater visibility as well as space “to the left” of Ennadha. The latter’s leader Rached Gannouchi has said that his movement was in no way involved in the rioting. However, the fact that there is an ever greater number of “barbus” (as the Salafists are known as) every time there is a protest or physical violence, is clear. As is, according to the Interior Ministry, that these extremists are getting an upper hand in the violence, with weapons that had previously been unknown of in Tunisia such as bombs packaged as incendiary ones filled with the devastating hydrochloric acid.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Regueb Festival Postponed for Security

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, JULY 20 — The Regueb Culture Festival, which was to have kicked off tomorrow evening and drawn to a close on July 25, has been postponed for security reasons. The decision was made by the organising committee, in light of the acts of violence seen recently in the city and out of concern for “the participating artists, the public and journalists”. The festival will be rescheduled.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Foreign Funding to Parties Banned

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, JULY 20 — Political parties in Tunisia that participate in the electoral campaign for the Constituent Assembly will not be allowed to receive funding from foreign countries. This is established in the bill that was passed this morning with a large majority by the high commission for political reforms. A total of 87 commissioners cast their votes; the measure was accepted with only one vote against (the independent Zouhaier Maklouf, who considers the decree to be illegitimate). The representatives of the religious Ennahdha party did not vote. They have been protesting for some time now against the workings of the commission. The more liberal Tunisian press has reported that Ennahdha receives funds from foreign countries, like some Gulf States.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Israel-Turkey Reconciliation Far Away, Minister

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, JULY 20 — The Israeli Minister for Strategic Affairs Moshe Yaalon has said today that reconciliation with Turkey, which until a few years ago was a close ally of Israel, is still far from being achieved. Interviewed by the public radio station, Yaalon said that progress in reconciliation talks will not be possible until Ankara stops insisting on an apology from Israel after the killing of nine Turkish citizens during the Israeli military boarding of the Turkish-flagged Mavi Marmara. On May 31 last year the ship, along with the rest of the flotilla of pro-Palestinian activists from a number of different countries, was halted in international waters to prevent it from forcing the naval blockade Israel has imposed on the Gaza Strip.

Israel said that it was willing to express regret and, “as a humanitarian act”, to pay indemnities to a fund that the Turkish government would have to set up in order to prevent any future legal action against the soldiers who took part in the boarding of the ship. However, Israel refuses to apologise for an operation that it still sees as entirely legitimate. It also sees the constitution of the flotilla as an act of “provocation” organised by a Turkish Islamic NGO, apparently with the hidden support of the Turkish government. Allegedly, a report is soon to be published by a UN Commission under the New Zealander Geoffrey Palmer, who supports Israel’s theory on the legality of the naval blockade while at the same time accusing the Israeli state of having made use of excessive force. Today’s statements by Yaalon contradict speculation recently appearing in the Israeli and Turkish press on Israel’s alleged willingness to “cautiously apologise” to Turkey in order to heal relations with its former ally.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Briton Fined AED3,000 for Insulting Ramadan

A British expat has been fined AED3, 000 for insulting Ramadan on a social networking site and calling her colleague a dictator, it was reported Wednesday. The 31-year old woman, who admitted posting a status update on her Facebook page expressing her dislike for Ramadan, was charged at the Dubai Court of Misdemeanours on Tuesday, according to The National. The colleague of the accused, an Egyptian woman, said in a statement to the court that she had seen a “disrespectful” status update about Ramadan on September 4 last year. “I told her to not say such things about the holy month as she was in a Muslim country,” she was quoted as telling prosecutors by the paper.

The accused responded by calling the woman stupid and ignorant and saying she was a closed-minded dictator and a follower of bin Laden, said the newspaper. Police referred the accused to prosecutors eight months later on charges of insulting a religious creed. That charge was dismissed before being referred to the court on insult charges. Judge Mohammed Ahmed Shoaib fined the accused AED3,000. Dubai police officials warned last month that non-Muslims risk arrest if they are caught eating during Ramadan, when consuming food and drink is banned under UAE laws between sunrise and sunset.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Cyprus-Turkey: Erdogan Threatens UN and Cyprus Republic

(ANSAmed) — NICOSIA, JULY 19 — Like a bolt of lightning against the United Nations and the Greek-Cypriot leadership, today Turkish premier Tayyip Erdogan announced that his country is no longer prepared to make the concessions it had agreed in order to help overcome the so-called “Cypriot issue” (the reunification of the island) according to what had been provided in a 2004 United nations plan.

The unexpected announcement, reported by all Turkish-Cypriot media, came only hours after Erdogan’s arrival on the island to participate (in the northern part of Nicosia under Turkish military occupation since 1974) in the July 29 celebration, the “Day of peace and democracy” for the Turkish-Cypriots and anniversary of the Turkish invasion of the northern part of the island for the Greek-Cypriots.

Speaking to the press, Erdogan added that Ankara will accept nothing led than the recognition of a two-state solution for the island, meaning in practice that should direct talks between the leaders of the two communities of Cyprus for reunification that have that have been under way since September 2008 under the aegis of the UN fail, then Turkey will try to achieve the recognition of the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus proclaimed in 1983 in the northern part of Cyprus but to day only recognised by the government of Ankara.

This morning Erdogan, in the wake of what hade been stated last Thursday by his foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu, said that Turkey (as a candidate to join the EU) will not accept the acting presidency of the Republic of Cyprus (which it does not recognise) scheduled for the second half of 2012 ahead of a solution to the Cypriot issue and that for such reason Ankara is ready to freeze relations with the EU. Erdogan stated that “We will not accept the European presidency of South Cyprus, which we do not recognise. The European Union should take the consequences into consideration”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Iran to ‘Speed Up’ Uranium Enrichment at Nuclear Plants

Iran says it is installing newer and faster centrifuges at its nuclear plants, with the goal of speeding up the uranium enrichment process. The foreign ministry says the United Nations nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, has “full supervision” of the operation. The French government has condemned the move as a “new provocation”. France and other Western powers fear that Iran’s nuclear programme is aimed at developing nuclear weapons. Iran says its programme is for civilian use.

ttp:// Bolta’s post on Wendi Deng slapping the pie-thrower.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Iran: Ahmadinejad Threatens to Send US, Israel ‘To the Morgue’

Tehran, 20 July (AKI) — Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has threatened to destroy the United States and Israel if put on the defensive.

“Resistance will continue until Iran sends its enemies to the morgue,” he said on his website, making a reference to the US and Israel who he said are “on the verge of collapse and gasping for their last breathes.”

Ahmadinejad may have been reacting to news from Iranian state media that Iran brought down a U.S. “spy drone” flying near its Fordo nuclear enrichment plant in Qom province.

State-run Press TV didn’t say when the incident happened. US officials said there were unaware that a US unmanned aircraft was downed, according to news reports.

The Islamic Republic, Ahmadinejad said on his website “is the region’s greatest military power.”

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

Jordan: First Mosque Dedicated to Jesus in Arab World

(ANSAmed) — ROMA — It is called “The Mosque of Jesus Christ” (in the picture) and stands in the city of Madaba, south of Jordan’s capital Amman. It is the first in the modern Muslim world with the name of Jesus, who is identified by the Islam with one of the most important prophets. It is clear that a Christian name for a Muslim place of worship would awake the curiosity of Muslims, Christians and the mass media. What makes the Mosque of Jesus special is that it is appreciated for its name by Muslims as well as Christians, newspaper ‘Al Quds Al Arabi’ reports.

The Mosque of Jesus Christ was built near a famous church in Madaba. The idea to give the mosque its particular name came from Jamal Al Sufrati, imam of the mosque. The imam said that “I had noticed that the Arab world is full of mosques that carry the names of the prophets, with the exception of Jesus.” “The mosque,” he continued, “wants to send a message of cohabitation and tolerance, particularly after the tensions between the two religions caused by cartoons that were offensive for the prophet Mohammed.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

No Final Decision on Saudi High-Speed Train: Official

The Saudi Railways Organisation said Wednesday no final decision has been made on the contract for a high-speed train linking Jeddah and the Muslim holy cities of Mecca and Medina. “The construction contract for this train has not been awarded to the Spanish consortium,” Nadim Darwish, an SRO official, told AFP, after reports that the Spanish consortium had won the estimated 7-billion-euro ($10 billion) contract. “There is no final decision yet,” he said, without providing further details. On Tuesday, Spanish media reported that the consortium had won, but a spokesman for Spanish rail operator Renfe, one of the leaders of the group along with Talgo, Adif, OHL and eight other companies, would not comment. A spokesman for the transport ministry had said “the process is very advanced; the Spanish bid is in a good position but it is not yet finalised.”

The business newspaper El Economista said Transport Minister Jose Blanco had confirmed on Monday to members of the consortium that they had won the contract. Another business paper, Cinco Dias, said the consortium has received “the official confirmation from Saudi Arabia.” Spanish daily El Pais said the Saudi Arabian partner of the Spanish consortium had also been officially informed, and all sides had been invited to discuss final technical details over the coming weeks. Spain and France have been in stiff competition for the contract, which was raised during a visit to Saudi Arabia in February by French Prime Minister Francois Fillon. Spain has been a world leader in high-speed rail networks and now has the longest such system in Europe, ahead of France.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Opinion: Turkey’s Hard Line is Understandable

The government in Ankara refuses to compromise over Cyprus, thereby risking a break with the EU. Baha Güngör, the head of DW’s Turkish service, says the country has nothing to lose as its EU entry talks are stalled.

Turkey appears to have run out of patience when it comes to the question of Cyprus. On the 37th anniversary of the invasion of Northern Cyprus by Turkish troops, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan made it unmistakably clear that his country would categorically refuse any compromise. Once the internationally recognized Greek Cypriot government takes over the rotating EU presidency in 2012, Erdogan said Turkey is determined to freeze its ties with the EU for this six-month period. This Turkish toughness over the conflict in Cyprus might result in the EU feeling slighted and possibly responding in a similarly harsh manner. And yet Turkey’s hard line deserves some understanding. Turkey has already endured too many disappointments in its relationship with the EU. Now, resulting from an increased self-confidence, Ankara is no longer prepared to play around when it comes to Cyprus.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Turkish Firm to Sign Gas Deal With Iran, Report

(ANSAmed) — ISTANBUL, JULY 20 — A private Turkish company is expected to sign a gas deal with Iran that will result in importing 4 million cubic meters of gas to Turkey at a time when the US has stepped up its efforts to put companies that trade with Iran on a sanctions list. As daily Today’s Zaman reports quoting Iran’s state-run Press TV, Iranian Deputy Oil Minister Javad Oji said Iran will deliver 3-4 million cubic meters of gas a day to the Turkish company and that “the deal is different from the current exports agreement” of supplying Turkey with 25 to 30 million cubic meters of gas. Without mentioning the name of the Turkish company, Oji said the Turkish firm needs Iranian natural gas to convert it into liquefied natural gas for supplying the Turkish market. The Iranian officials also said the gas deal will be signed this year. According to the report, in January, the National Iranian Gas Company (NIGC) announced that Iran exported 8.25 billion cubic meters of gas to Turkey via pipeline in 2010. Turkey, a close US ally that has an over 400 kilometer-long border with Iran, voted against the latest round of UN sanctions on the Islamic Republic in June after its joint efforts with Brazil to convince the West to seek a diplomatic solution to Iran’s nuclear program failed. Despite its disapproval of the sanctions, Turkey pledged to remain loyal to the decision taken by 12 votes in favor in the 15-member UN Security Council.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Police Pay is Tripled in Anti-Graft Fight

The Kremlin finally added the carrot to the stick in its nearly five-month-old police reform, with President Dmitry Medvedev signing into law on Tuesday a bill that will triple the salaries of police officers. The measure, along with the other “social guarantees” outlined by the law, aims to curb rampant corruption in the long underpaid police force. The law also boosts pensions and other benefits for veterans and introduces subsidies to purchase housing — a perpetual sore point for most Russian households, said State Duma Deputy Alexei Volkov, himself a former police general. A lieutenant will earn 33,000 to 45,000 rubles ($1,170 to $1,600) a month, compared with the current 10,000 rubles ($360), Volkov, a United Russia member, said by telephone. Salaries for higher-ranking officers will be boosted in a similar manner, he said, without elaborating. The law also cancels the current housing provision system that required officers to wait for decades for state-issued apartments that few ever received, Volkov said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Stalin’s Translator Dead at 90

Vladimir Yerofeyev, the personal interpreter of Soviet leader Josef Stalin after World War II, died of a heart attack in Moscow on Monday. He was 90. He will be buried Thursday at Vagankovskoye Cemetery, Interfax said. Leningrad-born Yerofeyev served in the central office of the Soviet Foreign Ministry in the mid-1940s and was an aide to Stalin’s close associate Vyacheslav Molotov from 1949 to 1955. During that time, Yerofeyev translated for Stalin at his talks with French leaders, including Charles De Gaulle. He also translated Stalin’s letters to U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill into English. Stalin’s death in 1953 did not hinder Yerofeyev’s career, which included ambassadorial posts in Senegal and Gabon in the 1960s and a stint as UNESCO deputy secretary-general from 1970 to 1975.

“He was a decent, bright, wonderful man,” said Yerofeyev’s son Viktor, a prominent writer, Interfax reported Tuesday. In his 2005 novel “The Good Stalin,” Viktor Yerofeyev detailed how his own dissident activities in late Soviet times harmed his father’s career. The elder Yerofeyev was reluctant to speak in public about his experiences with Stalin. But in 2009, he told PBS television that “when Stalin believed that something was in his own interests, he could be cruel and merciless, even toward the people closest to him.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

‘Stripper Army’ Urges Putin Kremlin Return

A mysterious Internet video has emerged urging young Russian women to rip off their clothes as an army to encourage Vladimir Putin to return to the Kremlin in 2012 elections. “He’s a worthy politician and an awesome man. He is adored by millions,” says the provocative video by supporters dubbed “Putin’s Army.” “What are you ready to do for your president?” says the video calling on the supporters of the 58-year-old Russian prime minister to “rip it off” for him. The risque video clip features young girls laughing gaily as they strut their stuff in revealing clothes and high-heels and suggestively suck drinks through cocktail straws. The video culminates with one of the girls, student Diana, scrawling “I will rip it off for Putin” on her white top in red lipstick and then ripping it open to reveal her bra.

The group of Putin’s admirers does not reveal any more details about themselves but says the maker of the best video would receive an iPad2. The professional-quality video is posted on Russia’s main social networking site at and has been viewed by almost one million on YouTube. Russia is heading into parliamentary elections in December followed by March presidential polls in which Putin may return to the presidency after a decade in power. This is not the first time the power of sexuality is being used to back Putin, who is admired by many Russian woman for his apparent virility.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Pakistan: US Citizens Stopped From Entering Peshawar

Islamabad, 20 July (AKI/Dawn) — Seven US citizens were stopped by security officials from crossing the Peshawar toll plaza without a No Objection Certificate on Wednesday, DawnNews reported.

The US embassy has expressed serious concern over the incident, DawnNews reported.

Security officials said the foreigners were traveling in three cars and it was the second time they had attempted to enter without a NOC.

They are required to obtain a NOC from the relevant ministry before entering into Peshawar, said security officials.

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

Far East

ASEAN and China Agree on South China Guidelines

Several countries are laying claim to the Spratly islands in the South China Sea

Indonesian President Yudhoyono urges ASEAN and China to hasten talks for a code of conduct to govern actions in the South China Sea, setting the tone for five days of meetings culminating in the ASEAN Regional Forum.

China and Southeast Asian countries agreed on Wednesday to a preliminary set of guidelines in the South China Sea dispute, the Chinese side said, a rare sign of cooperation in a row that has plagued relations in the region for years. But a broader accord on which country owns what in waters believed to be rich in gas and oil remains as far off as ever. Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono urged ASEAN and China to step up their efforts to reach an agreement. “We need to send a strong signal to the world that the future of the South China Sea is a predictable, manageable and optimistic one,” he said in a speech opening the Bali meeting on Tuesday. Tensions have been rising in the oil-and gas-rich South China Sea in recent weeks after Vietnam and the Philippines accused China of incursions into sensitive areas and harassment of ships. China and the Philippines have overlapping claims to parts of the South China Sea, including the Spratly Islands, as do Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

‘US-China Cyber Diplomacy Unlikely to Curb Cyber Crime: ‘ Expert

Amid a recent spate of hacker attacks, the US announces its new Cyber Defense Strategy. Critics are skeptical that much will work in curbing modern cyber crime. In recent weeks there has been a spate of hacking attacks on US companies, including Google Mail, Lockheed Martin and Citigroup as well as on US-based institutions, including the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the US Senate. Booz Allen Hamilton is the latest victim. The company is a defense contractor of the US pentagon which specializes in developing weapons systems and defense equipment. Anonymous, an “antisec,” or anti-security, cyber body has recently claimed responsibility for the latest “attack,” claiming to have stolen over 90,000 email addresses and other information.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Sharia Law at Work in Australia

“In their article, associate professor Sadiq and Ms Black note that research on Islamic marriage found in 2008 that 90 per cent of Muslims did not want to change Australian law. [wow, we should be soo grateful to them! — A-K]

They write that many [not all?? Do we really want them here if they don’t?? — A-K] Muslims support the protection of human rights and had come to Australia because of practices such as genital mutilation and honour killings in countries ruled by unreformed versions of sharia.

However, they suggest there should be “tweaking” of family law to take account of sharia.

They suggest that the Family Law Act could be changed to ensure that when courts make parenting orders Muslim children are given similar rights to those enjoyed by indigenous children.

This would require courts to consider they have a right to enjoy their own culture and the culture of people who share their culture.”

Sure they have a right to enjoy their own culture and the culture of people who share their culture … Just as I have the right to celebrate “Christmas in July” with my Danish fellow expatriates in Australia, cooking our own roast duck and red cabbage and drinking Carlsberg beer and Akvavit in our own homes, on our own dime — or have Hans Christian Andersen readings in the original language at the local Community Centre … all of this without violating any Australian laws of any nature, including family law!— A-K]

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

Sub-Saharan Africa

Kenyan Refugee Camps Struggling With Growing Somali Exodus

Many Somalis walk for weeks to reach the refugee camps in neighboring Kenya

The Dadaab refugee camps in Kenya are grappling with the arrival of thousands of people fleeing drought and fighting in neighboring Somalia. Many, especially children, fail to survive the long journey. Some 2,000 people have been arriving every day in Kenya’s Dadaab refugee camps from Somalia, Ethiopia and drought-stricken areas in Kenya. Many walk for weeks to get there. Young children, in particular, often don’t survive the long journey or succumb to exhaustion and severe malnutrition even after reaching the camps. The Dadaab camps are currently home to some 350,000 people. Deutsche Welle spoke with David Orr of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) in Nairobi to learn more about the current crisis and how it can be prevented or at least reduced in the future.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Maghreb Al Qaeda Sets Up Sub-Saharan Army

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, JULY 20 — Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb has set up a new group with only those of Sub-Saharan origins. According to sites with links to Islamic terrorism quoted in today’s Le Temps d’Algerie, the new “army” is called Beyt El Ansar, the name chosen by Osama Bin Laden himself over 25 years ago for a formation of Arab jihadists who were veterans of the Afghanistan conflict. The creation of the new group — which reportedly includes members from Mali, Nigeria, Guinea, Chad, Burkina Faso and Senegal — is said to have come during an AL AQMI summit held a week ago in the Mali desert.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Somalia: Pope Sends 50,000 Euros to Africa for Famine Relief

Vatican City (AKI) — Pope Benedict XVI has sent 50,000 dollars to the Vatican’s representative in Somali capital Mogadishu to be used as aid for the Horn of Africa where millions of people face starvation because of drought.

The United Nations says 10 million people are in need of food aid and hundreds of thousands of refugees need to be fed in eastern Kenya because of severe drought and civil war in Somalia.

“As a sign of his closeness and concern the Pope has…sent the sum of euro 50,000 to Bishop Giorgio Bertin O.F.M., apostolic administrator of Mogadishu, who is directly involved in bringing assistance to the people affected,” the Vatican Tuesday in a statement.

The drought is caused by the driest weather since 1995 in East Africa is expected to continue to worsen into early next year, according to the United Nations Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

The UN is expected to announce on Wednesday that five areas of southern Somalia are under famine conditions.

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


Netherlands: ‘Moroccans: Tackle Your Own Riffraff’

THE HAGUE, 20/07/11 — Moroccan Dutch must take action against crimes committed by members of their community, in the view of Labour (PvdA) MP Ahmed Marcouch. He also urges the appointment of more immigrant police officers.

“Unlike many think, Moroccans themselves also suffer from the criminality of their neighbourhood youths. Nonetheless, they often keep quiet. If they know who vandalised the youth centre, they often do not make a police report all the same. After all, why should they stick their necks out if the police are failing,” writes Marcouch in an opinion article in De Volkskrant newspaper headlined ‘Moroccans: tackle your own riffraff.’

“The Moroccan and Antillean communities must stand up,” declares the MP. “We know that police, mayor and communities can emerge from their inertia all right. So let us do it, for the sake of whole generations of youngsters who will otherwise sink into mistrust, fear and depression due to discrimination.”

Marcouch, himself Moroccan and a former policeman, is concerned about the Nijmegen jeweller Jos Kamerbeek. “With the eighth robbery of which he was the victim, he defended himself, fell in a six-metre deep building hole and served as shock-cushion for his attacker who fell on top of him. (…). In my mind runs the picture of this man in his wheelchair, while the perpetrators are running around free and undoubtedly making plans for their next violent robbery.”

“The chances of jewellery robbers being caught are 20 percent. The chances of them being punished are 12 percent. Even those caught with gunpowder on their clothes, the loot at their feet and glass under their shoes have a good chance of going free.”

“If the constitutional state fails, the immigrant is the victim. This is how it works. If the police do not deliver, the threatened retailer takes his fate into his own hands. But he does not have the means for this. We as citizens have given the monopoly of weapons and other defence means in good faith out of our hands to the state, in exchange for protection.”

Kamerbeek recently decided not to admit immigrant youngsters any more. “It is logical that he should close the door and first work out who is in front of it: Buyer or robber. Someone who has been robbed eight times makes his decision from work experience and cannot do what the police should be able to do: Distinguish what makes sense from what does not make sense. If the police cannot do that, the young Antillean and Moroccan criminals go free, while their well-intentioned peers are rebuked for the behaviour of the perpetrators.”

The MP calls on Moroccans and Antilleans to aim for a job as police officer. “Put off that nice career prospect in industry and apply to the police. Demand of the police that they train Moroccan officers who can distinguish Husseyn from Hassan, and Antillean police that can tell Romeo from Roberto.”

The fear of the police of mass ethnic solidarity between officers and perpetrators is wrong, according to Marcouch. Moroccans and Antilleans have “relevant knowhow on perpetrator groups, effective detection skills and specific insights on interrogation techniques. Those who deny that Moroccan and Antillean police can do something important that other police seldom can, bring the suspicion down on themselves that they do not want to solve the problem of the small chances of catching (the offenders).”

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

Culture Wars

Black Privilege

By Robin of Berkeley

One of my friends voluntarily attended an event recently, one that I wouldn’t go to for a million bucks (well, maybe a million bucks). It was called Erasing White Privilege. My friend, whom I’ll call Andrea, sat in a room with other whites on one side, and people of color on the other. Then the whites sheepishly confessed any real or imagined offenses perpetuated against a person of color. After the whites tried to atone for their guilt, the people of color got involved: yelling at them, preaching, and discharging much rage.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Is Race a Social Construct? The Natural History Museum Investigates

Race and racism are complex subjects, but the Natural History Museum takes them on with energy and zeal in a new exhibition, Race: Are We So Different? The show is the first national exhibition to spell out the construct of “race” and all that it encompasses from a biological, cultural and historical point of view.

The exhibit seeks to show that race is not rooted in biology. Why is this an important fact for people to know and understand?

By discussing the genetics-or lack thereof-of race, we eliminate the argument that there is something fundamentally, on a molecular level, different about people. We are then left to explore what those other social and historical factors are that lead to the development of race as we know it today.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Fourth Moon Discovered Around Pluto

The cosmos loves irony. Five years after Pluto was stripped of its planet status, astronomers have discovered yet another moon in orbit around it, bringing its entourage to four. “The discovery of this moon reinforces the idea that the Pluto system was formed during a massive collision 4.6 billion years ago,” says discovery team member Hal Weaver of Johns Hopkins University in Laurel, Maryland. “The smaller satellites, including this one, probably came together in the resulting debris disc.” Team member Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, also heads the New Horizons mission that will fly by Pluto in 2015. He is excited by the discovery but says it reinforces the need to keep scanning the Pluto region for more objects that could pose a hazard to New Horizons. “We don’t want our spacecraft running into any debris that’s still hanging around from the massive collision that spawned the formation of Pluto’s smaller satellites,” he says.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Milky Way’s Core Hides Big Twisted Ribbon

A space telescope peering into the Milky Way galaxy’s dusty core has spied a colossal twisted ribbon of supercooled material. Until now astronomers had only seen bits and pieces of the ribbon’s 600-light-year-wide superstructure, which resembles the symbol for infinity: 8. “We have a new and exciting mystery on our hands, right at the center of our own galaxy,” said astronomer Sergio Molinari of the Institute of Space Physics in a press release. Molinari and others describe the strange ribbon in an upcoming Astrophysical Journal Letters study available on

Astronomers previously studied gas-piercing infrared images of the Milky Way’s cloudy barred core, but they didn’t have photos with resolution high enough to discern the ribbon’s entire structure. Molinari and others found the ring by aiming the European Space Agency’s infrared Herschel Space Observatory toward galactic center. The telescope’s images suggest the ring is a chilly 15 degrees Kelvin — warmer regions are blue while cooler regions are red — and has two segments that poke out of the galaxy’s pancake-like plain. Ground-based radio telescope data also hints that the ring is spinning around the core as one cohesive unit. Although astronomers aren’t certain why the two lobes of the ring twist upwards, they suspect the gravitational tug of nearby galaxies — perhaps Andromeda some 2.5 million light-years away — is responsible.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Pluto Has Another Moon, Hubble Photos Reveal

A tiny new moon has been discovered around Pluto, the smallest one in orbit around the dwarf planet, according to astronomers who made the find using the Hubble Space Telescope. The moon, which has been temporarily named P4, was uncovered in a Hubble survey searching for rings around Pluto. The tiny satellite has an estimated diameter of 8 to 21 miles (13 to 34 kilometers). By comparison, Charon, Pluto’s largest moon, is 648 miles (1,043 km) across. Pluto’s other moons, Nix and Hydra, are in the range of 20 to 70 miles across (32 to 113 km).

“I find it remarkable that Hubble’s cameras enabled us to see such a tiny object so clearly from a distance of more than 3 billion miles (5 billion km),” said Mark Showalter of the SETI Institute in Mountain View, Calif., who led this observational survey with Hubble. The new moon is located between the orbits of Nix and Hydra, which Hubble also discovered in 2005. Charon was discovered in 1978 at the U.S. Naval Observatory and was first resolved using Hubble in 1990 as a separate body from Pluto. The finding is a result of ongoing work to support NASA’s New Horizons mission, which is scheduled to fly through the Pluto system in 2015. The mission is designed to provide new insights about worlds at the edge of our solar system. Hubble’s mapping of Pluto’s surface and the discovery of its satellites have been invaluable for planning for New Horizons’ close encounter.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Scientists Sequence Potato DNA

In a DW interview, a Dutch scientist explains the importance of DNA sequencing for potato breeding. He was part of a 14-nation group of experts which has published the genome of the tuber crop potato. The potato is the world’s second largest staple crop, behind rice. Researchers from around the globe are working on sequencing various food products so that they can be bred or engineered to be more nutritious in the future, or can grow better in suboptimal climates. Deutsche Welle spoke with Richard Visser, a plant biologist at Wageningen University and Research Centre in the Netherlands, who participated in the consortium which published the first genetic sequence of a potato in the journal, Nature, earlier this month.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Twin Space Weather Probes Now Studying Moon’s Interior

Two NASA spacecraft that launched on a mission to study space weather are now orbiting the moon, investigating its interior and surface composition. The twin Artemis probes began their journey away from Earth’s orbit in July 2009. The first spacecraft entered lunar orbit on June 27, with the second arrived on July 17, researchers said. The probes will now approach the moon’s surface to within 60 miles (97 kilometers) once per orbit, providing scientists with new information about the moon’s internal structure for the next seven to 10 years.

Artemis will work in tandem with other current missions — such as NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, Ladee (Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer) and Grail (Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory) — to prepare the ground for increased robotic exploration of the moon, researchers have said. Meanwhile, the other three Themis probes are continuing their original science mission, researchers said. The probes’ findings may help protect commercial satellites and humans in space from the adverse effects of particle radiation.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]