Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20111001

Financial Crisis
»Greece: Economic Crisis Also Hits Archaeological Sites
»Italy: Time to Go, Silvio
»Italy: Business Elite Issues Call for Action on Economy
»Schäuble Says Greece Will Need a Decade to Recover, Criticises Italy
»Suffering Portuguese Seek Work in Switzerland
»ARPA-e Attacks Rare Earths, Biofuels in Latest Funding
»Spacex Unveils Plan for World’s First Fully Reusable Rocket
»Super: CCSD Will Take 2nd Look at Mideast Material
»New Mosque Coming to Markham
Europe and the EU
»Cyprus: The Massacre of Migratory Birds
»French Police Stoned and Driven Off While Trying to Book Burka-Wearing Woman
»German Federal Republic Funded Doping Studies Before 1990
»Italian Scientists Help Spot Particles Faster Than Light
»Italian Singles Rising
»Italian Tourists in Split Say They Follow Berlusconi’s Example on Paid Sex
»Italy: Iceman Has Anniversary Bash
»Italy: Pope’s Farm to Host 500 Thousand Bees
»Italy: Berlusconi: ‘We Will Block’ Barbaric Phone-Tapping
»Italy: Pope Calls for ‘Ethical Renewal in Italy’
»Mount Vesuvius Gases Accused of Painting the Town Red
»Netherlands: Single Women Want Their Eggs Frozen
»Pope Asks Milan Not to Lose Sight of God and Faith
»Pope Oversees a Dwindling Church
»Stone-Age Toddlers Had Art Lessons, Study Says
»The Killing of Anwar Al-Awlaki is a Hammer-Blow to Al-Qaeda, And a Reminder of How British Campuses Host Extremists
»UK: ‘If I Was Interested in Money I Could Make a Lot More’: Tony Blair Blasts Accusations of Profiteering Over Phone and Gas Deals
»UK: Ali Dizaei: Unfinished Business
»UK: Assurances Made Over Temporary Mosque Bid
»UK: Black PC Who Used Race Card 14 Times Rebuked by Judge for ‘Unjustified Claims’
»UK: Dizaei to Appeal Against Suspension
»UK: Former Council Leader’s Mosque Offer Sparks Anger
»UK: Police Forced to Give Ali Dizaei His Job Back
»World’s Earliest Christian Engraving Shows Surprising Pagan Elements
»Bosnia: Film Diva Penelope Cruz Arrives in Sarajevo to Play Italian Widow
Mediterranean Union
»Deals Signed Between Tunisia and Sicily Region
North Africa
»Egypt: Muslims Burn Part of Aswan Governorate Church
»Egypt: Muslims Attack Egypt Coptic Church as Sectarian Violence Continues
»Libya: Gaddafi Tanks Camouflaged With Sheepskins
»Muslim Mob Torches Coptic Church in Egypt
»UK Minister: ‘Prepare to Work With Islamists’
Israel and the Palestinians
»PNA Buys Anti-Riot Gear From Israel
Middle East
»Iranian Pastor Sentenced to Death for “Crimes Against National Security”
»Iraq: Three Christians and a Turkman Kidnapped Near Kirkuk
»Qatar Builds Largest Waste Treatment Plant in the Area
»Turkey Compiles List of 174 Responsible for Marmara Clash
»UAE: More Investments Into Renewables
»Book Review: Russia’s Tug-of-War With Its Asian Soul
South Asia
»“High Strangeness” In Afghan Ambush
»Afghanistan Holds Enormous Bounty of Rare Earths, Minerals
»Global Islamic Group Rising in Asia
Far East
»China-Hong Kong: Cardinal Zen: Beijing National Education a Form of “Brainwashing”
Australia — Pacific
»Oz Insect Attempts to Mate With Bottle, Wins Ig Nobel
Sub-Saharan Africa
»French Woman Kidnapped From North Kenyan Coast
Latin America
»Cannibalism Confirmed Among Ancient Mexican Group
»Bosnian Family Earning Over $121,000 on Welfare in Ireland
»Interior Ministry Reports Repatriation of 604 Tunisians
»Revolt Over EU Benefits Diktat: 12 Nations Join UK Fight to Curb Welfare Tourism Free-for-All
»Switzerland: Sommaruga Discusses Migration in Rome
»UK: Banned Activist Sheikh Raed Saleh Wins in Detention Case
»UK: Eleven Foreign Terrorists on the Streets and Not Deported
»UK: Failed Asylum Seeker Strangled and Drowned Bakery Worker Who Refused to Marry Him So He Could Stay in the UK
»UK: Hate Preacher Wins Human Rights Payout… Even Though He Shouldn’t be Here at All
Culture Wars
»Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist — But It’s Not Our Fault: Blame TV and Magazines Instead, Say Scientists
»Serbia: Gay Pride: Mayor of Belgrade Wants it Cancelled
»UK: Fury as Prayers Are Banned at Council Meetings
»UK: Right and Left May Not Matter So Much in the Post-Cold War World. Right and Wrong Do.
»Five Things That Internet Porn Reveals About Our Brains
»Ig Nobel Prizes Honor Wasabi Alarm, Odd Beetle Sex, More
»Meet the Obscure, Useful Metals Lurking in Products All Around You

Financial Crisis

Greece: Economic Crisis Also Hits Archaeological Sites

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, SEPTEMBER 26 — The severe economic crisis that has crippled Greece for the last two years has not spared even the most previous archaeological sites in the country. One of the victims is located in Athens and is the Keramikos cemetery, a small part of the ancient area bearing the same name, one of the most important zones of Athens in ancient times, situated in the northwest part of the capital. In ancient times, as its name suggests, it was an area inhabited by artisans who used to produce terracotta vases and other objects, whose patron was Keramos, the mythological son of Dionysus and Ariadne. The artisans established themselves in the area because of its clay-rich soils well-suited for ceramic production and abundant on the banks of the nearby Eridanos River. This watercourse disappeared centuries ago, covered by many layers of subsequent constructions, and was revealed through excavations conducted in the 1960s. Back in 1300 BC (while some tombs date back to the early Bronze Age, 2700-2000 BC), Keramikos was used as a burial ground and maintained this function until the 4th century AD, turning into the city’s main cemetery. The burial stones of the most important individuals of Athens at the time are found here. According to Ilias Margiolakos, an Archaeology Professor at Athens University, the precious monuments (burial stones, statues, columns and walls) of Keramikos are “bombarded” each year by rain, wind, frost and heat. The result is that the material used to build them is being destroyed. “We must take adequate measures to defend these ancient and precious monuments,” said the professor. “Hopefully — like they are saying at the Antiquities and Fine Arts Office — restoration work on several of these, like the 100m-long wall, will begin soon, before the start of the rainy season.” For nearly a century since exactly 1913, excavations at Keramikos have been conducted by the German Archaeological Institute, which conducts research at other Greek sites, like ancient Olympus. The most recent finds date back to 2003, when several ‘kouros’ (youth) statues were uncovered, as well as two lions and a sphinx. Based on agreement signed with the Greek state, the institute is required to guarantee the preservation and restoration of the monuments. Ultimately, however, it has not been receiving the necessary funds from Berlin and therefore it is not able to honour its agreements. Until now, the outstanding collaboration between Greek and German archaeologists has not resulted in any problems. But the issue was recently discussed by the Archaeology Executive Council. The Antiquities Department for Attica says that “it is doing what it can” for a site that is visited by over 130,000 tourists per year, and says that no systematic restoration has been carried out a Keramikos for years. German archaeologists are defending themselves, explaining that their institute gives them 25,000-30,000 euros per year for Keramikos and also pays a Greek restoration expert who looks after the site’s monuments every day. Evidently, however, these resources are not sufficient.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Time to Go, Silvio

Corriere della Sera, Milan

Following in the footsteps of the international markets and the ratings agencies, the major daily papers in Italy have come to the realisation that the weakness in the credibility of the country and the principle obstacle to its economic recovery is Silvio Berlusconi. Even moderate newspapers, like Corriere della Sera and Il Sole 24 Ore are now demanding his resignation.

Sergio Romano

Ratings agency Standard & Poor’s downgrade of Italy’s credit rating, which is not devoid of political motivation, explicitly refers to the international credibility of the country and the stability of its government. However, I believe that its criticism is mainly based on the fact that Italy has entered into a period of recession and is having to raise taxes to reimburse its debts. Unfortunately, this is a recipe that does not bode well for the future, which will likely be worse than the present.

However, there is judgement of Italy that is even more important: the judgement of its own citizens. Without a doubt, the main problem identified in this judgement is the Prime Minister. For a large number of Italians, Berlusconi represented their hopes for political stability and economic dynamism. Today these hopes have died, crushed by a jumble of broken promises, hitches in implementation, a slew of diverse scandals, inappropriate behaviour and a worrying lack of prudence. Today the main problem for Italy is the end of the Berlusconi era.

Everyone knows — including the close friends of the government leader — that his time has come to an end. Berlusconi will have to leave the stage, but no one yet knows how to turn a new page. Some are hoping that Il Cavaliere’s story will come to a close in court, in the wake of a trial for corruption, fraud and immorality. Others are expecting a decisive message addressed to parliament by Italy’s President Giorgio Napolitano.

However, both of these solutions will only serve to highlight the powerlessness of Italian democracy, and its inability to tackle this issue with the tools of democracy. Yes, Berlusconi has to go, but in a manner that does not undermine the constitution and one that will rescue the aspects of his political adventure that are worth preserving…

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

Italy: Business Elite Issues Call for Action on Economy

Rome, 30 Sept. (AKI) — Italy’s main business lobby Confindustria on Friday unveiled a manifesto backed by Italy’s banking association to re-launch the ailing Italian economy, warning that the country is “running out of time”.

“We’re running out of time, we need courageous reforms, immediately,” said Confindustria’s head Emma Marcegaglia, unveiling the detailed manifesto.

The manifesto identifies taxes, pensions, privatisation, market liberalisation and infrastructure investments as critical areas for action.

Italy’s business elite demanded rapid and bold action by the government to avoid what they called an “ineluctable slide into economic and social decline,” amid fears that debt-laden Italy could follow Greece and be the next victim of the eurozone crisis.

“The situation is complex and worrying. We are ready to play our part, but we need new economic policies, “ said the industry chief.

Marcegaglia stopped short of demanding the resignation of Italy’s 75-year-old prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, however. His government has been widely criticised for its recent austerity budgets seen as heavily reliant on tax hikes and lacking structural reforms and robust measures to boost Italy’s chronically low growth.

Italy is the eurozone’s third largest economy, but is burdened by 1.9 trillion euros of public debt combined with near-zero growth.

“It’s not up to us to tell a government if it must go or what it has to do, but we are at a delicate juncture and there is grave urgency for action,” she said.

Responding to growing calls in Italy for a one-off wealth tax to reduce the public debt which is running at 120 percent of national income, Marcegaglia said Confindustria would support a tax of 0.15 percent on households with net worth of 1.5 million euros or more.

In exchange, taxes on companies and their employees must be lowered, she said.

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

Schäuble Says Greece Will Need a Decade to Recover, Criticises Italy

Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble said he expected Greece would need a decade to get over its debt crisis, and that it was clear there was no way it would return to the capital market in 2012.

“Greek will certainly need a decade rather than a year to return to full competitiveness,” he told weekly business magazine Wirtschaftswoche.

Much depended on the Greeks’ acceptance of harsh economic measures, he said.

“We cannot spare the Greek people the necessary adjustment measures. At the end, the people decide whether they can, and will, take the burden,” he added.

The Greek government was at least clearly in favour of doing all that was necessary to remain within the euro, although this made significant demands of the people, said Schäuble.

“We should have respect for the enormous adjustment burdens which are being demanded from the Greek people. Although it does not always seem to be fair, if one can believe the media reports of yachts in Piraeus or Mykonos and other places.”

He said if Greece was not rescued during the current euro crisis, the European Union itself could collapse.

“There is a real danger that the currency union could fall apart. The EU would lose enormously in terms of political credibility and ability to act in the future,” he told the magazine.

Schäuble also criticised the Italian government for its lack of consistency in the financial crisis and called for it to make more effort to win over the trust of the financial markets.

“Those responsible in Italy — and in all other countries — have to know that it is problematic to announce measures or promises and then not to keep to them. That is no way to win the trust of the financial markets.”

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

Suffering Portuguese Seek Work in Switzerland

The beleaguered Portuguese economy is forcing thousands of nationals to move abroad. Many are seeking work in Switzerland, but have to leave their families back home.

Austerity measures + low wages + recession + unemployment = massive emigration. The Portuguese are all too aware of this painful equation.

“In Portugal I was slowly dying; I had to leave,” explained José Rabacal, who arrived in Gruyère from Portugal last April.

He knows the picturesque western Swiss region well as he worked there for 15 years until 2004. That was when his wife’s uncle offered him a taxi driver job in Moncorvo in northern Portugal.

Rabacal moved back and took out a loan to buy a taxi but things started to go downhill after only two years.

“Many firms began to see their earnings slowly dry up,” said the 46-year-old taxi driver. “What’s more, taxes and the prices of consumer products went up. I lost €200 (SFr244) a month due to the increase in diesel.”

Rabacal’s mortgage shot up, consuming almost half his salary.

“At the end of the month I had nothing left so we stopped going out,” he said. With just €700-1,000 a month the family had to tighten its belt.

“In Portugal they say you need a belt with lots of holes to be able to tighten up even more.”

He finally decided enough was enough. Switzerland offered a better working option — but without his wife and two children.

After six years as a freelance taxi driver he has exchanged his taxi for a delivery van, working for a drinks company in Bulle in canton Fribourg. But he now lives on his own after staying briefly with his brother in Vevey.

With a salary that is “much more than what he earned in Portugal” he plans to stay in Switzerland for as long as necessary to meet his family’s needs.

“I miss them but I am here to ensure my 17-year-old daughter can continue her studies. But I don’t know how long I can last without them,” he said…

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


ARPA-e Attacks Rare Earths, Biofuels in Latest Funding

The new agency aims to re-invent how energy is produced and used

“This is great news for us,” said Jian-Ping Wang, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Minnesota. His $2.5 million proposal under REACT was selected to develop strong magnets without the use of rare earth elements. Currently, the United States imports the majority of its rare earth magnets, most coming from China. These magnets are used in wind turbines and electric vehicle motors. Wang said his research could yield the “holy grail” of magnets, having very high energy density but made with common materials.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

Spacex Unveils Plan for World’s First Fully Reusable Rocket

A reusable rocket and spaceship could open the gates of Mars for humanity, company CEO Elon Musk announced

The private spaceflight firm SpaceX will try to build the world’s first completely reusable rocket and spaceship, a space travel method that could open the gates of Mars for humanity, the company’s milionaire CEO Elon Musk announced Thursday (Sept. 29).

A fully reusable rocket would dramatically decrease the cost of lofting cargo and humans to space, making the exploration and colonization of other worlds such as Mars more feasible, Musk said in a speech at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. Musk did not guarantee success, acknowledging the daunting task his SpaceX team has taken on.

Musk has said repeatedly over the years that he founded SpaceX in 2002 with the primary goal of helping humanity establish a lasting presence beyond Earth. Such expansion is necessary to ensure our species’ survival, according to Musk, since a catastrophic asteroid strike or other calamity could one day wipe out life on our home planet. Mars is a prime candidate for human settlement, and Musk has said he hopes SpaceX can send astronauts to the Red Planet within 10 or 20 years. Colonizing Mars — or any other world — would require ferrying thousands of people and millions of tons of cargo through space. That’s just not feasible with today’s launch costs, Musk has said. But a fully reusable rocket could change the equation dramatically.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

Super: CCSD Will Take 2nd Look at Mideast Material

MARIETTA — Cobb County’s superintendent said there might be some changes system-wide to the curriculum after complaints from the community about Middle Eastern study materials, but also agreed the issue has been blown out of proportion. Cobb parent Hal Medlin complained to the district in late August about a homework assignment sent home with his Campbell middle-school student, saying that it “slanted positively towards Islam.” Dr. Michael Hinojosa said Thursday, “I think that we’ll have to relook at (the curriculum). We don’t need things to be this heated over unintended consequences, so obviously we’ll look at it again and see if there are any changes we need to make.” An unidentified teacher who asked students to outline the pros and cons of school uniforms assigned the homework. The material used for the comparison was a fictitious letter from a woman who is explaining why she is “proud and happy” to be Muslim and a list of seven conditions for women’s dress in Islam. When asked the appropriateness of the material, Hinojosa said that the district likes to give teachers autonomy when given supplemental materials approved by the state. “We feel that if they’re provided by the state, they ought to be pretty legitimate,” he said, adding that he was surprised by Georgia superintendent Dr. John Barge’s statement in Thursday’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution saying that he didn’t agree with the lesson. “Someone has to vet those, if they put them in the hands of our schools. … We don’t want to tell the teachers yes or no,” Hinojosa said. “We leave that up to the teachers and the principals to handle that.” Hinojosa did say that he thinks the issue has been blown out of proportion. “I’m glad it was brought to our attention because we always want to address concerns, even if it is just one parent who has the concern. On an issue like this one, the amount of media coverage isn’t consistent with the level of public interest,” he said. “Fewer than 10 people in total have contacted me about this, two from different countries, others from out of state — and one of them was to thank us. I think most people in our community saw right away that the issue was raised and it was handled, so let’s move on.” Following board approval, if a parent objects to a textbook or some material used in a classroom, a parent/guardian can ask for a “re-review” of the material by the curriculum review committee by submitting form IJK-3, which can be downloaded from the district’s website

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]


New Mosque Coming to Markham

Hello Islamic mosque, bye-bye Taoist temple? A Taj Mahal-like mosque is in the works for Markham’s 16th Avenue after the town’s development services committee gave the project a green light Tuesday. The proposal from the Islamic Society of Markham is to build a 28,000-sq. ft. mosque just east of St. Brother Andre Catholic School. The mosque will accommodate more than 500 worshippers and will include 188 parking spaces. It measures 34 feet in height for the main building, 70 feet for the top of the dome and 135 feet for the minaret (the tall spire).

The overall design of the mosque was well received by town councillors. “It resembles the Taj Mahal in India,” said Regional Councillor Joe Li. The mosque, estimated to cost between $6.5 million to $7 million, will be the second in Markham after the Islamic Society’s Jam’e Masjid on Denison Street, said Shafique Malik, president of the Islamic Society. Mr. Malik said the new mosque is needed because the current one is at capacity with about 400 members and because more Muslims are living in northern Markham. He said a group of about 50 regulars has been gathering for daily prayers at Markham Museum for the last two years.

“All the Muslims in Markham should be very excited about this, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build a mosque,” Mr. Malik said. “It’s a big achievement for the community. It’s in the middle, a historic area of the town.” Mr. Malik said while there are concerns about potential traffic congestion and future parking overflow during big events like Ramadan, a new traffic light has been proposed to be erected at 16th Avenue and Williamson Road and the Catholic school has agreed to help accommodate parking if there is overflow. Mr. Malik said they have been renting the school space for various events and that they have a good relationship with the Catholic school board.

Meanwhile, during the same meeting, an award-winning architect’s design of a proposed Taoist temple in Markham was ruled out of character with the community by town councillors. The contentious proposal three years in the making had from the outset drew opposition from the public largely because it would also offer Taoist tai chi classes as part of the religion. While that issue is still a concern for some, the application to build the Fung Loy Kok Institute of Taoism on Steeles Avenue between Bayview Avenue and Leslie Street was rejected in a 11-2 vote based on a built form that many residents say is incompatible with the neighbouring residential area.

Designed by Brigitte Shim of Shim-Sutcliffe Architects in Toronto, the elevated one-storey, flat-roof temple measures less than 3,500 sq. ft. in size and 26 feet in height. The cantilevered (fixed end beam) building is supported by seven sets of columns to allow for 30 parking spaces and circulation beneath the structure. “We see this as a sacred space, a place for worship in a neighbourhood,” said Ms Shim, who has been on the University of Toronto’s architecture, landscape, and design faculty since 1988. As an architect, Steeles Avenue is a neighbourhood in transition … this project is oriented to Steeles Avenue, it does not impact the residential neighbourhood,” Ms Shim added. She said three years for this scale of project is “really unbelievable”.

While the town’s development services commissioner Jim Baird has indicated the proposed form is in compliance with the existing building setbacks, height, lot coverage standards of the residential zoning and that there are several examples of other modernistic buildings in the community, many believe a building “on stilts” doesn’t fit in to a residential area.

“Many residents feel it’s a square pig in a round hole, that they are trying to squeeze parking underneath,” said Thornhill Ward 1 Councillor Valerie Burke, who moved to deny the application and was seconded by Thornhill Ward 2 Councillor Howard Shore. Ms Burke said most residents are not convinced there won’t be traffic overflow on their streets.

But Adam Brown, the applicant’s lawyer, argued that just because people don’t appreciate the architectural design doesn’t mean it isn’t compatible. Plus, cantilevers aren’t stilts, said Chris Farano of Fung Loy Kok Institute. “Built form, to us, is irrelevant here,” Mr. Farano said. “They don’t want us there.” Asked why they wouldn’t consider relocating the project elsewhere in Thornhill or Markham — something Mayor Frank Scarpitti hoped the applicant would agree to — Mr. Farano said it’s about a point of principle for Fung Loy Kok. “If we are out of sight, we are out of mind,” he said. “It’s a classic case of nimbyism.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Cyprus: The Massacre of Migratory Birds

(ANSA) — NICOSIA, SEPTEMBER — At least 400,000 small migratory birds (mostly blackcaps, chaffinches, robins, but also hoopoes and streaked fantail warblers) were illegally killed in Cyprus during the first two weeks of September, in order to be cooked as delicacies in the island’s restaurants at prices rocketing to up 80 euros for a portion of 12 birds. This cruel habit has already generated an illegal market worth millions of euros every year, but also an environmental disaster which neither Europe nor the local government seem to be willing to stop. This bloodshed of nearly biblical scale (last year, the number of “victims” was estimated at 1,400,000) was exposed once again by Martin Hellicar, the head of Cyprus environmental protection organization “BirdLife Cyprus”. The environmental protection organization has just published its last report, written jointly with the Royal Society for the Protection of birds. The report was, as usual, sent to the Council of Europe Environment Committee, to the European Commission and to the Government of Cyprus. (The report can be found on the website: Migrating birds fly over Cyprus twice a year (between March and April and between August and September). Hunting them is officially forbidden by law but poachers (who are mainly hunters and previous offenders) can act undisturbed, using large, thinly-knitted nets placed on trees or sticks or branches soaked in sticky liquid and hidden in bushes. These cruel devices cause the birds’ slow death: the bird is caught in the net and dies of either thirst of starvation. These birds are known in Greek-Cypriot kitchen as “ambelopoulia” (little wine-yard birds); they are one of the island’s most controversial traditional dishes. Theoretically, this food is forbidden by law; actually, local authorities tend to pretend not to see when it comes to the little birds. The birds are usually fried and eaten as finger food or wrapped in grape leaves and then kept in vinegar to be eaten later on. Some even maintain that “ambelopoulia” is an aphrodisiac, although this was never proved. “These levels of poaching-Hellicar maintains-are indeed an environmental disaster, because in order to provide the illegal ambelopoulia market with birds, hunting is carried out indiscriminately on a vast scale”. BirdLife Cyprus activists have found birds of 122 species (58 of them are in European and international lists of endangered species) caught in the sticky nets and tree-branches of Greek-Cypriot poachers. The poacher gets 3-4 euros per bird; however, many caught birds are not even edible, so they are simply thrown away. Ambelopoulia lovers maintain that this dish is one of the most ancient Cypriot traditions and must not disappear. However, as stated by the Under Secretary of the Justice Ministry Petros Kareklas , “In the past this used to be a mean of support for Cypriot families.

Today, it is only a huge illegal market”. Last July, the European Conference on Illegal Killing of Birds was organized-not by chance-in the city of Larnaca. More than 100 experts from several European countries took part in it. The works were closed by the request of “zero-tolerance” for poaching and an appeal to all European and local competent authorities to act in order to put an end to the massacre.

Unfortunately, according to figures just provided by BirdLife Cyprus, no one seems to get the message.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

French Police Stoned and Driven Off While Trying to Book Burka-Wearing Woman

Earlier in the week I posted about an incident in Belgium in which two police officers were attacked by a man while they tried to book his wife for wearing a burka. Now we have a similar but even more disturbing incident from Lyon in France.

Delicate situation on Friday evening for the police in Vaulx-en-Velin [suburb of Lyon]. Around 7.30 pm, on Corbusier Way, they see a woman wearing a burka, accompanied by her children. The team heads towards her to record the offence, and asks for her papers. Problem: the woman has to take her veil off for her identity to be confirmed. Not necessarily simple to do in the open street in districts where the police are not well regarded by certain people.

The woman, aged 34, lives close by and refuses all proposals: identification by a police woman in the street or in the police station, located just a bit further away. She makes hostile remarks, declares firmly that she doesn’t give a damn about the law on burka-wearing, adopted last April. In situations like that, time is against the police. Bit by bit, the inhabitants encircle the small group. There are soon several dozen of them. The woman harangues them, demanding that they help her. Tension mounts rapidly, and the first stones, or other projectiles, start to fly.

Before the check turns definitively into a riot, the police prefer to withdraw. While handing the woman a summons to appear at the police station. During the incident, fortunately, no public official was injured.

The woman should have presented herself at the police station this morning. She didn’t come. The prosecutor has now decided to send her directly in front of the police tribunal.

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

German Federal Republic Funded Doping Studies Before 1990

(AGI) Berlin — The German Federal Republic funded research on doping substances for sport using state funds until the fall of the Berlin Wall. The German weekly “Der Spiegal” has published the results of research carried out by two historians from the universities of Berlin and Munster, revealing that the Interior Ministry in Bonn had issued a directive ordering that all means should be used to win medals at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games .

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

Italian Scientists Help Spot Particles Faster Than Light

Discovery challenges fundamental law of physics

(ANSA) — Rome, September 23 — Italians are among the group of international scientists who recorded neutrino particles travelling faster than the speed of light, researchers said Thursday.

In what appears to be a contradiction of one of the fundamental laws of physics, measurements over a three-year period showed neutrinos moving 60 nanoseconds faster than the speed of light over a 730-kilometer distance between Geneva and the Gran Sasso underground particle physics laboratory in Abruzzo.

“We were convinced we would find negative results,” said Antonio Ereditato, coordinator of the team of international scientists who made the discovery. “To find out that was not the case was a huge surprise”.

Ereditato, from Naples, said his team was confident in the results but needed more experts from the scientific community to weigh in.

If confirmed, the finding would call into question a central thesis of Albert Einstein’s 1905 theory of special relativity which says that nothing in the universe can travel faster than the speed of light.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italian Singles Rising

Up 39% from 2000 to 2010 says CENSIS

(ANSA) — Rome, September 23 — The number of single Italians of all ages rose by 39% in the ten years from 2000 to 2010, research institute CENSIS said Friday.

The number of couples with children fell by more than 7% over the decade, said CENSIS President Giuseppe De Rita.

Almost seven million Italians live alone, or 13.6% of the population over the age of 15. Of these, almost two million are aged between 15 and 45, 1.7 million 45-64 and 3.3 million 65 or over.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italian Tourists in Split Say They Follow Berlusconi’s Example on Paid Sex

Italian tourists in Croatia were trying to use their Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi as their example, when explaining to police in the Adriatic port of Split why they were aiming to use the service of prostitutes.

Three tourists from Ancona, Italy, were detained in Split after police found them trying to pay three prostitutes from Romania.

“What’s wrong with it? That’s what our Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi does,” the Italians explained to the investigative judge, news website Index has reported.

According to the same source the Italians had not had sex with the prostitutes as their pimp first wanted 500 Euros and then the Italians realised the pimp had taken the girls’ passports. The Italians allegedly wanted to save the prostitutes from the organised prostitution ring and brought them to the police station.

The pimp was soon arrested too.

The Italians in the end became only witnesses in the case.

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

Italy: Iceman Has Anniversary Bash

Kids play with prehistoric bows, visitors eat ‘Neolithic’ food

(ANSA) — Bolzano, September 20 — Italy’s famed Iceman mummy had an anniversary bash this week as his purpose-built museum celebrated 20 years since two German tourists spotted him peeping out of a northern Italian glacier.

“Oetzi has been great for us, the city and tourism in the entire region,” South Tyrol Archaeology Museum Director Angelika Fleckinger said after the Copper Age man, 2,000 years older than Tutankhamen, welcomed kids to play with prehistoric bows and arrows and offered ‘Neolithic’ food for visitors.

An ongoing row over whether to turn on an expensive new liquid-nitrogen-fed chamber for the mummy slightly dampened the fun at the foot of the Similaun glacier.

Researchers are unsure whether some bugs recently found on his body are able to survive without oxygen and thus might thrive on the new system, which is similar to those used in the Royal Chamber in Cairo and to preserve the original copy of the US Constitution.

So the new refrigerated locker, commissioned in 2007 and costing 80,000 euros, is still waiting to be turned on. But the anniversary celebrations still had a special resonance for Fleckinger.

“Sometimes I think it is so strange. He died 5,000 years ago yet this person, this Iceman, has become an important part of my life”.

Forensic science has made great strides since the Iceman was found in the Oetzal Alps — hence his name, Oetzi — by a couple of German hikers on September 19, 1991.

“We know so much about him, that he had blue eyes and a few diseases, was getting on a bit at 46, and died from an arrow wound.

“But we will maybe never know what really happened in the last hours and minutes of his life”.

The Iceman may still be something of a mystery but his generosity to his adoptive home town is no secret.

According to the most recent figures, the refrigerated man earns a total of four million euros each year for restaurants, hotels and souvenir-sellers, Fleckinger said.

Year round, except for Christmas Day, New Year’s Day and May Day, he also raises 3.5 million in ticket fees at the restructured bank that houses him.

That means he pays about half of the Bolzano Archaeological Museum’s costs, drawing in over one thousand people a day.

This compares to the average of 15% which other Italian museums defray out of visitors’ pockets.

The Iceman’s status as a global star — even Brad Pitt is rumoured to have a tattoo of him — is reflected by the 26 documentaries made about him by the world’s TV companies.

He is perhaps the world’s most famous mummy outside Egypt.

The body, which dates back to 3000 BC, has spawned a global cottage industry of studies.

There have been discoveries about what he ate and what illnesses he suffered from, as well as a keen debate on how he died from the arrow wound found in his body — initially, it was thought, in a fight with rival hunters.

One theory says he was assassinated in a tribal power struggle.

Another suggested he was the victim of ritual sacrifice.

Another study — fiercely contested by patriotic residents of this formerly Austrian region who see Oetzi as their proud forefather — reckons he was cast out from his community because a low sperm count rendered him childless.

An eerie aura has also grown around the Iceman because of the allegedly mysterious deaths of seven people who came into contact with him soon after he was found.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Pope’s Farm to Host 500 Thousand Bees

(AGI) Rome — The Italian farmers’ association, Coldiretti, gave the Pope a beehive with eight honeycombs and 500 thousand bees to ensure pollination and the production of honey on the “pontifical farm”. Coldiretti president, Sergio Marini, together with other members of the association brought the Holy Father the gift on the occasion of the Day for Safeguarding Creation in Castel Gandolfo.

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

Italy: Berlusconi: ‘We Will Block’ Barbaric Phone-Tapping

(AGI) Rome — The limit has been reached and surpassed as well.

That is enough, we will block the abuse of phone-tapping.

Silvio Beruluscooni, speaking with a number of PDL representatives at the close of voting in the Lower House, has repeated his opinions with regards to wire-taps and their distribution, calling current events (according to the same sources) acts of barbarism which must be halted. Afterwards, commenting on several of his phone conversations reported in the press, the PM minimized. “I like to joke, as I did when I said I was Prime Minister in my spare time…But if I work all day and only sleep 3-4 hours a night,” his listeners repeated, “does it seem truly possible that I do it part time?” .

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

Italy: Pope Calls for ‘Ethical Renewal in Italy’

Plea resonates amid Berlusconi sex scandals

(ANSA) — Rome, September 22 — Pope Benedict XVI called for an “ethical renewal” for the good of Italy as Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi confronts mounting scandals including sex with a minor, prostitutes and showgirls.

“I hope for an ever-more intense ethical renewal for the good of beloved Italy,” said the pontiff in a telegram to Italian President Giorgio Napolitano ahead of a visit to his native Germany.

While the pope’s wish was adressed to “all Italian people,” his comments resonated amid Berlusconi’s judicial woes including alleged sex with an underaged prostitute and a potentially embarrassing stream of wiretapped conversations with a southern Italian businessman who allegedly acted as a pimp for him.

In one recording, 74-year-old Berlusconi allegedly brags about “doing eight girls” in one night.

Berlusconi’s boastings of lavish trysts has fueled a growing anger among some Italians who perceive the political class as corrupt and unwilling to share in sacrifices as average citizens bear the brunt of austerity measures meant to stave off a Greek-style economic collapse.

The pope made similar pleas in January when Milan prosecutors first announced they were investigating allegations Berlusconi paid to have sex with a Moroccan belly dancer who goes by the name of Ruby and was 17 at the time of her alleged relations with the premier.

“Society and public institutions should rediscover their soul, their spiritual and moral roots,” said the pontiff.

The Vatican is currently battling accusations of moral failing itself.

Last week, a coalition representing the victims of clerical sex abuse asked the International Criminal Court in the Hague to investigate Pope Benedict XVI and three top cardinals for what the group called “widespread and systematic torture, rape and sexual violence committed by priests and others associated with the Catholic Church”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Mount Vesuvius Gases Accused of Painting the Town Red

Many of the well-known red frescoes in Pompeii were once yellow, according to a new study conducted by Italy’s National Institute of Optics. “I am always a bit suspicious of these claims. We know that some of the red was once yellow, but I’m not sure that we can be certain about the proportions. What is certainly true, though, is that the heat had some effect on the colors: it’s another case in which we can see that Pompeii was not the time capsule we sometimes imagine it to be,” cautioned Mary Beard of Cambridge University.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Single Women Want Their Eggs Frozen

Having eggs frozen is particularly popular with single women, according to figures released on Thursday by Amsterdam’s Academic Medical Centre.

It has been possible to have eggs frozen for social reasons since April and 97 women have applied, 92 of them without a partner.

‘They are mainly well-educated women with a career,’ fertility professor Fulco van der Veen told the Volkskrant. ‘But almost without exception their reason is that they are single and the clock is ticking.’

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

Pope Asks Milan Not to Lose Sight of God and Faith

(AGI) Castelgandolfo — At the ceremony held this morning in the chapel of the private apartment at the Pontifical Palace in Castel Gandolfo, for the imposition of the pallium on Cardinal Angelo Scola, archbishop of the metropolis of Milan, His Holiness Benedict XVI asked the industrial and economic capital not to lose sight of God and the values of faith. The Osservatore Romano reported that the Pope explained that daily and material things are not good unless penetrated by the light of God, and that Milan must feel responsible for this task and not lose sight of Jesus Christ .

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

Pope Oversees a Dwindling Church

Tygodnik Powszechny , 22 September 2011

“The Church dies in Europe,” headlines Tygodnik Powszechny on the occasion of Benedict XVI’s visit to Germany starting September 22. Statistics published by the German episcopate tell it all: in 2010 over 180,000 Germans left the Church while only 170,000 were baptised. Also, the number of vocations has been dwindling: in 2009, 120 candidates entered the seminary; a year later there were just 79 of them. Similar trends are observed in countries like Spain or Ireland, once considered Europe’s Catholic vanguard. “Less churchgoers, less vocations, less support for the Christian ethic, less Vatican authority”, writes the Polish Catholic journal, noting that sex abuse scandals have “swept away the Irish Church” and made many people turn their back on the Catholic Church. “Churches of the Old Continent should get used to the fact that the age of the masses is over and they will not, hand in hand with the rulers, convert and baptise the crowd”, observes priest and theologian Paul M. Zulehner.

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

Stone-Age Toddlers Had Art Lessons, Study Says

Research on Dordogne cave art shows children learned to finger-paint in palaeolithic age, approximately 13,000 years ago

A gallery in France’s Cave of a Hundred Mammoths seems to have been set aside as a place for palaeolithic children to practice finger fluting, or creating decorations in soft clay with their fingers. “It shows collaboration between children and adults, and adults encouraging children to make these marks. This was a communal activity,” said Jessica Cooney of Cambridge University.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

The Killing of Anwar Al-Awlaki is a Hammer-Blow to Al-Qaeda, And a Reminder of How British Campuses Host Extremists

Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born al-Qaeda cleric, has just been killed in Yemen, according to both Yemeni defence ministry and US officials. This represents the harshest blow to al-Qaeda’s global movement since the assassination of Osama bin Laden in May. Although not a military strategist or commander of Bin Laden’s stature, Awlaki’s importance as a charismatic “procurement agent” for al-Qaeda, and as an ideologue for global jihadism, can be seen in his influence of several infamous lone wolf terrorists. These include Nidal Malk Hassan, the US army major who murdered 13 of his fellow soliders and wounded 29 others at the Ford Hood military installation in late 2009; Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian UCL graduate who tried to detonate a bomb woven into his underwear on a Detroit-bound airliner two Christmases ago, and Faisal Shahzad, the abortive Times Square bomber.

Everything you need to know about Awlaki’s particular brand of violent Salafism, and his role as an online procurer of disaffected Muslims, is contained in a brilliant new report by Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens, a research fellow at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation at King’s College London. Awlaki began advocating jihad in Chechnya in the mid-90s as a young imam in Denver. He was a suspect in two FBI investigations before 9/11, including one that ended in March 2000, after Awlaki was thought to have had contact with two of the future 9/11 hijackers, Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar. Nevertheless, he hung around the US, preaching at the Dar al-Hijrah mosque in Falls Church, Virginia, where he met a third hijacker, Hani Hanjour. He was arrested twice in 1996 and 1997 for the solicitation of prostitutes (if anything remains of Awlaki’s hard drive, my guess is his porn stash will rival that of the self-abusers of Abbottabad).

And like many jihadists, Awlaki spent some time in London, brought here by various Islamic groups and NGOs. As Meleagrou-Hitchens notes:

In 2002, Awlaki moved to the UK where, along with JIMAS [then a Salafist group that has since undergone somewhat moderate reforms], his patrons were leading Muslim Brotherhood-aligned organisations such as the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB) and the Federation of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS). Throughout June 2003, they toured him around the country to give lectures to Muslims on subjects ranging from the war on Islam and Muslims to the role of Muslims in the local community. On 18 June in London, he spoke at an event held in conjunction with the MAB and the Islamic societies of four of the city’s main universities, a further reflection of his popularity among young Western Muslims. At the University of Aston in Birmingham four days later, his entire talk was in praise of a number of leading Islamist ideologues, including Muslim Brotherhood founder Hasan al-Banna and ‘Umm Jihad’ (mother of jihad) Zaynab al-Ghazali, who were both described as ‘saviours of the Islamic spirit.’

Specifically, Awlaki was hosted at FOSIS’s annual conference at Camden Centre in June 2003. He was presented as a “distinguished guest.” (Perhaps this is why the Home Office’s recent Prevent Review and Strategy judged that “FOSIS has not always fully challenged terrorist and extremist ideology within the higher and further education sectors.”)

A few months later, in December 2003, Awlaki turned up at the East London Mosque (ELM) in Tower Hamlets to participate in its “Stop Police Terror” event. He exhorted the congregation not to cooperate with the authorities’ counterterrorism investigations. “A Muslim is a brother of a Muslim,” he said, “he does not oppress him, he does not betray him and he does not hand him over… You don’t hand over a Muslim to the enemies…”

That was the first of two events involving Awlaki at the ELM. The second was a video message he delivered in January 2009 — by which time he’d reportedly emigrated to Yemen — for the mosque’s “The End of Time” event (here’s a poster for that eschatological confab), by which time his views on supporting violent jihad were widely known. The Telegraph reported his scheduled appearance before it took place but the ELM decided to host him anyway. The mosque issued a statement: “Mr Awlaki has not been proven guilty in a court of law. Everyone is entitled to their point of view… The subject matter is about judgement and the afterlife, a common theme in many religions.”

By February 2009, Awlaki had published a pamphlet titled “44 Ways to Support Jihad,” in which he wrote: “Preparing for Jihad is obligatory… Arms training is an essential part of preparation for Jihad.” No matter. He was slated to address City University ISOC’s annual dinner on 1 April 2009, an appearance that was ultimately cancelled after the counter-extremism think tank, the Centre for Social Cohesion (now part of the Henry Jackson Society), protested. Then, in August 2009, Awlaki was meant to give yet another video lecture at Kensington and Chelsea Town Hall, this one organised by Moazzam Begg’s Cageprisoners group for its “Beyond Guantanamo” dinner. Another pressure campaign scotched that appearance as well, although City’s ISOC went ahead and posted Awlaki’s prerecorded audio message on its website.

In January 2009, shortly after the thwarted Underpants Bomber plot, President Obama issued a “kill or capture” order against Awlaki, signalling his importance to the War on Terror.

Now might be a good time to inquire of FOSIS and ELM if they still find the late, unlamented cleric acceptable company.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: ‘If I Was Interested in Money I Could Make a Lot More’: Tony Blair Blasts Accusations of Profiteering Over Phone and Gas Deals

Tony Blair has boasted he could cash in and reap even more millions than he already makes.

He claimed he could earn more money and have a ‘very gentle and easy life’ to boot, if he only concentrated on maximising his wealth.

Mr Blair is estimated to have made between £20million and £60million since leaving Downing Street in 2007 by exploiting his fame with business ventures.

His roles include advising U.S. investment bank JP Morgan bank — for £2?million a year — and setting up his own consultancy firm.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

UK: Ali Dizaei: Unfinished Business

He’s the police chief who created turmoil at the Met and whose own career appeared to be in ruins. But could he rise again? By Paul Peachey

Four days after he took on the toughest job in British policing, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe has been confronted with a saga that encapsulates all the controversies of his new force’s recent past. It includes allegations of corruption, racism, and phone hacking — all rolled into the controversial 25-year career of one burly, Iranian-born officer. Ali Dizaei is the one-time senior Met Police officer who in 2010 was jailed, and sacked, after being convicted for corruption offences. On appeal, his conviction was quashed in May this year, and yesterday he won his claim to be reinstated to the force. But his employers are unlikely to be brushing down the mat for his return to Scotland Yard soon. Mr Dizaei still faces a retrial next year, and the Metropolitan Police Authority confirmed in a statement last night that he would be suspended on full pay.

It marks another turbulent moment in the career of the man who has been the subject of investigations that have cost millions of pounds. And for the Met, it is another reminder of the difficult issues that Mr Hogan-Howe will have to tackle as he works towards his stated aim of making the Met “the best police service in the world” and that he would “lead a service that criminals will fear and staff will be proud to work for”.

Ali Dizaei, 49, was born in Iran, where his father and other relatives served in the police. He moved to Britain in 1973 where he was privately educated, trained as a barrister and also studied for a PhD in his spare time. After joining Thames Valley Police, the ambitious and confident young policeman rose swiftly through the ranks until 13 years later he moved to the Met as a superintendent. At one point he was tipped as a possible chief constable. It was a difficult time at his new force. He joined in the same year, 1999, in which the Met was having to deal with the damning conclusions of the Macpherson report into the racist killing of Stephen Lawrence and about how Scotland Yard had handled the investigation. Mr Dizaei became one of the force’s most outspoken critics about the way race issues were handled within the service.

His upward rise stalled dramatically when he became the target of a wide-ranging corruption investigation over several years, which led to his suspension in 2001. At the time he was legal adviser to the National Black Police Association (for which he was later its leader). During the operation — codenamed Helios — an eight-man surveillance team tapped his phones and kept him under surveillance. He was investigated for a series of false claims including that he used cocaine and prostitutes, had corrupt links with criminals, and even that he spied for the Iranians.

They resulted in two criminal cases — one for perverting the course of justice after he lied about where he put his car when it was vandalised and for which he was cleared by a jury. The prosecution dropped charges in another case of alleged fiddled expenses amounting to a few hundred pounds when it heard he was owed several thousand pounds in unclaimed expenses. He did not stint on his criticism of the investigation after it was over. “I would not like this episode to be seen as a poor reflection on the Metropolitan Police Service nor the Crown Prosecution Service,” he said at the time. “But rather, as an indictment on a number of individuals in those two organisations who have set out on a personal crusade to try to destroy my life and my career.”

He was reinstated to the police force and received a compensation pay-off, despite censure for making threatening phone calls to a former girlfriend. After the deal, brokered by the conciliation service Acas, the former commissioner Sir John Stevens told an audience that included Mr Dizaei that he admired him for admitting his mistakes, according to The Guardian. “It’s a complete victory for me,” the newspaper reported Mr Dizaei saying at the time. “A year ago, I was an alleged terrorist and now I’m back in uniform with my integrity intact.” But he admitted that he might suffer a backlash from his colleagues. There were suggestions that he was disliked by some colleagues because of his flashy dress sense and his criticisms of the force.

An indication of that level of estrangement was made clear in a book about his ordeal that he co-wrote and published in 2007 — to the apparent anger of the force. The cover shows him in Dixon of Dock Green pose: arms crossed, uniformed and unsmiling, looking up at a traditional Metropolitan Police blue lamp. But the title — Not One of Us — spoke to his apparent outsider status — along with its racy story “told by the only man who knows the whole truth, of the rise and fall of the out-of-control coppers who tried to destroy him and how Dizaei refused to be beaten”, according to the publisher’s synopsis, which concluded that “he’s now back where he wants to be most: doing his job as a serving police officer”.

Controversy continued to swirl around him. He was now a commander but became a central figure in a further race discrimination saga that engulfed the Met in the summer of 2008. He gave strong backing to the highest-ranking Asian officer, Tarique Ghaffur, who made public accusations of racism against the force’s leadership. Mr Dizaei also faced other investigations, including by the Independent Police Complaints Commission over the alleged unauthorised use of a corporate credit card. After an investigation lasting more than a year, he was cleared.

Yet it was a clash in 2008 with a man who claimed that Mr Dizaei had not paid him for work on a personal website that led to a conviction and seemed to have permanently damaged his career. He was jailed for four years in 2010 after he was found guilty of trying to frame the designer. Mr Dizaei claimed that his he had been attacked and the designer spent a day inside a cell and six weeks on bail before the Met decided not to press charges. It seemed that Mr Dizaei’s career was over. He was first taken to a category A prison at Wandsworth before being moved to other prisons. He described prison life as like “putting a hand in a wasps’ nest” because he had to spend time with the type of people he had been trying to put behind bars during his working life.

Little more than a year later, after an appeal he was free. Though the court of appeal ruled that he should face a retrial early next year accused of misconduct in a public office and perverting the course of justice, he vowed that he would clear his name and go back to the Metropolitan Police. Yesterday, as he inched towards his stated goal, he made a similar pledge. “I am delighted to be reinstated. I have always wanted to be a Met Police officer and now vow to clear my name.” He remains in the public spotlight. He even had a part to play in the hacking scandal that contributed to the departure of Mr Hogan-Howe’s predecessor, Sir Paul Stephenson. Mr Dizaei said that he had been “shocked” after learning that he could have been a victim of phone hacking by the News of the World in 2006, according to his lawyers, and he threatened to sue. Whether he would ever be welcomed back by his colleagues is highly questionable. “We just want to see the back of him. Nobody wants him back,” said one police source. “I feel sorry for Bernard Hogan-Howe, just a few days into the job and it’s not something he’d want to be dealing with.”

A Life In Brief

Born: Jamshid Ali Dizaei, 1962, Tehran, Iran.

Family: Married Natalie Downing in 1986. Three sons. Divorced in 2005. Married again in 2007.

Education: Attended Slindon School, Arundel, City University and Brunel University.

Career: Joined Thames Valley Police in 1986. In 1999, transferred to Metropolitan Police. In February 2010 jailed for four years for perverting the course of justice. In May 2011 conviction quashed on appeal. He says: “I am delighted to be reinstated. I have always wanted to be a Met Police officer and now vow to clear my name.” They say: “He was an undoubted champion for racial equality, but his approach was sometimes aggressive.” Brian Paddick, former Deputy Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Assurances Made Over Temporary Mosque Bid

A MUSLIM leader has appealed to skeptical residents to support a bid for his congregation to use a youth centre as a short-term base. The religious group has put in a planning application to use Langley Green Youth Centre on Lark Rise as a temporary home whilst its London Road mosque is being demolished and rebuilt. But deep concerns were expressed over access and parking on Lark Rise and more than 200 people have signed a petition opposing the application.

Farakh Jamal, of Crawley Islamic Culture Centre and Masjid (CICCM), made a series of assurances during a meeting at the Langley Green Centre on Thursday (September 22).

He said: “I’m born and bred in Crawley. I’m part of the community and I’ve never seen myself myself as any different from anyone else. Though we have different beliefs, cultures and views it doesn’t mean as a community we’re different. “All Crawley Islamic Centre is asking for is a helping hand while the building of our mosque is taking place. We do not want to cause any problems. We’ve thought about the implications and have been very mindful of the community.” He said the majority of the congregation would walk to prayers and traffic marshals would deal with busy periods such as Friday afternoon prayers. He also insisted the congregation’s residence at the youth centre would last no longer than 18 months and pledged to keep lines of communication open with the wider community.

But residents remain anxious that the arrival of worshipers and children for religious evening classes will worsen congestion issues on Lark Rise. Peter Brent, of Lark Rise, said: “There are a lot of young children who use the grass area to play so there is a risk to them.” Clive, of Lark Rise, said: “My biggest concern is the access back and forth. Whenever there’s a party access becomes a nightmare.” Dianne, whose mother lives on Lark Rise, said: “What if there’s an emergency with my 90-year-old mother and we can’t get down the road?” Another Lark Rise resident asked: “If there are more cars than anticipated where are they going to go? How am I going to go into my road?” The application for temporary change of use of the youth centre will go before Crawley Borough Council’s development control committee on …

Organiser David Shreeves, Labour borough councillor for Langley Green, said before the meeting: “There have been a lot of misconceptions and Chinese whispers has played a big part in this. I thought it would be good to get round the table and trash out why the mosque needs to move and why they need e temporary home.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Black PC Who Used Race Card 14 Times Rebuked by Judge for ‘Unjustified Claims’

A police officer who repeatedly accused colleagues of racism has been rebuked by a judge for his ‘unjustified’ claims.

PC Peter Vince-Lindsay brought 14 allegations of discrimination against British Transport Police, including claiming that, because he was black, officers failed to back him up quickly enough when he was hit with snowballs.

He also argued that they deliberately excluded him from a meal in a busy food tent while on duty at Henley Regatta…

Passing judgement and ordering the officer to pay £2,500 costs, tribunal chairman Gordon Etherington said: ‘We have decided the claimant should have known this case was entirely misconceived and not a case that should have been brought before us.’

Adam Ohringer, for BTP, said: ‘He held an axe over the career of the officers and what is more he knew what he was doing. His case never got off the ground.’

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

UK: Dizaei to Appeal Against Suspension

Scotland Yard Commander Ali Dizaei has said he will appeal against his suspension by the Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA). Mr Dizaei, who is facing a retrial for corruption, was suspended on full pay on Friday night within hours of the disclosure that he had been reinstated to the force. The 49-year-old, who walked free from jail in May after his conviction was quashed, will receive his salary of around £90,000 before standing trial again early next year. Mr Dizaei told BBC Radio 4 he would be appealing against the suspension, saying: “Yes I am, I think out of principle. I think your ordinary citizen will say a person is being paid a pay package he should earn and work for that money. There are plenty of jobs I could be doing to earn the money I am being paid without interfering with frontline policing.”

He accused long-standing members of the MPA of being suspicious of non-white officers in senior positions at the Met. “I think you need to distinguish the difference between the Met and the police authority,” he said. “I think there is an attitude within the police authority and particularly among some of the individuals who have been there for a very long time, the last 10 years, who simply say we do have a suspicion around senior ethnic minority officers.” Mr Dizaei is due to stand trial again early next year accused of misconduct in a public office and perverting the course of justice. He launched a bid to get his job back after he was let out of Leyhill open prison when Lord Justice Hughes and two other judges said the Court of Appeal had been “driven to the conclusion” that his conviction “cannot be regarded as safe”.

[JP note; In/out like a fiddler’s elbow.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Former Council Leader’s Mosque Offer Sparks Anger

Furious residents are accusing former council leader Fred Brown of trying to seek “petty revenge” after being voted out in the last election.

People in Littleport say they are “sickened” that Mr Brown, former leader of East Cambridgeshire District Council, wants to create a miniature mosque in the village. Mr Brown, who lives in Littleport and owns several properties in the village, says he has a property which would be “ideal” for Ely Muslims to convert into a prayer centre. Mr Brown, who lost his seat during the elections in May, said he wants to meet up with the group. But David Leuty, of The Holmes, Littleport, said: “The only reason he is even remotely considering helping these people is to stick two fingers up to everyone who was determined not to see him re-elected. I hope the Ely Muslims have enough sense to ignore his help. I feel sickened by it.”

Janice Hunter, of Main Street, said: “We don’t want a mosque here in Littleport, the same as the residents of Ely don’t. Fred Brown is simply trying to seek petty revenge on us all.”

Speaking to the Weekly News, Mr Brown says he wants to show the Muslims around the building he has in mind. He said: “I own a property in central Littleport which would be ideal for them to use. It’s a large building, which I understand is what they are looking for.” It was earlier this year that the Ely Muslims, who currently meet each week at the Paradise Centre in Ely, announced that they wanted to build a miniature mosque in the city.

The management committee of the Paradise Centre had told the group that they would lease them an area of their sports fields, close to the junction with New Barns Road and Deacons Lane, to build the facility if they gained planning permission. However, the discussions have been put on hold following uproar from many locals, who insist the Muslims should not be allowed to build a new prayer centre. Since then the debate has intensified and the English Defence League (EDL) has even threatened to protest in the city if the plans come into fruition. The Ely Muslims have said all along that they need a bigger space to meet and worship due to the increase in members. Nobody from the Ely Muslims was available to comment.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Police Forced to Give Ali Dizaei His Job Back

Ali Dizaei, the Scotland Yard chief jailed for corruption, has been sensationally reinstated today as a Met commander. The officer won his job back four months after his convictions for misconduct were quashed by the Appeal Court. Mr Dizaei, 49, who spent a year in prison, was allowed to return by a secret meeting of the Metropolitan Police Authority’s professional standards sub-committee. He said: “I am delighted and really happy to be back in the police service. I intend to clear my name and I will do that irrespective of how long it takes.”

However, it is understood MPA officials today took the decision to suspend him as a police officer pending his retrial on corruption allegations. Technically he has been reinstated as a £90,000-a-year Met commander on full pay and conditions. He said he would appeal to the High Court against any decision to suspend him. Mr Dizaei claimed the MPA committee took the reinstatement decision after a police appeals tribunal headed by a QC “unanimously” dismissed his sacking. Neither the MPA nor the Met made any initial comment today. But the decision sent shockwaves through Scotland Yard, with insiders describing the decision as “unbelievable”.

Mr Dizaei’s lawyers are expected to challenge his suspension in the courts, arguing that other senior white police staff have been allowed to stay in their posts while investigations into misconduct take place. Mr Dizaei will be formally reinstated when his police warrant card is returned. It is understood that other members of the MPA were unaware of the move this morning. The decision was taken last night by six members of the sub-committee, who held a session behind closed doors to discuss the case. One insider said officials were left with no legal alternative but to overturn the decision to dismiss the officer after the appeal court quashed his conviction.

Mr Dizaei last year became the most senior officer in 33 years to be jailed for corruption. He was convicted in February last year after a jury at Southwark crown court found him guilty of perverting the course of justice and misconduct in a public office. The policeman was found to have arranged the false arrest of Waad al-Baghdadi, a web designer who had done some work with him. Iranian-born Mr Dizaei, who wore his uniform at the time, was accused of arresting Mr al-Baghdadi outside the Persian Yas restaurant in Kensington, despite knowing he did not have reasonable grounds to do so. He was also alleged to have perverted the course of justice by falsely claiming in written statements that he was a victim of an unprovoked assault by the man. Mr Dizaei, previously a high-flying officer tipped as a possible Met Commissioner, was dismissed from the force in March last year. In May this year he won an appeal against conviction. The appeal court ruled that he should face a retrial and the case is expected to be heard early next year. The officer, a former president of the National Black Police Association, pleaded not guilty to the charges at a court hearing in June.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

World’s Earliest Christian Engraving Shows Surprising Pagan Elements

Researchers have identified what is believed to be the world’s earliest surviving Christian inscription, shedding light on an ancient sect that followed the teachings of a second-century philosopher named Valentinus.

Officially called NCE 156, the inscription is written in Greek and is dated to the latter half of the second century, a time when the Roman Empire was at the height of its power. An inscription is an artifact containing writing that is carved on stone. The only other written Christian remains that survive from that time period are fragments of papyri that quote part of the gospels and are written in ink. Stone inscriptions are more durable than papyri and are easier to display. NCE 156 also doesn’t quote the gospels directly, instead its inscription alludes to Christian beliefs.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]


Bosnia: Film Diva Penelope Cruz Arrives in Sarajevo to Play Italian Widow

Sarajevo, 7 Sept. (AKI) — Spanish movie diva Penelope Cruz arrived in Bosnian capital Sarajevo on Wednesday to shoot a film “Venuto al Mondo”, directed by Italy’s Sergio Castellitto, based on a novel by Margaret Mazzantini.

Cruz was accompanied by her husband Javier Bardem and their eight month old son Leo. She will play an Italian widow, Gema, who returns to Sarajevo after the war to show her son where he was born and where his father was killed.

Cruz told journalists she generally doesn’t like war stories, but thought it would be one of most important roles in her career. She was “emotionally very touched” by Mazazantini’s novel, she said.

The movie will be filmed in Bosnia, Croatia and in Rome. Bosnia’s 1992-1995 war, which claimed more than 100,000 lives, has sparked interest among numerous western film makers in the past fifteen years.

Castellitto has engaged many local artists to play in his film alongside Cruz in the leading role.

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

Mediterranean Union

Deals Signed Between Tunisia and Sicily Region

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, SEPTEMBER 21 — Seven cooperation agreements in the culture sector were signed by Tunisia and the Sicily Region while Tunisian Culture Minister, Bach Chaouch, was on a visit to Palermo. One of the deals involved the National Heritage Institute of Tunis and the Camarina archaeological centre regarding protecting the site of Carthage. Operative agreements were signed with the University of Palermo, mainly in the sector for the development of cooperation in the field of heritage protection. A new deal for collaboration between the Orestiadi Foundation and the International Culture Centre of Hammamet was also ratified.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egypt: Muslims Burn Part of Aswan Governorate Church

A group of Muslims burnt part of a church in a village in Aswan Governorate, 800km south of Cairo, eyewitnesses said Friday. A group of Muslims gathered after Friday prayers outside Saint George’s Church in the village of Marinab, close to the town of Edfu, the eyewitnesses also said. Security sources said a group of Muslims clashed with the village’s Christian residents and destroyed their shops, adding that Central Security Forces cordoned off the village to control the clashes. Earlier this month, Christian-affiliated news websites reported that a group of Salafis had warned Christians not to leave their homes in Marinab unless they removed the dome from Saint George’s Church, which was restored this month.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Muslims Attack Egypt Coptic Church as Sectarian Violence Continues

CAIRO: Tension between Muslims and Copts is blazing in the southern town of Edfu after two residential buildings were set on fire, eye witnesses from the town said Friday. The clashes started early Friday after a group of Muslim men surrounded the Mare’e Girgues church in opposition to construction expansions happening inside the church. A number of the men reportedly attempted to attack the building. Others say others set parts of the church on fire, before turning to Coptic homes and shops in the town.

Residents said the Muslim men are attempting to prevent fire fighters from reaching the burned out buildings and several shops owned by Copts were vandalized. Reports have not yet mentioned if there were injuries or deaths as a result of the violence. This is the third incidents in two days that targets Coptic churches in Egypt after violence in Fayoum, south of Cairo, claimed one life after a man guarding a church was shot dead by militants who then fled the scene. Security sources on Thursday afternoon said that a drive-by shooting in Fayoum left at least one security guard dead.

The attack apparently was outside the church’s kindergarten. Details of the attack on the Rouda Church in the town are still murky, but according to one witness nearby, the attackers drove past the church and opened fire, in what is the most recent attack that could spark renewed fears of sectarianism in Egypt. “I just heard the gun shots and saw that one guard was on the ground in obvious pain,” said Mona, a witness nearby. In recent years, sectarianism has been reportedly on the rise, with both religious groups clashing in numerous towns and villages across Egypt. This week’s incidents highlight the growing chasm that exists between the two religious groups.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Libya: Gaddafi Tanks Camouflaged With Sheepskins

(ANSAmed) — ROME, SEPTEMBER 22 — Despite continued losses on the battlefields, Colonel Muammar Al Gaddafi should still be acknowledged for his ability to hide his tanks in the desert. A skill comparable to that of the ‘desert fox’, German WWII General Erwin Rommel, reports Al Arabiya’s website. Gaddafi has managed to transform the appearance of his tanks, known as “desert wolves”, into peaceful lambs by covering them with sheepskins very similar to the colour of desert sand. From above, the tanks look like desert dunes, reports al Arabiya. In addition to sheepskins, Gaddafi’s brigades have resorted to other forms of camouflage, according to NATO sources cited by Al Arabiya’s website, hiding tanks inside of desert tents, surrounding them with sheep and camels so that they look like shepherd camps to NATO aircrafts, thus avoiding bombings. Before the war, the Libyan Army had about 530 Russian T-72 tanks, according to website Global Fire Power. The skins of 30-40 sheep are needed to camouflage each tank. This is reportedly the best technique, underlined Al Arabiya, because NATO has only succeeded in destroying a small number of tanks until now.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Muslim Mob Torches Coptic Church in Egypt

by Mary Abdelmassih

(AINA) — After Friday prayers today, a mob of several thousand Muslims from the village of Elmarinab in Edfu, Aswan province, demolished and torched St. George’s church, which was being renovated. The mob demolished the dome, walls and columns, then went to the church depot where the lumber to be used for construction was stored and torched it. The fire lasted 2 hours but the attack continued until 7 PM.

In an interview on Coptic TV channel, Father Salib of St. George’s Church said “the Imam of one of the village mosques called on the people to take matter in their own hands, he added. Other witnesses named the Imam as Sheikh Sabry.

According to eyewitnesses the Muslims also torched a large depot of electrical goods owned by a Copt, a supermarket and four Coptic homes. Muslims prevented the fire brigade from entering the village. Security forces, which were present, “stood there watching,” said Mr.Michael Ramzy, a social worker at the church.

Dr. Naguib Gabriel, head of the Egyptian Union of Human rights Organizations send an urgent message to field Marchall Tantawi to save the Copts in Egypt. “The Copts, their lives and their churches are in danger,” he said.

Attorney Mamdouh Nakhla, head of Al-Kalema human rights organization condemned Muslims taking the law in their own hands. He said “if the Egyptian Government is unable to protect its citizens, then the civilized international society should step in immediately to stop this human tragedy.”

The Media denied the incident. Mostafa el Sayed, Governor of Aswan, appeared on State TV tonight and denied any church being torched. He said it was a “guest home” and not a church. El Sayed said he gave his permission for the building to be 9 meters high, but the church contractor made it 13 meters high. “The contractor was slow in removing the 4 meters, so the Muslim youths took the matter into their hand.” He said the fire was in a depot of the church which had the construction lumber.

He said that both parties are at fault, the Christians for exceeding the height and the Muslims for taking matters into their own hands. He added that he arranged for a “reconciliation” meeting to be held in the next two hours.

Father Salib refuted the governor of Aswan allegations that the torched construction was a guest home. He said St. George’s church was been built 100 years ago and as it was dilapidated, the diocese was given permission to renovate it completely. He said that the Governor of Aswan himself signed the license for the renovation in 2010.

The renovation, although having all the necessary licenses from the government, prompted a crisis in Elmarinab village in the beginning of September. Islamists objected to the presence of a cross, bell and dome and prevented Copts from leaving their homes (AINA 9-9-2011).

Outspoken Coptic activist Wagih Jacob said what happened in Elmarinab is a scandal. The mob went out today, knowing that they have the support of Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF). “I accuse SCAF to be in collusion with these people as well as the Governor of Aswan and the head of prosecution.”

Yacoub said that Coptic activists including himself are going to Aswan on Saturday to see what is happening there, even if they are killed. “I call on all Coptic men and Muslim liberals to join us to go to Aswan,” He accused the Governor of Aswan of not telling the truth “because he knows very well that no media will go to the village to take photos there..”

Georges Bouchra of Copts United NGO reported the Copts are staying indoors as it was rumored that Muslims have threatened to torch their homes tonight.

The Maspero Coptic Youth organization held a rally in the densely Coptic-populated district of Shubra in Cairo to protest the attack of Elmarinab church. It was attended by thousands (video).

On October 1 several Coptic organizations, together with other liberal movements, will hold a rally under the motto “No to attacks on Coptic Churches” to start at 5 pm from Shubra and end in Tahrir Square.

           — Hat tip: Mary Abdelmassih[Return to headlines]

UK Minister: ‘Prepare to Work With Islamists’

We should prepare for Islamists in government and even Islamist governments in the wake of the Arab Spring, the minister responsible for the Middle East said this week. Speaking before next week’s Conservative Party conference in Manchester, Alistair Burt said there was a need to distinguish between Islamists who were prepared to support peace within the new democracies and those, such as Hamas, who did not adhere to the same principles as the UK. “I don’t think any reader should wake up one morning and be surprised or amazed that Islamists constitute MPs or even a government,” he said. “What’s important is not the labels. Within the Arab world, the label ‘Islamist’ covers a range of attitudes towards democracy. What we should all do is judge people on their actions as well as their words.”

Mr Burt said: “All of us who live in democracies should celebrate the fact that people who previously did not, now have the opportunity to do so. From what we see of those who are advancing the cause in Egypt, Tunisia, in Libya, these principles will be there.” At the same time, he said, the UK would have no relationship with governments committed to the destruction of Israel. Speaking of the Arab Spring, he said: “We have to believe that it is better when people are given the opportunity to state their preferences on peace, on security, on the system of government, on the welfare of their people, on the education of their children. You’ve got to be better in a free society.”

He said Israel had maintained relationships with authoritarian governments and should seek to do so with the emerging democracies. But he said the situation in Syria was “deeply worrying”. He spent much time at the UN in conversation with countries that have greater leverage than Britain with Syria. Nevertheless, oil sanctions put in place by the EU would have a considerable effect. “Ninety per cent of Syrian oil exports go to the EU,” he said. “These constitute 25 per cent of the revenues that go to Syria and this will now stop.”

He denied that events in the Middle East meant that Britain had taken its eye off the ball with Iran. He had addressed the issue of Iran’s nuclear capacity in Vienna immediately before flying to New York. “We continue to raise this issue directly with the Iranians and to urge them to come back into talks,” he said.

[JP note: Foreign Office minister adheres to Muslim Brotherhood script is a dog bites man story. See the full Alistair Burt interview here ]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

PNA Buys Anti-Riot Gear From Israel

(AGI) Jerusalem- The PNA, fearing violence ahead of the UN vote, has purchased anti-riot gear from Israel. The PLO is due to submit a request for Palestine to be recognized as an independent state to the United Nations on September 23.& 13; The Israeli press has revealed that the PNA purchased tear gas and rubber bullets from Tel Aviv’s defense ministry.

Palestinian security forces, which work closely with Israeli forces in the West Bank, are thus preparing to defuse a potential escalation of violent incidents.

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

Middle East

Iranian Pastor Sentenced to Death for “Crimes Against National Security”

Governor-General Gholam-Ali Rezvani announces sentence. Immediately denied by Yusef Nadarkhani’s lawyer: “In court, the judges have spoken of apostasy of Islam.” The evangelical pastor had converted to Christianity at age 19. He was arrested in 2009. Last July the Supreme Court overturned the sentence.

Tehran (AsiaNews / Agencies) — A court in Rasht (northern province of Gilan) has sentenced the evangelical pastor Yusef Nadarkhani to death for being a “Zionist traitor” and having committed “crimes against national security”. Governor-General Gholam-Ali Rezvani announced the sentences through the Fars agency, specifying that “this is not a religious issue, because in our system no one can be executed for having changed his faith “. However, Mohammad Ali Dadkhan, the pastor’s lawyer, has rejected the statements of the governor, stating that his client will be executed for apostasy.

The lawyer says that is the first time that the authorities have spoken of “crimes against national security” regarding his client. “At the time of sentencing — he explains — the judges spoke of apostasy, making no mention of other crimes. These new charges have to be reviewed. “

Yusef Nadarkhani, 32, converted to Christianity at age 19 and became pastor of a small evangelical church called Church of Iran. Arrested in October of 2009, he was sentenced to death for apostasy according to sharia (Islamic law), which provides for the reversal of the sentence if he returns to Islam. On appeal in July last year, the Iranian Supreme Court overturned the decision, returning case to court in Rasht (Nadarkhani’s hometown) which yesterday upheld the death sentence.

Several Western countries have condemned the sentence against Nadarkhani and have requested his release. Among these, the United States, Great Britain, Germany, France and Poland.

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

Iraq: Three Christians and a Turkman Kidnapped Near Kirkuk

(AGI) Kirkuk — Three christians and a Turkman were kidnapped yesterday in the district of Daquq, south of Kirkuk, in Irak.

The group was out on a hunt beating and was driving on a car.

General amal Taher Bakr said the vehicle was found arsoned alongside the hunt dogs. Security forces scrambled to the scene immediatelly, but no body has been found yet.

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

Qatar Builds Largest Waste Treatment Plant in the Area

(ANSAMED) — DOHA, SEPTEMBER 27 — Qatar has invested 800 million euros to build the largest waste treatment plant in the Middle East. According to a report in Qatar-based daily, The Peninsula, the plant spans an area of 3 square kilometres and will be operative within about 2 months. The centre will allow waste to be converted into clean energy and organic fertiliser, producing 50 MW of electricity per day and new products such as paper, plastic and aluminium by recycling, said Safar Al Shafi, the Director of the Sanitation Department of the Urban Planning Ministry. This project will make Qatar a leader in the waste treatment sector, an important business for a country that produces 7,000 tonnes of solid waste per day.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Turkey Compiles List of 174 Responsible for Marmara Clash

(AGI) Jerusalem — Turkish intelligence has compiled a blacklist of 174 Israelis “responsible” for last year’s raid on the Marmara. Nine Turkish activists died in fighting on board the ship. The list containing the names of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and foreign affairs and defence ministers, Avigdor Lieberman and Ehud Barak, as well as many soldiers, has been handed to Turkish judges.

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

UAE: More Investments Into Renewables

(ANSAmed) — DUBAI, SEPTEMBER 27 — New items have been pencilled into the United Arab Emirates’ energy diversification plan. While Dubai has announced that 12% of its energy demands will be met by nuclear power by 2030 and stated plans for a solar plant, Abu Dhabi, already a pioneer in investments and the development of renewable energy in the region, has announced that it will install solar panels to provide the emirate with 2.3 MW of power. “Twelve percent of Dubai’s energy will be provided by nuclear power in the future, another 12% will be guaranteed by coal power plants, 71% by natural gas, and the remaining 5% by solar energy,” explained Said Al Tayer, the Vice President of Dubai’s Supreme Energy Council. Al Tayer stressed that plans for coal power plants will be suspended until at least 2012 “to verify the actual efficiency of a clean coal power plant”. The lifestyles of emirates natives and residents, in tandem with difficult climatic conditions, with extremely high temperatures and scarce water resources, make the UAE one of the top polluters in the world. The energy diversification plan also includes cutting carbon emissions by five million tonnes by 2013. Abu Dhabi, which is already working on the construction of Masdar, the first zero emissions city in the world, and which is planning to boost the amount of energy covered by solar power to 7%, announced the installation of solar panels on 11 public and private buildings, guaranteeing 4,025 gigawatt hours (GW.h) and cutting production CO2 production by 3,220 tonnes.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Book Review: Russia’s Tug-of-War With Its Asian Soul

Russian Orientalism: Asia in the Russian Mind from Peter the Great to the Emigration by David Schimmelpenninck van der Oye

Reviewed by Dmitry Shlapentokh

The study of Orientalism, a description of the West’s approach to the study of Asia, has re-emerged as an important subject of research. The launching pad could well have been Edward Said’s Orientalism (1978), a seminal book that placed the study of Asia, or in this case, the Middle East, in a political context. Said followed the general line of the prevailing post-modernists of that time — mostly leftists — that knowledge is directly linked with power.

The subject of this book, Russian Orientalism, could well tempt the reader to assume that the Russians were increasingly fascinated with Asia and, in a way, identified with this part of the world.

As a matter of fact, Russia’s image as a basically Asian country is quite widespread in scholarship and public discourse, at least in the West. The book actually gives quite a different picture of the Russians’ interest in the Orient, an approach that was quite different from Westerners’ vision of Russia.

Since the beginning of the 19th century, it was quite popular among Western intellectuals, especially the French, to see Russians as Asiatics, as the successors to the Huns, Mongols and Turks, who had created the major threat for Europe for centuries. European Orientalism, thus, was, in a way, shaped by the desire of Europeans to find out about non-Europeans.

Interest in the Orient was also spurred by practical reasons — Europeans were engaged in building empires and needed to know about the people they wanted to conquer and control. This also could be said of the Russians. As one can tell from the book’s narrative, the Russian elite engaged in the study of Asians not to affirm their sameness, albeit there were exceptions, but to emphasize their differences. Russian Orientalism, even when the Russian elite adopted a sort of Asiatic garb, was a peculiar form of Europeanism.

The Russian study of Asia was launched by Peter the Great, the Westernizer. The policy was propagated by Peter’s successors, especially by Catherine II. Catherine II liked to demonstrate to foreign dignitaries that she had a lot of Asians as subjects; they in no way demonstrated her Oriental nature but emphasized her power and the extent of her empire. Her interest in China was also a peculiar manifestation of Europeanism, for interest in China and a certain idealization of China was quite popular in France.

True academic study of Asia, mostly of Muslim countries, was launched in the early 19th century, and the first school to study the Orient professionally was opened in Kazan in west-central Russia (it was later moved to St Petersburg). The proliferation of Asian studies not only reflected a desire to imitate the West and assure that Russia belonged to European civilization, but was again driven by practical reasons.

Similar to Europeans, Russians had been engaged in building their own empire. By the end of the 19th century, Russia had expanded in Central Asia and in the Far East. This created a demand for people who either knew about the area or could train specialists.

By that time, the Russian elite, similar to other European elites, was quite confident that Russians could easily deal with the Asians and on occasion had developed an ideology of a sort of benign imperialism. Ester Ukhtomski, mentioned in the book, was one of those idealists. He assumed that Russia and China could live in a sort of geopolitical symbiosis, but this did not mean that Russia and China would be equal…

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

South Asia

“High Strangeness” In Afghan Ambush

America deceived by operation and the political whitewash that followed.

It’s likely that most Americans have never heard of the Ganjgal Valley in Afghanistan. What you are about to read is a true account of what happened there during an agonizing several hours on September 8, 2009. If I have done my job right, by the time you finish, you will be saddened and very angry. But most of all, if you really care about our troops beyond the obligatory lapel pins and bumper stickers, you will demand answers from the highest levels of our government. Because, but for the grace of God, this account could be about you or one of your family members being executed on the other side of the globe.

The families and loved ones of five of America’s best and bravest have experienced an irreplaceable loss due to their needless deaths, which is a gaping wound that continues to be shrouded in mystery despite what various official reports suggest. The voluminous and heavily redacted official investigation leaves more questions than it answers, thus denying true justice to our fallen heroes and their families. Truth and justice have been denied for too long, and now is the time to accept nothing less.

Based on my research to date, I have no doubt that what happened at Ganjgal is but a microcosm of what is taking place throughout Afghanistan, Iraq and other areas in this war waged upon us by Muslim terrorists — a war that has been convoluted by Washington politicians and twisted by an accommodating media.

Since the onset of 24/7 news coverage, we’ve been adhering to unviable rules of engagement in our prosecution of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. No one likes civilian casualities, but the unfortunate and inconvenient truth is that in many cases, it is the so-called “civilians” we are fighting. Our enemy either takes on the appearance of innocuous civilians, hides behind them, or the civilians themselves actively support enemy operations. Nowhere is this more clear than in Ganjgal, where the lives of so-called innocent civilians were spared over our uniformed men of valor.

This is unacceptable and in the end, forces us into an unwinnable situation. Insight in the ambush at Ganjgal will undoubtedly shine a spotlight on forbidden truths that exist about the wars in which we are engaged. Forbidden truths from the policies of politicians at the expense of the lives of our finest.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Afghanistan Holds Enormous Bounty of Rare Earths, Minerals

Geologists actually mapping the country’s mineral bounty suspect its prime cache of coveted rare earth elements is considerably larger than the latest estimate lets on.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

Global Islamic Group Rising in Asia

The chanting crowd at the radical Muslim protest in Indonesia stood out for its normalcy: smartly dressed businessmen, engineers, lawyers, smiling mothers, scampering children.

At a time when al-Qaida seems to be faltering, the recruitment of such an educated, somewhat mainstream following is raising fears that Hizbut Tahrir, an enigmatic global movement, could prove more effective at radicalizing the Islamic world than outright terrorist groups. Active in 45 countries, Hizbut is now expanding in Asia, spreading its radical message from Indonesia to China. It wants to unite all Muslim countries in a globe-spanning bloc ruled by strict sharia law. It targets university students and professionals, working within countries to try to persuade people to overthrow their governments.

The movement’s appeal to an often influential part of society worries experts. Its goal of an Islamic state may be far-fetched, but it could still undercut efforts to control extremism and develop democracy in countries such as Indonesia, which the U.S. hopes will be a vital regional partner and a global model for moderate Islam. “Our grand plan over the next five to 10 years is to reinforce the people’s lack of trust and hope in the regime,” said Rochmat Labib, the group’s Indonesia chairman in a rare interview with a Western reporter. “That’s what we are doing now: converting people from democracy, secularism and capitalism to Islamic ideology.”


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Far East

China-Hong Kong: Cardinal Zen: Beijing National Education a Form of “Brainwashing”

The retired bishop of Hong Kong, attacks the Chinese government proposal that imposes separate classes for “national education”. According to the prelate, “they want to foment nationalism, the Church does not accept this situation.” Hong Kong deputies also express doubts.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews / Agencies) — The reform of school management in Hong Kong will see a range of subjects that are a means to “brainwash” students. According to the bishop emeritus of the Territory, Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, “Teachers and students must oppose this plan, which is too vague and tends to encourage an extreme nationalism.”

According to the government proposal made, all schools in Hong Kong — from primary school onwards — will have to include non-defined “national education classes” as a separate subject in the syllabus. Speaking at a forum organized by the Office for Catholic Education, the prelate posed the question, “What exactly does the subject want to teach? Does national education mean unconditional support for the Communist Party?”.

Card. Zen said the church’s autonomy in school management provided “checks and balances” against inappropriate national education imposed by the government. “The Catholic Church is obliged to offer this system against the government and to uphold people’s power, and we have never abused this power,” he said. “Without this [autonomy], the government can do whatever it wants, including brainwashing youths with wrong and extreme nationalism. “

The local government supports this criticism. According to education sector lawmaker Cheung Man-kwong, “the government should not force national education on all primary and secondary schools and that schools’ autonomy should be defended. If teachers wish, they must be able to object and decide what to teach in freedom. “

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

Australia — Pacific

Oz Insect Attempts to Mate With Bottle, Wins Ig Nobel

Australians are renowned for their love of the stubby — that small bottle of beer essential to any good barbie. Even the most besotted beer-drinking cricket fan in Melbourne, however, is unlikely to attempt to mate with their stubby — but that didn’t stop an Australian jewel beetle (Julodimorpha bakewelli) from doing just that.

Biologist Darryl Gwynne, now at the University of Toronto Mississauga, Canada, and his colleague David Rentz, noticed the errant beetles in 1983 in Western Australia. On Thursday they were awarded an Ig Nobel Prize for their paper on the phenomenon: “Beetles on the Bottle: Male Buprestids Mistake Stubbies for Females”. Gwynne says the bottles resemble a “super female” jewel beetle: big and orangey brown, with a slightly dimpled surface.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

French Woman Kidnapped From North Kenyan Coast

An elderly French woman has been kidnapped from the Kenyan resort of Lamu, near to the area from which Judith Tebbutt was taken by armed gunmen and her husband, David, was murdered.

Gunmen have kidnapped an elderly French woman from the north Kenyan coast in the early hours of Saturday. It is the second violent abduction of a foreign visitor from the Lamu archipelago in three weeks, police said. A French diplomat has confirmed the kidnapping, but no name of the woman has yet been released. Further reports suggest that two Kenyan coastguard vessels have already surrounded a boat carrying the gunmen and the kidnap victim. “Two boats of the Kenyan coastguard have surrounded the boat which the gunmen and woman are on,” Najib Balala, a Kenyan tourism minister, said, adding that the standoff was taking place near the border with Somalia.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

Latin America

Cannibalism Confirmed Among Ancient Mexican Group

Eating humans “crucial” to spiritual life of the Xiximes people.

“Through their rituals, cannibalism, and bone hoarding, they marked a clear boundary between an ‘us’ and ‘them,’“ Punzo said-”us” being the Acaxées and Xiximes, and “them” being everybody else. The two groups fought and killed members of other groups, he said. But the Acaxées and Xiximes ate only their own kind, specifically men. Other native groups and Spanish colonizers were apparently ritually worthless, according to historical studies.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]


Bosnian Family Earning Over $121,000 on Welfare in Ireland

Unemployed couple with four children takes home $2,385 a week for doing nothing

An unemployed married couple from Bosnia, with four children, is taking home over $121,000 (€90,000) per year in welfare checks.

The couple, who live in Dublin, takes home $2,385 (€1,763) per week.

Labour Party Senator Jimmy Harte has called for a cap on the amount of social welfare payments a family can receive. Harte received the information about this family from the Department of Social Protection officials. He says that $68,000 (€50,000) is more than enough for one family per year.

Harte said “The family are doing nothing illegal but the system is wrong when a couple are able to receive €90,000 [$121,000] per year for doing nothing. I don’t think this sort of payment is acceptable in the good times, never mind the bad times we find ourselves in now.

There are married couples in this country with two good jobs, working very hard and are not receiving anything like this.

“As well as receiving €90,000 [$121,000] , they will not have to pay property tax or water charges. That is just wrong.

“You would need to be earning close to €140,000 [$190,000] to take that sort of money home after tax.

He added “This is a Dublin-based family but I know there are families in other counties receiving up to €85,000 [$115,000]. They won’t take in as much in rent allowance but they are still entitled to all the other payments.”

Harte has now sent this information to Joan Bruton, the Irish Minister for Social Protection.

He explained that he holds no personal grudge against the family. However, he wants a “root and branch” search of all families on social welfare and calls for a cap on the amount of payments they can receive.

The Department of Social Protection’s figures are as follows:

  • Father’s disability allowance — $ 435.65 (€322)
  • Guardian’s pension for child taken in — $386.95 (€286)
  • Rent supplement — $373.42 (€276)
  • Mother’s carer’s allowance — $514 (€380 )
  • Child benefit — $389.69 (€288)
  • Daughter (17 years) special needs — $285 (€211)

           — Hat tip: McR[Return to headlines]

Interior Ministry Reports Repatriation of 604 Tunisians

(AGI) Rome- The Interior Ministry reported that 604 Tunisian migrants who landed in Lampedusa in recent days, have been sent home.

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

Revolt Over EU Benefits Diktat: 12 Nations Join UK Fight to Curb Welfare Tourism Free-for-All

Ministers have joined forces with 12 other nations — including France, Germany and Denmark — angry at the European Commission’s threat to take the UK to court over rules which limit foreigners’ ability to claim benefits.

If the Commission gets its way, Britain could be hit with an extra £2.5billion in welfare payments, making it even harder to tackle our huge deficit.

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith warned that the move was just the latest example of ‘unelectable and unaccountable’ European institutions’ desire to grab power from national parliaments.

The row comes as Tories gather for their annual conference in Manchester amid a growing clamour from Eurosceptic backbenchers to use the eurozone crisis as a lever to get Brussels powers returned to Britain.

Last night former Cabinet minister John Redwood said the issue showed why Foreign Secretary William Hague should enter into negotiations with EU leaders to get powers handed back to Britain. He wrote on his blog: ‘What is he doing about it? Why won’t he get on with renegotiating the UK position?

‘Most UK electors want a trade agreement but do not want to be bossed around by a high spending legislature poking its nose into our domestic affairs.’

At present the UK says that EU immigrants must have worked here previously, or have a decent chance of getting a job, before they can claim benefits.

But on Thursday Brussels gave the UK two months to scrap the rules, saying they infringe the ‘human rights’ of EU citizens.

It is feared the change could open the door to tens of thousands of Eastern Europeans who are currently deterred from coming here.

Benefits are much more generous in the West than among the former Soviet-dominated countries of the East.

For example, a person who has been unemployed for more than three months in Poland gets a dole of just £110 a month. This is less than half the £270 or so he would get if he moved to the UK.

So far only Britain has been threatened with court action, but yesterday an EU official warned that other countries could be next if their residence rules are deemed too strict.

Chris Grayling, the Employment Minister, revealed growing anger among European governments and said he would be bringing up the issue at a meeting of ministers in Brussels in three weeks’ time.

His alliance is made up of prosperous Western European countries which are also worried about an influx from former Communist states if they are forced to change their rules.

They, too, face huge costs if they have to tighten up their rules. France, for example, will currently not pay out benefits unless migrants have worked in the country for at least four months.

Mr Grayling told the BBC: ‘There is a very definite difference of opinion between us and the Commission over this. I don’t think somebody coming from another EU state should be able to access benefit simply by turning up here and saying, “I am going to live in the UK from now on”.

‘The truth is European law is all over the place at the moment. We had a case three months ago in which we were instructed by the European Court to make disability payments to a British citizen, a young woman living in Spain.

Mr Duncan Smith told the Daily Mail: ‘This is out of order. Social security was always considered to be a national responsibility, but now Europe is encroaching on these areas.

‘This kind of land grab from the EU has the potential to cause mayhem to nation states, and we will fight it.’

It emerged yesterday that Nick Clegg told EC president Jose Manuel Barroso on Thursday that Britain would fight any attempt to force us to pay benefits to workless EU migrants.

The Lib Dems’ support for the Government on this issue is in contrast to their refusal to join the Tories in opposing the extension of employment rights to agency workers.

A source close to Mr Clegg said: ‘Nick thinks this is a really bad idea. It is one thing to look after European citizens who have worked over here and paid taxes, but it is quite another to start writing cheques to anyone and everyone who turns up.’

A spokesman for the European Commission said the UK was being targeted first because complaints had been received about the rule here.

But she warned that other countries would be next.

She said: ‘We have issues with other countries but the UK case is much more advanced.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Switzerland: Sommaruga Discusses Migration in Rome

Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga has met Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni for talks on migration, including the developments in North Africa.

Also high on the agenda was the Dublin agreement, the European asylum accord. Both ministers agreed that cooperation in migration issues should be intensified.

In addition, a Swiss liaison officer will be posted to Rome, said a justice ministry statement on Tuesday evening.

It said that the ministers had discussed the current situation in North Africa, which has led to a flood of refugees to Italy in particular.

The statement added that Italy was Switzerland’s most important partner in implementing the Dublin accord, with cooperation mostly working well.

However, there was a need for “optimisation in certain areas”, such as people sent back to Italy under the Dublin accord later presenting new asylum applications in Switzerland. The problem arose because Italy had not sent the people in question back to their home countries, the ministry said.

The ministers also discussed police cooperation in fighting organised crime, according to the statement.

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

UK: Banned Activist Sheikh Raed Saleh Wins in Detention Case

A pro-Palestinian activist detained during a visit to the UK on the orders of Home Secretary Theresa May has won a partial victory in a claim for damages. The High Court ruled Sheikh Raed Salah had been wrongly detained for two days, during which he was not told the reason for his arrest. But it said the rest of his detention had not broken the rules. The Home Office said the court had backed Mrs May’s use of her powers and Mr Salah won only on a technical point. Ministers are expected to fight any claim for compensation.

Critics say Sheikh Salah, an Israeli citizen, is anti-Semitic, a charge he has denied. The campaigner for Israeli-Arab rights has been mayor of his home town three times. Mr Salah arrived in the UK in June, planning to attend a number of public events and other meetings with pro-Palestinian campaigners. One of the meetings was at the Houses of Parliament.

But three days later immigration officers detained him at his hotel in London. They handcuffed him and he was eventually taken to a police station, before being held in immigration detention for 21 days. He later won an application to be released on bail.

Mr Justice Nicol said in his judgement that although the Home Office had not broken the rules over its reasons for the activist’s detention, the detention had been conducted incorrectly. He said: “I have rejected the claimant’s case that his detention was unlawful because it conflicted with the statutory purpose or the Secretary of State’s policy on detention. I have accepted his argument that he was not given proper and sufficient reasons for his arrest on June 28 nor was he given them until some time on June 30. He is entitled to damages for wrongful detention during that period.” Mr Justice Nicol said the arrest only became lawful once Mr Salah had received the full reasons for it, through a proper translation by his solicitors, on 30 June. There has been no agreement yet on the damages and Mr Salah is still expected to appeal against the decision to deport him.

Hotel mix-up

The court had heard when Mr Salah arrived in the UK, he was given permission to stay for six months — and as an Israeli citizen he did not need a visa. But two days before he arrived, Mrs May ordered his exclusion on the grounds that his presence was not conducive to the public good. The exclusion order had not been served on him before he boarded his flight to the UK. When Mr Salah was later arrested at his hotel, he could not understand what was going on and his interpreter was barred from assisting the conversation. At one stage, one of the arresting officers tried to use an Arabic translation application on his iPhone, although the reasons for the arrest remained unclear. “In my judgement, what took place at the hotel was inadequate for the claimant’s arrest to be lawful,” said the judge. “The claimant was entitled to know, at least in the broadest terms, why he was being arrested. Even in English, that information was not conveyed to him. That alone meant the arrest was unlawful.” A spokesman for the Home Office said: “We are pleased that the court has found that the home secretary used her powers correctly when detaining Mr Salah. The decision the Home Secretary took was the right one. The court decided that there was a technical problem when he was initially detained.”

[JP note: Home Office cock-up continues as farce.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Eleven Foreign Terrorists on the Streets and Not Deported

At least eleven foreign-born terrorists who should have been deported from Britain after finishing prison terms are still walking the streets.

They include offenders who helped the July 21 bomb plotters a fortnight after the 7/7 atrocity.

Seven are fighting deportation on human rights grounds, meaning they may never leave. Last night government officials refused to identify them or say what has happened to the other four.

The list is known to include Siraj Ali, who aided the failed July 21 suicide bomb plotters and was jailed for nine years.

Ali is the foster brother of Yassin Omar, the failed Warren Street bomber, and housed Muktar Ibrahim, another of the would-be bombers, while the devices were being made in a council flat a floor below.

He is using taxpayer-funded legal advice to fight deportation to Eritrea, even though Britain returns hundreds of people there every year.

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

UK: Failed Asylum Seeker Strangled and Drowned Bakery Worker Who Refused to Marry Him So He Could Stay in the UK

A failed asylum seeker strangled and drowned a bakery worker who refused to marry him so he could stay in the UK.

Iranian-born Hossein Abdollahzadeh, 32, left Agnieszka Dziegielewska’s naked body in a bath full of water at her flat in Swinton, near Rotherham, just weeks after she kicked him out.

He later hanged himself in his prison cell while on remand charged with Dziegielewska’s murder, the inquest in Rotherham heard.

Agnieszka moved to the UK from Bialystok, Poland, in 2004 — the year the country became a full member of the EU — and met Abdollahzadeh four years later at his takeaway pizza shop in Swinton.

Marrying Agnieszka, an EU citizen, would have enabled the Iranian to continue living in the UK.

It emerged at the hearing that Abdollahzadeh treated his partner of two years ‘like a servant’, regularly slapping and beating her which left her covered in bruises. He also refused to believe their relationship was over when she left him to escape the violence.

Ms Dziegielewska’s mother said Abdollahzadeh had previously tried to strangle her daughter in 2008, holding her neck with both hands and issuing the chilling warning: ‘Nobody can help you now.’

She added: ‘He started treating her like a servant and humiliating her in public. On one occasion he slapped her so hard her tooth got loose. Each time he would explain he didn’t know why it had happened, and it wouldn’t happen again.’

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

UK: Hate Preacher Wins Human Rights Payout… Even Though He Shouldn’t be Here at All

A banned extremist who made a mockery of Britain’s border controls is now likely to pocket £5,000 in compensation because immigration officials could not speak his language.

The High Court ruled yesterday that Sheikh Raed Salah, described as a ‘virulent anti-Semite’ in the Commons, could claim compensation for unlawful detention by immigration officers.

They had seized the pro-Palestine hardliner — who should never have been allowed into Britain in the first place — to have him deported.

But immigration staff failed to explain to him ‘in a language he could understand’ precisely why he was being detained — a technical breach of the rules. The preacher cannot speak English and officials failed properly to translate what was happening, the court ruled.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist — But It’s Not Our Fault: Blame TV and Magazines Instead, Say Scientists

Researchers from Georgia Tech’s School of Psychology in the U.S. used a word association test to discover that most people have ‘built-in’ prejudices.

However, this racism isn’t necessarily something they believe in, but something that seeps into the subconscious from modern-day culture, they claim.

Study leader Paul Verhaeghen exposed people’s inherent racism with a straightforward, but sneaky, word test.

Volunteers were asked, for example, if the letters g-u-b formed a word, then if the letters g-u-n formed a word.

He found that participants gave their answer much more quickly if they were shown a black face before the letters g-u-n.

Another part of the test involved measuring response times to stereotypical word pairings, such as black-violence.

‘It suggests that most people associate black people with violence and this seems to be universal,’ he said.

Keen to find out the source of this racist thinking, his team examined a collection of works known as the Bound Encoding of the Aggregate Language Environment (BEAGLE).

They found that racist pairings of words, such as black-murder, were fairly common in the various literature. And in the test it was these associations that participants responded fastest to.

In other words, popular culture appears to be drip-feeding people with prejudice.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Serbia: Gay Pride: Mayor of Belgrade Wants it Cancelled

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, SEPTEMBER 30 — The mayor of Belgrade, Dragan Djilas, has asked to cancel next Sunday’s Gay Pride and all other event that have been scheduled in the capital this weekend, for reasons of law and order due to the “complex situation” the country is currently in. Several ultranationalist homophobe and xenophobe organisations have announced counterdemonstrations to be staged tomorrow and Sunday against Gay Pride, and it is feared that the clashes and chaos that marked last year’s Gay Pride may be repeated. “As mayor of Belgrade I once again turn to all parties to take the moment the country and this community is going through into consideration, and to cancel the gatherings and events scheduled this weekend which would complicate an already complex situation,” the mayor of the capital said, quoted by the media.

“Everybody’s rights are guaranteed by the law and I don’t intent to deny anybody these rights, but I must point out that each right brings a certain level of responsibility,” Djilas added.

The authorities are particularly concerned about rising tensions in the north of Kosovo, and the possibility that ultranationalists may take advantage of the anti-gay demonstrations to stage violent protests against Kosovo’s leadership and its international support (KFOR, EULEX).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

UK: Fury as Prayers Are Banned at Council Meetings

CHRISTIANS reacted furiously last night after it emerged that council members have been banned from saying prayers at meetings.

Two councils in East Sussex have been warned that Christian prayers are “not part of their duties”.

Mayfield parish council was issued the “advice” by the Sussex Association of Local Councils after voting to include a prayer session in its meetings. Councillors were told it was not appropriate at a public meeting and should be taken off the agenda. The row prompted councillors from nearby Crowborough town council to get involved, claiming prayers have formed part of their meetings for as long as anyone could remember.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

UK: Right and Left May Not Matter So Much in the Post-Cold War World. Right and Wrong Do.

We vote because there’s something about society we want to see re-engineered.

‘Suppose I phone the police,” says Marion. “What do you think would happen then?” Let me tell you about our friend Marion. She lives on her own in a seaside town and works as a hospital nurse. She is quietly proud of the home she’s made for herself in her one-bedroom flat, which looks over a communal garden and permits oblique sea views. She doesn’t want much from life: to feel the ocean spray as she takes her evening walk; to discharge her duties well; to be at peace in her home. She has an entirely normal and well-ordered existence. Her experience of life is the main reason the Conservatives might not win the next election.

Marion has no life partner, true. But she’s never metaphorically alone: she has a quiet faith. And she’s never literally alone: because she lives in a flat — with an upstairs neighbour who is slowly destroying her peace of mind. If the exaggerated cries of sexual ecstasy he and his partner share with the rest of the building are just one of those things flat-dwellers must tolerate, then the noisy, thudding dance music which keeps Marion awake night after night is not. In vain she has invoked the freehold lease, which forbids music after midnight. She phones and knocks on the neighbour’s door: she is not answered. She contacts the council, which has a “noise abatement service”: they tell her to keep a diary.

She phones us in London, and the cumulative despair of those sleepless nights makes her weep. We do our best with practical words: we will go with her to talk to the neighbour, we will be on her side when she interacts with the council bureaucracy; but none of this is what Marion really needs. Those needs are twofold: to hope that matters will improve, and for such a hope to be realistic. But this would require the agents of society — the council, the other neighbours, the police (whom she is scared to contact, lest anti-social disturbance escalates to something more frightening) — to be unequivocally on her side. Marion, like most good people, has learned not to make that assumption.

I’m sure there’s “a law” which could help Marion, but that’s not the point. The point is how scared she feels in negotiating a part of life that once would have been resolved by simple social interaction. She is suffering because we replaced the organic ties that bound a community with a set of poorly understood, massively over-interpreted, legalistic “rights”; rights which have encouraged, almost institutionalised, anti-social behaviour. I am Marion when I’m on the bus, and I’m frightened to tell children to stop misbehaving. You are Marion when you don’t tell a feckless pedestrian to pick up their litter. We used to know “the rules”: that, for example, you could speak to a neighbour about noise, without fearing that your life would be rendered unbearable for ever after. We are all frightened of the over-reaction of people who are not behaving as good adults should, and it leaves us at their mercy. We ordered the institutions of civil society to stop judging behaviour, and then we wonder at the chaos to which good people are abandoned.

That there was a hope of resetting those rules was the best reason to deprive Labour of office. Failure to address Marion’s plight is the biggest political danger facing Mr Cameron. It sounds ridiculous to say “It’s not the economy, stupid”, when the economic outlook is so grim, but I’ve never believed the reductionist argument which says we cast our vote primarily for economic reasons. We vote because there’s something about society we want to see re-engineered. Conservatives feel let down, not because the deficit is being tackled, but because too much in society feels the same as it did before the election. They understand that Mr Cameron requires Lib Dem votes to retain his anti-Labour majority, and that being politically shackled to the decaying Lib Dem corpse prevents the introduction, in this parliament, of proper Tory measures — such as tackling the Human Rights Act.

But the lack of a Tory majority should not mean a lack of Tory language, or the flexing of Tory institutional will. Lib Dems may claim that it’s either impossible to tell the difference between right and wrong, or, if it is possible, that only a judge on a bench is able to make the distinction; the Prime Minister should ignore them. If that makes Lib Dems uncomfortable, so be it; many of us have had enough of the liberal society which throws the Marions of this world to the wolves. While we wait for the Tory majority required for legislative change, Tory language could change the terms of the debate; in fact, the latter will help deliver the former. I suspect the Prime Minister is aware of this — Ed Miliband, in his clumsy speech at his conference, gave the impression this week of having woken up to the issue. Right and Left may not matter so much in the post-Cold War world. Right and Wrong do.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]


Five Things That Internet Porn Reveals About Our Brains

From an enormous trove of sexual Web searches, neuroscientists extract some startling lessons in hidden desire.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

Ig Nobel Prizes Honor Wasabi Alarm, Odd Beetle Sex, More

2011 awards announced this week at Harvard ceremony.

The unique annual awards go to real research “that first makes people laugh, and then makes them think.” The scientific celebration, now in its 21st year, was hosted by the Annals of Improbable Research and several Harvard University student groups.

Karl Halvor Teigen of the University of Oslo in Norway took home the 2011 Ig Nobel psychology prize for his group’s attempts to find out just why people sigh. Most study participants initially said they supposed people sighed when sad. But Teigen’s team heard a different story when they began studying subjects in actual sigh-inducing situations.

“The most common answer was that they sighed because they were giving up on something or had become resigned to something,” Teigen said. To test this theory, the team devised simple-looking puzzles that had no solutions and watched people tackle them.

“They sighed and they tried, they tried and they sighed,” Teigen reported. The study reinforced the group’s idea of the sigh as a signal of what the Norwegians call oppgitt-simply giving up.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

Meet the Obscure, Useful Metals Lurking in Products All Around You

Without the rare earths, there would be no iPods and no hybrid cars. But who has even heard of erbium or ytterbium?

Today it is clear that the rare earths are hardly rare. The most common of them, cerium, ranks 25th in abundance in the earth’s crust, one place ahead of homely copper. Yttrium is twice as abundant as lead; all of the rare-earth metals (with the exception of radioactive promethium) are more common than silver. The “earths” part is also misleading. These elements are actually metals, and quite marvelous ones at that. The warm glow of terbium is essential to high-efficiency compact-fluorescent bulbs. Europium is widely exploited to make vivid displays for laptop computers and smart phones. Rare earths also pop up in more unexpected places like baseball bats, European currency, and night-vision goggles.

With their growing popularity comes new value, and even political notoriety. Terbium and europium recently overtook silver in price, reaching $40 an ounce. The growing demand for rare earths has become the subject of numerous government reports and a bill that passed in the House of Representatives. The reason these elements are causing such a stir is not their scarcity but their inaccessibility. Rare earths tend to occur in hard rock such as granites, where they lump together in a uniform way that makes them difficult to extract.

Separating out the desired elements demands a toxic and dangerous process, and China has the best infrastructure for doing so economically. China holds about 36 percent of the world’s 110 million tons of recoverable rare-earth ores, with the rest scattered worldwide, principally in the United States, India, Australia, and Russia. Yet China currently produces as much as 97 percent of the world’s rare-earth oxides, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office. Pekka Pyykkö, a professor of chemistry at the University of Helsinki, puts it this way: “Not all the deposits are in China, but the processing capacity right now is.”

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]