Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20111117

Financial Crisis
»Citibank: ‘Spain, Italy Could Default in Days if ECB Does Not Act’
»Elections in Spain: Euro Crisis Set to Claim Next Victim
»EU Commission to Present Eurobonds Plans Next Week
»Frankfurt Group: Europe’s Hit Squad
»Greece: Credit Conditions Hit by Economic Recession
»Juncker Says German Debt Cause for Concern
»Merkel Calls for Calm as Debt Crisis Spreads
»Monti Names Unelected Government of Technocrats and Bankers
»Portugal: Green Light to New Aid Tranche After Troika Study
»Spain: Bond Auction Poor, Treasury Pays Record Interest
»The Late British Empire Irks the Continent
»Attempted Assassination Charge in Shooting at White House, Prosecutor Says
»Islamic Art: A Grandiose Revival at the Met
»Narcissus Versus Lazarus 2012?
»Poll: Latinos Were Key Factor in Arizona Recall Vote
»Stakelbeck: Iranian Attack on U.S. Easy as “EMP?”
»U.S. Gives Islam ‘New Identity, ‘ Speaker Tells Nashville Crowd
Europe and the EU
»Austria: Graz: Police Chief Warns That Mosque Will Lead to Infiltration
»David Starkey in New British ‘Mono-Culture’ Row
»Dutch Cheese Orbiting Earth
»Dutch State Taken to UN Court of Human Rights Over Wilders
»Germany to Create Far Right Extremists’ Register
»Mario Monti’s Technocrats: Profiles of the New Italian Cabinet
»Netherlands: Bible Translated Into Dutch Slang
»Norway Embraces Islamist Tyranny
»Sweden: School Head on Rape Claim: ‘Boys Will be Boys’
»UK: Archbishop Hails King James Bible
»UK: Bigotry, Revisionism and Baroness Warsi
»UK: Celebrating the 1611 King James Bible
»UK: Is Pippa Middleton All About the Bottom Line?
»UK: More Ethnic Pupils Than Whites in London Schools
»UK: Parliament Dismisses Over 140,500 Calls for Commons Debate on Babar Ahmad
North Africa
»Egypt: El Baradei: Arab Spring Turned Into Autumn
»Libya Struggles to Maintain Order in the Face of Post-Gadhafi Chaos
»Tariq Ramadan: “I Don’t See Any Sign of an Arab Spring”
Middle East
»Finmeccanica: AW Main Role in Emirates Training Centre
»Iran: Syria Increasing Arms to Attack Israel (CBS News, November 16, 2011
»Kuwait: Government Meets After Protestors Storm Parliament
»Saudi Arabia: Police Order Women to Cover ‘Seductive’ Eyes
»Syria: Pressure Grows on Assad From All Sides
South Asia
»Bangladesh: The Story of Sima, A Girl Her Father Disfigured With Acid at Age of Ten Months
»In Bangladesh, Some Kind of Justice
»Kazakhstan: Dialogue With the West a Must
»Obama Wants to Strengthen Ties With Indonesia
»Pakistan: Karachi: Protestant Clergyman Killed in Extremist Ambush
»Pakistan: ‘Islam in Europe a Reality Despite Challenges’
Far East
»Chinese Dissident Exposes Prison Brutality
»Obama: US to Stay a Pacific Power, China Reacts
»Greece: Frontex Critic as Migrant Influx Peaks
»UK: Till Police Us Do Part: Bogus Bride Arrested in Her Wedding Dress After Being Paid £400 to Marry Complete Stranger’groom’ Wanted to Marry So He Could Stay in Britain
Culture Wars
»Study Reveals Racial Segregation in Online Dating
»‘Totally Unacceptable’: Vatican Slams Benetton ‘Unhate’ Campaign Showing Pope Benedict Kissing an Imam on the Mouth
»Children as Young as Four Should be Given Ritalin for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), According to Experts.
»New Finding Ups the Chances of Life on Jupiter’s Moon Europa

Financial Crisis

Citibank: ‘Spain, Italy Could Default in Days if ECB Does Not Act’

Citibank’s chief economist has warned in an interview with Bloomberg that Europe has “a few months — it could be weeks, it could be days” before Spain or Italy default unless the ECB becomes the lender of last resort to these countries, overriding German inflation fears.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Elections in Spain: Euro Crisis Set to Claim Next Victim

Spaniards will go to the ballot boxes this Sunday for parliamentary elections in which polls predict that the conservatives will wrest power from the socialists. Though the party’s leader has fewer ideas and decidedly less charm, voters have simply grown too disappointed in the socialists’ efforts to salvage the country’s ailing economy.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

EU Commission to Present Eurobonds Plans Next Week

“We are now facing a truly systemic crisis. It has made it clear that we must progress with greater integration of economic governance, especially within the euro area” Barroso, President of the European Commission,

EU Council President Van Rompuy, meanwhile, told parliament that the current crisis leaves the members of the eurozone with no choice.

“The crisis in the euro area does require us to do more. We need to acknowledge that this means a sharing of sovereignty for all members of the euro zone, and not only a loss for the countries in difficulty,” he said.

He also said that euro zone governments should look at strengthening the role of automatic sanctions for countries that break fiscal rules, “such as a suspension of voting rights or the suspension of structural funds or other payments.”

Also, he asked out loud, “should we provide power for a central authority to intervene in national budgetary procedures?”

“There has been much exaggerated talk about this,” he said. “It is time to de-dramatize this debate. After all, it is perfectly natural that those who share a common currency take some decisions together.”

“It is in the interest of the non eurozone EU members that its financial stability is organized and secured. A better structured euro area is in everybody’s interest,” he added.

For Guy Verhofstadt, leader of the liberal group in parliament and longtime advocate of joint eurobonds, the proposals did not go far enough.

“The euro zone crisis has reached a very dangerous point. We are now witnessing increasing spreads on interest rates between national sovereign bonds and the benchmark German bund even for countries with a AAA credit rating. Nothing less than full economic and fiscal union including euro bonds will do,” he said.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Frankfurt Group: Europe’s Hit Squad

The Spectator, London

Gathered around Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy, a small group of unelected EU officials have been assigned the task of governing the eurozone and removing leaders who fail to toe the line, writes the British conservative weekly The Spectator.

Fraser Nelson

The Old Opera House in Frankfurt — once Germany’s most beautiful postwar ruin and now its most stunning recreation — has become a symbol of European rebirth. And it was here, last month, that Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy met the EU’s bureaucratic elite in what would, in another era, be described as a putsch. They had grown tired of eurozone summits, with leaders flying here and there but getting nowhere. A smaller group needed to be formed, who would wield power firmly but informally. That evening, as they gathered to hear Claudio Abbado conduct the Mozart Orchestra of Bologna, a new EU hit squad was born.

As Silvio Berlusconi has now found out, this so-called Frankfurt Group means business. Only a few months ago, it would have been unthinkable that the head of one European government would try to destabilise or depose another. Now, two EU leaders have fallen in a week. As Sarkozy knows from recent experience, to enforce regime change one need only give a helping hand to the rebels.

The group cannot be accused of being secretive. At the G20 summit in Cannes, its officials walked around with lapel badges saying ‘Groupe de Francfort (GdF)’ and met four times. Britain was not included but the Foreign Office’s officials spoke as if they were in on the act. As one official put it: ‘We’re on our way to moving out Berlusconi.’

Such a statement may once have been seen as outrageous, but by last weekend it was undeniable that an operation to remove Berlusconi had begun. When Merkel and Sarkozy were asked if they had confidence in him, they rolled their eyes and gave each other wry smiles. The European Central Bank, which is also part of the Frankfurt Group, gave only minimal support to Italy — leaving the bond markets to do their worst to Berlusconi. The International Monetary Fund, whose new leader was also at the Opera house that night, made it clear that it would be sending its auditors to Rome on a regular basis to inspect the books. All this combined to send an unmistakable Old Europe message: we have ways of making you quit…

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

Greece: Credit Conditions Hit by Economic Recession

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, NOVEMBER 17 — A deep economic recession in Greece further tightened credit conditions in the country in the January-October period this year, official figures showed as AMNA reports. A monthly survey by Teresias SA, the market’s watchdog, showed that the value of bounced checks totaled 1.7 billion euros in the 10-month period, while volume was 150,812.

The report said that bounced checks totaled 11,423 in volume, worth 119.5 million euros in October, down 31.26% and 23.14%compared with the same month last year and down 11.98% and 2.74% compared with September. The volume of unpaid bank bills totaled 122,771 worth 193.1 million euros in the January-October period.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Juncker Says German Debt Cause for Concern

Head of the eurozone finance ministers Jean-Claude Juncker told General Anzeiger newspaper: “I consider the level of German debts to be a cause for concern.” “Germany has higher debts than Spain,” he added. “The only thing is that here (in Germany) no one wants to know about that.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Merkel Calls for Calm as Debt Crisis Spreads

After Greece and Italy, more EU countries are feeling the heat as fresh funds demand higher interest rates. But the German government does not believe the ECB alone can halt the downward spiral.

The European debt crisis is gathering steam, as more and more countries struggle to sell new bonds, and if they do, at significantly higher rates. And it does not just apply to Ireland, Portugal, Italy and Greece, but, increasingly, Austria, Spain and France.

The German government admits that it’s worried, according to Economy Minister Philipp Rösler, who spoke at a conference organized by the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper on Thursday.

Rösler is not surprised though, he said, as the implementation of the measures to tackle the crisis that were agreed at the end of October is stalling and decisions on detailed guidelines for an expanded EFSF rescue fund are still outstanding.

“If you don’t have a clear picture of what this alliance looks like, then you can’t approach your partners,” Rösler said. “Potential investors rightly say that if I don’t know what I’m investing in, what I’m becoming a partner in, then I’m out.” But as long as investors don’t join in, the rescue fund cannot have the desired stabilizing effect.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Monti Names Unelected Government of Technocrats and Bankers

Incoming Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti has named a government entirely composed of unelected figures, just days after a technocratic government was installed in Greece, where the presence of far-right figures linked to the military junta are raising hackles. Monti, an ex-EU-commissioner, was appointed officially on Wednesday by the president of the republic.

The new leader has in turn also appointed himself finance minister and, in a move likely to amplify criticisms that a regime of bankers has been imposed on Europe’s southern flank, Corrado Passero, the CEO of Intesa Sanpaolo, the country’s largest high-street bank, has been awarded the industry and infrastructure dossier. All ministerial posts will be held by technocrats, soldiers and diplomats.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Portugal: Green Light to New Aid Tranche After Troika Study

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, NOVEMBER 17 — Portugal’s deficit reduction programme has passed the test set by the so-called troika (IMF, EU and ECB), which has given the green light for the allocation of an 8 billion euro tranche of the 78 billion in aid due to be given to the country. Portugal’s Finance Minister, Vito Gaspar, who was quoted by the media today, explained that Lisbon will receive the financing between December and January 2012. Spokespersons for the EU, IMF and ECB missions welcomed the execution of the aid programme that has included Portugal since May, and ruled out the need for further immediate measures to cut deficit.

Representatives did say, however, that the Portuguese economy still has problems such as the excessive weight of the public sector and significant debts for the state, banks, businesses and families. There are also negative growth prospects for 2012, with GDP predicted to fall by 3%. Gaspar promised that Portugal would see through its financial restructuring programme and would again finance itself on the market once the three-year aid programme agreed with the troika is at an end.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spain: Bond Auction Poor, Treasury Pays Record Interest

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, NOVEMBER 17 — The auction of 10-year Spanish bonds has not gone well. Interest rates were at their highest level since 1997 were recorded, while there was a fall in demand, meaning that the maximum total scheduled was not reached. Madrid issued 3.652 billion euros (the offer was to be fixed between 3 and 4 billion euros) while the average yield shot up to 6.975% from the 5.433% recorded at the previous auction of October 20. The relationship between demand and supply also fell from 1.7 to 1.5.

The spread between Spanish “bonos” and the German bund skyrocketed to a record level of 500 base points. Spain is edging dangerously close to a bailout, only three days before the country’s general election, with markets once again casting doubt over the solvency of Spanish debt.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

The Late British Empire Irks the Continent

A Europe under the rule of the Iron Lady Merkel and her people, authors of an “economic miracle”? The thesis repeated by British newspapers is exasperating the German press. To the editorialists across the Channel who defend excluding Germany from the eurozone on the pretext that Berlin “has destabilised the euro with its low wages, ruthless productivity and well-known Panzer mentality,” Spiegel-Online responds with a scathing “Your Empire and us.”

“As usual, the talk is in terms of victory and defeat, and bills in history that remain unpaid,” laments columnist Matthias Matussek:

To be able to bring up the war is a perpetual delight. I see them laughing; I can laugh too. They’re calculating a German contribution to Europe roughly equivalent to the reparations demanded by the Treaty of Versailles. How interesting — and how useful! […] Asking the administrators of the legacy of the Empire for their views on the German malaise is like giving your sick but favourite sheep to the butcher to look over…. Anyone who listens to (the British) muse philosophically on the historical debts of Germany, on Europe and the world, will find it hard to believe there was a financial crash in the British Isles…

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


Attempted Assassination Charge in Shooting at White House, Prosecutor Says

An Idaho man accused of firing two shots at the White House last week has been charged with attempting to assassinate President Obama or his staff. Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez, of Idaho Falls, Idaho, made his first court appearance before a federal magistrate in Pittsburgh on Thursday, one day after he was arrested at a western Pennsylvania hotel. He will be taken back from a federal court in Pittsburgh to face the charges in Washington, D.C. Ortega will remain in federal custody at least until a magistrate in Washington can determine if he should remain jailed until his trial on the charge, which carries up to life in prison.

[Return to headlines]

Islamic Art: A Grandiose Revival at the Met

by Hina Mahmood

NEW YORK: Entering the Islamic Art Gallery, with polished marble underfoot, towering ceilings above, and surrounded by magnificent displays of art, spanning over a millennium, I travelled through time and regions, following the rise and fall of empires, as I made my way through the 15 exquisite galleries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET) in New York, which reopened in November, after almost a decade.

The exhibition, aptly named, New Galleries for the Art of the Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia and later South Asia, takes visitors, in sequence, through the vast cultural heritage of the Islamic world. The level of detail and effort that has lent to the authenticity of this exhibition is truly incredible. An intimate interior Moroccan court was constructed by highly skilled artisans from Fez, Morocco. They created intricate replicas of 14th century doors and worked painstakingly on scaffolding, resulting in a gorgeous tranquil sanctuary in the heart of the exhibit.

The Damascus room is even more authentic. Formerly a reception chamber in an upper-class home in Damascus, in the early 18th century, it travelled across the Atlantic, and after conservation treatment, was reinstalled at the MET close to its original layout centuries ago. The room, a classic example of domestic Ottoman architecture, is appropriately positioned just off the galleries, featuring art from the Ottoman world. These galleries are a marvel in themselves. With towering Spanish wood-lattice ceilings, lined with an unparalleled collection of carpets, the gallery does justice to the Ottoman patronage of the time. Most of the 1,200 pieces of art on display are secular in nature; plush carpets, jewelled weapons, decorative plates, among others. There are, of course, religious pieces as well. The beautiful 14th century mihrab from Isfahan, is decorated in blue and green glazed ceramic tiles. Numerous copies of the Holy Quran with beautiful styles of calligraphy are also on display. Ornate calligraphy, not limited to religious script, is a common thread running through time and regions, as are geometric designs. Although Islamic art shares a few common elements, the range of materials used in the creation of these masterpieces is striking.

The multiple influences on art, through trade and conquests, are also fascinating. In the first gallery there is a beautiful bottle from the Mamluk period in Egypt or Syria, but the figures painted on its side looked distinctly Asian. Such cross-cultural exchange is evident throughout the exhibition. The opulence and diversity of Islamic art really impressed me. The beauty, intricacy, skills and toil led to the creation of masterpieces that conveyed richness without delving into garishness. People left the galleries in awe, with many vowing to return for a second time. It is unfortunate that the galleries were closed during a period where such awe may have translated to a broader understanding of Islam. Even now, it may not dispel negative perceptions of the religion, but it could help in convincing people that there are several facets to Islamic heritage. Sheila Canby, the curator in charge of Islamic galleries, in an interview with The Times, said that there was a tendency to vilify people as if they had come from nothing. She believes that such art is humanising and portrays the beauty and achievement of a great culture. The beautiful galleries, with their stunning displays, stand to impress on their own, but if they make a dent in religious misperceptions, all the better.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Narcissus Versus Lazarus 2012?

Newt Gingrich has now overtaken other Republican candidates in the race for the presidential nomination. According to PPP polling, in a startling come-back from the political dead Gingrich has now overtaken Herman Cain and Mitt Romney while the rest of the field have been reduced to also-rans. Republican voters in Iowa, which Gingrich has to win over in order to stay in the race, appear to be listening to him with interest. This Lazarus-like resurrection surely illustrates the depths of the Republican problem. Gingrich was written off long ago because, in addition to a messy private life, his career imploded in even worse controversy. In 1997 as Speaker of the House of Representatives, he was reprimanded and fined for ethical wrongdoing after admitting failing to ensure that the financing for two projects would not violate federal tax law and by giving the House ethics committee false information. Yet despite all this Gingrich has now become the front-runner for the Republican nomination. The reason is pretty obvious. First, he has performed strongly in the TV debates between the contenders; and second, virtually every other breathlessly announced front-runner has promptly disintegrated under scrutiny, either through intellectual limitations, flip-floppery or allegations of sexual wrongdoing.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Poll: Latinos Were Key Factor in Arizona Recall Vote

Latinos were a key factor in the defeat of Arizona State Senator Russell Pearce, author of the state’s controversial immigration law, according to a poll taken of voters.

Latinos voters supported Pearce’s challenger, fellow Republican Jerry Lewis, a political newcomer, by a three-to-one margin, according to Project New West, which conducted the poll.

They account for 13 percent of the recall electorate. Lewis won by 53.4 percent to 45.3 percent, a difference of around 1,800 votes.

Lewis told Fox News Latino that he made an extra effort to reach out to Latinos to urge them to vote. He said he often used his rudimentary Spanish to woo them.

“I think we can make a pretty good assumption that the Hispanic vote really made a huge difference in this election,” Lewis, a charter school executive, said in an interview with Fox News Latino. “I did a lot of door-knocking in Hispanic neighborhoods. I went on Hispanic shows.”

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Stakelbeck: Iranian Attack on U.S. Easy as “EMP?”

Pentagon estimates show that Iran could have long-range missiles capable of reaching the East Coast of the United States by the year 2015.

Yet if the Iranians continue their rapid path to a nuclear bomb, they might be able to cripple their “Great Satan” even sooner through an electromagnetic pulse—or EMP—attack off America’s coastline.

To find out more about EMP and what America is doing—or not doing—to defend against it and Iranian aggression, check out my latest report.

Click on the link above to watch.

           — Hat tip: Erick Stakelbeck[Return to headlines]

U.S. Gives Islam ‘New Identity, ‘ Speaker Tells Nashville Crowd

Sayyid Syeed tells interfaith group gathered at church how nation shapes his community

A nationally recognized speaker on Islam addressed an interfaith study group in Nashville, focusing on the efforts undertaken by Muslims to adapt their religion to American life.

About 400 people attended the panel discussion featuring Dr. Sayyid Syeed, national director of the Office of Interfaith and Community Alliances of the Islamic Society of North America, at West End United Methodist Church on Wednesday. “The majority of us are from countries with no democracy, and we decided to stay here because we achieved heightened educational training, and there was no place for that in our home countries,” he said. “By that time, our countries had been taken over by dictators, like Saddam Hussein and Moammar Gadhafi. We were not safe going back. So this experience of the last 40 years is an experience of shaping a new identity in Islam.”

The program was presented by the Circle of Friends, a group of Christians, Muslims and Jews who seek to promote better understanding of each other’s faiths and practices through conversations and dialogue. It was a peaceful two hours, with the only unpleasantness being the announcement that an unaffiliated group had come in and distributed pamphlets without permission. Called “Facts You Should Know,” the pamphlets said Syeed’s organization was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in a 2007 terrorism trial. Syeed and other panelists didn’t address the pamphlets.

Audience members asked questions of panelists by way of index cards. During his speech, Syeed touched on several topics, such as the role of women in Islam. He pointed out that the Islamic Society in North America elected a woman as its vice president eight years ago. The same woman later became president. “It was not something where we were rebelling against Islamic law; the Quran itself empowers both men and women,” he said. He admitted that, had the elections taken place in Indonesia or Saudi Arabia, she would not have been allowed to run. “It has been a process to question some of the practices that are connected with the Muslim culture and have nothing to do with authentic Islamic scriptures,” he explained. “Town hall meetings have been held to address this. There have sometimes been very hard discussions on different issues. We have had to convince people that we are creating a new community in this new world.”

The Rev. Becca Stevens of St. Augustine’s Chapel at Vanderbilt University spoke after Syeed and pointed out that all religions have treated women violently at one point.

“If you talk to a woman who has survived genocide in Africa or a homeless woman coming off the streets of Nashville, the stories they tell and the scars they carry are very similar,” she said. “We all think we have this vision of truth … But love is the most universal power of all.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Austria: Graz: Police Chief Warns That Mosque Will Lead to Infiltration

Islam in Europe draws our attention to a interview with Alexander Gaisch, the police chief in the Austrian city of Graz, which was published in the Kleine Zeitung under the headline “We will be slowly infiltrated”. Asked if a planned Islamic centre in Graz could become “a hotbed of radicalisation”, Gaisch replies:

“In the worst case. There will never be an obvious radicalisation. Swordsmen will not be coming, we will be slowly infiltrated. This population group has more children, a different lifestyle. They are doing this quite cleverly with a building in which many people can be accommodated. It will be more than a mosque: a cultural, social centre with a kindergarten.”

The Kleine Zeitung also reports that Gaisch’s comments have been condemned by the Social Democrats and Greens. It’s worth noting the context in which Gaisch made these remarks. During a local election campaign in 2008 Susanne Winter of the far-right Freedom Party described the prophet Mohammed as a “child molester” and called for Islam to be pushed “back where it belonged, beyond the Mediterranean Sea”. This was followed by an attack on a Muslim cemetery in the city. Another local FPÖ politician, Gerhard Kurzmann, was later prosecuted (but unfortunately acquitted) on a charge of inciting religious hatred after he posted an online video game in which players were required to stop the construction of mosques by shooting at Muslims.

[JP note: German-language report here ]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

David Starkey in New British ‘Mono-Culture’ Row

Historian David Starkey has become embroiled in controversy again after referring to Britain as a ‘mono-culture’ that is ‘absolutely and unmitigatingly white’ outside of London.

The debate was a result of education secretary Michael Gove’s announcement that he wanted to make “our island story” a fundamental part of the national curriculum.

Dr Starkey advocated for “a serious focus” on British culture, before arguing against the idea of Britain’s diversity by saying: “You think London is Britain. It isn’t”.

He added that attempts to teach “a kind of Ken Livingstone-esque view of rainbow Britain” was “profoundly misleading”, according a report in the Times.

His remarks were criticised by Alex Lee of Warwick University, who said the TV historian “was seen as unnecessarily politicising an abstract issue”.

The comments are also likely to prompt anger in anti-fascist circles. The term ‘mono-culture’ was extensively used by Norwegian extremist Anders Behring Breivik, who killed 77 people earlier this year in a war against ‘multiculturalism’.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Dutch Cheese Orbiting Earth

Ten kilograms of mature Dutch cheese are orbiting the earth at this very moment. Dutch astronaut André Kuipers was allowed to pack his own food in addition to the standard meals for his next mission.

He chose to fill the 18 containers — which have been launched in advance — with Old Amsterdam cheese. The Dutchman will be launched into space next month and will catch up with the Dutch speciality just before Christmas. During his previous space expedition in 2004, Mr Kuipers also took his own supply of cheese with him, but that time he was away for just one week. This mission will take six months. He had to make a special order because both NASA and ESA have special demands on the packaging of food during missions. A spokesperson for the cheesemaker in the town of Huizen near Amsterdam told Dutch daily AD, “We exchanged a lot of emails on how big the blocks of cheese could be.” André Kuipers wanted to take both Old Amsterdam and Maaslander cheese with him but, because there is no refrigeration in space, he was only allowed to take the more mature cheese.

He does not have to worry about running out, because more cheese can be launched into space in January if need be.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Dutch State Taken to UN Court of Human Rights Over Wilders

Three Dutch Moroccans have made a complaint against the Netherlands to the UN court of human rights, claiming the Dutch state has not protected them from incitement to hatred instigated by Geert Wilders, Nos television reports.

The three, who are not named in the court filing, say the ‘systematic incitement to hatred and discrimination against Muslims and other migrants’ committed by Wilders has left them feeling ‘discriminated against, humiliated and threatened’.

‘They are of the opinion that Wilders by his continued hate speech has poisoned the social climate in the Netherlands that has become more and more anti-migrant and anti-Muslim,’ the statement says.

Wilders was taken to court for discrimination and inciting hatred last year but found not guilty this spring after the public prosecution department called for all charges to be dropped.


The reluctance of the public prosecutor to take action against Wilders meant the ‘judge [at that trial] was only provided with one-side of the legal argument due to the almost perfect harmony between the prosecution and defence,’ the UN court filing states.

The three say international human rights treaties should protect them against discrimination and the UN committee should ensure those treaties are upheld.

A UN human rights commission ruling, which can take years, is not legally binding, Nos says.

[Return to headlines]

Germany to Create Far Right Extremists’ Register

Germany will create a national database as a clearing-house for information on far-right extremists amid mounting criticism because its security agencies failed to detect a deadly neo-Nazi terror group for years.

Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich said Wednesday the new database to be used by all federal and state-level intelligence and police agencies will be modeled on a similar registry for Islamic extremists created in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Mario Monti’s Technocrats: Profiles of the New Italian Cabinet

Mario Monti has announced Italy’s new government. Many will be unknown to most Italians. We profile some of his cabinet technocrats

The former European commissioner, Mario Monti, has unveiled Italy’s new government. A distinguished liberal economist, he kept for himself the finance ministry. The list is stacked with academics, who will take more than a third of the seats in the new cabinet, and most will be unknown to members of the Italian general public. Here we profile some of Monti’s technocrats…

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

Netherlands: Bible Translated Into Dutch Slang

The world’s most translated book, the Bible, has been translated once again. This time into Dutch street slang, a mixture of Dutch, Surinamese, Turkish, Moroccan, English, and Carribean Papiamento. The aim is to create a version of the scriptures that young people understand.

The project is based on an English version, The Word on the Street by Robert Lacy. The project was so successful, the book became a bestseller in Christian bookshops. Dutch Youth worker Daniël de Wolf used the gospel of Matthew to spread the word in De Torrie van Mattie (torrie for story, and Mattie both ‘Matthew’ and ‘mate’. In English, the story of Matthew goes like this:

So how’d it happen? Baby Jesus. The Liberator? You ready for this? I’ll tell you: his mum, Mary, is engaged to Joe. They’d not had sex yet, but — weird! She’s pregnant! Courtesy of the Holy Spirit. Focus on Joe. A good guy, trying to do the right thing and he’s desperate to keep this news quiet. The locals would come down so hard on her. He’s working out how best to deliver the “sorry, but it’s off” speech — without the gossip grapevine crashing from overload. He’s smashing the billiard balls of his best options around his brain, well into the early hours. Finally he drops off and God downloads a dream: An angel saying:

“Joe Davidson, don’t you chicken out of making Mary your wife. I’ll tell you why. ‘Cause it’s the Holy Spirit’s baby. She’ll have a boy, and you’ll put the name Jesus down on the birth certificate. Why “Jesus”? ‘Cause it means Liberator and that’s what he’s going to do for all his people…. liberate them from all the mess they’ve gotten themselves into.”

The street bible is a joint venture by Youth for Christ, the Nederlands Bijbelgenootschap (Netherlands Bible Community) and Ark Mission.


Will young people actually read this? Daniel de Wolf is not sure: “The target group is not exactly known as a bunch of avid readers. That’s why we also recorde the stories as mp3s, which can be downloaded free from our website. And the audio files also a tool for youth workers working with these groups.” You can listen to a two-minute sample below.

De Wolf says he’s getting mainly positive reactions. The negative ones are usually from people who consider the Bible a holy book which should not be rewritten. Moroccan youths gave similar responses: “The Bible is your Holy Book, how can you tamper with that?” A street language translation of the Qur’an is not likely to appear anytime soon. De Wolf thinks people wouldn’t accept it.

More: Bible and Qur’an — all verses side by side. By making accessible the texts of the Christian and Islamic holy books, hopes to encourage study of both sources and promote mutual understanding. It’s a joint project of Radio Netherlands Worldwide and domestic eucumenical broadcaster IKON.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Norway Embraces Islamist Tyranny

by Bruce Bawer

Anti-Semitism in Norway, where I have lived for twelve years, is over the top. I have never quite gotten used to it. Every now and then I hear or read something that reminds me that I am living in Europe, in a country that was occupied by the Nazis, and where a lot of people were perfectly okay with that. I think it is fair to say that anti-Semitism in Norway is most virulent among the cultural elite — the academics, intellectuals, writers, journalists, politicians, and technocrats — although thanks to the media and schools, it has trickled down to many ordinary Norwegians, some of whom may never even have met a Jewish person.

This anti-Semitism manifests itself in various ways. When Obama became president, former Norwegian prime minister Kåre Willoch said things did not look promising because Obama had “chosen a Jew as chief of staff.” The chief rabbi of the Oslo synagogue reportedly receives a pile of hate mail every day. During the Gaza War, a major Norwegian newspaper had trouble finding Norwegian Jews who were willing to comment on the record about the war: they said they were scared of repercussions. Norwegian academics have sought to ban contacts with Israeli universities. Norwegian activists have encouraged boycotts of Israeli products. There is terrible anti-Semitic bullying in the schools. Every so often, a high-profile professor or activist or famous author will write a virulent op-ed or give an angry speech denouncing Israel and insulting Jews. Nothing could be safer for them to say; no one will seek to harm them physically or otherwise — as opposed to what would happen if, say, they made certain public statements about Islam. And they know this. Norway’s most respected newspaper cartoonist, Finn Graff, who has admitted that he never draws cartoons about Islam because he is scared for his life, has frequently drawn cartoons comparing Israelis to Nazis; he knows Jews will never harm him. These anti-Semitic op-eds and speeches and cartoons are never remotely fresh, witty, or original; all they ever do is recycle tired cultural-elite cliche’s. And their creators get nothing but praise from their colleagues, who celebrate them as courageous truth-tellers. It is much more acceptable to scream “kill the Jews” at an anti-Israeli protest than it is to criticize Hamas…

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

Sweden: School Head on Rape Claim: ‘Boys Will be Boys’

A high school in Täby in northern Stockholm has been reported to the Equality Ombudsman over allegations that the principal played down rape allegations as “stuff that boys do”.

After having been encouraged by a classmate, a female student went to the principal of the high school to report that she had been raped by another male student in February and March 2011.

The student reported the school to the Schools Inspectorate (Skolinspektionen), which has now forwarded the complaint to the Equality Ombudsmannen (Diskrimineringsombudsmannen — DO).

According to the complaint filed with the Schools Inspectorate, the student was told by the principal:

“You file a police report if you want, although this is not a prioritized case as no serious crime has been committed.”

The principal then told the student, who was accompanied by another member of staff at the time:

“Guys do this kind of thing, you have to get used to it.”

According to the report, when the girl’s mother called the principal to discuss her comments, the principal told her that her daughter “should concentrate on her studies” and “to stop focusing on these trivialities”.

The girl eventually stopped attending school as she felt she had not received support from the teachers or the principal despite having filed a police report alleging rape and attempted rape in March 2011.

The girl alleges that from that time until the break for the summer holidays, she was subjected to periodical harassment from fellow students and some individual teachers at the school.

The girl has now changed to another school in the county.

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

UK: Archbishop Hails King James Bible

The Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams has paid tribute to the “extraordinary” and “abiding importance” of the King James Bible at a service to mark the 400th anniversary of the translation. The Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and the Prince of Wales led around 2,000 worshippers at the service in Westminster Abbey where early editions of the Bible were presented at the altar. Dr Williams told the congregation that the translators would have been “baffled and embarrassed” by the idea of a perfect translation but had sought instead to convey the “almost unbearable weight of divine intelligence and love” into the English language. “The temptation is always there for the modern translator to look for strategies that make the text more accessible — and when that temptation comes, it doesn’t hurt to turn for a moment — for some long moments indeed — to this extraordinary text,” he said.

The service was attended by senior clerics including the Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu, the Bishop of London Dr Richard Chartres and Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, former head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales. A version of the People’s Bible, hand-written by more than 22,000 people, formed part of the procession of Bibles to the altar. Organisers said the contributions came from a five-month tour of Britain with visits to the Orkney Islands, the Isle of Man, Jersey, Devon, Whitby, Glasgow, Swansea, Wrexham and London, including verses written by protesters at the Occupy London camp outside St Paul’s Cathedral. Celebrities who hand wrote verses included the Prince of Wales, who is patron of the King James Bible Trust, David Cameron and Dr Williams. Other backers included comedian and broadcaster Frank Skinner and the actors Timothy West and Prunella Scales. The congregation also heard a new composition by one of the winners of the King James Bible Trust composition awards, US composer Zachary Wadsworth.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Bigotry, Revisionism and Baroness Warsi

by Melanie Phillips

The co-chairman of Britain’s Conservative Party, Sayeeda Warsi, has delivered a speech about antisemitism to the European Institute for the Study of Antisemitism. I am sure that Baroness Warsi means well. I am sure that she is personally genuinely opposed to bigotry and prejudice in any form. I would therefore like to be able to say it was a fine speech. I cannot do so. Despite much in it that was worthy and unexceptionable, in one vital respect it was a travesty — made no more palatable by the fact that many Jews subscribe to precisely the same lethally misguided misapprehension.

This revolves around the comforting but mistaken notion that Jews and Muslims stand shoulder to shoulder against the same threat by racists and bigots. It’s the argument that says ‘antisemitism = Islamophobia’. And it’s the claim that there is nothing intrinsically threatening to Jews within Islam. All three notions are false. All three notions are promoted by many Jews. All three were to be found in Baroness Warsi’s speech.

She said: ‘The ugly strain of anti-Semitism found in some parts of the Muslim community arose in the late 20th century. The point is that there’s nothing in our history which suggests that hatred between Muslim and Jews is inevitable.’

This is total rubbish. Muslim persecution of the Jews started in the 7th century with the birth of Islam and has continued ever since. It is true that down through the decades persecution of the Jews by Christians was more savage and barbaric than by Muslims. It is also true that there were periods when Jews prospered under Muslim rule. But the so-called ‘golden age’ for Jews in Muslim lands was very short indeed. The true history is a general story of humiliation, persecution and pogroms.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Celebrating the 1611 King James Bible

The 1611 translation never seeks to make it easy, which is what gives this 400-year-old version its abiding importance

By the Archbishop of Canterbury

This is the text of a sermon delivered at a Thanksgiving service in Westminster Abbey for the 400th anniversary of the 1611 authorised King James translation of the Bible.

What is a good translation? Not one that just allows me to say, when I pick it up: “Now I understand.” Of course, if I’m faced with a text in a strange language, I need to be able simply to read it; but a good translation will be an invitation to read again, and to probe, and reflect, and imagine with the text. Rather than letting me say: “Now I understand,” it prompts the response: “Now the work begins.”

One of the most striking things in the wonderful preface to the King James Bible composed by Miles Smith is the clear conviction that there is never an ideal or a final translation. To translate any work of significance is to reveal a certain range of meanings in the original; but there will always be, as the 1611 translators fully recognised, another range that hasn’t yet been captured and will need another round of engagement with the text. If this is true of any important text, how much more true is it of scripture, where the meanings are the self-communications of an infinite mind and love? The invitation that scripture offers is an invitation to a pilgrimage further and further into the mysteries of that mind and love; and a good translation of the Bible must therefore be one that opens out on wider and wider horizons.

We have all suffered from a mindset in the last couple of centuries that has assumed there is an end to translating and understanding and thus that there is something wrong with any version of a text that fails to settle disputes and to provide an account of the truth that no one could disagree with. But what the 1611 translators grasped was that hearing the Word of God was a lifelong calling that had to be undertaken in the company of other readers and was never something that left us where we started.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Is Pippa Middleton All About the Bottom Line?

It’s time for ‘Pushy’ Pippa Middleton to put her famous bottom behind her.

It was a historic week for the female form. Debenhams revealed that their so-called Pippa Pants — Invisible Shaping Bum Boosters, designed to do for buttocks what the Wonderbra did for breasts — are outselling non-padded undies by 148 per cent. I ask you, who could have foreseen the day when British womanhood, so long in anguish over the size of her backside, would storm the lingerie department and cry: “Please make my bum look bigger in this”? What a cruel irony that it turned out to be a bad week for Pippa Middleton, whose rear inspired those stellar undies after making an acclaimed appearance at Westminster Abbey. Poor Pippa. The world’s most delectable bridesmaid was dumped by her boyfriend of a year and a half, former England cricketer Alex Loudon. Unaware of this personal tragedy, a Debenhams spokesman commented brightly: “Widely publicised photographs of Pippa’s shapely behind have made ‘bum envy’ a part of everyday conversation for women all over the UK.” Not in certain circles it isn’t. Not, I am guessing, at the palatial family home of Alex Loudon, who was a friend of Prince William at Eton. I doubt that Alex’s parents — James, a former high sheriff of Kent, and wife Jane — are to be found at the breakfast table discussing this interesting phenomenon over the thickly cut Seville. “I say, darling, I hear bum envy is all the rage.”


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: More Ethnic Pupils Than Whites in London Schools

London’s secondary school system is dominated by black and Asian pupils, according to a landmark report that warns of “very high” segregation.

The most definitive study of its kind shows that 53 per cent of secondary pupils in the capital are now from an ethnic background, outstripping white pupils for the first time.

The change is due to a surge in the number from an ethnic background over the last decade, with a dramatic rise in suburban boroughs such as Bromley. It comes after David Levin, head of the fee-paying City of London School, claimed pupils are being “taught in ghettos” as inner-city schools become increasingly divided along racial lines, and warned that London is “sleepwalking” towards apartheid.

Professor Chris Hamnett of King’s College, who compiled the study, said “ghettoisation” was too negative a term, but added: “There are very high levels of ethnic minority segregation in some schools.”

“Some ethnic minorities, notably Indian and Chinese pupils have consistently high attainment at GCSE, while other groups, notably those from black and Bangladeshi backgrounds get lower than average results. Thus, the ethnic composition of schools will feed through into different levels of attainment.”

Mr Levin who grew up in apartheid South Africa, said: “I think we are selling our children short if they only mix with one tiny cultural or ethnic group. The joy of London should be having a very cosmopolitan, multi-faith experience.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

UK: Parliament Dismisses Over 140,500 Calls for Commons Debate on Babar Ahmad

The Free Babar Ahmad (FBA) Campaign is overwhelmed by the response of the British public to the e-petition to put Babar Ahmad on trial in the UK. In just three months, a record breaking 140,538 individuals had signed the e-petition taking it to the top three on the e-petitions website when it closed. These 140,538 individuals, irrespective of age, religious denomination and political belief, united in a common cause — to end Babar’s 7 years of pre-charge incarceration and prevent his extradition in favour of a UK prosecution. In spite of the enormous public support for the matter, the Parliamentary Backbench Business Committee has refused to list this issue for a full debate in the main chamber of the House of Commons where it could be voted on by Members of Parliament; instead the motion has been relegated to form part of a pre-existing discussion on extradition, led by Dominic Raab MP, in Westminster Hall on 24th November 2011.

Whilst the FBA Campaign support Mr Raab’s well-founded concerns over UK extradition policy, over140,500 individuals did not take the time and trouble to add their names to Babar’s petition only for this matter to be debated outside the Chamber rather than put to a vote, on the floor of the House. Now they have raised their voices — through the correct channel — the FBA Campaign will not rest until they are properly heard. The FBA Campaign vows to make urgent contact with every MP representing each of these 140,538 signatories, to seek their support in securing proper consideration of Babar’s plight and its causes, in the Chamber of the House of Commons. If time cannot be allotted in the parliamentary schedule pre-Christmas, then we will seek early inclusion in the New Year’s parliamentary scheduling.

The family of Babar Ahmad stated:

“We are deeply moved that, in the midst of a recession, more people have shown Parliament their concern over a British citizen being detained for over seven years without charge or trial, than lowering fuel prices. They deserve nothing less than to have their concerns properly debated and put to a vote. Other e-petitions which have secured over 100,000 signatures have been debated in the main chamber of the House of Commons. The decision to treat this e-petition differently is a slap in the face of over 140,500 people who demanded that Babar be put on trial in the UK. Now that it is clear that the call to put Babar on trial in the UK has not just cross-party backing but also enormous public support, we believe the correct forum for debate is the main chamber of the House of Commons, where the matter can be subjected to a vote.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egypt: El Baradei: Arab Spring Turned Into Autumn

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, NOVEMBER 17 — The Arab Spring in Egypt has turned into autumn, and is now at a stage marked more by vendettas than by the transition towards a new democratic regime. This is according to Mohamed El Baradei, the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and a candidate for Egypt’s presidency. El Baradei was speaking in an interview with the “90 minutes” programme broadcast last night on the Al Mehwar network.

Al Ahram online says that the Nobel Peace Prize winner demanded the formation of a national unity government to bring back security to the streets and bring the country out of serious economic crisis, asking the Military Council, which has governed the country since January’s revolution, to admit that it does not have the experienced needed to rule over Egypt. El Baradei said that the timeframe of transition needed to be shortened and an end put to the emergency law, in line with which 12,000 people have stood trial in military courts since the end of the revolution. “People did not enact a revolution to have inadequate security and economic decline,” he said, encouraging Egyptians “not to give up” despite the difficulty of the situation. “We will get through this phase and go forwards,” he added.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya Struggles to Maintain Order in the Face of Post-Gadhafi Chaos

Although Libya’s revolutionaries managed to destroy the Gadhafi regime with the help of NATO, the country’s interim leaders are sitting on a political power keg as they struggle to establish law and order amid chaos.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Tariq Ramadan: “I Don’t See Any Sign of an Arab Spring”

The enduring polarisation between secularists and Islamists is masking the real issues affecting the Arab world, warns Swiss Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan.

He was in Geneva on Wednesday to give his critical take on the recent upheavals in North Africa and the Middle East as described in his new book, “Islam et le réveil arabe” (Islam and the Arab awakening).

The intellectual remains cautious over the turmoil in the Arab world and at this stage prefers not to talk about revolutions while waiting to see real alternatives emerging from the former dictatorial regimes in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.

“I call what happened uprisings rather than revolutions and I don’t see any sign of an Arab Spring,” he told reporters on Wednesday.

On Monday Tunisia’s election commission issued the final results of the October 23 national election, confirming the dominant position of the moderate Islamist Ennahda Party.

The election was held nine months after Tunisians overthrew President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, who had ruled with an iron fist for 23 years.

The once-banned movement has taken 89 out of 217 seats in the newly elected assembly, which will write the fledgling democracy’s new constitution and appoint an interim government ahead of new elections in the next year or so.

But Tunisia’s secularists said their fears about an Islamist takeover were being realised on Tuesday after a senior Ennahda official invoked the revival of a caliphate, or Islamic state.

Ramadan called for an end to the superficial polarisation between secularists and Islamists, which is “one of the biggest traps for the Arab world today”.

Secularists present themselves as defenders of democracy with liberal religious views but many of them are from the wealthy elite, disconnected from the reality and often tied to the dictatorships, he said. On the other side are the Islamist movements which claim to have religious legitimacy and be in touch with the street which is not always true.

“What bothers me is that this polarisation legitimises each side without leading to any kind of self-critique,” he said, adding that the new regimes should be judged on the social and economic programmes they implement…

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

Middle East

Finmeccanica: AW Main Role in Emirates Training Centre

(ANSAmed) — DUBAI, NOVEMBER 17 — Mubadala Aerospace and Abu Dhabi Aviation (ADA), new partners in a joint venture presented at the Dubai Airshow, have announced that a pilot training centre is to be built to meet international commercial and military demands.

The Training Centre project has been authorised as having the involvement of AgustaWestland, a decision that fits in with Finmeccanica’s wider expansion strategy in the Gulf region.

The deal will also see the development and supply at the centre of a flight simulator of the AW139 helicopter, the most widely-sold in the world in its class, which represents 25% of sales in the Middle East.

Agusta Westland and ADA also used the Dubai Airshow to announce the creation of AgustaWestland Aviation Services LLC, a joint venture based in Abu Dhabi, dedicated to product support activities in the helicopter sector.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Iran: Syria Increasing Arms to Attack Israel (CBS News, November 16, 2011

Israeli Defense Force Media Chief Lt.-Col. Avital Leibovich speaks to CBS News’ Pamela Falk about increased missile attacks against Israel and the threat of Iran’s support of insurgents.

           — Hat tip: J-PD[Return to headlines]

Kuwait: Government Meets After Protestors Storm Parliament

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, NOVEMBER 17 — The Kuwaiti government met today in an extraordinary session to study the situation and possibly take measures after yesterday evening’s storming of Parliament by opposition protestors, who demanded that the prime minister step down and denounced cases of corruption. Reports were on the pan-Arab television station Al Jazeera. Dozens of protestors managed to enter the main chamber yelling slogans, while hundreds of others demonstrated in front of Parliament after having been dispersed by police while attempting to march towards the residence of Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser al Mohammad al Sabah. Shortly before the Parliament, made up of 50 members, had rejected the request for an investigation into a reported case of corruption, while about twenty deputies boycotted the session as a sign of protest.

Later three opposition deputies requested and obtained the re-admittance of the issue to the assembly’s agenda by the end of the month.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Saudi Arabia: Police Order Women to Cover ‘Seductive’ Eyes

(ANSAmed) — ROME, NOVEMBER 17 — Saudi Arabia’s religious police will force women to cover their ‘very seductive’ eyes, said police spokesperson Mutleg An-Nabit, quoted by newspaper Al-Quds Al-Arabi.

“We have the right to force women to cover their eyes,” the spokesperson said. The news has triggered many reactions in the Saudi kingdom, particularly after a man who had refused to hide his wife’s eyes behind a veil, as ordered by the police, was taken to hospital.

According to the newspaper, a fight had broken out between the man and the religious police. Apart from admission to hospital, the man in question will have to spend 20 months in prison and suffer 300 lashes.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Syria: Pressure Grows on Assad From All Sides

The growing chorus of disapproval is piling up the pressure on Assad. Following Turkey’s threat to cut bilateral projects, the Arab League has given the regime an ultimatum to end the violence or face economic sanctions.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Bangladesh: The Story of Sima, A Girl Her Father Disfigured With Acid at Age of Ten Months

The girl, who is now ten years old, is at peace with herself but will have to undergo operations throughout her life because the acid damaged her facial muscles and her skin is not growing as fast as her skeleton. After spending three months in prison, the father repudiated his wife and created a new family. At the same time, he was pocketing Sima’s disability money. Thanks to Giovanna Danieletto, an Italian businesswoman, the girl will now have a new home and be able to go to school.

Dhaka (AsiaNews) — Sima is a ten-year-old girl (here pictured at five). When she was ten months old, her father poured acid on her, hoping to get rid of the greatest problem in his life. The child was not born out of love, but was the result of a youthful indiscretion. Eventually, village elders forced her young parents to marry to fix the misdeed. Since she is a girl, Sima is also an economic burden in a country where women still have to bring a dowry in their marriage. For the man who did not want to marry the girl’s mother, the whole thing was a big problem; so, one night, when she was ten months old, he threw acid on his baby girl. He was convicted for the crime and given a three-month sentence. When he came out of prison, he repudiated his wife and washed his hands of his daughter. Right after the attack, Sima was hospitalised and the doctors and volunteers working with the Acid Survivors Foundation (ASF) acted quickly to save her life, but since then she had to undergo many operations and skin grafts.

Created in 1999 by British doctor John Morrison, the Acid Survivors Foundation (ASF) Hospital is a well-equipped medical facility that is staffed with volunteer medical personnel, both local and foreign. It is a front-line service provider that helps in the rehabilitation of victims and in their reintegration into society.

Giovanna Danieletto, an Italian businesswoman, has been based in Dhaka for many years. She lives near the ASF hospital in the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka, and one day heard about Sima’s case.

“One day, I visited the hospital with an acquaintance,” she said. “Children were running in the hallways and Sima was one of them. Seeing how serious her situation was, I asked around whether I could do something. I spoke to the doctors, including the one treating her since she was ten months old when her father threw the acid.”

Sima is a survivor and a strong kid. Not only did she survive serious burns inflicted upon her that night ten years ago, but she has also put up with operations and operating rooms, skin grafts and rehabilitation, social marginalisation and reactions of disgust by other kids. She has had these experiences her entire life.

“The problem is that the acid did not just burn the skin and the surface area but damaged facial muscles as well,” Ms Danieletto said. “After the first operations, doctors are now adjusting things by taking healthy skin from other parts of the body. As for the face, to avoid different pigmentation and the twinkling artifact, healthy skin must be taken from the upper torso, armpits and inside thighs.”

The face and head are Sima’s main problem areas. “At present, she is suffering from inflammations and abrasions to the head, whose skin is very taut and not very elastic [. . .]. The skin is very thin and hairless,” the Italian businesswoman explained.

“One of her eyes was reopened but it is not clear whether she can see or not. Her nose was partially reconstructed and her mouth can now open after closing up. Now she can speak and eat in a normal way. Only one ear is now normal; a quarter is left in the other.”

Sima is not through with operations though. The child “is growing and her skin is not growing adequately to fit her growing skeleton,” Danieletto explained. “She’ll have to put up with skin grafts all her life.”

Acid attacks are commonplace in Bangladesh. It is a legacy from the time when it was part of Pakistan, a practice used in revenge attacks or to punish others, especially women.

Children, both boys and girls, are also victims of this terrible practice because they are used as scapegoats to punish adults for slights or to spite a bride’s family.

In Sima’s case, to add insult to injury, her father did not completely cut off links with her. During the child’s hospitalisation, the mother started visiting her husband in his village after his release from prison even though he had married again and become the father of two boys.

During one visit, she got pregnant and later gave birth to a baby boy. This was not enough to bring her husband back, but at least this was enough to afford her some protection against the social stigma of repudiation. In the local culture, a woman who is repudiated or widowed becomes the property of the community, and is thus vulnerable to attacks. By continuing to visit her husband, even after the separation, Sima’s mother found some safety.

Giovanna Danieletto wanted something more for Sima, her brother and mother. “I first offered to find them a place to live. I would pay the rent. This way, all three could be free to have a normal family life, here in Dhaka. The mother now works as a cleaner at the ASF hospital. The children could have gone to school in the city,” Danieletto said.

Despite the generous offer, the mother declined without an explanation. “She started saying that she could not, that it was not possible, but would never say why,” Danieletto said. “No one would tell me why the refusal. Later, they started telling me that the husband could come back, if the mother found someone who paid for the rent and child maintenance. That seemed a reasonable proposition. Then I thought, ‘What about the other family?’ I was told that the ‘problem’ could be solved by throwing acid on the others. It is obvious that they were hiding something.”

Slowly, the wall of silence typical of this culture was beginning to crumble. “For us Westerners, it is hard to grasp their mindset, sensibility and social taboos,” the businesswoman said. “We cannot even fathom things that are beyond our imagination.”

The last time she saw the father, Danieletto was able to arrange a meeting between him and the Bangladeshi psychologist who is treating the girl in hospital. Sister Dipika, from the Shanti Rani (Queen of the Apostles) Sisters’ House, also came. Ms Danieletto had told the sisters about Sima’s story.

The truth eventually emerged. “The government pays a certain amount to the heads of households who have an acid victim. It is a kind of disability pension. Sima’s father was seeing the mother in order to pocket the government money.”

Once she realised the deception, Giovanna Danieletto decided to find an alternative solution. Starting in January, the little girl will stay at Sister Dipika’s House in Rajshahi, far from Dhaka, where she will attend a local school.

“It’s a great place where orphans or families on hard times can come,” the Italian woman said. “The school Sima will attend is mixed. It includes orphans, disabled and healthy children. Normal children are taught to help disabled children and so disabilities become something ‘normal’.”

“Now, the child is at peace,” Giovanna Danieletto noted. “We take turns visiting her to see how she is doing. In January, she will start a new chapter in her life. We are at her disposal. In the meantime, we can only wait and see how Sima will react to her new reality and how others will work with her.”

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

In Bangladesh, Some Kind of Justice

After four decades, the country’s war-crimes tribunal is finally set to open.

DHAKA, Bangladesh — Jalladkhana, the “butcher’s den,” sits on the dusty outskirts of the Bangladeshi capital, a small building filled with candles and the peals of a small brass bell.

The disused pumping station gained its grisly nickname four decades ago, during the country’s bloody war of independence from Pakistan. At that time, Pakistani soldiers and their local proxies turned the facility into a slaughterhouse, butchering thousands of civilians and dumping their bodies into its deep underground cistern. “They killed people during the day and dumped them during the night,” said K.M. Nasiruddin, the caretaker of the memorial that now occupies the site. As many as 25,000 people lost their lives at Jalladkhana during the 1971 war, Nasiruddin said, but many of the remains were scattered, buried in nearby mass graves or washed away through the city’s drains.

As a teenager, Sharikul Islam came close to joining this grim harvest. In July 1971, at the height of the independence fight, Islam — a Bengali — was captured near his home by a group of young ethnic Bihari migrants from India. Though he recognized some of them from his childhood, the teenagers had been whipped up into a bloodthirsty frenzy by the Pakistani occupiers, who told them their minority would suffer in an independent Bangladesh. “I knew them very well,” Islam recalled of the men. “They told me ‘you are a Bengali, you want an independent Bangladesh, so we don’t know you.’“ The teenagers beat him up and dragged him to the pumping station, where he saw blood and discarded clothing strewn across the floor. They had already made a shallow cut across his throat when two of his Bihari friends interrupted the attack and allowed him to escape to safety. “It was God’s will that he couldn’t perform the cutting operation,” Islam, now 56, said of his assailant.

Few countries have been born under as bloody a star as Bangladesh. The bloodshed began on March 25, 1971, when the Pakistani army launched a brutal crackdown on the nascent Bangladeshi independence movement, a campaign that New York Times correspondent Sydney Schanberg described as “a pogrom on a vast scale.”

In the nine-month orgy of violence that followed, Pakistani soldiers and bands of local collaborators roamed the country at will, killing Hindus and those suspected of pro-independence sympathies. According to the government, up to 3 million people were killed during the conflict, and hundreds of thousands of women were raped. On Nov. 21, after four full decades, a special war-crimes tribunal in Dhaka is set to open the country’s first trial linked to the bloodshed of 1971. Delwar Hossain Sayedee, a leading figure in the Jemaat-e-Islami, the country’s largest Islamist party, will be the first in the dock, facing a raft of charges including genocide, murder, arson and crimes against humanity. Prosecutors claim Sayedee was the regional chief of a militia set up during the war to collaborate with the Pakistani army. If found guilty, he faces death by hanging. Four more members of the Jemaat and two leaders from the opposition Bangladeshi Nationalist Party (BNP) are also in detention awaiting trial for their alleged roles in the bloodshed.

The International Crimes Tribunal, as the tribunal is officially termed, comes following decades of inaction in Bangladesh. Previous attempts at trying key figures have been stymied by the country’s chronic political infighting and a series of military administrations that feared trials might implicate many within their own ranks. Only the election in late 2008 of the Awami League — led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the daughter of independence icon Sheikh Muijibur Rahman — gave fresh impetus to the drive for justice. “The current process is, if you like, unfinished business that started in 1972,” said Ahmed Ziauddin, an advisor to local rights group Odhikar.

During his visit to Dhaka this week, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon described the trials as “essential” for Bangladesh. But the tribunal — a purely domestic contrivance with no UN involvement — has its critics. Human Rights Watch and other international observers say the tribunal’s legal provisions fall far short of international standards, while most of the key perpetrators are either deceased or living safely abroad in Pakistan, the UK and other Western countries. (One key figure reportedly resides in Manhattan.)

“This is a fragmented trial. We are not being able to touch the tip of the iceberg even, because 95 percent of the crimes were committed by the Pakistani army,” said M.A. Hassan, head of the War Crimes Fact-Finding Committee, a group that submitted a list of 1,700 key figures to the government in 2008. Hassan, a medical doctor who funded and directed the Committee’s 10-year documentation project, said that even though the accused had likely committed crimes — all seven were on the committee’s 2008 list — it was important to ensure the legal procedures were up to snuff. “You must prove that [the accused] were members of the Pakistani army, and they did their atrocities … during the time of war and did it as a plan of war in a very systematic way,” he said.

Meanwhile, Sayedee and his party, which governed in coalition with the BNP between 2001 and 2006, have dismissed the tribunal as a “kangaroo court” designed to settle old political scores. “It is more than clear that this is only a vindictive political harassment,” said Shafiqur Rahman, Jemaat’s assistant secretary general. “It is quite an illegal trial. It has got no legitimacy at all.” Rahman said the party had indeed supported the unity of Pakistan during the 1971 war, but that it had never advocated violence. “Our stance was only political, nothing militant,” he said.

After such a long delay, however, public sentiment is firmly stacked against the defendants, and all the victims’ relatives who spoke with GlobalPost said the prospect of some form of justice — however flawed — was better than none at all. “I just want justice… I have lost everything, and I don’t have anyone left,” said Momena Begum, 52, whose parents and three young siblings were shot by a local militia at the height of the bloodshed. 58-year-old Mohammad Bashiruddin Mollah lost his father and brother during the war, and said he wanted to see “tough justice” for the accused. Islam, the Jalladkhana survivor, also expressed strong support for the trial process. “The martyrs could sleep well in their graves if the war criminals are tried and if we could have justice,” he said. “We want nothing else.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Kazakhstan: Dialogue With the West a Must

By Yerzhan Kazykhanov, Foreign Minister

Muslims should address misperceptions in the world about the nature of their religion

KAZAKHSTAN is committed to applying its experience as a multiethnic secular state with a majority Muslim population to improving relations between the Islamic world and the West.

In June this year we took on the role of chairing the 57-country Organization of Islamic Cooperation. We did so because we saw an important opportunity to give a fresh impetus to the OIC’s long-standing objectives of promoting modernization in the Muslim world in line with the values of Islam based on peace, tolerance and human dignity. As a country both in Europe and Asia, we do not believe in the Samuel Huntington theory of the “Clash of Civilizations.” Over the past 20 years the advance of globalization, the expansion of free markets and the rise of “emerging” economies from Asia to Latin America have created new linkages rather than the re-emergence of old divisions predicted by Prof. Huntington. Kazakhstan’s own experience as a predominantly Muslim nation with more than 100 ethnic groups and 40 religions and with no history of either inter-religious or inter-ethnic enmity or bloodshed is also a case in point.

Of course, there have been pronounced tensions between parts of the Islamic and Western worlds as a result of radicalization on both sides, most notably after the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Violence has no place in the Islamic tradition or any other great world religion and is condemned outright by true believers whatever their faith. So there is every reason to believe that extremists driven to violence will remain the marginal figures that they are, disowned by the religions that they falsely claim to represent. The “Arab Spring” has thrown into sharp relief the lack of progress in parts of the Islamic world, underlined by the inability of a number of countries to address mounting economic and social problems. Addressing the root causes of these states’ stalled development and integrating them into the global mainstream is an urgent priority that will prevent potential radicalization of attitudes toward the West.

We believe that the OIC’s main focus should be on promoting economic development and competitiveness through trade and investment policies based on effective investment in education, science and technology. Average GDP per capita in OIC countries is $9,500 while in European Union countries it is over $24,000. There are also disproportionate imbalances of wealth among OIC countries with 10 out of the 57 member states producing 80 percent of combined economic output. Several leading economies in the Islamic world are too dependent on raw materials and need to diversify their development. History shows that countries that rely too heavily on natural resources end up with distorted economies that are vulnerable to swings in commodity prices. This is a challenge that Kazakhstan has known for some time it could face. To meet it effectively, we have been investing rapidly in industrial and innovation sectors while attracting foreign capital and upgrading our education system. We have made this a top priority even though we have been able to increase average incomes of the people of Kazakhstan by 17 times since independence in 1991.

The Islamic countries have a rich cultural, intellectual and scientific heritage that was a foundation for the development of the West. In the 10th century, Cordoba in southern Spain was the capital of the Caliphate of Cordoba, and Europe’s intellectual center. Baghdad, Toledo and Alexandria were also intellectual hubs for world civilization. Islamic countries need to ask themselves how it is that the Islamic world has lost its previous intellectual pre-eminence and how it can restore it. To contribute to the process of gaining greater development of and recognition for the Islamic world Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev has put forward a number of major initiatives, including the establishment of a dialogue platform for the 10 leading Islamic economies, the creation of an international center of innovations, support for small and medium-sized businesses in the Islamic world, and the development of a system of food security within the OIC.

We also firmly believe that the Islamic world can begin to rebuild its influence by demonstrating leadership at the global level, addressing problems that Western countries cannot resolve on their own. In particular, we are encouraging the OIC to focus on Afghanistan and contribute to peace-building efforts, through educational and technical assistance programs to confront, especially the increasingly serious problem of drug trafficking. In August, the OIC proved its ability to react fast and effectively by creating a special assistance trust fund to provide humanitarian assistance to Somalia. $500 million has already been pledged in support. The OIC is an important player in Somalia and can help put this country back on its feet together with other international organizations, including the European Union. We have invited our European partners to discuss possible coordinated measures to assist Somalia.

As a country that unilaterally renounced its status as a nuclear weapon state, we are strongly committed to global nuclear disarmament. Kazakhstan dismantled the world’s fourth largest nuclear arsenal and was the first to unilaterally shut down one of the world’s largest nuclear test sites. Kazakhstan initiated a special OIC resolution urging further efforts to prevent proliferation of nuclear weapons. We have also given our backing to establishing within the OIC a conflict prevention and mediation capability. Through concerted actions to solve global problems, OIC countries can do much to raise the profile of the Islamic world and address misperceptions in the West about the nature of Islam. Just as there should be no place for hatred of the West in the Islamic world, there should be no Islamophobia in the West. At the same time, key Islamic countries need to focus on solutions to their problems of political and socioeconomic development by raising the living standards of their citizens and creating stability. Leadership in the global arena begins at home.

- Yerzhan Kazykhanov is foreign minister of the Republic of Kazakhstan.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Obama Wants to Strengthen Ties With Indonesia

US President Obama has arrived on the Indonesian resort island of Bali. He hopes to strengthen bilateral relations at a time when the US needs strong partners in Southeast Asia to provide a counterbalance to China.

Situated between the Indian and Pacific Oceans, the world’s biggest island state has an important geopolitical significance. “Indonesia lies at the crossroads between important trade routes that link the US with Japan, China and Korea and secure oil supplies from the Middle East,” explains former Indonesian Defense Minister Juwono Sudarsono. The US wants to maintain its presence to ensure there is security on the routes.

The US already has several other strategic partners in Southeast Asia, including Singapore and the Philippines, but Indonesia, which is a member of the G-20 and of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), is growing in importance both politically and economically.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Pakistan: Karachi: Protestant Clergyman Killed in Extremist Ambush

From Quetta, Jameel Sawan was an aide to Saleem Khurshid Khokhar, a member of the Sindh provincial legislature and head of the local APMA branch. In the past, the two men had been the object of threats from Muslim fundamentalists. Christian political leader demands “justice” for the clergyman and “security” for those who fight for minorities.

Karachi (AsiaNews) — Rev Jameel Sawan, from Quetta, was gunned down in Karachi in what appears to be an ambush. The Protestant clergyman was a close aide to Saleem Khurshid Khokhar, president of the Sindh branch of the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA) as well as a Sindh provincial lawmaker who sat in the assembly’s standing committee for minorities.

Both men had received death threats because of their fight for minority rights and support for the policies undertaken by Shahbaz Bhatti. Pakistan’s late Minorities minister who was slain on 2 March.

Despite the threats, the authorities and law enforcement had failed to provide the two men with protection and a police escort. Now investigators have to determine whether the murder was motivated by religion or personal disputes.

Yesterday, Rev Sawan was coming home from a prayer service. He was stopped by three armed men in the town of Aziz. After talking to him, they opened fire killing him on the spot.

The assassination of the Christian clergyman comes a few days after the killing of three Hindu doctors from Shikarpur and the abduction of a Hindu girl in Quetta, Balochistan.

Karachi police has opened an investigation into the incident, but few hope to see the perpetrators and those who sent them brought before the justice system.

Speaking to AsiaNews, Khalid Gill, a leading APMA member, slammed the murder, demanding “justice for Rev Sawan”. He also said that “activists for minority rights in Pakistan” should be protected.

In addition, he called on Sindh’s chief minister to give Saleem Khurshid Khokhar a police escort. “The matter will be raised today in the provincial assembly,” he noted.

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

Pakistan: ‘Islam in Europe a Reality Despite Challenges’

Islam in Europe today is a reality the world would have to contend with despite the immense challenges it faces there.This was the majority opinion among speakers at the two-day seminar, “Islam in Europe”, held at a local hotel, under the aegis of the Area Study Centre for Europe, University of Karachi (KU), and the Hanns Seidel Foundation, Islamabad on Wednesday. The keynote speaker, Lars-Gunnar Wigemark, EU ambassador to Pakistan, could not turn up on account of the inordinate delay in the PIA flight that he was supposed to come by.

The first one to speak, Prof Dr Naveed Ahmed Tahir, Director, Area Study Centre for Europe, University of Karachi, said that Islam in Europe was a reality which could no longer be seen as a temporary phenomenon to be just glossed over by the decision-making European elite. The Muslim population of Europe, which by some estimates had risen to 50 million, in addition to the universality of the message of Islam which was attracting large numbers to its fold, was viewed by many in the West as a disturbing phenomenon which, they felt, could not only change the demographics of Europe but also its cultural identity. Tracing the history of Islam, she said that the Arab Muslims developed a brilliant civilisation that nurtured literature, philosophy, the natural sciences, and wherever they ruled they left an enduring influence on local cultures. The Muslims, she said, constituted 23 percent of humanity and possessed the most prized commodities of the industrialised world — oil and gas. Islam, she said, was today the fastest spreading religion of the world.

However, she said, there was a dismal side to the picture too which was manifest in poor governance, deep-rooted corruption, illiteracy, poverty, and stunted socio-economic conditions which had served as a breeding ground for extremism. Talking about the challenges, she referred to the Swiss ban on minarets and the Swiss People’s Party’s contention that minarets were a symbol of the political will to snatch power and impose Shariah on the country. She said that over the last three decades, the far right in Europe was becoming extremely influential as regards shaping opinions on Islam and the Muslims.

Martin Axmann, resident representative of the Hanns Sedel Foundation Pakistan, in his paper, said there were 53 Muslim groups in Europe in 2007. He said that throughout Europe, including Germany, all individuals were free to practise their religions. Muslims, he said, had existed in Europe since the 12th Century AD and Islam and Europe had interacted much more than was known. In his opinion, it was really after 9/11 that Islam and the West came to be considered as antithetic to each other. What followed, he said, was other developments in France Switzerland, and Germany that sharpened this cleavage.

Dr Pirzada Qasim Raza Siddiqui, Vice-Chancellor, Karachi University, said that the Balkans and the large number of Muslims in Germany and France, and the fact that they numbered 44 million, or six percent of Europe’s population, made Islam a reality to contend with in Europe. Muslims may have learnt from Europe but it just could not be denied that they had given it a lot too. He was a little concerned about the global financial crisis of 2008 which had encompassed the West and still had many countries in its grip, which, he said, could prove very damaging because it was during financial crises like these that discontent arose on account of economic hardship and, if allowed to go unbridled, it could assume the shape of resentment and finally violence against religious or racial minorities.

In his paper titled, “From the Hijab to the Burqa”, Michel Boivin said that Napolean had taken measures to ensure that religious rituals, customs, and practices fell within the ambit of the law. The scarf affair, he said, was seen by the French as a challenge to their much cherished value of secularism. This was exacerbated by the publication of Samuel Huntingdon’s “Clash of civilisations”. Also, the political right wanted to make dents into the vote bank, he said. Duriya Kazi, head of the Visual Studies Department, in her paper, tiled, “Flying carpets lost in desert storms”, talked about the deep-rooted antagonism of the West towards the Muslims, an antagonism which she contended, had become all the more accentuated on account of the most prized resource of the industrial world, oil, which was virtually the exclusive domain of the Muslim world, as, she said, it had increased the dependence of the West on the Muslims.

Former career diplomat Tariq Fatemi lamented the framing of laws in France and Belgium which militated against the rights of the minorities and were racist in content. They projected Muslims as aliens even though Muslims were the citizens of these countries, he said. “Are we witnessing a weakening of the noble and cherished values which formed the foundations of the European community?” he posed the question to the participants. The trends, he said, were frightening because when an economic crisis came, nationalism and fascism reared their ugly heads.

Dr Pierre Gottschlich, a German University professor, said that the main opposition to Islam in Germany came from the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), but there were other parties of the left, notably the Green party, which were all in favour of giving due representation to the Muslims in German political life, stipulating that religion should be treated as a purely private and personal affair, totally detached from politics. He lamented that today there were four million Muslims in Germany but no political representation.

Dr Ijaz Shafi Gillani traced the history of the Muslims in various European countries and talked about the mutually negative perceptions and cited the results of various polls conducted. He quoted the results of a certain poll in Germany, where 34 percent of the respondents had said that the Muslims were responsible for Germany’s problems and only nine percent had answered in the negative. Similarly, he cited the findings of another poll in the UK where 79 percent of the respondents had said that the ascendancy of Muslim identity in the UK was to the detriment of the country.

Former ambassador Shahid Amin was of the view that relations between the West and Islam really started undergoing a dip after the events of 9/11, and said that it would be in the interest of both to realise that they all had a common destiny and that they would sooner or later have to devise ways and means to live in harmony. Prof Abdul Wahab Suri of the Department of Philosophy, KU, delivered a philosophical lecture on modernism and post-modernism and discussed the issue in the light of these phenomena.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Far East

Chinese Dissident Exposes Prison Brutality

Chinese poet Liao Yiwu recently moved to Germany, where his books are best-sellers. His self-imposed exile has allowed him to finally publish his memoir, which reveals the abuses and torture he suffered during his years in prison. The book is a shocking indictment of the Chinese justice system.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Obama: US to Stay a Pacific Power, China Reacts

During a state visit to Australia, the US president confirms the deployment of US troops in the region, a top “priority” for Washington. The move worries Beijing because it could undermine its influence in the area.

Canberra (AsiaNews/Agencies) — “The United States is a Pacific power, and we are here to stay,” US President Barack Obama said this morning during a state visit to Australia. Signalling his country’s intention to boost its economic and military commitment, the US leader vowed to expand US influence in the Asia-Pacific region and play a key role in defining the future of that part of the world even as it reduces defence spending.

China reacted by expressing concern over Obama’s announcement that a US military base would be set up in Australia. Beijing is worried that its growing power in the region, seen by Chinese leaders as their backyard, could be limited by enhanced US influence.

Although Obama tried to allay Chinese concerns by pledging greater cooperation with Beijing, Communist leaders are particularly concerned about the strategic implications of US military redeployment from Iraq and Afghanistan to elsewhere in Asia, especially in Southeast Asia, because it will likely give US forces greater flexibility.

In fact, “As we end today’s wars,” the president said, “I have directed my national security team to make our presence and mission in the Asia Pacific a top priority.”

At the same time, “we’ll seek more opportunities for cooperation with Beijing, including greater communication between our militaries to promote understanding and avoid miscalculation. We will do this, even as we continue to speak candidly to Beijing about the importance of upholding international norms and respecting the universal human rights of the Chinese people.”

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


Greece: Frontex Critic as Migrant Influx Peaks

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, NOVEMBER 17 — Even as the repercussions of the debt crisis make the prospects of a new life in Greece less than rosy, the influx of undocumented immigrants into the country has increased significantly over the past year, according to figures released on Wednesday by the European Union’s border monitoring agency, Frontex. However, a top agency official has told daily Kathimerini that Greece woefully lacks the infrastructure to accommodate the would-be migrants.

Detentions at the Greek-Turkish land border increased by 20% in October compared to the same month last year, according to Frontex, which referred to “an absolute monthly record of 9,600 illegal border crossings.” “Average detections were over 300 irregular migrants crossing that border on a daily basis,” a statement issued by the agency said.

The agency attributed the “dramatic development” to a combination of factors. These include the absence of sufficient detention facilities both in Greece and Turkey, and the lack of adequate agreements for the readmission of immigrants from specific countries of origin. Frontex’s deputy executive director Gil Arias Fernandez told Kathimerini that most of the 26 countries contributing staff and equipment to the agency’s operation at the Greek-Turkish border were increasingly reluctant to continue, largely due to the failure of Greek authorities to create new reception centers for migrants, particularly in Evros, a key main gateway for immigrants to cross into Greece from Turkey. Most of the current reception centers in Greece are “unacceptable,” according to Fernandez, who also criticized authorities for refusing to cooperate with nongovernmental organizations.

Additional contributing factors cited by Frontex appear to apportion a fair burden of the blame to Turkish authorities — the proximity of Istanbul airport (with low-cost connecting flights), Turkey’s liberal visa policy and the “numerous facilitation networks established in Turkey with links to Greece,” an apparent reference to cross-border smuggling rings.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

UK: Till Police Us Do Part: Bogus Bride Arrested in Her Wedding Dress After Being Paid £400 to Marry Complete Stranger’groom’ Wanted to Marry So He Could Stay in Britain

A bogus bride was arrested in her wedding dress seconds before she was about to tie the knot to a complete stranger for just £400.

Elizabeth Balogh, 33, was taken away in handcuffs with her fake bridegroom when police officers and border agency officials raided a register officer where the sham wedding was taking place.

Balogh was jailed today after a court heard she had been paid £400 to marry Pakistani-born Asif Hussain, 25, to allow him to stay in Britain after his visa ran out.

The pair were arrested after Border Agency officials had been tipped off the wedding was a fake — by the registrar who was about to marry them.

Prosecutor Hywel Hughes told Cardiff Crown Court that the official at Cardiff register office was suspicious because Hussain did not speak English.

He said: ‘It was apparent to the registrar that there was very little verbal communication between the bride and groom.

‘It struck the registrar as very odd that they wanted to get married as quickly as possible and the wedding was booked for three weeks later.’

The court heard that Hungarian-born Balogh initially told police she did want to marry Hussain, and said: ‘It was love at first sight.’

But the pair eventually admitted it was a sham.

Balogh’s cousin Valerie Farkas also became involved in the bogus wedding by working as an interpreter for the pair.

Mr Hughes said: ‘These three set out and entered into what was a sham marriage.

‘Balogh and Hussain were due to marry and Farkas was to play the role of interpreter.’

The court heard Hussain, whose student visa had run out, had paid £800 to a third party to arrange the wedding and gave £400 to Balogh.

But all three later admitted conspiracy to facilitate a breach of immigration law.

Judge Neil Bidder QC jailed Hussain, of Cardiff, for 12 months, Balogh for 10 months and Farkas for six months.

Both Balogh and Farkas had addresses in Manchester.

He said: ‘The registrar became suspicious that this was a fraud and a scam — although it didn’t require her to be very perceptive as Balogh and Hussain were unable to communicate with each other.

‘They didn’t share a common language and Farkas was needed to interpret.

‘Not one of you realised how transparent a sham this was.

‘You all told police a pack of lies and Balogh telling them it was love at first sight was an outrageous lie.’

Chris Lovejoy, from the UK Border Agency’s immigration crime team, said: ‘Asif Hussain saw this sham marriage as a shortcut to a life in the UK.

‘Instead, he has earned himself a significant spell behind bars.

‘This case shows how people are prepared to enter into a marriage with someone they barely know to help them cheat the immigration system in exchange for cash.

‘The UK Border Agency is cracking down on sham marriages and those who seek to cheat immigration laws face jail.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Study Reveals Racial Segregation in Online Dating

When it comes to online dating, segregation appears to be alive and well. After analyzing more than one million profiles on a mainstream dating website, researchers at the University of California Berkeley, concluded that whites are highly unlikely to initiate contact with black people.

Even when their profiles indicate that they are indifferent about the race or ethnicity of a potential romantic interest.

The researchers expected to find homophily, a social science term which means love of the same, in their analysis but they were surprised that the internet did not play a role in eroding reluctance to date outside ones own race.

“When the constraints of segregation are lifted by technology, what do people do? They don’t act all that differently,” said Gerald Mendelsohn, PhD, one of the professors who worked on the study. “Segregation remains a state of mind as much as it is a physical reality.”

The study indicates that more than 80 percent of the communication initiated by whites was to other whites. Only 3 percent went to blacks. Black members of the same site were more open to dating whites and were ten times more likely to contact whites. Black men were actually slightly more likely to initiate contact with white women than black women.

Professor Mendelsohn, attributed this to the influence of cultural imperatives on all American men. “In this country, our notions of feminine attractiveness are based almost entirely on images of white women…

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

‘Totally Unacceptable’: Vatican Slams Benetton ‘Unhate’ Campaign Showing Pope Benedict Kissing an Imam on the Mouth

Clothing firm Benetton has been heavily criticised by the Vatican for using an image of Pope Benedict kissing an imam on the mouth in its latest shock advertising campaign.

The controversial image, which was hung from a bridge near the holy city early today, shows the Pope embracing Ahmed Mohamed el-Tayeb, one of Islam’s leading figures.

Other images in the campaign, which is part of the Italian firm’s support for the Unhate Foundation, show various world leaders kissing on the mouth.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]


Children as Young as Four Should be Given Ritalin for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), According to Experts.

One in 12 children now suffers from the condition, say doctors who are advising that preschoolers should be checked for signs of the condition.

The updated guidelines are from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), an influential body whose pronouncements are studied with great interest by child health experts in Britain.

The guidelines were presented yesterday (SUN) at the AAP’s annual conference in Boston, by lead author Dr Mark Worlaich, professor of paediatrics at the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine.

He said: “Treating children at a young age is important, because when we can identify them earlier and provide appropriate treatment, we can increase their chances of succeeding in school.”

He and colleagues advised that a doctor “should initiate an evaluation for ADHD for any child four through 18 years of ago who presents with academic or behavioural problems and symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity, or impulsivity”.

Doctors “should recognize ADHD as a chronic condition”, and those diagnosed with it should be regarded as having “special health care needs”.

Earlier this year, David Traxson, a child psychologist, said at least 100 children aged three to five in the West Midlands were on “potentially addictive” Ritalin or similar drugs.

In total, about 660,000 Ritalin prescriptions for children are made every year, a sevenfold increase since 1997.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

New Finding Ups the Chances of Life on Jupiter’s Moon Europa

Europa, Jupiter’s icy moon, meets not one but two of the critical requirements for life, scientists say. For decades, experts have known about the moon’s vast underground ocean — a possible home for living organisms — and now a study shows that the ocean regularly receives influxes of the energy required for life via chaotic processes near the moon’s surface.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]