Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20111123

Financial Crisis
»‘A Complete Disaster’: Sovereign Bond Auction Fizzles in Germany
»As Euro Teeters on the Edge of Disaster, IMF Reveals it Will Use British Taxpayers’ Cash to Bail Out Italy
»Belgium Under the Tutelage of Brussels?
»Belgian Bond Costs Soar After Government Talks Fail
»Chinese Ratings Agency Downgrades Greece
»Eurobond Talk Should Not be ‘Taboo’, Monti Tells Van Rompuy
»Eurobonds: A Cure or a Curse?
»Eurozone Deal Probably Last Chance: Bank of Greece
»Financial Paralysis: Europe Short on Cash as Bond Fears Deepen
»French Government Retreats on Sick Leave
»Goldman: Sovereign Risk is Spreading Like Wildfire
»Greece: There is One Jobless in Every Family, Report
»Italy: Monti Expresses Agreement With European Requirements
»Le Monde Reports 60% No Longer Believe in Sarkozy
»Monti: Italian Opportunity for Part of Europe’s Future
»Monti’s Govt to be ‘More Incisive’ Than Berlusconi’s
»Netherlands: De Jager Talks Tough as He Heads to Berlin for Talks on Greece
»Spain Needs EU Help to Finance Its Debt
»US to Conduct Stress Tests Against Euro Collapse Scenario
»A Disease-Carrying Bullfrog Straddles a Cultural Divide
»Albuquerque Police Monitor Racial Tensions at Highland High
»Caroline Glick: The Scourge of Clientitis
»Columbia, Maryland: Community Group to Counter Backlash Against Women-Only Swimming Sessions
»Creeping Sharia is Bound to Choke Off Our Freedoms [Letter to the Editor, Baltimore Sun]
»Kalle Lasn and Micah White, The Creators of Occupy Wall Street
»Mitt Romney Seen as the Lesser of Several Evils
»Pieces of Einstein’s Brain Go on Display for First Time
»The Rise in Anti-Muslim Hate Crime (And a Startling Omission)
Europe and the EU
»3D Moon a ‘Roadmap’ For Lunar Missions
»Belgian Jews in Shock Over Beating of 13-Year-Old Girl
»France: Mosque Tagged With Nazi Symbols
»French Reminded to Get Rid of Their Francs
»Italy: Party Girls Are Victims of Prosecutors, Says Berlusconi
»Italy: Court OKs Clooney as Witness in Berlusconi Sex Trial
»Killings Prompt Swiss to Tighten Gun Laws
»Netherlands: Majority of Muslim Women Wear Headscarf
»Species Under Threat: ‘Alarming Decline’ In European Aquatic Life
»Study Finds Alarming Decline in European Flora and Fauna
»Toulouse: Loudspeakers Quote Koran to Calm Neighborhood After Fatal Shooting
»UK ‘To Remain Leading Centre’
»UK: Classrooms in London Schools Tackle Genital Mutilation
»UK: Demolition Underway in New Accrington Mosque Scheme
»UK: Fascists Promote Petition to Ban Sharia Law
»UK: Islamic Centre Gets Go-Ahead
»UK: Muslim Teacher Who Was Secretly Filmed Kicking and Slapping Children at Mosque is Jailed
»UK: Muslim Writers Awards — Celebrating Five Years!
»UK: Plan to Tackle Child Sexual Exploitation
North Africa
»Egyptian Military Using Nerve Gas on Protesters
»Film: Medfilm, ‘Hymen National’, Virginity at Any Price
»Seif Al-Islam’s Capture Reflects Libya’s Division
Middle East
»Arab World and Med ‘A Priority’ Says Terzi
»Erdogan Blasts Anti-Islam Propaganda
»Italy Throws Weight Behind New Sanctions Against Iran
»Jordan: King Meets Muslim, Catholic Clerics
»Saleh in Saudi Arabia to Sign Transfer of Power Deal
»It’s Alive! Russia’s Phobos-Grunt Probe Phones Home
»Phobos Mission Phones Home as Rescue Plan is Hatched
South Asia
»Afghan Woman Jailed for Being Raped by Her Cousin’s Husband is Offered Release if She Marries Her Attackergulnaz Was Convicted of Adultery Because She Had Sex Outside of Marriage by Being Raped
»Pakistan: ‘Intellectuals Trends OK if Not Against Islam’
»Singapore: Blogger Probed for Offensive Facebook Post
Far East
»Saunas Could Heal Your Mood and Your Heart
Australia — Pacific
»Mosque Plan Upsets Residents
»Plans Revised for Elermore Vale Mosque
»Armed Illegals Stalked Border Patrol
»Austria: Immigration Flood to Spell End of Europe?
»Italy: President Wants Law to Grant Children of Immigrants Citizenship
»Migrant Communities Say German Authorities Must Act to Restore Trust
»Sweden: Asylum Seekers Protest Living Conditions
Culture Wars
»Atheists Demand Marines Remove Cross Commemorating Fallen U.S. Soldiers
»UK: Ten Things That Should be Banned Before Smoking
»Dictatorship: The Wave of the Future?
»First Evidence That Dinosaurs Ate Birds
»New Contact Lens to Display Images in Front of Wearer’s Eyes
»Women Fake Orgasm to Hang Onto Their Men

Financial Crisis

‘A Complete Disaster’: Sovereign Bond Auction Fizzles in Germany

Germany has been considered a safe haven of financial stability amid the ongoing euro crisis — but that may be changing. Growing mistrust from investors seems apparent after what has been described as a “disastrous” government bond auction on Wednesday. Just two-thirds of the German bonds sold, leaving analysts concerned but not panicked.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

As Euro Teeters on the Edge of Disaster, IMF Reveals it Will Use British Taxpayers’ Cash to Bail Out Italy

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has unveiled a new ‘credit line’ to channel money to troubled economies and plans to use British taxpayers’ cash to bail out the Italian economy, it was revealed yesterday.

The move could see billions of pounds being poured into Italian coffers with very few strings attached — with Britain required to pay 4.5 per cent of the costs.

The money would be handed over to Rome with few strings attached, at a time when the Euro continues to teeter on the edge of disaster.

The IMF decision will pile pressure on David Cameron to do more to protect British national interests from the Eurozone crisis.

In a separate move yesterday, both German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy said they are working on plans to introduce changes to EU treaties to impose central controls over fiscal policy in countries in the single currency.

‘We are soon going to make proposals on modifying the treaties to avoid countries diverging in budgetary, economic and fiscal matters,’ Mr Sarkozy said.

Mrs Merkel again rejected Mr Cameron’s demands for the European Central Bank to act as lender of last resort.

And she made clear that countries which spend too much and ‘break the rules’ of Euro membership should have policies dictated to them — meaning by Berlin.

The timing is awkward for the Prime Minister, who last night faced demands that he call a referendum to let Britain have its say on the plans for a Eurozone fiscal union.

Tory MP Mark Pritchard said Mr Cameron’s plans to demand control of employment laws in return for signing off on a treaty would not be enough.

‘Concessions to Britain cannot be a substitute for a referendum. The proposed treaty changes are significant, not minor, and concessions are no longer satisfactory. The British people need to be empowered and British national interests defended.’

Mr Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne have repeatedly said that money from the IMF should not be used as a substitute for the Eurozone sorting out its own problems.

But yesterday the IMF stepped in after weeks of failure by Germany and France to get a grip on the crisis and provide the ‘big bazooka’ backup that the single currency needs.

Under the plans, countries facing ‘short-term liquidity needs’ would be able to borrow up to five times their own contribution to the IMF for six months.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Belgium Under the Tutelage of Brussels?

De Morgen, 23 November 2011

“EU ups pressure on Belgium,” headlines De Morgen. The Flemish newspaper writes that “at a time when negotiations on the formation of a government are suspended, the European Commission is once again insisting in its Economic Growth Survey 2012 on the need for structural reforms.”

The Brussels daily explains that the report deals with Europe in general and is not exclusively focused on Belgium. For example, it points out that “without a convincing response to the euro crisis, the economic situation of the EU will deterioriate rapidly” — an observation which highlights the fact that time is running out for Belgium, which has been without a government for almost 18 months.

The political crisis also affects the conomy, adds De Morgen: the yield on Belgian debt has continued to climb and now exceeds 5% — a situation judged to be “worrying” by Anne Leclercq of the national Debt Agency. According to Leclerq, “last month, we were pulled down by France. When the country came under pressure on financial markets, we were contaminated too.”

This is a concern that is shared by columnist Yves Desmet, who wonders if a pure and simple form of European tutelage would not be the best the solution to the Belgian political crisis: “every day, our politicians demonstrate their incompetence in the fine art of taking democratic decisions: that is, making compromises. If no one in this country is able to see beyond the interests of his party, then it might be an idea to place Belgium under the tutelage of the European Commission.”

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

Belgian Bond Costs Soar After Government Talks Fail

The latest collapse in talks to form a government in Belgium has sent investors running, amid fears the core eurozone country could face similar problems to Greece. The country’s cost of borrowing money soared over five percent on Tuesday (22 November) to an almost-10-year high, after would-be prime minister Elio Di Rupo handed in his resignation on Monday, marking a preliminary end to a-year-and-a-half-long attempts to reach a deal.

Belgian EU trade commissioner Karel De Gucht warned earlier this month that his country might be “next” on the markets’ radars if it did not manage to agree and draw up a budget for 2012. Belgium’s debt is almost at 100 percent of GDP — the third-highest in the eurozone.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Chinese Ratings Agency Downgrades Greece

Chinese ratings agency Dagong on Tuesday (22 November) downgraded Greece’s sovereign rating to the second-lowest ‘default’ level, a move suggesting that Beijing has no intention of ‘playing Santa Claus’ to the ailing eurozone, experts say. “As Greece has completely lost its solvency, it has to prepare for a massive debt restructuring,” Dagong said when announcing the downgrade from triple C to C.

Dagong also warned that it may downgrade Greece to the lowest default level if austerity further dragged the country downwards. “Social unrest has intensified. The government’s ability to control economic and social developments has been dramatically impaired,” making the implementation of the EU-IMF aid package difficult, it added.

The ratings agency projects a recession of 7.2 percent in 2012 and 6.8 percent the following year, with very little chances of restoring growth in the medium term. Neither does the Chinese ratings agency believe that the new €230-billion-strong aid package may “drag the Greek government debt back to a sustainable track.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Eurobond Talk Should Not be ‘Taboo’, Monti Tells Van Rompuy

Europe will benefit from Italian PM’s experience, president says

(ANSA) — Brussels, November 22 — Talk of issuing Eurobonds to help the eurozone out of its debt crisis should not be “a taboo”, Italian Premier Mario Monti said after talks with European Council President Herman Van Rompuy Monti, a former EU commissioner for the internal market and for competition, recalled that he proposed Eurobonds in a well-received study on the single market two years ago.

But Van Rompuy said Eurobonds were “not an immediate solution” to the eurozone’s sovereign debt crisis.

Before creating such bonds, which have been suggested by several countries and backed by European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi, “more integration is needed,” the EU president said. Eurobonds, which Germany has voiced reluctance to back, should only come after “a process of step-by-step integration, as was the case with building the euro,” Van Rompuy said.

Van Rompuy, who conferred with Monti for an hour, said “I have known Mario Monti for many years, we have been in regular touch over the last few months and I am happy to have welcomed him to the table of the European Council”.

Monti, the EU president said, “is a patrimony for all the members of the European Council.

“Everyone will benefit from his impressive experience and his vision for Europe”.

According to the president, the Italian government’s efforts to cut debt should be based on the same “three pillars” underscored by Monti when he took office: fiscal rigour, economic growth and social fairness.

The government, Van Rompuy added, “will build on the strength of the Italian economy”. Italy “will have a key role in the European project” as the EU “tackles a systemic challenge,” Van Rompuy stressed.

The EU needs “major reforms to achieve more fiscal discipline and integration,” he said.

Monti had assured him, he said, that Italy will present measures to address its debt crisis “very, very soon”.

The Italian premier told reporters: “There is no contradiction between rigour and growth via structural reforms.

“Indeed, the sustainability of the budget needs to be bolstered by higher growth”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Eurobonds: A Cure or a Curse?

The eurobond debate in the eurozone shows no sign of disappearing, even if Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy remain opposed to the idea. Yet most experts agree — eurobonds will come sooner than later.

Calls for introducing eurobonds to help debt-ridden eurozone countries raise capital are growing louder by the day but also causing some friction.

On the one side are Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain, the so-called PIGS countries that are pushing hard for eurobonds. On the other are Germany, Austria and Finland, which remain opposed to them. The two sides are still far from an agreement but that could change.

Eurobonds would be issued jointly by the 17 eurozone governments, at one common interest rate. Currently, each eurozone country pays different rates — with for instance Spain having to pay investors close to seven percent to hold its bonds, a rate considered unsustainable over time.

The eurozone’s weaker economic members need help and believe jointly guaranteed bonds could restore confidence in sovereign borrowing. The idea of having their debt burden carried on stronger shoulders, they believe, would help lower interest rates. But that means that Germany, as the largest economy in the eurozone, might have to pay higher rates to borrow money.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Eurozone Deal Probably Last Chance: Bank of Greece

A eurozone bailout deal set up last month to slash Greece’s huge debt by nearly a third is probably the last chance to reconstruct the country’s economy, the Greek central bank warned on Wednesday. “The new opportunity provided to Greece under the agreement of 26 October may well be the last such opportunity,” the Bank of Greece said according to an official translation of a Greek statement released first.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Financial Paralysis: Europe Short on Cash as Bond Fears Deepen

The euro zone is stuck in a double crisis. On the one hand, investors are no longer interested in purchasing sovereign bonds. On the other, banks with such bonds on their books are being treated with extreme caution. A massive financial crisis threatens — and it could be worse than the last.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

French Government Retreats on Sick Leave

Prime minister François Fillon announced on Tuesday that plans to increase unpaid sick leave for private sector workers would be scrapped. Legislators voted last week to increase from three to four the number of days that an employee in the private sector can be sick and off work without getting paid.

At the same time, public sector workers would go just one day without getting paid. The combined measures would have saved around €440 million ($593 million) at a time when France is looking to make large cuts in public spending to bring down its level of debt. “The majority of parliamentarians just don’t want it,” said Pierre Méhaignerie, president of the social affairs committee in the country’s National Assembly.

He said that members of parliament had heard “very strong reactions” in their constituencies from voters. There was a “feeling of injustice: why one day for some and four for others?” On Monday a group of MPs from the governing UMP party had written to the health minister to call for the fourth day of unpaid leave to be scrapped. In their letter they said the decision had been taken “without any consultation” and that it would “weigh heavily on private sector employees,” particularly those working in small and medium-sized businesses.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Goldman: Sovereign Risk is Spreading Like Wildfire

From Goldman’s Francesco Garzarelli, it doesn’t get starker than this

Pressures on Euro area sovereign bond markets have progressively intensified and spread like a wildfire. Sparking the flames has been in the introduction in early June of ‘substantial’ private sector involvement in the restructuring of Greek debt, crystallizing the notion of default risk in sovereign securities.

Garzarelli goes on to make an incredibly crucial point about pre-Euro days…

The damage to asset prices and investors’ confidence since the start of the third quarter has been substantial. The 2-yr yield differential among the three main Euro area countries — Germany, France and Italy, which account for two thirds of its combined GDP — is now as wide as in the early 1990s, i.e., before the introduction of the Euro (France-Germany: 130bp; Italy-Germany: 583bp). This is important because, in pre-EMU days, sovereign risk had its main outlet in the currency market. Indeed, controlling for the FX risk through forwards rates, yield differential across sovereigns were actually by comparison quite small relative to current gyrations.

The weakening of the domestic currency associated with the rise in yields in pre-EMU days constituted an important ‘safety valve’, boosting (at least for a while) GDP growth and helping mitigate the negative impact on domestic demand of the fiscal retrenchment that typically followed. The fact that, by contrast, pressures for yields to go higher now do not find any compensation in the form of easier financial conditions makes the current situation perilous, and a threat to the fiscal adjustment itself

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Greece: There is One Jobless in Every Family, Report

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, NOVEMBER 22 — There is not a single family in Greece without one jobless member, according to the latest data compiled by the Organisation for the Employment of Human Resources (OAED). The number of unemployed people in Greece is rising by the day. According to the data, as daily Athens News reports, the country’s list of registered jobless grew by 55,000 over last month and by 294,845 over the past year. There are now 813,442 unemployed people in Greece, according to OAED. More than half of them are over the age of 30. About 280,000 have been out of work for more than one year.

The rate of unemployment has skyrocketed over the past two years, reaching an unprecedented high of 18.4%, according to Hellenic Statistics Authority (ELSTAT). This is more than double the rate of unemployment (7%) in 2008. The prospects of finding another job are low: job vacancies in October totalled only 75,633 — a drop of 9.7% compared to September 2011 and of 17.43% compared to October 2010. Savvas Robolis, labour institute director at the General Confederation of Greek Labour (GSEE), sounded the alarm last week. He said the jobless now outnumber workers in Greece. “There are 4.1 million workers in Greece and 4.5 million people who are not working — jobless and pensioners,” said Robolis. “How is it possible for the few to feed the majority?” The institute warns that the rate of unemployment could reach 26% next year. Meanwhile, the cost of the average basket of goods for the average Greek household increased by 3% to 2,317.78 euros in October 2011, up from 2,249.10 euros compared with August 2010, the Greek Consumers Centre (ELKEKA) announced on November 16. The biggest price hikes were seen in housing (6%), alcoholic drinks and tobacco (6%) and transport (5%).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Monti Expresses Agreement With European Requirements

(AGI) Rome — During a joint press conference in Brussels with the president of the European Council, Herman van Rompuy, Italy’s Prime Minister mario Monti said, “There is complete agreement with what Europe asks of us.” Monti added, “The things Europe is asking us to do, is a shame that Europe has asked us, because they are the things that Italy needs, that our children and grandchildren need” and are “a form of constraints and monitoring that help, but are also needed.” ..

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

Le Monde Reports 60% No Longer Believe in Sarkozy

(AGI) Paris — Le Monde reports that 60% of France’s citizens do not believe Sarkozy can defend them from the consequences of the economic crisis. Data emerged from a survey carried ut by the weekly and published just as it is feared than contagion has spread to beyond the Alps. Eight out ten people in France do not believe the president wishes to implement measures addressed at reducing social inequality.

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

Monti: Italian Opportunity for Part of Europe’s Future

(AGI) Brussels — Italy’s participation in European policy “has had historically high and low points” and according to Prime Minister Mario Monti “opportunities will not be lacking for a larger, livelier, constructing and continuous participation by Italy in shaping Europe’s future, beginning with urgent intervention on the structure of the Eurozone and ultimately dealing with many other issues that are on the European Union’s table.” The communication method hoped for by EU’s President Barroso “is also in Italy’s best interest,” added Monti.

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

Monti’s Govt to be ‘More Incisive’ Than Berlusconi’s

Premier says Europe will be at centre of his work

(ANSA) — Brussels, November 22 — Premier Mario Monti said his government will be more incisive in passing economic reforms than the Silvio Berlusconi administration it has replaced after a long meeting with European Commission President Jose’ Manuel Barroso on Tuesday.

Former EU commissioner Monti’s emergency government of non-political technocrats was sworn in last week after Silvio Berlusconi quit, having lost his majority in parliament with the country’s debt crisis threatening to spiral out of control.

The new administration’s mandate is to approve reforms to boost growth and slash its huge national debt along the lines of measures Berlusconi’s centre-right government agreed with the European Union last month.

Monti’s said his efforts will be helped by the fact that it enjoys the support of Berlusconi’s People of Freedom (PdL) party, the biggest in parliament, and of the main parties that were in opposition.

“The government that I lead will be able to go more decisively down to the bottom, in an incisive way, in adopting structural reforms than the government that preceded me because it has wider support, which I will try to maintain,” Monti told a news conference. The new premier also reiterated that he wanted to transform Italy into one of Europe’s strengths, rather than the weakness it has been recently because of the debt problems that are at the centre of the eurozone crisis.

“My effort and that of my government will be to put Europe at the centre and contribute as much as possible to the harmonious development of the European Union,” he said.

He stressed, however, that Europe must also enact “urgent interventions and structural reforms” if the euro is to survive.

Barroso said he believed Monti and his government team had what it takes to meet the “immense” challenge of pulling Italy out of crisis. “Monti has the authority to lead Italy,” the head of the European Commission said.

“Italy is determined to overcome the crisis and triumph”.

Monti was also set to meet with European Council President Herman Van Rompuy on Tuesday.

On Thursday he will have talks with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Strasbourg.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: De Jager Talks Tough as He Heads to Berlin for Talks on Greece

The Netherlands, Germany and Finland meet regularly to talk about the euro crisis and will meet again in Berlin on Friday, Dutch finance minister Jan Kees de Jager told broadcaster RTLZ on Tuesday.

The three countries, dubbed the Triple A lands by RTLZ because of their Triple A ratings, have had enough of Greece’s intransigence over the rescue package, RTLZ quoted De Jager as saying.

Friday’s meeting will focus on the Greek debt, and De Jager has again threatened to block financial help for Greece if conservative leader Antonis Samaras continues to refuse to sign the EU agreement.

Samaras has said his word that Greece will meet the conditions set down by EU ministers should be enough. ‘We are well past that stage with Greece,’ De Jager said. ‘We want to see a signature from Mr Samaras… otherwise, as far as I am concerned they will get no money. Absolutely not.’


Meanwhile, the Volkskrant reports that Dutch efforts to boost the financial controls on the 17 eurozone countries may have borne fruit.

Plans which the European Commission is due to publish on Wednesday are very similar to the proposal outlined by the cabinet in September, the paper says, without quoting sources.

However, the options of withdrawing voting rights from countries which break eurozone monetary rules and eventual expulsion from the eurozone are not included, the paper says. These would require a time-consuming change to EU treaties and are not on the cards.

The package does include much tougher supervision from Brussels, as will sanctions and fines for countries which break the rules.


In addition, Ullie Rehn, the commissioner for economic and financial affairs has also been given responsibility for the euro which goes some way to meeting Dutch wishes for a monetary union commissioner, the Volkskrant says.

Rehn, who is Finnish, said in a speech in Germany on Tuesday the new tools include the possibility of financial sanctions if a euro area member state does not follow the EU recommendations to put its fiscal house in order.

‘And rest assured, I will make full use of all these new instruments from day one of their entry into force,’ Rehn said. ‘We cannot afford to tolerate a breach of jointly agreed rules by anyone anymore. We have seen, only too concretely, that it happens at the cost of other member states.’

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

Spain Needs EU Help to Finance Its Debt

Spain needs a euro-accord to “save and guarantee the solvency” of its debt amid surging bond yields, said Maria Cospedal, deputy leader of the People’s Party, which won Sunday’s general election.”Spain cannot continue financing itself at 7 percent,” she said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

US to Conduct Stress Tests Against Euro Collapse Scenario

US banks are to be subjected to stress tests on the scenario of a sudden shock to the American economy if the eurozone crisis significantly deteriorates. The US Federal Reserve on Tuesday (22 November) announced that it would hold the tests, the third round of such trials since the start of the economic crisis, to measure which banks would be able to keep their heads above water if worst comes to worst.

The tests will assume a rise in US unemployment to 13 percent up from the current nine percent and a fall into recession for the US economy beginning at the end of this year. The Fed said the tests will involve measurements against similar price and rate movements as happened in the second half of 2008, when the crisis erupted, but also on “potential sharp market price movements in European sovereign and financial sectors.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


A Disease-Carrying Bullfrog Straddles a Cultural Divide

The nonnative amphibians pose a threat, but efforts to ban them pit environmentalists against Asian Americans, who relish them.

Miles Young strode down a narrow passageway in a bustling Chinatown fish market, methodically scanning aquariums and plastic bins filled with hundreds of live frogs selling for $3.99 a pound.

They were imported from frog farms in Taiwan, the environmental activist and former game warden said.

The species is particularly susceptible to a skin fungus linked to vanishing amphibians around the world. And the conditions in which bullfrogs are raised, transported and sold are ideal breeding grounds for the fungus and its waterborne zoospores.

“It should be against the law to bring diseased nonnative animals into California,” he grumbled. “But every time someone proposes a ban on bullfrogs, politics gets in the way and nothing gets done.”

Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis is a chytrid fungus that was first identified in 1998 and is thought to have originated in Japan. It causes a thickening of the skin, which impairs gas exchange and the animal’s ability to absorb water, triggering rapid mass die-offs of frog populations.

Bullfrogs carry the fungus but do not die from it. Most of the millions of bullfrogs imported to California each year for use in the food, pet and dissection trades are infected with the fungus, according to several recent studies.

The disease can spread to native frog populations if an infected frog escapes captivity or is set free, or if the water from its holding tank is released into the environment.

Yet, proposals to ban the importation of bullfrogs have cultural implications, which have pitted environmental organizations against Asian Americans who regard the animals as traditional cuisine and important commodities for family-owned businesses. A similar rift opened recently over banning the sale of shark fins.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Albuquerque Police Monitor Racial Tensions at Highland High

“Everybody is lined up to go to war basically…It’s just a lot of fear because people are scared for their lives…people are crying and running and basically scared to death. I know I was,” the student said.

Albuquerque Public Schools said a fight between two boys on Wednesday caused two different groups to become at odds with each other.

This student said it boils down to a racial conflict.

“All the black people want to fight the Mexicans and all the Mexicans want to fight the black people — it’s as simple as that, that’s as simple as you can put it,” she said.

APD says there have been rumors that outsiders have been planning to come on campus to fight — so far there is no report of that happening.

“The students have almost segregated a little bit into their different racial groups — today there was word that there was going to be a large racial fight,” said APD Sgt. Patrick Ficke.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Caroline Glick: The Scourge of Clientitis

For many years, observers of the US State Department on both sides of the American political spectrum have agreed that State Department officials suffer from a malady referred to as “clientitis.” Clientitis is generally defined as a state of mind in which representatives of an organization confuse their roles.

Rather than advance the cause of their organization to outside organizations, they represent the interests of outside organizations to their own organizations.

In some cases, diplomats are simply corrupted by their host governments. For generations US diplomats to Saudi Arabia have received lucrative post-government service jobs at Saudi-owned or controlled companies, public relations firms and other institutions.

Often, the problem is myopia rather than corruption…

           — Hat tip: Caroline Glick[Return to headlines]

Columbia, Maryland: Community Group to Counter Backlash Against Women-Only Swimming Sessions

Concerned about backlash against a women-only swim program initiated by members of the Muslim community, People Acting Together in Howard members plan to take a stand at tonight’s Columbia Association meeting. “We’ll have some people there, so if there are negative comments, we’ll be there to present the other side,” Wendel Thompson, a member of Bethany United Methodist Church, said Monday. In reading letters to the editor that have appeared in the Baltimore Sun, as well as comments made online at Columbia Patch and the Huffington Post, Thompson said he is concerned that much of the opposition is rooted in anti-Muslim sentiment. Cynthia Marshall, the lead organizer for PATH, said she is disappointed by many of the comments she has seen about the program. “Clearly these are people who are deciding to be bigoted and will do what they can to attack Muslims,” she said. “This not not only a Muslim issue, this is a woman issue, and the community came together to fill this need.” Thompson said Columbia is not the diverse community he’d like to see. “If anything, the backlash tells me how right we were to do this,” he said. “We’re working together as Christians and Muslims to do something for the community as a whole,” he said. “The tension that’s created maybe tells us we did something right.”

Columbia Patch, 22 November 2011

For example of objections to the women-only sessions, see here and here. Needless to say, mad Pamela Geller, who reported the case under the headline “Stop the Islamization of America: Maryland public pools enforce Sharia-Muslim swim, segregated swimming”, has being doing her best to stoke up hysteria over the issue.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Creeping Sharia is Bound to Choke Off Our Freedoms [Letter to the Editor, Baltimore Sun]

The Columbia Association’s decision to hold women-only swim times is yet another example of a disturbing trend in this country which forces us all, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, into Sharia compliance. Like the kudzu weed, which now covers over 7 million acres of the American Southeast, the threat of “creeping Sharia” will adversely and unalterably change the social, cultural and political landscape of this country forever. Jesse Newbum, a spokeswoman with the Columbia Association, proudly proclaims that the “CA was founded on inclusion.” I’m curious if Ms. Newbum could explain how a policy which effectively discriminates against half the population (men) can be inclusive? Will the CA also be providing female-only lifeguards during these set aside sessions to further appease Muslim sensibilities?


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Kalle Lasn and Micah White, The Creators of Occupy Wall Street

Kalle Lasn spends most nights shuffling clippings into a binder of plastic sleeves, each of which represents one page of an issue of Adbusters, a bimonthly magazine that he founded and edits. It is a tactile process, like making a collage, and occasionally Lasn will run a page with his own looped cursive scrawl on it. From this absorbing work, Lasn acquired the habit of avoiding the news after dark. So it was not until the morning of Tuesday, November 15th, that he learned that hundreds of police officers had massed in lower Manhattan at 1 A.M. and cleared the camp at Zuccotti Park. If anyone could claim responsibility for the Zuccotti situation, it was Lasn: Adbusters had come up with the idea of an encampment, the date the initial occupation would start, and the name of the protest—Occupy Wall Street. Now the epicenter of the movement had been raided. Lasn began thinking of reasons that this might be a good thing.

Read more

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

Mitt Romney Seen as the Lesser of Several Evils

In one year Americans will elect a new president. The incumbent Barack Obama has a tough fight ahead for his reelection. But it’s still uncertain who his Republican opponent will be.

Tough times for President Obama: Amid an unemployment rate of nine percent and a stuttering economy his approval rating has dropped to record lows. During his tenure he witnessed the first-ever downgrade of the US’ credit rating. With his political middle-of-the-road strategy, which is perceived as a lack of leadership, Obama has managed to frustrate many progressive voters while allowing Republicans to score an important victory in the battle of the debt ceiling.

At this juncture of his first presidential term only Jimmy Carter had a worse job approval rating than Obama. His international reputation has suffered as well, partly because the Middle East peace process lies in shambles. If Americans were to go to the polls today, Obama clearly wouldn’t be considered the frontrunner. There is however one fact that can give Obama some hope: the obscure field of potential candidates viying to challenge him.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Pieces of Einstein’s Brain Go on Display for First Time

If you’ve ever wondered what the brain of a genius looks like, make your way to Philadelphia. There, the public can view for the first time 46 slivers of the brain of Albert Einstein, the theoretical physicist who developed the Theory of General Relativity. The brain is on display at Philadelphia’s Mütter Museum and Historical Medical Library, in a whirlwind exhibit built in about nine working days, according to museum curator Anna Dhody. Visitors can view 45 of the brain slides as-is, and see one magnified under a lens.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

The Rise in Anti-Muslim Hate Crime (And a Startling Omission)

Over the Goldblog transom came an e-mail from CAIR, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, about anti-Muslim hate crimes in the U.S. The e-mail contained a link to an alarming Huffington Post story by Mark Potok headlined “FBI Reports Dramatic Spike in Anti-Muslim Hate Violence.” Potok is the director of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project. Here is some of what the story reported:

Anti-Muslim hate crimes soared by an astounding 50% last year, skyrocketing over 2009 levels in a year marked by the vicious rhetoric of Islam-bashing politicians and activists, especially over the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” in New York City. Although the national statistics compiled by the FBI each year are known to dramatically understate the real level of reported and unreported hate crimes, they do offer telling indications of some trends. The latest statistics, showing a jump from 107 anti-Muslim hate crimes in 2009 to 160 in 2010, seem to reflect a clear rise in anti-Muslim rhetoric from groups like Stop Islamization of America. Much of that rhetoric was aimed at stopping an Islamic center in lower Manhattan.

There is no doubt that anti-Muslim prejudice is a serious problem in America, and not only among the Republican candidates for president. But when you dive into the FBI statistics on hate crimes, you discover something very interesting, something CAIR didn’t mention, and something Potok didn’t report: According to the FBI, only 13.2 percent of religiously-motivated hate attacks in America were directed against Muslims. Jews, however, were on the receiving end of 65.4 percent of all religion-based attacks: the FBI reports 887 hate crimes against Jews, as opposed to 160 against Muslims. It has been thus for quite a while. In 2009, anti-Jewish hate crimes accounted for 70 percent of all religiously-motivated attacks; in 2008 it was 66 percent. It is remarkable that Mr. Potok neglects to mention the fact that Jews make up the overwhelming majority of Americans who are targeted because of their religion. What a strange and telling omission!

A few observations:

1) I don’t particularly like the hate crime metric we often use to judge how tolerant our society is; in isolation, these numbers don’t tell us that much about our country. In any case, all crimes are in some manner or form hate crimes.

2) I’m not bringing this subject up because I believe different ethnic and racial minority groups should vie for the title of most-persecuted sub-group. I only bring it up because I don’t like the sort of politically-correct thinking that leads to the omission of inconvenient information.

3) Prejudice against Jews on the street level is much more intense, obviously, than prejudice against Muslims, but I think it’s also fair to say that politicians and commentators (and leaders of other religious groups, for that matter) get away with saying things about Islam and about Muslims that they wouldn’t get away with if they were talking about Jews. Anti-Muslim prejudice doesn’t evince itself simply in beatings and vandalism.

4) The U.S. is a great country for Jews. It’s also a great country for Muslims. Despite these numbers.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

3D Moon a ‘Roadmap’ For Lunar Missions

German researchers have created a stunning 3D model of the Moon, using 70,000 images from NASA. They hope it will help lay the groundwork for future manned and unmanned lunar missions.

The model by the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) — Germany’s equivalent to America’s NASA space agency — was created using 70,000 images from a NASA spacecraft orbiting the moon since 2009.

Project scientist Frank Scholten reviewed the images pixel by pixel, figured out their exact locations and then calculated 100 billion 3D points in order to create the model.

It covers 37 million square kilometres — more than 98 percent of the moon’s surface, DLR reported.

The calculations, performed by 40 computers, took two weeks to complete.

“Over the last few years, planetary research has been focusing primarily on other planets, Mars being just one example. The Moon remained in the background during this period,” said Scholten in a DLR statement.

He added that the research will help provide solutions to previously unanswerable questions — such as whether there is water or ice on the Moon’s surface — by providing an accurate topographical map.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Belgian Jews in Shock Over Beating of 13-Year-Old Girl

Five Muslim Moroccan girls in Belgium beat a 13-year-old classmate, called her a “dirty Jew” and told her to “return to your country.” The girl, Oceane Sluijzer, has filed a complaint with police after the anti-Semitic attack at a sports training center. The attackers were identified and questioned by police. Jewish legislator Viviane Teitelbaum of Brussels denounced the “silence” of political leaders and most of media after this attack.

Coordinating Committee of Jewish Organizations of Belgium (CCOJB), the umbrella group of Jewish organizations in Belgium, expressed “shock” at the attack and asked that the investigation be conducted without delay. The Jewish group added it is considering filing a civil suit and said the Jewish community is “exasperated” by repeated attacks on Jews in Belgium, whose Jewish population is 40,000.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

France: Mosque Tagged With Nazi Symbols

A mosque in Villeneuve-sur-Lot (south-western France) was tagged with racist graffiti Saturday. Inscriptions included: “Islam out of Europe”, a swastika, and the number 88 (which stands for ‘Heil Hitler’). A possible Molotov cocktail was discovered on site. The local prosecutor and government official visited the mosque and expressed support for the local Muslim community. The police will be asked to increase their patrols around places of worship in the department.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

French Reminded to Get Rid of Their Francs

As the euro crisis continues, French people are being warned they only have less than three months to hand in notes from their old currency, the French franc, if they want to be reimbursed. A campaign has been running on TV to get the message through. Two separate advertisements feature the same actors playing different characters.

In one, Jean-Gérard asks Pierre-Marie if he knows what his grandmother told him to put in his washing to make it smell good. “Yes, Monsieur Jean-Gérard” says Pierre-Marie. “French franc notes, ten years ago.” Jean-Gérard gasps with shock as a voiceover asks viewers to remember where they may have left their last French francs.

In a second version, the two men are dressed as women, Jacqueline and Nicole, and find a stash of notes in some books. Both advertisements end with the message that notes must be handed in by February 17th 2012.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italy: Party Girls Are Victims of Prosecutors, Says Berlusconi

Ex-premier attended hearing of separate trial

(ANSA) — Milan, November 22 — Former Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi said on Tuesday that the young women who attended alleged sex parties at his home were the victims of Milan prosecutors, not him.

Berlusconi was referring to 32 women a Milan court said Monday would be considered civil plaintiffs in a case surrounding allegations that the former premier paid for sex with one of them, Karima El Mahroug, a Moroccan runaway and belly dancer also known as Ruby, before she turned 18.

“The girls are the victims of the Milan prosecutors and the preliminary judge who authorised the start of the trial,” Berlusconi said after a hearing for a separate trial regarding alleged tax fraud at his Mediaset empire.

“The only thing they did wrong was accept an invitation to dinner from the premier. The Milan prosecutors have the grave responsibility of having ruined the reputations of these women”.

In three ongoing trials and many previous cases, Berlusconi has always denied wrongdoing, claiming he is the victim of a minority group of allegedly leftwing prosecutors and judges who he says are persecuting him for political reasons.

In more than a dozen cases, the ex-premier has never received a definitive conviction, sometimes because of law changes passed by his governments, while some other charges were timed out by the statute of limitations.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Court OKs Clooney as Witness in Berlusconi Sex Trial

Milan, 23 Nov. (AKI) — American movie star George Clooney can be called as a witness in the Milan trial of former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, who is accused of paying for sex with a minor and using his political office to cover it up.

Clooney is owns a villa on Lake Como near Milan where he passes much of the year.

The court on Wednesday also announced that Portuguese footballer Cristiano Ronaldo can testify.

Berlusconi, 75, resigned earlier this month amid a financial crisis that has threatened to strangle the eurozone’s ability to pay interest on its 1.9 trillion euro debt. Critics had said the sex trial and other trials for corruption linked to his media empire distract the billionaire’s ability to guide the country, and are a national embarrassment.

The Oscar winner and Real Madrid striker among potential 78 defense witnesses, while prosecutors presented the court with a list of 138 people it may want to call to the stand.

Clooney and Ronaldo attended parties hosted by Berlusconi and according to the defense can testify to the legality of the soirees.

Berlusconi’s social life has been in the public eye since it emerged that starlets and prostitutes were guests at his villas where he held sex parties dubbed bunga-bungas.

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

Killings Prompt Swiss to Tighten Gun Laws

Several killings in the last few weeks have led Switzerland’s Security Policy Committee to take steps to remove weapons from the hands of people with a history of violence. The parliamentary committee said confiscating firearms was a matter of urgency for individuals known to have made threats or perpetrated acts of violence.

To help avoid further tragedies, a unanimous committee called on the National Assembly to pass a motion requiring the Federal Council to combat unwanted arms possession in cooperation with the cantons. In its proposal, the committee calls for the police and prosecuting authorities to confiscate all civilian and military weapons held by violent individuals. Moreover, the committee says that military and judicial authorities should collaborate more effectively both at the cantonal and federal levels.

“The different authorities involved won’t move things forward by mutually abdicating their responsibilities or trying to justify themselves regarding the misuse [of weapons],” the commission said. Military weapons have been used in the fatal shootings of two people in western Switzerland since the beginning of the month, news service ATS reports. On November 4th, a man shot his 21-year-old girlfriend with his assault rifle in Saint Léonard, in the south of the country. The alleged murderer, a 23-year-old man, had several previous convictions for threatening behaviour and property damage.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Majority of Muslim Women Wear Headscarf

THE HAGUE, 23/11/11 — The majority of Muslim women in the Netherlands wear a headscarf, according to a survey of 1,500 women by research bureau Motivaction.

Motivaction did the research as part of the launch of Hoofdboek, a glossy magazine for headscarf-wearers. The makers say the research is “designed to illustrate that many contemporary Dutch prejudices against the Islamic headscarf are unfounded”.

However, the belief that most Muslim women conceal their hair appears to be true. According to Motivaction, around 80,000 Dutch Muslim women wear the headscarf and just 40,000 do not. Among thos aged 15 to 35, about 60 percent wear the headscarf.

The survey indicates that, in 47 percent of the families where the mother wears the headscarf, all the daughters follow her lead and also wear the scarf. On average girls are 19 when they first cover up their hair.

Hoofdboek says one of the strongest preconceptions is the idea that the headscarf is the result of oppression. “Most wearers of Islamic headscarves do so of their own free will.”

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

Species Under Threat: ‘Alarming Decline’ In European Aquatic Life

Biodiversity in Europe’s lakes and rivers is shrinking. Pollution, overfishing, habitat loss and the introduction of invasive species threaten a large number of fish, mollusks, snails and plants, according to a new European Commission report. The situation for animals on land isn’t much better.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Study Finds Alarming Decline in European Flora and Fauna

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), many of Europe’s animals and plants are under threat. Experts pin their hopes on targeted conservation measures.

Europe’s natural heritage is showing an alarming decline, according to new research. The European Red List, a part of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, assessed a considerable portion of Europe’s native fauna and flora, finding that a large number of mollusks, freshwater fish and vascular plants now fall into a threatened category.

The assessment of some 6,000 species reveals that 44 percent of all freshwater mollusks, 37 percent of freshwater fish, 23 percent of amphibians, 20 percent of a selection of terrestrial mollusks, 19 percent of reptiles, 15 percent of mammals, 13 percent of birds, 9 percent of butterflies and 467 species of vascular plant species are now under threat.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Toulouse: Loudspeakers Quote Koran to Calm Neighborhood After Fatal Shooting

A young man (23) was shot in the street yesterday in the Reynerie neighborhood of Toulouse. Several people were arrested.

There was a lot of tension in Reynerie after the death of a young man, executed with 9mm bullets in the middle of the street. Samir Chorfi, a resident of the neighborhood known to the police, was mortally wounded by several bullets shot in cold-blood and died in hospital. Large police forces were deployed to prevent hot-headed responses.

Police later arrested two relatives of the victim and more arrests followed. Samir Chorfi had been in prison for robbery. He was released October 19th with electronic monitoring.

The residents are shocked and concerned about the increasing violence. “We do not want our children to die in our neighborhoods.. recently a youth was wounded in the legs, we’re not going to turn into Chicago!”. In order to calm the situation, a loudspeaker broadcast passages from the Koran.

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

UK ‘To Remain Leading Centre’

MANAMA: The UK and London will remain the world’s leading international and Islamic financial centre. That was the message from British Ambassador Iain Lindsay at a UK roundtable discussion at the WIBC yesterday. “Islamic finance, like every other type of financial activity, benefits from the UK’s combination of experience, variety of skills, geographic location, infrastructure, transparency and openness,” he said. “The UK recognises the tremendous opportunities that Islamic financial services have to offer. The latest figures for Sharia-compliant assets in the UK are $19 billion and $1 trillion globally with a potential global growth to $4trn. As a leading centre for financial innovation where Islamic structures are constantly being developed, our goal is to position the UK as the global partner of choice for the provision of Islamic financial services. This includes the development of strong partnerships with other centres of Islamic finance, including Bahrain,” he said. “In the UK we have a proven record of developing and delivering retail domestic and wholesale international investment Islamic financial services and products and the necessary legal and financial skills and expertise to take full advantage of this key market,” he added. “The UK is in ninth place globally and is the leading Western country and is seeking to consolidate its position as the gateway to Islamic finance in Western Europe. We have 22 UK banks which offer Islamic banking of which five are fully Sharia-compliant, more than any other Western country. We have 31 sukuk issues raising $19bn on the London Stock Exchange and there is a growing focus on the development of Islamic funds. There are 34 managed from the UK but asset managers are keen to innovate this market and there are more than 20 law firms supplying specialist services in Islamic finance,” he said. “The UK is moving Islamic finance from the niche to the mainstream market with world-leading expertise, skills and financial infrastructure to support this dynamic sector,” he added. He said many UK universities already offered Islamic finance degrees and UK institutions provided Islamic finance for small- to medium-sized businesses across the country. “All the above demonstrates the strength of the UK and how ideal we are as partners of choice in the development of Islamic finance,” he added. “The success of WIBC demonstrates that Bahrain is an ideal location for businesses looking to establish themselves in this region.”

[JP note: No wonder we have a Sharia-compliant Government.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Classrooms in London Schools Tackle Genital Mutilation

Each year, 6,500 girls in central London could undergo female genital mutilation. Now the city hopes to curb the practice by raising awareness through the integration of FGM education in secondary school curriculum.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: Demolition Underway in New Accrington Mosque Scheme

DEMOLITION is underway ahead of a project to build a new mosque in Accrington. Yesterday an industrial ‘muncher’ machine began the process of pulling down the current mosque at the junction of Higher Antley Street and Fountain Street. The scheme was granted planning permission earlier this year and will create a new three-storey building featuring decorative minarets and a dome. Coun Munsif Dad said: “This is something that we need and something that the area needs as well. The mosque has a few hundred members and the vast majority of members live within walking distance of that area.” The existing building on the site was formerly a church and has been used as a mosque for many years.

The new building will be used in a similar way to the existing mosque for normal service on Fridays. There will be children’s classes on Monday to Friday between 5pm and 7pm and the five daily prayers will continue. There will be no weddings in the mosque and funeral gatherings will take place for no longer than 30 minutes. The ground floor will provide a prayer area for men, the first floor for women and the top floor provides a teaching area. Andrew Granger, MD of PG Demolition in Rochdale, said: “The demolition work will take

around two weeks.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Fascists Promote Petition to Ban Sharia Law

The British National Party is promoting an e-petition calling on the government to ban sharia law in the UK. BNP leader Nick Griffin is quoted as saying:

“The Muslim community are pushing ahead with setting up sharia law in parts of Britain and are banking on little opposition because of people’s fears of being branded ‘racists’ if they dare to voice their objections. It is important that the Government know that the British people will not allow Sharia Law to be established in Britain through the back door.”

The petition reads:

The tacit acceptance of Sharia Law into the United Kingdom threatens the rights and freedoms of all citizens. Sharia Law is barbaric, oppressive and demeaning. The laws under which the citizens of the United Kingdom are expected to live are enacted by our elected representatives at Westminster. No individual, nor any group should be allowed to introduce Sharia Law in any area of the country without the full approval of all UK citizens. Until the citizens of the United Kingdom give their approval to introduce Sharia Law, by voting for it via the ballot box, the Government should end their current acquiescence on this subject and take all necessary measures to uphold the law of the land.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Islamic Centre Gets Go-Ahead

AN ISLAMIC organisation has had its application accepted to move temporarily into a former Langley Green youth centre while its mosque is rebuilt. Crawley Islamic Culture Centre and Masjid (CICCM) submitted an application to Crawley Borough Council to change the use of Langley Green Youth Centre, on Lark Rise, to a religious centre that can offer rooms for education and prayers. The application also sought permission to use the neighbouring Scout hut’s car park during Friday lunchtime prayers, when the facility would be at its busiest.

The CICCM plans to use the site for up to 18 months while rebuilding work is carried out on the mosque on London Road, Langley Green. A travel plan was put together during the planning process to set out the proposed arrangements at peak times, including the use of parking marshals.

Faraqh Jamal, a CICCM representative, said: “We understood that the plans would be met with some anxiety but we have attended a meeting with the residents. We will manage the travel to the centre and we are handing out walking plans.” Committee member Duncan Crow said: “It should be pointed out that this is an empty building that will be put to good use and will be a benefit to the area. I have to say the Muslim community is bending over backwards to be a good neighbour.” Committee member Stephen Joyce added: “I can understand that the residents of Lark Rise are worried because it will bring about a change. I think the Muslim community is doing all it can to allay any fears. They have a travel plan set out and 80 per cent of the visitors will walk there. I have been assured that the 18 months will be more than enough time for the mosque on London Road to be rebuilt. They want to go back to their new mosque as soon as it is ready.” All of the members at a meeting of the council’s development control committee voted in favour of the proposal on Monday night.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Muslim Teacher Who Was Secretly Filmed Kicking and Slapping Children at Mosque is Jailed

A religious teacher who was caught on a secret camera kicking and slapping children in a mosque was jailed for 10 weeks today.

Sabir Hussain, 60, admitted four charges of assaulting boys at the Markazi Jamia Mosque, in Keighley, West Yorkshire, as they learned The Koran.

He was arrested after secret filming was screened on a Channel 4 documentary earlier this year.

The assaults Hussain admitted happened on December 7 and December 13 last year, and involved four different boys.

Hussain, from Keighley, appeared at Bradford Magistrates’ Court in traditional clothing and was led out of court in handcuffs after the sentence was passed.

He immediately lodged an appeal against his sentence but an application for bail was rejected.

The court was shown clips from the TV programme which was screened in February.

In one, Hussain is seen to walk up behind a line of boys sitting at prayer tables and kick one in the back. In other footage he is seen to kick other boys and slap one repeatedly.

District Judge Sue Bouch said she had heard how the boys involved were aged between 10 and 13.

Police have not yet been able to identify all of the children.

Ms Bouch said she had read a large number of character references about Hussain with some referring to him as ‘firm but fair’ and a ‘pillar of the community’.

She told him: ‘It can be clearly seen on the footage that the children are flinching away from you. That suggests clearly to me, Mr Hussain, that the children were fearful.

‘The assaults comprised of kicking to the body and hitting whilst those children remained sitting on the floor.

‘You were in a position of responsibility. This is a gross breach of trust. All of these factors make the offence so serious that I can only pass a term of imprisonment.’

Earlier, Shufgat Khan, defending, said: ‘What he did was to chastise. He’s accepted the force used to chastise was not reasonable. But it’s a very different case from someone’s gratuitous use of force against vulnerable people.’

Mr Khan said his client worked in the textile industry in Bradford from 1967 to 2005.

He said he used to be employed by the mosque but was working as a volunteer teacher at the time of the incidents.

The barrister said Mr Hussain had an unblemished reputation until these incidents.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: Muslim Writers Awards — Celebrating Five Years!

Tuesday 22nd November 2011

Shakespeare’s Globe, London

From 6.15pm

The Muslim Writers Awards celebrates its first five years at the 2011 Award Ceremony on 22nd November!

Since embarking on their mission to instil [sic] a love of literature and inspire British Muslims to share stories, the organisers behind the MWA have seen it grow into the biggest competition of its kind in the world. This year’s submissions span 5 continents with many entries received for three new categories: Journalism, Published Children’s Book and Stage & Screenplays.

Project Director, Irfan Akram said, “We’re incredibly pleased to see how the quality of writing has been improving consistently since 2006. We’re clear that the future for good literature by Muslims, and through that for British Muslims themselves, is extremely promising.” Penguin and Puffin books are long terms partners of MWA which has helped to set up numerous writing and reading initiatives and delivered writing workshops in partnerships with schools, libraries, publishing figures and authors to over 12,000 people! The Award ceremonies have become landmark events which broadcast live on TV to millions across the world. This year singer Dawud Wharnsby and performance poet zkthepoet will entertain an eclectic audience made up of well known decision makers and influencers from the world of literature, politics, business and civil society.

Simon Prosser, Publishing Director of Hamish Hamilton and Penguin Books, speaking on behalf of the judging panel said about one of the shortlisted entries, “We all admired the compassion and honesty of this entry; the way it never preached, but instead provided a window into a world, which is evoked here with great power and originality.” Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, Cabinet Minister & Conservative Party Co-Chairman said, “The entrants, and everyone involved in the awards, are doing something particularly important: inspiring other people to pick up the pen. I want to commend everyone involved from the organisers to supporters, the nominees to the judges — and wish you all the best.”

[JP note: A press release from an organisation claiming a ‘love of literature’ yet which can’t be bothered to spell-check. More organisations for British Freedom to boycott: Penguin, Puffin, Hamish Hamilton, least but not last, the Conservative Party, and any other well-known decision makers and influencers.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Plan to Tackle Child Sexual Exploitation

The problem of under-18s in England being groomed for sexual activity takes place “in far greater numbers than was ever imagined”, the government warns.

The deputy children’s commissioner, Sue Berelowitz, launched a two-year inquiry into the scale and scope of sexual exploitation by gangs.

Ms Berelowitz said thousands of children could be affected and the issue reached across race and class.

Launching the action plan on Wednesday, Mr Loughton said: “This country has to wake up to the fact that children are being sexually abused in far greater numbers than was ever imagined.

“It could be going on in every type of community and in every part of the country.

“Too many local areas have failed to uncover the true extent of child sexual exploitation in their communities and failed to properly support victims and their families.

“Child sexual exploitation is child abuse, it is not good enough that some local areas don’t recognise it as an issue.

“This is an extremely serious crime and must be treated as such, with the perpetrators pursued more vigorously.”

Chief executive Anne Marie Carrie said: “We cannot underestimate the scale of this sickening abuse and the damage it is doing to thousands of girls and boys across the UK.

“At Barnardo’s we hear so many heartbreaking stories which are every parent’s worst nightmare.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egyptian Military Using Nerve Gas on Protesters

The Egyptian military has been using a banned chemical agent to deal with hundreds of thousands of protesters, according to several news sources.

At least 23 Egyptians have died and more than 1,700 have succumbed to a lethal gas military forces have been using during the past three days in clashes in and around Cairo’s Tahrir Square.

The International Business Times reports that demonstrators have been struck with “dangerous levels of CR gas over the past two days of protests” and Australia’s The Age said Wednesday that the canisters are marked “Made in the USA.”

CR gas is an intense and lethal version of CS gas, called “tear gas,” widely used by police for crowd control.

Wikipedia notes that CR gas has effects that are “are approximately 6 to 10 times more powerful than those of CS gas.” CR causes intense skin pain and irritation, and can lead to blindness and death by asphyxiation.

CR gas was widely used by South African police during the height of Apartheid in the 1980s and its use was widely condemned by international bodies.

Former IAEA official Mohammed ElBaradei has confirmed in Twitter that Egyptian forces have used “tear gas with [a] nerve agent.”

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]

Film: Medfilm, ‘Hymen National’, Virginity at Any Price

(ANSAmed) — ROME — Women who try to commit suicide for having lost their virginity before marriage, chastity seen as true “capital”, merchandise to be exhibited to prove one’s physical and moral integrity: this is the situation in Tunisia, where 80% of women reportedly make use of surgical reconstruction of the hymen. A non-written social code requires virginity, despite the women’s rights brought in by the Personal Status Code introduced by Habib Bourguiba in 1956.

Returning to one of the many taboos that the Arab world still finds it difficult to speak of is the Tunisian film director Jamel Mokni in “Hymen National — Malaise dans l’Islam” (“The Malaise within Islam”), a shocking documentary shown over recent days as part of the Medfilm Festival in Rome. Shot when Ben Ali was still in power, “Hymen National” was immediately banned in Tunisia.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Seif Al-Islam’s Capture Reflects Libya’s Division

The capture of Gadhafi’s son reveals the difficulty of having a central government in Libya. Local militias are trying to gain key posts by using Seif’s capture

The decision by Seif al-Islam Gadhafi’s captors to take him to a secret location in the remote Libyan mountain town of Zintan rather than the capital Tripoli reflects a wider problem of powerful local militia and a weak central government.

“He will stay here because it is a safe place for him,” the head of Zintan’s military council Osama al-Juwali told Reuters, adding he would remain for the foreseeable future. “I also think that Seif should be tried in Zintan,” he said. Three months after Moammar Gadhafi fled the capital, Libya’s cabinet has yet to be announced and its prime minister is dithering, under pressure from myriad rebel commanders all wanting a piece of the political pie. Even after Gadhafi’s fall and after his capture and killing in October, Libya’s numerous and sometime competing rebel factions have refused to disarm, raising fears of new violence and instability.

“We have priority over Seif al-Islam, we caught him, and we were the forefront leaders in this revolution,” said Tahir al-Turki, head of the Zintan’s local council, explaining why he would not be sent to the capital. “He will be safer with us in Zintan. We don’t know who will take him or deal with him in Tripoli,” he said.

That position shows how powerful regional factions backed by bands of armed fighters are able to act autonomously, even on issues of the highest national interest. Mahmoud Shammam, the information minister, played down suggestions that a power struggle was brewing over the high-value prisoner or that the position of local officials was undermining the authority of the national leadership, Associated Press reported. He said the national leadership had no objection to keeping Seif al-Islam in Zintan until a trial can be organized, but that the small town was not capable of organizing and holding the trial itself.

Ex-intel chief arrested

Some key posts are considered to be crucial for Libya’s future. The focus is expected to be on the defense ministry, which controls the array of militias on the streets. One official working for the National Transitional Council (NTC) said that the group from Zintan might even secure that ministry thanks to holding Seif al-Islam.

Meanwhile, Information Minister Mahmoud Shammam said ex-Intelligence Minister Abdullah al-Senoussi was captured alive Nov. 20 by revolutionary fighters from a southern region called Fazan, not far from where Gadhafi’s son was seized Nov. 19 while trying to flee to neighboring Niger. Fighters tracking al-Senoussi for two days caught up with him at his sister’s house in Deerat al-Shati, about 70 kilometers south of the desert city of Sebha, said fighter Abdullah al-Sughayer. Though they are wanted by the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, Libya will likely seek to try both men at home if they are able to overcome the power struggle. Libyan prime minister furthermore said yesterday that the formation of a new Libyan government will be made public today.

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

Middle East

Arab World and Med ‘A Priority’ Says Terzi

Foreign minister at G8-Arab League meet in Kuwait

(ANSA) — Kuwait City, November 22 — Italy’s new government is following events in the Arab world closely and Mediterranean policy is among its priorities, Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi said on a visit to Kuwait Tuesday.

“The Italian government decided to express its attention for the Arab world with the Kuwait mission, just a few days after my appointment,” said Terzi, who was sworn in along with Premier Mario Monti on November 16 after ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi resigned.

“We consider the Mediterranean a priority and we encourage the populations in the region to set up solid democratic structures and avoid resorting to street violence,” said Terzi amid fresh reports of trouble in Egypt and Syria.

Terzi, in Kuwait for a G8-Arab League meeting, met on the sidelines of the summit with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s No.2, William Burns, who reiterated American support for the Monti administration.

The Italian foreign minister also had talks with his Tunisian counterpart, Mohamed Mouldi Kefi, and the emir of Kuwaiti, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Erdogan Blasts Anti-Islam Propaganda

Turk has censured anti-Islam propaganda and called on the Muslim world to show solidarity against rising Islamophobia across the Western world, Press TV reports. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that there is a vicious propaganda campaign against Islam by some Western circles, Press TV’s Ankara correspondent reported. Erdogan was addressing the Second Meeting of Leaders of African Continent Muslim Countries and Societies which opened in Istanbul on Monday. “There are those who use some marginal cases, to equate Islam and Muslims with terrorism, clashes, intolerance and poverty,” Erdogan stated. “A mistake by a member of a religion or society should not be attributed to the religion or society,” he added. “This means that Islamophobia should be condemned as much as racism and anti-Semitism is [condemned],” the Turkish premier stressed.

The meeting was hosted by Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate and was attended by top state officials as well as religious leaders from many African countries. According to reports, the Turkish prime minister also said the reason behind all problems in the Muslim world is lack of consultation among Muslim countries. He noted that unbiased and sincere consultation would be a lasting solution for the issues Muslim countries, nations and the entire Muslim world are facing today.

(Source: Press TV)

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Italy Throws Weight Behind New Sanctions Against Iran

Terzi ‘firmly convinced’ by U.S. plan

(ANSA) — Rome, November 22 — Italy on Tuesday threw its weight behind new Western sanctions against Iran, which is suspected of trying to develop nuclear weapons. The United States on Monday announced measures targeting Iran’s financial, petrochemical and energy sectors after the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said evidence the Middle Eastern country was doing nuclear-weapons research was credible.

“Italy is firmly convinced in its support for the plan announced by the US administration for economic sanctions against Iran,” said Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi di Sant’Agata from Kuwait, where he is attending the G8-BMENA (Broader Middle East North Africa) ministerial meeting.

“The sanctions are not directed at the Iranian people.

“They are designed to lead the authorities in Tehran to adopt an approach based on effective and real collaboration with the IAEA to remove any doubts as to the nature of their nuclear programme,” added Terzi, who replaced Franco Frattini last week when Premier Mario Monti’s emergency government was sworn in.

“Unfortunately, the conclusions of the IAEA’s latest report not only did not clear up those doubts, but provided further reasons for grave concern in the international community.

“We therefore need to apply tougher sanctions and intensify the pressure on Iran. “Italy is acting to ensure that similar sanctions to those announced by the United States are adopted as soon as possible by the European Union also”. Britain and Canada have already said they support the sanctions but Iran and Russia have condemned them.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Jordan: King Meets Muslim, Catholic Clerics

Amman, Nov 22 (Petra) — His Majesty King Abdullah II said on Tuesday Jordan is pressing with reforms to offer a regional democratic role model that promotes moderation and openness. Speaking to 48 Muslim intellectuals and Christian clerics attending an Islamic-Catholic forum sponsored by the Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought, the King referred to the importance of Jerusalem as a regional centre for religious coexistence “in the view of present and future generations.” “The forum is the culmination of ongoing initiatives to promote Islamic-Christian concepts and shared values, which we underlined in the Amman Message and the Common Word initiatives,” said the King, describing Christianity’s existence in the region as historic and a fundamental component in the human diversity Jordan is keen to protect.

During the meeting, attended by His Royal Highness Prince Ghazi Ben Mohammad, the King’s religious and cultural adviser and Aal al-Bayt institute Board of Trustees chairman, King Abdullah told participants in the forum to take their coexistence and common inter-faith values and thoughts to their respective communities. Religious figures taking part in the gathering commended Jordan’s efforts at coexistence and to bring religions closer and build bridges among adherents of the different faiths. Egypt’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Ali Juma’a said the forum came to translate the King’s 2007 Common Word initiative, drawn from a verse in the holy Quran, that dispelled many of the misconceptions between Islam and the Christian West through a dozen meetings between religious scholars from both sides. “Such meetings would build sound relations and correct images and remove the distortion that has become a trade in today’s world,” he said, highlighting Jordan’s cross-faith dialogue initiatives, namely the Amman Message, which, he said, had left an impact on coexistence, social security and peace promoted by Islam. The Second Islamic-Catholic Forum, held under the theme “reason, faith and mankind”, kicked off three days of deliberations on Monday at the Jordan Valley Baptism Site.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Saleh in Saudi Arabia to Sign Transfer of Power Deal

The Yemeni president arrived in Riyadh this morning to sign the transition plan sponsored by the Gulf countries. The agreement was reached with the opposition on November 21, after more than 10 months of bloody conflict. Saleh has already backtracked on a peace agreement at the last minute three times.

Riyadh (AsiaNews / Agencies) — The Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh arrived in Riyadh this morning to sign the transition of power agreement reached on November 21 with the Yemeni opposition, according to local television. The peaceful transition of power has always been hampered, until now, by Saleh’s refusal to sign the plan proposed by the Gulf states, which provides immunity in exchange for his resignation. Saleh was injured in an attack last June, and spent several months in hospital in Riyadh to recover from the consequences of the explosion (06/06/2011 Yemenis celebrate Saleh’s departure, but doubt linger over his possible return).

Saleh’s unannounced visit takes place one day after the UN envoy Jamal bin Omar announced the achievement of a deal between the Yemeni president and the opposition. The Yemeni official television said that Saleh “will witness the signing of the initiative of the Gulf countries and its enforcement mechanism.”

The transition plan and the agreement with Saleh will put an end to a bloody battle that has lasted ten months. Under the agreement, Saleh assigns his powers to Vice President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi within 30 days. Hadi will then form a government of national unity to bring the country to normalcy, and new elections next year. The Yemeni president, in power for 33 years, has promised several times in recent months to sign the transition plan of the Gulf countries, but has backtracked at the last minute on at least three occasions. This has provoked comments of scepticism from local newspapers until Saleh signs the document.

In recent months hundreds of people were killed and thousands injured, in clashes that have opposed Saleh supporters, tribal dissidents and army units sided with the opponents. Until the elections Saleh would remain President of Yemen, although without any real powers. A military committee, headed by Vice-President Hadi, will manage the political transition process, including the role of Saleh’s children and grandchildren in some government offices.

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


It’s Alive! Russia’s Phobos-Grunt Probe Phones Home

Phobos-Grunt had a brief window to reach Mars when the planets were properly aligned to make the interplanetary journey possible. Vladimir Popovkin, the head of Russia’s space agency, said after launch the mission could be salvaged until early December. But many experts said the launch period has already expired, meaning Phobos-Grunt would have to wait until 2013 for another shot at Mars. But that assumes engineers are able to regain control of the spacecraft and uplink fresh commands to fire its engines. Tuesday’s brief contact did not produce telemetry to gain insight into the situation on-board the spacecraft, officials said Wednesday.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Phobos Mission Phones Home as Rescue Plan is Hatched

Phobos Grunt, the Russian Mars probe that’s been stuck in a precipitously low Earth orbit for a fortnight, has finally been contacted by a European Space Agency ground station in Perth, Australia. It is unclear, however, if this means the craft and its intricate Martian soil-sampling mission can be rescued.

The spacecraft was launched from Baikonur, Kazakhstan on 8 November on an ambitious mission to sample soil from the Martian moon Phobos — and return it to Earth. But Phobos Grunt’s main engines did not fire to project it out of Earth orbit to Mars — and this was compounded by an inability to contact the craft to reprogram the computers that fire those engines when the craft is correctly oriented.

ESA’s feat in re-establishing contact on Tuesday 22 November, at 2025 GMT, now offers some hope that that can be done. “ESA teams are working closely with engineers in Russia to determine how best to maintain communication with the spacecraft,” the space agency says on its website. Russian news agency Ria Novosti said ground stations in French Guyana, the Canary Islands and Spain will most likely be used to maintain contact with, and regain control of, Phobos Grunt.

Even if control is re-established it is unclear if the full sample return mission as planned can be rescued.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Afghan Woman Jailed for Being Raped by Her Cousin’s Husband is Offered Release if She Marries Her Attackergulnaz Was Convicted of Adultery Because She Had Sex Outside of Marriage by Being Raped

Gulnaz was aged just 19 when she was convicted by a court of adultery, even though she tried to prevent the attack.

Now she is in Kabul’s Badam Bagh jail, serving out her sentence with her rapist’s child.

But now she has been given an option that most women would consider nothing less than repulsive — starting a new life with the man who attacked her.

And, even more incredibly, she is willing to.

Dressed in a veil, with her baby in her lap, Gulnaz explained how it was the only way out of jail, and the only way around the dishonour of having sex outside marriage…

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Pakistan: ‘Intellectuals Trends OK if Not Against Islam’

INTELLECTUALS, religious scholars and madressah students said western political thoughts and intellectual trends, which were not contradictory to basic Islamic principles, could be followed and implemented in political and state systems of Pakistan. Addressing a one-day training workshop on “Contemporary modern intellectual patterns and international law”, Jamia Naeemia Principal Raghib Naeemi highlighted the role of dialogue, argument and wisdom in pursuing and evolving certain intellectual discourses. The workshop was organised by Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS) at Jamia Naeemia here on Monday. More than 150 students and teachers from different madressahs in Lahore belonging to all five madressah boards participated. Raghib Naeemi said western intellectualism, which did not contradict basic Islamic principles, could be put to use in politics and state affairs. On the occasion, Dean Faculty of Social Sciences at Punjab University, Dr Khalid Zaheer, describing modern ideological and intellectual discourses in Muslim countries said it divided them into three categories; traditionalists, modernists, and non-conformists. He pointed out certain individuals and movements that led such discourses in different countries. He said the traditionalist approach hindered the way of creating and accepting new knowledge and intellect in religious discourse. He also highlighted the dangers of following certain biased and political interpretations of Quran and Sunnah.


[JP note: Droll.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Singapore: Blogger Probed for Offensive Facebook Post

SINGAPORE — Police are investigating a blogger for allegedly publishing a photo that is offensive to Muslims on his Facebook (FB) page. Donaldson Tan, editor of Singapore-based current affairs commentary website New Asia Rebublic, is accused of putting up a picture of a pig superimposed on the Kaaba, a cuboid building in Mecca that is sacred in Islam. Pigs are considered unclean animals in Islam. The post was accompanied by the text: “This is a flame bait. YOU ARE WARNED”. Mr Tan told The Straits Times that he had seen the photo on his FB news feed when his friend commented on it, and had reposted the photo as a warning to people to look out for the photo as a “flame bait’.

A flame bait, more commonly known as trolling, is something deliberately engineered to provoke angry responses or an argument on a topic the poster often has no real opinion on.

He said he was soon attacked online by Muslims, but told reporters that he would not take the picture down even after being requested to do so by well-meaning friends, as he believes in the freedom of speech and that “Islam is not sacrosanct”. Facebook has since removed the original post and his reposting has disappeared consequentially. He added that he does not consider what he did as wrong, and that people are overreacting.

The post was brought to the attention of the police by Mr Amran Junid, who lodged a police report. Mr Amran said the editor has made racist remarks about Malays or Muslims on his FB page before, which Mr Amran had disregarded as “just a comment from a misinformed individual”, The Online Citizen (TOC) reported. Mr Tan was a former editor at TOC, but was asked to leave in January 2010, TOC said. Mr Amran also highlighted a woman called Serena Lee for posting racist comments on the FB post by Mr Tan.

This is the third such case of racially or religiously offensive online postings in recent weeks. The other two police reports were lodged against People’s Action Party youth wing member Mr Jason Neo and full-time national serviceman Christian Eliab Ratnam. Mr Neo had posted a racist photo of a kindergarten bus carrying Malay students. He has sent an apology to the school, Huda Kindergarten, and requested permission to pay a visit to the school to apologise in person. Mr Ratnam had posted a picture of text criticising Islam on his FB page. He has apologised for the posting through a statement published by TOC.

The Ministry of Home Affairs reminded the public that the right to free speech does not extend to making remarks that incite racial and religious friction and conflict. If charged and found guilty, those accused of promoting ill-will and hostility between Singapore’s ethnic communities can be jailed for a maximum of three years and/or fined up to S$5,000.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Far East

Saunas Could Heal Your Mood and Your Heart

That warm, fuzzy feeling you get from sitting in a sauna isn’t in your imagination — and it may also help your heart. People with chronic heart failure who took saunas five times a week for three weeks improved their heart function and the amount of exercise they could do. Meanwhile, neurons that release the “happiness molecule” serotonin respond to increases in body temperature, perhaps explaining the sauna’s pleasurable effects.

Heart failure occurs when the heart is unable to supply enough blood to the body, resulting in shortness of breath and difficulty exercising. Previous studies have hinted that saunas might boost health. To investigate, Takashi Ohori at the University of Toyama in Japan and colleagues asked 41 volunteers with heart failure to take 15-minute saunas five times per week, using a blanket for 30 minutes afterwards to keep their body temperature about 1°C higher than normal.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Mosque Plan Upsets Residents

A proposed mosque in Munster is being opposed by some local residents. They say an Islamic prayer hall and reception centre in the City of Cockburn does not “fit in” with the community. But the Southern Metropolitan Muslim Association, which is behind the proposal on a 1.23ha rural block, has argued that “everybody needs to have a place of worship”.

The Multipurpose Islamic Cultural Centre would include a prayer hall, reception hall and parking for 125 cars. The premises would be available for daily worship, with formal services on Fridays.

Association spokesman Nazrul Islam said yesterday there was a growing Muslim population between Fremantle and Canning Vale, which did not have a meeting place. He expected up to 400 people could use the facility, which would be built over several years. Dr Islam said the association had made a $680,000 offer to buy the block on the corner of Russell and Lorimer roads, which was conditional on the application being approved. The council has not advertised the proposal widely, but sent a letter to nearby residents. This week it extended the submission period until Friday and anyone can comment.

However, Clint Brown, who owns several properties in the area and had lived there for 25 years until recently, criticised the consultation process and said the proposal had the potential for traffic problems on an already busy road. “Everyone I’ve spoken to is not for the idea at all and have strongly opposed it,” he said. “That sort of thing hasn’t been in the area before, so it would be a big change. It doesn’t fit the council’s heritage and local, traditional values.” Dr Islam said it was because of traffic and parking issues that the association had looked for a bigger block away from the city. The issue follows similar debates in recent years in the cities of Gosnells and Swan. Dr Islam acknowledged similar proposals had faced hurdles, but said the Munster mosque would be a community facility.”Everybody needs to have a place of worship and congregational prayer,” Dr Islam said. “It will be open to anybody.” A report on the proposal will be considered at the City of Cockburn’s February meeting.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Plans Revised for Elermore Vale Mosque

PLANS for the controversial $6.8million Elermore Vale mosque have been revised and the capacity reduced as part of an appeal to the NSW Land and Environment Court. The Newcastle Muslim Association is challenging the Joint Regional Planning Panel’s decision in August to reject the development. Modified plans have been lodged with Newcastle City Council, which is defending the case in court, and will be put on public exhibition next week. The new plans appear to be an attempt to address the traffic, parking and acoustic concerns that were cited by the panel when the initial plans were rejected. Modifications include limiting the capacity to 250 people instead of the peak of 400 people expected during Friday prayer sessions. Traffic studies had said the mosque would require 267 parking spaces when full during Friday prayer, but the site only has room for about 160 cars. Changes to capacity would allow the mosque to conform with planning guidelines for parking. An extra entry point along Croudace Road has been added to the plans. A mezzanine level in the main mosque building has been removed, and female amenities are proposed to be relocated to the ground floor. Acoustic barriers, an acoustic fence, and wider access ramps have also been added to the plan. A Newcastle City Council spokeswoman said the court would be the consent authority. “Council will engage external expert consultants to analyse the proposal (traffic, acoustic, planning) and make a submission to the court,” the spokeswoman said.

The association has altered its existing plans rather than lodge a new application. It would face significant difficulties if a new application was required because new land zonings would prohibit a “place of worship” at the site. Community group EV CARES spokesman Steve Beveridge said they had been advised of the changes, but had not seen detailed plans.

He said the proposals did not address the significant concerns of residents. “I don’t think what’s been proposed addresses the fundamental issues,” Mr Beveridge said. He said residents were concerned that no mention had been made of revising the scale of any of the buildings planned. Muslim association spokeswoman Diana Rah could not be contacted this week. A hearing is set down for February.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]


Armed Illegals Stalked Border Patrol

Mexicans were ‘patrolling’ when agent was slain, indictment says

Five illegal immigrants armed with at least two AK-47 semi-automatic assault rifles were hunting for U.S. Border Patrol agents near a desert watering hole known as Mesquite Seep just north of the Arizona-Mexico border when a firefight erupted and one U.S. agent was killed, records show.

A now-sealed federal grand jury indictment in the death of Border Patrol agent Brian A. Terry says the Mexican nationals were “patrolling” the rugged desert area of Peck Canyon at about 11:15 p.m. on Dec. 14 with the intent to “intentionally and forcibly assault” Border Patrol agents.

At least two of the Mexicans carried their assault rifles “at the ready position,” one of several details about the attack showing that Mexican smugglers are becoming more aggressive on the U.S. side of the border.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Austria: Immigration Flood to Spell End of Europe?

As the far-right Freedom Party takes the lead in Austria’s general election, its leader, Heinz-Christian Strache, has told RT what he thinks of EU immigration policy and expansion plans, and explained why he wants a national debate on Islamization.

RT: Why are Austrians so concerned about Islam?

Heinz-Christian Strache: This is an area where there are too many thorny issues. The European crisis is our main problem now. We also face problems in our immigration policy. This largely concerns migration from non-European countries such as Turkey. More than 50% of Turkish immigrants don’t want to integrate into Austrian society. They don’t want to learn the language and organize parallel and opposing structures. The activities of radical Islamists have become visible in our society. They hinder its peaceful and democratic development. In this sense, we are certainly a political force that comes out against any such radicalization.

RT: EU states refused to work with your party when it was in power five years ago. What will be different this time?

H-CS: I think that Europe is living through a turning point in its development, just as the whole world is getting through a turning point and a period of democratization. I assume that the forthcoming elections in Europe, not only in Austria but also in France, Belgium, Italy and Germany, will cause a wave of wrath and pressure. People are going to give vent to their rage on long-standing parties at the polling stations. That will lead to political changes. Since we are well prepared from this side too, European governments will take these elections seriously and will respect their results, unlike in the Middle East, where the authorities tried to deter democratic transformation by imposing restrictions and with the help of other means which are out of line with the principles of democracy.

RT: The president of Austria’s Islamic community says “I have a vision where every town in Austria has a mosque.” What’s your response to that?

H-CS: We also need to proclaim that we respect Islam. Islam is a world religion. Unfortunately, it has emerging signs of radicalism, radical Islamism. We deny radicalism in any religion, including Islam. It’s true of any other religion where there’s radicalism. We are against it. But Europe is a Western Christian land. It’s a fact. When they come to us as guests, they can easily hold their rituals. They don’t need minarets or muezzins. They can pray here and religious freedom is guaranteed to them unlike Islamic countries where we, the Christians, often discover that we don’t enjoy this kind of freedom; that Christians are persecuted and forbidden to build churches. That is why we see manifestations of intolerance to Christianity in some countries of the Islamic world. What I mean is that we should make it clear to them that tolerance should be two-sided and that both sides should observe each other’s rights. Today, we are witnessing radical Islamist trends, which are not perceived as a religion but as a political order. Several months ago, the Turkish Prime Minister announced his intention to head an Islamic Union, which, so to speak, will brush aside all other aggressors. He wants to have a decisive voice in the sphere of world dominance. He wants to define the future. His militant statement provides more than convincing proof of his intentions. I think that we, the Europeans, should wake up and become more sensitive and more conscious of our culture. This also concerns the preservation of European folk culture. We need to do that so as not to disappear politically and demographically and so that the loss of values doesn’t lead to complete disintegration. This is exactly what I am trying to revive in Europe.

RT: Why did the Freedom Party create a video game where you can shoot down mosques and Muslims?

H-CS: I did not support this game, and I willingly made statements in public about it. They are not to my liking. One should stick to the truth. It’s not like playing war, as many mistakenly think. This game has been played in Switzerland for many years, and it’s fully legal there, Nobody’s shot, and on the contrary, by pressing a “delete” button, so to speak, they correct flawed tendencies like mosques. And it’s not a war; there are no swastikas, no weapons. That’s what helps eradicate the flawed tendencies. And of course it can’t be interpreted as a war.

RT: Should Turkey be allowed to join the EU?

H-CS: I respect Turkey. Turkey is a fantastic country, a proud country, with a fantastic culture, with fantastic economic success which inspires respect. We respect Turkey’s accomplishments. And every Turkish man may justly be proud of his country, just as we are proud of our country. But Turkey is not a part of Europe. It does not belong there either geographically or historically or culturally. And I want Europe to stay within its borders. I do not want to see Europe expanding by including non-European countries which will turn Europe into a European-Asian-African formation. It would mean the end of Europe. And it would mean an end to the European idea of peace and social ideals.

RT: The President of France has banned the Muslim face veil — the burqa . If you become President of Austria, would you go further?

H-CS: I would strongly support a ban on disguising a person’s appearance. By that, I first of all mean the full covering-up of the face. It’s not about certain people, but about the fact that people should not hide their face, and that you could see and recognize everyone in our society. And I also would like to explain that the legislation, like the one in effect in Turkey for so many years is — in public schools, in public universities, in the civil service, in other words for the officials — there is a law prohibiting the wearing of a head scarf because it’s not needed in such places. And everyone is free to do whatever one wants in their own leisure time. But people arriving in our culture have to integrate, adapt to our conditions, and observe our laws. And we expect it from them. People who do not want to are not forced to come here and are not obliged to stay.

RT: You believe Greece isn’t right for the euro — what about other struggling economies like Portugal?

H-CS: Europe is not a balanced block and that’s the problem with the EU’s development. The EU is trying to manage everything in a central and centralized way, taking everything in its hands, so to speak. That is the wrong way to go about it. There are different national economies in Europe, different speeds. Europe is more than the EU. There are many countries which do not belong to the EU. That’s why we should reject centralism and stick more to federalism — we should strengthen national parliaments, regionalization, and federalization. Also we should sort out the problems with the common currency before we face a great fall which will have an impact on every European nation. At the moment the tired and flawed systems haven’t changed. There has been no change in the banking system. There has been speculation, and there has been no procedure for a bank going bankrupt. They continue to prop up a failed system with tax-payers’ money, they help a system which may end up imploding with hyperinflation, and eventually it may put an end to the order of life in European nations. Nobody thinks about it. That’s why we need to rethink the system and think if it’s wise and right for the strong national economies to leave the Eurozone and return to their currencies. Or maybe strong national economies should create a new strong currency, not the super euro, or whatever they call it, but a currency that will see Europe having two gears, a Europe which will not get dragged down by misfortune with the two parts involved.

RT: You won’t rule out Italy’s South Tyrol region becoming part of Austria — why?

H-CS: In South Tyrol we have sort of an autonomy for which we had to make a big effort. But today Tyrol does not have the right to self-determination. In the EU they speak a lot about the right to self-determination, but in fact we can see that inside the EU it’s not always applied. I think that South Tyroleans will be able to obtain the right to self-determination sooner or later, that at present they are probably at different stages and developing in the direction of becoming a free state. And then, when they probably become a free state, they will be able to use the right of self-determination and decide if they want or do not want to stay inside Italy or return to Austria. It’s legal. We all belong to one and the same European Union, so there must be no problem with that. But up to now we still have such bans. And I think it’s an absolutely positive step and there must be a possibility to support it. For example, like the regional interests of the Northern League — they actively support the desire for autonomy of regions which are not even Italian. That’s why we do not contradict; on the contrary, the position of the federal political party is the same on many issues.

RT: You’ve made a rap song that people can listen to on your website — let’s have a listen to that first.

H-CS: I consciously will not do it. I am a politician and there is a responsibility on me. But at the same time I do my best — and it’s really hard for me — to use new means of communication too, like Facebook, Twitter, rap music and comics. I do it consciously because I want to start a dialogue with people, especially young people, who are often disappointed in politics, and in whom politics excites feelings of disgust. I want to involve them in discussion. And I succeed. I love to be recorded: I record my rap tracks and upload those videos onto YouTube, where you can watch them. But I do not arrange concerts. I am a people’s representative, so to speak, and maybe the one who can persuade you. This line, this line can be continued as long as possible. “Those who do not want to integrate, I have a destination for you: back to your motherland, have a nice trip! We have enough unemployed here!” Like this.

RT: The rap on your site says “Viennese blood”. What does that mean?

H-CS: Wiener Blut is a global trademark of beautiful Vienna and the culture of living of Vienna’s citizens. Wiener Blut — an operetta by Strauss, a magnificent performance you can see every year in concerts around the world. Millions of people listen to this high-class music. And it is Vienna’s advert to the world. Wiener Blut is described as boiling and has passion. We show this passion in a good way, it’s good that we speak about it — we said “More bravery” to Wiener Blut and to our culture. We do not speak badly of everything foreign. We say that it’s bad when we become a minority in our motherland; this way no nation and no culture will be happy on Earth. When you are a minority in your motherland, that means that you have lost your motherland. There exists a human right, a right to have a motherland. And it’s very important to us. It’s the right of all nations on Earth, as well as for the Kurds and many other nations, who have recently been denied this right.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Italy: President Wants Law to Grant Children of Immigrants Citizenship

Rome, 22 Nov. (AKI) — Italian president Giorgio Napolitano on Tuesday described as “absurd” a law denying citizenship to the children of immigrants born in Italy.

“It’s folly. It’s absurd that children born in Italy can’t become Italian,” he said during an address to the Federation of Evangelical Churches in Rome.

The 86-year-old former communist said the children of immigrants could give new life to an ageing country with a declining birthrate. A trend that if not reversed will cause a deficit in the country’s pension system.

Citizenship for immigrant youth “would give new energy in a society that is for the most part old and sclerotic,” he said.

Of the 60.6 million people living in Italy, almost 4.6 million are foreigners, and 22 percent of those are under 17 years old, according to national statistics agency Istat.

Napolitano’s office is usually ceremonial but is often considered to be above politics and hold the moral high ground above Parliament. During his address he encouraged Parliament to consider changing Italy’s citizenship rules.

He was been especially vocal lately amid an economic and political crisis that prompted Silvio Berlusconi’s government to resign.

The law that governs Italian citizenship is largely formed from the principle of jus sanguinis, or right of blood, meaning that at least one parent must be Italian to be granted citizenship. In many nations like the United States it is enough to be born in the country to have access to citizenship.

In Italy, migrants and their children can apply for citizenship after 10 years of residency.

On 15 November Napolitano said Italy is able to make interest payments on its 1.9 trillion-euro debt thanks to the contributions of immigrants.

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

Migrant Communities Say German Authorities Must Act to Restore Trust

For years, German authorities made no connections between the murders of nine migrant shopkeepers and a neo-Nazi terror cell. Migrant groups say it’s because the state failed to recognize the far-right threat.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Asylum Seekers Protest Living Conditions

Some thirty asylum seekers stormed out of housing assigned for them in Askersund in central Sweden on Tuesday in protest at “unsanitary conditions” while a further facility in Eskilstuna is set to close after a wave of violence. The group of about 30 asylum seekers left the newly opened accommodation outside Askersund, jumping a train to return to their former residence in Gävle.

But without tickets they were forced to alight in Lindesberg and were then driven by coach back to Askersund. The asylum-seekers proceeded to refuse for several hours to get off the bus until police were able to persuade them to accede. Elsewhere the condition is described to be serious for the man who was stabbed at an asylum seeker facility in Eskilstuna on Monday evening.

Both the police and residents have testified about a wave of fights at the facility and the Migration Board (Migrationsverket) has decided to close it, but currently has no alternative accommodation. “We are in agreement with the municipality to close down the facility by the end of January. But today we do not have any other space. We have people living in the corridors and lying on mattresses in the reception accommodation,” said Ulrik Åshuvud at the reception centre in nearby Västerås, underlining that Eskilstuna is a better alternative at the moment.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Atheists Demand Marines Remove Cross Commemorating Fallen U.S. Soldiers

An atheist group is clashing with U.S. marines at Camp Pendleton in California. The group, the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers (MAAF), is demanding that a cross that was put up on the base to commemorate fallen soldiers be removed.

In recent months, the MAAF has made a splash by taking on Christian themes in the military and championing atheism in the U.S. Armed Forces. Led by Jason Torpy, who was a West Point graduate and who fought in Iraq, the group seems to be following along the same somewhat antagonistic path as the Freedom From Religion Foundation, among other “freethinking” groups.

Recently, Torpy also came out in support of the installment of atheist military chaplains

The latest drama surrounding the Christian symbol unfolded when, on Veterans Day, Marines erected a 13-foot cross to commemorate the lives of their comrades who perished in Iraq. Staff Sgt. Justin Rettenberger, one of the four individuals who is responsible for erecting the cross, explains that the memorial was done to honor Maj. Douglas Zembiec, Maj. Ray Mendoza, Lance Cpl. Aaron Austin and Lance Cpl. Robert Zurheide.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

UK: Ten Things That Should be Banned Before Smoking

Following California’s lead, Coventry could become the first British city to ban smoking outdoors, at least in one square — although inevitably it will be just the start. The local paper reports:

Coun. Joe Clifford, chairman of the Smokefree Alliance in Coventry, said it would be similar to a smaller boycott at the temporary beach created in Smithford Way several years ago. He said: “This is about keeping children and families safe while they watch the sport. I can’t imagine too many people would argue against that.”

Smokefree Alliance in Coventry. It captures a particularly British sense of ennui, doesn’t it, that crushing feeling of empty dullness (that usually greets your return from holidaying in more civilised countries where wine is untaxed).


I would argue that all of the following things cause more stress to the public [than] smoking, and should instantly be banned:

  • Public swearing
  • Public displays of sexual affection
  • People who reveal inappropriate levels of flesh (especially if they’re obese)
  • People talking on mobile phones (obviously)
  • People talking above a certain decibel level
  • Tattoos with Celtic, Japanese or any non-Latin script
  • CCTV
  • Those police signs warning of thieves operating in the area (and, by implication, police not operating)
  • Coventry’s architecture (if you want to make your city more pleasant, knock down everything built after 1930 and rebuilding the charming medieval city it replaced)
  • No smoking signs, especially enormous comedy-sized ones (the one outside my nearest hospital looks like something from a Trotskyite demo from the 70s)

Ridiculous perhaps, but all of these things damage our mental health in tiny but noticeable ways, probably more so than open-air second-hand smoke damages our physical health.

Any other suggestions welcome…

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]


Dictatorship: The Wave of the Future?

by Theodore Dalrymple

It might be thought that this a problem of an age that is now past; that after the Arab Spring, we are entering an age of universal democracy. I think this is the case no more than it was ever the case that history was at an end. Astonishing though it may seem, there were rumours in Europe of a possible coup in Greece as a solution to the impasse there. When disorder becomes great enough, men (as Goethe said) long for the man on the white horse, for we love order at least as much as we love liberty, for the former is a precondition of the exercise of the latter, and of much else besides. Europe, the Yugoslavia de nos jours, is becoming ungovernable, thanks to its governors. Another age of the man on the white horse might be dawning.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

First Evidence That Dinosaurs Ate Birds

The world was a dangerous place for the first birds. Palaeontologists have found a fossil bird preserved where the stomach of a dinosaur would have been — the first direct evidence that dinos preyed on their feathered relatives. Palaeontologists have long suspected that birds made up part of the predatory dino diet, but proof has been lacking. No longer: Jingmai O’Connor and colleagues at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing found the near-intact skeleton of a primitive bird nestling suspiciously inside a fossilised predator.

The bird belonged to an extinct group called Enantiornithes and was lying in the ribcage of an early Cretaceous winged theropod called Microraptor gui. They were part of the prehistoric ecosystem known as the Jehol biota, which existed in what is now China and has also yielded numerous spectacular feathered dinosaurs. The bird skeleton was nearly intact, suggesting it was swallowed whole as live prey rather than scavenged.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

New Contact Lens to Display Images in Front of Wearer’s Eyes

Projecting real-time information across a person’s field of vision is about to become possible, thanks to a team of American and Finnish scientists who have developed a prototype of a computerized contact lens.

Researchers from the University of Washington in the United States and Aalto University in Finland have created a contact lens with an electronic display, which at this stage contains a single pixel. The lens also includes an antenna for receiving power from an external radio transmitter, and an integrated circuit to store this energy and transfer it to a tiny LED chip.

The scientists say that once this technology is further developed, such a contact lens could be used to overlay computer-generated texts and graphics on the real world, allowing its wearer to, for example, read e-mails without having to look at a screen, or as part of a video game system or a future navigation-type device.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Women Fake Orgasm to Hang Onto Their Men

Women who are unsure of their partner’s fidelity are the most likely to fake orgasms, as well as engage in other behaviors designed to hang on to their man, a new study finds. The research is the first to quantitatively link suspicions of infidelity to the likelihood of faking orgasm, said study researcher Farnaz Kaighobadi, a postdoctoral researcher at the HIV Center for Clinical and Behavioral Studies at Columbia University.

But suspicion of infidelity isn’t the only reason women might pretend they’re having an orgasm, Kaighobadi said. “A lot of the time, women are using it just as a tool to strengthen their relationship,” she told LiveScience. “Sometimes women could be pretending orgasm just to show love and care to their partner.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]