Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20111126

Financial Crisis
»Behold the New Anschluss: ECB’s Paramo — “Prepare to Give Up Significant Sovereignty”
»EU Demands Written Pledges From Greece for Aid
»Indian Rupee Touches Record Low
»Italian Bonds Come Under Even More Pressure
»Now UK Faces a £5bn Bill to Bail Out Spain… As Ministers Plan for Euro Collapse
»Pope Blames Global Crisis on Lack of Reverence for God
»UK: Prepare for Riots in Euro Collapse, Foreign Office Warns
»NASA Rover Begins Long Cruise to Mars
»New Mosque Welcomes Mecca Pilgrims Home
»Occupy CAIR?: You Won’t Believe Islamic Group’s Ties to Anti-Wall Street Movement
»Senators Demand the Military Lock Up American Citizens in a “Battlefield” They Define as Being Right Outside Your Window
»What’s Next for Mars Exploration?
»A Statesman for the West
»Cultural Relativism
»Prayer in Public Schools Needs to Respect All Students
»The OccupodPeople Will Save Us
Europe and the EU
»Film: Movie Star Giuseppe Schisano to Change Sex and be Called ‘Vittoria’
»Greenpeace is Damaging Holland’s Reputation, Says the PVV
»Italy: Mayor of Naples Says Dutch Waste Deal on Schedule
»Mariano Rajoy: For Spain’s New Leader, Sweet Revenge for a ‘Normal’ Guy
»Scholars Look to Bosnian Islam as a Potential Model for Europe
»Sweden Democrats in Nationalism Ideology Row
»Switzerland: Alstom Guilty in Three Cases of Bribery
»UK: ‘It’s My Human Right to Continue Running My £300m Criminal Empire’
»UK: ‘Disabled’ Wedding Dance Man Jailed for Benefit Fraud
»UK: Greetings to Sam and David Cameron, The Earl and Countess of Witney
»UK: Islamophobia Group Relaunched
»UK: Justice Secretary Attending Dundee Meeting to Address Muslim Community’s Stop-and-Search Concerns
»UK: Manhunt After Suspected Haringey Needle Attacks
»UK: Overrated: Giles Fraser [Former Canon Chancellor of St Paul’s]
»UK: You Can’t Say That: Memoirs by Ken Livingstone: Review
North Africa
»Egypt: “Preacher of the Revolution” Electrifies Tahrir Crowds
»Morocco: Pro-Islamic Party Gets a Quarter of Seats
Israel and the Palestinians
»Thousands Rally in Gaza Against Israeli Measures in Jerusalem
Middle East
»Iraq: 16 Al Qaeda Militants Executed
»Jordan: Gulf Countries Approve USD 5 Billion Assistance
»Lebanon: Italian-Funded Irrigation Project
South Asia
»Indonesia: Borneo: Activists Denounce Slaughter of Orangutans
»Maldives: Hundreds Protest Un’s ‘Anti-Islam’ Comments
»Pakistan Stops NATO Supplies After Raid Kills Up to 28
»Pakistan: NATO Helicopters ‘Kill 14 Pakistan Troops’ At Checkpoint
»Pakistan: Wife ‘Killed: Cut Up and Cooked Her Husband Into a Korma to Stop Him From Abusing His Stepdaughter’
Australia — Pacific
»World’s Oldest Fish Hooks Show Early Humans Fished Deep Sea
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Ethiopian Extremist Group Has Plans for Sharia Takeover
Latin America
»Trinidad & Tobago: Muslims ‘Uneasy’ Over Plot Against Kamla
»Boat Carrying Illegal Immigrants Capsizes Off Apulia Coast
»If the Euro Collapses, Britain Will Have to Limit Immigration From the Continent
»Italy: Police Break up Illegal Immigration Ring
Culture Wars
»Italy: Mayor Bans Selling Toy Weapons During Holiday Season
»CO2 May Not Warm the Planet as Much as Thought
»Diversity of Life Snowballed When Ancient Earth Was Frozen Solid
»Life Began With a Planetary Mega-Organism

Financial Crisis

Behold the New Anschluss: ECB’s Paramo — “Prepare to Give Up Significant Sovereignty”

Speech by ECB executive board member José Manuel González-Páramo : “The euro area is the world’s second largest monetary area. It cannot depend solely on the opinions of ratings agencies and markets. It needs economic governance arrangements that are preventive and linear. This underscores my central point that a much more comprehensive approach to economic governance is now the priority for the euro area. And this means more economic and financial integration for the euro area, with a significant transfer of sovereignty to the EMU level over fiscal, structural and financial policies.”

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

EU Demands Written Pledges From Greece for Aid

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, NOVEMBER 23 — Greece must submit a written pledge on austerity measures by November 29, said Eurogroup president Jean-Claude Juncker at the end of yesterday’s meeting with Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos in Luxembourg. “Papademos is not expected to come with a letter in his pocket,” Bloomberg has quoted Juncker as saying, “but he will need to have the pledge written by the Greek government before the next installment of EU aid is granted.” The insistence of Greek creditors in demanding that leaders of the parties within the government submit written pledges to be able to continue on the two fronts currently open, the granting of the sixth installment of 8 billion euros (part of the first aid package) and the beginning of talks for the latest economic-financial package decided by the EU summit on October 27, has put government cohesion at risk. Two of the three partners, Pasok’s George Papandreou and Laos’s Giorgos Karatzaferis, have said that they are prepared to sign the letter of guarantee “to prevent employees and pensioners from being left without any money”, since Finance Minister sources say that state coffers will hold out only until mid-December. The unknown element is Samaras, the leader of Nea Democratia who continues to reiterate that his party has already shown the political will to support the transitional government and approve the bailout plan for Greece. The spokesman for the Nea Democratia government, Giannis Michelakis, said on the matter that he had “nothing to add on the issue”, and that the party leader “has not received any concrete request in relation to it”. It is clear that Samaras finds himself in a thorny situation, but one he created. After having exaggerated on the issue of guarantees, he today finds himself before a dilemma: sign the letter requested by creditors or not? If he signs, he will have to pay a high political price within the country, while if he doesn’t, he knows he is risking the unchecked insolvency of Greece if the sixth installment is not granted and talks do not go forward for the new package. In the latter case, the consequences for everyone will be incalculable.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Indian Rupee Touches Record Low

India’s currency drops to 52.70 against the dollar. This year, it has had the worst performance among Asia’s top ten most-traded currencies. High inflation and lower growth explain the rupee’s decline.

New Delhi (AsiaNews/Agencies) — India’s currency fell to a record low 52.70 rupees against the US dollar this morning bringing its decline to 15 per cent this year. By closing time, it was up somewhat at 52.30. In 2011, the rupee has had the worst performance among Asia’s 10 most-traded currencies and this is raising costs for companies like Hindustan Unilever Ltd. (HUVR) and Maruti Suzuki India Ltd. (MSIL)

The country’s benchmark BSE India Sensitive Index is also down by 22 per cent as investors sell emerging market assets concerned that the US and Europe will struggle to curb deficits.

The loss in value could further stoke inflation, which has held above 9 percent for 11 consecutive months. It could also increase fuel subsidy costs in a nation that imports 80 per cent of its fuel.

Despite aggressive moves by the Reserve Bank of India to limit the damages, analysts believe the Indian currency will continue to drop.

“It is now very difficult to look for reversal in rupee depreciation when the Indian economy is struggling with high inflation, low growth,” said J. Moses Harding, executive vice president at IndusInd Bank Ltd. (IIB) in Mumbai.

“What will hurt more is that the depreciation has been so steep and sudden,” Maruti’s Chief Financial Officer Ajay Seth said. “Volatility in the rupee will be severe in the next three to six months,” he added.

The CIMB Investment Bank predicts the rupee could drop to 54 a dollar before March 2012.

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

Italian Bonds Come Under Even More Pressure

Yield on 6-month bonds almost doubled at troubled auction

(see related stories on political, economic situation) (ANSA) — Rome, November 25 — Italian bonds came under even more pressure on Friday after the markets perceived Thursday’s meeting between the leaders of Italy, France and Germany as failing to deliver concrete measures to solve the eurozone debt crisis.

The spread on 10-year Treasury paper with respect to German bunds, a measure of market confidence in Italy’s ability to pay down its huge public debt, closed above the psychologically important 500-point mark at 506 points.

The yield, another marker of investor sentiment, rose to 7.32%.

Some analysts believe that it will be impossible for Italy to service a national debt of 120% of GDP if yields stay around 7% in the long term.

Furthermore, the yield on six-month Italian bonds almost doubled compared to a month ago at a troubled auction Friday. The yield flew up to a record 6.504% in the eight-billion-euro sale from 3.535% in a similar auction in October. Yields on two-year and five-year bonds hit 7.76% and 7.78% respectively.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Now UK Faces a £5bn Bill to Bail Out Spain… As Ministers Plan for Euro Collapse

Britain was last night planning for the collapse of the eurozone as Spain weighed up a bailout that could cost UK taxpayers £5billion.

The Government is preparing for the biggest mass default in history and the break-up of the single currency bloc.

Analysts warned that euro meltdown would wreak havoc in the banking system and plunge the global economy back into recession.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Pope Blames Global Crisis on Lack of Reverence for God

‘Crisis is one of values’ says pontiff

(ANSA) — November 25, Vatican City — Pope Benedict XVI said Friday that a lack of reverence for the divine has led to the global economic crisis.

“The diffusion of this mentality has generated the crisis in which we live today, which is more a crisis of values than of economics,” said the pontiff.

Speaking at the 25th Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, he said that a trend towards godlessness had gathered pace even before the onset of the crisis.

Last week during his visit to Benin, the pope issued a warning against the “unconditional surrender to the law of the market or that of finance”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

UK: Prepare for Riots in Euro Collapse, Foreign Office Warns

British embassies in the eurozone have been told to draw up plans to help British expats through the collapse of the single currency, amid new fears for Italy and Spain.

As the Italian government struggled to borrow and Spain considered seeking an international bail-out, British ministers privately warned that the break-up of the euro, once almost unthinkable, is now increasingly plausible.

Diplomats are preparing to help Britons abroad through a banking collapse and even riots arising from the debt crisis.

The Treasury confirmed earlier this month that contingency planning for a collapse is now under way.

A senior minister has now revealed the extent of the Government’s concern, saying that Britain is now planning on the basis that a euro collapse is now just a matter of time.

“It’s in our interests that they keep playing for time because that gives us more time to prepare,” the minister told the Daily Telegraph.

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]


NASA Rover Begins Long Cruise to Mars

With a picture-perfect launch behind it, NASA’s new Mars rover has begun the long trek to the Red Planet. The car-size Curiosity rover blasted off today (Nov. 26) at 10:02 a.m. EST (1502 GMT) from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station here, and separated from its Atlas 5 rocket right on schedule, about 45 minutes later.

The huge robot — the centerpiece of NASA’s $2.5 billion Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission — is now zipping through space, chewing up the 354 million miles (570 million kilometers) between Earth and Mars. The journey will ultimately take 8 1/2 months. “We are in cruise mode,” said MSL project manager Pete Theisinger of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif. “Our spacecraft is in excellent health, and it’s on its way to Mars.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

New Mosque Welcomes Mecca Pilgrims Home

Event was a first for the facility in Glasgow

More than 150 Muslim men and women gathered in Glasgow last week to welcome home six pilgrims from Mecca, an act that the Prophet Muhammed described as a blessing to travelers and those offering hospitality. The evening included a meal, socializing, prayers and talks by pilgrims who made the Hajj, a journey that every Muslim hopes to make at least once. An estimated 3 million pilgrims were in Mecca earlier this month. Mustafa Tuncer, a returning pilgrim, said one thing that is so remarkable about the Hajj is that people from all walks of life show a unity and do their best to be peaceful and respectful in crowded situations.

Last week’s gathering was significant in being held at the Glasgow Masjid (Mosque) and Community Center, 2555 Glasgow Ave. It was the first major event using what had been a two-story home and a commercial garage with a cement floor, a space that once housed machinery. The heavy equipment has been removed and there are now rolled-up prayer rugs, awaiting building renovations. By the end of March, Tuncer, mosque president, says he hopes to dedicate the two-acre site as the newest mosque in New Castle County.

In one sense the mosque, which is adjacent to Hodgson Vocational Technical High School, is an expansion of the Muslim Turkish community, which has been meeting in Bear off Route 40 over the last several years. Wanting to expand, Tuncer said it made sense to embark on a larger fundraising effort to serve more than the Turkish immigrant community. “It’s good for people of different backgrounds to come together and pray,” he says. “They can share differences and learn to live and act together. Also an open community will be a barrier to extremists.”

The 3,200-square-foot masjid is expected to draw Muslims from Cecil County, Md., and southern New Castle County communities such as Middletown and Smyrna. “It’s an almost $500,000 project and investment in the future of the Muslim faith in Delaware, which we hope will benefit our children,” said Jamil Tourk, a longtime member of the Islamic Society of Delaware, who is working on renovations to meet county codes. Up until now, the primary mosque serving the greater Newark area has been the Islamic Society of Delaware’s Masjid Ibrahim on Salem Church Road, a building that has expanded several times in the last 20 years and now includes a full-time school.

The Glasgow Masjid is a welcome addition to the area and will lift some of the growth pressures on the Masjid Ibrahim, says Ahmed Sharkawy, who is involved in committees at both mosques. A special guest at last week’s gathering was Fatih Demirci, president of the United American Muslim Association, in New York City. The association, which began with strong ties to Turkish immigrants and now serves Muslims of many ethnic groups, is affiliated with more than 20 mosques in the East. Demirci was on hand to welcome the pilgrims and encourage those who are working to establish the mosque. Tourk says with the opening of the mosque, Muslims will give attention to interfaith activities, which he considers important since Sept. 11. “We want to show people who we are and that we are peaceful people, not monsters,” Tourk says.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Occupy CAIR?: You Won’t Believe Islamic Group’s Ties to Anti-Wall Street Movement

By Aaron Klein

The recent executive director of the controversial Council on American-Islamic Relations’ South Florida chapter is a founder and spokesperson of Occupy Miami, KleinOnline has learned.

Mohammad Malik currently serves as an activist with several other Islamic groups.

He has led hate-filled anti-Israel protests in which participants were filmed wearing Hamas paraphernalia while chanting “Nuke Israel” and “Go back to the oven” — a reference to Jews being killed in the Holocaust.

Malik has been widely quoted in the Florida news media in recent weeks speaking for Occupy Miami.

The Miami Herald identified Malik as one of the organizers of Occupy Miami’s downtown campsite headquarters.

“We’ve established that we can be here,” Malik told the Herald, speaking as one of the first Occupy Miami organizers. “People said we were stupid amateurs who don’t know what we’re doing…But we did it. We’ve survived and we’re growing.”

Last week, the Florida Independent reported Miami police had asked Occupy activists to temporarily leave their camp digs.

The Independent quoted Malik, identified as protesting with the group since the beginning, as stating there were “a lot of cops” in the area, but protesters were “trying to figure out the situation so that it doesn’t escalate.”

The Independent previously quoted Malik as an “unemployed Miami native who has worked with the ACLU and is the current spokesperson for Occupy Miami.”

In September 2010, Malik was appointed as the director of CAIR’s South Florida chapter, covering the region of Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties…

           — Hat tip: RE[Return to headlines]

Senators Demand the Military Lock Up American Citizens in a “Battlefield” They Define as Being Right Outside Your Window

While nearly all Americans head to family and friends to celebrate Thanksgiving, the Senate is gearing up for a vote on Monday or Tuesday that goes to the very heart of who we are as Americans. The Senate will be voting on a bill that will direct American military resources not at an enemy shooting at our military in a war zone, but at American citizens and other civilians far from any battlefield — even people in the United States itself.

Senators need to hear from you, on whether you think your front yard is part of a “battlefield” and if any president can send the military anywhere in the world to imprison civilians without charge or trial.

The Senate is going to vote on whether Congress will give this president—and every future president — the power to order the military to pick up and imprison without charge or trial civilians anywhere in the world. Even Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) raised his concerns about the NDAA detention provisions during last night’s Republican debate. The power is so broad that even U.S. citizens could be swept up by the military and the military could be used far from any battlefield, even within the United States itself.

The worldwide indefinite detention without charge or trial provision is in S. 1867, the National Defense Authorization Act bill, which will be on the Senate floor on Monday. The bill was drafted in secret by Sens. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) and passed in a closed-door committee meeting, without even a single hearing.

I know it sounds incredible. New powers to use the military worldwide, even within the United States? Hasn’t anyone told the Senate that Osama bin Laden is dead, that the president is pulling all of the combat troops out of Iraq and trying to figure out how to get combat troops out of Afghanistan too? And American citizens and people picked up on American or Canadian or British streets being sent to military prisons indefinitely without even being charged with a crime. Really? Does anyone think this is a good idea? And why now?

The answer on why now is nothing more than election season politics. The White House, the Secretary of Defense, and the Attorney General have all said that the indefinite detention provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act are harmful and counterproductive. The White House has even threatened a veto. But Senate politics has propelled this bad legislation to the Senate floor…

           — Hat tip: RE[Return to headlines]

What’s Next for Mars Exploration?

NASA launched its newest, largest and most sophisticated rover yet to Mars today (Nov. 26), marking an important step toward the agency’s ambitious goal of one day landing humans on the surface of the Red Planet. The Mars Science Laboratory, or Curiosity rover, lifted off this morning from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. After an 8 1/2-month journey, the rover is expected to arrive at the Red Planet in August 2012. Once on the surface, Curiosity will investigate whether the planet is or ever was habitable.

The rover is also equipped with 10 different instruments that will allow it to dig, drill, and shoot a laser into rocks to examine the chemical makeup of Martian soil and dust. The mission will help scientists understand the environment and atmosphere of Mars, which will be essential for planning a manned mission to the planet. “The goal [is] to send humans to Mars and return them back again safely — in order to return them back safely, we really need to know about the surface properties,” Doug Ming, a co-investigator for the Mars Science Laboratory, said in a news briefing Wednesday (Nov. 23) from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


A Statesman for the West

by Melanie Phillips

The excellent Tim Montgomerie makes the point in a Guardian column today that, having headed a minority government for five years, the Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper last May led his Conservative party to its first majority in two decades. Montgomerie cites this to help his case that David Cameron called it wrong when he decided to ditch conservative ideas for left-wing ones — an argument which I myself have made repeatedly since Cameron was elected party leader. But Harper deserves attention on his own account. For he is a party leader who appears to have defied political gravity. As a country, Canada is hardly a byword for conservatism: indeed, it is known for its liberal approach to social issues. Yet Harper not only hung on to power for five years as the leader of a minority government but has now pulled off the feat of achieving majority rule. Part of the explanation is the fact that the opposition Liberal party simply imploded. But the Liberals previously had cause to believe they were the natural party of Canadian government. So what explains this apparent inversion of the natural Canadian order?

Three reasons, and they are closely linked. The first is that — providing a very clear contrast to the Liberals — Harper espoused policies which were free of ideology and connected instead to reality, common sense and people’s lived experience.

Second, Harper’s approach is a principled one, cemented as it is into a clear division between right and wrong, truth and lies and thus standing four-square against the ruinous moral relativism and nihilism of the times.

Third, he has had the courage and backbone to stand up for these principles rather than bending to fashion or intimidation. In short, Harper is a leader not a follower.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Cultural Relativism

by Licia Corbella

As far as Homa Arjomand is concerned, official multiculturalism belongs in the prisoners’ box along with three Ontarians on trial for the honour killings of four female family members.

Mohammad Shafia, 58, his second wife Tooba Mohammad Yahya, 41, and their 20-year-old son, Hamed, stand accused of four counts each of first-degree murder. They have all pleaded not-guilty to killing Shafia and Yahya’s daughters — Zainab, 19, Sahar, 17, and Geeti, 13, along with Shafia’s first wife, Rona Amir Mohammad, who lived with the family in Montreal, where she pretended to be the girls’ aunt, rather than Shafia’s first wife in a polygamous marriage. The bodies of the three daughters and first wife were found on June 30, 2009 in a submerged Nissan at the bottom of the boat locks just outside of Kingston, Ontario.

Arjomand, a prominent Canadian-Iranian activist, says but for official multiculturalism and the cultural relativism it breeds in Canada, those three teenagers and one woman might be alive today. It was revealed on Wednesday and Thursday in the Kingston, Ont. courtroom where the Shafia-clan stand trial that, despite clear signs that the girls were in physical and emotional danger and despite at least one-dozen crisis workers being involved in their cases — including teachers, social workers and police officers — the girls received very little help and support. In fact, evidence presented in court shows that after the girls contacted the authorities, police actually then interviewed the girls again in front of their abusive parents. Not surprisingly, the terrified teens recounting their stories immediately. It’s gut wrenching to think about.

“Obviously (people) killed them,” says Arjomand, a transitional support counsellor in Ontario. “But multiculturalism is at fault too. If these girls didn’t have brown skin and weren’t born in Afghanistan, if their parents were born in Canada and could speak the language, then they all would have been removed from the home and the father and mother would have had restraining orders placed against them to stay away from the children,” says Arjomand, who helps immigrant women and their children flee abusive homes. If Canadian children — and by that I mean children who are born here to Canadian-born parents — approached child welfare authorities with the stories of fear and abuse that these girls did, then the child welfare workers would not have hesitated to take them to a safe place and start legal proceedings against the parents,” adds Arjomand.

So, is it a kind of racism that helped do in the three girls and woman? Arjomand takes a while to answer that. Official multiculturalism tells immigrants that when they come to Canada they can keep their own culture — that their culture has as much right and validity as the Canadian culture, she explains. “In Canada’s attempt to be tolerant of all people what ends up happening is they are tolerant of intolerable things. They hold newcomers to a lower standard and expect less of them, rather than teaching them Canadian values before they come here, so they understand,” adds Arjomand.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Prayer in Public Schools Needs to Respect All Students

A Toronto public school that held Muslim religious services every Friday in the school’s cafeteria deserves some credit for trying to accommodate the secular character of Canadian public schools. Their recent decision to have students lead the prayers means the school no longer needs to host an imam once a week. However, the attempted compromise fails to resolve concerns about the appropriateness of congregational prayer during school hours on school property, and the need to respect the principles of gender equality and inclusivity in public spaces, while also accommodating students’ faith requirements.

Students at Valley Park Middle School are mainly Muslim, and used to attend Friday prayers at a nearby mosque. Some were failing to return to school, and others were disrupting fellow students when they did return. The school decided to allow the students to use the cafeteria for 30 minutes to pray in congregation. At the most recent meeting, there were about 300 students, led by three older male students, from a nearby high school. Muslim girls who wish to take part must sit behind the boys, while girls who are menstruating must sit at the very back. While this is the custom at Friday prayers in mosques, the segregation of girls in a public space violates gender-equality norms that are at the heart of Canada’s institutions. Why shouldn’t girls be up front and centre? And why should classmates know when young girls of 13 are menstruating?

“At the time, this seemed to be an accommodation that worked best for everyone, and nobody from the community complained for three years,” explained Jim Spyropoulos, a superintendant. with the school board. “The prayer is not conducted under the auspices of the Toronto District School Board, so we don’t tell people how to practise their faith.” There is, however, another option: students could pray in the mosque itself, which is walking distance away. If the school is concerned about absenteeism, then it should express this to parents and the student body, and work to resolve the problem. Reasonable accommodation is an evolving matter. Segregating genders so that students can pray in a school cafeteria is not the best solution — and certainly not the school’s only option.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

The OccupodPeople Will Save Us

Via EBD, meet Daniel Johnson, Saskatchewan Green Party candidate and full-time OccupodPerson: “Occupy has no leaders. We run on a consensus based thing, though there are kind of… certain people whose ideas get followed more than others.”


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Film: Movie Star Giuseppe Schisano to Change Sex and be Called ‘Vittoria’

Rome, 23 Nov. (AKI) — Italian film actor Giuseppe Schisano will soon change sex and be called Vittoria.

“My soul is one of a woman. I feel more normal,” he said during an interview with Adnkronos.

“I couldn’t eat or sleep. Just looking at myself in the mirror bothered me,” he said. Slowly I came out to my friends.,” he said.

The native of Naples is taking hormones and must undergo psychological therapy before his sex-change operation, but he says he is literally a woman trapped inside a man’s body.

“When I went to the doctor to start the hormone therapy that precedes the operation, the doctor was surprised that I wasn’t already taking the hormones. My levels showed that my female hormones were higher than my male ones,” he said.

“In reality I always felt a strong feminine side that I hid for years.”

In his latest film “Cane Pazzo,” or “Crazy Dog,” which is in post production, Schisano, 30, must hide his femininity to play the main role of a macho journalist obsessed by his research into a serial killer.

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

Greenpeace is Damaging Holland’s Reputation, Says the PVV

Environmental organisation Greenpeace has gone too far so often that the government should look into expelling it from the Netherlands, Richard de Mos, an MP for the populist PVV, says in Monday’s Telegraaf.

Greenpeace’s international headquarters in Amsterdam should be closed down, because its presence is damaging the Netherlands’ reputation abroad, De Mos told the paper.

The ruling VVD Liberals are also critical of the organisation’s performance and want to find out if government subsidies and payouts from the Postcode lottery can be scrapped if Greenpeace breaks the law, the Telegraaf says.

Last month, the paper claimed Greenpeace may have put the public at risk with an anti-nuclear train stunt.

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

Italy: Mayor of Naples Says Dutch Waste Deal on Schedule

(AGI) Naples — Mayor of Naples Luigi de Magistris assures his administration’s Dutch urban waste deal will kick in by Christmas. With Naples still struggling to find landfill alternatives, De Magistris today said deals with Dutch counterparts “have been wrapped up and are on schedule.” The Administration “is aiming to have two freight ship-loads of urban waste ferried out of Naples by Christmas.” ..

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

Mariano Rajoy: For Spain’s New Leader, Sweet Revenge for a ‘Normal’ Guy

After working in the shadow of José María Aznar and losing twice to José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, the unassuming former “registrador della propriedad” is now set to lead Spain in a moment of great challenge

On Sunday evening, Mariano Rajoy fulfilled the largest ambition of all, appearing on the balcony of his Popular Party’s headquarters in Calle Genova in Madrid to claim the party’s victory in the general election and his arrival as Spanish Prime Minister.

Rojay, 56, had already appeared on that balcony on four other election nights. Twice, in 1996 and 2000, he stood silently at the side of the then-leader of the party, José María Aznar, as he claimed victory. In 2004 and 2008, Rajoy was the candidate there to concede defeat to José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero’s Socialists Party.

Rajoy’s triumph is sweet revenge, seven years in the making. He was widely predicted to defeat Zapatero in 2004, but Al Qaeda train bombings in Madrid on March 11 that killed 191 people is believed to have turned that election around at the last moment. Some voters blamed the Popular Party for trying to initially blame the bombing on Basque separatists, while others saw the Al Qaeda attack as a consequence of Aznar’s decision to have Spanish troops participate in the Iraq war.

By now, Spaniards know Rajoy well. Born in Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, he is a trained lawyer, and a son of a judge. He is married to Elvira Fernández, an economist who, to support his campaign, has taken a leave from her work at the Spanish broadband and telecommunication provider Telefónica. The couple has two children.

“He is a normal man,” says an old Rajoy friend and former union leader from Galicia.

Rajoy could have kept his lucrative career as a “registrador della propriedad,” property registrar, but inherited a passion for politics from his grandfather, a supporter of Galicia’s autonomy, and from the influence of Manuel Fraga Iribarne, a minister under the dictatorship of Francisco Franco and founder of the center-right party once democracy had been established.

Rajoy started his political career in 1981, as a member of the then-People’s Alliance, and is the only Spanish leader who has been in Parliament continuously for 30 years…

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

Scholars Look to Bosnian Islam as a Potential Model for Europe

Since the September 11 terrorist attacks, a debate in Europe has heated up over the compatibility of Islam with secular, Western society. Scholars meeting in Stuttgart took a fresh look at the question.

International scholars met last week in Stuttgart to consider the question: What’s the ideal form of Islam for a European context, if there is one? An estimated 20 million Muslims live in Western Europe. In many countries, the presence of a large Muslim minority has led to intense national discussions. The September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States stoked arguments in Europe that Islam was not reconcilable with European values, and that Islam was not adaptable to democracy. With such debates raging about Muslim “integration,” many are looking to the way Islam is practiced in Bosnia-Herzegovina for the answers.

Institutionalized Islam

“Islam has long been practiced [in Bosnia-Herzegovina] in a secular environment and in a secular state,” said Armina Omerika, an Islam scholar at the University of Bochum in western Germany. “Also, there’s a high level of institutionalization of Islam there, and that institutionalization has become the strongest support for the religion in that country.” Muslims make up the majority in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and they live harmoniously alongside Catholics, Orthodox Christians and Sephardic Jews. This diversity, along with the 130 years during which the country was ruled by the Austro-Hungarian Empire, made Bosnian Islam what it is today. Under the empire, a Muslim institution was created which was modeled on the structures of Christian churches. In fact, it was then that the role of the Grand Mufti, the leader of Bosnian Muslims, was established. Omerika believes this kind of organization of the religion could make Islam more welcome in Europe: “It’s this form of institutionalization that represents a known quantity for many Europeans, because they see parallels with religious organization in church structures.”


Back in the 1990s, German political scholar Bassim Tibi introduced the term “Euroislam,” meaning a combination of Islamic principle and modern European culture and values. However, many scholars, such as Kerem Öktem of the European Studies Centre at Oxford, disagree and believe the idea of “European Islam” is not useful. “The main problem,” he argues, “is that there’s a basic assumption that Islam is something foreign, something different, something that’s not from Europe — and that the religion must therefore be domesticated, Europeanized or nationalized.”

Öktem argues that’s not the case, and that Islam has existed in Europe for centuries. Bosnia, he maintains, is not the only example; there’s also Turkey, Albania and Bulgaria. And then there are the Tatars, who’ve lived in Poland for more than 600 years. They make up under 1 percent of the population, but, according to Adam Was, an Islamic studies scholar at the Catholic University in Lublin, they’ve now been joined by a second wave of Muslims. “Those are the students from various Arab lands who came to Poland in the second half of the 20th century. Most married in Poland and started families, and that’s how the second group came to be,” he said. So there are Turks and Algerians, Albanians and Bosnians, Pakistanis and Iranians, and two streams of the religion in Poland alone — all of them speaking different languages and having different cultures and religious traditions. “Is it even theoretically possible to find a model for such a diverse challenge?” asked Öktem. “Even on a theoretical level, I would say no. There is simply too much diversity, and this diversity must be addressed.”

A unique flavor

Was agrees there can be no unified European Islam — whether Bosnian or something else — but perhaps rather an Islam with a European flavor, as there is African Islam, which differs from the Islam of Southeast Asia. “We need an Islam with certain European characteristics: democracy, human rights, freedom of religion. This will involve a process of reinterpretation of the Koran, and that will require a certain new exegesis of the holy scripture,” said Was. “And that’s a discussion to which Muslims who have already been in Europe for centuries can contribute.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Sweden Democrats in Nationalism Ideology Row

The Sweden Democrat Party began its second congress on Saturday debating a proposal for a new policy program. It proposes, among other things that name of the new ideology should be “social conservative” in a move to distance itself from the more nationalistic overtones of the current “democratic nationalist” line. The proposal has caused a split in the ranks however, between the more traditional supporters of the nationalist ideology and those looking for a more moderate approach.

The politician behind the proposals Mattias Karlsson assured delegates that nationalism will always be a key starting point in any ideological discussions. “This program strengthens our middle position in Swedish politics, said party leader Jimmie Åkesson. The congress can either accept or reject the application in its entirety.

Meanwhile it has emerged that all employees of the Sweden Democrat Party could face fines of up to 100 000 kronor (or the equivalent of the “real damage”) if they disclose “confidential information” about the party.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Switzerland: Alstom Guilty in Three Cases of Bribery

The Swiss subsidiary of French transport and engineering company Alstom has been found guilty of corporate negligence following a lengthy corruption inquiry.

The Swiss federal prosecutor’s office said on Tuesday Alstom Network Schweiz AG had been fined SFr2.5 million ($2.74 million) and ordered to pay SFr36.4 million in compensation relating to three cases where it had failed to prevent the bribery of foreign officials in Latvia, Tunisia and Malaysia.

The punishment comes after investigations into the company’s actions in 15 countries were reopened in 2008. The investigation concluded that Alstom had failed to enforce a compliance policy with the “necessary persistence”.

“Therefore, acts of bribery in Latvia, Tunisia and Malaysia were not prevented,” the prosecutor’s office said in a statement.

“The investigation showed that consultants engaged by Alstom … had forwarded a considerable part of their success fees to foreign decision makers [in the countries concerned] and thereby had influenced the latter in favour of Alstom.”

The prosecutor’s office said that after “considerable investigative efforts” it had detected some breaches of internal compliance methods, but no additional acts of bribery in the other 12 countries.

It dismissed proceedings against parent company Alstom SA in relation to the Latvian, Tunisian and Malaysian cases after imposing costs of SFr1 million.

In a statement, Alstom said it was satisfied that the Swiss prosecutor’s office had not found evidence “of any system or so-called slush funds used for bribery of civil servants to illegally obtain contracts”.

The company said that in two of the three cases were it was found to be at fault, it was a “victim of the actions of some of its employees”, while in the third, Alstom was “simply a subcontractor of a consortium”.

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

UK: ‘It’s My Human Right to Continue Running My £300m Criminal Empire’

Britain’s most notorious drug baron has been issued with an extraordinary warning to stop running his multi-million-pound criminal empire when he is released from jail.

Curtis Warren, 48, a convicted killer who once topped Interpol’s most wanted list, is in a high-security prison serving a 13-year sentence for cannabis smuggling.

In an unprecedented step, the order instructs the Liverpudlian to stop breaking the law.

Last night, the drug lord’s lawyer said his client is expected to fight the order on the grounds of his ‘human rights’.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

UK: ‘Disabled’ Wedding Dance Man Jailed for Benefit Fraud

A benefits fraudster who claimed he was bed-ridden yet was filmed dancing at a wedding has been jailed. Mohamed Bouzalim, 37, cheated the authorities out of nearly £400,000, Isleworth Crown Court heard. He will serve nearly seven years for 11 counts of deception, fraud and assisting illegal entry into the UK. The court heard he had also falsely claimed asylum saying he was an Afghan who had been tortured by the Taliban when in fact he was from Morocco.

Bouzalim flew into Heathrow airport in June 2001. He told the authorities he had been tortured, that the Taliban had murdered his father and his mother was dead. But according to the UK Border Agency (UKBA), he was an illegal migrant from north Africa. Over the next decade, he used false names, passports, driving licences, and other ID cards to claim almost £400,000 in benefits including money to pay family members to be his full-time carers. At the height of the scam, he was receiving £66,000 a year tax free and managed to do a masters degree and later study for a PhD at The School of Oriental and African Studies in central London. Bouzalim pretended he could not walk and was in need of 24-hour care. He was provided with a specially converted ground floor, two bedroom council flat in Kilburn, north-west London, with wheelchair access. But during an investigation, Metropolitan Police officers secretly filmed Bouzalim walking unaided from his flat and down the street.

‘Top class fraudster’

When they raided the purpose-built property they found a video of him dancing at his wedding in Morocco in 2009. Robert Coxhead, senior investigating officer from the UKBA Criminal and Financial Investigation team, said: “Mohamed Bouzalim was a top class fraudster and con artist. His whole life was a lie.” The agency added that it was because of the “overwhelming weight of evidence” including the wedding video, that he admitted his crimes. He received £137,602 from north London’s Camden Council to pay for his carers, around £70,000 in housing benefit, £60,000 from the Independent Living Fund, £74,000 in income support and £15,000 disability living allowance.

Instead of his parents being dead, they in fact came to the UK on visitor visas and then allegedly acted as his carers. They now live in London and claim pension tax credits and housing benefit, totalling about £2,000 a month. But Bouzalim also owned a property in Leyton, east London, which he rented out for £1,200 a month. “I think it’s outrageous,” said Mr Coxhead. “What’s worse about it is there are so many needy people out there who perhaps don’t have the access to the benefits they should do and here is a man perfectly able, an intelligent man and he’s deceived a number of different organisations.”

Bouzalim, who speaks six languages including the Afghan language Pashto, was given exceptional leave to remain when he arrived in the UK in 2001. He was granted indefinite leave to remain in April 2007 and granted British Citizenship in June 2009. At Isleworth Crown Court, he admitted 11 counts of deception, fraud and assisting illegal entry into the UK. Three other family members pleaded guilty to defrauding Camden Council. Camden Council and the Department for Work and Pensions have both been contacted by BBC London but have not responded regarding the case.The UKBA says it will now look to deport Mr Bouzalim, who was jailed for six years and 11 months.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Greetings to Sam and David Cameron, The Earl and Countess of Witney

Tory MPs say prime minister is so attached to the aristocracy he will want to become the Earl of Witney when he retires

David and Samantha Cameron have worked hard to play down their aristocratic backgrounds. Sam Cam has affected a Dido-style “mockney” accent which means hardly anyone would guess she is the daughter of a major landowner, Sir Reginald Adrian Berkeley Sheffield, the 8th Baronet. The prime minister laughed off his membership of the Tory aristo club, White’s, saying he paid his subs to keep his late father happy. Cameron has to look a little further to find a title in his family. His mother, Mary, is the daughter of the late Sir William Mount, the 2nd Baronet. Some Tories believe that Cameron’s attachment to the nobility will resurface when he no longer has to face the electorate. They believe that when he eventually stands down Cameron will revive the tradition of granting an earldom to a former prime minister. The Camerons would become the Earl and Countess of Witney, the name of his Oxfordshire constituency.

One government supporter says: “Don’t believe all that guff from Dave that he’s not interested in class. Of course he is. He’s obsessed by it because he is close to, but not quite part of, the aristocracy. He was, after all, a young adult when he chose to join the Bullingdon Club at Oxford. Dave will no doubt be very keen to revive the tradition in which a former prime minister becomes an Earl. I am sure he and Sam would love to be the Earl and Countess of Witney.”

The tradition lapsed relatively recently. Harold Macmillan was the last former prime minister to be created an Earl. Margaret Thatcher asked the Queen to appoint Macmillan as the 1st Earl of Stockton in 1984, two years before his death.


[JP note: The retirement is hopefully not too long in the offing when this pair might be more aptly named Sir Drawcansir and Countess Hunt-Bubble.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Islamophobia Group Relaunched

A parliamentary group to tackle Islamophobia has been re-launched at Westminster, with the support of MPs from across the political divide. The group originally sparked controversy after it was revealed that an anti-Zionist organisation was to act as its secretariat. The newly reformed All-Party Parliamentary Group on Islamophobia was set up last week and will begin work immediately on an inquiry into the extent of anti-Muslim prejudice in Britain today. The APPG will be co-chaired by Liberal Democrat deputy leader Simon Hughes; Khalid Mahmood, Labour MP for Perry Barr, Birmingham; and Stuart Andrew, Conservative MP for Pudsey, Leeds. MPs voted by 60-2 in July to drop the organisation iEngage from providing administrative support to the group. The Community Security Trust has described the group as having a “troubling attitude to antisemitism”. The vote followed the resignations of founder co-chairs Lord Janner and Conservative MP Kris Hopkins in February. A report into the APPG by Chris Allen, an expert in Islamophobia from Birmingham University, was highly critical. He wrote: “Since its launch in November 2010, the APPG on Islamophobia has been little more than a sideshow: an unhelpful, unwanted and unnecessary distraction from giving Islamophobia the rightful, timely and necessary attention it so desperately needs. “There can be no doubt whatsoever that the credibility of the APPG has been damaged.” It is hoped that the new group will be able to draw a line under the i-Engage controversy and make a fresh start.

Mr Mahmood, who has always taken a strong line against Islamic radicals, said: “The reforming of the Islamophobia group is a vital step forward in combating this insidious and

increasing form of prejudice. “I look forward to working with colleagues from across the political spectrum, in developing a dialogue that addresses both the causes and potential solutions of Islamophobia in all its forms.” Former Home Secretary Jack Straw urged MPs, at a meeting of the parliamentary Labour Party last week, to back the new group, though he blamed the collapse of the original APPG on a “campaign” by the JC. The JC first broke the story about the problems with the APPG in February, after the resignation of Lord Janner and Kris Hopkins and has regularly returned to the subject. Mr Straw was unavailable for comment. Editor Stephen Pollard — who said he was proud of the role the JC had played in the removal of the iEngage secretariat — added: “The JC has always supported the principle of setting up an APPG on Islamophobia and will follow the work of the reformed group with interest.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Justice Secretary Attending Dundee Meeting to Address Muslim Community’s Stop-and-Search Concerns

Controversial stop-and-search powers at UK border points will come under scrutiny in Dundee today.

Around 80 members of the Muslim community are expected to attend a public meeting organised by Tayside Police at the Dundee Community Centre on Guthrie Street. They are due to discuss schedule seven of the Terrorism Act 2000, which provides ports officers powers to examine people passing through UK borders. It allows officers to stop and question people without suspicion as well as detain someone for up to nine hours. Critics argue the UK legislation, used as part of the country’s counter-terrorism measures, unfairly targets Muslims. Tayside Police Assistant Chief Constable Angela Wilson told The Courier the force is keen to listen to the local community. “There are some who are concerned about schedule seven and question its impact on civil liberties,” she said. “Our aim is to explain the reason for the legislation and hopefully provide some reassurance. Across Scotland similar meetings have already taken place. As we have a reasonably sized Muslim community the decision was taken to hold one here.”

Abdul Rehmen (24), manager at the Dundee Community Centre, said he understands the work undertaken to combat terrorism, but is unsure of the “viability” of the act. “Personally, I think there are other ways to do security at airports without having to take scans of people,” he continued. “But I do welcome this meeting and hope as many people as possible come along.” Ms Wilson said the decision to address the local Muslim community was taken because they are a group that feels most likely to be affected by stop-and-search powers.

“It is national legislation, and terrorism is something that does not just happen in England and Wales but in Scotland too,” she continued. “We are from time to time contacted by concerned Muslims, and that is what this meeting is about — to provide a balanced picture.”

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill will also sit on today’s panel alongside police chiefs and Dundee East MSP Shona Robison. The cabinet secretary said it is important that powers to stop and question travellers are used consistently, sensitively and appropriately. “I am well aware of the sensitivities involved in the use of schedule seven powers,” he continued. “Where there are legitimate concerns and grievances in communities we need to understand them and work together to try to address them. ‘We are here to listen to the community and to engage with them as to how we ensure appropriate actions against potential terrorist threats but balanced with respect for all our communities. ‘Concerns have recently been raised about a lack of clear information about the powers and how they are used, and police have acted by reviewing the leaflets given to those who are stopped, and will be making sure information is more widely and easily available, both at the airports and in communities. ‘This is not the only concern, but it is a good example of how the authorities are looking to provide reassurance and build trust.”

Mr MacAskill added: “Scotland is not immune from terrorism, so it is vital that our airports are effectively policed to preserve public order and ensure that any threats to security are identified and addressed. ‘The police play a crucial role, having to balance a duty to tackle crime with the protection of individual civil liberties. The powers they use are necessary to assist in their challenging role. ‘Officers on the ground are best placed to make individual judgments as to when those powers should be used. I believe our forces make a proportionate and necessary use of the powers available to them.” The public meeting takes place this evening from 5.45-7.45pm.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Manhunt After Suspected Haringey Needle Attacks

Detectives are trying to identify a man suspected of stabbing two women with a sharp implement, thought to be a needle, in north London.

At 9.30am on Friday 18th November a 24 year old woman was approached along Green Lanes by the man who pushed the sharp implement into her body before fleeing.

Five days later a 29 year old woman was attacked in similar circumstances — stabbed while waiting for a bus at 2.30pm.

The suspect then ran off along Ferme Park Road towards Crouch End.

Both victims were only slightly hurt but are having to undergo medical tests to make sure they are free from infections.

The suspect is described as being of Mediterranean appearance, 6ft in height with dark hair. He wore a baseball cap on both occasions and a dark-coloured jacket.

Detective Constable Ben Jefferd, who is leading the investigation, said: “The man committing these offences loiters at bus stops for some time before appearing to select a victim and attacking them. These assaults obviously cause great distress to the victims in the weeks after, while they await crucial test results. I ask anyone with information that could help us locate this man to come forward as soon as possible.”

Residents of the area are being reassured that these incidents are rare but asked to remain vigilant.

Anyone with information or who knows the whereabouts of the suspect is asked to contact the incident room at Tottenham CID on 07785 381 215 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

UK: Overrated: Giles Fraser [Former Canon Chancellor of St Paul’s]

Another edifice of Britain’s decaying social structure crumbled when the anti-capitalist Occupy Wall Street movement crossed the Atlantic in October. But, proving once again that the English do farce rather better than revolutions, it was the Church of England, not the fat cats of the City, which has been seriously damaged. The favela of tents and banners proclaiming “capitalism in crisis” outside St Paul’s Cathedral provoked a crisis which came from within — and the reason is that at some point the creed of equality, that 21st-century pastiche of socialism, replaced Anglicanism as England’s national religion, and the Church of England became the First Church of Christ, Marxist. No one better exemplifies that evolution than the Rev Dr Giles Fraser, former Canon Chancellor of St Paul’s, who in the first days of the occupation appeared on television news telling police to back away, and then resigned when the City of London Corporation began a legal bid to evict the protesters. Echoing the half-educated sociology graduates outside whose banners asked, “What would Jesus do?” (he’d probably sell that iPhone in your pocket and give the proceeds to the poor), Dr Fraser proclaimed: “I could imagine Jesus being born in the camp.”


He is recognisably part of the English radical tradition of plain-speaking preachers. Alas, unlike in the days of John Wesley, today’s radical churchmen ally themselves with a liberal Left that is almost entirely anti-theist, and actively wants to remove this irrational creed from public life. Fraser once wrote in Socialist Worker: “Christianity is…the religion of turning the other cheek, communal meals and blessed are the poor. In contrast, Christendom is what Christianity became when it got mixed up with the Roman Empire.” There is, of course, some truth in this, but when Fraser argues that “what secularisation specifically attacks is state religion, the religion of Christendom” and that “post-Christendom provides an opportunity for a very different Christian voice to emerge”, he is deeply misguided. For secularism today instead leads the state itself to take on the role of Church, to become the arbiter of morality, the vehicle for social change, and even the font of happiness and hope. No wonder that intolerant statists are so keen to remove the influence of the rival, older faith. Jesus said: “Love your enemies”; he didn’t say actively help them destroy you. But that, unfortunately, is what the Church of England seems intent on doing.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: You Can’t Say That: Memoirs by Ken Livingstone: Review

The stench of scores being settled hangs over Ken Livingstone’s memoirs, finds Andrew Gilligan.

All four walls of the young Ken Livingstone’s bedroom were, he writes, “lined with three tiers of aquariums and vivariums”. The heated reptile tanks “turned the room subtropical”, with “rich smells wafting through the house”, including the “overpowering stench of alligator poo… Mum would arrive home to be greeted by a huge cloud of bluebottles orbiting the lightbulb”. This great slab of a book is rather like that bedroom. For 700 gruelling pages, we are trapped in Ken’s political vivarium, breathing the smells, fighting off the circling bluebottles, reliving a lifetime’s struggles for vital centimetres of tank space.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egypt: “Preacher of the Revolution” Electrifies Tahrir Crowds

CAIRO — Once the preacher of a quiet mosque on the edge of Tahrir Square, Mazhar Shahin has become one of the most recognisable faces of the protests that ousted president Hosni Mubarak in February and which now call for the military to step down. A roar of approval swept through the tens of thousands of demonstrators in Tahrir Square on Friday when Shahin called for the ruling generals to hand power to a government named by the protesters. “The revolution is the one that thinks, the revolution is the one that decides, it is the one that judges,” said the cleric in his Friday prayer sermon. “Our revolution was a body without a head. Today, the revolution will have a head,” he said of a proposed civilian government that includes opposition luminaries such as former UN nuclear watchdog chief Mohamad ElBaradei.

With his cropped beard and white turban wrapped around a red fez, Shahin looks like the traditional government-appointed mosque preacher who, for years under Mubarak’s rule extolled the regime’s virtues. But the sheikh has become a thorn in the side of the country’s rulers — first Mubarak, and now the ruling generals — with his vigorous denunciations of their abuses and calls for protesters to hold firm to their demands. “Few of the revolution’s demands have been met,” he told the protesters on Friday. “The people insist on completing their revolution. Either we live in dignity, or we die here in Tahrir.”

“God is greatest!” roared the crowd after the end of prayers. “In the past few days, he’s really been amazing. He’s really spoken up for us,” said one of the protesters, movie director Mohammed al-Qalawi, a liberal. “He’s an exception to the other clerics. He saw for himself the martyrs that died here since the revolution started, and expresses what we want to say,” said another protester, Yasmine Hani.

The Al-Azhar educated Shahin, protesters say, was also ahead of his time. When he first joined the January revolt, Al-Azhar, the Sunni world’s most prestigious institution, appeared to side with Mubarak, who appointed its head.

Now, Al-Azhar, led by Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayyeb, a former senior member of Mubarak’s ruling part, has finally followed in Shahin’s footsteps, siding with the demonstrators who have been protesting non-stop against the military since Saturday. On Wednesday, Tayyeb issued a surprisingly strong statement calling on the police never to point their weapons at protesters, “no matter what the reasons” and spoke of the “sacrifices” of the demonstrators. Al-Azhar sent clerics to the square to enforce a ceasefire between the protesters and police on Thursday, after five days of clashes near the square had killed more than 30 protesters.

Tayyeb’s statement, at a time when activist Islamist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood criticised the protesters, went a long way in restoring the institution’s credibility. On Friday, Al-Azhar clerics mingled with protesters chanting for an end to military rule. “The grand imam (Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayyeb) backs you and is praying for your victory,” a senior aide to Tayyeb, Hassan Shafie, told the protesters during a visit to the square.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Morocco: Pro-Islamic Party Gets a Quarter of Seats

(AGI) Rabat — The Moroccan islamic moderate party PJD (Party of Justice and Development) is ahead in the counting of votes for the legislative elections that were held on Friday. The data were announced by the Interior Minister Taib Cherqaoui in a press conference around midday. After completing the counting in 288 out of a total of 305 polling stations for the local circumscriptions (that is without the single list valid for the other 90 seats), PJD has already 80 (28.5%) deputies, followed by Istiqlal (centre-left, 45 seats) and by the National Union of Independents, its major rivals. The Party for Authenticity and Modernity got 33 seats, the Socialist Union (USFP) 29, the Popular Movement (MP) 22, the Constitutional Union 15 and the Party for Progress and Socialism (PPS) 11. Other smaller parties got a total of ten seats. The polling stations counted up to now are 73% of the total and final results will not be anounced before tomorrow, Cherqaoui added. According to the Moroccan constitution, passed by a referendum on Juky 1st, King Mohammed VI will call to rule the country the party winning the elections. The trend is in favour of PJD

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

Israel and the Palestinians

Thousands Rally in Gaza Against Israeli Measures in Jerusalem

GAZA, Nov. 25 (Xinhua) — Thousands of Palestinians rallied on Friday all over the Gaza Strip in protest to the Israeli measures in East Jerusalem. Called on by the Islamic Hamas movement, which rules the coastal enclave, and the less influential Islamic Jihad (Holy War) movement, two separate demonstrations took place in the Gaza Strip. Coinciding with rallies to support Jerusalem in both Jordan and Egypt, demonstrators in the Gaza Strip called on the Muslim and Arab nations to move as quickly as possible to rescue the holy city of Jerusalem, saying that Jerusalem is an Arab city and will remain so.

The Al-Aqsa Association for Waqf and Islamic Heritage in Jerusalem had earlier warned in a statement of the recent Israeli measures in East Jerusalem to change the characteristics of the city, mainly destroying the temporary woody bridge near the Mughrabi Gate and building a new bridge. Also, Israel decided late October to demolish an access ramp to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem.

Ismail Haneya, premier of the de facto Hamas government, told hundreds of prayers in one of Gaza city’s mosques that he calls on the Arab and Islamic nations “to protect Palestine, Jerusalem and al-Aqsa Mosque.”

Haneya, who joined the rally afterwards, said that “the millions of people in Jordan, Cairo and Tunis as well as in other Arab countries who took to the streets today in support for Jerusalem and al-Aqsa Mosque are an evidence that this city is Islamic and Arab,” Haneya said. Meanwhile, Mushir al-Masri, a legislature in the Hamas- dominated parliament or the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), told the demonstrators that the revolutions to support al-Aqsa Mosque are melted with the revolutions in the Arab world “in order to get rid of the occupation and the foreign agendas.” “We tell the Islamic and Arab crowds who are joining us right now in support of Jerusalem and against the Israeli occupation measures that … the flag of Islam will be raised in all Arab world and on the fences of al-Aqsa Mosque,” said al-Masri.

Nafze Azzam, a senior leader of the Islamic Jihad movement, called for immediate Arab and Islamic movement to support and back the city of Jerusalem and stop the Israeli measures that aims at Judaizing the city. It is a big shame that the Arab leaders and the governors are keeping silent over all those years for the siege imposed on Palestine and imprisonment of thousands in Israeli jails, Azzam said, stressing that “achieving the inter-Palestinian reconciliation is so important in this circumstance.” The Islamic Jihad leader called on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to completely abandon the peace negotiations with Israel, adding that “this absurd talks had brought to us nothing and obstructed us from achieving our goals of freedom and independence.”

The angry demonstrators burned the flags of the United States and Israel, which occupied the east part of Jerusalem in 1967. The Palestinians want East Jerusalem to be the capital of their future Palestinian state, while Israel says that Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the Jews. Meanwhile, Mohamed Hussein, the Grand Mufti (great clergy of Muslims) of Jerusalem praised the Arab and Islamic rallies in the Palestinian territories and in the Middle East that support Jerusalem and reject the Israeli measures in the holy city. “What happens in Jerusalem, mainly Judaizing the city and changing its characteristics as well as building settlements and trying to demolish one of the old city’s major gates had urged thousands of Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims to rally all over the region against these measures,” said Hussein.

The international community doesn’t recognize Jerusalem as the capital for the state of Israel although it had declared the city as its eternal capital in 1950. The world’s rejection to consider the whole city as the capital of Israel had increased after Israel occupied the eastern part of the city in 1967.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Iraq: 16 Al Qaeda Militants Executed

(AGI) Baghdad — Iraqi authorities have executed 16 Al Qaeda militants. Law officer, Abdelsattar Birakda reported that the 16 Al Qaeda militants were executed this morning. Abdelsattar Birakda also explained that the terrorists were involved in the massacre of 70 people at a wedding held in 2006. However, the terrorists have been executed for another murder conviction.

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

Jordan: Gulf Countries Approve USD 5 Billion Assistance

(ANSAmed) — AMMAN, NOVEMBER 24 — Jordan is expected to receive a major boost following a decision by the oil-rich gulf states to allocate USD 5 billion in financial assistance to the kingdom over five years period, an official said today.

The decision was adopted during a foreign ministers meeting representing Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman and Kuwait, said a source at the foreign ministry.

The move would represent alife line to the kingdom’s struggling economy in light of rising energy bill and slowing economic performance during this year.

Officials from Jordan’s foreign ministry told ANSAmed the kingdom would receive one billion dollars annually from a special fund to be created by the council.

Observers, however say they are concerned the decision, which also includes similar assistance to Morocco, would be seen as an alternative to including the cash-strapped kingdom in the gulf council.

Some countries in the council, including Qatar and Oman showed reluctance to having the kingdom as a full member in the council, but Saudi Arabia and Bahrain strongly back Jordan’s peruse to join the club of the rich countries.

Jordan was banking on joining the gulf council to remedy its economic situation and allow an army of unemployed professionals work in the gulf.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Lebanon: Italian-Funded Irrigation Project

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, NOVEMBER 25 — Italy’s Ambassador in Lebanon, Giuseppe Morabito and the Mayor of Baalbeck, Hachem Othman, have today taken part in a ceremony to mark the ending of the first stage of a renovation project of the Baalbeck irrigation network. The project is financed with cooperation from Italy’s Foreign Ministry for 990,000 euros and by local municipalities for 200,000 euros.

The ceremony took place at Baalbeck town hall in the presence of Lebanon’s Agriculture Minister, Hussein Hajj Hassan and various local officials. The project also include training and organized media campaign aimed at reducing water wastage, whether in irrigation or domestic use, with awareness raising among the population about environmental issues.

In his speech, Ambassador Morabito noted how “this project is a precious example of adaptation and rapid response to new environmental challenges facing our countries”. “We are living at a time in which magic wands are of no use and concrete, effective and rapid solutions are needed. Resource optimization and innovation are examples of such solutions and this project proves their efficiency”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Indonesia: Borneo: Activists Denounce Slaughter of Orangutans

The animals are victims of a slaughter campaign that began in 2008 and continues through the connivance of police and authorities. Behind the killings companies that own the palm trees plantations. The crops have taken the place of the forest, altering the natural habitat of the primates.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) — The orangutans of Borneo are victims of a campaign of mass slaughter that began in 2008, which threatens the very survival of the rare species. The presence of primates in East Kalimantan, in fact, is considered a serious obstacle to the spread of palm oil plantations in the region. Instead of protecting the endangered primates from illegal trade and slaughter, the authorities have covered up the massacres along until reports started appearing in local media last week.

Alerted by the activists, the police inspected the area Puan Cepak, in the sub-district of Kuta Kartanegara, but did not take any action because of obvious “lack of evidence”. Awang Farouk Ishak, Governor of the province of East Kalimantan, also spoke on the matter stating “there is no actual massacre.” However, the media campaign launched by the national newspapers has forced the police to deepen their inquiry.

Local activists and environmentalists from Mulawarman University in Samarinda, the provincial capital, led by Professor Yaya Rayadin have been carrying out surveys and studies. He can confirm that since 2008 the veritable massacre of the orangutan has been taking place, particularly in palm plantations — which over time have taken more and more space from forests — owned by a Malaysian company. The orangutan can also adapt to new habitat, the scientist points out, feeding on the same palm. That’s why the animals have become a hunting target, regarded as “predators” who can eat “up to 40 plants per day.”

In recent days during a raid, police arrested two people suspected of having killed several specimens for the money. For the killing of just one primate, poachers receive 200 thousand rupees (about 22 dollars), the price can arrive at 1 million rupees (120 dollars) in case of an orangutan. The two arrested confessed to having killed 20 in the period 2008-2010, however, investigators believe that the number is far higher. Two senior officials of the Malaysian company are also in the sights of investigating police, considered the architects of the slaughter campaign.

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

Maldives: Hundreds Protest Un’s ‘Anti-Islam’ Comments

Hundreds of Maldivians are protesting against the United Nations after an official called on this Muslim nation to end religious extremism and practices like punishing women by flogging. About 300 people shouted slogans against UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay Friday night, a day after she concluded a visit to the Indian ocean archipelago. They said Pillay has spoken against their country’s constitution and Islam. Addressing the country’s Parliament, Pillay on Thursday called flogging of women found to have had sex outside marriage “inhuman and degrading.” Sunni Islam is the official religion in the Maldives, where practicing any other religion is forbidden.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Pakistan Stops NATO Supplies After Raid Kills Up to 28

YAKKAGHUND, Pakistan (Reuters) — NATO helicopters and fighter jets attacked two military outposts in northwest Pakistan on Saturday, killing as many as 28 troops and plunging U.S.-Pakistan relations, already deeply frayed, further into crisis.

Pakistan retaliated by shutting down vital NATO supply routes into Afghanistan, used for sending in just under a third of the alliance’s supplies.

The attack is the worst single incident of its kind since Pakistan uneasily allied itself with Washington in the days immediately following the September 11, 2001 attacks on U.S. targets.

Relations between the United States and Pakistan, its ally in the war on militancy, have been strained following the killing of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden by U.S. special forces in a raid on the Pakistani garrison town of Abbottabad in May, which Pakistan called a flagrant violation of sovereignty.

A spokesman for NATO-led troops in Afghanistan confirmed that NATO aircraft had been called in to support troops in the area and had probably killed some Pakistani soldiers.

“Close air support was called in, in the development of the tactical situation, and it is what highly likely caused the Pakistan casualties,” said General Carsten Jacobson, spokesman for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

He added that he could not confirm the number of casualties, but ISAF is investigating the “tragic development.”

“We are aware that Pakistani soldiers perished. We don’t know the size, the magnitude,” he said.

The Pakistani government and military brimmed with fury.

“This is an attack on Pakistan’s sovereignty,” said Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani. “We will not let any harm come to Pakistan’s sovereignty and solidarity.”

The Foreign Office said it would take up the matter “in the strongest terms” with NATO and the United States.

The powerful Chief of Army Staff, General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, said in a statement issued by the Pakistani military that “all necessary steps be under taken for an effective response to this irresponsible act.

“A strong protest has been launched with NATO/ISAF in which it has been demanded that strong and urgent action be taken against those responsible for this aggression.”

Two military officials said that up to 28 troops had been killed and 11 wounded in the attack on the outposts, about 2.5 km (1.5 miles) from the Afghan border. The Pakistani military said 24 troops were killed and 13 wounded.


It remains unclear what exactly happened, but the attack took place around 2 a.m. (2100 GMT) in the Baizai area of Mohmand, where Pakistani troops are fighting Taliban militants.

“Pakistani troops effectively responded immediately in self-defense to NATO/ISAF’s aggression with all available weapons,” the Pakistani military statement said.

The commander of NATO-led forces in Afghanistan, General John R. Allen, said he had offered his condolences to the family of any Pakistani soldiers who “may have been killed or injured.”

The U.S. embassy in Islamabad also offered condolences.

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Pakistan: NATO Helicopters ‘Kill 14 Pakistan Troops’ At Checkpoint

Nato helicopters from Afghanistan have attacked a military checkpoint in Pakistan, killing 14 troops and wounding seven, Pakistani intelligence officials said.

The attack comes as relations between the United States and Pakistan, its ally in the war on terror, are already strained following the killing of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden by US special forces in a secret raid on the Pakistani garrison town of Abbottabad in May. Pakistan called that raid a flagrant violation of its sovereignty. A Pakistani military spokesman confirmed Saturday’s pre-dawn attack in the tribal region of Mohmand and said casualties had been reported, but gave no details. “Nato helicopters carried out an unprovoked and indiscriminate firing on a Pakistani check post in Mohmand agency, casualties have been reported and details are awaited,” the spokesman told Reuters. Two intelligence officials in the region said that up to 14 Pakistani troops had been killed and seven wounded in the attack on the Salala check post, about 2.5 km (1.5 miles) from the Afghan border. The attack took place around 2am (2100 GMT) in the Baizai area of Mohmand, where Pakistani troops are fighting Taliban militants.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Pakistan: Wife ‘Killed: Cut Up and Cooked Her Husband Into a Korma to Stop Him From Abusing His Stepdaughter’

Police have arrested a woman in Pakistan on suspicion of murdering her husband, chopping his body to pieces and boiling it in a bid to get rid of the evidence.

Zainab Bibi, 42, allegedly told authorities she killed her husband Ahmad Abbas because he tried to sexually assault her 17-year-old daughter from another marriage.

She told police she sedated her husband by mixing sleeping pills in his tea and strangled him with rope before dismembering him.

Police say they discovered her plot after neighbours complained about a bad smell coming from her home.

Bibi’s 22-year-old nephew, Zaheer Ahmed, has also been arrested in connection with dismembering Abbas’s body.

Pakistan’s ARY News spoke to Bibi from her cell at the Shah Faisal police station, where she said: ‘I killed my husband before he dared to touch my daughter.’

The alarm was raised by Bibi’s landlord, Behzad, who lives on the ground floor of the two-storey Green Town house.

He was so upset by the bad cooking smells coming from upstairs that he went up to complain.

Police claim that he found Bibi at the stove, cooking a korma with flesh from her husband’s arm and leg — because she believed it was the only way to practically dispose of his body.

Pakistani paper The Express Tribune said Bibi had been living at the house with her 17-year-old daughter Sonia and Mr Abbas, who she married five years ago and who used to be Sonia’s teacher when she was at school.

Father of murdered American wife is chief suspect in Pakistan honor killings after fleeing to the U.S.

Bibi was quoted in the paper as saying: ‘When he finally died, I felt shudders of fear for the first time.

‘I didn’t have the courage to approach his body for the next half an hour.

“It occurred to me that if I cooked the body in parts with spices and aromatic ingredients that would curb the stench.’

But she insisted she had no plans to eat the resulting dish, or to feed it to others, adding: ‘I had a plan to do away with the cooked stuff by throwing it in a gutter. I would say to people that it had spoiled.’

Bibi claims she had stopped Mr Abbas from molesting her daughter on several occasions, admitting that he had never actually laid a hand on her but had said suggestive things about her when he was drunk.

The rest of Mr Abbas’s body was found in an aluminium trunk on the premise.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

World’s Oldest Fish Hooks Show Early Humans Fished Deep Sea

The world’s earliest known fish hooks reveal that humans fished the open sea for much longer than previously thought. Past studies have revealed that early humans were capable of crossing the open ocean as far back as 50,000 years ago, such as they did to colonize Australia. Until now, however, evidence that such mariners could fish while in the open sea dated back only to 12,000 years ago.

“In most areas of the world, evidence for our early ancestors’ coastal exploitation is now submerged — it was drowned by rising sea levels,” researcher Sue O’Connor, an archaeologist at Australian National University in Canberra, told LiveScience. Now O’Connor and her colleagues have found evidence of prehistoric fishing gear and the remains of large fish such as tuna at a cave shelter known as Jerimalai, located in the Southeast Asian island nation of East Timor.

Their discovery uncovered fishing hooks made from bone that date back to about 42,000 years ago, making them the earliest definitive evidence of such tools in the world. “It is possible that people caught the tuna in the deep channel that lies off the coast of the Jerimalai shelter,” O’Connor said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Ethiopian Extremist Group Has Plans for Sharia Takeover

Ethiopia (MNN) — Ethiopia has seen its fair share of radicalism. But recently, radical Islamic propaganda was found encouraging people to support Sharia law alone. In a recent press conference, the Ethiopian government expressed its concern over the growing violence against moderate Muslims and Christians by radical Wahhabi Muslims, reports Voice of the Martyrs, Canada. The government also announced the discovery of plans by the Wahhabi Muslims to turn Ethiopia into an Islamic country governed by Sharia law. “We have found evidences and pamphlets [which] were publicly distributed during the month of Ramadan calling on the Muslim community to stand up against all non-Wahhabi Muslims and followers of other religions,” said Mersessa Reda, the Director General at the Ministry of Federal Affairs of Ethiopia.

International Christian Concern reports that radical Islamic teachings of Wahhabi among Muslims in Ethiopia have been spreading. The group reports that a UN embassy cable previously warned that the Wahabbies “teach interpretations of the Koran that promote a far less tolerant view of other Muslims and non-Muslims alike.” Such information is troubling for Christians in Ethiopia, a nation that ranks within the top 50 for World Watch List of the persecuted church. Ethiopia comes in at #43 for persecution, just worse in its treatment of Christians than Palestine, which ranks 44th on the Open Doors list. Pray for protection and courage for Christians living in Muslim-dominated areas of Ethiopia. Pray that the Wahhabi Muslims would not gain any more power to turn Ethiopia into an Islamist state, a move which would lead to increased persecution of Christians. Pray for continued guidance for the leaders of Ethiopia who are trying to deal with this recent news. Pray that the church might continue to grow despite threats like this.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Latin America

Trinidad & Tobago: Muslims ‘Uneasy’ Over Plot Against Kamla

THE State is being called upon to identify which Islamic organisation is alleged to be involved in a plot to assassinate Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and several senior government ministers. General secretary of the Trinidad Muslim League (TML), Azid Ali, said yesterday his and other organisations are “uneasy” over the possibility that Muslims from a local group are behind the plan. “That situation definitely has us uneasy,” Ali said, in a telephone interview yesterday. “I think they (the government) definitely have to clarify which particular group they have held members of and are questioning. This reflects badly on all of us Muslims. It not only tarnishes the image of those groups allegedly involved but on all Muslims.” Details of the planned assassination have been scarce since Persad-Bissessar announced on Thursday that security forces are on high alert since uncovering the plot.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]


Boat Carrying Illegal Immigrants Capsizes Off Apulia Coast

(AGI)Rome — A sailboat carrying around 60 illegal immigrants floundered near Carovigno, 10 km from Brindisi, causing various deaths. An inhabitant of Carovigno alerted local port authorities when at 5.35 PM he heard shouts coming from the sea and found the capsized craft and numerous people in the water.

Rescue operations ensued but were hindered by rough conditions reaching force 5. According to the first reports 3 bodies have already been recovered.

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

If the Euro Collapses, Britain Will Have to Limit Immigration From the Continent

By Toby Young

This morning’s story about the likelihood of widespread civil unrest on the Continent if the euro collapses prompts the question of whether the UK will limit the number of European migrants entering the country in the event of that happening. Earlier this week, we learned that net immigration to the UK reached an all-time high of over a quarter of a million last year, thanks, in part, to the decline in emigration. Britons just aren’t choosing to live abroad in the same numbers that they were because of the bleak economic climate. Not only will emigration fall even further if the euro collapses, but European nationals will flood to Britain as the only safe haven in a Continent beset by civil disorder.

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

Italy: Police Break up Illegal Immigration Ring

Accountant and lawyer among white-collar suspects

(ANSA) — Bologna, November 22 — Police on Tuesday broke up an illegal immigration network composed primarily of white-collar suspects in the northern Emilia-Romagna region. An accountant and a lawyer, thought to be the founders of the organization, were among 38 people under investigation for aiding and abetting illegal immigration and exploitation. Police said the network had helped approximately 200 people migrate illegally to Italy, including citizens from China, Albania, Bangladesh, Morocco and Tunisia who paid up tp 7,000 euros to the suspects.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Italy: Mayor Bans Selling Toy Weapons During Holiday Season

Toys related to war don’t fit the Christmas spirit

(ANSA) — Naples, November 23 — There will be no toy guns, water pistols or battle-themed board games for Christmas this year in a town outside Naples where the mayor has banned the sale of playthings related to war. From December 8-30, holiday street vendors in Pomigliano D’Arco will be prohibited from selling items such as squirt guns, fireworks, the board game Risk and lottery tickets, which the town administration considers to be out of line with the holiday spirit. They will instead be limited to selling foods, arts and crafts, and other festive items approved by the mayor.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


CO2 May Not Warm the Planet as Much as Thought

The climate may be less sensitive to carbon dioxide than we thought — and temperature rises this century could be smaller than expected. That’s the surprise result of a new analysis of the last ice age. However, the finding comes from considering just one climate model, and unless it can be replicated using other models, researchers are dubious that it is genuine.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Diversity of Life Snowballed When Ancient Earth Was Frozen Solid

Ancient animals may have started their drive toward explosive diversity back when the Earth was a giant snowball, new research suggests.

A startling expansion in the diversity of life forms began about 540 million years ago, early in the Cambrian period. During this apparently sudden outburst, known as the Cambrian explosion, all the major groups of animals seemed to materialize rapidly. Scientists have debated the causes of this great flowering of life for centuries. Now researchers have new evidence that major groups of animals actually may have existed many tens of millions of years before this seeming flurry of diversity. This early activity helped light the fuse of the later Cambrian explosion.

The results suggest that many of Earth’s early organisms developed the genetic programs for their body plans during the Cryogenian period, which spanned from 635 million to 850 million years ago, with the last common ancestor of all living animals originating nearly 800 million years ago. These early creatures may then have flourished later in more favorable environments — say, when more oxygen was around — leaving behind enough fossils to survive up to now.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Life Began With a Planetary Mega-Organism

ONCE upon a time, 3 billion years ago, there lived a single organism called LUCA. It was enormous: a mega-organism like none seen since, it filled the planet’s oceans before splitting into three and giving birth to the ancestors of all living things on Earth today. This strange picture is emerging from efforts to pin down the last universal common ancestor — not the first life that emerged on Earth but the life form that gave rise to all others.

The latest results suggest LUCA was the result of early life’s fight to survive, attempts at which turned the ocean into a global genetic swap shop for hundreds of millions of years. Cells struggling to survive on their own exchanged useful parts with each other without competition — effectively creating a global mega-organism. It was around 2.9 billion years ago that LUCA split into the three domains of life: the single-celled bacteria and archaea, and the more complex eukaryotes that gave rise to animals and plants (see timeline). It’s hard to know what happened before the split. Hardly any fossil evidence remains from this time, and any genes that date that far back are likely to have mutated beyond recognition.

That isn’t an insuperable obstacle to painting LUCA’s portrait, says Gustavo Caetano-Anolle’s of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. While the sequence of genes changes quickly, the three-dimensional structure of the proteins they code for is more resistant to the test of time. So if all organisms today make a protein with the same overall structure, he says, it’s a good bet that the structure was present in LUCA. He calls such structures living fossils.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]