Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20111129

Financial Crisis
»Beijing Ready to “Push Chinese Companies to Acquire European Enterprises”
»Confounding the Crisis, German Exports Soar Above One Trillion Euros
»Croatia: Unemployment Rises, Up to 17.4%
»European Economic Crisis Highlights an Increasingly Important Reason to Oppose Gun Control
»Eurozone Collapse Would be a ‘Disaster’, Says Chinese Official
»France: Unemployment Highest for Twelve Years
»‘Germany as Isolated on Euro as US Was on Iraq’
»Government Asked to Cost Finnish Euro Exit
»Italy: Bond Spread Closes Under 500 Points, EU Urges Haste
»National Parliaments Fight for Role in Eurozone Crisis
»OECD Calls for Urgent EU Action, Warns of Credit Crunch
»Poland Fears German ‘Inactivity’ More Than German Power
»Schäuble Warns of Carrying European Debt Burden Ahead of Brussels Talks
»Struggle Over the Euro: German Constitutional Court at Risk of Losing Power
»US: EU Must Solve Its Own Crisis
»AMR, Parent Company of American Airlines, Files for Chapter 11 Reorganization
»Herman Cain is Reassessing His Bid for Republican Presidential Nomination, An Aide Says
»Loon Arrested on Drug Charges
»Muslim Women Share Facts, Dispel Misconceptions About Faith
»Who Will American Muslims Vote for?
»X-Ray Images Help Create Best Stradivarius Rip-Offs
Europe and the EU
»France: Tintin Auction in Paris Fetches €1.8 Million
»Italy Asks EU for More Time to Resolve Naples Trash Fiasco
»Norway Mass Killer May Avoid Jail: Prosecutor
»Norwegian Right-Wing Killer is ‘Insane,’ May Avoid Jail
»Sweden Democrat’s Anti-Muslim Hysteria
»UK: ‘Relief and Delight’ As Mosque Blocked
»UK: Leveson Inquiry: Nick Davies, Paul McMullan, Richard Peppiatt — Live
»UK: Police Host Liverpool ‘Walk of Faith’ To Church, Mosque, Synagogue — and Tea
»UK: University of Edinburgh’s School of Divinity Appoints First Muslim Professor
»Fearing the ‘White Al-Qaeda’
»Swedish TV Slammed for Srebrenica ‘Denial’
North Africa
»Egypt Votes… For a Woodpecker, A Pen, A Tractor and a Banana: Symbols on Ballot Paper Represent Candidates to Help the Illiterate as Polls Open Again Today
»Egypt: How to Tell Who is a “Moderate Islamist”: An Exam
»Egypt: Wiesenthal Center Condemns Muslim Brotherhood Anti-Semitism
»Egypt: Qaradawi and Attayeb Meet in Cairo to Discuss Supporting O. Jerusalem
»Freedoms at Risk: Arab Women Fight to Defend Their Rights
»Terror: Al-Qaeda ‘Planning N. Africa Kidnapping Wave of Westerners’
Israel and the Palestinians
»Gaza Asks Turkey to Restore Ottoman Mosques
»Palestinian PM Invites Tunisian Premier to Visit Gaza
Middle East
»Iranian Students Storm British Embassy in Tehran, Associated Press Reports
»Iranian Protesters Storm British Embassy
»Russia Sends Warship to Syria in Support of Assad as UN Claims His Soldiers Have Killed 256 Children
»World’s Top Muslims List Appears With Erdogan Only #3. Who Should be #1?
»Russian Voters Faced With Limited Political Choice
»Attracting Skilled Immigrants: ‘The Government Must Make it Easier to Work in Germany’
»Illegal Immigration: Greece: Ship Heading to Italy Stopped
»Cyberwar Storm Clouds Are Gathering
»Gene Therapy is First Deafness ‘Cure’
»Massive Black Hole Yields Its Mysteries to Astronomers

Financial Crisis

Beijing Ready to “Push Chinese Companies to Acquire European Enterprises”

With Europe facing a debt crisis, China plans to send an investment delegation to the Old Continent, backed by its US$ 400 billion sovereign fund. Loans are excluded. The goal is to buy bonds and shares. In exchange, the European Union and the United States must remove barriers and hurdles.

Beijing (AsiaNews) — The government in Beijing will lead an investment delegation to Europe next year as debt-laden euro zone countries open their doors to much-needed help. Beijing hopes to buy government bonds and shares in public companies.

China plans to encourage Chinese businesses to buy European companies, Commerce Minister Chen Deming told the Global Times, the international edition of the People’s Daily. The statement comes after the head of China’s US$ 400 billion sovereign wealth fund said it was keen to invest in Europe.

“Some European countries are facing a debt crisis and hope to convert their assets to cash, so we will push forward more Chinese companies to acquire European enterprises,” Chen is quoted as saying.

However, Chen warned that mainland companies face challenges investing overseas and called on US and European authorities to further open up their markets and remove unnecessary hurdles and barriers.

“We are willing to further open up our market, such as the financial sector, but other economies must be more open to us in return,” he said.

The minister did not say when the delegation would go to Europe or which countries it would visit.

European leaders have been calling on China, the world’s second largest economy, to help struggling euro zone countries by contributing to a bailout fund, but so far, Beijing has not made a firm commitment.

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

Confounding the Crisis, German Exports Soar Above One Trillion Euros

The menacing currency crisis is dominating discussion in the European Union — but the German economy continues to be spared. This year companies there will manage to exceed exports of more than a trillion euros, a figure not even reached during the boom year of 2008.

The economic outlook for euro-countries, including Germany, has deteriorated significantly of late. But the current situation remains rosy for German companies, whose products are in greater demand abroad than ever before. Within the year, German exports will surpass the €1 trillion mark, the Federation of German Wholesale, Foreign Trade and Services (BGA) reported on Tuesday. Even in the country’s legendary boom year of 2008, exports came up just short of the historic number.

Exports are up by 12 percent for 2011 some two months before year’s end, with further growth expected for next year, the organization said. In 2012, exports are projected to increase by at least 6 percent to €1.139 trillion. German exports make up some 9.5 percent of world trade, the exporters’ association estimates. “Stormy times on the financial markets are accompanied by remarkably stable channels in the real economy,” BGA president Anton Börner said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Croatia: Unemployment Rises, Up to 17.4%

293,800 people out of work

(ANSAmed) — ZAGREB, NOVEMBER 29 — The unemployment rate in Croatia stood at 17.4% at the end of October, an increase following the end of the tourism season, which traditionally absorbs part of the country’s jobless numbers. This is according to figures circulated today by Croatia’s national institute of statistics.

On a monthly level, unemployment rose by 3.6%, and 293,800 people are out of work. October saw the third consecutive monthly fall in the number of people in employment, which currently stands at 1,391,000.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

European Economic Crisis Highlights an Increasingly Important Reason to Oppose Gun Control

About a year ago, I spoke at a conference in Europe that attracted a lot of very rich people from all over the continent, as well as a lot of people who manage money for high-net-worth individuals.

What made this conference remarkable was not the presentations, though they were generally quite interesting. The stunning part of the conference was learning — as part of casual conversation during breaks, meals, and other socializing time — how many rich people are planning for the eventual collapse of European society…

           — Hat tip: alcade[Return to headlines]

Eurozone Collapse Would be a ‘Disaster’, Says Chinese Official

A collapse of the eurozone would be a “disaster for everyone” and EU leaders have not “fully realised” the urgency of the situation, a Chinese official said Tuesday (29 November), adding that Europe’s problem is not so much money-related as a matter of lack of confidence. “We don’t want to see the collapse of the eurozone, it would be a disaster for everyone. We want to see a very quick recovery of the eurozone. China is a very firm believer in the euro, in European integration,” Hua Chunying, a foreign ministry counsellor dealing with EU affairs told this website on the margins of the Understanding China policy summit.

China has invested in bonds of the troubled southern euro-countries already. “But the major problem with the EU is not the money, it’s the confidence,” she explained. This lack of confidence is “natural” given the diversity between north and south, poor and rich countries, Hua said, adding: “But I do believe once everybody realises it’s a problem of life and death of the euro, then they may take very rapid measures.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

France: Unemployment Highest for Twelve Years

The number of job seekers in France rose again in October, taking figures to a 12-year high. The main measure of unemployment published on Monday showed a 1.2 percent increase on the previous month, representing an extra 34,400 job seekers.

The new total is up to 2,814,900, a 4.9 percent increase on October 2010, and is the highest since December 1999. The number of unemployed rose in all age groups, with older workers being hardest hit. Employment minister Xavier Bertrand admitted the figures were “not good” in a television interview.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

‘Germany as Isolated on Euro as US Was on Iraq’

Prophecies of doom are mounting as the euro zone hurtles deeper into crisis, and the world pins its hopes on Germany to solve it. The country has been thrust into a leadership role it has avoided for decades, isolating Berlin from its partners, say commentators. Poland’s foreign minister has implored the country to save the euro “for your own sake and for ours.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Government Asked to Cost Finnish Euro Exit

The Finns’ party is asking the government to put a price on exiting the euro. The party’s parliamentary group has also demanded that Finland stops supporting heavily indebted eurozone countries in an interpellation question on the matter.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

Italy: Bond Spread Closes Under 500 Points, EU Urges Haste

10-year yield 7.24%, bourse up ahead of Monti talks in Brussels

(ANSA) — Rome, November 29 — The spread between 10-year Italian Treasury bonds and benchmark German Bunds ended Tuesday below the psychologically important 500-point mark as Premier Mario Monti was set to unveil his first package of reforms in Brussels.

The spread, a measure of investor confidence in Italy’s ability to pay down its huge debt, closed at 490.6 points after rising as high as 510 earlier in the day.

The yield, another marker of market sentiment, ended the day on 7.24%, a level widely considered unsustainable in the long run.

Ahead of Monti’s presentation to his fellow economy ministers, the European Commission issued a report calling for Italy to “speed up” urgently needed austerity and growth-boosting moves.

The report also said persistently high yields might spark “a flight” from Italian bonds.

With a recession looming next year, Monti is reportedly readying a new austerity package worth some 20 billion euros, on top of a recent 54-billion one, to balance the budget by 2013.

In Brussels, the economy ministers were set to consider ways of boosting the EU’s debt-bailout fund and boosting the role of the European Central Bank in tackling the debt crisis.

The Milan bourse closed 0.34% up, mirroring similar gains elsewhere in Europe.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

National Parliaments Fight for Role in Eurozone Crisis

During the eurozone crisis, the role of the EU’s national legislatures has not always been clearly defined. The German parliament has gone to court to ensure it is consulted on issues stemming from the debt debacle.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

OECD Calls for Urgent EU Action, Warns of Credit Crunch

BRUSSELS — A bleak assessment from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) on Monday (28 November) warned that the eurozone crisis threatens the globe with a serious recession if left unresolved.

“The euro area crisis remains the key risk to the world economy,” the Paris-based economic think-tank said in its biennial report, adding that the eurozone debt train crash could result in global liquidity seizing up.

“If not addressed, recent contagion to countries thought to have relatively solid public finances could massively escalate economic disruption. Pressures on bank funding and balance sheets increase the risk of a credit crunch.”

The body cut its projections for growth across all OECD or developed countries from 2.3 percent in its last report to 1.6 percent in 2012, while EU states dropped in its estimations from two percent to 0.2 percent for next year.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Poland Fears German ‘Inactivity’ More Than German Power

Poland has issued an extraordinary appeal to Berlin to do all it takes to save the eurozone, saying that only Germany can manage the task and has a “special responsibility” to do so given its history. In a speech in Berlin on Monday evening (28 November), Polish foreign minister Radoslaw Sikorski berated Germany for its lack of action, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel widely seen as holding the eurozone’s future in her hands.

“I will probably be the first Polish foreign minister in history to say so, but here it is: I fear German power less than I am beginning to fear German inactivity. You have become Europe’s indispensable nation.” Sikorski’s words are remarkable for their candour. While there has been much muttering in other capitals about what Germany should or should not be doing, Poland is the first to come right out and say it aloud.

Schäuble warns of carrying European debt burden ahead of Brussels talks.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Schäuble Warns of Carrying European Debt Burden Ahead of Brussels Talks

A day before the Eurogroup meeting, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble warns that Germany can’t bear the load for all of Europe. Ministers hope to agree on how to increase the firepower of their bailout fund.

Ahead of Tuesday’s meeting of eurozone finance ministers, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble had a short message for those calling on Germany to rescue Europe from its debt crisis. “Even Germany is too small to shoulder the entire burden for the whole of Europe or for the whole [euro] currency area,” Schäuble told the foreign press association in Berlin late Monday. No European country, he said, would retain its triple-A rating if the European Central Bank were to become the lender of last resort or if eurobonds were to be introduced.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Struggle Over the Euro: German Constitutional Court at Risk of Losing Power

Some see Germany’s Federal Constitutional Court as as a guardian of democracy in the euro crisis, others see it as an obstacle to rescuing the currency. Now members of Chancellor Merkel’s ruling conservatives want to lessen its power by amending the constitution — to remove its jurisdiction over European issues.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

US: EU Must Solve Its Own Crisis

US officials at an EU summit Monday pledged solidarity on the crisis but made clear there is no US money up for grabs. “This is a problem that Europe has to solve and has the capacity and the resources to solve it,” US ambassador to the EU, William Kennard said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


AMR, Parent Company of American Airlines, Files for Chapter 11 Reorganization

The parent company of American Airlines said on Tuesday that it has filed for bankruptcy protection, in an effort to reduce labor costs and shed its heavy debt load.

American’s parent, the AMR Corporation, was the last major airline in the United States to resist filing for Chapter 11 in an effort to shed contracts, a move that analysts said left it less nimble than many of its competitors.

AMR intends to operate normally throughout the bankruptcy process, as previous airlines have done.

[Return to headlines]

Herman Cain is Reassessing His Bid for Republican Presidential Nomination, An Aide Says

Herman Cain told members of his campaign staff on Tuesday that he was reassessing whether to proceed with his bid for the Republican presidential nomination, an aide confirmed, a day after an Atlanta woman disclosed details of what she said was a 13-year affair with him.

In a morning conference call with his advisers, Mr. Cain said that he would make a decision in the coming days about whether to stay in the presidential race after his campaign was rocked by another round of allegations about his sexual conduct.

[Return to headlines]

Loon Arrested on Drug Charges

The former Bad Boy rapper faces a heroin trafficking case.

Former Bad Boy rapper Chauncey “Loon” Hawkins was arrested in Belgium on Nov. 22 and extradited to the United States on drug charges. He was caught at the Brussels Airport on his way to give a lecture at the Islamic and Cultural Centre of Belgium and charged with trafficking heroin in the U.S. Officials reportedly invoked the Patriot Act to bring him back to the states as he had converted to Islam, now goes by Amir Junaid Muhadith and lives in Algeria with his family. Reports also say that the DEA had been watching Loon from 2006 to 2008. Loon was best known for his song “Down for Me” with Mario Winans and being featured on Diddy’s “I Need a Girl Pt. 1” and its remix sequel. He left the scene in 2008 and converted to Islam.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Muslim Women Share Facts, Dispel Misconceptions About Faith

A Muslim woman dressed in a hijab, or headscarf, might receive stares, which she responds to with a smile. She might receive curious questions, which she answers. She might even be called names, or asked if she needs help escaping a suppressive faith, which she dismisses as ignorance about Muslim women. “Women are pretty liberated within the Manhattan community,” said Marie Trussel*, a K-State student thinking about converting from Christianity to Islam. “Most of all they get questions, which, all of them that I’ve met are more than happy to answer. They don’t want to have negative stereotypes.” The Islamic Center of Manhattan, the local mosque, has a sisterhood group for the women to connect to and support one another. Women are not required to go to mosque, but are allowed to attend. Many times women are the caretakers of the children, which can make attending prayer difficult.

“Most women have children who are crying in the mosque and they bother other people,” said Atia Ataie, a Muslim woman from Afghanistan who has lived in Manhattan for three years. “Because of my son, I do not go to the Friday prayer because several times I went, he started crying, shouting.” Men and women enter the center from separate doors. Men fill the front room and, divided by a two-way mirror, the women pray in a smaller room. The women can see the men, but the men cannot see them. According to Trussel, this is not because women are considered second-class citizens, but to keep everyone focused.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Who Will American Muslims Vote for?

With about a quarter of Muslims belonging to no political party at all, how will this growing demographic affect the elections of 2012?

As the 2012 presidential caucus election draws near, a sizeable segment of the Muslim vote remains a mystery and up for grabs. “If I was going to vote, I would vote for Ron Paul,” said Sehiha Kraina, who lives with her husband and young daughter in Iowa City. She has lived here for 12 years. But Kraina, 27, a European-Muslim from Kosovo, isn’t sure if she will vote in the 2012 presidential elections — and she’s not alone. About 26 percent of Muslim-Americans don’t see themselves as part of any party, said Karam Dana, an associate at the Center for American Political Studies and the Department of Government at Harvard University. Dana co-led a survey of Muslims with Matt A. Barreto, an associate professor at the University of Washington. Although their population in the U.S. may be small, the voting power could become significant in a close election.

More religious Muslims are less likely to select a political party. Barreto, in a 2009 study with Dino Bozonelos of the University of California at Riverside, found that Muslims who practice their religion everyday were over 30 percent more likely to cite no political party. Most Muslims have remained Democratic leaning since President Barack Obama took office, but recent events, particularly his opposition to the Palestinians effort to become a member of the United Nations, contribute to their political ambivalence. Moreover, a rise in anti-Muslim sentiment in the United States has fueled wariness. Kraina cites several reasons for favoring Ron Paul. One key point is his position on U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, which is to remove American troops from the region. But, ultimately she remains on the fence on whether to vote.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

X-Ray Images Help Create Best Stradivarius Rip-Offs

When radiologist Steve Sirr from FirstLight Medical Systems in Minnesota ended up with a violin in the emergency room, he couldn’t help putting it through an X-ray computed tomography (CT) scan. But it was more than a one-off experiment: the idea led him to team up with two violin makers to create the most accurate replicas to date of a Stradivarius violin.

Using the 3D scanning technology, Sirr and his team were able to determine the precise shape, rib structure, wood density and volume of air inside a Betts Stradivarius violin. In this video, you can fly around a psychedelic 3D model of its body that they produced from the scans.

To create a replica, the virtual model is fed to a bespoke Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machine designed by violinmaker Steve Rossow, another member of the team. Based on the images, the device directs a lathe and carves each piece of the violin out of various types of wood. Then the segments are assembled and varnished by hand.

Thanks to the new technique, copies are so realistic that the team has branded each piece to prevent counterfeiting. Previously, replicas were produced by accessing an instrument for a short period of time and using a traced outline of the violin.

It doesn’t just look the part. This Betts copy sounds like a Stradivarius, too. “It looks beautiful, and it sounds beautiful,” says John Waddle, one of the violin makers who worked on the project.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

France: Tintin Auction in Paris Fetches €1.8 Million

A Paris auction of items related to Hergé’s comic book reporter Tintin, whose adventures have been adapted for the big screen by Steven Spielberg, fetched more than €1.8 million on Saturday. Auctioneers Arcturial said the sale, including costs, had brought in €1,873,396 ($2,480,095) — far more than the one million euros expected.

The 856 lots up for grabs were equally divided between recent objects and older material, including some very rare items, said Arcturial. In all, 85 percent of the items sold in a packed hall. One of the most sought-after objects was an original gouache and watercolour drawing of a battle scene from “The Secret of the Unicorn”; estimated at between €35,000 and €40,000, it finally sold for €168,900.

Spielberg’s “The Adventures of Tintin,” saw its worldwide premiere in Belgium in October and later in other parts of Europe to generally positive reviews and strong business. It opens in North America in December.

An original drawing for another Tintin adventure, “Flight 714 to Sydney,” fetched €90,100, about three times the initial estimate of between €25,000 and €35,000. And a special edition of the adventure “Explorers on the Moon”, signed not just by Hergé but by six astronauts to have made the journey to the Moon, fetched €100,000 — around 10 times more than originally expected.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italy Asks EU for More Time to Resolve Naples Trash Fiasco

Country faces possible sanctions in European Court of Justice

(ANSA) — Rome, November 29 — Italy has requested an extension to an EU-imposed deadline to resolve the Naples trash crisis or face possible sanctions at the European Court of Justice, EU sources told ANSA Tuesday. “(The EU) will decide quickly whether to accept or decline Italy’s request,” said Joe Hennon, spokesman for European Commissioner for the Environment Janez Potocnik. The deadline, which expires Wednesday, was issued late September when firefighters were called to put out 13 rubbish fires in and around Naples.

Last year the European Court of Justice condemned Italy for its failure to adopt adequate measures to deal with the recurring trash disaster in the southern region of Campania, of which Naples is the capital.

If Italy is condemned for a second time, penalties would be applied to past and future infractions, at a “very high cost” compared to Italy’s GDP, added Hennon.

“But we have not yet reached that point”, he said. The Naples trash problem is prone to constant flareups.

This summer thousands of tonnes of trash covered the city’s streets and the surrounding provinces, leading to routine waste fires and street protests from citizens.

There was a previous outcry last November when weeks of clashes and rising piles of rubbish brought then Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi to the city.

The ex-premier won plaudits by sorting out a similar emergency in 2008 and made a vow to clear the streets in three days.

But the problems have continued because of technical failures in local incinerators and the lack of investment in other landfill sites.

The issue is further complicated by the role of the local mafia, or Camorra, and claims that they have infiltrated waste management in Naples and dumped toxic waste on sites near residential areas.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Norway Mass Killer May Avoid Jail: Prosecutor

Anders Behring Breivik, who carried out the July 22nd attacks that killed 77 people in Norway, may never go to jail after psychiatrists ruled him criminally insane, a prosecutor said on Tuesday. Instead, the 32-year-old gunman could spend the rest of his life in a mental institution, prosecutor Inga Bejer Engh told reporters in Oslo.

The prosecutor was speaking after forensic experts submitted a psychiatric evaluation on Tuesday in which they found the gunman “insane”. “In such instances that the person suffers from such a serious disorder that it would not be warranted to sentence him to prison… he can be ordered to stay in mental health care institutions,” said Bejer Engh.

The 243-page psychiatric report found that Behring Breivik had over time developed “paranoid schizophrenia,” with two experts describing a person in his own “delusional universe,” another prosecutor, Svein Holden, said. Holden said the report also concluded that the right-wing extremist had “grandiose illusions whereby he believes he is to determine who is to live and who is to die.” He “committed these executions out of love for his people as he describes it,” Holden said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Norwegian Right-Wing Killer is ‘Insane,’ May Avoid Jail

Anders Behring Breivik, the man who confessed to carrying out the twin attacks that killed 77 people in Norway this summer, is criminally insane, according to an evaluation by two court-appointed psychiatrists.

Forensic psychiatrists tasked with evaluating the mental state of Anders Behring Breivik, the man who confessed to the July gun attacks in Norway that left 77 people dead, have told an Oslo court that he is insane. “The conclusion is … that he is insane,” prosecutor Svein Holden told a press conference on Tuesday. “He lives in his own delusional universe and his thoughts and acts are governed by this universe.”

If the assessment is upheld by the court, Breivik will not be headed to prison but instead to psychiatric care. Breivik has confessed to first setting off a bomb outside government buildings in Oslo, killing eight people, before going to the island of Utoya and killing another 69 people, mostly teenagers. He denies criminal wrongdoing, however, saying he is part of a Norwegian resistance movement opposed to multiculturalism.

The report found that at the time of the attacks Breivik was psychotic, according to Holden. In Norway, an insanity defense requires that a defendant was in a state of psychosis while committing the crime and is so out of touch with reality that he is no longer in control of his actions.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sweden Democrat’s Anti-Muslim Hysteria

Ethnic discrimination and vilification of Muslims in Europe show that European democracy is declining while racism and repressive policies are taking root and becoming the natural order of mainstream politics in many European countries.

Sweden is a world-leading democracy and few would doubt the impressive ambitions of the Swedish state to reinforce the civilised accommodation of ethnic and cultural differences through extensive support for integration policies and multiculturalism. Despite this official version, the discourse of assimilation has started to take root within different political parties and public spaces in Sweden. A newly assertive assimilation ideology that has come to dominate the public spaces of Sweden emphasises the ways in which a monolithic Swedish national identity and national core values should be nurtured as a ‘cure’ for a plural society.

Since the beginning of the 1990s, Sweden has gradually adopted more exclusive stances towards migrants from non-western countries and in particularly, Muslims. Today, Sweden is like many other western countries: Muslims are viewed in a wide range of political spaces as the problematic multicultural ‘other’ and radical right-wing populist parties are sowing profound sentiments of hatred toward Muslims among the population as part of their project to intensify the political boundaries between the “West” and “the Muslims.” This mobilization also involves the construction of negative discourses about Muslims as a disruptive force threatening the imagined white and Christian ideals of Europe. In this vein, the radical right-wing populist party, Sweden Democrats (henceforth, SD), which entered the Swedish parliament in 2010 and now holds 19 parliamentary seats, presents itself as the only political party to defend the rights of Swedes vis-à-vis Islamic immigration and a supposedly destructive multiculturalism. Folkhemmet (the people’s home), was once a central political concept in the politics of the Social Democrats, implying a strong welfare state based on universalism and class equality. This notion has now been integrated into SD’s nostalgic political language and imbued with dreams about the restoration of a glorious past, untouched by political, cultural and social antagonism — an antagonism to which Muslim immigrants have putatively contributed.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: ‘Relief and Delight’ As Mosque Blocked

SOUTH Shore residents celebrated a “victory for democracy” as controversial plans for a mosque were refused by town hall chiefs. An application for retrospective planning permission for the Noor-A-Madina Mosque on Waterloo Road — a former takeaway — was turned down on grounds of a lack of car parking at Blackpool Town Hall last night. The plans had met with a storm of protest from more than 300 business owners and residents who had claimed the mosque was operating illegally. Many cheered from the public gallery as six members of the planning committee voted to refuse the plans and four abstained. Today they spoke of their joy. Jeremy Smith, owner of Karl Smith Car Sales which is next to the mosque site, said: “I’m very much relieved this has been refused, this is a great day for democracy. Our local councillors have been magnificent and seen this scheme for what it could have been. I’m delighted residents have been heard.”

Coun Peter Evans spoke of his concerns about car parking but also about the way the application had been handled by Tasurraf Shah who owns the site. He said: “It seem strange to me Mrs Shah stood as a candidate for election but yet showed such as flagrant disregard for residents and planning laws in this country. I would also recommend a building inspector should look at the site as it seems to me internal walls have been removed and it is in an extremely poor condition.” Today Mrs Shah has vowed to appeal against the decision describing it as a “minor set-back”.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Leveson Inquiry: Nick Davies, Paul McMullan, Richard Peppiatt — Live

Full coverage as the Guardian journalist, former News of the World features editor and ex-Daily Star reporter give evidence

11.11am: Peppiatt says other strange incidents occurred.

In the days after I resigned one of the news editors emailed me asking how the doctors went … references about my CV … and to a sitcom I was working on … and to the Guardian reporter Paul Lewis who I’d been working with on this story.

11.09am: He is now talking about the day he resigned. He leaked his letter of resignation to the Guardian but quickly started to get threatening and menacing text messages from unknown quarters.

He initially thought that they had leaked his number to the English Defence League, but these people knew where he lived and knew his phone number. The messages included “You’re a marked man until the day you die”, “RD will get you” and “We’re doing a kiss and tell on you”.

It worried me enough to get my girlfriend move out for a couple of days, because I didn’t know where it was coming from and the frequency, all through the night, I thought it was best we wait until this cooled off.

11.04am: Here are two of Peppiatt’s made up stories, one about Kelly Brook hiring a hypnotist, the other about “Muslim-only loos”.

10.59am: Peppiatt now details how he completely made up a story on a bomb plot.

He says the inspiration for the newsdesk was “a line” in the Sunday Telegraph that “Muslims may be wanting to disguise themselves as Sikhs and hide bombs in their headdress”.

He explain that he then phoned the police.

They said: ‘Never heard of it, never heard of it all.’ How it should work, is that that kills it — you can go over to your newsdesk and say, ‘Maybe the Sunday Telegraph have got this wrong, I can’t stand this up’ and you move on. Instead what you do is ‘a security source said’ and you make up a quote for a pre-ordained line and then you ring Inderjit Singh [a Sikh representative] and add a veneer of legitimacy by telling them something you know is not true and get a quote.

10.54am: Peppiatt says there was another casual reporter who expressed disquiet. Bosses then made her life miserable.

She was given every anti-Muslim story to write for about two weeks, so as a result of that she quit. I’m deeply ashamed to this day that I didn’t walk out with her.

That’s the atmosphere: you toe the line or you get punished.

10.48am: Peppiatt tells the inquiry there is an important difference between the legal sense and the moral sense of truth.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Police Host Liverpool ‘Walk of Faith’ To Church, Mosque, Synagogue — and Tea

Guest blogger Declan McSweeney on an initiative by the Merseyside force to highlight the work of neighbouring faiths

A ‘Walk of Faith’, linking a church, mosque and synagogue in the Toxteth area of Liverpool, has been under the auspices of Merseyside Police in an effort to increase links between people holding different religious beliefs. Bill McAdam, the community engagement sergeant, who heads the force’s interfaith group, says: “It’s all about community cohesion.”

Toxteth is one of the most diverse parts of Liverpool and the Walk of Faith included representatives of Everton FC’s community programme, as well as people from many local agencies. First, Rev Alan Fretwell welcomed visitors to his Methodist church at Princes’ Park, where he outlined how he became a Christian in Zambia at the age of 31, and gave a summary of the main tenets of Christianity. Next, Adam Kelwick, a senior member of the local Muslim community, invited guests into the nearby mosque, where he gave a summary of the history of Merseyside’s Muslim community, which has been in existence since the early 19th century. Unlike many other parts of England where the Muslim population mainly consists of people with roots in the Indian subcontinent, Liverpool’s Muslims include many with family backgrounds originally in Yemen and Somalia, as well as white converts.

From there, it was on to the Liverpool Old Hebrew Congregation, where Dr Peter Grant and Mrs Hoyland explained the architecture of the synagogue and provided an introduction to Judaism. Participants were invited to attend a celebration after the walk hosted by Community Spirit, a group working to promote harmony in the local community, held in the Kuumba Imani Millennium Centre. Toxteth’s success in building bridges between people of different faiths and ethnic backgrounds was reflected in the fact that the centre recently hosted a group from Northern Ireland who had come to Liverpool as a model of reconciliation. The gathering heard how this group was amazed at the variety of places of worship in close proximity to each other, as they had come from a society where one would not find Catholic and Protestant churches side by side, let alone a synagogue just around the corner from a mosque. Good news, in a world so often highlighting the bad.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: University of Edinburgh’s School of Divinity Appoints First Muslim Professor

Professor Mona Siddiqui will take up a newly-created position

Professor Mona Siddiqui will take up the role of Professor of Islamic and Inter-religious studies on December 1. A regular on BBC Radio 4’s Thought for the Day, Professor Siddiqui has taught at the University of Glasgow for the last 15 years, where she was Head of the Department of Theology and Religious Studies from 2002 to 2005. Over recent years she has lectured widely in the UK and around the world, contributing to public perceptions of Islam and inter-religious understanding. Commenting on her appointment, Professor Siddiqui said: “This is a really huge opportunity for me to establish Islamic Studies in a new context. I have been very happy at Glasgow but every change is about facing new challenges.”

Based at New College on the Mound, Professor Siddiqui will lecture and carry out research into Islamic theology, ethics and Christian-Muslim relations, as well as taking up the newly-created university position of Assistant Principal for Religion and Society. She added: “My double role in Edinburgh will allow me to engage with religion in the academy as well as in public life and both are incredibly important to me.” Professor Siddiqui will host an event on religious freedoms in May 2012, inviting speakers from around the world to share their opinions. Professor Stewart J Brown, head of the School of Divinity said: “The establishment of this new chair and the appointment of Professor Siddiqui will strengthen our school’s excellent programme in Religious Studies and enhance our historic programme in Theology and Ethics. Her work will contribute in vital ways to cross-disciplinary teaching and research within our College of Humanities and Social Science and indeed across the whole University.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]


Fearing the ‘White Al-Qaeda’

by Vesna Peric Zimonjic

BELGRADE, Nov 29, 2011 (IPS) — Mevludin Jasarevic (23) is in police custody in Sarajevo, scarcely revealing how he came to the capital of Bosnia-Herzegovina and went on a shooting spree in front of the United States embassy last month.

His lawyer Senad Dupovac says Jasarevic wanted to be killed and be proclaimed “a shaheed (martyr), who died honourably in the fight for Islam.” But he was shot in the knee by a police sharpshooter in the incident Oct. 28, arrested, treated in a hospital and taken to prison. A Bosnian policemen suffered minor injuries through one of 105 bullets fired from Jasarevic’s automatic rifle. Sarajevo prosecutor Dubravko Campara told local media that Jasarevic had said “the only court he recognised was the court of Allah. His statements were confused, but he mentioned Afghanistan and help to Muslims worldwide.”

Media in Bosnia and neighbouring Serbia were feeding the public with amateur videos taken of the incident. Experts warned that what was being described as “a terrorist act” by Bosniak authorities should be taken seriously, because Jasarevic belonged to the radical Wahhabi group within Islam that has taken roots in the Balkans. “It’s still a problem to speak about Wahhabis in Bosnia,” Belgrade oriental studies professor Darko Tanaskovic told IPS. “This (the Sarajevo incident) might be a tip of the iceberg for things that are wrong in a society; the movement also represents a security and political problem in Bosnia.”

Bosnian security services put the number of Wahhabis in the country around 3,000 now, most of them living in remote central areas near the towns Tuzla and Zenica. They live according to Sharia law, and send their children to separate schools. The women are covered from head to toe. They are remnants of thousands of mujahideen who came during the 1992-95 war to help Bosniak Muslims against Serbs. They were veterans from different war zones such as Algeria, Afghanistan, or the Caucasus. Most left when the war ended, but many stayed, married local women and took Bosnian citizenship.

Wahhabism is a conservative branch of Sunni Islam, rooted in Saudi Arabia and linked to religious militants in parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Saudi Arabia has a prominent stamp in Bosnia, it has invested more than 600 million dollars in building more than 150 mosques. The focal point of Saudi activity is the King Fahd Mosque in Sarajevo built at a cost of 30 million dollars. Sarajevo academic Muhamed Filipovic told daily “Dnevni Avaz” in an interview that the responsibility for importing radical Islam lies with “those who wanted to claim sympathies in order to get financial aid; on the other hand, there were people who wanted the war in Bosnia not to be the war for the country, but for Islam. “So much evil, hatred and separation has arisen in this country, which provided a fertile ground for the evil activities of people who stand against peace, negotiation, joint life and creation of a world of tolerance.”

More than 100,000 people were killed in the three years of war, most of them Bosniak Muslims. The internationally sponsored Dayton Agreement that brought peace to Bosnia did little for reconciliation among Muslims, Orthodox Serbs and Catholic Croats. They remain deeply divided, living in two separate entities of Bosnia-Herzegovina the Republic of Srpska for the Serbs and the Muslim-Croat Federation. Bosnian terrorism expert Vlado Azinovic told Belgrade media that the “dysfunctional” state of Bosnia does not have enough capacity to deal decisively with militant groups. “If you talk to law enforcement officials, they would tell you that they could deal with this problem decisively if there was political will, but unfortunately we have not seen that political will for way too long,” Azinovic said.

Zoran Dragisic, a security expert in Belgrade, tells IPS there should be a clear boundary between “the legitimate right to express one’s religious beliefs and the political manipulation of individuals. This time it was the U.S. embassy in Sarajevo, but it could be anywhere else, including Belgrade.” Bosko Jaksic, a Serbian journalist with extensive Middle East experience says “things should be carefully watched after Sarajevo. The list of targets may expand; extreme Wahhabis have aims to establish bases and to last.” In recent years there have been warnings that some areas in the Balkans serve as training ground for a “white al-Qaeda” whose members are believed to blend in more easily in Western countries.

Mevludin Jasarevic came from the southern Serbian region Sanjak, shared by Bosnia, Serbia and Montenegro. The area has been populated by Muslims since the days of the Ottoman Empire. Its largest town is Novi Pazar in Serbia, where Jasarevic lived. He was arrested there last year for wielding a large knife during a visit by the U.S. ambassador and other ambassadors. Serbian police claimed they found and broke up a group of Wahhabi extremists in a deep forest near Novi Pazar in 2007. Fifteen of them were given prison sentences ranging from several months to 13 years. Large numbers of their supporters are believed to have fled since then to Bosnia or Kosovo. (END)

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Swedish TV Slammed for Srebrenica ‘Denial’

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) has strongly criticised Sveriges Television (SVT) for a documentary covering the massacre in Srebrenica. In August SVT broadcast a Norwegian-made documentary entitled “Staden som offrades” (literally: the sacrificed city) and has since been met with a storm of criticism from Swedish-Bosnians accusing the broadcaster of sacrificing the truth.

The storm of protest has now reached the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) which has sent a strongly worded letter to SVT head Eva Hamilton in protest, according to a report in the Dagens Nyheter (DN) daily. The ICTY has underlined that several rulings have established that the Srebenica massacres constituted genocide, arguing that there is clear evidence that most of the victims died not in combat but as a result of mass executions.

Jasenko Selimovic, state secretary to integration minister Erik Ullenhag, was among those to react to the film, accusing SVT of “denying the genocide”. The film claims that the city was “sacrificed” by the then Bosnian president Alija Izetbegovic to encourage the west to attack Serbia, with the support of the US administration.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egypt Votes… For a Woodpecker, A Pen, A Tractor and a Banana: Symbols on Ballot Paper Represent Candidates to Help the Illiterate as Polls Open Again Today

Polls in Egypt threw open their doors again today for a second day of voting in the country’s first free elections in 30 years.

Yesterday Egyptians queued for as long as eight hours, waiting patiently to exercise their newly-acquired vote, and battling with a ballot slip listing 120 candidates.

Men and women turned out in their droves, lining up separately and breaking off only for prayers.

Once they made it into the polling stations, they had to select both a party and two independent candidates, who were represented by picture symbols.

A tractor, a woodpecker, a pen, a fork, a coffee grinder and even a banana were employed to help voters tell the politicians apart.

At least two candidates complained about the symbols — one who was given a lemon and another who said he was humiliated by being assigned a woman’s dress.

The electoral commission said the devices were needed in a country where three in ten cannot read.

Speaking after voting, 23-year-old Ahmed Eid said: ‘The ballot for the list was two metres long — it took forever to find my candidate. But otherwise it went well, and felt very secure and fair. Every five minutes or so, the judge in charge would change the locks on all the boxes.’…

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Egypt: How to Tell Who is a “Moderate Islamist”: An Exam

The Muslim Brotherhood held a rally at Cairo’s most important mosque, al-Azhar. This is sort of a central headquarters for official Islam in Egypt. Demonstrators chanted, “One day we shall kill all Jews.”

Question 1: How can you tell they are “moderate Islamists?”

Answer: They said “one day,” in other words, they aren’t going to do it this week.

Question 2: At the rally someone said:

“In order to build Egypt, we must be one. Politics is insufficient. Faith in Allah is the basis for everything. The al-Aqsa Mosque is currently under an offensive by the Jews.” Who was it?

Answer: Ahmed al-Tayeb, the “moderate” president of al-Azhar University and arguably the most important Muslim cleric in Egypt. Note: al-Aqsa Mosque is not under attack by Jews.

Question 3: Why did al-Tayeb talk this way in the context of calling for a Jihad against Israel?

Answer: Maybe he isn’t so moderate. But more importantly it is part of the general radicalization of Islam that is going to happen in Egypt now that the Brotherhood will be running the place and thus also his desire to survive rather than be branded a lackey of the Zionist-imperialist crusade to destroy Islam and have his head cut off. (See Question 1.)


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Wiesenthal Center Condemns Muslim Brotherhood Anti-Semitism

The Simon Wiesenthal Center on Monday condemned “genocidal rants” at a rally involving 5,000 activists, convened Friday by the Muslim Brotherhood at Cairo’s most prominent Mosque. “It is shocking to hear the Muslim Brotherhood ‘activists’ vowing to, ‘one day kill all Jews’“ and chanting “Tel Aviv, Tel Aviv Judgment Day is coming,” said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. He added that “the roar of their genocidal rants was matched only by a shocking silence of world leaders.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Qaradawi and Attayeb Meet in Cairo to Discuss Supporting O. Jerusalem

(Ahlul Bayt News Agency) — Head of Al-Azhar Mosque and university Sheikh Ahmed Attayeb and head of the international union of Muslim scholars Sheikh Yousuf Al-Qaradawi met on Sunday in Cairo and explored different avenues of supporting occupied Jerusalem and confronting Judaization activities. An official from Al-Azhar administration told the Palestinian information center (PIC) that the meeting between Qaradawi and Attayeb addressed the issues of Jerusalem and the ways to confront the Jewish dangers threatening it in addition to other important issues concerning the challenges the Muslim nation is facing. The two Sheikhs also discussed the most important plans to be accomplished by Al-Azhar university such as Al-Azhar document on Jerusalem, the school curriculum on Jerusalem and the establishment of a cultural center for Jerusalemite studies. They agreed on cooperating in addressing leaders of Arab and Muslim countries, heads of Islamic and international organizations and noted Muslim scholars to urge them to support the issue of Jerusalem and its holy Mosque and participate in the signing of Jerusalem document. They also declared their intention to organize a festival in Cairo in support of Jerusalem after the end of the parliamentary elections in Egypt.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Freedoms at Risk: Arab Women Fight to Defend Their Rights

The Arab Spring seemed to herald a new era of emancipation for women in the Arab world. But Islamists are on the rise in Tunisia and Egypt, and there are worrying reports of sexual assaults on demonstrators in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. Many women in the region fear a rollback of what rights they had under the dictators.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Terror: Al-Qaeda ‘Planning N. Africa Kidnapping Wave of Westerners’

Algiers, 29 Nov. (AKI) — Algeria’s secret service agency believes a branch of Al-Qaeda is planning a wave of abductions of Westerners in North Africa, according to a local news report.

The Department of Investigation and Security, or DRS, has informed its neighbours in the Sahel region that Al-Qaeda Organization in the Islamic Maghreb has a plan to kidnap Westerners in the Sahel, according to a report in Algerian daily el-Khabar.

Sahel the countries bordering Saharan and sub-Saharan Africa: parts of the territory of Senegal, southern Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, southern Algeria, Niger, northern Nigeria, Chad, Sudan, northern Ethiopia and Eritrea.

The next kidnappings were slated to be carried out by Mauritanian terrorists.

The DRS believes recent abductions were carried out by a group headed by Algerian Wahi Abdel Baqi, the report said.

European humanitarian aid workers — Italian woman Rossella Urru, Spanish woman Ainhoa Fernandez Rincon and Spanish man Enrico Gonyans — were abducted on 23 October from the Rabuni camp, primarily inhabited by refugees from Western Sahara, in western Algeria.

Baqi, 44, speaks English and French as was allegedly in competition with other North African Al-Qaeda cells, said el-Khabar.

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

Israel and the Palestinians

Gaza Asks Turkey to Restore Ottoman Mosques

Officials of the Gazan administration said that they presented a project to Turkey for new mosques and the repairs of existing mosques.

The Gazan administration requested the construction of 15 Ottoman style mosques and the restoration of mosques damaged in war from Turkey. If Turkey accepts Gaza’s offer, the first Turkish mosque in 161 years would be erected in Israel-besieged Gaza. Officials of the Gazan administration said that they presented a project to Turkey for new mosques and the repairs of existing mosques. The Gazan administration requested the repairs of 161 mosques that were damaged in the war of 2008-2009. The administration also requested the reconstruction of 34 mosques that were completely destroyed in 2008-2009. An amount of 14.8 million USD is needed for the reconstruction of 34 mosques and 180,000 USD is needed for the repairs of 20 mosques out of the 161.

“Ottoman presence in Gaza”

Gaza was included in Ottoman territories in 1516 when Yavuz Sultan Selim had a military expedition to Egypt. Ottoman traveller Evliya Celebi visited Gaza in 1649 and wrote that there were 11 mosques, 2 baths, 600 shops and 1,300 homes in Gaza. In 1660, Gaza was reorganized as Palestine’s capital. The Great Omar Mosque was repaired while 6 others were erected. The Ottoman rule in Gaza ended on November 7, 1917 after a battle with the British.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Palestinian PM Invites Tunisian Premier to Visit Gaza

(Ahlul Bayt News Agency) — Palestinian premier in Gaza Ismail Haneyya has reached Tunisian premier Hamadi Al-Jibali over the telephone on Sunday and invited him to visit Gaza.

Haneyya congratulated his Tunisian counterpart on victory of his people’s will after the elections and formation of the government. Jibali, for his part, thanked Haneyya for his call and hailed the steadfastness of the Palestinian people, which, he said, inspired the Arab spring of revolutions. The premier also congratulated Haneyya on the conclusion of the prisoners’ exchange deal, and invited him to visit Tunisia.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Iranian Students Storm British Embassy in Tehran, Associated Press Reports

In the latest sign of deteriorating relations with the West, around 20 Iranian protesters entered the British Embassy compound in Tehran chanting “death to England,” tearing down a British flag and ransacking offices, news reports said.

The episode came a day after Iran enacted legislation on Monday to downgrade relations with Britain in retaliation for intensified sanctions imposed by Western nations last week to punish the Iranians for their suspect nuclear development program. Britain promised to respond “robustly.”

The British Foreign Office in London said it was “aware of the reports” from Tehran about its embassy on Tuesday, but declined to comment further.

[Return to headlines]

Iranian Protesters Storm British Embassy

(Reuters) — Iranian protesters stormed two British Embassy compounds in Tehran Tuesday, smashing windows, hurling petrol bombs and burning the British flag in a protest against sanctions imposed by Britain, live Iranian television showed.

Iran’s semi-official Mehr news agency said protesters took six British diplomatic staff hostage from an embassy compound in the north of the city but it withdrew the story from its website minutes later without giving any explanation.

The attacks followed the rapid approval by Iran’s Guardian Council of a parliamentary bill compelling the government to expel the British ambassador in retaliation for the sanctions. A lawmaker had also warned Sunday that angry Iranians could storm the British Embassy as they did the U.S. mission in 1979.

Several dozen protesters broke away from a crowd of a few hundred protesters outside the main embassy compound in downtown Tehran, scaled the embassy gates and went inside.

Protesters pulled down the British flag, burned it, and put up the Iranian flag, Iranian news agencies and news pictures showed. Inside, the demonstrators threw stones and petrol bombs. One waved a framed picture of Queen Elizabeth, state TV showed.

Others carried the royal crest out through the embassy gate as police stood by, pictures carried by the official Fars news agency showed.

[Return to headlines]

Russia Sends Warship to Syria in Support of Assad as UN Claims His Soldiers Have Killed 256 Children

Russia is sending warships to Syria in an apparent show of strength in support of President Bashar al-Assad and his embattled regime.

The move to defend Moscow’s interests in the strife-torn country came as a United Nations report revealed horrifying new details of children being tortured to death by Syrian government thugs.

Soldiers have killed at least 256 children since Assad’s crackdown on anti-government protests began in March, according to the UN probe.

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

World’s Top Muslims List Appears With Erdogan Only #3. Who Should be #1?

An annual list of the world’s 500 most influential Muslims has appeared and Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, the man who made Turkey’s “Muslim democracy” a model for many Arab Spring protesters, did not win the top spot. Not #2 either. Erdogan came in at #3, a notch down from his 2010 ranking as number two. The Muslim 500: The 500 Most Influential Muslims 2011, the third list in this series started in 2009 by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre in Amman, named Saudi Arabian King Abdullah as the #1 Muslim in the world and Morocco’s King Mohammed VI as #2. It said the Arab Spring had had no impact on Abdullah’s influence, had boosted Mohammed’s and had no effect on Erdogan’s. Fourth and fifth places in the list went to Jordan’s King Abdullah and Iran’s Supreme Leader Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Khamenei.

The list is available here as a PDF download or a hard copy to order. Give us your view on the “most influential Muslim of 2011” in the poll at the bottom of this post. In this year of enormous change in the Arab world, I think Erdogan should have been #1. And it seems I’m not alone. In its 2011 Arab Public Opinion Poll published on Nov 21, the Brookings Institution in Washington wrote: “Turkey is the biggest winner of the Arab Spring. In the five countries polled, Turkey is seen to have played the ‘most constructive’ role in the Arab events. Its Prime Minister, Recep Erdogan, is the most admired among world leaders and those who envision a new President for Egypt want the new President to look most like Erdogan. Egyptians want their country to look more like Turkey than any of the other Muslim, Arab and other choices provided.”


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]


Russian Voters Faced With Limited Political Choice

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has called for greater political competition in his country. However, this seems unlikely at present with only communists and parties close to the Kremlin having much chance of success.

On December 4, some 110 million eligible Russian voters will have the opportunity to take part in elections for the national parliament, the Duma. But only seven parties are authorized to take part and, of these, only three have any chance of entering parliament. Western observers and human rights activists say they do not expect the voting to be free, fair and democratic. This assessment is apparently shared by 54 percent of Russians.

According to a survey by Moscow’s Levada Center, almost two-thirds of Muscovites believe the Duma election is merely a struggle between bureaucratic clans, being about nothing more than access to the state budget and other national resources.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Attracting Skilled Immigrants: ‘The Government Must Make it Easier to Work in Germany’

The German economy may be ticking along nicely at the moment, but if it is to remain that way it will need foreign help. But the country doesn’t exactly put the welcome mat out for the foreign skilled workers it desperately needs. That needs to change, experts say.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Illegal Immigration: Greece: Ship Heading to Italy Stopped

Carrying 84 illegal immigrants

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, NOVEMBER 29 — The Greek Coastal Guard has located a sailing ship off the Echinades islands in the Ionian Sea. The ship was carrying an American flag and, journalists report, was headed for Italy, carrying 84 illegal immigrants. The ship was accompanied to the port of Astakos and three members of its crew were arrested.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Cyberwar Storm Clouds Are Gathering

Has the threat of cyberwar entered a significant new phase? Unpicking the burgeoning reports of activity on the digital battlefield CYBERSPACE. Some call it the new domain of war, after land, sea, air and space. The 2010 Stuxnet cyberattack on Iran’s uranium enrichment plant, suspected to have come from Israel or the US, seemed to confirm this status.

Stuxnet raised the spectre of cyber-sabotage. The recently discovered Duqu trojan, which contains some Stuxnet code, is built to steal information about computers controlling industrial plants. IT security analysts such as Symantec suspect Duqu came from the same source as Stuxnet, and may be seeking vulnerable points for future sabotage.

October saw a glut of talk about cyberwar. News reports in the US claimed that Barack Obama’s administration chose not to launch a cyberattack against Libyan air defences in March. Also in October, the Pentagon announced that the joint chiefs of staff, the country’s highest military officers, were reviewing the rules of engagement for cyberwar. A few days later, another report suggested China may have launched a cyberattack against two US civilian satellites.

Despite all this activity, the nature of cyber-threats remains poorly defined. Analysts have been warning for years about vulnerabilities in US government and private computer networks.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Gene Therapy is First Deafness ‘Cure’

A pioneering form of gene therapy has apparently cured deafness in guinea pigs, raising hopes that the same procedure might work in people. “It’s the first time anyone has biologically repaired the hearing of animals,” says Yehoash Raphael at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and head of the US-Japanese team that developed the technique.

The therapy promotes the regrowth of crucial hair cells in the cochlea, the part of the inner ear which registers sound. After treatment, the researchers used sensory electrodes around the animals’ heads to show that the auditory nerves of treated — but not untreated — animals were now registering sound.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Massive Black Hole Yields Its Mysteries to Astronomers

To strive for the most complete understanding of a black hole, astronomers have turned their telescopes to the double-star system Cygnus X-1, which boasts the first of these discovered oddities. The move paid off, providing detailed information on the black hole’s mass, spin and its distance from the sun. The knowledge could help scientists piece together information about the black hole’s state today, and also reveal clues about its early history.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]