Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20111222

Financial Crisis
»Banks Queue Up for Cheap ECB Loans
»Belgium Paralysed by 24-Hour Strike Over Pension Reform
»Global Depression Could Last Several Years: Medvedev
»Greece Turns to Energy as Its Economic Savior
»House Republican Leaders Agree to Payroll Tax Deal
»Huge Increase in East Europeans on Benefits
»Immigration to Germany From Debt-Wracked Euro States Soars
»In Eurozone, Year of Deleveraging Could Prove Dangerous
»New Economy Minister, From Lehman Collapse to Spain Crisis
»A Vandalized Valley
»Controversial ‘Bird Flu’ Edits Move Ahead
»Stakelbeck: U.S. Hispanic Support for Israel Growing
»Study Linking Virus to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Retracted Amid Controversy
Europe and the EU
»Austria: Strache Plans Stronger Right-Wing Alliances
»Belgium: Farmers Take Ikea to Court
»Breivik Was Insane — Experts
»Dutch TV Hosts ‘To Cook and Eat Own Flesh’ On Air
»Dutch Population Will Hit 17 Million by 2016
»Europe’s Perishing Parishes: Dutchman Helps to Liquidate Dying Churches
»Finland Finds Missiles on Danish Ship Bound for China
»French Muslim Jailed for Punching Nurse Who Tried to Remove Wife’s Burqa During Childbirth
»Germany Court Finds Six Guilty of Carbon Tax Fraud
»Greece: Terrorism, New Group Claims Gas-Canister Attacks
»Italy: Cold Snap Causes Havoc Across Italy
»Italy: Pillar Collapses in Ancient Garden in Pompeii
»Latvian MPs Nix Russian Language, Paving Way to Plebiscite
»Six Jailed in EU-Wide Carbon Tax Conspiracy
»Spain: Tous Son-in-Law Facing Five Years for Shooting Burglar — Despite Jury Acquittal
»UK: Drunk Woman Falls Under Train at Barnsley Station
»UK: Hajj: Journey to the Heart of Islam at the British Museum
»UK: Insurers Urge Radical Security Rethink Following Metal Sculpture Theft
»UK: Lutfur Rahman Cabinet Member’s Company Owes Taxman £25,000, But Won’t Pay
»UK: Lutfur Rahman Council Suspends Ex-Leader After Complaint by Islamic Extremist
»UK: Students’ Unions ‘Must be Able to Veto Hate Speakers’
»UK: William Hague Has the ‘Frites Fraternity’ On the Run Across Whitehall
»UK: Why a Burka Ban Defends the Rights of Women
»Serbia to Allow Freedom of Movement to Kosovo Citizens
North Africa
»Egypt: Pleasant and Unpleasant Surprise
»Libya: ‘Swift’ Enactment of Treaty Says Terzi
Middle East
»Armenian Genocide Bill ‘Betrays History’: Turkish Deputy PM
»Armenian Genocide Vote: Turkey Withdraws Ambassador From France
»Bomb Blasts Rock Baghdad as Political Crisis Deepens
»Iran Must Stop Persecuting Minority Religions
»Iraq’s Christians Near Extinction
»Bureaucrats Costly and Too Numerous
»Medvedev Unveils Russia Reforms But Warns ‘Extremists’
»Top Putin Ally Appointed Head of Kremlin Staff: Official
Far East
»China Buys Stake in Portuguese Energy Company
»Chinese Wines Beat French at Own Game
»Korean-Made Submarine to be Built on Indonesian Soil
»Wukan Settled, Haimen Still on the Boil: Protests in China
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Dutch Cabinet Wants Marines on UN Ships
Latin America
»New Festive Television Choices: Muslim Channels in Spanish
Culture Wars
»Minister Told He Will Face Potential Arrest for Reading Christmas Story From the Bible at Capitol Christmas Tree
»I’ll Put Millions of People on Mars, Says Elon Musk
»NASA Probe Snaps Close-Up Photos of Giant Asteroid

Financial Crisis

Banks Queue Up for Cheap ECB Loans

Over 500 European banks rushed to borrow almost half a trillion euro in cheap loans from the ECB on Wednesday (21 December), highlighting the credit squeeze on the market and only marginally increasing investor confidence that the central bank is mastering the euro-crisis.

The price in gold dropped slightly on Thursday morning and markets went up by an average of one percent in response to the cash injection, as 523 banks took a record of €489.2 billion at an interest rate of just one percent over three years — an emergency programme initiated by the European Central Bank. So far, only short-term loans for up to a year benefited from these low rates. But the ECB decided to extend the period with many European banks heavily exposed to government bonds from troubled eurozone countries. This has led to decreasing inter-bank lending due to lack of trust in each other’s capacity to pay back.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Belgium Paralysed by 24-Hour Strike Over Pension Reform

Angry public sector workers protesting pension reforms shut down Belgium’s schools, post offices and almost its entire transport grid Thursday in the latest anti-austerity protest to grip Europe. Called the day parliament debated the controversial reform, the 24-hour stoppage was the first political test faced by the fledging centre-left government in just barely two weeks in office.

The strike severely disrupted travel across Belgium’s borders, halting all international rail traffic including busy high-speed Thalys services to France, Germany and the Netherlands, as well as Eurostar links to Britain. In Brussels, where the entire bus, tram and underground rail network was halted, people walked or cycled and protesters flagged down city-bound vehicles to hammer home the reasons for the stoppage.

“Workers aren’t responsible for the crisis,” said Andrea Della Vechia of the FGTB union. “If funds be needed, they should go to the financial markets or the banks for cash, not the workers.” Postal workers, teachers, public broadcasters and prison guards all joined the protest, which also snagged activity in Antwerp, Europe’s second busiest port. “It’s a great success,” said Francis Wegimont, secretary general of the CGSP union. “Our members are determined and furious.”

Socialist Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo’s coalition government has pledged to cut 11 billion euros ($14 billion) off the budget to trim the country’s debt and deficit — respectively at 96.2 percent and 4.1 percent of gross domestic product in 2010. It has vowed to maintain pension payments and retirement at 65, but is proposing to extend the country’s popular early retirement option from 60 to 62 and make it harder to stop working earlier.

Addressing parliament, Di Rupo, whose government took office December 6, called for dialogue with the trade unions but said reforms were long overdue. “The reforms are inescapable,” he said. “They are key to overcoming inter-generational conflict and absolutely necessary to the re-establishment of healthy public finances.”

After an epic political crisis left the eurozone nation without a government for a world record 541 days, the new coalition has embarked on structural reforms and drastic budget cuts after Belgium’s credit rating was downgraded and the European Commission warned of potential penalties. But unions are angry both over the substance of the reform and the government’s failure to negotiate its terms with them.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Global Depression Could Last Several Years: Medvedev

President Dmitry Medvedev warned Thursday that a global economic depression could last for several years and require Russia to step up efforts to improve its competitiveness. “We really are facing difficult times,” Medvedev said in his last address to the nation before March presidential elections in which he will be ceding his place to his predecessor and mentor Vladimir Putin.

“The global economic depression could last several years, while competition for the minds, the ideas, the resources — it will only get stiffer, and we are in the epicentre of this race. “But even in these most difficult times, we have no right to stop our development. This work will require perseverance, effort and, of course, time.”

Both Putin and Medvedev have taken credit for helping Russia survive the worst of the 2008-2009 global financial crisis and insisted that only their team will be able to deal with current economic challenges. Medvedev noted that “many politicians, heads of international organisations and leading economists and businessmen” have all warned of the onset of a global economic depression in the months to come. “It is obvious that difficult times await us all,” Medvedev stressed.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Greece Turns to Energy as Its Economic Savior

Greece’s economy is in ruins, crushed by the country’s vast debt load. But government officials say that energy may offer a way out of the mess. And the country isn’t picky. Athens is looking to develop renewable energy sources at the same time as it explores for oil.

In Greek mythology, the sun God Helios, son of Hyperion, drove his chariot across the sky from east to west each day. Now, energy officials in the financially beleaguered nation are naming a major solar project after Helios and banking on energy more broadly as a possible way out of the financial crisis. That means exploring Poseidon’s domain of the sea by expediting plans for oil exploration, offshore wind energy production and, possibly, as a future natural gas hub. It also means completing oil and gas pipelines and privatizing state-owned oil, gas and power concerns.

“Energy is one of the key driving sectors of the economy, much more today than it has been in the past,” George Papaconstantinou, Greece’s minister for the environment, energy and climate change, told SPIEGEL ONLINE. If you exclude traditional sectors such as tourism, he said, energy “is probably the most dynamic sector, at the moment, in Greece. And it’s the one that will be driving investment in 2012 and beyond.”

The potential upside for the economy is direly needed. The country of roughly 12 million borrowed its way to near oblivion in recent years, amassing €204 billion ($267 billion) in debt by 2006 and running large budget deficits. Greece’s public debt rose to 160 percent of gross domestic product in 2010, putting it at the forefront of the world’s most indebted economies. The European Union and its member states created two massive loan packages totalling roughly €220 billion in the past year and forced creditors to accept a 50 percent debt haircut, aiming at helping Greece reduce its debt to GDP ratio to 120 percent by 2020. But amid cost cuts and privatizations, the country must also create growth that raises revenue and reduces unemployment, which topped 16 percent this year.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

House Republican Leaders Agree to Payroll Tax Deal

Bowing under intense pressure from members of their own party to end the politically damaging impasse over a payroll tax holiday, House Republican leaders on Thursday agreed to accept a temporary extension of the tax cut, beating a a hasty retreat from a showdown that Republicans increasingly saw as a threat to their election opportunities next year.

Under a deal reached between House and Senate leaders — which Speaker John A. Boehner was presenting to the rank and file in an evening conference call — House members would accept the two-month extension of a payroll tax holiday and unemployment benefits approved by the Senate last Saturday while the Senate would appoint members of a House-Senate conference committee to negotiate legislation to extend both benefits through 2012.

[Return to headlines]

Huge Increase in East Europeans on Benefits

The number of East Europeans on benefits in the Netherlands has increased explosively. Almost 12,000 Poles and other migrants from the newer EU member states are currently receiving Dutch benefits. Almost 3200 of them receive social security, more than 2500 are on unemployment benefits and over 1400 have a disability allowance. In addition, around 4400 East Europeans receive a state pension or a surviving relative’s pension.

Social Affairs Minister Henk Kamp presented the figures to parliament on Wednesday. At the end of last year, there were just 1070 East Europeans on social security and 1527 on unemployment benefit, as the minister reported to parliament last summer. At the time, he expressed his concern that more Poles would request benefits. Minister Kamp says he is shocked by the figures and referred to the borders with Romania and Bulgaria not yet being opened. “Who is to say that this figure won’t rise to 30,000 or 40,000 soon?” he said. If it does it will cost the treasury hundreds of millions of euros.

A large majority of MPs conservative VVD, Christian Democrats, Freedom Party, Labour Party, Party and Socialist Party expressed their support for cabinet plans to limit work permits for Romanians and Bulgarians until 2014.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Immigration to Germany From Debt-Wracked Euro States Soars

Germany saw a sharp rise in immigration in the first half of the year, due mainly to newcomers from crisis-wracked European states, according to official statistics released Thursday.

The eurozone’s top economy had a 19 percent rise in new arrivals at 435,000 people, the federal statistics office said in a statement.

“What is remarkable here is the strong increase in immigration from EU countries that have been particularly hard hit by the financial and debt crisis,” it said.

Eight-four percent more Greeks moved to Germany in the first half than in the same period in 2010 and 49 percent more Spaniards.

More recent members of the EU, mainly former communist countries in eastern Europe, also sent about one-third more citizens to live in Germany than a year back, due largely to a relaxation of labour market restrictions.

Other European countries, Asia and the Americas boosted emigration to Germany 11 percent each, while Africa was responsible for a three-percent rise.

With unemployment falling to 6.4 percent in November, its lowest level since reunification more than two decades ago, and around three-percent economic growth, Germany has weathered the eurozone crisis largely unscathed.

It is actively recruiting skilled labour abroad to plug yawning gaps in the workforce and offset a steep population decline caused by a chronically low birth rate.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

In Eurozone, Year of Deleveraging Could Prove Dangerous

With governments laboring under too much debt and banks hobbled by too little capital, 2012 is shaping up as another year of hard slog for Europe’s economy that could yet test the single currency to destruction. The Netherlands on Thursday became the latest country to report that output shrank in the third quarter, lending credibility to forecasts that the broader euro zone will soon be in recession if it is not already.

A generation that gorged on debt is now adjusting to what some are calling the Great Stagnation. Talk of a lost decade, like Japan in the 1990s, no longer seems outlandish. So far so familiar. What worries economists is that the longer the deleveraging of government and bank and household balance sheets drags on, the greater the risk of market or policy accidents.

If the economy is already at stall speed, an unexpected shock could send it into a deep dive. In an age of globally integrated supply chains and capital markets, the impact on the rest of the world could be severe. “Entering 2012, we are facing uncertainty on the grandest of scales,” HSBC economists led by Stephen King said in their latest quarterly report.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

New Economy Minister, From Lehman Collapse to Spain Crisis

Spain’s new economy minister, 51-year-old Luis de Guindos, comes to the job as a survivor of one of the world’s biggest financial failures — the collapse of US investment giant Lehman Brothers. Named to the pivotal cabinet post by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on Wednesday, the balding financier faces a daunting task rescuing an economy teetering towards recession with a 21.5-percent jobless rate.

He has some solid political credentials with the ruling Popular Party, which won an election landslide on November 20 as voters punished the Socialists for their handling of the economic slump. De Guindos was a member of then prime minister Jose Maria Aznar’s team from 1996-2004, working in the economy ministry and rising to become state secretary for the economy from 2002-2004,

But the reputed economist, a married father of two who was born in Madrid on January 16, 1960, has also carved out a career in the private sector. After rising to the post of chief executive of financial consultancy AB Asesores, he became executive chairman for Spain and Portugal at Lehman Brothers from 2006-2008.

Lehman collapsed on September 15, 2008, after its risky bets on the US housing market turned bad, sending shockwaves through the world’s banking system and sparking a global credit crunch. Only this month, a US judge approved plans to end Lehman Brothers’ US bankruptcy and move it toward liquidation, settling creditors’ claims worth around $450 billion.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


A Vandalized Valley

While the elites make excuses, citizens cope with theft and destruction.

By Victor Davis Hanson

The city of Fresno is now under siege. Hundreds of street lights are out, their copper wire stripped away. In desperation, workers are now cementing the bases of all the poles — as if the original steel access doors were not necessary to service the wiring. How sad the synergy! Since darkness begets crime, the thieves achieve a twofer: The more copper they steal, the easier under cover of spreading night it is to steal more. Yet do thieves themselves at home with their wives and children not sometimes appreciate light in the darkness? Do they vandalize the street lights in front of their own homes?

The Catholic church was just looted (again) of its bronze and silver icons. Manhole covers are missing (some of the town’s own maintenance staff were arrested for this theft, no less!). The Little League clubhouse was ransacked of its equipment.

In short, all the stuff of civilization — municipal buildings, education, religion, transportation, recreation — seems under assault in the last year by the contemporary forces of barbarism. After several thefts of mail, I ordered a fortified, armored mailbox. I was ecstatic when I saw the fabricator’s Internet ad: On the video, someone with an AK-47 emptied a clip into it; the mail inside was untouched. I gleefully said to myself: “That’s the one for me.” And it has been so far.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Controversial ‘Bird Flu’ Edits Move Ahead

Top US scientists on Wednesday defended their bid to stop details of a mutant bird flu virus from being published and called for global cooperation to ward off an uncontrollable pandemic. Meanwhile, scientists involved in the experiments said they are cooperating with government officials and the editors of the journals Science and Nature to pare down their research for publication in the coming weeks.

The controversy arose when two separate research teams — one in the Netherlands and the other in the United States — separately found ways to alter the H5N1 avian influenza so it could pass easily between mammals. Until now, bird flu has been rare in humans, but particularly fatal in those who do get sick. H5N1 first infected humans in 1997 and has killed more than one in every two people that it infected, for a total of 350 deaths.

The concern is the virus could mutate and mimic past pandemic flu outbreaks such as the “Spanish flu” of 1918-1919 which killed 50 million people, and outbreaks in 1957 and 1968 that killed three million.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Stakelbeck: U.S. Hispanic Support for Israel Growing

When Israeli leaders survey the world scene, the landscape is not always encouraging. From Europe to the United Nations to the Muslim world, anti-Israel sentiment is growing stronger.

Yet a new voice is emerging that could help change that narrative.

Hispanic Americans are the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population — and they could be set to become a valuable friend and timely ally to Israel at a crucial time in its history.

You can watch my new report on this emerging trend by clicking the link above..

Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah and Happy New Year!

           — Hat tip: Erick Stakelbeck[Return to headlines]

Study Linking Virus to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Retracted Amid Controversy

A two-year scientific controversy all but ended Thursday when the prestigious journal Science retracted a study linking a strange virus to chronic fatigue syndrome, a sometimes-debilitating disorder with no known cause.

The journal’s editors “lost confidence” in the study after at least a dozen attempts to replicate the finding failed, wrote editor-in-chief Bruce Alberts in a retraction notice to be published Friday.

Further, the study’s authors “omitted important information” from some of the figures in the paper, Alberts wrote.

The retraction formally removes the study from the scientific record.

“I think it’s 99 percent the end of the story,” said John Coffin, a virologist at Tufts University who worked on a team that could not replicate the original study.

Published in October 2009, the retracted study generated a wave of hope among chronic fatigue patients that a cause of their illness had finally been found. Led by scientists at the privately-funded Whittemore Peterson Institute in Reno, Nev., the study reported a bizarre virus, xenotrophic murine leukemia virus-related virus (XMRV), in the blood of 68 of 101 chronic fatigue patients.

But as laboratories worldwide failed to replicate the discovery, criticism of the original report mounted.

In May, two reports detailed how XMRV was likely a lab-borne contaminant, not a blood-borne virus. The case further unraveled in September, when nine laboratories tested for the virus in 15 people previously found to carry it. Only two of the labs found the virus in the supposedly infected individuals. The labs also reported conflicting results from the blood of 15 healthy individuals.

“As far as virologists go, the story ended a long time ago,” said Vincent Racaniello, a virologist at Columbia University, referring to the September report. “There’s no evidence at the moment that any virus is associated with chronic fatigue syndrome.”

The story took a bizarre turn in November, when the scientist at the center of the controversy, Judy Mikovits, was jailed in California.

Mikovits was an author on the retracted report and a chief champion of the notion that XMRV or a similar virus is linked to chronic fatigue. She was fired from the Whittemore Peterson Institute in September for insubordination. The institute then accused Mikovits of stealing laptop computers, flash drives and laboratory notebooks.

On Nov. 18, Ventura County, Calif., sheriffs arrested Mikovits on a felony “fugitive from justice” charge stemming from the allegedly stolen materials.

Audrey Young, a spokeswoman for the Whittemore Peterson Institute, said Thursday that Mikovits, now out of jail, “did turn over some of the materials, including a laptop which she had wiped clean. She did not turn over all of the material, and that’s an enormous problem.”

A civil lawsuit filed by the Whittemore Peterson Institute is requesting the return of all of the lab materials. Mikovits could not be reached for comment Thursday.

One prominent patient advocate said the saga has been been a “roller coaster ride.” But most patients have now “moved on,” said Kim McCleary, president and chief executive of the CFIDS Association of America. “They’re certainly disappointed and discouraged that this did not pan out the way it was initially promoted. But they understand there’s no point in pursuing a dead end.”

Last year, the original study prompted the American Red Cross to ban blood donations from chronic fatigue patients.

On Thursday, a Red Cross spokeswoman said the group’s policy remained unchanged. “If somebody tells us they have chronic fatigue syndrome, we will continue to defer them,” said Stephanie Millian, although not because of fears of XMRV transmitting through the blood supply. Rather, Millian said, the Red Cross was “following the lead” of patient advocacy groups that advise ill patients not to donate blood.

Between 1 million and 4 million Americans are thought to have chronic fatigue syndrome, a mysterious disorder that causes prolonged and severe fatigue, body aches and other symptoms.

[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Austria: Strache Plans Stronger Right-Wing Alliances

Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ) chief Heinz-Christian Strache discussed immigration issues with high-ranking representatives of Italy’s rightists. The Eurosceptic joined members of the European Parliament (MEPs) of the far-right Lega Nord party and former Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni to speak about asylum issues and Islamism in a platform discussion in Milan on Monday.

Strache said yesterday (Tues) he intended to strengthen his party’s ties with right-wing movements in Italy. The politician, who has headed the FPÖ since 2005, engaged in creating alliances among right-wingers across Europe in recent years. The FPÖ organised several summits attended by political representatives of right-wing circles in Denmark, the Netherlands and other countries. Strache was harshly criticised and accused of trying to create conflicts when he headed a delegation of European politicians meeting with nationalist Israelis last year.

The FPÖ is given good chances to overtake the People’s Party (ÖVP) for second place in the next election. The coalition factions of Social Democrats (SPÖ) and the ÖVP are trying to avoid a collapse of their cooperation despite stark differences in opinion regarding the future of the Austrian army and the country’s school and education system.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Belgium: Farmers Take Ikea to Court

The hospitality industry and the Farmers’ Union are taking the Swedish budget furniture store Ikea to court in connection with cheap meals that are being sold under the cost price. Horeca Vlaanderen and the Boerenbond allege that Ikea is selling food at a loss and maintain that this is illegal.

A couple of times during the course of the past year Ikea launched special stunt sales. Last spring customers could have steak and chips for 2.5 euros. Last summer there was also a barbecue meal for 3.95 euros. In September it was mussels and chips for 5 euros. With the festive season upon us new stunts are in prospect.

The hospitality industry and the farmers Union say that despite repeated requests to stop the actions Ikea has not responded: “Ikea is primarily a furniture store. We wouldn’t mind if Ikea also operated restaurants, but we cannot accept that the store uses food merely as a marketing instrument in order to attract custom. By selling food at a loss Ikea is breaking the law and is guilty of unfair competition.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Breivik Was Insane — Experts

A panel of experts confirmed Thursday that the Norway gunman who killed 77 people in twin attacks in July was criminally insane, meaning he will likely be sent to a closed psychiatric ward. “There is no major objection to the report” published on November 29 by two psychiatrists which found that Anders Behring Breivik suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, the head of the panel of experts, Karl Heinrik Melle said, according to Norwegian news agency NTB. The panel’s conclusions were submitted to the Oslo district court.

Behring Breivik, an anti-Islam 32-year-old right-wing extremist, is currently being held at a high-security prison outside Oslo pending his trial which is due to open on April 16. Given the psychiatric evaluations, Behring Breivik is expected to be sentenced to psychiatric care in a closed ward instead of going to jail. The gunman has disputed the diagnosis of insanity, according to one of his lawyers.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Dutch TV Hosts ‘To Cook and Eat Own Flesh’ On Air

Two presenters on Dutch public television will cook and eat a small piece of human flesh surgically removed from the other’s body in a show being aired on Wednesday, the channel said. “It’s not a hoax,” BNN television spokesman Thijs Verheij told AFP ahead of the weekly show “Guinea-pigs” being broadcast at 9.40 pm (2040 GMT) after being pre-recorded in a studio.

BNN, which is aimed at an audience of teenagers and young adults, in 2007 broadcast a show in which participants in need of an organ transplant competed to win a kidney from a dying woman. It turned out to be a hoax. “The show in 2007 was held to raise awareness about the need for organ donors,” Verheij said. He said “Guinea-pigs” aimed to tackle off-the-wall issues such as “what a small piece of human flesh tastes like”.

Two presenters can be seen in a short online promotional video sitting across a table from each other and eyeing a small piece of meat on their plates, presumably human, which was cooked earlier in a pan. Verheij said two pieces of flesh were surgically removed from the men’s bodies, one from one presenter’s abdomen, the other taken from his colleague’s buttocks.

Interviewed when the show was recorded, a lawyer said cannibalism itself is not punishable in the Netherlands, but taking human flesh from a living person without a valid medical reason may be an offence, said Verheij.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Dutch Population Will Hit 17 Million by 2016

The Dutch population is expected to grow by 60,000 people a year in the coming years. The Dutch statistics office expects the Netherlands will be home to 17 million people in 2016. Each year about 180,000 babies are born compared to 140,000 deaths. And 160,000 people a year settle in the Netherlands with roughly the same number of people leaving the country.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Europe’s Perishing Parishes: Dutchman Helps to Liquidate Dying Churches

A drastic exodus from the church is underway in the Netherlands. With two churches shuttered each week, one man has become the country’s top advisor on how to repurpose the once holy buildings. Some are demolished, while others find new life as mosques, stores and even recreation centers.

For years the number of faithful has been declining. The trend has swept across all of Western Europe, with churches forced to close in France and Belgium too. But in the Netherlands, Christianity’s retreat from society has been particularly drastic. The Protestant Church alone loses some 60,000 members each year. At this rate, it will cease to exist there by 2050, church officials say.

The trend has led to the mergers of churches from several communities. St. Lawrence in Bilthoven has consolidated its congregation with that of eight other churches. But none of these amalgamations need more than one church, one organ, and one altar crucifix. All the other chalices, crosses and pews need to be disposed of. The problem, de Beyer says, is that holy items don’t sell particularly well. The buildings themselves quickly find new renters, though.

In Helmond, some 80 kilometers south of Bilthoven, a supermarket even moved into a defunct church in 2001. A bookstore has opened in a former Dominican church in Maastricht, while in Utrecht and Amsterdam churches have been turned into mosques. Of the Netherlands’ some 17 million citizens, about 850,000 practice Islam. Still, many other churches are simply being demolished.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Finland Finds Missiles on Danish Ship Bound for China

Finnish authorities have found 69 Patriot missiles and around 160 tonnes of explosives onboard the Danish-owned ship Thor Liberty, when it took shelter from a storm in the Finnish port Kotka. The ship left the German port Emden on 13 December and was bound for the Chinese port of Shanghai.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

French Muslim Jailed for Punching Nurse Who Tried to Remove Wife’s Burqa During Childbirth

A Muslim man who punched a nurse for trying to remove his wife’s burqa during childbirth has been jailed in France.

Nassim Mimoune, 24, had already been expelled from the delivery room for branding the midwife a ‘rapist’ as she carried out an intimate examination of his wife.

Then through a window he spotted the nurse taking off his wife’s burqa as she prepared to give birth.

He smashed open the locked door and hit the woman in the face, demanding she replace the full Islamic face veil.

As his wife delivered a baby boy, Mimoune was ejected from the building by security men from the hospital in Marseille and arrested for assault.

A judge in the southern French port jailed Mimoune for six months on Wednesday, telling him: ‘Your religious values are not superior to the laws of the republic.’

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

Germany Court Finds Six Guilty of Carbon Tax Fraud

A Frankfurt district court on Wednesday ruled three Britons, two Germans and a Frenchman guilty of having used a so-called carousel trade to evade taxes on carbon permits in the European Union. The fraud was carried out via Deutsche Bank, where seven staff members are still under investigation.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Greece: Terrorism, New Group Claims Gas-Canister Attacks

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, DECEMBER 22 — An anticapitalist militant group calling itself “Zero Tolerance” has claimed responsibility for three gas canister attacks this year targeting the offices of senior politicians, including Justice Minister Miltiadis Papaioannou. The previously unknown group said it carried out the attacks to protest against austerity measures, political corruption and the jailing of suspected members of the far-left Greek terror group Revolutionary Struggle. The other attacks targeted the offices of Alternate Foreign Minister Mariliza Xenoyiannakopoulou, and former EU commissioner Vaso Papandreou, who chairs Parliament’s economic affairs committee. “For the past 18 months, Greece has been under occupation by the troika,” the group said in a statement posted on the Athens Indymedia website. “The peaceful mood of most demonstrators is over. Now everyone realises we are at war.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italy: Cold Snap Causes Havoc Across Italy

Snow forecast for Sicily, Calabria and Sardinia

(ANSA) — Rome, December 21 — A homeless man froze to death north of Milan and four others were killed in traffic accidents as the latest cold snap caused havoc across Italy.

As Italians braced for snowfalls in several regions, a rock wall collapsed in the Pale di San Martino range in the Dolomite mountains in the northern province of Belluno and authorities said there was a risk of more avalanches in the Alps.

No-one was injured in Monday’s landslide that measured 300 metres at its base but three roads have been closed in the area.

Meanwhile, the Civil Protection Department issued a weather warning for the southern regions of Sicily, Calabria and Sardinia on Wednesday.

Tomas Fioravanti, 38, froze to death in the city of Varese, north of Milan, on Monday night and the road fatalities occurred in two accidents in Sardinia and the Marche region.

Snow, ice and freezing temperatures were forecast for several regions.

Snowfalls were expected on Wednesday as far south as Campania, Calabria and Basilicata as well as Sicily.

Four flights were diverted from the Sicilian capital Palermo to Catania and Trapani because of poor weather.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Pillar Collapses in Ancient Garden in Pompeii

The latest in a series of similar incidents

(ANSA) — Pompeii, December 22 — Archaeologists on Thursday were assessing the damage after one of the pillars in the garden of an ancient Roman home collapsed at Pompeii. Police were also called to investigate the collapse of the pillar which was part of an external pergola at the house of Loreius Tiburtinus in the centre of the popular tourist site.

News of the collapse was announced by the Special Archaeology Superintendent of Naples and Pompeii and the site was immediately closed to the public. The House of Loreius Tiburtinus is famous for its extensive gardens and outdoor ornamentation, in particular its Euripi, fountains that feature many frescoes and statuettes. The frescoes portray the myths of Narcissus on one side of the fountain and Pyramus and Thisbe on the other in a garden full of fruit trees and other plants. At the end of November, the United Nations cultural agency UNESCO and the Italian government agreed to join forces to restore rain-damaged Pompeii after several recent collapses.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Latvian MPs Nix Russian Language, Paving Way to Plebiscite

Lawmakers in European Union member Latvia rejected a motion Thursday to enshrine Russian as the second official state language after Latvian in the ex-Soviet Baltic state’s constitution. Legislators in the 100-member parliament voted 60-0 against a proposal to make Russian an official language, a move which forces a referendum on the subject early next year in line with a popular citizens’ initiative.

Russian-speakers account for around a third of Latvia’s 2.2-million population, but in order for the referendum to succeed it will need to attract more than half of the electorate, or the equivalent of 771,350 votes. There is therefore little chance of the measure ever taking effect. All 31 members of the opposition Harmony Centre party, which draws most of its support from the Russian minority, boycotted the Thursday vote after their efforts at a compromise deal were rejected.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Six Jailed in EU-Wide Carbon Tax Conspiracy

Six men have been found guilty for participating in a conspiracy to evade taxes on carbon permits in the European Union. The Frankfurt verdict marks the first convictions following an EU-wide investigation. A German court has found six men guilty of having participated in a conspiracy to evade taxes on carbon permits in the European Union.

The men, aged between 27 and 66 and from Germany, Britain, and France, were found to have evaded around 300 million euros ($391 million) in value-added tax (VAT) between August 2009 and April 2010. Using a so-called carousel trade, buyers imported emissions permits in one EU country without paying VAT and then sold them to each other, adding tax and keeping the difference.

The EU Emissions Trading System caps the emissions of factories and power plants in an effort to fight climate change. Companies are forced to buy carbon permits if they need to emit more carbon than permitted. Companies are also allowed to sell permits if they need to emit less carbon than foreseen.

“The convicted were fraudulently involved in tax-evading trades. … They have brought the carbon market trading scheme into disrepute,” said Judge Martin Bach in the Frankfurt district court on Wednesday.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Spain: Tous Son-in-Law Facing Five Years for Shooting Burglar — Despite Jury Acquittal

SON-IN-LAW and security guard of the Tous empire, Lluís Corominas, is facing a five-year jail term for killing a burglar — despite having been acquitted previously by a jury. Prosecution officer Teresa Duarte claims the verdict, which saw Corominas walk free, was ‘inadmissible’ and has appealed against it, calling for five years in prison. She says she does not believe Corominas pulled the trigger due to ‘blind fear’, as his defence claimed.

Corominas has already been forced to pay 310,000 euros in compensation to the dead burglar’s family. He was called out in the night when intruders were detected on the estate of the Tous family, owners and creators of the prestigious handbag and jewellery firm of the same name. Corominas, who is married to the daughter of the family, travelled to the premises, bringing his gun. He then fired shots at the burglars as he saw them approaching their car. One suffered injuries and another was killed outright.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: Drunk Woman Falls Under Train at Barnsley Station

Video released to highlight dangers of station platforms while drunk

CCTV footage of a woman falling under a train has been released as part of a campaign to warn of the dangers of being drunk on station platforms. The video shows the woman getting off a train at Barnsley station, in South Yorkshire, stumbling backwards and falling down a narrow gap between the train and platform.

British transport police said the woman was helped from the tracks very quickly and taken to hospital with cuts and bruises. Trains were delayed for 20 minutes. Inspector Graham Bridges said: “This woman was lucky to only end up with a few minor injuries and, had it not been for the alertness of other passengers who helped her, we could have been dealing with potentially serious injuries.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: Hajj: Journey to the Heart of Islam at the British Museum

Explore the history and experiences of the sacred pilgrimage to Mecca, known as Hajj at this latest exhibition at the British Museum. Extra members are invited to a viewing, dinner and curator’s talk on 3 February

Hajj: journey to the heart of Islam explores the sacred pilgrimage to Mecca, known as Hajj. Objects from the UK, Middle East, Africa and Europe will reveal the purpose, history and context of this significant journey for Muslims, from its beginnings to the present day. Discover the rituals that take place, the experiences of the pilgrims and the sheer operation behind this extraordinary event which attracts over three million pilgrims each year. Neil MacGregor, Director, British Museum says: “This exhibition will enable a global audience to deepen their understanding of the significance and history of the Hajj. In particular, it will allow non-Muslims to explore the one aspect of Islamic practice and faith which they are not able to witness, but which plays such a major part in forming a worldwide Islamic consciousness.”

Extra members are invited to enjoy an evening viewing of the exhibition followed by an exhibition-inspired two course meal in the Great Court Restaurant. After dinner, the exhibition’s curator will give a talk and host a Q&A session in the restaurant. The event takes place on 3 February at 5.30pm. Tickets cost £37.

[JP note: For extra clarity, it would have been better if MacGregor had used the descriptor ‘dhimmis’ instead of ‘non-Muslims.’]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Insurers Urge Radical Security Rethink Following Metal Sculpture Theft

Leading insurers yesterday advised owners of valuable metal artworks to radically “rethink” their security measures and even consider replacing sculptures with replicas.

Experts told councils and museums to take extra precautions following a spate of increasingly high-profile thefts of statues and other works from established artists. Private collectors and homeowners were warned to avoid putting “precious metal sculptures in window bays” and to consider growing “spiky hedges to deter thieves”.

One local authority even revealed plans to install motion sensitive alarms on or around its works of art on public display in its parks in an effort to prevent them being taken. “It is a sad consequence of the continuing economic crisis that more large metal sculptures are being stolen,” said Annabel Fell-Clark, CEO of insurers AXA ART UK. “We would encourage councils to review the security of any works on public display in conjunction with their insurers.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: Lutfur Rahman Cabinet Member’s Company Owes Taxman £25,000, But Won’t Pay

Following Lutfur’s recent disappointment at the PCC, there is more bad news for Tower Hamlets’ extremist-linked mayor. His cabinet member for the environment, Cllr Shahed Ali, has been running a company that owes the taxman a great deal of money. Companies House records show that Cllr Ali was company secretary and a director of a firm called Last Viceroy of British India Ltd. The company, which was based at the same address as a restaurant of the same name in Frinton-on-Sea, Essex, never filed any accounts. But on 7 October 2009 its directors placed it in voluntary liquidation and in August 2010 they dissolved it. Almost the sole creditors were HM Revenue and Customs. The insolvency documents show that they are owed £16,000 in unpaid VAT and £9,000 in unpaid income tax and national insurance. There are, alas, no means to pay this bill: the company was wound up without assets of any kind. Happily, however, the restaurant appears to have carried on trading very much as normal!

Well, almost as normal. In December 2009, there was a slight interruption in service when the authorities raided the premises, arresting three of the staff who turned out to be illegal immigrants. One was found hiding on the roof. They probably didn’t pay all that much tax either. The restaurant was still in business as of this Saturday, according to a review posted on the Qype website. It is now run by a company called Dinebest — which, surely by complete coincidence, popped up at just about the same time that the Last Viceroy of India company was placed into voluntary liquidation. Dinebest’s sole director is another Mr Ali, Anhar. Any relation of Shahed, I wonder? Interestingly, the contact for the restuarant’s management on Qype is still given as “Shaheduk.” Maybe Shahed/Anhar just forgot to change it. Oh yes, I forgot to mention: Land Registry records show that Shahed Ali is still the owner of the restaurant, and indeed the property next door too. So he probably does have some assets which could be used to pay that tax bill, after all!

When I called Cllr Ali, he at first claimed not to have heard of Last Viceroy of British India. “Are you sure you’ve got the right information?” he asked. I pointed out that Last Viceroy is listed in his Companies House entry along with a number of companies which he declares in his register of interests at the Town Hall. I could also have pointed out that he owns the restaurant, and that the company secretary’s mobile phone number in Last Viceroy’s company records is the same as his. Cllr Ali’s memory then staged a rapid recovery. He admitted that he had been secretary of the company. He insisted, however, that its liquidation had most definitely not been a ruse to avoid paying tax. So would he, I asked, now be paying the Revenue the tax owed? “The company is liquidated, that’s the end of the story,” he said. Cllr Ali currently makes quite a lot of money from the taxpayer — he is paid £22,723 in “special responsibility allowances.” And he spends even more taxpayers’ money — his part of the council has a budget of at least £70 million. So I decided to ask the question again. Would he be paying the tax that is owed to the Revenue? “The company is liquidated, that’s the end of the story,” he repeated. I think that’s a no, don’t you?

PS Cllr Ali is of course not the first of Lutfur’s councillors or supporters to attract controversy. There’s Shiraj Haque, whose restaurants were raided by the police for counterfeiting; Shelina Akhtar, shortly to stand trial for fraud; Alibor Choudhury, who has seen the inside of a courtroom more than once (and is now, incredibly, in charge of the council’s budget); and not forgetting Shah Yousouf, who will stand trial in April for alleged election crimes.

PPS Lutfur denies any links to extremism

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Lutfur Rahman Council Suspends Ex-Leader After Complaint by Islamic Extremist


PS Lutfur denies any links with extremism.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Students’ Unions ‘Must be Able to Veto Hate Speakers’

Islamic society leader warns of linking university attendance and terrorism. John Morgan reports

Students’ unions should introduce tougher rules to keep “hate speakers” off campuses and stop the spread of Islamist extremism, MPs have heard. Hannah Stuart, co-author of Islam on Campus: A Survey of UK Student Opinions and Islamist Terrorism: The British Connections, made the suggestion in evidence to the Home Affairs Committee’s inquiry into the roots of violent radicalisation. The committee held a day-long session at De Montfort University last week, including a workshop titled “How can we best counter radicalisation in universities?” Nabil Ahmed, president of the Federation of Student Islamic Societies, rejected many of Ms Stuart’s arguments, countering from the audience that it was “upsetting and hurtful for Muslim students to be caricatured as potential extremists, potential radicals, when none of this is applicable to 99.9 per cent of not just Muslim students, but all students”.

Islamist Terrorism analysed 138 cases of individuals convicted of “Islamism-related offences” and found that 30 per cent “had at some point attended university or a higher education institute”.

Although the study was “not suggesting that 30 per cent were radicalised because they attended university”, said Ms Stuart, a research fellow at the Henry Jackson Society, it did find that “schools and universities were definitely involved in that linking-up of individuals”. She added: “In terms of that politicisation and militarisation of faith — particularly I’m thinking of external speakers and hate speakers in universities — that is an important area and we should be focusing on it.” By example, Ms Stuart said that support for “Hamas or other extremist groups like Hizb ut-Tahrir” was unacceptable. She added that while “we should not be policing campuses”, one solution was that any organisations “affiliated to students’ unions would need to present any external speakers publicly on a website a week before the event”, allowing students’ unions to decide whether it should go ahead.

In response, Mr Ahmed pointed out that more than 30 per cent of young people in the general population go to university, “so this link between (university attendance and Islamist terrorism) is dangerous”. He added that while “it is not necessarily my view”, the Turkish prime minister recognises Hamas as a political party. Don’t call that an extremist view — that is a legitimate view,” Mr Ahmed said. Anthony Richards, a terrorism expert at the University of East London, said from the audience that the government’s Prevent strategy — revised to cover “extremism” rather than just “violent extremism” — risked having “indeterminate scope” because it ignored the question “as to what we mean by radicalisation”. The committee also heard a speech from Jesse Jackson, the US civil rights activist, who was awarded an honorary degree by De Montfort on 12 December. He gave a different take on the term “radicalisation”, calling for greater equality, praising the Occupy movement and noting that in biblical times “a radicalised Jesus” had “occupied the temple”.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: William Hague Has the ‘Frites Fraternity’ On the Run Across Whitehall


Actually, no one has yet come up with a collective term for those mandarins steeped in the ways of the European Union. Arabists are referred to — often derisively — as the “camel corps”, a term that conjures images of gentlemen in pith helmets and puttees, more at ease in the alleys of the souk than the corridors of Whitehall. Their colleagues who have steeped themselves with similar enthusiasm in the labyrinthine complexities of EU politics are equally influential. This “frites fraternity” or “Brussels brotherhood” or whatever we might call it is well entrenched across government. The FCO is its main base, but it is also strong in Vince Cable’s Business department, where an excessive enthusiasm for all things EU is partly blamed by No 10 for the lack of progress in reducing Britain’s regulatory burden. Mr Cameron has let his frustration show in recent months when he has exhorted ministerial colleagues to stand up to officials and lawyers who worry about being taken to the European Court.

[JP note: Not to be confused with the Fritz Fraternity — the FCO appeasers of the beastly Huns during the two great wars of the twentieth century.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Why a Burka Ban Defends the Rights of Women

Both multiculturalism and the burka need to be taken away from the cultural reciprocity footing. It was sad, yesterday, to see Nigel Farage of UKIP considering ditching his party’s policy of the burka ban. Contrary to mass popular belief there is nothing intolerant or illiberal about this policy.

Let me explain. It is a common, flawed assumption that it is intolerant not to tolerate other, alien, cultures on the British Isles. There is a missing part to this, of what would otherwise be, erroneous equation. The other part can be posed in a question: How can it be tolerant of immigrants and other non-indigenous cultures not to give up their own cultures and assimilate once on the territory of the British Isles?


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]


Serbia to Allow Freedom of Movement to Kosovo Citizens

Serbia on Thursday moved to allow freedom of movement to all citizens of Kosovo, blocked since the breakaway territory’s Albanian majority unilaterally declared independence in 2008. The government in Belgrade passed a decree on freedom of movement, enabling Kosovo citizens to cross into Serbia and move freely across the country with personal documents issued by Pristina authorities for the first time since the independence was proclaimed, spokesman Milivoje Mihajlovic said.

Mihajlovic said the measure would be implemented by early next week. “Freedom of movement is a democratic and civilised act and this decree is a follow-up to the agreement” reached during the EU-sponsored talks in Bruselles between Belgrade and Pristina, Mihailovic told AFP.

Kosovo citizens holding identity papers issued by Pristina — which Belgrade does not recognise — would be getting documents at the border allowing them to pass through the territory of Serbia. According to the decree, Serbia will also issue temporary car plates for vehicles registered in Kosovo.

Belgrade has considered Kosovan vehicle number-plates and IDs invalid, preventing Kosovars from using the shortest route to Europe and causing headaches for the 150,000-strong ethnic Albanian diaspora in EU countries, many of whom only hold documents issued by Pristina. The move represents the implementation of a crucial accord reached so far in Belgrade-Pristina dialogue that opened in March in Brussels under EU auspices and that is a key condition for Serbia’s EU bid.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egypt: Pleasant and Unpleasant Surprise

Jeffrey Goldberg offers a more intelligent observation than Carlos Latuff could ever hope to do on Abdel Moneim Kato, the Egyptian general who said anti-government protesters “deserve to be thrown into Hitler’s ovens.”

I’ve spent quite a bit of time in Cairo arguing with Holocaust deniers (arguing doesn’t work, by the way), so I was pleasantly surprised to read of a senior Egyptian official who understands that Hitler’s ovens were real, and that the Holocaust was a brutal affair. I was unpleasantly surprised, of course, to read of an Egyptian official who wants to punish his fellow Egyptians the way Hitler punished the Jews. Correct me if I’m wrong, but Mubarak’s military successors are trying very hard to win the let’s-outdo-Hosni-in-cruelty-and-sheer-idiocy competition.

[Readers’ comments]

PetraMB on 22 December 2011, 3:04 am

It’s been admittedly a long time since I was in Cairo (a few days after Sadat’s murder, wondering who the hell was this Mubarak guy whose poster was plastered all over the place…), but I’m not sure if this “Hitler’s oven” remark is not taken very differently in a country that adores the MB’s spiritual leader Yussuf Qaradawi who has preached to an Al Jazeera audience of many millions that Hitler was a tool of divine providence, meting out a fully deserved punishment to the Jews. Take this together with the many examples (e.g. from widely used Saudi textbooks) that teach that the Quran describes the Jews as despicable and condemned by Allah as deserving of punishment, and take also all the popular conspiracy theories of “Zionists” and “foreign elements” being behind any disturbances that damage Egypt, and you get a very different reading: those rowdy protesters are just as evil as the Jews, and they deserve the same (divinely sanctioned) punishment — in other words, the “Hitler’s oven” remark simply reflects the widely accepted notion that the Jews stand for absolute evil; and the local outrage about this remark, I’m afraid, is mainly outrage about being labeled as so irredemably evil.

Ethan on 22 Dcember 2011, 3:28 am

Gene, I know it pains you to hear it, but most people in the MENA know that the Holocaust occured, and understand its scope. They approve of it, however, rather than think it a travesty. To Westerners, they want to hide that fact, lest they be thought of as racist a*******, so they deny that it occurred, and argue against it in a vain attempt to diminuate the tragedy. It’s the politically correct way to say “We want to kill every Jew because Allah commands it.” Islam is the problem, Nazis made it palatable. Europeans eat this stuff up.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Libya: ‘Swift’ Enactment of Treaty Says Terzi

Italy to pay out $5 bln over 20 years

(ANSA) — Rome, December 21 — Italy is moving “swiftly” to implement a range of provisions in a friendship treaty with Libya that was reactivated last week, Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi said Wednesday.

Terzi said Libyan transitional leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil had shown during his visit to Rome a week ago “how much Libya had been awaiting the reactivation of the treaty”.

“We are moving very swiftly to enact all of its various dimensions,” the foreign minister added.

Under the friendship treaty, which was interrupted by the war against late strongman Muammar Gaddafi, Italy agreed in 2008 to pay colonial reparations of $5 billion over 20 years, including the construction of a coastal highway, while Libya pledged to stop migrants crossing the Mediterranean.

Now that it has been reactivated, Italy will be able to fully re-open its oil and gas pipelines and Libya will pursue wide financial interests in Italy including stakes in giant bank Unicredit and soccer club Juventus, helped by assets that had been frozen during the war.

The decision Thursday was announced by Premier Mario Monti after talks with Jalil in Rome.

Monti, who said he would visit Italy’s former colony “in mid-January”, stressed the move would help both countries “focus on the priorities of the new Libya” after the demise of Gaddafi, who was caught and executed by rebels on October 20.

The treaty was signed by Gaddafi and then Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi in mid-2008.

Italy was initially wary about taking part in the war against Libya but later provided key air bases for the Nato-led campaign as well as fighter-bombers that ran hundreds of sorties.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Armenian Genocide Bill ‘Betrays History’: Turkish Deputy PM

A French bill making the denial of Armenian genocide a criminal offence was a “betrayal of history”, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said Thursday. “I condemn the French parliament, which passed this bill meaning betrayal of history and historical truth,” Arinc said on his Twitter account. “The French parliament… dimmed out history and truth by approving the bill,” he added. Arinc accused the French lawmakers backing the bill of “bringing back the Inquisition”, and he said the legislation was “evil-minded”.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Armenian Genocide Vote: Turkey Withdraws Ambassador From France

Following a move by the French lower house of parliament to pass a bill making it a punishable crime to deny the genocide of Armenians, Turkey has announced retaliatory measures. The issue of the killings between 1915 and 1917 has long divided Ankara and European countries.

In the end, repeated protests from Turkey had little impact: France’s lower house of parliament voted on Thursday to approve a draft law that would impose stiff penalties on any person in France who denies the genocide of Armenians by Ottoman Turks between 1915 and 1917. In an interview with French foreign broadcaster France 24, Patrick Devedjian, a member of Sarkozy’s UMP party of Armenian origin, praised the vote. “The purpose of the bill is to stop foreign nations from coming to France and pushing discriminatory propaganda against people living here,” he told FRANCE 24. “We are not seeking to rewrite history; the Armenian genocide is an established fact, an undeniable truth.”

It didn’t take long for Ankara to provide an official response. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country would recall its ambassador from France, suspend joint military maneuvers and restrict French military flights. “We are recalling our ambassador in Paris to Ankara for consultations,” the Turkish president said. “As of now, we are cancelling bilateral level political, economic and military activities,” Erdogan said, according to the Associated Press. “We are suspending all kinds of political consultations with France.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Bomb Blasts Rock Baghdad as Political Crisis Deepens

Explosions have wracked mainly Shiite districts of Baghdad, killing at least 57 people. The blasts coincide with sectarian disputes within Iraq’s powersharing government and follow last weekend’s US troop withdrawal.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Iran Must Stop Persecuting Minority Religions

Editor’s note: Roxana Saberi, an Iranian-American journalist, is the author of “Between Two Worlds: My Life and Captivity in Iran.”

(CNN) — In March 2009, when I was detained in Evin Prison in Iran, two evangelical Christians were arrested. I never met them but spotted them a few times through the barred window of my cell as they walked back and forth to the bathroom down the hall.

I would later learn that Maryam Rostampour and Marzieh Amirizadeh had converted from Islam to Christianity and faced charges of spreading propaganda against the Islamic Republic, insulting religious sanctities, and committing apostasy. They resisted severe pressure to renounce their faith, and in November 2009, after an international outcry, the two women went free.

News headlines are now highlighting the plight of another Iranian Christian accused of apostasy, or abandoning one’s religion. When Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani was 19, he converted from Islam to Christianity. In 2010, a provincial court sentenced him to death. This year, Iran’s Supreme Court ruled that the case should be reviewed and the sentence overturned if he recants his faith — a step Nadarkhani, 34, has so far refused to take.

Now, according to the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, Iran’s judiciary has ordered the verdict to be delayed, possibly for one year. But Nadarkhani’s supporters hope sustained worldwide pressure will lead to his just and immediate release.

As international criticism has mounted, an Iranian official has alleged that Nadarkhani is being prosecuted not for his faith but for crimes including rape and extortion. Nadarkhani’s attorney, however, says the only charge the pastor has faced is apostasy, and court documents support this assertion…

           — Hat tip: Nick[Return to headlines]

Iraq’s Christians Near Extinction

by Raymond Ibrahim

Dear Reader:

If the ongoing eradication of Christians under Islam is of concern to you, please consider signing Christian Solidarity International’s petition urging President Barack Obama to present during his forthcoming State of the Union Address his “administration’s policy to prevent the eradication of the endangered Christian communities and other religious minorities of the Islamic Middle East.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Bureaucrats Costly and Too Numerous

There are too many bureaucrats, and each year they are costing more, according to government experts. Their ranks have to be reduced 30 percent, and those that remain have to be compelled to work better, the experts say. Over the last 10 years the number of civil servants at all levels grew 40 percent. At the end of 2000, there were 1.16 million people working as civil servants, but by the end of 2010, that number reached 1.65 million, according to a final presentation on corrections to the country’s long-term strategy to 2020 that was submitted to the government.

The number of bureaucrats is growing, even though the population as a whole is not. At the end of 2010, for every 100,000 Russian citizens there were 1,153 bureaucrats, whereas 10 years ago that number was 31 percent less. In comparison, experts say the United States has a one-fourth the number of tax inspectors and less than half as many customs inspectors per 1,000 people as Russia does.

Out of 1,000 employed Russians, 25 of them are bureaucrats. That number was 18 in 2000 and 15 in 1994. There are too many civil servants, and they interfere with economic growth, according to those who prepared the government report, and overall the country cannot afford them. Their salaries alone cost the budget 67 billion rubles ($2.1 billion) per month, or 804 billion rubles per year. If they were to be reduced to the levels of 2000, the country would save 240 billion rubles a year.

If related expenses, like space, transportation, communications and so forth, were considered, the possible savings could double, said Andrei Klimenko, director of the institute for issues of municipal and state management at the Higher School of Economics.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Medvedev Unveils Russia Reforms But Warns ‘Extremists’

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Thursday unveiled political reforms in response to an outburst of protests, but warned that “provocateurs and extremists” were seeking to stir unrest in the country. Two days ahead of a new mass rally accusing the authorities of rigging this month’s parliamentary elections, he proposed a range of reforms including the resumption of direct elections of local governors.

But in his last state-of-the-nation address before his expected handover of the Kremlin to Vladimir Putin next year, Medvedev warned that the authorities would not allow its biggest protest wave in years to destabilise Russia. “Attempts to manipulate Russian citizens, lead them astray and incite strife in society are unacceptable,” Medvedev told both houses of parliament. “Russia needs democracy and not chaos.”

“We will not allow provocateurs and extremists to drag society into their schemes,” Medvedev said. Taking aim at the West, he added: “We will not allow interference from outside in our internal affairs.” Medvedev’s address came after December 4 parliamentary elections showed an unexpectedly sharp dip in support for the ruling party and were followed by mass protests against vote-rigging.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Top Putin Ally Appointed Head of Kremlin Staff: Official

Deputy Russian Prime Minister and one-time presidential hopeful Sergei Ivanov, a close ally of Vladimir Putin, has been appointed the Kremlin chief of staff, Kremlin spokeswoman Natalia Timakova. “(President Dmitry) Medvedev has appointed Sergei Ivanov as the head of his administration,” Natalia Timakova told AFP.

The appointment marks a significant promotion for the 58-year-old former KGB officer, who is believed to be a member of Putin’s inner circle and comes as the Russian strongman is planning to reclaim his old Kremlin job in March presidential elections. Many observers had considered Ivanov the top candidate for the 2008 presidency before then president Putin had to step down after a maximum two consecutive terms and publicly endorsed Medvedev’s candidacy.

Top Kremlin idealogue and deputy chief of staff Vladislav Surkov had been appointed to the job earlier this month on a temporary basis. The move also comes after the Russian lower house of parliament on Wednesday approved the candiadacy of Sergei Naryshkin — another Putin ally believed to have a KGB past — to the job of speaker.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Far East

China Buys Stake in Portuguese Energy Company

China Three Gorges Corp. beat competitors Thursday to a 21.35 percent state in Energias de Portugal (EDP), paying 2.7 billion euros as debt-stricken Portugal sells assets to bolster state coffers. “The cabinet has chosen China Three Gorges to acquire 21.35 percent of the capital of EDP… for 2.7 billion euros,” Treasury Secretary Maria Albuquerque said after a government meeting.

China Three Gorges, which operates the world’s biggest hydro-electric dam of the same name, beat Germany’s EON and Brazilian firms Eletrobras and Cemig to become the single biggest shareholder in power generator EDP after Spain’s Iberdrola which holds 6.79 percent. The Portuguese government has been progressively reducing its stake in EDP since 1997 to leave it with 25 percent which it has promised to sell off in an effort to bolster the state coffers.

The privatisation programme comes in return for an EU and International Monetary Fund debt bailout for Portugal worth 78 billion euros ($102 billion) agreed earlier this year. The government has also committed to sell electric grid operator REN and national carrier TAP, aiming to raise some 5.0 billion euros to help ease the strain on the public finances.

China has been a major buyer of overseas assets to back its growth drive at home but it has also said it would help the eurozone overcome its debt problems. Last month, China’s giant refiner Sinopec paid $3.54 billion for a 30 percent stake in the Brazilian unit of Portuguese oil giant Galp Energia.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Chinese Wines Beat French at Own Game

[10:25:23 AM] Baron 2: French wine growers had their finely trained noses put out of joint when they were trounced by a group of Chinese wines in a blind tasting.

The event, which took place in Beijing, lined up five French wines against five from China.

To guarantee fair play, the judges were made up of five French and five Chinese wine experts.

Four wines from the north-western Ningxia region of China beat all the wines from Bordeaux, France’s most famous wine area.

The first placed wine was a cabernet sauvignon from the Grace Vineyard Chairman’s reserve.

It was left to a 2009 Lafite Saga from the Medoc area of Bordeaux to restore Gallic pride in fifth place.

The event was reminiscent of a similar contest in 1976 between French and American wines. Known as the Judgement of Paris, there was dismay in France when Californian wines beat their French opposition.

“The Ningxia region has huge potential,” said Nathalie Sibille, a Bordeaux specialist quoted in daily newspaper 20 Minutes.

“People will have to change their opinion of Chinese wines,” added one member of the jury, Fiona Sun.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Korean-Made Submarine to be Built on Indonesian Soil

South Korea clinched a $1.1 billion deal to supply three submarines to Indonesia, beating tenders from France, Germany and Russia, because its offer included technology transfer, authorities said Thursday. “South Korea has advanced technology and they are open to a technology transfer, while the other countries in the tender were only focused on selling the submarines,” defence ministry spokesman Hartind Asrin told AFP.

South Korea won the tender Tuesday over France, Germany and Russia, according to the ministry, in its largest-ever weapons export deal. It will allow Indonesian company Penataran Angkatan Laut (PAL) to observe how the vessels are built and to assemble the third in Indonesia. “Under the contract, two submarines will be built in South Korea and the third one will be built at PALs facilities in Surabaya in East Java,” Asrin said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Wukan Settled, Haimen Still on the Boil: Protests in China

Protests against a planned power plant continued for a second day in the town of Haimen in southern China, where Wukan village, the scene of a recent 10-day stand-off between villagers and authorities, is also situated. Residents of Haimen surrounded a government building and blocked an expressway on Tuesday in their protest against a planned second coal-fired power plant within a kilometer of an already existing one which the residents say is polluting air and seawater and reducing the catch of the fishermen at sea.

According to the official Chinese Xinhua news agency, several hundred people gathered for protests on a highway on Wednesday. Hong Kong’s Ming Pao newspaper reported that more than 1,000 protesters had gathered at a toll gate to confront hundreds of riot police. Xinhua reported that police fired four rounds of tear gas shells and beat up the protesters. At least three protesters had been hit and then arrested, the agency reported. A local official confirmed to Reuters by telephone on Thursday that there had been no injuries or deaths.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Dutch Cabinet Wants Marines on UN Ships

Dutch marines will soon accompany UN food transports destined for Somalia. Sources in The Hague have told broadsheet that the heavily armed marines are to provide protection against pirates. The proposal will be discussed in Friday’s weekly cabinet meeting.

The first contingent of marines is to board a UN ship in January. The new mission means fewer marines will be available for the special teams currently involved in the protection of Dutch merchant shipping off Somalia. The marines would initially be deployed for a six-month period. It is not clear how many marines would be involved.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Latin America

New Festive Television Choices: Muslim Channels in Spanish

Iranian and Saudi stations begin vying for audiences in Spain and Latin America

Christmas time marks the arrival of Islamic television in Spain. Two satellite stations in Spanish, one broadcasting from Iran and the other from Saudi Arabia, will begin airing on December 21 and January 1, respectively. Both will offer round-the-clock programming for Spanish and Latin American audiences through the Hispasat satellite, industry sources say.

Córdoba Televisión is owned by the Foundation for the Message of Islam, presided by Sheikh Abdulaziz Al Fawzan and backed by the Saudi royal family. At first, programming will fill up eight hours a day and this segment will be repeated three times. Reports, documentaries and religion-based talk shows will make up the bulk of the content.

In order to put the programs together, the sheikh’s aides hired around 50 people, mostly Spaniards who have converted to Islam but also a few professionals from the private networks Antena 3 and Telecinco, who were lured by the hefty paychecks. There are also small teams in Argentina and Colombia, the countries with the largest Muslim minorities in Latin America.

Sheikh Al Fawzan has spent years disseminating Wahhabism, the ultraconservative interpretation of Islam that is practiced in Saudi Arabia. He personally delivers his harangues on Al Ikhtariya, a Saudi station, and on Al Majd, a station from the UAE. In his impassioned speeches, he holds that Muslims need to profess “a positive hatred” of Christians, and he also justifies the marginalization of women in his country.

A professor of Islamic theology at Imam Mohammed Ibn Saud University, Al Fawzan is also a member of the Sharia Oversight Committee and of the Human Rights Committee, an agency at the service of the Saudi regime.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Minister Told He Will Face Potential Arrest for Reading Christmas Story From the Bible at Capitol Christmas Tree

WASHINGTON, Dec. 21, 2011 /Christian Newswire/ — Rev. Patrick Mahoney to read the Christmas Story at the Capitol Tree on Thursday, December 22, at 12:00 P.M.

The Capitol Christmas Tree is located on the West Lawn of the United States Capitol Building.

Rev. Mahoney met with Capitol Police officials telling them of his plans to sing Christmas Carols, read the Christmas story, pray for peace, justice and religious freedom, hold a small 5 inch Nativity Display and pray for political leaders at the Capitol Christmas Tree.

Police officials told him some of his activities may be prohibited or constitute an illegal demonstration.

Rev. Mahoney contacted his attorney, Jim Henderson Senior Counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice, who in turn called the Office of General Counsel for the Capitol Police on Tuesday, December, 21.

After talking with the Assistant General Counsel for the Capitol Police, Mr. Henderson sent Rev. Mahoney this email:

“Your use of the Bible or the ornament (Nativity Scene) would convert your activity, in the view of the Capitol Police, into a prohibited demonstration. If you failed to discontinue that activity on police direction you would be risking ticketing or arrest.”

Rev. Mahoney told Capitol Police officials he would still read the Christmas Story and hold the Nativity Display on Thursday even if it meant arrest or citation…

           — Hat tip: Janet Levy[Return to headlines]


I’ll Put Millions of People on Mars, Says Elon Musk

The swashbuckling SpaceX founder says that he can get to Mars on a shoestring within 20 years — thanks to the fully reusable rockets he’s determined to build

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

NASA Probe Snaps Close-Up Photos of Giant Asteroid

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has taken its first close-up images of the giant asteroid Vesta, revealing the space rock in a wealth of new detail. Dawn recently entered its lowest orbit yet around the rock, which lies in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. The cozy orbit is allowing the spacecraft to observe new details about a body that scientists think could have been a planet, had things developed differently.

Small grooves, lines and dimples along Vesta’s surface are revealed in the new photos, potentially giving astronomers clues about the space rock’s history, as well as the history of the solar system as a whole. The asteroid is covered in craters from impacts of smaller asteroids in the crowded debris field where it orbits.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Anonymous said...

"In particular, it will allow non-Muslims to explore the one aspect of Islamic practice and faith which they are not able to witness, but which plays such a major part in forming a worldwide Islamic consciousness."


Why are non-Muslims 'not able' to witness the Hajj?

Could it be 'racism' against Christians, Jews, Hindus or atheists - or Infidelapobia?!

Anonymous said...

"In particular, it will allow non-Muslims to explore the one aspect of Islamic practice and faith which they are not able to witness, but which plays such a major part in forming a worldwide Islamic consciousness."


Why are non-Muslims 'not able' to witness the Hajj?

Could it be 'racism' against Christians, Jews, Hindus or atheists - or Infidelapobia?!

Anonymous said...

"“Your use of the Bible or the ornament (Nativity Scene) would convert your activity, in the view of the Capitol Police, into a prohibited demonstration. If you failed to discontinue that activity on police direction you would be risking ticketing or arrest.”"

As I recall, Muslim groups have participated in mass prayers on the grounds of the Capitol.

Muslim Prayer Day Sept 25

Atlas Shrugs on Islam on Capitol Hill