Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20111230

Financial Crisis
»Delusions of the Euro Zone: The Lies That Europe’s Politicians Tell Themselves
»Euro Falls Below 100 Japanese Yen
»Italy: Leaders Having ‘Trouble’ With Crisis, Says Napolitano
»Italy: Fees for Public Services Greatly Outpace Inflation
»Italy: Energy Bills to Go Up in 2012
»Major Dubai Companies ‘May Need Bail-Outs’
»Monti Says Italy Not Following Greece
»Monti Calls for Boost to Eurozone Bail-Out Firepower
»Swiss Face New Year of Economic Uncertainty
»Caroline Glick: Obama’s Foreign Policy Spin
»Mosque and Cultural Center Moves to Gateway Business Park
Europe and the EU
»Bishop Against Greek Parliament’s Mosque Building Bill
»Cyprus Discovers Gas at First Search
»Denmark to Battle for European Unity
»First Ship Leaves Holland to Collect Waste in Naples
»France: Woman in Coma After Violent Rape Attack
»France: Petrol Sales Limited to Cut New Year Car Torchings
»Scotland: ‘We Were Sacked for Being White and Christian’, Claim Principal and His Wife Dismissed From Dubai-Backed ‘Multicultural’ College
»Snow Halts Truck Traffic at Mt Blanc Tunnel
»Sweden: Life Sentence for Malmö Bouncer Murder
»Sweden: Suspected Khat Smuggler Crashes After Car Chase
»UK: Exeter Mosque: A Testament to Religious Harmony in UK
»UK: Ken Livingstone’s Running Mate Attacks His Misjudgement on Islamic Extremism
»UK: Murdered Woman Dumped in Canal Had Month-Old Baby
North Africa
»Egyptian Bishop Warns of Another Massacre in Nag Hammadi
»Egypt: Cairo Raids Create Climate of Fear for Civil Organizations
»German Companies Ready to Seize Business Opportunities in Libya
»How UK Feared and Fawned Over Mubarak
»Moroccan Activists See Little Hope for Gender Policy Reforms
»Tunisia: Islamists Now Focussing on Tourism
Israel and the Palestinians
»The Grand Mosque in Beersheba is Now a “Judaisation Museum”
»The Ultra-Orthodox in Israel: A Clash of Cultures in the Holy Land
Middle East
»Iran to Start Missile Tests in the Persian Gulf
»Is 2012 the Year Israel Will Bomb Iran?
»Israel Cancels Military Contract With Turkey
»Pro: No Reason to Fear the Democratic Experiment
»Turkish Prime Minister Apologizes for Deadly Airstrike
»UAE: Dubai Experience Overwhelms Recardo Kaka
»Will Israel Strike at Iran’s Nuclear Facility in 2012?
South Asia
»Man in Afghan Uniform Kills French Soldiers
Far East
»Japan’s Premier Pushes for Stronger Economic Ties With India
»‘Violent Terrorists’ Shot Dead in Northwestern China
Sub-Saharan Africa
»EU Seeks to Expand Anti-Piracy Mission in Somalia
»Hijacked Italian Crew ‘Fine’ Says Captain
»‘Nigeria Could Get Worse Than Iraq’
»Nigeria Attacks Highlight Global Problems Faced by Christians
Latin America
»Chile: Scientists Test Tech for Mission to Saturn Moon Titan
»From Fidel Castro to Hugo Chavez: With Great Power Comes Truly Great Paranoia
»Exclusive: Interpol Chief — Close EU Border Loophole or Risk Attack
»France Makes it Harder to Become French
»At the Earth’s Core, Secrets Slowly Emerge

Financial Crisis

Delusions of the Euro Zone: The Lies That Europe’s Politicians Tell Themselves

Since its inception, the euro zone has been built on lies, the most grievous of which is the idea that the common currency could work without political union. But Europe’s politicians are currently suffering under a different but equally fatal delusion — that they have all the time in the world to fix the crisis.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Euro Falls Below 100 Japanese Yen

Lowest point in a decade

(ANSA) — Rome, December 30 — The euro fell below 100 Japanese yen for the first time since June 2001 on renewed concern about Europe’s economic crisis.

On the eve of its 10th anniversary, the 17-nation currency also dropped against the US dollar as Moody’s described Italy’s latest Treasury bond auction as “disappointing”.

The euro weakened against the yen for the fifth consecutive day and was trading at 100.05 late morning.

Moody’s released a statement after Thursday’s bond auction raised only 7 billion euros, well below the target of 8.5 billion euros.

The Wall Street ratings agency’s comments came as the euro currency fell to its lowest level against the dollar in 15 months.

Premier Mario Monti on Thursday called for an expanded European bailout fund to help arrest the eurozone’s debt crisis after the auction.

Moody’s said despite an injection of funds from the European Central Bank that had lowered short-term spreads, long-term bonds would remain under considerable pressure in 2012

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Leaders Having ‘Trouble’ With Crisis, Says Napolitano

‘Need for a new balance’, says president

(ANSA) — Rome, December 29 — European leaders appear to be having “great trouble” dealing with the economic challenges of globalisation, President Giorgio Napolitano said on Thursday.

In a letter published in the Italian daily La Repubblica, Napolitano said European countries had reached an important historical point and he called for more courage in dealing with what he called a “critical phase” of globalisation.

“European leaders appear to be having great trouble reaching that goal,” Napolitano said in the letter to be published in the monthly magazine Reset.

“Particularly acute for reformists today is the need to find a new balance between economic and social policies,” the president said.

He said with the “urgent euro crisis” European leadership today appeared to be “glaringly inadequate due to a general cultural slowdown and impoverishment of democratic political life”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Fees for Public Services Greatly Outpace Inflation

Water costs 70% more than in 2000, study finds

(ANSA) — Venice, December 29 — Fees for public services in Italy have greatly outpaced inflation since 2000, according to a new study released Thursday. In little more than a decade, water bills have risen nationally by more than 70% and trash collection by more than 60%, said CGIA, the Mestre-based association of artisans and small-business owners. The rising costs are out of synch with inflation, which grew 27.1% in the same period.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Energy Bills to Go Up in 2012

Average family to spend extra 54 euros

(ANSA) — Rome, December 30 — Italians will be paying more bills in 2012, according to a report released Friday. Starting in January, electricity costs will rise by 4.9% and gas by 2.7%, Italy’s energy authority said.

According to the latest quarterly update, the average Italian family will spend 54 more euros on its energy bills next year — 22 more for electricity and 32 for gas.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Major Dubai Companies ‘May Need Bail-Outs’

Some of Dubai’s biggest companies will need state-funded bail-outs in 2012 if large-scale defaults are to be avoided, Standard & Poor’s (S&P) has warned.

The credit rating agency has said that five conglomerates, including Dubai’s financial services zone’s investment arm and the main electricity and water company, will “struggle” to service their vast debt piles by themselves. In a note S&P said that the five Dubai government-related entities (GREs) it rates are “up against significant risks from the weakening global economic outlook, the Arab Spring, and the volatile equity and bond markets.” The agency added: “These risks have raised concerns as GREs face large debt maturities and refinancing needs in 2012.”

The fears will compound the outlook for global banks, some of which have a high exposure to Dubai debt. The emirate’s total debt load is about $119.8bn (£77.7bn), according to a report by Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Some $15bn needs to be repaid or refinanced in 2012, according to the bank. The Dubai Electricity and Water Authority is at “very high” risk of needing extraordinary government support, the rating agency said. DIFC Investments, the investment arm of the Dubai International Financial Centre, is at “high” risk.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Monti Says Italy Not Following Greece

‘We have stopped heading that way’, says PM

(ANSA) — Rome, December 29 — Premier Mario Monti said Italy was not following Greece’s economic demise despite its love of the country.

Addressing journalists at his end-of-year media conference, Monti stressed that Italy was taking a different direction after the passage of the government’s 30-billion-euro emergency package.

“We are very close to Greece but we are not heading in a south-east direction,” Monti quipped.

“We have stopped heading in that direction and we have engaged powerful currents flying from the Aegean towards the north-west heading for Brussels.

“We are so far from Greece, a country that we regard with great affection”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Monti Calls for Boost to Eurozone Bail-Out Firepower

Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti has called for a boost to the size of the eurozone bail-out fund following a mixed response to a series of bond auctions by Rome. The technocratic leader that replaced Silvio Berlusconi last month told reporters on Thursday that the war-chest of the European Financial Stability Facility need to be “significantly greater” than at present.

He said that for peripheral eurozone states to enjoy more successful bond sales, “most of the work needs to be done in Europe.” He also underlined the need for a “united, joint and convincing response.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Swiss Face New Year of Economic Uncertainty

Financial experts are forecasting a difficult year for Switzerland, with growth remaining sluggish, consumer prices dropping, and the performance of the economy largely dependent on international trends. The Swiss economy is expected to experience only slight growth in the coming year, with gross domestic product (GDP) growth estimates ranging from 0.2 to 0.5 percent.

The economic slowdown will also have an effect on the job market. Research collated from several institutions predicts a rise in unemployment from the current 3 percent to 3.7 percent. The Federal Council is more pessimistic and has warned that the official rate of unemployment will rise to 3.9 percent by the end of 2012, a figure that could increase still further if the eurozone fails to cure its financial woes.

Manufacturing industries, such as paper, printing and textiles, will be hit hardest, although job cuts are also expected in the financial sector. Industries struggling with a fall-off in demand and the impact of a strong franc will also see staff numbers reduced. These include retail businesses, the catering trade and makers of industrial machinery, Alexis Bill-Körber from BAK Basel Economics told the Tages Anzeiger newspaper.

The construction industry, by contrast, is not expected to suffer. The same goes for the watch-making industry, thanks primarily to exceptional sales in Asia.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Caroline Glick: Obama’s Foreign Policy Spin

In recent months, a curious argument has surfaced in favor of US President Barack Obama. His supporters argue that Obama’s foreign policy has been a massive success. If he had as much freedom of action in domestic affairs as he has in foreign affairs, they say, his achievements in all areas would be without peer.

Expressing this view, Karen Finney, a former Democratic spokeswoman who often defends the party in the US media, told The Huffington Post, “Look at the progress the president can make when he doesn’t have Republicans obstructing him.”

According to a Gallup poll from early November, the US public also believes that Obama’s foreign policy has been successful. Whereas 67 percent of Americans disapproved of Obama’s handling of the economy and the federal budget deficit, 63% of Americans approved of his terrorism strategy. So, too, 52% approved of his decision to remove US forces from Iraq. In general, 49% of Americans approved of Obama’s handling of foreign affairs while 44% disapproved.

These support levels tell us a great deal about the insularity of the American public. For when one assesses the impact to date of Obama’s foreign policy it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that if the US public was more aware of the actual consequences of his policies, his approval rating in foreign affairs would be even lower than his approval rating in domestic policy…

           — Hat tip: Caroline Glick[Return to headlines]

Mosque and Cultural Center Moves to Gateway Business Park

An office building fronting Interstate 35 will have an atypical tenant come 2012: Dar-us-Salam Cultural Center will be relocating to Gateway Business Park. The center is currently housed at an address on West 128th Street, according to multiple online listings of Islamic worship places. City staffers say the current building does not conform to the city’s fire and safety regulations regarding large gatherings. According to a memo from city staff to the council, building officials have been involved in a lengthy enforcement process with the center, which should be resolved by the proposed move. The Burnsville City Council approved the request for a conditional use permit on Dec. 20. The new location at 603 West Travelers Trail is equipped with a sprinkler system and is designed to address the necessary life safety requirements. The 5,200 square foot space leased by Kraus Anderson will also have ample space for the Muslim cong regation — which ranges in size from 50 to 120 people. The space will be able to accommodate classrooms, group prayer, and offices.

Officials at Dar-us-Salam did not respond to requests for comment.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Bishop Against Greek Parliament’s Mosque Building Bill

According to the Greek press, Greek Orthodox Bishop Metropolitan Seraphim of Piraeus appealed to the Council of State to withdraw a Greek bill that would allow the building of a mosque in the capital city, Athens. Known for his far-right views, Seraphim described the bill as an anti-Christian move and a disrespect to Christian martyrs, although it is billed as democratic move. In the previous years, there were talks of building a mosque in Athens. However, no steps were taken as the previous governments’ ministers were mainly right-wingers. This year a bill which asked for an old building in the Votanikos region of Athens to be converted into a place of worship for Muslims passed through the Greek parliament.

Recently, the historic Recep Paþa mosque, which was built on the Greek island of Rhodes during the Ottoman era, collapsed last week. Following the collapse of two of the four main pillars, the entire structure collapsed, the Anatolia news agency reported. Kyriakos Magos, an architect working for the Rhodes municipality who oversees renovation projects of the island’s historic buildings, said the mosque had deficiencies in its structure and was supported by piers for a long time, before the collapse.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Cyprus Discovers Gas at First Search

Cyprus Wednesday there could be up to 8 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in the offshore field it is currently exploring. The find could make the island self-sufficient in the commodity for decades. “New favourable economic prospects have opened for the future of the country,” President Demetris Christofia said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Denmark to Battle for European Unity

Denmark takes over the six-month EU rotating presidency on Sunday (1 January), kicking off what is expected to be another traumatic year for the eurozone and its single currency. Like all presidency countries, Denmark has a specific to-do list, but the eurozone crisis means that its most pressing task will be political in nature: ensuring that euro and non-euro states do not drift apart.

Not being a member of the single currency means that politically it is already on the back-foot however. Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, one of the few centre-left politicians in the European Union, had a taste of what this means during her first EU summit in December.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

First Ship Leaves Holland to Collect Waste in Naples

(AGI) Naples — The first Dutch ship will soon dock in Naples to collect and return to Holland waste to be burned in an incinerator as established by an agreement with the company AVR .

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

France: Woman in Coma After Violent Rape Attack

A 29-year-old Paris woman is still in a coma on Friday after she was violently attacked by a rapist in her home who stabbed her nineteen times. Daily newspaper Le Parisien reported that the woman was heading home at around 9pm on Friday 23rd December after spending the evening with her boyfriend. She became frightened when she realised she was being followed and walked quickly to the building where she lives in the rue Saint-Amand in the largely residential 15th arrondissement.

Metro newspaper reported that the man then managed to force his way into her studio apartment. “The young woman was thrown into her studio where the man raped her,” said a source close to the inquiry, reported Metro. “She couldn’t do anything. The man then got out his knife and stabbed her nineteen times, leaving her for dead.” The woman managed to find her way to the building’s caretaker who called the emergency services. She was taken to the Pitié-Salpétrière hospital in southern Paris and was able to tell police what had happened before she fell into a coma.

“This could very well be a serial rapist,” said the same source. “The police have found elements that establish a link between several crimes committed in the capital where the culprits have still not been identified.” Police are studying video surveillance footage from cameras along the route the young woman took on her way home.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

France: Petrol Sales Limited to Cut New Year Car Torchings

Sales of petrol and other combustibles will be limited on New Year’s Eve in a bid to curb what has become an annual tradition of revellers torching hundreds of cars, police said. Youths in the often depressed suburbs of French cities have been torching hundreds of vehicles on New Year’s Eve since the early 1990s in what police say has become a competition to see which area can cause the most damage.

Police last year said they would no longer release figures for the number of vehicles set on fire to put an end to the “competition and ranking” that had emerged, with more than 1,000 vehicles being torched every year. In a police circular seen by AFP, Interior Minister Claude Gueant urged security forces to “mobilise with the greatest vigilance” for the New Year’s Eve celebrations on Saturday. Instructions sent with the circular said local security forces should take all measures necessary including “restricting retail sales of petrol.”

In Paris, where tens of thousands are expected to gather for the annual celebration on the Champs Elysées, police have banned the sale of “domestic combustibles” such as lighter fuel from Wednesday to Monday. Alcohol sales have also been banned around the Champs Elysées on New Year’s Eve.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Scotland: ‘We Were Sacked for Being White and Christian’, Claim Principal and His Wife Dismissed From Dubai-Backed ‘Multicultural’ College

A principal and his wife have been sacked from a college whose stated aim is to promote multiculturalism because they are white Christians, they claim.

Professor Malory Nye, 47, says he was dismissed from the Al-Maktoum College of Higher Education in Dundee, Scotland, because his race and religion were seen by his superiors as a threat to its core Muslim values.

He says the college’s claims to pursuing multicultural values were a charade and that he was dismissed so he could be replaced by a Muslim.

His wife Isabel Campbell-Nye, 42, alleges she was forced from her position as head of the English language centre because she attracted too many students who were not Muslims or Arabs.

The independent college, whose patron is Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, the Deputy Ruler of Dubai, advertises itself as a research-led institution ‘that promotes a greater understanding of different religions and cultures in a multicultural context, for the benefit of the wider community’.

The couple are taking the college to an employment tribunal claiming racial and religious discrimination, and unfair dismissal.

Mrs Campbell-Nye is also claiming sex discrimination after she was suspended and later dismissed apparently because she is married to Prof Nye.

The couple, from Perth, were marched off the college grounds in June and have not been allowed to return since.

They claim they were given no reason for their suspensions and were dismissed in November despite no evidence of any wrongdoing.

The couple have also lodged grievances against the chancellor of the College Lord Elder — a Labour peer and close friend of former Prime Minister Gordon Brown — for his handling of what they describe as a ‘sham’ disciplinary process.

Prof Nye and his wife began working at the college eight and four years ago respectively, choosing to marry on the campus last year.

However, they believe their attempts at pushing it in a more cosmopolitan direction angered their superiors. Prof Nye said his suspension came just days after he changed the college’s name from the ‘Al-Maktoum Institute for Arabic and Islamic studies’.

The couple allege that Abubaker Abubaker, the director of operations, and Mirza al-Sayegh, chairman of its board of directors and private secretary to the Sheikh, decided to force them out because they were British, white and Christian.

Prof Nye told the Telegraph: ‘It is clear to me that there is collusion between these two individuals that I should be removed from my position on the basis that I am not an Arab and not a Muslim and that the person who has the role of principal should be Arab and/or Muslim.

‘Multiculturalism and respect for cultural and religious differences are, I had thought, core values of the college.

‘However, I believe that such inclusive multiculturalism no longer fits the particular type of multicultural vision of certain managers and the chairman, that is accepting of different cultures, so long as the majority of students are Muslims and/or Arabs and the ethos is distinctly Islamic.

‘My face and lack of Muslim faith no longer fit.’

Mrs Campbell-Nye says Mr Abubaker also wanted her removed from her position because she had attracted too many European and Asian students, who weren’t Muslim, to her English course at the college, which receives no public funding.

She said: ‘Some are from Arab and other Muslim backgrounds. However, a substantial number are from other parts of the world and other cultures.

‘I believe Mr Abubaker does not feel happy with us recruiting students from these backgrounds as it does not fit the particular multicultural vision he has for English language.

‘The only times Mr Abubaker has encouraged me to bring in students to English language are when they are Arabs or Muslims.

‘I believe that Mr Abubaker’s discrimination against me, because I am not Muslim, I am not Arab, and I am also a woman — and because I have brought a number of non Muslim/non-Arab students to the college — is a significant reason for my suspension.’

Despite a waiting list for places on its English language courses, the college closed the department last month, leaving its two remaining tutors redundant at Christmas.

The college, which operates as a charity in partnership with the University of Aberdeen, advertises in its prospectus that ‘multiculturalism is at the centre of our vision and structure’.

‘Our multicultural ethos is visibly translated and implemented in our day-to-day operation. Our staff and students come from diverse national, cultural and religious backgrounds including Muslims and non-Muslims,’ it says.

A spokesman for the college said: ‘We can confirm that we have been notified that Employment Tribunal proceedings have been raised in the name of Professor Malory Nye and his wife, Isabel Campbell-Nye.

‘The College, an independent, not-for-profit charity, places diversity, religious pluralism and multiculturalism firmly at the core of its Higher Education programmes — and its day-to-day activities,’ the spokesman said.

‘The Al-Maktoum College will vigorously defend its reputation as a centre of excellence within the higher dducation sector and the good name it has won over the last ten years here in Dundee, nationally and internationally.

‘Professor Nye was dismissed from his post as Principal at the College following a period of suspension on full pay and an inquiry conducted by the College Chancellor.

‘Contingency plans were put in place to ensure the continued smooth running of the College.

‘We are in consultation with our team of legal advisers and, as a result, we are not in a position to discuss the matter further at this stage.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Snow Halts Truck Traffic at Mt Blanc Tunnel

Bad weather sweeps across northern Italy

(ANSA) — Aosta, December 30 — Heavy snow halted truck traffic through the Mt Blanc tunnel between Italy and France Friday.

Cars were still being let through the 11.6 km tunnel linking Chamonix in Haute-Savoie and Courmayeur in Val d’Aosta, which takes a third of road freight between the two countries.

A wave of snow and rain hit northern Italy Thursday and is expected to sweep down into central parts over the weekend.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Life Sentence for Malmö Bouncer Murder

A 25-year-old member of the infamous criminal gang Brödraskapet (‘The Brotherhood’) has been sentenced to life in prison for killing a man outside an illegal night club in Malmö last summer. Three witnesses identified the 25-year-old as the murderer of the 35-year-old bouncer who had barred the man from entering the club, reported the local newspaper Sydsvenskan. In the early hours of July 10, the 25-year-old member of the infamous criminal gang Brödraskapet tried to enter the club’s private party together with some friends.

The 35-year-old bouncer refused to allow the group to enter club, prompting a fight to break out. The victim was beaten, kicked and kneed before finally being stabbed with a 22-centimetre long knife, which cut into a major artery, according to Sydsvenskan. He later died at hospital.

The 25-year-old and his friends ran from the scene of the crime, but were apprehended by police in a nearby park soon thereafter, where the 25-year-old was found to have the victim’s blood on his clothes. According to Sydsvenskan, the man attempted to rig witness reports in his favour during the trial, by sending letters with directions for his relatives. This tactic was unveiled when the letters were confiscated.

Malmö’s district court found testimony from the three witnesses identifying the 25-year-old as the killer highly credible, and Thursday’s conviction led to a prison life sentence. The Brödraskapet gang was founded on May 1995 by inmates at the maximum security prison in Kumla in central Sweden and is considered to be one of Sweden’s most feared organized criminal gangs.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Suspected Khat Smuggler Crashes After Car Chase

A man believed to be carrying 200 kilogrammes of the amphetamine-like substance khat in his car crashed into a guardrail after trying to flee Swedish customs officials at the Öresund bridge on Friday morning. The man approached a customs checkpoint at 4.50am on Friday morning, but when the officials tried to check his car, he instead stepped on the gas and sped off. Customs officers alerted police, who then gave chase after the man. After a few kilometres, however, the man crashed at high speed into a railing on the wrong side of a roundabout.

“For some reason he did not stop. The person in question is in hospital and has not yet been interviewed,” customs officer Bo Fredriksson told news agency TT. Upon inspecting the man’s car after the accident, police discovered it to contain copious amounts of the drug khat. “We have established that the type of drug discovered is khat, but we cannot say exactly how much was in the car,” said the Skåne police spokesperson Helena Ralmark told the Aftonbladet newspaper.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: Exeter Mosque: A Testament to Religious Harmony in UK

The little room used as a mosque in Exeter back in 1975 has grown and expanded into a beautiful mosque and Islamic cultural center to cater to the increasing number of Muslims in that sleepy university town in southwest England.

The story of the Exeter Mosque is probably the story of every mosque across the UK. Professor Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, the secretary-general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), talks about that with fondness. In 1975, he came to Exeter as a young faculty member in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Exeter. When he asked around for a place to pray for Muslims he found none despite there being a number of Muslims. So he and a group of Muslim students were given a prayer room in the Students’ Guild. They started with 5 people in their congregation that gradually increased to 20, 40, 60 and even Muslims from neighboring towns joined them. In Eid, they had to find a large plot of land to hold the huge number. At that time the Muslim community in Exeter was small. They were mainly shopkeepers, restaurant owners and university students. They came together and decided to establish the Islamic center for the southwest and created a committee to work on establi shing the center. Ihsanoglu was the president of that committee. “I still have with me a copy of the minutes of that meeting which took place in December 1976,” Ihsanoglu said. They started raising funds for the center, and even though he left back to Turkey in 1977, Ihsanoglu was happy to come a year later for the opening of the center when a house had been purchased and converted into the Islamic centre of the southwest.

Thirty years later, as the space became insufficient, the Muslims in Exeter wanted to raise funds to build a mosque. Planning permission was granted in 2000 but raising funds was hampered and construction stalled after the terrorist attacks of 9/11 in New York and 7/7 in London. Ihsanoglu contacted Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al-Qasimi, ruler of Sharjah, who generously provided funding that enabled the construction work to proceed. Imam Mohammed Abrar said he hoped it would attract thousands of Muslims and increase the understanding of Islam in the wider community. The Muslim community in Exeter and other places in Britain has grown and prospered over the years. They have become successful businessmen, academics and community leaders and reached the highest levels of government. “I believe that centers like this in Exeter can serve as a role model for community harmony and cohesion both here and abroad and deserves our support,” said Ihsanoglu at the opening ceremony of the ne w and expanded Exeter Mosque and Cultural Centre recently.

Lord Mayor of Exeter Stella Brock acknowledged that the journey of Muslims has not been easy in the past ten years, post 9/11, but there is a need to move forward. “It is a testament to your faith and dedication,” she said at the opening ceremony. She expressed appreciation of the Muslim community and called for respect of different religions and cultures. Martyn Goss, the Director of Council for Church and Society (Diocese of Exeter) welcomed Muslims and said he was looking forward to continue working closely with them.

The Imam of the mosque and some Muslim youths spoke about the role and importance of the center in the life of Muslims there. It was more than just a space to pray, they said.

[JP note: More than just a space to pray — they can say that again.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Ken Livingstone’s Running Mate Attacks His Misjudgement on Islamic Extremism

Ken Livingstone’s mayoral running-mate, Val Shawcross, yesterday denounced Ken’s support for the Muslim extremist, Yusuf al-Qaradawi, as a “misjudgment” and a “mistake” and criticised Ken for “not apologising sooner” for the “stupid and unpleasant things” he said to Oliver Finegold, the Jewish journalist he likened to a “concentration camp guard.”

Ms Shawcross confirmed to me today that she had said the remarks, to a mayoral hustings at a Jewish conference at Warwick University. It’s a very interesting development. My first thought was whether it could possibly be preparing the ground for a new approach by Ken, to try to reduce some of the huge cluster of negatives that surround him by admitting that he was wrong. It would be unprecedented, if so — and it does not seem to be the case.

Ms Shawcross told me that her remarks had not been discussed with Ken. “It was a Q&A. I didn’t discuss a script with Ken, I didn’t discuss the hustings at all [with him] apart from who would attend,” she says. “I was speaking in my capacity as a London Assembly member.”Ken’s links with Muslim extremists are one of his most disturbing features. As mayor he channelled hundreds of thousands of pounds to a hardline mosque run by the Islamic extremist group, the IFE, and in return benefited from some, shall we say, interesting help from them at the 2008 election. Last year he campaigned against his own party in order to back the IFE’s candidate for mayor of Tower Hamlets, Lutfur Rahman.

Ken also continues to defend Qaradawi, who has cost him support among liberals, gay people, Jews, feminists and democrats. As recently as March, he told questioners who raised the issue at a campaign event in strongly-Jewish Barnet that “you shouldn’t smear a man you haven’t met. I met Sheikh Qaradawi. Am I to believe the Daily Mail rather than what I hear a man say with his own voice? Here was Sheikh Qaradawi saying, not just to me in private but the audience he addressed in City Hall and then to Paxman on Newsnight: No-one should discriminate against a homosexual. No man should physically assault his wife.”

I don’t know about the Mail. But the good Sheikh did tell that well-known tool of the right-wing lie machine, the Guardian, that he supported a husband’s right to “lightly” beat his wife, and that homosexuality was “a clash between morality and immorality.” In his own book , The Lawful and Prohibited in Islam, not published by Associated Newspapers as far as I know, Qaradawi has reiterated his views on wife-beating and called for gay people to be killed. And Ken unfortunately forgot to mention that among Yusuf’s other statements on Newsnight was strong support for suicide bombings against Israeli civilians. He has also defended rape, saying that “to be absolved from guilt, the raped woman must have shown some sort of good conduct.”

It is not the first time Shawcross has shown a clearer understanding than Ken himself of where his interests lie: last year, after her adoption as Ken’s official deputy, she fired a little shot across the great man’s bows over the Lee Jasper fiasco. “Ken didn’t attend to the nature and performance of his team as much as he should have last time,” she said. Ken, of course, continues to defend Jasper — even claiming, absurdly, that he has been “exonerated.” If Ken is to be diverted from his suicide trajectory, he must apologise and admit his mistakes himself. That still looks highly unlikely. In the meantime, it’s come to something when you are criticised by even your own running-mate.

Update: Ken’s spokesman has contacted me to say that Ken is “very relaxed about Val’s comments.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Murdered Woman Dumped in Canal Had Month-Old Baby

A Christian convert whose body was found dumped in a canal on Christmas morning was the mother of a month-old baby boy, it has emerged.

Ruby Love, 23, from Harrow, North London was found by a dog walker in the Grand Union Canal in Southall, West London, by a dog walker shortly before midday on Sunday.

Manzar Juma, 27, the father of two of her children, was charged by police with her murder. He is understood to be Muslim and unemployed. He is due to appear in court on Friday.

Miss Love was born Rabina Malik into a Sikh family but her mother changed the family’s names by deed poll in 2003. They attend a nearby Catholic church, she said.

She had three chilrden, a girl, nine, and two boys, Adam, two, and Amir, four weeks, and worked in her family’s property business. She had hoped to train as a midwife before having children.

Her mother Precious, 45, said: “Both my daughters are very devout Christians. She was a daughter of God. She had a cross tattood on her foot.

“We had the loveliest relationship. She was a lovely girl. She was my best friend. She was very articulate and mature, and she worked hard. She did the business accounts for her grandmother and she would have been a huge success. She lived for her children.”

Miss Love was last seen by her mother at 6pm on Christmas Eve.

She was found fully clothed but her handbag, shoes, bank cards and a ring resembling Princess Diana’s saphire engagement band were missing.

Miss Love was found to have bruising to her eye, injuries on her face, strangulation marks to her neck and had suffered a blow to the back of her neck, her mother said.

Her mobile phone was discovered in a rubbish bin several miles away, Miss Love said. She was informed of her daughter’s death at 5pm on Christmas Day and identified her body the next day.

“It had been 24 hours, and I was anxious. I was about to call the police, and there was a knock. I was scared something might have happened to her; it was mother’s instincts.”

In the family’s kitchen Miss Love has formed a shrine with candles and photographs of her late daughter.

Ruby’s sister, Sarah-Lee, 22, said: “It was a horrible person who took her from us. She’s a Christian girl and he did it on Christmas day.”

“She was like a mother to me. She was such a loving girl. She was an angel. She was so charitable; she would feed anyone in the street. She was too blessed for this world and she has been taken from us.”

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egyptian Bishop Warns of Another Massacre in Nag Hammadi

by Mary Abdelmassih

(AINA) — Bishop Kyrillos, the Coptic Orthodox bishop of Nag Hammadi, received last week several threats of attacks to be carried out on churches in Nag Hammadi, either on New Year’s Eve or Christmas Eve on January 6. “I do not want another Nag Hammadi Massacre to happen again,” he said in an interview on the Egyptian independent TV Channel Al Tahrir. On January 6, 2010 6 Copts were killed and more than 15 injured in a drive-by shooting of worshippers as they left church after celebrating the Coptic Orthodox Christmas Eve’s mass, which falls on January 6 according to the Julian Calender (AINA 1-7-2010).

The Nag Hammadi diocese will cancel all festivities for New Year’s Eve and Christmas Eve, and will end the midnight service early and not after midnight as is the norm.

“I have reported to the police all the threats received and asked for protection. I told them that I am ready to ask our youth to organize committees to protect the churches,” said Bishop Kyrillos. “Yesterday I sent an appeal to Field Marshall Tantawi, head of the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, the prime minister and the interior minister, asking them to secure Nag Hammadi, which has experienced repeated acts of violence.”

At the end of 2009, despite warnings by local church authorities in Nag Hammadi of possible violence during the Coptic festivities in January 2010, police had not bolstered security for Christmas.

Bishop Kyrillos believes that the reason behind these new threats is his unwavering support for the Copts of his diocese, who are plagued by an escalating series of kidnappings. The Bishop councils his parishioners not to give in to the kidnappers by paying the ransoms, but instead to report the crime to the police. “I cannot and will not stay inactive while I see the terrified Coptic families paying all what they have, and sometimes what they do not have, to get their children back.”

The leader of the kidnapping gang, Ahmed Saber, who lives in Samasta village in Bahgoura, threatened to carry out a massacre in Nag Hammadi after the security forces attempted to arrest him and his gang, but were not successful.

From August 11 until December 24, eleven kidnappings took place in Nag Hammadi and neighboring Farshout and Bahgoura, part of the parish of Nag Hammadi, and this has “escalated recently to the extent that not one week passes without kidnapping, sometimes even taking place at mid-day,” said Bishop Kyrillos. “Some families report the kidnapping to the police, some are returned without paying ransoms and some families pay huge sums of money for their loved ones.”

Only in 4 out of the 11 cases did families recover their children without paying ransom. Some ransoms went as high as 630,000 Egyptian pounds, paid for the release of a physician and a pharmacist, while 17-year old friends Girgis and Mina Dawood, kidnapped together on December 24, were released yesterday for a smaller ransom. “Contrary to my advice, their families paid a ransom of 130,000 for both lads.” He said he does not believe the kidnappers would slaughter the children as they threaten, but they do it for the high ransoms they are demanding and eventually getting.

Bishop Kyrillos is very pessimistic regarding the threats of attacks on churches. The Nag Hammadi Massacre of 2010, was one in a series of attacks on churches during the Coptic festivities. A similar incident took place in April 2009 when Muslims opened fire on worshipers as they left the prayer service on Easter Eve in the village of Higaza, Qena Governorate, resulting in the death of Amir Stephanos (36), Ayub Said (22), and the injury of Mina Samir (35).

On New Year’s Eve 2011, a bomb detonated outside the Two Saints Church in Alexandria, killing 23 and injuring 96 parishioners who were attending a New Year’s Eve Mass (AINA 1-2-2011).

           — Hat tip: Mary Abdelmassih[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Cairo Raids Create Climate of Fear for Civil Organizations

The raids by the Egyptian authorities on non-govermental organizations could create a climate of fear and have an impact on their work in the country, says Amnesty’s deputy program director for the region.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

German Companies Ready to Seize Business Opportunities in Libya

German companies see promising business opportunities in Libya. Many of them hope to land some highly profitable contracts following the fall of the Gadhafi regime. But international competition is on the ríse.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

How UK Feared and Fawned Over Mubarak

A frank Foreign Office assessment of Hosni Mubarak appears in a 1980 document just released by the National Archive. Mr Mubarak, then Egypt’s vice president, is described as a “friendly and cheerful” personality but the Foreign Office warned that his “affable exterior concealed a degree of ruthlessness”. Mr Mubarak was considered by British officials to be the most likely successor to President Anwar Sadat “should anything happen to him”. It was therefore considered appropriate to make a “fuss” over his visits, which included one in September 1980 — less than a year before the assassination of Sadat by Islamic extremists opposed to peace with Israel. Whitehall officials were cautioned not to mention Mrs Mubarak’s Welsh relatives unless the matter was raised by the Mubaraks themselves, as “they may wish to play the connection down”. An evening at the ballet or the theatre was suggested as suitable entertainment “subject to the Mubaraks’ tastes”. Top of the serious agenda for t he visit in 1980 was a meeting with Mrs Thatcher, at which the discussion centred on slow progress towards Middle East peace, which both sides appeared to blame on Israel’s settlement policy. Secret minutes said the prime minister had told her guest that she stayed in close touch with Jewish leaders in the UK and that Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin’s policies on the occupied territories “have no friends anywhere”. It was considered by the Jewish community, she continued, that settlement activity in the territories “was unacceptable”.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Moroccan Activists See Little Hope for Gender Policy Reforms

After the Islamist party PJD won elections in Morocco, the future of reforms to the country’s family laws remains up in the air. Activists fear a conservative approach to equal rights could slow — or reverse — progress.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Islamists Now Focussing on Tourism

Ghannouchi: extend culture and environment beyond beaches

(ANSAmed) — ROME, DECEMBER 30 — Tunisia’s Islamist party Ennahda, which was successful in the first free elections following the revolution in the country, has no desire to contaminate the golden egg of tourism with Salafist Puritanism.

There will be no bans on bathing costumes, no veils for female tourists and no threatening Islam with which to scare away foreigners. If anything, the new political force is keen to extend the reach of tourism in the country, taking in culture and the environment to go alongside Tunisia’s beaches.

The Ennahda leader, Rachid Ghannouchi, Tunisia’s new strongman, has explained his ideas on tourism in an interview with the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq Al Awsat, which is published in London and close to the Saudi royal family.

In truth, Ghannouchi talks about many other aspects in the interview. His comments range from relations with other Arab states (“we want to establish good relations, we are not interested in rebuilding the caliphate by uniting Islamic governments”) to the chances of recognizing Israel (“it is not on the cards until it recognises the rights of the Palestinians”) and from Syria (“the worst injustice to be seen in the world today is occurring in Syria”) and revolutions in the Arab world (“we hope that Gulf states will follow the easiest and least expensive path, avoiding social uprisings”).

Above all, Ghannouchi repeats for the umpteenth time that Ennahda is a moderate Islamist party, and that it will not interfere with freedom of expression and women’s rights, claims that the party’s secular rivals consider simple propaganda. Many of the leader’s comments have been made a number of times before. But his views on tourism are new and worth being relayed. “Tourism represents an essential resource for our economy and Tunisia is a country that is open to the outside world. Islam is not a religion of isolation but of openness to the world”. Ghannouchi even uses the Prophet’s name to legitimise the tourism industry. “In truth, even in the Koran Muslims are told to “travel around the world”“.

The Islamist leader uses this image to show the way forward. “We will work to develop the Tunisian tourist industry and to overcome the crisis that has hit the sector, with attention to the lack of services and of choice. We intend to diversify our industry and to become an attractive destination for tourists from neighbouring countries, such as Algeria, Libya and the Gulf states, as well as for the Japanese and the Americans”.

Ghannouchi believes that “Tunisia has been limited to a beach resort. But we want to diversify our attractions and to supply other services, because we have a lot to offer: tourism in the desert, cultural, educational and environmental tourism”.

The politicians was keen to convey during the interview the image of an open and friendly country, to dismiss fears over a new Iran, and of political Islam that might be hostile and an enemy of the West. “We have confirmed our commitment to the great principles of democracy, human rights, political pluralism, the rejection of violence and of coups d’etat. as we are fully committed to equality between the sexes”.

“Not only will we retain our partnership with the European Union, but we will also work to widen it,” Ghannouchi continues.

“We do not support those who believe that wearing the veil is a religious duty for women”.

Turning his attention to Salafists, a major source of fear for the West, Ghannouchi said that “while some of them are known for extremism, this is an answer to state oppression. we expect that in the absence of oppression and in an atmosphere of dialogue and freedom, the phenomenon of extremism will fall and that Tunisia’s religious vision, which is known for its moderation, will eventually prevail”.

Ghannouchi was keen to convey a serene and reassuring image.

“92% of Tunisians are optimistic about the future, as are 96% of women. The country is secure and, as I always say, Tunisia is beautiful and has become even more beautiful without Ben Ali”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

The Grand Mosque in Beersheba is Now a “Judaisation Museum”

The Al Aqsa Foundation has accused the Israeli government of turning the Grand Mosque in Beersheba into a “Museum of Judaisation”. Such a move by the local municipality “is invalid” claims the Foundation: “The Grand Mosque is a sacred place and a religious endowment property; it cannot be used for purposes other than Islamic worship.”

Built in 1906 during Ottoman rule, the Grand Mosque is now home to a variety of images, statues and other “disgraceful” things which violate the sanctity of the mosque and the feelings of Muslims, said a statement released by the Foundation. A delegation from the Al Aqsa Foundation made a field visit to the mosque to inspect the violations of Israel’s Beersheba Municipality. The members of the delegation made a point of praying in the mosque to “emphasise its purpose and sanctity”. It should be returned to its original purpose and not used as a museum or other showcase, they said.

Al Aqsa Foundation’s deputy head, Hajj Sami Rizkallah Abu Mukh, said that the Israelis had hung photographs on the mosque’s walls showing Zionist gangs’ seizure of Beersheba and occupation of the mosque in 1948, alongside pictures of the Israeli history in the city. He said that this sacrilege against a holy place broke his heart, especially when he saw statues of Israeli and British soldiers in the corners of the mosque, and big screens displaying indecent scenes, including people drinking wine and dancing. Hajj Abu Mukh added that the municipality is trying to deceive public opinion by displaying historical photos of the mosque from the Ottoman era; most of the pictures are from the British Mandate period up to today. “Beersheba,” he added, “is historically an Arab and Islamic city.” He deplored the fact that tourists are visiting the mosque to see the exhibition, even though it is supposed to be a place of worship, not a museum or art gallery. Al Aqsa Foundation had earlie r rejected an Israeli court decision to turn the mosque into a museum of Islamic and oriental heritage, and called for the reopening of the building for Muslim worshippers.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

The Ultra-Orthodox in Israel: A Clash of Cultures in the Holy Land

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish groups in Israel would like to see gender separation in public, and some have stooped to harassing women — and even children — to get their way. With thousands of Israelis protesting against the growing influence of the super-religious, the rift in Israeli society is getting deeper.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Iran to Start Missile Tests in the Persian Gulf

Iran says it is planning to start missile tests in the Persian Gulf. The announcement is likely to aggravate the row between Iran and the United States over Iran’s threat to close a vital oil transport route. “Shorter and longer-range, ground-to-sea, surface-to-surface and surface-to-air missiles will be tested on Saturday,” navy deputy commander Admiral Mahmoud Moussavi told the semi-official Fars news agency.

Moussavi said the tests will be the main and final phase in preparing the Iranian navy for confronting the enemy in a war-like situation. They will take place as part of Iranian navy maneuvers currently under way in the Persian Gulf.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Is 2012 the Year Israel Will Bomb Iran?

While the world’s attention is diverted by the continuing political unrest in the Arab world, particularly in Iraq and Syria, we should not forget that Iran continues to pose the biggest threat to the West’s long-term security. The violent unrest in Iraq and Syria is certainly a cause for concern: political instability in Iraq could have repercussions throughout the Gulf, while the Assad regime’s brutal suppression of anti-government protests could easily spill over into neighbouring Lebanon. But worrying though these events might be, it is unlikely they will pose a direct threat to our well-being. Iran’s refusal to back down on its illegal nuclear programme, though, is another matter entirely. The ayatollahs’ threat over the Christmas holiday to close the Strait of Hormuz if the West imposes sanctions on Iran’s oil industry is a worrying reminder that the Iran crisis remains very much at the forefront of the West’s securi ty considerations. If the ayatollahs’ carried out their threat, Iran could, at a stroke, choke the main artery for the West’s energy supplies. The Iranians have been planning for such an eventuality for the past twenty years. Unlike the late 1980s, the last time Iran seriously disrupted shipping passing through the Gulf, Iran now has the equipment, in terms of anti-ship missiles, to enforce the threat. The U.S. Navy, which has two aircraft carrier groups permanently stationed in the area, would, of course, be forced to intervene, thereby leading to open hostilities between Washington and Tehran.

But if you think that is an alarming prospect, just imagine the mayhem that would erupt if Israel decided that it had had enough of Iran’s prevarification over its nuclear programme and decided to launch unilateral air strikes to knock out Iran’s nuclear facilities. As the new year dawns, this remains a very strong possibility. Despite more than a decade of intense diplomatic effort, Iran is nearing the stage where it will have all the means at its disposal to produce a nuclear warhead, as well as an effective delivery system. The Israelis, who regard Iran’s nuclear programme as an existential threat, are well aware of how close the ayatollahs are to achieving their long-held ambition of acquiring nuclear technology, and are determined to prevent such an eventuality from occurring. In an ideal world they would prefer the West to do the job for them. But as President Barack Obama clearly has no appetite for confronting the ayatollahs, it may well be that, in 2012, I srael has no alternative but to take matters into their own hands.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Israel Cancels Military Contract With Turkey

The increasingly fragile relationship between Israel and Turkey showed no sign of improvement this week after the Israeli government cancelled a military contract worth more than £90 million. The government had been due to supply Turkey with an aerial intelligence system in a deal agreed two years ago. But, according to an official speaking anonymously, concerns about Turkey’s shifting allegiances in the Middle East prompted Israel to pull out. The Ministry of Defence said that all decisions about contracts were taken “in accordance with the specific diplomatic and security considerations”. However, the ministry stressed that the decision was taken with regard to the specific technology and was nothing to do with the overall relationship between the two countries. Concern over the deterioration of the once-strong relationship, severely damaged by the fall-out from the deaths of Turkish activists on a flotilla to Gaza last year, was said to be the reason Prime Minister Benjami n Netanyahu tried to block a Knesset debate on official recognition of the Armenian genocide.

Turkey has long refused to recognise the Armenians’ claim that some 1.5 million people were massacred in 1915 and 1916, saying instead that 500,000 people died fighting against the Ottoman Empire during the First World War. Earlier this month, France angered Turkey by passing a law making it illegal to deny that what happened in 1915 was genocide.

Turkey has already downgraded diplomatic relations to the lowest level and expelled the Israeli ambassador; if Israel was to follow France’s example, this would further strain ties.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Pro: No Reason to Fear the Democratic Experiment

Will the Arab Spring end in an Islamist-dominated, backwards and therefore grey winter? Not at all, says DW’s Islam expert Loay Mudhoon.

Loay Mudhoon is editor-in-chief of, DW’s portal promoting dialogue with the Islamic world

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Turkish Prime Minister Apologizes for Deadly Airstrike

Turkey’s prime minister and president have apologized for an air strike that killed around 35 people in the south of the country. The government says the military mistook smugglers for Kurdish militants.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UAE: Dubai Experience Overwhelms Recardo Kaka

Real Madrid superstar a guest of DTCM

Brazilian superstar Recardo Kaka was overwhelmed by the sights in Dubai during a 10-day family holiday as a guest of the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM). The Real Madrid midfielder who has been linked with a £22 million move away from Santiago Bernabeu visited Dubai’s internationally-renowned iconic landmarks and touristic attractions. “Dubai is a wonderful city and one of the nicest in the world. I am honoured to be here for the family holiday. I thank the DTCM for the wonderful opportunity given to me to visit the emirate. I am overwhelmed with the hospitality I enjoyed here and we plan to come again to Dubai soon,” said Kaka. A prized target of Arsenal and PSG, the former World Player of the Year took time off from his schedule to meet the DTCM Executive Director for Business Tourism Hamad bin Mejren, at the DTCM Head Office on Tuesday. He also met the DTCM employees and signed autographs for them and visitors. “It was a pleasure hosting Recardo K aka and facilitating his visit to various places in Dubai. We are promoting sports tourism and it is our efforts to help footballers and other sports personalities explore the emirate and see its extensive world-class sports facilities,” bin Mejren said. During the meeting, they discussed the promotion and marketing of Dubai as a sports destination across the world and how DTCM has been promoting football through various initiatives.

Ghassan Aridi, CEO of Alpha Tours, said: “We have been cooperating with the DTCM in its efforts to promote Dubai worldwide and we are happy to be associated with the DTCM for Kaka’s visit.” Kaka visited the world’s tallest man-made structure, Burj Khalifa, and took a Seawings-organised aerial tour to experience a bird’s eye view of the natural beauty and extra-ordinary man-made structures in the emirate, including The Palm Jumeirah, Burj Al Arab and Jebel Ali Port. Also in the itinerary were a desert safari experience and a visit to the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding which provided him insights into the cultural and traditions of the emirate. He also visited a mosque which offered him insights into the world of Islam, the Arabs and the Muslim way of life. He also toured Al Bastakiya cultural district to get to know about the history and evolution of the Dubai since the 1890s. He also enjoyed the traditional Arabian hospitality in the modern settin gs at a dinner arranged at the world’s highest restaurant located in Burj Khalifa. He went on shopping at Dubai Mall and also had a lunch at one of the restaurants located in the world’s biggest shopping mall. The 29-year-old mega star also enjoyed the hustle and bustle of the traditional open markets in Spice and Gold souqs in addition to touring different parts of Deira and Bur Dubai.

[JP note: Unfortunate name.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Will Israel Strike at Iran’s Nuclear Facility in 2012?

Britain and America reacted with fury at Israel’s bombing of the Osirak nuclear site in 1981, questioning the threat it presented. But ten years later, Israel’s judgment was explosively endorsed when the US felt the need to totally destroy the disabled Osirak during the largest airstrike of the Gulf War. Following years of Syrian denial and international scepticism, a secret IAEA report seen by the BBC earlier this year gave strong evidence that the site bombed in 2007 by Israel in northeastern Syria was, as the Israelis had known, a secret nuclear reactor being built with the help of North Korea. Had that site been permitted to complete its apocalyptic programme, to what use would a desperate Assad — fighting for survival and slaughtering his own people by the thousand — now be putting his weapons of mass destruction? I have seen at first hand the scepticism and accusations of exaggeration that have greeted Israel’s attempts over many years to rally the free world to confron t Iran’s relentless pursuit of nuclear weapons. But last month’s IAEA report citing “credible and well-sourced” intelligence that Iranian nuclear weapons development is continuing sounded a note of alarm.

The dangers to Israel are beyond doubt. President Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei have made clear that the “Zionist entity” must be wiped off the map. Despite the contrary views of many international experts, nobody with national security responsibilities can possibly dismiss such sentiments as mere rhetoric.

Many Middle Eastern states fear the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran just as much as Israel does and could well be panicked into their own arms race. The implications for the balance of power in the region, also affecting Western interests such as oil supply and trade, are enormous. Should international military intervention again become necessary, potential options would be dramatically reduced or removed completely. But the Iranian nuclear danger extends beyond the Middle East. Since 9/11, a nexus of terrorist groups with weapons of mass destruction has become the West’s gravest security concern.

Tehran has a long record of facilitating strikes against the West. And it has bridged the Sunni-Shia theological divide both in its support for Taliban attacks against our forces in Afghanistan, and for al-Qaida. This summer, the US government accused Iran of helping al-Qaida transfer cash and recruits into Pakistan for its international operations. There should be few higher priorities for the West than stopping Iran extending its already wide-ranging support for international terrorism into supply of nuclear arms. Is there a diplomatic solution? Iran has responded to decades of appeasement, compromise and incentives — including even US military attack on the main Iranian opposition — with deception, aggression and outright contempt. Our government can be commended for finally ordering financial institutions to stop doing business with Iranian counterparts, including the central bank. Others, including the US and Canada, have taken similarly robust action. But the sanction t hat could bite hardest, an embargo on Iranian oil sales, would also likely push up global oil prices, damaging Western economies at a time when they are struggling for survival.

Russia’s and China’s opposition to further economic measures also undermine the effectiveness of sanctions. The most they are likely to achieve is slowing Iran’s nuclear programme.

Covert action of the sort that has seen a series of “accidents” involving nuclear facilities has only limited, delaying impact. As each attack occurs, and new countermeasures are brought in, effective repetition becomes decreasingly possible. The best option would be an Iranian solution — toppling the ayatollahs from within. But Tehran is vigorously suppressing all opposition. Western powers that could help bring about such change seem reluctant to invest the necessary effort. Nor would regime change automatically provide the silver bullet: whatever government is in power in Tehran will see the acquisition of nuclear weapons as a national duty. Ensuring that the likes of Ahmadinejad and Khamenei would be replaced by a stable regime that could be trusted with responsibility for the ultimate destructive force would need concerted international support and diplomatic pressure from every quarter.

So is an Osirak-style strike inevitable? Target hardening, site dispersal and Iran’s air defences mean that it would present a far bigger challenge and may need greater use of ground forces. Intelligence collection and decision-making is as challenging as the operation itself. The critical judgment concerns the point at which Iran becomes capable of constructing nuclear bombs rapidly — amidst a thick fog of subterfuge and deception. Following a strike, Tehran would almost certainly lash out — both at Israel and at any nations thought to be involved, using its own forces and proxies, which have global reach. This option is fraught with danger. But Prime Minister Netanyahu is no more prepared to be “the man in whose time there will be a second Holocaust” than was Menachem Begin.

Col Kemp commanded British Forces in Afghanistan and headed the International Terrorism and Iraq team for the Joint Intelligence Committee

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Man in Afghan Uniform Kills French Soldiers

A man dressed in Afghan army fatigues on Thursday shot dead two French soldiers in what appeared to be the latest attack by a member of the Afghan security forces on NATO troops. The Taliban claimed responsibility, saying the soldier joined the army in order to carry out his attack in Kapisa province, in the volatile east of the country where many of the 3,700 French troops in Afghanistan are based. The insurgent group, which has been waging a 10-year insurgency against US-led NATO and Afghan forces, also said they carried out a roadside bombing in the southern province of Helmand that killed 10 local police.

“An individual wearing an Afghan National Army uniform turned his weapon against two International Security Assistance Forces service members in eastern Afghanistan, today, killing both service members,” an ISAF statement said. The Taliban, who frequently exaggerate their claims, said three French soldiers were killed and several others wounded.

“Ibrahim (the soldier)… achieved his aim by taking out three French invading troops and wounding a number of them after he opened fire,” spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said on their website. The perpetrator was also killed, he added.

The incident brings the total number of coalition military fatalities this year to 563, according to an AFP tally based on independent website, down from a wartime high of 711 in 2010. This year has been the bloodiest so far for French troops, with 26 killed. The latest victims were members of the French Foreign Legion, Paris confirmed.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Far East

Japan’s Premier Pushes for Stronger Economic Ties With India

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, on a lightning 36-hour visit to New Delhi, has stressed the importance of enhancing economic relations between Asia’s second and third largest economies.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

‘Violent Terrorists’ Shot Dead in Northwestern China

Chinese police have shot dead seven suspected kidnappers after a shootout in the restive Xinjiang region. The kidnappers have been referred to as ‘violent terrorists’ by official Chinese media. Seven “terrorists” have been shot dead in China’s restive northwestern Xinjiang province. According to official media, members of a “terror gang,” possibly influenced by Islamists, had kidnapped two people late Wednesday in the county of Pishan near the borders of India and Pakistan.

The two hostages were freed when police shot dead seven of the suspected kidnappers in a rescue mission, as reported by Chinese media. According to the account, police were forced to open fire after being shot at. One police officer was also killed in the shootout and one was wounded. Four other suspects were wounded and taken into custody.

Xinjiang is a resource-rich province and has seen bouts of violence between locals and the Chinese government, which tends to blame the unrest on religious extremism, terrorism and separatist elements. Violence most recently flared up in Kashgar and Hotan in the summer of 2011, resulting in the death of 32 people. In September, four people were sentenced to death for the incidents. Beijing reacts to such violence by increasing police presence, conducting raids, restricting or cutting communication lines, such as telephone and internet connections, and sometimes limiting the practice of Islam.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

EU Seeks to Expand Anti-Piracy Mission in Somalia

Piracy off the Somali coast remains a huge problem, despite international efforts to combat the scourge. Now, the EU is considering expanding the scope of its operation to include attacks on onshore infrastructure such as weapons depots. German politicians are warning of the dangers of mission creep.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Hijacked Italian Crew ‘Fine’ Says Captain

Somali pirates keeping 18 captive

(ANSA) — Naples, December 30 — The captain of an Italian ship that was hijacked off the coast of Somalia said Friday that the crew was safe.

“We are anchored off the Somali coast and the crew is fine,” Captain Agostino Musumeci said in a telephone conversation, according to Domenico Ievoli, chief executive of the Naples shipping company Marnavi.

An oil tanker, the Enrico Ievoli was captured near the coast of Oman with 18 crew members aboard, including six Italians.

Last week another Italian oil tanker, the Savina Caylyn owned by the Neopolitan company Fratelli D’Amato, was freed after being hijacked by Somali pirates in February.

The Italian foreign ministry denied the pirates’ claim that a ransom was paid.

In October an Italian ship hijacked off the coast of Somalia with 23 people on board was freed after an operation by British special forces.

Last year pirates in the region are believed to have earned $80 million from ransom money.

Earlier this year governments reached an international agreement that they would not pay ransom.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

‘Nigeria Could Get Worse Than Iraq’

Nigeria’s Christian community has warned that it will retaliate if the attacks by the Muslim Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram don’t cease immediately. DW talked to a civil rights activist about the tense stand-off.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Nigeria Attacks Highlight Global Problems Faced by Christians

Recent Christmas Day attacks on churches in northern Nigeria, which killed more than 40 people, have refocused attention on the hurdles faced by Christians around the world in practicising their faith.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Latin America

Chile: Scientists Test Tech for Mission to Saturn Moon Titan

A team of scientists has traveled to remote Laguna Negra in the central Andes of Chile to test technologies that could one day be used to explore the hydrocarbon lakes of Saturn’s moon Titan. The Planetary Lake Lander (PLL) project is led by Principal Investigator Nathalie Cabrol of the NASA Ames Research Center and the SETI Institute, and is funded by the NASA Astrobiology Science and Technology for Exploring Planets (ASTEP) program. This three-year field campaign will design and deploy a lake lander at Laguna Negra, which is a particularly vulnerable system where ice is melting at an accelerated rate.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

From Fidel Castro to Hugo Chavez: With Great Power Comes Truly Great Paranoia

Plainly lunatic ideas can take on serious importance when no one contradicts you.

I have been reading Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s comments about his cancer. It is, apparently, an assassination attempt by America. I wonder if that’s what happened to me last week. I had the norovirus and spent Christmas in bed. I had put it down to bad luck. But maybe there was something more sinister at work. While you wouldn’t call me a dictator as such, maybe there are people out there who want to stop me writing… When you’re a totalitarian, nothing is ever as straightforward as falling ill. This week, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, the president of Argentina, was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Dilma Rousseff, the president of Brazil, has had cancer, as has her predecessor Luiz Inácio Lula Da Silva. And Paraguay’s Fernando Lugo. These South American leaders are all democrats, however. And not one has attributed their cancer to anything other than the fact that people do, unfortunately, get cancer.

Dictators, though, think differently. Dictators live in a bubble of paranoia. So when Hugo Chávez was diagnosed with cancer last June, he considered it not an act of God or poor luck, but imperialist aggression. An assassination attempt, in fact, by the US. “It’s very difficult to explain, even with the law of probabilities, what has been happening to some of us in Latin America,” he said in a speech this week. “Would it be so strange that they’ve invented technology to spread cancer and we won’t know about it for 50 years? I’m just sharing my thoughts, but it’s very, very, very strange.” President Chávez also revealed that Fidel Castro, his close ally, had warned him: “Chávez, be careful, they’ve developed technology, be careful with what you eat, they could stick you with a small needle.” Castro is living proof of the maxim that just because you’re paranoid, it doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you. One of the former Cuban dictator’s bodyguards published a book a few year s ago, claiming that there had been 638 attempts made on Castro’s life, including the exploding cigar that was meant to blow up in his face.


[JP note: The same might be said about Islam.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]


Exclusive: Interpol Chief — Close EU Border Loophole or Risk Attack

Alarm raised over gap in European passport security that could ‘lead to another September 11’

A glaring failure by almost all European countries to check passports against an international database of lost and stolen travel documents is leaving the Continent vulnerable to a terrorist attack on the scale of the Madrid train bombings, the head of Interpol has warned.

In what he said he hoped would not be his “last interview”, Interpol’s Secretary General, Ronald Noble, told The Independent that nearly all EU members are failing to make crucial checks against the agency’s database of 15 million suspicious passports — allowing potential terrorists to enter Europe and cross multiple borders undetected.

“So many basic steps aren’t being taken, which could lead to another September 11, another July 7 [the 2005 London Underground bombings], another March 11 in Madrid,” Mr Noble said.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

France Makes it Harder to Become French

France will be making it harder for foreigners to seek French citizenship as of January. Critics say the new requirements, which include tough language tests and allegiance to “French values”, are an electoral ploy that panders to the far right. By FRANCE 24 (text) Foreigners seeking French nationality face tougher requirements as of January 1, when new rules drawn up by Interior Minister Claude Guéant come into force.

Candidates will be tested on French culture and history, and will have to prove their French language skills are equivalent to those of a 15-year-old mother tongue speaker. They will also be required to sign a new charter establishing their rights and responsibilities.

“Becoming French is not a mere administrative step. It is a decision that requires a lot of thought”, reads the charter, drafted by France’s High Council for Integration (HCI). In a more obscure passage, the charter suggests that by taking on French citizenship, “applicants will no longer be able to claim allegiance to another country while on French soil”, although dual nationality will still be allowed.

Guéant, a member of President Nicolas Sarkozy’s ruling UMP party, described the process as “a solemn occasion between the host nation and the applicant”, adding that migrants should be integrated through language and “an adherence to the principals, values and symbols of our democracy”. He stressed the importance of the secular state and equality between women and men: rhetoric perceived largely as a snipe at Muslim applicants, who make up the majority of the 100,000 new French citizens admitted each year.

France’s interior minister has made it clear that immigrants who refuse to “assimilate” into French society should be denied French citizenship.

Earlier this year, Guéant intervened personally to ensure an Algerian-born man living in France was denied French nationality because of his “degrading attitude” to his French wife.

That followed an earlier push by France’s former Immigration Minister Eric Besson to revise existing laws in order to strip polygamists of their acquired citizenship.

Pandering to the far right?

Guéant has come under criticism numerous times over the past year for allegedly pandering to the whims of far-right voters in his efforts to secure a second term for Sarkozy in 2012. The UMP has edged progressively further right over the course of Sarkozy’s term, even as the far-right National Front party continued to bite into its pool of voters.

Marine Le Pen, the popular leader of the anti-immigration National Front, has been campaigning in favour of a ban on dual citizenship in France, which she blames for encouraging immigration and weakening French values. While several UMP members have endorsed her stance, Guéant has stopped short of calling for a ban on dual nationality, largely because of the legal difficulties such a move would entail.

But the interior minister has taken a hard line on immigration, announcing plans to reduce the number of legal immigrants coming to France annually from 200,000 to 180,000 and calling for those convicted of felony to be expelled from the country.

François Hollande, the Socialist Party’s candidate in forthcoming presidential elections, described Guéant’s stance as “the election strategy of a right wing ready to do anything in order to hold on to power”, adding that his own party would tackle all criminals “irrespective of their nationality”…

           — Hat tip: Fausta[Return to headlines]


At the Earth’s Core, Secrets Slowly Emerge

The behavior of Earth’s core and the core’s ingredients besides iron are major geological mysteries. Scientists can’t exactly go take a sample. Yet understanding the core’s exact makeup and conditions is a big deal for those who are trying to understand how our planet’s complicated geophysical systems work together.

Not only is it likely the Earth’s largely iron core plays a role in the movements of continents over millions of years, it plays a major role in preserving life here: The roiling iron heart of our planet helps maintain the Earth’s magnetic field, which helps shield life on the surface from damaging solar energy. In addition, it holds valuable clues about how the planet formed.

“Pinpointing the properties of iron is the gold standard — or, I guess, ‘iron standard ‘ — for how the core behaves,” Jennifer Jackson, assistant professor of mineral physics at Caltech, said in a statement. “That is where most discussions about the deep interior of the Earth begin. The temperature distribution, the formation of the planet — it all goes back to the core.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]