Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20111231

Financial Crisis
"China’s Real Estate Bubble May Have Just Popped
"Euro Could Become World’s Leading Currency — Noyer
"Greece: Resigned Financial Prosecutors Back in the Saddle
"Greek Cenbanker Says Return to Drachma Would be Hell
"Italy: Catholic Charity Says More Italians Are ‘New Poor’
"Italy Had a Lean Christmas
"Italy: Pizza, Cappuccino Prices ‘Doubled With Euro’
"The Future of the Yuan: China’s Struggle to Internationalize Its Currency
"The Spectre of 1932: How a Loss of Faith in Politicians and Democracy Could Make 2012 the Most Frightening Year in Living Memory
"Turkey’s CB Sees 5% Inflation in Coming Years
"Ayaan Hirsi Ali Gives Birth to Baby Boy
"Building Owner Wants to Establish Mosque in Meriden
"Court Hears Arguments in Alpharetta Mosque Case
"Goodbye, 2011
"High-Fat Diet Injures the Brain, Rodent Study Reveals
"Jewish American Titan From the Ghetto
"LA Fears Long Night of New Year’s Arsons Awaits
"Muslim Leaders Boycott New York City Mayor’s Event
"Obama Recruits Qaradawi
"President Obama Signs Controversial Defense Bill Despite ‘Reservations’
"Romney and Paul in Virtual Dead Heat, Des Moines Register Poll Says
"Sea Slug Offers Clues to Improving Long-Term Memory
"The Center for American Progress’ Jihad Against the Free World
"The North American Idea: A Vision of a Continental Future
"Study Shows Dog Domestication Was Natural
Europe and the EU
"Archaeologists Make Virtual Map of Neolithic Stonehenge
"Dutch Mosques Defaced 117 Times in Five Years
"First Domesticated Dogs — Predmostí, Czech Republic
"French Women’s Groups Protest FIFA Decision to Endorse Hijab
"Gladiator Gym Goes Virtual — Carnuntum, Austria
"Illegal Fireworks Seized Across Italy, Two Arrests
"Italy: Berlusconi to Support Monti if Measures Agreed Beforehand
"Italy: New Year’s Firework Bans to Protect, Cats, Dogs, People, Peace
"Italy: Former Berlusconi Minister Dies in Bergamo
"King of Spain’s Son-in-Law Urdangarin on Corruption Charge
"Napolitano Rejects Merkel Role in Berlusconi Removal
"Saudi Arabia: 14 Accused in French Tourists’ Murder Stand Trial in Riyadh
"UK: Dr Pasha Laid the Foundation of the British Muslims in the UK
"UK: New Year Message From the Secretary General
"Viking Boat Burial — Ardnamurchan, Scotland
"Bosnian Muslim Group Tells Followers to Boycott New Year’s Eve
North Africa
"“Moderate” Muslims Call for “Killing All Jews”
"Arab Spring Impacts Archaeology — Libya/Egypt/Tunisia/Syria
"Egypt — One Year After the Massacre of Christians in Alexandria, Egypt Seeks a Way Forward
"Egypt: Muslim Villagers Burn Houses of Christians Upper Egypt
"Fire Destroys “Temple of Knowledge” In Egypt
"Tunisia: Construction of Photovoltaic Panel Factory Suspended
Middle East
"Article on Iranian Website: This is How We’ll Close Strait of Hormuz
"Hellenic Aerospace Signs Agreement With UAE Firm
"Iraqi Interpreters Wait for Promised U.S. Visas
"Saudi Arabia: Defense Bolstered With $29.4bn Arms Deal With America
"Saudi Arabia: War Dance Becomes Wedding Tradition
"Saudi Arabia: Indonesian Maid Brutally Raped
"SR150bn Spent on Construction and Upkeep of Mosques
"UAE: Nation Offers Prayers for Rain
South Asia
"Afghanistan: Taliban Commanders ‘Captured and Killed’
"Indonesia: Sunni Mob Sets Fire to Shia Boarding School in East Java
Far East
"Ancient Chinese Takeout — Shaanxi/Xinjiang, China
"Cancer-Causing Milk Brings More Danger to China’s Food
Sub-Saharan Africa
"Leave Southern Nigeria, Mend Warns Northern Muslim
"Nigeria’s Jonathan Vows to Rout Boko Haram ‘Cancer’
"Nigeria: Blast Near Mosque in Northeast Nigeria Kills Four
"Nigeria: Kubwa Mosques Beef Up Security
"Nigeria Calls State of Emergency Over Sect Attacks
"Italy: ‘Foreigners to Triple by 2056’

Financial Crisis

China’s Real Estate Bubble May Have Just Popped

A Host of Factors Are Set to Undermine the Country’s Economic Growth

For years analysts have warned of a looming real estate bubble in China, but the predicted downturn, the bursting of that bubble, never occurred — that is, until now. In a telling scene two months ago, Shanghai property developers started slashing prices on their latest luxury condos by up to one-third. Crowds of owners who had recently bought apartments at full price converged on sales offices throughout the city, demanding refunds. Some angry investors went on a rampage, breaking windows and smashing showrooms.

Shanghai homeowners are hardly the only ones getting nervous. Sudden, steep price reductions are upending real estate markets across China. According to the property agency Homelink, new home prices in Beijing dropped 35 percent in November alone. And the free fall may continue for some time. Centaline, another leading property agency, estimates that developers have built up 22 months’ worth of unsold inventory in Beijing and 21 months’ worth in Shanghai. Everyone from local landowners to Chinese speculators and international investors are now worrying that these discounts indicate that “the biggest bubble of the century,” as it was called earlier this year, has just popped, with serious consequences not only for one of the world’s most promising economies — but internationally as well.

What makes the future look particularly bleak is the lack of escape routes. If Chinese investors panic and rush for the exits, they will discover that in a market awash with developer discounts, buyers are very hard to find. The next three months will be a watershed moment for a Chinese investor class that has been flush with cash for years but lacking a place to put it. Instead of developing a more balanced, consumer-based economy, an entire regime of Beijing technocrats — drunk on investment-led growth — let the real estate market run red hot for too long and, when forced to act, lacked the credibility to cool the sector down. That failure threatens to undermine the country’s continued economic rise.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Euro Could Become World’s Leading Currency — Noyer

PARIS: The euro could become the world’s leading currency in the next decade if leaders of the single-currency bloc succeed in tightening fiscal integration, European Central Bank policymaker Christian Noyer said in an article to be published in the Journal du Dimanche. European leaders struck a historic deal at an emergency summit in Brussels on Dec. 9 to draft a new treaty for deeper economic union, in an attempt to stem the debt crisis that is threatening to cause the collapse of the single currency.

The news temporarily calmed markets. But concerns quickly resurfaced as the final details of the agreement have yet to be determined and a new treaty could take up to three months to negotiate. Ratings agency Fitch has said it doubts a comprehensive solution to the crisis can be found and urged more decisive action from the ECB.

“If we implement all the decisions taken at the Brussels summit we will emerge stronger,” Noyer said in the article, due to be published to coincide with the 10-year anniversary of the euro on Jan. 1. “In 10 years, maybe the euro will be the world’s number one currency.”

Noyer, who is also governor of the Bank of France, waxed lyrical about the merits of the euro, saying it had protected purchasing power, improved trade and competitiveness and made workers increasingly mobile. In the past decade, the euro had become the world’s second reserve currency after the dollar, and the only euroskeptics were outside the monetary union, he said.

Contrasting with Noyer’s nostalgia, an opinion poll also due to be published in Sunday’s Journal du Dimanche showed 50 percent of French people thought the single currency had been a bad idea, compared with 35 percent who approved. A separate article in Saturday’s Le Parisien showed the price of an average shopping basket had risen 22 percent since the euro first came into circulation, with certain basic goods such as the baguette rising up to 30 percent.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Greece: Resigned Financial Prosecutors Back in the Saddle

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, DECEMBER 30 — Two financial prosecutors who tendered their resignations on Wednesday after claiming that a “variety of organized interests” were attempting to derail their probes into a range of offenses, including tax evasion, withdrew their resignations on Friday during a brief meeting with deputy prosecutor Fotis Makris. Grigoris Peponis and Spyros Mouzakitis — as daily Kathimerini online reports — submitted a two-page report to Makris, who had been ordered on Thursday by Supreme Court prosecutor Yiannis Tentes to conduct a probe into allegations by the two prosecutors whose job it is to investigate, among others, high-profile financial crimes. On Wednesday, Peponis and Mouzakitis had said that among the factors that had compelled them to resign were “politicoeconomic intervention” in their work, a lack of technical support and that their positions were being undermined by an imminent change to the law that would have passed their duties to a deputy prosecutor at the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, the Finance Ministry on Friday informed Tentes that the contentious legal amendment will be withdrawn. Coming out of their 15-minute meeting with Makris on Friday, Peponis and Mouzakitis confirmed that they will continue doing the job they have been assigned, saying “we are prosecutors of financial crimes and we remain on the ramparts.” Peponis and Mouzakitis had recently launched probes into a number of high-profile cases, including major tax evasion, the resignation of Finance Ministry official Diomidis Spinellis after claims that fines on fuel trading firms were not being collected, banks’ funding of Alter TV, allegations of benefits cheating and claims of fiddled statistics at the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greek Cenbanker Says Return to Drachma Would be Hell

Greece would experience disastrous consequences if it returned to the drachma, the country’s central banker said in an interview with Sunday’s Kathimerini newspaper, warning that such a move would mean a 60 to 70 percent devaluation. “A return to the drachma would mean real hell, at least in the first years,” Bank of Greece Governor George Provopoulos told the paper. “Living standards would plunge. The new currency would be significantly devalued, possibly by up to 60-70 percent.” (Reporting by George Georgiopoulos)

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italy: Catholic Charity Says More Italians Are ‘New Poor’

2,000 families may be evicted soon

(ANSA) — Rome, December 20 — More than 260,000 Italian families were evicted from their homes in the past decade and the number is growing, the Catholic organisation Sant’Egidio said Tuesday.

According to the the Catholic charity, 21,614 people were evicted in 2000 while the number had grown to almost 30,000 in 2010. Spokesman Mario Marazziti, spoke about the growing impact of the economic crisis on Tuesday at the release of a report called: ‘Where to eat, sleep and wash’.

He said 2,000 more families could lose their homes before 2012 and more than 50,000 families could join the growing number of “new poor”, referring to those who have no home or work.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy Had a Lean Christmas

Each Italian ‘spent 48 euros less’ on gifts, decorations

(ANSA) — Rome, December 27 — With the economic crisis biting, Italy had one of its leanest Christmases in recent years, according to farmers’ and consumers’ associations.

Consumer association Codacons said the average Italian cut spending on gifts and decorations by 48 euros.

Farmers’ body Coldiretti said the 2.3 billion euros Italians spent on food and drink for the traditional Christmas Eve dinner and Christmas Day lunch was a 18% drop the amount spent in 2010.

The association added that this was the biggest decline since 2001, when spending on Christmas feasts fell 28% following the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers in New York.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Pizza, Cappuccino Prices ‘Doubled With Euro’

Milan, 29 Dec. (AKI) — The price for a pizza in Milan has doubled during the ten years since they gave up the lira for the euro currency. A cappuccino also costs twice as much, according to one of Italy’s most biggest newspapers.

Italians and other Europeans have long complained that official statistics fail to reflect that real inflation that has hit consumers since banks began issuing the euro. Using Milan prices for common items as a national inflation gauge, the Corriere della Sera daily in a Thursday report attempted to illustrate that common items dear to the daily lives of millions of Italians have rocketed in price in the 10 years since the introduction of the euro.

Supporters of a monetary union — now boasting 17 members — say that the price of goods and services can fall because the costs of converting currency would be eliminated. Detractors accused businesses of profiting by rounding up prices in their favour. So the cost of a Milan bus or subway ticket on 31 December 2001 was 1.500 lire. The next day it cost 1 euro, rather than the official lira-euro exchange of 77 euro cents, according to Corriere della Sera.

According to report, the price in Milan for the popular quattro stagioni, or four seasons, pizza — a pizza divided into four parts with as many toppings — rose from the lira equivalent of 5.16 euros when the euro began circulating on 1 January 2002 and now costs 10 euros.

When the Milanesi have breakfast at a coffee bar they can now expect to pay 2 euros, compared with the equivalent of 1.03 euros, and Barilla spaghetti rose about by about one-third, the newspaper said.

To satisfy a fastfood craving on 1 January 2002, a Big Mac at McDonald’s cost 4,900 lire, or 2.53 euros, but now costs 3.50.

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

The Future of the Yuan: China’s Struggle to Internationalize Its Currency

According to a growing chorus of pundits and economists, China — already the world’s most prolific exporter, largest sovereign creditor, and second-largest economy — will someday soon provide the world’s reserve currency. According to this view, just as the dollar dethroned the British pound in the interwar years, so the yuan will soon displace the dollar, striking a blow to U.S. interests. As the economist Arvind Subramanian recently wrote, the yuan “could become the premier reserve currency by the end of this decade, or early next decade.”

This view has gained traction as Chinese leaders have launched a concerted effort to internationalize the yuan. During the G-20 summit in November 2008, at the height of the financial crisis, Chinese president Hu Jintao called for “a new international financial order that is fair, just, inclusive, and orderly.” Beijing soon began to encourage the use of its currency in international trade, swap arrangements between central banks, and bank deposits and bond issuances in Hong Kong.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

The Spectre of 1932: How a Loss of Faith in Politicians and Democracy Could Make 2012 the Most Frightening Year in Living Memory

The dawn of a new year is usually a time of hope and ambition, of dreams for the future and thoughts of a better life. But it is a long time since many of us looked forward to the new year with such anxiety, even dread.

Here in Britain, many economists believe that by the end of 2012 we could well have slipped into a second devastating recession. The Coalition remains delicately poised; it would take only one or two resignations to provoke a wider schism and a general election.

But the real dangers lie overseas. In the Middle East, the excitement of the Arab Spring has long since curdled into sectarian tension and fears of Islamic fundamentalism. And with so many of the world’s oil supplies concentrated in the Persian Gulf, British families will be keeping an anxious eye on events in the Arab world.

Meanwhile, as the eurozone slides towards disaster, the prospects for Europe have rarely been bleaker. Already the European elite have installed compliant technocratic governments in Greece and Italy, and with the markets now putting pressure on France, few observers can be optimistic that the Continent can avoid a total meltdown.

As commentators often remark, the world picture has not been grimmer since the dark days of the mid-Seventies, when the OPEC oil shock, the rise of stagflation and the surge of nationalist terrorism cast a heavy shadow over the Western world.

For the most chilling parallel, though, we should look back exactly 80 years, to the cold wintry days when 1931 gave way to 1932.

Then as now, few people saw much to mourn in the passing of the old year. It was in 1931 that the Great Depression really took hold in Europe, bringing governments to their knees and plunging tens of millions of people out of work.

Then as now, the crisis had taken years to gather momentum. After the Wall Street Crash in 1929 — just as after the banking crisis of 2008 — some observers even thought that the worst was over.

But in the summer of 1931, a wave of banking panics swept across central Europe. As the German and Austrian financial houses tottered, Britain’s Labour government came under fierce market pressure to slash spending and cut benefits.

Bitterly divided, the Labour leader Ramsay MacDonald decided to resign from office — only to return immediately as the leader of an all-party Coalition known as the National Government, dominated by Stanley Baldwin’s Conservatives.

Like today’s Coalition, the National Government was an uneasy marriage. Sunk in self-pity and spending much of his time flirting with aristocratic hostesses, MacDonald cut a miserable and semi-detached figure. By comparison, even Nick Clegg looks a model of strong, decisive leadership.

As for the Tory leader Stanley Baldwin, he had more in common with David Cameron than we might think. A laid-back Old Harrovian, tolerant, liberal-minded and ostentatiously relaxed, Baldwin spent as much time as possible on holiday in the South of France, preferring to enjoy the Mediterranean sunshine rather than get his hands dirty with the nuts and bolts of policy.

Meanwhile, far from offering a strong and coherent Opposition, the rump Labour Party seemed doomed to irrelevance. At least its leader, the pacifist Arthur Henderson, could claim to be a man of the people, having hauled himself up by his bootstraps from his early days as a Newcastle metal worker.

Not even his greatest admirers could possibly say the same of today’s adenoidal, stammering Opposition leader, the toothless Ed Miliband.

With the politicians apparently impotent in the face of the economic blizzard, many people were losing faith in parliamentary democracy. Their despair was hardly surprising: in some industrial towns of the North, Wales and Scotland, unemployment in 1932 reached a staggering 70 per cent.

With thousands more being plunged out of work every week, even the National Government estimated that one in four people were making do on a mere subsistence diet. Scurvy, rickets and tuberculosis were rife; in the slag heaps of Wigan, George Orwell saw ‘several hundred women’ scrabbling ‘in the mud for hours’, searching for tiny chips of coal so they could heat their homes.

Feeling betrayed by mainstream politicians, many sought more extreme alternatives. Then as now, Britain was rocked by marches and demonstrations. In October 1932, a National Hunger March in Hyde Park saw bloody clashes between protesters and mounted policemen, with 75 people being badly injured.

And while Left-wing intellectuals were drawn to the supposedly utopian promise of the Soviet leader Josef Stalin — who turned out to be a brutal tyrant — thousands of ordinary people flocked to the banners of the British Union of Fascists, founded in the autumn of 1932 by the former Labour maverick Sir Oswald Mosley.

Never before or since has the far Right commanded greater British support — a worrying reminder of the potential for economic frustration to turn into demagogic resentment.

But the most compelling parallels between 1932 and 2012 lie overseas, where the economic and political situation was, if anything, even darker.

           — Hat tip: Seneca III[Return to headlines]

Turkey’s CB Sees 5% Inflation in Coming Years

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, DECEMBER 27 — The Central Bank of Turkey forecast on Tuesday 5% year-end inflation rate for the following three years, as Anatolia news agency reports. Central Bank Governor Erdem Basci said the year-end inflation rate target for 2012, 2013 and 2014 was 5%. “We will not only focus on price stability but also go on with ensuring financial stability,” Basci told a press conference in Ankara. Turkey envisages 10% inflation rate by the end of 2011.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Ayaan Hirsi Ali Gives Birth to Baby Boy

Dutch-Somali anti-Islam campaigner Ayaan Hirsi Ali has given birth to a baby boy at the age of 42, the Volkskrant reports on Friday.

Hirsi Ali, a former Dutch MP, married Scottish historian Niall Ferguson earlier this year.

Ferguson left his wife of 17 years and three children for Ali, after they met at a party in 2009.

Hirsi Ali now works for a conservative think-tank in the US.

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

Building Owner Wants to Establish Mosque in Meriden

MERIDEN — A local property owner has applied to establish a mosque in the former Szymaszek-Taylor Funeral Home on East Main Street. Aminullah Noori, owner of the vacant building at 189 E. Main St., has requested a special exception to the city’s zoning codes for the first floor to be used as a mosque by the Islamic Association of Southern Connecticut. He is also requesting an exception for residential use on the second floor. Noori purchased the building for $300,000 in 2007. It was marketed as office space and is zoned for commercial use. Attempts to reach Noori, including a message left with the building’s real estate agent, were unsuccessful Friday. Efforts to reach members of the Islamic Association of Southern Connecticut were also unsuccessful.

Because places of worship are considered tax-exempt, special permission is needed from the city. Assistant Town Planner Tom Skoglund said he believed that because the building would be leased to the Islamic Association, it would remain taxable. Noori’s application will be heard by the Zoning Board of Appeals at a Tuesday night meeting. Board member Joseph Ferrigno Feest said the board will consider whether there is adequate parking and if a mosque fits with other building uses in the area. The same stretch of East Main Street is home to churches, a funeral home and several other gathering places, such as the Elks club, the Augusta Curtis Cultural Center and the city’s only synagogue.”It either has merits or it doesn’t. It’s a very clear choice,” said Feest, adding he will wait until the Tuesday hearing to make a judgment. Skoglund said he believes the Islamic Association of Southern Connecticut has a small congregation. “If it was approved and (the congregation) turned out to be something a lot more than they said it was, it’s something we could revisit,” he said.

The brick building at 189 E. Main St., was erected in 1868 as a residence by Isaax Lewis, the city’s third mayor and one of the founders of the International Silver Co. According to historical research, the 8,500-square-foot mansion was designed with elements of Second Empire and Victorian Gothic architectural styles. Meriden now has one Muslim house of worship, the Baitual Aman Mosque on Main Street in South Meriden. The group, which practices a denomination of Islam called Ahmadiyya, purchased the former Jehovah’s Witnesses Kingdom Hall in 2007. The city has denied mosque applications in the past. In 1998, a proposal by the Jafaria Association of Connecticut for a former medical office building on Green Road was denied after officials cited traffic concerns in the mostly residential area. In 2008, controversy erupted in Wallingford when an application by Edible Arrangements owner Tariq Farid took steps toward building a 3,868-square-foot mosque on Leigus Road, which drew considerable opposition. The application was ultimately denied by the town’s Planning and Zoning Commission, which cited traffic concerns.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Court Hears Arguments in Alpharetta Mosque Case

A federal judge will decide whether to rule on a lawsuit involving a mosque’s expansion in Alpharetta before the case goes to trial.

Both sides appeared in U.S. District Court this month seeking a summary judgment in the case. Attorneys for the city of Alpharetta and the Islamic Center of North Fulton presented arguments in a federal suit stemming from the city’s denial of a request by the mosque to expand its facility on Rucker Road. The case, filed in 2010, has drawn the attention of the U.S. Justice Department, which is conducting its own investigation under a federal law that requires local governments to show that zoning decisions against religious groups are the least restrictive way to accomplish a compelling government interest. The law also prohibits governments from making decisions favoring one religion over another. “The mosque is arguing that the refusal to allow it to rebuild an adequate space on the site they own substantially burdens their ability to exercise their religion,” said Andrea Jones, attorney for the Islamic Center.

The Alpharetta City Council voted 6-0 in May 2010 to reject plans by the center to tear down its 2,500-square-foot worship house and construct two buildings: a 1,900-square-foot multipurpose facility and a 12,000-square-foot, two-story main building. During the 2010 zoning hearing, a crowd of 150 squeezed into the council chambers to hear several hours of arguments. Residents of surrounding subdivisions said the project was too big for the 4-acre lot and would make traffic worse on Rucker Road. Residents and the City Council said they were concerned the worship center was backing out of previous agreements made before Alpharetta annexed the property from Fulton County in 2005.

Attorneys for the center argued this month that the mosque never entered into any agreement with surrounding homeowners about the development of its facility or the size of its congregation. The congregants of the Islamic Center are underserved by the current facility, they argue. In addition, the Islamic Center argues that its expansion would not adversely affect traffic on Rucker Road and that the city’s own Comprehensive Plan allows for churches in the area. In its arguments before the court, the city maintains the Islamic Center asserted in its original zoning agreement with Fulton County that the site would be used as a place of worship in the existing structure. The city also claims that center officials indicated in 1998 they were not planning on growing their 25-member congregation. City Attorney Sam Thomas said Alpharetta is awaiting a ruling from the judge and will be prepared to present its case at trial if necessary. “The city’s position from the outset is that this case is not about religion,” Thomas said. “It’s about land use, and that’s what we presented in our oral argument to the court.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Goodbye, 2011

by Diana West

Taking stock at year’s end, I chose to throw a spotlight onto the “unsolved mystery of 2011” — what really happened in Smolensk, Russia in April 2010, when the sitting government of Poland and a central swath of its intelligentsia was lost in a stunning plane crash. The 2011 Russian crash investigation report prompts more questions than the it answers, beginning with: Why hasn’t Russia returned the Polish plane’s black boxes to Poland? Why doesn’t the international community, so-called, want to find out? Has the West, once again, become complicit in another Big Lie to come out of Moscow?

Looking past all too obvious top 10 story lists, it’s well worth noting Andrew McCarthy’s timely jeremiad — “The surrender is complete now…”— in a piece today at NRO where he picks up on a recent report in The Hindu claiming that Yusef al-Qaradawi, smoothie sheikh of jihad, is mediating secret talks between the US and the Taliban. I do hope they’re serving tea. It would make a nice bookend, if not homage to the surrender process’s beginnings in “teatime for terrorists,” as noted in a column of mine on the first “secret” talks between the US and jihadists in Iraq going back to July 5, 2005.

Over at PJM, Patrick Poole has done yeoman work with his “Not Top 10 List” of national security fiascos to help us all articulate why we are sputtering into our champage glasses on hearing Obama National Security Advisor John Brennan tells us “President Obama has been, I think, very singularly focused on doing everything possible to keep the American people safe,”

Note especially Patrick’s point #6 (in chronological order): “Obama backs overthrow of Gaddafi, installs al-Qaeda-friendly, Shariah-compliant regime in Libya (March-present).”

This, I submit, is the story of the year, if not the decade. Ten years after 9/11, the United States of America switched sides, and no one, not the American people as represented by Congress, not even the GOP presidential contenders, noticed. Talk about a catastrophic crash…

           — Hat tip: Diana West[Return to headlines]

High-Fat Diet Injures the Brain, Rodent Study Reveals

Shedding extra pounds and keeping them off can be hard, and a new study suggests one reason why: A high-fat diet, followed for even a short time, injures the brain. Researchers looked at the brains of rodents that were bred to become obese and found that when placed on a high-fat diet, the animals developed injuries to the hypothalamus, an area of the brain that controls your urge to eat and sends signals to stop eating when you’re full.

The researchers found signs of similar damage in the same brain area in obese people. “Within 24 hours of switching rodents to a high-fat diet, we found injury in the hypothalamus area,” said co-author Dr. Michael Schwartz, an endocrinologist at the University of Washington School of Medicine.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Jewish American Titan From the Ghetto

by Christopher Hitchens

Look first upon this picture, and on this… the two photographs of Saul Bellow that adorn the initial covers of the Library of America edition of his collected works. In the first, we see a somewhat rakish fellow, sharply dressed and evidently fizzing with moxie, who meets the world with a cool and level gaze that belies the slight impression of a pool shark or racetrack con artist. In the second, and in profile, we get a survey of a sage in a more reflective pose; but this is a sage who still might utter a well-chosen wisecrack out of the side of his mouth. The antique history of the shtetl and the ghetto is inscribed in both studies of the man, but some considerable physical and mental distance has evidently been travelled in each case.


The journalist Christopher Hitchens, who died last week at the age of 62, discovered in his late 30s that he was halachically Jewish. He said that this discovery “thrilled” him. The above is extracted from a piece Hitchens wrote for ‘The Atlantic’ in November 2007. The full essay is republished in the latest collection, ‘Arguably’, by Atlantic Books. Among the many awards gained by the Canadian-born, Jewish American novelist, Saul Bellow (1915-2005), was the Nobel Prize for literature in 1976

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

LA Fears Long Night of New Year’s Arsons Awaits

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Firetrucks parked in neighborhoods. Police patrolled the city. Switchboards took hotline calls. City officials scrambled on a busy New Year’s Eve to identify who was behind dozens of arson fires that have spooked the Hollywood area for two straight nights.

A blaze Saturday evening suggested it could be a long night. Firefighters quickly put out a car fire at about 6 p.m. in Hollywood that “fits the profile of concern” authorities have been following for the arsons, fire department spokesman Brian Humphrey said.

A crew of 10 put out the fire in minutes. The flames did not spread beyond the car and no one was injured. Humphrey could not immediately say how the fire started.

The fire closely resembled more than a dozen set before dawn Saturday, mostly in North Hollywood, and nearly two dozen fires set in and around Hollywood a day earlier.

Though some of the fires spread and damaged homes and apartments, none have brought injuries.

Still, some residents were on edge as authorities ramped up efforts to catch the culprit or culprits on a night when police and fire resources are always stretched thin as drunken New Year’s revelers hit the town.

“We’re pulling out all the stops,” Humphrey said. “We’re hoping that the person or people responsible will be brought to swift and complete justice.”

Firefighters were to be stationed around the city to respond to emergencies, while authorities set up a hotline and pored through tips. Authorities also were interviewing witnesses, looking at video footage for clues and have announced at least $35,000 in rewards for information leading to a conviction.

Among the most pressing questions: Were the fires set by a serial arsonist, multiple people or copycats? And why target cars, apparently at random?

“It’s really unnerving,” said Gary Joseph, one of several neighbors who stood looking at the frames of four badly charred vehicles in a carport in North Hollywood. Joseph said there was no way to stow his own car and keep it safe.

“It’s partly exposed, but there’s nothing I can do about it,” he said…

[Return to headlines]

Muslim Leaders Boycott New York City Mayor’s Event

NEW YORK: More than a dozen Muslim community leaders boycotted an interfaith breakfast organized by Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Friday to protest reported police surveillance of Muslim areas since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. In an open letter to Bloomberg, the leaders accused the mayor of ignoring concerns that the New York Police Department has been using racial profiling and violating civil rights in its anti-terrorism surveillance programs.

“We believe with heartfelt conviction that during times when a community’s rights are being flagrantly violated its leaders cannot in good conscience appear at a public gathering with the government official who is ultimately responsible and smile for the cameras as if all is well, when we know full well that it is not,” the letter said.

The letter cited a series of articles earlier this year by The Associated Press that alleged that police, at times in cooperation with the CIA, infiltrated New York mosques, Muslim bookshops and other Islamic businesses and institutions to gather intelligence without specific evidence of any criminal activity.

The letter was signed by 15 leaders of Muslim organizations based in New York City who said they were turning down their breakfast invitation, as well as the leaders of several dozen other faith organizations and civil rights groups.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Obama Recruits Qaradawi

The administration is working with a Muslim Brotherhood jurist.

The surrender is complete now. The Hindu reports that the Obama administration has turned to Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the Muslim Brotherhood’s leading jurist, to mediate secret negotiations between the United States and the Taliban. I wrote about Qaradawi at length in The Grand Jihad and, here at NRO, have regularly catalogued his activities (see, e.g., here, here, here, here, and here; see also Andrew Bostom’s “Qaradawi’s Odious Vision”). For those who may be unfamiliar with him, he is the most influential Sunni Islamist in the world, thanks to such ventures as his al-Jazeera TV program (Sharia and Life) and website ( In 2003, he issued a fatwa calling for the killing of American troops in Iraq. As he put it,

“Those killed fighting the American forces are martyrs given their good intentions since they consider these invading troops an enemy within their territories but without their will. . . . Although they are seen by some as being wrong, those defending against attempts to control Islamic countries have the intention of jihad and bear a spirit of the defense of their homeland.”

Qaradawi urges that Islam must dominate the world, under a global caliphate governed by sharia. He maintains that Islam “will conquer Europe [and] will conquer America.” He sometimes qualifies that the conquering will be done “not through the sword but through da’wa,” but the qualification is a feint.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

President Obama Signs Controversial Defense Bill Despite ‘Reservations’

HONOLULU (AP) — President Barack Obama says he’s signing a $662 billion defense bill despite “serious reservations” over its restrictions about handling suspected terrorists.

A presidential statement accompanying the bill signing says the administration will interpret and implement some parts of the law in way that gives counterterrorism officials flexibility and upholds the nation’s values.

The White House initially threatened to veto the legislation, but pulled back after Congress made last-minute revisions.

The new law gives the president the authority to waive military custody, if it’s in the interest of national security, for foreign terrorism suspects who are linked to al-Qaida or who are involved in plotting or attacks the U.S.

The military custody requirement also will not apply to U.S. citizens.

Obama signed the bill in Hawaii, where he is vacationing.

           — Hat tip: AC[Return to headlines]

Romney and Paul in Virtual Dead Heat, Des Moines Register Poll Says

The Des Moines Register poll — the final one before the Iowa caucuses on Tuesday — has Mitt Romney and Ron Paul virtually tied in the lead going into the final 72 hour of voting.

In the survey, Mr. Romney has 24 percent and Mr. Paul has 22 percent.

The new poll, which was released online by the newspaper at 7 p.m. local time, shows the candidates closely bunched up behind the two leaders.

[Return to headlines]

Sea Slug Offers Clues to Improving Long-Term Memory

Using sea slugs as models, scientists someday may be able to design learning protocols that improve long-term memory formation in humans, a new study suggests. The researchers used information about biochemical pathways in the brain of the sea slug Aplysia to design a computer model that identified the times when the mollusk’s brain is primed for learning. They tested the model by submitting the animals to a series of training sessions, involving electric shocks, and found that Aplysia experienced a significant increase in memory formation when the sessions were conducted during the peak periods predicted by the model.

The proof-of-principle study may someday help scientists discover ways to improve human memory, the researchers said. “This is very impressive,” David Glanzman, a neurobiologist at the University of California Los Angeles, said of the study, in which he was not involved. “If someone had asked me ahead of time, ‘Are you going to be able to improve learning if you model these two pathways?’ I would have predicted no.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

The Center for American Progress’ Jihad Against the Free World

by Daniel Greenfield

The colors of the American flag are red, white and blue, but the colors of the Center for American Progress are red, white and green. Red for the left and green for Islam.

The Center for American Progress is not just any organization. Headed up by John Podesta​, a co-chairman of Obama’s transition team and backed by a 38 million dollar annual budget, it is George Soros’ most ambitious attempt to turn his Shadow Party into a shadow government. CAP is the organization with the single greatest influence on the Obama White House and its foreign and domestic policy. CAP is more than just another think tank; it’s a lever for shifting the Democratic Party further to the left, bought and paid for by George Soros​ and a roster of secret donors whose names are not made public by the secretive and powerful organization. Those who buy influence with it also get anonymity as part of the package. But the Center is more than a rogue billionaire’s brand of progressivism turned into talking-point groupthink by Washington insiders. It is a link between the American left and the Muslim right, articulating the Islamist agenda as a vehicle for the foreign policy of the post-American left. It’s where Ali Gharib can run pieces whitewashing the Muslim Brotherhood​ while Zaid Jiliani attempts to justify the ambassador to Belgium’s comments denying the existence of Muslim anti-Semitism.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

The North American Idea: A Vision of a Continental Future

Robert A. Pastor

Not every author admits to advocating a proposition “whose time has not yet arrived.” Pastor, a master scholar-practitioner, concedes that since 9/11, Canada, Mexico, and the United States have been slipping backward, away from the shared “spirit of community based on interdependence” that he advanced in his 2001 book, Toward a North American Community. The United States, in particular, has fortified its border rather than expand on the North American Free Trade Agreement. Undeterred, Pastor presses his case with intelligence and good humor, marshaling data to demonstrate that all three nations would be better off adopting cooperative solutions to common problems. Public opinion polls suggest that the citizens of Canada, Mexico, and the United States are ready for greater regional cooperation. To deflect “sovereignty-zealots” and other myopic opponents of broader integration, Pastor calls on leaders to articulate a hopeful vision of integration while making practical progress on immediate problems. His book constitutes a brave master plan, a bright vision to challenge and enlighten future generations.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Study Shows Dog Domestication Was Natural

A Canadian researcher who specializes in the biology of ancient dogs co-authored one of the most significant studies of the year in canine science: a paper detailing the world’s earliest evidence of an animal in transition from wild wolf to domesticated dog. The “extraordinary preservation” of the creature’s 33,000-year-old skull—found in a cave in southern Siberia—has helped show that dog domestication “was, in most cases, entirely natural” and not really a “human accomplishment,” says B.C. evolutionary biologist Susan Crockford.

She was part of a six-member team of researchers from Russia, Britain, the U.S. and the Netherlands that turned the clock back on wolf-dog transformations by thousands of years and showed that the phenomenon probably happened many times in many places around the globe.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Archaeologists Make Virtual Map of Neolithic Stonehenge

A team of archaeologists from Bournemouth University have created a virtual prehistory map. They created an application within Google Earth to show what the Stonehenge area would have looked like in Neolithic times. The app is free to download and they believe it could be extended to historic sites around the world.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Dutch Mosques Defaced 117 Times in Five Years

Between 2005 and 2010 mosques in the Netherlands were defaced 117 times, according to research by social researcher Ineke van der Valk. The acts of vandalism were motivated by a hatred of Islam, the researcher is quoted as saying on VPRO radio programme Argos. In 43 cases, the mosques were daubed with offensive symbols or slogans. In 37 instances, the mosques sustained material damage. In 99 of the incidents the police failed to find any of the culprits. In the United States there were 42 similar incidents during the same period. Most of the vandalised mosques in the Netherlands are located outside the major cities. There are some 450 mosques in The Netherlands, which has a population of more than 16.5 million. Some five percent of the population is believed to be Muslim, some 44 percent Christian and over 41 percent agnostic. As a percentage of the population, the Netherlands has Europe’s second-largest Muslim community, inferior only to France, which has a Muslim community of more than nine percent.

RNW, 30 December 2011

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

First Domesticated Dogs — Predmostí, Czech Republic

Researchers have, until recently, thought that dog domestication occurred about 14,000 years ago. In 2011, the case for it taking place much earlier received a boost from sites across Eurasia. Mietje Germonpré, of Belgium’s Museum of Natural History, and a team of researchers published a paper describing three canid skulls that had many of the distinctive traits that separate domesticated dogs from their wolf ancestors, including a shorter, broader snout and a wider brain case. The skulls, which date to roughly 31,500 years ago, were part of a collection from the site of Predmostí, in Czech Republic. In addition, a separate research team found a dog skull at Razboinichya Cave in Siberia that was dated to 33,000 years ago. Both finds support a 2009 research paper published by Germonpré and her colleagues describing a 36,000-year-old dog skull found at Goyet in Belgium. Critics could write off the single dog skull from Goyet as an aberration. “When I received the results of the date I was really disappointed,” Germonpré said of the Goyet skull. “I thought no one would believe it. I couldn’t believe it.” But the evidence from all three sites now makes Germonpré’s case much stronger.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

French Women’s Groups Protest FIFA Decision to Endorse Hijab

Three French women’s organizations have expressed concern and disappointment with world soccer body FIFA’s endorsement of a proposal to lift the ban on women players wearing a hijab, an Islamic hair dress, on the pitch. “To accept a special dress code for women athletes not only introduces discrimination among athletes but is contrary to the rules governing sport movement, setting a same dress code for all athletes without regard to origin or belief,” the three organizations said in an open letter to FIFA president Sepp Blatter.

Anne Sugier, president of the League of International Women’s Rights (LDIF) founded by Simone de Beauvoire, said in an email that she had sent the letter together with the heads of FEMIX’SPORTS and the French Coordination for the European Women’s Lobby, following publication on December 19 of the FIFA executive committee decision in The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer.

The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer, 29 December 2011

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Gladiator Gym Goes Virtual — Carnuntum, Austria

Ground-penetrating radar (GPR) technology has allowed an international team of researchers from the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Archaeological Prospection and Virtual Archaeology (LBI-ArchPro) to both identify a ludus (gladiator school) at the Roman city of Carnuntum in Austria and bring it before the public in an unprecedented way. What was once a vibrant city of 50,000 residents is now the site of an immense archaeological park. The newly discovered fourth-century A.D. gladiator school, the fourth largest ever found in the world, located just west of the largest amphitheater outside of Rome, is a self-enclosed complex that includes an inner courtyard, circular training area, living quarters, and a cemetery. The high-resolution images collected from the GPR survey show an under-floor heating system, bathing area, and walking paths within the complex. With the improved GPR technology developed by LBI-ArchPro, a complete picture of gladiator life is starting to emerge. Digitally re-created images of the ludus allow visitors to see how the school fit into the city’s landscape, and it’s possible to view them on a smartphone by using the free Wikitude World Browser software.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Illegal Fireworks Seized Across Italy, Two Arrests

Cities from Milan to Palermo issue street bans

(ANSA) — Rome, December 30 — Two people were arrested Friday and thousands of illegal fireworks seized across Italy as police sweeps ahead of New Year’s Eve intensified and cities from Milan to Palermo decided to ban fireworks from the streets.

In Naples police discovered a clandestine factory, seizing four tonnes of fireworks and arresting one man.

Another underground factory was discovered near Salerno and the owner cited for breaking the law. At San Giorgio a Cremano outside Naples another man was arrested for possession of 160 kg of illegal fireworks.

Some 300 kg of dangerous fireworks were found under the stairs of a house in Lecce in Puglia and a couple was cited.

At Castelfiorentino near Florence a toy-shop owner was cited for possession of 387 kg of banned fireworks.

A man was caught with 550 kg of illegal fireworks on the motorway near Arezzo.

Every year in the run-up to Christmas Italian police seize tonnes of extremely powerful and illegal fireworks, most of them made in China.

Police have said their preventive action will continue until the end of the year, when Italy’s traditional New Year fireworks mayhem regularly results in burns and mutilations.

Naples is usually the worst-hit city, recording the highest number of injuries.

In the last five years there have been three New Year celebration deaths in the southern Italian city.

Women in Naples got so fed up with their menfolk in 2008 that they launched a ‘no sex if you let off fireworks’ drive.

The operation had some success as the number of injuries dropped by about 100 to 382 that year.

But one person was killed by a stray bullet — the second year running that someone was accidentally shot dead on New Year’s Eve.

Campania, the region around Naples, was the worst-hit region again in the last two years with several hundred injuries including parts of hands blown off.

Many of the illegal fireworks sold in Italy are actually rudimentary bombs.

A mortar is currently on the black market that packs a one-kg punch and can cause serious damage to persons and objects within a “very wide” radius, police say.

Local youths have delighted in giving heavy-duty fireworks scary or jokey names like The Bin Laden, The Maradona Bomb, Desert Storm, Red October and Turbo 3.

Last year saw the first appearance of another big bazooka, The Pope Bomb.

Among this year’s favourites is a monster blaster called the Monti Bomb after Italian Premier Mario Monti’s bumper austerity package.

Many cities, including Milan, Venice, Turin, Asti, Modena, Bari, Palermo and Olbia in Sardinia have issued ordinances in the last two days banning fireworks from the streets.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Berlusconi to Support Monti if Measures Agreed Beforehand

(AGI) Rome — The PdL party will keep on supporting the Monti government but wants the next measures to be agreed upon beforehand. In an audio message sent to the ‘promoters of freedom’, party leader Silvio Berlusconi said: “We will keep on acting responsibly, for the sake of Italy and of the Italians, supporting all the reforms required to ensure economic growth.

Reforms which our government had already listed in the letter sent to the European Central Bank and to the European Commission. All these topics can be addressed promptly and efficiently if from now on, as I hope, the government’s measures will be agreed upon with us before being passed, for we still are the parliamentary majority”.

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

Italy: New Year’s Firework Bans to Protect, Cats, Dogs, People, Peace

Turin, 29 Dec. (AKI) — Italians setting off fireworks this New Year’s Eve risk losing more than a finger.

Turin, Venice and Bari are Italy’s first major cities to ban the use of explosives ranging from firecrackers to louder, more colourful and devices.

Turin’s prohibition is in the name of dog and cat protection, Bari’s law was passed to safeguard “the safety of people and other living beings,” and the ban in Venice is to generically protect the peace. Transgressors are fined up to 500 euros for lighting explosives as small as firecrackers.

Italians traditionally welcome the New Year with explosives that light up the sky, but cause household pets to hide in terror and fray the nerves of humans.

In the days that lead up to the holiday television news is full of images of police raiding illegal factories and warehouses will boxes of fireworks, sometimes big enough to break windows and shake plaster from ceilings. On 1 January first there are inevitably stories of lost limbs and even fatalities.

In Rome and Florence — the most celebrated Italian cities of art — the mayors have called for moderation, while the Milan city government is using an ant-smog law to curb the use of fireworks.

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

Italy: Former Berlusconi Minister Dies in Bergamo

Tremaglia was MP for 40 years

(ANSA) — Rome, December 30 — Long-serving MP and former minister Mirko Tremaglia died in the northern city of Bergamo at the age of 85 on Friday.

Tremaglia, who was minister for Italians abroad from 2001 to 2006, served in two governments of former premier Silvio Berlusconi.

A former Fascist, Tremaglia joined Benito Mussolini’s Italian Social Republic when he was only 17 and during World War II he was captured by Allied Forces and held as a prisoner of war at Coltano near Pisa. Tremaglia was first elected to parliament in 1972 with the Italian Social Movement-National Right, a political party comprised of former Fascists. He later transferred to the National Alliance and finally Berlusconi’s People of Freedom Party in 2008.

Tremaglia was responsible for fighting to extend the voting rights of Italians living abroad and drove constitutional changes which enabled them to vote in the 2006 elections.

He suffered from Parkinson’s Disease for many years.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

King of Spain’s Son-in-Law Urdangarin on Corruption Charge

(AGI) Madrid — King Juan Carlos of Spain has suffered a blow with the news that his son-in-law, the former handball player Inaki Urdangarin, has ben charged as part of a corruption investigation referred to as the “Noos case”. The judge in Palma de Mallorca, Jose Castro, has already fixed the date of February 6 for Urdangarin’s trial. Urdangarin, the husband of the King’s youngest daughter, the Infanta Cristina, is accused of taking part in a series of illegal practices thanks to a group of businesses connected to the Noos Institute, a non-profit organisation chaired by the Duke of Palma.

Urdangarin and his business partner, Diego Torres, are accused of diverting public funds towards his personal accounts and of directing significant sums towards tax havens.

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

Napolitano Rejects Merkel Role in Berlusconi Removal

‘No request to replace premier’, says president

(ANSA) — Rome, December 30 — President Giorgio Napolitano on Friday rejected a US media report that claimed German Chancellor Angela Merkel pressed for the removal of ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi.

A political furore erupted after a report in The Wall Street Journal suggested Merkel had “intervened” in October and telephoned Napolitano urging him to “nudge Berlusconi off the stage”.

A statement released by Napolitano’s office said that there was no discussion “of any issue of internal Italian politics, nor any request to replace the premier”.

“The reason for the conversation was only about the measures taken and to be taken to reduce the deficit, in defence of the euro and in relation to structural reforms,” the statement said.

The highly respected Journal said that Merkel was concerned that Berlusconi was failing to adequately tackle the debt crisis and introduce the reforms demanded by the European Central Bank.

Earlier on Friday a spokesman for Berlusconi’s People of Freedom Party (PdL), Daniele Capezzone, demanded a “convincing denial” of the report.

He also expressed concern about the content of the telephone call describing it as “authoritative and invasive” and stressed that Italy remained a healthy democracy with its “autonomy and freedom” intact.

The Journal claimed its article was drawn from interviews with more than two dozen policy makers, including “many leading actors”.

It said Merkel was under pressure to intervene to prevent Italy from following the financial collapse witnessed in Greece and other countries.

“We are not a German colony,” said Melania de Nichilo Rizzoli, an MP for the PdL. “The European treaties do not allow the interference of one state in the political affairs of another European state”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Saudi Arabia: 14 Accused in French Tourists’ Murder Stand Trial in Riyadh

A special criminal court in Riyadh began the trial of 14 suspects accused of murdering four French tourists and threatening their women. They are also accused of supporting Al-Qaeda terrorist organization and carrying out a number of other crimes.

The trial, which was attended by a French consul and two relatives of the victims, saw the public prosecutor reading out the charges against the 14 defendants. The first three defendants were accused of being directly involved in the murder that took place in a desert area about 90 km north of Madinah in 2007. The remaining 11 are accused of setting up a terror cell and providing support to the murderers.

During the session, the prosecutor explained the various roles played by the defendants in the crime. They are also accused of opening fire against security officers, seizing cars of citizens at gunpoint and taking money from the ATMs of Saudi-American and Saudi-British banks and possessing weapons and explosives.

The prosecutor accused six defendants of providing shelter to Walid Al-Radadi, leader of the terror cell, and trying to smuggle him out of the Kingdom when his names appeared on a list of 36 wanted terrorists, two years before the attack on the victims.

Seven defendants are accused of possessing and using hashish. Arab News has learned that the seven used to meet to take drugs. One of them had acknowledged that he had once bought hashish for SR900.

Mansour Al-Qafari, a spokesman of the Justice Ministry, said Defendant No. 1 is accused of killing four French men and threatening to kill their women. He also tried to kill another European while he was coming out of a factory in the Industrial City of Jubail. He had also opened fire on two vehicles of the intelligence department. He had taken away eight vehicles at gunpoint. He is also accused of giving protection to Walid Al-Radadi and supporting Al-Qaeda.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: Dr Pasha Laid the Foundation of the British Muslims in the UK

Dr Syed Aziz Pasha, founder and Secretary General of the oldest British Muslim federal body in the UK, the Union of Muslim Organisations (UMO), passed away on November 23 after a long illness. Dr Pasha, 81, was one of the most respected Muslims leaders in the UK. Born in Madras, South India, in 1930, he graduated from Madras University in 1950. He went to the US in 1965, first as a student, helping to found the Muslim Student Association. He then pursued a promising career as an international legal consultant to the UN Indian delegation in New York. Dr Pasha recounted his family’s historic association with global Muslim causes to the author, M A Sherif, who is researching on British Muslim history. His parents, Professor Syed Rauf Pasha and Azmatuddin Sahib Begum, were from Arcot in South India. Professor Pasha was born in 1897 and participated in an Indian delegation to Palestine. Professor Pasha was a Congress supporter and died in India in 1967. The younger Dr Pasha also retold his own participation in an Indian delegation to the UN and the role played by V K Krishna Menon, the Indian minister, in overcoming his officials’ objections in having a Muslim in the delegation.

Dr Pasha later moved to the UK, he quickly became involved in improving the services to the Muslim community, leading the Knightsbridge Mosque in 1967. Between 1973 and 1983 he served as President of the Indian Muslim Federation. But his crowning achievement was his ability to see and bring together the burgeoning voices of British Muslim civil society.

He had the foresight and vision to understand that Britain’s Muslim community was diverse. That diversity would be further strengthened if Muslims came together in common cause. And so, in 1970, Dr Pasha founded the UMO — an umbrella body of thirty-eight associations. It has grown to over 200 organisations. As leader of the UMO, Dr Pasha enhanced the community’s connection with Government and public policy. Events organised by the UMO in Parliament and at Party Conferences were events in which politicians from all parties would make as a priority diary commitment. And he led the way in pushing through key reforms that would be later championed by the rest of the community. These included state funding for Muslim schools, and halal food provisions and prayer rooms in schools, hospitals, prisons and places of work.

He was passionate about the recognition of Muslim Family Law as outlined by UMO Muslim Bill of Rights. Dr Pasha pursued this passionately without fear or favour. The febrile anti-Muslim atmosphere after 9/11 and 7/7 in Britain (in particular) would render such passions unfashionable. Yet, a year after the terrorist attacks in London, Dr Pasha reportedly suggested after a meeting with the Communities Secretary, Ruth Kelly, that Muslims could be felt to be part of the fabric of British society if aspects of Muslim family law were acknowledged, he said, “this could function harmoniously alongside British Family Law.” In the years after 7/7, terms such as ‘Shari’ah’ and notions of Muslim family law became taboo. This was exemplified in the near-universal condemnation of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, who had the temerity to suggest in 2008 that aspects of Islamic jurisprudence could be accommodated where it did not conflict with British law.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: New Year Message From the Secretary General

The New Year brings tough challenges but unique opportunities too.

For many of us, 2011 will be remembered as the year that defied long-held stereotypes. The Arab Spring which swept across the Middle East and North Africa undermined the idea that the Muslim world doesn’t “do” democracy. The summer riots here in Britain suggested that all of us, including Muslims, had a collective duty and resolve to overcome adversity. And, the horrific massacre carried out by Anders Breivik in Norway gave us a wake-up call to be vigilant against the many peddlers of Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hatred.

Looking ahead, 2012 will be a year of opportunities which we should seize with faith, hope and aspiration. Faith-communities will come together to support and celebrate the London Olympics. You can be sure that British Muslims up and down the country will be urging on our Olympic teams. And we hope to find Muslim centres and mosques embodying the spirit and generosity of Ramadan, opening their doors and welcoming the many visitors who will come to this country.

The forthcoming Queen’s Diamond Jubilee will serve as an opportunity for all to reflect on the significant changes that Britain and British society have undergone in the last 60 years. During Her Majesty’s reign, our connection with the world has changed, but continued to grow. Many communities, including Muslim communities, have made this country their home. Today, the United Kingdom is a place where many faiths and many beliefs have added to an already rich spiritual tapestry where, immigrant communities help maintain Britain’s competitive edge by preserving economic links and trade opportunities with those countries they left behind.

Make no mistake. 2012 will be a challenging year. Recession, even economic Depression, is at our door. Unity at home will be crucial if we are to face the ongoing tumultuous changes both here and around the world. It remains vital to deny the hate mongers the oxygen of publicity or the lifeblood of the falsehoods and misconceptions of Islam and Muslims on which they thrive — and which, certain journalists and media outlets seem so keen to promote. As the financial crisis continues to bite, we should learn from the events of 2011 and look to the values that unite us not divide; that help us celebrate our diversity, whilst binding us into a greater whole; and offer an alternative, a message of hope, to those who constantly seek to downplay and divide us. Let us celebrate the ‘Great’ in Great Britain, and the ‘United’ in United Kingdom and remain unified in purpose and spirit in the challenging times ahead.

I wish everyone a Happy and Peaceful New Year!

Farooq Murad

[JP note: The extremist MCB adding its voice to our ‘rich spiritual tapestry’ and doing its best to replace its weft and warp with Islam.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Viking Boat Burial — Ardnamurchan, Scotland

A spectacular Viking boat burial was uncovered this year on the coast of Ardnamurchan, a remote region of western Scotland, the first such burial to be found on the British mainland. The Viking, who is thought to have perished over 1,000 years ago, was most likely a high-ranking warrior. He was buried lying in a 16-foot-long boat, with artifacts including a sword with silver inlay on the hilt, a shield, a spear, an ax, and a drinking horn. “The level of preservation of the objects and the range of grave goods make this one of the most important Viking burials found in the U.K.,” says Colleen Batey, a Viking specialist from the University of Glasgow.

Although the location is isolated today, at the time of the burial, it was right on the main north-south seafaring route between Ireland and Norway. No Viking dwellings have been found in Ardnamurchan, but Vikings are known to have inhabited the nearby islands of the Hebrides. “We don’t know why they chose this location for the burial, but the Neolithic and Bronze Age burial mounds there may have made it an important place for them,” says Oliver Harris, project co-director from the University of Leicester. Isotope analysis of the Viking’s teeth may eventually help the scientists pin down where he was from.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Bosnian Muslim Group Tells Followers to Boycott New Year’s Eve

The Islamic Community in Bosnia-Herzegovina has called on Muslims in the country not just to boycott the upcoming New Year eve celebrations, but to “turn off the lights early and let everyone see you’re boycotting everything happening on that night” it said in a statement released on Wednesday. By taking part in the celebration, Muslims would “violate God’s boundaries, and do something their master hates and despises” said the organization. The group’s statement cited quotes from a book by Almir Dumica, “Pearls of the Sunnah in the Mosaic of Time”, in support of their position. “On that night, turn off the lights early and let everyone see you’re boycotting everything happening on that night. Do not fear anyone’s objections. Don’t you have a right to choose? Do not say, ‘how can I do that, I will change nothing, most people do it. I will be declared a black sheep’,” Dumica writes in the book.

“On that night go to bed on time, happy and satisfied that the Allah gave you many benefits that you do not consider often, and which you would become aware of only if you lost them,” the Islamic Community said in its release. “Think about your health and family … the peace and security you enjoy. Then, each night of the year will be much more dear to you than the New Year’s night is to any of those who eagerly await it all year, while a blessed feeling of triumph will overcome your soul and body, because piousness and reason will have won over passions and ugly customs,” the statement concludes.

The Islamic new year, which is when the Prophet Muhammad migrated from Mecca to Madinah on Muharram first, was celebrated this year on November 25. Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Slavic population underwent a large-scale conversion to Islam after the region’s occupation by the Ottoman Empire in the second half of the 15th century, giving it a distinctive role within the Balkan region. Muslims are about 1.8 million, or roughly 8 percent of the total previous Yugoslavian population. They constitute the majority ethno religious group in the state according to Cole, John and Sam Beck in their book “Ethnicity and Nationality in Eastern Europe”.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

North Africa

“Moderate” Muslims Call for “Killing All Jews”

Muslim Brotherhood presented as face of moderate Islam

A group defended as representing the “moderate” face of Islam has called for the killing of all Jews.

The Muslim brotherhood, which recently won a majority of seats in Egyptian elections, has often been called a “moderate” faction of Islam.

The website, Ikhwanophobia .com, states that the group wants to represent the Muslim brotherhood as the face of moderate Islam. Following the election victory, many mainstream media outlets also claim the Muslim Brotherhood is a moderate Islamic organization.

The Muslim Brotherhood claims to be a moderate group. Speaking to the Associated Press, Essam el-Erian, deputy head of the Muslim Brotherhood’s new political party in Egypt, said, “We represent a moderate and fair party. We want to apply the basics of Sharia law in a fair way that respects human rights and personal rights.”

If Muslim Brotherhood defenders are correct, that the group is the face of moderate Islam, then it appears that moderate Islam believes in the killing of all Jews and the destruction of Israel.

YNet news reported at the end of November a Muslim Brotherhood rally of moderate Muslims was held at Cairo’s most prominent mosque.

The rally, which over 5,000 people attended, was called to promote the “battle against Jerusalem’s Judaization.”

Many worshippers left the mosque before the rally got underway, although a group spokesman for the moderate organization urged attendants not to leave the protest.

Muslim Brotherhood spokesmen called for liberating the whole of Palestine, a reference to all of the land Israel currently occupies. A quote from the Koran, vowing, “one day we shall kill all the Jews” was uttered multiple times at the moderate rally.

On Monday, Dec. 27, Ismail Haniyeh, Gaza’s Hamas premier, met with Muslim Brotherhood leader, Mohammed Badie.

Hamas is a designated terrorist organization of the United States and Israel and the Hamas charter calls for the total destruction of Israel. Badie said Hamas served as a role model for the Brotherhood and the Brotherhood supported Hamas in its “resistance” against Israel.

Egypt’s Middle East News Agency reported that Badie said Hamas has served as a role model to the Brotherhood. Haniyeh describes Hamas as the “jihadi movement of the Brotherhood with a Palestinian face.”

The moderate Muslim Brotherhood has also called for re-evaluating the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty.

Mahmoud Hussein, the group’s secretary general, said, “A long time has passed since the Camp David accord was signed, and like the other agreements it needs to be reviewed, and this is in the hands of the parliament.”

           — Hat tip: Nick[Return to headlines]

Arab Spring Impacts Archaeology — Libya/Egypt/Tunisia/Syria

No discussion of the year 2011 can be complete without a reference to what’s been termed Arab Spring. The political phenomenon has the potential to have an extraordinary impact on archaeology for years to come.

In Libya, a Russian journalist broadcast that thieves plundered the country’s museums and NATO bombed the ancient Roman sites of Leptis Magna and Sabratha. At the end of September, a three-person team from Blue Shield, a nonprofit organization concerned with the protection of cultural heritage in areas of conflict, traveled to western Libya and found Leptis Magna untouched. The theater at Sabratha suffered minor bullet damage, but the rest of the site was fine. Rebels had entered Tripoli’s National Museum, but only wrecked Qaddafi’s old cars on display; museum staff had previously hidden or moved important artifacts. Overall, the Blue Shield report said, they found no evidence of organized looting at the museums or archaeological sites they visited. Nevertheless, there are still concerns.

“There is a lot of hearsay, but artifacts have been smuggled out of the country through Egypt,” says Ray Bondin, Malta’s ambassador to UNESCO, who has worked with Libyan heritage authorities for many years. “The sites are not well protected and the department of antiquities is still organizing itself.”

After rebels drove Qaddafi’s forces from Benghazi, for instance, the so-called Treasure of Benghazi-around 8,000 bronze, silver, and gold coins and other artifacts from the ancient city of Cyrene near modern-day al-Bayda-disappeared from a bank vault.

Egypt appears to have been affected more than its westerly neighbor. After the revolution erupted in late January, then Minister of State for Antiquities Affairs Zahi Hawass offered assurances that all sites and artifacts were safe. Later, however, this proved not to be true. Looters had attacked dozens of sites and broke into storerooms throughout the country, including in the delta region, Abydos, Abu Sir, Giza, Dashur, Lisht, Saqqara, and Quntara. Thieves also pilfered artifacts from Cairo’s Egyptian Museum, while protests and street battles went on outside in Tahrir Square.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Egypt — One Year After the Massacre of Christians in Alexandria, Egypt Seeks a Way Forward

The persecution against Christians mingled with violence against the Arab revolution. In a year more than 1000 dead, thousands injured, 1200 have lost one or both eyes, because the police shoot at eye level. The interim government has not kept its many promises of equality between Christians and Muslims, but here and there are signs of growing alliances, mutual respect and friendship.

Cairo (AsiaNews) — One year has passed since the terrible massacre in the Church of the Two Saints, in Alexandria on New Year’s eve last year, which left more than twenty dead and a hundred wounded. One year later the facts regarding those responsible for committing this horrible crime are no clearer. There have been rumours which assert that it was the ministry of internal affairs who ordered the attack, but no investigation results have so far been published. Yesterday, the last Friday of the year, the protestant church called for a peaceful demonstration in Tahrir square to commemorate this anniversary, asking people to come with armed only with candles and no other religious symbol. A large demonstration led by Shaykh Mazhar Shaheen processed from Omar Makram mosque in Midan al Tahrir up to the Evangelical Church of Qasr al Doubara, one street behind Midan al Tahrir to celebrate the Chrismas and New Year’eve feasts.

Three weeks after last New Year’s eve attack the January 25 revolution exploded, and since then many difficult events have succeeded each other making it a hard time for the population, and mainly for Egyptian Christians. In fact, the Alexandria massacre took place less than a year after the violent attack at Nag Hammadi, in Upper Egypt on the eve of the Coptic Christmas celebrations, on the 7th of January 2010, which left seven dead and many wounded. And less than two months after clashes over a church construction in the suburb of Giza, next to Cairo, that left two dead and many wounded.

Early in March 2011, the Church of the Two Martyrs in Sol, next to Helwan, in the southern suburb of Cairo, was set on fire killing two people died. The motive for the arson attack was a forbidden love affaire between a Christian young man and a Muslim girl. The two fathers died in a quarrel, then the Muslim population burned the church. The Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) decided to rebuild the church which was ready for Easter one month later.

During March the awful virginity test was imposed on young women arrested by the authorities.

On Saturday, March 7, two churches in Imbaba, in a western suburb of Cairo, were attacked by fundamentalist mobs, with the result of a dozen Christians killed and the burning of the two churches. This suburb had once been termed ‘the Islamic Republic of Imbaba’.

In June 2011 a long awaited draft bill on building permits for places of worship both for Islam and Christianity was brought before parliament. But still today, this law has not been implemented.

On June 29, a vast confrontation between demonstrators and police forces left more than one thousand wounded. Again, on July 23, another confrontation resulted in more than two hundred wounded.

On September 30th, a church in Marinab village, in Asswan governorate was raised by Muslim fundamentalists who had decided to eradicate the village church by first pretending it was a new construction, than demanding it remove its crosses and the domes and finally burning the church, and many households belonging to the Christian population, without any protection from the civil authorities, rather, on the contrary with the obvious blessing of Asswan governor.

On Sunday October 9, a Christian demonstration began in Cairo to demand equal rights for Christians and justice for the Marinab village church. Numerous Muslim demonstrators were joined their Christian compatriots. What took place was a veritable slaughter which has now become known as the ‘Maspero massacre’ : The army attacked demonstrators resulting in 25 people dead and 350 wounded, many of them crushed under the wheels of advancing armoured vehicles. The state television located on Maspero Avenue launched

an appeal that verged on a call to civil war appealing to the population to come and protect the armed forces ‘savagely attacked by Christian demonstrators’. Three soldiers were reported dead, but in the end revealed to be only lightly wounded.

On October 10, the culprit of Nag Hamadi attack of January 7, 2010, who had been sentenced to death, was executed.

Then came the protests of Mohammad Mahmoud Street on November 19 (see 21/11/2011 Egypt, toll rises from Tahrir Square clashes: 30 dead and thousands injured), and later in mid December, the demonstrations and sit-in around the Parliament and the Ministers Council buildings (see 17/12/2011 Egypt: clashes between the army and demonstrators continue in front of the Houses of Parliament), with a heavey toll of dead and wounded.

In just one year, more than one thousand people have died, thousands of more wounded, an estimated one thousand two hundred people lost one or both eyes, and probably twelve thousand demonstrators were arrested and judged by military courts. Many political personnalities and well-known journalists have also been summoned and mistreated.

It is reported that since last March, one hundred thousand Christian Egyptians have left the country emigrating to different destinations. Many people among the Christian community, and among the poorest of them, would now like to apply for religious asylum in countries like the USA, Canada, or Australia.

Recently many bishops reported to have received threatening letters to prevent them from celebrating the New Year and Christmas. Pope Shenouda III, head of the Coptic Orthodox Church replied two days ago that ‘we do not fear any threats and we shall celebrate the feasts’, though everybody knows that the celebrations will be restricted inside churches and earlier than the usual midnight masses. The Catholic Church, which celebrates Christmas in Cairo, Alexandria and Lower Egypt on the December 25, had all the masses between 7 and 9p.m. All the churches were surrounded by police forces, which will be the same for the Orthodox Christmas on the eve of January 7.

‘Christmas is celebrated this year in Egypt in a state of ‘sad joy’ because of the general situation: sadness, because the year that passed has been a severe one not only for Christians but also for Muslims. From the massacre of the Two Saints’ church in Alexandria last year to the battle at the Ministers Council, through the Maspero massacre and the hard economic situation, all of this has left a wounded and suffering Egyptian society as Fr Rafic Greiche, official spokesman of the Catholic Church in Egypt, stated yesterday.

‘On the other hand, added Fr Greiche, we must preserve some joy, because every Egyptian is still full of hope that the difficulties and obstacles will be resolved little by little in building a new democratic state in this land that once sheltered Jesus and the Holy Family, where dignity, justice and equality should prevail for everyone’.

On this point, many political experts consider that the parliamentary elections have really attracted the majority of the population who felt for the first time they were really participating in their political duty and right. But many of them are still critical feeling that it was more a religious election than a democratic one, since no-one stopped the parties from using religious slogans when it was strictly forbidden.

An anecdotal gag was bandied about during the election campaign which went: ‘Women electors and men electors, whatever your religion, please vote for the salafist islamic party al-Noor. If you are Muslim, you shall go to Paradise. If you are Christian, you shall go [flee] to Canada!’

But there were also many positive reactions, mainly from the well known slogan of the 1919 revolution of the famous leader Saad Zaghloul, founder of the Wafd party that says ‘Religion is for God, and Homeland is for all’. The design of the Cross and the Crescent intertwined is more and more obviously brandished. Let us recall that in mid October the SCAF adopted a draft law incriminating discrimination and violence, which is usually aimed at Christians and women. But still, we have to see if this law is really being implemented in the daily life. On the other hand many people are reacting to Muslim preachers on Fridays correcting what they feel is an open attack against Christians, among whom, mainly Nawwara Negm, daughter of the famous anarchist poet Ahmad Fouad Negm, and strong activist since the beginning of the January revolution.

A young Christian student in the end of primary course, Myriam Armanios (11-12 years old) wrote two days ago on Facebook : ‘Like you, I have the right to celebrate my feasts’. More than 3 thousand pupils sustained her as well as the Maspero Youth Federation. A demonstration was organized in front of the ministry of education to protest against the fixed dates for midyear exams on the 1st and the 8th of January [the Coptic Christmas period]. The minister of education decided immediately to postpone the examinations for a couple of days later.

After the Lotus or Jasmin or Spring revolution, many promises were made by the government but none were achieved : like putting the minimum salary up to 750 Egyptian Pounds (a little less than 100 euros per month); offering a pension to the ‘martyrs’ of the revolution and the ‘martyrs’ of Maspero massacre; offering free medical care and treatment for all the wounded of the revolution and of Maspero massacre; an end to bringing civilians before military courts; adjusting the price of petrol to the standard prices in Spain, Turkey, Israel and Jordan; organizing impartial investigations into the Maspero, Mohammad Mahmoud street and Council of Minister massacres, as well as many other economic promises: until now none of these have been kept, provoking a general state of disillusionment.

Another point is the looming anniversary of the January 25th revolution: is the SCAF ready to let demonstrators gather? is the official press and media, as well as the interim government ready to stop accusing demonstrators of being agents and agitators manipulated by foreign powers? These last two days about twenty NGOs involved in human rights were raided, their computers seized and they were accused of being illegally financed by abroad.

Faced with this old approach to this important juncture, many observers express that the old regime is still active. As expressed by Pr Ezzeddine Shukry, professor of political science: ‘A regime that is not yet over, in front of a revolution that is not yet broken’.

We have to point out finally that the blogger Alaa Abd al Fattah, arrested in November and accused of criminal acts during Maspero massacre, has finally been released on probation in his flat, until a further judgement. Another positive act was the administrative court that stopped the virginity test imposed on young women arrested by the armed forces.

Pr Shukry perfecttly expresses the feeling among the general population when he says, ‘the situation is confused for the moment, but we must keep hope for the future, because the revolution movement has not been overcome, it is still active and will never be defeated’. He considers the many martyrs as a source of positive inspiration for the movement, and he brings as a symbol of hope of the dentist Ahmad Sharara, who lost one eye on the 28th of January and the second eye on 19th of November and who states : ‘Better to live blind with honour and dignity than to live with my sight despondent and blinkered’.

Demonstrators in Tahrir square yesterday refused to join an anti-protest march led by the army and the officials, thus refusing to join hands with the people hailing the expelled former president Mubarak. And still leaders of the political and youth movements have called for a huge gathering on this New Year’s eve in Tahrir square from 8p.m. until 2 a.m. to respond to the appeal first launched by the woman journalist Gamila Ismaïl to celebrate the Christian New Year by candle light with Coptic Hymns and Muslim Soufi prayers animated by famous singers like male singer Ali al Haggar and the beautiful Azza Balbaa.

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

Egypt: Muslim Villagers Burn Houses of Christians Upper Egypt

Dozens of residents of the village of Baheeg in Assiut, Upper Egypt, burnt three houses owned by a Christian family after a Christian villager allegedly published cartoons mocking Islam on his Facebook account. A number of Muslim students attacked their Coptic classmate for posting the cartoons, a Muslim student told Al-Masry Al-Youm. The Muslim students attacked the Coptic student on Thursday at Monqebad Secondary School in Assiut. Eyewitnesses said the military intervened to break up the fight and escorted the Coptic youth and his family away from the village. Later, Muslim villagers set fire to the family’s houses. Firefighters extinguished the blaze and armed forces and police imposed a security cordon around the site of the incident. Major General Mohamed Ibrahim, director of security in Assiut, said security forces are attempting to coordinate with Muslim clerics to calm citizens and contain the situation. Christians make up about 10 percent of the population in Egypt, which totals around 80 million people.

Translated from Al-Masry Al-Youm

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Fire Destroys “Temple of Knowledge” In Egypt

Pharaonic faces stare out from charred pages in Cairo’s Egyptian Scientific Complex on Monday. The documents are among thousands of precious historic works damaged or destroyed by a fire that consumed the structure over the weekend. Now in danger of collapsing, the complex, also known as the Institut d’Égypte, caught fire on Saturday during clashes between protesters and army soldiers near Tahrir Square.

“It’s a huge shock. It’s a gorgeous building and there are some really important ancient manuscripts and printed materials contained there,” said UCLA Egyptologist Willeke Wendrich. Founded by Napoleon in 1798, the Institut d’Égypte is dedicated to the advancement of scientific research. Its complex housed nearly 200,000 documents and manuscripts, some dating back to the 1500s.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Construction of Photovoltaic Panel Factory Suspended

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, DECEMBER 27 — Building work on a site in Bousalem (a town in inland Tunisia) producing photovoltaic panels has been suspended, according to the Arab-language Tunisian newspaper Al Maghreb, which says that the sponsor of the 11 million dinar (around 5.5 million euros) project, Mustapha Kasdaoui, took the decision after the access rote to the site was blocked by groups of unemployed people. The newspaper also reported that the jobless protesters physically attacked some workers.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Article on Iranian Website: This is How We’ll Close Strait of Hormuz

In response to threats by Western countries to impose oil sanctions on Iran, the Iranian website Mashreq News, which is close to Iranian military circles, posted an article on December 15, 2011 outlining military measures that could be taken by Tehran to close the Strait of Hormuz should the regime choose to do so.

The article enumerated the forces and weapons that Iran could employ in such a military operation, including fast attack craft carrying anti-ship missiles; submarines; battleships; cruise and ballistic missiles; bombers carrying laser-, radar- and optically-guided missiles; helicopters; armed drones; hovercraft; and artillery.

It stated that despite Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s statements that Tehran would not initiate a military confrontation but would retaliate harshly if attacked, “there is no guarantee that [Tehran] will not launch a preemptory strike on the civilian level, for instance through cyber-warfare or by means of economic pressure, including by closing the Strait of Hormuz and cutting off [this] energy lifeline for an indefinite period of time.” It added, “Should additional sanctions be imposed on Iran, especially in the domain of oil export, Iran might keep [its] oil from leaving its territorial waters.”

In a further threat, the article stated that Iran would in the future be able to attack the 480-km pipeline with a capacity of 2.5 million barrels/day[1] that the UAE is planning to build in order to bypass the Strait of Hormuz in order to neutralize Iran’s ability to disrupt the world’s oil supply: “As for the plan… to construct a [pipeline] from the UAE that will be an alternative in times of emergency in case the Hormuz Strait is closed, we should note… that the entire territory of the UAE is within range of Iran’s missiles, [so Iran] will easily be able to undermine security at the opening of this [pipeline] using weapons to be discussed this report.”

In accordance with Iranian doctrine, the article pointed out that these weapons would actually not be necessary because there would be suicide operations, and added that “the faith of the Iranian youth, and their eagerness to sacrifice their lives, will sap the enemies’ courage.”

Despite statements by Iranian government spokesmen, including Oil Minister Rostam Qasemi and Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast, that the closing of the strait is not currently on Iran’s agenda,[2] Majlis National Security Committee member Pervez Sarouri said that the Iran would be conducting 10 days of naval maneuvers, called “Velayat 90,” beginning December 24, 2011, to drill closing it.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Hellenic Aerospace Signs Agreement With UAE Firm

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, DECEMBER 30 — Hellenic Aerospace Industry (EAB) announced the signing of a cooperation memorandum with the company Advanced Military Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul Center (Ammroc) in the United Arab Emirates, thus boosting its presence in the UAE. Ammroc is the primary support outfit for the UAE air force and belongs to the aeronautics sector of the Abu Dhabi-based company Mubadala. The agreement between the two companies, as ANA reports, concerns activities involving the factory maintenance of aircraft, engines and related systems as well as technical training on all aspects of aircraft maintenance. Both the Greek and UAE air forces are equipped with similar aircraft, such as the F16, M-2000 and C-130, and helicopters.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Iraqi Interpreters Wait for Promised U.S. Visas

BAGHADAD — He rarely leaves his house. He’s been shot at by gunmen in a passing car. He gets death threats over the phone. “Traitor,” the callers say. “American agent.” Tariq, 27, is a quick-witted, tech-savvy Iraqi who tosses off idiomatic American English phrases such as “I’m outta here” and “That’s cool.” When he served as an interpreter for the U.S. military, Tariq lived on a secure base, safe from fellow Iraqis determined to kill him because of his service to America. But when the unit he served pulled out of Iraq on Oct. 13, he was dismissed and escorted off the base.

The Refugee Crisis in Iraq Act, passed in 2008, provided fast-track status for Iraqis who had worked for the U.S. government or military. The law authorized 5,000 special visas per year — 20,000 through 2011. But through October, just 3,415 had been issued to Iraqis, according to the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project.

The State Department says 7,362 Iraqis who worked for the United States have received special visas over that period, but that total includes family members. Through July, 62,500 Iraqis had applied through the special visa program, though many have given up and dropped out.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Saudi Arabia: Defense Bolstered With $29.4bn Arms Deal With America

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia has boosted its defense capabilities with a $29.4 billion arms deal with the United States. The Kingdom confirmed on Friday that it has signed the deal to purchase 84 F-15SA fighter jets. A Defense Ministry spokesman said the deal includes 70 Apache attack helicopters, 72 Black Hawk helicopters, 36 AH-6i helicopters and 12 MD-530F helicopters as well as upgrading of 70 existing F15 jets.

“The agreement also includes munitions, spare parts, training, maintenance and logistics for several years to ensure high level of defense capabilities for the Kingdom to safeguard its people and land,” the Saudi Press Agency quoted the spokesman as saying.

He said the deal came in line with the desire of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah, supreme commander of the armed forces, to strengthen the defense capabilities of Saudi forces. In a previous statement, Defense Minister Prince Salman emphasized the need to modernize the Kingdom’s armed forces and bolster its defense capabilities in the face of growing challenges and threats.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Saudi Arabia: War Dance Becomes Wedding Tradition

JEDDAH: Al-Dahha, a war dance initiated by the tribes in the northern areas of Saudi Arabia in the past, has now become a ritual in the wedding celebrations in the northern parts of the Kingdom and the countries bordering it from the north. Some historians claim that it was invented by the Anza tribe before the advent of Islam in the Arab Peninsula.

According to history books, a small group of people from this tribe were out one night on patrol when they saw some movement. They sent one member of the group to scout ahead and see what was going on, and he discovered a large army from another hostile tribe preparing to invade their area.

He returned from his scouting trip and told his people about the large army. The members of the tribe were few in number and could be easily overcome by the invading army that outnumbered them. They thought of a trick to scare the big army away. They came up with the idea of this dance in which they sang songs that sounded very much like roars of lion. They also hit their camels until they too started roaring.

The invading army, unaware of what these sounds were, got scared by the fearful sounds and ran away. Since then, the Al-Dahha dance was passed down from generation to generation. Today it has become part of wedding celebrations. The dance starts with the singer chanting some lyrics and the main dancer swinging the sword. He is then joined by other dancers, who make loud throaty sounds. The singers change and the dance continues.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Saudi Arabia: Indonesian Maid Brutally Raped

MAKKAH: The homicidal investigation unit of the Makkah police and security patrols have found an Indonesian housemaid at Al-Jabal checkpoint on the Makkah-Laith coastal road in a very bad shape. The Indonesian maid, in her 20s, was reportedly beaten and raped by seven drunken men, the police said on Tuesday.

The police said the maid was under a sponsor in Makkah, and had left the sponsor’s place with a young man to have illicit sex at his friend’s apartment in Jeddah. According to the police, the two men asked five other friends to meet them at a certain place on the Makkah-Laith road where they participated in the illicit act.

“The two men bought alcohol from Jeddah and met with their other five friends at their rendezvous where they all alternately raped the woman, and finally dumped her along the road,” the police said. It added that the woman was found by the police early morning Tuesday in miserable shape, totally fatigued and unable to walk. The woman was rushed to the maternity and child hospital at Jarwal district in Makkah and the police have started a massive hunt to track down the seven suspects.

Meanwhile, Makkah police said that they have arrested a gang composed of a Saudi, two illegal Yemenis and a Sudanese car mechanic who stole cars from Makkah, dismantled them in a desolate area near Taif and sold the parts in the underground market. The police said during the past two years, the gang stole more than 60 cars and stripped them at a workshop owned by the Sudanese mechanic about 140 km away from Makkah.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

SR150bn Spent on Construction and Upkeep of Mosques

JEDDAH: There are more than 70,000 mosques across the Kingdom and the government has spent nearly SR150 billion on the construction, renovation and maintenance these mosques during the past five years, a senior official said on Saturday. Ali bin Salim Al-Abdali of the Ministry of Islamic Affairs revealed this during a ceremony marking the opening of King Abdullah Mosque by Al-Jouf Gov. Prince Fahd bin Badr in Sakaka on Saturday. The mosque, which can accommodate 3,700 worshippers, was established at a cost of SR30 million.

Al-Abdali, who is the director general of the ministry’s office in Al-Jouf, said the government constructed 60 new mosques and renovated 200 others during the past five years. “In Al-Jouf province alone there are 1,300 mosques,” he said.

Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah laid the foundation stone for the Sakaka mosque when he visited the province few years ago. The mosque complex includes two libraries, a dawa center, housing for the imam and khatib and other related facilities. Al-Abdali commended the government’s support to construct and renovate mosques. King Abdullah recently allocated SR500 million for renovation of mosques.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UAE: Nation Offers Prayers for Rain

A large number of faithful offered prayers for rain (Salat Al Istisqa) across the UAE on Friday, in line with the directives of the president.

AL AIN — Muslims in the city of Al Ain supplicated to God for showers responding to a call The President, His Highness Shaikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan to all Muslim worshippers in the UAE to offer congregational prayers for rain in the tradition of Prophet Mohammed (Peace Be Upon Him). Undersecretary at the Court of Ruler’s Representative in the Western Region Shaikh Hazza Bin Tahnoun Al Nahyan joined the prayers. Shaikh Khalifa Bin Tahnoun Al Nahyan also performed the rain prayers at the Shaikh Salama Mosque along with a large number of worshippers. Preacher Shaikh Nasser Saeed Al Shibili led the prayers, after which he made a short sermon.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Afghanistan: Taliban Commanders ‘Captured and Killed’

Kabul, 30 Dec. (AKI) — At least three Taliban commanders and people who gave logistical support to the militants were killed and 11 have been captured in joint raids with Nato and Afghan forces, Nato said in a statement in Friday.

The coalition statement says one operation this week in Bakwah district in Farah resulted in the capture of 11 Taliban commanders and so-called facilitators.

Around 130,000 international troops, primarily from the United States, are in Afghanistan fighting Taliban insurgents together with Afghan soldiers.

Separately, a roadside bomb on Friday killed four civilians in Afghanistan’s southern province of Uruzgan on Friday, the provincial head of the crime investigation unit said, the AFP news agency reported

“Four civilians were killed and one injured when their vehicle hit a Taliban-planted mine in Trinkot city this morning,” said Gulab Khan in the report.

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

Indonesia: Sunni Mob Sets Fire to Shia Boarding School in East Java

The hate crime against minority Shias took place yesterday on Madura Island. Ahmadi Muslims have been victims of similar acts in the past at the hand of Muslim extremists.

Karang Gayam (AsiaNews) — Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim country with a Sunni majority, was hit by intra-Muslim sectarian violence. An angry mob set fire to a Shia boarding school (pesantren in Indonesian) yesterday. The school, which included a small mosque, is in Karang Gayam, on Madura, a big island off East Java Province. The province is a stronghold of Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), the country’s largest (moderate) Muslim organisation.

NU East Java chief Kiai Hajj Mutawakil Alallah condemned the attack. Blaming a “third party”, he said the attack was a hostile act designed to divide local Muslims.

Earlier, a mob had attacked four houses and shops belonging to a local Muslim, setting them on fire before moving to the Shia Tajul Muluk School and its small mosque.

Recently, another local Muslim was forced to abandon his property and home and move to another East Java city after he was accused of spreading “fraudulent” Islamic teachings to locals and students in a boarding school. He is the legal owner of the torched boarding school, which had around 130 pupils.

Established in 2004, the school had only recently raised concerns among local Muslims over the presence of minority Shia educational facility in their territory.

For local authorities, the incident is due to a local row that got out of hand. For the local chapter of NU, the conflict has a long history and it will try to defuse it before its spreads to other areas.

The incident highlights an ugly undertone in Indonesia’s life, namely the mistreatment of minorities by majority Sunnis. In this case, Shias were the target, but members of the Ahmadi community have been attacked by Muslim extremists in the past.

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

Far East

Ancient Chinese Takeout — Shaanxi/Xinjiang, China

Today, dog soup and millet noodles may be meals only an archaeologist could love. In two tombs at opposite ends of the country, archaeologists have found the remains of intriguing dishes, well preserved in bronze vessels and clay pots and buried with the dead. In a Warring States tomb in Shaanxi Province, one team found a soup containing what they believe to be dog bones. And in Subeixi Cemetery in Xinjiang, another group of archaeologists found 2,400-year-old intact noodles made of millet. With efforts to re-create the meals, archaeologists may soon be eating like the ancients.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Cancer-Causing Milk Brings More Danger to China’s Food

After the melamine scandal, which left many people dead or sick a few years ago, giant dairy Mengniu acknowledges that some of its products contained aflatoxins, highly carcinogenic substances caused by fungi or mould. Although China’s central government has imposed tighter controls, companies continue to ignore them in the pursuit of profits.

Beijing (AsiaNews) — China’s Mengniu Dairy company acknowledged that its products contained excessive and lethal doses of aflatoxin, one of the most dangerous carcinogens in the world. Although the food giant destroyed the tainted batch of milk, consumers’ confidence has been shaken again.

In a press release, the company said that the problem was discovered before the tainted milk reached stores. “Mengniu would like to express our sincere apologies to consumers,” the statement said. “We will learn a big lesson from this incident and will work harder to meet all national and corporate standards on quality.” Mengniu is China’s largest dairy.

Aflatoxins are toxins produced by various species of fungus, or by mouldy substances, and are among the most carcinogenic substances known. If they are found in milk, it is because of poor hygiene during production.

Chinese authorities have ordered dairy companies to meet higher standards, but so far, they have failed in their pursuit of profits.

A few years ago, China’s food industry was hit by a succession of scandals. In 2008, six children died and another 300,000 became sick from drinking melamine-tainted milk formula. Melamine is a substance that when added to milk powder artificially boosts its protein content.

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

Sub-Saharan Africa

Leave Southern Nigeria, Mend Warns Northern Muslim

The movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, MEND has condemned in strong terms, Christmas Day bombing of Christians in Northern Nigeria, warning that it will attack Muslims in the South and North if the Federal Government fails to half the attacks on Christians. MEND in a statement signed by General Peter Timi sent to Weekend Observer yesterday warned that to avoid bloodbath, from January 2012, Northern Muslims and those from neighbouring countries resident in Southern Nigeria to leave.

MEND statement reads:

“We call on security agencies in the country to respond swiftly and positively to the security challenges facing the Christian faith in the Northern States or we will be left with no other option than to carry out reprisal attacks on all the Islamic establishments in the entire south and join forces with the northern Christians. The incessant killing of innocent lives, especially Christians across the north must stop; the movement will no longer fold its arms and watch some group of miscreant unleash mayhem on Niger Deltans and other Southern Christians in the North. To avoid bloodbath beginning from January 2012, we strongly advise all Northern Muslims including those from Niger Republic, Cameroun and Chad Republic residing from Benue, Kogi and Kwara to Lagos States and from Enugu to Cross River States respectively to leave in earnest as the blood of those southern Christians killed in the far north are seeking reprisal attack. The incident that happened at King Street Off Urhobo road, Sapele will be a child’s play compare to what we have in stock if this advice is ignored”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Nigeria’s Jonathan Vows to Rout Boko Haram ‘Cancer’

(AGI) Madalla (Nigeria) — Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan has vowed to quash Boko Haram Islamic movement. Following recent sectarian bloodshed targeting Nigeria’s Christian minority, Jonathan described Boko Haram as “a cancer in Nigeria’s body” and accused the fundamentalist movement of conspiring to “kill” Nigeria.

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

Nigeria: Blast Near Mosque in Northeast Nigeria Kills Four

An explosion killed four people in the violence-torn city Nigerian city of Maiduguri as Muslim faithful left a mosque after Friday prayers, the military and residents said.

The blast comes after a series of Christmas attacks blamed on Islamist sect Boko Haram killed at least 42 people, most of them outside a Catholic church near the capital Abuja, and raised fears of reprisals from Christians. “There was a loud blast near the mosque just after the Friday prayers as people were trooping out of the mosque,” one resident said. “Everybody scampered to safety, leading to a stampede.” Another resident, Mohammed Bukar, reported four dead and others wounded. “There was confusion following the blast,” he said. “When the dust settled, I saw four dead people being loaded into a vehicle along with some wounded in the blast.” A spokesman for a military task force in the region confirmed the blast but could not immediately provide details.

“It’s true there was a blast near Monday market while people were leaving the mosque. We don’t have details yet,” said Lieutenant Colonel Hassan Mohammed. Boko Haram has carried out scores of attacks in Nigeria, most of them in the northeast. The group’s targets in that region have included Muslim leaders. Thousands have fled Maiduguri fearing further attacks by Boko Haram and heavy-handed military raids, with soldiers accused of killing civilians and burning their homes after bomb blasts. Christian leaders have expressed mounting frustration over the Nigerian authorities’ inability to stop attacks that have killed hundreds of people this year. They have said they will be forced to defend themselves if the authorities do not address the problem.

Amid the mounting concerns over reprisals, a bomb was thrown into an Arabic school on Tuesday in Delta state in southern Nigeria, wounding six children and an adult. Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, is roughly divided between a mainly Muslim north and predominantly Christian south. Violence had been raging even in the days before the Christmas bombings, especially in the northeastern cities of Damaturu, Potiskum and Maiduguri. Another attack hit the northeast on Wednesday night, when gunmen opened fire and threw explosives at a hotel and open-air bar in the city of Gombe, wounding 15 people, the hotel manager said. The motive for that attack was not clear, though Boko Haram has often targeted bars. In Damaturu last week, suspected members of Boko Haram carried out attacks followed by a military crackdown that led to clashes. A rights group and police source said up to 100 people were feared dead in the violence. An emergency official has said an estimated 90,000 people have been displaced in Damaturu.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Nigeria: Kubwa Mosques Beef Up Security

Imams in Kubwa, a surburb of Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, said security is being beefed up in all mosques in the district to guard against the occurrence of any criminal activities. Six children and another person were on Tuesday night injured when suspected assailants threw a homemade bomb in the midst of about 100 kids taking lessons at a Qur’anic school in Sapele, Delta State. Chief Imam of Kubwa Juma’at Mosque, FHA, Kubwa, Alh. Salihu Zamfara, who spoke to Daily Trust, said the Imams in the district held a meeting same Tuesday night to seek ways of preventing a occurrence of such bombing that might endanger the lives of worshippers. He said some of the decisions taken include the checking of the boots of vehicles of both Muslims and non-Muslims entering the premises of any mosque in Kubwa. Imam Zamfara also said that all polythene bags carried by mosque entrants will be thoroughly searched to forestall any occurrence similar to the bombing in Delta State. Another Imam who spoke on the matter, Mal. Mohammadu Jauro, of the Kubwa Abattoir mosque, called on Muslim faithful to be wary of any strange face in the mosque and report any suspicious movement to the relevant authorities. He said both Muslims and non-Muslims in the area should not fold their arms and allow people with bad intention to cause loss of lives and/or injuries to innocent citizens.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Nigeria Calls State of Emergency Over Sect Attacks

ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) — Nigeria’s president on Saturday declared a state of emergency in parts of Africa’s most populous nation, after a recent slew of deadly attacks blamed on a northern-based radical Muslim sect killed dozens of people, as separate communal clashes in the country’s southeast left more than 40 dead.

President Goodluck Jonathan declared an indefinite state of emergency in four states, which would all allow security agencies there to make arrests without proof and conduct searches without warrants. He also ordered the closure of international borders near the affected areas.

They include parts of northeastern state of Yobe and the central states of Plateau and Niger, all hit by the Christmas Day attacks that left at least 42 people dead, for which a radical sect known as Boko Haram claimed responsibility. Attackers targeted churches and one of the state offices of Nigeria’s secret police.

The president also declared a state of emergency in parts of the northeastern state of Borno, a stronghold of the feared Islamic sect.

“What began as sectarian crises in the northeastern parts of the country has gradually evolved into terrorist activities in different parts of the country with attendant negative consequences on our national security,” Jonathan said.

“(The state of emergency) means extra powers to security agencies in those areas,” said National Security Adviser Owoye Azazi, who also told journalists in Abuja that it would last “until the situation improves.”

Jonathan also said Saturday that he has directed top security officials to set up a special counterterrorism unit to fight the growing threat posed by Boko Haram.

Earlier in the year, an Aug. 26 bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Nigeria’s capital Abuja killed 24 people and wounded 116 others. The sect claimed responsibility for that attack.

The Christmas attacks come a year after a series of Christmas Eve bombings in central city of Jos in the nation’s “middle belt,” where the country’s largely Muslim north meets its largely Christian south. Last year’s Christmas attacks claimed by the militants left at least 32 dead and 74 wounded.

“Terrorism is a war against all of us,” Jonathan said as he spoke during an address on national television on Saturday. “I call on all Nigerians to join hands with government to fight these terrorists.”

The sect, some of whose members are believed to have links to al-Qaida, wants to impose Islamic Shariah law across Nigeria.

The U.S. Embassy had warned U.S. citizens late Friday to exercise caution in Nigeria.

“Violent extremist attacks have continued in various locations, including the states of Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Kaduna, Kano, Niger, Plateau, and Yobe, resulting in numerous casualties,” the warning read.

Boko Haram’s widening terror attacks, though, are only further intensifying religious and ethnic divisions in Nigeria. In this nation of more than 160 million people, thousands have died in recent years in communal fighting pitting machete-wielding neighbors against each other.

[Return to headlines]


Italy: ‘Foreigners to Triple by 2056’

‘Foreign-born population up from 4.6 to 14.1 mln by 2065’

(ANSA) — Rome, December 28 — Italy’s foreign population will triple by 2065, Istat said Wednesday.

The foreign-born population is set to rise from 4.6 million now to 14.1 million in 2065, the statistics agency said in a report on future demographics.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Wulf Kurtoglu said...

Re the Viking burial at Ardnamurchan ('the hill of the great sea'), here's a poem by Scots poet Rab Wilson on the subject: