Sunday, January 12, 2003

News Feed 20120103

Financial Crisis
»Belgium: Record Number of Bankruptcies in 2011
»Collapse of the Eurozone ‘Will Start This Year’ As Countries Pull Out of the Single Currency, Leading Think Tank Warns
»Europeans Migrate South as Continent Drifts Deeper Into Crisis
»Greece Urgently Requests Clarity on Bailout Deal
»Greek Doctors Stage First Strike for 2012
»Italian Lawmakers Are Paid the Most
»Italy: Moonlighting in Public Sector
»Italy: ‘Petrol 75% Dearer Than 10 Years Ago’
»Spain’s Jobless Rate Hits 15-Year High in December
»Spain 2011 Finances Could be Worse Than Feared: Minister
»NDAA Historic Assault on American Liberty
»Parasitic Fly Could Account for Disappearing Honeybees
»Undecided Iowans Typical of Open Republican Primary Race
»2011 Homicides: 47 Deaths a Grim Record for Edmonton
Europe and the EU
»Cyprus Discovers Gas at Sea. Turkey and Egypt Step Forward
»EU Carbon Tax to Drive Up Cost of Airplane Tickets
»Eurozone’s EFSF to Issue 3 Bn in Bonds for Ireland, Portugal
»Hackers Against Neo-Nazis: Anonymous Takes on Germany’s Far-Right
»Hungarian Leader Accused of ‘Dictatorship’ Over New Constitution
»Italy: ‘Agro-Mafia’ Gets Rich From ‘Fraud’ In 5 Bln Euro Olive Oil Business
»Italy: The Town That Stood Up to the Mafia
»Netherlands: Arrests, Injuries, And Car Fires During New Year Festivities
»Netherlands: New Year Celebrations ‘Not Really a Party’, Says Justice Minister
»Norway: Ex-Progress Party Chief Loses Licence After Crash
»Norway: Herring Galore as Tonnes of Fish Wash Up on Beach
»Powerful Media Ally Abandons German President
»Researchers Bust the Stradivarius Myth
»Sarkozy and Far Right Rivals Celebrate Joan of Arc
»Sweden: One Man Dead After New Malmö Shooting
»Sweden: Stockholm: Police Face Stones and Lasers After Car Pursuit
»Sweden: Another Fatal Shooting in Malmö
»Sweden: Shootings Spate Tied to Availability of Weapons
»UK: Cameron Has Yet to Act on His Multiculturalism Speech. How Many Lives of Muslim Girls Will be Lost Until He Does?
»UK: London’s Beloved Bus Returns, With an Update
»UK: Postcard From Islamic London
North Africa
»Egypt: The Treasures of Islam
»Gunfights Are Reported in the Centre of Tripoli, Libya
»Hope Meets Hate in the New Libya
Israel and the Palestinians
»Caroline Glick: Is Israeli Society Unraveling?
Middle East
»A Dangerous Region
»France Calls for Tougher EU Sanctions Against Iran
»Taliban Confirm Deal to Open Office in Qatar
»Dozens Arrested in Moscow New Year Rally
»Russia Says Iran Has No Long-Range Missiles
South Asia
»A Muslim Apostate’s Defense of the West
»Afghan Taliban Reach Agreement to Open Qatar Office
»Indian Government’s Anti-Corruption Law Becomes “Waste Paper”
»Indonesia: Muslims Enraged by Call for a “Friendly Islam”
»Iran Shuts Border With Pakistan as Its 3 Personnel Held
»Pakistan Deports Dutch Suspects
»Tajikistan: Muslims Shouting “Infidel” Murder Santa Claus
»Top Indian Businessman Mocks Davos
Far East
»China’s President Pushes Back Against Western Culture
»Chinese Muslims Clash With Police Over Mosque
»Man Behind Japan’s Subway Attacks Surrenders After 16 Years
Australia — Pacific
»Anti-Islam Pamphlet Concern
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Boko Haram Gives Three Day Ultimatum to the Christians to Flee Northern Nigeria
»British Voice Behind a Call to Arms for Somalia’s Islamic Terrorists
»Polish-Nigerian Bogus Marriage Network Dismantled
»UK: Welcome to 2042 — the Year When Britain is No More Than a Memory
»Bizarre Crystal Hitched Ride on Meteorite
»How Marijuana May Drive the Brain Into Psychosis
»Looking Ahead: 2012 Pivotal for Private Spaceflight
»NASA Rover Mission Marks 8 Pioneering Years on Mars
»Nobel Prizewinning Quasicrystal Fell From Space
»The Dust Library

Financial Crisis

Belgium: Record Number of Bankruptcies in 2011

A record number of Belgian companies have gone under during 2011. Since the beginning of the year 10,528 firm have been declared bankrupt. This is up 5.86% on 2010. The figures come from the credit referencing agency Graydon Belgium.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Collapse of the Eurozone ‘Will Start This Year’ As Countries Pull Out of the Single Currency, Leading Think Tank Warns

The stricken eurozone will start disintegrating this year and will almost certainly collapse within the next decade, a think tank warned today.

At least one country will quit before the end of the year and there is a 99 per cent chance of a break-up in the next ten years, forecasters at the Centre For Economics And Business Research (CEBR) claimed.

They added that ‘it now looks as though 2012 will be the year when the euro starts to break up’.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Europeans Migrate South as Continent Drifts Deeper Into Crisis

Tens of thousands of Irish, Greek and Portuguese people leave in search of a new life as the eurozone’s woes worsen

Since its conception, the European Union has been a haven for those seeking refuge from war, persecution and poverty in other parts of the world. But as the EU faces what Angela Merkel has called its toughest hour since the second world war, the tables appear to be turning. A new stream of migrants is leaving the continent. It threatens to become a torrent if the debt crisis continues to worsen.

Tens of thousands of Portuguese, Greek and Irish people have left their homelands this year, many heading for the southern hemisphere. Anecdotal evidence points to the same happening in Spain and Italy. The Guardian has spoken to dozens of Europeans who have left, or are planning to leave. Their stories highlight surprising new migration routes — from Lisbon to Luanda, Dublin to Perth, Barcelona to Buenos Aires — as well as more traditional migration patterns.

This year, 2,500 Greek citizens have moved to Australia and another 40,000 have “expressed interest” in moving south. Ireland’s central statistics office has projected that 50,000 people will have left the republic by the end of the year, many for Australia and the US.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Greece Urgently Requests Clarity on Bailout Deal

The holiday break was welcome, but on Tuesday, a Greek government spokesman said that the next three months were crucial if his country was to remain part of the euro zone. The bailout agreement with the EU, he said, must be finalized. Or else.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Greek Doctors Stage First Strike for 2012

Greek doctors and pharmacists have gone on strike in the country’s first walkout of 2012, with hospitals treating only emergency cases until Thursday, in protest at changes to healthcare provision. Pharmacists are angry at government plans to cut the cost of medicines in an attempt to reduce state spending.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italian Lawmakers Are Paid the Most

Rome, 3 Dec. (AKI) — Italian politicians’ average salary of 16,000 euros makes them the top earners among lawmakers in the European Union, according to a report.

A government-sponsored commission was tasked with surveying the gross salaries of EU politicians to put the pay of Italy’s 950 lawmakers in line with the median of their European counterparts.

The report said that Italian politicians made about 2,500 euros a month more than no. 2 France, where politicians gross monthly salary totals 13,500 euros.

The president of Italy’s national statistics agency Istat headed the committee that prepared the report on members of parliament in Italy Germany, France, Spain, Netherlands, Belgium and Austria.

Italy’s new government headed by ex-EU competition commissioner Mario Monti has pushed through a series of emergency measures designed to balance the budget, trim the debt and stimulate growth for third-richest country among the 17 nations that use the euro currency, a monetary block dubbed the eurozone.

Monti in December formed a government of so-called non-politicians to reassure the EU and international markets after an economic crisis toppled Silvio Berlusconi’s rule.

Furious Italians, who will now have to pay more taxes and work longer, have demanded that politicians also feel the pain of the reforms.

Outcries from lawmakers caused Moni to scrap a plan to cut their pay by decree, agreeing to let the them take the initiative.

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

Italy: Moonlighting in Public Sector

Financial police report details 3,300 cases already uncovered

ROME — Some of them clock in and then disappear. Some do private clients’ work in office hours. Others even consult on projects that they then have to process for public bodies. All are public-sector workers who take on outside work without proper authorisation, causing serious damage to the public purse. The numbers are there to prove it. In the past three years, about 3,300 public-sector workers and executives, some high-ranking, have been identified by the financial police and public sector inspectors as having outside activities. Together, they have accumulated more than €20 million in illicit earnings, at a cost to the public purse of nearly €55 million. Wasteful public-sector spending is again confirmed as the area where there is most need for tighter controls to claw back money, and above all to avoid further losses. It’s all there in the annual report of the financial police on double earners, which highlights figures for the period from 2009 to 2011 and highlights the most glaring cases. The report also stresses “the importance of intervention in wasteful public spending, which from the accounting point of view is at least as significant as revenue from taxation. Its importance is even more evident today in an enduring period of crisis and of Italian political commitment to the international community, which dictate that available resources should be spent, down to the last euro, on supporting the economy and the weakest members of society while eliminating waste, inefficiencies and, in the most serious cases, the embezzlement of public funds, all of which represent a barrier to Italy’s growth”…

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

Italy: ‘Petrol 75% Dearer Than 10 Years Ago’

Diesel price rose 104%

(ANSA) — Rome, January 3 — Petrol is 75% dearer in Italy than it was 10 years ago, consumer group Codacons said Tuesday.

Diesel prices have more than doubled since January 2002, it added, with a rise of 104%.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spain’s Jobless Rate Hits 15-Year High in December

Spain’s jobless numbers rose for the fifth straight month in December to a new 15-year high, official data showed Tuesday, posing a stiff challenge to the country’s new conservative government. The number of registered unemployed rose from the previous month by 1,897 people, or 0.04 percent, to 4.42 million, its highest level since the labour minister started collecting the figures in 1996.

The number of jobless was up in December from the same year-ago period by 322,286 people, or 7.86 percent. “The figures for the number of registered unemployed for the month of December confirm the deterioration of the economic situation during the second half of the year,” the labour ministry said in a statement.

Spain, once the motor of job creation in the eurozone, has struggled to find jobs for the millions thrown out of work by the collapse of a labour-intensive property bubble in 2008. The Bank of Spain warned last week that the economy shrank in the fourth quarter of 2011 as tourism and exports, the drivers of a modest recovery, weakened.

The grim report fueled fears that Spain, the eurozone’s fourth-largest economy, was heading back into recession after the economy posted zero growth in the third quarter of 2011. The new government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has vowed to make make fighting unemployment and fixing the country’s finances its top priorities.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Spain 2011 Finances Could be Worse Than Feared: Minister

Spain’s already strained public finances could turn out to have been in even worse shape than expected last year, the government warned Monday, setting the tone for a difficult 2012. On Friday, the new right-leaning government said the public deficit would easily exceed the 2011 forecast of 6.0 percent of GDP as it unveiled spending cuts and tax hikes totalling 15.1 billion euros ($19.6 billion) for this year.

On Monday, Finance Minister Luis de Guindos said the true position could be even worse, blaming the country’s wayward provinces for the problem. “It is possible that it exceeds 8.0 percent (of Gross Domestic Product) but I hope it won’t be much higher,” de Guindos said. “A big part of this difference (in the forecasts) comes from the regions,” de Guindos told private radio Cadena Ser, adding that he expected them to “make an effort” to help restore fiscal health.

Spain’s 17 autonomous regions, which are responsible for health and education services, were hard hit by a 2008 crash in the housing market and are a growing source of concern for economists and policy-makers as Madrid tries to stabilise the country’s finances. “Everyone must participate in this effort,” the minister said. “We are in a very difficult situation, very complex, and without a doubt the hardest in the past decades in Spain.”

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, freshly installed after beating the Socialists in November elections, has vowed to meet the 2012 target of reducing the public deficit to 4.4 percent of GDP. Madrid aims to narrow the deficit to 3.0 percent — the EU limit — by 2013 through a combination of spending cuts and tax hikes to better balance the government’s books .

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


NDAA Historic Assault on American Liberty

President Barack Obama rang in the New Year by signing the NDAA law with its provision allowing him to indefinitely detain citizens. It was a symbolic moment, to say the least. With Americans distracted with drinking and celebrating, Obama signed one of the greatest rollbacks of civil liberties in the history of our country … and citizens partied in unwitting bliss into the New Year.

Ironically, in addition to breaking his promise not to sign the law, Obama broke his promise on signing statements and attached a statement that he really does not want to detain citizens indefinitely (see the text of the statement here).

Obama insisted that he signed the bill simply to keep funding for the troops. It was a continuation of the dishonest treatment of the issue by the White House since the law first came to light. As discussed earlier, the White House told citizens that the president would not sign the NDAA because of the provision. That spin ended after sponsor Senator Carl Levin (Democrat, Michigan) went to the floor and disclosed that it was the White House and insisted that there be no exception for citizens in the indefinite detention provision.

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

Parasitic Fly Could Account for Disappearing Honeybees

Parasitic flies that turn honeybees into night-flying zombies could provide another clue to cracking the mystery of colony collapse disorder. Since 2007, thousands of hives in the US have been decimated as bees inexplicably go missing overnight. The best explanation so far is that multiple stresses, perhaps parasitic mites, viruses or pesticides, combine to tip the bees over the edge.

John Hafernik of San Francisco State University in California and colleagues discovered that hosting Apocephalus borealis, a parasitic fly found throughout North America, makes bees fly around in a disoriented way at night, when they normally roost in the hive, before killing them. Although unlikely to be the sole cause of colony collapse disorder, Hafernik thinks the parasitic fly discovery may help explain why bees quit their hives. “They seem to leave their hives in the middle of the night on what we call the ‘flight of the living dead’,” he says. Since the discovery, the parasitic flies have been found at 77 per cent of sites in San Francisco Bay, and in hives in South Dakota.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Undecided Iowans Typical of Open Republican Primary Race

With the Iowa caucuses officially kicking off the 2012 US Presidential election, the picture among Republicans was muddy. As many as third of voters said they hadn’t decided who they wanted to challenge Barack Obama.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


2011 Homicides: 47 Deaths a Grim Record for Edmonton

EDMONTON — A man found dead in a Mill Woods home in the early morning hours of New Year’s Eve and a woman found dead 12 hours later in a bloody downtown apartment were Edmonton’s final homicide victims in a year that shattered the city’s previous record. Police declared both killings homicides on Saturday, putting Edmonton’s final homicide tally for 2011 at 47. The near homicide-a-week pace meant the city’s previous record of 39, set in 2005, was broken by mid-October, when a homeless man found dead in a Parkdale-area home became the city’s 40th victim. Edmonton’s bloodiest year on record year left a long list of victims. The youngest was a disabled seven-year-old boy whose caregiver has been charged with manslaughter. The oldest was an 84-year-old woman who died in hospital days after a man allegedly broke into her downtown seniors home and sexually assaulted her.

What remains to be seen is whether that pace will continue into the new year. “I think because of the nature of the reality of this part of the world and country we live in, Edmonton being a gateway to the North and many other issues here, we’re probably going to always be in the top three or four (cities) for homicides,” said Insp. Stewart Callioux, with the Edmonton police major crimes section. Traditionally, criminologists agree, crime increases in Canada as you travel east to west. But finding a definitive answer for why Edmonton recorded so many killings in 2011 isn’t that simple — Calgary, for instance, recorded 11 homicides this year.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Cyprus Discovers Gas at Sea. Turkey and Egypt Step Forward

The U.S. Company Nobel Energy has found a deposit of five thousand to eight thousand billion cubic meters southeast of the island. The Greek Cypriot president calls it a “historic” event. Meanwhile, Turkey gives the green light to the Russian-Italian South Stream pipeline to carry Russian gas to Europe.

Nicosia (AsiaNews / Agencies) — The Cypriot government has announced the discovery of natural gas reserves off its coast, to the south east, which could range from five to eight thousand billion cubic meters. Cypriot President Dimitris Christofias said that the reserve was found by the U.S. company Nobel Energy, the same which in 2007 won the exploration concession off the coast of Haifa, Israel; a successful exploration which yielded the discovery of 120 thousand billion cubic meters. The discovery is the first of its kind in Cyprus, and could put an end to imports of natural gas for the country. The President has called the event “historic”, while the Commerce Minister, Parxoulla Antoniadou, has declared that the gas field can satisfy the production of electricity on the island for 210 years. (5/10/2011 Turkey, Israel, Greece and Russia mobilising over Cyprus gas).

But the announcement, confirmed by Noble Energy, also opens up a difficult diplomatic can of worms. In fact, both Turkey and Egypt are moving to not fall behind in the race for the natural resources of the eastern Mediterranean. Israel has already established an agreement with its territorial waters with Cyprus. But the Egyptian Foreign Ministry has not yet done so. “Egypt, Cyprus and Turkey are negotiating the limits of their maritime economic zones, since the limits of 200 miles of their respective territorial areas overlap with each other,” said former Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Abdallah al- Ashaal. Turkey does not recognize the Greek Cypriot government and in September sent a ship to explore the sea, accompanied by warships and combat aircraft in the area close to where Noble Energy was drilling. Cyprus has been divided since the Turkish invasion of 1974, and Ankara argues that development projects must await the settlement of the island’s political status. But the Greek Cypriot President has states that “Cyprus enters the energy map of Europe with a view to contributing substantially to the EU’s energy security.”

In the meantime, Turkey has given the green light to Russia to build a pipeline to bring Russian natural gas to European markets through Turkish territorial waters of the Black Sea, a project called South Stream. This way Moscow’s pipeline will avoid passing through Ukraine, which has given rise to tensions and problems in the recent past. In return, Russia has already decided to lower the price of natural gas sold to Turkey. The announcement was made by the Minister for Energy and Natural Resources, Taner Yildiz. The South Stream project was initiated by the Russian company Gazprom and Eni in 2007, which in 2008 created a joint company for the project, with a minority of Germany and France, as well as Bulgaria, Serbia, Greece and Hungary . South Stream will carry up to 63 billion cubic meters of gas once operative, which is expected in 2015.

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

EU Carbon Tax to Drive Up Cost of Airplane Tickets

German airline carrier Lufthansa has said it will raise ticket prices to compensate for a new EU tax on carbon emissions, which came into force on 1 January. The company said it will do so “as suggested by the EU”, but added it will not happen in the short term.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Eurozone’s EFSF to Issue 3 Bn in Bonds for Ireland, Portugal

The European Financial Stability Facility, the eurozone bailout fund, said Tuesday it will “shortly” issue three billion euros in three-year bonds to help financially struggling Ireland and Portugal. The EFSF said in a statement it had appointed as lead managers Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank and Societe Generale Corporate & Investment Banking for its first three-year bond.

“We will continue to provide our investors with opportunities across the full yield curve in 2012,” said EFSF deputy chief Christophe Frankel. The 440-billion-euro EFSF was created in May 2010 to protect vulnerable eurozone nations after Greece was bailed out by the European Union and the IMF. The temporary fund is to be replaced this year by the European Stability Mechanism (ESM).

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Hackers Against Neo-Nazis: Anonymous Takes on Germany’s Far-Right

The loose-knit hacker collective Anonymous has a new target in its sights: Germany’s far-right scene. The group has launched a new WikiLeaks-style website publishing confidential data obtained from the far-right NPD party and other extremist groups. It’s all part of an ongoing war on neo-Nazis that the group has dubbed Operation Blitzkrieg.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Hungarian Leader Accused of ‘Dictatorship’ Over New Constitution

BRUSSELS — Tens of thousands of Hungarians on Monday (2 January) went on the streets of Budapest in protest against controversial constitutional changes enacted one day earlier by centre-right Prime Minister Viktor Orban, with former dissidents accusing him of “dictatorship.” According to the organisers of the rally, up to 100,000 people marched outside the opera house in central Budapest where Orban and other politicians celebrated the new constitution.

Protesters chanted slogans denouncing Orban’s “dictatorship”, holding up boards saying “Enough!” and “Orbanistan” as dignitaries arrived for the event. “Viktor Orban and his servants turned Hungary from a promising place to the darkest spot in Europe,” Socialist MP Tibor Szanyi said according to AFP.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italy: ‘Agro-Mafia’ Gets Rich From ‘Fraud’ In 5 Bln Euro Olive Oil Business

Rome, 23 Dec. (AKI) — Italy’s five-billion-euro olive oil business is a fraud, according to a Friday report in the La Repubblica newspaper.

Eighty percent of the country’s oil carrying the label “Made in Italy” is mixed with lower quality Spanish, Tunisian and Greek oil, the article said, citing an ongoing investigation by different police agencies in collaboration with Italian agriculture trade group Coldiretti.

Italy exports 250 thousand metric tons of oil every year, but imports total 470 thousand tons. Last year oil imports jumped by 100 thousand tons, prompting authorities to ask where it ended up.

Italians and the foreigners worldwide are fooled into thinking they are buying olive oil from the world’s most celebrated producer, according to La Repubblica.

“There’s a group of powerful people in the agriculture business that are making an illegal fortune from the untraceable mixed olive oils,” said Coldiretti consumer protection head Stefano Masini, saying it’s time to talk about an “agro-mafia.”

“Made in Italy” is a coveted label that has come under fire for misleading and outright lying to consumers. Some luxury clothing brands have been accused of manufacturing their goods in China except for the “last stitch” which is done in Italy, allowing them to say their goods were made in Italy.

The report said allied importers and distributers — sometimes belonging to the same companies — have formed a “cartel” of operating mostly in Italy’s central and southern regions that set prices.

“They control the prices, they control the market,” it said.

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

Italy: The Town That Stood Up to the Mafia

El Mundo, Madrid

Ercolano, in southern Italy, has become the first town to stop paying extortion money to the Camorra. A new freedom fiercely defended by the town’s mayor and shopkeepers.

Irene Hernández Velasco

The baker, the mechanic, the gas station owner, the fisherman, the owner of the clothing store, the hairdresser, the barber, the jeweller, the optician, the bar owner… Not even the pastor of the Church of the Santísimo Rosario (Holy Rosary) escaped.

For many years, three generations of residents of Ercolano, a town of 55,000 located 14 kilometre from Naples, have done only one thing: grit their teeth and, without a murmur, stump up extortion money of between 150 and 1,500 euros every month that the members of the local Camorra demanded from the traders, businessmen and even priests, in exchange for not making their lives impossible.

But that is history now. Ercolano, half way between the sea and Vesuvius and famous for its Roman ruins, has said “Enough!” and so has become the first town in southern Italy that has dared to give the finger to the mob and refuse to yield to their extortion rackets.

“Ercolano, territory freed of extortion,” will defiantly proclaim a sign soon to be put up prominently at the entrance to the town. “We no longer put up with abuses,” proudly declare the banners hanging from many shop windows. Quite a provocation, given that, according to the SOS Confesercenti association, extorting “pizzo” — the term for the ‘tax’ the Mafia impose on shopkeepers, backed up by threats and intimidation — brings some 10 billion euros each year into the coffers of organised crime in Italy and affects about 160,000 companies.

Turning point came in 2005

“We’re free of it now in Ercolano,” says Giuseppe Scognamiglio, Coordinator of Radio Siani, a station that speaks out against the Mafia and for the law. The station began broadcasting in 2009 from offices in what had been the headquarters of a local Camorra boss.

“Just a few years ago, though, life here was very different. Everyone was paying off the Mafia, murders were the order of the day, mobsters were walking down the street armed and driving about in armoured cars mounted with machine guns, and people were literally scared to death.”

Ercolano’s rebellion against the criminals began in 2004 when, for the first time in the history of the town, an entrepreneur dared to go to the security forces and report that a mobster had come into her shop and demanded money in exchange for not making life difficult for her. That bold shopkeeper is a flirtatious blonde lady, Raffaella Ottaviano. “I don’t know why, but up until that time they had never tried to extort from me. When that guy came to my shop and told me in a threatening tone that I had to pay up I was afraid, really afraid,” she admits to El Mundo.

“But I thought it was better to close the shop than to live the rest of my life with that fear. So I told the mobster that no, I wouldn’t pay him, and I went straight to the police station to report what happened”, she says. “It’s better to die once than to die every day.”

The heroic act of Raffaella Ottaviano proved a memorable one. Especially since other business people who had dared to stand up to the Mafia had paid dearly for their audacity. One such was Sofia Ciriello, who owned a bread bakery in the centre of Ercolano. Not only did the gangsters come one day to wave a gun to persuade her it was better to pay, they set off a bomb in her bakery.

The great turning point, though, came in 2005, when a man named Nino Daniele was elected mayor of Ercolano, which was then immersed in a bloody war between two Camorra clans that saw about one killing a week and where traders were being suffocated by the “pizzo”. “I can’t give you a figure, but plenty of shops had been forced to close up because they couldn’t handle that burden. All the businesses in the town were in crisis. Ercolano was going through an economic and human drama. I had to do something,” the former mayor of the town recalls…

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

Netherlands: Arrests, Injuries, And Car Fires During New Year Festivities

Hundreds of people were arrested during the New Year festivities in the Netherlands, but it was quieter than previous years, police chiefs said on Sunday. In Amsterdam, 123 people were picked up, mainly for vandalism and public drunkenness. In the Rotterdam region there were at least 99 arrests and in Utrecht 47.

One person was killed in a stabbing incident in the village of Sint Oedenrode, Noord Brabant. There were several arrests news agency ANP said. And in Zoetermeer there were 14 arrests as a gang of youths threw Molotov cocktails at police.

In The Hague, riot police were called in to restore order in the Ypenburg district, but mayor Jozias van Aartsen said it was the quietest New Year celebrations in the city in four years. Nevertheless, some 80 cars were set on fire in The Hague and its surrounding towns, the Telegraaf reported.

In Utrecht, at least 17 cars were set on fire and in Amsterdam four cars and two lorries went up in flames. In Brabant there were some 60 arrests and in Noord Holland at least 50. Last year over 1,200 people were arrested nationwide.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: New Year Celebrations ‘Not Really a Party’, Says Justice Minister

More people were arrested during this weekend’s New Year celebrations than last year, and there were more reports of vandalism, the Telegraaf said on Sunday evening. The festivities did not proceed as they should have done, justice minister Ivo Opstelten is quoted as saying.

In particular, Opstelten said the amount of violence directed at the police and emergency service workers is unacceptable. The message to anti-social elements should be ‘if you continue to do this, we will come down hard on you,’ the minister said. So far, there are 8,450 reports of vandalism and other incidents, and 1,350 people were arrested, the paper said. Last year, there were 1,200 arrests. Rotterdam’s mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb on Sunday called on the government to introduce a partial firework ban.

He said he is particularly concerned about the size and power of some fireworks which can be sold to the public. Aboutaleb plans to raise the issue with the mayors of The Hague, Amsterdam and Utrecht to try to present a common front.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Norway: Ex-Progress Party Chief Loses Licence After Crash

Former Progress Party leader Carl Ivar Hagen has had his driving licence revoked after he ran over two people in his car at a pedestrian crossing in Oslo on New Year’s Eve.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Norway: Herring Galore as Tonnes of Fish Wash Up on Beach

It was like Whisky Galore — except with fish. Locals taking a stroll at Kvennes beach in northern Norway were in for a surprise as they discovered a carpet of over 20 tonnes of dead fish covering the shoreline. Fortunately, the low winter temperatures in the Nordesia region of Norway mean that the smell isn’t too unbearable, according to dog-walker Jan-Petter Jorgensen, who took this photo.

Jens Christian Holst of the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research is hoping to conduct tests on the fish to ascertain if they died as a result of disease. Other possibilities include being driven into shallow waters by predators, washed ashore during a storm, or even affected by freshwater flowing into the bay from a nearby river. “I have never seen such large amounts of stranded herring,” said Holst.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Powerful Media Ally Abandons German President

Tabloid Bild helped German President Christian Wulff rise to the top, and he gave the paper access to his private life in return — even when he left his wife for another woman. The relationship benefited both sides for years, but those days are over.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Researchers Bust the Stradivarius Myth

You might think concert violinists would rather play vintage instruments, built in the “golden age” of Stradivarius, than new ones. But a test group of virtuosi in the US has shown they would rather hold something new.

Violins made by the Stradivari family have long been the subject of scientific research. In particular, those string instruments made by Antonio Stradivari (1644-1737) have caused scientists around the world to try to find out what makes them sound so pleasingly unique.

But in the latest research, Claudia Fritz of the University of Paris found that 21 concert violinists at an international competition in the United States thought modern instruments were rather more pleasing than three multi-million dollar violins made during the “golden period” of Stradivari and another Italian maestro, Guarneri del Gesu.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sarkozy and Far Right Rivals Celebrate Joan of Arc

President Nicolas Sarkozy and Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Front will stage rival public celebrations of the 600th anniversary of the birth of French heroine Joan of Arc this weekend. The 15th century Catholic martyr, a teenage peasant who led the French army against the English after experiencing religious visions and was later burned at the stake, has in recent years become a symbol of the populist right.

But centre-right leader Sarkozy, who will face a strong challenge from Le Pen when he stands for re-election in April, has seized upon the anniversary to make his own pilgrimage to locations associated with her life. On Friday, he will visit her reputed birthplace in Domremy-la-Pucelle in the Vosges mountains of eastern France and nearby Vaucouleurs, which she is said to have visited on her way to meet King Charles VII.

The following day, on Saturday, the National Front — including Marine Le Pen and her father, party founder Jean-Marie Le Pen — will stage a rally in central Paris at the base of a statue of the saint. Saint Joan of Arc, sometimes known in English as the Maid of Orleans, was canonised as a saint by the Roman Catholic Church in 1920. The National Front stages a parade in her honour every May 1.

France is officially a secular state, but the story of Joan’s struggle against the English and Burgundians on behalf of the French crown has often served as an inspiration in patriotic causes. Opinion polls show Sarkozy facing a strong challenge from Marine Le Pen in the upcoming presidential election, and he is reportedly concerned that she could outflank him on the right and knock him out of the race.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sweden: One Man Dead After New Malmö Shooting

Yet another man has been gunned down on the streets of Malmö, making him the fifth in just over a month to be shot dead in Sweden’s third biggest city. “It is a man in his fifties who has been shot outdoors. The perpetrator, or possibly perpetrators, have fled the scene,” said county police head Börje Sjöholm to news agency TT. Police received a call about a shooting around noon on Tuesday, and upon arriving at the site could confirm that a man in his fifties had been killed. The man has been identified, but is not previously known to the police.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Stockholm: Police Face Stones and Lasers After Car Pursuit

Twelve police units and one helicopter were called to Stockholm suburb Rinkeby last night as youths reportedly pelted police with stones. No injuries were reported. Swedish Radio News described the scene as one of “uproar” as about 50 people assembled after police had followed a car which they thought was stolen. As the police left the area near a school, the protesters set fire to the car they had been tracking.

The additional 12 units that were called in kept their distance from the scene. Police personnel in the helicopter reported that pocket lasers were aimed at them. There have been no arrests and police told Swedish Radio News they stood by their decision to not enter the area.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Another Fatal Shooting in Malmö

A man in his 50’s has been shot to death in the southern Swedish city of Malmö — the fifth such fatality in recent times. The police maintain that the victim is known to the police but has not been charged with any major crimes. Luciano Astudillo, a former Social Democrat Party member of parliament who lives and grew up in Malmö, has helped organise an anti-gang and gun crime demonstration to take place in the city on Friday.

“The citizens of Malmö have had enough. We have had a war going on for the last year. Until now they have killed each other but sooner or later there will be a bullet killing a civilian and we are concerned about that, we have do to something about illegal weapons and organized crime,” he told Radio Sweden.

Malmö Chief Superintendent Henrik Stiernblad told Radio Sweden that they were doing everything they could to stop the killings. “It is worrying for the public and impact on their sense of security but we are taking additional measures now to make sure that we don’t see a trend developing, we will stop this.” Henrik Stiernblad said that the murder investigation of the 15-year-old was progressing well and the public were coming forward to help.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Shootings Spate Tied to Availability of Weapons

The lethal shooting of a 15-year-old in Malmö on New Year’s Eve, the third fatal gun crime in the city in a short span of time, is being tied to the high number of illegal weapons in circulation in the southern border city. Henrik Stiernblad, at Malmö police’s crime prevention department, tells Swedish Radio News: “Apart from the usual socio-economic and other causes of crime the weapons play an incredibly important role”.

Many of Malmö’s murders are tied to criminal gang activity but police has not found evidence to link the killing of the 15-year-old to the gangs. Police believe many of the weapons are smuggled in from the continent, as Malmö lies 20 minutes away from the Danish capital Copenhagen.

Some voices have been raised in favour of a new weapons amnesty to allow people to hand in arms without legal repercussions. The last weapons amnesty in Sweden was in 2007. Malmö police officer Henrik Stiernblad wants stricter sentencing for illegal gun possession and says: “A while back a gang member was apprehended with a AK47 Kalashnikov. He was given four months in prison. The AK47 is used in combat. I think society is too tolerant if we let a well known criminal get away with four months in jail for possession of such a dangerous weapon.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: Cameron Has Yet to Act on His Multiculturalism Speech. How Many Lives of Muslim Girls Will be Lost Until He Does?

The police estimate there are at least an astonishing two-thousand reported cases of forced marriage a year related to ethnic Islamic communities. Just one constabulary, South Wales police got fifty complaints for forced marriages between 2010 and 2011. Many more cases are likely to exist as a result of instances being unreported due to fear. The tragic case of Banoz Mahmod who was murdered by the order of her father by her cousins for fleeing an arranged marriage is only one of many hundreds of cases of girls who are deprived not only of basic autonomy and dignity of choice, but also live under the threat or actual violence from their families in the U.K. By god the Victorians would have been proud of their posterity, if they saw our appalling political acquiescence to this.

This extraordinary level of abuse occurs because of multiculturalism. This appalling abdication of being proud to be British prevents us from fighting for gender equality in minority cultures such as traditional Islam, where equality between the sexes is an alien concept. Multiculturalism allows us to turn a blind eye to issues of gender equality and abuse of women because we do not have to assimilate immigrants to existing values in the UK. Multiculturalism in the UK leaves scores of young Muslim girls in the impossible position of having to confront their parents, when they are to be wed without their consent. Multiculturalism has allowed the existence of Sharia courts in the U.K. where a woman’s testimony is worth less than a man’s, and women are not allowed to speak. Could there be any relationship between our acquiescence in this vulgarity and the treatment of young women in Islamic communities?

What on earth does our acceptance of these monstrous courts in our country say about our moral integrity when it comes to women’s rights? Baroness Cox, the formidable cross-bench peer, has been fighting ALONE in political circles against these degrading so-called courts. Sharia courts, which are biased against women, are still for many immigrants their only and preferred judicial remedy thanks to our cowardice on the cultural assimilation front. (Click here for more information on Baroness Cox’s Bill against Sharia). It’s not just politicians from the Labour party, and so called community leaders from that faith that demands no criticism and all respect, that are in denial about the relationship between the Sharia justice carried out under the Arbitration Act 1996 and the mistreatment of many Muslim women.

The Labour party will continue its denial due to critical votes from inner city Muslim areas such as Birmingham, and perhaps because it was its former Chancellor, Roy Jenkins, that was the original promoter of multiculturalism in the 1970s. This has created some weird historical pride that precludes Labour from admitting its flaws on this doctrine. That this is happening is only because we are allowing third-world cultures into our country through mass immigration, and not putting in the time, effort and requisite systems to assimilate them into our way of life. I recall a few months ago confronting some Muslim proselytiser outside Fulham Broadway underground station on the issue of verse 4.34 in the Koran that says that a man has a right to ‘beat’ a wife that is disobedient. I waited for the predictable response, which was that the word ‘beat’ could include mere vocal admonishment (a surprising interpretation). I then made the point that that was the lesser of two evils, and it was the fact that the man had absolute dominium over the woman that was the critical meaning of the passage that I objected to. This approach surprised my peaceful and polite Muslim attendant who had no reply. I then gave a short, explanatory, synopsis of Wollstonecraft’s life and works and dawdled off down the road after I was met with silence.

Make no mistake about this: the role of women in traditional Islam is a million miles away from the egalitarian approach to gender in the West. It is not that we have been perfect in the U.K. We have not. Shockingly, it was not until the House of Lords case of ‘R against R’ in 1991 that marital rape became a crime in the U.K. But that was twenty years ago and Cameron has a huge opportunity to use his multicultural speech to fight for many abused Muslim women-which he has so far, tragically for these women, failed to do. The response by David Cameron has not just been extremely poor- he is not doing anything about reversing multiculturalism on many issues such as Sharia and the mistreatment of women barring parroting out the odd regret. Having told the public what they wanted to hear on multiculturalism earlier this year, he has completely failed to act upon it. Theresa May says she is keen to criminalise forced marriages, and some protectionist measures are now possible by Scottish courts.

However nothing similar is happening in the rest of the UK. Worryingly there are reports from the Home Office that criminalisation is not in fact on the legislative agenda of this Tory led Coalition Government at all. Worrying for many a young girl indeed. Criminalisation of forced marriages and the abolition of Sharia courts will free many women in Islamic communities and save their lives. It will also pave the way for greater integration and success for many British Muslim girls who may be otherwise forced into early marriage. That the Prime Minister fails to act on his speech opens him once again to criticism of ‘PR’ over action- criticisms that he must ensure have no basis on this pressing issue. We cannot abdicate responsibility for this sort of appalling conduct towards women on our own shores.

[Above , Baroness Cox, the only politician (non-party) in both Houses of Parliament who has had the courage so far to confront the issue of Sharia Courts in the UK. Note also the group ‘One Law for all’ in the UK which is fighting against Sharia Courts.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: London’s Beloved Bus Returns, With an Update

The streets of London were brightened this holiday season by a very new, very red addition. The first running prototype of the new double-decker bus, a modern version of the classic Routemaster, drove across the city the week before Christmas. The sleek bus, a diesel-electric hybrid updating of the traditional postcard cliché model might also be seen as a present for the London mayor, Boris Johnson.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: Postcard From Islamic London

by Ben Shapiro

I’ve been spending my Christmas vacation with my wife in Rome and London. We arrived in London on Christmas Eve. It’s truly an amazing city — everywhere you look, there’s history, from the Tower of London to the Churchill Museum. But everywhere you look, there is a more ominous presence: Islam. Now, no less a personage than Prime Minister David Cameron has already admitted that the integration of Muslims into British society has failed dramatically. In February 2011, Cameron stated,

“Under the doctrine of state multiculturalism, we have encouraged different cultures to live separate lives, apart from each other and the mainstream. We have failed to provide a vision of society to which they feel they want to belong. We have even tolerated these segregated communities behaving in ways that run counter to our values.”

That failure of integration is clear from the get-go. There are official signs translated into Arabic for those who do not wish to speak or read English. The chatter of Islamic languages is as prevalent as the mother tongue. The hijab is omnipresent. Perhaps all this might be a charming byproduct of multiculturalism if it weren’t for the fact that so much of the Islamic population of Great Britain is radicalized. That radicalization is not difficult to spot.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egypt: The Treasures of Islam

Each week we take a look at some of the beautiful treasures and monuments Egypt has to offer the world, trying as we do so to reflect on what those monuments might teach us today. As the New Year begins we take a look at one of the splendours of Alexandria, the Mosque of Abu Al-Abbas Al-Mursi.

The Treasures of Islam by Idris Tawfiq

This great mosque of Alexandria speaks to the world of the beauty of Islam. Its four intricately carved white domes, gleaming in the sunshine of the Mediterranean, stand out on the city’s skyline in praise of Allah and as a reminder to the people of Alexandria that Allah is great and that he alone is worthy of worship. This beautiful mosque was rebuilt with great skill and great care in 1943. It had originally been built by Algerians in 1769, to honour the resting place of the thirteenth century holy man, Ahmed Abu Al-Abbas Al-Mursi, from Andalusia. The arabesque style of the mosque even today, with its eight monolithic granite columns and its colonnade of elongated arches reminds us of the glory of Al-Andalus. It takes us back to a time when Islam was so fresh and so exciting to the world that millions were drawn to become Muslim. For hundreds of years the Muslims in southern Spain showed to the world a civilisation of great refinement and great learning, with paved streets and street lighting, seven hundred years before they would appear in northern Europe. When Paris and London were no more than a collection of timbre and mud dwellings, the city of Cordoba could boast of public parks and libraries. Knowledge was cherished and people of all faiths held positions of honour at Court. The Muslims of that so-called Golden Age of Islam showed that Islam can be both strong and sweet. The extent of the Islamic nation at this time was at its peak. Muslims were zealous in their faith and outstanding in their example. Any visit to the mosque, then, is a great reminder of the rich history of Islam.

Faith, though, is not a journey into the past. It teaches us about our lives today. Another visit to the mosque of Abu Al-Abbas Al-Mursi might teach us something altogether different. Take, for example, one early morning visit in Spring. On this occasion the mosque was bathed in light from the first rays of the sun. A cool breeze was blowing across the Corniche from the Mediterranean. The great doors of the mosque were locked shut and, lying on the floor, fast asleep, was a young boy. He couldn’t have been more than twelve years old. His face and clothes were dirty and his arms were covered in bruises. The stone steps of the mosque had been his bed for the night. His eyes had not yet opened to the harsh realities of the day ahead. If we call ourselves men and women of faith, we cannot ignore the reality of those who suffer in our midst. Indeed, as people of faith we can sometimes get a little bit carried away in our building projects, forgetting what they are about. In the words of the Welsh Anglican priest, R.S.Thomas,

“We have over-furnished our faith. Our churches are as limousines in the procession towards heaven.”

In building mosques and schools we sometimes forget why we are building them at all. We don’t build them just to look nice. Surely they are a reflection in stone of our belief in a Creator, and His call to us to care for His Creation. Islam has many treasures. The world can only marvel at the rich legacy of art and architecture which Islam has bequeathed it. The greatest treasures of all, though, are not made of brick or stone. The greatest treasures which belong to Islam are individual Muslims, created by Allah to work out His plan. We read in the Holy Qur’an: We have indeed created man in the best of moulds. Holy Qur’an 95:4

Talk is certainly very cheap. Surely this verse teaches us of what great care we should take in looking after our brothers and sisters. Our little boy asleep on the floor outside the mosque teaches us a lesson. Monuments in stone are very beautiful. How much more beautiful, though, are the boys and girls, the men and women, who we pass by on the street every day without a thought. How much more glorious than the splendours of Al-Andalus are the ordinary Muslims who devote their lives in obedience to Allah’s will. Prophet Muhammad (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) used to say that even a smile to your brother is a charity. What would the world think if it could see today how Muslims are one brotherhood and that they treat their fellow Muslims with infinite care? How the mighty powers of the West would look differently at Islam. How the world could be changed and millions could be drawn to the sweet and gentle message of Islam if all of us could live as good Muslim.

British Muslim writer, Idris Tawfiq, is a lecturer at Al-Azhar University. The author of eight books about Islam, he divides his time between Egypt and the UK as a speaker, writer and broadcaster. You can visit his website at

[JP note: Comedian.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Gunfights Are Reported in the Centre of Tripoli, Libya

(AGI) Tripoli — Violent gunfights broke out in the centre of Tripoli, the capital of Libya, according to a journalist of France Presse. The fights are concentrated near the building where Muammar Gaddafi’s secret services had their headquarters.

In the area, several armed men can be seen and there are several wounded people. Witnesses reported that the fights broke out when the government security forced tried to take possesion of the building, which had been occupied by the former insurgents’ militias .

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

Hope Meets Hate in the New Libya

One year after the Arab Spring, SPIEGEL correspondent Alexander Smolzczyk set out on a journey through the Maghreb to assess the region’s transformation. On the second leg of his journey, he travels through post-revolution Libya and finds a country marked by a mixture of hope, desperation and the will to build a new democracy.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Caroline Glick: Is Israeli Society Unraveling?

On balance, Israeli society is extremely healthy.

Unemployment is at record lows. At a time of global recession, the Israeli economy is growing steadily.

Israeli Jewish women have the highest fertility rate in the Western world with an average of three children per woman. Education levels have risen dramatically across the board over the past decade with dozens of private colleges opening their doors to more and more sectors of the population.

Israel’s diverse Jewish population is becoming more integrated. Sephardic and Ashkenazi intermarriage has long been a norm. Secular Jews are becoming more religious. A new educational trend that received significant media attention in recent months involves secular parents who send their children to national religious schools to ensure that they receive strong educational grounding in Judaism…

           — Hat tip: Caroline Glick[Return to headlines]

Middle East

A Dangerous Region

Iran’s announcement yesterday that it had test-fired two missiles at the end of 10-day naval exercises in the Gulf was a sharp reminder of regional instability, whether in countries emerging from decades of dictatorship or still subject to arbitrary rule. During the exercises, the government said it would close the Strait of Hormuz, the entrance to the Gulf, were America and the EU to impose embargoes on its oil exports because of its uranium enrichment programme. The Iranian threat has since been withdrawn but the confusing signals coming from Tehran have done nothing to calm nerves in a region racked by violence.

In neighbouring Syria, Iran’s only ally, President Bashar al-Assad, has cocked a snook at Arab League monitors by continuing to fire on unarmed civilians. In that his regime provides a conduit for arming Hizbollah in Lebanon, its fall would be a setback for the Iranians. But there are promising new openings in another neighbour, Iraq, where the Shia prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, seems set on destroying the tripartite Shia/Sunni/Kurdish consensus on which the territorial integrity of the state depends.

Meanwhile, the fulcrum of the Middle East, Egypt, is in the throes of transition between dictatorship under Hosni Mubarak, whose trial resumes in earnest in Cairo today, and representative government, an exercise which has so far favoured Islamist parties and is due to end with presidential elections in June. Political uncertainty has deterred both investors and tourists, a devastating blow to an already weak economy. Still, in contrast to Iran, Syria and Iraq, Egypt is at least moving in the right direction. Success during the coming year in laying the foundations for a stable democracy will be of profound benefit to the region as a whole.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

France Calls for Tougher EU Sanctions Against Iran

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe has called on the EU to impose tougher sanctions against Iran, saying he is convinced Tehran is developing nuclear weapons.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Taliban Confirm Deal to Open Office in Qatar

The Afghan Taliban has expressed willingness to set up an office in Qatar — a step seen by the EU and US as a prerequisite to meaningful peace negotiations. The Taliban have come one step closer to setting up an office in Doha, Qatar, according to Taliban spokesperson Sabiullah Mujahid. It will be used for carrying out peace negotiations.

According to French news agency AFP, the Taliban has issued a statement listing demands, including the release of Taliban prisoners held in Guantanamo Bay as well as an end to the foreign occupation in Afghanistan. Though a date has not yet been set, the EU and the US see the office as a prerequisite to peace talks with the insurgents. The US and Qatar, helped by Germany, had engaged in negotiations with the Taliban over setting up an office in Doha, keeping President Hamid Karzai’s administration in the dark. Kabul reacted angrily last week and recalled its ambassador from Doha.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Dozens Arrested in Moscow New Year Rally

Russian police have arrested up to 70 people at a protest in the capital, Moscow. Demonstrators are calling for an end to Prime Minister Putin’s long domination of the Russian political scene.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Russia Says Iran Has No Long-Range Missiles

Iran has no long-range missiles, a Russian defence official said Tuesday in Moscow’s first response to a series of tests conducted by Tehran near the vital Strait of Hormuz oil supply route. “Iran does not have the technology to create intermediate or long-range inter-continental ballistic missiles,” defence ministry spokesman Vadim Koval told the Interfax news agency. “And it will not get such missiles any time soon,” he added.

Iran reported testing three missiles close to the Gulf oil-transit waterway on Monday amid preparations by Western powers to impose more economic sanctions over Tehran’s nuclear drive. Two of the missiles can fly a maximum 200 kilometres (120 miles), generally considered short-range weapons, although the Iranian media and a navy spokesman described one of them as “long-range”. The other, a Nasr anti-ship missile, had a shorter range of 35 kilometres.

Russia has relatively close ties with Iran and built its first nuclear power station in the southern city of Bushehr. Moscow has also delivered the nuclear fuel for the reactor. Moscow has echoed Western concerns about the nature of the Iranian nuclear programme but has stopped short of publicly accusing Tehran of seeking atomic weapons and always said that the standoff should be solved by diplomacy.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

South Asia

A Muslim Apostate’s Defense of the West

Posted by Bruce Bawer

Ibn Warraq is the pseudonymous, Pakistani-born author of the modern classic Why I Am Not a Muslim and the writer or editor of several other estimable books about Muhammed, the Koran, Islamic culture, Muslim apostates, and Western civilization. Surely few people know as much as he does about both the West and Islam. Therefore I was more than eager to read his new book, Why the West Is Best: A Muslim Apostate’s Defense of Liberal Democracy.

Naturally, I expected something wise and incisive and steeped in learning — and I wasn’t disappointed. But what I hadn’t counted on was how fresh, original, delightfully inspired, and emotionally stirring Warraq’s approach to his topic would be. Take his first chapter, which is about New York, a city he views as “a testament to the robustness of Western culture and to its welcoming catholicity.” Warraq’s goal here is to help us to see a Western metropolis through the eyes of a person from, say, the Islamic world, and thus recognize the magnificence of things so familiar to us that we may take them for granted. Let it be said at once that he is highly successful at this.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Afghan Taliban Reach Agreement to Open Qatar Office

(AGI) Kabul — The Afghan Taliban have announced a “preliminary agreement” on the opening of a political office in Qatar. The Afghan insurgents also reported their demand for the release of a number of prisoners at Guantanamo. “We are right now ready to have a political office overseas, in order to have an understanding with the international community, and in this regard we have reached an initial understanding with Qatar,” spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in an emailed statement.. In late December, US officials announced that negotiations with the Taliban had reached a turning point. Obama administration officials said they were considering a swap to strengthen the process of confidence-building by both parties. The US would transfer five insurgents held at Guantanamo back to Afghanistan and in return the Taliban would denounce terrorism and commit itself to reaching a peace agreement with the government in Kabul.

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

Indian Government’s Anti-Corruption Law Becomes “Waste Paper”

At the meeting of the Rajya Sabha (Upper House) a Parliamentarian ripped up the sheets of a minister, leading a discussion that has forced Parliament to cancel the session. Opposition: “All staged, the government knows it is only a minority.” No comment from the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, but his political future is now at risk.

New Delhi (AsiaNews / Agencies) — The Indian government has failed to pass its Lokpal bill, the anti-corruption law demanded for months by large segments of the population. Yesterday, the Rajya Sabha (upper house or Council of States) literally transformed a year of proposals and counterproposals into waste paper; during the session in fact, a Congress MP stripped the leaves from the hands of a minister, sparking a heated discussion that lasted for 12 hours, until midnight. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had to cancel the session. Everybody expected that the law would be passed definitively, since the Lok Sabha (Lower House or House of People) had approved the draft on December 27 last.

The BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party, Hindu ultra-nationalist party) opposition has accused Singh and the Congress party of masterminding the whole brawl because aware of the “weakness” of the Lokpal bill, even among their own allies.

After the episode yesterday Arun Jaitley (BJP) called the government a “hopeless minority, aware that they do not have the numbers to choreograph a safe escape from failure.” Derek O’Brien, from Trinamool (a Congress ally), said: “This is a shameful day for Indian democracy,” adding that the government has handled the whole situation “very badly”.

According to many, it has been an annus horribilis for the Singh government, having failed to end 2011 by bringing home the most important result for its political future. The non-passage of the bill adds up to another recent defeat, concerning the opening of the retail market to large international supermarket chains, lost by a whisker. The premier did not comment on what happened in the Rajya Sabha, but it seems that the Lokpal bill will be resubmitted with the approval of the 2012 budget.

This end of the year defeat may well prove to be critical for Manmohan Singh, who in 2012 will face presidential primaries ahead of 2014. A difficult time for the politician who in 20 years — first as finance minister and then as prime minister — has made India the second world economy for growth, thanks to his defense of free market policies.

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

Indonesia: Muslims Enraged by Call for a “Friendly Islam”

Bogor. A bumper sticker prompted members of the hard-line Islamic Reform Movement to attack several members of the GKI Yasmin church on Sunday. The bumper sticker, on the back of a church member’s car, said, “We need a friendly Islam, not an angry Islam.” Scores of vociferous Muslims from the group known as the Islamic Reform Movement (Garis) terrorized members of the congregation who came to the church’s New Year’s Eve service in Bogor, GKI Yasmin spokesman Bona Sigalingging said.

Garis chairman Majudien was infuriated by the sticker and began to run after the car. The incident led the congregation to disband and move the service to the home of one of the members. “What is the aim of that sticker being put there? That is a provocative action against us, the Muslims of Bogor,” Majudien said. Bona said that the sticker was a souvenir that was distributed by the family of the late former Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid during a commemoration of his death on Friday.

“All guests who came, including the chairman of the Constitutional Court, the deputy religious affairs minister and other VIPs also got the same souvenir, the same sticker,” he said. On Sunday, the mob from Garis shouted at church members when they began to arrive but were prevented from physical contact by hundreds of police officers who separated the congregation from the crowd.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Iran Shuts Border With Pakistan as Its 3 Personnel Held

QUETTA: Iran has shut its border with Pakistan as latter’s authorities took three Iranians in to custody over alleged cross-border attack, killing one Pakistani citizen, BBC Urdu said in a report.

Earlier, the incident took place when the Iranians reached Mazan Sar Mashkail, in Washuk district, three kilometres (1.8miles) inside Pakistan where they opened fire on a vehicle they were chasing, according to officials in Balochistan province.

All three personnel of Iranian border security force were taken into

custody for their penetration inside Pakistan and killing a Pakistani national on our soil”, Saeed Ahmad Jamali, Deputy Commissioner of Washuk district told AFP.

A Pakistani national was killed and his brother was wounded by gunshots in the incident, he added.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]

Pakistan Deports Dutch Suspects

Two Dutch nationals arrested in Pakistan last June have been sent back to the Netherlands. The two men, both of Moroccan origin, were arrested by the Pakistani secret service on suspicion of trying to join the al-Qaeda terrorist movement. Negotiations on their extradition took place last Friday between Pakistan’s government and Dutch diplomats.

It is not yet clear what will happen to the two suspects on their return to the Netherlands, as the Dutch authorities have no known grounds for arrest. The two men were not officially charged with terrorist activities in Pakistan but were held for not having a valid visa. Sabir K. [full name withheld], another Dutch national arrested in Pakistan, was arrested at Schiphol Airport on being sent back to the Netherlands in April. He is wanted by the authorities in the United States.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Tajikistan: Muslims Shouting “Infidel” Murder Santa Claus

DUSHANBE. — An outrageous incident occurred in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, where a group of religious fanatics killed Santa Claus. Parvis Davlatbekov wore [sic] as Santa Claus to congratulate his friends for the New Year. However, a group of fanatics attacked and stabbed him by crying ‘infidel’ in the street.

The young man died on Monday without coming into consciousness. The unprecedented tragic incident is widely discussed in Facebook, ITARR-TASS reports. Tajikistani MFA acknowledged officially the incident. However, it rejected that the brutal killing occurred on religious grounds but claims it was a regular violence. Meantime, local media calls to pay attention to the discussions whether it is right to celebrate the New Year in a state where 98 % of population is Muslims.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Top Indian Businessman Mocks Davos

Top Indian industrialist Rajiv Bajaj mocked the World Economic Forum in Davos on Tuesday, saying the annual power bash in the Swiss Alps was the source of half the world’s problems. Rajiv Bajaj, the managing director of leading motorbike manufacturer Bajaj Auto, said he would reluctantly travel to the exclusive ski resort for the meeting for the first time later this month.

“I think half the problems start from the World Economic Forum,” the no-nonsense executive told reporters at a product launch in New Delhi when asked about the glitzy January 25-29 meeting. He said he was a believer in the power of engineering to solve problems, not the sort of “top-down globalization” espoused by world leaders and businessmen in Davos.

He acknowledged that his father Rahul Bajaj, chairman of the Bajaj Group conglomerate, had been a regular at Davos over the last decades. India had a huge presence at last year’s Davos, including Sunil Mittal, head of Bharti Enterprises and Azim Premji, chairman of Indian software major Wipro.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Far East

China’s President Pushes Back Against Western Culture

President Hu Jintao has said that China must strengthen its cultural production to defend against the West’s assault on the country’s culture and ideology, according to an essay in a Communist Party policy magazine published this week. The publication of Mr. Hu’s words signaled that a new major policy initiative announced last October would continue well into 2012.

The essay, which was signed by Mr. Hu and based on a speech he gave in October, drew a sharp line between the cultures of the West and China and effectively said the two sides were engaged in an escalating war. It was published in Seeking Truth, a magazine that evolved from a publication founded by Mao as a platform for establishing Communist Party principles.

“We must clearly see that international hostile forces are intensifying the strategic plot of westernizing and dividing China, and ideological and cultural fields are the focal areas of their long-term infiltration,” Mr. Hu said, according to a translation by Reuters. “We should deeply understand the seriousness and complexity of the ideological struggle, always sound the alarms and remain vigilant, and take forceful measures to be on guard and respond,” he added.

Those measures, Mr. Hu said, should be centered on developing cultural products that can draw the interest of the Chinese and meet the “growing spiritual and cultural demands of the people.” Chinese leaders have long lamented the fact that Western expressions of popular culture and art seem to overshadow those from China. The top-grossing films in China have been “Avatar” and “Transformers 3,” and the music of Lady Gaga is as popular here as that of any that of any Chinese pop singer. In October, at the 6th plenum of the party’s Central Committee, where Mr. Hu gave his speech, officials discussed the need for bolstering the “cultural security” of China.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Chinese Muslims Clash With Police Over Mosque

(Reuters) — Hundreds of Muslims in a northwestern China village trying to prevent the demolition of their mosque clashed with police, causing several deaths, Hong Kong media and residents said on Tuesday.

Fighting between police and members of the largely Muslim Hui ethnic group broke out on Friday in Ningxia region, adjacent to Inner Mongolia province, after authorities declared their newly built mosque illegal, the South China Morning Post said. Hundreds of residents in Taoshan village confronted police armed with teargas, truncheons and knives, the newspaper said. A Taoshan resident told Reuters he was away at the time of the clash, but that his relatives in the town believed five people, including one of their relatives, had been killed. The resident, Jin Haitao, said villagers believed the dead included another two elderly woman, a young man and two people from nearby areas. Residents of nearby areas complained that telephone links with Taoshan had been cut, making it impossible to verify what had happened. “They were just trying to hold a religious activity but the authorities would not allow it. They demolished the mosque and now they’ve covered over the ground, because there was so much blood on the ground,” Jin said. A man who answered the telephone at a police station in the nearby town of Hexi said an incident had occurred with Hui protesters, but he gave no details. Calls to the public security bureau in nearby Tongxin county went unanswered.

Sporadic unrest

A small business owner in Tongxin, three km (two miles) from the mosque site, told Reuters that the village had been sealed off. “It’s ridiculous, I am a Muslim, and Muslims need a mosque. They are just ordinary people, coming together for religious purposes, not to overthrow Communist Party rule,” the man said. China has experienced sporadic unrest among its Muslim minorities, most notably involving the Uighurs, a Turkic language-speaking people native to the country’s western Xinjiang region. There are about 10 million Hui in China, making them the country’s largest Muslim group. In many parts of China, the Hui have blended in with the predominant Han Chinese culture, all but abandoning Islam except for some traditions, such as circumcising male children and avoiding pork. But ethnic tension has led to some unrest. At least seven people were killed in the central province of Henan in 2004 after a car accident involving an ethnic Han Chinese and a Hui sparked rioting. In 1993, a cartoon ridiculing Muslims led to police storming a mosque taken over by Hui in northwestern China. Uighurs in Xinjiang rioted against Han Chinese residents in 2009 and at least 197 people were killed, according to official estimates. China’s ruling Communist Party says it protects freedom of religion, but it maintains a tight grip on religious activities and allows only officially recognized religious institutions to operate.

(Reporting by Michael Martina and Chris Buckley; Editing by Ron Popeski)

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Man Behind Japan’s Subway Attacks Surrenders After 16 Years

A former member of the Japanese cult Aum Shinrikyo has surrendered himself to the authorities after 16 years of being on the run. The group was responsible for nerve gas attacks in a Tokyo subway in 1995.

Makoto Hirata, one of the former members of the Aum Shinrikyo (‘supreme truth’) turned himself in shortly before the New Year at a police station in Tokyo. According to the Kyodo News Agency, Hirata was arrested immediately after he spoke to the police. Hirata reportedly told investigators that he wanted to admit to his involvement in the subway attacks after he saw the devastation caused by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Anti-Islam Pamphlet Concern

Leaders of Canberra’s Muslim community were surprised and saddened by offensive anti-Islamic pamphlets distributed to homes throughout Queanbeyan over the Christmas holidays.

Householders in Queanbeyan received the material depicting a Muslim man physically abusing a woman and a child and an Islamic elder condoning the violence as acceptable to his faith. One local Muslim leader has questioned the legality of the material and said it was un-Christian to distribute such offensive literature. The pamphlets were published by Chick Publications, a United States-based evangelical company. The company has been listed as a hate group by US civil rights organisations, and it is believed they were delivered to Queanbeyan homes by hand. The distributors did not identify themselves and several church groups in the town denied responsibility.The vice-president of the Islamic Society of the ACT, Yusef Mansuri, said he was unsure of the legality of such material, but that he had not experienced anti-Islamic sentiment in Canberra or Queanbeyan. “We are sad about it, we don’t agree with the booklet or its logic, but that said, Australia is a democratic country and people are entitled to express themselves,” he said.

The pamphlet, entitled Is Allah Like You?, depicts an Islamic man who abuses his wife and son until he converts to Christianity and learns the error of his ways. Mr Mansuri said while he had not come across the anti-Islamic Chick Publications booklets before, he was aware of similar pamphlets targeting Hinduism and Catholics. “They have a very narrow view on the message of Jesus Christ,” he said. “We would like to emphasise that Jesus Christ is our beloved prophet. I don’t think he would have condoned such behaviour, especially at this time of year.”

Chick Publications is responsible for more than 100 cartoon booklets targeting Catholicism, Mormonism, homosexuality and evolutionary theory. According to Chick Publications’ website, its founder Jack Chick converted to Christianity nearly 50 years ago and was inspired to draw cartoons to convert other non-believers to the faith. Brisbane woman Marie Hunter’s organisation, ELE Trust, was the sole distributor of Chick tracts until they were made available direct to the public via mail order. She said that a number of different church groups used various Chick Publications in Australia, but as none had identified themselves on the Queanbeyan pamphlets it was likely they had been distributed by a small group of people or an individual. Mr Mansuri extended an invitation to anyone who was interested in learning more about Australia’s Islamic community to attend an open day at their local mosque.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Boko Haram Gives Three Day Ultimatum to the Christians to Flee Northern Nigeria

The “Nigerian Taliban” also advise Muslims in the south to return to the north because they risk being killed by soldiers. Thousands of Christians fleeing. The bishops reject the sectarian drift of the conflict and ask for more security, but also no retaliation.

Lagos (AsiaNews / Agencies) — Christians in northern Nigeria have three days to leave the area before a series of attacks against them: This is the ultimatum set by the radical Islamic sect Boko Haram, which has claimed responsibility for the massacres that took place Christmas day in 12 sites across the states of Yobe and Borno (northeast), Niger (West), Plateau (central Nigeria). The killings have claimed the lives of over 40 people and already thousands of Christians are fleeing in terror.

The ultimatum comes a few days after the decision by President Goodluck Jonathan (a Christian) to declare a state of emergency for the areas attacked, with the deployment of armed soldiers.

The ultimatum also includes advice to the Muslims in the south to flee towards the north (which is Muslim majority) to avoid becoming a victim of attacks by soldiers.

A spokesman for Boko Haram, Abul Qaqa, told the media that “our Muslim brothers are advised to return to the north, because we have evidence that they will be attacked. We also issue a three-day ultimatum to the southerners living in the north of Nigeria, to leave. We have serious indications to suggest that the soldiers only kill the innocent Muslims in areas where government has declared a state of emergency. We will face them decisively to protect our brothers. “

The Nigerian police have described these threats and warnings by Boko Haram as “empty and baseless”. “We want to assure all Nigerians that they are safe wherever they live,” said Yemi Ajayi, spokesman for the police. “The Nigerian police — he added — has a mandate to protect lives and property and will continue to offer this responsibility without fear or favouritism.”

Boko Haram (“Western education is a sin”), is a group with suspected links to al Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban, fighting to implement an Islamic state ruled by Sharia. Since the death of its leader, Mohammed Yusuf, two years ago, it seems to have recovered strength, power and effectiveness. Many terrorist attacks of recent years, against Christians, but also against moderate Muslims, are attributed to its members, who call themselves the “Nigerian Taliban”.

The militants of the Boko Haram exploit the difficulties of the country — divided between a poorer (and predominantly Muslim) north and richer (and predominantly Christian) south, together with superficiality and incompetence of the incumbent government — along confessional lines.

The bishops of Nigeria have always rejected the idea of a sectarian war in the country, a major producer of oil and coveted prey for both Middle Eastern and Western governments.

Regarding the ultimatum against the Christians in the North, the Bishop of Jos, Msgr. Ignatius Ayau Kaigama, interviewed by Vatican Radio, has asked the government to ensure the safety of the population, but also not to carry out “reprisals”. “We say no to retaliation — he said — and we continue to preach peace, hoping that all of us in Nigeria, Muslims and Christians, we will be able to work and live happily together. This is our position: no to violence, no to retaliation. We want to live in peace. “

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

British Voice Behind a Call to Arms for Somalia’s Islamic Terrorists

Video reports of al-Shabaab battles with Somali forces feature jihadist with London accent

A militant Islamist group in Somalia that has declared its allegiance to al-Qa’ida is using a young British man to file video propaganda from the front lines of the country’s civil war to try to draw English-speaking Muslims to the Horn of Africa for jihad, The Independent can reveal. The man, who remains masked throughout his videos, speaks in fluent English with a clear London accent and presents breathless reports of battles that the militant groups have fought against Somali government and foreign forces. Intelligence sources and terrorism experts believe the man was either born in Britain or spent considerable time here and that he may have even had some media training before heading abroad to join the militant network.

The Independent has collected at least three videos in which the man features. The first — which runs for 11 minutes and is titled “African Crusaders” — was released in June 2010 and only contains the man’s voice. A second 21 minute long video — “Mogadishu — the Crusader’s Graveyard” — was released a month later and shows the young reporter appearing with his face covered in front of burning tank that he claims was destroyed by Islamist fighters. He disappeared from Al Shabaab propaganda videos until October this year when he returned with a new documentary called “Battle for Deyniile — the Burundian Bloodbath”. The 33-minute report features footage from the front lines of a recent battle between militants and African Union peacekeepers on the outskirts of Mogadishu in which a number of AU troops were known to have perished. Shabaab fighters display the uniformed corpses of at least twenty fighters that they claimed belonged to the Ugandan and Burundian peacekeeping forces currently in control of central Mogadishu.

The documentaries — which were all released through Shabaab’s media wing the al-Kataib Foundation — are a vivid example of the slick propaganda now being produced by violent Islamists in the Horn of Africa and their determination to turn the area into a new base for international jihadists. Britain has become so concerned about the deteriorating security situation inside Somalia that it has convened a summit for February to discuss what to do about the failed state. MI5 head Jonathan Evans has repeatedly warned that the Horn of Africa has become the second most popular terrorist training ground after Pakistan with Brits of Somali, Pakistani, Yemeni, Bangladeshi and North African heritage flocking there.

Whitehall sources believe that there are between three to four people working full time on Shabaab’s media wing, one of whom is a Yemeni who previously worked with al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula. A second individual is a British Pakistani — thought to be the reporter who appears in the videos.

The group’s latest output represents a tactical shift in the way militant networks are producing their propaganda in that the more recent productions are presented as objective news reports, mimicking the way mainstream news organisations present information. “Instead of featuring a field commander what we’re seeing is supposedly a journalist reporting the facts on the ground in a dispassionate way whilst manipulating the narrative to his group’s advantage,” said Bruce Hoffman, a leading expert on Islamist terrorism at the University of Georgetown. “You wouldn’t put Shabaab in the top bracket within the pantheon of terror groups when it comes to strategies or tactics. But their communication techniques are highly sophisticated.”

The Independent sought comment from al-Shabaab through an email account known to be used by the militants for international enquiries. In a statement the group said their aim was to inspire Muslims in the West: “We are not able to reveal the identity or nom de guerre of the person in question but the aim of our English documentaries is quite simple. With most journalists serving merely as subservient vessels at the hands of warmongers and politicians, the purpose of the Harakat Al-Shabaab Al Mujahideen’s documentary films is to reveal the reality of the current warfare in Somalia to the world and, in particular, to the Muslims living in the Western world.” The statement added: “It is our hope that these English documentaries will enlighten the Muslims by illuminating the reality of the so-called war on terror and help further elucidate the events as they really are on the ground -not as they are erroneously portrayed in the western media.”

Shabaab are a brutal off-shoot of the comparatively moderate Islamic Courts Union which brought a semblance of calm to Somalia after 20 years of fighting but was thrown out of in 2006 following a US-backed invasion by Ethiopian troops. The militant group controls large tracts of southern Somalia and has fought a vicious insurgency against the country’s beleaguered and highly unpopular transitional government whose writ extends little further than the capital Mogadishu. They promote a draconian interpretation of Sharia law and have pledged allegiance to al-Qa’ida and its philosophy of waging violent jihad to establish a global Islamic caliphate. After withdrawing their fighters from the capital in August, they have shifted to more asymmetric tactics such as suicide bombers and improvised explosive devices. A spate of kidnappings hit northern Kenya prompting Nairobi to invade from the south claiming that they would eradicate Shabaab. Ethiopia’s military has invaded once more from the north but there has been little sign so far of any palpable military successes against the militants who have called on help in repelling “infidel crusaders”.

Fearing Somalia is becoming a new gathering point for international jihadists, the United States has increased drone strikes within the Horn of Africa operating out of bases in Djibouti, southern Ethiopia and the Seychelles. The exact number of foreign fighters within Shabaab’s ranks is currently unknown but western intelligence agencies have watched with alarm as both hardened veterans and new foreign recruits have flocked to the area. In early October two 18-year-old Brits from Cardiff were arrested on the Kenya-Somalia border in what the Kenyan police claimed was an attempt to join up with Shabaab militants. One of the teens was of Somali extraction, whilst his friend was believed to be British-Pakistani.

Abdirhman Haji Abdullah, the father of the Somali-British man, gave an interview to BBC Somali in which he claimed his son had been “brainwashed”. “My son was misled into believing that he was fighting in a holy war,” he said. “He was brainwashed and taken away from us and he was told that he was going to fight a holy war in Somalia.” The pair were arrested and returned to Britain only because Mr Abdullah went after his son and alerted the authorities.

Intelligence analysts have commented that Somalia has become an attractive destination for international militants because it is much easier to infiltrate than other militant strongholds such as Iraq, the Afghan-Pakistan border and Yemen. Shabaab’s increasingly sophisticated propaganda releases, meanwhile, have coincided with the arrival of international jihadists and much of the output from al-Kataib is now squarely aimed at recruiting fighters from overseas. Earlier this month the group even appeared on Twitter with an account that has been used to release passport photos of slain African Union troops and taunt the Kenyan military with jibes. Shabaab has made no secret of its desire to welcome foreign fighters. One recent video features masked militants speaking in an array of languages including English, Swahili, Swedish and Urdu. One fighter, who uses the nom de guerre Abu Dujana, claims he is British and speaks with a heavy London accent. Sitting on a white beach, he calls on Muslims “that are living in the lands of disbelief, the lands of oppression, to (migrate) to the land of glory, to the land of (power) to the land of jihad.”

The militant group has also released a number of rap-songs by Omar Hammami, a middle class American with Syrian parentage from Alabama who became increasingly devout and travelled to Somalia for jihad. Within jihadi circles he is known as Abu Mansour al-Amriki and is frequently lauded by militants as an example that western Muslims should follow.

Following the death of Osama bin Laden, Hammami appeared in a video alongside senior Shabaab leaders and read a speech to honour the slain al-Qa’ida founder. Roger Middleton, an expert on Somalia at Chatham House, said he believed Shabaab’s use of a British journalist to present their side of the conflict is part of a wider strategy to encourage recruits from the West. “This guy is turning up more and more often in Shabaab releases,” he said. “It’s difficult to gauge what kind of effect he has had. The general consensus is that the number of British Somalis heading to join Shabaab are in their tens rather than their hundreds. But you do hear stories within the Somali community of young men just disappearing and the family later finding out that they have been killed fighting for Shabaab.”

[JP note: Rare sighting of the phrase ‘Islamic terrorists’ in a mainstream newspaper — cherish it while you can.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]


Polish-Nigerian Bogus Marriage Network Dismantled

(WARSAW) — Poland has broken up a network that arranged fraudulent marriages for Nigerian men for 5,000 euros ($6,000) in exchange for residence permits in the European Union member state, a report said. A total of 31 people face charges, prosecutors said.

“Four Nigerians and five Polish citizens, including three women, were the network’s main organisers,” Marta Zawada-Dybek, spokeswoman for the Katowice regional prosecutor, was quoted as saying by Poland’s PAP news agency. They face five to 10 years behind bars if found guilty as charged.

Polish women who had agreed to marry the Nigerians received 3,000 euros — paid out in equal parts before and after the marriage and after the husbands received their residence papers — Zawada-Dybek said. The investigation into the network had focused on 20 bogus marriages.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: Welcome to 2042 — the Year When Britain is No More Than a Memory

by Peter Hitchens

The New Year has always seemed to me to be a time for enjoying a bit of gloom. So in the spirit of hearty pessimism, I’d like to take you forward 30 years, for an imaginary peep into the pages of the ‘China Daily’ of January 1, 2042. You can judge for yourselves how imaginary it really is.

‘Cabinet papers issued today by the state archives of the People’s Republic cast an interesting light on the final years of the country formerly known as Great Britain. Younger readers should know that, 30 years ago, this once-important nation (now dissolved) occupied the vacation islands, famous for their mild climate and their picturesque historical theme parks, which lie off our far western coast. A memo from Prime Minister David Cameron to his deputy, Nicholas Clegg, runs in part “…and thanks so much, Nick, for your continuing self-sacrifice in our joint cause. I’m so sorry you have to put up with those moronic cartoons portraying you as the junior partner when — as we both well know — this is a liberal government in which I am happy to let you get your way. I am especially grateful for your recent performance, a fine piece of acting. The dim old buffers who still vote for my party, however many times we let them down, were genuinely taken in, and thought a) that I had struck a blow for Britain in Brussels and b) that you were angry about it.”

There are also memos to the Interior Minister of the time, Theresa May, congratulating her for “sounding as if you really mean to do something about crime and immigration” and a ruder one to the Justice Minister, Kenneth Clarke, chiding him for “letting the cat out of the bag: it won’t do, old boy! Can’t you just be satisfied with getting your way? There’s no need to gloat in public.” A letter from Mr Cameron to Alex Salmond, leader of the Scottish government, is strangely friendly, given Mr Cameron’s frequent public assertions that he was against Scottish independence. Experts from the University of Shanghai have concluded that Mr Cameron secretly wanted a Scottish breakaway as the only chance of his party ever again winning an Election on its own.’

The China Daily continues: ‘No trace can be found of any serious plans to reform the country’s disastrous state schools, nor to curb its out-of-control welfare system, known to be widely abused by criminals and to encourage parasitical sloth. ‘As for the economy, the archives contain only a plaintive note from the Finance Minister to the Premier, bearing the words, “There’s no money!” The documents make it plain that the governing class of the country formerly known as Great Britain had no idea how to cope with the problems they faced and were mainly obsessed with public relations. In the light of this, the events of the next 20 years should have come as no surprise.’

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]


Bizarre Crystal Hitched Ride on Meteorite

A rock fragment containing a previously unidentified natural quasicrystal may be the remnant of a meteorite that originated in the early solar system more than 4.5 billion years ago before Earth even existed. Until now, researchers had assumed such quasicrystals, whose atoms are arranged in a quasi-regular pattern rather than the regular arrangement of atoms inside a crystal, were not feasible in nature. In fact, until now the only known quasicrystals were synthetic, formed in a laboratory under carefully controlled conditions. (This year’s Nobel Prize in chemistry honored Dan Shechtman for his 1982 discovery of quasicrystals, which at the time were thought to break the laws of nature.)

“Many thought it had to be that way, because they thought quasicrystals are too delicate, too prone to crystallization, to form naturally,” researcher Paul Steinhardt of Princeton University said. The new finding, described this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests “quasicrystals are much more common in the universe than we thought,” Steinhardt added.

The rock was discovered in the Koryak Mountains of Russia. Various features of the quasicrystal suggest a meteorite origin, including the shapes of the grains and its chemical composition of metallic copper and aluminum that resemble those found in so-called carbonaceous chondrites; these are primitive meteorites that scientists think were remnants shed from the original building blocks of planets. Most meteorites found on Earth fit into this group.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

How Marijuana May Drive the Brain Into Psychosis

Two ingredients in marijuana have opposite effects on certain regions of the brain, according to a new study. One chemical, called tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), increases the brain processes that can lead to symptoms of psychosis, while another compound, called cannabidiol, may negate such symptoms, according to the study.

Moreover, the findings are the first to use images of the brain to demonstrate that the reason symptoms of psychosis arise in marijuana users may be because THC interferes with the brain’s ability to distinguish between stimuli that are important, and those that aren’t, according to the study. The results are detailed today (Jan. 2) in the journal Archives of General Psychiatry.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Looking Ahead: 2012 Pivotal for Private Spaceflight

After the rise of private spaceflight continued step by step in 2011, the year ahead should be a pivotal one. Several leading space groups will take center stage to showcase their wares. Not only will their commercial spacecraft be tested, but so will the relationships that NASA has with the new and old guard of the private space industry.

In suborbital space travel, the most visible program in development is Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic enterprise, a pursuit to create the first commercial spaceline. Virgin Galactic’s future is being shaped by Mojave, Calif.-based Scaled Composites, which is engineering the WhiteKnightTwo/SpaceShipTwo space launch system.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

NASA Rover Mission Marks 8 Pioneering Years on Mars

While people on Earth have just finished celebrating the arrival of a new year, two NASA robots a world away are marking a big milestone of their own: eight years on the surface of Mars. The golf-cart-size Spirit rover landed on the Red Planet eight years ago today (Jan. 3). Its twin, Opportunity, touched down three weeks later, on Jan. 25, 2004. The two robots were originally supposed to spend 90 days searching for signs of past water activity on Mars.

They found plenty of such evidence, dramatically reshaping scientists’ understanding of the Red Planet and its history. And the rovers just kept chugging along, continuing to make observations years after their warranties expired. NASA declared Spirit dead just last year, and Opportunity is still going strong.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Nobel Prizewinning Quasicrystal Fell From Space

A Nobel prizewinning crystal has just got alien status. It now seems that the only known sample of a naturally occurring quasicrystal fell from space, changing our understanding of the conditions needed for these curious structures to form. Quasicrystals are orderly, like conventional crystals, but have a more complex form of symmetry. Patterns echoing this symmetry have been used in art for centuries but materials with this kind of order on the atomic scale were not discovered until the 1980s.

Their discovery, in a lab-made material composed of metallic elements including aluminium and manganese, garnered Daniel Shechtman of the Technion Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa last year’s Nobel prize in chemistry. Now Paul Steinhardt of Princeton University and colleagues have evidence that the only known naturally occurring quasicrystal sample, found in a rock from the Koryak mountains in eastern Russia, is part of a meteorite.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

The Dust Library

Specks of dust are as unique as snowflakes — but no one had ever paid much attention to what individual particles are made of. Until now. THE dusty old library is a bit of a cliché. But take away all the books and you are left with something rather interesting, in its own small way.

Welcome to the dust library. With 63 individual particles catalogued, the collection is hardly dust’s answer to the great library of Alexandria, but there are plans to expand. Besides, far from being dry, this is a genre of unexpected delights. If you haven’t explored it much, and you probably haven’t, you may be in for a pleasant surprise.

Dust means different things to different people. In the trilogy His Dark Materials, author Philip Pullman cast it as an esoteric elementary particle — one with consciousness. To you, it might be simply any fine powder, or mostly dead skin, or the state to which we shall all return. For scientists its allure is long-standing: more than a century has passed since geologist J. A. Udden’s first laboratory experiments. Today, what’s blowing in the wind is of interest to everyone from geologists and environmental scientists to astronomers and health experts. Dust is hugely diverse.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Yorkshireminer said...

Chinese Muslims clash with police over mosque

It seems the Chinese have lost none of there vigour, I expect that there will be a lot of bleating about human rights for some quarters here in the West.

I suspect that not one of them will have read any Chinese history especially the later half of the 19century. From the 1860s onwards there was a series of Muslim revolts the main one lead by the Hui they lasted about 20 years. I don't know if blood bath is the right word to describe them, the estimated number of casualties is in the region of 20,000,000. which while it might look like a telephone no. to most people, is equivalent to the total number of casualties in the First World War, add too that the estimated 30,000,000 casualties from the Tia Ping rebellion that was just ending, and you get the magic figure of 50,000,000 which is a little under the total number of casualties of all combatants in the SECOND WORLD WAR. Think about that.

The Hui and the rest of the Muslim population became far more amenable to reason, after those wars.
I think I can say without any resort to hyperbole that the Chinese counter Jihad tactics were very successful.

I suspect that that mosque that ended up being flattened, had been preaching, how can I put it politely, from a book that ran counter too the party line. Being a police state they would know what was going on. I suspect that the powers that be in Peking or Beijing for that matter decided that it might not be a bad idea, if they quickly extinguished this nascent glimmer of human enlightenment, before all the newly enlightened human beings tried to enlighten the rest of the Chinese.