Sunday, January 12, 2003

News Feed 20120109

Financial Crisis
»Confidence Ebbs in Greece’s Ability to Stay in Euro
»Crisis: Greece, Doctors Continue Strikes Over Austerity
»Dutch PM to Meet With Cameron
»Euro Exchange Rate Decline to Help Exports: Van Rompuy
»Foreign Investors Shunning Euro Bailout Fund: Germany
»German Trade Surplus Grows as Exports Rise
»Ireland to Seek Court Advice on EU Referendum
»Irish Eurosceptic Becomes Euro-Federalist
»New Worries About Greece: Euro Falls Ahead of Merkozy Meeting in Berlin
»Orban’s Hungary Stares Into the Abyss
»Resistance From Private Creditors: Doubts Grow Over Greek Debt Restructuring
»Socialism and Welfare: Republicans Bash Europe in Search of Votes
»Unemployment Mushrooming in Greece, Spain
»‘Extremist’ Arrested in US Bomb Plot
»FBI: Florida Resident Charged With Plotting to Bomb Locations in Tampa
»Florida Man Charged With Plotting Strikes in Name of Islam
»Halal Meals the Result of Complex Planning for Schools
»Idaho Couple Challenges Power of EPA to Say They Can’t Build Home on Their Own Land
»IPad Survives Fall From Edge of Space in Jaw-Dropping Video
»Lew Replaces Daley as White House Chief of Staff
»President Obama Turned the White House Into an Alice in Wonderland Theme Park — at What Cost to the US Taxpayer?
»Record-High 40% of Americans Identify as Independents in ‘11
»Rep. Allen West: GOP Leaders ‘Sold Us Down the Road’ On Payroll Tax Cut
»The New Authoritarianism
»Top Senator: An Attack on Israel is an Attack on US
»White House ‘Covered Up’ Tim Burton-Staged Alice in Wonderland Halloween Party
Europe and the EU
»Auschwitz Sees Record Number of Visitors
»Europe Steelmakers File Complaints Against China
»Germany: Scandal ‘Could Mean the End of Merkel’s Government’
»Greece: Fuel-Smuggling Scandal Flares Up
»Indians in Norway Aborting Girls: Study
»Italy: China Wants Killers of Man, Baby Caught
»Norway: Statoil Makes Major Oil Discovery in Barents Sea
»Norway: Reduced Fine in Norway for ‘Being Swedish’
»Norway: Cops Cut Fine for ‘Poor’ Swedish Truck Driver
»Norway Killer Breivik Permitted to Receive Visitors
»‘Please Give Me a Five-Minute Break, I Need to Rest’: Moment Polish Military Prosecutor Shot Himself After News Conference on Probe Into Mystery Air Crash That Killed Country’s President
»Sicilian Temple Not for Sale ‘Even for 40 Bln’
»‘Something Rotten in Switzerland’: Blocher
»Spain: ETA Prevents Prisoners From Asking Forgiveness
»Sweden: Malmö Residents March to Protest Violence
»Swedish Sex Hashtag Takes Twitter by Storm
»UK: A Couple Accused of Torturing a Boy to Death “For Being a Witch” Abused a Teenage Girl for the Same Reason, The Old Bailey Heard Today.
»UK: Boy of 10 Batters 2 Women Teachers
»UK: Bernard Mumbaya-Kimbing, 46, Plundered Cash Sent by Kindhearted People to the Charities.
»UK: Burglar Walks Free to Prevent Perception of Racism
»UK: David Cameron: I’ve Finished Angry Birds
»UK: EDL Uses Douglas Murray to Deny Accusations of Racism and Boost Recruitment
»UK: I’ve Never Lived With a White Man, But Racism is Still There in My DNA
»UK: MCB Disappointed at Lib Dem Candidate’s Islamophobic Comments
»UK: Manzar Juma Charged With the Murder of Ruby Love
»UK: Tony Blair Made Millions of Pounds Last Year But Paid Just a Fraction of it in Tax Thanks to the Complicated Web of Companies He Has Established.
»Poll: Majority of Croatians Favour EU Accession
North Africa
»Egypt: Islamists Headed for Win, Constitution Thorny Issue
»Egypt Liberal Secular Leader to be Put on Trial for Minnie Mouse in a Burka Cartoons
»Tunisia’s Islamist Party Slams Anti-Semitic Chants
Israel and the Palestinians
»PNA: EU: 47.7 Mln to Salaries and Pensions Civil Servants
Middle East
»Ayatollah Vows Iran Will Resist Western Sanctions
»Bahrain: Bulldozers Back at ‘Sex Den’ Mosque
»Haniyeh: Muslims Are Creating the New Middle East
»Iran Sentences American Man to Death in CIA Case
»Syria: Russian Naval Flotilla to Leave Tartus Today
»Turkey: Tourism Growing and Profile of Visitors Changing
»UAE: Dutch Queen Tours Abu Dhabi Mosque
South Asia
»Allah’s Energy Marriage — Saudi Arabia and India
»India: Govt Should Cancel Salman Rushdie’s Visa, Says Deoband
Far East
»Three Million Catholics Defy Terror Threat to Annual Parade in Philippines
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Danish Warship Frees 14 Hostages
»Norway: ‘Immigrants Behind Most Rapes in Stavanger’
»Sir Andrew Green: What Do the Public Really Think About Immigration?
»The Number of Migrants Working in the UK Who Were Born in Eastern Europe Rose by 600,000 Since the “A8” Countries, Which Include Poland, Latvia and the Czech Republic, Joined the EU.
»Antarctic Fossil Shows Sauropod Dinosaurs Were Global
»BP Closes Its Solar Business After 40 Years
»Search for Intelligent Extraterrestrials Targets Known Alien Planets

Financial Crisis

Confidence Ebbs in Greece’s Ability to Stay in Euro

BRUSSELS — Experts in Germany and the Czech Republic are losing faith that Greece will be able to stay in the single currency despite its multi-billion bail-outs. The negative feeling was voiced in two newspaper interviews over the weekend.

Clemens Fuest, an Oxford University economist and an advisor to German finance minister Wolfgang Schauble, told Greek newspaper To Vima on Sunday (8 January) that private bondholders will have to write off more than the 50 percent of Greek debt agreed at an EU summit last October. He warned that even this may not be enough to stop a default, however.

“To my view, Greece has already defaulted … I believe that the best thing would be if one honestly says that the Greek government cannot repay its debt. In such a way, a better settlement could be achieved,” he said. Miroslav Singer, the head of the Czech central bank, told the Hospodarske Noviny newspaper in remarks published on Monday that unless the EU pours in more money, Greece will have to leave the euro.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Crisis: Greece, Doctors Continue Strikes Over Austerity

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, JANUARY 9 — Greek doctors employed by the country’s largest health and pension fund, IKA, will continue labour protests this week, with rolling 24-hour strikes starting on Monday and set to last for five days as daily Athens News reports. They are set to be joined by private doctors on Tuesday, while state hospital doctors at outpatient clinics are also planning strikes. Doctors’ associations are angry at sweeping pay cuts in the public sector, as well as other cost-cutting measures taken under Greece’s two-year austerity programme. Unions are planning meetings on Tuesday to examine a possible extension of the strikes. Prime Minister Lucas Papademos’ coalition government has promised to speed up cost-cutting reforms before the general election, now expected in late March or April.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Dutch PM to Meet With Cameron

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte is meeting with his UK counterpart David Cameron on Monday to discuss the state of the eurozone ahead of an EU summit later this month. Rutte will also participate at a meeting of European liberals, together with EU economic affairs commissioner Olli Rehn.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Euro Exchange Rate Decline to Help Exports: Van Rompuy

(COPENHAGEN) — EU president Herman Van Rompuy said Monday the recent decline in the euro exchange rate could boost eurozone exports and thereby help avoid a deep recession. “New trade opportunities and new markets are to be exploited to stimulate foreign demand and export,” he said, noting that “recent exchange rate developments for the euro will help.”

Van Rompuy was speaking to reporters in Copenhagen following a meeting with Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, kicking off Denmark’s turn at the rotating European Union presidency which it took over on January 1. The euro dropped Monday to $1.2666 in Asia, its lowest level since September 2010.

Van Rompuy warned that the EU needed to do all it could to prevent falling into recession. “We must avoid a recession. We need to mobilize all our energy for this at the level of the Union and most importantly at the level of the member states,” he added. Most economists have predicted that the eurozone will experience at least a short recession in the coming months. A recession is defined as two consecutive quarters of negative gross domestic product (GDP).

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Foreign Investors Shunning Euro Bailout Fund: Germany

(BERLIN) — German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said Monday that a bailout fund set up for debt-wracked eurozone countries was struggling to attract foreign investors, who were demanding higher guarantees. “Difficulties have increased in finding private investors because they are demanding bigger guarantees,” he told German radio station SWR2.

“This does not mean that the fund does not have any money. It sold a bond with success last week,” added Schaeuble. “But it does show the uncertainty that investors around the world are feeling when it comes to the eurozone,” he said.

Schaeuble was confirming concerns reportedly expressed by the fund’s chief, Klaus Regling, who said he was mulling raising guarantees against default offered to foreign investors to 30 percent from 20 percent. According to the Bild am Sonntag weekly, Regling told a meeting of German parliamentarians that the current 20-percent guarantees offered were “too low” to cover investors’ risk.

A temporary fund, the 440 billion euro ($560 billion) EFSF uses guarantees issued by eurozone governments to raise financing on money markets which are then lent to debt-wracked eurozone countries such as Ireland, Portugal and Greece.

However, increasing the guarantees offered to investors would reduce the firepower of the fund, already considered far too small to intervene if the debt crisis were to claim a larger victim such as Italy. European governments had hoped the fund would enjoy broad support in cash-rich countries such as China but enthusiasm has thus far been muted.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

German Trade Surplus Grows as Exports Rise

(FRANKFURT) — The German trade surplus grew in November as foreign demand for German-made products remains surprisingly robust, despite the deepening eurozone debt crisis, official data showed on Monday. Europe’s biggest economy exported goods worth 90.7 billion euros ($115 billion) in seasonally-adjusted terms in November, 2.5 percent more than in October, the national statistics office Destatis said.

By contrast, imports declined 0.4 percent to 75.7 billion euros, so that the seasonally-adjusted trade surplus increased to 15 billion euros from 12.5 billion euros in October. Taking the 11 months to November as a whole, German exports rose 12.1 percent over the year-earlier period to 976 billion euros, while imports were up 13.8 percent at 829.6 billion euros.

That meant the 11-month trade surplus increased by 2.9 percent to 146.4 billion euros. The data “show that the demand for German products is amazingly robust,” said Commerzbank economist Ulrike Rondorf.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Ireland to Seek Court Advice on EU Referendum

Irish government officials have discussed if the president should ask the supreme court to rule on whether Europe’s plans for fiscal union would require a referendum, the Sunday Business Post reported. The government is keen to be seen as proactive on the need for a referendum.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Irish Eurosceptic Becomes Euro-Federalist

Declan Ganley, an Irish businessman who in 2009 campaigned for a No vote in a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, has co-written an essay saying the EU should “take the calculated but worthwhile risk to unite fully in a democratic and federal union” in a bid to stop the crisis.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

New Worries About Greece: Euro Falls Ahead of Merkozy Meeting in Berlin

Greece’s continuing inability to bring its debt problems under control is putting the euro under severe pressure ahead of Monday’s meeting between Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy, which is expected to prepare the next EU summit on Jan 30. The Czech central bank chief said Greece may have to quit the euro.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Orban’s Hungary Stares Into the Abyss

(BUDAPEST) — Investors are ringing the alarm bells over Hungary, sending the EU member’s currency to record lows and borrowing costs soaring to leave ordinary Hungarians facing a bleak new year. Prime Minister Viktor Orban meanwhile is refusing to do the one thing that could relieve some pressure — alter a new central bank law that is holding up financial assistance from the International Monetary Fund and European Union.

Orban’s Fidesz has a two-thirds majority in parliament and the changes are part of a raft of legislation rubber-stamped by MPs in December that the prime minister’s growing army of detractors at home and abroad say undermine democracy. Other laws, part of a new constitution, increase government control over the judiciary, alter the electoral system in Fidesz’s favour and curb media freedom, they say. Tens of thousands of people demonstrated in Budapest last Monday.

But unlike in these areas, it is with the central bank legislation that the European Union is best able to exercise leverage on Orban. Members of the government “know that there is no other alternative to financing the country than the IMF bailout,” Erste Bank analyst Zoltan Arokszallasi told AFP.

The European Commission says that the legislation risks undermining the independence of the central bank, a feature enshrined in EU law and considered vital not just for former communist Hungary but for the whole bloc.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Resistance From Private Creditors: Doubts Grow Over Greek Debt Restructuring

The outlook for cash-strapped Greece is looking increasingly bleak. Government reforms are behind target, and negotiations with private creditors over voluntary debt relief are stalled. A disorderly default could be just weeks away.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Socialism and Welfare: Republicans Bash Europe in Search of Votes

Europe is socialist, bloated and a threat to the global economy. That appears to be the message from the ongoing presidential campaign in the US. Republicans in particular have discovered Europe as a convenient punching bag — and have even begun accusing each other of being too “European.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Unemployment Mushrooming in Greece, Spain

Spain, Greece and Cyprus saw the steepest growth in unemployment over the past year, with numbers jumping by 2.5% to 22.9% in Spain and by 5.5% to 18.8% in Greece. Around 24 million men and women in the EU currently have no job, some 723,000 more than in late 2010.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


‘Extremist’ Arrested in US Bomb Plot

Florida — Authorities say a 25-year-old described as an Islamic extremist was arrested in a plot to attack sites around Tampa, Florida, after taking possession of disabled guns and bombs.

The US department of justice announced the arrest of Sami Osmakac on Monday.

Authorities say Osmakac is a naturalised US citizen who was born in the former Yugoslavia.

He has been charged with one count of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction.

His first appearance in federal court is scheduled for Monday afternoon.

Federal officials say a confidential source told them that Osmakac wanted al-Qaeda flags.

The federal complaint alleges Osmakac gave the agent a $500 down payment for an AK-47, multiple homemade explosive grenades and the explosive belt so he could attack various locations in Tampa.

[Return to headlines]

FBI: Florida Resident Charged With Plotting to Bomb Locations in Tampa

TAMPA, FL—A 25-year-old resident of Pinellas Park, Fla., has been charged in connection with an alleged plot to attack locations in Tampa with a vehicle bomb, assault rifle, and other explosives, announced Robert E. O’Neill, U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida; Lisa Monaco, Assistant Attorney General for National Security; and Steven E. Ibison, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Tampa Division.

Sami Osmakac, a naturalized U.S. citizen who was born in the former Yugoslavia (Kosovo), was arrested Saturday night. He is charged in a criminal complaint in the Middle District of Florida with one count of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction (explosives) and is scheduled to make his initial appearance today at 2:00 p.m. EST, in federal court, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Anthony Porcelli, in Tampa. If convicted, Osmakac faces a maximum sentence of life in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The arrest of Osmakac was the culmination of an undercover operation during which Osmakac was closely monitored by law enforcement officials for several months. The explosives and firearms that he allegedly sought and attempted to use were rendered inoperable by law enforcement and posed no threat to the public.

“The perseverance and diligence of law enforcement caused this investigation to conclude in a successful manner,” said U.S. Attorney O’Neill. “I would like to commend them for their hard work. This investigation was also predicated, in part, by assistance from the Muslim community. I would like to thank them as well.”

“The facts as alleged in this case underscore the need for continued vigilance both at home and abroad. Thanks to a coordinated law enforcement effort, this alleged plot was thwarted before anyone was harmed,” said Assistant Attorney General Monaco. “I applaud the many agents, analysts and prosecutors who worked together to ensure this matter was resolved safely.”

“The Tampa FBI Division has always considered its relationships with regional community groups throughout Central and Southwest Florida extremely important. In this case, we are grateful for the Muslim community’s continued support. This incident clearly demonstrated how citizens can help law enforcement keep our neighborhoods and our nation safe,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Steven Ibison.

According to the complaint affidavit, in Sept. 2011, the FBI received information from a confidential human source (CHS) indicating that Osmakac had asked for al Qaeda flags. In November 2011, Osmakac and the CHS discussed and identified potential targets, in Tampa, where Osmakac intended on carrying out violent attacks. Osmakac allegedly asked the CHS for help in obtaining firearms and explosives for the attacks. The CHS indicated that he/she knew someone who might be able to provide firearms and explosives and introduced Osmakac to an undercover FBI employee.

The complaint alleges that Osmakac met with the undercover FBI employee, in person, on Dec. 21, 2011, and stated that he wished to acquire an AK-47-style machine gun, Uzi submachine guns, high capacity magazines, grenades and an explosive belt. In a subsequent meeting, Osmakac allegedly provided the undercover FBI employee with a $500 down payment for an AK-47, multiple homemade explosive grenades and the explosive belt.

According to the complaint, Osmakac also asked the undercover employee whether he/she could build bombs that could be placed in three different vehicles and detonated remotely, near where Osmakac would conduct a follow-up attack using the other weapons he requested. The undercover employee said he/she could possibly provide explosives for one vehicle. Osmakac also allegedly said that he wanted an explosive belt constructed to kill people.

During a subsequent meeting with the FBI undercover employee on Jan. 1, 2012, Osmakac allegedly described his attack plans by stating that he wanted to obtain a hotel room; park the vehicle with the bomb in it at his target; leave the area; detonate the car bomb; and then retrieve the weapons and explosives from the hotel room. Among Osmakac’s alleged bomb targets were night clubs in the Ybor City area of Tampa, the operations center of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office in Ybor City and a business in the South Tampa area of Tampa.

The complaint alleges that, as part of the second portion of his planned attack, Osmakac told the undercover FBI employee that, after the car bomb was detonated, he wanted to use the explosive belt to “get in somewhere where there’s a lot of people” and take hostages. He allegedly stated that he would then make demands of the FBI to release some prisoners. According to the criminal complaint, when discussing law enforcement officers that might respond to the scene, Osmakac allegedly stated, “once I have this . . . they can take me in five million pieces” in an apparent reference to the explosive belt that would be attached to his waist.

During the Jan. 1st meeting, the undercover FBI employee noted that Osmakac could change his mind and back out of the plot. According to the complaint, Osmakac immediately shook his head in the negative and stated, “We all have to die, so why not die the Islamic way?”

On Jan. 7, 2012, FBI agents arrested Osmakac after he took possession of the explosive devices and firearms that had been rendered inoperable by law enforcement. The complaint alleges that, shortly prior to his arrest, Osmakac made a video of himself explaining his motives for carrying out the planned violent attack.

This investigation is being conducted by the FBI Tampa Division and the Tampa Joint Terrorism Task Force. It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Sara Sweeney from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida, with assistance from Trial Attorney Clem McGovern of the Counterterrorism Section in the Department of Justice’s National Security Division.

The charges contained in the criminal complaint are mere allegations. As in any criminal case, the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

[Return to headlines]

Florida Man Charged With Plotting Strikes in Name of Islam

ATLANTA — A Florida man was charged with plotting a terrorist spree around Tampa, including bombing night clubs, destroying bridges and shooting police officers in the name of radical Islam, federal authorities said Monday.

The man, Sami Osmakac, 25, an American citizen born in the former Yugoslavia, planned to use firearms and explosives that he had bought from an undercover F.B.I. agent, authorities said. He was arrested Saturday after months of surveillance by the F.B.I.

Shortly before his arrest, Mr. Osmakac filmed a video of himself, seated cross-legged on the floor with a pistol in his hand and an AK-47 behind him, where he said he was willing to die to avenge Muslim deaths.

“We all have to die. So why not die the Islamic way?” he asked, according to a 14-page complaint released by the United States attorney’s office in Tampa.

Authorities did not indicate whether Mr. Osmakac had acted in collaboration with any terrorist group…

[Return to headlines]

Halal Meals the Result of Complex Planning for Schools

The last thing Dearborn Public Schools’ Food Service Director Jeff Murphy wants to see is students not eating, or tossing out food because they feel like they don’t have any lunch time options.

But that was exactly what was occurring 11 years ago, when the schools introduced a pilot program offering halal meats at a singular school building.

Today, more than half of Dearborn’s 32 schools offer halal options for Muslim students, with Haigh, Howard, Lindbergh and Dearborn High being added to that list this year. But making provisions for menus is a complex matter — one that’s decided on several factors, including the population of the school and the needs of an ethnically diverse community.

“I expect that the number of schools that will want halal options will grow,” said Murphy, who began working for the district when the pilot program was introduced.

“We’re a business, and we see the students and parents as our customers,” he added. “This is about meeting their needs.”

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

Idaho Couple Challenges Power of EPA to Say They Can’t Build Home on Their Own Land

In 2005, Michael and Chantell Sackett were working toward what many American families work toward, their own home on their own land, until the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) halted their plans by declaring it a “wetland.”

On Monday, Jan. 9, the Sacketts and their attorneys will ask the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court to not only restore the right to use their own land — but to break the absolute power the EPA has over protected wetlands.

The Sacketts, small business owners in Idaho, located a lot in the northern part of the state in a town called Priest Lake. According to court documents, the lot is less than an acre and is just 500 feet from Priest Lake on its west side. It is separated from the lake by a house and a road and has no standing water or any hydrologic connection to Lake Priest or any other body of water.

There are houses to the north and south of the lot.

The lot is located in an established residential area — a platted subdivision — with the required water and sewer hookups.

In 2005, after performing the necessary due diligence, the Sacketts purchased the lot for $23,000. They sought and obtained the needed permits to begin building their new home.

According to the Sacketts, shortly after they began laying gravel for construction, the EPA came onto the property and issued a compliance order without any notice, telling them that the land had been declared a “wetland,” and ordered them to restore the land to EPA’s liking or face $37,500 per day in fines.

[…]Finally, after seven months, the Sacketts received a letter detailing the violation that the EPA claims they committed.They say they were unable to locate their property on the EPA’s online wetland inventory.

Following the EPA “compliance” order, the Sacketts hired a private engineer who, following an inspection of the property, provided a report stating that the property is not wetlands.The EPA did not relent.


The court held that the Sacketts could not seek judicial review of the EPA “wetlands” designation until after they had restored the land to its original status and had applied for and had been denied a wetland permit.

The wetland permit application is much more expensive and time consuming than local permits.

On Monday, the issue will go before the Supreme Court.

“Should EPA be a law unto itself, without having to answer to the courts and the Constitution?” Pacific Legal senior staff attorney Damien M. Schiff asked. “We believe the answer is, clearly, no.”

But according to the Justice Department’s filings in the case, once the EPA has designated a piece of property as being protected “wetlands,” the Clean Water Act requires that a wetland permit be obtained before a “new use” of the wetland is allowed.

[Return to headlines]

IPad Survives Fall From Edge of Space in Jaw-Dropping Video

A new video has captured an Apple iPad’s mindboggling fall to Earth from a balloon in the stratosphere in what may be the ultimate tablet survivor tale.

The high-definition video shows the iPad falling from a height of 100,000 feet (30,480 meters), with the blackness of space and the bright curve of Earth providing a stunning backdrop. The device free-falls all the way back to Earth to make a crash landing on a rocky Nevada hillside. The video was recorded by the Rhode Island-based company G-Form, which designs protective electronics cases and athletic pads.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Lew Replaces Daley as White House Chief of Staff

William Daley is out as White House chief of staff and budget director Jack Lew is taking over President Obama’s team as it gears up for the 2012 re-election effort.

Lew is a veteran of Washington and has served in President Bill Clinton’s administration, on Capitol Hill and in the State Department.

The path from OMB director to chief of staff is well paved. Leon Panetta did it for Clinton. Josh Bolten did it for George W. Bush.

President Obama made the announcement on Monday afternoon, saying that Daley informed him recently of his decision to resign last week so he can spend more time with his family. Obama said that he asked Daley to reconsider the decision, but ultimately decided he wants to return to Chicago.

“There is no question that I am going to deeply miss having Bill by my side in the White House,” Obama said. “Here in Washington I have every confidence that Jack won’t miss a beat.”

When Clinton tapped Lew to serve as his as his budget director in 1998, he was launched into office as the White House and Congress appeared to corral the government’s profligate spending problem. By the time Lew left office in 2001, the nation had a projected $5.6 trillion surplus over the next decade.

When Obama appointed him last summer, he came to office for a second time with a much tougher task of reversing an annual budget deficit that has ballooned to $1.5 trillion. Obama said Daley recommended he appoint Lew to replace him.

“If there was a Hall of Fame for budget directors, then Jack Lew surely would have earned a place for his service in that role under President Clinton, when he helped balance the federal budget after years of deficits,” Obama said in announcing Lew’s appointment as budget director.

Daley’s departure comes as a surprise, but was presaged by a narrowing of his duties. In October, he told Chicago’s NBC affiliate that he was committed to sticking with the president through his reeelection effort. A month later, some of his duties were shifted to White House senior adviser Pete Rouse.

Daley held the position for less than a year…

[Return to headlines]

President Obama Turned the White House Into an Alice in Wonderland Theme Park — at What Cost to the US Taxpayer?

The Telegraph’s Alex Spillius has 8 Comments today about an elaborate Alice in Wonderland-themed party held by the White House in November 2009, at the height of the US recession. Key details of the Halloween event, revealed in a new book, The Obamas, by New York Times correspondent Jodi Kantor, were reportedly kept secret in order not to offend public opinion at a time when unemployment was running as high as 10 per cent. The party was staged by Hollywood director Tim Burton and his leading actor Johnny Depp ahead of the release of their Alice in Wonderland film. Alex reports:

Depp greeted guests in the costume he had worn in a film version of the Lewis Carroll story released around the same time by Burton, who was given carte blanche to transform the state dining room into a Mad Hatter’s tea party in “his signature creepy-comic style”. A long table was “set with antique-looking linens, enormous stuffed animals in chairs, and tiered serving plates with treats like bone-shaped meringue cookies”, writes New York Times reporter Jodi Kantor in The Obamas, which is released on Tuesday. Fruit punch was served in blood vials at the bar, she adds. … The president’s aides decided the party would send the wrong message at a time when the Tea Party was on the rise with its message against Washington’s excesses and unemployment had risen sharply to ten per cent. “White House officials were so nervous about how a splashy, Hollywood-esque party would look to jobless Americans or their representatives in Congress, who would soon vote on health care that the event was not discussed publicly and Burton’s and Depp’s contributions went unacknowledged,” Miss Kantor writes.

Coming on the heels of the Obamas’ $4 million taxpayer-subsidised vacation in Hawaii, this latest story is an embarrassment for a White House that seems not to have heard of the age of austerity that the vast majority of Americans are now living through. It will further bolster the impression of an out-of-touch, celebrity-obsessed elite ruling the country with an air of impunity. Who knows what else the White House has in store? A Pirates of the Caribbean Christmas? An Edward Scissorhands Thanksgiving? A Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Easter?

It is hard to see the British Prime Minister doing this sort of thing. For starters, the robust British press would have a field day showcasing the vulgarity of it all — in contrast to the Establishment US media, which is typically ignoring the Obama story (even though it comes from a New York Times source). More importantly though, David Cameron would probably have the good sense not to turn Downing Street into a ghoulish theme park, and would be sensitive to both the perception and actual cost of this kind of lavish event, especially at a time when the general public is being called upon to make sacrifices as the government wrestles with a towering national debt.

In contrast, the US president seems beset by extraordinarily bad judgment, as well as a striking disdain for the plight of tens of millions of ordinary Americans who have suffered through a deep-seated economic downturn that has been exacerbated by Barack Obama’s own big spending policies. Now the cat is out of the bag, it would be prudent for the White House to come clean and reveal the full cost to the US taxpayer of its Alice in Wonderland extravaganza, and explain to the American people exactly why the Hollywood stamp on the event was kept remarkably quiet.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Record-High 40% of Americans Identify as Independents in ‘11

[More Americans identify as Democrats than as Republicans, 31% to 27%]

The percentage of Americans identifying as political independents increased in 2011, as is common in a non-election year, although the 40% who did so is the highest Gallup has measured, by one percentage point. More Americans continue to identify as Democrats than as Republicans, 31% to 27%.


Gallup records from 1951-1988 — based on face-to-face interviewing — indicate that the percentage of independents was generally in the low 30% range during those years, suggesting that the proportion of independents in 2011 was the largest in at least 60 years.

In recent decades, Gallup has observed a pattern of increased independent identification in the year prior to a presidential election, and a decline in the presidential election year. The only exception to that was in 1992, when independent identification increased from 1991, perhaps the result of President Bush’s high approval ratings in 1991 and Ross Perot’s independent presidential candidacy in 1992.

[NOTE: See charts at URL]

[Return to headlines]

Rep. Allen West: GOP Leaders ‘Sold Us Down the Road’ On Payroll Tax Cut

Rep. Allen West…said that the GOP House leadership had caved in to Senate GOP leaders, who “sold us down the road” for “pathetic politics” in the form of a two-month extension.

“I was very upset about what happened with this payroll tax cut extension,” West told WMAL radio station in Baltimore, Friday morning.

“We developed a good piece of legislation that took care of us for one year. It was paid for and would not decimate social security, unemployment insurance and also a two-year ‘doc fix’ and then, all of the sudden — I get back from D.C. on a Wednesday — the next day, on a Thursday, we have a conference call and we’re told were going to accept the Senate, what, two-month extension, which is absolutely pathetic policy.

“We can’t do tax policy that way,” he added.

West said that when the House Republican members get back to Washington on Jan. 17 they plan to have “some serious discussions” about getting “on the same sheet of music” because, he said, the House leadership did them a disservice by caving in to Senate Republican leadership by passing the two-month payroll tax cut extension in December.

“(W)e really felt that our leadership did not stand against the Senate Republican leadership, who kind of sold us down the road with 40 members of the Senate GOP voted for this, you know, pathetic politics. It was not policy,” West added. “And now we are going to start this Kabuki dance all over again.”

Asked whether there would be an attempt to unseat House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), West avoided answering the question.

“Well I’m not going to speculate about that,” he said. “I think that right now the most important thing that we need to focus on is, how do we rectify this economic situation and now the national security situation?”


[NOTE: See video at URL]

[Return to headlines]

The New Authoritarianism

A firm hand for a “nation of dodos”

By Fred Siegel and Joel Kotkin

“I refuse to take ‘No’ for an answer,” said President Obama this week as he claimed new powers for himself in making recess appointments while Congress wasn’t legally in recess. The chief executive’s power grab in naming appointees to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the National Labor Relations Board has been depicted by administration supporters as one forced upon a reluctant Obama by Republican intransigence.

But this isn’t the first example of the president’s increasing tendency to govern with executive-branch powers. He has already explained that “where Congress is not willing to act, we’re going to go ahead and do it ourselves.” On a variety of issues, from immigration to the environment to labor law, that’s just what he’s been doing-and he may try it even more boldly should he win reelection. This “go it alone” philosophy reflects an authoritarian trend emerging on the political left since the conservative triumph in the 2010 elections.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Top Senator: An Attack on Israel is an Attack on US

An Iranian attack on Israel would be tantamount to attacking the United States, US Senator Daniel Inouye (D-HA) told an auditorium full of high school students in Jerusalem on Monday.

Inouye, introduced to the students by former AIPAC president Robert Asher as the best friend Israel has in Congress, said he discussed the Iranian threat in a meeting earlier in the day with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

“We in the US are deeply concerned with the activities in Iran,” said Inouye, who is America’s senior senator, having served continuously since 1963. “If the Iranians should ever develop a nuclear device or bomb, that could mean the end of the world as we know it in the Middle East. It would have an impact on all countries, not just Israel. As a result, our position is that if you attack Israel, you are attacking the United States.”

Inouye is the president pro tempore of the US Senate, making him third in line to succeed the US president, following the vice president and speaker of the house. He is also chairman of the powerful senate appropriations committee, and is here leading a delegation from that committee that also includes Thad Cochran (R-MS) and Barbara Mikulski (D-MD).

Asked to explain the close US-Israel relationship, Inouye said that “if one looks at most of this world, especially the Middle East, one country stands out as a foundation of stability and as a pillar of democracy. And at a time like this, when you have revolution in Yemen, Bahrain, Syria, Egypt, Tunisia and Jordan, thank God we have Israel.”

Inouye, who lost an arm while fighting in Europe during World War II, and was later decorated with a Congressional Medal of Honor for his service, traced his interest in Jews and Judaism to his rehabilitation in a military hospital in New Jersey in 1945.

Inouye said that in the next bed over was another soldier recuperating from his wounds. When Inouye asked the man about his wounds, the “blonde, blue-eyed officer” said it happened after he liberated a prison camp “where there were ovens, and people cooked in the ovens, and bodies stacked up” like kindling wood.

“I asked him what kind of prison it was, was it for murderers?” Inouye retold the tale in his deep, bass voice.

“‘No,’ he said, ‘they were Jews.’ I asked what crime they committed, and his answer changed my life. He said, ‘Well you know, Dan, people don’t like Jews.’“ Inouye said this left a lasting impression on him, and that a few years later, when the honor society at his law school, George Washington University, refused to accept two students because they were Jewish, he said he told the group that if the Jews were blackballed, “then kick me out, too.”

Inouye dated his concrete connection to Israel back to 1951, when he was a salesman in Hawaii for Israel bonds. He quipped that he was the first person in his state to buy an Israeli bond, and still has it framed in his office, along with a mezuzah on the door and “menorahs all over the place.”

“There was a time I considered conversion,” he said.

“But I decided not to because my mother was such a devout Christian, she might not get over it.”

Asked where he thought Israel-US relations would be a century from now, Inouye said it was difficult to predict relations 100 years down the line. As proof, he said, just look at America’s close alliance with Great Britain, once its colonial masters, and with Japan, once the US’s worst enemy.

But, he said, “In the case of Israel, because of the unusual situation in this area, the relationship will be strengthened because of our mutual interests. As long as the mutual interest remains, I’d say we will remain good friends.”

           — Hat tip: Nick[Return to headlines]

White House ‘Covered Up’ Tim Burton-Staged Alice in Wonderland Halloween Party

The White House covered up an Alice in Wonderland-themed Halloween party staged by film director Tim Burton and actor Johnny Depp for fear of creating the wrong impression during a recession, a new book on the Obamas has claimed.

Depp greeted guests in the costume he had worn in a film version of the Lewis Carroll story released around the same time by Burton, who was given carte blanche to transform the state dining room into a Mad Hatter’s tea party in “his signature creepy-comic style”. A long table was “set with antique-looking linens, enormous stuffed animals in chairs, and tiered serving plates with treats like bone-shaped meringue cookies”, writes New York Times reporter Jodi Kantor in The Obamas, which is released on Tuesday. Fruit punch was served in blood vials at the bar, she adds. George Lucas sent Chewbacca from Star Wars to mingle with invited guests, who included the Obamas’ two daughters Malia and Sasha and friends, the children of White House staff members and military families. The White House press corps was allowed to report on more modest festivities earlier that day for Washington-area school children, but did not release details of the more glamorous festivities that occurred later for what was the Obamas’ first Halloween in office in 2009. The only images released showed the first couple greeting children outside the dining room, with Michelle Obama in a leopard fancy dress costume.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Auschwitz Sees Record Number of Visitors

A record 1.4 million people visited the memorial site at the former death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau in 2011.

The figure released yesterday underlines how the death and labour complex that Nazi Germany built in occupied southern Poland during World War II has become one of Europe’s most visited Holocaust remembrance sites.

While the large number of visitors is seen as important for Holocaust education, mass tourism there is also adding strain to the barracks and other structures.

Many are already in very poor condition and the officials overseeing the site are struggling to preserve what they can.

The museum and memorial site said most of the visitors last year were from Poland, but other nations represented in large numbers are Britain, Italy, Israel, Germany, France and the United States.

           — Hat tip: Nick[Return to headlines]

Europe Steelmakers File Complaints Against China

(BRUSSELS) — European steel-makers have filed an anti-subsidy complaint against cut-rate China imports blamed for undermining the EU industry, the European Steel Association (Eurofer) said Monday. The complaint put to the European Commission on Friday is Eurofer’s second recent move against Chinese steel imports after it called for an anti-dumping inquiry in November against organic coated steel from China, which is used in cars and construction.

The latest complaint is against “massive subsidisation” through preferential loans, grants, tax breaks and cheap supplies across the entire spectrum of the industry — investment, production, sales and exports. “Clearly the miracle of the Chinese steel industry, which now counts for almost 50 percent of global steel production, is not the result of free market forces,” said Eurofer head Gordon Moffat.

“The Chinese government at central, provincial and local level owns, directs and subsidises virtually every aspect of its steel industry and has financed huge excess capacities,” he said. “By promoting a sector intrinsically lacking a genuine cost advantage, China continues to be the major cause of unfair competition in the global steel market, injuring in particular the European steel industry on the domestic and third markets.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Germany: Scandal ‘Could Mean the End of Merkel’s Government’

German President Christian Wulff refuses to step down amid a scandal involving a threatening phone call to a major newspaper and dodgy business dealings. German commentators warn that his resignation could cause Angela Merkel’s government to collapse.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Greece: Fuel-Smuggling Scandal Flares Up

Mix of corruption and politics a plague, Papandreou

(by Demetrio Manolitsakis) — (ANSAmed) — ATHENS, 5 JANUARY — The much-awaited report that the two high-ranking Greek magistrates Grigoris Peponis and Spiros Muzakitis are due to submit to their senior colleagues should be released soon. Peponis and Muzakitis were assigned the task to fight financial crime, especially tax evasion. Some days ago, the two deputy prosecutors had asked to be relieved of their assignment because they maintained they “could not accept to be conditioned in their work”. They also promised to publicly state the names of those who had tried to prevent them from fulfilling their duty.

This was an unusual decision for the country, whose corruption was publicly acknowledged even by former Prime Minister Giorgos Papandreou. On December 10th, 2009, during an official dinner, Papandreou told his fellow guests that “this country is totally corrupted”. According to a high-ranking EU official who was at the dinner, Papandreou “was very sincere”. Moreover, according to the latest yearly report by Transparency International on the level of corruption at the global level, Greece is one of the most corrupted countries in the world. The fight against the plague of corruption has always been a pet subject for Greek political parties; however, the issue was tackled only during electoral campaigns. Costas Karamanlis, former Prime Minister and former leader of Nea Dimocratia (centre -right) won the 2004 elections by focusing his party’s electoral campaign on the slogans “we will reform the State” and “down with corruption”. In the end, Karamanlis was forced to dissolve Parliament and call for the 2009 elections (that were subsequently won by Papandreou), in order to save his MPs from being imprisoned on charges of involvement in a serious scandal. The Greek quote often and with a certain degree of irony a sentence by another Greek Prime Minister, Socialist Costas Simitis. When he was asked about corruption, Simitis used to answer: “Those who have evidence should go to court”. In the end, two of his closest collaborators admitted they had taken money by German company Siemens. The first one said he had received one million euro to finance the Pasok party, while the second one, one of Simitis’ ministers, admitted he had “accepted” 250,000 euro to finance his own electoral campaign. With the recent resignation of the two magistrates (resignations were, however, withdrawn after a few days), several scandals having involved the mechanisms of the Greek state have come up to the general public’s attention again; for example, fuel smuggling and simulated sales in the Balkan countries. According to daily newspaper Ta Nea, exports to neighbouring countries have doubled in the last three years, increasing from 15% in 2008 to 30% at the end of 2011. Approximately 600 foreign tankers circulate every year on Greece’s territory, without being checked by the police, the Customs Agency, the Sdoe (Greece’s Financial Police). Six out of ten tankers do not carry the compulsory mark with the name of the company they work for, as provided by the law. According to the daily newspaper, six million tonnes of fuel officially exported and sold in 2011 free of tax in neighbouring countries were actually sold in Greece, where special taxes and VAT were added to the price. In the past few days, there were allegations regarding some Finance Ministry’s officials concerning their involvement in this huge fuel-smuggling business. According to daily newspaper Ethnos, a Development Ministry official denounced that for one year, “the Finance Ministry, some tax agency and Customs agency officials, but also some fuel dealers have prevented the installation of a control system checking the quantity of fuel entering-exiting petrol pumps”.

According to Greek newspaper, the installation of this system would have resulted in approximately one billion euro per year entering the State’s Treasury. Certainly, the situation does not look better as for tax collection is concerned. According to Ethnos, judges proved that in one case a company fined for 620,000 managed to pay only 20,000 euro.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Indians in Norway Aborting Girls: Study

Norwegian-Indian woman give birth to abnormally high numbers of boys, a study has shown, sparking fears that families are deliberately aborting female foetuses. “Our study seems to indicate that some parents of Indian origin are practising sex-selective abortion,” said researcher Are Hugo Pripp at the national hospital (Rikshospitalet) to newspaper VG.

The study, which looks specifically at the third and fourth children born to mothers of Indian and Pakistani origin from 1969 to 2005, shows that the ratio of girls to boys changed dramatically among Indian-Norwegian mothers after ultrasound scans became available in Norway in 1987. Before the arrival of ultrasound technology, Indian-Norwegian mothers gave birth to 108 girls for every 100 boys.

After 1987, the ratio fell to 65 girls per 100 boys for Indian mothers while remaining relatively stable at pre-1987 levels for their Pakistani-Norwegian counterparts. ealth Minister Anne-Grete Strøm Erichsen (Labour Party) said she was surprised by the findings, which were initially published in 2010, and would refer the matter to the Norwegian Board of Health Supervision (Helsetillsynet).

“These are surprising numbers. Removing a healthy child because it has the wrong sex — it’s almost impossible to believe,” said Strøm Erichsen. “Sex-selective abortion in completely unacceptable. The equality of the sexes is absolutely fundamental.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italy: China Wants Killers of Man, Baby Caught

Rome will make ‘targeted’ response, interior minister says

(ANSA) — Rome, January 5 — The Chinese embassy in Rome on Thursday urged Italian authorities to catch the killers of a Chinese bar owner and his baby daughter.

The embassy said it was “shocked and appalled by the tragedy” and condemned the killers’ “atrocity and inhuman violence”.

Zhou Zheng, a 31-year-old Chinese immigrant, and his nine-month-old daughter were killed in the Tor Pignattara area in the city’s southeast late Wednesday, when two thieves demanded 5,000 euros from his bar’s takings as he was returning home with his family.

A single bullet went through the baby’s head and hit the man in the heart, according to an autopsy Thursday.

Speaking about the double homicide and a recent spate of unrelated killings, Mayor Gianni Alemanno said: “Rome’s patience and that of her citizens is finished.

“There are criminal beasts that are operating in our city that must be stopped at all costs”. To tackle the crime wave, 130 new police officers are arriving in Rome Friday, the first of a contingent of 400 that will move in by the end of January, authorities said Thursday.

Police will make a “targeted” response to the murders, Interior Minister Anna Maria Cancellieri said. “We must not neglect any ambit or sector, concentrating, as the chief of police has proposed, a more incisive and visible action of the police on targeted territorial objectives,” she said after an interior ministry meeting.

“The murder of a months-old baby and her Dad on their doorstep sparks dismay. But the State is present and will prove it,” Cancellieri said, vowing an “immediate” response.

“We must give a signal to the community, but also restore serenity,” she added.

Cancellieri, who met Rome prefect Giuseppe Pecoraro and national and local police chiefs, voiced “deep condolences and sympathy” with Rome’s Chinese community.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Norway: Statoil Makes Major Oil Discovery in Barents Sea

Norwegian oil group Statoil announced on Monday a major oil discovery in the Barents Sea that could contain up to 300 million barrels of recoverable oil equivalent. The Havis prospect is the twin of Skrugard, another deposit Statoil discovered in April 2011, confirming the potential of the waters as yet untapped in the Barents Sea.

Together the two deposits could contain between 400 and 600 million barrels of oil equivalent, Statoil said in a statement. “Skrugard and Havis open up a new petroleum province in the North,” Statoil chief executive Helge Lund said in the statement. The two discoveries, which are located just seven kilometres apart but are not connected, could be developed together, which would limit costs.

Covered by the same production licence, the two deposits are owned by Statoil, which holds 50 percent, Eni of Italy, with 30 percent and Norwegian state-owned company Petoro which owns the remaining 20 percent. The two deposits remain modest in size compared with massive Norwegian fields such as Statfjord, which contains some 3.6 billion barrels and was found in 1974 in the North Sea. But they indicate there is potential for Arctic oil and gas riches for Norway, whose oil production has been on the decline for 10 years.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Norway: Reduced Fine in Norway for ‘Being Swedish’

A Swedish man received a 8,800 kronor ($1,270) fine while driving in Norway in March 2011, but was surprised to find the compassionate Norwegian police had cut it in half considering Swedes earn less money than their Norwegian neighbors. Ulf Anders Andersson, 61, was driving a trailer for his Norwegian employer when he was pulled over by police.

They concluded the vehicle was a traffic hazard due to its shoddy brakes, and issued a 8,800 kronor fine on the spot, the Aftonbladet newspaper reported citing Norwegian paper Verdens Gang, VG. However, Andersson then received a surprising letter saying the Norwegian police had taken the fact that he was Swedish into consideration, and therefore cut the fine in half “with regards of your income level,” it read.

“I thank them for the rebate, but I find it very strange. I actually make more than my Norwegian colleagues since the Swedish krona is weak and I live in Sweden,” he told VG. “They should be able to figure that out.” The Norwegian paper also spoke to Swedish football professional Daniel Nannskog to get a comment regarding the pitying of the “poor Swedes.”

“That the Norwegians have oil and this and that and that the Swedes are the Polish of the Nordic is just for laughs, but a gap between us can’t develop for real,” he said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Norway: Cops Cut Fine for ‘Poor’ Swedish Truck Driver

A truck driver fined for having sub-standard brakes was given a hefty discount by Norwegian police who reckoned the fact he was Swedish meant he probably earned much less money than his colleagues. Ulf Anders Andersson, 61, was driving a truck for his Norwegian employer when he was pulled over by police.

They concluded the vehicle was a traffic hazard due to its shoddy brakes, and issued an 8,000 ($1,330) kroner fine on the spot last March, newspaper VG reports. But Andersson later received a surprising letter saying the Norwegian police had taken the fact he was Swedish into consideration, and cut the fine in half “in light of your income level.” “I’m happy to have got the discount since I’m contesting the fine, but I find it very strange,” he said.

Andersson pointed out that he actually made more than his Norwegian colleagues since he lives over the border in Sweden and benefits from the relative weakness of the Swedish krona. “They should have been able to figure that out,” he said. Police did not wish to comment on the case but conceded that foreign drivers occasionally have their fines reduced since they tend to earn far less than Norwegians.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Norway Killer Breivik Permitted to Receive Visitors

Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian far-right terrorist, will be allowed to receive visitors for the first time from Tuesday, after state prosecutors decided not to apply for continued restrictions.

The decision will open the way for Mr Breivik to give his first interviews with the media since he killed 77 people last July, and potentially to receive visits from those sharing his extreme anti-Islamic ideology.

Odd Gron, a lawyer at Lippestad, the firm representing Mr Breivik, said his client had received several letters from supporters requesting a visit.

“There have been requests from fans,” he confirmed. “There are letters from people giving him support, there are people who want to tell him that they don’t want to give him support, and also letters from journalists requesting arrangements.”

Breivik, 32, has confessed to setting off a bomb that ripped through Oslo’s government district on July 22, killing eight people, then opening fire at the summer camp of the governing Labour Party’s youth wing, killing another sixty-nine.

But in a manifesto he released on the day of the attack, he argued that the killings were “atrocious” but “necessary” to alert white Norwegians to the threat of a creeping takeover by Islam.

Mr Gron said that the requested meetings will only go ahead if and when Breivik makes an application to the authorities at Ila prison, where he is being held in detention in the run-up to his trial in April.

“We have forwarded these requests to Mr Breivik, and so far he has not made any conclusion on any of them,” he said. “He has not yet decided if he wants to take visits, who he wants to take visits from, and when.”

The ban on visits expires on January 9 under the terms of the extension to Breivik’s time in custody until February 6, which was decided by the Oslo court back in November. A similar ban on Breivik receiving letters and newspapers expired on 12 December.

The prison authorities still have the right to refuse Breivik a visit for safety reasons. The prison’s four psychiatrists stoked controversy last week when it was revealed that they had seen no evidence that Breivik was psychotic, contradicting the conclusion of the official assessment requested by the Olso court.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

‘Please Give Me a Five-Minute Break, I Need to Rest’: Moment Polish Military Prosecutor Shot Himself After News Conference on Probe Into Mystery Air Crash That Killed Country’s President

A Polish prosecutor shot himself today in dramatic footage caught on film in his office after cutting short a news conference.

Moments earlier, he had defended a military investigation into leaks related to a plane crash that killed Poland’s president two years ago.

At the start of the conference at his office in Poznan, Colonel Mikolaj Przybyl said: ‘During my entire service as a civilian and later military prosecutor, I have never brought shame to the Republic of Poland and I will protect the honour of an officer of the Polish armed forces and prosecution.

‘Thank you, please give me a five-minute break, I need to rest,’ Przybyl said, as the reporters then leave the room.

With the camera still rolling, he walks across the floor and, just out of shot, a pistol can be heard being reloaded and then a gunshot sounded.

As he slumps to the ground, only his feet are in the frame.

He was immediately taken to hospital after reporters found him lying in a pool of blood.

Hospital director Leslaw Lenartowicz said Przybyl is in stable condition, conscious, and his life is not in danger. He added that Przybyl had suffered injuries to his face.

Przybyl is a deputy head of the prosecutor’s office and the head of a local department investigating organised crime in the army.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Sicilian Temple Not for Sale ‘Even for 40 Bln’

Russian magnate Prokhorov reportedly wants to buy Temple of Zeus

(ANSA) — Rome, January 5 — The mayor of the Sicilian city of Agrigento said Thursday that he would not sell one of Italy’s prime archaeological treasures even for 40 billion euros after it reportedly attracted the interest of Russian industrialist Mikhail Prokhorov.

The precious-metals billionaire, who plans to run in this year’s presidential elections in Russia as an independent candidate, has set his sights on buying the ruins of the Temple of Zeus in Agrigento’s famed Valley of the Temples, according to media reports.

But Agrigento Mayor Marco Zambuto has moved to nip the notion in the bud.

“I wouldn’t sell the Temple of Zeus even for 40 billion euros, the figure Premier Mario Monti had to find to save Italy’s finances,” Zambuto said referring to the government’s austerity package, which was actually nearer to 30 billion.

“It’s simply unthinkable that a billionaire could buy our historical wonders and take them to their own country”.

Zambuto said, however, that the city was interested in attracting foreign investment in the UNESCO World Heritage site.

“It’s a different matter if we are talking about turning over management (of sites) for events or initiatives, or even the sponsorship of renovations and maintenance of the temples and sanctuaries in the valley,” he said. “I don’t rule out this option”. The seven Doric temples at Agrigento, most of which probably date from the fifth century BC, are one of the glories of Magna Graecia, a swathe of southern Italy which was once dotted with wealthy and culturally lavish Greek cities.

The name Valley of the Temples is misleading as the site is located on a ridge on the edge of Agrigento.

“The history of the Valley of the Temples goes back thousands of years and the site is one of the few historic remains of Magna Graecia,” added Zambuto.

“If a private sponsor intends to finance a restoration, it’s welcome. Our door is always open to this type of proposal”. photo: the Temple of Concordia in Agrigento’s Valley of the Temples.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

‘Something Rotten in Switzerland’: Blocher

Swiss People’s Party figurehead Christoph Blocher has accused the government of covering up the “crap” left behind by central bank president Philipp Hildebrand. In the first Sunday edition of the Basler Zeitung, Blocher added more fuel to the fire engulfing Hildebrand as he brushed aside the Swiss National Bank (SNB) chief’s claims he had not engaged in insider trading.

Hildebrand remains under pressure after reports that his wife Kashya made a large profit on a currency deal last August, just weeks before the SNB took steps to curb the rising franc. Despite Hildebrand receiving the backing of the government and the SNB, the SVP strongman said “Switzerland cannot afford a president of the SNB who speculates with the financial markets”. “If there is anybody in the country who should not make currency transactions, that is Mr. Hildebrand.”

Blocher described as “untenable” the fact that Hildebrand “as a professional influenced the financial markets and as a private citizen speculated in them.” When asked why he passed on bank data he had obtained illegally to the Federal Council even though the move risked hurting the central bank, Blocher said the only things that could destabilize the SNB were “a president who makes currency transactions, journalists who claim [his financial moves] were not speculation, and a Federal Council that covers up this crap with a blanket.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Spain: ETA Prevents Prisoners From Asking Forgiveness

(ANSAmed) — MADRID 5 JANUARY — Eta requested its prisoners not to ask for forgiveness and not to offer compensation for the damage caused to the victims of terrorism. This is what Basque daily newspaper Deia stated, quoting the Ekia bulletin, the internal bulletin for detainees convicted on charges of belonging to the Basque separatist organization and imposing on the armed group’s members “the position they should keep when they are in prison”. The list of Eta’s instructions includes “refusing to offer compensation for damage caused to the victims and asking for their forgiveness”. According to the law, these conditions are compulsory in order to receive jail benefits .

According to Deia, Eta deems the Spanish state responsible for any damage caused by terrorism during the separatist conflict in the Basque Countries. According to the convicts’ association, state authorities “transformed the victims into the Sherpa of repression and into conflict-feeders”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Malmö Residents March to Protest Violence

Residents of Malmö have had enough of the ruthless street violence, and on Friday filled the city’s Gustav Adolfs square to show their frustration. “No more violence”, and “This is bloody enough” the signs said, some of them with pictures of the 15-year-old boy who was shot dead on New Year’s Eve. “Where are the police, where is the safety,” they marchers chanted. There was music, a short speech, but no political action during the hour the plaza was filled with people.

“I feel elation when I see that so many have responded to our challenge. Today we form a united front against organized crime and illegal weapons,” said one of the initiators, former Social Democrat Riksdag member Luciano Astudillo. The meeting was first suggested via Facebook after the 15-year-old boy was killed, and a few days later, when another man was shot dead on a Malmö street in broad daylight, about 10,000 people rapidly signed up to partake.

Organizers of the demonstration encouraged people not to bring flags and banners as the protest was not of political nature, daily Dagens Nyheter reported. Speakers emphasized the importance of changing the growing image of Malmö as an unsafe city.

“[Malmö] is such a young city and people move here because they think that’s positive, but the violence denigrates that image and it frightens people,” Astudillo told Dagens Nyheter. The paper described the demonstration as dignified and calm.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Swedish Sex Hashtag Takes Twitter by Storm

When Swedish radio host Gurgîn Bakircioglu created a hash tag in Swedish, asking people to describe their sex lives with a film title, he had no idea that the topic would trend and become the second most tweeted topic on Twitter. “I am overwhelmed by the interest people have shown over this and didn’t expect to get so much attention,” Gurgîn Bakircioglu told The Local.

Gurgîn Bakircioglu, a programme host at Sveriges Radio station SR Metropol, has been called a “phenomenon” after he introduced “#beskrivdittsexlivmedenfilmtitel” (literally “#describeyoursexlifewithamovietitle”) on microblogging site Twitter. Despite the hashtag being in Swedish and therefore somewhat confusing to international users, it quickly became the highest trending topic on Twitter.

At one point, several hundred people per minute were posting tweets relating to the tag and started to join in the game of thinking up film titles to describe their sex lives. “Gone in 60 seconds”, “No strings attached”, “Let the right one in” and “Love Actually” were some of the favourites.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: A Couple Accused of Torturing a Boy to Death “For Being a Witch” Abused a Teenage Girl for the Same Reason, The Old Bailey Heard Today.

Kristy Bamu, 15, suffered 101 injuries at the hands of his sister Magalie and her partner Eric Bikubi, both 28, on Christmas Day 2010, it is claimed. The pair allegedly used pliers, knives and a hammer on him at their Newham flat.

Today prosecutor Brian Altman said that in 2008 they accused a 19-year-old relative of witchcraft.

As with Kristy, Bikubi suspected Naomi Ilonga of harming another child of the family and ordered Bamu to throw away anything the girl had touched, including clothes and pans.

Bikubi is also said to have subjected her to all-night prayer sessions and forced her to endure days without food, before cutting off her hair to “release the witchcraft”.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

UK: Boy of 10 Batters 2 Women Teachers

A SCHOOLBOY aged ten has been arrested over a vicious attack on two middle-aged women teachers.

Latest figures for 2010 show 251 teachers were assaulted by pupils in England and Wales. Forty-four had to go to hospital. Almost half of all teachers leave the profession within five years after qualifying. The biggest reason they give for going is abuse, violence or the threat of violence from aggressive pupils. A recent report also revealed more than one in three teachers has also been a victim of bullying. One head teacher was driven to the brink of suicide by a hate campaign, the UK Safer Internet Centre said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: Bernard Mumbaya-Kimbing, 46, Plundered Cash Sent by Kindhearted People to the Charities.

The dad-of-six was rumbled when staff at Manchester Mail Centre in Ancoats were placed under investigation after bosses discovered more than £2,000 in charity donations had gone missing there over a three-year period.

Money is also believed to have been taken from children’s birthday cards.

Sorting officer Mumbaya-Kimbing — who had worked at the Ancoats depot for nearly four years — was put under surveillance and was seen emptying 14 charity envelopes over two days.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

UK: Burglar Walks Free to Prevent Perception of Racism

A burglar who forced his way into a woman’s flat after grabbing her by the throat walked free after a judge heard he does not want to be perceived as ‘yet another violent black kid.’

Kerol Farquhuarson, 18, barged past Aneema Begum with a gang of youths and ransacked her home in Uamvar Street, Poplar, east London, but left empty-handed when he could not find any money. Ms Begum, who screamed and struggled with the men, told police she still has nightmares about the burglary on July 21 last year.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

UK: David Cameron: I’ve Finished Angry Birds

THE PM shows the concentration that’s seen him complete EVERY level of hit app Angry Birds.

David Cameron boasted in an interview he has “finished” the addictive game, which sees players destroy pigs by firing birds from sling-shots. But MPs questioned whether he should be wasting his time on it. Labour’s John Spellar said: “I don’t imagine Margaret Thatcher spending her time playing computer games when she was in No 10.” However, The Sun’s Gaming Editor Lee Price praised the PM. He said: “Forget getting into No 10. Completing Angry Birds could be David Cameron’s greatest achievement yet.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: EDL Uses Douglas Murray to Deny Accusations of Racism and Boost Recruitment

The English Defence League have posted an article on their website urging support for their fight against “Islamic extremism”. It begins with the usual whinge about how they are falsely accused of being far-right racists: “The eagerness of some in the media to paint a group of patriotic people as some kind of extremists (when they’d never make such an offensive and blatantly untrue generalisations about more ‘sensitive’ groups of people) illustrates the application of a double standard reflective of what we’ve regularly referred to as a growing two tier system.”

However, not all the news is bad: “Luckily there are a few members of the middle and establishment classes who believe that the EDL at least deserve a fair hearing. One of these is the British writer and former director of the Centre for Social Cohesion, Douglas Murray.” This is followed by a video of Murray speaking at the One Law For All seminar last year where he welcomed the EDL as “a grassroots response from non-Muslims to Islamism”. The EDL applauds the fact that Murray “identifies ‘decent ordinary people’ with the EDL. Whilst he’s cautious of the need to ensure that the EDL is not hijacked by undesirable elements (so are we!), he recognises that most EDL supporters simply care about their communities and their countries”. The article concludes: “It’s a pity there aren’t more public figures like Douglas Murray: people who are willing to give us a chance, to give us the benefit of the doubt, and to treat us fairly. But perhaps, having been right about Islamic extremism, it’s much easier for him to avoid falling foul of the tendency common to all those who begin to realise that they’re losing the argument: shouting ‘racist’. Thank you for being right Mr Murray.”

Last year the Centre for Social Cohesion merged with the Henry Jackson Society and Murray is now an Associate Director of that organisation. You might think that this alone would result in the Henry Jackson Society being treated as political pariahs. Yet the HJS continues to serve as the secretariat to two All-Party Parliamentary Groups — on Homeland Security and Transatlantic & International Security — and recently gave evidence to the Home Affairs Committee’s inquiry into the roots of violent radicalisation.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: I’ve Never Lived With a White Man, But Racism is Still There in My DNA

Today I am going to reveal something I have never written about before (and you thought there were no more guts to spill).

Here we go. I’ve never had a relationship with a white man. I’ve never had sex with a white man, although I have kissed the odd one, many years ago.

I have been thinking about this fact over the past week, as the issue of race has reared its head again.

Why am I bringing up the fact I have had relationships only with black and Asian men?

It is not to bleat that, having been on the arm of a man of colour, I have experienced racism first-hand.

Unless you are black or Asian you cannot know what racism feels like.

I think in the Nineties I fell in love with three black men partly because it was fashionable and gave me a veneer of (here comes a racist word) ‘cool’ that, as a boring Essex girl, I didn’t possess.

I married, on the wave of Asians being the new blacks, with lots of hot new books in the bestseller lists, an Indian (that wasn’t the whole reason but, let’s be honest here, it was part of it)….

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

UK: MCB Disappointed at Lib Dem Candidate’s Islamophobic Comments

With reference to a series of Islamophobic comments made on Facebook by Liberal Democrat candidate for Redcar and Cleveland, Dave Stone, the Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain, Farooq Murad said:

“I am deeply disappointed to read these crude and divisive remarks. We might expect this sort of language from the BNP, but not from someone hoping to stand as a candidate for the Liberal Democrats. We hope that Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and other Lib Dem party leaders will take swift action over this affair and think seriously about who represents them as a candidate. At election time Muslim voters will clearly reflect carefully on which political parties have taken serious note of issues such as Islamophobia, and which have not.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Manzar Juma Charged With the Murder of Ruby Love

Ruby Love was found dead in the Grand Union Canal in Southall on Christmas Day morning with bruising to her right eye and a lump on her head.

Her boyfriend Manzar Juma, 27, has since been charged with her murder. The opening of the inquest into her death heard Miss Love had been in a “volatile relationship” with Juma for the past six years, and that he was on bail at the time for domestic violence offences against her.

Her death came a month after she gave birth to her third child. The baby boy and her two-year-old son were fathered by Juma.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

UK: Tony Blair Made Millions of Pounds Last Year But Paid Just a Fraction of it in Tax Thanks to the Complicated Web of Companies He Has Established.

The former prime minister’s secretive business empire declared an income of £12million.

But he was able to reduce his tax bill to just £315,000 after writing off almost £11million as ‘administrative expenses’ — a ‘surprisingly’ high figure, according to one accountant.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]


Poll: Majority of Croatians Favour EU Accession

BRUSSELS — Despite the ongoing crisis sweeping across Europe and the threat of a eurozone breakup, the majority of Croatians favour joining the Union. Nearly 58 percent of Croatians want to join the European Union and become its 28th member, according to the latest poll conducted by Promocija Plus in early January.

The survey comes just ahead of a referendum on EU membership due on 22 January. The referendum is not legally binding but it will be politically important for the government to secure to a Yes vote, with 1 July 2013 already set as the official accession date. While the poll results may provide an additional momentum to the government’s pro-Europe stance, a similar poll held in the immediate aftermath of the United Nations war crimes tribunal decision to convict two former top Croatian generals showed 26 percent supported EU accession. That was only in April 2011.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egypt: Islamists Headed for Win, Constitution Thorny Issue

‘Islamic’ success in N. Africa 20 yrs after Algerian FIS

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO — The third round of the first free elections in Egyptian history will soon be over, handing to the Muslim Brotherhood — and the Salafist extremist fringe — the majority in the People’s Assembly, the lower house of Parliament. The victory will be in the line with those seen in Tunisia and Morocco by Islamist movements, who are celebrating their success in North Africa 20 years after Algeria annulled elections in which the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) was heading for certain victory. The definitive election results will be known on January 13 after the run-offs, but the lead held by the Islamists, who reaped the fruits of a revolution they did not begin, will also be sanctioned by the votes racked up by Salafists: a total of about 65/70% of seats in the Assembly will have to go to Islamic parties, which are already getting ready for a probable clash with the military junta over the crucial but thorny issue of the new Constitution. The new Assembly will be meeting for the first time on January 23, two days before the anniversary of the initial uprising which led to the end of the 30 years in powers of the regime under Hosni Mubarak, the former president who now runs the risk of being sentenced to death.

From Morocco to Egypt, on the southern shores of the Mediterranean the successes of “moderate” Islamic currents are becoming ever more consolidated. For the movements fought against and banned for years by the Western-allied regimes, it is a form of revenge coming twenty years after January 1992, when Algerian soldiers, with the tacit consent of Western democracies, deprived FIS of the success gained in Algeria’s first multi-party elections. It is a move which plunged the country into a civil war, costing 150,000-200,000 lives over the course of 10 years. Algerian legislative elections have been scheduled for the spring, and the Islamic party MPS (Movement of Society for Peace) has left the government coalition to stand for office on its own, hoping to capitalise on the success of “brethren” parties in other North African countries.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Egypt Liberal Secular Leader to be Put on Trial for Minnie Mouse in a Burka Cartoons

Naguib Sawiris, Egypt’s richest man and figurehead of the liberal movement for the country’s political leadership, is to be put on trial for insulting religion over cartoons he put on Twitter showing Mickey and Minnie Mouse in traditional Muslim clothing.

The case against Mr Sawiris, owner of the Orascom business empire and the country’s most prominent Christian, was filed originally by a group of lawyers affiliated to the radical Salafi Islamist movement. Few expected it to be taken up by the prosecuting authorities. But the Salafis have become a powerful force in the new Egypt after sweeping to second place behind the Muslim Brotherhood-backed Freedom and Justice Party in elections. They are pushing for tighter implementation if not a rewriting of Egypt’s constitution, which is supposed to be based on the principles of Sharia law. Mr Sawiris, who is outspoken in defence of secular values and often accused of being provocative, “retweeted” a cartoon in June showing Minnie wearing a black face-veil and Mickey in the traditional robe and beard of a Salafi follower.

The Muslim Brotherhood also expressed outrage, but it was a call by the Salafis of a boycott of Mr Sawiris companies, which include Egypt’s largest mobile phone operator, which gave the first indication of the strength of their following. Mr Sawiris apologised, but not before the phone operator lost hundreds of thousands of subscriptions.

One of the lawyers who filed the case, Mamdouh Ismail, a member of the once-banned Gamaa Islamiya, said he had been notified it would go ahead on Saturday. “When we filed the case we didn’t expect anything,” he said. Mr Sawiris set up the Free Egyptians Party after the fall of President Hosni Mubarak. The liberal coalition of which it is part is likely to have come a poor third in the parliamentary elections when final results are announced later this month.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Tunisia’s Islamist Party Slams Anti-Semitic Chants

TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — The head of Tunisia’s moderate Islamic party condemned anti-Semitic slogans chanted Monday by a handful of ultraconservative Muslims during the arrival of a top Hamas official that have alarmed the local Jewish community.

It was the latest action by a small group of ultraconservative Muslims over the past few months to have embarrassed the government in what was once one of the more secular countries in the Arab world.

Rachid Ghannouchi reiterated the policy of his Ennahda party, which heads the country’s new government, that Tunisia’s Jews are “full citizens with equal rights and duties.”

“Ennahda condemns these slogans which do not represent Islam’s spirit or teachings, and considers those who raised them as a marginal group,” Ghannouchi said in a statement.

Videos circulated online showed crowd members greeting Ismail Haniyeh, the prime minister of the Gaza government, at the airport in Tunis on Thursday chanting “Kill the Jews” and “Crush the Jews.” The chants came from Salafists, ultraconservative Muslims who have been making their presence felt in Tunisia recently.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

PNA: EU: 47.7 Mln to Salaries and Pensions Civil Servants

Support European funds will continue in 2012

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, JANUARY 05 — The European Union is providing a contribution of 47.7 million euros to assist the Palestinian Authority with the payment of December salaries and pensions of almost 85,000 Palestinian civil servants and pensioners, both in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. “The European Union’s continuing financial support to the Palestinian Authority — said John Gatt-Rutter, the Acting EU Representative — underlines the confidence that Europe has in the PA’s institutions and their ability to provide essential public services. This support will continue in 2012 while the PA moves forward its objective of fiscal sustainability and economic viability”.

According to the Enpi website (, this contribution, channelled through PEGASE, the European mechanism for support to the Palestinians, is being provided by the European Commission (26.2 million euros) as well as the governments of Spain (20.0 million euros), Ireland (1.0 million euros) and Luxembourg (0.5 million euros).

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Ayatollah Vows Iran Will Resist Western Sanctions

(TEHRAN) — Iran will not falter in the face of Western-imposed sanctions, the country’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said it comments broadcast on state television on Monday. “The firm decision of the Islamic Republic is to resist the pressures” of Western powers, Khamenei said.

“While the Iranian people have travelled the road to success and see the signs of new victories to come, the (Western) oppressor is trying to frighten the Iranian people and officials by brandishing the threat of sanctions.”

While analysts and some in Iran’s government have said the latest round of sanctions have hit Iran’s economy, the country’s top leader dismissed claims that the strategy will block his country from pursuing its goals.

“Western officials have declared on a number of occasions that, with sanctions and pressure, they want to discourage the people and lead officials to renounce their plans, but they are mistaken and they will not achieve their objectives,” said Khamenei.

The European Union is joining the United States in ratcheting up sanctions on Iran over its nuclear programme, which the West believes masks a drive to develop an atomic weapons capability. Iran, which insists its nuclear programme is exclusively for peaceful purposes, has said it is “not concerned” by the imminent EU embargo. It says it will easily be able to sell its oil to other markets.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Bahrain: Bulldozers Back at ‘Sex Den’ Mosque

BULLDOZERS have rolled in to demolish an abandoned mosque allegedly being used as a sex den.

Work to tear down Al Mawaada Mosque in the old Muharraq area started last February, but was halted in mysterious circumstances within days. But the Sunni Waqf (Endowment) Directorate has brought back the bulldozers following an urgent request from the Muharraq Municipal Council amid complaints from residents. The eastern gate of the windowless mosque had earlier been knocked down and parts of the dilapidated building had collapsed in the last 11 months, but the southern gate was still standing. Residents claim it was being used for immoral acts and have been trying to safeguard the mosque since. However, they have found it difficult to curb the illegal activities reportedly taking place at the mosque during the early hours. “No apparent reason has been given on why the mosque has been left unattended for such a long time, considering that worshippers are waiting for a new mosque to be built in that area,” said area councillor Ghazi Al Murbati. “Prayers have stopped there since February when work to bulldoze the mosque began. However, just a few days later it was halted without giving us a valid reason. Mosques are sacred places, but if they are left abandoned they just become like any other deserted building that is a good location for youngsters to have sex, drink alcohol and use drugs. The Waqf directorate has neglected the place for a long time, but thankfully they have acted upon urgent requests, especially after attempts by residents to limit the immoral, indecent and illegal acts going on.”

Mr Al Murbati praised residents for trying to protect the sacredness of the mosque, but argued they could not continue much longer and demanded its demolition. “There were several youngsters who have been caught by residents and referred to the police,” said Mr Al Murbati, who is also the council’s financial, administrative and legislative committee chairman.

“But residents can’t do everything nor can the police because the problem lies with the existence of the dilapidated mosque. Residents can’t keep guarding the place late at night when the mosque becomes ‘active’ because they need to asleep and it is illogical to stand on the doorsteps waiting for someone to appear.” Mr Al Murbati said the mosque was an “ideal” hideout for youngsters because only one of the two gates was bulldozed. “It is a nice hideout for anyone and unless someone goes inside they wouldn’t be able to identify if there are people inside or not.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Haniyeh: Muslims Are Creating the New Middle East

Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh declared Sunday that the Muslim revolutions born out of the “Arab Spring” would replace US-backed chaos in the Middle East, Hamas affiliate Al Resalah quoted the Hamas leader as saying. “We are among those who will create a new Middle East. We have created a glorious revolution that will bring back the nation and its glory in place of the chaos that the American administration had so desired,” Haniyeh told a gathering of Tunisian Islamist Ennahda party supporters in Tunis.

According to the report, tens of thousands of Tunisians gathered outside the palatial government complex in the Tunisian capital to see Haniyeh speak, chanting in support of “Palestinian liberation.” Protesters also chanted “Death to Israel” and “the army of Mohammed is back,” as Haniyeh reiterated his pledge not “to lay down our arms” or recognize Israel, according to AFP.

The Ennahda party, banned under the rule of ousted Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, has since become the country’s largest party, garnering 40 percent of votes in last October’s parliamentary elections. Haniyeh has traveled Arab and Muslim nations on a Middle East tour that began December 25, including Egypt, Sudan, Turkey and Tunisia.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Iran Sentences American Man to Death in CIA Case

TEHRAN, Iran — An Iranian court has convicted an American man of working for the CIA and sentenced him to death, state radio reported Monday, in a case adding to the accelerating tension between the United States and Iran.

Iran charges that as a former U.S. Marine, Amir Mirzaei Hekmati, received special training and served at U.S. military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan before heading to Iran for his alleged intelligence mission. The radio report did not say when the verdict was issued.

The 28-year-old former military translator was born in Arizona and graduated from high school in Michigan. His family is of Iranian origin. His father, a professor at a community college in Flint, Michigan, has said his son is not a CIA spy and was visiting his grandmothers in Iran when he was arrested.

Behnaz Hekmati, his mother, said in an email to The Associated Press that she and her husband, Ali, are “shocked and terrified” that their son has been sentenced to death. She said the verdict is “the result of a process that was neither transparent nor fair.”

Under Iranian law, he has 20 days to appeal. Hekmati has a court-appointed lawyer who was identified only by his surname, Samadi, and there was no word about an appeal.

Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejehei, spokesman for Iran’s judiciary said if the verdict is appealed, it would go to Iran’s Supreme Court, the official IRNA news agency reported.

Hekmati’s trial took place as the U.S. announced new, tougher sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program, which Washington believes Tehran is using to develop a possible atomic weapons capability.

Iran, which says it only seeks nuclear reactors for energy and research, has sharply increased its threats and military posturing against stronger pressures, including the U.S. sanctions targeting Iran’s Central Bank in attempts to complicate its ability to sell oil.

The U.S. State Department has demanded Hekmati’s release

           — Hat tip: Nick[Return to headlines]

Syria: Russian Naval Flotilla to Leave Tartus Today

(ANSAmed) — DAMASCUS, JANUARY 9 — A large Russian naval flotilla led by an aircraft carrier has docked in the Syrian port of Tartus in what Damascus state media hailed as a show of solidarity by close ally Moscow, as Turkish daily Hurriyet reports today. The six-day call to the Mediterranean port, where Russia has a recently expanded naval base, is intended to boost ties at a time when President Bashar al-Assad’s government is under mounting Western and Arab pressure over its bloody crackdown on dissent, the Syrian press said. But Russia defense officials said the stop was simply to replenish supplies. “The port call is aimed at bringing the two countries closer together and strengthening their ties of friendship,” Syria’s official SANA news agency quoted a Russian naval officer it identified as Vladimir Yakushin as saying. The governor of Tartus province, Atef al-Nadaf, paid tribute to the “honourable position adopted by Russia which has stood by the Syrian people.”

But Russian defence officials stressed the ships were conducting regular Mediterranean Sea exercises unrelated to the Syrian crisis and had only entered port to replenish supplies. “After replenishing their supplies, the ships will leave Syrian waters on January 9 and continue on their long-distance mission,” the Russian defense ministry said in a statement. Despite strong Western criticism, Russia has stood by its Cold War ally in the face of a mounting international outcry over the death toll from security force efforts to crush nearly 10 months of anti-government protests. In October, Moscow joined Beijing in vetoing a Western-drafted UN Security Council resolution that would have threatened Damascus with “targeted measures” if it failed to rein in its security forces.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Turkey: Tourism Growing and Profile of Visitors Changing

Fewer Germans and more Arabs. Sermons in English in mosques

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA — The Turkish tourism industry continues to grow and the profile of the average tourist is changing: most visitors are still coming from Europe, mainly Germany, but the number of tourists from Arab countries and regions like South America is on the rise. This fact was underlined by the Turkish agency Anadolu, which has analysed figures on the flow of incoming tourists over the first 11 months of 2011. This flow increased by 10% compared with the same period in 2010, rising to 30.26 million. Today Turkish Culture and Tourism Minister Ertugrul Gunay told Anadolu that he expects Turkey to host 32.5 million tourists this year, generating 24 billion USD in revenues.

The impact of Turkey’s soap operas, which are very popular in North Africa and the Middle East, has raised the number of Arab visitors to the country. But an increase in visitors from the Philippines, Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Norway was also recorded. The most popular tourist destinations are the beaches of Antalya, the history and architecture of Istanbul and the province of Mugla, with the beautiful seaside resort of Bodrum.

Most tourists came from Germany (4.23 million from January to November, 400,000 less than the same period in 2010), followed by Russian tourists (3.4 million, a sharp increase from the 2.64 million recorded in 2009). The figures regarding Arab tourists are lower, but are in line with the rise of the Islam in Turkey, which seems to be freeing itself from the secular heritage of Ataturk. Today the Dogan agency reports that some historic mosques in Istanbul are preparing summaries in English of their sermons. Rather than to devout Islamic tourists, the initiative — already implemented in Germany and Australia — is aimed at visitors of other religions among the 20 thousand tourists who visit the Islam’s places of worship in Istanbul on average every day. Some of them are not only interested in the history and architecture of the mosques, they also want to learn about the religious message that they convey. To that purpose, 250 specialised guides will be trained, who will be able to answer questions on this issue in at least three languages.

Istanbul remains a very attractive tourist destination: according to figures released yesterday by the city’s Culture and Tourism Direction, a growth of more than a million visitors (+16%) was recorded compared with 2010, when the Turkish capital was one of the three European Cultural Capitals. Also in Istanbul most visitors came from Germany, followed by tourists from Russia, the U.S., Italy and France. The most popular month was July (916 thousand visitors), the least popular was January (378 thousand).

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UAE: Dutch Queen Tours Abu Dhabi Mosque

Abu Dhabi, Jan 8 (IANS/WAM) Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands visited the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque here Sunday. She was accompanied by Crown Prince Willem-Alexander and his wife Princess Maxima and other senior officials. Queen Beatrix visited the library of the Zayed Grand Mosque and the tomb of late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. She expressed her admiration of the mosque as a huge Islamic landmark. She was received by Yusuf Al Obaidli, director of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Centre and other officials.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Allah’s Energy Marriage — Saudi Arabia and India

by John Daly

The only question is, what took so long?

Saudi Arabia, OPEC’s leading oil producer and rising BRIC superstar India are deepening their energy ties.

India is seeking massive foreign investment of nearly $1 trillion over the next 5-7 years.

Where is such largesse to come from?

Well, on 5 January, at the at the 9th India-Saudi Arabia Joint Commission meeting in New Delhi, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee proposed establishing a $ 750 million fund to be set up in cooperation with Saudi Arabia to develop joint of infrastructure, exploration and production of hydrocarbons with Saudi Arabia.

Mukherjee told his audience that the investment fund, “to be jointly set up by the Public Investment Fund, Saudi Arabia, and a counterpart Indian agency, needs to be given high priority as it is mutually beneficial.”

As an indication of the high priority India sets on the investment fund, it represents 75 percent of the foreign investment that India is seeking.

Saudi Arabia is the largest economy in the Middle East and posted the best economic performance in 2011 in two decades despite the ongoing global recession. In 2011 Saudi Arabian-Indian bilateral trade was worth more than $25 billion.


[Return to headlines]

India: Govt Should Cancel Salman Rushdie’s Visa, Says Deoband

Muzaffarnagar: Opposing controversial author Salman Rushdie’s visit to India, Islamic Seminary Darul Uloom Deoband has said that the government should cancel his visa as he had hurt religious sentiments of Muslims in the past. Sixty five-year-old Rushdie, who had earned the wrath of Muslims worldwide due to his novel ‘The Satanic Verses’, is set to attend the Jaipur Literature Festival this month end. “Indian government should cancel his visa as Rushdie had annoyed the religious sentiments of Muslims in the past,” Maulana Abul Qasim Nomani, the Vice Chancellor of Darul Uloom, said in a release. The government should take into account the feelings of Muslims against Rushdie, he stressed. Rushdie’s novel ‘The Satanic Verses’, which was banned by India, had sparked outrage in the Muslim world, including a fatwa against him by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the Supreme Leader of Iran, on February 14, 1989. The Indian-origin Rushdie had earlier visited the literary extravaganza in the Pink city in 2007. On January 21, Rushdie along with authors Rita Kothari and Tarun Tejpal is slated to discuss the nuances of English with noted writer Ira Pande on the topic ‘Inglish, Amlish, Hinglish: The chutnification of English’

[JP note: Well, I’ll be chutnied, Rushdie in a pickle again … business as usual then for dhimmis in the cartoon world of Islam.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Far East

Three Million Catholics Defy Terror Threat to Annual Parade in Philippines

More than 3 million Roman Catholic worshippers paraded with a charred Christ statue through the Philippine capital in an annual procession Monday despite a warning from the president that terrorists might target the gathering.

The black wooden statue known as the Black Nazarene was displayed at the seaside Rizal Park where Manila’s Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle led a Mass and offered prayers for victims of tropical storms and landslides over the past year.

Organizers then brought the statue — believed to have healing powers — down from the stage for its three-mile procession to a popular church as devotees rushed forward to touch it. Police estimated that more than 3 million people had joined the procession; up to 9 million were expected.

President Benigno Aquino III warned Sunday at a hastily called news conference, along with military and police officials, that several terrorists planned to disrupt the event and had reportedly been seen in the capital. But the threat was not high enough to cancel the procession, he added.


Philippines Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo said without elaborating that six to nine people from the southern Philippines may be involved in the alleged plot, and officials gave no description of their group or its motives. When asked if the threat came from the al-Qaida-linked Abu Sayyaf group, Aquino said that possibility had not been confirmed.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin told reporters that raids had been conducted in several suspected terrorist safe houses Manila and nearby Rizal province but without any results so far.


The wooden statue of Christ, crowned with thorns and bearing a cross, is believed to have been brought from Mexico to Manila in 1606 by Spanish missionaries. The ship that carried it caught fire, but the charred statue survived and was named the Black Nazarene.

Some believe the statue’s survival of fires and earthquakes through the centuries and intense bombings during World War II is a testament to its powers.

           — Hat tip: The Hot Gates 480 B.C.[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Danish Warship Frees 14 Hostages

An investigation is underway to determine what happens next to the pirates and the hostages

Now that a seaborne rescue operation conducted by the Danish warship Absalon against pirates off the coast of Somalia has freed 14 Iranian and Pakistani hostages, investigators are working to determine what should happen next.

On Saturday, the Absalon, which is part of a NATO-led anti-piracy operation, pursued a craft it suspected of being a pirate mother ship off the Somali coast in the Indian Ocean. The pirates surrendered after a three hour standoff, during which the Absalon fired warning shots and instructed the pirates to surrender.

The 25 pirates and 14 hostages are currently being interviewed aboard the Absalon in an effort to establish what exactly happened onboard the captured vessel.

“We are in the process of piecing together what happened”, said Navy commander Mikael Bill from the Søværnets Operative Kommando (SOK) . “We are questioning both the hostages and the pirates. The information we gather will help us decide the next steps.”

Early reports indicate that the Iranian fishing boat was captured two months ago and that the 14 sailors onboard had been held captive since then. They expressed great relief at having been rescued and have made contact with their families.

The captured pirates cannot be prosecuted under Danish law, but Denmark has agreements with Kenya and the Republic of Seychelles that would allow for the pirates to be tried in those countries. The Iranian vessel is seaworthy, and the hostages could use it to get home. “Having the hostages simply sail their ship home is possible, but it is still too early to say if that will happen,” Bill said.

The Iranian vessel, one of the largest captured by a Danish warship in the battle against pirates, is currently being held alongside the Absalon. Somalia has been without a functional government since 1991, and has become a home for pirates who launch attacks on ships off its coast.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Norway: ‘Immigrants Behind Most Rapes in Stavanger’

Of the 20 men found guilty of rape, half were of African origin, five had Asian backgrounds, one had Polish roots and three were ethnic Norwegians, said NRK, which did not disclose the ethnicity of one of the men.

Police investigator Kristian Johansen said he was surprised by the figures

“When we look at the total number of reports we process, the cases involve a higher number of ethnic Norwegians. It surprises me that so few ethnic Norwegians have been convicted,” he said.

By contrast, Stavanger district court judge Helge Bjørnestad said he was not surprised by the figures.

“I don’t think this is an arbitrary grouping. Unfortunately, it tallies with what we’ve seen,” he said…

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Sir Andrew Green: What Do the Public Really Think About Immigration?

The immigration industry is in a corner. The government are proceeding with wide-ranging reform of the immigration system supported by very strong public opinion. Special interest groups are fighting rear guard actions, often based on misrepresentation of government policy. Otherwise, there is nobody arguing against the need to reduce net immigration. Even Labour’s spokesman on immigration, Chris Bryant, was obliged to admit in Parliament that “yes of course we think that immigration has been too high and that it should be lower”. Perhaps that is why some on the left are seeking to suggest that public opinion is not what it seems to be. The IPPR, the Migrants’ Rights Network and others, have latched onto a paper produced by the Migration Observatory entitled “Thinking behind the numbers — understanding public opinion on immigration in Britain”. And guess what… the BBC News website lapped it up too. This paper reported the results of an opinion poll which sought the public’s views on various categories of migrant and whether they should be reduced (or increased). They found, for example, that only about one third of the public wanted the number of students reduced — no doubt for the obvious reason that most of them go home after their courses. The picture on workers was more mixed; 59% wanted restaurant staff cut back but only 31% wanted the number of highly skilled workers reduced.

No surprises there — but the paper went on to suggest that, if the government did not take these preferences into account, they would risk reducing immigration in a way that a majority of the public did not support.

This was the message that the immigration lobby and the BBC latched onto with such enthusiasm. Unfortunately for them, the survey itself bore no relation to the government’s actual policies. The general approach was not described, nor were respondents asked about any of the policy measures actually proposed. On the contrary, they were asked about a range of matters unrelated to present policies. For example, they were asked whether the number of low skilled workers admitted to Britain should be reduced or not. In fact, as the report recognised elsewhere, the only low skilled migrants admitted to Britain are from the EU over which the government has no control. Respondents were then asked whether various categories of students should be increased, reduced or kept the same. In fact, of course, the government policy is not to increase or reduce the number of students; it is to eliminate bogus students — a quite different matter.

The paper did admit, however, that “there is no question that a large majority of the public supports overall reductions to immigration levels”. They found that 69% supported this but even this figure was lower than usual because the survey included Scotland and 15-17 year olds where opposition to immigration is lower. The only valid conclusion from this paper is that the public has a shaky knowledge of the details of immigration policy — a characteristic that appears to be shared by the authors and purveyors of the report. Those who had any part in canvassing, for whatever political party, during the last election will be in no doubt of the strength of public opinion on the subject. If they are to retain the confidence of the public, the government would be well advised to stay firmly on the case.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

The Number of Migrants Working in the UK Who Were Born in Eastern Europe Rose by 600,000 Since the “A8” Countries, Which Include Poland, Latvia and the Czech Republic, Joined the EU.

At the same time, youth unemployment rose by almost 450,000 and recently exceeded one million.

Youth unemployment in the UK increased from 575,000 in the first quarter of 2004 to 1,016,000 in the third quarter of 2011, figures from the Office for National Statistics showed.

Sir Andrew Green, chairman of MigrationWatch, said: “When the statistics are placed side by side most objective people would consider it a very remarkable coincidence if there was no link between them,

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]


Antarctic Fossil Shows Sauropod Dinosaurs Were Global

ANTARCTICA has yielded its first sauropod fossil. The long-necked plant-eating dinosaurs are already known to have plodded across the six other continents. The 70 to 80-million-year-old fossil is too incomplete to be given an exact name, but it is distinctive enough to identify as belonging to a branch of sauropods called titanosaurs (Naturwissenschaften, DOI: 10.1007/s00114-011-0869-x).

Ignacio Cerda from the National University of Comahue in Argentina uncovered the fossil on James Ross Island. Excavation is difficult, but the site has yielded other important dinosaur fossils over the past two decades. The beast may have reached Antarctica via an ancient isthmus that linked it to South America. “This specimen is at the highest palaeolatitude of any late Cretaceous sauropod in either hemisphere,” says Tom Rich at Museum Victoria in Melbourne, Australia.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

BP Closes Its Solar Business After 40 Years

by Carin Hall

After 40 years, BP exits its solar business in the face of fierce competition. Are they to blame?

If “BP” is short for Beyond Petroleum, it will have to change its name to just “P” now after it officially shut down its solar business last month, a key division in its quest to develop cleaner sources of energy. After 40 years, the final decision to shut the door on solar mostly comes from the impossible competition faced from China.

With the growth of Chinese manufacturing, a global surplus of panels and the subsequent collapse in prices, many solar companies have similarly been forced out of business over the last year.

“The continuing global economic challenges have significantly impacted the solar industry, making it difficult to sustain long term returns for the company, despite our best efforts,” BP said in an internal letter to staff.


[Return to headlines]

Search for Intelligent Extraterrestrials Targets Known Alien Planets

Until recently, astronomers searching for signals from intelligent aliens have had to scan the heavens blindly. But now that’s starting to change, as scientists are targeting newly discovered exoplanets beyond the solar system for their search. Since the first alien planet was discovered in 1996, astronomers have found more than 700 worlds around other stars.

A leading player in this search is NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope, which has discovered 2,326 exoplanet candidates since its launch in March 2009. Follow-up observations from the ground over the coming years hope to confirm most of these as the genuine article.

Now scientists involved in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) have analyzed their first data from radio telescope observations of Kepler planets. The researchers are searching for radio signals that aren’t likely to be caused by natural phenomena, and thus could represent an extraterrestrial message.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]