Sunday, January 12, 2003

News Feed 20120116

Financial Crisis
»Austria: Downgrading ‘Is Politically Motivated’
»Banks’ Deposits at ECB Hit Another Record
»Credit Rating Reduction ‘Will Cost Austria Dear’
»Dutch Leftwing Parties: Higher Tax for Rich
»ECB’s Draghi Says Crisis ‘Very Grave’
»EU Commission: ‘We Know Better Than Ratings Agencies’
»Euro to Stay Despite Crisis, Downgrades: Barnier
»Europe’s $39 Trillion Pension Risk Grows as Economy Falters
»Fitch Cuts Russia Outlook on Anti-Putin Protests
»Fitch Revises South Africa’s Outlook to Negative
»France Urges Europe to Battle ‘Unprecedented’ Crisis
»German Finance Minister Rules Out Euro Bailout Fund Hikes
»Germany Mulls Faster Payment Into New EU Bailout Pot
»Greece Faces a New Crucial Week
»IMF Executive Warns of Eurozone ‘Spiral’
»Japan Frets Over EU Downgrades
»Monti to Meet Van Rompuy Today, Then Merkel-Sarkozy
»Netherlands: Rutte: 2012 Will be Harder Than 2011
»Ratings Agencies Put Eurozone in ‘Downward Spiral’: Belgium
»Romanian Anti-Government Protests Turn Violent
»S&P Action Turns Up the Heat on EU Leaders
»Spiegel Interview With Linde CEO: ‘I Don’t Believe the Euro Should be Rescued at All Costs’
»Swiss to be Big Winners From Future Tobin Tax
»UN Food and Agricultural Chief: ‘Speculation is an Important Cause of High Prices’
»Why ECB’s Tricks Won’t Solve the Crisis
»Amanda Hocking, The Writer Who Made Millions by Self-Publishing Online
»Funding Drought Jeopardizes Future NASA Astronomy Missions
»Huntsman Leaves Presidential Race With Plea for Party Unity
»Little Mogadishu
»New Brain Scan Studies Offer Hope for Mental Illness, Disorders
Europe and the EU
»Austria: Acupuncture That Could Cure Dentist Phobia
»Belgium: “Violence on the Railways Underestimated”
»Bulgarian Police Bust Crime Group Involved in Metal Theft
»Bulgarian Archaeologist Discovers Ancient Thracian Relief
»Denmark: Sunny But Cold for Queen’s 40th Anniversary
»Dutch Lab En Route to Antarctica
»European Malls Track Shopping Patterns Via Mobile Phone
»European Probe Finishes Mapping Big Bang’s Echo
»Flanders: “Imams Hardly in Touch With Their Local Community”
»Forced Labour on the Rise in Sweden: Report
»France: Woman Set on Fire by Masked Intruders
»Germany: Merkel Calls for More Minority Public Servants
»Germany-France-Italy Summit Postponed
»German Left-Winger to Lead EU Parliament After Re-Shuffle
»Germany: Stasi Chief’s Office Reopened in New Exhibition
»Greece: 91% Are Unhappy With Coalition Government, Poll
»In Europe, Free Speech Ends Where Islam Begins
»Italy: Cruise Captain ‘Committed Errors’, Say Ship’s Owners
»Italy: Rescue Workers Search Desperately for Survivors
»Italy: Cruise Ship Owners Accuse Captain of ‘Inexplicable’ Error
»‘Mein Kampf’ Extracts to be Sold in Germany
»Netherlands: Geert Wilders Says There’s No Such Thing as Moderate Islam
»Norway: Thought Control on Islam
»Norway Oil Production to Shrink in 2012
»Poll: National Front Leader Marine Le Pen Shows Surprising Strength
»Radical Muslims Plan Biggest Swiss Mosque
»Romanian Premier Appeals for Dialogue After Clashes
»Scotland: Potential Medieval Village Among Western Isles ‘Finds’
»Sweden: Expert: Kill More Seals in Stockholm’s Waters
»Swedish Military Wants Nordic Cooperation
»Switzerland: Muslim Group Seeks Mosque Funding in Gulf
»Switzerland: Radical Muslims Plan Biggest Swiss Mosque
»Switzerland: Parliamentary Group Defends Hamas Invite
»The Spy Who Drove Me: 50 Years of Bond Cars on Show in UK
»UK: ‘I Was Doing My Duty as a Muslim, ‘ Says Father Who Handed Out Leaflets Saying Gay People Should be Hanged
»UK: Craven Arms Mosque Extension Plans
»UK: David Cameron to Meet Alex Salmond for Referendum Talks
»UK: Growing Use of Sharia by UK Muslims
»UK: Henry Assumang Denies Infecting Hampshire Women With HIV
»UK: Met Gun Crime Unit Overhauled to Focus on Gangs
»UK: Roman Villa ‘Rare and Important for Peterborough’ Says Archaeologist
»Dozens Arrested in Kosovo After Border Clashes
»Police and Protesters Clash on Kosovo-Serbia Border
North Africa
»Opinion: Female Body Under Siege in Post-Revolution Egypt
Israel and the Palestinians
»67 Percent of Murder Cases in 2011 Involved Israeli Arabs
»El Al and Tel Aviv Stock Exchange Sites Hacked
»Israel Fury as Hamas Attends Global Parliamentary Forum
Middle East
»Iran Makes Arrests in Scientist’s Death
»Yemen: UN in Contact With Kidnapped Norwegian
»Ukraine: Imprisoned Tymoshenko Fears for Her Life, Says Daughter
South Asia
»Danish Afghan Cost: DKK 13 Billion
»India: Muslim Bodies Shun Cong’s Quota Carrot
»Sri Lanka Fences in Humans to Protect Its Elephants
»Suspected Terror Swede Charged in Thailand
»Thai Police Find Large Cache of Bomb-Making Materials
»Thailand: Stockpile of Explosive Materials Found
»Totally Drug-Resistant TB Emerges in India
Far East
»AP Opens North Korea’s First Western News Bureau
»China Looks to Establish London as Center for Yuan
Australia — Pacific
»Islamic Museum Wants Home in Zone
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Kenyan Islamic Group Announces Alliance With Al Shabab in Climate of Nairobi Terror Warnings
»South Africa: Counselling for Fire Boy
»South Africa: Bishop Kills Girl to Increase Church Flock
»Surfer Bitten to Death by a Shark at South African Beach Dubbed ‘The World’s Deadliest’
Latin America
»Brazil Celebrates as US Opens Markets for Ethanol
»Pakistan: Sayeeda Warsi: Baroness of the Punjab
»Tunisia: Boat Travelling to Italy Stopped
Culture Wars
»Church of England Faces Court Battle by Gay Clergyman Who Claims He Was Blocked From Becoming a Bishop
»Norway: Music Prize Show Ended in Scandal
»Race Row Mars Norwegian Music Awards
»UK: Dawkins Resists ‘Muslim-Led Censorship’
»Inequality in Wealthy States Rises, Diseases Decline: WHO
»Milky Way’s Color is White as a Morning’s Snow
»Saturn’s Moon Titan May be More Earth-Like Than Thought

Financial Crisis

Austria: Downgrading ‘Is Politically Motivated’

Austrian National Bank (OeNB) Governor Ewald Nowotny has branded the decision to downgrade Austria’s solvency as “politically motivated”. Nowotny said on Friday evening the move by Standard & Poor’s (S&P) was “barely comprehensible”. He expressed concerns that the move may “disturb the positive developments in Europe which started a few weeks ago”. The OeNB boss also said that S&P’s reacted “aggressively and politically motivated” in his opinion. Nowotny said: “The markets usually reacted significantly if two rating agencies lower their estimations.”

People’s Party (ÖVP) Finance Minister Maria Fekter said news that S&P downgraded Austria’s rating to AA+ reasserted her in getting the federal budget under control. Asked whether where the state could make savings, the minister said in a TV discussion yesterday evening (Sun): “Our options are obvious — the health sector, pension age breaches and ÖBB (Federal Railways).”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Banks’ Deposits at ECB Hit Another Record

(FRANKFURT) — Banks’ deposits with the European Central Bank have hit yet another record, data showed Monday, suggesting ongoing tension in the financial system despite unprecedented liquidity injections. Banks in the eurozone put 493.3 billion euros ($623.7 billion) on deposit for 24 hours at the ECB overnight Sunday, topping the record set Friday of 489 billion euros.

Since December new records for deposits have regularly been set, seen by some as a possible sign of market tensions since the money deposited earns interest of 0.25 percent, much less than the rate available on the interbank market. Thus, heavy use of the facility suggests banks favour parking the money at low interest with the Frankfurt-based ECB rather than take the risk of lending it to each other.

The phenomenon appears particularly significant because it comes after eurozone banks borrowed nearly half a trillion euros from the ECB last month in a brand-new three-year lending facility. Concerns have been raised that instead of lending the money on to businesses, the banks have preferred to park the cash at the ECB instead for fear of possible default.

ECB chief Mario Draghi last week insisted that the central bank’s liquidity measures were proving effective in tackling the debt crisis and had so far helped to avert a credit crunch.bStandard and Poor’s, which Friday downgraded the debt of nine of the bloc’s nations, praised the ECB action for avoiding a collapse in market confidence and relieving the pressure on banks.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Credit Rating Reduction ‘Will Cost Austria Dear’

The downgrade from AAA to AA+ will cost Austria “a lot of money”, an economist has warned.

Bernhard Felderer — who heads the State Debt Commission — said on Saturday that the decision increased the costs of Austria’s soaring debt. He stressed that the step by Standard & Poor’s (S&P) would also lead to higher costs for banks and companies. Felderer concluded that the downgrading “will cost us lots of money.”

S&P lowered Austria’s credit rating and the country’s economic outlook on Friday evening. It also downgraded the ratings of eight other European Union (EU) members. The US American credit rating agency said Austria’s economic growth was at risk due to the country’s close ties with Italy and the intense level of operations of Austrian banks in neighbouring Hungary.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Dutch Leftwing Parties: Higher Tax for Rich

Labour, the Socialist Party and the Green Left Party have launched a joint call for a higher tax rate on high incomes as part of a plan for “clever, solidary, green investments.” The party leaders launched their plea in Dutch daily de Volkskrant but did not indicate how much they wanted to raise the highest tack bracket, which currently stands at 52 percent. Recent calculations suggest an increase of just one percent could see the state coffers swell by 400 million euros.

The leftwing parties accuse the centre-right government of sitting by idly when concrete action is urgently needed. The leftwing plan also calls for the introduction of part-time unemployment, a stimulus package for the construction of low-energy homes and increased reliance on renewable energy.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

ECB’s Draghi Says Crisis ‘Very Grave’

European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi said Monday the eurozone crisis had got worse in recent months, characterising the situation as “very grave”. “We are in a very grave state of affairs and we must not shy away from this fact,” said Draghi, speaking in his capacity as head of the European Systemic Risk Board (ESRB) to the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

“When my predecessor Jean-Claude Trichet addressed this committee last October, he characterised the current crisis as one that had reached systemic dimensions. Since then, the situation has worsened further,” added Draghi.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

EU Commission: ‘We Know Better Than Ratings Agencies’

BRUSSELS — The European Commission has claimed it has secret information about the positive state of EU countries’ finances, following a shock downgrade of core member states.

Commission spokesman Olivier Bailly made the statement at a regular press briefing in Brussels on Monday (16 January), two days after US-based agency Standard & Poor’s (S&P) downgraded nine EU countries, including France.

“We have more information than the ratings agencies and we think there are elements missing in their analysis … We have monthly updates from member states. We share this information on a confidential basis. The ratings agencies do not have this information,” he said.

When challenged on why Brussels does not make the good news public, he answered it would take too much time.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Euro to Stay Despite Crisis, Downgrades: Barnier

(HONG KONG) — The euro is here to stay as a global currency and the eurozone will bounce back from its debt crisis, European Union Commissioner for the Internal Market Michel Barnier said Monday. Barnier repeated his surprise at ratings agency Standard & Poor’s decision last week to downgrade nine eurozone states, saying the currency bloc’s 17 members had taken “giant steps” toward restoring confidence.

“Let there be no mistake: this is not a crisis of the euro as a currency,” he told delegates to the Asian Financial Forum, a gathering of regional banking and finance chiefs in Hong Kong. “The euro is here to stay. In the last 10 years the euro has proven itself as a true world currency… And despite the difficulties, it remains strong.

“The real crisis the eurozone faces right now is a crisis of confidence. Our political unity and our determination and our ability to rectify what is wrong … are being tested.”

Standard & Poor’s downgraded nine eurozone states Friday, including France and Austria, on concerns about high government debt levels and funding costs. The US-based agency said European policymakers’ response to the crisis, including the outcome of a summit last month, “may be insufficient to fully address ongoing systemic stresses in the eurozone”.

But Barnier said ratings agencies needed to “take better account of the unprecedented efforts being made by governments” to overcome the crisis. He said he was “surprised time and time again by the timing agencies choose to make such announcements”, and called for greater transparency in how they reached their decisions.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Europe’s $39 Trillion Pension Risk Grows as Economy Falters

Even before the euro crisis, people were worried about Europe’s pension bomb.

State-funded pension obligations in 19 of the European Union nations were about five times higher than their combined gross debt, according to a study commissioned by the European Central Bank. The countries in the report compiled by the Research Center for Generational Contracts at Freiburg University in 2009 had almost 30 trillion euros ($39.3 trillion) of projected obligations to their existing populations.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Fitch Cuts Russia Outlook on Anti-Putin Protests

Fitch on Monday cut the outlook on Russia’s debt due to uncertainty over protests against Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s rule which has intensified the risk of a sustained capital flight. “Political uncertainty in Russia has risen and the global economic outlook has worsened since Fitch last affirmed the rating in September 2011,” Fitch sovereign group director Charles Seville said.

The agency affirmed its BBB rating on Russia’s long-term debt but lowered the outlook to ‘Stable’ from ‘Positive’ as it noted “the limitations and risks associated with Russia’s political model.” Russia’s largest protests in nearly two decades followed allegations of fraud in the December 4 election to the State Duma (lower house of parliament) in which the ruling party clung on to a narrow majority.

But their focus has increasingly turned to criticism of Putin himself as he campaigns for an historic third term as president in March 4 elections. Fitch said there seemed little doubt that Putin — a known quantity to the markets who served two presidential terms between 2000 and 2008 — would still win the vote. It noted however that he appeared to have been caught off guard by the unrest and therefore the outlook was more unpredictable.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Fitch Revises South Africa’s Outlook to Negative

Ratings agency Fitch on Friday revised South Africa’s outlook from stable to negative, citing the country’s failure to create enough jobs and to speed up economic growth. “Not least of the problems that require urgent attention is the economy’s inability to create sufficient jobs for its labour force,” said Purvi Harlalka, director in Fitch’s Sovereigns group.

“This inability has not only constrained growth and kept the tax base narrow but has also caused public finances to become increasingly redistributive in an effort to address the lack of social mobility,” she said. “The resultant narrowing of fiscal space undermines a key support to South Africa’s creditworthiness.”

South Africa’s unemployment rate is mired around 25 percent, while its economic growth has averaged 2.7 percent over the last five years — lower than the average in similar economies, Fitch said.

“High unemployment already fosters widespread criminal violence and deters foreign investment,” Fitch said in a statememt. “Over time it could also threaten social and political stability, damaging the investment climate further.”

But Fitch said that South Africa’s BBB+ foreign credit rating was still supported by the strength of its courts, regulators and government authorities, which has fostered a solid corporate and financial sector.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

France Urges Europe to Battle ‘Unprecedented’ Crisis

Europe faces an “unprecedented” crisis and must rediscover growth, French President Nicolas Sarkozy warned Monday, even as markets shrugged off a credit-rating blow to much of the region. Sarkozy, the first foreign leader to meet with Spain’s new conservative Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, said the eurozone must improve competitiveness to boost growth as well as simply slashing spending.

“We are confronted by an unprecedented crisis that forces us to cut spending, lower our deficits but also to find the path to new growth by resolving our competitiveness problems,” Sarkozy said.

The French leader warned against panic after Standard & Poor’s Friday cut the credit rating of nine nations, stripping France of its top-notch AAA rating, slicing Spain’s and Italy’s ratings by two notches, but sparing Germany. Moody’s Investors Service soothed some of the pain Monday, confirming France’s AAA rating while reviewing its “stable” outlook.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

German Finance Minister Rules Out Euro Bailout Fund Hikes

(BERLIN) — Germany’s finance minister Monday ruled out a hike in bailout fund guarantees by eurozone members following the ratings downgrade of nine countries by Standard and Poor’s. “The guarantees for the EFSF (European Financial Stability Facility) are largely enough for what it has to do in the coming months,” Wolfgang Schaeuble told Deutschlandfunk public radio.

Germany, Europe’s top economy, is already the EFSF’s main guarantor, which began with 440 billion euros ($556 billion) but has 250 billion euros left following rescues of Portugal and Ireland. Schaeuble again called for the influence of ratings agencies to be reduced to return “their role to what it really is.” The EU was working on transparency rules for ratings agencies to avoid possible conflicts of interest, he added.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Germany Mulls Faster Payment Into New EU Bailout Pot

Germany is considering paying in its share to the future EU bailout fund in one lump sum, two top officials indicated on Monday, as Europe seeks to boost market confidence. Asked if Berlin would pay its contribution of some 21 billion euros ($27 billion) in one go, Michael Meister, an ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel, said: “We are ready to do anything, as long as our European partners are as well.” Martin Kotthaus, a spokesman for Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, said Germany wanted to “put capital as quickly as possible” into the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) to give “a signal” to the markets.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Greece Faces a New Crucial Week

Germany expresses support ahead of talks with troika

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, JANUARY 16 — There were encouraging words for Greece from Germany Sunday ahead of a challenging week of negotiations with representatives of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund on a possible new bailout as well as banking representatives over a haircut for holders of Greek debt. Following talks with Prime Minister Lucas Papademos in Athens, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle expressed confidence that the negotiations with Greek bondholders, also known as PSI, would reach a positive conclusion despite no deal being reached last week.

“Discussions are difficult but with good faith they will reach a good result,” said Westerwelle, who also met his counterpart Stavros Dimas and New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras as reported by daily Kathimerini. Earlier, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said spending cuts alone were not enough for Greece and that structural reforms were needed although they would take time to bear fruit. Germany’s backing comes as Greece enters a crucial week of talks. The technical team of the EC, ECB and IMF, or troika, is due to arrive in Athens on Monday. Top troika officials are expected to come later in the week but this will depend on the assessment of their colleagues. A number of thorny issues remain open, including possible cuts to private sector wages and supplementary pensions. The government will also have to show how it will make up a shortfall of some 1.3 billion euros in revenues from 2011. Talks with Charles Dallara, the head of the Institute of International Finance, a global banking body representing private bondholders, are expected to resume on Wednesday.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

IMF Executive Warns of Eurozone ‘Spiral’

A senior International Monetary Fund executive warned on Monday that Europe required bold action to avert a “downward spiral” that could drag the world economy into “catastrophe”.

IMF First Deputy Managing Director David Lipton, in his first major speech since his appointment late last year, told a meeting of Asian finance and banking chiefs in Hong Kong that the world economy was in trouble.

“At the global level, the pace of economic activity is weakening, and the risks for Europe and the world are high,” he told the Asian Financial Forum.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Japan Frets Over EU Downgrades

Japanese Finance Minister Jun Azumi on Sunday expressed worries over his nation’s own sovereign debt rating after Standard and Poor’s downgraded nine debt-laden EU countries, including France.

“Unless Japan shows that we are swiftly securing stable financial conditions and rebuilding fiscal policies… it will be us next time,” Azumi told reporters.

His comments came after Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda also voiced concerns.

“The crisis in Europe is not a fire on the other side of a river,” he said during a TV programme on Saturday.

“Even France’s rating was lowered. If Japan continues its current fiscal policy, we will find ourselves under the spotlight. We must tackle this issue with a great sense of urgency.”

Japan’s debt stands at around 200 percent of GDP after years of pump-priming measures by governments trying in vain to arrest the economy’s long decline.

Noda’s government and the ruling Democratic Party of Japan have mapped out a plan to double the current five percent sales tax, but the premier faces a tough battle to drive through the unpopular plan.

Ratings agency Standard & Poor’s has downgraded nine EU countries, stripping France and Austria of their top triple-A rating.

Only Germany escaped unscathed, as all other eurozone members were either downgraded — some by two notches — or else warned their current ratings were being re-examined.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Monti to Meet Van Rompuy Today, Then Merkel-Sarkozy

Crucial week for the future of the EU and the euro

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS — Today Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti will be meeting with Permanent European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, while on Wednesday he will be going to London to speak with British Prime Minister David Cameron and to regain the City’s confidence in Italy. Friday will instead see Monti meeting with French President Nicholas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in a three-way summit in Rome.

The Italian prime minister looks to have a packed schedule in a week focused on the EU, with Italy once again playing a central role. Monti’s EU schedule is part of an intense series of contacts between the leaders and sherpas of EU chancelleries, which will culminate in the special summit of EU-27 heads of state and government on January 30 in Brussels. The main items on the agenda for the talks are the impact on markets and the EFSF “save-states” fund of Standard & Poor’s downgrade of half of Europe, the launching of the Budget Pact, the Greek crisis and a recipe to relaunch growth. All of the issues are of crucial importance for the future of the EU and the euro.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Rutte: 2012 Will be Harder Than 2011

This year is going to be harder than 2011, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said in a television interview on Sunday. Unemployment will rise, the European economy will stagnate and the public debt will grow, the prime minister said. “All of us are really going to feel the crisis this year. I fear this year will be worse,” he added.

On the other hand, the prime minister argued that the Netherlands is a strong country, with a good educational system. “That means we can emerge from the crisis in good shape. But that also means we should make no mistakes this year.” Mr Rutte, however, rejected calls for Europe’s northern countries to ease their austerity measures in order to stimulate the economy. Mr Rutte said that was not possible because of the rising public debt.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Ratings Agencies Put Eurozone in ‘Downward Spiral’: Belgium

Ratings agencies are leading the eurozone into a “downward spiral”, Belgium’s prime minister said Sunday, two days after Standard & Poor’s downgraded the debt of nine of the bloc’s nations. “Ratings agencies are playing their roles, but in a strange manner because they have a tendency to lead us towards a downward spiral with their behaviour, their timing,” Elio Di Rupo told RTL-TVI television.

“What’s important is for our country to get out of the crisis, that our citizens, after the efforts that we will undertake, can live better,” he said, referring to 11.3 billion euros in planned cuts to reduce the public deficit.

While Di Rupo joined other European officials in criticising the ratings agency, Belgium was not among the countries that were downgraded on Friday. S&P and another major agency, Moody’s, already cut Belgium’s credit rating late last year over concerns about its debt, which represents nearly 100 percent of gross domestic product.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Romanian Anti-Government Protests Turn Violent

BRUSSELS — More than 30 people were injured over the weekend in the most violent clashes in Romania since the 1989 revolution, as protesters vented anger at austerity measures.

Cars were set on fire, shops were looted and police used water canons and tear gas against demonstrators in Bucharest on Sunday night (15 December) — the fourth day of thousands-strong anti-government rallies. According to the ambulance service, 33 people have so far been injured. Fifteen needed emergency treatment, including three policemen. A TV journalist was beaten up by protesters while broadcasting live on Sunday. Police also arrested some 30 people — mostly football fans who joined the crowds with bats and smoke bombs.

The protests began as a peaceful show of support for Raed Arafat — a highly esteemed official who resigned on Tuesday from the ministry of health in a dispute over privatisation. Tens of thousands of demonstrators in some 20 cities called for early elections and for Arafat to run for power. The opposition Social-Liberal Union (USL) also cried out for a snap vote, describing Romania as “a non-governed country.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

S&P Action Turns Up the Heat on EU Leaders

(BRUSSELS) — Two weeks before a new summit, European leaders are under pressure to deliver a credible solution to the debt crisis after Standard & Poor’s punished their policies with stinging credit downgrades. Eurozone governments face an uphill battle as they scramble to avoid a messy debt default in Greece, boost a bailout fund considered too small to save bigger countries and seal a fiscal pact aimed at tightening budget discipline.

After a relatively calm start to the year, the crisis returned with a vengeance on Friday the 13th as negotiations between Greece and bank creditors on a huge debt writedown hit a snag and Standard and Poor’s downgraded nine eurozone nations. The credit ratings agency justified its action saying that EU policies in recent weeks “may be insufficient to fully address ongoing systemic stresses in the eurozone.”

And with recession looming, Standard and Poor’s warned that the focus on all-out austerity could backfire against the economy. More than two years into the crisis, bailouts of Greece, Portugal and Ireland, the creation of an emergency fund and a slew of continent-wide austerity measures have once again failed to calm fears of a eurozone breakup.

“This is more a downgrade of the eurozone’s management of the crisis,” said Sony Kapoor, head of Re-Define economic think tank.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Spiegel Interview With Linde CEO: ‘I Don’t Believe the Euro Should be Rescued at All Costs’

In a SPIEGEL interview, top German industrialist Wolfgang Reitzle argues that Germany should withdraw from the currency union if Europe’s crisis-ridden countries fail to push through reforms. But whatever happens, Greece will have to leave the euro zone, he warns.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Swiss to be Big Winners From Future Tobin Tax

As debate over a financial transaction tax, a so-called Tobin tax, swirls around Europe, Swiss experts agree that to work it must be adopted globally. If the European Commission proposal to tax stock, bond and derivatives trades is introduced, Switzerland would also benefit hugely, they add. The levy may raise billions of dollars in badly needed revenue. But the concept has drawn fierce criticism.

Forty years ago American Nobel laureate James Tobin proposed a tax on currency transactions to discourage speculation. His idea was largely ignored until recently.

In the run-up to presidential elections this year in France and German elections in 2013, and amid widespread mistrust of banks after the financial crisis, the debate over a new tax on financial transactions has gathered momentum. But introducing a tax on trading faces numerous hurdles. Britain in particular has pledged to block any such tax across the European Union.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UN Food and Agricultural Chief: ‘Speculation is an Important Cause of High Prices’

In a SPIEGEL interview, José Graziano da Silva, 62, the new head of the United Nations aid organization FAO, discusses his plans to combat hunger as well as his efforts to limit speculation and the impact it has on dramatically fluctuating food prices.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Why ECB’s Tricks Won’t Solve the Crisis

Ever since the European Central Bank began flooding the markets with cheap money, European banks have rediscovered their taste for sovereign bonds. But the crisis is far from over, as Standard and Poor’s recent raft of downgrades showed. Some bankers are saying it’s just a matter of time before yields on peripheral bonds shoot up again.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Amanda Hocking, The Writer Who Made Millions by Self-Publishing Online

A couple of years ago, Amanda Hocking needed to raise a few hundred dollars so, in desperation, made her unpublished novel available on the Kindle. She has since sold over 1.5m books and, in the process, changed publishing forever.

When historians come to write about the digital transformation currently engulfing the book-publishing world, they will almost certainly refer to Amanda Hocking, writer of paranormal fiction who in the past 18 months has emerged from obscurity to bestselling status entirely under her own self-published steam.

Over the past 20 months Hocking has sold 1.5m books and made $2.5m. All by her lonesome self. Not a single book agent or publishing house or sales force or marketing manager or bookshop anywhere in sight.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Funding Drought Jeopardizes Future NASA Astronomy Missions

With NASA operating on an increasingly tight budget, the agency’s ability to launch future large astronomy missions is at risk, scientists said. And this quandary has no simple solution.

Astronomy missions that fall under NASA’s flagship program are big, expensive endeavors that aim to answer sophisticated questions about the solar system, galaxy and universe we live in. Flagship missions currently operating include the Hubble Space Telescope and the Chandra X-ray Observatory, and NASA’s next big space telescope — the $8.8 billion James Webb Space Telescope launching in 2018 — narrowly avoided escaped losing funding last year. But, with funding becoming increasingly scarce, the ability to do these types of missions is severely hindered, said Chris Martin, an astronomer at the California Institute of Technology.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Huntsman Leaves Presidential Race With Plea for Party Unity

Former Gov. Jon M. Huntsman Jr. of Utah formally ended his once promising Republican presidential run with a call for party unity, asking the five candidates he leaves on the field to end their negative ads, and chastising President Obama for engaging in “class warfare.”

[Return to headlines]

Little Mogadishu

Washington is the 13th most populated state in the country, but the 8th highest receiver of refugees. Refugees come to Washington from all over the world, but the largest groups are from Burma, Iraq, Bhutan and Somalia. Today we kick off a four-part series called “Refugees In Puget Sound.” Our series will explore the lives of local refugees and the challenges that they face as they settle in to their new community. King County is home to one of the country’s largest populations of Somalis. They’ve been fleeing Somalia since the central government collapsed in 1991. Reporter Jessica Partnow recently visited a Somali community concentrated around the Tukwila light-rail station. It is in a neighborhood known by many as Little Mogadishu.


At the Bakara Mall in SeaTac, Mohamed Ibrahim says he can sell you a cell phone for half the cost of retail. Ibrahim: “We specialize in fixing phones. We sell used and new phones here.” Ibrahim is 25. He and his brother opened this shop a year and a half ago. Ibrahim: “We first started off just selling phones out on the streets and stuff like that, and we wanted a place where people can come to us and get a face-to-face reaction and stuff like that.” He’s got a full-time job too, working as an instructional assistant for Seattle Public Schools. He tutors immigrant and refugee kids who are learning English. Ibrahim is from Somalia, but he’s been in the US since he was 10.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

New Brain Scan Studies Offer Hope for Mental Illness, Disorders

Researchers in the US are seeing for the first time “and in stunning detail-how neural fibers crisscross the brain and connect its regions”, according Protomag, published Friday 13 January. The new images show the connecting tissue, or white matter, of the brain and offer hope for tracking the fibers’ multiple pathways, which could in turn provide strong clues about the sources of mental illness and brain disorders.

Two major projects at Massachusetts General Hospital, the Superstruct Project and the Human Connectome Project with the University of California, Los Angeles, are collecting these images from thousands of people. “Their goal is to understand what makes the human brain different from the brains of other animals and why some people are at risk for mental illness. “Neuroscientists believe that diseases such as schizophrenia, bipolar disease and autism may be caused by subtle disruptions to the brain’s wiring. In compiling and comparing brain images of so many healthy and mentally ill people, scientists hope to see how connections go awry in disease so that they can develop early interventions and therapy targets.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Austria: Acupuncture That Could Cure Dentist Phobia

Acupuncture may well be the new cure for patients who are scared of going to the dentist. A new study carried out by experts at the Medical University of Vienna, Austria has revealed significant evidence that traditional Chinese medicine could help to relax nervous patients prior to dental treatment.

“The aim of the study was to analyse whether acupuncture in the outer ear could reduce fear of dental treatment,” wrote Andrea Michalek-Sauberer and her co-author from the clinical department for special anaesthetic and pain therapy at the AKH (Allgemeines Krankenhaus) in Vienna.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Belgium: “Violence on the Railways Underestimated”

Last week’s attack on a train conductor put aggression on the railways back in the spotlight. Criminologist Iris Steenhout believes that railway company figures underestimate the scale of the problem because many conductors fail to report incidents.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Bulgarian Police Bust Crime Group Involved in Metal Theft

Police have busted an organized crime group involved in metal theft in Bulgaria’s southern city of Kardzhali. According to unconfirmed reports of the BGNES news agency, the raid had been carried out at the Lead and Zinc Complex (OTZK) in the city. An emergency inspection of the warehouse stocks at the Kardzhali-based smelter is underway.

Local police arrested a fifth participant in the group on Monday after four arrests on the case made on Sunday. On Sunday, criminologists found 39 bags of silver distillate during an inspection of a VW car owned by a 46-year-old citizen. Police officers arrested the driver and three others and seized the bags. The mastermind of the criminal scheme is still at large. The authorities have seized a total of 600 kg of silver distillate which is used to recover precious metals.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Bulgarian Archaeologist Discovers Ancient Thracian Relief

A ceramic relief of an Ancient Thracian horseman, a major ancient deity, has been found at the holy rock city of Perperikon by Bulgarian archaeologist Nikolay Ovcharov. Prof. Nikolay Ovcharov, also known as the Bulgarian Indian Jones, presented his find before the media on Thursday. In his words, the relief dates back to the end of the 4th century BC and the start of the third century BC, the Hellenistic Age of Ancient Thrace.

It is said to be an extremely valuable find from the time when the Thracian started to hold in reverence the so called “Thracian Horseman” as a deity, also known as the (Thracian) Heros. The relief is part of an urn; it depicts a horseman with reins in his right hand, and a sword-like object in his left hand. Ovcharov explained that the earliest similar finds date back to the 5th century BC, and consist of reliefs encrusted in gold or silver.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Denmark: Sunny But Cold for Queen’s 40th Anniversary

Danes and royalists can look forward to dry and sunny weather on Saturday as Queen Margrethe II’s horse-drawn carriage carries the monarch from Amalienborg Palace to Copenhagen Town Hall to celebrate the 40th anniversary of her reign. “It will be lovely weather, clear and not very much wind,” says Met Office Duty Officer Michael Christensen, adding, however it will be cold.

“It may be frosty on Saturday morning, but it will warm up during the day to between two and five degrees,” Christensen adds. Princess Margrethe was proclaimed Queen Margrethe II on January 14th, 1972 on the death of her father King Frederik IX. She thus celebrates the 40th year of her reign this Saturday.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Dutch Lab En Route to Antarctica

A planned Dutch research facility in Antarctica is one step closer to completion. Three mobile labs have been loaded on lorries and are en route to the UK port of Southampton from where they will travel to Antarctica by ship. A fourth lab is to be shipped at a later date. The three labs will form part of a Dutch research station, the first such facility in Antarctica ever.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

European Malls Track Shopping Patterns Via Mobile Phone

Path Intelligence, a UK firm, has its services at more than ten malls in Britain and around Europe. But its success has raised privacy concerns as well. Most of us know that when we surf or shop online, the pages we visit can be recorded and tracked. That’s how websites like Google and Facebook are able to sell us ads ostensibly targeted to our interests.

But while tracking online movements and how that translate into sales is relatively easy online, this level of monitoring is much harder to do offline. Britain’s brick-and-mortar shops are having a rough time — as well-known national chains like Woolworths have gone bust, thousands of other stores have closed, and total sales have stagnated in recent years.

Online it’s a different story: this Christmas the number of people shopping online was nearly thirty percent higher than last year, with overall Internet sales tripling in three years. Enter Path Intelligence, a British company based in Portsmouth in southern England, and its new shopping monitoring product. Footpath is in operation in at least ten malls in the UK, and has been sold to seven countries, mainly in Europe.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

European Probe Finishes Mapping Big Bang’s Echo

A European space observatory that’s surveying the light left over from the birth of the universe has wrapped up a big part of its mission. The High Frequency Instrument (HFI), one of two sensors aboard the European Space Agency’s Planck spacecraft, ran out of its vital coolant as planned Saturday (Jan. 14), ESA officials announced. Without the coolant, the instrument can’t detect the faint cosmic microwave background (CMB) — the remnant radiation left over from the Big Bang 13.7 billion years ago.

The instrument did its job, researchers said, completing five full-sky surveys of the CMB since the spacecraft’s May 2009 launch. Planck’s mission called for a minimum of two such surveys, researchers said. “Planck has been a wonderful mission; spacecraft and instruments have been performing outstandingly well, creating a treasure trove of scientific data for us to work with,” said Jan Tauber, ESA’s Planck project scientist, in a statement.

The CMB is an “echo” of the Big Bang, the dramatic event that gave birth to our universe. This radiation is a remnant of the first light emitted after the universe had cooled enough to allow light to travel freely. By studying patterns imprinted in the CMB today, scientists hope to better understand the Big Bang and the very early universe.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Flanders: “Imams Hardly in Touch With Their Local Community”

Research commissioned by the Equal Opportunities Support Unit shows that many of the imams who are working in Flanders hardly speak any Dutch, the language of their local community. In addition, they are hardly in touch with the local community. An imam is the leader of congregational prayer in a mosque.

The research shows that most of the imams active in Flanders didn’t grow up here and never learnt French or Dutch. They have little understanding of Belgian or Flemish affairs. As a result contacts with Belgian youngsters are strained. In consequence many young Muslim Belgians go in search of information about Islam via other channels increasing the chance of radicalisation.

Flemish equal Opportunities Minister Geert Bourgeois (Flemish nationalist) has asked the managements of Flemish mosques to adopt a Dutch name in order to improve general perception as well as contacts with young Muslims.

The minister feels that mosques today face a change in generation: “Work undertaken by the first generation that has become older forms a sound basis to continue to construct mosques that are in step with their time, that are in touch with their local community and communicate with broader society.” The research also shows that a youngster generation now stands ready to take over the torch.

Flemish Education Minister Pascal Smet (socialist) is considering the organisation of courses for imams. “This could resolve the problem” said Mr Bourgeois.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Forced Labour on the Rise in Sweden: Report

Organized begging, forced labour and forced participation in thefts have bypassed human trafficking for sexual purposes, shows a recent report from the National Police Board (Rikspolisstyrelsen — RPS), charting the development of human trafficking in Sweden during 2010.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

France: Woman Set on Fire by Masked Intruders

A 50-year-old woman was attacked by two men posing as police officers and then set on fire early on Sunday morning. Le Parisien newspaper reported that the well-maintained apartment block in the northern Paris suburb of Saint-Denis has been the scene of four different fires in the last week.

The attack happened after the woman opened her door to the men thinking they were alerting her about a new fire. She was taken by helicopter to hospital after suffering third degree burns on around 40 percent of her body. Neighbours reported hearing screams at around 3am on Sunday morning.

“I woke up at about 3 to feed my baby,” said one neighbour. “Suddenly I heard someone shouting for help. At first I thought I was dreaming but the shouts continued. I went out and saw the smoke. My neighbour came out with a bucket of water. He went upstairs and threw it over the woman. Then he called the police.”

In the last week a pushchair on a landing was set on fire, followed by a shopping trolley. Then pieces of material were set on fire and thrown threw the letterboxes of two apartments. “This is a calm area that doesn’t have these types of problem,” said a spokeswoman for the local council. “We hope that the police can quickly catch the culprits before this gets worse.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Germany: Merkel Calls for More Minority Public Servants

Chancellor Angela Merkel has called for more police officers, fire fighters and teachers in Germany with foreign roots, saying integration works in two directions, in comments roundly criticised by opposition parties. Merkel’s speech about increasing the number of minorities in public service was slammed as nothing but hot air by the Green party.

Speaking in a video podcast on Saturday, Merkel had pointed out that nearly a fifth of people living in Germany had their roots in a different country, and said that integration was a task of national importance. “It is a long process and it is important that migrants do their part, just like those who have lived here a long time,” she said.

But Renate Künast, head of the Green parliamentary party said Merkel’s comments were, “almost cynical.” She said children of migrants were leaving Germany because they were not getting a fair chance. “No podcast and no further integration conference at which it is just talking, can help there,” said Künast.

She said Germany needed to encourage people to become citizens, to accept multiple citizenships, and to get rid of the rule which forced young people born in Germany to foreign parents to choose between nationalities.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Germany-France-Italy Summit Postponed

A meeting between the leaders of Germany, France and Italy, scheduled for 20 January, has been postponed until the end of next month, reports Reuters, citing an email written by the German embassy in Rome. “It should be rescheduled to around end-February,” said the email.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

German Left-Winger to Lead EU Parliament After Re-Shuffle

BRUSSELS — Members of the European Parliament will elect a new president on Tuesday (17 January), but in time-honoured fashion the result of the vote is to reflect a back-room deal made in advance.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Germany: Stasi Chief’s Office Reopened in New Exhibition

Until 1989, it was the Stasi’s job to spy on East German citizens. The office of Erich Mielke, who led the secret police for more than 30 years, has been restored for a new exhibition on the body’s dark past.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Greece: 91% Are Unhappy With Coalition Government, Poll

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, JANUARY 16 — The survey by pollster Public Issue for Sunday’s Kathimerini newspaper showed that 91% of respondents were dissatisfied with the government, up from 80% in an early December poll. The three-party coalition government was formed in November to push a bailout deal and take the overborrowed country to elections, now tentatively set for April. Papademos’s approval rating remained higher than his government’s, though it dropped slightly to 55% from 60% registered in the December poll. Also, 50% of respondents said they did not see a need for immediate elections. The poll, conducted on January 5-10 on a nationwide sample of 1,018 Greeks, showed the conservative New Democracy (ND) party maintaining its lead over the Pasok socialists but unable to secure an absolute majority if elections were held today. New Democracy would win 30.5% of the vote versus 14% for the socialist Pasok party and 12.5% for the communist party, which is not part of the coalition government. “The political landscape remains fluid. New Democracy leads but without outright majority,” Kathimerini said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

In Europe, Free Speech Ends Where Islam Begins

by Clifford D. May

It’s funny in an Orwellian way that in Europe there are now militant groups with such cutesy names as Sharia4Belgium and Sharia4Holland. Less funny, but perhaps more Orwellian: Last month, the European Foundation for Democracy (EFD) held an event in Amsterdam featuring two speakers who favor liberalizing Islam. More than 20 members of the pro-Sharia groups pushed their way in shouting “Allahu Akhbar!” They demanded the event be stopped, called the speakers apostates, spat on them, threw eggs at them and threatened to kill them. Now here’s the least funny and most Orwellian part: few Europeans ¨D few journalists, politicians, members of the self-proclaimed Human Rights community, Muslim organizations claiming to be moderate ¨D have expressed outrage over this boot-stomping suppression of free speech in a city, country and continent that claim to value freedom and tolerance.

Roberta Bonazzi, EFD’s executive director, vowed not to be silenced. “We are united and will continue to support inspirational Muslim reformers across Europe,” she said. Her speakers also kept a stiff upper lip. Canadian author Irshad Manji said that she and Dutch Parliamentarian Tofik Dibi had “refused to leave, even when police asked. We wouldn’t play on jihadi terms.” Dibi, of the Green-Left party, said “the disruption shows that even in the Netherlands it is necessary to continue the debate on reforming Islam.” Necessary, yes; safe, no. In Europe, increasingly, free speech ends where Islam, Islamism and even Islamic terrorism begin. Two months ago, the Paris offices of the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo were firebombed and its staff targeted with death threats after publication of an issue “edited” by the Prophet Mohammad.

In 2005, the Danish newspaper Jyllands Posten published a dozen cartoons satirizing terrorism in the name of Islam. That led to protests, riots, death threats, an assassination plot and the bombing of the Danish embassy in Pakistan. All this continues a trend begun in 1989, when Iranian revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini ordered any Muslim willing and able to murder British author Salman Rushdie whose novel, “The Satanic Verses,” Khomeini deemed blasphemous. Rushdie has required bodyguards ever since.

In any of the more than 50 states that hold membership in the Saudi-based Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC _ formerly the Organization of the Islamic Conference) that probably would not have saved him. Last year, Salmaan Taseer, the governor of Pakistan’s Punjab province, defended a Christian woman sentenced to death for having said something some Muslims found offensive. One of Taseer’s bodyguards shot him 27 times.

There is not a single OIC member state that seriously guarantees freedom of speech. Nevertheless, in association with the OIC, the U.S. State Department last month hosted, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton attended, a three-day, closed-door i nternational conference in Washington on combating religious “intolerance, negative stereotyping and stigmatization.” The conference reinforced the OIC tenet that all religions are equal ¨D though one is more equal than others. OIC members are concerned only about the “defamation” of Islam and, evidently, they do not view militant Muslims attacking reformist Muslims as defaming their faith…

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Italy: Cruise Captain ‘Committed Errors’, Say Ship’s Owners

The company operating a cruise ship that capsized after hitting rocks off western Italy, killing six, says the captain may have “committed errors”. He appears to have sailed too close to land and not to have followed the company’s emergency procedures, Costa Crociere said in a statement. Capt Francesco Schettino is suspected of manslaughter, but denies wrongdoing. Italy’s environment minister said the risk from a potential spill of ship’s fuel was extremely high. Six people are confirmed to have died but about 15 remain unaccounted for. Divers are trying to find more survivors.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italy: Rescue Workers Search Desperately for Survivors

The death toll in the Costa Concordia disaster has risen to six after a body was found early on Monday. Sixteen people are still missing. Rescue workers described the treacherous conditions aboard the ship, which is lying on its side off the Italian island of Giglio.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italy: Cruise Ship Owners Accuse Captain of ‘Inexplicable’ Error

Owners of a capsized cruise ship off the Italian coast have suggested Captain Francesco Schettino may be responsible for the deadly accident, while rough seas and weather forced rescue workers to suspend their efforts.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

‘Mein Kampf’ Extracts to be Sold in Germany

A British publisher plans to sell excerpts from Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” in Germany, claiming he wants to demystify the infamous book. But the controversial move could provoke a legal dispute with the Bavarian government, which owns the copyright and refuses reprint permission.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Geert Wilders Says There’s No Such Thing as Moderate Islam

Can’t Someone Tell Geert Wilders to Stop His Anti-Muslim Diatribes Before Somebody Gets Hurt?

A couple of years ago, a billboard appeared outside Columbia, S.C., looming above Interstate 26. Beady eyes stared out from a black balaclava emblazoned with an inscription from the Quran — clearly the eyes were meant to be those of a terrorist — and next to them were these words: “ISLAM RISING … BE WARNED.” Erected by the Virginia-based Christian Action Network, the sign advertised the group’s documentary about a charismatic Dutch politician with dyed-blond hair, a mysterious past, and a platform of paranoid hate. South Carolina seemed to offer a ready audience for Geert Wilders’s dire warnings against the Muslim religion. Today, with the Republican road show encamped in the state for the Jan. 21 presidential primary, the 48-year-old Dutchman is more than ever a man who needs to be watched and listened to carefully. At home in the Netherlands, his explosive theme of unrelenting hostility to Islam has built his xenophobic Party for Freedom, founded in 2005, into the count ry’s third-largest political party; across the Atlantic his message packs serious resonance in an American heartland still shaken by the 9/11 attacks. Wilders’s name and message have been invoked repeatedly in South Carolina and at least a dozen other state legislatures as they debate measures to ban an imagined threat: Islamic law.

So does he worry about the violence his rants could inspire? Wilders is a master at capitalizing on real fears and conjuring false ones — and then dodging responsibility if people’s lives are ruined or lost. “I am responsible for my own actions and for nobody else’s actions,” he says. In a wide-ranging interview at the offices of the Dutch Parliament in The Hague, Wilders complained to Newsweek that the “naive” Obama administration wasn’t doing nearly enough to combat what Wilders regards as the Islamic threat. Expanding on his claims that the Quran should be banned, just as Mein Kampf has been in some countries, he said the United States should be “getting rid of Islamic symbols — no more mosques — and closing down Islamic schools.”


[JP note: Christopher Dickey joins the legions of dhimmis ready to sell their freedom for a quiet life. They might end up without a life at all.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Norway: Thought Control on Islam

January 10, 2012 was a big day for terrorist Anders Breivik, the diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic (but now being reevaluated), who on July 22, 2011, bombed the Norwegian Prime Minister’s office and, soon after on that same day, gunned down seventy-seven Norwegian teenagers at a political camp near Oslo. The Norwegian justice system will now permit him to receive visitors, ending almost six months of isolation. This will allow Breivik to give interviews to the media to expound his wild theories justifying his murderous actions, and even entertain adoring supporters. Undoubtedly, the resulting attention, stories and interviews will create outrage among the still grieving Norwegian population. And undoubtedly, the leftist, politically correct Norwegian elite will use this public outrage to continue their campaign to restrict, or even shut down, all speech they perceive as “Islamophobic.”


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Norway Oil Production to Shrink in 2012

Oil output in Norway, one of the world’s leading exporters of the black gold, is expected to fall further this year following a 5.6-percent drop in 2011, the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate said on Monday. The Scandinavian country should produce around 1.6 million barrels of oil per day (mb/d) this year, compared with 1.7 mb/d in 2011 and 1.8 mb/d in 2010.

Natural gas, which accounts for a growing share of Norway’s energy production, also saw output slip last year by 5.0 percent to 101.3 billion cubic metres, but the Petroleum Directorate said the decline was largely market-driven. “Gas sales are expected to rise in the next few years,” it pointed out in a statement.

Since its peak in 2001, Norwegian oil production has gradually shrunk as new discoveries have failed to replenish dwindling reserves, and it now stands at less than half the level of output seen a decade ago. Natural gas is expected to account for 50 percent of Norway’s total petroleum-based production by 2016, up from 46 percent last year, according to the Petroleum Directorate.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Poll: National Front Leader Marine Le Pen Shows Surprising Strength

Almost one-third of French voters agree with the ideas of the far-right National Front, according to a poll published Thursday in the latest sign of growing support for the party ahead of April’s presidential election.

The figures reflect the impact of the National Front’s charismatic leader Marine Le Pen, who took over from her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, as the head of the party a year ago.

She has campaigned hard against free trade and the European Union, and has pushed the party’s traditional tough line on crime and immigration.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Radical Muslims Plan Biggest Swiss Mosque

The Islamic Central Council of Switzerland (ICCS) is trying to raise enough funds in the Gulf states to enable the construction of a 20-million franc ($21 million) prayer centre in the capital Bern. With three storeys, the planned mosque would be the biggest in the country. In addition to a prayer room for 270 men and 174 women, plans show that the building would have conference and training rooms, shops, underground parking and a garden.

The president of the Council, Nicolas Blancho, confirmed his fundraising activities in Kuwait and Qatar to newspapers SonntagsZeitung and Le Matin Dimanche on Sunday, although he said the organisation has not received any donations yet. “For the time being, we’re just building relationships of trust with potential sponsors,” said Blancho, adding that searching for donors is a long process.

Last year, the president of ICCS visited Kuwait and Qatar several times where he met with “businessmen and high level statesmen”, not just to talk about money, “but also to have intellectual exchanges,” explained the 28-year-old Swiss. Blancho said he also presented to his interlocutors the council’s idea of launching a popular initiative to counter the ban on the construction of minarets that was approved in a referendum in November 2009.

Aside from the massive mosque, the ICCS also has other smaller projects, such as founding an Islamic school in Switzerland, and setting up a travel agency for pilgrimages to Mecca and Medina. According to the Swiss convert, his contacts in Gulf countries are financially clean and any donations would be made within a legal framework. However, ICCS has never previously made its financial resources public, says the SonntagsZeitung.

ICCS mainly represents orthodox Sunni Muslims. It was founded two and a half years ago by a small group of young Swiss converts to Islam in the light of the referendum to ban the construction of minarets.

ICCS has about 2,000 members, and has organized several controversial rallies in Bern. At its latest demonstration in October, the organisation chose a symbol reminiscent of the Jewish Star of David to draw parallels between the treatment of Jews in Nazi Germany and Muslims in the Alpine country of today. The move infuriated the Jewish community.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Romanian Premier Appeals for Dialogue After Clashes

Romania’s prime minister has called for calm after violence between police and demonstrators over austerity measures. The government has withdrawn controversial health reforms and called for dialogue.

Romanian Prime Minister Emil Boc appealed for calm on Monday after clashes between anti-austerity protesters and riot police at the weekend left more than 50 people injured.

“Freedom of speech is guaranteed in Romania, and peaceful demonstrations are legitimate, but street violence is unacceptable and cannot be tolerated,” said Boc after a meeting of the ruling coalition.

The premier called for dialogue and said he sympathized with the “suffering and the difficulties” of citizens. “Street violence will only impair our chance of creating prosperity more rapidly and put at risk Romania’s situation on an international level,” Boc warned.

Several hundred demonstrators had gathered in Bucharest on Saturday and Sunday to voice opposition to health reforms that led to the resignation of popular Health Minister Raed Arafat. Some 4,000 people took part nationwide.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Scotland: Potential Medieval Village Among Western Isles ‘Finds’

Members of the public were asked if they knew about any possible ancient sites along the shorelines of Scotland’s Western Isles. Archaeologists are now working on confirming and dating previously unrecorded Neolithic pottery, a complex of fish traps, and a possible medieval fishing village. “We’re relying on the knowledge of people who live and work on or near the sea, and who might have noticed something out of the ordinary,” said Jonathan Benjamin of WA Coastal and Marine.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Expert: Kill More Seals in Stockholm’s Waters

A leading fisheries consultant has warned that killing more seals and cormorants is the only way to reverse the trend of ever diminishing fish stocks in the Stockholm archipelago. Sverker Lovén, chairman of Fiskefrämjandet, a fish-promotion association, has carried out a detailed investigation into the disappearance of several breeds of fish in the waters outside the capital, most noticeably perch and pike. He has come to the conclusion that if something is not done about the number of seals preying on the fish, there is a good chance they will eventually die out altogether.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Swedish Military Wants Nordic Cooperation

At a time when military budgets are increasingly being cut across Europe, Sweden’s Supreme Commander Gen. Sverker Göranson is calling for more cooperation between the Nordic countries in monitoring each other’s air space and maritime sovereignty. “We must be ready to dare to share responsibility. Then our politicians must choose the right way to go,” Göranson says, adding in particular that incident responsibility — monitoring each other’s territorial sovereignty — should be shared.

Göranson says that the Nordic countries have the necessary faith in each other, and the technical ability to develop their cooperation. The five countries already carry out joint exercises and take part in the same international operations. Denmark and Sweden both currently have forces in Afghanistan and share information.

Göranson says that the greatest challenge for the Nordic countries is to find common rules of engagement so that there is agreement, for example, on what Danish or Swedish soldiers and pilots can do in each other’s territories.

The Nordic countries have differing military affiliations and conditions. Denmark, Norway and Iceland are members of NATO; Sweden and Finland are not, although both the latter are members of NATO’s Partnership for Peace. Iceland has no standing military but has a bilateral Defence Agreement with the United States and contributes financially and with civilian personnel to NATO operations.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Switzerland: Muslim Group Seeks Mosque Funding in Gulf

A controversial Muslim group is trying to raise funds in the Gulf states for a 20 million franc mosque in Bern. The Islamic Central Council of Switzerland says it is also seeking financial support to launch an initiative to repeal the ban on the construction of minarets which was approved by voters in 2009. Council President, Nicolas Blancho, has confirmed Sunday newspaper reports about his fundraising talks in Kuwait and Qatar, but said he had not received any donations so far.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Switzerland: Radical Muslims Plan Biggest Swiss Mosque

The Islamic Central Council of Switzerland (ICCS) is trying to raise enough funds in the Gulf states to enable the construction of a 20-million franc ($21 million) prayer centre in the capital Bern.

With three storeys, the planned mosque would be the biggest in the country. In addition to a prayer room for 270 men and 174 women, plans show that the building would have conference and training rooms, shops, underground parking and a garden. The president of the Council, Nicolas Blancho, confirmed his fundraising activities in Kuwait and Qatar to newspapers SonntagsZeitung and Le Matin Dimanche on Sunday, although he said the organisation has not received any donations yet. “For the time being, we’re just building relationships of trust with potential sponsors,” said Blancho, adding that searching for donors is a long process.

Last year, the president of ICCS visited Kuwait and Qatar several times where he met with “businessmen and high level statesmen”, not just to talk about money, “but also to have intellectual exchanges,” explained the 28-year-old Swiss. Blancho said he also presented to his interlocutors the council’s idea of launching a popular initiative to counter the ban on the construction of minarets that was approved in a referendum in November 2009. Aside from the massive mosque, the ICCS also has other smaller projects, such as founding an Islamic school in Switzerland, and setting up a travel agency for pilgrimages to Mecca and Medina. According to the Swiss convert, his contacts in Gulf countries are financially clean and any donations would be made within a legal framework. However, ICCS has never previously made its financial resources public, says the SonntagsZeitung.

ICCS mainly represents orthodox Sunni Muslims. It was founded two and a half years ago by a small group of young Swiss converts to Islam in the light of the referendum to ban the construction of minarets. ICCS has about 2,000 members, and has organized several controversial rallies in Bern. At its latest demonstration in October, the organisation chose a symbol reminiscent of the Jewish Star of David to draw parallels between the treatment of Jews in Nazi Germany and Muslims in the Alpine country of today. The move infuriated the Jewish community.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Switzerland: Parliamentary Group Defends Hamas Invite

The Swiss-based Inter-Parliamentary Union on Monday defended its hosting of members of the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas at a meeting in Geneva.

Secretary-general Anders Johnsson told AFP that the delegation attended a hearing on Saturday of the IPU’s Committee on Human Rights of Parliamentarians which examines alleged rights abuses against lawmakers.

“Our invitation has been misunderstood,” said Johnsson.

“The IPU doesn’t deal with Hamas, but the IPU committee deals with the rights of members of parliament, whoever they are.”

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman had earlier on Monday slammed the IPU invite, describing it as “an example of international hypocrisy.”

Johnsson said the Swiss trip had come about after the committee invited a Gaza-based NGO to give evidence and the group had put forward Hamas MPs Mushir al-Masri and Khamis al-Najjar.

“The IPU doesn’t have relations with Hamas, we deal with the Palestinian parliament,” he said.

The IPU encourages dialogue between MPs from parliaments around the world in a bid to promote “peace and cooperation among peoples” and “the firm establishment of representative democracy.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

The Spy Who Drove Me: 50 Years of Bond Cars on Show in UK

The largest collection of James Bond vehicles in the world opens to the public on Tuesday in Britain featuring classics such as the Aston Martin DBS from “Quantum of Solace.” From earlier Bond films, the Phantom III Rolls-Royce from “Goldfinger” and the Lotus Esprit S1, which takes a trip into the sea with Roger Moore at the wheel in “The Spy Who Loved Me”, are also among the 50 vehicles on show.

The “Bond in Motion” show at the National Motor Museum in Beaulieu, southeast England, marks half a century of 007 films. Also featured are the vintage 1962 Rolls-Royce from “A View To A Kill” which was pushed into a lake by Bond’s foes Zorrin and May Day, played by singer Grace Jones, with Bond still inside.

The premiere of the exhibition on Sunday was attended by Bond stars such as Britt Ekland who played Bond’s bumbling accomplice Holly Goodnight in “The Man With The Golden Gun.” The exhibition also showcases boats, motorbikes, sledges, jets and parachutes used in Bond films.

Sarah Wright, a spokeswoman for the National Motor Museum, said: “We anticipate many people coming through our doors to come and see one of the most unique exhibitions in the world.” The exhibition will run until December 31.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: ‘I Was Doing My Duty as a Muslim, ‘ Says Father Who Handed Out Leaflets Saying Gay People Should be Hanged

A father has told a court he was only doing his duty as a Muslim by handing out leaflets calling for gay people to be executed.

Kabir Ahmed, 28, said he handed a leaflet called Death Penalty? to a policeman and stuffed them through letterboxes across Derby because he was spreading the word of God as taught by Islam.

He said: ‘My intention was to do my duty as a Muslim, to inform people of Godâ€(tm)s word and to give the message on what God says about homosexuality.’

Married Ahmed, who has a nine-month-old daughter, is on trial with four other men at Derby Crown Court charged with inciting hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation, the first prosecution of its kind since legislation came into force in March 2010.

At the opening of the trial last week jurors were shown the Death Penalty? leaflet, which shows an image of a mannequin hanging from a noose and says that homosexuality is punishable by the death penalty under Islam.

The leaflet states: ‘The death sentence is the only way this immoral crime can be erased from corrupting society and act as a deterrent for any other ill person who is remotely inclined in this bent way.’

It goes on: ‘The only dispute amongst the classical authorities was the method employed in carrying out the penal code,’ and then goes on to offer burning, being flung from a high point such as a mountain or building, or being stoned to death as suitable methods.

Giving evidence today Ahmed, wearing a pair of grey trousers and a black shirt, said he had handed one of the Death Penalty? leaflets to PC Stephen Gregory on July 2 2010 as he was passing by the area of the Jamia Mosque in Rosehill Street following Friday prayers.

He told the court he felt it was his duty as a Muslim to inform and advise people wherever they may be committing sins, he would be failing if he did not.

‘My duty is not just to better myself but to try and better the society I live in,’ he said.

‘We believe we canâ€(tm)t just stand by and watch somebody commit a sin, we must try and advise them and urge them to stay away from sin.’

Ahmed said he had studied the texts of many religions including the Bible and the Torah and used ideas from each to compare with what Islam says about things such as drugs, alcohol, prostitution and relationships.

Ahmedâ€(tm)s barrister Zacharias Miah asked him if PC Gregory had told him he was doing something wrong would he have handed over the bag of leaflets he was carrying and Ahmed replied: ‘Of course, without a shadow of a doubt.’

Prosecutor Bobbie Cheema told the court the Death Penalty? leaflet was not educational or informative but was simply ‘threatening, offensive, frightening and nasty.’

Four other Derby men — Ihjaz Ali, 42, Mehboob Hussain, 45, Umar Javed, 38, and his brother Razwan Javed, 28, of Wilfred Street — are also charged with the same offence.

All five men deny the charges.

The trial continues.

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

UK: Craven Arms Mosque Extension Plans

Plans have been drawn up to extend a small mosque in south Shropshire.

The terraced house in Craven Arms currently accommodates about 25 people in its main prayer room. The town’s Muslim community hopes to extend the building in order to build a library, computer room, creche and meeting room, which could all be used by the wider community. Imam Sohayb Peerbhai said they wanted to show the mosque was open to everyone. “We hope to have a meeting room for inter-faith dialogue groups, for the local police… and also for other community events that are nothing to do with Muslims, but we hope that they also can he held here so we can play our part in the Craven Arms community. It’s very important that Muslims embrace the non-Muslim community in a way where people don’t feel afraid of Muslims. We have decided not to have a minaret or a dome so it doesn’t look like the mosque is trying to take over the skyline.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: David Cameron to Meet Alex Salmond for Referendum Talks

David Cameron is to meet Alex Salmond to discuss plans for a referendum on Scottish independence, it was announced yesterday.

Downing Street said arrangements for the meeting between the Prime Minister and Scotland’s First Minister would be made “in the coming days”. Michael Moore, the Scottish Secretary, has also asked Mr Salmond for a meeting in Edinburgh this Thursday. A No10 spokesman said: “The Prime Minister has made it clear he is happy to meet Alex Salmond and arrangements for that will be made in the coming days. However, he also believes the First Minister should accept the invitation to meet the Secretary of State for Scotland on Thursday to discuss his views on the consultation process.”

A spokesman for Mr Salmond said: “This is a very welcome development, and represents real progress. We look forward to these meetings being arranged soon.” But the First Minister’s spokesman said no talks would go ahead until the publication of a consultation document on his proposals for a referendum, which is due to be published on Wednesday.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: Growing Use of Sharia by UK Muslims

The use of Sharia, or Islamic religious law, is growing in Britain, with thousands of Muslims using it to settle disputes each year, but women’s groups and some others are objecting.

“You must speak the truth, sister. Because Allah is listening to your every word, you can lie to us but not to Him.” The bearded sheikh is instructing his first client of the day to explain why she is unhappy in her marriage. Sitting behind a small desk in the back room of a converted terrace house, Sheikh Haitham al-Haddad is a representative of the Islamic Sharia Council, the largest Sharia body in the UK, based in Leyton, east London. The woman has come to the council for an Islamic divorce because her husband refuses to give her one.

“I’m not happy. He’s never at home and I’ve seen messages from other women on his phone. He doesn’t even give money to help support the kids,” the woman tells the sheikh.

It is easier for a Muslim man to end a marriage in Islam, but a wife must persuade the judges to grant her a dissolution if her husband is opposed to divorce. The case is typical of those case dealt with by Sharia councils, as thousands of Muslims are turning to them to help resolve family, financial and commercial problems in accordance with Sharia principles.

An estimated 85 Sharia councils could be operating in Britain, according to a 2009 report by the think tank Civitas. Several bodies like the Islamic Sharia Council have seen a large increase in their cases in the past five years. “Our cases have easily more than tripled over the past three to five years,” says Sheikh al-Haddad. “On average, every month we can deal with anything from 200 to 300 cases. A few years ago it was just a small fraction of that. ‘Muslims are becoming more aligned with their faith and more aware of what we are offering them,” he explained. The principles of Sharia govern all aspects of a Muslim’s life. It is derived from a combination of sources including the Koran, the Hadith, which is based on the example of the prophet Muhammad, and fatwas, which are rulings of Islamic scholars.

Sharia has been operating in the UK, managed by locally-appointed councils, in parallel to the British legal system since 1982. But the informal councils have no legal powers and they cannot impose any penalties. They deal with civil cases alone, but many Muslims are choosing to voluntarily accept rulings made by the scholars. Omar Hannan, 28, from Solihull, turned to Sharia instead of the British courts after an ownership dispute broke out between the British Muslim partners at his industrial cleaning company. “It fulfilled my Islamic spiritual principles which was the main reason I went to a Muslim tribunal. ‘But it was also very quick. We resolved it in three to four months,” he said. “It only cost a couple of hundred pounds, and you can imagine how much it would have cost through the English legal system,” he added.

As a demand for Sharia thrives, a number of British law firms are starting to tap into the booming market. Muslim Lawyer Aina Khan has launched one of the first Sharia departments at her London-based law firm. She offers clients advice that is in keeping with both English and Islamic law. “I am surprised that the majority of people that I am dealing with are under the age of 50. They are British Muslims who want to satisfy their British identity as well as their Muslim one. ‘So I give them solutions to their problems that satisfy both legal systems all under one place.”

Despite the growing demand for Sharia law in Britain, there is also increasing opposition by some groups who argue that the practice discriminates against women. The Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation (IKWRO) is campaigning to bring an end to the practice. “We have spoken to many women and all of them tell us the same story; Sharia law is not providing them with the justice they seek. The councils are dominated by men, who are making judgements in favour of men,” said Diana Nammi. Concerns such as these have led crossbench peer Baroness Cox to introduce a bill before the House of Lords, aimed at introducing regulation of Sharia organisations in the UK. The bill has received its first reading and is expected to get a second reading later this year. But for groups like IKWRO the bill does not go far enough. “We think there shouldn’t be any religious law practising in Britain — all Sharia bodies should be banned. That is the only way we can ensure equality of jus tice for all women,” argues Diana Nammi. But while a demand for Sharia continues in Britain, Sheikh Haitham al-Haddad says the practice cannot be banned. “We are not forcing people to walk through our doors. They are voluntarily coming to us,” he said. “If you ban us, then British Muslims will find somewhere else to go. ‘Many will go to Muslim countries abroad, where there will be no way to protect them.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Henry Assumang Denies Infecting Hampshire Women With HIV

A man pleaded not guilty today to infecting two women with the HIV virus.

Henry Assumang, 33, denied two counts of inflicting grievous bodily harm on the pair, who cannot be named for legal reasons, when he appeared at Winchester Crown Court.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

UK: Met Gun Crime Unit Overhauled to Focus on Gangs

The Metropolitan police unit tasked with tackling gun crime in black communities is to be overhauled to focus on targeting teenage gangs.

The sharp rise in youth violence on the capital’s streets has prompted a radical shift in tactics, with officers from Operation Trident to be given responsibility for a new strategy against gangs. Specialist teams from Trident will lead a joint task force that incorporates all of Scotland Yard’s units battling gangs, under the plans being finalised by senior officers.

Bernard Hogan-Howe, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, is expected to announce the new initiative as he sets out his vision for the future of policing in a speech tonight. However, the decision to place Trident at the helm of the force’s gangs campaign is likely to prove controversial as it was officers from the unit who ran the operation which saw Mark Duggan fatally shot last August.

Duggan’s shooting, by officers of the Met’s armed unit CO19, sparked riots in Tottenham which led to a wave of looting and violence across Britain. In the aftermath of the riots David Cameron said gangs were to blame.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: Roman Villa ‘Rare and Important for Peterborough’ Says Archaeologist

A second-century Roman villa built around a cobbled courtyard has been unearthed in eastern England. “It became clear that this was a very grand villa and every day we were finding more,” said Rebecca Casa Hatton, Peterborough’s city council archaeologist.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Dozens Arrested in Kosovo After Border Clashes

More than 40 people have been arrested in Kosovo after attempting to block the border with neighboring Serbia. Police have used tear gas and water cannons to disperse hundreds of Kosovo Albanian protesters.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Police and Protesters Clash on Kosovo-Serbia Border

Police and protesters in Kosovo clashed violently on Saturday after hardline opposition members tried to block traffic coming in from Serbia, the BBC reports. The opposition group, Self-Determination, is opposed to contact with Serbia, which does not recognise its former province as an independent state.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Opinion: Female Body Under Siege in Post-Revolution Egypt

Egyptian writer Mansoura Ez Eldin sketches a bleak picture of post-revolutionary social conditions in her homeland, where she says women face political marginalization and are being robbed of their basic rights.

While soldiers on Qasr al-Aini Street in Cairo set about roughing up female Egyptian protesters last month, the Salafists in Suez were holding spirited celebrations to mark their victory in the second round of elections. They struck up religious hymns and chanted slogans like “the military and the people are one,” “the Muslim Brotherhood and the Al Nour Party are one” and, above all, “God and the people are one.” Women did not participate at all.

The “people” they are referring to are, of course, something different from the demonstrators. As far as the Salafists are concerned, “the people” refers exclusively to their own supporters.

As the Salafists rejoiced in song at their unity with the military, members of this very same army were beating, kicking and dragging around a defenseless woman on the ground out on the street and — as if that weren’t enough — tearing off her clothes as well.

Neither this episode nor other sad examples of the abuse and killing of demonstrators while the protests were being broken up in front of the Council of Ministers’ headquarters provoked the anger of the Islamists or other religious zealots, who invoke their own good morals day and night. Instead, they condemned the victim for leaving the house to demonstrate in the first place.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

67 Percent of Murder Cases in 2011 Involved Israeli Arabs

In 2011, Israeli Arabs were in involved in 67 percent of Israel’s murder cases, even though the Arab sector comprises only 20% of Israel’s population.

Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch (Yisrael Beitenu) was to present this statistic to the Cabinet on Sunday as part of a long-term strategy — a joint effort by the police and Public Security Ministry — aimed mainly at improving individual and communal safety in the non-Jewish sector.

The plan, which was presented to the prime minister a few days ago, was to be shown to the rest of the Cabinet on Sunday. Aharonovitch was also to present the recent efforts made on the civilian front as well as by law enforcement agencies to minimize the phenomenon.

Within the framework of the plan, special units were created and stationed in the predominantly Arab towns of Taybeh and Nazareth, while an effort was made to reinforce and strengthen local and municipal police forces.

Israeli Arab MK Jamal Zahalka (Balad) told Israel Hayom, “I lament the fact that the Cabinet has chosen to focus on the police issue, though it is one of the most pressing issues [facing the Israeli-Arab sector]. The issue of crime cannot be resolved without a comprehensive program involving education, employment, sport, welfare etc.”

“The police issue is the most pressing because the Israel Police are neglecting the problem of crime in the Arab sector. There is discrimination: a murder in [the Arab village of] Umm al-Fahm is not treated the same as a murder in Tel Aviv. The situation is dire and constantly deteriorating. Specific and rapid action is required. Just as the police were able to eradicate the crime in [the Jewish city of] Netanya, they can also eradicate it in Israeli-Arab communities,” he added.

“A political decision must be made, and for that reason this issue is on [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu’s agenda, for him to make a decision. I hope that he will decide that the current situation is unbearable,” he continued.

“If the Cabinet makes a decision, the Arab leadership will be there to support it, but if we’re talking about nothing more than more deception, we won’t be there. Israel’s Arab society is entrenched in deep crisis due to the widespread crime. The tools we [Israeli-Arab politicians] possess to combat this problem are few and weak. All the effective tools are in the government’s hands. They need to give the tools, in the form of jurisdiction and budgets, to the local authorities. There are ways to combat crime in the Arab sector, and it is time to do it,” he concluded.

           — Hat tip: TV[Return to headlines]

El Al and Tel Aviv Stock Exchange Sites Hacked

‘New form of resistance’, says Hamas

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV — The Israeli websites of the airline El Al and the Tel Aviv stock exchange have been hacked, and though not blocking them entirely the attack has made contact difficult. Over the night the attack had been pre-announced by a Saudi hacker, who calls himself “OxOmar”.

Last week the same hacker had put online a large copious documentation on credit cards, identity documents and email addresses held by Israeli nationals. Sector experts say that for a number of days Israeli web sites have been subjected to severe attacks. A Hamas leader, Sami Abu Zuhri, has praised the attacks and called them “a new and positive form of resistance” against Israel. Meanwhile, Israeli hackers have in turn released the credit card details of Saudi citizens. However, the latter’s efforts to neutralise the activities of “OxOmar” have failed thus far.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Israel Fury as Hamas Attends Global Parliamentary Forum

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Monday slammed the decision of the Swiss-based Inter-Parliamentary Union to invite the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas to attend its 2012 session. “This is just another example of international hypocrisy,” Lieberman told Israeli public radio. “In all international organisations, the 57 Muslim countries and the many non-aligned nations have the majority and consistently take anti-Israel positions,” he charged.

A three-member delegation of MPs from Hamas’s Change and Reform party left Gaza on Thursday for the meeting in Geneva, marking the first time parliamentarians from the Islamist movement will attend a session of the IPU.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Iran Makes Arrests in Scientist’s Death

Iran has made arrests over last week’s assassination of a scientist, which it blamed on Israel and the United States. Parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani on Monday vowed to avenge the death.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Yemen: UN in Contact With Kidnapped Norwegian

The United Nations is in contact with a Norwegian UN worker kidnapped in Yemen and is negotiating his release with the tribe responsible for his abduction, a UN spokesman said Sunday. The expert for the UN Development Programme (UNDP), who has not been named, was seized in the capital Sanaa late Saturday “as part of a tribal dispute,” deputy UN spokesman Eduardo del Buey told AFP.

“The tribe has made assurances regarding the safety of the staff member who reportedly remains in good health,” the spokesman added. The UN in Yemen is working with the government in a bid to end the hostage-taking. The UN “remains in contact with the staff member and representatives of the tribe,” Del Buey said.

In Yemen, a tribal source told AFP that tribesmen were behind the kidnapping and that the man had been taken to the eastern province of Marib. The source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the tribe wants “one of their tribesmen to be released from prison.

“The kidnapping comes two months after the release of a French aid worker and her Yemeni driver and translator who were abducted in the country’s restive southern region on November 22nd. All three were released unharmed two days later. Tribes in Yemen often kidnap foreigners to put pressure on the authorities. More than 200 foreigners have been abducted over the past 15 years, with almost all later freed unharmed.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Ukraine: Imprisoned Tymoshenko Fears for Her Life, Says Daughter

Ukrainian opposition figure Yulia Tymoshenko, jailed on corruption charges, allegedly fell unconscious after taking medicine from prison doctors. Her daughter told DW the regime is trying to physically break Tymoshenko.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Danish Afghan Cost: DKK 13 Billion

A professor says the results haven’t warranted the costs

The latest figures from the Foreign and Defence ministries show that Denmark has spent some DKK 13 billion on operations in Afghanistan since 2001, according to Jyllands-Posten. But Professor Mikkel Vedby Rasmussen of the Centre for Military Studies at Copenhagen University suggests the costs are greater than the results.

“The bill is too big compared to the poor results. That is one of the reasons that Denmark, the United States and Great Britain are withdrawing from Afghanistan,” Vedby Rasmussen says. “We haven’t achieved the democracy that was wanted. If we are lucky we will get a negotiated settlement with the Taleban. “The worst case scenario is that we simply withdraw and the Taleban takes over,” he tells Jyllands-Posten.

Development Aid Minister Christian Friis Bach (SocLib) admits the situation is uncertain, but says that there is some progress — for example that life expectancy in the country has risen from 44 to 64.

While the Liberals believe that the effort in Afghanistan is “is the least poor of the alternatives”, the Red Greens say that the almost DKK 10 billion that military operations have cost, have been wasted. Since 2001, Denmark has provided DKK 3.3 billion in development aid to Afghanistan.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

India: Muslim Bodies Shun Cong’s Quota Carrot

In its mad rush to woo the Muslims with its appeasement efforts, the Congress has only ended up in scoring two self goals and in turn, earning the increased wrath of the minority community, which is clearly seeing through its “deceitful election gimmick”.

Congress disowning Law Minister Salman Khurshid’s promise of nine per cent reservation for minorities and its general secretary Digvijay Singh’s remarks about the Batla House encounter being “fake” has not gone down well with Muslims in poll-bound UP. The Congress has supported the Government’s stance that the Batla House encounter was “genuine”.

“Muslims are well aware of such tactics by the Congress. They have now seen it once more before the elections. There cannot be a better example of deceiving the community. There will be repercussions against the party,” said Imam, Aishbagh Eidgah, Maulana Khalid Rasheed Farangi Mahli.

An expert on Muslim issues and Executive Committee (EC) member of All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) Zafaryab Jilani opined that the recent developments have further deepened the rift between Congress and Muslims. “We have been saying from day one that statements of Congress leaders cannot be trusted. The assurances by the party cannot be relied upon. It is there for everyone to see, But Muslims will gain from the developments as they are already cautious. The Congress will lose badly,” he remarked. In fact, the All India Ulema Mashaikh Board (AIUMB), an organisation of sufi Muslims in the country, has even decided to challenge the Congress where it stands the tallest — in Rai Bareli and Sultanpur.

“Congress is just flaring passions. They are supporting the hardliners within the Muslim community and wedging a divide between Hindus and Muslims. It is all drama and we understand it,” said spokesperson, AIUMB, Babar Ashraf. He asserted that AIUMB will corner Congress in Assembly segments falling under Congress president Sonia Gandhi and scion Rahul Gandhi’s Parliamentary constituencies. Another dominant cleric Maulana Tauqeer Raza Khan of Bareilly, who enjoys considerable following among Bareillvi sect, openly decried the Congress too. “There is nothing new in this Congress game. We are witness to it for the past 65 years. They are never serious about the uplift of Muslims. The issues are being used as an election gimmick. It will boomerang as Muslims are now well aware and know the party’s real intentions,” said Raza. For this, Raza has even decided to take on Congress directly. In the Rohilkhand belt, he has fielded candidates from his outfit-Ittehad-e-Millat Counc il. “We will ensure that Congress is defeated in the area. They have a union minister from the region but we have votes,” claimed Raza.

Already, at ground level in Azamgarh, the developments have done much harm than benefitting the party. “Muslims in Azamgarh cannot forget the Batla House encounter which has given a tag of terror hub to our city.” Congress leader Digvijay Singh announced it is fake, but the party disowned his statement. It seems they want to exploit the sentiments of Muslims for political gains,” said Mudassir Javed, a local Muslim youth, who participated in the protests against Rahul’s visit to Azamgarh. Hundreds of Muslim youths had joined the protests mainly from Veer Bahadur Singh Poorvanchal Chatra Sangthan, Abu Bakr Islamic Centre, Students Islamic Organisation, Study Circle and even Rashtriya Ulema Council (RUC). “We cannot forgive Congress. They offer only lip service to Muslims. These two announcements which were later disowned by them from Delhi are clear indicators that their intentions are doubtful,” said Maulana Tahir Madani, RUC’s national general secretary. Madani is also conte sting the election from Nizamabad in Azamgarh.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Sri Lanka Fences in Humans to Protect Its Elephants

Elephants and humans have fought for the limited land in Sri Lanka for decades. A clever solution gives each their space by putting the people in reserves rather than the elephants.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Suspected Terror Swede Charged in Thailand

A man carrying a Swedish passport who was arrested on terror suspicions in Thailand last week was indicted on Monday after leading police to a massive stash of bomb-making materials. The Swedish foreign ministry is still working to ascertain the identity of the man.

According to reports in the Swedish and international press, the man is 47-year-old Hussein Atris, a former Lebanese-born barber who lived for many years in western Sweden before moving back to Lebanon seven years ago. Atris took Swedish citizenship after marrying a Swedish woman in 1996, Israeli news site Ynet reported.

Atris , who has alleged ties to Hezbollah, was arrested in Thailand last week following a warning from United States about a threat against tourists in the kingdom. According to the Swedish foreign ministry, he is the holder of a Swedish passport.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Thai Police Find Large Cache of Bomb-Making Materials

Thai police have detained a suspect with alleged links to Hezbollah.

Police in Thailand say they have found a large supply of materials for making bombs, following the detention of a suspect with alleged links to Hezbollah

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

Thailand: Stockpile of Explosive Materials Found

Police have found more than 4,300 kilogrammes of urea based fertiliser and other materials used for making explosives in a building in Samut Sakhon’s Muang district after the arrest of a middle-east terrorist suspect, national police chief Priewpan Damapong said Monday.

More than 200 police raided a three-storey commercial building in Mahachai area after Atris Hussein, a Lebanese man carrying a Swedish passport who has suspected links to the Hezbollah militant group was arrested at Suvarnabhumi airport on Friday evening. He confessed that explosive ingredients were hidden there, Pol Gen Priewpan said.

He said 4,380 kilogrammes of urea based fertiliser, 260 litres of ammonium nitrate and 400 electric fans were found on the second floor of the building. The police also discovered many pairs of slippers, A4 paper and 400 table fans on the ground floor.

The terror suspect told investigators that the terrorist group had not been planning attacks in Thailand. It just wanted to hide the components in Thailand. They were then to be concealed inside table fan boxes and shipped to other countries, according to the suspect, Pol Gen Priewpan said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Totally Drug-Resistant TB Emerges in India

Discovery of a deadly form of TB highlights crisis of ‘mismanagement’.

Physicians in India have identified a form of incurable tuberculosis there, raising further concerns over increasing drug resistance to the disease. Although reports call this latest form a “new entity”, researchers suggest that it is instead another development in a long-standing problem. The discovery makes India the third country in which a completely drug-resistant form of the disease has emerged, following cases documented in Italy in 2007 and Iran in 2009.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Far East

AP Opens North Korea’s First Western News Bureau

US news agency the Associated Press has opened a bureau in the North Korean capital, Pyongyang. AP becomes the first Western news organization to open a full-time office in the reclusive North.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

China Looks to Establish London as Center for Yuan

The reach of the Chinese currency, the yuan, looks set to extend further abroad after the UK announced it has reached a deal with Hong Kong to establish London as a new hub for the yuan.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Islamic Museum Wants Home in Zone

AN ISLAMIC group has sought land in the capital to build a Museum of Islamic Art and History. The Australian Federation of Islamic Councils last April requested a plot from the National Capital Authority to found an institution showcasing Islam’s contributions to building the nation. Documents obtained by the Sunday Canberra Times through freedom of information show the representative body hopes to exhibit Islamic art, culture and history at the proposed museum. In correspondence with the National Capital Authority, Muslims Australia president Ikebal Patel said the proposed institution would be a valuable addition to the capital’s landscape, educating the nation on the legacy of Islam here, an association that started before white settlement. The letter said Muslim Australians represented about 1 per cent of the population, drawn from dozens of distinct ethnic groups. Mr Patel said the dedication of a museum would help strengthen ties with Is lamic countries, including two of our closest neighbours, Malaysia and Indonesia, as well as the Muslim market — worth billions to the Australian economy each year through education, the halal meat trade and tourism.

The Parliamentary Zone already houses the Centre for Christianity and Culture and Mr Patel said the proposed museum would become a valuable resource in promoting inter-faith cooperation in Australia. “Muslims’ contribution to developing Australia is part of the heritage of all Australians and not showcasing such an important part of a country’s culture and beginning in an appropriate manner is to be redressed in a positive and enlightening manner,” the application said. “The representation of Islamic art and culture and its contribution to science and to society is enormous and showcasing this remarkable achievement in Canberra will be magnificent. “We therefore … formally [apply] for a suitable piece of land in an appropriate location in Canberra under the control of the [NCA].” But the documents appear to show the NCA was unable to allocate land at the time.

According to documents, Mr Patel met with NCA boss Gary Rake and chief planner Andrew Smith in May last year where he was informed that applications for new national institutions should be made to government. “Accordingly, they would need to start discussions with members of Parliament,” the documents said. “We also advised that there may be options to display some of their curatorial material within existing cultural institutions and offered to facilitate introductions to the heads of those institutions.” When contacted by the Sunday Canberra Times, Mr Patel said he was working with government and other stakeholders on the project. Mr Patel hoped funding for an Islamic museum would be sourced from a mix of private and public donations. If successful, the museum would become the second of its kind in Australia after the Islamic Museum of Australia in the Melbourne suburb of Thornbury was given the nod last year. Construction on the Victorian project begins next month.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Kenyan Islamic Group Announces Alliance With Al Shabab in Climate of Nairobi Terror Warnings

NAIROBI, Kenya — An increasingly vocal Islamist group says its leader has been appointed to represent an al-Qaida-linked Somali militia in Kenya, a development that underscores the dangers Kenya faces from Somalia’s insurgency. The statement by the Kenya-based Muslim Youth Center came amid a flurry of warnings from embassies about planned terror attacks in Kenya. The Somali militant group al-Shabab has promised to attack Kenya for its decision to send troops to Somalia in October. The Muslim Youth Center was named in a United Nations report last year for recruiting, fundraising, and running training and orientation events for al-Shabab. An official al-Shabab spokesman did not answer questions about whether the center now represents al-Shabab in Kenya, but a statement published on the center’s blog on Wednesday was unequivocal. “There can be no doubt that Amiir Ahmad Iman Ali’s elevation to become the supreme Amiir of Kenya for al Shabaab is recognition from our Somali br others who have fought tirelessly against the kuffar on the importance of the Kenyan mujahideen in Somalia,” the statement said. The word kuffar appears to be an alternative spelling of kafir, an Arabic word meaning “unbeliever.”


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

South Africa: Counselling for Fire Boy

The seven year old boy who witnessed his elderly father and his partner being burnt to death in Lindelani, north of Durban, was last week returned to his biological mother.

The boy is undergoing counselling to help him deal with the trauma. He is lucky to be alive after he was rescued by a tenant from raging flames.

The boy’s father, Rafael Zulu, 66, and partner Elsie Dubazane, 62, perished in the fire. The couple was accused of witchcraft and using muti to shield their adult son who ­community members accused of beating to death his 15-year-old daughter on Christmas Day.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

South Africa: Bishop Kills Girl to Increase Church Flock

Johannesburg — The trial of a church bishop, his wife and two others accused of mutilating a 9-year-old girl for muti was postponed by the Alberton Magistrate’s Court on Monday.

Mofokeng allegedly told them to get human body parts that he would mix with muti to help bring people back to the church.

Skweyiya was kidnapped in Katlehong while walking to the shops to meet her mother.

Her body was found in an open veld nearby.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Surfer Bitten to Death by a Shark at South African Beach Dubbed ‘The World’s Deadliest’

Sixth fatal attack at Eastern Cape beach in five years

A surfer has been killed by a shark at a South African beach dubbed the world’s deadliest following a string of attacks. Ngidi Msungubana, 25, died yesterday after being repeatedly bitten as he rode the waves off Second Beach in Port St Johns. Witnesses said he had wrestled with the shark for five minutes as the water turned red around him.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Latin America

Brazil Celebrates as US Opens Markets for Ethanol

For decades, Brazil had urged the United States to lift its tariffs on imported ethanol. Now, the tariff has expired and Brazilian producers are pleased — even though their capacities to increase exports are limited.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Pakistan: Sayeeda Warsi: Baroness of the Punjab

by Peter Oborne

She may be Conservative Party chairman, but Sayeeda Warsi has never forgotten her roots. Peter Oborne joined the mill worker’s daughter on her mission to help preserve democracy in Pakistan

As the traumatic events of the weekend show all too vividly, Pakistan is one of the most turbulent and unstable countries in the world, and a diplomatic nightmare. But Britain has a secret weapon — Sayeeda Warsi. With her Punjabi heritage, local languages and easy manner, the Conservative Party chairman can reach parts of the Pakistan political system that other government ministers cannot. As I witnessed at first hand last week, David Cameron has licensed Baroness Warsi to operate as Britain’s unofficial envoy. The Tory chairman flew into a first-rate crisis set off by the potentially deadly stand-off between government and military. The defence secretary had just been fired. Within hours she was at the Pakistan foreign office for a meeting lasting well over an hour with Pakistan’s newly promoted — and extremely beautiful — foreign secretary, Hinna Rabbani Khar. Just 34 years old, the University of Massachusetts-educated Khar is the latest st ar phenomenon to hit the Islamabad scene and is suddenly being tipped as a potential successor to Asif Ali Zardari, should the government fall this week.

For the rest of the day, Baroness Warsi spoke by telephone to most of the main players in the Pakistan impasse — her mission being to help defuse the crisis and preserve a tottering democracy. Pakistan has lurched between military dictatorship and democracy since independence 60 years ago. A succession of military coups has meant that never once has power changed hands democratically in all that time — and it is possible that next year’s elections, too, may end up being cancelled. The background to this turbulence is the cold war between the United States and Pakistan, following a series of deadly incursions by the US into Pakistani territory. As a close ally of the United States, Britain’s standing in Pakistan is being diminished — polls show that 82 per cent of Pakistanis regard Britain unfavourably. This was the troubled background to Baroness Warsi’s conversations with President Zardari, his prime minister Yousuf Gilani, and a range of ot her politicians including Imran Khan, the former cricketer turned politician whose Movement for Justice enjoys huge popularity after a surge in recent months. At the end of the day, Baroness Warsi briefed William Hague over a secure phone. “I told him there would not be a coup d’¨¦tat,” she said to me afterwards. “I just hope that I am not proved wrong.”

In between the calls, she gave an interview on Pakistan state television with presenter Moeed Pizada. Baroness Warsi used this media opportunity ruthlessly to reach out beyond Pakistan’s notoriously thin political elite to PTV’s mass rural audience. Elegant in her shalwar khameez, Baroness Warsi lapsed into Urdu, the local language, as she dealt with viewers’ questions. These reflected the concerns of ordinary Pakistanis about Britain’s super-tight visa and immigration controls. Pizada asked her whether, as the daughter of an immigrant herself, she was not betraying her heritage by supporting anti-immigrant policies. She replied that times had changed since her family arrived in Britain in the 1950s, and that it was important to protect jobs for British workers.

Later I asked Pizada about the effect Baroness Warsi had had on her Pakistani audience. He said she was seen as the voice of a new, multicultural Britain and that the interest of viewers had risen sharply after she switched to Urdu, with hundreds of questions coming in. But he added that he was disappointed with the shallowness of her answer when she was asked why Britain did not do more to defend Pakistan’s interests against the United States, which is widely hated in Pakistan. This is sensitive territory for Baroness Warsi because of the British relationship with the US. When I raise the sensitive subject of US drone attacks in Pakistan’s tribal areas, she says: “It’s not for us to answer that. What we have said is that the sovereignty of a nation has to be respected. “Pakistan and ISAF [the International Security Assistance Force] are fighting the same enemy. People who want to destabilise Pakistan are the same people who want to destabilise us.”

Baroness Warsi may be a British minister, but she is also a first-generation Pakistani migrant. Her father, Safdar Hussein, arrived in Britain in 1971 from Bewal, a tiny Punjab vil lage, as a mill worker. Throughout Pakistan she is held up as an astonishing success story for the Pakistani immigrant community and an inspiration for millions. When she wore a shalwar khameez for her first meeting of the David Cameron cabinet in May 2010 the picture was a sensation in Pakistan and across much of the Muslim world. It is this background that gives her the power and authenticity to push the British government message to a hostile audience. She is heard in a different way, even though she sticks to the official line. This gives her the ability to spell out hard truths about religion and tolerance.

After Islamabad we flew to Karachi, where Baroness Warsi headed to the Jesus and Mary Convent, a Catholic school. She told the girls about her background: “My father came from a very poor family. They couldn’t afford shoes. Sometimes when the ground was very hard his brothers gave him a piggy back to get to the fields.” She told the children that the ir aspirations should be unlimited: “Anything is possible. Perhaps a future prime minister is standing among us today.” Upstairs, at breakfast with the Irish nuns who ran the convent school, she heard about the increasing danger on the Karachi streets, the threat of kidnappings and the risk of terrorist attack. “Twenty years ago I used to be able to walk along the beach,” says one nun. “I couldn’t do that now.” Then Baroness Warsi travels to St Patrick’s Cathedral for a meeting with Evarist Pinto, Archbishop of Karachi, who faces a hard job combating a rising tide of hostility to Christianity across Pakistan. He notes she is not carrying a handbag. “My father was a mill worker and I like to stay connected with my roots,” she says. The archbishop talks of the growing persecution of Christians, revealing that church property has been seized in the Punjab.

The baroness offers to ring Shahbazz Shariff, Punjab’s chief minister. “What is the point of bein g in a position of influence if you don’t influence anybody?” she asks. “I should be raising these difficult issues because otherwise I am not committed to faith.” She tells the archbishop she believes in fighting for minorities — whether Christians in Pakistan or Muslims in the UK (a stance for which she has sometimes been criticised by Conservatives in Britain). Baroness Warsi broke down in tears at her next destination — the headquarters of the famous sage Abdul Sattar Edhi, whose private charitable foundation is the nearest thing Pakistan has to a functioning welfare state. He now runs the second largest ambulance service in the world, while his orphanages have rescued countless children. Young women, rescued from the streets, are being taught arts and crafts. Baroness Warsi was cradling five-year-old Zainal — whose father is dead and whose mother is in psychiatric care — when she was overcome by emotion and had to leave the room to dry her tears. Northern, worki ng-class and Muslim, Sayeeda Warsi has evolved a language of diplomacy that is all her own. She takes people with her, rather than dictates. She represents modern multicultural Britain in all its complexity, and she’s a Conservative. She is on her way to inventing a new type of politics for the looming age of authenticity.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Boat Travelling to Italy Stopped

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, JANUARY 13 — The Coastguard of Monastir (located on the central coast of Tunisia) foiled an attempt at illegal migration to Italy by stopping a boat with 43 people aboard (including a woman) near the island of Dimas. Migrants, whose age range from 15 to 30 years, come from Tunis, Bizerte, Monastir, Sayada, Mahdia and Metlaoui. Last year, the Monastir Coastguard foiled 24 attempts at illegal migration by boat, stopping 647 people.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Church of England Faces Court Battle by Gay Clergyman Who Claims He Was Blocked From Becoming a Bishop

A gay senior clergyman who claims he was blocked from becoming a bishop has threatened to take the Church of England to court.

Church sources say the Very Rev Jeffrey John, Dean of St Albans, believes he could sue officials under the Equality Act 2010, which bans discrimination on the grounds of sexuality.

He has instructed a leading employment lawyer after being rejected for the role of Bishop of Southwark in 2010.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Norway: Music Prize Show Ended in Scandal

Norway’s annual music industry awards show called Spellemannsprisen started off with complaints from top classical artists like pianist Leif Ove Andsnes, and ended in scandal over the weekend, after one winning pop band made a racial slur against their prize presenters. Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) held a crisis meeting on Monday over whether the slur would have consequences for their production of Melodi Grand Prix, Norway’s run-up to the Eurovision Song Contest.

Local media and online debates were full of coverage and comments on the behaviour of Lars Erik Blokkhus, lead singer in the band Plumbo, which won the Spellemann’s (Artist’s) prize for the hit song of the year, called Møkkamann. “Møkk” in Norwegian means dirt, rubbish or manure, depending on how it’s used, and a “møkkamann” can literally be a “dirty man.”

The band, from the town of Sande in Vestfold County, southwest of Oslo, bounded up on the stage at the prize awards ceremony Saturday night that was broadcast live by NRK from a theater in Oslo, where they were handed their prize by the popular Norwegian hip-hop duo, Madcon, made up of Yosef Wolde-Mariam and Tshawe Baqwa.

And that’s when the trouble began. Blokkhus, speaking for the group, immediately turned to the Madcon men and said (roughly translated) “You know what? When I look at you two, I feel I can call you Møkkamann (the dirty man),” clearly referring to the Madcon duo’s skin color.

Baqwa and Wolde-Mariam initially appeared to go along with what Blokkhus later claimed was his attempt at a joke, but their facial expressions quickly changed, and members of the audience started booing. Madcon walked off the stage in disgust, and the damage was done.

See video of the incident onstage at the Spellemannspris show here (external link, mostly in Norwegian).

Blokkhus, who would likely be dubbed “blockhead” in some circles, seemed to realize his blunder and admitted that “I’m not good and making speeches.” But he went on to read some prepared remarks, accompanied by a band member on the accordion, before the band left the stage themselves in disgrace.

Blokkhus later apologized profusely for his racial slur, but not before another musician from the band Kaizers Orchestra dumped a glass of champagne over him. Blokkhus also seemed to make it worse when he told website VG Nett that “we’re just a band from a small town that’s not used to being here in such a big arena.” That made several commentators wonder what the citizens of Sande thought about being unwittingly included in the blame for Blokkhus’ blunder.

He spent most of Sunday apologizing, and Madcon eventually said they simply wanted to bury the issue and try to forget it. They apologized as well, after Baqwa had slung out an obscenity of his own directed at Blokkhus. Both Baqwa and Wolde-Mariam claimed they’d gotten over the incident “15 minutes after it happened.”

No consequences

NRK, which also broadcasts the annual and upcoming Melodi Grand Prix music competition, nonetheless discussed the issue Monday after what NRK officials “quite strong reactions from both the public, the press and those involved.” Some were speculating that Plumbo may be banned from Melodi Grand Prix, others thought that would be an extreme reaction itself.

NRK ultimately decided to let Plumbo take part in the Melodi Grand Prix show due to be broadcast from Larvik in two weeks. “We decided they had laid themselves flat and their apologies are so credible that all parties have reconciled,” said NRK’s director of entertainment Charlo Halvorsen. “There will be no consequences.” Halvorsen, incidentally, is married to Kristin Halvorsen, the government minister and head of the Socialist Left party (SV), which takes a strong line against racism and discrimination and currently controls the ministry in charge of equality issues.

“We’re really happy,” Blokkhus told NRK. “We’re all putting this behind us and looking ahead.” He added, though, that it had been a rough weekend and that “I’ll think twice” if ever called on to make an acceptance speech again.

Meanwhile, the top prizes at the Spellemann show went to veteran rock musician Jan Eggum, who just celebrated his 60th birthday and won the equivalent of a lifetime achievement award. The Årets Spellemann (Artist of the Year) award went to singer Jarle Bernhoft, who also won the prize for best male artist. Ane Brun won the prize for best female artist.

Around two dozen awards are handed out when Norwegian musicians celebrate themselves, and among them was internationally renowned pianist Leif Ove Andsnes, who won the award for the best classical album of the year. His competitors were other well-known classical artists including Truls Mørk, Henning Kraggerud and Vilde Frang.

But their prize was awarded on a morning radio show on NRK, while some others in the “open class” and hip-hop categories were awarded on other NRK channels. Andsnes and several fellow artists felt that undermined the value of their prizes, and, in Andsnes’ words, “contributed to making the Spellemann prizes irrelevant.” NRK defended its decision to spin off awards presentations, to cut down the televised length of the show.

           — Hat tip: The Observer[Return to headlines]

Race Row Mars Norwegian Music Awards

Norwegian singer Lars Erik Blokkhus angered audience members and TV viewers on Saturday night with an ill-judged remark he made while picking up an award from two black artists at the national music awards. Blokkhus and his band, Plumbo, took to the stage to accept the Hit of the Year award for their hit song Møkkamann, or ‘dirty man’, at Saturday night’s Spellemann awards.

Receiving the prize from hip-hop duo Madcon, Blokkhus said, “When I look at you two, the song suddenly gets a new name: Mokkamann (mocha man).” The clear reference to Tshawe Baqwa and Yosef Wolde-Mariam’s skin colour first caused the pair to laugh, before the joke seemed to sink in and they walked off stage in disgust. The ill-advised one-liner prompted a furious reaction.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: Dawkins Resists ‘Muslim-Led Censorship’

I’ve been asked why Islamophobia Watch hasn’t covered the “Jesus and Mo” row at University College London. The reason, frankly, is that I had better things to do with my time than address this concocted controversy. However, on reflection, it’s worth a short post because of the role played by celebrity atheist and anti-Islam bigot Richard Dawkins, which is what attracted coverage of the issue in the national press last week. For those who haven’t followed this, what happened was that the UCL student union’s Atheist, Secularist and Humanist society (ASH) advertised a social event with a cartoon featuring Jesus Christ and the prophet Mohammed sharing a drink at the bar. This was doubly offensive to Muslims, not only because they oppose pictorial representation of the prophet but also because the cartoon compounded the offence by portraying him as drinking alcohol. You can only conclude that ASH are a pathetic bunch of prats who think it’s big and clever to gratuitously insult adherents of a beleaguered minority faith which is already under concerted attack from the racist right.

A number of Muslim students complained about the cartoon and the UCL Union Council asked ASH to remove it. ASH refused, claiming that the principle of free speech was under attack, and launched an online petition condemning the Union Council’s request as a “gross infringement” of the “right to freedom of expression”. A blogger named Alex Gabriel posted a report of the dispute under the title “Atheists face Muslim-led censorship from UCL Union” and this was reproduced by Richard Dawkins on his we bsite. Dawkins opined that the cartoon “could offend only those actively seeking to be offended — which says it all”. In reality, there was no “Muslim-led censorship”, only a request from the Union Council that ASH should remove the cartoon. As a member of UCLU Ahmadiyya Muslim Students Association pointed out: “Of the thirty Union Council members, four are Muslims and none of them were among those who complained to the Union. That some Muslims who are not union council members voiced their offense to the Union cannot be said to be a ‘Muslim-led censorship from UCL Union‘. The only purpose such a title could serve is to further aggravate the situation and raise the hackles of those both for and against the stance taken by UCLU ASH.”

The right-wing Christian Cranmer blog then weighed into the dispute with a piece backing Dawkins that was headed “UCL students forcibly sensitised to sharia”! You might think that Dawkins would find it embarrassin g to find support in such quarters, but not so. Last year he was openly considering the possibility of an alliance with right-wing evangelical Christianity in order to stem the spread of Islam. The most mature response to this attempt to whip up controversy over “Muslim censorship” came from a spokesperson for the Federation of Student Islamic Societies, who told the Guardian: “This is silly — we will not let such crass, insensitive actions get in the way of the important unifying activities happening across campuses nationwide.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]


Inequality in Wealthy States Rises, Diseases Decline: WHO

Social inequality in wealthy nations is increasing while in parts of the developing world many diseases are on the wane, Margaret Chan, head of the World Health Organization said Monday. “In some wealthy countries, the difference in the quality of life between the older generation and todays youth is the greatest ever recorded,” said the WHO director general, speaking at the opening of the body’s board meeting.

“Last year was a time when many countries realised they were losing their middle classes, the very foundation of democracy and economic productivity,” she said, urging that a commitment to public health must be sustained. In a text version of her speech Chan cited a recent Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development report showing income inequality in wealthy nations has reached the worst levels in nearly 25 years.

“That report further concluded that societies with the least inequality had the best health outcomes, regardless of the levels of spending on health,” Chan said, noting, “money alone does not buy better health.”

She stated: “Those who suffer or who benefit least deserve help from those who benefit most,” but this is not what happened last year, particularly in well-off nations, according to numerous reports. In large parts of the developing world vast inequalities in access to health care also exist, she explained.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Milky Way’s Color is White as a Morning’s Snow

Our galaxy is aptly named the Milky Way — it looks white, the color of fresh spring snow in the early morning, scientists now reveal.

Color is a key detail of galaxies, shedding light on its history of star formation. Unfortunately, since we are located well within our galaxy, clouds of gas and dust obscure all but the closest regions of the galaxy from view, keeping us from directly seeing what color our galaxy is as a whole. “We can really only see 1,000 to 2,000 light-years in any direction — the Milky Way is 100,000 light-years across,” said study co-author Jeffrey Newman at the University of Pittsburgh.

The scientists relied on the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, which measured the detailed properties of nearly a million galaxies, collecting color images of about a quarter of the sky. They focused on the hundreds of galaxies that were similar to the Milky Way in terms of their total amount of stars and the rate at which they are creating new stars, both related to the brightness and color of a galaxy.

They found on average, the best match for the Milky Way’s color was “fine-grained new spring snow seen in the early morning light, about an hour after dawn,” Newman told “If you were outside the Milky Way, it’d look white to you. The Milky Way has a very appropriate name.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Saturn’s Moon Titan May be More Earth-Like Than Thought

Saturn’s moon Titan may be more similar to an Earth-like world than previously thought, possessing a layered atmosphere just like our planet, researchers said.

Titan is Saturn’s largest moon, and is the only moon known to have a dense atmosphere. A better understanding of how its hazy, soupy atmosphere works could shed light on similar ones scientists might find on alien planets and moons. However, conflicting details about how Titan’s atmosphere is structured have emerged over the years.

The lowest layer of any atmosphere, known as its boundary layer, is most influenced by a planet or moon’s surface. It in turn most influences the surface with clouds and winds, as well as by sculpting dunes. “This layer is very important for the climate and weather — we live in the terrestrial boundary layer,” said study lead author Benjamin Charnay, a planetary scientist at France’s National Center of Scientific Research.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]