Sunday, January 12, 2003

News Feed 20120117

Financial Crisis
»Dutch Debt
»Finnish Minister Pours Cold Water on Fiscal Treaty
»France: Left-Wing MP: Ratings Agencies Are ‘Charlatans’
»Greece Struggles to Make Necessary Reforms
»Ireland’s Former Richest Person Declared Bankrupt
»Italy Warns of ‘Backlash’
»Nosedive in Budapest: The Political Origins of Hungary’s Economic Crisis
»NASA’s Newest Telescope Survives Funding Battle, But Challenges Remain
»Police Continue to Investigate Fatal Old City Beating, Mayor Nutter Offers Condolences
»Students Name NASA’s Twin Moon Probes ‘Ebb’ & ‘Flow’
»Too Bright, The Night: New Film Tackles City Light Pollution
»Virginia’s Attorney General Says a Washington D.C. Law Could Relocate Rat ‘Families’ To Virginia
»Yeast Suggests Speedy Start for Multicellular Life
Europe and the EU
»Abu Qatada Cannot be Deported to Jordan, European Judges Rule
»Death by Helium for Cosmos-Mapping Planck Observatory
»EU Takes Legal Action Against Hungary
»EU to Demand Hungary Reverse Controversial Reforms
»Extremists Glorify Norway Crown Prince Suffering
»Flanders: Complaint Against Socialist Public Municipal Administrator in Ghent Resul Tapmaz for Defamation
»France: Minister: Foreigners to Blame for Burglary Rise
»Henryk M. Broder Interviews Thilo Sarrazin
»Islamists Main Threat to Norway: Intelligence
»Norway: Video Threatens Crown Prince, Stoltenberg With ‘Painful Revenge’
»Norway: Security Cops Investigate Islamist Threat Video
»Recording in Cruise Ship Disaster Casts Captain in Bad Light
»Scorned Cruise-Ship Captain Not First to Abandon Sinking Ship
»UK: Edmonton Rapist Jailed Indefinitely for Callous Attack
»UK: Judge Refuses Jail for Woman Plumber Who Glassed Nightclubber
»UK: State to Help Elderly Downsize as Government Tackles Housing Crisis
»UK: Times Reporter Hacked Into Police Blogger’s Email Account
»Young Libyan Refugees Begin New Life in Norway
North Africa
»Rare Mars Rocks Crashed to Earth in July
Israel and the Palestinians
»Caroline Glick: Netanyahu’s Post-Zionist Education Ministry
Middle East
»Al-Qaeda Overruns Town Near Yemen Capital
»Frank Gaffney: No Kidding Red Lines
»Murders Unlikely to Slow Iran’s Nuclear Efforts
Far East
»Kim Jong Il’s Other Son Expects North Korean Regime to Fail, Journalist Says
»Prices Plunge as China Turns Sour on Top Bordeaux
»Time-Lapse Video: China Builds 30-Story Hotel in 360 Hours
Sub-Saharan Africa
»South Africa: Weather Forecasters Threatened With Jail if Predictions Are Wrong
Latin America
»Forget Space Beer, Order Meteorite Wine Instead
Culture Wars
»Choice at the UN, Part 2
»How Many Languages Can One Person Speak?

Financial Crisis

Dutch Debt

In the Netherlands the current economic crisis is most acutely felt by those trying to sell their house: Nobody’s buying. This is not a huge surprise, given the governments measures to curb mortgage lending (no more mortgages of 120% of the value of the house) and unclarity about the future of tax deductibility of mortgage interest.

But there’s another reason, one that is left unspoken by all, but which all know to be true: Houses aren’t worth the prices asked for. In recent years the OECD published a report stating that house prices in the Netherlands were overvalued by 20%. When I read that, I was convinced this was a underestimation. That conviction is now corroborated by a report by William Xu-Doeve: The Overvalued Housing Market in the Netherlands: A Conspiracy of Silence (pdf).

The report concludes that the housing market for owner-occupiers in the Netherlands is overvalued by around 100%. House prices are twice as much as is sustainable in the long term. In addition, mortgage related household debt is already in excess of 100% GNP and easily exceeds Mediterranean sovereign debt levels. And it is still increasing.

The cause of this aberration is firmly put on the doorstep of government. Government interference in the housing market since the late 1980’s have destabilized the market, causing prices to spike

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Finnish Minister Pours Cold Water on Fiscal Treaty

BRUSSELS — Finland should not sign up to the EU’s new fiscal treaty, which is a “at best unnecessary and at worst harmful,” Finnish foreign minister Erkki Tuomioja has said. Criticising the EU for its “terrible hurry” to sign and adopt the new rules and for circumventing “all the normal parliamentary procedures,” Tuomioja wrote in his blog on Monday (16 January) that the treaty will overlap with existing EU laws on economic discipline — the so-called ‘six-pack.’

The new treaty will “just confuse decision-makers, undermine the EU commission’s role and create new divisions within the EU” he said. “The whole contract is at best unnecessary and at worst harmful, and Finland has reason to oppose the whole treaty and at least remain outside it.”

One of the measures to be applied by the new treaty — a “structural deficit” of 0.5 percent of GDP — would be a “completely nonsensical straitjacket” that would only deepen recession and increase unemployment, he added. In his opinion, the whole agreement is a concession made to Germany so that the EU’s paymaster lets the European Central Bank intervene more forcefully to stem sovereign debt problems from spreading to more euro-countries.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

France: Left-Wing MP: Ratings Agencies Are ‘Charlatans’

Arnaud Montebourg, who came third in recent elections to choose the Socialist presidential candidate, has angrily denounced ratings agencies as “charlatans” in an interview. The member of parliament for Saône-et-Loire was speaking on radio station Europe 1 on Tuesday morning and expressed some of the anger that many French feel about the country’s recent loss of its AAA rating from Standard & Poor’s.

“For me, the rating agencies are charlatans,” he said. He complained they were also “at the origin of the global subprime crisis because they gave these toxic products a AAA rating.” “And now they’re making money on the back of European states,” he said. Montebourg proposed that use of the ratings agencies should be banned in France, which would “deprive them of revenues.”

He also suggested a publicly-financed European auditor would be better placed to rate sovereign debt than the privately-run ratings agencies. Montebourg performed well in the October elections to choose the Socialist candidate who will likely challenge president Sarkozy in April’s presidential elections.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Greece Struggles to Make Necessary Reforms

The troika of the EU, the ECB and the IMF is in Athens this week to negotiate the next tranche of funds for Greece. But the Greek government is making little headway with the necessary reforms. The slow progress is jeopardizing the second bailout for the country.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Ireland’s Former Richest Person Declared Bankrupt

A famed entrepreneur who was once rated Ireland’s richest person was declared bankrupt Monday as a bank pursues him for debts exceeding euro2.1 billion ($2.7 billion). Lawyers for tycoon Sean Quinn withdrew his opposition to a Republic of Ireland bankruptcy order sought by the former Anglo Irish Bank, the reckless lender at the center of Ireland’s calamitous property crash.

The bankruptcy judgment will force a thorough court investigation of Quinn’s finances, which the bank hopes will reveal capital and assets that it can reclaim from Quinn, his wife and five children. Quinn, 64, didn’t attend Monday’s court hearing. He issued a statement accusing the bank of pursuing “a personal vendetta” and declaring that the “judgment in no way improves Anglo’s prospects of recovering money for the taxpayer.”

Quinn had a reported 2007 net worth of euro 4.7 billion ($6 billion) but sank much of his fortune into Anglo months before the bank — the most aggressive lender to Ireland’s construction barons — suffered crippling losses as the country’s decade-long property bubble burst. The Quinn family secretly built up to a 28 percent stake in Anglo shares using an ill-regulated financial instrument that hid the scale of their investment from other stockholders. As Anglo’s share price plunged, Quinn says the bank encouraged his family to borrow hundreds of millions specifically to buy more Anglo stock, a charge the bank denies.

Ireland nationalized Anglo in 2009 to prevent its collapse, wiping out a Quinn family investment estimated at euro2.8 billion. The government last year renamed Anglo as the Irish Bank Resolution Corp., or IBRC. Its bailout is expected to cost taxpayers euro29 billion, a bill so great it overwhelmed Ireland’s finances and forced the government last year to negotiate a humiliating loan pact with the European Union and International Monetary Fund.

South Africa weather forecasters threatened with jail if predictions wrong

Weather forecasters in South Africa have been threatened with prison if they get their predictions wrong.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italy Warns of ‘Backlash’

Rome Demands German Help in Refinancing Debt

Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti has called on Germany to do more to help Italy and other debt-stricken nations to push down their borrowing costs. If the efforts of nations submitting themselves to austerity programs aren’t sufficiently recognized, he said, there will be a “powerful backlash.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Nosedive in Budapest: The Political Origins of Hungary’s Economic Crisis

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán came into power on a wave of political disillusionment. But his policies have not only caused many to question his commitment to democracy, but have also steered Hungary to the brink of insolvency.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


NASA’s Newest Telescope Survives Funding Battle, But Challenges Remain

NASA’s ambitious next generation space observatory, the James Webb Space Telescope, has become known more for running way over budget than for the exciting and potentially groundbreaking discoveries it could make. But, with funding now secured for the 2012 fiscal year, it is time to prove the naysayers wrong, project team members say.

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is being billed as the successor to the prolific Hubble Space Telescope, but cost overruns have plagued the project, particularly in recent years.

On Nov. 18, 2011, President Barack Obama signed into law a measure to grant NASA $17.8 billion for the 2012 fiscal year, which began on Oct. 1. This figure includes an increase in funding, at $529.6 million, for JWST. This comes after House appropriators recommended canceling the over-budget telescope in the summer.

The observatory, which is slated to launch in 2018, is now expected to cost $8.8 billion. But with funding now secure for the current fiscal year, scientists and engineers are moving ahead with the design and construction of the telescope’s components and main science instruments.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Police Continue to Investigate Fatal Old City Beating, Mayor Nutter Offers Condolences

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Three suspects got out of a car and beat a young man to death, but the driver stayed in the car. He never got out and he didn’t participate in the fight. That is the man Philadelphia police want to track down.

The horrific beating death of 23-year-old Kevin Kless caught the attention of Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter.

Nutter spoke with the grieving mother of the murdered Temple University graduate, who was beaten to death this weekend during a late night attack in Old City.

An emotional Mayor Nutter said he had “a very heartfelt” phone conversation with Kendall Kless in upstate New York, in which he expressed his condolences for the beating death of her son.

At a Martin Luther King event on Monday, Nutter said he and police would do everything they can to track down the killers of the 2010 Temple University graduate.

“I called his mother four hours ago and I said to her ‘there’s nothing I can really say to you, what can I say? That we’re deeply sorry, that we’re in pain and we’re suffering, but yours is worse.’“

It was 2:30 a.m. Saturday morning when the beating occurred on the steps of the historic Second Bank of the United States near 4th and Chestnut Streets. Kless, his girlfriend and another woman left Lucy’s bar on Market Street and headed to Chestnut Street to hail a cab. (see related stories).

Police and Kevin’s dad, John Kless, believe people must have seen the beating.

“I need anybody that was in the area at the time to please call police,” he told Eyewitness News. “I’m completely numb. I can’t say another word, I can’t cry anymore.”

At some point, police believe Kless yelled at a cabbie for having his cab light on while driving with passengers, that’s when three men in a car near the cab got out, possibly believing kless was yelling at them.

“As the decedent walked off, three of the four males in this vehicle got out and viscously and unprovoked brutally attacked him,” said Philadelphia Police Capt. James Clark.

Kless was rushed to Thomas Jefferson University Hospital where he died Saturday night.

The City of Philadelphia is offering a $10,000 reward for the arrest and conviction of the suspects responsible for the murder of Kevin Kless.

For the driver who stayed in the car, police contend, if he comes forward, prosecutors may be willing to work a deal with him, but if he doesn’t he will face the same charges as everyone else.

Philadelphia police investigators have released the following descriptions of the suspects:

Suspect #1: Middle-Eastern male, 20 years-of-age, 5-10?, thin build, wearing a white shirt with blue stripes.

Suspect #2: Middle-Eastern male, 20 years-of-age, 6’0?, medium build, with a maroon shirt.

Suspect #3: Middle Eastern male, 6’2, no further information.

Suspect #4: Middle Eastern male, no further information.

Police are looking at surveillance video in the area.

The car is described as a sedan, possibly maroon in color.

           — Hat tip: Takuan Seiyo[Return to headlines]

Students Name NASA’s Twin Moon Probes ‘Ebb’ & ‘Flow’

NASA’s twin gravity-mapping moon probes received new names Tuesday (Jan. 17), reflecting their mission to study the changing pull of Earth’s natural satellite. Now to be called “Ebb” and “Flow,” the tandem Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory (or Grail) spacecraft arrived in lunar orbit over the New Year weekend and were previously referred to simply as “A” and “B”. Their new names were offered by fourth grade students in Bozeman, Mont., who were chosen as the winners of NASA’s naming contest.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Too Bright, The Night: New Film Tackles City Light Pollution

Of all Earth’s dwindling natural resources, a beautiful view of the night sky might not be on the top of everyone’s list. But a new documentary highlights just what we stand to lose when we can no longer see the stars at night. Light pollution has serious health and environmental consequences, and it just might wreak some philosophical havoc as well. These issues are explored in entertaining and insightful fashion in the new documentary “The City Dark,” opening in New York Jan. 18.

“I worry that our lack of contact with the sky is doing something to us that’s very subtle,” says writer Ann Druyan, wife of the late astronomer Carl Sagan, early on in the film. The poignant and wide-ranging consequences of light pollution are elucidated by experts including astronomers, astronauts, historians, ornithologists, epidemiologists, neurologists, biologists and criminologists. The film is written, directed and produced by Brooklyn-based documentary filmmaker Ian Cheney.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Virginia’s Attorney General Says a Washington D.C. Law Could Relocate Rat ‘Families’ To Virginia

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli says he is worried that a new District of Columbia law that governs how pest control operators must handle rats may result in entire rodent “families” being relocated across the Potomac River into Virginia by D.C. pest control personnel.

Lately, there have been reports of growing rat infestations around the Occupy DC protests at Freedom Plaza and McPherson Square.

Cuccinelli said D.C.’s new rat law—the Wildlife Protection Act of 2010 —is “crazier than fiction” because it requires that rats and other vermin not be killed but captured, preferably in families; no glue or snap traps can be utilized; the rodents must be relocated from where they are captured; and some of these animals may need to be transferred to a “wildlife rehabilitator” as part of their relocation process.

The law does not allow pest control professionals “to kill the dang rats,” Cuccinelli told “They have to capture them—then capture them in families. [Not sure] how you’re going to figure that out with rats. And then you have to relocate them. That brings us to Virginia. Now, if you don’t relocate them about 25 miles away, according to experts, rodents will find their way back. Well, an easy way to solve that problem is to cross a river, and what’s on the other side of the river? Virginia.”

“So we have real concerns about this ridiculous—ridiculous!—law and we’ve been pretty genial about dealing with D.C. on it,” said Cuccinelli. “But when you see an article like the ‘Rats Occupy Occupy DC,’ it points up the problem that we’re going to have in Virginia because of that—and because D.C’s really outrageous—outrageous!—treatment of these varmints who, for those who don’t remember their history, carried things like bubonic plague. I mean, these are true vermin.”

While the law exempts “commensal rodents”—varieties of which most people know (or have seen) as common rats or house mice—the rice rat and deer mouse, which are found in the District, are not defined as commensal and apparently are not exempt from the law. In addition, the new law expands the definition of wildlife and sets the rules for handling it to include raccoons, squirrels, skunks, and other animals that can carry disease, such as rabies. The law applies to trained animal control officers, not to homeowners.

The Wildlife Protection Act of 2010 specifically says that wildlife “shall include any free-roaming wild animal, but shall not include: (A) Domestic animals; (B) Commensal rodents; (C) Invertebrates; and (d) Fish.” Commensal rats include the House mouse (Mus musculus), the Norway rat (Rattus norvegicus), and the Roof rat (Rattus rattus).


[NOTE: Video and links to the Wildlife Protection Act are available at URL, above]

[Return to headlines]

Yeast Suggests Speedy Start for Multicellular Life

Single-celled organism can evolve multicellularity within months.

The origin of multicellular life, one of the most important developments in Earth’s history, could have occurred with surprising speed, US researchers have shown. In the lab, a single-celled yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) took less than 60 days to evolve into many-celled clusters that behaved as individuals. The clusters even developed a primitive division of labour, with some cells dying so that others could grow and reproduce.

The study, by William Ratcliff and his colleagues at the University of Minnesota in St Paul, is published online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Referring to the origin of multicellularity, Richard Lenski, an evolutionary biologist from Michigan State University in East Lansing who was not involved in the study, says: “This has long been viewed as difficult transition, but these experiments show it might not be quite as difficult as assumed.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Abu Qatada Cannot be Deported to Jordan, European Judges Rule

Abu Qatada cannot be deported to Jordan, European judges rule

Abu Qatada, once described as “Osama bin Laden’s right hand man in Europe”, cannot be extradited to Jordan the European Court of Human Rights has ruled.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

Death by Helium for Cosmos-Mapping Planck Observatory

One of astronomy’s great orbiting observatories has breathed its last. On 14 January, the liquid helium cooling one of the two photon sensors onboard the Planck space telescope ran dry, ending a mission to map the big bang’s echo. The European Space Agency telescope has been measuring the cosmic microwave background (CMB) with unprecedented accuracy since 2009.

The helium was due to run out when it did. “The supplies lasted almost until the day we predicted when it first launched,” says Jan Tauber of the European Space Research and Technology Centre in Noordwick, the Netherlands. He plans to operate the telescope’s uncooled sensor for a further year to calibrate the observatory but the mission is effectively over.

Planck’s data will help tease apart the large-scale structure of the universe and determine how it formed. It will also provide the most detailed views of nearer phenomenon, such as galactic dust and magnetic fields, which are superimposed on the spacecraft’s view of the CMB. This data will be released in early 2013, once it has been processed.

Planck is the last in a line of observatories studying the CMB, which date back to 1989. As yet, there is no successor. “We want to know what the spacecraft will reveal before planning the next mission,” says Tauber.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

EU Takes Legal Action Against Hungary

The European Commission has launched legal proceedings against Hungary, accusing it of breaching EU treaties with laws that undermine the independence of the justice system and central bank. The case could delay the payment of international aid needed to shore up Hungary’s economy.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

EU to Demand Hungary Reverse Controversial Reforms

(BRUSSELS) — The EU executive is expected to hand Hungary an ultimatum this week to speedily back down on controversial political reforms or face damaging legal proceedings, EU sources said Monday. The 27-member European Commission has agreed to threaten Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government with European Court of Justice action for violating fundamental democratic rights, with an announcement due Tuesday or Wednesday, the sources said.

“There is an agreement to send three letters of warning,” an EU official said, with Budapest given “a very brief delay” to row back on legislation or face EU legal action. “There will however be further discussion tomorrow as this is a serious matter,” the source added.

Some commissioners are willing to give Orban one month to reverse the constitutional changes while others are calling for a faster-then-usual “less than two weeks,” said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Brussels has urged Hungary to reassess three sets of hotly contested changes to the constitution adopted by Orban’s parliamentary majority on December 31 but seen as threatening the independence of the central bank, the judiciary and the data protection authority.

Under EU procedures, the executive must first issue a letter warning of the possibility of legal action before embarking on infringement proceedings.

“All is ready, the letters will be signed Tuesday or Wednesday,” another EU official said. Standard procedure is to give a member state two months to rewrite contested legislation, but for Hungary the period “may be 14 days,” said this official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Extremists Glorify Norway Crown Prince Suffering

Muslim extremists have posted a video on Facebook wishing Crown Prince Haakon pain and suffering, reports say.

Using images of HRH and Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, the faction says it hopes they “suffer painful revenge”, proclaiming “Oh, Allah, destroy them”. Threats have also been issued against Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre

Moreover, the video shows dramatic pictures of suffering Afghan children and coffins of fallen Norwegian soldiers, with text, “Revenge verily comes from Allah! That’s what is approaching!” According to NRK, the footage also contains dramatic music.

Whilst it is not clear whether members of the group calling themselves ‘Demonstration: Norwegian troops out of Afghanistan’ posted the video, police and the Norwegian Parliament’s administration have granted them permission to hold a demonstration in front of the building on 20th January.

Oslo District Police’s Snorre Haugen tells the broadcaster stopping the demonstration will be extremely difficult, as is holding organisers responsible for everything published on a Facebook page.

“Freedom of speech is very strong in Norway.”

NRK believes a small group of 5 to 15 people, who wish to remain anonymous, are behind the demonstration. Arfan Bhatti is the only member of the group who has published his full identity.

Norwegian Institute for Defence Studies’ (ISF) Anders Romarheim finds the video perturbing because of the link between destruction threats and famous Norwegian heads of society.

“I cannot remember I’ve seen this relating to Norway before,” he says.

The video coincides with today’s unveiling of the Police Security Service’s (PST) terror threat assessment for 2012, where director Janne Kristiansen says they still regard extreme Islam as the biggest threat against Norway. PST head of information, Martin Bernsen, will not comment on the footage.

Norway’s Royal Court, Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, and the PST have been appraised of the video, which ends with a picture of a burning white car with a Norwegian flag on it, accompanied by the sound of a powerful explosion.

           — Hat tip: The Observer[Return to headlines]

Flanders: Complaint Against Socialist Public Municipal Administrator in Ghent Resul Tapmaz for Defamation

As a result of the visit the Vlaams-Belang delegation from Ghent made in Turkey, the socialist public municipal administrator in Ghent Resul Tapmaz was furious.

In a reaction towards the Turkish press he made several very insulting and malicious comments :

1. The Vlaams Belang calls the expats in Ghent “rats from the gutter”.

2. The Vlaams Belang threw pig heads into our mosques.

3. The Vlaams Belang defend the Nazi’s who burn Turks in Germany alive.

4. The Vlaams Belang has been humiliating our mothers, fathers, grandparents, children for the last 50 years by saying that animals integrate easier than strangers.

Such assertions are unacceptable and in contradiction with public order.

Spreading obvious lies in public just like that can’t be tolerated.

Therefore, Flemish Flemish Member of Parliament and City Counselor in Ghent Johan Deckmyn made a complaint in the name of Vlaams Belang Ghent with the Prosecutor at the Correctional Court in Ghent, against Resul Tapmaz for insults, defamation and attack of our reputation.

The Vlaams Belang expects that the Prosecutor will treat this complaint appropriately.

As an attachment, you will find the complaint that was filed.

           — Hat tip: TV[Return to headlines]

France: Minister: Foreigners to Blame for Burglary Rise

Government figures will show a 16 percent increase in household burglaries in 2011 despite an overall drop in crime. Interior minister Claude Guéant was speaking on radio station RTL on Tuesday morning in advance of the official release of the figures. Overall crime was “falling for the ninth year running,” he said, “representing 12,000 fewer crimes.” Attacks on people were “stable” while “economic crimes are falling” he said.

He confirmed that burglaries of main residences and second homes were up by 16 percent. In Guéant pinned the blame on foreigners, singling out people from “central and eastern Europe.” He said this was a “new phenomenon that is difficult to deal with” because “these people move quickly from one country to another.” The Socialist opposition said there was a “failure” of government policy on crime.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Henryk M. Broder Interviews Thilo Sarrazin

Welt Online: The book was released one and a half years ago. What have you learned since then?

Sarrazin: For starters, a lot about how the media tick. I already knew some things, but learning about oneself is quite a bit more intensive. The media act according to Pavlovian reflexes. One inflammatory term is enough and they all storm in the same direction. It was also interesting to experience that certain public processes escaped the management. That doesn’t mean that they are good or bad, it’s just that way. They do so independently. We are now experiencing a different process that is making itself independently, but for the moment I will not say anything about it. Those aren’t prognosticable courses that escape planning ability. Afterwards one knows who the good and evil were, the heroes and the villians, the structure becomes clear only in hindsight.

Welt Online: It appears that everything has repelled off of you. Is that really so?

Sarrazin: It helps me that 80 to 90 percent of the people I meet speak positively either of me or the book. I know it is a selective perception, Wulff likewise, as far as this is concerned, perceptions are never the truth, and the rest has to be dealt with. And when one has analyzed the rest in its entire stupidity and dullness, then he can live with it.

Again, there are the Pharisees that try to crucify the one who asks the wrong questions.

Welt Online: You are a “splitter” …

Sarrazin: … that is pure and simple Nazi terminology! Only the “corrosive critique” is missing, and right after that comes the “healthy public feeling,” represented through the agent of the Turkisch Alliance.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Islamists Main Threat to Norway: Intelligence

Radical Islamists pose the biggest threat to Norway even though it was a right-wing extremist who carried out the twin attacks last July that killed 77 people, Norwegian intelligence service PST said on Tuesday.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

Norway: Video Threatens Crown Prince, Stoltenberg With ‘Painful Revenge’

A video published on the social media site Facebook threatens Norway’s Crown Prince Haakon, Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre with both “painful revenge” and death, in retaliation for Norway’s military involvement in Afghanistan. The video promotes a demonstration organized by an Islamic group and planned for Friday in front of the Norwegian Parliament.

Crown Prince Haakon has visited Norwegian troops in Afghanistan, like here in 2009. PHOTO: Forsvaret

The video, accompanied by music, shows photos of wounded Afghan children and armed Norwegian soldiers along with a photo of Stoltenberg at a NATO conference in Strasbourg. Under his photo is text, in Norwegian, that reads “Å Allah ødelegg dem” (Oh Allah, destroy them).

The next photo on the video, which was also published in an edited version by Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) on its website Tuesday afternoon, shows Crown Prince Haakon in a military uniform, visiting Norwegian soldiers in Afghanistan. The text under his photo reads the same, but adds “la det være smertefullt” (let it be painful). The Royal Palace had no comment. One photo of Støre is accompanied by text that reads, roughly translated, “show them hell.”

Many of the photos used in the video appear to come from the photo archives of the defense ministry, which are open to the press and public. Among them is a photo of Stoltenberg climbing out of a tank in Afghanistan, and others of military maneuvers around areas where Norwegian troops have been stationed.

The video also shows photos of the coffins of Norwegian soldiers killed in Afghanistan, with text claiming that victory will come “from Allah.” The video celebrates the deaths of the Norwegian soldiers and ends with the explosion of a white vehicle and a Norwegian flag in flames.

See an edited version of the video on NRK’s site here (external link, in Norwegian).

Norway’s police intelligence unit PST announced that it is investigating the video, which is believed to be the first such direct threats against Norwegian leaders. “I can’t remember seeing this before in Norway,” Anders Romarheim of the Institute for Defense Studies told NRK.

The video threat comes ironically as Norway is starting to pull out of Afghanistan, after nearly 10 years. PST views it as inciting terrorism, and therefore illegal.

Just before the video ends, it encourages Muslims to turn up for the demonstration planned for Friday in front of the Parliament. The demonstration has been organized by a small, radical Islamic group that received permission to gather outside the Parliament from both the Parliament’s administration and the police. None of the group’s members has been willing to be identified in the media.

Snorre Haugen of the Oslo police told NRK that it’s difficult to hold arrangers of demonstrations responsible for everything expressed on a Facebook page. It’s also difficult to halt a demonstration, he said. “Freedom of expression is very strong in Norway,” Haugen told NRK.

News of the video broke just as PST was issuing its new terrorism evaluation for Norway, in which it said that Islamic extremists represented the biggest and most dangerous threat to Norway. The evaluation also expressed concern that other extremists may try to copy confessed Norwegian terrorist Anders Behring Breivik, with new attacks against Norway. PST did not, however, raise the overall threat level of terrorism from right-wing extremists or anti-Islamic groups.

           — Hat tip: The Observer[Return to headlines]

Norway: Security Cops Investigate Islamist Threat Video

On the same day Norway’s intelligence service (PST) said hardline Islamists remained the foremost threat to national security, leading government officials and the royal family have been singled out in a threatening online video. In a Twitter message, PST said it would seek to ascertain if the video, posted on YouTube and linked to from a Facebook group, constituted incitement to commit acts of terrorism.

A link to the video was posted in the early hours of Tuesday morning by a Facebook group with 1,600 members called ‘Demonstrasjon: Norske soldater ut av Afghanistan’ (Demonstration: Norwegian soldiers out of Afghanistan). The group’s aim is to gather protesters for a rally outside the Oslo parliament this Friday.

In the video, images of Crown Prince Haakon, Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre are accompanied by a song in Arabic that contains the words: “Oh Allah, destroy them, and let it be painful”. The clip, which is just over four minutes long, also features pictures of Norwegian soldiers and injured children. It ends with the sound of an explosion and a picture of a Norwegian vehicle in flames.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Recording in Cruise Ship Disaster Casts Captain in Bad Light

After the cruise ship Costa Concordia struck rocks, Capt. Francesco Schettino was reluctant to help with the evacuation on board, a recording shows.

Reporting from Rome— As terrified passengers scrambled to avoid the icy waters, Capt. Francesco Schettino sat in a lifeboat on the phone weakly telling rescuers why he had abandoned his luxury cruise ship.

“Commander, I want to go on board, but it is simply that the other boat here … there are other rescuers,” Schettino, commander of the grounded Costa Concordia, told Capt. Gregorio De Falco of the Italian coast guard. “It has stopped and is waiting.”

De Falco, after repeatedly telling Schettino to get back on board, again issued his orders: “It has been an hour that you have been telling me the same thing. Now, go on board. Go on board! And then tell me immediately how many people there are there.”

A tape recording of the exchange released Tuesday was the latest indictment of the captain’s behavior a few days earlier during the chaotic evacuation of more than 4,200 people from the damaged ship, a floating city designed for pleasure, with its bright lights, discotheques, swimming pools and tennis courts.

Italians listened in fascinated horror to the conversation, in which De Falco repeatedly ordered Schettino to get back on board after Friday’s accident off the coast of Tuscany.

On Tuesday, Schettino, 52, was placed under house arrest in his hometown of Meta di Sorrento after questioning before a judge. Chief Prosecutor Francesco Verusio of Grosseto, a city near the accident, has accused Schettino of making a reckless and inexcusable maneuver that brought the enormous liner so close to shore that rocks tore open the left side of the hull.

The death toll rose to 11 as rescue workers found five more bodies in the submerged stern after explosives experts used small charges to open unreachable areas of the ship lying on its side off the tiny tourist island of Giglio.

Authorities said they believed 24 of the 4,234 people who had been aboard were still missing. They said that number could change…

[Return to headlines]

Scorned Cruise-Ship Captain Not First to Abandon Sinking Ship

What will likely never be forgotten about the Italian cruise liner disaster is the quickness with which the captain of the Costa Concordia abandoned the sinking ship.

According to investigators, captain Francesco Schettino maneuvered the ship, which was carrying more than 4,200 passengers and crew, too close to shore of the Tuscan Island of Giglio to “make a bow” to the locals. The “significant human error,” as described by the ship’s owner, Costa Cruises, caused the 114,500-ton liner to capsize just 500 feet from the shore, killing at least 11 people, while 24 remain missing.

According to the Italian police, who have detained Schettino on charges of manslaughter, failure to offer assistance and abandonment of the ship, the captain and some of the crew were among the first to bail into lifeboats. Considered one of the most infamous crimes in maritime law, Schettino’s act of cowardice has many precedents in history.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: Edmonton Rapist Jailed Indefinitely for Callous Attack

A RAPIST who forced his victim into a Lower Edmonton garage at knifepoint has been jailed indefinitely.

Aliriza Cezmi, 19, of Tranmere Road, confronted the 31-year-old woman last year along a footpath that runs behind houses in his road as she was on her way home from work.

After pleading guilty to four counts of rape and one count of possession of an offensive weapon at Wood Green Crown Court yesterday, Cezmi received an indeterminate sentence for public protection, with a minimum of six years before he is considered for parole.

He was also made to sign the sex offenders’ register, and will be deported back to Cyprus after completing his sentence.

Detective Constable Simon Chapman, of the Metropolitan Police’s Sapphire Unit, called the attack “violent and callous”, and asked any other victims of Cezmi to come forward.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

UK: Judge Refuses Jail for Woman Plumber Who Glassed Nightclubber

A woman who glassed a male clubber that smiled at her — and then blamed the attack on the fact she was sexually harassed at work — was spared jail by a judge.

Sheona Keith threw her glass at a man in a nightclub who she thought was ‘eyeing her up’, in an unprovoked attack which resulted in him needing hospital treatment.

However, a judge refused to give her a custodial sentence after accepting that earlier sexual harassment she suffered at work was the reason behind her behaviour.

Describing Keith’s case as ‘unique’, Judge Wassall said she had an ‘impeccable character’ and that the sexual harassment she had suffered was ‘intolerable’.

At one point he said that she threw the glass ‘without knowing’ it was in her hand and described the victim as being ‘in the wrong place at the wrong time’.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

UK: State to Help Elderly Downsize as Government Tackles Housing Crisis

Elderly homeowners will be encouraged to downsize to smaller properties and allow councils to rent their homes to local families under Coalition plans to ease the nation’s housing crisis.

Grant Shapps, the housing minister, said councils should offer to help pensioners move to more suitable accommodation to create space for families.

Local authorities would then take over responsibility for maintaining and renting the vacated properties at affordable rates, transferring any profit from the rental income back to the elderly person or their estate. The Government believes the proposal would provide support for the elderly to move without having to sell their homes at a time when there is a shortage of affordable housing for young families.

Research released last year estimated that 25million bedrooms in England were empty, largely because elderly couples do not move out of family homes to smaller properties.

At the same time, young families are increasingly being squeezed into small homes and overcrowded flats as a result of the country’s high property prices.

A government-backed pilot scheme run by Redbridge council, in east London, has won support from the Department for Communities and Local Government for helping elderly residents to downsize while retaining ownership of their homes. Mr Shapps told The Daily Telegraph that councils should look to replicate the Redbridge “FreeSpace” project. “For too long the housing needs of the elderly have been neglected,” he said.

“Older people who should be enjoying their homes have watched helplessly as their properties have become prisons, and many have been forced to sell their homes and move into residential care.

“With nearly a fifth of our population expected to be over 65 by 2020, radical and urgent change is needed to ensure the nation’s housing needs are met.” Mr Shapps said the FreeSpace project “shows what can be achieved” and illustrated that helping some older people move to more suitable accommodation can make a “life-changing difference”.

“They can live independently for longer and enjoy more disposable income without selling their home, and other families can benefit from living in an affordable home,” he said.

Many homeowners with large properties and modest incomes are unable to downsize without selling their homes.

Government analysis of the Redbridge project suggested that 200 people in the borough were considering moving, but felt that they could not afford to. Under the scheme, the council helps elderly people move into a new property such as sheltered accommodation. The local authority foots the bill for moving costs, renovations and financial advice.

In return, the council is able to rent the house to families in need and manage that tenancy directly. A four-bedroom house managed by the council would be rented at a typical rate of £1,300 per month, £300 less than the average market rate for a privately rented home.

Pensioners who take up the council’s offer use the rental income from their former home to pay for their new accommodation. Lower council tax, utility bills, and the income from their former home mean they can save more than £7,000 a year. Analysis of the project, conducted by Cambridge University, said the Redbridge scheme was “financially astute”.

“There are clear financial gains for the owner-occupier and family from this arrangement,” the report said. “There is also scope for the council to charge a rate of interest on its investment as the margins would allow this.”

The report said the scheme could be funded using “social impact bonds”, the Coalition’s new method for attracting private-sector investment in public projects which provide a social benefit.

           — Hat tip: Jedilson Bonfim[Return to headlines]

UK: Times Reporter Hacked Into Police Blogger’s Email Account

A controversial 2009 Times article “outing” an anonymous police blogger called Nightjack was based on material obtained by email hacking, it has emerged in evidence to the Leveson inquiry.

Times editor James Harding told the inquiry on Tuesday he had disciplined the reporter involved for accessing the email account by giving him a written warning.

He said in a witness statement: “There was an incident where the newsroom was concerned that a reporter had gained unauthorised access to an email account. When it was brought to my attention, the journalist faced disciplinary action. The reporter believed he was seeking to gain information in the public interest but we took the view he had fallen short of what was expected of a Times journalist. He was issued with a formal written warning for professional misconduct.”

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Young Libyan Refugees Begin New Life in Norway

A group of 33 child refugees who fled the conflict in Libya last year have been resettled in Norway, the UN refugee agency said on Tuesday. The children, whose parents are either dead or cannot be traced, left Tunisia’s Shousha camp on Sunday.

Mostly from Somalia, Sudan, Ethiopia and Eritrea, the youngsters aged up to 18 were among 90 who arrived alone from Libya in 2011, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said. In total, 39 have now been resettled, mostly to Norway, Sweden, and Denmark.

“As they had formed strong bonds among each other, the departure has been painful for many of them — not least those still awaiting resettlement,” said UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards. Some of the children were parentless when they arrived in Libya while others lost or became separated from their parents before entering bordering Tunisia.

“In these particular cases we believe that resettlement is the best option — we have looked into all other possibilities,” Edwards said. “UNHCR and its partners hope that solutions can quickly be found for the unaccompanied children who remain there (at Shousha) — as well as for the other refugees who await solutions.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Rare Mars Rocks Crashed to Earth in July

A hail of Martian meteorites crashed to Earth last July, and collectors and scientists around the world are snapping up the ultra-rare rocks for display and study. The meteorites fell in the Moroccan desert in July and were recovered a few months later. Scientists confirmed today (Jan. 17) that the rocks are Martian, presumably blasted off the Red Planet by an asteroid strike.

The rocks are a rare treat for researchers, allowing them to investigate relatively pristine chunks of Martian material. Such freshly delivered pieces of the Red Planet have been found on only four other occasions, the last time in 1962. As a result of their scarcity and scientific value, the rocks are selling for incredibly high prices — 10 times the price of gold or more.

Mars meteorites can reveal a great deal about the Red Planet’s atmosphere and climate, along with its potential to host life. Some scientists will doubtless pore over Tissint specimens for signs of organic compounds, the carbon-containing building blocks of life as we know it, Agee said. “Because it’s so fresh, if you find organics in this sample, you can be pretty sure those organics are Martian,” he told

There’s also the chance that Martian organisms — if they ever existed — may have left a mark in the meteorite samples. Some researchers, for example, claimed to have found fossil evidence of ancient Martian life in a meteorite called ALH84001, which was discovered in Antarctica in 1984. (Most scientists regard the claim as unconvincing.)

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Caroline Glick: Netanyahu’s Post-Zionist Education Ministry

One of the declared goals of the Netanyahu government is to ensure that Israeli schoolchildren receive a strong Zionist education. To this end, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu appointed Gideon Sa’ar as his education minister.

Sa’ar has long distinguished himself as a critic of post-Zionist initiatives to transform Israel’s educational curriculum from a Zionist curriculum which in accordance with the Education Law of 1953 is charged with inculcating school children with “the values of Jewish culture,” “love of the homeland,” and “loyalty to the Jewish state,” into one that indoctrinates Israel’s youth to adopt a post-nationalist, universalist perspective that does not value Jewish nationalism and rejects patriotism as atavistic and even racist.

In light of the importance that the government has placed on Zionist education, it is quite shocking that under Sa’ar, the Education Ministry approved a new citizenship textbook for high school students that embraces the post- Zionist narrative…

           — Hat tip: Caroline Glick[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Al-Qaeda Overruns Town Near Yemen Capital

Al-Qaeda militants swept into the Yemeni town of Rada overnight and overran it within hours, marking a significant advance by the extremists towards the capital, officials said on Monday. The takeover of Rada, 130 kilometres (80 miles) southeast of Sanaa, was the latest in a series of towns and cities — until now in the south and east — to fall as Al-Qaeda takes advantage of a central government weakened by months of protests.

Several sources in the town said more than 1,000 Al-Qaeda gunmen invaded Rada, which is within striking distance of a strategic highway connecting Sanaa with the south and southwest. “Al-Qaeda has taken over the town and is now the de facto power there,” a local official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

“The government’s security forces have retreated to their bases and militants are now manning the checkpoints in and out of the town.” The official said the militants had also seized Rada’s central prison and police headquarters. The extremists also took over the intelligence HQ. According to a local tribal chief, more than 100 prisoners were released, “including members of Al-Qaeda.” Two soldiers guarding the prison were killed, officials said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Frank Gaffney: No Kidding Red Lines

“Don’t do it.” That is the message American officials, from President Obama on down, are delivering to their Israeli counterparts in the hope of dissuading the Jewish State from taking a fateful step: attacking Iran to prevent the mullahs’ imminent acquisition of nuclear weapons.

This week, the nation’s top military officer, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey, will visit Israel to convey the same message in person. If recent reports of other U.S. demarches are any guide, the General will deliver an insistent warning that Israel must give sanctions more time to work and refrain from acting unilaterally…

           — Hat tip: CSP[Return to headlines]

Murders Unlikely to Slow Iran’s Nuclear Efforts

Experts say international sanctions are the best way to stall the weapons programme.

Last week’s assassination of an official working at Iran’s uranium-enrichment facility was worthy of a James Bond film: the 32-year-old was killed by a magnetic bomb placed on his car by a passing motorcyclist. But the murder of Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan Behdast is unlikely to result in a neat filmic denouement. His death is the latest in a string of assassinations and other attacks seemingly aimed at Iran’s nuclear programme over the past few years.

Although experts agree that at least some of the killings are part of an organized foreign campaign to slow Iran’s efforts to enrich uranium, they are sceptical that the strategy will work. “The immediate effect is very small,” says Olli Heinonen, a senior fellow at Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “If I have a project that is important for national security, I never count on one single person,” he says, suggesting that international sanctions are a more effective way of slowing Iran’s efforts.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Far East

Kim Jong Il’s Other Son Expects North Korean Regime to Fail, Journalist Says

They share the same rotund facial features, similar expressions and gait. But the two sons of Kim Jong Il have never met, and based on a new book being published in Japan this week, there appears to be little fraternal allegiance, at least from the eldest son’s side.

Kim Jong Nam, the eldest son, is the half-brother of Kim Jong Un, the new leader of North Korea. Kim Jong Nam believes his youngest brother will fail as the “supreme leader” of the reclusive state, according to the book’s author, Yoji Gomi.

“He’s not comfortable that his younger brother is succeeding the power of Kim Jong Il,” says Gomi, the author of “My Father, Kim Jong Il, and Me,” which will hit bookshelves in Tokyo on Wednesday. “He (Kim Jong Nam) sees his brother failing. He thinks he (Kim Jong Un) has a lack of experience, he’s too young, and he didn’t have enough time to be groomed. Those three reasons are why he thinks he’ll fail.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Prices Plunge as China Turns Sour on Top Bordeaux

Speculators and China’s super-rich have turned sour on Bordeaux’s most prestigious, investment-grade wines, causing a deep dip in prices, year-end figures have revealed. In Hong Kong at the weekend, a hotly anticipated Sotheby’s fine wine auction fell well short of its estimate, as top-ranking wines from the French region, from Chateau Lafite to Margaux, failed to find buyers.

Robert Sleigh, head of Sotheby’s Wine, Asia, attributed the disappointing sale to a tailing-off in demand for younger Bordeaux vintages. The auction came as a key industry index, which tracks the price of 100 investment-grade wines, 95 of them from Bordeaux, revealed a sharp fall over the past year — suggesting that a speculative bubble is bursting.

“The Liv-ex Fine Wine 100 Index fell by 22 percent since its peak at the end of June 2011,” Jack Hibberd, head of data and research at the London-based Liv-Ex, which analyses fine wine markets, told AFP by email. “For the full year the fall was 15 percent.”

For example, the price of a bottle of 2009 Chateau Lafite plunged by nearly a quarter last year, from €1,305 ($1,653) at the beginning of January to €988 at the end of December.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Time-Lapse Video: China Builds 30-Story Hotel in 360 Hours

Chinese construction workers have once again awed the world, this time by erecting a 30-story hotel in 360 hours in Hunan Province. The building is the latest achievement of Broad Sustainable Building (BSB), a Chinese construction company renowned for its eye-opening efficiency.

Ground was broken on the hotel on December 2, 2011, in the Lin Gang Industrial Zone in Xiangyin County near the provincial capital Changsha. The building was completed in 15 days. Named T30, the 17,000-square-meter hotel is due to open on January 18, and is expected to be a five-star establishment.

The hotel will feature 316 standard rooms, 32 suites, eight ambassador suites and two presidential suites. Other facilities include a restaurant, bar, gym and swimming pool on the top floor, underground parking space for 73 vehicles and even a helicopter pad.

The entire hotel costs a total of US$17 million to build. The building’s owner, BSB, is a subsidiary of Chinese technology enterprise Broad Group, whose portfolio includes assembling its own pavilion (the six-story Broad Pavilion) for the 2010 Shanghai Expo within 24 hours, and erecting a 15-story building in six days in June 2010.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

South Africa: Weather Forecasters Threatened With Jail if Predictions Are Wrong

Independent forecasters have been told they could be imprisoned for up to ten years — or fined up to £800,000 — if they issue incorrect severe weather warnings without official permission. The threat is contained in a new law designed to prevent panic and economic damage caused by false predictions of gale force winds, flash flooding or drought.

The proposed amendment to South Africa’s Weather Service Bill would mean that anyone wanting to issue a severe weather warning would first need to get written permission from the country’s official national weather service. If found guilty of breaching the law, first offenders could face up to five years in prison or a five million rand (£400,000) fine. Repeat offenders face a maximum of 10 years imprisonment or a ten million rand (£800,000) fine.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Latin America

Forget Space Beer, Order Meteorite Wine Instead

Chances are, when you pop open a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon, you expect to savor certain aromatic flavors, or “notes”, depending on the wine: fruit forward, perhaps, with hints of pepper and leathery tannins, and just the faintest whiff of … meteorite???

At least that’s what you’d savor if you were drinking a bottle of Meteorite, possibly the very first wine on the market aged with a meteorite that fell to Earth from space. It’s the brainchild of Ian Hutcheon, an Englishman now working in Chile, who thinks the infusion of a bit of meteorite gives his wine a “livelier taste.”

A chemical in red wine could prove beneficial in fighting the health effects of weightlessness.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Choice at the UN, Part 2

by Diana West

It was when anti-abortion advocate Austin Ruse explained to his audience that because his sturdiest allies at the United Nations were Muslims countries, his international anti-abortion coalition could not also be an international religious freedom coalition that my dhimmitude-meter kicked on — dhimmitude in this case meaning appeasement of Islam. (This is what I first wrote about it.)

Ruse was describing a classic example of the divide-and-conquer reversals that ensue when the Free World seeks common ground with totalitarian Islam. In isolating the subset of commonality — in this case, opposition to abortion — the greater set of Western principles abjured by Islam must be bracketed away. The thinking is, concessions as a matter of course are required to form a coalition with Islam. Thus, bedrock Western principles of religious freedom, freedom of conscience, and freedom of speech, etc. must, in effect, be suspended if representatives of the umma (Islamic community), which outlaws such liberties under Islamic law (sharia), are to be lured into political alliance. It’s never, ever the other-way round. That is, it’s never the Muslims who must hold their collectivist nose to overlook the freedoms they abhor for, in this case, the sake of helping to protect unborn life. It’s always the West that willingly loosens its attachment to its defining principles for fear of offending Islam. That’s the culture of dhimmitude. As a measure of the vital signs of these respective cultures, the West is clearly weaker.

This is highly alarming. So, too, is this political advance of proponents of Islamic law — which apparenly protects the unborn, but also sentences to death those who leave or insult or criticize Islam as “apostates” — into respected religious and moral circles in the West. (I say “apparently” because this is the conventional wisdom, but I can’t find any reference to abortion in the subject index of my trusty Islamic law book, Reliance of the Traveller; there are multiple entries on “apostasy” and “apostates.”)

Ruse, reponding here, and, now, in a second piece titled, “Working with Muslims to protect the unborn,” has taken something of a rolling pin to my concerns, flattening them out thus:…

           — Hat tip: Diana West[Return to headlines]


How Many Languages Can One Person Speak?

Who hasn’t wanted to master not just two languages but 10? Take Giuseppe Mezzofanti, a 19th-century priest who was said to be fluent in as many as 50 languages. Native speakers came from all over the world to test his abilities, and many left astonished.

In Babel No More, Michael Erard investigates the legend of Mezzofanti and other linguistic prodigies, or “hyperpolyglots”. How do they do it? Do they possess peculiar capacities or skills? Or are they merely prodigious tricksters?

Being a journey into the linguistic unknown, terms must naturally be defined, and early on Erard — who also wrote Um…, a book on verbal blunders — asks what it means to really know a language. Claire Kramsch, a linguist at the University of California, Berkeley, tells him the question should not be “How many languages do you know?” but rather “In how many languages do you live?” Understanding the cultural nuances of a language requires extensive ongoing contact with its speakers, and for that reason Kramsch doubts that anyone could ever live in more than four or five languages.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]