Sunday, January 12, 2003

News Feed 20120118

Financial Crisis
»Belgian Unions Strike Date Same as EU Summit
»Greece Says Creditor Losses Possible as Debt Talks Restart
»Greece: Public Television Journalists, “No More Strikes”
»IMF Looking for Extra Cash to Stem Euro-Crisis
»IMF to Raise Its Funding
»Italy: Pressure Mounts on Catholic Church to Pay More Property Tax
»S&P’s Latest Downgrades May Split the Longstanding “Merkozy” Alliance.
»Six Billion Euro Gap: Commerzbank Capital Shortfall ‘Bigger Than First Thought’
»Breaking: Fluoride Linked to #1 Cause of Death in New Research
»Houston Police Seek Help in Solving Murder as Relatives Dispute Iranian Activist Reports
»New York Times Promotes Freedom for Terrorist
»Obama Rejects Controversial Keystone Oil Pipeline
Europe and the EU
»Anti-Islamic Groups Across Europe to Attend Far-Right Rally
»Armenian Bill: Turkish-French Associations Plan Protests
»Eastern Europe Swings Right
»Germany: Cost of Nuke Phase-Out ‘Could Near €2 Trillion’
»Hungarian Leader ‘Infected With Bonaparte Virus’
»Into the Mind of a Neanderthal
»Italy: Costa Concordia: Captain ‘Says He Tripped and Fell Into Life Boat’
»Italy Mystified by Shipwreck Captain: The Bizarre Behavior of Francesco Schettino
»Norway: Locals React to Embassy’s Crime Warning
»Norway: US Embassy: ‘Don’t Walk Alone in Oslo at Night’
»Norway Jewish Community Shrinking
»Solar Subsidy Sinkhole: Re-Evaluating Germany’s Blind Faith in the Sun
»Sweden: 86 Charged After Massive Booze Smuggling Probe
»Tropical Island Warmth — In Icy Germany
»UK: Alarming Increase in Facebook Related Divorces in 2011
»UK: Talk at Queen Mary Cancelled After Threats of Violence
»Culture: Kosovo Humanistic Institute Soon to Open in Rome
North Africa
»Double Standard in Application of Egyptian Contempt of Religion Law
»Tunisia: Students on Hunger Strike Demand Right to Wear Veil During Exams
Middle East
»Saudi Arabia: Shia Protesters Shot Dead by Security Forces
South Asia
»Pakistan: Lahore: Christians Protest Over ‘Gosha-E-Aman’, Demanding Restitution and Compensation
Far East
»China Click Fight Begins as New Year Overwhelms Rail Website
»Chinese Poised to Take German Tourism Crown
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Kenya: Al-Shabab ‘Kills 6, Kidnaps 3 Kenyan Police’
»South Africa: Shark Attack Closes World’s Deadliest Beach
»UK: Refugees Hit Jackpot With £5.2m Payouts
Culture Wars
»Swedish Docs Deny Transexual’s Boob Job

Financial Crisis

Belgian Unions Strike Date Same as EU Summit

A general strike in Belgium will go ahead on 30 January, Belgian trade unions confirmed Tuesday. The strike is “required to convince the government to take into account “the social reality for workers,” unions said. EU leaders are scheduled to meet in Brussels for a summit on the same date.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Greece Says Creditor Losses Possible as Debt Talks Restart

(ATHENS) — Private creditors reluctant to participate in a critical bond writedown for beleaguered Greece could be forced to take losses, the Greek prime minister said Wednesday ahead of new debt talks with banks. Lucas Papademos said the country could pass a law requiring private sector holdouts to share the pain but expressed optimism that the complex negotiations, conducted under the watchful eye of the EU and the IMF, will be ultimately successful. Legislation to force collective action “cannot be excluded,” he said.

Athens and bank representatives are to explore on Wednesday and Thursday ways of cutting 100 billion euros ($128 billion) in debt from a total of more than 350 billion euros that is crushing the country. The Institute of International Finance, which is leading the negotiations on behalf of private banks and other financial institutions that hold Greek debt, said Tuesday they remain committed to reaching a deal.

Without one, Athens faces a historic debt default in March.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Greece: Public Television Journalists, “No More Strikes”

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, JANUARY 17 — A group of 127 journalists of Greek State Television network ERT have had enough of the strikes and protests that have been staged for months in the information sector. They have drafted a document with the title “Enough”, in which they ask for an end of the protest in the company. The news is reported — due to the fact that all Greek journalists started a 48-hour strike this morning — on the website Zougla. “After weeks of protests and after most demands have been granted,” the document reads, “we have reached a stage of protesting for its own sake. This “union gymnastics” is staged in a period of deep crisis and suffering in the Greek community, a period in which the crisis is deepening in the media sector as well. In this economic situation, some of us have decided to continue in ERT despite the fact that alternative forms of protest have been proposed. Therefore the signers of this document say that it’s enough. We cannot continue like this.” “The owners of ERT are Greek citizens who pay tax.” The document specifies that the content does not regard today’s media strike but only protests in the sector of public television.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

IMF Looking for Extra Cash to Stem Euro-Crisis

BRUSSELS — The US-based International Monetary Fund (IMF) is seeking more money to help stem the eurozone crisis, with world growth forecasts slashed once more Wednesday (18 January).

Directors of the IMF on Tuesday agreed to look for supplementary resources, as requested by their French chief Christine Lagarde, amid increasing worries over the global impact of the euro crisis.

“The biggest challenge is to respond to the crisis in an adequate manner and many executive directors stressed the necessity and urgency of collective efforts to contain the debt crisis in the euro area and protect economies around the world from spillovers,” Lagarde said in a statement. “To this end, fund management and staff will explore options for increasing the fund’s firepower, subject to adequate safeguards.”

The source of the new funds remains unclear, however.

Informal talks on how much money could be raised from non-euro economies such as Brazil, India and China have been going on since December, but to little avail.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

IMF to Raise Its Funding

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) agreed on Tuesday to increase its funds given the negative impact of the eurozone crisis on the global economy, reports AFP. Current IMF funds total $385 billion. Euro-zone countries pledged to boost the fund by €150 billion last December.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italy: Pressure Mounts on Catholic Church to Pay More Property Tax

Rome, 18 Jan. (AKI/Bloomberg) — Nothing may prove to be untouchable in the European debt crisis.

The Catholic Church in Italy is under pressure from both governing and opposition politicians to start paying taxes on all its commercial property after Prime Minister Mario Monti asked Italians to swallow 20 billion euros of budget cuts and pay a levy on their homes.

“The church has always been the target of harsh polemics, but the pressure has never been so high,” said Francesco Perfetti, professor of contemporary history at the Luiss University in Rome. “The debt crisis is forcing governments to reconsider even those privileges that were deemed sacrosanct.”

Religion’s role in the economy is being scrutinized as nations endure some of the most severe budget cuts in a generation and where the subject of clerical wealth has long been taboo. Greece taxes income from the Orthodox Church, though exemptions remain.

Italy would gain an additional 100 million euros from increasing levies on the church to include all its commercial property, said Paolo Berdini, urban planner and consultant for local administrations. ARES 2000, a research company in Rome, put the figure as high as 2.2 billion euros.

A tax would send “the right signal,” Nicola Marinelli, who oversees $153 million at Glendevon King Asset Management in London, said in an e-mail. “It’s unclear how much income it would generate for the state, but firstly, every little bit helps, and secondly, it would be easier for the rest of society to accept the sacrifices it is being asked to undertake.”

Radical Approach

The Catholic Church owns about 100,000 properties in Italy, a third of which are commercial, according to the Italian Radicals party, which historically has challenged the church.

“We need to change the law and establish a sensible principle: all commercial activities, no matter who runs them, have to pay taxes,” Mario Staderini, secretary of the party, said in an interview. “Otherwise there is unfair competition with those who runs a business without a religious signboard.”

Support for change also comes from Environment Minister Corrado Clini, who said last month in a speech in Genoa that the church must pay because there is “no room for privileges.”

Ambiguous Law

The church must pay property tax on buildings that are designated as “purely commercial,” based on an Italian law originating 20 years ago and extended in a 2006 amendment. The wording is ambiguous when it comes to clinics that have a chapel or monasteries that offer bed and breakfast accommodation and leaves room for “undeserved exemptions,” said Ugo Arrigo, an economics professor at Bicocca University in Milan.

“The Church really wants to respect the obligations that we have with the State and with the citizens,” Beniamino Depalma, bishop of Nola, near Naples, said in an interview.

Talks are continuing between Monti and the country’s top bishop, Angelo Bagnasco, on how to eliminate the “grey zone” around tax exemptions, daily il Corriere della Sera reported on Jan. 9. An agreement may be announced as soon as the middle of next month, the newspaper said.

Both the technocrat government, led by Monti since he was sworn in on Nov. 16, and CEI, the organization representing Italian bishops, declined to comment.

Bagnasco has signaled he would be open to looking at the issue. If there are points that need clarifying or reviewing, then there are “no prejudgments from our part,” he told reporters in the city of Genoa.

Ending Abuse

“The current norms are correct in that they recognize the social value of activities carried out by many nonprofits, among them church ones,” Bagnasco said. “It is also correct that if there have been concrete cases in which a tax that should have been paid wasn’t, the abuse is verified and end it.”

Monti has pushed through an austerity package that includes an overhaul of the pension system, higher gasoline prices and additional taxes on luxury goods. The plan, which won final approval by the Italian Parliament on Dec. 22, reinstates a tax on homes abolished by the previous government, known as the ICI.

“The current government has one very clear assignment and that is cleaning up the economic and financial mess,” Sophie in’t Veld, a Dutch member of the European Parliament who chairs the platform for Secularism in politics, said in a Dec. 22 phone interview. “I would be surprised if they use their energy to pick a fight with the Catholic Church at this moment in time.”

Lateran Treaty

Catholicism lost its status as a formal state religion in a renegotiation of the Lateran Treaty in 1984. In exchange, taxpayers were given a choice to send about 0.8 percent of their income tax to religious affiliations or public coffers.

The Vatican, the world’s smallest state, swung to a profit of 9.8 million euros in 2010 after three years of losses during the global financial crisis. About 90 percent of the country’s citizens describe themselves as Catholic, with a third of them practicing, according to the CIA World Factbook.

Properties based in the Vatican City are exempt from paying Italian taxes as they are considered part of a separate sovereign state under the original 1929 Lateran Treaty.

The Vatican pays tax on buildings that carry out commercial activities included in the Italian land registry, said spokesman Father Federico Lombardi in a Jan. 7 phone interview. Such businesses include stores.

The church should look at what people are putting up with economically and act accordingly, said Felice Belisario, a senator for Italy of Values party.

“When such serious sacrifices are being asked of ordinary people, you cannot have such unjustified exceptions,” Belisario said on his blog. “Our position is clear, render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”

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

S&P’s Latest Downgrades May Split the Longstanding “Merkozy” Alliance.

Who will suffer most from Standard and Poor’s European sovereign-debt downgrades of January 13? Not France, though it lost its triple-A rating. Not Italy, whose rating dropped to BBB+, out of respectable A status. Rather, it will be Germany. The continent’s powerhouse guarded its sterling rating, but Chancellor Angela Merkel will find it lonely at the top.

S&P slashed not just France and Italy, but seven other European nations, including Austria, Portugal, and Spain. Only Germany-plus Finland, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands-held on to top-grade status. Germany even won some praise from the ratings analysts. They said the nation’s AAA rating reflects “the government’s track record of prudent fiscal policies and expenditure discipline.”

Conventional wisdom holds that S&P’s verdict on France’s high government debt and labor-market stagnation is a blow for, well, the French. The French certainly aren’t happy about it, and last month, government officials argued that Britain, not France, should see a ratings cut. French central-bank head Christan Noyer pointed out that the U.K. “has greater deficits, as much debt, more inflation, and less growth.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Six Billion Euro Gap: Commerzbank Capital Shortfall ‘Bigger Than First Thought’

The capital gap at Commerzbank, Germany’s second-biggest bank, is bigger than previously believed, according to reports. The bank may need to take emergency steps to tackle the six billion-euro shortfall. Ratings agency Moody’s, meanwhile, may downgrade Commerzbank’s creditworthiness.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Breaking: Fluoride Linked to #1 Cause of Death in New Research

Groundbreaking new research has linked sodium fluoride to cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death worldwide. Researchers found that fluoride consumption directly stimulates the hardening of your arteries, a condition known as atherosclerosis that is highly correlated with the #1 killer. Sodium fluoride is currently added to the water supply of many cities worldwide, despite extreme opposition from health professionals and previous studies linking it to decreased IQ and infertility.

Over 24 other studies have unanimously concluded that fluoride negatively impacts cognitive function. In addition to these 24 studies focusing on cognition, over 100 animal studies have linked fluoride to an increase in male infertility, diabetes, and a whole host of other health problems. In the latest study on cognition, it was found that that 28% of the children who lived in an area where fluoride levels were low achieved the highest test scores. This means that the children exposed to less fluoride scored normal or advanced, while only 8% of fluoridated children did the same.

Since 1962 the government has recommended fluoride levels between 0.7 and 1.2 milligrams per liter in the nations drinking water. Toted as an excellent cavity blocker, fluoride has been praised for its alleged power to prevent tooth decay and boost oral health. Research has now revealed that fluoride, the very substance that is supposed to prevent tooth decay, actually does nothing to prevent against cavities. In fact, vitamin D has been found to be significantly more effective in cavity prevention without the extreme side effects. Instead of damaging your body, vitamin D slashes your risk of just about everything fluoride consumption causes.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Houston Police Seek Help in Solving Murder as Relatives Dispute Iranian Activist Reports

Authorities in Houston are seeking the public’s help in solving the murder of 30-year-old woman as her relatives question reports that she was an activist for women’s rights in Iran.

Ali Bagherzadeh, 27, held a press conference outside of the Houston Police Department on Wednesday to seek information the shooting death of his sister, 30-year-old Gelareh Bagherzadeh.

“She was a very loving person, very kind and always tried to be helpful to people,” Ali Bagherzadeh told following the press conference. “She was such a sweetheart. I can’t think of anybody who would so such a horrible thing. They shouldn’t be out there.”

Bagherzadeh said his sister — a molecular genetic technology student at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center — was a dedicated student who was “very social” and active within Houston’s Persian community, but denied news reports that she was critical of the Iranian government.

“As a family, we don’t believe it’s a political manner,” he said. “She wasn’t politically active. She wasn’t even watching any political channels, she wasn’t into it. I have no idea how those rumors got started.”…

[Return to headlines]

New York Times Promotes Freedom for Terrorist

Sara Bennett, an attorney for convicted communist terrorist Judith Clark, is optimistic that her client will benefit from a New York Times Magazine article advocating her release from prison. “Did I think they did a good job for my client? Yes I do,” she said in a telephone interview. She said she is hoping for a meeting with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to ask for clemency for Clark.

A member of the Weather Underground and its May 19 Communist Organization spin-off, Clark was involved in a terrorist assault that left Nyack, New York Police Sgt. Edward O’Grady, Patrolman Waverly Brown and Brinks guard Peter Paige dead. A website, memorial and scholarship have been created in their honor.

The Times story, “Judith Clark’s Radical Transformation,” was written by Tom Robbins, a former Village Voice writer now at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism who visited Clark in prison and apparently became smitten with her. Clark, he writes, “is a model for what’s possible in prison.”

Attorney Bennett insisted that Clark has shown “genuine remorse,” a theme of the New York Times Magazine story, which also emphasizes her attendance at Jewish services in prison.

Incredibly, the Times story confirms that Clark earned educational degrees in prison, courtesy of “tuition aid” provided by the taxpayers. These degrees are also said to be proof of her turnaround behind bars.

Today, Clark claims to be a “writer and poet” who is “working for personal and social transformation of herself and others.” The Times piece was the cover story in the magazine and showed the convicted killer to be a gray-haired old lady who wants to be free from prison to be with her daughter.

But former FBI informant Larry Grathwohl, who infiltrated the Weather Underground and knew Clark, is among those urging strong opposition to her release.

“Here’s another 60s and 70s terrorist who has found God and has changed her life,” he says sarcastically. “The New York Times article contains very little in the way of repentance and only lightly touches on the families and children of the officers killed that day. Mostly it’s a story about her and the path she chose that resulted in the deaths of two police officers and a Brinks guard.”

[Return to headlines]

Obama Rejects Controversial Keystone Oil Pipeline

US president Barack Obama has rejected plans for a vast oil pipeline reaching from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, The Washington Post is reporting. The Keystone XL pipeline has been criticised by environmentalists, but promoted by Republicans because they argue it would create jobs.

Canadian energy infrastructure firm, TransCanada had applied for a permit to build the pipeline. It would ferry bitumen from the Alberta oil sands to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico. Environmentalists cited the enormous greenhouse gas emissions from the fuel that would be produced, as well as the risk to the sensitive ecosystem of the Nebraska Sandhills, through which the pipeline was planned to pass.

Last November the government announced a new environmental review of the project, delaying the final decision until 2013 — after the upcoming presidential election. However, late last year Republicans forced the government to make a decision within 60 days.

The rejection is not final — TransCanada will have the opportunity to reapply for a permit to build the pipeline along a route that avoids the Sandhills region. Still, Republicans — including US presidential candidate Mitt Romney — have reacted by excoriating Obama for his decision.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Anti-Islamic Groups Across Europe to Attend Far-Right Rally

Far-right anti-Islamic groups from across Europe and the US are planning to rally in Denmark, for what organisers have billed as the birth of a European movement.

More than 10 anti-Islamic groups, led by the English Defence League, are expected to send representatives.

Robert Spencer, the controversial founder of Stop the Islamisation of America, is also expected to make a speech.

“There will be speeches from every defence league in Europe,” said Isak Nygren, the spokesman for the Swedish Defence League. “I hope we can show that there’s resistance against Islamisation of Europe, that we can inspire each other.”

The EDL has held one European rally before, sending members to Amsterdam in 2010 in support of Dutch anti-Islamic politician Geert Wilders, who was in court accused of insulting religious and ethnic groups.

Mr Wilders, who has moved to distance himself from the EDL, is not expected to attend the event.

Stephen Lennon, the former football hooligan who formed the EDL three years ago, however said he was inspired by the Amsterdam gathering to link up with other far-Right groups in Europe, setting up the European Freedom Initiative.

He described the planned gathering, in Aarhus on March 31, as the “first proper European event”.

“We’re hoping this will be the launch of a wider European Defence League,” he said. “We don’t expect it to be big, but our first event wasn’t that big, and they’re just going to get bigger and bigger.”

Mr Lennon, who was convicted of assault in November 2011 after headbutting another EDL member at a rally, said his members were prepared for violence.

“The likelihood is that the local Islamic community will come and attack us, aided and abetted by the far-Left,” he said. “We come to protest peacefully, it’s not our fault that when we come out, that they come to try and bash our heads in.”

Imran Shah, the spokesman for the Islamic Society of Denmark, urged Muslims to stay away from the rally and called on the Danish government to act against the growing movement, especially in the wake of last year’s massacre of 77 people by Norwegian far-Right extremist Anders Behring Breivik.

“We’ve seen what the rhetoric of hate can do in Norway. Do we want some deaths here before we react?”, he said.

Breivik was an early European supporter of the EDL, attending a rally in Bradford in 2010, and claiming hundreds of EDL members as his Facebook friends..

Matthew Goodwin, an expert on the far-Right at Nottingham University, said that the EDL’s move into Europe is worrying.

“It shows us something that I don’t think British commentators have grasped, which is that elsewhere in Europe, the EDL is seen as being

quite a significant movement,” he said. “When you look at guys like Anders Breivik and the Danish Defence League, we can see how groups in

Europe are looking at Britain and the EDL as a model.”

Weyman Bennet, a spokesman for Unite Against Fascism, said: “Everywhere they’ve called a demonstration there’s been violence. Across

Europe, the Sweden Democrats and the Danish People’s Party, all of them are growing by using this rhetoric. We see them as a group of

people who will try and encourage fascist politics they’ve simply swapped anti-semitism for anti-Islam.”

Denmark is a natural choice for the EDL to launch its first European march.

The Danish People’s Party is one of the most electorally successful anti-immigrant parties in Europe, winning 12.3 per cent in elections last September. The Danish Defence League has grown rapidly since its founding a year ago, with chapters already set up in more than 10 Danish cities.

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

Armenian Bill: Turkish-French Associations Plan Protests

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, JANUARY 18 — Turkish-French associations in France will hold rallies in Paris against an Armenian resolution to be debated at the French Senate on January 23. The rallies, as Anatolia news agency reports, would take place on January 21 and 23 and are designed to protest the Armenian resolution adopted at the French Parliament in December, a resolution that criminalizes the rejection of Armenian allegations pertaining to the incidents of 1915. The rally on January 21 would begin at the Denfert Rochereau square and end at the French Senate. The rally on January 23 would take place in front of the French Senate. During the rallies, Turkish-French associations would stress that the Armenian resolution was against “the freedom of expression and the French Constitution”. Furthermore, the rallies would underline that “history must be written by historians and not parliaments”.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Eastern Europe Swings Right

Hungary is almost broke and has lurched to the right so sharply that the EU has launched legal action in defense of democracy. But the problem is far more widespread: Nationalists and populists are gaining ground across Eastern Europe.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Germany: Cost of Nuke Phase-Out ‘Could Near €2 Trillion’

Tech giant Siemens has warned that Germany’s nuclear phase-out could cost the country nearly €2 trillion by 2030, much higher than previously estimated. “This will either be paid by energy customers or taxpayers,” the Siemens board member in charge of energy issues Michael Süß told the Reuters news service, estimating costs of about €1.7 trillion. “As an industry, Germany has always reached it goals. Now the whole world is looking at us. If the energy shift should fail … it would undermine Germany’s credibility as an industry nation.”

Reuters news agency said the estimate was based on the costs of expanding renewable energy sources. Costs could be reduced if Germans relied more on gas, Süß said. Siemens built all of Germany’s 17 nuclear plants and offered technical support until the German government announced last spring it would begin phasing out nuclear energy in the wake of the Japanese Fukushima earthquake and tsunami disaster, with a shut down largely complete by 2022.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Hungarian Leader ‘Infected With Bonaparte Virus’

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán plans to defend himself before European Parliament on Wednesday. But German commentators aren’t cutting him much slack. They say the EU was right to crack down on Budapest for its authoritarian and undemocratic reforms.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Into the Mind of a Neanderthal

Palaeoanthropologists now know a great deal about these ice-age Europeans who flourished between 200,000 and 30,000 years ago. We know, for example, that Neanderthals shared about 99.84 per cent of their DNA with us, and that we and they evolved separately for several hundred thousand years. We also know Neanderthal brains were a bit larger than ours and were shaped a bit differently. And we know where they lived, what they ate and how they got it.

Skeletal evidence shows that Neanderthal men, women and children led very strenuous lives, preoccupied with hunting large mammals. They often made tactical use of terrain features to gain as much advantage as possible, but administered the coup de grace with thrusting spears. Based on their choice of stone for tools, we know they almost never travelled outside small home territories that were rarely over 1000 square kilometres.

The Neanderthal style of hunting often resulted in injuries, and the victims were often nursed back to health by others. But few would have survived serious lower body injuries, since individuals who could not walk might well have been abandoned.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italy: Costa Concordia: Captain ‘Says He Tripped and Fell Into Life Boat’

The captain of the crippled Costa Concordia cruise ship, Francesco Schettino, has reportedly said the reason he was in a life boat while thousands of panic-stricken passengers and crew were trying to evacuate was because he “tripped” and fell into the rescue craft.

The captain confirmed that he took the cruise liner close to Giglio’s rocky coast in order to give a ‘salute’ to an old colleague, a former Costa Cruises captain named Mario Palombo.

“It’s true that the salute was for Commodore Mario Palombo, with whom I was on the telephone. The route was decided as we left Civitavecchia but I made a mistake on the approach. I was navigating by sight because I knew the depths well and I had done this manoeuvre three or four times. But this time I ordered the turn too late and I ended up in water that was too shallow.

“I don’t know why it happened, I was a victim of my instincts.” Once he had reached dry land and was allowed to leave the harbour master’s office, Schettino’s primary concern was to buy some socks.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italy Mystified by Shipwreck Captain: The Bizarre Behavior of Francesco Schettino

Captain Francesco Schettino seems less credible with each statement he makes about the Costa Concordia disaster. Italians wonder whether he was under the influence of drugs or in shock after the accident, while fellow officers describe him as a daredevil. One said he would “even drive a bus like a Ferrari.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Norway: Locals React to Embassy’s Crime Warning

A warning about recent violent assaults in Oslo that was sent out this week by the US Embassy to resident American citizens hasn’t been particularly well-received by local Norwegians. Several claim the embassy has over-reacted, and that crime in Oslo is no worse than in most American cities and towns.

The US Embassy is located across the street from the Royal Palace and its surrounding park, and just down the street from the scene of the tram stabbings. PHOTO: Views and News

The warning, called a “Personal Safety Reminder,” was sent via e-mail to US citizens who have registered with the embassy in Oslo. It noted how Norwegian media have reported “a number of violent assaults in the Oslo area in the past several months,” including the “daytime knife attack on a tram” and other recent stabbings, including two near Oslo Central Station.

The embassy did not specifically mention a recent wave of robberies, rapes and other sexual assaults in Oslo, but in a message unlikely to cheer promoters of tourism in the capital, the embassy noted that parks in Oslo “can be especially dangerous, even Slottsparken (The Palace Park) across from the US Embassy, which has been the site of multiple assaults.”

The embassy “wants to remind all US citizens to exercise basic safety precautions, even in a generally safe country like Norway, as you would in other locations.” It went on to advise against walking alone at night, to remain in well-lit areas with heavy traffic, to be “aware of your surroundings at all times” and “trust your instincts,” and to “keep your cell phone with you and charged, to call for help if necessary.”

The warning was picked up by local media, and Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) carried out some random interviews on the streets of Oslo. Several of those said on national radio Wednesday morning that they thought the warning was “exaggerated,” even though Norwegian officials and local police have been issuing plenty of warnings of their own.

“What’s happened in Oslo are things we can’t guard against anywhere,” said one woman. Added another: “I can’t imagine it’s any more dangerous in Oslo than in the USA.”

One American was given some air time on a later broadcast, and said she thought the warnings were well-intentioned. “You can say a lot about the advice, but I think the embassy was just showing some concern for Americans in Norway,” said Lisa Cooper, who spoke in Norwegian, has lived in Norway for many years and been active in various work and social issues.

“That is actually unusual, but very sweet,” Cooper told NRK.

           — Hat tip: The Observer[Return to headlines]

Norway: US Embassy: ‘Don’t Walk Alone in Oslo at Night’

The United States embassy sent an email to US citizens in Oslo on Tuesday urging them to take extra care when out and about in the Norwegian capital after a spate of violent crimes in recent months.

The embassy made reference to a knife attack on a tram at Solli Plass on January 5th, two stabbing incidents at Oslo Central Station on January 10th, as well as a number of assaults in the city’s parks, particularly Slottsparken (The Palace Park), national broadcaster NRK reports.

Americans are advised by the embassy to observe five basic safety procedures, “even in a generally safe country like Norway.”

1. If possible, do not walk alone at night. If you are out late, arrange to walk with others or consider another form of transportation.

2. Remain in well-lighted areas with heavy traffic.

3. Be aware of your surroundings at all times; see potential threats before they become actual threats.

4. Trust your instincts. If something seems wrong, get yourself out of the area.

5. Keep your cell phone with you and charged to call for help if necessary. The police emergency number is 112, which you can dial from any land line or cell phone.

Norwegian media have reported extensively in recent months on an unprecedented number of attacks, especially rapes, in the city’s street and parks.

           — Hat tip: The Observer[Return to headlines]

Norway Jewish Community Shrinking

Communities in Oslo and Trondheim are experiencing a decline in numbers, reports say.

Statistics Norway (SSB) figures show these communities have shrunk by almost a fifth in the last 10 years, falling from 1,015 members to 819.

The Oslo Jewish Community’s Ervin Kohn believes that one of the reasons is people not joining the congregation due to fear of being openly Jewish.

“I just got off the phone with someone in Stavanger who used the desire to keep a low profile as an argument against joining,” he told Christian newspaper Vårt Land.

He cites other possible factors as being many members having moved from Norway, marrying out of the congregation, the register has been updated, and deaths.

Norway is committed to protecting those who may be subjected to discrimination, hostility, and violence due to their religion.

The Ministry of Justice has turned down two previous applications by the synagogue in Oslo for funding to cover electronic and physical security measures.

Saying a recent meeting with Deputy Minister Terje Moland Pedersen was more positive, because “what we said was understood”, Mr Kohn continued, “I think the fact that Norwegian Jews are a national minority in Norway is sometimes forgotten.”

           — Hat tip: The Observer[Return to headlines]

Solar Subsidy Sinkhole: Re-Evaluating Germany’s Blind Faith in the Sun

The costs of subsidizing solar electricity have exceeded the 100-billion-euro mark in Germany, but poor results are jeopardizing the country’s transition to renewable energy. The government is struggling to come up with a new concept to promote the inefficient technology in the future.

The only thing that’s missing at the moment is sunshine. For weeks now, the 1.1 million solar power systems in Germany have generated almost no electricity. The days are short, the weather is bad and the sky is overcast.

As is so often the case in winter, all solar panels more or less stopped generating electricity at the same time. To avert power shortages, Germany currently has to import large amounts of electricity generated at nuclear power plants in France and the Czech Republic. To offset the temporary loss of solar power, grid operator Tennet resorted to an emergency backup plan, powering up an old oil-fired plant in the Austrian city of Graz.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sweden: 86 Charged After Massive Booze Smuggling Probe

More than 80 people were charged on Tuesday for participating in a comprehensive smuggling operation that brought huge quantities of alcohol purchased in Germany into Sweden. Three men from Sundsvall in northern Sweden are suspected of running the operation, which utilized trucks to transport thousands of litres of beer, wine, and spirits bought at large liquor stores in northern Germany back to Sweden to be sold online.

In addition to a 26-year-old man believed to be the brains behind the operation, prosecutors on Tuesday charged more than 80 other people in Sundsvall for participating in the operation as drivers, warehouse operators, and distributors. According to the local Sundsvalls Tidning newspaper, a total of 86 people were charged for involvement in the operation.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Tropical Island Warmth — In Icy Germany

The long, dark nights and short, chilly days of January in Germany can fuel dreams of running off to a tropical island. People living in or near Berlin can hop on the train and have a day out on one. Hannah Cleaver investigated. Scarf, a woolly hat and gloves, a sarong, swimming costume and sandals; remembering what not to forget when preparing for a day at the Tropical Islands can be somewhat confusing.

The cold weather clothing has to be worn for the trip into the Brandenburg countryside, only to be shed as fast as possible once inside a giant dome, where it is a steady 26 degrees Centigrade. The enormous building, created as a hanger for cargo airships which were never built, is said to be one of the largest domes in the world by volume. While the idea for airships was soon punctured, the holiday alternative has proved to be a surprisingly enduring draw for the area around Krausnick.

Inside there is a little hill in the middle, covered in tropical trees and bushes, with waterfalls and swimming pools dotted around — and a beach stretching along one side. The beach is made of real sand and slopes down into two large swimming pools where the water is a suitably tropical temperature. The back wall is even painted with sky, but the illusion it creates is only momentary.

Commentators have been saying for years that as the Chinese economy gains strength, its people travel the world and become coveted for their tourist dollars. That prediction appears to be coming true — their spending could outstrip the Germans’ within the next two years, Kayser-Tilosen said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: Alarming Increase in Facebook Related Divorces in 2011

A survey carried out by uk divorce website in December 2009 found that 20% of behaviour petitions contained the word “Facebook”. A follow up survey in December 2011 has found that number has alarmingly increased during 2011 to 33% of behaviour allegations in petitions. 5000 petitions were queried as in the 2009 sample.

The most common reasons where Facebook was cited as evidence were once again relating to spouses behaviour with the opposite sex but also spouses using Facebook to make comments about their exes once they had separated and using their public walls as weapons in their divorce battle.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: Talk at Queen Mary Cancelled After Threats of Violence

A talk organised yesterday by the Queen Mary Atheism, Secularism and Humanism Society on ‘Sharia Law and Human Rights’ had to be cancelled after threats of violence.

The President of the Society, describes what happened:…

           — Hat tip: ESW[Return to headlines]


Culture: Kosovo Humanistic Institute Soon to Open in Rome

It aims to spread Albanian cultural heritage

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JANUARY 17 — The aim of the new Pjeter Bogdani humanistic institute is to contribute to the spread of Albanian culture and historical, literary and artistic heritage in the countries that border the Adriatic. Bogdani was an Albanian Roman Catholic archbishop writer and in the seventeenth century, who played a crucial role in the resistance against the Ottoman Empire in the Balkans — in particular in Kosovo — and in defence of Christian Europe.

The institute “Will involve Arbesh, Albanian and Italian academics,” said Kosovan ambassador Albert Prenkaj, on the sidelines of the ceremony that took place this morning in Rome on the occasion of the centenary of Albanian independence. “I hope that the new institute can promote collaboration with Italian and foreign cultural institutes and that in the none too distant future it can lay the foundations for the creation of an Albanian Cultural Academy in Rome.” Today, recalled the ambassador during the ceremony, “most Albanians, live in states where they enjoy freedom, independence and a now established democracy. Kosovo (with an Albanian majority, ed.), occupied for 90 years, is now a state with a clear vision towards Euro-Atlantic integration.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Double Standard in Application of Egyptian Contempt of Religion Law

by Mary Abdelmassih

(AINA) — Anger and frustration have risen among Egypt’s Coptic Christians after the recent escalation of court cases against Copts charged with contempt of Islam. Copts accuse the authorities, including the ruling Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF), of exercising double standards in the application of the “contempt of religion” law. In the last month three cases have been brought against Copts, based on accusations mostly from postings on Facebook or Twitter of cartoons or comments deemed by Islamists as insulting to Islam.

“Copts have received a barrage of insults to their faith and their symbols and have had churches torched and destroyed, and no one has done anything about it,” said Dr Naguib Gobrail, head of the Egyptian Union of Human Rights Organizations. “The law of contempt of religion is applied solely to punish the Copts.”

The case against billionaire Naguib Sawiris, a Copt, for contempt of religion after tweeting cartoons, was heard on January 14 before a misdemeanor court in Cairo. The case was brought forth by Islamist lawyer Mamdouh Ismail and fourteen other lawyers, who filed a complaint accusing Sawiris of defamation of Islam and deliberately “mocking Islamic symbols and attire..”

Sawiris, who is also a top political figure and founder of the liberal Free Egyptians Party, had posted on his twitter account in June 2011 an illustration of Mickey Mouse with a beard and Minnie Mouse wearing a niqab (full face veil); it was accompanied by the comment “Mickey and Minnie after.” After the Islamist uproar, he apologized and if it was misunderstood and expressed his full respect for Islam and Muslims. He removed the cartoons, which he had originally copied from Saudi Arabian Internet websites. Islamist organized a boycott his mobile telecommunications network Mobinil, which lost over one million customers.

During the trial one of the Islamist lawyers, Dargham, said that this was the first case in which Islam is insulted in an “Islamic State,” described Sawiris as a “criminal” and called for his arrest and prevention from leaving Egypt, which caused a brawl between lawyers from both sides, forcing the judge to adjourn the case to February 11. If convicted, Sawiris could face imprisonment.

Three week ago Coptic student Gamal Masood (17), from the village of Bahig and Adr in Assuit province, was assaulted by his fellow students after the school social worker had printed and hung on a wall a web page from Facebook with the photo of Gamal and a drawing which Muslims regarded as that of their prophet. Although he denied the charge, violence and protests broke out in three villages. Muslims from the surrounding villages protested for two days. They torched his home, together with four other homes of friends and relatives. To calm them down, the head of security promised them that Gamal and his family would be evicted. While Gamal’s investigations were still going on, a meeting was held on December 31 at the Assiut governor’s office, attended by representatives from Al-Azhar, Salafists from the area who won the last parliamentary elections, church representatives and the authorities, where it was decided that Gamal, also accused of causing sedition, would be handed over to prosecution, and he and his entire family would be expelled from the county. Moreover, it was decided that the priests in the area had to publish an official apology in all the media. The young student is still detained, and his trial is scheduled for February 7.

Coptic Romany Saeed Saad, from Marouf village, Edfu, in Aswan province, was condemned by Muslim villagers to be expelled from the village and forced to sell his home. He was accused of disrespecting Islam’s prophet during a brawl with another Copt during which Romany allegedly cursed a prophet (it is not clear which prophet was referenced). The villagers sent a query to Al-Azhar Fatwa section on January 2, 2012 to seek their opinion. The Fatwa section answered that there was no blame as the quarrel was between two Copts and mentioning the word “prophet” does not mean it was the Prophet Mohamed. The Salafists in the village rejected this opinion and sought a second one, all the while preventing the return of the Romany family to their village. “Until the situation calms down, we had to find a place in Edfu for the Romany family to stay,” said Ragab Ahmed Hussein,a member of the popular movement, “as well as a job for him in order to earn a living.”

At the end of November 2011 a Cairo court sentenced 23-year-old Copt Ayman Youssef Mansour to three years in prison for expressing opinions on his Facebook page which were considered derogatory to Islam and a threat to national unity. The verdict did not disclose what he said. The authorities tracked him down through his Internet address “after receiving a huge amount of complaints.”

the Egyptian Penal Code defines Contempt of Religion as “Whoever exploits religion in order to promote extremist ideologies by word of mouth, in writing or in any other manner, with a view to stirring up sedition, disparaging or holding in contempt any divine religion or its adherents, or endangering national unity, shall be punished with imprisonment for between six months and five years or a fine of at least 500 Egyptian pounds.”

According to Dr. Naguib Gobrial, he and other lawyers have filed several complaints to the Attorney General against Muslims who are in contempt of the Christian religion, without any action taken. He said the latest was a communication sent to Field Marshal Tantawi, head of SCAF, against Yasser Borhamy, a religious leader from the Salafi-oriented Nour Party, who wrote in Al Masry Al Youm newspaper on 4/1/2012 that the doctrine of the Christians is “corrupt.” Moreover, Borhamy described on the internet site Voice of Salafis all religious edicts that consider Christians as infidels and criminals who should not be greeted, and whose businesses ought to be boycotted, as “excellent” and “strong” fatwas.

Other complaints filed against Muslims:

Muhammad Aslam Abdullah, head of the Islamic Enlightenment Center who described Christianity as evil, that promotes adultery, alcohol consumption and womanizing, and Christians as infidels and polytheists.

Hossam al-Bukhari, spokesman for Support for New Muslims organization, and Sheikh Mohammed Al Zoghbi for incitement to attack the Church of Our Lady in Embaba (AINA 5-8-2011), and surrounding the Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Cairo with Muslim protesters, and incitement to kill Christians (AINA 4-30-2011).

Mohammed Mursi, the head Muslim Brotherhood Justice Party, accusing him of incitement, slander, damaging the national economy and instigating sedition.

At the end of 2010, several complaints were presented to the Attorney General, without any action taken, against Dr. Selim el Awa, Dr. Mohamed Emara, Dr. Zaghloul El-Naggar and Sheikh Ahmed Abu Islam for describing the Bible as “fake” and “Greek mythology.” Emara also published a book entitled “Sectarian Strife: When, how and why? an eye opener,” in which he regarded the Christians as non-believers and the blood of the Copts and their wealth as “permissible” for Muslims.

Medhat Kelada, head of the Union of Coptic European Organizations for Human Rights (UCEOHR), criticized the Egyptian government believing that the law on the defamation of religion in Egypt applies to Christians only. “Muslims disrespect and demonize the Christian faith openly in the media while the authorities look the other way.”

“Why has the law of contempt of religion not been applied to Salafist Dr. Borhamy,” says Kelada, “who issued a Fatwa two weeks ago for Muslims ‘not to extend Christmas greeting to Copts’ on January 7, 2012 (Coptic Christmas), but was applied to the Copt Ayman Youssef Mansour, who is serving a three-year prison term for expressing anti-Islamic opinions on the web? Why bring a case against Sawiris while Borhamy is left unchecked and is still insulting Christianity and calling Copts non-believers who ought to be ostracized in the media?”

           — Hat tip: Mary Abdelmassih[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Students on Hunger Strike Demand Right to Wear Veil During Exams

Manouba, 17 Jan. (AKI) — Six female Tunisian students have started a hunger strike to demand the right to wear the niqab, the veil leaving only a slot for the wearer’s eyes, according to the official Tap new agency.

The students from Manouba University in northeastern Tunisia launched the hunger strike on Monday calling for the university to respect their demand to be permitted to take exams completely veiled.

Protests in Manouba started on 28 November when students donning the niqab were not allowed to take final exams while wearing their veils. Demonstrations followed by sides calling for the right to attend exams fully veiled and students opposed.

Academic activities at the university have been periodically suspended since the start of protests.

Exams are scheduled to be given on 24 January.

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

Middle East

Saudi Arabia: Shia Protesters Shot Dead by Security Forces

Riad, 13 Jan. (AKI) — Saudi Arabian security forces shot dead at least two people and wounded four others during a clash with protesters and in the desert kingdom’s east, according to local media.

Riad police chief Masur al-Turki was quoted by Saudi news agency Spa as saying that the violence occurred late Thursday in the village of Awamiyah when a police patrol came under attack by a group of Shia demonstrators.

The oil-rich Eastern Province has a Shia majority that says it is marginalized by the royal family — the Sunni House of Saud.

“When the patrol was carrying out a security check it was attacked by a group of protesters with Molotov cocktails, setting on fire a patrol vehicle” said al-Turki. “While agents were trying to put out the flames they came under fire and responded but shooting at the aggressors.”

A similar incident on 24 November resulted in the death of four Shia protesters in Eastern Province.

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

South Asia

Pakistan: Lahore: Christians Protest Over ‘Gosha-E-Aman’, Demanding Restitution and Compensation

Hundreds of people demonstrate near the site of the old institute demolished on 10 January. For the local community, that day is now known as ‘Black Tuesday’. Mgr Shaw dismisses the authorities’ claim that Christians were illegally occupying the property. For Anglican bishop, their action is symptomatic of the injustice towards and lack of respect for religious minorities.

Lahore (AsiaNews) — The Christian community continues its protest against the demolition of the ‘Gosha-e-Aman’ (Corner of Peace) Institute, open to both Christians and Muslims, by the Punjab provincial government. Hundreds of people have taken to the street, including priests, nuns, pastors, activists, representatives of civil society groups as well as Christians from 20 different denominations. In their view, the government’s action on 10 January against the institute (which was also a community centre) was unlawful.

Located on Allama Iqbal Road, in Lahore’s Garhi Shahu neighbourhood, the institute was run by Caritas Pakistan and the Lahore Charitable Association, and was open to Christians and Muslims, the poor and seniors, irrespective of religion or social status.

By ordering the demolition of the building and the seizure of the land, provincial authorities ignored a court order staying any action before it could rule on who owned building and land.

Equally, demonstrators slammed the “desecration of Holy Bibles” and the “destruction of personal property and items” during the demolition.

Peter Jacob, executive director of the National Commission for Justice and Peace; Joseph Francis, director of the Centre for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement; and Younis Alam from the Minority Rights Commission as well as many Catholic and Protestant leaders were among those present (pictured) at the rally.

For Christians, 10 January shall be remembered as ‘Black Tuesday’. It will go down in history as another example of the violence and persecution the provincial government has perpetrated against Pakistan’s religious minorities.

Protesters want the return of the property and compensation for the damages incurred. Otherwise, they will continue their action until the authorities meet their demands.

Mgr Sebastian Shaw, auxiliary bishop of Lahore, blames the Lahore Development Authority (LDA) for the unlawful seizure of the land.

“If we held the land without a title, why does the government of Punjab say it will return it?” asked the prelate. The issue “is not about land, but about a blatant violation of the rights of the country’s minorities.”

Anglican Bishop Alexander John Malik agrees. “Such actions show what too much power can do, and are evidence of the great injustice inflicted upon Pakistan’s religious minorities,” he said.

Founded in 1887, the Gosha-e-Aman Institute covered a two-acre area worth billions of rupees. It included an old age home, a girl’s school, a convent and a chapel for prayer.

The issue over the building and its surrounding land has been before the Lahore High Court for a while even though the Church has all the papers to prove ownership.

The controversy over ownership began when a woman convert to Islam claimed ownership to two rooms in the building after she was sheltered there.

(Shafique Khokhar and Jibran Khan contributed to the article)

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

Far East

China Click Fight Begins as New Year Overwhelms Rail Website

Jan. 16 (Bloomberg) — Kevin Zhang has enlisted four friends in Beijing to help with possibly hours of mouse-clicking tonight. Their task — booking his Lunar New Year train tickets. Zhang needed more than 50 attempts to book seats online earlier this month, he said, as the rail ministry’s website struggled to cope with 1 billion hits a day in the run-up to next week’s Lunar New Year holiday. Round two begins today as tickets for travel at the end of the weeklong break, China’s busiest travel period, start going on sale.

“I am prepared for a tough war,” said Zhang, 30, a marketing-company manager, who wants seats from the eastern city of Hefei to Beijing. He plans to try logging on to the website at home, while his friends make similar attempts elsewhere.

The ministry has made improvements after its website was overwhelmed by a 10-fold jump in visitor numbers that left millions of travelers clicking in frustration. The rail network will handle 5.88 million trips a day through Feb. 16 as migrant workers travel home to visit their families, according to the ministry. Rail tickets for the period are being sold online for the first time this year as the government tries to curb queues at stations and counter black-market sales.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Chinese Poised to Take German Tourism Crown

Germans are world champions of travel, spending more than €60 billion on trips abroad last year — but the Chinese could soon overtake them, according to Commerzbank statistics released Tuesday.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Kenya: Al-Shabab ‘Kills 6, Kidnaps 3 Kenyan Police’

Nairobi, 12 Jan. (AKI) — Six Kenyan police have been killed and three abducted by Islamist rebels based in neighbouring Somalia, according to Somalia Report, a non-profit Web-based news organisation.

Al-Shabab militants crossed into the northeast Kenyan province of Wajir during a late night raid on a police station on Wednesday, the site said.

Nobody has claimed responsibility but authorities in Kenyan capital Nairobi are say they are sure it was carried out by Al-Shabab, according to Somalia Report.

The militant group has been fighting to overthrow a transitional government supported by an African military coalition led by Uganda. But Kenyan forces unilaterally crossed into Somalia following rebel raids on its territory resulting in the abduction of foreigners.

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

South Africa: Shark Attack Closes World’s Deadliest Beach

Surfers in South Africa will have to find another favorite spot to catch a wave after local authorities decided today to close down a beach that has become notorious for fatal shark attacks. The decision came two days after a man was killed on Sunday.

Msungubana Ngidi, 25, was the latest shark attack victim on Second Beach in Port St. Johns on South Africa’s southeastern coast, where sharks have killed one person every year for the past six years. According to the International Shark Attack File compiled by a professional organization of workers studying sharks, no other beach in the world has had more fatal shark attacks since 2007.

Madikizela said a preliminary investigation commissioned by the Department of Environmental Affairs in 2009 found the nearby Umzimvubu River is a breeding place for the sharks, and that local traditional healers throw the entrails of slaughtered animals into the sea in the area. Madikizela said the initial investigation by the Natal Sharks Board hadn’t been completed because of lack of funding but was recently recommissioned and could be finished later this year.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


UK: Refugees Hit Jackpot With £5.2m Payouts

ASYLUM seekers and other immigrants are pocketing compensation cheques the size of lottery wins by suing the UK Borders Agency.

A staggering £5.2million has been shared out among the top 60 claimants over the past three years.

Last year alone the UKBA paid £14.2million in compensation, ex-gratia payments and legal fees.

One refugee got £170,000 while two others had £150,000 each. In 2009, one was awarded £200,000.

Over the three years, 20 claims were settled for more than £100,000 for incidents such as being detained too long or being hurt in custody.

In some cases the money is given to failed asylum seekers after they have left Britain.

Tory MP Priti Patel, who uncovered the figures, said: “Many of those receiving compensation will be illegal immigrants who should not even be in Britain.”

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Swedish Docs Deny Transexual’s Boob Job

A Swedish transsexual has reported three plastic surgery clinics to Sweden’s Equality Ombudsman (Diskrimineringsombudsmannen — DO) after repeatedly being turned down for breast implant surgery. “The whole thing was both offensive and discriminating. I felt very sad,” the woman wrote in her complaint, according to local paper Skånska Dagbladet.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]