Sunday, January 12, 2003

News Feed 20120120

Financial Crisis
»“Diamonds Are a Belgian’s Best Friend”
»Austria Issues 50-Year Bonds for First Time
»Belgian Unions Call General Strike for EU Summit Date
»Future EU Bail-Outs Only for Treaty Signatories, New Draft Says
»Germany Under Pressure to Pony Up
»Greece Races for Double Debt Deal in Last-Ditch Talks
»Greece: Stray Animals Phenomenon Explodes
»Hedge Funds Threaten Greece With Human Rights Court
»Irish Government in Legal Challenge on EU Fiscal Treaty
»Moody’s Keeps Top Rating for Switzerland
»Spain Threatens Criminal Action for Public Overspending
»Caroline Glick: Mainstreaming Anti-Semitism
»Etta James: Powerful Voice Behind ‘At Last,’ Dies at 73
»GM Reclaims World’s Biggest Carmaker Title as Toyota Skids
»Mother Mosque of America Woven Into Fabric of Life in Cedar Rapids
»Romney Hopes South Carolina is Next Step Toward Nomination
Europe and the EU
»“Speak Dutch to Get Social Welfare” — VVD
»Abandoning Ship: Italian Paper Likens Merkel to Shipwreck Captain
»Anti-Government Protests Pick Up Again in Romania
»France: Jewish Students Pass Themselves Off as Muslims to Avoid Being Physically Attacked
»Germany Marks Meeting That Unleashed Holocaust
»Latvia’s Russian Language Referendum Gets Green Light
»Sweden: Ikea Assembles Record Profits for 2011
»Sweden: Vilks Murder Plot Suspects Acquitted
»Sweden: Cops Quiz 11-Year-Old Over Gang Attacks
»Third of A380 Fleet Will be Inspected for Cracked Wings
»UK: Croydon Mosque Could Become Landmark in the Borough
»UK: Jonathan Freedland Attacks Harry’s Place, Defends East London Mosque
»UK: Long Lane Church to be Transformed Into a Mosque
»UK: Mosque to Host Interfaith Event
»UK: Put Abu Qatada on a Plane and Send Him to Jordan. If That Provokes a Political Crisis, Bring it on.
»UK’s First Course in Islam Launches This Week
»Volvo Wagon Sweden’s ‘Biggest Film Star’
»Women to Sue France Over Faulty Implants
»Bosnia-Herzogovina: Bishop Warns Fundamentalism is on the Rise
»Kosovo: Organ Trafficking, Also 2 Russian Victims
North Africa
»Egypt Waits for the Muslim Brotherhood — A Country in Suspended Animation
»Muslims in Egypt Burn Christian Homes and Shops, Attack Church
Israel and the Palestinians
»Fissure Opens in Whitehall
»Israeli Hackers Down Gaza, UAE Bank Websites
Middle East
»Iranian Crisis Escalates
»Syria Lost $2bn Due to EU Sanctions
»Anti-Putin Activist Complains of Security Harassment
»Editor Faces Extremism Charges
»Sled Dogs Earn Their Keep Giving Rides in City Parks
South Asia
»Four French Troops Killed by Afghan Soldier: Official
»France Halts Afghan Operations After Local Soldier Kills French Troops
»Myanmar President Says ‘There’s No Turning Back’ on Reforms
»Western Aid Workers Kidnapped in Pakistan
Far East
»Chinese Crackdown on Dissent Shows No Respite
Latin America
»Complacency Over the Falklands Could Cost Britain Dear
»David Cameron Should Cut Foreign Aid and Invest Money in Defending the Falklands
»Belgium: Clamp Down on Cheap Foreign Workers
»Swiss Asylum Seekers Jump 45 Percent in 2011
Culture Wars
»UK: Jury to Deliberate on Anti-Gay Leaflets
»Alien Life May Depend on Planetary Tilt

Financial Crisis

“Diamonds Are a Belgian’s Best Friend”

Antwerp’s diamond industry is booming. Last year turnover rose by nearly half to top 44.6 billion euros. The rise is largely due to the increased prices diamonds are fetching on the international markets. The industry is using the good figures to stress the importance of the sector for the Belgian economy as a whole. In 2011 the turnover of the diamond trade rose 47% in value from 30.1 billion euros in 2010 to 44.6 billion last year.

The figures are being published early this year. This is being linked to the poor press that the industry has suffered as a result of several high level fraud investigations and questions about the industry’s ties with the judiciary.

In 2010 the diamond industry was responsible for 5% of Belgium’s exports. Today the figure is 8.25%. The diamond industry has benefitted from increased demand and something of a scarcity on the market. It’s especially from growth countries like China and India that demand for diamonds is growing.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Austria Issues 50-Year Bonds for First Time

Austria has issued 50-year bonds for the first time in its history, the federal financing agency said on Thursday. The offering raised two billion euros ($2.58 billion) with the yield at 3.837 percent, slightly higher than the 3.434 percent rate for three billion euros’ worth of 10-year-bonds issued the same day, the state agency said.

The move comes after Austria last week lost its cherished triple-A rating from Standard & Poor’s, although it retains the top credit rank with fellow rating agencies Fitch and Moody’s.

The success of Austria’s bond issue “bears testimony to Austria’s strong credibility regarding credit”, the federal agency’s head Martha Oberndorfer said. A total of 62 percent of the new Austrian bonds were taken up by German buyers.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Belgian Unions Call General Strike for EU Summit Date

Belgian trade unions on Tuesday called a general strike for January 30, the date of a summit of European Union leaders in the capital Brussels. Terming the strike “inevitable” after tense negotiations with Socialist Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo’s government, the unions said in a statement that the action was “patently required to convince the government and employers to take fully into account the social reality for workers and those on benefits”.

Advance warning of strike action last week saw EU leaders toy with rescheduling their latest talks on the European economy and the debt crisis, with Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti saying it had been brought forward by a day. But EU president Herman Van Rompuy finally announced the original date of January 30, despite difficulties for Belgian authorities in guaranteeing normal service in Brussels and potential embarrassment for new premier Di Rupo.

Three union movements uniting behind the strike call said negotiations with the government on further likely spending cuts demanded by EU partners to stay within set deficit targets had proved “inconclusive”. Fearing new austerity measures on top of existing cuts amounting to more than 12 billion euros ($15 billion) for 2012, they demanded fresh talks with the government.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Future EU Bail-Outs Only for Treaty Signatories, New Draft Says

BRUSSELS — The latest version of the treaty on EU fiscal discipline says countries cannot get bail-outs unless they sign and apply the pact. It also makes concessions to non-euro countries who want to take part in eurozone summits. Giving in to a German demand on the issue, the text — seen by EUobserver — says: “Granting of assistance in the framework of new programmes under the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) will be conditional, as of 1 March 2013, on the ratification of this treaty by the contracting party concerned and as soon as the transposition period … has expired, on compliance with the requirements of this article.”

The article in question calls for binding legislation — “preferably constitutional” — enshrining a “balanced budget rule” which obliges governments not to go beyond an annual “structural” deficit of 0.5 percent of GDP. A structural deficit is one which does not include temporary or one-off budget items.

The balanced budget rule can be set aside under “exceptional circumstances” however, such as an “unusual event outside the control” of the respective government or “severe economic downturn.” Failure to comply with the rule means the country can be taken to the European Court of Justice by one of the other signatories.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Germany Under Pressure to Pony Up

The financial markets have calmed for the moment, but the next wave of turbulence may be just around the corner. Germany is under pressure from all sides to provide more funds to rescue the common currency, but Chancellor Angela Merkel would prefer not to pay any more.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Greece Races for Double Debt Deal in Last-Ditch Talks

(ATHENS) — Greece on Friday raced for a double debt-saving deal in parallel negotiations with private creditors and its EU-IMF bailout partners ahead of a default deadline looming in March. Prime Minister Lucas Papademos was scheduled to meet again with global bank group representatives after late-night talks on Thursday as his finance minister held talks with senior EU-IMF auditors on a new eurozone rescue loan.

Greece is seeking to slash around 100 billion euros ($129 billion) from its huge debt through a voluntary bond swap with creditors, a process that would unlock a new eurozone rescue package worth 130 billion euros overall. The International Institute of Finance, a group representing around 450 financial institutions worldwide, on Thursday said “progress” had been made and that discussions will continue again on Friday.

Under the so-called private-sector initiative (PSI), banks and other financial institutions are expected to take at least a 50 percent “haircut” on their Greek debt, which would remove about 100 billion euros from Athens’s massive debt burden of more than 350 billion euros. The talks have hinged on the interest rate to be offered for new bonds that will replace maturing debt that is being erased.

A deal seems close on a flexible rate of around four percent, Greek newspapers said on Friday. In a sign that an agreement is at hand, the International Monetary Fund on Thursday said it was ready for talks on extra rescue funds needed to keep Athens from defaulting in March.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Greece: Stray Animals Phenomenon Explodes

Less money around and more dogs abandoned in the streets

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, JANUARY 20 — The severe economic crisis that has hit Greece is being felt in all walks of life, not only by people but also by animals, who are suffering the effects of the restrictions imposed upon their human friends. Greek animal rights groups have recently found themselves in great difficulty, as a result of a combination of factors, from financing cuts and a fall in donations from friends and supporters to a growing number of stray animals, particularly dogs, in the streets.

Every day, volunteers from these groups are now picking up dozens and dozens of dogs of all ages and races that are found tied to benches, trees and lamp-posts. Of course, all of them have been abandoned by owners who believe that they no longer have enough money to feed and take care of them.

“The situation is completely out of control,” says Christiana Kalogeropoulou, a volunteer at the non-profit organisation, who vents her frustration in the daily newspaper Kathimerini. “All efforts made in the past to change people’s attitudes and make sure that the state takes responsibility for the phenomenon of stray animals have been to no avail”. State authorities stopped financing animal rescue operations in 2009, adds Grigoris Gourdomichalis, the head of the environmental association for the cities of Athens and Piraeus.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Hedge Funds Threaten Greece With Human Rights Court

Hedge funds are considering taking Greece to the European Court of Human Rights for violating bondholder agreements, as the debt-stricken country struggles to agree on ‘voluntary’ write-offs of 50%, the New York Times reports. A deal on the matter is essential for Athens to avoid messy bankruptcy.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Irish Government in Legal Challenge on EU Fiscal Treaty

The Irish government is likely to face a court challenge if it decides to dispense with a referendum on the new EU treaty, the Financial Times reports. Sinn Fein, Ireland’s second-largest opposition party, told the newspaper it was “seriously and actively considering” filing a challenge in the Irish Supreme Court.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Moody’s Keeps Top Rating for Switzerland

Credit ratings agency Moody’s has confirmed Switzerland’s AAA rating, citing the high quality of the country’s economy, institutions and currency.

Switzerland’s creditworthiness contained very little risk, the agency said on Thursday. It added that the assessment reflected the open, highly developed and broad-based economy, which benefited from Swiss tax policies, low inflation and a strong position as a creditor. Moody’s said the government and legislation were very robust and the system was transparent and stable. It also believed the national debt would remain at a very low level in the coming years.

The agency did, however, see a couple of challenges in the medium and long term, such as the social welfare system, which would come under pressure from an ageing population.

Switzerland’s neighbours haven’t fared so well. Last week, ratings agency Standard and Poor’s cut its ratings of nine eurozone countries, stripping France and Austria of their coveted AAA status, and downgrading Italy to the same BBB+ level as Kazakhstan. Germany on the other hand managed to hang on to its top rating.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Spain Threatens Criminal Action for Public Overspending

Spain’s new right-leaning government threatened criminal action Wednesday against public officials who run up unauthorised deficits. Budget Minister Cristobal Montoro issued the warning as the government sought to mop up red ink in the powerful regions by imposing greater discipline while also offering a new line of credit.

The government blames the 17 regions, still hurting from the 2008 property bubble collapse, for 15 billion euros ($19 billion) out of an estimated 20 billion euros in national budget slippage in 2011. Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s government would introduce legislation to reform transparency in the public accounts, Montoro said in an interview with Cadena Ser radio.

“We are going to demand criminal responsibilities — criminal in the sense that a public manager, who could be a politician or a manager appointed by a politician, cannot spend more than the budget limit,” he said. A government official overrunning the limit “is falsifying public accounts in the same way that a private manager has to face criminal responsibilities if he falsifies his company accounts, especially if it is listed.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Caroline Glick: Mainstreaming Anti-Semitism

Anti-Semitism may not yet be a litmus test for social acceptability in the US, but it has certainly become acceptable.

Proof of this dismal state of affairs came this week with the publication of a supportive profile of University of Chicago professor John Mearsheimer in The Atlantic Monthly written by the magazine’s in-house foreign policy guru Robert Kaplan.

Mearsheimer is the author, together with Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government’s Prof. Stephen Walt, of the infamous 2007 book The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy. Since the book’s publication, Mearsheimer has become one of the most high-profile anti-Semites in America…

           — Hat tip: Caroline Glick[Return to headlines]

Etta James: Powerful Voice Behind ‘At Last,’ Dies at 73

Etta James, whose powerful, versatile and emotionally direct voice could enliven the raunchiest blues as well as the subtlest love songs, most indelibly in her signature hit, “At Last,” died Friday morning in Riverside, Calif. She was 73.

Her manager, Lupe De Leon, told The Associated Press that the cause was complications of leukemia.

[Return to headlines]

GM Reclaims World’s Biggest Carmaker Title as Toyota Skids

(PARIS) — General Motors reclaimed its title as the world’s biggest automaker Thursday, successfully emerging from its 2009 bankruptcy woes to overtake German giant Volkswagen and Japanese Toyota in the race to the top. The US giant sold 9.03 million vehicles globally in 2011, up 7.6 percent from a year ago, as it cashed in on a recovery in the north American market which delivered a 11.4 percent sales jump to 2.9 million.

The carmaker also posted strong results elsewhere, with European sales up 4.4 percent and 3.9 percent in South America. Its best-selling marque Chevrolet posted record sales of 4.75 million units, making up almost half of the global total.

The results marked GM’s sharp U-turn from near demise in 2008, when the global financial crisis forced it to turn to the US government for a bailout. In June 2009, it filed for bankruptcy which allowed it to change labour contracts and dump brands, dealers, workers and plants in the process.

It emerged from bankruptcy much leaner and more focused, and in November returned to the stock exchange in a share offering that raised a massive $23.1 billion, helping it to pay back half of its government debt. As GM’s fate began to change for the better, its Japanese rival Toyota, which had roared ahead during GM’s difficult years to take top spot among the world’s biggest automakers, began to see woes piling up.

In the last two years, the Japanese giant suffered the double whammy of massive vehicle recalls and then last March’s devastating earthquake and tsunami in its home country.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Mother Mosque of America Woven Into Fabric of Life in Cedar Rapids

CEDAR RAPIDS, IOWA // The oldest standing mosque in the US is not an imposing building. It lies in a quiet residential neighbourhood just north of downtown Cedar Rapids.

The wooden building with its little green dome is on the National Registrar of Historic Places. But what is considered the Mother Mosque of America, built in 1934, is more than a historical curiosity: it is testament to the vitality of one of the oldest Muslim communities in the US, one rooted in Iowa’s second-largest city, which has a population of about 127,000.

With American Muslims under more scrutiny since the September 11 attacks, perhaps the mosque’s real significance today is not its history but its location, said Albert Aossey, co-founder of the Midwest Islamic Association. “Most people don’t think of Muslims in the heartland. But this is where they first came looking for a better life.”

Abbas Habhab blazed the trail. The young man from Kfarhouna, then Greater Syria, in 1888, became the first documented Muslim in Iowa, and over the next seven years he brought his three brothers, Musa, Yousef and Ali. Lured by the promise of land — under the Homestead Act of 1862, new immigrants could secure 160 acres of land for a nominal fee if they fulfilled certain requirements for five years, including growing crops and building dwellings — the brothers started as farm hands, peddlers and at whatever else work they could find. They worked hard and long, said Paul Habhab, 41, Musa’s grandson. They were “hard men”, he said. Two generations later, Mr Habhab is managing director of Islamic Services of America (Isa), which was founded by his father, also Paul, in 1975. Isa is one of a handful of American companies that provides internationally recognised halal certification for the food, pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries, a US$2.3 billion (Dh8.4bn) global industry. Together with another Cedar Rapids company, Midamar — which was founded by Albert Aossey’s younger brother, Bill, and is America’s largest distributor of halal food — Isa has given the Muslim community in Cedar Rapids a global reach that belies its humble beginnings. “It’s a typical American story,” said Mr Habhab, who estimated the size of the community at 2,500. “My grandfather shovelled coal for a dime a day. He worked hard and that’s why we are where we are today.”

Evidence of the Muslim-Arab connection is dotted around Cedar Rapids. Apart from the city’s three mosques, there is the inevitable Aladdin restaurant, specialising in Mediterranean food. There are retail outlets with names such as Kamal’s Rug Store. As a measure of the degree to which the Muslim community is woven into the fabric of life here, the Midwest Islamic Association’s name appears on a plaque that notes the otherwise Christian-church dominated list of partners to the Ecumenical Community Center, a faith-based charity in the centre of the city.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Romney Hopes South Carolina is Next Step Toward Nomination

As South Carolina Republicans head to the polls on Saturday, Mitt Romney is the favorite. But with the campaign turning ever nastier, and the primary system showing its quirks, nothing is certain.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

“Speak Dutch to Get Social Welfare” — VVD

The larger of the two parties in the minority coalition, the conservative VVD, has said that only people who speak Dutch should be eligible for social welfare assistance. MP Cora van Nieuwenhuizen hopes to adopt a proposal from the governing VVD into legislation from 1 January 2013, Dutch newspaper reports.

The VVD announced in 2010 that it intended reforming the social welfare system. It can rely on support from its smaller coalition partner, the Christian Democrats, as well as the democrat D66 opposition party. “It depends on the type of benefit, but the bottom line is I think anyone claiming welfare should be able to speak Dutch,” says D66 MP Fatma Koser Kaya in de Volkskrant. Geert Wilders’ anti-Islam Freedom Party, which supports the minority government in parliament, is also in favour of the proposal.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Abandoning Ship: Italian Paper Likens Merkel to Shipwreck Captain

When Costa Concordia capsized off the Italian coast last week, an official demanded the ship’s captain get back on board to oversee the evacuation. Now his angry words have been aimed at German Chancellor Merkel in an Italian caricature, which shows her escaping the “MS Europa Discordia.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Anti-Government Protests Pick Up Again in Romania

About 7,000 demonstrators rallied by the opposition demanded the government’s resignation in Bucharest on Thursday. Protests turned violent during the night, with football supporters throwing bricks and bottles at riot police, which fired tear gas. Anti-government protests started a week ago, sparked by a controversial health care reform.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

France: Jewish Students Pass Themselves Off as Muslims to Avoid Being Physically Attacked

In an interview conducted in November, a Parisian mother related how the fear of being physically attacked by Muslim extremist thugs means that it is “not rare at all today” for French Jewish students to attempt to pass themselves off as Muslim — with some even going as far as to fast on Ramadan. One case in point was a Jewish girl of North African descent who for years was successful in this deception, until finally she was “exposed” when Muslim girls caught her eating matzah in the bathroom during Pesah. After her classmates beat her viciously, they invited their male Muslim friends to their school to participate in a gang rape.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Germany Marks Meeting That Unleashed Holocaust

Germany’s president Friday marked 70 years since a meeting that unleashed the Nazis’ mass extermination of Jews, pledging to do everything to thwart “murderous hatred” of foreigners in the country. Christian Wulff was addressing an event to mark the conference at a villa on the Wannsee lake on the outskirts of Berlin where senior Nazis adopted the “final solution” in January 1942.

Referring to the plan to exterminate all Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe as “this darkest chapter of German history”, Wulff said the site, which opened as a museum in 1992, was “a place of German shame”.

“This place and the name Wannsee have become a symbol for the bureaucratically organised distinction between life that is worth living and that which is not…,” Wulff said, according to a text of his speech. He said it was “important and a national task” to never forget that this “unbelievable and inconceivable” mass killing of Jews had occurred.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Latvia’s Russian Language Referendum Gets Green Light

Latvia’s supreme court Friday approved plans for a controversial referendum on making Russian the second official language, a vote set to be watched closely by Moscow but likely to fail. Language has been highly sensitive in Latvia since independence from the Kremlin in 1991, and nationalist lawmakers last week launched a legal challenge to a February 18 plebiscite pushed by the Russian-speaking minority.

“After careful consideration of the legal arguments, the constitutional court resolved that they are not sufficiently strong to stop the referendum process,” its chairman Gunars Kutris told reporters. Latvian has been the only official language since the Baltic nation won back its freedom.

But Russian-speakers make up around a third of its two million people, mostly from a settler community formed during five decades of Soviet rule. Since independence, some have contested the need to pass Latvian tests to get citizenship or obtain state-sector jobs.

Renewed attempts to give Russian equal footing started after gains for a pro-Russian opposition party in last September’s general election. By garnering signatures from 10 percent of the electorate, pro-Russian campaigners forced parliament to debate a bill which lawmakers rejected in December.

That in turn forced a referendum to take place. But the pro-Russian camp’s chances are virtually nil as it needs the support of over half the electorate, while Latvia’s centre-right government has urged a “No” vote.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Ikea Assembles Record Profits for 2011

Swedish furniture giant Ikea on Friday reported a ballooning net profit in 2011 amid booming sales and increased market share in most markets and said it planned hefty investments in the year to come. The world’s largest furniture retailer, which is an unlisted, family-owned company that only recently began releasing more regular earnings reports, said in its annual statement that its net profit rose 10.3 percent to €2.97 billion ($3.85 billion) during its 2011 fiscal year — September 2010 to August 2011.

Global sales meanwhile jumped 6.9 percent to €24.7 billion, Ikea said, adding that “sales grew in almost all countries with our biggest gains being in Russia, China and Poland.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Vilks Murder Plot Suspects Acquitted

Three men accused of plotting to kill Swedish artist Lars Vilks were acquitted of the charges in Gothenburg on Friday, but were nevertheless convicted for weapons violations. The prosecutor had sought to have the men sentenced to three years in prison, but the Gothenburg District Court ordered the three men released from custody following the conclusion of the trial in December.

“As they were released following the hearing, it wasn’t unexpected that the main charges were thrown out,” prosecutor Agnetha Hilding Qvarnström told TT on Friday after the verdict was announced. However, she added that she had no regrets about filing charges against the men.

“They were held in remand for a long time and they ordered held in remand on several occasions. The matter was tested in court and I believe there was reason to indict them,” she said. Vilks has faced numerous death threats and was the target of another suspected assassination plot since his drawing of the Prophet Mohammed as a dog was first published by a Swedish regional newspaper in 2007, illustrating an editorial on the importance of freedom of expression.

The three men released Wednesday were arrested along with a fourth man, no longer considered a suspect, by an elite counter-terrorism unit in Gothenburg.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Cops Quiz 11-Year-Old Over Gang Attacks

An 11-year-old boy has been brought in by police in connection with a series of knife point robberies in Malmö. Victims were unaccompanied women, and police believe that a gang of boys aged between 11 and 13 are responsible for the attacks. “The gang has been hanging around the area, sending out one or two boys at a time to rob the victims. The knife, or knives, have been shared around among the boys,” said Glenn Sjögren of the Malmö police youth department. The attacks have all taken place in or around Folkets Park in Malmö.

In the latest incident on Thursday evening, two women, aged 26 and 31, were attacked within minutes of one another. Both succeeded in scaring away the young offenders before they managed to steal anything. On Sunday evening two female victims in their twenties were also attacked at knife point by two boys.

One of the women received a minor cut to her hand when trying to protect herself against the thieves. The boys managed to take a small sum of money from her. The knife that has been used in the attacks has been described by the victims as a bread knife or barbecue knife. Police apprehended the young suspect from his school.

“We hope that the 11-year old, who is not the youngest, will tell us who the others are,” said the police to TT. The boy will be heard in the youth department of the police family violence department which is situated separate from the Malmö police buildings. “This is a tactical decision,” said Sjögren to TT. “It is important not raise the boy’s status.”

The boy is not old enough to be criminally responsible, and will not be formally under suspicion for a crime. He can be legally interrogated for a maximum of three hours. After this, the case will be handed over to social services. The interview will be conducted in the presence of the boy’s parents and a social secretary.

“The fact that the boy is 11 is very unusual,” Camilla Martinsson, one of the four social secretaries from the youth department in Malmö, told TT. Martinsson explained that the child’s social circumstances and the potential need for treatment is what will be considered. Any measures taken will reflect the child’s situation, not the severity of the crime.

“You have to try to do things so it works out as best as possible for the child.” The first step of the process is always to talk to a child and its parents, but sometimes children are forced to be detained in Sweden’s youth welfare system. “You try to avoid taking a child into care unless absolutely necessary. It’s only a last resort,” said Martinsson to TT.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Third of A380 Fleet Will be Inspected for Cracked Wings

The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) is to carry out checks on 20 Airbus A380s for cracks in their wings. This number represents a third of the current A380 fleet and could affect planes operated by Emirates, Singapore Airlines, and Air France. The agency said some of the aircraft will need to be inspected within four days. The rest, which have done less than 1,800 flight cycles, must be checked within six weeks.

A flight cycle is one take-off and landing. The EASA said cracks could develop over a period of time. “This condition, if not detected and corrected, could potentially affect the structural integrity of the aeroplane,” it explained in its directive. Airbus claimed there was no immediate threat to safety.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: Croydon Mosque Could Become Landmark in the Borough

Plans to expand and transform a mosque into one of the landmarks of the borough are underway. Croydon Mosque and Islamic Centre on London Road, Thornton Heath could expand to include a four storey extension to the rear and two 20 metre tall minarets, higher than four stacked double-decker buses. Funded entirely through contributions from worshippers this is the third stage of building at the site, which began in the 70, and is expected to cost around £500,000. Shuib Yusaf, trustee of Croydon Mosque and Islamic Centre, said: “We are aware it will become quite a landmark in Croydon. It should be a little unique but not out of character with the area. We admit the plans are a little ambitious.” Plans, alongside the two 20m tall minarets, include providing more space for women worshippers to prepare themselves for prayer, improve washroom facilities and add more parking. Mr Yusaf said: “We have brought in architects with a history designing Islamic buildings including several mosques in the UK. We hope to increase capacity to near 4,000 but primarily improve facilities in the women’s area.” He said the mosque serves the majority of the 25,000 strong Croydon Muslim community, with congregations at the main prayer session on Friday are typically filled to capacity and weekly footfall is around 13,000 to 15,000. Plans have yet to be finalised but the mosque trust hopes to have the work underway before the end of the year. Mr Yusaf added that the construction may be done in stages depending on funding and planning.

[Reader comment by frankedl at 5:05 pm Wed 18 Jan 12.]

There is something we can do about this, never mind the childish insults, This is wrong. Google “mosquebusters” and see what you can do to stop this alien, hostile invasion.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Jonathan Freedland Attacks Harry’s Place, Defends East London Mosque

What a silly man. And what a horrible and unpleasant way to describe our coverage of the ELM/LMC:

Nonsense, comes the reply: there are plenty of Muslim moderates we could meet. Trouble is, most are rapidly deemed beyond the pale by our community’s self-appointed gatekeepers. Mohammad Aziz of the ELM, for one, has impressed Jewish groups with his openness and — confirming that the ELM is no monolith — attended Limmud. But he has been monstered by the anti-Islamist Harry’s Place blog as a dangerous radical. Are there more than a handful of Muslim leaders the watchdogs would deem acceptable? And would that handful be as unrepresentative of British Muslims as, say, Jewish radical anti-Zionists are of British Jews? It’s easy to have dialogue with those you agree with. Far harder to talk to those who disagree, forcing them to rethink the stereotypes they have of your community. That’s what Rabbi Wittenberg does. It would be more comfortable for him to stay inside our cosy Jewish bubble but he dares venture outside. He should not be condemned for that. He should be praised.

What Freedland is basically saying is that liberals are as unrepresentative of British Muslims, as “radical anti-Zionists” are of Jews. He should really stop and think about precisely what he’s saying there. The argument about the East London Mosque, in a nutshell, is this.

1. It is institutionally connected at its highest levels to the South Asian fascist party, Jamaat-e-Islami

2. It regularly hosts the absolute worst hate preachers in the United Kingdom, including those connected to Al Qaeda such as Anwar Al Awlaki. When challenged this point, they claim it was “all a mistake” and “will never happen again”. And then it does happen again. And again.

3. It has a strategy of protecting itself from criticism by persuading public figures and liberals to work with it, on non-controversial matters. That allows it to point to its critics by saying: “If what you claim about is true, then why would a Rabbi/Judge/MP participate in our activities?”

It would be one thing if “engagement” took the form of asking:

“Why do you continue to allow speakers who call for gays to be executed to appear at your mosque?”

But it never does. They never ask the hard questions. If you want to find out about Aziz, you can read the piece here. This article was written by a prominent Muslim liberal, who has been working incredibly hard at huge personal cost against the British Jamaat-e-Islami network. And this is the point. Jonathan Freedland, in his myopic Jewish solipsism, thinks that this is all about Jews. No doubt, he thinks that he’s a wonderful chap, bravely reaching out to the ‘other’, building bridges, establishing trust -with theologically driven antisemites.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Long Lane Church to be Transformed Into a Mosque

Halesowen’s Long Lane Methodist Church has been bought by local Muslims and will open as a fully functioning mosque and community centre in March. The Ahmadiyya Muslim Association, which runs the School Street mosque in Cradley Heath, bought the property for £460,000 and are spending tens of thousands more transforming the old church. The premises has stood empty since the Methodists relocated to the nearby Crossway Centre in 2009. President of the Long Lane Ahmadiyya Muslim Association Dr Masood Majoka is delighted with the new property. He said: “For 102 years this wonderful building has been used for prayers and we are delighted to continue that tradition and we are looking forward to renovating it. We will have to make a few changes to the building to ensure that we face towards Mecca for prayers. Our association is made up of 95 per cent local people and we picked this site because it came up for sale and has a big car park, is private from three sides and has two big halls that can be used.”


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Mosque to Host Interfaith Event

Religious leaders will come together for an event in London promoting world interfaith harmony. Panellists will talk on the subject of forgiveness, compassion and oneness at the free event at London Central Mosque. Speakers include Rabbi Jackie Tabick, chairman of the World Congress of Faiths, Reverend Peter Owen Jones, known for his BBC programme Around The World In 80 Faiths; and Imam Abduljalil Sajid, chairman of the Muslim Council for Religious and Racial Harmony UK and president of Religions for Peace UK.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Put Abu Qatada on a Plane and Send Him to Jordan. If That Provokes a Political Crisis, Bring it on.

by Bruce Anderson

It was one of Mrs Thatcher’s favourite phrases. When she started banging on about it yet again, her entourage would inwardly smile, and groan. They had heard it all before. But she was right, as so often. The phrase was “the rule of law” and no civilised society can function without it. The governance of law is a crucial milestone in mankind’s route-march out of barbarism.

Law is often linked to order and then contrasted with rights. That is an error. In a civilised society, law is a guarantor of order, and therefore of rights. Apart from the right to life, no so-called human right is more important than the right to order and none of them — including the right to life — can be securely enjoyed in its absence. Law is crucial. This does not mean that it is simple. “Out of the crooked timber of humanity, nothing straight is ever made”. All important human institutions give rise to complexity and controversy; law more than most. How should laws be made and enforced? What is the right relationship between law and politics? How can the rule of law be prevented from degenerating into the accomplice of tyranny — remembering that a democratic tyranny is one of the worst of all?

Given crooked humanity, there can be no final answer to those questions. But there is one impressive solution. Aided and abetted by a benign history which has permitted a more or less peaceful constitutional evolution, England has come up with a partial answer that has not only weathered the centuries. It has been imitated in other jurisdictions. Under the Common Law, judges can in effect make laws by reasoning from old principles to new circumstances. It was a judge who decided, a generation ago, that a husband was not entitled to insist on sex with his wife whenever he felt like it. If she refused and he persisted, he could be prosecuted for rape.

That might sound like the American Supreme Court, but there is an essential difference. The Crown in Parliament is still sovereign. If Parliament disagrees with judge-made law, it can supersede it by passing a statute. The result is a sublime compromise. Judges are virtually impossible to sack. They are buttressed by the pomp and panoply of the law, as well as by their own self-confidence. Truly they are lions under the throne. But Parliament is still supreme. That unending dialectic between the the Courts of an independent judiciary and the High Court of Parliament has been one of the guarantors of English liberty and English stability. It is the foundation for freedom under the rule of law. It is now under threat, from those who have no interest in English freedoms. (Much of this argument is equally applicable to Scotland, but as the Scots have a separate legal system, I am concentrating on England.)

If you believe that the primary purpose of English laws is to protect English freedoms, there are two logical consequences. The most important is that the power to make those laws must reside in England. However much we may admire foreigners, they cannot be entrusted with the task of safeguarding our freedoms. That is for us, alone. The second is that foreigners resident in England will have a subordinate status. They should enjoy the full protection of our laws: anything less would be shameful, and a betrayal of us as well as of the foreigner. When an Indian student was recently murdered in Salford, there was indeed a widespread sense of shame. The dregs of humanity who were responsible had not only slain an admirable young man and broken his family’s hearts. They had disgraced their country.

But there is still an essential difference. We are stuck with our own criminals, our own dregs. We should not be stuck with foreigners whose presence here is a threat to our well-being. The law-abiding foreigner should never appeal in vain for our law’s protection; our self-respect demands no less. But the foreigner who is a threat to our law should have a single and sole entitlement: a one-way ticket to a foreign destination. Our self-preservation demands no less. Yet this week, we were told that we cannot deport Abu Qatada, an important member of Al Qaeda. Foreign judges have ordered us to abrogate the right to protect our freedom under the law and replace with the freedom to be blown up. Yet again, the European Court of Human Rights has expressed its disdain for this country.

To that, there are two possible responses. The first is acquiescence: the acceptance that Britain is no longer sovereign: that our Government is no longer able to protect us; that whatever their pretensions and their claims to status, however many demands that they make on the tax-payer, our ministers have to wait in the ante-rooms of a court in Strasbourg before they can tell us what the law is in England.

The second is a reassertion of national sovereignty and national pride. There is no need to wait: put Abu Qatada on a plane and send him to Jordan. If that provokes a political crisis, bring it on. Let those who oppose the Government’s decision explain why they believe that the British people are unfit to govern themselves; why they believe that a legal system and a democracy which have endured and evolved over the centuries should now be treated with contempt.

To be fair to Nick Clegg and the other Euro-fanatics, they have given up the attempt to trash our currency. They still seem determined to trash our laws. It may be that the exigencies of coalition politics will constrain the Tory leadership. But we need a campaign to arouse public interest, and public anger: to ensure that the ECHR is an issue at the next election and that a majority Tory government will deal with the threat. There is a court in Strasbourg, as opposed to a gauleiter in Strasbourg, because we British defended other people’s freedoms as well as our own. It is an insult that liberators are now treated as serfs. It is time to stop appeasing insolence and to throw off serfdom.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK’s First Course in Islam Launches This Week

The University of East Anglia has developed a course to teach students about women, Islam and the media in a bid to dilute cultural bias.

The 12-week module, which is the first of its kind in the UK, will cover the often controversial topics of veil wearing, arranged marriages and honour killings, as well as look at how these are portrayed in the media. The course, which launches this week, was developed by Dr Eylem Atakav who says: ‘Lots of people have written about women and Islam, lots of people have written about Islam and media or women and media, but they haven’t been brought together before.’ Dr Atakav says the course will be an important way of changing perceptions of Islam, such as the different interpretations of honour based violence. ‘If it’s a Middle Eastern woman who happens to be a Muslim woman it is called an honour crime,’ he says. ‘But if it’s a British woman who was klilled because her husband was jealous she was having an affair, it’s called murder.’ Journalist and broadcaster Nabila Ramdani agrees there is a desperate need to challenge these stereotypes that caricature Muslim women. ‘It is the same kind of media treatment that sees Muslim men portrayed as swarthy types with beards or potential terrorists,’ she says. Dr Atakav believes the course will add relevance in the light of the Arab spring and new forms of political activism by women.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Volvo Wagon Sweden’s ‘Biggest Film Star’

When naming the Swedish model most often seen on the silver screen, many would take a chance on Greta Garbo. However, the correct answer is actually the modest Volvo 240 station wagon, with the sporty Saab 900 in hot pursuit. “Statistics show that Volvo cars feature about three times as often as Saab. This can be seen to reflect sales figures, but Volvo has also had the added bonus of bringing out spacious family cars with lots of safety features,” said Mattias Rabe, web editor at Swedish car magazine,Teknikens Värld., the Swedish branch of a home movie rental website, and the Teknikens Värld magazine recently released statistics highlighting Sweden’s automobile presence in films, television programmes, and documentaries. While American and German brands dominate the top ten, Swedish car brands Volvo and Saab placed higher on the list than many more exclusive brands such as Ferrari, Lamborghini and Rolls Royce.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Women to Sue France Over Faulty Implants

A dozen French women who have received faulty PIP breast implants say they want to sue the state for its failure to reimburse them for breast replacement surgery.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Bosnia-Herzogovina: Bishop Warns Fundamentalism is on the Rise

The rise of radical Islam in Bosnia-Herzegovina is going unchallenged by the authorities, the country’s leading bishop has warned. Cardinal Vinko Puljic, the Archbishop of Sarajevo, highlighted the growth of extremism in the country during a visit to the international headquarters of Aid to the Church in Need. The 66-year-old cardinal said that the growing process of Islamisation in Bosnia-Herzegovina is being funded by radicals in the Middle East. He said: “Muslim centres and mosques have been built in many places with petrodollars from Saudi Arabia.” During the interview with ACN in Königstein, Germany, the cardinal stressed the spread of Wahhabism, an Islamic reform movement, which is the official religion of Saudi Arabia. Many commentators have linked Wahhabism to terrorist movements such as al-Qaeda.

The Archbishop of Sarajevo said that there are already 3-5,000 Wahhabis in Bosnia-Herzegovina and the group is seeking to gain influence in society. Cardinal Puljic said: “Nobody in the government has the courage to do anything to prevent this development.” According to Aid to the Church in Need’s report on the oppression of Christians, Persecuted and Forgotten?, more than 100,000 young Bosnian Muslims have encountered Wahhabi Islam through organisations such as Active Islamic Youth, Furqan, and the Muslim Youth Council. Cardinal Puljic added: “In recent years, at least 70 new mosques have been built in Sarajevo alone.”

Reports state that Saudi Arabian money funded the reconstruction of Sarajevo’s Husrev Begova Mosque which included the removal of internal mosaics in accordance with Wahhabi aesthetics. Another new mosque, the King Fahd Mosque, which is the country’s largest Islamic place of worship, was described by one report as a magnet for Muslim fundamentalists. While mosques are being built or repaired, Cardinal Puljic pointed out that building approval for churches can be delayed for years — adding that Church property confiscated under communism has still not been returned. He said that the government “has no interest in giving the Catholic Church back its property” while in most cases Muslim property has been returned.

The Archbishop of Sarajevo went on to say that “Catholics are systematically disadvantaged” and demanded equal treatment for Catholics in employment, education and other spheres of life. Despite these problems, the cardinal said the Catholic Church is seeking greater cooperation between different ethnic and religious groups. He said: “We are a minority but we are a constructive force that wishes to make a contribution to the success of society.” Sister Ivanka Mihaljevic, Provincial Superior of the Franciscan Sisters of Christ the King in Bosnia, described how the community had launched a three-year programme called ‘I extend to you my hand for peaceful coexistence’. Under the programme, Roman Catholics, Muslims and Serbian Orthodox Christians work together to promote tolerance, non-violence and mutual respect. She told Aid to the Church in Need: “These are small steps of peace and goodwill but we want to imbue the people with courage.” The country is about 40 percent Muslim and 31 percent are Serbian Orthodox. Catholics account for 10 percent. Of the 820,000 Catholics who lived in Bosnia-Herzegovina before the 1992-5 war, only 460,000 remain and emigration is ongoing.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Kosovo: Organ Trafficking, Also 2 Russian Victims

EULEX confirms news brought by Kommersant newspaper

(ANSAmed) — PRISTINA, JANUARY 19 — The victims of the illegal donor transplantations that were carried out in the ‘Medicus’ clinic in Pristina between 1998 and 1999 include two Russian citizens. This was announced today by a spokesman of the European Mission in Kosovo (EULEX), Nicholas Hawton, who confirmed the news that was published in the past days by the Moscow-based newspaper Kommersant.

“I can confirm the accusations regarding the ‘Medicus’ clinic. Two Russian citizens have been identified as victims in the affair,” said Hawton. Both men have had a kidney removed, he specified, adding that the case is under investigation. In October last year a trial was opened against seven people who have been charged with trafficking and illegally transplanting human organs, related to the illegal activities that took place in the ‘Medicus’ clinic, closed in 2008 after a police inquiry.

The transplantation victims — who had their kidneys removed — were citizens from Serbia, Turkey, Moldova, Belarus, Kazakhstan and other poor east-European and central-Asian countries.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egypt Waits for the Muslim Brotherhood — A Country in Suspended Animation

Lord Risby has recently returned from a visit to Egypt with the Conservative Middle East Council (CMEC).

Tahrir Square has achieved iconic status as the epicentre of the Arab spring in Egypt. Without milling crowds, it is really an oval central reservation surrounded by Cairo’s mind-boggling traffic. An air of nervous apprehension pervades the square with fears of violence next week, with mass demonstrations planned to commemorate one year of the initial protests. All of this severely and very directly impacts the luxury hotels which overlook the Nile just a few hundred yards away. It is a desperate time for the Egyptian economy. In the recently completed parliamentary elections, the Muslim Brotherhood obtained 45% of the vote, but the real shock was the Salafists securing 25%. The divided, disorganised secular liberal groups managed only 16%, having allowed themselves to be portrayed as irresponsible, anti-Muslim and Western poodles.

The huge total Islamist vote arose out of increased religiosity, good organisation and communications and welfare support structures, in a country where economic growth and liberalisation have not touched those countless millions who live in grinding poverty. Since Mubarak was deposed, the military [SCAF] have run the country, and by universal agreement from a functional and managerial viewpoint, very poorly. For example, a vital $3.2 billion IMF loan on very favourable terms, was rejected for unfathomable reasons. Ditto the EU and World Bank. Meanwhile foreign reserves have collapsed and the deficit may reach 12% this year. Every political grouping realises that economic revival is crucial: nobody favours statist solutions, all express determination to banish the wholesale corruption which marked the Mubarak regime. A constitutional commission is about to be formed, primarily with parliamentarians, to determine the powers of the upper house, and most particularly the President. They are in theory meant to report in the spring, with Presidential elections on 30th June. All political parties are at present holding back on presidential endorsements, but if the Muslim Brotherhood does endorse a candidate he will have an excellent chance.

Coalition building is in full spate, with astonishing permutations. The Salafists, generously financed by rich religious supporters in the Gulf and Saudi Arabia, detest the Muslim Brotherhood — yet appear to be linking up with the secular liberal Egyptian Bloc. The Muslim Brotherhood is in alliance with the secular liberal Wafd Party. As the major political party, they are also assiduously trying to create an even more broadly-based coalition under their leadership. Their spokesmen are approachable and articulate and talk enthusiastically of consensus, reconciliation and moderation. Younger secular radicals believe that they are wolves in sheep’s clothing.

The key question is what will happen to the Army, which controls a huge part of the Egyptian economy? Most politicians want to return them to their barracks after the presidential election. But a national security council is proposed, with powers as yet unclear, but which would comprise senior military and parliamentary figures, as well as the president and prime minister. It may in practice give the military a continuing role — welcome to some. The simple truth is that nothing about future constitutional structures or specific policies is clear at present. Well under the radar, the question is also quietly being considered as to what extent less tainted figures in the Mubarak regime, some very experienced, can be deployed in any future government. Every political party from Salafists to secular liberals absolutely and explicitly declares that domestic recovery and stability is the only issue, with no foreign policy re-definitions. None declare that the peace treaty with Israel should be abrogated. There is universal dislike of the United States, for its links to the military and the Mubarak regime. Also the French. Britain is indisputably their favoured European country.

For the 10% Christian minority, this is an extremely difficult time. Emigration looms for those with portable skills. Even within the Coptic community the ageing and unwell Pope Shenouda is not universally admired, with talented and younger articulate clergy being sidelined. However much human rights can be protected by law, social pressure is increasingly problematic and even repressive. In traditionally more Islamist Alexandria, signs on benches overlooking the sea now warn against couples sitting together. Increasingly, women feel compelled to dress in a more Islam-acceptable way. Some restaurants have stopped selling alcohol. Hoteliers, struggling to survive without foreign tourists, greatly fear these trends, with tourism providing such huge employment.

So clouds of uncertainty swirl over the country, but for all the rivalries and deep-seated political and economic problems, there is surprising optimism in political circles. It is too early to know whether or to what extent this is misplaced. Every element of the future political and institutional structures is yet to be resolved, and this vacuum is killing business confidence and any economic recovery. Egypt is the mother country of the Arab world, the epicentre of Islamic learning and culture, but it is now wholly and comprehensively fixed on its domestic condition. Its relationship with Israel or indeed anybody else outside its borders remains firmly in the long grass. But Islamism is clearly in the ascendant. As ye,t we do not know what that will ultimately mean in practice. Will a democratic Egypt attempt to follow the paths of Turkey or Malaysia; will bread and butter issues , rather than religion, mean that the impact of the current growth of Islamisation be muted in years to come? Whilst there are assuredly large straws in the wind about this, it is too early to make a definitive judgment. As all of us on the CMEC delegation would attest, nobody should tell you otherwise.

[JP note: Islam produces temporary states of suspended animation wherever it takes root — a necessary precursor to the blood-letting which the adherents of this ghastly religion effortlessly slide toward.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Muslims in Egypt Burn Christian Homes and Shops, Attack Church

by Mary Abdelmassih

(AINA) — A Muslim mob attacked Copts today in the Upper Egyptian village of Rahmaniya-Kebly, Nag Hammadi, Qena province, destroying and torching their homes, straw huts and shops, while chanting Allahu Akbar. No one was reported killed or injured (video). According to reports, security forces were present but did not intervene and the fire brigade arrived 90 minutes late.

An eye-witness said that a straw hut belonging to a Copt was torched to clear the area for a mosque. There are more than 300 mosques in the village and one church.

According to Coptic residents, the reason behind the violence was the parliamentary elections. The Salafists wanted to prevent Copts, who number more than 50% of the inhabitants (20,000), from voting because they intended to vote for two moderate Muslims and not the Salafi candidates. “No Copt from Rahmaniya-Kebly was able to vote today, so the Salafists will win the elections,” said a witness. Copts were forcefully prevented from voting.

US-based WAY TV, which covered live today’s Rahmaniya attacks, called commander Osama, head of security at Rahmaniya, who said “everything was OK” — despite live pictures on TV of the burning homes. Joseph Nasralla of WAY TV spoke to security and made them aware that the videos of the fires were being broadcast in the U.S. and Middle East, which caused the immediate dispatch of security vehicles. By late evening the violence had stopped.

In another incident today, a large number of Salafis and members of the Muslim Brotherhood entered the Abu Makka church, in Bahteem, Shubra-el-Khayma, Qaliubia province, and informed the congregation that the church has no licence and no one should pray in it. One Muslim said the 1300 square meter church would be suitable for a mosque and a hospital.

Bishop Marcus of Shubra el Khayma was scheduled to inaugurate the incomplete church and celebrate the Epiphany mass in the evening. According to Coptic witnesses the Bishop cancelled the festivities, which angered the congregation, who were not informed of the reason. A witness said the Muslim promised to be back tomorrow.

           — Hat tip: Mary Abdelmassih[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Fissure Opens in Whitehall

by Martin Bright

When I asked Nick Clegg at his joint press conference with Mahmoud Abbas about the increasingly combative nature of the UK government’s language on settlements, I didn’t expect him to escalate the rhetoric still further. His description of new building as an “act of deliberate vandalism” sent a frisson through the room and President Abbas was visibly surprised. He later expressed his delight that this was the sort of language he had been waiting for from the British government. His words were in marked contrast to those of the Prime Minister, who expressed his displeasure at Israeli government action in far less provocative terms in his official statement later in the day.

It has long been the UK’s position to oppose settlement-building but, as Development Minister Alan Duncan discovered when he used the phrase “land grab” last year, language is everything when dealing with such a sensitive issue. Foreign Office officials have in recent weeks shown a growing frustration with the Netanyahu government and a matching intensification in their language. The term “aggressive” is now often attached to settlement building and officials have also been heard to describe housing developments across the Green Line as “deliberate vandalism”, the very phrase used by Nick Clegg. It is now possible to see a genuine fissure opening up between Cameron’s Downing Street, which accepts the argument that it is not always helpful to push the settlement issue in Mr Netanyahu’s face, and the Foreign Office, which believes continued settlement-building could derail peace negotiations. Some believe William Hague has now “gone native”, with the Deputy Prime Minister also falling in behind the Foreign Office line.

The coalition has often used its “creative differences” to good effect. It is difficult to accuse the government of splits when disagreements are explicit. On foreign policy this can be risky but, so far, the profound disagreement between Nick Clegg and David Cameron on Europe has not caused undue political damage. The same may prove to be the case with Middle East policy, simply because foreign affairs interest the general electorate little — short of going to war. And Tony Blair was re-elected even after the Iraq invasion. But there is a broader point. Britain has become increasingly marginalised in negotiations in the Middle East. Why should any of the parties there take us seriously if our own politicians can’t even agree on the language to use about this most fundamental issue?

[JP note: Call for Polyfilla.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Israeli Hackers Down Gaza, UAE Bank Websites

‘IDF Team’ hackers warn they will “disable stock market, gov’t, economic, security sites” if attacks against Israelis continue.

Israeli hackers operating under the name of ‘IDF Team’ brought down the website of the Arab Bank of Palestine on Thursday morning in retaliation for a web attack on Israel’s Anti-Drug Authority website.

In a message sent to The Jerusalem Post early Thursday morning, members of the ‘IDF Team’ said that by 10:00 am Israel time, the Gaza-based Arab Bank of Palestine’s website would be disabled, together with the website of the UAE’s central bank.

A visit to the Arab Bank of Palestine’s website confirmed that it was offline. The UAE’s Central Bank website also appeared to not be functioning.

On Wednesday night, Arab hackers succeeded in breaking into the server of the Anti-Drug Authority, and redirecting visitors to a website which features images of Palestinian gunmen crouching near a depiction of the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem.

The words “death to Israel” were written in Hebrew alongside extensive Arabic messages. “Gaza hackers were here” was also written on the web page.

The attack represented an escalation from the distributed denial of service attack earlier this week against the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange and El Al, which took the sites offline but did not compromise their servers.

‘IDF Team’ described the latest hacks as “terrorist acts against Israel” and condemned “attempts to disrupt the normal course of life in Israel.”

The Israeli hackers warned that “if there no change in the near future… [we] will disable stock market sites, government sites, and sites related to… economy and even security.”

Also on Thursday, anti-Israel hackers said they published details on an additional 7,000 Israeli credit cards. The publication included the full credit card numbers, security codes that appear on the backs of the cards, and expiry dates.

           — Hat tip: Nick[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Iranian Crisis Escalates

by Srdja Trifkovic

Speaking to reporters during a visit to Turkey on January 19, Iran’s foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi warned his country’s Arab neighbors against aligning themselves too closely with the United States in the ongoing crisis over Tehran’s nuclear program. Saudi Arabia was particularly vocal in its condemnation of Iran’s warning last month that it might close the Strait of Hormuz—through which one-third of the world’s seaborne oil passes daily—if the United States and her allies apply sanctions against Iranian oil exports.

A day earlier Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said American troops in the Persian Gulf region do not require any build-up for a possible military conflict with Iran. “We are not making any special steps at this point in order to deal with the situation,” he said. “Why? Because, frankly, we are fully prepared to deal with that situation now,” Panetta explained.

In the meantime the European Union is on track to agree to an oil embargo against Iran at the EU foreign ministers’ meeting next week.

The latest rhetorical escalation follows President Obama’s decision on December 31 to apply sanctions against any institution dealing with Iran’s central bank, effectively making it impossible for most countries to buy Iranian crude oil.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao criticized the U.S. position in comments published on January 19, and on the same day foreign ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said that “sanctions and military threats will not help solve the problem but only aggravate the situation.”

On Wednesday Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the military option mooted by U.S. would ignite a disastrous, widespread Middle East war. “Unilateral sanctions against Iran has nothing in common with the desire to keep the nuclear weapons nonproliferation regime unshaken,” Lavrov said.

Unsurprisingly, the neoconservative advocates of a preventive war against Iran are delighted. They see Tehran’s threat to block the Strait of Hormuz as a “golden opportunity” to force the issue by military means:…

           — Hat tip: Srdja Trifkovic[Return to headlines]

Syria Lost $2bn Due to EU Sanctions

Syria has lost $2 billionn (€1.5bn) since the EU on 1 September imposed a ban on oil imports from the embattled Arab nation, AFP reports Interior Minister Soufiane Allaou as having said in Damascus on Thursday. The EU reportedly plans to blacklist 22 more Syrian people and entities next week.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Anti-Putin Activist Complains of Security Harassment

A young Russian blogger helping to organise a major rally against Vladimir Putin’s 12-year rule accused Friday the security forces of putting pressure on his parents over his political activities. Ilya Klishin, a 24-year-old blogger and one of the organisers of the next anti-Putin protest on February 4, said the FSB security service contacted his mother in the central Russian city of Tambov where she lives.

The interior ministry’s anti-extremism department questioned his father earlier Friday, Klishin added. “They are trying to put pressure on me by intimidating my parents,” he told AFP after writing about the incidents in a message on Facebook. “It is apparently linked with the fact that I was and am involved in organising the rallies in support of honest elections through social networks.”

Klishin said officials grilled his father about his son’s visit to the Volga city of Kazan in the largely Muslim Tatarstan region earlier this month and said they were looking into his possible involvement in inciting ethnic discord. “The matter is taking a completely Kafkaesque turn,” Klishin said on his Facebook page. “I went there to see the ancient city,” Klishin said. “Local organisers of protests in support of fair elections did want to meet me in Kazan but we never met.”

Russia’s Western-funded observer group Golos, which exposed mass violations before and during a fraud-tainted parliamentary election last month, has said the FSB security service also put pressure on its regional employees, although Moscow-based staff were not openly targeted.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Editor Faces Extremism Charges

Investigators in the Urals Federal District said Thursday that they had filed extremism charges against the editor of an independent local newspaper after he published articles critical of the police. A criminal case was opened in the city of Tyumen against Vladimir Yefimov, editor of the Vechernyaya Tyumen weekly, accusing him of inciting hatred against law enforcement officers in two articles from 2008, the investigators said in a statement on their web site.

In the articles, Yefimov allegedly disparaged officers by using vulgar expressions like “hit the bottle” in a piece about police drinking too much, “put the claw on” to describe arrests and calling it “an outrage” for police to abuse their power, Interfax reported, citing authorities. Yefimov, 49, said the charges were aimed simply at stopping him from doing his work.

“(It is) pressure put on me personally in order to prevent me from fulfilling my legal, journalistic activities to freely receive and distribute information,” he told The Moscow Times by e-mail. He refused to speculate who might be pressuring him or why. He also declined to discuss who his newspaper had been critical about. He faces up to five years in prison if convicted.

Dmitry Kirillov, a prominent regional lawyer, told The Moscow Times that Yefimov was probably “being punished for his web site,, where he criticized “multiple violations” during the Dec. 4 State Duma elections. “Yefimov is a harsh and flamboyant man when he defends human rights, and they are nagging at him for that,” Kirillov said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sled Dogs Earn Their Keep Giving Rides in City Parks

Prices for riding on Voronin’s dog sled are regulated by park management. A resourceful dog owner is making a business out of giving dog sled rides in Moscow parks. Alexander Voronin owns 11 dogs. He began raising huskies five years ago, and for the last two years he has been making money on dog sled rides. “I’m not doing this for the money, but to keep the dogs in healthy physical condition,” Voronin told The Moscow Times.

Anyone can come to Sokolniki Park or to Gorky Park and get a ride on a sled powered by his canines. Rides are offered on weekends from noon until 7:00 p.m. The schedule for the weekdays changes, depending on the number of park visitors. The charge for rides, which are regulated by the park, is 250 rubles ($8) per child and 400 rubles per adult for 200-meter rides in Sokolniki. At Gorky Park the rates are 150 rubles and 300 rubles, respectively.

One dog can pull a child, while adults sometimes need two. If a customer yearns for the true feeling of speeding across the tundra, four or five dogs can be yoked. The dog sleds can reach speeds of up to 20 kilometers per hour.

Voronin says he spends 4,400 rubles per month to feed his dogs. “Of course, I have business rivals, but nobody is doing dog sled rides for children. They prefer offering VIP sled rides for events and clubs,” he said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Four French Troops Killed by Afghan Soldier: Official

Four French soldiers were shot dead and 16 were wounded by a member of the Afghan army in eastern Afghanistan on Friday, a NATO spokesman and Afghan officials said. “A man wearing Afghan army uniform opened fire on French nationals killing four and injuring 16 others this morning in Tagab district of Kapisa province,” a security official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

A spokesman for NATO forces said four NATO troops were killed and the shooter had been arrested, but did not give the nationality of the troops. “Four International Security Assistance Force service members were killed today in eastern Afghanistan by a member of the Afghan National Army,” the US-led force said in a statement.

French troops had surrounded their base in Kapisa and were not allowing any Afghan soldiers to approach, a security source told AFP. There have been a number of incidents of Afghan soldiers turning their weapons on members of the 130,000-strong foreign force fighting an insurgency by hardline Taliban Islamists.

Last month, two soldiers with the French Foreign Legion serving in Afghanistan were shot dead by a man wearing an Afghan army uniform during a mission in Kapisa, site of the main French base in Afghanistan. The Taliban claimed responsibility for that attack.

The latest deaths brought to 82 the number of French soldiers killed in Afghanistan since French forces deployed there at the end of 2001. Last year was been the bloodiest so far, with 26 killed.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

France Halts Afghan Operations After Local Soldier Kills French Troops

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has announced a halt to all joint operations in Afghanistan after an Afghan soldier killed four ISAF soldiers.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Myanmar President Says ‘There’s No Turning Back’ on Reforms

Myanmar’s president has vowed to keep up the reform process, urging the West to lift economic sanctions. Meanwhile, the opposition is gearing up for April elections.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Western Aid Workers Kidnapped in Pakistan

Two western aid workers — a German and an Italian — have been kidnapped in the central Pakistani province of Punjab after an armed raid on their accommodation.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Far East

Chinese Crackdown on Dissent Shows No Respite

As China gears up for a leadership transition, there seems to be no end in sight for the repression of dissidents. Punishment for criticizing the government is draconian, say rights groups, who fear it could get worse.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Latin America

Complacency Over the Falklands Could Cost Britain Dear

by Con Coughlin

The mandarins in Whitehall should take more seriously Argentina’s renewed interest in the South Atlantic islands.

Every time Argentina’s leaders start cutting up rough over the Falkland Islands, Whitehall’s response is to dismiss it as populist grand-standing designed to win votes. The mandarins wearily insist that there’s no way the Argies are seriously considering another invasion to reclaim the islands known to them as Las Malvinas. The days when the country was ruled by a military junta desperate to improve its fortunes through jingoistic acts are long gone, they say. Today, Argentina is a democracy committed to the rule of law — and that includes international treaties concerning British sovereignty over the Falklands. Besides, Argentina no longer has the military firepower to conquer the islands by force, as it attempted to do in 1982.

The main reason that, 30 years ago, General Galtieri, the Argentine dictator, very nearly succeeded in capturing the Falklands was the Foreign Office’s disastrous misreading of the signals from Buenos Aires, which were dismissed as inconsequential sabre-rattling. It is always a good idea to avoid complacency when dealing with issues pertaining to national sovereignty, which is why David Cameron’s decision to convene a special session of the National Security Council to discuss the Falklands’ security makes good sense. No one ever gets criticised for being properly prepared. For, far-fetched as it might seem, it is possible that the latest diplomatic spat between London and Buenos Aires might spill over into something rather more serious. Britain’s defence of the Falklands is predicated on the twin assumptions that our military presence acts as a suitable deterrent to Argentine adventurism, and that the Argentines have no interest in revisiting old battlegrounds.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

David Cameron Should Cut Foreign Aid and Invest Money in Defending the Falklands

The Prime Minister has shown tremendous political leadership on the Falklands, issuing a number of robust statements in the House of Commons over the past year, warning Argentina and pledging to defend the sovereignty of the Islands. He deserves credit for his latest remarks in response to a question from Andrew Rosindell, the Tory MP for Romford, who has done an excellent job of maintaining the profile of the Falklands in Westminster. As The Telegraph reported yesterday, Cameron told Parliament:

“The key point is we support the Falkland Islanders’ right to self-determination, and what the Argentinians have been saying recently, I would argue is actually far more like colonialism because these people want to remain British and the Argentinians want them to do something else,” he said at Prime Minister’s Questions in the Commons. “I’m determined we should make sure that our defences and everything else is in order, which is why the National Security Council discussed this issue yesterday.”

He added: “The absolutely vital point is that we are clear that the future of the Falkland Islands is a matter for the people themselves, and as long as they want to remain part of the United Kingdom and be British they should be able to do so.”

Cameron’s pledge to defend the Falklands, however, is undermined by the damaging defence cuts implemented by the Coalition, which significantly reduce Britain’s ability to defend the islands, especially the reckless decision to sell the Harriers and decommission the only remaining aircraft carrier, HMS Ark Royal. Following the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR), British defence spending will fall from 2.7 per cent of GDP (2010) to 2 per cent of GDP by 2015-16, with no carrier-borne strike force in place until 2020. Yet at the same time, the British Government resolved to increase the overseas aid budget by a staggering 34 per cent (adjusted for inflation), rising to £11.4 billion from £5.7 billion , with a goal of spending 0.7 per cent of Gross National Income (GNI) on Overseas Development Assistance by 2013. Even though George Osborne revised these figures down by £1 billion in November, this is a luxury that Britain can ill afford in an age of austerity and mounting threats abroad. It makes absolutely no sense to be sending £279 million a year to a wealthy country like India in bilateral aid. It is far better to invest that money in the long-term defence of the Falklands, where several thousand British citizens face a growing threat from hostile powers in Latin America. Even Brazil, now the world’s fifth largest economy, still receives taxpayers’ money in aid from Britain. Incredibly, Argentina itself gets British money, through a €65 million European Union aid programme.

Feel-good foreign aid is not an effective long-term solution to addressing poverty and raising living standards in developing countries, and it is all too often wasted and misused by corrupt governments in recipient countries. A far better strategy is to encourage trade, investment, good governance and economic freedom in the developing world. Protectionist monstrosities like the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy, for example, greatly raise the costs for African nations to export products to Europe. In addition, the British Government should be encouraging greater private charitable giving for humanitarian assistance by creating more generous tax breaks as well as implementing tax cuts, including scrapping the 50 per cent top marginal tax rate. The defence of the United Kingdom and its Overseas Territories is a vital national interest. Aid to the likes of India and Pakistan are definitely not. There can be no doubting the Prime Minister’s determination to protect the Falklands, but he must back up his strong words with a commitment to reverse the decline in defence spending, and to invest heavily again in Britain’s military power. The defence cuts have sent the wrong message to an increasingly aggressive Argentina, and Mr Cameron must ensure that Britain’s defences are firmly in place in the event of any escalation in tensions in the South Atlantic. After all, the best deterrent to a potential aggressor is a clear show of strength.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]


Belgium: Clamp Down on Cheap Foreign Workers

Belgium’s Federal Government is to tackle unfair competition on the labour market. Research has shown that many East Europeans are being set to work here as cheap labour at the expense of Belgian workers.

It’s especially in the construction and transport sectors that Belgian workers prove to be more expensive than foreign workers. As a result Belgian workers are being driven out.

In 2007 Romania and Bulgaria both joined the EU. Until 2013 workers from these countries only have access to the Belgian labour market if they are employed in professions for which there is a shortage in Belgium, but legislation is not tight enough to prevent abuse.

Secretary of State for Fraud Prevention John Crombez (Flemish socialist): “There are laws designed to prevent unfair competition, but all we see is an increase. We need to be stricter because we have no alternative but to open our borders further. Existing legislation requires further clarification.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Swiss Asylum Seekers Jump 45 Percent in 2011

The number of asylum applications in Switzerland jumped about 45 percent in 2011 from the preceding year, federal migration office statistics showed Thursday. Last year 22,551 asylum applications were filed in Switzerland, the highest number since 2002, the office said in a statement.

“This large influx of asylum applications was mainly due to the crisis in North Africa,” and an influx to Europe from March, said the Swiss authorities. The statement warned that Tunisian asylum seekers were “unlikely to be able to stay in Switzerland” although forcible deportations to the North African nation had been suspended due to upheavals there.

According to Swiss government statistics the main countries of origin for asylum seekers in 2011 were Eritrea with 3,356 applications, followed by Tunisia with 2,574 requests, and Nigeria with 1,895. Of the total applications filed, 3,711 people were granted asylum compared with 3,449 the year before, an increase of 7.6 percent.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

UK: Jury to Deliberate on Anti-Gay Leaflets

A jury is set to start its deliberations today in the trial of five men accused of distributing leaflets which would stir up hatred against gays, the first under the newly-created offence.

In the seven days of the trial which have elapsed, the defendants have admitted creating and distributing the leaflets, but deny they were “threatening” and say they had no intention to stir up hatred. Last week, gay men appeared in Derby Crown Court to tell of their experience receiving the leaflets, which questioned whether gays should be executed.

One believed he was the victim of a hate campaign, and said: “They made me feel terrorised in my own home. Sometimes I wondered whether I would be getting a burning rag through the letterbox or if I would be attacked in the street.”

A leaflet which the men handed out outside their mosque had the image of a mannequin hanging from a noose and the words ‘Death Penalty?’. Another called ‘Turn or Burn’ showed a person in a burning lake. A third was entitled ‘GAY — God Abhors You’. Ihjaz Ali, 42, Mehboob Hassain, 45, and Umer Javed, 38, appeared at Derby Crown Court for the first time last January. Razwan Javed, 30, and Kabir Ahmed, 28, had been charged in December 2010. Ahmed, 28, said that the wording of the leaflets, handed out in Normanton ahead of a gay Pride march, were not threatening. This is Derbyshire reported that he said to have had no problem with a gay classmate at school and that he said: “A teacher at Derby College was also gay. He was one of my favourite teachers.” Earlier he had told the court: “We are living in a society and if we don’t stop it, something like a tsunami will happen here, something on that scale.” He added: “We are trying to stand and voice on these issues. I am part of this country — I was born here. You can think of it as a little vigilante thing.” He had said it was his “duty as a Muslim to spread what God says about homosexuality. The references on the leaflets are historical facts and quote from the Koran.”

In closing, the Derby Telegraph reports prosecuting barrister Bobbie Cheema calling the men’s actions a “blatant attempt to try and stir up hatred against the homosexual community”.

At Derby Crown Court, the defendants face up to seven years in prison and an unlimited fine if convicted of the new offences. The Public Order Act 1986 was amended by the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 to create the offence of intentionally stirring up hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation, and these are the first-ever trials under the offence.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]


Alien Life May Depend on Planetary Tilt

Although winter now grips the Northern Hemisphere, those who dislike the cold weather can rest assured that warmer months shall return. This familiar pattern of spring, summer, fall and winter does more than merely provide variety, however. The fact that life can exist at all on Earth is closely tied to seasonality, which is a sign of global temperature moderation.

The driver of our seasons is the slight “lean” Earth has in its rotational axis as it revolves around the sun, known as axial tilt or obliquity. According to René Heller, a postdoctoral research associate at the Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics in Potsdam, Germany, astrobiologists have not yet paid much attention to this variable in gauging the possibility for alien life to exist on distant planets. “Obliquity and seasonal aspects are an important issue in understanding exoplanet habitability that has mostly been neglected so far,” Heller said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]