Sunday, January 12, 2003

News Feed 20120131

Financial Crisis
»‘A Sarkozy Loss Would be Severe Setback for Berlin’
»As British Jobless Toll Soars, UK Bosses Recruit Thousands in Romania More Than 2,400 Vacancies for Nurses, Engineers and Chefs Are Being Advertised in Bucharest
»Banks Set to Double Borrowing From ECB: Report
»Cameron Keen to See French Banks Relocate to UK
»Czechs Abandon EU Fiscal Pact, For Now
»French Banks Would Come to Britain to Avoid Tax: Cameron
»German Jobs’ Boom Continues as Unemployment Falls to Record Low
»German Chancellor Seeks Euro Help in China
»Greece Seeks Bail-Out Deal ‘This Week’ To Avert Catastrophe
»Greece: House Prices in Freefall
»Ireland Mulls if Vote Needed for EU Fiscal Pact
»Italy: EU’s Best Paid Lawmakers Asked to Cut Own Salary
»Italy: December Unemployment 8.9%, Highest Since 2004
»Merkel Gets Her Fiscal Pact: EU Summit Marred by Fears of German Domination
»Nearly Every Fourth Spaniard is Out of a Job
»S&P May Downgrade G20 Nations as of 2015
»Spain: PM Acknowledges “Difficulties” of Meeting Targets
»Bismarck Recordings Found in Edison’s Lab
»Caroline Glick: Hamas and the Washington Establishment
»Credit Suisse Hands US Millions of Emails
»Newt Gingrich’s Moon Base by 2020: Can it be Done?
»Paris Hilton Visits LA Mosque for First Time
»Pentagon Unable to Account for Missing Iraqi Millions
»Tough Fight Expected in Florida Republican Primary
»US President Admits to Use of Drones in Pakistan, Iraq
»Capturing the Heart of the Disappearing Arctic
Europe and the EU
»A Hundred Chinese Businesses Heading for Flanders?
»ABB Irked by Breivik Link
»Are Germans Becoming Favored Kidnapping Targets?
»Austria’s Freedom Party Leader Says Far-Rightists Are ‘The New Jews’
»Brussels: Court Proceedings in English Soon?
»Critics Fear Influence of Chinese State on Confucius Institute Affiliates
»Denmark: Petrified Poo Designated National Treasure
»EU Leaders Speed Up ESM Launch, Endorse Fiscal Pact
»France and Italy Plan High-Speed Rail Link
»France: ‘Major Technology Transfers’ In India Fighter Deal: Sarkozy
»Italy: Town of Salemi Offers to Host Mosque
»Marketing Mishap: European Cold Front ‘Cooper’ Sponsored by Mini
»Norway Numbed: Mercury Drops to -37 Degrees
»The Unstoppable Rise of the E-Book
»UK: Crime Victim Payouts Axed: Thousands Hurt in Violent Assaults No Longer Merit Compensation
»UK: EDL Given Go-Ahead to March in Leicester
»UK: LSE Islamophobia Motion: Not All Bad
»UK: Muslim Group Hits Out at Qur’an Exhibition Organisers
»UK: Row Breaks Out Over Chinese Donation to Cambridge
»UK: Searchlight Poll Finds Huge Support for Far Right ‘If They Gave Up Violence’
Mediterranean Union
»UFM: Mediterranean Solar Plan, Agreement With Medgrid
North Africa
»Can Egypt Make Democracy Work?
»Prison Torture in Libya: ‘Patients Who Had Been Electrically Shocked’
Israel and the Palestinians
»Slayer of Five Israeli Family Members Praised on Palestinian TV
Middle East
»EU Pushes Arab Plan for Regime Change in Syria
»Iran Unveils New Laser-Guided Missiles and Warns Response to Any Hostile Action Will be ‘Regretful But Destructive’Iran Claims Its Missiles Can Hit Moving Targets With a ‘High Degree of Precision’
»Iran Launches Spanish Channel
»Iran, Perceiving Threat From West, Willing to Attack on U.S. Soil, U.S. Intelligence Report Finds
»Iranian Opposition to Attend Swedish Meeting
»Russia Seeks to Play Peacemaker in Syria
»Show of Force in Strait of Hormuz: Risk of ‘Accidental’ Gulf War on the Rise
»Showdown Over Syria as UN Security Council Meets
»Tourism: Turkey, Istanbul Hosts 30% More Arab Visitors
»Turkey: Row Over Statue of Naked Woman
»UK: Interfaith Event to Tackle Hate
»Putin Promises Russia ‘New Economy’ After Protests
»Russia Blames ‘Cosmic Rays’ For Mars Probe Failure
South Asia
»India: Model of India’s Biggest Mosque Unveiled
»Social Media in India Continue to Debate Rushdie Issue
Far East
»China’s Sany to Buy Putzmeister
»China Loses WTO Appeal on Export Restrictions
»Japan Eyes Nuclear Reactor Restart to Meet Energy Demand
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Kenyan PM to Urge Dutch to Lift Khat Ban
»Dutch Minister: Border Cameras Do Not Break EU Law
»How Will Babies Named Jesus Save the Economy?
»Margaret Thatcher Complained About Asian Immigration to Britain
»Switzerland: Opposition Mounts Over Planned Asylum Centre
»UNHCR, 1,500 Dead and Missing in Mediterranean
Culture Wars
»UK: LSE Students Condemn Islamophobia as Racism
»UN Chief Ban Tells African Union Summit to Uphold Gay Rights
»General Withdraws From West Point Talk
»Major Companies Unite to Fight E-Mail Scams and Spam
»Space Station Dodges Debris From Destroyed Chinese Satellite
»Volcanoes May Have Sparked Little Ice Age

Financial Crisis

‘A Sarkozy Loss Would be Severe Setback for Berlin’

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is facing a steep uphill battle in his campaign for re-election. On Sunday, he announced a cornucopia of new policy proposals in a last ditch effort to inject life into the French economy. German commentators don’t think it will be enough.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

As British Jobless Toll Soars, UK Bosses Recruit Thousands in Romania More Than 2,400 Vacancies for Nurses, Engineers and Chefs Are Being Advertised in Bucharest

British bosses are offering thousands of jobs to Romanian workers as unemployment in the UK soars.

Just days ago, officials revealed that the number of British unemployed had reached a 17-year high of 2.68million.

But more than 2,400 vacancies, including roles for nurses, engineers, chefs and other skilled workers, are being advertised by an online recruitment agency in Bucharest.

The firm says that British companies are trying to fill 2,434 new jobs with Romanian workers — making the UK a better bet for migrant workers than Germany, which is advertising 2,387 positions.

Many of the posts in Britain are for medical positions, tourism professionals and skilled staff, with 25 per cent being offered to labourers and unskilled workers.

Earlier this month, UK unemployment hit 8.4 per cent, its highest level since 1994. But official figures show that nine out of ten jobs created in 2010 went to foreign nationals.

The Romanian website, TjobsRecruit, cheerily greets prospective job seekers with ‘New year, new job, new life!’

The vacancies, advertised in English, include 28 taxi driver jobs located all over the UK, nursing roles in care homes for £12 an hour, sales positions promising a minimum salary of £750 a month, junior doctors and aircraft engineers.

There are also 80 vacancies at gastropubs, three-star and four-star hotels in Oxfordshire, Warwickshire, Sussex and Surrey. These include opportunities for waiters (£12,646 a year), housekeepers (£6.20 an hour), receptionists (£14,500 a year) maintenance workers (£7.28 an hour) and various kitchen posts from porters to head chefs.

In 2010, the British Medical Association put the number of unemployed junior doctors in the UK at around 3,000. Yet the Romanian website is advertising for the junior doctor’s position of residential medical officer at hospitals across the UK.

Henry Smith, Conservative MP for Crawley, West Sussex, said he was concerned that jobs such as junior chef positions were being advertised to outside Britain when unemployment within the country is so high.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Banks Set to Double Borrowing From ECB: Report

(PARIS) — European banks plan to borrow at least twice as much money from the European Central Bank next month as they did in December, the Financial Times reported Tuesday, which would bring the sum to around one trillion euros ($1.32 trillion). “Several of the eurozone’s biggest banks told the Financial Times that they could double or triple their request for funds” when the ECB makes its second round of exceptional three-year loans on February 29, the report said.

“We should have done more (the) first time,” when more than 500 banks snapped up a record 489 billion euros ($644 billion) on December 21, the daily quoted the head of a eurozone bank as saying last week at the World Economic Forum. The ECB has massively boosted the amount of central bank funds it lends to eurozone banks at the ultra-low rate of 1.0 percent to prevent a crucial interbank lending market from seizing up.

Banks have once again begun to curb lending to each other amid concern that borrowers might not be able to pay back the loans, forcing the ECB to assume the role of lender of last resort. Much of the money has nonetheless be parked back in ECB coffers in the form of poorly-remunerated overnight deposits because that is also the safest place for commercial banks to stash excess cash.

Analyst say some of the funds have nonetheless been used to purchase eurozone government bonds, easing pressure on heavily-indebted members, though bond yields climbed Monday for many southern countries considered most at risk of default.

“Talk about an one-trillion-euro avalanche of money (after the 489 billion euro injection in late December) could further defuse concerns about banks and about Italian and Spanish refinancing needs,” Berenberg Bank chief economist Holger Schmieding said. “With luck, the mere expectation that there will be so much liquidity around could strengthen private sector bidding at upcoming auctions for these two sovereigns,” he added.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Cameron Keen to See French Banks Relocate to UK

British leader Cameron on Monday welcomed the prospect of French banks leaving France should French President Sarkozy impose a financial transaction tax, reports the AFP. “The door will be open and we’ll be able to welcome many more French banks, businesses and others to the UK,” said Cameron.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Czechs Abandon EU Fiscal Pact, For Now

BRUSSELS — The new EU treaty on fiscal discipline will be signed by 25 instead of 26 member states after the Czech Republic on Monday (30 January) joined the UK in staying out of the pact. Czech Prime Minister Petr Necas told journalists at a summit in Brussels that his country might join in future.

“I could not express my approval of this treaty but I consider it was extremely important that a consensus was reached on article 15 that it will be possible to opt in and to accede to this treaty without any requirement for negotiations. So this treaty remains open for future accession,” he said.

He explained that he stayed out for three reasons: because non-euro countries will not be able to participate in all eurozone summits; because the treaty does not pay enough attention to debt; and because it would face “complicated ratification” back home.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

French Banks Would Come to Britain to Avoid Tax: Cameron

(BRUSSELS) — British Prime Minister David Cameron took a fresh dig at cross-channel rival France Monday, warning that French banks would flee to Britain if Paris introduces a financial transactions tax. In comments aimed squarely at Nicolas Sarkozy after the French president reportedly criticised British industry, Cameron said the concept of the tax at a time of economic difficulty was “mad” and “extraordinary”.

“I know I used the word mad, but I do think it’s an extraordinary thing to do,” he told a press conference after a European Union summit in Brussels, referring to the introduction of the tax. “The European Commissioner has told us this would cost Europe half a million jobs. Now when we’re all fighting for jobs and for growth, to do something that would cost so many jobs does seem to me to be extraordinary.

“And in the spirit of this healthy competition with France, if France goes for a financial transactions tax then the door will be open and we’ll be able to welcome many more French banks, businesses and others to the UK. “We’ll expand our economy in that way as well as by rebalancing it, because I think this is the wrong move.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

German Jobs’ Boom Continues as Unemployment Falls to Record Low

The German labor market remains robust as seasonally adjusted jobless numbers fell for the third consecutive month in January. A slight rise in unadjusted term was “purely for seasonal reasons.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

German Chancellor Seeks Euro Help in China

In her first trip abroad this year, German Chancellor Merkel sets off to China. Chinese support in the euro crisis and the oil embargo against Iran are expected to be on the agenda.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Greece Seeks Bail-Out Deal ‘This Week’ To Avert Catastrophe

BRUSSELS — Greece is seeking a deal with private lenders and the EU “by the end of the week” its prime minister said Tuesday (31 January), as Athens races to avoid a financial meltdown ahead of debt repayments due in March. Speaking to journalists after a special conclave at the end of the EU summit on Monday, Prime Minister Lucas Papademos said he had “more detailed discussion” with his “European friends” about the talks with private bankers and the outstanding reforms needed to secure a €130 billion bail-out Greece needs to refinance its debt in March.

EU council chief Herman Van Rompuy, commission president Jose Manuel Barroso, as well as the head of the eurozone finance ministers, Jean Claude-Juncker and European Central Bank (ECB) envoy Joerg Asmussen are understood to have put extra pressure on Papademos to “deliver” on the spending cuts in order to secure the deal. The conclave was needed because “during the summit at 27 we did not go into details, there were other important issues on the agenda,” Papademos explained.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Greece: House Prices in Freefall

Further fall of 10-15% expected this year

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, JANUARY 31 — The effects of the economic crisis that has rocked Greece for the last three years is being felt significantly on the property market. Based on transactions in the sector over the last year (considered the worst to date), experts say that house prices, for both old and new homes, have decreased by between 20 and 30%. Leftris Potamianos, the owner of the “Seek and Find” estate agency in Athens and treasurer of the association of estate agents for Athens and Attica, says that the fall in prices particularly affects transactions operated through estate agents.

“While requested prices were around 10 or 15% below previous years, final prices often fell by a further 10% after negotiations,” Potamianos explained to the Athenian newspaper Kathimerini. However, the estate agent continued, the most significant drop was registered for old homes, where the urgent financial needs of the sellers in some cases was the driving force in transactions.

On the other side of the market, the number of transactions involving new properties carried out by construction firms last year was very low, though most firms, particularly in the fourth quarter of the year, showed some signs of light recovery after constructors lowered their initial requests. Overall, though, transactions throughout the country are estimated to have dropped by 50% compared to the previous year.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Ireland Mulls if Vote Needed for EU Fiscal Pact

(DUBLIN) — Ireland’s chief legal officer will consider whether the terms of the EU’s proposed fiscal pact will require a referendum to ratify it, Deputy Prime Minister Eamon Gilmore said on Tuesday. At the first summit of the year, 25 of 27 EU leaders on Monday backed a new fiscal treaty that forces countries to enshrine in their national law a so-called “golden rule” to balance budgets or face automatic sanctions.

“The agreement is intended to stabilise the euro and to ensure that the European economy grows,” Gilmore told RTE state radio. “The question of whether or not there will be a referendum depends on whether or not the terms of the agreement comply with our constitution and, in the first instance, the Attorney General will be asked to give her opinion on that,” Gilmore said.

Any referendum would be watched closely by Ireland’s EU partners, as it has sent shockwaves through the bloc in the past by initially rejecting two treaties before passing both in a second vote. Micheal Martin, leader of the main Fianna Fail opposition party, described the outcome of the summit as “disappointing”, saying it contained no new initiative to overcome the economic crisis in Europe. “We will be seeking our own legal advice on the text, but our position remains that the people must be consulted on any significant change to our position in Europe,” Martin said.

The opposition Sinn Fein party is opposed to the treaty saying it will surrender control of Irish fiscal and budgetary matters to EU officials and impose “destructive” austerity on the Irish people. An opinion poll on Sunday found almost three-quarters of Irish voters believe there should be a referendum on the pact.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italy: EU’s Best Paid Lawmakers Asked to Cut Own Salary

Rome, 31 Jan. (AKI) — Italy’s emergency government has asked the country’s politicians to cut their own salaries — the highest in the European Union.

Prime minister Mario Monti’s government late Monday said that a decree was sent to the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate to trim their pay as part of a broader effort to put Italy’s financial house in order.

Monti and a team of non-professional politicians took over from Silvio Berlusconi’s government in November as borrowing costs for the European Union’s fourth-richest country spiralled to worrisome levels increasing the likelihood that Italy would have trouble paying interest on its 1.9 trillion euro-debt load. The very future of the euro currency would be put at risk should Italy not be able to pay its bills.

Monti has pushed through measures that raise taxes and require Italians to work longer before retiring. The austerity packages have created outrage prompting Italians to demand that their pampered political class make sacrifices as well.

Italy’s 950 lawmakers will have to make due with a gross cut totalling 1,300 euros. Their average monthly salary of 16,000 euros makes them the top earners among lawmakers in the European Union, according to a government commission report released in December.

The basic salary of an Italian politician is 149,215 euros annually, double the salaries of the Germans and the British, three times the salary of the Portuguese, and four times that of the Spanish, according to data collected by the BBC.

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

Italy: December Unemployment 8.9%, Highest Since 2004

2.24 mln unemployed, male and youth hardest hit

(ANSAmed) — ROME — The rate of unemployment in Italy reached 8.9% in December, a rise of 0.1 percentage points on November and of 0.8% compared to the corresponding month of 2010. The figure is at its highest since January 2004 (when monthly comparisons began), according to the Italian statistics institute (ISTAT), which bases the figures on provisional estimates. The quarterly figure is at its highest since the third quarter of 2001. The hardest hit, says ISTAT, are men, with a rise in male unemployment of 1.1% on the previous year, while the rate of female unemployment is up by 0.4%. The job market is also closed off to young people. The rate of youth unemployment (concerning people aged 15-24) stood at 31% in December, a fall of 0.2% on November, but a 3% increase compared to December 2010. The figure is above 30% for the fourth quarter in a row. Overall, 2.243 million people were unemployed in December, an increase of 0.9% on November. On a year-on-year basis, ISTAT says, the rise was 10.9%. The figure is at its highest since January 2004 (when monthly figures began) and the highest in 10 years (first quarter of 2001) on a quarterly basis.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Merkel Gets Her Fiscal Pact: EU Summit Marred by Fears of German Domination

Angela Merkel got the green light for her fiscal pact at Monday’s EU summit but struggled to allay new fears of German domination. The planned message of the meeting — a commitment to jobs and growth — was drowned out by controversy following German calls to put Greece’s budget under EU control.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Nearly Every Fourth Spaniard is Out of a Job

Spain’s jobless rate soared to a 17-year record high in the final quarter of last year. It had the greatest percentage of unemployed people in the entire industrialized world. And the outlook remains bleak.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

S&P May Downgrade G20 Nations as of 2015

Standard & Poor’s (S&P) threatens to lower ratings of G20 countries by 2015 reported Reuters on Monday (30 January). The rating agency takes issue on rising health-care costs and high expenses related to an expanding aging population. It is particularly concerned with the US and Japan.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Spain: PM Acknowledges “Difficulties” of Meeting Targets

Rajoy overheard telling EU leaders that labor reforms will prompt a strike

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy told European leaders on Monday that it is going to be difficult for Spain to meet its pledge to reduce its budget deficit to 4.4 percent of GDP by the end of this year.

“We’re going to present a new macroeconomic framework — the current one says that we’ll have GDP growth of 2.3 percent this year but it is evident that it won’t end up like this,” Rajoy said after talks with European Commission President José Manuel Barroso, who, according to sources, asked Rajoy to approve the state budget before March. Barroso didn’t respond to a question regarding this, and Rajoy denied that they had discussed it.

Later, Rajoy was overheard complaining about his difficulties to EU leaders during an informal encounter. “The labor reform is going to earn me a general strike,” Rajoy told Finnish Prime Minister Jyki Katainen near an open microphone with television cameras rolling.

“It is always hard, but now it is going to get even harder,” he said in another aside with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte. “What it all boils down to is that (the Socialists) left us a very complicated inheritance, with a deficit of more than eight percent. And the forecast for growth this year is very bad,” he concluded.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Bismarck Recordings Found in Edison’s Lab

The only known recordings of Germany’s legendary Chancellor Otto von Bismarck have surfaced in the former laboratory of US inventor Thomas Edison. The New York Times reported on Tuesday that the content of the wax cylinder records, which had been stored in a cabinet for decades, was only uncovered after the curator of the Edison museum in New Jersey played them on special phonograph.

Made by Edison’s assistant Theodor Wangemann in 1889 and 1890, the recordings include the only known sample of Bismarck’s voice, as well as recitations by German military strategist Helmuth von Moltke and several musical pieces. “This is sensational,” said Ulrich Lappenküper, director of the Otto von Bismarck Foundation in Friedrichsruh, Germany told the paper.

Known as the Iron Chancellor, Bismarck united Germany in 1871. At the time of the recording he was 74, and still the political leader of the German Empire.

The New York Times reported he recited poetry in English, Latin, French and German to Wangemann at his residence in Friedrichruh. The researchers were also surprised to hear he had also spoken parts of the French national anthem, the Marseillaise, considering the statesman had played a key role in Prussia’s defeat of France just prior to German unification.

“Bismarck was a very, very witty man,” Jonathan Steinberg, a historian and Bismarck biographer at the University of Pennsylvania.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Caroline Glick: Hamas and the Washington Establishment

To date, the Republican presidential primary race has been the only place to have generated any useful contributions to America’s collective understanding of current events in the Middle East. Last month, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich became the first major political figure in more than a generation to pour cold water over the Palestinian myth of indigenous peoplehood by stating the truth, that the Palestinians are an “invented people.”

As Gingrich explained, their invention came in response to Zionism, the Jewish national liberation movement. Since they were created somewhere around 1920, the Palestinians’ main purpose has not been the establishment of a Palestinian state but the obliteration of the Jewish state…

           — Hat tip: Caroline Glick[Return to headlines]

Credit Suisse Hands US Millions of Emails

After consultation with Credit Suisse and other Swiss banks, Finance Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf has offered the US tax authorities millions of internal client emails in an attempt to relieve pressure on banks, according to reports. Some of the documents provided also included emails between client advisors and their US clients, personnel records and customer profiles, Swiss online news platform reported on Tuesday.

The number of documents already delivered is estimated to be between four and six and a half million, all of which have been provided by bank giant Credit Suisse. The move is seen as part of Switzerland’s strategy to try to stem the tide of US attacks on Swiss banks.

The documents are encrypted to protect the names of individuals, Blick said. The key to decoding the information will only be provided on assurances from the US that no further action against Switzerland’s remaining 300 banks will be taken, Blick reports. Switzerland wants these assurances to be enshrined in a new treaty with Washington, radio station DRS reports.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Newt Gingrich’s Moon Base by 2020: Can it be Done?

GOP presidential primary candidate Newt Gingrich has promised a manned moon base by 2020 if he is elected, yet such a plan will face some serious budgetary and practical hurdles, experts say.

Gingrich is in Florida competing for that state’s nomination for the Republican candidacy against Mitt Romney, Ron Paul and Rick Santorum. Ambitious plans for America’s space program are likely to generate enthusiasm among those in Florida’s space industry, hard-hit by the retirement of the space shuttle last year.

“By the end of my second term, we will have the first permanent base on the moon, and it will be American,” Gingrich promised during a speech in the city of Cocoa, on Florida’s Space Coast, Jan. 25. Yet experts question whether a plan to send people to live on the moon can so quickly be achieved.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Paris Hilton Visits LA Mosque for First Time

LOS ANGELES — USA — Former adult film star, Paris Hilton, has visited a mosque in the Beverly Hills area of the city and was photographed leaving in a limousine soon after entering for Friday prayers. The recently converted celebrity star has discarded her previous lifestyle as a slut, and coke snorting drink driver, to embrace a virtuous life as a role model for other Western celebrities converting to Islam. Speaking, just as she walked on to the steps outside the mosque, she told of her joy of finding a new religion: “Ever since I joined Islam, I have adored the virtuous lifestyle of covering my hair, fasting, of praising other holders of the faith and reciting Quranic verse every day instead of going to night clubs wearing nothing but a thong and a bull whip. My name is Tahirah and I want you all to call me this name from now on. Paris is gone, she is finished, she was leading the life of Shaitan. I have left that in my past and I want everyone else to embrace the ways of Islam too. I want to travel to Saudi Arabia or Dubai to find me a Muslim prince next.”


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Pentagon Unable to Account for Missing Iraqi Millions

The Pentagon doesn’t know what happened to more than $100 million in cash held at Saddam Hussein’s palace in Baghdad during the Iraq war, according to a new report by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction.

What’s more, the Pentagon can’t find documents to explain what it spent as much as $1.7 billion on from funds held on behalf of the Iraqi government by the New York Federal Reserve, the report says. The missing records raise new questions about how the US government handled billions of dollars in Iraqi funds during the war.

The new report, the latest in a multi-year investigation by the inspector general into missing money in Iraq, paints a picture of Pentagon officials digging through boxes of hard copy records looking for missing paper copies of Excel spreadsheets, monthly reports and other paper documents that should have been kept detailing what the money was spent on and why those expenditures were necessary. Apparently, there are no electronic records to back up the spending.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Tough Fight Expected in Florida Republican Primary

Florida is the fourth state to choose its candidate for the Republican presidential nomination. It’s a state that reflects the entire nation which will be watching Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich battle it out.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

US President Admits to Use of Drones in Pakistan, Iraq

The US has used drones in Iraq and in tribal areas in Pakistan, US President Barack Obama said in an online question-and-answer session on Monday. But he insisted that drones were only used sparingly.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Capturing the Heart of the Disappearing Arctic

“THE big ice is sick.” These words, spoken by an old Inuit hunter, capture for photographer Ragnar Axelsson the tragedy of the disappearing Arctic. Over the last 25 years Axelsson has made many visits to the frigid wilderness from his home in Iceland. His new exhibition, Last Days of the Arctic, is his attempt to document a dying land.

Axelsson travelled the austere landscape of remote Greenland and Canada by traditional dog sled, often crawling at 5 kilometres per hour at -40 °C. “You’re fighting the cold and wind, just watching white ice over and over. It’s a long time between some action.” The temperature posed gruesome challenges, he recalls: “Your fingernails get loose when you’re trying to open the camera.”

The region has changed dramatically since Axelsson first started visiting. “Twenty-five years ago the ice was one metre thick,” he says. “Last year, it was so thin you couldn’t even jump off the dog sled.” The ice is now inaccessible for long periods, changing hunting seasons and methods.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

A Hundred Chinese Businesses Heading for Flanders?

One hundred Chinese companies are considering setting up business in Belgium. Deputy Premier Vincent Van Quickenborne (Flemish liberal) says that the Chinese firms want to use Belgium as a staging post on the road to conquering the European market.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

ABB Irked by Breivik Link

Swiss-Swedish engineering giant ABB has admitted it considered contacting newspaper editors to ask them to stop using the firm’s name as shorthand for confessed mass killer Anders Behring Breivik. Within hours of the dual July 22nd terrorist attacks that left 77 dead in Norway, newspapers and users of social media began using the initials to refer to the confessed perpetrator, whose full name was considered ill-suited to headlines and Twitter messages.

Top ABB executives took a dim view of media outlets using the three-letter contraction to designate the 32-year-old terrorist but ultimately decided not to take any action, newspaper Stavanger Aftenblad reports. “It’s aggravating when daily newspapers use ABB to describe the terrorist, and it is our opinion that they should be more aware of this,” said ABB spokeswoman Helene Gunther Merg.

“Despite this, we decided to let it go. It would have been impossible to limit the use of the abbreviation on social media.” Branding experts consulted by the newspaper said the company had little to worry about in terms of its reputation.

Since ABB is not a firm that targets normal consumers this is unlikely to have a major effect for them,” said Håvard Hansen, professor of marketing at the Universtity of Stavanger.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Are Germans Becoming Favored Kidnapping Targets?

An engineer in Nigeria, two tourists in Ethiopia, an aid worker in Pakistan: all are German nationals abducted abroad in January. The number of kidnappings have been rising steadily over the past years. A new trend?

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Austria’s Freedom Party Leader Says Far-Rightists Are ‘The New Jews’

The leader of Austria’s far-right Freedom Party, Hans-Christian Strache, came in for sharp criticism Monday after reportedly comparing demonstrations against far-right students with the persecution of Jews.

A reporter of the daily Der Standard overheard Strache at a controversial Vienna ball organized by right-wing student unions on Friday.

It drew some 2,600 demonstrators, critical of the fact that the event coincided with the Holocaust memorial day.

“We are the new Jews,” the Freedom Party (FPOe) chief was quoted as saying to others attendees in conversation, reacting to leftist and radical protesters who had heckled some guests as they arrived at the venue.

Other political parties said the comment was outrageous, and Vienna’s Jewish community announced it would report the incident to the prosecutor’s office.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Brussels: Court Proceedings in English Soon?

The Flemish Bar Council, the organisation grouping all Flemish lawyers, has called for the option of using English in court in Brussels to be introduced. The Flemish Bar Council says that this option is more meaningful than splitting the judicial district of Brussels Halle Vilvoorde in a Flemish and Francophone judicial district.

Flemish Bar Council President Edgar Boydens: “Are these the reforms that the justice sector is waiting for? The disappearance of bilingualism in a European capital where multilingualism involving three or four languages should prevail. If we want Brussels to be awarded an international role, then it’s not only important that the European institutions are housed here, but also European courts, in which, in addition to Dutch and French, English should have its place.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Critics Fear Influence of Chinese State on Confucius Institute Affiliates

Eleven universities in Germany host Confucius Institutes, which are financed by China. Are German universities at risk of becoming mouthpieces for the Chinese Communist Party?

In 2007, Hu Jintao told the 17th Communist Party Congress that China needed to increase its soft power. China wants to win over the hearts and minds of people abroad by presenting language and culture in an attractive way. Some 370 Confucius Institutes across the world are part of this strategy and there are 11 of them at German universities.

The institutes offer inexpensive Chinese language courses, lectures on Chinese culture and economic development and put on cultural events. “There is a great demand for learning Chinese and finding out about Chinese culture,” says Jiang Feng, head of the education department at the Chinese embassy in Berlin. And of course the institutes also promote cultural, educational and economic exchange, he adds.

Confucius Institutes appear to be similar to German Goethe Institutes. But there is one main difference: Goethe Institutes abroad are self-contained establishments, whereas Confucius Institutes are attached to foreign universities abroad. Jörg-Meinhard Rudolph from the East Asia Institute at the Ludwigshafen University of Applied Sciences thinks the setup is problematic. The sinologist accuses German universities of allowing themselves to be taken in by the Chinese government’s soft policy strategy.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Denmark: Petrified Poo Designated National Treasure

Rare stone of homely origin offers up clues to Bornholm’s ancient history

A 140-million-year-old turd from Bornholm has been given a prestigious ‘national, natural treasure’ status (danekræ) by paleontologists at the Natural History Museum of Denmark. “Fossil excrement doesn’t hang from the trees,” paleontologist and University of Copenhagen assistant professor Arne Thorshøj Nielsen told the Ritzau news bureau, explaining the rarity of the find.

Nielsen added that the ancient excrement “can give us a glimpse into what life was like in Denmark 140 million years ago” — which is why the little hunk of ossified feces has been given the special status reserved for natural history objects with unique scientific significance.

Paleontologists Niels Bond from the University of Copenhagen and Jesper Milan from Østsjællands Museum have conducted the scientific inspection of the brown-hued, tubular-shaped natural treasure. It was discovered last year in an old gravel pit on the island of Bornholm and measures a little over four centimeters long by two centimeters in diameter and contains minute burrowing holes from the larvae of an ancient species of fly.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

EU Leaders Speed Up ESM Launch, Endorse Fiscal Pact

EU leaders have approved the early debut of their permanent rescue fund, the ESM, and 25 states approved an agreement that cedes budget control over to Brussels. The UK and the Czech Republic have withheld their support.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

France and Italy Plan High-Speed Rail Link

France and Italy on Monday signed an agreement to build a high-speed rail link between Lyon and Turin, the largest such project in Europe, despite opposition on the Italian side of the border. The line, which is due to be completed by 2023, would allow high-speed trains to link Paris and Turin in just over four hours, compared to seven at present.

The Lyon to Turin connection would be cut back from just over four to just under two. Work will begin with the digging of a 57-kilometre tunnel (35 mile) tunnel under the Alps to link the border areas.

The €8.5 billion ($11.2 billion) tunnel will funded by France, Italy, and the European Union, with Italian Deputy Transport Minister Mario Ciaccia saying he hoped the EU would pay 40 percent of the cost. The new line will take account of human and environmental impact studies on the Italian side of the border where violent protests took place last year, French Transport Minister Thierry Mariani said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

France: ‘Major Technology Transfers’ In India Fighter Deal: Sarkozy

President Nicolas Sarkozy said Tuesday that a deal for French firm Dassault to sell Rafale fighter jets to India would include significant transfers of technology. Hailing the deal, Sarkozy also said the French state would back Dassault in final talks on the details of the agreement.

“The negotiation of the contract will begin very soon with the full support of French authorities. It will include major transfers of technology guaranteed by the French state,” he said. “France welcomes the Indian government’s decision to chose a French plane and to enter into exclusive negotiations with Dassault,” Sarkozy said.

“This announcement comes following a competition that was at a very high level, was fair and transparent and which opposed two European finalists.” He said the Rafale was chosen “thanks to the competitiveness of the global cost of the aircraft over its lifetime.”

French and Indian officials said Tuesday that Dassault had beaten the Eurofighter consortium for the right to enter final exclusive talks with India on providing 126 Rafale fighter jets. The estimated $12 billion (nine billion euro) contract — the first sale of the multi-role Rafales to a foreign buyer — gave a much-needed boost to the Rafale programme.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italy: Town of Salemi Offers to Host Mosque

Mayor meets Qatar delegation, construction area identified

(ANSAmed) — SALEMI, JANUARY 30 — A major mosque becoming a place of worship for all Muslims in Sicily could be built in Salemi. The proposal has been made by the mayor of the city, Vittorio Sgarbi, to the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad Ben Kaliffa Al Thani.

The mayor this morning formally agreed to make an area of the Rabato district in the centre of the town available for construction. The project would see the fulfilment of a scheme pushed through by Sgarbi himself as early as 2009. “Financing for the construction of the mosque is guaranteed by a bilateral agreement between the town of Salemi and Qatar,” Sgarbi said.

The announcement follows Sgarbi’s meeting in Catania last night with a delegation from Qatar led by Sheikh Hamadi Ahmad, the chairman of the Qatar Charity Foundation, representatives of the union of Italian Islamic communities and organisations (UCOII), and Giampiero Paladini, the chairman of Confime, the confederation of businesses in southern Italy.

“Sicily is enthusiastic about hosting Islam,” Sgarbi said. “Nothing is more important than finding common sentiments and convictions in the different religions that consider a single God. This is one of the reasons that just as our cities have Christian places of worship, I think it is important for a mosque to be built in Salemi for citizens of Arab culture and language. History imposes it upon us”.

On Saturday, the Qatari delegation, accompanied by local official Tania Riccò and the town councillor, Fabrizio Gucciardi (who is also a regional representative of Confime) visited the old town of Salemi, stopping off in the Arab quarter of Rabato, that mayor Sgarbi has suggested as the site for the construction of the new mosque.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Marketing Mishap: European Cold Front ‘Cooper’ Sponsored by Mini

Dozens of people have been killed so far as a high pressure system from Siberia holds much of Europe in its icy grip. The cold front has been named “Cooper” in Germany, after the Mini Cooper compact. The company’s advertising agency having paid 299 euros to sponsor it.

But the thousands of people suffering in the freezing conditions across Europe would probably use words other than beautiful to describe the weather, with temperatures in some places plunging to minus 33 degrees Celsius. Numerous deaths have been reported in Ukraine and Poland, in addition to victims in Serbia and Bulgaria. The weather, which has blown eastwards from Siberia, where temperatures have sunk as low as minus 45 degrees Celsius, is expected to remain largely unchanged for the rest of the week.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Norway Numbed: Mercury Drops to -37 Degrees

Temperatures plunged to a perishing -37 degrees Celsius on Tuesday to give Telemark county in southern Norway its coldest day in more than three decades.

The cold snap stems from a high pressure belt over Finland and Russia, which may be set to bring even colder weather over the coming days.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

The Unstoppable Rise of the E-Book

The popularity of electronic reading devices, such as the Kindle, is seeing demand for electronic texts shoot up, but not everyone in the sector is happy

Is the Spanish publishing ecosystem being dynamited or dynamized? When Amazon’s e-reader, the Kindle, burst on to the scene in December with 28,000 Spanish-language titles in tow — some priced at just two or three euros — the world of books started changing forever.

New online publishers and bookstores are now joining a price war in a world where everything is suddenly being questioned — from the way we read, down to what we call a book. Confusion reigns when it comes to distinguishing between the physical device (the electronic reader) and the content (the text in electronic format). Device makers are fighting the former battle, publishing houses are caught up in the latter, and Amazon is busy on both fronts.

The novelist Juan Gómez-Jurado is hearing the gunfire from the front lines, and firing a few shots himself. The Kindle edition of his book El emblema del traidor (or, The traitor’s emblem) has been at the top of Amazon Spain’s bestseller list for over a month. “My contract prevents me from revealing how many I have sold, but it’s been thousands,” he says. Gómez-Jurado sets the price of the book (which in just one week has gone from 1.49 euros to 2.68 euros). “I aim to make a euro on each book sale, the rest is for Amazon.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: Crime Victim Payouts Axed: Thousands Hurt in Violent Assaults No Longer Merit Compensation

Victims of violent street attacks left with a dislocated jaw or broken hand will be denied compensation under new cuts.

Burns victims with permanent scarring will also be refused payment as part of reforms announced yesterday by Justice Secretary Ken Clarke.

Payouts for minor injuries will be scrapped, while those for some more serious injuries will be sharply reduced to focus funding on ‘support services’ and the victims of the worst crimes, he said.

Around 15,000 a year will lose out under the changes. Critics said it was wrong that ‘innocent victims of crime’ should suffer.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

UK: EDL Given Go-Ahead to March in Leicester

The English Defence League will be allowed to march through Leicester on Saturday — as long as it agrees to a route and conditions laid down by police. Senior police officers have advised the city council that a march would be easier to contain than a “static protest,” which they cannot prevent from taking place even if a march was banned. The city council will therefore not approach the Home Secretary for a ban on the planned march, unless the EDL refuses to agree with the proposed route and conditions. A counter demonstration is also planned by opposition group Leicester Unite Against Fascism (LUAF). It too has been offered a set route for a march and its response is also awaited. The proposed routes begin outside the city centre but would allow both groups to march past landmarks — the Clock Tower, in the EDL’s case, while the LUAF march would take in the Town Hall. Over the past two weeks, some opponents of the EDL have been calling for the council to apply for a ban on the march — as it did in October 2010. That protest degenerated into violence as people within a cordoned-off area reserved for the EDL threw bricks, bottles, coins and fireworks at police.

Leicester Mercury, 31 January 2012

The EDL are of course well pleased with the decision to allow them to march. Their Facebook announcement of the demo concludes: “in 2010 they banned us! now for the sake of the victims of anti English racism across the UK were back and were coming down the road.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: LSE Islamophobia Motion: Not All Bad

Yes, I know. I react badly, on a visceral level, to student union motions mandating or opposing particular forms of speech. Most of you probably do too.


[Reader comment by Sarka on 30 January 2012 at 5:03 pm.]

Union believes:

5. That Islamophobia is a form of anti-Islamic racism.

The rot seems to start here. Just pedantically I smiled at the formula because it suggests that Islamophobia is just one form of anti-Islamic racism (what are the others?) But if you start from a definition that insists that Islamophobia (or even AMB [Anti-Muslim bigotry]) IS a form of racism, you are destined to remain in a mental mess. Just recently I had an exchange with someone on religious-hate and race-hate attacks in the US (which are statistically recorded separately). Having pointed out that there are many more faith-hate-crimes against Jews than against Muslims, I was told severely that many of the race-hare crimes were just masked Islamophobe crimes. Now I know there may be category problems distinguishing faith-hate from race-hate crimes, but this is just a flower-pot game approach…

Straightforwardly, the relation of racism to AMB must be as follows:

- obviously, since most though by no means all Muslims are non-European, some Western hostility to Muslims is likely also to express — and/or historically be continuous with — racial hostility to non-Europeans. But it is clear enough that many white people are anti-Islamic without their showing any signs of racism against non-white people who are not Muslim. And if, e.g. we rank extreme Hindu nationalists as among the more extreme kinds of Islamophobe, does this mean we have to class these Hindus as “racists”. — to justify saying Islamophobia is a form of racism, we would then have to have an expanded concept of “racism” — make it a kind of standin term for any form of communal bigotry against some group or other. Especially when no one ever bothers to theorise this, though, there seems no good reason for it. Warring Protestants and Catholics in NI may be called many things, but I’m not comfortable with calling them mutual “racists”. If Salafi Egyptians attack Egytian Copts, what is the gain in calling them “racists”? When we have words like “ethnic”, “cultural” or “sectarian” why not try to use them?

Apart from the debatable ad-mixture of “anti-Paki” old-fashioned race hatred in some forms of anti-Islamism in the UK, the main dynamic behind the attempt to define AMB as a form of racism has quite obviously been the push to make Islamophobia the equivalent of antisemitism. Notoriously antisemitism has been a blend of religious and race prejudice — and is more or less sui generis in this respect — AMB CANNOT be considered to be the same, because for example Muslim identity is not sufficiently theorised as racial for anyone but nutters to believe that it is transmitted by blood and that a person whose Muslim mum converted to Catholicism is still in some sinister way a Muslim!

I do not reject moves — by a student union or anyone else — to take action against religious bigotry, ethnic bigotry, or classic racist bigotry. I am also aware that there can be and often are tie-ups and overlaps between forms of prejudice — depending on each case and its context. But this strategy of defining anti-Islamism as a racism — and therefore making it ipso facto racist to make robust criticisms of a scriptural text, or the practices and ideas of some of its interpreters — is completely insane. It is true that on one edge AMB may abut on racism in the classic sense, but also true that as a universalist proselytising religious ideology — hardy identified with one racial group -it abuts on the other side with ideologies such as “socialism”, “fascism” or “liberalism”. And how would we react at the statement, “socialistophobia is to be defined as a form of anti-socialist racism”…????

In my humble view the LSE union would do better not to have any code on combatting specifically “Islamophobia”. AMB does not — however desperately many desire that — inhabit the same category as antisemitism. It is a form of religious bigotry and as such should be covered by whatever declarations a union or other make on freedom of speech. Islam and Muslims should be no more and no less protected from bigotry or intimidation than Christianity and Catholics, Hinduism and Hindus, Buddhists, Zoroastrians, and all varieties. If a Muslim student wants to complain that attacks on his religion were “racist” that should be something that requires some substantiation (e.g. yobbos shouted at him that he was a dirty Paki terrorist) — it absolutely cannot be assumed a priori that an attack on Islam is “racist” — the stupid principle on which the whole document is based.

So — this is all deplorable rubbish however well-intentioned.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Muslim Group Hits Out at Qur’an Exhibition Organisers

A ROW has broken out over an exhibition about the Muslim holy book, the Qur’an. A Muslim group has accused the exhibition’s organisers of ‘hijacking the Muslim identity’. The event organised by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association is being held at Dewsbury Town Hall tomorrow. But members of Kirklees Muslim Action Committee said the group had no right to put on an exhibition about the Qur’an, saying they were non-Muslims. Committee member Dr Abid Hussain said: “We object strongly to the fact that a small minority are telling people about the Holy Qur’an when they are not even Muslims.” But the Ahmadiyya group argues that it is entitled to organise the exhibition, as they consider themselves to be Muslims. Arif Ahmad, vice president of the Spen Valley branch which covers north Kirklees said: “There are doctrinal differences between different groups but we believe ourselves to be Muslims. “We believe the Holy Qur’an is our holy book and we hope to show it to the public.” The Ahmadiyya Muslim Association originally planned to hold its exhibition in December, but postponed it on police advice. Mr Ahmad said: “There were actually threats and information that there might be problems with other Muslim groups.”

Last Saturday, the Huddersfield branch of the Ahmadiyya group had an exhibition at Huddersfield Town Hall. Protesters from the Muslim Action Committee were present, but peaceful.

Dr Hussain said his group’s members would have been equally peaceful at the Dewsbury event that was postponed in December. He added: “Our response in Huddersfield was completely peaceful. We took measures to ensure that there would not be any trouble and we would have done the same in Dewsbury.” He said the group was considering its response to the event taking place tomorrow. Criticism of the Ahmadiyya group is based on their belief that their founder is a prophet — a view not shared by other Muslims. In 1974 members of the Ahmadiyya sect were declared to be non-Muslims by the World Muslim League and are not recognised as Muslims in several countries’ constitutions. A police spokesman said officers were working with the council, the Kirklees Imams Advisory Board and local people to police tomorrow’s event and ensure daily life could go on as usual.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Row Breaks Out Over Chinese Donation to Cambridge

A row has broken out at Cambridge University over a £3.7 million (4.4 million euro, $5.8 million) donation by a Chinese foundation, amid fears it is linked to the Chinese government. The new professorship of Chinese development will be established on March 1, funded by the Chong Hua Educational Foundation, to link research and teaching on the subject from across various university departments.

But a senior academic has expressed concern about the donation, at a time when links between universities and wealthy donors are under scrutiny following criticism of the London School of Economics for taking Libyan funds.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: Searchlight Poll Finds Huge Support for Far Right ‘If They Gave Up Violence’

Level of far-right support could outstrip that in France or Holland, says poll for Searchlight

Huge numbers of Britons would support an anti-immigration English nationalist party if it was not associated with violence and fascist imagery, according to the largest survey into identity and extremism conducted in the UK.

A Populus poll found that 48% of the population would consider supporting a new anti-immigration party committed to challenging Islamist extremism, and would support policies to make it statutory for all public buildings to fly the flag of St George or the union flag.

Anti-racism campaigners said the findings suggested Britain’s mainstream parties were losing touch with public opinion on issues of identity and race.

The poll suggests that the level of backing for a far-right party could equal or even outstrip that in countries such as France, the Netherlands and Austria. France’s National Front party hopes to secure 20% in the first round of the presidential vote next year. The Dutch anti-Islam party led by Geert Wilders attracted 15.5% of the vote in last year’s parliamentary elections.

Anti-fascist groups said the poll’s findings challenged the belief that Britons were more tolerant than other Europeans. “This is not because British people are more moderate, but simply because their views have not found a political articulation,” said a report by the Searchlight Educational Trust, the anti-fascist charity that commissioned the poll.

According to the survey, 39% of Asian Britons, 34% of white Britons and 21% of black Britons wanted all immigration into the UK to be stopped permanently, or at least until the economy improved. And 43% of Asian Britons, 63% of white Britons and 17% of black Britons agreed with the statement that “immigration into Britain has been a bad thing for the country”. Just over half of respondents — 52% — agreed with the proposition that “Muslims create problems in the UK”.

Jon Cruddas, the Labour MP who fought a successful campaign against the British National party in his Dagenham and Rainham constituency in east London, said that the findings pointed to a “very real threat of a new potent political constituency built around an assertive English nationalism”. The report identified a resurgence of English identity, with 39% preferring to call themselves English rather than British. Just 5% labelled themselves European.

Earlier this month David Cameron delivered a controversial speech on the failings of “state multiculturalism”. The speech was seized on by the anti-Islamic English Defence League, which said that the prime minister was “coming round” to its way of thinking. BNP leader Nick Griffin also welcomed the speech as a sign that his party’s ideas were entering “the political mainstream”.

           — Hat tip: ESW[Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union

UFM: Mediterranean Solar Plan, Agreement With Medgrid

Cooperation on interconnection infrastructures for energy

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, JANUARY 31 — The secretariat of the Union for the Mediterranean (UfMS) and the industrial consortium Medgrid have signed a Memorandum of Understanding, which foresees that Medgrid will support the UfMS in the implementation of the Mediterranean Solar Plan (MSP), aiming at developing on a large scale renewable energy and energy efficiency.

According to the Enpi website (, both parties would cooperate and act as partners in the development of the Master Plan of the MSP, in particular on the Trans-Mediterranean interconnection infrastructures for energy. In addition, the two entities will share their experts and analysts and will participate in each other’s working groups, especially concerning finance, infrastructures and projects of common interest.

Medgrid is a large industrial consortium, whose purpose is to elaborate the Master Plan of electrical trans-Mediterranean connections, and assess its technical, economical and institutional feasibility. “The MSP — the acting Secretary General of the UfMS, Lino Cardarelli said — is an ambitious project and this agreement will help us to implement it. Medgrid brings in the contribution of the leading industries in the sector and we look forward to working with their experts towards the production and transmission of renewable energy in the Mediterranean”.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Can Egypt Make Democracy Work?

One year after the revolution, Egypt may have a parliament, but it still has a long way to go before it can call itself a true democracy. The ultra-conservative Salafists have misgivings about the parliamentary system, while secular politicians worry that the Muslim Brotherhood and the military council are making deals behind the scenes.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Prison Torture in Libya: ‘Patients Who Had Been Electrically Shocked’

Doctors Without Borders suspended its work in the Libyan city of Misrata last week because prison officials repeatedly brought torture victims in for treatment — only to return them to interrogation after they received medical care. SPIEGEL spoke with the group’s general director, Christopher Stokes, about the situation in Libya.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Slayer of Five Israeli Family Members Praised on Palestinian TV

JERUSALEM (JWN)—A Palestinian terrorist serving five life terms for stabbing to death five members of an Israeli family was glorified as a “hero” and a “legend” on Palestinian Authority television recently.

Hakim Awad and his cousin, Amjad Awad, were convicted of murdering Ehud and Ruth Fogel, 36 and 35, along with three of their young children, Yoav, 11, Elad, four, and Hadas, three months old, at their home in Itamar last March. They were both sentenced to five life terms.

Palestinian television aired an interview with Hakim Awad’s mother and aunt earlier this month, who praised the two cousins as “heroes” and “a legend.” The interview was shown on a weekly show on Palestinian prisoners incarcerated in Israel.

The broadcast was reported by the Israeli media monitoring organization, Palestinian Media Watch.

           — Hat tip: Nick[Return to headlines]

Middle East

EU Pushes Arab Plan for Regime Change in Syria

BRUSSELS — EU leaders have urged the UN Security Council (UNSC) to adopt an Arab League plan for getting rid of Syrian leader Bashar Assad. Speaking on behalf of the bloc at a summit in Brussels on Monday (30 January), EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy voiced “outrage” at “the atrocities and repression committed by the Syrian regime.”

He said “the EU continues to support the efforts of the League of Arab States aimed at ending the violence in Syria” and that the UNSC should “urgently” take action. British Prime Minister David Cameron in a separate press briefing said: “On Syria — it is an appalling situation — 5,000 killed, 400 children murdered.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Iran Unveils New Laser-Guided Missiles and Warns Response to Any Hostile Action Will be ‘Regretful But Destructive’Iran Claims Its Missiles Can Hit Moving Targets With a ‘High Degree of Precision’

Iran has issued a stark warning to the West vowing that response to any hostile action will be ‘regretful but destructive’.

As tensions over its disputed nuclear programme continue to rise General Masoud Jazayeri, spokesman for Iran’s Joint Armed Forces Staff, said: ‘We will rigorously confront any threat or hostile behaviour, and our response will be definitely regretful and destructive.

‘We hope this (kind of behaviour) would not take place, but if it happens then the history will remember whether the Americans or the Iranians were bluffing.’

The General’s words came as Iran claimed it had produced ‘intelligent’ laser-guided artillery shells which can spot and hit moving targets with very high degrees of precision.

Defence Minister Ahmad Vahidi hailed what he described as ‘intelligent munitions’ as a new chapter in the country’s weapons and military equipment.

‘Besides America and Russia, there are only three other countries which have this technology,’ he said.

Tension between Iran and the West have been escalating over the past few weeks over whether Iran is harbouring nuclear weapons.

Today, Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi offered to extend the current visit of U.N. nuclear weapons inspectors and said he was optimistic their findings would help ease tensions.

The three day visit by the Atomic Energy Agency team began on Sunday and followed reports in November that suggested some of the Islamic Republic’s alleged experiments were focused on developing nuclear weapons.

Salehi said he was ‘optimistic about the results of the visit’ without offering more details and he also told Turkish state television that the U.N. mission could be ‘extended if necessary’.

The findings could greatly influence Western efforts to expand economic pressures on Iran over its uranium enrichment — which Washington and allies fear could eventually produce weapons-grade material.

Iran has declined to abandon its enrichment labs, but claims it seeks to fuel reactors only for energy and medical research.

The inspectors are likely to visit an underground enrichment site near Qom, 80 miles south of Tehran, which is carved into a mountain as protection from possible airstrikes.

Earlier this month, Iran said it had begun enrichment work at the site, which is far smaller than the country’s main uranium labs but is reported to have more advanced equipment.

The IAEA team also wants to talk to key Iranian scientists suspected of working on a weapons program. The team also plans to inspect documents related to nuclear work and secure commitments from Iranian authorities to allow future visits.

Oil prices have been driven higher in recent weeks by Iran’s warnings that it could block the Strait of Hormuz at the mouth of the Gulf, the route for about one-fifth of the world’s oil.

Last week, the American aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, joined by French and British warships, entered the Gulf in a show of strength against any attempts to disrupt oil tanker traffic.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Iran Launches Spanish Channel

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Tuesday officially launched Iran’s latest foreign-language news channel, a 24-hour satellite broadcaster aimed at Spanish speakers worldwide. “Viva España, viva America Latina,” he said in Spanish at the end of a televised speech to dignitaries attending the launch ceremony in Tehran.

The new channel, HispanTV, has already been test-broadcasting since mid-November from its offices in Tehran, using a staff of Iranian, Spanish and Latin American journalists. It joins another Iranian channel, Press TV, which broadcasts in English but whose London operations lost their British licence in January on the grounds they were being controlled editorially from Tehran.

Iran also finances an Arabic channel, Al-Alam, and three other outlets that part of the time offer programmes in Turkish, French and Urdu. The foreign-language broadcasts aim to counter what Iran sees as biased reporting against it in Western and Arab media. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez sent a message hailing HispanTV’s launch that was read out at Tuesday’s ceremony.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Iran, Perceiving Threat From West, Willing to Attack on U.S. Soil, U.S. Intelligence Report Finds

U.S. intelligence agencies believe that Iran is prepared to launch terrorist attacks inside the United States in response to perceived threats from America and its allies, the U.S. spy chief said Tuesday.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said in prepared testimony that an alleged Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington that was uncovered last year reflects an aggressive new willingness within the upper ranks of the Islamist republic to authorize attacks against the United States.

That plot “shows that some Iranian officials — probably including Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei — have changed their calculus and are now more willing to conduct an attack in the United States in response to real or perceived U.S. actions that threaten the regime,” Clapper said in the testimony, which was submitted to the Senate Intelligence Committee in advance of a threat assessment hearing Tuesday. “We are also concerned about Iranian plotting against U.S. or allied interests overseas.”

The assessment signals a potentially dire new direction in the adversarial relationship between the United States and Iran, at a time when there are indications that a covert campaign is already underway to thwart Iran’s alleged ambition to develop a nuclear weapons.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Iranian Opposition to Attend Swedish Meeting

Some 50 exiled members of the Iranian opposition and civil society will meet in Stockholm at the weekend to discuss how to help implement democracy in Iran, organisers said Tuesday. The two-day conference “will gather leading representatives from different parts of the opposition outside the country as well as writers, activists and university professors outside Iran,” the Olof Palme Centre said in a statement.

The “Unity for Democracy in Iran” conference will aim to “make it possible for different parts of the opposition to meet and discuss how they can coordinate their efforts for democracy in Iran,” it said. Iran is holding a parliamentary election on March 2nd, in what is seen as a tussle between two conservative camps, the supporters and opponents of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Russia Seeks to Play Peacemaker in Syria

Russia has been the most vocal opponent of action in the UN Security Council condemning government violence in Syria. Now it is has proposed hosting peace talks between the government and opposition.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Show of Force in Strait of Hormuz: Risk of ‘Accidental’ Gulf War on the Rise

The concentration of naval power in the Strait of Hormuz is heightening the risk of a fourth Gulf war, even though the show of force may be nothing more than posturing by the West and Iran in the run-up to negotiations. The stretch of water, 34 miles at its narrowest point, is the aorta of the oil trade.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Showdown Over Syria as UN Security Council Meets

The European Union and the United States are pressing Russia to back action against the ongoing violence in Syria at a special session of the UN Security Council Tuesday. The European Union and the United States are seeking to overcome Russian objections and win support from the UN Security Council to stop the bloodshed in Syria amid reports of dozens of new deaths and warnings from the opposition of a potential massacre.

Russia has vowed to use its veto power to block a resolution introduced by Morocco under which Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would accept a ceasefire and hand over power to a deputy ahead of talks on a settlement.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Tourism: Turkey, Istanbul Hosts 30% More Arab Visitors

(ANSAmed) — ISTANBUL, JANUARY 31 — The number of Arab tourists visiting Turkey’s Istanbul city increased 30% to 910,360 in 2011 when compared to 2010. Istanbul Culture & Tourism Directorate told Anatolia news agency on Tuesday that Istanbul hosted 6.4 million tourists in 2007, 7 million tourists in 2008, 7.5 million in 2009, 6.9 million in 2010, and 8 million tourists in 2011. 6.8% of those tourists, who visited Istanbul in 2007, was from Islamic countries. This rate was 7.6% in 2008, 9.3% in 2009, 10% in 2010, and 11% in 2011.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Turkey: Row Over Statue of Naked Woman

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, JANAURY 30 — A controversy has erupted in western Turkey over a statue of a naked woman which has been erected by an association appealing to the secular nature of the republic founded by Ataturk. The statue, however, has annoyed many Muslim faithfuls. As reported by the conservative daily newspaper Milli Gazete, and repeated on the website of the lay-sympathizing daily Hurriyet, the case revolves around a statue dedicated to the “Liberated, Modern Woman”. The statue stands in Edirne, a town near the country’s borders with Greece and Bulgaria. In the work, a naked female figure with flowing hair and open arms appears to be casting a veil behind her. The statue was erected by the Edirne section of the Union of Turkish Women in 2004 to mark the 80 th anniversary of the birth of the Turkish Republic, founded by Kemal Ataturk on the ashes of the Ottoman Empire. The country was formed with a secular Western imprint despite is majority Muslim population. Publishing a photo of the statue on its front page, but with the private parts covered over, the conservative newspaper maintains that the women’s association has exploited the statue of what it calls an “erotic woman who is losing her veil” in order to denigrate Turkish moral values in an act of “modern bigotry”.

According to the report in Milli Gazete, the femminist union “stubbornly” re-raised the statue after it had been knocked down on numerous occasions by local residents. According to the Chair of the Foundation of Anatolian Youth, Abdulhamit Iris, the construction of the statue “aims at applying psychological pressure on faithful women who wear the veil”.

The “turban” as the Turkish Islamic covering the woman’s face is called, has for years been at the centre of controversy over where it may or may not be worn, given the country’s secular constitution. In theory, its use in government offices should be banned. Since 2010, however, the veil has been reappearing in the country’s universities, thanks to efforts by the moderate Islamic government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, which has been in power since 2003 and which would like to see women veiled in the parliament buildings themselves.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: Interfaith Event to Tackle Hate

Faith organisations will come together in London this week in a bid to end anger and hate among different religious groups. The Healing The World event will see representatives from different religious organisations discussing the sources of hate in an attempt to create better interfaith relationships. The event will take place on February 1 at The London Central Mosque, from 12.30pm until 5pm. It will be attended by Rabbi Jackie Tabick, Rev Peter Owen Jones, Imam Abduljalil Sajid (Islam), Kiran Bali MBE (Hindu), Yann Lovelock (Buddhist) and Ajit Singh MBE (Sikh). The event is part of World Interfaith Harmony Week, which works to promote forgiveness, compassion and oneness among different faiths.

Charity the World Congress of Faiths has organised the event with the International Association of Religions Freedom. They have also received support from Religions for Peace and the United Religions Initiative. The event is free to attend and all participants are asked to register with the World Congress of Faiths, which works to develop better understanding, co-operation and respect between different religions. For more information contact the charity on 01935 864055 or email or

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]


Putin Promises Russia ‘New Economy’ After Protests

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin promised Monday to build a “new economy” in Russia as he admitted its prosperity was still held back by a litany of ills despite his 12-year domination of the country. In a bid to show he remains Russia’s best hope for economic stability after a wave of protests, Putin admitted the country faced “systemic” corruption, an “unsatisfactory” business climate and an “inadmissible” dependence on energy exports.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Russia Blames ‘Cosmic Rays’ For Mars Probe Failure

Russia on Tuesday blamed a computer malfunction caused by the impact of cosmic rays for the failure of its Phobos-Grunt mission to Mars, one of a litany of setbacks for its embattled space programme. Announcing the initial results of the investigation into the Mars mission, Russian space agency Roscosmos also revealed the next manned launch to the International Space Station would be delayed due to technical problems.

The Phobos-Grunt probe — which was to have brought home a sample of soil from Mars’ largest moon — crashed back to Earth earlier this month after becoming stuck in Earth’s orbit shortly after its launch in November. “The most likely reason in the commission’s opinion is the local influence of heavy charged particles from outer space on the onboard computer system,” Roscosmos chief Vladimir Popovkin said, quoted by RIA Novosti news agency.

Experts questioned Popovkin’s explanations, however. A source in the space industry told RIA Novosti it was “absolutely ridiculous” to claim that that the developers did not account for the effects of the cosmic radiation that is constantly bombarding the Earth’s atmosphere. “They weren’t making a vacuum cleaner but a spaceship that had to fly in the aggressive environment of outer space and it is just impossible that they did not consider this,” the source said.

The unmanned probe was launched November 9 in an ambitious mission to fly to Mars’s largest moon, Phobos, and collect the soil samples in a first step towards Russia’s dream of taking a manned mission to Mars. But it failed to leave a low orbit around Earth, before gradually descending and crashing on January 15 over the Pacific Ocean, although Roscosmos has never given details of its end.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

South Asia

India: Model of India’s Biggest Mosque Unveiled

The model of what is billed as India’s biggest mosque — accommodating 25,000 in its courtyard — was unveiled here Monday.

The mosque is to come up in a 40 acres near here and the complex will also house a heritage museum, convention halls, and a media centre, according to the Jamia Markazu Ssaquafathi Ssunniyya headed by Muslim scholar Kanthapuram A.P. Aboobaker Musliyar, who unveiled the model here. “The heritage museum is for the protection and exhibition of all such holy remnants of prophets and men of Islamic importance, and this will surely add a new dimension to the cultural life of Kerala,” said Musliyar. Speaking to IANS, an official of the Markaz said that the work on the mosque is expected to begin in April and would be completed in 18 months time. “The cost of the project is estimated to be Rs.40 crore and will come through public contributions. The feature of the mosque is that initially it would be an open one and would more or less resemble the famed Jama Masjid in Delhi,” said the official who did not wish to be identified. Musliyar heads the popular social, charity and educational organisation based here, which has taught more than 30,000 students from various states in the country in the last three decades. Three years back, the Markaz was in the news when more than 100 children from Kashmir were brought here for basic education. Delhi’s Jama Masjid is currently India’s biggest mosque.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Social Media in India Continue to Debate Rushdie Issue

Author Salman Rushdie was prevented from attending a popular literary festival in India this month. Blogwatch examines what went on behind the scenes and why the issue continues to fascinate the Indian blogosphere.

Controversial author, novelist and columnist, Salman Rushdie, was prevented from attending the Jaipur Literary Festival last week owing to security concerns. But just what went on behind the scenes in the run-up to the cancellation of the author’s appearance continues to preoccupy analysts and bloggers.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Far East

China’s Sany to Buy Putzmeister

Putzmeister, a German family-owned engineering firm, is to being taken over by Chinese construction equipment giant Sany Heavy Industry, the German company said on Monday. In what Putzmeister described as one of the biggest deals in the so-called Mittelstand sector that makes up the backbone of the German economy, Sany Heavy Industry and the Chinese private equity group Citic are to acquire 100 percent of Putzmeister, the German company said in a statement. All parties had agreed not to disclose the terms of the sale, but a source close to the talks put the sale price at about €500 million ($660 million).

“The business activities of Putzmeister and Sany are highly complementary geographically” and will leader to “the creation of the global market leader for concrete pumps,” Putzmeister said.

The German family-owned firm is headquartered in Aichtal in the southern state of Baden-Württemberg, it employs a workforce of 3,000 people and has annual revenues of around €570 million. Putzmeister said Sany’s financial strength would secure its future growth prospects, while the Chinese group would benefit from Putzmeister’s “cutting-edge technology ‘Made in Germany’ and acquire a strong distribution and service network outside of China.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

China Loses WTO Appeal on Export Restrictions

The World Trade Organization has ruled that China unfairly limits exports of nine raw materials to protect domestic manufacturers, but the ruling does not affect rare earths. China has lost an appeal to the World Trade Organization following complaints about its restrictions on raw materials exports. The ruling, however, does not affect Beijing’s stranglehold on the supply of rare earths, the crucial metals found in many high-tech products.

A WTO appeals panel said that Beijing violated global trading rules by curbing exports of nine raw materials, including bauxite, coke, magnesium, manganese and zinc. The panel ruled that the export restrictions inflated prices and gave domestic Chinese firms an unfair competitive advantage.

Many countries have also accused China of choking off global supplies of rare earths, causing prices to rocket, but the metals were not part of the ruling. Even so, Western producers applauded the outcome.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Japan Eyes Nuclear Reactor Restart to Meet Energy Demand

The Japanese government faces an uphill battle as it tries to bring many of its nuclear reactors back online to meet energy demands. Some reactors were switched off in the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Kenyan PM to Urge Dutch to Lift Khat Ban

Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga will urge the Dutch government to lift a ban on the trade in khat, a stimulant which induces mild euphoria and excitement. Kenyan radio station Capital FM reports that Mr Odinga made this pledge to khat farmers who offered him a petition.

Earlier this month, the Netherlands introduced a ban on the trade in khat leaves, which are mainly used and traded by Somali immigrants. Kenyan media report that the Dutch ban means the country’s khat farmers are missing out on about three million euros in export revenues.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Dutch Minister: Border Cameras Do Not Break EU Law

BRUSSELS — The Dutch interior minister has told Brussels his new border cameras will catch illegal immigrants without breaking EU rules. Gerd Leers defended the set-up — which has already seen military-grade surveillance technology installed on main roads from Belgium and Germany — in a letter sent to the European Commission on Friday (27 January) and seen by EUobserver.

Citing chapter and verse of the EU’s Schengen code on passport-free travel, the Charter of Fundamental Rights, the Dutch constitution, its so-called Aliens Act and the privacy rules of its data protection regulator, he said the cameras are an alternative to more invasive policing.

He noted that under Schengen “internal borders should be crossed freely and in an unhindered way,” meaning that “physical checks in border areas are (currently) carried out at random.” But the new system “will ensure that the military police will run samples at the right time and right place as effectively as possible … minimising the number of people of good faith who are needlessly harassed.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

How Will Babies Named Jesus Save the Economy?

For the last 20 years, what name is always in the top 100 most popular baby names given to boys in the United States? Jesus (pronounced hey-seus). And among 4,500 boys names in England in 2009, what was the No. 1 most popular baby name? Mohammed. In Brussels? Mohammed. Oslo? Mohammed. Amsterdam? Mohammed. And what do babies and their names have to do with the global economy? Everything.

A rich powerful country needs lots of babies to project geopolitical power and increase its productivity. If you won’t multiply, who will fight your wars? Who will pay Social Security to support grandpa? Who do you think will start the next Facebook, Amazon or Google?

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Margaret Thatcher Complained About Asian Immigration to Britain

Margaret Thatcher thought it was “quite wrong” for immigrants to get council houses ahead of “white citizens”, previously unpublished government papers show.

“She thought it quite wrong that immigrants should be given council housing whereas white citizens were not.”

Lady Thatcher asked what the implications of such a move could be given that an exodus of the white population from Rhodesia — now Zimbabwe — was expected once majority rule was established.

She made clear, however, that she had “less objection to refugees such as Rhodesians, Poles and Hungarians, since they could more easily be assimilated into British society”.

The meeting was held about 18 months after Lady Thatcher made comments in a television interview that came to be seen as a watershed in mainstream politicians’ handling of race and immigration.

“People are really rather afraid that this country might be rather swamped by people with a different culture,” she told World In Action.

“If we do not want people to go to extremes we ourselves must talk about this problem and we must show that we are prepared to deal with it,” she added. “We are not in politics to ignore people’s worries. We are in politics to deal with them.”

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Switzerland: Opposition Mounts Over Planned Asylum Centre

The mayor of Turbenthal in northern Switzerland is anticipating widespread protests after the Federal Office for Migration announced plans to convert a disused missile base into a new asylum centre. Mayor Georg Brunner, from the Free Democratic Party (FDP), expects local residents in the small hamlet of Schmidrüti to put up a fight to prevent the construction of the centre in a region dominated by the far-right Swiss Peoples’ Party (SVP). “Nobody’s going to be happy,” he told newspaper Tages Anzeiger.

Local SVP president Stefan Böni believes the region’s inhabitants have reasonable grounds for resisting the new project, the newspaper reports. An asylum centre for Kosovan refugees, established at Schmidrüti 13 years ago, had negative consequences for the community, he said.

Böni recalled that the asylum seekers refused to use the military barracks they had been provided with, and some went on hunger strike, protesting against the way they were being treated. The protests resulted in the widespread perception that the asylum seekers had behaved ungratefully, and served as a pivotal moment in turning public opinion against the Albanian Kosovan population.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UNHCR, 1,500 Dead and Missing in Mediterranean

Highest number since 2006

(ANSAmed) — GENEVA — Over 1,500 refugees drowned or went missing in the waters of the Mediterranean Sea in 2011 in their attempt to reach Europe, the highest number even recorded by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) since it began keeping track in 2006. “The true number could be higher, however,” the UNHCR said today in Geneva. The previous record high was in 2007, when 630 died or went missing. Last year — when the Arab Spring came into being — also saw a record high 58,000 arrivals in Europe. The largest number was in Italy (56,000 including 28,000 Tunisians), noted UNHCR spokesperson Sybella Wilkes.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

UK: LSE Students Condemn Islamophobia as Racism

This week, the London School of Economics (LSE) Students’ Union held an Emergency General Meeting (EGM) in response to the increasing tension on campus among society groups. After weeks of low attendances, the EGM successfully brought a substantial amount of students to the Old Theatre during the Union General Meeting’s (UGM) constant Thursday allotment. The meeting, chaired by Jack Tindale, presented three motions to be debated. The first motion was raised in response to the perceived rise of antisemitic sentiments on campus. ‘Stop Anti-Semitism Now!’ was a motion that was first implemented three years ago and was up for renewal. The motion aimed to detail what should be categorised as antisemitism, and to ensure that all antisemitic incidents are “dealt with swiftly and effectively in conjunction with the school.” The motion further called for the publication of “a semi-annual report detailing all incidents of racism, including anti-Semitic incidents of racism that have occurred on campus during the previous six months and the actions taken by the union and the School.”

The motion was submitted by Jay Stoll, President of the LSE Students’ Union Jewish Society, and seconded by Coren Lass, receiving no opposition. The motion passed with a total of 507 votes, 78 per cent for and nineteen per cent against, with three per cent of voters undecided. The second motion, entitled “No to racism — No to Islamaphobia,” was raised in response to increasing tensions on campus between various LSE student societies. Many Muslim students were offended by the LSE Students’ Union Atheist, Secularist, and Humanist (ASH) Society’s publication of a “Jesus and Mo” cartoon, in which the two are portrayed “having a pint.” The cartoon was originally posted on the ASH Society’s Facebook page in solidarity with a similar society at the University College of London (UCL) which was asked to take the cartoon down by the UCL Students’ Union.

The motion affirms that the Students’ Union believes in “the right to freedom of speech and thought” and “the right to criticise religion,” but also reiterates its “responsibility to protect its members from hate crime and hate speech.” Presented by Anneessa Mahmood, LSE Students’ Union Trustee, the motion defined Islamophobia as “a form of racism expressed through the hatred or fear of Islam, Muslims, or Islamic culture, and the stereotyping, demonisation or harassment of Muslims as barbarians or terrorists, or attacking the Qur’an as a manual of hatred.” All comments or incidents that can be categorised under this definition should be “publicly opposed” and “dealt with swiftly and effectively in conjunction with the School.” Moreover, the implementation of the motion would ensure the “promotion and enhance legitimate debate regarding the morality and legitimacy of international conflicts.”

Marshall Palmer and Jack Curtis, members of the ASH Society, opposed the motion on the grounds that it was an “unnecessary curtailment of free speech.” They firmly stated that “the motion conflated ideas with people. People deserve respect, their ideas and their religion do not.” Palmer argued that he, and other members of the ASH Society, firmly denounced all forms of religious oppression, including “anti-Muslim bigotry.”

“We did not so much as oppose the motion as much as we wished to amend it. Unfortunately, by the time the motions became publicly available they were too late to amend,” Palmer said. “Voting down the motion, reforming it, and resubmitting it was the only possible way to amend it. Our proposed amendments would replace the word ‘Islamophobia’ with ‘anti-Muslim bigotry’ and would strike out the prohibition towards ‘hatred or fear of Islam’ and ‘attacking the Qur’an as a manual of hatred.’“

The Beaver, 30 January 2012

The Beaver has also published a good article by Tasif Zaman on the “Jesus and Mo” cartoon controversy. You can read the LSE Students’ Union anti-Islamophobia resolution here.

The National Secular Society has reported this welcome decision by LSE students under the headline “London School of Economics brings back blasphemy”!

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UN Chief Ban Tells African Union Summit to Uphold Gay Rights

Widespread legal bans on homosexuality in most African countries have been challenged by UN chief Ban ki-moon at the African Union summit in Addis Ababa. Ban said gay and gender rights must be respected.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


General Withdraws From West Point Talk

Plans for a talk at West Point by a retired general known for his harshly anti-Muslim remarks were abruptly canceled on Monday after a growing list of liberal veterans’ groups, civil liberties advocates and Muslim organizations called on the Military Academy to rescind the invitation. Lt. Gen William G. Boykin “has decided to withdraw speaking at West Point’s National Prayer Breakfast” on Feb. 8, said a statement issued Monday by the academy’s office of public affairs. “In fulfilling its commitment to the community, the United States Military Academy will feature another speaker for the event.” General Boykin, a longtime commander of Special Operations forces, first caused controversy after the Sept. 11 attacks when, as a senior Pentagon official, he described the fight against terrorism as a Christian battle against Satan. His remarks, made in numerous speeches to church groups, were publicly repudiated by President George W. Bush, who argued that America’s war was not with Islam but with violent fanatics. Since his retirement in 2007 and a new career as a popular conservative Christian speaker, General Boykin has described Islam as “a totalitarian way of life” and said that Islam should not be protected under the First Amendment. Last week, after learning that General Boykin would be speaking at the prayer breakfast, a liberal veterans’ group,, demanded that the invitation be revoked. In a letter to West Point’s superintendent, the group said General Boykin’s “incendiary rhetoric regarding Islam” was “incompatible with Army values” and would “put our troops in danger.”


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Major Companies Unite to Fight E-Mail Scams and Spam

A new initiative to help fight spam and e-mail scams, such as phishing, has been launched by major technology companies like Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Paypal and Bank of America.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Space Station Dodges Debris From Destroyed Chinese Satellite

The International Space Station fired its thrusters Saturday (Jan. 28) in order to steer clear of orbital debris from China’s 2007 anti-satellite test. The dodging maneuver was required to avoid space junk from the Chinese satellite Fengyun 1C, which peppered low-Earth orbit with an estimated 3,000 pieces of shrapnel when it was intentionally destroyed by China five years ago. The remaining debris has required several similar avoidance maneuvers by the space station in recent years.

Rocket thrusters on the space station’s Russian-built Zvezda service module fired at 6:50 p.m. EST (2350 GMT) in a 1-minute, four-second burn to slightly raise the laboratory’s orbit, leaving it on a path that reaches just over 251 miles (404 kilometers) above Earth at the highest point, NASA officials said in an update.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Volcanoes May Have Sparked Little Ice Age

A mysterious, centuries-long cool spell, dubbed the Little Ice Age, appears to have been caused by a series of volcanic eruptions and sustained by sea ice, a new study indicates. The research, which looked at chemical clues preserved in Arctic vegetation as well as other data, also pinpointed the start of the Little Ice Age to the end of the 13th century.

During the cool spell, which lasted into the late 19th century, advancing glaciers destroyed northern European towns and froze the Thames River in London and canals in the Netherlands, places that are now ice-free. There is also evidence it affected other continents.

“This is the first time anyone has clearly identified the specific onset of the cold times marking the start of the Little Ice Age,” said Gifford Miller, a geological sciences professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and the lead study researcher. “We also have provided an understandable climate feedback system that explains how this cold period could be sustained for a long period of time.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Anonymous said...

Paris Hilton in a mosque, indeed! ROFLAMO!