Sunday, January 12, 2003

News Feed 20120201

Financial Crisis
"ESM Plus EFSF Plus IMF: Europe May be Planning 1.5 Trillion Euro Backstop Fund
"EU Blocks Deutsche Boerse, NYSE Tie-Up
"EU Crisis; Czech Pact
"Eurozone Manufacturing Turns as German Output Expands
"German Politician: Greece Should Reform or Leave Euro
"Germany’s Power ‘Is Causing Fear’ In Europe
"Greece: Govt Picks Up Pace on Privatisations
"Merkel Seeks Euro Zone Investments From Beijing
"Spiegel Interview With Francis Fukuyama: ‘Where is the Uprising From the Left?’
"The Greek Parents Too Poor to Care for Their Children
"Facebook Files for $5 Billion Initial Public Offering
"Jacques Barzun, Wisdom and Grace
"Making Money on Poverty: JP Morgan Makes Bigger Profits When the Number of Americans on Food Stamps Goes Up
"Racial Tension Rising in Dallas Against Korean Community
"Sugar Should be Regulated as Toxin, Researchers Say
"Tea Parties Cite Legislative Demands
Europe and the EU
"Failed Inventions Museum Opens in Austria (Video)
"German Government Aims to Hire More Minorities
"Greece: Cold, Snow and Gusty Winds Throughout the Country
"Italy: Alliance With Chrysler a Boon for Fiat
"Lethal Parasite Killing Dogs in Switzerland
"London Stock Exchange Bomb Plot Admitted by Four Men
"Prince Harry: Queen Elizabeth Needs Husband for Her Work
"Spain: Negative Growth: What is the Future of Analog Photography?
"Stonehenge Precursor Found? Island Complex Predates Famous Site
"Sweden: Bomb Attack Rocks Malmö Police Station
"Swedish Agency to Probe Peace Prize Selection
"The Great Arctic Oil Race Begins
"UK: Extradition ‘Undermines’ Legal Principles: Lawyer
"UK: Gang Members Face Stark Choice at Gruesome Day in Court
"UK: Hamas in Parliament
"UK: Muslim Teenager Attacked by Brother and Sisters for Kissing White Man
"Vega Rocket Aims to Make Space Research Affordable
"Macedonia Tries to Calm Muslim Anger Over Carnival
North Africa
"Egypt: March on Parliament, Slogans Against Muslim Brotherhood
"Herd of Ivory Elephants Reveals Illicit Trade in Egypt
Middle East
"Arab Emirates: Country’s First Woman Underground Driver
"Obama ‘Taking Iran’s Side’ on Damages From ‘83 Bombing That Killed 241 Marines
"Qatar: Rising Wedding Costs, Ever More Single Women
"Turkish Pilots to Learn English
"Who Destroyed Classical Civilization?
South Asia
"Pakistan Helping Afghan Taliban — NATO
"Panetta Sets End to Afghan Combat Role for U.S. In 2013
Far East
"Does China’s Cat-Eyed Boy Really Have Night Vision?
"Europe Seeks Space Cooperation With China
Australia — Pacific
"I Think We Should Let Elephants Loose in Australia
"IVF Doctor Faces $10 Million ‘Wrongful Birth’ Case
Sub-Saharan Africa
"Denmark Doubles Somali Aid
"Not Black — So Turned Away From University
"South African Media Controlled by Whites: UDM
"South African Condom Failures Result in Massive Recall
"Tanzania: Albinos Are Normal Human Beings
Latin America
"Closest Photos of Uncontacted Tribe Reveal Hidden Way of Life
"New Zurich Law to Make Naturalization Harder
"Paris Rapist: Immigrant From N. Africa, Targets “Adolescent” Blonde Blue-Eyed Girls
"Record 1,500 Africans Died Trying to Reach Europe
"UK: Ten Border Agency Staff Caught Harbouring Illegal Immigrants
"Young Adult Asylum Seekers Are ‘Coached’ To Act Like Children to Exploit Britain’s Benefit System Human Traffickers Are Coaching Young Adult Asylum Seekers to Act Like Children So They Can Claim More Benefits When They Reach Britain, A Court Has Heard.
Culture Wars
"Spain: PP Government to Abolish ‘Citizenship Education’
"DNA Turning Human Story Into a Tell-All
"Drone Could Soar Through Titan’s Skies for Years
"Earth in for Bumpy Ride as Solar Storms Hit
"Imperialist Islam Unveiled: A Wide Ranging Interview With Dr. Mark Durie
"Is E.T. Avoiding Us?
"NASA Probe Discovers ‘Alien’ Matter From Beyond Our Solar System
"Spider’s Detachable Penis Finishes Without Him
"Why Does the Ailing West Aid Its Islamist Enemies?
"Why Women Lose Interest in Sex

Financial Crisis

ESM Plus EFSF Plus IMF: Europe May be Planning 1.5 Trillion Euro Backstop Fund

The permanent euro backstop fund ESM is due to replace the European Financial Stability Facility this year. But both 500 billion-euro funds could be merged and added to a third from the International Monetary Fund to create a super debt firewall, according to media reports from Davos.

Europe could have a ‘super’ €1,500 billion ($1,969 billion) debt firewall by the summer under plans to combine three funds of €500 billion each. The Financial Times Deutschland reported on Tuesday that the plan was discussed at a meeting on the sidelines of the recent World Economic Forum in Davos attended by US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, International Monetary Fund (IMF) chief Christine Lagarde, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble and his French counterpart Francois Baroin.

The proposal would see the current temporary bailout fund, the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF), combined with, rather than replaced by, the permanent European Stability Mechanism (ESM). The third €500 billion chunk would be provided by the IMF. In return, euro-zone countries have already agreed to €150 billion in bilateral credit for the fund. The other €350 billion would come from across the world from countries such as Brazil and the UK. The US, however, would not participate — even though Geithner himself said in Davos that only an extremely large firewall would ensure financial security.

The massive fund will only become reality if Berlin agrees to it, and the IMF and the European Commission are hoping to secure Germany’s approval at the next EU summit at the beginning of March.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

EU Blocks Deutsche Boerse, NYSE Tie-Up

(FRANKFURT) — The EU Commission vetoed Wednesday a transatlantic tie-up of the Frankfurt and New York stock exchanges, a decision slammed here as “out of touch with reality” and marking a “dark day” for Europe. “Deutsche Boerse and NYSE Euronext have been informed that the European Commission today has decided to prohibit their proposed business combination,” the German company, which operates the Frankfurt stock exchange, said in a statement.

“This is a dark day for Europe and its future competitiveness on global financial markets,” it raged. “The EU Commission’s decision is totally out of touch with reality and is based on a narrow definition of the markets which does not take into account the global nature of the competition on the derivatives markets,” Deutsche Boerse fumed.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

EU Crisis; Czech Pact

Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel said the EU cannot afford to deliberate, while the troika of the EU, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank monitors is still looking into the current state of the struggling economy.

Meanwhile, European leaders might have to confront the necessity of reassessing their strategy if they are to deal effectively with the eurozone crisis, as the situation evolves.

“The crisis is changing from the acute phase to the chronic phase, where a very important role is played by the European Central Bank (ECB),” Johan Van Overtveldt told RT.

“The ECB in recent weeks has been creating money at a very rapid rate to make sure banks have enough funding. The second round of long term financing the ECB will make available to the banks in a few weeks will be much larger than the initial amount. This might be the ECB’s indirect way to finance sovereign debt of countries with problems as Greece. The longer this process takes, the more risks you start to take and the more the ECB’s stability is jeopardized. This means jeopardizing the stability of the whole EU economy.”

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Eurozone Manufacturing Turns as German Output Expands

(BRUSSELS) — Signs of recovery in the German manufacturing sector brought encouragement to the eurozone Wednesday with the downturn in industry easing, a key survey said. A detailed reading on the seasonally-adjusted eurozone manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) produced by London-based Markit rose for the second month running in January.

The index hit a five-month high of 48.8, still below the 50.0 mark that indicates expansion in activity, although higher than first estimated — thanks to Germany’s climb to 51.0 and neighbouring Austria rising even higher.

Rates of contraction also eased in Italy, Spain and the Netherlands, Markit said. “Euro area manufacturing has started 2012 surprisingly well, suggesting the region may avoid a slide back into recession,” said Markit chief economist Chris Williamson.

However, IHS Global Insight’s Howard Archer, also London-based, said business conditions remained “challenging.” The manufacturing sector “is still contracting in most countries, including France. And the rate of contraction remains substantial in Spain, Italy and, particularly, Greece,” he noted.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

German Politician: Greece Should Reform or Leave Euro

If Greece is not ready to implement the necessary reforms, the country should consider starting afresh outside the eurozone, Alexander Dobrindt, the head of Germany’s ruling coalition party, the CSU, has said, according to Rheinischen Post. He rejected further funding for Greece, unless “true and functioning” austerity measures are implemented.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Germany’s Power ‘Is Causing Fear’ In Europe

An idea aired by Berlin officials last week to place Greek budget policy under the control of an EU commissioner has been criticized as unworkable and disrespectful. But given its contribution to rescue packages, Germany has a right to insist on fiscal discipline in Europe, say German media commentators.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Greece: Govt Picks Up Pace on Privatisations

Due to pressure from international creditors

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, JANUARY 31 — High levels of pressure applied by the troika (the IMF, EU and ECB) on the Greek government to speed up privatization seems to have produced some results. The Athens government has announced the transfer of the Agency for the Privatisation of State Property (TAIPED, created for the express purpose by the previous government under George Papandreou), part of its shares in the football betting agency OPAP and the Thessaloniki Port Agency (OLS), and has also set in motion the procedure for the state lottery and the ODIE, the agency for horse betting.

According to the Greek news agency ANA, the state — on the basis of the decision by the Inter-ministerial Commission for Privatisation — has transferred 29% of its shares (92,510,000) from OPAP to TAIPED, holding onto only 5%, and the entire privatization operation for the company will have to be finalised by mid-2012. The state has also transferred to TAIPED 2,348,640 of its shares (23.3%) in the Thessaloniki Port Agency (OLS) and held onto only 50.97%. The transfer to TAIPED of 40% (14.52 million shares) of the Athens and Thessaloniki water supply companies has also been announced. It therefore seems clear that the initial target of 50 billion euros to bring into state coffers by 2015, and that of 5 billion by the end of 2011, is not achievable — as even TAIPED chairman Giannis Koukiadis said, calling the government’s initial estimates “an empirical calculation”. Even Trainose A.E., the only Greek company working in the railway transport sector, will have to be privatized by the end of 2012. According to the website of the daily To Vima, the EU representative of the troika’s technical team, Leila Fernandez-Tembridz, who has been in Greece for two weeks, has asked her Greek interlocutors for the privatization of Trainose by the end of 2012 since — in her opinion — this is the commitment that the Greek government agreed to when it signed the Memorandum, and not at the end of 2013 as requested by Athens, “in order to achieve better results”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Merkel Seeks Euro Zone Investments From Beijing

Many in Europe have been eyeing Beijing’s trillions as a possible solution to the continent’s debt crisis. During her trip to China, German Chancellor Angela Merkel plans to promote investments in the debt-ridden euro-zone countries. But the Chinese have so far been tight with their money. Will Merkel succeed in getting Beijing to bend?

The caricature of the euro shows a small and ailing little man — unshaven, bandaged and weak, his eyes peering down at the ground in humility and carrying an old hat in his right hand to collect money. Angela Merkel, who is accompanying this sad creation, looks serious as she knocks on the imperial gate seeking entry — and to plead for a small handout for her problem child.

The picture created by a caricaturist for China’s English-language Global Times newspaper isn’t a very nice one. But there is a nugget of truth in the exaggerated image. Merkel isn’t exactly going to be begging when she begins her three-day visit to China on Wednesday, but neither will she be opposed to leaving the country with one or more deals bringing multi-billion Chinese investments to the debt-plagued euro zone.

This is Merkel’s fifth visit to China, with relations intensifying considerably in recent years. This time, however, German government officials have said they are “extremely pleased with the timing” because the trip is taking place just after the most recent European Union crisis summit, where a pact for stricter budget discipline in Europe was agreed, which Merkel touted as a “masterpiece.” The chancellor now wants to explain the pact to the Chinese “first hand,” say officials in Berlin.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Spiegel Interview With Francis Fukuyama: ‘Where is the Uprising From the Left?’

Fukuyama: Ironically, because the Federal Reserve and the US Treasury acted to support the financial sector, the crisis did not develop into a deep depression with unemployment up to 20 percent like in the 1930s. Back then, President Franklin D. Roosevelt could restructure the big banks. I believe that the only solution to our current problems is to restructure all these big banks, Goldman Sachs and Citigroup and Bank of America, and turn them into smaller entities that could then be allowed to go bankrupt. They would no longer be “too big to fail.” But this has not happened so far.

SPIEGEL: One could also make the case that President Obama was simply not as tough as Roosevelt.

Fukuyama: Obama had a big opportunity right at the middle of the crisis. That was around the time Newsweek carried the title: “We Are All Socialists Now.” Obama’s team could have nationalized the banks and then sold them off piecemeal. But their whole view of what is possible and desirable is still very much shaped by the needs of these big banks.

SPIEGEL: In other words, Obama and his influential advisors, like Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, are themselves part of the “1 percent” that the Occupy Wall Street movement rails against.

Fukuyama: They are obviously part of the 1 percent. They socialize with these Wall Street gurus. Goldman Sachs boss Lloyd Blankfein met with Geithner many times during the crisis. Such close contact clearly influences the world view of the White House.

SPIEGEL: But would you seriously argue that Republicans are any less close to Wall Street?

Fukuyama: Oh no. Republican politicians are completely bought by Wall Street. But the real question is: Why do their working class supporters continue to vote for them? My explanation is partly this deep distrust of any form of government that goes back very far in American politics, and is today reflected in political figures like Sarah Palin, which holds against Obama primarily the fact that he went to Harvard. There is a kind of populist resentment in US politics against being ruled by elites.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

The Greek Parents Too Poor to Care for Their Children

Greece’s financial crisis has made some families so desperate they are giving up the most precious thing of all — their children.

In the last two months Father Antonios, a young Orthodox priest who runs a youth centre for the city’s poor, has found four children on his doorstep — including a baby just days old. Another charity was approached by a couple whose twin babies were in hospital being treated for malnutrition, because the mother herself was malnourished and unable to breastfeed. Cases like this are shocking a country where family ties are strong, and failure to look after children is socially unacceptable — and it’s not happening in a country ravaged by war or famine, but in their own capital city.

Father Antonios disagrees. He believes that no matter how poor parents may be, the child is always better off with its family. “These families will be judged for abandoning their children,” he says. “We can provide a child with food and shelter, but the truth is that the biggest need any child has is to feel the love of its parents.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Facebook Files for $5 Billion Initial Public Offering

Facebook, the vast online social network, took its first step toward becoming a publicly traded company on Wednesday as it filed to sell shares on the stock market. The service, hatched in a Harvard dormitory room nearly eight years ago, is on track to be the largest Internet initial public offering ever — trumping Google’s in 2004 or Netscape’s nearly a decade before that.

In its filing, Facebook, which has more than 800 million users worldwide, said it was seeking to raise $5 billion, according to a figure used to calculate the registration fee. The company will seek to have the ticker “FB” for its shares, but did not list an exchange.

But many close to the company say that Facebook is aiming for a far greater offering that would value it near $100 billion. At that lofty valuation, Facebook would be much bigger than many longer-established American companies.

[Return to headlines]

Jacques Barzun, Wisdom and Grace

by Rebecca Bynum (February 2012)

Jacques Barzun is a towering scholarly intellect, a perceptive and incisive historian as well as one of the most graceful and witty writers of Twentieth Century America. Like Vladimir Nabakov, Barzun is not a native English speaker (he was born in France in 1907 and came to America in 1920 after the Great War had ravaged of his native land) yet he became one of the grand masters of English prose. To read Barzun is a refreshing joy and fortunately, there is much to read. He is the author of Race: A Study in Superstition, Of Human Freedom; Darwin, Marx, Wagner; Romanticism and the Modern Ego, Teacher in America, Berlioz and the Romantic Century, The Energies of Art, Music in American Life, The Modern Researcher (with Henry F. Graff), God’s Country and Mine, A Catalogue of Crime (with Wendell Hertig Taylor), The House of Intellect, Science: The Glorious Entertainment, The American University, Clio and the Doctors, Simple and Direct, A Stroll with William James, An Essay of French Verse for Readers of English Poetry, From Dawn to Decadence, and Sidelights on Opera at Glimmerglass along with various collections such as the indispensable, Jacques Barzun Reader, also compiled by his biographer Michael Murray.

In Jacques Barzun: Portrait of a Mind, Murray has written what any devotee of Barzun’s work would like to read. The subtitle, Portrait of a Mind, conveys its intention exactly. If you’re looking of family pictures or tidbits about Barzun’s private life, you won’t find it here. Murray is true to his task and one comes away with a good understanding of Barzun’s innate genius (though he would deny that appellation) and the growth and flowering of his intellectual life. Barzun was born into an intellectual and fairly well-to-do family.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Making Money on Poverty: JP Morgan Makes Bigger Profits When the Number of Americans on Food Stamps Goes Up

How would you feel if someone told you that one of the largest banks on Wall Street makes more money whenever the number of Americans on food stamps goes up? Unfortunately, this is something that is actually true. In the United States today, one out of every seven Americans is on food stamps. In fact, the number of Americans on food stamps has increased by a whopping 14 million since Barack Obama entered the White House. All of this makes JP Morgan very happy, because JP Morgan has been making money by the boatload on food stamps. Right now, JP Morgan Chase issues food stamp debit cards in 26 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. The division of JP Morgan Chase that issues these debit cards made an eye-popping 5.47 billion dollars in net revenue during 2010. JP Morgan is paid per customer, so when the number of Americans on food stamps goes up, they make more money. But doesn’t this give JP Morgan an incentive to try to keep the number of Americans on food stamps as high as possible? Of course it does. JP Morgan is interested in making money as rapidly as possible. If JP Morgan can get more Americans enrolled in the food stamp program and keep them enrolled in it for as long as possible, that is good for business.

And the Obama administration is certainly doing what it can to help out. Even though a whopping 46 million Americans are now on food stamps, the Obama administration plans to give out large amounts of money to organizations that are able figure out ways to get even more people enrolled in the program…

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Racial Tension Rising in Dallas Against Korean Community

Korea’s consul-general in Houston is now in Dallas, Texas, to try and quell rising anti-Korean sentiment there after a dispute between different ethnic groups began spiraling out of control.

This comes as leaders of the African-American community in southern Dallas called for a boycott of Asian-owned businesses as a protest against what they call “racist business-owners.”

Tensions have been mounting since early this month, when a Korean owner of a gas station and an African-American customer got into a verbal altercation, in which racial slurs were reportedly made.

The Korean government has been advising the Korean community there to remain calm and not stoke the fire.

Dallas has the largest Korean-American community in the state of Texas with about 1,000 businesses there owned by Koreans.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Sugar Should be Regulated as Toxin, Researchers Say

A spoonful of sugar might make the medicine go down. But it also makes blood pressure and cholesterol go up, along with your risk for liver failure, obesity, heart disease and diabetes.

Sugar and other sweeteners are, in fact, so toxic to the human body that they should be regulated as strictly as alcohol by governments worldwide, according to a commentary in the current issue of the journal Nature by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).

The researchers propose regulations such as taxing all foods and drinks that include added sugar, banning sales in or near schools and placing age limits on purchases.

Although the commentary might seem straight out of the Journal of Ideas That Will Never Fly, the researchers cite numerous studies and statistics to make their case that added sugar — or, more specifically, sucrose, an even mix of glucose and fructose found in high-fructose corn syrup and in table sugar made from sugar cane and sugar beets — has been as detrimental to society as alcohol and tobacco.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Tea Parties Cite Legislative Demands

NASHVILLE — Members of Tennessee tea parties presented state legislators with five priorities for action Wednesday, including “rejecting” the federal health reform act, establishing an elected “chief litigator” for the state and “educating students the truth about America.”

Regarding education, the material they distributed said, “Neglect and outright ill will have distorted the teaching of the history and character of the United States. We seek to compel the teaching of students in Tennessee the truth regarding the history of our nation and the nature of its government.”

That would include, the documents say, that “the Constitution created a Republic, not a Democracy.”

The material calls for lawmakers to amend state laws governing school curriculums, and for textbook selection criteria to say that “No portrayal of minority experience in the history which actually occurred shall obscure the experience or contributions of the Founding Fathers, or the majority of citizens, including those who reached positions of leadership.”

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Failed Inventions Museum Opens in Austria (Video)

A failed inventor himself, Gall decided to create a museum in his home town of Herrnbaumgarten, Austria, dedicated to the inventions that, unlike the personal computer, lightbulb or even wheel, have no chance of changing history — or anything. The inventions on display at the Museum of Nonsense are much more mundane, according to The Nation. They’re bizarre.

For instance, let’s say your at a public event and you don’t want to be recognized on camera. One inventor dreamed up the “portable anonymizer” — a stick with a black bar that you’d hold in front of your eyes — to obscure yourself from the public’s prying eyes. Other inventions that nobody will ever use include a portable hole straight out of a “Roadrunner” cartoon, a fully transportable hat stand, a bristleless toothbrush for people with no teeth, and a fits-anyone jumper with sleeves in various lengths.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

German Government Aims to Hire More Minorities

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government has unveiled a formal programme designed to increase the number of minorities in public service, calling integration “more urgent than ever.” Merkel announced a “National Action Plan” at an integration summit in Berlin on Tuesday where more than 100 federal, state and provincial officials gathered to discuss how to attract more people from minority backgrounds into government service.

Although roughly 20 percent of people in Germany are considered to be foreigners or of minority background — but they make up only about 10 percent of public service positions. Federal officials say there have been significant increases in the number of police and teachers of minority backgrounds in the last few years, but hard numbers are unavailable.

Merkel said government agencies would start setting binding hiring targets and unveiled a new internet portal designed to encourage young people of minority background to go into public service. “We must become more binding, we have to be clear in our aims,” she said. But the Green and Left parties said Merkel had taken few concrete steps to improve integration in Germany.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Greece: Cold, Snow and Gusty Winds Throughout the Country

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, JANUARY 31 — Cold temperatures and gale-force winds gripped large parts of Greece on Tuesday, with temperatures reaching -10 Celsius and winds reaching 9 Beaufort in some cases. In Athens light snowfall was observed in the city center, while snowfall in the northern suburbs led to certain measures being taken by local authorities. Due to gale-force winds, ships remained docked in ports and all itineraries for the Cyclades, Dodecanese and the islands of the northeastern Aegean and Crete have been cancelled. In Athens on Tuesday morning, temperatures reached 0C while in the northern Athens suburbs, snowfall and temperatures of -4C were recorded.

Meanwhile, the City of Athens and non-governmental organizations active in the capital praised public response with regards to aiding the city’s increasing homeless population — currently estimated at 15,000 people — in the wake of the cold front. According to the Hellenic National Meteorological Service, temperatures are expected to improve by Thursday.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Alliance With Chrysler a Boon for Fiat

US automaker posts first full-year profit since 1997

(ANSA) — Turin, February 1 — Fiat’s alliance with Chrysler helped it turn a profit in 2011 while the American automaker last year posted not only its first full-year net profit since Fiat took over management control in 2009 but its first full-year profit since 1997, according to company statements released here and in Detroit on Wednesday.

Fiat and Chrysler chief Sergio Marchionne said it had been an “exceptional” year which he was “proud of”.

“We’re a credible player. We’re seventh in the global rankings,” he added.

Fiat said its net profit for 2011 amounted to 1.7 billion euros, which without extraordinary earnings, attributed in large part to the increase in value of its stake in Chrysler, would have been 800 million euros, while without its earnings from Chrysler it would have only broken even last year.

Chrysler in 2011 posted a net profit of $183 million, compared to a loss of $653 million in 2010, much due to debt payments to the US and Canadian governments.

In regard to Chrysler’s turnaround, Sergio Marchionne, who is CEO at both the Italian and American automakers, said “We are proud of what we have achieved. We now greet a new year of high expectations with our heads down, forging ahead and focused on executing the goals we have set as a company”.

The fact that Chrysler posted a profit for 2011 was even more remarkable considering the fact that during the year it repaid $551 million in debts to the US and Canadian governments, six years ahead of schedule.

Looking ahead to 2012, Chrysler said it expected to see a net profit of $1.5 billion on revenue of $65 billion, compared to $55 billion in 2011.

Chrysler in 2011 had a trading profit of two billion euros, two and a half times more than in 2010, thanks to a 22% leap in worldwide sales, while its share of the US automobile market in one year rose from 9.2% to 10.8%.

The situation was different for Fiat which struggled last year due to a weak market in Europe, especially in Italy. However, thanks to its now 58.5% stake in Chrysler, Fiat closed 2011 with earnings of 59.6 billion euros of which 23.6 billion euros were from Chrysler during the second half of the year.

Fiat’s decline in sales in Europe was also in part offset by a 1.5% rise in sales in Brazil and 17.3% jump in earnings by its subsidiary Ferrari, which raked in 2.3 billion euros last year.

Fiat’s net industrial debt at the end of 2011 stood at 5.5 billion euros, up 500 million euros from the previous year, most from its contribution to paying Chrysler’s debt, funds used to expand its stake in the US automaker by buying out the US and Canadian treasuries and investments.

Based on the 2011 balance sheet, Fiat said it would propose distributing dividends totalling 40 million euros to those holding preferred and savings shares, while no dividends would be given for common shares.

Looking ahead to 2012, Fiat said the company would continue to suffer the negative effects of the crisis in the euro zone but expected to post a net profit of between 1.2 and 1.5 billion euros and see a trading profit of between 3.8 and 4.5 billion euros from earnings if more than 77 billion euros, while debt would remain at 5.5 billion euros or perhaps rise to six billion euros.

Fiat in 2009 acquired 20% stake and management control of Chrysler, which had filed for bankruptcy protection, in exchange for its cutting-edge green and small car technology, as well as access to Fiat’s sales and service networks in Europe and Latin America.

After meeting a series of established benchmarks, including producing a more fuel-efficient Chrysler car in the US, Fiat has increased its stake in the US marque to 58.5% and the two companies, which Marchionne said were a “perfect match”, should be fully merged by 2015, the year the CEO said he would like to retire Earlier on Wednesday Fiat Industrial, a company which was spun off from Fiat to hold its non-automotive activities, announced that in 2011, its first full year as a separate company, it had more than doubled its net profit, exceeded all its targets, with double-digit gains in all sectors, and would distribute dividends to shareholders totalling 240 million euros.

Fiat Industrial’s revenues totaled 24.3 billion euros, up 13.8% over 2011, with double-digit increases for all business sectors. This resulted in a trading profit of 1.7 billion euros, 600 million euros more than the previous year, and a net profit of 701 million euros, compared to 378 million euros in 2010.

The group’s net industrial debt fell from 1.9 billion euros at the end of 2010 to 1.3 billion euros, while available liquidity rose to 7.3 billion euros from 5.7 billion euros.

Fiat Industrial includes truck and bus maker Iveco and the US-based farm and earth-moving company CNH (Case New Holland).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Lethal Parasite Killing Dogs in Switzerland

A deadly parasite that attacks the lungs and hearts of dogs is becoming increasingly prevalent in Switzerland, a Zurich researcher has discovered. The infections caused by the parasite were previously considered to be rare, but figures show that the number of cases has increased significantly in the last few year, according to scientist Peter Deplazes from the Institute of Parasitology at the University of Zurich.

Peter Deplazes believes that the reason for the increase in cases is in part due to the increasing numbers of foxes, particularly in urban areas. Fox populations have been on the rise since the 1980s following the success of measures taken to tackle rabies.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

London Stock Exchange Bomb Plot Admitted by Four Men

Four men inspired by al-Qaeda have admitted planning to detonate a bomb at the London Stock Exchange.

Mohammed Chowdhury, Shah Rahman, Gurukanth Desai and Abdul Miah pleaded guilty to engaging in conduct in preparation for acts of terrorism.

The men, from London and Cardiff, were arrested in December 2010 and were set to stand trial at Woolwich Crown Court.

Five other men have pleaded guilty to other terrorism offences and all nine will be sentenced next week.

The men, who are all British nationals, had been inspired by the preachings of the recently-killed radical extremist Anwar Al-Awlaki.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Prince Harry: Queen Elizabeth Needs Husband for Her Work

Harry believes without Prince Philip the queen could not carry out her public duties

Britain’s Prince Harry says be believes Queen Elizabeth II’s husband is so important to her that she could not carry out her public duties without him. In rare public comments about his grandparents, Harry highlighted the role of Prince Philip in supporting the queen on her many duties, including occasional visits abroad and hosting foreign dignitaries. He also paid tribute to the monarch’s hard work ethic despite her age.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Spain: Negative Growth: What is the Future of Analog Photography?

A small business in Gijón is helping keep ancient art alive

“The market goes on without the need for Kodak.” These are not the words of an executive at a competing multinational. They are spoken by Mark Ostrowski, a US photographer and one of the most knowledgeable people when it comes to the state of analog photography in Spain, in reference to the recent demise of the former photography giant.

Ostrowski, who has been living in Gijón (Asturias) for the last 20 years, runs a store called His is one of the few surviving small businesses in the world that sell nothing but photochemical material. Ever since he started this venture a decade ago, just when the crisis was hitting the large film roll makers, Ostrowski’s focus on craft photography has earned him a consolidated spot in a minority market that remains alive and might have more of a future than we think.

Fuji, the world’s second-ranked company in terms of film roll sales, provides some pessimistic figures in connection with its analog division. The multinational sells 500,000 rolls a year in Spain. Back in the good old days, the industry used to make 40 million a year, but that percentage is falling 40 to 50 percent per annum.

Yet the same source also notes that sales of its instant analog cameras have grown noticeably. In another indication that instant photography may be making a comeback, Barcelona is home to a brand new store run by Impossible Project, the company that has managed to make and sell rolls for Polaroid cameras.

Another relatively positive figure is that for the sale of photochemical paper, which has only gone down between five and 10 percent. This seems to prove there is still an interest in this product, especially on the part of professionals. The reason is that photochemical paper offers better quality and durability than special paper for ink printers.

At least, that is what Ostrowski thinks, noting that digital printing systems are far from having proved their resistance to the passage of time, while a photograph fixed on silver gelatin can last a century and a half.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Stonehenge Precursor Found? Island Complex Predates Famous Site

Scottish site also home to northern Europe’s oldest painted walls.

On an island off Britain’s northern tip, new discoveries suggest a huge Stone Age ritual complex is older than Stonehenge. But age is only the half of it. Researchers say the site may have in fact been the original model for Stonehenge and other later, better-known British complexes to the south.

First discovered in 2002, the waterside site-called the Ness of Brodgar (“Brodgar promontory”)-lies on Mainland, the largest of Scotland’s Orkney Islands (map). According to recent radiocarbon dating of burned-wood remains, the Ness was first occupied around 3200 B.C. and went on to include up to a hundred buildings within a monumental walled enclosure.

By contrast, the earliest earthworks at Stonehenge date to about 3000 B.C. And it would be roughly another 500 years before the first of the famous stones were set on Salisbury Plain.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Bomb Attack Rocks Malmö Police Station

A police station in central Malmö was hit by a powerful explosion early Wednesday morning, leaving a hole in the building. “Several people reacted to the powerful explosion and we received a number of calls,” Skåne police duty officer Marie Keimar told the TT news agency. Two men dressed in dark clothing were seen placing what is believed to be a bomb outside the building before fleeing the scene.

The blast, which took place around 2.30am, left a hole in the police station’s brick wall and caused extensive damage to the offices inside. Police say there are a number of witnesses to the incident, but Keimar was unable to elaborate on what witnesses may have said about what they saw.

However, eye witness Tomas Holmqvist told Svergies Television (SVT) that he had seen two men dressed in black place the charge outside the station.The two men then fled the scene on a black scooter. The police station singled out in the attack is located on Eriksfältsgatan in central Malmö.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Swedish Agency to Probe Peace Prize Selection

Stockholm officials have begun investigating claims by a Norwegian author that the last wishes of Alfred Nobel are routinely sidelined by a Norwegian Nobel Committee, blinded by pro-NATO sentiments, when selecting its annual peace laureate. “It is crystal clear that the committee is not following the will. No one has contested my argument on that point. But so far, it has been completely impossible to start a discussion about it,” Norwegian author and law professor Fredrik S Heffermehl told daily Dagens Nyheter (DN).

Heffermehl has for many years been writing books and opinion pieces in Norwegian media claiming that the Norwegian Nobel Committee isn’t following Alfred Nobel’s wishes. Although many laureates have done “commendable work”, Heffermehl argues that it isn’t enough to receive a prize with such explicit criteria.

The will states that the prize should be given to “the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.” In awarding the prize to politicians such as Barack Obama, Henry Kissinger or even Al Gore, whose work is with the environment and not peace and disarmament, the committee are not following the will of the deceased benefactor.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

The Great Arctic Oil Race Begins

Conservationists fear spills in icy waters as Norway awards oil-production licences.

“The race is on for positions in the new oil provinces.” That starting-gun quote was fired last week by Tim Dodson, executive vice-president of the Norwegian oil and gas company Statoil. The ‘new oil provinces’ are in the Arctic, which brims with untapped resources amounting to 90 billion barrels of oil, up to 50 trillion cubic metres of natural gas and 44 billion barrels of natural gas liquids, according to a 2008 estimate by the US Geological Survey. That’s about 13% of the world’s technically recoverable oil, and up to 30% of its gas — and most of it is offshore.

The Norwegian government is happy with Statoil’s bold plans. Norway is currently the world’s second-largest gas exporter, with production continuing to rise, but it is looking to the Arctic to offset a one-third decline in production at its oil fields farther south since 2000. “If we don’t invest, we might lose another third within the next decade,” says Ola Borten Moe, Norway’s minister of petroleum and energy.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: Extradition ‘Undermines’ Legal Principles: Lawyer

Julian Assange, head of WikiLeaks, has appeared at Britain’s Supreme Court, starting the new leg in his battle against his rape allegations and his potential extradition to Sweden.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: Gang Members Face Stark Choice at Gruesome Day in Court

The gang members were shown two doors and told to choose. One led to the cells — and the other to freedom.

They were not facing trial, but a hard-hitting and gruesome testimony to the realities of gang crime.

It is the first time the tactic has been used in England or Wales, but Glasgow police said violent crime dropped 50% among attendees of gang “call-ins” they had held in the Scottish city.

The gang members ranged in age from 14 to 20 — and at first there was joking in the dock.

“Is it funny?” Ch Insp Ian Kibblewhite, of Enfield Police, demanded.

But the giggles subsided into saucer-eyed silence as images of knife crime victims began to be displayed.

One man was half-decapitated — another had a carving knife thrust into his torso.

And it was deathly quiet when Nicola Dyer — mother of gang murder victim Shakilus Townsend — addressed the room.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

UK: Hamas in Parliament

Which Labour Peer has given a House of Commons pass to the “Parliamentary Officer” of the Middle East Monitor? Middle East Monitor (or “MEMO”) is a pro-Hamas lobbying organisation, run by two converts: Ibrahim Hewitt, who is an antisemite who also runs the Hamas-linked Interpal, and Daud Abdullah, the signatory of the pro-Hamas “Istanbul Declaration”. The lobbyist is Shazia Arshad. You can see her speaking, this Saturday, at Finsbury Park Mosque: whose trustees include the fugitive Hamas founder, fundraiser and commander, Mohammed Sawalha, in an event moderated by the director of the Mosque, Mohammed Kozbar. You can see both Kozbar and Hewitt, here — in a lovely group photo with Hamas’ Ismail Haniyeh: [photo]

But who could the Labour Peer be? You will NEVER guess! UPDATE It is of course Lord Ahmed.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Muslim Teenager Attacked by Brother and Sisters for Kissing White Man

A Muslim teenager was kidnapped, beaten and threatened with hammers and knives by her brother and sisters after kissing a white man, a court heard yesterday.

Shamima Akhtar, 18, was bundled into a car, called a whore and a prostitute and had her waist-length hair cut to her neck by her two older sisters, Nadiya, 25, and Nazira, 29, and brother Kayum Mohammed-Abdul, 24.

They had “screeched” in the car park of a restaurant in Basingstoke, Hampshire, when they saw her kissing Gary Pain on April 1 last year as she celebrated her 18th birthday, Winchester Crown Court was told.

An “extremely aggressive and threatening” Mohammed-Abdul grabbed Mr Pain by the throat as Miss Akhtar was “firmly escorted” to the car and thrown in, Peter Asteris, prosecuting, told the jury.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Vega Rocket Aims to Make Space Research Affordable

The European Space Agency’s light launcher is set to lift off next week.

It has been a long countdown. After 25 years, several delays and more than €700 million (US$924 million), the European low-cost rocket Vega is ready for lift-off next week. Vega is the smallest of three rockets owned by the European Space Agency (ESA), alongside the heavy Ariane V and the intermediate Soyuz. ESA hopes that the new launcher will tap into a market for small scientific satellites, making space research affordable for institutions such as universities.

A 4-stage, 30-metre launcher, Vega is designed to lift satellites weighing between 300 and 1,500 kilograms into orbit at around 700 kilometres above Earth. The idea for the rocket was first developed in the late 1980s, as a project of the Italian government. It was later taken on by ESA, although Italy has remained its main funder, covering about 60% of the budget.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Macedonia Tries to Calm Muslim Anger Over Carnival

SKOPJE, Jan 31 (Reuters) — Macedonia’s president asked religious leaders on Tuesday to help calm tensions in an ethnically mixed region of the Balkan country where a local carnival sketch that mocked Islam has angered ethnic Albanian Muslims. The Jan. 13 Vevcani carnival, in which an Orthodox Christian man dressed as a Muslim cleric was mocked by others wearing burqas, sparked protests in the southwestern Struga region, and late on Monday a church in the area was damaged by fire. The cause of the blaze was not known.

The carnival, held annually for hundreds of years, often has satirical sketches, including this year a mock funeral for Greece in a joking reference to that country’s dire economic problems.

Macedonia still struggles with ethnic tensions more than a decade after clashes between government forces and ethnic Albanian guerrillas demanding greater rights for the 25 percent Albanian minority were narrowly prevented from escalating into civil war. Western diplomacy stopped the fighting in 2001 and the guerrillas entered politics, but relations remain difficult. Most of Macedonia’s Albanians are Muslims and, like the overwhelming majority of Muslims in the Balkans, follow a moderate form of Islam. Amid calls for calm on Tuesday, President Gjorge Ivanov met the head of the Macedonian Orthodox Church HH Stefan and the leader of the Islamic community, Reis-ul-Ulema Sulejman Rexhepi. “President Ivanov asked the religious leaders to use their authority to encourage greater inter-faith understanding,” said a statement issued by the president’s office.

Protesters in the region, near Macedonia’s western border with Albania, burned a Macedonian flag and stoned buses over the weekend. A church in the area was damaged, and there was a fire in a second church late on Monday. A special parliamentary committee on ethnic relations, set up after the 2001 conflict, was due to meet on Tuesday to discuss the spike in tensions. “We are working intensively to calm passions, sending a message that we should avoid further incidents and not be influenced by politics,” Struga mayor Ramiz Merko told media. The Islamic Community in Macedonia issued a statement on Monday calling on Muslims to resist the influence of “provocateurs” and demanding criminal charges be brought against those involved in the carnival. (Writing by Matt Robinson; Editing by Tim Pearce)

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egypt: March on Parliament, Slogans Against Muslim Brotherhood

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, JANUARY 31 — “Two enemies, Tantawi (head of the Military Council) and the Muslim Brotherhood, are on the streets.” The people who are marching to the Egyptian Parliament are shouting slogans against the fundamentalist brotherhood, which has betrayed the revolution in their eyes. “Badie, Badie, you have sold the revolution,” thousands of people are shouting, referring to the movement’s ‘supreme leader’. The political branch of the movement has obtained more than 40% of votes in the new people’s assembly. And while the flow of people towards the people’s assembly continues, army and militants of the Muslim Brotherhood have set up a cordon to keep the demonstrators away from the Parliament.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Herd of Ivory Elephants Reveals Illicit Trade in Egypt

Seeing row upon row of elephants would be a marvellous sight — except in this Egyptian souvenir shop, where the pachyderms are made of illegal ivory. Despite being banned since 1990, a recent survey by TRAFFIC found that shops in Luxor and Cairo remain crammed with ivory trinkets. The dearth of foreign tourists since the Egyptian revolution has kept sales down, but the study found that the amount of ivory material for sale hasn’t dropped since the last review in 2005.

Despite falling demand in the West, Chinese tourists have been keeping the market buoyant, according to shopkeepers interviewed for the survey. That keeps the pipeline of poached ivory, which usually runs from Central Africa via Sudan, open for business, with traders being paid on average $275 for a kilogram of good-quality tusks.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Arab Emirates: Country’s First Woman Underground Driver

(ANSA) — ROME, JANUARY 30 — Twenty-eight year-old Mariam Al Safar has become the first female underground train driver in the United Arab Emirates. And the power of Ms Al Safari’s personality is helping to change perceptions of women in the Arab world. “She is a highly motivated worker and is willing to work the night shift” says colleague Faith Mutune. The city of Dubai boasts the world’s most advanced underground network with a system of automatically driven trains. Nonetheless, some train operations require manual operations and monitoring. Not only is Mariam Al Safar the country’s only female driver, she is also one of its few citizens qualified to drive an underground train.

In view of the high number of immigrant workers in the country, the government is trying to promote the presence of local workers in managing the underground system. Around 130 Emirati citizens work on Dubai’s underground system, around 12 percent of its entire staff. “The government is also trying to encourage women to take control of their own lives and futures and to enter various industrial sectors” the proud Ms Al Safar told us.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Obama ‘Taking Iran’s Side’ on Damages From ‘83 Bombing That Killed 241 Marines

President Barack Obama, in a bid to reconcile with the Teheran regime, has blocked legislation that would hold Iran accountable for the Hizbullah bombing that killed 241 U.S. Marines in 1983.

A survivors group has asserted that the administration is pressuring Democrats in Congress not to support a bill that would enforce massive judgements against Iran by the families of the Marines. In 2007, a U.S. federal district court judge found Iran liable for the Beirut bombing and ordered Teheran to pay $2.65 billion in damages.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Qatar: Rising Wedding Costs, Ever More Single Women

24% of Qatari women are not married

(ANSAmed) — DOHA, JANUARY 31 — One out of every four women in Qatar do not manage to get married even after a long period of betrothal, after their betrothed opt out due to high wedding costs.

This was reported in the English-language paper The Peninsula, which noted that local authorities have decided to take action to stem a worrisome social phenomenon affecting an ever-larger part of the population. The situation is not seen in Yemen — which has the highest average poverty level among Arab countries — but in one of the Gulf’s kingdoms known for its luxury and wealth.

Despite the fact that Qatar’s citizens are some of the richest in the world — with a pro capita GDP in 2010 near 90,000 euros — getting married seems too expensive even for them.

According to the Doha newspaper, 24% of Qatari women are not married: an alarming figure which has pushed local authorities to offer future grooms public halls for reduced-cost weddings, with ‘affordable’ rents of between 1,000 and 2,000 euros.

On average, renting a private hall for a wedding usually costs between 20,000 and 150,000 euros in the country. And then one must add on the other costs, which can make for the entire event costing up to 100,000 euros — the same as a Ferrari, one of the most widely-sold cars among males of the small Arab emirate known for its TV station Al Jazeera and daring foreign policy, squeezed between the interests of regional and international giants like Iran, Israel, the United States and Saudi Arabia. A not-overly-sumptuous wedding banquet can cost 40,000, not including the floral decorations — which in the desert are prohibitively expensive — as well as photography and video, security to exclusively for the women invitees (who must rigorously remain separate from the men invited), for the music (often entrusted to pop stars of international renown) and fireworks displays. These are simply the basic costs, which do not take into account the money offered as a dowry from the bride’s family to that of the groom, tasked with supporting the bride for the rest of her life. The ‘mahr’ (“dowry” in Arabic) is an Islamic custom widely abided by in Qatar, and the amount is often extremely high.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Turkish Pilots to Learn English

Turkish Airlines is to check the English abilities of its pilots following disclosures in Politiken last month that many of the airline’s pilots are a safety risk because their English abilities are not good enough. A spokeswoman for Turkish Airlines says that all pilots must document over the next two months that they are able to live up to international requirements on the use and understanding of English.

“Turkish Airlines has decided that some 2,200 cockpit employees are to undergo the language exam known as Level 4. The exams must have been taken before April 1,” writes Spokeswoman Selin Elcin in an e-mail to Politiken. Turkish Airlines has not wanted to be interviewed on the issue.

In 2010, Turkish Airlines flew some 200,000 passengers to and from Copenhagen and is one of the fastest growing airlines in Europe. In a series of articles before Christmas, however, Politiken documented that the language abilities of the airline’s pilots were so bad that many serious mistakes were made. The problem was documented, among other ways, through the airline’s own safety reports.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Who Destroyed Classical Civilization?

by Emmet Scott (February 2012)

Evidently the impact of the Persian and Arab assaults on Byzantium during the first half of the seventh century was so great that the provinces of the west were able to detach themselves both politically and culturally from the Empire. We know that within the few decades between the 620s and 640s, the Empire lost much of Anatolia, all of Syria, and Egypt — by far the richest and most populous of her provinces. Constantinople herself was besieged by an Arab fleet between 674 and 678 and again in 718.

With the Empire now weakened apparently beyond repair, the Germanic kings of the West, said Pirenne, began to assert their independence. This was signaled by the minting of coins bearing their own images; and it was to end in the formal re-establishment of the Western Empire under a Germanic king — Charles the Great, king of the Franks. Thus for Pirenne the detachment of the West from the East, politically, culturally and religiously, was a direct consequence of the arrival on the world stage of Islam. “Without Mohammed,” said Pirenne, “Charlemagne is inconceivable.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Pakistan Helping Afghan Taliban — NATO

The Taliban in Afghanistan are being directly assisted by Pakistani security services, according to a secret Nato report seen by the BBC. The leaked report, derived from thousands of interrogations, claims the Taliban remain defiant and have wide support among the Afghan people. A BBC correspondent says the report is painful reading for international forces and the Afghan government. A Pakistani foreign ministry spokesman called the accusations “ridiculous”.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Panetta Sets End to Afghan Combat Role for U.S. In 2013

In a major milestone toward ending a decade of war in Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said on Wednesday that American forces would step back from a combat role there as early as mid-2013, more than a year before all American troops are scheduled to come home.

Mr. Panetta cast the decision as an orderly step in a withdrawal process long planned by the United States and its allies, but his comments were the first time that the United States had put a date on stepping back from its central role in the war.

[Return to headlines]

Far East

Does China’s Cat-Eyed Boy Really Have Night Vision?

According to a news reel from China, a young boy there possesses the ability to see in the dark. Like a Siamese cat’s, his sky-blue eyes flash neon green when illuminated by a flashlight, and his night vision is good enough to enable him to fill out questionnaires while sitting in a pitch black room — or so say the reporters who visited Nong Yousui in his hometown of Dahua three years ago.

The footage of Nong and his strange-looking eyes originally surfaced in 2009; it got little attention at the time, but is now making a splash all over the Web. If the boy really does have a genetic mutation that confers night vision, then he would be an interesting subject for analysis by vision scientists, evolutionary biologists, and genetic engineers alike — but does he?

The experts we shared the video with say Nong does have unusually colored irises considering his ethnicity, but he’s not the next step in human evolution.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Europe Seeks Space Cooperation With China

Europe’s space industry, cash-strapped as a result of the debt crisis, wants to step up cooperation with China, which has an ambitious program and is building a moon-landing vehicle and capsules for manned missions. Such an alliance would likely cause tensions with the US.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

I Think We Should Let Elephants Loose in Australia

Ecologist David Bowman of the University of Tasmania in Hobart, Australia, argues that large herbivores including elephants should be introduced to Australia to bring balance to a country ravaged by uncontrolled wildfires and non-native animals that have gone feral. Fellow ecologists including George Wilson of Australian National University in Canberra and Peter O’Brien of the University of Canberra say Bowman’s proposal is preposterous, given the disastrous consequences of past animal introductions in Australia.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

IVF Doctor Faces $10 Million ‘Wrongful Birth’ Case

DEBBIE and Lawrence Waller love their 11-year-old son, Keeden, but they believe he should never have been born.

Just days after Mrs Waller gave birth in August 2000 following IVF treatment, Keeden suffered a massive stroke that caused severe brain damage and meant he was never able to walk, talk or go to the toilet.

The stroke was the result of a rare blood clotting condition known as antithrombin deficiency which Keeden inherited from his father.

Tragically, the Wallers did not know there was a 50 per cent chance that Keeden would have the defective gene.

They are now suing the IVF specialist who oversaw Keeden’s conception — Christopher James — in the NSW Supreme Court for what is known as “wrongful birth” and seeking compensation in the order of $10 million for the lifelong care of their handicapped son.

“We love Keeden now that he’s here, but if we had the right information and the right options we wouldn’t have gone ahead with the birth, not in the way we did,” Mrs Waller said from her home in Kangaroo Valley yesterday.

“Had things been done right, Keeden would never have been here. He would never have to go through the suffering he goes through — the seizures and all.”

The case raises a number of legal questions and could set a precedent for other parents whose children have disabilities.

The Wallers told Dr James about Lawrence’s blood clotting condition, and they claim he breached his duty of care to them by failing to take proper steps to find out whether it could be passed on by just one parent.

In the first day of the hearing yesterday, Justice John Hislop heard that Dr James did not seek to find out the answer himself, but handed the couple the name and phone number of a genetic counsellor at Wollongong Hospital on a post-it note. It is alleged the note was given to the Wallers in the context of a discussion about fertility not genetics, and that the phone number was the main switchboard for the hospital rather than the counsellor’s direct line.

When the phone went unanswered the Wallers did not call back, and it is alleged that Dr James did not mention the genetic counsellor again, and began the IVF process.

“There was a duty of care on the part of Dr James to ensure that both he and the Wallers understood that this problem could be passed on and for there to be proper counselling and discussion about the other options they had, including the option of an anonymous sperm donor,” counsel for the Wallers, David Higgs, SC, said.

It is not the first time the Wallers have been to court in relation to their son. In 2006, they launched an unsuccessful “wrongful life” case in the High Court on Keeden’s behalf, in which he sought compensation for future loss of earnings and opportunity.

Lawyers for Dr James will argue it is not the responsibility of an IVF specialist to find out whether rare genetic conditions such as antithrombin deficiency can be passed on from father to son.

They claim that such responsibility as does exist was met by the referral of the Wallers to the genetic counsellor.

‘‘There is no question that Debbie and Lawrence Waller have experienced a tragic event and that the Keeden Waller situation is extremely sad,’’ counsel for Dr James, Jeremy Kirk, SC, said.

‘‘But they are intelligent adults who were advised to speak to a genetic counsellor. They chose not to take up that advice.’’

The Wallers’ solicitor, Bill Madden from Slater and Gordon, said that the compensation claim was largely made up of the costs of accommodation, food and caring for Keeden full-time.

“Neither parent has been able to work much; they’ve had to modify their home — the financial impact of something like this is huge.”

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Denmark Doubles Somali Aid

The Development Aid Minister Christian Friis Bach has visited the Somali capital Mogadishu as the first Danish minister to do so in 20 years and has announced a doubling of aid to the country. “Of all the vulnerable countries that I have visited, Somalia is clearly the most vulnerable. Destruction is widespread and a large part of the population lives in abject poverty,” Friis Bach says.

Nonetheless, Friis Bach says he sees grounds for optimism: “Al-Shabaab has been pushed onto the defensive and the security situation in Mogadishu is a bit better than I thought. There is, in fact, life and traffic in the town,” the minister says.

In recent months, the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and the transitional Somali government have pushed al-Shabaab out of the capital, and although there are still terrorist attacks, Friis Bach says there is currently a unique chance to get Somalia on its feet again. As a result, Denmark is increasing its development aid to the country — from DKK100 million in 2011 to DKK200 million in 2012. The funds are to be used on projects focusing on good governance and job creation.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Not Black — So Turned Away From University

A group of students, accompanied by a delegation of AfriForum Youth, painted themselves black in front of the Department of Higher Education, as a protest against the racial targets the Department is imposing on the Veterinary Science Faculty of the University of Pretoria.

According to Oberholzer, students have the right to take up the career of their choice and the purpose of this action is to lay claim to this right. “The racial targets that are being imposed on the faculty are excluding numerous white students and limiting their right to choose a career.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

South African Media Controlled by Whites: UDM

The South African media is still being controlled by a white minority who have been in power since apartheid, the United Democratic Movement (UDM) said on Tuesday.

“One cannot shy away from the fact that the South African media is still heavily influenced by those who had been given power during apartheid,” UDM leader Bantu Holomisa said

“Almost two decades into our democratic dispensation, the South African media remains in the tight control of a minority group that has deluded itself into thinking it has the power to dictate the nation’s thought processes.”

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

South African Condom Failures Result in Massive Recall

1.35 millions condoms given out prior to celebrations put on by South Africa’s governing political party, the African National Congress, have been recalled due to complaints that the locally made prophylactics were defective.

South Africa’s AIDS Treatment Action Campaign spokesman Sello Mokhalipi said his organization lodged a complaint with the government after “we had people flocking in, coming to report that the condoms had burst while they were having sex,” adding that people were panicking because they themselves or their sex partners were infected with AIDS.

“We poured water into the condoms and they were leaking, not just in one place, they were leaking like a sieve,” Mokhalipi said, describing improvised tests carried out at the Treatment Action Campaign office in the city of Bloemfontein where the African National Congress celebration took place.

“People came from all over and probably took many away with them, so those condoms are now all over the country,” Mokhalipi said.

The government has had to recall leaky condoms in the past. A 2007 recall of 20 million defective condoms manufactured locally was traced to a testing manager at the South African Bureau of Standards having taken a bribe to certify the faulty condoms. In 2008 another 5 million defective condoms reportedly had to be recalled.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Tanzania: Albinos Are Normal Human Beings

Myths have spread around among some communities that Albinos do not die, they just disappear and no-one knows where they disappear to.

The Sangomas [witch-doctors] in Tanzania are now going beyond human imagination to ask those who want to get rich, or aspire for anything greater and the like, so they advice them to bring body parts of albinos!

There is no geological or scientific report of a place that was prospected by using albino body parts or organs to strike gold or diamond. People need to go back to school to learn about albinism and or albinos. We need to protect the albinos. They are human beings like any other person.

I remember the late Mwalimu Nyerere who said: ‘If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.” Some communities know the albino killers in their midst. But for how long will this continue in and around in our country, especially in the Lake Zone?

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Latin America

Closest Photos of Uncontacted Tribe Reveal Hidden Way of Life

New images of an uncontacted Peruvian tribe reveal a small band of people, clad in little more than beads and bands of fabric, sitting by a river in the southeastern part of the country.

Even without violence, contacting an isolated native tribe can be deadly. Uncontacted people lack immunity to the diseases that most people fight off with ease. According to Survival International, 50 percent of the previously uncontacted Nahua tribe died of disease in the 1980s after oil exploration brought outsiders into their lands.

Earlier this year, a possible attack by drug traffickers may have driven an uncontacted Brazilian tribe from their village. “First contact is always dangerous and frequently fatal — both for the tribe and those attempting to contact them,” Survival International director Stephen Corry said in a statement. “The Indians’ wish to be left alone should be respected.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


New Zurich Law to Make Naturalization Harder

A proposed amendment to the Citizenship Act will make it possible only for foreigners holding residence permit C to apply for naturalization in Zurich, immediately reducing the number of valid applications by about one fifth.

Previously, holders not only of C permits, but also of B and F, the temporary permit, could submit applications for naturalization.

Marc Spescha, a lawyer and immigration expert, believes the new law would discriminate against young people in particular. Young people who do not earn enough money to survive on would be refused naturalization.

“Young people are punished for something they can do nothing about”, he told Tages Anzeiger.

Some argue that the new act goes against the spirit of the Alien Act, which was intended to promote rapid integration and equal opportunities, and the original Citizenship Act, which was intended to accelerate the naturalization of young people.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Paris Rapist: Immigrant From N. Africa, Targets “Adolescent” Blonde Blue-Eyed Girls

“He has shown himself to be very violent but at the same time, he has spoken to his victims a great deal, notably asking them their religious affiliation or their nationality.

It seems he only attacks young European women, with light-coloured hair and blue eyes. He also apologised to them after having raped them and stabbed them. “

The police only released the photo of the suspect after the photos were obtained by the magazine New Detective.

Le Parisien has since run two stories on the criminal investigation. They describe police officials as deeming the matter “very sensitive.”

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Record 1,500 Africans Died Trying to Reach Europe

More than 1,500 Africans lost their lives trying to cross the Mediterranean to reach European shores in 2011, statistics released on Tuesday by the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) show. A record 58,000 people arrived in Europe by sea last year. Most of them landed in Italy.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: Ten Border Agency Staff Caught Harbouring Illegal Immigrants

Ten border control staff were caught harbouring illegal immigrants while supposedly protecting the UK, it emerged today.

In the past four years almost 60 UK Border Agency workers committed offences relating to their job.

In the latest scandal to hit the agency, figures revealed that ten staff members were found to have protected illegal immigrants since 2008.

Another 39 staff had been disciplined for abuse of position in relation to immigration misconduct and a further eight cited for organised activity.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Young Adult Asylum Seekers Are ‘Coached’ To Act Like Children to Exploit Britain’s Benefit System Human Traffickers Are Coaching Young Adult Asylum Seekers to Act Like Children So They Can Claim More Benefits When They Reach Britain, A Court Has Heard.

The claim emerged during a judicial review challenge brought by an Afghan asylum seeker who says he is 16, but is actually thought to be nearly 20.

The immigrant, whose identity has not been revealed due to a court order, claimed he was 14 when he arrived in Britain in 2009.

However, social workers found his physical appearance to be like that of an adult who had been ‘coached’ to act younger than his years.

With taxpayer-funded legal help, he has now taken his case to the High Court, insisting his adult appearance is due to his ‘ethnicity’.

The Afghan said learning difficulties mean he is entitled to a full-time British education until the age of 25. The Afghan migrant’s barrister, Azeem Suterwalla, today told the court that Ealing’s age assessment overlooked the impact of his ethnicity on his appearance, and youths in rural areas of the Middle East can develop more quickly than British children.

He also claimed his responses in interview were down to his learning difficulties, with his intelligence having since been found to be ‘in the bottom one per cent of the population’.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Spain: PP Government to Abolish ‘Citizenship Education’

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, JANUARY 31 — Spain will replace its compulsory school subject ‘Citizenship Education’ by ‘Civic Constitutional Education’. The content of the new subject will be “free from controversial questions” and “from ideological indoctrination claims.” This announcement was made today by Education Minister José Ignacio Wert in a Congress hearing about reforms in the education system. The abolition of the subject that was introduced by the first government of José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, disputed by the more conservative sectors and the Catholic Church, was one of the electoral promises made by PP Premier Mariano Rajoy. The Minister also announced that a reform based on German model will be carried out in the secondary school system, allowing students to choose between theoretical education or vocational training. In the past days the PP government also announced a reform of abortion legislation, re-introducing compulsory authorisation by the parents of girls of 16 and 17 years old who want to terminate their pregnancy.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


DNA Turning Human Story Into a Tell-All

The tip of a girl’s 40,000-year-old pinky finger found in a cold Siberian cave, paired with faster and cheaper genetic sequencing technology, is helping scientists draw a surprisingly complex new picture of human origins.

The new view is fast supplanting the traditional idea that modern humans triumphantly marched out of Africa about 50,000 years ago, replacing all other types that had gone before.

Instead, the genetic analysis shows, modern humans encountered and bred with at least two groups of ancient humans in relatively recent times: the Neanderthals, who lived in Europe and Asia, dying out roughly 30,000 years ago, and a mysterious group known as the Denisovans, who lived in Asia and most likely vanished around the same time.

Their DNA lives on in us even though they are extinct. “In a sense, we are a hybrid species,” Chris Stringer, a paleoanthropologist who is the research leader in human origins at the Natural History Museum in London, said in an interview.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Drone Could Soar Through Titan’s Skies for Years

Titan’s surface is a Bizarro World version of Earth: lakes full of liquid methane, mountains made of water-ice, and rippling dunes made of solid benzene. Now a specially-designed unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) could help scientists unlock the secrets of the enigmatic Saturnian moon without breaking the budget.

The idea gets a boost from the physics of flying, says a team led by Jason Barnes of the University of Idaho in a new study in Experimental Astronomy. Titan has less gravity than Earth, so a UAV would weigh just 1/7 as much there as it does on our planet. And its atmosphere has 4 times the density of Earth’s, which would also help keep a winged vehicle aloft.

As a result, flying is 28 times more efficient on Titan and means that the same aircraft could shoulder 28 times more weight than on Earth, the team says. (It has even been suggested that a human could become airborne on Titan by flapping strap-on wings, the team notes, though no one has been able to test the idea, unfortunately.)

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Earth in for Bumpy Ride as Solar Storms Hit

THE sun is gearing up for a peak in activity at a time when technology makes our planet more vulnerable to solar outbursts than ever before. Monitoring has improved since the last solar maximum, so what are the big risks this time around?

About once every 11 years, the sun goes ballistic, throwing out more bursts of magnetic activity than normal. As a large but harmless solar flare signalled last week, the next solar maximum is due in 2013. In the past, these storms have triggered extra currents in power lines, destroying transformers and leading to blackouts. This time around, blackouts could be more common.

There are 994 working satellites in orbit today compared with 629 during the sun’s last peak. Better storm forecasting should make them less vulnerable. Ground controllers can command satellites to switch off sensitive parts temporarily in response to a forecast.

However, there is another risk that barely existed 11 years ago. Many passenger flights between North America and Asia now take shortcuts over the North Pole. This saves flying time and cuts fuel consumption, but it leaves planes vulnerable to solar storms. Earth’s magnetic defences are weakest at the poles, allowing electrons and protons to pour into the atmosphere during solar storms.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Imperialist Islam Unveiled: A Wide Ranging Interview With Dr. Mark Durie

by Jerry Gordon (February 2012)

Gordon: There have been several trials in the EU regarding criticism of Islam: Geert Wilders in The Netherlands, Lars Hedegaard in Denmark and Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff in Austria. Wilders has been acquitted, but both Hedegaard and Wolff have been convicted and fined. What are your views on these free speech cases?

Durie: These cases represent the failure of Western legal systems to chart their way through the difficult waters of resurgent Islamic demands to control infidel speech about Islam. A fundamental error of the West has been to look to established ideas about racism and multi-culturalism to interpret issues of religious freedom. People in the West don’t understand — and prefer to discount — religion so they think of Islam as a kind of culture or ethnicity, which is a mistake. Criticism of Islam is not hate-speech against Muslims. Bad ideas deserve to be criticized. The sooner Western states come to their senses the better.

Gordon: What concerns you about threats to human rights from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the political arm of the Muslim Ummah, and Fatwas of the International Fiqh Academy?

Durie: The OIC is trying to impose Shariah principles upon the legal system of the whole world. They are using the UN to stop infidels from criticizing Islam, in any jurisdiction. It is part of their religion to insist that no-one speaks ill of Islam or Muhammad. Non-Muslim states need to realize that this is an imperialistic attempt to impose Islamic sensibilities upon non-believers.

The International Fiqh Academy was set up as a kind of global supreme legal authority for the Islamic world. It is very significant, yet often overlooked. Its rulings on topics such as citizenship and coexistence, freedom of speech, freedom of religion and women’s rights are a blast from the past, an attempt to weld medieval Islamic theological perspectives onto modern life.

Non-Muslims need to pay attention, and to say, in the clearest possible language to the OIC: “No, not in my back yard’.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Is E.T. Avoiding Us?

Mathematically speaking, ET would have found us by now — if he exists — so we’re being consciously avoided for some reason, a new study concludes. “We’re either alone, or they’re out there and leave us alone,” mathematician Thomas Hair, with Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers, told Discovery News.

University of Minnesota physicist Woods Halley, who just published a book about the prospects of extraterrestrial life, says we don’t know enough about how life got started on Earth to be able to recognize alien life, even if it were staring us in the face.

“I think there are three options,” Halley told Discovery News. “Life is rare, which I think has a reasonable probability of being correct. Life is weird — every time you run into it, it’s extremely different from the last time you saw it. Life is dull, meaning you will find something that looks a lot like life on Earth and our problems (in detecting life) are technical. “I’ve come to the view that they’re all possible, but the preponderance of evidence most likely fits the first — we are rare,” Halley said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

NASA Probe Discovers ‘Alien’ Matter From Beyond Our Solar System

For the very first time, a NASA spacecraft has detected matter from outside our solar system — material that came from elsewhere in the galaxy, researchers announced today (Jan. 31). This so-called interstellar material was spotted by NASA’s Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX), a spacecraft that is studying the edge of the solar system from its orbit about 200,000 miles (322,000 kilometers) above Earth.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Spider’s Detachable Penis Finishes Without Him

Sex can be dangerous, even deadly if your partner has plans to eat you. When the male orb-web spider has its first, and sometimes last, sexual encounter it has a trick up its sleeve: detachable genitalia which keep pumping even after their owner’s moved on.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Why Does the Ailing West Aid Its Islamist Enemies?

Was there ever a more perverse and self-destructive society than the contemporary West? In its attitude to the Middle East and the Islamic world, it appears to suffer from the political equivalent of auto-immune disease: turning on its allies while embracing its enemies. One year ago, the US and Britain helped street protesters to overthrow president Hosni Mubarak of Egypt. Hailing the revolutionary tumult of the “Arab Spring” as the equivalent of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the West went on to help armed Libyan rebels remove president Muammar Gaddafi by military force. This regional strategy was promoted even though it was obvious from the start that the people who were best organised to take advantage of any elections in the Arab world were Islamists of one stripe or another — religious extremists all, united by their hostility to the West.

And so it has proved. The Islamists are coming to power in Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Tunisia, and in turn are being increasingly empowered elsewhere. In Libya, sickening atrocities, including the torture and killing of Gaddafi himself by a lynch mob, have been carried out by those brought to power with the assistance of British and US bombing raids. Yet Western politicians are even now hymning the brave new dawn of democracy throughout the Muslim world. British Foreign Secretary William Hague conceded earlier this month that the regional violence and votes for Islamism were a “setback”, but he insisted: “Greater freedom and democracy in the Middle East is an idea whose time has come.” And the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist organisation now in the ascendancy, which uses violence and political manipulation to advance its aim of world domination for Islam, is suddenly being hailed by Western leaders as the acme of moderation.


In other words, this could be the point in history at which the West simply disappears up its own arrogant backside.

[JP note: Extinction event in other words.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Why Women Lose Interest in Sex

New research is demonstrating what many people already knew from experience: Women lose interest in sex over time, while men don’t. The finding has the potential to help couples, the researchers said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]