Sunday, January 12, 2003

News Feed 20120203

Financial Crisis
»Berlin Digs in Heels on Extra €15bn for Greece
»Economists: Greece to Leave Euro
»Greece: Labor Cost Has Dropped 14%, Survey Says
»Italy: Monti Tells Young Italians to Forget ‘Steady Job for Life’
»Italy: Spread Drops Below 400
»Italy: Woman Willing to Donate Kidney for Son’s Job
»Italy: Parliamentary Salary Cuts a Drop in the Bucket
»Merkel Looking for Help During Visit to China
»Spain Unveils €50bn Bank Sector Clean-Up
»Spain: Villamayor De Santiago: The Town Where You Can Still Pay in Pesetas
»Strong Franc Slowed Swiss Trade in 2011
»Swiss Watch Exports Hit Record $21 Billion
»U.S. Economy Added 243,000 Jobs in January; Unemployment Dips to 8.3%
»Anonymous Eavesdrops on FBI Conference Call
»Caroline Glick: Fool Me Twice
»Chaplain Works to be Ambassador for Muslim Faith, U.S., Army
»Donald Trump Backs Mitt Romney But Do Endorsements Even Matter?
»Federal Informant Accused of Using Money, Religion and Love to Lure Newburgh 4 Into Terrorist Plot
»Heroes Betrayed Because of Their Colour: The U.S. Pilots Who Risked Their Lives Against the Nazis Only to be Treated Like Dirt on Their Return to Segregated America
»Muslim America Moves Away From the Minaret
»Muslims in America 2012 — Who Will They Vote for?
»N.C. Teacher Accused of Being Part of Beheading-for-Hire Plot
»Radio Host Loses it With Female GOP Candidate
»The Taliban Who May Leave Gitmo
Europe and the EU
»222 Dead as Cold Snap Grips Europe
»‘Anonymous’ Hackers Breach Greek Ministry Website
»Austria: Vice Chancellor Refuses to Exclude FPÖ
»Austrian and German Terrorists Hid Plans in Their Underpants
»BBC Admits Receiving Millions in EU Grants
»Belgian Politician Risks Muslim Backlash After Using Teenage Daughter Dressed in Burka and Bikini for Campaign Against Islam
»Danish MPs: Parliament is a Kindergarten
»Denmark: Birds Falling Victim to Siberian Chill
»France: Elle Denies Obama Fashion Piece ‘Racist’
»France: Scientology Fraud Conviction Upheld
»German Muslim Convert Pair Entered Britain With Stash of Terror Manuals on Bomb-Making
»Germany: Tub of Lard Found Fit to Eat After 64 Years
»Hungary Urges EU Countries to Table Roma Plans
»Hungarian Airline Malev Halts Operations
»Ice Build-Up Freezes Swiss Construction
»Italy: Winter Weather Distress Unabating
»Most Germans Want President to Resign
»Netherlands: Wilders Angry at German ‘Right-Wing Populist’ Label
»Netherlands: Snow Causes Major Traffic Problems, Trains and Planes Cancelled
»No End in Sight for European Deep Freeze
»Norwegian Gunman to Appeal Mental Exam Ruling
»Sharia in Germany? Politician Blasted for Support of Islamic Law
»Snow and Cold Wreaks Havoc Over Sweden
»Spain: Alerts Issued Nationwide as Siberian Cold Snap Sweeps South
»Sweden: Police Close Entrance to Malmö Hospital
»Sweden: Rough Weather Causes Train Chaos in Stockholm
»The End of Great Britain? Scottish Separatists Have High Hopes for Referendum
»UK: Introducing the Conservative Baldemorts
»UK: Jewish Book Week … For the Deaf
»UK: Revealed: Angels Say Giles Fraser ‘Not on Our Side’
»UK: School in Need of History Lesson
»UK: Thugs Get Cover-Up Permit
»UK: The Mecca of the City: In a London Street, The Faithful Find a Way to Pray as Their Mosque Overflows
»Bosnia Passes Laws Key to EU Bid, Muslims Agree to Census
»Macedonia: Albanians Vandalize Own Mosque to Counter Negative Publicity
Mediterranean Union
»Italy-Morocco: Together in “5+5”and Revival of Euro-Med Deals
North Africa
»Tourism: Egypt; Sharm & Cairo Deserted, Growing Safety Concerns
Middle East
»Arab Spring: Real Challenge is Creating Jobs, UN
»EU and Arab Countries Woo Russian Vote on Syria
»Iran Will Respond to Any Oil, Military Threats: Khamenei
»Iran Launches Small Earth-Watching Satellite Into Orbit: Report
»Israel Will Not Pull Out of the Next Middle East War Until Hizbollah is Annihilated
»Kuwait: Parliamentary Elections, Islamic Opposition Wins
»Panetta Believes Israel May Strike Iran This Spring
»Turkey: Former Army Chief Faces Life in Prison
»Deja Vu as Russia Gas Cuts Hit Eight More EU Countries
Far East
»Khmer Rouge Jailer Gets Life in Prison
»Tensions Put on Hold as Merkel Rounds Off China Trip
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Cop Seeks Revenge for Witchcraft
»Ghana: NDC Blames Mills’ Failures on ‘Juju’
»South Africa: Claim ANC Rigged Info Bill Hearings
»South Africa: Serial Rape Case Postponed
»South Africa: Concern at Witchcraft Excuse for Murders
»West African Pirates Costing Maersk Dearly
»Netherlands: Immigrant Youth More Likely to Have Police Contact: SCP
»The Netherlands Needs Migrant Workers, Say Employers
»UK: Foreign Mums Are Leading Baby Boom
»UK: Immigrants Must Earn £31k … or Go
»UK: Immigration is Not Just a Numbers Game — It’s About Culture, Too
Culture Wars
»Atheist Teen Forces School to Remove Prayer From Wall After 49 Years
»UK: Now on Offer at Selfridge’s — Grammar Lessons
»Why the West is Best: A Muslim Apostate’s Defense of Liberal Democracy’
»Hubble Telescope Spies Milky Way Galaxy’s Twin
»‘Supergiant’ Crustaceans Found in Deep Sea
»Tiny Volcanic Moon Controls Jupiter’s Auroras

Financial Crisis

Berlin Digs in Heels on Extra €15bn for Greece

BRUSSELS — Germany has ruled out any extra contribution from national governments or the European Central Bank (ECB) to the second Greek bail-out — as requested by the Greek government. Meanwhile, sources close to the negotiations speak of a €15bn funding gap.

“Greece needs a debt restructuring of 50 percent on the bonds held by private investors. It does not need any supplementary contributions from the public sector,” German finance minister Wolfgang Schauble said Thursday on N-TV, a German news channel.

Negotiations on the second Greek bail-out, worth €130 billion, are stuck as private lenders say they will take losses of up to 75 percent on their Greek bonds only if the ECB or national governments also step up their contributions.

According to an EU official quoted by Associated Press, international debt inspectors have discovered a funding gap of €15 billion, which could be filled by more bail-out loans from the eurozone governments or by eurozone central banks or publicly owned banks taking a loss on their Greek bonds.

The ECB and national central banks are estimated to hold €50-55 billion in Greek debt. Back in Athens, finance minister Evangelor Venizelos on Thursday said that the ECB must take part in the debt restructuring.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Economists: Greece to Leave Euro

Some of Denmark’s top economists say that Greece can be expected to leave the euro this year, despite the fact the country is close to reaching agreement on a national debt haircut of some DKK740 billion and therefore a new EU rescue package. The immediate rescue notwithstanding, seven top Danish economists say that the only way to save Greece is for the country to abandon the euro.

“Even with a haircut, the Greeks are in an impossible situation. Their tax infrastructure is terrible and at the same time there is no prospect of growth in the country,” says Aalborg University Economy Professor Per Kongshøj Madsen. The final rescue package for Greece is therefore to abandon the euro, Kongshøj Madsen says, as it will enable them to devalue the Drachma, in turn enabling them to regain the competitiveness needed to revitalise the economy. “In the current situation it is difficult to see any other solution,” Kongshøj Madsen says.

Under the current rescue package, private investors are expected to cancel some 70 per cent of their Greek debt. But even this will only reduce the Greek deficit to 120 per cent of GDP in 2020, compared to the current 160 per cent. But Copenhagen Business School Economy Professor Finn Østrup says that even after such a dramatic rescue “Greek debt will not be sustainable”, with reference to the rule of thumb that debt must be down to 100 per cent of GDP or less to be sustainable.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Greece: Labor Cost Has Dropped 14%, Survey Says

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, JANUARY 31 — Total labor costs across Greece posted a 14.3% drop in the period from the first quarter of 2010 to the third quarter of 2011, as daily Kathimerini reports quoting a study by the National Institute of Labor (EIE).

The survey concluded that the biggest salary cut was in the hotel and restaurant sector from the period before Greece received the first bailout package until last fall, amounting to 30.4%. The smallest cut was in civil administration, defense and social security (5.6%). Non-salary labor costs have declined at a faster rate than salary costs: The former shrank within 18 months by 19.3%, while the latter contracted by 12.1%. The study has been used by the Labor Ministry in the tough negotiations it has been conducting with representatives of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund — also known as the troika — on the thorny issue of cuts to salaries. The negotiations between Labor Minister Giorgos Koutroumanis and the troika are resuming on Thursday.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Monti Tells Young Italians to Forget ‘Steady Job for Life’

Govt resumes talks on labour-market reform

(ANSA) — Rome, February 2 — Premier Mario Monti has told young Italians to forget about having a steady job for life, adding this is “monotonous” anyway, with the government set to resume talks with unions on labour-market reform on Thursday. After passing an austerity package to put Italy’s public finances in order in December and presenting a package of liberalisations aimed at reviving a sluggish economy this month, Monti’s emergency administration now wants to pass measures to make it easier for women and young people to find work.

Youth unemployment is a huge problem in Italy, with national statistics agency ISTAT saying this week that 31% of people aged between 15 and 24 were out of work.

Former European commissioner Monti says no hypothesis should be off the table, including changes to the law that forbids companies with over 15 employees firing people without just cause — Article 18 of the 1970 Workers Statue.

“Article 18 can be pernicious for Italy’s growth,” Monti told Mediaset television late on Wednesday. “It’s not a taboo.

“But young people must get used to the idea that they can’t have a steady job for life any more. Besides, how monotonous that is. It’s nice to change and take on challenges”.

Monti said Article 18 had contributed to the creation of an “labour-market apartheid” in which older workers often have a high level of protection, while unemployment rates are extremely high among young Italians and those in work often have contracts that give them few rights and little job security.

The logic of Monti, who stepped in to lead an government of technocrats after the financial crisis forced Silvio Berlusconi to resign as premier in November, is that Article 18 makes firms reluctant to offer new workers proper steady contracts as it is hard to get rid of them once they are hired.

To compensate for greater flexibility over dismissals, the government wants to bring in new benefits to provide more support for people who have no job and it has talked about introducing a “minimum salary”.

At the moment people without jobs who have never worked have no right to income-support benefits in Italy and neither do people whose salaries are very low.

While welcoming plans to change the benefits system, the unions are opposed to changing Article 18.

They argue the government should be working on a big job-creation plan rather than making it easier to firms to put more people on the dole.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Spread Drops Below 400

Milan bourse tops 16,000 points

(ANSA) — Rome, February 1 — The Italian economy showed strong signs Wednesday as the yield narrowed, the spread dropped below 400 points and the Milan stock market broke the 16,000-point mark. The spread between 10-year Italian and German bonds, a measure of Italy’s credibility on the sovereign-debt market, dropped to early-December levels at 382.8 points as the yield continued to shrink to 5.68%. The Ftse Mib index closed strong with 2.75% growth at 16,264 points.

The indicators all headed in the direction of important thresholds outlined Wednesday by ratings agency Fitch, which downgraded Italy two notches on Friday. “If the spread drops below 200 or 150 basis points and growth is around 1.5%, (Italy’s) debt will be sustainable,” said David Riley, head of the sovereign-debt unit at Fitch.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Woman Willing to Donate Kidney for Son’s Job

Mother appeals to national papers

(ANSA) — Perugia, January 31 — An Umbrian woman interviewed by an Italian national newspaper pledged to donate her kidney in exchange for employment for her 38-year-old son. In an appeal that appeared in the local section of the daily paper la Nazione the woman explained that she had “nothing left to lose and nothing to be ashamed of” by her extreme gesture, aimed at helping her multi-lingual son whose business went bankrupt last August.

“One kidney is enough for me to live on, therefore I am willing to give it up to help a 38-year-old smile again,” the woman told reporters.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Parliamentary Salary Cuts a Drop in the Bucket

Italian parliamentarians voted this week to slash their salaries by 1,300 euros per month. That, though, is a mere drop in the bucket according to a study released in late January by a Rome think tank. The cost to run Italy’s parliament is twice that of Britain, Germany, France and Spain combined.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Merkel Looking for Help During Visit to China

German Chancellor Angela Merkel needs help — and in China this week, she has not been afraid to ask for it. She would like to see Beijing exert more pressure on Iran and Syria. Above all, however, Germany wants China to make a concrete pledge to invest in the euro bailout fund.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Spain Unveils €50bn Bank Sector Clean-Up

(MADRID) — Spain’s government unveiled reforms Thursday that will oblige banks to clean up their bad loans by building up provisions and capital reserves totalling 50 billion euros ($65 billion). “This reform aims to improve confidence and the credibility of the Spanish financial sector,” said Economy Minister Luis de Guindos, announcing the measures at a news conference.

The banking sector is weighed down by a mountain of soured loans and property assets that are losing their value after the collapse of the Spanish property market in 2008. According to the Bank of Spain, the sector had 176 billion euros in problem loans and seized real estate in June 2011 — a figure which has probably increased since, as the economy has weakened.

The sector has undergone a major restructuring since 2008 but the government considers it still to be at risk despite banks putting aside a third of this amount to cushion the blow when they sell off the bad assets.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Spain: Villamayor De Santiago: The Town Where You Can Still Pay in Pesetas

People realize how much prices have risen by using the old currency

The 3,000 inhabitants of Villamayor de Santiago, near Cuenca, are not living in a time warp, but in recent days pesetas have been in circulation in the town’s businesses.

Here, the town’s business association has decided to bring back the old currency, though only for this month. So far the 30 or so participating establishments have taken in about a million pesetas, equivalent to some 6,000 euros.

The peseta’s short comeback has sharply highlighted how much more expensive the shopping cart has become. Ten years after the euro substituted the old peseta, a third of Spaniards say they have lost confidence in the European currency, according to a recent survey.

Since Spaniards have been making their purchases in euros, the price of basic foodstuffs has gone up by 43 percent, according to a recent survey by the consumer group OCU. Bread has risen by 49 percent, milk 48 percent, and potatoes by 110 percent. Maribel López, who runs a small supermarket, is surprised at how many people still have the old currency stashed away.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Strong Franc Slowed Swiss Trade in 2011

Switzerland’s trade performance was muted in 2011 as the strong Swiss franc and gloomy global economic outlook took their toll, official figures showed on Thursday. Exports in 2011 rose 2.1 percent to 197.6 billion francs while imports were up 1.9 percent at 173.7 billion francs, both figures well still well below 2008 highs, the customs administration said.

In December alone, exports were flat at 15.6 billion francs ($17 billion) while imports dropped 5.3 percent to 13.6 billion francs. The trade surplus for the year at 24 billion francs was still a record, up 22 percent from 2010, the customs said. “While demand from Asia flourished, it stagnated in Europe,” it said in a statement.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Swiss Watch Exports Hit Record $21 Billion

Swiss watch exports shrugged off the impact of a strong franc to hit a record 19.3 billion francs ($21 billion) in 2011, the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry said on Thursday. “In a partially unfavourable context, prospects remain very good for the Swiss watch industry,” the federation said in a statement.

Swiss brokerage Helvea noted that December exports remained strong, growing 21 percent from a year earlier, with watches in the 3,000 Swiss franc price range making a strong showing. Overall, the industry federation said sales for 2011 were up 19.2 percent.

“Except for 2010, which followed a major downturn, growth in the last 20 years has never been so strong,” it said, noting that the trend was constant through the year. “These excellent results were penalised however by the strength of the Swiss franc, which put a strain on margins and selling prices,” it commented.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

U.S. Economy Added 243,000 Jobs in January; Unemployment Dips to 8.3%

The United States economy gained momentum in January, adding 243,000 jobs, the second straight month of better-than-expected gains, the Labor Department reported on Friday. The unemployment rate fell to 8.3 percent. The promising jobs numbers came as various economic indicators have painted an ambivalent picture of the recoveryâ€(tm)s strength.

[Return to headlines]


Anonymous Eavesdrops on FBI Conference Call

Hacktivist group Anonymous has posted online a recording of a conference call between the US Federal Bureau of Investigation and Scotland Yard — in which detectives both sides of the Atlantic discuss their progress in apprehending Anonymous’s hacktivist brethren.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Caroline Glick: Fool Me Twice

Former US congressman Robert Wexler is a man worth listening to. Wexler served as then-senator Barack Obama’s chief booster in the American Jewish community during the 2008 presidential campaign. He appeared everywhere and said anything to convince the American Jewish community that the same man who sat in the church pews listening to Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s anti-Semitic vitriol for two decades, and listed among his closest friends and associates a host of Israel-haters as well as former terrorists, was the greatest friend Israel could ever have…

           — Hat tip: Caroline Glick[Return to headlines]

Chaplain Works to be Ambassador for Muslim Faith, U.S., Army

At 6-foot-4, 250 pounds, Maj. Khallid Shabazz is physically imposing.

But what seems to intimidate some people more than his size is the little crescent moon stitched above the name tag on his uniform.

That crescent identifies Shabazz as one of five Islamic chaplains, called imams, in the Army. It’s a position that often draws considerable attention and sidelong stares given that America’s armed forces have fought Muslim extremists for more than a decade.

Shabazz confronts the issue head-on when he’s introduced to a command staff. While acknowledging the negative, he also demonstrates that there’s more to him than the Muslim label.

“I’m not a Muslim chaplain,” he explains. “I’m a chaplain who is Muslim.”

The Army’s imams are spread out geographically to maximize their impact; Shabazz is at Fort Gordon for training but is permanently stationed in Germany as the European Command’s only imam. It’s estimated that fewer than 1 percent of soldiers practice Islam, so Shabazz is more frequently called to perform Christian services than Muslim prayers. It’s familiar territory for Shabazz, who was born Michael Barnes in Alexandria, La.

Barnes was raised in the Christian church, but some bad choices as a teenager culminated with him getting shot in the back and beaten with a shovel. The Army promised a fresh start, so he enlisted in 1991.

Military life suited Shabazz, but his position in the artillery made him miserable. His search for direction led him to a religious debate with a Muslim, who changed his perspective on the faith and eventually led to his conversion.

His first introduction to the mistrust that often accompanies Islam came almost immediately. When Shabazz told a superior about his decision, the man he had idolized replied: “Why would you do something so stupid?”

Shabazz was crushed, but a Catholic chaplain consoled him and suggested he study to become a chaplain. It was a revelation.

“It just felt like something I was born to do,” Shabazz said.

A major part of this new step involved changing his name. Khallid means “one whose ideas live forever,” a reference to the schooling Shabazz has completed, including two years in Arabic language school in Jordan. Shabazz translates as “King of Eagles,” which Shabazz picked to show his enduring loyalty to America.

One of the biggest tests of his career came in 2004, when he was assigned as chaplain of the detainees at Guantanamo Naval Base in Cuba. He was replacing a chaplain named Yusef Yee, who was arrested on sedition charges, which were later dropped. Shabazz shipped out in a week.

“I didn’t have the time to be super scared,” he said. Shabazz initially felt like an outcast at Guantanamo. As an imam with no beard and an American soldier’s uniform, the detainees generally didn’t trust Shabazz. The guards at Guantanamo weren’t too keen on a man who catered to men America considered enemy combatants.

“It’s one of the toughest times of my life. I’m on nobody’s side,” Shabazz said.

Shabazz eventually won the minds of many at the base through his personality and a knack for organizing intramural basketball games wherever he’s stationed. It’s representative of his goal to be a model ambassador for America, its army and his faith.

“When soldiers interact with me and they get to know me, then I have a ball with these guys,” he said.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Donald Trump Backs Mitt Romney But Do Endorsements Even Matter?

If you ask Donald Trump, his endorsement is the most coveted in the race for the GOP presidential nomination. But he may be the only one who thinks so. Despite Trump’s claim that “millions of people are waiting” for his endorsement and that “everybody wants it,” polling shows that few voters will be swayed by the real estate mogul’s pledge of support, which he gave to Mitt Romney on Thursday.

Nearly two-thirds — 64 percent — of likely Republican voters say Trump’s support has no impact on their vote, according to a Pew Research poll released last month. But that voter indifference is not unique to Trump. The same poll found likely GOP voters would be equally unswayed by endorsements from political big-hitters John McCain, Sarah Palin or Herman Cain.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Federal Informant Accused of Using Money, Religion and Love to Lure Newburgh 4 Into Terrorist Plot

MANHATTAN — Lawyers for the Newburgh Four have launched their appeal, arguing that a lying FBI informant used money, religion and even love to lure their clients into a terroristic scheme.

The men were arrested in May 2009, minutes after they placed bombs outside a synagogue and Jewish community center in the Bronx. The explosives were fakes supplied by the FBI as part of an elaborate sting operation.

The four men — James Cromitie, David Williams, Laguerre Payen and Onta Williams — were convicted of terrorism charges in 2010 after a two-month trial and sentenced to 25 years in federal prison.

The trial was seen by legal experts as a test of the entrapment defense. Defense attorneys claimed Shahed Hussain, a Pakistani motel owner who became an FBI informant following a fraud conviction, manipulated the men so completely that the government was guilty of misconduct.

In their appeal, attorneys for Onta Williams pushed that theme even further, claiming Hussain “flirted” and “flattered” Cromitie to deepen their bond.

“There is no doubt that, in some very real sense, Cromitie loved Hussain,” the brief said.

The court document quoted conversations between the men that suggest a close bond.

“I smile when I’m with you ‘cause you crazy,” Cromitie told Hussain. “You’re like me. That’s good.”

Attorney Clinton Calhoun inherited responsibility for Cromitie’s defense after the trial attorney, Vincent Briccetti, became a federal judge. Calhoun also focused on the close relationship that he claims Hussain used to manipulate Cromitie, but said it wasn’t a romantic relationship.

“I think that’s just silly,” Calhoun said in phone interview.

Calhoun’s papers describe a seemingly rich and powerful Hussain preying on the lowly Cromitie, persuading him with money and religious rhetoric that it was their Muslim duty to carry out violence. He said Cromitie and the others would have done nothing if left alone, and he included a quote from U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon at sentencing:

“The essence of what occurred here is that a government, understandably zealous to protect its citizens from terrorism, came upon a man both bigoted and suggestible, one who was incapable of committing an act of terrorism on his own, created acts of terrorism out of his fantasies of bravado and bigotry, and made those fantasies come true.”

Prosecutors are expected to respond to the appeal in writing.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Heroes Betrayed Because of Their Colour: The U.S. Pilots Who Risked Their Lives Against the Nazis Only to be Treated Like Dirt on Their Return to Segregated America

Today a sprightly 90-year-old, the veteran remembers vividly that though he was treated ‘as an officer and a gentleman’ by his German captors, he was subjected to racism when he returned to America.

‘As we disembarked from the troop ship, a white soldier at the bottom of the gangplank shouted: “Whites to the right, n*****s to the left.” I replied: “Goddammit, nothing has changed!”

‘I felt it was straight back to racism and segregation. I was furious, but you couldn’t do a damned thing but suck it up and survive.’

It was just another insult for a remarkable group of men whose controversial story has just been made into a feature film by Star Wars creator George Lucas.

And, undoubtedly, Jefferson and his comrades in 332nd Fighter Group — nicknamed the Red Tails after the colour of their plane markings — have an extraordinary story to tell.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Muslim America Moves Away From the Minaret

In post 9/11 America the construction of new mosques in the US has sometimes sparked controversy and even confrontation. Is that why some new Muslim houses of worship are being built without the most recognisable features of Islamic architecture — minarets and domes? The National Islamic Center in Washington DC is an imposing building with a towering minaret. One of America’s iconic mosques, it is surrounded by the flags of the Islamic countries which helped pay for its construction in the 1950s. Its design was influenced by classical and traditional architecture in Egypt. Akbar Ahmed, a professor of Islamic Studies at American University in Washington DC and one of the world’s leading experts on contemporary Islam, says it would be impossible to build such a national mosque today because of the controversy it would arouse.

“It’s a bad time for Islamic architecture,” says Mr Ahmed, former Pakistani ambassador to the UK. “If there was some visionary with money who wanted to build the Taj Mahal in the US, he’d be attacked as a stealth Jihadist.” For centuries, domes and minarets have been an integral part of the architecture of mosques around the world. But now, Muslim communities are exploring new concepts in the design of their places of worship. Some are fearful ostentatious architecture could provoke an anti-Muslim backlash. But other Muslim thinkers say mosque designs need to be redeveloped to serve the needs of the growing and diverse American Muslim community. “I don’t think identity should be based on symbols only,” says Haris Tarin, director of the Washington DC office of the Muslim Public Affairs Council. “Identity has to be based on the fact that you are part of a community, part of something bigger than you.”


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Muslims in America 2012 — Who Will They Vote for?

In December last year, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) announced their 2012 “Muslims Vote” campaign. A 2012 presidential voter guide is available, they have an online registration tool and a video, as well as a presence on Twitter. The hope is to encourage participation in the election among young Muslim voters as CAIR recognizes that with a large Muslim population in key swing states such as Ohio, Florida and Michigan, the Muslim vote potentially has great influence.

The overall Muslim population in the US is an estimate and somewhat controversial depending on which communities are included. But it is generally accepted that there are between 3 and 5 million Muslims in the country, and that this number is growing.

CAIR’s GOTV campaign will hopefully make an impression on Muslim voters as the 2012 election approaches. Certainly, their Voter Guide questions have helped reveal the prejudices of some of the presidential candidates. With four of the more outspoken candidates out of the race, CAIR’s Voter Guide profiles on the rest tend to feature their attitude towards Islam and toward civil rights. On Santorum, for example, it notes that he “supports indefinite detentions of suspected terrorists without charges at the Guantanamo Bay prison” (and) “Endorses racial and religious profiling, specifically of American Muslims and young men, in order to enhance security at airports.”

But CAIR in a news release saves its most pointed criticism for Newt Gingrich, calling him “one of the worst promoters of anti-Muslim bigotry.” CAIR spokesman Corey Sayolar said that this was in response to Gingrich’s comment that he would only hire Muslims in his administration if they renounced Sharia as a tool for American government.

In January 2012, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down an Oklahoma ban on the application of “Sharia law” and “international law” in courts. Any further attempts to raise this issue in order to get votes from a fearful and ill-informed electorate will hopefully be dealt with in similar fashion by the courts. It may not be enough however, to prevent candidates from raising the Sharia law issue as a divisive wedge in their campaigns if they think it will serve their purpose.

Other ugly incidents, like the fundamentalist pastor who wanted to publicly burn a copy of the Koran, controversy over the siting of the Moslem Community Center in downtown Manhattan and anti-Sharia law initiatives, have only encouraged the bigotry of some TV commentators and media spokespeople. It can be argued that this sort of anti-Muslim rhetoric, while hardening the fanatics on the right, will end up alienating most moderate thinkers in the electorate. In recent races where xenophobic rhetoric and fear mongering was used to get votes, it turned out that it was the amount of money spent on a race, not the rhetoric that determined the outcome. It is considered unlikely that these tactics will work in a presidential election when substantial turnout means that the hard right base will not have a disproportionate influence.

There appears to be an inherent conflict for most Muslims when choosing sides. Conservative Republicans are more likely to be anti Muslim, as most of the Republican presidential candidates have proved. But the conservative nature of the Republican party appeals to many similarly conservative Muslims, giving them a limited field to choose from.

So who will these Muslims vote for this year in the Republican presidential primary?

Ron Paul is the one Republican candidate who may get support from Muslims who see his libertarian philosophy as similar to their ideology. His position on foreign policy appeals as he wants the US to immediately stop its military involvement in the Middle East, repeal the Patriot Act and limit funding to Israel.

Zahra Siddiqui, a political science major at the University of Illinois, said recently, “Ron Paul knows how to differentiate between Muslims and terrorists, and he would never sacrifice any citizen’s liberties over security.”

But Brian Gaines, a political science professor specializing in voting behavior and elections at the University of Illinois, notes that generally Muslims in America today do not vote like other religious groups.

“Muslims are unique in that the more religious they are, the more Democratic they tend to vote,” said Gaines.

This is possibly because Muslims who attend mosques regularly are more likely to also be community minded, socially active and aware, as well as being conservative and religious. Gaines says it is unlikely that Obama would lose votes from this population to a Republican candidate.

Muslims in the U.S. haven’t always leaned Democratic. Before 9/11 many Muslim-Americans were Republican voters but the way they were treated by the Bush administration and the rise of anti-Muslim feeling in the country helped to change their attitude. 55 percent of Muslim-Americans say it has become more difficult in live in the United States since the 9/11 attacks, according to the 2011 Pew Research Center findings.

A recent poll showed that 76 percent of Muslims in America approve of Obama’s performance. His moderate voice in Middle East politics, his support for an end to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and his response to calls for change and democracy with the Arab Spring movement have all gained him support from Muslim Americans. But there remains a sense of wariness as anti-Muslim sentiment continues and Obama’s opposition to the Palestinian effort to have their statehood recognized by the United Nations disappointed many and contributes to political caution.

But for the vast majority of the electorate, the economy trumps most other issues. Candidates who continue to raise anti-Muslim fears should be seen as irrelevant distractions from the real problems of the economy, jobs, civil rights, education and health care. With Ron Paul not considered a viable presidential candidate for the Republic party, Muslim voters, as they were in the last election, don’t seem to be spoilt for choice. It seems for many the best bet would be to give President Obama four more years to fulfill those early promises.

Dr Azeem Ibrahim is an Adjunct Research Professor at the US Army War College, Lecturer at the University of Chicago, Fellow and Member of the Board of Directors at the Institute of Social Policy and Understanding and a former Research Scholar at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and World Fellow at Yale. He obtained his PhD from Cambridge University.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

N.C. Teacher Accused of Being Part of Beheading-for-Hire Plot

(CNN) — A North Carolina teacher is scheduled to appear Friday in federal court after being accused in an alleged plot to behead witnesses who testified against a would-be terrorist.

Nevine Aly Elshiekh was arrested with Shkumbin Sherifi on January 22. Nine days earlier, the man they were allegedly trying to protect — Hysen Sherifi, who is Shkumbin Sherifi’s brother — was sentenced to 45 years in prison for being part of what prosecutors called a “violent jihad” that had conspired to kill people overseas and kill a federal officer.

A criminal complaint alleges Elshiekh and the Sherifi brothers tried to pull off a plan to “murder and behead” three people who testified against Hysen Sherifi at his trial last year.

Facing charges of conspiracy to commit murder, Elshiekh is currently on leave as director of special education at the Sterling Montessori Academy in Morrisville, North Carolina, a Raleigh-Durham suburb.

The man listed in court documents as her lawyer, Charles Swift, did not respond to messages Thursday from CNN for comment. But some of her supporters have taken to online social media sites to profess her innocence.

Prosecutors said Hysen Sherifi — a native of Kosovo who is a U.S. legal permanent resident in North Carolina — and as many as eight others were part of a homegrown terrorism ring conducted between 2006 and 2009.

In Hysen Sherifi’s case, that allegedly involved taking part in paramilitary training and conspiring to attack U.S. military service members and their families at the Marine Corps base in Quantico, Virginia. He was arrested in 2009 and convicted in October 2011 of conspiring to kill a federal officer or employee, plotting to kill people overseas, conspiring to provide material support for terrorism, and two firearms charges.

According to the 10-page federal complaint, confidential informants told the FBI that Hysen Sherifi expressed a desire to hire someone to murder three witnesses who testified against him during his federal trial. He also allegedly targeted an inmate who he believed had “defrauded” him out of money concerning his federal charges, documents state.

“During conversations … he wants photographs taken, and provided (to) him, of the dead bodies and severed heads,” an FBI special agent in charge noted after reviewing recordings between Hysen Sherifi and an informant. “Sherifi, in sum and substance, explained he wants the witnesses to completely disappear so they cannot testify against him, and others, at any future trials.”

The complaint said that an informant was told to use the photos depicting the decapitated bodies to “convince other potential witnesses not to testify against him, or his co-conspirators, at future proceedings.”

Elshiekh visited Hysen Sherifi in a North Carolina jail in December 2011, at which point Sherifi gave her a message that he wanted her to pass on to someone else, the criminal complaint states. In subsequent months, she had repeated contacts with the jailed man, his brother Shkumbin Sherifi and the FBI’s informants.

Then, in January 2012, Elshiekh allegedly gave an informant $750 as initial payment to kill one of the intended victims. Shkumbin Sherifi gave the same informant the other $4,250 of the agreed-upon fee, the complaint states.

A Raleigh, North Carolina-based group called Our Ummah, One Body has stated online that they do not believe the allegations levied against Elshiekh — whom they refer to as “Sister Nevine” — and Shkumbin Sherifi. Via Facebook and Twitter, they have encouraged the public to attend Elshiekh’s hearing on Friday.

“Allegations are not facts,” the group said on its website. “Facts are not known yet. As a community, we have known good from both. We remind the Muslim and non-Muslim community members that, according to the law, both are presumed innocent until proven otherwise.”

           — Hat tip: AC[Return to headlines]

Radio Host Loses it With Female GOP Candidate

What you’re about to hear is stunning. Get ready.

Here’s how MRC explains the exchange between a Memphis radio host, Thaddeus Matthews, and a GOP candidate for Congress, Charlotte Bergmann:

This shocking video (uploaded to YouTube by someone not friendly to the Tea Party) shows Memphis talk radio host Thaddeus Matthews insulting and humiliating Republican congressional candidate Charlotte Bergmann on air.

And that’s being kind. Matthews quickly became upset with Bergmann when she wouldn’t answer directly about any affiliation with the Tea Party. Then he launched into a 16-minute argument filled with curse words and accusations that added up to her being too close to whites and not really having the interest of the black community in mind. Eventually, Bergmann bowed out of the conversation, and that’s when Matthews really let her have it — not only did he accuse her of being a “token negro” for whites, but he also slipped in references about Martin Luther King and even refused to shake her hand because he was afraid her “whiteness” would rub off on him.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

The Taliban Who May Leave Gitmo

As part of its efforts to explore peace talks with the Taliban, the Obama administration is considering the controversial release of several senior Taliban figures from the detention camp at Guantanamo Bay. The names of those being considered for release have not been disclosed, and the conditions are still being discussed. But diplomatic sources say they would probably be relocated to Qatar in the Persian Gulf, where the Taliban is negotiating the establishment of a liaison office to facilitate dialogue with the U.S.

The administration has said any discussion about releasing the detainees is very preliminary and hinges on the Taliban renouncing terrorism and agreeing to peace talks.

But the proposal, confirmed in congressional testimony this week, has come under attack in Congress. The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Mike Rogers, said Thursday that the U.S. was “crossing a dangerous line” by discussing the possibility of releasing the prisoners.

And in a letter to President Obama, Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-California, a former Marine officer who served in Afghanistan, warned that the release would “send the wrong message to the Taliban.”

“Releasing prisoners strictly for the purpose of accelerating negotiations undermines the U.S. mission in Afghanistan and deliberately ignores the threat of a Taliban resurgence,” Hunter wrote.

Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, who attended a closed briefing on Tuesday about the potential release, called it “really, really bizarre.”

“This whole thing is highly questionable because the Taliban know we’re leaving. … Put yourself in their shoes.”

“There are many people who are experts in the region who say they are rope-a-doping us.”

McCain said Tuesday that he did not believe Qatar would ensure that the Taliban detainees were secured.

“These people really were in positions of authority. One of them was responsible for the deaths of several American soldiers,” McCain said.

Officials say none of those being considered for release has been involved in killing Americans. And any proposed transfer would be part of consultations with Congress, according to James Clapper, director of national intelligence.

Clapper told the Senate Intelligence Committee this week that such transfers, though controversial, are not new when trying to end combat.

“In almost every case where we’ve had hostilities, that at some point in time, there are negotiations. I don’t think anyone in the administration harbors any illusions about the potential here,” Clapper said.

“Of course, part and parcel of such a decision, if it were finally made, would be the actual determination of where these detainees might go and the conditions in which they would be controlled or surveilled.”

Clapper and Matthew Olsen, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, told the Senate committee that the five being considered for release were among those assessed in 2009 to be too dangerous to release and too difficult to be tried. But Clapper said that assessment, recently redone, was based on returning them to their “point of origin,” meaning Afghanistan.

CIA analysts considered different scenarios, said CIA Director David Petraeus.

“Our analysts did provide assessments of the five and the risks presented by various scenarios by which they could be sent somewhere — not back to Afghanistan or Pakistan — and then based on the various mitigating measures that could be implemented to ensure that they cannot return to militant activity,” Petraeus said Tuesday.

Clapper said the circumstances also need to be taken into consideration when assessing the risk.

“This is a different condition, though, in terms of the potential for negotiating some form of confidence-building measure with the Taliban,” Clapper said.

A CNN analysis of detainee records at Guantanamo Bay published by WikiLeaks suggests the following detainees among those being considered for release. CNN has been told by a knowledgeable source that the list is accurate. The source spoke on the condition no name was used because the list has not been publicized.

Khair Ulla Said Wali Khairkhwa: Former Afghan minister of interior during Taliban rule, governor of Herat and a military commander. Alleged to have been “directly associated” with Osama bin Laden. According to a detainee assessment, Khairkhwa was probably associated with al Qaeda’s now-deceased leader in Iraq, Abu Musab al Zarqawi. He is also described as one of the “major opium drug lords in western Afghanistan” and a “friend of current Afghan President Hamid Karzai.” He was arrested February 2002 in Pakistan and was transferred to Guantanamo in May 2002. During questioning, Khairkhwa denied all knowledge of extremist activities.

Mullah Mohammad Fazl: Deputy minister of defense under the Taliban, senior military commander who was chief of staff of the Afghan army and commander of the Taliban’s 10th Division. Wanted by the U.N. in connection with the massacre of thousands of Afghan Shiites during the Taliban rule. “When asked about the murders, detainee did not express any regret,” according to the detainee assessment. Alleged to have been associated with several militant Islamist groups, including al Qaeda. Surrendered in November 2001 to Northern Alliance (opponents of the Taliban). Transferred to U.S. custody in December 2001 and one of the first arrivals at Guantanamo. Assessed as having high intelligence value.

Mullah Norullah Nori: Senior Taliban commander during hostilities with U.S. and allies in Mazar-e Sharif in late 2001. Taliban governor of two provinces and also implicated, according to detainee assessment, in the murder of Afghan Shiites. Nori claimed during interrogation that “he never received any weapons or military training.” Surrendered in November 2001 to Northern Alliance and transferred to U.S. custody a month later. According to 2008 detainee assessment, Nori “continues to deny his role, importance and level of access to Taliban officials.” Same assessment characterized him as high risk and of high intelligence value.

Abdul Haq Wasiq: Now 40 years old; formerly deputy director of Taliban intelligence. An administrative review in 2007 cited a source as saying that Wasiq was also “ an al Qaeda intelligence member” and had links with members of another militant Islamist group, Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin. Wasiq claimed, according to the review, that he was arrested while trying to help the United States locate senior Taliban figures. He denied any links to militant groups.

Mohammad Nabi Omari: According to the first administrative review of Omari in 2004, he was a member of the Taliban and associated with both al Qaeda and another militant group Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin. He was the Taliban’s chief of communications and helped al Qaeda members to escape from Afghanistan to Pakistan. Omari acknowledged during hearings that he had worked for the Taliban but denied connections with militant groups. He also said that he had worked with a U.S. operative named Mark to try to track down Mullah Omar. Omari is now 43 or 44 years of age. He has been held at Guantanamo for more than nine years.

           — Hat tip: AC[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

222 Dead as Cold Snap Grips Europe

In the last seven days, a total of 222 people have died from the cold weather, according to an AFP tally. Ukraine’s emergencies ministry raised the death toll substantially from a previous 63 to 101, of whom 64 died on the streets. Almost 1,600 people have requested medical attention for frostbite and hypothermia and thousands have flocked to temporary shelters that have been set up across the country for people to find warmth and food.

The ferocious temperatures killed eight more people over the last 24 hours in Poland, bringing the death toll to 37 since the deep freeze began a week ago, police said. Temperatures plunged to minus 35 Celsius in some areas of Poland, while in Bulgaria parts of the River Danube have frozen over, severely hindering navigation. Elsewhere in Bulgaria, another six people were found dead from the cold, bringing the overall tally to 16 in the last week, according to local media. No official figures have been released.

Most of the dead in the European Union’s poorest country were villagers found frozen to death on the side of the road or in their unheated homes, the reports said. More than 1,000 Bulgarian schools remained closed for a third day Friday amid fresh snowfalls and piercing winds in the northeast of the country.

In neighbouring Romania two more people died, bringing the overall toll to 24, and hundreds of school remained closed. Forecasters warned of heavy snowfall for the weekend. In Rome, residents experienced only their second day of snow in the last 15 years, with white flakes covering palm trees, ancient Roman ruins and Baroque churches across the capital.

Swathes of Britain were bracing for snow after temperatures plunged to minus 11 degrees Celsius overnight in Chesham, southeast England, with authorities warning that the cold could catch people off-guard after a warmer-than-normal winter so far.

The French, who have cranked up their heating systems were on Monday expected to break an all time power consumption record set in 2010, with consumers being asked in some regions to turn off appliances for at least four hours per day to avoid blackouts. The cold snap has also killed people in the Baltic countries of Latvia and Lithuania, Austria and even Greece.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

‘Anonymous’ Hackers Breach Greek Ministry Website

Hackers have targeted the website of Greece’s justice ministry, sharply criticizing the internationally imposed austerity measures as “enslavement.” The hackers also attacked a controversial anti-piracy deal.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Austria: Vice Chancellor Refuses to Exclude FPÖ

The People’s Party (ÖVP) keeps refusing to disassociate itself from the Freedom Party (FPÖ) following FPÖ leader Heinz-Christian Strache’s controversial comparisons with the Nazi era.

Strache discussed in a private conversation at last week’s Viennese Corporations Ball whether late FPÖ chief Jörg Haider was right by describing Austria’s right-wingers as “the new Jews”. The FPÖ leader also compared the physical and verbal attacks against ball guests on their way to Hofburg Palace with the Reichskristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass) in 1938 when synagogues were set ablaze and Jewish people’s stores destroyed.

A journalist was accused of espionage by FPÖ officials for making the statements of Strache public. The FPÖ leader stressed he made the disputed remarks “under the influence of what happened. Many crying women told me of physical attacks and insults by violent protesters.” Strache stressed he mentioned the “new Jews” theory only in connection with Haider. However, the reporter who started the controversy stressed that the late FPÖ head’s name was not mentioned at any time in the chat at the ball, an event widely seen as a get-together of right-wing extremists from all over Europe.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Austrian and German Terrorists Hid Plans in Their Underpants

Two alleged terrorists including one Austrian hid plans in their underpants to hack off heads, burn bodies and then send the videos back to their al-Qaeda bosses in Afghanistan, a German court has heard. German Yusuf Ocak, 26, and Austrian Maqsood Lodin, 22, were arrested last year and charged with membership in a terrorist organisation. Prosecutors in Berlin say both underwent terrorist training in the lawless frontier region of Pakistan.

The court investigating the activities of the two Berlin-based suspected terrorists has heard how a USB stick was found in the underpants of 22-year-old Lodin which included a folder with the filename “future work”. It detailed how they would terrorise the Western world with small campaigns that “the enemy” would find it impossible to combat, and that would generate “panic” in the population.

Other folders detailed how to carry out kidnappings and murders and to inspire fear that anyone living in the West could find themselves murdered at any time. It also included details on how to avoid capture by accidentally releasing information that might lead investigators onto the terrorist’s trail. The pair had been allegedly trying to build up a network of suicide bombers in Berlin and Vienna.

The pair are charged with recruiting Islamist militants and releasing a propaganda video threatening attacks. Ocak is accused of travelling to the border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan in May of 2009 to take part in armed combat against NATO forces. He is also charged with helping to found a group called the German Taliban Mujahideen, which in one Internet video threatened Germany over its troop deployment in Afghanistan.

Austrian Maqsood Lodin appeared hiding his face in the Berlin court room. The defendants have refused to comment. I the video, which was described as “chilling”, prosecutors said the two men threatened German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who was campaigning for re-election, that Germany would face “a rude awakening” if she failed to pull Berlin’s troops out of Afghanistan. There were suggestive shots of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, bank buildings in Frankfurt and the Oktoberfest in Munich.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

BBC Admits Receiving Millions in EU Grants

The BBC has admitted to receiving EU grants and loans from the European Investment Bank since 2003, Daily Telegraph reports. The news prompted MPs to question the stations impartiality when reporting EU news. A BBC spokesman said loans were “obtained on a fully commercial basis and has no editorial impact.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Belgian Politician Risks Muslim Backlash After Using Teenage Daughter Dressed in Burka and Bikini for Campaign Against Islam

A Belgian politician has risked causing uproar among Muslims after starting a ‘Women Against Islamization’ campaign featuring his 19-year-old daughter wearing a burka and a bikini.

Filip Dewinter, leader of the far-right Vlaams Belang party, uses a shot of his daughter An-Sofie Dewinter in the dark blue bikini for the political campaign.

The glamorous teenager dons a burka that covers her head and face, while the rest of the Muslim garment is draped over her back.

The provocative image is likely to inflame tensions among Islamic groups and nationalists in the racially-divided country.

The poster shows the words ‘Freedom or Islam?’ written on a red bar across Ms Dewinter’s breasts.

Further down the poster a black panel with the words ‘You choose!’ is seen covering the teenager’s crotch.

The extremist Vlaams Belang party claims that it wants to convince women to take a stand against Islam.

Ms Dewinter told the Belgian press she does not feel used by the party.

She said: ‘I’ve suggested (the poster) myself, I have learned to live with it but I have had everything up to death threats made at me.’

She said that she ‘ wanted to make this statement.’

She added: ‘What is the greatest contrast with a niqab? Nude.

‘The campaign fits in perfectly with how I feel about the whole issue . As women, we must choose: freedom or Islam.’

She added: ‘Death threats and criticism no longer scare me off.’

Her father, the party’s leader, said: ‘Women are always the first victims of Islam. We want to make clear that they have a choice.’

The potentially incendiary poster comes after The Islamic fundamentalist group Shariah4Belgium was slammed for its aggressive stance.

The group opened the country’s first Sharia court, a putting it on a collision course with the country’s nationalists.

Vlaams Belang spoke out against the Muslim courts and said that all legal disputes should be settled in the country’s civil judicial system.

Mr Dewinter claims Shariah4Belgium’s leadership said he should be killed for expressing his views.

Sharia4Belguim was fined 550 Euros in January for inciting hatred towards non-Muslims.

Moderate Muslims say they do not agree with the group’s hardline stance.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Danish MPs: Parliament is a Kindergarten

Repetitiveness, narrow-minded party interests and political bullying are the order of the day in the Danish Parliament according to newly-elected members, who after four months in the job are tired of the infighting and hostility on both sides of the House. “People stand opposite each other and shout: ‘Na, na,na-na,na my Daddy’s bigger than your Daddy’. It’s the same infantile mechanism as in a kindergarten,” says Mette Bock, a former CEO for a private company and now an MP for the Liberal Alliance.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Denmark: Birds Falling Victim to Siberian Chill

As much as 25 percent of Denmark’s small bird species may have already died from cold spell

Just a few day of biting cold may already have cost Denmark 25 percent of its smallest birds, including species such as the goldcrest (fuglekonge), Eurasian wren (gærdesmutte) and European robin (rødhals), all of which are especially vulnerable to cold temperatures. “If this extreme cold continues throughout the month we will lose 90 percent of these bird species,” said Morten DD Hansen, a nature guide and curator at the Natural History Museum in Aarhus.

The goldcrest is Denmark’s smallest and most cold-sensitive bird, but the other two species are nearly as small and just as vulnerable to freezing temperatures.

On extremely cold days like the ones Denmark is now experiencing, small birds use all of their energy to keep their body cores from freezing. While their body fat helps to insulate them, they have trouble maintaining it without adequate calorie intake. And that is difficult as their primary food sources — spiders and insects — also die off in the cold. Without enough food, small birds’ chances of surviving freezing winter weather are extremely limited.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

France: Elle Denies Obama Fashion Piece ‘Racist’

French fashion bible Elle has denied charges of racism after unleashing a storm by suggesting that a black American elite, inspired by the Obama couple, was finally embracing “white” fashion. The January 13th blog post entitled “Black fashion power” has drawn volleys of angry protest on both sides of the Atlantic, with the New York Daily News tabloid saying it managed to “insult black Americans as a whole”.

In the piece, which has since been removed from Elle’s website, journalist Nathalie Dolivo cited singers Erykah Badu or Rihanna and the actress Zoe Saldana, as black Americans who understood “the importance of style”. “In an America governed for the first time by a black American president, chic has become a plausible option for a community up until then bound by its streetwear codes,” she wrote.

“In 2012, the ‘black-geoisie’ has integrated all the white codes … but with a twist, bourgeois with an ethnic reference that recalls their roots,” she argued. The US website Huffington Post slammed the piece last week, saying a clumsy attempt to praise black style had “unravelled into a string of controversial, stereotypical and insulting statements.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

France: Scientology Fraud Conviction Upheld

A Paris appeal court on Thursday upheld a fraud conviction and a fine of hundreds of thousands of euros against the Church of Scientology for fleecing vulnerable followers. The 2009 conviction saw Scientology’s Celebrity Centre and its bookshop in Paris, the two branches of its French operations, ordered to pay €600,000 ($790,000) in fines for preying financially on several followers in the 1990s

The original ruling, while stopping short of banning the group from operating in France, dealt a blow to the secretive movement best known for its Hollywood followers such as Tom Cruise and John Travolta. Alain Rosenberg, the leader of the movement in France, saw his two-year suspended jail sentence and €30,000 fine upheld. Sabine Jacquart, a former Celebrity Centre president, received the same fine and suspended sentence.

The court either upheld or increased fines — now ranging between €10,000 and €30,000 — against four more Scientologists. Their convictions were for fraud or for the illegal practice of pharmacy, after plaintiffs said they were given vitamins and concoctions which the group claimed would improve their mental state.

“This is very good news for those who fight against cults and a serious defeat for the the Church of Scientology,” said Olivier Morice, lawyer for Unadfi, a group that campaigns against sects and was a plaintiff in the case.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

German Muslim Convert Pair Entered Britain With Stash of Terror Manuals on Bomb-Making

Two German Muslim converts today admitted entering the country with a stash of terror manuals containing instructions on how to produce homemade bombs.

Christian Emde, 28, and Robert Baum, 23, were stopped by officers from the South East Counter Terrorism Unit at Dover, Kent on July 15 last year.

The men — who arrived on a ferry — were already on a terrorist watch list.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Germany: Tub of Lard Found Fit to Eat After 64 Years

A 64-year-old tub of American lard has been deemed fit for human consumption by food safety authorities in the eastern German state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Hungary Urges EU Countries to Table Roma Plans

Hungary’s state secretary for social inclusion, Zoltan Balog has urged other European nations to present strategies for Roma integration. “The continent’s economic crisis is an opportunity to pay closer attention to the group”, he said in an AP interview. There are an estimated 10-12 million Roma living in Europe.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Hungarian Airline Malev Halts Operations

(BUDAPEST) — Hungaria’s national airline Malev said early Friday that it had grounded its planes after running out of cash almost a month after the European Union said the carrier must pay back state aid. “At 0500 GMT on February 3, after 66 years of almost continuous operation, Malev stopped taking off,” Malev chief executive Lorant Limburger told a news conference.

The immediate reason for grounding the flights was a refusal by Israeli ground staff to service a Malev flight in Tel Aviv, Limburger said. “Since the government can no longer provide resources due to the EU’s decision and there is no feasible partner in sight, the company’s operations became impossible,” Malev chief Laszlo Berenyi added. “Every (partner) asked for payments in advance, and claims accelerated incredibly. No company can honour payments months in advance,” he said.

Partners have become jittery since the European Commission on January 9 ordered the Hungarian flag carrier to repay various forms of state aid received between 2007 and 2010 that amounted to 38 billion forints (130 million euros, $171 million), a sum equal to its entire 2010 revenue.

This prevented the company’s owner, the Hungarian state, from providing liquidity to the stricken airline. Budapest had moved on Thursday however to prevent a forced grounding of Malev, appointing a receiver and shielding it from creditor claims. Following Friday’s announcement, Prime Minister Viktor Orban still told state radio MR1-Kossuth that Malev might be relaunched “if we manage to get rid of the inherited skeletons.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Ice Build-Up Freezes Swiss Construction

The freezing weather has brought a halt to construction all over Switzerland. The Swiss Builders’ Association has estimated that only two thirds of employees are currently at work. Construction sites, and road works in particular, have had to be abandoned all over the country due to the snowfall and freezing temperatures.

When temperatures fall to below -5 degrees, materials such as asphalt and concrete become unworkable, and conditions for the employees become more dangerous, Swiss news agency SDA reports. “It’s no good at these low temperatures,” Christoph Zaugg, director of road construction firm Friedli & Caprani AG, told newspaper 20 minutes. “We can no longer ensure good quality.”

There is no legal requirement to stop working at certain temperatures, with each case to be determined by the employer. Recommendations on the Swiss Builders’ Association website suggest that there is minimal risk to an employee with sufficient clothing working in temperatures of -28 degrees, although with strong winds the recommended lowest temperature is -5 degrees.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italy: Winter Weather Distress Unabating

Mandatory snow tires and chains in many regions

(ANSA) — Rome, February 1 — As winter conditions continue to roll across Italy, Serie A soccer has suffered match cancellations and postponements.

Matches between Siena and Catania and Bologna and Fiorentina were postponed Wednesday till further notice while Parma-Juventus was cancelled on Tuesday. On the Adriatic side of the country, the Abruzzo town of Vasto has imposed mandatory snow tires or chains February 2-29 in the case of snow or ice. Trieste’s gale-force wind known as the Bora has swept in, chilling the city’s inhabitants and scattered snow is being reported throughout the region of Veneto. On the Tyrrhenian side of the peninsula, traffic snarls and difficulties continue throughout Tuscany, while reports of snow in Liguria have ceased.

Across the Apennine mountains, concentrated in the stretch between Bologna and Florence, traffic has slowed due to snow flurries.

Schools in and around the town of L’Aquila in the Abruzzo region were closed Tuesday and Wednesday and police warn that fines will be issued for those in violation of obligatory chains and snow tires.

Delivery of more than 50,000 tons of perishable produce and food goods are being delayed due to reduced traffic circulation both from winter conditions and continued national strikes, says Coldiretti, a national agricultural association. One death, a one-year-old infant trapped in a car swept into a gully, has been reported in Siracusa, Sicily.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Most Germans Want President to Resign

Most Germans now want President Christian Wulff to resign, as the flow of allegations over his behaviour and investigations into his relationships with businesses continues to damage his credibility.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Wilders Angry at German ‘Right-Wing Populist’ Label

PVV leader Geert Wilders has demanded the German ambassador explain why he and the anti-islam party are mentioned in a 32-page leaflet warning of the dangers posed by far-right political groupings. The brochure, paid for by the German justice ministry, states that right-wing populist and radical parties could be a breeding ground for terrorism. Wilders is mentioned twice by name and one section includes his photograph. The folder also explains how neo-nazi strategists use social networks. Wilders used the microblogging service Twitter to urge the Dutch government to distance itself from this ‘scandalous’ statement and said questions will be asked in parliament. Some 10% of Germans are said to support populist right-wing groupings. Wilders’ anti-Islam party took around 15% of the vote at the June 2010 general election but support has fallen since then.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Snow Causes Major Traffic Problems, Trains and Planes Cancelled

Heavy snow over much of the country on Friday caused serious disruption on the roads and led Dutch Rail (NS) to adapt train services. Some flights from Schiphol airport were also delayed. By 14.30 hours there were 800 km of traffic jams, as the snow moved southwards over the country. The NS said it was reducing Sprinter train services for the rest of the day but Intercity trains would continue as normal.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

No End in Sight for European Deep Freeze

Frigid temperatures and snowfall have swept across Europe over the last week, with well over 100 people having died due to the cold, most of them homeless. The dangerous weather is expected to continue.

Amid reports of record low temperatures across the Continent, many countries reported that natural gas deliveries from Russia had been reduced. Ukraine denied Russian accusations that it had used more than its share of the fuel, but the tone was reminiscent of gas disputes between the two countries in years past. So far, European officials have reportedly been able to compensate for the gas shortages with domestic supplies.

Western Europe has also seen freezing temperatures and a handful of related deaths. Italian officials on Thursday reported a homeless man had died of exposure in Milan. In Germany, a homeless man in the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt was found dead on Thursday, after an elderly woman in the neighboring state of Lower Saxony had succumbed on Wednesday. Warmer temperatures are unlikely in the coming days, though, the German Weather Service reported.

Traffic along European rivers has also been hampered by ice. Authorities cancelled ferry service on the Elbe River in northern Germany this week, while at least three ships were reportedly stuck in ice along the Danube River, large sections of which have frozen over in Bulgaria.

But in the Netherlands, frozen rivers would be more than welcome. In Amsterdam authorities have banned boat traffic and shut down water pumps along some canals in hopes that ice will become thick enough to allow for ice skating. If this happens, the country will be able to hold a speed skating tournament known as the Elfstedentocht, or “11 Town Tour,” for the first time since 1997. The tour’s 200 kilometer (125 mile) route links 11 towns across the northern part of the country and has only been held 15 times since the first event in 1909.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Norwegian Gunman to Appeal Mental Exam Ruling

OSLO — The Norwegian gunman who killed 77 people in twin attacks in July will lodge an appeal with the Supreme Court in a bid to avoid a second court-ordered psychiatric exam, his lawyers…

OSLO — The Norwegian gunman who killed 77 people in twin attacks in July will lodge an appeal with the Supreme Court in a bid to avoid a second court-ordered psychiatric exam, his lawyers said Friday.

An Oslo appeals court Thursday upheld a lower court’s decision to order a second opinion on Anders Behring Breivik, a 32-year-old right-wing extremist, after a first controversial evaluation found him to be criminally insane.

If that diagnosis is confirmed, he likely would be sentenced to a closed psychiatric ward and not prison.

According to his lawyers, the court is not entitled to call for a second opinion before a trial is held, unless the prosecution calls for one.

In addition, the lawyers opposed the fact that the lower court based its decision in part on classified medical information leaked to the media about Breivik’s mental state.

“We feel that issues as important as these need to be untangled by the Supreme Court,” his lawyer, Geir Lippestad, said after consulting with his client, who is being held in a high-security prison near Oslo.

“We need a clarification of the distribution of roles between the prosecutor and the judges,” he told Norwegian news agency NTB.

Last year, a first examination by two court-appointed psychiatrists concluded that Breivik was paranoid schizophrenic and psychotic — and therefore criminally insane.

The diagnosis sparked a wave of criticism in Norway, where many voiced surprise that he could not be held accountable for his crimes after he spent years planning the massacre and his calm demeanor as he executed his attacks.

On July 22, the man — who has claimed to be on a crusade against multiculturalism and the “Muslim invasion” of Europe — set off a car bomb outside government buildings in Oslo, killing eight people.

He then went to Utoya island, some 25 miles northwest of Oslo, and, dressed as a police officer, spent more than an hour methodically shooting and killing another 69 people, mainly teens, attending a summer camp hosted by the ruling Labor Party’s youth wing.

The two new court-appointed psychiatrists are due to present their diagnosis April 10, just days before the trial opens April 16.

Ultimately, it is the court that will decide whether Breivik is criminally insane.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Sharia in Germany? Politician Blasted for Support of Islamic Law

Does Sharia have a place in Germany? The interior minister of the state of Rhineland-Palatinate thinks it could, particularly in civil cases relating to marriage and divorce. But criticism of his comments has been fierce.

Most politicians in Germany have gotten the message: The quickest way to spark a career-damaging controversy is to make a facile comment about Nazis or the Holocaust. Media critics and political opponents are quick to pounce.

But that isn’t the only way to attract unwanted attention, as Jochen Hartloff, the interior minister of the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate, found out this week. In an interview with the Berlin tabloid BZ, Hartloff said that Sharia law, in a “modern form,” would be acceptable in Germany. In comments published on Friday in the center-left daily Süddeutsche Zeitung, he added that Islamic moral code “is certainly conceivable when it comes to questions pertaining to civil law.”

Hartloff, a politician from the center-left Social Democrats, made clear that he was referring specifically to family law issues such as divorce settlements and alimony, but also certain instances of contract law in which devout Muslims seek to avoid paying interest. Applying Sharia rules, he said, could help avoid hostility in such cases.

Reaction, perhaps predictably, has not been entirely supportive. Jörg-Uwe Hahn, the justice minister in the state of Hesse, lambasted Hartloff, telling the mass-circulation tabloid Bild that “German courts are here responsible for the law. We don’t need special Islamic courts.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Snow and Cold Wreaks Havoc Over Sweden

The extreme weather of the last few days is continuing to cause trouble all across Sweden with traffic accidents, heavy snowfall and the coldest temperatures of the year measured countrywide.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Spain: Alerts Issued Nationwide as Siberian Cold Snap Sweeps South

Schools and roads closed as snowfall arrives in Catalonia

The Siberian front sweeping across Europe continued its inexorable march south on Thursday, causing widespread disruption across the north of Spain. Temperatures in Catalonia are expected to fall to between zero and -10 degrees over the weekend. The extreme cold has been caused by easterly winds blowing down from Siberia and has so far caused more than 100 deaths around Europe. Temperatures in the Alps have plummeted to as low as -25 degrees and Italy has seen its coldest weather in 27 years with temperatures as low as -20 in the north of the country. Alerts are in place in 50 of Spain’s 52 provinces on Friday.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Police Close Entrance to Malmö Hospital

Police in Malmö have taken the unusual decision to cordon off the entrance to the accident and emergency department at the Skåne University Hospital following the latest in a rising number of fatal shooting incidents. “There is a continual threat,” said Hans Olsson, assistant security manager at the hospital to daily Dagens Nyheter (DN), adding that they have taken this extreme measure in response to the rising number of shootings recently.

In a bid to tighten up security arrangements at the hospital, the main way in will be closed off for only the second time in living memory, as early as next week, according to reports in Dagens Nyheter. Monday saw the latest in a spate of murders that has caused panic throughout the city. Police immediately cordoned off the crime scene where the incident took place, but also decided to stop anyone getting into the A&E building.

As a crowd of some 60 people began to gather outside the entrance, the police were forced to push them back in a bid to secure those inside. “The staff felt threatened by the large quantity of people trying to push in,” said Mats Hansson of the Malmö health care union to DN.

The authorities claimed that it was necessary to close the entrance to reduce the risk of criminal gangs who are involved in the ongoing escalation of violence in Skåne getting inside and causing even more trouble. Security at the hospital in both the previous and current location has gradually been ramped up since the mid 90s, following the fatal shooting of a patient by a policeman.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Rough Weather Causes Train Chaos in Stockholm

Train chaos swept railways south of central Stockholm on Friday morning, after an overhead line fell onto the tracks between Stockholm and the country’s south.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

The End of Great Britain? Scottish Separatists Have High Hopes for Referendum

Though their relationship has always been fraught with problems, Scotland and England have been partners for over 300 years. But Scottish nationalists, with their charismatic leader Alex Salmond, believe their chances of gaining independence are closer than ever.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: Introducing the Conservative Baldemorts

Readers may remember that Conservative Home celebrated the election victory of the bearded Mariano Rajoy in Spain by granting imagining beards to David Cameron, George Osborne and other senior Tories.

At PMQs yesterday, the Prime Minister renewed the jibe he launched at Liam Byrne in the pre-election days of March 2010. (It was apparently coined by Byrne’s own civil servants during his time as a Minister) — “Let us have a look in detail at the appalling mess that the Prime Minister and Baldemort seem to find so funny” By saying — “[The shadow welfare Minister] said that it is completely unacceptable that housing benefit has rocketed to £20 billion. This is what he said. Where is Baldemort? He is not at home today.”

So in the spirit of our Spanish endeavour we give you three Conservative baldemorts, as above. Readers will understand why we didn’t feel it necessary to commission special illustrations of the Foreign Secretary, the Work and Pensions Secretary or Chris Grayling.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Jewish Book Week … For the Deaf

Jewish Book Week is to make four of its events accessible to deaf audience members. Those deaf or hard-of-hearing will be able to use live speech-to-text translation, transcribed by a reporter using a special phonetic keyboard, using technology from charity Stagetext. The method could be rolled out across other Jewish educational and cultural events, and has been used for a lecture recently at the Jewish Community Centre. The talks, which take place at Kings Place near Kings Cross, will include a debate with novelist Linda Grant and historian Simon Schama, chaired by Newsnight’s Emily Maitlis, called “60 Years On”, looking back on the changes since Jewish Book Week began. Others include “Tales of Mediterranean Coexistence” with historians of the region Professor David Abulafia and Dr Philip Mansel, an exploration of Charles Dicken’s Fagin in Oliver Twist, and a debate on “Religion and Science” with the Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks and mathematician Marcus du Sautoy. Tickets are being held back for those hard of hearing until February 7.

[JP note: Hearing aids will help neither speakers nor audience cope with all the liberal cognitive dissonance which will undoubtedly accumulate during the proceedings.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Revealed: Angels Say Giles Fraser ‘Not on Our Side’

by Will Heaven

Dr Giles Fraser, the self-appointed National Spokesman for Right-on Christians, has dismissed Lord Carey as a Thatcherite “yesterday’s man” and “a one-man band” for supporting the Government’s welfare reforms. It’s an unpleasant attack — another one carried by the New Statesman. The former Archbishop of Canterbury said that the welfare state has rewarded “fecklessness and irresponsibility”, a fact which most Britons agree with. So Fraser instructs him: “George, do us all a favour — take up golf.” (He’s old and retired — gedditt?!?!?)

This represents “a slightly creepy attempt to please his audience at the expense of a monumentally disrespectful and personal attack on another clergyman,” says Daniel Finkelstein at the Times. I agree: and it’s incredibly badly judged. What is going on here? Is Giles Fraser trying to impress his new mates at The Guardian, where he’s been given a job as a leader-writer?


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: School in Need of History Lesson

Parrs Wood High School is a “specialist technology college” in the south Manchester suburb of Didsbury. It is by all accounts a popular school, with a current roll of almost 2,000 pupils. Its Ofsted reports tell of a school that has had problems in the past (in 2007, it was placed under “special measures”) and still faces challenges. But under its current head-teacher, Andrew Shakos, it seems to be making progress, successfully preparing many of its students for entry into higher education. Yet neither its local popularity nor its jazzy website, nor its well-crafted mission statement (committing it, I noticed with a smile, to providing “high quality information”) should blind us to the fact that within its walls there looks a double-headed demon: hostility to Israel and contempt for Jews.

This is a serious charge to make against a school, especially one in the state sector. When a friend first made it, just over a week ago, I naturally demanded proof. My attention was therefore drawn to another website, through which one can access the first edition of The Parrs Word, published towards the end of last year. The Parrs Word is the student magazine, funded by the school and published with the head-teacher’s approval. The first edition carried a feature entitled “Palestine & Israel: the simple guide”. It is, in fact, a hotchpotch of spiteful half-truths and downright lies from beginning to end. This anonymous contribution purports to present a timeline of events since 1948. “The problem started” — the author explains — “with Palestine being an Arab, Muslim state; however, over the years, more and more Jewish migrants have been settling there and creating their own state named ‘Israel’.” There are so many untruths and misconceptions wrapped up in this one sentence that it’s difficult to know where to begin sorting them out. Of course there was never an “Arab, Muslim state” called “Palestine”. But, by setting the scene in this way, the author objectifies the Jews as outsiders, dwelling in a land which, by rights, is not really theirs to dwell.

The Israeli war of independence is described as a “clearing” operation by “Jewish forces” against Arabs. The 1967 war is portrayed as unadulterated Israeli aggression: there is, for example, no mention of Nasser’s Red Sea blockade of Israel. Indeed the article contains not so much as one reference to Muslim hostility to Jews or to Arab violence against Jews. There is a puzzling allusion to the supposed “creation of the Gaza Strip barrier” in 2002 (the author seems to have confused Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza with the construction of the West Bank security fence) but no mention of subsequent and continuing rocket attacks from Gaza into Israel. And so on. The author cynically alleges that the timeline presents “just facts, so you can make your own mind up”. But what the feature amounts to, of course, is unbridled propaganda. Its publication, in an official student magazine, is nothing short of outrageous. Worse still, behind this outrage lies another.

Because, in 2009, Parrs Wood hosted a so-called “Day for Gaza” fundraising event for “Human Appeal International”, a Manchester-based charity that, in the view of the US State Department, has links to terrorism. On February 18, a sex-segregated “women only” event is to be held there, organised by HAI. There was an unfortunate delay (which itself merits investigation) in the marshalling of Jewish reaction to the goings-on at Parrs Wood. Be that as it may, head-teacher Shakos has now brought himself to confess that, “it was perhaps a mistake to allow such an over-simplification of a complex issue to be addressed by one of our junior contributors and we certainly apologise for any upset caused by its publication”.

But I’m afraid however many apologies are now issued as the complaints roll in, the matter cannot be permitted to rest there. I am, for example, led to wonder just what sort of racialised rubbish is taught in the name of history at this school. I am led to ask why this school permits itself (as it will again, this month) to be used for the dubious fund-raising objectives of HAI. Above all, I am led to wonder whether, in showing such poor judgment and leadership, Andrew Shakos is really fit to be the school’s head-teacher.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Thugs Get Cover-Up Permit

TENS of thousands of criminals including sex offenders, robbers and violent thugs will be allowed to hide their past convictions from potential employers under Government plans outlined yesterday.

Under the proposals, those who have served prison sentences of up to six months could keep their convictions hidden after just two years instead of the current seven

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

UK: The Mecca of the City: In a London Street, The Faithful Find a Way to Pray as Their Mosque Overflows

In the shadow of the glass and steel skyscrapers of London’s Square Mile, hundreds of Muslims kneel in the street for Friday prayers.

Yesterday’s hour-long service a stone’s throw from the heart of the financial district proved so popular that worshippers filled the streets around the tiny community mosque.

City workers in pinstripe suits mixed with Muslims from the local Bangladeshi community, cramming into the streets beside a Bentley and other parked cars.

The Brune Street mosque, in Spitalfields, East London, is the nearest mosque for Friday prayers for many City workers and others from Brick Lane and Whitechapel.

It is a one-room community mosque with a maximum capacity of 100, so when some 300 turn up for Friday midday prayers locals have become accustomed to seeing worshippers kneeling in the surrounding streets, all facing Mecca.

One worshipper said: ‘It’s grown and grown in recent years. It started off as just one room in the mosque, but now people come from all over the City and there just isn’t the room for them in the building.

‘You get the whole community, everyone from City boys to people from the local area. It’s great being outside on a day like today, but it’s not so much fun when it rains.

‘Some people are surprised when they come into the area on a Friday — seeing that many people praying outside together is not an everyday sight in the UK.

‘You wouldn’t know unless you were looking for it, but it’s right in the middle of the City.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]


Bosnia Passes Laws Key to EU Bid, Muslims Agree to Census

SARAJEVO (Reuters) — Bosnia passed laws on Friday seen as crucial to reviving its European Union accession bid, with Serb, Croat and Muslim leaders agreeing to the first census since 1991…

SARAJEVO (Reuters) — Bosnia passed laws on Friday seen as crucial to reviving its European Union accession bid, with Serb, Croat and Muslim leaders agreeing to the first census since 1991 and to a single state-level body to coordinate EU aid programs.

Muslims, Bosnia’s largest ethnic group, feared a census that questioned peoples’ ethnicity would cement the effects of wartime ethnic cleansing when half of Bosnia’s 4.4 million citizens were killed, driven out or fled.

But faced by polls showing 70-80 percent of Bosnians want to join the EU, politicians from the main Muslim bloc dropped objections to a census, a key requirement by Brussels for candidate countries.

The bloc has insisted also on a state-level coordination body to manage EU-funded development programs, rejecting Bosnian Serb demands that each region negotiate individually.

Years of political infighting has left Bosnia’s accession bid at a standstill while neighboring Croatia is due to join the bloc in 2013, Macedonia has won candidacy and Montenegro expects to start accession talks in June. Serbia and Albania applied for membership but have been turned down.

Bosnia is divided into two autonomous, ethnically based regions — the Federation dominated by Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims) and Croats, and the Serb Republic — under the terms of the 1995 U.S.-backed Dayton peace agreement. The government is still headed by a three-person presidency, one from each ethnic group.

Deputies from the rival regions regularly blocked laws in Bosnia’s national parliament and, to try to solve the deadlock, its six main political leaders agreed to form a central government in December, 15 months after an election.

The new census will be conducted in April 2013.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Macedonia: Albanians Vandalize Own Mosque to Counter Negative Publicity

Many described as “uneducated” the individual who wrote several graffitis on a Bitola Mosque. The idea was for media to report a story of supposedly a Christian vandalizing a mosque!! However, this orchestrated vandalism is almost certainly an act of ethnic Albanian muslims. The reason for this as both local population and police state the culprit wrote the graffitis in terrible Macedonian, mixing both the latin and cyrilic alphabets!? “A Macedonian won’t butcher both the language and the alphabet as this individual did, not a chance!” says a local who saw the graffiti. It is well known most Albanians aren’t able to write in Cyrilic, however the individual sure made a valiant effort to do so. Macedonians in Bitola laughed off the “incident” claiming Albanians were trying to portray the Christians as bad after being slammed by the international community (including official Tirana) for burning a Macedonian Church few days ago.

The Irony of it all

While ethnic Albanian muslims damage Christian churches, a group of Albanians in the village of Mala Rechica has been asking local officials to donate buildinig materials and money to rebuild the St George Church after they themselves burned it in 2001. News has spread from the village that after the 13th century Church was burned, each child born to an ethnic Albanian muslim in Mala Rechica had physical and or mental defects. Over the years, a total of 14 children in a row were born with severe physical disabilities. The local Albanian muslim families spooked that they may have been cursed for burning the Church, have been in a frantic mode to rebuild the Church as soon as possible, even willing to pay for it!

Some Albanians have learned their lessons it’s wrong to burn sacred places. MINA had found the first in line to put out the fire at the Macedonian Church in Labunista few days ago were ethnic Albanians. Authorities believe the problems comes from radical extremists among the Albanian population who have been to and accepted the wahabis teachings from Saudi Arabia, UAE, Pakistan etc. The last protest in Struga was attended by veiled women and long bearded man holding signs written in Arabic?! The question is who are these people and when is police going to make arrests? MINA finds police sources in Skopje do not exclude the possibility this “negative” image and the supposed inter ethnic tensions may be the work of Greek agents prior to the NATO Summit. Greek agents have manipulated Albanians in Macedonia before and are using them as their proxy.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union

Italy-Morocco: Together in “5+5”and Revival of Euro-Med Deals

(ANSAmed) — ROME — Preparations for the next “5*5”, the historic dialogue forum between the two sides of the Mediterranean to be held in Rome on February 20, was at the centre of talks in Rabat today between Italy’s special envoy for the Middle East and the Mediterranean, Maurizio Massari, and Morocco’s deputy Foreign Minister, Youssef Amrani. During the lengthy meeting, the Italian representative gave his Moroccan partner a letter from the Italian Foreign Minister, Giulio Terzi, that underlined the importance that Italy attaches to the forthcoming meeting in Rome and to the revival of collaboration prospects between Europe and the southern Mediterranean.

“Morocco also expects a lot from the event and shares with Italy the need for closer integration between the two sides of the Mediterranean,” Massari told ANSA. During the talks, Amrani and Massari analysed a series of concrete ideas at broadening the profile of the “5+5” in light of transformations in the region.

The”5+5”, a meeting for Foreign Ministers (of Italy, France, Malta, Portugal and Spain for Europe, and Algeria, Libya, Morocco, Mauritania and Tunisia for the southern shores) will be extended to include Egypt, Greece and Turkey, with the aim of strengthening Mediterranean cooperation at a decisive time for the area.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Tourism: Egypt; Sharm & Cairo Deserted, Growing Safety Concerns

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, FEBRUARY 3 — It is mainly in Sharm El Sheikh, “the pearl of the Sinai Peninsula”, as well as the capital city, Cairo — where low numbers of tourists at the Pyramids and Egyptian Museum are evident — that unstable security conditions are having severe effects on tourism in Egypt, especially regarding travellers coming from Italy. The news was reported by operators in several sectors, including the hotel industry, the transport sector and scuba diving schools, which unanimously stated that the decline witnessed in recent months has reached 60%-70%, without taking 2011 into account, the year of the revolution.

The incidents on Wednesday night at the football stadium in Port Said, which are fuelling fresh mass protests in Cairo, as well as a shootout during an armed robbery last week at the Old Market in Sharm, which took the life of a French tourist, or the kidnapping of several Chinese workers in the northern Sinai Peninsula, an area that is of little interest to tourists, are just some of the incidents, which, reported by the press and TV news, are currently causing more declines in reservations.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Arab Spring: Real Challenge is Creating Jobs, UN

Economic-political crisis widens gap between rich and poor

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, FEBRUARY 2 — Fighting unemployment, particularly among young people, is the main challenge faced by countries in the Middle East, according to the United Nations.

These countries must deal with the problem to lay the foundation for a stable future after the wave of protests in the Arab Spring and in the presence of a global crisis that has increased the gap between oil-producing countries and countries that don’t have oil. This is underlined in the annual report presented in Beirut by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA). The survey reveals that the oil-rich countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Bahrain and Qatar) have seen their GDP rise by an average of 6.1% in 2011, and 4.1% in the previous year. The countries of the group of ‘more diversified economies’ on the other hand suffered a GDP contraction by 2.7% in 2011, and 3.8% in 2010. Looking at Lebanon in particular, the report underlines the negative impact of the crisis in the West and the political turmoil in the region, especially in the neighbouring Syria.

Layoffs, a sharp decline in tourism, shrinking construction activities and a substantial decrease in the flow of remittances from expats, the UN underlines, have created serious problems for the Lebanese economy in 2011.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

EU and Arab Countries Woo Russian Vote on Syria

EU and Arab states have watered down the text of their draft UN Security Council resolution on Syria in a bid to get Russia to drop its veto. The new version does not explicitly call for Syrian leader Assad to step down or criticise Russian arms sales to his regime.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Iran Will Respond to Any Oil, Military Threats: Khamenei

(TEHRAN) — Iran will respond with threats of its own to intensifying warnings of military attacks and Western sanctions, its supreme leader said Friday in remarks particularly aimed at archfoe the United States. “The United States and others have to know — and they know — that, in response to threats of oil embargo and war, we have our own threats which will be implemented at the right time, if necessary,” said Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

His comments, in a televised speech as he led traditional Friday prayers in Tehran, came amid heightened speculation that Israel was contemplating air strikes against Iranian nuclear facilities, with or without US help. The West has also ramped up sanctions aimed at severely curbing Iran’s vital oil exports.

Khamenei, who spoke as part of events marking the anniversary of his country’s 1979 Islamic revolution, focused on US warnings that it was mulling “all options” — including war — to undercut Iran’s suspect nuclear programme. “They have threatened that ‘all options are on the table’… Threats of war are detrimental to the United States, and carrying out a war would be 10 times more detrimental for that country,” he said.

The United States and much of the West fear Iran is trying to develop the capability to make atomic weapons as part of its nuclear drive, despite Tehran’s repeated assertions the programme is for exclusively peaceful purposes. Western economic sanctions have ramped up against Iran over the past three months, since the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, issued a report saying it had evidence the Islamic republic appeared to be researching atomic warheads.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Iran Launches Small Earth-Watching Satellite Into Orbit: Report

Iran launched a small Earth-observing satellite into orbit today (Feb. 3), marking the country’s first successful mission since a failed attempt to put a monkey in space last year, according to state news reports. The Iranian Space Agency launched the new “Promise of Science and Industry” satellite into orbit today using a Safir 1-B rocket, according to a translation of a statement posted to the agency’s Farsi-language website. Safir means “Ambassador” in Farsi.

The new Iranian satellite weighs about 110 pounds (50 kilograms) and was built by students at the Sharif University of Technology, according to a report by Iran’s Islamic Republic News Agency.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Israel Will Not Pull Out of the Next Middle East War Until Hizbollah is Annihilated

by Con Coughlin

The tension on the Lebanese border is palpable as sworn enemies flex their military muscle.

It is the front line of Israel’s deepening conflict with Iran, and beneath the snow-capped peaks of Mount Hermon the final preparations are taking shape for a conflict that promises to change the landscape of the modern Middle East. On one side, amid the foothills of southern Lebanon, is Hizbollah, the Iranian-backed Shia militia that is busily stockpiling thousands of missiles in readiness for the next round of hostilities against its sworn enemy, Israel. On the other side stand the men and women of Israel’s armed forces, the defenders of the Jewish state who are working on their own plans to defeat the Tehran-controlled militia that is committed to Israel’s destruction. The last time these two combatants clashed was in the summer of 2006, when Israel launched a full-scale onslaught against Hizbollah after it kidnapped two Israeli soldiers while they were patrolling the south Lebanon border. The Second Lebanon War, as it is known in Israel, lasted for 33 days and resulted in the deaths of an estimated 1,200 people. But it ended inconclusively with Hizbollah largely intact and Ehud Olmert, the hawkish Israeli prime minister who ordered the offensive, hounded from office over his handling of the conflict. Today, though, there is a steely determination within Israel’s high command to finish the job once and for all and eradicate the threat Hizbollah poses to Israel’s security — as I discovered this week when I visited the Israeli-Lebanese border.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Kuwait: Parliamentary Elections, Islamic Opposition Wins

Not a single woman elected

(ANSAmed) — DUBAI — The Islamic-based opposition has won Kuwait’s parliamentary elections with 34 seats out of 50, according to the official results announced this morning.

The result was higher than even the most optimistic outlooks by the opposition. Sunni Islamic candidates raked in the top number of votes, with 23 compared with 9 in the previous legislature, while the presence of Shiite MPs (a minority in the country) dropped from 9 to 7 and liberals from 5 to 2. Women were hit the hardest, however, entirely eliminated from the Parliament with not a single one of the 23 candidates elected, including the four outgoing female MPs. The results reflect the atmosphere in which the oil-rich emirate cast their ballots. The elections, held a year earlier than the legislature had originally been slated to complete its term, came after a corruption scandal involving 13 MPs which led to the resignation of the government and the prime minister. The emir Sabah Al Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah then dissolved the Parliament in December.

Turnout stood at 60%, a substantial increase over the 58% in the last parliamentary elections in 2009. The figure reflects the population’s growing interest in the emirate’s turbulent political activities, marked over the past few years by a never-ending contest of wills between the government and Parliament which grew sharper against the backdrop of the Arab Spring.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Panetta Believes Israel May Strike Iran This Spring

United States Defense Secretary Leon Panetta believes there is a growing possibility Israel will attack Iran as early as April to stop Tehran from building a nuclear bomb, according to reports.

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

Turkey: Former Army Chief Faces Life in Prison

Prosecutors yesterday demanded lifetime imprisonment for former Chief of Staff Ilker Basbug, who is currently under arrest.

The indictment against the retired general asks for lifetime sentence on accusations of “attempting to overthrow or hamper the government of the Turkish Republic through the use of force and violence” and “leading an armed terrorist organization.”

The indictment was sent to the 13th Court of Serious Crimes in Istanbul, which now has two weeks to either accept or reject the indictment.

Basbug is a suspect in the Internet Memorandum case, which refers to an alleged document by the General Staff about setting up 42 Internet sites to distribute propaganda against the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). The former chief of staff allegedly signed the document which ordered the establishment of the websites.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]


Deja Vu as Russia Gas Cuts Hit Eight More EU Countries

BRUSSELS — Eight EU countries have joined Italy in noting a sharp drop in Russian gas supplies, in events recalling the massive 2009 crunch. Gazprom deliveries to Austria and Slovakia reportedly fell by 30 percent on Thursday (2 February). Shipments to Poland fell 7 percent and Czech distributor RWE Transgaz said deliveries are “several” percent lower than normal.

The European Commission on Friday added that Bulgaria, Greece, Hungary and Romania have also been affected. The cuts began in Italy on Tuesday. Earlier this week it reported a 10 percent drop, but the figure hit 20 percent on Thursday.

Member states created special reserves after the 2009 gas crunch — which cost EU firms hundreds of millions of euros and which saw blackouts in some former Communist EU countries in the middle of a harsh winter. But there are signs the 2012 crunch could also get nasty.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Far East

Khmer Rouge Jailer Gets Life in Prison

Decades after the Khmer Rouge was run out of power, an international tribunal has sentenced the former head of an infamous prison to life, calling his crimes against the Cambodian people “shocking and heinous.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Tensions Put on Hold as Merkel Rounds Off China Trip

International tensions over Iran and Syria were put on the back burner as Chancellor Angela Merkel met Chinese President Hu Jintao. The two leaders instead expressed optimism about a blossoming of relations.

The chancellor also spoke of her negotiations the previous day with Prime Minister Wen Jiabao. Both had agreed, she told journalists, that “every country in Europe must meet its responsibilities and play its part.” While announcing that China might contribute to the eurozone rescue fund, Wen gave no specific monetary commitment.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Cop Seeks Revenge for Witchcraft

A police officer who is based in the north-western town of Kunene is said to be threatening his girlfriend with revenge on her child after his alleged visit to a witchdoctor last month. Officer Heinrich Nandjila (33) apparently wanted to be treated for bad luck which he had experienced over several months.

“He complained of having bad luck since we met two years ago and after his visit to a witch doctor he threatened to take revenge on my child because according to the witch doctor it was me who bewitched him,” said Diana Adams,

An SMS to Diana reads “Deserve you what good reason, I will sent you back that bad (luck) that u order from SA (South Africa) to your kid.” “I did not order anything from South Africa. He is just accusing me. Since he told me that he was bewitched, I stay away from him,” fumed Adams to Informanté.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Ghana: NDC Blames Mills’ Failures on ‘Juju’

In a desperate attempt to find reasons for the abysmal performance the Mills-Mahama led administration, the National Democratic Congress has accused the New Patriotic Party of casting a magic spell on its ministers of state and other functionaries of the Mills-Mahama led administration.

This alleged magic spell, according to Japhet Baidoo, NDC Campaign Manager for Shama constituency, has taken a serious effect on many ministers of state and government functionaries

“Do you people know the reason why Bamba recently went to Mali? Simple! Just to consult powerful spiritualists in that country to continue tying the minds and brains of our ministers of state and other dynamic and outspoken people in the NDC,” he told the NDC activists.

According to the Western Regional NADMO boss, many government functionaries in the NDC administration have virtually become “vegetables” and can not even think straight as a result of the alleged spell cast on them by Alhaji Bamba.

He lamented that due to the alleged spell, the brain of many NDC gurus has been reduced to that of babies, making it difficult for them to argue intelligently, let alone efficiently perform their official duties.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

South Africa: Claim ANC Rigged Info Bill Hearings

Opposition parties accused the ANC on Thursday of manufacturing public support for the Protection of State Information Bill

the ANC had pushed its own agenda by silencing DA members and giving ANC MPs and members of the provincial legislature the floor.

“ANC speakers were also allowed to attack the DA while DA speakers maintained their discipline and adhered to the purpose of the hearing,” Lees said.

The DA spokesman accused committee chair Raseriti Tau of turning off the microphone whenever the bill was referred to as the Secrecy Bill.

“He showed what the ANC thinks of freedom of expression,”

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

South Africa: Serial Rape Case Postponed

An alleged serial rapist appearing in the Alberton Magistrate’s Court on Friday, said he had been previously convicted for rape.

The man faces 33 charges of rape and 33 of attempted murder. The case was postponed to February 10 for the accused to obtain legal aid.

The man was arrested on the East Rand on Tuesday for allegedly raping girls between the ages of 10 and 14.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

South Africa: Concern at Witchcraft Excuse for Murders

The KwaZulu-Natal provincial executive council on Thursday. expressed concerns over the “growing trend” of elderly people killed on suspicion that they were witches.

“We call on our people never to use suspicion of witchcraft as an excuse to commit murder. Any attack is not acceptable,” said Premier Zweli Mkhize after a meeting of the council.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

West African Pirates Costing Maersk Dearly

Safeguarding new African shipping routes against pirates has turned into a costly affair for shipper

Exporters and shipping companies are not the only ones profiting from the growing business and trade between Nigeria and the rest of the world. Pirate entrepreneurs have also discovered the increased opportunities and have revved up their activities in and around the Gulf of Guinea.

That increase in activity cost container shipping giant Maersk Line 1.1 billion kroner last year as it spent more on training and equipment designed to deter pirate attacks. That is double the amount the company spent on anti-piracy in 2010.

In 2011, there were 64 reported incidents of piracy in the west African region versus 46 the year before, according to the UN. The international organisation notes, however, that many incidents and thwarted attempts go unreported. The rising market in piracy is one trend that Maersk executives are following with rapt attention.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Netherlands: Immigrant Youth More Likely to Have Police Contact: SCP

A new report by the government’s socio-cultural policy unit SCP paints a disturbing picture of the position of immigrant youngsters in Dutch society, according to television news companies which have seen a leaked copy. The report, due to be published next week, shows that youths with a non-western background are much more likely to come into contact with the police than the native Dutch, the broadcasters say. RTL News reports people of Antillean origin are most likely to be suspected of committing a crime, followed by people with a Moroccan and Surinamese background. For example, 65% of Dutch Moroccan youths under the age of 23 have been questioned by police, which is a ‘shocking’ fact, the SCP says. However, it is unknown how many of them were actually convicted of a crime, Nos television points out.


The SCP also looked at employment rates among immigrants as a whole. Some 12% of immigrants are jobless, compared with 4.5% of the native white Dutch. And according to RTL, non-western immigrants are six times as likely to claim basic welfare benefits. And one third of immigrant children leave school without any qualifications, compared with 18% of the native population. Nevertheless, there are some high points, RTL news states. For example, more children with an ethnic minority background are going on to higher education after leaving school.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

The Netherlands Needs Migrant Workers, Say Employers

The Netherlands needs migrant workers in order to ensure the labour market works properly and companies continue to grow, Dutch employers organisations say in a new brochure. On balance, the picture is positive and that image should not be influenced by negative examples, the VNO-NCW and MKB-Nederland say. ‘The solution (to the problems) is not to close the borders but tackle them, the Volkskrant quotes the document as saying.

The debate about migrant workers has been dominated in recent years by stories about exploitation, bad housing and low wages. Terms such as ‘tsunami’ are used by political parties of all colours to describe immigrants. However, the greying population and looming shortage of good workers means the Netherlands must remain attractive to migrant labour, the report says. ‘That will deliver economic growth and will benefit all the Dutch,’ the report says. In addition, employers need to be able to choose the best candidate from as wide a range of people as possible.’

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: Foreign Mums Are Leading Baby Boom

New figures for Oxford reveal that close to half of all births were to non-UK mothers.

Population statistics for 2010 show that 47 per cent of babies were to mothers born outside the UK, compared to the national average of 26 per cent.

Oxford City Council’s report shows the city’s annual birth rate has risen by 40 per cent in less than a decade.

Figures also show the number of babies born to UK-born mothers living in Oxford has remained almost unchanged over the last 10 years.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

UK: Immigrants Must Earn £31k … or Go

Minister sets 5-yr income hurdle for non-EU staff

FOREIGNERS working in Britain will be kicked out after five years if they earn less than £31,000 a year.

Immigration Minister Damian Green is to unveil the radical plan today.

In a speech to an influential think tank, he will say non-EU migrants must prove they are “the brightest and best” if they want to stay.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

UK: Immigration is Not Just a Numbers Game — It’s About Culture, Too

The debate about what constitutes Britishness has barely begun.

Immigration stirs strong passions. But in Britain the debate about it can be rather confused. During the last election, a friend canvassed a finger-jabbing gentleman who said that he would be voting Liberal Democrat because “Nick Clegg will kick out all the immigrants”.

Most people know the difference between Nick Clegg and Nick Griffin. But do we know what immigration policy we want? Most of us — though fewer than in recent years — back some immigration. Since 1997, the share of our workforce born outside the United Kingdom has doubled from 7 per cent to 14 per cent. Net immigration rose from zero in 1992 to nearly a quarter of a million last year, when half a million people arrived but only half that number left.

The Government is trying to control overall numbers. But voters also want people who will fit in and contribute. Yesterday, Damian Green, the Immigration Minister, gave a speech exploring how to make immigration rules do those two things. He floated the idea that economic migrants might have to earn some kind of minimum salary — perhaps between £31,000 and £49,000 a year.

In this respect, his speech reflects an important change of approach. The Labour administration argued that migration expanded the economy, and had no impact on jobs. The new Government says it is interested not in the total size of the economy, but in the living standards of current residents.

In January, a report from the Migration Advisory Committee looked at whether non-EU immigration improved the welfare of current residents. It concluded that this question was impossible to answer at the moment. How do you compare the effects on jobs, tax, spending, congestion and so on? The report did, however, challenge the idea that migration has no impact on the labour market…

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Atheist Teen Forces School to Remove Prayer From Wall After 49 Years

State representative calls girl, who has been escorted by police to school, ‘an evil little thing’

CRANSTON, R.I. — She is 16, the daughter of a firefighter and a nurse, a self-proclaimed nerd who loves Harry Potter and Facebook. But Jessica Ahlquist is also an outspoken atheist who has incensed this heavily Roman Catholic city with a successful lawsuit to get a prayer removed from the wall of her high school auditorium, where it has hung for 49 years.

A federal judge ruled this month that the prayer’s presence at Cranston High School West was unconstitutional, concluding that it violated the principle of government neutrality in religion.

In the weeks since, residents have crowded school board meetings to demand an appeal, Jessica has received online threats and the police have escorted her at school, and Cranston, a dense city of 80,000 just south of Providence, has throbbed with raw emotion.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

UK: Now on Offer at Selfridge’s — Grammar Lessons

Something very odd is going on down at the Oxford Street superstore. Every Friday night, Martin Gwynne, a retired Old Etonian businessman turned teacher, is giving grammar lessons to the evening shoppers. Gwynne, working in association with the Idler Academy, has also sold out of his useful guide to the subject, Gwynne’s Grammar. It just goes to prove something that’s been going on for a long time; there’s a tremendous demand for old-fashioned, rigorous teaching, and that demand is no longer being met in schools or universities. Only last week, Oxford dons were saying how woefully underprepared their undergraduates were for serious academic study. Grown-ups, too, are hungry for seriousness, as Philip Larkin put it. And, given our decreased modern attention spans, we particularly like it if, paradoxically, that seriousness is delivered in entertaining, bite-sized chunks. You can see manifestations of this desire for easily-accessible but highbrow learning in the success of Lynne Truss’s Eats, Shoots and Leaves, in the popularity of QI, even in the ubiquity of pub quizzes. With the collapse of rigorous formal education, people will go looking for that seriousness elsewhere, outside school and university — and how appropriate that they should now find it in the modern temple, the shop. It’s also intriguing that grammar should be taught through a specific book, like Martin Gwynne’s. I learnt grammar through being taught rules directly by a teacher, as an integral part of English, with no actual need for a specific grammar book as such. But, because grammar’s no longer an integral part of English teaching — or English teachers — it has to come from a source outside school, ie a privately-published book. How sad that formal education can’t provide what’s it supposed to provide; how gratifying that private enterprise has filled the gap.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Why the West is Best: A Muslim Apostate’s Defense of Liberal Democracy’

by Ibn Warraq, (Encounter, 286 pp., $23.95)

Occasionally, the mainstream media will let slip something that reveals the incoherence of multiculturalist orthodoxy. Not long ago, the New York Times reported on an Indian casino in California that had begun purging its rolls of members deemed insufficiently Indian. At the end of the story, an official from the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs, himself an Indian, remarked: “The tribe has historically had the ability to remove people. Tolerance is a European thing brought to the country. We never tolerated things. We turned our back on people.”

Warraq recognizes that Western civilization is threatened not just by external rivals, but also by self-loathing Western ideologies such as multiculturalism and the “promiscuous pluralism that ends in moral relativism.” These ideas go beyond self-reflection to justify “special accommodations” for minorities (like Muslim immigrants) that contradict values such as personal freedom and equality before the law. Warraq advises us to stop appeasing our enemies, do a better job of translating into Arabic and other Muslim tongues Western books that define our core values, and return to teaching our children an accurate history of the West.

We should not be surprised that it takes an immigrant from a country sorely lacking in the social, intellectual, and political goods Warraq discusses to document the glories of the West. Why the West is Best is a timely, passionate reminder of how fortunate we are, and how fragile is our good fortune.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Hubble Telescope Spies Milky Way Galaxy’s Twin

An uncanny twin of our own Milky Way galaxy takes center stage in a new cosmic portrait by the Hubble Space Telescope unveiled today (Feb. 3). The amazing photo shows the galaxy NGC 1073, a barred spiral like our own Milky Way. The galaxy is located 55 million light-years away in the constellation of Cetus (The Sea Monster).

By looking at cosmic wonders thought to be similar to our own galactic home, astronomers hope to learn more about the Milky Way, which we can only see from the inside. The bars, made of dense lines of stars at the galaxies’ centers, are thought to form as gravity causes density waves that push gas inward, supplying material for new stars, Hubble mission researchers explained in a statement. This inflow of gas can also feed the hungry giant black holes thought to inhabit the centers of most such galaxies.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

‘Supergiant’ Crustaceans Found in Deep Sea

Scientists on an expedition to sample a deep-sea trench got a surprise when their traps brought back seven giant crustaceans glimpsed only a handful of times in human history. The “supergiant” amphipods are more than 20 times larger than their typical crustacean relatives, which are generally less than a half-inch (1 centimeter) long, and thrive in lakes and oceans around the world. They are sometimes called the “insects of the sea.”

“We pulled up the trap, and lying among the fish were these absolutely massive amphipods, and there was no inkling whatsoever that these things should be there,” said Alan Jamieson, a lecturer at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, and leader of the expedition that turned up the fantastical creatures in November 2011. The largest of the seven specimens was about 11 inches (28 cm) long.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Tiny Volcanic Moon Controls Jupiter’s Auroras

Sometimes the puppets control the puppeteer. It seems volcanic outbursts on Jupiter’s moon Io control brilliant auroras on its parent planet. Auroras are shimmering curtains of light caused when charged particles slam into a planet’s magnetic field. Earth’s northern and southern lights are active only when the sun releases a big blob of charged plasma, as it did on 24 January.

Jupiter has a permanent ring of auroral light surrounding each of its poles (see photo). Most of the charged particles responsible for the light have long been thought to originate from tiny, hyperactive Io, which burps out about a tonne of sulphur per second in its persistent, violent volcanic activity. However, the sun was thought to cause any variations in the rings via changes in the pressure of the solar wind.

New observations suggest that Io can control these changes as well. “Variations we thought were connected to the sun we now see are connected to the volcanic activity,” says Bertrand Bonfond of the University of Liège in Belgium.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]