Sunday, January 12, 2003

News Feed 20120208

Financial Crisis
»‘Could the Germans Survive a Crisis Like Greece’s?’
»Few Swedes Ready to Work Until They’re 75: Poll
»France Signals Nine Eurozone States Ready to Trigger FTT
»Greek Strike Protesters Burn German Flag
»Nine EU Countries Form Splinter Group on Financial Tax
»Swiss Central Bank Stays Firm on Currency Cap
»Why is Global Shipping Slowing Down So Dramatically?
»Caesars Entertainment Soars 33 Per Cent in First Day of Trading on the Nasdaq
»Harry Potter Overlooked by Oscars, Says Daniel Radcliffe
»Marine Ecology: Attack of the Blobs
»Minneapolis Helps Muslim Businesses Follow Sharia Law
»Most Fish in the Sea Evolved on Land
»Pinterest Hits 10 Million U.S. Monthly Uniques Faster Than Any Standalone Site Ever — ComScore
»Racial Tensions Flare in Protest of South Dallas Gas Station
»Stakelbeck on Terror Show: Iran’s War on America
»States Reach $25 Billion Deal With Banks Over Foreclosure Abuses
»World’s Highest-Pitched Primate Calls Out Like a Bat
Europe and the EU
»British Muslims Try to Ban Negative Reporting of Islam
»Concerned Over Cracks: European Safety Authority Orders Checks on All A380s
»Controversial Appointments in New Romania Government
»France: Teacher Stabbed While Breaking Up Fight
»France: Angry MPs Storm Out After ‘Nazi’ Taunt
»Germany: Breaking Global Warming Taboos: ‘I Feel Duped on Climate Change’
»Germany: Print Mein Kampf to Fight Neo-Nazi Extremism
»Guinea Pigs Were Widespread as Elizabethan Pets
»Holland Abuzz About ‘Mythical’ Skating Race
»Hungary: Orban Makes Another U-Turn on Constitution
»Ice Freezes Transport in Switzerland
»Islamophobic Filmmakers Promote Comment Seeking to Legitimate Norway Terrorist’s Views
»Italy: Wolves Seek Shelter From Harsh Weather Conditions
»Italy Braced for Cold Snap to Intensify
»Swiss Architects Team With Ai Weiwei for London Pavilion
»UK: A Hate Preacher Gets Silenced
»UK: Building Trust, Peace and Harmony Through Inter-Faith Relations
»UK: Birthday Celebrations for Mohammed
»UK: BBC Tells Its Staff: Don’t Call Qatada Extremist
»UK: Court Clerk Caught Watching Pornography During Rape Trial by Judge
»UK: Every Woman’s Nightmare: Sex Attacker Raped Young Mum at Knifepoint in Her Manchester Home
»UK: Hospital A&E Sex Assault Doctor Jailed
»UK: LSE Cancels Extremist Speaker Event
»UK: The ECHR: Cameron is Trapped in a Bind Which He Himself Has Approved
»UK: Will Hate Preacher Hamza be Set Free Next? Qatada Ruling Could Open Door After His Appeal to Europe Over Human Rights Judges to Rule on Whether Hamza and Five Others Can be Extradited to U.S.
»FYROM: The New Kosovo?
North Africa
»Reinforce UN Mission in Libya, Italy’s FM
»Tunisia: Salafite Shadow With Threats and Calls for Sharia
»Weather: Algeria, 80 Killed by Cold, Mayors Against Gvt
Middle East
»Arab World: UN Appeal, Improve Food Security
»Ihsanoglu to Discuss a Strategy to Combat Islamophobia in Geneva Next March, OIC Makes International Contacts on Syria …
»Karman, The Smiling Face of Political Islam
»Lebanon: Nasrallah Calls for Unconditional Dialogue on Syria
»MCB Condemns Ongoing Violence in Syria
»Minister Baird Visits the Bahá’í World Centre
»Neo-Ottomanism in Action: Turkey as a Regional Power
»PM David Cameron Fears Syria Might Yet Become Another Kosovo
»UAE: Jail for Westerner Over Mosque Insults
»Polishing Putin: Hacked Emails Suggest Dirty Tricks by Russian Youth Group
»‘Russia is a Victim of Western Media’ Claims Russia Expert
»Russia and the Western Media
»We Have Breached Lake Vostok, Confirms Russian Team
South Asia
»Maldives Mob Smashes Buddhist Statues in National Museum
Australia — Pacific
»Did Easter Islanders Mix it Up With South Americans?
»Pacific Battlefield Tourism: A Dream Island Littered With Deadly Relics
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Nigeria: There’s No Terrorism in Islam, Says the Dean of a University Faculty
»Oldest Animal Discovered — Earliest Ancestor of us All?
»14 Million New Migrants Flocked to Russia in 2011
Culture Wars
»Should We Study White People?
»Swiss Philosopher Plans London Atheist Temple
»UK: Contraceptive Implants Are Secretly Given to Girls Aged 13
»“Ping-Pong” Planets Can Bounce From Star to Star
»Higgs Signal Gains Strength

Financial Crisis

‘Could the Germans Survive a Crisis Like Greece’s?’

Time is running out for the Greek government, which needs to reach a deal on unpopular austerity measures if it is to secure a second EU/IMF bailout. German commentators argue the country has already suffered enough, saying what are needed now are measures to stimulate growth.

The left-leaning Die Tageszeitung writes:

“In Germany, there is a widespread feeling that the Greeks must be to blame (for the fact that its situation isn’t improving). They are not economizing enough, are still earning too much and are simply not carrying out reforms, so the thinking goes. In Germany, resentment is rife and there is a general suspicion that the Greeks simply can’t manage it.”

“But could the Germans? Would they survive a crisis like the one in Greece? … The Greeks are in their fourth year of a recession, and there’s no end in sight. Its economy will probably shrink by a total of 20 percent. If Germany was hit by a similar scenario, its economic output would fall by around €500 billion. This is simply unimaginable. Here, there is already a crisis if the federal government wants to cut €5 billion from its budget.”

“It is pointless to push the Greek economy over the edge through austerity. The victims are not only the Greeks, but also their foreign creditors, the other euro-zone members. Greece is going to cost money. Part of the emergency loans that the Europeans are giving the country will never be seen again. The only question is how high the losses will be. And even though it is counter-intuitive, the more generous the Europeans are now, the smaller the final write-downs are likely to be. They have to invest in growth in Greece.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Few Swedes Ready to Work Until They’re 75: Poll

An overwhelming majority of Swedes disagree with Swedish prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt’s suggestion that workers should be ready to stay on the job until they are 75, a new poll shows. In a survey carried out by the Novus polling firm for Sweden’s TV4, 73 percent answered no when asked if they thought Sweden’s retirement age should be raised to 75.

Twenty percent of those polled supported the idea, while 7 percent were uncertain. “It’s too long. If someone’s been working since they were 18, then it’s enough to work until they’re 65,” worker Stefan Nyman told TV4 when asked if he could imagine to work until he was 75.

The survey comes following comments by Reinfeldt, published on Tuesday in the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper, in which the prime minister said Sweden’s workers shouldn’t expect to be able to retire at 65. “The pensions scheme isn’t based on magic. It is a welfare ambition based on large-scale re-distribution and citizens’ own work. If people think that we can live longer and shorten our work life, then pensions will get lower,” he told DN.

Reinfeldt went on to say that Swedes may have to stretch their working life to 75 years of age if they want to maintain the same standard of living as while working.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

France Signals Nine Eurozone States Ready to Trigger FTT

(PARIS) — French Finance Minister Francois Baroin signalled Tuesday that nine eurozone governments are ready to press ahead with the introduction of a Paris-inspired financial transactions tax. Baroin’s office said the minister had written to the European Union’s current Danish presidency asking for examination of a draft law championed by French President Nicolas Sarkozy to be examined by the summer.

The fact that nine countries are signatories to the letter is highly significant, as it paves the way for a special provision of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty that allows at least one third of the EU’s member states to trailblaze new laws by themselves.

This comes in the face of fierce opposition to an EU-wide tax from Britain, whose Prime Minister David Cameron said during the last EU summit that French banks would up sticks and move to the City of London to escape the tax.

The so-called “enhanced cooperation” provision has already been used to overcome difficulties in harmonising some aspects of cross-border divorce law, and is also being used in moves to drive through a single EU patent despite decades-long objections.

The nine countries are: Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain. The letter is signed by the finance ministers of the nine countries, Baroin’s office said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Greek Strike Protesters Burn German Flag

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, FEBRUARY 7 — Hundreds of Greek protesters chanting “Nazis Out!” clashed with police outside parliament in Athens during a general strike rally today against austerity. Police used pepper spray against the protesters, who burned a German flag, during a brief flare-up of violence at the rally which was joined by some 25,000 people despite the heavy rainfall, as daily Athens News website reports. The generally peaceful rally, organized separately by general and communist trade unions, was called against widely reported plans by the government to slash the minimum wage and impose other drastic cuts. Unions and employers have already rejected calls to cut the minimum wage, currently at 751 euros per month, arguing that it would make the country’s four-year recession even worse.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Nine EU Countries Form Splinter Group on Financial Tax

BRUSSELS — A group of nine euro-countries led by France and Germany on Tuesday (7 February) asked the Danish EU presidency to fast-track plans for a financial transactions tax — a move indicating they will forge ahead on their own in the absence of an EU-wide consensus.

“We strongly believe in the need for a financial transactions tax implemented at European level as a crucial instrument to secure a fair contribution from the financial sector to the costs of the financial crisis and to better regulate European financial markets,” the letter says.

The nine signatories are the finance ministers of France, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Finland, Greece, Spain, Portugal and the Prime Minister of Italy, Mario Monti, who also holds the finance portfolio.

They group asks the Danish presidency “to accelerate the analysis and negotiation process” of a proposal by the EU commission to introduce a 0.1 percent tax on stocks and 0.01 percent on trading in derivatives — the larger and riskier financial market held widely responsible for the 2008 financial crisis.

For its part, the Danish EU presidency “welcomes” the letter and is “currently looking into how to accommodate the request” at the technical level — meaning a new political discussion among finance ministers — it said in an emailed statement to press.

Britain and a handful of other countries fiercely oppose the tax arguing that it will lead to business flight and job losses in their financial sectors, making an EU-wide tax highly unlikely.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Swiss Central Bank Stays Firm on Currency Cap

Switzerland’s central bank said Tuesday it would fight any appreciation of the already strong Swiss franc, which has in recent days edged closer to the bank’s cap of 1.20 francs per euro. “This commitment applies at any time, from the moment the market opens in Sydney on Monday to when it closes in New York on Friday,” said Swiss National Bank (SNB) vice chairman Thomas Jordan.

“We will not tolerate any trading below the minimum rate,” he said in a speech at the Swiss-American Chamber of Commerce in Geneva. Jordan stressed the bank’s readiness to buy unlimited amounts of foreign currency and take further measures if necessary.

The franc, considered a safe haven in times of financial turbulence, posted a sharp gain in value last year, going from 1.23 per euro at the beginning of July to less than 1.05 a month later. The franc was at 1.2088 to the euro in afternoon trade Tuesday. The strong currency was biting into exporters’ earnings and the central bank imposed a 1.20 cap in September.

The vice president said a solution to the eurozone debt crisis would help reduce demand for the currency. “If the European authorities were to credibly commit to a sustainable solution soon, existing uncertainties would be reduced substantially,” said Jordan.

“In such a scenario, demand for perceived safe financial assets would fall in general, and for the Swiss franc in particular.” The SNB predicts the Swiss economy will slow considerably this year to 0.5 percent growth, down from the expected 2011 figure of 1.5 to 2.0 percent.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Why is Global Shipping Slowing Down So Dramatically?

If the global economy is not heading for a recession, then why is global shipping slowing down so dramatically? Many economists believe that measures of global shipping such as the Baltic Dry Index are leading economic indicators. In other words, they change before the overall economic picture changes. For example, back in early 2008 the Baltic Dry Index began falling dramatically. There were those that warned that such a rapid decline in the Baltic Dry Index meant that a significant recession was coming, and it turned out that they were right. Well, the Baltic Dry Index is falling very rapidly once again. In fact, on February 3rd the Baltic Dry Index reached a low that had not been seen since August 1986. Some economists say that there are unique reasons for this (there are too many ships, etc.), but when you add this to all of the other indicators that Europe is heading into a recession, a very frightening picture emerges. We appear to be staring a global economic slowdown right in the face, and we all need to start getting prepared for that.

If you don’t read about economics much, you might not know what the Baltic Dry Index actually is.

Investopedia defines the Baltic Dry Index this way…

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]


Caesars Entertainment Soars 33 Per Cent in First Day of Trading on the Nasdaq

NEW YORK, N.Y. — Shares of casino operator Caesars Entertainment Corp. jumped 33 per cent Wednesday in its first day of trading on the Nasdaq. The company’s stock rose $2.97, or 33 per cent, to $11.97 in morning trading. Caesars had priced its initial public offering of 1.8 million shares at $9 apiece.

The Las Vegas company said late Tuesday that it expected to raise about $16 million from the offering before deducting costs. The offering values Caesars at about $1.14 billion overall because it includes just 1.4 per cent of the company’s outstanding stock. In 2007, when Caesars was known as Harrah’s, Apollo Management Group and Texas Pacific Group paid $17.1 billion and assumed $12.4 billion in debt to take the company private.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Harry Potter Overlooked by Oscars, Says Daniel Radcliffe

Harry Potter star expresses disappointment that latest instalment has failed to enchant Academy, saying ‘snobbery’ has prevented franchise from winning more accolades

According to their star Daniel Radcliffe, the Harry Potter films have been overlooked for next month’s Oscars due to snobbery over commercial films. Speaking to the Radio Times, the 22-year-old actor said he was disappointed by the Academy’s failure to honour the final instalment in the fantasy series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2. The film has only three nominations in technical categories ahead of the ceremony in Los Angeles later this month, contrasting with 11 for Martin Scorsese’s 3D children’s film Hugo and 10 for black-and-white silent film The Artist.

“I don’t think the Oscars like commercial films, or kids’ films, unless they’re directed by Martin Scorsese,” Radcliffe said. “I was watching Hugo the other day and going, ‘Why is this nominated and we’re not?’ I was slightly miffed.”

He added: “There’s a certain amount of snobbery. It’s kind of disheartening. I never thought I’d care. But it would’ve been nice to have some recognition, just for the hours put in.”

Six of the eight Harry Potter films have been nominated for Oscars — all in technical or craft categories — but the series has not yet carried off a single Academy award, despite the $7.7bn (£4.87bn) the series has grossed world wide.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Marine Ecology: Attack of the Blobs

Jellyfish will bloom as ocean health declines, warn biologists. Are they already taking over?

Last summer, intrepid surfers flocked to Florida’s east coast to ride the pounding swells spawned by a string of offshore hurricanes. But they were not prepared for a different kind of hazard washing towards shore — an invasion of stinging moon jellyfish, some of which reached the size of bicycle wheels. The swarms of gelatinous monsters grew so thick that they forced a Florida nuclear power plant to shut down temporarily out of concern that the jellies would clog its water-intake pipes.

Earlier in the year, similar invasions had forced shut downs at power plants in Israel, Scotland and Japan. The gargantuan Nomura’s jellyfish (Nemopilema nomurai) found in Japanese waters can weigh up to 200 kilograms and has plagued the region repeatedly in recent years, hampering fishing crews and even causing one boat to capsize. Jellyfish have destroyed stocks at fish farms in Tunisia and Ireland. And in the Mediterranean Sea and elsewhere, officials have built nets to keep out jelly swarms.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Minneapolis Helps Muslim Businesses Follow Sharia Law

MINNEAPOLIS (USA), 16 Rabi al-Awwal/8 Feb. (IINA)-In 2005, Afrik Grocery and Halal Meat on Cedar Avenue needed to expand. Owner Abdi Adem, who operates his business under Sharia law, needed to find a loan that funded the expansion and complied with his religious beliefs. Finding the loan was easier than he expected. Since December 2006, the city of Minneapolis, in partnership with the African Development Center, has given out 54 loans in a way that is compliant with Islamic law by using a fixed rate in place of a variable interest rate, which some considered sinful. Instead of charging interest, the city and the ADC estimate how long it will take the business to pay off the loan and totals what the interest would be. That amount is added as a lump sum to the total cost of the loan. “It feels like, looks like and acts like a loan, but it’s just a different way of looking at it,” said Hussein Samatar, executive director of the ADC. Abdulwahid Qalinle, an adjunct associate professor of Islamic law at the University of Minnesota, said interest rates can be considered sinful under Sharia law. “Islam has specific guidelines where people can acquire wealth and how to spend their wealth,” Qalinle said.

Through the Alternative Financing Program, small lenders — usually the ADC — will offer a loan and the city will match it up to $50,000. Business owners will then pay back the lender and the city. The loans can be used for buying equipment or making renovations. Becky Shaw, an economic development specialist with the city, said most loans are around $5,000 to $10,000 and are paid off within three years. Shaw added that although the loans are targeted toward Muslims, any business owner can apply for a similar loan with an interest rate that has a similar effect as the Sharia law loans. The city also offers a handful of other business assistance programs. Of the 54 loans the city and the ADC have given, only one has gone into default. According to a 2009 report from the Small Business Administration, the national default rates are around 12 percent. “This really, truly has been one of the phenomenal success stories of Minneapolis,” Samatar said. Through the loan, Adem borrowed $42,000 and was able to move his business down the street, expand his halal meat section and purchase new equipment, which he said helped attract new customers. Adem paid off his loan in 2009. “I benefited very much from the loan. The customers liked the new store and we liked it,” said Adem. Although he has no immediate plans to expand his business, Adem said it’s nice to know the loans are available to him. “I don’t want to go to the bank and get charged for interest,” he said. “If I need more funds, I can use [the program] again, not now, but if I need it I can go and get it.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Most Fish in the Sea Evolved on Land

Family histories don’t come much more bizarre. Three-quarters of the fish in the sea can trace their origins back to a freshwater ancestor. The finding highlights how important rivers and lakes are as a source of new species, just as that supply is under threat from disappearing freshwater habitats.

Fish first evolved in the sea. The oceans have been teeming with them for almost half a billion years, so there is no reason to doubt that the fish living there today did all their evolving in salt water — until you take a closer look at their family tree.

Greta Vega and John Wiens at Stony Brook University in New York noticed something peculiar while studying the evolutionary tree of ray-finned fish, a mega-group comprising 96 per cent of all freshwater and marine fish species on the planet.

They realised that all the fossils belonging to the ancestral group that gave rise to ray-fins some 300 million years ago — known as the polypteriformes — came from freshwater deposits. In fact, according to Vega and Wiens’s tree, the ray-fins may not have taken to the sea in large numbers until about 170 million years ago. Their descendants now make up three-quarters of all marine fish (see diagram).

We’ve seen this kind of topsy-turvy evolution before. Most whales, dolphins and porpoises, live in the sea, but like the ray-finned fish, they all evolved in rivers.

Michael Benton of the University of Bristol, UK, says that combined with what we know about whales and dolphins, the new study may point to a more general pattern: that most major groups of vertebrates came from land-based ecosystems. But we’ll need many more studies to confirm that, he says.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Pinterest Hits 10 Million U.S. Monthly Uniques Faster Than Any Standalone Site Ever — ComScore

It’s beautiful, it’s addictive, and now Pinterest is having its glorious hockey stick moment. TechCrunch has attained exclusive data from comScore showing Pinterest just hit 11.7 million unique monthly U.S. visitors, crossing the 10 million mark faster than any other standalone site in history.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Racial Tensions Flare in Protest of South Dallas Gas Station

Marcus Phillips was 26 and fresh out of prison for several robberies when he committed his final crime. One morning just before dawn, Phillips grabbed the cash register at a South Dallas gas station. The clerk picked up a shotgun and ordered Phillips down. Phillips ran from the store and across the parking lot, the cash register under his arm, the clerk not far behind. There was a struggle, more running, then another struggle. Then came a warning shot and a final, fatal blast.

Most of those now protesting the Diamond Shamrock Kwik Stop on Martin Luther King Boulevard never knew Phillips or even his name. But his death in 2010 has become a symbol in their fight to shut the station down. The dispute revolves around issues of race: Phillips was black, and the clerk—and the store’s owner—are of Korean descent.

“I didn’t expect it was going to explode like this,” Pak said of the encounter. “It was a personal argument.” Muhammad, 44, who was appointed to his post in 1994 by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, says Pak must go. So should other Asian-American merchants in black neighborhoods, he says. “They are just the latest in a long line of people who have come to this country—like Jews, Italians, Indians and now Asians—who have sucked the blood of and exploited the black community,” Muhammad said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Stakelbeck on Terror Show: Iran’s War on America

On this week’s episode of the Stakelbeck on Terror show, we analyze the Iranian regime’s ongoing 32-year war against America, and how Iran’s nuclear weapons program is not just a threat to the Middle East, but to the world—contrary to some dangerous misperceptions that have been gaining traction in a few places (like Ron Paul’s campaign headquarters).

We take down Rep. Paul’s dangerous Middle East polices and examine the Iranian regime’s apocalyptic beliefs and how they motivate its jihad against the nation it calls “The Great Satan”—America.

That includes an in-depth look at how Iran and its proxy, Hezbollah, are establishing a network throughout Latin America—at the very doorstep of the United States.

Former Israeli Ambassador Yoram Ettinger, an expert on U.S./Israeli relations, also joins us to discuss Iran, the so-called “Arab Spring,” the folly of a Palestinian state and whether war is in on the horizon in the Middle East.

Plus: don’t miss this week’s “Sharia Flaw” segment, where we take aim at the Iranian regime’s recent jihad against…Barbie. Yes, the doll.

           — Hat tip: Erick Stakelbeck[Return to headlines]

States Reach $25 Billion Deal With Banks Over Foreclosure Abuses

More than two million American homeowners will get at least $25 billion in relief from the nation’s biggest banks as part of a broad settlement to be announced as early as Thursday with state and federal authorities. It is the latest effort by the government to halt the housing market’s downward slide.

Despite the billions earmarked in the accord, the aid will help only a relatively small portion of the millions of borrowers who are delinquent and still facing foreclosure. The success could depend in part on how effectively the program is implemented, because earlier attempts by Washington to help troubled borrowers aided far fewer than had been expected.

Still, the agreement marks the broadest effort yet to help borrowers who owe more than their houses are worth, with roughly 1 million to see their mortgage debt reduced by banks. In addition, 300,000 homeowners are to be able to refinance at lower rates, while another 750,000 people who lost their homes to foreclosure between September 2008 and the end of 2011 will receive checks for about $2,000.

Brokered by officials in Washington, the final details of the pact were being negotiated until the last possible minute, including how many states would participate and when the formal announcement would be made in Washington. The two biggest holdouts, California and New York, now plan to sign on, according to officials familiar with the negotiations.

[Return to headlines]

World’s Highest-Pitched Primate Calls Out Like a Bat

A huge-eyed little primate of the Philippines can communicate in pure ultrasound — issuing calls so high-pitched that human ears can’t detect them. Study researcher Marissa Ramsier noted the ironic discovery in an animal that has always been considered a quiet night creature. “It turns out that it’s not silent. It’s actually screaming and we had no idea,” said Ramsier, an evolutionary biologist at Humboldt State University in California.

The shrillest noise a human can hear has a frequency of about 20 kilohertz. The Philippine tarsier can hear up to 91 kilohertz, and it cries out in the 70-kHz range. Those numbers put the tarsier’s hearing abilities in the same range as bats and far beyond those of any other primate ever known.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

British Muslims Try to Ban Negative Reporting of Islam

by Soeren Kern

A Muslim activist group with links to the Muslim Brotherhood has asked the British government to restrict the way the British media reports about Muslims and Islam.

The effort to silence criticism of Islam comes amid an ongoing public inquiry into British press standards following aphone-hacking scandal involving the News of the World and other British newspapers.

The Leveson Inquiry, established by British Prime Minister David Cameron in July 2011, is currently considering how to increase government oversight of the British media.

But in a move that many worry will result in government regulation of the Internet, Lord Justice Leveson, a British judge who serves as Chairman of the inquiry, now says he wants to include Internet bloggers into any system of press regulation that he proposes.

Observers say the Leveson Inquiry’s effort to regulate blogging, combined with the Muslim attempt to ban negative reporting about Islam, poses a clear threat to free speech in Britain.

Appearing before the Leveson Inquiry on January 24, Muslim activist Inayat Bunglawala said the amount of negative stories about Muslims in Britain is “demonizing” Islam and fuelling a “false narrative.” He called on the government to do all it can to “ensure a fairer portrayal, a more balanced portrayal of the faith of Islam” in the British media…

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

Concerned Over Cracks: European Safety Authority Orders Checks on All A380s

Australian airline Qantas has temporarily suspended flights on 10 of its A380 super jumbo jet aircraft after hairline cracks were found. In the light of the discovery, Europe’s aviation safety authority has ordered inspections on all the Airbus double-decker planes in service.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Controversial Appointments in New Romania Government

The Romanian president has appointed foreign intelligence service chief Mihai Razvan Ungureanu as the country’s next premier after the cabinet resigned on Monday. A former Monsanto director, Stelian Fuia, has been nominated for the agriculture post. The parliament is set to vote on the new cabinet on Thursday.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

France: Teacher Stabbed While Breaking Up Fight

A 37-year-old male teacher was stabbed on Tuesday while breaking up a fight between two pupils at a school in the south-east suburbs of Paris. The attack happened at the 1,200 pupil Maximilien-Perret school in Alfortville when two older students started arguing at around 10.15am.

One teacher told Le Parisien newspaper how staff tried to stop the fight. “With my colleague, we tried to separate them,” said Guillaume Lombardeau, a maths teacher. Lombardeau explained that one of the pupils got out a knife and “in the struggle, my colleague got hurt.”

The injured teacher was taken to a local hospital where his condition was not believed to be life threatening. One of the boys was held by police shortly after the incident, while the other fled the scene and is still being hunted.

A union representative told Le Parisien that the attack took place in circumstances that are “more and more difficult and tense because there is less and less time spent with the pupils.” Additional security has been sent to the school, which will reopen on Wednesday.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

France: Angry MPs Storm Out After ‘Nazi’ Taunt

French Prime Minister François Fillon and his ministers stormed out of parliament in protest on Tuesday after an opposition deputy accused the government of flirting with Nazi ideology. The accusation from opposition Socialist lawmaker Serge Letchimy came in response to Interior Minister Claude Guéant’s remark at the weekend that not all civilisations were equal.

Letchimy said in parliament: “You, Mr. Guéant… you bring us back day after day to those European ideologies which gave birth to the concentration camps”. He then asked: “Mr. Guéant, the Nazi regime, which was so worried about purity, was that a civilization?”

That provoked uproar among government ministers and deputies from President Nicolas Sarkozy’s right-wing UMP party, who walked out en masse. The weekly question time was subsequently suspended. Guéant, who is also responsible for immigration and is known as a hardliner, provoked a storm of controversy with the comments on Saturday.

“Contrary to what the left’s relativist ideology says, for us all civilizations are not of equal value,” he told a gathering of right-wing students. “Those which defend liberty, equality and fraternity seem to us superior to those which accept tyranny, the subservience of women, social and ethnic hatred,” he said in his speech, a copy of which was obtained by AFP. He also stressed the need to “protect our civilisation”.

The left denounced his speech as an attempt by Sarkozy’s camp to woo supporters of rival candidate Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Front ahead of the two-round presidential election in April and May.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Germany: Breaking Global Warming Taboos: ‘I Feel Duped on Climate Change’

Will reduced solar activity counteract global warming in the coming decades? That is what outgoing German electric utility executive Fritz Vahrenholt claims in a new book. In an interview with SPIEGEL, he argues that the official United Nations forecasts on the severity of climate change are overstated and supported by weak science.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Germany: Print Mein Kampf to Fight Neo-Nazi Extremism

The proposed publication of Hitler’s Mein Kampf in Germany has sparked outrage and worries it would give voice to neo-Nazis. But The Local’sMoises Mendoza argues it is time for the country to fight extremism by supporting free speech.

In any other country, the recent announcement would have been greeted with shrugs: British publisher Peter McGee wants to sell excerpts of Adolf Hitler’s racist tome Mein Kampf in Germany.

Of course, there’s a reason the Bavarian state government, which holds the copyright to Mein Kampf, has fought McGee’s plans and even received a court injunction this week blocking them.

It’s the same reason anti-Semitic speech is illegal in Germany, as is the open display of the swastika or holocaust denial — and it’s why publishing Mein Kampfwould incense so many.

This is where Hitler began his campaign to exterminate Jews, socialists, homosexuals and Roma, among countless others. Germany can never let this tragic Nazi history repeat itself. So the country has put in place some of the toughest laws regulating “hate speech” in the western world.

But, nearly 70 years after the end of World War II, banning free speech in Germany is doing nothing to prevent far-right hatred. In fact, it mystifies it, making extremist propaganda more appealing to those yearning for primary source information.

Worst of all, attempting to censor hate speech suggests that the German people have learned nothing from their dark past.

It implies the country is inherently racist, that young Germans share guilt for the Holocaust, that without patronising rules they will inevitably repeat the awful sins of their grandfathers.

Of course, there’s the clear and present danger posed by the country’s extreme right-wing scene. But sceptical young people don’t take kindly to being told something is evil without being able to examine it in all its unvarnished horror (technically Nazi propaganda can be reproduced for educational purposes, but it often comes heavily censored or with invasive commentary).

We know from the recent past — especially the revelations of neo-Nazi killersamong us — that the most extreme elements of the far-right underground arebolder than we thought and thriving out of sight of mainstream society.

But we don’t know how strong they really are. Because they are forced into the shadows we must rely on reports from the government and activist organisations to gauge their danger — and these groups have their own agenda to push. In an environment where it’s preferable to censor speech rather than counter it, young people can get sucked into the world of right-wing extremism without being exposed to differing perspectives. In an increasingly interconnected world, it’s foolish to think that society’s restrictions will prevent them from encountering extremism in the first place.

The entire point of banning speech in Germany is being defeated every day on the internet.

The solution is simple: Allow every perspective to be heard freely. Let the neo-Nazis spout their hate. Let them wave their flags. Let Mein Kampf be read freely by the masses. But let’s make sure we shout them down and educate the next generation to think critically and reject their evil propaganda.

Germany knows its painful history and Germans want to confront it. We’re well past laws that stifle even odious speech.

Rather than fretting that the publication of Mein Kampf will somehow damage society, we should view it for what it is: A first chance to directly confront those who hate.

Moises Mendoza

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

Guinea Pigs Were Widespread as Elizabethan Pets

When Spanish conquistadors brought guinea pigs from South America to Europe, the tiny “curiosities” were bred as pets across a wide swath of Elizabethan societal classes, a new study suggests. The evidence comes from a guinea pig skeleton discovered in 2007 in the backyard cellar of a former middle-class house in Mons, Belgium, once part of the Spanish Empire.

Radiocarbon dating of the bones revealed that this guinea pig lived between the end of the 16th and the beginning of the 17th centuries-very soon after the Spanish arrived in South America, said study leader Fabienne Pigière, of the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences in Brussels.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Holland Abuzz About ‘Mythical’ Skating Race

The event hasn’t been held for 15 years. But, this week, Holland is abuzz with anticipation that the famed “11 Cities Tour” might take place in the coming days. All that’s needed are a few more cold nights before 16,000 skaters can take to the 200-kilometer course.

Called the Elfstedentocht, or 11 Cities Tour, the event follows a course almost 200 kilometers (125 miles) long through the extensive network of canals, lakes and rivers in Friesland, the Dutch province in the very north of the tiny country, passing through 11 towns in the region. And it can only be held when the ice along the entire track reaches a thickness of 15 centimeters (six inches).

“We have to be sure the ice is safe,” Immie Jonkman, a board member of the Frisian Eleven Cities Association, which organizes the event, told SPIEGEL ONLINE. “The ice on some parts of the course is really great. But, in other parts, it’s really bad.”

With a frigid high pressure system having been parked over northern Europe for the last week, canals in Amsterdam, Utrecht and elsewhere in the country have been jammed with skaters, and some cafe’s in the capital have even set up tables and chairs on the frozen waterways. The national obsession with skating has only heightened the excitement about the possibility that the Elfstedentocht could once again be held.

The event, the brainchild of Willem “Pim” Mulier, was first held in 1909. But given the need for a long cold snap to create the necessary conditions, it has only been held 14 times since then. When it is held, though, it’s a national event. While only 16,000 skaters are allowed to participate, there were some 1.5 million onlookers lining the route in 1997, the last time it was held. In 1986, Dutch Crown Prince Willem-Alexander famously took part in the race. “It’s just a skating event,” Jonkman said. “But there is something mythical about it.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Hungary: Orban Makes Another U-Turn on Constitution

Hungarian leader Orban in a state-of-the-nation speech Tuesday defended the country’s new constitution despite earlier telling the EU he will change it due to complaints it undermines the independence of the judiciary and central bank. “I am proud of the new and modern constitution,” he said, the NYT reports.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Ice Freezes Transport in Switzerland

The number of distress calls made by motorists has increased dramatically in recent days, as sub-zero temperatures paralyze Switzerland.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Islamophobic Filmmakers Promote Comment Seeking to Legitimate Norway Terrorist’s Views

The Clarion Fund, an organization which produces Islamophobic documentaries, came under renewed scrutiny last month when news broke that their film “The Third Jihad” was screened at an NYPD conference. Facing calls for his resignation, NYPD commissioner Raymond Kelly, after some dissembling, admitted he was interviewed for the project and apologized for his role, calling the film “inflammatory.” Clarion, however, bragged about the attention. Now, Clarion appears to be throwing caution to the wind — along with any plausible defense that the group is not Islamophobic — by promoting a comment from a reader seeking to redeem the views of the anti-Muslim right-wing extremist who terrorized Norway this summer, killing 77, including 69 people at a youth camp. In an e-mail newsletter to supporters, Clarion Fund quoted the reader suggesting that a recent report that militant Islamic extremism posed the top threat to Norway redeemed the unheralded warnings of Anders Breivik, the anti-Muslim killer. The newsletter, published by the organization’s website, promoted the comment from a “reader in Norway.” It read:

What a hot current topic this is! Just today the news came out in Norway, “officially” and in spite of all the PC-ness of this government, that according to the national security forces, the threat of Islamist terrorism is the foremost threat against Norway. You probably remember the July 22 shootings. One of Breivik’s arguments was that the authorities were not taking this threat seriously because you musn’t offend a Muslim. Interesting development.

Clarion’s willingness to promote and publish an e-mail sympathetic to Breivik seems a bizarre move for an organization under fire for Islamophobia, especially when the comment obfuscates the bigoted point Breivik was making about Islam at-large — the very same conflation between extremism and the whole faith the Clarion Fund has repeatedly been accused of making. Breivik’s warnings did not focus on Muslim extremism, but rather on Islam at-large. Breivik’s 1,500-page manifesto is littered with comments about Islam in general, for instance arguing that the Muslim veil “should more properly be viewed as the uniform of a Totalitarian movement, and a signal to attack those outside the movement.” He called Islam a “totalitarian, racist and violent political ideology,” and said its holy book, the Koran, should be banned. Breivik’s warning was not about, as the reader wrote, “Islamist terrorism,” but about Islam:

What is likely to happen to the West, if it continues to follow its present policy of ‘political correctness’ and apathy towards the hostile teachings of Islam, [will be like] “the Islamic conquest of India…” “In order to wake up the masses,” the soon-to-be killer wrote before attacking government offices and a political youth camp, “the only rational approach will be to make sure the current system implodes.”

Breivik went on in his manifesto to cite the writings of numerous American right-wing Islamophobes and recommended the Clarion Fund’s film “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West” for “further studies.” He even included a link to it. While the Norwegian security services’ report did indeed cite Islamic-inspired extremism as the country’s top threat, that assessment actually proves Breivik’s assertion wrong: Norwegian authorities seem rather well-attuned to the serious threat posed by the few radicalized, extremist Muslims in Norway. Despite the citations, Clarion is not, of course, responsible for Breivik’s attack. But by singling out and publishing a reader comment that whitewashed and sought to exonerate Breivik’s murderous ideology, the Clarion Fund may be tipping their hand as to how closely their views dovetail with his. (HT: Demographics United)

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Italy: Wolves Seek Shelter From Harsh Weather Conditions

Sightings in Northern and Central Italy

(ANSA) — Rome, February 7 — Extreme weather conditions gripping Italy are taking a toll on the country’s wildlife, as well as its inhabitants.

Sightings of the once-endangered Apennine wolf near inhabited areas have been reported in the Dolomite mountains. In Central Italy near the town of Filettino in the province of Frosinone, a pack of wolves was sighted near an elementary school, sparking concern.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy Braced for Cold Snap to Intensify

Extreme weather has claimed at least 40 lives this month

(ANSA) — Rome, February 8 — Italy is braced for the wave of cold weather and snow that has gripped the nation for over a week, claiming at least 40 lives, to intensity this weekend.

Rome and much of central and southern Italy may well be in for more heavy snow later this week, according to forecasts.

The capital is only just returning to normality after rare snowfalls on Friday and Saturday caused chaos and virtually paralysed the city. Schools reopened Wednesday after three days and government offices reopened on Tuesday.

Other parts of the country have not had a break in the snow at all, especially in regions on the Adriatic coast and parts of the north, although it has been falling less heavily in recent days.

The River Arno at Florence has iced over. A special committee on Italy’s gas-supply crisis, caused by soaring demand and imports from France and Russia falling, will meet again on Wednesday.

Officials have said they may start rationing gas supplies to industrial clients while promising that there is no question of domestic clients having their gas cut off.

Premier Mario Monti has backed the head of Italy’s Civil Protection Department, Franco Gabrielli, after the department’s response to the disruption caused by the weather was criticised by Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno and the governors of some regions.

For his part, Gabrielli said recent law changes have tied the department’s hands so that it is like “a truck with a 16th-century engine”.

Monti has called on his ministers to work “more incisively” to avoid the disruption of the last few days, which has included some high-profile cases of passengers being trapped inside stranded trains for many hours.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Swiss Architects Team With Ai Weiwei for London Pavilion

Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei is reuniting with the Swiss architects with whom he created Beijing’s spectacular Bird’s Nest Stadium, to build a pavilion for this year’s London Olympics.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: A Hate Preacher Gets Silenced

There was good news yesterday when it emerged that London School of Economics Students’ Union had cancelled a planned meeting that was to addressed by the radical Islamist preacher, Haitham Al Haddad.

Haitham Al Haddad is reported to have branded Jews “the enemies of God, and the descendants of apes and pigs” and has quoted the notorious antisemitic forgery, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. He has also cited the declaration that “Jews and Christians to be kuffer, and the necessity of hating them, and avoiding them”.

He believes women are not equal and he heads a Sharia “court” that advises women who have been raped as children that if they don’t have sex with their husband on demand, the “angels will curse” them.

Haitham Al Haddad was supposed to be speaking at an event organised by the Islamic Society, but after the intervention of the Union of Jewish Students and then the Students’ Union itself, the meeting was cancelled.

While common sense has prevailed at the LSE, it seems that Haitham Al Haddad is in demand elsewhere. He is spoken at several other Universities and is one of the headlined speakers at the London Muslim Centre on 18th March.

Al Haddad’s teachings has even been cited by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the 24-year-old Nigerian man who pleaded guilty to trying to blow up a transatlantic flight on Christmas Day 2009.

The Union of Jewish Students applauded the LSE decision but also expressed their annoyance that it had got to this stage. “There’s something deeply flawed in the LSE’s procedures on speaker events when someone like Al Haddad is approved without due consideration.” said Jay Stoll, President of LSE Jewish Society. “We are thankful to LSE Students’ Union for their strong stance against antisemitism and all forms of discrimination.”

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

UK: Building Trust, Peace and Harmony Through Inter-Faith Relations

The Interfaith Relations Committee of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) is holding an event under the heading of ‘Building Trust, Peace & Harmony through Inter Faith Relations’ on Monday 6th February from 7.00 pm until 9.00 pm at the House of Lords, hosted by Lord Sheikh of Cornhill. On the initiative of HRH King Abdullah of Jordan, on 20th October 2010, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously endorsed the suggestion that the first week of February would be celebrated as World Inter Faith Harmony Week. The MCB is honoured to welcome as their Guest of Honour, HRH Princess Badiya El Hassan of Jordan who will present a message on behalf of her father, HRH Prince Hassan bin Talal of Jordan. Guest speakers for the evening are HE Mazen Homoud, Ambassador of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in London, and Professor Mohamed El-Gomati, OBE, President, Foundation for Science, Technology & Civilisation. A number of community and faith leaders, together with representatives from the younger generation will be sharing their own experiences in support of world peace and harmony. Farooq Murad, Secretary General of the MCB, and Dr Manazir Ahsan, Chair, MCB Inter Faith Relations Committee, applaud the United Nations resolution to celebrate World Inter Faith Harmony Week, recognising the imperative need for dialogue among different faiths and religions to enhance mutual understanding, harmony and co-operation. The foundation of mutual respect for one another irrespective of religion, race or ethnicity is the foundation for establishing a worldwide culture of peace and hope to take on the challenges faced in the world today.

More information on World Interfaith Week can be found at:

[JP note: Building castles in the sand would probably be more profitable, and fun, but I doubt Islam knows anything about fun.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Birthday Celebrations for Mohammed

Hundreds of Sufi Muslims from across the area took part in a peace procession on Sunday to mark the birthday of the prophet Mohammed. The annual Eid-Milad parade travelled from the Ghausia Jamia Mosque in Savile Town to the Gulzar-E-Medina Mosque in Westtown. Organisers said around 1,500 were involved in the procession, waving green flags and handing out free food to passers-by. Mohammed Chaudhary, from the Gulzar-E-Medina Mosque, said: “It’s very important for us to get together and celebrate and the procession this year was, like every year, a huge success. “So many people turned up, from children as young as five or six to their grandparents and the older generations.” Also at this year’s Eid-Milad procession were Chief Insp Ian Gayles, of West Yorkshire Police, and Allen Senior, crew manager for the West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service. They presented Imams from local mosques with flowers on behalf of local police and firefighters. Mr Chaudhary also thanked the police and all those who helped to make sure the procession ran smoothly.

[JP note: A little bit of dhimmitude never goes amiss.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: BBC Tells Its Staff: Don’t Call Qatada Extremist

The BBC has told its journalists not to call Abu Qatada, the al-Qaeda preacher, an “extremist”.

In order to avoid making a “value judgment”, the corporation’s managers have ruled that he can only be described as “radical”. Journalists were also cautioned against using images suggesting the preacher is overweight. A judge ruled this week that the Muslim preacher, once described as “Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man in Europe”, should be released from a British jail, angering ministers and MPs. Adding to the row, Kenneth Clarke, the Justice Secretary, yesterday insisted that Qatada “has not committed any crime” and said his release has nothing to do with the European Court of Human Rights. A British court has called Qatada a “truly dangerous individual” and even his defence team has suggested he poses a “grave risk” to national security. Despite that background, BBC journalists were told they should not describe Qatada as an extremist. The guidance was issued at the BBC newsroom’s 9.00am editorial meeting yesterday, chaired by a senior manager, Andrew Roy. According to notes of the meeting, seen by The Daily Telegraph, journalists were told: “Do not call him an extremist — we must call him a radical. Extremist implies a value judgment.”

The guidance was criticised by experts and MPs. Maajid Nawaz of Quilliam, a counter-extremist think tank, accused the BBC of “liberal paralysis” over Islamic extremism, saying journalists must be honest about Qatada’s record. He said: “A radical is someone who is different from the norm. An extremist is someone who promotes extreme views and actions, like killing innocents.” James Clappison, a Conservative member of the Commons home affairs select committee, said the guidance was unjustifiable. He said: “Given the evidence about this man, it makes you wonder what you have to do for the BBC to call you an extremist.” BBC staff were also cautioned against using library images suggesting the cleric is overweight, because he has “lost a lot of weight”. A BBC spokesman said: “We think very carefully about the language we use. We do not ban words — the notes are a reflection of a live editorial discussion about how to report the latest developments on this story.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Court Clerk Caught Watching Pornography During Rape Trial by Judge

A court clerk who watched hardcore pornography during a rape trial ‘because he was bored’ was caught looking at the explicit material right under the nose of the judge.

Debasish Majumder, 54, accessed the obscene images while the victim gave her harrowing evidence at Inner London Crown Court.

He looked at photographs of topless women being gagged and couples engaged in sexual acts, Kingston Crown Court was told.

However the judge, who was sitting directly behind him, spotted the filthy pictures as the prosecution evidence was being given.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

UK: Every Woman’s Nightmare: Sex Attacker Raped Young Mum at Knifepoint in Her Manchester Home

She woke up at 3.30am in the morning to find him standing above the bed she shared with her two-year-old child, his face concealed with a towel and a kitchen knife in his hand. He had climbed in through a downstairs window, Neil Usher, prosecuting, told Manchester Crown Court.

“The victim in this case suffered what may properly be described as every woman’s nightmare — having broken into her home while she was asleep, having woken her, you repeatedly raped her at knifepoint and inflicted upon her the most dreadful indignities and humiliations. The victim would have been terrified both for her own life and for that of her daughter,” the judge said.

The judge has recommended that Macanda, who has lived in Britain since he was 12, be deported to his native Angola on release.

Read more at:

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

UK: Hospital A&E Sex Assault Doctor Jailed

A doctor who subjected a patient to “shocking and distressing” sex abuse at the Queen Elizabeth II hospital in Welwyn Garden City has been jailed for three years.

Dr Hassan Khan, 42, of Romford, Essex, attacked the woman on 10 April 2011.

The victim was “sexually humiliated” during an examination at the accident and emergency department, St Albans Crown Court heard.

Khan had denied two sexual assault offences.

The court heard Khan squeezed the woman’s breasts then told her to undress so he could give her an internal examination.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

UK: LSE Cancels Extremist Speaker Event

An extremist speaker will no longer address students at the London School of Economics after complaints from Jewish students. Haitham Al Haddad, who is alleged to have described Jews as “the enemies of God, and the descendants of apes and pigs” and stated that it is necessary to hate Jews and Christians, was due to speak at the university this evening.

The event had been organised by the LSE Islamic Society. Members of the LSE JSoc and the Union of Jewish Students prevailed on the union to prevent Al Haddad from appearing, following an LSE Students’ Union vote last month on strengthening its challenges to antisemitism. Jay Stoll, LSE JSoc president, praised the union for deciding to cancel the event and taking “a strong stance against antisemitism and all forms of discrimination”. But he added: “There’s something deeply flawed in the LSE’s procedures on speaker events when someone like Al Haddad is approved without due consideration.” Dan Sheldon, UJS campaigns director, said that while he was committed to safeguarding freedom of speech on campous, it should not come at the expense of student welfare. “We should have no truck with those who seek to spread hate on our campuses,” he said. The event was arranged just weeks after a Jewish LSE student was left with a broken nose after he confronted fellow students playing a Nazi card game on an Athletics Union ski trip.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: The ECHR: Cameron is Trapped in a Bind Which He Himself Has Approved

David Cameron may find a solution to the Abu Qatada problem “within the existing legal regime”, as the Home Secretary put it yesterday. Britain may reach a new agreement with Jordan about evidence that could be used in court. An appeal to the European Court of Human Rights’s Grand Chamber might just work. It may even be that the new Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures (TPIM) regime is amended on the hoof, as the control order system that preceded it used to be. But whether or not Abu Qatada remains free for long to take his children to school — we await an ECHR ruling declaring that he has a human right to become a parent governor — the Prime Minister is trapped in a bind which he himself has approved.

On the one side of the argument are Nick Clegg, Ken Clarke, Dominic Grieve, the Liberal Democrats, the Guardian and the BBC (which has apparently instructed its staff not to call Qatada an extremist): their bottom line is that Britain must obey the rulings of the ECHR. On the other are almost the entire Conservative Party, most of the press — the entire media “quad” would have editorialised today against the ECHR decision had not the Daily Telegraph already done so — and the voters: their strong inclination is that we must quit the court if necessary.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Will Hate Preacher Hamza be Set Free Next? Qatada Ruling Could Open Door After His Appeal to Europe Over Human Rights Judges to Rule on Whether Hamza and Five Others Can be Extradited to U.S.

Abu Hamza and five other dangerous terror suspects could follow Abu Qatada in being freed to walk Britain’s streets.

Unelected Euro judges are preparing to rule if the six — who are accused of running terror camps and extremist websites or plotting atrocities — can be extradited to the U.S.

And, in the wake of Europe’s ruling that fanatic Qatada cannot be kicked out of Britain, Whitehall officials are braced for defeat.

Hate preacher Hamza is claiming that his potential jail term in America could constitute a breach of his human rights because it is potentially ‘inhuman’ or ‘degrading’.

Once there is a Euro court ruling that any of the six cannot be extradited, British judges are expected to follow the precedent set by the Qatada case and free them on bail.

In a worst-case scenario, it could mean Hamza and his fellow fanatics being released in the run-up to the London Olympics — the biggest security challenge this country has faced in peacetime. Experts have already warned there are up to 200 would-be suicide bombers in the UK, including ‘lone wolves’ seeking religious justification from the likes of Hamza or Qatada to carry out atrocities.

The Strasbourg judges are considering whether jail terms of up to 50 years in the U.S. without parole — the sentences faced by Hamza and the others — would breach Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which bans ‘inhuman or degrading treatment’.

For all the defendants, except Hamza, they also agreed to examine whether their potential detention in ‘supermax’ high security prisons was a breach of human rights.

The court said Hamza had no case against the conditions at a supermax prison because his disabilities — he lost his hands in an explosion in Afghanistan and is blind in one eye — mean he would spend only a short time there before being transferred to a prison with a less severe regime.

The latest revelations came after another day dominated by the disclosure that Qatada, one of the world’s most dangerous fanatics, will be released on bail within days.

Immigration judges ruled he could be released in the wake of the European Court of Human Rights ruling that he cannot be deported to Jordan in case some of the evidence used against him in a planned terror trial has been obtained by torture.

Home Secretary Theresa May was called to the Commons to explain how she intends to protect the public from Qatada, a man rated so dangerous that he will be placed on a 22-hour curfew.

She told the Commons she ‘vehemently’ disagreed with the bail decision, saying: ‘It simply isn’t acceptable that, after guarantees from the Jordanians about his treatment, after British courts have found he is dangerous, after his removal has been approved by the highest courts in the land, we still cannot deport dangerous foreign criminals.’

She added: ‘The right place for a terrorist is a prison cell and the right place for a foreign terrorist is a foreign prison cell, far away from Britain.

‘That’s why we will do everything we can within the existing legal regime to deport Qatada, and we’re doing everything we can to reform that regime to avoid these cases in future.’

But backbench Tories queued up to demand Britain’s immediate withdrawal from the European Court of Human Rights and moves to neuter the power of the Strasbourg judges.

Shipley MP Philip Davies told Mrs May: ‘It is no good you huffing and puffing about the decision — what the British public want to know is if we cannot secure the reforms we need from the European Court of Human Rights, are we going to withdraw from the European Convention?’

Mark Pritchard, secretary of the Tories’ powerful 1922 committee, said the ECHR was ‘undermining British justice and British national security’.

It emerged yesterday that Qadata could be free from all controls within just two years if he stays in Britain. By the end of 2014 both bail and control order powers will have expired — leaving him entirely at liberty.

Previous control orders could be repeatedly renewed. TPIMs can be renewed in exceptional circumstances, but this is expected to be extremely difficult.

A ruling by the Euro judges is expected as early as this month on whether it would be a breach of human rights to extradite Hamza and the five others who the Americans are desperate to put on trial.

They include Hamza’s trusted lieutenant Haroon Aswat, who is wanted by the U.S. authorities for plotting to set up a jihadi training camp in Oregon.

Hamza was jailed for seven years in February 2006 for preaching hate and inciting murder at Finsbury Park Mosque in North London. His sentence has now been served and, if extradition proceedings are abandoned, he would be eligible for release.

Baba Ahmad and Seyla Ahsan, accused of conspiracy to commit terrorist atrocities overseas and supporting terrorist groups, have been held in high-security British jails for between five and seven years while they fight extradition on human rights grounds.

Another man, Khaled Al Fawwaz, has been in jail here since 1999. Allegedly a close associate of Osama Bin Laden, he was arrested in connection with bomb attacks on two U.S. embassies in east Africa which killed more than 200 in 1998.

The sixth man, Adel Abdul Bary, is also wanted in connection with the embassy bombings and has been held in prison for 13 years.

The British court’s ruling on Monday that Qatada should be freed on bail is based on the fact that, if the prospect of extradition or deportation becomes unlikely, it is unfair to continue to hold a suspect indefinitely.

Officials fear this principle would also be applied in the case of the six wanted by the U.S., in the event of an adverse verdict from Europe.

Releasing the men would give security officials a massive headache in the run-up to the Olympics.

Monitoring fanatics round-the-clock is hugely expensive and time consuming.

‘Benefits to fund gun camp’An extremist inspired by Al Qaeda called on British Muslims to claim benefits to fund a terrorist training camp, a court heard yesterday.

Usman Khan, 20, was bugged at his home by MI5 discussing plans to recruit 100 radicals to attend the camp in Kashmir to learn to use guns.

Discussing fund-raising during a late-night meeting, he declared radicals could receive in benefits in a day what people earn in a month in the disputed region split between India and Pakistan. ‘On Jobseeker’s Allowance we can earn that, never mind working for that,’ he said.

Khan added that there were only three possible outcomes for him and fellow jihadists: victory, martyrdom or prison.

Members of the group also discussed launching a ‘Mumbai-style’ atrocity in London while others talked about setting off pipe bombs in the toilets of two pubs in Stoke, the court heard.

The group’s other targets included the London Stock Exchange and the capital’s Mayor Boris Johnson, Woolwich Crown Court heard.

Andrew Edis, QC, prosecuting, said members of the group were recorded in December 2010 calling the late Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden ‘beautiful’.

Khan, of Stoke-on-Trent, is one of nine men being sentenced for terror offences.

He has admitted engaging in the preparation of terrorism.

The hearing continues.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]


FYROM: The New Kosovo?

by Srdja Trifkovic

An Orthodox church was set ablaze in the southwestern part of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) on January 30. The incident reflects raising tensions between local Christian Slavs and Albanians, more than a decade after an Albanian rebellion brought FYROM to the verge of an ethnic war. It also evokes memories of the early stages of the conflict in Kosovo, in the late 1980s.

The church of St. Nicholas, in the majority Albanian-Muslim village of Labuniste, was two centuries old and housed valuable icons. The arson at Labuniste followed the burning of a Macedonian flag and the raising of Albanian and Islamic banners in the neighboring town of Struga, allegedly in reaction to an incident of “mocking Islam” at a local carnival last month. The town, on the shores of Lake Ohrid, lies at the southern edge of the line of ethnic separation between the two communities. The exact figures are disputed, but Macedonian Slavs account for about two-thirds (1.3 million) and Albanians for 30 percent (600,000) of the republic’s two million people. The latter, 98 percent Muslim, have had a remarkable rate of growth since 1961, when they accounted for only 13 percent of the total. Albanian birthrate has been more than twice that of Slavs for decades.

Following the signing of the NATO-brokered Ohrid Agreement that ended the 2001 Albanian rebellion by the “NLA” (a KLA subsidiary), FYROM has become bi-national and bilingual and the Albanians its second constituent nation. They are guaranteed proportional share of government power and an ethnically-based police force. This has turned FYROM into the weakest state in the Balkans and its de facto ethnic partition has become formalized and internationally guaranteed.

Having secured their dominance along the borders of Albania and Kosovo, the current main thrust of the Albanian ethno-religious encroachment has the country’s capital city as its primary objective. It is a little-known fact that today’s Skopje is effectively as divided as Nicosia or Jerusalem. Once a city quarter becomes majority-Albanian, it is quickly emptied of its Slavic, non-Muslim population. The time-tested technique is to construct a mosque in a mixed area, to broadcast prayer calls at full blast five times a day, and to create the visible and audible impression of dominance that intimidates non-Muslims (the locals call it “sonic cleansing”).

During the 2001 Albanian rebellion the NLA was largely financed by the smuggling of narcotics from Turkey and Afghanistan. In addition to drug money, as The Washington Times reported on June 22, 2001, “the NLA also has another prominent venture capitalist: Osama bin Laden.” French terrorism expert Claude Moniquet told The Christian Science Monitor in 2006 that up to a hundred fundamentalists, “dangerous and linked to terrorist organizations,” were ready in sleeper-cells in Macedonia. New recruits are offered stipends to study Islam in Saudi Arabia, and they are given salaries and free housing to spread the Wahhabi word on their return to FYROM.

In March 1999, on the eve of the war in Kosovo, I wrote in The Times of London that NATO support of ethnic Albanian separatists in Kosovo would unleash a chain reaction whose first victim would be Macedonia, because “once KLA veterans acting as policemen start to patrol Kosovo, the rising expectations of Macedonia’s Albanians will be impossible to contain.” “Nonsense,” a U.S.. State Department official snapped at a conference in Washington a few days later. “The problem in Kosovo is Milosevic. In Macedonia the Albanians don’t need to make trouble because their rights are respected.” The issue was that of “human rights,” he said, not nationalism: the notion of Greater Albania was a Serb paranoid invention…

           — Hat tip: Srdja Trifkovic[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Reinforce UN Mission in Libya, Italy’s FM

(ANSAmed) — ROME, FEBRUARY 8 — From a viewpoint of illegal immigration and refugees from Libya, “the presence of the United Nations, a mission of around 200 people while this number should increase, is positive,” said Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi in a hearing by the Senate Human Rights Commission in Senate. “We are working together with the Un Secretariat to strengthen the presence of the United Nations in Libya, because we believe this is a form of help, even guarantee” regarding these aspects, which are a sources of “deep concern” for Italy. Our country, Terzi added, will also be “better represented in checking the treatment of people in case they are sent back.” The Minister also said regarding the question of facilities in the transit countries that it is “an important proposal” and that its “feasibility on European level should be studied.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Salafite Shadow With Threats and Calls for Sharia

Banned ‘Hezb Ettahir’ party attacks government and West

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS — With Salafite-inspired terrorism casting a shadow on Tunisia’s presence, the country’s future could be even more cause for concern, faced with the enigma of ‘Hezb Ettahir’, the most fundamentalist party in Tunisia. The party continues its activities undisturbed despite the fact that it has been virtually banned by the Interior Ministry. The government has not taken a clear stance against the party, and secular Tunisians have said that this ambiguous approach allows the party to do as it pleases, with proselytism (political and religious, which go hand in hand), initiatives and threats hiding behind simple “advice”. At the country’s universities for example, where the niqab or full Muslim veil has become the cause of a real battle between fundamentalists, students and teachers. Salafism is and remains a fringe movement of the Islam in Tunisia, but is becoming more visible because it is taking advantage of the long transition period from the fall of Ben Ali (January 2011) to the general elections that should be held next year. The most recent initiative of Hezb Ettahir is an open letter sent to Premier Hamadi Jabali and to all Muslims. The letter harshly accuses the government of failing to respect the will of the people and of failing to “respect the Islam and God’s word.” This use of words is a clear call to conform the social and legal system to the sharia. In an Islamic country with an officially secular State everything, daily life, can be brought back to a religious level. Therefore also a position statement like the one made by Hezb Ettarhir has a clear political value in the light of an interpretation of fundamentalist Islam. For example, the presence of Jabali at the economic forum in Davos, seen as the ‘waiting room to hell’ for Tunisia, is almost considered an act of treason in this light, with Jabali asking the United States, “which desecrate Muslim land”, France “which sows corruption in our country” and the UK “which has brought the Islamic caliphate to the fall”, for help. All united to support the eternal enemy, the Jews.

The open letter was published today on the website of Hezb Ettarhir, on the day the birth of the Prophet is remembered.

Copies were handed out at the exit of mosques in many Tunisian cities, despite the official ban on political activities. As if that is not enough, the demonstrations that continue to be staged by the Salafite movement show that the Interior Ministry’s “no” is completely ignored. In fact nobody has even considered ending the protest in Avenue Bourghiba against the general director of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde. The protesters shouted slogans and showed photographs of the director with her face made look bloody with red paint, and nobody took the initiative of removing the photos.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Weather: Algeria, 80 Killed by Cold, Mayors Against Gvt

Several centres isolated, out of food and gas

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS — The death toll of victims of cold and snow in many regions of Algeria gets worse and worse and so does the dispute between the local communities and the government, which was accused of being extremely slow in adopting emergency measures. The latest news report that there are already approximately 80 victims; 30 of them were killed in car accidents caused by icy roads. Other causes of death include carbon monoxide leaks caused by either faulty devices or the fact that because of the lack of butane gas for heating, many families make fires in the fire escape and shut all windows and doors, preventing air circulation and turning their houses into death traps.

Several centres are still isolated and even if the Army’s vehicles or volunteers succeed in digging a passage in snow, no food or fuel actually gets to town. In some municipalities, the furious residents have occupied the town hall to protest. Daily newspaper el Watan, usually very critical of the government, used the word “martyrdom” to describe the suffering of Algeria’s people.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Arab World: UN Appeal, Improve Food Security

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, FEBRUARY 8 — The participants of a 2-day international conference held in Beirut have launched an appeal to boost growth, create jobs and encourage exports to finance food imports in those countries in the Arab world that have the highest ‘food insecurity’. The event was organised by the United Nations regional economic and social development commission in Western Asia (ESCWA) and the international institute for research on food policies. The theme of the conference was “a food secure Arab world”.

The fact that food insecurity was among the main causes of the uprisings in the region was underlined during the event. A statement issued by ESCWA reads that the conference has resulted in an appeal for better market integration by strengthening small enterprises and by making access to financial resources easier. Moreover, recommendations were made to invest in science and technology, to develop regulations for the labour market to benefit young people, to increase agricultural output and to cooperate in the management of water resources to reduce the risk of conflicts .

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Ihsanoglu to Discuss a Strategy to Combat Islamophobia in Geneva Next March, OIC Makes International Contacts on Syria …

JEDDAH, 15 Rabi al-Awwal/7 Feb.(IINA)-Official spokesperson of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Ambassador Tariq Ali Bakhiet, disclosed that the OIC is making international contacts on the current developments following the failure of vote on the draft resolution on the situation in Syria at the UN Security Council. Bakhiet noted during the media briefing which he held at OIC headquarters in Jeddah on Monday, 6 February 2012 that the Organization will announce the results of these contacts later. Ambassador Bakhiet renewed the OIC support for the Arab initiative on Syria, stressing that the Foreign Ministers’ meeting on Syria which was held by the OIC last November was of the idea not to have numerous initiatives on Syria, however, in this regard, he stressed that the OIC could not be excluded from any international role to find a way out of the crisis in Syria, referring to the announced by Paris to form a Syrian people friends. He reiterated the Organization’s position which called on Syrian to start internal reform process, through serious national dialogue and to stop violence and bloodshed. Bakhiet also said that the Syrian government rejected the OIC’s request to send humanitarian organizations to Syria, pursuant to the call of the final communiqué of the OIC Foreign Ministers meeting held last November, noting that Damascus confirmed in its response that there is no need for external humanitarian aid.

On the other hand, the Spokesman for Cultural Affairs at the OIC, Mr. Rizwan Sheikh underlined that the OIC Independent and Permanent Human Rights Commission will discuss all issues of human rights, without ignoring the issues of human rights violations in Syria during its forthcoming first meeting in Jakarta, Indonesia, on 20 February 2012.

Mr. Rizwan also noted that the OIC Secretary General, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, will take part in the meeting of the UN Human Rights Council expected to be held in March, pointing out that the Secretary General will discuss an international strategy of how to combat Islamophobia in order to implement resolution 16/18 which calls for the protection of the followers of different religions from hate campaigns, a move that will support the OIC’s efforts to combat the growing phenomenon of Islamophobia in many European countries.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Karman, The Smiling Face of Political Islam

(ANSAmed) — ROME — Tawakkul Karman is the new face of political Islam. She wears a veil, but talks of democracy. She fights against despots, but preaches non-violence. She asks the West for respect, but at the same time wants to work together. She is religious, but no fundamentalist.

The Yemenite winner of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize, heroine of the revolution that has driven out President-dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh, represents the new political class that emerged from the Arab uprisings. Religious, but moderate (at least for now). A political Islam that has nothing to do with the Islam of the bearded terrorists who formed an obsession in Western public opinion after September 11, in the Bush era. An Islam that speaks of democracy and human rights, that was reduced to silence for years by the old secular dictators, relics of Arab nationalism, socialists when they were young and pro-Americans when they got old.

Tawakkul is 33 years old, married and has three children. Daughter of a former Minister of Saleh, she has a degree in Political Science. As a journalist, she has been fighting for freedom of expression in her country for years. When the Arab Spring started, she became one of the icons of the movement in Yemen and was even imprisoned. She is member of the Islamic party Al Islah, linked to the Muslim Brotherhood and embodies its more moderate spirit.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Lebanon: Nasrallah Calls for Unconditional Dialogue on Syria

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah reiterated his party’s solidarity with the Assad regime on Tuesday, accusing Western-backed powers and Arab autocracies of using the protests to try to force President Bashar Assad out of power to undermine resistance forces in the region. In a wide-ranging televised speech to commemorate the birth of the Prophet Mohammed, Nasrallah also explicitly stated that his party receives financial support from Iran, without which, he said, the resistance in Lebanon would not have persisted and triumphed. Nasrallah called for unity among Sunni and Shia Muslims in the face of US designs. The US, he pointed out, cares solely about the political loyalty of a leader, not their sect, citing the case of Iran’s Shah who was Shia. “For America it is not about a sect which the leader belongs to, it is about his political orientation. The guilt of [the Iranian revolution] is that it overthrew America’s ally,” he said. Speaking about the continued conflict in Syria, which has seen breakaway groups clash with government forces and over 5,000 people killed according to the UN, Nasrallah indirectly blamed the rebels for pushing for civil war when offered concessions by the governments. Currently many rebel leaders have refused to meet with government figures without an explicit promise that Assad step down but Nasrallah called on all sides to negotiate without delay. “The opposition in Syria has refused reforms and dialogue which triggered a civil war, not a sectarian one,” he said. “Those who are keen on Syria should engage in dialogue without conditions.” Nasrallah also accused the Western media of deliberately overestimating the scale of the violence to try and help foreign powers influence the agenda in Syria.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

MCB Condemns Ongoing Violence in Syria

The Muslim Council of Britain calls upon President Assad and his regime to exercise the utmost restraint in dealing with the ongoing disputes in Syria. By attacking its own people, and pursuing those seeking human rights and democracy, the Syrian government has pushed the country deeper towards civil war: risking the country’s rich heritage and diverse religious traditions. Farooq Murad, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain today said: “The appalling violence that we are witnessing coming out of Syria is deeply concerning. There is never any justification for the sort of oppression of civilians that we are increasingly seeing in media reporting. Over the last year we have seen citizens across the Arab world call for greater democratic rights, and the response to that call by different countries has been variable, but the outcome inevitable. The Syrian people, in their call now for greater democratic rights, should be supported and not isolated, and President Assad in his response should be in keeping within the boundaries of International Law and fundamental respect of human rights.” He further added, “We call on the Syrian government to remove, as a matter of urgency, their troops from the streets of the country and to engage in an open and transparent process, to address the needs of the people of Syria. Any external military intervention in Syria, however appealing its case may seem, is unlikely to offer any lasting and just solution. The Syrian people have to be persuaded to look to solving their problems by dialogue and negotiations. We call on the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation to exert its influence and persuade the government of Bashar al-Assad to heed the calls of the international community.” The Muslim Council of Britain has supported the democratic aspirations of the Arab and Muslim world since the start of the Arab Spring. Whether it be Egypt or Libya, Bahrain or Yemen, the MCB believes that it is now time for the people of the Middle East to be allowed to live in peace, dignity and freedom.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Minister Baird Visits the Bahá’í World Centre

Haifa, Israel, 6 February 2012 (CBNS) — Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird visited the Bahá’í World Centre in Haifa.

Minister Baird has spoken up many times for the Bahá’í community around the world, including while addressing the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

Bahá’ís continue to face persecution in Iran where its leaders are imprisoned on unfounded charges.

Speaking in London about human rights, Minister Baird said, “These abhorrent acts fly in the face of our core principals, our core values. And nowhere is religious intolerance more present than in Iran. Bahá’ís and Christians are consistently threatened with death and torture simply for believing.”

Baird used this latest opportunity to speak with Albert Lincoln, Secretary-General of the Bahá’í International Community, about the importance of religious freedom in emerging democracies and how Canada can continue to be a staunch advocate for these freedoms.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]

Neo-Ottomanism in Action: Turkey as a Regional Power

Over the past decade Prime Minister Rejep Tayyip Erdogan’s government and his AKP (Justice and Development Party) have been successful in undermining Mustafa Kemal Ataturk’s legacy and the character of the state founded upon that legacy. What remains is an increasingly empty shell of constitutional secularism. That shell was nevertheless an obstacle to the formal grounding of the new legitimacy in Islam at home and neo-Ottomanism abroad. Erdogan and his team were determined to remove such vestiges, however, and on September 12, 2010, they succeeded. On that day Turkey’s voters approved, by a large margin, a 26-article package which ended the role of the Army as the guardian of secularism. In 2011 Erdogan was duly reelected with a substantial majority for a third term.

Davutoglu’s Strategic Depth — What has become known as Turkey’s neo-Ottoman strategy became prominent with the appointment of Ahmet Davutoglu as foreign minister in 2009. As Erdogan’s long-term foreign policy advisor, he advocated diversifying Turkey’s geopolitical options by creating Turkish zones of influence in the Balkans, the Caucasus, Central Asia, and the Middle East. On the day of his appointment Davutoglu asserted that Turkey’s influence in “its region” will continue to grow: Turkey had an “order-instituting role” in the Middle East, the Balkans and the Caucasus, he declared, quite apart from its links with the West.

In Davutoglu’s own words, Turkish foreign policy has evolved from being “crisis-oriented” to being based on “vision”: “Turkey is no longer a country which only reacts to crises, but notices the crises before their emergence and intervenes in the crises effectively, and gives shape to the order of its surrounding region.” He asserted that Turkey had a “responsibility to help stability towards the countries and peoples of the regions which once had links with Turkey” — thus referring to the Ottoman era, in a manner unimaginable only a decade ago: “Beyond representing the 70 million people of Turkey, we have a historic debt to those lands where there are Turks or which was related to our land in the past. We have to repay this debt in the best way.”

This strategy was based on the assumption that growing Turkish clout in the old Ottoman lands — a region in which the EU has vital energy and political interests — could prompt President Sarkozy and Chancellor Merkel to drop their objections to Turkey’s EU membership. If on the other hand the EU closes its door to enlargement — as now seems imminent — then Turkey’s huge autonomous sphere of influence in the old Ottoman domain would be developed into a major and potentially hostile counter-bloc to the West.

Prime Minister Erdogan is no longer as eager as before to minimize or deny his Islamic roots, but his old assurances to the contrary — long belied by his actions — are still being recycled in Washington and treated as reality. This reflects the propensity of the Obama administration, just like its predecessors, to cherish illusions about the nature and ambitions of America’s regional “allies,” such as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. The implicit assumption in the U.S. foreign policy community — that Turkey would remain “pro-Western,” come what may — should have been reassessed years ago. Since the AKP came to power the Army has been neutered, confirming the old warning of the Turkish top bras that “democratization” would mean Islamization. To the dismay of its Westernized secular elite, Turkey has reasserted its Ottoman and Muslim legacy with a vengeance.

We are witnessing the end of a process that could be predicted with precision. Nine years ago I wrote in Chronicles (April 2003) that the Bush Administration was mistaken to pretend that Turkey was “a truly indispensable nation” — as a senior U.S. Administration official, Paul Wolfowitz, called it at the time:…

           — Hat tip: Srdja Trifkovic[Return to headlines]

PM David Cameron Fears Syria Might Yet Become Another Kosovo

At yesterday’s meeting of the National Security Council, the Prime Minister and his colleagues acknowledged both the geopolitical complexity and the humanitarian simplicity of the escalating Syrian crisis. There is no taste whatsoever for military intervention by the West. For now, the Arab League is in the lead, pressing President Bashar al-Assad to yield power to Vice-President Farouk al-Shara, so that he in turn may form a unity government. For now, Western support is likely to be channelled through an Arab-led “Friends of Syria” group.

In the Commons on Monday, William Hague set out a seven-point UK strategy, ranging from assistance to the Syrian opposition (“there is no limit on what resources we can provide”) to fresh European Union sanctions upon the Assad regime. This is the strategy that informed the NSC’s deliberations yesterday, and, while robustly expressed, the Hague plan is conspicuously clear in the limits it sets upon British action.

Yet the necessary pragmatism of the NSC’s discussion was tempered by horror at the bloodshed in Homs, Syria’s third-largest city, under siege from the Assad regime. Bombardment by artillery and land-to-air missiles is taking a terrible toll upon its citizens — at least 14 of whom were slaughtered yesterday, including a couple and three of their children. According to one senior source, the PM and his security council colleagues shared a “great consciousness that we don’t want Homs to become a Middle Eastern Sarajevo”. One of David Cameron’s greatest achievements to date was something that did not happen: namely, Colonel Gaddafi’s threatened slaughter in Benghazi last March, a systematic atrocity that was averted only by the determination of the Prime Minister and M Sarkozy. But what if the thwarted horrors of Benghazi are made real 11 months later in Homs? It is axiomatic to Mr Cameron’s foreign policy that there are no templates — no “neo-con” blueprints or doctrinal maps. Partly, this is a reflection of the obvious: the situation in Syria is patently very different from the fall of Gaddafi, just as the Libyan end-game was anything but a replay of the liberation of Iraq.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UAE: Jail for Westerner Over Mosque Insults

Abu Dhabi Court of Appeals upheld the verdict of the Abu Dhabi Misdemeanour Court which awarded a one-month jail term to a British engineer after he was found guilty of insulting religious sentiments. According to an ‘Al Ittihad’ report, the accused was inspecting construction work at a mosque along with others from his work department. They allegedly heard him use abusive language when referring to the mosque and filed a complaint. The defendant was sentenced to a month in jail by the Misdemeanour Court. He later moved the Abu Dhabi Court of Appeals that upheld the verdict. Meanwhile, he stressed that what he uttered — “finish this building, this mosque…” — was not against the mosque. He clarified that he was referring to the delay in work undertaken at the mosque and added that he completely respected Islam and the beliefs of the nation.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]


Polishing Putin: Hacked Emails Suggest Dirty Tricks by Russian Youth Group

Exclusive: Nashi runs web of online trolls and bloggers paid to praise Vladimir Putin and denigrate enemies, group claims

A pro-Kremlin group runs a network of internet trolls, seeks to buy flattering coverage of Vladimir Putin and hatches plans to discredit opposition activists and media, according to private emails allegedly hacked by a group calling itself the Russian arm of Anonymous.

The group has uploaded hundreds of emails it says are to, from and between Vasily Yakemenko, the first leader of the youth group Nashi — now head of the Kremlin’s Federal Youth Agency — its spokeswoman, Kristina Potupchik, and other activists. The emails detail payments to journalists and bloggers, the group alleges.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

‘Russia is a Victim of Western Media’ Claims Russia Expert

Srdja Trifkovic, Foreign Affairs Editor of Chronicles and Executive Director of The Lord Byron Foundation for Balkan Studies, in a recent article has claimed that Western media reporting on Russia is “biased” and “stereotypical”, and has said that the “West” should put more trust in Russia.

Trifkovic said: “Most Western media professionals tend to subscribe, consciously or not, to a neo-liberal world outlook in general and to the tenets of multiculturalism in particular. The result is notable media favouritism of allegedly disadvantaged, non-Western, traditionally non-Christian societies.

“Behind the veneer of all-embracing diversity, however, we find a carefully calibrated scale of acceptance or rejection of “the Other” depending on the cultural and political preferences of the media professionals themselves. The result is moral and intellectual relativism, which enables the media elite to pick and choose, which group or nation will be approved for the status of sympathy or victimhood, and which will be denied the benefit of the doubt.

“The image of Russia in the Western media indicates that Russia has been relegated to the latter category. “It sounds paradoxical,” said Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, referring to the Western attitude toward Russia, “but there was more mutual trust and respect during the Cold War.” His correct hint is that the Western opinion-makers detest post-Soviet Russia — the state that no longer is subservient, as it had been in the 1990s, but reviving its statehood and identity — more than the Cold War leaders of the West detested the USSR…

           — Hat tip: Srdja Trifkovic[Return to headlines]

Russia and the Western Media

by Srdja Trifkovic

Most Western media professionals tend to subscribe, consciously or not, to a neo-liberal world outlook in general and to the tenets of multiculturalism in particular. The result is notable media favoritism of allegedly disadvantaged, non-Western, traditionally non-Christian societies.

Behind the veneer of all-embracing diversity, however, we find a carefully calibrated scale of acceptance or rejection of “the Other” depending on the cultural and political preferences of the media professionals themselves. The result is moral and intellectual relativism, which enables the media elite to pick and choose, which group or nation will be approved for the status of sympathy or victimhood, and which will be denied the benefit of the doubt.

The image of Russia in the Western media indicates that Russia has been relegated to the latter category. “It sounds paradoxical,” said Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, referring to the Western attitude toward Russia, “but there was more mutual trust and respect during the Cold War.” His correct hint is that the Western opinion-makers detest post-Soviet Russia — the state that no longer is subservient, as it had been in the 1990s, but reviving its statehood and identity — more than the Cold War leaders of the West detested the USSR.

The problem of bias, stereotypical reporting and quasi-analysis is by no means new. The collapse of Russia’s institutions and social infrastructure under Yeltsin was accompanied by Western approval of the key engineers of the disaster (Anatoly Chubais, Yegor Gaidar, Boris Nemtsov, Vladimir Ryzhkov…). Their small political factions, lionized by the Western media, were duly supported by the quasi-NGO network funded in part by the Western taxpayers.

Various anti-Russian stereotypes notably prevailed over common sense and journalistic integrity at the time of Mikhael Saakashvili’s attack on South Ossetia in August 2008, with the mainstream media pack attacking Russia’s “aggression” and criticizing Western “passivity.”

While never missing an opportunity to hector Russia on democracy and criticize her human rights record, the Western media have been and still are notably silent on the discriminatory treatment of large Russian minorities in some former Soviet republics.

           — Hat tip: Srdja Trifkovic[Return to headlines]

We Have Breached Lake Vostok, Confirms Russian Team

Russian scientists have now confirmed that they have indeed breached Lake Vostok. It is the first time one of Antarctica’s subglacial lakes has been penetrated. According to an official statement (in Russian), the drill entered the lake at 20.25 Moscow time on 5 February. Thirty to forty metres of water rose into the borehole, confirming that the drill had reached the lake itself and not a small pocket of liquid water above the lake surface.

A Russian drilling team is trying to confirm that they have finally hit Lake Vostok, a vast subglacial body of water hidden 3.5 kilometres beneath the surface of the Antarctic ice sheet. Lake Vostok has been isolated from the surface for millions of years, and many hope it contains bizarre new life forms. At present, however, that seems unlikely.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Maldives Mob Smashes Buddhist Statues in National Museum

Police said Wednesday a mob had stormed the Maldives national museum and smashed Buddhist statues, an act of vandalism which former president Mohamed Nasheed blamed on Islamic radicals.

“A mob entered the museum yesterday (Tuesday). They smashed many statues. This included some statues of Buddha,” police spokesman Ahmed Shiyam told AFP.

In an interview with AFP on Wednesday, Nasheed said a mob including Islamist hardliners had attacked the museum because they believed some of the statues inside were “idolatrous.”

Islam is the official religion of the Maldives and open practice of any other religion is forbidden and liable to prosecution.

Nasheed’s resignation came after a small band of policeman mutinied on Tuesday morning and refused to obey an order to break up an anti-government protest where demonstrators were demanding the president step down

Islamist radicals had been used as part of the attack on his record in office, he said, referring to public statements alleging he was under the influence of Jews and was trying to bring Christianity to the Muslim nation.

“They (the opposition) feared they had no chance in the election next year,” he said. “There is no reason why people should be toppling the government.”

Presidential elections are scheduled for November 2013.

Since the initial mutiny on Tuesday morning, Nasheed said mobs had smashed up the offices of his Maldivian Democratic Party and a party worker had been murdered.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Did Easter Islanders Mix it Up With South Americans?

Erik Thorsby, an immunologist from the University of Oslo, found genetic markers in blood samples taken from Easter Islanders that he thinks could indicate contact with South Americans before the arrival of Europeans in the New World.

Scholars have seen some other hints of contact between Polynesians and the people of the New World. Some plants, such as the sweet potato, originated in the Andes Mountains but apparently spread across the Pacific Ocean before the arrival of Columbus. Researchers have noted hints of linguistic and artistic similarities between the western South American and the Polynesian culture. But definitive archaeological evidence is lacking. Finding genetic proof of Native American and Polynesian mixing prior to Columbus’s arrival in the New World in 1492 would demonstrate that Polynesians had the capacity to reach South America. Still, Thorsby’s assertion is being greeted with polite skepticism from one scholar familiar with Easter Island’s past.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Pacific Battlefield Tourism: A Dream Island Littered With Deadly Relics

World War II ravaged the tiny island of Peleliu in 1944 as US and Japanese forces clashed in one of the fiercest battles of the Pacific campaign. Rusting tanks, wrecked aircraft and live shells strewn across the island continue to attract battlefield tourists to this beautiful but dangerous place.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Nigeria: There’s No Terrorism in Islam, Says the Dean of a University Faculty

SOKOTO (Nigeria)- 16 Rabi al-Awwal/ 8 Feb.(IINA)-The Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Islamic studies of Usman Dan Fodio University, Sokoto (Nigeria), Prof. Aliyu Muhammad Bunza has said that Islam, which is a religion of peace, brotherhood, tranquility and justice, does not agree with or promote terrorism. He stated this in a paper titled, “Islam and the Current Challenges” delivered at a workshop organised by NACOMYO in conjunction with other Islamic organisations in Sokoto, Monday. According to Bunza, Boko Haram is not Islamic but a figment to discredit the religion of Islam by some elements set to achieve their motive. “It is an attempt to cripple Muslims and Islam by all means in its entirety. They want to destabilize the country and make Islam unattractive to the world, especially the west which sees it as anti-democratic and western culture.” Explaining that the so-called Boko Haram was unfounded in Islam and terrorism was a conspiracy to destabilize the country and paint Islam black, Bunza advised traditional and spiritual leaders to restrain themselves from making unguided utterances that could incite subjects and followers against each other. He further said that government should be sincere, open and honest at taming the menace of killings, stressing that “government should step up efforts through collective responsibilities to bring to book the culprits and make public their identities for commensurate punishment.” Bunza noted that the country will not break if leaders and followers tune to the path of justice, equity and fairness to all, a development he observed that the western world was against.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Oldest Animal Discovered — Earliest Ancestor of us All?

Microscopic, sponge-like African fossils could be the earliest known animals-and possibly our earliest evolutionary ancestors, scientists say. The creature, Otavia antiqua, was found in 760-million-year-old rock in Namibia and was as tiny as it may be important.

“The fossils are small, about the size of a grain of sand, and we have found many hundreds of them,” said study leader Anthony Prave, a geologist at the University of St. Andrews in the U.K. “In fact, when we look at thin sections of the rocks, certain samples would likely yield thousands of specimens. Thus, it is possible that the organisms were very abundant.”

From these tiny “sponges” sprang very big things, the authors suggest. As possibly the first muticellular animals, Otavia could well be the forerunner of dinosaurs, humans-basically everything we think of as “animal.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


14 Million New Migrants Flocked to Russia in 2011

Almost 14 million foreigners and stateless people legally arrived in Russia last year, the head of the Federal Migration Service said at a news conference Thursday. Konstantin Romodanovsky announced that 13.8 million people had legally entered the country in 2011, among them 9.7 million citizens of CIS countries.

Of the legal immigrants, about 2.7 million were from Ukraine, about 2 million from Uzbekistan, less than 1.5 million from Kazakhstan and just less than 1 million from Tajikistan. Azerbaijan, Moldova, Kyrgyzstan and Armenia all had in the neighborhood of half a million each, according to a diagram presented by Romodanovsky.

In 2011, migration officials registered almost 10 million foreigners and stateless individuals, almost 810,000 more than in 2010, according to another table on the FMS website. The FMS press office could not immediately explain the discrepancy between the 14 million migrants mentioned by Romodanovsky and the 10 million migrants indicated in the table. It also couldn’t provide a breakdown of how many of those 10 million immigrants arrived legally.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Should We Study White People?

This semester I am teaching a new (for me) course: “White People.” The course considers the historical formation of whiteness as well as its current cultural and economic manifestations. For me, teaching “white people” is an obvious way to work through some of the key issues of critical race studies: How did our current racial categories form and under what conditions? How are these racial categories intertwined with one another? How does race depend on class, gender, sexuality and often geographic location to make sense?

On the one hand, I am disturbed by Kellogg’s claim that teaching whiteness is equivalent to pointing out white privilege. But as disturbing as I found Kellogg’s description of white studies, I found the comments to his article even more disturbing. Consider these:

Let whites keep busy on the work of science and technology, advancing the human species. No! we must degrade whites and tell them they are racists and show no appreciation for what they are and have done for humanity. Does demeaning of whites help the cause of human progress?

and this:

“Whiteness studies” are a product of a genocidal anti-white regime. Anti-racist is a code word for anti-white.

Indeed, reading the responses to Kellogg’s article is a reminder of how much resistance there is among those marked as “white” to even acknowledge that they have a racial position in the world, let alone a privileged one.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Swiss Philosopher Plans London Atheist Temple

Swiss philosopher and writer, Alain de Botton, is proposing to build a temple to atheism in the heart of London’s financial district. De Botton’s idea is to build a 46-meter high black tower, decorated on the outside with binary code representing the human genome, with exhibits inside tracking the evolution of life through time.

“It’s not about worship but a kind of art installation,” de Botton told online news website 20 Minutes. “My passion for architecture is 100 percent the reason for this project.” De Botton wants to create an architecturally impressive space without having a deity as the inspiration. Having been admittedly affected by many great religious buildings, de Botton now wishes to create something architecturally extraordinary without crediting supernatural forces.

The plan has met with some resistance even from within the atheist camp. Richard Dawkins, a well-known proponent of modern atheism, criticized the idea as an attempt to create a “stamp of atheism”, and described the project as a waste of money, 20 Minutes reports.

Others have argued that building a temple implies worship and goes against critical notions of atheism. “The name is a misnomer,” de Botton admitted. “We could instead speak of a ‘place of contemplation.’ That would not bother anybody.”

Of the one and half million francs ($1.64 million) needed to build the tower, already half this amount has been put up by anonymous donors.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: Contraceptive Implants Are Secretly Given to Girls Aged 13

SCHOOLGIRLS as young as 13 have been fitted with contraceptive implants without their parents’ consent.

There was a furious reaction last night when the scheme, part of a government ­initiative to cut teenage pregnancies, was revealed.

One mother, whose 13-year-old daughter was given the implant without parental knowledge, described it as “morally wrong”. She said the school had put the implant in her daughter’s arm without even consulting their family doctor.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]


“Ping-Pong” Planets Can Bounce From Star to Star

Worlds would switch stars for millenia before being ejected, models hint.

A planet in a two-star system can end up in a gravitational ping-pong match that can last for millenia before the planet gets ejected into interstellar space, a new study suggests. Scientists had previously theorized that gravitational interactions among multiple planets orbiting a star can sometimes cause a world to get ejected from its system, leaving the rogue planet to wander alone.

Now a complex set of computer simulations shows that certain types of binary star systems might not let go of wayward worlds so easily. Instead, when a planet gets tossed out by its binary parent, the world can bounce over to the stellar companion. The hapless planet then begins to orbit wildly, only to end up being tossed back to the original star.

This gravitational bouncing can go on for as long as a million years, until ultimately the planet gets flung completely out of the binary system. “The trigger for the bouncing is the close approach of another planet” also orbiting the initial star, said study co-author Dimitri Veras, an astronomer with the U.K.’s University of Cambridge. “Once the bouncing has begun, the (ejected) planet is moving too fast to settle into a long-term stable orbit around either star.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Higgs Signal Gains Strength

Latest analyses from the Large Hadron Collider boosts case for particle.

Today the two main experiments at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the world’s most powerful particle accelerator, submitted the results of their latest analyses. The new papers boost the case for December’s announcement of a possible Higgs signal, but let’s not get too excited.

First, there are no new data in there — the LHC stopped colliding protons back in November, and these latest results are just rehashes of that earlier run. In the case of the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS), physicists have been able to look at another possible kind of Higgs decay, and that allows them to boost their Higgs signal from 2.5 sigma to 3.1 sigma. Taken together with data from the other detector, ATLAS, Higgs’ overall signal now unofficially stands at about 4.3 sigma. In other words, if statistics are to be believed, then this signal has about a 99.996% chance of being right.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]