Sunday, January 12, 2003

News Feed 20120215

Financial Crisis
»Barroso to China: EU is Not Falling Apart
»China Central Banker Backs Euro, Vows More Support
»Economy Shrinks in Fourth Quarter: Germany is Confident Downturn Will be Brief
»Euro Group Delays Meeting: Berlin Grows Impatient Over Greece
»Germany Warns of ‘Bottomless Pit’ In Greece
»Italian PM Scolds Greece But Warns Against Euro Breakup
»Italy Coming ‘Out of the Shadows, ‘ Monti Tells EU
»Millions of Britons Suffering From ‘Fuel Poverty’
»Monti to Push for Tax on Non-Religious Church Property
»OECD Praises Norway Over Strong Economy
»Should the Childless Pay More Tax?
»Socialists to Send ‘Alternative’ Troika to Greece
»Boeing Signs Biggest Deal Ever
»Murfreesboro: Right-Wing Islamophobe Trains Deputies
»NASA Shelves Ambitious Flagship Missions to Other Planets
»US Military Space Spending to Decline 22 Percent in 2013
»Canada Wants Military Base in Germany
Europe and the EU
»Austrian Villagers Quash Plans for Buddhist Temple
»British Homeless and Immigrants Preyed Upon in Modern Slavery
»Fighting Cross-Border Crime
»France: Champagne Producer Strikes Gold
»Greece’s Model Mayor: Reform Hero Takes on Corruption in Thessaloniki
»Invisibility Cloak Could Protect Buildings From Earthquakes
»Ireland: Man on Trial for Driving Into Burglar Already Sued by Victim for €175,000
»Islamic Scholar Not Welcome in Netherlands
»Man Held for Stabbing Swedish 10-Year-Old
»Mullah Krekar on Trial Over Norway Threats
»Scottish Independence Question Causing People ‘Confusion and Concern’
»Sweden: Knife-Wielding 12-Year-Old Attacks Police Officer
»Swiss Aim to Launch First Space Cleaner
»UK Scientists Explore Ponytail Physics
»UK: Dumbing Down State Education Has Made Britain More Unequal Than 25 Years Ago
»UK: Left-Wing Journalist Gets Almost Every Fact Wrong in Hysterical Attack on Michael Gove
»UK: Muslim Leader Speaks of Islamophobia at Opening of New Mosque
»Merkel Wants Solution to Macedonia Name Dispute
»‘Serbia May Look to Russia if EU Turns Its Back’
Mediterranean Union
»EP Give Approves Participation in EU Programmes
North Africa
»Stakelbeck Exclusive: Egyptian Dissident Warns of Brotherhood’s Rise
Israel and the Palestinians
»For First Time an Israeli PM Pays Visit to Cyprus
Middle East
»Assad’s Alawite Allies
»Cinema: Spielberg Discussing Film on Armenian Genocide
»EU to Ban Iran Banks From Using Swift
»Foreign Extremists a Danger to Syria’s Revolution
»Iran Unveils Nuclear Progress, Defying US-EU Pressure
»US Concerned About Syrian Chemical Arms, Missiles
»Latvia Vote Poses Question on Russian as EU Language
»Vladimir Putin Ridiculed After Demanding Russians Have More Sex to Halt Declining Population
South Asia
»Afghan TV Presenters Told ‘More Veil, Less Make-Up’
»Italian Sailors Repel Pirate Attack on Tanker
Australia — Pacific
»Islamic Society of Victoria to Sue Australian Security Service
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Scientists Discover World’s Tiniest Chameleon
Latin America
»Honduras Prison Fire Kills More Than 350 Inmates: Officials
»3,000 Complaints Over Dutch Anti-Immigration Website
»Ambassadors Seek Removal of Anti-Immigrant Dutch Website
»Swiss Party Files Petition on Immigration Cap
Culture Wars
»Belgium: The Attempt to Ban Tintin in the Congo for Inciting Racism Was Cynical and Opportunistic
»Swiss Canton to Vote on Assisted Suicide
»Flight Record: Songbirds Trek 9,000 Miles to Africa
»Population is ‘Our Biggest Challenge’ Says Government Chief Scientist Sir John Beddington

Financial Crisis

Barroso to China: EU is Not Falling Apart

BRUSSELS — European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso has told the Chinese public that the EU will become a fully-fledged “political union” after the financial crisis. Speaking to TV cameras after a meeting with Chinese leader Wen Jiabao in Bejing on Tuesday (14 February), he noted the EU has recently suffered mass strikes and protests, including violent clashes in Greece.

“It is true that in many of our member states there have been student protests and strikes. This is normal in our open societies where people have a right to protest,” he said. He added that the crisis has prompted a new wave of integration, however, citing the fiscal treaty agreed last month by 25 EU countries. “I want to make this very clear to Chinese public opinion. Because I understand when you see the news you may be putting some questions. Is the European Union really going to progress? I say: ‘Yes. No doubt about it’ … Precisely because of the problems in the euro area the conclusion has been to further integrate and to complete the monetary union with a fiscal union and, I believe, in the future toward a political union.”

Barroso and EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy went to China to attract money for EU bail-out funds.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

China Central Banker Backs Euro, Vows More Support

(BEIJING) — China’s top central banker Wednesday expressed confidence in the euro and pledged to continue buying European sovereign debt, as the Asian giant seeks to shore up support for its biggest trading partner.

President Hu Jintao also gave his vote of confidence in talks with visiting EU leaders, saying China supported measures taken to counter the eurozone debt crisis and reiterating Beijing’s readiness to help solve the issue.

“China will… continue to invest in European government bonds and will continue… to get more involved in solving the European debt crisis,” central bank governor Zhou Xiaochuan said.

“We have confidence in the euro,” he added, during a speech at the opening of a euro exhibition in Beijing also attended by European Union president Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso.

Premier Wen Jiabao told the European leaders on Tuesday that Beijing was ready to increase its participation in efforts to help address the crisis, and was considering using Europe’s bail-out funds, without elaborating further.

On Wednesday, Hu reiterated China’s readiness to help out.

“China closely watches and supports the series of measures being taken by the European Union, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank to counter Europe’s debt problems,” he told Van Rompuy and Barroso in a meeting.

“China… will participate in the international community’s actions to support Europe and the eurozone,” he added, in comments published on the foreign ministry website.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Economy Shrinks in Fourth Quarter: Germany is Confident Downturn Will be Brief

The German economy shrank by 0.2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011, as the euro crisis began to bite. But the contraction was less than expected, and economists expect Germany to avoid the recession plaguing many countries in the euro crisis. Leading indicators point to a resumption of growth by mid-2012.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Euro Group Delays Meeting: Berlin Grows Impatient Over Greece

Greece has still not met European Union demands for details about an additional 325 million euros in spending cuts, leading to the cancellation of the planned Euro Group meeting on Wednesday. Political leaders in Germany are getting nervous — and increasingly impatient.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Germany Warns of ‘Bottomless Pit’ In Greece

Germany’s finance minister warned on Wednesday that Berlin was not prepared to pour money into what he termed a “bottomless pit” in Greece, after eurozone ministers put a new bailout for Athens on hold. “We want to do everything we can to help Greece … we can help but we are not going to pour money into a bottomless pit,” Wolfgang Schäuble told SWR radio. “We have always said that all conditions must be fulfilled before we can take final decisions and that the time was pressing. I have doubts that all conditions have been fulfilled,” added the minister.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italian PM Scolds Greece But Warns Against Euro Breakup

(STRASBOURG) — Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti scolded Greece on Wednesday for years of bad policies but he warned against any breakup of the eurozone and bemoaned the divisions created by the crisis. “The tough treatment of Greece today is probably exaggerated,” Monti told the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France. “But let’s not forget that the policies conducted in Greece over several years were a perfect catalogue of the worst practices in Europe,” he said.

Monti spoke as Greece struggled to secure a new bailout from eurozone partners, who delayed a decision on a 230-billion-euro ($300 billion) rescue package as they sought firm reform pledges from Athens. But the Italian premier, who has led a caretaker cabinet since Silvio Berlusconi quit when the debt crisis infected Italy last year, appealed for European unity at a time of tensions between northern and southern Europe.

“We cannot allow the euro to become a factor of disintegration and separation between European citizens. This risk exists,” Monti said. “I think and I hope we will be able to find a solution to the eurozone crisis. I think it is within reach,” he said. Monti called for European unity to face the two-year-old debt drama.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italy Coming ‘Out of the Shadows, ‘ Monti Tells EU

‘I will not blame Europe for Italy’s sacrifices’ says premier

(ANSA — Strasbourg, February 15 — Italian Premier Mario Monti told the European Parliament Wednesday that his government was pulling Italy out of the economic crisis. “We are gradually able to lift our nation from the shadows, which at times has been named as a source of infection or outbreak,” said Monti. Speaking at a plenary meeting on the Greek bailout package and the eurozone crisis, the Italian premier called his 30-billion-euro austerity package and structural reforms “necessary” to help put the country’s public finances in order and balance the budget in 2013. He reiterated that such “sacrifices” were not meted out by the European Union but were the will of Italy. “Too many times I’ve seen governments blame the EU after making decisions,” he said. “I decided that I will never play this trick on the EU”.

Monti, a former European Commissioner who took the helm of an emergency government of technocrats last November amid the euro crisis, was applauded at the podium for striking a chord of European unity.

“In the EU there are not good and bad (countries),” he said. “We should all feel partly responsible for things done in the past and especially in building towards the future”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Millions of Britons Suffering From ‘Fuel Poverty’

As much of Europe braces for at least another week of sub-zero temperatures, campaigners warn that fuel poverty is becoming widespread in the UK, with millions of people struggling to pay their energy bills.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Monti to Push for Tax on Non-Religious Church Property

Law would not affect places of worship

(ANSA) — Strasbourg, February 15 — Italian Premier Mario Monti said Wednesday he would push for an amendment requiring the Church to pay taxes on non-religious property.

Speaking with European Commission Vice President Joaquin Almunia, Monti said the amendment would not affect non-commercial property used for religious purposes. A law passed by the Silvio Berlusconi government in 2006 effectively exempted all Church property used for commercial purposes from local real estate tax.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

OECD Praises Norway Over Strong Economy

Norway has weathered the economic crisis well thanks to its oil riches but must be careful to avoid a property bubble, the OECD said on Wednesday. “Norway continues to benefit from its well-managed petroleum wealth and sound macroeconomic policies,” the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development said. “The strength of the economy and prudent supervision have helped the financial system to weather the financial crisis well,” it added, noting that “the macroeconomic policy challenge has shifted towards preserving the momentum of growth.”

Norway, the world’s seventh-biggest oil exporter and second-largest natural gas exporter, places its oil and gas riches in a huge pension fund, which it in turn invests in international stocks and bonds. Under current rules, the government can use only a limited amount of that money — four percent of the total value of the fund — to balance its budget, which would otherwise post a deficit.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Should the Childless Pay More Tax?

A group of young German MPs have proposed that people who do not have children should pay extra tax to help pay for social services in the future. In the light of Germany’s low birth rate, should those not producing offspring pay more?

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Socialists to Send ‘Alternative’ Troika to Greece

The Socialist group in the European Parliament is to send its own “alternative” troika to Greece, alongside the official EU-IMF-ECB troika that is overseeing the terms of the country’s bailout programme. Three socialist MEPs will be sent to Athens to come up with “real alternatives for the people.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Boeing Signs Biggest Deal Ever

Boeing and Indonesian carrier Lion Air have signed a multi-billion dollar contract which is billed as the largest order in the history of commercial aviation. First deliveries will be made in 2017. US aircraft manufacturer Boeing and Indonesia’s Lion Air on Tuesday formally signed a $22.4-billion (17 billion-euro) deal for the delivery of 230 aircraft. The deal, signed at the Singapore Airshow, is the single largest contract in commercial aviation history.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Murfreesboro: Right-Wing Islamophobe Trains Deputies

MURFREESBORO, TN — A group that states on their website that the “Islamic Movement” is a “threat to our civil liberties” is training deputies in Rutherford County this week.

Deputies from the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Department are getting three days of training from Strategic Engagement Group, a Washington-based nonprofit that says its purpose is to counter the Unified Islamic movement in the United States. The debate concerning construction of an Islamic Center in Rutherford County has been the subject of much debate over the last few years. The project’s faced a court fight, vandalism and arson. Tennessee Freedom Coalition, which openly opposed the new mosque, hired the Washington-based nonprofit. On Monday, Strategic Engagement Group held a free seminar for the community, but Channel 4’s cameras were not welcome. John Guandolo, the vice president of the Strategic Engagement Group, spoke at the event and pushed a Channel 4 camera that attempted to record the seminar. Channel 4 was allowed to listen to him speak but could not record it. Guandolo talked about Hamas and its plan to destroy Western civilization from within, and spoke of Islamic centers as potential military compounds. The local sheriff’s department would not talk on camera about its decision to train deputies using this company. Deputies are able to use the training toward their Post Commission required annual training. Monday’s event was held at the World Outreach Church in Murfreesboro, which has been a vocal opponent of the new Islamic Center being built in Rutherford County. Channel 4 checked with the Post Commission, which develops and enforces training and standards for all police officers in Tennessee. According to the Post, they allow individual law enforcement agencies to determine what training can count for the yearly minimums required of every officer.

WSMV, 14 Februrary 2012

See also “Company claims Islamic insurgency underway in U.S.”, WMOT, 14 February 2012 And “Rutherford sheriff hires mosque foe to train deputies”, The Tennessean, 14 February 2012 Guandolo takes the view that in the US “the major threat does not come from terrorist attacks. It comes from the Muslim Brotherhood”

Update: See “CAIR asks Tenn. to drop anti-Muslim law enforcement trainer”, CAIR press release, 14 February 2012

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

NASA Shelves Ambitious Flagship Missions to Other Planets

Proposed budget cuts are forcing NASA to suspend plans for ambitious, expensive missions to destinations throughout the solar system. The White House’s budget request for 2013, which was released Monday (Feb. 13), keeps overall NASA funding flat but allocates just $1.2 billion to the space agency’s planetary science program. That’s a 20 percent cut from the current allotment of $1.5 billion, and further reductions are expected over the next several years.

NASA officials say this funding picture leaves no room for multibillion-dollar “flagship” planetary missions — a departure for the space agency, which has launched roughly one such effort per decade since the 1970s. Those missions include the Cassini spacecraft’s study of the Saturn system and the so-called Grand Tour of the solar system by the twin Voyager spacecraft. So for the moment, there are no plans to develop more planetary flagships beyond the $2.5 billion Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), which will drop the 1-ton Curiosity rover onto the Martian surface this August to investigate the Red Planet’s potential to host life as we know it. NASA launched MSL last November.

“There is no room in the current budget proposal from the president for new flagship missions anywhere,” John Grunsfeld, NASA’s associate administrator for science, told reporters Monday. NASA is continuing to work on an astrophysics flagship mission, the James Webb Space Telescope. This huge instrument, billed as the the successor to the agency’s Hubble Space Telescope, is slated to cost $8.8 billion and launch in 2018 at the earliest.

The Curiosity rover is the most recent NASA planetary flagship, and perhaps the last for a while. Because of the proposed budget cuts, plans for possible future flagships — which include a Mars sample-return mission and a probe that would study Jupiter’s ocean-hosting moon Europa — are on indefinite hold. “A flagship mission is not on the table,” Grunsfeld said.

This state of affairs is deeply unsettling to some scientists and space-exploration advocates. “People know that Mars and Europa are the two most important places to search in our solar system for evidence of other past or present life forms,” Jim Bell, president of the nonprofit Planetary Society, said in a statement. “Why, then, are missions to do those searches being cut in this proposed budget? If enacted, this would represent a major backwards step in the exploration of our solar system.” Bill Nye, CEO of the Planetary Society and former host of the TV show “Bill Nye the Science Guy,” voiced similar sentiments.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

US Military Space Spending to Decline 22 Percent in 2013

Funding for unclassified U.S. military space programs and activity would decline by 22 percent, to $8 billion, under the 2013 Pentagon spending request released by the White House Monday (Feb. 13).

The Pentagon attributed the proposed funding decline to reduced procurement plans for satellites and launch vehicles, along with the cancellation of the Defense Weather Satellite System (DWSS), which was done at the behest of Congress. The U.S. Air Force halted work on the DWSS program Jan. 17.

Noticeably absent from the 2013 request is funding for a DWSS follow-on system, for which Congress appropriated $125 million in 2012. Also absent from budget documents released Feb. 13 is a funding line for a second Space-Based Space Surveillance satellite, designed to keep tabs on activity in Earth orbit.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Canada Wants Military Base in Germany

Canada plans to set up a military base in Germany under a deal that will allow the expanding Canadian military to increase its global reach. The new “operational support hub” — along with others to be set up around the world — will allow Canada to deploy troops and supplies to distant hotspots on short notice, said a joint statement by the German and Canadian governments as German Defence Minister Thomas de Maiziere paid a visit to Ottawa.

It’s still not clear when the base at Cologne-Bonn Airport will be set up or how many Canadians will be there, although troop numbers will not approach the tens of thousands of Americans currently stationed in Germany.

De Maiziere told a press conference that he and his Canadian counterpart, Peter MacKay, are also discussing missile defence, the future of Afghanistan and the nuclear component of NATO defence capabilities — all topics of an upcoming NATO summit in Chicago in May.

According to the Canadian CBC television network, Germany and Canada have recently been expanding their defence cooperation as both countries grapple with prolonged military deployments to Afghanistan.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Austrian Villagers Quash Plans for Buddhist Temple

It was set to be the one of biggest Buddhist Centers in Europe. But the residents of a village in southern Austria have voted to put a stop to the project.

Austria’s forest region is a Buddhist monk’s dream: cut of from the rest of the world, with unspoilt landscapes and few inhabitants. When South Korean Buddhist Monk, Bop Jon Sunim, stumbled across the place on his travels as a missionary, he was immediately struck by its positive energy.

Sunim chose the village of Gföhl, with 3,700 inhabitants, as a fitting place to erect a 30-meter high Buddhist temple, with a capacity for 200 people. The center was designed to be a Buddhist retreat in the heart of Europe. But it’s a project that has divided the local community.

Gföhl’s mayor, Karl Simlinger, did not initially make any objections. The project was to be funded by private money. Simlinger hoped that the presence of Buddha in Gföhl would boost tourism.

Right-wing objections

The picturesque village has 3,700 inhabitants

But right-wing populist politicians from the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) and the Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZÖ) raised objections: They claimed a Buddhist temple would destroy the picturesque landscape and cultural traditions in the area. Though in fact the abbot of the nearby Catholic monastery had nothing against the plans.

For Bop Job Sunim, the temple was to be a monument to world peace. But he had not reckoned with the reaction of the locals. Mayor Simlinger decided that the people should decide. In a referendum on Sunday, 67 percent of locals voted against the plans. The turnout was 52 percent.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

British Homeless and Immigrants Preyed Upon in Modern Slavery

Charities warn that criminal gangs are targeting homeless people who are promised jobs and accommodation but instead are beaten and forced to work without wages.

The number of homeless becoming victims of exploitation is on the rise

When UK police raided a travellers’ site about 50km (31 miles) north of London last month, they removed 24 people who had allegedly been living as modern-day slaves, some for up to 15 years. Investigators say many of the men were homeless or alcoholics.

Six men and a woman, all from the same extended family, have been charged with slavery offences.

While not referring to this case specifically, homeless organizations Thames Reach and St. Mungos have revealed that they are aware of an increasing number of homeless people, sleeping rough in and around UK cities, that have been approached with offers of work and shelter.

Targeting the homeless

The targets are mostly men, often from eastern Europe, the Middle East and west Africa. The victims are befriended by gangs from similar backgrounds at soup kitchens, or outside night shelters and job centers.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Fighting Cross-Border Crime

International security experts have gathered in Berlin for the European Police Congress. The focus this year is on stepping up police cooperation across the EU to fight cross-border crime and international terrorism. Crime knows no borders: Increasingly, terror attacks are being planned in one country, supported in another and carried out in yet another country. Combating terrorism through more international cooperation is the focus of this year’s European Police Congress in Berlin, attended by some 1,000 security experts from more than 50 countries.

Key element of the cooperation is the European Union’s criminal intelligence agency Europol. “Successful police investigation requires you to have the right information at the right time in order to pass it on to the right institutions,” says Dietrich Neumann of Europol’s legal affairs unit.

Setting up the relevant structures is one of the basic conditions for successful cooperation, Neumann explains. And those structures first and foremost are data processing systems on EU level. Creating Europol was itself a crucial step in that direction. “We are the instrument of EU police cooperation; Europol is where all information gets connected and analyzed.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

France: Champagne Producer Strikes Gold

A French champagne producer literally hit gold when workers doing up an old building on his property brought down a shower of US coins hidden in the rafters. François Lange, the head of the Alexandre Bonnet champagne-producing firm, in this eastern French village on Tuesday described the treasure trove as one consisting of 497 gold coins — with a face value of 20 dollars each — minted between 1851 and 1928 and worth today about €750,000 ($980,000).

“One of the workers was attacking the building’s ceiling with a crowbar when gold coins started to rain down on him, followed by sacks of gold,” he said. Half the find will go the workers and half to the owner.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Greece’s Model Mayor: Reform Hero Takes on Corruption in Thessaloniki

European Union officials have nothing but praise for the mayor of the Greek city of Thessaloniki. Yiannis Boutaris has been pushing ahead with far-reaching reforms to undo the abuses of his predecessors and has already slashed the city’s spending by 30 percent. He’s even asking the Germans for advice.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Invisibility Cloak Could Protect Buildings From Earthquakes

The prospect of cloaking devices has become more realistic in recent years as scientists have developed means of making objects invisible to certain wavelengths in limited circumstances. Now researchers from Manchester University say a similar approach could be used to defend structures against earthquakes and other natural disasters.

In the same way that cloaking devices make objects appear invisible by deflecting light around them, the team claimed that pressurised rubber could be used to “hide” structures from shock waves produced by earthquakes, sending them around the structure rather than through it. In a study published in the Writing in the Proceedings of the Royal Society A journal, Dr William Parnell said the technique could protect nuclear power plants, electric pylons and government buildings from natural disasters or terrorist attacks.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Ireland: Man on Trial for Driving Into Burglar Already Sued by Victim for €175,000

A MAN on trial for assault causing harm and endangering the life of a man who broke into his house has already been successfully sued for €175,000 ($231,000) by the burglar, a court has been told.

Louth property developer Martin McCaughey (48), Mount Avenue, Dundalk, denies reckless endangerment at Clann Chullainn Park, Farndreg, Dundalk, on June 27th, 2008.

He also denies assault causing harm to Daniel McCormack (27), Clann Chullainn Park, on the same date.

The State claims Mr McCaughey used his car “as a weapon” to assault Mr McCormack.

Giving evidence at Dundalk Circuit Criminal Court yesterday, Mr McCormack said he had been very drunk when he left his house in the early morning and went into Mr McCaughey’s home.

He did not remember everything that happened but he could recall going in a side door and into an upstairs bathroom, where there was jewellery at the sink.

He told the jury he found himself there “with jewellery stuck in my pockets”. He then heard shouting and ran from the house and garden towards his home.

He was in his estate when he said he was struck by a car. He said he “limped on” and was hit by it a second time.

He said Mr McCaughey had told him, “I will kill you if you get up.” Both of his legs were broken and he was in hospital for two and a half weeks. He was in a wheelchair for six to eight weeks and then on crutches.

The court heard Mr McCaughey was dressed in just boxer shorts and he had shouted at Mr McCormack as he ran from the house.

Cross-examined by Brendan Grehan, defending, Mr McCormack agreed that when he went into the house he was trespassing and he was “looking for things to steal”. He also agreed he had left his home that morning planning to burgle houses and had done this before.

When it was put to him that he has always been treated leniently by the courts, he replied, “Yes”.

He did not know that Mr McCaughey, whose house overlooked the estate where he lived, had built the development.

The court was told Mr McCormack had been charged with burglary at Mr McCaughey’s home and got a three-year suspended sentence.

He agreed he had sued Mr McCaughey for €175,000. Mr McCormack said he had given €50,000 of this to the hospital in which he had been treated.

When Mr Grehan put it to him that Mr McCaughey had wanted him to wait for Garda to arrive but that Mr McCormack was intent on getting away, he replied: “Yes — I was more afraid of him than he was of me.”

Mr Grehan said Mr McCaughey had tried to “box you in with his car”, to which Mr McCormack said, “Yes.”

A witness in court, John English, who lives in the same estate, was making coffee at about 6am when he looked out of his kitchen window and saw a Mercedes car “had hit a chap”.

He said the car had reversed and the driver — the accused — had got out.

“The man [Mr McCaughey] was distraught, he had his hands on his head, he was panicking,” Mr English told the court.

The trial continues before Judge Gerard Griffin.

           — Hat tip: McR[Return to headlines]

Islamic Scholar Not Welcome in Netherlands

Islamic scholar Haitham al-Haddad should be barred from entering the Netherlands, a majority of Dutch MPs has said. Saudi-born Mr al-Haddad, who lives and works in London, has been invited to a symposium held at Amsterdam’s Free University on Friday and Saturday.

MP Joel Voordewind of the small Christian Union opposition party raised the issue on Tuesday and got the support of four other parties, including the governing conservative VVD and Christian Democrats. Mr Voordewind claimed that Mr al-Haddad was “known for his anti-semitic statements, such as ‘Jews are one of the Devil’s armies, Jews are the enemies of God, Jews are descended from apes and pigs, and it is necessary to hate Jews and Christians’.” Mr al-Haddad is a member of the Islamic Sharia Council in London.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Man Held for Stabbing Swedish 10-Year-Old

A 28-year-old man suspected of stabbing a young girl in the throat in Gothenburg at the beginning of February has been apprehended and is being held in another country pending Sweden’s extradition demand. “We have sent a demand that he be held provisionally while we get the paperwork sent over,” said prosecutor Per-Håkan Larsson to news agency TT. Larsson told TT that the man is being held by police somewhere abroad, but he wouldn’t divulge in what country.

The attack, which occurred outside the Bergsgård school in the Hjällbo district northwest of central Gothenburg, left the young girl seriously wounded. An unknown man approached the girl while she was playing in the school yard, stabbing her in the throat and then fleeing the scene. She was immediately taken to Östra Hospital with the knife still in her throat, according to a statement from police, and was later moved to Sahlgrenska Hospital.

According to the prosecutor the apprehended suspect does not have a criminal record but was known to the police, which means that although having previously been suspected of crimes, he has never been convicted. Larsson thinks it won’t take more than a few weeks before the man can be extradited to Sweden, unless he appeals the extradition which would mean the process would take longer.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Mullah Krekar on Trial Over Norway Threats

Norway-based Islamist Mullah Krekar is set to plead not guilty when he faces trial on Wednesday on charges of promoting terrorism and issuing threats against a number of people, including the leader of the Conservative Party. “My client is not going to plead guilty to committing an offence. He’s a very religious person who has explained how Islam views a number of problems that were posed to him,” Krekar’s lawyer, Brynjar Meling, told news agency NTB shortly before the trial was due to start.

Krekar, a firebrand jihadist whose real name is Najmuddin Faraj Ahmad, stands accused of threatening Convervative Party (Høyre) leader Erna Solberg during a meeting in Oslo with the international press on June 10th 2010. According to the charge sheet, Krekar said: “Erna Solberg says, ‘throw Mullah Krekar to his death’. She will pay the price for that with her own life. Who it will be that takes her life, I don’t know. Al-Qaeda, Ansar al-Islam, my relatives, my children, I don’t know.”

Norway’s Supreme Court ruled in 2007 to expel Krekar from the country in the interests of national security. But with Iraq unable to guarantee that Krekar would not be sentenced to death, Norway put the expulsion order on hold.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Scottish Independence Question Causing People ‘Confusion and Concern’

The Scottish Affairs Committee will call on the Government to clarify big questions about a possible break-up of the union, which are making people “confused and concerned” on both sides of the border. Scotland’s national debt is one of the most pressing issues as there is controversy over whether it would be responsible for debts arising from the bail-out of Edinburgh-based Royal Bank of Scotland and HBOS.

Estimates by Taxpayer Scotland have already estimated that an independent Scotland could start life with a debt pile of as much as £270bn, equivalent to more than double its annual economic output. However, Scotland’s ruling SNP claims the country would be financially better off on its own.

No date has been set for a referendum on whether Scotland should be independent, but Alex Salmond, the Scottish First Minister, wants a vote to take place in 2014. The Treasury is already working on the potential costs of a break-up, while the Scotland Office has posed a number of questions to Mr Salmond about how he would solve the problems of splitting up shared services.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Knife-Wielding 12-Year-Old Attacks Police Officer

A 12-year-old boy attacked a police officer with a knife in the Stockholm suburb of Rinkeby on Tuesday, sparking a brawl that sent two officers to hospital. The incident erupted when two experienced police officers arrived to carry out a request from social services to apprehend the boy’s 13-year-old brother. Suddenly, the 12-year-old little brother, armed with a knife, attacked the officers.

“From our point of view, this was a routine assignment. It usually doesn’t lead to any trouble,” police spokesperson Mats Eriksson told the TT news agency. But this time, police unexpectedly found themselves in the midst of a fight after placing the 13-year-old in the squad car. Without warning, the 12-year-old attacked one of the officers with a knife, prompting several other bystanders to join the melee.

“The officer managed to disarm him, but was injured in the process. At the same time, the other officer ended up on the ground where he received a number of kicks and punches,” said Eriksson. The officers were taken to hospital for treatment, but were released later in the day.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Swiss Aim to Launch First Space Cleaner

Swiss scientists announced on Wednesday plans to develop a machine that acts almost like a vacuum cleaner to scoop up thousands of abandoned satellite and rocket parts, cleaning up outer space. The Swiss Space Centre at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL), a top science university, announced the launch of CleanSpace as the first installment of a family of satellites designed to clear up space debris.

According to EPFL, “16,000 objects larger than 10 centimetres in diameter and hundreds of millions of smaller particles are ripping around the earth at speeds of several kilometres per second.” “It has become essential to be aware of the existence of this debris and the risks that are run by its proliferation,” said Claude Nicollier, an astronaut and EPFL professor.

The space centre said it was moving beyond rhetoric to “take immediate action to get this stuff out of orbit.” Centre spokesman Jerome Grosse said two options are being considered for the cleaning satellites.

One is a machine that scoops up debris and then burns itself up in Earth’s atmosphere. The second is a model capable of retrieving the debris, which is then ejected into the atmosphere while the cleaner remains in space.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK Scientists Explore Ponytail Physics

Cambridge researchers have developed a mathematical theory to explain the shape of ponytails. Their research could lead to new health care products and help other sectors, like textiles and computer graphics.

Hair has been of enduring interest for centuries. Leonardo da Vinci pondered the fluid-like streamlines of hair in his notes written more than 500 years ago.

Now a team of scientists have come up with a mathematical formula to determine the distribution, or shape, of bundled hair from the properties of a single strand.

Raymond Goldstein from the University of Cambridge, Robin Ball from the University of Warwick and Patrick Warren, a researcher in the corporate lab of Unilever, published their findings on Monday in the journal, Physical Review Letters.

“We wanted to figure out what mathematical variables we could use to describe hair,” Goldstein told Deutsche Welle. “We came up with a formulation that looks a lot like the theoretical approach to fluids.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: Dumbing Down State Education Has Made Britain More Unequal Than 25 Years Ago

by Toby Young

In the name of equality, anti-elitist teachers are betraying the hopes of the young.

A controversy broke out on Twitter earlier this week about an article in the Times Educational Supplement in which a teacher called Jonny Griffiths describes a conversation with a bright sixth-former who’s worried about his exam results. “Apart from you, Michael, who cares what you get in your A-levels?” he says. “What is better: to go to Cambridge with three As and hate it or go to Bangor with three Cs and love it?” The controversy was not about whether the teacher was right to discourage his student to apply to Cambridge — no one thought that, obviously — but whether the article was genuine. Was Jonny Griffiths a real teacher or the fictional creation of a brilliant Tory satirist? Most people found it hard to believe that a teacher who didn’t want his pupils to do well could be in gainful employment.

Alas, Mr Griffiths is all too real. Since 2009, when I first mooted the idea of setting up a free school devoted to academic excellence, I’ve come across dozens of examples of the same attitude, all equally jaw-dropping. For instance, there’s the now famous battle between the Diocese of Westminster and the Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School in Holland Park. Once a grammar school, Cardinal Vaughan was forced to become a comprehensive in 1977, but it managed to retain its high standards thanks to a succession of great headmasters. It is currently the highest-performing state school in Kensington and Chelsea, and 13 of its pupils were offered places at Oxford or Cambridge last year. As a voluntary-aided Catholic school, Cardinal Vaughan falls within the bailiwick of the Diocese of Westminster, and in 2008 the diocese’s education department referred it to the Office of the Schools Adjudicator, accusing it of practising a form of covert selection. The Left-wing educationalists at the diocese wanted the school to be more “socially inclusive”. For those unfamiliar with New Labour gobbledegook, that’s code for “bog standard comprehensive”. The complaint was partially upheld.

A similar thing happened to Drayton Manor High School in Ealing. Like Cardinal Vaughan, Drayton Manor was too successful for its own good, incurring the wrath of its local education authority. In 2008, Ealing Council referred the school to the adjudicator, accusing it of operating a “discriminatory” admissions policy. The complaint was initially upheld, but subsequently overturned in the High Court. The rationale in both cases was that the success of these “comprehensive grammars” was harmful to neighbouring schools. Thanks to their reputations for academic excellence, they were attracting more than their fair share of above-average pupils, thereby relegating the surrounding schools to secondary modern status. In the eyes of the progressive elite that controls our educational establishment, the best is the enemy of the good. Mediocrity for all is preferable to excellence for some.

Ed Balls, Labour’s last education secretary, made the same point when I debated with him on Newsnight about the free schools policy a couple of years ago. “The danger is that there’ll be winners in this policy, but it is dishonest not to say that there will be losers as well,” he said. Think about that for a second. The danger is that there will be winners in this policy. To anyone not caught up in the looking-glass world of British education, that flies in the face of common sense. But for anyone involved in trying to reform the state system, it is horribly familiar. Tony Blair was confronted with the same tall poppy syndrome when, in his Cabinet, he first floated the idea of city academies. “If you set up a school and it becomes a good school, the great danger is that everyone wants to go there,” said John Prescott. During Labour’s 13 years in office, only 203 academies were set up, thanks, in part, to the prevalence of this attitude.

This anti-elitist spirit pervades higher education, too. It is embodied by Prof Les Ebdon, Vince Cable’s candidate to run the Office of Fair Access. Prof Ebdon, the Vice Chancellor of the University of Bedfordshire (formerly Luton College of Higher Education), wants Oxford and Cambridge to make allowances for applicants from comprehensives in order to make them more “inclusive” — there’s that word again. Far better to lower standards at our top universities, he believes, than try to raise them in our state schools. Unfortunately, the Prime Minister has said he has no intention of vetoing the appointment. The area of education where this attitude does most damage is in schools themselves. The Daily Telegraph’s report today, revealing that British schoolchildren are lagging far behind other parts of the Western world when it comes to literacy and development, comes as no surprise to me. I was recently contacted by Joseph Reynolds, the parent who campaigned against the decision of his daughter’s comprehensive to dump Shakespeare from the GCSE English curriculum in favour of The Simpsons. He alerted me to a new “unit” in the Edexcel GCSE English syllabus called “English Today Theme Two (Talent Television)”, in which pupils are expected to study the ITV1 home page of ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ and a 2009 cover of ‘Heat’ magazine. This flies in the face of the national curriculum requirement that texts studied in English should be “of high quality, among the best of their type”. Presumably, studying passages from Charles Dickens or Emily Brontë isn’t “inclusive” enough.

The tragic thing about the flight from excellence in our state schools is that teachers like Jonny Griffiths believe they’re acting in the best interests of their pupils. Why push children to study Shakespeare or encourage them to go to Cambridge if they’d be happier doing a degree in Media Studies at the University of Bangor? The Les Ebdons of this world believe that by opposing elitism, they’re helping to make Britain a fairer, better place. It was the same reasoning that led to the decimation of England’s grammar schools in the 1960s and 1970s.

My late father, the sociologist Michael Young, coined the word “meritocracy” — but as a term of opprobrium rather than approval. As a lifelong socialist, he disapproved of equality of opportunity on the grounds that it legitimised inequality of outcome. After all, if people believe that everyone starts out with an equal chance in life, then the resulting distribution of wealth is fair, isn’t it?

My father was a close colleague of Tony Crosland’s, the Labour education secretary who made it his mission in politics to destroy grammar schools, and claimed to have influenced his thinking. Yet the net result of this policy has been to increase inequality, not reduce it, because the majority of state school graduates are now unable to compete with the products of private schools. In the 13 years that New Labour was in office, the attainment gap at A-level between state schools and independent schools doubled. In 2010, A-level candidates at independent schools were three times more likely to get straight As than candidates at state schools — and that statistic flatters the state sector because it includes England’s 164 remaining grammar schools. If you remove grammars from the equation, more children got three As at A-level in the country’s tiny handful of fee-paying schools than in the entire population of children at comprehensives.

Thanks to the wholesale dumbing down of state education, Britain is now more unequal than it was 25 years ago. The progressive custodians of public education have succeeded in entrenching poverty and preserving privilege — all in the name of equality. As an illustration of the law of unintended consequences, it could not be bettered. Michael Gove has set about trying to reverse this trend and, needless to say, the educational establishment is fighting him every inch of the way. He’s even allowing existing grammar schools to expand by setting up satellite schools in other parts of the country, something that’s bound to be met with hysterical opposition. He deserves our support if we’re to raise standards in the state sector and create a playing field that is more level, both for the children of the rich and of the poor. For too long, English teachers at comprehensives have been telling their pupils not to bother with the best that’s been thought and written, but to watch ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ and read ‘Heat’ magazine instead. That’s the sort of “anti-elitism” than leads to social apartheid, not social justice.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Left-Wing Journalist Gets Almost Every Fact Wrong in Hysterical Attack on Michael Gove

by Toby Young

There’s a marvellously batty article in the Guardian this morning by socialist firebrand (and Old Wykehamist) Seumas Milne. In barnstorming style, he lays bare the real agenda of Michael Gove, whom he describes as “the Tory ideologue’s ideologue”. According to Seamus (son of former BBC Director General Alasdair Milne), Gove is systematically breaking up our beloved public education system at the behest of “private companies” intent on profiting from taxpayer-funded education. Unfortunately, almost every single fact in his piece is wrong. Here’s his article in full. My comments are in italics.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Muslim Leader Speaks of Islamophobia at Opening of New Mosque

Muslims urged to cast aside differences of religion, ethnicity and nationality for the sake of peace and unity

A clarion call to Muslims to set aside differences and work relentlessly for peace and unity in the UK has been made on the occasion of the opening of a new mosque in South East London. To mark the opening, and as part of its ongoing commitment to serving mankind, the Ahmadiyya Muslim community donated thousands of pounds to British charities.

Representatives of all major religions had gathered for the inaugural ceremony of the new £675,000 mosque in Catford, which had been funded entirely from voluntary donations from the Ahmadiyya Muslim community — many of whom had donated jewellery, savings and indeed pocket money for this noble purpose. The worldwide Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Hadhrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, the fifth Caliph of the community, opened the new Tahir Mosque and led its inaugural prayers.

At the opening ceremony, also attended by Heidi Alexander, MP for Lewisham East and Sir Steve Bullock, Mayor of Lewisham, cheques totalling £5000 were presented to the MP’s charity, Youth AID Lewisham, and to the Mayor’s charity the Lavender Trust. This adds to the hundreds of thousands of pounds donated to British charities by the community each year. The purpose of a mosque to serve as a beacon for peace was highlighted at the event by His Holiness Hadhrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, who said: “It is essential that a Muslim should never usurp the rights of others and instead he should cast aside all differences of religion, nationality or ethnicity and seek to become the means of support and love for all others. If someone comes to a Muslim for help, then it is the duty of the Muslim to try and fulfil that need.”

Addressing the issue of Islamophobia, the Caliph spoke of the fear some people held of mosques and of Islam itself. But he said it was the acts of a small number of extremists who were destroying the peace and security of society at large. These were enemies of all of mankind — and were not at all in keeping with the real teachings of Islam. He added:

“Peace in society is a two-way process and can only be established if all parties work together towards mutual reconciliation. “We must set aside our own personal desires and instead be concerned for the future existence and well-being of our next generations. We must adopt selflessness rather than selfishness. When we all join together and come to respect each other’s feelings and sentiments then and only then will an atmosphere of mutual love develop. It is then that we will truly see the beautiful society that all peaceful people desire.”

The National President of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community UK, Rafiq Hayat, said: “Love for All, Hatred for None defines the ethos of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community and it underpins our mission in every mosque. These are abodes of peace where we worship God and give thanks for His blessings. The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community built the first mosque in London in Putney in 1924 and at the turn off this century, we opened western Europe’s biggest mosque, again in London. The new mosque in Catford will share the vision that is common to all our mosques and that is an ongoing commitment to build bridges between communities and to strive for peace. That is why we are running a national peace campaign from our mosques across the UK, raising funds for local charities, holding blood donation drives and holding interfaith events. This is true Islam in practice”

The mosque will serve some 300 worshippers and features prayer halls for men and women.

[JP note: Sorry, chum, I mean Caliph, but opening a new mosque only increases my Islamophobia.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]


Merkel Wants Solution to Macedonia Name Dispute

German chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday urged Greece and Macedonia to find a compromise over the long-standing name dispute. Greece vetoed Macedonia’s bid to join NATO in 2008 because of its name. “The name issue has to be settled,” said Merkel.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

‘Serbia May Look to Russia if EU Turns Its Back’

Serbia may turn towards Russia if the EU refuses to grant it candidate status, and possibly allow Russian bases on its soil, the country’s deputy prime minister warned. “Europe is making a big mistake if Serbia does not get candidacy status in March,” Ivica Dacic told the Vecernje Novosti newspaper in an interview published on Wednesday.

If Brussels and Washington continue to keep Belgrade on the sidelines it “would be normal to expect that a political faction directed more towards Russia would come into power” in Serbia, he said. Serbia will hold general elections this spring which will pit the pro-European ruling coalition against the ultra-nationalist opposition which is more eurosceptic and pro-Russia.

“To make sure no one would have the idea to invite Russia to build a military base here, the EU and the US must have a policy of impartiality towards us,” Dacic warned. “What would happen if a Russian military base was built in Serbia? Would that be a problem for the Americans? Certainly,” he said.

The EU is set to decide in March on granting Serbia candidacy status but has insisted Belgrade must show progress in EU-brokered talks with Kosovo, which declared independence from Serbia in 2008.

Belgrade believes the 27-member EU supports mainly Kosovo and does not take into account Serbia’s interests. A majority of EU states recognise Pristina’s independence, along with the United States and dozens of other countries.

Russia has always supported Serbia’s refusal to recognise Kosovo’s independence. Some 120,000 Kosovo Serbs live in Kosovo among the ethnic Albanian majority.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union

EP Give Approves Participation in EU Programmes

Decision part of new neighbourhood policy

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, FEBRUARY 14 — The Assembly in Strasburg has given green light to the protocol agreement on EU-Moroccan partnership, which includes Morocco’s participation in European programmes. Morocco, together with Jordan, is the EU’s only partner on the southern shore of the Mediterranean that has signed an ‘advanced status’ in bilateral relations. Today’s decision is part of the Union’s new neighbourhood policy, launched after the Arab Spring. The approval of this protocol lies the foundation for a network of closer relations between the EU and Morocco, in the light of the reforms that have been started in the country. Rabat has shown interest in several EU programmes in the field of competitiveness and innovation, air transport, customs and more sustainable ways of transport. After the thumbs up from the European Parliament, now the single Member States must give their final approval during the Council of EU Ministers before the new agreement can come into force.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Stakelbeck Exclusive: Egyptian Dissident Warns of Brotherhood’s Rise

I recently sat down with leading Egyptian dissident Majed el-Shafie for a look at what’s coming in Egypt and the Middle East, courtesy of the Muslim Brotherhood.

We discussed the Obama administration’s missteps and Majed’s own experiences in Egypt—where he was tortured and imprisoned for leaving Islam and converting to Christianity.

Click the link above to watch.

           — Hat tip: Erick Stakelbeck[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

For First Time an Israeli PM Pays Visit to Cyprus

Netanyahu expected to request the use of Paphos airbase

(ANSAmed) — NICOSIA, FEBRUARY 15 — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will pay a working visit to Cyprus tomorrow, when he is expected to formally request that Israeli jets be stationed at the Andreas Papandreou airbase in Paphos, as CNA reported. Rumours that Israel had requested use of the base have been circulating for several months, and the request is understood to have been discussed at a recent meeting between the Cypriot Minister of Defence and his Israeli counterpart.

Israel and Cyprus are seeking to strengthen defence ties as part of efforts to protect offshore oil and gas interests. Netanyahu and his entourage will arrive on Thursday morning at the airport, where they will be welcomed by Foreign Minister Erato Kozakou Markoullis. Later on, Netanyahu and his wife will be received at the Presidential Palace by President of Cyprus Demetris Christofias and first lady Elsi. A tete-a-tete meeting will take place between the two leaders, followed by consultations in the participation of delegations of both countries. After statements to the press, the Israeli Prime Minister and his entourage will attend a luncheon offered by the Cypriot President. In the afternoon, Netanyahu will hold a meeting with President of the main opposition party, Democratic Rally leader, Nicos Anastasiades. Netanyahu and his entourage will depart in the afternoon.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Assad’s Alawite Allies

The inability of the United Nations to agree on a consensus regarding Syria has led Turkey to take the lead in building a common accord amongst the international community, to try and bring an end to the conflict. Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu have been increasingly defining Ankara’s position as one that does not support Damascus’ current government.

Meanwhile, Syrian refugees continue to flood into neighboring Turkey, adding pressure to Ankara’s expenditures and to the financial strain on communities already affected by cross border trade sanctions. While most Turks are against the bloodshed across Syria, opinions in southern provinces are mixed on President Bashar al Assad and Turkey’s involvement in the matter.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Cinema: Spielberg Discussing Film on Armenian Genocide

With screenwriter of Schindler’s List, ahead of anniversary

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, FEBRUARY 14 — Steven Spielberg and the screenwriter of Schindler’s List, Steven Zaillian, are discussing a new film on the Armenian “genocide”. The film should be ready in 2015, the hundredth anniversary of the murders committed under the Ottoman empire. The news is announced on the website of the influential Turkish newspaper Hurriyet, which cites the website ‘Armenian Pulse’.

The film should be made by the American director with the support of the Armenian film centre and Armenian and non-Armenian actors. The murder of 1.5 million Armenians is recognised as genocide by several countries and parliaments, including European countries and Italy (through a resolution passed in November 2000), but Turkey disputes the number of victims and most importantly claims that the murders were not systematic, but carried out in the context of the broader conflict of the First World War.

Turkey has proposed to let historians solve the disagreement and has responded by freezing political-military relations with France when the country’s parliament last month approved (but not ratified due to a constitutional appeal) a law that criminalises denying the Armenian genocide, just like denying the Jewish genocide is a crime in France.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

EU to Ban Iran Banks From Using Swift

The EU intends to ban Iranian banks from conducting global financial transactions, senior US and EU diplomats have said. The banks will no longer be able to operate the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (Swift). Swift enables banks to communicate with each other and with financial institutions.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Foreign Extremists a Danger to Syria’s Revolution

Al-Qaida’s leader is calling on Muslims to join in Syria’s revolution and to fight the Assad regime. But jihadists from neighboring countries may already have joined the ranks of the opposition Free Syrian Army. Their presence could be the death blow to the revolution.

The message was clear: Every Muslim must aid the uprising against the Syrian government “with everything that he has — his life, money, views and information.” The current leader of the terror network al-Qaida, Ayman al-Zawahiri, called on believers to bear arms and go to Syria in an eight-minute video that was posted over the weekend on extremist websites. Rebellion against the “anti-Islamic regime” in Damascus is a religious obligation, he declared.

For their campaign against Bashar Assad’s “pernicious, cancerous regime,” the brothers in God should build on their willingness to make sacrifices and on their steadfastness. The al-Qaida leader especially called on Sunni Muslims in Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan and Iraq to rush to the aid of the opposition in their neighboring country. The fiery call to action from Zawahiri, who succeeded Osama bin Laden at the top of al-Qaida, has fueled the ongoing speculation over the presence of foreign, or even al-Qaida fighters in Syria.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Iran Unveils Nuclear Progress, Defying US-EU Pressure

(TEHRAN) — Iran announced new strides on Wednesday in its nuclear programme, in a defiant blow to US and EU pressure to rein in its atomic activities and amid signs of an increasingly vicious covert war with Israel over the issue.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad unveiled on state television what was said to be Iran’s first domestically produced, 20-percent enriched nuclear fuel for Tehran’s research reactor.

He also said 3,000 more centrifuges had been added to his country’s uranium enrichment effort.

Officials said new-generation centrifuges had been installed at Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility that are able to produce three times more enriched uranium.

The developments underlined Tehran’s determination to forge ahead with its nuclear activities despite increasingly tough sanctions from the West — and speculation that Israel or the United States could be months from launching military strikes against it.

Iran portrayed the advances as evidence it was only interested in peaceful nuclear goals, under the slogan “nuclear energy for all, nuclear weapons for none.”

But the steps challenged the basis of four sets of UN sanctions and a raft of unilateral US and EU sanctions designed to halt a programme much of the West fears masks a drive for atomic weapons.

Israel, which is the region’s sole but undeclared nuclear power and feels its existence is threatened by a nuclear Iran, is widely held to have been carrying out clandestine acts against its arch foe.

Those acts have included the murder of four Iranian scientists by unidentified motorbike assailants in the past two years and the deployment of a highly sophisticated computer virus, Stuxnet, which damaged many of Iran’s centrifuges.

Israel has neither confirmed nor denied its involvement in those acts.

But it has accused Iran of targeting its diplomats in different countries after bomb attacks or plots uncovered in India, Georgia and Thailand this week.

One Israeli diplomat in New Delhi was gravely hurt when a bomb attached to her car blew up. In Bangkok, two Iranians were in custody. One of them lost his legs after he unsuccessfully tried to throw a bomb at police as he fled.

Iran has denied any role in those incidents.

Observers, though, see possible payback occurring and believe Iran and Israel could now be caught up in a cycle of retribution that each has condemned as “terrorism” by the other side.

Attempts to defuse the soaring tensions through dialogue appear to making little headway.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

US Concerned About Syrian Chemical Arms, Missiles

The United States is concerned about the fate of Syria’s suspected stocks of chemical weapons and thousands of shoulder-fired missiles if the regime collapses, US officials said Friday. The United States also believes that Russia and Iran are shipping conventional weapons to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime to help crush pro-democracy protests, State Department officials told reporters.

“Syria has got some similarities (with Libya) but a much more difficult situation,” Thomas Countryman, assistant secretary of state for international security and non-proliferation, told reporters. Countryman, whose bureau is also in charge of Libya, said Libya’s chemical weapons stockpile is now secure.

“We have long been aware of Syria’s chemical weapons program. It is one of the few countries in the world that has not signed the chemical weapons convention,” said Countryman.

But neither he nor Rose Gottemoeller, acting under secretary of state for arms control and international security, would say how many chemical weapons they believe Syria has or where they are located.

“We have ideas as to quantity. We have ideas as to where they are,” Gottemoeller said without giving detail. Countryman outlined some of the concerns about what would happen when the Assad regime falls.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Latvia Vote Poses Question on Russian as EU Language

BRUSSELS — A referendum on making Russian an official language in Latvia has raised the dim possibility of it also becoming an official language of the EU. The country’s Central Election Commission (CEC) itself predicts the poll, on 18 February, will be a non-starter. A CEC spokeswoman, Kristine Berzina, told EUobserver on Tuesday (14 February) that “the level for the vote is so high it will never happen.”

According to the rules, half of all eligible voters in Latvia — 1.5 million people — must turn out in order to make a quorum, and half of all 1.5 million must vote Yes to get a positive result. Around one third of Latvians are Russian speakers. But in some rural communities the figure is 60 percent. If the bid comes through, it will put pressure on Riga to take steps at EU level.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Vladimir Putin Ridiculed After Demanding Russians Have More Sex to Halt Declining Population

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was mocked by his own countrymen today after urging Russians to start having more sex to put a stop to the country’s declining population. In one of his more controversial presidential election campaign pledges, Putin vowed to give cash incentives to mothers who have a third child, to help encourage more births.

Russia is the largest geographical country in the world but its 142 million population is smaller than both Pakistan and Bangladesh. Putin, who served two consecutive presidential terms between 2000 and 2008 followed by his current term as prime minister, warned that the current steady population decline could see 50 million fewer Russians by 2050 to just 107 million people.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Afghan TV Presenters Told ‘More Veil, Less Make-Up’

KABUL — Afghanistan has instructed female TV presenters to stop appearing without a headscarf and to wear less make-up, officials said, raising fears about creeping restrictions on the fledgling media.

“All the TV networks are in seriousness asked to stop the female presenters from appearing on TV without a veil and with dense make-up,” the information and culture ministry said.

“All the female newscasters on Afghan TV channels are also asked to respect Islamic and Afghan values,” it added.

A spokesman for President Hamid Karzai told AFP Tuesday that the ministry took the decision after coming under pressure from the Ulema council, the country’s highest religious body of Islamic scholars.

Afghan media, essentially non-existent under the 1996-2001 Taliban regime, have enjoyed enjoyed considerable freedom, with more than two dozen TV stations springing up in the decade since the 2001 US-led invasion.

As tentative steps are made towards peace talks between the United States and Taliban insurgents, Afghan women are worried about a possible return of the hardline Islamists to the capital Kabul.

Under the Taliban regime, women were subjected to brutal repression. Girls were not allowed to go to school and women were not allowed to work.

They were whipped in the street by the thugs of the religious police if they wore anything other than the all-enveloping blue or white burqa.

           — Hat tip: EDL[Return to headlines]

Italian Sailors Repel Pirate Attack on Tanker

Enrica Lexie was off southwest India

(ANSA) — Rome, February 15 — Italian sailors aboard a cargo vessel repelled an attack by Somali pirates Wednesday, the second such incident in three days.

The Naples-based Enrica Lexie tanker was off the southwestern coast of India when the pirates approached, brandishing weapons.

Three volleys from the sailors saw them off, the Italian Navy said.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Islamic Society of Victoria to Sue Australian Security Service

The Islamic Society of Victoria is preparing to take legal action against ASIO [Australian Security Intelligence Organisation] for what it says is constant harassment and bullying.

Members of the Preston Mosque in Melbourne’s north claim intelligence operatives are approaching worshippers on a daily basis, offering them jobs and demanding personal information. The secretary of the Islamic Society of Victoria, Baha Yehia, believes sermons are being monitored and he wants the harassment to stop. “We will go to Canberra if we have to. We will go to Canberra and we will complain directly to the Prime Minister,” he said. The Islamic group has sought the legal services of criminal defence lawyer Robert Stary, who also defended Jack Thomas, the first Australian to be convicted under anti-terrorism laws. Mr Stary says those that support the Palestinian struggle feel vulnerable. “They’re at the pointy end. They’ve seen the many prosecutions, some of which have failed, some of which have been successful,” he said.

In 2008, seven people connected with the Preston Mosque were found guilty of belonging to a terrorist organisation. Ringleader Abdul Nacer Benbrika is now in jail. “None of these people used to practise or preach at the mosque. They used to attend the mosque. You know mosques have a different structure to churches,” said Mr Yehia. According to Mr Yehia, the harassment of mosque-goers is so constant, that they have recently held a public legal seminar on how to deal with intelligence agents. “People are more aware now and people know now that they can say no to ASIO and we don’t have to speak to you and we don’t want to speak to you. And they know if they do get harassed they can come and report the incident … and if they don’t back off, we will be going to the Attorney-General and to David Irvine as well, the head chief of ASIO,” he said. Mr Stary believes ASIO has too much power. “You’ve got to remember now of course that ASIO has trebled in its size since 9/11. It’s a very large organisation, really unparalleled in its growth and its size and its power in the history of the democracy of Australia,” he said. Mr Yehia says the intelligence agency’s interference is starting to divide the community. “There’s a bit of mistrust in the community, because nobody knows who is working for ASIO, because a lot of people have been approached and they’ve also been asked to work for ASIO,” he said. ASIO says it is inappropriate to comment on specific communities.

ABC Online, 15 February 2012

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Scientists Discover World’s Tiniest Chameleon

A group of German and American scientists have discovered what they believe is the smallest chameleon in the world on the island nation of Madagascar. Researchers from Munich, Darmstadt and Braunschweig, as well as California, have named the 16 millimetre-long beast Brookesia micra — Brookesia is the name of the genus the chameleon belongs to and micra represents the animal’s small size.

The chameleon lives in forests and eats insects and tiny mites, the scientists discovered. It is brown in order to blend in with the trees and doesn’t change colours like its better-known chameleon cousins. Other vertebrates — such as some fish and frogs — are even smaller than Brookesia micra. But the endangered chameleon is thought to be the smallest of its kind. “These tiny reptiles are threatened with extinction,” said Miguel Vences from Braunschweig’s technical university.

Overall, the scientists discovered four new species of extremely small chameleons during their expedition to one of the most biologically diverse countries on the Earth. Nearly half of the world’s 193 known species of chameleon are thought to live only in Madagascar, which is off the south-western coast of Africa. That includes the world’s largest at 70 centimetres and now the world’s smallest.

Vences and his colleague, Frank Glaw of the Bavarian State Collection of Zoology, have alone discovered 140 new animal species in Madagascar and named them scientifically.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Latin America

Honduras Prison Fire Kills More Than 350 Inmates: Officials

TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) — A massive fire swept through an overcrowded prison in Honduras and killed more than 350 inmates, including many trapped inside their cells, officials said on Wednesday.

The attorney general’s office said 357 people died in the blaze that began late on Tuesday night at the prison in Comayagua, about 75 kilometers (45 miles) north of the capital Tegucigalpa.

Lucy Marder, head of forensic services in Comayagua, said police reported that one of the dead was a woman who stayed overnight and the rest were prisoners, but she said some of those presumed dead could have escaped. Local media reported that the Comayagua fire department chief also died in the blaze.

It was one of the worst prison fires ever in Latin America, and local radio reports said many of the inmates were burned to death inside their cells.

Honduras has the highest murder rate in the world, according to the United Nations, and there are frequent riots and clashes between members of rival street gangs in its overcrowded prisons.

The gangs, known as ‘maras’, started in the United States and then spread down into Central America, with members covered in distinctive tattoos and involved in drug trafficking, armed robbery and protection rackets.

Soldiers, police and anxious relatives surrounded the Comayagua prison on Wednesday morning and television images showed weeping relatives pressed against a chain link fence as they waited for news. The prison housed more than 800 inmates — well above its capacity.

“This is desperate, they won’t tell us anything and I think my husband is dead,” a crying Gregoria Zelaya told Canal 5 TV as she stood outside the prison.

Local firemen said they were prevented from entering the prison due to gunshots. But Daniel Orellana, head of the prison system, said there was no riot.

“We have two hypotheses, one is that a prisoner set fire to a mattress and the other one is that there was a short circuit in the electrical system,” he said.

[Return to headlines]


3,000 Complaints Over Dutch Anti-Immigration Website

(THE HAGUE) — Dutch anti-discrimination officers have received nearly 3,000 complaints about a far-right anti-immigration website attacking east and central Europeans, an official said Wednesday. Geert-Jan Ankome, the head of the anti-discrimination office, the LBA, told AFP the complaints had come from both from east and central Europeans living in the Netherlands and from Dutch nationals.

“Most of them are calling for the closure of the site,” he said, referring to the website set up by the Dutch Freedom Party (PVV), on which readers can lodge complaints against eastern European migrants.

Some complaints had also come from abroad, forwarded by other websites. But the LBA would not be taking the case to the Dutch courts, because it had little chance of success, Ankome added.

The Freedom Party, whose anti-Islamist leader Geert Wilders was acquitted of hate speech last year, launched the site entitled “Report Middle and Eastern Europeans” last week.

Ambassadors and representatives from 10 countries including Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland and Romania, signed an open letter of protest Tuesday calling on Prime Minister Mark Rutte to take a stance on the “discriminatory” site. A PVV spokeswoman told AFP it was getting 10,000 hits a day.

Last Friday, European justice commissioner Viviane Reding denounced the website. “In Europe, we stand for freedom,” she said in a statement on her website, referring to the right to move work and study wherever they wanted to within the European Union.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Ambassadors Seek Removal of Anti-Immigrant Dutch Website

AMBASSADORS from 10 central and eastern European countries have written to the Dutch parliament demanding the removal of a website launched a week ago by Geert Wilders’s right-wing Freedom Party (PVV). The website invites complaints about Polish, Romanian and Bulgarian immigrants.

The European Parliament is examining the legality of the website. President of the parliament Martin Schultz is expected to speak to Mr Wilders, reiterating the view of EU commissioner for justice Viviane Reding that the site is “an open call to intolerance”.

The website, which has received more than 32,000 complaints about immigrants in less than a week, has caused a bitter political row in the Netherlands.

Mr Wilders has pointed to its popularity, while employers, trade unions and politicians of most parties have condemned it as inflammatory.

Having responded to Ms Reding’s criticism at the weekend with an uncompromising “Europe can get stuffed”, the PVV leader was similarly combative yesterday.

Mr Wilders described the ambassadors’ open letter, which was sent to each Dutch party leader individually, as “a waste of paper”.

He said the aim of the website was not to focus on particular countries or nationalities, but to collect information about the “public nuisance and pressure on jobs” being caused by immigration. He said the results would be collated and handed to Dutch social affairs minister Hans Kamp.

Apart from its international ramifications, the row has been damaging domestically for the minority coalition government.

It is regarded as being unwilling to condemn the website because the PVV supports government policy on budget cuts in return for a hard line on immigration.

The row has been particularly damaging for Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte, who again at question time in parliament yesterday refused to condemn the website. Despite the EU criticism of the site, he said only that the internal workings of other political parties were not a matter on which he should comment.

That has not been enough, however, to ease the pressure. Mr Rutte has already been branded “a coward” by one opposition MP.

The criticism yesterday came from within his own party when MEP Hans van Baalen, leader of the liberal grouping in the European Parliament, called on Mr Rutte to “speak out”, describing the PVV website as “vulgar” and “sick-making”.

A poll by one news website yesterday showed that 69.4 per cent of respondents believed Mr Rutte should “take a stand”, while only 10.5 per cent accepted his contention that this was a matter confined to the PVV.

At the same time, there has been some humour. The PVV website has prompted a series of spoof sites, one of which invites visitors to log complaints against natives of the southern province of Limburg — where Mr Wilders was born.

The Netherlands is home to about 125,000 immigrants from central and Eastern Europe, about 80 per cent of whom are Poles, and most of whom work in farming and market gardening.

Romanians and Bulgarians still require work permits, despite being EU citizens

           — Hat tip: McR[Return to headlines]

Swiss Party Files Petition on Immigration Cap

The far-right Swiss People’s Party, the country’s largest, on Tuesday filed a petition supporting a cap on immigration to Switzerland, where more than a fifth of the population is foreign. Party leader Toni Brunner said he wanted to “spark a debate on immigration” as he filed the petition to the federal chancellery, ending a months-long campaign to gather the required 100,000 signatures.

If the authorities deem the document’s proposals acceptable, it then goes to a popular referendum, as per Switzerland’s unique system of direct democracy. The move is aimed at capping the annual number of foreigners granted residency and cherry-picking applicants. The party’s proposals also include giving priority to natives on the job market.

Brunner’s populist party also explained during the seven-month campaign that immigration quotas would be set in order to suit Switzerland’s economic needs. The country’s federation of employers and industries promptly reacted to the prospect of a referendum by warning that the proposed law would threaten Switzerland’s economic prosperity.

According to the party’s own figures, the petition mustered a total of 136,195 signatures, the vast majority of which came from the German-speaking regions where Switzerland’s far-right has its strongholds. In August last year, foreigners accounted for 22.3 percent of the country’s 7.9 million population.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Belgium: The Attempt to Ban Tintin in the Congo for Inciting Racism Was Cynical and Opportunistic

Yesterday a Belgian court threw out an attempt to get Tintin in the Congo banned for inciting racism. If only this country was so sensible. Last year shops such as Waterstones moved the book to its adult comic section, while others began selling it in shrink-wrap with a health warning on the cover. Campaigners claim that Tintin in the Congo causes offence. But all they’re trying to do is extract more guilt over Europe’s colonial past, opportunitically sold under the banner of protecting children or stopping racism. These trump words are then used to blot out any part of our cultural heritage that might cause embarrassment. The book is just a cynical excuse for the campaigners’ own political agenda. This is not to claim that Tintin in the Congo is a good read. The drawing is caricatured and the tone almost comically paternalistic. Tintin seems to spend his entire time killing African animals: serial-sniping a herd of antelope, feeding a snake its own tail, and even dynamiting a rhino. But you don’t need a court to tell you this. I read the book as a child and was bored. Even at that age I knew it was a dud. So why do critics of the book pratronisingly assume that nobody else will be able to make the same judgment? What’s worse, banning Tintin in the Congo casts a shadow over the whole series. And that would be a shame, because Tintin is a tireless opponent of bullies and bigots. Herge is much more likely to satirise racism, and many of the books mock xenophobia, not to mention imperial and totalitarian aggression. This is what the censors fails to realise: the Tintin books have more to teach about fairness and decency than any other children’s book.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Swiss Canton to Vote on Assisted Suicide

Council members agreed on Tuesday to back a proposal to legalize euthanasia in nursing homes across the canton of Vaud, as the emotive issue moved a step closer to a popular vote. The cantonal councillor Pierre-Yves Maillard, of the Swiss Social Democratic Party, was able to convince members to support the bill after presenting a precise framework setting out how the new law would work in practice.

The proposed law would allow euthanasia under strict conditions in nursing homes and hospitals, newspaper Tribune de Genève reported. Under the draft law, patients would have to be mentally capable of making the decision and their condition would have to have been deemed incurable by a team of medical experts. Relatives would also be required to sign an acknowledgment.

The project is being supported by the Swiss organisation, Exit, which lobbies for Swiss citizens to have the right to assisted suicide. This organisation differs from the international charity of the same name. It was Exit that first put the issue on the cantonal agenda when it gathered enough signatures to force a vote in 2009.

Cantonal voters will get to choose between three options: the original Exit proposal, the alternative council proposal approved on Tuesday, or a continued ban on euthanasia in the canton.

So-called “death tourism” has risen over the past years with foreigners journeying to Switzerland in order to be euthanized because the practice is illegal in their own countries. Nevertheless, the proposed Vaud law is focused on the Swiss people, rather than on the “tourist” trade. It would enable Swiss people wishing to terminate their lives, and those willing to assist them, to be able to do so without legal repercussions.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Flight Record: Songbirds Trek 9,000 Miles to Africa

Tiny songbirds weighing no more than two tablespoons of salt apparently globe-trot regularly from the Arctic to Africa, crossing either Asia or the Atlantic to do it, scientists find.

Researchers had known the northern wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe) had one of the largest ranges of any songbird in the world, with breeding grounds extending from Alaska and extreme northwestern Canada across northeastern Canada and into Europe and Asia. The insect-eating birds apparently leave the Arctic region of the Western Hemisphere for the winter, but it was a mystery as to precisely where they migrated.

Now, using light-sensing tags strapped onto these songbirds, investigators find these birds overwinter in sub-Saharan Africa. Their one- to three-month voyages can reach distances of up to 9,000 miles (14,500 kilometers), covering up to 180 miles (290 km) per day.

“This is the only known terrestrial bird that physically links the two radically different ecosystems of the Old World and the Arctic regions of the New World,” said researcher Ryan Norris at the University of Guelph in Canada.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Population is ‘Our Biggest Challenge’ Says Government Chief Scientist Sir John Beddington

The next world population milestone of 8 billion will come sooner than we think — perhaps as early as 2025 — yet we remain reluctant to debate the issue. A forthcoming Royal Society report may force us to

While many commentators look ahead to 9 billion by 2050 there is a more immediate statistic that ‘frightens’ the UK government’s chief scientist: 1 billion extra people in the next 13 years.

Speaking at a joint WWF and Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) event last week, which looked ahead to the Rio+20 conference in June, John Beddington told an audience that half of that population increase would come from Asia and most of the other half from Africa. Based on the UN’s projections, he said Africa’s population would grow ‘frighteningly fast’ from 1 billion today to 1.5 billion by 2025-2030.

He went on to lament the issue of population as ‘under thought’ and ‘our biggest challenge’ as it exacerbates existing problems over access to water and other resources.

Much of the population increase in Africa and Asia will see more people living in and migrating to areas of environmental risk, such as coastal cities, said Beddington, which as the recent Foresight report on Migration and Environmental Change points out, will put more at risk from flooding and rising sea levels.

Beddington’s protestations are broadly similar to those being made by many others outside government such as Sir David Attenborough, who calls silence over the issue an ‘absurd taboo’.

The silence is echoed across many environmental groups and government policymakers.

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]