Sunday, January 12, 2003

News Feed 20120216

Financial Crisis
»Belgium: How Will Government Find One Billion Euros?
»Europe Crisis Will Take Years to Sort Out: Paulson
»Greece, Rolling Blackouts a Possibility
»Irritation in Athens: ‘I Don’t Accept Insults to My Country by Mr. Schäuble’
»Labor Costs, Strikes Hit Foreign Investment in China
»Moody’s Puts Europe’s Top Banks on Rate Cut Watch
»Poll Finds Almost All Greeks See Country as Corrupt
»Portugal Crisis Sounds Death Knell for Independent Shops
»Sluggish Exports Put Finnish Current Account Into Deficit
»The Callous Cruelty of the EU is Destroying Greece, A Once-Proud Country
»BBC Panorama Video Report: Poor America
»Customer at Vegas’ Heart Attack Grill Suffers Heart Attack
»Danish Architect Gets Historic Utah Job
»Florida: Anti-CAIR ‘Patriots’ Boo School Board Chairwoman for Defending Teachers
»How the US Shale Boom Will Change the World
»Interview: Xi Jinping’s Trip to the US Comes at an Important Time
»Islamic Society of Milwaukee Seeks to Build Mosque in Brookfield
»Nigerian ‘Underwear’ Bomber Gets Life in Prison in US
»Obama to Break Ground for National Black Museum
»Why I’m Rooting for Barack Obama
»Canadian Police Routinely Suppress Racial Data: Study
Europe and the EU
»David Cameron: There Will be Consequences if Scotland Chooses Independence
»Down and Out in Bergen, Norway
»European Parliament to Debate Wilders’ Anti-Pole Website
»Finland: Nokia Remains World’s Largest Mobile Phone Manufacturer by Volume
»France: Hollande’s Presidential Ambitions Threaten Merkel’s Fiscal Pact
»France, Britain to Launch Joint Drone Project: Report
»Germany: Workers Launch Mass Strike at Frankfurt Airport
»Germany: Islamists Turn to E-Jihad to Recruit Future Terrorists
»Germany: Solar Energy Increasingly Competitive
»Germany: Berlin Marks Black History Month But the Struggle Goes on
»Italy: Left, Right and Center Parties Support Rome Olympic Bid
»Muslim Murderer Sneaks Into Norway, Creates Sob Story
»Netherlands: VU University Cancels Islam Debate
»Netherlands: Hate Preacher Haddad Netherlands Lecture Cancelled
»Netherlands: Sharia Scholar Insists on Coming to Netherlands
»Netherlands: Sheikh Al-Haddad Denies Anti-Semitism Charges
»Norway: Professor Won’t Teach Student With Face Veil
»Rupert Murdoch Expected to Fly to UK Today
»Skype Founder: ‘Cold Winters’ Key to Swedish Tech Success
»Snow Damages Colosseum, Medieval Churches in Italy
»Sweden: Mum to Son: Smurfs and Space Aliens Are Real
»Switzerland: Shocked Flock: Who’s Peeing in Our Font?
»The Church and Property Tax — Only Places of Worship Exempt
»Turkish-Cyprus: The Other Side of the Green Line
»Turkish Newspaper Office Torched in Germany: Police
»UK: Mosque Conversion Plans Set to be Flattened
»UK: Tower Hamlets Council Pay Adviser £1,000 a Day
»Kosovo: Referendum, Serbs in North Say ‘No’ To Pristina
»Thousands Expected for Dedication of Mosque
North Africa
»Morocco: First Muslim Banks Soon
»Tunisia: Health Ministry: No to Female Circumcision
»Women Try to Assert Independence in Post-Revolution Tunisia
Middle East
»Dimas: NATO Has Not Responded to ‘Significant Threat’ of Turkey
»Muslim Secrets Part 1: Do Muslims Want Sharia Law in America?
»Oil Prices Rise on Iran EU Warning
»World’s Tallest Hotel Reaches for Dubai
»Putin Looking to Modernize Russia’s Energy Sector, Bureaucrats Fight Back
»Russia Exports Record $13.2 Bn in Arms: Official
South Asia
»War on Drugs Must be Afghan Top Priority: UN Chief
Far East
»EU Trade Chief Pressures China Over Procurements
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Spanish Hostages in Algeria, Somalia Are Alive: Minister
»Ann Coulter: If GOP Caves on Immigration, ‘No Republican is Ever Going to Win Another National Election’
»Eritreans Brave Extreme Journey for New Life
»Norway: Teenage Asylum Seeker Stabbed to Death
»Trafficking Gang Leader Sought by France Caught in Greece: Police
Culture Wars
»Hit Serbian Comedy at the Berlinale: ‘I Made a Film for Homophobes’
»New Jersey Assembly Passes Gay Marriage Bill; Veto Promised
»UK: Right-Wing Christian Bigot Resumes Campaign Against Newham ‘Mega-Mosque’
»Deadly Alcohol Needs Global Regulation, Health Expert Says

Financial Crisis

Belgium: How Will Government Find One Billion Euros?

Belgium is holding its breath for the Federal Government’s spending review. Earlier this week the central bank calculated that the government would have to find an extra billion euros in order to meet its budgetary targets. This comes in addition to the 1.3 billion in government expenditure that the government froze at the insistence of the European Commission.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Europe Crisis Will Take Years to Sort Out: Paulson

Although there are similarities with what the United States went through at the onset of the financial crisis, the issues in Europe are more complex and will take years to resolve, Henry Paulson, former Treasury Secretary and founder of the Paulson Institute told CNBC on Wednesday. “There is similarity (with the financial crisis in the U.S.) in certain regards. This has been going on for a long time and I think it will take years to play out,” Paulson told CNBC.

Paulson, who served as Treasury Secretary when the subprime mortgages credit crunch erupted, sparking the world’s worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, said that at the time the U.S. was faced with a “collision of political forces and market forces”.

“That’s really what you’re seeing in Europe,” Paulson said. “The structural issues around the EU are very difficult issues.” The most important thing is protecting the banks from a big failure that could drag down the whole banking system, he said.

“When you look at Lehman Brothers — I believe Lehman Brothers was a symptom as much as anything — I don’t think that is the right analogy. The one thing you should take away from Lehman Brothers is you don’t want a big, systemic institution to fail and you certainly don’t want that with a member state (in Europe),” Paulson said.

In his opinion European Central Bank President Mario Draghi has taken “a big step” to stabilize the banks with the “massive” liquidity injection.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Greece, Rolling Blackouts a Possibility

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, FEBRUARY 16 — Greece’s electrical grid has been in a state of high alert since Wednesday afternoon, owing to the risk of a blackout at any moment, as daily Kathimerini reported. Grid operator ADMIE was forced to announce a state of emergency for the country’s power network due to a 3.5-gigawatt thermal power deficit resulting from a number of plants being out of operation and to the uncertainty regarding the availability of natural gas. Worse still, two more power stations, whose normal output adds up to 560 megawatts, were forced to stop generating electricity. With weather conditions deteriorating across the country, the authorities are examining contingency plans and rolling power cuts are not unlikely in an effort to avert a total blackout. An extra load of natural gas by ship, the fourth within a month, is not due before the weekend, so everything will depend on the reliability of Public Power Corporation lignite plants. ADMIE will be hoping that at least one of the two plants that went offline will return to operation on Thursday.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Irritation in Athens: ‘I Don’t Accept Insults to My Country by Mr. Schäuble’

Europe may be losing patience with Greece, but politicians in Athens are also growing increasingly sensitive to criticism from abroad. Greek President Karolos Papoulias has now gone public with his frustration over pressure from Germany. On Wednesday night, he gave the German finance minister a tongue-lashing.

As the wrangling over a second aid package for Greece goes down to the wire, the tone between Berlin and Athens is growing ever-shriller.

Responding to Germany’s firm position on Greece’s debt crisis, President Karolos Papoulias verbally attacked German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble on Wednesday night. “I don’t accept insults to my country by Mr. Schäuble,” a visibly angry Papoulias said. “I don’t accept it as a Greek. Who is Mr. Schäuble to ridicule Greece? Who are the Dutch? Who are the Finns?” The 82-year-old head of state was speaking on Wednesday during a meal with the country’s defense minister and leading military representatives.

“We always had the pride to defend not just our own freedom, not just our own country, but the freedom of all of Europe,” said Papoulias, who as a young man fought against the Nazi occupiers in Greece. Later, he studied law in Munich and Cologne, and he speaks fluent German.

Resentment over the demands being made by Germany is also growing within the Greek population. German flags have been burned at recent protests, and newspapers have published photo montages depicting German Chancellor Angela Merkel in a Nazi uniform. And now politicians have gone public with their frustration.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Labor Costs, Strikes Hit Foreign Investment in China

Foreign direct investment in China fell for the third consecutive month in January, amid eurozone debt woes and weaker global growth. Rising labor costs and more strikes are also putting off investors. In January, investment by overseas companies dropped 0.3 percent compared with the same month a year ago, constituting the third straight month in which foreign direct investment in China fell.

According to figures released by the Chinese Commerce Ministry Thursday, in January $10 billion (7.68 billion euros) were invested from abroad in the Chinese economy, down from $12.2 billion (9.38 billion euros) in December. Shen Danyang, a spokesman for the Chinese Commerce Ministry, described the foreign investment situation as “relatively grim this year.”

“Uncertainties over global economic growth, particularly Europe’s fiscal woes, have dampened foreign investment in China,” he told reporters in Beijing. Investment from Europe fell 42.29 percent to $452 million in January, the figures show. However, US investment rose 29 percent to $342 million, Shen said, driven by Walt Disney Co. which “brought in funds for a theme park in Shanghai.”

Countries in the Asia-Pacific region provided the biggest funding, accounting for investments worth $8.59 billion, up slightly by 0.77 percent year-on-year. Shen Danyang said growth in foreign direct investment was “weak all over the world”, but he added that China’s rising labor costs and an increasing number of strikes had a “negative impact” on overseas investments.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Moody’s Puts Europe’s Top Banks on Rate Cut Watch

(PARIS) — Moody’s said Thursday it was reviewing some 114 European banks and financial groups, including many of the top firms, for a possible ratings downgrade because of the eurozone debt crisis. Germany’s Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank were among two of the largest groups named, alongside Britain’s HSBC and Royal Bank of Scotland, ING of the Netherlands, Spain’s Santander and Italy’s Unicredit.

In France, BNP Paribas, Societe Generale, Credit Agricole and Natixis among others will be reviewed, it added in a statement. In all, Moody’s Investors Service, one of the top three ratings agencies, put 24 groups in Italy on review, followed by 21 in Spain, 10 in France, nine in Britain, eight in Austria and eight in Denmark, seven in Germany, and six each in Portugal and the Netherlands.

It said it was also looking at five companies in Sweden, four in Slovenia, two in Switzerland and one each in Finland, Norway, Belgium and Luxembourg. Moody’s announced in January that it would likely cut the ratings of several banks, especially in Europe, given the strains in the economy caused by the debt crisis.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Poll Finds Almost All Greeks See Country as Corrupt

A European Union poll on corruption perceptions within the bloc sees Greece coming out top. Greeks see graft as a major problem in their country, but it’s not just the Greeks who think they live in a swamp of dishonesty. Greece leads the field in the European Union’s latest poll on corruption perception. The Eurobarometer survey found that a staggering 98 percent of Greeks think that corruption is a major problem in their country — the highest percentage among the EU’s 27 members.

The poll highlighted a well-known Greek weakness as Athens struggles to convince eurozone partners to lend it more money to avoid bankruptcy. But Greece was followed closely in the poll by Portugal and Cyprus where 97 percent view corruption as widespread.

In contrast, the lowest proportion was found in Denmark, with a perception of corruption among just 19 percent of the population. Germany, with 57 percent, was comfortably below the rather disgraceful average of 74 percent.

The survey also provided an embarrassment for the authorities in Brussels as 73 percent of those polled said they perceived the EU institutions to be corrupt.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Portugal Crisis Sounds Death Knell for Independent Shops

Once among the most sought after real estate in Portugal, Lisbon’s historic Baixa neighbourhood is now full of dusty shuttered shops that have folded amid the unprecedented economic crisis plaguing the country. “Small businesses were already on the way to extinction, but this crisis has dealt them the death blow,” said Manuel Soares Pereira, 70, who owns a menswear store that was founded by his father in 1942.

“Fanqueiros street was the biggest commercial centre of the country… but now we are in agony,” said his wife Angela behind the counter, where several old dressmaking instruments were displayed. She was referring to one of the main streets in Baixa which runs towards the Portuguese capital’s waterfront.

Once Lisbon’s main shopping district, today the street is full of shuttered shops and budget clothing chains which are popular with tourists. Plastered with posters depicting another era’s fashion, Pereira’s shop bears witness that its best years are over.

“Our sales plunged 30 percent last year and this year we will suffer a drop of the same degree,” said the engineer who retired five years ago to try and save the family business. “Consumption is plunging, even that of the well-off. Everyone is worried,” he added. “But if I don’t sell more, I can’t buy more and then the suppliers would suffer. It’s a vicious cycle that will destroy our economy,” said Pereira.

Portugal’s economy has deteriorated amid successive austerity plans adopted since 2010.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sluggish Exports Put Finnish Current Account Into Deficit

Finland’s current account showed a deficit last year for the first time since the recession of the 1990s. According to figures put out by the Bank of Finland on Wednesday, the current account for 2011 showed a deficit of EUR one billion. A year earlier the current account showed a surplus of EUR 3.3 billion. The deficit is an indication of higher indebtedness. Exports have not been as brisk as had been expected, forcing Finland to borrow more. The last time that the current account was in deficit was in 1993.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

The Callous Cruelty of the EU is Destroying Greece, A Once-Proud Country

Britain should play its part to end this Greek tragedy by standing up for the underdog.

Let’s put the Greek problem in its proper perspective. Britain’s Great Depression in the Thirties has become part of our national myth. It was the era of soup kitchens, mass unemployment and the Jarrow March, immortalised in George Orwell’s wonderful novels and still remembered in Labour Party rhetoric.

Yet the fall in national output during the Depression — from peak to trough — was never more than 10 per cent. In Greece, gross domestic product is already down about 13 per cent since 2008, and according to experts is likely to fall a further 7 per cent by the end of this year. In other words, by this Christmas, Greece’s depression will have been twice as deep as the infamous economic catastrophe that struck Britain 80 years ago.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


BBC Panorama Video Report: Poor America

Poor America — P a n o r a m a [B B C] — Broadcast Date: 13th February 2012

With one and a half million (1.5 million) American children now homeless, reporter Hilary Andersson meets the school pupils who go hungry in the richest country on Earth. From those living in the storm drains under Las Vegas to the tent cities now springing up around the United States, P a n o r a m a finds out how the poor are surviving in America and asks whatever happened to the supposed ‘government’ and the Real People in charge — those who you ‘don’t see’ pulling on the strings; and their vision and welfare for the country.

Could this be a form of ‘Social cleansing’ without the need of war or disease inflicted by the orchestrators — simply a controlled bout of poverty? Or is this the forced education that only condition children to know only a certain amount of knowledge that can only ever see them progress in working environments such as confined offices within the ‘Human Zoo’ qualities within the desperately overcrowded cities.

Why are our children not educated properly — to be able to survive communally with real craft and building skills? Is the social mobility (as in other ‘rich countries’ such as the UK) only fairing the rich; the wealthy and the ‘clever elite’; the white collar criminal, as per usual?

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Customer at Vegas’ Heart Attack Grill Suffers Heart Attack

In one of the more unfortunate cases of a company living up to its name, a man dining at the Heart Attack Grill in Las Vegas had exactly what was on the menu: A heart attack.

The diner was eating a “Triple Bypass Burger” — including 1.5 pounds of beef and a dozen bacon slices — this weekend when he began complaining of chest pains, according to a report from FOX5. Paramedics quickly arrived to treat the customer, who is now recovering.

The restaurant opened in the fall and quickly made headlines for its fatty foods, with meals that regularly feature nearly 10,000 calories. Servers are dressed — scantily — as “nurses” who take “prescriptions” from their “patients.”

“Patients” who weigh more than 350 pounds eat for free. “Taste worth dying for!,” the restaurant’s website crows.

The owner, “Doctor” Jon Basso — who doesn’t actually have medical background — said the incident was “horrible.”

“It’s not anything to be taken lightly.”

He said the restaurant has warnings about its bad-for-you food on its door and menu but was still a “full house” midday Wednesday.

Basso blasted tourists and others who had mocked the customer, saying they “should be sensitive to the poor guy — he’s got a mom somewhere.”

“I don’t mind if people demonize me because that’s part of our shtick — we’re the bad guys of the hamburger industry,” Basso said.

But the eatery is far from the only one that has recently reveled in culinary excess. A number of restaurants have bucked the trend toward healthier food that currently has chains such as McDonald’s boasting of their farm-fresh produce and low-calorie options.

Witness Jack in the Box’s new bacon milkshake, which registers at 1,081 calories for 24 ounces — or the equivalent of two KFC Double Down sandwiches.

Carl’s Jr. CKE is famously unrepentant about its “big fat” burgers, even launching a series of commercials last year highlighting its indulgent menu offerings to its core “young, hungry guy” audience. (But not long after, the chain introduced a line of leaner turkey burgers.)

Even after celebrity chef Paula Deen acknowledged her Type 2 diabetes diagnosis and began repping diabetes drug-maker Novo Nordisk this year, she continued to plug her signature buttery-drenched recipes.

           — Hat tip: McR[Return to headlines]

Danish Architect Gets Historic Utah Job

One of Denmark’s leading architects has won the international competition to design a new museum and community centre in Park City, Utah to return a trademark to the ski resort city that was lost in 1982 when the Silver King Coalition Mining Company building was destroyed by fire. BIG/Bjarke Ingels Group was one of five architects competing for the Kimball Art Centre’s Transformation Project, proposing a spiralling 24 metre tower constructed of trestles salvaged from the Great Salt Lake railroad.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Florida: Anti-CAIR ‘Patriots’ Boo School Board Chairwoman for Defending Teachers

TAMPA — If members of the Hillsborough County School Board thought they had put controversy over a Muslim speaker behind them, they were wrong. More than a dozen who oppose school appearances from the Council on American-Islamic Relations attended Tuesday’s board meeting, some asking the board to call for a workshop and others displaying signs on the sidewalk outside that said, “Welcome to Tampastan.” The group included Kristina Gionet of the Pinellas Patriots, who said, “I guarantee that if CAIR comes across the bay, we will stop them at the Howard Frankland Bridge.” The issue arose late last year when conservative activist David Caton called attention to a visit to Steinbrenner High by Hassan Shibly, executive director of the Tampa-based Islamic group. At the Jan. 24 board meeting, chairwoman Candy Olson scolded an angry crowd for criticizing a teacher trying to broaden horizons. On Tuesday, when she again rose to the defense of teachers, she was met with a loud chorus of boos. Board member Stacy White, acknowledging many of the anti-CAIR speakers live in his east Hillsborough district, made a motion to schedule a workshop that would include presentations from CAIR and the Education Coalition, a group of conservative organizations that has mobilized over the issue. He met resistance from member Doretha Edgecomb, who didn’t want CAIR singled out. “It’s Islam today,” she said. “Tomorrow it may be the NAACP, or somebody else.” Olson, similarly, said she worried that teachers would be afraid to teach about the Holocaust, the Vietnam conflict or other topics that might appear controversial. “I’ve had some teachers say, ‘I don’t want to be the next target,’ “ she said. While agreeing to broaden the topic of the workshop, White insisted that the public be allowed to speak at it. White’s motion failed 5-2, with Susan Valdes siding with him.

Tampa Bay Times, 15 February 2012

See also “Hillsborough school board gets earful on CAIR”, Tampa Tribune, 15 February 2012

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

How the US Shale Boom Will Change the World

by Gary Hunt

A funny thing is happening on the way to the clean energy future-reality is setting in. There is ‘incontrovertible evidence’ about the economic growth and job creating effects of America’s unconventional oil and gas production boom — more than 600,000 jobs directly attributable to shale gas development. Even President Obama is praising the job creating benefits of ‘America’s resource boom’. America is getting its energy mojo back and that is good news but not the entire story.

How Much Shale Gas is there in the United States? In July 2011 US EIA released a [Review of Emerging Resources: US Shale Gas and Shale Oil Plays produced by INTEK. This is an updated assessment of onshore lower 48 states technically recoverable shale gas and shale oil resources. The assessment found the lower 48 states have a total 750 trillion cubic feet of technically recoverable shale gas resources with the largest portions in the Northeast (63%), Gulf Coast (13%), and Southwest regions (10%) respectively. The largest shale gas plays are the Marcellus (410.3 trillion cubic feet, 55 percent of the total), Haynesville (74.7 trillion cubic feet, 10 percent of the total), and Barnett (43.4 trillion cubic feet, 6 percent of the total).The INTEK assessment was incorporated into the Onshore Lower 48 Oil and Gas Supply Submodule (OLOGSS) within the Oil and Gas Supply Module (OGSM) of NEMS to project oil and natural gas production for the Annual Energy Outlook 2011 (AEO2011) to provide a starting point for future work.

Total US recoverable natural gas resources (includes conventional, unconventional in lower 48, Alaska and offshore) totals 4.244 quadrillion cubic feet according to the Institute for Energy Research:

• Enough natural gas to meet US electricity demand for 575 years at current fuel demand for generation levels

• Enough natural gas to fuel homes heated by natural gas in the United States for 857 years

• More natural gas than Russia, Iran, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Turkmenistan combined.


[Return to headlines]

Interview: Xi Jinping’s Trip to the US Comes at an Important Time

After his visit to the White House, Chinas next leader Xi Jinping continues his trip in the US. Alexander Lennon provides insight into the political thinking of the American elite towards China. Lennon is senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Internatinal Studies (CSIS) and Editor in Chief of the Washington Quarterly.

The relationship between the US and China is going to shape the future. But there is some friction, even though both countries are virtually interdependent. In your eyes: What are the main points of friction?

Interdependence often actually leads to friction. The only question is: What can you do about it, when it gets bad enough. Currency issues is certainly a dominant one. I mean the sense that the Chinese manipulation of its currency to increase jobs within its own country and take them from the outside world is one that is causing a political problem at least, if not an economic problem inside the US. I think the second issue and the main security issue is in the South China Sea — both in the practices of naval operations in that area as well as the increasing assets that China has in that area. And that will continue to be a source of friction between the US and China in general and certainly between the two navies in particular. And the third is on intellectual property issues. That remains something that the US is very focused on; that will continue to be an issue. Beyond those three, I think you will always have political issues that sort of come and go, in particular, high profile dissidents in China, that will remain an issue. But on the policy agenda those three on currency, intellectual property and the South China Sea are the main ones.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Islamic Society of Milwaukee Seeks to Build Mosque in Brookfield

A growing number of Muslims in the Waukesha County area and greater convenience for those families is prompting the effort to build a second location.

The Islamic Society of Milwaukee wants to build a mosque in Brookfield for its west suburban members, with hopes to eventually expand the facility to serve about 350 congregants.

Local Muslim leaders say they have outgrown their Milwaukee location and want to create a more convenient location for Waukesha County area families. The congregation size at the society’s 4707 S. 13th St. location has grown from 600 people in 1999 to more than 1,500 on a weekly basis, according to documents filed with the city. About 75 to 100 Muslim families live within a 10-mile radius of the proposed Brookfield mosque site, the documents say. For the past decade, some west-side members have been meeting and praying at various sites in Waukesha County, including Waukesha Memorial Hospital where Friday afternoon prayers have been held since 2008. But the proposed Brookfield mosque already has drawn concerns about traffic and religious extremists, according to a Today’s TMJ4 report that drew more than 160 comments on the station’s Facebook page. Most of the comments were supportive of the mosque and the Muslim community. Phone calls to Newsradio 620 WTMJ’s Jeff Wagner show Wednesday afternoon were mixed, with some raising concerns about traffic and Islamic teaching and others saying it should be treated no differently and welcomed like any other religious institution seeking to build a worship facility. (The mosque issue starts at 20 minutes into the podcast.) The society purchased two lots totalling about four acres in Brookfield starting in 2009 and have been working with city officials since on its plans to build a mosque at 16650 and 16730 W. Pheasant Dr., a short distance northeast of the Calhoun Road-North Avenue intersection. The largely vacant site formerly housed Sanders C & Sons Welding.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Nigerian ‘Underwear’ Bomber Gets Life in Prison in US

DETROIT, Feb 16 (Reuters) — A federal judge on Thursday sentenced a Nigerian man to life in prison for trying to blow up a U.S. airliner bound for Detroit on Christmas Day in 2009 with a bomb hidden in his underwear.

“This was an act of terrorism that cannot be quibbled with,” said U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds, who imposed the maximum sentence allowed.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 25, showed no emotion when Edmunds pronounced the sentence, sitting with his hands clasped under his chin, elbows resting on the arms of his chair at the defense table.

The bomb caused a fire but failed to explode on a Delta Airlines flight from Amsterdam carrying 289 people on Dec. 25. He was quickly subdued by passengers and crew and the fire extinguished.

Since then, U.S. officials have sought to bolster airport security, deploying full-body scanners to try to detect explosives.

Prosecutors said Abdulmutallab had intended to bring down the jet over U.S. soil and was thwarted only by luck. They showed a 52-second video of the kind of blast that the powerful explosive known as PETN, which Abdulmutallab had in his underwear, could have caused if it had detonated.

Three times during the video, the bomber cried out “God is great” in Arabic.

But for most of the 90-minute hearing, Abdulmutallab, who wore a white T-shirt and skull cap, sat impassively in the crowded Detroit courtroom, occasionally leaning over to speak with his lawyer and taking notes.

In sentencing Abdulmutallab, Edmunds described prison life as unrelenting and bleak. “Mr. Abdulmutallab has only that to look forward to,” she said.

Family Seeks Review

None of Abdulmutallab’s relatives attended the sentencing, but Anthony Chambers, Abdulmutallab’s standby counsel, gave reporters a statement by the family saying they hoped the U.S. Justice Department would review the life sentence.

“We are grateful to God that the unfortunate incident of that date did not result in any injury or death,” the family said.

Chambers announced plans to file an appeal on Friday, saying Abdulmutallab might have received a lighter sentence if he had represented him from the start and played a bigger role in his defense.

Abdulmutallab represented himself for most of the court proceedings, including his guilty plea in October.

Four passengers and a flight attendant who were aboard the jet told the judge they were still haunted by the attack.

LeMare Mason, a Delta flight attendant who helped put out the fire caused by the bomb, said he was still suffering from night sweats and a dread of flying.

“I had a dream job of traveling the world and meeting all types of people. This man stole and robbed from me the pleasure. It’s punishment going to work now. It’s not a joy,” he told Edwards ahead of the sentencing.

Avenging Attacks

After Mason and the passengers spoke, Abdulmutallab addressed the court for four minutes, saying that his actions were intended to avenge attacks by the United States on Muslims.

“The jihadi is proud to kill in the name of God and that is exactly what God told us to do in the Koran,” said Abdulmutallab, who pleaded guilty in October.

Edmunds said Abdulmutallab represented a threat to U.S. citizens and noted that he had not shown any remorse during two years in a federal prison in Milan, Michigan.

The U.S. Bureau of Prisons will determine where Abdulmutallab serves his life term. U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade said such prisoners are often sent to the maximum-security “Supermax” U.S. prison in Colorado.

Chambers said Abdulmutallab was not surprised by the sentence and understood what life would be like at a maximum-security prison.

[Return to headlines]

Obama to Break Ground for National Black Museum

With eyes on his own personal legacy, President Obama revealed today that he will help in the groundbreaking of the nation’s first African-American museum. According to the White House, he will deliver the key remarks at the ceremony for the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture to be built on the National Mall. The ground breaking takes place February 22.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Why I’m Rooting for Barack Obama

by James Delingpole

Let’s get one thing clear: Obama unquestionably ranks among the bottom five presidents in US history. In terms of sublime awfulness he’s right up there with our late and extremely unlamented ex-PM Gordon Brown — which is quite some doing, given that Brown singlehandedly wrought more destruction on his country than the Luftwaffe, Dutch Elm Disease, the South Sea Bubble, the Fire of London and the Black Death combined. Agreed: the damage President Obama has done to the US economy with everything from Ben Bernanke’s insane money-printing programme, to his cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline, to his ban on deep-water drilling to his crony capitalism hand-outs to disaster zones like Solyndra to his persecution of companies like Gibson is incalculable. And, of course, if he gets a second term the damage he and his rag-bag of Marxist cronies at organisations like the Environmental Protection Agency manage to inflict on the US small businessman trying to make an honest buck will make his first term look like Calvin Coolidge on steroids. So why do I think this would be preferable to a presidency under Mitt Romney? Simple. Because I’ve seen what happens, America, when you elect yet another spineless, yet ruthless, principle-free blow-with-the-wind, big government, crony-capitalist RINO squish. His name is Dave Cameron — and trust me, the cure is far worse than the disease.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]


Canadian Police Routinely Suppress Racial Data: Study

Many Canadian police agencies “actively suppress” racial data when delivering their annual crime reports to Ottawa — a trend that is both disturbing and growing, according to a study released Wednesday. The study, published in the Canadian Journal of Law and Society, said the continued “whitewashing” of criminal data makes it virtually impossible for researchers to gauge whether police are dealing with racial and ethnic minority groups in an equitable manner.

“Community relationships are so important for policing. If you want to develop better relationships, show you’re working on issues these communities are concerned about,” said lead author Paul Millar, an assistant professor of criminology at Nipissing University in North Bay, Ont., in an interview. “Be accountable.” Police agencies gave several reasons Wednesday for why they don’t collect or report racial characteristics of the people they come in contact with.

RCMP spokesman Sgt. Greg Cox said asking a victim or accused person to identify their race “may give rise to human rights and privacy concerns.” Officers could also be put in the position of contravening the force’s “bias-free policing” policy, he said.

Acting Insp. Cathy Bell, a spokeswoman for the Ontario Provincial Police, said her force strives to be sensitive to all cultures and races and that collecting racial data is not seen as relevant to the force’s programs and operations. The federal Department of Justice, however, has previously judged that such data collection could be helpful for policy development and statistical purposes.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

David Cameron: There Will be Consequences if Scotland Chooses Independence

In his first visit to Scotland since official discussions over the referendum on independence began, the Prime Minister said that there would be “a lot of consequences to work through” if Scotland became independent. He added that the process of independence would be “deeply, deeply sad.” The BBC, the Armed Forces, the NHS and defence would be just some of the things greatly affected by Scottish independence, Mr Cameron said.

The Prime Minister will meet Alex Salmond, the First Minister, in Edinburgh although the pair will not hold detailed talks over the referendum. Last night Mr Salmond said that he was “moving towards agreement” over the terms and date of the referendum after negotiations with Michael Moore, the Scottish Secretary, earlier this week.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Down and Out in Bergen, Norway

An alarming number of Spaniards have moved to the Nordic city in search of work. But many have failed to find jobs, and in some cases are without a place to sleep

Like him, hundreds of jobless Spaniards recently decided to move to one of the wealthiest countries in the world. It was a fail-safe choice, or so they figured.

But once there, the dream turned into a nightmare. As unqualified workers lacking language skills, they found nothing but closed doors. The authorities want nothing to do with them. Some have spent their life savings to come here, and now eke out a living as best they can, even sleeping on the streets if necessary.

“Do you know what it’s like to rummage around in the trash?” asks a Catalan who was born once democracy had come to Spain, and for whom the term “emigration” always sounded like a thing of the distant past.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

European Parliament to Debate Wilders’ Anti-Pole Website

The European parliament is to debate the website set up by the Dutch government’s alliance partner, the anti-immigration PVV, to collect complaints about central and eastern European nationals in the Netherlands. In particular, prime minister Mark Rutte is to be asked to explain his ‘deafening silence’ on the issue, said Joseph Daul, leader of the European Peoples’ Party grouping in a news release. The debate will take place on March 13 in Strasbourg at the plenary session of the European Parliament.

‘I am angered that anyone could attack fellow Europeans. It is against all European and indeed human values to attack a group of people in this way,’ Daul said. ‘We especially call on the Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, to declare the position of his government on this issue and come before the European Parliament to explain his deafening silence.’

The EPP is the largest political grouping in the European parliament and includes the Dutch Christian Democrats. Rutte has so far refused to condemn the website, saying it is a matter for the PVV. PVV leader Geert Wilders reacted earlier to criticism of the site from European commissioners by saying ‘Europe can get stuffed’.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Finland: Nokia Remains World’s Largest Mobile Phone Manufacturer by Volume

Nokia remained the world’s largest mobile phone manufacturer in the last quarter of 2011 as measured by handset units sold, reports the technology research company Gartner. South Korean manufacturer Samsung narrowed Nokia’s lead to just four percentage points, however, thanks to its success in the smartphone sector, where Nokia has clearly struggled of late, losing share to Apple and to Google Android-powered phones. A year ago, a 10%-point difference in the sales figures separated Nokia and Samsung.

Nokia’s market share in global mobile phone sales is now around 23 per cent, which is a far cry from the 40% market domination the company enjoyed during its heyday. Nokia’s well-documented problem is its poor smartphone sales, particularly at the high end of the market. The introduction of the Lumia models on the Windows Phone platform is seen as the company’s attempt to stem the losses to rivals that have seen the Nokia share price slashed and annual profits tumbling.

In addition to Samsung, the biggest climbers included the American Apple and the Chinese ZTE and Huawei. Apple conquered the number one spot in smartphone sales. At the same time it seized the bronze medal position as the third largest mobile phone manufacturer in the world. Last year’s number three, the South Korean LG, was also overtaken by ZTE and is currently more or less neck and neck with Huawei.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

France: Hollande’s Presidential Ambitions Threaten Merkel’s Fiscal Pact

Francois Hollande, the Socialist candidate for the French presidency, is ahead of Nicolas Sarkozy in the polls. But if he wins the elections, he’s on a collision course with the German chancellor. Chancellor Angela Merkel has given her public backing to incumbent French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his bid for re-election. At a joint news conference last week, Merkel expressed her solidarity for her French counterpart: “I support Mr. Sarkozy in every way, because we belong to allied parties, no matter what he does,” she announced.

Merkel noted that she was supporting Sarkozy not in her role as chancellor, but as leader of Germany’s Christian Democrats. However, her explicit endorsement goes far beyond the usual nod of encouragement to a fellow conservative, and it carries a huge political risk: Sarkozy’s approval rating is poor. He’s currently languishing several percentage points behind his main rival, Socialist candidate Francois Hollande.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

France, Britain to Launch Joint Drone Project: Report

France and Britain are to launch a joint project to build air combat drones during a visit by Prime Minister David Cameron to Paris, newspaper Les Echos reported on Thursday. Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy will announce the project during a summit meeting on Friday, the newspaper quoted several sources as saying.

“The project will take the form of a joint letter of intent that will be non-binding but will open the door to the first preliminary studies,” the business paper reported. “Tens of millions of euros” will be allocated to getting the project off the ground, it said, and the goal to is to have a prototype drone ready by 2020.

The project hopes to avoid the “fratricidal European battle” that has opposed the Rafale fighter jet produced by France’s Dassault and the UK-backed Eurofighter in bidding for warplane contracts, it said. Dassault’s Rafale this month won the right to be the sole bidder in a major contract to supply warplanes to India, beating out the Eurofighter consortium and sparking consternation in Britain.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Germany: Workers Launch Mass Strike at Frankfurt Airport

A major strike by ground workers at Germany’s most important airport is expected to disrupt or lead to the cancellation of hundreds of flights on Thursday. However, officials at the Frankfurt Airport say they are taking steps to ensure that intercontinental flights to North America and other destinations are not affected by the work stoppage.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Germany: Islamists Turn to E-Jihad to Recruit Future Terrorists

German authorities warn the number of Islamists being radicalized on the Internet is on the rise. Since 9/11, the web propaganda has become the most important recruitment platform for Islamist terrorists. Arid Uka is 22 years old. One week ago, the thin and shy young man received a life sentence from a Frankfurt court. In March 2011, he killed two US soldiers and injured two others at Frankfurt airport.

What drove him to the terrorist attack was a video on the Internet showing what allegedly were US soldiers raping a Muslim woman. The airport attack was the first Islamist terror act carried out in Germany. A few days before the attack, Uka changed his profile on facebook, taking the battle name of Abu Reyyan.

After the airport shooting, Islamist websites were quick to praise him: “Alhamdulillah — brother Abu Reyyan has killed two Americans in Frankfurt; he killed two enemies of Allah and injured another two. Brother Abu Reyyan has done brilliant work, Alhamdulillah.”

Police say Uka’s case is typical — a growing number of young isolated individuals are becoming radicalized through the Internet.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Germany: Solar Energy Increasingly Competitive

For many years solar energy was only profitable because of state subsidies. But photovoltaic cell prices recently dropped significantly, making solar energy as cheap as standard electricity. Developments on the international solar electricity market are proceeding at a rapid pace. These days a solar cell costs just half of what it did four years ago. Solar cell producers in places like China are giving companies in Germany and the US a real run for their money.

Meanwhile, those that produce their own solar electricity are seeing costs that are compareable to normal electricity grid users. This is putting the pressure on the established electricity companies. Industry figures indicate that last year solar energy plants capable of producing 27 gigawatts (GW) of energy were installed around the world. That lifted international solar production to around 67 GW. By 2020 that is expected to increase to 430 GW — about the same as 80 nuclear power plants could produce.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Germany: Berlin Marks Black History Month But the Struggle Goes on

Berlin has become more diverse and the situation for Afro-Germans has improved, but it’s still hard to get a job or an apartment. Black History Month highlights the challenges faced by over 2 percent of the population.

A black Portuguese friend of mine once dated an African-American guy she had met in her favorite bar. “We were so surprised to see another black person, we instantly gravitated towards each other,” they told me, laughing. They were able to joke, but for many Afro-Germans, it has been a lonely struggle.

Although I live in Neukölln — reportedly Berlin’s most diverse district with inhabitants from 160 countries — I am always struck by how white the city seems compared to other European capitals. I have never seen a black doctor, civil servant, yoga teacher, ticket collector, bus driver, pharmacist, plumber, policewoman, librarian… Most of the black people I know are from the US, UK, Nigeria, Senegal, Brazil or Portugal.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italy: Left, Right and Center Parties Support Rome Olympic Bid

PD and PdL table support motions, sources say

(ANSA) — Rome, February 13 — Italy’s two biggest political parties tabled motions to support Rome’s bid to host the 2020 Olympics on Monday, parliament sources said. The centre-left Democratic Party (PD) and former premier Silvio Berlusconi’s centre-right People of Freedom (PdL) party found common ground on the issue. The centrist ‘Third Pole’ party was reportedly also lending its support. Bid organizers are campaigning Premier Mario Monti to sign a motion to support the games, the final stamp of approval needed before officially sending off a proposal to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) by Wednesday.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Muslim Murderer Sneaks Into Norway, Creates Sob Story

…in all the holiday and sunshine joy, I thought I’d mention that I haven’t quite forgotten the most important threat facing the world today: Radical Islam. Or, just Islam.

You see, the islamists don’t like the words “radical Islam”. Nor do they like the words “moderate Islam”. As they say (in the words of Turkish prime minister Erdogan): “These descriptions are very ugly, it is offensive and an insult to our religion. There is no moderate or immoderate Islam. Islam is Islam and that’s it.”

When will the lovey-dovey, politically correct westerners start taking them at their word? Especially when they, again in the words of Erdogan, state it very clearly:

“The mosques are our barracks, the domes our helmets, the minarets our bayonets and the faithful our soldiers.” No? No, that’s just cultural. All cultures are equal, right?


The above is a whole-page article I published recently in a Beijing newspaper, Elite Reference. They commissioned me to write about a Chinese Uyghur and Muslim terrorist who has for some inexplicable reason been allowed to become a Norwegian citizen (no, of course not inexplicable — Norway will take in any terrorist these days) and who went on to plot first the bombing of Danish newspaper Jyllandsposten and then, when it didn’t work out the way he wanted, decided that he and his two islamist accomplices from Iran and Uzbekistan should just get a gun and shoot down the enemy number one of the Islam world: Kurt Westergaard, the man behind the (in)famous Mohammed cartoon.

It was a first for Norway: Sending someone to prison for seven years just for plotting something. Unheard of! And I’m sure many Norwegian “all cultures are equal and I will defend to the death your right to kill your daughter for wearing a miniskirt” politically correct people cried bitter tears when the verdict came.

Then the Uyghur geezer had a great idea: He hadn’t been planning to shoot Westergaard at all, no, what he had really been planning was to blow up the Chinese embassy in Oslo, after having been so oppressed by the Chinese and all. This got the attention of the Norwegian press, who went on to write in glowing terms how “only Mikael Davud” (the name he had taken on after settling in Norway) showed real sorrow in his eyes at the verdict”.

Fortunately, the Norwegian judge believed his accomplice who testified against him as well as the available facts, and disregarded the ludicrous excuse that this was a poor oppressed minority person just doing what was right by planning to blow up an oppressor’s embassy.

The Beijing newspaper commissioned me because I can read Norwegian, but I can tell you this: In all the newspaper reports from Norway I got the distinct impression that they wanted it to be just a guy wanting to blow up a Chinese embassy, somewhere, anywhere, and that the newspapers were totally okay with that. Muslim terrorist with links to, in fact having been trained by, Al-Qaeda to kill a cartoonist — well — yeah whatever.

Below is the English version of the article in Elite Reference. Yes I know. Long. But a Beijing paper published it in its entirety…

           — Hat tip: Cecilie[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: VU University Cancels Islam Debate

Amsterdam’s VU University has cancelled a symposium due to be attended by a controversial British-Palestinian Islamic law expert following protests from MPs and Jewish groups.

Sheik Haitham al-Haddad had been invited to attend two days of discussion on the position of Islamic academics in the west but the event has been cancelled because a proper debate is no longer possible, the university said in a statement. MPs wanted al-Haddad banned because of derogatory remarks he is said to have made about Jews. The sheik told the Nos he had never made such comments, but did not deny supporting a strict intepretation of Islamic law, or Sharia. ‘But this would not apply in western countries,’ he said. Al-Haddad attended the National Islam Congress in Amsterdam in 2009. In the UK, he is not considered a particularly controversial person but is often quoted as a member of the Islamic Sharia Council, the NRC’s correspondent in London said.

[JP note: The NRC’s London correspondent has obviously not been reading the Jewish Chronicle — ]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Hate Preacher Haddad Netherlands Lecture Cancelled reports:

The Free University in Amsterdam has canceled a symposium where a controversial Sharia scholar was to speak.


A parliamentary majority of VVD, PVV, CDA, Christian Union and SGP had today called for the man to be banned from the Netherlands .

I hate to repeat myself, but really, isn’t it time for the Federation of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS) to break their links with this hate preacher? To recap: al Haddad was one of their guests of honour at their dinner and quiz night at the East London Mosque/London Muslim Centre in December.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Sharia Scholar Insists on Coming to Netherlands

Controversial Islam scholar Haitham al-Haddad has told Radio Netherlands Worldwide that he will come to the Netherlands on Friday even though his invitation to a symposium has been withdrawn.

Amsterdam’s Free University cancelled an academic debate between the London-based Sharia Council member and a critical opponent following protests by a majority of Lower House MPs. According to the university, the uproar about Mr al-Haddad’s views has undermined the conditions for a debate. The Islam scholar allegedly made several anti-Semitic statements, but he denied ever having done so and spoke of “baseless allegations”.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Sheikh Al-Haddad Denies Anti-Semitism Charges

A parliamentary majority has asked Justice Minister Ivo Opstelten to ban the controversial Islamic scholar from entering the Netherlands. The sheikh says he still intends to travel to the Netherlands for a debate with Amsterdam students.

MPs say the British-Palestinian sheikh Haitham Al-Haddad is known for anti-Semitic statements such as ‘Jews are the enemies of God’ and ‘Jews are descended from apes and pigs.‘ Mr al-Haddad, a member of the Islamic Sharia Council in London, says he never made these statements. In a telephone interview with Radio Netherlands, he said that statements he made regarding the Palestine-Israeli conflict were taken out of context and posted on the internet. He did admit to saying Hamas should rule the Palestinian Territories. Sheikh Haitham was invited by the Islamist Students Association of Amsterdam. He has been invited to take part in a debate with professor Yasser Ellethy of the Centre for Islamic Theology of the VU University Amsterdam. VU is now reconsidering its invitation. “We want to very carefully weigh the arguments,” a spokesperson said. “In our conversations with the various parties security and a balanced academic debate — to which we apply very strict standards — are among the factors that figure prominently.” Earlier, VU said Sheikh Haitham would have a ‘formidable opponent‘ in Yasser Ellethy. Mr al-Haddad claims to be the victim of a “smear campaign conducted by the British Zionist lobby.” He was unable to say whether there is such a thing as a Dutch Zionist lobby, but said “it does appear that way.” He is concerned about the political climate in the Netherlands. “Politicians like Geert Wilders are sowing hatred in society.” The controversial Sheikh says he will travel to Amsterdam as planned. “I am used to this type of reaction.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Norway: Professor Won’t Teach Student With Face Veil

A professor at the University of Tromsø has made headlines in Norway for refusing to teach a Muslim student who covers her face with a niqab veil.

Nils Aarsæther, a professor of planning, has told his superiors at the university in northern Norway that he refuses on principle to teach any students who hide their faces at his lectures, newspaper Nordlys reports.

A Centre Party committee member, Aarsæther said his stance was grounded in a parliamentary decision from last year permitting individual teachers to require students to show their faces.

“I count the use of the niqab as a form of masking, which I consider an abomination in the public arena. It’s about how we interact with each other, and the importance of communication not being masked. For me, balaclavas and niqabs are two sides of the same coin,” he told Nordlys.

Aarsæther said he had only encountered the issue once, when he stepped in as a substitute lecturer to teach a class last year. A student, believed by the newspaper to be the only woman at the university who wears a niqab, approached him to ask if she could attend the lesson wearing the full veil.

“It worked out amicably in that the student made contact in advance. When I said I’d rather she didn’t use the niqab the student decided not to attend,” the professor told Nordlys.

The student declined to comment on the matter when contacted by the newspaper.

According to university chief Jarle Aarbakke, the Tromsø institution does not have an official policy in place for students who cover their faces.

Nevertheless, he said he respected Nils Aarsæther’s decision and was happy for lecturers to make up their own minds when confronted with similar situations.

“I am however open to raising the issue at board level if this becomes a significant problem that many people find difficult to handle,” Aarbakke told Nordlys

           — Hat tip: Freedom Fighter[Return to headlines]

Rupert Murdoch Expected to Fly to UK Today

Rupert Murdoch is expected to fly into the UK today to take charge of the crisis at The Sun after senior staff members were arrested over alleged corrupt payments.

The investigation into bribery of public officials by the newspaper is focused on “suspected criminality over a sustained period of time” involving tens of thousands of pounds. Nine journalists were arrested this month after information was passed to the police by an internal body set up to deal with inquiries into telephone hacking and police corruption.

The actions of the independent committee — known as the Management Standards Committee (MSC) — has angered staff at the tabloid and led to allegations of a “witch-hunt”. Mr Murdoch has already said he will not sell or close The Sun, and will seek to reassure staff further during his visit to the offices of his UK titles, which include The Times and The Sunday Times, in east London.

Five Sun journalists, including the deputy editor, picture editor and chief reporter, were held by Scotland Yard detectives on Saturday on suspicion of making improper payments to police and public officials.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Skype Founder: ‘Cold Winters’ Key to Swedish Tech Success

Swedish entrepreneurs Niklas Zennström, founder of Skype, and Andreas Ehn, founder of Spotify, spoke recently in Stockholm about the secrets to their success and why Sweden “punches above its weight” when it comes to producing tech start-ups. Niklas Zennström is one of Sweden’s best known and most successful tech wizards, co-founder of Skype and Kazaa, and founder of the investment company Atomico.

On Wednesday, the tech-guru spoke at Stockholm University to “encourage students to pursue entrepreneurialism”, share some his esteemed insights, and to offer a few predictions about there the market for high-tech gadgets is heading. However, on a snowy day in the Swedish capital, he claimed it wasn’t just the economic climate that was the cause of Sweden’s start-up trends. “When the weather’s like this outside, what else is there do to besides sitting inside and creating a business?” he said, in response to why Sweden has so many startup companies today.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Snow Damages Colosseum, Medieval Churches in Italy

Heavy snow in recent weeks has already wreaked havoc across Europe — now it is damaging some of the continent’s most recognized historic monuments. The Colosseum in Rome has been forced to shut after small pieces of its walls crumbled away as a result of freezing temperatures.

And buildings in the historic walled town of Urbino — a UNESCO World Heritage Site — are reported to be at risk of collapse under the weight of snow, following unprecedented blizzards in the area.

In the Italian capital, thousands of tourists have been disappointed to discover the Colosseum, one of the city’s most popular attractions, is closed to visitors, while checks are carried out to determine the extent of the damage and to help prevent further movement. Rossella Rea, archaeologist and superintendent of the Colosseum, told CNN: “Tests and evaluation of the damage is still ongoing, especially on the second level of arches.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Mum to Son: Smurfs and Space Aliens Are Real

A mother from southern Sweden has been reported to health authorities for allegedly holding her son prisoner for years in a fantasy world inhabited by Smurfs and space aliens. “She has convinced him that space aliens and Smurfs really exist,” reads the complaint filed with the National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen).

The boy’s mother, who also serves as one of his personal care assistants, has also forced the other three assistants who care for him to live in the fantasy world as well. “Because the lies change and are expanded, it’s hard to keep track of what applied,” explains the complaint. As a result, the boy has reacted to his mother’s elaborate fantasy world with “self-destructive” behaviour.

Repeated attempts by supervisors to force the mother to change the way she cares for her son have failed to yield any results. “The section head has written in a document that the mother must change her ways with (the boy) and live in the same reality as most others,” the complaint reads. Instead, the mother has chosen to apply for continued personal care assistance support from another municipality.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Switzerland: Shocked Flock: Who’s Peeing in Our Font?

A mystery person has been urinating in the holy water at the Church of the Sacred Heart in Davos. The contamination came to Pastor Kurt Susak’s attention when one of his flock noticed there was something wrong with the water at the Valentine’s service on Tuesday, online news website 20 Minutes reported.

Unfortunately by the time it had been noticed, many of those attending the service had already crossed themselves with the water. “This is not only distasteful, but also harmful. I am not only shocked, but disappointed,” Susak said.

This is not the first case of urination in the church. In the past few years, other instances have been recorded of someone urinating on the flowers, in the flower water, and even in the holy water tank.

Water from the holy tank is taken away by parishioners for use on their loved ones’ graves or at home. The tank has been padlocked ever since this last event was brought to the church’s attention. The pastor is hoping to find and talk to the culprit. “Perhaps he does not know how much the water means to us,” he said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

The Church and Property Tax — Only Places of Worship Exempt

Government informs EU. CEI (bishops’ conference) speaks up for not-for-profit sector. ANCI (local authorities) reckons exemption is worth €500-700 million but ARES (social research) puts figure at €2.2 billion

ROME — No longer will “not exclusively commercial” church-owned enterprises, such as hospitals, hotels or schools, be exempt from ICI-IMU property taxes. For such structures to be exempt, it will no longer be sufficient to set up a religious structure inside (this will, however, remain exempt). Tax inspectors will now consider the principal use and identify a percentage for each activity. Non-religious use of the property will be taxed. The new regulation affect other bodies, such as political parties, trade unions, associations and clubs that do not currently pay municipal property taxes. Yesterday, the Italian prime minister, Mario Monti, informed the vice-president of the European Commission, Joaquín Almunia, of his intention to present to Parliament “an amendment to clarify the matter further and definitively”. This issue has created much controversy and, following a formal complaint by the Radical Party in October 2010, led to initiation of an infringement procedure against Italy for breach of competition regulations and illegitimate state aid.

Letter to Almunia

The move was announced on the eve of the traditional reception at the Italian embassy to the Holy See to commemorate the Lateran Pacts, which will be attended by leading figures from the Vatican and the Italian bishops’ conference (CEI), and almost the entire Monti government. The timing confirms that, since property tax is not covered by the bilateral pacts, the move was an Italian government initiative. In fact, the issue was raised exactly one month ago by Mr Monti with Cardinal Bertone during a conversation after the premier’s official 14 January visit to the Vatican. At the time, the Holy See concurred that there could be no waivers from European regulations for property tax.

How much exemption is worth

Widely varying figures on the actual value of the ICI-IMU exemption have been bandied about for years. The ecclesiastical exemption is worth not “billions” but perhaps €100 million, claimed Avvenire, the CEI newspaper, at the start of 2012, citing the figure of the Ceriani working group on tax erosion for real property belonging to all not-for-profit enterprises, including those that are church-owned . Putting a figure to the possible incremental tax revenue is also complicated by the fact that the properties belong to a vast range of discrete judicial persons, from dioceses to congregations and religious orders, plus properties in Italy owned by the Vatican itself. Recently, the local authority association ANCI calculated €500-700 million while ARES, the social research and development association, put the figure at €2.2 billion. ANCI’s president, Graziano Del Rio, has proposed a census since many properties have apparently not even been reported to the land registry. The main purpose of the census would be to identify properties used for commercial purposes. According to web-based estimates, there could be 100,000 properties involved, including 9,000 schools, 26,000 church-owned structures and 5,000 healthcare structures. Unofficial estimates by the tax agency put the potential revenue at €2 billion a year.


Vatican collaboration has made the government’s task easier as an authoritative interpretation of the regulation is awaited. The file prepared by treasury experts for Mr Monti in his capacity as economy minister posited a hard line on the part of the European Commission when it rules before the end of May, implying that the concessionary regime is likely to be rejected. The consequences are significant. Italy’s local authorities, which yesterday complained that they had not been consulted by the government, will be obliged to recover taxes not paid by the Church from 2005 onwards. If the regulations are redrafted beforehand, as the Prime Minister’s Office has announced, the infringement procedure should be terminated, a hope expressed by Mr Monti in his letter to Mr Almunia. In that case, arrears would not be due. If we make a prudent estimate of about €200 million a year, this means a saving over six years of about €1.2 billion.


The note from Palazzo Chigi lays down the criteria that will be followed in the amendment to the present law. Above all, the exemption will apply only to properties in which exclusively non-commercial activities are carried out, for example places of worship, parish recreation centres and the like. Regulations extending exemption to properties where non-commercial activities predominate but are not exclusive will be repealed. Exemption will also be restricted to the portion of the property in which the non-commercial activity is performed. Finally, a declaration mechanism, regulated by strict ministry of the economy directives, will be introduced to establish the ratio of commercial to non-commercial activities within an individual property.

CEI reaction

The reaction to Mr Monti’s decision from the Italian bishops’ conference was swift. CEI spokesman Mgr Domenico Pompili commented: “We are waiting to see precisely how the text is formulated so that we can make a detailed assessment”. He went on to repeat what Cardinal Bagnasco has maintained on several occasions, some of them recent: “Any intervention to introduce clarity over formulae in force will be examined with the utmost attention and sense of responsibility”. However, the CEI also warns about the need to safeguard the not-for-profit sector and hopes that its social value “is recognised and held in due account”.

M.Antonietta Calabrò

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

Turkish-Cyprus: The Other Side of the Green Line

BRUSSELS — Eight years after Cyprus’ EU accession and shortly before it does its first-ever EU presidency, Turkish-Cypriots are a neglected but interesting subplot in EU history. In 2004, failure to re-unify Greek-Cypriots and Turkish-Cypriots in one state set the stage for a difficult enlargement: Cyprus entered the EU as a whole island, but with the administrative head of the Republic of Cyprus, home to Greek-Cypriots, in the southern part of the country.

The northern part — home to Turkish-Cypriots, who split from the south in a brief war in 1974 — is designated as territory de facto beyond Greek-Cypriot control and consequently exempt from implementing EU law. To address the situation, the EU designed a special development programme for Turkish-Cypriots which aims to facilitate preparation for full EU integration when or if re-unification comes.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Turkish Newspaper Office Torched in Germany: Police

Arsonists torched the headquarters of the Turkish-language newspaper Zaman in the western German city of Cologne, police said Thursday, amid suspicions Kurdish rebels might be to blame. Two people, aged 17 and 22, have been arrested for the suspected attack, which happened on Wednesday night, a Cologne police spokeswoman told AFP.

A cafe frequented by Cologne’s Turkish community was also attacked at around 10:30 pm local time (2130 GMT) on Wednesday, the police said. Authorities have not ruled out a link to the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), considered by the European Union and Turkey as a terrorist organisation.

“In one of the two cases, we have evidence that a substance was used to spread the fire,” the spokeswoman said. “Typical PKK slogans were shouted” during the two Cologne attacks, she added.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: Mosque Conversion Plans Set to be Flattened

A BID to convert a former community centre into a mosque is “extremely unlikely” after a council boss revealed it was set to be demolished. As reported in Saturday’s Gazette, members of the Asian community in South Shields had ‘expressed an interest’ in turning the John Wright Centre in Flagg Court, South Shields, into a place of worship, which Town Hall officials said would be considered in due course. But now council leader, Coun Iain Malcolm, has said the building is no longer fit for community use and that it is far more likely that the complex will be demolished. And Coun Malcolm also suggested any future sale of the land would have to fit in with boosting the town’s regeneration — a remark which would appear to rule out its use for religious activity. He added: “The John Wright Centre served the people of the borough well for a number of years, but the building is simply not fit for purpose for community use. I would envisage the building being demolished, with the council considering the future of this land at a later date. The future usage would need to compliment our ambitious regeneration work in the town centre”. The John Wright Centre closed last summer despite a 1,600-name petition to keep it open. The now-empty complex is only a short distance from the Baitul Ma’mur Islamic Centre and the Bangladeshi Muslim Cultural Association, both in Baring Street. Former council-run care homes in Gerald Street, South Shields, and Beech Street, Jarrow, are also earmarked for demolition — with new homes set for both sites.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Tower Hamlets Council Pay Adviser £1,000 a Day

Can it be right to pay someone in the public sector a huge salary? Could it be value for money for anyone else in the public sector to be paid more than the Prime Minister, who is on £142,500? Sometimes I think it is. For example Stephen Hester (if we count him as a public sector employee) is the Chief Executive of the Royal Bank of Scotland. He is on £1.2 million a year. He has a dubious past in the Tory Reform Group. Yet I think it is at least possible that he is value for money. That were we to say that nobody holding that post could be paid more than £142,500 a year (before we even bring a bonus into the equation) that as taxpayers we would have a false economy. That it is worth paying someone a lot to turn that organisation around.

In my council of Hammersmith and Fulham we paid a consultant a lot of money to turn around our housing ALMO — he did a good job. He was expensive but he was value for money. Similarly we paid our Council Chief Executive a lot. But we have regarded the best way of achieving value for money to split the cost with the NHS Primary Care Trust (with our previous Chief Executive) or with a neighbouring borough (with the incumbent). We thought that was more effective than having someone paid less. The snag is that frequently we have people in the public sector on these huge salaries that are not delivering value for money. For instance in the Evening Standard today we read about Tony Winterbottom who is an “executive adviser” on regeneration and development to Lutfur Rahman, the extremist mayor of Tower Hamlets on £1,000 a day. Winterbottom says he is “embarrassed to be charging so little.” But where is the evidence that the Tower Hamlets Council Taxpayer is getting value for money? The Evening Standard says:

Mr Winterbottom was previously a senior official at the defunct London Development Agency. He was criticised in 2008 after he left on a year’s sabbatical, followed by a £75,000 pay-off and £160,000 top-up to his pension fund. An investigation into the LDA, ordered by Boris Johnson and headed by former financial journalist Baroness Wheatcroft, found a string of failings including “ineptitude” and “massive misspending”.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]


Kosovo: Referendum, Serbs in North Say ‘No’ To Pristina

99.74% against Albanian central power, challenge to govt

ANSAmed) — BELGRADE/PRISTINA — As widely expected, the vast majority of Serbs in northern Kosovo (99.74%) cast their votes against Pristina’s sovereignty and government structures in a referendum held Tuesday and yesterday in an open challenge to the Belgrade government, the EU and all other international institutions. The referendum, which has no juridical significance and which will not affect in any tangible way Kosovo’s institutional structure, was held on the eve of the fourth anniversary of the unilateral proclamation of independence of Kosovo from Serbia on February 17 2008. The Serbian government and President Boris Tadic had repeatedly spoken out against the referendum, calling it useless, counterproductive and harmful to Serbia’s state interests, involved as it is in trying to become an EU member state. The consultation may render stances more inflexible and heighten inter-ethnic tension between the Serbian minority and the Albanian majority of Kosovo, thereby creating further obstacles to a resumption in dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina. The continuing of talks and an improvement in the situation in Kosovo is the condition set by Brussels in order to grant Serbia the status of EU member candidate in the early March EU summit.

The Parliament of Kosovo has adopted a resolution stating that the referendum violates Kosovo’s constitutional order. Of the just over 2 million inhabitants of Kosovo, the vast majority of whom are of the Albanian ethnic group, over 100,000 are Serbs — almost half of whom are concentrated in northern Kosovo, while the rest are spread across the country in a number of Serbian enclaves.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Thousands Expected for Dedication of Mosque

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — The dedication of a mosque in Bowling Green this spring is expected to attract up to 15,000 visitors. The North American Bosniak Convention is being held in the city May 25-28 and will center on the formal dedication of the Bosnian Islamic Center of Bowling Green, according to Vicki Fitch, executive director of the Bowling Green Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. She told the Daily News that the mosque is only the second of its kind in the country and the convention is being held in the city specifically for the dedication ( ). Organizer Gina Dzelil of Bowling Green said previous meetings in larger cities such as Phoenix have drawn 25,000 people. “We should know more in the next few weeks how many people will be coming for sure,” Dzelil said. “Within a six-hour drive of Bowling Green, there are 160,000 Bosnians. St. Louis alone has 80,000.” She said Warren County has about 5,000 Bosnians. The convention is geared toward Islamic Bosnians, “but all Bosnians are invited and we want Americans to come as well,” she said.

While some who attend will stay with family, she said hotels and campgrounds are sure to get many visitors. She said the convention will include a meeting of U.S. Bosnian Islamic leaders and will celebrate accomplishments of Bosnian-Americans. “We’ve invited the president of Bosnia,” Dzelil said, but she hasn’t received a response. In addition, a session will be offered for non-Bosnians who want to learn more about the country. There also will be events for the general public, including a picnic with free food and children’s activities, a soccer tournament and folk-life dancing. “We also will showcase local art,” Dzelil said. “And our hope is that after this year, we will continue to have a Bosnian festival one weekend in May.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Morocco: First Muslim Banks Soon

The government’s party wants to act rapidly in Parliament

(ANSAmed) — RABAT, 15 FEBRUARY — Morocco might soon create its first Islamic banks. The issue is indeed one of Benkirane government’s priorities: the Parliamentary group of PJD, the moderate Islamic party having won November’s elections, has already finished writing the draft bill to be presented at the Chamber of Deputies, drafted by a team of Party’s experts led by the General Affair and Governance Minister Mohamed Najiib Boulif. On the financial instruments’ market, the so-called “Islamic” instruments were already partially available, but the institutes managing them had never expressed their interest in the creation of specialized banks. However, PJD’s victory changed many things, since the model has proved to resist the crisis and showed a large potential for growth. The draft bill begins with classification of the general principles underlying products currently traded by banks, grouping them into halal (allowed) and haram (forbidden) by Sharia and specifies that lending must not be the source of profit. Imposing interests is therefore prohibited and lending is not considered a form of trading anymore: “Funding agreement with banks imply participation of the bank itself in both profits and losses”. Actually, Islamic banks do not merely propose financial brokering services as in traditional banking regimes; they play an active role in wealth generation, transformation and trade processes. The draft bill proceeds to determine which financing models are allowed. In general, they are “contracts compliant to Sharia regarding the use of funds aimed at generating profits”.

The institutes allowed to work within this system are grouped in three categories: Islamic banks, financial institutions similar to Islamic banks and Islamic financial institutions.

Today, any moral entity allowed to collect funds, manage and invest them according to the Islamic law might be labelled as Islamic bank. These institutes would be subject to Sharija, not to current laws regulating the credit institutions and similar bodies, except the provisions that are already compliant with the Sharia. This would not prevent Islamic financial institutes from entering today’s bank system: they would act under protection of Bank Al-Maghrib, the Moroccan Central Bank and by the National Council of Money and Savings, according to provisions of the Central bank, both as far as monitoring and prudential principles are concerned. The PJD project would also allow traditional banks to convert into Islamic banks, either totally or partially, creating branch offices, local cash desks or investment funds specialized in this kind of activity.

According to La Vie Eco, the total amount of funds currently circulating in the world’s Islamic finance is estimated at more than USD 1000 bln in 2011, that is, a growth by 50% over 2008 and by 21% over 2010. About one fourth of the world’s population is Muslim, so the system has significant potential for growth; experts estimate that Islamic finance might absorb between 40 and 50% of savings in this group.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Health Ministry: No to Female Circumcision

Protests against preacher Ghenim; Govt. takes a stand

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, FEBRUARY 15 — Tunisia’s Ministry of Health has taken an official stand against statements favouring female circumcision made by the Egyptian Wahabiti preacher Wajdi Ghenim (who is currently in Tunisia to deliver a series of sermons in some of the country’s most important mosques). A communiqué has defined the cutting of female sexual organs as “deplorable acts that do not belong to the culture and traditions of our country”. After pointing out that all of world’s international bodies have condemned the practice, the Minister also listed all the possible side effects on women who are subjected to this mutilation. The communiqué goes on to condemn a statement by Ghenim according to which clitoral removal is “recommended by Islam”. The presence of the controversial preacher in the country and some of his claims, which include that female circumcision is no more than a cosmetic treatment, have given rise to a wave of protest by lay and human rights organisations. During one of the demonstrations organized to protest against Ghenim, a young activist, 22-year-old Moez Ibrahim, was subject to a knife attack. Ibrahim received six stab wounds and is now in a critical condition in hospital. The incident happened in Mahdia on Monday evening, but only became known after a statement was made today to radio Mosaique by Dhafrallah Chafii, a human rights activist of the National Council for Liberty. The circumstances surrounding the attack remain unclear, but it certainly happened after a sermon given by Ghenim and those responsible have managed to evade justice.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Women Try to Assert Independence in Post-Revolution Tunisia

Women were a key force in the popular protests that toppled Tunisia’s government last year and kicked off the Arab Spring. But now many Tunisian women worry that the new government may want to turn back the clock.

In 1981, in a move to combat what was seen as an outmoded religious custom, Tunisia actually banned the hijab, or headscarf, in state offices and at universities. But with the moderate Islamic Ennahda movement having won 40 percent of the vote in the 2011 elections, some women now fear that the government may try to compel them to adhere to certain practices, traditional and otherwise.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Dimas: NATO Has Not Responded to ‘Significant Threat’ of Turkey

Greece’s participation in Nato has not managed to respond to the significant threat represented by Turkey, the foreign minister, Stavros Dimas, told a special event held to mark the 60th anniversary of the country’s membership of the military bloc. “Since the mid-1970s, Greece has been facing a standing threat by one of its (Nato) allies, Turkey.

Nato’s silence since the Turkish invasion of Cyprus has been deafening. The systematic dispute of Greece’s sovereign rights by Turkey is, and is being treated by the Greek people as, a real and direct threat. In that light, Greece’s participation has not managed to respond to this significant threat,” the foreign minister said.

Also addressing the event, organised by Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy (Eliamep), was Nato secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who is visiting Athens for the anniversary.

In his address, Rasmussen said that the global economic environment has led to uncertainty. Replying to a question on the Cyprus issue, he said that the non-resolution of the problem was a cause of concern and has negative consequences not only for Cyprus and Greek-Turkish relations, but also for Nato-EU relations.

He called “on all sides” to make every effort to resolve the Cyprus issue, and soon at that, under the auspices of the UN. “The existing plans appear to be very close to what apparently both sides can accept,” the Nato chief added.

Earlier, President Karolos Papoulias told Rasmussen of his annoyance over continuing Turkish violations of Greek national airspace, explaining that Greece continues to have problems with Turkey. He warned that Ankara’s stance does not help in consolidating the neighbourly climate that Greece seeks.

“I was disturbed by the fact that yesterday, when I went to the Hellenic National Defence General Staff, Turkish warplanes were making overflights over a Greek island,” Papoulias said. The president also told Rasmussen that Greece wants to see Turkey join the EU and is contributing to achieving that target.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Muslim Secrets Part 1: Do Muslims Want Sharia Law in America?

Editor’s Note: Every community has some secrets. The Muslims have them, too. And these secrets are not like passwords or personal information that can compromise privacy or personal security. But they are answers to questions that are mostly not discussed in public. In this series of Muslim Secrets, we are going to ask some Muslims in southeast Michigan these questions. And today’s question is: Do they want Sharia law in America? Not surprisingly, every Muslim interviewed for this report had a different and not so straight answer. All of them had a different interpretation of Sharia law. But they did have one thing in common: They don’t believe in what the opponents say.

“Don’t just go by random websites, what they post and what they tell you about Islam. There is far more to Islam than what people are propagating,” said Shandana Shakoor, a Bloomfield Hills mother and director of Pakistan American Association. “Sharia law, I think, is a very misunderstood concept among Americans and even among Muslims, I think,” said Shahina Begg of Bloomfield Hills, co-founder of Interfaith WISDOM. Her husband, Victor Ghalib Begg, co-founded Council of Islamic Organization in the community they live and spends much of his time working on ways to bring people of different faiths together. He, too, thinks that Sharia law is a very misunderstood term. So, to understand what Sharia law really means, one has to ask those who preach it. Dawud Walid is a famous Muslim leader of southeast Michigan, and chairman of Council of American Islamic Relations. When asked, ‘What is Sharia law? He said: “Well, Sharia and law will not necessarily be the best two phrases to conjoin or combine together. But Sharia simply means a path toward faithfulness of how a Muslim seeks to live a life holistically pleasing God. This ranges from our ritual worship to regulates how we are involved in ethical transaction of businesses,” Walid said.

But that’s not the problem. The real trouble for people in America, and in many parts of the world, is the kind of laws practiced in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Afghanistan, and some laws in Pakistan. People feel troubled when thieves get their hands chopped off in Saudi Arabia, when people get stoned to death for adultery in Iran, when Taliban shoot spies in the head, and when a Pakistani Christian mother faces death penalty for allegedly saying insulting words for Prophet Muhammed.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Oil Prices Rise on Iran EU Warning

World oil prices rose Wednesday after Iran warned that it might suspend crude exports to six EU countries ( France, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain) amid escalating tensions over Tehran’s nuclear programme, AFP reports. State broadcaster IRIB warned that “Iran will revise its oil sale to these countries.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

World’s Tallest Hotel Reaches for Dubai

One hotel, two towers, 355 meters — Dubai’s obsession with big buildings continues

The tallest dedicated hotel building in the world is set to open later this year in Dubai. The JW Marriott Marquis will consist of two towers, both 355 meters tall, just 26 meters shy of New York’s Empire State Building, according to the company.

While dwarfed by the Burj Khalifa, currently Dubai’s and the world’s tallest manmade structure at 830 meters, it will be the tallest building entirely dedicated to a hotel and will become the world’s 12th tallest manmade structure once it opens phase one in the fourth quarter of 2012. Phase two will open in 2014.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Putin Looking to Modernize Russia’s Energy Sector, Bureaucrats Fight Back

by John Daly

Largely overlooked in the non-Russian press, an incipient struggle is developing between Russian Prime Minister Putin and his attempts to privatize some of the largest and most economically inefficient legacies of the USSR, the bloated behemoths of the Russian Federation’s energy infrastructure.

While foreign commentators increasingly decry that the Putin administration is centralizing authority and squeezing out capitalist initiatives to jumpstart the economy, the issue of privatization of the Russian Federation’s Soviet-era “crown jewels” should be attracting more foreign media attention, if for no other reasons than Russia competes with Saudi Arabia for the title of world’s leading oil producer and the nation’s natural gas reserves are the world’s largest.

But, in the clearest indication up to now that the Russian economy’s liberalization has bureaucrats increasingly opposed to reforms of the country’s energy sector, the Russian Federation’s Energy Ministry has not endorsed the Russian Federation’s Economic Development Ministry’s proposals for the government completely to privatize state-owned oil companies Zarubezhneft and Rosneft, but the state’s largest hydropower producer RusHydro along with reducing the state’s stake in state oil pipeline monopoly Transneft as well.

In June 2011 Russia’s outgoing president Dmitri Medvedev ordered a more aggressive privatization of state stakes in key companies as part of a policy to attract “smart (foreign) investments” to further a modernization agenda, but many state-owned energy companies, have been fighting a rearguard action against implementing the reforms.


[Return to headlines]

Russia Exports Record $13.2 Bn in Arms: Official

Russia set an arms export record of $13.2 billion (10.1 billion euros) last year despite losing Arab clients and facing stiffer competition from China, a top official was quoted as saying Thursday. A quarter of Russia’s sales went to India and 15 percent to Algeria, with Vietnam responsible for 10 percent of the purchases, Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation chief Mikhail Dmitriyev was quoted as saying by Vedomosti.

“Russia’s military-technical cooperation plan for 2012 stands at $13.5 billion,” the Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily quoted Dmitriyev as saying. Russia exported $10.4 billion in arms in 2010, in second place behind the United States.

Defence officials had earlier said they expected to lose some $4 billion in revenue from arms contracts abandoned by Libya following the fall of Moamer Kadhafi’s regime and Moscow’s hesitant support for the opposition.

Dmitriyev said Russia compensated for its Arab world losses by resuming sales to European nations such as Germany and the Czech Republic, and picking up clients in Latin America and Southeast Asia.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

South Asia

War on Drugs Must be Afghan Top Priority: UN Chief

UN chief Ban Ki-moon Thursday urged Afghanistan make fighting drug trafficking a priority as opium harvests soar in the world’s top producer and urged the world to help in the effort. “Above all, the Afghan government must prioritise the issue of narcotics,” Ban said in his opening address in Vienna of the “Paris Pact” initiative to fight drug trafficking in Afghanistan.

“Law enforcement agencies (in Afghanistan) must work harder on eradicating crops, eliminating laboratories, keeping precursors from entering the country, and inhibiting drug trafficking,” he urged.

Afghanistan grows about 90 percent of the world’s opium and production of the drug soared last year by 61 percent, according to the UN drugs and crime office (UNODC). Drugs making now makes up about 15 percent of Afghanistan’s gross domestic product. Ban also warned that “reducing supply is only half the story. There can be no real success without reducing the demand.” And he urged the international community to help: “We must stand with Afghanistan in this fight.”

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe, the co-chair of the event, said that “nothing would be worse than inaction.” “We need institutions that are efficient, transparent and democratic,” he added, pledging France’s cooperation.

The Paris Pact was set up in 2003 to coordinate efforts to fight opium and heroin trafficking from Afghanistan, with 56 states and a dozen international organisations signed up. On Thursday, the participants were expected to adopt a declaration vowing to fight opium trade in Afghanistan as well as related problems like corruption and money-laundering.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Far East

EU Trade Chief Pressures China Over Procurements

(HONG KONG) — China is protecting a domestic market for public procurements worth $1.1 trillion, EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht said Thursday as he appealed to Beijing to open up further to global trade. De Gucht dismissed fears of an escalating trade war with China but said people around the world were sceptical of Beijing’s commitment to a rules-based global trade system, undermining faith in free markets everywhere.

He cited the World Trade Organization’s recent ruling that Beijing’s limits on key raw material exports broke its international obligations, and China’s massive but tightly restricted market for domestic government contracts.

“No country more than China has benefited more from the current framework,” De Gucht said in a speech in the southern Chinese city of Hong Kong. “As it gains prominence and in some areas even achieves dominance, China needs to adapt to its new position of strength and leadership.

“It must help ease anxieties about open markets among its partners by applying and underwriting the rules, even if this means changing long-held government practices.”

He said purchases by governments represented 17 percent of the world economy, and businesses that depended on such contracts represented 25 percent of the European Union’s gross domestic product.

The EU was “one of the most open procurement markets in the world”, offering almost twice as much business to foreign bidders as the United States. “This openness has meant huge business opportunities for non-EU firms, including companies from China,” the commissioner said.

“China is certainly not the only country where there are problems, but problems there certainly are.” He said China’s domestic public procurements market was valued at 830 billion euros ($1.1 trillion), but “only a small fraction is open to foreign business”.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Spanish Hostages in Algeria, Somalia Are Alive: Minister

The Spanish government has proof that two Spaniards kidnapped in Algeria and another two held in Somalia are alive, Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia Margallo said Wednesday. “In both cases, we have proof that they are alive and the Spanish government is making all efforts to free them,” he said during an visit to Algiers.

Two Spaniards and an Italian were kidnapped in western Algeria’s Sahrawi camp in October last year and are being held by Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

In another incident the same month, two Spanish employees of Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) were snatched from the world’s biggest refugee camp in Dadaab, Kenya, by Somalia’s Shebab Islamists. They were later transferred to Somalia.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Ann Coulter: If GOP Caves on Immigration, ‘No Republican is Ever Going to Win Another National Election’

Returning to TV the day after both she and her preferred presidential candidate took the stage at CPAC, Ann Coulter stopped by Fox & Friends this morning to discuss the recent Rick Santorum mini-surge and her conviction that Mitt Romney must be the next president. She also fended off the now-usual criticism of Romney as a moderate by pointing out his stances on immigration and why being tough with illegal immigrants was of vital importance: “if we lose on that issue, the entire country will become California and no Republican will ever win an national election.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Eritreans Brave Extreme Journey for New Life

Eritreans who once wound scarves around their faces to protect against the heat and dust of the Sahara, now wrap up warm against Switzerland’s icy temperatures. Escaping one of the world’s most repressive regimes, Eritreans are fleeing the Horn of Africa in droves. Some 3,356 applied for asylum in Switzerland in 2011, making them the largest group of asylum seekers.

The high numbers of Eritreans contributed to a 45 per cent increase in asylum applications in Switzerland last year — up to a total of 22,551 people — putting massive pressure on a system which is coming under increasing public scrutiny regarding its capacity and efficiency.

Across Switzerland cantons and communes have been obliged to find temporary accommodation at short notice to house the new arrivals — against stiff local resistance. While the authorities struggle to cope with the basic needs of asylum seekers, voluntary organisations continue to offer support and services to all comers.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Norway: Teenage Asylum Seeker Stabbed to Death

A man has been charged over the fatal stabbing on Wednesday evening of a teenage asylum seeker in Sandnes, south-western Norway.

The teenager died from his injuries after he was stabbed in the chest in an outdoor area at the Dale asylum centre.

Police said the incident took place after a conflict involving primarily Chechen residents at the centre.

The victim was pronounced dead by Stavanger university hospital at 11pm on Wednesday, just over an hour after police were alerted to the incident.

A number of witnesses have been questioned in connection with the attack.

Police were not able to say whether the victim was a resident at the Dale asylum centre. Initially police said he lived at another centre in the district.

“That hasn’t yet been fully ascertained,” said prosecutor Henrietta Kvinnsland.

“There were also other nationalities involved than Chechens. For the sake of the investigation and out of respect to the next of kin we are not going to publicize the victim’s nationality or identity. He is believed to have relatives in Norway,” she added.

The Dale asylum centre is home to some 300 asylum seekers. Located on the grounds of an old psychiatric hospital, the facility has served as an asylum centre since 1993.

           — Hat tip: The Observer[Return to headlines]

Trafficking Gang Leader Sought by France Caught in Greece: Police

Police in Greece on Wednesday said they had caught a 22-year-old Afghan man sought by France as a leading member of a gang that made millions of euros (dollars) smuggling migrants into Europe. “The network, which counted the suspect among its leading members, was composed of Afghans and Kurds and illegally transported undocumented migrants mainly on board trucks from Greece and France to Denmark, Britain and Belgium,” the citizen’s protection ministry said in a statement.

“It gained 3,000 euros ($4,000) per migrant and French authorities estimate its revenue at 80 million euros from 2010 onwards,” the ministry said. The suspect was arrested in Athens. Police in Austria, Belgium, Germany, Italy and Britain are also investigating this particular gang, the ministry said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Hit Serbian Comedy at the Berlinale: ‘I Made a Film for Homophobes’

The Serbian comedy “Parada,” about a couple that want to organize a gay pride parade in Belgrade, was a surprise hit in the Balkans. SPIEGEL ONLINE spoke to director Srdjan Dragojevic about the challenges involved in making a film about gays for a largely homophobic audience.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

New Jersey Assembly Passes Gay Marriage Bill; Veto Promised

New Jersey’s Assembly voted 42 to 33 on Thursday to approve a gay marriage bill that could pave the way for New Jersey to join six other states where same-sex couples can today legally wed.

To become law, the bill would have to be signed by Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican who has promised to veto the measure.

[Return to headlines]

UK: Right-Wing Christian Bigot Resumes Campaign Against Newham ‘Mega-Mosque’

Fresh proposals for a permanent mosque risk turning part of West Ham into an “Islamic ghetto”, say opponents. A public exhibition was held by Tablighi Jamaat in Stratford in a bid to gather support for the Riverine Centre in Canning Road — dubbed a “mega-mosque”. The plan includes a 9,500 capacity mosque with 40m high minarets, library, visitors centre, and a 300-space car park for worshippers. A temporary facility, consisting of demountable buildings, is currently on site. It survived an attempt last year by Newham Council to remove it on the basis of increased traffic and land contamination. A spokesman for Tablighi Jamaat said the reaction was largely positive. The trustees hope to submit an application before the Olympic Games. He said: “It seems appropriate for Newham to be setting an agenda for London of cohesion and acceptance by promoting public spaces that facilitate both secular and religious activity in a benign manner. The most significant strategic decision has been to place the mosque at the heart of the site, as a powerful unifying element, a symbol of London’s diverse heritage and a celebration of our cultural diversity.” It will feature five public spaces, described as “character zones”. One will house the visitor centre and others a nature trail. The mosque will be equivalent to an eight-storey building, while apartments will range from four to seven storeys high. Former Christian People’s Alliance Cllr Alan Craig, now campaign director at Newham Concern, said: “If they wanted to put a modest mosque in Newham I wouldn’t have a problem. But they want to put their Western world headquarters there. It’s going to be isolationist and will simply create a large custom built Islamic ghetto. It will be Newham’s first Sharia-controlled zone.” A spokesman for the trustees shot back: “Alan is yesterday’s man and that’s the truth of the matter. The facts are there. It going to be a mixed use facility with public access.”

Newham Recorder, 16 February 2012

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]


Deadly Alcohol Needs Global Regulation, Health Expert Says

When considering the world’s worst killers, alcohol likely doesn’t come to mind. Yet alcohol kills more than 2.5 million people annually, more than AIDS, malaria or tuberculosis. For middle-income people, who constitute half the world’s population, alcohol is the top health risk factor, greater than obesity, inactivity and even tobacco.

The World Health Organization has meticulously documented the extent of alcohol abuse in recent years and has published solid recommendations on how to reduce alcohol-related deaths, but this doesn’t go far enough, according to Devi Sridhar, a health-policy expert at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]