Sunday, January 12, 2003

News Feed 20120229

Financial Crisis
»ECB Boosts Loans to €1 Trillion to Stop Credit Crunch
»ECB Throws Open Liquidity Floodgates Again
»ECB: The Reluctant Savior
»Fiscal Pact Referendum: ‘A Decisive Moment’ For Ireland in Europe
»Greek Unions Stage Walkouts After New Budget Cuts
»Ireland to Hold Referendum on Fiscal Treaty
»Ireland Will Hold Referendum on EU Fiscal Pact
»Italy: Yields Plunge at 5- And 10-Year-Bond Auctions
»Italy: Monti Says Spread Will Continue to Plunge
»Juncker Wants Special Commissioner for Greece
»Juncker Piles on the Pressure: Merkel Stuck in the Euro Firewall Trap
»Portugal Bail-Out on Track
»Southern European Money Migrating North to Safety
»Swedish Economy Shrinks, Hit by Euro Crisis
»The World Bank Warns China of an Upcoming Crisis
»BP and US Government Try for Settlement
»Ground Zero Mosque Owner Selling a Property
»Partial Remains of 9/11 Victims Went to Landfill
»People Aren’t Smart Enough for Democracy to Flourish, Scientists Say
»Planetary Scientists Battle Over Nasa’s Mars Budget
Europe and the EU
»Coalition Rifts: FDP Could Scupper Merkel’s Chances of Third Term
»EU Recalls All Ambassadors From Belarus
»France Tables New Version of Genocide Law
»France: Court Strikes Down Armenian Genocide Law
»France: Rapist Who Targeted Blonde, Blue-Eyed Victims Caught
»Germany: Anne Frank Possessions Head ‘Home’ To Frankfurt
»Hungary’s Path to Nowhere
»Ikea ‘Stole Secret French Police Reports’ — Claim
»Interpol Arrest 25 in Swoop on Anonymous Suspects
»Jail Krekar for Five Years: Norway Prosecutor
»Neanderthals Were Ancient Mariners
»Norway: ‘Mullah Krekar Has Right to Defend His Religion’, Says His Lawyer
»Norway: Book Success for Angel Whisperer Princess
»Remembering Anne Frank: ‘I Knew Nothing About the Profundity of Her Thoughts’
»Switzerland: Historic Diamond to Fetch Millions in Geneva
»UK Seeks Reform of European Rights Court
»When in Doubt, Call Them Nazis: Ugly Stereotypes of Germany Resurface in Greece
North Africa
»Algeria: Crime, 2,100 Civil Servants Arrested in January
»Egypt: Upper House Speaker Also From Brotherhood
»Egypt: US to Abide Jihad Ransom for Imprisoned Americans?
Middle East
»A Nuclear Iran Will Choke World Economy, Israel Claims
»Turkey: Erdogan Celebrates Win Over Anti-Islamic Coups
»Turkey: Erdogan’s Brand of Islam Ushers in Cultural Boom
»Putin Warns Russia’s Opposition Ahead of Vote
»Youth Agency Head Wins Defamation Case Related to Journalist Beating
South Asia
»Blasphemy: Burning Quran is a Form of International Terrorism
»Erykah Badu Concert in Malaysia Canceled Over Her ‘Allah’ Tattoo, Report Says
»Srdja Trifkovic: The Afghan Debacle
»Strike in India Hits Banking and Transport Sectors
»NASA’s Next Space Telescope Could ‘Sniff’ Out Alien Planets
»Our Baby Universe Likely Expanded Rapidly, Study Suggests
»Quayle Redux: A Silent Romney Would be a Better Romney

Financial Crisis

ECB Boosts Loans to €1 Trillion to Stop Credit Crunch

The European Central Bank (ECB) will issue a second round of cheap three-year loans on Wednesday (29 February) in order to help cash-strapped eurozone banks. In total, the bank is lending almost €1 trillion after it already injected some €500 billion into the system in December because euro-area banks became wary of lending to each other.

The programme has so far been used mainly by Spanish and Italian banks to shore up funding gaps and buy government bonds. But it has done little to boost confidence in the sector, as evidenced by the record sums being ‘parked’ overnight in the ECB instead of circulating among lenders. On Tuesday, for instance, €475 billion was given to the ECB for safe-keeping — almost the same sum that was to be made available in cheap loans.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

ECB Throws Open Liquidity Floodgates Again

The European Central Bank threw open its liquidity floodgates again on Wednesday, pumping up the banks with nearly 530 billion euros in cheap loans to avert a dangerous credit squeeze. In the second such cash bonanza in two months, the ECB said 800 banks took 529.5 billion euros ($712 billion) at exceptionally low interest rates in its second three-year long-term refinancing operation, or LTRO.

That beats the 489.19 billion euros borrowed by 523 banks in a first operation in December but analysts said the move would merely buy time and not be enough on its own to solve the eurozone’s crippling debt crisis. The ECB launched the ultra-long loans late last year with the aim of averting a credit squeeze in the 17 countries which share the euro.

The ECB, lending the money out at just 1.0 percent, hopes the banks will lend the cash to households and businesses and also use it to bring down government borrowing costs. Analysts believe the first operation in December succeeded in easing funding problems for European banks, which have to deal with debt of 720 billion euros due to mature in 2012.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

ECB: The Reluctant Savior

The European Central Bank can take credit for the eurozone still being in existence today. The ECB has stablized the banks and saved states from collapse — and it’s thrown its rulebook overboard in the process.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Fiscal Pact Referendum: ‘A Decisive Moment’ For Ireland in Europe

Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny has announced his country will hold a referendum on Europe’s fiscal pact. A “no” vote in Ireland could cause uncertainty on the financial markets and even put the future of the common currency in doubt. But with the country still dependent on EU aid, the Irish can’t afford to say no.

Tuesday was a good day for democracy, but a bad one for German Chancellor Angela Merkel. First, Germany’s Federal Constitutional Court declared the panel of lawmakers set up to approve urgent action by the euro rescue fund to be “in large part” unconstitutional and ordered that it would need to be enlarged to include more than just its current nine members.

And on Tuesday afternoon, Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny announced his country would hold a referendum on the euro fiscal pact. This threatens to throw a spanner in the works of the euro’s new architecture: It’s possible that only 16 euro-zone countries will accept the fiscal corset that Germany would like them to wear in the future.

Both developments come at an inopportune time for Merkel. The executive powers of Europe’s leaders have grown rapidly during the crisis — especially those of the German chancellor. Merkel’s ideas were first given the nod by leaders of the European Union member states in Brussels before later getting implemented in each country.

This top-down approach has now suffered a setback.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Greek Unions Stage Walkouts After New Budget Cuts

Greek unions on Wednesday staged walkouts as part of Europe-wide anti-austerity demonstrations, hours after parliament approved fresh budget cuts linked to a new eurozone bailout. The main labour groups, private-sector GSEE and public-sector ADEDY, began a nationwide three-hour work stoppage from midday (1000 GMT) ahead of a demonstration in central Athens in the evening.

The mobilisation is part of a day of action by European labour organisations against austerity measures enacted in Greece and other struggling eurozone economies to address a debt crisis plaguing the single currency area. “Unions in Greece will once more unite their voice with those in Europe against neo-liberal policies, demanding an equitable and fairer Europe,” GSEE and ADEDY said.

Municipal workers were also occupying town halls around the country for the duration of the walkout, their union said. Separately, doctors are holding a one-day strike against health spending cuts included in a new austerity bill before parliament on Wednesday.

Greece’s official creditors, the European Union and the International Monetary Fund, have demanded additional budget cuts to address deficit slippage before releasing a new bailout of 130 billion euros ($175 billion).

The latest rescue, after a 110-billion-euro EU-IMF loan in 2010, is tied to a massive debt writedown with private creditors designed to reduce Greece’s 350-billion-euro debt by 107 billion.

Prime Minister Lucas Papademos is scheduled to see European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso in Brussels later on Wednesday and will attend a Eurogroup meeting of finance ministers on Thursday.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Ireland to Hold Referendum on Fiscal Treaty

Ireland is to hold a referendum on the new inter-governmental treaty on fiscal discipline, following a legal opinion by the country’s attorney-general. A no-vote would make Dublin ineligible for future financial assistance from the eurozone bail-out fund, the European Stability Mechanism.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Ireland Will Hold Referendum on EU Fiscal Pact

The Irish government has decided to hold a popular vote on the European Union’s new fiscal pact, which requires signatories to observe much stricter budget discipline. The Irish government announced on Tuesday the country would hold a referendum to endorse a new European fiscal pact which most EU member countries agreed in January. The pact aims to implement tighter spending rules particularly for countries that use the euro currency.

Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny informed Parliament that the government’s legal adviser had said the fiscal pact must go to a public vote. “The Irish people will be asked for the authorization in a referendum to ratify the European Stability Treaty,” Kenny told legislators.

Kenny said the popular vote would be prepared over the next few weeks and argued that it would be in Ireland’s interests to vote in favor of the accord. In January, all the members of the EU except Britain and the Czech Republic approved the pact.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italy: Yields Plunge at 5- And 10-Year-Bond Auctions

Treasury sells over 6 bln euros in bonds

(ANSA) — Rome, February 28 — The yield at a 10-year-bond auction dropped Tuesday to 5.5% from 6.08% at the last such auction at the end of January.

The Treasury placed all the 3.75 billion euros’ worth of bonds on offer while investors requested over five billion. It also sold out of its 2.5 billion euros’ worth of five-year bonds, dropping the yield to 4.19% from 5.39% in January.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Monti Says Spread Will Continue to Plunge

‘No reason this course should change,’ premier tells Bloomberg

(ANSA) — Rome, February 29 — Italian Premier Mario Monti said Wednesday that the spread between 10-year Italian and German bonds would continue to drop at a steady pace. “The unpredictability of spreads is not negligible,” he told financial news service Bloomberg. “But we see now in the case of Italy a steady, although gradual decline in the last several weeks. I don’t see honestly any reasons why this course should change”. The spread fell Wednesday to 337 points, the lowest it has been since last year in September.

On Thursday Monti is attending a summut of European leaders to discuss possibly raising Europe’s emergency bailout package.

The premier, a former European commissioner who also acts as Italy’s economy minister, told Bloomberg he was confident a deal would come in March.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Juncker Wants Special Commissioner for Greece

Eurozone chief Juncker has adopted the German idea of a commissioner for Greece. “I would be very much in favour of an EU commissioner tasked with the reconstruction of the Greek economy,” he told Die Welt, adding that the structure of their economy “is not at all comparable to ours.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Juncker Piles on the Pressure: Merkel Stuck in the Euro Firewall Trap

Merkel is damned if she does — but Europe could be damned if she doesn’t. Pressure is growing on the German chancellor to drop her government’s opposition to significantly increasing the size of the permanent euro backstop fund. But such a move would carry significant political risks for Merkel at home.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has a problem. External pressure on her government to back an increase in the size of the permanent euro backstop fund, the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), is rapidly growing, with Berlin now virtually isolated among the G-20 and the euro zone, with the International Monetary Fund insisting as well. Even the world’s developing countries are calling for Merkel to agree to boost the firewall from the currently planned €500 billion ($670 billion) to at least €750 billion.

Internally, however, she is in a bind. Aid fatigue has set in among Merkel’s conservatives in a big way and the political appetite in her cabinet for countering such skepticism is limited. Indeed, Monday’s vote in the German parliament on the second bailout package for Greece likely only stiffened Merkel’s resistance.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Portugal Bail-Out on Track

Portugal’s current austerity measures met with approval by international lenders on Tuesday. The country received a €78 billion loan last year and should receive its next loan installment of €14.9 billion in April. “Portugal is making steady progress to restore fiscal sustainability,” said EU economic affairs commissioner Olli Rehn.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Southern European Money Migrating North to Safety

More and more people in southern euro-zone countries are moving their money north amid fears of losing their savings in the crisis. The capital flight makes things difficult for banks back home, but experts say there are no legal measures to stop it. Any steps would probably come too late, they say, and might even endanger the European project.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Swedish Economy Shrinks, Hit by Euro Crisis

(STOCKHOLM) — Sweden’s economy contracted by 1.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011 Statistics Sweden said on Wednesday, as the eurozone crisis affected the export-reliant country. Nordic bank Nordea commented that Sweden looked headed for a short recession, as it predicted the economy would contract again in the first quarter of 2012.

The shrinkage was from third-quarter output, and for the full-year 2011 Sweden’s economy grew by 3.9 percent from activity in 2010. The fourth-quarter contraction follows growth of 1.6 percent in the third quarter compared to the second. Two successive quarters of economic contraction constitute a recession.

“We think gross domestic product (GDP) will also shrink during the first quarter before rising again gradually,” the financial daily Dagens Industri quoted Nordea as saying in a comment. The fourth-quarter contraction was worse than expected, with analysts surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires forecasting a dip of 0.8 percent.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

The World Bank Warns China of an Upcoming Crisis

China is one of the motors of the global economy. But its growth model is no longer fit for the future, says the World Bank. What China needs are comprehensive reforms and strengthening of its private sector. How will the Chinese economy look in 20 years? Which challenges is the giant facing? In a new report, “China 2030,” which came out on Monday, the World Bank searches for answers to these questions. The report comes at an important time, according to Robert Zoellick, president of the World Bank, as “the case for reform is compelling because China has now reached a turning point in its development path.”

The study was commissioned by the Chinese government and it discusses many controversial economic topics — such as the suggestion by that Chinese state-owned enterprises be run according to the rules of the free market. Many businesspeople complain that Chinese state-owned companies use their monopoly power to push their competition out of the market. Because of this, the report has found, private companies have increasing problems with growth. And it sends out a warning: an interruption in growth could plunge China into a crisis.

Frank Sieren, a journalist and author who lives in China, is not surprised to hear that a crisis might be heading towards the Middle Kingdom, though the World Bank report did show that an upcoming crisis might not be as close as other studies have predicted.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


BP and US Government Try for Settlement

BP and the US government are trying to reach a settlement before the trial over the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster. Those affected are hoping BP and the other companies involved pay out to fix the damage. The pushing back of the BP oil spill trial until March 5 gives the oil company and the US government more time to reach a settlement out of court.

BP faces charges of negligence and violations of the Clean Water Act stemming from the deadly explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig that leaked 200 million gallons (757 million liters) of oil into the Gulf of Mexico between April and July in 2010. The case set to start next week brings together 535 separate lawsuits.

In addition to the settlement talks with the US government, BP is also discussing a possible $14-billion (10-billion-euro) settlement with lawyers who are representing individuals and companies claiming they have been suffered from the massive spill. According to the Wall Street Journal, the $14 billion could be taken out of a $20 billion compensation fund that was set up nearly two years ago.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Ground Zero Mosque Owner Selling a Property

But Sharif El-Gamal is not trying to sell the building near the World Trade Center site that has caused so much controversy.

Sources say that Sharif El-Gamal, the owner of the Ground Zero mosque, is selling 31 W. 27th St. to push his community center forward.

Sharif El-Gamal, who hopes to construct a community center with a mosque near the World Trade Center site, is trying to sell a building. But those who oppose his plans may be disappointed to find out it is not the property on Park Place near the site, and in fact there’s speculation that he is trying to sell 31 W. 27th St. to push the community center forward.

Sources said that Mr. El-Gamal tapped Studley brokers to market the 120,000-square-foot, 12-story building in Chelsea. He declined to comment, referring calls to Studley. Its sales brokers didn’t return calls. Mr. Gamal is chairman and CEO of Soho Properties, which paid $45.7 million for the 102-year-old property in 2007. Sources said he is hoping it will fetch about $65 million.

The building should attract a lot of interest because it is located in a neighborhood coveted by technology and creative firms, according to Dan Fasulo, managing director of Real Capital Analytics. “It’s a cool looking building,” said Mr. Fasulo. “Tech firms love this kind of space.”

Chelsea is part of the midtown south submarket which has the lowest vacancy rate of any central business district in the country, according to Cushman & Wakefield Inc.

Proceeds from the sale could be used to further Mr. El-Gamal’s efforts, which sparked a firestorm when they were revealed in December 2009. The project, which is called Park51 Community Center but is better known as the Ground Zero mosque, has been embroiled in several controversies since then including the departure of the Imam who was slated to play a major role in the endeavor. Moreover, Mr. El-Gamal and Consolidated Edison Inc. have been in engaged in a lawsuit over back rent at 49-51 Park Place, which the utility owns and leases to the developer.

Soho Partners purchased 45-47 Park Place in 2009 for $4.9 million and exercised its options to buy Con Ed’s building in 2010. Published reports say Mr. El-Gamal needs both buildings to construct his center. However, he and Con Ed have reached no resolution on a lawsuit, which contends that Soho Partners owes $1.7 million to the utility. The matter is still in the courts, where there have been numerous files and counterclaims.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Partial Remains of 9/11 Victims Went to Landfill

The partial remains of an unknown number of 9/11 victims were sent to a landfill site, the Pentagon has revealed. The victims involved were inside airplanes that struck the Pentagon and crashed in Pennsylvania in 2001. The partial, incinerated remains of unidentifiable September 11 victims were sent to a landfill site, the US Defense Department revealed on Tuesday night.

The number victims involved remained unclear, a Pentagon report said, but they were among the 184 killed when a terrorist-hijacked airplane struck the Pentagon, and the 40 that died when another plane crashed in a field in Pennsylvania. The report was released by an independent committee who were tasked with investigating practices at the Dover Air Force Base military mortuary after the 2001 attacks.

An investigation last November revealed the Dover facility had been guilty of “gross mismanagement” after losing body parts on two occasions. The mortuary was later blamed with incinerating and disposing of the remains of some 274 troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan in a landfill in Virginia. The Dover air base is the main point of entry to the US for fallen US soldiers.

The remains of the 9/11 victims had been taken to the same mortuary. “These cremated portions were then placed in sealed containers that were provided to a biomedical waste disposal contractor,” the report said. The report contradicted an earlier account from the air force, which claimed that before 2003 there were no records that showed how remains were handled.

A policy change in 2008 halted the practice of sending military ashes to landfill, with cremated remains of service personnel now given an official burial at sea.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

People Aren’t Smart Enough for Democracy to Flourish, Scientists Say

The democratic process relies on the assumption that citizens (the majority of them, at least) can recognize the best political candidate, or best policy idea, when they see it. But a growing body of research has revealed an unfortunate aspect of the human psyche that would seem to disprove this notion, and imply instead that democratic elections produce mediocre leadership and policies.

The research, led by David Dunning, a psychologist at Cornell University, shows that incompetent people are inherently unable to judge the competence of other people, or the quality of those people’s ideas. For example, if people lack expertise on tax reform, it is very difficult for them to identify the candidates who are actual experts. They simply lack the mental tools needed to make meaningful judgments.

As a result, no amount of information or facts about political candidates can override the inherent inability of many voters to accurately evaluate them. On top of that, “very smart ideas are going to be hard for people to adopt, because most people don’t have the sophistication to recognize how good an idea is,” Dunning told Life’s Little Mysteries.

He and colleague Justin Kruger, formerly of Cornell and now of New York University, have demonstrated again and again that people are self-delusional when it comes to their own intellectual skills. Whether the researchers are testing people’s ability to rate the funniness of jokes, the correctness of grammar, or even their own performance in a game of chess, the duo has found that people always assess their own performance as “above average” — even people who, when tested, actually perform at the very bottom of the pile.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Planetary Scientists Battle Over Nasa’s Mars Budget

Mars is living up to its mythological status as the god of war. The Red Planet is the focus of a budgetary battle between NASA and US scientists. On Monday, a group of scientists protested proposed cuts to the agency’s Mars programme at a meeting with NASA officials. The cuts were revealed two weeks ago, when the White House released its 2013 budget proposal, in which NASA is set to receive about $1 billion less than previous budget projections suggested.

As a result, the agency said it could no longer afford to contribute to a pair of missions called ExoMars, intended to search for signs of life and being developed with the European Space Agency for launch in 2016 and 2018. NASA says the cuts mean that bringing Martian soil samples back to Earth for detailed study — which the US National Academy of Sciences (NAS) ranks as the top priority for planetary science research in the next decade — will have to be delayed indefinitely.

In an apparent bid to ease tensions, NASA announced on Monday that it was assembling a group to reformulate its Mars programme “in light of current funding constraints”. Headed by former NASA “Mars tsar” Orlando Figueroa, it will put together a framework for funding and planning smaller Mars missions beginning as early as 2018, when Mars’s position will be ideal for a launch.

Icy moon

What a smaller 2018 mission would do is still unclear, although with a NASA-estimated budget of $700 million, it would almost certainly just orbit the Red Planet rather than landing on it.

But raising the possibility of a 2018 Mars mission, however simple it is, has upset other planetary scientists. They point out that the second-highest priority in the NAS’s “decadal survey” of goals is a mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa, which is thought to harbour a liquid ocean — and therefore potentially life — beneath its icy crust.

If the space agency cannot pay for a Mars sample-return mission, its next priority should be Europa, they say, adding that they have worked to reduce the cost of such a mission.

‘Follow the rules’

“If there’s a large mission, it should be Europa,” says Bob Pappalardo of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “If there’s (only money for) a medium-class mission, it should follow the decadal survey rules too and not just be handed to Mars — unless it’s going to directly lead to sample return.” He and others hope it won’t come down to a choice between the two.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Coalition Rifts: FDP Could Scupper Merkel’s Chances of Third Term

Chancellor Angela Merkel wanted to use the nomination of a new presidential candidate to prepare the ground for a new coalition after the next election in 2013. But her junior coalition partner, the FDP, scuppered her plan. Now, the unthinkable has become possible: A future coalition without Merkel’s party.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

EU Recalls All Ambassadors From Belarus

The European Union has recalled all its ambassadors from Belarus after Minsk expelled two representatives over fresh sanctions imposed by the bloc. The sanctions targeted 21 Beluarusian officials. The EU announced late on Tuesday that all member states’ ambassadors to Belarus were being recalled for consultations, after Minsk expelled two representatives.

“In expression of solidarity and unity it was agreed that the ambassadors of the EU member states in Minsk will all be withdrawn for consultations to their capitals,” EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said in a statement.

“All EU member states will also summon Belarusian ambassadors to their foreign ministries,” her statement said. “At the same time I have called a meeting of member states’ ambassadors in Brussels today to coordinate our response.” Earlier in the day, Minsk said that the Polish ambassador and the EU’s envoy should leave after Warsaw successfully pushed for fresh EU sanctions against Belarus.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

France Tables New Version of Genocide Law

French President Nicolas Sarkozy proposed a new genocide law on Tuesday that could imprison people for up to 1 year and impose a €45,000 fine for denying the Armenian or Jewish genocide. It is Sarkozy’s second attempt after the Constitutional Court declared his original version would undermine freedom of expression.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

France: Court Strikes Down Armenian Genocide Law

France’s top court ruled on Tuesday that a law backed by President Nicolas Sarkozy to punish denial of the Armenian genocide was unconstitutional as it infringed on freedom of expression. Turkey welcomed the ruling but Sarkozy, whose right-wing party had put forward the bill, swiftly vowed to draft a new version of the law that plunged France’s relations with Turkey into crisis.

Armenians say up to 1.5 million of their forebears were killed in a 1915-16 genocide by Turkey’s former Ottoman Empire. Turkey says 500,000 died and ascribes the toll to fighting and starvation during World War I. France had already recognised the killings as a genocide, but the new law sought to go further by punishing anyone who denies this with up to a year in jail and a fine of €45,000 ($57,000).

However, the Constitutional Council labelled the law an “unconstitutional attack on freedom of expression” and it said it wished “not to enter into the realm of responsibility that belongs to historians”.

Turkey quickly welcomed the ruling on the law which Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has denounced as “tantamount to discrimination and racism”. Turkey’s deputy prime minister Bulent Arinc said on Twitter the ruling “has averted a potentially serious crisis in Turkish-French ties”.

The decision “does not indulge political concerns,” Arinc said after Sarkozy was accused of pandering to an estimated 400,000 voters of Armenian origin ahead of an April-May presidential election. The top court “gave a lesson in law to the French politicians who signed the bill, which was an example of absurdity,” said Arinc.

Turkey’s EU Affairs Minister Egemen Bagis said France had averted a “historical mistake”, and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu called the decision “an important step that will legally avert future exploitations”.

However, Sarkozy’s office quickly put out a statement saying the president “has ordered the government to prepare a new draft, taking into account the Constitutional Council’s decision.” Sarkozy noted “the great disappointment and profound sadness of all those who welcomed with hope and gratitude the adoption of this law aimed at providing protection against revisionism.”

After winning passage in the National Assembly and Senate, the law was put on hold in January after groups of senators and MPs opposed to the legislation demanded that its constitutionality be examined. The groups gathered more than the minimum 60 signatures required to ask the council to test the law’s constitutionality.

At least two ministers, Foreign Minister Alain Juppé and Agriculture Minister Bruno Le Maire, had spoken out against the bill. Ankara has already halted political and military cooperation with France and had threatened to cut off economic and cultural ties.

Trade between the two states was worth €12 billion ($15.5 billion) in 2010, and several hundred French businesses operate in Turkey.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

France: Rapist Who Targeted Blonde, Blue-Eyed Victims Caught

I posted before about the negro rapist who targeted blonde, blue-eyed women and girls in Paris, and asked their religion and nationality before raping them. He has now been caught. In fact he was already in prison for another offence, of theft this time, in Belgium. The French authorities are arranging for him to be extradited to face trial in France. His fingerprints led to his detection…

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

Germany: Anne Frank Possessions Head ‘Home’ To Frankfurt

A collection of Anne Frank’s possessions is being sent to Frankfurt, where she was born and from where her family fled the Nazis. The city’s Jewish Museum will even be expanded to include a special wing to contain the items. Anne Frank’s cousin Buddy Elias, whose side of the family fled to Switzerland rather than Holland and thus survived, was in Frankfurt on Tuesday to announce the decision.

Anne Frank’s father Otto had, “a happy youth here,” said Elias. “Just like so many other people he could hardly imagine that his home town could at one point no longer be a home for all citizens.” Although her famous diary will remain in Amsterdam, where she and her family were hidden for years from the occupying Nazis, hundreds of the family’s possessions including paintings, photos, furniture and letters, will be kept in Frankfurt’s Jewish Museum.

The collection includes devastating letters written by Anne’s father Otto from the Auschwitz death camp to his relatives in Basel. Otto was the only member of Anne’s immediate family to survive after they were discovered hiding in an attic in 1944 and sent to Bergen-Belsen and Auschwitz. “We carry the responsibility to ensure that future generations — the young of today — can proceed towards a fair society in peace… The diary of Anne Frank teaches us nothing less than that,” said Elias.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Hungary’s Path to Nowhere

Even though the Hungarian government is now tacitly conceding its fiscal plan has failed, the European Commission is threatening the country with sanctions. Far-right activists are exploiting the conflict.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Ikea ‘Stole Secret French Police Reports’ — Claim

Swedish furniture giant IKEA has been accused of illegally accessing secret police files in France as part of its security operation. Reports in weekly newspaper Le Canard Enchaîné and investigative website Rue89 say the company used French security companies to gain access to documents held in the STIC system.

STIC (Système de traitement des infractions constatées) is a centralised records system which groups together data from police investigations, including both suspected criminals and their victims. Accessing the documents without authorisation is an offence.

A series of internal emails published by Le Canard Enchaîné allege that from 2003 the head of security at IKEA’s French operation regularly asked for checks on employees and clients. Questions were asked about more than 200 people, including requests for criminal records, vehicle registration checks and affiliations with political organisations.

The newspaper reported that each check on the police files cost IKEA €80 ($108). The STIC database has been heavily criticised in the past for inaccuracies. A 2008 report by the data watchdog, CNIL, estimated that only 17 percent of the documents about individuals were accurate. The company has been attacked before over its security methods.

A 2010 book, “The Truth About IKEA”, levelled accusations of racism and nepotism against the retailer. The book also claimed the company used surveillance methods that were worthy “of the Stasi.” Radio station France Info reported on Wednesday that around ten IKEA employees are planning to lodge a formal complaint about illegal use of personal data. The charge can be punished with a €300,000 fine and up to five years in prison.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Interpol Arrest 25 in Swoop on Anonymous Suspects

Police in Spain and South America have combined to arrest 25 alleged hackers from the online activist group Anonymous. The group is accused of organizing a campaign to deface government and company websites.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Jail Krekar for Five Years: Norway Prosecutor

A Norwegian prosecutor called Tuesday for Mullah Krekar, the founder of radical Iraqi Kurdish Islamist group Ansar al-Islam, to be sentenced to five years in prison for issuing death threats against a former government minister, media reported. The 55-year-old mullah, whose real name is Najmeddine Faraj Ahmad and who has lived in Norway since 1991, has pleaded not guilty to threatening the life of Erna Solberg, an ex-minister who signed his expulsion order in 2003 because he was considered a threat to national security.

Krekar’s name is on terrorist lists drawn up by the United Nations and the United States. His deportation process began in 2003 but has yet to be carried out since Norwegian law prevents him from being deported to Iraq until his safety can be guaranteed and as long as he risks the death penalty.

“Norway will pay a heavy price for my death,” he said during a meeting with international media in June 2010. “If for example Erna Solberg deports me and I die as a result, she will suffer the same fate,” he said in Arabic, adding: “I don’t know who will kill her: Al-Qaeda, Ansar al-Islam, my family, my children. I don’t know… But she will pay the price.”

According to prosecutor Marit Bakkevig, the comments were an attempt to get Norwegian authorities to reverse the expulsion order. Krekar is also accused of threatening other Kurds living in Norway who had burned pages of the Koran, as well as calling for attacks on US soldiers in Iraq on several occasions.

The mullah has admitted to making the statements but has claimed his words merely referred to Islamic principles. His lawyer Brynjar Meling said he would call for his client’s acquittal in court on Wednesday. “He considers that what he said falls entirely within the laws of freedomof expression and religion,” Meling told TV2 news channel.

A date for the verdict has yet to be announced. While Krekar acknowledges having co-founded Ansar al-Islam, which also figures on international lists of terrorist groups, in 2001, he insists he has not led the group since 2002.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Neanderthals Were Ancient Mariners

IT LOOKS like Neanderthals may have beaten modern humans to the seas. Growing evidence suggests our extinct cousins criss-crossed the Mediterranean in boats from 100,000 years ago — though not everyone is convinced they weren’t just good swimmers.

Neanderthals lived around the Mediterranean from 300,000 years ago. Their distinctive “Mousterian” stone tools are found on the Greek mainland and, intriguingly, have also been found on the Greek islands of Lefkada, Kefalonia and Zakynthos. That could be explained in two ways: either the islands weren’t islands at the time, or our distant cousins crossed the water somehow.

Now, George Ferentinos of the University of Patras in Greece says we can rule out the former. The islands, he says, have been cut off from the mainland for as long as the tools have been on them.

Ferentinos compiled data that showed sea levels were 120 metres lower 100,000 years ago, because water was locked up in Earth’s larger ice caps. But the seabed off Greece today drops down to around 300 metres, meaning that when Neanderthals were in the region, the sea would have been at least 180 metres deep.

Ferentinos thinks Neanderthals had a seafaring culture for tens of thousands of years. Modern humans are thought to have taken to the seas just 50,000 years ago, on crossing to Australia.

The journeys to the Greek islands from the mainland were quite short — 5 to 12 kilometres — but according to Thomas Strasser of Providence College in Rhode Island, the Neanderthals didn’t stop there. In 2008 he found similar stone tools on Crete, which he says are at least 130,000 years old. Crete has been an island for some 5 million years and is 40 kilometres from its closest neighbour — suggesting far more ambitious journeys.

Strasser agrees Neanderthals were seafaring long before modern humans, in the Mediterranean at least.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Norway: ‘Mullah Krekar Has Right to Defend His Religion’, Says His Lawyer

Via VG:

The prosecutor in the trial against Mulla Krekar (Najmuddin Faraj Ahmad) asked for five years imprisonment. Krekar is charged with threatening the head of the Conservative Party, Erna Solberg, and with threatening to kill three Kurds who posted a YouTube video of a Koran being burnt.

Krekar’s laywer, Arvid Sjødin, said in his concluding statement that the Kurds deliberately provoked a reaction from Krekar by filming the Koran burning and posting it online.

“They knew perfectly well what reaction will occur. Therefore they put into motion a campaign to get Krekar to say what they knew he would say,” said Sjødin. “In Western Norway we have a saying, if you sit on barbed wire, don’t complain that it pricks. These people sat down on barbed wire.”

The lawyer also denied that Krekar threatened the three Kurds. “When Krekar says that when you do such insulting things you can die, it’s not a threat, but a factual observation from a religious viewpoint.”…

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]

Norway: Book Success for Angel Whisperer Princess

Norwegian Princess Märtha Louise has scored a fresh hit with her second book about angels, advising readers on how to talk to them. ‘The Secrets of Angel’ has taken the country’s bestseller lists by storm since its release two weeks ago. After an initial print run of 11,400, the book’s publishers are already preparing to release a further 4,000 copies.

The princess, who has set up her own alternative medicine business, wrote the book with fellow author Elisabeth Nordeng. “There are an infinite number of angels all around us who want to help us in all circumstances and at all times,” the 40-year-old princess and Nordeng wrote in their introduction to the book “the Secrets of Angels”. “They are there for us. They are real. They exist,” they added.

The book is a sequel to “Discover your Guardian Angel” which the two women published in 2009. “In ‘the Secrets of Angels’ we reveal some of their secrets to make it easier for you to contact them. Angels want to be in touch with you, but it’s important to know how they operate and how they get in touch,” the women said.

The princess, who is fourth in line of success to the Norwegian crown, has renounced her title of Princess Royal along with most of her official duties in order to lead her own private life. She is often mocked in Norway for having founded a “school of angels”, but in an interview with TV2 television to coincide with the book release, she welcomed the criticism saying it was a good thing “because we live in a free country where everyone can speak their mind”.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Remembering Anne Frank: ‘I Knew Nothing About the Profundity of Her Thoughts’

They lay hidden away in an attic in Basel for decades before being discovered. But now many of the belongings of Anne Frank’s family — including thousands of letters and toys — will be displayed at the Jewish Museum in the family’s hometown of Frankfurt. In an interview, SPIEGEL ONLINE speaks with Buddy Elias, Anne’s closest cousin and last surviving direct relative.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Switzerland: Historic Diamond to Fetch Millions in Geneva

The 35-carat pear-shaped diamond Marie de Medici wore at her coronation in 1610, one of the world’s most famous gems, is to be auctioned in Geneva on May 15th, Sotheby’s announced on Tuesday. Passed down through the royal families of France, England, Prussia and the Netherlands, the Beau de Sancy has witnessed 400 years of European history.

“The Beau Sancy is one of the most fascinating and romantic gems ever to appear at auction,” David Bennett, from the auction house’s jewellery department, said in a statement. The stone — which is expected to fetch $2-4 million — gets its name from diamond collector Nicolas Harley de Sancy, who bought it in Constantinople, now Istanbul, in the late 16th century.

It is believed to have come from the city of Golconda, in central India, where other famous diamonds such as the Kohinoor and the Regent originated. The 34.98-carat diamond measures 2.3 centimetres in height, is 1.9 cm wide and 1.1 cm deep.

Marie de Medici wore it mounted atop her crown for her coronation on May 13th 1610, the day before her husband, France’s King Henry IV, was assassinated. The Beau Sancy, which has rarely been shown to the public in recent decades, will go on a world tour from March and will be exhibited in Hong Kong, New York, Rome, Paris, London and Zurich before being sold in Geneva.

According to Sotheby’s, when the last German Emperor and King of Prussia fled to exile in Holland in 1918, the crown jewels — including the Beau Sancy — remained at the Kaiser’s palace in Berlin. At the end of World War II, the collection was transferred to a bricked-up crypt in Bückeburg, where it was later found by British troops. It was returned to the House of Prussia, which is now auctioning it.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK Seeks Reform of European Rights Court

The UK is pressing to reform the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights, reported the BBC on Tuesday. Documents seen by the broadcaster outline proposals that would reduce case loads in Strasbourg, transfer more power to national courts and set up a commission to review the court’s role.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

When in Doubt, Call Them Nazis: Ugly Stereotypes of Germany Resurface in Greece

Greeks have gone from being big fans of Germans to comparing them to Nazis dead-set on using financial means to establish the “Fourth Reich.” What was once the type of exaggeration mostly found in caricatures has now become a genuine, widespread and worrisome belief among Greeks.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Algeria: Crime, 2,100 Civil Servants Arrested in January

For crimes from abuse of power to drugs and arms trafficking

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS — Algeria has altered its approach and is using an iron fist against unfaithful civil servants. The “numerical” results of the new stance are, to say the least, quite surprising. In January alone, the national Gendarmerie arrested almost 2,100 civil servants and public officials, which has the appearance of an unenviable world record.

The axe of investigators from the Gendarmerie — whose presence across the country could be compared to that of Carabinieri — has come down at all levels and among the public officials thrown into jail are some of very senior rank and with particularly delicate roles.

Some 532 civil servants and 1,563 employees have been arrested (some of them working privately, but with a working relationship with the public sector) and charged with crimes connected to their roles. The most serious accusations include membership of drug-trafficking organisations, a charge levelled at 82 civil servants and 131 employees.

The investigations by the Gendarmerie began with the most banal common denominator of criminal activity, those with a quality of life higher than their salary should allow. Investigators then discovered that mere public officials were driving around in luxury cars, living in high-end residential areas, or had amounts in their bank account that could not easily have been put aside from their monthly income.

Some of those arrested are part of international organisations, especially drug-traffickers, most of them working in offices on the Algerian borders and therefore ideally placed to facilitate trafficking and smuggling by turning a blind eye. This was the case for weapons (most of them light), which investigations revealed were taken from Algeria to nearby countries, particularly Tunisia and further south.

Some 51 public employees are said to have been part of these arms-trafficking organisations, part of a total of around 160 people arrested as a result of 149 investigations. There has also been a thick file of illegal car trafficking (the tax regime in Algeria favours the buying and selling of cars from other countries), which is highly profitable and carries a very low threat of being caught.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Upper House Speaker Also From Brotherhood

Ahmed Fahmy of Freedom and Justice elected

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO — The Upper House of Egypt’s parliament, which has purely consultative powers, has an Islamist Chair. During its inaugural session today, the Shura elected Ahmed Fahmy of the Justice and Freedom party, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, which took 59% of the vote in the elections which ended last week. Also at the People’s Assembly, the lower house of parliament, Justice and Freedom is the leading party, with 43% of the vote.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Egypt: US to Abide Jihad Ransom for Imprisoned Americans?

By Andrew Bostom

Are the bitter fruits of Senator John McCain’s “diligent diplomacy [1]” a humiliating prisoner “exchange”—innocent US NGO workers, for hardened jihadists, including the notorious “Blind Sheikh” Umar ‘Abd-al-Rahman, who orchestrated the murderous 1993 World Trade Center bombing?

My colleague at Translating Jihad [2] has fully translated an Arabic Al-Arabiya story entitled (pathognomonically), “ ‘Umar ‘Abd-al-Rahman at Forefront of Egyptian-American Prisoner Exchange Deal.”

If the crux of this story [2] is accurate, it will represent a modern variant of capitulation to the anti-modern dictates of jihad warfare. Jihad [3], this ancient, but vibrant Islamic institution grounded upon hatred of the non-Muslim infidel, has long used captured infidels—including, prominently, non-combatants seized as “booty” during endless, unprovoked incursions into the lands of the infidel—to ransom in exchange for captured murderous jihadists.

This was true, for example, of the Barbary jihad piracy [4]—an enduring, formidable enterprise—which confronted America soon after our nation was established (i.e., between 1786-1815). During the 16th and 17th centuries, as many Europeans [5] were captured, sold, and enslaved by the Barbary corsairs as were West Africans made captive and shipped for plantation labor in the Americas by European slave traders. Robert Davis’ [6] methodical enumeration indicates that between one, and one and one-quarter million white European Christians were enslaved by the Barbary Muslims from 1530 through 1780. White Gold [7], Giles Milton’s remarkable account of Cornish cabin boy Thomas Pellow, captured by Barbary corsairs in 1716, also documents how earlier 17th century jihad razzias had extended to England…

           — Hat tip: Andy Bostom[Return to headlines]

Middle East

A Nuclear Iran Will Choke World Economy, Israel Claims

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned that a nuclear-armed Iran would control the Persian Gulf, dictate far higher oil prices — and cause severe disruption to the global economy. The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, warned the international community on Tuesday that a nuclear-armed Iran might have a devastating impact on the world economy.

He told a conference in Jerusalem on environmentally friendly economic growth that an Iran in possession of atomic weapons would most likely exert more pressure on the major Gulf oil producers and send energy prices soaring. “Everyone needs to understand that if we’re worried about rising oil prices today we shall be far more worried, if a nuclear Iran gains control over the energy centers in the Persian Gulf,” Netanyahu said in his address, which was broadcast on Israeli public radio. “Anyone who is interested in stopping the manipulative use of oil production and its influence on global markets must for that reason enlist to stop Iran’s nuclear race.”

Israel, alongside much of the western world, believes that Iran’s nuclear program is also aimed at acquiring atomic weapons — a charge that Tehran has always denied. Israel as the only — if undeclared — nuclear power in the Middle East has said all options are open to stop Iran’s nuclear ambitions, but it has been under pressure from Washington and Europe not to launch a pre-emptive military strike.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Turkey: Erdogan Celebrates Win Over Anti-Islamic Coups

15th anniversary speech, yesterday’s victims in power today

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, FEBRUARY 28 — With a speech in front of a crowd of cheering MPs, Turkish Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan in his own way celebrated an anniversary involving a recent historical event in Turkey: the anti-Islamic military coup on 28 February 1997. He did so while stressing his desire to remain at the helm in the long-term, despite a recent intestinal surgery and an internally-divided social democratic opposition. Broadcast live on television, his speech today in front of the parliamentary group of his near-absolute majority party (AKP) was highly anticipated because it was pronounced after an absence from the capital lasting over two weeks, as he was recovering and under observation after a second round of surgery in the last three months to remove benign intestinal polyps. “This heart will continue to beat for my citizens”, “ this path will definitely continue”, assured the central figure of Turkey’s political world, who had already denied having cancer. After reassuring the crowd, which paid tribute to him with stadium chants such as “Turkey is proud of you”, Erdogan reminisced about the so-called “post-modern” coup in which the Army — guardians of Turkey’s secular state on the order of the founder of the Turkish state, Kemal Ataturk — forced the first pro-Islamic government in the country, led by Necmettin Erbakan, to step down 15 years ago. “We are the victims of February 28”, of the coup that went “against the will of the people”, the premier underlined, stating that “a government that was installed through elections was overturned”. “History will not pardon the architects of the February 28 coup even after 1000 years”, said Erdogan, echoing an historic statement made by the head of the perpetrators of the coup, Huseyin Kivrikoglu, and making a veiled reference to the ongoing investigations into the liability of the generals. “But we are proud to be standing here,” the premier stated (meaning to govern Turkey with an Islamic-inspired government).

In a highly rhetorical style, Erdogan made use of pauses and soft tones while speaking about the psychological suffering of “two girls” who were hospitalised for the pain they experienced because they were not allowed to wear their veils, banned by the Army in the country’s universities.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Turkey: Erdogan’s Brand of Islam Ushers in Cultural Boom

Moderate Islamic premier promotes theatre, books, cinema

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, FEBRUARY 27 — Official figures for cultural activity released in Turkey this year show what is practically a summary of a thriving cultural scene under the Erdogan era.

The AKP, the moderate Islamic party of Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has been in power since 2002 and its religious orientation had provoked fears for the secular nature of Turkey and for Western-style expressions of national culture. These fears have so far proven to be unfounded in the light of the numerical growth of such sectors as theatre, book reading, cultural centres, antiques and cinema. The figures were released last week by the office for culture and information of the Turkish embassy in Rome.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Putin Warns Russia’s Opposition Ahead of Vote

Vladimir Putin accused Russia’s opposition on Wednesday of plotting dirty tricks to discredit his likely victory in weekend presidential polls, saying they must “submit” to the majority in the vote. Putin attacked Russia’s nascent protest movement with characteristic venom in a display of confidence ahead of Sunday’s election in which the current premier is expected to regain the Kremlin post he held in 2000-2008.

He alleged that activists were planning to stuff ballots themselves in a deliberate ploy to delegitimise the vote. Allegations of vote-rigging sparked mass protests against his rule after the December 4 parliamentary election.

“The main rule is to respect the view of the minority, but to submit to the opinion of the majority,” Putin said at a meeting with supporters in Moscow at the vast Manezh exhibition centre just outside the Kremlin walls. “People who talk about the need to strengthen democratic institutions must themselves obey these rules. The minority must not impose its will on the majority,” he said.

Putin then went one step further, suggesting his foes were “looking for a so-called sacrificial victim” whose death in violent street protests could be blamed on the government. “They will — let’s say — bump him off themselves and then blame it on the authorities. That is the type of people they are. They are capable of anything.”

Putin has rarely been afraid to mince words when dealing with opponents during his 12-year domination of Russia and had previously accused the youth-driven opposition movement of being sponsored by the US State Department. But the former KGB spy had never before accused his domestic foes of plotting violence and his comments represented an escalation of tone four days ahead of the vote.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Youth Agency Head Wins Defamation Case Related to Journalist Beating

Russian Youth Agency chief Vasily Yakemenko has won a settlement in a defamation case against gallery owner and political consultant Marat Gelman, who accused the agency leader of being behind a brutal attack on prominent journalist Oleg Kashin. The court ordered Gelman to pay Yakemenko damages in the amount of 100,000 rubles ($29,000).

Yakemenko’s complaint was connected to claims made by Gelman in messages on Twitter and LiveJournal in November 2010 that the youth agency head ordered the attack. Several media outlets reported previously that Gelman thought activists from youth organization Nashi, created by Yakemenko, carried out the attack.

Yakemenko spokeswoman Kristina Potupchik said on Twitter that Yakemenko will give the money to the Nework of Putin’s Supporters to hand out flowers across the city on March 1. Kashin was attacked at night in November 2010 in front of his building by unknown assailants. He sustained serious injuries and was in a coma for a week. Neither the assailants nor the person who ordered the attack have been found.

Kashin himself was sued by Yakemenko for theorizing that the Nashi founder had been behind the attack but was cleared by a Moscow court in June. Yakemenko took issue with the journalist’s statement, “I do not doubt the ‘Yakemenko’ version, and I have no other versions.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Blasphemy: Burning Quran is a Form of International Terrorism

JHANG: Following a blasphemy case being registered against Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Cultural Editor of Danish Newspaper Fleming Rose, another blasphemy case has been registered at the Kotwali police station in Jhang against websites and Florida Pastors Terry Jones and Wayne Sapp.

An FIR No.234/12 was registered on the order of the Jhang Session Judge Arshad Masood, acting on the application of Advocate Aamir Mehmood Shakir Noal. The fresh case charge social media websites Facebook, YouTube, search engine Google, along with Terry Jones of State of Florida Church, Pastor Wayne Sapp, Florida Church and President Pakistan Telecommunication Authority for using derogatory remarks with respect to the Holy Prophets (Peace be Upon Them).

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

Erykah Badu Concert in Malaysia Canceled Over Her ‘Allah’ Tattoo, Report Says

A publicity photo of Erykah Badu has gotten the singer, and the newspaper that published it, in trouble in Malaysia.

Badu had her concert canceled by the Kuala Lumpur’s Culture, Arts and Heritage Ministry when a photo showing a tattoo of the Aarabic word “Allah” written on Badu’s upper body was published in the Malaysian newspaper The Star, BBC News reports.

A Malaysian official reportedly called the photo “an insult to Islam.”

The Star has already issued an apology, BBC News reports, calling the publication of the photo “inadvertent.”

“We deeply regret any offence caused to Muslims and sincerely apologize for the oversight,” the paper said on Tuesday.

Badu, already in Kuala Lumpur for the concert, is reportedly “worried and dismayed.”

Tattoos are a no-no in Islam, as is using the word “Allah” in any way deemed disrespectful. Malaysia is predominantly Muslim.

There were already protesters outside The Star offices when the paper issued its apology, BBC News reports.

           — Hat tip: McR[Return to headlines]

Srdja Trifkovic: The Afghan Debacle

The Obama administration’s strategy in Afghanistan is in tatters. This month’s violence, sparked off by the reported burning of Qurans at an American military base, has claimed at least thirty lives. Two of the dead were U.S. Army officers murdered at their post inside the Afghan Interior Ministry, supposedly one of the most secure locations in the country.

The killings prompted General John Allen, who commands U.S. and NATO forces, to pull his personnel from Afghan government buildings, while NATO advisers in Kabul have limited communication with Karzai’s ministries to telephone and e-mail.

The problem is not new. In May 2011 a U.S. Army study established that murders of Westerners by Afghan national security forces did not represent “rare and isolated events”: between July 2010 and May of last year, more than thirty NATO personnel were killed by Afghan soldiers or policemen. Even before the latest incident there had been little trust between U.S.-led coalition forces and their local Afghan “allies” in the elusive quest for peace and stability.

To put it bluntly, the U.S. position is comparable to the predicament of the Red Army in Hungary in October 1956. Fighting the insurgents, while fearing a stab in the back from one’s local partners, is untenable. The Soviets could return with overwhelming force and subdue the revolution because they bordered Hungary, a flat country ill-suited to guerrilla warfare. This is where the parallel ends.

           — Hat tip: Srdja Trifkovic[Return to headlines]

Strike in India Hits Banking and Transport Sectors

A day-long nation-wide strike staged by 11 trade unions in India remained peaceful and evoked a mixed response, but key sectors like banking and transport took a hit in various parts of the country. Rajinder Khurana, a 36-year-old bank clerk working in the government-owned State Bank of India in the capital was up early on Tuesday. The previous night he and his colleagues had prepared elaborate placards demanding an amendment to the Minimum Wages Act and an increase in gratuity payout.

Khurana was among the hundreds of employees who picketed the bank’s entrance dissuading employees from coming into office even as a tight police cordon ringed the bank premises. All clerical staff and non-supervisory staff were on strike, while officers reported for duty.

This is perhaps for the first time in recent memory that trade unions affiliated with most of the mainstream political parties have come together to voice their protest against rising prices and warn the government against its “anti-labor policies.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


NASA’s Next Space Telescope Could ‘Sniff’ Out Alien Planets

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope is a sophisticated new observatory that is being designed to unlock some of the greatest mysteries of the universe, but it could also play a key role in the hunt for alien planets, scientists said.

The $8.8 billion James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), which is slated to launch in 2018, will orbit 930,000 miles (1,500,000 kilometers) from Earth, in a region called the Lagrange Point 2. Here, the gravitational forces from the Earth and the sun essentially cancel each other out, so JWST will be able to maintain a stable orbit without using up too much energy.

From this distant orbital perch, JWST will be able to stare uninterrupted at stars with sensitive infrared instruments. The telescope’s powerful tools could let astronomers “sniff” the atmospheres of alien planets and break down their molecular composition.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Our Baby Universe Likely Expanded Rapidly, Study Suggests

The distribution of matter across the cosmos is most easily explained by inflation, a theory that suggests our universe inflated rapidly — just like a balloon — shortly after its birth, according to new research.

A new study found that cosmic inflation, which was first proposed in 1980, is the simplest explanation that fits the measurements of the distribution of matter throughout the universe made by NASA’s Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP), a spacecraft that scans radiation left over from the Big Bang.

According to inflation, the universe expanded by a factor of at least 1078 (that’s 10 with 78 zeroes after it), all in less than a second. This stage could have formed the basis for the large-scale structure we can detect in the distribution of galaxies around us now.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Quayle Redux: A Silent Romney Would be a Better Romney

Presidential candidate Mitt Romney may be the frontrunner for the Republican nomination, but he has developed a curious penchant for tripping over his own tongue. Particularly when talking about money, he has increasingly veered into Dan Quayle territory. His verbal slip-ups could ultimately doom his campaign.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]