Sunday, January 12, 2003

News Feed 20120314

Financial Crisis
»Greece: Trade Deficit Shrinks 28.2% in 2011
»Greece: Pharmacists on the Verge of Protest Again
»Ireland Set for Late May Referendum on EU Fiscal Treaty
»Italy: Spread Closes at 290.1 Points, Yield 4.85%
»New Spanish Deficit Target ‘Reasonable and Achievable’: PM
»Company in New York City Payroll Project Scandal to Pay $500 Million
»Diana West: You Know You’re in Trouble When …
»Diana West: Pentagon Exalts Koran Over Constitution
»Islamic Halal Meat: It ‘Slams Against Quebec Values, ‘ Parti Quebecois Says
»Norway Wants Explorer Amundsen’s Ship Back
Europe and the EU
»Ashton Vows Support for Italy in Arrested Marines Case
»Belgium: Mosque Attack Linked to Syria Strife
»EU Withdraws ‘Racist’ Video Clip
»Italy: Top Lombardy Official Suspected of Illicit Party Funding
»Italy: Dante’s ‘Racist’ Divine Comedy ‘Should be Banished’
»Majority of Britons Want EU Referendum
»Polish Nuclear Dreams Threaten Ties With Germany
»Prince: Germany Should Reinstate Monarchy
»Qaddafi Ally ‘Kept Slaves’ At French Country Home
»Rhino Horn Thefts a Growing Problem in Europe
»Sweden Sparks Row Over Who Owns ‘Nordic Model’
North Africa
»Moroccan Girl, 16, Kills Herself After Judge Forced Her to Marry Man Who RAPED Her
»Tunisia Still Suffering From Violence Against Women
»Tunisia: Imports Stop for 50 Medicines From Israeli Labs
Israel and the Palestinians
»Gaza: Islamic Jihad Celebrating After Challenge to Israel
»Gaza: EIB Supports Project for Water Desalination
»Serbia and Israel to Foster Military Cooperation
Middle East
»Interview With Tunisia’s Prime Minister: ‘Military Intervention in Syria Would be Pure Madness’
»Qatar: Deepest Port in the World to be Built in Doha
»Qatar: Surge in Diabetes/Obesity, Unhealthy Arab Habits
»Saudi Grand Mufti Calls for “Destruction of All Churches in Region”
»U.S. Nuclear Expert Finds Iran Explosive Site in Imagery
»NASA Needs a Little More Help From Russia
South Asia
»American Soldier Accused in Shooting Spree Flown Out of Afghanistan, To Kuwait, Source Says
»Italy Confident in EU Help With Marines Held in India
»Military Source Calls Incident at Afghanistan Airport an ‘Attempted Attack’
»Panetta is Safe After Car Ignites Near His Plane at Afghan Base
»US at Pains to Limit Damage in Afghanistan
»Women’s Day in Pakistan: A Police Officer Rapes a 14 Year Old Christian Girl
Far East
»Chinese Human Fossils Unlike Any Known Species
»No More ‘Chicken Without Sex Life’
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Nigeria Tries to Grapple With Boko Haram
Latin America
»Enel Depends on Latin America for Growth
»Germany Rebukes Sarkozy Over Border Talk
»Morocco: 7 Billion From Migrants Every Year
Culture Wars
»Charts: White People Are No Longer Relevant in Pop Music Sales
»MEPs Back Quotas to Get More Women Into Top Jobs
»Lowly Worms Are Closet Brainiacs
»Why the British Are Free-Thinking and the Chinese Love Conformity: It’s All in the Genes Claim Scientists

Financial Crisis

Greece: Trade Deficit Shrinks 28.2% in 2011

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, FEBRUARY 29 — Greece’s trade deficit shrank by 28.2% in 2011, Athens News Agency reports quoting figures from the Hellenic Statistical Authority (Elstat). The latest foreign trade data highlight the effects of a 35% drop in private consumption over the past three years as a result of the policy of internal devaluation imposed by the troika of Greece’s creditors. However, the total value of imports, excluding oil products, in 2011 amounted to 31.8 billion euros, a drop of 13% on the 2010 figure of 36.7 billion euros. This means that imports are falling more slowly than aggregate demand due to Greece’s excessive reliance on imports for the satisfaction of basic needs, like food and clothing. On the other hand, the total value of exports — again, excluding oil products — in 2011 amounted to 16.0 billion euros, a relatively small increase of 9.4% on the 2010 figure of 14.6 billion euros, implying that the substitution of imports with domestic production and exports is still at a very early stage. The trade deficit, excluding oil products, for the 12-month period from January to December 2011, amounted to 15.8 billion euros, compared to 22.0 billion euros for the same period in 2010, a drop of 28.2%.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greece: Pharmacists on the Verge of Protest Again

Parliament approves health cuts, all-out strike threatened

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS — Pharmacists in Athens, the Piraeus and Patras decided to suspend the sale of medicines to citizens assisted by welfare authorities from today, March 1st.

Welfare authorities have not paid their debts with pharmacies for over three months. Moreover, according to press information, pharmacists have threatened to call an all-out strike and close their pharmacies from Tuesday, March 6th. At the same time, they would like to pass a proposal by the Professional Association of Pharmacists of the Attica Region providing for the suspension of the all-night service during strike periods. Pharmacists are protesting against the government’s decision to implement liberalization of pharmacies’ opening time and, in a comuninqué, they accuse the government of not having kept its promises with regard to settling the State’s debts with pharmacies.(ANSAmed).

In an early morning vote today, Greek MPs approved an extension of pharmacy opening hours, cuts to drugs spending and the merger debt-strapped supplementary pension funds as part of a package of healthcare reforms agreed in return for last week’s 130 billion euro international bailout deal. In the vote, as daily Athens News reports, the final significant element in the package of so-called “prior actions” which Athens had promised before this week’s European Union summit, deputies voted 213 to 58 to approve the package, with 17 abstaining in a result which was generally expected after the two coalition parties backed the bill. The new law limits spending on drugs by state pension funds and mandates generic drugs prescriptions to cut costs. Cheaper generic drugs account for just 18% of the market, one of the lowest levels in the European Union, compared with 80% in Germany. The latest measures aim to lift the national total to 50%, in line with the rest of Europe.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Ireland Set for Late May Referendum on EU Fiscal Treaty

Ireland is due to hold a referendum on the intergovernmental treaty on fiscal discipline on 24 or 25 May, the Irish Times reports. It notes that Prime Minister Enda Kenny last week expressed a preference for holding the poll at the end of May.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italy: Spread Closes at 290.1 Points, Yield 4.85%

Markets boosted by bond auctions

(ANSA) — Rome, March 14 — The spread between Italian and German 10-year bonds ended Wednesday on 290.1 points after two successful Italian bond auctions.

The yield, another key mark of market sentiment, finished on 4.85%.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

New Spanish Deficit Target ‘Reasonable and Achievable’: PM

Spain’s new 2012 deficit target of 5.3 percent of output agreed with the European Union is “reasonable and achievable”, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said on Wednesday. Rajoy said Madrid would “scrupulously” respect its 2013 deficit target of 3.0 percent agreed with Brussels.

Spain was supposed to bring its deficit down to 4.4 percent of output this year, but last month Rajoy month said that Madrid would aim for a deficit of 5.8 percent instead.

The higher figure arose in part from a sharp increase in the estimated deficit for last year, setting a higher base level, but the European Commission responded by insisting at the time that Spain must meet its targets.

On Monday, the two sides agreed that Spain must cut the deficit to 5.3 percent of gross domestic product in 2012 and to the EU ceiling of 3.0 percent in 2013 — still a major challenge for the next two years.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Company in New York City Payroll Project Scandal to Pay $500 Million

The main contractor that ran the scandal-ridden CityTime automated payroll project for New York City will pay over $500 million to resolve a federal criminal investigation into its conduct, the federal authorities announced on Wednesday.

[Return to headlines]

Diana West: You Know You’re in Trouble When …

…Pravda, historically the organ of the USSR Communist Party, now an online paper of the same, sinister-storied name, can comment on the stunning lack of media oxygen given to further evidence, as marshaled by Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his Cold Case Posse, that President Obama is an identity thief.

From, yes, Pravda:

A singularly remarkable event has taken place in the United States of America. This event occurred in Arizona on March 1st and was an earth shattering revelation.

A long awaited press conference was given by Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a five time elected Sheriff, which should have made national and international headlines. Arpaio’s credentials include serving in the United States Army from 1950 to 1953, service as a federal narcotics agent serving in countries all over the world with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), and served as the head of the Arizona DEA. Without doubt, this is a serious Law Enforcement Officer, not one to be taken in by tin-foil-hat wearing loons.

Yet, in the five days since his revelations there has been little in the way of serious reporting on the findings he presented in his presser. With 6 short videos, the Sheriff and his team presented a devastating case, one the tame US press is apparently unable to report. …

           — Hat tip: TV[Return to headlines]

Diana West: Pentagon Exalts Koran Over Constitution

Almost exactly one year ago, I came across the ISAF website headline, “The Religious Importance of the Qu’ran,” I wrote:

As a well-known sucker for the religious importance of the “Qur’an” — I prefer “Ko-ran,” with Texas inflection — I just had to click and see.

The caption tells us so-and-so holds his prayers beads during a March 2010 ribbon-cutting ceremony on an electrification project in the Farah Distriction, quoting Mr. So-and-So as saying: “If we have electricity … we can turn on our lights, and read the Koran.”

What comment is appropriate here? “The jaw drops”? “The universe spins”? We must go beyond shock to assess the advanced state of psycho-masochism the US military has now attained under the suicidal ideology of COIN, a belief system of unparralleled arrogance that actually believes that a scheme of sticks and carrots, at a staggering cost of blood (limbs, skull shards) and unrecoverable treasure, is adequate to remake Muslim Man in Petraeus’s Image.

But the joke is on the COINsters. For what is happening is that it is they who are remaking themselves. In seeking to win Islamic hearts and minds, a lynchpin of the non-military, social-work basis of the COIN strategy, they have themselves become de facto followers of Islamic law, and they are spreading it to our troops…

           — Hat tip: TV[Return to headlines]


Islamic Halal Meat: It ‘Slams Against Quebec Values, ‘ Parti Quebecois Says

QUEBEC — The Parti Quebecois is sounding the alarm bell over an Islamic food ritual, calling slaughter for halal meat an affront not only to the rights of animals but to the values cherished by Quebecers.

The pro-independence party declared its concerns Wednesday about halal animal-rights standards, and is worried that mainstream companies are selling the meat, without any labelling, to unsuspecting Quebecois customers.

Not to be outdone, the fledgling Coalition For Quebec’s Future concurred later Wednesday that consumers should have the right to choose which product they buy and halal products must be labelled.

The halal flap is the latest iteration of Quebec’s identity debates, which have raged on Montreal’s populist talk radio in recent days.

Over the last week one radio show has featured complaints about Hassidic Jewish festivals disrupting traffic; Islamic halal meat being sold without labelling; and a convenience-store owner who got angry when asked to speak French.

The PQ is now demanding a report on the halal situation from the provincial government, by March 23.

The opposition party wants to know how many companies are involved in producing halal meat, and how many animals are being slaughtered per year under Islamic rituals. It says it’s concerned about animal rights, in addition to potential food contamination.

“This type of slaughter slams directly against Quebecois values,” the PQ said in a statement released Wednesday.

Halal meat is produced by cutting the throat of an animal and letting it bleed to death. The ritual is preceded by an expression of gratitude to God, and includes other stipulations like not scaring the animal before the slaughter.

The word, “halal,” means, “permitted” or “lawful” — similar to the word “kosher” in the Jewish tradition.

“In Quebec, we made the choice a long time ago to slaughter our animals for consumption by taking steps to desensitize the animals and to slaughter them while minimizing the suffering,” said PQ MNA Andre Simard, a veterinarian by training.

“In their great openness, the Quebecois people also accept that, as an exception to the norm, religious communities can proceed with slaughter under certain rituals. But when the exception becomes the rule, there’s a problem.”

The company at the centre of the political storm expressed bewilderment over all the fuss.

Olymel, a meat-processing giant with plants in Quebec, Ontario and Alberta, said it obtained a halal certification for one of its poultry plants two years ago after some clients requested it. The clients wanted to label Olymel-produced meat with the certification when they sold it.

But Olymel spokesman Richard Vigneault said his company’s products are processed under all required food safety and quality control standards mandated by the federal government.

The certification process consisted of having an iman recite a prayer in the plant and did not affect the slaughtering methods at all, he said.

“In no way we’re practicing traditional halal slaughtering — no way,” he said in a telephone interview. “In matter of fact, this (halal) certification has changed nothing about our slaughtering.”

He dismissed media reports — including one on the talk show of former politician Mario Dumont, who helped get the debate rolling — as “totally wrong.”

Vigneault said Olymel’s method, which he insisted is humane, is to stun the poultry with an electric shock first and then slaughter it mechanically. While Olymel’s St-Damase, Que., plant is halal-certified, it has another poultry plant in Berthierville which is not.

“It’s the Canadian Food Inspection Agency that regulates the slaughtering.”

Mohammed Ghalem, a spokesman for the halal meat association, described the controversy as a “tempest in a teapot” and said it shows a lack of understanding of the Muslim community.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]

Norway Wants Explorer Amundsen’s Ship Back

A hearing on Thursday in Canada could determine the fate of plans to repatriate Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen’s three-mast ship Maud from the Arctic. A Norwegian group has asked the Canadian Cultural Property Export Review Board to revisit a decision in December denying an export permit for the ship, after residents of Cambridge Bay, Canada opposed losing a treasured artefact that has become a tourist attraction in the far north.

The remains of the ship that once belonged to the Norwegian explorer sit at the bottom of Cambridge Bay in Nunavut, but its hulk is partly visible above the frigid waters that preserved it for decades. “We understand that the whole hearing will be focused on the importance of Maud to Canada as a historical vessel,” A hearing on Thursday in Canada could determine the fate of plans to repatriate Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen’s three-mast ship Maud from the Arctic., manager of the effort to bring the Maud to Norway, told AFP.

In 1906 Amundsen became the first European to sail through the Northwest Passage searching for a shorter shipping route from Europe to Asia, something explorers had been trying to find for centuries. In 1911 he became the first person to reach the South Pole.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Ashton Vows Support for Italy in Arrested Marines Case

‘She will take every possible step’ says Monti

(ANSA) — Brussels, March 13 — European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton assured her support for Italy in talks with Premier Mario Monti on Tuesday regarding two Italian anti-pirate marines arrested and incarcerated in southern India.

“She has pledged to take every possible step to reach a positive solution,” said Monti. The Indian supreme court will hold a hearing on Thursday to decide the jurisdiction in the case of Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone who are accused of killing two Indian fishermen while guarding an Italian merchant ship from pirate attacks last month. Ashton, who is mediating the dispute, said that cooperation with the EU and India in the fight against piracy was “a mutual interest” but stressed that the legal basis for arming cargo vessels needed to be looked into, according to Ashton’s spokesperson Michael Mann.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Belgium: Mosque Attack Linked to Syria Strife

ROTTERDAM, THE NETHERLANDS // An arson attack on a Shia mosque in Brussels in which the imam was killed may have been motivated by tensions between Muslim groups over the conflict in Syria.

Belgium’s interior minister said yesterday that the suspect in custody had entered the mosque late on Monday “shouting about issues related to the Syrian conflict”. The minister, Joelle Milquet, said the attack appeared to be linked to Sunni-Shia tensions in the Belgian capital.

Azedine Laghmich, an official at Al Rida mosque who was reportedly injured when he helped the imam in trying to extinguish the flames, said the attacker shouted “Salafist” slogans related to the conflict in Syria, where the mostly Alawite regime of President Bashar Al Assad is fighting mostly Sunni opponents.

The arson attack shocked Belgium’s Muslim community of more than 600,000 and left many mourning for Abdallah Dadou, 46, a father of four who died from smoke inhalation. Mr Laghmich said the attacker stormed into the mosque wielding a knife and an axe, sprayed the interior with petrol and set it alight.

The head of the umbrella Muslim Executive of Belgium, Semsettin Ugurlu, called for calm in the Muslim community. “Whatever the reason, Salafist or otherwise, this attack is a terrible thing, something unacceptable. It is an assault on the peace and stability in Belgian society and in the Belgian Muslim community,” he said.

It was up to the authorities, he said, to determine the motives behind the attack and also to evaluate whether security had been sufficient in light of previous Salafist threats against Al Rida mosque.

“The mosque had been under police surveillance because in the past there had been threats from this direction,” Mr Ugurlu said.

Mrs Milquet, the interior minister, said Belgium would not become a battleground for groups fighting out foreign conflicts and that she would take measures to prevent further attacks.

The suspect told police that he was a Belgian Muslim, born in 1978, but his identity could not immediately be established because he did not carry any identification.

Most Muslims in Belgium are Sunni, with a relatively small Shiite minority. Tensions between the two groups have been on the rise in recent years over a variety of conflicts in the Islamic world, from Iraq to Yemen and Afghanistan.

Iman Lechkar, a researcher into interculturalism, migration and minorities research at the Catholic University in Leuven, said that mostly the two groups lived peacefully but that splits did exist.

“There are tensions because of the ideological differences that have been reinforced by geopolitical issues,” she said, based on research that she has carried out in the communities.

She cautioned against the tendency to immediately blame small extremist groups of “neo-Salafists” for incidents such as at Al Rida mosque and said she had not noticed particular threats in the community over the events in Syria.

Even so, such a link was not unthinkable, she said. “Whether it is Syria or something else, nowadays people are easily influenced by what happens elsewhere. The global and the local dimensions very often come together.”

It was not the first time that global tensions were played out within Belgium’s Muslim community. Another incident in which an imam was killed occurred in 1989 when the Saudi-born Abdullah Muhammad Al Ahdal was shot dead inside the Grand Mosque in Brussels.

At the time, the killing was linked to the fatwa calling for the execution of the author Salman Rushdie, which the imam had opposed. But that link was never confirmed.

As in many other European countries, the presence of a growing Muslim community has also caused tensions within society. The right-wing movement Vlaams Belang, the Flemish Interest, picked up on the attack on its website and attached a warning against what it sees as the growing influence of Salafist groups in the Belgian Muslim community.

“Salafism is a very extremist tendency in Islam that rejects all things western: music, alcohol, make-up etc. The movement has an increasing number of adherents in our country and that is an ominous development,” it said on the site.

           — Hat tip: TV[Return to headlines]

EU Withdraws ‘Racist’ Video Clip


The European Commission has withdrawn a video promoting EU enlargement after it was accused of being racist.

The film shows three men from ethnic minorities using martial arts skills apparently preparing to fight a woman.

When she multiplies herself to form a circle around the men, they drop their weapons and her yellow clothes turn into the 12 stars of the EU.

The Commission said it regretted that the video had been perceived as racist and apologised.

Stefano Sannino, Director General of Enlargement for the European Commission, said feedback from the target audience of 16 to 24 year olds “who understand the plots and themes of martial arts films and video games” had been positive.

But in a statement he admitted other people were “concerned about the message” sent by the short film, called Growing Together.

Issues surrounding race have often proved controversial for Europe in recent years, with growing concern among governments about rising levels of immigration.

‘Mutual respect’

The film shows a woman walking through a disused warehouse, where a man from East Asia jumps down in front of her performing Kung Fu.

Then a master of the art of Kalaripayattu, from the southern Indian state of Kerala, materialises and aims his sword at her.

Finally a practitioner of the Brazilian art of Capoeira breaks through a door and cartwheels towards her.

But after gazing calmly at the trio and surrounding them with eleven copies of herself, they all sit down cross-legged.

“[The film] started with demonstration of their skills and ended with all characters showing their mutual respect, concluding in a position of peace and harmony,” said Mr Sannino.

“The genre was chosen to attract young people and to raise their curiosity on an important EU policy,” he added.

The independent think-tank Open Europe described the video as “very strange”.

“It is badly thought out and the question is whether this is the sort of thing they should spend money on, and what it can achieve in promoting enlargement,” Raoul Ruparel of Open Europe told the BBC.

“The EU is normally quite politically correct so this is a bit out of the blue.”

           — Hat tip: TV[Return to headlines]

Italy: Top Lombardy Official Suspected of Illicit Party Funding

Probe unrelated to other regional investigations

(ANSA) — Milan, March 14 — Police searched the Milan offices of Lombardy environmental commission vicepresident Angelo Giammario, representing ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi’s People of Freedom (PdL) party, on Wednesday.

Giammario, who is also on the Bocconi University advisory board, is suspected of illicit party funding and corruption, said investigators.

Wednesday’s search is unrelated to corruption investigations of the Lombardy regional council president from the Northern League political party, Davide Boni, who is also being probed for corruption and bribery

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Dante’s ‘Racist’ Divine Comedy ‘Should be Banished’

Rome, 14 March (AKI) — Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy is racist, anti-Semitic, against Islam, homophobic and should be banished from Italian schools, according to a research group.

“The Divine Comedy is the pillar of Italian literature and a cornerstone of Italian literature and the educational formation of the country’s students,” Valentina Sereni, president of Gherush92, anti-racism group that consults for the United Nations, told Adnkronos in an interview. “Students are taught the work’s offensive and discriminatory language without any filter,” she said.

Dante wrote the Divine Comedy between 1308 and his death in 1321 while in exile from Florence. In the epic poem, Dante’s alter ego Pilgrim travels through Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven, even meeting God along the way. The work was written in the vernacular of Tuscan Italian, becoming the language template for the Italian peninsula and its disparate dialects that was united 540 years after Dante’s death.

During his adventure, Pilgrim encounters some of history’s most important protagonists, many described in unflattering circumstances Dante tells of the Prophet Muhammad with his guts pouring from his body. Judus Iscariot, a symbol of Jewish collective guilt for Jesus Christ’s death, is frozen in ice like all other traitors in the Ninth Circle of Hell.

Even the Sodomites are condemned for acts “against nature” and punished in Hell and Purgatory,” said Sereni, who insists she’s not advocating book burning or censorship.

“We want to expunge the Divine Comedy from the Ministry of Educations’ scholastic curriculum, or at least require the necessary commentary to shed light on the text,” she said.

Dante may be one of Italy’s entrenched symbols, bested perhaps only by pasta, and the Roman Colosseum, so Sereni has some arduous convincing to do.

“It’s the umpteenth delirium of the politically correct,” said Giulio Ferroni, literature professor at Rome’s La Sapienza University.

“The only thing I can say without breaking into laughter is to keep your hands off of the Divine Comedy,” commented Aurelio Mancuso, who heads civil rights group Equality Italia.

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

Majority of Britons Want EU Referendum

Nearly two-thirds (60%) of Britons want a national referendum to decide Britain’s future relationship with the EU, a YouGov-Cambridge poll has found. While 20% want to leave the EU, 40% would like to loosen ties, 13% are happy with the current set-up and 14% would like to increase EU integration.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Polish Nuclear Dreams Threaten Ties With Germany

Determined to develop its nuclear industry to meet its booming energy needs, Poland is tired of lectures from its environmentally conscious neighbor Germany. After all, Poles argue, the Germans have benefitted from nuclear power for decades. The differing energy philosophies threaten to strain ties between the two countries.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Prince: Germany Should Reinstate Monarchy

Germany should reinstate its monarchy to speak to people’s emotions, make them proud of their country and even encourage them to have babies, according to Prince Philip Kiril of Prussia, great-great grandson of the last Kaiser.

Speaking in Thursday’s edition of Die Zeit newspaper, Philip stressed that a monarch would be financially independent — and so would not be likely to accept presents from friends, such as those which led to Christian Wulff’s resignation from the presidency. “A king is invulnerable to such cases,” Prince Philip said. “Either he would have old family property or an Apanage — and it would be beneath his dignity to accept presents from friends.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Qaddafi Ally ‘Kept Slaves’ At French Country Home

A Gaddafi loyalist is going on trial in the French town of Bourg-en-Bresse for allegedly keeping several African employees as modern slaves in her home in France. “We were always on duty with my mistress. If I was ill, I still had to work,” says an employee known as Lyiya in an account given to the Cimade, an advocacy group which defends the rights of migrant workers, reports.

Lyiya worked for Kafa Bashir, the wife of a Libyan official who worked as head of cabinet for leader Muammar Gaddafi. Bashir is accused of exploiting four Tanzanian employees in her country house in the French department of l’Ain from 2008 to 2009.

French radio Europe 1 reports that the investigation into Bashir started when one of her employees, a worker from Niger, escaped in 2005. He was picked up by the border police and reportedly told them he escaped inhumane working conditions. He alleged Bashir confiscated his identification papers and forced him to work round the clock.

Bashir will not be present at the trial that opens on Wednesday and risks a seven-year prison sentence and a fine of €200,000.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Rhino Horn Thefts a Growing Problem in Europe

Thefts of rhinoceros horns from museums around Europe have increased sharply over the past year. A single horn can fetch 200,000 euros on the black market because it is wrongly seen as a powerful remedy in East Asian traditional medicine, officials in Germany say. Exhibitions are tightening security.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sweden Sparks Row Over Who Owns ‘Nordic Model’

The successful trademark registration of “Nordic Model” by Sweden’s Social Democrats has prompted a sharp reaction from the rest of the Nordic region’s political establishment. The move has led other political bodies to protest the Social Democrats’ move, which has put the question of who created the Nordic Model into ever sharper focus.

“We may have understood if they had (trademarked) the ‘Swedish Model’, but when it comes to the ‘Nordic Model’ we have no choice but to protest,” Jens-Erik Enestam, who heads the Nordic Council representing opposition parties from across the region, said in a statement Tuesday.

Sweden’s opposition Social Democrats successfully registered the “Nordic Model”, which is widely understood as a system mixing the market economy with a womb-to-tomb welfare state, as a trademark in Sweden last December.

The Social Democrats, who dominated Swedish politics for most of the 20th century, insist their workers’ movement created the generous system and have criticized Sweden’s current centre-right government for trying to hijack the phrase.

The Nordic Council and the Nordic Council of Ministers, which represents the governments of the region, together lodged an official complaint with the Swedish Patent and Registration Office (Patent- och Registreringsverket — PRV) on March 6th.

“The Nordic Model is a general Nordic political asset and cannot be considered either as only Swedish nor as belong to a specific political party. The Nordic model is part of the entire Nordic region’s, and all of its inhabitants’, cultural-political heritage,” they wrote.

The councils also pointed out that they frequently use the term in their publications — in fact 171 of their publications contain the phrase — insisting it would be “practically unreasonable and wrong in principle to legally protect a term that is already used in a much broader context … (and) that several countries identify with and regularly use.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Moroccan Girl, 16, Kills Herself After Judge Forced Her to Marry Man Who RAPED Her

A Moroccan teenager killed herself after a judge forced her to marry her rapist.

The 16-year-old girl, named as Amina Filali, ate rat poison after a Tangier court which was supposed to be punishing her 26-year-old attacker decided that they should instead be wed.

This is because Moroccan laws exempt a rapist from punishment if he agrees to marry his victim.

Traumatised by the rape and the forced marriage, Moroccan newspaper al-Massae said she committed suicide at her husband’s house.

Hafida Elbaz, director of the Women’s Solidarity Association, criticised the law and said rapists often believed they could avoid punishment by marrying their victims.

The incident throws more light on the way women are treated in Islamic countries.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]

Tunisia Still Suffering From Violence Against Women

Affects all geographical areas, social classes

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, MARCH 2 — Gender-based violence is not the preserve of a single country but can be found across the planet, with women daily being subjected to violent acts often perpetuated by family members or within the dynamics of a romantic relationship. Italy itself is not immune, with a recent survey showing that a woman dies every three days as the consequence of acts of violence by a man: husband, companion or, worse, someone who feels rejected by her without any real reason.

Even in Tunisia violence against women exists and always has, though up until a few years ago the country was guilty of ignoring it, almost as if it were an irremovable legacy of an age-old culture difficult to fight against or remove. However, it is a phenomenon which hits all sectors of society (women of all social and economic backgrounds fall victim to it, both those in rural areas and those in the country’s largest cities) and has stayed with the country even through the latter’s growth into a secular nation. Some are now concerned that it could regain inauspicious momentum if an ideology rooted in a disputed interpretation of the Koran strongly wanting to mariginalise the role of women were to get the upper hand. The latest survey, carried out at the national level and presented during an international seminar on the problem in Tunisia, supplies data which are by no means surprising, but which are in any case dramatic: such as those showing that sexual partners are responsible for 78.2% of the cases of violence and that women from age 18 to 64 are the preferred “target”. All of Tunisia is the backdrop for this phenomenon (with significant oscillations between the various regions) and an alarming figure shows that almost half of Tunisian women have been the victim of violence at least once, in the many forms it takes. Most of the cases of those of physical violence, followed by what is called “emotional abuse”. The aggressor often has a direct emotional relationship with the victim: husband, boyfriend, or someone considered to be a friend. However, not even one’s family is immune from this violent contamination of relationships, since violence is also often at the hands of one’s father, brother or other relative. There is also a very high incidence of sexual violence (as concerns violence outside of the family), with over 21%. But sexual violence also sometimes occurs within the nuclear family, oftentimes at the hands of brothers.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Imports Stop for 50 Medicines From Israeli Labs

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, MARCH 14 — The Tunisian Health Ministry has stopped imports of around fifty medicines made by laboratories owned by Israelis. The news was confirmed by the Ministry on the website Tunisie Numerique, which had found out about the move.

The decision made by the Ministry seems to be unrelated to the quality of the medicines in question, and comes in a period in which there is a lack of specialised products in Tunisia, because many of these products are sold to neighbouring countries for high prices.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Gaza: Islamic Jihad Celebrating After Challenge to Israel

Complex relations between pro-Iranian group and Hamas

Thousands of supporters of Islamic Jihad paraded through Gaza’s central Omar al-Mukhtar Street last night, celebrating the “success” of the four days of armed conflict with Israel, which ended in a ceasefire brokered by Egypt. Protesters, who waved the organisation’s black flags and showed off their weapons, then listened to a message of congratulations from their leader, Ramadan Shallah, who was speaking over the telephone from Damascus. Shallah said that jihad (Islamic holy war) will continue until the whole of Palestine is freed. Shallah focussed on the ideology of the organisation, which was founded in 1978 by Fathi Shkaki, who was inspired by Khomeini’s revolution in Iran and out of disagreement with Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, from which Hamas subsequently originated.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Gaza: EIB Supports Project for Water Desalination

In field with technical assistance for project guidelines

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, MARCH 13 — The European Investment Bank (EIB) is working with Arab and European donors in the World Water Forum in Marseilles to bring drinking water to Gaza. “EIB taking part in the international solidarity movement for the Palestinian population to provide Gaza with an ambitious sea water desalination plant”, reads a statement.

The project is for a plant which at full capacity is to contain 100 cubic metres of water, along with a review of the drinking water supply and distribution system for 1.6 million of Gaza’s inhabitants. The statement notes that the EIB will be able to contribute to the initiative “with its expertise on the technical aspects of the project and its operational framework, as well as on the management of donations from the international community.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Serbia and Israel to Foster Military Cooperation

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, FEBRUARY 24 — Serbia and Israel have mutual interest in promoting bilateral military cooperation, it was emphasized during the visit of a delegation of the Ministry of Defense of Serbia to Israel. During the delegation’s visit to Israel from February 19 to 22, it was announced that a bilateral military cooperation plan for 2012 between the defense ministries of the two states will be signed in April, it was announced Friady at the website of the Ministry of Defense of Serbia.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Interview With Tunisia’s Prime Minister: ‘Military Intervention in Syria Would be Pure Madness’

Ahead of a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on Wednesday, Tunisian Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali has warned against military intervention in Syria. In an interview with SPIEGEL ONLINE, Jebali also rejects the prospect of Syrian President Assad being exiled to his country.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Qatar: Deepest Port in the World to be Built in Doha

USD 1.2-bln contract, to be up and running in 2016

(ANSAmed) — DOHA — A new contract worth 1.2 billion dollars has been signed for the building of Doha’s new port, set to be the deepest in the world. The agreement, signed between the Steering Committee of the New Doha Port Project and the Middle East Dredging Company, centres on the dredging for the building of the 15-metre-deep canal, while the overall project was funded by the heir to the throne of Qatar, the Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, to the tune of 7 billion dollars. The port will cover a surface area of 26.5 square kilometres and will be operative starting in 2016, with five general cargo terminals, four for containers plus docks for tugboats and other boats, with an overall capacity of 2 million TEU (standard cargo capacity for containers, 6.1 metres long and 2.4 metres wide) per year, which will increase over time.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Qatar: Surge in Diabetes/Obesity, Unhealthy Arab Habits

Illnesses linked to Arab world social traditions, experts

(ANSAmed) — DOHA, MARCH 13 — There seems to be an ever clearer relation between the social habits of the Arab world and a number of malaises climbing to frightening levels among Qatar’s population. In the Emirate, 20% of the population suffers from diabetes according to figures released by the Qatar Diabetes Association (QDA). Over 215,000 people have been diagnosed as diabetic in Qatar, and the disorder is affecting more and more children and not just adults. The quality of life and daily habits of the Arab world tend to foster the spread of this illness often stemming from obesity, which affects over 40% of the population according to the National Health Strategy 2011-2016. The Emir’s government is ever more concerned and is trying to hold in check the unhealthy eating habits of Qataris, attempting to force fast food restaurants to write the number of calories on every dish they serve. Obesity, diabetes and hypertension are also the cause of over 500 new cases of kidney problems reported every year by the Hamad Medical Corporation of Doha. Every year over 7,000 patients are hospitalised in the nephrology ward of the Hamad Medical Hospital, and over 2,500 are on a waiting list for kidney transplants: the figures are significant when taking into consideration the fact that Qatar has an overall population of about 1.5 million inhabitants. This report seems the direct consequence of the country’s social habits. Sports are a problem more than a form of entertainment. The traditional attire, a long white tunic with the keffiyah for men and the abaya (a long black tunic) for women, make playing almost any sport nearly impossible and obliging a compromise between cultural and religious traditions and the possibility to conduct a healthy life and engage in physical activity. In a conservative country with the highest rate of mosques per capita in the world, many would opt not give up their traditional habits for a run or a football match. Most people do not spend much time walking in the streets, in part due to the high summer temperatures which make a normal stroll an exhausting effort, and in part because it is considered degrading. Most of the population get around exclusively by car.

In addition to making physical activity difficult, the traditional attire prevents sun exposure and leads to another dysfunction, that of vitamin D deficiency. According to a study by the Hamad Medical Hospital in Doha, 90% of those involved in the study suffered from this deficiency due to a lack of exposure to the sun’s rays. In an interview with the Qatari press, Doctor Mohamed Khanjar of the Hamad Medical Hospital urged the population to expose their faces, calves and hands to the sun for at least 30 minutes per day — being the only parts of the body able to be revealed without giving rise to religious or social problems.

Due to their personal choice or that of their families, Muslim women avoid sports leading to contact with men or in their presence, and so many gyms and sports centres become off-limits. Another obstacle to sports is Ramadan, an entire month set aside for fasting and the avoidance of food and water before sundown. During Ramadan most of the population sleep during the day, with the iftar beginning at sundown: large feasts at which many end up eating so much they need to be taken to hospital casualty wards, with a record high almost 8,000 cases of indigestion recorded at the Hamad Medical Hospital emergency room solely in the first week of Ramadan 2011. In this sense the habits and customs of the Arab world foster an increase in the rate of diabetes within a population that is steadily putting on more and more weight and living a sedentary lifestyle. Another traditional practice leading to disease, in this case of a genetic type, are marriages between members of the same family. In Gulf countries marriages are often arranged between families, causing cousins and relatives to marry each other.

These marriages often result in the birth of children with serious genetic disorders, including Down Syndrome. According to the Center for Arab Genomic Studies (CAGS) there are over 250 types of genetic disorders in the United Arab Emirates, the country seeing the fifth highest rate of inter-family marriages, with half being between members of the same family. The true tragedy linked to this cultural habit are the cases of children with birth defects, In Qatar, about 19,000 children are born every year, and the Paediatric Surgery Department of Doha’s Hamad Medical Corporation carries out about 3,000 paediatric operations every year, including over 200 on children born with serious birth defects. This is why at Qatar’s First International Paediatric Surgery Congress and the 12th edition of the Pan-Arab Paediatric Surgeons Association Congress there was discussion on the surgical procedures for birth defects, as it is the main problem in the sector.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Saudi Grand Mufti Calls for “Destruction of All Churches in Region”

by Raymond Ibrahim

According to several Arabic news sources, last Monday, Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, declared that it is “necessary to destroy all the churches of the region.”

The Grand Mufti made his assertion in response to a question posed by a delegation from Kuwait, regarding the position of a Kuwaiti parliament member who recently called for the “removal” of churches (he later “clarified” by saying he merely meant that no churches should be built in Kuwait). The Kuwaiti delegation wanted to confirm Sharia’s position on churches.

Accordingly, the Grand Mufti “stressed that Kuwait was a part of the Arabian Peninsula, and therefore it is necessary to destroy all churches in it.”

As with many grand muftis before him, the Sheikh based his proclamation on the famous tradition, or hadith, wherein the prophet of Islam declared on his deathbed that “There are not to be two religions in the (Arabian) Peninsula,” which has always been interpreted to mean that only Islam can be practiced in the region.

While the facts of this account speak for themselves, consider further:

Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah is not just some random Muslim hating on churches. He is the Grand Mufti of the nation that brought Islam to the world. Moreover, he is the President of the Supreme Council of Ulema (Islamic scholars) and Chairman of the Standing Committee for Scientific Research and Issuing of Fatwas. Accordingly, when it comes to what Islam teaches, his words are immensely authoritative.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

U.S. Nuclear Expert Finds Iran Explosive Site in Imagery

WASHINGTON (Reuters) — A U.S. non-proliferation expert said on Tuesday he has identified a building at the Parchin military site in Iran suspected of containing, currently or previously, a high-explosive test chamber the U.N. nuclear watchdog wants to visit.

David Albright, founder of the Institute for Science and International Security, said he studied commercial satellite imagery and found a building located on a relatively small and isolated compound at Parchin that fit a description in the November 2011 International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report.

The building has its own perimeter security wall or fencing and there is a berm between the building and a neighboring building, Albright said in a report.

The compound is located more than four kilometers away from high-explosive related facilities at Parchin which the IAEA visited in 2005, Albright’s report said.

Iran refused access to Parchin, southeast of Tehran, during two rounds of talks with IAEA inspectors. Western diplomats say Iran may be delaying access to give it time to sanitize the facility of any incriminating evidence of explosive tests that would indicate efforts to design nuclear weapons.

“We have information that some activity is ongoing there,” IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano said recently, referring to Parchin.

The IAEA has evidence that the test chamber was placed at Parchin in 2000 and that a building was subsequently constructed around it, Albright’s report said.

The information was that a large explosive test chamber was used to conduct experiments possibly related to the development of nuclear weapons in the early years after 2000, Albright said.

He was not able to gauge the level of activity at this particular site without comparing it to multiple images over a short period of time.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]


NASA Needs a Little More Help From Russia

Facing delays with its planned commercial spacecraft, NASA now says it may need to rely longer on Russian launching capacity. But given Russia’s recent setbacks, should the US be concerned? Last year, NASA, the American space agency, gambled on having a commercial spaceflight industry by 2016 to continue where its government-run space shuttle program left off.

But the agency appears to have already lost that bet, judging by the budget constraints and other issues that have delayed the development of its planned commercial launching systems. Now NASA is gambling again. This time, it hopes Russian spacecraft alone will be able to keep US astronauts traveling in space until its new commercial space taxis arrive.

NASA chief Charles Bolden informed the House of Representatives Science Committee last week that the space agency has drafted backup plans to extend the use of Russian spacecraft for ferrying astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) by at least one year.

The move comes, however, amid numerous setbacks that have beset Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, in recent months.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

South Asia

American Soldier Accused in Shooting Spree Flown Out of Afghanistan, To Kuwait, Source Says

KABUL, Afghanistan — The American soldier accused of shooting 16 Afghan villagers in a pre-dawn killing spree was flown out of Afghanistan on Wednesday to Kuwait, even as many Afghans called for him to face justice in their country.

Afghan government officials did not immediately respond to calls for comment on the late-night announcement. The U.S. military said the transfer did not preclude the possibility of trying the case in Afghanistan, and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has said the soldier could receive capital punishment if convicted.

The soldier was held by the U.S. military in Kandahar until Wednesday evening, when he was flown out of Afghanistan to Kuwait, said a U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Many fear a misstep by the U.S. military in handling the case could ignite a firestorm in Afghanistan that would shatter already tense relations between the two countries. The alliance appeared near the breaking point last month when the burning of Qurans in a garbage pit at a U.S. base sparked protests and retaliatory attacks that killed more than 30 people, including six U.S. soldiers…

[Return to headlines]

Italy Confident in EU Help With Marines Held in India

Terzi meets Ashton in Brussels

(see related) (ANSA) — Rome, March 9 — Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi said on Friday that he was confident the EU would take effective measures to back Italy in the case of two Italian marines under arrest in southern India, after he met European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton. “I have confidence in the initiative taken by the high representative and the authoritative voice of the EU with the Indian authorities,” said Terzi. A hearing to decide the jurisdiction on the case of Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone who are accused of killing two Indian fishermen was postponed until March 15 on Friday by an Indian supreme court judge in the town of Kochi.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Military Source Calls Incident at Afghanistan Airport an ‘Attempted Attack’

A military source tells Fox News the strange incident on the tarmac Wednesday at Camp Bastion that occurred moments before Defense Secretary Leon Panetta arrived via C-17 was an attempted attack.

This official could not say whether the local Afghan involved knew Panetta was about to arrive, but he could say it certainly wasn’t any type of accident.

Fox News has learned the attacker was an Afghan interpreter who was carrying gasoline and a lighter with him in the pickup truck, which he managed to steal from a British service member. The coalition service member was injured during the incident, possibly run over by the truck.

The Afghan interpreter managed to drive the stolen car over the very ramp where Panetta was set to arrive. The secretary was soon diverted to another ramp.

After crashing the pickup truck into a ditch, the driver got out and had apparently lit himself on fire, according to this source.

Pentagon Spokesman George Little put out a statement earlier saying “no explosives were found.”

The statement also said the driver is now in custody, and an investigation is underway.

Defense Secretary Panetta was visiting Afghanistan to hold a series of meetings with troops and Afghan leaders in the wake of the killing of 16 Afghan civilians allegedly by a U.S. soldier.

[Return to headlines]

Panetta is Safe After Car Ignites Near His Plane at Afghan Base

An Afghan drove a stolen vehicle on to a runway ramp at a military base in southern Afghanistan and then ran from it ablaze as a plane carrying Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta landed there on Wednesday morning, Pentagon officials said.

[Return to headlines]

US at Pains to Limit Damage in Afghanistan

Within a short period of time, US soldiers in Afghanistan have burned copies of the Koran, urinated on dead Afghan militants and massacred 16 civilians.The US government is now doing its utmost in damage control.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Women’s Day in Pakistan: A Police Officer Rapes a 14 Year Old Christian Girl

Bound and helpless, the little girl’s grandparents forced to witness the violence. The doctors refused to lend aid. The police arrest an accomplice, the officer responsible vanishes. Meanwhile, the country celebrated the International Women’s Day, with demonstrations and lectures. Awards given to some icons in the struggle for women rights.

Lahore (AsiaNews) — A 14 year old Christian girl was raped by a policeman with an accomplice, at gin point, while in the next room, bound and gagged, her grandparents felt powerless to intervene. The incident occurred on the night between 7 and 8 March in Sheikhupura district, Punjab province, while around the world events were held to celebrate International Women’s Day. Even in Pakistan seminars and meetings were held, even President Asif Ali Zardari, yesterday, signed a law to protect women.

On the evening of March 7, 14 year old Kiran (*), originally from Jaranwala, paid a visit to her grandparents who live in the village of Malowal, in a small house not far from the property of a superintendent of police. On the night Nawaz Wahla, a law enforcement official, along with an accomplice Mehboob, a milkman, jumped the fence and broke into the house. According to the newspaper The Express Tribune reports they tied up the grandparents and repeatedly raped the girl, at gun point.

Once she had escaped, Kiran released the grandparents who have accompanied her to the hospital for medical treatment, however, neither the doctors nor the police wanted to bring relief to the Christian girl, or take action to catch the perpetrators of violence. Only the official opening of the investigation, initiated by a diligent judge allowed the detention of Mehboob — the accomplice — while Nawaz has so far eluded capture.

Yesterday, March 8, meanwhile, across Pakistan events to commemorate International Women’s Day were held. In the capital Islamabad, women’s organizations sponsored a seminar to enhance the value and role of women in the world. Simultaneously, President Asif Ali Zardari ratified the Law on the National Commission, to assess the status of women’s rights in the country, and he ensured that the body will play a crucial role in safeguarding and protecting the rights of women.

However, women’s associations contest the claims of institutions emphasizing that laws are not enough, if they are not enforced. In a public meeting held yesterday in Faisalabad, organized by the Association of Women for Awareness and Motivation (Awam), activists pointed out that “new and more laws are not enough”, but it is the government that “in practice must ensure” the protection of women and their equal rights. Peter Jacob, executive secretary of the National Commission for Justice and Peace Commission of the Catholic Church (NCJP) was also among the participants and noted that “the number of attacks against women in Pakistan is four times higher than the cases that reported “and many crimes” based on sex pass in silence. “

In Multan, organizations of Catholic women — along with other women’s movements — have sponsored a demonstration in the streets. Sr. Margaret, among the participants at the event, stressed that “to celebrate woman, we must also recognize the importance of women”. The nun adds that “although there are rules against domestic violence and acid attacks”, so far “measures against men” have not been taken. And many women do not even know the existence of the law.”

Among the representatives of Pakistani women celebrated today, are 13 year old Malala Yousafzai, a young activist who has fought against aggression of the Taliban in the Swat valley, awarded by the civil society and government. On the Catholic front honors go to Zenobia Richards, a victim of the demolition of a Catholic institution Gosh-e-Aman in Lahore, where she lost her home and many of her possessions. Thanks to the Masihi Foundation she has found a new home.

* The name is fictional to protect the identity of the child.

( Shafique Khokhar collaborated)

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

Far East

Chinese Human Fossils Unlike Any Known Species

And so it begins. For years, evolutionary biologists have predicted that new human species would start popping up in Asia as we begin to look closely at fossilised bones found there. A new analysis of bones from south-west China suggests there’s truth to the forecast.

The distinctive skull (pictured, right) was unearthed in 1979 in Longlin cave, Guangxi Province, but has only now been fully analysed. It has thick bones, prominent brow ridges, a short flat face and lacks a typically human chin. “In short, it is anatomically unique among all members of the human evolutionary tree,” says Darren Curnoe at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia.

The skull, he says, presents an unusual mosaic of primitive features like those seen in our ancestors hundreds of thousands of years ago, with some modern traits similar to living people.

What’s more, Curnoe and Ji Xueping of Yunnan University, China, have found more evidence of the new hominin at a second site — Malu cave in Yunnan Province. Curnoe has dubbed the new group the Red Deer Cave people because of their penchant for venison. “There is evidence that they cooked large deer in Malu cave,” he says.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

No More ‘Chicken Without Sex Life’

BEIJING — Eating at a Beijing restaurant is usually an adventure for people from other countries, and particularly when they get the chance to order “chicken without sex life” or “red burned lion head.”

Sometimes excited but mostly confused, embarrassed or even terrified, many people form other countries have long complained about mistranslations of Chinese dishes. And their complaints are often valid, certainly regarding “chicken without sex life” as it’s really just tender young chicken, and “red burned lion head” is braised pork ball in brown sauce.

But such an experience at Beijing’s restaurants will apparently soon be history. oreign visitors will no longer, hopefully, be confused by oddly worded restaurant menus in the capital if the municipal government’s plan to correctly translate 3,000 Chinese dishes is a success and the translations are generally adopted.

The municipal office of foreign affairs has published a book to recommend English translations of Chinese dishes, which aims to help restaurants avoid bizarre translations.

It’s the city’s latest effort to bridge the culture gap for foreign travelers in China. The municipal government published a similar list of translations before the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008, and recommended it to starred hotels across the capital.

“The latest book is an updated version of the 2008 pamphlet. It provides the names of main dishes of famous Chinese cuisines in plain English,” an official with the city’s Foreign Affairs Office said. “Restaurants are encouraged to use the proposed translations, but it will not be compulsory,” the official said.

Confusing and sometimes ridiculous translations on the country’s menus provoke the mirth of expatriates, and even cause misunderstanding on China’s dietary habits. A delicacy, which used to be translated as “red burned lion head,” is now called “braised pork ball in brown sauce” in the book.

“The book will help people form other countries decide what dishes to choose, let them know what they are eating and how it is prepared,” said Chen Lin, professor at the Beijing Foreign Studies University.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Nigeria Tries to Grapple With Boko Haram

The Nigerian government is struggling to defeat Boko Haram amid fears that the militant Islamists’s attacks will trigger reprisals. The group’s sophisticated tactics leave no doubt that they are now better organized.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Latin America

Enel Depends on Latin America for Growth

Rome, 14 March (AKI/Bloomberg) — Enel, Italy’s largest utility, will steer investments into Latin America and renewable energy as recession damps electricity demand in its biggest market.

“Growth has to come from renewables and from Latin America, as well as Eastern Europe and Russia,” Luigi Ferraris, chief financial officer, said in an interview in London.

Enel, based in Rome, is seeking growth outside its biggest markets, Italy and Spain, where it expects subdued demand this year as the European debt crisis forces governments to curtail spending. The company cut its dividend target by a third to reduce debt as recessions weighed on revenue and increased solar-panel installations worsened overcapacity.

Enel Green Power is planning to spend 6.1 billion euros on renewables globally from 2012 through 2016. The company will target wind energy in Latin America where auctions for long-term energy contracts, such as those in Brazil, give visibility on returns, said Ferraris, who’s also the chairman of Enel Green Power.

“Since we kept the same level of capex, we continue to reallocate funds from mature markets to the emerging ones such as North America, Latin America and Romania,” he said of the unit’s spending plans. Overall investments in Latin America for the Enel group will be 5.4 billion euros to 2016, according to the company.

Romanian Wind

Enel plans to reach about 500 megawatts of wind by 2016 in Romania, where wind producers receive incentives through the green certificate program and sites are pummeled by strong winds, Ferraris said. Enel’s spending on Romanian wind farms rose more than fourfold to 330 million euros last year.

Enel will invest in Romania as the Spanish wind market nears maturity, Ferraris said. “Wind is nearly fully exploited in Spain and the renewable energy market there could be considered mature,” he said.

Spain halted subsidies for new renewable energy projects this year to help curb its budget deficit.

Enel Green Power unit would be a “strategic pillar of growth” for the Enel group alongside the distribution business, he said

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


Germany Rebukes Sarkozy Over Border Talk

German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle has criticised French president Nicolas Sarkozy’s threat to pull France out of the EU’s borderless Schengen Zone. “It is not protecting borders within the European Union that will make Europe safer, but rather the protection of Europe’s external frontiers,” Westerwelle told Reuters news agency.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Morocco: 7 Billion From Migrants Every Year

Remittance vital for economy of whole continent

(ANSAmed) — RABAT, MARCH 6 — One of the most important contributing factors to the economies of many African countries are remittances from citizens living abroad. The crucial influx of money often becomes a real resource for economies that, whether stagnant or growing, are able to draw enormous benefits from the phenomenon, even though the costs involved are considered too high. To illustrate the importance of money transfers, in Morocco alone around 7 billion euros enter the kingdom every year.

After foreign direct investments, money transfers from migrants are the second largest source of income for the African continent. The cost of these operations, though, reach 15% of the amount of money transferred, according to a report produced jointly by the African Development Bank (BAD) and France, which says that the importance of the source of income should bring about a lowering of costs. “These flows of private money support growth in developing countries, in the same way as development cooperation and foreign direct investments. They help to strengthen the capacity for saving and investment in benefiting countries”.

Considering that “when Europe loses one percentage point of its rate of growth, Africa loses 0.5%”, the report states that sources of growth should be found, particularly through a greater reorganisation of the funds transferred by migrants to their families.

The study also highlights the need to diversify intermediaries. The BAD says that money transfer companies should not be the only ones involved in the transactions, but that banks and other specialised e-banking groups should also play a role, as the increase in competition would ensure a lowering of costs.

Driss Fare’s, the secretary general of the Union of North African Banks, says that transfers account for 7 billion dollars a year in Morocco. “We must show that this is a defiscalised saving, drawn from rich economies”. Fare’s says that the figure is actually higher, as statistics are thought not to take into consideration transfers made by French nationals of Moroccan extraction, as they are not considered migrants. There are also problems in establishing transfers from Germany, where dual nationality is forbidden.

In light of the study by the BAD and France, the BAD’s representative in Morocco, Amani Abou-Zeid, has announced in an interview with Le Soir- Echos, that a “migrant transfer fund” is to be set up, with the aim of “supporting local initiatives”. Abou-Zeid said that she was proud that three of the proposals considered had been made by Morocco, which she called a “pioneer thanks to association that have existed for some time” and that “have done formidable work to develop their communities in a responsible and integrated way”. The BAD’s role is therefore “to orientate and to guide, and if financing is needed, the bank will intervene through the fund recently created”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Charts: White People Are No Longer Relevant in Pop Music Sales

More than 81 percent of Billboard Top 10 best-selling albums are now made by non-white or mixed-race groups of artists, according to research done by ad agency DraftFCB.

The agency looked at the Billboard Hot 100 Top 10 songs for each year from 1950 to 2009, which encompassed around 600 datapoints. Then, each artist was classified as being either White, Hispanic, African-American, or “Multicultural” (groups or collaborators with members of different ethnic backgrounds).

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

MEPs Back Quotas to Get More Women Into Top Jobs

The European Parliament on Tuesday backed a resolution by Dutch liberal MEP Sophia in’t Veld suggesting quotas to boost female representation on corporate boards. Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding said proposals to this end may be put forward later this year.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Lowly Worms Are Closet Brainiacs

DON’T be offended, but you have the brain of a worm. Clusters of cells that are instrumental in building complex brains have been found in a simple worm that barely has a brain at all. The discovery suggests that, around 600 million years ago, primitive worms had the machinery to develop complex brains. They may even have had complex brains themselves — which were later lost.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Why the British Are Free-Thinking and the Chinese Love Conformity: It’s All in the Genes Claim Scientists

Cultural stereotypes may be deep rooted in our genetic makeup, say scientists. Common traits like British individualism and Chinese conformity could be attributed to genetic differences between races according to a new study. The study, by the department of psychology at Northwestern University in Illinois, suggests that the individualism seen in western nations, and the higher levels of collectivism and family loyalty found in Asian cultures, are caused by differences in the prevalence of particular genes.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]