Sunday, January 12, 2003

News Feed 20120316

Financial Crisis
»Crisis: Greece; Survey, 91% Say Own Budget Deteriorated
»Europe Looks to Global Trade to Spur New Growth
»French Spies to Stage Labour Protest: Police Union
»Greece: Pension Funds to Suffer 53% Haircut
»Greek Economy to Shrink by 4.4% in 2012, Commission
»How Obamacare Increases Unemployment
»Icelandic Politics on Trial
»Ireland Hopes for Permission to Delay Payments
»Italy’s Public Debt Hits Record High
»Italy: Spread 275.6 Points, Yield 4.83%
»Spain: Home Prices See Biggest Fall Since Property Bubble Burst
»Spain’s Public Debt Soars to Record High
»Ukraine Seeks 10-Year Delay on Payment
»Apple Stocks Break $600 Barrier
»Arab-Muslim Comedy Finds a Voice
»Bill Clinton and His Daughter Participate in an Evening of Muslim-Jewish Understanding
»Diana West: Boosting Breivik
»Israel Electric Begins Secure Energy Independence With Noble Energy. Inc. And Partners Gas Deal
»Marines to Cut Four Battalions, 12 Air Squadrons
»Mosque’s Rezoning Request Denied
»New York Times Nixes Anti-Islam Ad, Runs Anti-Catholic Ad
»Novato Exhibit of Muslim Art Seeks to Cultivate Understanding, Celebrate Creativity
»Planned Parenthood CEO Arrested for Indecent Exposure
»Sorry, Gentlemen, But You’re No Roosevelt and Churchill
»The Truth About Muslim Student Associations
»Under Oath, Alamoudi Ties MAS to Brotherhood
Europe and the EU
»About-Turn Once More: Åland’s Place Name Dispute is Taking Yet Another Direction
»Belgium Holds Minute of Silence for Swiss Coach Crash Victims
»China Biggest Foreign Investor in Germany
»Debate is Europe’s Best Hope Against Extremism
»Denmark: Violence at Public Institutions Puts Security in Spotlight
»Denmark: Police Uncover Large Weapons Cache
»France 2012: Religions Enter Debate on Halal/Kosher Meat
»Germany: E-Bikes Could Offer Car Alternative to Urbanites
»Hungarian PM to EU: ‘We Won’t be a Colony’
»Italy Spends Record Amount on Foreign Energy
»Italy: Govt Reiterates That Contested Rail Line Must Go Ahead
»No Trade War With China, EU Presidency Says
»Norway: Reindeer Row Victim Towed Behind Truck
»Spain: the Grim Life of a Galley Slave: Restoration of Navy’s Galleys Books Reveals the Harrowing Stories of the Captives Who Rowed the King’s Ships
»St Patrick’s Day Facts: Separating Myth From Reality
»Swedish Court Disallows Teen’s Sharia Marriage
»The International Criminal Court is, By Any Objective Measurement, Racist. So Why Do Liberals Love it?
»UK: Campaigners ‘Devasted’ As Derby Mosque Approved
»UK: Rowan Williams Resigns as Archbishop of Canterbury
»UK: Woman Quizzed Over ‘Italy Synagogue Plot’
North Africa
»300 Muslim Lawyers Storm Egyptian Court, Prevent Lawyers for Christian From Entering
»Clashes Over Federalism in Benghazi, Libya; One Killed
»European MPs Urge End to Sinai Human Trafficking
Israel and the Palestinians
»Egyptian-Israeli Natural Gas Contract Casualty of Arab Spring?
Middle East
»Hate Messages in UAE Mosque Toilets
»SWIFT Cuts Off Iranian Banks on EU’s Orders
»Syria: Christians in a Divided Country, After a Year of Revolt
»Fatal Rape Case Shames Russian Police: Minister
South Asia
»Generals Awaiting Panetta Apparently Targeted by Attacker
»Hearing Postponed for Marines Held in India
»Indonesia: Six Suspected Terrorists Arrested in Aceh
»Karzai Demands ‘More Cooperation’ From the United States
»Karzai Demands U.S. Troops Leave Village Outposts; Taliban Suspends Peace Talks With U.S.
»Marines Discussed by Premier Monti and PM Singh
»Pakistani Judicial Panel is in India to Gather Evidence
»Silk Underwear to Protect Soldiers
»Soldiers Murder Afghans, Generals Murder Soldiers
Far East
»China Suspends More European Aircraft Orders
»China’s Bo Xilai Leaves Office Amid Controversy
»Eyes on China as World’s Biggest Antiques Fair Kicks Off
»North Korea Launch Plan ‘Highly Provocative, ‘ US Says
»WTO Chief Plays Down China Rare Earth Row
Australia — Pacific
»New Zealand: Mosque Bans City Imam After Claims of Takeover
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Uganda: Banyoro, Muslims Unite to Kick Bugunda in the Groin
Latin America
»Argentina Challenges Britain Over Falklands Oil Exploration
»Netherlands: Minister Set to Ignore Advice on Dual Nationality
»Netherlands: Rutte Ignores EU Parliament Motion on PVV Anti-Pole Website
Culture Wars
»Racial Quota Fallout
»Swedish Feminists Bare Pits to ‘Reclaim the Hair’

Financial Crisis

Crisis: Greece; Survey, 91% Say Own Budget Deteriorated

Two-party system on way out, 86% unhappy with Papademos

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS — The two-party system in Greece is close to extinction, according to a new poll carried out by Public Issue for the television station Skai, which confirms the freefall of parties who voted in favour of the EU memorandum, while Parliament is set to feature representation from nine parties after the forthcoming elections, a rise on the current five. Meanwhile, more than nine out of ten Greeks (91%) believe that their own economic situation has worsened, while 60% say that they are unhappy with their lives, with 65% expecting unemployment to rise over the next year. Some 86% of those interviewed say that they are “dissatisfied” with the efforts of the government of Lucas Papademos, even though 66% say they have faith in his ability to tackle the economic problems that the country faces. At the bottom of the list of preferences is the Socialist former Prime Minister, George Papandreou (89% dissatisfaction), while there has been a fall in the number of people fearing that the country could default in the coming 12 months.

The poll shows that the two main parties, the Socialist Pasok party and the conservative New Democracy, which have governed Greece alternately since the fall of the Regime of the Colonels in 1974, reach a combined 36% of voter preferences, 11% and 25% respectively, against a figure 80% recorded during the 2009 elections. The Democratic Left has a 15.5% popularity rating, followed by Syriza (12%), the Communist Party of Greece (11.5%) and Pasok (11%), while the newly-formed Independent Greeks, created by a group of politicians kicked out of New Democracy for refusing to back Memorandum 2, has a rating of 6.5%. Further behind come the far-right LAOS party (4%), the Greens (3.5%) and the far-right Golden Dawn party (3%). Abstention has fallen from 32.5% in January to 25.5% in March.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Europe Looks to Global Trade to Spur New Growth

(BRUSSELS) — The European Union looks on Friday to spur growth via revamped trade with the Americas and the Far East, with a warning that it has to act now in view of the rise of emerging economies. But a row with Russia over its threat to block pig imports from ex-Soviet Latvia seemed likely to feature in talks at a ministerial meeting in Brussels.

The European Union wants to stimulate trans-Atlantic trade ahead of a G8 summit in Chicago in May, and Friday’s talks among foreign and trade ministers are fundamentally about how to achieve this.

“This is not just political talk,” Pia Olsen Dyhr, Danish Minister for Trade and Investment, told AFP before chairing the meeting. A former World Trade Organization (WTO) specialist, she said that a changing environment which could be dominated by China meant that the EU had to act now, not least because “by 2050, I don’t see any of the big G7 economies as stands keeping their place in the future.”

Estimates by employers’ federation Business Europe, to be presented to G8 business leaders at a so-called “shadow” summit next week and shown to AFP, suggest that between 200,000 and 520,000 new jobs could be created in the EU if a new baseline were agreed with the United States.

Between 110,000 and 400,000 more jobs could be created in America, if certain trade barriers can be eliminated, they say.

The employers estimate that a cut of 10 percent in non-tariff barriers could boost growth by 24.4 billion euros ($31.6 billion) in the EU, and 8.2 billion euros ($10.6 billion) in the United States.

As the EU slips into a long-expected “double-dip” recession following two years of austerity owing to the eurozone debt crisis, it is looking to a further opening up of trade as a route to new growth.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

French Spies to Stage Labour Protest: Police Union

The main union representing French domestic intelligence officers, those charged with counter-espionage and anti-terror investigations, called Wednesday on its members to stage a protest.

The head of the SNOP union, which represents senior police officers and is the main labour body for members of the DCRI security agency, said his members planned a “gathering” at their Paris headquarters on Friday.

Union secretary general Jean-Marc Bailleul said his members were protesting “human resources management” at the spy agency, and in particular the recent naming of a senior administrator to a post normally held by a field agent.

A smaller union said it wanted no part in the protest, and it was not clear how many of the agency’s 4,000 intelligence officers planned to take part.

The head of the DCRI, Bernard Squarcini, said he had resolved the dispute by closing an administrative post in the anti-terror divisions and giving it to a “field-tested officer” from the ranks represented by SNOP.

Bailleul said his union would reject any attempt by agency outsiders to make political capital out of the internal labour dispute, at a time when France is in the midst of a tense presidential election campaign.

President Nicolas Sarkozy, who is running for re-election, made it a priority to reform the DCRI, which his government set up as a merger of the former DST domestic security service and RG political police.

But he has also been criticised for allegedly being too close to Squarcini, who is under judicial investigation over allegations he illegally ordered surveillance on a journalist from Le Monde newspaper.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Greece: Pension Funds to Suffer 53% Haircut

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, MARCH 7 — Greek pension funds will see their Greek bond holdings’ value be reduced by 53%, in line with a haircut agreed between the Greek state and private bondholders as Athens News Agency reports. The issue was discussed during a meeting chaired by Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos with Labor and Social Insurance Minister George Koutroumakis and the governors of pension funds. Greek pension funds own state bonds worth 21 billion euros, with pension funds purchases totaling 7.0 billion euros, while the remaining 14 billion euros were deposits with the Bank of Greece which were later invested in state bonds. Ministry officials said that pension funds which would use state bonds as collateral for their borrowing from commercial banks (in the form of repos) will see their bonds nominal value fall to 25%. A memorandum, recently ratified by Parliament, envisages that pension funds could use a mix of state property assets, shares, deposits and other sources to recover any losses suffered by their bond portfolios.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greek Economy to Shrink by 4.4% in 2012, Commission

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, FEBRUARY 24 — The Greek economy is projected to shrink by 4.4% this year and to enter an era of deflation, the European Commission said on Thursday as reported by Athens News Agency. In its interim report on the EU’s economic outlook, the Commission said an economic recession in the country would be deeper from initial forecasts made in autumn 2011 (-2.8%) and added that the economy would also face the risks of a very low consumer and business confidence. The Commission forecasts a decline in both external and domestic demand, as a result of a restructuring in the labor market and a cut in private sector wages. At the same time, exports will be less dynamic compared with the previous three years despite lower labor cost in Greece, while imports were also expected to decline further. The EU’s executive said it expected Greece to suffer a deflation this year (-0.5%), as a result of an expected decline in available incomes and consumption. The Commission stressed that the labor market was entering a painful adjustment period and that unemployment would continue rising in 2012.

Minimum wage will fall by 22% and labor costs will fall by 15% on average in the next three years. The Commission said that a government’s decision to cut minimum wages was expected to raise hurdles in domestic demand and have a negative impact on employment in the short-term. In the medium-term, however, the Commission expects that these structural reforms will create favourable conditions for employment. The Commission forecasts that the Eurozone economy will shrink by 0.3% in 2012, while the EU’s economy will remain stagnant this year.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

How Obamacare Increases Unemployment

by Diana Furchtgott-Roth

The mandated $2,000 tax per worker in the new health care law, effective 2014 and levied on employers who do not provide the right kind of health insurance, is discouraging hiring. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 will raise the cost of employment when fully implemented in 2014…


[Return to headlines]

Icelandic Politics on Trial

A historic trial comes to a close this Thursday in Iceland. Former prime minister Geir Haarde has to answer for his role in the country’s 2008 financial crisis. The case made international headlines. About four years ago, Geir Haarde’s world was looking just fine. As prime minister, he was popular with the electorate and the people of Iceland were confident about the future.

But then, the North Atlantic island nation got caught up in the maelstrom of the international financial crisis, following the collapse of the US bank, Lehman Brothers. In the fall of 2008, Iceland’s most important banks went belly up, and many of the country’s 320,000 inhabitants lost their savings.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Ireland Hopes for Permission to Delay Payments

Irish Finance Minister Michael Noonan still hopes to strike a deal allowing delays in payment of €3.1bn for an EU-backed arrangement under which Irish banks were recapitalised. EU economics commissioner Olli Rehn has rejected the notion but that may not have been the intended message, Noonan told the Irish Times.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italy’s Public Debt Hits Record High

Italy’s public debt reached a new high in the first month of 2012. Seasonal factors and higher costs of servicing accumulated debt were behind the increase, which hasn’t prevented Italy from forays into bond markets. Italy’s public debt soared to another record in January, the Bank of Italy announced on Thursday. Overall debt reached an unparalleled 1.94 trillion euros ($2.47 trillion) in the first month of this year.

Month-on-month, the Italian public debt increased by 37.9 billion euros. The country’s central bank attributed the renewed rise to a number of seasonal factors and higher costs of servicing debt. It added that the country’s contribution to the European financial rescue fund also made debt levels rise. The Italian public deficit hit 4 billion euros in January, up from 1.5 billion euros a year earlier.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italy: Spread 275.6 Points, Yield 4.83%

Fresh post-August low

(ANSA) — Rome, March 16 — The spread between Italian and German 10-year bonds dropped to a fresh post-August low of 275.6 points Friday after Premier Mario Monti agreed key labour-market reform plans with the parties supporting his government.

The yield, another mark of market sentiment, fell to 4.83%.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spain: Home Prices See Biggest Fall Since Property Bubble Burst

The fourth quarter of 2011 saw average home prices in Spain fall the most since the property bubble burst, dropping 11.2 percent from the same period in 2010, the National Statistics Institute (INE) said in a press release on Thursday.

To break down the figures, the average price of new homes fell 8.5 percent in the last quarter of 2011 compared to the previous year, while the price of used properties was down 13.7 percent.

Recession, unemployment and uncertainty about the country’s immediate economic future are the biggest factors real estate agents blame for the fall in home prices.

“We have been surprised at the magnitude of this downslide. We thought it would be around 10 percent,” said Julio Gil, real estate expert and partner in Horizone. He added that another factor could be that Spaniards rushed to buy homes before the end of 2010, when the government’s tax-break program expired. Other analysts point to the fact that the country’s banks have stockpiles of homes.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Spain’s Public Debt Soars to Record High

Spain’s public debt soared to a record high at the end of 2011, Bank of Spain figures showed Friday, as Madrid struggled to slash costs and escape the eurozone debt crisis. Public debt amounted to 734.96 billion euros ($960 billion), equal to 68.5 percent of annual economic output at the end of 2011 — up from 66 percent three months earlier and 61.2 percent at the end of 2010.

The accumulated debts breached the European-Union agreed limit of 60 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) but was still below the eurozone average, which approached 90 percent in the third quarter last year. It was the highest public debt ratio recorded in Spain since statistics in the current format were first published in 1995.

Spain’s public debt is rising fast because of runaway annual public deficits that have shot past EU-agreed targets, in part owing to high spending by regional governments.

The previous Socialist government, ousted by the conservative Popular Party in November elections, had forecast a debt of 67.2 of GDP for the end of 2011, aiming to curb it to less than 70 percent in 2014.

But the European statistics unit Eurostat was not so optimistic. It forecast a public debt of 69.6 percent in 2011, 73.8 percent in 2012 and 78 percent in 2013. Spain’s conservative government, which took power in December, has yet to announce a new public debt target.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Ukraine Seeks 10-Year Delay on Payment

KIEV — Standard and Poor’s cut its outlook on Ukraine’s long-term credit rating to negative on Thursday, citing Kiev’s lack of progress in talks with the International Monetary Fund and sole gas supplier Russia.

The move followed an announcement by Ukraine’s deputy economy minister earlier on Thursday that the cash-strapped country wanted to delay repayment of $3 billion of debt it owes the IMF this year by a decade.

“Talks are being held now on restructuring the debt falling due this year, (which amounts to) $3 billion,” First Deputy Economy Minister Vadim Kopylov told reporters Thursday. “We need to discuss delaying repayment of these funds by 10 years.”

“Why not, if we have Greece (with a smaller population to Ukraine) and such huge loans (being restructured), while here we have 46 million people and a restructuring of $3 billion?” he said.

The IMF, which has never had a borrower default on its debt, said it had not received a request for restructuring.

S&P currently rates the former Soviet republic’s long- and short-term debt B+/B. “The negative outlook reflects our view of increased risks regarding Ukraine’s significant fiscal and external refinancing needs,” S&P said in a statement.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Apple Stocks Break $600 Barrier

Traders were thrilled to see Apple stocks top the $600 threshold in early US trading for the first time. The consumer electronics giant confirmed its role as the most valuable company on the market. Stocks of the US consumer electronics company Apple on Thursday touched the $600 (460 euros) barrier for the first time. The price per stock in early Wall Street trading reached $600.01 then fell to $593.34 after the first half-hour of trading in New York.

Apple as the world’s most valuable firm now has a market capitalization of almost $555 billion, topping the $500 billion mark in late February.

The California-based company has seen its stock value jump by 57 percent within just three months, predominantly due to the sale of its tablet computers. Apple sold 15.4 million iPad 2 units in the most recent fiscal quarter, and Thursday’s stock value boost came amid the start of sales of the company’s updated iPad, which will not have a new name.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Arab-Muslim Comedy Finds a Voice

Comedians have focused on more nuanced approach since 9/11

EAST LANSING, Mich. — The comedian who made his name on the “Axis of Evil Comedy Tour” made one thing clear when he opened a recent set at Michigan State University: “Tonight, it’s not Islam 101.” For every joke Dean Obeidallah made about his Arabic heritage or Muslim faith, there were others about student loans, Asian-American basketball phenom Jeremy Lin, the presidential race and full-body scans at airports. The last topic might seem like fertile ground for a Muslim comic, but the punch line goes to another time-honored funny topic: male anatomy. “They’re looking at my image on the monitor,” he said. “All I can think of is, ‘please don’t laugh, please don’t laugh.’“ Arab-Muslim stand-up comedy is flourishing more than a decade after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. While comics like Obeidallah, Ahmed Ahmed and Amer Zahr differ on approach — and there are disagreements among some- they’re all trying to do more than just lampoon themselves or their people for easy laughs. “I think our own community pushed us a little bit. They were tired of hearing jokes about … having problems at the airport. … They wanted a more nuanced approach to comedy,” Obeidallah said during a multi-city swing through Michigan.

“You want to be dynamic. The same act, it’s boring. People will not come back to see you a second or third time.”


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Bill Clinton and His Daughter Participate in an Evening of Muslim-Jewish Understanding

While the former U.S. president’s daughter advocates interfaith cooperation inside the JCC, protesters gather outside demanding an apology for the creation of programs that bring together members of mosques and synagogues.

A new star has risen in support of efforts to strengthen ties between American Jews and Muslims; Chelsea Clinton, the daughter of former U.S. President Bill Clinton. Chelsea Clinton moderated a public dialogue on Wednesday night at the Jewish Community Center in Manhattan featuring two outspoken advocates of building a Muslim-Jewish alliance, Rabbi Marc Schneier and Imam Shamsi Ali. After speaking before an overflowing audience, which included her proud father, the younger Clinton told Haaretz, “I am honored to have been invited to take part in this event, and to support the work of the rabbi and the imam. I believe deeply in the importance of talking to each other and also in moving beyond conversation to working together.” Referring to several dozen anti-Muslim protestors who turned up outside the JCC with signs denouncing the dialogue and demanding that Schneier “apologize to the Jewish community” for creating programs that bring together members of mosques and synagogues in the U.S. and around the world through the agency he founded, The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, Chelsea Clinton said, “We are being protested, which shows we are having an important conversation.”

Referring to series of rhetorical attacks on Muslims here over the past several years in the media and by prominent politicians including the outcry in 2010 against plans to build a mosque several blocks from the World Trade Center, Chelsea Clinton added, “We are very concerned about the anti-Muslim stereotyping. We need to hold our politicians and those of us in the media to a certain level of discourse.” Schneier, an Orthodox rabbi who is the spiritual leader of a large synagogue in the Hamptons and vice president of the World Jewish Congress, told the audience, “I believe that as a Jew and a rabbi I have a responsibility to speak out against anti-Muslim bigotry and discrimination, just as I expect my Muslim brothers and sisters to speak out against anti-Semitism.” Noting that prominent American Muslim leaders have repeatedly denounced Holocaust denial and had issued an appeal to Hamas to free the then-captured Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit two months before his liberation, Schneier said, “I am proud that we have moved beyond dialogue to actually fighting for the rights of the other.”

Imam Shamsi Ali, the former spiritual leader of the Islamic Cultural Center of New York, who was chosen by New York Magazine as one of the seven most influential religious leaders in New York, said both Muslims and Jews need to look beyond negative stereotypes of each other to strengthen people-to-people ties. Noting that the term “jihad” is often misconstrued in the media to mean exclusively violence against non-Muslims, Imam Ali said, “In fact we are now engaged in a jihad for peace and for cooperation between people of all backgrounds.” Responding to recent revelations that the New York Police Department has spied extensively on worshippers in mosques and on Muslim student groups, Imam Ali expressed disagreement with widespread calls for the resignation of NYPD chief Ray Kelly; stating, “People in the Muslim community are deeply concerned about this, but instead of demanding (Kelly’s) resignation, we need to engage the NYPD to put procedures into place so that it consults with Muslim leaders on an ongoing basis.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Diana West: Boosting Breivik

Received a press release yesterday from the American Islamic Leadership Coalition (AILC) condemning the murders of 16 Afghan civilians by a US Army Staff Seregeant.

Nothing earthshaking there. But in distinguishing between the systemic use of unrelenting violence against innocents by “Islamists,” and the actions of the US military to “punish” the aberrant crime of an apparently battle-broken soldier, the group, which is significant for staking out a claim to a moderate Islam (unsupported by authoritative mainstream Islamic texts), ventures into might disturbing mental territory.

Yet despite this vivid distinction between Islamist extremists and the U.S. military—which seeks to minimize and prevent civilian casualties in a war zone—we should not lose sight of the possibility that the brutal murders committed in the village of Balandai may represent another manifestation of the “Breivik syndrome,” in which an individual commits a horrific act of violence motivated by intensely anti-Islamic and anti-Muslim sentiments.

The combination of relentless acts of violence committed by Muslims with a supremacist political agenda (i.e., “Islamists”)—and the refusal of Western elites to directly explain and address why this is happening—is clearly prompting more and more Europeans and Americans to conclude that Islam itself is antithetical to the West, and that Muslims in general are “the enemy.”

“If we extrapolate outward from the Breivik and Balandai incidents,” said AILC member C. Holland Taylor of LibForAll Foundation, “both could be warning signs about the growing radicalization of Western opinion, and to the potential for civil conflict in Europe and North America, if we fail to head it off.”

“I lay the blame for this polarization at the feet of Islamists, and Western elites who refuse to address the virulent ideology of Muslim supremacism,” said AILC member Tarek Fatah, who helped to establish the Muslim Canadian Congress. “To fight malaria we need to drain the swamps, not kill individual mosquitoes,” he added.

“For the past few years I’ve been warning Muslims that if Islamist extremists commit another major attack on U.S. soil, the retaliation from our fellow Americans may go off the charts,” said AILC member Jamal Hasan of the Council for Democracy and Tolerance. “It will be a tragedy of inconceivable proportions, if Muslim extremists provoke the West into behaving in a manner similar to that of the Islamists themselves.”

I have allowed the calumnies and twists of illogic to mount up for maximum head-spinning impact. What just happened?

Most significantly, Anders Breivik, the diagnosed paranoid schitzophrenic who massacred 77 people and wounded 151 others in and around Oslo in two terror attacks last summer, has once again been deployed — as he has so often been deployed by forces of Islam and the Left — this time by AILC member C. Holland Taylor against “the growing radicalization of Western opinion.” Opinion.

In other words, as Taylor declares in this press release — supposedly written to condemn (gratuitously?) the wholly exceptional, non-doctrinal and outlaw action of a likely battle-fatigued, highly decorated and twice-wounded American soldier (traumatic brain injury and loss of part of his foot) — the twin terror attacks by a reportedly wealthy madman in Norway are supposed to cancel all scholarly or popular pursuit and cultivation of informed opinion on Islam. Quite noxiously, “the Balandai incident” — now it’s got a moniker — is being used here to boost Breivik as a weapon in what Hillary Clinton has called a needed campaign of “peer pressure and shaming” to further censor analysis and opinion drawn from the facts of Islam — its history, its law, its supremacism, its warlike nature.

The press release continues:…

           — Hat tip: Diana West[Return to headlines]

Israel Electric Begins Secure Energy Independence With Noble Energy. Inc. And Partners Gas Deal

(NBL-NYSE) of Houston, Texas announced yesterday that it had signed an agreement with Israel Electric Corporation Ltd. to supply more than 2.7 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of natural gas from offshore fields in the Levant basin.

The term of the agreement is for 15 years with options for expansion to over 3.5 Tcf. This should assure Israel of a secure energy future independent of supplies from Egyptian fields in the Sinai. The Egyptian Sinai pipeline that currently supplies natural gas to Israel has been plagued by terrorist sabotage disrupting gas transmission to both Israel and Jordan.

As Globes Israel Business reported the Egyptian pipeline has been hit more than 13 times, most recently in early March, 2012. We have noted how significant a game changer the offshore energy development will be for Israel in an NER article, “Will Israel Win the Energy Prize in the Levant Basin”. It has already lead to a geo resource development partnership with the Republic of Cyprus and potentially Greece regarding creation of LNG processing facilities and pipelines for delivery of natural gas to the large EU markets.

In late February, Prime Minister Netanyahu announced the creation of a Sovereign Wealth Fund based on anticipated royalties from Israel’s significant energy developments both off shore in its exclusive economic zone and on shore in the oil shale rich Shelfla basin. See our NER article, “Israel’s Black Gold: An Interview with Scott Nguyen”.

[see links and rest of post at the URL above]

[Return to headlines]

Marines to Cut Four Battalions, 12 Air Squadrons

The Marine Corps said on Wednesday it would cut four infantry battalions and 12 flying squadrons over the next five years as it shrinks by 20,000 personnel to meet budget constraints and peacetime needs after more than a decade of war.

The biggest cuts would fall on Marine Corps bases in North Carolina, with Camp Lejeune and the adjacent New River air base losing 5,800 personnel and Cherry Point air base losing another 2,100. Three California Marine bases — Camp Pendleton, 29 Palms and Miramar — would lose a total of 6,000 personnel.


[Return to headlines]

Mosque’s Rezoning Request Denied

Council members on Tuesday unanimously voted to recommend that the county deny a request by The Islamic Center of Clermont to rezone a 4-acre parcel of land near Hancock and Lost Lake roads. Council members cited “the intensive use for such a small property,” insufficient roads, traffic control, water and sewer hook-ups and the fact that the property is surrounded by 5-acres of residential properties and agriculture. “We have to deal with churches like we do any other facility as it relates to impacts and our ability to serve the community,” said Mayor Hal Turville. Turville made it clear that, although he understands that many places of worship want to come into Clermont because it is seen as a ‘church community,’ the council has the responsibility to make sure each location is the right fit. “I think somewhere in South Lake, there’s a location for you, but you just have to look around for it… not in farmland,” added Mayor Pro Tem Keith Mullins. According to James Hitt, Clermont’s Planning and Zoning director, the process requires the city’s recommendations because the proposed site falls within the city and county’s Joint Planning Agreement overlay area. In other words, although the site — off Lost Lake Road, just east of Hancock Road — is technically out of Clermont’s city limits, it needs the city’s water and sewer service. Hitt said the applicant has completed a site plan for the rezoning phase of the project, which includes a layout of a two-story, 25,000-square-foot community center on about 4.8 acres at 15128 Lost Lake Road. Lake County Commissioners will have the final say on March 27.

Councilman Ray Goodgame said The River Church, now at Hooks Street, submitted an application several years ago to construct a church near the site of the proposed Islamic Community Center. That request was denied by the county because of the traffic it would produce, he added. About a dozen residents spoke at the meeting with concerns. “It’s a church in the middle of a farm. In fact, it’s a size 14 shoe in a size 9 box,” Resident Jim Purvis said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a mosque, temple, or Catholic church. It doesn’t fit the area and no church will ever fit those 4 acres in any of our lifetimes.” Amwar Latib, the Center’s Owner said that the number of people, cars and traffic the community center would attract is not as big as some have indicated. Latib said members of the congregation do get together to pray about five times per day, but not in great numbers, adding that their main prayer of the week is Friday at midday. Saturday he said, is all about instructions for the children and Sunday for playing cricket. Latib also appealed to the understanding and compassion of the community for his congregation’s needs and style of worship. “This is a different form of prayer, a different form of worship, but we also have to hold it dear to our hearts,” Latib said. “We’re asking for your kindness. I understand the outbursts from the community, and change is always a difficult thing.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

New York Times Nixes Anti-Islam Ad, Runs Anti-Catholic Ad

Executives at The New York Times have rejected a full-page anti-Islam advertisement that mimicked a controversial anti-Catholic advertisement they published on March 9.


[Return to headlines]

Novato Exhibit of Muslim Art Seeks to Cultivate Understanding, Celebrate Creativity

ASYA ABDRAHMAN IS an artist and a Muslim, but she’s not convinced there needs to be an exhibit dedicated just to Muslim art. “It is an interesting concept but I think that art is pretty universal, whether it’s done from a Muslim person or a Buddhist person,” the Mill Valley resident says. Nabeela Raza Sajjad of Fremont would not agree. “Islamic art has a long history and I felt that it wasn’t being represented here,” says Sajjad, who founded the nonprofit Islamic Art Exhibit, a traveling art show, three years ago for the sole purpose of giving Muslim artists greater exposure. Both women are among the 35 artists featured in “Muslim Eyes: An Exhibition of Religious and Secular Art by Muslim Artists,” a new juried exhibit at the Marin Community Foundation that runs through May 31. Their differing viewpoints, as well as their differing creative styles, are, in part, why the MCF chose to put on the exhibit.

“What has been so great about this effort and richness and colorfulness of this display is that it speaks the core to of artistic and creative expression,” says Tom Peters, MCF president. “It can only come from people who are looking forward and outward. They’re reaching into their personal and ethnic and religious base, but they’re headed in the 21st century. It’s really vibrant.” There have been numerous exhibits of Muslim art in the Bay Area, but this is the first in Marin, Peters says.


[JP note: Promoting stunted vision like the British Museum Hajj fiasco.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Planned Parenthood CEO Arrested for Indecent Exposure

The CEO and President of the Planned Parenthood Association of Lubbock has been arrested for exposing himself in public. Lubbock police say Tony Thornton, 56, was arrested just before 3:30 Monday afternoon at the baseball fields inside of Mackenzie Park.


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Sorry, Gentlemen, But You’re No Roosevelt and Churchill

Britain and America are betraying the values both countries fought for in the past.

David Cameron, for all this week’s fuss, is not the first prime minister to fly on Air Force One. Back in 1994, John Major accompanied Bill Clinton on a trip from Pittsburgh to Washington DC. (I am aware of this because I was one of a small group of reporters who joined the flight). The reason why Mr Major and the rest of us were invited aboard was presidential guilt. Mr Clinton had disreputably awarded Gerry Adams a US visa, and was trying to make up for it. It was like no other journey any of us had made. Air Force One is like an enormous and hugely expensive penthouse flat, with bedrooms, bathrooms, offices and expensively appointed drawing rooms, the prevailing colour of which is beige. There are no rows of seats of the sort one expects in an aeroplane. But by every armchair there was a telephone, so we could ring up whom we wished, anywhere in the world. At the end of the flight, we were given a pack of Air Force One playing cards as a souvenir.

It is easy to see why British prime ministers should find this very seductive (though why Mr Cameron has brought the Chancellor of the Exchequer with him on this trip to the White House, on the eve of one of the most important Budget statements for decades, one that will further drain the finances of middle Britain, is inexplicable). The pictures at the basketball game, the meeting between two very charismatic first ladies, the opportunity for a serious private conversation with the President in the White House — all this can be valuable.

But it is also troubling, and raises questions. In recent years, Britain’s allegiance to the United States has led us into two conflicts, Iraq and Afghanistan, which have been our worst military setbacks since Suez. These humiliations might have been worthwhile if the cause was good. But the post-9/11 wars have been fought in a way that has done hideous damage to Britain’s reputation as a country that claims to value freedom and the rule of law. This is almost entirely due to the readiness of a generation of British political leaders and security chiefs to offer uncritical adherence to the US. There is no sign from this week’s official briefings that Mr Cameron has raised with Barack Obama the shameful case of Shaker Aamer, a British resident who has been held in Guantánamo for 10 years. No charges have been laid against Aamer, and he has never received a trial — a betrayal of British justice.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

The Truth About Muslim Student Associations

Though targeted by NYPD surveillance, Muslim Student Associations play a vital role in their campus communities. MSAs reveal that for most Muslim-Americans there is no conflict between their Islamic and their American ideals, concludes Uzma Kolsy.

In 1992, the forbidding streets of South-Central Los Angeles played host to the Rodney King riots — a violent juncture in the city’s history. The discord left the impoverished city blocks tinged with despair and yearning for compassion. When the smoke cleared, a group of seven UCLA and Charles Drew Medical students moved in. They saw a community that was bleeding, and they hoped to help mend it by providing free healthcare to one of the country’s poorest neighborhoods. This was the modest beginnings of the UMMA Community Clinic, now a beloved fixture in South Los Angeles, which has served more than 25,000 patients in the last fifteen years. UMMA stands for University Muslim Medical Association, and the acronym spells a word that translates to “community” in Arabic. The organization, which has been recognized by President Obama and on the floor of Congress, is grounded in the Islamic principles of charitable giving and social justice, and it traces its roots to the Muslim Student Association (MSA) at UCLA. “UMMA Clinic was born in the MSA office,” explained Dr. Mansur Khan, one of the founders of the clinic. “That’s where it all happened. In a sense, UMMA clinic is the direct result of the success and the mindset of MSA-UCLA.”

Last week, news broke that the NYPD had been monitoring Muslim student groups in several different universities, looking to identify terrorists by their prayer habits and adeptness at paintballing. They spied on Muslim students and infiltrated MSAs at campuses not just across New York City, but as far away as Yale University. MSAs at sixteen colleges were under regular and unchecked surveillance by the NYPD, without being suspected of any wrongdoing. As a beneficiary of a Muslim Student Association myself, the news left me torn — I did not know whether to laugh quietly or to scoff in bitter fury. My years in MSA were spent packing lunches for homeless feedings, mentoring kids at an underprivileged high school and learning about my faith with my best friends. The idea that a police force could trail a group of students who are trying to be assets to their community, seemed preposterous to me. Congregating on campus — whether it is to pray, discuss current events or plan a party, is not grounds for suspicion. Being a Muslim, though, apparently is.

As far as I knew, Muslim student groups on university campuses were breeding grounds not for radicalism or violence, but for intellectual discourse, community service and the formation of Muslim American identities. MSAs function within the means of school rules and bylaws, often play a vital role in their campus communities and provide a safe space for Muslim students to express themselves. Targeting these groups as a potential threat could work to alienate young Muslims and stifle life on campus for all students. It is a shame that this unsettling turn of events could potentially prevent the next generation of Muslim students from engaging in a vibrant, meaningful and constructive part of their college lives. Many Muslim students will become anxious — prone to retracing their every step, always looking over their shoulder and being distrustful and wary of those around them. The FBI has long considered Muslim students a danger to national security. The wealth of resources being allocated to investigate Muslim students might be futile, however, considering a recent study which concluded that Muslim Americans pose little threat of homegrown terrorism. The truth is that for most Muslim-Americans, there is no conflict between their Islamic and their American ideals. By profiling Muslim students and infiltrating their campus communities, the FBI is demonizing Islam and sending a dangerous and deeply unfair message: that anything Muslim is potentially criminal.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Under Oath, Alamoudi Ties MAS to Brotherhood

The Muslim American Society (MAS) was created as a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood in America, and continues to serve that function today, a man who once was one of the most influential Muslim political leaders testified in a Virginia courtroom Wednesday. “Everyone knows that MAS is the Muslim Brotherhood,” Abdurrahman Alamoudi told federal investigators in a January interview from a federal correctional facility…


[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

About-Turn Once More: Åland’s Place Name Dispute is Taking Yet Another Direction

In what is fast becoming this week’s on-off-on-off news story, the Åland Islands language spat took yet another twist on Thursday. Quoting a report from the Finnish Broadcasting Company, Helsingin Sanomat noted on Tuesday of this week that the provincial government of the Swedish-speaking semi-autonomous Åland Islands (located between Finland and Sweden) had suggested that the Finnish-language place names be removed from the province’s official maps. On Wednesday, Communications Manager Björn Häggblom claimed that this was not true. According to him, Åland only wished that the place names would be in both languages, for example in international map services.

On Thursday, Director Arne Selander from the provincial government of Åland corrected Häggblom’s words. Selander said that Häggblom was not aware of a letter that the provincial government had sent to the National Land Survey of Finland already in August of last year, demanding that the place names be printed on the maps only in Swedish.

“We have the support of the Constitution of Finland, and above all that of the Autonomy Act”, Selander commented to the Finnish news agency (STT) on Thursday.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Belgium Holds Minute of Silence for Swiss Coach Crash Victims

While Belgium grieves for the victims of the school bus crash, questions about what caused the tragedy remain unanswered. White balloons were released as a minute of silence was observed thoughout the nation. Belgium held a national day of mourning on Friday, including a minute of silence, for the 22 children and six adults who were killed in a coach crash in Switzerland on Tuesday.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

China Biggest Foreign Investor in Germany

China was the top foreign investor in Germany last year, ahead of the United States, Switzerland and France, the government development agency Germany Trade & Invest said on Thursday. China invested in 158 projects, while the US invested in 110, Switzerland in 91 and France in 53, GTAI said in a statement.

Nevertheless, Europe combined accounted for around half of total foreign investment in Germany, the agency added. One in five investment projects — most of which involved the establishment of new sites in Germany — was in the mechanical engineering or automotive sectors and 13 percent were in new technologies, while renewable energy accounted for around six percent of projects.

Earlier this week, Chinese automotive supplier Heibei Lingyun Industrial Group Corporation agreed to buy Kiekert, a German maker of latch systems for cars.

And in January, Chinese construction equipment giant Sany Heavy Industry acquired Putzmeister, a German family-owned engineering firm, in what was described as one of the biggest deals in the so-called “Mittelstand” sector that makes up the backbone of the German economy.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Debate is Europe’s Best Hope Against Extremism

The standoff between Europe’s secular, Islamist and sectarian forces can only be solved by constructive public conversation

Political extremism runs in the family. An-Sofie Dewinter, the 19-year-old daughter of Belgium’s far-right party leader in northern Flanders, recently posed in a niqab and bikini to support her father’s “Women against Islamisation” campaign. Her breasts and crotch are covered with provocative slogans, urging women to choose between their freedom and Islam, on billboards in the streets of Antwerp. The young model said she received death threats before and thinks this time will be no different. The campaign emerges five months after Belgium’s first sharia law court was established by Sharia4Belgium, a radical Muslim organisation, and right before the spokesman of the court, Fouad Belkacem, was sentenced to two years in prison for inciting hatred and violence against non-Muslims. On Monday night, religious violence peaked as an imam was killed in an arson attack on the Rida mosque, the largest Shia mosque of Brussels. The attacker, who described himself as a Muslim, committed the crime to intimidate the local Shia community, linking the events to religious tensions in Syria, Belgian media reported. Belgium’s extremists are not alone. Elsewhere in Europe, the fumes of burning cars and simmering conflict continue to intoxicate the continent’s failing integration policies. Lawmakers try to relegate religion to the private sphere, marking clear boundaries between Islam and the west.

There is, however, a way out of this standoff between secular, Islamist and sectarian forces. Despite indignant outcries at Dewinter’s boldness, Belkacem’s jihad and the Rida mosque tragedy, the events offer an opportunity to elevate the discussion to a higher level. Religious controversy fuels awareness, introspection and public debate — a central tenet of all modern, liberal societies. The Netherlands make for an interesting test case to verify this premise. Plagued by a number of high-profile extremist incidents, including two murders, its media learned how to channel outbursts of national outrage into episodes of constructive debate. Esmaa Alariachi, a Dutch television personality of Moroccan descent, claims her polemical shows The Girls of Halal and Bimbos and Burkas helped foster cross-cultural awareness in the Netherlands. “As long as people talk about and with Muslims, some will also become curious to know more,” she says.

Leyla Cakir, the first female president of a Dutch mosque in Geleen, told me about another corollary of religious controversy. Muslim women, tired of becoming the object of public scrutiny after 9/11, turned inward, only to re-emerge with a stronger sense of self. “The campaigns of self-described defenders of women’s rights, such as Ayaan Hirsi Ali, have missed their effect here completely,” Leyla told me. “Instead, her words merely encouraged us to become even more determined in showing Islam’s true face to the world — one of inclusiveness and respect, not of female repression and restraint.”

Most significantly, religious controversy rouses debate in the public sphere. The German philosopher Jürgen Habermas has called for a post-secular society, in which we should try to include religious voices in some sort of harmonious feat of democratic virtuosity. We shouldn’t “confuse the neutrality of a secular state … with the purgation of the political public sphere of all religious contributions,” he said in a presentation at the Istanbul Seminars in 2008. Instead, militant secularisation gave free rein to fundamentalists.

Public debate isn’t just a footnote in democratic theory, it is a powerful tool. If we want to fight extremism, of any kind, we need to be able to fight it on its own terms. We need to familiarise ourselves again with religion, instead of taking refuge within the safe confines of secular ideals. The void has become filled with radical voices, unchallenged on the territory secularists chose to abandon.

Express News TV in Pakistan understood the power (or lure) of public debate when it recently aired a dispute between Pakistani actor Veena Malik and Islamic scholar Abdul Qavi. Malik, who was accused of dishonouring her nation by participating in Bigg Boss, the Indian version of Big Brother, refused to endure the cleric’s rant and invoked Islam’s respect for women instead. “As far as [Islam] is concerned, [it] is a vast religion. … Islam also means that I am the sole provider for my five sisters and my brother, and I have paid for their education.” She silenced her bearded opponent as the power of her words and tears running down her cheeks won over viewers. Europe, similarly, should harness its public sphere as a platform to break out of today’s radicalising narrative, as a way to ultimately foster religious tolerance and respect.

[Reader comment by intentsandpurposes on 15 March 2012 at 9:48 am.]

All very well. But how on earth can we have a no holds barred debate when there are many tenets of Islam which are considered beyond reproach and sacrosanct? I, for instance, would like to tell a Muslim that Muhammed was a bit of a nutter whose views have no place in the modern society, but saying that could entail me receiving death threats or being slapped with a fatwa. That’s the debate scuppered, then.

[Reader comment by aboveusonlysky on 15 March 2012 at 10:07 am.]

The stupidest argument used by Western apologists for Islam is that we should get to know more about Islamic culture, as opposed to encouraging more Muslims in the West to understand Western culture better. We are far too defensive about standing up for the values that led us to enjoy human rights which no Muslim country has got anywhere near.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Denmark: Violence at Public Institutions Puts Security in Spotlight

Two violent incidents yesterday and one today highlight the need for more security at government worksites, union says

The national office workers’ union, HK, is demanding more security for council workers following three violent incidents at public institutions in Helsingør and Odense over the last two days.

A disgruntled man brandishing an axe at a job centre in Helsingør yesterday injured two council workers, and only an hour later another man attempted to burn down a job centre in Odense using a lighter and five litres of petrol. Just this morning, a psychiatric patient at Odense Hospital stabbed three employees. Details in that case are still developing.

HK have noted that in 2012 alone, there have already been registered six cases that they consider to be life-threatening and the general increase of such episodes is untenable.

“It is absolutely unacceptable that our members are forced to go to work frightened,” HK spokesman Mads Samsing said. “The rising number of cases and especially the potency of the violence used means that we must address the security issue.”

Mette Gregersen, head of the job centre in Helsingør, said she took yesterday’s attack very seriously but maintained that it is important for councils to remain open and accessible to the public.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Denmark: Police Uncover Large Weapons Cache

Pistols, rifles, grenades and explosives were all found in cellar storage rooms by police as part of an ongoing investigation into the illegal weapons trade

The police’s gang unit, Task Force East, raided a series of cellar storage rooms yesterday on Forbindelsesvej in Copenhagen, resulting in the confiscation of a large quantity of weapons and explosives.

Police discovered about 20 pistols, three machine guns, at least ten semi automatic and regular rifles, weapons parts, several functioning grenades, about two kilogrammes of TNT explosives, detonators, fuses, about 25 kilogrammes of gunpowder and large quantities of ammunition.

“The haul was so large that we have not yet had time to write up everything we confiscated in the raid,” police inspector Magnus Andresen from Task Force East, wrote in a press release.

The Army’s ammunition clearance unit, EOD, worked together with the police to investigate and clear the cellar storage rooms.

The arrest of a 50-year-old man, connected to the storage rooms but not previously known by police, also led to the discovery of more ammunition, rifles and weapons parts at his address.

The man is due in court this afternoon but the proceedings will be held behind closed doors in order to not jeopardise the ongoing investigation into the illegal sale of weapons to gang members during the gang war.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

France 2012: Religions Enter Debate on Halal/Kosher Meat

Protests after controversial statements on slaughter rites

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, MARCH 6 — Religion has entered the French presidential campaign, now that the Jewish and Muslim communities are protesting against the debate on halal meat. The debate was opened by far-right candidate Marine Le Pen and resumed in the past days by Nicolas Sarkozy. Representatives of the Jewish and Muslim community in France have taken a clear stance against the statement that was made yesterday by Prime Minister Francois Fillon, a close ally of Sarkozy. Fillon has said that the slaughter methods used by Jews and Muslims (kosher and halal), are “age-old traditions that are now outdated.” Catholic bishop Michel Dubost has also spoken out against this statement, saying that in a secular country like France, the government “should not interfere with what religions are doing.” The absence of labels on halal meat, making it impossible for non-Muslim consumers to know that they are buying, previously a topic of Marine Le Pen, has now been taken over by President Nicolas Sarkozy and his faithful collaborators. Part of the meat produced in France following Jewish and Muslim rites — but not in line with the rules of these two religions — is distributed in supermarkets without any information about its origins.

Sarkozy is shifting to the right to recover ground he has lost to his socialist opponent Francois Hollande. On February 21 Sarkozy said that the row on halal meat “makes no sense.” But on Sunday he said that he is in favour of “labelling meat according to slaughter methods.” Today French rabbi Gilles Bernheim said that he is “shocked” by this debate, which “has no reason of existence.” “The problems France has” he added, “are so important, this is a period of crisis, I don’t understand how kosher and halal meat can be a more important problem for France.” Yesterday the president of the council that represents Jewish institutions in France, Richard Prasquier, said that he was “shocked” by the “surprising” statements made by Fillon. “The government,” he continued, “must not interfere with religious traditions.” And also the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) does “not understand and does not accept the use of the Islam and Muslims as scapegoats in this campaign.” “The CFCM” added Mohammed Moussaoui, president of the organisation that represents Muslims in France (at least 4 million based on official estimates) “refuses to serve as sounding board for the statements of some and the controversies of others.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Germany: E-Bikes Could Offer Car Alternative to Urbanites

The electric bike industry is booming. What was once seen as a bicycle for retirees is now cool and trendy. The newest riders are young, stylish and earn good money. They see their e-bike as a car alternative. High school student Paul pedaled faster, leaving all the other bikers behind as he turned. Unlike the others, he was neither out of breath nor sweating.

“This is awesome!” 15-year old Paul called out, grinning, to his brother Friedemann in the crowd. Paul is on a test track at Cycolonia, a bicycle fair in Cologne. He is testing a Pedelec or Pedal Electric Cycle, an electric bike. “I put the bike on e-drive and that’s giving it speed!” Paul shouted.

He came to stop with a screeching halt, got off the bike and pushed it into Friedemann’s hands. His brother also wanted to see what it felt like to go from to from zero to 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) per hour in a short time on a bike. The cyclist just needs to turn on the electric motor to get a boost. The more he pedals the more of a boost he gets from the electric motor.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Hungarian PM to EU: ‘We Won’t be a Colony’

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban on Thursday (15 March) accused the EU of colonialism and meddling in his country’s domestic affairs. His words come after Budapest was hit with a €500 million EU funds freeze for its continued budget deficit and with legal action over constitutional changes limiting the independence of media, judges and the central bank.

“We will not be a colony. Hungarians won’t live according to the commands of foreign powers, they won’t give up their independence or their freedom,” Orban told over 100,000 people gathered outside the parliament in Budapest on the anniversary of the country’s 1848 revolution against Hapsburg rule. “As a European nation we demand equal treatment. We will not be second class European citizens. Our rightful demand is to have the same standards apply to us, which apply to other countries,” he said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italy Spends Record Amount on Foreign Energy

Imports cost 63 bln in 2011, up almost 20%

(ANSA) — Rome, March 8 — Italy paid a record 63 billion euros last year for its foreign energy supplies, according to Italy’s Unione Petrolifera association of oil companies.

The number was up 19% from 2010.

The country’s biggest costs came from fossil fuels, up from 28.4 billion euros in 2010 to 35.1 billion in 2011.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Govt Reiterates That Contested Rail Line Must Go Ahead

‘Necessary, useful, strategic,’ says industry minister

(ANSA) — Rome, March 6 — The government reiterated on Tuesday that a hotly contested high-speed rail link in northern Italy is necessary and must go ahead.

Protests against the Lyon-Turin ‘TAV’ project have been taking place for years, but they have escalated over the last 10 days, with a number of incidents of violence and road blocks that have caused major disruption.

“This project is necessary, useful and of strategic importance for our country, in addition to respecting Italian, French and European regulations,” Industry Minister Corrado Passera told Turin-based daily La Stampa.

“All this makes the manifestations of illegality and violence even more unacceptable”.

The protests look set to continue on Tuesday with a sit-in in Turin, which Italian President Giorgio Napolitano will visit after making an appeal on Monday for protesters to “desist from unacceptable behaviour”. Opponents to the project say a tunnel in the Valle di Susa valley will create pollution and mar the area’s natural beauty, arguing that the money would be better spent on improving public transport locally.

Supporters, including most Italian political parties and the European Commission, say the link will actually reduce pollution by minimizing road-based freight traffic.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

No Trade War With China, EU Presidency Says

BRUSSELS — Business between the EU and China is running as usual, despite highly-public trade differences between the two economic powerhouses, the Danish trade minister has said. “I wouldn’t say that [EU-China trade relations] are deteriorating, I think they are just more in the open now,” Pia Olsen Dyhr, whose country currently holds the rotating EU chairmanship, told EUobserver in an interview on Thursday (16 March).

Her comments come two days after the EU joined the US and Japan in a fresh complaint to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) over China’s restrictions on the export of so-called rare earth elements, used in the manufacture of high-tech devices.

“China has been a member of the WTO for 10 years now and some member countries are testing how it is implementing the rules,” she said. “That is why we see these cases arising. In the beginning they had a transition period but that is running out.”

The complaint over rare earth exports came on top of a delay last week of a multi-billion-euro Chinese order of European-made Airbus jets, seen as retaliation against a new EU tax on airlines’ carbon emissions.

Continuing the tit-for-tat in trade relations, the EU is said to be readying legislation to allow member states to bar non-EU-based companies from public procurement contracts. China already has similar legislation in place.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, campaigning for re-election, last week called for the introduction of what he called a “Buy European Act” — a law that would oblige European governments to deal with European companies only.

China is also becoming more outspoken about the EU’s economic problems. The governor of China’s central bank recently said that Europe is the biggest uncertainty to the future of China’s economy.

“I understand why he is saying that … Chinese companies are investing more and more in Europe and therefore are also more vulnerable if the European market is going in the wrong direction,” Denmark’s Olsen Dyhr noted. She addded that the EU economy is moving in the right direction: “Why would the Chinese [otherwise] invest even further? It is really going rapidly high.”

Xiang Lanxin, a professor of international history at The Graduate Institute in Geneva and a long-time scholar of China, has also downplayed the apparent hardening of rhetoric from both sides. “There are some frictions … Normal frictions, without any strategic or political background,” he told this website.

In any case, China will not be on the agenda of Friday’s meeting of EU trade ministers, Olsen Dyhr added. “It is not even on the non-agenda during lunch,” she said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Norway: Reindeer Row Victim Towed Behind Truck

A family feud over reindeer herding spiralled out of control at the weekend when Mads Jonar Smuk Dahl, 21, found himself hitched to the back of a pickup truck and dragged 2.5 kilometres along a country road in northern Norway.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Spain: the Grim Life of a Galley Slave: Restoration of Navy’s Galleys Books Reveals the Harrowing Stories of the Captives Who Rowed the King’s Ships

In 1690 the standard price for a slave was 1,500 reales — a slave capable of rowing for hours, days or even weeks in the open air. But despite his 22 years, Maraut, “son of Yusuf, dark, with small mouth and thick lips, wart on his head by the ear, stain on right ear, sign of injury on the same hand,” was sold for just 400 reales on account that he was “useless.”

Being unfit and useless for combat must have helped the distinguished Cervantes avoid a similar fate to Maraut after he was captured on his way back to Spain after surviving a great many skirmishes and the greatest naval conflict between galleys in history: the Battle of Lepanto (1571).

Cervantes’ adventures — five years held captive in Argel — do not figure in the 25 Galleys Books preserved by the Spanish navy because they cover a later period (1624-1748), featuring slaves, prisoners and enlisted soldiers and sailors. The restoration of these gigantic volumes will provide valuable information for the historians of today: written using the circumlocutions of the time, they reveal biographies of common people at the service of royalty.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

St Patrick’s Day Facts: Separating Myth From Reality

This St Patrick’s Day, looks at some of the facts and myths surrounding Ireland’s national celebration.

St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland, although he was born in Britain, around 385AD. His parents Calpurnius and Conchessa were Roman citizens living in either Scotland or Wales, according to different versions of his story. St. Patrick’s Day was first celebrated in America in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1737. Around 34 million modern Americans claim Irish ancestry.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Swedish Court Disallows Teen’s Sharia Marriage

A Swedish court has ruled that a 17-year-old girl’s marriage by a Sharia court in the West Bank is invalid in Sweden, overturning a lower court’s decision. The girl, who is now 19-years-old, was married in June 2010 in a Sharia court located in the West Bank town of Hebron, ten days before her 18th birthday, according to Swedish court documents.

When she and her husband moved to Sweden they sought to have their marriage registered with the Swedish Tax Agency (Skatteverket). But the agency denied the couple’s application, arguing the marriage couldn’t be registered in Sweden because the woman hadn’t turned 18 at the time of the wedding.

In 2004, a change to Swedish law meant to prevent child marriages made marriage under the age of 18 illegal, even if the marriage was entered into abroad. The woman, who lives in Kristianstad in southern Sweden, nevertheless took her case to the administrative court, which ruled in her favour, finding that at the time of the wedding the woman, who was also pregnant, was so close to the age of majority that she was indeed mature enough to understand the significance of marriage.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

The International Criminal Court is, By Any Objective Measurement, Racist. So Why Do Liberals Love it?

by Brendan O’Neill

Imagine if there were a criminal court in Britain which only ever tried black people, which ignored crimes committed by whites and Asians and only took an interest in crimes committed by blacks. We would consider that racist, right? And yet there is an International Criminal Court which only ever tries black people, African black people to be precise, and it is treated as perfectly normal. In fact the court is lauded by many radical activists as a good and decent institution, despite the fact that no non-black person has ever been brought before it to answer for his crimes. It is remarkable that in an era when liberal observers see racism everywhere, in every thoughtless aside or crude joke, they fail to see it in an institution which focuses exclusively on the criminal antics of dark-skinned people from the “Dark Continent”.

Yesterday, the International Criminal Court delivered the first verdict in its 10-year history, finding Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga guilty of recruiting child soldiers. Lubanga is black, of course. Despite having pretty much global jurisdiction to investigate war crimes, and despite having received complaints about alleged crimes in 139 countries, the ICC has only opened investigations into seven countries, all of them in Africa: the Democratic Republic of Congo (where Lubanga committed his crimes), Uganda, the Central African Republic, Darfur/Sudan, Kenya, Libya and the Ivory Coast. (NB the Serbs stood trial in a special, separate court: the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.) No doubt many crimes were committed in the conflicts that swept those seven African nations in recent years, and no doubt Lubanga is a nasty piece of work. But at a time when there is conflict in the Middle East, Asia and Latin America, and when the armies of many Western nations are getting up to all sorts of bad things around the globe, to have a war crimes court which only investigates blacks really is as perverse as it would be to have a court in Britain that investigated black burglaries and ignored white ones.

But try saying that to any human-rights activist or concerned commentator, and watch them balk. They will accept no criticism of the ICC. The kind of people who hector Boris Johnson for making a silly comment about the Irish or lambast Prince Phillip for being un-PC about ethnic minorities will tell you, with a perfectly straight face, that the ICC is a good institution which is helping to right the wrongs of the world. Liberal sensitivity towards issues of racism completely evaporates when it comes to the ICC, which they will defend tooth and nail, despite the fact that it is quite clearly, by any objective measurement, racist, in the sense that it treats one race of people differently to all others. In the words of Courtenay Griffiths, the British QC who has acted as defence lawyer for Africans charged with war crimes: “The ICC was set up to try those lesser breeds without the law — the Africans. This is the same civilising mission from the late nineteenth century and I find it, as a black man, totally objectionable.” The fact that many white do-gooders in the West support such a missionary institution rather gives the lie to their claims to be concerned about equality and justice, and exposes the colonial snob lurking beneath their PC veneer.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Campaigners ‘Devasted’ As Derby Mosque Approved

A MOSQUE that could cater for 600 people, with a minaret towering 21 metres into the sky, will be built in Derby. Derby City Council’s planning committee last night ignored advice from planning officers that they should refuse the application. The news was described as “devastating” from campaigners against the plans but scores of Muslims at the meeting audibly “thanked Allah” for the result. Committee chairman Councillor Robin Wood said the mosque would “be an addition to some of the finest architecture in Derby”. The committee was told one planning problem remained of a kitchen wall and window that would overlook a neighbour’s garden. But a spokesman for design consultant Archi-Structure said this could be “scaled back”. He said the proposed site, on waste land, between Mill Hill Lane and Renals Street, was currently a “rubbish-strewn eyesore”. Di Weston, of Mill Hill Lane, spoke for campaigners against the plan. She said: “I’m devastated. It’s too big and will dominate the whole area.” She said the residents’ parking permit in the area was not in force on Sundays or after 6pm and the roads would be full of people using the mosque at those times.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Rowan Williams Resigns as Archbishop of Canterbury

Rowan Williams is to step down as archbishop of Canterbury at the end of 2012 to take up a university position at Cambridge

The archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, is to resign and return to academia as master of Magdalene college, Cambridge. Williams, 61, will leave his church post at the end of December in time to start his new role next January. His time in office has been marked by a slowly growing schism in the worldwide Anglican church, which he has failed to heal.

Throughout his time in office Williams has been attacked by conservatives for his liberal views on homosexuality and by liberals for failing to live up to these principles. But he has been respected on all sides for his gifts as a preacher of great eloquence and flashes of clarity. Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, tweeted “Rowan Williams will be sorely missed as archbishop of Canterbury; did what he said he’d do — challenge the imagination of our country.” Williams’s generally leftwing politics have led him to clash with the government, most notably when he guest-edited an issue of the New Statesman last year, which was taken by Conservative MPs as a declaration of hostilities. The bookmakers’ favourite to succeed him is the Ugandan-born archbishop of York, John Sentamu, whose energy is widely admired, but who has upset some with a reputed forceful manner.


[JP note: Good riddance — Bish Bash Bosh!]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Woman Quizzed Over ‘Italy Synagogue Plot’

Scotland Yard arrested a woman under terror laws today as part of a wider investigation into an alleged “super-secret” Facebook plot to blow up an Italian synagogue.

The 40-year-old suspect was held in a pre-dawn swoop on her south London home in relation to extremist material posted online. Italian police said she may have been in contact with a 20-year-old Moroccan accused of making a “detailed plan” for a terror attack on the Via della Guastalla in Milan. Officers in London said they were liaising with Italian counterparts to establish any links. She is not thought to be directly involved in the alleged attack plot. The man arrested in Brescia, northern Italy, was using his “exceptional” computer skills to create “super-secret” groups on Facebook to plot an atrocity, Italian police claim. Using his “exceptional” computer skills, he created “super-secret” groups on Facebook that could be accessed only through a complicated system of controls that he had put in place, state police said. The woman was held under Section 58 of the Terrorism Act on suspicion of “possessing a document or record containing information of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism.” Searches are ongoing at the woman’s south London address as she continues to be questioned. “Officers from the MPS (Metropolitan Police Service) Counter Terrorism Command have arrested a 40-year-old woman on suspicion of offences contrary to Section 58 of the Terrorism Act 2000 today,” a Scotland Yard statement said. “The woman was arrested in south London at about 4.30am and taken to a local police station where she remains in custody. A search warrant was executed at a residential premises in connection with the arrest, and a search continues.”

Officers in Italy said the man had been living in the province since the age of six and “had the job of training people in the use of weapons and explosives for terror operations”.

“In this online arena, members could share instructions on how to assemble explosive devices, what chemical ingredients could be bought and the use of weapons,” a state police statement translated into English said. “Anti-terrorism officers intercepted a message from the Moroccan in which he spoke of a ‘Jihad mission’.” Police allegedly found a document saved on his computer, “noting every detail in view of the planned attack on the Milan synagogue: security measures that were in place, police on duty, possible obstacles and possible access routes”. Police said they were aware the Moroccan could have accomplices, including abroad. “Parallel investigations are under way in England and the United States, where there are people who were in contact with the man over the internet,” the statement said. “The investigation shows how cyberspace can be the optimal environment for extremists and terrorists for planning jihad because of the ease with which they can establish virtual links and feel safe while operating due to the certain amount of anonymity it gives them.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

North Africa

300 Muslim Lawyers Storm Egyptian Court, Prevent Lawyers for Christian From Entering

by Mary Abdelmassih

(AINA) — More than 300 Muslim lawyers inside and outside a courthouse in the southern Egyptian province of Assuit today prevented defense lawyer Ahmad Sayed Gabali, who is representing the Christian Makarem Diab, from going into court. Mr. Diab was found guilty of ‘Insulting the Muslim Prophet’ and was scheduled today a hearing on his appeal.

Attorney Dr. Naguib Gabriell, head of the Egyptian Union of Human Rights Organization, said there was “terror in the Assiut Court today.” He added that he was on his way to court when he was advised that Muslim lawyers have issued death threats to any Christian lawyers who attend the court session. “Makram Diab was assaulted by Muslim lawyers during his transfer from the courtroom and security failed to protect him.”

Peter Sarwat, a Coptic lawyer, said that Muslim lawyers representing the plaintiffs prevented the defense team from entering court. “They said no Muslim will defend a Christian. It was agreed that Christian lawyers would take over and two Coptic lawyers volunteered, but the Muslims decided later that even Christians would not defend him.” Sarwat said the Muslim lawyers wanted to assault the chief judge but he managed to leave the court via a rear door.

Adel Ramadam and Ahmad Mohamad Hossam, two Muslim lawyers and activists from the renowned NGO Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) went to court to defend Diab’s right to a fair trial but were assaulted by the other Muslim lawyers. “They were assaulting us in a beastly and strange way just because we went there to defend a citizen who happened to be a Christian,” said Adel Ramadam. He also said that to get out of court was a complex operation and a huge task for the security personnel. “We left court in a security vehicle which took us to Security headquarters, otherwise, we don’t know what the outcome would have been for us.”

Makram Diab, a school secretary was sentenced by the Abanoub misdemeanor court two weeks ago to six years imprisonment on charges of insulting Islam’s prophet. His defense lawyer, Ahmad Sayed Gabali, was also prevented during that session from entering the court by Muslim lawyers (AINA 3-5-2012).

“I went to court today because I believe this citizen was stripped of all his rights,” said Adel Ramadam in an aired interview today. “He had a quarrel with a Salafi school colleague and then 11 days later, it was suddenly decided by Muslims that they will report the case. He was detained by the prosecution for 4 days and two days later in a 10-minute session and without any defense lawyer present, he was sentenced to 6 years, which is way above the maximum of a misdemeanor case.”

Eyewitnesses reported that the Muslim lawyers were armed with clubs. A police captain, b two EIPR lawyer, and two reporters from Ros-el-Youssef and El-Bashayer Egyptian newspapers were injured in the milieu.

Human rights groups reported that they were also forced out of the courtroom by the Muslims.

Adel Ramadam said the court session never started because the judge knew that the defense were prevented from entering the court, and knew of the assaults. “He just postponed the appeal session to April 5.”

           — Hat tip: Mary Abdelmassih[Return to headlines]

Clashes Over Federalism in Benghazi, Libya; One Killed

(AGI) Benghazi — Tension is mounting in Libya. The reason is to be seen in the request of some groups of Cyrenaica to break away from Tripolitania, to the west and from Fezzan, to the south. At least one person was killed in Benghazi today and five more were injured in the clashes between those who support and those who oppose the federalist project. Local medical sources inform so.

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

European MPs Urge End to Sinai Human Trafficking

The European parliament called Thursday on Egypt to stamp out human trafficking in the Sinai and urged EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton to make the issue a priority in ties with Cairo.

In a resolution, MEPs also urged the Egyptian authorities to step in to protect a 25 year-old Eritrean called Solomon who escaped from human organ traffickers in the area of Rafah.

“Solomon’s life is in danger, as he knows where another 125 prisoners from Eritrea, Sudan and Ethiopia are located, and the human organ traffickers have put a price of 50,000 dollars on his head,” a parliament statement said.

The resolution called on the Egyptian authorities to intervene rapidly to ensure the refugees were rescued and to investigate “murders, tortures and rapes”.

Torture, extortion and trafficking of Eritrean and other refugees in Egypt must be stopped, the resolution added.

In late 2010, Egypt had promised an investigation into claims that scores of Eritreans were held hostage in the Sinai by gangs involved in all sorts of crime along the Egypt-Israeli border.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Egyptian-Israeli Natural Gas Contract Casualty of Arab Spring?


As last year’s Arab spring has slowly roiled eastwards from Tunisia to the eastern Mediterranean, the two most concerned governments are the U.S. and Israel, that are watching their carefully constructed defense alignments crumble to the populist forces unleashed.

After decades of repression, the Arab “street” is finding its democratic voice, which is rejecting the cozy decades-long security and energy arrangements carefully stitched together by Washington to ensure Israeli security. In the “brave new world” emerging, it is increasingly obvious that the post-Arab Spring governments, inhaling Western democratic ideals relentlessly promoted as the way forward, have a radically different agenda than those proposed by Washington and Tel Aviv.

Viewing social upheavals decades ago, in 1973 Henry Kissinger, President Nixon’s Secretary of State commented prior to the CIA overthrow of the democratically elected government of Chilean socialist President Salvadore Allende “I don’t see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its people.”

Now the Arab spring seems to be embracing two policies anathema to Washington — a rejection by Egypt of its ties to Israel, carefully fostered by assassinated Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and his successor, Hosni Mubarak, Egypt’s President until 13 months ago, when the Arab spring populist uprising unseated him and his administration’s cozy energy arrangements with Israel, which provided Tel Aviv with 2/5 of its natural gas import requirement needs.

In a development largely overlooked in the Western press, in an evening session on 12 March the Egyptian People’s Assembly demanded the deportation of the Israeli ambassador Yaakov Amitai, and the withdrawal of the Egyptian ambassador from Tel Aviv.

And oh, the nullification of the country’s natural gas sales to Israel? The People’s Assembly vote was unanimous.


[read the rest at the URL above]

[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Hate Messages in UAE Mosque Toilets

Racist comments, vulgar drawings, messages supporting terrorism deface mosque washrooms

Dubai: Mosque washrooms in Dubai and Sharjah are being defaced by racist slurs, vulgar remarks and hate messages, a random XPRESS survey revealed. The offensive posts — mostly too graphic to be shown or talked about here — were found scribbled behind toilet doors in restrooms attached to mosques. XPRESS visited several restrooms at mosques in Dubai, including those in Deira, Bur Dubai, Karama, Mankhool, Satwa and Al Safa, and also mosques in Rolla and Abu Shagara in Sharjah. On an average, only four out of around 15 were found to be completely graffiti-free. Vandals have attacked nationalities, political parties, religious groups and even glorified terrorism. Some notes, jotted down with permanent markers and ball pens, also promote gay sex and fornication in the UAE. Some of them were random curse words featuring sexually-explicit drawings.

“Long live Al Qaida!” one slogan read. In a restroom of a mosque in Karam a message in Hindi sought mobile numbers of those interested in joining the organisation. In Sharjah’s Abu Shagara neighbourhood, a mosque washroom message praised late Al Qaida leader Osama Bin Laden, claiming that he is still alive and well. Another post in the same place claimed his recent killing was Western propaganda because Bin Laden “died in 2006”. Disgruntled elements also attacked the UAE, with one writing in Urdu at a mosque bathroom in Dubai’s Mankhool district: “The UAE is the source of all problems in your life, why would you come to such a horrible place?” Some examples of “for Muslims only” notices were also spotted in toilet facilities within mosque compounds in both cities. Some also bear initials of Hindu-centric groups like the RSS and BJP. A couple of posts, supposedly by Indians and Pakistanis, have also told each other to “get out”. Behind a toilet door in a mosque complex near Spinney’s roundabout in Sharjah, one person requested “gay boys sms me”, while another suggested expletives with “Bengali girls” because they have “big hip”. Some are calling for an end to the graffiti — by also scribbling it down. “Don’t write abuse,” one plea said. “Don’t writing [sic] here, we are good community,” another one requested.

It is not clear what action is being taken against the practice as many quotes date back several years. However, an official of the government body that oversees Dubai mosques — Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities (IACAD) — said legal action will be taken. Hassan Al Hashmi, head of mosque services section at IACAD, said: “We are sending our inspectors frequently to check mosque facilities and re-maintain them. “We urge the public not to vandalise mosques and show respect to all faiths. We plan to launch awareness campaigns on this issue, through sermons, posters, and publications.” He added: “Also, we plan to inform imams of all mosques in Dubai under IACAD supervision to be vigilant regarding vandalism attempts. Legal action will be taken against those found committing vandalism at mosques. It appears it is mostly anti-social elements from the youth who are behind this illegal practice. Mosques are there for you to come and purify your sins, not for earning more sins by violating its sanctity. If someone is keen to write, they can seek proper channels for that — washrooms or public property is not the place for that.”

Furqan, a Bengali mosque assistant in Sharjah’s Rolla district, said “Cleaners sometimes give up because the messages keep reappearing. It’s a rotten habit.” Mohammad Rasoul Hashmi, an imam (prayer leader) in Sharjah, added: “I urge people to stop sinning and show respect. The mosque is a holy place for prayer, not for writing graffiti.” Graffiti on public property is banned by federal law and punishable by imprisonment and a fine.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

SWIFT Cuts Off Iranian Banks on EU’s Orders

The international bank transfer company SWIFT has announced it will stop processing payments from more than two dozen Iranian banks, after the EU detailed tighter sanctions against Iran’s nuclear program.

The world’s largest electronic payment system said Thursday that it would cut off some 30 Iranian banks that have been targeted by European Union sanctions aimed at stopping Iran’s nuclear program. SWIFT, a Belgium-based company that processes bank transfers across national borders, said it would disconnect the Iranian banks on Saturday at 4 p.m. GMT as a “direct result” of EU sanctions.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Syria: Christians in a Divided Country, After a Year of Revolt

With Iran delivering medical aid and Saudi Arabia and Qatar willing to arm the rebels, Syria appears to be breaking up. A witness to the events, a Catholic priest describes the situation of communal hatred and fear but also the action of Christians and Muslims, working together to help the victims. The country’s Churches are divided between blind support for Assad and non-violent opposition in favour of the rule of law and a state where Christians and Muslims are equal before the law.

Damascus (AsiaNews) — On 15 March 2011, the streets in Damascus were filled with people demanding the changes that the ‘Arab spring’ was bringing to North Africa and the Middle East. A few days later, people took to the streets of Deraa to protest against the use of torture and the killing of children, guilty of writing anti-Assad graffiti on walls. Since then, the confrontation has turned nasty pitting the armed forces against civilians in various Syrian cities, culminating in the month-long siege of the city of Homs.

After a year of protests, Syria has thus become deeply divided and is now on the brink of a civil war. Even the opposition is divided among military deserters, political groups based outside the country and those based inside. The Assad regime is pursuing its cruel plans against everyone whilst offering changes through a constitutional referendum and new elections. For their part, the dead continue to pile up, at least 8,500 so far according to the United Nations. Thousands of Syrians have also fled into neighbouring Turkey and Lebanon.

Syria’s crisis has become an international affair and the country is now a playground for various powers not particularly interested in the needs of the Syrian population. Iran remains a staunch ally of the Assad regime, and has provided it with “medical aid” through the Syrian Red Crescent. Saudi Arabia and Qatar are interested in regime change to contain Iranian influence. For this reason, they are willing to arm the rebels. The Security Council of the United Nations is divided with Russia and China backing Assad to counter US influence in the region.

Christians, who have often been too afraid to stand up to the regime, now are afraid that once it falls it will be replaced by a Muslim fundamentalist government. Yet, many of them, without taking up arms, want a non-violent transformation of Syrian society. The story that follows shows that the divisions and wounds in Syrian society are the new field for the Church’s mission in Syria. For safety reasons, the author of this story writes under a pseudonym.

Syria is going through a critically important phase of its history. Because of difficult political, social and economic circumstances, living conditions are hard for ordinary people. Without exception, the country’s crisis affects everyone. Although in different ways, everyone has been negatively impacted irrespective of his or her religious, communal, cultural and ethnic affiliations. Everyone in Syria has experienced suffering, uncertainty and fear.

The tragedy is unfolding at great speed. The growing violence has become in some cases, like in Homs, religious, sectarian and communal. The territory is being divided. For instance, Sunni-dominated Old Homs with its substantial number of Christians is now under the control of the Free Syrian Army, whilst Alawi neighbourhoods like Zahra or Nouza remain under the rule of the regular army.

All this has increased the level of violence and reinforced the historical hatred between these two communities. A spirit of revenge is sweeping aside any desire for coexistence, dialogue and tolerance. These values continue to lose ground, creating a vacuum that is hard to manage, especially along the fault lines.

Compared to Homs, Hama, Idlib or even the outskirts of Damascus, things are quieter inside the capital or in Alep.

Some anti-regime demonstrations have been held from time to time, but security forces have easily dispersed participants before they could reach the more symbolically charged squares. The regime does not want a Syrian Tahrir Square.

Yet, in spite of the apparent calm, fear and anxiety are intense. What unites all Syrians, in every city, town and village, is indeed fear.

Assad’s referendum on 26 February could have provided a good opportunity to unite the nation and start a dialogue. However, it was conducted at a time when some cities were being shelled, under siege. In any event, I did not vote.

What is unacceptable from a moral and human point of view is the regime preventing the distribution of humanitarian aid in the affected areas.

Like their fellow Syrians, Christians are at the mercy of the only certain thing, uncertainty. Without a doubt, the future is uncertain.

A majority of Christians have been manipulated by a regime that claims that it alone can guarantee their future, something that is obviously untrue.

The only guarantee for all Syrians, not only for christians, is a state based on the rule of law, one that is fair and just to all its citizens, based on their equality before the law, whatever their religious affiliation.

Driven by fear, most Christians and clergy have chosen to support the regime unconditionally (and blindly). From this point of view, the Church hierarchy could lose much of its original evangelical spirit.

Yet, most Christians have organised and taken part in peaceful demonstrations. Whether they are in the clergy or are members of the laity, Christians have joined their Muslim brothers and sisters in providing humanitarian aid to all Syrians who are suffering.

I do not know what the future has in store. I am certain however that the country has entered a vicious cycle of violence and counter-violence. As Mgr Claverie (martyred in Algeria in the 1990s) noted, a fault line runs across the country and crucifies the humanity of all Syrians.

I believe the Church is well placed to fulfil adequately its vocation of unfailing hope and help those who suffer.

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


Fatal Rape Case Shames Russian Police: Minister

The death of a suspect after apparently being raped with a bottle in custody has cast shame on Russia’s police, the interior minister said Thursday, as calls mounted for top officials to resign. Activists have called for the entire Russian interior ministry leadership to quit over the horrific death of 52-year-old Sergei Nazarov after he was arrested in the city of Kazan in the mainly Muslim Volga region of Tatarstan.

Russia’s Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev acknowledged that the incident on Saturday — which resulted in Nazarov dying of a ruptured intestine after being abused with a champagne bottle— amounted to a betrayal of police values.

“What should you do with a betrayal?” Nurgaliyev, a former KGB agent who is one of the closest cabinet allies of Russia’s leader Vladimir Putin, told an emergency meeting in Moscow in his first comments on the incident.

“Betrayal — that’s what the Kazan tragedy deserves to be called. No-one has a right to take away the most important — life,” Nurgaliyev told the interior ministry staff in comments carried by Russian news agencies.

“Those who have betrayed the interests of their service and besmirched the honour of their uniform are a disgrace, above all for their superiors who have allowed such situations within their teams.”

Recognising the gravity of the incident, the authorities have reacted with a speed unusual in Russia. But Nurgaliyev also appeared to be resisting calls for harsh sanctions against higher-ranking officials.

Nurgaliyev said he had fired the head of the Dalny police station in Kazan where the attack took place, Sergei Yefremov. Tatarstan police chief Asgat Safarov received a reprimand.

On Wednesday, investigators brought criminal charges against four police officers from the Dalny police station. The four — all in their mid-20s — were taken into custody but deny the charges, police said. Another officer was detained earlier this week and fully admitted his guilt.

“The question arises: why such young police officers from the Dalny police station who had worked there between six months and three to four years, committed such a savage act,” Nurgaliyev was quoted as saying.

Police have not released details of the crime but human rights activists said Nazarov had been raped with a champagne bottle and later died of a ruptured intestine. Safarov said all employees of the Dalny police station would undergo re-certification and polygraph tests.

Vladimir Ovchinsky, the former head of the Russian bureau of Interpol, said Nurgaliyev — who has so far weathered the social discontent over the conduct of his staff — should himself be let go. “The entire interior ministry leadership should resign, otherwise the system will not change,” he told Echo of Moscow radio.

After Nazarov’s death, several more Russians complained of harassment by police from the Dalny station. Dmitry Kolbasin, head of the Agora inter-regional rights organisation, said earlier this week rights campaigners were now looking into seven more complaints. In Kazan, activists Thursday held a picket outside the regional police headquarters protesting police abuse in the city.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Generals Awaiting Panetta Apparently Targeted by Attacker

“An Afghan interpreter in a speeding truck tried to run down a top American commander and his British deputy, forcing the two and others to scatter as Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta’s plane taxied toward them at a military base in Afghanistan, defense officials said on Friday.”


“…one of the officials acknowledged that if the attack had occurred five minutes later, it was “possible” that Mr. Panetta would have been on the tarmac and in the path of the speeding truck along with the commanders, who had been waiting for him as part of a welcoming party.”

[Note from Egghead: Man, I would love to see the blimp video of this Afghan welcoming party — a truly typical ‘pieceful’ expression of Islam. Can someone put in a Freedom of Information Request for the blimp video? Anyone? Anyone? Anyone? It would make a great campaign commercial…]

           — Hat tip: Egghead[Return to headlines]

Hearing Postponed for Marines Held in India

Tanker owners ask for return of impounded vessel

(ANSA) — Trivandrum, March 9 — A pending hearing to decide the jurisdiction on the case of two Italian marines under arrest in southern India was postponed until March 15 on Friday by an Indian supreme court judge in the town of Kochi.

Indian ballistics experts are expected to conclude examinations of evidence on Friday taken from the merchant ship, the Enrica Lexie. Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone allegedly shot and killed two Indian fishermen while guarding the vessel from pirate attacks off the southern coast of the country.

European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton said Wednesday that the EU was ready to do “everything necessary” to help forge a solution for the Italian marines, who are now in jail.

Owners of the impounded tanker sent a request on Friday to Indian authorities for the release of the ship being held since the incident last month.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Indonesia: Six Suspected Terrorists Arrested in Aceh

Jakarta, 16 March (AKI/Jakarta Post) — Police in Indonesia’s Aceh province say they have detained six people in the who were allegedly in possession of a homemade bomb. They are currently facing terrorism charges.

The six — identified only as U, aka SU, US, K, aka NC, M, R and S — were arrested on10 March 10 when they were on their way from Aceh Besar to Aceh Barat.

“Their car was stopped at a police checkpoint in Lhong village. The police conducted a search inside their vehicle and found low explosive materials,” said National Police spokesman Insp. Gen. Saud Usman Nasution on Friday.

Some of the evidence confiscated by the police included wires, fuses, light bulbs, batteries, metal pieces and tubes.

Before the arrest was made, Aceh Police had received intelligence reports on the six individuals. “That is why the police followed them that day,” Saud added.

He said they were still in the early stages of an investigation and could not decide whether the detainees belonged to a certain group or not, or precisely confirm what their motives might have been

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

Karzai Demands ‘More Cooperation’ From the United States

(AGI) Rome — Afghan President Hamid Karzai has accused the United States of not cooperating sufficiently in investigating the massacre of 16 civilians in the province of Kandahar. “This behaviour is unacceptable,” he said, also expressing doubts that the massacre was carried out by just one soldier, the American staff Sergeant who has already been taken out of the country in spite of requests from Kabul that he be tried there.

In the meantime, another tragic event has caused the death of Afghan civilians in the suburbs of Kabul, where an ISAF Turkish helicopter crashed on a house. Twelve Turkish soldiers were killed and according to local police sources, two women and two children also died. The crash, in the Bagrami district, was allegedly caused by a technical problem. . ..

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

Karzai Demands U.S. Troops Leave Village Outposts; Taliban Suspends Peace Talks With U.S.

President Hamid Karzai demanded Thursday that the United States pull back from combat outposts and confine its troops to military bases in Afghanistan, an apparent response to Sunday’s shooting rampage by a U.S. staff sergeant. Meanwhile, the Taliban said it was suspending preliminary peace talks with the United States because of Washington’s alternating and ever-changing position, and accused U.S. officials of reneging on promises to take meaningful steps toward a prisoner swap…


[Return to headlines]

Marines Discussed by Premier Monti and PM Singh

Indian authorities say legal system ‘impartial’

(ANSA) — Rome, March 7 — Italian Premier Mario Monti and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday conferred by phone on the case of two Italian marines under arrest in southern India, said Italian government sources.

Italian jurisdiction should be applied, said Monti, who expressed “concern” and called for extreme caution in dealing with the incident that has caused diplomatic tension between the countries.

Any action on the part of the Indian government that is not “completely in line with international law risks setting a serious precedent and puts future peace-keeping missions at risk,” said Monti in a circular bulletin to Italian government members.

The principles of immunity from prosecution and international rules of jurisdiction that are “widely recognized” merit confirmation, said Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi. In February the marines allegedly shot dead two Indian fishermen while guarding an Italian merchant ship against pirate attacks off the southern coast of India and were subsequently sentenced to prison by an Indian judge.

Indian courts rejected an appeal for jurisdiction by Italian authorities in February and said on Wednesday that in the case of the marines “Indian law applies”.

The Vessel Protection Detachment (VDP) agreement is not “applicable on a global level,” said Indian authorities Wednesday.

Also on Wednesday, Indian authorities said that they had “complete faith in the impartiality and independence” of the country’s legal system.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Pakistani Judicial Panel is in India to Gather Evidence

A Pakistani judicial commission probing the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, which have been blamed on Pakistan-based terrorist group, Lashkar-e-Taiba is in India to gather evidence and record the statements of key officials.

An eight-member commission of prosecutors, defense lawyers and a court official from Pakistan began its work in earnest soon after arriving in Mumbai, India’s financial capital, the scene of the worst terror attack in recent memory. For four days, the commission, will record statements of key people involved in the investigation. Its work is accompanied by tight security.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Silk Underwear to Protect Soldiers

Woven silk fabric designed to protect against roadside bombs If you thought silk knickers were entirely for women, think again. Danish soldiers might wear uniforms, armour and heavy boots on the outside, but on the inside it’s a whole different…

If you thought silk knickers were entirely for women, think again.

Danish soldiers might wear uniforms, armour and heavy boots on the outside, but on the inside it’s a whole different — and soft and silky — matter. According to, the Danish army has purchased silk underwear for around 1,000 soldiers currently fighting the Taleban in Afghanistan. And before you think about making any joke, know that the military itself understands that their new equipment might seem a bit silly.

“We have laughed at them a lot, but there’s a method to the madness,” Army senior sergeant Niels Mølleskov told

The woven silk fabric is stronger than Kevlar, the high-strength synthetic material used in bulletproof vests. The undergarment is designed specifically to protect soldiers from roadside bombs, with the fabric working to stop infection-causing shrapnel, dirt and filth from exploding into the soldiers’ groins if they trigger a bomb.

“Back in the day the enemy would throw grenades at us, which we knew how to protect ourselves against. Now the enemy digs down roadside bombs, and previously the soldiers didn’t have a shield against those, but they do now,” Mølleskov said.

Mølleskov has tested the underwear himself, as well as another piece of new equipment, a groin protector which is worn on the outside to protect soldiers’ private parts.

“One thing is to get a leg or two amputated, but another is to lose what the soldier has between his legs. This is where the soldier’s manliness is, and it would affect his life quality if he came home without it,” said Thomas Nico Jørgensen from the army’s equipment service.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Soldiers Murder Afghans, Generals Murder Soldiers

…generals don’t have a clue about Afghan culture. They interact with well-educated, privileged, English-speaking Afghans who know exactly which American buttons to press to keep the tens of billions of dollars in annual aid flowing. The troops, on the other hand, daily encounter villagers who will not warn them about Taliban-planted booby traps or roadside bombs, who obviously want them to leave, who relish the abject squalor in which they live and who appear to value the lives of their animals above those of their women…


[Return to headlines]

Far East

China Suspends More European Aircraft Orders

China has suspended 10 more Airbus orders bringing the total of cancelled orders up to 55, following a row with the EU over airline emission taxes. “There is clear evidence for a developing trade conflict that should drive government to take action,” Airbus spokesman Rainer Ohler told Bloomberg.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

China’s Bo Xilai Leaves Office Amid Controversy

China’s number one fighter of organized crime, Bo Xilai has left his office as party leader of the largest city on earth to be replaced by Vice-Premier Zhang Dejiang. The move has raised questions on China’s politics.

Just one day after the final day of China’s annual People’s Congress a senior communist party official has left his post without giving any reasons. His departure took place in the aftermath of Wen Jiabao’s speech in which he warned against a repeat of the deadly chaos of the Cultural Revolution if “urgent” political reform were not implemented. Without such change, “such historical tragedy as the Cultural Revolution may happen again,” he said.

Much speculation surrounds Bo Xilai’s departure from office party leader of the largest city on earth, the 30-milllion+ metropolis of Chongqing. Some observers believe he has lost a power struggle focussing on the political direction of the party. Bo has — in the past — been seen as a leader of the so-called “New Leftists”. But other experts do not believe that this is the real reason for his fall from grace.

Jin Zhong of Hong Kong’s political Kaifang newspaper said removing Bo was not any real sign of political reform. He told Deutsche Welle that more would have to be done than warning against the revival of the Cultural Revolution and suppressing leftist movements.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Eyes on China as World’s Biggest Antiques Fair Kicks Off

China dominates the global art and antiques market as of last year, said a report published Friday ahead of the launch of the European Fine Art Fair in the Netherlands. Published by organisers of the world’s biggest antiques fair, to open to collectors in the southern city of Maastricht, the report said China now claims a 30 percent share of the worldwide market.

“China overtook the United States for the first time in 2011 to become the largest arts and antiques market worldwide,” said the paper. It said the findings were based on “both auction and dealer sales”.

The US was pushed into second place with a share of 29 percent, as art sales worldwide jumped by seven percent from the previous year to a staggering 46.1 billion euros ($ 60.3 billion) in 2011.

Britain, overtaken by China in 2010, was third with 22 percent, while France came fourth with six percent, said the report “The International Art Market in 2011: Observations on the art trade over 25 years”.

The report, compiled by Claire McAndrew, a cultural economist specialising in the fine and decorative art market, called the development “perhaps one of the most fundamental and important changes in the last 50 years”.

“The dominance of the Chinese market has been driven by expanding wealth, strong domestic supply and the investive drive of Chinese art buyers.”

The arts and antiques market recovered significantly over the past two years, McAndrew wrote, as the global economy slowly recovered from the 2008-09 crisis, which had created a “more cautious buying climate”.

Chinese investors however saw art as a significant substitute for ailing property and stock markets, said McAndrew.

Some 260 exhibitors from 18 countries will take part in this year’s 25th fair, to run until March 25, putting some 30,000 works up for sale.

Among them will be sculptor Henry Moore’s 1977 black granite creation “Reclining Figure Curved”, with an estimated value of 35 million dollars (26.65 million euros).

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

North Korea Launch Plan ‘Highly Provocative, ‘ US Says

North Korea has announced a plan to send a satellite into space to honor its founder. The US government says such a launch would be a threat to regional security. North Korea had announced on Friday it would launch a “working” satellite into orbit to honor the 100th birthday of the nation’s founding leader, despite a United Nations ban on ballistic missile launches.

“The DPRK is to launch a working satellite … manufactured by itself with indigenous technology to mark the 100th birth anniversary of President Kim Il-Sung,” the official KCNA said quoting a spokesman for the Korean Committee for Space Technology. The report added that the launch would “greatly encourage the army and people … in the building of a thriving nation.” The operation was scheduled to take place between April 12 and 16.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

WTO Chief Plays Down China Rare Earth Row

(TOKYO) — The head of the World Trade Organization on Friday played down a dispute over China’s controls on exports of rare earth minerals, saying it was unlikely to escalate into a trade war. The United States, European Union and Japan have lodged a complaint with the WTO against China over its curbs on the shipments of the commodities, which are vital in the manufacture of high-tech goods.

But Pascal Lamy said: “Since the dispute settlement has been set up, no trade dispute has generated a trade war. That’s the experience of the past. “I have no reason to doubt that… it will be different now. “I do understand that the headline about trade wars (is) better than the headline about trade frictions. But that’s not a reality so far.”

However, Lamy, who on Thursday met Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, refused to be drawn further. “Whenever a question is raised regarding an ongoing mitigation, the DG (director-general) of the WTO should shut up. That’s what I’m going to do,” he told a news conference.

The three economic powers claimed that China — which produces 97 percent of the world’s supply of rare earths such as lutetium and scandium — was unfairly benefiting its own industries by monopolising global supply.

The complaint argues Beijing places restrictions on the export of 17 rare elements as well as tungsten and molybdenum. Used to make a range of high tech products, including powerful magnets, batteries, and LED lights, they find their way into electric cars, iPods, lasers, wind turbines and missiles.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

New Zealand: Mosque Bans City Imam After Claims of Takeover

A Muslim priest and his supporters have been barred from an Auckland mosque, and the priest was arrested last week after he was allegedly found praying there. Sheikh Abu Abdullah, a Salafist imam, spent the night in a police cell last Thursday after he allegedly breached a trespass notice by the NZ Muslim Association barring him from entering the Avondale Islamic Centre. Mr Abdullah is facing two charges of wilful trespass and is due to appear in court on March 30. Police confirmed that a 48-year-old man from Mt Roskill was arrested for trespass on March 5, and was bailed to appear in the Auckland District Court with a condition that he did not attend or return to the mosque. But he allegedly went back about 10pm the next day, breaching the trespass notice and his bail conditions. About 30 of Mr Abdullah’s supporters, including a second imam, have also been barred from the mosque.

Mr Abdullah follows the Salafi strand of Islam, while most on the association’s board and many of the mosque’s 400 members follow the more moderate Hanafi or Shafi’i strand of the faith. A letter from the Muslim association’s lawyers to the lawyers acting for Mr Abdullah’s supporters said they had tried to take over the mosque. Association president Haider Lone said that the board did not want Mr Abdullah as leader. Mr Lone said security had been stepped up at the mosque with entrances being secured with metal gates after doors had been hacked and locks broken since Mr Abdullah’s ban. Yesterday, a letter from the lawyers for Mr Abdullah’s supporters to the association’s lawyers accused the centre of having “taken further steps to inflame the situation”. The alleged steps include placing security gates on all doors at the mosque, which was “potentially very dangerous”, hiring security guards who have refused access to some members, and continuing to issue trespass notices. The letter requested a meeting with the association to “finally resolve the dispute in an amicable fashion”.

Originally from Egypt, Mr Abdullah had been an imam and a trustee at the Avondale mosque for nearly two years. The father of seven says that he was a priest in Qatar for four years before he came to New Zealand 14 years ago. Yesterday, five followers and two of Mr Abdullah’s sons sat in when he spoke to the Herald at his Mt Roskill home. Mr Abdullah said allegations made against him “are all lies” and denied he was extremist in his views. “What I teach are the teachings from the Koran, and if these people want to consider the truths from Allah as extreme, then in that case I am extreme,” he said earlier this week. The imam’s supporters have begun a petition to have him reinstated at the mosque. In the interview earlier this week, Mr Abdullah said that he had clashed with the mosque management about its plans to start charging for madrassa, or religious classes. He said he believed “wanting to make profit from religion” was why they wanted him out. Association member, Iliyas Daud, who is fighting to get the deposed imam reinstated, said the ban was a result of a “clash of ideologies”.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Uganda: Banyoro, Muslims Unite to Kick Bugunda in the Groin

When he was ousted from power on September 10, 1888, in a coup d’état masterminded by Baganda Chiefs and supported by the missionary factions, Mwanga left as king. When he returned to power in October 1889 with the support of the same missionary factions and loyal chiefs, he did so as a pawn. Such was the diminished power of the Kabaka in this political chess that it was Apolo Kaggwa, who was doing the bidding of the missionary factions, that appointed new officials of the regime on October 19, 1889 led by himself as Katikkiro (prime minister). Before Mwanga could attempt to consolidate his position, the defeated Muslims regrouped and launched an attack, trying to restore their own pawn, Rashid Kalema Muguluma, as Kabaka.

Kalema courts ally

After his defeat on October 5, 1889, Kalema had successfully appealed to Omukama Kabalega of Bunyoro for support. Kabalega, resurgent and at the peak of his powers, did not get along with Mwanga and saw this as an opportunity to install a client regime in Buganda. He thus provided an army equipped with 300 guns which, together with the remnants of the Arab forces and Kalema’s own loyal fighters, attacked Mengo in November 1889 and forced Mwanga to desert his capital and flee to Bulingugwe Island. Kalema’s Muslim forces had already distinguished themselves in savagery, tying their captives to tree stumps and setting them on fire — a grisly event that came to be referred to as ‘Okwokya emberenge’ or roasting human popcorn because of the popping sounds made as body organs exploded.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Latin America

Argentina Challenges Britain Over Falklands Oil Exploration

The United Kingdom and Argentina are ratcheting up the contest over the Falkland Islands in the southern Atlantic, this time over oil exploration, nearly 30 years since their conflict over the island chain. The UK has accused Argentina of “intimidating” Falkland Islands residents while Buenos Aires said Britain is encouraging “illegal” oil exploration around what it calls the Malvinas.

In Buenos Aires, Argentinean Foreign Minister Hector Timerman said his country would pursue “legal, administrative, civil and criminal” action against oil companies seeking windfall reserves off the remote archipelago. “We are going to defend the resources of the South Atlantic. The South Atlantic’s oil and gas are the property of the Argentine people,” Timerman said at a news conference late on Thursday.

Britain’s Foreign Office described the Argentine comments as “unbecoming and wholly counter-productive.” “From harassing Falklands shipping to threatening the Islanders’ air links with Chile, Argentina’s efforts to intimidate the Falklands are illegal,” the Foreign Office said in a formal statement.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Netherlands: Minister Set to Ignore Advice on Dual Nationality

The government looks set to stand by its plans to clamp down on dual nationality, despite criticism from the Council of State, according to correspondence between home affairs minister Liesbeth Spies and the government’s most senior advisory body. On Wednesday the Council said the government should reconsider the plans, stating that ‘nationality and loyalty are not automatically the same thing’.

Around 1.1 million of the 16.7 million population of the Netherlands have two nationalities.

However, the correspondence shows that Spies is deterrmined to go ahead with her plan to stop everyone who becomes Dutch from keeping their original nationality, apart from those who cannot do so by law. Dutch nationals who take another nationality voluntarily will also lose their Dutch passports, news agency ANP reports.

Spies says limiting people to one nationality will clarify ‘the rights and obligations between the state and the individual’.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Rutte Ignores EU Parliament Motion on PVV Anti-Pole Website

Prime minister Mark Rutte continued to distance himself from the PVV’s controversial website on Thursday, despite a large majority vote in the European parliament in favour of a motion brandng the website ‘discriminatory and malicious’, reports news agency ANP.

The motion also calls on prime minister Rutte to distance his cabinet from the PVV initiative. ‘The Dutch government must not close its eyes to the fact that PVV policy goes against the constitutional values of the European Union,’ the motion says.

However, in a briefing to parliament, Rutte says the government cannot comment on the individual actions of parliamentary parties, reports the Nos website. The PVV website does not reflect the opinion of the government, he repeats. ‘It is for a judge to decide if a political party oversteps the law,’ Rutte told parliament.

The anti-immigration PVV set up its website in early February as a place for people to register their complaints about central and eastern Europeans living in the Netherlands.

Two days later, Mark Rutte refused to condemn the site, saying it was a matter for the PVV and not the government. The PVV has an alliance with the minority government on economic policy.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Racial Quota Fallout

by Thomas Sowell

Derrick Bell was for years a civil rights lawyer, but not an academic legal scholar of the sort who gets appointed as a full professor at one of the leading law schools.

Yet he became a visiting professor at the Stanford law school and was a full professor at the Harvard law school. It was transparently obvious in both cases that his appointment was because he was black, not because he had the qualifications that got other people appointed to these faculties.


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Swedish Feminists Bare Pits to ‘Reclaim the Hair’

Some forty Swedish women gathered at a Malmö square in the afternoon on Thursday, taking a stand against the recent internet storm vilifying women’s hairy armpits. “We want to take a stand for all those that are insulted. It is about gender roles and letting everyone be themselves,” said Anni Isis, one of the armpit baring protesters, to the local Sydsvenskan paper.

The demonstration was organized by the Malmö Feminist Network (Malmös Feministiska Nätverk), which decided to “Reclaim the Hair” after Sweden’s online community had been whipped into a frenzy due to one woman’s hairy armpit being exposed during a live television broadcast of the Melodifestivalen song contest finals on Saturday.

Lena Ehrin from Ludvika in central Sweden was cheering the Swedish Eurovision candidate Loreen when her clearly visible underarm hair appeared momentarily on live TV and in the living rooms of an estimated 4.1 million Swedish television viewers. A Facebook user then managed to take a screenshot of Ehrin’s hair, which he posted online — an image which then spread like wildfire across the site.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]