Sunday, January 12, 2003

News Feed 20120325

Financial Crisis
»Goldman’s Top Economist: There is No Economic Crisis
»Greece: EU: Regional Funds to Guarantee 1 Bln Loans for SMEs
»Italy: Economic Crisis Hits Young Business Community
»Mark Steyn: the Sun Also Sets
»Serbia: Rising Unemployment, Decline in Production
»“National Defense Resources Preparedness” Executive Order: Power Grab or Mere Update?
»Agenda 21 Treaty on the Horizon
»Another Modest Proposal — in Earnest, Not Satire
»Archaeology: Getty Museum Repatriates Antiquities to Greece
»Establishing a White House Council on Strong Cities, Strong Communities
»Former Vice President Dick Cheney Undergoes Heart Transplant, A.P. Reports
»Google Plans to Spy on Background Noise in Your Phone Calls to Bombard You With Tailored Adverts
»Grand Central’s Gigantic Snake Amazes Commuters
»National Popular Vote: Goodbye, Sweet America
»Obama’s Secret War-Making for the U.N.
»Record-Breaking Laser Pulse Paves Way for Fusion
»Senator Rand Paul Steps Up to Protect Property Owners
»Sturm, Ruger Firearms Has Suspended All New Orders Due to High Demand
»The Socialist Apprentice
»Tiger Woods Wins First PGA Tournament in More Than Two Years
»Book Tells Muslim Men How to Beat and Control Their Wives
»Tar Sands Debate: Politicization Dirtier Than Crude?
Europe and the EU
»1.5 Mln Greeks “Interested” In Return to Farming
»Berlusconi Buys Villa on Lake Como
»British Conservative Party Fundraiser Resigns Amid Scandal
»Could Crude, Whisky and Wind Make Scotland Richer Than England?
»Fiat Reiterates Commitment to Italy
»France: Sarkozy Denies Helping Depardieu in His Business
»France 2012: ‘Tax Exile’: Noah Lawsuit Against Le Pen
»France: Jews and Muslims Must Show Unity Against Jihadists
»France: Laying the Groundwork for the Toulouse Massacre
»France’s Muslims Fear Backlash After Terrorist Shootings
»France: Dozens of Jewish Graves Desecrated
»France: Gunman’s Brother on ‘Preliminary Charges’
»France: Toulouse: 400 Extremists in Europe, EU Anti-Terrorism
»French Police Stop March in Memory of Toulouse Killer
»How to Tackle Terrorism in the 21st Century?
»Interest in ‘Halal’ Finance Growing in Italy
»Italian Values Shifting From Autonomy to Fraternity
»Italy: Priest Fined for Ringing Church Bells Too Loudly
»Italy: Man Who Gave ‘Gomorrah’ Clan Ferraris Arrested
»Italy: Justice Minister Says Ex-Prison Islands ‘Could be Reopened’
»Italy: Anti-Semite Site Publishes List of 163 Italian Professors
»Italy: Sixteen Tax Judges Arrested in Campania
»Italy: Government Signs Off Labour Reform
»Just a Regular French Youth
»Multinational Military Medical Unit to be Led by Italy
»Spanish Police Arrest ‘Bar Code Pimps’ Gang
»The Last Testament of a Psychopath: Toulouse Gunman Found ‘Infinite Pleasure’ In Murdering His Victims
»The Stasi Watched My Every Move: Dancing on Ice Star Katarina Witt Reveals East German Secret Police Spied on Her Since the Age of Eight
»The World is Turning Conservative, So Liberals Are Eating Their Words
»U.S. State Department Actively Promoting Islam in Europe
»UK: Brave Woman Shopper Pounced on Pervert Taking Indecent Pictures of Children in Sainsbury’s… After Security Guards Refused to Help Her
»UK: Bullfinch Update: Six Men Charged Over Child Sex Ring Held in Prison
»UK: I’ve Backed Ken Livingstone for Mayor Before, But This Time I Just Can’t Do it
»UK: Ken Livingstone Has Lost My Vote, Says Influential Guardian Columnist
»UK: Mother Left Her 16-Month-Old Baby Home Alone While She Partied for Five Days and Nights
»UK: Olympic Terror Group Hunted
»UK: Pensioner Was Left Helpless on the Floor for 10 Minutes While Her Nurse Prayed, Inquest Hears
»UK: Social Workers Took Away Our Baby for Nine Months: With No Evidence Against Them, Couple Were Banned From Looking After Their Son
»UK: The Arts Festival Tied Into the Olympic Games That’s Costing us £5.4m
Mediterranean Union
»Lebanon: Courses for Judges and Magistrates Financed by EU
North Africa
»Algeria: Plan to Save Old Fortified Villages
»Egypt: Coptic Christians After Shenouda
»Islamists Dominate Panel Tasked With Drafting Egypt’s Constitution
»Morocco: Equality in Constitution, Not Yet in Practice
»Spain and Morocco Compete for Oil Search in Canary Islands
Israel and the Palestinians
»Gaza: Islamic Jihad Celebrating After Challenge to Israel
»Term ‘West Bank’ Only Came About as Result of Jordan’s Imperialist Effort to Expand
Middle East
»Borat Anthem Stuns Kazakh Gold Medallist in Kuwait
»Egypt is Looking to Get Cozy With Iran
»Lebanon: Policewomen Candidates in Hijabs Spark Row
»Lebanon: Maid Filmed During Beating Kills Herself
»Power Elite and the Muslim Brotherhood, Part 10
»Saudi Arabia and China Team Up to Build a Gigantic New Oil Refinery
»Syria: Terzi: Turkish Minister Spoke of Air Raids
»The Rising Tide of Muslim Violence Against Christians
»UAE: Europe Approves Camel’s Milk
»UAE: Saadiyat Workers Conditions Improve, But Not Enough
South Asia
»Domestic Maids Complain of Rampant Abuse in Malaysia
»Indian Court Refuses TV for Italian Marines
Far East
»China’s Huawei Moves Out of the Shadows to Join Technology Race
»China’s Massive Water Diversion Project Remains Controversial
»Classical Music Affects Heart Transplants
»The Slang Chinese Bloggers Use to Subvert Censorship
Australia — Pacific
»Anna Bligh Hangs on to Seat in Bloodbath
»Australia Deports ‘Silence of the Lambs’ Rapist Back to UK 13 Years After Brutal Attack and Yet We Continue to Dither Over Kicking Out Qatada
»Gallipoli Anniversary Could Divide Australia, Federal Government Warned
»James Cameron Set for a Mariana Trench Sequel
Sub-Saharan Africa
»A Pirate’s Prison Tucked Inside Seychelles Paradise
»UK: Ministers Plan Major Immigration Crackdown
Culture Wars
»Oregon: “Wrongful Birth” Of Down Syndrome Child
»Nokia is Looking Into Haptic Tattoos to Help You Feel Who’s Calling
»‘Warp-Speed’ Planets Flung Out of Galaxy on Wild Ride

Financial Crisis

Goldman’s Top Economist: There is No Economic Crisis

Crisis, what crisis? That is the attitude of Jim O’Neill, one of the most influential economists and bankers in the world. The head of Goldman Sachs Asset Management and the company’s former chief economist does not believe the world economy is in trouble.

In fact, says Mr O’Neill, the crisis is focused on a handful of nations — the US, the UK and the struggling Mediterranean countries.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Greece: EU: Regional Funds to Guarantee 1 Bln Loans for SMEs

Commissioner Hahn, new instrument agreed with Eib

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, MARCH 21 — EU Commissioner for Regional Policy, Johannes Hahn has today in Athens added another element to boost growth by launching a new Guarantee Fund for Small and Medium-Sized enterprises (SMEs) for Greece. This new facility, agreed in cooperation with the European Investment Bank (EIB), will help SMEs which have been worst hit by the crisis to access credit, by providing the banks in Greece with sufficient liquidity. According to the EU Commissione, this is another step to assist the country in optimising the use of EU Structural Funds: some 500 million euros from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) will guarantee loans with an expected leverage of 1 billion euros through EIB loans to SMEs. Banks will act as intermediary bodies.

“Today’s decision — commented Hahn — is crucial to put the Greek economy back on track and give the country new hope. The European Commission and the European Investment Bank have acted in great cooperation to find tailor made solutions for Greece and secure small businesses financing. This is of crucial importance to turn the wheel around and get business off the ground in Greece”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Economic Crisis Hits Young Business Community

Study shows drop in under-30 entrepreneurs

(ANSA) — Venice, March 21 — A study published on Wednesday reported that the pan-European economic crisis has hit young Italian entrepreneurs, sharply driving their numbers down over the last three years.

Business owners and administrators under the age of 30 have dropped by 20% since 2005, said the report compiled by Italian statistics organization, Datagiovani. The drop in numbers has affected the northeast more than any other part of the country, said the study.

CEOs and company owners under the age of 30 fell below 350,000 at the close of 2011, compared to the third quarter of 2008, when there were over 378,000 and nearly 436,000 at the end of 2005.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Mark Steyn: the Sun Also Sets

I was in Australia earlier this month and there, as elsewhere on my recent travels, the consensus among the politicians I met (at least in private) was that Washington lacked the will for meaningful course correction, and that, therefore, the trick was to ensure that, when the behemoth goes over the cliff, you’re not dragged down with it. It is faintly surreal to be sitting in paneled offices lined by formal portraits listening to eminent persons who assume the collapse of the dominant global power is a fait accompli. “I don’t feel America is quite a First World country anymore,” a robustly pro-American Aussie told me, with a sigh of regret.

Well, what does some rinky-dink ‘roo-infested didgeridoo mill on the other side of the planet know about anything? Fair enough. But Australia was the only major Western nation not to go into recession after 2008. And in the last decade the U.S. dollar has fallen by half against the Oz buck: That’s to say, in 2002, one greenback bought you a buck-ninety Down Under; now it buys you 95 cents. More of that a bit later.

I have now returned from Oz to the Emerald City, where everything is built with borrowed green. President Obama has run up more debt in three years than President Bush did in eight, and he plans to run up more still — from ten trillion in 2008 to fifteen and a half trillion now to 20 trillion and beyond. Onward and upward! The president doesn’t see this as a problem, nor do his party, and nor do at least fortysomething percent of the American people. The Democrats’ plan is to have no plan, and their budget is not to budget at all. “We don’t need to bring a budget,” said Harry Reid. Why tie yourself down? “We’re not coming before you to say we have a definitive solution,” the treasury secretary told House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan. “What we do know is we don’t like yours.”

Nor do some of Ryan’s fellow conservatives. Texas congressman Louie Gohmert, for whom I have a high regard, was among those representatives who appeared at the Heritage Foundation to express misgivings regarding the Ryan plan’s timidity. They’re not wrong on that: The alleged terrorizer of widows and orphans does not propose to balance the budget of the government of the United States until the year 2040. That would be 27 years after Congressman Ryan’s current term of office expires. Who knows what could throw a wrench in those numbers? Suppose Beijing decides to seize Taiwan. The U.S. is obligated to defend it militarily. But U.S. taxpayers would be funding both sides of the war — the home team, via the Pentagon budget, and the Chinese military, through the interest payments on the debt. (We’ll be bankrolling the entire People’s Liberation Army by some point this decade.) A Beijing-Taipei conflict would be, in budget terms, a U.S. civil war relocated to the Straits of Taiwan. Which is why plans for mid-century are of limited value. When the most notorious extreme callous budget-slasher of the age cannot foresee the government living within its means within the next three decades, you begin to appreciate why foreign observers doubt whether there’ll be a 2040, not for anything recognizable as “the United States.”…

           — Hat tip: DS[Return to headlines]

Serbia: Rising Unemployment, Decline in Production

Situation is worrying, says president of Chamber of Commerce

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, MARCH 20 — The economic situation in Serbia is very worrying according to the President of the Serbian Chamber of Commerce (Pks) Milos Bugarin. He underlined that besides the rising unemployment and lack of liquidity , there are also a decline in industrial production and processing industry and the domestic and external debts of about 4.4 billion euros to be paid this year.

According to Bugarin, the economic growth rate that was revised from 1.5 to 0.5 percent was also cause for concern, because it could easily slide into a recession under the pressure of the external crisis.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


“National Defense Resources Preparedness” Executive Order: Power Grab or Mere Update?

by Ed Morrisey

We’re getting a lot of e-mail this weekend about an executive order issued on Friday afternoon by President Obama titled “National Defense Resources Preparedness.” While the timing of the EO is curious — why send it out on a Friday afternoon when an administration is usually trying to sneak bad news past the media? — the general impact of it is negligible. This EO simply updates another EO (12919) that had been in place since June 1994, and amended several times since.


this is almost identical to EO 12919 from 18 years earlier. Note what this EO specifically orders: identify, assess, be prepared, improve, foster cooperation. None of these items claim authority to seize private property and place them at the personal disposal of Obama. What follows after Section 103 are the directives for implementing these rather analytical tasks, mostly in the form of explicit delegations of presidential authority to Cabinet members and others in the executive branch.

Why the update? If one takes a look at EO 12919, the big change is in the Cabinet itself. In 1994, we didn’t have a Department of Homeland Security, for instance, and some of these functions would naturally fall to DHS. In EO 12919, the FEMA director had those responsibilities, and the biggest change between the two is the removal of several references to FEMA (ten in all). Otherwise, there aren’t a lot of changes between the two EOs, which looks mainly like boilerplate.


Barack Obama may be arrogant, and the timing of this release might have looked a little strange, but this is really nothing to worry about at all.


EDITORIAL NOTE: See same conclusion at

[Return to headlines]

Agenda 21 Treaty on the Horizon

International Covenant on Environment and Development: Convert the “soft-law” non-binding Agenda 21 into firmly binding global law.

While liberal journalists continue to claim that Agenda 21 is just a “conspiracy theory” being advanced by right-wing crackpots, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the International Council for Environmental Law (ICEL) have released their fourth Draft of the International Covenant on Environment and Development. This document was designed from the beginning to convert the “soft-law” non-binding Agenda 21 into firmly binding global law - enforceable through the International Criminal Court and/or the dispute resolution features of the Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Two excellent analyses of this document are available here, and here. Read the entire 242-page document here.

Few people understand that it is standard operating procedure for the U.N. to issue a massive non-binding policy document to test the water and make adjustments to its plans before introducing the real, legally-binding treaty.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Another Modest Proposal — in Earnest, Not Satire

Modest proposals, in sense given the phrase by the great 18th century satirist Jonathan Swift, are flavour of the month in the bioethics community. Hot on the heels of an infanticide proposal in a leading journal comes a modest proposal to genetically modify children to save the world from climate change.

In a soon-to-be-published article in Ethics, Policy and Environment, three bioethicists, from New York University and from Oxford, float some quite eye-popping ideas. An interview with the S. Matthew Liao, of NYU, in The Atlantic sparked a firestorm on blogs.

Dr Liao explained that human engineering must be explored because other solutions for climate change, like international agreements and geoengineering, are clearly not working.

Among his suggestions are drugs to provoke aversion to meat to wean people off eating animals. This would help enormously, because half of the world’s greenhouse emissions may come from livestock farming.

Genetic modification and drugs to make people smaller is another solution. “For instance if you reduce the average U.S. height by just 15cm, you could reduce body mass by 21% for men and 25% for women, with a corresponding reduction in metabolic rates by some 15% to 18%, because less tissue means lower energy and nutrient needs.”

One of the most intriguing proposals is inducing positive attitudes towards the environment with drugs, although he sees it as a way of boosting willpower rather than inducing beliefs.

“If you crave steak, and that craving prevents you from making a decision you otherwise want to make, in some sense your inability to control yourself is a limit on the will, or a limit on your liberty. A meat patch would allow you to truly decide whether you want to have that steak or not, and that could be quite liberty enhancing.”

He proposes an interesting twist on the one or two-child policy advocated by some environmental groups: a child-per-family quota based on volume and weight rather than number:

“…given certain fixed allocations of greenhouse gas emissions, human engineering could give families the choice between two medium sized children, or three small sized children. From our perspective that would be more liberty enhancing than a policy that says ‘you can only have one or two children.’ A family might want a really good basketball player, and so they could use human engineering to have one really large child.”

Preposterous? Not so fast. “Human engineering may seem bizarre and unrealistic, but this does not mean it could not turn out to be feasible and promising: telephones, ‘test tube babies’, and personal computers are all important aspects of modern life that were once regarded as bizarre and unrealistic,” another author, Rebecca Roache told the Guardian.

The article has been criticised even by colleagues, Anders Sandberg told the Guardian. But the authors are unperturbed by labels like “eco-Nazis” and “eugenicists”. “We are fairly typical liberal academics thinking about the world,” Sandburg says.

[Return to headlines]

Archaeology: Getty Museum Repatriates Antiquities to Greece

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, MARCH 9 — Three ancient marble fragments from the collections of the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles have been repatriated to Greece following a deal last year, as daily Kathimerini website reports. A culture ministry statement says two of the 2,400-year-old pieces are parts of the same broken gravestone decorated with relief sculptures, and will be joined onto a third section in a Greek museum. The Getty also returned an inscribed slab related to a religious festival. The 5th century BC fragments arrived in Athens on Friday. Greece is discussing lending an ancient Greek inscription to the Getty in return. In recent years, the Getty has repatriated to Athens another four significant ancient works, including a gold wreath allegedly illegally excavated in northern Greece.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Establishing a White House Council on Strong Cities, Strong Communities

A new Executive Order issued on March 15, 2012, establishing a White House Council on Strong Cities, Strong Communities, received no attention from the mainstream media.

Why would MSM report the news that is so important to the American people when there are so many pointless reality shows to occupy the citizens’ time? The Romans had pane et circenses, bread and circuses, in the gladiatorial arenas. Americans have sports and reality TV to dull their senses and perception of the troublesome reality.

The new Executive Order establishes another bureaucracy to “lift communities out of distress,” and to “support comprehensive planning and regional collaboration.” Communities would not be in distress if the economy and the country were not purposefully destroyed through burdensome regulations, insane energy policy, directives, wasteful stimuli, resolutions, omnibus overspending bills, and executive orders.

The Council is a “pilot initiative” that partners with “cities and regions to augment their vision of stability and economic growth.” This partnership aims to drive communities toward “regional planning” that leads to “sustained economic growth.”

The end goal of the initiative is to persuade regions to accept federal resources more effectively and efficiently to develop and implement economic strategies to “become more competitive, sustainable, and inclusive.” There will be strings attached to these federal resources. The operating words are “sustainable,” and “regional” or “regionalism,” buzzwords for UN Agenda 21.


What is wrong with regionalization? It is a step toward globalization. It is another layer of unaccountable, unelectable, and parasitic government. Municipalities are shaped into borderless groups that develop comprehensive plans in many areas but especially land use. These plans supersede local laws and often disregard property rights. The unelected layer of “regional” government will then ask each community to bring their laws and zoning in line with those of the “region.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Former Vice President Dick Cheney Undergoes Heart Transplant, A.P. Reports

Former Vice President Dick Cheney had a heart transplant Saturday and is recovering at a Virginia hospital, his office said.

An aide to Mr. Cheney, Kara Ahern, said that he had been waiting for a transplant for more than 20 months and did not know the identity of the heart donor.

Mr. Cheney was recovering Saturday night at Inova Fairfax Hospital in Falls Church, Va., after surgery earlier in the day.

[Return to headlines]

Google Plans to Spy on Background Noise in Your Phone Calls to Bombard You With Tailored Adverts

Adverts could soon be tailored according to the background noise around you when using your smartphone, if a patent application by Google becomes reality.

The search engine giant has filed for a patent called ‘Advertising based on environmental conditions’.

As that title implies, it’s not just background sounds that could be used to determine what adverts you seen on your mobile phone. The patent also describes using ‘temperature, humidity, light and air composition’ to produced targeted adverts.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Grand Central’s Gigantic Snake Amazes Commuters

NEW YORK — A strange sight is accosting visitors at Grand Central Station here this week: a gigantic snake. A life-size model of the 60-million-year-old Titanoboa has taken stage at the train terminal, an advertisement for a new documentary on the Smithsonian Channel.

“That thing would swallow me whole,” Grand Central visitor Sarah Bouroque said when she saw the giant snake. “I’d have to run and hide if I saw that thing in real life.”

Remains of the ancient Titanoboa snake, which weighed in at a whopping 2,500 pounds (more than 1,100 kilograms) and a length of 48 feet (almost 15 meters), were first found near fossilized plants, giant turtles and crocodiles dating back to the Paleocene Epoch (about 60 million years ago). This was when the world’s first known rain forest emerged, and dinosaurs no longer ruled the Earth.

“It was an actual animal? A real animal? It’s huge, that’s impressive,” visitor Chris Wood said, eyeballing the giant reptile. “It’s pretty impressive — I don’t know what to make of it, really.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

National Popular Vote: Goodbye, Sweet America

Our Constitution is under constant attack.[1] One of the most pernicious attacks is being waged by those who seek to override the constitutional provisions under which The States, as political entities, elect the President; and to replace it with a national popular vote (NPV) under which inhabitants of major metropolitan areas will choose the President.

What Form of Government Did We Create In Our Constitution?

Before you can see why it is so important that The States elect the President, and why the NPV is so execrable, you must understand how our “federal” government was structured and intended to operate. “Federal” actually referred to the form of the national government created in our Constitution, and to the division of powers between the national government and The States.


How The National Popular Vote Will Work

Here is the nefarious 888-word interstate compact. It is written in the bureaucratic style favored by those who seek to confuse, confound and conceal. Their Explanation of National Popular Vote Bill expressly discloses, however, that

“Under the National Popular Vote bill, all of the state’s electoral votes would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.”

In other words, if the popular vote in Virginia is for James Madison, but the total national popular vote favors Adolf Hitler, then all of Virginia’s 13 Electoral Votes are given to Adolf Hitler.

Indeed, the winner of the national popular vote will end up with all the electoral votes for every State. Do you see? And do not think that the winner will fail to claim a “Mandate” for whatever he wants to do.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Obama’s Secret War-Making for the U.N.

You may not have heard of PSD-10 because it has received no significant coverage from the major media. Yet, President Obama issued “Presidential Study Directive 10” last August 4, 2011, and posted it on the White House website. It amounts to a new and potentially far-reaching exercise of American military power cloaked in humanitarian language and conducted under the auspices of the United Nations and the International Criminal Court.

Under this new “Obama doctrine,” U.S. troops can be deployed to arrest or even terminate individuals wanted by the International Criminal Court, which is based on a treaty that has not been ratified by the U.S. Senate and isn’t even up for Senate consideration.

This “Presidential Study Directive on Mass Atrocities,” another name for PSD-10, declares that “Preventing mass atrocities and genocide is a core national security interest and a core moral responsibility of the United States.” This is at sharp variance with the traditional role of the U.S. military—self-defense and protection of the homeland. Toward this end, an “Interagency Atrocities Prevention Board” is being formed to develop and implement this new Obama doctrine. However, it is apparent that the doctrine is already going forward.

Members of the public haven’t heard of PSD-10, but they may have heard of a decision Obama made on October 14, 2011, when he informed Congress that he had authorized “a small number of combat equipped U.S. forces to deploy to central Africa to provide assistance to regional forces that are working toward the removal of Joseph Kony from the battlefield.”

Kony, a Ugandan warlord who runs the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), is better known than most foreigners, since he is the subject of the viral “Kony 2012” video about the more than 30,000 “invisible children” he has allegedly murdered or abducted. His whereabouts are unknown, although it is believed he is no longer in Uganda.

Despite the name of his group, Kony is not a Christian and instead receives backing from the Islamic regime in northern Sudan. Although he poses no direct threat to the United States and has not carried out terrorist attacks on the U.S. or killed any American citizens, the Department of Treasury has designated him as a “global terrorist” under Executive Order 13224, a measure signed into law by President Bush after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Record-Breaking Laser Pulse Paves Way for Fusion

In terms of laser energy, it was the biggest bang yet. On 15 March, the National Ignition Facility at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California fired a single laser pulse containing 1.875 million joules of energy, exceeding its design energy of 1.8 megajoules for the first time. “This is very exciting, like breaking the sound barrier,” says NIF director Edward Moses. Next on the agenda for the building-sized laser is firing a pulse that energetic at a target, thereby igniting nuclear fusion.

The milestone comes $4 billion and 15 years after construction began on the massive laser, which started operating in 2009. Since then Moses has gradually been turning up the power, so the new record is only a small step above NIF’s previous record of 1.6 MJ. Still, no other laser in the world comes close to such energies — the 192-beam NIF delivers dozens of times more energy than the 30-kilojoule pulses from the world’s next-largest operating laser, the 60-beam Omega laser at the Laboratory for Laser Energetics in Rochester, New York.

NIF’s ultimate goal is to reach fusion’s “ignition threshold”, where fusion reactions generate more energy than the laser pulse contains. This will require delivering lots of energy in a very short time to heat and squeeze a tiny hydrogen target into such a hot, dense mass that the nuclei fuse, releasing energy.

The energy required is relatively modest — 1.8 megajoules is about the energy released by a half kilogram of high explosive. But NIF delivered that energy in only 23 billionths of a second, so that its power during that period reached 411 trillion watts, 1000 times more power than the US electric grid generates on average.

It has been a long, hard slog to achieve this goal. Livermore took its first shots at fusion targets in the 1960s with much smaller lasers, and NIF itself had a troubled birth in the 1990s. Though it has taken more time than expected to reach the energy required for igniting fusion, Livermore hopes to reach ignition by year’s end.

Meanwhile, the lab is already planning an even bigger laser called LIFE (Laser Inertial Fusion Energy).

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Senator Rand Paul Steps Up to Protect Property Owners

U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) has just introduced legislation designed to reign in out-of- control federal agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers. The bill, if enacted, will be a vital blow to the enforcement of radical environmental/Agenda 21- inspired regulations. The bill is called the Defense of Environment and Property Act of 2012 (S.2122).

A little history: in 1972, as the environmental movement was getting its start through popular efforts to stop pollution in our rivers and air, Congress passed the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (later called the Clean Water Act). The law prohibited the discharge of pollutants into “navigable waters” without a federal permit. The problems began when the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers made a power grab by enforcing the act over ponds, occasional mud puddles, and even dry lands by labeling them as wet lands.

The result has been disastrous to property owners and businesses, sometimes even leading to jail sentences to “violators.”

The result of such outrageous interpretations of the Clean Water Act has led Senator Paul to introduce his bill to do the following:


The EPA, Army Corps and other agencies of the government have been using the intimidation of government power to enforce the policies of Agenda 21 and Sustainable Development. These policies do not recognize private property rights and they have made a sham out of the rule of law and the court system, replacing it with rule by edict. Until now these outlaw agencies have terrorized American citizens without interference or control by their rightful masters — Congress.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Sturm, Ruger Firearms Has Suspended All New Orders Due to High Demand

[Orginally from Zero Hedge, posted at Urban Grounds]

From the Sturm, Ruger news release:

“Despite the Company’s continuing successful efforts to increase production rates, the incoming order rate exceeds our capacity to rapidly fulfill these orders. Consequently, the Company has temporarily suspended the acceptance of new orders.”

I haven’t heard any similar information from the other leading firearm manufacturers, but will look into it after seeing this.

It was reported a few days ago that the Department of Homeland Security made a commitment to purchase 450 million rounds of .40S&W Hollow Point ammunition.


Looking back at the increased purchases of firearms and ammunition in the run-up to the ‘08 election and after, it would appear that with this administration and the current economic, social and political climate, there is about to be another run on these products.

In conjunction with what has transpired in the past four years, is it any surprise that there are a plethora of survival blogs and television programs?

My advice is this, if your money is invested in anything, move it to precious metals, such as brass, copper, lead and steel.

  • In states in the Northeast, a stock of 25,000 rounds for an individual might be considered excessive — and maybe even someone to “keep an eye on.” Maybe local police ought to know.
  • In the West, in a state like Oregon, that’s a fair amount of ammo.
  • In other states, Utah comes to mind, it’s a good start.
  • And in parts of Texas? “Shoot, Bubba, you’re almost out!”

[Return to headlines]

The Socialist Apprentice

Socialism: The sweet siren song of the shortcut promising us that we don’t have to work, that we don’t have to think, that we don’t have to plan… someone else will be doing those things for us

And that is how tyranny begins. When we forget that government isn’t magic, that it’s a tool we made and set to work. A tool that forgot its purpose and its masters. A tool that became too complex and unwieldy to fulfill the tasks we designed it for. We made government. It’s ours. And it is only as human as we make it.

Government stops being human when we forget that we made it and that only we can shut it off. But when we let it go, when we watch dazed while it spins out of control, and the buckets fly, and we accept the messes in the hope that eventually the room will somehow be clean, then we ourselves have let the monster loose. Power has shifted, and the users become the used.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Tiger Woods Wins First PGA Tournament in More Than Two Years

Tiger Woods won the Arnold Palmer Invitational on Sunday, his first PGA Tour victory in more than two years.

Woods shot a final round 70 to finish at 13 under par at the Bay Hill course, where he had won six times before, Reuters reported. This was Woods’s 72nd PGA Tour title and his first since the BMW Championship in September 2009.

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Book Tells Muslim Men How to Beat and Control Their Wives

A local bookstore has “sold out” of a controversial marriage guide that advises Muslim men on how to beat their wives.

The 160-page book, published by Idara Impex in New Delhi, India, is written by Hazrat Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi, who’s described in the book’s foreword as a “prolific writer on almost every topic of Islamic learning.”

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

Tar Sands Debate: Politicization Dirtier Than Crude?

by Daniel J. Graeber

Canada’s natural resources minister told delegates at the International Energy Forum in Kuwait that his country was on the cusp of becoming an “energy superpower.” Canada ranks No. 6 in terms of global oil production, but much of its crude exists in the form of oil sands. European leaders are considering a measure that would classify oil sands as an environmental issue, prompting Canada to threaten to take the issue to the World Trade Organization.. With the U.S. political system in a deadlock over Canadian crude, the Ottawa government is now working to convince the international community that the global market is in jeopardy if polices “discriminate against oil sands..”

Drill-happy critics of the Obama administration are painting the Keystone XL oil pipeline planned from Alberta as a panacea to U.S. economic woes. Because of debates over the planned route through Nebraska, however, the White House has pushed the issue aside for now. The pipeline company behind the project, TransCanada, has opted for a smaller leg in the United States while the Canadian government has thrown its support behind the Northern Gateway pipeline meant for Asian exports.

Canadian Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver said his presence at the IEF summit in Kuwait proved his country was “an emerging energy superpower.” Canada has around 175 billion barrels of proven oil reserves, which means it’s the only non-OPEC member in the global top five, just behind Saudi Arabia and Venezuela.


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Europe and the EU

1.5 Mln Greeks “Interested” In Return to Farming

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, MARCH 21 — More than 1.5 million Greeks living in the major urban centres of Athens and Thessaloniki have expressed an “interest” in returning to the countryside and taking up farming as a way of making a living, Athens News Agency reports quoting deputy Agricultural Development and Foods Minister Yiannis Drivelegas as saying. In statements during the signature of the first contracts for the lease of public land in Central Macedonia for use by farmers and livestock breeders, he said this was discovered in a survey conducted that the ministry that is due to be presented in the next few days. Other officials noted that the process to lease state land for farming began 20 weeks ago and that every Thursday there would be new posts of land available for lease on the website of the agency in charge of payment, control and providing information on Community aid OPEKEPE. The same officials said they had already received 4,000 applications for leases and hoped to have leased up to 10,000 plots of agricultural land amounting to 10,000 hectares by the summer.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Berlusconi Buys Villa on Lake Como

30-room mansion belonged to ex-aide Dell’Utri

(ANSA) — Como, March 21 — Former Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi has bought a villa on Lake Como that used to belong to his former business aide Senator Marcello Dell’Utri, Italian daily Il Giorno said Wednesday. After years of home-hunting, the billionaire tycoon settled on a historic mansion with 30 rooms, a tennis court and boat dock on the northern Italian lake famous for jet-set residents such as George Clooney. Dell’Utri, who acted as Berlusconi’s campaign manager in the 1994 election that first brought the media magnate to power, reportedly left the villa 10 years ago.

He recently received a seven-year jail sentence for allegedly helping the Mafia, but Italy’s highest court ruled he should have a retrial.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

British Conservative Party Fundraiser Resigns Amid Scandal

A British Conservative Party fundraiser resigned on Sunday after a report alleging he offered journalists posing as financiers access to Prime Minister David Cameron in return for donations of £250,000 (299,000 euros).

The party’s co-Treasurer Peter Cruddas stood down within a few hours of the Sunday Times report and video of him telling the bogus financiers the contributions would allow them to ask Cameron “practically any question you want. “

“I deeply regret any impression of impropriety arising from my bluster in that conversation,” Cruddas said in his resignation statement.

“Specifically, it was categorically not the case that I could offer, or that David Cameron would consider, any access as a result of a donation,” he added.

“But in order to make that clear beyond doubt, I have regrettably decided to resign with immediate effect.”

In resigning, Cruddas emphasized that he had not consulted any politicians or senior party officials before meeting the undercover journalists, and he denied that donors would have been able to influence policy or gain undue access to politicians.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Could Crude, Whisky and Wind Make Scotland Richer Than England?

As the Scottish referendum approaches, the debate on who wins control of the UK’s North Sea oil fields will be bitter, complex and potentially life-changing

“It’s Scotland’s oil” is one of the most highly charged slogans in Scottish politics. First used by the Scottish National Party in 1974, the notion that Scotland “owns” up to 90% of the North Sea’s reserves remains one of the strongest sources of grievance for nationalists.

And in the next two years, as Alex Salmond leads the country into a referendum on independence, it is likely to become one of the central arguments for nationalists: they believe it will help decide the fate of the UK.

Ever since it became clear that North Sea oil fields would generate immense riches, the SNP has insisted that that wealth has been squandered by successive governments at Westminster. They point out that Norway, a country with a similar population to Scotland at just under 5 million, has saved much of its oil income: surplus revenue is ploughed into the government pension fund, which is now Europe’s largest owner of shares and is worth about 3.3 trillion kroner (£360bn).

The SNP argues that if you extend a line east from where the Scotland-England border hits the coast north of Berwick, the division of the seabed would give Scotland control over nearly all North Sea oil and gas fields.

The Scottish government, which is drawing up a detailed case to support that 90% claim as its civil servants prepare for the referendum, asserts the North Sea will generate about £54bn in revenues over the next five years, while its “asset base” is valued at roughly £1tn, including remaining reserves.

Salmond claims that, combined with Scotland’s significant offshore wind and marine energy resources, and other industries such as whisky, this would make Scotland the OECD’s sixth wealthiest nation, leaving the rest of the UK trailing in 15th place.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Fiat Reiterates Commitment to Italy

CEO Marchionne says meeting with Premier Monti was ‘perfect’

(ANSA) — Rome, March 16 — Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne on Friday reiterated the automaker’s intention to carry out its ambitious investment program in Italy at a meeting with Premier Mario Monti on Friday.

But Marchionne is said also to have told Monti that it was imperative that the firm is able to produce cars at competitive costs, which requires greater labor flexibility.

The meeting between Monti and Marchionne, also attended by Fiat Chairman John Elkann, was arranged following concerns voiced by unions that Fiat was focusing more on its alliance with US automaker Chrysler, in which it holds a 58.5% stake, and was not actively applying its 20-billion-euro investment plan in Italy.

Coming out of his meeting with Monti, Marchionne said their talks had been “perfect”.

Unions and some political figures have also been concerned about the mixed signals the CEO has sent about the possibility of shutting down two of Fiat’s five plants in Italy.

Last month Marchionne said Fiat may be forced to shut two of its five plants in Italy if it cannot use them to produce cars to export to the American market at a competitive cost and that this meant ensuring that these plants can be utilized “in full and flexible capacity”.

“Our intentions are to embark on an industrial policy which opens opportunities for our plants in Italy, if they can achieve a level of productivity that will allow us to compete on an international level, to export to other countries. Fiat is ready to offer Italy the enormous opportunities being created in America, but we can only do this under conditions that are extremely clear ,” he added Marchionne later added that Fiat was “maintaining its commitments” in Italy and at its Mirafiori plant in Turin “we are working at lightning speed (to revamp the plant) and this is why we have announced we will also be producing Jeep vehicles there starting next year”.

Speaking this month on the sidelines of the Geneva automobile show, Marchionne reiterated there was “no threat to the plants in Italy. We have already begun to invest in Pomigliano and for Mirafiori we have confirmed the timetable for its restructuring and production there will resume in 2013. As for our other plants, they are involved in other products on which we have nothing to say. Thus there is no threat and we are moving ahead with our business plan” Labor flexibility was also at the center of an address he recently made to the European Automaker Association ACEA, of which he is chairman.

‘If I could do just one thing, most likely it would be to create a flexible labor system capable of managing supply and demand, he said.

“I am convinced that the conditions exist to create positive flexibility. What we need to do is break with mentalities of the past. “If we continue to insist that what we had and built in the past is essential for the future, when in reality it has become an obstacle to a nation’s industrial growth, then it is clear that we are not going to go far”.

Observers believe Marchionne may be ‘playing hardball’ to get unions to agree to greater labor flexibility.

Marchionne and Elkann arrived at their meeting with the premier abroad a new Fiat Panda, the automaker’s best-selling city hatchback car the production of which Fiat recently moved from Poland to its plant in Pomigliano d’Arco, near Naples.

Friday’s meeting came on the day that Fiat was forced to shut down three of its five plants in Italy due to a truckers’ strike that has blocked the arrival of materials and parts, as well as the delivery of finished cars to dealerships.

A statement from Fiat said the strike was “de facto paralyzing automotive logistics, especially in central-southern Italy” and added that the labor action had already resulted in delaying production by some 20,000 vehicles and that it would be “very difficult to recover this during the year”. Friday’s closures involved Fiat’s Pomigliano, Cassino and Sevel plants, while the Mirafiori and Melfi factories were already closed in order to allow them to be revamped to produce new models. Fiat has blamed previous strikes for its drop in sales and market share in Europe last month and said a further 10% drop was expected for March.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

France: Sarkozy Denies Helping Depardieu in His Business

(AGI) Paris — Almost a month before the April 22nd presidential elections Nicolas Sarkozy has denied helping Gerard Depardieu.

Sarkozy stated that he has never intervened to apply pressure or help Gerard Depardieu in his private business. In recent days it was the well informed satirical weekly “Le Canard Enchaine’ “ which reported the boasts of the French actor.

During a lunch Depardieu launched into raving praise for the president, declaring that he would certainly vote for him because he had helped him when he had “a problem with one of his businesses abroad.” .

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

France 2012: ‘Tax Exile’: Noah Lawsuit Against Le Pen

(AGI) Paris- Former French tennis player Yannick Noah has announced a lawsuit against Marine Le Pen, who called him a “tax exile”. The controversy stems from a televised speech by the Front National presidential candidate on 9 March pointing to the 52 year-old former sportsman and singer of Cameroonian origin as a negative example due to his dispute with the French tax authorities.

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

France: Jews and Muslims Must Show Unity Against Jihadists

by Ed Husain

“God forbid that the recent killer of Jewish children and a rabbi in France be a Muslim or of Arab descent,” I tweeted a day before the French authorities named Mohamed Merah as the prime suspect in last week’s terrorist atrocity. People on Twitter responded to me saying: “He also killed Muslims”. And yes, he did — but it does not take away from the severity of the killer’s antisemitism that led to him target Ozar Hatorah school and killing Rabbi Jonathan Sandler and the blessed children he was trying to protect. What was their crime? Miriam Monsonego, aged 7, was killed in cold blood as the murderer grabbed her by her hair to shoot her in the head. She was the headmaster’s daughter. Rabbi Sandler’s two sons, Gabriel and Arieh, aged four and five, were killed too.

I remember their names because I am a father of two young daughters, aged two and four — I can imagine no greater torment in life than to lose our children, and worse, to have them killed before our eyes. My sympathies and prayers are with the parents and Jewish communities globally who continue to suffer at the hands of butchers who take antisemitism to its logical conclusion. The self-proclaimed al-Qaeda jihadist who committed these heinous acts did not only hate Jews. He and his ilk equally abhor their fellow Muslims who are integrated, pluralist, and do not harbour Jew-hatred. Merah slaughtered Jewish children, but before that he also killed proud French Muslims who served in their nation’s armed forces: Sergeant Imad Ibn Ziaten, Corporal Abed Chennouf, Private Mohamed Legouad.

The cancer that is takfiri thinking — the jihadist declaration that people like me or other normal Muslims are not Muslims because we do not share their extremism — underpins this terrorist violence. It is a fact that al-Qaeda has killed more Muslims in Iraq, Pakistan and elsewhere than it has non-Muslims. To the violent Salafist jihadi, the majority of Muslims are misguided, deviant and a barrier to creating their dream of a global caliphate. In these testing times, it is vital that Jews and Muslims demonstrate togetherness against the common enemy. Mahmoud Abbas, for all his faults, was swift to demand that terrorists stop using the Palestinian cause to justify their evil. French-Muslim leaders have rallied around Jewish communities. What starts as refusing to honour the dead at Holocaust Memorial Day, leads to dehumanising Jewish and other deaths, and then to producing men like Mohamed Merah who in cold blood kill children and other innocents.

Ed Husain is author of ‘The Islamist’ and a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations

[JP note: Fat chance, and empty rhetoric from a softly-softly jihadist won’t butter any parsnips.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

France: Laying the Groundwork for the Toulouse Massacre

by Melanie Phillips

When the Toulouse school massacre happened, the media rushed to say that the perpetrator was a white far-right racist. The lone gunman had mown down at close range a rabbi and three children at a Jewish school, wounding several others. He was thought to be the same killer who a few days earlier had murdered three black French paratroopers in two separate attacks. A killer who targeted Jews and blacks — must be a far-right white racist, right? Wrong. The suspect who the French police have now cornered turns out to be a jihadi Islamic terrorist with self-declared links to al Qaeda, who has made trips to Afghanistan and Pakistan in the past. Well, there’s a surprise.

Jews throughout the world are all potential targets for attack in a terrifying manifestation of global incitement to murder. Islamists regularly declare their intention to kill Jews wherever they can find them. Hundreds of rockets fired from Gaza at southern Israel over the past couple of weeks bear out daily the frenzied attempt to murder as many Jews as possible. In the Mumbai massacre in 2008, it turned out that the attack on the tiny ultra-orthodox Lubavitch centre was for the Islamic perpetrators of that atrocity the most important target. There have been repeated Islamic terrorist attempts on Jewish targets around the world. Oh — and Islamists have been murdering black people in Libya because they are black. Yet all this is ignored by the mainstream media. Desperate to sanitise Muslim genocidal terrorism and prove that racism and Jew-hatred is confined to white people and the ‘far right’, the media simply did not entertain the possibility that the perpetrator of the French killings might have been a Muslim. So a range of likely perpetrators was canvassed — but they were all variations on white racists.

And even when the perpetrator turned out to be an Islamic terrorist the media were still trying to spin it away, with Sky News stressing the deprivation of the killer and his family and interviewing a French female journalist living in London who claimed that this was ‘an attack against diversity’. As blogger Edgar Davidson observed here:

‘She said that it was all down to the racist climate in France which had been made worse by Nikolas Sarkozy in the last five years and she picked out, as an example of racist lack of tolerance, the burka ban he had introduced.’

Not only are the media and ‘progressive’ commentators in the west desperate to sanitise Islamic terrorism and genocidal incitement; they also join in. The Toulouse jihadist said he was ‘seeking revenge for Palestinian children and French military postings overseas.’ But no Palestinian children have ever been targeted by Israel for murder. Quite the reverse: Israel regularly puts its own soldiers in harm’s way in order to any minimise civilian casualties in military operations against Palestinian terrorists and their infrastructure which it undertakes solely to protect its own people from further murderous Palestinian attacks. Any Palestinian child casualties in such operations occur solely as a tragic and inadvertent by-product of war — and as often as not because the Palestinians have put their own children in harm’s way.

Yet this deranged belief that the Israelis deliberately kill Palestinian children is not only pumped out daily by the Arab and Muslim world inciting their people to hate Jews and to murder them as a holy act; not only do western progressives ignore this incitement and pretend instead that Islamic terrorism arises from legitimate ‘grievances’; these same western progressives themselves pump out precisely the same lies and incitement — and then suggest that the deliberate murder of Jewish innocents is the moral equivalent of attempts by Israel to prevent the slaughter of yet more innocents. Thus the EU foreign affairs chief, the British Baroness Ashton, seemed to equate the murder of the French Jews in Toulouse with the deaths of Palestinian children in Gaza in Israeli military operations there. Although the EU now claims she was misunderstood and that she was merely referring to all violence against children, that does not let her off the hook — indeed, by underscoring the fundamental amorality of the remark, it not only attaches Lady Ashton to that hook yet more firmly but also now attaches the EU itself. And now Hamas itself, no less, has sprung to her defence:

‘“Ashton’s declarations are worthy of appreciation and support due to Israel’s attempts to pressure her,” said a senior Hamas official, Izzat al-Rishq, on his Facebook page.’

As a fine article in The Commentator points out:

‘No-one will ever know whether the tragedy in Toulouse would not have taken place if the atmosphere were different. But we can say that history teaches that mass demonisation can all too easily lead to the dehumanisation of the group or people or nation that is being demonised. From there it is only one single step to the belief that murder itself can be justified.’

The terrorist who carried out the French killings may now have been caught. But those in the west who provide an echo chamber for the diabolical discourse that incubates genocide have yet to be brought to account.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

France’s Muslims Fear Backlash After Terrorist Shootings

The recent murder of seven people including three children in Toulouse by self-proclaimed jihadist Mohamed Merah outraged France and has left the country’s six million Muslims fearing a hostile reaction. By FRANCE 24 (text) After Toulouse terrorist Mohamed Merah was shot dead by a police marksman, French President Nicolas Sarkozy was quick to call on the French not to “give in to vengeance”.

“Our Muslim counterparts have nothing to do with the crazy motivations of a terrorist,” Sarkozy said on Thursday.

But despite the president’s call for calm in the wake of Mohamed Merah’s violent killing spree Muslim communities in France are living in fear of a backlash.

Leading Muslim clerics across the country have been swift in condemning the actions of 23 year-old Merah, and distance the beliefs of the self proclaimed Jihad inspired terrorist from the majority of those who follow the faith.

‘Do not confuse Merah with Islam’

“We do not want there to be any confusion between the Muslim religion and what happened in Toulouse. That had nothing to do with Islam,” Dalil Boubakeur rector of Paris’ Grande Mosque told FRANCE 24 on Friday.

“We ask that the French community do not pass judgement on our religion based on these events,” Boubakeur added…

           — Hat tip: Nick[Return to headlines]

France: Dozens of Jewish Graves Desecrated

Over 30 Jewish graves vandalized in southern city of Nice. City’s chief rabbi: Incident may be connected to Toulouse shooting

Over 30 Jewish graves were vandalized in a cemetery in the city of Nice in southern France, media outlets reported Saturday, five days after three schoolchildren and a rabbi were murdered in front of a Jewish school in Toulouse.

According to reports, the vandals tore off 22 Stars of David that were affixed on candle lamps built into the tombstones. They also tried to tear out nine other Stars of David, but only managed to twist them. In addition, four candle lamps were missing.

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

France: Gunman’s Brother on ‘Preliminary Charges’

French prosecutors have filed preliminary murder and terrorism charges against the brother of a gunman who killed Jewish schoolchildren and paratroopers.

An official from the prosecutor’s office confirmed the charges of suspected complicity were handed to Abdelkader Merah, 29.

He has denied helping his 23-year-old sibling Mohammed, who was killed by police on Thursday, commit three deadly attacks that claimed the lives of seven people.

Preliminary charges under French law mean there is strong reason to suspect a crime was committed but allow magistrates more time to investigate.

Merah’s younger brother Mohamed, 23, was shot dead by police after claiming responsibility for killing three Jewish schoolchildren, a rabbi and three paratroopers earlier this month.

His older brother and his partner, who has since been released, were arrested on Wednesday after Mohammed Merah was shot at the end of a 30-hour siege at his flat in Toulouse.

A post-mortem examination showed he was hit by more than 20 bullets.

During the standoff, Mohammed admitted killing three Jewish schoolchildren, a rabbi and three soldiers in separate attacks.

The Paris public prosecutor’s office earlier said in a statement: “Police inquiries have produced grave and matching pointers that suggest his (Abdelkader’s) participation as accomplice in crimes relating to a terrorist enterprise is plausible.”

The inquiry will seek to establish whether Abdelkader, who state prosecutors say was already known to security services for helping to smuggle Jihadist militants into Iraq in 2007, should stand trial.

Abdelkader said during preliminary questioning he was proud of his sibling’s killing spree, a police source has said.

Police also found explosives in a car that he owned, according to the Paris prosecutor leading the case.

Zoulika Aziri, the mother of the siblings, was released on Friday.

           — Hat tip: Nick[Return to headlines]

France: Toulouse: 400 Extremists in Europe, EU Anti-Terrorism

“Single actors” like Merah difficult to monitor

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, MARCH 23 — There are about 400 Islamic extremists trained by Al Qaeda in Europe, with most of them in Germany, France, Great Britain and Belgium, according to the EU anti-terrorism coordinator Gilles De Kerchove. He went on to say that the European monitoring system has a number of faults that make keeping an eye on the individuals most at risk difficult. The expert said that there is no European data archive for airline passengers, making it almost impossible for the secret services of different countries to know the exact number of people who have undertaken “dangerous” trips to countries at risk like Afghanistan and Pakistan. Moreover, the problem that leads to such incidents like the one in Toulouse is that the “weakened” Al Qaeda is relying ever more on “single actors” often recruited online or in prisons, ever more difficult to individuate. De Kerchove said that EU countries should step up collaboration, and that the latter should not be restricted to “financial flow control”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

French Police Stop March in Memory of Toulouse Killer

(AGI) Toulouse — Police in France prevented a group of people from holding a demonstration in memory of the Toulouse killer.

This afternoon, some one hundred riot police officers intervened to disperse about thirty people who were trying to hold a demonstration in memory of Mohammed Merah, the man behind a series of shootings in Toulouse who was killed by the police two days ago after an over 32-hour siege. Most of the demonstrators were burqa-clad young women. Wearing the full-body burqa veil in public is illegal in France. . .

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

How to Tackle Terrorism in the 21st Century?

It could not be further removed from the streets of Toulouse.

It was on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan that Mohamed Merah trained in terrorism.

As a leading expert told euronews, he is not the only one to have made the trip from Europe.

EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator Gilles de Kerchove estimates several hundred youths from the bloc have been to Afghan-Pakistani tribal zones.

For Western counter-terrorism agencies there is another more insidious threat — online propaganda glorifying hatred and extremism.

“The Internet is an incubator of radicalisation,” de Kerchove said. “What is common to terrorists is dehumanising their victims, so they no longer feel the consequences of their actions. Giving them back a voice and returning victims to the forefront, showing the abominable consequences of terrorist actions, in a way, helps remove the ‘glamour’ from the terrorist act and in that way it is concrete counter-narrative policies that need to be developed.”

France is now reinforcing the fight against extremist indoctrination, online or otherwise, more aware than ever of the danger it presents.

Toulouse: psychological harm

In measuring the psychological impact of traumatic experiences, proximity to an event, or to people who suffered, is a major factor.

The murders of four people at a school in Toulouse, and three at a barracks, are therefore expected to affect those in the immediate vicinity the most.

But not only.

euronews spoke with psychologist Helene Romano about possible wider repercussions.

Giovanni Magi euronews asked: “What psychological consequences could this have for everyone? First the terrorist acts, children being murdered, then relief, that the person responsible was identified, then the long negotiations…”

Hélène Romano said: “The very strong impact is due to several things: it happened at a school, children were killed. Then there’s the face of the killer — I’ll use a generalist word here — he looked ‘normal’, where we’d want him to look like a monster. This can be very destabilising, very wounding, because it’s not reassuring at all. So the impact can be one of insecurity for the individual. This is why the reactions of the grownups are so important to make the children feel safe again.”

euronews: “From the point of view of communities, in this case the Jewish and Muslim communities, what psychological interplay is involved in these cases?”…

           — Hat tip: TV[Return to headlines]

Interest in ‘Halal’ Finance Growing in Italy

Milan conference, Deloitte viewing products respecting Sharia

(ANSAmed) — MILAN, MARCH 19 — Islamic finance has existed in Europe for more than forty years, with the United Kingdom one of the world’s leading countries in the field, and others, such as Malta and Luxembourg, also at the forefront. In Italy, where the sector is more or less non-existent, results of the first experiments are now beginning to be seen.

In 2009, for instance, Deloitte set up a sector dedicated to Islamic finance. “At the moment, we are developing products compatible with Italian regulations,” says Alberto Liotta, a director at the consultancy firm, a guest at a conference organised by Islamic Relief Italia. “Attention is mainly focussed on conventional financing instruments, such as leasing, the concept of which can be brought closer to those of Islamic finance”.

“In the West, there is strong financing demand based on religious principles as a result of the growth of the Muslim middle-class, due to interest in “halal” products by ethical finance and because there is a serious amount of money to be made,” says Alberto Brugnoni, a director at Assaif, another consultancy firm. “Major investment funds are also focussing on this not so much for interests as to diversify their portfolio”.

Yet although the issue has been discussed for a few years now, the time appears not yet right for the birth of a retail Islamic bank in Italy following the model of the Islamic Bank of Britain. “In truth, it would be possible to create it in Italy because the regulations here are harmonised with the rest of Europe,” says Valentino Cattelan, a sector expert and professor at Rome’s Tor Vergata University. “From an investor’s point of view, the problem is that it would not yet be very profitable business because of tax problems and because there is not yet a market considered to be useful”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italian Values Shifting From Autonomy to Fraternity

Individualism in ‘crisis’ says thinktank Censis

(ANSA) — Rome, March 13 — The same Italian individualistic drive that helped spur growth and development in the country during the 1970s is now in crisis, said a report released on Tuesday by social and economic thinktank Censis.

Italians are looking for relationships and partnerships, said the report ‘Italians and their Values’, presented Tuesday in the presence of ex-premier Giuliano Amato, Censis Director General Giuseppe De Rita and Cabinet Undersecretary Paolo Peluffo, for the 150th anniversary year of Italian Unification. According to the report, Italy and Italians seem to be driven less by autonomy and more by the desire for “relationships and responsibility”. Figures regarding social values polled by Censis revealed that 65% of Italians have a strong sense of family, 25% are seeking a higher quality of life, 21% embrace religious tradition and 20% share their love of beauty with their fellow nationals. The data contrast a 2010 Censis report pointing to “individualistic pulsations in which the only thing that counts is the private sphere”. The shift in values should be “nurtured and strengthened” to continue its positive effect on development trends, said the report.

Traditionally, Censis combines economic analysis with detailed social analysis to evaluate the economic and social environments in their entirety, seeing them as closely interrelated.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Priest Fined for Ringing Church Bells Too Loudly

‘I’m contesting the ticket’

(ANSA) — Venice, March 21 — A Venice parish priest was cited Wednesday for disturbing the peace by ringing the church bells too loudly. According to local environmental authority Arpav, Father Rinaldo Gusso from San Pietro Orseolo church in Mestre is guilty of noise pollution over the past four years. The case could set a precedent. In 1997 the government passed a law setting the maximum number of decibels that many belfries regularly surpass in Italy. Saverio Centenaro, Venice city council vice president, has asked Mayor Giorgio Orsoni to amend the law to grant special privileges to churches. “I’m following the law carefully, and then I’ll decide what to do,” said the priest. “In any event I’m contesting the fine”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Man Who Gave ‘Gomorrah’ Clan Ferraris Arrested

Businessman also provided safe houses, police say

(ANSA) — Caserta, March 21 — A businessman who laid on Ferraris and Maseratis for the mobsters described in Roberto Saviano’s Neapolitan mafia expose’ Gomorrah was arrested for the fourth time Wednesday.

Paolo Diana is also accused of providing safe houses for the clan whose death threats have forced Saviano into round-the-clock protection, the Casalesis.

Police seized 25 million euros in assets from Diana.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Justice Minister Says Ex-Prison Islands ‘Could be Reopened’

Idea may go ahead ‘if we can meet costs’ says Severino

(ANSA) — Rome, March 20 — Two of Italy’s former prison islands, Asinara off Sardinia and Pianosa off Tuscany, could be used again to ensure maximum-security regimes for mafiosi and to ease overcrowding in Italy’s jails, Justice Minister Paola Severino said Tuesday.

Severino said the costs might be “high” but “if we were able to meet those costs we might think of reopening them”.

Some politicians welcomed Severino’s idea but local officials, especially in Sardinia, were critical.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Anti-Semite Site Publishes List of 163 Italian Professors

(AGI) Rome — A real “proscription”. A list of 163 Italian university professors “guilty” of belonging or being close to the Israeli intelligence. The NeoNazi website HolyWar published it, defining the professors “Sayanim”, namely “people glad to serve Israel, despite living in another state”. A page drenched with anti-Semitism, in which the authors of the article explain that “the Sayanims of our universities collaborate with the Israeli intelligence, whose fulcrum is the largest Israeli university, where data is collected. That’s why these people are to be considered extremely dangerous”. A list of 163 Italian university professors follows. “Obviously — the anti-Semite website admits — we are not absolutely sure that every single one of these people is a Sayanim, but we have reasons to suspect they are, seen as they have actively cooperated with the lobby that has subdued us”. The website also published a long list of journalists, writers, MPs accused of “wanting to gag the Internet” and another threatening list of names of people claimed to be “activists of the Italian Jewish communities, one of the Zionist organisations”.

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

Italy: Sixteen Tax Judges Arrested in Campania

Financial police arrest eight tax tribunal officers in Camorra swoop

MILAN — At least sixteen tax magistrates, eight tax tribunal officer, a prominent lawyer who also teaches at university, and an accountant are among those arrested in the Naples area in the course of an operation against Camorra gangs. Magistrates have ordered three of the sixteen judges to be remanded in custody while the other thirteen have been placed under house arrest. In the course of inquiries, investigators are believed to have identified dozens of corruption-tainted tax disputes that led to sentences in favour of the often Camorra-implicated appellants, to the detriment of the public purse.

ARRESTS — A total of sixty pre-trial supervision measures were issued following requests by the Naples anti-Mafia directorate. Twenty-two are for preventive custody, twenty-five are for house arrest and thirteen are bans on residing in Naples. Magistrates, tax officials and clerks — all of whom worked at the Naples provincial tax tribunal or the Campania regional tribunal — subject to house arrest are joined by a member of the taxpayer ombudsman’s office. An official at the Naples tax agency has been banned from residing in Naples…

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

Italy: Government Signs Off Labour Reform

Minister Fornero says no going back, the only way is forward. Confident that magistrates will provide safeguards. Bishops warn that workers are not goods

ROME — “We are changing the rules on economically motivated redundancies”. At four in the afternoon, a note from Raffaele Bonanni rekindled enthusiasm among supporters of Workers’ Statute Article 18. Their hopes were swiftly dashed, however, turning the clock of negotiations back by twenty-four hours. There has been no change of heart over the crucial issue of labour reform. Mario Monti and Elsa Fornero are pressing ahead and are now looking to extend the reform to public-sector employees. Union leaders left the negotiating table without a written text because the reform will be approved today by the Council of Ministers: “unless otherwise agreed”, which indicates that the government is allowing itself a few more days for the final draft, even if it means sending the text to the president of Italy when the prime minister is already on his way to the Far East.

Yesterday morning, Mr Monti had some face time with CISL trade union leader Bonanni, and then visited the president’s Quirinale Palace with employment minister Fornero and junior minister Antonio Catricalà, before meeting the social partners at 5 pm. The CGIL would later complain that he stayed for only a few minutes, making it abundantly clear that Article 18 was not up for discussion.

Any hopes of a U-turn over redundancies on economic grounds were dashed — the government “has not changed its mind” — while the prime minister strove to calm troubled waters, brushing aside “abuse” on the most painful issue: “We have perceived widespread concern over Article 18 and I would like to reassure everyone. I pledge that, with a minimum of care over drafting, there will be no risk of economically motivated redundancies being abused with discriminatory intentions”. The statement leaves the door open for a clause, along the lines proposed by Mr Bonanni, which would allow magistrates to quash dismissal in cases where the employer cites economic issues. “The CISL also wants to modify the regulation and construct a credible labour reform”, Mr Bonanni said before the meeting, declaring himself “in full agreement” with the Democratic Party (PD) economics spokesman Stefano Fassina, a sworn enemy of the “Fornero treatment”…

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

Just a Regular French Youth

by Srdja Trifkovic

As soon as I heard the news I suspected the score. “Far-Right extremists!” screamed the media pack, but my hunch was right: the murderer of a rabbi and three children at a Jewish school near Toulouse, and of three French soldiers only days earlier, was not French. He was a French citizen of Algerian descent, as we now know, but his allegiance and his identity had nothing to do with passports and ID cards.

Mohammed Merah (23), who was killed at his apartment on Thursday after a 30-hour standoff, was a Muslim—one of at least twenty million who now inhabit the European Union. The “context” was duly provided by The New York Times: “Much of the concern about domestic terrorism in Britain, Belgium, Germany and France has focused on these young people, who may have had little formal religious education but are susceptible to calls for jihad, especially when their own lives have been marked by disappointment, crime, racism and joblessness.”

The suggested narrative about this “soft-spoken and alienated youth” is clear:…

           — Hat tip: Srdja Trifkovic[Return to headlines]

Multinational Military Medical Unit to be Led by Italy

Strategic initiative pools EU member states’ capabilities

(ANSA) — Brussels, March 22 — Thirteen European countries signed a declaration Thursday to create a multinational military unit led by Italy to provide medical support to multinational operations. The project is part of a strategic initiative to pool and share more military capabilities among EU member states.

Claude-France Arnould, the European Defence Agency head, announced the cooperation on Thursday as part of a broader plan to cope with defense-budget cuts imposed by the financial crisis.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spanish Police Arrest ‘Bar Code Pimps’ Gang

Spanish police arrested 22 suspected pimps who allegedly used violence to force women into prostitution and tattooed them with bar codes as a sign of ownership, officials said Saturday.

Police are calling the gang the “bar code pimps.” Officers freed one 19-year-old woman who had been beaten, held against her will and tattooed with a bar code and an amount of money — (EURO)2,000 ($2,650) — which investigators believe was the debt the gang wished to extort before releasing her.

The woman had also been whipped, chained to a radiator and had her hair and eyebrows shaved off, according to an Interior Ministry statement.

All those arrested were of Romanian nationality and had forced the women to hand over part of their earnings, the statement said.

The women were tattooed on their wrists if they tried to escape, the statement said. Police also seized guns and ammunition. It was not immediately clear when the raids took place.

Police seized (EURO)140,000 ($185,388) in cash, which had been hidden in a false ceiling, a large amount of gold jewelry and five vehicles, three of which were described as luxury cars.

The gang was made up of two separate groups, referred to as “clans” in the statement, each dedicated to controlling prostitution along fixed stretches of a street in downtown Madrid.

One of the alleged ringleaders who was identified only by the initials “I.T.” is wanted by authorities in Romania for crimes linked to prostitution, the statement said.

The women were controlled at all times to ensure “money was taken off them immediately,” the statement said.

Sex is a multibillion-dollar industry in Spain, with colorfully lit brothels staffed mainly by poor immigrant women from Latin America, Africa and eastern Europe lining highways throughout the country.

Prostitution falls in legal limbo: it is not regulated, although pimping is a crime. The northeastern city of Barcelona plans to introduce regional legislation in coming weeks banning prostitution on urban streets.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

The Last Testament of a Psychopath: Toulouse Gunman Found ‘Infinite Pleasure’ In Murdering His Victims

Police recordings of the Toulouse gunman while he was under siege suggest he was a psychopath who took ‘infinite pleasure’ in killing his victims.

Islamic extremist Mohammed Merah, 23, murdered seven people including a Rabbi, three children and three soldiers in three seperate scooter-bourne attacks before being shot dead at the end of 32-hour police siege.

But during the stand-off following the murders, Merah showed no remorse — and even claimed his only regret was arriving too late to kill more Jews outside the Lycee Ozar Hatorah school.

In police recordings of Merah, leaked to a French newspaper, he boasted that the killings gave him ‘infinite pleasure’.

The Independent reported that Merah said he had no interest in being a suicide bomber and just wanted to ‘see’ his victims, ‘touch them’ and ‘film them.

He told police negotiators he wanted to ‘have the honour of dying with a gun in my hand like a mujaheddin’.

The French newspaper Journal du Dimanche quoted a police source as saying: ‘He wanted to give himself a star role.

‘He had a narcissistic need to seem important.’

The French-Algerian, a known fundamentalist, had been on a French security service ‘watch list’ since 2008, was on the U.S. no-fly list, and had attended an al-Qaeda training camp.

After the first the series of attacks he was placed on a list of possible suspects but little was done to trace him until the Jewish school massacre when he shot a teacher and his two sons, aged four and five, as well as a seven-year-old girl.

Following the murders he resisted arrest for 32 hours while under siege at his council flat but was killed by gun wounds in a blazing shoot out with police last Thursday.

Merah, who filmed himself carrying out the executions of four Jewish people and three French soldiers, had fought in Afghanistan and was a self-styled Jihadist.

He said he wanted to kill Jewish children in revenge for the lives of Palestinian youngsters who had died at the hands of the Israeli army.

           — Hat tip: Nick[Return to headlines]

The Stasi Watched My Every Move: Dancing on Ice Star Katarina Witt Reveals East German Secret Police Spied on Her Since the Age of Eight

Katarina was originally accused by anti-government activists of being an informant to police. She then discovered a 3,000 pages which documented her every move, including a suspected sexual encounter. Her first boyfriend was deliberately stationed thousands of miles away because authorities worried the relationship would affect her performances

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

The World is Turning Conservative, So Liberals Are Eating Their Words

by Damian Thompson

Liberals of various descriptions make so much noise in British public life that it’s easy to overlook the fact that liberalism has run into deep trouble on the world stage. For an illustration, consider a joint interview given this week by Tony Blair and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, president of Liberia and Nobel Peace Prize winner. Mrs Sirleaf is asked about the fact that homosexuality is illegal in her country. She replies: “We like ourselves just the way we are.” Pressed on the point, she confirms that she will not sign any legislation decriminalising “sodomy”. Mr Blair is a champion of gay rights, so you’d expect him to take issue with this statement. Not a bit of it. “The President’s given her position, and this is not one for me,” he says.

Here’s another interesting vignette, again involving a Labour politician, but this time on his home turf. This week Ken Livingstone was accused by Jewish Labour supporters of telling them at a private meeting that since Jews tended to be rich he wasn’t expecting them to vote for him. In a letter published in the Jewish Chronicle, they also accused Livingstone of using the word “Jewish” in a pejorative manner. And this just weeks after he described the Tories as “riddled with homosexuality”. The Ken of the 1980s was painful to listen to, but I don’t remember him dog-whistling like that. In those days he was an ultra-liberal politician, the whining incarnation of rainbow ideology. What has happened? Call me a cynic, but one possible explanation is that, 30 years ago, Livingstone wasn’t chasing a Muslim bloc vote influenced by raging anti-Zionists and homophobes.

A mixture of demographic crisis and the loss of economic power is turning into a disaster for Western liberalism. Left-wing politicians are adjusting their principles rather than offend the world’s conservative non-white majority. Right-wing politicians and multinational corporations are no better: they turn a blind eye when confronted by the brutal ethnic nationalism of East Asia. Not only do the Han Chinese subjugate their own minorities, but they also treat their African employees like children. Time to call in the Western race-relations police? I think not. Because if there’s one thing Chinese and Africans have in common, it’s contempt for degenerate Western values. In the words of Mrs Sirleaf, “We’ve got certain traditional values in our society that we would like to preserve.” Which, as it happens, is precisely Beijing’s view.

For international liberals, the 21st century has been a sequence of distressing setbacks. Europe has absorbed the unprecedented immigration of deeply conservative Muslims. The new regimes of the Arab Spring are planning even more effective suppression of women’s rights. Russia is run by the corrupt and illiberal remnants of the KGB. And, as I’ve said, neither the exploiters nor the exploited in the Sino-African empire give a damn about the progressive agenda of the BBC or the Guardian. To be sure, there will be gay weddings in Britain and other European countries, but the idea that they can be marketed to other cultures is fantasy. Most of the developing world isn’t interested in Enlightenment-inspired human rights, which it regards as cultural imperialism. If liberals want to preach against Zionism, that’s fine; foreign aid is welcome, too. But when it comes to sensitive questions of faith and culture, the only message non-Western leaders want to hear is the one offered by brave Mr Blair: “This is not one for me.”

[JP note: And it’s good night from him.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

U.S. State Department Actively Promoting Islam in Europe

by Soeren Kern

The French government — which has been trying to reverse the pernicious effects of decades of state-sponsored multiculturalism — expressed dismay at what it called “meddling.”

The United States ambassador to Spain recently met with a group of Muslim immigrants in one of the most Islamized neighborhoods of Barcelona to apologize for American foreign policymaking in the Middle East.

U.S. Ambassador Alan Solomont told Muslims assembled at the town hall-like meeting in the heart of Barcelona’s old city that the United States is not an “enemy of Islam” and that U.S. President Barack Obama wants to improve America’s image in the Middle East as quickly as possible by closing the “dark chapters” of the U.S. invasion of Iraq and the war in Afghanistan.

“There are things that the United States has done badly,” Solomont said at the February 28 gathering organized by a non-profit organization called the Cultural, Educational and Social Association of Pakistani Women. “But now the Obama government wants to improve relations with Muslims,” he promised.

During the one-and-a-half-hour question-and-answer session, Solomont asked those in attendance simple rhetorical questions, including: “Did you know that the United States sends a lot of money to Pakistan?” and “Did you know that the decision to destroy Osama bin Laden’s house was made by the United States?”

After responding to queries about the “Talibanization of Pakistan due the war in Afghanistan” and the “demonization of Islam in the West,” Solomont said Obama wants to end the long-time American practice of establishing alliances with dictators in the Middle East, a strategy which he said has failed to prevent the rise of “the bearded ones” [radical Islamists], this according to the Barcelona-based newspaper La Vanguardia, which also interviewed Solomont on the sidelines of the event.

The Barcelona meeting, which was held in a Muslim ghetto called Raval (a.k.a. Ravalistan because Muslim immigrants now make up 45% of the barrio’s total population), is an example of the Obama administration’s so-called Muslim Outreach.

The U.S. State Department — working through American embassies and consulates in Europe — has been stepping-up its efforts to establish direct contacts with largely unassimilated Muslim immigrant communities in towns and cities across Europe.

Proponents of Obama’s approach to public diplomacy — some elements of which originated with his immediate predecessor — say it is part of a “counter-radicalization” strategy which aims to prevent radical Muslims with European passports from carrying out terrorist attacks against the United States.

A key component of the strategy is to “empower” Muslims who can help build a “counter-narrative” to that of terrorists. In practice, however, Obama ideologues are crisscrossing Europe on U.S. taxpayer funded trips to “export” failed American approaches to multiculturalism, affirmative action, cultural diversity and special rights for minorities.

Further, American diplomats are repeatedly apologizing to Muslims in Europe for a multitude of real or imagined slights against Islam, and the U.S. State Department is now spending millions of dollars each year actively promoting Islam — including Islamic Sharia law — on the continent.

In Ireland, for example, the U.S. Embassy in Dublin recently sponsored a seminar ostensibly designed to help Muslim immigrants increase their influence within the Irish business and financial communities.

The opening speech at the event was delivered by Imam Hussein Halawa of the Islamic Cultural Center of Ireland, despite the fact that leaked U.S. State Department cables show that the U.S. government has known for many years that Halawi is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood and serves as the right-hand man of the radical Egyptian cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi.

Halawa, an Egyptian immigrant who has dedicated his life to the cause of introducing Islamic Sharia law in Europe, told those in attendance that the main purpose of the conference was to bring the Irish banking system into conformity with Islamic legal principles. U.S. Ambassador Dan Rooney, a lifelong Republican turned Obama acolyte, said at the same conference that the United States was a “solid partner” behind Halawa’s venture.

In Austria, the U.S. Embassy in Vienna sponsored a film contest in February on the theme of “Diversity and Tolerance” aimed at teaching wayward Austrians that they should show respect for Muslim immigrants who refuse to integrate into their society.

Ambassador William Eacho, an Obama campaign fundraiser turned political appointee, awarded the first prize to a group of students in the northern Austrian town of Steyr who produced a one-minute silent film promoting tolerance for Muslim women who wear Islamic face-covering veils such as burkas in public spaces.

Obama and his team may think they know what is best for Europeans, but according to recent polls, more than 70% of Austrians are in favor of a law that would ban the burka.

In Belgium, U.S. Ambassador Howard Gutman, another Obama fundraiser turned diplomat, told lawyers attending a conference in Brussels in November 2011 that Israel is to blame for Muslim anti-Semitism in Europe.


[Return to headlines]

UK: Brave Woman Shopper Pounced on Pervert Taking Indecent Pictures of Children in Sainsbury’s… After Security Guards Refused to Help Her

A shopper who suspected a man had been taking indecent photographs of children in a supermarket pounced on him herself — because the store’s security staff refused to help.

Jane Gothard, 47, followed Mohamad Hatef out of the store and detained him while she waited for police to arrive at the scene — despite security guards refusing to get involved.

Her brave actions resulted in Mohamad Hatef being jailed for two years after police launched an investigation that revealed numerous offences against children.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Bullfinch Update: Six Men Charged Over Child Sex Ring Held in Prison

SIX men charged following an investigation into an alleged child sex ring have today been remanded in custody.

The six have appeared at High Wycombe Magistrates’ Court accused of a number of offences and all asked District Judge Lynne Matthews to release them on bail.

However after prosecutor Clare Tucker opposed their requests they were remanded in custody until they appear at Aylesbury Crown Court on Friday.

The six were arrested on Thursday as part of Operation Bullfinch, a police investigation into a gang alleged to have sexually exploited up to 24 girls from Oxford aged between 11 and 24.

The men are:

Thirty-one-year-old hospital porter Akhtar Dogar, of Tawney Street, East Oxford, who faces three charges of rape, one of conspiring to rape a child, three of arranging the prostitution of a child, one of making a threat to kill and one of trafficking.

His 30-year-old unemployed brother Anjum Dogar, who faces one charge of conspiring to rape a child, one of arranging prostitution of a child and trafficking.

Twenty-six-year-old security guard Kamar Jamil, of Aldwich Road, Oxford, who faces four charges of rape, two of arranging the prostitution of a child, one of making a threat to kill and one of possession of cocaine with intent to supply.

Unemployed Zeshan Ahmed, also 26, of Palmer Road, Headington, who faces 10 charges of sexual activity with a child.

Security guard Bassan Karrar, 32, of no fixed address, who is accused of raping a girl.

And his brother Mohammed Karrar, who is 37 and lives in Cowley Road, Oxford, and is accused of two charges of conspiracy to rape a child and one of supplying a class A drug to a child. He is unemployed.

Seven other men also arrested on Thursday are now on police bail while detectives’ enquiries continue.

The six will appear for a preliminary hearing at Aylesbury Crown Court for the next stage of the proceedings.

           — Hat tip: Salome[Return to headlines]

UK: I’ve Backed Ken Livingstone for Mayor Before, But This Time I Just Can’t Do it

by Jonathan Freedland

I agree with Livingstone’s manifesto for London, but he shows too hard a heart to the capital’s Jewish community

Ken Livingstone got my support in 2000, 2004 and 2008. I backed him early on in his late 1990s campaign to become London’s first mayor, defying the control freaks of the New Labour machine. And I endorsed him last time round, not just here but also in the Jewish Chronicle — a column for which I took more flak than almost any other I’ve written.

His manifesto promises for 2012 are as appealing as ever. I like his plans to cut fares, slash energy bills and ease the capital’s housing shortage, all of which are superior to the policy black hole offered by Boris Johnson. I should be an automatic vote for Livingstone. But I’m not. I am among the one in three Labour supporters in London who, according to this week’s YouGov poll, cannot bring themselves to vote for the party’s candidate for mayor. I can no longer do what I and others did in 2008, putting to one side the statements, insults and gestures that had offended me, my fellow Jews and — one hopes — every Londoner who abhors prejudice. Back then I tried to shrug off Livingstone’s quip to property developers the Reuben brothers that they could “go back to Iran and see if they can do better under the ayatollahs”, even though telling immigrants to go back to where they came from is the language of a pub racist from the 1950s. (The Reubens are in fact an Iraqi-Jewish family and the brothers were born in India.)

Likewise, I accepted that when the mayor repeatedly likened a reporter to a concentration camp guard — even after he knew the reporter was both Jewish and offended — he was merely being irritable, his tongue loosened by a glass or two. I condemned his hugging embrace of Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the scholar who supports female genital mutilation, the murder of homosexual people, and suicide bombing so long as the victims are Israeli civilians, deeming even the unborn child inside an Israeli mother’s womb a legitimate target, because that child will one day grow up to wear his country’s uniform. I condemned all that but allowed my concern to be trumped by my wider interest in London and my belief that Livingstone would be a better mayor than Johnson, who had himself, let’s not forget, casually referred to “piccaninnies” with “watermelon smiles” and who had, after 7/7, suggested that it was Islam, not merely violent Islamism, that was at fault. But that position is no longer sustainable. For in the years since his defeat, Livingstone has, if anything, got worse, stubbornly refusing even to recognise, let alone apologise, for the hurt he has caused — and then adding to the pain.

This week he made the news again, as a group of Jewish activists, all lifelong Labour supporters, wrote to Ed Miliband describing a closed-door meeting they had had with Livingstone that had left them “despondent”. The letter was leaked, with most attention focusing on its account of Livingstone’s suggestion that “as the Jewish community is rich, [it] simply wouldn’t vote for him”. As it happens, I was at that meeting and I can confirm that the former mayor did make precisely that argument, linking Jewish voting habits to economic status, even if he did not baldly utter the words “Jews are rich”, a phrase that would have been additionally offensive. I and others shot back that the US evidence — where an economically successful Jewish community has remained almost monolithically loyal to the Democrats — suggested he was wrong. We also reminded him of the ultra-orthodox Jewish community, among whom poverty rates are high.

He’s been in further trouble over his tax arrangements — which may well explain his sudden plunge in the polls. That has perhaps obscured the fact that he earned some of that money presenting shows on Press TV, the English-language broadcaster owned and controlled by the Iranian government. That put him in the pay of a theocratic dictatorship that denies the Holocaust and believes that both homosexuality and adultery merit stoning. He says it’s no different from writing a column for the Sun. His autobiography is similarly unrepentant and notable for its repeated interest in Jews, Israel and Zionism. I’m told that Miliband’s office saw an early draft which had plenty more on those subjects, including statements that had them raising their “eyebrows to the heavens” — and which they were mightily relieved to see did not make the final version.

The case against Ken Livingstone is not that he is some crude racist. It is rather that, when it comes to this one group of Londoners and their predicaments, their hopes and anxieties, he simply doesn’t care. Consistently warm to some communities — this week he went to Finsbury Park mosque, quoted Muhammad’s final sermon and expressed the hope that as mayor he would educate Londoners in the teachings of Islam — he doesn’t care what hurt he causes Jews. He shows Jews, says one Labour parliamentarian, a “hard heart”.

Labour brass don’t deny the problem, one conceding that Livingstone’s approach “looks like a sectional strategy”, pitting one community against another — and favouring the one with more votes — even if that is not its intention. Such an approach is doomed, if not dangerous in our diverse, plural capital. As that Labour source says, “You have to be a mayor for all of London, not bits of London”.

The meeting that night was packed with people who desperately wanted Livingstone to reassure them they could vote Labour. One explicitly said he sought no recantation of past remarks nor a change of position on Israel, just reassurance that “you won’t put us through another four years of this”. Even that Livingstone could not provide. Afterwards, one activist told me he felt as if he had grown up in two tribes, both intertwined in his DNA: one was the Jewish community, the other the Labour party. Yet now he was being forced to choose — because Livingstone had made it impossible to remain true to both. People will wrestle with their own dilemmas. Some will conclude that only Livingstone’s policy positions on transport or housing matter. I’m afraid I’ve reached a different conclusion. I don’t want to see Boris Johnson re-elected, but I can’t vote for Ken Livingstone.

[Reader comment by Brouillard on 23 March 2012 at 7:45pm with 979 recommends.]

Ken is an odious self regarding individual. He’s also a prejudiced bigot. Why anyone would be a fan of his is beyond me.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Ken Livingstone Has Lost My Vote, Says Influential Guardian Columnist

by Andrew Gilligan

In his Guardian column tomorrow, Jonathan Freedland says the following:

Ken Livingstone got my support in 2000, 2004 and 2008. I backed him early on in his late 1990s campaign to become London’s first mayor, defying the control freaks of the New Labour machine…His manifesto promises for 2012 are as appealing as ever. I like his plans to cut fares, slash energy bills and ease the capital’s housing shortage, all of which are superior to the policy black hole offered by Boris Johnson. I should be an automatic vote for Livingstone. But I’m not. I am among the one in three Labour supporters in London who, according to this week’s YouGov poll, cannot bring themselves to vote for the party’s candidate for mayor. I can no longer do what I and others did in 2008, putting to one side the statements, insults and gestures that had offended me, my fellow Jews and — one hopes — every Londoner who abhors prejudice.

This is a significant moment for three reasons. First, Freedland was actually present at the disastrous March 1 “fence-mending” meeting between Livingstone and Jewish Labour supporters which culminated in several of them (though not him) sending the party leader, Ed Miliband, a private letter (leaked to the Jewish Chronicle) saying that Ken “does not accept Jews as an ethnicity and a people.” Livingstone has “absolutely” denied something else the letter-writers claimed, that he told them did not expect the Jewish community to vote Labour “as votes for the left are inversely proportional to wealth levels, and suggested that as the Jewish community is rich we simply wouldn’t vote for him”.

Freedland bluntly contradicts Ken’s denial, writing:

I can confirm that the former mayor did make precisely that argument, linking Jewish voting habits to economic status, even if he did not baldly utter the words “Jews are rich.”

For the 950th time, Ken is exposed as a liar. Though Freedland deplores Livingstone’s many offensive outbursts against Jews, accuses Livingstone of having used “the language of a pub racist from the 1950s” when he told a pair of Jewish developers to “get back where you came from,” he adds:

The case against Ken Livingstone is not that he is some crude racist. It is rather that, when it comes to this one group of Londoners and their predicaments, their hopes and anxieties, he simply doesn’t care. Consistently warm to some communities — this week he went to Finsbury Park mosque, quoted Muhammad’s final sermon and expressed the hope that as mayor he would educate Londoners in the teachings of Islam — he doesn’t care what hurt he causes Jews. He shows Jews, says one Labour parliamentarian, a “hard heart”.

Secondly, Freedland essentially agrees with something I’ve been writing about this election — that personality trumps policy. Finally he cannot, of course, be accused of being an evil member of the Tory lie machine and may give those on the left permission not to vote for Ken. What he says today throws into even sharper relief Miliband’s decision to back Livingstone so wholeheartedly, including over the Jewish issue. It may be a subtle attack on Miliband, too, about whom Freedland has been sceptical — but maybe I’m reading too much into it.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Mother Left Her 16-Month-Old Baby Home Alone While She Partied for Five Days and Nights

A mother is facing jail after leaving her baby home alone which she partied for five days and nights.

Neighbours of the 20-year-old woman heard the baby girl’s screams and alerted police officers who broke into her filthy house.

They found the 16-month-old starving in her cot, her nappy and clothes had not been changed for days and there was blood on a blanket.

The distressed youngster was so hungry she grabbed at food which she was offered by police officers and also gulped down water.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Olympic Terror Group Hunted

BRITISH security forces were last night hunting a group of Islamic terrorists intent on wreaking havoc during the Olympic Games.

Security sources have told the ­Sunday Express that 15 to 20 ­terror suspects entered Britain from France in the past week.

The warning, issued by the ­Renseignements Généraux, France’s equivalent to MI5, was given to British MI6 agents in ­Toulouse, south-west France, examining the home of extremist gunman Mohamed Merah, 23.

The security officers were searching for a UK link on the killer’s computers. According to sources French RG officials then revealed that up to 20 out of 50 known terror ­suspects had slipped out of France for ­Britain.

Last night MI5 were on a high-level alert after fears sleeper cells already based in the UK are poised to strike. Fears grew over individuals who have secured Leave to Remain status since coming to Britain at least five years ago from Iraq, Kurdistan, Afghanistan and North Africa. Most of the “cleanskins” are believed to be working for local authorities as cleaners, hospital porters or taxi ­drivers.

They obtain Certificates of Good Contact, a police check that establishes they have no criminal record in Britain, giving them the perfect cover until called upon.

One security source said yesterday: “We went through a period when hundreds were entering ­Britain every week through Heathrow and many were not challenged or detained…

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]

UK: Pensioner Was Left Helpless on the Floor for 10 Minutes While Her Nurse Prayed, Inquest Hears

Abdul Bhutto was in charge when Alzheimer’s sufferer Dorothy ­Griffiths, 87, toppled off her bed

An OAP who died after a fall at a care home was left helpless for 10 minutes because a nurse was praying, an inquest heard.

Abdul Bhutto was in charge when Alzheimer’s sufferer Dorothy ­Griffiths, 87, toppled off her bed.

Another carer asked him for help to lift the pensioner back up.

But Muslim Mr Bhutto allegedly said he must finish his prayers first.

An ambulance was not called for four hours and Mrs Griffiths, who suffered a cut to her head and a gash to her hip, later died in hospital.

Carer Zoe Shaw, who was in tears in the witness box, said: “He was praying upstairs in the office on his prayer mat. A staff member told me we had to wait for him to finish.”

Agency nurse Mr Bhutto failed to appear at Monday’s inquest in ­Sheffield. Assistant deputy coroner Donald Coutts-Wood called him in the recess to ask why he was not there.

He told the hearing Mr Bhutto denied to him he was duty nurse on the night the OAP fell at private Valley Park near Barnsley, South Yorks, last October.

He claimed he had been there on a course.

After her tumble, the pensioner was checked and left in the lounge.

But at breakfast she was unresponsive and paramedics were called.

Mr Bhutto has now been issued with a summons to attend the resumed hearing later this year.

Dorothy’s daughter Jean David said after the inquest: “We are quite upset he hadn’t appeared.”

Home operator Mimosa declined to comment.

           — Hat tip: Nick[Return to headlines]

UK: Social Workers Took Away Our Baby for Nine Months: With No Evidence Against Them, Couple Were Banned From Looking After Their Son

When Julie Nevin put her only son to bed in late December 2010, he was seven months old.

The next time she was allowed to perform that simple act, Reilly was a 16-month-old toddler.

She and her husband David lost nine months of their little boy’s life after social services took him away over a minor bruise on his forehead.

They believed Mr and Mrs Nevin may have slapped their beloved son, with the couple at one point being arrested on suspicion of assault and subjected to the humiliation of police taking their DNA, fingerprints and mugshots — despite all the initial checks coming back clear.

The couple’s nightmare only ended when a consultant paediatrician belatedly conceded that the bruising had most likely been caused by the little boy accidentally bumping into the metal legs of the family’s sofa — as they had originally suggested.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: The Arts Festival Tied Into the Olympic Games That’s Costing us £5.4m

If madcap art was an Olympic sport, Britain would be there on the podium claiming gold, silver and bronze.

From carting a plane fuselage around Wales, to felling a forest for an immigrant-only football match, to sailing a chunk of Norway to the south coast of England; the nation’s artists have excelled themselves in their attempts to celebrate the London Games.

Mind you, they have had some help — £5.4million of taxpayers’ cash to be exact.

The artists have been given up to £500,000 each by the Arts Council to mark the Olympics in their region. But their projects were yesterday dismissed as ‘fripperies’.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union

Lebanon: Courses for Judges and Magistrates Financed by EU

Project with total investment of 2.7 million euros

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, March 19 — The Lebanese Institute for Judicial Studies has concluded a training course of 34 judges who in turn will become instructors in a training initiative for judges and lawyers sponsored by the European Union with funding total of 2.7 million. The ceremony that marked the conclusion of the course was attended by Lebanese Justice Minister Chakib Qortbawi, and the head of the EU delegation in Lebanon, Angelina Eichhorst. The project funded by the EU has so far benefited 3,500 judges and lawyers, more than the originally anticipated 2,625.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Algeria: Plan to Save Old Fortified Villages

New school to train architects specialising in ksours

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS — The typical red clay buildings, or ksour, that dot the horizon in rural areas of North Africa in particular, are considered in Algeria to be not only a form of architectural heritage, but also fundamental to the history and culture of the country, which is why are plans are in place to protect them from the slow destruction of time.

The remarkable heritage, however, is at significant risk of degradation because of the material used to build the constructions, which descend from Berber architecture and remain to this day an example of air control in a country that is forced to deal with extreme temperatures.

The etymology of the word “ksar” (“ksour” in the plural) is telling. The word derives from the Arabic “qsar”, meaning fortified village or castle, itself mutated from the latin term “castrum”, as military camps were known. The constructions were built close to oases and not far from the caravan routes, located in areas guaranteeing greater security against potential attacks or raids by plunderers.

After various statements and promises, the government in Algiers has taken a more concrete step, with the country’s Culture Minister, Khalida Toumi, announcing the creation in Adrar of a school for the training of technicians and architects specialising in the construction of buildings made from earth.

The decision to base the school in Adrar can be explained by the vast number of ksour in the area. Toumi said that the centre would be a “hub of excellence” and would focus on both education and training. This, the minister added, is a necessary step because there are currently only five architects in Algeria specialising in the buildings, which demand “respect of materials and techniques” if they are to be adequately preserved and handed down to future generations.

Over the years, ksour have been the subject of classification by the Algerian authorities, who have identified them in the Mzab Valley in particular, in the towns of Yamerna, Laghouat, Ouargla, Naama and Adrar.

Another concrete step is the plan that will see the restoration of 700 earth constructions located in In’Salah (some 750 kilometres north of Tamanrasset). The operation will involve more than simple building restoration work, as the social and economic purposes of the buildings will also be taken into consideration. The purpose of the ksour was often to provide communities or individual families with an area in which to leave food in the best possible conditions for a whole season, according to the climate in a given area. Attention will also be paid to their preservation as fundamental elements of the urban framework. Technicians and architects will therefore work with sociologists and popular culture experts to ensure that restoration works do not alter the philosophy at the root of these buildings.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Coptic Christians After Shenouda

The late patriarch ruled his Church for 40 years. Spirituality, vocations, participation in rituals have increased, but ecumenism and lay involvement slowed. Skirmishes on intermarriage with Catholics. Nationalist and anti-Israeli, Shenouda clashed with Sadat, who imprisoned him. An alliance with Mubarak to build new churches. The urgency of the mission in society and in defense of women. Egypt caught between a military dictatorship and fundamentalism.

Beirut (AsiaNews) — The death of Shenouda III, head of the Coptic Church for more than 40 years, leads me to take stock of the life of this Church, its relations with other churches, with Islam and Egyptian policy ..

Shenouda III, born Abnub, Asiut province on August 3, 1923, named Nazir Gayyed Rufa’il, studied history and archeology at Cairo University and theology at the Faculty of Theology until 1946. He taught there for several years, and in 1954 entered the monastery of Suryani (Dayr al-Suryan) which is in the Nitria Scetis desert, about 120 kilometers from Cairo on the road to Alexandria. This monastery is linked to that of Deir Anba Bishoy (Monastery of Abba Bishoy). As Patriarch, Shenouda went on to choose all the bishops of the dioceses of Egypt from these two places.

In 1962 he was appointed Bishop of Ecclesiastical Studies by the 116 ° Patriarch Cyril VI, and he took the name Shenouda. Finally, 14 November 1971 the synod elected him patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church, a year after the death of Gamal Abdel Nasser in September of 1970.

In fact, the patriarch in the Coptic Church is always a monk, as well as a bishop. And when choosing a layman to be a bishop, he must spend a few months in a monastery, before being ordained a bishop.

As patriarch, Shenouda governed both under Sadat and Mubarak. During these years he has given a very strong spiritual impulse to the Coptic Church through his weekly general audiences which lasted for almost 40 years. Every Wednesday there was an audience for more than an hour with questions and answers, and discussions with the faithful. Each time there were several thousand attended. Later, these were recorded on video and cassette and broadcast by the mass media.

He is also the author of 50 books that touch on all religious questions, from a spiritual angle. He was a monk who knew the tradition and the Bible by heart. He could quote chapter and verse. He knew the spiritual literature and monastic life of the saints, drawing on them in abundance in his sermons and writings. It was not a theologian, with an advanced research in the fields of dogma, but he made a major contribution to spirituality.

He also contributed to a renewal of the dioceses, founding many new ones and downsizing exisiting ones. This allowed the bishops to have more daily contact with the faithful for a more effective ministry. At the same time, some people think that this was a move to elect and consecrate several bishops who were his supporters for a majority in the Coptic Synod.

His fame as a bishop was already great, it then grew with his election as Patriarch (“Baba Shenouda”). I met him when he was bishop: we worked together in the World Council of Churches for Middle East (MECC). We always had a very good relationship, even if we did not agree on everything. I was also in charge of the “Ecumenical Youth Service” (YES) for young people of different denominations throughout Egypt. The Patriarch loved to come for all occasions. To the very end, our relationship was direct and friendly. He would say to me: “You are young, you’re like my son, hear what I have to say …”. He had great respect for my studies on the history of the Church, though — he said — “we should not implement everything that is in the tradition.”

His views were constructive, very respectful of the difference between us. Perhaps this is due to the fact that I did not belong to the Coptic Orthodox Church. Within his won community, however, he was known for his authoritarian decisions.

This policy has however led to a strengthening of the formation of the faithful in Egypt. Having consecrated very young and learned bishops (35-40 years) all his disciples, he could spread his vision across the country.

With the laity the situation was more delicate. Shenouda was conscious of having the responsibility of all the Church and thus some of the laity were humbled.

During his patriarchate vocations to the priesthood and religious life multiplied. He expanded the pastoral care of students, asking young people to always have a spiritual director, and to practice confession. The practice of communion was also widespread, but only after confession. Sometimes there were priests who before giving Communion to a young person, would ask him whether he had confessed and with whom … He has done so much for spirituality and devotion in the Coptic Church, increasing the practice of the Sunday liturgy.

There were also conflicts with the laity, and differences of views with other brothers in the

Relations with other Christian Churches

Relations with other churches were more problematic. He was never very warm towards the Protestants. He said that “we must learn from the Protestant Bible study,” but was always wary of collaboration. His relationship with Catholics was better.

In 1973 he visited Pope Paul VI and even signed the first official document of agreement between the Catholic and Orthodox Church, in which it was agreed not to carry out mutual proselytism. Proselytizing is an accusation that the Orthodox Churches have often made against Catholics. The agreement provided that if there were any cases, Shenouda would call Rome, which would intervene to remedy the situation.

Once, in Upper Egypt, near Dayrut, in an Orthodox village 300 km south of Cairo, forgotten for years by the Orthodox bishop, they threatened him: “If you do not come, we’ll become Muslims.” But before they came to the Catholic church in the village nearby and asked to become Catholics. The priest and the bishop of the diocese of Asyut discouraged them, exhorting them to remain Orthodox. At a renewed threat that they would become Muslims, the bishop relented and sent a Catholic priest to the village. This fact, however, caused problems between Shenouda and Rome, which led to an agreement: the Orthodox would find a solution for the village within six months. After this period, if nothing happened, then the faithful — at least some of them — would enter the Catholic Church. In itself there was no desire to proselytize, but only the desire to help these Christians, who otherwise would have become Muslim.

Things got worse between Catholics and Orthodox after a few years after his election as Patriarch over the rules he imposed on mixed marriages. In the east marriages between Orthodox and Catholics are common and do not raise problems in families because the faith is common, despite differences in the rituals and traditions. The traditional use, throughout the East, is that marriage is celebrated in the church of the groom, the children follow the tradition of their father, but it is possible that agreements are made between them. In any case, the two parts remain in their Christian confession. Shenouda decided that if there were mixed marriages, the Catholic party had to be re-baptized into the Coptic Orthodox Church. In practice, the Catholic means Catholic women. His theologian, argued supporting his position for a while, has pointed out that patristic tradition does not provide for a new baptism, but he, stubbornly, kept this rule until now.

It must be said that his priests are often more open than he. He was a conservative regarding ecumenism and did not make much progress toward unity among Catholics and Orthodox.

In 1984 he also criticized the Syrian Orthodox patriarch, Zakkha Iwas, because he signed, on June 23, an agreement with the Catholic Church (with John Paul II). The joint statement that it resulted in, was very advanced: it provided freedom in marriage, communion with one another and even shared formation of priests, and even today many Syrian Orthodox priests study in Catholic seminaries and theological faculties.

When Shenouda heard about this agreement, he criticized Zakkha, for having dared so much, without first consulting him. It should be noted that the Syrian Orthodox, Copts and Armenians are joined by a bond because they are pre-Chalcedonian Churches. His Beatitude Zakka told him that their churches are sisters, but independent. In addition, he noted that the same Shenouda had signed the 1973 agreement with the Catholics without consulting the other two churches.

Relationship with Islam

In the relationship with Islam, Patriarch Shenouda made a lot of meetings with the Imam of Al Azhar. He knew the Koran and the Arabic language: he even wrote poems in Arabic. He could deal with the Muslims, without cedine ground on the dogmatic aspect, he was rather careful not to provoke Muslims.

Although attacks against churches and killing of Christians and fundamentalist violence continued during the period of his government, he managed to maintain cordial relations with the Muslim world, but without compromise on important issues.

Relations with Anwar as-Sadat

Relations with the State have always been very delicate. He became patriarch under Anwar Sadat. From the political point of view, Shenouda had a very clear position on relations between Egypt and Israel. He was always against an agreement between the two countries.

When Sadat went to Jerusalem, he gave his speech at the Knesset and launched diplomatic agreements, Shenouda condemned this policy. Perhaps this move had tactical reasons: the Coptic Church is a minority (it does not exceed 10% of the population) and Muslims increasingly view Christians as allies of the West (and Israel). His decision allowed him to escape the cliché, in alliance with a powerful anti-Israeli lobby, still present in Egypt.

But Shenouda’s position drove Sadat to put him under house arrest in the Anba Bishoy Monastery in the Desert (Wadi an-Natroun) for four years, from September 1981 until the death of Sadat (assassinated October 6, 1985). Sadat even imprisoned some bishops for the first time in the history of Egypt, in a tense situation that lasted almost a year.

In addition, in order to rule, Sadat garnered support from the Muslim Brotherhood, increasingly tough on Christians. We can say that the whole Sadat period was very difficult for Shenouda.

Relations with Hosni Mubarak

When Mubarak came to power, 31 years ago, the situation changed. The patriarch supported the president and vice-versa. The two made a personal agreement that lifted the ban on the construction of churches. In Egypt, by law, a church may be built only if they comply with 10 rules. But they are so stringent that it is virtually impossible build any. The pact between Mubarak and Shenouda the agreement provided for a certain number of church buildings each year. When it was made public it was criticised by Muslims, but nothing more.

The agreement, however, presupposed that the patriarch would support all decisions by Mubarak. When the Arab spring broke last year, many Christians were in Tahrir Square. But the Patriarch was reluctant to support the movement, because it became increasingly anti-Mubarak.

The problem of Christians in the Middle East is always this: caught between two fires, between a dictatorship and fundamentalism.

Our situation in the Middle East has always been weak and the Coptic Church is an illustration of this: unable to envisage prospects, initiatives, to engage in society and politics. The Coptic Church is often closed in on herself, living in a ghetto to protect themselves and live in peace. They do not try to change society for fear of not succeeding, being a minority.

In the past it was different, 50 or 80 years ago it was much more alive. Then, becaus eof teh deteriorating conditions of freedom, we hid in our monasteries, in prayer, in the Church’s inner life. Now, with the Arab Spring, we are in a moment that has aroused so much hope of freedom for Christians and Muslims, in rejecting a theocratic regime. Unfortunately it seems that we are returning to where we started from.

The other problem is the Egyptian army. The army controlled Egypt since the days of Nasser, for at least 60 years, and does not seem to want to relinquish power. Even now they decide everything. Egypt is at a delicate crossroads: it could become a military dictatorship or a fundamentalist regime. Precisely for this reason, many Christians hesitated during the revolution.

The future of the Coptic Orthodox

Among the Coptic bishops there are very good personalities, who could take over the leadership of the Coptic Church. Among these would I exclude Shenouda’s deputy, who was an executor of his decisions, but lacking in personality.

The Coptic Church remains strong in spirituality, in liturgical prayer, fasting. The Copts have almost 200 days of fasting a year. And their fast means that they do not take anything, no drinks, no food from midnight until the earlier of 3pm the next day. And their meals are very light. This fast, lived in union with Jesus Christ, strengthens the faith and the strength of the Copts, to be able to resist in their identity.

The Copts do not show that they are fasting, but when Muslims realize this, they were surprised in a positive way. The food is vegetarian, then, eggs, cheese, milk, etc are also excluded. It must be said that somehow this religious testimony of the Copts impresses Islamic people who often delineate the West and Christians to atheism.

After the Arab Spring, we are at a new stage that needs new choices. Within the Coptic Church more freedom should be given to the bishop, priests, laity: they need a united but not dictatorial voice. They also need to engage more in society, for the common good, politics, human rights. Coptic Christians are not opposed to this, but do not promote this. But Christians have a very important function, especially to restore dignity and value to the woman, who in Islam are often humiliated.

The relationship with the Muslims should be more active and vibrant: you can not live side by side, without asking any questions. For example, in Egyptian society Islam is publicized on the bus, in taxi. Christians must ask Muslims to build a society that leaves room for all.

Another dimension is mission. In Egypt there is no mission because of sociological conditions: Islam does not allow evangelization. But an urgent and explicit testimony that would be good is working together with other Christian denominations. We have a few: divided we are weakened even more.

Finally, we can only pray to ask God to illuminate the Holy Synod to elect a successor strong in faith, open to the world and its needs and attentive to the needs of the weakest in society at large.

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

Islamists Dominate Panel Tasked With Drafting Egypt’s Constitution

Egyptian liberals were scrambling Sunday to block the formation of a panel charged with drafting a new constitution, to which the parliament has appointed a large majority of Islamists. Only six women have been named on the 100-member panel. By News Wires (text) AFP — Egypt’s parliament has elected an Islamist-dominated panel to draft a new constitution, and liberal activists are scrambling to block the move, state media said Sunday.

Thirty-nine of the 50 lawmakers chosen for the 100-member constituent assembly are Islamists, according to press reports, with Islamists also represented among the remaining 50 members drawn from outside parliament.

Liberal lawmakers had walked out on the vote in the joint parliament and senate session on Saturday, accusing the Islamist majority of trying to dominate the crucial panel.

The new constitution will replace the one annulled by the ruling military which took power after an uprising ousted president Hosni Mubarak last year.

The Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), the largest in the parliament, has the biggest representation on the panel, followed by the ultra-conservative Salafi Al-Nur party.

Only six women — three from the parliament and senate and the rest from civil society — were appointed, along with a handful of Coptic Christians who make up about 10 percent of Egypt’s population of about 80 million.

One of the Copts, Rafiq Habib, is a vice president of the FJP whose mother organisation, the Brotherhood, argues that Copts and women may not head a Muslim country.

The 50 people appointed from outside parliament include a member of the ruling military council, a senior Muslim Brotherhood member seen as the group’s religious guide, judges, lawyers and an activist who lost both eyes in clashes with police.

The official Al-Ahram newspaper reported on its website that the Islamists had the support of almost 40 percent of panel members elected from outside parliament and about 75 percent of its lawmakers.

The assembly is due to hold its first meeting on Wednesday, as a secular leaning group, the National Association for Change, and others pressed a court to annul the vote that elected the panel.

On Saturday, Coptic tycoon Naguib Sawiris, who founded the largest liberal party in parliament, bitterly condemned the process and announced his Free Egyptians Party members had walked out of the vote.

“It’s ridiculous,” he said. “A constitution being written by one force and one force alone. We tried our best but there was no use.”

Two other parties had boycotted the vote from the start, including the leftwing Tagammu.

The liberals and leftists fear the Islamists will try to beef up references to their religion in the new charter.

“The constitution should not reflect the majority, it should reflect all forces in society,” said Tagammu head Rifaat al-Said.

“There is an attempt to posses everything,” he said of his party’s Islamist opponents. “Possessing the constitution is the most dangerous thing.”

According to a military schedule, the panel was meant to finish the new constitution before a presidential election, but that now seems unlikely with the poll scheduled for May.

           — Hat tip: Nick[Return to headlines]

Morocco: Equality in Constitution, Not Yet in Practice

Difficult journey of Moroccan women towards equal rights

(ANSAmed) — RABAT — King Mohammed VI of Morocco is making an early move on libertarian movements on the back of the “Arab Spring”, and has made a historic speech announcing the need for constitutional reform. Women’s rights organisations have immediately spoken out as part of a coalition known as the “feminist spring for equality and democracy” and are hastily preparing a memorandum to be submitted to the commission tasked with drafting the new constitutional text. One urgent demand is the need to insert into the Constitution the equality between men and women, and there are calls for international conventions to supersede national regulations on the matter.

The women’s battle has ended in victory, with the text approved by the population in the referendum of June 30 advocating “equal opportunities and respect of human dignity” as well as the “pre-eminence of international conventions compared to the country’s internal law”.

Article 19 is even more explicit, sanctioning full equality of rights and individual freedom between men and women. The process of equality in Morocco has come on leaps and bounds over the last decade, at least in legal terms. The first major break with conservatism and Arab and Muslim tradition came in 2004 with the advent of the new family code. The text approved the abolition of the notion of “attaâ” (obedience), the right of women to demand divorce, to marry without need for an agreement from a guardian, and rigid measures on polygamy and underage marriage. Another important step came in 2007, with the introduction of the right to Moroccan nationality for children born to a Moroccan mother and foreign father.

Feminist circles in Morocco are aware of the legal steps forward taken over the last few years, but also that these have not produced any great results in practical terms. The first major disappointment will come with the creation of the new government led by the moderate Islamist, Abdelilah Benkirane, in which female representation, in the first government of the era of the new constitution, will be insignificant. “It is an act of contempt towards women and towards the whole of Morocco. The government cannot be allowed to ridicule women’s rights and violate the measures featuring in the Constitution,” women said in Rabat on February 20, after travelling from around the country to demonstrate outside the country’s Parliament, responding to calls for a “network of women’s solidarity” and a “Democratic League of Women’s Rights” (LDDF).

The main challenge remains to overcome the clash between a party approved on paper and the mentality of a conservative society. The target of equality between the sexes remains a long way off, due to difficulties linked mainly to education rights, female unemployment (which is structurally higher than the male rate), and the weakness of women in the world of work, where they are most exposed to precarious and poorly paid positions. Reforms, therefore, are lacking real implementation. The problem, according to Fatima Zohara, a lawyer and the president of the Moroccan association for the fight against violence, lies in the mentality of judges, which “remains patriarchal”. Legal circles, she says, have not yet picked up on the philosophy and the spirit of the new family code and are therefore incapable of implementing it fully. Regarding the removal of reservations on the international convention against all forms of discrimination against women, “hereditary division should be considered, as should the right of a Muslim woman to marry a non-Muslim”. It is difficult to imagine that such an idea could be accepted, especially by a government led by Islamists.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spain and Morocco Compete for Oil Search in Canary Islands

(ANSAmed) — MADRID — Spain and Morocco are competing in the search for oil in the deep-sea area of Canary Islands, near the sea border with Morocco. This can be inferred from what the Industry, Tourism and Trade Minister José Manuel Soria has stated today during a radio interview at Radio Onda Zero. Soria confirmed that Morocco “is already carrying out surveys” in the area, which is allegedly located “on the border of the imaginary line ideally separating the Kingdom of Morocco from the Kingdom of Spain”. According to the Minister, if there actually is oil, “there will be two options: either Morocco extracts it or both Morocco and Spain do, each on its side of the line”. Soria ensured that the chance of finding oil “is good”, totalling 20%.

The Minister also underlined that the potential production of any oil fields totals 140,000 barrels of raw oil in 20 years, the equivalent of 10% of daily consumption in Spain. According to the Minister, overall the Canary Island oil would allow Spain to save EUR 28 bln on its energy invoice. With regard to opposition by the Canary Islands’local authorities and environmental protection groups, who fear that the environment and tourism (the archipelago’s main industry) would suffer irreversible damage, the Industry Minister maintained that the debate is “unnecessary and groundless”, because surveys will be carried out at a 61-km distance from the coast “nearly in the middle of the ocean”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Gaza: Islamic Jihad Celebrating After Challenge to Israel

Complex relations between pro-Iranian group and Hamas

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

One of the differences between the organisations, the analyst Muhammad Hijazi has told ANSAmed, is that in their formative years, while the Muslim Brotherhood were busy spreading Islam in the societies in which they operated (through schools, mosques and charities), Islamic Jihad was already insisting on the need for all-out armed conflict against Israeli occupation, and organised the first armed cells. Only after the first intifada in 1987, says Hijazi, did Hamas feel the need to have its own armed wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, which today is 15,000 strong.

Set up according to the model of the Lebanese group Hezbollah, the armed wing of Islamic Jihad — the al-Quds Brigade — has 5,000 trained members, despite the fact that it does not have any permanent bases and is forced to train in open areas, which are chosen according to availability. According to Israeli intelligence, the group is not to be underestimated, and is theoretically capable of striking the suburbs of Tel Aviv from Gaza with the use of al-Fajr missiles. The identity of the group’s leader remains secret. The management of the al-Quds Brigade, meanwhile, is entrusted to Khaled al-Batash, while the organisation’s political leader in Gaza is Nafez Azzam.

For ideological and religious reasons, relations with Hamas are not easy. Hamas sees Islamic Jihad as a dangerous group, a “vehicle” used by Iran to spread Shia Islam through the Gaza Strip. The phenomenon has so far involved only a few hundred individuals, but Ismail Haniyeh’s men are determined to overcome the group, by force if necessary. Islamic Jihad’s members continue to identify themselves as Sunnis, but some express tolerance for those wanting to embrace the Shia current of Islam. Today in Gaza, Islamic Jihad and Hamas are re-examining their respective relationships, after four days of violence in which Islamic Jihad has launched at least 200 rockets towards Israel (losing around twenty militiamen), while Hamas have been happy following events from a distance.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Term ‘West Bank’ Only Came About as Result of Jordan’s Imperialist Effort to Expand

by David Ha’ivri

Do you know? Have you stopped to think? When did this area start being called “the West Bank” and by whom?

The term “West Bank” is used so widely that one might get the impression that it has some real historical significance. Those who rally together, calling for Israel to pull out of this area and allow the establishment of a Palestinian State here, would like you to believe that one previously existed and that Israel took it over and closed it down. The narrative presumes that people will believe it without question and will not ask for any proof. Amazingly, that strategy has worked pretty well so far.

Many people do not expect to be lied to by TV announcers and academics, and so they just take the narrative at face value. Even people who support Israel often do not realize how un-related to fact many of these claims against Israel are. So Israel’s supporters are more often put on the defensive, trying to point out the good deeds that Israel is doing in the world as a way to cover up for actions that they do not know how to explain.

But, in fact, the West Bank narrative really has little foundation. It only appeared on the stage of history in 1948, when the Hashemite army of Trans-Jordan crossed over its own western border, the Jordan River, which it is named for. The army of Trans-Jordan did so as part of the joint Arab effort to destroy the newly founded Jewish State and push the Jews into the sea.

The line of defense that the Jewish army succeeded in holding as they defended Tel Aviv from invasion was later dubbed “The Green Line” because it was marked with green colored crayon on the map that was used at the signing of the Armistice Agreement between Israel and its neighbors in 1949 on the Greek island of Rhodes. In that agreement, the Arab side refused to define the green line as a recognized border, but only as an agreed ceasefire line — nothing more.

The Hashemite Kingdom of Trans-Jordan tried to annex their newfound land west of the Jordan River by imposing their laws and naturalizing the Arab residents of the area. They went so far as to change the name of the country to Jordan, removing the prefix “Trans” as a way to hide the fact that they belong on east side of the river, but not on both…

           — Hat tip: TV[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Borat Anthem Stuns Kazakh Gold Medallist in Kuwait

Kazakhstan’s shooting team has been left stunned after a comedy national anthem from the film Borat was played at a medal ceremony at championships in Kuwait instead of the real one.

The team asked for an apology and the medal ceremony was later rerun. The team’s coach told Kazakh media the organisers had downloaded the parody from the internet by mistake. The song was produced by UK comedian Sacha Baron Cohen for the film, which shows Kazakhs as backward and bigoted.

The spoof song praises Kazakhstan for its superior potassium exports and for having the cleanest prostitutes in the region.

The film Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, released in 2006, follows Baron Cohen’s character, the journalist Borat Sagdiyev, as he travels to the US and pursues the actress Pamela Anderson.

The film outraged people in Kazakhstan and was eventually banned in the country. The government also threatened Baron Cohen with legal action. Reports say the film is also banned in Kuwait.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Egypt is Looking to Get Cozy With Iran

Although Saudi Arabia had good relations for more than 30 years with Egypt under now-ousted President Hosni Mubarak, the kingdom is warily watching political developments in Cairo as the Muslim Brotherhood shows increasing strength, according to a report from Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.

As a consequence, Egypt is leaning more toward a strategic relationship with Iran. Closer Egyptian ties with Iran also were underscored by Egyptian parliamentary member Mohamed Abu Hamed, who resigned recently from the Free Egyptians Party, or FEP, which has enthusiastically embraced closer strategic relations with Tehran even though it opposes the Brotherhood.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Lebanon: Policewomen Candidates in Hijabs Spark Row

Interior Minister, no to religious symbols

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, MARCH 23 — An initiative by 39 Muslim female police cadets who turned up for training wearing their veils have caused controversy in Lebanon, where the law bans the use of the hijab among security force personnel, as it bans all other religious symbols. The ban reflects fears that sectarian divisions visible among the forces could endanger the country’s delicate political balance.

Interior Minister Marwan Charbel, a Maronite Catholic, has reasserted to the Daily Star newspaper that this rule has to be upheld. “We have been opposed to the use of religious symbols in security force institutions since the early 1970s and it is ridiculous to bring this into discussion today” Charbel said.

According to press reports, some of the 39 women, who turned up for training after having passed the admission examinations, agreed to remove their veil, while others insisted on keeping them on. At this point, Major Suzanne Haji, who is in charge of receiving female recruits, was forced to turn to her commanding officer for advice,who reacted themselves by calling on Minister Charbel, who maintained a firm line.

As security sources reveal, soldiers and police officers are free to pray, each according to their own faith, but not to wear religious symbols while on duty. The need to keep religiou out of security service operations is obvious when one looks back at the 15 years of civil war (1975-1990) that raged between ethnic-sectarian militias in the country. There is a high level of concern that such tensions could suddenly reignite in Lebanon as incidents over the past few days illustrate: at Beirut’s Antonina Catholic university around forty Shiite Muslim students gathered to pray in the courtyard in a protest against the lack of any place of worship for them in the institution. Yesterday incidents broke out involving the police at the Lebanese University when students belonging to the Christian Lebanese Forces movement gathered to protest against the demonstration held by their Shiite fellow students. Several opposition figures have also denounced the Shiite protest as a provocation, saying they belong to Hezbollah, which is allied to Syria and to Iran, and which has been a leading political force in the government since the exit of Sunni premier Saad Hariri.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Lebanon: Maid Filmed During Beating Kills Herself

An investigation has been launched in Lebanon after an Ethiopian housemaid committed suicide a week after video was aired of her being dragged through the street and abducted.

Ethiopia’s consul general said Alem Dechasa killed herself on Wednesday, a week after the LBCI television channel played amateur footage of her being lifted off the ground by her hair and forced head-first into a car.

The horrifying footage sparked national outrage in Lebanon.

The consul general, who saw Ms Dechasa on Tuesday, said she had been taken to hospital in order to recover.

The Lebanese cabinet condemned the violent incident and ordered an investigation into the matter before Ms Dechasa died.

But the campaign group Human Rights Watch (HRW) is calling for a wider investigation into the ill treatment of domestic workers.

It also wants to know why there appeared to be no follow up into Ms Dechasa’s case after she received hospital treatment.

HRW director for Beirut Nadim Houri said: “Obviously her death is a tragedy. What makes it a bigger tragedy is that we think it could have been prevented.

“Her case is not unique, unfortunately, in Lebanon. In the study released a year-and-a-half ago, we saw an average of one death per week of migrant domestic worker in the country, often they commit suicide, so it’s a broader systemic issue.

“So first, we need an independent investigation into first the ill-treatment of this woman and, secondly, why she was not properly followed up when she was transferred to Deir al Salib to get proper treatment.”

The video showed a second man helping a first one as he forced Ms Dechasa into the back of the car whilst she screamed: “No, no, no.”

After the video was aired, LBCI used the car’s licence plate number to identify one of the men.

Activists in Lebanon posted the man’s contact information on social media sites and demanded he be sued by the courts.

Mr Houri said taking the case to court would help highlight the extent of the problem and its prevalence.

[Return to headlines]

Power Elite and the Muslim Brotherhood, Part 10

In “Truth and falsehood in Syria” (Al-Ahram Weekly, October 13-19, 2011), Jeremy Salt (associate professor of Middle Eastern history and politics at Bilkent University in Ankara, Turkey) wrote that “the Syrian people are entitled to demand democracy and to be given it.” However, he also revealed that “in the eyes of many Syrians, their country is once again the target of an international conspiracy… Armed groups have killed hundreds of police, soldiers and civilians… Large shipments of weapons have been smuggled into Syria from Lebanon and Turkey… Interrogation of captured members of armed gangs points in the direction of former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri’s Future Movement. Hariri is a front man for the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, with influence spreading well beyond Lebanon. Armed opposition to the regime largely seems to be sponsored by the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood… The Brotherhood has two prime objectives: the destruction of the Baathist government and the destruction of the secular state in favor of an Islamic system… If the Syrian government is brought down, every last Baathist and Alawi will be hunted down. In a government dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, the status of minorities and women would be driven back.”


And what is the position of Israel regarding the revolution in Syria? While the Israelis do not like Assad, they are also concerned about a revolution that would bring the MB to power. Relevant to this, the London-based Asharq al-Awsat on February 2, 2012 published “The Syrian crisis calculations,” in which Osman Mirghani wrote: “The fears regarding Israel also include the possibility that the fall of the al Assad regime may result in the Muslim Brotherhood rising to power, along the lines of Tunisia, Egypt and Morocco. The last thing Israel would want is to find itself besieged by Muslim Brotherhood regimes along its border from Egypt to Syria, and pro-Iran movements from Hezbollah in Lebanon to Hamas in Gaza.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Saudi Arabia and China Team Up to Build a Gigantic New Oil Refinery

The largest oil exporter in the Middle East has teamed up with the second largest consumer of oil in the world (China) to build a gigantic new oil refinery and the mainstream media in the United States has barely even noticed it.

This mammoth new refinery is scheduled to be fully operational in the Red Sea port city of Yanbu by 2014. Over the past several years, China has sought to aggressively expand trade with Saudi Arabia, and China now actually imports more oil from Saudi Arabia than the United States does. In February, China imported1.39 million barrels of oil per day from Saudi Arabia. That was 39 percent higher than last February. So why is this important? Well, back in 1973 the United States and Saudi Arabia agreed that all oil sold by Saudi Arabia would be denominated in U.S. dollars. This petrodollar system was adopted by almost the entire world and it has had great benefits for the U.S. economy. But if China becomes Saudi Arabia’s most important trading partner, then why should Saudi Arabia continue to only sell oil in U.S. dollars? And if the petrodollar system collapses, what is that going to mean for the U.S. economy?

Those are very important questions, and they will be addressed later on in this article. First of all, let’s take a closer look at the agreement reached between Saudi Arabia and China recently.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Syria: Terzi: Turkish Minister Spoke of Air Raids

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, MARCH 23 Referring to the words of his Turkish colleague Ahmet Davutoglu, Italy’s Foreign Minister Terzi said “Following the used of artillery, there is now talk of even using air force bombardment” and that descriptions of the situation in and that descriptions of the situation in Syria “make you shiver”. “The descriptions given by the Turkish minister made you shiver and they gave an idea of the violence that has been unleashed”. Davutoglu “spoke of the siege of Homs and of other cities, of artillery attacks to hit at demonstrators on the streets with snipers firing on the crowds. This action has now become more widespread, with even air bombardment being spoken of following the use of artillery,” the Italian minister reported

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

The Rising Tide of Muslim Violence Against Christians

Current affairs website, The Commentator, asks ‘Did you read about Sheik Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, and his call this month to “destroy all the churches of the region?”‘

Hyperbole? Apparently not. The article also cites a number of recent incidents of Muslim persecution of Christians, drawn from a monthly compilation by Raymond Ibrahim of the think tank, Middle East Forum: “Half of Iraq’s indigenous Christians are gone due to the unleashed forces of jihad,” [Ibrahim] wrote. Many fled to Syria where, alas, “Christians are experiencing a level of persecution unprecedented in the nation’s modern history.”

Meanwhile, 100,000 Christian Copts have fled Egypt since Hosni Mubarak’s downfall unleashed Islamic forces, while 95 percent of Christians have left northern Nigeria where the Islamist group Boko Haram has been slaughtering them. The group announced recently that it’s planning a “war on Christians” in the coming weeks to, a spokesman said, “end the Christian presence in our push to have a proper Islamic state.”

[Return to headlines]

UAE: Europe Approves Camel’s Milk

But further testing necessary before EU market is open

(ANSAmed) — DUBAI, MARCH 19 — Europe says ‘yes’ to camel milk: samples of milk from these desert mammals from the United Arab Emirates have been deemed suitable for export to European markets, an essential outcome paving the way for complete approval of a potential relationship between the EU and UAE for the product. Even though camel’s milk has been promoted as a “safe” food by European labs, final approval for exports is still subject to sanitary certification of the farms where the camels are raised.

Inspections by European Commission scientists in January last year flunked the sanitary conditions at the camel farms and offered guidelines to bring them into line with the requested parameters. The next inspection will not be carried out until next year, but UAE labs are already working at full steam to meet EU standards. The European market holds enormous potential for camel’s milk, nicknamed “the white gold of the desert” in Arab countries, as well as all products derived from it. Not only derivatives such as yogurt and cheese, but also sophisticated sweets and foods like milkshakes, cappuccinos and expensive lines of chocolate. The potential outside of the region, in Europe and worldwide, is extremely high. The FAO estimates the worldwide market volume for camel’s milk to be 10 billion dollars. “White gold”, which has met resistance in some palates and whose image suffers in the West, which tends to consider it to be a strange food, has various advantages: compared to cow’s milk, it has less than half of the fat, 40% less cholesterol, and three times more vitamin C. It is also easy to digest because of its similarity to breast milk and is good for people who are lactose intolerant or who suffer from food allergies. But that’s not all: a group of researchers from the UAE recently announced the creation of a cancer drug derived from a combination of substances found in milk and urine, while the cosmetic properties of “white gold” are a time-honoured secret of women from the Gulf Region. Once the European markets are open, farmers explained, it has not been ruled out that the current number of camels raised in the UAE, which are mainly brought up for racing and not for the food industry, will no longer be sufficient to meet demand (estimated to be 10 times greater than current levels) and they will have to be imported from other countries in the region to increase breeding.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

UAE: Saadiyat Workers Conditions Improve, But Not Enough

HRW, abuse in culture district construction site continue

(ANSAmed) — DUBAI, 21 MARCH — Working conditions of the Saadiyat Island workers have improved, but not enough: this is the conclusion drawn by the Human Rights Protection Association Human Rights Watch (HRW) in a report published in Dubai today.

In 2009, HRW had exposed the subhuman working conditions and several cases of abuse on labourers working on the construction of infrastructures on the island, which will become an elite cultural district with the opening, among other things, of branch districts of the Louvre and Guggenheim Museums.

“Constructors and their international partners have worked to improve the workers’ status”, the Association’s report states; however, HRW adds “abuse continues”.

Even if they recognize the validity of measures taken by United Arab Emirates’ authorities, such as payment of salaries through banks, the opening of hotlines to report abuse, healthcare coverage and regular inspections, the illegal confiscation of passports by employers continues, there are no punishment mechanisms for abusers and the legislation regulating hiring of staff is incomplete.

The TDIC, the company for tourism development and investments in charge of the Island of Happiness (this is what the word “Saadiyat” means in Arabic, replied in a statement that it “appreciated the work carried out” by HRW; however, it underlined that data are “not accurate and not up to date”. “The study is based on interviews carried out between October 2010 and January 2011”, a statement published by the Wam press agency states; TDIC points its finger against the limited number of interviews carried out as a sample.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Domestic Maids Complain of Rampant Abuse in Malaysia

Malaysia is one of the richest countries in Southeast Asia and almost every household boasts at least one domestic worker. Most are from Indonesia or Carmbodia — many complain of abuse.

For years, women working as domestic maids in Malaysia have complained that they are treated badly and abused by their employers. Often from poorer countries, they have filed report after report to their governments about the working conditions.

Two years ago, the Indonesian government imposed a ban on Indonesians working in Malaysia as maids. Jakarta then worked out a list of guidelines with the Malaysian government to ensure working conditions improved.

Nonetheless, these don’t seem to be effective. Now the Cambodian government wants to negotiate stricter regulations with Kuala Lumpur, after many nationals returned.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Indian Court Refuses TV for Italian Marines

Newspapers and magazines permitted

(ANSA) — Kollam, March 21 — An Indian court on Wednesday refused in-cell television privileges for the two Italian marines being held in the town of Thiruvananthapuram, accused of killing two Indian fishermen in February.

However, the judge agreed to requests for reading material to be delivered to the incarcerated sailors, including Italian daily newspapers and weekly magazines.

Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, who were guarding an Italian merchant vessel against pirate attacks in international waters, have been at the centre of a diplomatic row between Italy and India since being detained last month.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Far East

China’s Huawei Moves Out of the Shadows to Join Technology Race

The telecoms firm has ambitions to join Apple, Samsung and Nokia in the big league — but if it wants to crack the US market, it will have to offer more transparency

The security guard’s mirrored sunglasses reflect Barcelona’s pale winter sunshine. His job is to keep the crowds attending the sprawling trade fair at bay. Behind him, a pavilion the size of a bus garage houses the latest technology produced by China’s Huawei. Those without a meeting to attend are told they cannot enter, and cameras are banned inside.

Huawei is China’s biggest exporter, and its equipment helps run the BT broadband network, but the brand is unknown to most UK households. Regarded as a secretive organisation even within the people’s republic, Huawei is headed by a former Red Army engineer, Ren Zhengfei.

Unlike other Chinese IT firms, such as the PC maker Lenovo and telecoms group ZTE, Huawei is not listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange. A private company owned entirely by its founders and employees, the names of its board members were only published for the first time last year.

But it is also a flagbearer for China’s “going out” policy of encouraging the first generation of corporations created by economic liberalisation in the 1980s to compete on the world stage. Entrepreneurial and unbureaucratic, it has prospered without having the state as a shareholder.

It sells everything from mobile mast radios to software, data-centres and laptop dongles. Founded in 1987, Huawei only began exporting in earnest in 2000, but already over 65% of its revenues are from abroad. Last year, they totalled 185.2bn yuan (£18.51bn), just half a billion pounds less than the world’s largest telecoms equipment group, Ericsson.

Now Huawei is preparing to step out of the shadows. While its governance remains veiled, the company is pushing its brand to the fore. It wants to place its products in the hands of millions of western consumers, and become the fourth largest manufacturer of smartphones by the end of this year.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

China’s Massive Water Diversion Project Remains Controversial

China’s south has too much water; the north does not have enough. That’s why the South-North Water Transfer Project was thought up. But the ecological and social costs are huge.

Workers are putting the finishing touches on the Danjiangkou Dam, a massive wall that has risen to 176 meters over the past five years. The blue steel beams shine in the spring rain while a mist hangs over the reservoir behind.

The water for the second biggest reservoir in China comes from the Han River, the biggest tributary of the mighty Yangtze.

Mao Zedong dreamed of diverting water from the south to the north 60 years ago. From 2014 on, a complex system of canals and pipes is supposed to provide Beijing — 1400 kilometers away — with water.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Classical Music Affects Heart Transplants

Classical music is good for the soul and maybe the heart too. Mice with heart transplants survived twice as long if they listened to classical music rather than pop music after their operation.

Masateru Uchiyama of Juntendo University Hospital in Tokyo, Japan, gave mice heart transplants from an unrelated donor which were therefore expected to be rejected. For a week following the operation, the mice continuously listened to Verdi’s opera La Traviata, a selection of Mozart concertos, music by Enya, or a range of single monotones.

Mice exposed to opera fared best — they survived an average of 26 days, with those who listened to Mozart close behind at 20 days. Mice who listened to Enya survived for 11 days and the monotone group only seven days.

The team tested the effects of La Traviata on deaf mice too. They survived for just seven days, reinforcing the likelihood that hearing the music, rather than another factor, such as feeling vibrations from the music, accounted for the difference.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

The Slang Chinese Bloggers Use to Subvert Censorship

They call it the Grass-Mud Horse lexicon, and, lucky for us language lovers, the China Digital Times just started a recurring word of the week feature to go along with its catalog of the slang China’s bloggers use to subvert government censorship. The first post, which went up last Wednesday, explains the project’s namesake, Grass-Mud Horse. “Grass-mud horse, which sounds nearly the same in Chinese as ‘f*** your mother’ (cào ni ma), was created as a way to get around and poke fun at government censorship of vulgar content,” writes Fiona Smith. The term is perfect for a lot of reasons: It sounds like a swear, has its own YouTube culture and references the Communist party, which is often referred to as “mother.” All of that has led to its evolution as not only a term that means “someone who is web-savvy and critical of government attempts at censorship,” in the words of Smith, but also the representation of an entire language.

Over at China Digital Space, where the Grass-Mud Horse project lives, we find the full alphabetized list of common terms used on the heavily censored Chinese Internet platforms. Each letter has between 2 and 21 entries — there’s a lot on there. Here are some of our favorites:

Term: Love the Future.

Definition: “‘Love the future’ is a coded reference to Chinese artist and dissident, Ai Weiwei (???) that began to be used after Ai’s disappearance in early 2011. Ai’s surname sounds the same as the word ‘love’ in Chinese, and his given name ‘Weiwei’ can be converted into the word “future” by adding two small strokes to the second character.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Anna Bligh Hangs on to Seat in Bloodbath

ANNA Bligh tonight looked set to survive a political scare in her own Brisbane seat as Labor was annihilated in the Queensland state election.

With about half the vote counted in South Brisbane, the Premier had 52.1 per cent of the two-party preferred vote, against 47.9 for LNP candidate Clem Grehan.

Ms Bligh, who won the seat in 1995, earlier appeared to be in deep trouble, but was set to survive courtesy of Green preferences.

The question was whether Ms Bligh would be prevailed upon to stay on in the Labor leadership to help the party rebuild.

With her deputy and heir apparent Andrew Fraser among the Labor casualties, all will depend on whether Education Minister Cameron Dick retains his seat of Greenslopes. His prospects improved slightly tonight, but he remained under the gun.

Earlier, parliamentary speaker John Mickel said Ms Bligh should step down as leader if Labor lost badly.

“The Labor Party needs to move forward and the only way to move forward is to put Anna Bligh behind them,” the retiring Labor MP said today.

He said if Ms Bligh retained her South Brisbane seat, she should continue on as the member but resign as the party’s leader.

“She is the one who chose the ministers and if the Labor party goes down to a historic defeat tonight it’ll be because the electorate at large has found Anna Bligh accountable, because she never kept her ministers accountable,” Mr Mickel said.

“I’m talking about a series of issues that Anna Bligh did not hold ministers to account when she should have.”

Mr Mickel, a former Labor minister, said one of the issues was the Queensland Health payroll debacle, which happened under former health minister Stephen Robertson, who is also retiring.

           — Hat tip: The Observer[Return to headlines]

Australia Deports ‘Silence of the Lambs’ Rapist Back to UK 13 Years After Brutal Attack and Yet We Continue to Dither Over Kicking Out Qatada

Violent rapist has been deported back to Britain, even though he has lived in Australia since 1967 and no longer has family or any other connections here.

Leslie Cunliffe, 67, known as the ‘Silence Of The Lambs’ rapist, spent 12 years in prison for the abduction and rape of a young woman he kept locked in a homemade dungeon.

He arrived at Heathrow on Thursday after the Australian authorities revoked his visa and put him on a plane.

The resolve of the Australians contrasts starkly with the impotence of our Government in the case of hate preacher Abu Qatada, whom the Government wants to deport to Jordan but cannot because of a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Gallipoli Anniversary Could Divide Australia, Federal Government Warned

THE Federal Government has been warned that celebrating the centenary of Anzac Day could provoke division in multicultural Australia — and told there were “risks” in honouring our fallen soldiers.

The centenary is a “double-edged sword” and a “potential area of divisiveness” because of multiculturalism, a taxpayer-funded report has found.

Bureaucrats spent almost $370,000 for focus-group testing and a research paper used by the Government to guide 2015 commemoration plans, which listed multiculturalism under “risks and issues” that should be considered to avoid “unexpected negative complications.”

The report also called on organisers to avoid any reference to current military action because they are “unpopular with young people”.

The paper states: “Commemorating our military history in a multicultural society is something of a double-edged sword.

“While the 100th anniversaries are thought to provide some opportunity for creating a greater sense of unity, it is also recognised as a potential area of divisiveness.

“There are strong views either way in terms of how to recognise any ‘non Australian’ military service of those who now live here.”

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

James Cameron Set for a Mariana Trench Sequel

Hollywood director James Cameron is sinking to new depths this week. As soon as stormy weather over the Pacific island of Guam clears, he will attempt to dive to the bottom of the nearby Mariana Trench in a one-man, titanium sphere he designed with Australian engineer Ron Allum.

If successful, he’ll be the first person to reach the deepest known place on Earth since Jacques Piccard and Don Walsh in 1960. Others may try to repeat the 10,994m descent soon, though. Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin empire, is backing a mission in a plexiglass sub that looks like an aeroplane. Two other teams, a Florida company called Triton and Google’s DOER sub are also hoping to make the trip soon.

Cameron will be filming the trench in 3D — possibly for use in the movie Avatar 2 — and he also hopes to collect sediments and a few creatures for analysis.

Submarine technology has come a long way since Piccard and Walsh did their dive. When their craft — the bathyscaphe Trieste — landed on the bottom, it inadvertently threw up a thick cloud of silt that blocked their view. Cameron’s one-man submarine, Deepsea Challenger, is designed to hover just above the bottom to avoid a repeat. It will send out little rovers with cameras and snatchers.

The beauty of deep-sea diving craft, says Paul Tyler at the University of Southampton, UK, is how selective they can be. Rather than trawling to collect samples, craft such as Cameron’s can reach out and grab species straight from the water.

Tyler expects it will pick up critters like sea cucumbers and squishy shrimp-like animals called amphipods.”But generally, animal groups tend to decrease [in abundance] as you go down,” he says. At over 1000 atmospheres of pressure — double that found on the 3000 to 6000-metre-deep abyssal plains that form most of the ocean floor — “there will be no animals with air, no fish with bladders: everything will be solid water and tissue.”

Although Cameron’s mission is the first crewed dive for 52 years, the Mariana Trench isn’t exactly unexplored territory, says Alan Jamieson of the University of Aberdeen, UK. “Just because a human hasn’t been there doesn’t mean it hasn’t been explored,” he says. In 2009, for example, a robot submarine named Nereus made the trip, taking photos and collecting samples for researchers to sift through.

Despite the focus on the Mariana Trench, it is just one of five spots in the Pacific Ocean that are more than 10,000 metres deep. All are isolated from one another and probably contain very different organisms and geology. The Branson-backed project aims to explore these other trenches as well, and Jamieson says there is an argument to be made for even more trench exploration: “A scientific survey of Everest isn’t the same as a scientific survey of Kilimanjaro.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

A Pirate’s Prison Tucked Inside Seychelles Paradise

A rare visit to a location deep inside the tropical forest of Mahé, in the Seychelles archipelago, where a prison has been established to hold the captured Somali pirates wreaking havoc in the Indian Ocean. Once captured — and land-locked — the pirates change their ways.

By Paolo Colonnello

Along the granite mountain covered by tropical vegetation, the steep path leads to a courtyard surrounded by three warehouses and a light grey building overlooking the sea. All around this one sqaure-kilometer facility are tall wire fences, watchtowers, and armed men. Welcome to the pirate prison of Mahé, where sea-faring criminals are being held in the middle of the forest of the Seychelles islands.

When we arrived, the accused Somali pirates — Jahamal, Shaif, Mohamed, each in their early 20s — were eating lunch. They wore blue detainee uniforms. “But we are all fishermen,” they said with a laugh. These young men have been convicted without even know their sentences.

Maxim Tirent, the 56-year-old French-born director of the prison, explains that the inmates have been brought here from all over the Indian Ocean. “By now, there are too many,” he says. “Once they are identified with pictures and fingerprints, some are just waiting to be repatriated.”

The most recent arrivals were seized three weeks ago by a British Navy frigate, which left them on the island. “When they are at sea, they are fearless and arrogant, but here they behave well,” explains Tirent. “They are submissive and quiet. They spend their days working to fix the streets, or praying. They’ve never caused any troubles.”

Currently, the prison holds some 500 detainees, including many accused of drug-related crimes. Among the total prison population, there are currently 88 wanted for acts of piracy, many from Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia. The Seychelles has become a strategic international outpost against rising piracy in the Indian Ocean. It is the hidden side of this tropical haven, which is beloved by tourists for its natural preserves and beautiful beaches.

Piracy has become a scourge for international commercial interests. Salvatore Puma, the Italian general manager of the exclusive resort Constance Ephelia of Mahé, said that during last Christmas vacation the local hotels “could not serve fish, because the fishermen refused to go out to sea, too afraid of being attacked.”…

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


UK: Ministers Plan Major Immigration Crackdown

Theresa May, the Home Secretary, is planning a major immigration crackdown on tens of thousands of people who “abuse” family visas to settle in Britain, according to a leaked cabinet letter.

The letter from Mrs May to Nick Clegg, which has been seen by The Sunday Telegraph, proposes a tough new minimum income of £25,700 a year for anyone seeking to bring a spouse, partner or dependant to the UK from outside the European Union from June — almost double the current threshold of £13,700.

The minimum income would rise dramatically — up to £62,600 — if children are also brought in.

Mrs May also wants a longer probationary period of five years before spouses and partners can apply to live permanently in Britain, and a higher level of English to be required.

The proposals could cut the number of immigrants allowed in by 15,000 a year — a significant step towards the Government’s aim of reducing “net” migration to 100,000 people each year.

However, they are expected to fought hard by Mr Clegg and other Liberal Democrat ministers, escalating still further the tensions between the two Coalition partners that have risen dramatically since last week’s controversial Budget…

           — Hat tip: Nick[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Oregon: “Wrongful Birth” Of Down Syndrome Child

An Oregon jury awarded nearly US$3 million to a couple whose daughter was born with Down syndrome after doctors had reassured them that the baby would be normal. They alleged that it had been a “wrongful birth” because had they known that the baby would be handicapped, they would have aborted her. A number of studies have shown that at least 90% of women who learn that they are pregnant with a Down syndrome child have an abortion.

The baby was born in 2007. The couple, Ariel and Deborah Levy, say that the $3 million will be needed to care for their daughter’s medical and social needs over her lifetime. The case was so controversial that the judge banned publication of photos of the Levys.

Bioethicist Art Caplan commented that the case showed the need for legal reform to cope with mistakes in genetic testing:

“Wrongful birth lawsuits are a horrible way to deal with failed prenatal testing. Forcing parents to argue that their child never should have been born may make legal sense but it is morally absurd. Why ask parents to reject the existence of their own child? Who can really put a value on a life that some argue in court ought not exist?

“There is no reason to permit wrongful birth or wrongful life cases. When a mistake is alleged about genetic testing there ought to be some sort of no-fault insurance scheme under the supervision of neutral mediators, not a courtroom slugfest that demeans the value of a life with disability and reeks of eugenics.”

[Return to headlines]


Nokia is Looking Into Haptic Tattoos to Help You Feel Who’s Calling

Not satisfied with just getting its own flavor of slide-to-unlock patented, Nokia wants to take haptic feedback to a level you haven’t previously encountered. Haptic tech is employed, for example, when your phone vibrates as you type on its touchscreen. Haptics deal with appealing to your sense of touch by applying forces or vibrations to your skin. Which is exactly what Nokia wants to do, proposing the application of tattoos with ferromagnetic inks, that will vibrate based on commands from your phone.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

‘Warp-Speed’ Planets Flung Out of Galaxy on Wild Ride

Planets in tight orbits around stars that get ejected from our galaxy may actually themselves be tossed out of the Milky Way at blisteringly fast speeds of up to 30 million miles per hour, or a fraction of the speed of light, a new study finds.

“These warp-speed planets would be some of the fastest objects in the galaxy, aside from photons and particles like cosmic rays,” said Avi Loeb, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass. “In terms of large, solid objects, they would be the fastest. It would take them 10 seconds or so to cross the diameter of the Earth.”

In 2005, astronomers found evidence of a runaway star that was flying out of the Milky Way galaxy at a speed of 1.5 million mph (2.4 million kph). This hypervelocity star was part of a double-star system that wandered too close to the supermassive black hole at the center of the galaxy.

The strong gravitational pull at the galactic center ripped the stars apart, sending one hurtling through space at high speeds, while capturing the other to stay in orbit around the massive black hole.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]