Sunday, January 12, 2003

News Feed 20120331

Financial Crisis
»EU Finance Ministers Near Compromise on Transaction Tax
»EU: Governments Due to Raise Rescue Ceiling
»Europe Inches Towards Finance Tax Compromise
»Greece: Trade Deficit Down 29.1% in January
»How Much is the U.S. Dollar Worth?
»Italy: Artichoke Plunder on Rise Amid Economic Crisis
»Monti ‘Has Restored Italy’s Credibility’ Says Japan PM
»Monti: Measures Against Crime Needn’t Please Tax Evaders
»PM Monti: Better Tax, Tariff Increases Than End Like Greece
»Spanish Unions Revolt Against Labor and Fiscal Reform
»A Cashless Society May be Closer Than Most People Would Ever Dare to Imagine
»Abolish the EPA
»Christian Pastor to Hold Easter Services at Local Mosque
»Climate Change Skepticism a Sickness That Must be “Treated, “ Says Professor
»Complete Collapse of Common Sense in America: 20 Signs
»Florida Dems Can’t Find Voters to Protest Allen West, So They Hire Some
»For ‘Earth Hour’ Let There be Light
»Gene Behind Van Gogh’s Sunflowers Pinpointed
»IRS Wants 4,000 New Agents, $300 Million Budget to Enforce Obamacare
»Love Bacon to Death? Now You Can be Buried in it as First-Ever Bacon Coffin Hits the Shelves (Not Recommended for Vegetarians)
»Massive $17 Trillion Hole Found in Obamacare
»Obama’s Legalization of Slavery and Systematic Population Reduction
»Obama Channeling His Inner Lenin for 2012 Election
»Shell Overcomes Legal Obstacles to Arctic Drilling
»Sign at Wegmans Draws Attention
»The Ruins of Chaco Canyon in Northwest New Mexico
»War Veterans Prone to Drug Addiction Often Prescribed Risky Painkillers
»What Many Churches and the SPLC Have in Common
»Where Does the Supreme Court Get Its Power?
»Will it Take Revolution?
»Alberta’s Sad Battle for Leadership
Europe and the EU
»Archeology: EU, Italy to Spend 105 Mln to Save Pompeii
»Central Europe: Democracy in Decline
»Denmark: Police Prevent Attack Against Demo
»Denmark: Black-Clad Activists Lob Cobblestones at Police in Aarhus
»European Court Rules Against Ryanair Over Alitalia Loan
»France: Perfume Maker Guerlain Handed 6k Euro Racial Slur Fine
»Greeks Not Big on Using Computers, Says Eurostat
»Ireland: TV Watchdog’s Targeting of Ads for Cheese Grates With Farmers
»Italy: ‘Unemployed’ Man Employs 15
»Italy: Fight Against Tax Evasion Reaping Results
»Italy: Parma: A New Grana Cheese Suitable for Muslims
»Italy: Rome Mayor Alemanno Will Call a Referedum on Skyscrapers
»Italy: Cardinal Invites Prayers for Rain as Drought Continues
»Italy: Gladiators to be Booted From Colosseum
»Italy: Effort to Clear Colosseum of ‘Centurions’ Prompts ‘Fight’
»Italy: Man Who Beat Daughter for Reciting Koran Incorrectly Broke Law, Court Says
»Leaders of Controversial Neutrino Experiment Step Down
»Netherlands: The Hague Mosque Suspends Radical Sheikh
»Skye Cave Find Western Europe’s ‘Earliest String Instrument’
»Sweden: Malmö: Reepalu’s Future ‘Hangs in the Balance’
»Swedish Defense Minister Steps Down Following Controversy
»Swiss-German Row Over Tax Evasion Escalates
»The Fall of the Roman Empire and the Rise of Islam
»Toulouse Killer Buried in the City Where He Carried Out His Merciless Killing Spree After His Body is Turned Away by Algeria
»UK Oceanography Cuts Make Global Waves
»UK: A Runaway Victory for George Galloway and All Praise to Allah
»UK: Bullfinch: 38 Girls Now Thought to be Involved in Child Prostitution Ring
»UK: Double Mosque Attack Shocks Queens Park [Bedford]
»UK: George Galloway Defeats Labour to Become Bradford Respect MP
»UK: Galloway’s Ugly Politics
»UK: Hitchens vs Galloway
»UK: Rrrrrespect!
»Why the EU Airline Tax Won’t Fly
»Kosovo: 4 Serbs Arrested, Accused of Organising Elections
»Kosovo: Fuele Hands Pristina EU Document on Feasibility Study
Mediterranean Union
»Tunisia: EuroMed Youth: Web Radio to Promote Free Speech
North Africa
»Egypt: First Constituent Assembly, Without Quarter of Members
»Libya’s Arab and Toubou Militia Reach Sebha Ceasefire Deal
Israel and the Palestinians
»Luxury Carmaker Ferrari Opens Tel Aviv Showroom
»Obama’s Knife in the Back?
Middle East
»Al Qaeda Suspects Attack Army Base in Southern Yemen
»Arming Syrian Rebels Means Fighting a “Proxy War”, Maliki
»Britain to Give Syria’s Opposition £500,000 Aid to ‘Gain Skills to Build Democratic Future’
»Clash Between Yemeni Regulars and Al Qaeda Claims 29 Lives
»Emirates: Hotels for Women Gaining Success
»Lebanon: UNIFIL Commander Serra Meets With Donor Ambassadors
»Lebanon: Appeal From Beirut for More Arabic on Wikipedia
»Lebanon Hands Over Stolen Artifacts to Iraq
»Saudi Arabia Says Arming Syrian Opposition is a “Duty”
»Moscow: Odd Man Out at BRICS for Experts
»Russian Protesters Detained at Freedom of Assembly Rallies
South Asia
»Bomb Attacks Kill 11, Injure More Than 100 in South Thailand
»Bombs in Thailand Kill 14, Wound 340
»Indian Christians Against the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Who Wants to Eliminate All Churches
»Indonesian Workers Expelled From Malaysia
»New Security for US Troops in Afghanistan to Guard Against Afghan Insider Threats
»Pakistan: Faisalabad: The Battle of a Christian Woman for Her Family and Religious Freedom
»Pakistan: Strike Shuts Down Quetta Businesses
»Thailand: Three Deadly Bomb Blasts Hit Yala in Southern Thailand
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Ancient Human Ancestor Had Feet Like an Ape
»Grenade Attacks in Kenya Leaves 15 Wounded
Latin America
»Argentina’s Carlos Menem Faces Bombing Trial
»“Earth Hour’s” Global Propaganda Campaign
»Cattle DNA Traced Back to Single Herd of Wild Ox
»‘Faster-Than-Light’ Study Coordinator Resigns
»Oldest Alien Planets Found-Born at Dawn of Universe
»Pictures: Dinosaur’s Flashy Feathers Revealed
»UN-Backed Scientists Call for Mega-City Population Lockup
»While Rare-Earth Trade Dispute Heats Up, Scientists Seek Alternatives

Financial Crisis

EU Finance Ministers Near Compromise on Transaction Tax

A compromise plan on the disputed transaction tax tabled by German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble found some approval at an EU finance ministers’ meeting in Copenhagen. The plan suggests a step-by-step approach.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

EU: Governments Due to Raise Rescue Ceiling

Brussels, 29 March (AKI/Bloomberg) — European governments are preparing for a one-year increase in the ceiling on rescue aid to 940 billion euros to keep the debt crisis at bay, according to a draft statement written for finance ministers.

The euro-area finance chiefs will probably decide at a meeting in Copenhagen on Friday to run the 500 billion-euro permanent European Stability Mechanism alongside the 200 billion euros committed by the temporary fund, a European official told reporters in Brussels yesterday.

Beyond that, they are also set to allow the temporary fund’s unused 240 billion euros to be tapped until mid-2013 “in exceptional circumstances following a unanimous decision of euro-area heads of state or government notably in case the ESM capacity would prove insufficient,” according to the draft dated March 23 and obtained by Bloomberg News.

The boost to the war chest would come after Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, the dominant power in two years of crisis fighting, this week warned of “fragility” in Portugal and Spain. It would also be designed to lure the rest of the world into putting more money into the International Monetary Fund’s arsenal.

European policy makers are wrangling over amendments to rules written last year that limit total available bailout funds to 500 billion euros. The IMF has made additional aid contingent on Europe first doing more to help itself.

Crisis Buffer

Finance ministers may make changes to the draft statement at their meeting tomorrow. In yesterday’s briefing, the European official said the likeliest outcome is an anti-crisis buffer somewhere between 700 billion and 940 billion euros, without saying how long these amounts would be available.

The language in the draft also emphasizes the political hurdles to tapping the unused parts of the temporary fund, the European Financial Stability Facility. Merkel or any other euro- area government leader could exercise a veto.

Extra money won’t put the debt crisis to rest, said Jens Weidmann, who was Merkel’s economic adviser until he became head of Germany’s central bank last year.

“Just like the ‘Tower of Babel,’ the ‘Wall of Money’ will never reach heaven,” Weidmann said yesterday at Chatham House in London. “If we continue to make it higher and higher, we will, in fact, run into more worldly constraints,” which might include setting “incentives that lead to new problems in the future.”

Capital Call

In addition, an increase in the aid ceiling wouldn’t make the entire sum available upfront. It would require a capital call in an emergency to mobilize the ESM’s entire 500 billion euros before mid-2014.

Assuming that the temporary fund expires in mid-2013 without making further commitments, the permanent aid ceiling would revert to 700 billion euros, according to the draft. The ESM’s provisions allow the finance ministers to raise or lower its capital at any time.

Discussion of the lending cap will coincide with a possible further speedup of the capitalization of the permanent fund. The first of five planned annual payments will be made in July and the second in October, the draft statement said.

The remaining payments may also be accelerated, with two in 2013 and the final installment in the first half of 2014, two years earlier than previously planned, the statement said.

As a result, Europe would be capable of making a theoretical three-year aid pledge of 500 billion euros on July 1 and having enough money to follow through, the European official said.

The firewall “has to be credible,” German government spokesman Steffen Seibert told reporters in Berlin yesterday when asked about calls for the backstop to be as much as 1 trillion euros. At the same time, “it’s regrettable that in this discussion no number is ever big enough.”

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

Europe Inches Towards Finance Tax Compromise

Europe’s finance ministers crawled towards a compromise on a disputed financial transactions tax Saturday, after a German plan to break a months-long deadlock on the issue won cautious support.

Ministers effectively agreed to park a European Commission proposal for a wide-ranging EU-wide levy on the financial sector and consider Berlin’s plan to tax trades on company stocks and shares.

In a letter to his colleagues, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble acknowledged that his wish to see a wide-ranging tax introduced was unlikely in the face of British opposition and instead proposed “an intermediate step.”

“This would entail a tax payable on all transactions involving shares of corporations listed on a stock exchange, with the tax levied according to the place where the corporation has its registered office,” said Schaeuble.

Such a move would be based on a tax already in force in Britain — stamp duty — added the Berlin proposal, making it harder for London to block.

The suggestion won broad approval, with French Finance Minister Francois Baroin deeming it “wise” and stressing that “we have to move forward on this issue.”

The finance minister of Sweden, which along with Britain, has been sceptical over a broad financial transaction tax, also showed a willingness to compromise.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Greece: Trade Deficit Down 29.1% in January

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, MARCH 28 — As domestic consumption continues to fall, the country’s trade deficit fell by 29.1% in January, according to provisional figures released by the Hellenic Statistical Authority (Elstat) on Tuesday ad reported by daily Athens News. In a survey, Elstat said that the total value of imports, excluding oil products, in January 2012 amounted to 2.23 billion euros, a fall of 15.6% year on year. In the same month, the total value of exports amounted to 1.2 billion euros, a light increase of 1% on the Jan 2011 figure of 1.18 billion euros. This resulted in trade deficit of 1.03 billion euros, a drop of 29.1% on January 2011’s figure of 1.46 billion euros.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

How Much is the U.S. Dollar Worth?

According to data from the University of Illinois professors Lawrence H. Officer and Samuel H. Williamson, the value of the dollar had depreciated so much by 2008 that it took $5.31 to buy what it cost $1 in 1971 when Nixon decided that the dollar would no longer be backed by gold. Until then, $35 could buy a troy ounce of gold every day. Our dollar today is worth less than 19 cents when compared to 1971 and the price of gold fluctuates between $1,500-1,700 per ounce.

Between February 2002 and December 2004, the value of the dollar dropped against the euro by 40 percent, a significant decline that was largely ignored by the media. (William J. Baumol and Alan S. Blinder)

The U.S. dollar has continued its decline in spite of the rosy economic picture presented by the MSM in the last four years.

Members of Congress cannot claim ignorance about the declining trend of the U.S. dollar because Craig K. Elwell, a specialist in Macroeconomic Policy, wrote a report on February 23, 2012 for the Congressional Research Service, “The Depreciating Dollar: Economic Effects and Policy Response.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Italy: Artichoke Plunder on Rise Amid Economic Crisis

Rome, 12 March (AKI) — The crunchy fried artichokes cooked with garlic and smothered in olive oil in Rome’s restaurants might be the fruit of a crime.

Chalk the rape of the Rome area’s farms up to the latest documented effect of Italy’s economic doldrums, according to a new report.

Thousands of artichokes and heads of lettuce are disappearing from the fields in Rome’s Lazio region, plucked at night under the cover of darkness and resold on the black market, or brought to eat at home, according to a report published Monday by Italian agricultural trade group Coldiretti.

Italy’s artichoke season starts in Sicily in December and ends a few months later in Rome where the fried vegetable — Carciofi alla Romana — is a delicacy. Though Italy’s recession means fewer people are eating out, it means that the chance of eating stolen vegetables has increased.

“The artichokes have been pulled up one by one causing damage even to future harvests,” said the report that call the culprits “agro-thieves.”

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

Monti ‘Has Restored Italy’s Credibility’ Says Japan PM

‘Great appreciation for his abilities,’ says Noda

(ANSA) — Tokyo, March 28 — Mario Monti has restored Italy’s credibility with the international community by enacting reforms since taking over as emergency prime minister when the euro crisis deepened in November, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said Wednesday.

“I have great consideration and appreciation for Premier Monti and for his abilities to lead his country,” Noda said after talks with the Italian premier.

Monti said both he and Noda were trying to implement structural reforms and deregulation “in a more modern way”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Monti: Measures Against Crime Needn’t Please Tax Evaders

(AGI) Beijing — Mario Monti’s schedule in China is seeing him change environment a couple of times a day. Today began with the Italian Prime Minister meting his Chinese counterpart, Wen Jiabao, in the immense halls of the People’s Assembly, continuing in the Chinese Communist Party’s gigantic Central Party School, an unusual setting for a Bocconi graduate, as Monti himself recognised, however much it might remain a training centre for the ruling class. Monti’s attention then turned to issues back home. First was the storm caused by his words, spoken in English, in Tokyo on the level of party agreement, before focus turned to lower wages and the fight against tax evasion, which, Monti warned, is not a reform upon which agreement needs to be found, but rather a form of crime that needs tackling, albeit by governments who are determined to do so.

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

PM Monti: Better Tax, Tariff Increases Than End Like Greece

(AGI) Beijing — Mario Monti does not hide his awareness of the impact on the budgets of Italian families provoked by increases. He remarked on his knowledge of the impact of “fiscal and also tariff increases, a part of which I am ready to assume my responsibiliy for as well, they were decided upon by this government”. He commented, “I realize that this will be a period which will see these inconveniences grow.” The Prime Minister, however, would remind all that the contrary of this sacrifice would be much more onerous, “I must still remind the Italians that the fate of their families would have been much more serious in ending up like Greece.” .

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

Spanish Unions Revolt Against Labor and Fiscal Reform

Madrid protests fail to intimidate retail sector.


Madrid, March 31, 2012, by El Marco Thursday’s general srike in Madrid, unlike Barcelona’s, was largely a pacific affair. Two communist unions, the CCOO and the UGT, did their best to shut down the capital of Spain, and were met with solid resistance from the retail sector. The two unions, which represent a majority of unionized Spanish workers, failed to paralyze the retail sector, with approximately 80 percent of businesses remaining open. 17% of Spanish workers belong to unions with membership being voluntary. Huge mobs of union-led protesters attempted to force the closure of retail shops in the streets adjacent to the Puerta del Sol Plaza in Madrid’s city center.

[Return to headlines]


A Cashless Society May be Closer Than Most People Would Ever Dare to Imagine

Most people think of a cashless society as something that is way off in the distant future. Unfortunately, that is simply not the case. The truth is that a cashless society is much closer than most people would ever dare to imagine.

To a large degree, the transition to a cashless society is being done voluntarily. Today, only 7 percent of all transactions in the United States are done with cash, and most of those transactions involve very small amounts of money. Just think about it for a moment. Where do you still use cash these days? If you buy a burger or if you purchase something at a flea market you will still use cash, but for any mid-size or large transaction the vast majority of people out there will use another form of payment. Our financial system is dramatically changing, and cash is rapidly becoming a thing of the past. We live in a digital world, and national governments and big banks are both encouraging the move away from paper currency and coins. But what would a cashless society mean for our future? Are there any dangers to such a system?

Those are very important questions, but most of the time both sides of the issue are not presented in a balanced way in the mainstream media. Instead, most mainstream news articles tend to trash cash and talk about how wonderful digital currency is.


But are there real dangers to going to a system that is entirely digital?

For example, what if a devastating EMP attack wiped out our electrical grid and most of our computers from coast to coast?

How would we continue to function?

Sadly, most people don’t think about things like that.

Our world is changing more rapidly than ever before, and we should be mindful of where these changes are taking us.

Just because our technology is advancing does not mean that our world is becoming a better place.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Abolish the EPA

The EPA’s recent move toward strangling the coal-fired electricity generating plants in America is another power grab by the “greenies” in the US government. If not stopped by the Congress these new regulations will close and shutter dozens of coal-fired plants around the country and thousands upon thousands of workers in the electricity generating business, and businesses associated with them, will be out of a job.

We are looking at a shortage of electricity in America if Congress does not vacate these regulations. Rolling blackouts will be common here (in America) as they already are in developing countries.

I reside in Hurricane Alley so I know a thing or two about having no electricity for days and weeks on end. You are not going to like it, America. But you’d better prepare yourself because it is coming as surely as a Martin flies to its gourd.


The Environmental Protection Agency has become a rogue agency. It is power hungry and it has an agenda. That agenda is based on a lie and a hoax, but it makes little difference because the EPA has the power to FORCE Americans to abide by the will of the EPA or be destroyed. There is another agenda, akin to a “back story” to the pubic agenda of the EPA and that is the furtherance of socialism in America.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Christian Pastor to Hold Easter Services at Local Mosque

Michael MoranRev Michael Moran is senior pastor of The Spiritual Life Center in Sacramento, California and he recently announced plans to hold his Easter morning service at a Muslim mosque. He said the idea of holding Easter service in a mosque run by the Sacramento Area League of Associated Muslims (SALAM) came to him in a vision,

“In my dream state when I was wrestling with this problem I actually saw a newspaper on my kitchen counter that said ‘Easter at the mosque’ and I thought, ‘oh boy that’s really far out, that will never happen,’ but the next morning as I was driving into work it ran across my mind again.”

Acting upon his vision, he called Dr Metwalli Amer of SALAM to ask permission to use the mosque for Easter morning service. After several days of praying about it, Amer called and told Moran that they would let him use the mosque.

Moran’s church has been sucked into the false teachings of the Unity movement that believes in one God but many paths. Founded in 1889 by Charles and Myrtle Fillmore, the Unity movement preaches peace and harmony amongst all of the world religions and believes that we all worship the same God that this all loving God provided many different paths to heaven.

Following the Unity teachings, Rev. Moran says he does not believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus, but that it was only his spirit that ascended into heaven. He says he believes that all of Jesus’ teachings are valid but they are also transformative. In this context, Moran and other Unity members believe that Jesus is not the only way to heaven even though that is precisely what Jesus said.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Climate Change Skepticism a Sickness That Must be “Treated, “ Says Professor

Comparing skepticism of man-made global warming to racist beliefs, an Oregon-based professor of sociology and environmental studies has labeled doubts about anthropogenic climate change a “sickness” for which individuals need to be “treated”.

Professor Kari Norgaard, who is currently appearing at the ‘Planet Under Pressure’ conference in London, has presented a paper in which she argues that “cultural resistance” to accepting the premise that humans are responsible for climate change “must be recognized and treated” as an aberrant sociological behavior.

Norgaard equates skepticism of climate change alarmists — whose data is continually proven to be politicized, agenda driven and downright inaccurate — with racism, noting that overcoming such viewpoints poses a similar challenge “to racism or slavery in the U.S. South.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Complete Collapse of Common Sense in America: 20 Signs

[WARNING: Disturbing Content.]

What do you do when an entire nation begins to lose the capacity to think rationally? Many Americans spend a great deal of time criticizing the government, and there is certainly a lot to complain about, but it is not just the government that is the problem.

All over America, people appear to be going insane. It is almost as if we have been cursed with stupidity. Sadly, this applies from the very top of our society all the way down to the very bottom. A lot of us find ourselves asking the following question much more frequently these days: “How could they be so stupid?” Unfortunately, we are witnessing a complete collapse of common sense all over America. Many people seem to believe that if we could just get Obama out of office or if we could just reform our economic system that our problems as a nation would be solved, but that is simply not true. Our problems run much deeper than that. The societal decay that is plaguing our country is very deep and it is everywhere. We are a nation that is full of people that do not care about others and that just want to do what is right in their own eyes. We hold ourselves out to the rest of the world as “the greatest nation on earth” and an example that everyone else should follow, and yet our own house is rotting all around us. The words “crazy”, “insane” and “deluded” are not nearly strong enough to describe our frame of mind as a country. America has become a sad, delusional old man that can’t even think straight anymore. The evidence of our mental illness is everywhere.

The following are 20 signs that we are witnessing the complete collapse of common sense in America:


#5 The U.S. military is buying huge amounts of electronic parts from China (mistake number one) and a government investigation has uncovered the fact that a large percentage of these parts are counterfeit. Yet the U.S.military continues to buy huge amounts of electronic parts from China (mistake number two).

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Florida Dems Can’t Find Voters to Protest Allen West, So They Hire Some

Democrats and the left are inherently a sham with little actual grassroots support and the race for Florida’s 18th Congressional District is yet another example of this truism.

Repeatedly, and across the country, we see unions, Democrats, and other far left groups planning rallies and protest marches but finding that they simply can’t put bodies in the streets to make all the effort worthwhile. They just don’t really have the support of the common man, the folks in the streets, to carry off these protest marches and rallies.

But these out-of-the-mainstream groups do have a solution to this problem: the rent-a-protester. Whenever you see a left-wing protest, almost invariably you’ll find that many of the folks walking around with signs in their hands were hired to be there. They are paid protesters, faux activists only there for some change in their pockets, not because they care anything about the issue being protested.

Such is the case in the 18th CD race where Florida Congressman Allen West is running to represent the newly redistricted area. The Democrats that are trying to raise hate against West there wanted to stage a protest but, like most of these left-wing groups, just didn’t have the bodies for it. So, off to rent-a-protester they went.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

For ‘Earth Hour’ Let There be Light

There’s a dark side to ‘Earth Hour’ coming our way again 8:30 local time, tonight.

With the help of an unknowing public, environmentalists like those in the World Wildlife Fund, (WWF) stretch their arms into private homes and businesses to switch off the lights of the world.

Through millions of dollars in advertising, WWF is the leading advocate in encouraging average folk to turn off all electrical devices and sit in the dark. Acolytes of “Earth Hour”, caught up in environmental hypocrisy, light candles and celebrate reducing their non-existent “carbon footprint”.

Man made-global warming having been all but toppled off the public radar screen by the advance of truth and commonsense, environmentalists are more desperate than usual this year to plunge the world into night darkness.


The dark side of Earth Hour via one of its co-founders would have been smothered were it not for savvy and courageous writers like American Thinker’s Thomas Lifson.

[WARNING: Disturbing content.]

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Gene Behind Van Gogh’s Sunflowers Pinpointed

‘Double-flowered’ mutation sheds light on the evolution of an iconic bouquet.

A team of plant biologists has identified the gene responsible for the ‘double-flower’ mutation immortalized by Vincent van Gogh in his iconic Sunflowers series.

Van Gogh’s 1888 series includes one painting, now at the National Gallery in London, in which many of the flowers depicted lack the broad dark centre characteristic of sunflowers and instead comprise mainly golden petals. This was not simply artistic licence on van Gogh’s part but a faithful reproduction of a mutant variety of sunflower. In a paper published this week in PLoS Genetics1, researchers at the University of Georgia in Athens report that they have pinned down the gene responsible for the mutation, which they say could shed light on the evolution of floral diversity.

A wild sunflower (Helianthus annuus) is not so much a single flower as a composite of tiny florets. The golden ray florets, located at the sunflower’s rim, resemble long petals, are bilaterally symmetrical and do not produce pollen. That job belongs to the disc florets, tiny radially symmetrical blossoms that occupy the sunflower’s darker centre. In combination, the two types of florets create the impression of a single large flower, and presumably an attractive target for insect pollinators.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

IRS Wants 4,000 New Agents, $300 Million Budget to Enforce Obamacare

More than quadrupling an estimate it put forth last year for new agents (, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) now says that it will need more than 4,000 new agents to enforce the provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare. And in addition to these new agents, the IRS is also asking for more than $300 million in new funding to help fortify the infrastructure it will supposedly need to unconstitutionally force Americans to purchase government healthcare.

The constitutionality of Obamacare is currently being reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court, and yet the IRS is already acting as though the overhaul is definitive law. According to IRS budget requests, the agency says it needs a massive cash infusion to “continue the development of new systems and modifications of existing systems required to support new tax credits.” But in reality, this money will more than likely be used to spy on Americans and fine them for failing to purchase adequate health coverage.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Love Bacon to Death? Now You Can be Buried in it as First-Ever Bacon Coffin Hits the Shelves (Not Recommended for Vegetarians)

Those who love bacon to death can now be buried in it — for $2,999.99.

J&D Foods, a Seattle-based company that specialises in all things bacon — including bacon lip balm and bacon lubricant — claims to have launched a genuine bacon coffin.

The casket is allegedly made of 18-gauge gasketed steel with a ‘Premium Bacon Exterior/Interior’.

It also includes a bacon air freshener ‘for when you get that buried-underground, not-so-fresh feeling.’

The firm claims they are putting the ‘fun’ back into funerals by helping bacon-lovers live out their piggish fantasies into the afterlife.


‘You ate bacon, you decorated your body with bacon, your car with bacon and your home with bacon. And now, you can peacefully rest wrapped in bacon,’ the company said in a press release..

But with April Fools Day fast approaching, some cynics are questioning the authenticity of the bizarre invention.

Company founders Justin Esch and Dave Lefkow, however, are adamant that the bacon coffin is not a hoax.

‘Yes, this is really real,’ the pair said in a press release.

‘Bacon Coffins are finished with a painted Bacon and Pork shading and accented with gold stationary handles. The interior has an adjustable bed and mattress, a bacon memorial tube and is completed in ivory crepe coffin linens.’

Esch, who admitted the coffin was not made of real bacon, claims he has already sold one to someone in Iowa and is getting interest from all around the world, including funeral homes in Great Britain.

‘Don’t you judge us,’ Esch and Lefkow posted on their company Facebook page.

‘After baconlube we all knew it was just going to keep getting weirder. And yeah, you’re right, we’re probably going to hell for this one.’

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

Massive $17 Trillion Hole Found in Obamacare

Two years ago, when introducing then promptly enacting Obamacare, the president stated that healthcare law reform would not cost a penny over $1 trillion ($900 billion to be precise), and that it would not add ‘one dime’ to the debt.

It appears that this estimate may have been slightly optimistic… by a factor of 1700%. Because coincident with the recent Supreme Court debacle, in which a constitutional law president may be about to find that his magnum opus law is, in fact, unconstitutional, someone actually read the whole thing cover to cover, instead of merely relying on the CBO’s, pardon Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs’, funding estimates. That someone is Republican Jeff Sessions who after actually running the numbers has uncovered that the true long-term funding gap is a mind-boggling $17 trillion, just a tad more than the original sub $1 trillion forecast.

This latest revelation means that total underfunded US welfare liabilities: Medicare, Medicaid and social security now amount to $99 trillion! Add to this total US debt which in 2 months will be $16 trillion, and one can see why Japan, which is about to breach 1 quadrillion in total debt (yen, but who’s counting), may want to start looking in the rearview mirror for up and comer competitors. And while Obama may have been taking creative license with a number that is greater than total US GDP, he was most certainly correct when saying that Obamacare would not add a penny to US debt. Because the second the US government comes to market to fund a truetotal debt/GDP ratio of 750%, it is game over, and the Fed will have its hands full selling Treasury puts every waking nanosecond to have any time left for the daily 3pm stock market ramp.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Obama’s Legalization of Slavery and Systematic Population Reduction

“If people let government decide what foods they eat and what medicines they take, their bodies will soon be in as sorry a state as are the souls of those who live under tyranny.” -Thomas Jefferson

The lessons of history clearly demonstrate that dictatorial regimes, whether they be Socialists, Communists, and Marxists will not hesitate to use food as a weapon against their own people in order to solidify power and impose absolute autocratic control. Food can be withheld from the masses by preventing it from being grown and harvested, by contaminating it and rendering it unfit for human consumption or by simply preventing food from being distributed to a targeted population.

The two most notable examples of dictators using food a weapon in order to destroy the free will of their people comes from the regimes of Stalin and Hitler.


The use of food by the U.S. government has been a matter of official U.S. governmental covert policy since 1974-1975.

In December, 1974, National Security Council directed by Henry Kissinger completed a classified study entitled, “National Security Study Memorandum 200: Implications of Worldwide Population Growth for U.S. Security and Overseas Interests.” The study was based upon the unproven claims that population growth in Lesser Developed Countries (LDC) constituted a serious risk to America’s national security.

In November 1975 President Ford, based upon the tenets of NSSM 200 outlined a classified plan to forcibly reduce population growth in LDC countries through birth control, war and famine. Ford’s new national security adviser, Brent Scowcroft, in conjunction with CIA Director, George H. W. Bush, were tasked with implementing the plan and the secretaries of state, treasury, defense, and agriculture assisted in the implementation of these insane genocidal plans.

NSSM 200 formally raised the question, “Would food be considered an instrument of national power? … Is the U.S. prepared to accept food rationing to help people who can’t/won’t control their population growth?” Kissinger has answered these questions when he stated that he was predicting a series of contrived famines, created by mandatory programs and this would make exclusive reliance on birth control programs unnecessary in this modern day application of eugenics in a scheme that would allow Henry to have his cake and eat it too in that the world would finally be rid of the “useless eaters!”

Third world population control, using food as one of the primary weapons, has long been a matter of official covert national policy and a portion of President Obama’s Executive Order (EO), National Defense Resources Preparedness is a continuation of that policy. Only now, the intended target are not the LDC’s but, instead, the American people.

With the stroke of his pen, Obama has total and absolute control over all food where his EO states:

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Obama Channeling His Inner Lenin for 2012 Election

It only stands to reason that where there’s sacrifice, there’s someone collecting the sacrificial offerings. Where there’s service, there is someone being served. The man who speaks to you of sacrifice is speaking of slaves and masters, and intends to be the master. — Ayn Rand

… Matters are becoming especially nasty in US politics as we approach a seminal election.

The country is irreconcilably divided between hard-core liberals and conservatives. Fortunately, there are enough independents that neither hard-core can muster a majority without modifying, to various degrees, their views. At least that is the way that elections worked before this one.

President Obama sees within his reach his dream of transforming the country. Unfortunately for Obama, his failures are apparent to growing numbers of citizens, many of whom supported him the first time around and are now suffering “buyers remorse.”

He is so close to what he planned, yet it is slipping away and his desperation is showing. Apparently in an effort to prevent this from happening, he is willing to employ his community organizer skills on a national level. These Marxist-Leninist-Alinsky tools were not planned to be unveiled until after his re-election. Now that this occurrence is at risk, he appears to be willing to use them as tools for re-election. This strategy reflects either desperation or misjudgment.

What do I mean by Marxist-Leninist-Alinsky tools? Quite simply, they are practical tools designed to accomplish an objective without regard to the legality or morality of the means. Obama has committed all out to an “ends justifies the means” campaign. Here, for example, are instructions from Lenin on power:

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Shell Overcomes Legal Obstacles to Arctic Drilling

Oil giant Shell last week overcame the last major legal obstacle to its plans in the Arctic Ocean this summer. On Wednesday, the US Department of the Interior (DoI) approved the firm’s oil spill response plan, effectively granting permission for exploratory drilling in the Beaufort Sea, north of Alaska.

Shell intends to drill from the start of July and must stop by the end of October, before the dark, cold and ice set in for winter. They received permission to drill in the nearby Chukchi Sea in February, and are now awaiting permits from environmental agencies.

The DoI upped the ante in the wake of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon leak in the Gulf of Mexico. It required Shell to prepare for a blowout three times larger. Shell’s response was that they would first deploy a cap similar to the one that eventually sealed the Deepwater well, and if that failed, employ extensive backup measures.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sign at Wegmans Draws Attention

It’s a first for Wegmans in this area. They’ve put up a sign asking customers buying pork or alcohol not to use a particular checkout line when a Muslim teenager is on duty as the cashier.

The sign went up a week ago at their Lyell Avenue store.

Wegmans says they haven’t gotten any in store complaints and Wegmans was very upfront about the cashier. They just wouldn’t allow us in the store to talk with her or customers.

Spokeswoman Jo Natale says the cashier is a teenaged girl who wears a head covering. She told her supervisor she was uncomfortable handling those items because of religious reasons. So the store manager who had experience with this type of situation outside of Rochester decided to put up a small sign whenever the girl was at the checkout counter.

It says, “If your order contains pork or alcohol product, we respectfully ask that you choose another lane.”

Wegmans also says the girl has been coached what to say if customers ask why. People News10NBC spoke with outside the Lyell Avenue Wegmans store said they were okay with it and one even knows Christians who don’t like the idea of serving alcohol.

Bernard Thomas said, “I feel like if they’re going to hire her and she’s got to have the job, why shouldn’t we respect her. Just go to another cashier.”

Darlene Hucko said, “I would respect her beliefs and go to the next line if I had alcohol.

Levato said, “You think that’s okay.”

Hucko said, “I think it is okay.”

Alex Gritsvuta said, “I’m from a Christian background and waiters…the Christian girls that I know have a problem serving alcohol to people in a bar. Not in the bar necessarily, maybe in the restaurant.”

The girl attends school and works part-time. Wegmans characterizes her as happy, someone who likes what she does and a good worker.

Because of her age, Wegmans says state law limits the types of jobs teenagers can do inside a supermarket.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]

The Ruins of Chaco Canyon in Northwest New Mexico

[WARNING: Disturbing content.]

They came. They built. They vanished. Unique among Native American prehistoric civilizations, the gradual rise and terribly swift fall of the Ancient Pueblo Indians of America’s Southwest, the Anasazi, continues to transfix modern man. Understandably, admiration for the ancients’ beautiful architectural triumphs and preconceived notions about this relatively peaceful utopian civilization of farmers have been tarnished by what is considered heresy among many archeologists and self-proclaimed descendants of the Anasazi — the Hopi, Zuni and other pueblo peoples.

According to experts in the field, and others, it appears as though they ate each other, or were sacrificed and devoured between the ninth and 12th centuries by a ruling elite of Mesoamerican cannibals intent on maintaining their grip on power through sheer terror. Or maybe they were gobbled up in the 1100s by invading hordes from Old Mexico, the Toltecs. Regardless of who perpetrated this unseemly culinary tradition, or why, it’s virtually certain that human sacrifice and the feast that followed were not limited to country folk in far-flung communities, but likely practiced in a big way in the big city at Chaco Canyon as well. The debate rages on.

Among the thousands of ancient Anasazi ruins scattered throughout the Southwest, none captivate more than the incredible, sandstone brick-and-mortar remains of fifteen major building complexes in and around Chaco Canyon in sparsely populated Northwest New Mexico. These large urban structures form the centerpiece of 33,000-acre Chaco Culture National Historical Park which you’ll find off Highway 550 at the end of a long and insanely bumpy dirt road near the eastern fringe of the Navajo Nation.


Depending on your sources, by the 1200s the Anasazi of Chaco Canyon had vanished into thin air, and by the 1300s that entire civilization throughout the Southwest disappeared. It is one of the great archeological and anthropological mysteries yet to be solved, though many theories have been advanced. A crippling 50-year drought appears to be the seminal culprit; a lack of water lead to inevitable crop failure and famine.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

War Veterans Prone to Drug Addiction Often Prescribed Risky Painkillers

According to a recently released government study, vets who have been diagnosed with PTSD are being prescribed morphine and similar powerful painkillers two times more often than vets with only physical pain, when they are already at risk for alcohol and drug abuse.

Even more shocking, the study found, is that Iraq and Afghanistan vets who developed PTSD and already had pre-existing substance abuse issues were four times more likely to be prescribed addictive painkillers than those without mental health problems.

As a result suicides, other self-inflicted injuries and drug and alcohol overdoses, while still rare, were more prevalent in vets with PTSD who received painkilling drugs, said the study’s authors.

Overall, relatively few veterans are prescribed drugs like hydrocordone and morphine, which work to dull severe pain. With that said, some physicians may still prescribe them to vets who have symptoms of mental anguish and suffering “with the hope that the emotional distress that accompanies chronic pain will also be reduced,” Michael Von Korff, a chronic illness researcher with Group Health Research Institute in Seattle — who was not involved in the study — told the Associated Press.

“Unfortunately, this hope is often not fulfilled, and opioids can sometimes make emotional problems worse,” he added.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

What Many Churches and the SPLC Have in Common

If you want to know where America is quickly heading, go watch the movie “The Hunger Games,” currently playing in theaters everywhere. Or read Orwell’s “1984,” or Huxley’s “Brave New World.” Or better yet, take your eyes off ESPN just long enough to take a good look outside. America, as “the land of the free,” is disappearing. It is already unrecognizable from the country I grew up in, not to mention the country that our Founding Fathers fought and died to create. What happened in fascist Germany is happening right now in America. And one of the telltale marks of this emerging fascist society is the way people who believe in constitutional government, liberty, and individualism are being treated by the mainstream media, mainstream religion, and mainstream politics.

For years, the mainstream media has characterized constitutionalists, patriots, and traditionalists as “far-right,” “extremist,” “radical,” etc. Establishment politicians in both major parties have likewise branded anyone who would not subscribe to their big-government agenda. Groups such as the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) have regurgitated the same inflammatory rhetoric, throwing “racist” and “anti-government” into the mix. And since 9/11/01, the Naziesque Department of Homeland Security has picked up the hype and fomented fear and suspicion of anyone so identified in the hearts of law enforcement personnel nationwide. Now, just like in Nazi Germany, even churches and professing Christians are getting into the act.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Where Does the Supreme Court Get Its Power?

This week the eyes of everyone concerned with the continuance of limited government were riveted on the Supreme Court. For three days the nine Justices heard arguments by the Solicitor General in favor of ruling the individual mandate which is the keystone of Obamacare constitutional. They also heard the representatives of twenty-six States argue that it is unconstitutional. This is the first time that a majority of the States have combined to protest an act of Congress. Now We the People must wait while the fate of our Republic is decided in secret by our Black Robed rulers from whom there is no appeal.

How did we get here?

We elect our representatives and they enact laws which are supposed to be within the framework of the Constitution. It should be the expectation of Americans that those we entrust with our delegated sovereignty would craft laws in accordance with our wishes as expressed in the founding document of our government. These laws should reflect our desire for limited government, personal liberty, and economic freedom.

And the unicorns danced with the elves until the cow jumped over the moon.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Will it Take Revolution?

In my Constitution Classes I teach that we have four tools on our tool belt for taking back America. Those tools were provided by the Founding Fathers through the instruction booklet for taking back this nation, the United States Constitution.

As we enter Constitution crisis after Constitution crisis with this very dangerous Obama administration, it can be easy to lose sight of the truth. I am an optimist, and it is never too late to turn around a system like ours. . . if we are willing to do what it takes to get it back. It won’t be easy, and it won’t be quick, but it can be done.

Like I tell my students regularly, the way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.

Education is the key, for how can we use the tools given to us if we don’t even realize they exist? Then, when educated, the populace can work to create what needs to be done to take back this nation. Eventually, it all comes to a tipping point, and the cockroaches in Washington have no choice but to listen, and once again become obedient to the Constitution, and servants to the people and the States.

The four tools, with the one that ties in with the title of this piece at the end, are as follows:


Article VI, Clause 2, of the United States Constitution states that all laws of the United States made in pursuance of the U.S. Constitution, and all treaties made and ratified by the United States Senate, are the supreme law of the land. All other federal laws are not the supreme law of the land. Therefore, any law made by the federal government that is not in line with the authorities granted to the federal government by the States through the Constitution are unconstitutional, and are then not legally binding. The Constitution is a contract between the States and the federal government, and the States DO NOT have to obey unconstitutional laws for they are a breach of that contract. In other words, not all federal laws trump all State laws as we have been taught, only those laws passed by Congress under the authority of the U.S. Constitution are supreme.

We are told that it is up to the Supreme Court to determine what laws are constitutional, but that is hardly in line with the limiting principles offered by the U.S. Constitution. That power the courts claim to have is called Judicial Review, and it is addressed nowhere in the Constitution. In fact, the federal courts seized that power for themselves through an opinion written by Justice John Marshall in the Marbury v. Madison case of 1803.

Yes, that’s right, the courts gave that power to themselves.

By deciding if laws are constitutional, and since the Supreme Court is a part of the federal government, what is happening is that the federal government is deciding for itself what its own Constitutional authorities are. That, my friends, is hardly in line with the original intent of the Founding Fathers.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Alberta’s Sad Battle for Leadership

Alberta is having a provincial election April 23. On the one hand, is the tired Progressive Conservative Government newly handed over to an extreme leftist Alison Redford.

On the other, is a populist/’libertarian party The Wildrose Party headed by Michelle Smith. Sadly, as this observer relates, even Wildrose is deeply infected with political correctness.

Redford is a protegee of far left former Progressive Conservative Party leader Joe Clark. She worked in South Africa as a loyal groupie of terrorist Nelson Mandela. She won the Tory leadership through the support of the leftist Alberta Teachers’ Federation. Party rules allow late sign-ups, even during the runoff and Redford won with the support of many teachers who were by no means “conservative.”

Columnist Lorne Gunter penned a damning indictment: “The Premier doesn’t like Albertans much. She thinks we drink too much and are a menace on Alberta’s streets and roads. Indeed, in her holier-than-thou mindset, she is sure that any drinking before driving is too much, even just a glass of wine during a restaurant dinner.

Ms. Redford is also convinced that Alberta parents are a hindrance to the teaching of communal values in the classroom. Her Education Minister is pushing amendments to the provincial Education Act that would remove parents as the “primary educators” of their children (with schools as complements to the home), and replace home values with the provisions of the Alberta Human Rights Act.

[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Archeology: EU, Italy to Spend 105 Mln to Save Pompeii

The European Union has given the green light to a plan to join forces with Italy to jointly spend 105 million euros to keep Pompeii from crumbling.

“We gave our approval to this important restoration work that is not only in the interest of Italy, but for all of Europe’s historic patrimony,” said European Union Commissioner for Regional Policy, Johannes Hahn, on Thursday.

Hahn’s commission and Italy from 2000 to 2006 together spent 7.7 million euros on 22 restoration projects at Pompeii.

Highly-publicised collapses of ancient buildings at the UNESCO World Heritage site has prompted an outcry that Italy is neglecting the world’s largest archeological site.

The 2010 crumbling of a portion of the House of the Gladiators led to the resignation of Italy’s culture minister. Former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s government was accused by critics of starving culture of needed funds as the country implemented austerity measures to save tens-of-billions of euros to put its financial house in order.

More recently, in October a chunk of the wall from Domus of Diomede building on Via Consolare collapsed on the day the EU said it was considering the 105 million-euros investment plan.

Pompeii, near Naples, was buried by volcanic ash when Mt. Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Central Europe: Democracy in Decline

Die Presse, 26 March 2012

“A setback for democracy in Eastern Europe,” leads Die Presse, using terms like “dramatic” and “explosive” to describe the results of the latest Transformation Index from the Bertelsmann Foundation, which tracks the evolution of democracy and the market economy in 128 countries.

“Most countries in central, eastern and south-eastern Europe have seen qualitative losses in their democracies, their market economies and their political management in recent years,” says the foundation, which is very close to business circles. It attributes the change to political polarisation and some leaders’ hunger for power. Among the European states highlighted are Hungary (top of the rankings), Slovakia, Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia and Montenegro, while Poland and, to a lesser extent, Serbia get better marks.

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

Denmark: Police Prevent Attack Against Demo

A large group of activists have tried to access a right-wing demo but have been held back by police.

A large contingent of police officers moved in between right and left-wing demonstrators in Aarhus this afternoon.

Police were met with a rain of bottles and other projectiles in their attempt to prevent an attack against a right-wing demonstration in Mølleparken.

The incidents caused police to surround Mølleparken, preventing anyone from entering the location where a couple of hundred Danish and international right-wingers are meeting.

According to’s reporter at the scene, those who attempted to break into the area were dressed in black and masked.

Police vehicles and a large contingent of officers have pushed the intruders back…

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

Denmark: Black-Clad Activists Lob Cobblestones at Police in Aarhus

Aarhus police have detained a total of 82 people in connection with left-wing demonstrations in Denmark’s second city.

Fifty left-wing activists were detained after refusing to leave an area near Mølleparken in Aarhus where some 200 Danish and international far right-wingers had been holding a demonstration.

Prior to that arrests were made when a large group of black-clad activists split off from a main anti-racism demonstration and attacked police in an attempt to reach the far right-wing demonstration.

“About 100 activists left the peaceful demonstration. In an attempt to get to the other demonstration at Mølleparken. They attacked police with cobblestones,” says Georg Husted of the East Jutland Police.

By 5 p.m. police had detained some 20 people in connection with Saturday’s demonstrations.

Later activists attempted to stop a bus under police escort in which right-wing demonstrators were being transported out of the area at the end of their demonstration…

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

European Court Rules Against Ryanair Over Alitalia Loan

Airliner’s owners do not have to repay illegal state aid

(ANSA) — Rome, March 28 — The European Union’s General Court on Wednesday rejected a bid by Ryanair to force Alitalia’s owners to repay a 300-million-euro loan from the Italian state.

The court upheld a 2008 decision by the European Commission that approved the sale of Alitalia’s main assets to a consortium of Italian investors called CAI. The court confirmed that the loan, which Alitalia granted before CAI’s takeover, was illegal state aid.

However, EU regulators have previously stated that new investors are not responsible for paying back illegal state aid if they have acquired the assets at the market price.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

France: Perfume Maker Guerlain Handed 6k Euro Racial Slur Fine

(AGI) Paris — Paris Courts sentence world famous perfume maker Jean-Paul Guerlain to a 6k euro fine on racial slur charges. In a 2010 interview aired by France 2, addressing questions on the launch of his then new Samsara fragrance, Guerlain said “for once, I have had to work like a nigger. In fact, I don’t know if a nigger has ever had to work as hard as I did.” The Paris Court ranked the second part of the sentence as “racial slur,” a crime which under French Law envisages convictions of up to 6 months and fines as hefty as 22,50o euro. At the time of its broadcast, Guerlain’s statements had caused widespread outrage and led to protest pickets outside the Guerlain boutique in Paris’ Champs Elysees.

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

Greeks Not Big on Using Computers, Says Eurostat

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, MARCH 27 — The percentage use of computers between the ages of 16 and 74 in Greece is among the lowest in the European Union, based on a Eurostat report unveiled on Monday. Based on Eurostat’s figures, as Athens News Agency reports, only 59% of the Greek population between the ages of 16 and 74 used a computer in Greece in 2011. This was the third lowest percentage in the EU after Romania (50%) and Bulgaria (55%). The highest percentages recorded were in Sweden (96%) and then Denmark, Luxembourg and the Netherlands (94%).

The average figures for the 27 EU member-states was 78%. For young people aged 16-24 years old, the use of computers in Greece was 97%, compared to 96% for the EU27 average. Computer use among people in the same age group in the Netherlands, Austria, Luxembourg, Sweden, Finland and the United Kingdom was 100%. The lowest percentage use was in Romania (81%), Bulgaria (87%) and in Italy (90%).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Ireland: TV Watchdog’s Targeting of Ads for Cheese Grates With Farmers

CHEESE IS a danger to children? You gouda be kidding, say farming groups, who have set themselves on a collision course with the State’s broadcasting watchdog over a draft advertising code published yesterday.

Among the foods the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland wants to ban from breaks during children’s television is cheese — both high and low fat.

Public observations on the draft Children’s Commercial Communications Code are invited over the next two months.

Once submissions have been taken into account and a final code written it will be legislated for and is expected to come into force next January.

The targeting of cheese in the plan — signalled in recent weeks — has grated with industry groups as well as politicians, including Fine Gael party chairman Charlie Flanagan, who in the Dáil recently likened the proposal to the “nanny state gone mad”.

That was mild by comparison to some of the criticism yesterday. Stressing it was no laughing matter, the Irish Dairy Industries Association said the authority’s decision “sends mixed messages to consumers and threatens the reputation of Ireland’s dairy industry at home and abroad”.

Kevin Kiersey, chairman of the Irish Farmers Association’s national dairy committee, said that the approach was more likely to damage than improve children’s diets.

“Cheese provides a concentrated source of calcium — an element lacking from many children’s and teenagers’ diets — and many other valuable nutrients,” he said.

Other blacklisted foods include potato crisps, including low fat; most breakfast cereals; biscuits and cakes; confectionery; most pizzas, sausages and burgers; mayonnaise; sweetened milkshakes and fruit juices; cola and fizzy drinks, except diet versions; and butter and margarine.

Also, if advertisements for such products are shown during programming likely to be watched by children — such as X-Factor, Coronation Street or The Voice — they cannot be aimed at children, include celebrities or sports stars, include television or cinema “characters” or personalities or contain nutritional or health claims.

Cheese advertisements during children’s television should be banned as it was high in fat “and saturated fat”, the draft code says. An exception was made only for cottage cheese.

Declan McLoughlin, policy officer with the authority, said that it had adopted the nutrient profiling model developed by the UK Food Standards Authority for broadcasting regulation in Britain to assess whether a food or drink had a high fat/sugar/salt content.

“We are not interested in telling people what they should and should not eat. Our interest is in the environment in which they make informed choices,” he said.

           — Hat tip: McR[Return to headlines]

Italy: ‘Unemployed’ Man Employs 15

Ex-flight attendant ordered to repay benefits

(ANSA) — Rome, March 21 — Police uncovered an unemployment scam on Wednesday when investigators reported an ex-Alitalia flight attendant claiming unemployment benefits was actually the owner and manager of a gardening business based in Rome with 15 employees.

The man has been charged with aggravated fraud and damages to the State and ordered to repay 120,000 euros of unemployment compensation collected over the last three years.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Fight Against Tax Evasion Reaping Results

15% more recovered last year says Befera

(ANSA) — Rome, March 29 — The fight against tax evasion is reaping good results, tax agency head Attilio Befera said Thursday.

His agency recovered 15% more of dodged taxes last year compared to 2010 and believes it “will do even better this year”, helped by the strong backing of the Mario Monti government.

Befera said high-profile tax sweeps such as those in Italian resorts and chic shopping districts “will continue”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Parma: A New Grana Cheese Suitable for Muslims

‘Verdiano’ aimed at India and Islamic countries markets

(ANSAmed) — PARMA — They have chosen the name ‘Il Verdiano’ for Parma’s first hard grana-type cheese to be produced using vegetable rennet. The copyright was applied for by Gisella Pizzin (from the Animal Health Department of Parma’s School of Veterinary Medicine)along with the University to which it belongs. The cheese will be produced for the present in a dairy unit in Soragna, a village in the Province of Parma. This new technology opens new and significant market prospects for the production of grana cheese. The product will be able to access those world markets such as India or countries of predominantly Muslim faith, whose ethical and religious considerations rule out traditional grana cheese made with rennet extracted from the stomach of a suckling calf.

As Doctor Afro Quarantelli, who runs the animal production department at Parma University explains: “The creation of ‘Verdiano’ will enable this famed global product to be placed on global markets, giving traders and marketing experts as well as consumers the clear message that the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese making area is moving with the times and meeting the justifiable requirements of innumerable consumers who would otherwise be among those enjoying the traditional product”.

To mark the presentation of the patent, the trademark that will go with the new product was also on show.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Rome Mayor Alemanno Will Call a Referedum on Skyscrapers

(AGI) Rome — “My intention is to call a real popular referedum” on the plan to build skyscrapers in suburban Rome. “The referendum could be called concomitantly with municipal elections so as to guarantee real popular attendance”. The statement was made by Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno during the Conference on Urban Development organized jointly with the Regional Authorities of Latium. “We are awaiting the result of the Skyscrapers Committee which comprises, among others, architects Fuksas and Libeskind: a Conference to illustrate the results is scheduled for October”, Alemanno explained highlighting that the demolition and reconstruction works to be implemented in Rome’s suburbs “should not exclude the option of building upwards even if, for example, in the case of Tor Bella Monica, it should go in the opposite direction, with a community-style architecture on a human scale. Things should be analyzed on a case-by-case basis but we cannot simply surrender to immobility due to pure ideology”.

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

Italy: Cardinal Invites Prayers for Rain as Drought Continues

Why meteorologists are predicting a thirsty summer after hot March

Drought is threatening much of Italy. One of the worst-hit regions is Tuscany, where Cardinal Giuseppe Betori has issued an invitation to pray for rain. Meanwhile, the situation looks set to deteriorate. Massimiliano Pasqui from the national research council’s (CNR) biometeorology institute said: “All the ingredients are there. Winter months were characterised by a significant lack of precipitation that will project negative effects into the near future, probably for the whole year”. Why?

December 2011 and January 2012 were much less rainy than usual. February brought some mainly snow-derived water but in fairly restricted zones, the areas most affected being those on the Adriatic coast. Traditionally, February is a dry month and does not guarantee much water. However, it should be followed by abundant rainfall in the three months of spring from March to May but instead the whole of central and northern Italy was dry. In contrast, the south of the country has plenty of water, although this will probably not be of much help. Mr Pasqui points out: “So even if April and May bring normal rainfall, the territory will still experience a water shortage because it will be insufficient to restore the normal situation. Next week’s forecasts are for rain. This will bring a little bit of relief to fields and woodlands but it will not be enough”.

The monthly forecasts suggest rain will continue into April but there is uncertainty over May, when the indications are for above-average temperatures. This is unencouraging as the impact of any rainfall would be diminished by the accelerated evaporation induced by higher temperatures…

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

Italy: Gladiators to be Booted From Colosseum

Rome city officials said the costumed gladiators and centurions will no longer be allowed to ask for money around the Colosseum. Davide Bordoni, the city’s councilor for commerce, said a task force will be in effect starting Friday to stop the costumed performers from asking tourists to pay them money to pose for pictures, ANSA reported Thursday.

Archeology Superintendent Maria Rosa Barbera, who ordered the crackdown, also told licensed vendors around the Colosseum to distance themselves from the costumed characters. Officials said the gladiators and centurions will still be able to work in locations including the road leading to the Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain and the Renaissance Piazza Navona.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italy: Effort to Clear Colosseum of ‘Centurions’ Prompts ‘Fight’

Rome says they have until April 6 to leave. Centurions at the Roman Colosseum say they’ll stay put and promise blood — or at least a fight. A plan by the Eternal City to clear Rome’s most popular tourist attraction of the unauthorized vendors that clutter the area surrounding the 2,000 year-old Flavian Amphitheatre raised the hackles of the gladiators and centurions.

Legions of Roman legionaries donning chest plates, tunics, and military sandals draw their weapons for a price. With one hand resting on a tourist’s shoulder and another gripping a sword, the armed centurion says “cheese,” or growls in a gruff pose. Click. “Ten euros, grazie.”. Disoriented foreigners at times cough up 20 or 30 euros. Detecting a scam, a tourist is periodically beaten up for not paying, but centurions are generally gregarious. They need to work and have been earning a tax-free living working off the tourist trade in plain view for decades. Now the city says “basta.”

“This will end badly. We’ll wage a revolution. We’ll burn down the Colosseum rather than move from here,” a 21st century centurion told reporters.

There’s a potential fortune to be made from the 6 million people who visit the Colosseum every year. An entrenched illegal industry revolves around Rome’s attractions. Artists painting caricatures in Piazza Navona crowd out Gian Lorenzo Berninis’ 17th century Fountain of the Four Rivers, unregistered tour guides pace outside the Vatican Museums in search of customers, and touts invite diners to sit at tables placed illegally in some of the world’s most breathtaking squares.

But everything pales in comparison to the Colosseum where dozens of tour buses line the street to give passengers an hour to visit the same site where Russel Crowe battled for revenge in the 2000 epic blockbuster “Gladiator.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italy: Man Who Beat Daughter for Reciting Koran Incorrectly Broke Law, Court Says

Italy’s Supreme Court on Friday agreed with a lower court that a different culture was no reason for a Moroccan man to be allowed to beat his 12-year-old daughter for failing to correctly recite the Koran. The court upheld a ruling that the father was guilty of abuse and aggravated assault for hitting his daughter with a broom handle.

A defense lawyer argued that the culture of resident in northeastern coastal city of Ravenna allowed him to strike his daughter for “educational” reasons. In the ruling, the judge said the father’s actions were “violent and unjustifiable” for Italians and foreigners alike.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Leaders of Controversial Neutrino Experiment Step Down

The supposedly super-speedy neutrinos may have slowed, but they haven’t stopped creating turmoil in the physics world. Two leaders of the OPERA experiment behind the controversial result stepped down this week.

Spokesperson Antonio Ereditato of the University of Bern in Switzerland turned in his resignation on 29 March, and physics coordinator Dario Autiero of the Institute of Nuclear Physics in Lyon, France, resigned on 30 March. Both cited tensions within the collaboration as the reason for their departures.

In September, the OPERA collaboration reported that they had measured neutrinos making the 730-kilometre trip from CERN in Switzerland to the Gran Sasso underground laboratory in Italy 60 nanoseconds faster than if they had been travelling at light speed.

If it panned out, the result would have turned much of modern physics on its head, contradicting Einstein’s theory of special relativity and opening the theoretical door to exotic possibilities like extra dimensions and time travel.

The result, however, seems to be down to experimental error. OPERA announced last month that they had found a malfunctioning clock and a leaky fibre-optic cable that could explain part or all of the neutrinos’ extra speed. And another experiment in the same underground cavern in Italy, ICARUS, re-did the same measurement and saw no faster-than-light speeds.

“We don’t think anymore that the neutrinos were superluminal,” says OPERA team member Luca Stanco of Italy’s National Physics Institute.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: The Hague Mosque Suspends Radical Sheikh

The Sunnah mosque in The Hague has suspended Sheikh Fawaz for at least three weeks for allegedly insulting board members and disturbing a meeting. In an interview with Radio Netherlands Worldwide, Fawaz al-Jneid voiced anger and frustration. Sheikh Fawaz is known for his extreme opinions. In the past, he said he wished Dutch politician and anti-Islam activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali and writer and film maker Theo van Gogh, who was murdered in 2004, would contract a deadly disease. He sued populist MP Geert Wilders over his anti-Islam film . He is also said to approve of polygamy. But he has also denounced groups such as Sharia4Belgium and Shariah4Holland saying their views were too radical.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Skye Cave Find Western Europe’s ‘Earliest String Instrument’

Archaeologists believe they have uncovered the remains of the earliest stringed instrument to be found so far in western Europe. The small burnt and broken piece of carved piece of wood was found during an excavation in a cave on Skye. Archaeologists said it was likely to be part of the bridge of a lyre dating to more than 2,300 years ago.

Music archaeologist Dr Graeme Lawson said the discovery marked a “step change” in music history. The Cambridge-based expert said: “It pushes the history of complex music back more than a thousand years, into our darkest pre-history. “And not only the history of music but more specifically of song and poetry, because that’s what such instruments were very often used for.

“The earliest known lyres date from about 5,000 years ago, in what is now Iraq, and these were already complicated and finely-made structures. “But here in Europe even Roman traces proved hard to locate. Pictures, maybe, but no actual remains.”

The remains, which were unveiled in Edinburgh, were found in High Pasture Cave, where Bronze and Iron Age finds have been made previously. Cultural historian Dr Purser said: “What, for me, is so exciting about this find is that it confirms the continuity of a love of music amongst the Western Celts.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Malmö: Reepalu’s Future ‘Hangs in the Balance’

Social Democrats in Malmö say Ilmar Reepalu is an “embarrassment” to the party and that his future as the city’s mayor may be in jeopardy following recent comments labelled as “anti-Semitic” by Sweden’s Jewish community, The Local’s Patrick Reilly discovers. Reepalu sparked a scandal last week in an interview with liberal-leaning magazine NEO in which he discussed the “strong ties” between the Jewish community and the Sweden Democrats, a political party with a clear anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim line which has its roots in Sweden’s neo-Nazi movement.

According to Reepalu, “Sweden Democrats have infiltrated the Jewish community in order to push their hate of Muslims”.

While he later admitted he had “no basis” for the claims, party colleagues fear that his latest comments may have already put his future as Malmö mayor in doubt.

“Reepalu has damaged the party with his comments. It is an embarrassment and very bad for the party,” Milan Obradovic, a Social Democrat on Malmö’s local council, tells The Local.

“If this were to happen again then he would probably have to resign.”

Last weekend’s election of a new chair of Malmö’s Social Democrats was dominated by discussions over Reepalu’s remarks, which have infuriated the Jewish community.

Obradovic says young Social Democrats in particular have turned their back on the city’s 68-year old mayor.

“Many young people said they felt Reepalu’s comments were racist and that he doesn’t represent them. Older members of the party know Reepalu well and know that he isn’t a racist,” he says.

“He has done a lot of tremendous work for the city but that can get forgotten when he says things like this. What he said was totally unacceptable.”

Obradovic explains that Reepalu can’t simply defend the comments as a “misunderstanding” or by claiming his views don’t represent those of the Social Democrats.

“Even if he was making these comments as a private individual, as a politician you are always representing the party when you do interviews,” he says.

“He needs to think before he speaks in future.”

Joakim Sandell, the newly elected chair of the Social Democrats in Malmö, says he was stunned when he learned of Reepalu’s comments, which prompted Jewish leaders to write an angry letter to party head Stefan Löfven demanding action.

“When I read what he had said I couldn’t believe it,” Sandell tells The Local.

“As a politician it is never good if you have to apologize for your comments but what he said was inappropriate.”

Sandell adds it was right for Reepalu to apologize, but dares not speculate as to what would have happened if Reepalu hadn’t reacted.

Regardless, Sandell plans on taking up the matter at next week’s emergency talks with Löfven and goes on to emphasize that Reepalu has done a lot for the city, despite the numerous public gaffes which have shattered his reputation among Jews in Malmö and elsewhere.

“Reepalu is a good politician who has done fine work for Malmö and our party. I think most people still have confidence in him,” says Sandell.

Meanwhile journalist Paulina Neuding, who conducted the interview with Reepalu published in the liberal-leaning magazine NEO, refutes claims that she had somehow misquoted the Malmö mayor explaining that he read over his comments prior to publication.

Neuding tells The Local that Reepalu had requested some changes, which she agreed to, but was happy to leave in his quotes about the Swedish Democrats and the Jews.

Reepalu has since stated in his defence, however, that he’s “never been an anti-Semite and never will be”.

Nevertheless, Jewish anger on the ground in Malmö remains high following Reepalu’s comments.

Local Rabbi Shneur Kesselman tells The Local that he has tried to keep a low profile following the publication of the interview in NEO.

“We are not happy about what is going on. Reepalu is not the kind of person who just goes around saying stupid things. He is a clever politician who knows what he is doing,” says Kesselman.

And George Braun, head of the Jewish Community in Gothenburg tells The Local that what was most disturbing with Reepalu’s statements was that this was not a one-time misunderstanding but something that’s been going on for years.

“He’s made a lot of comments off which are going in the same direction. Once wouldn’t be so bad, but we’ve seen the same attitude expressed in different ways over the years all of which have an anti-Semitic touch,” Braun says, adding that he thinks it is time for the Social Democrats to take a stand on this issue.

According to Braun, the situation for Jews in Malmö is different than for the rest of the country.

“They continue to experience threats and comments on a daily basis. It’s primarily harassment from young men that have a background from the Middle East, from what I understand,” he says.

And in Malmö, Kesselman has stated in previous interviews that he has been attacked for making his beliefs obvious by dressing in traditional Jewish attire.

“Sometimes (an attack) can happen twice in one day and then nothing for two months. It all depends,” he told The Local previously.

Reepalu has also been mocked by the Malmö wing of the Sweden Democrats, who found themselves dragged into the long-running spat between the mayor and the city’s Jews when Reepalu charged the party had “infiltrated” the local Jewish community.

“None of our members have infiltrated the Jewish community to spread some message. This is just Reepalu lying again. Honestly, we are laughing at him,” Jörgen Grubb, chair of the Sweden Democrats in Malmö, tells The Local.

Reepalu’s conduct — and future — will be the subject of talks scheduled to take place on Monday between leaders from Sweden’s Jewish community and top Social Democrats; talks which Reepalu’s Malmö colleague Obradovic expects will be difficult.

“We are going to have a serious discussion about this matter and there will be a lot of hard words at the meeting,” he says.

In an interview with local paper Sydsvenskan published on Friday, Reepalu said that he thinks it is important that the matter is cleared up.

“I am hoping to see the Jewish community straight after their talks with Stefan Löfven so that we together can work out what it is I think and feel,” Reepalu said to the paper.

“We must work out what I must correct so that it cannot be misinterpreted in that coarse way, like anti-Semitic rhetoric.”

Despite the storm of reactions he is confident that he will be staying on as mayor of Malmö.

“Of course, I take for granted that the work I do in Malmö, I will continue to do,” said Reepalu to Sydsvenskan.

           — Hat tip: Freedom Fighter[Return to headlines]

Swedish Defense Minister Steps Down Following Controversy

(AGI) Stockholm- Swedish Defense Minister Sten Tolgfors stepped down following weeks of controversy. His resignation has also come in the wake of a probe into plans to build a weapons plant in Saudi Arabia. Speaking at a press conference in the capital, Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt stated, “At his own request, I have decided to relieve Sten Tolgfors of his duties”. The investigation was conducted by Swedish public radio and comprised hundreds of classified documents and interviews with former Swedish Defense Research Afency FOI.

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

Swiss-German Row Over Tax Evasion Escalates

A lengthy Swiss-German dispute on how to catch wealthy tax evaders has escalated on news that Switzerland has issued arrest warrants for three German tax inspectors.

The Dusseldorf-based government of Germany’s most-populous state North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) has confirmed that Swiss prosecutors want three NRW tax inspectors arrested for alleged “economic espionage.”

NRW premier Hannelore Kraft said on Saturday she was outraged by the development. “The NRW tax inspectors were only doing their duty to chase German tax cheats who had put their untaxed money in Swiss bank accounts,” she said.

The affair — initially reported by the newspaper Bild am Sonntag — goes back two years to a stolen CD that exposed German customers of the Credit Suisse bank. It was purchased in 2010 by NRW, reportedly for 2.5 million euros (3.2 million dollars), enabling NRW prosecutors to extend tax evasion probes within Germany.

German Federal Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble, reacting to the new spat while attending EU talks in Copenhagen, said he saw no connection between the Swiss warrants and a draft German-Swiss deal. Switzerland was “just as independent” as Germany in its tax set-up, he said.

That pending deal would allow German tax evaders to make one-time payments to German tax authorities to legalize money hidden in Swiss bank accounts. A withholding tax would similarly extract revenues from future asset earnings in Switzerland.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

The Fall of the Roman Empire and the Rise of Islam

by Tom Holland

Rome’s collapse inspired many gripping tales, from Gibbon’s history to Dune and Battlestar Galactica. The story of Arthur’s Camelot has its origins in this era of political convulsion, as does a narrative that has taken on vast global importance — the foundation of Islam

Whenever modern civilisations contemplate their own mortality, there is one ghost that will invariably rise up from its grave to haunt their imaginings. In February 1776, a few months after the publication of the first volume of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Edward Gibbon commented gloomily on the news from America, where rebellion against Britain appeared imminent. “The decline of the two empires, Roman and British, proceeds at an equal pace.” Now, with the west mired in recession and glancing nervously over its shoulder at China, the same parallel is being dusted down. Last summer, when the Guardian’s Larry Elliott wrote an article on the woes of the US economy, the headline almost wrote itself: “Decline and fall of the American empire”.

Historians, it is true, have become increasingly uncomfortable with narratives of decline and fall. Few now would accept that the conquest of Roman territory by foreign invaders was a guillotine brought down on the neck of classical civilisation. The transformation from the ancient world to the medieval is recognised as something far more protracted. “Late antiquity” is the term scholars use for the centuries that witnessed its course. Roman power may have collapsed, but the various cultures of the Roman empire mutated and evolved. “We see in late antiquity,” so Averil Cameron, one of its leading historians, has observed, “a mass of experimentation, new ways being tried and new adjustments made.”

Yet it is a curious feature of the transformation of the Roman world into something recognisably medieval that it bred extraordinary tales even as it impoverished the ability of contemporaries to keep a record of them. “The greatest, perhaps, and most awful scene, in the history of mankind”: so Gibbon described his theme. He was hardly exaggerating: the decline and fall of the Roman empire was a convulsion so momentous that even today its influence on stories with an abiding popular purchase remains greater, perhaps, than that of any other episode in history. It can take an effort, though, to recognise this. In most of the narratives informed by the world of late antiquity, from world religions to recent science-fiction and fantasy novels, the context provided by the fall of Rome’s empire has tended to be disguised or occluded.

Consider a single sheet of papyrus bearing the decidedly unromantic sobriquet of PERF 558. It was uncovered back in the 19th century at the Egyptian city of Herakleopolis, a faded ruin 80 miles south of Cairo. Herakleopolis itself had passed most of its existence in a condition of somnolent provincialism: first as an Egyptian city, and then, following the conquest of the country by Alexander the Great, as a colony run by and largely for Greeks. The makeover given to it by this new elite was to prove an enduring one. A thousand years on — and some 600 years after its absorption into the Roman empire — Herakleopolis still sported a name that provided, on the banks of the Nile, a little touch of far-off Greece: “the city of Heracles”. PERF 558 too, in its own humble way, also bore witness to the impact on Egypt of an entire millennium of foreign rule. It was a receipt, issued for 65 sheep, presented to two officials bearing impeccably Hellenic names Christophoros and Theodorakios and written in Greek.

But not in Greek alone. The papyrus sheet also featured a second language, one never before seen in Egypt. What was it doing there, on an official council receipt? The sheep, according to a note added in Greek on the back, had been requisitioned by “Magaritai” — but who or what were they? The answer was to be found on the front of the papyrus sheet, within the text of the receipt itself. The “Magaritai”, it appeared, were none other than the people known as “Saracens”: nomads from Arabia, long dismissed by the Romans as “despised and insignificant”. Clearly, that these barbarians were now in a position to extort sheep from city councillors suggested a dramatic reversal of fortunes. Nor was that all. The most bizarre revelation of the receipt, perhaps, lay in the fact that a race of shiftless nomads, bandits who for as long as anyone could remember had been lost to an unvarying barbarism, appeared to have developed their own calendar. “The 30th of the month of Pharmouthi of the first indiction”: so the receipt was logged in Greek, a date which served to place it in year 642 since the birth of Christ. But it was also, so the receipt declared in the Saracens’ own language, “the year twenty two”: 22 years since what? Some momentous occurance, no doubt, of evidently great significance to the Saracens themselves. But what precisely, and whether it might have contributed to the arrival of the newcomers in Egypt, and how it was to be linked to that enigmatic title “Magaritai”, PERF 558 does not say.

We can now recognise the document as the marker of something seismic. The Magaritai were destined to implant themselves in the country far more enduringly than the Greeks or the Romans had ever done. Arabic, the language they had brought with them, and that appears as such a novelty on PERF 558, is nowadays so native to Egypt that the country has come to rank as the power-house of Arab culture. Yet even a transformation of that order barely touches on the full scale of the changes which are hinted at so prosaically. A new age, of which that tax receipt issued in Herakleopolis in “the year 22” ranks as the oldest surviving dateable document, had been brought into being. This, to almost one in four people alive today, is a matter of more than mere historical interest. Infinitely more — for it touches, in their opinion, on the very nature of the Divine. The question of what it was that had brought the Magaritai to Herakleopolis, and to numerous other cities besides, has lain, for many centuries now, at the heart of a great and global religion: Islam.

It was the prompting hand of God, not a mere wanton desire to extort sheep, that had first motivated the Arabs to leave their desert homeland. Such, at any rate, was the conviction of Ibn Hisham, a scholar based in Egypt who wrote a century and a half after the first appearance of the Magaritai in Herakleopolis, but whose fascination with the period, and with the remarkable events that had stamped it, was all-consuming. No longer, by AD 800, were the Magaritai to be reckoned a novelty. Instead — known now as “Muslims”, or “those who submit to God” — they had succeeded in winning for themselves a vast agglomeration of territories: an authentically global empire. Ibn Hisham, looking back at the age which had first seen the Arabs grow conscious of themselves as a chosen people, and surrounded as he was by the ruins of superceded civilisations, certainly had no lack of pages to fill.

What was it that had brought the Arabs as conquerors to cities such as Herakleopolis, and far beyond? The ambition of Ibn Hisham was to provide an answer. The story he told was that of an Arab who had lived almost two centuries previously, and been chosen by God as the seal of His prophets: Muhammad. Although Ibn Hisham was himself certainly drawing on earlier material, his is the oldest biography to have survived, in the form we have it, into the present day. The details it provided would become fundamental to the way that Muslims have interpreted their faith ever since. That Muhammad had received a series of divine revelations; that he had grown up in the depths of Arabia, in a pagan metropolis, Mecca; that he had fled it for another city, Yathrib, where he had established the primal Muslim state; that this flight, or hijra, had transformed the entire order of time, and come to provide Muslims with their Year One: all this was enshrined to momentous effect by Ibn Hisham. The contrast between Islam and the age that had preceded it was rendered in his biography as clear as that between midday and the dead of night. The white radiance of Muhammad’s revelations, blazing first across Arabia and then to the limits of the world, had served to bring all humanity into a new age of light.

The effect of this belief was to prove incalculable. To this day, even among non-Muslims, it continues to inform the way in which the history of the Middle East is interpreted and understood. Whether in books, museums or universities, the ancient world is imagined to have ended with the coming of Muhammad. Yet even on the presumption that what Islam teaches is correct, and that the revelations of Muhammad did indeed descend from heaven, it is still pushing things to imagine that the theatre of its conquests was suddenly conjured, over the span of a single generation, into a set from The Arabian Nights. That the Arab conquests were part of a much vaster and more protracted drama, the decline and fall of the Roman empire, has been too readily forgotten.

Place these conquests in their proper context and a different narrative emerges. Heeding the lesson taught by Gibbon back in the 18th century, that the barbarian invasions of Europe and the victories of the Saracens were different aspects of the same phenomenon, serves to open up vistas of drama unhinted at by the traditional Muslim narratives. The landscape through which the Magaritai rode was certainly not unique to Egypt. In the west too, there were provinces that had witnessed the retreat and collapse of a superpower, the depredations of foreign invaders, and the desperate struggle of locals to fashion a new security for themselves. Only in the past few decades has this perspective been restored to its proper place in the academic spotlight. Yet it is curious that long before the historian Peter Brown came to write his seminal volume The World of Late Antiquity — which traced, to influential effect, patterns throughout the half millennium between Marcus Aurelius and the founding of Baghdad — a number of bestselling novelists had got there first. What their work served to demonstrate was that the fall of the Roman empire, even a millennium and a half on, had lost none of its power to inspire gripping narratives.

“There were nearly twenty-five million inhabited planets in the Galaxy then, and not one but owed allegiance to the Empire whose seat was on Trantor. It was the last half-century in which that could be said.” So begins Isaac Asimov’s Foundation, a self-conscious attempt to relocate Gibbon’s magnum opus to outer space. First published in 1951, it portrayed a galactic imperium on the verge of collapse, and the attempt by an enlightened band of scientists to insure that eventual renaissance would follow its fall. The influence of the novel, and its two sequels, has been huge, and can be seen in every subsequent sci-fi epic that portrays sprawling empires set among the stars — from Star Wars to Battlestar Galactica. Unlike most of his epigoni, however, Asimov drew direct sustenance from his historical model. The parabola of Asimov’s narrative closely follows that of Gibbon. Plenipotentiaries visit imperial outposts for the last time; interstellar equivalents of Frankish or Ostrogothic kingdoms sprout on the edge of the Milky Way; the empire, just as its Roman precursor had done under Justinian, attempts a comeback. Most intriguingly of all, in the second novel of the series, we are introduced to an enigmatic character named the Mule, who emerges seemingly from nowhere to transform the patterns of thought of billions, and conquer much of the galaxy. The context makes it fairly clear that he is intended to echo Muhammad. In an unflattering homage to Muslim tradition, Asimov even casts the Mule as a mutant, a freak of nature so unexpected that nothing in human science could possibly have explained or anticipated him.

Parallels with the tales told of Muhammad are self-evident in a second great epic of interstellar empire, Frank Herbert’s Dune. A prophet arises from the depths of a desert world to humiliate an empire and launch a holy war — a jihad. Herbert’s hero, Paul Atreides, is a man whose sense of supernatural mission is shadowed by self-doubt. “I cannot do the simplest thing,” he reflects, “without its becoming a legend.” Time will prove him correct. Without ever quite intending it, he founds a new religion, and launches a wave of conquest that ends up convulsing the galaxy. In the end, we know, there will be “only legend, and nothing to stop the jihad”. There is an irony in this, an echo not only of the spectacular growth of the historical caliphate, but of how the traditions told about Muhammad evolved as well. Ibn Hisham’s biography may have been the first to survive — but it was not the last. As the years went by, and ever more lives of the Prophet came to be written, so the details grew ever more miraculous. Fresh evidence — wholly unsuspected by Muhammad’s earliest biographers — would see him revered as a man able to foretell the future, to receive messages from camels, and to pick up a soldier’s eyeball, reinsert it, and make it work better than before. The result was yet one more miracle: the further in time from the Prophet a biographer, the more extensive his biography was likely to be.

Herbert’s novel counterpoints snatches of unreliable biography — in which Paul has become “Muad’Dib”, the legendary “Dune Messiah” — with the main body of the narrative, which reveals a more secular truth. Such, of course, is the prerogative of fiction. Nevertheless, it does suggest, for the historian, an unsettling question: to what extent might the traditions told by Muslims about their prophet contradict the actual reality of the historical Muhammad? Nor is it only western scholars who are prone to asking this — so too, for instance, are Salafists, keen as they are to strip away the accretions of centuries, and reveal to the faithful the full unspotted purity of the primal Muslim state. But what if, after all the cladding has been torn down, there is nothing much left, beyond the odd receipt for sheep? That Muhammad existed is evident from the scattered testimony of Christian near-contemporaries, and that the Magaritai themselves believed a new order of time to have been ushered in is clear from their mention of a “Year 22”. But do we see in the mirror held up by Ibn Hisham, and the biographers who followed him, an authentic reflection of Muhammad’s life — or something distorted out of recognition by a combination of awe and the passage of time?

There may be a lack of early Muslim sources for Muhammad’s life, but in other regions of the former Roman empire there are even more haunting silences. The deepest of all, perhaps, is the one that settled over the one-time province of Britannia. Around 800AD, at the same time as Ibn Hisham was drawing up a list of nine engagements in which Muhammad was said personally to have fought, a monk in the far distant wilds of Wales was compiling a very similar record of victories, 12 in total, all of them attributable to a single leader, and cast by their historian as indubitable proof of the blessings of God. The name of the monk was Nennius; and the name of his hero — who was supposed to have lived long before — was Arthur. The British warlord, like the Arab prophet, was destined to have an enduring afterlife. The same centuries which would see Muslim historians fashion ever more detailed and loving histories of Muhammad and his companions would also witness, far beyond the frontiers of the caliphate, the gradual transformation of the mysterious Arthur and his henchmen into the model of a Christian court. The battles listed by Nennius would come largely to be forgotten: in their place, haunting the imaginings of all Christendom, would be the conviction that there had once existed a realm where the strong had protected the weak, where the bravest warriors had been the purest in heart, and where a sense of Christian fellowship had bound everyone to the upholding of a common order. The ideal was to prove a precious one — so much so that to this day, there remains a mystique attached to the name of Camelot.

Nor was the world of Arthur the only dimension of magic and mystery to have emerged out of the shattered landscape of the one-time Roman empire. The English, the invaders against whom Arthur was supposed to have fought, told their own extraordinary tales. Gawping at the crumbling masonry of Roman towns, they saw in it “the work of giants”. Gazing into the shadows beyond their halls, they imagined ylfe ond orcnéas, and orthanc enta geweorc — “elves and orcs”, and “the skilful work of giants”. These stories, in turn, were only a part of the great swirl of epic, Gothic and Frankish and Norse, which preserved in their verses the memory of terrible battles, and mighty kings, and the rise and fall of empires: trace-elements of the death-agony of Roman greatness. Most of these poems, though, like the kingdoms that were so often their themes, no longer exist. They are fragments, or mere rumours of fragments. The wonder-haunted fantasies of post-Roman Europe have themselves become spectres and phantasms. “Alas for the lost lore, the annals and old poets.”

So wrote JRR Tolkien, philologist, scholar of Old English, and a man so convinced of the abiding potency of the vanished world of epic that he devoted his life to conjuring it back into being. The Lord of the Rings may not be an allegory of the fall of the Roman empire, but it is shot through with echoes of the sound and fury of that “awful scene”. What happened and what might have happened swirl, and meet, and merge. An elf quotes a poem on an abandoned Roman town. Horsemen with Old English names ride to the rescue of a city that is vast and beautiful, and yet, like Constantinople in the wake of the Arab conquests, “falling year by year into decay”. Armies of a Dark Lord repeat the strategy of Attila in the battle of the Catalaunian plains — and suffer a similar fate. Tolkien’s ambition, so Tom Shippey has written, “was to give back to his own country the legends that had been taken from it”. In the event, his achievement was something even more startling. Such was the popularity of The Lord of the Rings, and such its influence on an entire genre of fiction, that it breathed new life into what for centuries had been the merest bones of an entire but forgotten worldscape.

It would seem, then, that when an empire as great as Rome’s declines and falls, the reverberations can be made to echo even in outer space, even in a mythical Middle Earth. In the east as in the west, in the Fertile Crescent as in Britain, what emerged from the empire’s collapse, forged over many centuries, were new identities, new values, new presumptions. Indeed, many of these would end up taking on such a life of their own that the very circumstances of their birth would come to be obscured — and on occasion forgotten completely. The age that had witnessed the collapse of Roman power, refashioned by those looking back to it centuries later in the image of their own times, was cast by them as one of wonders and miracles, irradiated by the supernatural, and by the bravery of heroes. The potency of that vision is one that still blazes today.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Toulouse Killer Buried in the City Where He Carried Out His Merciless Killing Spree After His Body is Turned Away by Algeria

Al Qaeda gunman Mohammed Merah has today been buried outside the French city of Toulouse.

A police helicopter buzzed overhead and around 100 policemen stood guard as the serial killer was laid to rest in the Cornebarrieu cemetery.

According to reports, his body was accompanied by around 15 men whose identities were unknown, but were said to be unrelated to the Merah.

The government of his home country of Algeria, where today’s burial had been scheduled to take place, also banned him from being laid to rest there over ‘security concerns’.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK Oceanography Cuts Make Global Waves

Layoffs will hit international research and collaboration.

Oceanographers around the world are warning that cuts to the United Kingdom’s National Oceanography Centre (NOC) could damage international projects in their field — and cuts at more UK environmental-research centres could soon follow.

Nature reported yesterday that 35 posts are to be lost in the science section at the NOC’s sites in Southampton and Liverpool. The cuts stem from financial strictures imposed by the centre’s main funder, the UK Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), which have necessitated savings of £3.5 million (US$5.6 million) a year on the centre’s £45-million annual budget. The job losses amount to nearly one-quarter of the science staff at the NOC.

In a statement, the NOC confirmed that the cuts were driven by “an overall squeeze on the Natural Environment Research Council’s budget and the rebalancing of NERC’s spend from core national capability funding towards more competitive research programme funding”.

The centre has played a pivotal part in a number of major international projects, including the European Space Agency’s Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity satellite and the Census of Marine Life. Peter Challenor, an ocean scientist at the NOC in Southampton, says that the cuts have hit the physics and climate groups particularly hard.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: A Runaway Victory for George Galloway and All Praise to Allah

by Andrew Gilligan

George Galloway fought his by-election campaign in Bradford West as a champion of Islam, nakedly appealing to race and faith.

In the last few days before George Galloway’s amazing by-election triumph in Bradford, a crudely photocopied leaflet flooded the Asian areas of the seat. “God KNOWS who is a Muslim. And he KNOWS who is not,” it said. “Let me point out to all the Muslim brothers and sisters what I stand for. I, George Galloway, do not drink alcohol and never have. Ask yourself if the other candidate [the Labour candidate, Imran Hussain] in this election can say that truthfully. I, George Galloway, have fought for the Muslims at home and abroad, all my life, and paid a price for it. I, George Galloway, hold Pakistan’s highest civil awards.” The leaflet contains no official logo of Mr Galloway’s Respect party, or the names of an agent or printer, as required by electoral law; Mr Galloway denies that it came from him. Its allegations that Mr Hussain is a heavy drinker are totally false and libellous.

At Mr Galloway’s official campaign rally in Bradford’s Hanover Square last Sunday, footage of which was still available yesterday on his own website, he said: “I’m a better Pakistani than he [Mr Hussain] will ever be. God knows who’s a Muslim and who is not. And a man that’s never out of the pub shouldn’t be going around telling people you should vote for him because he’s a Muslim. A Muslim is ready to go to the US Senate, as I did, and to their face call them murderers, liars, thieves and criminals. A Muslim is somebody who’s not afraid of earthly power but who fears only the Judgment Day. I’m ready for that, I’m working for that and it’s the only thing I fear.” There was a Respect campaign banner behind Mr Galloway as he spoke. The slogans on it were in English and Urdu. The Urdu slogans were above the English ones. At another rally that evening, the man who is now Bradford’s MP talked again about divine judgment. “We stand for justice and haqq [the Islamic concept of truth and righteousness],” he told the overwhelmingly Muslim crowd. “Many of us, myself included, believe that for religious reasons… I believe in the Judgment Day, that all of you do. And I just say this: how will you explain, on the Last Day, that you had a chance, on 29 March 2012, to vote for the guy who led the great campaign against the slaughter of millions in Iraq, but instead you voted for a party which has killed a million Iraqis?”

In the early hours of yesterday morning, God, it seems, delivered. Even at 2am, an ecstatic, 100-strong crowd still waited outside the Richard Dunn Sports Centre, where Mr Galloway had just achieved the third largest swing in modern British political history — 36 per cent, annihilating Labour, which has held this seat since 1974, with more than double the number of votes they got. Allah’s messenger emerged, carried aloft by his supporters like a victorious football captain, to be driven off to his victory party in a Hummer, a variant of the vehicles used by American troops in all Mr Galloway’s least favourite imperial wars. Inside the building, Labour was still trying to take in a result that had utterly shattered the best political week they’d enjoyed since 2007. “We went into the count thinking we’d won,” says one Labour source involved in the campaign. “The Tories thought we’d won. It was when the postal votes were opened that we knew we were in trouble. They were 75 per cent for Galloway. We thought it was going to be very tight. Then we thought we’d lost by a couple of thousand. Then we realised we’d lost by 10,000. We were stunned. We are in double-digit leads in the [national] polls. We fought our campaign against the Tories. We totally underestimated Galloway, we treated him as a minor party. The Tories were as appalled as we were. It’s incredible what he’s done.”

Mr Galloway, meanwhile, was on Sky News, declaring that he had won more than an hour before it was officially announced. With the Galloway crowd outside, Labour’s Mr Hussain left the sports centre by the back door. George Galloway’s victory yesterday was of a kind most often seen in the US Bible belt, and unknown in Britain for many years. His was the first election for a generation or more so nakedly fought through the invocation of race and faith. “All praise to Allah!” said the new MP, through a loud hailer, to the crowd in front of campaign HQ yesterday. And throughout the campaign, Mr Galloway expressed no doubt that there was another, guiding hand at his side. “It’s happened by fate, or destiny, that this by-election has occurred, and that I am available,” he said, at a doorstep meeting on March 17. “This is a place which is almost a perfect fit for the politics I represent.” His election would, he said, help satisfy voters’ “wajib [duty] to care about the Aqsa [Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem], about the people under occupation in Kashmir, about the massacre in Kandahar.” He developed his theme the next day, saying: “Neither will I forget those who are bleeding elsewhere in the Ummah [the global community of Islam]. We have problems here in Bradford, but the people of Gaza have even more problems.”

Mr Galloway had some useful earthly allies in Yorkshire, too. At his main rally last Sunday, one of his supporting speakers was Abjol Miah, a leading activist in both Respect and the extremist Islamic Forum of Europe (IFE), which wants to create a sharia state in Europe. Mr Miah has been an important figure in the IFE’s ever-growing influence in the east London borough of Tower Hamlets. He had taken a key part in the election of Lutfur Rahman, thrown out of Labour for his links with the IFE, as mayor of Tower Hamlets. The IFE also played what Mr Galloway himself, in a secretly recorded tape, called “the decisive role” in his previous shock election victory, in Tower Hamlets in 2005. “I am indebted more than I can say to the Islamic Forum of Europe,” he said. The IFE also has an active operation in Bradford. Then there was the Muslim Public Affairs Committee (MPAC), another radical group that campaigned against a Labour MP for being “Jewish” (she wasn’t, as it happened). It waded in strongly for Mr Galloway, repeating the baseless smears against Mr Hussain. “Thirsty Imran Hussain (hic) likes his refreshments,” smirked MPAC’s website. “And campaigning in this unseasonably good weather is thirsty work indeed … George Galloway is giving Hussain a real run for his money.” Mr Galloway, said MPAC, was a teetotaller, “a defender of Muslims and Bradford West’s last hope”.

His links with radical Islam are real enough. As well as the IFE, he remains a presenter for the Iranian regime’s state-controlled Press TV channel. He has repeatedly praised and met the leaders of the banned Palestinian terrorist group, Hamas. Yet, ironically, Mr Galloway probably didn’t need to go so far overboard to win in Bradford. The truly striking thing about his result was that he won across the seat, in the mixed and mainly white wards of Thornton & Allerton, Heaton, and Clayton & Fairweather Green as well as in the inner-city wards which comprise one of Britain’s most ethnically Asian seats. Bradford West had a strong Tory vote, and was a serious Conservative target at the 2010 election. Large parts of that Tory vote, as well as Labour’s, must have gone to Galloway. “This was a massive defeat for both the major parties, and in our relief about derailing Miliband’s bandwagon we must not forget that,” says a Tory strategist closely involved in the by-election. “There is clearly a huge disaffection which mainstream politics is not capturing.”

For so many London politicians, their main contact with the North is stepping off the train in Leeds or Manchester. In the centres of both those cities, you could be forgiven for thinking that the old industrial areas were doing well. But only a few miles beyond these honeypots, secondary cities like Bradford and Oldham are in deep economic trouble. Bradford is number one on a recent list of “at-risk” shopping towns produced by the banking group BNP Paribas. Galloway made hay with the number of derelict sites in the city’s centre, blaming an “incompetent” local council dominated by Pakistani “village politics”. In fact, the main empty site is about to be developed, with the council playing a key role — but the criticism chimed with a lot of Bradfordians, of all races, who haven’t been able to find satisfying work. Bradford’s Muslim voters, and the white ones, responded as much to Galloway’s economic pitch as to his religious one. This victory could have delivered the slap that Westminster politics needs. It’s a shame, then, that it has been so thoroughly contaminated with the politics of religion.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Bullfinch: 38 Girls Now Thought to be Involved in Child Prostitution Ring

POLICE believe 38 girls may have been involved in a child prostitution ring, it emerged this morning.

Detectives had originally identified 24 girls but prosecutor Simon Heptonstall said at Amersham Crown Court said this morning that it was now thought to be 38 girls aged between 13 and 15.

Six men — Zeshan Ahmed, Akhtar Dogar, Anjun Dogar, Kamar Jamil, Bassan Karrar and Mohammed Karrar — appeared in court today for a preliminary hearing.

They were all remanded in custody.

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 Anjun 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 Aldrich Road, Summertown, 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 last Thursday are now on police bail while detectives’ enquiries continue.

           — Hat tip: Nick[Return to headlines]

UK: Double Mosque Attack Shocks Queens Park [Bedford]

BEDFORD’S Islamic community has been left ‘devastated’ by attacks on two Queens Park mosques on Saturday. Burglars raided the Jamia Masid Hafia Ghousia Mosque in Ford End Road and the Gulshan-e-Baghdad Mosque in Westbourne Road causing thousands of pounds worth of damage and stealing items including CCTV equipment. Saturday’s events meant that Jamia Masid Hafia Ghousia Mosque had been burgled twice that week. Around £2,500 worth of damage to doors and equipement has been calculated at Gulshan-e-Baghdad Mosque, but chairman Tariq Hussain claimed that the very fact that someone broke in is the most upsetting. He said: “If I could speak to the person really I would like them to realise that material things you can replace, but the community are devastated and upset that people can rob places of worship. But if that person wanted any help they can come and see us.” He added: “It’s really, really upsetting that people could do that to a place of worship. I don’t think it’s racist, I think it’s just a burglar doing his job. I don’t think it can be a local person because we are a very close community.” Police scene of crime officers attended both of the properties and an investigation is currently ongoing. Mr Hussain added: “We don’t keep any money on the property so the damage is mainly broken doors and locks. “The kids were devastated because the mosque is somewhere you can go and forget the world and feel safe.” Councillor Mohammad Yasin, who represents the Queens Park Ward also called on the police to take serious action to stop the events happening again. He said: “This is a very worrying situation. People are really upset and frightened and are feeling very unsafe. This is a time when the police should take a swift action to tackle these crimes.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: George Galloway Defeats Labour to Become Bradford Respect MP

Anti-Israel campaigner George Galloway has won a seat in parliament. The Respect Party candidate won 10,000 more votes than Labour in the Bradford West by-election. He described his win of nearly 56 per cent of the vote as “the most sensational result in British by-election history bar none”. Earlier in the campaign Mr Galloway had been accused of using “personal” attacks against his Labour rival, councillor Imran Hussain, with efforts to appeal to the constituency’s high Muslim population. More than 50 per cent of the electorate turned out for the vote, a much higher proportion than is typical in a by-election. Mr Galloway, who has worked as a presenter for Iranian channel Press TV, previously served as a Respect MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, but was defeated at the last general election. Before then he was a Labour MP, elected in Scotland in 1987, but he was expelled from the party in 2003 after his outspoken attacks on Tony Blair and the war in Iraq. The Labour Party had held the Bradford West seat since 1983. Mr Galloway said it was “a very comprehensive defeat for New Labour” and “a pathetic performance by the Government parties”. He told Sky News: “The people of Bradford have spoken this evening for people in inner cities everywhere in the United Kingdom.” He also wrote on Twitter after his victory: “Long live Iraq. Long live Palestine, free, Arab, dignified.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Galloway’s Ugly Politics

Helen Pidd’s report of George Galloway’s victory in Bradford West recounts what happened just after he had arrived back from the count:

‘Galloway climbed on top of a grey car and was handed a megaphone to preach to the assembled faithful. All praise to Allah!” he yelled, to jubilant cries of “Allah Allah!” And on it went. “Long live Iraq! Long live Palestine!” ‘

First of all this suggests that enthusiasm for Galloway wasn’t, as some are suggesting, driven by his opposition to austerity but by his sectional appeal. Second, it is a depressing reminder of what is happening to British politics. There’ll be a lot of ink spilled in the next few days on the limitations of Britain’s political parties. Much of this will be accurate: it is hardly inspiring that the argument of the three main parties so often boils down to we are the least worst option. But Galloway represents an even uglier form of politics, one based around crude communal appeals.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Hitchens vs Galloway

Since he has previously been elected in Glasgow and London, I don’t know if it is so astonishing that George Galloway won a by-election in Bradford. Anyway, if you have a couple of hours to spare ou might enjoy this debate between Galloway and Christopher Hitchens. As Christopher put it: “The man’s hunt for a tyrannical fatherland never ends. The Soviet Union let him down, Albania’s gone. Saddam’s been overthrown. But on to the next, in Damascus.” Quite.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Rrrrrespect!

George Galloway has done it! He scored a historic victory against Labour in the Bradford-West by-election. He beat the Labour candidate, Imran Hussain, by over 10,000 votes. Sulky Hussain shunned electoral tradition and refused to give a speech after the result. A Tory from nearby Keighley branded Respect an “extremist” party. His remarks are just another example of an Islamophobic politician. Galloway’s victory has sent a shockwave through the political establishment. The victorious candidate described it as an “uprising against mainstream parties.” Muslim voters should note that despite Labour’s strength and dirty tactics on the ground and the media’s attempts to scare the electorate, their votes can make a difference. The turnout was good, particularly amongst the young.

Having witnessed the energy in the Respect campaign, it was a realistic proposition that they could beat the incumbent Labour party who had held the seat since 1974. The by-election was called as a result of the Labour MP, Marsha Singh, stepping down due to ill health. George Galloway, himself a former Labour MP and a veteran in the House of Commons, will take care to represent all the constituents of Bradford-West. The victory is, of course, tinged with sadness. During the campaign, one of our members, Abu-bakr Rauf, tragically lost his life. Abu-bakr was without doubt one of those people everyone loved and respected. A young man dedicated to justice and known amongst political activists internationally for his work on behalf of the oppressed Palestinians. This victory is tribute to our dear departed brother Abu-bakr. Your work will never be forgotten — may Allah grant him Janaah.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Why the EU Airline Tax Won’t Fly

China has already cancelled orders for 35 European Airbus A330 jets, and is threatening to cancel on 10 more. India has just banned its airlines from submitting any carbon emission data by the EU’s March 31 deadline. In February, the two Asian giants, along with 21 other countries including the United States, signed up to the Moscow Declaration, a strategic blueprint for global trade ‘war’. It has a single aim: to make sure the EU’s Airline Tax never gets off the ground.

While the EU’s unelected Climate Czar Connie Hedegaard bullishly dismisses threats from the Moscow group of nations as “hypothetical” — exactly how is a cancelled order for planes “hypothetical” Connie? — actual elected leaders in European capitals are unlikely to remain as sanguine. Well before the first payment Airline Tax invoices are mailed in 2013 it is becoming clear becomes clear just how economically damaging a global trade war would be to European national economies.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Kosovo: 4 Serbs Arrested, Accused of Organising Elections

Serbia protests. ‘Serbian aggression’, Kosovo’s premier

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE/PRISTINA, MARCH 28 — Four Kosovo Serbs were arrested last night by the Kosovar police under charges of unconstitutional activities linked to the elections that will be held on May 6 in Serbia. The media in Serbia report, quoting Kosovar police spokesperson Baki Keljani, that the four were found in possession of electoral material, stamps, lists of candidates and propaganda brochures. They are the mayor of Vitina, a small town in the south of Kosovo with a Serb majority, two employees of the Municipality and a police official. All four are representatives of institutions which Serbia holds in the area of Kosovo with a Serb majority, considered illegal by Kosovo. The incident is likely to increase tensions between Serbia and Kosovo, which does not accept the organisation of general and local elections on May 6 in Kosovo as well. The Serbian authorities have protested against the arrest, and have asked the European EULEX mission to intervene. Kosovo’s Premier Hashim Thaci has said during a government meeting that Serbia “will not succeed in holding the elections in Kosovo as well,” calling such attempt “a Serbian aggression against Kosovo.” Serbia does not recognise Kosovo’s independence and wants to hold its elections in what it sees as its southern province as well. The U.S. and EU have spoken out against this stance.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Kosovo: Fuele Hands Pristina EU Document on Feasibility Study

Pristina, 27 March (AKI) — European Union commissioner for enlargement, Stefan Fuele, on Tuesday handed Kosovo officials EU document on the beginning of work on feasibility study for the Agreement on Stabilization and Association, as a first step towards EU membership.

Kosovo majority Albanians declared independence from Serbia in 2008, which Belgrade opposes, but recent agreement between Belgrade and Pristina on border control, regional representation and several other issues, paved the way for Kosovo’s advances towards the EU.

Kosovo has been recognized by over eighty countries, including the United States and 22 out of 27 EU members. Ending a two-day visit to Pristina, Fuele told local media he was coming “as a friend”.

“It is customary that when you visit a friend you don’t go empty-handed”, Fuele said in an article published by the Albanian language daily Koha ditore. “I’m coming in the name of the European Commission, your partner and friend, who will accompany you on your European path which you decided to follow,” he said.

He said the feasibility study would offer “stable framework” for “all issues important for Kosovo’s European future”. Kosovo can count on EU support in “consolidation of democracy, the rule of law, economic development, regional cooperation, promotion of trade and investments and the program of reforms in the country”, Fuele said.

The EU granted Serbia a status of an official candidate for membership earlier this month, and Brussels hopes to resolve the dispute between Pristina and Belgrade by making it possible for both countries to join the 27-nation club in the future.

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

Mediterranean Union

Tunisia: EuroMed Youth: Web Radio to Promote Free Speech

European programme supports projects for youth sector

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, MARCH 28 — A web radio has been launched in Tunisia this month by the Tunisian Association of Audiovisual and Multimedia Animation (ATAAM), funded under a Euromed Youth grant, aiming to serve as a platform to allow citizens to express themselves on themes like human rights and citizenship.

According to the Enpi website (, as part of its project “Open window on the promotion of democratic culture through the practice of projects using multimedia”, ATAAM this week also held its Multimedia and Democracy action, aimed at using access to multimedia tools (local radio, web TV, neighbourhood papers) and use of blogs and social media as a way to reinforce democratic culture among young people. The action was organised in partnership with groups from Dresden and Marseille. The project is funded under Euromed Youth’s Action 3 (Training and networking), which includes projects that support youth organizations and players in the youth sector in the Euro-Mediterranean region. It focuses on the exchange of experiences, expertise and good practices as well as activities that can promote projects, partnerships and perennial and high-quality networks.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egypt: First Constituent Assembly, Without Quarter of Members

Constitutional Court also withdraws its representative

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, MARCH 28 — The Egyptian Constituent Assembly has come together for the first time today, but in the absence of a quarter of all its member, a protest against the Islamic predominance. The Assembly was able to meet because the threshold for doing so, 51 out of 100, was reached. The constitutional court has also announced the withdrawal of its representative to avoid involvement “in the ongoing controversy on the assembly’s composition,” a spokesperson explained. A protest march to the Parliament has been scheduled today.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya’s Arab and Toubou Militia Reach Sebha Ceasefire Deal

(AGI) Tripoli — Days of bloody ethnic clashes between Arab and Toubou militia claim at least 150 lives. A ceasefire agreement was reached at the Sebha oasis in the Fezzan desert region, in south-western Libya. The ceasefire was announced during a joint press conference in Tripoli today.

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

Israel and the Palestinians

Luxury Carmaker Ferrari Opens Tel Aviv Showroom

Expansion continues in overseas markets

(ANSA) — Maranello, March 30 — Historic Italian carmaker Ferrari opened a Tel Aviv showroom on Thursday continuing their expansion of overseas outlets now totalling 59.

The 2,000-square-meter showroom is the largest Ferrari has opened to date.

In addition to the showroom and service center, the venue also houses a Ferrari museum that includes memorabilia like Michael Schumacher’s 2006 model that he drove during his final season with the Ferrari Formula 1 team and an Italian coffee shop. Ferrari posted record sales for 2011, with revenues of 2.3 billion euros, which they have partially attributed to overseas expansion aimed at offsetting slumping revenues in traditional markets such as Europe and North America amid the economic crisis.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Obama’s Knife in the Back?

Is the Obama administration using either leaks or black propaganda to sabotage Israel’s defence against the threat of genocide? America’s former ambassador to the UN John Bolton certainly thinks so — and he is not a man given to rash speculation. An article on the website of Foreign Policy magazine last Wednesday, written by former unofficial Yasser Arafat adviser and established Israel-basher Mark Perry, quoted four unnamed ‘senior diplomats’ and ‘intelligence officers’ saying that Israel had been granted access to air bases in Azerbaijan on Iran’s northern border. The article suggested that this meant Israel planned to use Azerbaijan either for a strike at Iran or for other support for such an attack. An Azeri official has subsequently said the claim that Azerbaijan has granted Israel access to its air bases for an attack is ‘absurd and groundless’. That denial, however, is clearly limited. And several observers have concluded that whether this is a genuine leak or disinformation, the story is an attempt to harm Israel by its principal western ally. Indeed, assuming it is not a total fabrication but is based on actual briefings, it is hard to conclude anything else.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Al Qaeda Suspects Attack Army Base in Southern Yemen

In southern Yemen, suspected al Qaeda militants have attacked army checkpoints in the town of Mallah, setting off clashes that left at least 30 people dead.

Yemeni army officers said air force and ground forces were brought in to repel the attackers. Saturday’s fighting had left dead 17 soldiers and 13 militants, said one officer. Eleven more soldiers were missing and were presumed killed.

They said two tanks and three vehicles used by the militants were also destroyed. Militants had taken over one army post.

The news agency AFP says it received a message in which a group calling itself “Partisans of Sharia” claimed responsibility for assaulting the base and claimed to have killed “30 soldiers.”

Residents said the army had begun distributing machineguns among them so they could oppose the militants. Mallah lies in Lahij province along a road leading to Abyan, another southern province which is an al-Qaeda stronghold.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Arming Syrian Rebels Means Fighting a “Proxy War”, Maliki

(AGI) Baghdad — Arming the Syiain rebels means fighting a “regional proxy war”, as the Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al Maliki warned, underlining that Al Qaeda could profit from the Arab Spring and find other areas to put down roots. “What we must worry about”, the minister said during the Arab League summit in Baghdad, “is that, after being defeated in Iraq, Al Qaeda could find new fissures and worm out its way into the Arab Countries that now see important events”. The Iraqi government is particularly worried about the positions of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, that have more than once announced to be ready to supply weapons and ammunitions to the Syrian rebels.

The line of Scythian Maliki towards Damascus has always been soft, and the hypothesis of a terrorist infiltration inside the Arab Spring movement draws the attention on the accusations made by the Syrian regime against internal dissidents, that Damascus considers collateral to terrorists. It is not a case that the most committed leaders against the Syrain regime, the Qatar and Saudi Arabia Sunnite leaders, did not take part to the Baghdad summit.

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

Britain to Give Syria’s Opposition £500,000 Aid to ‘Gain Skills to Build Democratic Future’

Britain will provide a further £500,000 to support Syria’s political opposition in the face of president Bashar Assad’s regime, the Foreign Secretary said.

William Hague is expected to announce the extra funding tonight during his annual speech at the Lord Mayor’s Easter Banquet.

Mr Hague said the money would help ‘hard-pressed’ opposition groups to document the regime’s violations.

His announcement comes as Arab leaders at a regional summit in Iraq’s capital today endorsed a UN-backed peace plan for Syria which they said should be implemented ‘immediately and completely’.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Clash Between Yemeni Regulars and Al Qaeda Claims 29 Lives

(AGI) Sana’a — Clashes between Al Qaeda militiamen and Yemeni regulars has claimed the lives of 29 in southern Yemen.

According to one military source the attack took place in the southern Lahij province, where the militia attacked military outposts in Mallah. According to one Yemeni solider “seventeen soldiers were killed and eleven are missing.” The militia’s casualties totalled twelve.

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

Emirates: Hotels for Women Gaining Success

Niche market expanding, 4 hotels offer reserved floors

(ANSAmed) — DUBAI, MARCH 26 — The economy is picking up, while tourism and business trips requiring hotels offering services and entire floors set aside for women are seeing a recovery — especially in Gulf countries.

The trend, which began in the US where 40% of business travellers are women, has taken off even in Europe as well as (perhaps more out of cultural concerns than career ones) in wealthy Arab states. A number of services have become consolidated in the region which cater to the aesthetic, religious and emotional needs of women, like pink taxis, a few trains of the underground, and days on which only women are allowed onto beaches and into pools, sports clubs, and even art exhibitions. The latest addition is that of hotel floors designed and set aside for the female sex, a niche market growing in line with the regional demand for hotels attentive to Islamic dictates: no alcohol, no ingredients prohibited by the Koran in meals and discrete atmospheres.

With a few variations from one hotel to the next, what is being offered are welcome messages and more “female” colours in the furnishings, availability of mats for pilates, women’s magazines, cosmetics, hairdryers with brushes for different hairstyles and menus with a focus on calorific needs.

There is also the element of “security”, meaning the tranquility to move about and be assisted by female staff: female maids, maintenance workers, IT technicians, and translators.

Surveys carried out by the hotels themselves show that serving a female clientele can be a double-edged sword: women are tidier than their male counterparts, but are also more demanding and tend to complain more. While Riyadh, in Saudi Arabia, was the first city to inaugurate an entire hotel for women, it is Dubai — which in January had an over 86% occupancy rate for hotels — which offers greater choice, with four hotels boasting floors exclusively for females: Jumeirah Emirates Towers, Grosvenor House, Tamani Marin and Maydan, known for hosting the wealthiest equestrian competition in the world.

Despite the clearly positive response, some criticism has been had from the most frequent hotel users: some men say that it is reverse discrimination, while others claim it is a mere marketing ploy, since most hotels pay special attention to women’s needs.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Lebanon: UNIFIL Commander Serra Meets With Donor Ambassadors

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, MARCH 29 — The Italian General Paolo Serra, UNFIL commander (the UN force deployed in southern Lebanon along the border with Israel), has met with the ambassadors of donor countries of the mission to update them on the operative framework.

According to reports by the UNIFIL press office, General Serra went on to speak about the main aspects of a strategic revision of the mission contained in a document recently approved by the United Nations, which represents the result of a study conducted with the aim of tailoring the UNIFIL mission to the current operating context. The main feature of the document is that of greater responsibility to be taken on by the Lebanese armed forces in the region.

Taking part in the meeting were the ambassadors of 22 countries including the Italy, the US, Russia and a number of European countries.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Lebanon: Appeal From Beirut for More Arabic on Wikipedia

Middle East providers meet in Arab Digital Summit

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, MARCH 30 — Barry Newstead, head of global development of the Wikimedia Foundation has asked for more contributions in Arabic “to build an Arab Wikipedia.” He launched this invitation during the Arab Digital Summit, a conference of internet and mobile network providers that is currently in progress in Beirut. Newstead underlined in his address that despite the sector’s strong development in the Middle East, boosted by the young people in the area and by the Arab Spring, the region’s language remains under-represented. Ten million inhabitants of the region visit Wikipedia every month, explained Newstead, but “only 154,000 articles on the site are in the Arabic language, despite the fact that 374 million people talk the language worldwide.” The result, he continued, is that Arabic is only 27th of the 280 languages available on Wikipedia.

The same is true for applications. Many people have an iPhone in the Middle East, said Rashid AlBallaa, president of National Net Ventures. “In Saudi Arabia for example,” he continued, “26% of all mobile phones are smartphones. This percentage is higher than in the UK with 25%. Still, we need more local applications focusing on the region, instead of applications that copy international apps.” But at a conference held in Beirut the problem of slow internet connections in Lebanon obviously came up. The country is at the bottom of the global efficiency list, despite its dynamic economy and the sharp increase in users. Telecommunication Minister Nicolas Sehnaoui has promised that work on the extension of the fibre optic network will start in the coming month. But he also admitted that it will take at least three years to give the country a “really fast internet,” on the level of the most developed countries.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Lebanon Hands Over Stolen Artifacts to Iraq

Lebanon has handed over 78 ancient artifacts to Iraq, the Iraqi ambassador to Lebanon has said. The pieces were passed to the Iraqi embassy early this week and include cuneiform tablets, statues and reliefs belonging to the Sumerian civilization that flourished in ancient Iraq some 5000 years ago.

The artifacts were passed to the embassy in a ceremony attended by the Lebanese Culture Minister Gabi Leon and the Iraqi ambassador in Lebanon Omer al-Barazanji. “The artifacts belonged to the Iraqi civilization. We are handing them over as part of an agreement we have with Iraq on the repatriation of archaeological treasures,” said the Lebanese minister. He said the pieces were seized by the Lebanese police and border guards.

Barazanji used the occasion to remind the world of the plundering of the Iraq Museum shortly after the 2003-U.S. invasion. “The plundering, the theft, the destruction of museums and archaeological mounds that took place in Iraq is a dangerous precedent in human history,” the ambassador said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Saudi Arabia Says Arming Syrian Opposition is a “Duty”

(AGI) Dubai — Arming the opposition is a duty, according to the Saudi Foreign Minister, Saud al-Faisal. “Arming the opposition is a duty because it can only defend itself with arms,” the Saudi minister said during a joint press conference with the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.

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


Moscow: Odd Man Out at BRICS for Experts

New Delhi hosts the fourth summit of the five countries, representing 40% of world population and 23% of the global economy. But Russia is increasingly different from China, Brazil, India and South Africa.

Moscow (AsiaNews) — The leaders of BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) have met for their fourth summit scheduled for March 28 to 29 in New Delhi. But according to experts Russia is the odd man out at the table of those economies for which Goldman Sachs coined the lucky acronym. It lacks all those features that are common to the four other members of the group: high population, strong GDP growth and attractive to foreign investors.

Compared to China and India with an slowing growth, but still 7.5% and 6.9%, Russia is still at 3.5%. With the advanced economies such as Europe, who are in full crisis and risk of stagnation, the Federation — which has its main market in the Old Continent — there are big risks. Especially since the state budget depends heavily on natural resources and the price of crude oil.

Unlike all the other BRICS nations, Russia has failed to broaden its product base for exports in the last ten years. Oil and natural gas, which “represented less than half of exports in 2000 — says the World Bank — in ten years have come to represent two-thirds of total exports, with another 15% on other minerals, while only 9% is for export of high technologies, mainly produced by the defence industry. “

For some time now, the Nobel Laureate, Nouriel Rubini has been saying that Russia no longer deserves to be included in so-called “fantastic five”. Speaking in February at an economic conference in Moscow, Roubini warned that without serious structural reforms, the Russian economy will grow too slowly in the coming years. According to the New York University professor, real growth in the near future will be just over 0.5%, added to the worrying demographic decline that has beset the country. Russia, he said, has yet to recover from the severe crisis of 2008-2009, prior to which its rate of growth was at around 8%, with nothing to envy the Chinese.

The Russian economic model, also may prove fragile without a substantial flow of private direct investment, a real campaign of privatization, a reduction of bureaucracy and the presence of the state economy. According to a World Bank report on the Russian economy, the lack of competition on the domestic market, dominated by public companies, which account for 17% of the workforce, discourages both competitiveness and productivity.

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

Russian Protesters Detained at Freedom of Assembly Rallies

Russian police have detained a number of activists protesting in support of freedom of assembly. Among those taken into custody were leading opposition figures. Dozens of Russian activists were arrested Saturday during obstensibly unauthorised rallies in Moscow and St. Petersburg.

Police detained about 75 people protesting against the political dominance of Vladimir Putin — who will return to the Kremlin in May for a third term as president after four years as prime minister — and calling for freedom of assembly.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Bomb Attacks Kill 11, Injure More Than 100 in South Thailand

Three bomb blasts have struck the southern town of Yala, killing eleven people and wounding dozens more, local officials say.

The first two bombs are thought to have been hidden inside motorcycles, while the third was planted in a nearby car.

They detonated only minutes apart, damaging vehicles and setting the surrounding shops and buildings on fire.

The public health ministry said 10 people were in critical condition with severe burns.

Yala city is the main commercial hub in the country’s south.

Thailand’s restive South is plagued by regular terrorist attacks and violence from Muslim extremist insurgent groups operating in the region.

           — Hat tip: Nick[Return to headlines]

Bombs in Thailand Kill 14, Wound 340

Suspected Muslim insurgents staged the most deadly coordinated attacks in years in Thailand’s restive south, killing 14 people and wounding 340 with car bombs that targeted Saturday shoppers and a high-rise hotel frequented by foreign tourists.

A first batch of explosives planted inside a parked pickup truck ripped through an area of restaurants and shops in a busy area of Yala city, a main commercial hub of Thailand’s restive southern provinces, said district police chief Col. Kritsada Kaewchandee.

About 20 minutes later, just as onlookers gathered at the blast site, a second car bomb exploded, causing the majority of casualties. Eleven people were killed and 110 wounded by the blasts.

More than 5,000 people have been killed in Thailand’s three southernmost provinces — Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala — since an Islamist insurgency flared in January 2004.

“This is the worst attack in the past few years,” said Col. Pramote Promin, deputy spokesman of a regional security agency. “The suspected insurgents were targeting people’s lives. They (chose) a bustling commercial area, so they wanted to harm people.”

Most attacks are small-scale bombings or drive-by shootings that target soldiers, police and symbols of authority, but suspected insurgents have also staged large attacks in commercial areas.

Separately, a blast occurred at a high-rise hotel in the city of Hat Yai, in the nearby province of Songkhla, that officials initially attributed to a gas leak and said was unrelated to the attacks blamed on insurgents.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Indian Christians Against the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Who Wants to Eliminate All Churches

The appeal of the All India Christian Council (AICC) to the Indian government. In Saudi Arabia and the Gulf region home to many Indian and Filipino Christians who suffer violence and discrimination. The mufti’s words contrary to United Nations Charter.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) — In mid-March, Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, said that all existing churches in the Arabian Peninsula should be destroyed. Reacting to this the All India Christian Council (AICC) organization has condemned this statement as “bigoted” and “dangerous” for the many Christians who live in Arab states.

The All India Christian Council (AICC) condemns the statement of the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah, who claims it is “necessary to destroy all the churches in the region.”

According to Joseph D’Souza, president of the AICC, the muftis’ controversial demand endangers the Christian Churches throughout the Arabian Peninsula, and could have repercussions for religious minorities in other countries.

John Dayal, AICC General Secretary, calls on the Government of India and other civilized countries to ensure that the nations of the Arabian Peninsula clearly reject the Wahhabi imam’s bigoted statement, and ensure security and protection to the churches in Yemen, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and UAE. Christianity is already banned in Saudi Arabia, there are no churches.

Local media reported the controversial statement together with the proposal of the Parliamentary Assembly of Kuwait, calling for the “removal” of the churches in his country.

Kuwait’s parliament recently proposed to introduce laws on the removal of Christian churches from the country and imposition of strict laws inspired by sharia. Later, it clarified that the law was not talking about removing the churches, but forbade the construction of new churches and Christian places of worship in the Islamic country. The Grand Mufti stressed that Kuwait, as a State of the Arabian Peninsula, should destroy all the churches on its territory. There are many Christians living in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries, many of whom come from India and the Philippines: More than 3.5 million in total, of which at least 800 thousand just in Saudi Arabia.

The All India Christian Council has been following the developments in the region for some time with growing alarm and concern, given that Christians continue to suffer violence and discrimination. The situation is particularly disturbing, because India has many of its citizens — mostly workers, but also businessmen, engineers and medical personnel — in the region. A large number of migrants from the southern states of India are Christian.

The All India Christian Council reiterates that the declaration of the Grand Mufti is contrary to the Charter of the United Nations and the UN Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination based on religion or belief.

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

Indonesian Workers Expelled From Malaysia

Jakarta, 30 March (AKI/Jakarta Post) — At least 173 Indonesian workers, consisting of 104 men and 69 women, along with six children, have been deported from Malaysia for various legal violations, an official says.

The workers will be temporarily sheltered in Tanjungpinang, Riau.

“We will provide temporary shelter before sending them to their villages of origin,” troubled migrant worker chief Juramadi Esram said in Tanjungpinang on Friday.

Juramadi said that the workers failed to show valid documents to work in Malaysia and most of them had entered Malaysia on tourist passports.

One of the workers, Ari, said that they were treated roughly during their detention in Malaysian prisons, and that their belongings were seized by the Malaysian authorities.

“Nothing’s left but the clothes on our backs. Everything has been taken away by the Malaysian police,” Ari said as quoted by Antara news agency.

Some workers also reportedly were caned as punishment for their legal violations.

“I had just been in Malaysia for two days when the police arrested me. They took my passport and destroyed it, and punished me with two rounds of canning,” said Jemi of Medan, North Sumatra.

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

New Security for US Troops in Afghanistan to Guard Against Afghan Insider Threats

***Unclosed Item!***{WARNING: Disturbing content.]

“U.S. troops in Afghanistan now have far-reaching new protections against rogue killers among their Afghan allies, including assigned “guardian angels” — fellow troops who will watch over them as they sleep. Marine Gen. John Allen, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, ordered the added protections in recent weeks to guard against insider threats, according to a senior military official. They come in the wake of 16 attacks on U.S. and coalition forces by Afghans that now represent nearly one-fifth of all combat deaths this year.”


While the troops are there to protect the opium poppy crops, a sick culture of death, and where pedophilia is common in some regions, here’s what their president, Hamid Karzai, said as the flag draped coffins continue to arrive back on US. soil: “The Americans in Afghanistan are demons.”


US army’s top commander in Afghanistan, General John Allen, exactly 22 days ago. Indeed, it was so unusual a statement that I clipped the report of Allen’s words from my morning paper and placed it inside my briefcase for future reference.

“Allen told his men that “now is not the time for revenge for the deaths of two US soldiers killed in Thursday’s riots”. They should, he said, “resist whatever urge they might have to strike back” after an Afghan soldier killed the two Americans. “There will be moments like this when you’re searching for the meaning of this loss,” Allen continued. “There will be moments like this, when your emotions are governed by anger and a desire to strike back. Now is not the time for revenge, now is the time to look deep inside your souls, remember your mission, remember your discipline, remember who you are.”

“Now this was an extraordinary plea to come from the US commander in Afghanistan. The top general had to tell his supposedly well-disciplined, elite, professional army not to “take vengeance” on the Afghans they are supposed to be helping/protecting/nurturing/training, etc. He had to tell his soldiers not to commit murder. I know that generals would say this kind of thing in Vietnam. But Afghanistan? Has it come to this? I rather fear it has. Because — however much I dislike generals — I’ve met quite a number of them and, by and large, they have a pretty good idea of what’s going on in the ranks. And I suspect that Allen had already been warned by his junior officers that his soldiers had been enraged by the killings that followed the Koran burnings — and might decide to go on a revenge spree. Hence he tried desperately — in a statement that was as shocking as it was revealing — to pre-empt exactly the massacre which took place last Sunday.” Rest at link.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Pakistan: Faisalabad: The Battle of a Christian Woman for Her Family and Religious Freedom

Hanifan Bibi was segregated at home by her husband who converted to Islam following an extramarital affair with a Muslim woman. He wanted to take the house bought with money earned by his wife. The intervention of NCJP activists has helped justice prevail. Now the court will assess civil damages.

Faisalabad (AsiaNews) — She fought a tough battle against her husband, who wanted to drive her from the house she built over time thanks to the hard earned money of her own work, while the man — converted to Islam in November 2011 — spent his time on women and drinking. Hanifan Bibi’s tenacity and the support of NCJP activists have allowed the woman to get justice in court so she can remain in her home with her children, pending the decision of the civil court in Faisalabad, which is to assess the instance of separation and alimony.

This is the story of suffering, abuse and oppression that emerges from the story of Hanifan Bibi (pictured), a 37 year old Christian, mother of two children, born and raised in a poor family of Gurala Dajkot, a district of Faisalabad (Punjab). For years her husband was abused her, leaving her alone at home with their children to waste his wife’s hard earned money on drinking, women and partying. And when he returned, for short periods, the situation certainly did not not improve, because he beat her brutally.

However, the reality came crashing down four months ago when her husband Sarwar Masih decided to convert to Islam, taking the name of Muhammad Sarwar, following an extramarital affair that had been going on for some time with a Muslim woman, Nasreen Bibi. “Since I have not decided to change faith like him — Hanifan tells AsiaNews — he segregated me in the house” and by March 10 she found herself a prisoner in her own home.

Muhammad Sarwar, after locking up his wife, denounced her illegal possession of the house. With the collaboration of a group of Muslim families he filed a lawsuit in court and threatened the woman if she resisted.

Speaking to AsiaNews, local Christians and Muslims confirm that the man is a “despicable person who does not deserves trust,” because he “engaged in dishonest behavior” and never wanted to work and help support the family. Instead he treated Hanifan like a maid, to “bring home money to feed the families” and ensure a decent life to their children.

Having learned of the issue, the activists of the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) of the Catholic Church in Faisalabad intervened in defense of women. They obtained the dismissal of Harifan’s trial, while judges have opened a civil case against the man for the separation and compensation. “I continue to receive threats from my ex-husband and his fellow Muslims,” Hanifan Bibi, tells AsiaNews, but she remains steadfast in her faith and intention to see her rights recognized.

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

Pakistan: Strike Shuts Down Quetta Businesses

Quetta, 30 March (AKI/Dawn) — A strike in Quetta on Friday shit dowan all markets and business centres on Friday, DawnNews reported.

The strike was called by the Pashtoon Khuwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) and by the Hazara Awami Ittehad.

Police and Frontier Corps (FC) have been deployed in sensitive areas.

On March 29, at least eight people, a woman and a policeman among them, were killed and 13 others injured in what appeared to be a sectarian attack on a group of Hazara people and in ensuing clashes between police and protesters.

Also, hundreds of people belonging to the Hazara tribe gathered on roads to protest against the attack.

They blocked the Brewery Road by erecting barricades and burning tyres.

Several vehicles were torched. The mob set a girls college on fire and attacked a number of government buildings.

Some people fired at police when they were trying to disperse the mob.

Two people were killed and six others injured when police fired back.

Heavy contingents of police and Frontier Corps were deployed at various places in and around the city after the incidents

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

Thailand: Three Deadly Bomb Blasts Hit Yala in Southern Thailand

Muslim separatists blamed for co-ordinated explosions that have killed at least eight in main shopping area of the city

At least eight people have been killed and 68 wounded in co-ordinated bomb attacks by suspected Muslim insurgents in the main shopping area of a city in southern Thailand. The casualties made it one of the largest attacks in months in the troubled southern provinces where smaller-scale violence occurs on an almost daily basis. Three blasts occurred minutes apart within a 100m radius in Yala, a main commercial hub of Thailand’s restive southern provinces. “We are not sure which group of suspected Muslim insurgents were behind this but we are looking,” said Yala Governor Dethrat Simsiri. The first bomb was hidden inside a motorcycle parked near a shopping area and detonated by a mobile phone at about noon, the governor said. Within minutes, a second bomb hidden in another motorcycle exploded, followed by a third explosion from a device placed in a car that set fire to nearby buildings, he said.

Such bombings are a common tactic of Islamist separatists who have been waging an insurgency in Thailand’s three southernmost provinces since early 2004. The violence has claimed more than 5,000 lives. The suspected insurgents mainly target soldiers, police and other symbols of authority with roadside bombs and drive-by shootings, but have also staged large co-ordinated attacks in commercial areas. Last September, three bombs hidden in vehicles hit a busy section of Sungai Kolok in Narathiwat province, killing four people and leaving more than 60 wounded. Yala, Narathiwat and Pattani are the only Muslim-dominated provinces in the predominantly Buddhist country. Muslims in the area have long complained of discrimination by the central government. The insurgents have made no public pronouncements but are thought to be fighting for an independent Muslim state. The area used to be an Islamic sultanate until it was annexed by Thailand in the early 20th century.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Ancient Human Ancestor Had Feet Like an Ape

Fossil foot hints that tree-dwellers lived alongside species built for walking.

A fossil discovered in Ethiopia suggests that humans’ prehistoric relatives may have lived in the trees for a million years longer than was previously thought. The find may be our first glimpse of a separate, extinct, branch of the human family, collectively called hominins. It also hints that there may have been several evolutionary paths leading to feet adapted for walking upright.

The fossil, a partial foot, was found in 3.4-million-year-old rocks at Woranso-Mille in the Afar region of Ethiopia. Bones of the hominin Australopithecus afarensis — the species to which the famous ‘Lucy’ skeleton belongs — have also been found in this location and from the same period.

But unlike Au. afarensis, the latest find has an opposable big toe — rather like a thumb on the foot — that would have allowed the species to grasp branches while climbing. Modern apes have similar toes, but the youngest hominin previously known to have them is Ardipithecus ramidus, which lived about 4.4 million years ago. The details of the discovery are published today in Nature.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Grenade Attacks in Kenya Leaves 15 Wounded

(AGI) Nairobi — Two grenade attacks have left 15 people wounded in Mombasa and in the nearby city of Mtwapa. The first grenade was launched during a religious meeting in Mtwapa, just outside Mombasa and the second one was launched in Mombasa itself, in a crowded pub-restaurant opposite the stadium, in Kenya’s second largest city. Hand grenade attacks have been increasing in the country since the government decided to send its troops to Somalia to fight the Shabaab rebels. Mombasa is a popular tourism resort and the number of visitors is constantly rising as the Easter holidays are approaching.

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

Latin America

Argentina’s Carlos Menem Faces Bombing Trial

Former Argentine President Carlos Menem is to stand trial for allegedly obstructing an investigation into an attack on a Jewish cultural centre in Buenos Aires, officials have said

           — Hat tip: Fausta[Return to headlines]


“Earth Hour’s” Global Propaganda Campaign

On Saturday, 8:30 PM local time, everyone will be invited to turn off all their electrical devices and presumably sit in the dark. According to the World Wildlife Fund, Earth Hour is intended to “encourage American cities to prepare for the costly impacts of climate-related extreme weather and reduce their carbon footprint.”

Earth Hour is an example of the enormous funding available to the Greens and of their continued assault on the world’s population to encourage and maintain its message that the Earth is imperiled by mankind’s activities, i.e., the use of energy. Earth Hour is a huge piece of international propaganda. Millions of dollars and man-hours have been expended to get the lights turned off from the Eiffel Tower to the Empire State Building, the Leaning Tower of Pisa to Australia’s Opera House.

You may have noticed there is no longer any reference to “global warming.” That’s because a growing percentage of Americans have concluded that global warming is a hoax. The same charlatans behind Earth Hour and the forthcoming Earth Day on April 22nd have mostly abandoned any reference to global warming and are now lying to you about “climate change” and, soon enough, will shift their message to “sustainability.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Cattle DNA Traced Back to Single Herd of Wild Ox

A genetic study of cattle has claimed that all modern domesticated bovines are descended from a single herd of wild ox, which lived 10,500 years ago.

A team of geneticists from the National Museum of Natural History in France, the University of Mainz in Germany, and UCL in the UK excavated the bones of domestic cattle on archaeological sites in Iran, and then compared those to modern cows. They looked at how differences in DNA sequences could have arisen under different population history scenarios, modelled in computer simulations.

The team found that the differences that show up between the two populations could only have arisen if a relatively small number of animals — approximately 80 — had been domesticated from a now-extinct species of wild ox, known as aurochs, which roamed across Europe and Asia. Those cattle were then bred into the 1.4 billion cattle estimated by the UN to exist in mid-2011.

The process of collecting the data was tricky. Ruth Bollongino, lead author of the study, said: “Getting reliable DNA sequences from remains found in cold environments is routine. That is why mammoths were one of the first extinct species to have their DNA read. But getting reliable DNA from bones found in hot regions is much more difficult because temperature is so critical for DNA survival. This meant we had to be extremely careful that we did not end up reading contaminating DNA sequences from living, or only recently dead cattle.”

The research has implications for the study of the history of domestication. Mark Thomas, geneticist and an author of the study, told “This is a surprisingly small number of cattle. We know from archaeological remains that the wild ancestors of modern-day cattle were common throughout Asia and Europe, so there would have been plenty of opportunities to capture and domesticate them.”

However, it tallies with existing research on the matter. Jean-Denis Vigne, a CNRS bio-archaeologist and author on the study, said: “A small number of cattle progenitors is consistent with the restricted area for which archaeologists have evidence for early cattle domestication 10,500 years ago. This restricted area could be explained by the fact that cattle breeding, contrary to, for example, goat herding, would have been very difficult for mobile societies, and that only some of them were actually sedentary at that time in the Near East.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

‘Faster-Than-Light’ Study Coordinator Resigns

The media and scientific ripples after a shocking announcement that physicists had detected particles seeming to travel faster than light have culminated with the project’s coordinator, Antonio Ereditato, stepping down, according to Italy’s National Institute of Nuclear Physics (INFN).

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Oldest Alien Planets Found-Born at Dawn of Universe

Jupiter-like worlds likely about 12.8 billion years old, study says.

Two huge planets found orbiting a star 375 light-years away are the oldest alien worlds yet discovered, scientists say. With an estimated age of 12.8 billion years, the host star-and thus the planets-most likely formed at the dawn of the universe, less than a billion years after the big bang. “The Milky Way itself was not completely formed yet,” said study leader Johny Setiawan, who conducted the research while at the Max-Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, Germany.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Pictures: Dinosaur’s Flashy Feathers Revealed

According to a new study, Microraptors-four-winged, feathered dinosaurs that lived 125 million years ago-sported Earth’s earliest known iridescence, as pictured in this illustration.

Recent research suggests the pigeon-size Microraptor’s feathers glimmered black and blue in sunlight, like feathers of modern crows or grackles.

The findings are the earliest evidence of iridescence in any creature-bird or dinosaur, said study leader Julia Clarke, a paleontologist at the University of Texas at Austin.

Clarke and colleagues also suggest this iridescent coloring may have helped make Microraptor’s tail feathers even more eye-catching to mates.

Using an electron microscope, the researchers compared tiny, pigment-containing structures called melanosomes in a Microraptor fossil to melanosomes of living birds.

The team found that Microraptor’s melanosomes were narrow, elongated, and organized in a sheetlike orientation-features that produce an iridescent sheen on modern feathers.

“This study gives us an unprecedented glimpse at what this animal looked like when it was alive,” study team member Mark Norell, chair of the American Museum of Natural History’s Division of Paleontology, said in a statement.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UN-Backed Scientists Call for Mega-City Population Lockup

In a recent statement put out by “Planet Under Pressure” several scientists call for denser cities in order to mitigate worldwide population growth. When in doubt that UN’s Agenda 21 is not the Mein Kampf of our day, one should consider yet another in-your-face confession from yet another certified biocratic control freak.

According to an MSNBC article one of the scientists while speaking about human populations worldwide, stated:

“We certainly don’t want them strolling about the entire countryside. We want them to save land for nature by living closely [together].”

Insisting the world’s population be locked up within the confounds of mega-cities, the elite realizes that if the herd is to be properly controlled walls are needed- thick walls, and by constructing these walls, making the masses go this or that way will be made easier.

Chief scientist Michail Fragkias involved with “Planet under Pressure” told MSNBC that “the answer (to population growth) is denser cities.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

While Rare-Earth Trade Dispute Heats Up, Scientists Seek Alternatives

In the 21st century, natural resource battles will be fought not only over oil and water, but over elements with tongue-twisting names like dysprosium, yttrium, and neodymium.

Perhaps the most important clash so far over these so-called “rare-earth minerals” opened up on March 13 when the United States, Japan, and the European Union filed a complaint at the World Trade Organization against China, which controls 95 percent of world production.

These obscure 17 elements are called rare, but they are actually common. They are just found scattered in such small amounts that the potential return seldom makes the cost of mining them worthwhile. But they help the modern world run, making cell phones buzz, producing the vivid colors we see on TV, allowing computer hard drives to store data. But what makes rare-earth minerals a strategic resource is that they are a crucial component in new energy technologies, enabling regenerative braking in hybrid cars, more efficient large wind turbines, high-efficiency fluorescent lighting, and photovoltaic thin films.

The U.S. Department of Energy says that deployment of clean energy technology could be slowed in the coming years by supply challenges for at least five rare-earth metals.

The new trade action seeks to force China to loosen export restrictions that other nations argue has kept the price of rare-earth metals artificially high outside the People’s Republic. But while the diplomatic process moves slowly forward, scientists worldwide are prospecting for breakthroughs that might circumvent China and win greater rare-earth metal independence for their countries.

These scientists view their objective as “inventing our way around any critical dependence on rare-earth materials,” says Mark Johnson, program director at the U.S. Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). His agency, set up to fund transformational energy innovation in the United States, is among the participants meeting this week in Tokyo at a trilateral EU-Japan-U.S. conference on research into rare-earth alternatives.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]