Sunday, January 12, 2003

News Feed 20120414

Financial Crisis
»Chinese Growth Slows Down to Lowest Pace in Three Years
»Greece: Athens Hotels See Revenue Fall (-19.1%)
»Greece: Easter Feast 10% Cheaper This Year, Say Traders
»Slovenia: Government Support Slides After Cuts
»Coke, Pepsi and Kraft Stop Helping Enact Vote Fraud Laws
»Defamation Suit Dropped Against Larry Sinclair, Other Defendants
»Ferragamo Reopens New York Flagship Store
»Islam & Rick Warren
»Jolted by a Rare Truism of Muslims in America
»New York Exhibit Puts Spotlight on Ancient Middle Eastern Power Clashes
»Power Grab for Natural Gas — New Executive Order
»The Ring of Fire is Roaring to Life and There Will be Earthquakes of Historic Importance on the West Coast of the United States
Europe and the EU
»As Final Preparations Are Made for Trial of Anders Behring Breivik, Norway Families Fear it Could Become a Circus
»Germany: US Comedian Tells Tales From the Mosque
»Greece: 57 Bags of Third Reich Marks Found
»Italy: New Probe Against Puglia Governor
»Italy: Police Remove ‘Centurions’ From Colosseum, Fight Ensues
»Italy: Medical Student Examinees Cause Traffic Snarls
»Italy: Industry Ministry Official Arrested for ‘Attemped Bribe’
»Italy: Urban Planning Councilor Arrested for Corruption
»Italy: Fake Blind Woman Nabbed in Viterbo
»Italy: Rimini Jeweler ‘Didn’t Declare Income Since 2005’
»Italy Must Become a “Predictable” Country — Prime Minister Mario Monti Speaks
»Italy: Tax Police Carry Out Search Warrant at LNP’s ‘SINPA’ HQ
»Italy: San Raffaele: Milan Prosecutors, Indictment of 7 Accused
»Italy: Lega Nord Young Members Protest Outside Ex-Treasurer Home
»Lega Nord’s Maroni: “Clean-Up Not Over, No Score-Settling”
»Norwegian Mass Killer Anders Breivik to Argue ‘Self-Defense’ When Trial Begins Monday
»Spain: 500:000 Signatures for Law to Restore the Corrida
»Swedish Town Rocked by Second Child Exorcism
»Turkish President Calls Wilders Islamophobe
»UK: ‘Insane’ Husband Who Stabbed Wife 120 Times in Frenzied Killing Walks Free From Court Less Than a Year Later
»UK: Bully Road Rage Van Driver Who Rammed Into Terrified Horse Rider Simply Because She Asked Him to Slow Down is Jailed
»UK: How Liberal Conservatives Repeatedly Misrepresent Mainstream Conservatives
»UK: Muslim Taxi Driver Dumps Family Out of His Cab After Spotting an Unopened Bottle of Wine Saying it Was Against His Religion
»UK: Some Secrets Must be Kept — And No One Needs to Apologise for That
»Macedonia: Killing of Five People Sparks Ethnic Tensions
North Africa
»Ten Candidates, Including Front-Runners, Barred From Egyptian Presidential Race
»Was the Arab Spring Really a Facebook Revolution?
Israel and the Palestinians
»Airlines Cancel Israel Flights for Over 60 Percent of Pro-Palestinian Fly-in Protesters
Middle East
»Beirut Hotel at Florence Festival, Spy Story Banned in Lebanon
»Iran Holds ‘Constructive’ Nuclear Talks With Britain and Other World Powers as They Return to Negotiating Table
»U.N. Security Council Agrees to Send Ceasefire Monitors to Syria
»UAE: Scholars Share Message of Peace
South Asia
»Pakistani Schoolbooks Full of Contempt and Bigotry Against Christians, Hindus and Sikhs
»Pakistan: Lahore: Christians and Hindus Against “Religious Fascism” And Forced Conversions to Islam
Far East
»China: Forced Expropriation and Home Demolitions Continue Communist Party Abuses
»Demand for Rhino Horns Threatens Species
Latin America
»Brazil: The Death Cult Brazilians Who Killed and Ate Two Women ‘To Purify Their Souls’
Culture Wars
»Got Quickie Aborsh: Comedienne Sarah Silverman Supports Pro Choice Debate Tweeting Abortion Photos
»UK: Islam Has Made London a More Conservative Place Than it Was 50 Years Ago
»4.4 Bln Clicks for Xvideos Porn Site, 30% of Traffic
»How Earthly Life Could Populate Space by Panspermia
»Islamutopia: A Very Short History of Political Islam
»Women and Children First? Not Since the Titanic

Financial Crisis

Chinese Growth Slows Down to Lowest Pace in Three Years

GDP grew by 8.1 per cent in first quarter of 2012. Exports and domestic demand remain low. Government raises bank reserve ratio stoking inflation. World Bank sees a slower Chinese economy.

Beijing (AsiaNews) — China’s economy grew by 8.1 per cent in the first three months of 2012, its slowest pace in nearly three years, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said, because of the “complex” global situation and the “enormous” pressure on exports growth.

Growth still exceeds this year’s government target of 7.5 per cent, as China’s economy remains one of the best in Asia and the world. However, the slower pace is a sign of falling domestic and foreign demand, especially in Europe and the United States, which are still in the middle of a deep economic crisis. The net effect is plant closures, higher unemployment and rising social tensions.

China’s central bank in February cut the amount of cash banks must hold in reserve for the second time in three months to increase lending and boost domestic consumption.

For analysts, lending should further increase. In March, it rose sharply, with banks issuing 1.01 trillion yuan in new loans (US$ 160 billion), up from 710 billion yuan (US$ 110 billion) in February. Greater lending however raises the threat of higher inflation.

Consumer prices in March rose by 3.6 per cent from a year earlier, lower than the government’s target of 4 per cent for the year. However, the figures are not very reliable. A few months ago, the government had reported a higher rate of inflation at 4.2 per cent, more so for basic items and food prices, which increased by up to 30-40 per cent.

For its part, the World Bank recently forecast that the Chinese economy could slow down even further.

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

Greece: Athens Hotels See Revenue Fall (-19.1%)

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, APRIL 13 — The average revenue per room per night at three-, four- and five-star hotels in Athens dropped by 19.1% in February compared with the same month last year, coming to just 36.50 euros, according to a survey conducted for the Athens-Attica Hotel Association ans published by daily Kathimerini. In comparison, Istanbul hotels enjoyed an average revenue of 71 euros per room, almost twice that of their Athenian counterparts. The occupancy rate in the Greek capital dropped by 16%, amounting to just 41.3%. Athens hotels had the lowest room prices among 10 European cities that the survey covered, with the average rate coming to 88.30 euros per night after a 3.7% decline from February 2011.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greece: Easter Feast 10% Cheaper This Year, Say Traders

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, APRIL 13 — The Easter feast will cost Greek families 10.5% less this year compared to 2011, as daily Kathimerini reports quoting figures from the National Confederation of Greek Commerce (ESEE). ESEE has collected prices from open-air markets, super markets and the central meat market in Athens, which suggest that prices of both meat and vegetables have dropped slightly since last year. Despite the lower prices, traders expect their turnover to drop this Easter as a result of the recession. They expect overall Easter purchases to reach roughly 4.5 billion euros, down from 5 billion last year.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Slovenia: Government Support Slides After Cuts

(ANSAmed) — LJUBLJANA, APRIL 11 — The number of Slovenians supporting the new centre-right government under Prime Minister Janez Jansa has dropped by almost half in a single month, after the announcement of a budget law aiming to cut the deficit with sharp reductions in public spending, including a cut in state employees’ salaries. According to a poll carried out a few days ago, only 26.9% of those interviewed say that they support Jansa’s government, compared with the 44.6% a month ago. The sharp drop in support is due to — according to the press — the austerity measures and the cuts totaling over 800 million euros in public spending called for by the budget law due to be voted on over the coming days. The government intends to bring the deficit from the 6.1% recorded in 2011 to 3.5%, to achieve a level of below 3% in 2013 in order to comply with the EU Stability Pact.

Salary cuts within the public sector are expected to be between 7 and 10%, and there will be a drop in unemployment benefits and maternity ones, lay-offs of staff with term contracts and cuts to political costs and funding for culture.

These measures are supported by 20% of those interviewed, while 40% say they partially back them.

Tomorrow a large demonstration will be held by public sector workers unions opposing the salary cuts.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Coke, Pepsi and Kraft Stop Helping Enact Vote Fraud Laws

Last summer the hard-left social progressive community activist organization, (whose management is comprised of a hodgepodge of Saul Alinsky-type community activists and organizers) decided to go after ALEC for pushing anti-vote fraud legislation which ColorOfChange says suppresses minority voting (which suggests by their rhetoric that minority voting—for whatever reason—increases only when minorities are allowed to cheat—or they’re lying with malevolent intent). ALEC is a behind-the-scenes conservative group of legislators and corporate leaders working together to push for legislation to reduce voter fraud by requiring voters to have State-issued photo IDs, and require States to physically verify identity of the voter is who he or she claims to be. ALEC has been the catalyst to have Voter ID laws passed in seven new States this year, and has introduced Voter ID laws in 27 other States.

As they push corporate sponsors to distance themselves from ALEC, ColorOfChange, which is attempting to force the government to give minority Black voters in American the majority political voice through threats and intimidation. As their slogan says, they are attempting to change the color of democracy in America. They justify the intimidation of corporate America because, they say, “major companies that rely on business from Black folks shouldn’t be involved in suppressing our vote.”

On the ColorOfChange website, they insist that “for years, the right wing has been trying to stop Black people…from voting…and now some of America’s biggest companies are helping them do it. Supporters of discriminatory voter ID laws claim they want to reduce voter fraud (individuals voting illegally or voting twice). But such fraud almost never actually occurs, and never amounts large enough to to affect the results of elections.”

The three corporations ColorOfChange singled out with allegations of racism to force them to agree to stop sending checks to ALEC—even though none of those corporations were funding the vote fraud initiative. It’s all about draining ALEC’s financial resources enough to force them to have to make up the money they are losing from Coca Cola, Kraft Foods and Pepsico with funds that might otherwise be used to lobby for Voter ID legislation in the 27 States currently debating this type of legislation.

In point of fact, none of the statements made by ColorOfChange in the former paragraph are true.


In 2008, according to CBS News, 12 States raised serious red flags about more than 10 thousand fraudulent voter registrations in each of the States that had been submitted by ACORN. Project Vote workers were re-registering people who told them they had already registered to vote “…maybe 10 to 15 times.” Charles Barkley, a Pizza Hut worker in Cleveland said the Project Vote workers told him he was paid for each registration he turned in and Barkley could register as many times as he wanted. Barkley said he registered 15 times. Testifying under oath before the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections, 21-year old Lateala Goins also admitted to registering several times. She had no idea how many times she signed her name to a voter registration card. Goins justified her crime by saying that, although she registered over and over again, she only wrote down her name. She never put down an address. The Cuyahoga County “winner” in 2008 was Freddie Johnson with 72 fraudulent voter registrations (that they were able to find)—and 72 Democrat absentee ballots cast. According to the State of Ohio, Barkley, who said he registered 15 times filled out 41 fraudulent voter registration cards. So, between Barkley and Johnson, they voted for Obama 115 times.


I found the answer on the last line of the form (which would exist for another 10 days before the FEC 2008 Election Results document got a face lift. On the last line of the form it said: “Number of votes counted: 132,618,580.” Whoa, Trigger—Hi-yo, Silver. What’s wrong with those numbers? There appeared to have been 35,626,580 more votes counted than registered voters voting.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Defamation Suit Dropped Against Larry Sinclair, Other Defendants

In 2008, when Sinclair first made his allegations about Obama’s past homosexual activity known to the public, the Hillary Clinton campaign made contact with Sinclair during the primary seeking further details. WMR was told that a scenario of mutually-assured destruction was laid down by the Obama campaign to Clinton campaign senior staffers: if the Clinton people brought up the gay issue with Obama, they would respond with past lesbian accusations against Mrs. Clinton.

This year, the fact that Sinclair has managed to defeat one of Washington’s most powerful and politically-connected law firms, Patton Boggs, by arguing his case pro se, means that the Romney campaign may have seen the festering allegations against Obama as a weak point to be exploited. The dismissal of the original complaint and appeals against Sinclair et al obviously has the White House hoping the “gay issue” with Obama will simply “go away.”

[Return to headlines]

Ferragamo Reopens New York Flagship Store

Revamped space covers 2,000 square meters and two floors

(ANSA) — New York, April 13 — After three months of renovations, Salvatore Ferragamo’s Fifth Avenue flagship store reopened on Thursday.

The expanded store stretches across 2,000 square meters and two floors, making it Ferragamo’s biggest worldwide. Interior designers revamped the space with walnut wood, dark oak, polished steel and minimalist display shelves. Ferragamo is available in 36 stores throughout the US and recently opened a mono-brand boutique in San Diego, California.

“The location will be a base-line for the rest of our locations, used to inspire future renovations,” Vincent Ottomanelli, US regional director of Ferragamo, told ANSA.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Islam & Rick Warren

Islam — a PEACEFUL religion? A courageous young English lady walked amongst verbally abusive Muslim demonstrators in her former hometown, Luton, England. The lack of respect shown towards her by many of the picoting Muslims, and the insults hurled at British Authority (police and judicial law) is shocking to witness (see clip below).

But in the light of these overtly aggressive Muslim sentiments of non-peace towards non-muslims one wonders why the naivety of Evangelical Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback, the 8th largest Church in USA and other Christian leaders continues as they seek peace with Muslims who won’t settle for peace outside of conversion to Islam? Why would Rick Warren think the behaviour of British Muslims any different to American Muslims? Yet, Warren continues to suppose the religious view of Islam can somehow be separated from its very fabric, Sharia Law, an ingrained essence that combines Islam’s political constitution, legal, economic, military, dietary, social and cultural system of life?

Perhaps Western culture is able to untangle religious legalism from daily living but Sharia Law doesn’t allow that privilege which only comes with a freedom Islam won’t permit its followers. Instead Sharia Law demands its people dress in a certain manner (women must wear legally instated religious covering), there are certain protocols attached to eating (not only in food choice but how it must be served), certain laws of taxation towards those who aren’t Muslim, property rights against women and children, and so go the dictates of Sharia. (SEE BOOK: Slavery Terrorism & Islam: The Historical Roots and Contemporary Threat by Peter Hammond)

Rick Warren, along with hundreds of Christians, confuse Islam and Sharia’s intolerance with the fantasy notion that Muslims will unite with non-muslims for the “common ground” and reconciliation and work together in social programs for global peace. Rick Warren’s delusion, and that of Christian leaders who are leading the sheep astray, is imbedded in their not recognising that Muslims will not cooperate with non-muslims in any agenda that doesn’t promote conversion to Islam, because Muslims believe the world’s problem is that the whole world isn’t submitted to Sharia Law and aren’t Muslims! Despite this Islamic mandate Rick Warren pressed on regardless saying at the 2009 Islam Conference:

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Jolted by a Rare Truism of Muslims in America

Barack Obama himself never has had the guts to say it. Indeed, while it is famously difficult to prove a negative, it seems apparent few people in all of politics and media have had the guts to say it. Did John McCain ever say it? Did Rick Santorum or Bill O’Reilly? So let us plant a little flag for, mark with a yellow highlighter, the thing Rep. Raul Labrador said Sunday on “Meet the Press”: that “it wouldn’t matter” if President Obama were a Muslim. And if it seems rather much to be handing out medals for such a modest statement of principle, well … the principle has been under fire for so long that even a modest statement feels momentous.

In recent years, public figures have made news for refuting (like McCain) or failing to refute (like Santorum) the canard that Obama is a follower of Islam. But outside of Colin Powell, who did so a few years back on “Meet the Press,” it is difficult to think of many — or any — who have dared to confront the notion implicit in the lie. Namely, that being a Muslim is incompatible with being an American.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

New York Exhibit Puts Spotlight on Ancient Middle Eastern Power Clashes


“Clash of civilization” part of the exhibit, tells a great story of a countless moment in history, deliberated through plenty of stunning items left from that time. As it turns out, that clash was less disruptive than once thought. The script illustrates that after the Prophet Muhammad established Islam in the seventh century, Muslims began expanding out from Mecca and Medina. The religion therefore, rapidly swept across the broader region and reaches diverse ethnic and religious communities. “Within religions, hugely different communities are bumping into each other. Karaite Jews and Rabbinical Jews, Samaritans,” Evans told NPR. The Christian sects included Syriac, Orthodox, Coptic and Church of the East. Constantinople’s Orthodox Christian rulers had tried to stamp out rifts. The newly converted Muslims were more tolerant of other faiths. These varied religious communities flourished under Muslim rule. “Christians served the new polity quite well. And the Christian churches and the Jewish community were given more rights,” Evans further explains.


The exhibit opens with a display of a splendid Byzantine Bible, written in gold on pages tinted royal purple. In the last gallery, a Quran, written 300 years later, in gold on pages dyed dark indigo. Evans aims to preserve this rich cultural heritage and share it with larger audience. “They want to be sharing in a way that they feel they are adequately respected,” she says. “I think what we are not going to have is ‘look at the interesting exotic people at the edge of nowhere.’ That’s not the way to look at them.” Evans hopes to convey a message of a shared civilization rather than a clash at the Met’s exhibit.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Power Grab for Natural Gas — New Executive Order

White House: We must interfere and impose federal power and control over the states. We cannot let cheap natural gas interfere with our plan for expensive alternative sources of energy.

It was Friday the 13. If you are superstitious, then the new Executive Order issued yesterday, “Supporting Safe and Responsible Development of Unconventional Domestic Natural Gas Resources” must give you pause.

The order states, “While natural gas production is carried out by private firms, and States are the primary regulators of onshore oil and gas activities, the Federal Government has an important role to play by regulating oil and gas activities on public and Indian trust lands, encouraging greater use of natural gas in transportation, supporting research and development aimed at improving the safety of natural gas development and transportation activities, and setting sensible, cost-effective public health and environmental standards to implement Federal law and augment State safeguards.”

Because natural gas produced 25 percent of our energy in 2011, the federal government must control this source of energy in order to deliver on the promise of making gasoline prices rise to $10 per gallon, bankrupt the coal industry, and cause energy prices to skyrocket.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

The Ring of Fire is Roaring to Life and There Will be Earthquakes of Historic Importance on the West Coast of the United States

Does it seem to you like there has been an unusual amount of seismic activity around the world lately? Well, it isn’t just your imagination. The Ring of Fire is roaring to life and that is really bad news for the west coast of the United States. Approximately 90 percent of all earthquakes and approximately 75 percent of all volcanic eruptions occur along the Ring of Fire. Considering the fact that the entire west coast of the United States lies along the Ring of Fire, we should be very concerned that the Ring of Fire is becoming more active. On Wednesday, the most powerful strike-slip earthquake ever recorded happened along the Ring of Fire. If that earthquake had happened in a major U.S. city along the west coast, the city would have been entirely destroyed. Scientists tell us that there is nearly a 100% certainty that the “Big One” will hit California at some point. In recent years we have seen Japan, Chile, Indonesia and New Zealand all get hit by historic earthquakes. It is inevitable that there will be earthquakes of historic importance on the west coast of the United States as well. So far we have been very fortunate, but that good fortune will not last indefinitely.

In a previous article, I showed that earthquakes are becoming more frequent around the globe. In 2001, there were 137 earthquakes of magnitude 6.0 or greater and in 2011 there were 205. The charts and data that I presented in that previous article show a clear upward trend in large global earthquakes over the past decade, and that is why what happened this week is so alarming.

On Wednesday, a magnitude 8.6 earthquake struck off the coast of Indonesia and that was rapidly followed by a magnitude 8.2 earthquake off the coast of Indonesia. Fortunately those gigantic earthquakes did not produce a devastating tsunami, but that doesn’t mean that those earthquakes were not immensely powerful.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

As Final Preparations Are Made for Trial of Anders Behring Breivik, Norway Families Fear it Could Become a Circus

The man accused of mass murder in Norway last year has called a bizarre array of expert witnesses and threatens to use his trial to spread his poisonous ideas.

For months now, the Bjorkavag family of Alesund have been dreading the start of a trial that few Norwegians really want.

There is no doubt who was responsible for killing their son, Sverre Bjorkavag, and 76 others last July, most of them young people barely out of childhood. Almost every detail of that terrible day, 22/7 as Norwegians now call it, has been endlessly pored over and retold; the car bomb in central Oslo, the slaughter of young people at their summer camp on Utoya island, and the incompetence of the police and security services, before, during and afterwards.

Yet on Monday in Oslo’s main criminal court, and for the next ten weeks, Anders Behring Breivik will glory in the chance to justify his killing spree, while his every flourish, gesture and smirk will be followed by the media in Norway and in the world in forensic detail.

“We are worried that it will be a circus,” said Sverre’s father Bjarte, a civil servant who lives with his wife Torild Flate, a primary school teacher. Their 28-year old son is buried in the family graveyard within view of their home, which overlooks a fjord with snow-covered mountains behind. They do not think the forthcoming trial will help the grieving process. In fact they cannot wait to get it behind them.

“There is no need to know why he did it,” said Mr Bjorkavag. “We know that already — madness. What we do want to get out of this trial is justice.”

The last time The Sunday Telegraph spoke to the Bjorkavag family was just a week after the killings, when their grief was still raw, and the shock of what had happened was still etched on Mr Bjorkavag’s face. They told how on the day of the attack, shortly after a newsflash first alerted to them to reports of gunfire on Utoya, they received a text message from Sverre. “Shooting here, we are running, hiding on the lakeshore,” it read. Then, 20 minutes later, there was one more text — the last communication they ever had with their son. “Jeg elsker dere”, it said in Norwegian — “I love you all”.

Now, just like eight months ago, it is noticeable that they still cannot bring themselves to mention Breivik by name. As Mr Bjorkavag puts it: “We have no feeling towards that person. He is a man who destroyed so many lives, as well as his own.”

For the Bjorkavag family, and dozens of other families across Norway who lost sons and daughters, the quest for justice in the weeks ahead is likely to open as many wounds as it heals. Instead of just laying bare Breivik’s crimes, the trial appears likely to give the self-styled “Knight Templar” the opportunity he craves to justify his atrocities as necessary to “save” Europe from Islam. In Breivik’s twisted mind, he was a hero, killing traitors from the Norwegian Labour party who had opened his homeland to immigration, and firing the first shots in a war against Islamic invasion.

To help him explain all this, Breivik has called a bizarre series of expert witnesses, many of them from the fringes of Norway’s political life — old Nazis, a notorious Islamist who met Osama bin Laden, an anarchist, a gay rights activist who has warned of intolerant Islam, and extreme left-wingers. He has also called a series of more mainstream writers, academics and politicians, many of whom have written about multiculturalism in Norway.

Hanne Nabintu Herland, a best-selling Norwegian author, thinks she was called as a witness because some of her books have been critical of Norway’s stifling culture of political correctness.

“I don’t really know what they want me to speak about in the trial,” she said, adding that she did not want to attend but had to in law.

“This lunatic said he was defending European values and then killed a load of defenceless people.” At least one other witness, an anti-racism campaigner, has said he will refuse to show up, even if that means he has to go to jail.

There was speculation that some of the British writers and Far-Right figures who Breivik claimed inspiration from would be called to the trial, but so far that has not happened, probably because the court cannot compel them to attend.

Ms Herland believes that neither the massacre, nor the trial, have been dealt with competently, mainly because safe little Norway has been unable to cope with the terrible reality of what Breivik did.

“I think Norway has been traumatised in a serious way by what has happened,” she said. “We will be for years.”

The trial will be the biggest in Norwegian legal history, costing an estimated 97 million krone (£10.5 million). Places are reserved for 200 journalists in the bright, modern courtroom in the centre of Oslo, less than five minutes walk away from where Breivik’s car bomb went off.

The accused will get his chance to explain his actions, although whether his testimony from the dock is broadcast to the world will depend on a ruling by Norway’s Supreme Court expected on Monday. Some Norwegians believe that broadcasting him will expose his ideas as laughable: others fear that extremists and the mentally ill may be inspired by his rants for years to come if it ends up on YouTube.

Breivik will not be able to speak to witnesses from the dock, but he will be allowed to question them via his lawyers.

Adding to the sense of unreality surrounding the trial before it has even begun, Breivik’s lawyer, Geir Lippestad, a father of eight and himself a member of the Norwegian Labour Party, told Time magazine: “I feel I have lost my soul in this case. I hope I get it back afterwards,”


Most Norwegians are thoroughly sick of hearing his name. “They should just lock him up and forget him,” said one man in a café as he pored over a newspaper with a photograph of Breivik on the front page. There have even been a few calls for his execution, almost unheard of before in liberal Norway.

Many of the survivors of Utoya island are deeply worried that the trial could give Breivik an opportunity to grandstand.

Eric Kursetgjerde, 18, a high school student who survived the shooting spree, said: “What concerns me the most is that Right-wing extremists, many in Germany and France, see him as some kind of hero. Sometimes you see expressions of support for him on blogs and on Facebook, not usually people who support him 100 per cent but there are those who think he had a point.”

In pre-trial hearings, the defendant has actually looked far from heroic, according to one lawyer who has observed him. “When you see him in court you realise he is not a tough guy at all,” said Brynjar Nielsen Meling.

“He fiddles with his clothes, his eyes dart around. He has no charisma and he looks anxious all the time. He looks like the weakest boy in class. I wonder if he will be able to manage the pressure of a ten week trial.”

The prospect of attending the trial is a forbidding one for the Bjorkavag family, but they have decided that they must, probably on May 10 when their son’s murder will be dealt with. Each fatality is being dealt with one by one.

They are angry about his witness list — “just to get him publicity,” said Mrs Flate — and have no doubt that Breivik should go to hospital, not prison. “We would hope that he can be helped, and perhaps one day understand what he has done and have to live with it,” she said. “You can tell that he doesn’t now. His eyes are cold.”


One of the most controversial aspects of the massacre, that they refuse to discuss, is the performance of the police. When The Sunday Telegraph last met the family, Norway was united in grief, and nobody thought of apportioning blame to anyone except one man.

Now it is clear that there were a series of avoidable disasters: there was no helicopter to fly armed police to the island when the shooting started; nearly all Oslo’s police were unavailable because they were on holiday on July 22; a police telephone operator failed to accept Breivik’s “surrender”; and for three hours after Breivik’s car bomb narrowly missed killing government ministers in central Oslo, the prime minister had no security . The city was apparently considered so safe that it was normal for him to have no secret service protection on duty.

The head of the intelligence service, which was fixated on the Islamic threat and virtually ignored Right-wingers, has been forced to resign…

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

Germany: US Comedian Tells Tales From the Mosque

An American comedian who spent 30 days visiting Mosques across the US is bringing his stand-up show about the trip to Germany. Aman Ali spoke to The Local.

Aman Ali, a New Yorker of Indian heritage, said stopping at a different Mosque on each day of 2010’s holy month of Ramadan had given him a broad outlook on how Muslims were living in America. His current tour — he has just performed in Copenhagen and is heading for Germany next week — was showing him interesting things about the differences between Muslim life on either side of the Atlantic. “The big difference is that the American culture is one of immigration, it is very easy to immigrate and integrate,” he told The Local ahead of bringing his show “30 Mosques in 30 Days” to Germany. “In Europe national identity is different. You go to parts of Europe and identity is more defined, like in Germany, Denmark, Sweden or Norway. Although, I was in the UK recently, and people are very open — and the favourite national dish is chicken tikka masala.”


[JP note: I wonder if Aman Ali will be using the Hawaiian jihadi joke in his shows.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Greece: 57 Bags of Third Reich Marks Found

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, APRIL 10 — The Finance Ministry is setting up a committee to decide what the state should do with the 57 bags of German currency from the time of the 1941-44 occupation during World War II that it has in the Treasury. In the context of seeking any relevant documents regarding the requirement of war damages from Germany, the ministry — as daily Kathimerini reports — has decided to create a six-member committee to propose what should happen with the 14,334,000 Deutsche marks left over from the occupation and now held by the Bank of Greece. The committee’s task concerns “the inspection of the 57 bags and the submission of a proposal as to whether there remain any reasons for their further retention, their possible use for other purposes or their destruction, given that their value today can only be historic,” the decision by Finance Minister Filippos Sachinidis reads. Sources say that the Bank of Greece had informed the ministry of the German money about a year ago, but given that it is only of historic value, the ministry had then decided against taking any action. However, as a result of the war reparations debate that is currently raging, Sachinidis has now decided to see what can be done with it.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: New Probe Against Puglia Governor

Six others involved in hospital funds transfer investigation

(ANSA) — Bari, April 13 — Further investigations have been opened against Italian left-wing politician and Puglia Governor Nichi Vendola, along with six others, for alleged irregularities in the transfer of regional funding to a local hospital between 2002-2009. On Wednesday, Vendola called an emergency press conference to announce that he was being probed for alleged abuse of office regarding the appointment of a local chief of surgeons, Paolo Sardelli, at Bari’s San Paolo hospital in 2010. Vendola said that the “resentment-fed” accusations were based on testimony against him from Lea Cosentino, the former head of Bari’s health board whom Vendola fired in 2010 after she was placed under house arrest during a graft investigation. The latest allegations of fraud, forgery and embezzlement involve the unfinished transfer of 45 million euros from the Region of Puglia to Bari’s Miulli hospital, said investigators.

The probes also include Senator Alberto Tedesco, ex-local health councilor Tommaso Fiore, the bishop of Altamura-Gravina-Acquaviva delle Fonti Monsignor Mario Paciello and the Muilli hospital director Father Mimmo Laddaga.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Police Remove ‘Centurions’ From Colosseum, Fight Ensues

Protester threatens to set self alight

(ANSA) — Rome, April 12 — Costumed centurions got into a scuffle with police Thursday after officers removed two of the fake warriors who had scaled the Colosseum in protest against being banned from working there. Two men climbed up to the second tier of the 2,000-year-old structure asking the city to “let us work at the Colosseum, give us certain rules and let us stay here”.

As police carried them away, fellow costumed supporters intervened to free them, leading to pushing and swinging on both sides, witnesses said.

Paramedics took one of the centurions to hospital after he fell during the confrontation, police said.

The city’s costumed gladiators and centurions staged a similar sit-in at the site at the weekend after Rome city council last month launched a task force to keep the men dressed in leather tunics and armour from asking money from tourists for posing for pictures.

The centurions and gladiators are still allowed to work elsewhere in Rome such as along the road leading up to the Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain or in the Renaissance Piazza Navona where they are a mainstay.

While the performers say they only ask for small donations, police say they can take home as much as 200 euros per day, income for which they allegedly never pay taxes.

Over the years, the city has gone back and forth on enforcing its policy against the fake warriors.

In 2003, 25 performers protested for months and scaled the Colosseum when the city refused to authorize work permits in the area.

The spat ended when the council decided they could return to the ancient site, agreeing that their trade was “akin to that of traditional traveling minstrels”.

The current protest at the Colosseum was still ongoing Thursday as one costumed demonstrator threatened to set himself on fire. Police are stationed at the entrance to prevent any further infiltration.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Medical Student Examinees Cause Traffic Snarls

Rome’s Aurelia thoroughfare immersed in chaos

(ANSA) — Rome, April 11 — Over 8,000 aspiring medical students caused traffic jams and commuter woes Wednesday morning as they arrived in Rome for admission exams being held in a hotel near one of the capital’s main thoroughfares, via Aurelia.

Commuters travelling to the city for work were affected by the chaos, which continued to create problems throughout the day despite efforts by traffic police.

Applicants from around the country waited hours in traffic snarls, while many abandoned their vehicles and walked kilometers to sit for tests that could secure entry into the prestigious Catholic University’s medical faculty.

Only 3% of the hopefuls will be admitted based on the multiple-choice exam of 120 questions that lasted two hours.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Industry Ministry Official Arrested for ‘Attemped Bribe’

Bruno Colantonio allegedly demanded 20,000 euros

(ANSA) — Rome, April 12 — An official at the industry ministry was arrested Thursday on suspicion of demanding a bribe to spare a businessman a fine.

The official, Bruno Colantonio, was taken into custody after the unnamed businessman claimed he asked him for 20,000 euros ($26,400), police said.

A probe has been opened to see whether Colantonio, who risks 4-12 years in jail, allegedly committed other such acts.

The official will be given an immediate trial, which police said was “very rare” in cases of alleged extortion.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Urban Planning Councilor Arrested for Corruption

Another probe involving Northern League

(ANSA) — Milan, April 13 — Ex-Northern League councilor for civil protection in the northern town of Piacenza and current councilor for urban planning in the town of Cortemaggiore, Davide Allegri, was arrested Friday morning for alleged corruption and misappropriation of funds.

The Northern League party has been rocked by scandal starting with former treasurer Francesco Belsito, who is under investigation for allegedly channelling public funds to the family of ex-leader Umberto Bossi, who stepped down at the beginning of April.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Fake Blind Woman Nabbed in Viterbo

Cheat ‘has to repay 110,000 euros claimed since 1979’

(ANSA) — Rome, April 13 — Italia police on Friday unmasked a woman who had falsely been claiming benefits for blindness since 1979 worth some 110,000 euros.

The woman, 71, was arrested in Viterbo north of Rome after police filmed her going about her business without assistance.

A rash of similar cases has come to light in the last few months.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Rimini Jeweler ‘Didn’t Declare Income Since 2005’

Fake luxury watches found in shop

(ANSA) — Rimini, April 11 — A jeweler in Rimini was cited for fraud Wednesday after police discovered he hadn’t declared any income since 2005.

Police also found counterfeit Rolex and Cartier watches in the city-centre shop run by the man, 68, who had no till for issuing receipts or invoices.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy Must Become a “Predictable” Country — Prime Minister Mario Monti Speaks

Following the volatile reign of Silvio Berlusconi, the longtime European “technocrat” and economics professor Mario Monti has achieved surprising consensus both inside and outside of Italy. But can he make it last if he doesn’t stick around?

Mario Calabresi

Italy must become a predictable country. That is the concept Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti identifies as the key for the country’s economic recovery and long-term credibility.

More than four months after his arrival as head of “technical” government, and fresh from a whirlwind tour of Asia, Monti sat down for an extensive interview with La Stampa at the official prime minister’s residency, Palazzo Chigi. Usually, being predictable is not considered a compliment. But Monti’s trademark is normality — it’s part of why he was chosen to replace the embattled and often controversial Silvio Berlusconi. Italy must become a normal country, the former professor explains, in order to attract investors and achieve growth. Monti’s desk in Rome is overflowing with print outs of reports and competitiveness ratings of his troubled country. His mission is nothing short of changing Italy’s image across the world.

LA STAMPA: You are just back from Asia, after earlier trips to the United States and the major European capitals. What was the reaction in these places to the changes taking place in Italy?

MARIO MONTI: I was particularly struck seeing how the Chinese president, and the Indian and Pakistani prime ministers were so well informed about our actions to contain the deficit and about how quickly we approved the first series of reforms. There is a clear feeling that Italy can make a difference on the financial health of the euro zone.

In this new and evolving world, what is Italy missing in order to be competitive and to attract foreign investments?

I would say that we miss a methodical and long-term attention to the country’s image. Not in a superficial way, but in order to make the major investing countries and their companies understand how Italy works, and to make them think about our economic policy as predictable and stable. It is important that the international economic and political elite sees Italy as an understandable and predictable reality, which — despite its complexity — is similar to them.

In concrete terms, what do we have to do?

We need to create a favorable environment for investment. Then, progress has to be achieved in security and the fight against crime. There is also the reduction of the bureaucracy, a more efficient justice system, the lack of infrastructures and the crucial point of having predictable rules. If we could achieve this… we would give a signal of confidence abroad. This would mean that Italy is really changing, beyond just the short term of this peculiar (technical) government.

You are pointing out how the rest of the world is asking Italy to be predictable, but at the same time you are mentioning that this is a short-term government. You know that there is a huge question mark over what will happen one year from now. Who can guarantee that this virtuous behavior won’t end?

No one can guarantee it. But I’m confident that it won’t happen. If these parties have been able to agree, and to find common ground even without the benefit of being at the center of the attention, then in a new phase of political governments, when they have the responsibility to govern with their own leaders, the goal to achieve a positive outcome will be even stronger.

You speak about the importance of cultural changes for the country…

In this phase we have seen how Italians react when they are told, in a straightforward way, that it is necessary to do some things that have some real consequences. Every time that I think about the changes in society and politics, I am ever more convinced that the virtuous behavior won’t stop. It will be beautiful to see all of this from the outside.

Why must Italy have such a challenging goal?…

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

Italy: Tax Police Carry Out Search Warrant at LNP’s ‘SINPA’ HQ

(AGI) Milan — Tax police have seized documents at the registered offices of LNP party SINPA trade union offshoot. The search warrant was carried out in conjunction with enquiries into the misappropriation of public party funding by several high ranking members of the LNP party, among whom SINPA founder and Deputy Senate Speaker Rosi Mauro.

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

Italy: San Raffaele: Milan Prosecutors, Indictment of 7 Accused

(AGI) Milan — Milan prosecutors have requested the indictment of seven people in the San Raffaele case. These include businessmen Pierangelo Dacco’, the former managing director of San Raffaele Mario Valsecchi, and businessmen Pierino and Gianluca Zammarchi, father and son, accused variously of conspiracy and reckless bankruptcy in the investigation into the hospital group. The preliminary hearing will open on 26 April before the preliminary hearings magistrate Maria Cristina Mannocci.

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

Italy: Lega Nord Young Members Protest Outside Ex-Treasurer Home

(AGI) Genoa — A group of young Lega Nord members staged a protest outside the house of the party’s former treasurer in Genoa. “Shame, shame”, “Clean-up” are some of the slogans chanted this afternoon by some twenty young members of the Lega Nord in region Liguria who staged a protest outside the house of former party treasurer Francesco Belsito. A small demonstration was held in the late afternoon in Genoa’s Sampierdarena neighbourhood to protest against the party’s financial misdealing which is at the centre of an ongoing probe. Demonstrators eventually marched to the city centre staging an about 15-minute protest outside Belsito’s house.

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

Lega Nord’s Maroni: “Clean-Up Not Over, No Score-Settling”

(AGI)Sondrio- Lega Nord is not done expelling its corrupt members said Roberto Maroni: “we’ll keep going as long as is necessary”. Maroni spoke to journalists upon his arrival at a rally in Sondrio and discussed the possible disciplinary sanctions against Lega Nord members involved in the scandal over electoral reimbursements. “But since we are law-abiding citizens we don’t want any ‘settling scores’, bloodshed or witch-hunts” Maroni stated. “We’re examining accounts to ascertain liabilities,” he explained, “and we’ll act as quickly as possible to complete this clean-up.” .

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

Norwegian Mass Killer Anders Breivik to Argue ‘Self-Defense’ When Trial Begins Monday

NORWEGIAN mass killer Anders Behring Breivik plans to argue that his July 2011 shooting spree — in which he killed 77 people, most of them teenagers — was carried out in self-defense when his trial begins Monday.

The 33-year-old, who has a strong desire to be judged as sane, according to one of his lawyers, is looking forward to detailing why he carried out his bloody spree in downtown Oslo and at a political youth camp on nearby Utoya Island, Dagbladet newspaper reported.

“He wants to explain everything with why he did what he did,” lawyer Tord Jordet said. “It’s a pretty long and complicated explanation, with lots of historical elements, experiences from his own life and political persuasions. It is not easy to explain in a concise manner.”

He said the notion that the attack was carried out in “preventative self-defense” was important to Mr Breivik.

…”If he can explain himself freely, he will begin to say why he has done as he has done. The most important thing for him is what he calls ethnic deconstruction and that he believes he has acted in preventive self-defense,” Mr Jordet said.

Mr Jordet’s colleague Geir Lippestad said he wanted to forewarn Norwegians about the shocking defense Mr Breivik will mount.

“We as defenders have heard it many times,” he said, “but it will be different for those who have not heard him before. It was therefore important to say something about what is to come.

“Technically, we have no choice other than to note his arguments about why he did what he did. We of course understand that will not succeed, but we are obliged to present his arguments.”

He added, “I think we’re going to hear many very provocative statements from him.”

Mr Lippestad warned earlier in the week that, “He will not only defend [his actions] but will also lament, I think, not going further.”

He also said Mr Breivik was “pleased with the conclusion” of a new report that declared he was legally sane and criminally responsible for the twin attacks…

           — Hat tip: Nick[Return to headlines]

Spain: 500:000 Signatures for Law to Restore the Corrida

(ANSAmed) Madrid — The party in favour of the Spanish Corrida has struck back by presenting a popular initiative in order to safeguard all bullfights within the country after the practice was abolished in Catalonia from January 1 2012. The Central Electoral Council approved over half a million signatures today necessary to initiate the parliamentary procedure towards the Congress of Deputies of the people’s law project, according to statements made to the media by the President of the Federation of bullfight associations of Catalonia and promoter of the initiative, Luis Maria Gilbert.

The Federation hopes the parliamentary procedure conclude itself before the summer holidays, in order to bring back the corrida to the Plaza de Toro de la Monumental in Barcelona already by September. He is counting on the support of the parliamentary project by the People’s Party (PP) and the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) who together make up 300 of the 350 seats in parliament. At the same time Gilbert has also called on the Constitutional Court to take a decision on the appeal presented by the bullfight associations of Catalonia regarding the law which prohibits bullfighting in the region and approved by the Catalan parliament in July 2010 following the popular initiative brought forward by the animal rights lobby group Prou! (Enough!).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Swedish Town Rocked by Second Child Exorcism

Another teenage girl in Borås, western Sweden, has been subjected to physical abuse such as kicks, beatings and electric shocks, as her parents tried to exorcise her from evil spirits.

“I can confirm that the investigation is under way and we are hoping to complete it before the summer as there is a risk the statute of limitations will come into effect otherwise,” said prosecutor Daniel Larsson to daily Dagens Nyheter (DN).

According to the paper, the girl, who was ten at the time, had been too frightened to let anyone know what was going on at the time.

However, when the parents approached the Swedish social services with an application for a grant in order to take their daughter back to the Democratic Republic of the Congo to have her properly exorcized, she was taken into protective custody by the state.

It wasn’t until last year, when the girl was thirteen that she finally plucked up the courage to tell her foster parents about the torture-like treatment she had been forced to endure.

According to DN, the girl spoke about being kicked and beaten badly with electrical cables. At one point her parents held her down and tried to stick live wires in her mouth to release the evil spirits through electrical shocks.

At one point she was beaten so badly that the parents were forced to bring her to the hospital where they made her say she had been assaulted by other school children, when in fact it had been her father striking her.

After hearing her story, the foster parents reported the girl’s biological parents to the authorities.

This is not the first case of child exorcism reported in the Borås area. The verdict against another set of parents as well as two priests in a local congregation — all accused of a similar crime — will be given on Monday.

Both set of parents are originally from the Congo-Kinshasa area.

According to Dagens Nyheter they are also connected to the controversial religious community in Borås called The River, where the two priests in the previous exorcism case were active.

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

Turkish President Calls Wilders Islamophobe

Turkish President Abdullah Gül has called Freedom Party leader Geert Wilders an islamophobe. In an interview with Dutch mass-circulation daily De Telegraaf, President Gül said Mr Wilders represents an extreme voice, which feeds radicals.”

He continued, saying because of Wilders “a negative us-against-them climate is developing in the whole of Europe, which is laying the foundation for ethnic religious discrimination.” Nevertheless, the president said he would shake the hand of the leader of the anti-Islam party if he met him.

President Gül is in the Netherlands on a three-day trip in the coming week to mark 400 years of relations between Turkey and the Netherlands at the invitation of the Dutch government.

A number of months ago, Mr Wilders said President Gül was not welcome in the Netherlands as far as he was concerned. In 2010, Turkey decided not to receive a parliamentary delegation which included Wilders. At the time, a Turkish spokesperson said that Wilders was “such a fascist that besides in Turkey, he would not be welcome in other European capitals.”

In response, Geert Wilders has indicated that President Gül’s comments do not bother him. “Turkish humour: Christian-teaser, Kurd-basher, Hamas-friend and Islamist Gül complaining about tolerance.”

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

UK: ‘Insane’ Husband Who Stabbed Wife 120 Times in Frenzied Killing Walks Free From Court Less Than a Year Later

A killer declared insane after stabbing his wife to death less than a year ago walked free after a court heard he has recovered.

Farrukh Malik knifed Sarwat, his partner of 37 years, more than 120 times during the frenzied attack at their north London home after suffering ‘depressive psychosis’ following the death of his mother.

But the 66-year-old accountant, who is now living with his brother in Slough, Berkshire, was set free after a judge ruled he had no power to detain him because of medical reports which state he is no longer a danger.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Bully Road Rage Van Driver Who Rammed Into Terrified Horse Rider Simply Because She Asked Him to Slow Down is Jailed

A white van driver who rammed his vehicle into a horse and rider has been jailed.

A judge branded Nadeem Hussain a bully and said he had used his vehicle as a weapon.

Hussain was driving along a country lane when Charlotte Watmough signalled for him to slow down. Instead, the father of five skidded to a halt and got out of his vehicle.

Words were exchanged before Hussain got back into his van and drove forwards a few feet, past the horse and rider.

He then slammed it into reverse and drove into Miss Watmough’s mount, Merlin, pushing him into a wall.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: How Liberal Conservatives Repeatedly Misrepresent Mainstream Conservatives

by Tim Montgomerie

I don’t know quite what he meant by it but Tory MP and climate change minister Greg Barker is quoted in today’s Telegraph warning the party against adopting UKIP’s “swivel-eyed rhetoric”. Perhaps he meant some of the rude speeches made by Nigel Farage? Anyhow, I agree with Iain Dale that it’s not a sensible way of winning back Tory-to-UKIP defectors. I made clear in my Times piece last Wednesday that I’m no fan of UKIP but because “kindness effects more than severity” I prefer Aesop’s sun to wind in winning UKIP’s voters back to the Conservative fold.


One of the great weaknesses of the Liberal Conservative project is that it worries too much about the opinion of the commentariat and not enough about opinion beyond the ‘beltway’ ofthe Westminster village. The No2AV campaign — universally derided by the pundits — triumphed and proved yet again that market research and not Big Society-style hunches should lead Tory strategy. This precoocupation with elite opinion led Project Cameron to focus too much on the gender and ethnicity of candidates and not enough on their regional identity and social class. Too much about climate change and not enough about electricity bills. Too much about civil liberties and not enough about public safety. In recent years Mainstream or Right-wing Tories (Michael Gove on schooling, IDS on social justice, John Redwood on practical environmentalism, Bill Cash on third world debt, Mark Pritchard on animal welfare etc etc) have done much of the modernising. When the Liberal Conservatives stop misrepresenting all of these things (attacking, for example, the caricatured Tea Party Tories) the real argument about winning the next election could take off.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Muslim Taxi Driver Dumps Family Out of His Cab After Spotting an Unopened Bottle of Wine Saying it Was Against His Religion

A Muslim cab driver has been fired after he threw out a family carrying an unopened bottle of wine because he said ‘it’s against my religion.’

Adrian Cartwright, 46, had hired the taxi to take his family out for dinner at an Indian restaurant near Oldham, Greater Manchester.

But before they could make the five-minute journey the driver, in his 20s, spotted the bottle of white wine and promptly refused to take them.

The family was turfed out onto the pavement and he drove off.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Some Secrets Must be Kept — And No One Needs to Apologise for That

by Charles Moore

‘Human rights’ are undermining the whole concept of national security.


“Human rights” have changed all that. The European Court of Human Rights, to which Britain has subjected itself, is based on universalist principles and is a supranational authority. In that environment, judges become, in effect, the paid opponents of national governments. Individual rights are seen as trumping the rights not only of states, but of everyone else. Our national security represents the aggregated right of 60 million people to live in safety. But that means almost nothing to the ECHR. The Council of Europe, which invented the court, says it should be “an arbitrator between the States and their citizens”. In a system with such a remit, run by judges from 47 countries, who will bother to uphold the national security of any one state? I hope someone says this when the Council meets for its conference in Brighton next week.

Under the ECHR, the moral underpinning of justice weakens. In a powerful new book, Facing Up to Human Rights, the lawyer and former MP Fred Silvester points out that many of those who most readily claim their human rights are people who have behaved reprehensibly. While legal rights exist for bad people as well as good ones, there is also the old common-law principle of equity that “the person claiming justice must come with clean hands”. When our intelligence services are forced to settle in advance rather than betray their secrets to a court, they are pressing public money into some of the dirtiest hands in the world.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]


Macedonia: Killing of Five People Sparks Ethnic Tensions

Skopje, 13 April ( (AKI) — The killing of four Macedonian young adults and a middle-aged man north of the capital Skopje, has sparked ethnic tensions in a small Balkan country, and police has appealed for calm, local media reported on Friday.

The bodies of four youths, aged between 18 and 20 years, were found Wednesday night near a lake north of Skopje, where they went fishing, the police said. Another fisherman, aged 45, was found dead some hundred meters away. All victims had bullet wounds, the police said.

The brother of the dead fisherman told the police the man didn’t know the youths, but was most likely killed because he witnessed their murder. The police was looking for the perpetrators and appealed to local population to help in the investigation.

Skopje media speculated that the killings were a possible revenge for a recent killing of two ethnic Albanian youths in western town of Gostivar. A Macedonian policeman killed two young ethnic Albanians there, after they allegedly attacked him and his minor daughter.

In the meantime, people in the Skopje section of Radisani, the home of four youths, have set up barricades, protesting the killings and demanding a swift investigation and punishment of perpetrators.

The police appealed for patience and calm and called on media to refrain from speculations, which could further inflame ethnic tensions.

Ethnic Albanians make about 25 per cent of Macedonia’s two million population and quarrels between the two ethnic groups have been on the rise. Ethnic Albanians rebelled in 2001, demanding more rights and regional autonomy, but the conflict was brought under control through international mediation.

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

North Africa

Ten Candidates, Including Front-Runners, Barred From Egyptian Presidential Race

Egypt’s election commission on Saturday disqualified 10 presidential hopefuls, including the three front-runners, from running in a surprise decision that threatened to upend the already tumultuous race.

Farouk Sultan, the head of the Supreme Presidential Election Commission, told The Associated Press that those barred from the race included Hosni Mubarak’s former spy chief Omar Suleiman; the chief strategist for the Muslim Brotherhood, Khairat el-Shater; and hard-line lawyer-turned-preacher Hazem Salah Abu Ismail. He did not give a reason.

The announcement came as a shock to many Egyptians as three of the 10 excluded were considered among the front-runners. They now have 48 hours to appeal the decision, according to election rules. The final list of candidates will be announced on April 26.

[Return to headlines]

Was the Arab Spring Really a Facebook Revolution?

WHEN emotive pictures of violence in Tunisia and its neighbouring countries were posted online, they spread rapidly and helped to catalyse months of revolutions throughout 2011. The western world was quick to celebrate the success of new media, and the idea of the Arab Spring as a “Facebook Revolution” spread as fast as the tweets. One Egyptian couple even named their baby Facebook.

Was social media a vital component that stirred long-brewing resentment into action, or did it merely speed inevitable revolutions on their way? A year on, as researchers continue to sift the evidence, the debate continues.

Kathleen Carley of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, carried out the latest analysis with intelligent software she developed to comb though media articles from the archive LexisNexis. Carley’s team looked for articles and social media posts about the Arab Spring in 18 countries over a period of 10 months.

The program identified terms that occurred together in the same article, such as “Egypt” and “Twitter”, and rapidly built a picture of the most important by looking at the relationship between them in all 400,000 articles it analysed. When the team carried out a statistical analysis on these results, only terms related to human rights and international relations came up as significant causes of the revolutions. While social media correlated with uprisings in some countries, the link wasn’t universal.

The conclusion? While Facebook, Twitter and YouTube certainly played a role in the way the Arab Spring unfolded, their influence was far less critical than many had suggested. “Social media was not causal. It told people to go here, to do this, but the reason was social influence, not social networking,” says Carley, who presented her results at the AAAS meeting in Vancouver, Canada, in February. “Social influencers tend to act across all media, regardless.”

Some believe that is an obvious conclusion. “Social media wasn’t a catalyst. The events it describes were the catalyst,” says computer scientist Huan Liu of Arizona State University in Tuscon. Filippo Menczer of Indiana University in Bloomington agrees. “We have a history of thousands of uprisings without social media,” he says.

Philip Howard of the University of Washington in Seattle, who has published an analysis that found a strong link between social media and the Arab Spring isn’t so sure. “In each of those other revolutions, there is some sort of media that is new and not controlled by the state. Even newspapers at one point caught dictators off guard.”

And Egypt and Tunisia, he points out, had been having problems for many years before shocking photos and stories of abuse by government agencies went viral. “The individual risk assessments (before people go out) to face rubber bullets and tear gas are informed by digital stories,” he says.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Airlines Cancel Israel Flights for Over 60 Percent of Pro-Palestinian Fly-in Protesters

Activists threatening to sue airlines, including Lufthansa, Air France and Easyjet, for ‘bowing to Israeli pressure’; PM’s Office releases sarcastic ‘thank you’ letter to be given to activists on arrival.

More than 60 percent of the 1,500 pro-Palestinian activists due to arrive in Israel on Sunday to take part in a fly-in protest have received notifications from airlines that their flights were canceled, the spokesman for the “Welcome to Palestine” protest told Haaretz on Saturday.

The activists were planning to arrive in Israel to participate in a protest against West Bank settlement construction that was scheduled to take place on Sunday. Last July, a similar “fly-in” took place, with more than 300 international activists arriving in Israel. Of those activists, 120 were detained.

Among the airlines that notified the activists of flight cancelations were Lufthansa, Air France and Easyjet, Dr. Mazin Qumsiyeh, a Bethlehem-based spokesman for the protest said, adding that the activists are threatening to take legal action against the airlines.

“Israel passed lists of hundreds of activists to companies, along with a letter in which it claimed that they were coming to carry out a provocation and disturb the peace, and this is just not true. It is very unfortunate that these companies bowed to Israeli pressure,” said Qumsiyeh, who added that he has no doubt that some of the activists and Palestinian organizations — including his own — will pursue legal action against the companies.

According to the spokesman, hundreds of activists will manage to board flights to Israel’s Ben-Gurion airport, and declare their intention to travel on to the West Bank upon their arrival.

Dozens of Israeli activisits are due to await the arrival of the fly-in protesters at the airport. In a notice published on Saturday, Israeli activists said they will await for the fly-in protesters with “welcome signs” and “open arms.”

Dozens of pro-Palestinian activists were prevented from boarding Israel-bound flights on Friday, due to the fact that their names appeared on the blacklist distributed by the Israeli government to a number of European airlines.

Police are planning to intercept participants in the “Welcome to Palestine” actions at the airport and prevent their entry into the country. Hundreds of police officers are expected to be stationed at the airport ahead of their arrival, most of them unarmed and clothed in civilian dress.

‘Thank you for choosing Israel’

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister’s Office published on Saturday the text of a sarcastic letter that will be handed out to the pro-Palestinian activists upon their arrival. The letter “thanks” activists for “choosing” to make Israel the object of their “humanitarian concerns.”

“We know there were many other worthy choices,” it says, and goes on to list a number of other such “choices”: Syria, Iran and the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

“You could have chosen to protest the Syrian regime’s daily savagery against its own people, which has claimed thousands of lives,” the letter says.

“You could have chosen to protest the Iranian regime’s brutal crackdown on dissent and support of terrorism throughout the world.”

“You could have chosen to protest Hamas rule in Gaza, where terror organizations commit a double war crime by firing rockets at civilians and hiding behind civilians”, says the letter.

The letter states that activists chose “to protest against Israel, the Middle East’s sole democracy, where women are equal, the press criticizes the government, human rights organizations can operate freely, religious freedom is protected for all and minorities do not live in fear.”

The text concludes by suggesting that the activists “solve first the real problems of the region, and then come back and share with us your experience,” before wishing them “a nice flight.”

           — Hat tip: TV[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Beirut Hotel at Florence Festival, Spy Story Banned in Lebanon

Director Arbid: ‘we live in fear’

(ANSAmed) — FLORENCE, APRIL 13 — “Censorship is the only thing that works perfectly in Lebanon. It is a country where everyone is living in fear: citizens and institutions included”.

There is no beating about the bush with Danielle Arbid, the young Lebanese director who will present hert filme Beirut Hotel at Florence’s Middle East Now review. The film, banned by the Lebanese authorities, is a speculation on the murder of former Premier Rafiq Hariri. A cross between a love story and a spy film, Beirut Hotel tells of a highly complex and fleetingly brief love affair — lasting ten days in all — between Zoha, a singer in a restaurant in the Lebanese capital, and Mathieu, a Paris-based lawyer on his way to Syria, whose business is somehow linked to the Hariri affair.

In reality, it is a film about fear, told by a young director who left Lebanon behind when aged 17 as the civil war develops.

“My third full-length film is a film about the fear of being left behind (Zoha’s fear), the fear of falling in love (Mathieu’s fear) and the fear of those living permanently in Beirut”.

It is a fear that can be sprung on all at any moment. The Lebanese authorities do not like the film because “it endangers national security”. It can be lethal to touch in the Hariri question, “even if the subject is given thorough treatment in the newspapers”. Ms Arbid describes a country in which artists, “are not free, despite what people carry on believing outside the country”. To shoot the film, she explains, a script has to be presented to and approved by the security forces. “And woe betide you if you introduce any changes while shooting”. Which is what happened in the case of Beirut Hotel. “I submitted a provisional screenplay and started filming. Then, of course, as things progressed, the film took on the shape it wanted”. The conclusion: the film gets banned in Lebanon and is shown at last summer’s Lucerne Festival and in Dubai in December, while it is broadcast by Arte in France. In the meantime, Ms Arbid has opened an appeal process against the Lebanese State. There is no law in Lebanon that obliges film directors to present the script of their film before they can start filming.

“They are the ones acting outside the law. And now I would like to prove this. I am the only person to have had the courage to do such a thing”. Also her second film, “A Lost Man” (2007), was subjected to censorship. “They wanted 17 scenes cut because they were too sensual.

In that case I put up no opposition”. But this time she feels like rebelling. Everything is allowed in Lebanon, she says.

“Everyone does everything. But there is a great deal of hypocrisy”.

Once around here they used to say that “Egypt did the writing, Lebanon the editing and Irag read the result”. But it isn’t like that any more. “I think the Lebanese authorities look down on artists.

Lebanon cannot hold itself up as a model of freedom for other Arab countries”. This is her view at present, “I will never return to live in Lebanon. Not in this Lebanon, at any rate”.

This disaffection is not shared by her Lebanese audience. “Beirut Hotel did not go down well in Lebanon. Of course not; it shows a side of their society that they don’t want to see”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Iran Holds ‘Constructive’ Nuclear Talks With Britain and Other World Powers as They Return to Negotiating Table

Iran resumed discussion over its controversial nuclear programme today after a break more than a year — and an EU spokesman has described early talks as ‘positive’.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s chief negotiator Saeed Jalili met with six world powers, The US, UK, France, China, Russia and Germany, in Istanbul, Turkey this morning — 15 months after the last attempted at talks failed.

There’s huge pressure to reach agreement with Iran over it’s nuclear plans with US President Barack Obama calling the discussions ‘the last chance’ for diplomacy to work.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

U.N. Security Council Agrees to Send Ceasefire Monitors to Syria

The United Nations Security Council on Saturday unanimously authorized the deployment of ceasefire monitors to Syria. Russia and China joined the other 13 council members and voted in favor of the Western-Arab draft resolution. The first 30 unarmed military monitors are expected to leave within days.

The vote had been expected Friday but was held up by Russian objections to much of the text. The Russian ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, said Saturday that “substantive changes had been made to make it more balanced.”

[Return to headlines]

UAE: Scholars Share Message of Peace

Some attendees disappointed that main speaker for occasion did not show up. People urged to adhere to natural way of life

Dubai Thousands of people converged at the Dubai World Trade Centre in anticipation to hear Shaikh Abdul Rahman Sudais, Grand Imam of Masjid Al Haram, Makkah, who was scheduled to give a a sermon Friday. However, the Grand Imam was conspicuous by his absence both on Thursday and Friday, leaving many people disappointed. The organisers failed to give any explanation. “I was looking forward to see the shaikh and I came all the way from Ras Al Khaimah just to hear him speak. I was disappointed because the organisers had promised that he will be here today [Friday],” said Ahmad Abdullah. Meanwhile, scholars said that Islam is the only solution to the problems of humanity and lasting peace can be attained by following the teachings of the Quran and Prophet Mohammad (PBUH), at the Dubai International Peace Convention (DIPC).


[JP note: No surprises there then — when in non-Muslim countries, non-Muslims should abide by Muslim customs, mores, and laws appears to be the message.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Pakistani Schoolbooks Full of Contempt and Bigotry Against Christians, Hindus and Sikhs

Pakistani curricula and textbooks promote extremism and violate minorities’ rights. An NCJP study notes distortions and requests a revision of the educational system, the first source of marginalization. Although minorities are guaranteed the possibility to deepen their own religion.

Lahore (AsiaNews) — School textbooks that promote religious fanaticism, discriminate against minorities and trigger religious conflicts: Pakistani schools are — once again — the object of attention and study of Catholic NCJP activists who, in a detailed report, have examined the basic elements of discrimination of sectarian origins. In the report titled “ Fanatic Literacy or Education,” the National Commission for Justice and Peace Commission of the Catholic Church invites a rethink of school curricula, so that even Christians, Hindus, Sikhs and those belonging to minorities in Pakistan can deepen the study of their religion. Currently they are obliged to learn the basics of Islam, as practiced in some areas of the country, including Punjab.

The report shows that thousands of non-Muslim students are “forced” to study Islam and elements of the Muslim religion, for fear of discrimination. Among these, the decision taken by the Parliament of Punjab — one of the provinces of Pakistan — and approved “unanimously” that makes the study of the Koran mandatory. And non-Muslims “are not offered a viable alternative.” At the same time, even in subjects like social sciences and linguistics about 20% of the content is linked to Islam. Again: the non-Muslim students are given the extra bonus of 20 points, reserved to those who deepen Islamic studies.

AsiaNews has long stressed the importance of education as a factor of redemption and growth for Pakistan, and even devoted a thorough dossier to schooling and education (see, Education can stop the Taliban in Pakistan). Peter Jacob, NCJP executive secretary, explains that “education and educational policy in Pakistan” are among the sectors in which sectarian nature of discrimination and violations of basic human rights clearly emerge. In addition there is a chronic “lack of initiatives” and complications caused by “widespread corruption and inefficiency.”

In the study prepared by Christian activists they recall article 20 of the Constitution, which guarantees religious freedom, and article 22 that states that “ no person attending any educational institution shall be required to receive religious instruction, or take part in any religious ceremony, or attend religious worship, if such instruction, ceremony or worship relates to a religion other than his own”. However, the school and education system in general seem to “forget” these two fundamental laws of the Charter of the State, while diligently applying Article 31, under which “shall be binding upon the study of Islam and the Koran” so that — add Christian activists — there are no substantial differences between public institutions and the madrassas, or Islamic schools.

Finally, the report says that religions other than Islam are viewed “with contempt and prejudice.” Faced with a situation that is becoming increasingly critical, Justice and Peace calls for a substantial change in the educational policy and the opportunity for Hindus, Christians, Sikhs and students of other religions to deepen the knowledge of their own faith or, alternatively, have access to ethics and civic education.

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

Pakistan: Lahore: Christians and Hindus Against “Religious Fascism” And Forced Conversions to Islam

Young Christian and Hindu women are being abducted, forcibly converted and married off against their will. Young Christian men and boys are being forcibly circumcised. Young Hindu men are jailed for befriending young Muslim women. In the past five years, between 400 and 500 Christians have been forced to convert to Islam.

Lahore (AsiaNews) — “Several young Hindu women have been kidnapped from their homes in the dark of night, and dragged off to be forcibly converted to Islam. Usually, this conversion is accompanied by a signing of the nikahnama or marriage contract, which strengthens the kidnappers side of the story,” said Dilip Kumar, a Hindu activist. The kidnappers want complete freedom to convert, but “We can’t just sit back and watch what our community is going through,” he added.

Yesterday, together with dozens of Hindus and Christians and representatives of human rights NGOs, Kumar took part in a demonstration against the forced conversion of young men and women and the government’s slow response to what has been called “religious fascism”.

“It is a shame that Christian and Hindu girls are kidnapped and forced to convert, in most cases they are latter sold in sex slavery / prostitution,” said Fr John Mall. “This is becoming a hideous business and the authorities have kept a blind eye on the whole matter.” He was referring in particular to the case of Rinkle Kumari, a young woman who was abducted, converted and forced to marry a Muslim.

“Appearing before the court, Rinkle said: ‘Kill me but don’t send me back to prison or to the person who converted me.’ What did the Supreme Court? Instead of allowing her to meet her family, she was sent to jail for three weeks to think about converting to Islam. Had she said that she had converted, the court would have sent her to her husband.”

“In the last five years, there have been up to 400 to 500 conversions of Christians,” said Peter Jacob, national director of the National Commission for Justice and Peace. “And something equally horrifying: I know of forcible circumcision of young men in Punjab and one in Baluchistan. Where are we going, one asks?”

“Two months ago, a Muslim girl became friends with three Hindu boys. The Muslim family got the boys arrested and the Hindu families killed. This is barbarianism,” activist Diyal Singh said.

In yesterday’s rally, demonstrators also shouted slogans against Lahore’s police chief, who recently appeared before a court in connection with the demolition of the Catholic-owned Gosh-e-Aman building.

One of the parties to a lawsuit against the police official is a Christian woman, Zenobia Richard, who accuses him of desecrating Bibles, a statue of Our Lady and rosaries.

The court ordered him to submit a report of the incident within three weeks.

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

Far East

China: Forced Expropriation and Home Demolitions Continue Communist Party Abuses

Police attack residents in the village of Wugou who want justice after their land is seized. A married couple in their seventies are thrown out of their home because it was “the order of the party.” The regime’s violence is crushing ordinary Chinese.

Beijing (AsiaNews) — More than 1,400 people demonstrated on the streets of Mudan City in Heilongjiang Province, protesting against the illegal expropriation by Communist officials of village land for commercial purposes. In Nanning, local authorities demolish the home of an elderly couple without compensation or prior notice.

In Mudan, residents from Wugou village marched through the city’s streets last Monday waving banners that read, “Safeguard the interests of the people, punish corruption and return our farmland”.

They accuse village officials of illegally expropriating about 750 mu (about 0.5 sq km) of orchard to build commercial properties. They were met by police, which cordoned off the streets, dispersed the protestors, injuring a number of them, and took into custody about 20.

Yesterday, hired thugs, government officials and police burst unannounced into the home of Wei Yaorong and Yu Linlian, respectively 79 and 78. After they were forcibly removed from their home, they had to be taken to hospital.

When their son asked the demolition crew to present government documents that might have authorised the action, the heads of the Liangqing District and the district’s legal affairs office told him simply that it was the order of the Liangqing Party and the Liangqing district government.

Across the country, local Communist officials continue to take land and property away from ordinary people, this despite appeals to the central government,

In China, economic development is driven by a desire for rapid industrialisation. This tends to increase the value of farmland if it is located in areas favourable to manufacturing.

Often, local residents are opposed to such change. When they do stand up, local authorities turn to physical violence with no respect for the law.

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

Demand for Rhino Horns Threatens Species

Experts say Vietnam’s surging demand is threatening to wipe out the world’s remaining rhinoceros populations, which recovered from the brink of extinction after the 1970s thanks to conservation campaigns. Illegal killings in Africa hit the highest recorded level in 2011 and are expected to worsen this year.

This week South Africa called for renewed cooperation with Vietnam after a “shocking number” of rhinos have already been reported dead this year.

China has long valued rhino horn for its purported — though unproven — medicinal properties, but U.S. officials and international wildlife experts now say Vietnam’s recent intense craving, blamed partly on a widespread rumor that rhino horn cures cancer, is putting unprecedented pressure on the world’s estimated 28,000 remaining animals, mainly in South Africa.

“It’s a very dire situation,” U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe said by telephone. “We have very little cushion for these populations in the wild.”

Although data on the global rhino horn trade is scarce, poaching in Africa has soared in the past two years, with American officials saying China and Vietnam are driving the trade that has no “significant” end market in the United States.

Wildlife advocates say that over the last decade, rhino horn has become a must-have luxury item for some Vietnamese nouveau riche, alongside Gucci bags and expensive Maybach cars.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Latin America

Brazil: The Death Cult Brazilians Who Killed and Ate Two Women ‘To Purify Their Souls’

A karate expert and two women have been arrested on suspicion of killing at least two women, before eating their flesh to ‘purify the soul’, police revealed today.

The Brazilian trio, who were seized in Pernambuco in the northeastern part of the country, were said by police to be part of a sect which believes in the ‘purification of the world’.

Jorge da Silveira, 51, a graduate and karate expert, along with Isabel Pires, 51, and Bruna da Silva, 25, planned ot kill three women each year, according to Brazilian police.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Got Quickie Aborsh: Comedienne Sarah Silverman Supports Pro Choice Debate Tweeting Abortion Photos

Comedienne Sarah Silverman joined America’s current War on Women yesterday after she tweeted a hoax before-and-after abortion photo.

Reigniting the women’s rights movement via Twitter, the 41-year-old wrote: ‘Got a quickie aborsh in case R v W gets overturned.’

The controversial comment captioned two photos of Miss Silverman made to look like she was pregnant before getting an abortion — and quickly divided opinion.

While she caused a wave of support from hundreds of people voicing liberal pro-choice beliefs, she also drew criticism for her ‘insensitivity’ for a subject that is ‘no laughing matter’.

           — Hat tip: Van Grungy[Return to headlines]

UK: Islam Has Made London a More Conservative Place Than it Was 50 Years Ago

by Ed West

One of the most common mistakes people make about cultural and politics is suggesting that history is inevitably heading in one direction. We hear it most commonly in the argument made that “we can’t turn the clock back” to the 1950s, as if anyone is planning to ban garlic bread or continental lager. (I don’t see why achieving 1950s levels of crime would be either undesirable or impossible).

History does not work like that, and in a strange way London today is even more conservative than it was in the 1950s — thanks to liberals.

This week London Metropolitan University’s vice-chancellor suggested that parts of the campus be made alcohol-free because some Muslim students believe it is “evil” and “immoral”. This paper reports:

Prof Malcolm Gillies of London Metropolitan University said he wants to create alcohol free areas on campus out of “cultural sensitivity”. About a fifth of students at the university come from Muslim families — many of them young women from traditional homes. For many of them, the drinking culture among students marred rather than heightened their student experience, he said.

In principle there’s nothing wrong with this. If one university wants to make itself more attractive to teetotal students, then heavy-drinking students (ie 99 per cent of them) can go to the many colleges where cheap beer flows abundantly. That’s the free market. Muslims aside, many people would prefer a less boozy environment. But I can’t help but feel that this new puritanism is not what the young people who once shouted “disembowel Enoch Powell” in opposition to immigration restrictions had in mind.

The new conservatism of London has already had profound effects, as demographic changes gather pace. Stonewall’s bus adverts, for example, would be better concentrated in Tower Hamlets, where there were 47 anti-gay attacks in 2008, rather than being wasted on the rest of us. Young gay men in the provinces no longer need to run away to London, one of the most religiously conservative places in England now (and not just among Muslims — African Christians too).


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]


4.4 Bln Clicks for Xvideos Porn Site, 30% of Traffic

(AGI) London — Xvideos, the world’s largest pornographic website, is clicked 4.4 billion times each month and has 350 million unique visitors. Only Google and Facebook manage to do better, according to a study by ExtremeTech, a website specialized in the monitoring of internet, claiming that 30% of the web’s global traffic is exclusively connected to sex.

Suffice it to see the success of Laura Maggi’s photo galleries on the web, the sexy barmaid from Brescia, who has been monopolizing the users’ attention for weeks.

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

How Earthly Life Could Populate Space by Panspermia

For years, scientists have imagined that microbial life may have ridden to Earth on the back of a comet or meteorite, planting the seed for the diversity of life we know today. But could so-called panspermia have gone the other way? Could Earth have given other worlds life?

It’s an old idea, but Tetsuya Hara of Kyoto Sangyo University in Japan and colleagues now have new calculations suggesting it’s possible. “The only planet which we know has life is Earth,” they write in a paper posted to the arXiv physics preprint site. “Therefore, Earth would be a likely source to seed other planets with life.”

Microbes could be knocked out of the atmosphere into space by high-speed ions after a solar storm, but without protection, the microbes would be irradiated to death by those same charged particles.

Perhaps a safer way for seed to spread would be for whole rocks to travel other worlds. Previous research has showed that, theoretically, a massive meteorite impact could blast up and scatter tonnes of rock across the solar system.

In their recent paper, Hara and colleagues considered one of the biggest meteorite hits known in Earth’s history: the Chicxulub impact 65 million years ago, usually blamed for killing off the dinosaurs. The 10-kilometre-wide asteroid weighed well over a trillion tonnes, and could have excavated as much mass from the surface of the Earth.

The team calculated how much of that stuff could have ended up on the bodies in the solar system thought most likely to be hospitable to life: Saturn’s moon Enceladus and Jupiter’s moon Europa, both of which are thought to have subsurface oceans of liquid water.

Under certain conditions, as many as 300 million individual rocks could have ended up on Europa, and 500 on Enceladus, they calculated. Even more could have ended up on the moon and Mars.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Islamutopia: A Very Short History of Political Islam

by Arshin Adib-Moghaddam

This article is an introduction to a special series of posts commissioned by LSE IDEAS exploring Islamism and the Arab Spring. The series also includes articles on Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, with a concluding post on the geostrategic implications of the Islamist moment following the Arab Spring. These articles will be published on the site over the coming weeks.

Whenever contemporary Islamists ponder their own genealogy, there are two pivotal figures that invariably come up to invigorate their imaginings. These two reference points of contemporary political Islam are Sayyid Jamal al-din al-Afghani (or Asadabadi)(1838-1897) , and his disciple Mohammad Abduh (1849-1905). Afghani and Abduh lived through a tumultuous period for the ummah whose decline as an organised political entity they tried to prevent in theory and in praxis. They were battling against the inevitable, however, and did not live long enough to witness the abolishment of the caliphate in Turkey in 1924. Now with the Arab revolts yielding a new spring for the Islamists, parallels to these pioneers of the Islamic revival are being dusted down. Are we at the dawn of a new Islamic era in West Asia and North Africa (WANA)? With the Muslim Brotherhood fielding a candidate in the forthcoming presidential elections in Egypt, the electoral victory of Ennahda in Tunisia, the emergence of “neo-Ottoman” politics in Turkey, “neo-Shia” authoritarianism in Iraq and the continued influence of the Islamic republic in Iran the headlines almost write themselves. There is no doubt that there is something ‘Islamic’ about what is happening. But what is it exactly?


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Women and Children First? Not Since the Titanic

The chivalrous code “women and children first” appears to have sunk with the Titanic 100 years ago. Long believed to be the golden standard of conduct in a shipwreck, the noble edict is in fact “a myth that has been nourished by the Titanic disaster,” economist Mikael Elinder of Uppsala University, Sweden, told Discovery News. Elinder and colleague Oscar Erixson analyzed a database of 18 peace-time shipwrecks over the period 1852-2011 in a new study into survival advantages at sea disasters.

Looking at the fate of over 15,000 people of more than 30 nationalities, the researchers found that more women and children die than men in maritime disasters, while captains and crew have a greater chance of survival than any passengers.

Being a woman was an advantage on only two ships: on the Birkenhead in 1852 and on the Titanic in 1912. Indeed, it was the sinking of the troopship HMS Birkenhead off the coast of South Africa in 1852 that inspired the tradition of “women and children first.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]