Sunday, January 12, 2003

News Feed 20120430

Financial Crisis
»Austerity Measures Leading Europe to ‘Suicide’, Nobel Economist Says
»Greek Government Sets Out Privatization Program
»Italy: Austerity ‘Risks Postponing Recovery’ Says ILO
»Italy: Cabinet to Discuss Spending Cuts to Avoid VAT Increase
»Italy: Eurogroup Head to Quit Due to “Franco-German Interefrence”
»Slovenia to Cut 2/1 and 2/5 Holidays, Socialist Legacy
»Spain: S&P Lowers Rating of 11 Spanish Banks
»Tens of Thousands Protest in Spain Against Austerity
»Cardinal Dolan on Brookfield Mosque: Muslims Deserve Worship Space
»Cutting-Edge Navy Warship Being Built in Maine
»Microsoft to Invest in Barnes & Noble’s Nook
»Muslims Oppose Anti-Islamic Gathering; Dueling Events Held in Detroit, Dearborn
»‘There Definitely Was Another Shooter’: RFK Assassination Witness Says FBI Covered Up Fact There Was a Second Gunman
»With a Steel Column, A Tower Will Reclaim the Manhattan Sky
Europe and the EU
»Al Qaeda Documents Reveal Future Plans
»EU Commissioner First to Boycott Ukraine Football Games
»European Leaders Reluctant to Boycott Euro 2012, Says Terzi
»France 2012: Gap Narrows: Hollande 53% and Sarkozy 47%
»France: Sarkozy to Sue Over Qaddhafi Cash Claim
»Germany: Party Plans Mohammed Cartoons ‘Election Tactic’
»Italy: Lega Nord Says Time to Protest Against Govt’s Tax Policy
»Italy: Di Pietro Says “Government Has Only Taxed Citizens”
»Italy: Beppe Grillo Wants Names of Tax Shield Users Published
»Italy: Politicians Are Not Allowed in a Restaurant Near Pesaro
»Italy: 44 Camorra Arrests
»Italy: Half Young Italians Think Mafia ‘Stronger Than State’
»Italy: Seized Camorra Assets Include Homes Rented to U.S. Military
»Italy: ‘Honor’ To Mussolini on Public Bus Display
»Italy: Rome May 1 Concert Organisers to Bear Part of Costs
»Ninety-Six Break-ins Solved: German Police Identify Burglar by His Earprints
»Nokia in Advanced Talks to Sell Luxury Vertu Unit: FT
»Norway-Bound Booze Vans Stopped in Sweden
»Sweden’s Defence ‘Not Fit for Battle’: Expert
»Tax Burden in Italy No Longer Reasonable, Squinzi
»UK: “For the Rich. Selfish. Rubbish.” Lord Ashcroft’s New Study Shows What Ethnic and Religious Minorities Think of the Conservative Party
»UK: An Urgent Coherent Strategy is Needed From the Government in Order to Save the Great British Pub
»UK: Britain’s Far Right to Focus on Anti-Islamic Policy
»UK: Ethnic Minority Voters and the Conservative Party
»UK: Ken Livingstone: Muslim Extremists (And Their Friends) Urge You to Back Him
»UK: Lord Ashcroft Releases New Polling: Ethnic Minority Voters and the Conservative Party
»UK: Lord Ashcroft: Conservative Party Must Disprove Fears That it Only Looks After Its Own
»UK: The Many Are Losing the Unequal Struggle
»Ukraine Warns Against ‘Cold War’ Euro Boycott
»Bosnia: First Muslim Female Condemned
Mediterranean Union
»CBCMed: Over 1,000 Applicants for Second Call
»Construction Starts for Greece-Cyprus-Israel Undersea Cable
North Africa
»ENI Profit Rises Helped by Libyan Production Restart
»Tunisia: State Changes Its Strategy on Prices and Smuggling
Israel and the Palestinians
»60 Minutes Steers Christians Against Israel
»Bethlehem’s Last Christians?
»Gaza: Hamas, Islamic Jihad Hold Talks for Unity
»Israel Mustn’t Forget Iran is Committed to Its Destruction
Middle East
»Abu Dhabi Chases Dubai, Luxury Malls to Double
»Memories of Bin Laden Are Fading, But His Methods and Ideology Remain
»Stockholm Suicide Bombing Trial Begins
»The ‘Islamist Spring’ Continues as Tunisia Suffers Fundamentalist Takeover
»Sharia in Moscow
»Vitali Klitschko on Tymoshenko Case: ‘Ukraine is Becoming Increasingly Authoritarian’
South Asia
»German Jihadist Killed in US Drone Attack
»India’s Broken Promise: How a Would-be Great Power Hobbles Itself
»Italian Marines’ Incarceration Extended by Two More Weeks
»Tributes Paid to Red Cross Aid Worker Beheaded in Pakistan
Far East
»Fiat Making ‘Serious’ Return to China
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Chad Proposes Task Force to Fight Boko Haram
»Frattini: World Must Stop Massacres of African Christians
»Suicide Bomber Kills Eleven in Attack on Nigerian Police
Latin America
»Indigenous Activists Accuse Governments of Harassment
»Greece: First Migrant Detention Center Opens
»Greece: Fascist Salute Returns, Anti-Immigrants Chase Votes
»Greece Opens First Migrant Detention Centre
»Italy: Foreigners in Italy ‘Tripled in 10 Years’
Culture Wars
»The Death of Free Speech, Continued: An Alarming Trial in Denmark
»Dark Matter May Collide With Atoms Inside You More Often Than Thought
»Humans Really Are Still Evolving, Study Finds
»Move Over Graphene, Silicene is the New Star Material
»Odds of Finding Alien Life Boosted by Billions of Habitable Worlds

Financial Crisis

Austerity Measures Leading Europe to ‘Suicide’, Nobel Economist Says

By Zoe Schneeweiss

Bloomberg — Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz said Europe is in a “dire” situation as a focus on austerity pushes the continent toward “suicide.”

“There has never been any successful austerity program in any large country,” Stiglitz, 69, said in Vienna on Thursday. “The European approach definitely is the least promising. I think Europe is headed to a suicide. “

Politicians across the 27 European Union members are implementing austerity measures totaling about 450 billion euros ($600 billion) amid a sovereign-debt crisis. At the same time the debt of the euro region rose last year to the highest since the start of the single currency as governments increased borrowing to plug budget deficits and fund bailouts of fellow nations.

If Greece was the only part of Europe that was having austerity, authorities could ignore it, Stiglitz said, “but if you have UK, France, you know all the countries having austerity, it’s like a joint austerity and the economic consequences of that are going to be dire.”

While euro-area leaders “realized that austerity itself won’t work and that we need growth,” no actions have followed and “what they agreed to do last December is a recipe to ensure that it dies,” he said, referring to the euro. “The problem is that with the euro, you’ve separated out the government from the central bank and the printing presses and you’ve created a big problem,” Stiglitz said, adding that “austerity combined with the constraints of the euro are a lethal combination.”

The economist said he sees a core euro area of “one or two countries” made up of Germany and possibly the Netherlands or Finland as the “likely scenario if Europe maintains the austerity approach,” he said. “The austerity approach will lead to high levels of unemployment that will be politically unacceptable and will make deficits get worse.”

Youth unemployment in Spain has been at 50 percent since the crisis in 2008 with “no hope of things getting better anytime soon,” said Stiglitz, who is a professor for economics at Columbia University. “What you are doing is destroying the human capital, you are creating alienated young people.” To push for growth, European leaders could refocus government spending to “fully utilize” institutions like the European Investment Bank, introduce taxes to improve economic performance and use balanced budget multipliers, he said.

           — Hat tip: TV[Return to headlines]

Greek Government Sets Out Privatization Program

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, APRIL 30 — The latest report by the Greek government on the Stability and Growth Program for the second quarter of the year provides for the start of the privatization process for 34 regional airports, 12 ports — including Piraeus and Thessaloniki — and of water companies EYDAP and EYATH. At the same time, as daily Kathimerini reports, the management of the privatization fund (TAIPED) appears to be examining the concession of railway infrastructure, belonging to the Hellenic Railways Organization (OSE), for the supply of transport services by private companies. According to a statement by TAIPED’s managing director, Costas Mitropoulos, the fund will proceed with commissioning a consultant to examine the possibility of conceding OSE infrastructure for passenger and/or cargo transport to private companies. In its latest report submitted this month, the government promises to proceed rapidly with the sale of 29% of OPAP gaming company, of Public Gas Corporation (DEPA) and the gas grid operator (DESFA), as well as a number of other state corporations.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Austerity ‘Risks Postponing Recovery’ Says ILO

UN agency suggests 9.7% unemployment rate ‘underestimated’

(see related story on economy) (ANSA) — Rome, April 30 — The government’s austerity measures risk prolonging the recession and could hamper efforts to balance the national budget, the International Labour Organization (ILO) said in its latest country brief on Italy.

Premier Mario Monti’s emergency administration passed a tough package of spending cuts and tax hikes in December with the aim of putting Italy on course to balance the budget next year and take it out of the centre of the eurozone debt crisis.

It is now working on growth-boosting measures via a series of structural economic reforms, including liberalisations and changes to the labour market, although the benefits will take time to materialise.

“In order to reduce the government deficit, the tax burden has been increased, and it is estimated to reach 45 percent in 2012,” the ILO said.

“Such austerity measures risk having a pro-cyclical effect on the recession, postponing economic recovery and fiscal consolidation”.

The United Nations agency pointed out that Italy’s unemployment rate has reached 9.7%, its highest since 2001.

It stressed, however, that “this unemployment rate can be underestimated” as in addition to “almost 2.1 million unemployed, there are currently 250,000 workers” who have been laid off.

It also pointed out that the number of young Italian NEETs (people ‘Not in Employment Education or Training’) had “reached the worrying level of 1.5 million”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Cabinet to Discuss Spending Cuts to Avoid VAT Increase

Govt pledges to restructure provinces to save money

(ANSA) — Rome, April 30 — The cabinet is set to discuss a new round of public spending cuts on Monday in the hope of raising the money needed to avoid having to increase value added tax by 2% in October.

The government is trying to avoid the planned tax hike, which is part of the ‘Save Italy’ austerity package it approved in December, amid fears that it will plunge the country further into recession.

Premier Mario Monti’s emergency government has also vowed to revamp Italy’s provincial governments after the European Central Bank called on it to push ahead with cost-cutting mergers within this layer of local government.

Proposals to abolish the provincial governments altogether were dropped last year.

“The provincial governments feature in our Constitution, although there is scope to restructure them to obtain big spending reductions,” Economy Ministry Undersecretary Gianfranco Polillo said on Monday.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Eurogroup Head to Quit Due to “Franco-German Interefrence”

(AGI) Rome — Juncker said he is leaving the job as head of the Eurogroup, as he is “tired of Franco-German interference”.

Jean-Claude Juncker announced his decision to quit as Eurogroup President, because he is, as he put it, “tired of Franco-German interference” in handling the ongoing debt crisis in Europe. It was reported by the Bloomberg website. Speaking at a press conference in Hamburg, Jean-Claude Juncker said France and Germany “act as if they are the only members of the group”.

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

Slovenia to Cut 2/1 and 2/5 Holidays, Socialist Legacy

Unions say no: Slovenians work more than EU average

(ANSAmed) — LJUBLJANA — The austerity measures proposed by the new centre-right government in Ljubljana to reduce the deficit and stabilise Slovenia’s public finances calls for two holidays inherited from the Socialist era to be done away with. In order to “increase GDP which has been seen to be stagnant or in decline over the past three years,” said the government, “it will be necessary to do away with the holidays of January 2 and May 2.” Up until now two days of holiday have long been observed for January 1 and May 1. The government proposal, under discussion in the parliament alongside many other austerity measures, has given rise to bitter debate. Those in favour of eliminating the holidays say that it is a remnant of the Socialist period, when it was a custom to have many holidays. However, since the latter did not include religious holidays — such as Christmas and Easter — the total number of days not worked were not excessive. Unions (which strongly oppose any reduction in holidays) say that “Slovenian workers are exhausted and work more than the EU average”. They claim that “30% of Slovenians work up to 70 hours per week, and put in 12 million hours of overtime every year — a good portion of which are not paid.” If the proposal is approved, it will come into force beginning in 2013, and so this year Slovenians will continue to have a day off on May 2.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Spain: S&P Lowers Rating of 11 Spanish Banks

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, APRIL 30 — Standard & Poor’s has lowered the rating of 11 Spanish financial institutes including Santander and BBVA, after last week downgrading Spain by two notches (from A/A-1 to BBB+) according to a statement quoted by Spanish media. The rating revision was said to have been due to “significant risks to economic growth and budget implementation”, which could have negative effects on the quality of Spain’s credit. On Friday an IMF report raised doubts on the balance sheets of some Spanish banks, warning of “hidden default”. According to data from Spain’s central bank, the Spanish banking sector had accumulated 184 million euros in problematic real estate assets at the end of 2011, equal to 60% of their portfolio.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Tens of Thousands Protest in Spain Against Austerity

Tens of thousands protested in Spain on Sunday against the recently adopted €10bn budget cuts, particularly affecting education and healthcare. The spending reduction is required under beefed up EU budget deficit rules. Meanwhile, Spain’s unemployment rate in the first three months of 2011 rose to 24.4 percent.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Cardinal Dolan on Brookfield Mosque: Muslims Deserve Worship Space

Former Milwaukee Archbishop Timothy Dolan, recently elevated to Cardinal in New York, supported Muslims’ efforts to build a second mosque in the Milwaukee area, although he didn’t address the specific Brookfield site.

New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan supported the Islamic Society of Milwaukee’s efforts to build a new mosque, telling’s Ted Perry that Muslims deserve spaces to worship. In Milwaukee to celebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving at Holy Hill Saturday, Dolan sat down for a one-on-one interview with Perry that touched on a variety of issues, including a question on the Brookfield mosque. Perry said some have said they object to the proposed mosque construction due to zoning and traffic issues, while others are opposed to Islam.

“What do you say to those who say they are Christians but have no tolerance for another religion?” Perry asked. “Yeah, I’m uncomfortable with that,” Dolan said. Dolan acknowledged that he publicly supported construction of a mosque in New York, while cautioning that building it at the site of the 9/11 terrorist attacks was a “delicate” issue. He told Perry that historically, Catholics faced opposition to building churches on main streets across America and Catholic churches often are found today off the “main drag.” “We felt the sting the other way so now I think we have to be in the forefront,” Dolan said. “We felt the brunt of it the other way, so no, I would defend their right to do it (build a mosque).” Dolan did not address whether the specific site in Brookfield was appropriate for city approval.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Cutting-Edge Navy Warship Being Built in Maine

An enormous, expensive and technology-laden warship that some Navy leaders once tried to kill because of its cost is now viewed as an important part of the Obama administration’s Asia-Pacific strategy, with advanced capabilities that the Navy’s top officer says represent the Navy’s future. The stealthy, guided-missile Zumwalt that’s taking shape at Bath Iron Works is the biggest destroyer ever built for the U.S. Navy.

The low-to-the-water warship will feature a wave-piercing hull, composite deckhouse, electric drive propulsion, advanced sonar, missiles, and powerful guns that fire rocket-propelled warheads as far as 100 miles. It’s also longer and heavier than existing destroyers — but will have half the crew because of automated systems.

The 600-foot-long ships are so big that the General Dynamics-owned shipyard spent $40 million to construct a 106-foot-tall building to assemble the giant hull segments. And then there’s the cost, roughly $3.8 billion apiece, according to the Navy’s latest proposed budget.

Including research and development, the cost grows to $7 billion apiece, said Winslow Wheeler, director of the Straus Military Reform Project at the Center for Defense Information in Washington. Because of cost, the originally envisioned 32 ships dipped to 24 and then seven. Eventually, program was truncated to just three. The first, the Zumwalt, will be christened next year and delivered to the Navy in 2014.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Microsoft to Invest in Barnes & Noble’s Nook

Microsoft Corp. is making a $300 million investment in Barnes & Noble Inc.’s Nook digital-book business and college-texts unit in a move that helps value the prized Nook business, the companies said. Microsoft will have a 17.6% stake in a new subsidiary for the businesses in a transaction that values them at $1.7 billion, the companies said. That compares with Barnes & Noble’s current market capitalization of about $791 million and could fuel the argument of some analysts and investors that the digital business should be separated from the retail division.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Muslims Oppose Anti-Islamic Gathering; Dueling Events Held in Detroit, Dearborn

Anti-Islam advocates from across the U.S. gathered in Dearborn today for a conference to bring attention to what they say is a problem of Muslim honor killings. About 150 gathered at the Hyatt in Dearborn for the “Jessica Mokdad Human Rights Conference,” named after a 20-year-old Arab-American Muslim woman who was killed by her stepdad last year in Warren. But at an opposing conference in Detroit, about 100 gathered earlier in the day to oppose the anti-Islam conference, saying it was the latest attack on metro Detroit’s Arab-American and Muslim communities. Dearborn has the highest concentration of Arab-Americans in the U.S., many of them Muslim. “We stand for America,” said Osama Siblani, publisher of the Dearborn-based Arab-American News, at a panel at the Doubletree hotel in Detroit. “And they (anti-Muslim activists) stand against America and against the American way of life.” Later, at the Hyatt, the message was the opposite. People gathered there said they are the ones who are standing up for the U.S. Constitution, freedom and justice. Islamic law “asserts authority over non-Muslims,” said Pamela Geller, a blogger from New York City who often writes about Islamic extremism.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

‘There Definitely Was Another Shooter’: RFK Assassination Witness Says FBI Covered Up Fact There Was a Second Gunman

Robert F Kennedy was shot dead by two gunmen and not just ‘lone wolf’ Sirhan Sirhan, a witness stood just metres away from the presidential candidate in a Los Angeles hotel has claimed.

Nina Rhodes-Hughes, of Vancouver, Canada, is convinced Sirhan — sentenced to life imprisonment after the killing — was the not the only man firing shots that fateful 1968 day.

She told CNN: ‘What has to come out is that there was another shooter to my right. The truth has got to be told. No more cover-ups.’

Scroll down for video…

Rhodes-Hughes, now 78, claimed she had told FBI investigators she heard much more than eight shots, which was the maximum Sirhan could have fired with his small-caliber handgun.

The former television actress, who was working as a volunteer fundraiser for Kennedy’s campaign at the time, also said some of the ‘12 to 14’ shots came from a different location to where the convicted murderer was standing.

But the ‘official reporting’ of the incident has left her frustrated after it was changed by the FBI, she claimed, to say that she only heard eight shots.


She added: ‘For me it’s hopeful and sad that it’s only coming out now instead of before — but at least now instead of never.

‘I never said eight shots. I never, never said it. There were more than eight shots. There were at least 12, maybe 14. And I know there were because I heard the rhythm in my head.

‘When they say only eight shots, the anger within me is so great that I practically — I get very emotional because it is so untrue. It is so untrue.

She said she ran out of the pantry, where the shooting took place, yelling: ‘They’ve killed him! They’ve killed him! Oh, my God, he’s dead! They’ve killed him!.’

‘Now, the reason I said, ‘they’ is because I knew there was more than one shooter involved. Although it was 44 years ago, I will swear that this is exactly what happened.

‘I remember it like it was almost yesterday, because you don’t forget something like that when it totally changes your life forever.

‘It took a great toll on me. For a while, even the backfiring of a car would send me into tears.’

Sirhan Sirhan, now 68, is currently serving a life sentence at Pleasant Valley State Prison in Coalinga, California…

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

With a Steel Column, A Tower Will Reclaim the Manhattan Sky

If the winds are forgiving enough over Lower Manhattan — up where workers can see the whole outline of the island’s tip — a steel column will be hoisted into place Monday afternoon atop the exoskeleton of 1 World Trade Center and New York will have a new tallest building.

Poking into the sky, the first column of the 100th floor of 1 World Trade Center will bring the tower to a height of 1,271 feet, making it 21 feet higher than the Empire State Building. After several notorious false starts, a skyscraper has finally taken form at ground zero.

From a construction point of view, the completion of the framework, known as the topping out, will be a more significant milestone. That is to occur in a couple of months, when 1 World Trade Center reaches 1,368 feet at its rooftop parapet, identical in height to the first 1 World Trade Center, which was destroyed, with the rest of the complex, in the terrorist attack of Sept. 11, 2001. The ultimate topping out will be the completion next year of an antenna that will bring the structure’s overall height to 1,776 feet.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Al Qaeda Documents Reveal Future Plans

Editor’s note: This story is based internal al Qaeda documents, details of which were obtained by CNN. Hundreds of documents were discovered by German cryptologists embedded inside a pornographic movie on a memory disk belonging to a suspected al Qaeda operative arrested in Berlin last year. The German newspaper Die Zeit was the first to report on the documents.

(CNN) — On May 16 last year, a 22-year-old Austrian named Maqsood Lodin was being questioned by police in Berlin. He had recently returned from Pakistan via Budapest, Hungary, and then traveled overland to Germany. His interrogators were surprised to find that hidden in his underpants were a digital storage device and memory cards.

Buried inside them was a pornographic video called “Kick Ass” — and a file marked “Sexy Tanja.”

Several weeks later, after laborious efforts to crack a password and software to make the file almost invisible, German investigators discovered encoded inside the actual video a treasure trove of intelligence — more than 100 al Qaeda documents that included an inside track on some of the terror group’s most audacious plots and a road map for future operations.

Future plots include the idea of seizing cruise ships and carrying out attacks in Europe similar to the gun attacks by Pakistani militants that paralyzed the Indian city of Mumbai in November 2008. Ten gunmen killed 164 people in that three-day rampage.

Terrorist training manuals in PDF format in German, English and Arabic were among the documents, too, according to intelligence sources.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

EU Commissioner First to Boycott Ukraine Football Games

EU justice commissioner Vivianne Reding is to boycott the Euro2012 football championships in Ukraine for political reasons, amid reports the German Chancellor might do the same.

Reding spokeswoman Mina Andreeva told EUobserver on Monday (30 April) that the commissioner will skip the games despite being personally invited by Michel Platini, the head of the European football association, Uefa.

“She’s not going. First of all, her agenda does not permit this. But also she is quite concerned about the situation in Ukraine and in particular by the situation with Yulia Tymoshenko,” Andreeva noted, referring to Ukraine’s former prime minister, currently on hunger strike in protest over allegedly being beaten up in her jail cell 10 days ago.

Reding’s decision comes amid reports by Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine that Chancellor Angela Merkel might also stay away.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

European Leaders Reluctant to Boycott Euro 2012, Says Terzi

Merkel reportedly considering boycott over Tymoshenko

(ANSA) — Rome, April 30 — European leaders are reluctant to boycott the part of the Euro 2012 soccer championships that will take place in Ukraine because of alleged mistreatment of the jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko, Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi said on Monday.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is reportedly considering boycotting matches in Ukraine, after images appeared in the media last week showing bruises on the former prime minister’s body that she said were the result of abuse by prison guards.

“There is hesitation about using the weapon of a boycott of a sporting event because the precedents are very serious,” Terzi told Rai television.

The most high-profile past sporting boycotts came when the United States stopped its athletes taking part in the 1980 Olympics in Moscow in protest at the Soviet Union invasion of Afghanistan and the USSR staged a tit-for-tat boycott of the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. Ukraine foreign ministry spokesman Oleg Voloshin said on Monday that he hoped Germany would not revive “Cold War” methods and make “sport a hostage of politics”.

Terzi said Italy and the rest of the European Union have responded quickly to worries about Tymoshenko, who is suffering ill health and is on hunger strike.

“I immediately moved with my European colleagues, who have assumed clear positions,” Terzi said.

“There is great concern. It is unthinkable and unacceptable that a person suffering so clearly can be subject to mistreatment and intimidation. There is a climate of great fear”.

Tymoshenko, 52, a former leader of Ukraine’s Orange Revolution, is serving a seven-year prison sentence on charges that she abused her powers in a Russian energy deal.

She also faces another trial on tax evasion charges.

The European Union, the United States and several international bodies have said her conviction is politically motivated.

“When individual rights and democratic principles are violated, sport cannot turn the other way,” Sports Minister Piero Gnudi told ANSA.

Giancarlo Abete, the president of the Italian Soccer Federation (FIGC), said the sport would not ignore the situation.

“Football will help (make people) talk about the case of Yulia Tymoshenko,” Abete said.

“That’s the way it always is. When there are big sporting events, the spotlight is also shone on the social issues of the countries that host them”.

Euro 2012 takes place in Ukraine and Poland from June 8 to July 1.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

France 2012: Gap Narrows: Hollande 53% and Sarkozy 47%

22% are still uncertain

(ANSAmed) — PARIS — Six days away from the second round of the French presidential elections, the gap has narrowed between the two challengers, which until now had oscillated between 10 and 8 points in favour of the Socialist Francois Hollande. According to an IPSOS poll released this morning, Nicolas Sarkozy has regained a point and is now at 47%, while Hollande is down one to 53%. Of those questioned and certain that they would be casting their ballots, 22% did not say who they would be voting for. As concerns the breakdown in the votes of candidates eliminated in the first round, 34% of those who voted for the centrist Francois Bayrou said that they would vote for Hollande and 40% for Sarkozy. Among those supporting Marine Le Pen, far right candidate from the National Front, 14% plan to vote for Hollande and 54% for Sarkozy. Among those who had backed Jean-Luc Melenchon (Left Front), 3% said they would be voting for Sarkozy and 80% for Hollande.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

France: Sarkozy to Sue Over Qaddhafi Cash Claim

Nicolas Sarkozy vowed on Monday to sue a website that claimed Muammar Qaddhafi financed his 2007 presidential election, seeking to spin the charge in the crucial final week before France goes to the polls.

Right-wing incumbent Sarkozy is slowly clawing back points from Socialist frontrunner Francois Hollande, whose own presidential bid has been hit by the intrusion of disgraced IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn into the campaign.

Both candidates have been appealing to the 18 percent of voters who chose anti-immigrant candidate Marine Le Pen in the April 22nd first round, with Sarkozy riding on the back of rhetoric inspired by her National Front party.

Sarkozy on Monday dismissed as a “crude forgery” a document published by left-wing investigative website Mediapart alleging the former Libyan dictator agreed to give €50 million ($66 million) to Sarkozy’s campaign in 2007.

“We will file a suit against Mediapart… this document is a crude forgery, the two people supposed to have sent and received this document have dismissed it,” Sarkozy told France 2 television.

Sarkozy and his supporters believe that he is relentlessly targeted by “biased” left-wing media, while the incumbent has repeatedly sought to portray himself as a victim now repenting his perceived “bling bling” style.

“There’s a section of the press, of the media, and notably the site in question whose name I refuse to mention, that is prepared to fake documents. Shame on those who have exploited them,” Sarkozy said.

Claims that Qaddhafi financed Sarkozy’s 2007 campaign are not new, but Mediapart’s document bearing the signature of Libya’s former foreign intelligence chief Moussa Koussa is.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Germany: Party Plans Mohammed Cartoons ‘Election Tactic’

A far-right party on the campaign trail in Germany’s most populous state is threatening to put caricatures of Mohammed outside mosques in a string of cities, prompting fears of violence. The “Pro NRW” party in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia has already shown anti-Islamic caricatures in Essen and Gelsenkirchen, though the police prevented demonstrations taking place directly outside mosques.

Police have also banned “Pro NRW”, which is campaigning on an Islamophobic platform, from using the Danish cartoons that caused massive protests in the Islamic world in 2005.

But “Pro NRW” intends to send activists to 25 mosques throughout the state in the run-up to the election on May 13, staging protests in Cologne, Bonn, Düsseldorf, Aachen, Wuppertal and Solingen. A report in Die Welt newspaper on Sunday said the far-right party intended to post around 100 what it called “Islam-critical” drawings outside the mosques.

Interior Minister in state Ralf Jäger condemned the campaign and expressed support for planned counter-demonstrations. “Pro NRW is committing spiritual arson,” he told the paper. “The party is consciously taking into account that Muslims will feel provoked and upset. The authorities will exhaust all legal avenues to prevent a xenophobic hate campaign.”

The federal Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich is reportedly worried about violent confrontations with the Salafists, the fundamentalist Muslims who began distributing free copies of the Koran in Germany three weeks ago.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italy: Lega Nord Says Time to Protest Against Govt’s Tax Policy

(AGI) Milan — Roberto Maroni said the executive led by Mario Monti is a “government of negative records”. “Enough with complaints. It’s time to protest”, Maroni, who is a member of the so-called ‘triumvirate’ that is effectively leading the Lega Nord, said in a message posted on his Facebook page.

“Let’s start with a protest against the most hateful tax, that on the first home. Let’s say ‘No to IMU, no to Equitalia’“, former Interior Minister added, referring to the recently re-introduced property tax and the tax collection agency

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

Italy: Di Pietro Says “Government Has Only Taxed Citizens”

(AGI) Rome — The Italian MP, Antonio Di Pietro, has been commenting on the country’s current political situation. “The sooner we vote the better it is for our citizens,” Di Pietro said on his Facebook page. “The current government is in truth a political one looking for compromise, which has done nothing but tax the weakest sections of society, weighing them down with the burden of the crisis. We must return to the polls, with a new electoral law, different from that put forward by ABC, because Italians should be allowed to know the coalition, its programme and its leaders first”.

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

Italy: Beppe Grillo Wants Names of Tax Shield Users Published

(AGI) Rome — Beppe Grillo said the tax shield was used to ‘clean’ funds received by the parties and politicians’ accounts. “If two clues are a proof, we can safely say that the tax shield was also used to ‘clean’ the election funds received by the parties and politicians’ accounts”, comedian Beppe Grillo wrote on his blog, mentioning the cases of Luigi Lusi and Gianluca Pini. “They pass the laws that suit them. Before rising the taxes on the first home, with IMU, IMU bis and SUPER IMU, before checking fiscal receipts at farm accommodations, before increasing the tax burden on workers and employees, before rising VAT on consumer goods”, Grillo wrote, “before literally starving to death with the lowest wages in Europe and the highest taxes in any civilized country, before all that, I would like to know the names, surnames and addresses of those who used the tax shield” to repatriate “tens of billions of euro “.

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

Italy: Politicians Are Not Allowed in a Restaurant Near Pesaro

(AGI) Rome — Following the decision by a restaurant owner of the province of Pesaro not to have politicians among his patrons, Lega Nord Mp Luca Paolini commented, “how long will it take before we, politicians, will be asked to wear a cross on our coats?” Mr. Paolini responded to what he considered an incredible provocation. Pdl MP Vincenzo D’Anna expressed his solidarity to Mr. Paolini.

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

Italy: 44 Camorra Arrests

‘Top role’ played by wives of jailed chieftains

(ANSA) — Naples, April 24 — Italian police on Tuesday arrested 44 people suspected of belonging to a top clan in the Neapolitan Camorra mafia near Naples. The Belforte family is based in the town of Marcianise near the city of Caserta, 30.5 km (19 miles) north of the Campanian capital.

Police said investigations had uncovered a “leading role” played by the wives of Belforte clan chiefs jailed under special anti-mafia conditions.

More than 10 million euros of assets were seized in the operation and 250 bank accounts were frozen.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Half Young Italians Think Mafia ‘Stronger Than State’

Almost 40% say Mob ‘can’t be beaten’

(ANSA) — Palermo, April 26 — Half of young Italians think the mafia is stronger than the Italian State, according to a survey out Thursday.

Asked the question, “who is stronger’“, 49.9% answered the mafia and only 14.27% the State.

Only 23.7% of the respondents said the mafia could be beaten while almost 40% (37.19%) thought it couldn’t. The sixth annual survey of perceptions of the mafia, by the Pio La Torre centre in Palermo, gave questionnaires to 1,409 students between the ages of 16 and 18.

Most of the sample, 67%, came from schools in Sicily, followed by Liguria with 14.41%, Lazio with 13.2% and Lombardy with 5.39%. Some 68.83% of those polled said the State wasn’t doing enough to beat the mafia while 79.28% said much of the mafia’s strength derived from its infiltration of the State.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Seized Camorra Assets Include Homes Rented to U.S. Military

Associate of Casalesi clan in property swoop

(ANSA) — Naples, April 30 — Italian police on Monday seized assets from the Neapolitan Camorra mafia including four homes rented to US soldiers working for NATO near Naples.

The assets were taken from an alleged associate of the Camorra’s Casalesi clan, whose death threats against Roberto Saviano have forced the ‘Gomorrah’ writer into round-the-clock police protection.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: ‘Honor’ To Mussolini on Public Bus Display

Transport authorities say full investigations ‘immediately’

(ANSA) — Rome, April 30 — A photograph of a public bus in Rome with the display reading “Onore al Duce”, or honor to Il Duce (Benito Mussolini), was posted on an Italian blog on Monday.

Authorities from Rome’s public transport company ATAC said that the reference to the Fascist dictator, called Duce from the Latin Dux for leader, would be “fully investigated starting immediately”.

The public transport authorities also emphasised that aside from violating company rules, the act was “criminal” and would be reported to police once the culprit was identified.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Rome May 1 Concert Organisers to Bear Part of Costs

(AGI) Rome — Organisers of the traditional May 1 concert in Rome will have to pay waste disposal and public transport costs. The organisers will have to foot the bill for the costs incurred by waste collection and public transport agencies AMA and ATAC in connection with the services provided by them during the event, which means that they are expected to pay over 100,000 euro. It was announced by Rome mayor Gianni Alemanno, in a video message posted on his blog. “After speaking to Bonanni and Angeletti and consulting with undersecretary Catricala’, I think that the issue of the costs arising from the May 1 concert can be solved as follows: we will bear the cost associated with the service provided by the municipal police, or 117,000 euro, together with the government, the Region will bear healthcare costs of 25,000 euro, while AMA and ATAC will issue their invoice to the organising committee”. The move comes after a days-long controversy over prospect of trade unions and organisers bearing the entire cost of the concert: public toilets, cleaning, increased public transport services, overtime pay for the traffic police, occupation of public space, healthcare services. Alemanno explained that such costs “have been borne for several years by the municipality of Rome”. “We’re not speaking about peanuts, but high sums: overall 251,541 euro for all the services related to the event”, the mayor added.

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

Ninety-Six Break-ins Solved: German Police Identify Burglar by His Earprints

Criminals beware — don’t leave earprints. They are as useful to the police as finger prints. A burglar in Germany made the mistake of pressing his ear to front doors to check if anyone was home. The unique prints have allowed the police to pin 96 burglaries on him.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Nokia in Advanced Talks to Sell Luxury Vertu Unit: FT

Cellphone maker Nokia is in advanced talks to sell its UK subsidiary Vertu to private equity group Permira PERM.UL, the Financial Times reported. Nokia, which last week had its credit rating cut to “junk” status by ratings agency Standard & Poor’s, will raise about 200 million euros ($265.19 million) from a potential sale, the FT said in a piece published on its website on Sunday.

People familiar with the talks were cited as saying Goldman Sachs (GS.N) was advising to oversee the sale, but said the outcome was not yet certain. Vertu and Permira were not available for comment.

EQT, the Northern European private equity group, has also been in talks about buying the group, although those close to the process, cited by the FT, say that these are not progressing at this stage.

Nokia, once the world’s dominant mobile phone provider, first signaled its intention to sell its luxury subsidiary Vertu in December. Vertu makes some of the most expensive cellphones in the world by hand, which can feature crystal displays and sapphire keys. Its cellphones can cost more than 200,000 pounds due to the precious metal components.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Norway-Bound Booze Vans Stopped in Sweden

Police in western Sweden are being kept busy by illegal shipments of alcohol and cigarettes, believed to be bound for Norway. Despite the suspected smuggling operation placing a major strain on resources, Sweden is obliged to stop the consignments before they reach the Norwegian border.

“We have seen a large increase of these kinds of cases lately,” said judge Sverker Tell of the Uddevalla district court to local paper Bohusläningen. The smugglers, twenty of whom in the last two weeks have come from Poland, are driving minivans filled to the brim with thousands of litres of alcohol and cigarettes believed to be bound for the Norwegian black market, according to the paper.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sweden’s Defence ‘Not Fit for Battle’: Expert

Sweden’s armed forces would not be able to defend Sweden should the need arise, according to experts, who point to the lack of protection against radiation, chemical and biological warfare, and the needs for field hospitals and helicopter training.

“The Swedish armed forces could not be deployed if the situation would require it,” said defence analyst Johan Tunberger, formerly of Sweden’s Defence Research Agency (Totalförsvarets forskningsinstitut, FOI) to daily Svenska Dagbladet (SvD).

The government, prioritizing a “balanced economy” thinks that the armed forces should be reformed without a new cash injection; something Tunberger says is a recipe for disaster.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Tax Burden in Italy No Longer Reasonable, Squinzi

(AGI) Milan — “The tax burden in our country is at a level no longer reasonable”, as Giorgio Squinzi, the Confindustria designate president said at a meeting on productivity organized by North League in Milan, however, he explained that he was talking as an entrepreneur and told journalists he will respect “news breakout” until May 23. The Mapei president explained that, in the rest of the world, where his firm is present, the “average tax rate is 34%, in Italy we are unable to drop taxes below 50%, and this is also due to Irap, a wicked tax”.

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

UK: “For the Rich. Selfish. Rubbish.” Lord Ashcroft’s New Study Shows What Ethnic and Religious Minorities Think of the Conservative Party

by Paul Goodman

The dismal illustration above is taken from the biggest-ever study of the attitude of ethnic and religious minorities to the Conservative Party — Degrees of separation, commissioned by Lord Ashcroft and published today. It is a word cloud of associations the party’s brand provoked when tested on those who took part in this study. I read the report yesterday both to read it for itself and to test it against my view on these matters, as previously set out on this site. My fourfold take is:

The ethnic minority vote threatens the Conservatives with demographic decline. Only 16 per cent of all ethnic minority voters supported the party in 2010. They are more resistant to voting Tory than the white majority. Ethnic minority votes made up under one in ten of the population in 2001. By 2050 ethnic minorities will make up a fifth of the population.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: An Urgent Coherent Strategy is Needed From the Government in Order to Save the Great British Pub

Annesley Abercorn was the Conservative Parliamentary Candidate for the Hazel Grove constituency at the 2010 General Election.

Over the years, every time I have begun to enjoy or appreciate something about our great nation, it has been either replaced with something inferior or abolished for good. Our great British pubs up and down the country are facing the same fate. A staggering 16 pubs closed each week until the end of December last year according to the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA). Something should be done as a matter of urgency. Our pubs are a quintessential part of our national character and way of life. We should be proud of them, nurture them and protect them, for if they are to disappear altogether, we will deeply lament their loss. It should be in the Conservative Party’s DNA always to long for the preservation of our pubs — a cornerstone of British culture. It is not the city centre pubs that are necessarily facing closure. They always benefit from people who pop in for a drink on their way home from work. It is mostly the old fashioned back street and suburban locals that are under threat which are the focal point of so many communities. Not only are they part of our heritage, but they perform an important community function; bringing people together, having a conversation, looking out for one another. These are the characteristics which aid social cohesion.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Britain’s Far Right to Focus on Anti-Islamic Policy

Head of English Defence League to join British Freedom party as deputy leader with virulent anti-Muslim platform

The head of the English Defence League, Tommy Robinson, will be named deputy leader of the British Freedom party this week after proposing that the group adopt virulent anti-Islamic policies as its central strategy. Confirmation that Robinson is to be offered a political platform within the BFP is contained in internal documents revealing that he has forwarded a number of “potential policy suggestions” that suggest the party will widen its attacks on Muslims. The document suggests the BFP with Robinson would “focus on non-Islamic population, not white/black population”, a move that critics describe as an attempt to antagonise relations between Muslims and other Britons. Other proposed areas of campaigning for the party, which will contest several seats in this week’s local elections, include calls for regulation of all mosques and religious schools and the banning of the burqa and niqab.

The unveiling of Robinson as deputy leader of the British Freedom Party will take place in Luton ahead of an EDL demo in the town, during which supporters will be banned from its centre by police, following previous disturbances. Last week, a BFP member tweeted his support for Norwegian killer Anders Breivik, while an EDL member defended the 34-year-old, currently on trial in Oslo after confessing to the murder of 77 people last July, and said that if he had “singled out the muslim filth” he would be viewed as a hero. Internal notes of a meeting held in a Luton hotel between senior EDL and BFP figures on 14 April, which have been seen by the Observer, reveal that participants believe the alliance is a development that “will change the direction of British politics”. However Nick Lowles of campaign group Hope not Hate said: “Although this shows the new face of the far right, a move that further marginalises the BNP, their agenda is so hate-filled that it will remain a minority message.” Robinson and the BFP have yet to comment, but the documents show that he backs a ban on the building of mosques and madrassas, an end to mass immigration, withdrawal from the EU, and promotion of “Christian values”.

Last week a report by Amnesty International warned of the rise of extremist political movements targeting Muslim practices in Europe, a development evidenced by the surprisingly strong showing of support for the French Front National, the far-right party led by Marine Le Pen, in France’s presidential election. It also said that European laws on what girls and women could wear on their heads were encouraging discrimination against Muslims.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Ethnic Minority Voters and the Conservative Party

by Lord Ashcroft

At the 2010 election, only 16% of ethnic minority voters supported the Conservatives. More than two thirds voted Labour. Not being white was the single best predictor that somebody would not vote Conservative. The gulf between the Conservative Party and ethnic minority voters is a well-known feature of British politics. I decided to explore the problem in more detail. The results of the research — which involved a 10,000-sample poll and 20 discussion groups with voters from black African, black Caribbean, Muslim, Hindu and Sikh backgrounds — are detailed in my latest report, Degrees of Separation: Ethnic minority voters and the Conservative Party.

Some argue that the Conservatives’ efforts to reach minority votes have so far been fruitless, and should therefore cease. I disagree, for two reasons. First, in narrow political terms, to narrow the deficit among these voters is in the party’s electoral interests. The average non-white population of the constituencies the Tories gained from Labour in 2010 was 6 per cent. In the twenty of Labour’s one hundred most vulnerable marginals that the Tories failed to win, the average non-white population was 15 per cent. In the five of those that were in London, it was 28 per cent. The Conservative Party’s problem with ethnic minority voters is costing it seats. Secondly, it is just not right that in contemporary Britain a large part of the population should feel that a mainstream party of government — which aspires to represent every part of society and govern in the whole country’s interest — has nothing to say to them.


A poll of 10,268 adults was conducted between 24 October and 4 December 2011. All interviewees lived in the areas with the highest concentrations of black and minority ethnic residents according to census data. Of the total sample, 3,201 were from a black or Asian background. 20 focus groups were conducted between 31 January and 1 March 2012, in London, Bristol, Manchester, Leeds, Bradford and Birmingham. Separate groups were conducted of voters from black African, black Caribbean, Muslim, Hindu and Sikh backgrounds.

Summary of key points


Participants in all groups spoke of an historic allegiance to Labour. This was primarily a matter of class and occupation rather than ethnicity. Most participants still considered themselves working class, including those with professional careers. Most still the Labour Party remained at heart the party for working class people, though several said they had only reluctantly voted Labour in 2010.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Ken Livingstone: Muslim Extremists (And Their Friends) Urge You to Back Him

by Andrew Gilligan

Lutfur Rahman, the extremist-linked mayor of Tower Hamlets, went round the local mosques yesterday, urging congregations to vote for his close ally Ken Livingstone. At the Brick Lane mosque, Lutfur apparently delivered a speech at the Friday prayer, saying that Ken was Muslims’ best hope — not a view shared by many of the Muslims I know. A gentleman called Azad Ali has also been tweeting his support for Ken. Azad is the community affairs co-ordinator of the extremist Islamic Forum of Europe, which controls the East London Mosque and which is dedicated, in its own words, to changing the “very infrastructure of society, its institutions, its culture, its political order and its creed … from ignorance to Islam.” In Ken’s last term as mayor, the East London Mosque was paid £500,000 by Livingstone’s London Development Agency to help build the IFE a new headquarters. Ken’s officials furiously protested against the grant, saying there was “no case” for an LDA contribution, but were overruled. Azad is also Ken’s vice-chair at the Unite Against Fascism organisation, and was invited to speak at Ken’s Progressive London conference last year.

Azad has written on his IFE blog of his “love” for Anwar al-Awlaki, the al-Qaeda cleric. He used to attend talks by Al-Qaeda’s main representative in the UK, Abu Qatada. He has described al-Qaeda as a “myth” and said that the Mumbai terrorist attacks were not terrorism. On his IFE blog, he advocated the killing of British troops in Iraq (he sued a newspaper for reporting this, and lost.) Filmed by an undercover reporter for my Channel 4 Dispatches on the IFE, Azad said: “Democracy, if it means at the expense of not implementing the sharia, of course no-one agrees with that.” His response to this exposure was to threaten our undercover reporter. In 2008 IFE and Azad repaid Ken’s favours by running a campaign called “Muslims for Ken” — which boasted that “we got out the vote” in its east London heartland. There were indeed astonishing, even unbelievable swings towards Ken in Tower Hamlets last time, no doubt aided by Muslims for Ken handing out leaflets at the mosques claiming Boris would ban the Koran. There’s not so much overt activity of that kind in 2012 — Livingstone obviously hasn’t got the public purse to buy votes with any more. But stuff appears to be going on under the surface — and the postal-vote situation is still looking extremely promising for the Kenster.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Lord Ashcroft Releases New Polling: Ethnic Minority Voters and the Conservative Party

Lord Ashcroft has today published research shedding new light on the relationship between the Conservative Party and ethnic minorities.

Despite David Cameron’s efforts to broaden the party’s appeal, only 16% of ethnic minority voters supported the Conservatives in 2010. Lord Ashcroft’s report, Degrees of Separation: Ethnic Minority Voters And The Conservative Party, explores minority voters’ perceptions of the party, and the barriers that need to be overcome if they are to be attracted in greater numbers. The research found a widespread view that Conservatives do not understand, or are even hostile to minority communities, that the party does not stand for fairness or equal opportunity, that it does not share the values of many people from minority backgrounds, and that it is not on the side of ordinary people. While Labour were seen as the party that had helped immigrant communities establish themselves in Britain, the Tories were in many cases associated with historic examples of prejudice — though David Cameron himself was better regarded than the party as a whole.

Degrees of Separation is based on a unique programme of research, including a 10,000-sample poll and discussion groups with voters from black African, black Caribbean, Muslim, Hindu and Sikh backgrounds. Lord Ashcroft said: “The gulf between the Conservative Party and ethnic minority voters is a well-known feature of British politics but it is little understood, especially in Westminster. I hope the party will absorb these findings and act on them — not just because this problem is costing it seats, but because it is wrong that a large part of the community should feel that the Conservative Party has nothing to say to them.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Lord Ashcroft: Conservative Party Must Disprove Fears That it Only Looks After Its Own

Tories’ unpopularity among black and Asian voters is not simply a matter of class, says Lord Ashcroft

David Cameron and the Conservative chairman Baroness Warsi have ordered Tory MPs to reach out to ethnic-minority voters. In 2010, only 16 per cent supported the party. This problem is costing it seats. The latest drive for minority supporters is reported to be based on core Conservative values like hard work. This will have some appeal — but the party needs to understand the complex reasons that have put these voters off the Tories for so long. After all, if talking about hard work and good schools was going to be enough, surely ethnic minorities would be voting Conservative in large numbers already? My research, the biggest project of its kind ever conducted, found that the political outlook of many ethnic-minority voters is often closely connected to class. Their parents or grandparents came to Britain to do working-class jobs, lived in working-class areas, and often joined unions, so Labour was their party. If Labour was for people like them, the Conservatives were for the better-off middle classes.


The Tories’ reputation among ethnic-minority voters will not change overnight. First, the party must understand the anxieties and aspirations of people from these backgrounds — and that many do not believe Tory principles extend to the concern for others that are an essential part of their own religious and cultural identity. Otherwise, it will continue to be seen as a party of middle-class white people which talks only to other middle-class white people.

At the moment, as far as ethnic minorities are concerned, the trouble with the Tories is that they keep themselves to themselves.

Lord Ashcroft is a former Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: The Many Are Losing the Unequal Struggle

The level of reward for ‘top people’ exposed by the crunch persists in the face of disaster, writes Charles Moore

At school, I learnt that oligarchs were the men — the few — who had ruled very ancient Greece, before democracy vanquished them. I next heard the word in 1994 or so, when it was applied to those Russians who, in post-Soviet Union chaos, had managed to grab their country’s utilities for themselves. Now, says Ferdinand Mount, oligarchs are in charge of Britain.

Even as Gordon Brown and Tony Blair claimed to advance “the many, not the few”, the opposite was happening. The epigraph to Mount’s book is the joke made, in 2008, about the credit crunch: “Never in the field of human commerce was so much paid by so many to so few.”


It is interesting that Mount, against his will, follows where this argument leads — to Brussels. Like many of his generation (born 1939), he has been a pro-European all his life, and for all the best, enlightened reasons. But though still rather tentative, and grumbling about Eurosceptics as he goes, Mount does recognise that oligarchy is not a late deformity of the EU, but essential from its beginnings. The founding fathers believed that union could never come about if the people fully understood what was happening. They therefore devised a system by which the European Commission — a bureaucracy in the precise sense of the word, and wholly unelected — initiated the laws. The one‒way doctrine of “ever closer union” effectively forbade the politicians of any member state to disagree. And now we have the euro, in which a central bank tries to enforce austerity upon a continent. It is, as Mount himself says, “the oligarch project to end all oligarch projects”.

Perhaps we should take that expression literally: perhaps the euro really will end the project that it was intended to crown. What is certain is that, so long as the EU exists in its present form, the power of oligarchy will grow. Which makes it equally certain that the risk of revolution will increase.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Ukraine Warns Against ‘Cold War’ Euro Boycott

Ukraine on Monday warned Germany against any Cold War-style government boycott of its Euro 2012 football matches over the jailing of ex-premier Yulia Tymoshenko, as the EU Commission chief also appeared set to skip the event.

The Ukrainian foreign ministry sternly told Berlin that it hoped reports Chancellor Angela Merkel and ministers could shun tournmament matches hosted by Ukraine from June were no more than press speculation.

Meanwhile a showpiece summit of Central European leaders set to be hosted by President Viktor Yanukovych in the Black Sea resort of Yalta next month lost its sheen as the Czech president followed his German counterpart in pulling out.

Tensions between the European Union and Kiev over Tymoshenko have reached new highs just over a month before Euro 2012 kicks off, with the opposition leader going on hunger strike and alleging she was beaten by prison guards.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Bosnia: First Muslim Female Condemned

For killing Croatian civilians and troops in 1993

(ANSAmed) — SARAJEVO, APRIL 30 — A Bosnian court has for the first time found a woman guilty of war crimes, having found a Muslim woman to be guilty of the killing of Croatian civilians and service personnel during the 1992-1995 Bosnia War. Agencies report how the Sarajevo War Crimes Tribunal has condemned Rasema Handanovic (39), a former member of the Muslim Forces of Bosnia, to five and a half years’ imprisonment. The woman attained a reduced sentence through collaborating with the court and confessing how she had killed 18 Croatian civilian and eight military prisoners in the village of Trusina (Herzegovina) in April 1993.

At the time, Ms Handanovic had been a member of a special unit (Zulfikar) reporting directly to the Chief in Command of the majority Muslim Bosnian army. Following the war in Bosnia, the woman emigrated to the United States, where she was arrested in April 2011, and subsequently extradited to Bosnia-Herzegovina during the following December. Rasema Handanovic, who is a dual US and Bosnian citizen, expressed remorse and regret at her actions during the war and agreed to testify against other defendants.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union

CBCMed: Over 1,000 Applicants for Second Call

Highest number proposals for reduction of risk for environment

Applications in response to the second call for standard projects issued by the Cross-Border Cooperation Programme in the Mediterranean (ENPI CBCMed) are worth more than 24 times the available budget of the call, with an overwhelming 1,094 grant applications submitted for consideration.

According to the Enpi website (, the value of the proposals submitted is 1.6 billion euros with a total amount of 1.4 billion ENPI euros contribution requested. The amount available under the call is 56.5 million euros.

The highest number of proposals were under the priority of “Prevention and reduction of risk factors for the environment and enhancement of natural common heritage” and 25% for priorities of “Promotion of socio-economic development and enhancement of territories” and “Promotion of environmental sustainability at the basin level”. Another 43% of projects concerned cultural dialogue, artistic creativity and support to local governance. The response confirmed the constant commitment of the seven Mediterranean Partner Countries to the Programme, accounting for almost 43% of total actors (Applicants and partners).

The ‘ENPI CBC Mediterranean Sea Basin Programme 2007/2013’ is a multilateral cross-border cooperation programme co-financed by the EU under the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Construction Starts for Greece-Cyprus-Israel Undersea Cable

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, APRIL 30 — PPC Quantum Energy S.A., a subsidiary of electricity giant Public Power Corporation, this week formally announced the launch of the construction of a 2,000-megawatt undersea electricity cable to link up the electricity grids of Israel, Cyprus and Greece. The company, as Athens News Agency reported, has notified the Regulatory Authority for Energy (RAE) and CERA, the corresponding authority in Cyprus, over the “EuroAsia Interconnector” project. In a joint letter to the company, both authorities underlined that the implementation of such an ambitious project will decisively contribute to ensure the safety of power supply for the entire region of SE Europe and the eastern Mediterranean. They also suggested a meeting to take place between the company and the parties involved for the formal presentation of the project. The total length of the undersea cable will be 1,000 kilometers, making it the world’s biggest. It will be placed as deep as 2,000 meters from the surface at some points. The project will be completed within three years and cost some 1.5 billion euros, with the participation of PPC’s Israeli counterpart. Its revenues in the long term are estimated at up to 17 billion euros.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

ENI Profit Rises Helped by Libyan Production Restart

Rome, 27 April (AKI) — Eni, Italy’s biggest oil company, said its net profit during the first three months of the year jumped 42 percent, to 3.62 billion euros, helped by the rising cost of crude and the restoration of Libyan production following the end of the North African country’s civil war.

The results were due to the “ongoing recovery of production in Libya and higher oil prices,” said Paolo Scaroni, in a written statement.

Adjusted to strip away the changing price of oil inventory, Rome-based Eni’s first-quarter net profit rose 13 percent to 2.48 billion euros.

Italy was Libya’s biggest trading partner before it supported UN-mandated military action by Nato forces to protect civilians from attack by Gaddafi’s armed forces and to enforce a no-fly zone.

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

Tunisia: State Changes Its Strategy on Prices and Smuggling

Dialogue started alongside repression

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, 27 APRIl — Smuggling and its direct consequence, “parallel trade” as they call it in Tunisia, is having a huge impact on the country, because it is the cause of significant fluctuation of domestic markets. It is consumers who pay the consequences of this phenomenon, and protection measures adopted by the government are not enough anymore. The unbalance in markets is mainly due to inappropriate implementation of basic economy rules and, therefore, to constant lack of control over prices, especially with regard to largely consumed food products, but also to seasonal food products, whose prices should not be subject to increases, at least in the season they are produced in. The old problem of smuggling has increased in recent months, due to two main factors: the hunger for food products in Libya and the expense potential, which is higher in Algeria than in Tunisia. These elements all together contributed to creating two constant flows of goods departing to the borders of the two neighbouring countries, depleting domestic markets of those products supported by the State with significant tax relief, rather than money.

So, if bringing products to Libya and Algeria was “a tradition” before, now it is a highly profitable business. The State is losing significant tax revenues in this way and has tried to make up for it by implementing repressive policies, trying to make everyone comply with the laws. Not an easy task if you consider that the borders between Tunisia on one side and Algeria and Libya on the other side are not “Berlin walls” and goods continue to cross them in spite of the customs agents’ efforts. The government is tackled by the challenge of finding a solution to an already fossilized phenomenon, without waging a war on producers. The first and most urgent issue to be solved is that prices in domestic markets continue to reach very high peaks, sometimes in a totally irrational way. And when the State intervenes to bring down the price of some large-consumption goods (as it recently did with eggs, by fixing a minimum price), it must face the opposition of producers, distributors and retailers, each concerned by the concrete possibility of losing their share of gain.

This is why the Minister of Trade decided to walk a different path, which is probably longer but more likely to generate positive outcomes: dialogue. He did it in Biserta, where 24 distributors and retailers decided to lower prices of their own free will, having decided to bet on positive effects of their policy. Some small sign of success is showing, such as the slow decrease in the price of some agricultural products which are currently out of seasons, such as legumes, over last year’s price. This is only a small sign because, indeed, the real test is carried out everyday: you only need to go to a market to see how people just do not understand how can prices go up so constantly for all products.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

60 Minutes Steers Christians Against Israel

Last Sunday, CBS’s 60 Minutes broadcast “Christians of the Holy Land,” by Bob Simon, largely blaming Israel for an exodus of Christians from the Holy Land. The showing coincides with a growing international campaign to portray Israel as anti-Christian, showcasing Palestinian Christians as evidence.

“Palestinian Christians, once a powerful minority, are becoming the invisible people, squeezed between a growing Muslim majority and burgeoning Israeli settlements,” the segment opened. “Israel has occupied the West Bank for 45 years.”

But the harsher indictment came from a Palestinian Lutheran pastor and critic of Israel. “If you see what’s happening in the West Bank, you will find that the West Bank is becoming more and more like a piece of Swiss cheese where Israel gets the cheese that is the land, the water resources, the archaeological sites,” complained Mitri Raheb. “And the Palestinians are pushed in the holes behind the walls.”

Christians comprise between 1 and 2 percent of Palestinians. But because American Christians, especially evangelicals, are among Israel’s most strategically important friends, undermining Christian sympathy for Israel has become a major theme for anti-Israel activism.

60 Minutes largely cast Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren, as the villain, and Christians Palestinians as the victims. Oren disputed that Israel persecutes Christians and wondered why there is not more focus on harsh anti-Christian persecution elsewhere in the Middle East. Most grieving to Simon, Oren complained to CBS before the segment’s broadcast, which Simon huffed was unprecedented.

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           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Bethlehem’s Last Christians?

World, churches silent in face of Islamic persecution of Palestinian Christians

Veteran CBS News anchor Bob Simon just reported on the Palestinian Christians, indicting Israel’s “occupation” as responsible for their dramatic disappearance. The 60 Minutes story caused Israel tremendous PR damage.

Yet largely ignored by Western media, a systematic campaign of Muslim persecution against the Christians is taking place in Palestinian areas. It’s a religious and ethnic cleansing campaign silenced by the global churches.

Christians have long been the frontrunners of Arab nationalism. The most prominent Palestinian intellectual was a Christian, Edward Said. The propaganda term “Nakba” has been penned by a Christian, Constantin Zureiq. The terrorist George Habash was a Christian, as was Yasser Arafat’s wife. Azmi Bishara, the Arab MK who leaked secrets to Hezbollah, comes from a middle-class Christian family from Nazareth.

Since the first Intifada, Palestinian Christians created a Muslim-Christian unity to portray Israel as the aggressor, colonizer and invader. They thought that the Islamic-Christian front against Zionism would help secure their position in the Arab world. Indeed, Arab Christians, and especially their judeophobic clergy, have been in the vanguard of the battle for the destruction of Israel. It was a political operation that also served to cover the crimes committed against Christians by the PLO and the Islamic groups: forced marriage, conversions, beatings, land theft, fire bombings, commercial boycott, torture, kidnapping, sexual harassment, and extortion.

The latest victim has been the Baptist Church in Bethlehem, which the Palestinian Authority just declared as illegitimate, as the US church’s message of reconciliation flies in the face of the hateful propaganda permeating Palestinian society. Arab Christians were obliged to make continual compromises, afraid to mention their own suffering for fear of irritating the Muslim authorities. Soon it became a taboo subject even in the West.

When last month Ayaan Hirsi Ali penned the Newsweek cover story on the persecution of Christians under Islam, she did not mention the Palestinian areas, where Christians dropped from 15% of the population in 1950 to just 2% today. With the PA refusing to reveal accurate statistics, the real extent of Christian emigration is unknown.

Christian shops firebombed

As the CBS report showed, Palestinian Christians today have to speak out against “Israeli occupation,” because if they don’t, their silence will be perceived as pro-Israeli by the Muslims. Christian leaders don’t mention the fact that they have suffered the most from the mafia-style rule of Yasser Arafat’s kleptocracy, that slogans like “Islam will win” and “First the Saturday people then the Sunday People” have been painted on their churches, and that PLO flags were draped over crosses.

After the 1948 war, Christian communities suffered most in the West Bank, not under “Israel’s occupation,” but because Muslim refugees were cynically settled in their midst by the Arab leadership. Ramallah was 90% Christian before the war, while Bethlehem was 80% Christian. By 1967, more than half of Bethlehem’s residents were Muslim, while Ramallah is a large Muslim city today.

In a process of “Lebanonization,” Arafat changed Bethlehem’s demography by bringing in thousands of Muslims from refugee camps. Arafat then turned the city into a safe haven for suicide bombers and transformed the Greek Orthodox monastery, located next to the Church of Nativity, into his residence. Christian cemeteries and convents were desecrated and Christians became the PLO’s human shields.

In the first year of the second Intifada, when Arafat’s terrorists ravaged Christian towns by gunfire and mortars, 1,640 Christians left Bethlehem and another 880 left Ramallah.

In 2007, one year after Hamas’ Gaza takeover, the owner of the Strip’s only Christian bookstore was murdered. Christian shops and schools were firebombed. Ahmad El-Achwal is just one of the many Palestinians converted to Christianity killed by Islamic militants.

Astonishing silence

The silence of the Vatican and the World Council of Churches has been astonishing. Only a few Christian leaders have been brave enough to denounce what is taking place on the ground. With harsh and unexpected words, in 2005 the Custodian of the Holy Land, Pierbattista Pizzaballa, said to an Italian newspaper: “Almost every day — I repeat, almost every day — our communities are harassed by the Islamic extremists.”

When Palestinian Christians approached their organizations and complained that terrorists were using Christian homes to fire on Gilo, international Christian solidarity did not meet the challenge.

A few days ago, the head of the Roman Catholic Church in England, Archbishop Vincent Nichols, urged William Hague, the UK Foreign Secretary, to address the “tragic situation” faced by Palestinians — not because Islamist threats, but because Arabs were “displaced” by the Israeli barrier in Beit Jala, despite the fact that in constructing the security barrier no land has been annexed by Israel, no houses have been demolished, and no-one has been required to leave their home.

In fact, the bigger truth ignored by the Western press and the Churches is that Israel’s barrier helped restore calm and security not just in Israel, but also in Bethlehem. The Church of the Nativity, which Palestinian terrorists defiled in 2002 to escape from the Israeli army, is now filled again with tourists from around the world.

The Catholic and Orthodox Churches also frequently asked Israeli authorities to change the route of the fence. They simply didn’t want to live under the Palestinian autocracy. Thus, for example, the Rosary Sisters School in the Dachyat El Barid neighborhood north of Jerusalem was included on the Israeli side of the fence, in light of requests from the Mother Superior of the order.

Today, Palestinian Christians risk the same fate of their brethren in Lebanon. Everyone remembers the Phalange atrocities at Sabra and Shatila. But very few know that the first ethnically cleansed community during the civil war was a Christian town. In November 1976, Palestinian forces came into Damour and dynamited homes and churches, massacring entire families. They exhumed the dead from the Christian cemetery and scattered skeletons throughout the rubble. Some 500 Christians died that day. Will Bethlehem be a second Damour?

Giulio Meotti, a journalist with Il Foglio, is the author of the book A New Shoah: The Untold Story of Israel’s Victims of Terrorism

           — Hat tip: TV[Return to headlines]

Gaza: Hamas, Islamic Jihad Hold Talks for Unity

(ANSAmed) — GAZA, APRIL 30 — One of Hamas political leaders has said that Hamas and Islamic Jihad have been holding talks for unity. Speaking to Anatolia news agency correspondent in Gaza Strip, Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar said that “unfortunately direct peace talks between Hamas and Fatah have ceased.” Al-Zahar said peace talks have reached the end of the road due to “irresponsible stance” by Fatah during talks. “Fatah was under pressure by Israeli government, but it refrained from telling it,” he said, adding that some circles in Fatah tried to prevent agreement. Al-Zahar said Hamas and Islamic Jihad have been holding talks for unity, stating that Hamas and Islamic Jihad had common goals.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel Mustn’t Forget Iran is Committed to Its Destruction

by Con Coughlin

One of the great strengths of the Israeli state, which sets it apart from all its neighbours in the Middle East, is its vibrant democracy, which is far more likely to hold its politicians to account than outside critics who have no idea about the complexities of the country’s internal debate. The recent criticism of Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu’s government by Yuval Diskin, the country’s former head of Shin Bet — Israel’s equivalent of MI5 — over Iran’s nuclear programme is a case in point. At a public meeting last week Mr Diskin launched a bitter attack against the competence of Mr Netanyahu and Ehud Barak, his defence minister, claiming that they are “not fit to hold the steering wheel of power” because they are deliberately misleading the Israeli public over the seriousness of the threat Iran poses to national security, and are making their decisions “based on messianic feelings.”

Mr Diskin’s comments have inevitably been seized upon by Guardinistas such as Mehdi Hassan and other anti-Israeli, left-wing agitators to show that Israel’s concerns over Iran’s nuclear programme are completely unfounded. But in pressing their arguments they are deliberately glossing over important political nuances concerning Israel’s internal debate on the issue. To start with Mr Diskin is a frustrated man because Mr Netanyahu who was displeased with his performance as Shin Bet chief, and declined to give him his wish to become head of Mossad, Israel’s overseas intelligence agency.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Abu Dhabi Chases Dubai, Luxury Malls to Double

(ANSAmed) — DUBAI — The current 700.000 sqm of stores will double in the next three years, according to a study by DTZ, a company which specialises in international real estate. The plan seems to challenge the rate of Dubai’s growth, a boom which saw it expand its shopping areas of 60% since 2005. Nor apparently will this new construction plan be lacking in grandeur. Yas Mall will be second only to Dubai Mall, one of the largest shopping centres in the world with its 520 stores and its spectacular attractions.

As the name suggests, it will be raised on Yas Island, the atoll which already hosts the Ferrari Park and super luxury hotels, and part of a bigger plan which will see the island as a destination for classy entertainment.

There are also other commercial projects on the horizon. The Gallery, which opens in 15 months, is being built on Al Maryah Island, the new financial district which will host luxury executive hotels other than the new Stock Exchange. Then Boutike, a “conceptual” shopping mall dedicated entirely to high fashion brands, products and accessories.

Luxury shopping isn’t the only the focus for these three malls, it is also the main philosophy for yet another three malls which should be opened by the end of the year: Pragon Bay on Reem Island, Capital Mall in Zayed City, Abu Dhabi’s new diplomatic and governmental district, and Deerfields Town Squares in Al Bahia.

With an annual expenditure of 3.5 billion euro, Abu Dhabi is no doubt trying to follow in Dubai’s footsteps, the third city in the world for luxury brands (85%) after London and Hong Kong.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Memories of Bin Laden Are Fading, But His Methods and Ideology Remain

Al-Qaida tactics continue to inspire extremists in carrying out terror attacks — even Anders Breivik used them

Muhammad Rifadullah, a 36-year-old shopkeeper standing at a rally of extremist groups in the Pakistani capital, was nothing if not honest. “I am a member of Sipah-e-Sahaba,” he said, naming a Pakistani extremist organisation responsible for thousands of sectarian killings, which has been banned for several years. Around him shouts of “death to America” rose into the air.

“Anyone who disrespects or insults our prophet Muhammad, like Shias, Americans and Jews, then he is an enemy,” said Rifadullah.

Such demonstrations have become familiar sights in Pakistan over recent years. But one element has changed. Where once extremists spoke openly of their admiration for Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida, now praise is either muted or nonexistent.

“Bin Laden was a mujahid, but he is not my leader,” said Rifadullah. “Al-Qaida killed a lot of Muslims too.”

Before he died, Bin Laden was well aware that support for his group had waned. Documents found in the house in Abbottabad where he lived from 2005 until his death show that he considered changing the name of al-Qaida as part of a major rebranding exercise.

But few expected the speed with which the architect of the 9/11 attacks appears to have been forgotten by militants. After an outpouring of posthumous praise on militant websites and the release of a prerecorded “last message”, references to Bin Laden have become few and far between.

Even communiques from Ayman al-Zawahiri, who succeeded him at the head of al-Qaida, and the main al-Qaida website al’Shumukh al’Islam rarely mention their late leader.

Aaron Zelin, a researcher at Brandeis University in Boston, who monitors extremist websites, said: “In terms of the new primary source releases for al-Qaida branches and media outlets, there is certainly no daily tribute to Bin Laden, nor weekly, nor monthly for that matter. There is currently very little discussion of him at all.”

William McCants, an analyst at the US government-funded Centre for Naval Analyses, Virginia, and an expert in Islamic extremists’ use of the media, said Bin Laden was “not being talked about a great deal — even in al-Qaida’s own propaganda. Everyone seems to have moved on,” he said.

The vast bulk of postings on extremist websites these days — and the “chatter” intercepted by intelligence services — is focused on events in Syria, Egypt, Iraq or Yemen and the evolution of the Arab uprisings, security officials told the Guardian.

A key site for extremists looking for guidance on how to react to the rapidly evolving situation in the Middle East is run not by al’Qaida but by Abu Mohamed Assem al’Maqdisi, a conservative Jordanian Palestinian cleric who has been critical of bin Laden.

A British security official pointed out that many extremist sympathisers are barely out of their teens, so for a large proportion the 9/11 attacks are little more than a childhood memory — or even a historical event. Within a few years, Bin Laden will be a historical figure, he said, with “the contemporary edge” that intensified his appeal long gone.

But others argue that it is far too soon to consign the Saudi-born militant leader to history.

           — Hat tip: Nick[Return to headlines]

Stockholm Suicide Bombing Trial Begins

Nazzedine Menni, the student who allegedly helped plan the suicide bomb attack in Stockholm in 2010, stands trial in Glasgow on Monday for what is anticipated to be a 12 week court case.

The man, who denies the charges, risks life imprisonment.

He is suspected of aiding Taimour Abdulwahab, an Iraqi-born Swede, who was the only fatality of the twin blasts in Drottninggatan, central Stockholm, on December 12, 2010.

According to the Aftonbladet newspaper, Menni helped finance the attack, partly due to claiming benefits through eight of his different aliases.

The man, who studied in the English town of Luton, was arrested under the name of Ahmed al-Khaledi, which has since been formally changed in legal documents a number of times, with courts recently settling on Nazzedine Menni.

Neighbours had described him as a “neat” 30-year-old family man from Kuwait, who lived with his wife and three children, wrote the paper.

Abdulwahab had tried to call Menni several times on the day of the attack, however did not succeed in reaching him. It is alleged the pair planned the attack for eight years.

Aftonbladet reports that Menni had deleted contact details and private photographs of Abdulwahab from his phone during a pause in the police interrogation.

Despite it being 18-months since the attack, and five countries being somehow related to the incident, Menni and the bomber himself are still the only two people suspected of any crime.

The 12 week trial, which begins on Monday, has 250 possible witnesses to be called upon, according to TT news agency.

           — Hat tip: Seneca III[Return to headlines]

The ‘Islamist Spring’ Continues as Tunisia Suffers Fundamentalist Takeover

One year after the uprising that sent autocratic leader Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali packing to exile in Saudi Arabia, Tunisia stands divided between two visions of its future. Last year’s street clashes in this sun-spangled city by the sea have morphed into a different kind of battle — more intimate confrontations in which many families struggle with essential questions of identity.

Secular parents, surprised to find their daughter covering her hair in public, worry they are losing their child to extremism. Moderately religious families argue over a son’s decision to grow a beard and demonstrate against aspects of Tunisian life they have always taken for granted: beer and wine, bikinis on the beach, Hollywood movies on TV. In workplaces, kitchens and sidewalk tearooms, one question dominates: Can and should Tunisia’s blend of Western and Islamic values and practices be maintained under the North African country’s new freedom, or has that freedom unleashed a religious extremism that threatens to push this land of 10 million people toward a new kind of dictatorship?

[Return to headlines]


Sharia in Moscow

Posted by Daniel Greenfield

“You think that we are coming here as foreigners, but we believe that we are at home here and maybe you are the foreigners. We will make those laws that suit us, whether you like it or not, and any attempts to change that will lead to spilled blood. There will be a second dead sea here and we will drown the city in blood.”

Those were not the words of some back alley preacher, but of noted Moscow lawyer, Dagir Khasavov, giving an interview to a television station about his proposal to implement Sharia courts in Russia. Interspersed with footage of death sentences being executed, Khasavov spoke about his new organization that would protect Muslim rights and claimed that his proposal was only the beginning of a worldwide expansion.

“We are going to expand this net, we will begin in Russia, first Asia, and then everything will be encompassed, as it was in the Caliphate,” Khasavov said. According to Khasavov, Russian security services already unofficially refer cases involving Muslims back to Sharia courts and his proposal to officially establish such courts would only legitimize the parallel justice system that already exists for the millions of Muslims who now live in Moscow and other cities.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Vitali Klitschko on Tymoshenko Case: ‘Ukraine is Becoming Increasingly Authoritarian’

In an interview with SPIEGEL ONLINE, boxer and pro-democracy activist Vitali Klitschko talks about the worsening situation in his country and the case of the jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko. While he rejects calls to boycott the upcoming European Football Championships, he says the event is a good opportunity to draw attention to the Ukraine government’s failures.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

South Asia

German Jihadist Killed in US Drone Attack

A US Army drone strike in March killed a German citizen who had joined the jihad in Pakistan. His death has the potential to reignite the debate over the legitimacy of air strikes by unmanned drones and may increase diplomatic tensions with the US.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

India’s Broken Promise: How a Would-be Great Power Hobbles Itself

India’s political and business elites have long harbored a desire for their country to become a great power. They cheered when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh finalized a nuclear deal with the United States in 2008. Indian elites saw the deal, which gave India access to nuclear technology despite its refusal to give up its nuclear weapons or sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, as a recognition of its growing influence and power. And Indian elites were also encouraged when U.S. President Barack Obama announced, during a 2010 visit to India, that the United States would support India’s quest to gain permanent membership on the United Nations Security Council, which would put the country on an equal footing with its longtime rival, China. In recent years, such sentiments have also spread to large segments of the Indian middle class, which, owing to the country’s remarkable economic growth in the past two decades, now numbers around 300 million. Nearly nine out of ten Indians say their country already is or will eventually be one of the most powerful nations in the world, an October 2010 Pew Global Attitudes survey revealed.

Symbols of India’s newfound wealth and power abound. Last year, 55 Indians graced Forbes’ list of the world’s billionaires, up from 23 in 2006. In 2008, the Indian automobile company Tata Motors acquired Jaguar and Land Rover; last year, Harvard Business School broke ground on Tata Hall, a new academic center made possible by a gift of $50 million from the company’s chair, Ratan Tata. And in 2009, a company run by the Indian billionaire Anil Ambani, a telecommunications and Bollywood baron, acquired a 50 percent stake in Steven Spielberg’s production company, DreamWorks. Gaudy, gargantuan shopping malls proliferate in India’s cities, and BMWs compete with auto-rickshaws on crowded Indian roads. Tom Cruise, eyeing the enormous Indian movie market, cast Anil Kapoor, a veteran Bollywood star, in the most recent Mission: Impossible sequel and spent a few weeks in the country to promote the film. “Now they are coming to us,” one Indian tabloid gloated.

But even as Indian elites confidently predict their country’s inevitable rise, it is not difficult to detect a distinct unease about the future, a fear that the promise of India’s international ascendance might prove hollow. This anxiety stems from the tense duality that defines contemporary India, an influential democracy with a booming economy that is also home to more poor people than any other country in the world.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italian Marines’ Incarceration Extended by Two More Weeks

‘Support from at least 20 countries’ says Terzi

(ANSA) — New Delhi, April 30 — The detention in prison in southern India of two Italian anti-piracy marines accused of killing two Indian fishermen was extended by two more weeks by a magistrate on Monday.

Meanwhile, in New Delhi, the Indian supreme court put off until Tuesday a hearing on releasing the Italian tanker at the centre of the case, the Enrica Lexie.

Marines Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone have been at the centre of a diplomatic row between Italy and India since being detained in February after an incident that took place while they were guarding the Lexie.

Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi on Sunday said he was optimistic about resolving the case in Italy’s favour and said he had received support in international forums from “at least 20 countries” who, he said, had “intervened” with India on Italy’s behalf.

The pair are being held in a special section of a jail in the city of Thiruvananthapuram.

A separate court is considering Italy’s claim that it should have jurisdiction for the case, not India, as the incident took place aboard an Italian vessel in international waters.

The Italian government also believes that, regardless of who has jurisdiction, the marines should be exempt from prosecution in India as they were military personnel working on an anti-piracy mission.

Italy has said the marines fired warning shots from the Lexie after coming under attack from pirates.

It said they followed the proper international procedures for dealing with pirate attacks, which are frequent in the Indian Ocean.

The Indian authorities, on the other hand, said the marines failed to show sufficient “restraint” by opening fire after mistaking the fishermen for pirates.

Indian ballistic experts said earlier this month that the bullets recovered from the bodies of fishermen are compatible with Beretta rifles confiscated from the tanker.

Italy has requested another ballistics test.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Tributes Paid to Red Cross Aid Worker Beheaded in Pakistan

The beheaded body of a kidnapped British doctor working for the International Committee of the Red Cross was found by the roadside on Sunday in the southwestern Pakistan city of Quetta, police and Red Cross officials said.

Khalil Rasjed Dale, 60, was abducted by suspected militants on Jan 5 while on his way home from work. “The ICRC condemns in the strongest possible terms this barbaric act,” ICRC Director-General Yves Daccord said in a statement. “All of us at the ICRC and at the British Red Cross share the grief and outrage of Khalil’s family and friends.” Friends of Mr Dale have expressed their shock and sadness. “My friend, Ken, as I knew him then before he got his Islamic name, was the most wonderful person you could wish to meet, he was caring and devoted to caring for other people less fortunate thean himself. His entire life was given to caring for others,” said former colleague and friend, Shiele Howett. “It’s unbelievable and barbaric what they have done, Ken did not deserve that. As I say, he cared for others, but got no thanks in return for what he did for them. Sad,” Ms Howett added.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Far East

Fiat Making ‘Serious’ Return to China

Chrysler marque to lead new offensive

(ANSA) — New York, April 23 — Fiat is intent on making a “serious” return to the car market in China and has decided to spearhead this operation with the Chrysler marque it acquired in 2009, Fiat-Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said.

“We are returning to China after two false starts but this time we are really serious about it. We now have the right partner and the right product,” Marchionne said on the sidelines of the ongoing Beijing Automobile Show.

According to Marchionne, Chrysler will initially market its luxury 300 model and this will be followed by models of the popular Jeep marque, a Chrysler subsidiary Fiat acquired along with the Detroit Number Three.

However, the CEO did not specify when the new Jeep models would be launched on the Chinese market. Aside from Jeep, Marchionne said that Fiat’s Alfa Romeo marque would also be brought to China but only after it makes its much-heralded return to the United States in 2013.

“Jeep and Alfa are two global brands of our group,” Marchionne explained.

The CEO attended the car show in the Chinese capital to present the new ‘Viaggio’ model that was designed specifically for the Chinese market and produced together with its Chinese partner Guangzhou Automobile Company (GAC).

The ‘Viaggio’ is a four-door sedan and is the first to offer in China a sophisticated diesel engine — the 1.4-liter T-jet that boasts 120 and 150 hp. A statement from Fiat said the vehicle was “designed to be unique and different” and will be produced at the GAC-Fiat plant in Changsha, central China, starting in June.

The statement added that the model was targeted for “young, elegant and individualistic Chinese who grew up in urban areas and are destined to become the backbone of Chinese society”.

During the presentation of the ‘Viaggio’, Marchionne said he was not worried about the recent lull in the Chinese car market that he explained was the result of “growing too much, too fast” and thus a period of adjustment was more normal.

After two years of spectacular expansion, in 2009 and 2010, the Chinese car market rose by only 2.5% last year and has become crowded with competitors. This year’s 12th edition of the car show, which is held annually and alternates between Beijing and Shanghai, will see the presentation of 120 new models.

Fiat struck up an alliance with GAC after its previous accord with Chinese automaker Chery was put on hold in 2009.

Before Chery, Fiat was in a partnership with Nanjing Automotive, which collapsed in 2007.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Chad Proposes Task Force to Fight Boko Haram

(AGI) Libreville — Chad’s President Idriss Deby Itno has proposed setting up a task-force to fight the Islamic extremist movement, Boko Haram. The president made the proposal in Libreville, Gabon at the opening of the annual meeting of the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC). “The time has come to act and we must decide today,” said the president. The LCBC was set up to monitor conservation of Lake Chad and its basin and is made up of 16 countries, including Nigeria. “Our basin,” said Deby, “is exposed to insecurity because of Boko Haram’s permanent threat. If we don’t eradicate them, we won’t be capable of saving our Lake Chad.” Among those present who signed on to the idea was Francois Bozize, president of the Central African Republic, who offered to supply troops to the multinational contingent. Anti-terror experts have been warning for some time that Boko Haram could expand its operations well beyond Nigeria, even more should it strengthen its ties with al-Qaeda, whose presence in Africa is growing.

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

Frattini: World Must Stop Massacres of African Christians

(AGI) Rome — Italy’s former foreign minister, Franco Frattini said, “Massacres of Christians continue in Africa. The international community should not close its eyes, open them and intervene strongly to stop this.” Frattini added, “As coordinator of the new ad hoc group of the PPE on foreign affairs, in the next meeting I will propose we discuss the subject of religious minorities and protection of Christians around the world as a priority.”

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

Suicide Bomber Kills Eleven in Attack on Nigerian Police

(AGI) Kano — A suicide bomber has killed at least 11 people, including a police officer, in today’s attack on a police convoy, Spokesman Ibiag Mbaseki reported that “A suicide bomber on a motorbike blew himself up just as a high-ranking officer,who was uninjured, and his escort drove by in Jalingo, in the eastern province of Taraba. “ .

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

Latin America

Indigenous Activists Accuse Governments of Harassment

Indigenous activists in Bolivia and other Latin American countries who take to the streets to protest the exploitation of their ancestral homelands face repressive measures and charges of terrorism.

Bolivian President Evo Morales’ plans to build a highway through the Amazon forest unleashed fierce anti-government protests in the country’s capital, La Paz, last September. The controversial road was supposed to run through the indigenous territory, leveling an ancestral homeland inhabited by 50,000 native people from three different native groups. A police crackdown left 74 people injured, while 24 indigenous leaders are now under investigation for assault and kidnapping.

In Ecuador, projects to build open pit mines that would rip into the forest-covered hills of the lands of the Shuar Indians have spawned a protest movement as well. Some 194 indigenous leaders have been charged with terrorism and sabotage in recent years. The most recent round of protests was prompted by an agreement between Ecuador and China for industrial copper mining in the Amazon’s Ecuacorriente Zamora-Chinchipe region.

In Chile and Peru, indigenous organizations have complained about the legal prosecution of Mapuche, Rapa Nui and indigenous farmers. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights reported that targeted criminalization, intimidation and stigmatization of the indigenous movement has been used to weaken the defense of their territories and natural resources and break their right to autonomy and cultural identity.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Greece: First Migrant Detention Center Opens

Despite vehement protests by local residents and rights groups

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, APRIL 30 — A detention center for undocumented immigrants in Amygdaleza, northwest of Athens, started operating on Sunday, despite vehement protests by local residents and rights groups, with the transfer of dozens of migrants detained over the past few days in police sweeps in central Athens. Police said they transfered a group of 56 migrants in the early afternoon and were to move another 164 into the compound late last night, as daily Kathimerini reports.

Meanwhile residents staged a protest against the center outside the police training school which is adjacent to the facility.

According to Citizens’ Protection Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis, a total of 1,200 migrants are to be moved into the center until mid-May. Then additional centers are to open in different parts of the country, according to the minister, who insists that this project will solve Greece’s problem with illegal immigration.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greece: Fascist Salute Returns, Anti-Immigrants Chase Votes

Athens, 30 April (AKI/Bloomberg) — Theodore Couloumbis experienced the Nazi occupation of Greece as a boy and 70 years later he’s worried he’ll witness the return of stiff-armed salutes and fascist flags.

The Golden Dawn party may enter the parliament in Athens for the first time after 6 May elections, current polls show, as rising anti-immigrant sentiment among austerity-hit Greeks spurs support for groups formerly on the political fringes. Ninety percent of people surveyed for a To Vima newspaper poll published on 9 April said immigrants are responsible for an increase in violence and crime.

“The last thing I would want to see in the Greek parliament is a bunch of people who give the Hitler salute,” said Couloumbis, 76, a professor of international relations at the University of Athens. “I’m old enough to remember the absolute ugliness of that particular occupation.”

The group is known for its violent clashes in immigrant neighborhoods and for a red and black party logo resembling a disentangled swastika. Members of the group have said it’s not Nazi or fascist and they reject any connection of its logo to a swastika, saying it’s an ancient Greek symbol. A video of Golden Dawn leader Nikolaos Michaloliakos shows him giving the fascist salute.

Golden Dawn’s charter says its “main ideal and belief is the nation-tribe” and that “only men and women of Greek descent and consciousness should have full political rights.” Michaloliakos declined to comment for this story when called on his mobile phone.

Land Mines

The party wants land mines placed on the Greek-Turkish border to stop illegal immigrants entering the country and cancellation of Greek loan accords with the European Union and International Monetary Fund.

It also calls for wiping out debt accumulated since 1974 that’s deemed “illegal and burdensome.” Greek banks that get state funds should be nationalized, as should all natural resources, the party’s program says.

Golden Dawn is bolstering support by organizing security patrols in immigrant-heavy neighborhoods and by running food banks for Greeks suffering from five years of recession and unemployment of almost 22 percent.

“I’m voting for Golden Dawn because I want all the immigrants to leave,” Maria Papageorgiou, 52, said in an interview in the Athens neighborhood where she has lived all her life. “There’s a high crime rate, it’s a miserable situation. They should leave and go back to their countries. Or maybe the Germans can take them.”

Euro Status

At stake in the election is whether the next Greek government can implement the austerity measures on which bailout funds and euro membership depend.

The Athens Stock Exchange has lost 61 percent of its value over the last two years. An index of Greek banks dropped 73 percent in the last 12 months.

Polls show Golden Dawn winning as much as 5 percent of the vote, enough to enter parliament for the first time. The party, which was founded two decades ago, won its first seat on the Athens city council in 2010.

Golden Dawn’s rise comes as far-right or nationalist parties are surging in a number of European countries including Hungary, Austria, the Netherlands and France, where anti- immigrant National Front leader Marine Le Pen won 17.9 percent in the first round of presidential elections on 22 April.

‘Lazy Thinking’

“Populist parties on the left and the right rely on fear,” Jan Techau, director of the Brussels-based European Center of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said in a phone interview. “They always gain when the economy is bad. But to just hope an improving economy will make them go away is lazy thinking.”

In Greece, Pasok and New Democracy, the two parties supporting the interim government of prime minister Lucas Papademos in implementing austerity measures in exchange for a second 130 billion euro loan package, are trying to show their credentials in combating illegal immigration to stem the loss of votes to anti-foreigner parties.

New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras, whose party leads in opinion polls yet is short of a majority, also has to contend with a loss of votes to parties opposed to austerity measures.

Illegal Entry

Greece, with a population of 11 million, has an estimated 1 million immigrants, many of whom are illegal, the Greek government says. Police last year arrested 99,368 foreigners for being in or entering the country illegally, more than half of whom were from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.

Most want to travel to other EU countries where economic prospects are better yet many of them end up in central Athens living in squalid apartments and are exploited by criminal gangs, according to a statement on the Ministry of Citizen Protection’s website.

Anti-immigrant groups “are taking advantage of the disaffection of the average Greek voter against uncontrolled immigration,” said Couloumbis, who is vice-president of the Hellenic Foundation for European & Foreign Policy and writes a regular column in the Athens-based Kathimerini newspaper.

In addition to Golden Dawn, the Independent Greeks party has polled near 10 percent. It was set up on 24 February by Panos Kammenos after he was expelled from New Democracy for casting a vote against the interim Papademos government.

Laos, a nationalist party that wants immigrants to be shipped to uninhabited Greek islands before being deported, is also vying for anti-foreigner voters. Polls show as many as 10 political parties could enter Greece’s parliament.

No Nazis

Golden Dawn caused controversy on the campaign trail when a group of its supporters threw bottles and other objects at a Pasok socialist candidate during a campaign event in the Athens suburb of Maroussi on 21April, Athens News Agency reported.

“Parliament cannot become a reception space for the followers of Nazism and fascism,” Pasok leader Evangelos Venizelos said in response to the incident.

During late March and early April, hundreds of police with dogs began rounding up illegal immigrants in downtown Athens ahead of the creation of detention centers being set up throughout Greece, mostly at disused army bases.

Couloumbis, who experienced Adolf Hitler’s troops as a boy, said Golden Dawn’s winning seats “would be quite damaging.”

“I’m old enough to have lived during the occupation of Greece by the Germans,” he said in an interview. “The last thing we need on top of everything else is to have a bunch of fascists in the Greek parliament.”

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

Greece Opens First Migrant Detention Centre

Greece on Sunday (29 April) set up its first detention centre for undocumented migrants, composed of box homes, surrounded by high wire, and meant to house some 1,200 people. Citizens’ Protection Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis said the centre — situated in Amygdaleza, northwest of Athens — will help the country to deal with immigration. Athens expects to build another 50 similar centres between now and mid-2013.

According to Frontex, the EU’s border agency, some 6,000 people a month were crossing into Greece last summer along the strip. In September alone last year, the Hellenic Police arrested 7,052 immigrants along the Greek-Turkish land border. Turkey has so far resisted signing a readmission agreement with the EU whereby migrants crossing into Greece would be sent back over the border. It is instead holding out for a relaxed EU visa regime.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italy: Foreigners in Italy ‘Tripled in 10 Years’

6.34% of overall population, up from 2.34% in 2001

(ANSA) — Rome, April 27 — The foreign population in Italy has almost tripled over the past 10 years, from 1,334,889 to 3,769,518, Istat said in provisional census data Friday. Foreigners accounted for 6.34% of the overall population as of last October compared to 2.34% in 2001, the statistics agency said.

Istat said foreigners had lent a “decisive” contribution to the overall population rise.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

The Death of Free Speech, Continued: An Alarming Trial in Denmark

By Karen Lugo

When an opinion on sociological trends or a critique of a group ideology results in criminal charges of hate speech, liberal democracy is in danger.

The Danish supreme court has just highlighted that danger. While deciding to acquit Lars Hedegaard, president of the Danish Free Press Society, of intending to speak hatefully for public dissemination, the court emphatically affirmed a statute according to which anyone who “publicly or with the intent of public dissemination issues a pronouncement or other communication by which a group of persons are threatened, insulted or denigrated due to their race, skin colour, national or ethnic origin, religion or sexual orientation is liable to a fine or incarceration for up to two years.”

The prosecution of Hedegaard resulted from remarks that he made during an interview and contends were electronically distributed without his permission. Although Hedegaard explained that he did not intend to accuse the majority of Muslim men of abusive behavior, Denmark’s Office of Public Prosecutions deemed his reflections on the incidence of family rape and the commonness of misogyny in Muslim-dominated areas to be criminally insulting.

The trial-court judge did not find that the prosecution met its burden to demonstrate that Hedegaard meant his comments for public distribution. But the Office of Public Prosecutions appealed to the Copenhagen Eastern Superior Court, in which Hedegaard was convicted. This reversal was based upon the elastic legal standard that Hedegaard “ought to have known” of the potential for dissemination of his remarks.

Upon receiving the guilty verdict, Hedegaard noted that “the real losers [were] freedom of speech and Muslim women,” and wondered how women could be protected “if we risk getting a state sanctioned label of racism” when drawing attention to their plight.

After two years of arguments, the seven-member supreme court declined to apply the lower court’s “ought to know” standard, but affirmed the statute under which Hedegaard had been prosecuted, with its many ambiguities and invitations to abuse. As Hedegaard has said, the result still logically means that one can be criminally liable for speech deemed racist or offensive if one does not “demand written guarantees that nothing be passed on without express approval.”

Regulating speech in this fashion is devastating to the ordered development of a democratic society. First, as Hedegaard’s trial demonstrated, truth is not a defense. In fact, sociological data that would substantiate his observations were not admissible in court. As Hedegaard complained, “the defendant is not allowed to present evidence or call witnesses who might confirm his contention that the Islamic treatment of women is incompatible with the norms of a civilised society.”

Second, the highly general categories of legal offense do not merely seek to protect races of people — hard enough to define — but now cover beliefs, dogmas, and doctrines. Destructive ideologies that cry out for inspection are thus invited to propagate behind a veil.

“If our Western freedom means anything at all,” Hedegaard argued before the court, “we must insist that every grown-up person is responsible for his or her beliefs, opinions, culture, habits and actions. The price we all have to pay for the freedom to disseminate one’s political persuasion and religious beliefs is that others have a right to criticise our politics, our religion and our culture.”

America is not as far behind Europe in policing thought and speech as it may seem. To be sure, when the U.S. Supreme Court has heard cases, such as Snyder v. Phelps, involving the right to speak candidly on matters of public concern, it has consistently upheld the right of individuals to discuss and debate — even protecting cruel and “hurtful speech on public issues to ensure that we do not stifle public debate.” American appellate courts have also been vigilant in fending off speech restrictions that are vague or so broad as to invite oppression and arbitrary enforcement. Yet not all appointed or elected rulemakers are as inclined to respect public debate. Four Democratic New York state senators have recently argued for a “more refined First Amendment,” declaring that speech should be “a special entitlement granted by the state on a conditional basis that can be revoked if it is ever abused or maltreated.” These legislators justified their proposed speech restrictions in the context of cyberbullying; there is always some hideous incident to use as the rationale for censoring speech…

[Return to headlines]


Dark Matter May Collide With Atoms Inside You More Often Than Thought

Invisible dark matter particles may regularly pass through our bodies, and dozens to thousands of these particles may be colliding with atoms inside us every year, according to a new calculation. However, radiation from these impacts is unlikely to cause cancer, investigators added.

Dark matter is one of the greatest scientific mysteries of our time — an invisible substance thought to make up five-sixths of all matter in the universe. Scientists think it might be composed of things called weakly interacting massive particles, or WIMPs, that interact normally with gravity but very weakly with all the other known forces of the universe.

Its ghostly nature makes it exceedingly difficult to directly prove whether dark matter really exists or what its properties really are. Dark matter is largely thought to be intangible, its presence detectable only via the gravitational pull it exerts.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Humans Really Are Still Evolving, Study Finds

Natural forces of evolution still continue to shape humanity despite the power we have to profoundly alter the world around us, researchers say.

Evolution occurs in response to outside forces that weed out whatever individuals are least fit to survive those pressures, allowing those better-fit individuals to survive and reproduce. However, since humans radically alter their environments, some researchers have questioned whether natural forces of selection continue to act upon our species. For instance, agriculture can generate surplus food that can insulate us from many ills of the world.

The findings, detailed online today (April 30) in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, add to accumulating evidence of our continued evolution. For instance, past research has suggested the human brain has been shrinking over the past 5,000 years. Another study of an island population in Quebec found a genetic push toward a younger age at first reproduction and larger families.

To explore this debate further, scientists examined church records of nearly 6,000 Finns born between 1760 and 1849, which detailed information on births, deaths, marriages and economic status. The data enabled the researchers to investigate human patterns of survival and reproduction and compare them with other species — genealogy is very popular in Finland, and the country has some of the best available data for such research.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Move Over Graphene, Silicene is the New Star Material

AFTER only a few years basking in the limelight, wonder material graphene has a competitor in the shape of silicene. For the first time, silicon has been turned into a sheet just one atom thick. Silicene is thought to have similar electronic properties to graphene but ought to be more compatible with silicon-based electronic devices.

Patrick Vogt of Berlin’s Technical University in Germany, and colleagues at Aix-Marseille University in France created silicene by condensing silicon vapour onto a silver plate to form a single layer of atoms. They then measured the optical, chemical and electronic properties of the layer, showing it closely matched those predicted by theory.

Silicene may turn out to be a better bet than graphene for smaller and cheaper electronic devices because it can be integrated more easily into silicon chip production lines.

In 2010, another Aix-Marseille group led by Bernard Aufray attempted create silicene using a similar approach but failed to present convincing evidence that it was present. Michel Houssa of the Catholic University of Leuven (KUL) in Belgium, who was not involved in the new work, says: “In my opinion, this is the first compelling evidence that silicene can be grown on silver.”

He says an important challenge now will be to grow silicene on insulating substrates to learn more about its electrical properties and understand how they can be exploited to build future electronic devices.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Odds of Finding Alien Life Boosted by Billions of Habitable Worlds

A new estimate of the number of habitable planets orbiting the most common type of stars in our galaxy could have huge consequences for the search for life. According to a recent study, tens of billions of planets around red dwarfs are likely capable of containing liquid water, dramatically increasing the potential to find signs of life somewhere other than Earth.

Red dwarfs are stars that are fainter, cooler and less massive than the sun. These stars, which typically also live longer than Class G stars like the sun, are thought to make up about 80 percent of the stars in the Milky Way, astronomers have said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]