Sunday, January 12, 2003

News Feed 20120520

Financial Crisis
»Congressional Leaders Gird for ‘Chaos’ Session Over Tax Hikes, Debt Ceiling
»Europe on Journey to the Unknown if Greece Exits
»Every Italian Forks Out €2,849 for Public-Sector Workers
»G8 Leaders Want Greece to Remain in Eurozone
»Greece Tourism Hit by Euro Crisis
»Italy: Trade Surplus Posted From Non-EU Demand
»12 Images That Demonstrate How the New World Order Openly Mocks US
»Mark Steyn: Eternally Shifting Sands of Obama’s Biography
»New World Order: Death of America
»Officials: Tinley Park Melee Begun by Protesters Targeting Alleged White Supremacists
»Revving Up the Race Card
»Source: Group Beaten at Tinley Park Restaurant Was White Supremacists
Europe and the EU
»4 Killed After Magnitude-6.0 Earthquake Shakes Northern Italy
»Belgium: Rightist EU MP Filip Dewinter, Dad of an-Sofie, Welcomes Jewish Envoy to Parliament
»Earliest Wall Art is Found in France
»Humanity’s Best Friend: How Dogs May Have Helped Humans Beat the Neanderthals
»In Memoriam David Littman: 1933-2012
»Israel Seeks to Deploy 20,000 Commandos in Greek Cyprus
»Italy’s Elderly Ruling Class
»Italy: Finmeccanica Board Member Probed for Illegal Party Financing
»Powerful Earthquake Hits Northern Italy
»The Oldest Farming Village in the Mediterranean Islands is Discovered in Cyprus
North Africa
»Lockerbie Bomber Megrahi Has Died in Libya: Brother
»Lockerbie Bomber Abdel Baset Al-Megrahi Dies in Libya
»The Rise of Islamist Political Economy: The New Capitalists
Israel and the Palestinians
»Dutch Gas Companies Set Sights on Israel
Middle East
»Iranians Protest Against Gulf States Union
»Mixed-Sex Wrestling Under Investigation in Turkey
»Bronze Age ‘Facebook’ Discovered by Cambridge Experts
South Asia
»Pakistan Blocks Twitter, Cites “Blasphemous” Content
»Stone Carvers Defy Taliban to Return to the Bamiyan Valley
Far East
»China: State TV Host Offers Advice on How to Throw Out ‘Foreign Trash’
»Two Big Stories, One Conclusion: China Has No ‘Legal System’
Latin America
»‘Suicide’ Art Statues Spark Panicked Calls to Cops in Brazil
Culture Wars
»Feminist Group Protest at Cannes Premiere

Financial Crisis

Congressional Leaders Gird for ‘Chaos’ Session Over Tax Hikes, Debt Ceiling

Republican and Democratic congressional leaders are stepping up their war of words over a looming lame-duck session that is already being described as “chaos in Congress,” as they gird for a marathon debate tackling everything from the debt ceiling to hundreds of billions of dollars in scheduled tax hikes.

At the center of the debate is the scheduled expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts. This, combined with other changes like the expiration of the payroll tax cut backed by President Obama, will add up to a roughly $310 billion tax hike, according to a letter penned by Senate Republicans this past week.

“This would be, without any exaggeration, the largest tax increase in American history,” they wrote.

The tax provisions, though, are just part of the mix. The country could bump up against the debt ceiling by early next year, leading House Speaker John Boehner this past week to once again demand spending cuts in exchange for a vote to increase that cap. In addition, spending cuts to the military and other areas triggered by last year’s debt-ceiling deal are scheduled to kick in at the beginning of 2013.

With so much clumped on Congress’ plate at the end of the year, leaders in both parties are calling on one another to begin dealing with the issues now — as in, before the November election. They’re also moving to insulate themselves politically, by claiming to take the initiative on problems that months from now could end in stalemate.

House Speaker John Boehner and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi traded barbs on the issue Sunday. Pelosi, on ABC’s “This Week,” accused Boehner of going “over the edge.” She said threatening to hold up the debt-ceiling increase “is not a responsible, mature, sensible place for us to go.”

But that was then, and now Biography is also about maps. For example, have you ever thought it would be way cooler to have been born in colonial Kenya?

Whoa, that sounds like crazy Birther talk; don’t go there! But Breitbart News did, and it turns out that the earliest recorded example of Birtherism is from the president’s own literary agent, way back in 1991, in the official bio of her exciting new author:

“Barack Obama, the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review, was born in Kenya and raised in Indonesia and Hawaii.”

So the lunatic theory that Barack Obama doesn’t meet the minimum eligibility requirements to be president of the United States was first advanced by Barack Obama’s official representative. Where did she get that wacky idea from? “This was nothing more than a fact-checking error by me,” says Obama’s literary agent, Miriam Goderich, a “fact” that went so un-”checked” that it stayed up on her agency’s website in the official biography of her by-then-famous client up until 2007:

“He was born in Kenya to an American anthropologist and a Kenyan finance minister.” And then in April 2007, someone belatedly decided to “check” the 16-year-old “fact” and revised the biography, a few weeks into the now non-Kenyan’s campaign for the presidency. Fancy that!

When it comes to conspiracies, I’m an Occam’s Razor man. The more obvious explanation of the variable first line in the eternally shifting sands of Obama’s biography is that, rather than pretending to have been born in Hawaii, he’s spent much of his life pretending to have been born in Kenya.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Europe on Journey to the Unknown if Greece Exits

As investors and European leaders big and small tot up the potential cost of Greece departing the euro, the European Union too stands perilously close to meltdown after six decades in the making.

Weeks ago still an elephant in the room, Athens’ looming exit from the club of 17 nations sharing the single currency has become the hottest topic in town since Greece’s inconclusive elections this month.

Markets put the collateral damage of “Grexit” — Greek Exit — at between 150 to 500 billion euros, while political analysts see the bloc at worst tumbling like a house of cards, at best pulling together to pluck a new future from the ruins.

“It is a very very risky game, a very unpredictable situation,” Jan Techau, director of the Carnegie Europe think-tank, told AFP. “Once you pull the plug no one knows what will happen, which is why everyone’s trying so hard to avoid this.”

Credited with underpinning European peace and democracy for more than half a century, the EU has seen rough-and-tumble times, but the sovereign debt crisis has spawned its worst nightmare — prospects of a failed Greek state on its periphery and a domino-effect shrinkage of the bloc.

Analysts paint a bleak picture of events in Greece should it quit the euro, with banks collapsing, the currency nose-diving, unemployment ballooning and riots in the streets.

“The greater political symbolism would be hugely damaging for European integration,” added Techau. “It would undermine the idea of solidarity, shattering efforts to construct Europe.”

“If the glue comes undone it will hurt the entire European project.”

Worried by the prospect of anti-austerity Greeks winning a vote re-run next month and refusing to pay back hundreds of billions in loans, European leaders, including austerity hardliner German Chancellor Angela Merkel, have softened their line.

A Greek exit “will delight extremists. It’s a very bleak option, which is why we’re hearing all these calls to Greece not to depart,” said Jean-Dominique Giuliani, who heads the Robert Schuman foundation in Brussels.

But such talk may be too little too late.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Every Italian Forks Out €2,849 for Public-Sector Workers

Court of Auditors warns of falling productivity and criticises public-sector agreement

ROME — If we consider public-sector wages in proportion to the number of taxpayers, Italians pay more than Germans at €2,849 each in comparison with €2,830 in Germany. No surprise there. What is more surprising is that Italy’s per capita spending is higher than either Greece’s (€2,436) or Spain’s (€2,708). We should note that some countries are even more generous than Italy, such as the UK (€3,118) or Holland (€3,557), to say nothing of France (€4,001), where spending is set to rise this year by a further €4 billion.

But the real issue is not the level of spending. Italy is well within the European average at 11.1% of GDP, albeit fully 3.2 percentage points above Germany, where spending has fallen by 0.3% in ten years while Italy’s has risen by 0.6%. What matters is efficiency, a sore point with Italian public administration. All this comes across in a report from the Court of Auditors: “In a context of lower system-wide competitiveness in Italy, there are worrying signals regarding public-sector productivity”.

The report just released by Luigi Giampaolino and his fellow magistrates has a chart showing that productivity, which rose by more than 2% in 2010, has fallen back to zero and even started to decline in 2012 “in line with GDP trend estimates”. In other words, the labour cost per unit of product is starting to rise again. So who is to blame? The lack of meritocracy. The report points out that the suspension of contract negotiations put in place in 2010 to slow expenditure has “entailed delayed implementation of the most significant regulations for the evaluation of individual employee merit and diligence contained in legislative decree no.150/2009”. It has also “blocked the launch of the new model for union relations outlined in the 30 April 2009 agreement, oriented principally towards the effective correlation of disbursement of additional pay to the recovery of administrative efficiency”.

It’s music to the ears of former civil service minister Renato Brunetta, who masterminded the operation, and whose former head of secretariat and successor, Filippo Patroni Griffi, followed suit: “Rewarding the best and increasing productivity are our priorities. We need to put them into practice”. However, the Court of Auditors appears unconvinced, judging by the “perplexities” over the “contents of the recent agreement of central government, regions, provinces, municipalities and unions” that emerge from the report. The agreement, says the report, undoes the progress made by the Brunetta reform and could leave everything the way it was, allowing the public sector to prefer “indiscriminate distribution of additional pay uninfluenced by genuinely selective, reward-focused criteria”.

In the meantime, the effects of the clampdown a couple of years ago have made themselves felt in no uncertain terms. Proof is there in the fact that in 2010 the cost of public-sector workers fell for the first time since a “private-sector element” was introduced to labour relations. The exact figure was 1.5% for a total expenditure of €152.2 billion. Not earth-shaking, perhaps, but a milestone for a country like Italy. By the end of 2010, there were 3,458,857 public-sector employees, 67,174 fewer than the previous year. Cuts were made everywhere, with one or two exceptions. As usual, provincial authorities and special-statute regions continued to hire in 2010, even in sectors like education. In the rest of Italy, schools lost about 32,000 employees while in Trento and Bolzano, staffing numbers rose by 441…

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

G8 Leaders Want Greece to Remain in Eurozone

Leaders of the eight largest economies have affirmed their commitment on Saturday to a “strong and cohesive” eurozone with Greece as a member. They also stressed the need to promote growth and fiscal discipline.

G8 leaders meeting at US President Barack Obama’s weekend retreat of Camp David in Maryland said on Saturday that they want to see Greece remain in the eurozone as part of a “strong and cohesive” eurozone to ensure “global stability and recovery.”

The leaders of the US, the UK, Germany, France, Canada, Russia, Japan and Italy also committed themselves to “take all necessary steps to strengthen and reinvigorate our economies and combat financial stresses, recognizing that the right measures are not the same for each of us,” hinting at the ongoing debate about stimulating growth versus fiscal discipline.

Earlier on Saturday, British Prime Minister David Cameron had agreed with German Chancellor Angela Merkel that “growth and austerity aren’t alternatives,” suggesting that measures for economic stimulus as well as austerities had to come together.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Greece Tourism Hit by Euro Crisis

(ATHENS) — Europeans are avoiding vacations to Greece this summer fearing instability sparked by the debt crisis, industry sources say, inflicting a hard blow to the country’s already devastated economy.

“From the aftermath of the elections on May 6, we have experienced a 50 percent drop in bookings,” said George Drakopoulos, director general of the association of Greek tourism enterprises (SETE).

Though tourism from Germany this year is back on the rise, overall booking numbers are still plummeting ahead of the busy summer season, Drakopoulos said.

“Hotels make appealing offers, but that is not the issue here. For many of the tourists visiting Greece, it is a matter of security on top of value for money.”

This comes after a particularly profitable 2011 season, where Greece benefited from the unrest in the northern Africa.

According to SETE, tourism represents 15.7 percent of Greece’s output and employs 768,000 people, either directly and indirectly.

Panagiotis Moriatis, president of the association of hotel owners of Nafplion — a highly popular tourist destination close to the Bronze Age site of Mycenae — said business this year should drop by up to 15 percent.

Moriatis blamed bad publicity: “Foreign media only portray the troubles in Athens and show nothing of the rest of Greece, where conditions are the exact opposite.”

“Athens is the city that has suffered the greatest damage. Fewer tourists visit Athens and this takes its toll on other cities,” Moriatis added.

Germans in particular are thought to be avoiding Greece in fear of retribution by angry locals for two years of austerity measures many Greeks link to Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel.

“Last year we had a 10 percent rise in German tourists. This year we have a 25 to 30-percent drop. German tourists are afraid that they are in danger if they visit Greece,” said SETE’s Drakopoulos.

But Sybille Zeuch of the German Travel Association (DRV) said that, despite a lukewarm start in early 2012, bookings are on the rise over the past few weeks. “Many (German tourists) are regulars and they know that islands are not affected (by events taking place in Athens),” she said

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italy: Trade Surplus Posted From Non-EU Demand

Rome, 16 May (AKI) — Italy in March posted a trade surplus as demand for the country’s products picked up outside the European Union.

Exports of Italian goods rose 1.7 percent over February, with exports to non-EU members rising 4.1 percent, national statistics agency Istat said on Wednesday.

Exports rose 4.9 percent compared with the same month in 2011.

Italy and the other eurozone countries are in recession. Consumers are spending less as governments cut spending and raise taxes to put their financial houses in order.

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


12 Images That Demonstrate How the New World Order Openly Mocks US

If you know what to look for, it quickly becomes obvious that the elite of the world are not even trying to hide their insidious plans for the planet. They hope to unite the entire globe under their leadership, and they don’t think that we are strong enough or smart enough to stop them.

They openly embed symbols expressing their desire for a one world economic system, a one world religion and a one world government on our buildings, on our monuments, and on our money; and they think that it is funny that most people have no idea what those symbols mean.

The New World Order openly mocks us and they seem to take pleasure in giving us “clues” about what their plans are for humanity.

The following are 12 pictures that demonstrate how the New World Order openly mocks us….

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Mark Steyn: Eternally Shifting Sands of Obama’s Biography

It used to be a lot simpler. As E.C. Bentley deftly summarized it in 1905:

“Geography is about maps. But Biography is about chaps.”

But that was then, and now Biography is also about maps. For example, have you ever thought it would be way cooler to have been born in colonial Kenya?

Whoa, that sounds like crazy Birther talk; don’t go there! But Breitbart News did, and it turns out that the earliest recorded example of Birtherism is from the president’s own literary agent, way back in 1991, in the official bio of her exciting new author:

“Barack Obama, the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review, was born in Kenya and raised in Indonesia and Hawaii.”

So the lunatic theory that Barack Obama doesn’t meet the minimum eligibility requirements to be president of the United States was first advanced by Barack Obama’s official representative. Where did she get that wacky idea from? “This was nothing more than a fact-checking error by me,” says Obama’s literary agent, Miriam Goderich, a “fact” that went so un-”checked” that it stayed up on her agency’s website in the official biography of her by-then-famous client up until 2007:

“He was born in Kenya to an American anthropologist and a Kenyan finance minister.” And then in April 2007, someone belatedly decided to “check” the 16-year-old “fact” and revised the biography, a few weeks into the now non-Kenyan’s campaign for the presidency. Fancy that!

When it comes to conspiracies, I’m an Occam’s Razor man. The more obvious explanation of the variable first line in the eternally shifting sands of Obama’s biography is that, rather than pretending to have been born in Hawaii, he’s spent much of his life pretending to have been born in Kenya.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

New World Order: Death of America

The map above was copyrighted in 1942 and published in Philadelphia PA. It was likely compiled before Pearl Harbor and a copy was received by the Library of Congress on Feb. 25, 1942 as shown by the stamp. Another stamp suggests it was entered into the map collection on Mar. 31, 1942. I regret I had to sacrifice a bit of quality to reduce loading time here.

Below is the plan outlined at the bottom of the map. I removed it from the map to speed up the display in my original post in blogspot. I’m leaving it here for those who may want to copy the text. It’s a lot easier than trying to pull it off the map. Reading it is essential to understanding the map and what these “elites” have planned for us under the tyranny of them, by them, and for them.


39. In the New World Moral Order which we seek to establish, beside the essential political freedom, the following fundamental economic changes are imperative:

(a) Nationalization of all natural resources and equitable distribution of same to all nations everywhere in the world;

(b) Nationalization of international banking, foreign investments, railroads and power plants — everywhere in the world;

(c) Nationalization of an armaments producing establishments by all remaining military powers;

(d) Federal control of foreign commerce and shipping;

(e) The establishment of a world common monetary system;

40. To retain the victory and leadership of our united democratic effort the aim of which is not vengeance or exploitation, but freedom and security to all nations for peaceful progress — the unified “Supreme War Command of the United Nations” at the conclusion of the present war, shall be reorganized and transformed into a permanent “Supreme Military and Economic Council” collaborating with the “World League of Nationalities” in post-war reconstruction and to enforce world peace.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Officials: Tinley Park Melee Begun by Protesters Targeting Alleged White Supremacists

The melee at a Tinley Park restaurant Saturday appears to have been the work of radical protesters who wanted to attack a gathering of alleged white supremacists, the mayor and a law enforcement source said.

Ten people were injured at the Ashford House Restaurant on 159th Street after 15 to 18 young people, wearing hooded black jackets and wielding bats and hammers, burst inside and attacked another group of 12 to 15 people who were meeting there, officials said.

Mayor Ed Zabrocki said police believe the attackers were from a group called Anti-Racist Action, which on its website described the assault as a strike against a gathering of white supremacists.

The law enforcement source said the victims included several people with ties to a white supremacist group. Zabrocki said that was his understanding, too, but that police were still trying to clarify those links.

Five people remained in custody in connection with the attack, Zabrocki said, adding that the state’s attorney’s office was exploring criminal charges.

Restaurant owner Mike Winston said the group that was attacked had made a reservation, saying they were from an Irish heritage association.

“We had no idea who these people were,” he said. “We don’t ask for people’s political stuff when they come in the door.”

The trouble put a deep dent in his business, he said. A wedding shower booked for Sunday was canceled, he said, and the normally packed dining room was practically barren.

           — Hat tip: Takuan Seiyo[Return to headlines]

Revving Up the Race Card

Democrats’ backers deploy radical tactics to expand welfare state

A George Soros-funded pressure group is behind a new drive to teach Democratic congressmen how to smear their opponents as racist.

Last week House Democrats were tutored by the radical, left-wing, racial spoils group known as the Center for Social Inclusion. The group was brought in “to address the issue of race to defend government programs,” Joel Gehrke reported in the WashingtonExaminer.

“The prepared content of a Tuesday presentation to the House Democratic Caucus and staff indicates that Democrats will seek to portray apparently neutral free-market rhetoric as being charged with racial bias, conscious or unconscious,” Mr. Gehrke wrote.

Trainer Maya Wiley of the Center for Social Inclusion lectured the assembled lawmakers that “conservative messages” are “racially ‘coded,’ “ and suggested ways to combat this sinister subliminal messaging cooked up by the Wile E. Coyotes of the Republican National Committee.

Facts don’t matter in Ms. Wiley’s estimation. “It’s emotional connection, not rational connection that we need,” she said.

Ms. Wiley argued that Newt Gingrich labeling President Obama a “food stamp president,” cannot possibly be “a race-neutral statement, even if Newt Gingrich did not intend racism.” In other words, even though the federal food stamp program has ballooned under the Obama administration, all criticism of Mr. Obama for that increased welfare spending — however seemingly legitimate — is rooted in racism.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Source: Group Beaten at Tinley Park Restaurant Was White Supremacists

TINLEY PARK, Illinois (STMW) — A law enforcement source Sunday said the group beaten at a Tinley Park restaurant Saturday was made up of white supremacists, and those who assaulted them were protesters attacking their beliefs.

Police had five people in custody after the attack, which occured at The Ashford House, 7959 W. 159th St. around noon. No charges have been filed yet, and the suspects did not appear in bond court Sunday.

Tinley Park Mayor Ed Zabrocki on Sunday said police do not know if the protesters had any connection to the NATO Summit in downtown Chicago.

He said police still have 35 to 40 people to interview, and charges could come Monday

The men in custody aren’t talking yet to police, he said.

Restaurant owner Mike Winston said he was working in the kitchen the restaurant during the lunch rush when a waitress screamed that a fight had broken out in the dining room.

Winston said a mob wielding metal batons and hammers hurt ten diners in the attack, and three of those were hospitalized.

Winston said 18 young men, all wearing hooded jackets and obscuring their faces with scarves and other coverings, stormed into the restaurant. Police said there were 15 to 18 attackers.

“They came running in the door single file,” said Winston, who owns the restaurant and the adjacent Winston’s Market.

Winston and police said the men knew who their targets were and that the attack wasn’t a random act of violence. Winston said the mob “targeted” a group of 20 diners, all of whom were from out of state.

“Once they attacked the table, they went and started hitting random people,” Winston said.

Along with hammers, the men used what Winston described as “old-fashioned police batons” as well as metal batons.

“Four or five people got knocked over the head pretty good, enough to require stitches,” he said.

He chased after one of the attackers “and had him on the ground, then five guys got out of a car and started kicking the (crap) out of me,” Winston said.

Winston said he was kicked in the back of the head and suffered several bruises, but he was the only restaurant employee who was hurt.

“They did a whole lot of damage,” he said. “They flipped over tables, they broke half the dishes.”

Surveillance cameras inside the restaurant captured the attack and footage was turned over to Tinley Park police, Winston said.

Police said the attackers fled in three vehicles, and that one vehicle was stopped near the intersection of 159th and Harlem Avenue.

Winston said that during the attack most of the men’s face coverings were torn off.

“Most of these kids were white, and they all looked like they were between 18 and 25,” he said.

In a news release, police tried to assure residents the attack was “an isolated incident” and that “there is no immediate threat to the community.”

           — Hat tip: Takuan Seiyo[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

4 Killed After Magnitude-6.0 Earthquake Shakes Northern Italy

A magnitude-6.0 earthquake shook several small towns in northeast Italy Sunday, killing four people, knocking down a clock tower and other centuries-old buildings and causing millions in losses to the region known for making Parmesan cheese.

The quake struck at 4:04 a.m., with its epicenter about 35 kilometers (22 miles) north of Bologna at a relatively shallow depth of 5 kilometers (3.2 miles), the U.S. Geological Survey said. Civil protection agency official Adriano Gumina described it as the worst quake to hit the region since the 1300s.

Premier Mario Monti, in Chicago for the NATO summit, told reporters he was returning to Italy before the meeting ends because of the quake. The quake struck in the farm region known for production of Parmigiano and Grana cheeses. Italy’s farm lobby Coldiretti said that some 200,000 huge, round cheeses were damaged, causing a loss to producers of euro50 million ($65 milion).

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Belgium: Rightist EU MP Filip Dewinter, Dad of an-Sofie, Welcomes Jewish Envoy to Parliament

“The European countries must understand that without the State of Israel there’s no stopping the Islamic tide from washing up Europe, and that without Judea and Samaria the State of Israel is not viable,” — Gershon Mesika, Shomron Regional Council

The flamboyant and outspoken leader of the Belgian rightist libertarian party Vlaams Belang Felip DeWinter has welcomed a top Israeli patriot to Brussels. DeWinter, father of anti-Islamist activist An-Sofie DeWinter, told media representatives that support for Israel was important for the preservation of Western civilization.

From Arutz Sheva, “European Parliamentarians Pleased with Mesika’s Visit to the EU — European parliamentarians pleased with speech by the head of the Shomron Regional Council, reaffirm support for Israel” May 17:

Belgian MP Frank Creyelman told Arutz Sheva that meetings with both Jews and Arabs are important because they help Europeans better understand the issues at hand.

“Encounters like this are very important because we see not only the Jewish side of the story, which we know and which we support, but also the Palestinian side of the story,” he said. “And of course, being a nationalist, I can cope with both these native peoples who have their way of thinking about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

Creyelman added, “In our country it’s quite important because we have a lot of Muslim immigrants who tend to be more radical than they are in the Middle East.”

His remarks were echoed by Belgian MP Tanguy Veys, who noted that “in Europe and Belgium, most supporters of the Palestinian cause are Muslim extremists and extreme left politicians. For the first time, I felt that there’s also a possibility to have a peace message.”

European Parliament member Filip DeWinter echoed his colleagues’ sentiments and also had an important message for Israelis.

“People in Israel have to know that they have a lot of friends here in Europe, because I think we have a common struggle going on: the struggle against radical Islam,” said DeWinter. “We are aware of the fact that Israel is the only European, Western and democratic country in the Middle East, surrounded by radical Islamic countries who want to kick all the Israelis into the sea.

           — Hat tip: TV[Return to headlines]

Earliest Wall Art is Found in France

A massive block of limestone in France contains what scientists believe are the earliest known engravings of wall art dating back some 37,000 years, according to a study published Monday.

The 1.5 metric ton ceiling piece was first discovered in 2007 at Abri Castanet, a well known archeological site in southwestern France which holds some of the earliest forms of artwork, beads and pierced shells.

According to New York University anthropology professor Randall White, lead author of the paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the art was likely meant to adorn the interior of a shelter for reindeer hunters.

“They decorated the places where they were living, where they were doing all their daily activities,” White told AFP. “There is a whole question about how and why, and why here in this place at this particular time you begin to see people spending so much time and energy and imagination on the graphics.”

The images range from paintings of horses to “vulvar imagery” that appears to represent female sex organs, carved into the low ceiling that rose between 1.5 to two meters (yards) from the floor, within reach of the hunters.

The work is less sophisticated than the elaborate paintings of animals found in France’s Grotte Chauvet, which was more remote and difficult to access, believed to be between 30,000 and 36,000 years old.

In contrast, the engravings and paintings at Castanet, which carbon dating showed were about 37,000 years old, are rougher and more primitive in style, and were likely done by everyday people.

“This art appears to be slightly older than the famous paintings from the Grotte Chauvet in southeastern France,” said White, referring to the cave paintings discovered in 1994. “But unlike the Chauvet paintings and engravings, which are deep underground and away from living areas, the engravings and paintings at Castanet are directly associated with everyday life, given their proximity to tools, fireplaces, bone and antler tool production, and ornament workshops.”

However, even though the artwork is vastly different, archeologists believe the artists came from the same Aurignacian culture which comprised the first modern humans in Europe, replacing the Neanderthals. They lived from 40,000 years ago until about 28,000 years ago.

“Early Aurignacian humans functioned, more or less, like humans today,” said White. “They had relatively complex social identities communicated through personal ornamentation, and they practiced sculpture and graphic arts.”

Co-authors on the paper came from leading archeology labs and universities in France and Britain.

In a separate study published last week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, French scientists described the paintings at Chauvet as “the oldest and most elaborate ever discovered.” Those finding were based on an analysis — called geomorphological and chlorine-36 dating — of the rock slide surfaces around what is believed to be the cave’s only entrance.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Humanity’s Best Friend: How Dogs May Have Helped Humans Beat the Neanderthals

Over 20,000 years ago, humans won the evolutionary battle against Neanderthals. They may have had some assistance in that from their best friends.

Anthropologist Pat Shipman of Pen State University thinks that modern humans may have had an advantage over Neanderthals in Europe through the assistance of domesticated dogs. A 27,000-year-old dog burial has been unearthed in the Czech Republic, along with dog teeth that may have been worn as jewelry. Also, dogs are rarely depicted in cave art, suggesting that Paleolithic people viewed them as fellow hunters, rather than game animals.

It has been shown that modern humans and dogs are able to communicate with eye contact. Shipman suggests that people may have evolved expressive eyes with highly visible sclera for silent communication while hunting in groups with dogs. “No genetic study has yet confirmed the prevalence or absence of white sclera in Paleolithic modern humans or in Neanderthals. But if the white sclera mutation occurred more often among the former — perhaps by chance — this feature could have enhanced human-dog communication and promoted domestication,” she said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

In Memoriam David Littman: 1933-2012

by Jerry Gordon

We are saddened to report the passing today after a long illness of David Littman in Geneva, Switzerland . A funeral will be held in Geneva on Wednesday, May 23rd with interment at the Jewish Cemetery in adjacent Veyrier, France. A memorial in his honor will be held subsequently. The following is an excerpt from his biography:…

           — Hat tip: Jerry Gordon[Return to headlines]

Israel Seeks to Deploy 20,000 Commandos in Greek Cyprus

Israel wants its energy projects in Greek Cyprus to be run by Israelis and is seeking to deploy as many as 20,000 commandos for their protection, Anatolia news agency reported today.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Greek Cypriot counterpart, Demetris Christofias, met on Feb. 16 to discuss the two countries’ joint ventures. Details of the talks between the two leaders were kept secret.

Anatolia cited a source it said was close to the Greek Cypriot government who reportedly said Christophias specifically asked Netanyahu to convince Israeli businessmen to halt their investments in Turkish Cyprus during the meeting.

Netanyahu reportedly offered during the same meeting to undertake all the expenses required to construct a gas plant needed to extract the natural gas found in the Mediterranean Sea, the report said. In exchange, Netanyahu asked that all the 10,000 personnel that would work at the plant be brought in from Israel with their families, which would increase the number to nearly 30,000.

The high number of Israelis in Greek Cyprus would present a security issue, which Netanyahu suggested be solved by sending as many as 20,000 Israeli commandos to safeguard both the Israelis and the natural gas plant, the agency said.

Israel’s offer sought to place the personnel and commandos in Limassol in Greek Cyprus.

Anatolia’s source in Greek Cyprus reportedly said, “The Israelis were coming here to settle for good.”

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

Italy’s Elderly Ruling Class

Average age (59) is highest in European Union. Coldiretti warns top job-holders will retire before crisis is beaten. Oldest professors in world

MILAN — With their average age of 59, Italy’s ruling classes in politics, the economy and public administration are the oldest in Europe. The picture emerges from the first report on the average age of credit-crunched Italy’s ruling classes, presented at the assembly of the Coldiretti farmers’ association youth section and compiled in collaboration with the university of Calabria. “The majority of the current ruling classes will probably retire before the crisis has been overcome, even taking into account the reforms of employment minister Elsa Fornero”, quipped Coldiretti’s national youth delegate, Vittorio Sangiorgio. He went on to point out that “record youth unemployment is not just a family or social issue. It causes ageing of the ruling classes in a country that has to face the crisis while denying itself energy and resources that are crucial to growth”…

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

Italy: Finmeccanica Board Member Probed for Illegal Party Financing

Defence giant under bribery investigation

(ANSA) — Rome, May 16 — Franco Bonferroni, a board member of Italian defence giant Finmeccanica, is under investigation for illegal party financing, a shareholders meeting revealed Wednesday. The company has been hit by an investigation into allegations that its managers were involved in issuing false invoices and the creation of slush funds to bribe politicians.

Pier Francesco Guarguaglini, who had been Finmeccanica’s chairman and CEO since 2002, was forced to resign in December after being named as one of the probed managers.

Fimeccanica is also currently linked to a bribes probe with the scandal-plagued Northern League party, whose ex-leader, Umberto Bossi, was also placed under investigation Wednesday for alleged fraud in a separate case. Chairman and CEO Giuseppe Orsi was placed under investigation three weeks ago for allegedly paying millions of euros in bribes to the League.

The Northern League and Finmeccanica have both denied kickbacks reports.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Powerful Earthquake Hits Northern Italy

At least six people have died and dozens more were injured by a 6.0-magnitude earthquake in northern Italy early on Sunday. The tremor caused extensive property damage in the historic region.

A powerful earthquake struck Italy’s industrial and densely populated northeast early on Sunday, killing six people and injuring dozens. Homes, factories and churches around the historic city of Ferrara have been badly damaged, and it is feared that historic buildings have been badly affected.

“Italy is a very quake-prone country. What we can say is that 5.9 or 6.0 is the maximum strength there has ever been in these zones in the past,” said Enzo Boschi, a well-regarded seismologist in Italy.

Rescue services said at least 50 were injured in the 6.0-magnitude quake, which struck around 4 a.m. local time (0200 GMT). The epicentre, according to authorities, was the commune of Finale Emilia, 36 kilometres (22 miles) north of Bologna.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

The Oldest Farming Village in the Mediterranean Islands is Discovered in Cyprus

The oldest agricultural settlement ever found on a Mediterranean island has been discovered in Cyprus by a team of French archaeologists involving CNRS, the National Museum of Natural History, INRAP, EHESS and the University of Toulouse. Previously it was believed that, due to the island’s geographic isolation, the first Neolithic farming societies did not reach Cyprus until a thousand years after the birth of agriculture in the Middle East (ca. 9500 to 9400 BCE). However, the discovery of Klimonas, a village that dates from nearly 9000 years before Christ, proves that early cultivators migrated to Cyprus from the Middle Eastern continent shortly after the emergence of agriculture there, bringing with them wheat as well as dogs and cats.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Lockerbie Bomber Megrahi Has Died in Libya: Brother

TRIPOLI (Reuters) — Abdel Basset al-Megrahi, the Libyan convicted of the 1988 bombing of a PanAm flight over Lockerbie, died of cancer on Sunday aged 60, leaving many questions on the attack and its aftermath unanswered.

Megrahi who said he was not responsible for bringing the jumbo jet down on the Scottish town and killing 270 people, was found guilty in 2001 but released in 2009 and returned to Libya because he had terminal cancer and not expected to live long.

That decision by officials in Scotland angered relatives of many victims, 189 of whom were American, and was criticized by Washington as Megrahi returned to a hero’s welcome from Muammar Gaddafi. That he survived for nearly three more years, outliving Gaddafi himself, who was overthrown last year, caused discomfort in Britain. Prime Minister David Cameron, visiting the United States on Sunday, said Megrahi should never have been freed.

Megrahi’s brother Mohammed told Reuters he had died at his home in the Libyan capital from complications from prostate cancer. “He was too sick to utter anything on his deathbed,” another brother, Abdulhakim, said outside Megrahi’s house.

“Just because Abdul Basset is dead doesn’t mean the past is now erased,” he said. “We will always tell the world that my brother was innocent.”

Megrahi, the only person convicted for the bombing, was found guilty under Scots law of secretly loading a suitcase bomb onto a plane at Malta’s Luqa Airport, where he was head of operations for Libyan Arab Airlines in December 1988.

The suitcase was transferred at Frankfurt to another flight and then onto New York-bound PanAm Flight 103 at London’s Heathrow airport, concluded Scottish judges sitting at a converted Dutch military base selected as a neutral trial venue.

All 259 people aboard the aircraft were killed when it exploded and 11 people in the small town of Lockerbie died when homes and vehicles were obliterated by falling debris.

Megrahi, handed over by Gaddafi under a U.N.-brokered deal, always insisted he was merely an airline executive, not a Libyan intelligence agent as prosecutors charged.

His trial was part of a process of rapprochement by which Gaddafi distanced himself from association with groups regarded as terrorists in the West and secured renewed cooperation with Western firms keen to exploit Libya’s oil and gas reserves.


Reaction to Megrahi’s death reflected the controversies that have raged for years over his role.

Many people in Britain say they believe he was a scapegoat, while many in the United States have accused Britain of releasing him to help secure oil deals in Gaddafi’s Libya. Britain has denied the charge.

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer of New York, who wanted the Libyan government that took over after Gaddafi’s ouster and killing by rebels to take Megrahi into custody, said his return to Libya was a major injustice.

“The whole deal smelled of a deal for oil for this man’s freedom and that was almost blasphemy given what a horrible person he was and the terrible destruction and tragedy that he caused,” Schumer told CNN.

“I don’t know if we’ll ever get to the bottom of it now.”

British Prime Minister David Cameron, who was in opposition when Megrahi was freed, said in Chicago: “I’ve always been clear he should never have been released from prison.

“Today is a day to remember the 270 people who lost their lives in what was an appalling terrorist act. Our thoughts should be with them and their families for the suffering they’ve had.”…

[Return to headlines]

Lockerbie Bomber Abdel Baset Al-Megrahi Dies in Libya

Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, a Libyan intelligence officer who was the only person ever convicted in the 1988 Lockerbie bombing, died at home in Tripoli Sunday, nearly three years after he was released from a Scottish prison to the outrage of the relatives of the attack’s 270 victims. He was 60.

Scotland released al-Megrahi on Aug. 20, 2009, on compassionate grounds to let him return home to die after he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. At the time, doctors predicted he had only three months to live.

Anger over the release was further stoked by the hero’s welcome he received on his arrival in Libya — and by subsequent allegations that London had sought his release to preserve business interests in the oil-rich North African nation, strongly denied by the British and Scottish governments.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

The Rise of Islamist Political Economy: The New Capitalists

After gaining power during the Arab Spring, Islamist parties are seeking solutions to improve the economy of the Islamic states. For Fawaz A Gerges, professor of international relations at the London School of Economics, free market capitalism is the new model used by the Islamists after years of socialism. Turkey the flagship of the new Islamic movements.

London (AsiaNews / Open Democracy) — In the aftermath of the Arab uprisings, Islamists or religious-based activists are poised over coming years to take ownership of the seats of power in the Arab heartland. They have already won majorities of parliamentary seats in a number of countries, including Tunisia, Egypt and Morocco, and will likely make further gains in Libya and Jordan (and maybe even in Syria after the dust settles on the raging battlefield there).

In the last four decades, centrist or modernist Islamists, most of whom accept the rules of the political game, brilliantly positioned themselves as the alternative to the failed secular “authoritarian bargain”. They invested considerable capital in building social networks on the national and local levels, including non-government professional civil society associations, welfare, and family ties. In contrast to their secular-minded opponents, Islamists have mastered the art of local politics and built a formidable political machine that repeatedly has proved able to deliver the vote. Islamists’ recent parliamentary victories are not surprising, because they had paid their dues and earned the trust of voters. These results show that they are cashing in on social investments made under authoritarian rule in their local communities.

Although Islamists did not trigger the revolts that shredded the Arab authoritarian order to pieces, their decades-long resistance to autocratic rulers turned them into shadow governments in the peoples’ eyes. A vote for the Islamists implied a clean break with the failed past and a belief (still to be tested) that they can deliver the goods — jobs, economic stability, and transparency. Thus the political fortunes of rising Islamists will ultimately depend on whether they live up to their promises and meet the rising expectations of the Arab publics.

The business agenda

Islamist parties are increasingly becoming “service” parties: an acknowledgment that political legitimacy and the likelihood of re-election rests on the ability to deliver jobs, economic growth, and to demonstrate transparency. This factor introduces a huge degree of pragmatism in their policies. The example of Turkey, especially its economic success, has had a major impact on Arab Islamists, many of whom would like to emulate the Turkish model. The Arab Islamists have, in other words, understood the truth of the slogan, “It is the economy, stupid!” The Turkish model, with the religiously observant provincial bourgeoisie as its kingpin, also acts as a reminder that Islam and capitalism are mutually reinforcing and compatible.

It is notable that the Islamists’ economic agenda does not espouse a distinctive “Islamic” economic model. This is unsurprising, however, as an Islamic economic model does not exist. Islamists suffer from a paucity of original ideas on the economy and have not even developed a blueprint to tackle the structural socioeconomic crisis in Arab societies.

Nevertheless, what distinguishes centrist religious-based groups from their leftist and nationalist counterparts is a friendly sensibility toward business activities including wealth accumulation and free-market economics. Islamism is a bourgeois movement consisting mostly of middle-class professionals, businessmen, shopkeepers, petty merchants and traders.

If there is a slogan that best describes Islamists’ economic attitude, it would be: “Islam-is-good-for-business”. Many Arab Islamists admire and wish to imitate the example of Turkey, even though they know little about the complexity of the country’s economy and lack Turkey’s strategic economic model. What impresses them is Turkey’s economic dynamism, especially the dynamism of the religiously observant provincial bourgeoisie who have turned Anatolian towns such as Kayseri, Konya and Gaziantep into industrial powerhouses driving the growth of the Turkish economy.

For example, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt has assured the western powers of its commitment to free-market capitalism. The architect of the Brotherhood’s economic policy, the millionaire businessman Khairat al-Shater, has silenced voices within the organisation that call for a more egalitarian, socialist approach. Although he does not hold elected office, in April 2012 he met the International Monetary Fund team which is negotiating a $3.2-billion loan facility with the Egyptian government. The IMF has said it wants broad political backing for the deal.

After the Brotherhood confirmed al-Shater as a presidential candidate (and prior to his disqualification by Egypt’s election commission), the group intensified its contacts with western states; al-Shater himself offered direct reassurance to diplomats and economists from the United States during their visits to Cairo (see Ramadan Al Sherbini, “Broherhood Courts the West,” Gulf News, 5 April 2012).

In an interview with Al-Jazeera, al-Shater said that economic development would be the most pressing priority for his administration and would be based on structural reforms and growth (see Anas Ziki, “Al-Shater: We are competing for president because of a plot to make us fail”, Al-Jazeera [in Arabic], 12 April 2012). Mohamed Habib, a former deputy supreme guide of the Brotherhood, said that “[the Brothers] tightened the screws on anyone who had different ideas about economics” (see David D Kirkpatrick, “Keeper of Islamic Flames Rises as Egypt’s New Decisive Voice”, New York Times, 12 March 2012).

The “Islamic” economy

Yet if centrist-Islamists are generally for free-market economy and have always been, they are also likely to seek religious legitimation for their economic policies. For example, Islamist parties have publicly vowed to promote social justice and have stressed their long record of social work among the poor. Most have chosen names like “Justice and Development” or “Freedom and Justice”, a choice which shows their concerns, if not their priorities. In this sense, some Islamist-specific economic measures and ideas will be introduced to complement free-market capitalism (for a detailed account of the Brotherhood’s economic plan and the projects it intends to launch, see Hani al-Waziri, “Al Masri Al Youm publishes details of the ‘Brotherhood’s renaissance’ plans: Economic restructuring according to Islamic principles…and 100 national projects”, Almasry-alyoum [in Arabic], 26 April 2012).

The Muslim Brothers, along with the Salafists, who are religiously ultra-conservative but are less enamoured with the free market than the Brothers, have already called for the introduction of an index of companies that comply with Sharia law, as part of a wider move toward an “Islamic” economy. The idea is designed to appeal to their base and to attract investments from the Gulf Arab region, where a Sharia-compliant economic system exists, but does not alter the basics of Islamists’ preference for free-market capitalism (see Heba Saleh, “Egyptian officials look to set up Islamist index”, Financial Times, 1 February 2012).

Similarly, according to one of the architects of Ennahda’s economic programme in Tunisia, Ridha Chkoundali, “The banking system will be diversified and the Tunisian financial market will therefore be made up of traditional and Islamic banks… As a result, there will be more competition between the banks.” In Morocco too, the newly designated prime minister Abdelilah Benkirane ackowledged the importance of addressing economic issues: “We will do everything to encourage foreign and domestic investment to create a climate of prosperity” (see “Morocco Embraces Democracy as King Mohammed VI Appoints New Cabinet ? “, Morocco News Agency, 3 January 2012).

The dual challenge

There is nothing in Islamists’ current statements and ideas that shows them to be socialist-oriented, though most readily accept the Keynesian model of active state intervention in the economy. Among Islamists, the interventionist approach appeals most to Salafists, who forcefully call for the adoption of distributive measures to address rampant poverty. Yet the dominant Islamist approach to the economy, with minor variations, is free-market capitalism. In Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco, the Brotherhood, Ennahda and the Justice & Development Party have sufficient interests to deal with global financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank; they do not have the luxury or ideological sensibility to be insular because their countries do not have access to huge rents and raw resources, especially petroleum.

These Islamists also face a huge challenge: to deliver critical economic improvements in the short term, while devising a long-term comprehensive reform agenda that lays the foundation of a productive economy. The dismal socioeconomic conditions in transitioning Arab countries — abject poverty, double-digit unemployment, the absence of a competitive private sector, against a background of rising expectations — mean that the new governments will be hard pressed to focus on distributive policies and urgent short-term needs.

Yet like other political groups, Islamist parties have their sights on the electoral map and want to be re-elected. Will they have the time, space and vision to invest in innovation, technology and the knowledge economy in order to engineer sustainable development; or will they succumb to instrumentalist political temptation by pursuing short-term electoral gains?

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

Israel and the Palestinians

Dutch Gas Companies Set Sights on Israel

Large natural gas reserves discovered under the Mediterranean sea close to the Israeli city of Haifa are proving a draw to Dutch firms, news agency ANP reports on Friday.

Gas companies Kiwa Gas Technologies and civil engineering group DHV are part of a trade mission to Israel in June and hope to move in on the find, ANP says.

‘The Dutch gas and energy sector has a lot of experience in extracting gas, processing it and transporting it, thanks to the Slochteren and North Sea fields,’ said Bert van der Heide from Kurtz Marketing, the company organising the mission.

‘Israel is looking for specialised partners… and that offers opportunities to Dutch firms, although it is not clear how many jobs would be generated.’

US and Norwegian firms have also approached Israel about exploiting the fields, Van der Heide said.

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

Middle East

Iranians Protest Against Gulf States Union

Tehran calls for demonstrations against a plan to unify the Arab Gulf states, “a dangerous plot” instigated by “the American-Zionist-Britain evil triangle”. Bahrain and the Gulf Cooperation Council slam Iran for interfering in their domestic affairs.

Tehran (AsiaNews/Agencies) — The Islamic Propagation Coordination Council (IPCC) organised state-backed demonstrations today in Iran “to protest against the American plan to annex Bahrain to Saudi Arabia and express their anger against the lackey regimes of Al-Khalifa and Al-Saud.”

The demonstrations targeted a plan by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which includes Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, United Arab Emirates and Kuwait, to turn itself into a European Union-styled organisation. On Monday, GCC leaders agreed to a first step. Next December, a transitional deal should be signed that would see Saudi Arabia and Bahrain form a union.

Bahrain is governed by a Sunni monarchy even though most of the population is Shia. For more than a year, the archipelago has been rocked by protests and demonstrations that were met with repressive measures, in some occasions backed by Saudi security forces.

For the IPCC, the union plan is a “dangerous plot” instigated by “the American-Zionist-Britain evil triangle to prevent popular uprisings spreading into other countries of the region and to control the internal crisis in Bahrain which has been caused by the inability of the Al-Khalifa regime to control the situation”.

“Al-Saud and Al-Khalifa should be aware that with this kind of plot they will not stop the popular movement in Bahrain and the movement of Islamic awakening in the region,” the Council added.

“Any kind of foreign intervention or non-normative plans without respecting people’s vote will only deepen the already existing wounds,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said.

For their part, Bahrain and the GCC condemned Iran for making “provocative” comments, which show Tehran’s “hostile” and “bad intentions” whilst causing “anxiety and tension across the region.”

Bahrain’s main opposition group, al-Wefaq, slammed the proposal. In a statement, the group said that no country has the right to undermine Bahrain’s sovereignty and independence.

Al-Wefaq leader Sheikh Ali Salman called instead for a referendum on the issue in all the six Arab Gulf countries.

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

Mixed-Sex Wrestling Under Investigation in Turkey

Authorities have launched an official investigation into male-female wrestling that occurred during May 19 celebrations in the Black Sea province of Samsun, daily Hürriyet reported today.

“An investigation has been launched about wrestling between male and female athletes, which is not part of our ancient sport of wrestling,” Samsun Gov. Hüseyin Aksoy said.

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


Bronze Age ‘Facebook’ Discovered by Cambridge Experts

Ancient rock art has been likened to a prehistoric form of Facebook by a Cambridge archaeologist. Mark Sapwell, who is a PhD archaeology student at St John’s College, believes he has discovered an “archaic version” of the social networking site, where users share thoughts and emotions and give stamps of approval to other contributions — similar to the Facebook “like”.

Images of animals and events were drawn on the rock faces in Russian and Northern Sweden to communicate with distant tribes and descendants during the Bronze Age.

They form a timeline preserved in stone encompassing thousands of years.

Mr Sapwell said: “Like a Facebook status invites comment, the rock art appears very social and invites addition — the way the variations of image both mirror and reinterpret act as a kind of call and response between different packs of hunters across hundreds — even thousands — of years.”

The two sites he is investigating, Zalavruga in Russia and Nämforsen in Northern Sweden, contain around 2,500 images each of animals, people, boats, hunting scenes and even early centaurs and mermaids.

He is using the latest technology to analyse the different types, traits and tropes in the thousands of images imprinted on the two granite outcrops, where the landscapes of early Bronze Age art stretch across areas of rock the size of football pitches.

Mr Sapwell, 28, explained: “These sites are on river networks, and boat is likely how these Bronze Age tribes travelled.

“The rock art I’m studying is found near rapids and waterfalls, places where you would have to maybe leave the river and walk around — carrying your animal-skin canoe on your back — natural spots to stop and leave your mark as you journey through, like a kind of artistic tollbooth.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Pakistan Blocks Twitter, Cites “Blasphemous” Content

Pakistan blocked access to Twitter on Sunday, citing “blasphemous” material as the reason for the move against the social networking site.

Twitter users in Pakistan may have to wait some time before tweeting friends again after the government blocked access to the messaging service.

“The website has been banned by Ministry of Information Technology and the decision was conveyed to us. There was blasphemous material on Twitter,” said Mohammad Younis Khan, spokesman for Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA).

Khan explained that there had been a planned competition to “post caricatures of Prophet Mohammed” on the site. Islam prohibits any depiction of the prophet as blasphemous.

Muslims protested widely in 2005 when a Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published satirical cartoons depicting the prophet by the Danish artist Kurt Westergaard. In 2010 a Somali man was jailed for 10 years in Denmark after he broke into Westergaard’s home armed with an axe.

Pakistan: Twitter failed to respond

An official from the Ministry of Information Technology said it had requested several times that the competition not be held on the website, but Twitter failed to respond.

PTA chairman Mohammed Yaseen did not specify which users or messages had prompted the ban. The Internet Service Providers Association of Pakistan said its members have been asked to block Twitter indefinitely.

Yaseen said the ban would be lifted after ongoing discussions between the government and Twitter about the blasphemous material are resolved.

This is not the first time Pakistan has blocked a social networking site. In May 2010, it blocked access to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and about 1,000 other sites for nearly two weeks over blasphemous content.

Twitter as become increasingly popular in Pakisan in recent years. Even politicians and government officials have used the site for communication purposes.

Officials from the Ministry of Information Technology and from Twitter were not immediately available for comment.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Stone Carvers Defy Taliban to Return to the Bamiyan Valley

Afghan students learn the centuries-old skills that carved out the giant buddhas blown up by extremists

The Bamiyan valley is pockmarked with hundreds of caves that were once part of sumptuous monasteries, packed with statues and lavishly painted with frescoes. This rich artistic heritage was funded by centuries of taxes on caravans passing through what is now an isolated backwater, but was once a wealthy and important stop on the silk road.

“There must have been at least 2,000 years of sculptural tradition,” said Praxenthaler. “Even excavating the caves is a kind of architectural sculpture. It was not just hacking holes into the cliff but also shaping the rooms, and they are quite extraordinary.”

That tradition was probably killed off around 1,000 years ago, Praxenthaler said, when the valley was conquered by Mahmoud of Ghazni, a leader whose epithet suggested little interest in figurative art. “Anyone who calls themselves the ‘destroyer of idols’ probably wouldn’t support further stone carving,” Praxenthaler said.

Sculpture has remained largely off limits in Afghanistan because of strict Islamic prohibitions on idolatry. Depictions of any human or animal are strongly discouraged in art, and calligraphy, floral and geometric patterns dominate the country’s more recent cultural heritage, from the majestic minaret of Jam, to mosques and monuments in cities such as Kabul and Kandahar.

“As you know, extremists often make propaganda about idols. But this is our heritage, not something religious,” said 20-year-old Abdur Rahman Rosta, one of the student sculptors.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Far East

China: State TV Host Offers Advice on How to Throw Out ‘Foreign Trash’

With a surge of anti-foreigner bile rising in Beijing, one might expect a prominent Chinese TV personality whose job it is to interview foreigners to weigh in with a few calming words.

One would be dead wrong.

In a rather perplexing move this week, Chinese Central Television host Yang Rui added a dose of poison to an already vitriolic debate about the behavior of foreigners in the Chinese capital by posting a message online in which he accused foreign spies in the city of pursuing Chinese women to cover up their activities, blamed Western residents for encouraging Chinese people to move abroad and appeared to take a certain vulgar delight in the recent expulsion of al-Jazeera correspondent Melissa Chan.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Two Big Stories, One Conclusion: China Has No ‘Legal System’

The illegal harassment of Chen Guangcheng and the reign of Bo Xilai in Chongqing each in their own way signal the fundamental weakness of Chinese law and the extent to which it serves as a tool to maintain the Party’s control of Chinese society.

Chen, the blind self-educated “barefoot lawyer,” was a victim convicted in a sham trial, imprisoned for over 4 years, and subsequently illegally held under house arrest for two years and brutally beaten by security forces before he escaped.

By contrast, Bo, the “princeling” son of a revolutionary, was the perpetrator of brutality. After becoming Communist Party boss of the world’s largest municipality, he launched an organized crime crackdown described by the New York Times as “a security apparatus run amok: framing victims, extracting confessions through torture, extorting business empires and visiting retribution on the political rivals of Mr. Bo.”

In each case, the question is whether formal legal measures will eventually be used to punish alleged violations of law.

Legal institutions in China, especially the criminal law, are part of a political system that ultimately directs their application and their use. They are essentially grounded on the dominant notion that law is to be used to keep the Party in power.

Laws are not implemented in a uniform manner in China. They are often vague, giving local officials the opportunity to ignore or vary their application and to exercise considerable discretion in many cases. Enforcement can be overly lax (as in cases of unlawful property takings by local governments or violations of food safety laws), excessively harsh, or downright ignored, as they were by officials in Shandong where Chen was harshly treated.

It is impossible to believe that Chen’s treatment was not well-known at high levels in Beijing.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Latin America

‘Suicide’ Art Statues Spark Panicked Calls to Cops in Brazil

THEY stand like nude sentinels, hundreds of feet above the stone pedestrian streets of central Sao Paulo. The life-size human silhouettes appear tense, perched on the edges of high-rises, prepared to dive to their deaths below. Passers-by point toward the sky, with perplexed expressions and mouths agape.

“What is that … a man? No. What … ?” Jessica Santana, a 20-year-old municipal worker, uttered to a friend Friday as they walked through Patriarca plaza, eyes fixed high above.

The 31 iron and fiberglass statues bolted atop several buildings are part of the first South American exhibit for British artist Antony Gormley, who has won many awards, among them the prestigious Turner Prize.

The sculptures, based on Gormley’s own body, are burnt auburn in color, some with arms slightly bent, others ramrod straight. They appear to stare into the horizon, gazing at the endless sprawl of tall buildings in this city of 20 million people.

The exhibit, “Still Being,” officially opens Saturday, runs through July 15 and will also appear in Rio de Janeiro and Brasilia. It includes other works shown in Sao Paulo’s Banco do Brasil Cultural Center.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Feminist Group Protest at Cannes Premiere

A French feminist group upset about the lack of female directors at this year’s Cannes Film Festival staged a hairy protest on the red carpet Sunday. Five women from La Barbe donned fake, different colored beards and stood in the torrential rain at the premiere of Michael Haneke’s “Amour.” They carried signs that said, “Marveilleux,” “Merci!!!” “Splendide,” “Incredible!” and “Le Barbe.”

None of the 22 films competing for the Palme D’Or prize at the festival this year was directed by a woman. La Barbe, which means The Beard, previously had a letter complaining about the male-dominated festival line-up published in Le Monde and The Guardian newspapers.

The lack of women directors at the festival also has spurred protest in the United States, where a petition has been signed by almost 2,000 people, including feminist icon Gloria Steinem and director Gillian Armstrong.

The festival’s artistic director, Thierry Fremaux, has defended the woman-free line-up, saying he does not pick movies based on who has made them.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]