Sunday, January 12, 2003

News Feed 20120522

Financial Crisis
»Cyprus Concerned by Bank Exposure to Greece
»ECB Official Calls for Eurozone Integration
»EU Statistics Office to Double-Check Spanish Deficit
»Fitch Downgrades Japan
»Greece: No to Austerity and Merkel, Winds of Change, Tsipras
»Greece Bookings Plunge as Germans Holiday Elesewhere
»Italy: Monti Does Not See Another Budget Package on Horizon
»Italy Set to Stay in Recession Until Late 2013, Says OECD
»Portugal Begins EU-IMF Bailout Review
»Sarrazin Strikes Again: German Author Says Berlin is Hostage to Holocaust in Euro Crisis
»Spain: General Strike Against Public Education Cuts
»Spanish Teachers Strike in Face of Education Cuts
»Tax Rates on the Rise in the EU
»Baltimore Leaders Increase Security at Inner Harbor
»Foundation Fights ‘Craven’ Auction of Vial Purportedly Containing Reagan’s Blood
»More Families Building Their Own Tornado Shelters
»NASA Hails SpaceX Launch as ‘A New Era’ For Spaceflight
»SpaceX Launches Private Capsule on Historic Trip to Space Station
»Superfuel: Thorium, The Green Energy Source for the Future
»Trusted Travelers Zip Into the United States
»What Will a White-Minority US Look Like?
»Canada, Netherlands Step Up Partnership
Europe and the EU
»France: The Burqa and the New Religious Intolerance
»Rapper Faces New Trial for Threatening PVV Leader Geert Wilders
»Robotic Fish Shoal Sniffs Out Pollution in Harbours
»UK: Abu Hamza ‘Changes Name to Escape Past’
»UK: Extension Plan at Islamic School Site
»UK: Mehdi Hasan: Liar Leaves Job
»UK: Staines Renamed After Ali G Embarrassment
Mediterranean Union
»Malta: Valletta Joins EuroMed Sme Centre
»Morocco-Spain: Economic Ties Intensify
North Africa
»Egypt: Islamo-Christian Violence in Minya: Life Imprisonment for 12 Copts, Eight Muslims Acquitted
»On Eve of Historic Egyptian Vote, Crime Wave is the Main Topic
»Sect or Mainstream Movement?
»Tunisia Vows to Punish Attacks on Alcohol Vendors
Israel and the Palestinians
»EU Fed Lies About Israel and West Bank
»Israel Implanting Thousands of ‘Fake’ Jewish Graves Around Aqsa Mosque: Palestinian Group
Middle East
»Cypriot President: Turkey Must Recongise Cyprus
»Lebanon’s New Wild Card: Shaker Al-Barjawi
»The Scourge of Araby
»Turkey and Cyprus at Odds Over Gas and Oil Deposits
»Yemen: Missing Spanish Policeman Found Shot Dead
»Business as Usual in the Kremlin
»Azerbaijan: Autocracy in an Oil Paradise
South Asia
»India Enlists German Help to Dispose of Bhopal Waste
»Indonesia: When Vigilantes Are Morality Police
»Indonesia: Lady Gaga Speaks Out on ‘Censored’ Concert
»Modern, Moderate Malaysian Muftis Mull Maledicting Manji’s Muslim Misrepresentation
»NATO Sets ‘Irreversible’ Roadmap to Withdrawing Troops From Afghanistan
Far East
»A Tower of Fun: World’s Tallest Lego Structure Unveiled in South Korea to Mark Toy’s 80th Birthday
Australia — Pacific
»Dud Obama Mugs Buried at Parliament
»Psychiatrists Identify ‘Asylum Seeker Syndrome’
»Who is Christopher ‘Badness’ Binse?
»Woman in House With Gunman at Melbourne Siege
Sub-Saharan Africa
»U. S. Rules Boko Haram Threat to National Interests
»Dutch and Iraqi Ministers to Meet to Discuss Ter Apel Protest Camp
»Egypt: 560 Unaccompanied Children Entered Italy in 2011
Culture Wars
»Gay Marriage: Advertising Watchdog Accused of Bias Over Chairman’s Campaign Video

Financial Crisis

Cyprus Concerned by Bank Exposure to Greece

Cypriot President Demetris Christofias said discussions are underway on how to protect the island’s second largest bank from Greek exposure. Christofias said the Cyprus Popular Bank is vulnerable to Greece’s financial and political instability. Cyprus aims to recapitalise the bank, reports the Associated Press.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

ECB Official Calls for Eurozone Integration

ECB governing council member Joerg Asmussen said that the “benefits of a currency union are so outstanding” that they should be stabilised by “a fiscal union and banking union as well as a democratic legitimised political union,” reports the Irish Times.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

EU Statistics Office to Double-Check Spanish Deficit

The EU statistical office, Eurostat, will this week send experts to Spain to double-check why the country’s deficit for 2011 is worse than previously declared. The move was confirmed by a commission spokeswoman on Monday (21 May), amid attempts by Spain to convince investors that it is different than Greece.

The Spanish government last week informed Eurostat that an investigation into regional spending, following the passage of a new financial disclosure law, revealed that the 2011 budget deficit is in fact 8.9 percent of GDP. The new number represents almost half a percent more than previously reported and comes after the public deficit was already revised twice in less than six months.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Fitch Downgrades Japan

Fitch Ratings cut Japan’s credit rating Tuesday, citing “growing risks” from the country’s “rising public debt ratios.” Fitch forecast that the Japanese government’s debt will reach 239% of gross domestic product by the end of the year, which would be the highest of any countries rated by Fitch.

Fitch also criticized Japan’s plan to control in its debt as being too “leisurely.” The rating agency downgraded Japan’s long-term foreign and local currency issuer default ratings to A+ from AA and AA-, respectively, with negative outlooks for both.

The yen continued to weaken against the U.S. dollar, falling nearly 0.5% to ¥ 79.70 early Tuesday. The Japanese currency is down nearly 4% against the greenback so far this year.

But the rating agency praised Japan for maintaining “exceptional financing flexibility” and its ability to “fund itself at low nominal yields.” “This funding strength is based on the deep pool of Japanese private sector savings,” said the agency.

Japan has shown resilience in the face of a tsunami-earthquake that devastated part of its coastline last year, killing thousands of people, wiping out entire communities, and triggering the meltdown of a nuclear power plant.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Greece: No to Austerity and Merkel, Winds of Change, Tsipras

Syriza leader meets ‘Gauche’ in Paris, today in Berlin

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, MAY 22 — “Our victory in the elections of June 17 will lead to change across Europe.” And Angela Merkel must understand that the eurozone is a shared place without “tenants or owners.” These statements were made by Alexis Tsipras, leader of the Coalition of the Left (Syriza, radical party), which became Greece’s second-largest party in the elections of May 6. Yesterday he visited to Paris to meet the leader of the Front de Gauche party, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, and the president of the European Left and leader of the Communist party, Pierre Laurent. Today he will have talks in Berlin with Klaus Ernst and Gregor Gysi of the Linke party.

Addressing a large group of journalists in the National Assembly, Tsipras — who is soaring in the polls and who may be the next premier of Greece according to some observers — lashed out against the austerity plan imposed on Greece by the European Union, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and European Central Bank (ECB). The left-wing leader told German Chancellor Angela Merkel that she cannot consider Greece to be a “protectorate” of Germany. “Merkel must understand that she is an equal partner with others in a euro zone that has no tenants and owners.

Greece is a sovereign country and it’s not for Madame Merkel to decide if we hold a referendum or not.” From Berlin, spokesman for Merkel Georg Streiter once again denied that the German leader has suggested to hold a referendum on the euro in Greece.

In Paris, Tsipras also spoke out against the austerity plan of EU, IMF and ECB, the so-called ‘Memorandum’. He insisted on the need to “re-found the European Union on the principles of social cohesion and solidarity. The wind of change is blowing and our victory will be decisive,” he promised.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greece Bookings Plunge as Germans Holiday Elesewhere

There’s been more bad news for crisis-stricken Greece as a number of German travel companies reported a marked decline in holidaymakers’ bookings. Tourists have become wary of the situation on the ground.

Two more German travel companies on Tuesday reported a steep drop in bookings for Greece, saying they were seeing a 30-percent plunge year-on-year in reservations for the highly indebted Mediterranean nation.

Germany’s second largest carrier, Air Berlin, said more and more tourists were obviously shunning Greece at the moment. “Greece is doing very badly, just like North America,” Chief Executive Hartmut Mehdorn said in a statement on Tuesday.

Mehdorn expressed the hope that the negative trend could be stopped soon, adding that Greece largely depended on a thriving tourism sector to wriggle out of its current financial woes. Tourism has long been a vital source of income in Greece, accounting for about one fifth of gross domestic product (GDP) in the country.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italy: Monti Does Not See Another Budget Package on Horizon

OECD said additional measures could be required

(see related stories) (ANSA) — Rome, May 22 — Premier Mario Monti said on Tuesday that the government has no plans for another package of spending cuts and tax increases after the OECD suggested further measures could be needed to balance the budget.

“I don’t see another budget package on the horizon to further perfect the public finances and I don’t have any intention to proceed with one,” Monti said.

“Europe is praising us (for our efforts)”.

The OECD said on Tuesday in its latest economic outlook that Italy should be able to balance the budget by 2014 but added that “additional budget measures” could be needed because of the recession and the weakness of other European economies.

Monti has said several times Italy will be close to hitting its target of balancing the budget in 2013 without any additional measures on top of the austerity package of tax hikes and spending cuts approved in December.

The premier welcomed the praise the OECD gave the Italian government for the structural economic reforms, including liberalisations and labour-market measures, it is bringing in to revitalise the economy.

“The OECD comforts us, and comforts Italy, for its overall evaluations of the economic-policy operations and structural reforms,” Monti said.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy Set to Stay in Recession Until Late 2013, Says OECD

Downturn to last with European weak and austerity

(ANSA) — Rome, May 22 — The Italian economy is likely to stay in recession for the rest of this year and most of 2013, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) said in a report on Tuesday.

The OECD said the general weakness of European economies and the effects of government austerity meant the country would probably not return to growth until “towards the end of 2013”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Portugal Begins EU-IMF Bailout Review

Portugal began on Tuesday a new review of its 78-billion-euro bailout programme with the IMF and EU, with a minister saying no changes were planned despite rising tensions around Greece. “It will be about putting into action all of the programme, principally the structural reforms,” said Economy Minister Alvaro Santos Pereira. He said carrying out the reforms would “allow us recover the credibility we lost” in the markets.

The talks between Portuguese officials and the international creditors are expected to last two weeks and are key for Portugal getting the next four billion euros out of its bailout, worth $100 billion overall. Portugal has already received nearly 53 billion euros, or 70 percent of the total 78 billion it was promised as part of the rescue package agreed last year.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sarrazin Strikes Again: German Author Says Berlin is Hostage to Holocaust in Euro Crisis

Germany is Europe’s paymaster because it committed the Holocaust, claims a new book by Thilo Sarrazin, a firebrand author and former board member of the German central bank. The claim by the controversial writer achieved the desired effect of stoking publicity for Tuesday’s launch of ‘Europe Doesn’t Need the Euro.’

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Spain: General Strike Against Public Education Cuts

Protest over gov’t austerity measures to reduce deficit

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, MAY 22 — Over a million workers in the school and university sector and seven and a half million students of all faculties and levels have today been called upon to take part in the general strike of the sector called in Spain by unions, student organisations and parents against the cuts to public education approved by the government to bring down the high public deficit. The protest — which involves all of the country’s regions except for the Basque Country, La Rioja and the Balearic Islands, which have opted for other mobilisation methods — is the first encompassing all levels of public education, from nursery school to university.

Taking part of the main unions of the education sector — FETE-UGT, Fe-CcOo, ANPE, CSIF and STES, which called for a million working in the sector to go on strike, most of whom teachers. The sharp economic crisis and cuts to public spending have hit particularly sensitive sectors like public education, in which unions estimate overall reductions of about 20% of funds, due to the 3 billion euros in cuts approved by decree over the past few weeks by the government as part of the 10 billion in cuts for the 2012-2013 period for public education and healthcare. The aim is to bring the public deficit from 8.9% in 2011 to 3% in 2013.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Spanish Teachers Strike in Face of Education Cuts

In a sign of protest against austerity measures that have meant deep cuts in education, Spanish teachers and students have taken part in a day-long strike. School teachers and their colleagues in universities went on strike across Spain on Tuesday to protest deep cuts to the country’s education sector as part of austerity measures aimed at reining in the country’s public debt.

Some took to the streets in demonstrations, with tombs being erected in front of universities to symbolize the view that the country’s schooling system is dying.

Union officials said all but three of Spain’s 17 regions took part. They say the cuts will put 100,000 substitute teachers out of work. Millions of students were also called on to join the one-day strike.

The cuts in government spending have led to a lack of teachers, larger class sizes, increased university fees, and a declining number of extra-curricular activities. All told, Spain’s regions were told to slash 3 billion euros ($4 billion) from education spending. This was part of a plan to reduce Spain’s public deficit from 8.9 percent to 5.3 percent of its gross domestic product.

The graduation rate for high school students is 74 percent, below the European Union average of 85 percent. The unemployment rate for people under 25 is at 52 percent. Total national unemployment is 24 percent — the highest in the EU.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Tax Rates on the Rise in the EU

Eurostat, the EU’s statistical office, said standard and top personal income tax rates are on the rise. The EU’s average standard VAT rate varies from 15% in Luxembourg to 27% in Hungary. The average top personal income tax rate varies between 56.6% in Sweden to Bulgaria’s 10%.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Baltimore Leaders Increase Security at Inner Harbor

The rash of fights, stabbings and the beating of a tourist in downtown Baltimore is raising concerns and city leaders are taking action. Mike Hellgren takes a closer look at the security enhancements.

Even the rain couldn’t keep throngs of tourists away from the Inner Harbor. But a string of violence downtown, including a beating caught on tape, groups of fighting teenagers and several stabbings during the St. Patrick’s Day weekend, have police beefing up their presence, including 50 more officers on the streets, new school police patrols to control youth causing problems and better camera technology including clearer, high-definition lenses in the network of 100 cameras with their eyes downtown.

It comes as Baltimore prepares for major events, including Memorial Day weekend, the War of 1812 bicentennial celebration and the Grand Prix.

“You’re going to have issues that happen (with) large groups coming downtown. It’s going to happen in Washington, it’s going to happen in Baltimore, it’s going to happen in Philadelphia. What people have to know is that the Baltimore police department is prepared and we know how to respond to those,” Guglielmi said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Foundation Fights ‘Craven’ Auction of Vial Purportedly Containing Reagan’s Blood

The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation is fighting to stop a British company from auctioning off a vial it claims contains the dried blood of late President Ronald Reagan. The item is up for sale on the website of PFC Auctions, and by Tuesday morning the bid was approaching $12,000. The auction is set to run until Thursday. “If indeed this story is true, it’s a craven act and we will use every legal means to stop its sale or purchase,” foundation director John Heubusch said in a written statement.

The auction site claims the vial was originally obtained by a woman working at a lab in Columbia, Md., in 1981, at the time Reagan was shot by John Hinckley Jr. “Her lab did the bloodwork and testing for President Reagan,” the site says. The woman, who died in 2010, kept the vial — and her son is now trying to sell it.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

More Families Building Their Own Tornado Shelters

When deadly twisters chewed through the South and Midwest in 2011, thousands of people in the killers’ paths had nowhere to hide. Now many of those families are taking an unusual extra step to be ready next time: adding tornado shelters to their homes.

A year after the storms, sales of small residential shelters known as safe rooms are surging across much of the nation, especially in hard-hit communities such as Montgomery and Tuscaloosa in Alabama and in Joplin, Mo., where twisters laid waste to entire neighborhoods.

Manufacturers can barely keep up with demand, and some states are offering grants and other financial incentives to help pay for the added protection and peace of mind.

Tom Cook didn’t need convincing. When a 2008 tornado barreled toward his home in rural southwest Missouri, Cook, his wife and their teenage daughter sought refuge in a bathroom. It wasn’t enough. His wife was killed.

Cook moved to nearby Joplin to rebuild, never imaging he would confront another monster twister. But he had a safe room installed in the garage just in case.

On May 22, Cook and his daughter huddled inside the small steel enclosure while an EF-5 tornado roared outside. They emerged unharmed, although the new house was gone. “It was blown away completely — again,” he said. “The only thing standing was that storm room.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

NASA Hails SpaceX Launch as ‘A New Era’ For Spaceflight

In a pivotal moment for private spaceflight, a towering white rocket lifted a cone-shaped capsule into space early Tuesday on a mission to the International Space Station. SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket carried the unmanned Dragon capsule into space after a 3:44 a.m. EDT launch from Cape Canaveral, Fla., marking the first time a private company has sent a spacecraft to the space station.

The mission is considered the first test of NASA’s plan to outsource space missions to privately funded companies now that its fleet of space shuttles is retired. SpaceX aims to prove to NASA that its Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule are ready to take on the task of hauling cargo — and eventually astronauts — for the space agency.

“Today marks the beginning of a new era in exploration; a private company has launched a spacecraft to the International Space Station that will attempt to dock there for the first time,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden in a speech at the cape. “And while there is a lot of work ahead to successfully complete this mission, we are certainly off to good start.”

In a separate news conference, Elon Musk, SpaceX’s 40-year-old billionaire founder and chief executive, spoke at company headquarters in Hawthorne. It was there that SpaceX employees had gathered, watched and cheered as the Falcon 9 climbed toward the heavens.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

SpaceX Launches Private Capsule on Historic Trip to Space Station

A private space capsule called Dragon soared into the predawn sky Tuesday, riding a pillar of flame like its beastly namesake on a history-making trip to the International Space Station.

The unmanned capsule, built by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX), is the first non-governmental spacecraft to launch to the space station, ushering in a new era of partnership between the public and private spaceflight programs.

“I think this is an example of American entrepreneurship at its best,” said Alan Lindenmoyer, manager of NASA’s commercial crew and cargo program, in a briefing before the launch. About 100 VIP guests were on hand to witness the launch, NASA officials said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Superfuel: Thorium, The Green Energy Source for the Future

Last year’s tsunami-induced nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan, raised concerns about the safety of high-pressure water-cooled nuclear reactors and cast doubt on the future of nuclear power. Uranium-fueled reactors such as the ones at Fukushima pose a number of problems, including the risky disposal of radioactive waste. According to Martin, thorium is a far superior reactor fuel because it is less radioactive and more abundant than uranium and also produces much less waste. This thorough book details the history of research into thorium reactors.

In the 1960s, the United States developed an experimental thorium reactor at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, but the Nixon administration later abandoned the project for budgetary and bureaucratic reasons. Today, the governments of China, India, and Japan are developing thorium reactors, as are private-sector players in South Africa and the United Kingdom. Martin urges the United States to get back into the action, since in his view thorium offers the ideal material for satisfying the world’s burgeoning demand for electricity without relying on fossil fuels.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Trusted Travelers Zip Into the United States

[Note from HRW: Color me skeptical but given the current climate within our Islamophilic administration — such conveniences seem foolhardy.]

Under the harsh lights of the interrogation room a bead of sweat slowly trickled down my forehead.

“You are self-employed? That’s a red flag,” declared Agent “Smith” as he scrutinized my passport and paperwork.

“What is it that you do?” he demanded to know.

“I’m… I’m a journalist,” I stammered.

“And just who do you work for?”

“AAA World … AARP … Consumer Reports.”

He silently scribbled down each outlet. Had I made a horrible mistake? How had I ended up in the Customs & Border Protection Office at Houston’s Bush InterContinental Airport?

Turn back the clock to October 2009. Entering the U.S. Arrivals area at the Houston airport after a trip to Guadalajara, Mexico, I encountered a line longer than the one for the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride at Universal Orlando.

My travel companions and I spent more than an hour making small talk, mostly about the one passport control line travelers breezed through. It wasn’t for hoity-toity dignitaries, but instead savvy Americans enrolled in the Department of Homeland Security’s Global Entry program. High-tech, self-service kiosks at most major U.S. airports scan scan passports and fingerprints of Global Entry members, then send them on their way.

I lucked out and made my airline connection. Most of my pals didn’t. That’s when I vowed, channeling Scarlett O’Hara, “I’ll never be stuck in an immigration line again!”

Soon after, I applied for Global Entry using the Global On-line Enrollment System (GOES). A week later I received an email invitation to “visit an enrollment center within 30 days to complete the process.” With no center at my home airport and the clock ticking, I opted for a trip to Houston where I could combine my interview and a visit with the parental units.

On interview day I followed the “special instructions” received with my confirmation including a phone number to call upon arrival (though darn it, no super-secret password). My mind raced. What if they quizzed me on my answers to application questions? Did I name Pal or Linus as my favorite pet? What was my best subject in school? Lunch?

The officer took me behind locked doors and…

All right already, it wasn’t quite that dramatic. No Law and Order-style grilling. In fact, the CBP officer was really nice. Once he understood I was a globetrotting writer, not some nefarious smuggler, he was thrilled. Really. He said Global Entry is not only good for frequent international travelers, but makes life easier for immigration officers, who’d love shorter lines so they can focus on suspicious-types entering this country.

He asked me to spread the word. Which is exactly what I’m doing, but — nah, nah, nah fellow travelers — no longer in some endless U.S. Arrivals line.

In case you need one more reason to sign up for Global Entry, consider this. In the last few months, airports across the country, in conjunction with TSA and various airlines (like Delta and American, with United to follow soon) are allowing Global Entry members to participate in new Trusted Traveler screenings at major airport security areas.

This program is expanding, meaning Global Entry members can also register their ID number with an airline, in hopes of being selected to bypass those long security lines for a special expedited one. You still have to go through security, but those who have participated in the new program report waits of less than five minutes and often not having to remove shoes or other articles of clothing…

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

What Will a White-Minority US Look Like?

“The whole complexion of the US is going to get darker — we’re going to look like (bi-racial baseball player) Derek Jeter.” The shift is already apparent in advertising and will become more so, says Howard Buford, president of Prime Access, a multicultural marketing agency in New York.

“A large part of advertising is showing relatable portrayals — ‘people like me’,” he says. “The hair is becoming darker, the skin is becoming darker. That idea of ‘too ethnic’ is going away.” The baby on the Downy fabric softener logo for decades was blond-haired and blue-eyed, he notes. Now, the child has dark hair and eyes and olive skin.

“The best days for America are ahead, not behind us,” he says. “Demographics precipitates economics, and the demographics of the US and the demographics of the continent of the Americas is very good.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Canada, Netherlands Step Up Partnership

THE HAGUE, 22/05/12 — Canada and the Netherlands are to work together more closely in a number of areas, both political and economic, the Foreign Ministers of the two countries, Baird and Rosenthal, have agreed in Ottawa. The Netherlands will support Canada in concluding the CETA free trade treaty with the EU. The Netherlands is the biggest export market for Canada in the EU after the UK. And the Netherlands is the biggest investor in Canada after the US.

Canada and the Nederland are also stepping up their political cooperation, for example vis-a-vis the Middle East, Iran and in defending freedom of religion and ideology. The two countries are organising a meeting on religious freedom during the United Nations General Assembly in New York in September.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

France: The Burqa and the New Religious Intolerance

by Martha Nussbaum

In April 2011, a law took effect in France according to which it is illegal to cover the face in any public space, from parks to marketplaces to shops. Although the law does not mention the words “women,” “Muslim,” “burqa,” or even “veil,” it was introduced by then President Nicolas Sarkozy as a ban on Muslim veiling, which, according to him, “imprisons” women and threatens French values of dignity and equality. The new law renders illegal both the burqa and the niqab. (The words are variously used and defined, but typically the burqa is a full-length garment that includes a mesh or gauze screen over the eyes, while the niqab is a face veil with a slit for the eyes, usually worn in conjunction with a full-body covering. From now on I shall use only the term burqa.) Although France is the first country to enact a full ban on the burqa in public space, similar restrictions are being considered all over Europe, and many countries and regions have adopted some type of restriction. What does political philosophy have to say about all these developments? As it turns out, a long philosophical and legal tradition has reflected about similar matters.


Philosophical principles shape constitutional traditions and the shape of political cultures. I have tried to articulate some important principles behind traditions of religious liberty and equality in both the United States and Europe. Today, a climate of fear and suspicion, directed primarily against Muslims, threatens to derail these admirable commitments. But if we articulate them clearly and see the reasons for them, this may help us oppose these ominous developments.

Martha Nussbaum is the Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics in the Philosophy Department, Law School and Divinity School at the University of Chicago. Her latest book is The New Religious Intolerance: Overcoming the Politics of Fear in an Anxious Age.

[Reader comment by Jack on 22 May 2012 at 3:45:11 pm.]

A very long winded piece of over analysis that totally misses the the point. If the French wished to live in a Muslim country they would simply move there. They have the right to insist that those who come to France to live, live in a French way, not seek to change the day to day experience of the host community. If Muslims wish to follow an Islamic lifestyle, then why did they move to a liberal western country? We did not accept that people who fled the iron curtain set up organizations to spread the spread of communist dictatorships.

As for fear, anybody who spends a little time studying the history of Islamic expansion, the writings in that book touted as holy and the daily acts of violence committed by Muhammad’s followers in his name would be excused for being fearful. Tolerance for a religion that would be outlawed as a dangerous cult except for the number and aggression of its brigade of followers is not logical.

[Reader comment by Carol on 22 May 2012 at 10:24:51 am.]

Martha, your academic approach to this issue is admirable and the text reads well. However, I feel that you have missed the point; this is Australia and our heritage is firmly rooted in the western secular and Christian tradition. From this history, women have been granted, given and have fought for individual freedom to be who we are and the right to live as distinct from men. Advanced, intelligent women do not feel that they must refer to men to make a life though of course most do but on their own terms. Our western democratic way may be flawed but I, as a woman and free thinking citizen, think it golden and you must know that there is no way that Australia will ever take on board Islamic principles on women. This argument is not an intellectual one but is on the level of soul. Freedom is all, it is everything and if you wear your burqua at the behest of a man then you are not free and if you think that God cares that you wear it then perhaps you could investigate the notion of God in a different way.

Many Australians would not be aware that the last time Islam made forays into the west they converted Christians and others by cutting off heads and invading countries. Australia is a land young and free so adopt it. We Aussies keep our religion personal and private and we are secure enough not to force conversions or to take over the world with a misguided interpretation of very dubious scripture. Remove your veil and be seen. One imprisoned women means all of us are.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Rapper Faces New Trial for Threatening PVV Leader Geert Wilders

A Rotterdam rapper who wrote a text apparently threatening PVV leader Geert Wilders should be retried on the same charges, the High Court ruled on Tuesday.

Mohammed B was found not guilty of threatening the MP with death on appeal, but the High Court said the appeal court failed to argue its decision properly when it dismissed the charges in 2010.

The appeal court had said it was not proven that the rapper had placed the text of the rap with a video clip on YouTube which included the sound of a pistol shot. The CD version does not include the sound of a gun going off.

The text includes the rapper saying it will be ‘bam bam’ if he meets Wilders. The rapper also calls on Wilders to take back his words if he wants to stay alive and says ‘this is no joke. Last night I dreamed I chopped your head off.’

The appeal court ruled that even though Wilders had felt threatened by the combination of words and music, there was no evidence B himself had uploaded the video to YouTube.

However, the High Court said the appeal court had failed to explain properly why B could not be convicted on the basis of the text alone and ordered the case to be heard again.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Robotic Fish Shoal Sniffs Out Pollution in Harbours

There is something unnatural lurking in the waters of the port of Gijon, Spain, and researchers are tracking its every move. It is not some bizarre new form of marine life, but an autonomous robotic fish designed to sense marine pollution, taking to the open waves for the first time.

“With these fish we can find exactly what is causing the pollution and put a stop to it right away,” explains Luke Speller, a scientist at the British technology firm BMT and the leader of SHOAL, a European project involving universities, businesses and the port of Gijon, which have joined forces to create the fish.

Currently the port relies on divers to monitor water quality, which is a lengthy process costing €100,000 per year. The divers take water samples from hundreds of points in the port, then send them off for analysis, with the results taking weeks to return. By contrast, the SHOAL robots would continuously monitor the water, letting the port respond immediately to the causes of pollution, such as a leaking boat or industrial spillage, and work to mitigate its effectsMovie Camera.

The SHOAL fish are one and a half metres long, comparable to the size and shape of a tuna, but their neon-yellow plastic shell means they are unlikely to be mistaken for the real thing. A range of onboard chemical sensors detect lead, copper and other pollutants, along with measuring water salinity. They are driven by a dual-hinged tail capable of making tight turns that would be impossible with a propeller-driven robot.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: Abu Hamza ‘Changes Name to Escape Past’

Radical preacher Abu Hamza is insisting he is called by a new name is an attempt to distance himself from his past, it has been claimed.

He is said to have instructed prison guards to call him by his birth name Mustafa Kamal Mustafa to allow him to shed the “enormous amount of baggage” brought about by his nom de guerre, Abu Hamza al Masri. The newspaper reported a Whitehall source saying: “He is trying to shed the enormous amount of baggage associated with his old name. “He can call himself what he likes officially but he will be forever known as Abu Hamza.” The preacher, who is known for his prosthetic hook, was born Mustafa Kamel Mustafa in Alexandria, Egypt, on April 15, 1958. After studying civil engineering and moving to London to be a nightclub bouncer, he married a British woman and went on to have seven children.


[JP note: Mustafa laugh.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Extension Plan at Islamic School Site

LEADERS of an Islamic school have revealed plans to develop it into a state-of-the-art teaching facility. In February, Bolton Council backed a plan for a group called Masjid Nooor ul Islam to open a community and prayer centre for Islamic teaching at the former Bowling Green pub in Eskrick Street, Halliwell. There is a prayer hall, a meeting room and space for children aged six to 16 to learn Arabic and lessons about prayer and faith between 5pm and 7pm on weekdays.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Mehdi Hasan: Liar Leaves Job

by Andrew Gilligan

The New Statesman has today parted company with Mehdi Hasan as its senior editor, politics. Mehdi is an effective polemicist, increasingly beloved of BBC discussion programmes — but the job needed more reporting scruples than he possessed, and his temper sometimes get the better of him. My own experience with this came in November 2010. I’d done something to annoy Mehdi — not that hard — so he accused me (in his New Statesman blog) of a long list of crimes including working for the Iranian state-funded broadcaster, Press TV. “Sources at Press TV tell me Gilligan is among the highest-paid, if not the highest-paid, employee at the channel,” wrote Mehdi, asking: “So, Andrew, when will you quit your lucrative job at Press TV?”


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Staines Renamed After Ali G Embarrassment

The town used as the launch-pad for Sacha Baron Cohen’s comedy career has opted to change its name to remove the stigma left by Ali G. Councillors in the Surrey town of Staines agreed to rename their home as Staines-upon-Thames, in a bid to shake off the legacy left by the foulmouthed comic character. Celebrations were held in the town on Sunday after the name-change, with a maypole dance and a regatta.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union

Malta: Valletta Joins EuroMed Sme Centre

Promos initiative for growth. Malta-Italy trade rising

(ANSAmed) — MILAN, MAY 22 — Following yesterday’s signing by the Egyptian investment authority, the Maltese development agency for attracting foreign investment Malta Enterprise has become part of the Euro-Med Centre for SMEs Development, an initiative promoted by Promos to create a network of technical centres for the growth of small and medium enterprises in the Mediterranean region.

Those who have thus far joined the centre are development institutions and agencies from Morocco, Lebanon, Albania, Tunisia, Slovenia, Montenegro and Egypt.

The agreement was made during an Italian-Maltese business forum organised by the Milan Chamber of Commerce to present business opportunities in the country and strengthen cooperation, already positive in terms of commercial relations. Trade grew 17% in 2011 compared to the previous year, with Italian exports rising to 1.4 billion euros. Malta already has 30 Italian firms engaging in productive activities and about 500 businesses, mainly commercial, owned by Italian shareholders. Among the most promising sectors, according to the forum organizers, are the pharmaceutical, maritime (both for tourism and logistics) and energy sectors, especially with as concerns green energy.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Morocco-Spain: Economic Ties Intensify

Rabat Minister in Catalonia to promote investments

(ANSAmed) — RABAT, MAY 21 — The bilateral economic cooperation between Spain and Morocco continues to intensify. The head of the Moroccan government, Abdelilah Benrikane, has gone to Catalonia last weekend to promote the consolidation of the presence of Catalonian investors in the Kingdom.

In this time of economic crisis, Morocco offers enormous investment opportunities to Catalonian and Spanish firms”, said Benkirane during a joint press conference with the President of the Autonomous Community of Catalonia, Artur Mas. Marocco, Benkirane added, is busy promoting cooperation with all Spanish regions, speaking particularly about small and medium enterprises from Catalonia who might wish to begin a partnership with their Moroccan colleagues, in order to develop projects in promising sectors such as in agriculture.

Benkirane then stated he wanted to take advantage of his positive Catalan experience and apply it to the ongoing regionalisation process in Morocco, especially in the field of Health and Education.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egypt: Islamo-Christian Violence in Minya: Life Imprisonment for 12 Copts, Eight Muslims Acquitted

The conviction for the death of two Muslims, during the assault on a Christian village. At the base of the fighting, a street brawl, which ended with a beating. Activists and legal experts criticized the ruling, which is not appealable. Only the military council has the power to seek a new trial.

Cairo (AsiaNews/Agencies) — An Egyptian court has sentenced 12 Coptic Christians to life imprisonment and acquitted eight Muslims, in a trial heavily criticized by human rights activists and legal experts. The ruling came yesterday, at the end of a trial called to shed light on the sectarian violence last year in the province of Minya, in the southern part of the country, about 220 km from Cairo. Ishak Ibrahim, a researcher and expert on Egyptian law, emphasizes that “the acquittal of the eight Muslim defendants” shows that “the investigations started from the beginning by the attorney general are unfair and wrong” because there was “clear evidence of guilt against them, for having set fire to Christian properties.”

The accused Christians were sentenced for inciting public disorder, possession of illegal weapons and the murder of two Muslims. The incident happened in April 2011 and has helped to exacerbate a situation of deep inter-religious tension in the area of ??Upper Egypt, which then continued in the following weeks (see AsiaNews 06/27/2011 Upper Egypt, violence against Christians on the rise. Eight houses burned).

The violence erupted when a Muslim minibus driver, angered by the presence of a speed bump outside a house owned by a wealthy Christian, got into a fight with the house’s security guards. Upon returning to his home village, the Muslim driver assembled a group of people to get revenge for the alleged wrong and the violence suffered.

The retaliation squad was joined by groups of Islamic extremists, who surrounded the homes of Coptic Christians, intending to launch an attack. In fear of being overwhelmed, the inhabitants opened fire from the roofs of buildings, killing two people in the crowd and wounding two others. In the days following, Muslim groups torched dozens of Christian houses and shops to avenge the dead.

The eight Muslims on trial were accused of illegal possession of weapons and having burned the Christians’ buildings. However, the court ruled for aquittal of the charges.

The judgment delivered by the judges of the State Security Court is not appealable and the 12 Christians risk spending the rest of their lives in prison. Only the military council could — in what is a very remote hypothesis, moreover — request a retrial.

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

On Eve of Historic Egyptian Vote, Crime Wave is the Main Topic

Parts of the ring road encircling the capital are dangerous no-man’s lands, unsafe to drive on, by day or night. Kidnappings and bank robberies are common around the city. And women report sexual assaults by taxi drivers, even in broad daylight.

Across the country, carjackers have grown so bold, they steal their victim’s cellphones and tell them to call back to negotiate for the return of their cars. And in Sharqiya, a rural province in the Nile Delta, villagers have taken the law into their own hands — mutilating and burning the bodies of accused thugs and hanging their corpses from lampposts.

On the eve of the vote to choose Egypt’s first president since the ouster of Hosni Mubarak, this pervasive lawlessness is the biggest change in daily life since the revolution and the most salient issue in the presidential race. Random, violent crime was almost unheard-of when the police state was strong.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sect or Mainstream Movement?

The Two Faces of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood

The Muslim Brotherhood is the strongest political force in Egypt, which is holding presidential elections this week, yet opinions are divided over the nature of the movement and what it really wants. A visit to Ismailia, the small city on the Suez Canal where the movement began, provides an insight into the Islamists’ goals.

A dredger moves slowly through the glistening, soupy waters of Egypt’s Lake Timsah, also known as Crocodile Lake. A Mubarak doll, dressed in faded jeans and with a noose around its neck, hangs at the jetty for the ferry across the Suez Canal.

If it weren’t for Hassan al-Banna, there wouldn’t be much else to report from Ismailia, a provincial city redolent of eucalyptus, located two hours northeast of Cairo next to Lake Timsah. Banna was a 20-year-old elementary school teacher who came to the city in 1927.

Banna’s arrival in Ismailia marked the beginning of a story that has had as much of an impact on Egypt and the world as the famous canal. It is the story of the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood to become the strongest organized force in political Islam, as well as a powerful player in Egypt, where a new president will be elected on May 23 and 24. One of the key issues in the election is the question of what role Islam will play in the future life of the republic.

Candidate Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh represents, for the first time, a reasonable chance that a former top member of the Brotherhood could assume one of the most powerful offices in the Arab world. For some it would be the culmination of the revolution, but for more secular skeptics it would mark its end.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Tunisia Vows to Punish Attacks on Alcohol Vendors

By Tarek Amara

TUNIS, May 21 (Reuters) — Tunisia’s Islamist-led government said on Monday it would punish conservative Salafi Muslims who attacked alcohol shops in a central town over the weekend, raising religious tensions in the home of the Arab Spring. Clashes broke out after dozens of Salafis armed with sticks and knives raided bars and stores in Sidi Bouzid, where the suicide of a street seller last year sparked Tunisia’s revolution and the Arab Spring uprisings, witnesses said. Shop owners fought back, chasing Salafis to the main mosque and opening fire on them, the witnesses added. Bullet marks could be seen on the wall of the mosque on Monday. “They have crossed all red lines and will be strictly punished … The opening they were granted has ended,” Justice Minister Noureddine Bouheri told Express FM radio station in the first government reaction to the clashes.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

EU Fed Lies About Israel and West Bank

On May 14, EU foreign ministers officially condemned Israeli policy in “Area C”, that part of the West Bank under Israel’s responsibility according to the Oslo frameworks. Their words adopt the Arab narrative and are far removed from the complex reality. Such statements reflect the degree to which the EU and its member states have outsourced their policies on Israel and the conflict to a small group of Israeli and Palestinian NGOs. When these ideological NGOs misrepresent reality, it is then reflected in EU rhetoric. As detailed in a new report by NGO Monitor, Highly Sensitive EU Documents Repeat False NGO Claims, between December 2010 and February 2012, six documents from the EU offices were systematically leaked to the media. The documents, dealing with the highly sensitive issues of Jerusalem, the status of Israeli-Arab citizens, violence in the West Bank, and “Area C”, repeat false allegations and distortions by EU-funded NGOs — in some cases, word for word. This echo chamber contains a narrow fringe of the political spectrum, whose influence is artificially enhanced by massive European government funding. Other views, including those from Israel’s elected leadership and civil society representatives of Israeli public opinion, are simply erased from European policy-making on extremely sensitive issues.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Israel Implanting Thousands of ‘Fake’ Jewish Graves Around Aqsa Mosque: Palestinian Group

Israel is implanting “thousands of fake” Jewish graves in the land surrounding al-Aqsa Mosque “at the pretext of carrying out repair and maintenance works and new excavations” in a bid to lay hand on Palestinian and Islamic endowment lands, Al-Aqsa Foundation for Endowment and Heritage said in a report on Monday. “The Israeli occupation of Jerusalem is committing a very ugly crime on Palestinian lands, on Muslim endowment lands, and that is the implanting of thousands of fake Jewish graves in this site,” Abdel Majeed Mohammad, of the Aqsa Foundation was quoted in report as saying.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Cypriot President: Turkey Must Recongise Cyprus

Cypriot President Demetris Christofias said on Monday that Turkey needs to recongise Cyprus’ sovereignty. He described Turkey’s position as leaning “towards threats”. Christofias said he intends to unify the island despite Turkey’s “unacceptable attitude”. The northern half of the island is ruled by the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Lebanon’s New Wild Card: Shaker Al-Barjawi

DAMASCUS — The handwriting had been on the wall for weeks, signaling that Lebanon might explode — at any minute. The reason was Syria. For more than a year, battlelines have been clearly drawn between pro-Bashar al-Assad and anti-Assad politicians in Lebanon, with the March 14 Alliance desperate to see regime change in Syria, and Hezbollah and its allies willing to fight until curtain-fall with Syrian officialdom. On Arabic satellite talk shows, members of the two camps had blasted at each other for months, once even getting into a fist-fight live on air.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

The Scourge of Araby

by Victor Sharpe

In the 1921 hit song, The Sheikh of Araby, there is one line that goes as follows, “…While you’re asleep, into your tent I’ll creep.” Of course the song was referring to the sheikh who romantically pursued the headstrong British heroine who then fell in love with him only to find that he was, in reality, not an Arab at all but the son of a British father and Spanish mother. However, like the sheikh, Islamic triumphalism and jihadi ideology today is creeping more and more into the Arab tent while part of the Arab world and most of the duped West remains asleep.


With the misnamed Arab Spring infesting Jordan, with the Muslim Brotherhood growing in power inside it, and with the inherent hatred for the Hashemite rule reaching boiling point, it is only a matter of time before that horrible frigid winter blast, which has swept away one Arab regime after another and replaced it with Islamic tyrannies, brushes aside the Jordanian monarchy. Then there will be no excuse to claim that a Palestinian state — one which dwarfs in size the tiny Jewish State of Israel — does not already exist. Interestingly, the Sheikh of Araby was written almost at the same time Britain and France were carving up the Middle East, betraying the terms of the original Palestine Mandate and Jewish aspirations, and creating many new artificial Arab states and Sheikhdoms. The “Sheikh of Araby,” a melodious 1921 hit tune, so beloved of early Jazz musicians, now, some 91 years later has, in geo-political terms, become a discordant and ugly melody better termed, “The Scourge of Araby.”

Victor Sharpe is a freelance writer and author of the trilogy, Politicide: The attempted murder of the Jewish state.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Turkey and Cyprus at Odds Over Gas and Oil Deposits

Turkey has threatened sanctions against 29 companies bidding to explore for oil and gas deposits off the Cypriot coast, reports AFP. US firm Nobel Energy discovered some 226 billion cubic metres of gas offshore last year. Cypriot President Demetris Christofias said exploration will continue regardless of Ankara’s objections.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Yemen: Missing Spanish Policeman Found Shot Dead

Sanaa, 22 May (AKI) — A policemen from the Spanish embassy in Yemen has been found dead with a gunshot wound to the head in a remote area of the country after he disappeared last week, Spain’s interior ministry said.

The death of 38-year-old Antonio Cejudo was being investigated, the ministry stated.

Cejudo had been stationed in Yemen for two years and is believed to have been dead for several days. His service revolver was found beside his body. The ministry would not say if it was in his holster or on the ground, or whether he may have killed himself.

Spanish daily newspaper El Pais said the alarm was raised when Cejudo failed to arrive in Madrid last Thursday as planned for a holiday.

Italy, France and Germany were among countries assisting Yemeni authorities with the investigation into Cejudo’s disappearance and death, El Pais said.

Spanish authorities were on Tuesday arranging for Cejudo’s body to be repatriated, according to El Pais.

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


Business as Usual in the Kremlin

Russia’s Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev boasted that he’d brought fresh faces into the new government in Moscow which, he also said, is about change and reform. But why then are old names in all the key positions?

“This is no new start,” commented Hans-Henning Schröder of Berlin’s Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), after Medvedev presented his new cabinet to President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Monday.

Medvedev, who changed places with Putin just two weeks ago, would disagree with Schröder; at least three quarters of the new members in cabinet, Medvedev pointed out, hadn’t been there before.

Fair enough — it’s true that new names are to be seen among the Kremlin’s new ministers. But the key positions — including the foreign, defense, justice and finance ministers — belong to those exact people who held the posts when Putin was president last time around.

Of the ministers who make up the Silovik (Russian for “structures of force”), the term for those ministers who control force, only the interior minister was replaced.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Azerbaijan: Autocracy in an Oil Paradise

Oil is central to Azerbaijan. The former Soviet Republic, in which the Eurovision Song Contest is due to take place at the end of May, is one of the richest countries in the region — but it is also an autocracy.

If it takes a lot of money to put on a good show, then Azerbaijan is surely well-equipped. When the Azerbaijani duo Ell & Nikki triumphed at the Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) in Düsseldorf in 2011, it meant this year’s ESC final would take place in Baku on May 26. The event is a welcome PR exercise for the country, which up to now is probably best known for its oil reserves. It will be one of the most expensive shows in the history of the contest.

Oil production in Azerbaijan began over a century ago when the region was still part of the Russian czardom, and Azerbaijani oil reserves are estimated at 14 billion barrels. Since the country gained independence in 1991, western companies have profited massively from these.

With the so-called “Century Contract” agreed in 1994, Azerbaijan allowed dozens of oil companies, including giants such as BP and Exxon, to exploit the oil fields in the Caspian Sea. According to official figures, around $20 billion (15.7 billion euros) were invested in Azerbaijan in 2011 alone.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

South Asia

India Enlists German Help to Dispose of Bhopal Waste

The Indian government has decided a German agency will dispose of toxic waste that leaked from a Union Carbide plant in central India almost 30 years ago. At least 15,000 have died as a result of the Bhopal gas tragedy.

In 1984, some 3,500 people were immediately killed when a storage tank at Union Carbide India Ltd’s Bhopal factory in central India leaked, spewing methyl isocyanate and other poisonous substances into the surrounding slums.

According to government figures, the total death toll from the pollution and its side effects had climbed to over 15,000 by 2007. Activists place the figure at twice that number. More than 27 years later, there are still 346 metric tons of toxic waste that need to be disposed of in the area around the plant, which was bought by Dow Chemicals in 1999.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Indonesia: When Vigilantes Are Morality Police

by Endy Bayuni

JAKARTA, Indonesia — The stage was already set for battle between the 52,000 Indonesian fans of Lady Gaga, who bought and paid for tickets to see her perform, and the 30,000-strong Islamic Defenders Front, who promised to disrupt her concert in Jakarta scheduled for June 3. Going by the Twitter and Facebook posts this week, the Little Monsters (as fans of the American pop singer call themselves) say they are not intimidated by threats from the FPI, Indonesia’s notoriously violent, self-proclaimed morality police. “If it’s a fight they want, then it’s a fight they’ll get” is essentially the attitude of the mostly young Lady Gaga fans. But now it looks as if the showdown will never materialize. Who blinked? The police. The real ones, paid with taxpayers’ money. Faced with the prospect of an ugly street fight between the two groups, the Jakarta police announced this week it would not issue the permit for the concert at Bung Karno Sports Stadium to take place. The police say they cannot guarantee the security of the concert or the safety of the performers and audience.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Indonesia: Lady Gaga Speaks Out on ‘Censored’ Concert

Jakarta, 22 May (AKI/Jakarta Post) — US pop singer Lady Gaga has broken her silence on the long-running drama over her planned Jakarta concert, making note of censorship concerns and threats of violence against her.

After more than a week conflicting statements and international headlines over whether authorities would allow the 3 June concert in Bung Karno Stadium in Jakarta to go ahead, Gaga used her Twitter account, @ladygaga, to provide two brief statements.

“The Jakarta situation is 2-fold: Indonesian authorities demand I censor the show & religious extremist separately, are threatening violence,” she posted on Tuesday. “If the show does go on as scheduled, I will perform the BTWBall [Born This Way Ball] alone.”

One of those authorities is Religious Affairs Minister Suryadharma Ali, who said last week that Gaga “indulges in pornography by wearing revealing costumes” and that she would have a negative influence on young Indonesians.

There are also groups like the Islam Defenders Front (FPI), which has expressed strong opposition to the Grammy Award-winning artist, with one FPI chief, Habib Salim Alatas, saying that Gaga brings “the faith of Satan to our country and thus will destroy the nation’s morals”.

Her ability to perform in the country hinges on whether the National Police issues her a concert permit.

Indonesian law giving the police the power to “to issue a permit for, and monitor activities, involving crowds”.

After saying last week that it would not issue a concert permit for the pop singer, the National Police are now saying that one would be issued if Gaga’s concert promoters can get recommendations from the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) and the Religious Affairs Ministry.

In response to the move made by the National Police, University of Indonesia sociologist Sarlito Wirawan Sarwono has accused police of trying to “make friends” to divert some of the blame over the Lady Gaga controversy.

“Police rarely get support from the community, no matter what they do. So this time they make friends with those institutions so they are not the only ones to be blamed,” he said.

Sarlito said that behind all the Gaga brouhaha lies the competition to show which group had the most power and could benefit from it.

“Unfortunately, we find no role for the state to calm things down and take control of everything,” he said.

Meanwhile, a criminal sociologist from the same university, Muhammad Mustofa, said the inconsistency between the two police forces showed that there was no clear criteria dividing them.

In related development of the concert, The Immigration Office has revealed that American singer Lady Gaga has already obtained a visa to enter Indonesia.

Immigration Office spokesman Maryoto Sumadi said that the visa was issued last month.

“Administrative-wise, every requirement has been met,” Maryoto said on Monday, as quoted by

Maryoto said the singer, whose full name is Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, also had a sponsor for her stay in Jakarta.

“The status of her sponsor is also clear for us,” he said, without elaborating on the sponsor’s identity.

He said that although Gaga has not been barred from entering the country, the Immigration Office cannot provide assurances about her upcoming Jakarta concert as it was up to other government agencies to decide on the event.

More than 52,000 tickets, with prices ranging from Rp 465,000 (US$50.75) to Rp 2.25 million, have been sold for the concert since they went on sale on March 10.

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

Modern, Moderate Malaysian Muftis Mull Maledicting Manji’s Muslim Misrepresentation

Irshad Manji’s expansive and broad-minded Islam is her own creation, with no basis in Islamic tradition. Hugh Fitzgerald said it back in 2008: “Irshad Manji has certainly created her own private Islam. She is the child of Asian refugees from Uganda. She has never lived in a Muslim society. She has always enjoyed the freedoms of the West. But she feels, out of filial piety, and perhaps for other reasons, that she will do best if she continues to identify as a Muslim and if, furthermore, she keeps claiming that Islam itself is or can be made into something perfectly acceptable to people such as herself. She’s wrong. And any apostate, who had been born into and grown up in a society suffused with Islam, would be able to set her right.”


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

NATO Sets ‘Irreversible’ Roadmap to Withdrawing Troops From Afghanistan

Barack Obama and Nato have set an “irreversible” roadmap to “gradually and responsibly” withdraw 130,000 combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

But they also ordered military officers to begin planning a post-2014 mission to focus on training, advising and assisting Afghan troops to ensure the government can ward off a stubborn Taliban insurgency. “As Afghans stand up, they will not stand alone,” Mr Obama told the gathering of more than 50 world leaders, focused on ending a decade of war that has left over 3,000 coalition soldiers and tens of thousands of Afghans dead. Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who attended the talks, sought to reassure nervous allies that the sacrifices made on all sides would not have been vain, maintaining Taliban Islamic militants could not recapture power. “The Taliban may have the ability to launch attacks, to explode IEDs (improvised explosive devices), to send suicide bombers. But for them to come and take over the country and take it backwards, no,” Mr Karzai told CNN. “Afghanistan has moved forward, and Afghanistan will defend itself. And the progress that we have achieved, the Afghan people will not allow it to be put back or reversed.”


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Far East

A Tower of Fun: World’s Tallest Lego Structure Unveiled in South Korea to Mark Toy’s 80th Birthday

The World’s tallest Lego tower has been erected in Seoul, South Korea, built by 4,000 children, using 500,000 bricks and measuring a dizzying 31.9 metres (105ft) high. The toy tower was unveiled on Sunday by Danish Crown Prince Frederik, who laid the final record-breaking brick, as part of a celebration to mark Lego’s 80th birthday. The structure, which stands in front of Seoul’s Olympic Stadium beats the previous record, set in France last October, by just 30 centimetres.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Dud Obama Mugs Buried at Parliament

Faulty coffee mugs made to celebrate US president Barack Obama’s Australia visit have been destroyed in a “mafia-style execution”.

The Department of Parliamentary Services had 200 coffee mugs made to sell in the Parliament gift shop ahead of Mr Obama’s planned visit two years ago. But somehow the mugs were ordered with the president’s first name wrongly spelled — with two Rs. A total of 198 of them were subsequently destroyed, but not before a journalist could purchase two.

Bronwyn Graham from the Department of Parliamentary Services (DPS) used Estimates to explain to Labor Senator John Faulkner how and why the dud mugs were crushed. “The mugs were destroyed into fragments,” she said. “They were then disposed of onsite into a planned concrete pour.” “They ended up in a concrete pour? That’s got a touch of the Mafioso about it doesn’t it Senator Hogg?” Senator Faulkner said. “I wouldn’t say that,” president of the Senate, Senator John Hogg responded. Ms Graham says the concrete pour now rests at Parliament. “Senator, the sensitivity associated with the mistake that was made with the president’s name — the last thing we wanted was for the fragments to be found on a garbage tip somewhere,” she said.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Psychiatrists Identify ‘Asylum Seeker Syndrome’

A group of Australian psychiatrists has identified a new mental illness syndrome unique to asylum seekers. The group is presenting its evidence on Prolonged Asylum Seekers Syndrome at an international psychiatry conference in Hobart. It was identified after studying the mental health of asylum seekers and refugees living in Melbourne. Major depression was diagnosed in more than 60 per cent of asylum seekers and about 30 per cent of refugees. Associate Professor Suresh Sundram, from the University of Melbourne, says asylum seekers who had their applications rejected repeatedly showed clinical symptoms not seen before.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Who is Christopher ‘Badness’ Binse?

Convicted prison escapee Christopher ‘Badness’ Binse, 43, is the gunman currently holed up in a north Melbourne home. Read more about the man who has spent about half his life in prison and more recently, has managed to keep police officers at bay during a lengthy siege that is still unfolding.

Binse is a repeat bank robber and jail escapee, who since the age of 13, has spent most of his life behind bars.

In 2005, he told ABC Radio National he was made a ward of the state as a child. I’d run away and break into cars and steal cars just to sleep, and stuff like that, and that caused me to come into contact with the police, be arrested, and sent to juvenile detention centre. It wasn’t a place I should have been really at the end of the day.

I should have been somewhere else, I should have been sent to a psychiatrist or whatever, or psychologist, to see what was the cause of me running away, it was as simple as that. If they had have addressed the issue then, then I wouldn’t have chosen this path. That didn’t help me at all, if anything it just spiralled things further. I just started to learn more about crime, how to break into other cars, it was education in further crime.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Woman in House With Gunman at Melbourne Siege

Victorian police have revealed there is a second person in the house at the centre of a Melbourne siege that has been playing out for more than 33 hours. Police say the woman is an acquaintance of Christopher Binse, also known as “Badness”, but will not confirm if she is his girlfriend. Authorities have spoken to the woman and she is not considered a hostage.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

U. S. Rules Boko Haram Threat to National Interests

(AGI) Abuja — The U.S. Congress is pressuring President Obama to add Boko Haram to the list of foreign terrorist organisations. Pressure recently came from a group of senators and congressmen who wrote to Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, accusing the government of moving “too slowly” on this issue, stating that “after 9/11 we cannot afford excessive bureaucracy to protect our country and our interest in the world.” The letter from the people’s representatives also spoke of Boko Haram’s attacks on Christian churches in Nigeria and against United Nations headquarters in the capital Abuja in August 2011 when 25 people were killed. The Nigerian army has reported that in the last two days armed commandos linked to Boko Haram have killed four people in Maiduguri, the capital of the federal north eastern state of Borno, the heart and headquarters of the Islamic terrorist group.

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


Dutch and Iraqi Ministers to Meet to Discuss Ter Apel Protest Camp

The failed asylum seekers living in a camp outside the Ter Apel refugee centre in Groningen will be offered accommodation until June 15, immigration minister Gerd Leers said on Tuesday. The camp began as a protest against deportation by around 50 Iraqi nationals, but by last week they had been joined by Somalis, Iranians, Eritreans, Azerbaijans and Afghans.

Leers made the offer after telephoning his opposite number in the Iraq government, Dindar Najman Shafiq Duski, according to media reports. Duski agrees with Leers that the Iraqis must return to Iraq and the two are keen to find a solution, the media reports say. The Iraqi minister will be in the Netherlands on June 15 to discuss the matter with his colleague.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Egypt: 560 Unaccompanied Children Entered Italy in 2011

Save the Children research presented in Cairo

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO — In 2011 alone, 560 ‘unaccompanied children’ crossed the sea from Egypt to Italy. Many more could follow their example in 2012. Immigrants continued to arrive from Egypt in constant numbers between September 2011 and January 2012, while the flow from other North African countries has almost come to a halt. These results were revealed by researchers of Save the Children, the organisation that protects children in difficult situations. Save the Children is based in the U.K. and U.S. and has presented a report on Egyptian children and young people who risk their lives to make the voyage to Italy in small boats, under terrible conditions, to look for work. The figures themselves are not very impressive when they are put next to the total numbers of migrants arriving in Italy from various African countries. But they are important considering the national and international protection and rights promised and guaranteed to children, at least in words, allowing them to study, play and develop a balanced personality. “There is nothing here, while there is work over there,” said Sami, 12 years old and Sherif, 13, interviewed in Khamara and Abu Qir, two towns on the sea near Alexandria. Small boats carrying 100 people or more start their journey from these places, some of them never reach their destination. This happened for example to Gharbya, a 17-year-old boy from the Nile Delta, who drowned by the end of April. He was thrown out of the boat off the Sicilian coast and tried to reach the coast, but could not swim. “When they reach Sicily, Calabria or Apulia, most of these children try to go to the three large Italian cities: Rome, Turin and Milan, where Egyptians from Gharbya, Qalyubeya and Assiut have been living there for years. They hope these Egyptians will help them get a better life and find work,” said Carlotta Bellini, who coordinated the research in Italy. But often these “uncles” don’t protect them or even abuse them, forcing them into prostitution for example. If they are lucky they will find a job at the general markets or pizza restaurants, or have to harvest fruit and vegetables on the countryside.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Gay Marriage: Advertising Watchdog Accused of Bias Over Chairman’s Campaign Video

The Advertising Standards Agency has been accused of bias after its chairman publicly campaigned for gay marriage while it has placed advertisements from opponents of a change in the law under investigation.

The watchdog rejected calls for Lord Smith of Finsbury — the former Labour cabinet minister, Chris Smith — to resign last night but accepted that he had a “conflict of interest” on the matter and therefore would not vote. It emerged last week that the ASA is investigating an advertisement from the Coalition For Marriage (C4M), which campaigns against changing the law, following claims it is “offensive” to homosexual people. Archbishop Cranmer, a popular political and religious blog, was asked to justify carrying the advertisements, which also appeared in a host of other media after 11 complaints to the ASA. It came on the same day as the Law Society banned a conference on marriage due to be addressed by a senior High Court judge because it did not promote same-sex marriage. The advertisements carried on the Cranmer blog promoted the C4M petition, which has attracted more than 500,000 supporters so far, and polling figures suggesting that 70 per cent of people believe marriage should remain between a man and a women.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]