Sunday, January 12, 2003

News Feed 20120523

Financial Crisis
»CBO Says US Likely to Fall off ‘Fiscal Cliff’ If Bush-Era Tax Cuts Allowed to Expire
»China Fears the Impact of Greek Crisis on Its GDP and the Power of the Party
»ECB Will Not Name Banks Which Benefitted From €1trn Loan Scheme
»European Parliament Approves Contested Financial Tax
»Fitch Says Foreigners Flee Spanish, Italian Bonds
»Free Money: German Central Bank Issues Zero-Rate Bonds
»Hollande Says He Will Do All So Greece Stays in Euro
»How Facebook Could Destroy the U.S. Economy
»Incrementalism, Regionalism and Revolution
»Italy: Govt Gives ‘Fuel’ To Industry With Back-Payment Plan
»Italy on Track to Balance Budget in 2014, OECD Says
»Lagarde Warns of Greek Euro Exit ‘Contamination’
»Latvia Eyeing Euro Entry Despite Crisis: Prime Minister
»Netherlands: ‘Consequences of Greek Exit Not Great’
»Portugal Begins EU-IMF Bailout Review
»Schaeuble Reiterates German Anti-Eurobond Stance
»US Treasury Dept Running Secret Debt Sales to China, Bypassing Wall Street Entirely
»Wall Street Bankers Secretly Scammed Facebook IPO Buyers
»World Bank Fears Hard Landing for China Economy
»Explosive Voter Fraud Video the Left Doesn’t Want Anyone to See
»Facebook Shares Slump After £65bn Flotation
»Figures Don’t Lie, Democrats Do
»In Everglades, Tracking Pythons May Provide Clues to Vanishing Wildlife
»Nigeria Opposes US Plan to List Boko Haram as Terror Group
»Pictured: The Moment Airline Passengers Wrestled Crazed Woman to the Floor After She Claimed to Have a Bomb Surgically Implanted Inside Her
»Police Set to Use Armed Drones Against Americans
»Ron Paul: On Indefinite Detention: The Tyranny Continues
»Should Black People Tolerate This?
»Smart Meter = Smart Surveillance
»SpaceX’s Commercial Spaceship Chasing Space Station in Orbit
»Stakelbeck on Terror Show: Battling the Islamist/Leftist Alliance
»Stuck Ketchup Problem Solved by MIT Engineers
»Woman Appeals Henrico County’s Approval of Mosque
»Big Montreal March Marks 100 Days of Student Anger
»Islamic Call to Prayer in the Royal Ontario Museum
Europe and the EU
»Berlusconi: Majority of Italians Don’t Support Left-Wing
»British Daredevil Leaps From Plane Without Parachute
»Brussels Critical of National Strategies on Roma
»Bulgaria Muslims Face Discrimination
»EU: Bilderberg Pushes Mandatory Internet ID for Europe
»Europe’s Airlines Gear Up for Turbulent Times
»France: Prisoner Escapes Just Minutes After Meeting French Justice Minister at Basketball Match
»Germany: Study: Net Replacing Drugs as Youth Habit
»Germany: Salafists and Right-Wingers Fight it Out
»Germany: Scientists Trial Lasers to Replace Pesticides
»Italy: Grassroots Comedian Grillo’s Party Wins Parma Mayoral Race
»Italy: Art: Islamic Calligraphy Revealed
»Italy: Party Funding to be Halved After House Vote
»Polish Children Boosting Standards Among English Pupils
»Swiss Court: Anti-Islam Group Must be Protected
»Switzerland ‘One of Europe’s Suicide Capitals’
»UK: ‘I Watched My Parents Suffocate Shafilea by Forcing a Bag Into Her Mouth, ‘ Says Sister of ‘Westernised Honour Killing Victim’
»UK: Cameron Pledges to Fight Diktat From Unelected European Judges Who Say Prisoners Must Get the Vote
»UK: David Cameron’s Five Point Plan to Win the Next Election
»UK: Disgraced Education Firm A4e ‘Sent Jobseeker to Look for Work at a Lap-Dancing Club’
»UK: Is it Your Time to Shine?
»UK: Kick in Ballots
»UK: More Than 30,000 People Turned Out for Boishakhi Mela Round Brick Lane
»UK: More Than 87,000 Racist Incidents Recorded in Schools
»UK: Old Guard Give Way to Canada’s Mounties at Buckingham Palace
»UK: Protests Over Birmingham City Council Labour Group’s Lack of Diversity
»Skopje: Moslem Demo “Death to the Christians”
North Africa
»Egyptian Presidential Election: Why a Moderate Regime is Unlikely
»Egypt Presidential Election: Live
»Egypt: Tayyeb — Islam Bans Embodiment of Prophet Muhammad
»Egypt: Muslim Brotherhood Buying Votes With Food
»Franciscan Nuns, A Quiet Witness of Charity Among Libyan Muslims
»Tunisia: Salafite Party Calls for Polygamy and Halt to Adoptions
Middle East
»Bahrain: Gulf Army Needs to Leave, Opposition Leader
»Doha Bank Chief Confirms New World Order is Being Built at the Highest Levels
»‘Donkey Rape’ Sparks Tribal Massacre in Yemen
»Iran and UN Close to Deal on Nuclear Programme as World Powers Meet for Baghdad Talks
»Iran Nuclear Talks Set to Open in Baghdad
»NGOs Warn, Yemen on the Verge of Food Emergency
»Syria: One Man’s Terrorist …
»Lithuania Creates Panel to Count Cost of Soviet-Era
»Medvedev Chats With US Cowboys Working in Russia
»Putin Supports Controversial Anti-Protest Bill
»Russia Tests New Long-Range Missile
»Village Grannies Make it to Eurovision Finals
South Asia
»Black Magic Practices in India
»Doctor Who Helped Find Bin Laden is Given Jail Term, Official Says
»India’s Health Services in Urgent Need of Treatment
»Indonesia: Umar Patek: Who Masterminded the Bali and Church Bombings, Asks for Forgiveness
»Indonesia: ‘Christians Should Thank’ Islamic Group Over Lady Gaga
»Italy-India: Detention of Marines ‘Unacceptable, ‘ Undermines Security
»Oscar-Winning Acid Attack Film Sparks Controversy in Pakistan
»Pakistani Clerics: Women With Cell Phones Can be Attacked With Acid, Secular NGO Workers Can be Forcibly ‘Married’ To Local Men
»This is Not an Exit Strategy for Afghanistan, It’s a Surrender Strategy
Far East
»China Warns Australia to Choose “Godfather” — China or U.S.
»Fukushima Disaster is ‘Nuclear War Without a War’
»Japan: Skytree Has Elevator Glitch on First Day
»Kidnapped Fishermen’s Case Angers Chinese Public
Sub-Saharan Africa
»University in South Africa Cancels Israeli Deputy Ambassador’s Lecture
»Greece: Incidents Over Presence of Undocumented Migrants
»Italy: New “Slaves” in the Farms, 16 Arrested
»Number of Immigrant Organisations Run Into the Hundreds
»Spain: Ministry Bans Indiscriminate Stopping of Migrants
»Lack of Toilets Poses Serious Health Risk

Financial Crisis

CBO Says US Likely to Fall off ‘Fiscal Cliff’ If Bush-Era Tax Cuts Allowed to Expire

A new government study released Tuesday says that allowing Bush-era tax cuts to expire and a scheduled round of automatic spending cuts to take effect would probably throw the economy into a recession. The Congressional Budget Office report says that the economy would shrink by 1.3 percent in the first half of next year if the government is allowed to fall off this so-called “fiscal cliff” on Jan. 1 — and that the higher tax rates and more than $100 billion in automatic cuts to the Pentagon and domestic agencies are kept in place.

There’s common agreement that lawmakers will act either late this year or early next year to head off the dramatic shift in the government’s financial situation. But if they were left in place, CBO says it would wring hundreds of billions of dollars from the budget deficit that would “represent an additional drag on the weak economic expansion.” CBO projected that the economy would contract by 1.3 percent in the first half of 2013, which would meet the traditional definition of a recession.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

China Fears the Impact of Greek Crisis on Its GDP and the Power of the Party

China’s country fund, which has an estimated US$ 440 billion in assets, has stopped buying European bonds, accusing European authorities of “lack of leadership” in managing the eurozone crisis. Meanwhile, Asian shares continue to drop as China’s economic growth is at risk. If GDP growth declines, social tensions will rise, undermining the power of the Communist party.

Beijing (AsiaNews) — The eurozone crisis and Greece’s uncertain economic future could have a negative impact on the economies of China and Asia since Europe is their main export market. The uncertainty has already badly affected European shares, monopolising the attention of European governments. For this reason, the China Investment Corp (CIC) has stopped buying European sovereign debt, blaming European authorities for their “lack of leadership”.

For CIC supervisory board chairman Jin Liqun, the latter have been incapable of dealing with the euro area’s debt. If Greece exits the single currency bloc, other countries might follow. “Ever since the debt crisis broke out, there has never been a master plan for a resolution,” Jin said at an event hosted by the Centre for Policy Studies in London late yesterday.

With an estimated US$ 440 billion in assets, the CIC is the world’s fifth-largest country fund. Its president Gao Xiqing said on 9 May that the sovereign wealth fund has stopped buying European government debt on concerns about the region’s financial turmoil.

“Too much time has been wasted on endless bargaining on terms and conditions for piecemeal bailouts,” Jin said. “You cannot say there is no strategy altogether, but short-termism features prominently in the process for negotiations for bailout.” For him, the Greeks should be told to leave or work hard in the next ten years to stay in the euro.

The CIC is in dicey position. China is one of the world’s economic engines, but relies heavily on exports with Europe as its biggest export market, accounting for about 18 per cent of the nation’s overseas shipments.

Forced to maintain a 7 per cent annual growth rate, China’s Communist authorities are afraid of what might come from a collapse of the eurozone, putting at risk €400 billion worth of bailouts so far initiated in the region.

Markets too are pessimistic. In Asia, shares continue their slide, especially of exporters.

In Shanghai, some 7.7 billion shares changed hands yesterday, 14 per cent lower than the daily average this time last year.

The Bloomberg China-US 55 Index (CH55BN), the measure of the most-traded US-listed Chinese companies, retreated by almost 1 per cent in New York yesterday.

The Shanghai index has fallen 4.1 percent from this year’s high set on March 2 on concern a slowdown in growth at the world’s second-largest economy is deepening.

This is a headache for investors but also for the Chinese government, which set a 7.5 per cent growth target for this year.

If things continue as they are however, it will have to settle for 6.8 per cent. This would mean higher inflation and a credit crunch for private investors, with the prospect of greater social unrest.

Even the row over the yuan does not help. Even though China has refused to let it float freely in order to boost exports, it is already on “its way to become an international reserve currency,” but it will take “the next 10 or 20 years” before it “will play a more important role,” Jin said. “[C]ompared to euro, dollar, it will still be very insignificant”.

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

ECB Will Not Name Banks Which Benefitted From €1trn Loan Scheme

The European Central Bank has declined a request by German Green MP, Gerhard Schick to reveal the names of banks which received the more than €1 trillion in cheap loans between December and February, the Financial Times Deutschland reports. The banks pay only 1% interest rates on the money.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

European Parliament Approves Contested Financial Tax

(BRUSSELS) — The European parliament adopted by a strong majority Wednesday proposals on a French-inspired financial transaction tax (FTT) which has been bitterly opposed by Britain.

The resolution in favour of the FTT, approved with 487 votes in favour, 152 against and 46 abstentions, calls for the implementation of the tax by the beginning of 2015 “even if only some member states opt for it.”

The vote is likely to irritate Prime Minister David Cameron as he joins a European Union summit later Wednesday to discuss how to spur growth across crisis-hit Europe. Britain says the tax would undermine London as a global financial centre.

Nine countries have come out in favour, however — Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain.

“The FTT is an integral part of an exit from crisis,” said parliamentary rapporteur Anni Podimata, a Greek Socialist. “It will bring a fairer distribution of the weight of the crisis.”

“This FTT will not lead to relocation outside the EU because the cost of this is higher than paying the tax,” she added.

Parliament approved the tax rates proposed by the Commission, 0.1 percent for transactions of shares and bonds, and 0.01 percent for derivatives.

Pressure group Oxfam said that EU leaders “cannot afford to ignore this overwhelming vote” and that cash raised should be “used to help poor people at home and abroad hit by the economic crisis and to combat climate change.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Fitch Says Foreigners Flee Spanish, Italian Bonds

Foreign investors fled Spanish and Italian government debt in huge numbers in the first quarter of 2012, a report by Fitch Rating said on Wednesday. As foreigners pulled out from the two countries’ public debt, commercial banks financed with cheap loans from the European Central Bank were taking their place, it said. “We expect this trend to continue in the coming months,” warned the London-based rating agency.

The exit from Spanish debt accelerated in the first quarter of this year, Fitch said. Non-resident holdings of Spanish public debt plunged to 34 percent of the total in the first quarter from 40 percent at the end of 2011 and more than 60 percent in 2008, it said. In Italy, the pace of the withdrawal had slowed but the proportion of the public debt held by non-resident investors nevertheless decli

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Free Money: German Central Bank Issues Zero-Rate Bonds

For the first time in history, Germany issued long term bonds with a zero percent coupon rate on Wednesday. The demand reveals the deep concerns investors have about the euro zone and their desire for a safe place to park their capital — even if it costs them money to do so.

For now at least Germany and Greece share the same currency. But don’t tell that to investors. On Wednesday the German Finance Ministry pulled off a remarkable feat for a country in a threatened currency union: It issued €4.6 billion of two year bonds with a rate of zero percent. In other words, once inflation is factored in, investors are essentially paying to park their money with the German government.

Because of the strength of its economy, Germany has emerged as a significant benefactor from the problems being experienced by Greece as well as Spain, Italy and Portugal. In Greece worries that a government uncooperative with the European Central Bank could come to power after next month’s election forcing an exit from the euro zone has investors as well as ordinary citizens pulling their money out in droves. In Spain concerns over the health of the banking sector have driven up borrowing costs.

According to German officials on Wednesday, demand for the zero percent bonds was robust and added that Germany does not intend to offer up bonds with a negative interest rate. “As such, a coupon of zero percent is the lower limit,” Reuters quoted a finance official as saying.

Still, it seems likely that, with investors looking for safe havens for their money, even negative interest rate bonds might sell. “Many investors are putting their money only in places where they are guaranteed to get it back,” Commerzbank analyst Alexander Aldinger told the Berliner Morgenpost. “For a large degree of security, investors are willing to give up returns.”

Even while borrowing costs have spiked in other euro-zone countries, rates on shorter term German bonds have already hit zero and even ventured into negative territory, meaning investors have been paying the German government to hang on to their cash.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Hollande Says He Will Do All So Greece Stays in Euro

French President Francois Hollande said Wednesday he would do everything to keep debt-hit Greece in the eurozone after talks with Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

“I will do everything I can in my position to convince the Greeks to choose to stay in the zone and everything to convince Europeans who might doubt of the necessity of keeping Greece in the eurozone,” Hollande told journalists.

Hollande was speaking amid rising speculation that Greece might might leave the eurozone and after Germany reasserted its stance against eurobonds despite calls from other EU members and the IMF to consider this.

Socialist Hollande went on to criticise what he called a problem with the European Union’s decision-making mechanism that prevented the bloc acting more effectively against unemployment and other economic events.

“We have a problem with the decision-making mechanism within the European Union. Certainly instruments have been created… but we must move more quickly, more robustly,” Hollande said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

How Facebook Could Destroy the U.S. Economy

Facebook just joined a “troubled club,” warns the Economist. Now it’s just another “endangered public company.”

Yes, endangered. The number of public companies has declined 37% since 1997. The number of IPOs has dropped from 311 annually before 2000 to 99 the past decade. Meanwhile, the smart CEOs and the Super Rich are “going private,” to avoid government red tape restricting capitalism.

Over at BusinessWeek they’re warning investors that the growing number of “cutesy mascots” is a dangerous reminder “of the dot-com boom’s irrational exuberance.” They’re also red flagging new reports that “more Chinese investors are betting on U.S. start-ups.” And feeding the flames.

What’s going on? Facebook’s in trouble, that’s what. Now in the crosshairs of public scrutiny, everybody’s taking potshots. And the warnings are just beginning:

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Incrementalism, Regionalism and Revolution

Oh, there are plenty who can see exactly what is going on and can see who are the perpetrators of this take-over of America. But most of America is just wondering what hit them. If it could be explained in sound bites, we might get somewhere but the answer is not terribly complicated — just long.

So how did we get co-opted, and how did it start so long ago? I won’t go to the beginning. To know the early history of the American road to serfdom, read Fabian Freeway: High Road to Socialism in the U.S.A. 1884-1966 by Rose L. Martin (Jan 1, 1966), or The Creature from Jekyll Island : A Second Look at the Federal Reserve by G. Edward Griffin (May 1998). There are many more books and also videos that expose the early foundations of our downfall.

The result of Fabian planning, or better put, scheming is something called Communitarianism. This is the version of Collectivism or Socialism that is being foisted on the entire world. A simple definition is that the rights of the individual must be balanced against the interests of society as a whole. Where have we heard that before? We have been pummeled with the social justice notion of promoting the common good over that of the individual; that we must think of the community, the earth, our global neighbors, everything but us and our individual freedoms and rights.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Italy: Govt Gives ‘Fuel’ To Industry With Back-Payment Plan

Monti vows to pay off 20-30 billion euros this year

(ANSA) — Rome, May 23 — Premier Mario Monti has said a package of four decrees to settle back payments the public sector owes private companies will provide Italian business with much-needed “fuel” in a time of economic recession.

Monti said the government hopes the measures will enable it to pay back 20 to 30 million euros of the money ministries and local governments owe private companies supplying products and services to them.

The premier told a press conference that the moves would help “companies who need fuel to switch back on the engine of productivity”.

The Italian public sector’s debts with the private sector could run up to as much as 100 million euros, according to media reports.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy on Track to Balance Budget in 2014, OECD Says

But recession may make new measures necessary

(ANSA) — Paris, May 22 — Reforms adopted by Italy have placed it on track to balance its budget in 2014 but the country’s economy is in recession and this, along with the risk of contagion from the eurozone debt crisis, may force Rome to take further steps to curb spending, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

In its latest economic outlook, released here on Tuesday, the OECD said: “since the end of 2011 Italy has made important structural reforms, embarking on a path towards balancing public finances… these reforms must continue.

“The reduction of spending and the increase in taxes should reduce the deficit to a very low level in 2013 and fully eliminate it in 2014,” the report added.

The OECD went on to point out that the Italian economy “is once again in recession, under pressure from weakened European economies and this could have short-term consequences on budget rigors. Economic activity will probably continue to retreat next year but should pick up at the end of 2013”.

Because of the recession, the OECD said Italy may need to “adopt additional budget measures” to keep it on track.

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

The OECD outlook predicted that Italy’s GDP will fall by 1.7% this year and 0.4% in 2013. This contrasted with a forecast earlier this month from the European Union that said GDP would slip by 1.4% in 2012 and rise by 0.4% next year.

According to the OECD, the main risk Italy faces “despite the clear intention of the government to balance the budget” is the “contagion from weakness in the euro area that could boost interest rates on its public debt”.

The report went on to stress that the reforms Italy has adopted to date have “already improved long-term prospects and must continue” and a “reduction in salaries, to bring them greater in line with productivity, could have a stimulating effect on competitiveness and hold in check the rise in unemployment”.

Looking at the eurozone, the OECD said “the crisis in the eurozone has recently become more serious and it remains an important source of risk for the global economy”.

GDP in the euro area is expected to dip by 0.1% this year and then rise by 0.9% in 2013, the OECD said, adding that the decline in 2012 would be the result of growth being unchanged in the first quarter to then decline by 0.3% in the second quarter before it rises respectively by 0.3% and 0.7% in the third and fourth quarters.

The OECD predicted that GDP would climb progressively in 2013 with respective quarterly increases of 0.9%, 1.2%, 1.5% and 1.7%.

In its overview of the world economy, the OECD said that “the global economy is once again seeking to return to growth… but this is taking place at different paces, with the economies of United States and Japan expanding quicker than that of the euro area”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Lagarde Warns of Greek Euro Exit ‘Contamination’

“The Greek population has made huge efforts. But they have more to do”, IMF chief Christine Lagarde said in a BBC interview. She warned of the risk of “contamination” if Greece quits the euro and said integrity of the eurozone could be seen as worthwhile enough to keep supporting Greece.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Latvia Eyeing Euro Entry Despite Crisis: Prime Minister

(BRUSSELS) — Latvia intends to join the eurozone in 2014 despite the debt crisis, hoping it will bring an element of economic stability to the country, Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis said on Wednesday.

In an interview with AFP ahead of a meeting of EU leaders to thrash out possible ways to bolster growth in the debt-mired eurozone, Dombrovskis said Latvia was “on track” to meet the entry requirements to adopt the euro.

“We set this target several years ago and … the intention is still to join the eurozone on January 1, 2014,” he said.

He conceded that reservations had been raised, given the debt woes that have pitched the 17-nation zone into the most serious crisis in the bloc’s history and said Latvia had studied the euro entry experience of neighbour, Estonia.

“Despite the crisis, it also served as a positive signal of financial and economic stability in Estonia, and we expect a similar effect in Latvia,” he said.

Estonia became the 17th and latest member of the eurozone when it gave up the kroon on January 1, 2011.

Dombrovskis said he did not expect a negative impact on Latvia’s small economy. Rather he said it would “help attract investments, and actually reduce various transaction costs on currency exchanges.”

“Our currency is already fixed to the euro anyway, so why not join?” he said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: ‘Consequences of Greek Exit Not Great’

THE HAGUE, 23/05/12 — Nobody benefits from a departure by Greece from the eurozone, but the country is too small for such a case to have a big effect on the Dutch economy, said Vice-Premier and Economic Affairs Minister Maxime Verhagen on RTLZ.

Smaller Dutch companies in particular will feel the effects. Big companies are however often better able to hedge their risks. The biggest effect of a Greek departure from the eurozone would be persistent unrest in the eurozone, which would hit the Netherlands as exporting country.

According to Verhagen, some 2 billion euros was exported last year from the Netherlands to Greece. He declined to go into what the cost would be for the Netherlands of Greece returning to its own currency.

The cabinet wants the Greeks to implement consistently the agreements with Europe on putting their government finances in order. Ultimately, the choice of keeping the euro is one that the Greeks themselves must make, Verhagen stressed. “You opt for the future or you opt for continuing problems.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[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]

Schaeuble Reiterates German Anti-Eurobond Stance

(AGI) Frankfurt — German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble has reiterated Germany’s anti-eurobond stance. He maintains that they “provide totally the wrong incentive” as they “would not promote fiscal discipline, but the opposite. We’re ready to talk openly about any proposal. But we’re not going to do the opposite of what will solve (the eurozone’s) problems,” he said. Guenther Oettinger, the German EU Commissioner, on the other hand, “does not rule out” eurobonds, saying that it is “matter of timing” and that eurobonds could be given due consideration following the EU nations’ approval of the fiscal compact.

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

US Treasury Dept Running Secret Debt Sales to China, Bypassing Wall Street Entirely

(NaturalNews) In another sign of America’s increasing debtor status to China, the Obama administration is allowing Beijing to bypass Wall Street entirely when it comes to buy U.S. Treasury bonds, the first time a foreign country has ever been afforded such special treatment.

In a recent exclusive, Reuters said that, according to documents examined by its reporters, the arrangement means China — since June 2011 — has been able to purchase U.S. debt directly, which is differently than any other country in the world. That’s significant because of the secrecy surrounding the deal.

And by the way, this could not have happened without the approval and blessing of President Obama, the man who — in 2008 — campaigned on a promise to end China’s currency manipulation as a way to protect U.S. interests. Of course, he never said he would do anything to stop China’s manipulation of our currency.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Wall Street Bankers Secretly Scammed Facebook IPO Buyers

Wall Street Banks scammed the public when they shared secret earnings estimates and valuations of Facebook with insiders much worse than they publicly reported.

The plummet comes as Reuters revealed that Wall Street Banks scammed the public when the secretly cut their revenue estimates for Facebook during the IPO roadshow and only let their most lucrative retail investors know about the cuts.

By withholding the information from the public, millions of mom and pop retail investors were set up for a blood bath, and as quoted from the Yahoo! News article below, Facebook IPO buyers deserved to be “mad as hell” about it.


Those losses will only continue as financial news outlets report that the offerings IPO valuation of over $100 billion is up to 10 times higher than the price Facebook is actually worth.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

World Bank Fears Hard Landing for China Economy

With low demand in its main export markets, China must spur domestic growth to avoid a hard landing for its economy, the World Bank has said. It warns that a sharp downturn might ripple across Asia and the Pacific.

Economic growth in China will slow for a third year in a row, the World Bank said Wednesday, as it predicted a rate of expansion of 8.2 percent for this year, down from 9.2 percent in 2011 and 10.4 percent in 2010.

In its biannual East Asia and Pacific economic outlook, the world development lender said that the Asian economic powerhouse was facing a challenge “to sustain growth through a soft landing.”

“While the prospects for a gradual slowdown remain high, there are concerns that growth could slow too quickly,” the bank’s report said.

A primary “downside risk” for China was a further slowing of demand in “high-income countries” in the West which would “ripple quickly through” the region’s production and trade networks, in which China held a central position.

The report noted that the European Union, the United States and Japan accounted for 43 percent of the region’s exports, and added that Europe’s banks provided one-third of all trade and project financing in Asia.

In addition, China was facing the domestic risk of a sharp downturn in its property markets, the report said, adding, however, that corrections had so far remained “gradual and orderly.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Explosive Voter Fraud Video the Left Doesn’t Want Anyone to See

Attorney General Eric Holder’s Department of Justice is dragging states (Alabama, Texas, and South Carolina) through litigation over their voter ID laws. Meanwhile the state of Arizona just had their tougher voter ID laws upheld by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Given these scenarios it is obvious Holder is using his authority and position in an attempt to prevent tougher voter ID Laws from being implemented in this election year.

Holder isn’t alone. The Left is actively demonizing efforts to thwart voter fraud calling them racist, hate-filled efforts, and a particular burden on immigrants, students, the elderly, and poor.

Showing proper identification by U.S citizens is commonplace: from making credit purchases to coaching a little league team to gaining access into buildings and facilities — identification is the norm — not the exception!

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Facebook Shares Slump After £65bn Flotation

In the three days since his wedding — held the day after Facebook’s £65billion flotation on the stock market — the firm’s value has slumped by more than £12billion.

It meant Mr Zuckerberg’s personal fortune had fallen by £1.3billion in the middle of the day’s trading, as he saw his company’s share price tumble well below its £24 opening on Friday.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Figures Don’t Lie, Democrats Do

It’s been breaking news all over MSNBC, liberal blogs, newspapers and even The Wall Street Journal: “Federal spending under Obama at historic lows … It’s clear that Obama has been the most fiscally moderate president we’ve had in 60 years.” There’s even a chart!

I’ll pause here to give you a moment to mop up the coffee on your keyboard. Good? OK, moving on …

This shocker led to around-the-clock smirk fests on MSNBC. As with all bogus social science from the left, liberals hide the numbers and proclaim: It’s “science”! This is black and white, inarguable, and why do Republicans refuse to believe facts?

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

In Everglades, Tracking Pythons May Provide Clues to Vanishing Wildlife

Burmese pythons are native to Southeast Asia. No one knows for certain how the invasive snake entered the Everglades. The belief that Hurricane Andrew blew them there from exotic pet shops and houses in 1992, or that numerous pet owners released them when they grew too large, is likely a myth, according to Frank J. Mazzotti, a professor of wildlife ecology and conservation for the University of Florida. “All it takes is three snakes,” he said, mating and laying an average of 50 eggs, and up to 100 eggs, per year. Their population in the Everglades is estimated at anywhere between 5,000 and 100,000 by USGS.

Pythons prefer warmth, but many in the Everglades have managed to survive hard freezes, leading some biologists to worry about their ability to adapt and travel north. The snake has already been swimming and slithering south toward the Florida Keys.

Once pythons are established, trouble seems to follow. A study co-authored by Hart, Mazzotti and other researchers showed that when pythons started to appear in large numbers in the late 1990s and early 2000s, mammals in the southernmost part of the Everglades started to disappear.

For the study, researchers traveled nearly 40,000 miles over 11 years, observing wildlife in the southern area. They found that 99 percent of raccoons, 98 percent of opossums and about 88 percent of bobcats were gone. Marsh and cottontail rabbits, as well as foxes, could not be found.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Nigeria Opposes US Plan to List Boko Haram as Terror Group

(AGI) Abuja — Nigeria has voiced its opposition at the US government’s plans to include Boko Haram on its terrorist watch list. Nigeria’s ambassador to Washington Ade Adefuye and the country’s National Security advisor, General Abdrew Azazi, formally requested that the United States not include Islamist militant group Boko Haram in its watch list of foreign terrorist groups posing a threat to the US or its global interests. They made their request at the end of a series of meetings with senior White House officials. Nigeria fears that including Boko Haram in the US watch list could make it more difficult for Nigerian citizens to travel to the US and further affect bilateral trade between the two countries. Nigerian authorities said they would manage to counter the threat posed by Boko Haram, as they did in the past with other terrorist or rebel groups operating in the country. Over the past few days, President Barack Obama has come under increased pressure from the US Congress to include Boko Haram in the terrorist watch list. A group of US Senators and House Representatives also wrote a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, criticising the Obama administration for acting “too slowly” on this issue and claiming that “ten years after 9/11, we cannot allow bureaucratic stovepipes and interagency turf battles to prevent us from protecting the US homeland and US global interests”. The letter mentioned some recent attacks carried out by Boko Haram against Christian churches in Nigeria and against the UN headquarters in the capital Abuja (August 2011) in which 25 people were killed. Early this morning, a group of Boko Haram militants attacked a police station in the town of Sokoto, in north-western Nigeria, killing a police officer and a civilian. Italian engineer Franco Lamolinara was killed in a failed rescue attempt in Sokoto on March 8, after being held hostage by Boko Haram militants for 10 months.

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

Pictured: The Moment Airline Passengers Wrestled Crazed Woman to the Floor After She Claimed to Have a Bomb Surgically Implanted Inside Her

A crazed woman had to be restrained by fellow air passengers after she started raging about having an explosive device implanted within her.

The terrifying incident forced the pilot of U.S. Airways flight 787, traveling from Paris to Charlotte, North Carolina, to divert and make an emergency landing.

Fighter jets were scrambled to intercept the the troubled plane and guided it into land at a Maine airport, where passengers were evacuated and the woman arrested.


She is French citizen, born in Cameroon, Africa, who was set to visit the U.S. for 10 days, CNN reported, but had no checked luggage.

Doctors on board the flight examined her, but found no evidence of wounds or scars that would indicate recent surgery, according to the news channel.

US officials told NBC that initial reports suggested the passenger, a woman, appeared to be mentally unstable.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Police Set to Use Armed Drones Against Americans

First we were bombarded with the news that 30,000 drones would be spying on us domestically and within weeks the agenda has already moved on to arming the drones with non-lethal weapons.

CBS DC reports that the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office in Texas “is considering using rubber bullets and tear gas on its drone.”

“It’s simply not appropriate to use any of force, lethal or non-lethal, on a drone,” responded Catherine Crump, staff attorney for the ACLU.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Ron Paul: On Indefinite Detention: The Tyranny Continues

The bad news from last week’s passage of the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act is that Americans can still be arrested on US soil and detained indefinitely without trial. Some of my colleagues would like us to believe that they fixed last year’s infamous Sections 1021 and 1022 of the NDAA, which codified into law the unconstitutional notion that some Americans are not subject to the protections of the Constitution. However, nothing in this year’s bill or amendments to the bill restored those constitutional rights.

Supporters of the one amendment that passed on this matter were hoping no one would notice that it did absolutely nothing. The amendment essentially stated that those entitled to habeas corpus protections are hereby granted habeas corpus protections. Thanks for nothing!

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Should Black People Tolerate This?

by Walter E. Williams

Each year, roughly 7,000 blacks are murdered. Ninety-four percent of the time, the murderer is another black person. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, between 1976 and 2011, there were 279,384 black murder victims. Using the 94 percent figure means that 262,621 were murdered by other blacks. Though blacks are 13 percent of the nation’s population, they account for more than 50 percent of homicide victims. Nationally, black homicide victimization rate is six times that of whites, and in some cities, it’s 22 times that of whites. Coupled with being most of the nation’s homicide victims, blacks are most of the victims of violent personal crimes, such as assault and robbery.

The magnitude of this tragic mayhem can be viewed in another light. According to a Tuskegee Institute study, between the years 1882 and 1968, 3,446 blacks were lynched at the hands of whites. Black fatalities during the Korean War (3,075), Vietnam War (7,243) and all wars since 1980 (8,197) come to 18,515, a number that pales in comparison with black loss of life at home.

Racist attacks have been against not only whites but also Asians. Such attacks include the San Francisco beating death of an 83-year-old Chinese man, the pushing of a 57-year-old woman off a train platform and the knocking of a 59-year-old Chinese man to the ground, which killed him. For years, Asian school students in New York and Philadelphia have been beaten up by their black classmates and called racist epithets — for example, “Hey, Chinese!” and “Yo, dragon ball!” But that kind of bullying, unlike the bullying of homosexuals, goes unreported and unpunished.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Smart Meter = Smart Surveillance

We have all heard a lot of discussion lately on the energy department’s move toward a “smart grid” and the use of “smart meters” fueled by the stimulus funding from the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. This smart grid promises to “increase energy efficiency, bolster electric power grid reliability, and facilitate demand response, among other benefits.” However the devil is in the details; as they say.

In order for the smart meter program to be of any benefit to the grid as a whole it would necessitate nearly universal usage across the country. The concept on the surface is actually a good idea if energy demand is the actual goal. For that matter, energy consumption demands could be ascertained at the point of separation to the public at the local power sub-stations that serve individual communities and thus alert the system of increased demand and therefore increased production requirements. So why are they pushing to install one in every home in America?

To get the answer is very easy indeed as the Congressional Research Staff has compiled a research paper on this exact topic and from which I have derived much of my article today and this is what they reported.

The report states that to fulfill their desired ends: “smart meters must record near-real time data on consumer electricity usage and transmit the data to utilities over great distances via communications networks that serve the smart grid.” Okay, that makes sense but again why every household and not at distribution points within the neighborhood which monitors the near real time usage in that local?

Well thanks to the report they also tell us that: “Detailed electricity usage data offers a window into the lives of people inside of a home by revealing what individual appliances they are using.“ Now let’s look at that statement a moment — their “stated” goal for this device was so that they could better regulate the grid reliability and better demand response. What does it matter to an energy supplier what appliances I am running in my home if their real concern was just to provide better control of the grid supply? Could it possibly be that this is a big brother conspiracy of a pending police state? And is it still a conspiracy if it is in fact true?

Within the opening paragraphs of the report they state that they are looking at this, among other things, from a 4th Amendment concern and “As we progress into the 21st century, access to personal data, including information generated from smart meters, is a new frontier for police investigations.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

SpaceX’s Commercial Spaceship Chasing Space Station in Orbit

The first commercial spacecraft ever launched toward the International Space Station is playing a game of catch-up today (May 23) as it heads toward an unprecedented rendezvous with the orbiting lab.

Dragon, built by commercial rocket firm Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX), launched atop a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida early Tuesday (May 22). The unmanned capsule will become the first non-governmental vehicle to meet up with the space station and attach to it at 240 miles (390 km) above Earth.

The spacecraft is packed with about 1,200 pounds ( 544 kilograms) of supplies for the space station, including food, clothing and student scientific experiments. The launch went off flawlessly, after an earlier attempt on May 19 was called off less than a second before liftoff because of a rocket engine glitch.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Stakelbeck on Terror Show: Battling the Islamist/Leftist Alliance

On this week’s episode of the Stakelbeck on Terror show, we examine the unholy alliance that has developed between radical Islam and the radical Left. I recount my recent experience at Portland State University, where an event I headlined was protested by pro-Palestinian radicals and posters advertising my speech were defaced with anti-Semitic symbols.

We then move on to Brussels, where my CBN colleague Dale Hurd recently sat down with a leading radical Islamist who wants to establish sharia law in Belgium.

Plus, check out extended clips from my recent keynote address at the annual Christian/Israel Solidarity event at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C. A much friendlier venue than Portland State, needless to say…

Click the link above to watch.

           — Hat tip: Erick Stakelbeck[Return to headlines]

Stuck Ketchup Problem Solved by MIT Engineers

Tired of vainly thumping the bottom of a ketchup bottle, trying to knock loose that last inch of condiment? There’s good news: A team of engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has invented a bottle coating that makes ketchup pour as easily as milk. They say it could save 1 million tons of perfectly good but inaccessible ketchup and other food from being thrown out each year — not to mention saving untold hours spent in frustration.

MIT doctoral candidate Dave Smith and his team of mechanical engineers and nanotechnology researchers spent the past two months considering, and then solving, the notorious difficulty of pouring thick sauces out of bottles. They invented LiquiGlide, a slippery coating made of nontoxic, FDA-approved materials that can be applied to the insides of food packaging, such as ketchup and mayonnaise bottles, and honey jars.

LiquiGlide is unique because it’s “kind of a structured liquid,” Smith told the website FastCompany. “It’s rigid like a solid, but it’s lubricated like a liquid.” The substance can be sprayed onto the surfaces of many types of packaging, including glass and plastic. As you can see in the video, the coating allows thick sauces that would normally move sluggishly against those materials’ surfaces to slide out of their containers, as if suspended in space. “It just floats right onto the sandwich,” Smith said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Woman Appeals Henrico County’s Approval of Mosque

HENRICO, Va. (WTVR) — Just days after ground was broken on a new mosque in the West End, a woman has filed an appeal with Henrico County. Sylvia Hoehns-Wright is trying to stop plans to build an even bigger Islamic worship center in her neighborhood in the 8000 block of Hungary Road. Hoehns-Wright doesn’t have a problem with the mosque, but is angry at the Henrico County Board of Supervisors. Hoehns-Wright, who lives near the Islamic Center of Richmond, claims the small building already does not have enough parking for worshipers as it is. Imagine, she says when the 31,000 square-foot mosque is built on the same property. She wonders where everyone will park.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]


Big Montreal March Marks 100 Days of Student Anger

Thousands of people marched through central Montreal on Tuesday to mark the 100th day of student protests over tuition increases, a campaign that is turning into a broader movement against the Quebec government and aspects of the capitalist system.

The government in the predominantly French-speaking Canadian province, fed up with sometimes violent demonstrations, last week unveiled a tough proposal that would make protests more difficult to organize and impose stiff fines on those who disobey.

Quebec’s bar association, trade union leaders and other commentators quickly denounced the draft legislation — known formally as Bill 78 — and said the Liberal government of Premier Jean Charest had gone too far.

“We don’t care about the special law!” some marchers chanted as they set off in the light rain to the sounds of horns and trumpets. One marcher held an umbrella on which the number 78 was painted with a line through it.

“Charest, you have met your Waterloo,” read one banner. Many protesters wore small red cloth squares, which have become the symbol of the campaign.

A Leger Marketing poll released on Tuesday showed 73 percent of Quebecers felt the law would not help quell the protests against planned tuition increases. Many students say they would ignore the legislation once it is adopted.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Islamic Call to Prayer in the Royal Ontario Museum

On Monday, May 21st (Victoria Day), I was guiding the children of a friend around the Royal Ontario Museum when I heard the Muslim call to prayer belting out of the PA system. After the full call was recited, there was an announcement that all would be welcome to join the prayers. I didn’t recognize where the room was in the building (perhaps because of the sound of my teeth grinding). Then the Muezzin’s call wailed on again. After that, presumably for ‘balance’ some church-bells dinged away for a little bit.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Berlusconi: Majority of Italians Don’t Support Left-Wing

(AGI)Brussels-Most Italians don’t support left-wing parties said Silvio Berlusconi, who then invited moderates to act responsibly. “We’ll see; I do what is necessary for the good of Italy, moderates and our political group,” Berlusconi commented regarding his future in the PdL (People of Freedom) party. “In any case we’re confident because since 1948 Italian citizens who don’t support the left wing are the majority,” the former Prime Minister stated, then urged all mainstream party leaders to behave “with a sense of responsibility”.

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

British Daredevil Leaps From Plane Without Parachute

A British stuntman became the world’s first skydiver to land without a parachute on Wednesday, falling 731 metres (2,400 feet) to drop safely onto a crash-pad of cardboard boxes.

Wearing a specially-made “wing suit”, Gary Connery leapt from a helicopter over Henley-on-Thames in southern England, aiming — with his life hanging in the balance — at a “runway” of 18,000 cardboard boxes.

After plunging at a speed of approximately 130 kilometres (80 miles) an hour the 41-year-old landed successfully onto the boxes, but the anxious crowd had to wait several minutes before he emerged from the pile.

Connery, who has appeared as a stuntman in films including “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” and the Bond movie “Die Another Day”, said the experience had been “absolutely amazing”.

“I’m in a strange space, if I’m totally honest,” he told Sky News. “I guess I haven’t digested what’s just happened.” “(The landing) was so comfortable, so soft — my calculations obviously worked out and I’m glad they did,” he added. Connery’s wife Vivienne said simply: “I’m relieved it’s all over.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Brussels Critical of National Strategies on Roma

National Roma integration strategies submitted by member states to the European Commission fail to fully assess the needs of Europe’s largest minority. Speaking to reporters in Strasbourg on Wednesday (23 May), EU justice commissioner Viviane Reding said the desperate situation of Roma is “a wake-up call for leaders.”

EU leaders in June 2011 had backed a European Commission plan to end the centuries-old exclusion of the continent’s 10 to 12 million Roma minority. Most live in Bulgaria, followed by Slovakia, Romania and Hungary. Access to education, jobs, healthcare and housing are among the four policy priorities.

The scope and detail of the strategies vary. The Dutch national strategy, for instance, is six pages long whereas Sweden’s is 68. Others do not bother to address healthcare and housing at all.

Millions of Roma continue to suffer daily discrimination, stigmatised by some mainstream politicians, as well as street violence and poor health. Life expectancy of Roma is now 10 years below the EU average.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Bulgaria Muslims Face Discrimination

(Ahlul Bayt News Agency) — Anti-Muslim discrimination continues to grow in Bulgaria, with no legislative reforms or judicial actions taken in the past year to secure Muslim rights.

Bulgarian Muslims are concerned by the rising trend of discrimination against Muslim communities, with very few legislative actions proposed to stem the problem. Moreover, analysts point out that some Muslim victims have been taken to court and sued for hooliganism. Experts say Bulgarian Muslims continue to be deprived of access to proper education, healthcare, jobs or political representation. Last month, Amnesty International had issued a report calling on European governments to do more to clear prejudices against Islam.

On May, 2011, members of the far-right Bulgarian Ataka party attacked several Muslims who gathered for their usual Friday prayers at a main mosque in downtown Sofia. The Bulgarian government has forbidden passport pictures with women’s headscarves and banned religious literature from focusing on Islam in a move that has been widely viewed as part of a smear campaign against Muslims in the country. There are about one million Muslims living in Bulgaria — approximately one-tenth of the total population — in centuries-old local Muslim communities, not new-comers like in Western Europe, which is seen by many as a “role-model for tolerance”.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

EU: Bilderberg Pushes Mandatory Internet ID for Europe

While the international ACTA treaty and United States’ CISPA legislation are setting the stage to clamp down on the world wide web, technocrats are working overtime to try to pin down your identity and make sure all your activities are thoroughly monitored and under control.

The European Union is now moving to create a mandatory electronic ID system for all EU citizens that would be implemented across Europe to standardize business both online and in person, authenticating users via a common ‘electronic signature.’ A single authenticating ID would guard access to the Internet, online data and most commerce. It is nothing short of an attempt to phase in a Mark of the Beast system, and a prominent Bilderberg attendee is behind the scheme.

Neelie Kroes is the EU’s Digital Agenda Commissioner, and is introducing legislation she hopes will force “the adoption of harmonised e-signatures, e-identities and electronic authentication services (eIAS) across EU member states.”

The extent of such a system would, of course, expand over time, particularly as many EU nations have resisted the big government encroachment of ID requirements on civil rights grounds, which even now smack of the Nazi regime’s draconian “papers please” policies that empowered their other avenues of tyranny. According to, Neelie Kroes would later “widen the scope of the current Directive by including also ancillary authentication services that complement e-signatures, like electronic seals, time/date stamps, etc,” as the supra-national body attempts to corral more nations into participation.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe’s Airlines Gear Up for Turbulent Times

Ryanair fears an end to its run of success; Lufthansa saves, invests and modernizes; Air Berlin wants to introduce discount fares. Europe’s airlines are fighting for market share in an industry in flux.

Europe’s biggest discount airline, Ryanair, was always good for new savings ideas — most of which normally came from the boss himself, Michael O’Leary. By reducing the amount of ice in drinks, for example, the airline shed thousands of kilos and saved thousands of euros in the process. Ryanair even considered using just one pilot per flight — although, apparently, nothing ever came of that.

Not all companies are considering such measures, though, despite Europe’s ongoing economic woes and the high fuel costs that are increasing pressure on European airlines. As aviation expert Heinrich Großbongardt said, the airlines are continuing to groan under oil prices, which are expected to rise even further throughout the year.

“And then you’ve got the ‘little things,’ like aviation taxes and emission credits, on top of that,” Großbongardt said in an interview with DW. And European airlines are also dealing with tougher competition as a result of the expansion of state aviation companies from the Persian Gulf region.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

France: Prisoner Escapes Just Minutes After Meeting French Justice Minister at Basketball Match

France’s new justice minister Christine Taubira is facing nationwide ridicule after a prisoner on day-release escaped just minutes after meeting her.

The fugitive was among dozens of convicts that met Miss Taubira when she attended a prison inmates basketball match at Paris’s Bercy sports arena.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Germany: Study: Net Replacing Drugs as Youth Habit

Young people are getting hooked on the internet more than drugs, a new report says. As many as 250,000 14 to 24-year-olds are now addicted to the internet, while drug abuse is dropping.

For girls the irresistible pull of social networking, for boys the escapism of online gaming. Teenagers — particularly those that fail to find work after leaving school — are increasingly turning to online distractions rather than substance abuse, according to a government report published on Tuesday.

Particularly worrying is the trend toward “excessive or pathological computer game and internet use,” Drug Commissioner Mechthild Dyckmans, author of the “Drug and Addiction Report 2012.” told the Berliner Morgenpost newspaper on Wednesday.

The report also says more young people are gambling than ever before. In 2011, around 25 percent of 16 and 17-year-olds said they had played a commercial gambling game in the past 12 months, compared with just 15 percent in 2009.

Above all, young males out of work are most likely to become addicted to online games or public slot machines, said the paper.

The number of young males aged 18 to 20 who said they had used a slot machine at least once in the past 12 months has increased by 14 percent since 2007. Twice as many girls are now using slot machines as in 2007, with the figure now up to 5.5 percent.

The government is now looking at ways to better protect young gamers, including closer surveillance, tougher requirements and higher penalties, Dyckmans told the paper.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Germany: Salafists and Right-Wingers Fight it Out

A radical German-born Islamist has called on Muslims to kill German politicians. The threats are aimed at the far-right party Pro NRW, a regional right-wing group in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

The Pro NRW party, which has been classified as anti-constitutional because of its extremist, right-wing tendencies, has been railing against non-Germans and Muslims for years. The party “rejects foreigners because of their background or faith and portrays them as criminals,” according to a court ruling in the western German city of Münster.

In recent weeks, Pro NRW has been concentrating its efforts on Salafists, Muslims who want to see a world-wide Islamist theocracy. As part of its recent state election campaign in North Rhine-Westphalia, the party displayed posters showing the prophet Muhammad as a terrorist.

Strict Muslims interpret the depiction of the prophet in that way as a punishable offense. Last weekend, a video was published on the Internet showing a radical Islamist calling on fellow Muslims to kill members of Pro NRW.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Germany: Scientists Trial Lasers to Replace Pesticides

Researchers in Germany are working on an alternative to poisonous herbicides. They’re aiming lasers at weeds. A team of scientists at Leibniz University and a laser center in Hanover are developing an alternative to herbicides that would use robots or flying drones to zap weeds with laser beams.

Chickweed, dandelion and shepherd’s purse are typical pests that have beleaguered farmers in central Europe since the arrival of agriculture. Today these weeds compete with sprouting corn, rapeseed or turnips for sunlight, water and soil nutrients.

Until now, conventional farms have battled these pests with expensive herbicides that are often poisonous and can spread to land and water beyond the target plant.

“Our goal is to develop a more environmentally-friendly way of getting rid of weeds. The use of herbicides is associated with risks”, said Christian Marx, a researcher with the Laser Zentrum Hannover.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italy: Grassroots Comedian Grillo’s Party Wins Parma Mayoral Race

Palermo, 22 May (AKI) — In the most stunning result of local elections in which protest movements trounced mainstream political parties in several key cities, a party inspired by comedian and political activist Beppe Grillo won the mayoral run-off in the prosperous northern city of Parma.

Federico Pizzarotti, from Grillo’s grassroots Five Star Movement was elected mayor on Monday with 60.33 percent of votes compared to 39.78 percent for Italy’s main centre-left Democratic Party candidate, Vincenzo Bernazzoli.

“I would say this is an important victory, above all because it shows that normal people can win elections because they create a relationship with citizens,” commented 39-year-old Pizzarotti, an IT consultant in the financial sector.

“We won because we led our campaign amongst the citizens and stayed close to their needs.”

Grillo has advocated Italy leaving the euro and defaulting on or only repaying a part of its massive national debt. He campaigns to clean up politics and business, promote renewable energy and dismantle monopolies and privileges.

According to Grillo, Pizzarotti’s victory in Parma was achieved with a campaign budget of just 6,000 euros. The average age of the four mayors elected by the Five-Star Movement on Monday was 31 and its electoral support is now estimated at around 12 percent, making a major force in Italy’s fragmented political landscape.

In the recession-hit country where voters are angry with austerity measures that have raised taxes and made it harder to retire, protest parties are benefiting from a slump in support for a political class that is seen to have done little other than feather its nest.

In the southern Italian city of Palermo, veteran mayor and anti-mafia campaigner Leoluca Orlando on Monday won a landslide victory in the run-off to become mayor for the third time. He took 72.54 percent of votes leaving his conservative opponent Fabrizio Ferrandelli trailing behind with just 27.57 percent.

The separatist-leaning Northern League was arguably the biggest loser in the local polls: all seven of its candidates who made it through to the second round of voting lost the run-offs as voters punished the party for several graft scandals involving its founder and former leader, senator Umberto Bossi.

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

Italy: Art: Islamic Calligraphy Revealed

An exhibition of decorative artworks

An exciting exhibition of contemporary Islamic calligraphic art entitled “Reflections from Heaven, Meditations on Earth” (Riflessioni dal Cielo, Meditazioni in Terra) is on show until June in the museum area of the ruins of Trajan’s Market above the Roman Forum. The works on display come from the collection of the Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts in Amman and offer a rare and illuminating overview of the wide variety of styles used by modern Islamic artists from all over the world, demonstrating how the long, unbroken tradition of Arabic calligraphy, an art form which died out in Europe with the advent of the printing press, continues to be developed and adapted to the present day.

The exhibition was three years in preparation, explained Princess Wijdan bint Fawaz al-Hashemi of Jordan, president of the Jordan Royal Society of Fine Arts and for five years Jordanian ambassador to Italy. The choice of venue inside one of Rome’s most important ancient monuments was influenced, she said, by the fact that she particularly admires the blend of old and new architecture created in the Trajan Markets when restorers encased the great entrance hall in glass panels to protect and enhance the ancient ruins. “We found this combination of old and new very appropriate for an exhibition of calligraphic art which is also a combination of the classic and the modern,” she said.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Italy: Party Funding to be Halved After House Vote

Move comes amid public disaffection with political class

(ANSA) — Rome, May 23 — Italy’s political parties are set to see their funding slashed after the Lower House voted to halve their electoral reimbursements.

The move comes amid widespread public skepticism about the effectiveness and honesty of the country’s parties following a series of corruption scandals to hit various parts of the political spectrum.

State funding will be cut to 91 million euros per year.

The so-called ‘anti-politics’ Five Star movement of comedian Beppe Grillo capitalised on the disaffection to make big gains at local elections this month, with their candidate being voted in mayor of Parma on Monday.

Grillo, who is opposed to the current party system and has said Italy should abandon the euro, has called for party funding to be abolished completely Commentators said the public’s disaffection with the established parties was also shown in the low turnout registered in this month’s elections, which voted in administrations for around 1,000 Italian towns and cities.

The three main political groups supporting Premier Mario Monti’s emergency government of non-political technocrats have also reached an agreement for measures to create greater transparency in party funding in a bid to combat the negative perception of the country’s political class.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Polish Children Boosting Standards Among English Pupils

Roman Catholic schools in particular have seen a surge in demand for places since the enlargement of the European Union eight years ago.

But while many of the new pupils arrived with little or no English, they do not appear to have held their classmates back even in reading and writing.

And in mathematics, the researchers found evidence that they had a positive influence on the others, the researchers found.

One theory is that the Polish children were better educated than their British counterparts in the first place and that they brought with them the same “work ethos” which brought their families to Britain.

As a result they may have been that they had a positive influence on their peers, it is thought.

           — Hat tip: WM[Return to headlines]

Swiss Court: Anti-Islam Group Must be Protected

The Federal Court says an anti-Islam group has the right to give out leaflets from an information booth if it wants — and the local authorities must protect them.

Fribourg Council banned the group — The Movement Against the Islamization of Switzerland — from setting up an information booth Place Georges-Python during the anti-minaret campaign in 2009.

It said it refused to give permission because of a fear that violence and unrest would break out as a result, provoking a legal challenge.

The Federal Court upheld the group’s complaint that the authorities had impinged on its freedom of expression as well as on freedom of information, newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung reported.

The court said the local authorities should instead have taken additional measures to safeguard against such an event.

In particular, the court said that the authorities could have drafted more police in to safeguard the site.

Although public law does grant local authorities powers to ban demonstrations from public spaces, the court confirmed that they may not do so simply because they disapprove of the ideas being communicated.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]

Switzerland ‘One of Europe’s Suicide Capitals’

Between 15,000 and 25,000 people attempt to kill themselves in Switzerland every year, according to a new survey, confirming Switzerland’s place as one of the suicide capitals of Europe.

The number of actual deaths from suicide is about 1,000 per year, a number that represents three times the number of deaths through road traffic accidents, newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung reported.

“We are one of the countries which traditionally has the highest figures in suicides. Not everybody is happy here,” Ambros Uchtenhagen, Professor Emeritus for Social Psychiatry at Zurich University told The Local.

The survey, conducted by Swiss market research company Isopublic, found that many people were either ill-informed or had misconceptions about depression and suicide. For example, the report showed that many believe suicide to be a well thought out and planned act.

“A suicide is not a well-considered act, but a desperate act that the person would not have committed in a different situation,” Konrad Michel, psychiatric specialist at the University Hospital of Bern, told NZZ.

A new initiative called “Lean on me” has been launched. Supported by doctors and other health professionals, the initiative’s aim is to raise awareness about depression and suicide, and to highlight the fact that some 70 percent of suicide cases involve depression.

“Lean on me” also hopes to change the perception held by many of depression as something that the individual sufferer can overcome by himself. A better understanding of the illness is of great importance, particularly since many depressives do not share their suicidal thoughts.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: ‘I Watched My Parents Suffocate Shafilea by Forcing a Bag Into Her Mouth, ‘ Says Sister of ‘Westernised Honour Killing Victim’

Younger sister Alesha told police she saw parents force bag into Shafilea’s mouth and suffocate her

She was arrested in 2010 for her involvement in a robbery at her parents’ home during which her mother, two sisters and brother were tied up

Six days later she alleged to police that her parents killed Shafilea

Shafilea decomposed remains were found in February 2004

Parents Iftikhar and Farzana Ahmed are accused of killing her in September 2003 but deny murder

Police placed listening device in the family’s home in November 2003 and heard them telling their children ‘not to say anything’ at school

Victim ‘drank bleach after being forced to visit Pakistan for to meet future husband in arranged marriage’

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Cameron Pledges to Fight Diktat From Unelected European Judges Who Say Prisoners Must Get the Vote

David Cameron put the UK on a collision course with Europe today as he promised to fight a ruling forcing Britain to give prisoners the vote.

The Prime Minister insisted the decision was one for MPs, not a ‘foreign court’, after human rights judges issued an ultimatum giving the Government six months to change the law.

European judges rode roughshod over British sovereignty yesterday by ruling that prisoners must be allowed to vote.

In a devastating blow, they rejected last year’s overwhelming vote by MPs for maintaining our historic blanket ban on voting by convicts.

The unelected judges instead gave David Cameron until the end of the year to obey their diktat or risk having to pay £150million in compensation to killers, rapists and other prisoners.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: David Cameron’s Five Point Plan to Win the Next Election

by Paul Goodman

Senior CCHQ sources tell me that plans for fighting the next election are already being mapped out. These have less to do with policies or even delivery (which are presumably covered elsewhere) than with “values” — presumably on the ground that if uncommitted voters don’t like or at least respect you, they won’t vote for you. Indeed, “values” is the foundation on which the five points to which I refer above are built. In this context, the word seems to mean convincing floating voters that David Cameron is “on the side of people who work hard, want to get on and play by the rules”, as his post-local elections Daily Telegraph article earlier this month put it. The other main parts of the plan are:

  • Addressing the “wrong track” issues. This is the sense that Britain’s economy and society are getting worse rather than better. CCHQ recognises that success at the next election is inextricably linked to reversing it.
  • Winning support on the NHS. Never forget the stress that Mr Cameron put in opposition, second only to restoring the party’s reputation for economic competence, on trying to establish that the NHS would be “safe in his hands”.
  • Closing the gender gap. Traditionally, the Conservatives were propelled into office by women’s votes. New Labour reversed this position; Mr Cameron began to restore it — but has run into problems since the 2010 election.
  • Winning non-white support. The number one driver of not voting Conservative is not being white. Tim Montgomerie and I have explored the problem here and (for example) here. So has Lord Ashcroft in a major report.
  • Organisation in marginals. The bottom line ambition is to win roughly 35 Labour seats and 15 Liberal Democrat ones. This relatively modest ambition seems to be a reflection both of psephological realities and the difficulty of winning seats when in power.

I understand that party organisers:

  • Are conducting extensive focus groups among non-white voters in 40 marginals.
  • Now have the capability to explore voting records and intentions by ethnicity and religion.
  • Will focus particularly on about 15 seats with large ethnic majority populations, with an MP working closely with the local Association in each one. These MPs will have experience of such seats themselves. Names mentioned to me included Bob Blackman, the MP for Harrow East and Gavin Barwell, the MP for Croydon Central.
  • Have asked Alok Sharma, MP for Reading West, and Paul Uppal, MP for Wolverhampton South-West, to write a campaign guide on working with ethnic minority voters. Both are of Indian origin and their role may reflect the party’s better performance among such voters compared to voters who originate from Pakistan.
  • Will be taking advice from Jason Kenney, Canada’s conservative Minister for Citizenship and Multiculturalism , as has been reported previously.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Disgraced Education Firm A4e ‘Sent Jobseeker to Look for Work at a Lap-Dancing Club’

Controversial welfare-to-work firm A4e was facing fresh police investigation last night as it emerged it had once sent a jobseeker to look for work in a lap dancing club.

Three whistleblowers yesterday handed MPs a ‘damning’ dossier of alleged fraud at the firm, which is one of five prime contractors on the Government’s flagship £5 billion Work Programme.

Following an extraordinary row between Labour and Tory MPs on the powerful Commons public accounts committee they were ‘gagged’ from giving their evidence in public — partly because of fears it could compromise future police investigations.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Is it Your Time to Shine?

Muslim Writers Awards is back and is inviting your submissions for its 2012 competition.

You can now submit to the following:

  • Muslim Writers Awards (over 16’s)
  • Young Muslim Writers Awards, presented by the Yusuf Islam Foundation (under 16’s)
  • The Spirit of Cordoba Prize, with The Cordoba Foundation

This year the competition is bigger than it’s ever been with three new categories, plus favourites from last year including the Young Journalist Prize (16-25) which was presented by BBC News reporter and presenter Asad Ahmad. The competition is a great platform for emerging writers, with a number of shortlisted entrants going on to further success in the literary industry. Mina Muhammad, winner of the Short Story Prize in the under 16’s Young Muslim Writers Awards, was successful in publishing her novel See Red, soon after being shortlisted — at the age of 15! Our judging panels offer years of experience and knowledge from within the industry. Past judges have included stage, TV and film actor Nadim Sawalha (Syriana, The Avengers, East is East), Shannon Park (Editorial Director, Fiction for Puffin Books) and Simon Prosser (Publishing Director of Hamish Hamilton & Penguin Books) amongst others. If you think it’s time for your writing to shine, click here for further details and how to enter.

[JP note: And the Spirit of Conquest award?]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Kick in Ballots

THE votes-for-lags ruling ought to be a deal-breaker between Britain and the European Court of Human Rights.

Let’s hope it is. A chamber of pompous foreign judges has ordered Britain’s Prime Minister to give prisoners election rights despite OUR Parliament overwhelmingly ruling it out.

David Cameron has an unmissable chance to tell them where to go. The argument is simple. If you flout the law seriously enough to be locked up, you forfeit a say on who makes the law while you’re inside. Once you’re out, you can vote again. It’s straightforward and fair. But Strasbourg doesn’t get why the ban applies to ALL prisoners. Some ought still to vote, they say, or it’s a breach of their human rights. So now we are at a crossroads. A decision that was approved overwhelmingly by MPs elected by the British people, and backed by the vast majority of the British public, is overturned by faceless foreigners we do not know and did not elect. In January Mr Cameron demanded that Strasbourg’s judges treat national decisions “with respect”. They have laughed in your face, PM. So it’s time to get angry — and to hell with the consequences. Tell them enough is enough.

OUR Government runs Britain. No one else.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: More Than 30,000 People Turned Out for Boishakhi Mela Round Brick Lane

More than 30,000 people lined the street around Brick Lane for this year’s Boishakhi Mela at the weekend.

Traditional Bangladeshi acts took to one of the stages in Bethnal Green park while local and international artists showcased their acts on a second stage aimed at younger audiences.

In Brick Lane restaurants set up stalls for visitors to sample currys while watching the Mela’s Grand procession which saw sculptures, dancers and entertainers parade through Banglatown. For the first time the celebrations also included a Bangladeshi trade fair. A police spokesman said 44 special constables had volunteered to help ordinary officers patrol the area. He said: “The event largely went off peacefully. There were around 10 arrests, mostly for public order offences, which is a small number for such a larger event.”

[JP note: Special constables or Islamic morality police?]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: More Than 87,000 Racist Incidents Recorded in Schools

Nearly 88,000 racist incidents were recorded in Britain’s schools between 2007 and 2011, the BBC has found.

Data from 90 areas shows 87,915 cases of racist bullying, which can include name calling and physical abuse. Birmingham recorded the highest number of incidents at 5,752, followed by Leeds with 4,690. Carmarthenshire had the lowest number with just 5 cases. A racist incident is defined as any situation perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person. In response to the local authority figures, obtained under a Freedom of Information request, the Department for Education said racism needed to be “rooted out”.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Old Guard Give Way to Canada’s Mounties at Buckingham Palace

Plumed helmets gave way to Stetsons outside Buckingham Palace on Wednesday as Canadian Mounties took over guarding Queen Elizabeth II for the day in honour of her diamond jubilee. Fifteen red-coated Royal Canadian Mounted Police became the first non-British civilian force to guard the queen, who is also Canada’s head of state, when they took over in a special changing of the guard ceremony.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: Protests Over Birmingham City Council Labour Group’s Lack of Diversity

Birmingham City Council’s Labour leadership has promised to encourage more African-Caribbean community candidates to come forward in future following a protest over its lack of diversity.

About 40 people gathered to demonstrate at the new Labour administration and its mainly white male Cabinet. Of eight councillors selected only one is Asian and one is a woman.

But Labour issued a statement insisting it was committed to all residents of the city and would look to encourage more party candidates from the African Caribbean community at elections. Labour leader Sir Albert Bore said: “We acknowledge that some in the African Caribbean community feel under-represented and we have already had productive talks with leaders of the community.”


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]


Skopje: Moslem Demo “Death to the Christians”

Back in March, PI reported about the numerous outbreaks of violence between the Muslim-Albanian minority and the non-Muslim-Slavic majority in Macedonia. Currently, the situation appears to be heightening once again after a series of murders of Christians. As Austrian news magazine “Unzensuriert” (“Uncensored”) reports, in the Macedonian capital city of Skopje, slogans like “Allahu akbar,” “Death to Christians,” and “Jihad” were shouted by several thousand Moslems in a demonstration parade after the traditional Friday prayers.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egyptian Presidential Election: Why a Moderate Regime is Unlikely

By Barry Rubin

Consider one fact that demolishes the apparatus of nonsense about moderate Islamists and the credibility of those claiming there is nothing to worry about. These are the same people who have been declaring for more than a year that the Muslim Brotherhood is moderate. Yet now the Brotherhood’s presidential campaign has shown it to be extraordinarily radical, openly demanding a caliphate and Egypt being a Sharia state.

Suddenly the subject is changed. Nobody acknowledges that they were wrong about the Brotherhood. They focus now on a different candidate who we are told is the true moderate Islamist, as if their previous favorite “moderate Islamist” movement has now thrown off its camouflage.

“Democracy, as Western democracies have long known,” wrote Shadi Hamid, in predicting a Brotherhood majority in the parliamentary election some months ago, “is about the right to make the wrong choice.” True. But foreign policy, as everyone has long known, is about dealing with the consequences of wrong outcomes and trying to prevent them if possible.

We are told that Abdul Moniem Abul Fotouh is the “moderate Islamist” candidate for president of Egypt whom the West should support. He promises that Egypt will be an Islamic but civil state with equality for all of its citizens. The problem is that Abul Fotouh keeps making statements that belie that image, statements never mentioned by those who ridicule fears about Egypt’s new government.

One ignorant neoconservative wrote in a Canadian newspaper that the regime couldn’t be dangerous because in the presidential debate the question of Israel was only raised near the end. Naturally, the debate structure wasn’t determined by Fotouh and what he said about Israel was quite threatening, namely that it is a racist enemy based on occupation and threatening Muslims with 200 nuclear weapons. At any rate, the main problem is not what the new regime will do to Israel but what it will do to Egypt, eventually followed by what it will do to Israel.

This follows, of course, the national security editor of the National Journal explaining that there’s no danger of a radical Islamist Egypt because he could find one (neo)conservative who agreed with him on that issue. What’s truly funny here is that I’m not exaggerating in describing their best arguments.

Here is a new statement by Abul Fotouh. In an interview on an Egyptian television station, Abul Fotouh said he was against “terrorism” but then explained that Usama bin Ladin was not a terrorist, that the United States only called him one in order to “hit Muslim interests,” and that the killing of bin Ladin was an “act of state terrorism.” In other words, he’s saying September 11 wasn’t an act of terrorism but that Obama’s policy is anti-Muslim and terrorist.

I’d agree that he’s better than the official Muslim Brotherhood candidate but there are lots of other problems with this “moderate Islamist”:…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin[Return to headlines]

Egypt Presidential Election: Live

Polls have opened in the historic Egyptian presidential election, the final phase of a tumultuous transition that began with the ousting of Hosni Mubarak last year.

  • 13 candidates standing in first round
  • Mubarak’s former foreign minister Amr Moussa frontrunner
  • 150,000 troops to be deployed to ensure security
  • Army tries to allay fears it will rig presidential elections
  • Voting takes place over two days at 13,000 polling stations


09.47 With 30 per cent illiteracy, voting at all is a challenge for many. In the parliamentary elections, all the parties were given symbols — from a set of scales to, strangely, a banana. That hasn’t been followed this time. Oliga Yousef, an 80-year-old woman walking with a stick out of the polling booth, said she was excited to vote for the first time and wanted to help create a better life for her children. Unfortunately, as she explained: “I don’t know who I voted for. I can’t read or write, so I asked the man inside what I should do. He said, just tick a box. So I ticked a box, but I don’t know who it was.”


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Tayyeb — Islam Bans Embodiment of Prophet Muhammad

Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar Ahmed el-Tayyeb asserted on Monday 21/5/2012 that Islam bans the embodiment of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in any artistic works.

This came during a meeting with head of the Iranian interests section in Egypt Mojtaba Amani.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Muslim Brotherhood Buying Votes With Food

by Raymond Ibrahim

News continues to emerge days before Egypt’s presidential elections indicating that the Islamists are relying on any and every strategy to gain votes for their pro-Sharia candidates.

As we just saw, any number of Islamic authorities-from Yusuf al-Qaradawi to the Sharia Body for Rights and Reform-said that it is an “obligation” to vote only for those Muslims who plan on implementing Sharia law, while it is “forbidden” to vote for any of the secular candidates. In other words, the threats of hell fire are being used to influence Muslims at the voting booths.

But beyond threats and commands are sheer bribes-or, in the following case, a sort of Islamic “bread and circuses.” As they were accused earlier, the Muslim Brotherhood was just caught bribing Egypt’s poor with packets of food. Yesterday an Egyptian activist posted a video on YouTube about “the Brotherhood’s scandal: they buy the votes of the poor through food and drink.” The video shows several poor women sitting with bags of food from the Muslim Brotherhood’s “Freedom and Justice” party. The Egyptian activist keeps asking them, “Really, is that how they bought your vote?” even as the women hide their faces and leave.

Bribery is a form of deceit, and these presidential elections are something of a war for Egypt’s future, so, considering that Islam’s prophet Muhammad famously declared that “war is deceit,” all of the aforementioned approaches become legitimate.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Franciscan Nuns, A Quiet Witness of Charity Among Libyan Muslims

Sister Bruna Menghini and three fellow nuns did not flee from Yefren (150 km from Tripoli) during the civil war. For more than 40 years, she has worked with the sick, the elderly and people left to fend for themselves in the predominantly Muslim country. Friendships and dialogue with Muslims were nurtured by small acts of charity and love. The bad blood left from clashes between Gaddafi supporters and rebels as well as the country’s disorganisation cast a shadow on June’s elections.

Yefren (AsiaNews) — “The horrors of war brought us closer to the Libyan people. By helping the sick and sharing suffering with the people, we realised we are part of the community and not outsiders. They are the ones who convinced us to stay,” said Sister Bruna Menghini, a nun with the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, who spoke to AsiaNews about her experience in Yefren, a small town some 150 kilometres from Tripoli. In Libya for the past 43 years, she and three fellow nuns chose to remain with the local population despite NATO airstrikes and the fighting between rebels and Gaddafi forces.

“Helping the sick and the elderly takes up much of our day,” Sr Bruna said. “It is often hard for us to work according to our method. Those who run the facility see things differently. However, in the past few years, we have been able to develop a relationship with patients and staff. When we go home, our mission continues as we have developed friendly relations with the residents of our neighbourhood who respect us and hold us in high esteem.”

The town’s residents are from the same tribe and over time, they have come to accept the small community of nuns. “The war showed us that we are part of their community,” Sr Bruna explained. “When unrest began in March 2011, our neighbours came every day to see if we needed anything. Without them, we would not have made it.”

During the heated months of fighting against Gaddafi, she said, the town of Yefren was left without food supplies for weeks. Many families could hardly afford to buy enough food on the black market to feed their children. Still, people in the nuns’ neighbourhood shared everything with the nuns.

“Everyone in Yefren knows that we are Catholic nuns,” she said. “We have no reason to hide it. Sometimes we can even express our religious beliefs with women in our neighbourhood. But our silent and unobtrusive actions for the elderly and the sick have fed the curiosity of Muslims and encouraged dialogue.”

For Sr Bruna, Christian charity never goes unnoticed. Muslims, especially the older ones, appreciate those who work with the heart and not only for money. Overtime, this selfless approach has overcome mistrust and fear among Muslims.

For the past few weeks, Sr Bruna said, she and her fellow sisters started to take care of an elderly woman left alone, abandoned by everyone. Every day they visit her at home, help her get up, wash and get dressed, spending part of the day with her.

“Many of the neighbours were amazed by this act of humanity towards the poor widow,” she said. “Men, who are usually not interested in such issues, have started to stop us in the street to ask about the lady’s health, wanting to know if we needed help.”

Such deeds, born from the love for mission Jesus showed them, led her and her fellow nuns to stay despite the dangers.

Ordinary people are slowly getting over the civil war, but the country is still a disaster zone. “People were not ready for such quick and sudden change. Many people continue to support Gaddafi. Now they could be killed if they spoke their mind. In many provinces, clashes are still taking place. No one has figured out who is in charge.”

The country’s first free elections will be held in June. However, the National Transitional Council (NTC) has not explained how the vote will be done and how candidates will run. “People don’t know for whom to vote,” Sr Bruna noted. “People do not know what freedom and democracy mean. They must be educated to understand these values, which have never been part of their culture.”

The presence of many candidates connected with extremist Muslim groups, men like former al-Qaeda member Abdel Hakim Belhaj, a onetime military chief in Tripoli, does not frighten Sr Bruna. She remains confident that the Catholic Church has a future in Libya.

“Libyans are Muslim and so follow and have high regard for radical Islamists,” she noted. “Yet, the closeness they showed us over the years is a sign that some emotions and facts touch heart irrespective of culture. God created us equal in his image and likeness. Thus, some of him is in all of us. We have faith in Him. Our task is to stand by these people in such a sensitive moment. Our Muslim friends are happy to see us among them.”

The Franciscan Missionaries of Mary came to Libya in 1925. Five nuns currently live in the country, two working as nurses at Yefren’s public hospital, one at a small government social assistance centre. In view of her advanced age, Sr Bruna takes care of the nuns’ small home in a residential area of the predominantly Berber town. A fifth nun lives in Tripoli, where she works in a rest home for the elderly and the disabled.

Altogether, some 20 Catholic nuns operate in Libya. Four belong to the Little Sisters of Jesus, five to Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, eight to the Missionaries of Charity (in two communities) and four to the Daughters of Charity.

They work in hospitals, social welfare centres and refugee camps.

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

Tunisia: Salafite Party Calls for Polygamy and Halt to Adoptions

Tunis, 23 May (AKI) — The recently legalised Tunisian Salafite party ‘Jabhet al-Islah’ has called for polygamy to be allowed and adoption to be outlawed.

“It is no longer the time for armed jihad (holy war). We don’t intend to use force to stop the sale of alcohol or the wearing of bikinis on the beaches. But we will not tolerate any atatck on the symbols of Islam,” the party’s president Khouja Mohamed told Tunisian daily Le Temps daily Wednesay in an interview.

Protests erupted in Tunisia last October after official election results showed that the country’s Islamist party Ennahda had won the first democratic elections since the Arab Spring uprisings, taking 41.47 percent of the vote and 90 seats in the new 217-member assembly.

The assembly has been tasked with rewriting the constitution, appointing a president and forming a caretaker government. Its nearest rival, the secularist Congress for the Republic, won 30 seats.

Jabhet al-Islah (The Salvation Front) admits it is the successor of the Tunisian Salvation Front party, which was founded in the 1980s and put on a US list of terrorist organisations.

But the party says it does not reject pluralism, while claiming that religion and politics cannot be separated.

“We believe Islam is a religion of democracy and freedom,” Mohamed said.

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

Middle East

Bahrain: Gulf Army Needs to Leave, Opposition Leader

Reconciliation still possible, Al-Marzooq (al Wefaq)

(ANSAmed) — DOHA, MAY 23 — The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) army — the Peninsula Shield Force — must leave Bahrain, said Khalil Ebrahim Al-Marzooq, one of the leaders of the Bahraini opposition group Al Wefaq. “The GCC Army is being used against the population of Bahrain and is seen as oppressive, not defensive,” Al-Marzooq said. “Maintaining troops in the territory leads the Bahraini population to believe that Gulf countries want to support local regimes independently of how they treat citizens. Withdrawing the troops from Bahrain will relieve tension,” he added, saying that the repression in Bahrain was harming the image of the entire Gulf. The Iranian influence denounced a number of times by the Al Khalifa family in power in Bahrain is — according to the opposition leader — simply an alibi to avoid bringing in reforms demanded by the population. “We have been asking for the same democratic reforms for decades, and the king has always evoked the spectre of an external enemy: first it was the Soviets, then 60 years ago the Egyptians and now the Iranians. However, in reality there is only the Bahraini population, which is demanding democratic reforms and greater participation,” Al-Marzooq said. For this reason, according to him, Kuwait’s model of government could be a step forward. More than 30 mosques have been destroyed, 4,400 people (about 3% of the overall workforce) have been laid off for political reasons and the media continue to document violence.

Nonetheless, the Al Wefaq opposition leader believes that reconciliation is possible between the rulers and the population, as well as the constitution of a regime in which the king is granted power but is also flanked by a Parliament with legislative powers, a government answering to the parliament, an independent judiciary and security forces made up not only of those loyal to the king.

“The democratic transformation process is already underway and will penetrate all Gulf countries,” Al-Marzooq said.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Doha Bank Chief Confirms New World Order is Being Built at the Highest Levels

With the backing of media-giant Bloomberg, Qatar has been picked to provide the QIBOR (a replacement for the staggering LIBOR) providing a daily reference point for banks borrowing unsecured funds from other banks. Total amount of funds affected? Up to US$90 trillion.


Mr. Seetharaman correlated the UN millennium development goals with regulatory reforms and economic development. He said “The current realignment of global architecture will support the achievement of one of the 8 UN Millennium development goals “to develop a global partnership for development” which aims to develop further an open, rule-based, predictable, non-discriminatory trading and financial system. Economies need to integrate the principles of sustainable development into their policies and programs and reverse loss of environmental resources.

This will also enable such economies to achieve the UN Millennium development goal of “Ensure environmental sustainability”. Qatar’s National Vision 2030 has also considered environment development as one of the pillars of its vision. Financial sector can also participate in this sustainable development by taking initiatives to “Manage Climate Change and Mitigate Global Warming.”

Thanks, Mr. Seetharaman for providing a glimpse as to how global regulatory reform is being tailored to support eco-fascism. The question is how.

The answer is … (of course) by force.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

‘Donkey Rape’ Sparks Tribal Massacre in Yemen

Fifteen people were killed or injured in tribal fighting in Yemen after a male donkey chased an ass and raped it just near the house of its owner.

Newspapers in Yemen said the owner of the ass got mad after he saw the donkey attacking his animal, prompting him to chase the donkey and hit it.

The attack infuriated the donkey owner, who called his armed tribe men and asked them to take revenge.

“The problem snowballed into an armed fight between Makabis tribe, which owns the donkey, and Bani Abbas which owns the ass…15 people were either killed or injured in the battle,” the Saudi Arabic language daily Aleqtisadiah said, quoting newspapers in Yemen.

A large police force intervened and stopped the fighting at a village in the southwestern province of Abb, newspapers said, adding that police had arrested eight persons involved in the conflict.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Iran and UN Close to Deal on Nuclear Programme as World Powers Meet for Baghdad Talks

Iran could be allowed to continue with its nuclear programme if it agrees to stop enriching uranium to a critical level from which it could quickly produce a nuclear weapon.

Western powers are ready drop demands for a complete halt to all Iran’s nuclear work, provided the regime pledges to halt uranium enrichment to the crucial 20 per cent threshold, The Daily Telegraph understands.

The proposal would be a key element of a compromise deal, to be discussed by leading world powers in Baghdad on Wednesday, that could also see Iran open up its secret military facilities to United Nations inspectors.

In return, sanctions against Tehran would be eased, with some even suspended should the Islamic regime successfully prove that its intentions are peaceful.

Last night, a deal to resolve the impasse was said to be close. Yukia Amano, the head of the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said he expected an agreement to be signed “quite soon” that would allow inspectors greater access to the key scientists, documents and suspicious facilities.

Tehran’s nuclear ambitions have been subject to widespread suspicions that it is trying to acquire nuclear weapons, with Israel fearing it would be the target of an Iranian strike. It has threatened a pre-emptive military strike in response.

Baroness Ashton, the EU’s chief foreign affairs representative, will on Wednesday lead representatives from six world powers — the US, Russia, China, the UK, France and Germany — in crucial negotiations that could prove a turning point on the issue.

The so-called “P5+1” grouping are due to meet Iranian representative, Saeed Jalili, in Baghdad.

Diplomats now expect the talks to yield an Iranian offer to suspend part of its nuclear programme in return for negotiations on dismantling the UN sanctions regime that includes the prospect of a US and European-driven oil embargo. This could include an offer to limit uranium enrichment to 3.5 per cent.

The hopes of a breakthrough follow two days of preliminary talks between Mr Amano and Mr Jalili in the Iranian capital.

Speaking as he returned yesterday, Mr Amano said: “The decision was made to conclude and sign the agreement … At this stage, I can say it will be signed quite soon.

“We understood each other’s position better.”

The Iranian regime quickly made clear however, that any concessions must be immediately reciprocated — probably with an agreement “turn down the volume” on sanctions.

“It is of crucial importance that our cooperation will entail reciprocal steps, that is, our nation’s trust should be built in the trend of talks and cooperation,” Mr Jalili said.

The West’s main concern is Iran’s production of uranium enriched to 20 per cent, which is far higher than needed for regular energy-producing reactors. The US and its allies fear the higher-enriched uranium could be quickly boosted to warhead-grade material.

One Western official told The Daily Telegraph on Tuesday night: “The meaningful issue must be the 20 per cent enriched material — then some sort of pause on sanctions is not a difficult thing.

“The key thing is what is good enough and what prevents a third party strike on Iran.”

As part of any agreement, Mr Amano is focused on getting Iran to let UN experts into high-profile Iranian sites, including the Parchin military complex southeast of Tehran.

Israel however, warned yesterday of the dangers of Iranian tactics.

“Iran wants to destroy Israel and it is developing nuclear weapons to fulfill that goal,” Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister, said. “Against this malicious intention, leading world powers need to display determination and not weakness. They should not make any concessions to Iran.”

Hillary Clinton, the Secretary of State, has publicly denied she has eased the US stance in pursuit of President Barack Obama’s policy of talks with Iran.

It was Mrs Clinton’s husband, Bill, as president who first imposed restrictions on Iran over its nuclear programme banning companies from investing in Iranian oil and gas and trading with Iran in 1995.

The net has closed ever tighter with four rounds of UN sanctions between 1996 and 2010 and a raft of bilateral restrictions, including moves by the EU and US to impose a semi-global oil embargo by the end of June. As Opec’s second largest producer, Iran’s oil industry has been pitching into chaos by the embargo.

While fixated on the removal of sanctions, Iranian officials maintain the country has a legal right to nuclear technology. One diplomat close to the talks said that the ultimate success of the diplomacy would hinge on conceding this point to Iran so it can portray the negotiations as a victory at home.

“It’s a myth the West doesn’t accept their nuclear entitlement but it has be framed in a way that allows them to claim victory on this as a sweetener to real concessions,” the diplomat said.

           — Hat tip: Nick[Return to headlines]

Iran Nuclear Talks Set to Open in Baghdad

A group of six world powers is due to hold fresh talks with Iran about its controversial nuclear programme. The talks are being held in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, at Iran’s request.

They come a day after the UN’s nuclear watchdog held talks with Iran to try to gain better access to the regime’s nuclear installations. Tehran insists its uranium enrichment programme is for peaceful purposes, but the West fears Iran is developing a nuclear weapon. The five permanent members of the UN Security Council — the US, Britain, France, Russia and China — plus Germany will try to persuade Iranian officials to scale back their nuclear programme. Security is tight, with about 15,000 Iraqi police and troops protecting the venue inside Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone. Previous talks in Istanbul in mid-April managed to find enough common ground to arrange a further meeting in Baghdad.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

NGOs Warn, Yemen on the Verge of Food Emergency

30 countries gathered in Riyadh promise USD 4 bln aid

Yemen has been troubled by protest against former President Ali Abdallah Saleh, for over a year now, and torn by tribal unrest and fight against Al-Qaida: the country is now “on the verge of a food emergency”, with 44% of its inhabitants, totalling ten million people, without enough food. The warning was launched earlier today by seven non-governmental organizations, including Oxfam, on the same day when 30 countries belonging to the “Friends of Yemen” group in Saudi Arabia promised to allocate USD 4 bln as aid for Sanaa, USD 3.25 bln of them will be allocated by Riyadh. “A child out of three in Yemen suffers from malnourishment”, the seven NGOs stated, while the UN estimates that the life of 267,000 children is at risk.

The NGOs point out in their appeal that 5 million people need urgent help. The aid promised today in Riyadh, as the Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al Faysal emphasized “are aimed at preserving Yemen’s stability and security”. Large areas in the southern parts of the country have been under Al Qaida’s control since last year, when Al Qaida settled there taking advantage of the central government’s weakness during the protests against Saleh.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Syria: One Man’s Terrorist …

by Rod Liddle

I wonder if our government will demand more information and threaten reprisals over the case of the two ‘British citizens’ killed by the Syrian Army? Or if, instead, it won’t say very much at all and just deny they are British? This was a story which emerged over the weekend but has not gained very much traction. Easy to see why this would be the case. Hassan Blidi and Walid Hassan were on a list of names of ‘foreigners’ who the Syrians say were engaged in terrorist activities in the country. Reading between the lines, one supposes that Hassan and Walid were the sort of jihadi Norman Wisdoms whom this country unwittingly exports to all areas of the Middle East and beyond. Usually, when they’re caught running around Afghanistan or Baluchistan or Yemen with beards and Kalashnikovs, we have them arrested upon their return and brand them terrorists. But in the case of Syria, we allied ourselves with the armed opposition to Assad and should therefore view Hassan and Walid as freedom fighters and martyrs, and give them a state funeral. The UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon has blamed the latest attacks in Syria upon al-Qaeda. It always was, wasn’t it?

[Reader comment by Simon Fay on 22 May 2012 at 9:53am.]

Violent death in the Middle-East is no reason not to award this lovely couple three or five full cycles of IVF on the NHS, and to honour their posthumous wishes that the embryo be screened to ensure a Jihadist baby.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]


Lithuania Creates Panel to Count Cost of Soviet-Era

Lithuania on Wednesday set up a commission focused on opening talks with Russia to evaluate the damage inflicted over 50 years of Soviet occupation in the Baltic state, a claim unrecognised by Moscow.

Lithuania’s government tasked the body with preparing an action plan for talks with Russia focused on the “damage inflicted to the Republic in Lithuania by the USSR in 1940-1991 and the Russian Federation’s military in 1991-1993.”

Relations between the Baltic nation of three million with Soviet-era master Russia have been fraught since Vilnius declared independence from the Soviet Union in 1990. Lithuania’s entry into the European Union and NATO in 2004 further vexed Moscow.

“The mandate is very clear — to prepare our negotiating positions in talks with Russia,” Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius said in Vilnius Wednesday, referring to the commission’s initial agenda.

Kubilius also said he hoped the new Russian government and President Vladimir Putin would “take more courageous steps to evaluate their own history.”

The nine-member commission, including historians and officials from the foreign, justice and culture ministries, is to draft an agenda for talks with Moscow by July 1.

Commission chairwoman Terese Birute Burauskaite admitted it was “naive” to expect the Russians to suddenly agree to direct talks. Russian leaders have repeatedly denied Moscow had occupied Baltic states during the Soviet era.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Medvedev Chats With US Cowboys Working in Russia

Russia’s prime minister has visited a cattle farm where some American cowboys are working to help Russians develop their struggling meat industry. Dmitry Medvedev chatted with one cowboy from the U.S. state of Idaho, who introduced him to his young son and wife.

Medvedev asked whether they had managed to learn to speak any Russian, and the man said that other than “please” and “thank you,” the most important words in his Russian vocabulary were those needed for taking care of the cattle: “open the gate” and “close the gate.”

Medvedev’s visit Wednesday was shown on Russian television, but the names of the Americans were not given. The farm in the Bryansk region has more than 7,000 head of Angus cattle, many of them imported from the U.S.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Putin Supports Controversial Anti-Protest Bill

President Vladimir Putin signaled his support Wednesday for a controversial bill now working its way through Russia’s parliament that would increase fines 200-fold for those taking part in unsanctioned protests. The bill received preliminary approval Tuesday in the elected lower house, where the Kremlin’s United Russia party holds a majority. All three of the other parties voted against it.

Observers’ reports of widespread fraud to boost results for United Russia in December’s parliamentary election set off mass street protests that were unprecedented in post-Soviet Russia. The protests have evolved into regular rallies and, in Moscow, continuous Occupy-style demonstrations decrying Putin’s subsequent election to a third presidential term.

Opposition lawmakers have warned that the new fines will only fuel broad outrage and destabilize Russia by depriving the public of a legal way to voice grievances. The bill raises fines for joining unsanctioned rallies from the current maximum of 5,000 rubles ($160) to 1,000,000 rubles ($32,250).

Yet Putin defended the bill Wednesday, describing it as “strengthening democracy.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Russia Tests New Long-Range Missile

Russia has successfully test-fired a new intercontinental ballistic missile. The launch comes just days after NATO formally activated the first stage of a missile defense shield that Moscow vehemently opposes.

The new missile was launched from the Plesetsk launchpad, about 790 kilometres north of Moscow, the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement. The Interfax news agency said the missile traveled some 6,000 kilometers to hit a target at the Kura firing range on the far eastern Kamchatka peninsula.

The agency said the missile was likely to be an updated version of Russia’s Topol-M. The Topol-M is a mobile intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of reaching most targets in the northern hemisphere.

A Defense Ministry spokesman told the news agency that the launch had tested new technologies aimed at cutting costs and increasing reliability.

A senior Russian general told Interfax that the missile was part of Moscow’s response to the new United States-backed missile shield in Europe, whose first stage was officially declared operational by NATO at its Chicago summit on Sunday.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Village Grannies Make it to Eurovision Finals

Russia’s hip group Buranovskiye Babushki has made it into finals of the Eurovision Song Contest in Azerbaijan, bringing the elderly folk singers from a far-off Russian village to the attention of more than 100 million viewers around the world. The Buranovskiye Babushki, or Buranovo Grannies, won the right to contend in the finals with their song Party for Everybody, whose title is sung in English as the song transitions from a traditional village song to an upbeat disco tune. They competed against Iceland, Hungary, Greece, and others. In the final round, the group will face the U.K., Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Azerbaijan, and the victors of the next semifinals. The women, all above the age of 70, come from a village in the Udmurtia republic and have endeared themselves to the country with their mix of traditional singing in Russian and Udmurt with international music hits.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Black Magic Practices in India

Recent incidents of killings in the name of superstition show the dark side of India’s progressive society. And all is being done in the name of bringing peace, harmony and prosperity to those involved.

When all efforts fail to keep hope alive and life on a steady keel, then a large number of people in India still turn to black magic and superstitious practices for quick-fix solutions.

The so-called curators, known as ‘Tantrik’, or ‘Baba’ (occult and black magic practitioners), claim to be able to resolve issues of marital discord, or health and financial problems. Not only do the poor or uneducated fall victim to their claims, but the educated and the elite of society do as well.

Early this week, in one of the cities of West Bengal, a beheaded body of a local Ayurveda doctor was found near a temple. His head was found near a crematorium with some flowers, incense sticks and blood. “This made the foul play of black magic very clear,” local police said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Doctor Who Helped Find Bin Laden is Given Jail Term, Official Says

A Pakistani doctor who helped the Central Intelligence Agency pin down Osama Bin Laden’s location under cover of a vaccination drive was convicted on Wednesday of treason and sentenced to 33 years in prison, a senior official in Pakistan said.

A tribal court in northwestern Pakistan here found the doctor, Shakil Afridi, guilty of acting against the state, said Mutahir Zeb Khan, the administrator for the Khyber tribal region. Along with the jail term, the court imposed a fine of $3,500. Dr. Afridi, who may appeal the verdict, was then sent to Central Prison in Peshawar.

He had been charged under a British-era regulation for frontier crimes that unlike the national criminal code does not carry the death penalty for treason. Under Pakistani penal law, he almost certainly would have received the death penalty, a Pakistani lawyer said.

Dr. Afridi’s fate has been an added source of tension between Pakistan and United States, at a time when the two countries remain at loggerheads over reopening supply lines through Pakistan to Afghanistan.

In January, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta confirmed that the United States had been working with Dr. Afridi while trying to confirm the location of Bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad in the months before the raid. American officials had previously said that the doctor been running a hepatitis B vaccination program as a ruse to obtain DNA evidence from members of Bin Laden’s family, who were thought to be hiding in the city. American officials say Dr. Afridi did not know the identity of his target.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

India’s Health Services in Urgent Need of Treatment

India spends only 0.9% of GDP on public health, merely one-third of the less developed countries’ average, says a WHO report. This has encouraged private health care, which is largely inaccessible to most of the public.

Ram Manohar, a poor farmer, has walked some 10 kilometers to reach the nearest public health care center in his village in the east Indian state of Orissa. The drugs necessary to cure his ailment are out of stock, so he receives a simple painkiller and a drip of glucose instead. In another case, Aditya, a corporate executive, gets admitted into a state-of-the-art private hospital for a stomach upset. He gets the best treatment, paid for by his medical insurance.

The two cases show a gaping disparity in India’s health services, considered to be one of the most privatized in the world, according to a report by India’s Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability (CBGA).

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Indonesia: Umar Patek: Who Masterminded the Bali and Church Bombings, Asks for Forgiveness

Dubbed ‘demolition man’, the Muslim extremist acknowledges his guilt and errors. “I am sorry for my misdeed,” he said. Reactions from ordinary Indonesians are mixed. Some hope for real redemption; others suspect he might be trying to avoid prison.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) — An apparently contrite Umar Patek has admitted to his responsibilities, asking everyone for forgiveness, from the Christian community for the attacks against churches on Christmas in 2000 to the families of the victims of the Bali bombings in 2002, and the Indonesian government for faking documents and betraying the trust of his compatriots.

During his hearing before the Jakarta District Court on Monday, the mixed Arab-Javanese Muslim terrorist from Central Java known as ‘demolition man’ who was involved in several deadly attacks, acknowledged his errors and said he was ready to atone for them.

His request for forgiveness elicited different responses among ordinary Indonesians. Some believe in the sincerity of his words. Others are more inclined to think he is trying to obtain the judges’ clemency to avoid life in prison or the death penalty.

“I personally ask for Christians’ forgiveness for what I have done to them,” Umar Patek al Hisyam bin Ali Zein said. “I am sorry for my misdeed.”

After rejecting all charges against him, he eventually pleaded guilty, saying that his late admission of responsibility was due to “strong pressures” from extremist leader Dulmatin, his accomplice in crime who was killed by Indonesian Special Forces in March 2010.

‘Demolition man’ was arrested by Pakistani police in January 2011 in Abbottabad, the same town where al-Qaeda’s founder and leader Osama bin Laden was killed. After long months of negotiations between Jakarta e Islamabad, he was handed him over to Indonesian authorities.

Speaking about the church attacks, he said he did not intend to kill innocent people because “they were not involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

Many Indonesians hope the terrorist’s request for a pardon may be heeded and that Patek may receive a pardon because his remorse is genuine.

Others see him instead as criminal genius and believe that his statement before the judges is just another attempt to escape justice or at least the maximum penalty under the law.

One thing is certain however. However delicate a pardon is, the fight against terrorism and the dismantling of criminal networks remain a priority.

For Muslim scholar Djohan Effendy, jihad must be seen as “an effort to maintain good relations among human beings, without distinctions.”

For human rights activist Imam, “If he [Umar] is sincere, this is a good starting point.”

Benjamin, a Catholic, said he hoped “Patek’s conversion and request to the victims and their families for forgiveness were sincere.”

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

Indonesia: ‘Christians Should Thank’ Islamic Group Over Lady Gaga

Jakarta, 23 May (AKI/Jakarta Post) — An Islam Defenders Front (FPI) spokesman, Munarman, has told reporters that Indonesian Christians should praise the FPI, as well as other Islamic organizations for opposing the American singer Lady Gaga’s concert in the country.

“Lady Gaga has obviously misused symbols of Christianity, such as the cross, in her work,” he said on the sidelines of a meeting with the House of Representatives Commission III overseeing law and human rights, citing Gaga’s song “Judas” as an example.

“We should be praised for what we have done instead of being condemned for threatening religious minority groups,” he added

The FPI and other fellow hard-line groups went to the House’s Commission III on Tuesday to ensure House members supported the police’s decision to ban Gaga’s concert.

House Commission III plans to summon the National Police over the Gaga saga, as well as the escalating violence against minority groups, by the end of this week.

“We are ready to be anybody’s enemy, including the media, if they stand against our effort to combat culture that promotes pornography, as well as satanic values,” Natsir Bachtiar of the Assembly of Indonesian Muslim Young Intellectuals (MIUMI) said. (iwa)

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

Italy-India: Detention of Marines ‘Unacceptable, ‘ Undermines Security

Rome, 23 May (AKI) — Italy’s foreign minister Giulio Terzi has told the United Nations chief that India’s detention of two Italian marines is “unacceptable” and threatens international peace.

During a meeting late on Tuesday with Ban Ki-moon Terzi told the UN secretary-general the situation “endangers common efforts toward international security,” he said in a message on Twitter.

Italy on Friday recalled its ambassador to India on after a court in the southern Indian state of Kerala charged Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone with crimes related to killing the Indian fishermen in February.

Latorre and Girone were been charged with attempted homicide, homicide, criminal association, damages and intent to injure. The marines are being detained in a Kerala prison.

The marines were guarding an Italian tanker from pirates off the Kerala in February when they mistook an Indian fishing vessel for pirates.

Italy claims jurisdiction over the case saying the incident happened in international waters.

India says the shooting occurred in its own territory.

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

Oscar-Winning Acid Attack Film Sparks Controversy in Pakistan

Some of the survivors of acid attacks portrayed in a recent documentary about their fates fear reprisals if the film is broadcast in Pakistan. Acid crime affects hundreds every year.

In February, there was jubilation in Pakistan when Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy became the first Pakistani filmmaker to win an Academy Award. “Saving Face,” Obaid-Chinoy’s 40-minute documentary, is about the victims of acid attacks in Pakistan.

It focuses in particular on two women, Zakia and Rukhsana, who fight to rebuild their lives after being attacked by their husbands, and on the Pakistani-born plastic surgeon Mohammad Jawad who tries to restore people’s faces by using artificial skin substitutes, grafts and other surgical techniques.

“No-one who sees these women could fail to be moved,” the London-based surgeon posted on his blog after the Oscars ceremony. “Each beautiful in their own way, their lives have been destroyed, their faces and bodies disfigured, often by members of their own families. They are the real heroes here. They have been ostracized from society following the terrible attacks that have been inflicted upon them.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Pakistani Clerics: Women With Cell Phones Can be Attacked With Acid, Secular NGO Workers Can be Forcibly ‘Married’ To Local Men

The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) is reporting on a particularly disturbing string of events throughout Pakistan that neither the Pakistani government nor the international community seem in a hurry to condemn.

Not content with terrorizing women with the threat of honor killings, it seems, a Pakistani cleric in the Baluchistan province has issued a fatwa declaring that any woman using a cell phone can justifiably be attacked with acid, while former Pakistani lawmaker and prominent cleric Maulana Abdul Haleem announced that secular women working with NGO’s can becaptured and forcibly “married” to local men if they dare work on women’s education, health, or welfare projects in the district of Kohistan.

Whether the women would be trapped there indefinitely in the conventional meaning of “marriage,” or if it would be a “temporary marriage” that sometimes enables affairs, prostitution, or worse, is unclear.

And according to MEMRI, Maulana Abdul Haleem is not just any cleric and former lawmaker.

“A member of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F) party, [he] is known to have nurtured a generation of Islamic clerics in Pakistan. In 2002 he was elected a Member of the National Assembly, the lower house of the parliament, from the platform of Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), an alliance of religious-political parties cobbled together at the behest of then-Pakistani military ruler General Pervez Musharraf.”

The cleric’s other accomplishments, according to a Pakistani daily, include declaring poppy cultivation in Kohistan to be “in accordance with Islam.”

But despite the obvious danger they invite by speaking out, two women in particular are fighting— even ridiculing— the new declarations.

Fouzia Saeed wrote in an article: “Who will tell the ‘fatwa guys’ that they are nearly an extinct species? Who will tell these men that they need to wake up to 2012…Perhaps they should be kept in a museum with the caption: ‘we used to have people like this who thought work for women was ‘un-Islamic,’ but marrying them by force was ‘Islamic.’ Idiots who thought talking on a cell phone was ‘un-Islamic,’ but throwing acid in women’s faces was ‘Islamic’!”

Another woman, Tazeen Javed, wrote: “[We] are teeming millions of people who cannot feed themselves, have limited access to energy, and will be dumber and weaker in the future because of the stunted mental and physical growth of our children due to the lack of education. At such a juncture in history, amongst us are individuals who issue fatwas and promote misogyny and obscurantism against hygiene, education, health, and progress.”

She continued: “In short, a former legislator issues fatwas during a Friday sermon inciting hatred against [NGO workers] and declaring the constitutional rights of getting an education for half of the population forbidden and no one, barring a few bloggers and tweeters, raises even an eyebrow.”

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

This is Not an Exit Strategy for Afghanistan, It’s a Surrender Strategy

by Con Coughlin

President Barack Obama believes the Afghan war “as we know it” will be over in two years when combat operations are ended. If he really believes that then he is living in cloud cuckoo land. We all know that Mr Obama and David Cameron have lost interest in the Afghan campaign. It’s too costly, and there are no votes in it. So let’s get out at the earliest opportunity and leave the Afghans to clear up their own mess. Hurrah, I hear you say. After more than 400 British dead, and hundreds more seriously wounded , not to mention the mind-boggling $350 billion price tag, the campaign has so far cost, it’s high time we brought home our brave boys and girls and turned our attention to more pressing concerns, such as reviving the economy and making Britain a great nation once more.

But there is one enormous snag to this otherwise commendable plan: the Afghans are not capable of clearing up their own mess, and won’t be in a position to do so for at least a decade. Remember, when all this started, serious military men like General Sir David Richards, now the head of our Armed Forces, and General David Petraeus, the mastermind of the counter-insurgency strategy to defeat Islamist terrorists, warned that this would take at least a decade, if not more. Instead, out of pure political expediency, Messrs Obama and Cameron are running up the white flag before the job is done, and all the hard work and suffering of the past decade could end up being worthless. Not even their own military and Nato advisers agree with the decision they’ve taken at the Chicago summit, warning that there is every likelihood the Taliban and their al-Qaeda allies will be back in control of large parts of Afghanistan once we have withdrawn, with all the implications that will have for our own security.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Far East

China Warns Australia to Choose “Godfather” — China or U.S.

It is rare in diplomatic circles for governments to speak bluntly, particularly in the Orient, where manners are highly prized.

The exceptions to this rule are retired military officers, who are often able to voice sentiments too impolitic for other channels.

One of the more startling pronouncements in this vein occurred last week when Song Xiaojun, a former senior officer of the People’s Liberation Army, warned that Australia cannot juggle its relationships with the United States and China indefinitely and “Australia has to find a godfather sooner or later. Australia always has to depend on somebody else, whether it is to be the ‘son’ of the US or ‘son’ of China. (It) depends on who is more powerful, and based on the strategic environment.” Noting the rising importance of China as an export market Song added that Australia depended on exporting iron ore to China “to feed itself,” but “Frankly, it has not done well politically.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Fukushima Disaster is ‘Nuclear War Without a War’

(NaturalNews) It has been more than a year now since the massive 9.0-plus magnitude earthquake and corresponding tsunami devastated the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant on the eastern coast of Japan, sending untold amounts of nuclear radiation into the environment. And to this day, the threat of nuclear fallout is ever-present all around the world in what some have described as a “nuclear war without a war.”

Though governments and many media outlets have downplayed the disaster, its aftermath continues to threaten the health and wellbeing of plants, animals and humans not only in Japan, but all around the world. Far worse than Chernobyl, the Fukushima catastrophe truly is a nuclear holocaust event with gradual, long-term consequences that we are only just now beginning to recognize and grasp.

Though the devastation was not delivered in one fell swoop via an atomic bomb, radioactive elements from Fukushima continue to be quietly delivered through air and ocean currents to soils, drinking water supplies, farms, lawns, children’s playgrounds, airplanes and countless other sources. Products made with elements and materials that have been contaminated with radiation, particularly in Japan, are also exposing untold thousands, if not millions, of people to dangerous levels of nuclear radiation.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Japan: Skytree Has Elevator Glitch on First Day

Despite cold and rainy springtime weather Tuesday, Tokyo Skytree attracted thousands of people to the new landmark as the world’s tallest tower opened to the public.

But the first day didn’t go off without a hitch. High winds forced two elevators to halt at around 6 p.m., stranding visitors in the No. 2 observatory, 450 meters above the ground. The elevators soon resumed operations, but at 7:36 p.m. the No. 2 observatory was closed due to the wind.

A total of 200,000 people were expected to visit Tokyo Skytree Town, the complex in which the tower stands in Sumida Ward, on the first day alone. Skytree Town is a commercial complex combining the 634-meter-tall broadcast tower, an aquarium, a planetarium and the Tokyo Solamachi complex, which boasts 312 shops and restaurants.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Kidnapped Fishermen’s Case Angers Chinese Public

The plight of 28 Chinese fishermen, who were kidnapped, robbed, stripped and held for 13 days by North Koreans, has inflamed Chinese public opinion, with many Internet users taking to microblogging sites to question the Beijing government’s close relationship with its reclusive ally in Pyongyang.

But for the moment, experts and diplomats said, the episode seems unlikely to shake China’s alliance with its troublesome neighbor, or to cause Beijing’s Communist authorities to heed Washington’s call to apply more pressure on North Korea.

The fishermen, in three boats, were seized May 8 in waters between the two countries. The ships’ owners said they were in Chinese waters. The Chinese Foreign Ministry did not report the incident for several days.

As the Chinese fishermen were released Sunday and returned this week to the Chinese port of Dalian, emerging details of their captivity have only added to the national sense of indignation. Wang Lijie, the captain of one of the seized fishing boats, said in an interview Wednesday with The Washington Post that five fishermen remained hospitalized, their legs swollen from beatings received during captivity. He described their captors as North Korean sailors, who gave them only grain to eat, stripped them to their underwear, repeatedly beat them severely and drained their boats of fuel before releasing them.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

University in South Africa Cancels Israeli Deputy Ambassador’s Lecture

(Ahlul Bayt News Agency) — The University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) in South African has cancelled a lecture which was to be given by Israel’s deputy ambassador to the country, Yaakov Finkelstein. The decision was made by UKZN’s deputy vice-chancellor, Professor Joseph Ayee, on Sunday afternoon after coming under pressure from student organisations and academic staff to cancel Finkelstein’s lecture. UKZN School of Social Sciences senior lecturer, Dr Lubna Nadvi, said: “This is a positive and encouraging move by UKZN. Israel is fast becoming a pariah state, like apartheid South Africa did, that no one really wants to be associated with…” Israeli radio claimed that Palestinian supporters’ campaign against Finkelstein’s lecture of the Israeli deputy ambassador to South Africa, Yaakov Finkelstein, according to the Israeli embassy. This is yet another blow to Israel-South Africa relations that have recently become tense after the South Africa’s decision to treat products of the Israeli settlements differently than those of the occupation state.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]


Greece: Incidents Over Presence of Undocumented Migrants

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, MAY 23 — Serious incidents occurred yesterday afternoon in the city of Patras between policemen and inhabitants of the port area, where last Saturday the 29-year-old Greek national Athanasios Lazanas was killed by three undocumented Afghan nationals. For a number of hours members of the far right organisation Chisi Avgi (Golden Dawn), which in the May 6 elections raked in 6.97% of votes and 21 seats in the Parliament, had blocked the entrance to an abandoned building where the migrants had taken refuge, throwing stones and other objects at the police who attempted to get them to leave. Seven civilians and three policemen were slightly injured and damage was done to the vehicles of the police, who detained five people.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: New “Slaves” in the Farms, 16 Arrested

(AGI) Rome — Illegally smuggled in the country, they were forced to work in the fields, ‘prisoners’ of their tormentors, living in squalid conditions. The Lecce ROS has enforced 16 out of 22 arrest warrants issued for the crimes committed in various dates, from January 2009 to March 2010, the summers of 2010 and 2011 and the fall of last year. The investigation has revealed an international criminal network, formed by Italian, Algerian, Tunisian and Sudanese co-conspirators, operating in Apulia, Sicilia, Calabria and Tunisia. The victims were Tunisian e Ghanese nationals.

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

Number of Immigrant Organisations Run Into the Hundreds

An event exhibiting old Somali wedding traditions has been arranged by the Finnish Somali League in the Entresse Public Library in Espoo. The Somali League is one of the large body of immigrant associations in Finland. The number of such organisations is increasing slowly but surely. Miikka Pyykkönen, who has been studying immigrant associations at the University of Jyväskylä, says that the current number of such organisations is about 750, which is 100 more than five years ago.

However, some of the associations exist only on paper. It is impossible to calcuateount the precise number of such organisations. In the past two months alone, at least 14 new immigrant associations have been registered.

These associations form a substantial volunteer reserve, and in practice, they do a lot of social integration work. The organisations brief newcomers on the mysteries of Finnish culture and bureaucracy, provide them with interpretation services, and help them to get acquainted with their first friends in the foreign country.

The immigrant associations receive financial support for example from the state-owned Finnish Slot Machine Association (RAY), ministries, and municipalities. The Somali League of Finland is an umbrella organisation of several Somali NGOs. League Chairman Abdirashid Awad Dirie says that the League looks after the interests of Somalis who live in Finland and gives advice to all Somali newcomers.

According to Awad Dirie, there is a lot of cooperation between the Somali League and Finnish authorities. In Miikka Pyykkönen’s view, this kind of collaboration is the most fruitful possible. “Immigrant associations have a lot of potential leads that the authorities do not. The associations can reach immigrants better, but joint projects work best”, Pyykkönen adds.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Spain: Ministry Bans Indiscriminate Stopping of Migrants

The Interior Ministry is expected on Monday to issue an internal memo to law enforcement bodies to prevent the indiscriminate stopping of people suspected of being illegal migrants.

The memo does not allude to any allegation that has been brought up in the past by NGOs, which say that police are illegally stopping people at bus stops and Metro stations because they appear to be foreign-born.

The ministry’s memo simply tells police officers “to avoid any practice that entails unjust restriction of rights and liberties of migrants.”

For years, NGOs have filed complaints with the Interior Ministry charging that officers were stopping people because of the way they dressed or because of the color of their skin. Interior officials have always denied the allegations.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Lack of Toilets Poses Serious Health Risk

Around 2.6 billion people worldwide live without a toilet. They relieve themselves in latrines, rivers, buckets or behind the next bush — and risk their health. Diarrheal diseases and Cholera can quickly cause death.

In his career as a physician, Dieter Häussinger has traveled extensively. One of his recent lecture tours led the professor of medicine at the University Hospital in Dusseldorf to the Indian metropolis of Calcutta.

As he drove through the city one early morning, he noticed several children squatting on the roadside with their pants pulled down relieving themselves. “This is clearly a way to transmit diseases,” said Häussinger, who heads the gastroenterology, hepatology and infectious diseases clinic at the Dusseldorf hospital.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]