Sunday, January 12, 2003

News Feed 20120719

Financial Crisis
»Bailout Fund Could Become Eurozone Budget Authority, Says ECB
»Euro Crisis Means More Power for European Commission
»Europe is in More Danger Than at Any Time Since the 1930s. One Nationalist Demagogue Could Cause an Earthquake
»Finland Parliament ‘Sure’ To Ratify Spain Bank Deal
»How Iceland Stalks Its Banksters
»Italy to Axe 1,884 Chauffeured Cars in Six Months
»Italy’s Fuel Consumption Plunges at 1955 Rates
»Italy: Milan Prosecutor Seeks Ban on Four Banks for Fraud
»Italy Has Highest ‘Real’ Tax Burden in World, Say Retailers
»Italy: Confindustria Says Soaring Spread is Hurting Italian Economy
»Nouriel Roubini Sticks to ‘Perfect Storm’ In 2013 Prediction
»Spain: Public Coffers Dry, Says Montoro
»Spanish Exodus in Search of Work, +44.2% Over 2011
»‘Islamorealism’ Ad Claims ‘19,207 Deadly Islamic Attacks Since 9/11’
»Judge Grants Tenn. Mosque’s Petition to Open
»Oregon Plague Victim Paul Gaylord Will Undergo Surgery Next Week, But ‘Doing Good’
»Outing the Muslim Brotherhood
»Possible Alien Planet Smaller Than Earth May be Lava World
»Private Liberty Rocket and Spaceship Pass Key NASA Test
»Several TN County GOPs Call for Sanctions on Gov. Haslam
»No Problem With No Caucasians Allowed at Ontario Correctional Services Conference: Ruling
Europe and the EU
»600-Year-Old Medieval Bras Discovered
»Brussels Slams Romania for ‘Shaking Our Trust’
»Burgas Bomber Was Swedish Citizen of Algerian Origin
»Italy: Disgraced Parmalat Boss Must Remain in Jail Rules Court
»Italy: Assistance to Muslim Prisoners for Ramadan
»Jewish Students Sue Hungarian Website
»MEPs Not Serious About Their Own Transparency
»Neanderthal Dental Tartar Reveals Evidence of Medicine
»No Welcome at N-VA for Former Vlaams Belang Politicians?
»Romania and Bulgaria Continue to Flout Rule of Law
»Suicide Bomber With Fake US Documents Killed Israelis in Bulgaria
»UK: Footage of a Burka-Assisted Robbery at a Jewellers in Rusholme, Greater Manchester.
»UK: Five Face Court on Terrorism Charges
»UK: Terror Arrests: Former BBC Security Guard Richard Dart Charged
»UK: Woman Hairdresser Who Had Bin Laden Propaganda is Guilty of Plotting to Plant Peroxide and Bleach Bombs in Jewish Areas
Mediterranean Union
»CBC, Italy Demands Entry of Morocco, Algeria, Libya
»Flexibility, Funds Needed for EU CBC Med Program
»Media Dialogue on Islam’s Perception in Palermo
Israel and the Palestinians
»Gaza Christians Protest ‘Forcible Conversions’
»Israeli Bus: It Was a Suicide Attack, Official Confirmation
Middle East
»Islamism and Insecurity Leave Egyptian Red Sea Beaches Empty
»Jordan: Country Hosting Over 137,000 Syrian Refugees Says Minister
»King of Jordan Warns That Syria’s Chemical Weapons Could be Seized by Al-Qaeda
»Spain to Withdraw 50% of UNIFIL Troops
»Turkey: Erdogan Has No Rivals in 2014 Presidential Vote
»Top Muslim Cleric Yakupov Gunned Down in Russia
»Twin Attacks on Muslim Authorities in Kazan
South Asia
»David Cameron: Taliban Could be Waiting for British Troops to Leave Before Trying to Take Afghanistan
»Indonesia: Govt Moves to Block Porn Websites During Ramadan
»Italian Marines Case: Another Hearing in Kollam
»Taliban’s No to Polio Vaccine Puts Lives of 250 Thousand Pakistani Children at Risk
Far East
»China’s Online Population Rises to 538 Million
»Youth Politics Intimidate Chinese Leadership
Sub-Saharan Africa
»China Pledges Africa $20 Billion in Loans
»Mali: Al-Qaeda Linked Group Frees Abducted Italian Aid Worker
»Census 2011: London’s Population Booms to Eight Million
»Italy: Imam and Three Syrians Arrested for People Smuggling
»New Ruling on Asylum Seekers in Germany
Culture Wars
»Strasbourg Hits Euthanasia Ball Back Into German Courts
»Multi-Telescope View of Giant Black Hole is 2 Million Times Sharper Than Human Eye
»Oldest Spiral Galaxy in Universe Discovered

Financial Crisis

Bailout Fund Could Become Eurozone Budget Authority, Says ECB

Eurozone states need to give up more sovereignty in order to fix the construction flaws of the euro, with the bailout fund possibly turning into a budget authority further down the road, European Central Bank board member Joerg Asmussen has said.

“We have construction mistakes of Economic and Monetary Union and it is time to correct them. It is clear that the core of the current debate has a name: further sharing of sovereignty,” Asmussen said Tuesday (17 July) at the European Policy Centre, a Brussels-based think tank.

Part of the vision — which the ECB is shaping in a report drafted by EU council chief Herman Van Rompuy — is a cap on how much debt countries can issue, intervention in national budgets and fiscal corrections imposed if a country deviates from the deficit and debt limits imposed in the eurozone.

A common budgetary authority could also be formed, Asmussen said, with the upcoming permanent bailout fund, the European Stability Mechanism, a “starting point.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Euro Crisis Means More Power for European Commission

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso has a reputation for avoiding conflict. But as the euro crisis has worsened, his power has increased. He is one of the few winners of the problems facing Europe’s common currency.

When José Manuel Barroso launches into one of his notorious PowerPoint presentations in the conference hall of the European Council building in Brussels, the mood among European Union leaders present quickly begins to resemble that of an endless vacation slide show in someone’s living room. While grandpa waxes lyrical over his photos of Alpine wildflowers, the rest of the family reaches for snacks and hopes the show will soon end.

With each new slide that the Commission president pulls up on table monitors, his enthusiasm for the achievements and initiatives of his own organization grows, while the 27 heads of state and government resign themselves to their fate. The most recent Brussels summit was no different. EU leaders leaned back into their chairs, confident that Barroso’s presentation would not prove particularly demanding.

This time, though, they were wrong. When some European leaders raised objections to the fiscal policy recommendations from Brussels, the Commission president fired back. He reminded those assembled that they were the ones who had given the Commission the right to set parameters for national governments. It didn’t make any difference to him if they continued to play their little tactical games, he said, noting that he would prefer to stick to facts. And then Barroso said heatedly: “If the European Council doesn’t sign off on these recommendations, we’ll have a serious problem.”

The leaders were shocked. Was this Barroso speaking? It certainly wasn’t the Barroso they’d grown accustomed to.

José Manuel Durão Barroso, 56, has been the head of the most powerful EU institution for eight years. More than 32,000 people ultimately report to him, and he is part of every crisis summit.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Europe is in More Danger Than at Any Time Since the 1930s. One Nationalist Demagogue Could Cause an Earthquake

By Thomas Pascoe

Thomas Pascoe worked in both the Lloyd’s of London insurance market and in corporate finance before joining the Telegraph. He writes about the financial markets. His email is

Ours is a complacent continent. Despite impending events that would have precipitated a revolution in almost any other place at almost any other time in history — either a collapse of the currency or the complete secession of budgetary control to a supra-natural body in the EU — we expect the fabric of European society to endure without major changes. I think we are wrong.

There is a presumption of perpetual peace in Europe which rests in turn on a presumption of the perpetuity of our existing capital structures. Once the latter are undermined, the former is called into question.

The great wars of the secular age have all been fought between ideologies which seek to restructure the relationship between capital and the people. As popular support grows for such plans, Western Europe is entering its most dangerous phase since the 1930s.

As in the early 1930s, the decision on the fate of financial order on the continent rests with debtor countries who admit no guilt for their debt. And, once again, faith is being placed in the treaty system to maintain order. To push the analogy further, I believe that the dominant form of political organisation over the next decade will be nationalism. We are one charismatic leader away from a complete re-ordering of the continent.

The problem with reparations, halted under the Nazi Party in 1933, was not that the Germans were unable to pay a debt which amounted to 83pc of GDP in 1923: on the contrary, they were (I recommend AJP Taylor’s Origins of the Second World War on this point). Instead, it was that neither Germany nor pre-Anschluss Austria recognised the “war guilt” clause in the Treaty of Versailles which justified such payments.

Not only did the debtors believe the debts unjust, so did the creditors. Sophisticated opinion in Britain, shared by Cabinet ministers and Keynes, held that the peace terms were unduly harsh on the Germans and would cause unnecessary deprivation. This combination of stubbornness and sympathy ensured that when debts eventually went unpaid, no nation intervened to support the existing financial system.

There is a parallel here with the contemporary debts of the Club Med states, although their debts are higher — and headed to 170pc of GDP, according to Fitch.

The striking feature of almost every dispatch from Greece, Italy (downgraded today by Moody’s), Spain and Portugal is that, irrespective of the commitments of the political class, the population at large feel no culpability for the debts their leaders have amassed. They are willing to endorse plans to pay these debts back only to the extent that such plans extend further credit and allow public sector wages to be paid.

There are two broad routes Europe can take from here…

           — Hat tip: TV[Return to headlines]

Finland Parliament ‘Sure’ To Ratify Spain Bank Deal

(HELSINKI) — Finland’s parliament will pass an accord on helping Spain’s struggling banks Friday, when eurozone finance ministers are due to sign off on the deal, Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen told AFP.

“I am sure it will go through in the parliament,” Katainen said Wednesday, when asked about the chances of the accord getting the green light.

The finance ministry said Tuesday that Madrid had agreed to provide collateral to Finland in exchange for its participation in an EU bailout for ailing Spanish banks worth up to 100 billion euros ($122 billion).

Finland’s share of the bailout amounts to about 1.9 billion euros, with collateral put at 763 million euros which will be paid in cash progressively.

“It is cash collateral… and I think it is the best way to organise collateral this time,” Katainen said, apparently referring to a similar deal reached with Athens over its most recent EU-IMF bailout accord.

The prime minister warned of the need for speed to resolve the eurozone debt crisis which has undercut the global economy and forced Greece, Ireland and Portugal into seeking outside help, with Spain and Italy under pressure.

“All Europeans are in the same boat. We have to solve this problem very fast,” he said, adding: “I see that there will be an end to the crisis but I don’t know when it will come.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

How Iceland Stalks Its Banksters

Le Monde Paris

In London, Barclays rigged the interest rates on interbanks loans, while in Madrid, Bankia cooked the books in order go public. How can banks be held accountable? Iceland has appointed a team of investigators that seeks out fraud and sends the perpetrators to court. Excerpts.

Charlotte Chabas

Prior to the economic crisis, Olafur Hauksson was police commissioner in Akranes, a small port town of 6,500 inhabitants stranded at the end of a frozen peninsula some fifty kilometres from Reykjavik. Since 2009, he tracks down and brings to justice those who played a role in the country’s economic collapse of 2008.

At the end of 2008, the Icelandic bubble burst as a consequence of the subprime crisis in the United States. Two weeks after the dramatic fall of Lehman Brothers, the country’s three major banks — valued at 923% of gross domestic product (GDP) — collapsed. The crisis swept through the island, the Icelandic krona dropped in value and no intervention could halt its downward spiral. On October 6, 2008, live on national television, the then-prime minister ended his speech by asking God to “save the island”.

Since that fateful day, Iceland has known troubled times. In 2009, the Icelanders, although not used to demonstrating over social issues, shouted their anger against the politicians and the “neo-Vikings” of finance that betrayed them. The “revolution of pots and pans” forced the resignations of the Parliament and of the conservative government.

One of the demands of that movement was that those that profited from the economic situation and who pushed Iceland into the economic abyss be brought to justice. Early legislative elections [in 2009] brought the left to power. The new prime minister, Johanna Sigurdardottir, wanted to quickly appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the causes of the crisis but candidates applying for the post were hard to find.

Olafur Hauksson, isolated in his little provincial police station, had the merit of having no relations with the elite accused of having hastened the island towards bankruptcy. Despite his total inexperience concerning matters of economic law, he was the only one to apply for the job. More than three years after his appointment, he recognises himself “only recently feeling at ease in his function”. Starting out with a team of five, he now manages over one hundred assistants.

Relocating abroad

Theirs is a double burden: “On one hand, we have to investigate all suspicion of fraud and offences committed before 2009, on the other hand, we bring the lawsuits against the suspects to court ourselves,” Hauksson explains. This is a “totally new” method which allows the investigators to “follow the case” and the judicial system to “know the cases like the back of their hand”. This is indispensable in order “to compete with the well-prepared defence attorneys”…

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

Italy to Axe 1,884 Chauffeured Cars in Six Months

Civil service to lose almost one fifth of fleet

(ANSA) — Rome, July 17 — The Italian government said Tuesday that it will slash 1,884 chauffeured cars for public officials, or 19.4% of its fleet, over the next six months.

The cuts are part of plans by Premier Mario Monti’s technocrat government to cut 26 billion euros in spending over the next three years. “The reduction of automobiles in the public administration is an important part of the government’s spending review,’ said Civil Service Minister Filippo Patroni Griffi. As of June 30, the civil service had 7,837 chauffeured cars throughout the country.

Between January and June, 582 chauffeured cars were axed.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy’s Fuel Consumption Plunges at 1955 Rates

Gasoline, diesel use down 9.7%, but spending still up

(ANSA) — Rome, July 16 — Italian drivers have cut back so much that fuel consumption has plunged at a rate not seen since Rebel Without A Cause was playing in movie theatres.

Not since 1955 has gasoline and diesel fuel consumption fallen so quickly as in the first half of 2012, the Centro Studi Promotor said in a report released Monday.

From January to June, gasoline and diesel-fuel consumption dropped by a combined average of 9.7%, said the CSP, an automotive research centre that first began collecting such data in 1955.

It blamed the economic crisis for the six-month drop in fuel consumption that included a 10.3% drop in gasoline sales and 9.4% in diesel.

Despite lower consumption, higher prices in the first six months of 2012 pushed total spending on gasoline and diesel up by 8.8% to 33.5 billion euros over the period.

Tax revenues from fuel consumption also rose by a whopping 18.6% to reach 18 billion euros.

The economic crisis is hitting hard, the centre said.

“In 2012, therefore, not only car sales are in strong decline (-19.7% for passenger cars in the first half, -37.9% for commercial vehicles, buses and industry from January to May), but also the use of cars and vehicles,” the centre said.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Milan Prosecutor Seeks Ban on Four Banks for Fraud

Milan, 19 July (AKI/Bloomberg) — Milan prosecutor Alfredo Robledo asked a court to ban Deutsche Bank, Depfa Bank, UBS AG and JPMorgan from doing business with Italian local governments for a year for mis-selling swaps to the city.

The prosecutor late Wednesday asked a Milan court to fine the banks 1.5 million euros each and asked they return their 72.5 million euros of illicit profit from the contracts.

The four banks that arranged the swaps have been on trial since May 2010, accused of defrauding Milan by hiding their fees. The companies, which have denied the charges, settled with the city government in March and agreed to unwind the interest- rate swaps, which adjusted payments on 1.7 billion euros of bonds sold by the city in 2005. Opaque derivatives fashioned by securities firms are costing Italian taxpayers more than $1.5 billion, according to March data by the country’s central bank.

“The evidence doesn’t support the sentences and sanctions requested by the prosecutor,” UBS said in a statement. JPMorgan and Deutsche Bank said they acted properly in their dealings with the city.

Officials at Depfa didn’t have an immediate comment.

Robledo asked to absolve two city officials who had been accused of colluding with the banks and two bankers because of insufficient evidence, he said. He requested nine other bankers serve jail terms of as long as 12 months.

Swaps used by the city of Milan may have breached rules on how municipalities use derivatives to manage their debt, partly because they were used to raise funds, a judicially-appointed witness said at the trial in May. The swaps were far from being hedges on the municipality’s interest-rate risk after being restructured multiple times, he said.

The banks said in court that firms don’t typically disclose the fees they charge to arrange swaps, tailored trades that lack comparable market prices. Former Milan Mayor Gabriele Albertini told the court in November he knew banks would charge the city for arranging the 2005 financing package that included swaps, though he didn’t know the amount of the commissions.

His successor, Letizia Moratti, said she had relied on the banks as advisers on subsequent transactions. The securities firms thus had a “clear” conflict of interest, she said.

Lawyers for the banks will make their final arguments in September.

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

Italy Has Highest ‘Real’ Tax Burden in World, Say Retailers

Over half of every euro earned is taxed, claims Confcommercio

(ANSA) — Rome, July 19 — Italy has the highest ‘real’ tax burden in the world, with 55% of every euro earned being taxed, retail association Confcommercio said on Thursday.

Confcommercio’s research department said in a report that the real tax burden of 55% was much higher than the 45.2% suggested by official figures.

“Not only is Italy in first place, it also also unlikely that any one will overtake us in the near future,” said Mariano Bella of Confcommercio’s research department.

The report said Denmark was in second place with a real tax burden of 48.6%, followed by France, 48.2%, and Sweden, 48%.

Premier Mario Monti’s emergency government of non-political technocrats has raised taxes as part of its efforts to restore health to the public finances and haul the country out of the centre of the eurozone crisis.

But this has further raised an already high tax burden and the Bank of Italy recently said this was unsustainable in the long term.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Confindustria Says Soaring Spread is Hurting Italian Economy

Industrial employers worried about political uncertainty

(ANSA) — Rome, July 19 — The high borrowing costs Italy is having to pay because of the eurozone crisis and political uncertainty about what will happen after the current government’s term ends in 2013 are stunting growth and keeping unemployment from falling, industrial employers’ confederation Confindustria said on Thursday.

Confindustria’s research department (CSC) added that boosting the EU’s bond-support mechanisms and putting them under the management of the European Central Bank is “the only efficient remedy” for the problem of the rising yield spread between Italian and German state bonds.

According to the Italian employers’ association’s in-house think tank, the high differential in the Italian-German government bonds isn’t justified by economic fundamentals and it is causing a loss of 0.9% in Italian GDP growth per year, costing 144,000 jobs and generating some 12.4 billion euros in higher interest charges to service the state debt. The spread problem is also penalizing Italian families, according to Confindustria economists, forcing them to pay an additional 12.1 billion euros in interest payments, while Italian firms face higher financing costs to the tune of €23.7 billion. “The anti-spread shield is the only remedy,” according to the economists, referring to last month’s EU agreement to use European rescue funds to support the bonds of countries facing soaring borrowing costs. “However, it must be profoundly redesigned with respect to the current version, which must be assigned more resources (ideally they should be unlimited),” they said, adding that its management should be given to the ECB.

Looking ahead, the economists pointed to political uncertainty as a key factor contributing to the high spread, especially as regards the longevity of the reforms enacted by the emergency technocrat government of Premier Mario Monti.

Markets remain nervous, according to the CSC, because politicians from the parties supporting the government are already distancing themselves from elements of the reforms as they prepare elections in 2013.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Nouriel Roubini Sticks to ‘Perfect Storm’ In 2013 Prediction

Nouriel Roubini, the economist who famously predicted the financial crisis, is sticking to his view that the global economy is on course for a “perfect storm” next year.

Mr Roubini, the New York University professor dubbed “Dr Doom”, said a number of unpleasant factors would combine to derail the global economy in 2013, including an escalation of the eurozone crisis.

Other factors included further tax increases and spending cuts in the US that may drive the world’s largest economy into recession; a hard landing for China’s economy; a further slowdown in emerging markets; and war with Iran.

“Next year is the time when the can becomes too big to kick it down (the road)…then we have a global perfect storm,” he told Reuters.

Following a flat year this year, he said US markets could be in store for sharp falls next years, with the Federal Reserve powerless to stop it.

“There might be a weak rally because people are being cheered by more quantitative easing by (Chairman Ben) Bernanke and the Fed, but if the economy is weakening, that is going to put downward pressure on earnings growth,” he said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Spain: Public Coffers Dry, Says Montoro

Salaries at risk without increasing VAT

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, JULY 19 — Spain does not have the money in its coffers to pay for essential services and the government is acting out of need, Treasury Minister Cristobal Montoro said today defending in Parliament a 65 billion euro austerity package approved last Friday by the government of Mariano Rajoy.

Under the measures, Spain will implement 65 billion euros of budget cuts over the next two years in order to comply with its European Union budget targets.

“Need is indicating the path”, Montoro told Parliament.

Yesterday the minister had already warned Parliament that without increasing VAT “the payment of salaries of public employees is at risk”.

The two-year austerity plan will, among other things, raise the VAT rate to 21 percent from 18 percent. Reduced rates will rise to 10 percent from 8 percent in measures expected to bring an extra 22.1 billion euros in state coffers.

Montoro also stressed the need to “reduce public services in order to grow” and that the government is reforming the economy and public sector.

“What we can’t pay has inevitably to be eliminated” added Montoro, ensuring that the government’s measures are following “EU recommendations which are obligations”.

“If we want to be Europe and build Europe we must set aside our ideas”, said the minister, explaining that changes in the public sector are aimed at “making public employees work under the same regime as that of private workers”, meaning that “public administration officials need to work more”.

The minister also explained that a government move scrapping year-end bonuses does not equal a reduction in salaries as the bonuses will be given back in 2015 if Spain complies with its budget targets. The minister said that the year-end bonuses would be integrated in workers’ pension funds.

The leader of the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) in the opposition, Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba, expressed the Socialist group’s rejection of the measure. Rubalcaba condemned the absence at the debate of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy saying it was “humiliating” that Germany’s Parliament had debated on the conditions set by the Memorandum concerning the EU funds of up to 100 million euros to bail out Spanish banks while “in Spain, in this Parliament, such a debate is not taking place”.

The Spanish press, and El Pais newspaper in particular, stressed today that Montoro’s words of alarm concerning the salaries “at risk” of public employees without the intervention of the ECB caused yesterday a new escalation of the German bono-bund spread which reached today 580 points.

The decree, which is opposed by all opposition parties, will be converted into law only by the People’s Party which has the absolute majority in Parliament.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spanish Exodus in Search of Work, +44.2% Over 2011

Young Spaniards emigrate to Germany, UK, France, US

(ANSAMed) — MADRID — Young and educated Spaniards are emigrating in droves, with 44.2% more leaving in the first half of 2012 than in the same period last year, according to data released on Wednesday by national statistics bureau INE.

Out of a total of 269,515 emigrants in the first semester of this year, 40,652 were highly educated Spaniards aged 28-45, INE said. Of the 195,539 new arrivals in the same period, 17,518 were Spaniards and more than 178,000 were foreigners. In 2006, two years before the real estate bubble burst driving the world into recession, Spain welcomed over 1 million immigrants. As of 2011, more Spanish citizens are leaving their country than coming back to it.

Approximately 17% of respondents have thought about seeking their fortunes abroad in the past year, with Germany followed by the UK, France, and the US as favorite destinations, according to a survey by Spain’s Center for Sociological Research (CIS).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


‘Islamorealism’ Ad Claims ‘19,207 Deadly Islamic Attacks Since 9/11’

New York City train commuters may soon see new anti-Islam advertisements on the city’s Metro North line. The American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) created an ad campaign to raise awareness about Jihadist activities against Israel and the United States, highlighting the number of Islamist attacks since Sept. 11, 2001, and a growing number of deaths that have resulted. “19,207 deadly Islamic attacks since 9/11/01 and counting,” the ad reads. “It’s not Islamophohia, it’s Islamorealism.” The $15,000 campaign is a response to pro-Palestine ads. It will cover 75 station kiosks throughout the Metro North route for a four-week period.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Judge Grants Tenn. Mosque’s Petition to Open

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A federal judge ordered a Tennessee county on Wednesday to move ahead with opening a Muslim congregation’s newly built mosque after a two-year fight from opponents. The Islamic Center of Murfreesboro sued Rutherford County earlier in the day and asked District Judge Todd Campbell for an emergency order to let worshippers into the building before the holy month of Ramadan starts at sundown Thursday. Federal prosecutors also filed a similar lawsuit.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Oregon Plague Victim Paul Gaylord Will Undergo Surgery Next Week, But ‘Doing Good’

His doctors expected the worst. His family braced for the end. But beating the odds, Paul Gaylord now faces a new beginning.

The 59-year-old Prineville man hospitalized in critical condition with the plague in June is out of intensive care. Next week, doctors will sever the top half of his fingers. They’ll also cut off the tips of his toes. He’ll never be able to work again as a welder. But Gaylord is just grateful to be alive.

“They tell me I’m doing really good considering,” he said Tuesday in a telephone conversation from his hospital bed at St. Charles Medical Center-Bend. “I do feel lucky. I’m going to have a long row to hoe but at least I have one.”

Family members, who have camped by his side since he was hospitalized June 9, are overjoyed. They thought they would lose him.

“His heart stopped,” said his mother, Almeda Gaylord. “His lung collapsed. They told us he wasn’t going to make it.”

Gaylord spent nearly a month on life support, suffering from a disease that wiped out whole villages in the Middle Ages. Although the plague is rare — he’s the 17th person sickened in Oregon since 1934 — the bacteria never vanished.

Gaylord was infected by a cat named Charlie that most likely was infected by a flea, which can carry the plague. Charlie came home one day choking with a mouse stuck in the back of his mouth. Gaylord tried to pull the mouse out and in the process, Charlie bit him. When he couldn’t help the cat, Gaylord borrowed a weapon from a neighbor and put Charlie out of his pain.

Public health officials sent the cat’s body to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It confirmed that Charlie had the plague. But tests on 18 other dogs and cats in the neighborhood and at the local shelter turned up negative.

That indicates the disease isn’t widespread in Crook County, said Emilio DeBess, state public health veterinarian.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Outing the Muslim Brotherhood

by Diana West

Be alarmed: The U.S. government continues to be “advised by organizations and individuals that the U.S. government itself has identified in federal courts as fronts for the international Muslim Brotherhood.”

So wrote Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., in a lengthy, heavily footnoted answer to a query last week from Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn. He was seeking more information about the reasons Bachmann plus four other House Republicans — Louis Gohmert (Texas), Trent Franks (Ariz.), Lynn Westmoreland (Ga.) and Thomas Rooney (Fla.) — requested Inspector General investigations into “potential Muslim Brotherhood infiltration” of the government. (See all of the letters here.)

Yes, that would be the same Muslim Brotherhood whose leaders are sweeping to power in the Middle East — most recently in Egypt. There, the new president, Mohamed Morsi, fired up voters this spring by declaring: “The Koran is our constitution. The Prophet Muhammad is our leader. Jihad is our path. And death for the sake of Allah is our most lofty aspiration.” That, by the way, is the Muslim Brotherhood’s motto.

Brotherhood-linked groups in the U.S. still take a low-key approach, at least publicly. Thanks to the FBI discovery of a key Muslim Brotherhood document, we know what they’re up to, even who some of them are. The document, entered into evidence during the landmark Holy Land Foundation terrorism finance trial, presents the Brotherhood plan for “civilization-jihad” against the U.S. It describes the group’s “grand jihad” to destroy “the Western civilization from within … so that it is eliminated and (Islam) is made victorious over all religions.” Further, it declares Brotherhood support for “the global Islamic state wherever it is.” It also lists 29 of “our organization and the organizations of our friends” — i.e., front groups. Among them are such well-known Islamic organizations as the Islamic Society of North America, or ISNA, and the Council on American Islamic Relations, or CAIR, both of which remain unindicted co-conspirators.

What is beyond shocking — beyond reason — is that such anti-American Brotherhood-linked groups and individuals have variously engaged, particularly since 9/11, with the U.S. government. Is it a coincidence that U.S. policy has since become receptive to, if not openly supportive of the Muslim Brotherhood? This is the serious question these House Republicans want answered…

           — Hat tip: Diana West[Return to headlines]

Possible Alien Planet Smaller Than Earth May be Lava World

Scientists have discovered what appears to be an alien planet just two-thirds the size of Earth, a heat-blasted world perhaps covered in molten lava, a new study reports.

Astronomers discovered the newfound alien planet, known as UCF-1.01, using NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. The diminutive world is just 33 light-years away, making it a near neighbor of Earth in the cosmic scheme of things.

“We have found strong evidence for a very small, very hot and very near planet with the help of the Spitzer Space Telescope,” study lead author Kevin Stevenson, of the University of Central Florida (UCF) in Orlando, said in a statement. “Identifying nearby small planets such as UCF-1.01 may one day lead to their characterization using future instruments.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Private Liberty Rocket and Spaceship Pass Key NASA Test

The new commercial Liberty rocket and space capsule being developed by aerospace firm ATK have passed a key NASA test and are on track to launch astronauts into orbit by 2015, company officials announced today (July 17).

ATK completed an in-depth review of the Liberty launch system, which consists of a rocket and a seven-passenger space capsule. The review was the last of five milestones required under the unfunded Space Act Agreement (SAA) ATK inked with NASA during the second phase of the agency’s Commercial Crew Development Program (CCDev-2).

During the review, ATK laid out the progress it’s made to date, discussing Liberty’s schedule, system requirements, software status, flight test plan and safety procedures, among other things, officials said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Several TN County GOPs Call for Sanctions on Gov. Haslam

Rank-and-file Republicans, including some in the party’s suburban Nashville stronghold, have condemned Gov. Bill Haslam for policies that include the hiring of gay individuals, Democrats and a Muslim-American lawyer. At least two western Tennessee chapters of the Tennessee Republican Party — and possibly as many as eight statewide — have passed resolutions saying Haslam has shown “a consistent lack of conservative values” and calling on state party leaders to sanction the governor. Meanwhile, the Williamson County Republican Party has passed a more narrow resolution that criticizes the governor for hiring a Tennessee-born Muslim to a trade position.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]


No Problem With No Caucasians Allowed at Ontario Correctional Services Conference: Ruling

TORONTO — A group of white, Ontario correctional officers was barred from attending a government conference on anti-racism and diversity in the workplace, documents obtained by the Toronto Sun show.

The “Race Matters” conference to address “human rights and group development” was held three years ago at Toronto’s Don Jail for non-Caucasian officers only, according to a grievance filed by their union.

The conference sparked a backlash from white officers, according to the documents, who alleged the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services discriminated against them because they weren’t part of an identifiable ethnic group.

The officers, some of whom have non-white spouses, were represented by the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU), whose lawyers unsuccessfully argued their collective agreement was violated before a grievance settlement board in January 2012.

“It was the position of the grievors that the employer’s refusal to allow Caucasian employees to participate in this conference was demeaning, discriminatory and created a poisoned work environment,” the documents revealed.

In May of this year, the board ruled there was no breach of agreement or other government policy and dismissed the grievance against the ministry.

Ministry spokesman Brent Ross said the 2009 Race Matters Conference was arranged to allow staff “who identified themselves as racialized to discuss issues pertinent to their experiences in an environment conducive to the free exchange of ideas.”

OPSEU officials were contacted regarding the conference but didn’t return calls by press time.

According to the grievance documents, conference organizers said the event was “designed to explore the workplace issues of employees who self-identify by race or colour.”

That included “persons who are Chinese, South Asian, Caribbean, African-Canadian or Black, Filipino, Latin American, Southeast Asian, Arab, West Asian, Korean, Japanese.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

600-Year-Old Medieval Bras Discovered

A surprisingly modern-looking linen bra dating back 600 years has been found in a medieval castle in Austria.

According to the Associated Press, the lingerie was first discovered in 2008, but the garments have flown under the radar until now. The finding is a surprise to fashion historians, who have believed that the bra was a relative newcomer to the clothing scene, dating back only a century or so.

“We didn’t believe it ourselves,” Beatrix Nutz, the University of Innsbruck archeologist who discovered the garments, told the AP. “From what we knew, there was no such thing as bralike garments in the 15th century.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Brussels Slams Romania for ‘Shaking Our Trust’

Brussels demanded further proof of Romania’s commitment to democratic values and the rule of law Wednesday, saying recent actions by its new centre-left government “have shaken our trust.”

Releasing a much-anticipated report summing up five years of efforts by the ex communist state to reform its judiciary and fight corruption, European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso said: “the European Union is based on respect for the rule of law and democratic values.”

“Recent events in Romania have shaken our trust.”

The commission has been involved in a tense exchange with Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta over his government’s controversial bid this month to impeach conservative President Traian Basescu, and change by decree the powers of the constitutional court.

The row over Basescu — who has been suspended pending a referendum on his impeachment — has triggered Romania’s worst crisis since it emerged from communist dictatorship just over two decades ago.

In a 22-page report, the EU commission praised Romania for reforms made since joining the European Union in 2007 but said recent developments “raise serious doubts about … the understanding of the meaning of the rule of law in a pluralist democratic system.”

In Bucharest, Ponta said the report “is balanced” and pledged to continue efforts to build an independent and efficient justice system.

“I am ready to make all necessary political sacrifices because I care about Romania’s image and I think we have to do more against this war of lies launched from Romania against Romania”, he said.

A separate EU appraisal of Bulgaria also called for more work to fight corruption and to ensure the independence of its judges. The two reports put paid to hopes by the two nations of quickly joining Europe’s Schengen travel-free area.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Burgas Bomber Was Swedish Citizen of Algerian Origin

(AGI) Jerusalem — The suicide bomber who blew himself up yesterday in a bus in Burgas killing 7 Israeli tourists, has been identified as a Swedish citizen of Finnish-Algerian origin. The news was reported by the Times of Israel quoting Bulgarian press sources. The man was allegedly called Mehdi Ghezali and is thought to have been imprisoned in Guatanamo from 2002 to 2004, after studying in a mosque in Britain and travelling to Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Afghanistan. In 2004 he was handed over to the Swedish authorities who did not bring charges against him. It is thought that Ghezali belonged to a group of 12 people.

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

Italy: Disgraced Parmalat Boss Must Remain in Jail Rules Court

Bologna, 17 July (AKI) — The disgraced founder of Italian dairy giant Parmalat, Calisto Tanzi must continue to serve his eight-year prison sentence, a court in Bologna, northern Italy ruled on Tuesday.

The ruling rejected a fresh request from 73-year-old Tanzi’s lawyers to allow him to serve his sentence under house arrest at his luxurious estate in the northern Italian city of Parma.

The court did not accept Tanzi’s lawyers’ demand that their client be granted house arrest on the the grounds of his age, heart condition and alleged remorse over his role in Parmalat’s fraudulent 14.5 billion euro bankruptcy in 2003.

Tanzi began is prison term in May 2011 and in February this year was hospitalised in Parma. He subsequently claimed he would “always carry with me the weight of the indelible suffering caused by me” and was “fully aware of the errors committed by me”.

Tanzi was in 2008 sentenced to 10 years in prison by a Milan judge for misleading investors about the financial health of his company before it collapsed in Italy’s biggest bankruptcy in 2003.

Tha jailterm that was subsequently cut to eight years by Italy’s top appeals court, the Court of Cassation.

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

Italy: Assistance to Muslim Prisoners for Ramadan

(ANSAMed) — Rome, July 19 — Italy’s Arabic community association CO.mai announced it will spiritually and materially help Muslim detainees in Italian jails and immigrant detention centers to celebrate Ramadan this year, CO.mai announced Thursday.

The initiative — called “Ramadan in prison 2012” — stems from CO.mai’s hope that all the Muslims of the world might have the possibility to “celebrate the Islamic sacred month in peace and serenity,” explained Daoudi Tilouani, a boardmember of CO.mai.

Tilouani said the initiative is aimed to give Muslim detainees solidarity, affection from outside, contact with institutions in the country of origin — such as accredited religious leaders — and to distribute summer clothes, shoes, and books.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Jewish Students Sue Hungarian Website

European Jewish students on Wednesday announced they are suing a far-right Hungarian website that had tried to collect information on Jewish protestors during an anti-Nazi rally, reports the AFP. The website had published photos of the rally and offered €350 to anyone who could identify the demonstrators.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

MEPs Not Serious About Their Own Transparency

From frivolous responses, illegible scrawls, to no answers at all, several members of the European Parliament are not serious when it comes to declaring their financial interests, a survey carried out by an NGO has shown.

The lack of clear rules prohibiting MEPs to keep side jobs as consultants made headlines last year when the Sunday Times uncovered three deputies willing to take money from lobbyists in return for placing amendments.

Following the so-called cash-for-amendments scandal, the Parliament adopted an ethics code and, while not banning side jobs, made it mandatory to declare any other occupations in a “declaration of financial interests” posted on the Parliament’s website.

But six months after they were introduced, Friends of the Earth Europe, a Brussels-based NGO focusing on transparency issues, has discovered that many of the declarations are empty or contain bogus information.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Neanderthal Dental Tartar Reveals Evidence of Medicine

The tartar on Neanderthal teeth has a tale to tell. The chemicals and food fragments it contains reveal that our close relations huddled around fires to cook and consume plants — including some with medicinal properties. The find is the earliest direct evidence of self-medication in prehistory.

Despite their reputed taste for flesh, we now know that at least some Neanderthals enjoyed a more varied diet. The latest evidence comes from an analysis of 50,000-year-old Neanderthal teeth from the El Sidrón site in northern Spain.

Karen Hardy at ICREA, the Catalan Institution for Research and Advanced Studies in Barcelona, working with Stephen Buckley at the University of York, UK, and colleagues, used a scalpel to scrape tartar off the teeth of five Neanderthals. They chemically analysed some of the tartar samples, and examined others using an electron microscope.

Smoke signals

The microscope revealed cracked starch granules, which suggests the Neanderthals roasted plants before eating them. More evidence for the importance of fire was found in the chemicals within the tartar: there were aromatic hydrocarbons and phenols, which are associated with wood smoke.

Unexpectedly, there were few lipids or proteins in the tartar, suggesting the Neanderthals of El Sidrón ate little meat. However, one Neanderthal consumed yarrow, a natural astringent, and camomile, an anti-inflammatory.

“It’s very surprising that the plants we were able to securely identify were those with a bitter taste and no nutritional qualities — but known medicinal properties,” says Hardy. Neanderthals were apparently able to select plants for medical use, she says.

Non-human primates today are known to self-medicate, so the discovery is not unexpected, but finding strong evidence of the practice in prehistory is a challenge, says Hardy.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

No Welcome at N-VA for Former Vlaams Belang Politicians?

Several members of the Flemish nationalist party N-VA have criticised an agreement that allows former members of the far right Vlaams Belang to join their party. The prominent Flemish nationalist and Speaker of the Flemish Parliament Jan Peumans recently raised the issue at a meeting of the N-VA’s party leadership. It is above all the arrival of former Vlaams Belang politician Jurgen Ceder that was a bridge too far for many Flemish nationalists. Mr Ceder was one of the authors of the Seventy Points Programme of Vlaams Belang forerunner Vlaams Blok, a programme that rejects integration and is seen as racist in many quarters. Eric Defoort, one of the founders of the Flemish nationalist party, told VRT News that in order to prevent any misunderstandings it would be better if no further former Vlaams Belang politicians were let into the party. The success of the N-VA comes partly at the expense of Vlaams Belang, but the party is now clearly struggling to find a clear response to openings from politicians with far-right antecedents.

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

Romania and Bulgaria Continue to Flout Rule of Law

Contract killings in Bulgaria and a direct affront to the rule of law in Romania are some of the major concerns underlined by the European Commission in its progress reports adopted on Wednesday (July 18).

The Commission said overall both countries have made some progress but neither have fully met their respective benchmarks nor entirely produced convincing results in areas of judicial reform, fight against corruption and organised crime.

“The control verification mechanism will continue in both countries until they meet the objectives, the European Commission is satisfied, and the benchmarks fulfilled,” EU commission spokesman Mark Gray told reporters in Brussels.

The reports are the tenth in a series that started when the two nations joined the Union in 2007. Unlike previously, the most recent reports take an overall look at the progress and deficiencies made in the past five years.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Suicide Bomber With Fake US Documents Killed Israelis in Bulgaria

The bombing of a coach carrying Israeli tourists was carried out by male suicide bomber with fake US identity documents, officials confirm.

The bomber, killed in the attack, was a young man with long hair who was described as a “caucasian” looking like any other tourist. He was caught on CCTV walking around the airport dressed in sportswear, shorts and carrying a backpack before carrying out the attack on a coach load of Israeli tourists at the airport in the quiet Black Sea resort city of Burgas, some 400 kilometers (250 miles) east of the capital, Sofia. The death toll was raised to at least eight after the Bulgarian driver of the bus died in hospital overnight. The other six victims were Israeli citizens and the suspected bomber died in the attack, Bulgaria’s Interior minister said on Thursday morning. Tsvetan Tsvetanov said the suspected attacker was carrying a Michigan driver’s license that was being sent to the FBI for authentication. “The explosion was caused by a man who died in the attack and whose identity has not yet been established,” Mr Tsvetanov said at the airport a day after the attack, which Israel blames on Iran.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Footage of a Burka-Assisted Robbery at a Jewellers in Rusholme, Greater Manchester.

Video description reads:

Can you help us?

Shortly before 11.35am on Sunday 1 July 2012, police were called to Choice Jewellers on Wilmslow Road to reports of a robbery.

A person dressed in a burka approached the jewellery shop with a baby’s pram.

They pressed the door bell and were allowed access, they blocked the door with the pram and took out an axe.

A car pulled up outside the shop and three men got out of the car, one of them was holding a sledgehammer and another a sword.

They went into the shop and smashed the glass cabinets where the jewellery was stored.

The offenders ran out of the shop with a large quantity of jewellery. They smashed the front shop window to grabbed more Jewellery and drove off down Walmer Street.

The first offender is described as a tall person wearing a burka.

The three offenders who got out of the car were all dressed in dark clothing with their faces covered by balaclavas.

Detective Constable Ian Wrench, said: “The men who carried out this frightening robbery need to be caught so I would ask anyone who saw the men either going in or out of the shop to please call us.

“The Jewellery stolen is worth quite a lot of money, and the robbers may try to sell it on the black market.

“I would urge anyone who is offered Jewellery from anyone other than a licensed dealer to not fall victim by buying these stolen goods and call us immediately.

“I would ask that anyone with information, no matter how trivial it might seem, call us as it could be vital to finding these men.”

Anyone with information is asked to call Longsight Integrated Neighbourhood Team on 0161 856 4402 or the independent charity Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.

[Return to headlines]

UK: Five Face Court on Terrorism Charges

A WELL-known Muslim convert is one of three men due in court today after being charged with terror offences last night.

Former BBC security guard Richard Dart, 29, is accused of preparing for acts of terrorism. Dart, from West Ealing in West London, featured in a BBC documentary last year about his conversion to Islam. He was charged with Imran Mahmood, 21, of Northolt, Middlesex, and Jahangir Alom, 26, of Stratford, East London, Scotland Yard said. They are alleged to have travelled to Pakistan for terrorism training and carried out other preparation for acts of terror. A fourth suspect, Ruksana Begum, 22, of Hoxton, North London, was charged with possessing a memory card containing information useful to terrorists.

Separately, a fifth man, Khalid Baqa, 47, of Barking, was arrested yesterday in East London and charged last night with three counts of possession of terrorist material and one count of dissemination of terrorist material, all dating from July 5. According to the charges, Baqa is accused of having had CDs containing a document entitled 39 Ways to Support and Participate in Jihad, as well as a number of issues of a magazine called Inspire, which it is said he planned to distribute. All five are due to appear at Westminster Magistrates Court today.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Terror Arrests: Former BBC Security Guard Richard Dart Charged

Former BBC security guard Richard Dart has been charged with preparing for acts of terrorism along with four others.

Dart, from West Ealing in West London, featured in a BBC documentary last year about his conversion to Islam. Four others were charged with terrorism offences following investigations by the Metropolitan Police counter terrorism command, the force said today. Three men were charged last night with offences that involved travelling to Pakistan for training in terrorism between July 2010 and July 2012. A woman was also charged with possessing terrorist material. All four were arrested between July 5 and 7. A fifth man was arrested yesterday in east London and charged last night with three counts of possession of terrorist material. All five will appear at Westminster Magistrates Court today.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Woman Hairdresser Who Had Bin Laden Propaganda is Guilty of Plotting to Plant Peroxide and Bleach Bombs in Jewish Areas

A woman hairdresser has been convicted of planning a terror attack in the Jewish neighbourhood of a city.

Shasta Khan, 38, and her husband, Mohammed Sajid Khan, 33, bought substances and equipment from supermarkets to assemble an improvised explosive device.

Police found a cache of terror-related material after being called to a domestic dispute at the couple’s home in Oldham, Greater Manchester, last July.

Beheading videos, propaganda glorifying Osama bin Laden and bomb-making guides were seized along with peroxide and bleach, used by Shasta Khan in her hairdressing work, which together with electrical equipment were being readied to make a bomb.

A satnav from her Peugeot 305 vehicle showed they had been on multiple trips to Jewish populated areas around Manchester, looking for targets to attack.

A jury at Manchester Crown Court found Shasta Khan guilty of engaging in conduct in preparation for acts of terrorism and two counts of possessing information useful for committing or preparing for an act of terrorism. She was cleared of a third count of the latter charge.


Her husband pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to engaging in conduct in preparation for acts of terrorism. Both will be sentenced tomorrow.

British-born Muslim Shasta Khan was convicted by a majority ruling of 11-1 on the main charge of preparing for acts of terrorism. She cried in the dock as the verdicts were delivered and then wailed as she was led to the cells.

Opening the case four weeks ago, prosecutor Bobbie Cheema said behind their ‘apparent normality of daily life’, Sajid Khan, an unemployed car valeter, and his wife planned to carry out ‘jihad at home’.

They both became radicalised by material found on the internet such as an al Qaeda magazine called Inspire, the aim of which is to encourage Muslims in the West and this country to carry out holy war or jihad by mounting attacks in their own countries independent of any outside direction or association with any other person.

In response, the pair prepared to carry out a terrorist attack on British soil, with the most likely target being an orthodox Jewish area of Prestwich.

They did not achieve the production of a functioning bomb and did not have the final ability to carry out the attack but they looked at possible locations for an attack, she said.

But Miss Cheema said the ‘path from radicalisation to atrocity’ was broken perhaps because of ‘internal domestic affairs’ between the couple.

They met via a Muslim dating website in July 2010 and married soon afterwards but by July of last year the relationship was suffering real problems, the jury heard.

On July 20, a ‘serious row’ developed and the husband left home to go back to his parents’ house in Bradford, West Yorkshire.

Two days later he returned but there was more trouble between the husband and wife and her family, resulting in him assaulting his father-in-law.

Police were called to the address in Foster Street but as officers dealt with the domestic dispute and with Shasta still upset and worked up, a ‘wholly unexpected turn of events occurred’, Miss Cheema said.

‘A member of her family, one of her brothers, told the police, in Shasta Khan’s presence, ‘We have something that I think might be interesting to you, I think he’s a home-grown terrorist’,’ she told the jury.

The wife then took the opportunity to ‘spill the beans’ and cause ‘serious trouble’ for her husband — but left out her own involvement in any terror offences.

Seemingly innocuous and innocent items found at the home had a more sinister purpose, the jury was told.

Chemicals used in Mrs Khan’s work, such as bleach, acetone and peroxide liquid, were also capable of being transformed into the ingredients of explosives along with other household items such as salt and sugar.

Ground-up fire lighters, safety goggles, a funnel, needles and syringes were also part of the paraphernalia which could be used to make a home-made bomb, the court heard.

The jury was told that one of the most significant finds was the contents of a plastic bag from the electrical shop Maplins. Inside were electrical wires, Christmas tree lights, bulbs and a battery.

An article from an al Qaeda magazine entitled Make a bomb in the kitchen of your Mom offered a step-by-step guide, from how to get ingredients without raising suspicion, to building a bomb, incorporating the use of Christmas lights.

In just one or two days a bomb could be made to kill ‘at least 10 people’ and with more time ‘tens of people’, the article said.

The jury was told that IED ingredients listed in the guide matched the items found at the defendant’s home.

A CD showing the beheading of British hostage Ken Bigley, murdered in Iraq in 2004, was found at the address. There were also Google searches on how to make explosives from acid and bleach.

Some of the propaganda espoused the ‘jihad of individual terrorism’, preaching that individuals should carry out their own attacks to ‘begin the jihad at home’.

Officers also found a shopping list scribbled on a Post-it note listing items to buy; sandwiched between cheese and noodles was a reminder to buy an alarm clock — a necessary item for making an IED, the court was told.

Other notes carried the words ‘SA26 SMG’ and ‘7.62mm x 25mm Tokarev’ — references to firearms. Another note listed addresses in the heart of Manchester’s Jewish community.

Shasta Khan told the jury she had no involvement in terrorism or any of her husband’s activities.

But she was found guilty of acquiring substances, equipment and information of use in making explosives and assembling an improvised explosive device between August 10 2010 and July 24 2011.

She was also convicted of two counts of possessing information likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing for an act of terrorism in relation to computer files.

She was cleared of a possession charge in relation to a document named 39 Ways To Serve And Participate In Jihad.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union

CBC, Italy Demands Entry of Morocco, Algeria, Libya

Del Panta (Foreign Ministry), ENPI Programme weak otherwise

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JULY 18 — The Italian government believes Algeria, Morocco and Libya should enter the ENPI CBC MED programme, Marco del Panta of the Foreign Ministry said today, the second day of a conference on the medium term of the plan at the Rome headquarters of Italian business association Confindustria. The multilateral, cross-border cooperation programme is financed by the European Union through its European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI).

Foreign Undersecretary Marta Dassu’ had stressed yesterday, referring to Libya, that the issue is crucial. “The results of the ENPI Programme are positive and there are several strengths in the plan”, noted Del Panta, though its weak spot is the absence of these countries.

The Mediterranean is and will remain the priority of the Italian government, he said. “In the second semester of 2014, Italy will hold the rotating presidency”, concluded Del Panta. “One thing is certain, the Med will be at the centre of our presidency”.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Flexibility, Funds Needed for EU CBC Med Program

Delegates to Rome conference lay out future guidelines

(ANSAMed) — ROME, JULY 18 — The program needs more flexibility, cooperation, and money, delegates to the mid-term conference of the EU-financed Cross-Border Cooperation in the Mediterranean (CBC Med) program said on Wednesday. “As demonstrated by the high number of applications, there is a lot of interest in this program, but not enough money to fund all the proposals we receive,” European Neighborhood Partnership Instrument (ENPI) Director Anna Catte said, adding that after the initial trial stages, “we have laid the foundations for a more balanced participation” by European and Mediterranean partners.

More flexibility in choosing priorities and applying the rules is needed, given the ongoing upheavals and the fast-changing panorama in the southern Mediterranean basin, delegates said. And while freedom of movement is among the program’s objectives, this has remained a dead letter as far as people are concerned, Steering Bureau for Egyptian-European Association and Action Plan leader Nehad Abdel Latif pointed out. “This is a problem that must be solved on a national and not a regional level,” said Abdel Latif, who is the former Egyptian ambassador to Italy.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Media Dialogue on Islam’s Perception in Palermo

Lindh Foundation organises event with journalists and experts

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, JULY 16 — The Anna Lindh Foundation for Inter-Cultural Dialogue and Ethnobarometer are organising a media dialogue workshop entitled ‘Will the Arab spring change Europe’s perception of Islam?’ in Palermo, Italy, on 17 and 18 July.

The event, according to the Enpi website (, will bring together around 20 people, including journalists, representatives of civil society and experts on issues related to media, migration and perceptions to discuss if and how perceptions towards Arab and Muslim populations in Europe have changed following the Arab Spring and as a consequence of the economic crisis. The meeting will be followed by a seminar in Barcelona in early 2013. The aim of that meeting will be to issue specific recommendations to be presented to a civil society and institutional audience during the second Anna Lindh Forum that in Marseille in April 2013.

The Anna Lindh Foundation for Inter-Cultural Dialogue promotes knowledge, mutual respect and inter-cultural dialogue between the people of the Euro-Mediterranean region, working through a network of more than 3,000 civil society organisations in 43 countries. Its budget is co-funded by the EU (7 million euros) and the EU member states (6 million euros).

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Gaza Christians Protest ‘Forcible Conversions’

Protesters bang on church bell, chant ‘With our spirit, with our blood we will sacrifice ourselves for you, Jesus.’

Dozens of Gaza Christians staged a rare public protest Monday, claiming two congregants were forcibly converted to Islam and were being held against their will.

The small but noisy demonstration showed the increasingly desperate situation facing the tiny minority.

Protesters banged on a church bell and chanted, “With our spirit, with our blood we will sacrifice ourselves for you, Jesus.”

Gaza police say the two are staying with a Muslim religious official at their request, because they fear retribution from their families converting to Islam. Two mediators said the two — a 25-year-old man and a woman with three children — appeared to have embraced Islam of their free will. Forced conversions have been unheard of in Gaza before.

Since the Islamic militant Hamas seized power five years ago, Christians have felt increasingly embattled, but have mostly kept silent.

There are growing fears among Gaza Christians that their rapidly shrinking community could disappear through emigration and conversions…

           — Hat tip: TV[Return to headlines]

Israeli Bus: It Was a Suicide Attack, Official Confirmation

Terrorist was carrying fake US driving license

(ANSAmed) — BURGAS — An attack yesterday against an Israeli bus in which eight people were killed and another 30 wounded was “very likely” carried out by a suicide bomber with a fake US driving license, Bulgarian Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov told a press conference today at the airport of Bulgaria’s seaside resort. “The explosion was caused by a man who died in the attack and whose identity has not been determined yet”, he said. “The document he was travelling with was a forged driving license from the state of Michigan”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Islamism and Insecurity Leave Egyptian Red Sea Beaches Empty

Seventeen months after the fall of Mubarak, tourist executives lament a 70 per cent drop in the number of visitors. Tourist operators call on President Morsi not to islamise beach resorts. Tourists to Egypt in the first five months of this year were down 26 per cent from 2010 with earnings down 24 per cent.

Cairo (AsiaNews/Agencies) — For more than a year, Red Sea resorts have struggled with near empty beaches, silent hotels, shops and malls as well as idle barmen and waiters. What was once the pearl of Egypt’s tourist industry, now is but a shadow of its former self since Mubarak’s fall 17 months ago. Tourist executives are pessimistic, and look with fear at the new Egypt under the Muslim Brotherhood. Meanwhile, Egypt’s new rulers have not yet said what they would do with alcoholic beverages, bikinis, mixed swimming pools and dance clubs.

“My business has shrunk by at least 70 per cent in the past year,” said Waleed, a businessman in Sharm el-Sheik.” “Egypt,” he explained, “lives on tourism. I think Morsi wants to islamise tourism in the long run, but for the next few years he won’t do anything because people need to eat.”

In fact, the Brotherhood’s 81-page election programme does not mention beach tourism, which brings in the most tourist dollars by far. Officials in the movement have said they have other priorities for now, dismissing the sector as marginal with few jobs. However, the party does promise to encourage alternatives-cultural, ecological and medical tourism, and desert excursions.

Industry professionals disagree. They say beach holidays make up as much as 80 per cent of Egyptian tourism. Before the current drop, the country was a serious rival to countries like Spain and Turkey as a sunny getaway for millions of cost-conscious Europeans.

Some 12 to 15 per cent of Egypt’s workforce caters to the needs of foreign visitors, directly or indirectly. Tourism accounts for 11 per cent of gross domestic product and a quarter of foreign exchange earnings, economist Samir Makary said. Most importantly, it has offered jobs to a fast-growing population that stagnating manufacturing was unable to absorb.

As the Arab spring unfolded, tourists began staying away, drastically reducing tourism-related employment.

In the first five months of this year, the number of visitors to Egypt was down 26 per cent from 2010. Earnings dropped by 24 per cent.

For Makary, in addition to the Islamist threat, political instability is another factor affecting tourism. Regular demonstrations and clashes between police and protesters, which have caused 800 deaths, have scared off tourists.

“Travel agents and customers from the West are concerned and nervous about the safety of travel in Egypt,” said Mimi Weisband, Crystal Cruises Public Relations Vice President.

With tourist operators looking at the other side of the Red Sea, many warn of the consequences of a radical islamisation of Egypt.

“Saudi Arabia has the best virgin beaches, with soft sands. They have plenty of airports and good roads,” one industry executive said. However, “not a single tourist goes” there, “except for the Muslim pilgrimage” to Makkah.

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

Jordan: Country Hosting Over 137,000 Syrian Refugees Says Minister

Amman, 17 July (AKI) — More than 137,000 Syrian refugees have taken refuge in Jordan, the kingdom’s foreign minister said Tuesday, urging a resolution to the bloody conflict raging in the Middle Eastern country.

“We need to keep working towards and end to the violence in Syria,” said Nasser Judeh, speaking at a press conference with his British counterpart William Hague in the Jordanian border town of Ramtha.

Many of the Syrian refugees are living with relatives in Ramtha, and Jordan is building several refugee camps for them.

More than 27,344 of the refugees are registered with the United Nations.

Amid mounting international pressure for tougher action against the embattled regime of Syria’s authoritarian president Bashar al-Assad, Judeh said he believed a non-military solution to the crisis was still viable.

“A political solution to end this bloodshed is still possible. But we are looking for a common vision and don’t want divisions in the international community,” said Judeh.

Russia and China have blocked two previous UN resolutions that condemned President Assad’s government for the continuing violence.

Syrian refugees in Ramtha urged Judeh and Hague to “get rid” of Assad, as they toured Ramtha’s Bashabsheh housing complex, a military-guarded compound that houses around 1,000 Syrian refugees.

“We do not want food or water, we do not want money. We just want you to get rid of Bashar,” some of the refugees chanted, according to Arabic satellite TV channel Al-Arabiya.

The 16-month-long uprising against his rule in Syria has become a civil war in which rights monitors estimate that more than 17,000 people have died.

Commenting on reports last week citing US officials as saying Damascus had begun shifting part of its vast stockpile of chemical weapons out of storage, Nasser said Jordan had “taken all the necessary precautions to protect ourselves against such a threat”.

There have been growing concerns among Syria’s neighbours and among Western governments about the security of such weapons should Assad fall.

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

King of Jordan Warns That Syria’s Chemical Weapons Could be Seized by Al-Qaeda

The king of Jordan warned Wednesday that his northern neighbour Syria was on the brink of all-out civil war and that in a worst-case scenario, chemical weapons could fall into the hands of Al-Qaeda.

The king of Jordan warned Wednesday that his northern neighbour Syria was on the brink of all-out civil war and that in a worst-case scenario, chemical weapons could fall into the hands of Al-Qaeda. King Abdullah II told CNN a bomb attack that killed core members of the Syrian regime was a “tremendous blow” to President Bashar al-Assad but not yet the death knell for a regime that remains determined to cling to power. “In other words, it’s getting very, very messy to a point where I think the worst-case scenario for all of us in the region is when you get full-out civil war. There is no coming back from the abyss,” he said.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Spain to Withdraw 50% of UNIFIL Troops

Lebanon mission cost Spain 1 bln euros so far

(ANSAMed) — MADRID, JULY 17 — As part of its austerity plan, Spain will withdraw up to 50% of troops deployed in UNIFIL, the UN peace-keeping mission in Lebanon, Defense Minister Pedro Morenes told Congress today. There are currently approximately 800 Spanish personnel deployed in UNIFIL, and last year they cost the state 196 million euros.

Spain’s presence in Lebanon was decided by the previous Zapatero administration, beginning in 2006, and has since cost Spain 1 billion euros. The decision was taken in agreement with France and Italy, the other two countries who have a strong troop presence in UNIFIL, which has deployed a total of 12,000 soldiers in Lebanon, the minister said. (ANSAMed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Turkey: Erdogan Has No Rivals in 2014 Presidential Vote

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA — Polls on the 2014 presidential elections in Turkey show President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as the winning candidate. If he were to win, the country’s Islamic nationalist president would become the most powerful ruler since Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey 90 years ago.

Turks will head to the polls for the first time to elect their president in 2014. Turkish presidents were formerly elected by Parliament. Surveys show that 53 percent of voters intend to cast their ballots for Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP). The AKP Party has been in power since 2002 in a decade marked by an unprecedented economic boom during which Turkey became the world’s 16th economic power and an emerging regional power. Turkey’s ambition is to become one of the world’s ten most powerful economies by 2023. If he were to win the five-year presidential mandate in 2014, Erdogan would be one of the main political actors in the region and the world. So far 41 percent of voters say they will vote for Erdogan, according to polls, while only 6.4 percent say they will cast their ballot for his Social Democratic opponent Kemal Kilicdaroglu.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Top Muslim Cleric Yakupov Gunned Down in Russia

A top Muslim cleric in Russia’s Tatarstan province was shot dead and another was wounded by a car bomb in two attacks that local leaders said were related to the priests’ criticism of radical Islamists, investigators said Thursday.

Valiulla Yakupov, the deputy to the Muslim province’s chief mufti, was gunned down Thursday as he left his house in Tatarstan’s regional capital of Kazan, Russia’s Investigative Committee said. Minutes later, chief mufti Ildus Faizov was wounded in the leg after an explosive device ripped through his car in central Kazan, it said.

Both clerics were known as critics of radical Islamist groups that advocate a strict and puritan version of Islam known as Salafism. Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin told Russian news agencies that his agency was looking into the clerics’ professional activity as a possible reason for the attacks.

The 49-year-old Faizov became Tatarstan’s chief mufti in 2011 and began a crackdown on radical Islamists by dismissing ultraconservative preachers and banning textbooks from Saudi Arabia, where the government-approved religious doctrine is based on Salafism.

He has also been criticized by media in Tatarstan for allegedly profiting on tours he organized for Muslim pilgrims and for trying to gain control of one of the oldest and largest mosques in Kazan that receives hefty donations from thousands of believers.

The rise of Salafism in this oil-rich Volga River province has been fueled by the influx of Muslim clerics from Chechnya and other predominantly Muslim provinces of Russia’s Caucasus region, where Islamic insurgency has been raging for years.

In 2011, Doku Umarov, leader of embattled Chechen separatists, issued a religious decree calling on radical Islamists from the Caucasus to move to the densely-populated Volga River region that includes Tatarstan and other provinces with a significant Muslim population.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Twin Attacks on Muslim Authorities in Kazan

Mufti of Tatarstan wounded in car bomb, moments after the murder of his deputy. Experts: attempts to export Caucusus model to Muslim majority republic, model of coexistence.

Moscow (AsiaNews) — An emergency meeting is underway at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian autonomous republic of Tatarstan, after todays twin attacks on two of the top regional Islamic authorities. In Kazan, the capital of the Muslim majority republic on the Volga, a car bombing targeted the mufti of Tatarsta, Ildus Faizov, the regional authority on Islam. According to Rbc agency sources citing local security personnel, the cleric has been taken to hospital in a serious condition. Just one hour earlier, Faizov deputy’s, Waliullah Yakupov, head of the spiritual administration of the republic was shot dead outside his home.

The double attack has shocked the city, always considered a model of tolerance and peaceful coexistence among different religions and 70 ethnic groups, particularly between Islam and Orthodox.

The Council of Muftis of Russia has condemned the attacks as particularly serious “terrorist acts” because they occur on the eve of Ramadan, the holy month for Islam. A spokesman for the Russian federal prosecutors, Vladimir Markin, said that according to a ‘track’ being followed by investigators, the two incidents are linked and have to do with the activity of the spiritual leaders. Both are known as moderate leaders in the fight against the spread of Wahhabism in Tatarstan, which they considered “a threat to traditional Islam.”

According to some, such as the director of the Kazan Center for Regional Ethnic Studies, Suleimanov Rais, “a Caucasian drift has arrived in Tatarstan, where moderate muftis, who denounce the growing presence of Wahhabi like the preachers from the North Caucasus, are targeted “. The expert also points the finger against local authorities which he said “have long been flirting with extremists by turning a blind eye to their activities.”

For Geidar Djemal, head of the Islamic committee in Russia, “the problem is not extremists, but the powerful movements within the Tatar clergy itself, linked with groups from the security forces who want to shift Moscow’s focus from the Caucasus to Tatarstan, hoping in awards in their management of terrorism. “

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

South Asia

David Cameron: Taliban Could be Waiting for British Troops to Leave Before Trying to Take Afghanistan

David Cameron has admitted the Taliban may simply be “waiting it out” for British troops to leave before trying to regain control of Afghanistan.

The Prime Minister warned the rebels they should not expect an easy victory when foreign forces leave in 2014, after a decade of fighting and the deaths of 422 British soldiers.

Mr Cameron was speaking in Kabul ahead of a historic three-way meeting with the leaders of Afghanistan and Pakistan to encourage them to fight “Talibanisation” in both nations.

He said the war on terror had already made progress as the proportion of threats to Britain from Pakistan and Afghanistan has fallen from 75pc to 50pc since 2006.

However, the Prime Minister said there were still huge challenges to stop the region being a “haven for international terror”.

“The clear message is to the Taliban that you can’t just wait this out until foreign forces leave in 2014,” Mr Cameron said. “We will be firm friends and supporters to Afghanistan long beyond that.”

He appeared with Hamid Karzai, the Afghan leader, to announce a Sandhurst-style officer training academy in Kabul, after a flying visit to see troops on the ground at Camp Bastion.

The Prime Minister also encouraged Mr Karzai to hold “credible, inclusive and nationwide” elections to help Afghanistan become a stable nation state.

Afterwards, they were joined by Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, the new prime minister of Pakistan.

The three leaders are discussing peace talks with the Taliban and trying to stop cross-border terror attacks.

Mr Karzai said holding peace talks with the Taliban is “the most important of our priorities”.

The Afghan leader hosted Mr Cameron in the rose garden of the opulent presidential palace in Kabul.

The Prime Minister is on his ninth visit to Afghanistan but this is his first visit to Helmand Province since British forces began handing more control to the Afghan army.

           — Hat tip: Nick[Return to headlines]

Indonesia: Govt Moves to Block Porn Websites During Ramadan

Jakarta, 18 July (AKI) — Ahead of the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan, the Communications and Information Ministry is conducting a massive operation against online pornography.

Minister Tifatul Sembiring said Wednesday that his office had recently shut down more than one million porn sites, which are all run from abroad, and was targeting more sites in the upcoming month.

“We will block more porn sites during Ramadan, though that doesn’t mean that we will allow such sites to operate during the rest of the year,” Tifatul told reporters at his office.

The Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) politician revealed that there were around 2 billion websites providing pornographic content. He said public involvement in curbing online pornography was crucial.

“I invite people everywhere to inform us if they find any porn websites, so we can check on them. Online pornography is an industry and the producers always seem to find new ways of escaping detection,” he said. “Therefore, we are also developing skills to deal with them.”

Ramadan is due to start on Thursday in Indonesia.

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

Italian Marines Case: Another Hearing in Kollam

(AGI) New Delhi — Another hearing in India for the two marines accused of having killed two local fishermen. Salvatore Girone and Massimiliano Latorre appeared before the judge in Kollam, PD Rajan, who rejected the request for the defense attoneys to translate into Italian the charges. The attorneys of the two militaries know well the language of Kerala and English, reported the Indian agency Pti. The judge adjourned the hearing to July 25th.

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

Taliban’s No to Polio Vaccine Puts Lives of 250 Thousand Pakistani Children at Risk

The government halts campaign in some tribal areas after threats of local Taliban groups in protest against U.S. drones. Pakistan is one of three countries in the world where polio is endemic. In 2011, about 200 children were paralyzed.

Islamabad (AsiaNews / Agencies) — Nearly 250 thousand Pakistani children will not receive the polio vaccine, since the government has stopped distributing the medicine following threats from Taliban groups in the tribal regions of North and South Waziristan. The extremists have blocked the health program in protest against U.S. drone attacks. Launched yesterday throughout the country, the National Immunization Days were the first of their kind for years.

In North Waziristan, at least 160 thousand children were not vaccinated; same fate for over 80 thousand children in South Waziristan. In both cases, the leaders of the Taliban groups have “warned” health departments and local governments not to send any operators to the villages, or their safety would not be guaranteed.

At first, the campaign was to have vaccinated at least one million children in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). However, the number fell to 754 thousand, when some FATA health department officials announced that 300 thousand children had been treated in their prevention programs.

In addition to North and South Waziristan — both regions have reported cases of polio since the beginning of the year — the government has failed to reach the children of the Khyber tribal regions of Orakzai, Kurram, Mohmand and Bajaur, because of the lack of security . Of the 23 cases of polio reported throughout the Pakistan in 2012, nine were in Khyber.

Pakistan is one of three countries in the world — along with Nigeria and Afghanistan — where polio is endemic. In 2011, nearly 200 children were paralyzed: according to the Lancet medical journal it is the worst record in 10 years.

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

Far East

China’s Online Population Rises to 538 Million

China’s population of Internet users, already the world’s biggest, has risen to 538 million, driven by rapid growth in wireless Web surfing, an industry group said Thursday.

The latest figure represents an 11 percent increase from a year earlier, according to the report by the China Internet Network Information Center. The government sanctioned group said that raised the share of China’s population that uses the Internet to 39.9 percent.

The number of people who go online from mobile phones and other wireless devices rose to 388 million, the group said. That was up 22 percent from a year earlier.

China’s communist government encourages Internet use for business and education but tries to block access to material considered subversive or obscene. Authorities tightened controls after social networking and other websites played a key role in protests that brought down governments in Egypt and Tunisia.

The rise of Internet use and the explosive popularity of wireless access have driven the growth of a series of new Chinese industries from microblogs to online video.

This month, regulators tightened control over online video, telling providers they must prescreen all material before making it available. The government complained that some online video was vulgar, pornographic or too violent.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Youth Politics Intimidate Chinese Leadership

China’s leadership is not only worried about the growing number of protests, like the recent one in Shifang in the southwestern province of Sichuan, but also about the increasing participation of young people in them.

The protests in Shifang, a poor town in southwestern Chinese province of Sichuan, flared anew last weekend after residents heard stories that a 14-year-old student who had joined the demonstrations had been beaten to death. Before this latest twist, most of the protesters — who early this month staged a bloody confrontation with police over the construction of a 1.6 billion US dollar (1.3 billion euro) molybdenum copper plant — were apparently pacified by the authorities’ unusually speedy decision to scrap the project.

While the latest news from Shifang is that the police seemed to have reassured the public that no demonstrator had been killed while in custody, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leadership is bracing itself against two new trends that the Shifang incident portends. One is the massive political participation of the so-called post-90 generation, a reference to high school students and other young people born after 1990. The other is the large number of nationally famous bloggers who have defied official regulations by harshly criticizing the government’s handling of the Shifang incident.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

China Pledges Africa $20 Billion in Loans

China has announced that it will double its loans to Africa. President Hu Jintao has also called for stronger cooperation between the trading partners to protect themselves from “bullying” by wealthier nations.

China’s president announced on Thursday that Africa will receive $20 billion (16.2 billion euros) in new loans over the next three years, twice the amount China pledged in 2009.

President Hu Jintao said the increase in money was intended to bolster Africa’s infrastructure and foster business growth.

The Chinese president delivered the news during his opening address at the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in Beijing. During his speech, Hu also emphasized that China and Africa must work together to protect their interests from stronger nations.

“China and Africa should increase coordination and cooperation in international affairs,” Hu said. “We should oppose the practices of the big bullying the small, the strong domineering over the weak and the rich oppressing the poor.”

China has become Africa’s main trade partner over the past decade, investing a record $166.3 billion in the resource-rich continent.

Hu noted in his speech that China also planned “to expand aid to Africa, so that the benefits of development can be realized by the African people.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Mali: Al-Qaeda Linked Group Frees Abducted Italian Aid Worker

Rome, 19 July (AKI) — Italian aid worker Rossella Urru was on Thursday due back home after an Al-Qaeda aligned jihadist cell that kidnapped her and two Spanish colleagues nine months ago released the three in northern Mali.

Italy’s foreign minister Giulio Terzi confirmed Urru had been freed .”She has been liberated. It’s wonderful news,” he stated, praisng her “courage and heroism.”

She was due to arrive later on Thursday at Rome’s Ciampino airport aboard a flight from Burkina Faso. Italy’s president Giorgio Napolitano said he was “relieved and joyful” at the news of Urru’s release late on Wednesday.

Spain’s EFE news agency reported Wednesday that both the Spanish captives held with Urru, Ainhoa Fernandez Rincon and Enrico Gonyans, had also been freed.

It was unclear if a ransom was paid for the hostages. The Al-Qaeda linked Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa, known by its French acronym MUJAO , was responsible for their kidnapping.

A helicopter was dispatched to Mali on Wednesday from Bukina Faso to collect Urru and the two Spaniards, who were not immediately able to leave due to a sandstorm

The hostages were freed near the city of Gao according to a spokesman for Ansar Dine, a radical Islamist group allied with MUJAO which now controls northern Mali, including Gao.

Twenty-nine-year-old Urru, who is from Itay’s Sardinia region, and her Spanish colleagues were abducted on 23 October last year from a refugee camp in Tidouf, southwestern Algeria. They were seized by armed men aboard a jeep, possibly from northern Mali.

Urru, 29, works for the Rome-based International Committee for the Development of Peoples (CISP) and spent the past two years working in the Saharawi refugee camp before she was kidnapped.

After snatching the hostages in Tindouf, MUJAO is believed to have moved them across the porous desert border separating Algeria from Mali.

The country’s lawless north has become a base for Al-Qaida’s North African branch since it and Ansar Dine drove out Tuareg rebels who had seized northern Mali in late March. .

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


Census 2011: London’s Population Booms to Eight Million

The population of London has hit a new peak of more than eight million with a 12 per cent increase in the past 10 years, figures reveal today.

An extra 3.7 million people are living in England and Wales compared with 2001, taking the total to 56.1 million — an all-time high. More than half the increase is due to immigration.

Every region has seen a leap in numbers, but London has seen the fastest surge of all. It has 850,000 more residents since the last census was done in 2001.

The London total is 400,000 up on the previous estimate, from mid-2010, and appears to capture some of the capital’s “hidden” population.

The figures will heighten concern about the impact of migration and population growth on public services.

London has gained 112,700 children aged under five since 2001, putting pressure on school places over the coming years.

Nine of the 10 local authorities with the highest population growth are in London. Of the 20 most crowded local authorities in the country, 19 are in the capital.

Tower Hamlets, which has seen 26.6 per cent leap in the number of residents since 2001, has shown the fastest increase, followed by Newham, with a 23.5 per cent population rise.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italy: Imam and Three Syrians Arrested for People Smuggling

Venice, 18 July (AKI) — Police on Wednesday in northeast Italy arrested a radical imam and three Syrians suspected of belonging to a people trafficking gang that allegedly smuggled illegal immigrants to Italy from the Middle East.

Police believe the unnamed imam from San Dona’ di Piave near Venice was funnelling cash from the people smuggling racket to international jihadist groups.

He was already known to to anti-terrorism investigators for his suspected links to such jihadist groups, police said.

The illegal migrants paid “large sums” to the gang to be smuggled into Italy, where some were employed off the books on building sites run by the imam and his brothers, according to police.

If the migrants baulked at paying the sums of money agreed with the gang to obtain working papers, they were threatened and assaulted, said police.

The arrests were welcomed by Moroccan member of the Italian parliament Souad Sbai.

“These people are dangerous, not only for immigrants who want to live honestly, but also for their hosts who don’t really know who or what is behind the many self-styled imams living in Italy,” Sbai commented.

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

New Ruling on Asylum Seekers in Germany

Asylum seekers in Germany have been receiving too little money for far too long. That’s the essence of a landmark ruling by the German constitutional court.

The German constitutional court has ruled that the law covering financial support for asylum seekers must be changed. This is a result of a lawsuit filed by an Iraqi asylum seeker and a young woman originally from Nigeria who has now acquired German citizenship. The court concluded that the monthly allowance that asylum seekers currently receive is not enough to enable them to live “a dignified life”. Not least because the cost of living in Germany has steadily increased whereas asylum seekers’ allowances have remained the same for almost 20 years.

Asylum seekers are currently paid 220 euros ($270) per month. This will be increased to 330 euros.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Strasbourg Hits Euthanasia Ball Back Into German Courts

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that it’s up to individual countries to decide on euthanasia. It also decided, however, that the German courts should not have thrown out a widower’s appeals.

Europe’s top court on Thursday decided not to issue a ruling on the right to assisted suicide, saying this duty fell to individual countries.

The judges chose not to rule on whether German woman Bettina Koch should have been permitted to seek medically-assisted suicide. She ultimately went to Switzerland in 2005, where such a practice is allowed, and sought help from the company Dignitas.

Her widower Ulrich Koch had pursued the case after her death in Germany, and then in Strasbourg.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) did rule, however, that the German courts were negligent in refusing to hear the woman’s case and the subsequent, posthumous appeals filed by her husband.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Multi-Telescope View of Giant Black Hole is 2 Million Times Sharper Than Human Eye

Scientists using three telescopes spaced thousands of miles apart have caught the best look ever of the center of a distant quasar, an ultra-bright galaxy with a giant black hole at its core.

By linking powerful radio telescopes in Chile, Arizona and Hawaii together, astronomers created a deep-space observing system with 2 million times sharper vision than the human eye, which gave them the most detailed direct view ever of a supermassive black hole inside a galaxy 5 billion light-years from Earth.

The telescopes revealed a fresh look at the quasar 3C 279, a galaxy in the constellation Virgo that scientists classify as a quasar because it shines ultra-bright as massive amounts of material falls into the giant black hole at its core. The black hole is about 1 billion times the mass of the sun, with the linked-up telescopes providing details down to a resolution of 1 light-year or less, researchers said in an announcement today (July 18).

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Oldest Spiral Galaxy in Universe Discovered

Astronomers have discovered the universe’s most ancient spiral galaxy yet, a cosmic structure that dates back roughly 10.7 billion years, a new study reveals.

The galactic find, discovered by researchers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, comes as something of a surprise. Other galaxies from such early epochs are clumpy and irregular, not strikingly symmetrical like the newfound spiral, which broadly resembles our own Milky Way.

“The fact that this galaxy exists is astounding,” study lead author David Law, of the University of Toronto, said in a statement. “Current wisdom holds that such ‘grand-design’ spiral galaxies simply didn’t exist at such an early time in the history of the universe.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]