Sunday, January 12, 2003

News Feed 20120901

Financial Crisis
»A “Market Meltdown the Likes of Which We’ve Never Seen is Upon Us”
»Barilla in Pasta Push to Beat the Recession
»Daycare Prices for Italian Families Equal 7.8% of Income
»Italy: Monte Dei Paschi Seen Reporting Loss, May Hand Stake to Govt
»Spain Bemoans Record Flight of Investors
»Video: European Central Bank Pushes for Control of 6000 Eurozone Banks
»Video: Goldman Sachs Bribed Senate to Pass Bailout Bill
»Whispers on Wall Street: Major Financial House is Going to Implode… Could it be Morgan Stanley?
»Yuan Tipped to Replace U.S. Dollar, Euro in Southeast Asia
»America: “The Greatest Islamic Country”
»Barack Obama Responds to Clint Eastwood’s Bizarre Attack
»Deadly Yosemite Virus Warning to 10,000 US Campers
»Financial Firms Face Subpoenas on Tax Strategy
»Good for Clint Eastwood, Even if His Speech Was a Bit Embarrassing
»How Your Movements Are Being Tracked, Probably Without Your Knowledge
»Muslims Hosting Events to Coincide With Charlotte DNC Face Blowback
»The Other Anti-Obama Film
»‘This Shouldn’t Happen Anymore’: White Man Beaten to a Pulp in Public Square for Dating African-American Woman in Georgia
Europe and the EU
»Deep Sea Expedition Reveals Mediterranean Secrets
»Germany: Cuckoo Clocks Make a Comeback
»It Starts: First Asian Bank Mulls British Exit From the EU
»Italy: Prosecco to be Stocked to Avoid Flooding Market
»Italy: ‘Total’ Tax Dodger Caught
»Italy: Macho Soldiers Forced to Renounce Tattoos
»Italy: Coca-Cola and Tequila May be Taxed
»Sweden: Vilks Cites KKK to Defend Talk to Anti-Muslim Group
»Turkish Bank to Bring Islamic Lending to Germany
»UK: Baroness Warsi Plea to Remain as Tory Chairman
»UK: Burnley’s Places of Worship to be Catalogued for Heritage Project
»UK: Doctor Who: Worldwide Series Launch Stokes Record BBC Ratings Hopes
»UK: Mosque Opens Its Doors to Boost Community Relations
»UK: Pharmacist Who Asked Colleague What Her Favorite Sex Position is Let Off at Tribunal Because He Had a ‘Restrictive Muslim Background’
»UK: Two Officers Accused of Perverting the Course of Justice
»UK: Walthamstow Gets Ready to Protest Against EDL Thugs
»Vatican Denies There Are 20 Vatileaks Suspects
»Most Serbs Against Joining EU, Poll Shows
North Africa
»Egypt: Morsy Invited to Paris
»Libya: Jana: ‘Rats Desperate to Avoid Blame for Mosque Destructions’
Middle East
»Israel Accuses Obama Administration of Sending ‘Mixed Messages’ To Iran
»Ramadan “Saves” 67 Nepali Migrant Workers in Qatar
»U.S. Welcomes Morsy’s Stance on Syrian Regime
»Polls Show Putin Less Popular
South Asia
»350 Million Indian Families Starve as Politicians Loot $14.5 Billion in Food
»Attacks Near U.S. Base in Afghanistan Kill 12
»Deadly Suicide Blasts Near NATO Afghan Base in Wardak
»Gunmen Kill 7 Muslims in Pakistan Attacks
»India: Muslim Students Caught in a Cleft Stick
»India: Mosque Row: Irked by Crowd, HC Restricts Presence in Court
»Indonesia: Govt ‘Guarantees’ Safety of Shias
»Pakistan: Blasphemy Case Evokes Fear in Pak Christian Town
»US Drone Strike Kills 5 Militants in Pakistan
»Virginity Cream Sparks Indian Sex Debate
Far East
»Coca-Cola Denies ‘Cracking’ North Korea
»Gender Imbalance in Asia Prompts Calls for Intervention
»Iran and North Korea Expand Ties
»No Yuan for Kim Jong-un
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Beer Sales Surge Despite Church and Mosque
»Kenya: Rift Muslims Against Riots
»South Africa: I’m Islamophobic
»South African Backlash After Miners Charged With Murder
»World Bank States 80% of Nigerian Entrepreneurs Pay Bribes
Culture Wars
»Milan Backs Bid to Host Europride 2015 During World Fair
»State Department: ‘Hold Down the Fort, ‘ Other Common Phrases Could be Offensive
»The Faith Instinct
»The Trouble With Atheists: A Defence of Faith

Financial Crisis

A “Market Meltdown the Likes of Which We’ve Never Seen is Upon Us”

The crisis of reality is being forecast by some of the most elite institutions and insiders in the world, and we’d better be paying attention. I want to give you a few predictions and then tell I’ll you who they’re from. It might surprise you.

Prediction number 1: We’re heading headlong into a financial meat grinder.

Prediction number 2: We’re about to plunge off a financial cliff.

Prediction number 3: Major market meltdown the likes of which we’ve never seen is upon on us.

This wasn’t from some alternative media site or somebody that’s peddling gloom and doom.

The first one is from JP Morgan, the second from Ben Bernanke, and the third was from Steven Rattner, former Obama Treasury adviser.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Barilla in Pasta Push to Beat the Recession

Italian food giant to focus on core business says WSJ

(ANSA) — Parma, August 31 — Historic Italian food company Barilla is to respond to the global economic downturn by focusing on its core business of producing pasta, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.

Strategies include launching a chain of own-brand pasta restaurants in the US, where “there is undoubtedly potential for expansion” according to company chairman Guido Barilla. In 2011 Americans ate an average of 19.4 pounds of pasta each compared to 57.3 pounds for Italians, the paper said. The restaurant launch is expected to start with a pilot eatery that is due to open by the end of next year. The company based in Parma is also selling off non-core assets such as certain bakery products and is to use the extra funds to expand its pasta and pasta-related business including ready-made sauces and meals. In 2011 Barilla had an overall revenue of 3.9 billion euros, of which 365 million euros was generated in the US.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Daycare Prices for Italian Families Equal 7.8% of Income

Cost of in-school meals up 4.3%

(ANSA) — Rome, August 29 — Italian parents are set to spend 7.8% of their monthly earnings to send their children to daycare, up 1.6% in respect to two years ago, according to a survey by labor union UIL released on Wednesday that looks at the upcoming school year.

Monthly fees for toddlers in public nurseries will cost an average of 251 euros per month.

The price of hot meals in daycare and primary schools will be up 4.3% compared to two years ago, costing families an average 73 euros monthly, the equivalent to 2.3% of their disposable income.

Figures are from a survey conducted in 21 cities and look at families with salaries averaging 36,000 euros monthly with two income earners and two dependent children.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Monte Dei Paschi Seen Reporting Loss, May Hand Stake to Govt

Siena, 20 Aug. (AKI/Bloomberg) — Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena, the world’s oldest bank, may become the first Italian lender since the 1990s to have the government as a shareholder as the company weighs further goodwill writedowns.

Monte Paschi, which is borrowing 3.4 billion euros by selling bonds to the state, must give shares to the Italian Treasury in lieu of interest on the debt if it reports an annual loss, according to a law approved this month.

Brokerages including Kepler Capital Markets and Credit Agricole Cheuvreux SA estimate Monte Paschi, Italy’s third- biggest bank, will report a net loss of more than 1 billion euros in the second quarter on writedowns, a shortfall that would lead to a loss for 2012. The bank, which publishes results on Aug. 28, said in June that a review of goodwill may lead to “material” impairments in first-half earnings.

“Very likely the bank will hand a stake to the Treasury at this stage,” said Fabrizio Spagna, managing director at Axia Financial Research in Padua, Italy. “I expect, as suggested by Paschi’s executives, new writedowns on their intangibles, a move to skip paying interest on aid at a time when the bank is struggling to make money and raise liquidity.”

Fabrizio Viola, who became chief executive officer in January, turned to the state for funds after failing to find private investors to close a 3.3 billion-euro capital shortfall identified by the European Banking Authority. Europe’s banking regulator instructed the region’s biggest lenders to reach a 9 percent core Tier 1 capital level by the end of June.

Second Time

Italy sold bank holdings in the 1990s as it sought to improve lenders’ profitability and foster consolidation. The government is now seeking to sell assets to help cut the euro- area’s second-largest debt burden. For Monte Paschi, the stock payment to the state may dilute other investors and intensify government control.

Monte Paschi’s aid request is its second in three years, after it obtained 1.9 billion euros in 2009 through the issue of so-called Tremonti bonds. That debt will be converted into the new securities and forms part of the total requested.

While the terms of the new bonds haven’t been defined, the Siena-based bank expects to pay a higher interest rate than the 8.5 percent on the Tremonti bonds, Viola said on June 27. The government has 30 days from the law’s publication to set terms.

In case of losses, the shares will be issued to the Treasury at Monte Paschi’s book value, according to the law. The bank’s stock trades at about 20 percent of that level.

“We forecast 640 million euros of capital issued to the government due to two years of losses” in 2012 and 2013, Aldo Comi, an analyst at Cheuvreux, wrote in a July 5 report. The Treasury would hold about 7 percent of the bank’s capital in 2014, based on Comi’s forecast.

Strategic Choice

“The goodwill writedown may be seen as a strategic choice, to save money,” said Spagna. “The bill will be paid by the state and taxpayers. Instead of cash, Italy will get shares at five times their market price.”

A Monte Paschi official declined to comment.

The bank, which fell to a record low of 15.68 cents last month, posted an 18 percent gain, its biggest in 13 years, on Aug. 17 amid speculation its main investor, Fondazione Monte dei Paschi, will reduce its holding, opening the way for a shuffle among shareholders.

The stock rose 10 percent to 23.79 cents, valuing the firm at 2.9 billion euros as of 9:34 a.m. in Milan. That compares with the company’s book value of 1.05 euros a share.

Payment Missed

The lender skipped an interest payment of about 160 million euros on the Tremonti bonds in 2011 because the rules for those securities permit banks to avoid interest in case of losses.

Monte Paschi has residual goodwill of about 2.2 billion euros after 4.5 billion euros of writedowns last year related to acquisitions, including its purchase of Banca Antonveneta SpA. The bank posted a 5 billion-euro loss in 2011.

The lender, which was founded in 1472, paid 9 billion euros to purchase Padua-based Antonveneta from Banco Santander SA (SAN) in 2007, just before the onset of the global credit crunch. Goodwill represents the excess purchase price above fair market value that a company pays in an acquisition, and typically reflects the value of intangible assets such as a brand name.

“As regards 2012, a coupon miss appears almost inevitable, with Monte Paschi once more reviewing goodwill positions,” said Ronny Rehn, an analyst at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods in London.

Monte Paschi, which expects revenue to fall 1 percent through 2015, is selling a 60 percent stake in its northern Italian unit, Biverbanca, for as much as 223 million euros, closing 400 branches and eliminating 4,600 jobs to curb losses.

Banks in Italy are under scrutiny from investors and regulators as Europe’s sovereign debt crisis threatens to engulf the country. Spain asked for as much as 100 billion euros of European loans on June 9 to bail out its banks, which have been pummeled by real estate losses and a worsening recession.

Monte Paschi’s bailout doesn’t signal wider difficulties among Italy’s banks, said Angelo Drusiani, who manages about 3 billion euros at Banca Albertini Syz & C. in Milan. “Italian lenders are definitely in better shape than their Spanish counterparts,” he said.

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

Spain Bemoans Record Flight of Investors

Investors have pulled record sums out of Spain in the first six months of 2012. The country’s central bank speaks of an alarming development that’s attributed to a weak economy lurching towards a sovereign bailout.

Investors from around the globe withdrew a record 219.8 billion euros ($276 billion) from Spain in the first half of 2012, the country’s central bank reported on Friday.

The Bank of Spain said it was the largest pullout of resources since such statistics were first compiled in 1990. The figures for the first six months of the current year marked a dramatic reversal from the period in 2011 when a net inflow of 22.5 percent was logged.

In June of this year alone, outflows totaled 56.6 billion euros, down from a gain of 7.9 billion euros in the same month last year.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Video: European Central Bank Pushes for Control of 6000 Eurozone Banks

They would be given sweeping authority over all 6,000 eurozone banks under a plan being drawn up by the European Commission, putting Brussels on a collision course with Germany and the ECB itself, which have urged a more decentralised first step towards “banking union”.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Video: Goldman Sachs Bribed Senate to Pass Bailout Bill

“Give them the keys to the Treasury and suspend all the laws…”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Whispers on Wall Street: Major Financial House is Going to Implode… Could it be Morgan Stanley?

Now, a report from analysis firm Beacon Equity Research suggests that there is an unusually high amount of chatter on Wall Street surrounding the possibility of another major financial collapse in the making. When the Department of Homeland Security or other intelligence services hear chatter they often raise the terror alert level, deploy federal SWAT teams and go on complete lock-down.

Thus, we should consider this latest piece of intel from those with their fingers on the pulse of Wall Street as a potential game changer:

With the stock price of Morgan Stanley (NYSE: MS) inches from its Armageddon lows of Oct. 2008, whispers of the imminent overnight collapse of this U.S. broker-dealer begin to surface. Client funds, again, are at risk.

“I’m hearing rumors that another major financial house is going to implode,” says TruNews host Rick Wiles. In fact, the name I’ve been given is Morgan Stanley . . .

“It’s going to be put on the sacrificial altar by the financial elite.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Yuan Tipped to Replace U.S. Dollar, Euro in Southeast Asia

China’s currency could be eventually used as an alternative to the U.S. dollar and Euro by southeast Asian countries, experts said.

Phathanaphong Phusuwan, a senior official of the Bank of Thailand, said in a seminar on Thai-Chinese trade, investment and finance relations on Saturday that the yuan would likely be used more between China and ASEAN member states in the long run.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


America: “The Greatest Islamic Country”

by Katherine Infantine

Contra persisting anti-Shariah sentiments, 2011 survey findings show that mosques are a great source of good in their communities.

Hesham A. Hassaballa notes: “Among the survey’s findings: 63 percent of mosques conducted outreach activities in the past year, such as open houses for neighbors; 79 percent are involved in interfaith activities. Contrary to the perceptions of many, the overwhelming majority (70%) of Friday sermons are conducted in English. The vast majority (88%) of American mosque leaders say domestic abuse should be addressed. A majority of mosque leaders (71%) agree that their mosque is working for social justice, and African American mosques are even more likely (87%) to be active in social justice. What’s more, mosques compare favorably to other houses of worship in terms of social services. Surveys show that only 26 percent of congregations of other faith traditions are involved in providing some type of health programming, as compared to 45 percent of mosques. Only 29 percent of other religious congregations are involved in community-organizing activities, while 47 percent of mosques are involved in these types of activities.

Wajahat Ali and Zahra Suratwala’s All-American: 45 American Men on Being Muslim, a compliation of essays, offers a closer up view of what it means to be both fully Muslim and American…

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Barack Obama Responds to Clint Eastwood’s Bizarre Attack

Barack Obama’s team responded to Clint Eastwood’s bizarre speech at the Republican Convention, mocking the actor and director for his attack on the President that featured an empty chair

Eastwood, the surprise speaker at the Republican Convention, last night gave a rambling 12 minute speech — much of which was addressed to an empty chair and an imaginary Mr Obama. This morning Mr Obama’s official twitter feed released a picture of the back of the seated President, saying: “this seat’s taken.” The picture has subsequently already been retweeted over 24,000 times…

[Reader comment by worry on 31 August 2012 at 8:39 pm.]

Well, Mr. Obama tends to avoid pointed interviewers or challenging forums. The empty chair was appropriate in this case.

[JP note: Bizarre only if you are afflicted by white mindrot liberalism.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Deadly Yosemite Virus Warning to 10,000 US Campers

Thousands of people could be at risk from a deadly virus in California’s Yosemite National Park that has already claimed two lives, officials say.

Four other cases of Hantavirus, a rare lung disease, have been reported.

The park said it is getting about 1,000 calls per day from frightened visitors on its Hantavirus hotline.

There is no known cure for the virus, spread by infected rodent droppings. Symptoms can take up to six weeks to show and one third of cases are fatal.

The virus is carried in rodent faeces, urine and saliva. When it dries out and mixes with dust, it can be inhaled by humans, especially in small, stuffy spaces.

The disease can also spread if people touch or eat contaminated substances, or are bitten by an infected animal.

The first death was reported earlier this month. One of those who died was a 37-year-old man from the San Francisco Bay area.

The outbreak of the virus at Yosemite is thought to have been caused by mice nesting in the insulation of tents at a campsite in the Curry Village area of the reserve.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Financial Firms Face Subpoenas on Tax Strategy

The New York attorney general is investigating whether some of the nation’s biggest private equity firms have abused a tax strategy in order to slice hundreds of millions of dollars from their tax bills, according to executives with direct knowledge of the inquiry. The attorney general, Eric T. Schneiderman, has subpoenaed more than a dozen firms seeking documents that would reveal whether they converted certain management fees into fund investments, which are taxed at a far lower rate than ordinary income.

Among the firms to receive subpoenas are Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Company, TPG Capital, Sun Capital Partners, Apollo Global Management, Silver Lake Partners and Bain Capital, which was founded by Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee for president.

Executives at some firms said they feared that Mr. Schneiderman, a Democrat with ties to the Obama administration, was seeking to embarrass the industry because of Mr. Romney’s roots at Bain. Others suggested the subpoenas might be part of an effort to recover more tax revenue for New York.

[Return to headlines]

Good for Clint Eastwood, Even if His Speech Was a Bit Embarrassing

by Iain Martin

The theme of In the Line of Fire, one of Clint Eastwood’s best late-period films, is ageing and the difficulty of coping with disappearing youth and virility. Of course, it being a Hollywood blockbuster, the hero overcomes such difficulties in the end, sending the baddie, who is trying to assassinate the President, crashing through the glass roof of a hotel atrium after the pair have fought a life-or-death struggle in a lift. Last night, perhaps Eastwood could have done with a Hollywood ending. But this is real life — or, rather, this is the Republican National Convention — and there were no spectacular special effects to save him. It was just an 82 year-old actor on stage alone, trying to somehow give shape to his unscripted thoughts about the need for Mitt Romney to be the next President of the United States. Of course, Eastwood wasn’t entirely alone on stage. There was an empty chair to his left, meant to symbolise President Obama (do you see what Clint has done there?).

In the UK this morning I struggled to watch the whole eleven minutes of Clint right through, having seen some scathing reviews on Twitter . It was so cringeworthy at a couple of points that I had to cover my face with my hands. Even hearing several short clips on the radio induced acute embarrassment, because I feared that someone I admire (not wildly, just quite a bit) had made a fool of himself. Clint Eastwood is a great American, a maker of some good films, a jazz fan and a stylish man. Still working in his eighties, he is a flag-bearer for the older generation. For him to humiliate himself in this way — to turn himself into joke fodder for YouTube-based blooper specials and smart-arse sarcastic commentators (like me) — seems a great shame.

And yet, I wonder. Many professional political communications experts were out in force this morning on Twitter smugly declaring Clint’s speech a complete “car-crash” and a disaster for Romney. In Britain, Eastwood was even being mocked by John Prescott for the inarticulate nature of his remarks, quite something when you think about it. For any Americans reading this who are unaware of the work of Lord Prescott, try to imagine Joe Biden crossed with Fozzie Bear from the Muppets…

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

How Your Movements Are Being Tracked, Probably Without Your Knowledge

In May, Utah lawmakers were surprised to learn that the US Drug Enforcement Agency had worked out a plan with local sheriffs to pack the state’s main interstate highway, I-15, with Automated License Plate Readers (ALPRs) that could track any vehicle passing through. At a hearing of the Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Interim Committee, the ACLU of Utah and committee members aired their concerns, asking such questions as: Why store the travel histories of law-abiding Utah residents in a federal database in Virginia? What about residents who don’t want anyone to know they drive to Nevada to gamble? Wouldn’t drug traffickers catch on and just start taking a different highway? (That’s the case, according to local reports.)

The plan ended up getting shelved, but that did not present a huge problem for the DEA because as it turns out, large stretches of highway in Texas and California already use the readers.

So do towns all over America. Last week Ars Technica reported that the tiny town of Tiburon in Northern California is using tag reader cameras to monitor the comings and goings of everyone that visits.

[Return to headlines]

Muslims Hosting Events to Coincide With Charlotte DNC Face Blowback

by Kari Huus, NBC News

In the run-up to the Democratic National Convention, several hundred Muslims attended “Jumah,” or Friday prayer, in a park in Charlotte, N.C., as part of an effort to mobilize Muslims and get them engaged in political discourse. But the event sparked some of the same negative reaction that the organizers were hoping to combat. Organizers said they hoped to use the prayers, a town hall meeting planned for Saturday and cultural festival to open events to non-Muslims and bring attention to problems that they believe disproportionately affect Muslims but are ignored by both political parties. They cite what they consider invasive practices under the Patriot Act, discrimination against mosque construction through the use of zoning laws, “anti-shariah” bills being passed by state and local governments and more generally a climate of Islamophobia…

[JP note: Aloha Akbar.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

The Other Anti-Obama Film

Although the Associated Press and ABC’s Nightline program have taken apart Dinesh D’Souza’s film, “2016: Obama’s America,” another film about the President is strangely getting the silent treatment from the major media. This film, “Dreams from My Real Father,” explores in detail the relationship that Obama had with Frank Marshall Davis, a Communist Party member suspected by the FBI to be a Soviet agent.

The film was being shown this week at the Troublemaker Fest, a film and entertainment festival held during the Republican National Convention in Tampa. The D’Souza film was also being shown at the same location.

Joel Gilbert, the director of the film, has been challenging the media to review his film. “Obama has a deeply disturbing family background, which he intentionally hid, in order to obscure a Marxist political foundation,” Gilbert says. “While voters will overlook some fudging by politicians, promoting a false family background to hide a Marxist agenda irreconcilable with American values is a totally unacceptable manipulation of the electorate.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

‘This Shouldn’t Happen Anymore’: White Man Beaten to a Pulp in Public Square for Dating African-American Woman in Georgia

A Georgia man was left bloodied and bruised after he was brutally attacked for dating an African-American girl. The interracial couple were strolling through Ellis Square, a public space in Savannah, shortly before midnight last Friday, when they say three black men began taunting them. The provocation began as racial slurs, then the scoffers started blowing kisses and suddenly the trio jumped the boyfriend, Andrew Quade — who is white, beating him and leaving him barely conscious.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Deep Sea Expedition Reveals Mediterranean Secrets

American oceanographer Dr. Robert Ballard says his latest deep sea expedition off the coast of Cyprus has revealed an amazing array of life forms, shipwrecks and unusual discoveries.

During most of August, Ballard’s research team on board the EV Nautilus have concentrated on the unique geological makeup of the Eratosthenes Seamount, one of the largest features on the eastern Mediterranean seafloor.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Germany: Cuckoo Clocks Make a Comeback

Ten years ago it was thought the famous Black Forest cuckoo clocks would disappear — sales plummeted and several old clockmakers went broke. Now, new features and modern designs have enabled a comeback.

The tiny village of Triberg lies within in a deep valley in the middle of the Black Forest. Its steep cliffs are blanketed with lush green beech and pine trees. It’s difficult to imagine that this sleepy little town is also the heartland of Germany’s cuckoo clock industry.

Still, it’s here that the Herr family has been working in the cuckoo clock business for years. Upon entering their workshop, visitors can see thousands of tiny cogs, wheels and other parts gleaming on the workbenches. They also see generations of clockmakers working together, like Hubert Herr and his son Reinhard, as they discuss the delicate time mechanism of one of their works.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

It Starts: First Asian Bank Mulls British Exit From the EU

Japan’s biggest bank Nomura has issued an 11-page study evaluating the likelihood that the UK will leave the European Union entirely or partly.

Events could accelerate as soon as this autumn if eurozone woes force the Government to commit to a firm date for a BRIXIT referendum.

“The effect a looser relationship with the EU would have on the UK economy in general and on the financial services sector in the UK in particular is not clear at this time, even though British eurosceptics argue that being freed from EU regulation would be a booster. However, the prospect is, in our view, bound to raise concerns — indeed, is doing so already in the City.”

The core point is that the eurozone may have to take drastic steps in integration (fiscal union, etc) to save the euro, making it nigh impossible for a fully sovereign state to remain part of the Project.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Italy: Prosecco to be Stocked to Avoid Flooding Market

Wine industry’s darling leads Italian exports

(ANSA) — Venice, August 29 — Regional authorities in Veneto have agreed with their Friuli Venezia-Giulia counterparts to stock 10% of the Prosecco DOC produced from the 2012 harvest to avoid driving down market prices.

Prosecco’s sales were up by nearly 50% in 2011 and the sparkling white wine leads the country’s exports to the US by more than 17%, Italian statistics agency ISTAT reports.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: ‘Total’ Tax Dodger Caught

Alessandria businessman paid no VAT

(ANSA) — Alessandria, August 30 — Italian police on Thursday caught a ‘total’ tax dodger who allegedly paid no VAT to the tune of 200,000 euros over the last five years.

The businessman from this northwestern city had officially closed his firm but continued to work, police said.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Macho Soldiers Forced to Renounce Tattoos

Rome, 17 Aug. — Italian soldiers must renounce a macho rite practised in armies and navies the world over — tattooing.

New regulations prohibit members of Italy’s military services from getting inking themselves with tattoos and riddling their bodies with piercings in “visible parts of the body.”

Among the popular tattoos that have raised concern are “obscene, sexual, racist, anti-Semitic and subliminal messages,” according to a recent document from the Italian armed services.

Commonly spotted on Italians’ bodies are tattoos pronouncing political allegiances to far right movements, or soccer teams. Images demeaning women are also not a rare site.

Italy’s armed forces passed new regulations throughout the country meaning to “prevent and contain situations that might affect the image of the army”, the military said.

“The occasional presence of soldiers exposing signs of exteriority could engender a sense of difference and despise from other populations that disapprove of tattoos for religious or cultural reasons”, said, the army’s official website.

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

Italy: Coca-Cola and Tequila May be Taxed

Rome, (AKI) — The Italian government is introducing a law that would raise money by taking alcohol and sugary drinks.

According to a draft of the law that would expire after three years, producers of drinks like Coca-Cola will pay a tax of 7.16 euros for every 100 liters put on the market. Makers of spirits like vodka or tequila will have to pay 50 euros per 100 liters. Drinks containing artificial sweetners would also be subject to a tax.

The law is part of a packet of new regulations introduced by health minister Renato Balduzzi.

Other measures include heavy sanctions for those who sell cigarettes to minors and require video poker game rooms to be at least 500 meters from schools.

The draft will be discussed by members of the Italian government on Friday during the next cabinet meeting of ministers.

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

Sweden: Vilks Cites KKK to Defend Talk to Anti-Muslim Group

Swedish artist Lars Vilks has defened his decision to speak at an anti-Islamic conference in New York on September 11th, claiming he would also accept an invitation from the Ku Klux Klan.

Vilks, the Swedish artist who enraged Muslim groups with his depictions of the Prophet Muhammad as a dog, agreed earlier this month to speak at a conference organized by the anti-Muslim group Stop Islamization of Nations (SION)…

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Turkish Bank to Bring Islamic Lending to Germany

A Turkish financial institute wants to open an Islam-compliant bank in Germany. Experts say it’s a conventional model of banking that could appeal to Muslims and non-Muslims.

With the effects of the ongoing euro crisis impossible to discern, many people in Europe would probably be willing to sign on to a banking institute that offers only transactions backed by tangible assets rather than highly speculative financial management.

At least that’s what the Istanbul-based financial institute Kuveyt Turk is hoping since as it’s the fundamental principles behind an Islam-compliant bank it wants to open in Germany. Such a banking institution would be the first of its kind in Germany.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: Baroness Warsi Plea to Remain as Tory Chairman

Baroness Warsi, the Conservative Party chairman, has appealed for David Cameron to let her stay in her post so that she can attract a new generation of women, working class and ethnic minority voters.

The Prime Minister is expected in his forthcoming reshuffle to replace Lady Warsi with a candidate from the Right wing of the party, who speaks for core Tory supporters. Lady Warsi told The Daily Telegraph that while the Conservative Party was “beginning to change”, it still had more to do to broaden its appeal if it was to win the next election. Speaking in Tampa Bay, Florida, where she has been attending the Republican convention, the peer said: “If I genuinely had a choice, I would like to stay doing what I’m doing. If you look at the demographics, at where we need to be at the next election, we need more people in the North voting for us, more of what they call here ‘blue collar’ workers and I call the white working class. We need more people from urban areas voting for us, more people who are not white and more women. I play that back and think: ‘I’m a woman, I’m not white, I’m from an urban area, I’m from the North, I’m working class — I kind of fit the bill. All the groups that we’re aiming for are groups that I’m familiar with.”


[Reader comment by bubbles1 on 1 September 2012 at 09:42 am.]

Apart from all that’s been said here, Ms Warsi has a business /travelling partner who’s family [ hers too because she’s related ] has connections to a radical muslim organisation Hitz bu Tahrir. Something else Cameron has failed to do…. as promised in his manifesto, was to ban them as many other countries have done. Has Warsi talked him out of this ? HuT are the group pushing for the Caliphate & world domination.

[Reader comment by welshtruth on 1 September 2012 at 0842 am.]

How about sacking her in order to appeal to the vast majority of conservative voters of a previous generation, who are middle class, and have had enough of ethnic diversity? why doesn’t the conservative party actually believe in anything? This appointment was a pathetic attempt to pander to the muslim population who last time I looked treated women with utter contempt and disdain, as they do not appear to have to obey British law.

[JP note: See ]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Burnley’s Places of Worship to be Catalogued for Heritage Project

HISTORIC places of worship, ancient and modern, across Burnley will be catalogued as part of a new heritage project. Faith leaders have pinpointed at least eight locations, Christian and Muslim, which will benefit from a £49,800 Heritage Lottery Fund grant. Two part-time positions will be funded through the Building Bridges in Burnley initiative, which will culminate in a travelling exhibition and hardback book…

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Doctor Who: Worldwide Series Launch Stokes Record BBC Ratings Hopes

The highly anticipated new series of Doctor Who is to launch on three continents simultaneously for the first time amid expectations of record ratings for the BBC.

More than eight million viewers are expected to tune for the opening episode of the new “blockbuster” series of adventures featuring the Time Lord and his sidekick Amy Pond.

Show executives hope the new series, with its “big stand-alone” and “movie-style” stories, will result in record viewing figures across the globe. The first episode, Asylum of the Daleks, airs tonight on BBC One and in the United States and Canada on BBC America. For the first time, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation will premiere the episode using iview, an online resource, on Sunday morning local time, immediately after the UK premiere…

[JP note: Trojan horse for the BBC’s brand of white mindrot liberalism.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Mosque Opens Its Doors to Boost Community Relations

Community leaders were given the chance to look around Stimpson Avenue mosque today as part of a drive to boost community relations. Leaders of local residents associations and other organisations met with the Imam and Mohammed Khan, the secretary of the mosque, to hear about the role it plays in the community. The visit was organised by councillor Danielle Stone (Lab, Castle) to increase community understanding. Mayor Roger Conroy said, “This has been a very interesting visit and we have been invited back to meet the children after school. I look forward to that very much.”

Members of the group of visitors included Ute Nanni who takes up her post as the development officer for supplementary schools on Monday. She said: “It is so important that there are no barriers, especially between those of us who are active in the communities. We all want the same things — respect, recognition and support for the work that we do. We have been given a very warm welcome at the mosque and I look forward to developing an on-going relationship with this community.” Mohammed Khan said: “Muslims have to study and they have to act. Islam is about how we behave in our daily life. We teach the children to be good Muslims and good citizens; to care about their neighbours and their neighbourhoods. We enjoy having visitors and there is always a welcome here for anyone who wants to come.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Pharmacist Who Asked Colleague What Her Favorite Sex Position is Let Off at Tribunal Because He Had a ‘Restrictive Muslim Background’

A pharmacist who made crude remarks to three of his female colleagues has escaped with a warning after a panel heard he came from a ‘restrictive Muslim background’ and was unaware of the offence his conduct had caused.

Khalil Jamil asked one of the women about her favourite love-making position and quizzed another about the mating habits of her horses — but a professional panel ruled his behaviour was not sexually motivated.

The General Pharmaceutical Council panel found Jamil acted inappropriately by making the comments and standing too close to his assistants.

However, they accepted that his background in a strict Muslim community meant he was unfamiliar to working in such an open environment with women and his basic social skills meant he lacked understanding of appropriate conduct.

As the remarks were not sexually motivated the panel cleared Jamil of misconduct and gave him an official warning.

It also took into consideration the fact that Jamil had remedied his actions by attending a ‘dignity at work’ course.

Panel chairman Patrick Malmo QC said: ‘He felt the source of this behaviour in 2009, was that he comes from a very restrictive background, with little social life, and none at all outside of his own community.

‘He lacked social skills, and had little knowledge of how one should be when working with colleagues.

‘He was unable to distinguish between friendliness and over familiarity.’

Mr Malmo added: ‘We do not think there is a serious risk of this kind of conduct being repeated.

‘Although we do not find the registrant impaired, we have the ability to issue a warning, and given the circumstances of this case, we believe it is necessary to do so.’

In a statement read to the hearing one of Jamil’s colleagues, referred to as CH, said she was working with Jamil at the Cooperative Pharmacy in Fauldhouse, West Lothian, in July 2009, when he asked: ‘Do you have a boyfriend? Do you want a boyfriend?’

She said: ‘Whenever it went quiet he came back to me and stood close again. He asked me if I was into sports, I said “No”.

‘He said he was into boxing and said feel my stomach. He grabbed my wrist and tried to get me to touch his stomach.’

Jamil had told the hearing that he had no desire to be in a relationship with the woman saying: ‘I suppose I was showing off, at the time, that I train, I work hard.’

He made similar remarks to another assistant, referred to only as SS, while he was working as a locum at a Morrisons pharmacy in St Andrews, Fife, in November 2009.

The pharmacist approached her while she was at the computer at and asked her if she had a boyfriend and how she liked to have sex with him.

A similar incident occurred the following week in which he put his arms around her waist.

A third woman, known as SR, was working at the same pharmacy when Jamil stood close to her that as she bent down to pick up some prescriptions, she could not help but back into him.

She added that he had asked if getting her horses’ castrated had affected the animals’ sex drives and whether it would have the same effect on a man.

He had admitted that all the incidents took place but denied any possible sexual motivation.

Speaking afterwards Graham Edwards, said on behalf of Mr Jamil: ‘I think the panel’s decision was overall correct.

‘Although Mr Jamil had not acted with sexual motivation, and although he had crossed professional boundaries, it is clear that through his insight and his remedial actions and courses followed, the correct decision has been made to assess that he is not impaired.

‘However it must be said that with Mr Jamil’s failure to observe professional boundaries, which brought him to this hearing, it is correct that the panel warned him about his future behaviour.

‘The duration of the inquiry into these matters, being three years, has caused Mr Jamil and his family to be emotionally damaging, at a great deal financial of cost.’

           — Hat tip: McR[Return to headlines]

UK: Two Officers Accused of Perverting the Course of Justice

TWO police officers are accused of perverting the course of justice over an incident which happened during the English Defence League demonstration in Bolton town centre. The charges relate to an incident involving one of the Unite Against Fascism counter-protesters, Alan Clough, from Radcliffe, who was allegedly attacked by police. Now police officers Robert Cantrell and Alan Glover have been summonsed to appear at York Magistrates’ Court on September 11. They have both been summonsed to face charges of perverting the course of justice…

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Walthamstow Gets Ready to Protest Against EDL Thugs

Sam Bogg talked to residents in Walthamstow preparing to oppose a racist march by the EDL

With just a day to go before the racist English Defence League (EDL) tries to march in Waltham Forest, east London, anti-fascist activists in the local community are having a final push to build opposition. “I don’t like it that a group of racists will be marching here tomorrow-no one needs or wants them,” Osman, a local market trader, told Socialist Worker. “But it has been really good to see people coming together to oppose them. Hopefully the EDL will be stopped.” Mosques in Waltham Forest have been promoting the counter demonstration. The borough’s council of mosques has released a statement encouraging people join the We Are Waltham Forest demonstration…

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Vatican Denies There Are 20 Vatileaks Suspects

Rumours are ‘unfounded’

(ANSA) — Vatican City, August 29 — The Vatican has denied that there are up to 20 suspects in the ‘Vatileaks’ scandal, according to a statement on Vatican Radio Wednesday. Vatican Press Office Vice President Ciro Benedettini described rumours that have appeared in the media about who may have leaked top-secret Vatican documents as ‘unfounded’.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Most Serbs Against Joining EU, Poll Shows

Belgrade, 20 Aug. (AKI) — Public support for Serbia’s membership in the European Union has fallen for the first time below 50 per cent, government survey published on Monday showed.

According to the survey, conducted by the government office for European integration, only 49 per cent of those surveyed support membership in the EU, with 25 per cent decisively against and others undecided.

Serbia was awarded the status of an official candidate for EU membership last March, but public support has fallen by two per cent since the beginning of the year and by 23 per cent since first survey in 2003.

The EU has tied Serbia’s membership bid to normalization of relations with Kosovo whose majority Albanians declared independence in 2008. Belgrade opposes independence, but Kosovo has been recognized by ninety countries, including the United States and 22 out of 27 EU members.

The majority of Serbs resent EU pressure for normalization of relations, which has contributed to the fall of EU popularity.

Nevertheless, the head of government’s office for integrations Milan Pajevic said the survey results were “excellent” considering difficulties and pressures to which Serbia has been exposed and growing negative campaign at home.

“I think that the results are excellent considering difficulties we have been facing for years,” Pajevic said.

Former pro-European president Boris Tadic lost May election to Tomislav Nikolic, former ultranationalist turned pro-European. Nikolic has vowed to persist on European path, but has signaled a harder approach on Kosovo.

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

North Africa

Egypt: Morsy Invited to Paris

President Mohamed Morsy and his French counterpart Francois Hollande discussed over phone means of boosting bilateral ties, said sources at the presidency. The contact also took up the latest developments of the Syrian crisis in the light of an initiative floated by Morsy to stop the bloodshed in Syria, said the sources. During the phone call, Hollande invited Morsy to visit Paris.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Libya: Jana: ‘Rats Desperate to Avoid Blame for Mosque Destructions’

The Editor of the Jamahiriya African News Agency (JANA) which has started irregular broadcasts via Mathaba, has said that the “Libyan rats” are desperate to pass the blame for their destruction of holy sites in Libya:

Tripoli, 30 August: JANA —
In an absurd and wide-ranging statement condemning the recent desecration of Sufi shrines by Libyan rat authorities, the so-called “League of Ulema” has issued a statement accusing Saadi Qaddafi (who has been in Niger for a year now) as well as “Salafists” along with the rats own “Supreme Security Council” as being behind the destruction of holy sites including mosques in Tripoli and other towns in Libya…

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Israel Accuses Obama Administration of Sending ‘Mixed Messages’ To Iran

Israel’s vice prime minister has attacked the Obama administration for sending “mixed messages” to Iran in the wake of a report saying Tehran had more than doubled its capacity to enrich uranium.

Moshe Yaalon made explicit the growing gulf between Israel and its closest ally, the United States, saying that Iran did not take seriously the military threat it was under over its nuclear programme. “We have an exchange of views, including with our friends in the United States, who in our opinion, are in part responsible for this feeling in Iran,” he told Israeli radio. “There are many cracks in the ring closing tighter on Iran. We criticise this.” Mr Yaalon’s criticism is striking because he has been among those in the Israeli cabinet believed to have been urging time for sanctions against Iran to be allowed to work…

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Ramadan “Saves” 67 Nepali Migrant Workers in Qatar

Without pay for four months, the workers took refuge in a mosque near Doha. In the month of fasting, Muslims engage in works of charity towards the poor and needy. Now the Nepalese workers are demanding the embassy helps them to be repatriated.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) — The holy month of Ramadan has “saved” the lives of 67 Nepalese workers in Qatar. Without pay for four months, the men have in fact found hospitality and food at a mosque near the Homsalal Ali Usel market, about 35 km from Doha. Charity (zakat) to the poor and needy is one of the five pillars of Islam, and in the month of fasting from dawn to dusk is even practiced as an additional form of purification. However, now that Ramadan is over the Nepalese fear not being able to survive, and have asked their embassy in Qatar to help them return home.

The workers were employed in the Bajra Qatar Company that provides construction labor. Four months ago, the company began to stop paying salaries, and workers found themselves on the street. Raghav Ansari, a native of the district of Parsha in Nepal, said: “We have no money and no job. Unable to eat, my friends and I were too weak and we were fired.”

So far however, the Embassy of Nepal in Qatar has shown little reason for hope . Rishiram Ghimire, a diplomat, admits that “67 workers have come to ask for help. We are trying to solve the problem. We talked to their employer, who promised to pay wage arrears within a month and a half.” However, the workers asking to go home.

Nepal has more than 4 million of its citizens employed abroad, 10% of whom are women. In fact women migrants are the main victims of sexual abuse, maltreatment and exploitation in the workplace, to the point that on August 10 last year, the Government of Nepal blocked the emigration of women under the age of 30. The majority of cases are in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait, as well as other Middle Eastern countries.

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

U.S. Welcomes Morsy’s Stance on Syrian Regime

The United States welcomed Thursday 30/08/2012 President Mohamed Morsy’s remarks during a Non-Aligned Movement summit in Tehran, in which he criticized the Syrian regime.

US State Department Spokesman Patrick Ventrell said Morsy’s comments are “very helpful comments. They are very clear, very strong. Really strong and clear statement by President Morsy, obviously made in Tehran.” “His comments in support of the Syrian people were very clear and we share Egypt’s goal to see an end to the Assad regime and an end to the bloodshed and a transition to a democratic Syria that respects human rights,” Ventrell added.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]


Polls Show Putin Less Popular

(AGI) Moscow — Recent polls by the independent Levada centre show that Vladimir Putin is less popular than before, although 63% of Russians still agree with his policies. In May polls indicated that he had 69% of Russians in favour of his ideas while in August the figure fell to 63% .

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

South Asia

350 Million Indian Families Starve as Politicians Loot $14.5 Billion in Food

While The Brits are about to tax their Super-Rich, it appears one of the old colonies remains in full anti-Robin-Hood mode. Nothing surprises us much anymore but this note from Bloomberg too the proverbial biscuit. In the “most mean-spirited, ruthlessly executed corruption,” India’s politicians and their criminal syndicates have looted as much as $14.5bn in food from one province alone. 57,000 tons of food meant for the devastatingly poor of the Uttar Pradesh region is sat in a government storage facility five football fields long.

The ‘theft’ has blunted the nation’s only weapon against mass starvation and as Supreme Court commissioner Naresh Saxena notes: “What I find even more shocking is the lack of willingness in trying to stop it,” as the Minister for Food, who stands charged with attempted murder, kidnapping, armed robbery and electoral fraud, has diverted more than 80 percent of the food. “Who is a person who holds a below poverty line ration card? A person of no influence; you can just tell him to buzz off.” But there is growing tension “We could just storm the place, and every one of us could get a bag of rice each. Who would stop us?”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Attacks Near U.S. Base in Afghanistan Kill 12

KABUL, Afghanistan — Two suicide attackers, one driving a fuel tanker, blew themselves up near a U.S. base in eastern Afghanistan on Saturday, killing at least 12 people, officials said. The attack around dawn in the town of Sayed Abad in Wardak province, about 70 kilometers (40 miles) from Kabul, served as a reminder that even after a decade of fighting, tens of thousands of U.S. and foreign troops are still engaged in a war that shows no signs of slowing down despite the start of a withdrawal of coalition forces. The U.S.-led NATO coalition said that no American or coalition troops were killed in the blasts. It confirmed that a number of troops were wounded, but did not say how many, in accordance with coalition policy…

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Deadly Suicide Blasts Near NATO Afghan Base in Wardak

A twin suicide bombing near a Nato base in central Afghanistan has killed at least nine civilians and four policemen, officials say.

The dawn attack, in Wardak province, destroyed houses and much of a local bazaar, eyewitnesses reported. The Taliban said they carried out the attack, which left dozens of others wounded. There are fears of a surge in violence when foreign forces withdraw from Afghanistan by 2014…

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Gunmen Kill 7 Muslims in Pakistan Attacks

ISLAMABAD — Unidentified gunmen shot dead seven Shiite Muslims in southwestern Pakistan on Saturday in two separate sectarian-motivated attacks, police and eye witnesses said.

In the first incident, four gunmen riding two motorcycles stopped a passenger bus and forced some people out of the vehicle and then they shot them dead, witnesses said. Police said that all those killed were Shia Muslims and they were singled out among the passengers. The gunmen sprayed bullets on those people and fled, witnesses said…

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

India: Muslim Students Caught in a Cleft Stick

by Mir Ayoob Ali Khan

It has tried to clear the confusion around the fee structure for engineering colleges, but certain sections of the student community still feel let down and some others remain apprehensive about their future.

For instance, hopes of Muslim students to pursue quality education have come to naught. There are more than 700 engineering colleges in the state that offer a little over 2.25 lakh seats. Of this, the share of the Muslim students is merely about 12,000. Also, there are as many seats available in Muslim minority colleges which are around 50 in number. Not all those who qualify, seek or get admission in the minority colleges. Thanks to 4% reservation under the BC-E category, many students move into either government colleges or the better ones in private sector. Taking other factors into consideration it can be said that there are more seats available in the minority colleges than the number of candidates applying for the same…

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

India: Mosque Row: Irked by Crowd, HC Restricts Presence in Court

Irked by the presence of a large crowd in the court room, the Delhi High Court today directed that only a restricted number of people may be present during hearing on alleged illegal construction by a local MLA and his supporters near Red Fort where purported ruins of a Mughal-era mosque were found. “We have to abruptly adjourn the matter because of presence of large number of people in the Court which is creating disturbance… We feel that hearing cannot take place in such an atmosphere in a matter like this, there is no need of such large gathering,” a full bench headed by Acting Chief Justice A K Sikri said while deferring the matter till September 7…

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Indonesia: Govt ‘Guarantees’ Safety of Shias

Jakarta, 31 Aug. (AKI/Jakarta Post) — Indonesian Home Affairs Minister Gamawan Fauzi has said that the government would not relocate Shia followers in Sampang, East Java, following Sunday’s fatal attack on the community but would instead guarantee their safety.

“If they want to stay there [at Karang Gayam and Bluuran villages in Sampang, East Java], then, we will help them rebuild their homes. We will guarantee their safety,” Gamawan said Thursday, commenting on the Shiite refugees.

Gamawan deplored various media reports stating that the government was ready to relocate the Shia compound after the incident that claimed the lives of two Shiites.

“There is news circulating that we are ready with a relocation plan. In fact, we have not decided our future plans,” he said.

Apart from taking two lives, the attack also left hundreds of Shiites homeless after their homes were destroyed by an angry mob. After the incident, 250 of the 500 Shiites were evacuated to a shelter located more than eight kilometers from their village. Dozens are still reportedly in hiding.

Instead of spreading unreliable information, Gamawan said that all parties should be concerned about the education of children affected by the attack. He said that the ministry and the East Java administration would jointly establish a temporary school in the shelter.

“We must ensure that those children can still continue their education,” he said

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

Pakistan: Blasphemy Case Evokes Fear in Pak Christian Town

For Rafia Margaret, the case of a young Pakistani Christian girl accused of blasphemy rekindled horrifying memories of the day a furious mob smashed through her front door and torched her house. On August 1, 2009 Margaret, then aged 28, had just finished breakfast at home in the Punjab town of Gojra when she heard the announcements over the mosque loudspeakers urging Muslims to attack the Christian quarter. Minutes later an angry crowd massed outside her modest one-storey house in the Korian area of the town baying for revenge after rumours spread that Christians had desecrated a Koran. As the pack swelled still further and violence erupted, she ran to her roof to judge the seriousness of the situation while her mother and ailing father sought refuge in a Muslim neighbour’s house. The sight of the tall, elegant girl on the roof enraged the mob still further and they began attacking her door.

“I was terrified, so frightened I couldn’t think. I thought I was going to lose everything. I don’t know how I did it, but I managed to climb over to the Muslim neighbour’s house where my parents were hiding,” she said. “Just as I got there, they entered our home and set it on fire. My father had had heart surgery a few days earlier and when he went back and saw his house burned down, he died,” she told AFP, weeping. The Muslim mobs razed a total of 77 houses in Gojra, which lies 50 kilometres (30 miles) from the industrial hub of Faisalabad and had never before seen tensions between its 495,000 Muslims and 35,000 Christians…

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

US Drone Strike Kills 5 Militants in Pakistan

U.S. drones fired a barrage of missiles at a vehicle and a house in a Pakistani tribal area bordering Afghanistan Saturday, killing at least five suspected militants, Pakistani officials said. The strikes in the North Waziristan tribal area were the first since news that a top commander of the powerful Haqqani militant network was killed in a drone strike late last month, also in the tribal region…

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Virginity Cream Sparks Indian Sex Debate

An Indian company has launched what it claims is the country’s first vagina tightening cream, saying it will make women feel “like a virgin” again. The company says it is about empowering women, but critics say it is doing the opposite. The BBC’s Rajini Vaidyanathan in Mumbai reports. It is certainly a bold claim. As the music starts playing on the advertisement for the 18 Again cream, a sari-clad woman is singing and dancing. It is an unusual take on Bollywood.

“I feel like a virgin,” she croons, although the advert makes it clear she is not. Her shocked in-laws look on, before her husband joins her for some salsa-style dancing. “Feels like the very first time,” she continues, as she is twirled around. Cut away to her mother-in-law who begins by responding with a disgusted look on her face, but by the end of the advert even she has been won over, and is seen buying the product online. This video is designed to market a vaginal “rejuvenation and tightening” product, which was launched this month in India.

“Being a virgin is still prized, and I don’t think attitudes will change in this century,” says Dr Mahinda Watsa, a gynaecologist who writes a popular sexual advice column in the Mumbai Mirror and Bangalore Mirror newspaper. Dr Watsa has answered more than 30,000 questions from Indians wanting sexual advice, and says a common question from men is how to find out whether their wife is a virgin, or from women who are keen their husband doesn’t know they are not. “Men still hope they’re marrying a virgin, but more girls in India, at least in the towns and cities, are having sex before.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Far East

Coca-Cola Denies ‘Cracking’ North Korea

Coca-Cola has denied entering the North Korean market, after footage appeared to show the drink being served in a Pyongyang restaurant.

In video clips posted recently on YouTube, foreign tourists dining at a new pizza restaurant set up in Pyongyang by Corital, a joint venture between North Korea and Italy, filmed their meal and being served Coca-Cola. Diners at the company’s chain of three restaurants in the city, however, are being told that the drink poured from the unmistakable red-and-white cans is not actually from the United States, which is still regarded as the arch-enemy and usually described in state media as “sabre-rattling imperialists.” Instead, they are told, it is “Italian Coke.”


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Gender Imbalance in Asia Prompts Calls for Intervention

The population debate has changed from concerns over growth to falling fertility rates and gender imbalances. Culture, tradition and science have played a role in population policies that have a long term ramifications.

Experts have highlighted the challenges posed by aging populations, falling fertility rates and policies that favor boy children, with gender disparities set to extend for decades.

A new United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) report released this week warned that gender selection practices were increasing globally, with estimates of a gender gap of 117 million women “missing” largely in China and India.

The selection of boy children — who in many cultures are viewed more “valuable” than girls — has been facilitated by improved medical ultrasound technology and official policies limiting the size of families.

The UNFPA forecasts that by 2030, China and India will have 50 percent more men than women of marriageable age.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Iran and North Korea Expand Ties

Iran and North Korea have signed a number of cooperation agreements on technology. Both states see the pacts as presenting a united front against Western powers.

The agreements were signed on Saturday in Tehran at a meeting between Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and North Korea’s ceremonial head of state, Kim Yong Nam, according to Iranian state television and the website of Iran’s presidential office.

Kim was visiting Iran for this week’s summit of non-aligned countries.

“Just like North Korea, the imperialists have also put political pressure on Iran as they don’t want these two states to stay independent and become powerful,” Ahmadinejad is quoted as saying.

The bilateral cooperation agreements between Iran and North Korea include a student exchange programme and joint scientific research on energy, environment, agriculture and food.

Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, told Kim that the two countries have common enemies and should resist outside pressures to achieve their goals.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

No Yuan for Kim Jong-un

The visit by a top ranking North Korean official to the Chinese capital fails to produce any results. A source tells AsiaNews that he hoped to get money but “returned empty-handed.” Instead, China gave “a lesson on the principles of the free market” and then sent him home, fed up with North Korean antics.

Seoul (AsiaNews) — Jang Song-taek, a leading figure in North Korea, apparently “returned empty-handed from a China. Beijing refused to grant Pyongyang fresh economic assistance and does not plan to do so anytime soon. Instead, the Communist regime gave a lesson on the principles of the free market to the North Korean leader,” a source inside the South Korean Interior Ministry told AsiaNews.

The source said that the visit by Kim Jong-un’s uncle and mentor to the Chinese capital “did not lead to anything concrete. Hit by floods and landslides, North Korea asked for international aid, and hoped that China would pick up the bill but that will not happen. Beijing is fed up with Kim’s military provocations and is pushing for the country to open up.”

Jang met President Hu Jintao, Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, Trade Minister Chen Deming and a high ranking official, Wang Jiarui. “Hu and Wen met him out of courtesy. From what we know, they expressed a desire for mutual prosperity and nothing more. Chen, for his part, told the North Korean delegation how a free market system works. No pledges of money were made.”

A diplomatic source noted that China pushed for the trip. “Kim Jong-un knows that Beijing does not like sudden changes. The removal of Vice Marshal Ri Yong-ho, chief of the General Staff, on Kim’s orders probably unnerved some Communist leaders. Perhaps, this is why he sent his uncle to explain the situation.”

For Gwang Joo, from the Gyeonggi Research Institute, the importance of the first trip by a high ranking since Kim Jong-un came to power cannot be underestimated. The new dictator wants asserts the principle of Sino-North Korean friendship, which is in fact a form of dependency.

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

Sub-Saharan Africa

Beer Sales Surge Despite Church and Mosque

(Reuters) — Beer sales in Africa are surging because of economic and population growth, a trend rubbing against the grain of another demographic factor defining the region: intense religiosity.

By almost any measure, Africa is an exceptionally devout place and the major growth area for Christianity and Islam. This should have implications for investors, especially in the fast-growing retail and beer sectors: they must navigate sacred sensitivities in areas such as marketing and factor the faithful into forecasts and demographic profiles for the continent’s population of just over a billion. Brewing executives have said they tone down their advertising campaigns in Africa, and these do tend to be conservative. In Nigeria for example, scantily-clad women tend not to feature on billboards promoting beer brands. Instead, a man in a suit is portrayed sipping a refreshing cold lager, or more often than not the ad shows just a giant bottle and glass…

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Kenya: Rift Muslims Against Riots

MUSLIMS leaders in Rift Valley have called for an end to violence at the coast and condemned the burning of churches. The clerics said the violence was unacceptable and against the teaching of Isam. Mombasa town has been hit with a wave of violence by angry youths for the last couple days protesting the killing of Muslim preacher Aboud Rogo. North Rift region chair of National Muslim Leaders Forum Mohamud Jama said such actions could easily destroy the warm relationship that exists between Muslims and Christians. “Churches are places of worship and they are sacred. Islam does not support desecration of holy shrines, even if it is during the war,” said Jama…

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

South Africa: I’m Islamophobic

For me it’s fear, not hatred, confesses Chris McEvoy.

So it turns out I’m Islamophobic. God DAMMIT! And I had such a hip track record. I’m pro choice, gay marriage and affirmative action, and anti racism, death penalty and moustaches. I used to take pride in the fact that I could walk into any room and out-lefty anyone who happened to be there. Well not any more. Now don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying I’m Islamophobic in that proud, sarcastic way most people say “I am a racist”…

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

South African Backlash After Miners Charged With Murder

Murder charges levelled by South African prosecutors against hundreds of miners this week are now being challenged. The government is under pressure over the affair, which many feel is reminiscent of apartheid justice.

South Africa’s justice minister on Friday demanded answers from prosecutors who charged 270 miners with the murder of 34 of their colleagues after they were shot dead by police during a strike earlier this month, branding the ruling “bizarre”.

“There is no doubt that the decision has induced a sense of shock, panic and confusion within the members of the community and the general South African public. It is therefore incumbent upon me to seek clarity,” said Justice Minister Jedd Radebe.

The miners were charged on Thursday following a strike at the Marikana mine, owned by the company Lonmin, on August 16, in one of the worst confrontations with police that the country has witnessed since the end of white-minority rule in 1994.

The suspects have been charged under a law that originates from the apartheid era, which allowed prosecutors to deem that they had a “common purpose” in the murder of their colleagues.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

World Bank States 80% of Nigerian Entrepreneurs Pay Bribes

(AGI) Abuja — A World Bank report carried out in 2011 in 29 of the country’s federal states has stated that 80%of Nigerian entrepreneurs pay bribes to state officials. According to the report published this week, one third of all entrepreneurs is obliged to make “payments/gifts” when registering a new company or commercial activity and that this is one of the most widespread forms of corruption. According to former dictator Ibrahim Babangida, who is still one of the most influential men in the country, Nigeria is even more corrupt now than when he was in power at the end of the Eighties and early nineties. “ remember,” he said, “that I dismissed a governor for stealing 300,000 naira (1,500 euro), while nowadays you can only remove from their position if they steal at least 15 million euro”. In Nigeria 80% of the population (167 million people) live with less than 1.5 euro a day.

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

Culture Wars

Milan Backs Bid to Host Europride 2015 During World Fair

‘Great symbolic value says LGBT official

(ANSA) — Milan, August 30 — The City of Milan has agreed to support a bid by LGBT rights organization Arcigay to host Europride 2015 in the city at the same time as the World’s Fair, or Expo 2015.

Milan’s city administration has expressed “appreciation” for the initiative in a letter to Marco Mori, president of Arcigay Milan, which represents lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Italians.

The letter was to be presented Thursday, along with numerous other messages of support for the Milan bid, to the annual meeting of the European Pride Organizers Association (Epoa), in Marseilles.

A decision is expected Sunday.

Milan’s bid will be challenged by Riga, Barcelona, and Manchester — other cities that want to host the event, which usually includes a Mardi Gras-style pride parade.

“Getting the Europride in Milan….would have a great symbolic value,” said Mori.

Milan has already hosted nine gay-pride events over the past 11 years.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

State Department: ‘Hold Down the Fort, ‘ Other Common Phrases Could be Offensive

Watch your mouth — everyday phrases like “hold down the fort” and “rule of thumb” are potentially offensive bombshells.

At least according to the U.S. State Department.

Chief Diversity Officer John Robinson penned a column in the department’s latest edition of “State Magazine” advising readers on some rather obscure Ps and Qs.

Robinson ticked off several common phrases and went on to explain why their roots are racially or culturally insensitive. The result was a list of no-nos that could easily result in some tongue-tied U.S. diplomats, particularly in an administration that swaps “war on terror” for “overseas contingency operation” and once shied away from using the word “terrorism.”

For instance, Robinson warned, “hold down the fort” is a potentially insulting reference to American Indian stereotypes.

“How many times have you or a colleague asked if someone could ‘hold down the fort?’“ he wrote. “You were likely asking someone to watch the office while you go and do something else, but the phrase’s historical connotation to some is negative and racially offensive.”

He explained: “To ‘hold down the fort’ originally meant to watch and protect against the vicious Native American intruders. In the territories of the West, Army soldiers or settlers saw the ‘fort’ as their refuge from their perceived ‘enemy,’ the stereotypical ‘savage’ Native American tribes.”

He singled out another phrase, “Going Dutch,” as a “negative stereotype portraying the Dutch as cheap.”

And “rule of thumb,” he wrote, can according to women’s activists refer “to an antiquated law, whereby the width of a husband’s thumb was the legal size of a switch or rod allowed to beat his wife.”

Further, he explained, “If her bruises were not larger than the width of his thumb, the husband could not be brought to court to answer for his behavior because he had not violated the ‘rule of thumb.’“

He went on to urge caution over the word “handicap,” as some disability advocates “believe this term is rooted in a correlation between a disabled individual and a beggar, who had to beg with a cap in his or her hand because of the inability to maintain employment.”

What to make of all this?

Robinson cited the cautionary tale of Nike rolling out a “Black and Tan” sneaker without realizing the phrase once referred to a group “that committed atrocities against Irish civilians.” Nike later apologized.

“Choose your words thoughtfully,” Robinson wrote. “Now that you know the possible historical context of the above phrases, perhaps you will understand why someone could be offended by their use. Let us agree that language will continue to evolve with continually improving consciousness and respect for others.”

Robinson also serves as the director of the Office of Civil Rights and an adviser to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on diversity issues. He earlier worked as chief diversity officer with the IRS.

           — Hat tip: McR[Return to headlines]

The Faith Instinct

by Tom Chivers

My colleague Stephen Hough points out an absolutely lovely piece by Francis Spufford in today’s Guardian about faith: about how believers, like him, are increasingly seen as “weird”, embarrassing, old-fashioned, obsolescent. He almost sounds grateful to “New Atheists” like Richard Dawkins, who, he says, “at least care enough about religion to object to it”. It’s a splendid piece of writing, unapologetic (his new book defending the Christian faith, in a nod to “Christian apologetics”, is in fact called Unapologetic), but aware of what the critics of religion are saying, not ignoring the charges against it.

The meat of the piece comes when he discusses a vicious row he had with his wife in 1997, and says how a piece of music — Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto — which came on the stereo in a café managed to break the cycle of argument, to remind him of mercy in the universe: “I had heard it lots of times, but this time it felt to me like news. It said: everything you fear is true. And yet. And yet. Everything you have done wrong, you have really done wrong. And yet. And yet. The world is wider than you fear it is, wider than the repeating rigmaroles in your mind, and it has this in it, as truly as it contains your unhappiness. Shut up and listen, and let yourself count, just a little bit, on a calm that you do not have to be able to make for yourself, because here it is, freely offered. There is more going on here than what you deserve, or don’t deserve. There is this as well. And it played the tune again, with all the cares in the world.”

He goes on to acknowledge that a piece of music playing in a café does not constitute a religious experience: that such an experience would be perfectly possible in a relentlessly mechanistic and uncaring universe. But, he says, the point is the feeling: yes, it sounds as though he is avoiding the intellectual argument, but the intellectual argument is secondary to the inner feeling of mercy. “The feelings are primary,” he says. “I assent to the ideas because I have the feelings; I don’t have the feelings because I’ve assented to the ideas… what I felt listening to Mozart in 1997 is not some wishy-washy metaphor for an idea I believe in, and it’s not a front behind which the real business of belief is going on: it’s the thing itself.”

I hope that he won’t mind my responding. The feeling of mercy in the universe, for people who have it, must be powerful; the feeling that there is some benign intelligence at work behind the cosmos, not micro-managing, not intervening, but underpinning it. It must also, I expect, be powerfully reassuring.

But I want to say: we should be wary of being guided by our instincts on all matters. There’s a famous illusion, the Müller-Lyer illusion, which shows two parallel lines, one with fins at the tip pointing in, one with them pointing out: [See article]

We cannot help but see them as different lengths, but we know, and can demonstrate easily with a ruler, that they are not. There are other, so-called “cognitive” illusions, which I’ve talked about before: illusions of order in randomness, illusions of cause and effect, which our brain simply cannot avoid even when, intellectually, know that they’re false. Our minds aren’t perfect truth-seeking machines; they are evolutionarily designed to be effective at helping us survive, not at seeing the workings of the universe.

There’s an ongoing debate (among people who don’t believe in God) about whether the religion instinct is an adaptive one, or a byproduct of other instincts. But if it’s either of those things, we will be fooled by it into sensing a God where there is none, just as we are fooled by our hyperactive pattern-detector into seeing skill behind the random guesses of stock-pickers or deliberate aiming in the random strikes of V2 bombs. I don’t know if I actually want Mr Spufford to change his mind, if his belief brings him happiness. But someone as clearly intelligent as he is must be aware that even a deep and pervading intuition about something tells us very little about whether or not it is true; it’s humanity’s apparently unique gift and curse that we can see beyond what our feelings tell us. Intellectually, Mr Spufford knows there is no external evidence for God, but he feels His presence anyway. Is that enough?

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

The Trouble With Atheists: A Defence of Faith

Francis Spufford has heard all the arguments against Christianity. He understands the objections of Dawkins and Hitchens and he realises it’s a guess as to whether there’s a God or not. But here he offers a defence of his faith

My daughter has just turned six. Some time over the next year or so, she will discover that her parents are weird. We’re weird because we go to church.

This means as she gets older there’ll be voices telling her what it means, getting louder and louder until by the time she’s a teenager they’ll be shouting right in her ear. It means that we believe in a load of bronze-age absurdities. That we fetishise pain and suffering. That we advocate wishy-washy niceness. That we’re too stupid to understand the irrationality of our creeds. That we build absurdly complex intellectual structures on the marshmallow foundations of a fantasy. That we’re savagely judgmental. That we’d free murderers to kill again. That we’re infantile and can’t do without an illusory daddy in the sky. That we destroy the spontaneity and hopefulness of children by implanting a sick mythology in young minds. That we teach people to hate their own natural selves. That we want people to be afraid. That we want people to be ashamed. That we have an imaginary friend, that we believe in a sky pixie; that we prostrate ourseves before a god who has the reality-status of Santa Claus. That we prefer scripture to novels, preaching to storytelling, certainty to doubt, faith to reason, censorship to debate, silence to eloquence, death to life…

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]