Sunday, January 12, 2003

News Feed 20121226

Financial Crisis
»Austerity-Hit Southern Europeans Flock to Switzerland
»Greek Doctors Looking for Jobs in UAE and Sweden
»Italian Olive Oil Production Drops 12%
»Italy Heading Towards ‘Disaster’ If Taxes Not Lowered
»Congress, at Last Minute, Drops Requirement to Obtain Warrant to Monitor Email
»Experimental Private Rocket Makes Highest Test Hop Yet
»Toyota Settles Lawsuit Over Impact of Acceleration Recalls
Europe and the EU
»German Parliament Denied Access to Inspect German Gold Reserves Due to ‘Lack of Visiting Rooms’
»Germany: Dead Passenger Found Riding in Berlin Underground
»Italian President Commutes Editor’s Libel Jail Term
»Italy: Centre Leaders Endorse Monti Agenda
»Italy: Alleged Berlusconi Pimp Convicted for Puglia Healthcare Scam
»Italy: Rain and Snow in Northern Italy But Sicily Stays Warm
»Italy: Alfano Notes IMU, Income Tax and VAT Rise in Monti Agenda
»Seized Italian Fishing Boat Returns to Sicily
»‘Straight Out of a Western Film’: European Bison Return to Wild in Germany
»Survey Shows Merkel’s Coalition Now Has 41 Percent Support
»Two Magical Centuries: How the Grimms Cast a Spell on the World
»UK: Thug Who Blinded Student Gets Off With a Reprimand: So What Does it Take to be Jailed for Assault?
»UK: Unique 2,000-Year-Old Roman Theatre Discovered in Back Garden of Archaeological School
North Africa
»Egyptian Forces Intercept French Made Rockets in Sinai
»Libya: An Inside Look at Misrata, The City That Won the War
Israel and the Palestinians
»David Ha’ivri: Anti-Israel Propaganda Foiled by the Facts
Middle East
»As Gaza Simmers, Qatar-Hamas Alliance Comes Under Scrutiny
»Fortress in the Sky: Buried Christian Empire Casts New Light on Early Islam
»Iran Pays Russian Women Working at Nuclear Plant to Wear Hijab
»Joint Saudi-Emirate Operation Uncovers Al Qaeda Cell
»Talking Turkey
»Turkey Increases 24% Lira Use in Foreign Trade
»United Arab Emirates Breaks Up Alleged Terror Cell
»Yemeni Tribal Leaders Asked to Search for Kidnapped Finns
»Russian Senate Approves Law Banning Adoptions by Americans
»Russia Hopes US Will See “Sense” Over Adoptions Row
South Asia
»Suicide Bomber Attacks US Base in Afghanistan Killing 3
Far East
»China’s New MIRV Ballistic Missile is a Big Deal
»World’s Longest High-Speed Rail Line Opens Connecting Beijing With Southern China
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Erratic Environment May be Key to Human Evolution
»Pirates Hijack Italian Ship Off Nigeria
»United Nations Global Warming Propaganda Exposed

Financial Crisis

Austerity-Hit Southern Europeans Flock to Switzerland

After losing one public sector IT job and then another in austerity-hit Spain, Thierry Perello decided to seek his fortune in one of the few remaining bright spots on the European map: Switzerland.

“I just didn’t want to stay in Spain anymore. I was really afraid the whole country would go just go up in flames,” the 41-year-old Spaniard told AFP, explaining why he had made his way to Switzerland last August.

While at the heart of a continent plunged in deep crisis, Switzerland is experiencing economic growth and enjoys a mere 3.1-percent unemployment rate, compared to 11.7 percent in the neighbouring eurozone.

“I thought Switzerland was not only a good country for finding work, but also for my kids and their future,” said Perello, whose three- and five-year-old children are still in Spain with their mother waiting for him to find work before making the move.

Perello is not alone. According to Swiss statistics, there has been a recent surge in the number of southern Europeans, especially from Portugal and Spain, settling in the country.

Alberto Gomez, a 36-year-old salesman who moved to Switzerland in May after losing three jobs in Spain over the course of as many years, has a blog for new arrivals from his country that gets more than 1,000 hits a day.

“Everyone says they have come because of the crisis… All the young people want to leave Spain. There are no jobs and virtually no unemployment benefits,” he told AFP.

And while soaring unemployment and slashed benefits have for several years been pushing private sector workers out of hard-hit countries, observers say public sectors that once offered prosperity and lifelong security have become increasingly affected.

“The migration of public sector employees is rising,” Daniel Vaughn-Whitehead, an economist with the UN’s International Labour Organization, told AFP.

“Before, public sector employees were well-protected and they had higher wages… They had life-long employment. Now that is not the case,” he said.

In fact, “the picture emerging (in many European countries) is quite shocking,” he said, describing how “austerity packages” have led to employment cuts and wage cuts across public sectors, including healthcare and education.

In a report in September, the ILO for instance mentioned the case of a 50-year-old Portugese woman, only identified as Ana B., who had taken one-year leave from a good job as a secretary at a government agency in Porto to work as a cleaning lady in Switzerland.

Although the shift was tough in terms of falling social status and comfort levels, she said she received more than double the pay, which allowed her to pay off bills back home.

“I would certainly rather stay at home,” she confided, “but I want my son to be able to graduate from university.”

Perello meanwhile is staying with a friend on the French side of the border as he looks for work in Switzerland, since “it is too expensive to live in Geneva when you’re unemployed.”

Yet he dreams of settling in the wealthy Alpine nation with his family.

“Switzerland has a very participatory democracy. There is a lot of transparency in politics… I would like to live in a place like that,” he said, adding that in Spain, “we feel like we’re being had every day.”

“There is no future in Spain,” agreed Gomez, who is living with his brother in Geneva while he looks for work.

He said he had immediately thought of Switzerland when he decided to leave his home country, “because everyone knows there is work in Switzerland (and) because the salaries are so much higher there than in other countries.”

According to a report published by Swiss bank UBS in September, Zurich and Geneva are two of the cities with the highest salaries and the best purchasing power in the world.

Vaughn-Whitehead said Switzerland is definitely one of the most attractive destinations for austerity-hit Europeans.

“There is such a gap between the average wage in Switzerland and for instance Portugal now that it really motivates migration,” he said.

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

Greek Doctors Looking for Jobs in UAE and Sweden

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, DECEMBER 24 — A growing number of Greek doctors, seeing their pay cut constantly and sometimes going unpaid for months by the government, are heading abroad to practice medicine and make a living. Britain, Sweden and many other rich European countries as well as United Arab Emirates (UAE) are some of the countries of their list as GreekReporter website writes. This year especially, with more austerity measures being imposed and affecting all professionals, doctors are giving up on Greece and leaving their homeland. One of the favored destinations is Dubai, where jobs abound and where many rich Europeans and Arabs visit to receive high quality medical care and services. According to an announcement released by the Medical Association of Athens, in recent months more than 300 doctors and dentists have filled applications to move abroad in countries such as the UK, Sweden and the UAE. In 2011, the Medical Association of Athens issued 1,500 certificates to residents (doctors in training) in order to work abroad and the first six months of 2012 there were more than 1,000.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italian Olive Oil Production Drops 12%

Production costs jump 38% in 12 years, trade bodies say

(ANSA) — Rome, December 21; Italian olive oil production is set to fall 12% in the 2012-2013 season to just under 4.8 million tonnes compared with 5.5 million last season, according to data released on Friday by a group of trade associations. Production costs have increased some 38% in the past 12 years, whilst prices remained weak, a situation which ate into producers profits, the Ismea, Aifo, Cno and Unaprol bodies said.

The decline in volume was the result of bad weather this year, including droughts and high temperatures and floods.

The regions of Puglia and Calabria, which together make up almost two thirds of total production, have respectively lost 12% and 15% of their production this season. Sicilian oil production gained 5%. Tuscan production was little changed whilst that of Lazio fell 3%.

Production in the Marche region gained 15% whilst that in the regions of Liguria and Lombardy jumped 20%. The Veneto region, meanwhile, suffered a 30% decline.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy Heading Towards ‘Disaster’ If Taxes Not Lowered

Berlusconi says that Monti’s agenda is like a ‘lesson’

(ANSA) — Rome, December 24 — Ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi said on Monday that taxes needed to be lowered and an unpopular housing tax scrapped in Italy to avoid a “disaster”.

Speaking on the Italian news program Tgcom24, Berlusconi said that caretaker premier Mario Monti’s insistence that the country cannot afford to eliminate the property tax, or IMU, that was reintroduced with his administration reforms was “devoid of any foundation and far from true”. Italy amended its property tax code in December as part of an austerity package to restore health to the country’s public finances.

Berlusconi’s 2008-2011 government abolished a similar tax.

Berlusconi has often said that his party, People of Freedom (PdL) will abolish IMU.

Monti posted an agenda of reforms on the Web Sunday after saying he might lead forces who endorse it in Italy’s upcoming general election.

“I have not read Monti’s agenda, I have been busy, but my team has explained it to me,” Berlusconi said in the interview. “The agenda has made clear that our fears were well founded and that it is driven by more austerity and taxes. There are no innovative elements, just the vision of a professor teaching a lesson,” Berlusconi said.

The technocratic premier brought in last November amid turmoil in the financial markets to replace Berlusconi is an economics professor and European commissioner.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Congress, at Last Minute, Drops Requirement to Obtain Warrant to Monitor Email

The federal government will continue to access Americans’ emails without a warrant, after the U.S. Senate dropped a key amendment to legislation now headed to the White House for approval.

Last month, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved an amendment attached to the Video Privacy Protection Act Amendments Act (which deals with publishing users’ Netflix information on Facebook pages) that would have required federal law enforcement to obtain a warrant before monitoring email or other data stored remotely (i.e., the cloud).

The Senate was set to approve the video privacy bill along with the email amendment, which would have applied to a different law, the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act. But then senators decided for reasons unknown to drop the amendment.

Currently, the government can collect emails and other cloud data without a warrant as long as the content has been stored on a third-party server for 180 days or more. Federal agents need only demonstrate that they have “reasonable grounds to believe” the information would be useful in an investigation.

[Return to headlines]

Experimental Private Rocket Makes Highest Test Hop Yet

A privately built rocket prototype that could lead to a completely reusable spaceflight system has passed its biggest test yet — a 12-story hop and smooth landing.

The experimental reusable rocket, called the Grasshopper, made its highest and longest flight yet on Dec. 17, marking the prototype’s third successful test by the private spaceflight company SpaceX.

In the latest test at SpaceX’s proving grounds in MacGregor, Texas, the Grasshopper rocket flew for 29 seconds and reached a height of more than 130 feet (40 meters). A video of the Grasshopper test flight shows the rocket soaring up into the Texas sky, then smoothly descending to land on four spindly legs.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Toyota Settles Lawsuit Over Impact of Acceleration Recalls

Toyota Motor said on Wednesday that it would spend $1.1 billion to settle a sweeping class-action lawsuit by owners of millions of vehicles that were recalled for problems with unintended acceleration.

The agreement, filed in federal court in California, was called one of the largest product-liability settlements in history.

If the agreement is approved by the court, Toyota would compensate current and former owners for loss of value on vehicles recalled because of faulty floor mats and other conditions that could cause sudden acceleration.

[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

German Parliament Denied Access to Inspect German Gold Reserves Due to ‘Lack of Visiting Rooms’

German Federal auditors handed in a report slamming the Bundesbank for not inspecting their foreign held gold reserves to verify their book value. The report says the gold bars “have never been physically checked by the Bundesbank itself or other independent auditors regarding their authenticity or weight.” Instead, it relies on “written confirmations by the storage sites.” The lion’s share of Germany’s gold reserves (nearly 3,400 tons estimated at $190 billion) are housed in vaults of the US Federal Reserve, the Bank of England and the Bank of France since the post-war days, when they were worried about a Cold War Soviet invasion. The Bundesbank stated, “There is no doubt about the integrity of the foreign storage sites in this regard”.

In contrast with best industry practices Germany’s gold reserves do not seem to be independently verified by a third party. Philipp Missfelder, a politician from Merkel’s own party, has asked the Bundesbank for the right to view the gold bars in Paris and London, but the central bank has denied the request, citing the lack of visitor rooms in those facilities, German’s daily Bild reported.

The Bundesbank won’t let German parliament members inspect the German gold vaulted abroad because the central bank vaulting facilities supposedly lack “visiting rooms.” And yet one of those vaults, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, offers the public tours that include “an exclusive visit to the gold vault”.

[Return to headlines]

Germany: Dead Passenger Found Riding in Berlin Underground

(Reuters) — A 65-year-old man thought to be sleeping while sitting upright on a Berlin underground train as it cross-crossed the German capital was actually dead, police said on Sunday.

“It’s tragic,” a Berlin police spokeswoman said. “We don’t know how long he was sitting dead on the train nor do we know the exact cause of death yet. There are no indications of foul play. He seems to have died of natural causes.”

The man was found in the U-8 underground train line that runs all night at the Weinmeisterstrasse station at 5:45 a.m. when a rail worker tried wake the man up by gently shaking him. Medics were called in but could only pronounce the man dead.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italian President Commutes Editor’s Libel Jail Term

Napolitano called for ‘better balanced’ legislation

(ANSA) — Rome, December 21 — Italian President Giorgio Napolitano on Friday commuted a controversial 14-month jail term handed to newspaper editor Alessandro Sallusti. The case has provoked widespread alarm about the fact that it is possible for an editor to go to prison for libel in Italy.

“By commuting the prison sentence, the president intended to remedy an evidently delicate situation prompt a reflection to achieve better balanced legislation,” read a statement by the president’s office. A court in September ruled the editor of Silvio Berlusconi’s family’s daily Il Giornale was guilty of printing libellous remarks made by an anonymous reader about a judge in Libero, the right-wing paper he edited in 2007.

The comments concerned a ruling to grant a 13-year-old the right to have an abortion.

A bill in parliament to change the law so that this is no longer possible was rejected in the Senate following amendments that meant it would have still been possible for journalists to be sent to prison for defamation .

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Centre Leaders Endorse Monti Agenda

Montezemolo, Casini, Riccardi hold summit

(ANSA) — Rome, December 24 — Centrist Italian business and political leaders expressed full support for outgoing Italian Premier Mario Monti’s reform agenda after reviewing the document in a summit on Monday. The group consisted of Ferrari Chairman Luca de Montezemolo, Minister of International Cooperation and Integration Andrea Riccardi — a member of Premier Mario Monti’s technical cabinet and the founder of the Sant’Egidio Catholic activist and crisis-resolution association — and the head of the small centrist Catholic UDC party, Pier Ferdinando Casini.

The leaders of the “new centre” had already expressed full support for Monti’s Sunday speech, in which the technocrat premier delivered a two-hour account of progress made over his tenure, and stated his intention to promote a platform rather than his own candidacy — without ruling out standing if enough support was mustered — in upcoming elections slated for the end of February.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Alleged Berlusconi Pimp Convicted for Puglia Healthcare Scam

Gianpaolo Tarantini gets 4 yrs, 3 mths for bribery

(ANSA) — Bari, December 24 — A Puglia businessman accused of recruiting escorts for ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi’s sex parties was on Monday convicted of bribing officials in the southern Italian region for healthcare contracts.

Gianpaolo Tarantini, whom Berlusconi is also accused of paying to hush up the alleged procurement, received a jail term of four years and three months.

Also convicted was the former deputy regional governor of Puglia, Sandro Frisullo, who got two years and eight months.

Frisullo is a former member of the centre-left Democratic Party, which has a 15-point lead over Berlusconi’s People of Freedom (PdL) party going into the February 25-25 general election.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Rain and Snow in Northern Italy But Sicily Stays Warm

(AGI) Rome , Dec 26 — Italy is split with temperatures of 20 degree centigrade in Sicily but rain and snow lashing the north.

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

Italy: Alfano Notes IMU, Income Tax and VAT Rise in Monti Agenda

(AGI) — Rome, Dec 26 — Mario Monti’s agenda is: “One agenda, three certainties: IMU [town tax], income tax and a rise in VAT,” said PDL Secretary Angelino Alfano on Twitter.

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

Seized Italian Fishing Boat Returns to Sicily

(AGI) Palermo, Dec 24 — The Italian fishing ship, Flori, which was seized on Oct. 7, arrived in the harbour of Mazara del Vallo in Sicily on Monday morning.

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

‘Straight Out of a Western Film’: European Bison Return to Wild in Germany

For the first time since the 18th century, the European bison is returning to Germany to live in the wild. The wisent, as it is also known, has been brought to the country by a famous prince. Although the creatures’ survival is uncertain, the project has already attracted considerable attention.

With nothing but spruce trees for entire square kilometers at a time, this managed forest isn’t exactly what you would call a wilderness. Nevertheless, the forest, together with its ponds and meadows, provides shelter to many a rare species.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Survey Shows Merkel’s Coalition Now Has 41 Percent Support

(AGI) — Berlin, Dec 26 — German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU-CSU coalition has increased its support by three points to 41 percent of voters, the highest level since March 2006, according to a survey reported by Stern magazine on Wednesday.

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

Two Magical Centuries: How the Grimms Cast a Spell on the World

Exactly 200 years ago, the Grimm brothers published the first edition of their fairy tales. Many of the originals were brutal and there was no lack of blood, gore and carnality. But thanks to a bit of clean-up work, they have gone on to enrapture people around the world. What is the secret to their success?

Once upon a time, two centuries ago, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm set out to gather folk stories for posterity. Little did they know that the collection of tales they published would become one of the most widely read works in history, capturing the popular imagination around the world for generations.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: Thug Who Blinded Student Gets Off With a Reprimand: So What Does it Take to be Jailed for Assault?

The father of a student blinded in one eye in an unprovoked attack by a teenager yesterday condemned police for letting him go with just a telling-off.

The latest shocking example of ‘soft justice’ occurred after Matthew Noblett, 20, intervened to protect a female friend who was being verbally abused by a gang of teens.

One lashed out at him, resulting in horrific injuries which caused his right eyeball to deflate. Despite a five-hour operation involving 170 stitches, his sight could not be restored, and he may lose the eyeball altogether.

The father of a student blinded in one eye in an unprovoked attack by a teenager yesterday condemned police for letting him go with just a telling-off.

The latest shocking example of ‘soft justice’ occurred after Matthew Noblett, 20, intervened to protect a female friend who was being verbally abused by a gang of teens.

The let-off emerged days after figures revealed that more than 500,000 criminals have been given cautions for serious crimes — including almost 8,000 violent assaults — in the past 15 years.

[Return to headlines]

UK: Unique 2,000-Year-Old Roman Theatre Discovered in Back Garden of Archaeological School

Archaeologists have discovered the remains of a Roman theatre — dating back 2,000 years.

Dr Paul Wilkinson, founder of the Kent Archaeological Field School, believes it is the first of its kind to be found in Britain.

The theatre with a nearly circular cockpit-style orchestra, which would have seated 12,000 people. It was found in Faversham, Kent — just behind Dr Wilkinson’s back garden where his field school is based.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egyptian Forces Intercept French Made Rockets in Sinai

The Threat Matrix blog of the Long War Journal had as report about Egypt intercepting 17 French Made rockets near El Arish in the Northern Sinai, “Egyptian forces intercept 17 rockets headed for Gaza.” The SNEB 68 MM (Multi-Dart) rockets can be launched from aircraft or helicopters. Could the rockets have originated in Libya where they may have been part of the Gaddafi arsenal that been raided in the past to smuggle weapons to Hamas in Gaza? Or was it part of the Bedouin smuggled arms shipment from Iran via the Sudan? Live Leak had a report on December 12, 2012 showing an SNEB 68 MM (Multi-Dart) rocket fired by Syrian Islamist opposition forces clearly heard shouting “allahu alkbar”. Perhaps the SNEB rockets fired by Free Syrian Army militias may have been liberated from Syrian Air Force caches.

           — Hat tip: Jerry Gordon[Return to headlines]

Libya: An Inside Look at Misrata, The City That Won the War

‘Lybian Stalingrad’ wants to move forward. An ANSA reportage

(by Stefano Polli) (ANSAmed) — MISRATA, DECEMBER 21 — Misrata’s wounds will heal eventually, but right now they’re still visible to the naked eye. They are visible in the wrecked, gutted, violated buildings along Tripoli Street, the long avenue bisecting the city where the last, decisive battle for the liberation of the so-called Libyan Stalingrad took place, in May 2011.

They are visible in the eyes of its residents when they talk about the new road Misrata has taken, one that looks forward to life and to the future: the gleam of hope mingles quickly with expressions of sadness and rage when talk turns to the past, to the two long months of siege and blood, in which the bombs of the infamous Khamis Brigade, led by one of Gaddafi’s sons, dictated the times of life and death.

“Welcome to Misrata” it says in fresh paint on the bridge just before the dusty highway junction taking travelers towards the “martyred city,” which lies 190 kms from Tripoli. There are also hundreds of flags from the new Libya — three stripes in red, black and green, with a crescent moon and a star, representing the post and the pre-Gaddafi Libya — and, littering the roadside, the carcasses of about 50 tanks: these were Gaddafi’s, and were wiped out by NATO air strikes carried out mostly by French Mirage warplanes.

At the entrance to the city, where a checkpoint is held by callow youths sporting Kalashnikovs, the old and the new appear to superimpose. A Japanese car dealership displays its brand-new wares in white, uniform rows, followed by ruined buildings interspersed with newly-built ones, construction workers fixing a facade, two pick-ups with machine guns at a couple of street corners, three home appliance stores spreading their wares on the sidewalk, kids running happily in a playground.

Halfway down Tripoli Street, facing the remains of two blackened, bombed-out buildings, is the Museum of the Revolution. It documents the battle of Misrata, which lasted from February 17-May 15, 2011, and which analysts said was the battle that won the war against Gaddafi. Here are the anti-personnel mines that killed dozens, the Libyan army rifles and weapons, and, most importantly, the exhibit of 1,400 photos of “martyrs” of the anti-Gaddafi revolution. While the exact death toll is not known, at least 1,700 insurgents are estimated to have lost their lives in what was the longest and bloodiest battle of the Libyan civil war.

The museum gives visitors an unsparing look at the realities of the conflict. There are pictures of the dead, with their horrifying wounds and indescribable mutilations. There is a picture of a boy with bandaged eyes, blinded in the conflict, pushing a legless soldier in a wheelchair.

“One is useful to the other, and vice versa. They are fated to go on together,” comments one of the museum guides, who is an ex-combatant. Misrata is a city that wants to move forward, but without forgetting the past. It is also having a hard time trusting: security is a big issue here, the pick-ups with machine guns are on constant patrol, and people will need more time before they can truly feel and digest the fact that normality has been restored.

The situation here is nowhere near that of Cyrenaica, the eastern coastal region of Libya, where Salafist and other extremist Islamic groups with more than one link to al-Qaeda are taking advantage of a flawed security system to act with impunity: the prime example being the September 11 attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, in which Ambassador Chris Stevens and other staff members were killed.

Cyrenaica and its turmoils seem far away. That is where the uprising against Gaddafi began, but it was won here in the Libyan Stalingrad, which is just now coming back to life.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

David Ha’ivri: Anti-Israel Propaganda Foiled by the Facts

Social media, university campuses and newspapers around the world overflow with statements by self-proclaimed “human rights activists.” They tweet day and night, labeling Israel as a racist apartheid state which discriminates against Arabs based on their ethnic background.

They call Israel’s security barrier an “apartheid wall,” in spite of the fact that both Jews and Arabs live on both sides of it. They call roads in Judea and Samaria “apartheid roads,” in spite of the fact that both Jews and Arabs drive on them freely. They call on Jewish residents of the region to move out, while at the same time, they accuse Israel of racist policies. Is there a better definition of hypocrisy and lies? From their disinformation, you would never learn that Israel manages constant security threats from internal and external terrorist operations. Israel goes to great effort to ensure security considerations don’t affect the lives of the civilian population, regardless of those citizens’ ethnic affiliation.

This past week, Jerusalem witnessed a new level of this hypocrisy. Egyptian blogger/dissident Maikel Nabil came to Israel to give a speech at the Hebrew University. This invitation, in itself, should challenge to the racism claim. But there is more. Nabil, who has been jailed in Egypt for being a conscientious objector, when asked by the press if he came to Israel in support of Netanyahu, said that on the contrary he “came to Israel to convince people not to vote for Netanyahu.” He refused to be interviewed by Israel’s army radio, posting to his Twitter timeline: “I refused to give interview to IDF Radio today; I want soldiers to leave the army and become farmers and artists.” If you think that that might put into question claims that Israel limits freedom of expression to Arabs who oppose its policies, consider the following.

News services reported that Palestinian students at Hebrew University staged a protest against Nabil’s talk there. They heckled his speech by shouting out that he brings shame on the Egyptian revolution by calling for peace with Israel. So much for the “apartheid” claim. It turns out that during the time Palestinian students achieve their academic accreditation at Israel’s flagship university (while enjoying Israeli subsidies for their studies), they are free to not only openly criticize the policies of the State of Israel, but to openly mock those who call for peace between Israel and the Arab states…

           — Hat tip: TV[Return to headlines]

Middle East

As Gaza Simmers, Qatar-Hamas Alliance Comes Under Scrutiny

Among the many billboards that line Gaza’s grim seafront is a prominent image of Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al Thani seated alongside Hamas’ Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh. Underneath is the phrase: “Shukran Qatar” (Thank You Qatar).

This picture appeared two months ago, taking the place of a serious photo of the then recently elected Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, the man who turned the Arab Spring into real political leadership.

Earlier this week, as the families in the northern Gazan city of Beit Lahiya huddled in the gym of the Rimal School to take shelter from Israeli air raids, their longterm future appeared ever more to be in the hands of Qatar. Since the end of October, when the ambitious Qatari Sheik became the first Head of State to officially visit Gaza, the Palestinians have begun to realize the swiftness of the decline of the political, ideological and financial influence of Iran, until recently a seemingly existential ally to Gaza.

“Before the Arab Spring, there were two camps in Gaza,” political analyst Yalal Okal begins to explain over the roar of an Israeli F-16. “On one side, the moderates; and on the other was the front of Iran, Qatar, Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad, sustained by Libya and Algeria.”

The 2011 popular uprisings across the Arab world shuffled the cards again. “Libya and Algeria took autonomous roads, Syria is in chaos, Egypt put itself as the guide of change. So Hamas and Qatar need to reposition themselves,” says Okal.

At least judging from the enormous posters and graffiti of Yasser Arafat and Hamas founder Sheikh Yassin back in Doha, as well as the pro-Palestinian coverage from Qatari-owned Al Jazeera, Qatar is committed to Hamas.

In 2009, after the failed attempt to accommodate the various Palestinian factions, the Sheikh opened a diplomatic office in the Gaza City neighborhood of Tel al-Hawa, an elegant building with the Qatari flag flying overhead. Still, without the investment promise of $400 million to Gaza and a check of $10 million for injured Palestinians, the impression is that the people here aren’t really enthusiastic about the extravagant Qatari.

Trust issues

“At the meeting with the Sheikh, there were Hamas leaders, but all the other parties were missing: Fatah, PFLP, Islamic Jihad,” confides a businessman who prefers to remain anonymous. “I was invited to the dinner, but I gave an excuse. The soft power of Qatar can conquer the minds but not the hearts of the Palestinians.”…

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

Fortress in the Sky: Buried Christian Empire Casts New Light on Early Islam

Archeologists are studying the ruins of a buried Christian empire in the highlands of Yemen. The sites have sparked a number of questions about the early history of Islam. Was there once a church in Mecca?

The commandment “Make yourself no graven image” has long been strictly followed in the Arab world. There are very few statues of the caliphs and ancient kings of the region. The pagan gods in the desert were usually worshipped in an “aniconic” way, that is, as beings without form.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Iran Pays Russian Women Working at Nuclear Plant to Wear Hijab

Iran is paying female Russian technicians working at the Bushehr nuclear power plant to wear the Islamic headscarf, known as the hijab.

An Iranian lawmaker has griped that female Russian technicians working at the Bushehr nuclear power plant are not respecting the country’s dress code despite being paid to wear the Islamic headscarf, known as the hijab.

Seyyed Mehdi Mousavi Nejad, a member of parliament from Dashtestan in the southern Bushehr Province, said that while female Russian employees working at the nuclear power plant receive a “hijab payment”, they do not fulfill their “commitments” or “properly observe” what is required by their contracts, the ISNA news agency reported on Tuesday.

He alleged that female workers often appear in markets and streets without the hijab or with a “poor hijab”, adding that he is unaware of how much money is being paid or how many female technicians are employed at the site.

One day after the report, however, Iran denied the claims that it is paying the employees to wear the traditional headscarf, the Fars news agency reported.

“Based on the reports we got from our local office and the governor’s office in Bushehr, hijab payment for Russian women is absolutely not true,” Hassan Ghashghavi, deputy foreign minister in charge of consular affairs, was quoted as saying.

“There is no mention of such issue in the contract between Russia and Iran’s atomic energy organization or any local contracts. There is no hijab payment to the Russian women nor to any foreigner working in Iran,” he stressed.

Ghashghavi added that the Russian women adhere to the “moral codes and norms of the religious people of Bushehr.”

Russia took over as the main contractor at Bushehr in the 1990s.

All women in Iran, regardless of their nationality or religion, are required to cover their hair and much of their body, in accordance with strict Islamic laws.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Joint Saudi-Emirate Operation Uncovers Al Qaeda Cell

(AGI) Dubai — A joint Saudi-Emirate operation has uncovered a terrorist cell linked to al Qaeda. The cell had obtained “materials and equipments with the aim of executing terrorist operations” according to a report from the WAM agency in the UAE. Those detained were reportedly both UAE and Saudi nationals and were members of what was termed a “deviant group” ..

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

Talking Turkey

by Daniel Pipes

The menu for meals on my Turkish Airlines flight earlier this month assured passengers that food selections “do not contain pork.” The menu also offered a serious selection of alcoholic drinks, including champagne, whiskey, gin, vodka, raki, wine, beer, liqueur, and cognac. This oddity of simultaneously adhering to and ignoring Islamic law, the Shari’a, symbolizes the uniquely complex public role of Islam in today’s Turkey, as well as the challenge of understanding the Justice and Development Party (known by its Turkish abbreviation, AKP) which has dominated the country’s national government since 2002.

Political discussions about Turkey tend to dwell on whether the AKP is Islamist or not: In 2007, for example, I asked “what are the AKP leadership’s intentions? Did it … retain a secret Islamist program and simply learn to disguise its Islamist goals? Or did it actually give up on those goals and accept secularism?”

During recent discussions in Istanbul, I learned that Turks of many viewpoints have reached a consensus about Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan: they worry less about his Islamic aspirations than his nationalist and dictatorial tendencies.

Applying the Shari’a in full, they say, is not a feasible goal in Turkey because of the country’s secular and democratic nature, something distinguishing it from other Muslim-majority countries (except Albania, Kosovo, and Kyrgyzia). Accepting this reality, the AKP wins ever-greater electoral support by softly coercing the population to be more virtuous, traditional, pious, religious, conservative, and moral. Thus, it encourages fasting during Ramadan and female modesty, discourages alcohol consumption, attempted to criminalize adultery, indicted an anti-Islamist artist, increased the number of religious schools, added Islam to the public school curriculum, and introduced questions about Islam to university entrance exams. Put in terms of Turkish Airlines, pork is already gone and it’s a matter of time until the alcohol also disappears.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Turkey Increases 24% Lira Use in Foreign Trade

(ANSAmed) — ISTANBUL, DECEMBER 24 — The use of Turkish Liras in foreign trade increased 24% in the first 10 months of the year compared with the same period in 2011, reaching USD 11.1 billion. Lira use in exports was the main driver of the trend, with trade with Germany and Iran leading the transactions. The lira was used in USD 3.7 billion of Turkey’s total USD 126.3 billion exports in the January-October period, according to the Turkish Statistical Institute data gathered by Anatolia news agency. The total value of liras used in exports was USD 2.9 billion for the same period last year, so the amount has risen 31%.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

United Arab Emirates Breaks Up Alleged Terror Cell

Authorities in the United Arab Emirates have announced the arrests of several UAE and Saudi Arabian citizens who are suspected of planning terror attacks. Saudi Arabian authorities assisted with the arrests.

Wednesday’s announcement from UAE’s official WAM news agency said that a “cell of deviant people from both countries” had been arrested.

A “deviant group” is a term used in Saudi Arabia to describe people affiliated with al Qaeda.

“(The suspects) were planning to carry out operations harmful of national security of the two countries and some other sisterly states,” WAM reported. There was no mention of how many people had been arrested.

The station added that the suspects had “imported material and equipment with the aim of committing terror acts.”

Prosecutors in UAE are expected to question the suspects ahead of a trial.

Unlike many of its Arab neighbors, UAE has been spared attacks by al Qaeda in the past. Earlier this year, authorities there detained around 60 Islamists who were thought to pose a threat to state security and have ties to foreign groups.

The United Arab Emirates comprises seven sheikdoms and is known for its oil wealth.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Yemeni Tribal Leaders Asked to Search for Kidnapped Finns

Officials in Yemen have asked local tribes for help in the search for a Finnish couple and an Austrian man who were kidnapped in Sanaa on Friday.

Top officials of the Yemeni Interior Ministry have met with tribal leaders in the areas around the capital to ask for help in finding the three Westerns abducted by gunmen on Friday.

Despite a major search by government forces, the location of the three is still unknown. According to unconfirmed reports, their captors are demanding a ransom of 4-7 million dollars for their release.

An Interior Ministry representative told the Yemen Post on Wednesday that the local tribes could be a help in the search because “tribal leaders have their eyes in most of the area “.

The official declined to give any information about possible progress in finding the hostages. He did say, however, that the Yemeni authorities so far do not have precise information on where the three are being held.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Russian Senate Approves Law Banning Adoptions by Americans

(AGI) Moscow, Dec 26 — The Russian Senate has approved a law banning the adoption of Russian children by U.S. citizens which has already been passed by the Duma.

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

Russia Hopes US Will See “Sense” Over Adoptions Row

(AGI) Moscow, Dec 24 — Russia has let it be known that it hopes “good sense” will prevail in its dispute with America over adoptions.

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

South Asia

Suicide Bomber Attacks US Base in Afghanistan Killing 3

(AGI) Kabul, Dec 26 — A suicide car bomber attacked a US base killing three Afghans in the city of Khost in eastern Afghanistan.

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

Far East

China’s New MIRV Ballistic Missile is a Big Deal

During the nuclear honed days of the Cold War, the Soviet Union developed a uniquely dangerous missile able to strike anywhere in the U.S.

Loaded with multiple maneuverable warheads (MIRVs), while carrying decoys and chaff to keep from getting struck down, the technology undermined the entire balance of power between the two superpowers and struck fear into hard hearts at the Kremlin and the Pentagon alike.

It was a difficult era, fraught with When China successfully tested its DF-31A missile several days ago, it confirmed another country now has proven nuclear ability reach any city in the U.S. with precisely the type of missiles that troubled the U.S. decades ago.

The DF-31A is believed to have three warheads per missile and a range of about 7,000 miles, which allows it to target anywhere in the U.S. While that ability isn’t new, China’s CSS-4 has that capability as well, that missile requires a stationary launch pad and contains but one nuclear warhead.

[with help from Clinton by allowing export of guidance technology.]

[Return to headlines]

World’s Longest High-Speed Rail Line Opens Connecting Beijing With Southern China

BEIJING, China — China on Wednesday opened the world’s longest high-speed rail line that more than halves the time required to travel from the country’s capital in the north to Guangzhou, an economic hub in southern China.

The opening of the 2,298 kilometre (1,428 mile)-line was commemorated by the 9 a.m. departure of a train from Beijing for Guangzhou. Another train left Guangzhou for Beijing an hour later.

China has massive resources and considerable prestige invested in its showcase high-speed railways program.

But it has in recent months faced high-profile problems: part of a line collapsed in central China after heavy rains in March, while a bullet train crash in the summer of 2011 killed 40 people. The former railway minister, who spearheaded the bullet train’s construction, and the ministry’s chief engineer, were detained in an unrelated corruption investigation months before the crash.

Trains on the latest high-speed line will initially run at 300 kph (186 mph) with a total travel time of about eight hours. Before, the fastest time between the two cities by train was more than 20 hours.

The line also makes stops in major cities along the way, including provincial capitals Shijiazhuang, Wuhan and Changsha.

More than 150 pairs of high-speed trains will run on the new line every day, the official Xinhua News Agency said, citing the Ministry of Railways.

Railway is an essential part in China’s transportation system, and the government plans to build a grid of high-speed railways with four east-west lines and four north-south lines by 2020.

The opening of the new line brings the total distance covered by China’s high-speed railway system to more than 9,300 km (5,800 miles) — about half its 2015 target of 18,000 km.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Erratic Environment May be Key to Human Evolution

At Olduvai Gorge, where excavations helped to confirm Africa was the cradle of humanity, scientists now find the landscape once fluctuated rapidly, likely guiding early human evolution.These findings suggest that key mental developments within the human lineage may have been linked with a highly variable environment, researchers added.

Olduvai Gorge is a ravine cut into the eastern margin of the Serengeti Plain in northern Tanzania that holds fossils of hominins — members of the human lineage. Excavations at Olduvai Gorge by Louis and Mary Leakey in the mid-1950s helped to establish the African origin of humanity.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Pirates Hijack Italian Ship Off Nigeria

Three Italians taken hostage along with another crewmember

(ANSA) — Rome, December 24 — Pirates hijacked a tug crewed by three Italians and another man whose nationality is unknown off the oil-rich southern Nigerian region of Bayelsa Sunday, the Italian foreign ministry said Monday. Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi is personally following the case and the ministry’s crisis unit is monitoring developments “carefully”, it said, with the safety of the hostages the top priority.

Contacted by ANSA, the ministry said the ship was the Mv Asso Ventuno, owned by Naples-based Augusta Offshore. The pirates hijacked the tug on Sunday about 40 nautical miles off the Bayelsa coast.

Hijackings of ships are frequent in Nigerian waters but unlike Somali pirates who always hold crews for ransom, their Nigerian counterparts are usually more interested in the cargo. According to the International Maritime Bureau, no crew member was harmed while the ship was steered ashore without being damaged.

The Nigerian navy said a search for the four crewmembers had started immediately.

Last year Nigeria and neighbouring Benin began joint naval patrols in an effort to combat the threat of pirates.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


United Nations Global Warming Propaganda Exposed

A new study published by the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change has concluded that the impact of Global Warming on Earths natural resources is much less than predicted and is in fact responsible for improving plant growth and development.

The study argues that the United Nations has lied to the public about claims that current temperature levels and changing precipitation patterns are beginning to stress Earth’s natural and agro-ecosystems by reducing plant growth and development.

The study also argues that the United Nations has misled the public with its claims that the world needs to drastically reduce the ongoing rise in the air’s CO2 content because crops will fail, food shortages will become commonplace, and many species of plants (and the animals that depend on them for food) will be driven to extinction.

[Return to headlines]


Anonymous said...

Switzerland will have to be like Dr Who's Tardis with expanding borders to accommodate all those who will be flooding in there from Greece and Spain, as just a beginner.

Interested to hear that Spain is about to go up in flames. Well, it is going to have to start somewhere as the bankers' coup bears fruit and the Marxists' EU and eurozone begin to crumble.

As regards Britain, how many more people do they think we can take in what is now almost the world's most densely populated country?
Spaniards and Greeks are going to arrive at almost the same time as the thousands, straight or criminal, from Bulgaria and Romania.

House prices are rocketing way out of reach of the indigenous population as a result of a cronic housing shortage and the rich from the collapsing eurozone laundering their money in the British property market. How much longer can this insanity last? Perhaps our political leaders are already planning to flee the ensuing chaos.