Monday, January 13, 2003

News Feed 20130104

Financial Crisis
»Europe’s Elderly Face Poverty
»The Greece of Asia: Japan’s Growing Sovereign Debt Time Bomb
»Terror Plot Suspect Extradited From UK to US
»Islamist Extremists Radicalizing Canadians at ‘A Large Number of Venues, ‘ Secret Report Reveals
»Three Edmonton Men Face Charges for Allegedly Forcing Girls Into Prostitution
Europe and the EU
»France: Bardot Threatens to Follow Depardieu to Russia
»France: Bardot: Save Elephants, Or I’ll Go to Russia Too
»French Rush to Turn Belgian as New Tax Looms
»Germany: Collectors Dub New Stamp ‘Ugliest Ever’
»German Minister: ‘Give Children the Vote’
»Oldest Swiss Bank to Close in US Tax Evasion Case
»Sweden: Police on New Trail in Instagram Riot Case
»UK: Woman Denies Attempted Murder After Newborn Baby Was Found at Bottom of 50ft Rubbish Chute
North Africa
»Egypt Says it Seized US-Made Missiles Near Gaza
»Salafists Remain Strong in Egypt, Despite Disunity
Israel and the Palestinians
»Fatah Party Supporters Mark Anniversary in Gaza
Middle East
»Tensions Flare Between UAE and Muslim Brotherhood
»US Troops Arrive in Turkey
»Depardieu the Russian Praises ‘Democracy’
South Asia
»Thailand No Longer World’s Top Rice Exporter
»White House Pushes Forward on Immigration Ahead of Bigger Reform Fight
»Sun’s 2013 Solar Storm Peak Expected to Hit Century Low

Financial Crisis

Europe’s Elderly Face Poverty

Footloose and fancy-free as a pensioner? There may be little chance of that in a future Europe. While more people are living longer, birth rates are dropping. And the eurozone crisis is contributing to the pinch.

For countless people living in severe poverty or confronted with political repression in northern Africa, Europe seems to be the promised land. Thousands of them risk their lives illegally crossing the Mediterranean, hoping to reach the European continent. For them, increased discussions about the risks of the elderly in Europe facing poverty may seem rather theoretical. After all, the definition of “poor” could not be more different between a western European and someone from an African country in crisis.

Yet Europe is facing a situation that, while far removed from African circumstances, has been a great cause of concern for European Union governments for a while now.

Not only are demographic changes causing a strain on the social welfare systems as European citizens live longer and fewer babies are born, the eurozone crisis has also strapped EU governments. In many European countries, the number of people of working age is dwindling, while unemployment is rising. The consequence is that payments from both state and private pension funds are dropping.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

The Greece of Asia: Japan’s Growing Sovereign Debt Time Bomb

The eyes of the financial world are on Greece and other heavily indebted euro-zone countries. But Japan is in even worse shape. The country’s debt load is immense and growing, to the point that a quarter of its budget goes to servicing it. The government in Tokyo has done little to change things.

Today’s Tokyo has become a permanent mecca of consumption, its boroughs seemingly divided according to target markets. The city’s Sugamo district, for example, is dominated by the elderly. Escalators in the subway station there go extra slow, while the stores along the Jizo Dori shopping street offer items such as canes, anti-aging cream and tea for sore joints. The Hurajuku neighborhood, on the other hand, is teeming with fashionistas made up to look like Manga characters.

This world of glitter, however, is but an illusion. For years, the world’s third-largest economy has been unapologetically living on borrowed cash, more so than any other country in the world. In recent decades, Japanese governments have piled up debts worth some €11 trillion ($14.6 trillion). This corresponds to 230 percent of annual gross domestic product, a debt level that is far higher than Greece’s 165 percent.

Such profligate spending has turned Japan into a ticking time bomb — and an example that Europe can learn from as it seeks to tackle its own sovereign debt crisis. Japan, the postwar economic miracle, has never managed to recover from the stock market crash and real estate crisis that convulsed the country in the 1990s. The government had to bail out banks; insurance companies went bust. Since then, annual growth rates have often been paltry and tax revenues don’t even cover half of government expenditures. Indeed, the country has gotten trapped in an inescapable spiral of deficit spending.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Terror Plot Suspect Extradited From UK to US

An alleged Pakistani Al-Qaeda operative accused of planning attacks in the United States, Britain and Norway was on Thursday extradited to America.

Abid Naseer, 26, flew out of Britain from Luton Airport near London under US custody and was en route to New York. He is due to face a federal judge on Monday on charges of joining a failed Al-Qaeda plot to bomb the Big Apple.

Naseer, from Manchester in northern England, “was extradited to America where he is accused of terrorism offences. His case is now a matter for the US authorities,” Britain’s Home Office said.

Naseer was originally arrested in Britain along with 10 other Pakistani men in 2009 over a suspected Manchester bomb plot. They were released without charge after prosecutors cited inadequate evidence, and ordered to be deported.

An immigration judge subsequently ruled that despite Naseer being “an Al-Qaeda operative who posed and still poses a serious threat,” he could not be returned to Pakistan as his safety there could not be guaranteed.

Two months after his release, in July 2010, Naseer was arrested again on a US warrant linked to the New York case.

According to American prosecutors, Naseer was a go-between for three men convicted of traveling to Pakistan for militant training, then plotting in New York in 2009 to set off suicide bombs in the city’s subway.

The plotters admitted to communicating with an Al-Qaeda organizer in Pakistan named Ahmad. US authorities say Ahmad was in turn communicating with Naseer, who likewise visited Peshawar, Pakistan.

“After returning to the United Kingdom, Naseer sent messages back and forth to the same email account that ‘Ahmad’ was using to communicate with the American-based Al-Qaeda cell,” federal prosecutors said in a statement.

In one email, Naseer allegedly used coded language that a “wedding” was ready, in reference to a bombing, echoing a message from one of the New York men who wrote “the marriage is ready” before he tried to complete the plot.

In January last year, a judge approved Naseer’s extradition to the United States.

He appealed to the European Court of Human Rights but his case was thrown out in December.

Metropolitan Police officers on Thursday escorted Naseer from Belmarsh Prison to Luton Airport where he was handed over to US authorities.

“The defendant is one of a long line of terrorist suspects extradited to these shores and this courthouse to face justice for their efforts to wreak havoc here and overseas,” US Attorney Loretta Lynch said in a statement.

“As alleged, this defendant was instrumental in one tentacle of an international plot that reached to New York, Norway, and the United Kingdom.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Islamist Extremists Radicalizing Canadians at ‘A Large Number of Venues, ‘ Secret Report Reveals

Islamist extremists are now radicalizing Canadians at “a large number of venues,” according to a secret intelligence report released to the National Post under the Access to Information Act.

While mosques with hardline imams are often singled out for spreading violent Islamist ideology, the study found that radicalization has been taking place at a much longer list of locales.

“Radicalization is not limited to religious centres,” says the Canadian Security Intelligence Service report, titled Venues of Sunni Islamist Radicalization in Canada.

The heavily censored report identifies the role of prisons, the Internet and foreign travel in turning some Canadians into extremists who wage or support violence. But it also points a finger at the family home.


‘Left-wing extremism,’ Freemen among Canada’s top domestic terror threats

Justin Trudeau defends his decision to attend Islamic conference sponsored by organization linked to Hamas

As convicted terrorists face possible release, Canada faced with growing problem: how do you rehabilitate them?

“Parents have radicalized children,” reads the Intelligence Assessment, “husbands have radicalized wives (and some wives have radicalized or supported their husbands) … and siblings have radicalized each other,” it says.

“As this assessment has demonstrated, a large number of venues have been, and continue to be used to further Islamist extremist ideology. … As radicalization is usually a social process, it can occur wherever humans interact, in the real world or virtual ones,” it says.

Since al-Qaeda’s attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, an increasing number of Canadians have become lured into Islamist extremism, an intolerant, anti-democratic and virulently anti-Western worldview that preaches that violence against non-Muslims is a religious duty and a path to paradise.

Several Canadian extremists have travelled abroad to countries such as Pakistan and Somalia with the intention of engaging in what they call jihad, while others have plotted mass casualty attacks in Canada, although none has succeeded.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]

Three Edmonton Men Face Charges for Allegedly Forcing Girls Into Prostitution

EDMONTON — Three men are facing human trafficking and pimping charges after teen girls were lured into Edmonton’s prostitution underground in two separate cases.

Police say one man lured an underage girl to Edmonton from Saskatoon for the purpose of prostitution in July 2012.

When the girl arrived in the city, police say she was plied with alcohol and drugs including cocaine. But soon afterward, she allegedly learned the less scrupulous nature of her benefactors.

“Through online conversations with a third party, she came to Edmonton and basically was caught in a very difficult situation,” said police spokesman Scott Pattison, adding she was “sexually assaulted, beaten . . . and basically threatened and put into the sex trade industry.”

She eventually escaped a motel room where she was held against her will by asking her captors if she could go out to get a soft-drink.

They took her shoes but the girl, while intoxicated, went shoeless into the wintry conditions and was found by a passing motorist lying underneath a street lamp.

Ali Saghafi, 25, of no fixed address but also goes by the street name A.K., was arrested on Dec. 20, and is facing a number of charges including assault, sexual assault, unlawful confinement, trafficking of a person under the age of 18 years, procuring prostitution and living off the avails of juvenile prostitution.

In a second case, an 18-year-old woman was lured by another girl — a 16-year-old — to a motel where she was held captive and forced into prostitution by two men.

Police were alerted to the situation and began an investigation last week that led to the arrest of Hamid Fazli Ghejlou, 31, and Shahin Ranjbar, 23, on Thursday.

Ghejlou is facing numerous charges including trafficking in persons, procuring prostitution, living on the avails of prostitution of an adult and possession of stolen property under $5,000.

Ranjbar is charged with trafficking with person, procuring prostitution, living on the avails of prostitution of an adult, possession of stolen property under $5,000 and assault.

Pattison said the underage girl is believed to be back home in Saskatoon but he could not comment on the condition of the 18-year-old from Edmonton.

Andrea Burkhart, an official with Alberta’s Action Coalition on Human Trafficking, says the recent cases are “the tip of the iceberg” in Edmonton.

“Many victims never come forward to law enforcement, because of fear or because they don’t know what their rights are,” said Burkhart.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

France: Bardot Threatens to Follow Depardieu to Russia

French screen icon Brigitte Bardot on Friday threatened to follow compatriot Gérard Depardieu to Russia, who was granted citizenship for tax exile, unless two elephants who are in danger of being put down, are spared.

French cinema legend Brigitte Bardot on Friday threatened to follow Gerard Depardieu to Russia unless two elephants under threat of being put down are granted a reprieve.

In a surreal twist to the saga over Depardieu’s move into tax exile, the veteran animal rights campaigner said she would emulate his request for Russian nationality unless authorities intervened to save Baby and Nepal.

The two elephants face being put down because they have been diagnosed with tuberculosis and have been deemed a threat to the health of other animals and visitors to the Tete d’Or zoo in Lyon.

City authorities ordered the elephants to be put down last month but a petition organised by their original owner, circus master Gilbert Edelstein, resulted in them being granted a temporary reprieve over Christmas.

Bardot said in a statement she would be leaving France if the reprieve was not made permanent.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

France: Bardot: Save Elephants, Or I’ll Go to Russia Too

French cinema legend Brigitte Bardot on Friday threatened to follow Gérard Depardieu to Russia unless two elephants under threat of being put down are granted a reprieve.

In a surreal twist to the saga over Depardieu’s move into tax exile, the veteran animal rights campaigner said she would emulate his request for Russian nationality unless authorities intervened to save Baby and Nepal.

The two elephants face being put down because they have been diagnosed with tuberculosis and have been deemed a threat to the health of other animals and visitors to the Tête d’Or zoo in Lyon.

City authorities ordered the elephants to be put down last month but a petition organised by their original owner, circus master Gilbert Edelstein, resulted in them being granted a temporary reprieve over Christmas.

Bardot said in a statement she would be leaving France if the reprieve was not made permanent.

“If the powers that be have the cowardice and the shamelessness to kill Baby and Nepal… I have decided to take Russian nationality and quit this country that is nothing more an animal cemetery,” Bardot said.

Bardot, 77, has been a high-profile supporter of Depardieu in his spat with the French government over his decision to take up residence in neighbouring Belgium for tax reasons.

She said last month that her fellow actor, who was branded “pathetic” by Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, had been the “victim of extremely unfair persecution”.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

French Rush to Turn Belgian as New Tax Looms

Twice as many French people applied to become Belgian citizens last year as in 2011, with a clear rise at the end of the year, new figures show.

The rise in applications came as debate raged over a planned 75-percent tax on high earners in France.

A total of 126 French citizens applied to become Belgian in 2012, up from 63 in 2011, according to Georges Dallemagne, president of the Belgian Parliament’s naturalization committee, which rules on all citizenship applications.

“This is a truly French phenomenon,” he told AFP, saying that the figures for Germans and Italians were stable.

Belgium, which offers lower taxes on earned income as well as income from capital and which doesn’t tax wealth, has attracted the interest of a number of wealthy French people in recent months.

President François Hollande’s proposed 75-percent tax on people earning more than €1 million a year has raised protests from many wealthy French people. Actor Gérard Depardieu is the most high-profile figure to be reported to be planning a move across the border.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Germany: Collectors Dub New Stamp ‘Ugliest Ever’

Disgusted German stamp collectors have slammed the new three cent stamp released this week by Deutsche Post, calling the nondescript design the “worst stamp ever made” on online forums.

A white square with a light grey “3” printed on it. Not exactly the most thrilling design to ever grace a German envelope — and according to some collectors, the ugliest ever to have been put on an envelope.

The new stamp — dubbed the Weißer Dreier, or white three-er — was never going to be popular. It was released January 1st solely to make up the awkward three cent price rise in sending a standard letter weighing up to 20 grams from 55 cents to 58 cents.

Together with the supplementary stamp, customers will be able to use up their old 55 cent stamps.

But for stamp enthusiasts on the website the new release is not just inconvenient, but ugly, with an uncreative and lazy design.

“For me it’s the worst stamp that’s ever been made,” one forum user wrote.

“With this design Deutsche Post has surely secured the award for the ugliest stamp in the world,” wrote another disappointed philatelist.

“It’s absolute crap,” Josef Kratzer, head of the Young Stamp Collectors Association in Eckersdorf told the regional Soester Anzeiger news website on Thursday.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

German Minister: ‘Give Children the Vote’

A German minister is calling for children to be given the vote, it was reported on Thursday. He said that excluding the country’s 13 million under-18s was “absurd”, triggering a backlash from other politicians.

Dirk Niebel, Minister of Economic Cooperation and Development told the Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung (WAZ), “We must give children a voice — in elections as well.”

The current age limit on voting in Germany is 18 which, he said, was “completely inappropriate” although he was not specific about when he wanted children to be given suffrage.

On a practical level, the Free Democrat (FDP) politician said that parents could take responsibility for overseeing their child’s vote or even using on their behalf. This would give families a louder political voice and force politicians to take children and families more into consideration.

He argued that denying the vote to Germany’s 17 million over-65s would be absurd, yet excluding children, a sixth of the country’s population, was accepted without question.

Niebel’s idea provoked constitutional objections from his colleagues.

Ingrid Fischbach from the Christian Democratic Union, the governing coalition partner alongisde the FDP told the WAZ that “no one can argue against the idea’s charm” but that in reality “voting is a private matter and one that constitutionally cannot be exercised by a third party.”

She added that it would be hard to check whether parents were actually ticking the box their child had chosen.

Thomas Krüger, president of Germany’s children’s union, said that although he would be in favour of dropping the voting age to 16, and eventually 14, he disagreed with allowing parents a proxy vote for their child.

But support came from Paula Honkanen-Schoberth of Germany’s national child protection association who said children should have voting rights as soon as they were born.

She said that children were often under-estimated and studies showed that they demonstrated interest in political issues from as early as the third grade.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Oldest Swiss Bank to Close in US Tax Evasion Case

Switzerland’s oldest private bank, Wegelin & Co, said Thursday that it is going out of business after pleading guilty to charges of helping American citizens avoid US taxes. It remains unclear whether the bank will reveal the names of its US clients.

Wegelin & Co, the oldest Swiss private bank, said on Thursday it would shut its doors permanently after more than 2 1/2 centuries, following its guilty plea to charges of helping wealthy Americans evade taxes through secret accounts.

The plea, in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, marks the death knell for one of Switzerland’s most storied banks, whose original European clients pre-date the American Revolution. It is also potentially a major turning point in a battle by U.S. authorities against Swiss bank secrecy.

A major question was left hanging by the plea: Has the bank turned over, or does it plan to disclose, names of American clients to U.S. authorities? That is a key demand in a broad U.S. investigation of tax evasion through Swiss banks.

“It is unclear whether the bank was required to turn over American client names who held secret Swiss bank accounts,” said Jeffrey Neiman, a former federal prosecutor involved in other Swiss bank investigations who is now in private law practice in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Police on New Trail in Instagram Riot Case

Police in Gothenburg have shifted their investigation from the 17-year-old girl who was believed to be behind December’s Instagram riot after linking an IP address to a new suspect.

The investigation into the girl who was thought to be behind the Instagram account created to name and shame “teen sluts” is now headed in a new direction, with police concluding the 17-year-old girl is innocent.

While the investigation into the girl remains formally open, everyone investigating the case understands the teen had nothing to do with the account and officers are now looking to arrest a new suspect, according to the Göteborgs-Posten newspaper (GP).

“The situation remains unchanged,” explained prosecutor Annika Boman to GP in reference to the criminal suspicions against the teen.

“We’re still waiting on the results of the forensic investigation.”

On the last Tuesday before Christmas, high school students assembled outside the Plusgynmasiet high school in Gothenburg in an attempt to find the owner of the anonymous Instagram account.

The protests quickly turned into vandalism and saw the 27 arrests of what police called “rabble rousers”, with the chaotic scenes continuing into the next day.

The 17-year-old former suspect has since kept a low profile, moving to a secret location with her family after receiving continued threats, wrote GP.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: Woman Denies Attempted Murder After Newborn Baby Was Found at Bottom of 50ft Rubbish Chute

A woman today denied trying to kill a newborn baby girl by hurling her down a 50ft rubbish chute.

Iraqi-born Jaymin Abdulrahman, 24, pleaded not guilty to the attempted murder of the six-day-old baby, who was found by police inside a bin by a block of flats.

The baby plunged 50ft from the fifth floor of a tower block in Wolverhampton, West Midlands, down a rubbish chute which led to a refuse collection area where she was found shortly after being reported missing.

Officers arrested Abdulrahman shortly after the stricken baby was discovered and rushed her to Birmingham Children’s Hospital at 6.30pm on September 8 last year.

Abdulrahman also faced a charged of doing an act intended to pervert the course of justice at Wolverhampton Crown Court.

During the 40-minute hearing, the court heard the second charge had been brought after Abdulrahman told police the child had been abducted.

Wearing a black dress, black headscarf and grey cardigan, she spoke through a Kurdish interpreter to plead not guilty to both counts.

Judge John Warner remanded Abdulrahman into custody and fixed her trial date for June this year.

He said: ‘Your trial will take place at Birmingham on June 5.

‘You will be brought to this court for further and hopefully final directions on February 22. You will remain in custody.’

A 32-year-old man also arrested in connection with the incident remains on police bail.

The baby is still recovering from her injuries.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egypt Says it Seized US-Made Missiles Near Gaza

EL-ARISH, Egypt — Egyptian security officials say they have seized six U.S.-made missiles before they could be smuggled into the Palestinian Gaza Strip.

The officials say the anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles, with a range of up to one mile, were seized just outside the northern Sinai city of el-Arish.

Officials say local Bedouins led them to the six missiles that were hidden in a hole in the desert. They say the missiles may have come from Libya, where a proliferation of weapons has led to an increase in cross-border smuggling. They did not specify the make of weapon.

Last month, security officials confiscated 17 French-made missiles near el-Arish before they could be smuggled through underground tunnels to Gaza.

The officials spoke anonymously because they were not authorized to speak to media.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]

Salafists Remain Strong in Egypt, Despite Disunity

A new Salafist party has been established in Egypt — the result of a factional dispute. But although the radical Islamists are not always unified, they remain influential in the country.

He wanted to start a “new chapter,” announced Emad Abdel Ghaffur at the start of the year in Cairo. The former chairman of the Egyptian Al-Nour (“The Light”) party had apparently had enough of the internal power struggle that had dogged his group for the past few months.

One of the questions that had divided members was what role clerics should play in the future political decisions, and Ghaffur, who has a reputation for pragmatism, then declared his resignation from the party. Instead of the Al-Nour Party, he now leads the newly-founded Al-Watan (“The Homeland”) party — and can boast more than a hundred members already.

This has broadened the spectrum of Salafist parties in Egypt still further. Aside from the dominant Al-Nour, the significantly smaller “Party of Authenticity” and the “Party of Construction and Development,” voters now have the option of “The Homeland.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Fatah Party Supporters Mark Anniversary in Gaza

Tens of thousands of supporters of the Fatah party have gathered in the Gaza Strip to mark the anniversary of the movement’s founding. This is the first time the party has held a rally in the territory since 2007.

Demonstrators gathered in a square in Gaza City on Friday waved both Fatah and Palestinian flags, with some carrying portraits of the party’s leader, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Similar events were held in other towns across Gaza.

The fact that Hamas has allowed Fatah to organize the celebrations there is seen as part of efforts at reconciliation between the two sides, which have been at loggerheads since Hamas seized control of Gaza in June 2007. This came a year after Hamas won a parliamentary election.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Tensions Flare Between UAE and Muslim Brotherhood

Tension is mounting between the United Arab Emirates and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, especially since the Emirates arrested Egyptians linked to Brotherhood leaders. takes a closer look.

Tensions between the United Arab Emirates and the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest Islamist movement, do not appear to be easing in the new year.

On January 1, Emirati newspaper Al Khaleej reported that authorities in the Gulf state had arrested 10 members of an Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood cell. “The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood has conducted many courses and lectures for the members of the secret organisation regarding the election and the ways of changing regimes in Arab countries,” the paper said.

The suspects are accused of holding “secret meetings” in the Emirates, recruiting “Egyptian expats in the UAE to join their ranks”, and raising “large amounts of money which they sent illegally to the mother organisation in Egypt”. The article also alleged that the suspects collected classified information regarding matters of UAE defence.

Two days later, the Egyptian Senate reacted by establishing a commission to investigate the matter, with the aim of working “towards the release of Egyptian doctors in the Emirates and investigate the circumstances of (their) arrest”.

An Egyptian emissary on Wednesday was sent to Dubai to meet Emirati leaders and deliver a letter to the nation’s president, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al Nahyan.

Meanwhile, Muslim Brotherhood spokesman Mahmud Ghozlan told Agence France Presse that the arrests were part of “an unjust campaign” against Egyptian expatriates in the UAE, saying that the accusations against them were unfounded.

Experts in the politics of the region are hardly surprised by the diplomatic flare-up. “With the exception of Qatar, the Gulf monarchies have a tumultuous relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood,” explained political scientist Karim Sader, who specialises in the Gulf nations.

Indeed, the Muslim Brotherhood has for the past several decades wielded a certain influence among Qatari royals, who have financed the group.

“Though they subscribe to the puritanical Islam promoted by the Muslim Brotherhood, Emirati officials hate and fear their political activism, a practice which is forbidden in the Gulf monarchies and perceived as a threat to their power,” Sader said.

Walid Kazziha, a professor of political science at the American University of Cairo, was interviewed about the relationship between the Muslim Brotherhood and Emirati authorities in the online edition of Egyptian daily al-Ahram: “(The United Arab Emirates) are worried about a domino effect, even if they, without a doubt, prefer having the Muslim Brotherhood in power in Egypt than a more democratic force,” he assessed.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

US Troops Arrive in Turkey

US troops have arrived in Turkey to protect an incoming batch of Patriot missiles. Germany, the Netherlands and the US are installing them at Turkey’s request to help deal with possible spillovers from the war in Syria.

US troops began arriving in Turkey on Friday read to operat Patriot missile batteries — deployed to counter any possible threats that may arise from the 21-month-long Syrian conflict. Over the coming days, some 400 personnel and equipment will arrive at the US Air Force Incirlik Air Base in southern Turkey.

The Germans, Dutch and Americans are deploying two Patriot surface-to-air batteries in order to help bolster NATO member Turkey’s air defenses amid the conflict in neighboring Syria. Cross-border fire has happened already on several occasions in recent months, affecting Turkey, Lebanon and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

“The forces will augment Turkey’s air defense capabilities and contribute to the de-escalation of the crisis along the Alliance’s border,” the US military’s European Command (EUCOM) said on Friday.

More than 1,000 troops from the three nations will be based in Turkey to operate the Patriot batteries.

Syria’s chief ally, Iran, has called the planned deployment a “provocative” move.

US troop arrivals began just a day after a car bomb in the north of Damascus killed at least 11 people as Syrian forces continued to pound rebel-held areas outside the capital, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Depardieu the Russian Praises ‘Democracy’

French actor Gérard Depardieu, who has announced he wants to quit his homeland to avoid higher taxes, has said he is pleased after President Vladimir Putin granted him Russian citizenship. He also praised Russian culture and ‘democracy’.

The decision appears to give Depardieu, a frequent guest of the Moscow celebrity circuit, the right to pay the relatively low 13-percent tax rate levied in Russia on everyone from tycoons to the poor.

After the Kremlin issued a statement saying Putin had signed a decree granting Depardieu citizenship, the movie star confirmed that he had applied for a Russian passport and said he was “pleased” to have been granted citizenship.

“Yes, I filed a passport application and I am pleased that it was accepted. I love your country, Russia — its people, its history, its writers,” the actor said in an open letter broadcast on Russian TV station Pervyi Kanal.

“I have also spoken to my President, François Hollande. I told him all of this. He knows that I really like your President, Vladimir Putin and that this is reciprocated.”

He went on to call Russia a “great democracy” which was “not a country where the prime minister treats a citizen shabbily.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Depardieu was being rewarded “for his contribution to Russian culture and cinema.”

The development was the latest in a highly publicised row between Depardieu and French authorities over their attempt to raise the tax rate on earnings of more than one million euros ($1.3 million) to 75 percent.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Thailand No Longer World’s Top Rice Exporter

Thailand has lost its decades-old status as the world’s largest rice exporter. An industry group has said it’s been toppled by Vietnam as a Thai government scheme for farmers continues to draw a mixed response.

Thailandlost its more than three-decades-old title as the nation that logs the highest volume of rice shipments abroad, the country’s Rice Exporters’ Association reported on Friday.

It said Thailand exported 6.9 million tons in 2012, down 35.5 percent from the previous year’s level, and not enough to beat the new champion India and follower-up Vietnam which logged deliveries abroad of 9.5 million tons and 7.6 million tons respectively.

“We had been the champion since 1980, but we lost the top spot in 2012,” the honorary president of the association, Chookiat Ophaswongse told AFP news agency.

He blamed Thailand’s drastic drop in exports on a government paddy pledging scheme under which rice had been bought from farmers at a fixed price of $484 (367 euros) per ton — that is for 50 percent more than the market price.

The scheme had been hailed by farmers as it boosted their incomes, but hit Thailand’s competitiveness abroad. Since the program was launched in October 2011, the government has stockpiled more than 10 million tons of rice.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


White House Pushes Forward on Immigration Ahead of Bigger Reform Fight

The Obama administration’s decision this week to ease visa requirements for hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants represents its latest move to reshape immigration through executive action, even as the White House gears up for an uncertain political fight over a far-more-sweeping legislative package in the months ahead.

Immigration advocates on Thursday hailed a rule change at the Department of Homeland Security that would make it easier for many undocumented immigrants to stay in the United States as they seek permanent residency, saying it will improve the lives of relatives who could have been separated for years without the changes.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Sun’s 2013 Solar Storm Peak Expected to Hit Century Low

The sun’s peak of solar activity this year will likely be the quietest seen in at least 100 years, say NASA scientists who watch Earth’s closest star daily.

Sunspot numbers are low, researchers said, even as the sun reaches the peak of its 11-year activity cycle. Also, radio waves that are known to indicate high solar activity have been very subdued.

“It’s likely to be the lowest solar maximum, as measured by sunspot ‘number,’ in more than a century,” wrote Joe Gurman, a project scientist for NASA’s sun-observing mission Stereo, or Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory. The current sun weather cycle is known as Solar Cycle 24.

Quiet as the sun may be, scientists still have a vested interest in watching it. A rogue flare could damage electrical grids or knock out communications satellites, as has happened many times before.

Though solar science is still in its infancy, it has advanced greatly even from the time solar activity knocked out much of Quebec’s electrical grid in 1989, Gurman pointed out.

“The interconnectedness of power grids has grown tremendously since the Hydro Québec issue,” he wrote.

“Compared to the frequency of widespread power outages due to trees falling on above-ground power lines during snowstorms or hurricane-force winds from storms such as the recent (Hurricane) Sandy, it’s a very low order of probability event.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Anonymous said...

"said children should have voting rights as soon as they were born"

What's next? Votes for Pets?

Kind of hilarious the way the EU commission that makes all our laws, and is supported by all our so-called "political parties", isn't elected by us, and can't be dismissed by us. Meanwhile they pretend that the National Assemblies still have any power.