Thursday, June 30, 2005

MIT physicists create new form of matter

No, not Islamic scientists this time, either:

MIT physicists create new form of matter

MIT scientists have brought a supercool end to a heated race among physicists: They have become the first to create a new type of matter, a gas of atoms that shows high-temperature superfluidity. Their work is closely related to the superconductivity of electrons in metals. Observations of superfluids may help solve lingering questions about high-temperature superconductivity, which has widespread applications for magnets, sensors and energy-efficient transport of electricity, said Wolfgang Ketterle, a Nobel laureate who heads the MIT group. Seeing the superfluid gas so clearly is such a dramatic step that Dan Kleppner, director of the MIT-Harvard Center for Ultracold Atoms, said, "This is not a smoking gun for superfluidity. This is a cannon.""In superfluids, as well as in superconductors, particles move in lockstep. They form one big quantum-mechanical wave," explained Ketterle. Such a movement allows superconductors to carry electrical currents without resistance. The work is based on the MIT group's earlier creation of Bose-Einstein condensates, a form of matter in which particles condense and act as one big wave. Albert Einstein predicted this phenomenon in 1925. Scientists later realized that Bose-Einstein condensation and superfluidity are intimately related.

Thousands riot in China, attack police, burn cars

Thousands of Chinese rioted in a dispute sparked by a lopsided roadside brawl, set fire to cars and wounded six police officers in an outburst likely to worry communist leaders in Beijing. The official Xinhua news agency blamed Sunday's riot in Chizhou in dirt-poor eastern Anhui province on a few criminal. The violence was the latest in a series of protests which the Communist Party fears could become a channel for anger over corruption and a growing gap between rich and poor. It started before 3 p.m. when a Toyota sedan grazed a student crossing the street and the teen and the driver quarreled. A few men emerged from the car and set on the student. The men were taken to a police station and a crowd that had been watching the fight swarmed around the building, demanding that the men be handed over to them. The crowd, now numbering as many as 10,000, also flipped three parked police cars and set them ablaze. Protests have become increasingly common in China, fueled by corruption and the widening wealth gap, but authorities are keen to quickly quash dissent and preserve stability. There were more than 58,000 protests, many of them over land rights disputes, across the country in 2003, a Communist Party-backed magazine, Outlook, has reported.

The Wonderful 'Justice' of Sharia

Via The Adventuress:

An Indian Muslim woman who was raped by her own father-in-law has been ordered to divorce her husband by the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board. (Muslims in India have their own sharia-compliant laws and courts that apply to divorce, child custody, inheritance, and other family matters -- something that some Muslims are seeking to introduce in the West as well.) The woman and her husband have five children: "As per the Koran, Imrana's conjugal relationship with her husband stood dissolved since she has been raped by the latter's blood relative," the board's woman member Begum Naseem Iqtedar Ali told reporters here. "Had she been raped by anyone other than a blood relation, she could have stayed with her husband ... but here a sacred relationship had been violated, the consequences of which have to be borne by Imrana and her husband Noor Ilahi," she said. But Imrana could remarry if she wanted to, she added.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Sedative found in Rahila's stomach

Pakistani police have received the first part of the autopsy report on Rahila Iqbal, who died in mysterious circumstances in northern Pakistan. Lawyer Abid Raja has traveled from Norway to assist Azhar Iqbal, and he was not impressed with the latest revelation in the case. Rahila Iqbal died aged 20 in an apparent car accident outside the village of Randheer when the vehicle she was in allegedly drove off the road and into a body of water. Rahila's husband in Norway claimed that the death was an honor killing carried out by his wife's family because she had defied their wishes and married him, and also converted to his form of Islam. On Wednesday morning the first of three parts of the final autopsy reports arrived and police said that traces of sedative substances had been found in Rahila's stomach. "The report we have received shows that Rahila had either taken some kind of sleeping medicine or a sedative," said local prosecutor Shahbaz Khan. A source told Aftenposten that police believe the new evidence strengthens suspicions against Rahila's father, Azhar Iqbal, who has been in custody for over three weeks while police investigate the case. "This is completely new to me. I think it is worrying that police publicize such information in the media before I am informed. In any case it is far too early to allege anything if they have not yet managed to demonstrate the amount or type of substance," said Azhar Iqbal's counsel, Abid Raja. Both Rahila and her father are naturalized Norwegian citizens.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

How very un-Swedish

How very un-Swedish

Australian Associated Press reports that Sweden’s Ulf Hjertström, who was held captive for several weeks in Baghdad before his release on May 30, is channeling the spirit of Charles Bronson. Apparently, Hjerström has “hired bounty hunters to track down his former captors, promising to eliminate them one by one.” “I have now put some people to work to find these bastards,” he told the Ten Network today. “I invested about $50,000 so far and we will get them one by one.”

Sweden reveals secret Iraq hostage

A Swedish man was kidnapped and held hostage in Iraq for more than two months before being released three weeks ago, Sweden's foreign ministry said Tuesday in the first public news of the abduction. The man, named in the Swedish media as 63-year-old Ulf Hjertström, told a newspaper that he had been kidnapped in Baghdad on March 25 and had been held for ransom under dreadful conditions for 67 days before his May 30 release. During his ordeal he was forced to watch other prisoners being killed and was subjected to mock executions himself, he said. "They talked about how I was an enemy of the country and other bullshit like that, but I knew right away what this was about. Money and nothing else," he said.

It's good he didn't ask the Swedish police for help. Sweden has only half the number of police officers per capita compared to the EU average, and during the summer holidays, even this very low number is reduced. The Swedish state can't afford to hire more police officers. It is too busy paying its own citizens or immigrants for not working, importing foreign war criminals or installing surveillance in schools to keep control of their Muslim immigrants:

Full speed ahead as police take it easy

It's one of the busiest times of the year on Sweden's roads, but this summer there could be no traffic police on duty in many parts of Sweden, as too many police have taken holiday at the same time. According to Swedish Radio (SR), police forces in many Swedish counties are completely abandoning traffic duty in the period following Midsummer.

How high is total Swedish unemployment?

This might not seem like a difficult question. After all, the unemployment number is readily available. It takes a few seconds to check up the American unemployment number, 5.1% in May. Not so with Sweden. Yes, there is an official number, 5.2% in May 2005. But this figure is almost compleatly worthless. The true unemployment number is in fact closer to 20%, as shown below. Sweden has several massive government programs that contain must of the unemployed, chiefly Early Retirement, Sick Leave, Labor Market Programs and Welfare. In addition, since students get a monthly stipend and loan, many unemployed continue to study when they can’t find work. The right in Sweden has for some time complained about the government hiding the unemployment in ‘programs’. But the question only came to the public knowledge when LO, the immensely powerful blue-collar union had one of it’s own turn against them. Hans Karlsson, a leftwing heavyweight, concluded that true unemployment was more in the ballpark of 20-25%, not 5% as the government was claiming. To make things even worse this guy happened to have the name as the Minister for Labor!

Socialist MPs Leaving Sinking Swedish Ship?

Are Swedish Socialists leaving the sinking ship they helped create? The decline in popularity for the left-wing in Sweden is in sharp contrast to Norway:

Over half of government's MPs could quit

Fewer than half the MPs in Sweden's ruling red-green coalition plan to stand for re-election, according to a new survey by Swedish Radio. Asked whether they would consider standing at the next election, fewer than half of MPs in the Social Democratic, Green and Left parties answered in the affirmative. Of 144 Social Democrat deputies, only 67 said that they definitely intended stand in the 2006 election. Eighteen said that they did not intend to stand, with 31 MPs currently uncertain. Twenty-eight did not respond to SR's question. This contrasts with the attitude of MPs in the right-wing alliance, which is currently riding high in opinion polls. Forty-two Moderate Party deputies said they planned to stand next year, with only six planning to stand down.

Support for government at new low

Swedish voter support for the Social Democratic government of Prime Minister Göran Persson is at a low, an opinion poll published on Saturday showed, some 15 months ahead of the country's general election.

Moderates ahead of Social Democrats in poll

Sweden's Social Democrats, which have governed Sweden for the better part of the past 70 years, are no longer the country's biggest party, overtaken by the Moderate Party, a poll showed on Thursday. This is the first time in almost eight years that a major polling institute has put the Moderates, the leading opposition party, ahead of Prime Minister Göran Persson's Social Democrats. The Temo poll, which surveyed 2,571 people June 7-21, shows that 31.7 percent of those questioned would vote for the Moderates if an election were held today, compared to 30.8 percent for the Social Democrats. Sweden's next legislative elections are scheduled for September next year. A number of polls have in recent months shown that support is greater for the centre-right coalition, comprising the Moderates, Center, Liberal and Christian Democrat parties, than for the left-wing bloc.

India-US tango becomes more intimate

WHEN Nicholas Burns, Under Secretary for Political Affairs in the US State Department, visited India last week, Indians had the barely suppressed excitement of a suitor waiting for an "I do" from a comely bride. This was because Burns discussed the US approach to India’s candidacy for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council. India’s ambitions took a step closer to reality after the US let it be known that it wants only two more new permanent members besides, of course, Japan, and wants to freeze the membership when it comes to the likes of Germany. India thinks, for valid reasons, that it fits the bill for having "a flourishing democracy" as described by none other than President George W. Bush, and has been involved with the UN right from the beginning, particularly two score peacekeeping operations across the world. What has really mattered — and most Indians, barring the leftist ideologues and those still living in the Cold War era, accept this — is that the US has come to recognise India as a regional power. Not only that, the US has come to depend upon its solidarity and support on a number of issues. This is, of course, because American national interests coincide with India’s on many counts.

Brain pacemaker could ease severe depression

Patients suffering from severe depression who have not responded to other treatments may be helped by deep brain stimulation, researchers said on Monday. The treatment, which is like a pacemaker for the brain, uses electrodes implanted in the brain to switch off or interrupt electrical circuits linked to depression. In four out of six patients who failed on all other treatments, deep brain stimulation relieved their depression. "Patients would experience an immediate shutdown of a negative state," Dr Helen Mayberg, a neurologist at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia told a news conference. The technique was developed for Parkinson's disease patients but Mayberg and her colleagues have adapted it for patients with severe depression. Using brain-imaging techniques, the scientists implanted electrodes deep into an area of the brain that they had linked to depression while the patients were under a local anaesthetic. As their brains were stimulated, the patients, who were awake, were told to explain what they were feeling. They described a sense of calmness or easiness. There were no side effects, according to the researcher.

Tsunami aid 'went to the richest'

Six months after the Asian tsunami, a leading international charity says the poorest victims have benefited the least from the massive relief effort. A survey by Oxfam found that aid had tended to go to businesses and landowners, exacerbating the divide between rich and poor. The poor were likely to spend much longer in refugee camps where it is harder to find work or rebuild lives. The survey points to the marginalisation of dalits - outcasts in India - and specific problems in Sri Lanka where aid has gone to businesses and landowners rather than the landless. This poverty gap is worst in Aceh, the Indonesian province which was the most badly affected area, already impoverished by conflict before the tsunami hit. Half a million survivors were homeless. Yet the wealthier among them have already been able to move out of temporary camps. Another survey by a group of British academics monitoring the delivery of aid has found that, six months on, there is little evidence of permanent accommodation being built for most people.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Into the Woods

Economics and declining birthrates are pushing large swaths of Europe back to their primeval state, with wolves taking the place of people. Germans are getting used to a new kind of immigrant. In 1998, a pack of wolves crossed the shallow Neisse River on the Polish-German border. In the empty landscape of Eastern Saxony, the wolves found plenty of deer and rarely encountered humans. They multiplied so quickly that a second pack has since split off. Soon, says local wildlife biologist Gesa Kluth, a third pack will likely form, possibly heading northward in the direction of Berlin. Wolves returning to the heart of Europe? A hundred years ago, a burgeoning, land-hungry population killed off the last of Germany's wolves. Today, it's the local humans whose numbers are under threat. "Big parts of Europe will renaturalize," says Reiner Klingholz, head of the Berlin Institute for Population Development. Once the baby boomers start dying out around 2020, population will start to decline so sharply in many European countries that there simply won't be enough people for every town to reinvent itself as an exurbanite enclave or tourist resort. It's similarly unclear how long current government policies can stave off the inevitable.

NASA tries to hit, photograph comet

The game plan for a first-of-its-kind space mission called Deep Impact unfolds like a cosmic billiards match. Early July 4, the NASA spacecraft will attempt to smack into the heart of a distant comet, Tempel 1. Scientists think the blow could open a crater as large as a football stadium and as deep as a 14-story building. With the observations by a companion spacecraft of the crater and the debris that is tossed out, astronomers expect to learn more about how the solar system formed 4.6 billion years ago. Tempel 1 is one of the millions of comets that swirl through the distant reaches of the solar system. Occasionally visible in the night sky of the Earth, comets are collections of the ancient ice and dust particles that provided brick and mortar for the assembly of the sun and planets, theorists think. What's more, the bombardment of the Earth by comets for hundreds of millions of years after the construction drew to a close may have delivered the abundant water that filled the oceans as well as the chemical precursors for life, some say. If the $333 million mission is successful, the collision will allow scientists to observe and characterize the chemical makeup of the primordial building blocks that have been preserved inside comets for billions of years.

Is China a Fascist State?

Is China a Fascist state? I've heard several observers compare China now to European Fascist states in the 1920s and 1930s:

Chinese dragon awakens

China's economy has been growing at a rate of at least 10 percent for each of the past 10 years, providing the country's military with the needed funds for modernization. The combination of a vibrant centralized economy, growing military and increasingly fervent nationalism has transformed China into what many defense officials view as a fascist state. "We may be seeing in China the first true fascist society on the model of Nazi Germany, where you have this incredible resource base in a commercial economy with strong nationalism, which the military was able to reach into and ramp up incredible production," a senior defense official said. For Pentagon officials, alarm bells have been going off for the past two years as China's military began rapidly building and buying new troop- and weapon-carrying ships and submarines. The release of an official Chinese government report in December called the situation on the Taiwan Strait "grim" and said the country's military could "crush" Taiwan. "The China military buildup has been accelerating since 1999. As the buildup has gotten worse, China is trying hard to mask it."

China throws down gauntlet to USA Inc

China is also a major holder of US debt. Put simply, the US is in hock to the Chinese to such an extent that if all the bills were called in at once, Uncle Sam would be bust. It's not in China's interests to destabilise the world economy at the moment, but circumstances change. Beijing might just like to keep that card - a financial nuclear option - up its sleeve for some future geopolitical crisis.

Disagreement over forced marriages

Forced marriages in Norway are more common than our authorities would like to admit:

Disagreement over forced marriages

Norwegian and Pakistani authorities have still failed to agree on measures to prevent forced marriages, despite the fact that the Government in 2001 stated that an agreement had been reached, and that only formalities remained. In 2001 Norway and Pakistan agreed to cooperate closely to prevent forced marriages. However, after four years and one change of government, nothing has happened, public broadcaster NRK reports. Head of the Norwegian Resource Center for Women Immigrants and Refugees (MIRA), Fakhra Salimi, says politicians now must take more responsibility. She says the centre is working with an increasing number of cases in which young girls are involved. An agreement (between the two countries) could have prevented this, Fakhra Salimi says. The Department of Family Affairs says they are working with the problem, and states that in their opinion it is Pakistan that must take responsibility for the fact that it has taken so long to reach an agreement.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Where are Danish Political Blogs in English?

Both in Norway and in Sweden, you can find a small selection, or at least a handful, of decent political blogs writing in English. Strangely enough, I haven't found too many from Denmark. Enough! is the only one I know of. I find this a bit odd, since Danes have many excellent blogs in Danish. It is also sad, given the fact that tiny Denmark is probably the one Western nation with the most open and mainstream debate about issues related to Islam and Muslim immigration. Now that the Copenhagen Post has decided to close its archives to non-paying visitors, it makes it more difficult for non-Scandinavians to follow the developments there. I know that translating articles to English takes time, but what about some collaboration? Can for instance Uriasposten, Filtrat, En dansker i Sverige, Angantyr and Polemiken cooperate on a blog about Danish politics in English? Something similar to Stockhom Spectator from Sweden? It doesn't have to be updated every day. Even a couple of times a week would be valuable. If you have a small team of writers, this should limit the workload to a few posts a month. What do Danish readers here think about the idea?

French bureaucrats refuse to give up lavish free homes as economy wilts

The celebrated palace of Louis XIV at Versailles was once home to 20,000 artistocrats. Today, its illustrious apartments are inhabited rent-free by a new kind of nobility - lucky employees of the French Republic. The concept of "egalité" may be enshrined in the French constitution but, when it comes to free housing, some are proving more equal than others. Staff at the chateau, who range from directors to gardeners and maintenance workers, are housed in 200 coveted "grace-and-favour" apartments. Almost 200,000 politicians, civil servants and public sector workers benefit from free or low-rent accommodation in France. The perk is estimated to cost French taxpayers more than a billion euros a year and millions more in undeclared taxes, and it has become the focus of increasing public outrage. The uses and abuses of grace-and-favour accommodation were highlighted in February, when Hervé Gaymard, the finance minister in President Jacques Chirac's right-of-centre government, moved his wife and eight children into a £9,800-a-month flat paid for by public funds. Mr Gaymard was forced to resign after it was revealed that he also owned a number of properties, including a flat in Paris that was rented to a friend.

Hugh Fitzgerald: Countering the Jihad

Jihad Watch Board Vice President Hugh Fitzgerald on how to find a solution to our current problems:

Hugh Fitzgerald: Countering the Jihad

Counter-Jihad: as the Americans during the Cold War paid for Encounter magazine, or for special publishing houses that produced emigre Russian literature (Editions de la Seine, for example), and subsidized Die Monat and other publications, they can do the same today. Where is the American money that will subsidize publication of various studies of Islam by the greatest scholars of the past, who did not mince words? Who will subsidize mass printing and distribution of books by Henri Lammens, or Snouck Hurgronje, or W.R.W. Gairdner, or K. S. Lal, or Bat Y'eor, or Zwemer or Muir or a hundred others? Who will establish, with secret funds, broadcasting stations where apostates from Islam, defectors from Islam, can tell the stories of why they left Islam, and tell those stories not only in English, but in Farsi, or in Urdu, or even in Arabic? And if the government simply cannot do this (out of a crazy, and self-defeating fear), even by presenting these speakers as figures of note, who deserve a hearing, and not as anti-Jihad propaganda, then what large foundations, what discerning rich, will step into the breach, if for no other reason than to an ensure that their own children have some kind of future?

Danish forces in Iraq bombed

Denmark recently decided that their troops will remain in Iraq until 2006. A Danish Socialist organization has earlier voiced support for attacks against their own troops:

Danish forces in Iraq bombed

Danish troops in Iraq were bombed twice on Friday, the Army Operational Command announced. No one was hurt in the attacks, but two military vehicles were damaged. National radio news channel DR reported that the first bomb had been placed tight up to a road 30 kilometres north of the Danish headquarters in Basra, exploding as a military column passed by on Friday morning. The bomb destroyed a lorry. Around one hour later a patrol dispatched to protect the remains of the lorry was attacked with another bomb, three kilometres away from the site of the first bombing. According to the Army Operational Command, the Danish force received help from British experts to close off the bombing areas to find out which kind of explosives or ammunition were used to make the bombs.

Become more macho or risk your extinction, men told

British men are being told to be alert to a condition that could "put them on the fast track to extinction". Symptoms of the "illness" that has been dubbed "mantropy" include a penchant for pedicures, fruit smoothies and small dogs. American Maxim, one of the biggest-selling men's magazines in the world, has defined mantropy as "a silent killer which strikes men in the prime of life". The magazine has been urging American men to be macho rather than manicured and to indulge their passion for cars rather than clothes. The campaign coincides with research that shows that men and women are being increasingly turned off by media images of well-groomed, feminine-looking men. More than three-quarters of men questioned as part of the Leo Burnett Man Study believed that images of men in advertising are out of touch with reality. Sixty per cent of the 2,000-strong sample said that their masculinity was defined by their status within the home and workplace, not by the way they looked. This research reinforces the findings of a poll published in April which found that 90 per cent of women preferred a man who was "low-maintenance and easy-going". The magazine's website says: "If you are male, you're at risk. Mantropy knows no social or economic boundaries, attacking men of all races and tax brackets without warning."

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Iran’s new President has a past mired in controversy

“Ahmadinejad? Who’s he?” This was the typical reaction of most Iranians a day after the first round of presidential elections in Iran, when they heard that the two candidates facing each other in the run-off were veteran politician Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and the little-known, ultra-conservative mayor of Tehran. Last week’s surprise was all forgotten by the much bigger shock on Friday, when Ahmadinejad defeated the former President in a landslide victory that consolidated power in the hands of the ruling Islamic clerics. In 1979, he became the representative of Elm-o Sanaat students in the Office for Strengthening of Unity Between Universities and Theological Seminaries. The OSU played a central role in the seizure of the United States embassy in Tehran in November 1979. Members of the OSU central council, who included Ahmadinejad as well as Ibrahim Asgharzadeh, Mohsen (Mahmoud) Mirdamadi, Mohsen Kadivar, Mohsen Aghajari, and Abbas Abdi, were regularly received by Khomeini himself. In 1986, Ahmadinejad became a senior officer in the Special Brigade of the Revolutionary Guards and was stationed in Ramazan Garrison near Kermanshah in western Iran. In Kermanshah, Ahmadinejad became involved in the clerical regime’s terrorist operations abroad.

Friday, June 24, 2005

One of the most humiliating moments of Oprah's life

I've heard rumors she was rejected because the French have so much trouble with North African immigrants:

One of the most humiliating moments of Oprah's life

French luxury store Hermes has apologised to American television celebrity Oprah Winfrey for turning her away from one of its Paris boutiques last week, saying when she came knocking the store was closed for a public relations event. The U.S. talk show host and "an entourage" unsuccessfully tried to enter a Hermes boutique on the posh Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honore. "People were in the store and they were shopping. Oprah was at the door and she was not allowed into the store," said Gayle King, a friend of Winfrey who witnessed the incident. "Oprah describes it herself as 'one of the most humiliating moments of her life.'" "She's really OK. Her position is, 'I will shop where people appreciate my business, and I don't believe that any longer includes Hermes,'" King said. Normal closing time is 6:30 p.m., though high-end shops are known to make exceptions for celebrities. On that particular night, however, ``a private public relations event was being prepared inside,'' the Hermes statement said. "Hermes regrets not having been able to welcome Madame Oprah Winfrey and the people accompanying her to give them all the attention and service that Hermes is committed to giving each of its clients in the world," said the statement released Tuesday.

Japanese robot guards to patrol shops and offices

Is this a response to the fact that the Japanese hardly produce any babies anymore? And where is the Terminator?

Japanese robot guards to patrol shops and offices

Burglars beware, robot guards are here. In an idea straight out of science fiction, robots could soon begin patrolling Japanese offices, shopping malls and banks to keep them safe from intruders. Equipped with a camera and sensors, the "Guardrobo D1", developed by Japanese security firm Sohgo Security Services Co. , is designed to patrol along pre-programmed paths and keep an eye out for signs of trouble. The 109-cm tall robot will alert human guards via radio and by sending camera footage if it detects intruders, fires, or even water leaks. Such robots are vital from a business standpoint when considering Japan's ageing population, Sohgo Security said. "In the near future, it is certain that securing young and capable manpower will become even more difficult ... and the security industry will feel the full brunt of the impact," the company said in a statement. Around one in five Japanese are now 65 or over and the proportion is expected to rise to one in three in 2040, according to government data. Sohgo Security is negotiating with several clients, and after an initial trial run hopes to begin offering a robot-assisted security system within a year, the company said. Pricing has yet to be decided.

"Schroeder Has Lost His Nerve"

It is good that Blair is pressing for genuine economic reforms of the EU. Europe sorely needs it. I just wish he could stop pushing Turkey's accession to the EU at the same time:

"Schroeder Has Lost His Nerve"

Schroeder has lost his nerve. The domestic reaction to his reform program and to some of his European Union policies has made him pull in his horns. He has said that Blair let him down by going too far. But Blair now feels that Schroeder no longer has the ability to break free of the kind of social model which Blair feels needs to be modified.

Why Turkey's EU Bid Could Hinge on Britain

The collapse of the European constitution has lent greater weight to the powerful opponents of Turkey's eventual membership in the European Union. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is frustrated by France and Germany, and increasingly Ankara believes that Tony Blair is their last hope for joining the club.

EU could ban washing instructions

Isn't it great to be European and see that the future of our continent is in such capable and strong hands? While Iran may soon have a president that has talked openly about nuking Israel and brags about Iranian missiles being within reach of Europe, Eurocrats are appeasing the mullahs and concentrating on the really big issues. Like banning washing instructions:

EU could ban washing instructions

We're told to always read the label, but if the EU gets its way, the label might not be all that useful in the future. Most clothes sold in Sweden contain labels with washing instructions, and eight out of ten Swedes say they find them useful. But the labels are now being viewed at the EU level as a hindrance to free trade. The source of the EU's displeasure is the agreement between the Swedish clothing industry body Teko and the Swedish Consumer Agency, under which most clothes made in Sweden or for the Swedish market contain washing instructions. When the organisations tried to renew the agreement, they were informed that it broke EU rules, as it was prejudicial to foreign clothes sold in Sweden that don't have the labels. The Swedish Consumer Agency is resisting any attempts to get rid of the labels, arguing that consumers find them useful. A poll commissioned by the agency from Temo showed that eight out of ten Swedes read the washing instructions before they wash new clothes, and six out of ten read them before they buy clothes. "We think that care instructions are even more important now than they were before," said Karin Lindell, director general of the Swedish Consumer Agency, "as our clothes contain much more complicated materials and fibres." "If the label gives only the name of the material, it can be difficult to decide how to wash and iron [the garment]", she added. Lindell added that without washing labels, it would be more difficult for people to return clothes that have lost shape or colour in the wash.

Blix: Iran Years From Nuclear Bomb-Making Capacity

Former chief UN weapons inspector in Iraq, Hans Blix, says Iran is years away from achieving a nuclear capacity sufficient to create a bomb. The United States and the European Union have repeatedly urged Iran to freeze uranium enrichment and reprocessing amid worries that Tehran is seeking to acquire nuclear weapons. Tehran claims its nuclear program is for civilian use only. Blix also told Swedish Radio news that concerns over Iran’s first nuclear power station are exaggerated, pointing out that while the shell of the plant is high-tech, it is filled with low-grade nuclear technology, ”It’s like putting the motor of a Lada in a Mercedes car,” he joked. Meanwhile he said, ”What is uncomfortable and dangerous is that they have acquired the capacity to enrich uranium out of their own uranium that they dig out of the ground,” adding that it is hard to trust Tehran’s claims that it will only enrich uranium to levels required for civil purposes. Hans Blix currently heads an independent, international commission on weapons of mass destruction working on finding ways of limiting the spread of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons as well as on ways of disarming countries that already have such weapons.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Murdered in name of family honour

Maher Shakirat summoned three of his sisters to discuss a family uproar after one of them, Rudaina, was thrown out by her husband for an alleged affair. Then he forced the three women to drink bleach before strangling Rudaina. The other sisters tried to flee but Maher caught and strangled Amani, 20. The third, Leila, escaped but was badly injured by the bleach. The murders were the latest in a series of brutal "honour killings" that have shaken the Palestinian community over recent weeks. The deaths have prompted demands for a change to laws that deem all women to be "minors" under the authority of male relatives. But those calls have met with resistance in parliament where religious Palestinian MPs argue that reform will lead to a collapse in the moral fabric of society. "Men feel they have lost their dignity and that they can somehow restore it by upholding the family's honour. We've noticed recent cases are much more violent in nature; attempts to kill, rape, incest. There is an incredible amount of incest." Amira Abu Hanhan Qaoud murdered her daughter, Rafayda, because she became pregnant after being raped by two of her brothers. "My daughter fell over and broke her knee. I took her to hospital and there the doctor told me she was pregnant. So I killed her. It's as simple as that," said Mrs Qaoud on her doorstep in Ramallah. Mrs Qaoud waited until the baby was born and given up for adoption. Then she presented her 22 year-old daughter with a razor blade and told her to slash her wrists. She refused so her mother pulled a plastic bag over her head, sliced her wrists and beat her head with a stick.

Danish People's Party wants loot back from Sweden

They may not measure up to the Rosetta Stone, but Queen Margrethe I's wedding gown and Frederik II's tapestry are doing their best to spark a diplomatic crisis between Denmark and Sweden. The Danish People's Party (DF) demands that the government copy Egyptian efforts to recover its priceless treasures from Great Britain and put pressure on Sweden to return some items Swedish armies looted from the Danish crown in the past. 'All over the world countries have started an enormous effort to exchange the so-called civilian war spoils,' Espersen said. Culture Minister Brian Mikkelsen has previously said that the minority Liberal-Conservative government, which relies on DF for support in parliament, had no intention of demanding the treasures back from Sweden. The government also considers war spoils from northern Germany as part of Denmark's cultural legacy. DF has set its sights on Frederik II's tapestry, the Neptune Fountain, and the 13th century first edition of the Law of Jutland, all looted from Helsingør's Kronborg castle during the Karl Gustav Wars in 1557-1560, as well as the golden wedding gown of Margrethe I, who ruled the entire Nordic region around 1400.

Indian MPs Urge Job Reservation for Muslims

A continuation of this case:

Indian MPs Urge Job Reservation for Muslims

Indian lawmakers called on the government of the western state of Maharashtra to reserve jobs for the Muslim minority, a leading Indian newspaper reported Tuesday, June 21. "If the Andhra Pradesh (AP) government can legally provide for reservations for Muslims, I see no reason why a similar facility cannot be given to the community in Maharashtra," Akhtar Rizvi, the secretary general of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), was quoted as saying by The Times of India. The government in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh decided on Friday, June 17, to reserve 5% of jobs in education and government for Muslims. Rizvi said job reservation for Muslims in Maharashtra will help, to a certain extent, lower the towering rates of poverty and unemployment among the minority. The MP stressed that he will raise the issue with the NCP leader and Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar before tabling it at a meeting of the party office-bearers, due in Delhi soon. There are nearly 10 million Muslims in Maharashtra out of a total population of 95 million.

London needs 2,000 more Muslim police -- Commissioner

London needs another 2,000 Muslim police officers, Britain's most senior police officer said Thursday. London Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair also defended the rise in stop and search of Muslim suspects and said they would continue. In an interview with the "Muslim News" newspaper, Sir Ian said "What I really need is more Muslim police officers. "We've got 200 to 300 members in the Muslim Police Association. I want as many as I can get. "If something like one-in-nine Londoners is a Muslim than I want one-in-nine police officers to be a Muslim. Which means we are currently 2,000 short." Figures released last February showed that the number of searches under the UK Terrorism Act 2000 rose 36 percent to 29,400 in 2003/04. Of these, 12.5 percent involved Asians, even though they make up just 4.7 percent of the population in England and Wales. Sir Ian said "The percentages are actually involving numbers less than 10 people a day out of a Muslim population of 700,000 and a million in London. He said "The intelligence reports that I see and my colleagues and security services see tell us that there is a credible threat." Earlier this year his predecessor Sir John Stevens claimed there are possibly more than 200 al Qaida-trained terrorists walking the streets of Britain. Sir Ian said "the jury is out" on whether his officers would start to record the religion of stop and search suspects. "It's an ongoing debate. I'm not persuaded, this seems a very intrusive question to me".

A taste of summer

Bergen's harbor remains a pretty site, even when it's raining.

The Oslo Fjord.

From Aftenposten's picture series.

Women "don't face wage discrimination"

Swedish companies do not systematically discriminate against women when setting wage levels, according to a new survey by Svenskt Näringsliv, the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise. The difference between men and women's pay was generally explained by factors such as age, job, education and choice of company rather than by any automatic discrimination by employers, Svenskt Näringsliv argued. The overall average wage difference between men and women was 4.8 percent. This contrasts with the assertion made frequently in the Swedish debate that men are paid 15-20 percent more than women. But the Feminist Initiative's Anna Jutterdal said that while she was encouraged to hear that the wage differential might not be as high as previously thought, a difference of nearly five percent "is still too high". The organisation also argued that the fact that more women are studying at university, and that more of them are choosing subjects that are attractive to industry, means that the gap could narrow in the coming years. The report provided some support for the claim that jobs favoured by women tended to be less well paid.

Defence Lawyer Says Saddam Can Never be Tried

One of the lawyers defending Saddam Hussein has said there is no way the former Iraqi dictator can ever be tried because he has sovereign immunity as head of state, and should be released as soon as possible to a safe third country, possibly Sweden. Anglo-Italian legal representative Giovanni Di Stefano says Saddam’s treatment is in flagrant breach of the Iraqi Special Tribunal’s own statute. “It is 523 days that His Excellency President Saddam Hussein is in custody, and to all intents and purposes it is unlawful” he told Rome’s Foreign Press Club on Tuesday. ”The president and members of the Revolutionary Council all have sovereign immunity,” Di Stefano argued, “even if they are mass murderers”. Di Stefano, who said he was also in close contact with Saddam’s family, said he had made a submission to the then Iraqi government last September on these grounds. He said it was a matter of ‘their own law’, referring to the statute “which cost 80 million dollars of tax payers money to write.” The difference between the Iraqi leader and former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic was that sovereign immunity had been wiped off the post-Tito Serbian constitution, and Milosevic, unlike Saddam, is being tried by an international tribunal.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

'Dumb And Dumber' To Plead Guilty In Bank Robbery

A teenager pleaded guilty Wednesday to a bumbling bank robbery in Vail that left behind a trail of cash and so many other clues that he and a friend were jailed the next day Federal authorities accused the pair of robbing the WestStar Bank on March 21 of $132,000 while wearing badges similar to ones worn by staff at the ski shop where both men worked. Vail ski resort employees told police that Carroll and Prince used their ski passes to board a chair lift about one-quarter mile from the bank within minutes of the robbery. The next day, they drove 120 miles to Denver International Airport and tried to buy one-way tickets to Mexico, authorities said. A police officer recognized them from an FBI flyer and from their distinctive accents and arrested them. Investigators later found about $26,000 in a backpack in a trash can in an airport parking garage, and Carroll was carrying about $7,600 when he was arrested, according to an FBI affidavit. A man who lives near the bank found $1,000 in $1 bills on his property shortly after the robbery. The Australian press dubbed Carroll and Prince "Dumb and Dumber."

Sweden: "Please Give Us More War Criminals"

Apparently, the 1000 they have now aren't enough. Swedish prisons have suffered a series of embarrassing leakages in recent years, and a riot only a few days ago. These are people the Swedish police bothered to arrest in the first place, of course. Frankly, Norway isn't much better, either:

Sweden willing to imprison more war criminals

Sweden is willing to receive more war criminals from the former Yugoslavia, but would not consider detaining Saddam Hussein in its prisons, Justice Minister Thomas Bodström has said. In an interview with Sydsvenska Dagbladet, Bodström said that discussions were underway about how Sweden could take in more of those convicted of war crimes at the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague. One high-profile war criminal already serving a sentence in Sweden is Biljana Plavsic, the former Bosnian-Serb president. Plavsic was sentenced to eleven years imprisonment by the court, and chose to come to Sweden to serve her time. The war crimes tribunal has indicted 120 people, of which 37 have so far been convicted. Bodström said that Sweden had a duty to take in more prisoners. "The system fails if countries such as Sweden, which has pressed hard to create an international court, don't take in convicted war criminals." The former Iraqi president, Saddam Hussein, has also reportedly expressed an interest in serving his sentence in Sweden. Saddam favoured Sweden because it was just and subject to the rule of law, reports Dagens Nyheter. But Bodström said that Sweden "is not the right country" to take in such a person. He argued that a larger country that could better guarantee security would be preferable. The decision of the Iraqi government to try the former president in Baghdad rather than allow him to be tried in the Hague now makes it unlikely that the Swedish government will need to make a formal decision on whether to accept him into a Swedish jail.

China's Looming Threat

Are we funding our own enemies? Both through buying oil from the Saudis and fueling China's growth? If so, what can we do about it?

China's Looming Threat

In China: The Gathering Threat, Menges advocates an immediate end to trade deficits with China to bolster American industry and to aid democratic allies whose economies are also being ravaged in competition with Chinese exports. The gains from trade should be shared between countries who have compatible interests and values; not used to increase the capabilities of rivals. Such a change in U.S. trade policy would also dramatically slow the Chinese economy and discredit the Beijing dictatorship, opening the door for democratic reformers to make their case that China can only progress if it adopts a liberating system of popular government. Menges does not want to fight a war with China, but to promote change in Beijing before the regime thinks it is powerful enough to risk a war. Rapid economic growth under a dictatorship that views the United States as its "main enemy" poses a threat even more potent than the Soviets. Many in the West have naively hoped that this alone would bring about political reform and an eventual move towards democracy. But what has actually transpired is the movement of Beijing from communism to fascism----the use of capitalist energy to fuel the ambitions of a tyrannical government.

The Cold War strategy of containment was based on cutting Moscow off from outside sources of capital, technology and trade until the system collapsed. In stark contrast, China has benefitted from a flood of outside support. Since 1993, the United States alone has given China some $800 billion in hard currency from its expanding trade deficit. The 2005 deficit will likely give Beijing $200 billion more, putting the cumulative total of wealth transferred from America to China at over a trillion dollars. Add to that the surpluses China has run with Europe and Japan, plus foreign investment, World Bank loans and technology transfers, and it is clear that transnational entities are primarily responsible for the rise of Beijing's power. And here is where democracy cuts both ways. Corporate lobbyists work very hard to prevent the U.S. government from taking action to contain or deter Beijing. Chinese strategists assume, writes Menges, "that all private businessmen are self-interested and self-seeking and that they do not consider or care about the broader national or geopolitical consequences of their actions" and that the transnational corporations "will continue to help China accomplish its purposes in the years ahead." It is imperative that in Washington "government officials, not businessmen, decide what is in the broader national interest of the United States." But how to wean politicians from corporate influence (and money) is not an easy task.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Stalin's Blindness

Stalin's Blindness

WHAT WAS JOSEPH STALIN THINKING when he allied himself with Adolf Hitler for nearly two years at the beginning of World War II? Historians have grappled with these questions ever since foreign ministers Joachim von Ribbentrop and Vyacheslav Molotov signed the infamous Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact on August 23, 1939, and the subsequent German attack on the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941. The German invasion blindsided Stalin and came closer than most people realize to achieving its aim of inflicting a swift, mortal blow to his country. In What Stalin Knew, David E. Murphy, a former CIA agent provides the most thorough answers to date. The Soviet leader was enthusiastic about dividing the spoils of Poland and the Baltic states. And, most tellingly, he slipped quite comfortably into the role of defending Germany and vilifying the British and the French. Murphy offers the first English translation of a speech Stalin allegedly made on August 19, 1939, right before formalizing his agreement with Hitler. In it, he argued that if the West defeated Germany in a long war, that country would be ripe for Sovietization; but if Germany won in a long war, it would be too exhausted to threaten the Soviet Union, and a Communist takeover would be likely in France. Hence a win-win situation for the Soviet Union, and his conclusion that "one must do everything to ensure that the war lasts as long as possible in order to exhaust both sides." Discussing the war "between two groups of capitalist countries, he asserted: "We see nothing wrong in their having a good fight and weakening each other." From Berlin, a source code-named Ariets reported on September 29, 1940, that Hitler intended to "resolve problems in the east in the spring of next year." Stalin reacted by ridding himself of Ivan Proskurov, the head of military intelligence who had consistently refused to buckle to his pressure to deliver better news. Murphy's book should put to rest the myth that Stalin was the brilliant savior of his country. Before he saved it, he almost destroyed it, when he had every opportunity to prepare his troops for the worst and at least limit their losses. In the end, 27 million Soviet citizens perished during "The Great Patriotic War."

Why didn't Hitler use WMD's?

The Allies were already baying for his blood; and that of his top cronies, so on that score he didn’t have much to lose. As for fearing that they (WMD’s) would have been used against his own forces and population centres, that doesn’t seem to wash either. He doesn’t exactly have a reputation for overly protective for either his fighting men, nor of the suffering of his civilian population. So the question remains why didn’t he use them? There were a few times when they could have been battle winners; especially during sieges. Like Leningrad,, Stalingrad (the early stages) and Sevastapol. The troops tied up there could most certainly have been put to a better use elsewhere. The one explanation that I have come across was that it was personal phobia with him. Albert Speer in his memoirs "Inside the Third Reich" writes that Hitler drew a line. No gas warfare as he had personally experienced the gas attack in WW-1.

What Europe Really Needs

With thanks to Angantyrs hjørne:

What Europe Really Needs

For an entire generation, the EU has created a totalitarian monster of its own, spewing out regulations literally by the million and invading every corner of economic and social life. The results have been dire: An immense bureaucracy in Brussels, each department of which is cloned in all the member capitals. Above all, règlementation of national economies on a totalitarian scale. Hence it is not surprising that Europe, which grew rapidly in the 1960s and 1970s, before the EU got going, has slowly lost pace since Brussels took over its direction. Short working hours and huge social security costs that have produced high unemployment, over 10% in France and higher in Germany than at any time since the Great Depression which brought Hitler to power. It is natural that high and chronic unemployment generates a depressive anger which finds many expressions. One, in Europe today, is anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism. Another is exceptionally low birthrates, lower in Europe than anywhere else in the world except Japan. If present trends continue, the population of Europe will be less than the United States by midcentury. Europe has turned its back not only on the U.S. and the future of capitalism, but also on its own historic past. Europe was essentially a creation of the marriage between Greco-Roman culture and Christianity. Brussels has, in effect, repudiated both. There was no mention of Europe's Christian origins in the ill-fated Constitution, and Europe's Strasbourg Parliament has insisted that a practicing Catholic cannot hold office as the EU Justice Commissioner. In short, the EU is not a living body, with a mind and spirit and animating soul. And unless it finds such nonmaterial but essential dimensions, it will soon be a dead body, the symbolic corpse of a dying continent.

Danish TV News to be Investigated for Alleged Political Bias

I've seen several Danish blogs exposing what to me appears to be rather blatant examples of leftist bias in the news coverage in Denmark. Opinions polls in Norway have confirmed that about 70 % of the journalists support Socialist parties, including hard-left ones. Bear in mind that even some centrist or "conservative" parties by Scandinavian standards would probably be Democrats in the USA. Which means that 80 - 90 % of Norwegian journalists would be Democrats. This is bound to have an effect on our news coverage:

DR and TV2-s news to be investigated

The government and Danish People’s Party (DF) want to have DR and TV2 investigated to check whether the two public service stations fulfil requirements on impartiality and objectivity in their news coverage. The Liberal-Conservative coalition and DF have set aside 5 million kroner from surplus TV license fees towards an independent research project which will investigate and evaluate whether the two stations’ comply with public service obligations. Culture Minister, Brian Mikkelsen, told newspaper Jyllands-Posten that the investigation is important because the stations dominate the market but denied that the research will be conducted from a political angle.

Hagen won't back Bondevik

Hagen won't back Bondevik

Carl I Hagen, long a force to be reckoned with in Norwegian politics, said Monday his Progress Party won't support a new non-socialist government if Kjell Magne Bondevik re-emerges as its prime minister. Party officials in Bondevik's current coalition government, clearly hoping the voters will let them continue, are fuming. Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik, who enjoys little support among the general population in Norway, was in Moscow on Monday when Hagen launched what Solberg called an "attack." "Unreasonable and naughty," scoffed Erna Solberg, leader of the Conservative Party, the one some see as most logical to team up with Hagen's generally even more conservative party after the election. Solberg, however, has publicly rebuffed attempts to get the two parties together. It remains a big question just who will govern Norway after the national election on September 12. The most likely socialist- and non-socialist coalitions, with Labour and the Socialist Left on the one side and the current Bondevik-led coalition on the other, appear to be running neck and neck. Party constellations can change dramatically, however, and Hagen's populist Progress Party will play a major role in who finally wins power. That's because his party currently ranks as the second-largest in the country.

Hagen: The end of Bondevik

The leader of the right-wing Progress Party, Carl I.Hagen, on Monday said that his party would not support a new non-socialist government under Kjell Magne Bondevik as prime minister, following the upcoming elections. The reason for this, Hagen said was Bondevik's refusal to enter into a closer cooperation with the Progress Party. -Kjell Magne Bondevik is therefore the foremost obstacle to a more formalized cooperation on the non-socialist front, Hagen said. Leaders of the three parties in Bondevik's current coalition government all denounced what they termed a personal attack by Hagen on the Prime Minister.

Christian Democrats unpopular

A new poll of Aftenposten's voter panel reveals that Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik's Christian Democrat Party is increasingly unpopular, and is only surpassed by the populist Progress Party in sparking negative reactions.

Socialist alliance still eyes majority in Norway polls

A new political poll shows continuing chances for a new majority coalition of the Labor, Socialist Left (SV) and Center parties at the next national elections, while current government partners have little to cheer about.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Swedish Imams Crave for Govt. Support

Scandinavian imams are "helping the process of integration" in various ways. Notice they need imams in prison because there are many Muslims in jail, just like in France:

Swedish Imams Crave for Govt. Support

Swedish imams have went public with calls for the government to teat them on equal footing with priests in terms of financial assistance and salaries. The demand highlights the miserable living conditions Muslim preachers suffer, forcing them to take up jobs unsuitable for their religious status, to say the least. "The government should allocate salaries to imams, as it does with priests," Ammar Abdous, chairman of the imams' committee in northern Sweden, told "The government should realize that imams play a major role in helping the process of integration, solving family problems for the Muslim minority and guiding the youth to steer clear of drugs and crime," he stressed. Abdous added that imams are also assigned to visit jails and detention camps to attend to the spiritual needs of Muslim prisoners. "Thus, the imams should not be forced to seek other jobs to financially support themselves because is a waste of their time and effort." Sweden has a 350,000-strong Muslim minority, many of them are Iraqi and Iranian Kurds asylum-seekers.

TV show depicts 9/11 as Bush plot

With thanks to Uriasposten:

TV show depicts 9/11 as Bush plot

A fictional crime drama based on the premise that the Bush administration ordered the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Washington aired this week on German state television, prompting the Green Party chairman to call for an investigation. Sunday night's episode of "Tatort," a popular murder mystery that has been running on state-run ARD-German television for 35 years, revolved around a German woman and a man who was killed in her apartment. According to the plot, which was seen by approximately 7 million Germans, the dead man had been trained to be one of the September 11 pilots but was left behind, only to be tracked down and killed by CIA or FBI assassins. The woman, who says in the program that the September 11 attacks were instigated by the Bush family for oil and power, then is targeted, presumably to silence her. The drama concludes with the German detectives accepting the truth of her story as she eludes the U.S. government hit men and escapes to safety in an unnamed Arab country. Many Germans think that the 1969 moon landing was faked, and a poll published in the weekly Die Zeit showed that 31 percent of Germans younger than 30 "think that there is a certain possibility that the U.S. government ordered the attacks of 9/11." In fact, three of the hijackers who seized control of commercial airlines on September 11, 2001, including the ringleader, Mohamed Atta, purportedly had ties to a Hamburg, Germany-based al Qaeda cell.

New model 'permits time travel'

If you went back in time and met your teenage parents, you could not split them up and prevent your birth - even if you wanted to, a new quantum model has stated. Researchers speculate that time travel can occur within a kind of feedback loop where backwards movement is possible, but only in a way that is "complementary" to the present. In other words, you can pop back in time and have a look around, but you cannot do anything that will alter the present you left behind. The new model, which uses the laws of quantum mechanics, gets rid of the famous paradox surrounding time travel. Although the laws of physics seem to permit temporal gymnastics, the concept is laden with uncomfortable contradictions. The main headache stems from the idea that if you went back in time you could, theoretically, do something to change the present; and that possibility messes up the whole theory of time travel. Clearly, the present never is changed by mischievous time-travellers: people don't suddenly fade into the ether because a rerun of events has prevented their births - that much is obvious. So either time travel is not possible, or something is actually acting to prevent any backward movement from changing the present.

Denmark: Every other immigrant unfit for work

Every other immigrant from the Third World lacks the qualifications for even the most menial jobs on the organised Danish labour market, a new study finds. Daily newspaper Politiken reported on Monday that an unreleased study from the Rockwool Foundation Research Unit, a privately funded social and economic research institution, revealed that immigrants were worse off than previously thought. 'The new figures indicate that up to half the group will have problems handling a job corresponding to the minimum wage of unskilled labourers,' said the unit's research chief Torben Tranæs. 'If you look at the immigrant population, lack of qualifications will be an enormous problem.' The news came only days after the government agreed with ally Danish People's Party and opposition Social Democrats on concrete integration goals for immigrants. Social democratic ally the Radical Liberals abandoned negotiations in protest over benefit cuts. The agreement included an investment of DKK 580 million in finding jobs for 10,000 more immigrants. The central elements of the plan are a so-called integration contract, which ensures that immigrants who do not make an active effort to learn Danish and find employment can have financial benefits withdrawn. Moreover, the plan would punish parents of youngsters who show criminal tendencies by removing child benefit payments. But chairman of a social and labour market committee for the National Organisation of Local Governments, Vagn Ry Nielsen, said he agreed with Tranæs that immigrants might turn out to lack the qualifications to live up to the government's demands. 'Most of them haven't got the qualifications that the labour market is looking for,' he said. 'And they're competing with 150,000 more on the fringes of the labour market.'

Tranæs said previous studies confirmed that immigrants needed qualifications, not motivation, to find work, as many of them preferred low-income jobs to social benefit payments. 'Up to 40 percent work, even if they gain nothing from it economically. It indicates a strong wish for integration. For Danes, the corresponding figures are 10-12 percent. If immigrants had the same attitude, a lot fewer would be employed.' Social Democratic integration spokesman Anne-Marie Meldgaard defended the integration agreement by pointing out that benefit recipients had time to prepare for the changes. 'They have two years to get the qualifications,' she said. 'And you don't need a lot of training to pick strawberries or wash dishes. If you can't do that, it's because you don't want to.' Immigration-sceptic Danish People's Party was pleased that immigrants would be given concrete goals and consequences. 'We are satisfied that we had our two main demands met. Namely that it will have consequences in the form of deportation, and that we'll implement a contract immigrants will have to draw up with society, so it's not just a smorgasbord of public assistance,' said People's Party immigration spokesman Peter Skaarup.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

70 percent of French prisoners are Muslims

French prisons are teeming with Muslims, a phenomenon chaplains and sociologists blame on marginalization and towering poverty and unemployment rates among the Muslim minority. “It really harms the image of Islam and Muslims in France that prisons are teeming with Muslims,” Mamdo Sango, a Muslim chaplain, told Iranian-French researcher Farhad Khosrokhavar said in his recently published book Islam in Prisons that Muslims make up some 70 percent of a total of 60,775 prisoners in France. As ethnicity-based censuses are banned in France, he said complexion, names and religious traditions like prohibition of pork indicate that Muslims constitute an overwhelming majority in prisons. French analysts further warned that prisons might be a breeding ground for extremists. Prison authorities have even become phobic about rising fanaticism in prisons to the extent that they sometimes deny Muslim prisoners the right to have prayer rugs.

France warns against EU break-up

France warns against EU break-up

FRENCH European Affairs Minister Catherine Colonna has warned EU countries tempted to go it alone after the latest crisis summit to seek a consensus rather than a break-up of the 25-nation bloc. She saw the crisis in Europe as "primarily coming from a weakening of the European spirit". "Some have kept their national egos, while it is only the European spirit that enables one to find the solutions together," she said.

Juncker says Europe is not America's subsidiary

Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker said on early Saturday morning that Europe is not America's "subsidiary." "The EU does not depend on others," Juncker told the press conference after the EU summit when asked to comment on the upcoming British presidency, a country that is famous for being close to the United States. Juncker attributed the failure of the budget plan deal to difference of "two visions" and "two paths" about Europe, hinting Britain keeps distance from Europe.

Jean-Claude Juncker is known for statements like this:

EU call to re-run treaty referendums

France and the Netherlands should re-run their referendums to obtain the "right answer" if their voters reject Europe's constitutional treaty in imminent national ballots, Jean-Claude Juncker, the holder of the EU presidency, said on Wednesday. The Luxembourg prime minister said all 25 EU member countries should continue their attempts to ratify the treaty whatever the outcome of the French and Dutch votes.

A New Europe?

The EU has continued harmonising and integrating in the manner described by Luxembourg’s Prime Minister, Jean-Claude Juncker to Der Spiegel in 1999: ”We decide on something, leave it lying around and wait and see what happens. If no one kicks up a fuss, because most people don’t understand what has been decided, we continue step by step until there is no turning back.”

Why Asia Will Eat Our Lunch

China and India, which together accounted for 75% of the world's GDP before the discovery of America, are on a steep trajectory to regain their prominence. "The potential size of their markets, their endless supply of low-cost labor, the unique combination of many highly skilled but low-paid professionals, and the investment incentives offered by their governments will constitute an irresistible package" that will soak up global investment. India, meanwhile, is moving rapidly up the value chain with its emphasis on software and computer services, along with processing of tax returns, medical X-rays, and the like. Want a new kidney or a hip? Visit one of India's high-tech "medical tourism" hospitals and get the procedure for less than half the cost in the U.S. or Canada, even figuring in the airfare. Surprisingly, there are already more info tech engineers in Bangalore (150,000) than in Silicon Valley (130,000).

Hands off our women, Russian MP tells foreigners

Hands off our women, Russian MP tells foreigners

Scandalised by the fact that some of Russia's most beautiful women are opting to marry foreigners, the ultra-nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky is backing a bill that would make them think twice before exchanging vows with a non-Russian. His party, the incongruously named Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, has drafted a draconian marriage bill that will now be considered by the Duma, the Russian Parliament. It envisages severe penalties for Russian girls or women who choose "unpatriotically" to wed a foreigner, a trend the party believes is robbing the country's gene pool of its greatest resource. It is proposing punishing such female "traitors" by stripping them of their citizenship, deporting them to the country of their new husband and never allowing them to return. The party also wants them to feel the pain in their pockets and is suggesting that their Russian assets be automatically distributed among their relatives or given to the state. Calling Russia's female population a "national treasure", he said the bill was being introduced "in order not to squander our gene pool".

They've got used to freedom, so why do Russians still hunger for the USSR?

In a poll conducted in 2003, the Russian Centre for Public Opinion found that 53 per cent of Russians still regard Stalin as a "great" leader. Since 1989, the Russian mortality rate has risen from below 11 per 1,000 to more than 15 per 1,000 - nearly double the American rate. For adult males, the mortality rate is three times higher. Average male life expectancy at birth is below 60, roughly the same as in Bangladesh. A 20-year-old Russian man has a less than 50/50 chance of reaching the age of 65. This has much to do with the round-the-clock consumption of fags and booze - the typical St Petersburg man walks around with a bottle of beer and a cigarette in one hand the way a Londoner carries his mobile phone - not to mention an attitude to road safety apparently inspired by the Mad Max films. Exacerbating the demographic effects of increased mortality has been a steep decline in the fertility rate, from 2.19 births per woman in the mid-1980s to a nadir of 1.17 in 1999. Because of these trends, the United Nations projects that Russia's population will decline from 146 million in 2000 to 101 million in 2050. By that time the population of Egypt will be larger.

Star Wars: An Islamic Perspective

More from the "President Bush is Darth Vader" departement. Why Darth Vader, anyway? If Bush resembles anybody in the Star Wars universe it must be Master Yoda, with his funny syntax:

Star Wars: An Islamic Perspective

I believe Lucas was trying to make a point about the continuous spewing of hate and evil against the Arab and Muslim people, specifically after September 11 th. Even though the countries of Iraq and Afghanistan were bombed and destroyed relentlessly (it hasn't stopped yet), as punishment for the attacks of September 11 th (without any proof or legitimate legalities of course), many Americans still have a lot of hatred against anyone that even looks like an Arab or Middle Eastern. Many innocent people, specifically women and children, have been harassed, attacked and sometimes even killed, because of this hate. One couldn't help but notice the very overt examples in the last and final installment of the "Star Wars" series. Of course the most obvious example was when Anakin tells Obi-Wan before their final duel, "Either you're with me, or against me", which is basically straight out of Bush's mouth when he said "Either you're with us [i.e. America], or you're with the terrorists" immediately after the attacks of September 11 th. In other words, the Emperor, Darth Vader and the Empire are equivalent to Bush and Company and Luke Skywalker, the Jedis and the Rebel Alliance are referred to as "terrorists" (or "separatists", "insurgents", etc.).

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Norwegian Princess Named after Star Wars Princess

Princess Leia

Princess Leah
, may the force be with her.

Anakin Skywalker aka Darth Vader, father of Leia. Not invited to the christening.

'Star Wars' princess inspires real royal name

Norwegian Princess Leah's name was inspired by a character in a "Star Wars" movie, the mother of the infant princess was quoted as saying Thursday. "I must admit that I have always been a big 'Star Wars' fan, and Princess Leia has always been the most beautiful in the whole world," Princess Martha Louise said in an interview with the Norwegian daily Aftenposten. Princess Leah, born on April 8 this year and fifth in line to the Norwegian throne, was due to be baptized Thursday. In the "Star Wars" movies, Princess Leia is the twin sister of Luke Skywalker and the daughter of Darth Vader. Princess Martha Louise did not explain the slight difference in spelling of the two names, both pronounced the same way.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Closed roads hit famous fjord hard

Hotels and other businesses around Norway's famed Geiranger Fjord are mighty unhappy these days. Late snows and bad weather have kept roads into the area closed, and that's hurting an already short season. Road crews are normally able to open the main road to Geiranger from Gudbrandsdalen and Grotli in early May. As of this week, it remained closed, with highway officials saying there was still too much snow. Attempts already have been made to bombard the snowmass with water from helicopters, in the hopes that would loosen it up and quicken the meltimg process. It didn't work, and now the local business community is complaining loudly. "This is a disaster," the head of the venerable Union Hotel told one local paper this week. Now Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) is reporting that experts from the country's famed Telemark Battalion are surveying the situation. The idea is to start blasting away the snow and ice with more conventional means. Heavy snows from last winter, coupled with a late spring and summer, are also causing problems for sheep ranchers. Plans to release the animals for mountain grazing are delayed, because of the snow and a lack of grass.

Saddam wants a Swedish trial

Sweden is already a retirement home for more than 1000 foreign war criminals. Even Saddam Hussein's cousins have sought asylum there. But Swedes can't understand why their country has a reputation for being liberal:

Saddam wants a Swedish trial

Sweden’s prisons seem to be getting a reputation as something of a luxury destination for the world’s dethroned despots, after one of Saddam Hussein’s defense lawyers named it as a preferred place for the upcoming trial of the former Iraqi president. The attorney, Giovanni di Stefano, told Swedish national television SVT that Hussein should be tried in Europe instead of Iraq, where his safety would be threatened. ‘I would favor Sweden more than any other country where we are more likely than not to obtain a fair trial, and in the unlikely event that our client is tried and convicted, he can go straight to a detention center in Sweden,’ di Stefano said. Ove Bring, professor in international law at the University of Stockholm, said he found it unlikely that Iraq would allow the trial to take place outside its borders. Bring, however, did not rule out the possibility that Hussein could serve his sentence in Sweden. ‘It’s possible that Iraq and the United Nations find it a good idea that Saddam can receive his punishment in another country. Who knows what can happen to him in an Iraqi prison cell? It doesn’t sound very safe,’ Bring said. Swedish Prime Minister Göran Persson has opened up the possibility that Hussein could serve a prison sentence in the country, which opposed the US-led invasion that toppled the Iraqi dictator.

Robbers roam highways

Gangs of road pirates pose an increased threat on Swedish highways, Swedish radio news channel SR reported. The highway robbers strike at night, attacking travelers who have parked their mobile homes by the road to sleep. Swedish police said 30 robberies had already been reported this summer, most of them in the southern and western parts of the country. In seven robberies, the pirates sprayed anesthetic gas into the mobile homes to ensure that its residents remained asleep while they stripped the cabin of valuables. Tourists are warned about the robbers when they cross the Øresund Bridge, aboard ferries, and in service areas. The Swedish police said they had contacted European intelligence agency Europol for further information about the road pirates. ‘We suspect they are criminal gangs from the former Yugoslavia,’ said Per-Arne Nilsson from the police in Mölndal, which is in charge of coordinating the Swedish effort against the robberies.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Mexico and Norway Can't Help on Oil Prices

The top oil officials from Mexico and Norway on Thursday said they do not have any spare capacity to help ease crude oil prices with increased supply. The two non-OPEC members met the day after the oil cartel resolved to raise its oil production target by 500,000 barrels per day, a move that did little to ease crude prices of more than $55 per barrel. Norway is the world's third largest oil exporter after Saudi Arabia and Russia, and is already producing at its full capacity of about 3 million barrels per day. Mexico is the third largest non-OPEC exporter, with most of its sales going to the United States. "I'm not sure there is so much extra capacity in OPEC. But if there is any increased capacity, it has to be from OPEC," Norwegian Oil Minister Thorhild Widvey said at a news conference with her Mexican counterpart Fernando Elizondo Barragan. Barragan, who was on a three-day visit to Norway, noted that Statoil has experience with deep water fields. "In Mexico, we are evolving rapidly and we are looking for successful models for exploration and production," he said.

Playing with toys in the shape of people or animals

Question :

since we're not allowed to make images of humans and animals, should children be allowed to play with toys in the shape of humans or animals?.

Answer :

Praise be to Allaah.

Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen (may Allaah have mercy on him) said:

With regard to those in which the shape is incomplete, in which there is only a part of the limbs or head, but the shape is not clear, there is no doubt that these are permissible, and these are like the dolls with which ‘Aa’ishah used to play. (Narrated in al-Bukhaari, 6130; Muslim, 2440).

But if the shape is complete, and it is as if you are looking at a person – especially if it can move or speak – then I am not entirely at ease with the idea of them being permissible, because this is a complete imitation of the creation of Allaah. It seems that the dolls with which ‘Aa’ishah used to play were not like this, so it is preferable to avoid them. But I cannot say that they are definitely haraam, because there are concessions granted to young children that are not granted to adults in such matters. It is natural for young children to play and have fun, they are not obliged to do any of the acts of worship so we cannot say that that they are wasting their time in idle play. But if a person wants to be on the safe side in such matters, he should cut off the head or hold it near the fire until it softens, then he should press it until the features disappear.

US chat show host could be a Zulu

DNA experts have questioned Oprah Winfrey's belief that she is a member of South Africa's Zulu nation. The African-American chat-show host announced during a recent visit to South Africa that she had had a DNA test that had shown her to be a Zulu. She also told South Africans she felt "at home" in the country. "I went in search of my roots and had my DNA tested, and I am a Zulu," Ms Winfrey said at a seminar in Johannesburg last week. Professor Himla Soodyall of South Africa's National Health Laboratory Service said it was likely that Oprah Winfrey would have taken a mitochondrial DNA test. The historical movement of people around the African continent makes the situation still more complicated. This could, however, explain how Ms Winfrey's DNA matched with a sample from a Zulu person, even though most African-Americans have ancestors who have been traced to west Africa as a consequence of the slave trade. According to most historical accounts, the Zulu nation was consolidated only after the departure of slaves from west Africa to the Americas. South Africa nevertheless has a special place in Ms Winfrey's heart. "I'm crazy about the South African accent," she said. "I wish I had been born here."

Iran's youth snubs the mullahs for lure of West

Mustapha - not his real name, will not be making his mark in any other way when the polls open tomorrow. Like many other young Iranians, he plans to boycott the vote in protest at the strict vetoing of candidates by the country's conservative guardian council, the 12-strong clerical body that still wields the real power in the land. Those on the shortlist, he says, are all either "retread" hardliners, or people who have promised reform in the past but failed. "Voting this time is not going to make a difference, as Hashemi is going to get in anyway," he says. "All we will do is give the conservatives confidence that people have faith in their election system." Mustapha reveals his active apathy over a latte coffee in the Food Court, a US-style shopping mall in one of the richest suburbs of affluent northern Tehran. For a country supposedly micro-managed by anti-American fanatics, its range of outlets is somewhat surprising: a Tex Mex burrito restaurant vies for custom with a seafood cafe called California, while downstairs there are fashionable clothes outlets of Zara, Benetton and even a shop selling IKEA goods. "It's one of the very few places where you have a place for seating where large groups of young people can sit and talk together in mixed company," says Mustapha. "We need far more places like this."

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Giscard regrets constitution sent to French people

It was a crucial mistake to send out the entire constitution to every French voter, the architect of the EU's first constitution Valéry Giscard d'Estaing has said in an interview. In an interview with the New York Times, the former French president apportions most of the blame to president Jacques Chirac for failure in the referendum campaign. One crucial mistake was to send out the entire three-part, 448-article document to every French voter, said Mr Giscard. Over the phone he had warned Mr Chirac already in March: "I said, 'Don't do it, don't do it'". "It is not possible for anyone to understand the full text". "The present generation of leaders, whatever their strengths, never put Europe at the top of their agenda". Today Mr Giscard believes the constitution probably would have passed in France if the EU leaders had not left open the possibility of full EU membership for Turkey. This week the bloc's leaders will meet in Brussels to decide the fate of the constitution, or "my document", as Mr Giscard puts it. The ratification process should continue across Europe, the former president advises and predicts: "In the end, it will pass", he added. "There is no better solution".

One Mexican in every 11 emigrates to U.S.

One in every 11 people born in Mexico and still alive is a U.S. resident, and about half of these immigrants crossed the border illegally, according to a comprehensive report released Tuesday. In the Pew Hispanic Center study of immigration trends, analysts estimated that in March 2004 about 10.3 million immigrants from around the world were living in the United States without legal documents to be here -- some 24 percent of them in California. About 10.6 million people born in Mexico live in the U.S. -- about 5.9 million of them illegally. "This (study) shows that not only are they not going home, but more are coming. "If we are going to realistically deal with this population, we have to figure out what to do with the people who are staying." Most undocumented immigrants are Mexicans with little education. And though they make incremental strides, many never achieve economic success, with about 27 percent lingering in poverty -- twice the rate for native-born Americans. The study, prepared for a bipartisan independent task force on immigration, comes as Congress faces increased pressure to revamp what some have called a broken system.

Is the African AIDS pandemic a bluff?

A growing number of researchers question the "official" inflated numbers of HIV/AIDS prevalence in African countries such as Botswana, South Africa and Lesotho. Poor testing, a special diagnosis of AIDS in Africa and erroneous computer-generated estimates by the UN had led to "misleading" numbers, they hold. Ten years ago, Uganda was internationally recognised as the country worst struck by the disease, with local prevalence rates reaching 30 percent. During the last decade, the assumed high AIDS prevalence of the early 1990s should have led to increased mortality in Uganda. This is not the case. The country's mortality rate has in fact declined, especially due to lower infant and childhood mortality rates. Uganda's population now grows at an average annual rate of 3.4 percent - the highest ever. "Botswana has just concluded a census that shows population growing at about 2.7 percent a year, in spite of what is usually described as the worst AIDS problem on the planet." Meanwhile, he holds, a far greater number of Africans are dying from diseases that are cured at a much lower cost, such as malaria and tuberculosis (TB) and research on these diseases is suffering. "Two million get TB, but last time I checked, spending on AIDS research exceeded spending on TB by a crushing factor of 90 to one," he notes. He now urges to "start questioning some of the claims made by the AIDS lobby."

Jihad in Swedish Schools

Even more news from Sweden's third largest city, Malmö, the evolving tragedy of failed immigration policies and runaway crime rates. Set to become the first major Scandinavian city with a Muslim majority a few years from now, it is the horror story in the ongoing collapse of Swedish society. The homes of the politicians in charge are shot at by neo-Nazis. While the authorities have even started experimenting with all-Arabic preschool classes paid for by the Swedish state, nothing seems to stop the chaos from spreading in Malmö's schools, or indeed in other urban areas in Sweden. En dansker i Sverige recently wrote about a high school teacher in Malmö, Sweden, who discovered that about a dozen Arab students were laughing and shouting "Allahu Akbar!" while watching a DVD of infidel hostages being beheaded in Iraq. The headmaster didn't think the incident was such a big deal. At least 139 schools in Sweden suffered arson attacks during 2002 alone. Such as an incident in Malmö, where three schools were put on fire during one night. "Teenage boys" are suspected to behind the arson. Björn Vinberg from the fire department in Kroksbäck in the Malmö area says it's humiliating and degrading to put out fires again and again in the same immigrant areas, with school kids laughing at them and lighting a new one just afterwards. His colleagues have been to the same place no less than twenty times, all totally unnecessary. The Swedish Radio programme 'Kaliber' reported on Sunday that "almost all" Islamic schools and congregations in Sweden have contacted potential sponsors in Saudi Arabia. Many of these Saudi foundations ask for influence in return. However, an expert thinks the chances are slight that violent organisations will gain a foothold in Sweden's muslim communities. Meanwhile, concern is raised over how racist Swedes are.

Goodbye, Sweden. It was nice knowing you.

Schools unsafe

Violence and threats pose such a big problem in high schools in Malmö, that the local school board wants to install surveillance cameras and security guards in the buildings. The plans, which are to be carried out next fall, include tougher control of students’ comings and goings, and equipping school staff with security buttons, so that they can alert security guards if they are attacked. The city’s education director Matz Nilsson said unruly and aggressive students had become a more common sight in the high schools of Malmö, the home of some of Scandinavia’s biggest and roughest slums. ‘Schools must have their grounds under control,’ he said. ‘We must establish receptions to control who enters and leaves school buildings.’ ‘There is no way around it, we must have camera surveillance,’ said Kay Nilsson, the school board’s security chief. ‘We’ll install them in areas where there aren’t employees all the time, like in the corridors and the locker rooms.’ School officials said both violence and illegal drug abuse had increased among Malmö’s high school students in recent years. Student representatives said they were ambiguous about the tougher security measures. ‘School should be open to everybody,’ said Arijana Cehic, a student in Malmö Latin School. ‘It’s going to feel like we’re in prison and nobody can come and visit. We like visiting our friends in other schools. Linus Hulterström at the Jörgen Kocks High School, however, said the schools needed more safety measures. ‘Many people come here just to sell drugs,’ he said. It happens out in the open.’ Malmö’s high school reported 125 students to the police last year, compared with 71 in 2003.