Daily Archives: October 25, 2011

Libya’s liberation: interim ruler unveils more radical than expected plans for Islamic law


Mustafa Abdul Jalil, the chairman of the National Transitional Council Photo: AP

Libya’s interim leader outlined more radical plans to introduce Islamic law than expected as he declared the official liberation of the country.

Telegraph | Oct 23, 2011

By Richard Spencer

Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, the chairman of the National Transitional Council and de fact president, had already declared that Libyan laws in future would have Sharia, the Islamic code, as its “basic source”.

But that formulation can be interpreted in many ways – it was also the basis of Egypt’s largely secular constitution under President Hosni Mubarak, and remains so after his fall.

Mr Abdul-Jalil went further, specifically lifting immediately, by decree, one law from Col. Gaddafi’s era that he said was in conflict with Sharia – that banning polygamy.

In a blow to those who hoped to see Libya’s economy integrate further into the western world, he announced that in future bank regulations would ban the charging of interest, in line with Sharia. “Interest creates disease and hatred among people,” he said.

Gulf states like the United Arab Emirates, and other Muslim countries, have pioneered the development of Sharia-compliant banks which charge fees rather than interest for loans but they normally run alongside western-style banks.

In the first instance, interest on low-value loans would be waived altogether, he said.

Libya is already the most conservative state in north Africa, banning the sale of alcohol. Mr Abdul-Jalil’s decision – made in advance of the introduction of any democratic process – will please the Islamists who have played a strong role in opposition to Col Gaddafi’s rule and in the uprising but worry the many young liberal Libyans who, while usually observant Muslims, take their political cues from the West.

Islamists claim win in Tunisia’s Arab Spring vote

Reuters | Oct 24, 2011

By Tarek Amara and Christian Lowe

(Reuters) – Moderate Islamists claimed victory in Tunisia’s first democratic election, sending a message to other states in the region that long-sidelined Islamists are challenging for power after the “Arab Spring.”

Official results will be announced on Tuesday, but the Ennahda party said it had already tallied results posted at polling stations after Sunday’s vote, the first since the uprisings which began in Tunisia and spread through the region.

“The first confirmed results show that Ennahda has obtained first place,” campaign manager Abdelhamid Jlazzi said outside party headquarters in the center of the Tunisian capital.

As he spoke, a crowd of more than 300 in the street shouted “Allahu Akbar!” or “God is greatest!.” Other people started singing the Tunisian national anthem.

Mindful that some people in Tunisia and elsewhere see the resurgence of Islamists as a threat to modern, liberal values, party officials said they were prepared to form an alliance with two secularist parties, Congress for the Republic and Ettakatol.

“We will spare no effort to create a stable political alliance … We reassure the investors and international economic partners,” Jlazzi said.

Two days after an unprecedented 90 percent of voters turned out for the election, officials were still counting the ballot papers in some areas. They said nationwide results would not be ready before Tuesday afternoon.

Sunday’s vote was for an assembly which will sit for one year to draft a new constitution. It will also appoint a new interim president and government to run the country until fresh elections late next year or early in 2013.

The voting system has built-in checks and balances which make it nearly impossible for any one party to have a majority, compelling Ennahda to seek alliances with secularist parties, which will dilute its influence.

“This is an historic moment,” said Zeinab Omri, a young woman in a hijab, or Islamic head scarf, who was outside the Ennahda headquarters when party officials claimed victory.

“No one can doubt this result. This result shows very clearly that the Tunisian people is a people attached to its Islamic identity,” she said.

REVOLUTION INSPIRED UPRISINGS

Tunisia became the birthplace of the “Arab Spring” when Mohamed Bouazizi, a vegetable seller in a provincial town, set fire to himself in protest at poverty and government repression.

His suicide in December provoked a wave of protests which forced autocratic president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali to flee to Saudi Arabia the following month.

The revolution in Tunisia, a former French colony, in turn inspired uprisings which forced out entrenched leaders in Egypt and Libya, and convulsed Yemen and Syria — re-shaping the political landscape of the Middle East.

Ennahda is led by Rachid Ghannouchi, forced into exile in Britain for 22 years because of harassment by Ben Ali’s police. A softly spoken scholar, he dresses in suits and open-necked shirts while his wife and daughter wear the hijab.

Ghannouchi is at pains to stress his party will not enforce any code of morality on Tunisian society, or the millions of Western tourists who holiday on its beaches. He models his approach on the moderate Islamism of Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan.

The party’s rise has been met with ambivalence by some people in Tunisia. The country’s strong secularist traditions go back to the first post-independence president, Habiba Bourguiba, who called the hijab an “odious rag.”

Outside the offices of the commission which organised the election, about 50 people staged a sit-in demanding an investigation into what they said were irregularities committed by Ennahda. Election officials said any problems were minor.

“I really feel a lot of fear and concern after this result,” said Meriam Othmani, a 28-year-old journalist. “Women’s rights will be eroded,” she said. “Also, you’ll see the return of dictatorship once Ennahda achieves a majority in the constituent assembly.”

SECULAR PARTNERS

Ennahda’s preferred coalition partners may reassure some opponents. Ali Larayd, a member of the party’s executive committee, said it was ready to form an alliance with the Congress for the Republic and Ettakatol, both secularist groups respected by Tunisia’s intelligentsia.

The Congress is led by Moncef Marzouki, a doctor and human rights activist who spent years in exile in France. Ettakatol is a socialist party led by Mustafa Ben Jaafar, another doctor and veteran Ben Ali opponent.

The only official results released were from polling stations abroad, because they voted early.

The election commission said that out of 18 seats in the 217-seat assembly allocated to the Tunisian diaspora, 9 went to Ennahda. Its closest rivals were Marzouki’s Congress on four seats and Ettakatol, which won three.

The highest-profile secularist challenger to Ennahda, the Progressive Democratic Party (PDP) conceded defeat. It had warned voters that modern, liberal values would be threatened if the Islamists won.

“The PDP respects the democratic game. The people gave their trust to those it considers worthy of that trust. We congratulate the winner and we will be in the ranks of the opposition,” a party statement sent to Reuters said.

Ennahda’s win was a remarkable turnaround for a party which just 10 months ago had to operate underground because of a government ban and which had hundreds of followers in prison.

In a slick and well-funded campaign, the party tapped into a desire among ordinary Tunisians to be able to express their faith freely after years of aggressively enforced secularism.

It also sought to show it could represent all Tunisians, including the large number who take a laissez-faire view of Islam’s strictures, drink alcohol, wear revealing clothes and rarely visit the mosque.

Secularist opponents say they believe this is just a cleverly constructed front that conceals more radical views, especially among Ennahda’s rank and file in the provinces.

 

Two teenage girls tied up and burned alive in ‘satanic ritual’


Attack: Two teenage girls have been burnt alive at a beauty spot in Johannesburg during what is believed to be a satanic ritual

Two teenage girls tied up and burned alive by friends in ‘satanic ritual’ at Johannesburg beauty spot

Daily Mail | Oct 24, 2011

By Stewart Maclean

Two teenage girls have been tied up and and set on fire in what South African police believe could have been a bizarre satanic ritual.

Kirsty Theologo, 18, and her 16-year-old friend named only as Bronwyn were attacked in the early hours of Saturday at a remote beauty spot in the Linmeyer suburb of Johannesburg.

Miss Theologo was today in an induced coma at a Johannesburg hospital after suffering 75 per cent burns to her upper body while Bronwyn was under medical supervision at a private clinic.

South Africa’s Star newspaper reported that their attackers set them ablaze after deciding to turn them into satanic ‘sacrifices’.

The newspaper claimed the men cut the hands of a third girl as she held a bible during the attack.

Speaking about the attack, Miss Theologo’s sister Samantha told the newspaper: ‘We don’t know exactly what happened. We heard they were tied up, but we don’t know.

‘It’s horrible, it’s scary and just horrific what happened to my sister.

‘My mum is in a state and can’t talk. Friends are breaking down.’

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Girl set alight in ‘satanic ritual’

Two men handed themselves in to police yesterday over the incident and were due to appear in court today charged with attempted murder.

Force spokeswoman Lorraine van Emmerick said officers were investigating claims the girls had been attacked as part of a twisted satanic ritual.

She said: ‘This was a bizarre and unpleasant attack.

‘The two girls were out on a hillside on Friday night with another female friend and some males.

‘At around 2am we believe the girls were tied together and doused with petrol.

‘Someone then flicked a lit match at them and they were set on fire.

‘The men then apparently fled and one of the girls later managed to escape and run for help.

‘Since the incident we have been informed by members of the community that the attack could have been linked to some sort of satanic ritual.

‘It is too soon to be able to confirm or rule this out but it remains an active line of enquiry.

‘We are investigating these claims to establish what substance they have.

‘We hope to gather more information by speaking to the victims once they have recovered.’

The two male suspects, aged 19 and 21, are believed to have handed themselves in under pressure from their parents.

They were arrested on Sunday and held overnight in custody.

Police said it was believed the two burned girls and their female friend were well known to the five men believed to have been present during the attack.

Warrant Officer van Emmerick said detectives were still hunting another three male suspects in relation to the incident.

Little girl killed in a hit-and-run, ignored by passers-by as she lay dying


A person cycles by 2-year-old girl, identified as Wang Yue, after she was run over by a van in Foshan in southern China’s Guangdong province Photo: AP

China has arrested two people over the death of a toddler killed in a hit-and-run as thousands across the country gathered for impromptu vigils in memory of the little girl who was ignored by 18 passers-by as she lay dying.

Telegraph | Oct 24, 2011

By Malcolm Moore in Shanghai

Wang Yue, aged two, died last Friday, one week after she was hit by two vans in a hardware market in Foshan, Guangdong province. Chinese media reported that two men have been arrested.

Security camera footage showing 18 people walking or cycling past her bleeding body, indifferent to her fate, caused shame and outrage in China and prompted questions about whether the country’s economic miracle has left a moral vacuum in its wake.

In the wake of her death, 10,000 residents in the southern city of Guangzhou mourned her with slogans and pictures denouncing China’s “cold-heartedness”, according to the local media. A further 200 people gathered at the scene of the accident to hand out free hugs and declare war on callousness and indifference.

“That one moment of coldness spread across the country and became everyone’s wound,” said the group. “We would have at least stopped and pulled her aside. We would have asked for help, called the police and protected her,” they said.

“We will not complain about the powerless legal system or the lack of morality. We will spread warmth and drive away cold-heartedness,” they pledged.

Similar vigils were held in Liaocheng, in Shandong province, the home town of Wang Yue’s parents, and in Tianjin. More memorials took place in Henan and Hunan provinces.

Meanwhile, a spate of other accidents involving small children have been reported by the Chinese media. On Sunday, a two-year-old boy in the southern town of Chang’an, near Dongguan, was hit by a cement-mixing truck and instantly killed. His mother was in the family store, attending to a client, at the time.

Last week, a five-year-old boy was knocked down and killed by a truck in Luzhou, Sichuan and a one-year-old boy was knocked down and suffered a broken leg in a market in Shunde, in Foshan. Two more three year olds have been killed in the past two months in road accidents.

Vatican calls for a “Global Political Authority”

Vatican Calls for New World Economic Order

Associated Press | Octr 24, 2011

VATICAN CITY –  The Vatican called Monday for radical reform of the world’s financial systems, including the creation of a global political authority to manage the economy.

A proposal by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace calls for a new world economic order based on ethics and the “achievement of a universal common good.” It follows Pope Benedict XVI’s 2009 economic encyclical that denounced a profit-at-all-cost mentality as responsible for the global financial meltdown.

The proposal acknowledges, however, that a “long road still needs to be traveled before arriving at the creation of a public authority with universal jurisdiction” and suggests the reform process begin with the United Nations as a point of reference.

Vatican pronouncements on the economy are meant to guide world leaders as well as the global church. United States Roman Catholic bishops, for example, have released a voter guide for the 2012 election that highlights social concerns such as ending poverty.

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“It is an exercise of responsibility not only toward the current but above all toward future generations, so that hope for a better future and confidence in human dignity and capacity for good may never be extinguished,” the document said.

It highlights that reforms must assure that financial and monetary policies will not damage the weakest economies while also achieving fair distribution of the world’s wealth.

The proposal also called for a “minimum, shared body of rules to manage the global financial market,” lamenting the “overall abrogation of controls” on capital movements.

While past Vatican pronouncements have condemned unfettered capitalism, the latest criticized “an economic liberalism that spurns rules and controls.”

It also attacked “utilitarian thinking,” saying what is useful to the individual does not always favor the common good.

Temperature dips to single digits in Interior Alaska

Temperature dips to single digits in Interior Alaska

newsminer.com | Oct 21, 2011

FAIRBANKS — As if this week’s snow and icy roads weren’t enough to make residents of Alaska’s second-biggest city realize winter weather officially has arrived, the temperature is starting to drop, too.

The coldest temperature of the season — 11 degrees — was recorded at Fairbanks International Airport Friday morning and single-digit temperatures were reported at several spots around town.

A low temperature of zero was recorded in Woodsmoke Subdivision in North Pole; it was 2 degrees on the floor of the Goldstream Valley; 3 degrees at Chena Hot Springs; and 6 degrees at Eielson Air Force Base.

The coldest area temperature reported by an official observer for the National Weather Service was 2 degrees below zero at Circle Hot Springs, about 125 miles north of Fairbanks.

The colder temperatures were likely the result of the new snow on the ground, which reduces heat emanating from the surface, as well as clear skies and light winds. Low temperatures the next few days are forecast between 10 and 15 degrees at night.

“I think last night will probably be the coldest night we’ll see in a while,” meteorologist Cory Bogel at the National Weather Service in Fairbanks said.

Bering Sea too cold for fish

Bering Sea cold pool keeps fish from moving north

Associated Press | Oct 23, 2011

by DAN JOLING

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — As scientists observed climate warming in the Bering Sea, they suspected valuable commercial fish species such as Pacific cod and walleye pollock would move north toward the Bering Strait and into the Arctic Ocean.

But that’s likely decades off, according to one surprising result from a study of the sea north of the Aleutian Islands.

Scientists say a pool of cold water in the northern Bering Sea has been a locked door to the northward migration of pollock and cod, the fish harvested for America’s fish sticks and fast food sandwiches.

“Our original hypothesis was wrong, and we think they won’t have habitat to occupy northward in the northern Bering Sea,” said Mike Sigler of Juneau, a marine biologist with the Alaska Fisheries Science Center, part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Water along the ocean floor where pollock live has been kept cold by the layer of sea ice that forms every winter on the surface of the northern Bering Sea. That ice is expected to persist even with climate warming. Cold water sets up below the ice layer and remains cold throughout the summer.

“What it looks like at the moment is that the northern Bering Sea — and north to us is north of St. Matthew Island — looks like it is going to stay cold,” said physical oceanographer Phyllis Stabeno of NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle.

Sigler and Stabeno are two of more than 100 principal investigators taking part in a $52 million study of the eastern Bering Sea ecosystem. Supported by the National Science Foundation and the North Pacific Research Board, scientists are focusing on creatures from plankton to walrus.

“We’re in the analysis and synthesis stage to complete the project,” Sigler said, of the study that began in 2007..

Commercial fishermen in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands this year were allowed to catch 1.27 million metric tons (2.8 billion pounds) of pollock, and nearly 228,000 metric tons (510 million pounds) of Pacific cod.

Researchers had documented sub-arctic species including cod and pollock moving north within the Bering and assumed that would continue, until the discovery of the cold pool.

“The hypothesis that we had worked with for years was that as warming occurs, the Bering Sea would kind of warm uniformly,” Stabeno said, meaning that fish species would move north. And that would have complicated matters for the commercial fishing fleet, increasing calls for a Coast Guard base, a deep water port and other infrastructure in northwest Alaska, which has remained remote because it’s covered by ice so much of the year.

Temperature readings collected for more than a decade from fixed buoys and from cruises show an environment that remains inhospitable to pollock, cod and arrowtooth flounder, which do not like temperatures below 2 degrees Celsius (35.6 degrees Fahrenheit).

The key is ice cover, which forms in the Bering Sea in December or January.

“In a cold year, like 2010, it will cover basically the whole eastern shelf,” Stabeno said. “That’s that broad area that’s less than 200 meters (656 feet) deep. It stays until March, April. In the north, it stays until even into June sometimes.

Water below the ice chills to minus 1.73 degrees Celsius (28.9 degrees Fahrenheit), Stabeno said, the freezing point of seawater. In the north, after ice retreats in spring, a warm layer forms at the top that isolates cold water on the bottom.

The northern Bering Sea is hemmed in by Russia on the west and Alaska on the east, Stabeno said, likely contributing to colder water.

“Land cools faster than water does,” Stabeno said. “You tend to get colder temperatures.”

The Bering Sea south of St. Matthew Island, a speck of land 500 miles north of Dutch Harbor in the Aleutians, is more variable. It starts out warmer. Some years, it gets far less ice cover and water along the bottom never gets as cold, she said.

The absence of abundant cod and pollock in the north was confirmed by shipboard surveys.

“They used acoustics and didn’t find much pollock,” Sigler said.

The scientists detected the cold pool throughout five warm years in the early 2000s that were followed by five cold years. They project it’s likely to last for 30 years, perhaps through 2050, Stabeno said

“What happens after that, none of us really know,” she said. “But the models look really good up to then.”

As for warm-blooded species moving north, Sigler said, scientists need more information.

“We’re just kind of in the speculation stage that if currents drive their food north, then the whales, for example, will follow them,” Sigler said.

U.S. Winter May Be Coldest in Decade

U.S. Winter May Be Coldest in Decade, Commodity Weather Says

Much of Europe will be colder than normal, with the lowest temperatures most likely in France, Germany, Norway, Sweden and central Russia. Most of China will have lower-than-normal temperatures.

businessweek.com | Oct 24, 2011

By Brian K. Sullivan

Oct. 24 (Bloomberg) — The coming U.S. winter may be the coldest in more than 10 years, Commodity Weather Group LLC said in its seasonal forecast.

Temperatures will range from 1 to 3 degrees Fahrenheit (0.5 to 1.7 Celsius) below normal across much of the U.S., according to the forecast. The period from November to March is expected to be 2.4 percent colder than last year, said Bethesda, Maryland-based CWG.

“This would be the coldest winter since 2000-01,” the company said.

Traders use long-range temperature predictions to gauge energy use and market fluctuations. Hot or cold weather can increase demand for heating and cooling, and power plants use about 30 percent of the nation’s gas supplies, according to Energy Department data.

CWG President Matt Rogers predicts the gas-weighted heating degree days value for the U.S. will reach 4,024 this year, compared with 3,928.2 last year and the 10-year average of 3724.4. The winter of 2000-2001 had a value of 4,167.7, according to CWG.

Heating degree days, calculated by subtracting the daily average temperature from a base of 65 degrees, are designed to show energy demand. Higher values mean cooler weather and more energy being used to heat homes and business.

Gas-weighted degree days give more value to areas where there are higher populations using natural gas to stay warm.

East Coast Outlook

New York, Washington and Philadelphia will probably be 1 degree cooler on average, while New England and the West Coast will be more seasonal, CWG said.

November is expected to be 9.3 percent colder than last year, with December forecast to be 0.6 percent cooler, according to the forecast.

CWG laid out four possible alternatives in case its exact forecast is wrong. The most likely is that the eastern two- thirds of the U.S. will become much colder than normal. The other three scenarios are for milder winters.

CWG also predicts much of Europe will be colder than normal, with the lowest temperatures most likely in France, Germany, Norway, Sweden and central Russia. Most of China will have lower-than-normal temperatures, the forecaster said.

Is An Ice Age Coming?


Ice hockey on the Thames again?

canadafreepress.com | Oct 24, 2011

by Jack Dini

US solar physicists announced in June 2011 that the Sun appears to be headed into a lengthy spell of low activity, which could mean that the Earth—far from facing a global warming problem—is actually headed into a mini Ice Age. The announcement came from scientists at the US National Solar Observatory (NSO) and the US Air Force Research Laboratory. Three different analyses of the Sun’s recent behavior all indicated that a period of unusually low solar activity may be about to begin. (1)

“This is highly unusual and unexpected,” said Dr. Frank Hill of the NSO. “But the fact that three completely different views of the Sun point in the same direction is a powerful indicator that the sunspot cycle may be going into hibernation.” (1)

Fred Dardick reports, “We are in the midst of the convergence of three major solar,  ocean, and atmospheric cycles all heading in the direction of global cooling. Last year the Southern Hemisphere experienced its coldest winter in 50 years and Europe just went through two particularly cold winters in a row, and the cooling trend has just begun. The likelihood of a repeat of the great frost of 1709 is growing every day. (2)  This was the time of the Maunder Minimum (1645-1715) and for periods either side of it, many European rivers which are ice-free today—including the Thames—routinely froze over, allowing ice skating and even for armies to march across them in some cases. (1)

More recently other papers confirm that solar effects could bring on little ice ages. Sarah Ineson and her colleagues report that changes in the Sun’s emissions of ultraviolet radiation coincided with observed cold winters over southern Europe and Canada between 2008 and this year. (3) And Katja Matthes and colleagues report that simulations with a climate model using new observations of solar variability suggest a substantial influence of the Sun on the winter climate in the Northern Hemisphere. (4)

Couple this with scientists saying an anticipated cold blast will be due to the return of a disruptive weather pattern called La Nina. Latest evidence shows La Nina, linked to extreme weather in America and with a knock-on effect on Britain, is in force and will gradually strengthen as the year ends. This climate phenomenon, characterized by unusually cold ocean temperatures in the Pacific, was linked to Britain’s icy winter last year—one of the coldest on record. (5)

“However, the BBC when reporting on this story took great care to pay due respect to global warming orthodoxy with the statement, ‘The researchers’ emphasize there is no impact on global warming.’ Of course not- what can the sun possibly have to do with warming the planet?” (6)

References:

  Lewis Page, “Earth may be headed into a mini Ice Age within a decade,” theregister.co.uk, June 14, 2011
    Fred Dardick, “When will science get serious about global cooling?’ climaterealists.com, May 19, 2011
    Sarah Ineson et al., “Solar forcing of winter climate variability in the Northern Hemisphere,” Nature Geoscience (2011) doi:10.1038/ngeo1282
    Katja Matthes, “Atmospheric science: Solar cycle and climate predictions (2011) Nature Geoscience doi:10.1038/ngeo1298,”
    Laura Caroe, “Britain faces a mini ice age,” express.co.uk, October 10, 2011
    “New papers confirm solar effects could bring on little ice ages,” ktwop, October 10, 2011

Jack Dini has been writing on science and environmental issues for the past 13 years, publishing in places like Hawaii Reporter, Environment & Climate News, American Council on Science and Health and others. Jack can be reached at:  jdini@comcast.net