Switzerland Backwards On Minarets

The Swiss are wrong about their views concerning the banning of building of minarets.  I was sure when this matter first started percolating months ago that this would never pass.  Surely the Swiss were cerebral enough, being able to wade through this matter without resorting to the lowest common denominator.  Right?  Well, as it turns out no they were not.  To suggest that Islam is an extremist religion based on the actions of those who bastardize the Koran, would be like saying Catholicism is pro-kiddie sex as some priests diddle  little boys.  Islam is a world religion that deserves better from the folks in Switzerland who pretend to be so enlightened.  That Swiss assumption can be now filed under ‘B’…..for BS!

Projections from exit polls suggest that voters in Switzerland have backed a referendum proposal to ban the building of minarets.

The result is not yet official, but the BBC’s correspondent in Berne says if it is confirmed, it would be a surprise.

The proposal was backed by the Swiss People’s Party (SVP), the largest party in parliament, which claims minarets are a sign of Islamisation.

Opponents say a ban would discriminate and that the ballot has stirred hatred.

The government opposes a ban.

Switzerland is home to some 400,000 Muslims and has just four minarets. Official referendum results are due at 1700 GMT.

Under the Swiss system, a referendum result is not binding unless a majority of canton voting districts approve it, as well as a majority of voters.

The BBC’s Imogen Foulkes, in Bern, says the voting trends are very bad news for the Swiss government which had urged voters to reject a ban on minarets, fearing unrest among the Muslim community and damage to Switzerland’s relations with Islamic countries.

Walls Around World Still Seperate And Frustrate

This is a downer of a news story, when all the picutue and facts are laid out in one place.    Look at the walls and barriers around the world which are still standing – or have been put up – since 1989.


What Would King Henry VIII Say About This Vatican Announcement

This came totally out of left field!  Oh, the intrigue from the Vatican never ceases to amaze.

The announcement from the Vatican, made simultaneously in Rome and at a news conference in London was dramatic, even historic.

The Roman Catholic Church was going to extraordinary lengths to make it easy for disenchanted Anglicans to convert to Catholicism.

They could join the Roman Catholic Church as full members, but hang on to many of their Anglican traditions and practices – and indeed preserve much of their “Anglican identity”.

In the past Anglicans have converted (although many have and are moving in the opposite direction), but it’s been on a case-by-case basis.

The creation of a special section of the Roman Catholic Church – backed up by church law – especially for Anglicans all around the world is unprecedented.

At the somewhat bizarre press conference secretively arranged at the offices of the Catholic Church in London, the Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols acknowledged converts had never before been provided with this structure.

It wasn’t just that Rome is paving the way for traditionalists on the Catholic wing of the Church of England to jump ship – it is doing so at a critical moment.

Since the Protestant Reformation, when the Church of England broke away from Rome, it has been a sometimes uneasy coalition between its Catholic and Protestant members.

It’s the huge achievement of the Church that it has kept these two wings together through numerous crises – that over homosexuality being only one of the more recent.

But traditionalists on the Catholic wing have become increasingly disenchanted by “progressive” trends, not so much with respect to liberal moves on homosexuality, but about the ordination of women as priests, and, in the next few years, as bishops.

This development – utterly rejected by the Vatican for the Catholic Church – has been agreed by the Church of England Synod, and the only question is how far traditionalist parishes and clergy will be “sheltered” from having to serve under a woman bishop.

That debate is in the balance, and the Vatican’s initiative is bound to have a profound effect – not just on the numbers who leave, but on the sort of church they leave behind.

Many traditionalist “Anglo-Catholics” have threatened to leave the Church and convert to Catholicism, and leaders of their cause say having a home already prepared for them will greatly increase the exodus.

32 More Planets Found Beyond Our Solar System

If only they could talk and tell their stories.

The 32 “exoplanets” ranged in size from five times the mass of Earth to 5-10 times the mass of Jupiter, the researchers said.

They were found using a very sensitive instrument on a 3.6m telescope at the European Southern Observatory’s La Silla facility in Chile.

The discovery is exciting because it suggests that low-mass planets could be numerous in our galaxy.

“From [our] results, we know now that at least 40% of solar-type stars have low-mass planets. This is really important because it means that low-mass planets are everywhere, basically,” explained Stephane Udry from Geneva University, Switzerland.

“What’s very interesting is that models are predicting them, and we are finding them; and furthermore the models are predicting even more lower-mass planets like the Earth.”

New Threat Emerges From Those Who Want To Blow You Up

Hat tip to Rolf.

This is something that I had not even read about with some of my favorite writers who often seem to venture out ‘of the box’ as they create stories.

Security and intelligence experts are deeply worried by a new development in suicide bombing, the BBC has learned.

It has emerged that an al-Qaeda bomber who died last month while trying to blow up a Saudi prince in Jeddah had hidden the explosives inside his body.

Only the attacker died, but it is feared that the new development could be copied by others.

Experts say it could have implications for airport security, rendering traditional metal detectors “useless”.

Last month’s bombing left people wondering how one of the most wanted al-Qaeda operatives in Saudi Arabia could get so close to the prince in charge of counter-terrorism that he was able to blow himself up in the same room.

Western forensic investigators think they have the answer, and it is worrying them profoundly.

The explosives, they believe, were detonated by mobile phone.

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia (l) and Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, 28 August 2009
Prince Mohammed bin Nayef (r) was slightly injured in the attack

Peter Neuman of Kings College London says the case will be studied intensively, and that there are “tremendous implications for airport security with the potential of making it even more complicated to get on to your plane”.

“If it really is true that the metal detectors couldn’t detect this person’s hidden explosive device, that would mean that the metal detectors as they currently exist in airports are pretty much useless,” he said.

The bomber was a Saudi al-Qaeda fugitive who said he wanted to give himself up to the prince in person.

The prince took him at his word and gave him safe passage to his palace.

But there, once he got next to his target, the bomb inside him was detonated.

Miraculously the prince survived with minor injuries, but footage emerging this week shows a sizeable crater in the concrete floor and the bomber’s body blown in half.

It is believed the force of the blast went downwards which is why only the bomber died.


Alzheimer’s Disease Discovery May Prove Helpful

This will hopefully provide huge dividends.

Two potentially key genes linked to the development of Alzheimer’s disease have been uncovered by UK researchers.

It is the first gene clue to the condition in 16 years and has prompted scientists to rethink their theories on how the disease develops.

The genes were pinpointed in a study of 16,000 DNA samples and are known to be implicated in inflammation and cholesterol breakdown.

It is hoped the Nature Genetics study will open the way for new treatments.

The last and only gene to be linked to the common form of Alzheimer’s disease is APOE4 gene, which has been the focus of much research. 


Data from the latest work, a team effort of several UK universities, was shared with French researchers who identified a third gene, CR1, also reported in the journal.

The two genes uncovered by the UK team – CLU and PICALM – are both known to have protective roles in the brain.

Changes in the genes may either remove that protective effect or turn the “protectors into attackers”, the researchers said.

One of the team, Professor Kevin Morgan from the University of Nottingham, explained that the pathways highlighted by the discovery include those involved in the turnover of cholesterol and part of the immune system involved in inflammation.

“These new pathways highlight potential new avenues for treatment using conventional drugs.

Photo: President Obama Rekindles Kennedy Moment In Oval Office

This is cute.


The US White House has released a photograph of President Barack Obama’s daughter Sasha sneaking up on her father as he works in the Oval Office.

The image has drawn comparisons with the famous 1963 image of John F Kennedy Jnr playing underneath the Oval Office desk as his father reads documents.

That picture helped create the image of “Camelot” associated with the Kennedys.

Mr Obama has said being able to work and live at home is “one of the huge benefits of being president”.

The photograph, taken in early August and released through the official White House Flickr website, shows eight-year-old Sasha Obama sneaking up on her father from behind a sofa as he reads at the desk.

She and her older sister, Malia, are the youngest children to live in the White House since the 1960s, but Mr Obama and his wife Michelle have always said they want their daughters to have as normal a life as possible.

In an interview with the BBC in June, Mr Obama said his family life works well in the White House and his family were his favourite way to unwind.

“One of the huge benefits of being president is I now have this nice office and I go upstairs and have dinner with my family just about every night,” he said.

“We’ve got a very good deal.”

Former Yugoslavia Leader Tito’s Luxury Playground

I find this story really interesting.    I had a history school teacher that seemed fascinated by Yugoslavia’s former leader, Josip Broz Tito.  In time it seemed I was finding when his name came up on the news or in print I too was paying attention.  The power of his effective rule was proved by his death, and the chaos that ensued when his velet glove approach, along with steel hardness when needed was gone.  The BBC story today has to do with the wealthy style of living and relaxing that dominated much of Tito’s time.  It is really interesting, especially if you recall his time in power.

From the holiday coast of north-west Croatia, it is a 20-minute ferry ride to Brijuni, an archipelago of 14 islands that for the last 30 years of Josip Broz Tito’s extraordinary life became his private playground.

Tito would spend up to six months of the year on the islands, gardening, fishing and enjoying a lifestyle of luxury unimaginable to most of his people, if they had ever known about it.

But most did not because the islands were closed to all but their leader’s coterie of hand-picked staff and labourers and a guest-list of glitterati that an American president would have found hard to match.

And if word did slip out about Tito’s banquets and parties, there was no public indignation.

Most Yugoslavs liked the idea of their president cutting a dash for the cameras, kitted out in double-breasted suits from New York’s Fifth Avenue and smoking fat cigars in the company of world leaders.

The most head-turning exhibit in the island’s museum is a picture gallery of visiting VIPs, smiling in the company of the handsome, charismatic leader whose statesmanship and force of personality postponed the inevitable disintegration of the Balkan states for 40 years.

There is Haile Selassie of Ethiopia, visiting in 1954; Nasser of Egypt and Nehru of India, two years later, signing the declaration that spawned the Non-Aligned Movement that thrives today, with more than 100 member nations.

There is Queen Elizabeth II, paying a visit in 1972, Chancellor Willy Brandt of West Germany in 1973 and King Hussein of Jordan in 1978.

But Tito took his pleasures seriously too. He had a circle of famous and glamorous friends, among them Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, Sophia Loren, Gina Lollobrigida.

And many beautiful women came to Brijuni on private visits unrecorded by the official photographer.

Tito would collect them from the boat in his 1950s Cadillac, a gift from President Dwight Eisenhower, and drive them to one of four sprawling villas tucked away in the woods.

Four years after Tito’s death in 1980, the wider public was admitted to Brijuni for the first time since an outbreak of malaria had led to its evacuation hundreds of years earlier.

An Austrian industrialist had bought the islands in 1893, hired a Nobel Prize-winning bacteriologist to remove the mosquitoes, and turned the main island into an exotic retreat for himself and his friends.

Fresh water and electricity were brought in, and he transformed the landscape with villas, lawns and gardens, sub-tropical trees and shrubs, a zoo, the first 18-hole golf course in continental Europe, and even a casino.

By the time Tito discovered Brijuni in the late 1940s, the Depression, Italian rule and the war had taken their toll, but he declared the islands his official summer residence and set about recreating their former splendour.

The villas were updated, the zoo became a safari park with animals donated by heads of state, including Shetland ponies from the British Queen and two elephants from Indira Gandhi.

Herds of fallow deer roamed around the parkland, keeping down the grass on the golf course.

Today, the main island is a national park, and a toy-town train shuttles tourists around the sights.

The government-owned villas, hardly used now, are still polished and cleaned every day.

In Tito’s favourite, Villa Bijela, they preserved his basement gym, with its empty swimming pool, antiquated whirlpool and sauna.

Villa Jadranka is notable for its Japanese art and scrolls, Villa Brianka is done out in Argentine marble and exotica from other friendly, non-aligned nations.

But nothing compares with the fourth villa, Tito’s “secret jewel”, hidden from all but his inner circle.

It lies on the neighbouring island of Vanga, which is strictly out of bounds unless visitors are granted a special permit by the authorities in Zagreb.

Brandishing my permit, I was delivered to Vanga’s jetty by a fast speedboat, where I was met and shadowed by a burly, silent guard in full military fatigues, looking absurdly out of place amidst the sub-tropical vegetation and the soothing sound of the waves and breeze.

Tito’s glassy, open-plan villa on Vanga is shielded from view by a bamboo plantation.

Inside, the brilliant white walls, futuristic furniture and splashy artwork, including a Picasso, is so 1960s it could be the villain’s lair in a James Bond movie.

The lone caretaker is a Communist-style babushka with scraped-back hair and without a scrap of make-up.

But her countenance softened when I asked her if she could still sense Tito’s presence. “Yes,” she replied. “I feel it every day.”

In the grounds, there are plantations of oranges and mandarins, and a vineyard laid out by Tito in 1956, from vines donated by South Africa and South America, from which several varieties of wine are produced for the very occasional visitors.

As I sipped on a glass of 2008 Malvazia, I drank in the beauty and tranquillity of this magical place, and considered just how wrong we were about the Communists.

Or one of them, at least.