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News Headlines & Trends

1.14.11 JPMorgan's quarterly profit rises 47% to $4.8 billion

January 14 - JPMorgan Chase kicked off the earnings season on Friday with news that it turned a strong $17.4 billion profit in 2010, up 48 percent from $11.7 billion the year before, as the consumer lending environment improved and commercial banking notched record results. The rosy report could pave the way for JPMorgan to increase its dividend by as much as a dollar. Wall Street has been anxiously awaiting JPMorgan's earnings, hoping it will signal that 2011 will be the year plump shareholder payouts return...The bank earned $4.8 billion in the final three months of 2010, or $1.12 a share, which significantly beat expectations. Analysts’ estimates put JPMorgan's earnings at 99 cents a share for the fourth quarter. The bank generated revenue of $26.7 billion for quarter. [Full story>>nytimes.com]

1.14.11 More than 500 dead in Brazil flooding

TERESOPOLIS, Brazil, January 14 - It was like a tsunami from the sky in Brazil's Rio de Janeiro state as flood water gushed through hill towns and giant boulders catapulted from hillsides instantly crushing cars and houses. Conditions were so treacherous that rescue teams called it quits Thursday night and resumed their search and recovery work Friday morning. More than 500 people have been killed and officials at the Ministry of Civil Defense fear that number will escalate. Rescuers have not been able to reach some hard-hit areas that have become virtually isolated or buried under earth, the official Agencia Brasil news agency said. [More>>cnn.com]

1.14.11 Roadside bomb kills 7 in southern Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) January 14 - Insurgents detonated a roadside bomb that killed seven civilians they had released only moments earlier following a brief detention on a highway in southern Afghanistan Friday, a local official said. The seven, all taxi drivers, had been traveling on a road between the districts of Daichopan and Arghandab in the troubled province of Zabul when they were stopped by a group of insurgents, said Mohammad Jan Rasoolyar, spokesman for the provincial governor. After being briefly detained, the men managed to negotiate their release. But as they drove away, the militants detonated a roadside bomb by remote control, killing all seven, Rasoolyar said. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

1.14.11 12 'Qaeda members' escape Iraq prison

BAGHDAD (AFP) January 14 - Men accused of attacks recently in Basra. A dozen suspected members of al-Qaeda's front group in Iraq escaped from a prison in the south of the country on Friday morning, police said. "Twelve members of al-Qaeda escaped in the early hours of the morning from a prison in the centre of Basra," the capital of the eponymous southern province, a policemen said on condition of anonymity. "These men stand accused of the attacks carried out recently in Basra," he said, referring to a car bomb on November 8 in the main southern city, 450 kilometers (280 miles) south of Baghdad, that left 10 dead and 30 wounded. [More>>alarabiya.net]

1.14.11 Jordanians march against inflation

January 14 - Thousands vent anger in Amman and other cities against government's inability to rein in prices and poverty. Thousands of Jordanians have taken to the streets of the capital Amman and other cities to protest against rising commodity prices, unemployment and poverty. The protesters are calling on the government headed by Samir Rifai, the prime minister, to step down. Demonstrators, including trade unionists and leftist party members, carried national flags and chanted anti-government slogans in downtown Amman. They called Rifai a "coward" and demanded his resignation. "Prices, particularly gasoline and food, are getting out of hand," Buthaina Iftial, a 24-year-old civil servant, said. "We're becoming poorer every day," she said, holding a poster with a piece of Arabic flatbread attached. Police and plainclothes officers formed rings around the demonstrators to contain the protests. There were no reports of arrests or violence. [More>>aljazeera.net]

1.14.11 Crew of Danish ship missing after pirate attack

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) January 14 - NATO's anti-piracy force has found no crew members or pirates onboard a Danish cargo ship that Somali pirates hijacked and then abandoned, officials said Friday. The MV Leopard was attacked on Wednesday by pirates in two skiffs but since then the ship's owner, Shipcraft shipping company, has lost contact with its crew of six, said the company's managing director, Claus Bech, in a statement Friday. Turkish warship TCG Gaziantep, the vessel nearest where the attack took place in the Arabian Sea, went to investigate Thursday, said Jacqui Sherriff, spokesman for NATO's anti-piracy force. The Turkish warship sent a helicopter which overflew the ship, "and after some time it became apparent they couldn't see anyone onboard," Sherriff told The Associated Press on Friday. Sailors from the Gaziantep then boarded the MV Leopard and thoroughly searched the cargo ship but did not find any pirates or crew, she said. [More>>foxnews.com]

1.12.11 China opens to imports of Canadian seals for food

January 12 - China is to allow imports of Canadian seal meat and oils, Canada's fisheries minister says, hopeful new market access will restore a sealing industry battered by an EU seal products import ban. During a teleconference call from Beijing, Fisheries Minister Gail Shea announced yesterday "a cooperative arrangement between Canada and China which will allow the export of edible seal products from Canada such as meat and oil to China." The agreement is to take effect on Thursday after a signing ceremony. "With this announcement, Canada (will be) the only country allowed to export edible seal products into China," she said...Canada's 6,000 sealers once made an average of $US10 million ($A10.15 million) from the hunt, with a quarter of it from exports to Europe, according to the Canadian government. But a lack of sea ice in one of the warmest Canadian winters on record and the European ban on seal products, according to officials, ruined what was to be a banner seal hunt last year...By authorizing seal meat and oil imports, China joins Japan and South Korea as new markets for Canadian seal products. [Full story>>news.com.au]

1.12.11 FACTBOX - 2010 hit by weather extremes

(Reuters) January 12 - Last year, in which extreme weather caused devastating floods in Pakistan and China and a heatwave in Russia, tied as the warmest year since records began, a US government agency said on Wednesday. The UN panel of climate change experts says that weather is likely to be more extreme in the 21st century because of a build-up of heat-trapping gases from human use of fossil fuels. Last year tied with 2005 as the warmest since global surface records began in 1880, according to the National Climatic Data Center, an office of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Following are examples of extreme weather in 2010.

PAKISTAN FLOODS - Pakistan had its worst flooding in its history after exceptional monsoon rains, killing more than 1,500 people and displacing more than 20 million.

RUSSIAN HEATWAVE - Russia had its most severe heatwave, with average temperatures for Moscow a scorching 7.6 degrees Celsius (14 F) above normal in July. About 11,000 excess deaths in summer were attributed to the extreme heat in Moscow alone. The heatwave caused forest fires and drought led to crop failures that contributed to drive up world food prices. Finland, Ukraine and Belarus also had extreme high temperatures at the time. [More>>thestar.com.my]

1.12.11 China issuing 'invalid' stapled visas to Arunachal Pradesh residents

ITANAGAR, India, January 12 - China has begun a practice of issuing stapled visas to residents of Arunachal Pradesh, which it considers as disputed, extending its controversial 'paper visa' regime from Jammu & Kashmir to the country's remote north-eastern state. The practice came to light when two sportsmen from Arunachal Pradesh were prevented by immigration officials from boarding a flight today from New Delhi to Beijing since they had stapled visas issued by the Chinese Embassy on their passports. India considers as 'invalid' the stand-alone Chinese 'paper' visas given to some of its nationals and the contentious issue had figured during Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's visit to New Delhi last month. [More>>timesofindia.indiatimes.com]

1.12.11 China's land mass increases by 1,0000 sq km, thanks to Tajik

BEIJING, January 12 - China, which has a land area of about 9.6 million sq km, the third-largest country in the world, will get 1,000 sq km more, thanks to Tajikistan which today agreed to cede a 130-year-long disputed territory to the neighboring Communist giant. The Majlisi Namoyandagon, Tajikistan's lower chamber of Parliament, ratified a protocol on demarcation of Tajikistan's common border with China...According to him, territorial dispute at first between the Tsarist Russia and China, then between the Soviet Union and China and later between sovereign Tajikistan and China over some 28,500 square kilometers in the Pamirs rose in the second half of the 19th century. "These disputable territories are nearly 20 percent of Tajikistan's territory, while under the protocol, only 1,000 square kilometers, or 3 percent of the disputable territories, are ceded to China," the minister said, claiming "victory" for Tajik diplomacy. [Full story>>indianexpress.com]

1.12.11 Iran rounds up Christians in crackdown

DUBAI, January 12 - Iran has arrested about 70 Christians since Christmas in a crackdown that demonstrates the limits of religious tolerance by Islamic leaders who often boast they provide room for other faiths. The latest raids have targeted grass-roots Christian groups Iran describes as “hard-liners” who pose a threat to the Islamic state. Authorities increasingly view them with suspicions that range from trying to convert Muslims to being possible footholds for foreign influence. Christian activists claim their Iranian brethren are being persecuted simply for worshipping outside officially sanctioned mainstream churches.

Caught in the middle is the small community of Iranian Christians who get together for prayer and Bible readings in private residences and out of sight of authorities. They are part of a wider "house church" movement that has taken root in other places with tight controls on Christian activities such as China and Indonesia. Iran's constitution gives protected status to Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians, but many religious minorities sense growing pressures from the Islamic state as hard-edged forces such as the powerful Revolutionary Guard exert more influence. There are few social barriers separating Muslims and Iran's religious minorities such as separate neighborhoods or universities. But they are effectively blocked from high government and military posts.

1.12.11 Bannu blast toll rises to 20

BANNU, Pakistan, January 12 - [The] death toll in [the] Bannu suicide blast mounted to 20 with at least 16 others injured in the blast that occurred in limits of Mirian Police Station, Geo News reported Wednesday. According to police sources, a suicide bomber rammed his explosive-packed vehicle into Mirian Police Station, killing 20 people and injuring 16 others. The blast was so powerful that it pulled down [the] Mirian Police Station building and an adjacent mosque was also damaged. [More>>thenews.com.pk]

1.12.11 Fire bombs thrown at Tunisian embassy in Swiss capital

(Reuters) January 12 - Swiss police said they were seeking witnesses after an attempted fire bombing of the Tunisian embassy in Berne Wednesday. It follows the worst wave of violence in the 23-year rule of President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali. Several fire bombs were thrown at the Tunisian embassy in the Swiss capital Berne in the early hours of Wednesday, at a time when Tunisia has been hit by a wave of violent protests at home. The fire bombs failed to ignite and caused minimal damage, police said. The attack took place shortly after midnight and the unknown assailants managed to get away. Police appealed for witnesses and said they were studying motives for the attack. Tunisia has been rocked in recent days by a wave of violence that officials say has killed 23 civilians, the worst public unrest in the 23-year rule of President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali. [More>>france24.com]

1.12.11 Hezbollah and allies resign, toppling Lebanon government

BEIRUT (Reuters) January 12 - Ministers from Hezbollah and its Lebanese allies resigned on Wednesday, toppling the government of Prime Minister Saad Al Hariri before expected indictments against the Shia group over the killing of Hariri's father. Lebanese politicians had said on Tuesday that Saudi Arabia and Syria failed to reach a deal to contain tensions over the UN-backed tribunal, which is expected to issue draft indictments soon over the 2005 assassination of Rafik Al Hariri. The ministers resigned as Saad Al Hariri was meeting US President Barack Obama in Washington. The militant Shia  Hezbollah has denied any role in the killing. Its leader, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, has attacked the tribunal as an 'Israeli project' and urged Hariri to renounce it. The Sunni Muslim premier has resisted Hezbollah's demand. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

1.12.11 Egypt warns Hamas to cease rocket fire on Israel

January 12 - "The Gaza situation is similar to that before December 2008," sources say Cairo told Strip's leadership; could bring new Israeli attack. Egypt warned Hamas that continued rocket fire from Gaza into southern Israel could prompt an Israeli war on the Strip meant to root out the source of the attacks, Reuters quoted a source familiar with the situation as saying on Wednesday. "Egypt has told Hamas the Gaza situation was similar to that before December 2008," the source said hinting that a second Operation Cast Lead may be in the offing if attacks on Israel's Negev communities continue. "Hamas does not want a new escalation unless it is forced into it," the source said. On Sunday, Hamas said that it was in contact with other groups in the Gaza Strip to reduce the recent attacks in the area so as to avoid another war with Israel, apparently as a result of Egypt's warnings. [More>>jpost.com]

1.11.11 North Korea border guards kill five defectors to China

January 11 - In what looks like a new departure for the government of Kim Jong-il, border guards have reportedly shot dead five North Korean refugees after pursuing them across the frozen Yalu River, which forms a natural border with neighboring China. Thousands of North Koreans have fled the world's last Stalinist state in a bid to escape poverty and hunger. South Korea's Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported that border guards chased seven refugees across the river into China, before opening fire. "Five of them died instantly under intensive gunfire by North Korean border guards who had run after them and the two others were wounded and taken to the North," the paper said. The reports said the guards dragged the bodies and the injured back over the border with the permission of Chinese authorities.

The seven had left Hyesan in Yanggang province and walked across the frozen Yalu River and reached the Chinese side on 14 December, the paper reported, quoting a high-level source in Changbai in the Chinese province of Jilin. This is the first time in years that there have been reports of defectors being shot. North Korean border guards have never before shot defectors once they had reached the Chinese side of the border. The shooting comes at a time of heightened tensions on the Korean peninsula, following the North's nuclear tests and its shelling of a South Korean island late last year. Mr. Kim's heir, Kim Jong-un, who is being groomed to take over from his ill father, has denounced refugees as traitors and has reportedly ordered border guards to shoot anyone trying to leave the country illegally.

1.11.11 78 missing as 'instant tsunami' hits Australia town

BRISBANE, Australia (AP) January 11 - Intense deluge sparks 26-foot high wall of water; torrent heads toward Brisbane. Greg Kowald was driving through the center of Toowoomba when a terrifying, tsunami-like wall of water roared through the streets of the northeast Australian city. Office windows exploded, cars careened into trees and bobbed in the churning brown water like corks. The deluge washed away bridges and sidewalks; people desperately clung to power poles to survive. Before it was over, the flash flood left at least 10 dead and 78 missing. "The water was literally leaping, six or 10 feet into the air, through creeks and over bridges and into parks," Kowald, a 53-year-old musician, told The Associated Press on Tuesday. "There was nowhere to escape, even if there had been warnings. There was just a sea of water about a kilometer (half a mile) wide."

Watch the terrifying flood waters of Toowoomba rise before your eyes. Courtesy of David, Toowoomba. // Information hotline for friends and family: 1300 993 191 [>theaustralian.com.au]

The violent surge in Toowoomba brought the overall death toll from weeks of flooding in Queensland state to 20, a sudden acceleration in a crisis that had been unfolding gradually with swollen rivers overflowing their banks and inundating towns while moving toward the ocean. Queensland Premier Anna Bligh said there were "grave fears" for at least 18 of those missing. The high waters headed next to Australia's third-largest city, Brisbane, where up to 9,000 homes were expected to be swamped. The Brisbane River overflowed its banks Tuesday and officials warned that dozens of low-lying neighborhoods and parts of downtown could be inundated in coming days. But nothing downstream was expected to be as fierce as the flash flood that struck Toowoomba on Monday. It was sparked by a freak storm — up to 6 inches (150 millimeters) fell in half an hour. [More>>msnbc.msn.com]

1.11.11 Iran: Tight jeans, bright clothes banned in universities

January 11 - New Islamic dress code at several universities impacts women and men alike; schools were simply given a note informing them of new dress code. Iran has implemented an Islamic dress code at several universities in the country, banning, among other things, female students from putting on long nails and donning bright clothes and tattoos, Reuters reported on Monday quoting the Iranian Fars news agency. The universities were given a note informing them of the new dress code but did not say on what basis the code was established. The code prohibits women from "wearing caps or hats without scarves, tight and short jeans, and body piercing", except earrings, Reuters said quoting Fars. It also bans male students from dying their hair, plucking eyebrows, wearing tight clothes, shirts with "very short sleeves" and jewelry. [>jpost.com; See related story,

arabnews.com (AP) January 8, "Somali insurgents ban men, women from shaking hands" :
MOGADISHU, Somalia - ...The insurgents already have banned women from working in public, leaving many mothers with a terrible choice: risk execution by going to sell some tea or vegetables in the marketplace, or stay safely at home and watch the children slowly starve. "It's an awful rule. I feel like I’m under arrest. I've started to ignore the greetings of the women I know to avoid punishment," Hussein Ali said by phone form the southern Somali town of Jowhar. The edict is also being enforced in the town of Elasha. Gunmen are searching buses for improperly dressed women or women traveling alone, said student Hamdi Osman in Elasha. She said she was once beaten for wearing Somali traditional dress instead of the long, shapeless black robes favored by the fighters. The Islamists’ insistence that women wear the long, heavy robes also forces many women to stay at home because they can't afford the new clothing...

1.11.11 Targeted IDF strike kills Islamic Jihad militant in Gaza

(Reuters) January 11 - After third IAF bombing in broad daylight in just months, Defense Minister Ehud Barak warns: Don't test us; Islamic Jihad vows to retaliate. A senior Islamic Jihad militant was killed Tuesday by an Israel Air Force missile while he was driving a motorcycle in the southern Gaza Strip, according to local Palestinian officials. Gaza emergency services said that the targeted militant Mohammed A-Najar, 25, was killed immediately and that an additional casualty had been evacuated to hospital for treatment. [More>>haaretz.com]

1.11.11 Earliest known winery found in Armenian cave

January 11 - Archaeologists uncover grape presses, dried vines and fermentation jars dating back 6,000 years. The earliest known winery has been uncovered in a cave in the mountains of Armenia. A vat to press the grapes, fermentation jars, and even a cup and drinking bowl dating to about 6,000 years ago were discovered in the cave complex by an international team of researchers. While older evidence of wine drinking has been found, this is the earliest example of complete wine production, according to Gregory Areshian of the University of California, Los Angeles, co-director of the excavation. The findings, announced Tuesday by the National Geographic Society, are published in the online edition of the Journal of Archaeological Science. "This is, so far, the oldest relatively complete wine production facility, with its press, fermentation vats and storage jars in situ," said Hans Barnard, the article's lead author and a UCLA Cotsen Institute archaeologist. Radiocarbon analysis by researchers at UC Irvine and Oxford University dated the installation and associated artifacts to the Late Chalcolithic Period between 4100 B.C. and 4000 B.C. or the Copper Age. [More>>cbsnews.com]

1.10.11 Lives lost, children missing as deluge hits Toowoomba and the Lockyer Valley

January 10 - The Queensland city of Toowoomba has been devastated by a deadly wall of water in scenes reminiscent of a tsunami, claiming the lives of four people. Deadly flash flooding swept away three children at Withcott and grave concerns are being held for their safety, The Chronicle reported. Four people have been confirmed dead in flash flooding at Toowoomba and Murphys Creek, with a woman and a child dead in each location. Six others are still missing. Authorities warned this morning the death toll was almost certainly expected to rise with an unknown number of people missing. The sudden deluge hit communities west of Brisbane, devastating the city of Toowoomba and forcing up to 5000 evacuations in the Lockyer Valley. [More>>news.com.au]

1.10.11 S. Korea refuses DPRK's proposals on inter-Korean dialogue

SEOUL (Xinhua) January 10 - South Korea on Monday refused dialogue proposals formally put forward by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) in official messages, urging Pyongyang to adopt "responsible attitude" first to its recent provocations. The remarks came after Seoul received official messages from the DPRK earlier in the day, in which Pyongyang urged government- level talks and Red Cross dialogue as soon as possible. In the letters sending via Panmunjom channels on Monday, Pyongyang proposed holding working-level government contact in its border city of Kaesong on Jan. 27 to discuss the venue and date for future higher level government talks, and holding Red Cross dialogue on Feb. 1 in South Korean border city of Munsan,

Seoul's Unification Ministry said in a press release. Pyongyang also said that it will reopen Red Cross liaison office at the truce village of Panmunjom and the economic negotiation office in Kaesong as of Wednesday. In response, Seoul's Unification Ministry said Pyongyang put forward the dialogue proposals "just for the purpose of getting economic assistance and aid," as it made no reference in the messages to killing of a South Korean tourist at Mount Kumgang area, sinking of the warship Cheonan and the artillery attack on Yeonpyeong Island.

1.10.11 'Not just White girls, Pak Muslim men sexually target Hindu and Sikh girls as well

AMRITSAR, January 10 - A day after UKs' former home secretary Jack Straw blamed some Pakistani Muslim men for targeting "vulnerable" White girls sexually, UK's Hindu and Sikh organizations also publicly accused Muslim groups of the same offence. Straw, in an interview to the BBC recently, had said, "...there is a specific problem which involves Pakistani heritage men...who target vulnerable young white girls...they see these young women, white girls who are vulnerable, some of them in care ... who they think are easy meat."

Feeling emboldened by Straw's statement, UK's Hindu and Sikh organizations have also come in open and accused some Pakistani men of specifically targeting Hindu and Sikh girls. "This has been a serious concern for the last decade," said Hardeep Singh of Network of Sikh Organizations (NSO) while talking to TOI on Monday. Sikhs and Hindus are annoyed that Straw had shown concern for White girls and not the Hindu and the Sikh teenage girls who have been coaxed by some Pakistani men for sex and religious conversion.

"Straw does other communities a disservice by suggesting that only white girls were targets of this predatory behavior. We raised the issue of our girls with the previous government and the police on several occasions over the last decade. This phenomenon has been there because a minority of Islamic extremists view all 'non believers' as legitimate targets," said director NSO Inderjit Singh. Targeted sexual offences and forced conversions of Hindu and Sikh girls was not a new phenomenon in the UK, said Ashish Joshio from Media Monitoring group.

"This has been going on for decades in the UK . Young Muslim men have been boasting about seducing the Kaffir (unbeliever) women. The Hindu and the Sikh communities must be commended for showing both restraint and maturity under such provocation," he added. Hardeep said that in 2007, The Hindu Forum of Britain claimed that hundreds of Hindu and Sikh girls had been first romantically coaxed and later intimidated and converted by Muslim men. Inderjit said, "We are heartened by the swift condemnation of this behavior by the Prime Minister David Cameron and his government. However, we urge the government to be firm in dealing with this criminal behavior to protect the vulnerable girls, and, importantly protect the good name of the majority law abiding members of the Muslim community."

1.10.11 Pope calls on Pakistan to scrap blasphemy law

VATICAN CITY, January 10 - Defends rights of Christians in Muslim majority countries. Pope Benedict called on Monday for Pakistan to repeal its anti-blasphemy law and demanded that governments in predominantly Muslim countries do much more to protect minority Christians from violent attacks. Speaking in his annual address to diplomats days after a senior Pakistani politician who opposed the legislation was assassinated by his own bodyguard, the pope said the Pakistani law was a pretext for violence against religious minorities. "I once more encourage the leaders of that country to take the necessary steps to abrogate that law," the leader of the world's one billion Catholics said in a traditional New Year's address to ambassadors to the Vatican. "The tragic murder of the governor of Punjab shows the urgent need to make progress in this direction," he said, adding that the law against blasphemy was an example of "norms prejudicing the right to religious freedom."

The pope, who has used many of his addresses in recent weeks to demand religious freedom, renewed his condemnation of attacks on churches that left dozens dead in Egypt, Iraq and Nigeria. "The particular influence of a given religion in a nation ought never to mean that citizens of another religion can be subject to discrimination in social life or, even worse, that violence against them can be tolerated," he told the envoys. The Vatican is particularly worried about Christians in the Middle East, where continuing attacks, combined with severe restrictions, are fuelling a Christian exodus from the region. In his address to diplomats representing some 170 countries, the pope said recent attacks in Egypt and Iraq showed the need to urgently adopt effective measures for the protection of religious minorities.

1.10.11 Clashes in Sudan kill 33: rival chiefs

JUBA, Sudan, January 10 - The feuding Misseriya Arab and Ngok Dinka peoples of the disputed Sudan district of Abyei on Monday both reported heavy losses in clashes over the past three days totalling at least 33 dead. "Thirteen Misseriya have been killed and 38 wounded since Friday," Misseriya tribal leader Hamid al-Ansari said. Abyei chief administrator Deng Arop Kuol said: "The total for these three days, we lost about 20 to 22 Dinka. They attacked us three times already and we are expecting them to attack again today." UN peacekeepers have been sent to Abyei to investigate, UN Mission in Sudan spokesman Kouider Zerrouk said.

Tensions in the district on the north-south border have been rising with the launch of a landmark independence referendum in the south on Sunday. Abyei had been due to hold a simultaneous plebiscite on its own future but it has been indefinitely postponed amid deadlock between northern and southern leaders over who should be eligible to take part in the vote on remaining part of the north or joining an autonomous or independent south. The Misseriya, heavily armed nomads who migrate to Abyei each dry season to find water and pasture for their livestock, insist they should have the same right to vote as the Dinka, settled agriculturalists who live in the district all year and are sympathetic to the south. Threats by the Dinka to take unilateral action over the plebiscite delay have sparked warnings of retaliation from the Misseriya.

1.10.11 Three Kassam rockets fall in Ashkelon coast, no injuries

January 10 - Rocket attacks come after reports say Palestinian man was killed by IDF fire in Gaza and after IAF strikes two terror bases. Three Kassam rockets were fired into Israeli territory and exploded in the Hof Ashkelon Regional Council Monday evening. The rockets fell in an open area and did not cause any injuries or damage. In related news, the 65-year-old Palestinian farmer who was reportedly killed by IDF fire in northern Gaza on Monday was shot by soldiers from an observation tower from near Beit Hanoun, reported Palestinian news sources. According to reports, the farmer, Sha'aban Karmut, was critically wounded and taken to a hospital in Beit Lahiya where he later died of his wounds. [More>>jpost.com]

1.10.11 ETA declares first-ever permanent, unilateral ceasefire

(AFP) January 10 - The Basque separatist group ETA announced a permanent ceasefire Monday in a statement published in the pro-nationalist newspaper Gara. It is the first time that ETA has unilaterally declared a ceasefire in its 40 years of existence. Armed Basque separatists ETA announced Monday a permanent, verifiable ceasefire after more than 40 years of bloodshed in their fight for a homeland independent of Spain. "ETA has decided to declare a permanent and general ceasefire which will be verifiable by the international community," it said in a statement distributed to media in Basque, Spanish and English. "This is ETA's firm commitment towards a process to achieve a lasting resolution and towards an end to the armed confrontation." It is the first time that ETA has unilaterally declared a permanent ceasefire in its campaign of bombings and shootings, which has claimed the lives of 829 people in more than 40 years. ETA had also announced what it described as a permanent ceasefire in March 2006 within the framework of negotiations with Madrid. [More>>france24.com]

1.10.11 Chinese troops cross into Indian territory

NEW DELHI (AP) January 10 - Armed Chinese soldiers infiltrated Indian territory and threatened construction workers near a disputed border in September, Indian media reported Monday. The Chinese incursion took place in the Himalayan region of Kashmir, the Press Trust of India said without citing a source for the information. Chinese soldiers threatened an Indian contractor and his workers who were building a bus station near Demchok in India's Leh region along the so-called Line of Actual Control that divides India and China. Construction work has been halted since then, the report said.

China has made similar incursions previously, the most serious in 1962 when the two sides fought a brief border war. The incident underscores the tensions that exist between the Asian giants stemming from India's swift economic growth and the increasing challenge it poses to China's dominance of the region. On Monday, India's army chief, Gen. V. K. Singh, played down the incident saying it may have occurred over "a difference in perception" of where the border lies. Singh said the Line of Actual Control as perceived by India “runs in a particular direction, while the Chinese have a different alignment of the Line.” India's External Affairs Ministry in a statement later said the media reports were baseless and did not conform to fact.
[More>>khallejtimes.com; See related story,

timesofindia.indiatimes.com, January 10, "India will take revenge for China incursion in Ladakh in summer: Farooq Abdullah"
: SRINIGAR - Former Jammu & Kashmir chief minister Farooq Abdullah has threatened China of revenge in Leh during summer amid reports of "incursions" into Indian territory in J&K's Ladakh region. Abdullah said China had "betrayed the concept of friendship." Farooq Abdullah told reporters in Jammu on Sunday that India will show its strength during summer as there is extreme cold this time in Leh. "China has betrayed the concept of friendship despite the fact that the Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao had promised friendship during his visit to India," Abdullah said on the sidelines of a function in Jammu on Sunday night. "Those hopes have been belied by the incursion of Chinese troops into the border area of Leh," the minister said, replying to a question on reports of incursion by Chinese troops and halting of work at Demchok, close to the Line of Actual Control (LAC), in October last year...

1.09.11 US concerned over Chinas new weapons: Gates

ABOARD A US MILITARY AIRCRAFT, January 9 - US Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Saturday voiced concern over China's latest hi-tech weaponry and called for an improvement in uneasy military relations with Beijing to help defuse tensions. Speaking to reporters en route to Beijing for three days of talks, Gates said the Chinese appeared to have made more progress in building their first stealth fighter jet than previously thought, and that an anti-ship missile posed a potential threat to the US military. "They clearly have the potential to put some of our capabilities at risk. And we have to pay attention to them, we have to respond appropriately with our own programmes," Gates said. But he said the advances in weaponry underlined the importance of building a dialogue with the Chinese military, and added he hoped his visit starting Sunday would lay the ground for deeper defence ties with Asia's rising power. [More>>thenews.com.pk]

1.09.11 2nd person of interest sought in Tucson shooting

TUSCON, January 9 - Arizona authorities seek help in identifying man seen at shooting rampage. Authorities have released an image of a second man possibly involved in the shooting rampage that left 19 people wounded, 6 fatally. The Pima County Sheriff's Department early Sunday morning released an image of a man seen at the location, possibly associated with the suspect. He is described as a Caucasian male, approximately 40-50 years old, dark hair and was last seen wearing blue jeans and a dark blue jacket Authorities were investigating the possibility that the suspect who killed six people and wounded 13 more outside a Tucson grocery story, including US Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, did not act alone. CBS News has been told the photo of the person of interest is from the surveillance camera of the grocery store where the Giffords event was taking place. A 22-year-old in custody has been identified as Jared Loughner. Officials tell CBS News that Loughner and the man in the photo may have been together in the store before the shootings. Anyone who knows the identity of this individual is asked to contact 911, 88-CRIME or the Federal Bureau of Investigation at (520) 791-6974. Officials say Loughner has claimed sole responsibility for the attack, but said authorities were "not convinced he acted alone," Dupnik said. [More>>cbsnews.com; See related stories,

news.com.au, January 9, "Arizona shooting supsect may be linked to anti-Semitic group" : The suspect being held over Saturday's shooting of US Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords may have links to anti-Semitic race hate group American Renaissance. An internal Department of Homeland Security (DHS) memo quoted by FOX News Channel revealed the gunman — named by the media as Jared Loughner, 22 — is "possibly linked" to American Renaissance. The group subscribes to an ideology that is "anti-government, anti-immigration, anti -ZOG (Zionist Occupational Government), anti-Semitic," according to the DHS memo. Giffords "is the first Jewish female elected to such a high position in the US government. She was also opposite this group's ideology when it came to immigration debate," the note said. The suspect's mother works the Pima County Board of Supervisors in Arizona, the briefing added. The DHS confirmed that the FBI have now taken over the investigation. Giffords, who was wounded after being shot in the head from close range, remains in critical condition in the hospital Sunday. Six other people died and 13 were wounded in the shooting. [end]

foxnews.com, January 9 - "Arizona suspected gunman had 'troubled past," but mostly flew under radar" : ...A law enforcement memo based on information provided by the Department of Homeland Security and obtained by Fox News suggests that alleged gunman Jared Loughner
accused of killing six people, shooting Arizona Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and wounding 12 others may have ties to the American Renaissance group, though it's unclear if he was directly affiliated with the publication or group. The Southern Poverty Law Center describes the group as "white nationalist" whose leader, Jared Taylor, is "a kind of modern-day version of the refined but racist colonialist of old."

The memo states that there is "no direct connection" between Loughner and the group, "but strong suspicion is being directed at AmRen / American Renaissance. Suspect is possibly linked to this group. (through videos posted on his MySpace and YouTube account). The group's ideology is anti-government, anti-immigration, anti-ZOG (Zionist Occupational Government), anti-Semitic." The memo also includes information about the suspect's mother, who works for the Pima County Board of Supervisors and notes that Loughner has multiple arrests but no criminal record.

But Taylor, a 1973 graduate in philosophy from Yale University, told Fox News on Sunday that he had never heard of Loughner until Saturday and has checked the group's records going back 20 years and has not found any subscriptions for Loughner to American Renaissance publications.  He added he has no indication that Loughner ever attended any of the group's events, which have been held on the East Coast where the organization is based. Taylor also denied references to the group as being "anti-ZOG." "That is complete nonsense," he said. "I have absolutely no idea what DHS is talking about. We have never used the term 'ZOG.' We have never thought in those terms. If this is the level of research we are getting from DHS, then heaven help us," he said.

...A senior US law enforcement official told Fox News that the gun used in Saturday's massacre was a Glock semi-automatic 9-mm. gun with extended magazine. Witnesses told law enforcement that the magazine was high-capacity, about 12 inches long. US officials told Fox News they know where the gun was purchased in Tucson and plan on questioning the store's owner. The Washington Post reports that Loughner bought the handgun on Nov. 30 at a Sportsman's Warehouse in Tucson...

1.09.11 Hamas urges armed factions in Gaza to halt rocket attacks

January 9 - Fearing Israeli retaliation to spate of Kassam and mortar attacks on Negev communities, Hamas begins holding talks with factions in the Strip; within the first week of 2011, more than 10 rockets fired into Negev. Hamas is holding talks with other armed factions in the Gaza Strip, urging them to refrain from causing an escalation of violence in the region by firing rockets and mortar shells into southern Israel, Reuters quoted an official of the organization as saying on Sunday. "We began contacts with factions over the situation in the field. Hamas seeks to control the situation on the ground and urge factions to recommit to the national agreement," Hamas official Ayman Taha said.

Taha referred to the agreement Hamas made with armed factions two years ago to halt the firing of rockets and mortar shells. Hamas's announcement of the talks came as violence on the Israel-Gaza border has escalated in the new year. Within the first week of 2011, more than 10 rockets have been fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel's southern communities. On Saturday four mortar shells were fired from the Gaza Strip, exploding in a residential area in a kibbutz belonging to the Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council, wounding three Thai agricultural workers. The military wing of Islamic Jihad, the al-Quds Brigades, took responsibility for the attack, claiming it targeted a military base. At least three Kassam rockets were fired at southern Israel later in the evening, wounding a truck driver lightly. In response to these attacks, the IDF has struck several terror-related sites in the past week.

1.09.11 WikiLeaks demands Google and Facebook unseal US subpoenas

January 9 - Call comes after revelation that US has tried to force Twitter to release WikiLeaks members' private details. WikiLeaks has demanded that Google and Facebook reveal the contents of any US subpoenas they may have received after it emerged that a court in Virginia had ordered Twitter to secretly hand over details of accounts on the micro-blogging site by five figures associated with the group, including Julian Assange. Amid strong evidence that a US grand jury has begun a wide-ranging trawl for details of what networks and accounts WikiLeaks used to communicate with Bradley Manning, the US serviceman accused of stealing hundreds of thousands of sensitive government cables, some of those named in the subpoena said they would fight disclosure. "Today, the existence of a secret US government grand jury espionage investigation into WikiLeaks was confirmed for the first time as a subpoena was brought into the public domain," WikiLeaks said in a statement.

The writ, approved by a court in Virginia in December, demands that the San Franscisco-based micro-blogging site hand over all details of five individuals' accounts and private messaging on Twitter
including the computers and networks used. They include WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, Manning, Icelandic MP Brigitta Jonsdottir and Dutch hacker Rop Gonggrijp. Three of them Gonggrijp, Assange and Jonsdottir were named as "producers" of the first significant leak from the US cables cache: a video of an Apache helicopter attack that killed civilians and journalists in Baghdad. The legal document also targets an account held by Jacob Appelbaum, a US computer programmer whose computer and phones were examined by US officials in July after he was stopped returning from Holland to America. [More>>guardian.co.uk]

1.09.11 Invisible tanks could be on battlefield within five years

January 9 - Armored vehicles will use a new technology known as "e-camouflage" which deploys a form "electronic ink" to render a vehicle "invisible." Highly sophisticated electronic sensors attached to the tank's hull will project images of the surrounding environment back onto the outside of the vehicle enabling it to merge into the landscape and evade attack. The electronic camouflage will enable the vehicle to blend into the surrounding countryside in much the same way that a squid uses ink to help as a disguise. Unlike conventional forms of camouflage, the images on the hull would change in concert with the changing environment always insuring that the vehicle remains disguised. In Helmand, for example, all armored vehicle have desert sand colored camouflage, which is of little use in the "Green Zone," an area of cultivation where crops are grown and the Taliban often hide. [More>>telegraph.co.uk]

1.09.11 Protesters killed in Tunisia riots

January 9 - At least 20 people have been killed as demonstrators clashed with security forces in Tala and Kasserine. At least 20 people have been killed in clashes with police in a two cities in Tunisia. Six people were killed and another six wounded in the city of Tala, 200km southwest of the capital Tunis, on Saturday, after security forces opened fire on protesters. Another 14 people were killed in similar clashes in the Kasserine region, union sources told Al Jazeera. Belgacem Sayhi, a teacher and trade union activist, told the AFP news agency that the victims in Tala were between 17 and 30 years old, and were killed when the police opened fire on the crowd. The government has put the death toll after the Tala riots at two.

"The police opened fire in legitimate self-defence and this led to two dead and eight wounded, as well as several wounded among police, three of them seriously," a government statement said...French police confirmed that a "small explosion" occurred at the Tunisian consulate in a Paris suburb early on Sunday morning. The blast took place at the consulate in Pantin, and caused "minor damage to the consulates metal shutters," police said....Protests sparked by high youth unemployment have spread from the central town of Sidi Bouzid to other parts chiefly in the north African country's interior, which lags behind the more prosperous coastal areas.
[Full story>>aljazeera.net]

1.09.11 Algerian protests turn deadly on fourth day of unrest

(AFP) January 9 - At least three Algerian demonstrators were killed Saturday after violent protests across the country entered their fourth day. The government promised to cut the cost of certain foods in order to quell the unrest, which was sparked by soaring prices. Three people were killed and over 400 injured in riots in Algeria linked to rising food costs and unemployment, the interior minister said Saturday, as the government scrambled to tackle the crisis. In a bid to curb the price rises, which in some cases have reached 30 percent since January 1, the government announced a temporary 41 percent cut in customs duties and taxes on sugar and food oils. "I confirm the death of three young people at M'sila, Tipaza and Boumerdes," Interior Minister Dahou Ould Kablia said on the Canal Algerie television channel, referring to three towns where unrest had broken out. Two of the victims were killed Friday during the riots and the third victim was found in a hotel burned down by rioters, he said. [More>>france24.com]

1.09.11 Two kidnapped French nationals found dead in Niger

(Reuters) January 9 - Two French nationals who were kidnapped in a crowded Niamey restaurant Friday and taken into the desert by suspected al-Qaeda-linked terrorists, have been found dead after a failed military operation involving French forces near the Malian border. Two French hostages kidnapped in Niger were found dead on Saturday after a failed rescue operation involving French forces, Defence Minister Alain Juppe said. It was the second abortive French hostage rescue since July in the Sahel region of Africa, where Paris says it is at war with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the regional branch of Osama bin Laden's network.

The pair were abducted from a bar overnight, the latest French nationals to be snatched in the African country but the first in its capital Niamey, far from the lawless desert where Islamist militants, rebels and bandits flourish. Juppe said in a statement in Paris that the kidnappers had been pursued to the border with Mali in an operation coordinated with French forces in the region. "The terrorists were intercepted at the Mali border and several of them were overpowered," Juppe said. "After the fighting, the two hostages were found dead."

1.09.11 Headless bodies found in Mexican resort

January 9 - The bodies of 27 people, almost half of them young men who had been decapitated, have been found in Mexico in the space of just a few hours. The 14 headless bodies were discovered alongside a 15th intact corpse outside a shopping centre in the popular tourist resort of Acapulco. Handwritten signs were left with the bodies - a common calling card for the Mexican drug cartels. A police report said the victims were between 25 and 30 years of age. "The heads were found in one single place, with the exception of one that was half severed from the body and with an impact of a projectile from a firearm," it said. Reforma newspaper reported that the men were killed by the Sinaloa cartel, headed by drug lord Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman, for intruding on the gang's turf. At least a dozen more bodies were found at several scenes of violence around the city early on Saturday. Two police officers were shot dead in front of tourists and locals in a major tourist area. More than 30,000 people have been killed in Mexico's drugs war since the government launched a major military crackdown in 2006. The bodies in Acapulco are the largest single group of decapitation victims to be found since President Felipe Calderon began his offensive against the drug gangs. [More>>news.sky.com]

1.09.11 Saudi lists 47 wanted Qaeda suspects abroad

RIYADH (AFP) January 9 - Saudi authorities announced Sunday a list of 47 people wanted for suspected links to Al Qaeda who are all abroad, the interior ministry said in a statement carried by state news agency SPA. "Authorities have identified 47 wanted Saudis who are abroad and who adopt the deviant ideology," the ministry said, using the kingdom’s term for the al-Qaeda terror network. Saudi militants linked to al-Qaeda launched a wave of attacks against Westerners and government installations between 2003 and 2006 before coming under a severe crackdown by the authorities. Many are believed to be active in neighbouring Yemen after the merger of the Saudi and Yemeni al-Qaeda front groups in the two countries under the banner of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, which is based in Yemen. [>khaleejtimes.com]

1.07.11 EU rejects Iran's offer of atomic site tour - Ashton

BUDAPEST (Reuters) January 7 - The European Union has turned down an offer from Iran to tour its nuclear facilities, EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton said on Friday, but remains optimistic about talks with Tehran later this month. Iran has sent letters to a number of ambassadors to the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, inviting them to visit two sites the Natanz uranium enrichment plant and the Arak heavy water complex in the coming weeks. Diplomats from Britain, France, Germany and the United States were not invited. But Hungary, which holds the rotating presidency of the European Union until July, was invited, leaving the EU in a quandary over what to do. "What I'll be saying is the role of the inspections of nuclear sites is for the IAEA and I do hope Iran will ensure that the IAEA is able to go and continue and fulfil its work," Ashton told Reuters after talks with Hungarian Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi, saying the invitation would be declined. [More>>thestar.com.my]

1.07.11 Deficit must fall to prevent economic crisis, Bernanke warns

January 7 - Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke laid out a dire scenario on Friday of what could happen to the US economy if the government cannot develop a plan to bring down the budget deficit in the years ahead, even as he said that the economic recovery appears to be gaining momentum. Bernanke began his testimony before the Senate Budget Committee just an hour after the Labor Department reported that the unemployment rate fell to 9.4 percent in December its lowest level since May 2009 from the previous month's 9.8 percent. The surprising decrease was tempered by news from employers that showed weaker-than-expected job growth. Still the sharp drop in unemployment revealed a growing confidence in the nation's economic outlook.

"We have seen increased evidence that a self-sustaining recovery in consumer and business spending may be taking hold," Bernanke said, according to prepared testimony. "Overall, the pace of economic recovery seems likely to be moderately stronger in 2011 than it was in 2010." But Bernanke also offered his strongest warning yet over the nation's high deficit. If the United States does not set a fiscal course that is more sustainable, "the economic and financial effects would be severe," he said. [More>>washingtonpost.com]

1.07.11 German dioxin-scare eggs reach Britain

January 7 - A shipment of eggs from German farms affected by an alert over dioxin has been exported to Britain in processed products. The European Union has said the dioxin scare is "of utmost importance." Eggs from German farms affected by an alert over dioxin have entered Britain in processed products destined for human consumption, a European Union executive said on Thursday. German authorities fear that up to 3,000 tons of animal feed contaminated with the carcinogen dioxin were sent to more than 1,000 poultry and pig farms in Germany.

Eggs from some of those farms were apparently then exported to the Netherlands. "Those eggs were then processed and exported to the United Kingdom," European Commission health spokesman Frederic Vincent told a news briefing in Brussels. The shipment was part of a 14-ton consignment of processed egg products. "Whether it went into mayonnaise, pastries, I don't know," Vincent said. UK authorities are now investigating what happened. Vincent stressed that while the eggs had come from farms in Germany where the contaminated feed had been distributed, it was unclear whether they had in fact contained dioxin. However, tests on other eggs produced by the affected farms had been found to contain up to five times the legal EU limit for dioxin.

1.07.11 Terror threat to London stations and airports

January 7 - Train stations across London have been put on high alert amid fears of a terrorist attack on transport hubs. British Transport Police cancelled leave and called in extra officers after intelligence was received that terrorists could be planning attacks. A security source said there was no “imminent” threat and the overall threat level had not changed but there was activity from one of a "handful" of extremist cells that cause concern at any time, leading to an adjustment in policing levels. It is understood that "intelligence chatter" suggested that transport hubs in London could be a target. It was unclear last night whether the terrorists were discussing suicide bomb attacks, or Mumbai-style shootings, or a combination of methods. A Whitehall source said: "The assessment of the threat to transport hubs has been revised. The view is that there is a greater risk than before, so steps are being taken as a precaution." [More>>telegrapph.co.uk]

1.07.11 Saudi cleric sees 'devil' behind suicide attacks

January 7 - A top Saudi cleric has slammed suicide attacks by Islamist martyrdom-seekers as devilish acts that do not qualify as jihad, a Saudi newspaper reported today. "He (a suicide bomber) claims to be a mujahed (holy warrior) in the name of Allah, but he is not. He is fighting in the name of the devil who has tempted him and convinced him” to carry out the attack, said Sheikh Saleh al-Fawzan. A Muslim is prohibited from killing himself,” the member of the Saudi supreme council of Islamic scholars said in a lecture in Riyadh, according to Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper. He said acts of violence branded as jihad, or Muslim holy war, were nothing more than “sabotage.”

“This is not jihad. This is sabotage and unrightful killing,” the cleric said, adding that jihad in Islam should only be declared by the leader of the Muslim community. "Jihad has rules and regulations. It should be called for by the leader of the Muslims," he said. Martyrs in the Islamic faith are promised generous rewards in paradise. Fawzan also condemned the New Year's Day bombing of a Coptic church in Alexandria, Egypt that killed 21 churchgoers, slamming it as an act of “treachery.” The newspaper termed his condemnation of suicide attacks as unprecedented in a country which was home to 15 out of the 19 hijackers of the passenger planes used in the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

1.07.11 Algeria in turmoil as riots stretch over third day

(Reuters) January 7 - Algerian protesters angered by rising food prices and widespread unemployment have clashed with police in a third day of riots that have highlighted growing anxiety among the country's youth. Fresh rioting broke out in Algiers on Friday as police deployed around mosques and authorities suspended soccer championship matches after violent protests over food prices and unemployment. Riot police armed with tear gas launchers and batons maintained a strong presence around the Algerian capital's main mosques and streets. In the popular Belcourt district of the capital, rioting resumed after Friday prayers. Young protesters pelted police with stones and blocked access to the area.

The official APS news agency said protesters ransacked government buildings, bank branches and post offices in "several eastern cities" overnight, including Constantine, and in Jijel, Setif and Bouira. "The unrest resumed in Ras El Oued on Friday morning ... Government buildings were seriously damaged such as (state-run gas utility) Sonelgaz, the local council's, the tax authority's ... as well as several schools," APS said. Analysts say the riots are still far from dragging the oil-and gas-producing nation back to the sort of political upheaval of the 1990s that caused 10 years of civil strife.

1.07.11 Afghan suicide bomber kills 17 in bath house

January 7 - At least 17 people have been killed in a suicide attack in a crowded public bath house in Afghanistan's southern Kandahar province, officials say. They say 23 others were injured in the attack, which took place in the town of Spin Boldak, on the Pakistan border. Officials said the bomber killed his target — a police commander who was inside the building at the time. Meanwhile, NATO says three of its troops have been killed in two separate bombings in the south and east. One soldier died in the south while two others were killed in the east, the alliance said. [More>>bbc.co.uk]

1.07.11 Al-Qaeda gunmen kill 13 soldiers in Yemen

SANAA, Yemen (AP) January 7 - A Yemeni official says al-Qaeda fighters have killed 13 soldiers who were escorting water tankers in the country's south. The deputy governor of Abyan province, Salih al-Shamsi, says al-Qaeda gunmen ambushed the military patrol Friday in Lawder in Abyan. He said the attackers fled and army units were chasing them in the area. Lawder was the scene of heavy fighting between Yemen's military and al-Qaeda elements this fall after a series of attacks on security forces in the town and surrounding area. Yemen's government is battling a resurgent al-Qaeda presence in the country that also drew deep international concern after the terror network's local offshoot claimed responsibility for an attempt to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner in December, 2009. [>khaleejtimes.com]

1.07.11 Israeli troops shot on Gaza border

January 7 - At least two armed men breached the buffer zone near Khan Younis, opening fire and injuring four Israeli soldiers. At least four Israeli soldiers have been wounded after two armed men breached the buffer zone between the Gaza Strip and and opened fire Al Jazeera's Stefanie Dekker, reporting from Gaza City, said there was no confirmation of how seriously the four Israeli soldiers in Kibbutz Nirim, east of Khan Younis, were injured or who carried out the attack. "But certainly, it's not very common that the buffer zone is breached," Dekker said. "It is a very tightly, security-controlled area, so we're surprised that the militants have been able to cross it." She reported that after the incident, more Israeli soldiers appeared at the scene and opened fire, but what happened to the armed men remains unclear at the moment. The buffer zone is made up of 300 metres of Palestinian land - within the Gaza border - which Palestinians are not supposed to enter, even though the area contain farmland. [>aljazeera.net]

1.05.11 World food prices at fresh high, says UN

January 5 - Global food prices rose to a fresh high in December, according to the UN's Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO). Its Food Price Index went above the previous record of 2008 that saw prices spark riots in several countries. Soaring sugar, cereal and oil prices had driven the rise, the report said. The index, which measures monthly price changes for a food basket composed of dairy, meat and sugar, cereals and oilseeds, averaged 214.7 points last month, up from 206 points in November. It stood at 213.5 points at the high of June 2008 sparking violent protests in countries including Cameroon, Haiti and Egypt. There were further riots over food prices in Mozambique in September last year. [More>>bbc.co.uk; See also

guardian.co.uk, January 5, "World food prices enter 'danger territory' to reach record high"
: UN food price index rises for sixth month in a row to highest since records began in 1990...

1.05.11 3 NATO soldiers, 3 Afghans killed

KABUL, Afghanistan, January 5 - Three NATO-led troops were killed in separate attacks in Afghanistan on Wednesday, the force said, as residents of a restive province accused the alliance's troops of killing Afghan civilians. Two soldiers were killed in an improvised bomb explosion in eastern Afghanistan and a third died in a similar attack in the country's south, NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said in statements. With Wednesday's deaths six foreign troops have lost their lives so far this year, following a record 711 who perished in 2010, according to independent website icasualties.org.

There are about 140,000 US-led international troops in Afghanistan fighting Taliban militants who have waged a bloody insurgency against Afghan and foreign forces since their ouster by a US-led invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001. With Wednesday's deaths six foreign troops have lost their lives so far this year, following a record 711 who perished in 2010, according to independent website icasualties.org. There are about 140,000 US-led international troops in Afghanistan fighting Taliban militants who have waged a bloody insurgency against Afghan and foreign forces since their ouster by a US-led invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001.

1.05.11 Pakistani scholars say mourning slain governor risky

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) January 5 - Five hundred Pakistani religious scholars have warned that anyone who expresses grief over the assassination of a senior ruling party official who opposed the country's blasphemy law could suffer the same fate. Salman Taseer, a liberal politician close to President Asif Ali Zardari, had no day-to-day role in the central government. But his killing in broad daylight at a shopping centre in Islamabad reinforces the sense that the government is incapable of stabilizing the Muslim country of 170 million. The Punjab province governor was killed on Tuesday by one of his guards, who was apparently incensed by the politician's opposition to the blasphemy law, in a parking lot at the block of shops popular with foreigners. Human rights groups say the law is often exploited by religious conservatives as well as ordinary people to settle personal scores.

But the law has widespread support in a country that is more than 95 percent Muslim, and most politicians are loath to be seen as soft on the defence of Islam. Taseer, however, was an outspoken critic. The Jamaat-e-Ahl-e-Sunnat Pakistan group of scholars making the veiled threat is actually from a moderate school of Islam in Pakistan. It is a vocal critic of Taliban militants who are violently opposed to the government and its ally the United States. The group is one of the largest representing scholars from the mainstream Barelvi sect of Sunni Muslims. Although moderate, they have been leading protests in favour of the blasphemy law.

The hardline stand taken by the moderates illustrates how difficult it can be for Washington which sees Islamabad as indispensable in its war on militancy, to persuade Pakistani leaders to crack down harder on religious extremism. "More than 500 scholars of the Jamaat-e-Ahl-e-Sunnat have advised Muslims not to offer the funeral prayers of Governor Punjab Salman Taseer nor try to lead the prayers," the group said in a statement. "Also, there should be no no expression of grief or sympathy on the death of the governor, as those who support blasphemy of the Prophet are themselves indulging in blasphemy."
[More>>thestar.com.my; See related story,

nytimes.com, January 5, "Suspected assassin in Pakistan was seen as risk"
:LAHORE, Pakistan - The killer of a prominent secular politician had been removed from a special police branch several years ago because of his extremist religious views, but was still assigned to an elite security force tasked with guarding the victim, a senior police official said Wednesday. It was not yet clear whether the assignment as a body guard to the slain politician, the governor of Punjab Province, Salman Taseer, was an oversight or part of a larger plot by extremist groups. But the profile of the 26-year-old assassin, Malik Mumtaz Qadri, raised alarming questions about the vetting and screening of security personnel, former police officials and associates of the former governor said. The two men — victim and killer — have quickly come to represent the competing forces struggling for the soul of this deeply restive country. Mr. Qadri appeared before a magistrate in Islamabad and was showered by hundreds of supporters with rose petals and garlands, even as he was charged with murder and terrorism...

1.05.11 DPRK proposes unconditional dialogue with South Korea

PYONGYANG, January 5 - The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) has proposed unconditional dialogue with South Korea as soon as possible, according to official news agency KCNA. According to the KCNA, the government, party and social institutions issued a combined statement on Wednesday proposing dialogue with South Korean authorities on the way to demolish misunderstanding and distrust as well as achieve peace and prosperity. Confrontation could not solve the problem between north and south but would lead to military conflict and war. Only dialogue and negotiation could break the predicament. Thus the DPRK hopes to actively enter dialogue and negotiation with South Korean authorities, parties and social institutions, the report said. [More>>xinhuanet.com; See related story,

aljazeera.net, January 5, "US looks for China help on N. Korea"
: Stephen Bosworth, the US special envoy for North Korea policy, is in China to discuss attempts to convince Pyongyang to end its development of nuclear weapons and ease tense relations on the Korean peninsula. Tensions between the two Koreas have been at their highest level in years after the North killed four South Koreans, including two civilians, when it shelled the disputed frontier island of Yeonpyeong in November. In March, the South blamed Pyongyang for torpedoing one of its navy ships, killing 46 sailors. The North denied the charge...

1.05.11 Two million fish found dead in Maryland

January 5 - Around two million fish have died in the Chesapeake Bay area in Maryland, just days after two similar incidents elsewhere in the US baffled scientists. Officials are now trying to find out what happened. Maryland Department of the Environment spokeswoman Dawn Stoltzfus told Sky News Online that at the moment it does not look like pollution is to blame. She said: "The dead fish are mainly juvenile spot fish, and they can't survive very cold water temperatures. Typically they should have left the bay by now. Our working theory, that looks pretty strong, is that it's been caused by cold water stress." This mass "fish kill," as it is called, happened after water temperatures plunged to near record lows in the area in late December, but scientists have yet to prove conclusively that this was the cause. Elsewhere in the US, large numbers of sudden bird and fish deaths have perplexed biologists. Just days ago, an estimated 500 small birds, mostly blackbirds, fell out of the sky in Louisiana. [More>>news.sky.com]

1.05.11 Al-Sadr back in Iraq stronghold

January 5 - Shia leader returns to Najaf after several years in Iran, following his bloc's strong showing in last year's election. The Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has returned to his home city of Najaf in central Iraq, after an absence of four years. "Muqtada al-Sadr has returned to his home in Najaf. He arrived about 3:00pm [1200 GMT] with several leaders from the Sadr movement," an anonymous source told the AFP news agency on Wednesday. The source, cited as being part of al-Sadr's movement, said the cleric had left Iraq at the end of 2006. Al-Sadr is reported to have been in Iran pursuing religious studies in the holy city of Qom. His return follows a strong showing by his bloc in last year's parliamentary election and his crucial support for Nouri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister. It was not immediately clear how long al-Sadr would stay in Iraq or whether the return marked a permanent decision to remain in the country, where his presence would certainly mark a significant shift in Iraqi politics. [More>>aljazeera.net]

1.04.11 Bashir pledges to support independent south

(AFP) January 4 - Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir said he would support an independent South Sudan during a rare trip to the region on Tuesday, five days ahead of a high-stakes referendum on independence that he had previously vowed to oppose. On a rare visit to Juba on Tuesday, Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir told southerners he would celebrate the result of Sunday's referendum on southern independence, "even if you choose secession." "I personally will be sad if Sudan splits. But at the same time I will be happy if we have peace in Sudan between the two sides," Bashir said in a speech to senior southern officials broadcast live on state television. "I am going to celebrate your decision, even if your decision is secession."

He had earlier been greeted by southern leader Salva Kiir on his arrival at Juba airport, where he was given a red carpet welcome by senior southern politicians, religious leaders and a guard of honour from the combined armed forces of north and south Sudan. Around 500 people gathered outside the airport, shouting slogans for separation such as "no to unity," and waving southern flags, but the atmosphere was festive. In his speech, Bashir said unity was the best choice for the southerners, but he also insisted he wanted good relations with the south if it chooses independence, and repeated his message that the links between north and south Sudan were unique. "Anything you need in terms of technical, logistical or professional support from Khartoum, you will find us ready to give it," he said. "The benefit we get from unity, we can also get it from two separate states."

1.04.11 Iran invites Russia, China to nuke sites but not US

(AFP) January 4 - Iran is to open its atomic sites to some world powers, officials announced, as President Ahmadinejad insisted the West was wrong to confront Teheran over its nuclear programme. Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said in Teheran that invitations to visit Iran's nuclear sites in Natanz and Arak have been sent to ambassadors of some of the nations represented in the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Diplomatic sources at the IAEA in Vienna said, however, that invitations had gone out to Russia and China but that the United States, Britain, France and Germany were not on the list. The invitees also include Hungary as rotating president of the European Union, Egypt and Cuba, according to the sources. The rare move to open up its facilities comes as Teheran works to garner support for its atomic drive in the run-up to talks with the six world powers in Turkey at the end of January. "The representatives of some European Union countries, NAM (Non-Aligned Movement) and some representatives of the five-plus-one (six world powers) have been invited to visit our nuclear sites," Mehmanparast told a news conference. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

1.04.11 Pakistan: Liberal Punjab governor killed for 'opposing blasphemy laws'

ISLAMABAD, January 4 - The governor of Pakistan's Punjab province, Salman Taseer, was shot dead by one of his elite police guards in Islamabad on Tuesday, apparently for his liberal and progressive views. Taseer's killing was the most high-profile assassination of a politician in Pakistan since the murder of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto on December 27, 2007. The governor was shot multiple times from a close range when he was getting into his car after lunch at a café in Islamabad's Kohsar Market, a posh area near his home which is mostly visited by foreigners and wealthy people. The shooting left blood stains on a parking area on the edge of the marketplace. An eyewitness said: "The governor fell down and the man who fired at him threw down his gun and raised both hands." The police arrested Taseer's killer on the spot who allegedly confessed that he was angered by Taseer's recent public endorsement of a pardon for a Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy. The 26-year old bearded assassin, Mumtaz Hussain Qadari, was governor's official bodyguard, who joined the elite police in 2008. [More>>timesofindia.indiatimes.com]

1.04.11 Saudis must apply for govenrment license to start blogging

DUBAI, January 4 - Information ministry says move is not to censor. Licenses are now required for starting any e-publishing site in Saudi Arabia, after a regulatory change made by the country's culture and information ministry. The new conditions for anyone to open a blog, an online newspaper, or any similar forms for e-publishing, must be of a Saudi nationality, over 20 in age, and must have a high school or higher qualification aided with a good record of appropriate behavior conduct, and a license from the ministry. The new conditions for anyone to open a blog, an online newspaper, or any similar forms for e-publishing, must be of a Saudi nationality, over 20 in age, and must have a high school or higher qualification aided with a good record of appropriate behavior conduct, and a license from the ministry. All license holders must publicly display their license information on their websites. Editors must receive a special approval from the ministry, in addition to having to require obtaining a license. Abd al-Rahman Huza’, spokesman of the ministry, told AlArabiya.net that the new change is made to bridge communication between the ministry and individuals using the various forms of the e-publishing sites, adding that "it is for organizational supervision and not to supervise or censor." [More>>alarabiya.net]

1.04.11 The Islamification of Britain: record numbers embrace Muslim faith

January 4 - The number of Britons converting to Islam has doubled in 10 years. Why? Jerome Taylor and Sarah Morrison investigate. The number of Britons choosing to become Muslims has nearly doubled in the past decade, according to one of the most comprehensive attempts to estimate how many people have embraced Islam. Following the global spread of violent Islamism, British Muslims have faced more scrutiny, criticism and analysis than any other religious community. Yet, despite the often negative portrayal of Islam, thousands of Britons are adopting the religion every year...But a new study by the inter-faith think-tank Faith Matters suggests the real figure could be as high as 100,000, with as many as 5,000 new conversions nationwide each year. By using data from the Scottish 2001 census – the only survey to ask respondents what their religion was at birth as well as at the time of the survey – researchers broke down what proportion of Muslim converts there were by ethnicity and then extrapolated the figures for Britain as a whole. [Full story>>independent.co.uk]

1.04.11 Strong year-end sales for GM, Ford, Chrysler

(AP) January 4 - Last year, Chrysler reports its US sales rose 17%; Ford, 15%; GM, 6.3%. General Motors says sales of cars and trucks in the US rose 6.3 percent last year as a strong line-up of new models helped the company make a comeback from its 2009 bankruptcy. GM says it sold 2.2 million cars and trucks, even though it got rid of four brands to focus on Chevrolet, Buick, Cadillac and GMC. Industry analysts expect overall sales for the industry to rise 10 percent for the year. Consumers are buying again as the economy slowly recovers. GM is the first of the major car companies to report year-end US sales on Tuesday. The company's December sales rose 7.5 percent because of hot sellers such as the Chevrolet Equinox, a smaller SUV that seats about five people. [More>>cbsnews.com]

1.04.11 Argentina's 'impressive' bank heist

January 4 - Thieves emptied some 140 bank vaults after digging 30 metre-long tunnel complete with lights and ventilation systems. Thieves have stolen the contents of up to 140 safety deposit boxes from an Argentine bank after digging a 30-metre-long tunnel complete with lights and ventilation from a neighboring building. Authorities said three thieves entered a Banco Provincia branch in the Buenos Aires district of Belgrano on New Year's Eve when it was closed and spent the weekend opening and emptying between 130 and 140 of the branch's 1,408 boxes. The robbery was not discovered until the bank opened Monday. Bank executives didn't say how much the thieves got away with because clients are not obliged to tell authorities what was in their safety deposit boxes. The thieves rented a building next to the bank in June and spent months digging the tunnel, which emerged in an area where safety deposit boxes are located, prosecutor Martin Niklison said. The tunnel had lights, ventilation and reinforcement. [More>>aljazeera.net]

1.04.11 Reuters top global political risk trends for 2011

LONDON (Reuters) January 4 - China-US rivalry, ageing leaders, the chance of an Israeli attack on Iran and political fallout from the euro zone crisis top global political risks in 2011. Here are the key trends to watch in the coming year as picked out by Reuters political and general news editor Sean Maguire. [More>>thestar.com.my]

1.04.11 Louisiana latest place to rain dead birds

LABARRE, La., January 4 - 500 blackbirds and starlings fount near La. highway, days after thousands of birds, fish died in Ark. State biologists are trying to determine what killed an estimated 500 birds that littered a quarter-mile stretch of highway in Pointe Coupee Parish. The birds included red-winged blackbirds and starlings. The birds were found Monday along Louisiana Highway 1, about 300 miles south of Beebe, Ark., where more than 3,000 blackbirds fell from the sky three days earlier. Authorities say examinations showed those birds suffered internal injuries that formed deadly blood clots. Louisiana state biologists are sending some of the birds found at Labarre to laboratories in Georgia and Wisconsin for testing. [More>>cbsnews.com]

1.04.11 Senior militant killed in East Tajikistan

DUSHANBE, Tajikistan (RIA Novosti) January 4 - Police in East Tajikistan have killed a senior militant with links to al-Qaeda along with seven others, a top officer said on Tuesday. Aloviddin Davlatov, 40, was killed in an operation in Rasht Region, some 180 kilometers east of the Tajik capital of Dushanbe, Tokhir Normatov told RIA Novosti. He was blamed for an attack on a military convoy in Kamarob Gorge on September 19 in which at least 28 servicemen were killed. The operation has been underway since late September. [>en.rian.ru]

1.03.11 China announces nuclear fuel breakthrough

BEIJING (Xinhuanet) January 3 - Chinese scientists have made a breakthrough in spent fuel reprocessing technology that could potentially solve China's uranium supply problem, Chinese television reported on Monday. The technology, developed and tested at the No.404 Factory of China National Nuclear Corp. in the Gobi desert in remote Gansu province, enables the re-use of irradiated fuel and is able to boost the usage rate of uranium materials at nuclear plants by 60 fold. "With the new technology, China's existing detected uranium resources can be used for 3,000 years," the China Central Television reported.

China, as well as France, the United Kingdom and Russia, actively supports reprocessing as a means for the management of highly radioactive spent fuel and as a source of fissile material for future nuclear fuel supply. But independent scientists argued that commercial application of nuclear fuel reprocessing has always been hindered by cost, technology, proliferation risk and safety challenges. China has 171,400 tones of proven uranium resources spread mainly in eight provinces
Jiangxi, Guangdong, Hunan, Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia, Shaanxi, Liaoning and Yunnan. China is planning a massive push into nuclear power in an effort to wean itself off coal, the dirtiest fossil fuel. It now has 12 working reactors with 10.15 gigawatt of total generating capacity. [More>>xinhuanet.com]

1.03.11 Muslim teenage girl takes out AVO over clash of cultures

(The Daily Telegraph) January 3 - A Muslim girl caught between her religion, her parents and wanting to be a typical Aussie teenager is at the centre of an apprehended violence order against her father after he found she had a boyfriend. Police were called to the family home after the man threatened to kill himself and the 14-year-old girl when he discovered the boy in a room of their home, Parramatta Bail Court heard yesterday. The man, who cannot be named, allegedly told police the relationship was disrespectful to Muslim culture and brought shame on his family in the Afghan community. The court heard he tried to detain the boy in the early hours of New Year's Day at the house in Blacktown. The family called police because they were scared the father would kill the boy....The father, who is a qualified surgeon in Afghanistan but employed as a taxi driver in Sydney, was refused bail because of his threats against the girl and self-harm history. [Full story>>news.com.au]

1.03.11 Flooding in Australia's Queensland 'to last weeks'

January 3 - Devastating flood waters across the Australian state of Queensland may not recede for weeks, the state's Premier Anna Bligh has warned. More than 20 towns in Queensland have been cut off or flooded, with more than 200,000 people affected. Military aircraft are flying supplies into Rockhampton, which has been isolated by the still-rising waters. The authorities have now confirmed three deaths caused by flood waters in the past few days...Approximately 850,000 sq. km. have been affected, an area equivalent in size to France and Germany. [Full story>>bbc.co.uk; See also independent.co.uk, January 3, "A disaster of biblical proportions" :

1.03.11 Mystery of mass fish and blackbird deaths

January 3 - Around 100,000 fish have been found dead along a river in the US state of Arkansas, where thousands of blackbirds dropped dead from the sky on New Year's Eve. The fish - all of the same 'drum' species - littered the banks of a 20-mile stretch of the Arkansas River near Ozark, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC) said. State wildlife officials are conducting tests to find out what killed them. Keith Stephens, of the AGFC, said fish kills occurred every year, but the magnitude of this one was unusual. "The fish kill only affected one species of fish," he told CNN. "If it was from a pollutant, it would have affected all of the fish, not just drum fish." Meanwhile, officials are also investigating the mystery of up to 5,000 dead blackbirds in the town of Beebe, around 125 miles from where the fish were found. [More>>news.sky.com]

1.03.11 Qaeda ordered bombing of Egypt church 2 weeks ago

DUBAI, January 3 - Qaeda revealed targets and details of bomb-making. Al-Qaeda affiliate, the Islamic State of Iraq, had ordered its militants to attack Egypt's Coptic Christians two weeks before a Church was bombed in Alexandria killing 21 people, according to a statement posted on the group's website. The website, named the Network of Islamic Glory, carried a statement calling militants to "wake up" and prepare for "bombing churches during Christmas celebrations." "Peace be upon those who follow guidance...We did not forget your heinous action in Egypt and your kidnapping of those Muslim women who chose to discard the illusion of what you call Christianity," the group said, addressing what it called "the Crusader West."

"Therefore, I call upon myself and upon every Muslim jealous of the dignity of his sisters to bomb churches during Christmas celebrations, meaning at the time when churches are crowded," the statement added. The group mentioned names of many churches to be targeted, including the Coptic Christian Saints Church in Alexandria, which was bombed on Saturday. The group provided comprehensive details of each target church and concluded the details with words saying, "This is all what I could gather, my dear brother."

1.03.11 Afghan violence leaves 5 civilians dead

KABUL,Afghanistan - Gunmen opened fire in a mosque northwest of the Afghan capital, killing four civilians, while a fifth was killed in a bombing outside a butcher's shop in the western part of the country, officials said Monday. The shop in Herat supplies meat to the Afghan army, and officials think the bomb targeted security forces, said Noor Khan Nekzad, the spokesman for Herat province's police chief. At least four other civilians were wounded in the explosion, Nekzad said. A day earlier, gunmen entered a mosque in Baghlan province's Markazi district, killing four civilians and wounding two, the provincial governor's office said Monday. Officials said they did not know why the mosque was targeted. Past mosque attacks have targeted government officials....NATO said the insurgent, who it claimed was involved in bombings against Afghan and coalition forces in the eastern Khost province, was detained on Saturday. Coalition and Afghan forces also captured three Taliban leaders in operations around the country, NATO said. NATO has said it is making progress in the country. But officials caution that the gains are reversible and that more needs to be done to stabilize Afghanistan amid an amalgam of security woes, poverty and complaints of rife corruption. [Full story>>khaleejtimes.com]

1.03.11 Three Iraqis, two US soldiers killed in Iraq

BAGHDAD (AFP) January 3 - Gun and bomb attacks killed three Iraqis and wounded 15 on Monday, security officials said, while the US military said two US soldiers had been killed, the first to die in Iraq this year. A suicide car bomb exploded Monday morning outside a police intelligence office in Baquba north of the Iraqi capital, killing a man and wounding 15 other people, a security official and a doctor said. The bombing targeted the office, located in a central market, at about 11:00am (0800 GMT), the security official said, adding that guards protecting the building and girls on a nearby school bus were among the wounded. Just before the suicide bomber blew up the car, insurgents threw several hand grenades into the intelligence office. It was the first attack against the centre, which was opened three years ago. Dr. Firas al-Dulaimi, who works at the main hospital in Baquba, said the wounded included 10 girls, two men, and three guards from the intelligence office, who suffered serious injuries.

In central Baghdad, gunmen early on Monday broke into the home of a Christian woman, Rafah Toma, shot her dead and made off with a number of her possessions, an interior ministry official said. Toma, who lived alone in Al-Wahda neighbourhood, is the latest victim of a string of attacks on Christians in Iraq, with the official saying she was likely targeted because of her religion. On Thursday, at least two Christians were killed and 16 others wounded in a wave of bomb attacks on Christian targets in Baghdad, while 44 worshippers, two priests and seven security forces members were killed in an October 31 attack by militants on a Baghdad church.


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