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News Headlines & Trends

1.22.11 Japan cargo spacecraft blasts off for space station

TOKYO (AP) January 22 - A Japanese rocket carrying supplies for the International Space Station successfully lifted off from a remote island Saturday on a mission designed to help fill a hole left by the retirement of NASA's space shuttle program. The unmanned rocket was carrying a payload of nearly six tons of food, water, clothing and experimental equipment to the astronauts in orbit in the space station, an international project involving 15 nations. The rocket also was carrying cargo for NASA. After docking with the space station, dropping off its cargo and being loaded up with waste material, the rocket's transfer vehicle, named "Kounotori2," will be detached and burn itself up upon re-entering Earth's atmosphere. Kounotori means white stork in Japanese. [More>>msnbc.msn.com]

1.22.11 50 Taliban militants give up militancy: government

KABUL, Afghanistan (Xinhua) January 22 - Fifty Taliban fighters have given up militancy and joined the government in Jauzjan province 390 km north of Afghan capital Kabul on Friday, a press release of the Defense Ministry issued here Saturday said. "Fifty anti-government armed militants loyal to Taliban outfit joined [the] government in Darzab district of Jauzjan province yesterday," the press released. It also added that the former insurgents handed over 20 pieces of Kalashnikovs and eight motorbikes to security authorities in the province. Taliban militants fighting Afghan and NATO-led troops have yet to make [a] comment. [>xinhuanet.com]

1.22.11 Official: Iraq militia chief behind pilgrim blasts

BAGHDAD (AP) January 22 - Iraqi police arrested the local leader of a government-backed Sunni Muslim militia for planning the deadly bombings on Shiite pilgrims this week, Iraqi officials said Saturday. If the Awakening Council leader is found guilty of the charges, it would affirm widespread government doubts about integrating the Sunni fighters into the nation's security forces — despite their alliance with the US against al-Qaeda. It could also signal that the militia's frustration about being sidelined by Iraq's Shiite-dominated government may have finally reached a boiling point. The arrest was announced as anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr headed back to Iran, according to two senior aides, after a brief two-week visit breaking nearly four years of self-exile. [More>>foxnews.com]

1.22.11 Clerics who motivated Taseer killer gets pre-arrest bail

ISLAMABAD, January 22 - Two clerics accused of motivating the police guard who assassinated Governor Salmaan Taseer have been granted pre-arrest bail by a Pakistani anti-terrorism court. Mufti Hanif Qureshi and Qari Imtiaz Shah, both Rawalpindi-based clerics, were granted bail against surety bonds of Rs 200,000 each by the court. Police will now be unable to question the suspects till January 25 though they are wanted to ascertain their links with Mumtaz Qadri, the Elite Force personnel who killed Taseer. However, the court has directed the clerics to cooperate with police...Police have claimed Qureshi instigated hatred against Taseer and this could have motivated Qadri to kill the governor. [More>>indianexpres.com]

1.22.11 Saudi al-Qaeda suspect caught in Turkey

ISTANBUL (AFP) January 22 - A Saudi national wanted for suspected links to the al-Qaeda extremist network has been arrested in southern Turkey, Anatolia news agency quoted police as saying Friday. The suspect, identified only as W.B., was detained along with an alleged Turkish collaborator in Adana in an operation that followed a tip-off that an al-Qaeda militant was in the city planning an unspecified act of violence. The Saudi, who held a fake passport, had been wanted on an international warrant for terror-related charges in his country, local police said, according to Anatolia. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

1.22.11 Malaysia navy frees hijacked tanker

January 22 - Navy commandos overcome Somali pirates on board a chemical tanker in the Gulf of Aden, rescuing 23 crew members. Malaysian Navy commandos have rescued a chemical tanker hijacked by Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden just hours after the ship was seized. The commandos injured three pirates, captured seven, and rescued 23 crew members on board the MT Bunga Laurel on Friday morning. The armed pirates stormed the ship on Thursday night, and the crew responded by locking themselves in a safe room and activating a distress signal, which was picked up by the navy. The commandos exchanged gunfire with the pirates before overcoming them, the navy said in a statement on Friday. According to the New Straits Times newspaper, the Bunga Laurel was carrying oil worth $10m. The newspaper also said that a Fennec attack helicopter had pinned down the pirates' "mothership" with machine gun fire as the commandoes boarded the Laurel. [More>>aljazeera.net]

1.22.11 Big powers leave Iran nuclear talks empty-handed

ISTANBUL (Reuters) January 22 - World powers failed to prise any change from Iran in two days of talks on its nuclear programme, with the EU and United States calling the discussions disappointing and saying no further meetings were planned. "This is not the conclusion I'd hoped for," European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said at the end of the talks in Istanbul on Saturday. "I am disappointed." That was echoed by a senior US official, but he said talks had not broken down and been "very businesslike, but difficult." The best that the six world powers the United States, France, Germany, China, Russia and Britain can hope for is that Iran rethinks its position, once chief negotiator Saeed Jalili reports back to Tehran. [More>>thestar.com.my]

1.21.11 Iran calls Istanbul talks 'positive,' insists no compromise on enrichment

(AP) January 21 - Iran gave no sign of making concessions to world powers hoping to coax it into curbing its nuclear programme at talks in Istanbul on Friday, but its delegate described the talks as “positive” and predicted progress later in the day. Iran said differences were narrowing Friday at talks with six world powers looking for curbs on Tehran's ability to turn its nuclear program toward making atomic arms, but others said it was too early to speak of progress. "Compared to the Geneva talks, the negotiations in Istanbul are being held in a more positive way," Iranian delegate Abolfazl Zohrevand said, referring to talks in the Swiss city that ended last month with an agreement on nothing more than to meet again in Turkey. "There are good signs that the two sides will make progress."...The six powers  China, Britain, France, Russia, the United States, and Germany   hope to nudge Iran toward acknowledging the need to reduce worries that it might turn its enrichment program to making weapons. [Full story>>france24.com; See related story,

thestar.com.my, (Reuters) January 21, "UK's Blair urges West to take action on Iran"
: LONDON - Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair made a passionate plea on Friday for the West to use force if necessary against Iran over its disputed nuclear programme. Speaking at a London inquiry into the Iraq War where he was having to explain his decision to join the US-led invasion in 2003, Blair said the time had now come to "get our heads out of the sand" and take action against Iran. "I say this with all the passion I possibly can," said Blair, now an envoy for the Quartet of Middle East peacemakers the United States, Russia, the EU and the United Nations. The West had to stop believing it was responsible for the actions of Iran or extremists, he said. "The fact is they are doing it because they disagree fundamentally with our way of life and they'll carry on doing it unless they are met by the requisite determination and, if necessary, force."...

1.21.11 Pakistani Taliban leader targeted by US has long, ruthless record

January 21 - Pakistani Taliban leader Qari Hussain Mehsud, whose notoriety includes allegedly recruiting children as suicide bombers, is being targeted by the United States, the State Department announced Thursday. "Widely considered to be the deadliest of all TTP's commanders, Hussain and the TTP (Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan) have taken responsibility for many lethal suicide bombings throughout Pakistan," the State Department said in a news release on Qari Hussain. The released cited a string of such attacks, including a blast last September that killed at least 54 people at a rally in Quetta and a car bombing the same month that killed at least 17 people including four children in Lakki Marwat.

Even among militant groups known for brutal violence, Qari Hussain Mehsud has a notorious reputation. He is alleged to have recruited dozens of Pakistani children as suicide bombers (a form of attack in which he reportedly is an expert trainer) and has boasted of personally beheading enemies. After the abortive Times Square bombing in New York last year, his voice was purportedly on the audio tape that claimed responsibility for the attack on behalf of the TTP. On several occasions, Pakistani officials have claimed that he has been killed. No evidence has ever been presented, and it seems that Qari Hussain is still somewhere in the rugged mountains along the Afghan-Pakistan border
most likely in North Waziristan. He is well connected in jihadist circles.

He is a cousin of the current leader of the TTP, Hakimullah Mehsud (himself a target of US drone attacks), and terrorism analysts believe he has good contacts with other groups active in the region. Not that those contacts have always been cordial
Pakistani media reported in 2008 a feud over the fate of a Polish geologist who was being held by Qari Hussain's group. Rather than hand him over to another faction, they slit his throat. Qari Hussein comes from the Mehsud tribe, which is prominent in Waziristan and includes several other leading figures in the Pakistan Taliban. But he also spent time as a boy in Karachi...[More>>cnn.com]

1.21.11 Bin Laden threatens France

Januay 21 - Al-Qaeda leader says in audio tape hostages will die if country does not pull out troops from Muslim lands. The leader of al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, has called for the withdrawal of French troops from Muslim lands in exchange for the release of hostages, in an audio message. Referring to French hostages being held in Niger, the speaker on the tape, who sounded like Bin Laden, says their release depended on moves by their own government. He says France will pay dearly for its policy in Afghanistan and elsewhere. "President Nicolas Sarkozy's refusal to remove his forces from Afghanistan is nothing but a green light for killing the French hostages," Bin Laden says in the recording, broadcast on Al Jazeera on Friday. "We repeat the same message to you: The release of your prisoners in the hands of our brothers is linked to the withdrawal of your soldiers from our country."

This is the second tape that Bin Laden, believed to be hiding in the mountainous border areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan, has released an audio recording attacking French policy and linking the French presence in Afghanistan to the kidnapping of its nationals in Niger. Seven foreigners, including five French nationals, were kidnapped in Niger in September, with the group's north African wing Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) claiming responsibility. AQIM also claimed responsibility for two Frenchmen found dead last week after a failed rescue attempt in Niger, but the group did not say how the men died.

1.21.11 Saudi mufti dubs suicide protests as 'great sin'

RIYADH, January 21 - Saudi Arabia's top Muslim authority branded the act of setting oneself on fire, a protest started in Tunisia and copied in other Arab states, a "great sin," Al-Hayat newspaper reported on Friday. Islam "bans suicide even if living conditions are hard. To commit suicide by setting oneself on fire is a horrendous crime," said Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah al-Sheikh, quoted in the pan-Arab daily. "To immolate oneself and committing suicide are great sins," he said. "This crime must not spread, and Muslims must not resort to such an act which is considered suicide and which tarnishes the image of Muslims," said Saudi Arabia's mufti. In December, Mohammed Bouazizi doused himself with fuel and set himself ablaze, in a protest that sparked Tunisia's uprising. His act of desperation has since been copied in other Arab countries, notably Egypt and Algeria. Cairo's Al-Azhar, the highest seat of learning in Sunni Islam, said the Muslim religion bans suicide for whatever reason. "Sharia law states that Islam categorically forbids suicide for any reason and does not accept the separation of souls from bodies as an expression of stress, anger or protest," the institute said. [>thenews.com.pk]

1.21.11 South Korea rescues Samho Jewelry crew from pirates

January 21 - South Korean navy commandos have stormed a cargo ship which had been seized by pirates in the Arabian Sea. All 21 crew members of the South Korean-owned Samho Jewelry were rescued, said Lt. Gen. Lee Sung-ho of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The navy said eight of the pirates had been killed and five captured. South Korea is part of a multinational anti-piracy patrol in the area — it had dispatched a warship after the vessel was seized on Saturday. The unprecedented rescue mission took place about 1,300km (800 miles) off the coast of Somalia and was described by Lt. Gen. Lee as "a perfect military operation." [More>>bbc.co.uk]

1.21.11 5,000 rally in Jordan 'bread and freedom' demo

(AFP) January 21 - More than 5,000 people rallied in Amman and other cities after weekly prayers on Friday against Jordan's economic policies, demanding "bread and freedom" and that the government resign. "(Prime Minister Samir) Rifai, out, out! People of Jordan will not bow," protesters chanted as they marched from the Al-Hussein mosque in central Amman to the nearby municipality building. "Our demands are legitimate. We want bread and freedom." Police handed out bottles of water and juice to the demonstrators, who carried banners reading, "We demand social justice and freedom," "No to oppression, yes to change" and, "We need a national salvation government." [More>>france24.com]


1.20.11 Seoul accepts N.K. proposal for high-level military talks

January 20 - The Seoul government said Thursday it has decided to accept North Korea's proposal to hold high-level military talks which came a day after the US and China called on the communist state to end provocations. The proposal is the latest in a series of recent overtures from the North for dialogue with its southern neighbor against which it made two deadly attacks last year. North Korea said it will speak about its position on the sinking of the South Korean naval ship Cheonan in March and the artillery attack on Yeonpyeong Island in November, and suggested discussions on how to ease the military tension across the Korean Peninsula. "Under the name of Kim Yong-chun, minister of the People's Armed Forces, North Korea sent a faxed message at around 11:46 a.m., proposing high-level military talks to address pending bilateral military issues," said Chang Gwang-il, deputy minister for policy at the Ministry of National Defense. [More>>koreaherald.com]

1.20.11 A historic masterstroke of China-US diplomacy with global significance.

BEIJING (Xinhua) January 20 - Chinese President Hu Jintao is now in the United States for a state visit aimed at boosting China-US ties and expanding common ground on important regional and global affairs. "I have come to the United States to increase mutual trust, enhance friendship, deepen cooperation and push forward the positive, cooperative and comprehensive China-US relationship for the 21st century," Hu said at the full-honors welcome ceremony at the White House on Wednesday. Citing the 32-year-old US-China diplomatic relationship, US President Barack Obama said that with Hu's visit, the two sides "can lay the foundation for the next 30 years." ...The China-US relationship is increasingly important, Professor Zaki Laidi of France's Sciences Po university said in a recent interview with Xinhua, adding that almost no major international dispute could be solved without a beforehand agreement between Beijing and Washington. In the globalized world, China and the United States, as two heavyweight players on the international stage, have seen their national interests increasingly interwoven. [Full story>>xinhuanet.com]

1.20.11 Steal from enemy to fund terror: al-Qaeda

WASHINGTON, January 20 - A top al-Qaida leader has urged extremists to steal from non-Muslims to fund their activities. A five-page article in online terror magazine Inspire, written by Anwar al-Awlaki, a US-origin Yemeni radical cleric regarded by many as one of al-Qaeda's most dangerous leaders, gives Islamic justification to rob non-believers to fund jihad or holy war, the Washington Times said. "Rather than the Muslims financing their jihad from their own pockets, they should finance it from the pockets of their enemies," Awlaki says in the article, a lengthy recitation of the Islamic jurisprudential debate over "ganimah" or war booty. "Our jihad cannot depend wholly on donations made by Muslims," he writes, noting "jihad around the world is in dire need of financial support".

The 67-page magazine, the fourth edition of Inspire, was published last weekend by al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the Yemen-based arm of the global terror group. Analysts say the article shows that the US and its allies are succeeding in drying up sources of terrorist funding. "It is significant that he took the time and space to offer this justification now," Thomas Joscelyn, a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, told The Washington Times. "It is even more significant because he juxtaposes (stealing funds) to donations." In his article, Awlaki draws on the concept in Islamic theology and jurisprudence of "dar al harb," or "land of war"
those parts of the world where Muslims and non-believers are in a state of conflict to argue that "Muslims are not bound by the covenants of citizenship." "It is the consensus of our scholars that the property of the disbelievers in dar al harb is halal (permissible for believers to use) and is a legitimate target for the mujahedin," Awlaki says. [More>>timesofindia.indiatimes.com; Note definition of "dar al harb":

[mideastweb.org] Dar al Harb (Arabic: دار الحرب "house of war") refers to areas outside Muslim rule, as opposed to Dar al Islam. The precise designations of such territories can vary widely according to the speakers idea of who is and is not a Muslim, and which governments are or are not Muslim in practice. The inhabitants of the Dar al-Harb are called harbi (Arabic: حربي), as opposed to dhimmi (second class citizens of the book - Christians and Jews) or kufr (non-believers, pagans). According to ancient law, a harbi does not even have the right to live. To enter the territory of Islam (Dar al Islam) he needs a safe-conduct pass called an aman. The term has meaning today for Islamist extremists.

Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi was quoted in As Sarq al Awast of  July 19, 2003 as saying: 

"It has been determined by Islamic law that the blood and property of people of Dar Al-Harb are not protected."

Likewise, Sheikh Ali Gomaa said  in an interview published in July 2003 by the Egyptian newspaper Al-Haqiqa:

"...it is permitted to kill him, because he is a Harbi and the Harbi spreads corruption throughout the face of the earth."

Dar al-Harb, like Dar al Islam and similar terms, are not found in the Quran or in the Hadith which are the core basis of Islam.

See also Maravot News "The Allah Controversy," chapter on idealogical threats to world peace: Topics include:

Koran advocates violence against unbelievers (kufar) / enemies...Islamic scholars' teachings against unbelievers - "kufars"..."Jihad is directed against the unbeliever (spelled variously, as kufr, kufur, kufar, Kafir)..A commentary on "Kufur / Kuffar / Kafir" ("unbeliever")...

Related articles,

bbc.co.uk, January 20, "Baroness Warsi says Muslim prejudice seen as normal" : Prejudice against Muslims has "passed the dinner-table test" and become socially acceptable in the UK, a senior Conservative is to say. Baroness Warsi, co-chairman of the Tory Party, will warn against dividing Muslims into moderates and extremists. The baroness, the first Muslim woman to serve in the cabinet, will say such labels fuel misunderstanding. She will use a speech at Leicester University to accuse the media of superficial discussion of Islam. Baroness Warsi will say anti-Muslim prejudice is now seen by many Britons as normal and uncontroversial, and she will use her position to fight an "ongoing battle against bigotry."...

telegraph.co.uk, January 20, "Baroness Warsi: David Cameron won't back 'Islamophobia' claims" : Downing Street repeatedly refused to endorse the remarks of the Conservative chairman, which were criticised by some Tories. Lady Warsi, the first Muslim woman to attend the Cabinet, sparked controversy when she declared that prejudice against Muslims had “passed the dinner table test” and was now seen as socially acceptable. In remarks first reported by the Daily Telegraph, she also said that the practice of describing Muslims as either "moderate" or "extremist" fosters prejudice against all Muslims. Mr. Cameron’s official spokeswoman was asked repeatedly if the Prime Minister agreed with Lady Warsi, but refused to answer. No 10 said: "The Prime Minister thinks this is an important debate. We want to see that debate continue. We’re looking forward to hearing what she has to say.".

...Michael Nazir-Ali, a Church of England bishop, insisted that the distinction between extremist and moderate Muslims was valid. He said: "We must distinguish between those Muslims who want to live peacefully with their non-Muslim neighbours and those who wish to introduce Shari’a into this country, restrict freedom of speech and confine women to their homes." By contrast, Muslim commentators backed the minister’s approach...
Shahid Mursaleen of the Minhaj-ul-Quran charity, also praised the speech. "I agree Islam is misunderstood," he said. "Islam is a peaceful and tolerant faith and I agree there is a real need to educate the public and to promote the truth about Islam."

Maravot News "The Allah Controversy," topic: Koran's Confirmation of the Bible: ...the Koran has many chapters pointing out that its source is the Bible and the God of the Koran is the same as the God of the Bible. And furthermore we discover that the Koran really cannot contradict the Bible.  Any contradictions between the Koran and Bible should thus undermine the credibility of the Koran.  Witness the following verses...

Editorial note: There has been a strong movement among Islamic clerics to counter "Islamaphobia." (See "The Allah Controversy.") We believe that the best way to counter "Islamaphobia" is to agree that reconciliation of the faiths can be achieved by reconciliation of the verses of the Koran that conflict with the Gospel of Christ (Messiah). Verses in the Koran that advocate violence are not consistent with the Gospel which the Koran says it confirms , providing for the poor, forgiveness of enemies, turning the other cheek, etc. Also the Bible's promise through the prophets relative to bringing peace to Jerusalem and the world is not through violence, but through reason, i.e., "Come let us reason together.." (Isaiah 1.18). If the verses in the Koran that advocate violence and persecution of others can be declawed as it were hopes for peace among the faiths will be accelerated. See ways to accomplish this in:

The Allah Controversy, Letter to Professor Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu (May 29, 2010), Secretary General for the Organization of Islamic Congress:":...I prepared a manifest that builds upon your agreement that the Koran was written to confirm the Jewish Scriptures (and also the Gospel)...

Mel Copeland

1.20.11 PA cracking down on journalists using old laws

January 20 - Two journalists are arrested in recent weeks for violating Jordanian law by having the "audacity to insult His Majesty the King." The Palestinian Authority in the West Bank has been using an old Jordanian law to crack down on Palestinian journalists who dare to criticize PA President Mahmoud Abbas. In the past few weeks two journalists from Bethlehem were detained by PA security forces for violating the controversial Jordanian law, which dates back to 1960. The two have since been released from prison following strong protests by human rights activists and other journalists. One of them had been held since last November. Article 195 of the ill-reputed Jordanian Penal Code stipulates that "anyone whose audacity to insult His Majesty the King has been proven will be punished with prison between one and three years." The law bans anyone from "extending" his or her tongue at the king, whether by a written, oral, or electronic letter or by a photograph or caricature. The law is mainly intended to silence opposition voices and prevent people from criticizing the monarch. Similar laws exist in most of the Arab countries. [More>>jpost.com]

1.20.11 US blacklists Pakistani Taliban leader

WASHINGTON (AP) January 20 - The United States is widening its scope in going after alleged extremist leaders in Pakistan. It is placing on the terrorist blacklist a top lieutenant in the Pakistani Taliban believed responsible for training the suicide bomber who killed seven CIA agents at an Afghan base in late 2009. The departments of State and Treasury announced Thursday that they had identified Qari Hussain, one of the group's top explosives experts and recruiter of suicide bombers, as a “specially designated” terrorist. The move freezes any assets he may have in US jurisdictions and bars Americans from having any financial dealings with him. In addition to training the bomber who killed the CIA agents at a base in Khost, Afghanistan, Hussain is held responsible for numerous suicide attacks in Pakistan. [>khaleejtimes.com]

1.20.11 Heavy metal saves Norwegian boy from wolves

MOSCOW (RIA Novosti) January 20 - A 13-year-old Norwegian boy avoided being attacked by wolves by playing a heavy metal song on his mobile phone, the Zvuki.ru music web portal reported on Thursday. The incident took place in the central Norwegian municipality of Rakkestad. Four wolves, who appeared before the boy when he was returning home from school, were scared away by the noise coming from the boy's mobile phone, the Russian website said. The song that saved the boy's life was by thrash metal band Megadeth. The boy said he had been told that in order to avoid being attacked by wolves one should not run away from them but attack them. [>en.rian.ru]

1.20.11 Sikh MP furious over Canadian party's demand for ban on kirpans

MONTREAL, January 20 - The Bloc Quebecois (BQ), a federal political party in Canada, has sought a parliamentary ban on the kirpan after four Sikhs, who refused to surrender their ceremonial daggers, were denied entry to the Quebec National Assembly. Kirpans are religious objects that are routinely carried by MPs such as Navdeep Bains. "The Quebec decision is well-founded and maybe it's time for Parliament to adopt similar rules," the Globe and Mail quoted Claude DeBellefeuille, a BQ Member of Parliament, as saying in a statement. She said that MPs need to establish why the kirpan is not considered a weapon like any other metal knife. "It has to be analyzed from the point of view of security. We need adequate security measures," DeBellefeuille said. [More>>indianexpress.com]

1.20.11 50 dead in Iraq as suicide blasts rock holy city

KARBALA, Iraq (AFP) January 21 - A spate of blasts across Iraq on Thursday killed at least 50 people, most of them in twin suicide car bombings in the Shiite Muslim holy city of Karbala, the third major attack in as many days. The attacks mostly targeted pilgrims marking a Shiite holy day, and were the latest in a series of bombings that have shattered a relative calm in Iraq following the formation of a new government last month. Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki blamed the Karbala attacks on "takfiris," an Islamic term for apostates but used by the premier to mean anti-Shiite al-Qaeda militants.

In Karbala, home to the shrines of two revered Shiite imams, a pair of suicide bombers detonated vehicles packed with explosives 20 minutes apart, the head of Karbala provincial council Mohammed Hamid al-Mussawi said. The first attack struck on the northern outskirts at around 3:00pm (1200 GMT), with the second occurring at around 3:20pm some 15 kilometres (nine miles) south of the city. "At least 45 people, including women and children, have been killed and 150 have been wounded," he said....Earlier on Thursday, a roadside bomb detonated among a crowd of Shiite pilgrims at the Al-Rasheed vegetable market in southern Baghdad, killing one and wounding nine. Another such blast in a central Iraqi town killed one and injured three, an interior ministry official said. The groups of pilgrims were walking to Karbala...
[Full story>>khaleejtimes.com]

1.20.11 Family of Tunisian president rounded up

January 20 - Tunisian state television has reported that 33 family members of the ousted president have been arrested for crimes against the nation as protests continue in the capital. Individuals from Zine El Abidine Ben Ali's clan had been detained in the past few days as they tried to leave the country, according to the reports. Footage of watches, jewelry and international credit cards seized during raids on the family members' properties has been shown. Meanwhile, officials have launched a probe into whether the former president and his family had plundered the country's resources. Swiss officials say members of the Tunisian government have put about $620m into Swiss banks, according to a report by the Associated Press news agency. And the anti-corruption group Transparency International France has filed a legal case alleging corruption by Mr. Ben Ali and his wife Leila Trabelsi. [More>>news.sky.com]

1.20.11 F.B.I and police arrest more than 100 in mob sweep

January 20 - In a blanket assault against seven mob families in New York, New Jersey and Rhode Island, the F.B.I. and local authorities began arresting close to 130 people on Thursday on charges including murder, racketeering and extortion, federal law enforcement officials said. The sweep began before dawn, and the targets ranged from reputed small-time book makers and crime-family functionaries to six reputed senior mob figures from three crime families, including the entire current leadership of the Colombo crime family, according to the authorities. Among those charged were roughly 30 made members of New York's five crime families and the families in New Jersey and New England, along with scores of mob associates and several union officials. The arrests, including one expected in Italy, were based on 16 unrelated indictments handed up in federal courts in four jurisdictions. Taken together, they amounted to the largest such sweep of organized crime figures conducted in recent history by federal authorities. [More>>nytimes.com]

1.20.11 Annual home sales at lowest point in 13 years; December sees uptick

January 20 - Sales of previously owned homes jumped 12 percent in December from the previous month, but purchases for the year were the lowest since 1997, according to an industry report released Thursday. Last year's sales dropped 4.8 percent to an annual pace of 4.9 million homes, the National Association of Realtors said Thursday. That's only slightly lower than 2008, but still represents the lowest point in 13 years. In December, however, sales picked up. [More>>washingtonpost.com]

1.19.11 South Sudan capital Juba votes 97.5% to break away from Muslim north

January 20 - The once sleepy south Sudan town of Juba that hopes to become the world's newest national capital opted 97.5 per cent for independence, preliminary results from a landmark vote showed yesterday. There were 211,018 votes cast for independence for the mainly Christian, African region against just 3,650 for continued unity with the mainly Arab, Muslim north, the head of Juba county referendum sub-committee, Timon Wani, announced to applause and cheers. Full preliminary results from some of the south's 10 states showed landslides for secession as high as 99 per cent. [More>>news.com.au]

1.19.11 Goldman Sachs profits down by half on weak debt trading

January 19 - Wall Street firm Goldman Sachs has reported net income of $2.39bn (£1.49bn) for the fourth quarter of 2010, down 53% from a year ago. The poor result was expected, following weak numbers from Citigroup on Tuesday. As at Citigroup, the investment bank's performance was dragged down by weak business at its bonds, currency and commodities trading division. Total profits for the year as a whole were $8.4bn, down 38% on 2009. Yet total pay was down a mere 5%. The Wall Street firm paid out $15.4bn in "compensation and benefits" according to its financial statement. [More>>bbc.co.uk; See related stories,

news.sky.com, January 19, "Goldman Sachs 2010 figures: Bankers earn average of £269,000, despite profits dip of 38% from 2009" :
Financial results from US investment bank Goldman Sachs reveal that the average employee was paid £269,000 last year, despite a slump in profits. The figure represents both salary and bonuses and is £37,000 around 12% lower than in 2009. However, net profits for 2010 although totalling £5.2bn were 38% lower than the previous 12 months. An equivalent decrease in pay would have meant staff took home just under £190,000 on average. Net profits for the final quarter were £1.4bn, while the total remuneration pot for last year stood at £9.6bn. Goldman Sachs is the third major player to report so far in the US bank reporting season...

nytimes.com, January 19, "Study points to windfall for Goldman partners" : Goldman Sachs executives have long been among the most richly paid on Wall Street in the best of times. They are now poised to reap a windfall that was sown in the dark days of the financial crisis in 2008. Nearly 36 million stock options were granted to employees in December 2008 — 10 times the amount issued the previous year — when the stock was trading at $78.78. Since those uncertain days, Goldman's business has roared back and its share price has more than doubled, closing on Tuesday at nearly $175. The options grant is among the many details that emerge from a study of regulatory filings and internal partnership documents by The New York Times and Footnoted.com, a division of Morningstar that scrutinizes corporate disclosures.

These filings provide a much fuller picture of both Goldman's compensation and its elite partnership of 475 people who run the firm. At the center of Goldman's lucrative compensation program is the partnership. Unlike other Wall Street firms, Goldman retained a partnership system when it became a publicly traded company in 1999. Goldman's partners are its highest executives and its biggest stars. Yet while Goldman is required to report compensation for its top officers, it releases very little information about this broader group, remaining tightlipped about even basic information like who is currently a partner. The documents illustrate just how much wealth the partnership owns and has cashed out over the years. Goldman has almost 860 current and former partners, the documents show. In the last 12 years, they have cashed out more than $20 billion in Goldman shares and currently hold more than $10 billion in Goldman stock.

...The documents also show what shares partners sold before they became officers and were required to make disclosures. Lloyd C. Blankfein, Goldman's chief executive, for example, has cashed in a total of $93.8 million in shares since 1999, a number that captures both known stock sales since he became an officer at Goldman, and sales not individually reported since before he was required to disclose such transactions...In December 2008, just three months after the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers brought the financial system to the brink, Goldman awarded the nearly 36 million stock options. The number approved by Goldman's board dwarfed not only the previous year's grant of 3.5 million options, but also exceed the entire amount of options previously outstanding. The December 2008 options grant was disclosed as required, but received scant attention at the time...

1.19.11 China agrees to $45B trade investment, policy changes

January 19 - China has agreed to $45 billion in trade and investment contracts with US companies and has made a series of other trade-related concessions as part of Chinese President Hu Jintao's visit, a senior administration official said Wednesday. The agreements, which come as Hu and President Obama prepare to speak with American business leaders in Washington on Wednesday, include the purchase of 200 Boeing aircraft and contracts with a broad range of manufacturing, agriculture and technology companies, the official said. The ventures include a broad strategic cooperation agreement between Honeywell and Chinese congolomerate Haier, and the development of a hybrid bus by Cummins Engine Co. and Zhengzhou Yutong Bus Company. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the deals have not, said the deals are estimated to support some 235,000 US jobs. [More>>washingtonpost.com]

1.19.11 US warns Palestinians over UN resolution

UNITED NATIONS (AFP) January 19 - Palestinian diplomats on Wednesday stepped up lobbying for a Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements but the United States spoke out strongly against the initiative. The United States warned at the United Nations that putting the resolution to a Security Council vote would "complicate" peace efforts. The Palestinian resolution was formally put to the 15-member council on Tuesday night with Lebanon, Brazil and South Africa as the council sponsors. Palestinian ambassador to the UN, Ryad Mansour, said the resolution would help bring Palestinians and Israelis back to direct talks. Palestinians have refused to take part in talks since Israel ended a moratorium on settlements in the occupied territories at the end of September. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

1.19.11 Arabs reject foreign 'interference' on Christians

DUBAI, January 19 - Arab leaders on Wednesday voiced their "total rejection" of foreign interference in Arab affairs, especially over the region's Christian minorities. "Arab kings and presidents ... express their total rejection of attempts by certain states and foreign parties to intervene in Arab affairs in the name of protecting the minorities of the East," they said in a final statement after a summit in Egypt's Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. This "demonstrates a regrettable lack of understanding of the nature of the terrorist acts .... and a harmful ignorance of the history of the people of the region," it read. The statement came in response to repeated Western calls for the protection of the Arab world's Christian communities after two deadly attacks on churches in Egypt and Iraq. [More>>alarabiya.net]

1.19.11 Jordan Islamists want to limit power of king

(AFP) January 19 - Jordan's Islamist opposition on Wednesday urged constitutional amendments to curb the king's power in naming government heads, arguing the premiership should go to the leader of the majority in parliament. "We want constitutional amendments that would limit the king's power in appointing whoever he wants to head a government without any constitutional restriction," said Zaki Bani Rsheid, a head of the powerful Islamic Action Front (IAF). "The leader of the majority in parliament should become prime minister, or get elected directly by the people," he told AFP. Under the constitution, the king names and dismisses prime ministers...Poverty levels are running at 25 percent in the desert kingdom, whose capital Amman is the most expensive city in the Arab world, according to several independent studies...Thousands of Jordanians took to the streets of the kingdom over the weekend to protest soaring prices and unemployment, despite a 169-million-dollar plan to improve their living conditions. [Full story>>france24.com]

1.19.11 Exclusive - 2010 was second hottest year on record - data

LONDON/OSLO (Reuters) January 19 - Last year was the world's second warmest behind 1998 in a temperature record dating back to 1850, adding to evidence of a long-term trend of climate change, data from British institutes showed on Wednesday. Phil Jones, director of research at Britain's Climatic Research Unit (CRU), told Reuters world surface temperatures in 2010 were about 0.5 degrees Celsius (0.9 Fahrenheit) above the average for 1961-1990. His unit, compiling data with the Met Office Hadley Centre, is one of three main groups worldwide tracking global warming. Last week the other two, based in the United States, said 2010 was tied for the hottest on record. Jones said the data showed that all but one year in the past decade were among the 10 hottest on record, underlining a warming trend linked to human emissions of greenhouse gases. "All the years from 2001 to 2010, except 2008, were in the top ten," he said. The UN's World Meteorological Organization compiles a ranking from all three sources. [More>>thestar.com.my]

1.19.11 Over one-third of Chinese people using internet

BEIJING (Xinhua) January 19 - The number of people using the Internet in China rose to 457 million at the end of 2010, up 73.3 million from a year earlier, the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC) announced Wednesday. This meant over one-third, or 34.3 percent, of China's population was using the Internet at the end of last year. Chinese netizens spent about 18.3 hours online every week or 2.61 hours each day, the report said. The number of Internet users in China's rural areas totalled 125 million last year, up 16.9 percent from the previous year, thanks to improved Internet-related infrastructure. [More>>xinhuanet.com]

1.19.11 Chrysler battery-less hybrids announced

NEW YORK, January 19 - Chrysler Group is working on a new hybrid minivan that doesn't use batteries or electric motors to drive it, the automaker announced with the Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday. By the end of next year a Town and Country van built around a hybrid system that relies on pumped-up hydraulic fluid, rather than expensive batteries, will be up and running, Chrysler said. The so-called hydraulic hybrid system was developed at the EPA's Ann Arbor laboratory and the agency has been testing the system for years in commercial trucks. Chrysler wants to use it for light-duty trucks, minivans, and large passenger cars.

Instead of storing electricity in a battery pack, the hydraulic hybrid system stores energy normally lost during braking to drive pumps that squeeze hydraulic fluid into a large on-board tank that also contains a nitrogen-filled bladder. The nitrogen bladder acts like a spring, pushing back against the fluid. When a driver is approaching a stop sign, some of the braking energy pumps fluid into the tank. When it's time to go again, the vehicle's gasoline engine shuts off completely and the pressure in the tank is released to drive. When it's needed, the gas engine takes over again. The system increases fuel efficiency by about 30% to 35% in overall driving and up to 60% in city driving, according to the EPA.

1.19.11 '50,000 NATO containers stolen in Pakistan'

ISLAMABAD, January 19 - Pakistani investigators have claimed that over 50,000 containers meant for US and NATO forces in Afghanistan have been pilfered within Pakistan with the alleged collusion of authorities. The Supreme Court is currently hearing a case about the pilfering of container trucks and investigators probing the scam have claimed that over 50,000 containers were stolen with the collusion of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and National Logistics Cell (NLC), "The News" daily said quoting unnamed sources. The FBR and NLC are required to keep accurate entry and exit records but they had not done so, the report said. The sources claimed tax evasion on the goods in the pilfered containers would amount to "trillion[s] of rupees." [More>>indianexpress.com]

1.19.11 Suicide attacker in ambulance kills 7 in Iraq

BAGHDAD (AP) January 19 - A suicide bomber driving an ambulance blasted a police compound northeast of Baghdad on Wednesday, killing at least seven people in the second major attack against Iraq's security forces in as many days. The blast in the eastern city of Baqouba occurred one day after a suicide bomber killed 65 people in a crowd of police recruits in Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit. The attacks shattered the relative calm following last month's formation of a new government by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki...In Wednesday's attack, the ambulance broke through the front gate of the Facilities Protection Service compound, which houses police posts and some training grounds for an Iraqi security force tasked with guarding government buildings. The office of the Diyala provincial governor, Abdul-Nassir al-Mahdawi, said seven people were killed and 67 were wounded in the blast, which leveled part of a building. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

1.19.11 Roadside bomb kills 13 Afghans

KABUL, January 19 - A total of 13 civilians including children and women were killed Wednesday by a roadside bomb in eastern Afghanistan, the interior ministry in Kabul said. The blast hit a three-wheeled vehicle and killed "13 of our innocent civilian compatriots, including women, children and elderly men," the ministry said in a statement. The ministry blamed the attack on "enemies of Afghanistan's people," a phrase often used by officials to refer to the Taliban. A police investigation has been launched. Paktika is on Afghanistan's border with Pakistan, where Taliban militants have hideouts in the lawless border regions. Improvised explosive devices (IEDs) or home-made bombs are the weapon of choice for insurgents and are a frequent cause of death for civilians as well as foreign troops in Afghanistan. Afghan officials say that last year 2,043 civilians died as a result of Taliban attacks and military operations targeting the militants. [>thenews.com]

1.18.11 Medvedev: As we did in 1988, Russia still recognizes an independent Palestine

(REUTERS) January 18 - Russian president makes announcement after meeting with PA President Mahmoud Abbas in West Bank; Israeli officials fear recognition will cause a domino effect of other states following Russia's lead, including China. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev endorsed a Palestinian state on Tuesday, saying Moscow had recognized independence in 1988 and was not changing the position adopted by the former Soviet Union. Making his first visit to the Israeli-occupied West Bank as Russian head of state, Medvedev stopped short of issuing a ringing declaration of recognition of Palestinian statehood by the modern Russian Federation which he represents. "Russia's position remains unchanged. Russia made its choice a long time ago ... we supported and will support the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to an independent state with its capital in East Jerusalem," Medvedev said. Israel has been alarmed in the past two months by a string of recognitions by Latin American states including Brazil and Argentina, which some analysts say could be a precursor to a move by the Palestinians to seek full United Nations membership if efforts to revive moribund peace negotiations fall through. [More>>haaretz.com; See related story,

abcnews.go.com, January 18, "Palestinians raise flag outside PLO offices in US for first time"
: WASHINGTON - PLO ambassador to US hails flag raising as step towards statehood. The Palestinian flag was flown for the first time outside PLO diplomatic offices in Washington today, in a symbolic step that officials said shows momentum towards creation of an independent Palestinian state. Ambassador Maen Areikat unfurled the red, green, white and black banner from a balcony above the office entrance to a round of applause from supporters. He hailed the moment as historic. "It's about time that this flag that symbolizes the struggle of the Palestinian people for self-determination and statehood to be raised in the US," Areikat said. "We hope that this will help international efforts to provide recognition of the Palestinian state and we hope that, as President Obama said at the UN General Assembly last year, by the next General Assembly session this year in September, Palestine will be a full member of the UN." ...

1.18.11 Europe's biggest cocaine lab shut down

January 18 - Police in Spain say they have shut down Europe's biggest cocaine laboratory. Officers detained more than 25 people following a raid on a villa outside Madrid. The arrests followed a two-year investigation named Operation Collapse. Police seized 300kg of cocaine, £1.6m in cash, £42m in assets, 50 weapons, a fleet of 18 luxury cars and 470 mobile phones.  They also took away large quantities of chemicals used to manufacture the cocaine. It is believed the gang smuggled the drug into Spain where it was processed before being sold. They had employed armed guards in order to try protect the laboratory from a police operation. Several lawyers are among those arrested. They are accused of helping to launder the money made by selling the drugs. [>news.sky.com]

1.18.11 UK moves to ban Pakistani Taliban after fresh terror threats

LONDON, January 18 - Britain on Tuesday moved to ban Pakistan-based Tehrik-e-Taliban as a terrorist group, weeks after intelligence reports that the outfit was planning to carry out Mumbai-style attacks in the country and mainland Europe. The order moved in British Parliament will make membership of Pakistani Taliban and raising funds for the organization in UK a criminal offence. Home secretary Theresa May introduced the order in parliament for its approval. The order will ban the Pakistani Taliban under the British Terrorism Act. "I have laid an order which will proscribe Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, proscription is a tough but necessary power to tackle terrorism and is not course of action we take lightly," she said. Tehrik-e-Taliban, a Pakistani terrorist group most closely aligned to banned al-Qaeda, is based in northwestern part of the country and has carried out large number of attacks in Pakistan.

"Proscription means that membership of Tehrik-e-Taliban will become a criminal offence and the organization will not be able to lawfully operate in UK, or raise funds in the country," the British minister said. The proposed order will be debated in parliament later this week and approved. Forty six militant groups deemed by British government to be international terrorist organizations are banned under the Terrorism Act 2000 which includes al-Qaeda. The move comes after British security and intelligence agencies carried out countrywide swoops to foil terror plots in the country. Last year, Pakistani Taliban had threatened to carry out fresh terror attacks in UK, US and Europe.

1.18.11 Pakistan teenager ganraped, paraded naked in streets

ISLAMABAD, January 18 - A 17-year-old Pakistani girl was abducted, gang-raped and paraded naked around the streets of her village in Punjab province for spurning the advances of a landlord, according to a media report. Local residents said the girl was alone in her home when five men Ijaz Ahmed, Bilal, Shehbaz, Muazzam and Tahir broke into her house and raped her. Her brother told police that Ahmed had been stalking his sister for several months and she had spurned his advances.

...Local residents said the men later dragged the girl out of her home and paraded her in the streets of the village. "The men kept making loud claims about her being their 'property' and no one said a word because they were armed," said a resident. The girl's brother has registered an FIR in Machiwaal police station. Police initially refused to file the FIR but did so later, he said."I know they will not follow it up because Ijaz Ahmed is the son of feudal lord Khalil Ahmed," he added.
[Full story>>indianexpress.com]

1.18.11 Blasphemy law cannot be changed: Musharraf

LONDON, January 18 - Former President Pervez Musharraf has said that Pakistan's blasphemy laws could not be changed, but that the man who killed Punjab Province Governor Salman Taseer over his opposition to them must be punished. Musharraf, who is planning to return to Pakistan to fight elections due by 2013, said blasphemy was an extremely sensitive issue for the people of Pakistan. "Therefore doing away with the blasphemy law is not at all possible and must not be done," he said in an interview at his London home on Sunday. Taseer was killed by his security guard this month after backing amendments to the blasphemy laws, which are often misused to settle personal scores. The man who confessed to killing him, Mumtaz Qadri, has been treated as a hero by some in Pakistan and religious parties have led demonstrations against any changes to the blasphemy laws. [>thenews.com.pk]

1.18.11 Suicide bomb on Iraq police center kills 50

(AFP) January 18 - A suicide bomber blew himself up among a crowd of police recruits in the Iraqi city of Tikrit on Tuesday, killing 50 people in the bloodiest attack in more than two months. The blast, which also wounded 150, was the first major strike in Iraq since the formation of a new government on December 21 and recalled an August attack against an army recruitment centre in Baghdad that also killed dozens. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

1.18.11 Third protester sets himself alight in Egyptian capital

(AP) January 18 - Two Egyptian men set themselves alight on Tuesday following a spate of self-immolations across Africa in recent days. A Tunisian man committed suicide in the same manner last month, leading to protests that brought down the government. Two Egyptian men, possibly inspired by events in Tunisia, attempted to set themselves on fire Tuesday in downtown Cairo, just a day after another man burned himself in front of parliament. Police managed to quickly extinguish the fire engulfing lawyer Mohammed Farouq Mohammed el-Sayed after he set himself alight outside the prime minister's office and he was rushed to hospital with minor burns. Police say he may have been protesting police inability to find his long missing teenage daughter. [More>>france24.com]

1.17.11 'Iran paid N,K. for arms via Bank Mellat Seoul branch'

January 17 - A US diplomatic cable provided to WikiLeaks suggested that North Korea likely received payment for weapons sales to Iran via a Seoul-based branch of an Iranian bank blacklisted for aiding Iran's nuclear weapons programs. According to the cable dated March 24, 2008, which was released on Sunday by the Norwegian daily Aftenposten, "Hong Kong Electronics," an Iranian-based enterprise, wired a total of $2.5 million to Bank Mellat's Seoul branch from its account in a Iranian bank, called Parsian. Hong Kong Electronics is known to be a fictitious firm of Tanchon Commercial Bank, which is in charge of financial support for the communist state's overseas arms exports.

As a result, observers here believe the $2.5 million payment to have been made after the North sold weapons to the Middle East state. The money was wired in euros in three occasions in November 2007, and $1.5 million of it was remitted to bank accounts in China and Russia, according to the cable. Tanchon Commercial Bank is also known to have engaged in financial transactions to do with North Korea's selling of ballistic missiles to Iran. Along with the bank, Hong Kong Electronics is on a list of firms sanctioned by the UN Security Council, Washington and Seoul.

1.17.11 Swiss whistleblower hands bank data to WikiLeaks

LONDON (Reuters) January 17 - A former Swiss private banker handed over data on hundreds of offshore bank account holders to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Monday, saying he wanted to draw attention to financial abuses. Rudolf Elmer, 55, headed the office of Julius Baer in the Cayman Islands until he was fired by the bank in 2002. He is scheduled to go on trial in Switzerland on Wednesday for breaching bank secrecy. Swiss national Elmer handed Assange the data at a news conference at a media club in London. The two yellow and blue discs contain information on around 2,000 banking clients, both individuals and companies, he said, declining to reveal further details on the data. [More>>thestar.com.my]

1.17.11 Wife of Tunisian president fled riot-torn country with 1.5 tones of gold

January 17 - (That should help feed the son-in-law's pet tiger.) The wife of Tunisia's ousted ruler has fled the country with 1.5 tones of gold worth more than £35m, it was revealed today. President Zine El Abidin Ben Ali's wife Leila Trabelsi dubbed the Imelda Marcos of the Arab world is said to have ordered the Tunisian central bank chief to hand over the gold bars last week. When the bank boss initially refused, she begged her husband to authorise the release of the bullion, and he gave in to her\demands, French daily Le Monde reports. After taking possession of the gold, Trabelsi, 53, flew first to Dubai then on to the Saudi capital Jeddah to join her husband, who had escaped there on  Friday. A senior French intelligence source told Le Monde: "It seems that the wife of Ben Ali is the person who left with 1.5 tones of gold worth 45 million euros." The amount equates to an estimated quarter of Tunisia's gold reserves - and would take up roughly 2.6 cubic feet in gold bars. The corrupt rule of Ben Ali, 74, sparked weeks of violent street protests which finally toppled his 23-year regime last week. [More>>dailymail.co.uk]

1.17.11 Indictments submitted in ICJ Hariri murder probe

January 17 - Lebanon media reports that Hizbullah, Ayatollah Khaminei have been indicted for 2005 assassination of Lebanese prime minister. The UN tribunal set up to prosecute the assassins of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri says its prosecutor has filed the first indictment in the case, nearly five years after the deadly truck bombing. Details of suspects named and the charges against them have not been released. Tribunal registrar Herman van Hebel said in a statement Monday prosecutor Daniel Bellemare sent the indictments to Judge Daniel Fransen, who must decide whether to confirm or dismiss them or ask for more evidence. Lebanese news sources reported that the indictments focus on Hizbullah members that planned and executed the assassination. Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has reportedly been indicted for giving the instructions to kill Hariri in February 2005, AFP reported. [More>>jpost.com]

1.17.11 12 Canadians training for jihad in Pakistani terror camp

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, January 17 - A group of 12 Canadians are reported undergoing militant training at an al-Qaeda camp in Pakistan's lawless North Waziristan in apparent plots to carry out terror attacks back home. The Canadians, who may have converted to Islam, were helped to reach the Darpakhel areas of the lawless tribal belt after joining radical Egyptian group Jihad al-Islami, Hong Kong based Asia Times reported. Their presence in the camps in Pakistan's tribal belt comes close on the heels of intelligence warnings that al-Qaeda is training armed cadres from several European countries, including Germany, in such camps.

Arab intelligence agencies have already warned that foreign recruits are being trained to carry out terror attacks in European mainland triggering a continent-wide alert. "The Canadians went to Afghanistan in February 2010; there were 12 of them. After nine months, al-Qaeda's leaders decided to send them to North Waziristan and they reached Darpakhel in November last year," Arif Wazir, a local militant of Darpakhel, was quoted as saying in the report. The report, quoting well placed Taliban sources, says militant training to Canadians is a part of al-Qaeda plans to recruit, train and launch Western Caucasians in their countries... the aim is to spread the flames of the South Asian war theatre to the West. "In Afghanistan they received basic jihadi training, while currently they are busy doing some special courses. Their main learning is how to use sophisticated weapons, and how to connect with local smuggling networks in North America.

"They are also learning how to use ordinary material like sugar and basic chemicals to make powerful explosives. These militants will then return to their country to execute al-Qaeda's plan of targeting big cities in Canada," Arif Wazir said. A 30-year-old man Abu Shahid, sporting golden beard, is leading the Canadian group, the report said, adding that those who could not be independently verified and include: Jeam Paull (local name Sadiq Ullah), Leman Langlois (Sana Ullah), James Richard (Abdur Rehman), Otto Paul (Abu Usman), Thomas (Abdullah) and Paul Gall (Hafiz Ullah). The news article also mentions that various militants of other nationalities are also being trained in North Waziristan and apart from Arab and Central Asian militants, one can find jihadis from the United States, Britain and Germany.

1.17.11 Huge cache of arms recovered; two held in Hangu

HANGU, Pakistan, January 17 - Security forces claimed to have recovered huge quantity of arms and ammunition from a truck and arrested two accused in Hangu, Geo News reported on Monday. According to details, security forces during snap checking at a checkpost in tehsil Taal recovered 190 Kalashnikov, a snapper gun, 250kg explosive material and thousands of cartilages from brick truck. Two accused have also been held. They are shifted to undisclosed place for interrogation. Security officials have said the truck was bound to Kurrum Agency from Peshawar. [>thenews.com.pk]

1.17.11 Minibus bombing in NW Pakistan kills 19

PARACHINAR, Pakistan (AP) January 17 - A bomb ripped apart a minibus in a militant-infested area of northwestern Pakistan on Monday, killing all 17 people on board and two others in a nearby vehicle, police said. The bus was traveling between the cities of Hangu and Kohat close to Pakistan's lawless tribal region. Islamist militants frequently carry out attacks in the area against both civilians and security forces. Hangu police chief Abdur Rasheed said the bomb that destroyed the bus contained high explosives, and the blast was especially deadly because the bomb detonated the gas cylinder used to power the bus. Authorities initially thought the gas cylinder alone caused the explosion.

The explosion blew out the windows of a second minibus nearby and knocked it on its side, killing two people and wounding 10 others, two of them critically, said Rasheed. Local television footage showed the twisted carcass of the first bus laying beside the road with little left except its wheels and undercarriage. The second bus rested on its side with blood spattered across its roof and hood. More than 20 percent of the bombings and other attacks in Pakistan last year occurred in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province where Hangu and Kohat are located, according to a recent report by the Pak Institute for Peace Studies. Roughly 35 percent took place in the tribal region.

1.17.11 Floods 'worst disaster in Australian history'

January 17 - Floods that have devastated huge areas of Australia's eastern coastline will be the costliest natural disaster in the country's history, according to a government minister. Treasurer Wayne Swan has claimed the deluge last week in Queensland and overnight in Victoria, where 46 townships have been affected, will prompt spending cuts. "It looks like this is possibly going to be, in economic terms, the largest natural disaster in our history," he said. "This is very big. It's not just something which is going to occupy our time for the next few months it will be a question of years as we go through the rebuilding." [More>>news.sky.com]

1.17.11 Iran has hanged 47 people in three weeks, say human rights groups

January 17 - An average of one person every eight hours has been executed so far this year, including two political activists. Iran has hanged almost 50 people during the past three weeks, according to human rights groups. The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran (ICHRI) said 47 prisoners, or an average of about one person every eight hours, have been put to death since the beginning of the new year. Most of the executions are believed to be related to drug-trafficking crimes, although at least two were of political activists. The news came as it emerged today that Iranian officials had apparently suspended the sentence of hanging for Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, a 43-year-old woman whose sentence of death by stoning for adultery sparked an international outcry...According to Elahian, Mohammadi Ashtiani has been sentenced to 10 years in jail...The two known political activists hanged recently were Ali Saremi, accused of waging war on God, and Hossein Khezri, a Kurdish prisoner accused of belonging to the Pejak, an armed Kurdish opposition group. [Full story>>guardian.co.uk]

1.17.11 Somali pirates release 1 ship, hijack another

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) January 17 - Somali pirates hijacked a Greek-owned bulk carrier on Monday after releasing a Greek-owned tanker the day before, the European Union Naval Force said. The cargo ship MV Eagle was hijacked early Monday by pirates who had fired small arms and grenades, according to a press statement from the EU Naval Force. There are 24 Filipino crew onboard, it said. The attack occurred in the Gulf of Aden, 490 miles (790 kilometers) southwest of Salaam, Oman. The EU said there has been no contact with the ship since the attack. On Sunday, the MV Motivator and its crew of 18 Filipinos was released from pirate control, another press statement said. An EU ship had assisted the crew, and "according to the ship's Greek owners, the crew are reported to be as well as could be expected given the circumstances." [More>>foxnews.com]

1.17.11 Smishing: scary new malware scam

January 17 - Combines trickery of phishing scams with ease of text messages. A new security risk has crept into the world of online shopping, and it combines the trickery of phishing scams with the ease and availability of text messages. Called "smishing" the scam is a nefarious update to the traditional phishing hoax ; rather than sending the phishing bait — a legitimate-looking offer from a supposedly trusted source such as a bank — through e-mail, the message is sent via SMS (text). The victim is told in the text that an urgent bank matter needs to be discussed; the text instructs the recipient to call a toll-free number and provide their account number and password to a fake automated voice-response system. [More>>msnbc.msn.com]

1.16.11 Tunisia police arrest head of presidential guard

TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) January 16 - Following ousting of president, police make arrests, attempt to restore order. Tunisian police arrested the head of the presidential guard Sunday and dozens of others suspected in drive-by shootings, trying to restore calm to the North African nation after the historic ouster of its longtime strongman. Tunisians and observers worldwide were looking for signs about which way the country would turn as a new leadership sought to tamp down the looting, arson attacks and random violence since autocratic President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was driven from power Friday. People cheered in the capital of Tunis on Sunday as a massive banner of the former leader was torn down. Police arrested the head of Ben Ali's presidential guard, Ali Seriati, and several colleagues over accusations they had plotted against state security, the state news agency TAP reported Sunday. Other details were not immediately available, but security agents had often fired on unarmed protesters in the last month. [More>>cbsnews.com]

1.16.11 YEMEN: Students call for Arabs to rise up

SANA'A, Yemen (AFP) January 16 - At least 1,000 students join march calling for Arabs to wage a "revolution against their scared and deceitful leaders." At least 1,000 students marched through the streets of the Yemeni capital on Sunday urging Arabs to rise up against their leaders in the wake of Tunisian strongman Zine Al Abidine Bin Ali's ouster. The students headed from Sanaa University's campus to the Tunisian embassy flanked by human rights activists. They called for Arabs to wage a "revolution against their scared and deceitful leaders" and chanted: "Liberty's Tunisia, Sanaa salutes you a thousand times." "Leave before you are toppled," read one banner, without naming Yemen's own President Ali Abdullah Saleh. "Peaceful and democratic change is our aim in building a new Yemen." In power for the past 32 years, Saleh was re-elected in September 2006 to a seven-year mandate. A draft amendment of the constitution, under discussion in parliament despite opposition protests, could further stretch the president's tenure by allowing a life-long mandate. [More>>gulfnews.com]

1.16.11 Smoking 'causes damage in minutes,' US experts claim

January 16 - Smoking damages the body in minutes rather than years, according to research in the US. The report, published in Chemical Research in Toxicology, shows that chemicals which cause cancer form rapidly after smoking. Scientists involved in the small-scale study described the results as a stark warning to people considering smoking. Anti-smoking charity Ash described the research as "chilling" and as a warning that it is never too early to quit. The long term impact of smoking, from heart disease to a range of cancers, is well known. This study suggests the damage begins just moments after the first cigarette is smoked. The researchers looked at the level of chemicals linked with cancer, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), in 12 patients after smoking. A PAH was added to the subject's cigarettes, which was then modified by the body and turned into another chemical which damages DNA and has been linked with cancer. The research shows this process only took between 15 and 30 minutes to take place. [More>>bbc.co.uk]

1.16.11 Swiss tax whistleblower to give WikiLeaks new data - paper

ZURICH (Reuters) January 16 - A former Swiss private banker who was one of the first whistleblowers to use WikiLeaks by publishing internal bank documents on the site has pledged to hand over new data on offshore bank account holders on Monday, a newspaper said. Rudolf Elmer, who was fired from Julius Baer in 2002 and who goes on trial in Switzerland on Wednesday for breaching bank secrecy, will hand over more data to WikiLeaks at a news conference in London, Der Sonntag reported on Sunday. Elmer told the Swiss paper he would hand over two compact discs containing the names and account details of around 2,000 bank clients including prominent business people, artists and around 40 politicians who have parked their money offshore. "The documents show that they hide behind banking secrecy, probably to avoid tax," Elmer told the newspaper. He said he understood the data would likely not immediately show up on WikiLeaks while it went through a vetting process, however. He said the data involved multimillionaires, international companies and hedge funds from several countries including the United States, Germany and Britain. [More>>thestar.com.my]

1.16.11 BP targets one of the world's last unspoilt wildernesses after deal

January 16 - Environmentalists are angry at the energy giant's plans to drill for oil in a remote region of the Arctic. The Arctic is to become the "new environmental battleground," campaigners warned yesterday after BP announced plans to drill in one of the last great unspoilt wildernesses on earth. Greenpeace and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) have vowed to confront BP's American boss, Bob Dudley, over the agreement with the Russian state-owned oil giant Rosneft to explore the Kara Sea, north of Siberia. The British energy firm was branded the world's "environmental villain number one" by Friends of the Earth (FoE) yesterday in response to its move to exploit potential oil reserves in the remote waters. Environmentalists are dismayed that BP, which announced the deal on Friday night, has decided to set up rigs in an area of great biodiversity and treacherous weather conditions. The region is one of the few remaining havens left for a number of endangered species, including polar bears, walruses and beluga whales. And while the waters of the Kara Sea are relatively unexplored, they are known to house key fish species such as halibut, capelin and Arctic cod. [More>>independent.co.uk]

1.16.11 WikiLeaks: Iran developing nuclear bomb with help of more than 30 countries

January 16 - The Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten quotes US diplomatic cables as saying that Iran is racing to achieve nuclear bomb before its economy collapses due to sanctions. Iran has been developing contacts in more than 30 countries to acquire technology, equipment and raw materials needed to build a nuclear bomb, a Norwegian newspaper said on Sunday, citing US diplomatic cables. Aftenposten said that according to the cables, obtained by WikiLeaks, more than 350 Iranian companies and organizations were involved in the pursuit of nuclear and missile technology between 2006 and 2010. Iran says its nuclear program has purely peaceful aims but the West suspects is designed to develop a weapons capability.

"For years, Iran has been working systematically to acquire the parts, equipment and technology needed for developing such weapons, in violation of UN sanctions against the country's nuclear and missile program," Aftenposten said. Aftenposten has said that it has all 250,000 US cables leaked to WikiLeaks, most of which have not yet been published, and is gradually releasing them. It cited sources as saying Iran is racing to develop nuclear weapons before its already crippled economy succumbs to the sanctions. "A race exists between the bomb and financial collapse," the daily cited a cable quoting a French nuclear expert.
[More>>haaretz.com; See related story,

khaleejtimes.com (Reuters) January 16, "IAEA envoys visit Iran's Natanz enrichment site" 
: TEHRAN - Iran showed its Natanz uranium enrichment plant to a group of UN nuclear watchdog ambassadors as a sign of transparency over its nuclear activities, state television reported on Sunday. Envoys from mainly non-aligned developing nations were on the tour. Counterparts from the West, Russia and China were either not invited or rejected Iran's gesture, with some saying such visits were the province of UN inspectors and could not replace talks to resolve a stand-off over Iran's nuclear work...

1.16.11 Nine killed by roadside bomb in Afghanistan

MAZAR-I-SHARIF, Afghanistan, January 16 - Nine people were killed by a roadside bomb in Baghlan province, northern Afghanistan, as they travelled to a wedding on Sunday, police said. The blast was confirmed by Major Qudratullah, a spokesman for police in Baghlan province, who told that the car was travelling from Pul-e-Khumri, the provincial capital, to a village in the same province when it happened. [>thenews.com.pk]

1.15.11 US debt passes $14 trillion

WASHINGTON (AP) January 15 - As National Debt reaches new high, lawmakers brace for battle over higher credit limits. The United States just passed a dubious milestone: Government debt surged to an all-time high, more than $14 trillion. That means Congress soon will have to lift the legal debt limit to give the nearly maxed-out government an even higher credit limit or dramatically cut spending to stay within the current cap. Either way, a fight is ahead on Capitol Hill, inflamed by the passions of tea party activists and deficit hawks. Today's debt level represents a $45,300 tab for each and everyone in the country. Already, both sides are blaming each other for an approaching economic train wreck as Washington wrestles over how to keep the government in business and avoid default on global financial obligations. Bills increasing the debt limit are among the most unpopular to come before Congress, serving as pawns for decades in high-stakes bargaining games. Every time until now, the ending has been the same: We go to the brink before raising the ceiling. [More>>cbsnews.com;

Editorial note: "The '$45,300 tab for each and everyone in the country' is somewhat understated." During the first quarter of FY 2111 (Oct 2010 - December 2010 — See treasurydirect.gov) interest on the National Debt was $148.2 billion. Total interest on the FY 2010 debts was $413.9 billion. This expense reflects the benefit of low interest rates. When rates rise to the level experienced by the Bush I, Clinton and Bush II administrations (~5%) interest on the $14 trillion will rise to $700 billion per year. As interest rates rise on US bonds, so too will other interest rates rise, from home loans and auto loans to credit cards, as in the 2008 crash. Home owners with variable interest rate loans are the most vulnerable to interest rate increases. This year, 2011, analysts have predicted twice the number of home mortgage defaults as compared to 2010. This could be aggravated by any Fed interest rate increases that may be required to sell bonds on the US debt.

Mel Copeland

1.15.11 NYT: US bills states $1.3 billion in interest

January 15 - As if states did not have enough on their plates getting their shaky finances in order, a new bill is coming due — from the federal government, which will charge them $1.3 billion in interest this fall on the billions they have borrowed from Washington to pay unemployment benefits during the downturn. The interest cost, which has been looming in plain sight without attracting much attention, represents only a sliver of the huge deficits most states will have to grapple with this year. But it comes as states are already cutting services, laying off employees and raising taxes. And it heralds a larger reckoning that many states will have to face before long: what to do about the $41 billion they have borrowed from the federal government to help them pay benefits to millions of unemployed people, a debt that federal officials say could rise to $80 billion. [More>>msnbc.msn.com]

1.15.11 WikiLeaks might have triggered Tunis' revolution

DUBAI, January 15 - Watchers dubbed it as 'First WikiLeaks Revolution.' WikiLeaks releases likening Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali family to the mafia may have triggered the world's first WikiLeaks revolution. The ousted Ben Ali who fled Tunis to Saudi Arabia, ruled the North African country for 23 years, and now is replaced by Foued Mebezza as acting president as per article 57 in the country’s constitution. Opposition to the corrupt rule of Ben Ali existed before the cables were released, however it gathered pace when US embassy WikiLeaks cables were published on December 2010, the British Daily Mail said. In one of the cables dated June 2009, the US ambassador to Tunis Robert F. Godec referred to the Tunisian toppled president and his siblings as 'The Family' and had likened them to a Mafia elite who ran Tunisia's economy. In another cable describing the power abuses by 'The Family' claimed that the former president's wife, Leila Ben Ali, obtained a land grant for free from the government to build a school which she later sold for huge profits. [More>>alarabiya.net]

1.15.11 Report: UN tribunal to link Iran's Supreme Leader with Hariri assassination

January 15 - Newsmax report quoting sources as blaming Iranian Revolutionary Guards and Hezbollah for the hit comes as Hezbollah ministers resign from Lebanon's unity government in an attempt to pressure Beirut away from aiding UN probe. A United Nations tribunal is to indict Iran's spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei with ordering the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, US news website Newsmax reported on Saturday, adding that the hit itself was planned [and] executed by Iran's Revolutionary Guards in collaboration with Hezbollah. The report comes just days into Lebanon's latest political crisis, as minister[s] affiliated with Hezbollah and its allies withdrew from the unity cabinet led by Saad Hariri earlier this week, citing Hariri's cooperation with the UN-led probe of his father's killing.

Saturday's Newsmax report, also cited by Lebanese news website Naharnet, quotes [a] source close to the UN investigation of the Hariri killing who claimed that the order to assassinate the former Lebanon premier was given by Khamenei. The order was then reportedly passed on to Hezbollah military leader Imad Mughniyeh by the head of the IRG's Quds foece, Qassem Suleymani. Upon receiving the order, Mughniyeh and [his] brother in law Mustapha Badr al-Dine allegedly put together an assassination squad. Mughniyeh himself was killed in a car bombing in Damascus on February 12, 2008. Hezbollah has blamed Israel for the assassination, but Israel has denied any involvement.

Speaking with Newsmax, a conservative news website, sources close to the probe are quoted as saying that the "Iranians considered Hariri to be an agent of Saudi Arabia, and felt that killing him would pave the way for a Hezbollah takeover of Lebanon." The report also alleges that both Syrian President Bashar Assad and the head of Syrian intelligence and brother in law Assef Shawkat were also involved in the operation...the chasm between the two sides is deepening with Hezbollah accusing Hariri's bloc of bowing to the West. Hezbollah's ministers timed their resignations to coincide with Hariri's meeting with President Barack Obama in Washington, forcing him to meet the American president as a caretaker prime minister.
[Full story>>haaretz.com; See also jpost.com, January 15, "Lebanese minister: UN findings to be released next week."]

1.15.11 Iraqi soldier guns down two US troops in Mosul drill

Jamuary 15 - Two US soldiers have been killed when an Iraqi soldier opened fire on them during a training exercise in northern Iraq, US and Iraqi officials say. The officials speaking on condition of anonymity said the incident happened at al-Ghazlani training camp in the city of Mosul. It was the final drill to showcase US efforts in training Iraqis before next week's visit by US and Iraqi generals. The Iraqi soldier who opened fire was arrested, US military officials said. Separately, a US soldier was killed in central Iraq. The US military gave no further details of the circumstances of that incident. [More>>bbc.co.uk; See more details,

nytimes.com, January 15, "Three US soldiers killed in Iraq." :
Two US troops were killed Saturday by an Iraqi soldier who apparently smuggled real bullets into a training exercise and opened fire, raising fresh concerns about insurgents worming into the nation's security forces as the Americans prepare to leave by the year's end. A US military official said the shooter was immediately killed by American soldiers who were running the morning drill at a training center on a US base in the northern city of Mosul. The U.S. official said the exercise was not meant to involve live ammunition, and an Iraqi army officer said the shooting appeared to have been planned...

1.15.11 Gunmen shot dead 17 in Karachi

KARACHI, Pakistan (Reuters) January 15 - Unidentified gunmen have shot dead at least 17 people in a new wave of violence in Pakistan's commercial hub Karachi, police said on Saturday. "At least 17 people have died in the past three days by firing by unknown gunmen in several parts of Karachi," city police chief Fayyaz Leghari told Reuters. A local television journalist was among the dead. Karachi has a long history of ethnic, religious and sectarian violence. But hundreds of targeted killings last year have raised concerns that violence could escalate and create a new crisis for the US-backed government in Islamabad. Analysts and security officials blame much of the violence on the rivalry between the two main parties, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, and the Awami National Party, both part of the ruling coalition in Islamabad. Bad blood between the MQM, which represents the interests of majority Urdu-speaking mohajirs, and the ANP, linked to the growing Pashtun minority, goes back years. Retaliatory killings of party members is partly fueled by ethnic tension. [More>>timesofindia.indiatimes.com]

1.15.11 Two Christian women beaten in Pakistan over blasphemy allegations

January 15 - Blasphemy furore hit Pakistan again as two Christian women were beaten and publicly humiliated by an angry mob in this city apparently over allegations of frivolous religious sacrilege. The roughing up of the family forced them to go into hiding for fear of being killed, and the fresh incident as the country is yet to recover from the assassination of outspoken governor Salmaan Taseer for his support to Christian women Aasia Bibi in jail on blasphemy charges. According to media reports, the incident was triggered over a trivial dispute between a Muslim woman and her Christian sister-in-law, both residents of an east Lahore neighbourhood.

The two got into an argument on Tuesday night. Though the matter was apparently settled, the Muslim woman walked out onto the street on Wednesday morning after her husband had gone to work and started shouting that her sister-in-law had abused Prophet Mohammed, The Express Tribune newspaper reported. A short while later, a group of men led by Muhammad Sameer, a member of a religious organization "keen on raising its sectarian profile," forced their way into the Christian woman's house and started slapping her, said her brother. "Other men and women from the neighbourhood started gathering at the house too and they beat up my sister and mother. They were the only people in the house," the brother said. "We tried our best to get her to confess her crime," Sameer said. As a member of a religious organization, he said he could not tolerate any derogatory remarks about the Prophet.

1.15.11 Ten extremists killed in Orakzai

PESHAWAR, Pakistan, January 15 - At least four extremists have been killed in security forces’ action in Orakzai Agency; meantime, at least six extremists were killed when their vehicle ran into a landmine, Geo News reported Saturday. According to sources, extremists launched [an] attack at a security check post in Orakzai Agency area of Toda Khura. The attack was soon retaliated, consequently, four extremists were killed and two others were arrested. Meantime, a vehicle carrying extremists ploughed into a landmine in Orakzai area of Mamozai, resulting in killings of six saboteurs and injuries to four others. The vehicle was completely destroyed in the incident. An extremist commander, Abdul Mannan surrendered himself to police in Ferozkhel. [>thenews.com]

1.15.11 Gunmen torch 14 NATO oil tankers in South Pakistan

CHAMAN, Pakistan (AP) January 15 - Gunmen attacked tankers carrying fuel for US and NATO forces in Afghanistan as they sat parked at a roadside restaurant in southwest Pakistan on Saturday, setting 14 of the vehicles ablaze, officials said. The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the assault, which also left one driver wounded. Islamist militants and criminals in Pakistan frequently attack trucks carrying supplies for US and NATO troops. The supplies typically arrive in Pakistan's southern port city of Karachi and travel overland to neighboring Afghanistan. The latest attack occurred in the Dera Murad Jamali area of Baluchistan province, said Fatteh Mohammed, a local government official. The trucks were likely headed to the border crossing in the town of Chaman, the smaller of two such crossings into Afghanistan. The home secretary of Baluchistan, Akbar Hussain Durani, said 136 NATO tankers were destroyed in 56 such attacks last year in the province. Some 34 people died and 23 were wounded in the attacks, he said. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]


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